Friday, 29 January 2010

Chocolate Theme Park!

Stop! Hold the Press! I know I had promised my fine tuned recipe for red velvet cupcakes but this had to take precedence!

Check it out!!

As the chocolate industry is expanding in China they have created an entire chocolate wonderland in honour of my favourite food! An exhibition made entirely of chocolate, with fashion show to boot!

The work, skill and detail involved in each piece shown is stunning. True art, true genius and truly delicious!!! :)

Cupcake recipe next week, promise! :) xx

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Red Velvet Cakes

This week I have been on a mission to come up with the perfect red velvet cupcake recipe. With Valentine's Day approaching I'm beginning to see more of these around and their rich red colour, velvety soft texture and creamy frosting are just too hard to resist!

There is an argument as to where red velvet cake originates from - some say its from the southern States because of the buttermilk content and others tell an anecdote of how the recipe was leaked by a patron of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York where the cake was a specialty. It is said a lady asked for the recipe which she was given only to be billed an excessive amount for it at the end of her meal! Unimpressed, she went on to share the recipe with everybody she could!

Wherever it comes from, we'll forever be indebted to its founder! Moist, light cake, with flavour and texture somewhere between a sponge and a chocolate cake (there is normally the addition of a little bit of cocoa to the recipe) and of course the vivid red hue - almost as sinful as the cream cheese icing although many choose to opt for a regular butter icing or whipped cream. I have found I prefer a cross between butter and cream cheese! This devilish looking cake is heaven to the tastebuds!

The red hue is sometimes attained by adding beetroot to the recipe but more often nowadays people choose to add red colour. I have to admit, when I saw the amount of colour people were adding to their recipes I was a little concerned and was much more cautious when adding the colour to my own experiments. The results however were pale, murky looking cakes and I had to give in to the red! After all, it is only once in a while.. These sinful treats are for special occassions only! I shall hopefully post my recipe tomorrow - just a few more tweaks to go!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Valentine's Truffles

This year for Valentine's day I challenged myself to come up with a recipe that was romantic, different, luxurious and Indian inspired - quite a tall order! My starting point was deciding that it had to be truffles - nothing says Valentine's romance like a box of hand rolled, melt in the mouth morsels of delicious chocolate... Then came the difficult part - flavour! The likes of cinnamon and strawberry were the obvious ones that sprang straight to mind but I wanted to create something more unique and Indiany so looked towards the spices more commonly used in Indian desserts. Having recently blogged about cardamom being the 'queen of spices' and its aphrodisiac qualities I knew I had to try it! Paired with saffron and infused into white chocolate, I made the ganache, rolled it, dipped it into more white chocolate and sprinkled with a touch of edible sparkle - the recipe didn't even need to be tweaked, it was an instant success!! If only I'd had as much luck with the milk chocolate truffle! Deciding that I didn't want to over shadow the cardamom truffle I tried the cinnamon and strawberry combination in milk chocolate - disaster!! Probably would have been better in dark chocolate but I wanted to stick to mellow, caramelly milk chocolate so instead a simple, sexy, sophisticated classic replaced the more rebellious cinnamon and strawberry - milk chocolate orange truffles! Smooth and with just that little kick of tang they balanced the white chocolate cardamom & saffron perfectly :)

Monday, 25 January 2010

Cupcakes and Circus Acts

What a weekend! I didn't even get to blog towards the end of last week and I was doing so well! The masterpiece of last week's work had to be the cupcake tower created especially for the engagement party of Sapna & Hiren, a lovely couple who flew in all the way from America to share their special day with friends and family in London (a special mention for Hiren's sister Reena who selected the fabulous cake design!). 120 gorgeous cupcakes, 60 sponge with a lilac vanilla swirl and a little white sugar crafted rose on each and 60 chocolate with a white vanilla swirl and a little lilac sugar crafted rose on each. The tower was topped with a white iced egg-less sponge cake and an array of white and lilac sugar roses, not to forget a sprinkling of edible silver glitter! Stay tuned, there will be a picture of it up soon!

Oh, and I can't forget to thank my brother Jay who after taking me to set up the cupcake tower sent me off to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Cirque Du Soleil perform Varekai, an absolutely amazing show and something I've always wanted to see, thanks Jay!!!! :) x

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Afternoon Chai

Try as I might I just can't break the habit of my afternoon cup of Indian masala chai (tea). As soon as it hits 4 o clock, no matter where I am or what the weather I find myself craving that cup of hot, sweet spiciness! Something I shall definately be researching and writing more about in future posts, I just had to give it a sneak mention now as it's about that time I'm due for a cup!

Generally speaking, Indian chai is loose leaf black tea brewed with milk and water alongside a blend of spices (masala). The spice mix varies by region and taste but the most commonly used spices are cardamom (green and black), cinnamon, ginger, clove, black pepper and fennel. Unlike the classic English cup of tea, in India the leaves and masala are added to water and milk and allowed to boil and simmer for a few minutes before being strained and served in small glasses (similar to a clay shot glass) and drunk immediately.

Personally I like a combination of both the English and Indian tea rituals - brewed in a pan with masala the Indian way but served in a cup or mug and enjoyed sipping slowly whilst sneaking in a few minutes of afternoon telly and a biscuit! Off i go...! :)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Jamun until the break of dawn!

Gulab Jamun's are one of the most popular Indian desserts. Similar to doughnuts, they are fried balls of dough that have been soaked in sugar syrup and are normally served at the end of a celebratory meal.

Made from milk powder and flour combined into a dough using fresh milk, small balls are formed and deep fried over a low heat until they turn a reddish brown. The frying normally takes around 15 minutes during which time the balls expand to nearly twice their original size. When they are ready the jamun's are slightly drained and then plunged into the sugar syrup which is traditionally flavoured with rose water (rose = gulab in Hindi). Regional variations include the syrup being flavoured with saffron and cardamom or citrus juices.

History states that gulab jamun is descended from an Arabic sweet dish called Luqmat Al Qadi and was brought to India during the Mughal era but there is an Indian folk tale that although relates back to the Mughal's, provides a slightly different take on the origination of the jamun's...

In 16th Century India a Mughal emperor, Akbar entered into a marriage of convenience with a Rajput princess, Jodha. The tale is a classic Indian love story of how what was at first just a business proposition blossomed into true love and there are many conflicting versions of the full romance. Here a segment which tells how Jodha stumbled upon gulab jamun's quite by accident!

Jodha used to love cooking for Akbar but because of her Hindu roots she was not given much support in the Muslim palace. One day whilst making the traditional sweet dish penda she accidentally dropped them into the karahi, or frying pan. She was so rushed to finish her preparations and get the King his dinner that she had no choice but to serve these deep fried balls of milk and sugar. She nervously waited as the King went through each course of his meal and finally it was time for dessert. As she anxiously watched her husband taste the fried pendas she was surprised to see a smile cross his face - much to her relief he loved them!!! A few adjustments to the recipe and Gulab Jamun's were born!

There are lots of different variations of this dessert from all over the Middle East and even the Mediterranean. A Greek version, loukoumes, is flavoured with honey and in the Turkish version the balls are stuffed with pistachio nuts before frying. Whichever way you like them these spongy little dough balls oozing sweet sugar syrup are a delicious dessert waiting to be served.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Popping Fantastic!!!

I'm a little late with blogging about this one but nevertheless, it had to be done!!! Christmas 2009 saw the introduction of the limited edition Terry's Chocolate Orange with Volcanic Popping Candy. Of all the amazing and wonderful chocolaty treats Christmas inevitably brings, this one has to be my favourite so far.

Sweet and simple, it tastes the same as the regular, divine Terry's Chocolate Orange but it has the extraordinary addition of crispy little chunks of popping candy! Absolute. Fabulous. Genius!!!! As the creamy milk chocolate melts on your tongue the subtle orange flavour gives way to little bursts of popping and crackling which last for a good minute or 2 after eating each piece - so much fun!

Gimmicky? Indeed yes! But just that little x factor that undeniably shouts 'Christmas spirit!' this volcanic new addition to the Terry's family was more than welcome. I for one will be keeping my eyes 'peeled' for the delightful little fuchsia boxes to hit the shelves next Christmas season and this time, I'll be stocking up enough Christmas cheer to last me through the year! Love it!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Recipe of the Week 1 - Dark Chocolate Truffles

What better way to end the week than with a yummy recipe to try out over the weekend? Following on from yesterday, today's recipe is for basic chocolate truffles. Feel free to experiment with this by adding flavours such as liqueurs or oils or try with a different variety of chocolate and decorate with nuts.

200g Good quality 70% Dark Chocolate
175ml Whipping Cream
2tblsp Unsalted Butter
Cocoa, for dusting

  • Very finely chop the chocolate and place in a large, heat proof bowl
  • Warm the cream over a low heat, stirring continuously until it comes to a rolling boil
  • Pour cream over the chocolate and leave to stand for 2 minutes
  • Gently whisk the cream and chocolate until the chocolate has completely melted and there are no lumps (if the chocolate doesn't melt, warm in the microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time, stirring in between)
  • Add the butter gradually and continue to whisk until it has all melted into the chocolate and you are left with a smooth, glossy ganache
  • Leave to stand for 2 hours until cool and firm
  • Taking a teaspoonful of ganache at a time, roll into a ball, toss in a plate of cocoa powder and place on a sheet of grease proof paper to set for a few minutes
  • Store in an air tight container and consume within 3 days.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Why is a Chocolate Truffle called a Chocolate Truffle?

Mmmm... If only I got to eat a chocolate truffle for every time somebody asked me that question! Chocolate Truffles were named so because in their original form they very closely resemble the woodland fungi that are a culinary delicacy.

Now, truffles are available in all shapes, sizes and flavours. Traditionally, Swiss truffles are a semi firm ganache that has been rolled into a ball and then coated in cocoa or icing sugar. These days truffle ganaches can be found in a slightly more liquid form as a filling in moulded chocolate shells and in a much firmer form, set like fudge and then cut and dipped in chocolate before being decorated.

The best truffles in my opinion are the dense, creamy, smooth, hand rolled Swiss truffles, dipped in chocolate and covered in wispy chocolate flakes that just melt away the instant they touch your tongue - heaven!!

European truffles have become an indulgent luxury, often flavoured with Champagne and associated with grandeur and romance - the perfect gift for anybody (especially me!) on special occasions or even better, just because!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Queen of Spices

Green cardamom is one of the most widely used spices when it comes to Indian sweets. Its unique flavour is difficult to compare to anything else - fragrant and pungent, a little goes a long way which can only be a good thing as it is one of the most expensive spices in the world, alongside saffron and vanilla. Cardamom is sometimes known as the 'Queen of Spices' because alongside pepper (the 'King of Spices') it was, pre 16th century, so precious in the trading ports that some people considered it even more valuable than gold!

Originally grown in South India, cardamom is used throughout Indian cooking in both sweet and savoury dishes. When used in savoury dishes it is an undertone combined with the likes of cinnamon, chilli, clove and ginger to add depth and flavour to the spiciness of the dish. In sweets however it is a much more prominent flavour often paired with nutmeg and saffron.

Cardamom is now cultivated in Central and South America and all across Asia. Interestingly it is actually a part of the ginger family and its Latin name is Elettaria. India is famously renowned for using herbs and spices with regard to medicinal properties and cardamom is no exception. It is said to help with digestion (and therefore weight loss) and is used to treat gum and tooth infections (whilst at the same time acting as a breath freshener!). It is also said to be somewhat of an aphrodisiac and cardamom oil was often used in the past as an alluring and stimulating perfume.

My favourite use of it has to be in Indian sweet dishes though! My fondest memory being my Mum's Indian equivalent to bedtime cocoa - warm milk sweetened with a little sugar and flavoured with cardamom and crushed almonds and pistachios and when we were really lucky, a few strands of saffron! To this day Mum never fails to remind me of how I used to follow her around the kitchen until she made me 'the milk with the sweets in it!' :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Barfi, Barfi, Barfi!!!


(Indian) A dessert made from milk that has been cooked slowly and reduced to a fudge like consistency. This sweet is flavoured with either saffron, vanilla essence, cocoa, rose water etc. Sometimes nuts and fresh coconut is added. Eaten and served in bite sized pieces 'Barfi' is a very popular after dinner dessert. Just like bringing a bottle of fine wine when you visit someone for the first time, a decorative box filled with different kinds of 'Barfi' is a traditional gift in India.

OK, so it makes sense to start with my personal favourite Indian sweet - Barfi! A traditional sweet dish from the northern part of the country but with many regional varieties it is most often made by boiling milk and sugar until a thick consistency is reached. It is then left to cool and set before being cut into pieces, decorated with silver leaf or nuts and then enjoyed. It can be flavoured with pretty much anything your heart desires - from the more traditional saffron and cardamom, to almonds and pistachios, all the way across to chocolate and mango!

The name 'Barfi' is rumoured to be derived from the Hindi word 'Baraf' which means ice and this refers to the appearance of the unflavoured sweet - white cubes which look similar to blocks of ice - a common feature up in the cold heights of the Himalayas!

I think the best way to describe Barfi is that it is more or less the Indian equivalent of fudge. The cooking processes are very similar as are the consistency and taste. The presence of Barfi in Indian culture can be compared to that of chocolate in Western culture - one would often take a box as a gift when visiting friends or open a box to share on a special occasion and the different varieties and colours make it much the same as opening a selection box of chocolates!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Eastern Desserts Meet Western Desserts

Hello and welcome to my blog!

My name's Roopa and three years ago my brother Jay and I started a business that we hoped would help redefine Indian sweets and raise them to a whole new plateau in world cuisine. It was our impression that whilst Indian food is well known and loved across the globe, the desserts in Indian restaurants can often be a bit of a let down after a delicious meal and this was something that we wanted to change.

Having been born and raised in London, England we were brought up on a "healthy" mix of both Eastern and Western desserts, and of course - chocolate! With a love for all of these flavours we set about trying to bridge the gap between the two cultures by creating high quality, lighter, fresher and more fragrant Indian desserts whilst respecting the time honoured traditions passed down by generations of sweet makers from India.

Inspired by the flavours of India, intrigued by desserts from all over the world and enraptured by chocolate we created Barfibox, a brand of bite sized Indian sweets made with fresh English double cream, French milk powder and topped with a layer of luxurious milk chocolate. We went on to produce a range of Indian inspired desserts (such as Vanilla Chai Ice Cream and Coconut and Cardamom Truffles) and now as we continue to develop our product range we are about to re brand the company in an attempt to project our ethos (high quality, luxurious, Indian inspired sweets, desserts and chocolates!) more clearly.

My passion for creating desserts that fuse both my British and Indian backgrounds together has started me on a journey accross the realms to learn about all things sweet and delicious and I hope to take you all with me on this tantalising voyage. I shall be blogging about recipes, ingredients, new products and desserts from around the world in my attempt to find out all I can in order to help me continue to create sweet ideas for everybody to enjoy. Happy reading :)

Me and my big bro Jay :)