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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Travelogue | Pune on my mind … another trip down memory lane

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
Anita Desai

Pune DiariesThe sweet Cookaroo stopped by the other day to meet Coco, our little cocker spaniel. She carried some Misal Pav with her. Misal Pav is a traditional Maharashtrian dish usually made with sprouted moong dal/lentils, served with a local bread, pav. Like a blast from the past, the flavours took me back to a visit to Pune a couple of years ago. We were a bunch of food bloggers en route to Baramati invited to visit the Four Seasons Winery. That trip was special as we hit it off well. A common factor tied us together… food! Wine too actually.

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India With a burgeoning number of affordable hotels in Pune, it’s worth a visit especially if you go in season. Also known as the Queen of the Deccan or Oxford of the East, the cultural capital of Maharashtra offers you a glimpse into a different side of India. For me, the old world charm tempts me to go back. It’s a city I’ve been to a few times, the first visit almost 5 years ago. At the time, Pune was awakening to the IT scene, and change was noticeable.

Pune DiariesIt was a visible energetic young IT crowd versus the retired services crowd that chose Pune as the destination for their sunset years. Zippy cars wrestled for road space with vintage fiats, heralds and ambassadors, old Parsi couples strolled with oblivion as chatty groups of youngsters raced by queuing up for the seasons fresh Alphonso ice cream. The city embraced the past with ease as it marched into the promising future.

Pune DiariesPune is now both a holiday destination and a bustling business hub. For me as a tourist, the old world charm still rules. A stopover at the Mall Road is a must. It is fascinating to see the old Badhani Waferwala still holding fort with glitzy cafes springing up around. Cheese & Widow Wafers sell as much as burgers and pizzas!

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India As times have gone by, the city has grown. So have hotel options including several affordable budget hotels in Pune. It is amazing to see the variety of properties you can choose from these days from 3 star hotels in Pune to high end properties and resorts. The city has them all!

Dabeli, Pune DiariesFor a foodie, Pune offers some of the most fun food, especially street food. That brings me to Misal Pav. Bedekar Tea Stall is famous for its Misal Pav and is quite a star attraction. If you are even more adventurous, then do try some ‘real’ street food too, quite literally off the street!. The sweet lady in her make shift cart pampered us with goodness. She made us the most yummiest Vada Pavs ever, so typical of this region.

Pune Diaries Pune is quite warm during the day. We guzzled down loads of fresh coconut water. Few steps down the road, and cartloads of summer fruit greeted us … strawberries, mulberries, fresh figs and more. We bought them by the kilos the day we were due to fly back home. It is near impossible to find such luscious gorgeous fruit back in the plains of North India!

Pune DiariesWill quickly touch on a few spots around Pune which were memorable. The Turf Club for its nostalgic ambiance, a legacy that the British left behind. And as I mentioned earlier, a quick trot up and down the Mall Road of course. I discovered a small shop tucked away in a corner selling vintage collectibles! My spoon collection took wings!!

Shinde Chhatri, Pune DiariesAnother beautiful spot to stop by is the Shinde Chhatri, a memorial dedicated to the 18th century military leader Mahadji Shinde of the Maratha army under the Peshwas from 1760 to 1780. With exquisite architecture and intricate carvings, it is one of the most significant landmarks in the city reminiscent of the Maratha rule.

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India And if you have a couple of extra days, might I suggest a day trip or so to the vineyards that surround outer Pune? We visited the Four Seasons Winery in Baramati and it was a fantastic experience. Just one look at the images and you know the promise a visit to the winery holds!

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Food Diaries| Bong Connection: Nolen Gur Rice Kheer & traditional delicacies in Kolkata #Indiancuisine #fooddiary

“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

Nolen Gur Rice KheerNolen Gur Rice Kheer meant yet another trip down memory lane! Our trip to Kolkata some time ago was delicious. For a non fish lover, I was a little iffy. I needn’t have been. There is so much, and so much more Bong food has to offer, that Kolkata grows on you. There is good food everywhere. Since it’s relatively inexpensive, it’s quite easy to over eat as well! From Ballygunge Place to Bengali sweets galore, to the best streetfood {puchkas forever}, to nostalgic ancient Jewish bakeries {Nahoum & Sons}, and then to good old Flurry’s, the city has it all and more!

Kolkata, IndiaBengalis and food go hand in hand. They are a passionate community. Tight knit, artistic, energetic…and food obsessed. You just need to begin talking about Bengali delicacies in Kolkata on any social media channel, and the response is absolutely amazing!  Bongs from across the globe will come and join with gusto, large heartedly share ever little Bong food detail, discuss recipes, the origins, how they make it at home … and if you are lucky, even invite you over for a meal!Kolkata, India Just recently the husband was in Kolkata and I mentioned Nolen Gur to him. The ‘foodie habit of asking for ingredients are specific‘  now runs quite deep, and I can take the credit for some good training. Each time Mr PAB goes anywhere I just have to mutter a few edibles that would be nice to have. Literally a million phone calls later, I know he’s coming back with his bags full of things to cook!

Nolen Gur Rice Kheer 3Winter is THE season for Nolen Gur as it is available for a very short window through the cold weather. A number of Bengali Sweets in Kolkata during this season find Nolen Gur featured within –  nolengurer shandesh, korapaaker sandesh, kanchagollas, gurer rosogolla, nolen gurer payesh. So I was really excited to receive my stash of Patali Gur {the solidified version of Nolen Gur}. Nolen Gur Rice Kheer I had my research done before hand, and the simple yet flavourful Nolen Gur Rice Kheer was being stirred the next morning. The flavours were subtle, teasing the palette very gently yet so characteristic of this jaggery! They shined through!

Nolen Gur Rice Kheer Authentic Bengali cuisine in Kolkata is easy to find, and posts a formidable list! This list is infinite, both sweet and savoury. I asked a very sweet Bong friend to list her favourites. Here we go in no particular order … Chingri malaikari {prawn curry with coconut}, Ilish bhapa {hilsa fish}, Shukto {mixed veg}, Doi maach {fish curry in yogurt}, Mishti doi {sweet curd}, Nolengurer shandesh {sandesh made with jaggery}, Aloo posto {potato with poppy seed}, Paatishapta.

Kolkata, IndiaSo you know what to order next time you visit Kolkata. Do make sure you drive around the city too. Iconic yellow ambassadors, Victoria Memorial, the flower market which begins at dawn. The colonial architecture is jaw dropping. Roads and roads of ancient classic European style buildings, roads well planned … yet sadly all but forgotten. It’s almost like you are in Europe until you wake up to the traffic and cacophony around you. If only the buildings were well maintained, if only!

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