Monday, June 24, 2013

Upside Down Sticky Toffee Pudding with Kumquats and Salted Cashews

It is with great pleasure (and relief...sigh! and sigh!, again) that I return, after weeks of pool visits, almost drowning in dinosaur sized water slides, mall excursions, even catching up on all the villainous forces Alex Cross is trying to eliminate. It sure is a busy summer, but as promised I will step in to bring that which is noteworthy and truly outstanding. Our conversation today will focus on a perfect summer dessert, untraditionally so that is, since it be not of the cold, drippy sort. Here, I need you to open up  minds and palates to the warm and sticky (no, not weather), a sweet that is and will be an absolute song-dance-party in your mouth, not typically associated with intrepid weather, but fits in so well. Paired with cool vanilla ice cream, this is perfect and so worth the little more than half hour it takes to bring it to being, that I smile when I type in this very update. Robed with toffee and a new found love, kumquats, it is a small juicy cake, 12 to be precise, ribboned with dates and beautiful goo, a complete embodiment of all that is right. Such Enlightenment beamed through the pages of a two pound publication. 
To be precise this is the beauteous creation of David Lebowitz, you know, him of the acclaimed pastry chef/blogger/ cookbook author status, in his Ready for Dessert book.
It was his chocolate chip cookies that won over my summer kitchen help, who were of course drawn to them so much that they are now officially a part of our "best of" list. Definitely worth a share, one day, for the time being I say nay on the particular cookie posting since, I am thoroughly convinced that such action will only contribute to WWW clutter, being an nth count to the already growing number of best (!) favorite (!) chocolate chip cookies. It was while thumbing through the remaining 266 pages that Eureka(!) struck and not too far, in the form of a Kumquat Sticky Toffee Pudding. Excitement rose and for all of two reasons : (1)Always and forever, I've wanted to make  the  grandiose sticky toffee and its accompanying famed counterpart . (2)I'd never tasted a kumquat and didn't much know what it was (tsk, tsk). The orangish minis had curious me in perpetual phobic mindset- oh dear and yikes(!) what would I do with them? Though here the web was my friend goading me through the several salient features of kamkwats.  These carrying the traits of an orange, but in reverse; sweet outsides holding in tart, segmented insides. It was the trip to the neighboring grocery which made decisionmaking clear, there lie a bounty of the olive sized cuties placed strategically between the pineapples and papayas. Veni, vidi and (yes!) vici. ( high school Latin does help.) Walking home with my half pound bag of edible treasure, I was elated and didn't want this feeling interrupted.

I reopened the bookmarked pages of D.L.' s glorious book.  No halts, no bars, no holds, my toffee pudding was ready to roll. 

With the exception of those few minor adjustments, I pretty much adapted the script of perfection to a T. Molasses was probably the only opt out. Even though master recipe called for a mild-flavored version, with all consideration taken, my conclusion came to be that any form of this robust and intense syrup would not be meek or mild for my tastebuds . So, to blend in with the brown sugar, I settled on a favorable-for this-house pairing of honey/ maple syrup. I also halved the number of kumquats, not wanting their tart to cut too tremendously with a beyond- bearable stamp to the sweet nature of toffee pudding.

The presence of mashed dates tips the moistness scale from almost- cake to super plush pudding. Salted cashews was another me-option, an absolute best match for this homemade brown sugar caramel. That half cupful that went in both to cake and topping boasted another level of richness together with much  welcome crunch. The perfectly inverted kumquatted tops could easily pass these beauties on as strong contenders for a pretty pudding award. All in all, the structure was soft yet firm, standing well to the pool of buttery velvet.

This will be that new summer memory, where several blah visions of cold and iced will be eviscerated. It won't be surprising at all when you're left scraping through final remnants of caramelized crumb, and you catch yourself mixing up that next batch, fresh, all over again. Hear me out people, this will essentially be one of  your alltime favorites, a must-make now, especially  for those  late nights that include flipping through gazillion DVR recordings.

(Recipe Adapted from David Lebowitz' Kumquat Sticky Toffee Pudding)
  • 4 oz dates, pitted and diced
  • ½ c water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
Toffee Sauce~
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • ½ c dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey+ 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 10-12 kumquats, seeded and sliced
  • 1 ⅓ c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ c crushed cashews (roasted and salted)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ⅔ c sugar (granulated)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ c crushed, salted roasted cashews
  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring dates and water to a boil. Remove from flame and add in baking soda. Set aside for 10-15 minutes and then mash with a fork until smooth yet with chunks. Let stand.
  • For toffee sauce, bring cream, brown sugar, honey/maple syrup to boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes until mixture becomes thick and coating the spoon. After taking off heat. Let cool. 
  • Put a tablespoon of the toffee sauce into greased cups of a standard size muffin tray(remaining sauce is to be poured over the baked puddings)
  • Arrange kumquats in a pattern over the sauce ( I had 3-4 slices in each well).
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • For the cakes, sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Fork in the broken cashews.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth.
  • Mix in eggs one by one and then vanilla.
  • Alternate by stirring in half the flour mixture, then dates, ending in flour, mixing until just combined. Divide the batter into the 12 sauce filled cups on muffin tray.
  • Bake until just set, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Once puddings are baked, remove them from the oven. Turn broiler on and invert the cakes onto a sturdy baking tray. Now the tops will be seen with the sticky sauce and kumquats facing up.
  • Bring the puddings close to one another. Spoon remaining toffee sauce over the cakes, soaking them well.
  • Once broiler is heated, put cakes in the oven, with the door slightly open. Broil until sizzling. This took me 3 minutes on hi broil. Be careful not to burn the tops.
  • Remove pudding cakes from the oven. Scrape off all toffee from sheet and spoon over each.  
  • Add broken cashews over the sauce and cakes.
  • Serve with heavy cream or ice cream.
Fun in each step- kumquats getting ready for their soak.
How about some drama? First serving seemed apt for pretty tableware. In actuality? Eaten off laps in bowls whilst licking fingers and nose. Yes , it's very possible.
"No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone
I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin.
But now I rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Baked Chaat Masala Fries with Chili Mayo

This was supposed to have come out Memorial Day. Which, by the way, was 9 days ago, heralding in another prolonged summer and restoring my nasty DSD (disruptive seasonal disorder), annoying condition of mine that usually involves a slackjawed-gaze-on existence, comes with the scorching air, and is writ with mutlilevels of busy involving my schoolless kids. During this, sanity gets thrown out the window and unfortunately so do many pages of what I wish to begin here. Mind you, I dream grand blogger dreams, but squat and zilch result in the wake of the above mentioned events. To those of you who've been knocking at my door, I apologize, I know its been a while since we've conversed.

So, to find my way out, resurge the kitchen groove and not drift totally away on winds of lackadaisical and slack, I ask my two junior homesharers for inspiration. They were ready, "as long as we're not confined to dishwashing and scrubbing vegetables(!)", quoted Z. (help!)

With that, the Smaller decided on a theme; a tummy filling, blog occupying experiment for the summer, if their time and my patience permitted. Groundrules not set in stone, went something like this; they pick out recipe to their liking, assist me to clean/cut/cook/bake/clean again, which means I grant freedom (discretionary, of course) to use sharp objects and stove (help again!). If it's good, I should be obliged to share it over here with you. I agreed with a casual hmm-murmur, my eyes masking the many desperate and dangerous scenes I had flashing in sequence. But it made sense and had me proud, mama of theirs, after all, if (?) it went right, they make for the most faithful kitchen comrades, an answer to the hairpulling that ensues when trying to figure out worthy lunch menus that need to translate for a qualifying recipeshare. It could also be the solution for my son's innate desire to rollercoaster anyone/anything in a swivel chair.

A and Z crouched over cookbooks and fiddled through magazines, foraged library shelves to find something they would love to eat and I would love to rattle on about. It was when A, my first child endowed with the keenest appreciation for spice, decidedly went on a pursuit for the perfect Indian french fry that brought her to the pages of Neelam Batra's Chili's To Chutneys. From her book came a treasure trove of goodies. So many ideas! But our eureka moment was, no doubt, on finding french fries, that too, touched with chaat, all too appealing for my 13 year old Indian gourmand and way too easy for me to resist.

Not to end there, I seized the opportunity to make most of my Help's newfound cooperativeness, with a suggestion to better-up the fries, by baking ours. Getting the yes's was a cinch, especially given the vision that operating knives and fire would be in their near future. Setup was a breeze and the station for peeling our couple pounds of potatoes seemed  swifter owing to the four hands added on to my two.

With a fair sprinkle of garlic, we supplemented our new favorite flavoring; do meet Chaat Masala. A superconglomerate of spice powders + zing that produces that true gastro- exotic experience. Just a sidenote, and yes, you heard it from me, considering the ease in which this plate and many others can be flavored using this grand mix of ground magic, you are definitely better off buying chaat than producing the stuff from scratch. It could be my own lack of knowledge in this spice roast/ grind skill, but authentic can be purchased in packets of 100 gms. Easy, simple and right at your arm's reach.  So, if you can't locate a single Indian grocer near you, look at what I found here.

After the high temperature roast, results were stunning and all batches came out wondrously good, much to gloatingly happy kid faces. With the fragrance of chaat and garlic, our stockyset "fries" were beautiful in their imperfections.

I seasoned the weighty, crisp-soft strands with chopped serranos and cilantro. Believe me, it adds considerable merit to the overall, so I beg you not to omit (just seed off peppers, if fear grips).

Magnifying the whole show even more was our three ingredient mayo, apt completion to this recipe's  impressive turnout. The salmon colored dip is a must accompaniment, which also could work as an allpurpose, noteworthy condiment, the smooth velvet punched in with meaningful measure of chili garlic sauce ( I urge you, Sriracha junkies, bottle up!).

I hope you fall for this as much as we three did. My summer meetups with you may be errant, but rest assured I'll bring in tow only that which classifies as utterfantastic, of the mustmakenow category. Definitely enough to have you instant songwrite, possibly do a happy dance, maybe to the tune of another language

Baked Fries~
(Adapted with modifications from Neelam Batra's Chilis To Chutneys, French Fries with Chaat Masala)
  • 6 medium potatoes, preferably russet
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • salt (if needed, most likely chaat masala has salt as an ingredient)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 serrano peppers chopped fine
Helper hands  of my A, who came up with the recipe. 
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Clean and scrub outside of  potatoes. Cut lengthwise into wedges, about 1" thick. I leave skins on.
  • Toss wedges with garlic powder, chaat masala and salt to flavor .
  • Coat a  foil lined baking tray(s) with cooking spray. Spread fries in a single layer and spray over another coat of cooking spray.
  • Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning wedges over halfway through.
  • Meanwhile heat oil in a small saucepan and lightly fry the chopped serranos and cilantro.
  • Top fries with the fried mixture.
  • Serve with chili mayo.
~How much a yield has to do with how big your slices. Cutting lengthwise to a width of roughly  one inch creates around 36-40 fries.
Chili Mayo~
  • ½ c mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha or any chili garlic sauce (please adjust to tolerance/taste)
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Taken by Z, who loves to be behind the camera, more than in front.
  • In bowl, whisk all ingredients until well combined.
  • Serve side with the fries.
And where has time gone? Only yesterday we started off the season, downing copious amounts of lemonade and tearing through chutney in bread. 

I see much summer potential for these golden wedges. In greased foil, they can be thrown on the grill and served as side to most grilling meats and fish.
 "But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:7-10