Pondering Gluten-Free Serendib

I’ve been pondering gluten-free Serendib some more. One thing I want to do is try to make gluten-free versions of love cake and rich cake — but the tricky thing is that it’s kind of an expensive and time-consuming thing to experiment with, because it’s a really small amount of flour and a lot of nuts and dried fruit for both cakes.

Both cakes use semolina normally, so I’m going to try a simple swap out of fine polenta for the love cake first, I think, and see how that works. From researching gluten-free baking online, it seems like a 1:1 swap is appropriate? But if anyone has any tips on that, they’d be appreciated.

Should I be concerned about adding a corn flavor to the cake?

An alternative option is to do a blend of coconut flour & almond flour, but a) that requires changing the ratios of the flour (complicated), and possibly adding even more eggs to combat the way coconut flour soaks up moisture, and b) it won’t give the characteristic yellow color of love cake, I imagine. So I’m hesitant.

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

These little bites of heaven were designed to appeal to my daughter, who can be quite resistant to trying new foods. When I brought one upstairs for her to try, she initially refused. I broke off a small piece and asked her to please try it, that I’d designed it especially for her, with flavors I thought she’d love. Kavya hesitated, but unwilling to disappoint her mother entirely, eventually took it. A few minutes later, she asked for the rest, please.

Kavi then admitted that she hadn’t wanted to admit that I was right, but it was too good, so she had to give in. She’s twelve-and-a-half now; the tween years are…interesting. Two strong-willed women in one house. 🙂

This is another scone where I was aiming for autumnal + South Asian. My pumpkin spices are a little punchier than you might find in most American recipes, with cardamom and ginger added to the classic cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The jaggery drizzle adds a molasses-like complexity; Kavi and I like our drizzle with some lime, because we are all about the tang. The brightness of the lime highlights the pumpkin in beautiful ways; I love this scone with a cup of chai.

But straight up sweetness (Anand’s preference) works here too, pairing with the toffee bits; if you were going to have this with black coffee, for example, you might be just fine with a pure jaggery drizzle. Feel free to also skip the drizzle entirely; the pumpkin-toffee scone will still be delicious, especially warm, slathered with butter.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. toffee bits

1/2 c. pumpkin puree (blot with paper towel if watery)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 cup milk

Jaggery Drizzle:
1/4 c. jaggery, dissolved in 1/4 c. boiling water
1 T lime juice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain). Alternately, cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in toffee bits.

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly and combine with remaining 9 scone ingredients. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Jaggery drizzle. Dissolve jaggery in boiling water, add lime juice if desired, and pour over scones.

Sugared Violets

Hm. This batch of sugared violets did not work great. I picked a bunch of lawn violets — all I had, which wasn’t very many. And then I tried the dip in sugar syrup, put on wax paper, sprinkle with caster sugar method of sugaring them.

The problem is that the clump up as soon as they get wet, and then all the pretty definition is lost. Maybe you could separate it with tweezers, but I think they’d likely tear badly if you tried? I didn’t have the patience for it. So I have clumpy sugared violets — I have one idea for a recipe that they’ll probably work okay in, but it wasn’t what I intended. Bah.

The other method is more time-consuming, and involves using a paint brush to brush them with egg wash and they sprinkling sugar on them — I think that would likely work better to maintain the flower’s appearance. Next time I have violets, I guess I’ll try that — but I’m all out now, so I suppose it will have to wait ’til next year.

Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard / Vattalappam

(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.

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows and Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Marshmallows


Peppermint marshmallows, two ways. I asked Kavi which she liked better, and she couldn’t decide — the peppermint swirl ones are more intensely peppermint; the chocolate-peppermint ones actually have more peppermint (same marshmallows, plus bits on top), but the dark chocolate has a strong enough presence that the overall effect is less peppermint-y.
 
Sometimes you just have to accept that you love them both, and it’s impossible to choose.   
 
*****
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. water
2 t. vanilla
1 t. peppermint extract
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter (for greasing the pan)
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)
a few drops of red food coloring
tempered chocolate for dipping (about 8 oz.)
crushed peppermints for topping
 
1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with water, vanilla, and peppermint extract. 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, sugar, corn syrup, 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. Prepare an oiled spatula.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula. (If making peppermint swirl, add a few drops of red food coloring and use a toothpick to swirl it around.)
7. 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 powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. (If making chocolate-peppermint, melt tempered chocolate, dip marshmallows, and set on wax paper. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints immediately, then let dry.
 
May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Dark Caramel-Cashew Pralines

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.

Mango Passionfruit Caramels

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).

Passionfruit Cashew Ice Cream

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-Making

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.

Passionfruit Brittle

Passionfruit Brittle
 
So I admit, I set out to make caramels, and I got brittle instead. On the other hand, a) the brittle is delicious (fruity tang blending harmoniously with the dark sweetness of the caramelized sugar, yum), b) now I know how to make brittle, and c) I can still try to make caramels tomorrow.
 
I’m going to call this a win-win. 🙂
 
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. passion fruit puree
2 T corn syrup
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
 
1. In a large pot, combine all ingredients and stir to combine. Butter a large Pyrex dish.
 
2. Heat pot on medium, stirring periodically, until a candy thermometer measures 240 degrees F (soft ball stage).
 
3. Pour candy out into baking dish and let cool a few hours. Peel up from the bottom of the dish (otherwise it may stick hard), and the chill in the fridge until quite hard, another hour or two. Break apart into brittle pieces and enjoy.
 
(Don’t lose a tooth!)