TL;DR Westcoast’s take on modernizing some of his favorite Indian meals. In part 1 we work on the main course and in part 2 we will do a dessert! Indian Cuisine, pastry cream, & plating frustration is all covered here.
Final Recipe: A dessert course centered around Indian staples: Masala Chai (a spicy tea) and Parle-G (biscuits). The goal was to modernize these ingredients, which was achieved by created a custard infused with masala chai and parle-g crumbs, which were then paired and plated with raspberries, candied ginger, and edible flowers.
Soundtrack to this post: Photograph Remix
I gave my rant about American-ized Indian food in the previous post so I will skip the melodrama this time around.
While the British have biscuits and tea, Indians have Masala Chai and Parle-G biscuits. It’s a match made in heaven.
Masala chai (tea) is made from taking a dark tea such as earl grey and brewing it with spices, usually including cardamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, and cinnamon. Tea was originally used medicinally and cultivated in the Assam region of India. When the British East India Company became concerned for Chinese monopoly of the good, they started harvesting larger amounts from India. A British owned tea association started to market tea in the British preparation as great break time drink, but it was the independent “Chai wallahs” aka this guy..
..(Slum dog Millionaire reference if you didn’t catch it.) that peddled chai in the railway carts with their own unique twists of sugar, milk, and spices that led to the popularity of masala chai.
Parle-G is one of those items that have a cultural significance that’s hard to explain. It’s sort of the go to biscuit for many Indians, especially when dipped in tea. Buttery deliciousness and a very unique taste that I have no clue what is it is.
The masala chai and parle-g combination is one of simplicity and comfort rather than sophistication and so the challenge ahead of my was to refine this combo into a modern, plate-able item.
I’m not a big dessert person. I love eating it, but don’t cook dessert much, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever cooked dessert apart from ready made brownie and cookie packages. I did a bit of research on desserts after I started to put my concept together.
My central ingredients are masala chai and parle-g. My initial thought with the chai was to infuse the flavors into a cold and creamy item such as custard or gelato. With the parle-g I would reconstitute it to create a crunch contrast.
My idea was to take a sort of deconstructed approach similar to Oops I dropped the lemon tart by Massimo Bottura.
I had a hard time putting the concept together due to my unfamiliarity with dessert preparations. I really didn’t know how some of these things would turn out so I opt-ed to jump in rather than fully defining my concept, which I regretted when trying to put it together. I was trying to create things in my mind which I didn’t know what they were called in real life which was also difficult.
Doing grocery shopping, I started picking up random things that I think would go with the dish rather than knowing what I was planning on doing… all I had fully researched at this point was how to to create pastry cream.
- 12 egg yolks
- 100g cream
- 100g milk
- 5g masala tea spices
- 64g sugar
- 75g unsalted butter
- 1 packet Parle-G
- Edible flowers
Masala Chai Pastry Cream
Start by making a masala chai infusion by combining the masala spice, milk, cream and sugar. Refrigerate.
Cooking the beaten egg yolks Sous vide for 35 minutes at 80 degrees C. (Pastry cream adapted from Modernist Cuisine).
Immediately blend the egg on low. Blend in the infusion on low as well. And then on high mix in 50 g of the softened butter. Blend until you get that custard texture and fill in a squeeze bottle with the yumminess. Refrigerate.
Wrap the crackers in a towel and bang with a pot (literally).
Melt in remaining butter. Mix throughly. And bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes (until it starts to brown).
Candied Ginger by slicing ginger and cooking in palm sugar
Using a microplane zester to zest cardamon and cinnamon (love the way this brought out the aromas).
Edible flowers for color and presentation.
After I had prepared the masala chai custard and parle-g crumbs I started to try and bring it together. I must’ve spent as much time with plating as I did with the cooking. It was really frustrating. My skills when it comes to piping the cream weren’t up for the challenge and I had conflict ideas of aesthetic.
My final result was to actually take the raspberries, fill them with the cream, and top with the crumbs to create delicious bites (different than what I was initially trying).
However, there are many different approaches you can take:
Post Game Analysis
- I’m not jumping in so blindly and am probably stepping away from desserts for a bit, this was a bit stressful and frustrating especially the plating. It really does help to do a mock-up of plating so you have a better idea of the final product
- I want to tweak the plating a bit to really make the dish shine, I might need to adjust the preparations a bit so that I can return to my initial deconstructed idea
- The flavor is great! I think the custard was just slightly too grainy due to the setting of the egg yolks and I would use a different approach next time–eggs are difficult when you don’t want to actually cook or curdle them
- Refine the way I make crumbs so that I could actually create larger pieces that would allow more plating options