I originally meant these hibiscus & vanilla sugar cookies to be Holi cookies — hence the “throwing colors” decorating approach (nice to do with kids, as a little mess is just fine), so would’ve done a set of spring colors, including yellow and green too…
…but then I had this unicorn theme going for the Patreon boxes, and unicorn colors really are more pink-blue-purple, according to all the unicorn paraphernalia my daughter had, so I decided to stick with those…
…and not entirely coincidentally, pink and blue are also the trans colors, so isn’t it nice that these were finished just in time for trans day of visibility?
Happy day, my trans friends. You are all magical, in my book — not because you’re trans, but because you are living your truth, in a world that is not always accepting of those who differ from convention.
I wish you a long and happy life filled with lots of love, acceptance, and cookies.
(Recipe: Stir in a teaspoon or two of hibiscus powder into your favorite sugar cookie dough — I like Sweetopia’s –– adding a nice little tang and pale purple color . Decorate with royal icing — I use Alton Brown’s recipe — divided and colored. I slathered on base colors with a spatula, then thinned the icing a little with hot water and flicked more color on with the same spatulas.)
The Unicorn Garden treat boxes NEEDED unicorn chocolates. These particular unicorns have travelled a long way, from Sri Lanka to Ireland and finally to America. White chocolate colored with tropical hibiscus powder, then pounded hibiscus mixed in for a little extra tang, balanced with Celtic grey sea salt.
Surprising, fun flavor, I think. White chocolate is a little dull on its own, but it picks up color so well, and then you can do interesting things with inclusions.
They were a little dull on initial unmolding, but first I gilded the horns, good, and then I dusted on edible gold for the whole top, and that made the detail of their funny faces really visible. Cuteness.
Took a break from prepping this week’s lit. theory lessons on postmodernism (yes, spring break is over, alas) to assemble some of the sweets for the spring Patreon boxes (Unicorn Garden) . I’m skipping the gilding that I did in December, because naked chocolate just feels a little more appropriate for the season. If only we could all be out doing some naked gardening, hm?
So far, these confection boxes have: caramel chocolate, Sri Lankan coconut rock, ruby chocolate, dragonfruit-citrus-white pepper chocolate. I think I can squeeze in one more candy; I’m thinking a Sri Lankan sesame sweet, perhaps.
Once those are done, I start figuring out what else I can fit into a small priority mail box, for the lowest tier…several things, I think! More soon, since I’m hoping to get these out this week.
(Daffodils from the cutting garden. Spring spring springy spring!)
It’s Jed’s birthday today, and he said he didn’t particularly need a cake, but I had to cook SOMETHING, so I made him birthday Danish aebleskiver. He had his with dark chocolate and raspberry jam. Happy birthday, sweetie!
The kids were very appreciative of the surprise pancake ball treat. They had theirs with butter and syrup, per usual.
Next time, Dutch poffertjes — I can use the same pan, right? And then I get to try making Sri Lankan kundu thosai, which is the real reason I bought this pan…
Anyone know whether the Danish or Dutch version came first?
This variation on pittu adds lovely green streaks of healthy spinach and sweet shallots for a savory base that could be eaten on its own — but will taste better with a nice sothi or curry (or both), and a little sambol. Cook in a pittu steamer if you have one handy (the shape mimics the bamboo it was originally cooked in), but any regular steamer should work fine.
2 c. plain flour
1/2 t. salt
boiling water, as needed (I used about 1/2 c.)
3/4 c. fresh spinach, chopped finely (thawed frozen chopped is also fine)
1/4 cup grated coconut (if using desiccated, rehydrate with a T of heated coconut milk)
1 green chili, chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1. Combine flours and salt in a bowl and microwave for one minute. Check if clumping, if not, microwave another minute or two, until it starts to clump. This process makes it easier to mix the flour with water in the next step without forming lumps. (Alternately, steam for a few minutes between two layers of cheesecloth, or roast the flour in a pan, or use pre-steamed or pre-roasted flour.)
2. Add boiling water to bowl, a little at a time, and stir with a wooden spoon — you’re aiming for a texture similar to crumble or rough cornmeal, sometimes called pittu pebbles.
3. Stir in spinach, coconut, chili and onion, mixing well.
4. Fill steamer with mixture.
5. Steam in a large pot over simmering water for 10-15 minutes, until dough is thoroughly cooked. Push out onto a plate with a long wooden spoon and serve hot with curry and/or sambol.
Okay, so this attempt to make vegan milk toffee failed, and I’m not sure why. It’s actually my second failure — in the first, the pot turned into a caramelized black solid mass, and I am very grateful to Jed and Kevin for scrubbing it clean over the next few nights, because I was so frustrated I was ready to throw it away in despair. Considering it’s a not-cheap All-Clad pot, that would’ve been bad. They fixed it though.
So, lesson one — condensed coconut milk heats up much faster than condensed milk, and you’d better stand right next to the stove and watch it, and also lower all the temps on your recipe (from medium-high to medium, from medium to medium-low, etc.).
Second time through, I watched it like a hawk, and while it still went faster than regular milk toffee, it seemed to be mostly behaving. It got to the standard stages (first thread, then soft-ball), as confirmed by my candy thermometer.
I then made made another mistake — the last step is normally to add a stick of butter, and I did that without thinking because I have made milk toffee SO many times, and that made it not vegan, sigh, so I suppose I should try it again either with vegan butter or skipping that step entirely — a lot of recipes don’t call for adding butter, but my Aunty Marina who taught me how to make this recipe uses it, and I think it gives a nicer texture.
But before I re-do it (again), I’d like to know what went wrong here. Because the end result of normal milk toffee is a firm texture — ‘toffee’ is a misnomer here, but it’s what it’s called in Sri Lanka. It’s much closer to fudge, and a sort of airy fudge. The closest texture I know is maple candy (or if you’re familiar with New Orleans pecan pralines, they’re basically exactly the same as our cashew milk toffee, except they’re dropped with a spoon on parchment paper, rather than poured into a tray and cut into squares).
The end result of my second attempt, however, was not something you can cut. It’s actually more of a toffee or a caramel. I’m really not a candy-making expert — I know how to do a few things well, so I’d appreciate any food science people here who can help out. I’m guessing that the condensed coconut milk has more oil, perhaps, than the condensed milk, and that’s changed the consistency? I guess I have two questions:
a) what happened?
b) is there something I can do to adjust the recipe, so I can actually get milk toffee texture with vegan condensed coconut milk?
(Side note: It’s still delicious, you just have to eat it with a spoon. I’m thinking I spoon it into little sheets of cellophane and mold it into a caramel-like twist, and it’ll be fine for eating. Coconut-cashew caramels. But it’s not what I was going for.)
Made beef-and-potato curry last week, which is the recipe I have made the most times in my life. I’m still ridiculously content when I have it in the fridge, especially when it means I can make myself a lunchtime sandwich with white bread.
Makes me feel like I’m twelve years old again, when this was my favorite meal. Possibly still is my favorite meal. If I were on a desert island and could only have one meal, I think this would be it.
Green chili curry might sound like it’s going to be really spicy, but since we remove the seeds and then add potatoes and coconut milk, the end result of this curry is a pleasant but not overwhelming heat. Pleasant for me, at any rate!
6-8 large green chilies (hot or mild, to your taste)
1 medium potato, cubed small
2 small yellow onions, minced
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 t. fennel seeds
1/2 t. fenugreek seeds
1 stalk (about a dozen) curry leaves
1 c. coconut milk + 1 c. water
1/2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
1/2 – 1 t. salt (to taste)
1 t. lime juice
1. Remove top end from chilies, slice lengthwise, and removed seeds. (Removing seeds is optional, but if you leave them, the resulting curry will be spicier and possibly a little bitter.)
2. Heat oil in a sauté pan or medium pot on medium-high, add fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves. Stir for about a minute, until lightly browned.
3. Stir in onions and sauté about five minutes, until onions are golden-brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in potatoes and green chilies, then add curry powder, coconut milk, water, and walt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
5. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through; add more water if needed to keep veggies from sticking to the pan.
6. Cook sauce to desired thickness (some like this more liquid, some thicker), and serve hot with rice or bread. (It’s also lovely with pittu.)
Haven’t started a day like this in a while, with tears streaming down my face from chopping nine pungent onions. It takes a little discipline to come back to this after time away!
Why so many onions at once? Well, I’m making three curries today, to drop off to the Shef people to see if they want to take me on as one of their certified home chefs. I’m definitely not planning to do a lot of this kind of cooking, but I’d like to have the option of doing a Sri Lankan home delivery pop-up once a month, perhaps, and this is the first step in that process.
And while I could certainly chop 3 onions, sauté them, make the first curry, then go on to chop the next 3 onions, since all of these recipes will be using my standard master seasoned onions base, it’s more efficient and time-saving to do all 9 onions at once. The volume takes a little longer to chop and sauté than 3 would, but it definitely saves time over doing 3 separate batches, and there’s no loss in taste quality. Onion + mustard seed + cumin seed + ginger + garlic + vegetable oil.
NOTE: If you’re going to do this, an extra-wide large sauté pan will help you cook the onions evenly and reasonably quickly.
Next step — dividing them into three batches, and seasoning them differently going forward.