Sunday, July 4, 2021

Falooda in red, white and blue

How could I resist the idea to celebrate American Independence with an iconically Indian dessert? If you're, in any way, familiar with my ways, the answer should come pat.

Some call it a drink, others say it's a frozen ice cream meal. Falooda is a combination of this and more, but really can't be defined. It's a favorite sweet course that spans across the Indian subcontinent and is shared by many of its Asian neighbors.

What is falooda? Served in a glass, it is a rich, textured cream( think ice cream Sundae on steroids). Ingredients most often include sweet basil seeds, vermicelli, flavored gelatin, rose syrup, milk, ice cream and fruits. Although you can toy with a number of ingredients, you really shouldn't get past the ones just mentioned.

A large enough display is essential to layer falooda components. Sheeted and wedged together, the visual alone is spectacular, sending the truth that you really do eat with your eyes first. Elements build in exponential awe with each potential bite. 

In no uncertainty,  all the distinct factors shine, transcending to a more magnificent end product, much like the country I live in. Isn't it good to see a motley of components, quite amazingly different, stupendous as a whole while retaining their individual identity?

It makes me happy to know today's story might be the only result in Google searches tag-lined  "red, white and blue falooda".

Here it is, our Fourth of July centerpiece imported from Asia, aflush in the day's patriotic color.

Besides its simplicity, the recipe is highly tweakable and can adjust to many a holiday theme or midnight craving relegated to icebox leftovers.

Finally, I'll raise my glass, a betoken to my first heritage in making my second  heritage a bit more special.

Namaste and happy birthday, America!

  • ¼ cup sweet basil seeds( can sub with chia seeds)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ½ milk ( 2% and higher)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cooked vermicelli noodles
  • strawberry gelatin ,  prepared  from the .3 ounce box and refrigerated
  • 4 -6 tbsp rose syrup 
  • vanilla ice cream
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds or pistachios
  • maraschino cherries, separated from syrup.
Directions and assembly:
  • Soak the basil seeds in 1 cup water until gelled and larger in size, about 20-30 minutes. Strain and keep aside
  • Heat the milk with the sugar. Boil and reduce flame until mixture  is slightly thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Cook the vermicelli noodles in the remaining water. Boil 5 minutes. Strain vermicelli. Keep aside. 
  • Refrigerate the basil seeds, thickened milk and vermicelli at least an hour before assembly, until cold.
  • When ready to assemble, have 3-4 serving glasses ready 
  • Take out falooda ingredients from the refrigerator.
  • Cut the gelatin into half inch cubes.
  • Spoon rose syrup into the bottom to coat the bottom and sides of each glass.
  • Layer with 1 tablespoon vermicelli, 1/2 teaspoon basil seeds, pinch of rose syrup, thickened milk, and a few gelatin cubes.
  • You can repeat the layering, depending on the length of the glass. Top with one to two scoops of ice cream.
  • Garnish with almonds/pistachios and cherries.
Notes: You may have more than enough to make faloodas for a few more days. Chill surplus ingredients until ready to use.

I've used blueberries and strawberries for color.  You can use any number of fruits/dry fruits to make yours  pretty/delicious too.

Fourth of July recipes~
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” -Galatians 5:13

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Strawberry hibiscus cake

Here we are, in the dregs of summer, a few call it desert terrain's most blah time of the year. Suffice to say, most of us searing living here are not fans of mid year weather. We make the best of it, owning the season with a vengeance as fierce as the heat. A climate declaring three digit temperature readings a way of life can, apparently, be quite boastworthy. These 3-4 months, when folks mere miles across State lines enjoy blissful backyard barbecues, we sweat, burn, and Tiktok our way by frying eggs on the sidewalk

On brighter notes, I'd set up birdhouses/ feeders/ a veritable living area for feathered buddies to keep cool. It gives a semblance of the airy summers reminiscent of a Midwest life too long ago. In addition, the flower beds I planted in early Spring did not incinerate and the zucchini garden actually yielded squash as big as my arm. Greenthumbwise, within our habitat, that's a notable feat, and since my planter skills are so limited and rarely thrive, the said zucchini sits in my fridge as a monument for posterity.

Coming to point, some time ago, my social media feed was infiltrated with a lineup of globe cakes. Bakers of all sorts celebrated Earth Day with desserts  that looked like the world atlas. It was not exactly the do or die project I had on my baking bucket list. Yet, after careful consideration, and because my day job is teaching English and History, I came to the conclusion an edible 3D map could make for a fine visual aid. I mean, what better way to have students excited about learning other than bribing them with an object lesson they can slice and eat?  

Pulling the project off and later waxing poetic about it is one of the reasons for the manuscript. Although,  it's the contents inside I'd like to expand upon. Even if it took a couple of months to bring to surface.

Strawberry cake with a surprise element should definitely be a thing. Performatively in contrast from the fault line production featured a couple of years ago, this recipe is a derivation sourced off an extensive Google search( read: cycling the web for hours and losing focus) and slightly different owing to the surprise ingredient. 

Most of us agree berries are fairly delicious solo. Likewise, a sticky reduction imparts pure fruit flavor, and sets the line between cakes made with chopped fruit and those expansively infused. In addition, experimenting with a harmonious accent or two could take it to another level. 

So, before we forward on, let me introduce you to today's game changer. In case you'd never come across powdered hibiscus, come over and say hi!

The burgundy powder has amazing cranberry -like notes. Tart and ever so floral, a spoonful results in a hmm... factor, leading you to speculate whether strawberries alone can reach such depth. The synthesis of the two create deep rosa-pink and the prettiest crumb, worthy of grand centerpiece glory.

These are dimensions we don't normally predict in baking, where vanilla and chocolate run the flavor gamut. Such interventions from techniques/elements render unique and rather lovely compilations, breathing life into routine cake menus.

In all hopes, today's script should encourage you too, maybe in similar manner, to model your own rendition of the earth from the list below.

Although, I'll tell you, the blueprint can be just as enjoyable in a 13x9 sheet cake and/or layered round.

  • 3 ¼ cups quartered fresh strawberries with stems removed
  • 3 cups cake flour 
  • 1 tbsp hibiscus powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup  buttermilk (at room temperature)
  • ¼ cup canola (or vegetable) oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 drops red liquid food coloring (optional)
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • Make the strawberry puree: place quartered strawberries in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour the  puree into a large saucepan and stir over medium heat. Cook until the mixture has reduced to ¾ cup, stirring so it doesn’t burn. This will take about 8-10 minutes. 
  • Remove from the heat, scoop the reduced strawberry puree into a heat-proof bowl, and set aside to cool completely.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, hibiscus powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 3/4 cup of strawberry puree, buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, food coloring(if using) together until well combined.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy and pale.
  • Beat in the eggs, scraping bowl between each addition.
  • In three increments add in the dry ingredients with the wet, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Mix between additions until just combined, avoiding overbeating.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Place pans on wire racks for 10 minutes then invert onto racks to cool completely.
  • Once cooled decorate as desired or wrap in plastic wrap  and freeze until ready to assemble and frost.
Strawberry- hibiscus buttercream frosting~
  • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp strawberry puree
  • ½ tsp hibiscus powder
  • 2-3 tbsp heavy cream
  • Mix butter and sugar on medium in a stand mixer. Beat until pale.
  • Add strawberry puree, hibiscus powder and cream. Beat mixture on medium- high beat until light and creamy.
  • Mix in cream by tablespoons and beat to preferred consistency.
If doing a layer cake, smooth frosting on the tops of one cake and stack the second one over the other. Frost the sides and top of the layered cake with the remaining icing. 

Notes: No cake flour? No problem. Start with one level cup of AP flour, remove two tablespoons of the flour, and add two tablespoons of cornstarch in its place.

Cutting cake. If you look closely, you can see the the cutest "Don't Touch " sign one of my students made .
Layered in whipped cream and Oreo crumbles.

For instructions on making an earth cake, click here.

I hope to be on track in sharing some of the cakes I've done in the past months and portions from the unremitting flow of recipes in mental queue.

"The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters."- Psalm 24:1-2