Chilly Lime

26 07 2010

My recent forays into Indian cooking have left me with a large collection of hitherto unknown (to me) spices.  One such spice now lurking on my shelf is amchoor.

Amchoor - dried mango powder

The dried mango powder has a fruity, yet slightly savory tang that I wanted to try adding to all sorts of foods.  Starting with frozen yogurt.  Some extremely juicy limes I had in the fridge were begging to play along, so I let them.  Turning to David for an idea of proportions, I found a recipe for extra-tangy lemon frozen yogurt in his new book, Ready for Dessert.  Using that as a jumping-off point, I started mixing and tasting until I had the flavor I was looking for.  And then.

Then I saw the green finger chilis.  They made the limes’ begging look like a polite, reserved request.  So I took one out and began mincing.  I put half the pepper in the yogurt and tasted.  It didn’t seem that hot – I figured the cooling effect of the yogurt was negating some of the heat.  I tasted a piece of the pepper by itself, to gauge the level of spice.  I figured adding the other half-chili couldn’t hurt, the only problem being that the straight-pepper experience had temporarily numbed my tastebuds to any other flavors.  But no matter, my yogurt was ready to be frozen.

We’ve had a series of heatwaves in Paris this summer, broken up by periods of thunderstorms.  During the hot weeks, though, there is nothing like coming home from work on a steamy afternoon, putting something delightful into the ice cream maker to churn, cooling off with a shower, and being rewarded with a refreshing frozen treat.  This is why I have had four different kinds of homemade ice cream in the freezer at all times for the last month or so. 

Unfortunately, the chili-lime yogurt, upon churning, was not quite ready for primetime.  It was intensely lime-y and spicier than I intended (that’ll teach me to go eating raw chili peppers when I’m cooking).  The amchoor’s (you remember that – it was, at one time, the point of the yogurt) presence was subliminal.  But I wasn’t about to give up.  All it needed was the right garnish.  Something crunchy, sweet, and ever-so-slightly exotic.  That’s when the bag of macadamia nuts – which I bought for no reason other than I wanted to have them around – piped up.  “Make us into brittle.  We’ll be delicious, and buttery, and caramelized, and oh-so-good.”  I needed no further convincing.

Macadamia nut brittle

There was a near-tragedy when I realized that I had not sufficiently oiled the foil with which I had lined my sheet pan and counter, and the brittle was sticking like crazy.  (Another lesson learned: don’t be lazy and think that lining your sheet pan with foil is an appropriate substitute for washing it.)  I summoned all my patience and managed to let the candy cool completely before painstakingly picking off the shards of foil that didn’t want to let go of my sweet delight.

At the end of the day, though, the brittle was exactly what the yogurt needed.  The perfect rich, honeyed, tropical foil to the puckery, spicy frozen yogurt.

Lime & Chili Frozen Yogurt with Macadamia Brittle

Lime & Chili Frozen Yogurt

This recipe began life as a way to use up an exotic spice I had recently acquired: amchoor.  I thought the dried mango powder, with its fruity tang, would lend an exotic touch to lime frozen yogurt.  Then I saw a leftover green finger chili in the vegetable drawer and had a brainstorm.  If you don’t like spicy food, I’d recommend using only a half or even a quarter of a chili pepper.

1 lb.10 oz./750g plain yogurt
Zest of 2 limes
2½ oz./75ml lime juice (from about 4 limes)
4½ oz./125g raw sugar, such as cassonade or turbinado
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. amchoor (dried mango powder) (optional)
1 green finger chili, deseeded and finely chopped
Pinch of salt

  1. Blend or whisk all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust sweetness as desired.  Chill thoroughly.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream maker per the machine’s instructions.
  3. Serve with Macadamia Nut Brittle (see below).

Makes about 1 quart/1 liter.

Macadamia Nut Brittle

Crunchy, buttery little bites of luxury. 

7oz./200g sugar
3oz./85 ml water
5oz./140g honey
8oz./230g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Big pinch of salt
½oz./15g/1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (or use salted, but leave out the other salt)
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and honey.  Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches 129 C/264 F.
  2. Add the macadamia nuts and salt and cook, stirring frequently, to 159 C/318 F.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, then the vanilla, and finally the baking soda.  The candy will foam up, so be careful.
  4. Pour onto a well-oiled sheet pan (or a Silpat, if you’re lucky enough to have one, but not foil unless you want to cry), and spread into an even layer, as thin as possible.  Leave it to cool and harden completely.
  5. Break into pieces.  A heavy instrument such as a rolling pin comes in handy for this step.  Serve as a garnish for frozen desserts, crush even more finely and stir it into just-churned ice cream (vanilla, banana, and coconut are a few suggestions), or just nibble on it straight.

Makes probably more than you need, but who’s going to complain?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


The Winter Squash Saga, Part II: Dessert

28 10 2008

As I promised yesterday, I’m back today with the winter squash, orange, and sage dessert.  I initially liked the idea of using these ingredients in a dessert because it seemed like more of a challenge.  Sage, in particular, is not usually used in sweets and I thought I could do something interesting with it.

Warm, fragrant, and fuzzy, sage is the freshly laundered blanket of the herb family.

The squash part was easy.  Winter squash-based sweets abound: pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, muffins, and even pancakes feature on menus everywhere this time of year (well, not in the southern Hemisphere, I guess).  In my first restaurant job I was given a recipe for butternut squash flan.  I thought it was a great idea, but the stupid thing never worked right.  My theory was that if we had just put a thin layer of caramel in the bottom of the molds, like you’re suppposed to when you’re making flan aka crème caramel, they would have come out beautifully every time.

The correct way to make crème caramel

So I did just that.  I also reduced the amount of cream in favor of milk (not something you’ll hear me say very often), because traditionally, crème caramel is the lightest of the baked custards and made using only milk and whole eggs.  Plus, I wanted that lighter texture.  I think it balances the richness of the caramel and helps to make more of that delicious sauce you get when you finally unmold the dessert.  I snuck some of the orange butter into the caramel to play up the orange flavor in the squash (I reserved some from the lasagna and puréed it using my beloved immersion blender).

Water baths are not a big deal.

After a short spell in the oven, their custards were ready.  I prefer mine just-set, by which I mean barely holding together.  Feeling pleased with my success so far, I left the custards in the fridge to chill overnight.

“But what about the sage?”  You must be wondering.  In one of those flashes of inspiration, it came to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: