Dessert | Saffron Caramel Panna Cotta … and Saffron Extract {product review}

“I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.”
Hamlin Garland

Saffron Caramel Panna CottaThere’s something about saffron, something exotic, like a caress, light and beautiful! A tiny bit of this beautiful spice catapults a seemingly good dish into an extraordinary one. Pairing it with a panna cotta I learnt that something quite ethereal happened! We have never sat so long over dessert …  S L O W L Y is how we ate it, not wanting it to finish. Thats just how sublime the Saffron Caramel Panna Cotta turned out to be.Saffron Caramel Panna CottaA good panna cotta is one of my favourite Italian desserts, possibly on top of my list. It’s been difficult to get the right consistency as whipping or heavy cream isn’t available here in India. I’ve made panna cotta several times in the past, but have never had much luck with turning them out perfectly, never a 100% satisfied feel!Saffron Caramel Panna CottaMust have been my lucky day as I experimented with a combination of low fat cream and gelatin and got the most amazing result. Amazing in taste and more importantly amazingly set! I set a few in goblets and the rest in metal molds with a saffron caramel {one in a ramekin too}. Saffron Caramel Panna CottaI had panna cotta on my mind ever since I received a mail from VAV Life Sciences, Mumbai inquiring if I was willing to review a ‘saffron extract‘ that their company produced. Saffron? Yes please! I’d never heard of saffron extract even though I use the normal dry saffron strands quite often … like here in Saffron, Pistachio & cardamom Kulfi {Indian frozen dessert}, Saffron Pistachio Yogurt Ice Cream, Saffron Rice Pudding, Hyderabadi Katchi Biryani, Yakhni Pulao etc.

Saffron Caramel Panna Cotta Natural Saffron Extract : Saffron is a culinary spice that comes from the stigma of the crocus sativus flowers. Saffron Extract is a specially formulated food grade extract of saffron that has been treated to enhance the natural flavour of saffron, without losing any of its natural properties. There is a reduction in the amount of saffron extract required for imparting the same flavour, as compared to dry saffron. While the saffron leaves quickly stale and dry out, saffron extract does not lose flavour and can be stored upto 24 months. Liquid extract is easier to use and standardized in food preparations compared to dry stamens and can be dosed precisely compared to natural saffron. {For further details you can get in touch with  Maitreyee Ghoshlogistics {@} vav {dot} in/ VAV Life Sciences }

With the tag of being the most expensive spice in the world, saffron is precious in many ways, especially its delicate flavour. Gentle and mild yet it elevates taste exotically perhaps like no other spice, saffron is associated with cuisines from India, Persia, Turkey, the Arab World, and even Europe. And I love the way it embraces both sweet and savory recipes so well.Saffron Caramel Panna CottaSaffron Caramel Panna CottaThis versatile spice goes a long way, and the saffron extract was a pleasant surprise. It imparted the characteristic subtle saffron flavour and colour to perfection. It was easier to use as its already in an extract form so the need to soak it for the obligatory 15 minutes prior use wasn’t necessary. The flavours were deep and pronounced, as was the colour. Saffron Caramel Panna CottaJust a knife tip amount {about 1/8tsp} was good enough to beautifully flavour the panna cotta and another bit to flavour and colour the caramel.Saffron Caramel Panna CottaA panna cotta caramel? That morning my path crossed with Raquels who writes a stunning food blog in Spanish, The Tragaldabas. She had the most beautiful panna cotta posted there, and I found my culinary path instantly!! She used Werthers candy in her caramel, and the very idea of a panna cotta with a caramel had me captivated.Saffron Caramel Panna CottaI went my own caramel way, like how my mother used to make it for caramel custard when we were kids. I remember waiting with bated breadth for the custard to be turned over {always in a green bowl which was reserved for caramel custard}. All three of us sisters would cheer when like magic the well set steamed pudding would ‘plop’ out with this shining crown on top!Saffron Caramel Panna CottaSaffron Caramel Panna Cotta extractThat was going to be the caramel for my panna cotta, one I decided to flavour with a dash of the saffron extract. Since saffron is such a gentle spice, I kept from letting the caramel turn characteristically dark. Bitter caramel in pudding is yum, but with saffron I turned the heat off the minute the sugar melted and coloured slightly.Saffron Caramel Panna CottaPerfect Spring dessert, the panna cotta came together like a beautiful dream, lilting, mesmerising, smooth, perfect, like a dream you didn’t want to wake up from. The textures teased the palette and we ate it in silence, everyone enjoying the elegance and caress of this cooked cream. {I made it again yesterday, on request, and to ensure that the magic was for real. It was!!}Saffron Caramel Panna Cotta

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Frozen| Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream {Eggless} … quite the ‘Perfect Scoop’

“Ice cream is exquisite, too bad it’s not illegal!”
Voltaire

Vietnamese Coffee Ice CreamThis very unusual and ADDICTIVE Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream would be illegal if Voltaire had his way! It is beyond exquisite … silky, velvety, deep, sensuous and nothing like I’ve made or bought before. It calls your name as you read the Bible of ice creams, The Perfect Scoop, a brilliant piece of work by Monsieur Lebovitz. His style of writing is charming, humourous and addictive as are his recipes. Bookmarking seems futile as I want to try each recipe, one tempting page after another!The Perfect Scoop, David LebovitzCoffee HAD to be my first pick for several reasons, primarily because it is my ‘favouritist’ flavour of all time. I am a HUGE coffee addict with a natural affinity to anything ‘coffee‘. Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream was also my first choice since the lovely lady who sent me the book from the UK, Jehanna @ The Cooking Doctor, included a bag of her favourite coffee in the precious parcel. The book itself had me singing, the coffee sent me into high pitched sopranos. Merci Jehanna!!Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream Must be something in the air, the change of season, cooler weather around the corner, or then this coffee cupping session by the Indian baroness of coffee … filter coffee seems to be the only thing I want to use. My journey into the cup of coffee got more exciting all thanks to this hugely talented lady! It got even more exciting thanks to The Cooking Doctor!!Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Vietnamese Coffee Ice CreamI also picked this eggless ice cream recipe as it uses ingredients easily available here in India {condensed milk and low fat cream}. Heavens knows how hard we try and overcome the non availability of whipping cream here, a daily culinary battle of sorts for many of us! A recipe that says ‘low fat cream’ is music to my ears. No substituting for once, and perfect scoops guaranteed! {I made this just over a month ago, hence the ‘melting moments’ as the weather was still warm}. Now I’m Ready For Dessert!!

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In other related updates, to celebrate the festive season IndusLadies has compiled an eBook for this Diwali consisting of “100 Yummy Sweets & Desserts recipes“, contributed by various Food Bloggers!Diwali 2011 100 recipes Go ahead and download it @ http://www.indusladies.com/100diwalisweet.

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{No Bake Dessert / Vegetarian} MANGO KULFI … Traditional Indian Ice Cream

“Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:”
Alfred Lord Tennyson 
 We spend a lifetime teaching the kids not to give in to temptation, not to be unreasonable.  That there are lots of things in the world that one would like to do but self restraint is a virtue that needs to be exercised … blah blah blah. After all, we’ve been there, done that … and we know better! The lines from Tennysons The Charge of the Light Brigade’, which we studied in school eons ago, flood my mind often, especially the word ‘reason‘!  I really do like the lines now. Hated them in school though as they sounded like gobblygook then!
Food blogs these days are tempting, to put it mildly, and in some ways I am ever so glad to be the empress of the kitchen! No mother to tut tut at me while I succumb to temptation, no one to question why I cannot resist what I see, and no one to check my free run amidst pots and pans! One day, I fell into Spice Spoons blog post virtual trap, and saw the kulfi which was served in enviable shot glasses, coloured stirrers used as sticks. Predictably, I fell into a dreamy trance, knowing just where I was headed … ‘our’s not to reason why, ours but to do and die‘! I HAD to make the Shayma’s kulfia traditional Indian style of ice cream that needs no churning, is dense and creamy, and sublime to the very last bit.

While in the kitchen, here’s a sneak peek of our kitchen remodeling – a simple country style kitchen, with a warm wooded look that I love. Things are looking up finally, with work progressing at more than snails pace now. Still can’t bake as much, but have become quite passionate about frozen desserts … Fresh Cherry Fro Yo, Plum Fro Yo Popsicles, Peach-Ginger & Plum-Vanilla Granita to name a few. So the kulfi was  one I could not let pass by. I sneakily bought a litre of low fat cream. A tin of condensed milk has been sitting with me forever because it wanted to be made into Dulce de leche but never quite got there. Figured this was destiny’s plan!
The pictures on Shayma’s post called my name, and I soon made them. The kulfi, a dessert which is very popular across the sub-continent, was absolutely divine. With the low fat cream, I didn’t need to simmer it for more that 15 -20 minutes, but I did err in that I forgot to give it the odd stir every few minutes, so it got slightly caught on the base of the pan. Didn’t matter because I got this beautifully burnt caramelized flavour … a little more apathy and I would have been crying over disaster. Take heed dear readers, don’t forget to stir!

The idea of using pistachios and almonds slightly ground or rather finely chopped in the blender is certainly novel. I’ve never heard of it before, and it’s quite genius. It helps thicken the cream, and distributes a beautiful nutty flavour though out the ice cream, making it almost luxurious, a royal serving! The teeny nutty bits get sort of soft with the cooking and plump up enticingly making the end result deeply satisfying.
I added some pureed mango to about a quarter of the batter after it was cooked and set some kulfis with half plain half mango mixture, others with a layer of mango etc.  I used a variety of metallic moulds from my collection, and saw at Cherrapeno that silicon works well too. I had fun and the flavours were fabulous. This is a recipe I shall make often. Taking pictures was a downright pain as it was sweltering hot, cloudy and humid that day, but the taste made up for everything!

Mango Kulfi {Indian Ice Cream}

Adapted minimally from Spice Spoon
Serves 12-15 if using kulfi molds. {You will need a heavy-bottom pan to prepare this, otherwise the cream and sugar will stick to the base of the pan and burn.}
1/2 cup almonds,skins removed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled; unsalted
1 litre half-and-half {I used 25% low fat cream}
300 ml condensed milk {about 2/3 rd of a 400ml tin was enough for me}
1 large mango, pulp pureed in blender till smooth, strained
Method:
Grind almonds and pistachios in a blender {not a food processor} by pulsing a few times. At the base of the blender, where the blade is, some of the nuts will turn into a flour like powder. This will help thicken the kulfi.
Place pan on medium heat on the stove. Pour in half-and-half.
Add almonds and pistachios.
As the temperature of the half-and-half rises, start adding in condensed milk. You will have to do this by a taste test. I used about 2/3rd of the tin. Once the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat to low. STIR!!
A skin will form on top, just keep stirring it in. You will continue to stir for 20-25 minutes {one hour if using half and half} till the mixture thickens and reduces, becoming thick.
Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Add the mango puree to half, or the whole, and stir in to mix uniformly. Pour slowly into popsicle moulds {or shot-glasses}.
Place moulds/glasses in freezer. At the 30 minute mark when the kulfi has started to form, place popsicle sticks in each mould/glass.
Freeze overnight or for at least 8 hours.
To unmould, dip quickly in warm water.
Serve with a scattering of pistachios and almonds.

 

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