Baking | Ptasie_mleczko Cake or Birds Milk Cake … birthday cake and memories of Down Under

“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
Anthony Bourdain

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake …my adaptation. With a name as intriguing as that, I quickly jotted it down as my Ukranian friend translated it out of her mothers cookbook in Sydney earlier this month. There is an eternal charm in handwritten recipes of times gone by, this recipe book is from the 1960’s. Neat, and well explained, the recipes all written In Ukrainian, talk to you, explaining each step. The measures are often in glasses from the Old Soviet Union, standardised at 200ml, a measure my sweet friend continues to use as her mother once did.

Ptasie Mleczko (Polish) is a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé). In Russian it is called ptichye moloko (птичье молоко) and in Romanian lapte de pasăre. All these names literally mean “bird’s milk” or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not origin of the name; rather, ptasie mleczko is also a Polish idiom meaning “an unobtainable delicacy”. In Poland, Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Company, developed the first Ptasie mleczko in 1936. Wedel’s inspiration for the name of the confectionery came from his voyages to France, when he asked himself: “What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything?” Then he thought: “Maybe only bird milk.”

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake This must be one of the quickest birthday cakes I’ve ever made. And yet another very very delicious one. You can find my coffee take on it at the bottom as Ulyana decided to bake one for us the night before we were due to fly out. No pictures of the cake in Sydney as we were racing against time. I didn’t get too many pictures of the cake I baked here too as coming home after a vacation is always far too busy. It was however tasty as hell!!

Sydney 2015

Sydney 2015 Our trip Down Under was great fun! All trips there always are! Sydney has been one of our fave places to go when possible, and this was our fourth trip. Like every earlier trip, this too was packed and flew by like a heartbeat. This trip was short, just a week ‘long’, but we had a great time. With hosts as good as ours, the days went by driving from mountains to beaches, with great food and drinks thrown in. Mindless banter, endless shopping what with the daughter with us, too much food,  overindulgence … ad before we knew it, time to fly back.

Sydney 2015 We flew in comfortably, sleeping all the way on Cathay Pacific, with a short stopover in HKG. There too the daughter shopped till we dropped for 3 whole hours.Hong Kong Hurriedly dug into some delicious street food, raced back to the hotel, showered and hopped onto the Sydney flight. A long 9 hour flight, some great food, Aussie wines too, Pamela’s book kept me entertained and nostalgic as we landed there into a crisp 4C at 6am. We were really blessed to see great weather the few days we were there.

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015We’ve done most of the iconic must see places on the earlier trips covering The Rocks, Opera House, Botanical Gardens, Tiranga Zoo {to date one of my sons fave places}, Butterfly Park, Harbour Bridge, Harry’s original van at Wooloomooloo, the Blue Mountains … and so much more. Yet a visit to the Blue Mountains is a quintessential part of Sydney for us, and that’s where we headed pretty soon. It as a freezing COLD day but we managed to stop by some breathtaking spots, taking in the gift that only nature can offer. Knocks your breath A W A Y!

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015 We went off piste, little walkways dot the Blue Mountains, each with a signboard telling you how long it takes to get to the destination, level of ease …and more! There’s loads to do. Did I mention stunning beaches? Yes those too!Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015Beautiful beaches, birds, crabs, shells, nature, left over pizza from the Italian pizzeria from the night before, chilled beer though not as chilly as the cold winds, great company … couldn’t have asked for more.Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015 Of course I shopped some too. It’s always good to know the ‘right’ people, who in turn know the right places…and a Sunday morning market later, I was back a happy camper. There was loads I could have gladly bought to ‘prop’ up the blog, but sense had to prevail. It was a struggle I tell you!Food Prop shopping, Sydney

Food prop shopping Sydney 2015No trip to Sydney for me is complete without a visit to Victoria’s Basement. Though short on time, we did a quick walk through, a near impossible task in itself given the treasure trove you can find under a roof! I shopped a wee bit more here and there, constantly thinking of how much I could stuff back into suitcases. You know! Oh the choices we have to make!

Sydney 2015With travel comes food, and most good memories are tied to taste! Knowing the right folk is great! It’s satiating to explore a country through it’s cuisine, and then comes the added bonus of exploring the flavours they brought from their native lands. So we were spoilt. Ukranian cusine filled our days alongside Aussie quintessential. Gourmet sausages on the barbeque that made the tastiest hotdogs, slow cooked {read dropping off the bone good} lamb-shanks with chickpeas and spinach, Caesar salad galore, smoked Polish sausages and cold cuts, Ukranian potato latkes with garlic and sour cream, artisan pizzas, more Aussie reds, red wine too, pancakes for breakfast with whipped cream and local preserves, cheese in every avatar to die, then more local artisanal unripened cheese as if that was not enough …Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Sweet stuff too, though no pictures. Fresh cherry strudel, macadamia and caramel ice cream, divine coffee gelato, berry gelato too, and then of course this beautiful Birds Milk Cake flavoured with the organic lemon from the yard the night before we flew out. I dreamt of the cake as I slept on the flight back home. I knew I just had to make one soon, my pet flavours dancing in my head.

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake That’s just what I did the next day for the son’s birthday. As we melted into a sizzling North Indian summer at 45C, desperately trying to hang on to memories of 12C, the crisp and beautiful Aussie winter we left behind, Ihit baking mode. This cake bridged the gap beautifully, and that is what good food & travel is all about. Makes you come full circle, flavours and memories sharing a plateful! What a delightful {and delicious} journey this food business is!

Recipe: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake
your picture

Summary: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake finds it’s roots possibly in the Old Soviet Union. A preparation for the light as air filling quite as intriguing as the name ‘birds milk’, it’s a moist and delicious cake that takes well to added flavours. Make ahead and chill for the flavours to mature. It tastes wonedrful as a fresh tray bake as originally intended to be too. Serves 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour {plus cooling and chilling}
Ingredients:

  • Cake
  • 130g butter
  • 200ml / 1 glass brown vanilla sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 200ml / 1 glass all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Filling
  • 150g butter
  • 400ml / 2 glasses milk
  • 100ml/ 1/2 glass sugar
  • 3 tbsp semolina /suji
  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua {optional}
  • Topping
  • 50g dark couverture chocolate
  • 100ml low fat cream
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • White chocolate shavings to garnish

Method:

  1. Cake
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 X 8″ round baking tins with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Reserve.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, ten the vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly fold in the dry mix. Turn batter into tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool in tins for 15-20 minutes then cool completely on rack.
  6. Filling
  7. Make this while the cake is baking {or a few hours before too}
  8. Place the sugar, semolina, coffee and milk in a heavy bottom pan. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool completely.
  9. When the cake is ready and cool, make the remaining filling.
  10. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the coffee semolina and Kahlua if using.
  11. Assemble
  12. Place one layer on serving platter and keep in place with an 8″ dessert ring. ladle over half the filling and top with second layer. Top with remaining filling, cover and refrigerate for a few hours {or overnight} for flavours to mature.
  13. Take the ring off gently, top with chocolate ganache {recipe follows} and white chocolate shavings.
  14. Chocolate Ganache
  15. Place ingredients in a heat proof bowl and microwave 1 minute at a time until the chocolate has almost melted. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool to room temperature before use.

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Baking | GF Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake … #glutenfree by default #quark #dessert

“Reminiscent of childhood memories, luxury, sweetness and sensuality, chocolate is more than just a food. It is therapy.”
Christelle Le Ru

Dark Chocolate Quark CheesecakeGF Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake … some recipes are just meant to be, and this is one of them. Come summer and quark is constantly being prepped at home. There is never a definite plan for where it goes, yet the fact that I am ‘creating’ a low fat unripened cheese is enough to keep me happy. This tangy cheese finds its way into just about anything. And this something was truly delicious!

Quark dessertsIt’s QUARK all the way! A layered parfait, savoury or sweet, in a curry instead of yogurt, while cooking chicken as a filling for wraps, turnovers like in these Chicken Quark Cross-over Puff Pastry, in frozen yogurt instead of yogurt … or then in cheesecakes of course! That this cheesecake turned out to be gluten free as well is purely incidental …but more about that in a bit!

Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  There is something infinitely comforting in turning all the ingredients into the bowl of the food processor and celebrating that the filling is ‘ready’ to go into the oven. Simple! Yes that simple, but then cheesecakes usually are. The tough part is waiting for them to cool down, and leaving them sitting in the fridge overnight. The toughest bit however is when you experiment, it takes forever to figure out whether it worked, or didn’t. This one certainly was a YES! Best chocolate cheesecake ever!

Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  A few cheesecake basics you might like to keep in mind… Try and bake the cheesecake in a water bath so it cooks evenly and the top doesn’t crack. Prebake the biscuit base especially if you are doing a quark version as the filling is moister than when using a cream cheese. If doing a biscuit base, it’s a nice idea to paint the prebaked base with a brush of melted dark chocolate; keeps the base from going soggy. Make sure the quark is well drained for a full day or two. Above all, use the best quality ingredients. A good dark couverture makes this cheesecake really sing!

Quite a while ago I did these Mini Quark Chocolate Cheesecakes which popped up thanks to Google while I was looking for quark inspiration. Inspired by myself {if I may say so myself}, it was time to bake a dark chocolate quark cheesecake. I had the base ready! Well actually, I had a baking disaster whereby my almond sponge flowed inexplicably out of my baking tin. I think the tin was too small and I was left with a 3/4 sponge to salvage. The idea in my head was trifles with quark and strawberries, and Googling led me ‘you know where‘!

Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  Within minutes, the hapless sponge was blitzed into breadcrumbs in the Thermomix, then rapidly pressed into the baking tin to cushion a base for the cheesecake. You can gauge how much I enjoyed doing this GF Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake! It was the fastest cheesecake I have ever bunged into an oven! I have included a biscuit base recipe below as the coincidence of you having a failed sponge on your hands might be too much to ask for.

Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  But if you are up to it, adventurous enough, a sucker for punishment like me AND/OR looking for a gluten free version, then I’ve included the recipe for an almond sponge too. It’s one I use often, here for eg in the Strawberry Almond Roulade. I swopped the Swiss roll pan for a tin, subsequently suffering defeat.

Upcycled Blondie PuddingUpcycling failed desserts {as above} is fun, and one small shove from Ruchira fixed me for life. Upcycle everything that fails is my only thought when I end up with a baking disaster. Eton Mess is a fine example and one that appeared several times as dessert when making macarons was an obsession. Just recently, when an over baked batch of blondies stared me in the face, they headed for the most delicious ‘Upcycled’ Butterscotch Blondie Pudding!

Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  And another piece of happiness … this beautiful ceramic platter that Ruchira got for me recently. It has me absolutely smitten, a new addition to my endless props. That it is round and scalloped, that it is a beautiful shade of blue, that it has tiny dots like a running stitch on the edges, and that it is flat works for me like magic! That she bought it from here in India also makes me thrilled. Wholegrain Anzac Cookies I have a few other bits and bobs of ceramic that tie up with it, so while I enjoy my ever growing {read exploding} prop collection,  I’ll leave you with a recipe that I am sure you will enjoy.Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake  I topped the Dark Chocolate Quark Cheesecake with tiny grated chocolate curls. You could also consider  topping it with unsweetened cream and balsamic roasted strawberries, maybe a salted caramel sauce. My homemade recipe for quark can be found here! Also, find more recipes that use quark on my blog.

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Baking | Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade … for when March rolled in #coffee #dessert #‎KitchenAidProBaker2015‬

“When you celebrate, there is sure to be cake.”
Florence Ditlow

Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade … that’s what I made because I was craving coffee in cake. It’s been a while since I did coffee in a dessert. Roulade or Swiss Roll also because a load of my friends have been making them of late, and yes, I got tempted. First it was Himanshu, then Ruchira. Yesterday, I sauntered into the kitchen with no specific plan in mind, and this is what I came up with. Was yum! Hit the right coffee spot!

KitchenAid Inida Probaker 2015Just a short while ago, I got an email confirming that I made it to KitchenAid India’s Probaker challenge, one of top 50 Indian home bakers. It’s going to be a fun challenge, and for me, hopefully will give me more creative exposure. Will be baking with friends, and cannot wait to see how differently ‘baking minds‘ think when presented with similar ingredients. ‘Marching‘ ahead in anticipation!

Spring I love this month. Come March, and there is inspiration galore. The weather fills you with energy, the air is nice and crisp, new blades of grass, ladybugs, flowers… so much INSPIRATION! There’s also something terribly inspiring about a cake that rolls. It’s a whole lot of fun too! My recipe for a V E R Y simple roulade lives in my head. I’ve made it with variations for years. 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour. Quick, simple, fun!

Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade

A roulade is a dish of filled rolled meat or pastry. Traditionally found in various European cuisines, the term roulade originates from the French word “rouler”, meaning “to roll”. Some roulades consist of cake (often sponge cake) baked in a flat pan rolled around a filling. Cake rolled around jam, chocolate butter cream, nuts or other fillings, is an example of a sweet roulade like the bejgli or the Swiss roll. The bûche de Noël or “Yule log” is a traditional French Christmas cake roll, often decorated with frosting made to look like bark.

I find it comforting that everything sits snug inside a cake. It’s a funny way to look at it, but nice. One of my most memorable ones was a savoury Ricotta & Spinach Roulade from Ottolenghi. That was special and carried trademark Ottolenghi flavours and philosophy. Fresh, seasonal, simple. And then another, the Raspberry Pistachio Swiss Roll {or Spring Roll to herald in Spring one year!}

GF Mango Almond Quark Roulade I’ve done a couple of gluten free ones as well. Those I loved heaps! A GF Mango Almond Quark Roulade and a GF Strawberry Almond Roulade. I also like that you can customise them to moods and ingredients on hand. So Spring often sees loads of strawberry flecked roulades, while summer will definitely see a mango and cream. Oh and summer will also see an ice cream roulade. That is even more fun!

Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade This one went the  coffee way. I prettied it a lil too as everything came together really quick which meant extra time. I had forgotten how soon these come together. With March still quite cold, the bake cooled a lot faster too. So I saved some ganache in a piping bag and did some free hand doodling over the roll. Wasn’t sure if the contrast would work, but I think I did OK. It looked pretty, subtle but pretty!

Barnis {Indian Pickling Jars}Oh and before I go, did I show you the very sweet Barnis {Indian Pickling jars} I got in the mail 2 days ago? My dear and very talented food blogger/food stylist friend Sanjeeta mailed them from Chennai. It was love at first sight. I couldn’t resist filling one with coffee beans and sneaking them into the frame!

Coffee Dark Chocolate Roulade

You can find loads of COFFEE in my desserts here. That’s my most favourite flavour ever!

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