It must be way past midnight of the 27th of April for Daring Bakers in Japan and Australia, while those on the west coast of the US are probably fortifying themselves with a cup of coffee to face the 27th. Here, in India, it’s past dinner time and I’ve just realised I should have posted my challenge by now. Since I don’t have too much time to think about or write up a detailed post if I want to meet the deadline, this is going to pretty much a “bare bones” sort of post.
The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at The Daring Kitchen!
I almost did not do this month’s challenge. Have you ever wondered what a movie would be without a hero or a heroine? Or how a book would fare without a central character for the story to revolve around? This month’s challenge was something of a similar dilemma for me because the central character here was “Maple Syrup” and we don’t get it in India, at least not where I live!
We had to make Maple Mousse and serve it in an edible container of our choice. Great challenge but how do you make Maple Mousse without maple syrup? I’ve never seen it or tasted it so I didn’t even know if I could substitute something for it.
Our hostess, Evelyne, suggested using butterscotch as a possible flavour substitute. When I asked my fellow bakers for information about the flavour/ taste of maple syrup, Audax suggested that “his tastebuds sensed maple syrup in this order - firstly a light caramel sweetness (which is a predominate flavour) with a soft front note of vanilla with a little coffee and cocoa and then a trace of curry leaf and then a distinct back note of fenugreek seed (the second most predominate flavour) and a touch of rum and white wine. The mouth feel is like thin runny honey (it tastes nothing like honey)”.
Abbhi suggested it tasted like Indian palm sugar to her, while Shaz said, “To my nose it has slight coffee undertones, something smoky/woody. Then of course there's the sweet taste, but I don't find it overly sweet, again, I think it's pretty smoky, like caramel + burnt hay (maybe?)”.
Their helpful suggestions gave me a faint idea about what maple syrup was supposed to be like but with all those flavour nuances involved there didn't seem any substitute that could come close to the original thing. Not unless I had ample research funds, a couple of years’ time, a well-equipped laboratory and accident insurance cover!
However, when my daughter heard the month’s challenge involved mousse, she wanted me to make it. She knew there was no maple syrup to be had, but for someone whose two most favoured flavours are vanilla and butterscotch/ caramel, the idea of a caramel mousse was irresistible!
So I decided to make a caramel mousse flavoured with some of those flavour elements I was assured were typical of maple syrup, a sort of “faux” or “pseudo” maple mousse if you’d like to think of it as such.
I adapted Carole Bloom’s Caramel Mousse with additions of creamy home-made paneer, jaggery (Indian unrefined palm sugar), some cocoa, coffee and fenugreek!
Flavoured Caramel Mousse
(Adapted from Carole Bloom’s Bite Size Desserts)
3/4 cup cream, divided into 1/4 + 1/2 (I used 25% fat)
1/4 cup Demerara sugar
1/4 cup powdered jaggery
1/4 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp strong coffee decoction
1/2 tbsp water
1 tsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 gm salted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy paneer, ricotta
Put the sugar, jaggery, fenugreek powder and cocoa in a small bowl and whisk together a couple of times so they’re well blended.
Now put this along with the honey, coffee decoction, water and vanilla in a small heavy bottom pan and place on high heat. Allow it to come to a boil and stir gently a couple of times till the sugar has melted, looks syrupy and you get aroma of rich caramel. Take care not to burn the caramel because the mixture is brown in colour and the caramelisation is difficult to judge visually.
Take the pan off the heat. Add the butter and mix well till blended. In another small pan, heat the 1/4 cup cream and add that to the caramel whisking gently till well blended. Allow this to cool and transfer this to a container and allow it to chill till the caramel sauce is thick.
Beat the remaining 1/2 cup cream, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until it forms soft peaks. Take the chilled caramel out and just lightly beat/ whisk it to make it smooth, if it seems set. In another bowl, whisk the creamy paneer (or ricotta) by hand till a bit fluffy and add it to the caramel, folding it in by hand.
Next fold in the whipped cream till blended. Spoon the mousse into 6 equal portions, either into small glasses/ bowls and chill till ready to serve. This mousse should keep, if covered and refrigerated, for 2 days.
You may also pipe it out into glasses or edible serving containers just before serving. This recipe makes 6 smallish servings.
If you will take a look at this month’s challenge on the various Daring Bakers’ blogs you will see an astounding variety and some very creative edible containers that have been used to serve the Maple Mousse.
I’m afraid the closest I could get to doing anything like that was to make Almond Meringue Nests. Once again it was my daughter’s love for meringue that was partially responsible for this decision. The other part was that I couldn’t think of anything beyond chocolate for an edible serving suggestion!
I discovered that one needs about 2 tablespoons per egg white to make a good stiff meringue batter. By trying to keep to this at a minimum, and adding lemon juice to stabilize my meringue, I managed to prevent my meringue nests from becoming cloyingly sweet. But then, who ever heard of a meringue that wasn’t sweet?
If you will look closely at my meringue nests you will see they are "golden" rather than white because of being about 10 minutes longer in the oven than they should have. This didn't make any difference to the taste though. My nests also look slightly spotted which is the result of the high humidity that I live with here.
So I'm hoping that all future Daring Baker challenge hosts would be challenging us to bake stuff that doesn't need me to challenge the humidity which will get worse in the coming months of monsoon!
Almond Meringue Nests
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsps powdered almonds
Use egg whites that are at room temperature as they whip up to more volume.
Put the egg whites, almond extract and salt in a medium sized clean mixing bowl. Beat with a electric mixer until soft peaks form. When you lift the beater out of the whites the peak will curl. Add the lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar and beat well. Keep adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until the egg whites stand up in stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the powdered almonds. Without deflating the meringue batter, transfer to a piping bag with a star pastry nozzle or a ziplock bag.
Pipe the meringue into nests on parchment lined baking trays, leaving about 1” between them. Bake them at 130C (250F) for about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue nests to dry in the closed oven for 40 minutes.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and gently peel the nests and store in air tight containers till required. This recipe makes 6 meringue nests about 3 1/2” – 4” in diameter.
There is no doubt what so ever that this mousse is sweet! And I understand that would have been the case even if I had used maple syrup. So if you have a sweet tooth and you would love to indulge it, then this is your dessert.
The mousse was good and I found the taste additions from the cocoa, coffee and fenugreek added an interesting twist to the caramel. Who knows, maybe I did get close to the taste of maple syrup after all. My daughter declared the mousse very pleasant, and crisp meringue never fails to please her! So this challenge was declared a reasonably good one, if not outstanding.
The light textured creamy mousse served in an equally airy but crisp almond meringue nest was an excellent combination. It wasn’t the most original combination of flavours or even a very creative edible serving bowl for the mousse but the softness and the crunch made a nice contrast in every bite.
For me personally, I’d have been happier if only I could make the meringue and the mousse a little less sweeter…….
I'm giving away two cookbooks, and if you would like to try your luck at winning one of them then please leave a comment at the giveaway post. The giveaway is open to bloggers and non-bloggers world-wide till the midnight of the 30th of April, 2011.