I don't care if you need to be gluten-free or not. But I do care about you eating deliciously. Here's a delicious recipe for a tart crust using nut flour...which happens to be gluten-free. Check it out here.
During my time in Bali, it didn't take too long for me to become obsessed with black rice pudding.
So you can bet your bottom donut that as soon as I got back stateside, I set forth to recreating this bali magic in my own kitchen.
As it turned out, the most difficult part was sourcing the ingredients. I assumed (with a typical American sense of entitlement, I suppose!) that I could get all of the typical Balinese ingredients at my local grocery store or Asian grocer. Ultimately, I was able to find almost everything, but it took a number of stops.
The coconut cream was easy; that was in the grocery store. The black rice, in theory, shouldn't have been difficult to locate, but they happened to be out of it at the Asian grocer, so I had to buy it at Whole Foods for a slightly more premium price. As for the bananas, I sought out firm, ripe ones that I felt could best replicate the dense and super-sweet variety I tasted in Bali.
The two hardest ingredients to find were the palm sugar and panadus. After searching a number of stores for dark palm sugar I still came up dry, so finally I settled on this more honey-toned version, which did work just fine. But keep in mind that if you shave it, don't shave too much, as the sugar will harden in a couple of hours. If you couldn't find palm sugar or just can't be bothered to go and seek it out, brown sugar would do.
The panadus leaves, often used as a flavoring, were tougher to source. After scouring the web for possible substitutes I couldn't find any that quite sounded right, so I just used vanilla extract for flavoring. Maybe not traditional, but highly delicious.
Whew! That having been said, this recipe is worth seeking out the ingredients. This lovely morning porridge is almost caramelly when the sugar meets the rich coconut cream; the bananas bring all of the flavors together into an earthy, creamy, caramelly form of edible bliss.
Here's how you make this traditional Balinese treat.
Black Rice Pudding (printable version here)
adapted from Indonesian Cakes and Desserts, a Periplus Mini Cookbook
- 1 3/4 cups uncooked black glutinous rice (or Asian black rice)
- 6 cups water
- 2 panadus leaves, tied into a knot (I used 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 1/4 cup (or more, to taste) shaved palm sugar
- 1 can coconut cream (14 ounces or so)
- pinch of salt
- Rinse the rice in two to three changes of water, or until the water runs clear. Once clear, place the rice in a bowl and cover with clean water. Let it soak overnight (I did this on the countertop).
- In a saucepan, bring the rice, along with 6 cups of water and the panadus leaves (if using vanilla extract don't add it yet, though), to a boil over medium heat, and simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is softened to a slightly al dente consistency. Discard the panadus leaves, if using. Add the sugar and vanilla (if using) and let the mixture continue to simmer on low heat for about 5 more minutes.
- Remove from heat. Set to the side for the moment.
- In a bowl, combine the coconut cream with a pinch of salt and mix well.
- To serve, place a healthy spoonful of the rice mixture into a bowl.
- Spoon coconut cream on top to taste. Enjoy immediately.
If storing, keep the coconut cream and the rice separate, and combine before serving.
Have you ever tried black rice?
When you go to Bali, you'll probably notice pretty quickly that the sugar is different there.
Personally, I noticed it the first time that I was brought a coffee in a cafe. They delivered it with a small dish of what looked like the darkest brown sugar I'd ever seen.
As I was looking at it, fascinated and slightly confused, someone who had been in Bali longer than me looked over knowingly. "Palm sugar," she said. "I never use refined sugar at home, but this doesn't seem to affect my blood sugar as much." (People in Bali, usually tourists, talk like this).
Palm sugar. Interesting. I started to notice that it was everywhere. See it behind that lovely (cookie-included) latte?
At some cafes, palm sugar was served as a simple syrup, which resembled pancake syrup. At others, in a dish, like my first experience. Interestingly, in stores and at open air markets, it was sold in thick, fat little cakes, sometimes dome-shaped, sometimes in cones. It was shaved or cut into portions, which reminded me of a story I'd heard about the early United States, wherein Colonial ladies of the house would have special shears specifically designed to cut sugar, which was at the time purchased as large cones.
So what is palm sugar, exactly?
Palm sugar is derived from the palmyra or sugar palm (and has a relative, coconut palm sugar, which is made from the coconut palm--so if you look it up, you may come across this term, too). Once cut, the flower buds produce a sweet yet very liquid sap; this sap is collected and boiled until it has reduced to a sticky sugar consistency. From that point, it can be either bottled as a liquid, or whipped and then dropped into molds so that it will solidify. Sound familiar? In my opinion, this process has quite a similarity to the process of making maple syrup or sugar.
Taste-wise, palm sugar is slightly mellower than granulated sugar, and in my opinion, has a flavor that is like molasses-meets-honey. It's very flavorful, and is a singular flavor when used simply, as in the coconut pancakes served at Seniman Coffee, where only a few ingredients allow every flavor to shine.
Photo via Wikipedia commons
Why are there so many variances in color?
Another thing I noticed is that palm sugar can have quite a large variance in color, from honey yellow to a deep, dark brown. Basically, this boils down to (ha ha) how long and how high the temperature was when the sap was reduced. As I observed, even the same brand or vendor would have no two portions of sugar that were completely "cookie cutter"--because this isn't a highly processed sugar, there is a little bit more variation from batch to batch.
At home, I found it easier to find the lighter colored palm sugar. Personally, I found the difference in flavor subtle; when using it in a dish that employs the sugar for sweetness in addition to other flavors, the type wasn't important. However, when using it in coffee or in a recipe where it is a primary flavor, the difference from light to dark palm sugar would be like the difference between light and dark brown sugar; the darker the sugar, the more caramelly and intense the flavor.
How to use palm sugar
To the best of my research, you can swap equal amounts of palm sugar for granulated or brown sugar. Because of its different density, however, for best results you will probably want to weigh your ingredients rather than packing in a cup. This is for baking, however; if you're using the palm sugar in coffee or to sweeten your oatmeal, say, just use to taste. Consider the recipe you're using, as the palm sugar will impart a flavor.
Is palm sugar healthier?
In Bali, a whole lot of people seemed to think so. Here's an article about it, if it interests you. I'll be honest, it only interests me marginally, as I don't necessarily think people eat sugar of any sort for its health benefits, anyway!
Have you ever used palm sugar in baking? I'd love to hear what you made and how it came out.
Love from Bali,
I realize that it may sound funny that I had to travel so far to find something which has apparently been under my nose for some time in the United States.
But sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and it took me going all the way to Bali to discover the Magnum Gold.
Because as it turns out, it's quite accurate to the experience of eating a bar. Because here's what happens, in simplified terms:
Step 1: You wonder "Gold? What's so gold about it?". Shake your head. It's just an ice cream bar, man.
Step 2: Open the bar and take a bite. Exalt as you take the initial bite and discover that the yellow chocolate covers dark chocolate, which gives way to ice cream with delicate swirls of salty caramel. Think, "holy sundae, is this good." Exclaim "GOLD!".
So really, the name does make a lot of sense after you try the bar.
The weird thing is that while they exist in the US, I had never heard of them. But apparently Bali has caught the news that something good is happening with this bar, because they are EVERYWHERE there. There are signs in the supermarkets for them, and they are a prominent offering at mini-marts, ice cream vendors, and food markets.
At the Padang Padang beach, there was even an ice cream vendor toting them in a cooler full of dry ice. My friend and teaching BFF in Bali, Jan, flagged him down and bought one. She offered to get me one, too, but I felt that the name was kind of stupid and declined, instead electing to pose for a photo in front of a particularly large rock.
But the moment I saw her dig into the treat, I knew I must have my very own. So later that day, at a pit stop on the way to Uluwatu, I grabbed my own Magnum Gold.
Upon first bite, I was hooked. Rich chocolate that melted in your mouth, with a satisfying white and dark chocolate flavor. The chocolate flavor subsiding into and melding with the creaminess of the inside. No mere vanilla bean ice cream in here--it was swirled with salted caramel. They were delicate swirls, but certainly they were the certain something that took the bar from "good ice cream truck offering" to "I want to eat my weight in this thing".
After I got a Magnum, many of my other Bali BFFs followed in kind. You see, it's the type of thing that you want once you see someone else eating it.
The experience made watching a beautiful sunset with monkeys all around even sweeter.
Thank you, Bali, for so much. But at this moment, thank you most for introducing me to my newest love. Because you know what they say: "Make new desserts, but savor store-bought, one is silver but the other's Gold."
Actually, nobody's ever said that until now, but the main point here is that you have to try this ice cream bar.
Love from Bali,
April showers bring May flowers. But let's not get all doom and gloom and April-is-the-cruelest month, OK? Because where there are rain showers, there is bound to be a rainbow or two. Or ten!
To celebrate this magical rainbow-filled month, I would like to present a project sponsored by Airheads candy which has attained this site's highest status as unicorn-approved: rainbow candy dessert bowls.
These confections are woven from candy, and are a perfectly magical setting for all of your favorite desserts. You could fill them with whipped cream or marshmallow fluff for a light and sweet cloud-like treat, or you could place an entire cupcake inside. They could even be used as decorative candy bowls at parties for a sweet table setting.
I should tell you too that this project was inspired by my time in Bali. Perhaps not for the reason you think, though!
You see, I had agreed to come up with a project for Airheads before I left, and I figured "meh, I'll find someone's oven to bake in.". Well, as it turns out, they don't have ovens in Bali! So I had to revise my plans and figure out a no-bake treat. I thought back to my friend Not Martha's bacon bowls and an idea was born--a sweet idea, indeed.
I have to say, I was rather pleased with my experimentation. It took a little figuring out, because once I wove the rainbows I had trouble getting them to stay together while I shaped the baskets. By employing regular Airheads candy, I melted them down and then used them as a sort of sealant for the inside of the baskets. It helped keep the candy together, and as an added bonus, sealed the inside so that if eating ice cream or something of the like, it would stay contained in the basket.
You could go for a plain, cloud-like look with the finished baskets, or include additional rainbows. Definitely not excessive.
Anyhow, I know that you're probably keen to make this magic happen in the comfort of your own home, so here's how I did it. I realize it seems like a long process based on my writing, but it's really not; I just wanted to be thorough in my explanations. You're welcome!
- 1 cupcake tin
- double boiler
- a spatula for stirring, a spoon, and a knife
- 10 strips Airheads XTremes Sweetly sour candy, in berry rainbow
- 3 small Airheads candies, unwrapped (choose similar colors for best results)
- 1 teaspoon water
- 3 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Grab a work surface and let's get weaving. First, grab yourself 10 strips of the rainbow colored Airheads Extreme candy. Line five strips side by side, so that the ends are facing you.
Leaving an inch of space on the top, begin to weave one of the remaining strips of candy horizontally, over and under the vertical rows.
Grab your next piece, and weave it directly below the previous one, weaving under-and-over so that it forms a basketweave pattern.
Continue alternating with the remaining strips.
Here's a photo-collage of the process if that all seems confusing:
OK, set this woven piece of rainbow art to the side for the moment.
Now, set up your double boiler. Place three Airheads candies (the regular kind) in the top, along with the water and confectioners' sugar.
Heat on medium, stirring every few minutes. While at first the sugar, water, and candy will remain quite separate, as it melts, the mixture will become thick. You'll see now why it was a good idea to use candy in the same color scheme--the color melts together. It might be ugly if you use different colored candies (like I did the first time) but it will taste fine. Promise. But even so, this won't be the prettiest part of the process.
Once the mixture is lightly bubbly, remove from heat. You'll want to work without hesitating at this point as the candy is easier to use while still quite liquid. Gently spoon the candy in the center of your basketweave square. Use a spoon or knife to spread it to cover the woven portion as thoroughly as possible.
At this point, I decided that rather than slice off the extra bits, I would fold over the non-woven portions. This is easier to do if you start with the pieces which are "under". They will adhere easily to the still sticky candy.
The four corners, I sliced off.
Give it about five minutes for the candy to set slightly, and transfer the candy bundle to your cupcake tin. Gently place it, centered, on top of one of the cups. Using your fingers, gently finesse it into a bowl shape.
Repeat, making as many bowls as you'd like.
To help the bowls "set", I put them in the freezer (right in the cupcake pan) for about 5 to 10 minutes. They easily popped out of the cupcake tin at this point.
Fill the bowls with whatever toppings you'd like. If you're not using them immediately, keep them in the cupcake tin so that they will retain their shape.
What would you put in a rainbow bowl?
This is not a Nanaimo bar. I’m not messing with you. It’s really not.
It’s part of a strange phenomenon which has haunted me in Bali: I keep on finding Nanaimo bar lookalikes which are not actually Nanaimo bars.
These lookalikes are three layer bars with a crust, soft and custardy midsection, and a chocolate topping. But in spite of these compelling attributes, they are not Nanaimo bars.
I realize that I probably sound crazy, or at least you think that I am having a mirage of sorts because I’ve been in Bali too long and all of the coconut juice is going to my head. But this is seriously happening.
To illustrate with an example, take a look at this. Looks like tray of Nanaimo bars, right?
BUT THEY ARE NOT NANAIMO BARS. They are actually a raw food sweet, made with cashew and honey, coconut butter, cacao, coconut oil, and dates. You can get them at the hyper-stylish health food cafe Clear Cafe in Ubud.
This made for a very strange experience. I mean, imagine biting into what looked like a bar of chocolate and it tasting like an apple. That would be weird, right? Well, it was weird biting into something that looked so much like a Nanaimo bar that tasted nothing like it.
Initially, it tasted "wrong" to me--but not because it was not a well made treat. It was more a matter of shock, which made it difficult to determine at first if it was actually good. But don’t worry, I rallied. And a few bites in, once I had talked myself out of expecting the taste of Nanaimo bars, I realized that it was actually quite good. The dates and cashew coconut flavors came together in a naturally sweet treat with just a bit of bitterness (good bitterness) from the cacao to cut through the sweet and rich flavors.
But, you know, not a Nanaimo bar.
The second one somewhat resembled a top heavy chocolate mint Nanaimo bar. But once again...it wasn’t a Nanaimo bar.
It was a raw chocolate mint spiralina slice from Kafe, another healthy restaurant. Yup. Once again, hippie food. The crust was not as firm as a Nanaimo bar, and the fillings were quite soft. The chocolate in particular was mousse-like. It was a lovely dessert, and raw to boot. It was a highly pleasant dessert…
but NOT a Nanaimo bar!
I know, I know.
After I tortured you, absolutely tortured you, with a great interview with Ruth Clemens, baker extraordinaire who blogs at The Pink Whisk, and now author of Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations.
But I didn't give you even a hint of a recipe, I just talked about how great they were.
Well, I am going to remedy that, sweet readers, because Ruth has been kind enough to share a recipe from the book, for Tropical Fruit Medley Eclairs. It being that I am in Bali at the moment, it seemed like an appropriate recipe to share. Enjoy!
This is part 2 of my entry as part of the book tour blog hop; to see the other entries, click here.
Tropical Fruit Medley Eclairs
Makes 10–12 x 15cm (6in) éclairs
1 x quantity choux pastry (recipe here)
1 x quantity vanilla or tropical crème patissière (recipes follow)
- 60g (21/4oz) fresh pineapple, sliced
- 70g (21/2oz) fresh kiwi, sliced
- 50g (21/4oz) fresh mango, sliced
- 1 x quantity regular or orange fondant glaze (recipes follow)
- Yellow and lime green sugarpaste (rolled fondant/ready-to-roll icing) (see Sugarcraft Techniques)
- Small and medium pointed blossom cutters
- Small pearl dragées (sugar balls)
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Fill a piping (pastry) bag fitted with an 18mm (3/4in) nozzle (tip) with the chilled choux pastry. Pipe 15cm (6in) éclairs onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking (parchment) paper or a silicone liner (bake-o-glide). Spray the éclairs lightly with vegetable or sunflower oil and bake in the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Roll out the yellow sugarpaste and cut out two medium-pointed five-petal blossoms for each éclair. Roll out the lime green and cut one small blossom for each. Using a cocktail stick (toothpick), imprint lines along each petal. Set the yellow blossoms on top of each other, slightly offsetting the petals, and place the green blossom in the centre. Carefully pick up the pieces and pinch together gently from the back to ruffle the petals. Set aside to dry in the recesses of an egg box.
- Assembly: Whisk the prepared tropical crème patissière with an electric hand mixer until smooth.
- Split each éclair with a sharp serrated knife (see Filling, Dipping & Splitting) and spoon the tropical crème patissière into the base of each.
- Top the crème patissière with a mix of sliced tropical fruits.
- Warm the orange fondant glaze gently until of a dipping consistency and place in an open shallow bowl. Dip the top of each éclair in the fondant to coat and place on top of the fruit filling.
- Apply a dab of water to the centres of the flowers and sprinkle on the dragées. Add a tropical flower to the top of each éclair and serve.
Vanilla Crème Patissière
- 600ml (20fl oz) whole milk
- Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod, 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste or 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
- 100g (3½oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 50g (1¾oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
- Large jug
- Medium-sized pan
- Cling film (plastic wrap)
- Large bowl
- Electric hand mixer
How to make it tropical
Omit the vanilla and replace with the grated zest of 1 lime, half an orange and half a lemon. Before transferring to a bowl to cool, whisk in 15ml (1 tbsp) coconut liqueur.
- In a large jug whisk together the egg yolks and caster (superfine) sugar until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the cornflour and whisk again until of an even consistency. Set to one side.
- Place the milk and vanilla in a medium pan and heat gently until just below boiling point. Whilst whisking the egg mixture continuously, add the warmed vanilla-infused milk a little at a time until both mixtures have been fully worked together. TIP: Make sure you whisk together the egg yolks as soon as the caster (superfine) sugar is added to them. This will prevent the sugar from pulling the moisture out of the yolks, which could result in ‘egg burn’, where you would have yellow flecks in your finished crème patissière.
- Transfer the mixture back to the pan and over a medium heat, whisking continuously, bring to the boil. Continue to cook the crème patissière for 2 minutes until thick and glossy.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Contact-cover the top of the crème patissière with cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent a skin from forming, and allow to cool. Refrigerate once cooled.
- When you are ready to use it, transfer the chilled crème patissière to a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until it is a smooth and even consistency.
- 300g (101/2oz) white sugarpaste (fondant/ready-to-roll icing)
- 30ml (2 tbsp) water
- Heatproof bowl
- Small pan or microwave
- Electric hand mixer
- Break the fondant into small pieces and place in heatproof bowl with the water.
- Heat gently in the microwave in short bursts, or over a pan of steaming water, stirring frequently, until the fondant melts.
- Mix with an electric mixer until the consistency is smooth and even and no lumps remain. The glaze will begin to set while it cools, so use while it is still warm. It can easily be reheated to pouring consistency if it cools too quickly for use.
TIP: Fondant glaze can be coloured with food gel pastes and easily flavoured with a wide range of extracts. Simply add a small amount of gel paste colour in the required shade to warmed fondant that is ready to be used. Make sure that it is evenly mixed to avoid any streaks before using to coat the tops of éclairs.
TIP: The temptation is to add more water to keep the fondant in a liquid state but if you do this the fondant will not set once the éclairs are coated. Gently warming the fondant before use is the best method.
Make it orange:
Add the grated zest of 1 orange in 30ml (2 tbsp) hot water before adding to the fondant and heating together.