Monthly Archives: April 2013

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

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I really need to check my tickets like a million times before I travel next… especially if they’ve been booked by someone else! There I was on Saturday afternoon, all content after my theatre workshop in Jaipur, excited to head back home that evening… when I just happened to glance at my ticket. And guess what… I was booked on the flight home the next day!! Long story short, I got an extra 24 hours in the city, which was great since I had been supremely lazy this trip & hadn’t gone anywhere! So I went shopping (yay!), had a drink & a traditional Rajasthani dinner with my friend (camera played tricks so no pictures :-()… & lazed some more all of Sunday!

But my delayed return home meant that I would not have the time to a bake a birthday cake for my father-in-law before mid-night Sunday… or would I?

While relaxing on Sunday, I caught up on my blog-reading. I was going through one I had just started following Food Made With Love… the name itself got me interested because that’s what I believe in too, spreading love through food! And I hit jackpot! I saw a recipe for a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. I was very intrigued… this was the 2nd time in 2 days that I came across that cake! Seemed like there was some history to it. And there is! I love background stories to everything! I went & asked my best friend, Google, & here’s what I found.

The Brooklyn Blackout Cake is a soft, crumbly, 3 layered chocolate cake (usually Devil’s Food) with a wonderfully deep yet light chocolate custard / pudding filling & frosting, topped with a layer of finely processed cake crumbs. Sigh… I wanted to sink my teeth into that one right then & there!!

The original cake was invented by a New York bakery, Ebinger’s,  which was a Brooklyn institution from 1894 to 1972. During World War II, the Civilian Defense Corps in the U.S., regularly practiced blackout drills. In Brooklyn, which was close to the naval yard, blackouts prevented the battleships which were dispatched from being silhouetted by the bright lights of the borough in the background. So the dark, almost black cake was named after these blackout drills.

This rich, intense cake was somewhat of a staple in New York, the cake that you took as a gift at a dinner party, for birthdays or just as a treat! It was apparently the kind of cake that grandparents tell their grandkids about… “You have no idea what you have missed!” types. Ebinger’s shut shop in 1972. Of course the authentic Brooklyn Blackout Cake recipe was lost with that. Many bakers, bakeries & die-hard Ebinger fans have since tried to recreate this yummy-licious cake. 

The recipe I followed is from Food Made With Love, which was in turn from the Humming Bird Bakery Cookbook. Luckily I had most of the ingredients I needed & my doll of sister-in-law picked up the rest by the time I landed! So I reached home & got down to making the Brooklyn Blackout Cake for my father-in-law’s birthday!

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 100 gm Butter, (softened)
  • 260 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 45 gm Cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 170 gm Plain Flour
  • 160 ml Whole Milk

Chocolate Custard:

  • 250 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 125 gm Cocoa Powder
  • 200 gm Cornflour
  • 85 gm Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To Sprinkle:

A pack of Chocolate Chip Cookies, blitzed in the food processor

Note:

The original recipe called for:

  • Unsalted butter. If you do use this, you need to add a pinch of salt.
  • 500 gm Castor Sugar. I thought I’d start off by adding half the quantity of sugar & taste my way along to see if more was needed. I think 250 gm was enough
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup. I figured that the Maple Syrup enhanced the sweetness & added this rich flavour to the custard.

3 x 20 cm cake tins, base-lined with grease-proof paper

Method:

For the Cake

  1. Cream the butter and sugar  until light & fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time,whisk & mix well ,scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder & bicarbonate of soda (plus salt if using).
  4. Add half the flour, then all the milk, & finish with the remaining flour. Mix well until everything is well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins & smooth over with a palette knife.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven at 170 C for 2o mins (if using 3 x 20 cm tins). 
  7. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Custard:

  1. Put the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder & 600 ml of water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.
  2. Mix in the cornflour with 120 ml of water, then whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan.
  3. Bring back to boil , whisking constantly. This is important else the custard will be lumpy. 
  4. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat & stir in the butter & vanilla extract.
  6. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with clingfilm & chill until very firm.

It looked so pretty & delish even without the crumbs!

Putting it Together

  1. When the cakes are cold, using a serrated knife, slice a thin layer off one of the cakes.
  2. Put this layer into a food processor and process to make fine crumbs.
  3. Put one cake on a cake stand and spread about one-quarter of the chocolate custard over it with a palette knife.
  4. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the custard over it.
  5. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining custard over the top and sides.
  6. Cover with the cake crumbs and chill for about 2 hours.

 Note;
  • I used the wrong sized cake tin (a larger one!) so the cake didn’t rise enough to give me 3 layers + crumbs
  • I sliced 2 layers & instead of cake crumbs, used the cookie crumbs
  • Also since I made 1 large-ish cake, it took longer to bake almost 35 minutes.

I finished frosting just after midnight, so we ended up cutting the cake the next day. It stayed well in the refrigerator & I kept it out for an hour before serving. It was so worth the wait! Soft, gooey & rich, rich chocolate!! And surprisingly light too. This cake is going to be baked pretty often I think!!

This recipe serves 12 people.

PS: I would like to thank Robert Simon for informing me that the Original Ebinger Brooklyn Blackout Cake, was made with Coffee. That, I can imagine, would take the cake to another level! Am definitely going tot add in the coffee the next time I make it 🙂

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Baked Chicken

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This has got to be my laziest trip to Jaipur, ever! Apart from my classes everyday & going over to my friend’s for dinner last night, I haven’t done anything! I’m blaming it on the weather… it’s too hot in the afternoon to go anywhere.

Though today this is how it was outside when I got done with lunch… cloudy, breezy & a light drizzle…

And when I woke up from my nap (it’s summer in India… you have to nap right?) it was warm & still all over again!

Anyway, I thought I’d make myself useful & write in a post sharing a recipe for a dish I had cooked over a month ago. As you will notice after reading the ingredients, this was before my diet days!

Ingredients

  • 450 gm Chicken Breast
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 7-8 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • ½ Carrot (chopped)
  • 6 Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 150 gm Corn Kernels (boiled)
  • 1 small head Broccoli (florets)
  • ½ each green, yellow & red Bell Peppers (chopped)
  • 200 ml fresh Cream
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • Fresh Basil (finely chopped)
  • 200 gm Cheese (grated)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Dried Oregano, Celery Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Make diagonal slashes on the chicken & rub in minced garlic, pepper, oregano & celery salt. 
  2. In an oven-safe pan heat a tablespoon of Olive Oil & sear the chicken quickly both sides till brown & keep aside.
  3. In the same pan sauté the onion till soft & pink.
  4. Add the carrot, mushrooms, broccoli & bell peppers & cook for a few minutes.
  5. Place the chicken on the veggies, drizzle olive oil generously, cover pan with foil & roast in the oven for about 35 minutes at 200 C. 
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan & cut into slivers.
  7. To the veggies add cream, milk, basil, corn, salt, pepper, 150 gm cheese.
  8. Cook till the sauce thickens
  9. Pour over the chicken slivers.
  10. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, 50 gm cheese & basil over it & bake for 20 – 25 minutes till the cheese melts & the crumbs turn golden.

Serve hot with a side of mashed potatoes.

This is one of those “comfort” dishes… mild, gentle flavours but rich enough to make you feel all warm & gooey & totally content 🙂

This recipe serves 4 people.

(Almost) Whole Wheat Focaccia with Goan Sausages

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It’s 4 am IST as I start to type this & I’m at the airport waiting to take off to Jaipur, Rajasthan. I was so terrified I would oversleep & miss my flight, that I pretty much didn’t sleep at all! And now I need to make sure I don’t doze off & miss boarding the airplane all together! I hate early morning trips!

It’s been a month since I last visited the Pink City & even as sleepy as I am, I’m pretty excited about going back. A new set of kids to work with, a new workshop, new things to explore & discover! Being a drama teacher really is a fun & exciting job. But a week away, also means time away from my Kitchen & being able to cook! Sometimes it’s a good thing, other times… well, like when I spent a month there in December, I so missed cooking that I nearly put out a  status update on Facebook asking my friends if they had friends in Jaipur who would loan me their kitchen for an afternoon! I was luckier on my last trip when I caught up with an old friend who invited me home for a delicious Bengali style Mutton & her daughter & I baked a cake!

I couldn’t leave home for a week without making something…especially since the past week was chaotic (as usual) & I couldn’t cook anything interesting (or blog-worthy!) since my last post. And once again there was this urgency to bake!  You know how it is!

I haven’t baked bread since I started my diet in March. I’m okay with all the light meals eating right, the salads & healthy desserts, but if there’s one thing that I’ve truly craved & missed is some warm, fresh home-made bread… the soft crumb, the crust, the aroma!

And this Sunday… I gave in! I teamed the bread with another one of my favourites… Goan Sausages!

Goa is a small state on the West Coast of India & a very popular tourist destination. It’s got beaches, the river, churches & quaint architecture. It was a Portuguese colony & you can still see the influence on food, buildings, lifestyle & even the language. I love Goa & if I could, I would go live there tomorrow! Get a small shack on the beach & start a bakery. I’ve had some of my best vacations there, with family & a rocking one with my girl friends! The food here is amazing… a lot of fresh sea food….prawn, lobster, calamari, cooked with spices & coconut, bebinca, a traditional dessert with coconut milk & sugar, pork sorpotel & xacuti, & of course Goan Sausages!

These sausages are a blend of Portuguese sausages with Goan spices &  are packed with flavour… fiery & tangy all at once & go very well with crusty bread. You can’t stop eating them! Luckily my regular cold storage stocks these so even if I can’t be in Goa, I can bring a bit of Goa home & team it up with a bit of Italy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + extra (for dusting) Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Plain Flour (hence the “almost” in the title!)
  • 10 gm Fresh Yeast
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 5 – 6 tablespoons + extra (for drizzling) Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup Milk + water
  • 1 Egg (beaten)
  • Salt
  • 200-250 gm Goan Sausages

Note: I’ve used milk & egg here because whole wheat tends to make the bread denser & dryer & these bring back the softness & lightness.

Method

  1. Mix the yeast, sugar & a few tablespoons of lukewarm water in a small bowl. Cover & keep aside for about 10 minutes till it gets frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour & salt.
  3. Add the yeast, egg, milk & olive oil to the flour to make a soft , sticky dough. Add more flour or water to get he right texture. A lot of this depends on the weather & humidity in the air.
  4.  Turn the dough onto a floured counter & knead gently till it comes together smooth & elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a large, well oiled bowl, cover it with cling film & leave to rise in a warm & dry place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
  6. While the dough proves, prepare the sausages. Remove the meat from the casing & saute in a non-stick wok, without any oil. Splash some water in the wok. Cover it with a deep plate & pour water into the plate & allow the sausages to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep aside.
  7. After the dough rises, knock it back & knead well.
  8. Pat the dough out to a square shape & place in a very well oiled baking tin.
  9. Cover with cling film & leave to rise for another half hour.
  10. After half hour spread the sausages over the dough, sprinkle olives & generously drizzle olive oil over it. 
  11. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for about 25 minutes.

I’m so glad I gave in to my bread craving! Couldn’t stop eating this fresh, crusty, chewy yet soft bread! And the sausage topping…. Delish!

I stuffed some of the remaining sausages into the leftover dough & made this as a snack to carry with me to Jaipur 🙂

Off Season Gingerbread Men

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My home smells like Christmas… warm, cinnamon-y, Gingerbread-sy!

And that’s all thanks to my darling little nephews! Ahaan, the 3 year old, helped me bake some “Zinzer”bread Cookies the last time he was visiting here in January. I thought I’d roll out  the dough & have him stamp out the shapes. But no sir… that’s too easy!

He wanted to stir & stir & stir the butter & sugar! And when turned my back for a bit  to get something, he was busy adding spoonfuls of some more  butter & sugar! Since then, almost every time we speak, it’s “Maasi, I want zinzerbread man!” He apparently even told his mum the cookies she made were “Nice, but not like Maasi’s!” Oops! Didn’t make my sister too happy!

Anyway, so my parents are flying over to visit my sister (lucky them!) & I have been ordered to send a batch of cookies with them!

Luckily I had the kitchen all to myself this morning before all the craziness started. Music on, on, ingredients in place, I got to work using the same recipe from Pham Fatale I had worked with earlier. My sister’s family is vegetarian so this one had to be Eggless. The boys don’t eat honey either & I didn’t have molasses on hand, so I used Maple Syrup. A good call, because I love the rich flavour of Maple, it adds depth to the cookies. The last time I made these I used lemon zest & juice, which was good. This time I used Orange… it was heaven!  Add powdered Cinnamon, Cardamom & Nutmeg along with the key ingredient Dried Ginger Powder to this & you’ve got Christmas in your oven!

The Orange Juice-Cinnamon Glaze drizzled over the cookies made them even more magical & Christmas-y! I can’t get over the aromas wafting out of my oven, lingering around my Kitchen… sweet, spicy, & so festive!

Sending all my love to my little babus with these cookies! Save some for Mama & Papa too, okay?

🙂

Basa… En Papillote

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The past 5-6 days were super hectic but fun, starting with the Maharashtrian New Year, Gudi Padwa, on Thursday & a steady stream of family visiting over the weekend. Food of course played a very important part in the festivities! Puran Poli (sweet, thin flatbread stuffed with jaggery & lentils), little date & nut squares (which were actually sugar-free), Mango Shrikhand… Sweets always take centre stage during Indian festivals! It took a lot of will power to not reach out for the mango & yogurt dessert, though I couldn’t resist a bite of the Poli! The main courses too were rich & masaledar (spicy)… mutton curry, kheema (minced mutton), prawns, chicken, served with wada (small, flat, deep fried rice & white gram flour flat bread, shaped like donuts) & neer dosa (light rice flour pancakes)… sigh…my diet!

Anyway, although the food was tasty beyond words, we had had quite enough of the heavy, fiery flavours. It was time for a palate cleanser, something light, fresh & flavourful without the excesses. It was time for my favourite fish… Basa!

I wanted to use a new recipe book I had recently bought & try a technique I had never used before. And luckily for me the Easy Everyday Simple Cookbook (edited by Anne McDowell) had just the thing… a recipe for a Basque Baked Haddock in Parchment or “En Papillote” (French). I had Basa in my freezer so went ahead & used that instead.

“En Papillote” is a cooking technique where fish, poultry, meat or even vegetables are wrapped in parcels of parchment paper & baked. The moisture from the food itself or from water, stock or wine is held in by the paper to steam it. In some traditional South East Asian, Indian & Parsi dishes the meat or fish is wrapped in banana or cassava leaves & then steamed or grilled, which also adds a subtle flavour to the food.

I had first heard the word “En Papillote” on MasterChef Australia. I was an avid follower of the show, which in many ways influenced the way I looked at cooking, specially the non-Indian, Global Cuisine. Almost every episode was an “A-ha! So that’s how they do it?” or “Wow! I’ve gotta try that at home now!” moments! More often than not, the husband & I would be watching the show (yup… this was one show that I watched which actually interested him!) while eating dinner…terrible idea! Because there we were in our living room with our plates of Okra & Roti (whole-wheat flatbread)… BORING!! While on screen, the contestants would be prettily plating up dishes like Roast Pork Belly with Seared Scallops & Apple Brandy Sauce or Stuffed Middle Eastern Snapper with Onion Rice & Salsa! And the desserts…OMG! I could cry! So then I started revising my dinner menus a bit. Even if it was a simple Indian dish or even an omelette or a sandwich, I made an effort to make sure I served it pretty J Then we didn’t feel as left out!

“En Papillote” seemed exotic & somehow I never got around to cooking with that technique. Well there’s always a first time, I guess! So here it is, my first attempt… Basa “En Papillote”!

Ingredients

  • 800 gm Basa fillets
  • ½ each red, green & yellow bell peppers (finely chopped)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tomatoes (skinned, seeded & finely chopped)
  • Juice & Zest of 1 Orange
  • 4 tablespoons White Wine
  • Black Olives
  • 1 tablespoon Basil
  • a handful of Coriander
  • Chilli flakes
  • Dried Herbs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sheets of Baking Parchment Paper

Note: The original recipe asked for:

  • Only Red & Green Peppers, I added the Yellow ones ‘coz I had them & I love the colour!
  • Juice of 1 Lemon, which I didn’t have, so I used Orange instead & added the zest for good measure.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Oregano, none in the fridge, so threw in the Basil & Coriander
  • I added the Chilli Flakes ‘coz hey, we’re Indian & we love the heat!

Method:

  1. Mix together in a bowl all the ingredients, except for the fish & olives, like a salad.
  2. Cut the parchment into squares larger than the size of the fillet. I could not manage squares for some reason (I’m geometrically challenged I think!) so made rectangles.
  3. Place a piece of fish on the parchment & spoon 1-2 teaspoons of the salad over it. Scatter olives too.
  4. If you’ve managed a square, fold the parchment over the fish to make a triangle. If not, just fold it tightly over the fish to make whatever shape you can (like I did!) Either way, remember to fold the edges together tightly to make a sealed parcel. Repeat this with all the fillets.
  5. Arrange the parcels on a baking tray & bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 – 190C for 20 min

Note: If the size of fish fillets is small, then you could arrange 2 – 3 pieces per parcel. Cut the paper accordingly.

Serve immediately! It tastes best piping hot! You could serve it with some garlic bread & buttered mushrooms (like I did) or any other side-dish you might like. The fish is steamed to perfection, absorbing all the flavours beautifully. The dish is truly very simple, healthy & easy to put together & yet looks & tastes gorgeous!

  This recipe serves 4

Mango in a Raita

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It’s that Time of the Year! The Mango Season…or like my friend Chittoo’s nephew Nemo calls it “Mango Holidays”! 🙂

Come April & the King of Fruits makes his presence felt all over the city. Neat piles of the orange-yellow fruit dot street corners, fruit & vegetable markets, traffic signals… everywhere you look crates, baskets, hay & the bright mango colour.

Mangoes are my favourite fruit. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born right in the middle of the season. Growing up, our home, from April to June, smelled like a Mango Orchard!

A household of 11 people ensured that there were crates of the fruit at home any given point in time. The space outside the kitchen had the dozens of ripe, fragrant fruit stored in piles of hay ready to eat. The extra, not-so-ripe ones used to be stored just as you entered through the front door. So whether you stepped out of your room first thing in the morning or came home after a long day at school, the beautiful, sweet & heady scent would hit you smack in the face! And with that the promise of a treat in store… slices or cubes of mangoes for breakfast, bowls of freshly squeezed & strained mango juice or Aam Ras with Poli (thin, layered whole wheat Roti or flat-bread) or Safed Rotli (cottony soft white flat bread made with rice flour) for lunch, tall chilled glasses of mango milkshake or mango Lassi (yogurt based smoothie) for tea & mango Shrikhand, sweet, thick yogurt flavoured with chunks of the fruit with Pooris (small, round, deep fried whole wheat flatbread). If Mango is the King of fruits, my Ma is the Queen of Mango Shrikhand makers! The Shrikhand she makes is light, not too sweet with just the perfect balance of fruit & yogurt. I absolutely LOVE it! She was sure to make this dessert every year on my birthday. Even now she makes it around my birthday & freezes it for me if I’m not around 🙂

There are loads of different types of mangoes. There’s the Alphonso or Hapoos, saffron-red skin , plump, firm, & sweet. That’s the one we eat sliced or cubed, in Shrikhand, Lassi, Milkshake. Ma & my Grandma would fill large earthen jars with firm, ripe Hapoos mangoes freshly crushed mustard seeds to make Bafana, pickled ripe mangoes to be eaten with split brown rice khichri a few months later during Shraavan, the Hindu month of fasting. Then there is the Pairee, slightly green, just a wee bit tart, perfect for Aam Ras or juice. Then there are the large Rajapuris & yellow Dussheris that crop up later in the season when the best Hapoos & Pairees are on their way out. After that you have the Langras,& others… honestly we are a bunch of Mango snobs who don’t look beyond Hapoos & Pairees! And no matter what anyone says…. you get the BEST mangoes in Maharashtra! Most of the mangoes in Bombay come from Ratnagiri on the west coast of the state. The rest of the country, just doesn’t measure up!

I could live on mangoes! I think back in the day, we hardly ate any vegetables during summer! Of course the grown-ups tried to ration out the amount of mangoes we ate… but it rarely worked! My favourite way to eat a mango was to suck on it… with skin & all & become a complete mess, with mango juice down to the elbows & all over my face!

Or as a mango sandwich… thick slices of the fruit on a thick slice of white bread,  buttered…well…thickly!

The recipe I am going to post today is a Mango Raita. raita is a yogurt based condiment usually with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, pineapples, or potatoes & is used as a sauce, dip or a refreshing complement to a spicy dish. As far as possible, I hate tampering with the natural flavour of the fruit. But this savoury-sweet-mustardy version is a delicious accompaniment to any meal. At home, if there was a vegetable dish cooked, that we didn’t much care for, this mango raita was made to lure us into eating… “If you have 2 spoons of peas, I will give you some more kairi (mango) raita!” or if we had unexpected guests, this added a special touch to an ordinary meal.

The raita made at home was a traditional one, more yogurt & less fruit, with the former being more liquid. I chose to deconstruct it a bit so that that the yogurt adds to the flavour without over-powering the taste of mango. While I have used the same seasoning my mother did, I added the sesame & almonds for an extra crunch (I always need that!) & a lovely warm toasty flavour  & mint for colour & freshness.

So here it is… My version of the Vakil Family Mango Raita!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 ripe Alphonso Mangoes (cubed)
  • 1 cup thick Yogurt (hung & beaten)… gosh that sounds violent!
  • 1-2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds (crushed)
  • 1-2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds (roasted & ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
  • Salt
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Roasted Almonds (roughly chopped)
  • Toasted Seasame Seeds

Method

  1. Toss the mango with some mint leaves & sesame seeds & arrange on a serving plate.
  2. Whisk the yogurt with the mustard seeds, cumin powder, salt & sugar.
  3. Pour the yogurt over the mango.
  4. Garnish with the rest of the mint, sesame & almonds

 

PS: All the pictures in today’s post are courtesy

My Dearest Husband 🙂

Baked Yogurt With Figs & Honey

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It was a happy day indeed!

My 16 month old nephew, Aviloo (his older brother calls him that, so we do too!), looked at a picture of me & said “Maasi” (maternal aunt in my native Gujarati)!! He has just about started talking & after saying “Mama”, “Papa”, “Bird”, & “Ball”… it’s “Maasi“! Of course Mimima (his grandmother & my mum), Nana (his grandfather & my dad) & Maasa (my husband) are extremely upset 😉


The best thing in the world is to have a sister! I’ve always wanted an older brother too, but I wouldn’t trade my sister for all the chocolate in the universe! She’s been my pillar, my all time-go-to, my best friend! So then the worst thing about having a sister is that it’s so very, very difficult if she lives far away from you! And especially if she has 2 little boys you love the most!

Her older son, Ahaan, is 3 & at that magical age when everything is about stories & questions & drama & discoveries & tantrums… a very entertaining age if you are the doting aunt waiting for daily updates about “What did Ahaan say / do today?” Not so sure if you are the Mom or Dad being constantly bombarded with Whys, Hows, Whats & of course the NOs!

And little Ahir or Aviloo who is in his own quiet way lighting up our lives with bright dimpled smiles, cuddles, squeals of delight & wonder at everything, wanting to explore, do things his brother does. When Nandini called to tell me he said “Maasi”, I was super excited & very moved. I haven’t been around the tot or spoken to him as much as I did with his brother & yet he called my name!

How I wish I was with them! I miss them so much!

Silly as it may sound, I wanted to make something to celebrate & also in a way bridge the geographical distance.

My sister, my brother-in-law & my nephews are vegetarian. She complains constantly that I don’t post enough vegetarian & egg-free dishes. So here is a dessert I have been meaning to try my hand at, using the one ingredient the boys can’t get enough of… Yogurt!

Since I am on a health trip & attempting to make desserts that are not only delicious but healthy too, I will not make this one an exception. Almost all the recipes I looked at needed condensed milk. Sneaking spoonfuls of sweet condensed milk & Nutella from the fridge late at night… is a very comforting childhood memory. I love it! And it’s been years since had some. But tempting as it was to use the real thing, I looked for a healthy substitute. I’m so proud of my restraint!

I decided to make condensed milk at home!I found a recipe that seemed the simplest & most hassle-free. And no, I did not substitute the sugar! That would be asking for too much! I just cut down the quantity of sugar 🙂

Ingredients for Condensed Milk

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons Instant Powdered Milk
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water
  • 3/4 cup Sugar 

Note: I thought 3/4 cups Sugar was too much so I used 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar + 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract. The next time, I may use 1/2 cup or less.

Method

  1. Mix the powdered milk & warm water in a bowl.
  2. Set the bowl in a pan of hot water & stir in sugar &  vanilla extract until dissolved.
  3. You may want to set it in the refrigerator or use it once it reaches room temperature.

This recipe makes 1 1/4 Cups

 I have adapted the following recipe from Meatless Monday’s Apricot Pistachio Baked Yogurt

Ingredients for Baked Yogurt

   

  • 2 cups Low Fat  Yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup Home-made Condensed Milk
  • 2 Figs
  • 1 tablespoon Honey
  • 2 tablespoons Water
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 2-3 Cloves

Method

  1. Tightly bind the yogurt in a muslin cloth, place it on a sieve over a bowl & keep aside in the refrigerator for about 30-40 minutes.
  2. Once the water has drained out & the yogurt is thick & creamy, combine it with the condensed milk until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into a medium sized baking dish or individual ramekins & place in roasting pan filled with water & bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes

  1. Meanwhile heat water with star anise, cloves & honey & add the figs.
  2. Turn the heat off after a few minutes & let the figs stew for a bit in the spice infused honeyed water.
  3. Pour the fruit over the baked yogurt & serve warm or chilled.

The boys will surely love this but I think I too, may have discovered one of my favourite non-chocolate desserts! It is light, creamy, a bit like caramel custard in texture. The star anise & cloves cut through the sweetness of the figs & honey & add another dimension to the flavour.

This recipe serves 4-6 people