Saturday, October 29, 2016

Shahi Tukda / Saffron & Cardamom Indian Bread Pudding

This time of the year is truly magical, a season I really look forward to. Who can remain immune to the charm of the earthen lamps, the twinkling lights, colorful sky lanterns and the flowers, not to mention the virtual shower of sweets and snacks all over social media! The slight nip in the air promises Christmas bells around the corner, I can almost smell the warm spices and the candied peel. I am to shoot during the next week for my YouTube channel, need to get ready for the Christmas shoot soon after. With so much to be done, there is eagerness & anticipation, the rest of the challenges notwithstanding, life looks good!  

Diwali is a festival I love, the excitement has long since shifted away from fireworks and the kind. It is now more about just having family around, the customary potluck with old friends and soaking in the festive milieu. Priorities and perspective changes as we grow older, hopefully wiser too! When it comes to cooking for festivals, I have never been the kind to slog in the kitchen for hours. It is always simple fare, not much by way of deep-fried snacks ( deep-frying never excites me), but a sweet dish is a must for all of us. 

Shahi Tukda or Saffron & Cardamom Indian Bread Pudding is just my kind of dessert. The combination of the crisp bread slices with the chilled rabri and nuts is something I adore. The bread is normally deep-fried, but it is way too rich for our palates, so I prefer shallow frying. The rabri can easily be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator the previous day. The bread can be shallow fried just before serving time, so it is slightly warm and really crisp. Here is my version of Shahi Tukda, do tweak it to your taste. 

Shahi Tukda /Saffron & Cardamom Indian Bread Pudding 
(to make 6-8 servings)

For the rabri / milk pudding

What you need : You will need a wide, thick bottomed kadhai / deep pan, big enough to allow stirring without the milk spilling out. A good strong ladle or a flat slotted skimmer to help break the layer of cream on the top of the milk effectively. A small clean plate near the stove to keep the ladle on when not in use. Be sure everything you use is really clean, free of any acidic substances as it may cause the milk to split. A small cup to soak the saffron in.

Ingredients: (Makes about 1 liter of rabri, depending on how thick you want it)

Whole milk (at least 4.5% fat) : 3 liters / 12 cups
Sugar - 6 - 8 tablespoons
Saffron strands - a generous pinch or two
Cardamom powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Sliced pistachios and or sliced toasted almonds - 1/3 cup
Extra chilled milk and powdered sugar to adjust the consistency if needed on chilling.
  • Bring the milk in the pan to a boil, reduce the heat to low.. 
  • Reserve 2 tablespoons of hot milk from the pan, soak the saffron in it, cover and let infuse.
  • Simmer the milk on low, checking every 8 -10 minutes. 
  • Using the ladle or skimmer, scrape the cream at the sides as and when it forms, back into the milk. 
  • Break the layer of cream on top with continuous, stirring motions on the surface of the milk. Its important to break the layer of cream which will keep forming on the top too. Or you will end up with long bits of dry-ish cream in the milk. (Some people do prefer it that way).
  • Avoid scraping the bottom as you may get unappealing brown bits here and there. Continue doing this every 8-10 minutes or so, while you keep a constant watch on the milk. Do not let the milk boil over or form too thick a layer of cream on top. Do not leave the milk unattended for more than 10 minutes.
  • What we want to do is let the milk reduce, while scraping back every bit of cream into the simmering milk. What you do want is very thick pudding, full of bits of soft cream (not smooth like condensed milk, not grainy like mava / khoya). It will have lots of  soft cream bits, but will still be homogenous.
  • The milk will become very thick and reduce to almost a third. You can reduce more or less as you prefer. This takes about 2.5 hours. Do remember, the pudding will thicken further on cooling.
  • The time will vary depending on the quantity you are making, the pan and the heat given, so go by what you see in the pan.
  • Five minutes before you turn off the heat, add 6 tablespoons sugar and the saffron infused milk. This may alter the consistency slightly, but the basundi will thicken again as it cools. 
  • Once you take it off the heat, cool, add the cardamom powder and the sliced pistachios. Taste. Add some powdered sugar if needed.
  • Chill thoroughly. If the pudding is very thick on chilling, add some chilled milk little by little to adjust the consistency.
Please note : Use whole milk with at least 4.5% fat for best results. Low fat milk will neither give the consistency needed nor enough yield. You could use a touch of rose water if you wish.

For the bread slices
Bread, preferably white milk bread - 6-8 slices, crust trimmed
Ghee - 2-3 tablespoons or as needed
Toasted, slivered nuts like almonds & pistachios for garnish - 1/4 cup

For the simple syrup

Water - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/3 cup (or to taste)
Saffron strands - a few

Heat together the water, sugar and saffron till the sugar melts and the syrup is slightly thick.

Method : Toast the bread slices on a on-stick tawa using the ghee as needed. We need the slices golden and crisp. Cut them diagonally, brush the slices lightly with the sugar syrup. Place 2 pieces on each serving plate. Pour generous portions of the rabri over the bread. Garnish with the nuts and serve immediately. You can also let it sit for a while if you like the bread soft. 

Wish you a very happy Diwali and a wonderful year ahead!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Chocolate Tuiles With Cherry Diplomat Cream

Oh yes I just needed yet another reason to make one of my favorite things - tuiles!  I honestly don't recall liking cherries all that much, I had obviously not tasted the good ones. This season has been different. I am actually looking out for cherries and even planning to freeze some for later use. Bright red cherries, delicious and elusive even during the season are the the inspiration behind this dessert and post.

I made the tuiles first, unsure if I would be able to whip the dairy cream. Or even find cherries for that matter! Just as well, I told myself, tuiles are supposed to keep well for about a month stored airtight. The tough part is guarding those seriously fragile cookies from breaking, the humidity another challenge!

I was so thrilled to whip dairy cream and loved the taste of it. This opens up so many more possibilities I just can't wait to try! The small big joys of being a  home baker in India. I checked on it now and then just to make sure it hadn't turned into something else! Thankfully it retained its shape and texture quite satisfactorily.

Luckily, I found cherries at a nearby store, though I had to shell out some extra bucks, but worth it. Or I would have spent more time worrying about the precious cookies and a chance to put up a blog post. Rushed home to take a couple of pictures of the gorgeous fruit in the fading evening light.

Made some pastry cream, popped it into the refrigerator to chill. All I had to make was the cherry compote in the morning, cool and fold it in with the whipped cream and pastry cream. And that diplomat cream turned out to be delicious, I suspect it had to do with the taste of the dairy cream! I had invited a friend to taste the dessert. Hurriedly shaped the tuiles lest there should be a power failure. 

After she arrived, filled the dainty, crisp cookies filled with the diplomat cream and served with some compote alongside.

Cherry compote. I had to change the recipe slightly. Please do refer this post by David Lebovitz

Fresh cherries - 200 grams
Sugar - 2 tablespoons (or as needed)
Water - 1/2 cup
Cornstarch - 1/2 teaspoon

Wash, stem and pit the cherries. Take all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cover and simmer on low heat till the cherries are cooked through and mushy. I had to add water as the cherries did not leave out much juices. I have dissolved the cornstarch in a teaspoon of water and added to the cherries, cooked till it thickened and turned syrupy. Cool and use as needed. Leftovers can be frozen.

To assemble

Chocolate tuiles - 12-15 .Recipe here
Pastry cream, chilled - 1 cup. Recipe here
Whipped cream, lightly sweetened and chilled  - 1/2 cup or to taste
Cherry compote - 1/3 cup 

Fold in the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Fold in the cherry compote. Arrange the tuiles on a plate. Spoon the mixture gently taking care not to break them. Serve immediately with more compote on the side.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Puff Pastry Tarts With Lime Cream & Poached Pears (eggless)

Having puff pastry in the freezer is dangerous and very tempting! I had some leftover when I made this Really easy puff pastry last month, hope you do try it sometime! I sound like an unruly kid  but I would have made more and stashed it away if only the mercury levels hadn't shot up so suddenly! No, am not a summer person at all and puff pastry is just another reason for me to adore winters. 

I was contemplating making 'something' with that pastry when I noticed that some strawberry ice cream I had made hadn't set inspite of freezing it overnight. Alarm bells clanged like crazy! Was the puff pastry ruined already? I had to make something real quick!

I sent up a prayer, put the pastry in the refrigerator to thaw, and then made some quick orange and lime posset. I have made it more than 3 times now and absolutely loved the simplicity of this refreshing summer dessert. Just 3 ingredients and 10 minutes is all it takes to put together this ridiculously easy make-ahead cream. You can serve it as it topped with fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi fruit or mangoes. 

If I have managed to tempt you just a bit, do watch this video on the posset, I promise you will make it soon! 

And then I poached a couple of pears in vanilla syrup, left it to chill. All I had to do was bake the pastry the next day and serve. I love recipes like this, where each element can be made well ahead, makes it all so easy, but satisfying. The plan was to serve the cream and poached pears on top of the flaky pastry. 

Ingredients: To make 12-15 little tarts

Puff pastry - 1 recipe
Lime and orange cream - 1 recipe
Firm pears - 2-3
Water - 1.5 cups
Sugar - 1/4 cup or more to taste
Vanilla bean - 1/4 

Make the cream ahead and refrigerate overnight to set. Thaw the puff pastry overnight (if you have stored it in the freezer)

To poach the pears :

Wash and peel the pears, slice into half lengthwise. Bring the water, sugar and the vanilla bean to a simmer. Lower the pears into it and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes. The pears must be soft enough to pierce a knife easily into it, but not mushy. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the syrup. Slice them decoratively ( mine were badly bruised in places so could make them look pretty at all!), leave in the syrup. Refrigerate airtight till serving time. You could serve these as it with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a light dessert. 

To bake the puff pastry :Line a baking tray with baking parchment.  Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes. Just till it is firm but malleable enough to roll with just gentle pressure. Dust flour lightly on the counter. roll the pastry 3-4 mm thick and cut out circles using a cookie cutter. Prick all over with a fork to prevent the pastry from puffing up in the oven. 

Place the circles on the lined sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer if needed. Bake at 180 C for 25-30 minutes or till golden and crisp. Store airtight if needed.

To serve : Just before serving, rewarm the pastry. When it is no longer hot or even warm, spoon the cream and top with the drained pear slices. Serve immediately without any delay. 

It was a relief to see the pastry turn out crisp and flaky, in spite of the obvious problem with the freezer. The dessert did not look pretty as I had thought it would, but it surely made an enjoyable dessert for us. And I guess in the end , that's all that matters!