Confectionery experiments

Confectionery experiments….ruby chocolate and dehydrated strawberries. The crunch of the strawberries is very fun.  Karina, was thinking of eating strawberries in Sri Lanka with you.

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Quick reminder for US-folks that if you’re signing up for my Patreon to subscribe to the edible treats level, please do sign up by end of February, if you’d like to receive a treat box in March! I’m not positive what will be in there yet, but almost certainly the Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolates (I’ve ALMOST finalized the recipe), and probably the ruby-strawberry ones too. I’m thinking another batch of “I Plight Thee My Troth” (passionfruit, vanilla and rose) marshmallows too.

If you sign up after March 1, you’ll get your first box at the end of June. (So signing up in Feb is an excellent deal; signing up in March is much less so, signing up in April will go back to normal. Slightly unfortunate function of trying to do a quarterly product through a monthly service.)

#serendibkitchen

Dragon Fruit Nebulae chocolate

I was experimenting with powdered dragon fruit (pitaya) this weekend — fun, and so easy. Just melt white chocolate chips in the microwave (1/2 power for 2-3 minutes, stir), and then stir in some of the powdered dragon fruit (intensely purple!) to make a truly beautiful natural chocolate. If you’re going for an all-natural Easter table, this would be a great addition.

I’m really happy with the decorating here. I used two different molds — one that makes little crystal shapes, and one that gives a geometric breakaway surface to a bar, both good. I don’t love having the dried fruit in first, though, as it makes a lot of holes in the cool geometric surface; for the next one, I’m pouring in the chocolate, and then adding the dried fruit to what will become the base of the bar.

I brushed some more dragon fruit powder over the top, and followed that with edible gold dust, and I really love the resulting look — I’ve already decided to call the final bar my Dragon Fruit Nebulae chocolate, because look how cool and space-y! 

The flavor, though, is quite faint; dragon fruit just doesn’t have a strong flavor. Nice, but barely there, and adding more dragon fruit powder doesn’t do much to boost the flavor.

I tried adding in some chopped dried pineapple — not bad, definitely more interesting chocolates with the dried fruit, but dried pineapple is too sweet to really contrast with the sweetness of the white chocolate. I thought candied ginger might work, but when I dipped a piece in and tasted it, the result just didn’t seem happy to me. The ginger itself was too assertive and interesting, and everything else disappeared. I prefer dark chocolate to play with candied ginger, I think.

Then I thought about adding a bit of citric acid to the chocolate to bring out some tang; I also thought about trying some white pepper for a bit of a surprise. But instead, decided to try dried cranberries. Those are setting now; fingers crossed!

Sunday dinner: serving

Anand had so much fun setting the table creatively, I had to share. 

The leftover pasta looks a little dull on the plate next to the brightness of the steak and broccoli on the plate, but it was super-tasty, so we’ll allow it. Tasty > pretty. Kevin had made simple sautéed chicken thighs with bacon, served with buttered spinach noodles the night before. It was fine, but I had some leftovers to use up.

I ended up re-doing the dish after Saturday’s dinner — I put a little olive oil in the pan, added a bit of flour, sautéed for a minute, added cream, salt, pepper, to make a nice sauce. Then lemon juice (careful that the cream wasn’t too hot at that point, so it wouldn’t curdle), because I was craving a bit of tang. Added in his chicken with a bit of bacon, also the leftover sautéed onions and mushrooms from the fridge, also the leftover roasted brussels sprouts from the fridge, plus the cooked spinach fettucine.

Just stirred it all together for a minute to blend — didn’t want to make the pasta mushy — and then grated in about 1/2 a cup of fresh Parmesan, stirring. Mmm….refrigerator pasta. It’s the best, esp. if you’re the frugal sort who hates wasting food, and the easily-bored sort who doesn’t want to eat exactly the same thing as you’ve eaten for the last three days….

It came out so well that on Sunday, I had to stop and ask Anand if he *really* wanted thirds of the pasta, if he was actually still hungry, or if it was just tasty. He paused, and admitted that it was just tasty. I told him to slow down and drink a glass of water, see if he wasn’t actually full. He was, as it turned out.

I mean, not too full for dessert, but that’s a separate stomach anyway.  We just did Italian cookies (that a kind soul had brought to the garden club meet-up we’d hosted earlier that day) and Mommy’s failed chocolates. They were fine, just not quite as delicious as I’d hoped. Failed chocolate is often still tasty.

Neopolitan layered chocolate experiment

Super-happy with this Neapolitan confection experiment! I had some bowls of chocolate left over from the Valentine’s fruit-dipping, and I didn’t want to waste them — had the brainwave that I could do a layered set of chocolates. And they are SO SO good. Luscious, creamy. The kids love them, and so do I.

I just melted the chocolate at 1/2 power in the microwave for 2 minutes, stirred, and then poured it into the molds. First white chocolate, let it set (30 minutes or so?), then ruby chocolate, then milk chocolate. (I wish ruby chocolate were more widely available; my local Trader Joe’s carried the chips for a bit, but don’t anymore. I buy big bags of couverture chocolate from Callebaut on Amazon now.)

At first I planned to carefully wipe up any drips on the inside of the mold — but then I had the brilliant idea of leaving them, so that it would look like the chocolate had dripped down — just like Neapolitan ice cream! I love the effect. 🙂

The colors are very appropriate for spring coming, don’t you think? They’re going to look fabulous on our Easter table, esp. if we do natural dying of eggs again this year; they’ll blend beautifully.

And the best part is that they’re also delicious; the gentle natural fruitiness of the ruby chocolate is so reminiscent of the strawberry in Neapolitan ice cream, it all just works. Honestly, if I had the energy, I’d figure out how to copyright this thing, so no big food manufacturers start making them. 🙂 But you folks, please, go ahead. Enjoy!

(They came out so well, I’m planning to make a few more batches, so a set of four will definitely be included in the first Serendib Kitchen Patreon subscription, woot! I’m not quite sure when I’m sending that out, since it’s already February — I’m thinking I might send one out in March, just for people who sign up at that level in February.

That would be a dramatic discount ($20 instead of $30, which includes shipping) on what is already a pretty great deal, but hey, that’s what you get for being an early adopter. If we send out by end of March, then they should arrive everywhere in good time for Easter. 🙂 Patreon link in comments. If we can manage it, time-wise, we’ll also do a flash sale sometime in March, but March is a little crazed with launch, so we’ll see. Maybe I can convince my assistant Stephanie that she wants to join the chocolate assembly line.)

Mango creams: failure, and a really delectable silver lining

Chronicles of mango cream chocolate failure, take two.

So, if you remember, my first attempt at mango cream chocolate didn’t succeed because the frozen mango chunks ended up really lacking in flavor. Which surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have, because one thing the mango ice cream recipes all said was that it was essential to use really ripe, flavorful mangoes to get good mango ice cream — unlike, say, passionfruit, where the flavor and tang seem to cut through effectively even with a relatively weak puree.

So for try #2, I went with mango pulp (Kesar was what I had on hand, though I think Roshani prefers a different brand?), which I’ve found reliable for flavor in mango fluff, mango smoothies, mango lassi, etc. So the next problem was consistency — I wanted something that would set up into a firm cream.

On googling, I found some recipes that combined mango with cream cheese, so I tried that first, but putting in enough pulp to get the flavor I wanted resulted in a very liquid-y mixture that would definitely not set firm. I didn’t want to waste it, so I thought I’d try combining that with a sugar paste like the one I’d done for the rose creams — beaten egg whites and powdered sugar. One photo here shows the color — pure mango pulp on the left, my mixture on the right.

Unfortunately, while the resulting mixture was tasty, it still didn’t set firmly enough. As you can see, when you try to slice it, it spurts messily all over the place. Sort of like how a cherry cordial behaves, but even more so. And it tastes good, but the proportions are off — it’s too much chocolate to the amount of mango in the filled chocolate (and I can’t fill it more without it failing to seal).

Plus, the chocolates are too big to easily eat in one bite; you really do need to be able to bite them in half, and then take a second bite. This size mold worked great for the chocolates I filled with the passionfruit / ginger / cashew paste, but it’s just failing for this on all fronts.

All is not lost. The resulting mango cream, when frozen, is delicious enough that I want to just eat it with a spoon. I have a plate full of these chocolates, and my plan is to make another batch of homemade vanilla ice cream, freeze the chocolates and chop them up, and then stir that mixture into the soft-serve vanilla ice cream, along with the rest of the mango filling (which I’ll thaw first, for ease of stirring in).

And then I’ll freeze that all together, and I should have a really delectable vanilla / ruby chocolate / mango ice cream to serve at some special occasion.

Mango creams, though — I’m going to have to experiment a little more. I do really like the fruitiness of the ruby chocolate with the mango, so I want to keep those elements. I see two options:

a) I could buy mango extract and use it with powdered sugar and egg white to make a mango sugar-paste, the way I did with the rose creams, but the reviews of mango extracts on Amazon seem very not promising — if anyone here (Carollina, Pooja, Roshani) has a brand they actually like, I’d love to know. For that approach, I probably wouldn’t use the molds — I’d just dip in melted chocolate, the way I did for the rose creams. That should help with proportions being right.

b) I could experiment further to make a cream that actually sets using mango pulp, to use in molded chocolates. I’m not sure what the right approach would be there, honestly. Gelatin, perhaps? It would help it set, but the consistency might end up more of a mango jelly than a mango cream — maybe that’s fine, though. The goal is just to have something firm that would stand up to biting into.

Starry Nights in Serendib: Tamarind-Chili Marshmallows

I think I’ve decided when I’m really pleased with a recipe, that’s when it deserves to get its own name. I tried adding another 1/2 c. of tamarind puree to my marshmallow recipe, and it’s just perfect now — that’s what it needed to get the fluffy height and soft pillowy goodness that you want in a marshmallow. I swapped out the corn syrup for honey too, and that gives a more complex, interesting flavor to play with the tamarind. Perfect. Done.

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Starry Nights in Serendib:
Tamarind-Chili Marshmallows, dipped in Dark Chocolate

1 c. tamarind puree
1/2 t. raw red chili powder or cayenne
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
14 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
edible gold stars and crushed red pepper for decorating

1. Combine tamarind puree with chili powder. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with tamarind-chili puree. Stir briefly to combine.

2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, granulated sugar, honey, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes.

5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

9. If dipping, melt chocolate (either in microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, or over double boiler), stir until smooth. Dip each marshmallow and let dry on waxed paper. Immediately sprinkle after dipping (you can dip the whole set first) with a sprinkle of cayenne and edible stars.

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More filled chocolates, with white chocolate decoration

Another round of the Ginger, Passionfruit & Cashew Chocolates I made yesterday, this time in a small dome mold. These molds don’t have the intricacy of the patterning of the previous mold, which means they’re perfect for adding additional decoration. (And hey, maybe I did tempering okay after all, because those chocolates have a nice shine to them, don’t they? Cool.)

I tried pink luster dust first — it was nice, but not particularly visible on the dark chocolate. It might work better on white chocolate? I ended up going with drizzles — one pass with white chocolate, and one pass with white chocolate tinted pink. Funfun.

I can’t decide whether I like it better with the drizzle on top of the dusted chocolates or the un-dusted — they’re both good, I think, depending on what kind of look you’re going for. My drizzling is not particularly even, but that is okay. Drizzling is a forgiving art. 

If I get a nice set of chocolates ready, I’ll sell them here in a week or so. Galentine’s Day is just around the corner, after all. (I can only sell food in the U.S., sorry!)

Mango Fluff

Kavya: “But mango fluff is so delicious and making it was so easy! Why don’t we make this all the time?”

Me: “Well, now *you* can make it all the time if you want.”

[I taught her how to make it for this week’s Sunday dinner. Video forthcoming shortly.]

Kavya: “Hm. Maybe I will invite my friends over and I can teach them how to make it…”

Me: “Good idea, kiddo.”

Also me: [my clever plan is working, ha ha ha ha ha…]

#serendibkitchen
#sundaydinner
#mangoeverything

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Mango Fluff
(15 minutes cooking time, plus time to set, serves 8)

Mango fluff was a popular dessert for kids at Sri Lankan parties when I was little, and is tremendously easy and quick to make; my kids love it. It also helps satisfy my mango craving when there are no ripe mangoes to be had for love or money. There are lots of variations on it, some with real cream instead of Cool Whip, some without gelatin, some with eggs, some with flavored jello, some with diced tinned fruit added in. Pineapple fluff is a popular variation in Sri Lanka. I encourage you to make it your own.

30 oz can mango pulp
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature, or will curdle!)
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes of gelatin (plain)
1/2 cup water
8 oz Cool Whip

1. Beat cream cheese and 1 can sweetened condensed milk in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, on high. When it’s all clear, with no white pieces, then add the mango pulp, and mix.

2. While it’s mixing, empty two gelatin packets into a microwave-safe container with the half cup of water and soak the gelatin, stirring gently until wet through, then microwave it for thirty seconds. Pour liquid gelatin into the mango mixture, and mix a few minutes more to combine.

3. Fold in the Cool Whip gently, transfer to a serving dish (or a set of dessert glasses for a pretty dinner party presentation), and refrigerate until set (at least four hours or overnight). Can be made a few days in advance.

Ginger, Passionfruit & Cashew Dark Chocolates

Ginger, Passionfruit & Cashew Dark Chocolates

This is actually a reasonably healthy chocolate, I think? I was aiming for something that might be almost as healthy as trail mix, in terms of nutty protein and dried fruit, but indulgent-tasting. It came out really well! I’ve never made filled chocolates before, but it turns out that making the chocolate shells is surprisingly easy, and even fun. 

I used passionfruit and ginger, because I love that combo, but you could sub in any dried fruit you liked.

NOTE: Even though there’s a photo here that shows big pieces of dried fruit in the food processor, I don’t recommend trying that, as you’ll likely just jam up your food processor and have to stop it and take everything out and reset it, the way I had to. Chop (or use scissors to cut) some first — big pieces of dried fruit are very gummy!

Ingredients:

2 c. dark chocolate chips, melted (ideally tempered in a double boiler, but microwaving at 1/2 power and stirring every 30 seconds ’til melted also works)

Filling:

• 1 c. dried passionfruit, chopped fine
• 1/2 c. crystallized ginger, chopped
• 1 c. roasted salted cashews, chopped
• 2 T honey
• 1/2 c. cocoa powder, sifted
• 1/2 tsp coarse salt
• zest of 1 orange
• zest of 1 lime
• 3 T mango juice

1. Fill mold with melted chocolate to the top, then turn it over the pan and let the chocolate drip out again. It should pour out quickly, and then you can flip it over and let what remains in the mold dry, creating a chocolate shell.

2. Combine chopped passionfruit, ginger, and cashews in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped and mixed. Add remaining filling ingredients and pulse until well blended; it should resemble a thick paste.

3. Once the shells are dry and set, add a little bit of filling to the center of each chocolate. Pour in enough melted chocolate (re-melting or re-tempering as needed) to fill them again.

4. Let dry and set, then pop them out. Enjoy!

NOTE: You’ll have extra filling left over, quite possibly. You could make more chocolates.  But I think this would also be very nice to spoon into a brownie batter, and I might try that if we have any left over.