Thursday, June 26, 2014

Indian Mango Lassi

So, in the end I had to abandon my blog for another whole week, but now, now finally, I handed in my thesis!!! That's the end of it. Not even going to look back again. It's all just waiting for the grade now.

I took one day to celebrate. I sat back, did nothing and let my boyfriend take me out for dinner that night. And now I've found another place that needs work: my blog. Where is all the creative energy I had a month ago? Just to get back into things I'm going to start with a little project: I'm going to be making a series on drinks from all over the world. Are you with me?

Let's start in India (because we can), where they invented the lassi. Lassi is a yoghurt-based drink. It can be either sweet or salty. There are several common flavours, such as mango, plain sweet or salty and rosewater, but the possibilities are endless. In India, people drink lassis mostly in summer to beat the heat. For that reason it's quite important to serve them chilled. They taste better that way as well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Substituting syrups

Last week I shared two recipes for Sweetened condensed milk, which is used in a lot of Asian recipes. On the other side of the map there's also plenty of ingredients that aren't available here. Think of American recipes: you'll suddenly find yourself needing shortening, pumpkin pie filling, a can of frosting, gingerbread oreos or peanut butter&jelly ice-cream. And sometimes you need syrup. You'd be amazed at how many syrups exist: maple syrup, golden syrup, corn syrup, light syrups and dark syrups. Syrup syrup syrup, I could go on.

As close as England they sell most of these syrups, but here in my tiny, wet and windy country they're not available! (aww, we're such poor people) And then comes the inevitable: you have to make it yourself. Or just quit baking.

Below, you'll see 3 different kinds of syrups. After each recipe you'll find a bit of ranting on the recipes itself or the use of the syrup. Here's all of them explained really short:
(Simple/Plain) Sugar syrup - most versatile recipe. The thickness can range from runny (used for drinks) to very thick (used in some sweets)
Golden syrup - A byproduct of sugar that got a life of it's own. Store-bought versions can vary greatly in taste and thickness depending on the sort of sugar and processing used. The substitute is a caramelized, slightly lemony, simple syrup
Maple syrup - originally tapped from maple trees and then boiled to a syrup. The substitute is made from sugar, but comes as close as possible in terms of flavour

!! Remember these are all substitutes and they can differ from the store-bought versions!!
They will not differ in texture (because you control this part) and only slightly in the effect they have in baked goods (in the end its all sugar, it will do what sugar does).

(Simple/Plain) Sugar syrup
about 500 ml - by Keuken Liefde

250 grams sugar
300 ml water
zest of 1 (small) lemon

1. Put all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
2. Reduce the heat so the syrup only just keeps boiling and leave to boil for another 20-30 minutes. The idea is to thicken the syrup: this process can take up to an hour depending on things like how high the heat is. *
3. As soon as the syrup has reduced to half, take off the heat and pour into a jar.

* Simple syrup used in drinks is not thickened. You can skip step 2 completely if you need the runny kind of syrup.

Despite how simple this recipe is, I feel it needs a little explaining and honestly I have no idea where to start. Basically, you'll find lots of recipes for 'Simple syrup' all over the internet, none of which require the syrup to be reduced to half. This is because the (flavoured) Simple syrup is most often used in drinks such as cocktails or iced tea. However, there is also a thick version: let's call it Plain Sugar syrup. I've seen this thick, barely pourable (think honey) kind of syrup used only twice: in several Dutch "breakfast cake" recipes and in a Turkish treat which is like a cross between baklava and churros.

With the option to reduce the syrup to half or leaving it slightly runny, this recipe is very versatile. Substitute the water for any kind of juice, flavoured water or even tea or coffee. Or substitute the lemon for any kind of flavourings or spices. This leaves you with an endless variety of syrups to use in drinks, cakes and onto your pancakes. Depending on how thick you need the syrup, leave to reduce to half, three-quarters or not at all.

Golden syrup
1/2-1 cup -inspired by Christines Recipes and TWRK

400 grams sugar *
200 ml water
3 tablespoons to half a lemon juice

1. Put the sugar into a pan with 2 tablespoons of the water. Bring to a boil and then caramelize over medium to low heat. This is the tricky part: you want a lovely caramel colour: anything too light will be too sweet and anything too dark will turn bitter.
2. In the meanwhile boil the water - or just measure another 200 ml in boiling water.
3. Once the sugar has caramelized add the boiling water and lemon juice.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium so it keeps boiling that tiny little bit, and leave on the fire for another 20-30 minutes.
5. Test if the golden syrup is 'syrupy' enough by dripping a bit on a cold spoon. Hot syrups are always runny, but once it's cooled down you should notice it has the honey-like consistency of syrup. If it turns rockhard on your spoon: add more water and lemon juice. If it's still runny you can choose to keep boiling for another 5 minutes.
6. Pour into a jar and it's ready to use!

* I found using (half) palm sugar here enhances the depth of the flavour and the caramel colour.

This recipe looks a lot longer, but it really is the same thing as Plain Sugar Syrup, the difference being the caramelizing of the sugar. You really need to watch this process! I have quite a powerful stove and the whole caramelizing thing has gone wrong way too often. If you have troubles with it as well: I found a non-stick frying pan gives the best results. And some extra bags of sugar along with endless amounts of patience. Does that help any? (Also, using a darker sugar will make it look lots more carmalized, shhh!)

Vanilla (/Maple) syrup
about 750 ml - as seen by Lucynda, onegoodthing and WikiHow

1 cup regular sugar
1 cup light or dark sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon maple or vanilla essence

1. Bring the water to a boil.
2. Add the sugar and keep boiling and stirring until everything is dissolved.
3. Take off the fire and stir in the maple or vanilla.
4. Pour into a jar and leave to cool.*

* I couldn't make this simpler. No wait: Boil, stir, jar & cool. Level of easyness: 100%.

There are several (more complicated) recipes out there. Mel's Kitchencafe has a promising recipe with honey, but as it yields 10 cups, I haven't gotten around to trying it. I have tried this recipe, which caramelizes the sugar and adds butter and I think it's especially good for pancakes. The Vanilla (/Maple) syrup recipe above, however, is the easiest one I could find. It doesn't need to be stored in the fridge and will keep for a very long time. As do the other two syrups.

I've used up almost all my syrups already (why do you think you're looking at spoons and not entire bottles?), so I can tell you that each and every one of them work in baked goods. They may not be exact copies, but when you incorporate it with other ingredients, these taste just as fabulous. I promise.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sweetened condensed milk & substitutes

Over the past months I've been compiling little bits of work and recipes from all over the world, and realized something vitally important: I'm missing ingredients. Remember the Kimchi I made? Traditionally kimchi is made with Korean pepper flakes (Gochugaru), which I could not for the life of me find anywhere this country (for as far as I looked). Substituting this with different pepper flakes or powder was easy enough. But sometimes substituting just doesn't work. So I decided to make the missing ingredients myself. Why not?

Sweetened condensed milk vs. evaporated milk. Since neither of these products are common here, I've always had trouble figuring out what they were. Now, after some research and tasting, I can safely tell you that sweetened condensed milk is sweet, thick and has a very full almost buttery flavour. Evaporated milk is just concentrated milk, so it's much runnier and much less sweet than sweetened condensed milk. Because of the difference in flavour and texture you can't substitute one with the other!

For Evaporated milk roughly 60% of the water in the milk has been evaporated to make a more concentrated version of milk. You can turn evaporated milk into milk again by adding water. (This is not entirely true as the milk is processed in some complex way to extend the shelf-life. Bacteria, but then also some of the nutritional value, are lost when treating the milk.) Evaporated milk often contains added vitamins such as vitamin D. Sweetened condensed milk is roughly the same thing, but contains 40-45% sugar. The sugar extends the shelf-life of the milk without the need for any of the extra processing. It contains more fat and milk solids than evaporated milk.

To make things more complicated again: both are used in desserts and other dishes. Only evaporated milk will sometimes be used in savoury dishes such as mashed potatoes. Since I have no clue how to make evaporated milk (yet!), I'll be focusing on a few recipes for sweetened condensed milk.

Sweetened condensed milk
roughly 1,5 cup - inspired by Kitchen Stewardship and Don't waste the crumbs

1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)*

1. Pour the milk and sugar into a pan and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
2. Lower the heat to keep just a little bit of a rolling boil going on: the water in the milk is supposed to evaporate, but you don't want the milk to burn. Lower the heat even further if necessary, this doesn't effect the process but it will take longer. Overall, this might still take an hour or so.
3. Once the milk has reduced to half of what it was (it will be slightly thicker now), add the butter.
4. Allow the butter to melt, then take the pan off the heat. Stir the vanilla essence into the sweetened condensed milk.
5. Pour into a jar, allow to cool and store in the fridge. If sealed properly, you should be able to keep this in a cool dark place for very long.

* Note that the colour of the vanilla essence will greatly influence the colour of your sweetened condensed milk. I used a dark vanilla essence, which results in a darker cream colour.

Vanilla flavours make things sweeter. We associate the flavour of vanilla with sweets, so adding a bit of vanilla flavour will make something taste sweeter without adding extra sugar. Vanilla is still in no way a substitute for sugar though (just in case you get the wrong idea). Canned sweetened condensed milk rarely, if ever, has vanilla added. In these recipes, it's really just to round the flavour (it goes together so well!) and to increase that feeling of 'sweet milk'.

Obviously, that's still a whole lot of work if you're looking for a quick substitute in a recipe. Especially when you need just a few tablespoons you won't be looking for an hours work and lots of leftovers. So here's a recipe that works for when you're looking for just the substitute. You might want to adjust the amount of butter and sugar depending on the use.

Sweetened condensed milk Substitute
1/2 cup - inspired by Paula, BS Recipes and

1/4 cup powdered milk
1-2 tablespoons sugar *
scant 1 teaspoon butter
2-3 tablespoons milk or water
vanilla essence (optional)

1. Mix the powdered milk and sugar together.
2. Heat the butter with the milk in the microwave until the butter has melted.
3. Mix everything together. Especially for larger quantities a blender might really help.
4. Store in the fridge until needed.

* Any sort of sugar or sweetener will work here. Personally, I love the extra depth of flavour that cane sugar gives.

Other substitutes: sometimes you might want to substitute sweetened condensed milk with something entirely different. It really depends on what you're making, but I've found two things:
Cakes - Substitute with the same quantity in milk, add a bit extra sugar if desired. You wont notice it's missing.
Drinks - A combination of milk, sugar and butter works, but it gives a different flavour and consistency. The butter might float on top of the drink, so omitting this altogether isn't the worst idea.

Wauw, I feel like I've made an 'Oven Info' post without any actual intentions in that direction. It's a nice feeling though: a bit of information on a product, along with some practical recipes on how to make it yourself. It's also a whole lot of text, so let's end it quickly! Ruuuunnn!!!
I hope you found these recipes useful and you'll be able to enjoy new recipes using these home-made ingredients/substitutions!