Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Broken wheat payasam/kheer/pudding

I am a little bit obsessed with this subject here. Could it be that's it's served to balance the monumental spread popular to a part of the world I call my own? You know, those times when I spoke of food fit for kings and 15 inch leaves that serve as plates. Or is it special in that it can either be sipped or scooped, eaten hot or cold(?)...both anomalies in the dessert world. 

For those of you worried on pronunciation, payasam is pie-uh-sum with not much emphasis on any of the three syllables. It's a type of wet pudding and kind of rolls through the mouth as the word rolls off the tongue. Smooth as silk, you'll see.

Often marked by grandeur, payasam is the cap item of a meal; a cereal/grain staple slow cooked in some kind of milk and the paramount ending to festivities and celebrations alike. Instances on where you'd encounter it could be at a birthday party, wedding, and, no doubt, the event it's commemorating today, Onam, Kerala's most beloved holiday. A tumbler of payasam is as much a part of regional folklore as it is a ritualistic culmination to many a lavish feast.  

The harvest merrymaking not only beckons a multitude of condiments, sides and rice, but also a fair amount of payasam, two or three in the least, each occupying a rightful place on curry studded banana leaves.

Crushed grains, burrowed in coconut milk, ghee and drenched in jaggery, finish into the most blissful porridge. Some might think this a glorified bowl of Cream of Wheat, because basically, when the rest of the world boils grains in milk and sugar, it's breakfast. However, the same simmered at length with smidgeons of spice and ghee are duly reminiscent of old world Kerala cuisine, and can be quite unforgettable.

Start to finish, payasam prep and process should not take more than forty minutes using a pressure cooker, even less in the Instant Pot. A notable point to mention is the efficiency rendered by my I. Pot on cooking a montage of curries, rice and a sweet dish, in quick succession, all while I watched the season finale of Stranger Things. Again.

The custard like quality of kheer/payasam is what gives it its universal appeal. Combined with the velvet lush of coconut milk, and nutty flavors cracked wheat yields, sweet nourishment takes on a whole new meaning.

In conclusion, If you're at loss for a lavish dessert, look no further.

So also, if you ever you need to adopt a get the point.

Happy Onam folks🌴

May your joy be boundless and your bellies full. 

  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tbsp frozen coconut slices
  • 2 tbsp cashews
  • ¾ cup broken wheat
  • 3 cups water
  • 350 gms. jaggery, shaved or broken into small pieces
  • 1 can unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder (or 2 cardamoms crushed)
  • Select saute feature on Instant Pot and set to high. Pour ghee into the pot.
  • Add coconut slices and cashews and lightly brown, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, skim  pieces from the ghee and set aside.
  • Place broken wheat into the same pot and saute using the leftover ghee until slightly roasted, not more than a minute.
  • Add 2 cups water, and the jaggery. Keep on saute mode until jaggery is melted and it becomes a uniform sauce.
  • Add remaining 1 cup of water. Turn off saute mode
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook at high (manual) pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Allow the IP to naturally release steam.
  • Open the lid, mash and stir until the wheat is slightly crushed and tender.
  • Pour in coconut milk. Again, with saute turned on, bring everything to a steady boil, continuously stirring, until contents become slightly thick, about 10 minutes. 
  • Once you reach an almost loose pudding consistency, switch off the heat.
  • Stir in the cardamon powder.
  • Sprinkle cashews and coconut slices over kheer.
  • Serve warm or chill in refrigerator a couple of hours and serve cold.
* Optionally, you can add more spoons of ghee- totally depends on what you're feeling for the day- no one's passing judgement and I highly recommend this approach.

Payasam/kheer recipes~
"I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing." Genesis 12:2

Friday, September 2, 2022

Strengthened marshmallow fondant

As I'm cycling through quite the stack of half finished texts, adding to and waking up the few which have been laying in perpetual draft mode, I realize how grateful I am for this space I've spoken from for more than ten years- on food, methodical recipe sharing and ...ahem...unwelcome periodic life lesson snippets.

A record of recipes require stories, in the least, general descriptions of what and why. Pictures brighten the storytelling. In my case, the several piled in cue, waiting to see light, should take me through a good hundred days worth of narrative content.

Likewise, the need to articulate, animate, level the imbalance of unspoken thoughts and recite fragments of life/mind/kitchen remains a steadfast one. A lack I shouldn't wax over much since the fur child who wanders our empty rooms takes in my every word like it's nobody's business.

Perhaps this piece is for posterity and the Two People that regularly lived under my roof. You know, those once Littles, who liked making samosas and chocolate sandwich cookies with me, whom I read favorite  books to and whose days were played back during downtimes and dinner. 

Nevertheless, there's something to be said over the bliss of not having dirty clothes on floors, corners -everywhere besides the laundry room (hooray!). 

In the natural progression of life stages, the baby adults I once beget are in their away-at-school stage, far from our minute to minute dialogue and end of day conversations. I wonder, however, who else but mom can cheer you on while being the sounding board to daily rants? Therein lies point Number One on invaluable uses of the cell phone.

Not complaining...because even though it seems like loss, I am not lost. The excitement of new seasons brings ideas, directives, and images which I hope fall in flow from my fingers through blog doors. 

Above all, I'm not going to downplay the vainglory in showing off cake photography I did nearly a year ago. You think the real reason I'm penning down this post with fury?

I've spoken at length on the intricacies of homemade fondant. This underestimated type of icing can be used in a list of ways. In fact, with the right flexibility, stretch and tools, your sculpt-and-mold skills reach higher levels than countless pottery classes ever could. There's no dearth to the mastery fortified edible clay can yield. 

Hands down, dough made from marshmallows and sugar is the tastiest alternative to store-bought fondant. It gives pastries a fine finish, and can often be the best plan B in circumstances a buttercream job goes awry.

The fine white powder known as tylose/Gum-Tex/CMC is a dream in that it provides a hastened drying process to this decorator's medium. Your ability in punching out not less than a dozen sugarpaste superheroes and the assorted bouquet of flowers will make many a birthday child squeal in delight. 

If anything, I feel driven to run through an instructional on perfect projects using mmf. It's a plus both ways: I display more pictures and your expertise soon rivals Michelangelo's.

  • 4-6 tbsp vegetable shortening 
  • 1 16 ounce bag white mini marshmallows
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 32 ounces (2 pounds or 8 cups) confectioner's sugar
  • ½ tsp tylose powder( Tylopor or CMC)
  • gel food color(optional)
  • Grease a large heat safe bowl and rubber spatula with shortening. Place marshmallows in the bowl and microwave for 1½ to 2 minutes. Stir and heat for an additional thirty seconds if unmelted pieces remain in mixture. Mixture should be melted and flowy.
  • Grease the bowl and dough hook of your stand mixer with shortening, place 1 cup confectioners sugar into the bowl, along with the vanilla and salt.
  • Add 1 tbsp water to the marshmallow mixture and gently ease out of the bowl using a greased spatula and pour into the stand mixer bowl. Add 2 tbsp of shortening, and gently mix on low, using the bowl shield to catch any flying sugar as you  combine ingredients. 
  • After a minute or until mixture seems combined, stop and add in a half cup of sugar and the tylose powder and mix on medium speed. Continue adding half cup fulls of sugar until mixture is elastic and smooth. Be careful not to use all the icing sugar as too much icing sugar can make the fondant dry. It is ready when dough feels pliable and ready to roll. 
  • If you need different colors from one batch, divide into pieces and knead in desired gel coloring, using your hands. Smooth and shape into discs. Add in small amounts of sugar if dough starts feeling tacky.
  • Coat each disc with shortening and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in an airtight container.
  • Allow fondant to sit overnight(12-24 hours) for the texture will firm up. 
*If you need some of your fondant soft, take out the desired amount before adding the tylose, cover and set aside. Sprinkle in tylose to the remaining batch. You may not need the full half tsp, since the portion is smaller. Tylose makes fondant harden fast, so be sparing with it. You can always add more, depending on the project.
*Can be stored at room temperature for two weeks. After that, refrigerate for upto four months.
* To soften after taking out of refrigeration, place fondant in microwave and heat for 10-15 seconds.

This was probably my most adventurous project per date. The logo and stand up toppers needed time and much detail oriented cutting.

A strong MMF's merit lies in the fact it can transform meh into marvelous, making jaws drop, guaranteed.

Sunset and sand with The Two

"And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people)..."~ Ephesians 1:18-23 AMP

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