(90 minutes, serves 8)
This is essentially a cross between coconut milk flan + chai-style spicing, legacy of Portuguese colonialization of my little island. Using jaggery and treacle would give a darker color, more characteristic of vattalappam; you can add a little dark molasses to approximate that color and add a tasty, slightly bitter, note.
Note: When cooking for a *big* party, I usually double the recipe and cook it in a single large baking dish, serving it alongside a big dish of mango fluff, marshmallows, milk toffee, etc.
4 fresh eggs
1/2 cup jaggery (or firmly packed dark brown sugar)
1/2 cup maple syrup, kithul treacle, or a combination
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 rounded tsp ground cardamom
1/4 rounded tsp ground mace
pinch ground cloves
1 TBL rose water
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Beat eggs slightly (not ’til frothy). Dissolve jaggery in water over a low heat and then cool slightly. Add sugar syrup and maple syrup to beaten eggs, add the coconut milk, and stir to dissolve sugar.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a large jug, add evaporated milk, spices, and rose water. Pour into individual 4 oz. custard cups. Put custard cups in a baking dish or roasting pan; put dish in the oven and carefully add water to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until set, approximately 1 1/4 hours.
4. Cool and chill custards before serving.
Note: Old eggs have less egg volume than fresh ones, and may not set properly; if you only have old eggs, try adding an extra egg or two.
There is something pleasantly meditative about making sweets late at night, even if you burn the first batch a little. I forgot that my burners are misaligned and run hot (long story), so that even when I’m using my own recipe, I need to notch everything down a little — when I say ‘medium-high,’ I mean ‘medium’ on my own stove.
But it’s okay — milk toffee with cashews is still delicious even when it’s turned into dark caramel-cashew pralines. I wouldn’t serve it to Sri Lankans expecting our milk toffee, but otherwise, we’re good.
Usually I make exactly what I write in the recipe, but the truth is, I find cutting caramels labor-intensive enough that it’s something I only plan to do once a year or so. So I’m not going to make these again anytime soon, even though they’re quite delicious, and even though I think they would be just the tiniest bit tastier with the proportions I’m going to write down below. I made these with 3/4 c. mango pulp and 1/4 c. passionfruit pulp, because that’s what I had on hand, but I think they would be even better with 1/2 and 1/2, so that the tartness of the passionfruit would better balance the mango. But honestly, I think any ratio of those two would be delicious, as long as you ended up with 1 c. fruit pulp total.
Based on a Gale Gand basic caramel recipe. Makes at least 60 caramels.
5 c. sugar
1/2 c. mango pulp
1/2 c. passionfruit pulp
1 c. water
6 T butter
1 c. cream, warmed a little
flake salt for topping (optional)
1. In a very large pot (it will boil up a lot), mix sugar, fruit pulp, and water.
2. Bring to a boil and continue cooking without stirring until hard ball stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer).
3. Turn heat off and stir in the butter and then the cream.
4. Pour into a 9×12 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and buttered. Let the caramel cool and set until firm, at least two hours and preferably overnight.
5. Once firm, turn caramel out onto a board, cut into rectangles, and sprinkle with flake salt if desired. Wrap in decorative clear plastic (you can get squares online that are meant for caramels, that twist and hold well).
My god. It’s a good thing I’m out of ice cream, is all I’m saying.
Ice cream + passionfruit toffee + cashews + flake salt.
(No, I am not opening an ice cream parlor. But if we do that Sri Lankan pop-up in Amanda Daly‘s place, this might have to be a dessert option.)
Candy recipe-testing takes so much more patience than I normally need for recipe-testing!
I took a basic caramel recipe, swapped out the water for mango & passionfruit pulp, and then realized that that wasn’t thick enough, so I just went ahead and added the water back in. So now I *really* have no idea whether this will set into caramels or not. I may end up with a sticky messy that is impossible to cut. I may end up with toffee instead. It’s going to be hours before I have any idea.
I am feeling my way through candy-making, and I have to remind myself that my early attempts to modify my mom’s marshmallow recipe were equally confusing, and now, at least, I have that down. It’d be nice to get a solid desi-inflected caramel recipe down — we’ll see.
Ah well. I suppose this means it’s time to go and write for a while? Or sort clothes? Something. I suppose if it doesn’t set, I’ll have mango-passionfruit caramel sauce, which is not a tragedy.
Rich passionfruit flavor and a hint of rose scent. This delicate cake is lovely with a very light tea. Passionfruit puree can be ordered online, or is often found in Mexican grocers, sometimes frozen. If you have are lucky enough to have actual passionfruit on hand, you can, of course, pulp and puree them yourself; strain out the hard seeds if you do.
2 c. flour
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 c. passionfruit puree
1 c. yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T rosewater
12 T butter (room temperature)
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
2 egg yolks (room temperature)
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a cake pan (spraying with Baker’s Joy makes this easy). You can use a bundt pan, cakelet pans, or mini cake pans.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. In a second bowl, combine the passionfruit puree, yogurt, vanilla extract, and rosewater if using; set aside.
4. In the bowl of a standing mixer (paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar; add the egg yolks and eggs one at a time, pausing to scrape bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
5. Add the flour mixture and passionfruit mixture alternately in a few additions, starting with the dry. Scrape sides and bottom again to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated.
6. Fill the pan and bake on the middle rack for (50-55 for bundt, 25-30 minutes for cakelets, 15-20 minutes for mini cakes), or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted in the center of a cake. (If you want them darker, which shows off the contrast and the detail more, bake a few minutes longer.)
I keep messing with this recipe. This version has the real shortbread crispiness that I love. 🙂
(makes about 40 cookies)
The way the butter lingers on your tongue, the hint of salt with the sweet fruitiness of the dried mango and the slight sharpness of the crystallized ginger? Heaven. Bake a few minutes longer if you’re planning to dip them in coffee or tea.
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 t. salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 c. dried mango, chopped fine
1/4 c. crystallized ginger, chopped fine
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and salt. Then add flour and mix on low until dough forms. Stir in mango and ginger.
3. Turn out dough onto floured board, roll into logs. Cover in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. NOTE: Can be kept chilled at this point for several days, covered in plastic wrap, and then rolled, cut, and baked fresh.
3. Remove from fridge and cut slices. Chill individual cookies again for 10 more minutes (to reduce spreading). Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet (I like the insulated ones for even baking).
4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown, then remove to wire rack to cool. Delicious with chai!