Patishapta pitha was the rare pitha I would eat growing up. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I just did not enjoy most pithas I had. [Pitha: Bengali dumplings. Usually made out of rice flour. Sometimes a combo of rice flour and wheat flour. And in my experience, dry af most of the time. Sometimes sweet with a coconut or jaggery filling. And, as I found out after marriage, sometimes plain, eaten with curry.]
My husband and I were so different when we met. He like TV, I liked the arts. He liked iHOP, I liked (and still like) bougie NYC brunch places. He enjoyed test driving cars and playing video games. I liked boutique window shopping and baking.
Pitha – a Bengali style sweet dumpling. Narkeler pitha – dumpling filled with coconut and date sap. Usually the dough is made with rice flour and water(?), filled with the coconut mixture, then deep fried. I never learned how to make pitha, but I did teach myself how to make hand pies.
In my journey of blending the flavors of my ancestral home in the Indian Subcontinent with the desserts I know and love here in America, I pull a lot from you and those around me. In brainstorming dessert ideas, a dear family friend (and ad hoc babysitter – love you Tasfia and Tanifa!) suggested gajer halwa. It’s carrots that’s been cooked down with milk and sugar so that it’s almost a pudding.
Most of you are familiar with chai – a spiced tea drink, made with some kind of milk. Most Bengalis I know and grew up with, didn’t spice their tea, but steeped some strong black tea and cooked it down with milk, or evaporated milk, and sweetened to taste. This is called dood cha (translation: milk tea). My favorite childhood treat was dunking a piece of Wonder bread in my mother’s milk tea. This dessert, an adaptation of tres leches, rekindles that memory. A sponge cake that is soaked in a steeped black tea milk mixture, and topped with whipped cream, recreates that childhood favorite in dessert form. I made it on a whim at my in law’s place over the weekend so I don’t have many pictures. I tried recreating it with PG Tips pyramid tea bags – and although tasty, did not have a strong enough flavor. Will share more pictures when I recreate it – in the meantime I need to buy up some loose tea of my own, since the tea bags just won’t do in this recipe.
I had a lemon ricotta cheese in Sorrento that was a game changer. Compared to dense, tangy, NY style cheesecake (which is delicious in its own rite), this was so light, so brightly flavored with regional citrus, it was the most heavenly thing I had tasted during my 4 months in Italy (in addition to cinnamon gelato, rosemary potato pizza, and fresh ricotta calzone).
Just when you thought she couldn’t produce another great recipe, she pulls one out just to prove you wrong. I’m referring to the OG Deb Perelman and a recipe from her new book, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. She calls them strawberry cloud cookies – they are essentially meringues flavored with a unique ingredient – strawberry powder, rather than the traditional vanilla extract. She dollops the meringue onto cookie sheets before baking for 30-35 min. I piped mine with an open star tip into heart shapes (it is February after all) and baked them for a shorter time, since they are flatter meringues.
I had a revelation this week: pastry cream is basically pudding, with perhaps an egg yolk or two more. Both start off with a milk/sugar base, thickened over the stove top using some combination of cornstarch/flour/egg yolks then flavored with vanilla, chocolate or any other flavor of choice. This recipe, in my opinion, can pass for both.
If it looks like a green tea crepe cake, it smells like a green tea crepe cake, and tastes like a green tea cake, it still may not be a green tea crepe cake.
Truth is, I’ve never had a green tea crepe cake. And even though this looks like the famous Lady M green tea crepe cake, there are no crepes here. Just crisp wafers made with my trusty krumkake maker, matcha pastry cream and whipped cream.
I didn’t use any one recipe for this – I kind of threw things together that I thought might work. And while this worked out beautifully (though I did have a near disaster when the whole thing almost slid off as I was transferring it to the fridge! Pastry cream is slick, yo), I’m already dreaming up alternate versions of this: nutella swiss meringue buttercream filling? Salted caramel mousse?
Matcha used to be difficult to find – now you can find it at costco! I don’t use it that frequently so I’m still working off of the batch I bought a while ago.
Hope you enjoy! And if you don’t have a krumkake maker and don’t feel like buying one and make it with crepes instead, please let me know!
Pastry cream recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.
- 12-14 6in round wafers
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar plus 3 tbsp
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsps vanilla extract, divided
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tbsp matcha plus extra for garnish
1. Make the pastry cream: heat 2 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar’s dissolved. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, corn starch and flour. When the milk is hot and sugar is dissolved, slowly add about a cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the tempered egg mixture back to the saucepan. Whisk constantly over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat, continue stirring, and add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Add the vanilla and one tablespoon of matcha, sifted. Pour into a heat proof bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface, touching the cream so it doesn’t form a skin. Refrigerate until cool and set, several hours or overnight.
2. Make the wafers but instead of rolling into a cone shape, leave flat.
3. On an 8in cake board, place a small amount of cream and spread it thin. Place one wafer on the board, then one tablespoon of the pastry cream and spread it across. Repeat until all the pastry cream is used up. Carefully transfer to refrigerator and chill until set – at least 2 hours.
4. In a large bowl whip cream with 3 tbsp sugar until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and whip until combined. Take out cake from refrigerator and dollop generously on cake, spread to the edges, adding more onto the sides until it’s all covered. Garnish with the extra matcha. Cut out concentric circles out of parchment and place atop cake to get the pattern pictured above.
If you’ve been following along on social media (esp Instagram!) you’ll know I’ve had an exciting week: my little girl turned 7, my favorite fashion blogger of all time (Aimee Song!) showed my IG some love, and I discovered a classic Norwegian dessert called Krumkake.
In anticipation of my daughter’s birthday, I got to thinking what kind of cake should I make for her? Chocolate and vanilla can get tiresome when you make them almost every day. I thought, what about a Kit Kat cake? What would I need?
Chocolate, wafers, and more chocolate. I did some research on the filling of KitKat – apparently it’s some trade secret! Rumor has it the filling is made up of crushed KitKat?? That’s kind of dark. Like, candy cannibalism.
Anywho, that’s what got me started on my wafer journey. Looked up a wafer recipe, said recipe directed me to various presses. Instead of a waffle press, I went with this Norwegian Krumkake press, with it’s beautiful design, I couldn’t resist!
The simplest batter of butter, flour, eggs, sugar and milk gives you excellent wafers. The only thing is you need like 1 hour in the kitchen, baking each one for about 30 seconds each, and rolling them around the cone that the press comes with, or leaving flat if you want to stack them for a cake.
You can fill them with pretty much anything you like! Whipped cream, pastry cream, fresh fruit, ice cream. I opted for a dark chocolate ganache, whipped cream, blueberries and powdered sugar. They are delicious on their own, as well!
They are delicate, so take care handling them after they’ve dried. I found it easier to fill and decorate by placing them in tall glasses. Serve on a nice wooden platter and enjoy immediately!
- 2/3 stick (5 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- chocolate ganache (optional)
- whipped cream (optional)
- blueberries (optional)
- Melt the butter in a double boiler (a heat proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, not allowing the water to touch the bottom of the bowl), careful not to let it brown or get too hot. Add sugar + salt and beat on high speed with a handheld electric mixer until well combined. Add eggs one at a time and blend until mixture is a pale yellow color. Add milk, alternating with flour until all ingredients are combined. Add vanilla. Batter should be thick but drip off the spoon easily.
- Plug in your krumkake maker and set the color number to 4. Set out a kitchen towel and rolling cone. Spray the inside with non stick cooking spray. The red “baking” light will turn on. When the light changes to green (“ready”), drop 1tbsp of batter in the center. Close the lid and snap the latch shut. The light will switch back to red and when done, green again. Use tongs to carefully remove the krumkake and place over the cone, aligning the center of the krumkake along the length of the cone. Roll to form a cone and allow to set while working on the next one.
- Repeat (no need to spray additional spray) and remove previous krumkake from shaping cone. Adjust the color if you prefer a lighter krumkake*.
- When all the krumkakes have dried and keep their shape, place in tall glasses to fill. Fill with puddings, whipped cream, chocolate ganache and/or fresh fruit for a delicate, wonderful and tasty dessert.
*My manual suggests a setting of 2.5 but I was getting zero color at that setting.