My Blog Turned 1! So I Baked A Mango Saffron Custard Cake.

It has been an entire MONTH since I posted. I know. Quite awful indeed. This little blogasaurus turned one on the first of June, and I should have baked a cake and posted then, but I was suffering from malaise, as Blair Waldorf would say dramatically. I actually had a very bad bout of viral fever, which I caught from my mother and passed on to my one-year-old son, and all of us were very ill-disposed for a good week.

The reason was an unhealthy number of weddings we had to attend in the latter part of May. 9 different soirees to attend, in the form of luncheons, cocktail parties, dinners, intimate family affairs and yes, the wedding ceremonies itself. The thought of dressing up and spending so much time with friends and family was very appealing at first, but by the third day I wanted to hide under my saree and not make conversation.

As a result of excessive merrymaking and high temperatures, I naturally fell behind when it came to work and spent the last 2 weeks playing catch up. And now, I am finally back on track and in good health, and I have time to bake and cook again.

I discovered the blog Eat Little Bird a while back and have been smitten since. I chanced upon the blog when I was looking for a great yellow cake recipe. I was sick of my vanilla cakes looking kind of Tilda Swinton-ish. You know, kind of like pale meringue. (I love Tilda the actress, by the way. No one could have played the White Witch better!) I saw my friend Deepthi’s post about adding custard powder to get a perfect sponge cake, and further googling brought me to this wonderful Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake at Eat Little Bird.

Since I believe in adding a little spin to every cake recipe I find, I chose to substitute the rhubarb with…MANGO!!

Yes, it is mango season here in the tropics, and boy am I loving it! Mangoes for breakfast, mangoes at tea time and mangoes with cream and honey for dessert after dinner. Lord a-missy me, I do believe I could eat mangoes all day. (I watched Gone With The Wind TWICE on my laptop when I was ill. Just feelin’ some Southern comfort, that’s all it be. You can gag now if you need to.)

Anyway, if you visit the original recipe and look at the pictures, you will see how beautiful the rhubarb stalks look- a beautiful contrast of yellow and magenta. Since my cake would run the danger of looking rather jaundice-y with the combined yellowness of the batter and the mangoes, I sprinkled a few strands of saffron for a visual breather. And also because saffron has such an indulgent, calming fragrance.  It just makes any sweet treat a  little more luxurious ūüôā

This cake was rather crumbly, perhaps it was because I got too much air in the batter- I am still figuring out kitchen physics, so maybe it became crumbly because of a completely different reason. Either way, this is an extremely pleasant cake and the custard in the middle makes it that much more fun. I was happy to note that the custard came out of the oven just like in the original…” firm upon slicing, yet with still enough wobble to provide a contrasting texture to the cake.”

The tartness from the mango was a happy variation from the plain vanilla custard cake.

MANGO SAFFRON CUSTARD CAKE (Adapted from Eat, Little Bird’s Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake.)

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 200 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup vanilla custard powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 large mango (I used alphonso) sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon saffron strands, to sprinkle over the top
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing over the top
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, to sprinkle over the top

For the custard:

  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
METHOD
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 C
  • First, get your custard on. Whisk together the custard powder and sugar in a saucepan. Then, place it on the stove, add in the milk and allow to boil, while stirring continuously.
  • As soon as the custard thickens and starts bubbling, pull it off the heat and add the butter. (Please do pull it off the heat immediately. With my first batch of custard, I was so engrossed in staring at the bubbles that it got too thick and coagulated and formed lumps and was basically rendered useless.)
  • Cover and allow custard to cool.
  • Next, start on the cake. Cream the butter and sugar together until it is fluffy.
  • Then, add in one egg at a time, and 1/4 cup flour so that the batter begins to come together.
  • Next, add the remaining flour, plus the custard powder and the baking powder. You will get a pretty thick batter, but do not worry, that is how it is supposed to be.
  • Grease the bottom and sides of your baking dish and spread half the batter evenly at the bottom.
  • Top this with a layer of the cooled custard, followed by another layer of the cake batter. Make sure the second layer of cake batter covers the custard evenly and all around the edges.
  • Arrange the mango slices on top, pressing them into the batter slightly.
  • Sprinkle the saffron over the top.
  • Brush the top with the melted butter and sprinkle the extra sugar as well.
  • Bake at 180C for about 1 hr and 20 minutes.

The batter will be quite thick- almost like icing

This is the first batch of custard which I didn’t pull off the heat soon enough- you can see how it coagulated!

Cake batter, followed by the custard, followed by another even layer of cake batter…

…topped with mango slices and saffron!

I followed Thanh’s recipe almost down to the wire, measurements and all, the only difference being I used 1 large alphonso mango, cut into slices, instead of rhubarb stalks.

The only thing I was unhappy about? The fact that I didn’t have a deeper 8-inch baking dish! I ended up distributing the batter and mango between two not-so-deep 6-inch baking dishes. Had I baked one large cake, the layers would have been more prominent, that’s all. Also, since I was using a smaller baking dish, I needed to keep it in the oven for about 55 minutes.

The custard was just the right consistency between the crumbly cake layers

And it was all yellow. C’mon, we all liked Coldplay at some point, right?

Here’s to another year of cooking and blogging; baking and making new friends!

Mango

Coconut Green Beans And Confessions Of A Window Shopaholic

I’ve gotten mighty sluggish with my posting. And I manage to say that each time I put up a new post. And this one is going to be a long one.

The truth cannot be denied: I am a procrastinator. I have been meaning to address this flaw of mine, (for years, in fact) but the thing is…I keep putting it off. (Get it? I am so embarrassed by my procrasto pathetic-ness that I am even making feeble jokes about it.)

It seems to be a combination of procrastination and daydreaming. When I was in school, I would sit down to study, and then let my mind wander off in the middle… making a lesson I could finish in an hour take up 2 hours of my study time. Once I grew older, finished college and started working, that side of me faded away. I would just focus on the task at hand, do it quickly, do it well, and move on. I guess the nature of my work as a news producer did not leave much room for letting my mind wander. There is no ‘later’ in live news…either you get your show together or you don’t.

But now that I work from home, and I have tangible deadlines as opposed to rolling news…well, there is always room for ‘later.’ I have a very comfortable schedule and I am always well in time with my submissions. But I know that I could finish so much faster if I didn’t waste a lot of time online.

I have also been feeling guilty about the amount of time I spend in front of the computer. I randomly browse online marketplaces, fill up my cart and then remove the items one by one. Modern day window shopping. WASTE OF TIME.

This was clearly not healthy. For one, staring at products for so long…and two, wanting all those things I clearly did not need. It was not healthy. I am certainly not deprived- I have so many unread books and unworn clothes- but the fact is that the more you browse, the nicer and shinier new things look, and the older and shabbier the things look in your cupboard.

And the worst part, the one I am most guilty about- all that wasted shopping cart time could be spent with my son. I needed to ground myself and snap back to reality from my cybercloud.

So I cooked home-style stuff that reminds me of my childhood. And yes, started spending less time in front of the computer. (This blog is time well-invested. Not like a cyber shopping cart.)

I have been eating beans thoran or coconut green beans since forever. My mom would make it all the time, and it is one of my favourite vegetable sides. We usually have it with rice and curry, but it can be a great meal for someone who is trying to avoid carbs and gluten. Lots of protein!

The basic preparation is stir-fry style, mixed with coconut, turmeric powder, curry leaves and tempered mustard seeds.There is no right and wrong recipe, and everyone’s thoran is tweaked to their taste buds. I like adding some split black gram with the husk removed (white lentils). Mustard seeds, once they pop, add a hint of sharpness, and the black gram lends a nutty flavour. I love crunching on the browned lentils, so as you can see, I added quite a lot. That is also why I am calling my version coconut green beans instead of beans¬†thoran… it’s not because I am trying to sound colonial.

COCONUT GREEN BEANS

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 grams beans (chopped or julienned)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon hulled split black gram
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • A few curry leaves
  • 1 chopped green chilli or 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 large clove of garlic, sliced thinly
  • Salt to taste
  • Water

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a large wok.
  • When it gets hot, add the mustard seeds and let them pop.
  • Next, add the turmeric, split black gram, curry leaves, green chilli/chilli powder, garlic and swish around; allow the garlic to soften.
  • Add the beans and stir fry for a minute.
  • Add in the grated coconut and salt and mix well.
  • Pour some water over it, cover the wok and cook on a low flame until done. (About 10 minutes.)

‚ô•….WHY DON’T YOU….‚ô•

♥ Roll this up into a savoury crepe?

♥ Stir fry with some day-old rice for a quick meal in a bowl?

‚ô• Substitute the lentils with crushed peanuts?

Thanks and love to Prerna of What’s Cookin for her Liebster! More on that one real soon !

Eggless Jaggery and Sesame Cake

I have been wanting to take another shot at another eggless cake for a while now.      My housekeeper is a pure vegetarian, and whenever I bake, she takes stuff back home for her kids (they eat eggs and meat) but she never gets to eat some herself. So I was looking for a simple recipe that would give me a chance to share some cake with with her.

Then I discovered Poornima and her delicious blog, and found the most wonderful eggless cake recipe. What’s better, it called for wheat flour and jaggery! Jaggery is kind of like molasses, except that it is lighter brown, rather golden syrupy in colour. Basically, sugarcane juice is boiled down for hours and hours till you get a viscous liquid and when this hardens, you get jaggery. (Source.) Jaggery is used widely in Indian cuisine, and in Kerala, where I come from, it is used to make¬†all kinds of sweets and payasam.¬†I’ll put up a detailed post on payasam later. Rather strapped for time now.

Anyway, I tweaked the recipe by adding some black sesame seeds to it…Ellunda or jaggery-sesame balls, which are eaten in every corner of Kerala, taste pretty great, so I figured that the combo would work in cake too. Lemon and poppy seed in the West, jaggery and sesame in Kerala!

The wheat flour and jaggery lent quite a nice colour to it. Just look at how gluteny the batter looks!! (If you are on a gluten-free diet, please run.)

EGGLESS SESAME AND JAGGERY CAKE (Adapted From Poornima’s Tasty Treats.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup wheat flour ( I used Ashirwad atta)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 cup jaggery, grated
  • 1 cup milk (I used lukewarm milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180 C and grease a baking dish or loaf pan and keep aside.
  • Sieve together the wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  • Add in the black sesame seeds and swish them around.
  • Add the grated jaggery and mix gently.
  • Add the milk, oil and vanilla extract and mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  • Pour batter into a greased baking dish or loaf pan and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 C or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.

I was skeptical because the last time I tried something eggless it was less than perfect, but this cake was a winner. My husband ate one-fourth of the loaf as soon as he got back from work and he is  not too big on sweet stuff.

It’s got a great consistency- not too crumbly, not too chewy, a little sticky…and the colour!! Oh it is beautiful. It’s because of the jaggery no doubt. And the sesame seeds just make it more fun!

So now I am off to celebrate my son’s first birthday. When he turns 2, I will be seeking the advice of Ameena, who sure knows how to throw a phancy birthday party.

Have a nice weekend everyone!