Sunday, 23 July 2017

Plum Torte

I love a recipe that comes with a story. It just makes things a little more interesting. Like last year, when I came across a New York Times' recipe for a plum torte. This is no ordinary cake, this is NYT's most requested and most loved recipe, in the history of the newspaper. 

In 1983, NYT food columnist, Marian Burros first published this recipe. It was a simple recipe that appeared without any fanfare, accompanying an article on the arrival of plums in the market. It was so popular with the readers that the recipe was printed every September from 1983 to 1987, to coincide with the plum season. In 1989, the newspaper tweaked the amount of sugar in the recipe and announced that this would be the last year they would be printing this recipe. To help matters along, the recipe that year, came with a broken line border to encourage people to cut it out and store it away.

But, the backlash was swift and at times, brutal. Readers couldn't understand why the newspaper was messing with their annual late Summer tradition that for some was as important as the 'Declaration of Independence' on the back page of the Fourth of July issue. Well, with such extreme emotions being evoked by a recipe, the newspaper had no choice but to  dutifully publish the recipe of their Plum Torte, every September. 

With such a back story, how could I not bake this cake. Last year, when they published it in September, the plums had long left the market. So, this year, am getting in on the game early. 


They couldn't be a simpler cake to bake. The ingredients are all pantry staples and the instructions are fuss free. It all comes together beautifully. As the batter rises, the plums sink into it, going all soft and jammy. As always, the slight tartness of the fruit, a lovely counter to a sweet cake. 

It's not as if I haven't made a plum cake before but none have been as simple and fuss-free as this one. You can play around with any soft fruit. Cherries, peaches or if your markets are bursting with berries, those would be perfect too. It is perfect for tea, breakfast or even that picnic in the park. This is a recipe you want to keep with you at all time, simply changing the fruit as the season changes. If there is one cake you make this season, let it be this one. 

Many years later when Marian Burros was asked about the recipe's enduring appeal, she said, "I love that something so simple took off. Of course, I think that’s why it did." I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Wine Soaked Peaches With Mint And Vanilla

Every year, I tell myself that when stone fruit season comes around, I'll make all the recipes that I've bookmarked through the year. It's no secret how much I enjoy baking and cooking with the fruit of the season and my cookbooks attest to that. These are usually cookbooks written by authors in the West, whose recipes are usually set in the Summer when their markets are crammed with berries and stone fruits.

Unfortunately, in India we have this really tiny window of opportunity when it comes to stone fruits. The first cherries appear in the last days of May when I frankly couldn't be bothered to do anything in that blistering heat but eat a bowl of chilled cherries every day as a snack. It's only when the rains come that you can think of making something with the fruits before you blink and they just vanish from the markets.

Well, I did try making a cherry cake last week and if you saw my post on Facebook or Instagram, you'd know that it was a disaster. Yes, I tried to pretty up the picture but honestly, that cake didn't have much going for it. Finally, because I hate wasting food, I had to make a batch of chocolate sauce, doused the cake in it to make it palatable so that we could quietly finish it off.

But, my confidence has taken a bit of a beating. So, instead I went with a no-bake dessert from Yossy's book before I get my bearings to bake another cake. This is a simple dessert where the peaches are soaked in white wine for two days along with some mint and vanilla and then served with some lightly whipped cream.

The reason I chose this dessert was because I have usually poached my fruits over heat, never just soaked them in wine. What you get is a simple, chilled, no-fuss dessert to enjoy the peaches in season. This is not a rainy day dessert. This is a dessert for the days when the rain takes a breather and the humidity and heat come back in full force. 

It's very important that you choose your peaches carefully. You are looking for firm peaches that have already ripened. If your peaches are still slightly unripe, they won't soften in the wine. You are then better off poaching them as that will soften them down. Neither will they be able to absorb the flavours of the mint and vanilla nor would the wine get infused with the scent of the peaches. I had a mixture of peaches that were ripe and some slightly under and I realised that while we really enjoyed the ripe slices, the slightly tougher ones needed some work.

I have served them with some lightly whipped cream but some vanilla ice cream will also work fine or you could just have the peaches with their wine syrup alone. But, it is important that you serve them chilled. That's what makes them so special on a hot day.

And here's the best part of the recipe. Once you've enjoyed the peaches, you are going to be left with some peach scented wine. Yossy recommends that you turn that wine into spritzers. Simply top up a glass of wine with some sparkling water (club soda), ice and a twist of lemon and it is just such a refreshing drink for a humid evening. 

Hope you are enjoying the weekend..x!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Turkish Coffee Chocolate Creams

Oh Summer, you made it so difficult. I tried this year to handle you better. I really tried. I woke up earlier than the Sun, while the air was cool from the night gone by and I could hear the birds sing. And as the birds retreated deep within the trees to escape the day's heat, I too, fortunately enough stayed indoors. Only to step out in the evening when a breeze would carry the scent of the flowers - mogras, champas, madhumalati,  brave enough to bloom in the heat. I feasted on the season's bounty - watermelons, cantaloupes, mangoes, litchies, licking their juices off my fingers whilst watching the Gulmohar cover itself with fiery red blossoms. I cooled off with elixirs that are native to my land - aam panna, coconut water, bael sharbat, as I waited all Summer for the Amaltas to bloom with its trademark plumes of yellow flowers. 

And yet none of it was enough. As the days wore on, the sun got brighter, the heat more intense, the days more listless, the earth drier and fatigue set in with just about everything. Even the wind was tired, you could barely feel its presence. Everyone was preoccupied with only one thought, the first rain of the season. The wait was nothing but torturous and yet, the day arrives when the cast after many false starts, gets its act together. 

Dark clouds take over the sky, a cool breeze picks up pace, streaks of lightning light up the sky followed by rolls of thunder and then, the clouds let go. And you do nothing. You simply let your senses be overwhelmed as the rain hits the parched earth, the trees get washed and the earth is perfumed with the scent of wet mud. Because it is only that fragrance that has the power to drive away the frustration, anxiety and misery that Summer inflicts on us. In the euphoria of the first rains, you could almost be tempted to forgive Summer...almost

As I write this, the Monsoon has covered most of India and I retrace my steps back to the kitchen. And before the rains compel me to switch on the oven that's been lying idle all these months, a simple chocolate dessert to get us started. 

It takes the idea of chocolate and cream and infuses it with the flavours of Turkish coffee and cardamom. The mixture is lightened with an egg yolk and cooked like a custard and then set in the cold. Because it is a cream based dessert, a little goes a long way and that is why I set them in demitasse cups. I have mentioned Turkish coffee but for ease, any freshly ground coffee that you enjoy would do.

Depending on how long you steep the coffee and cardamom in the cream, will determine how prominently they reveal themselves in the final product. The cardamom lends a lovely, interesting touch to these little pots de creme that would make a lovely dessert after a heavy meal where you are not in the mood for anything elaborate. Admittedly, the presence of coffee does make these more suited to an adult palate. 

Twas a long Summer and I do hope you are enjoying the rains in your part of the world!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...