rose and strawberry almond milk falooda

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

You'll notice a new tab up on the blog, it's a link to my photography portfolio. Some photographs will be familiar and others new to you but in general, it's a collection of projects I've worked on or currently working on. When people ask me what I like more being in the kitchen or working with the camera, I find it hard to choose and honestly, I don't think there should be a choice. In that very sense, maintaining a food blog is the nexus of these two elements and I think it also answers that question. Probably, one of the most exciting things is having the choice to do things the way you want to and breaking and bending the rules, be it food or the camera. 

"Falooda" is probably one of the most popular dessert type drinks you can find in India. When I visited India, last year I got one and made sure it was topped with ice cream. An ice cold glass of sweet rose flavored milk served with ice cream, thin vermicelli noodles and basil seeds. But before I talk about my version, I have to give a shout out to a Persian dessert that is the origin of this delicious drink.

Persians have a dessert with a similar name called "Faloodeh" which is pretty spectacular, the ones I've generally eaten at Persian restaurants, is a rose and lemon flavored frozen dessert with thin vermicelli noodles and I like to top it off with some sour cherry sauce. But there are variations, on this theme that I know I have to taste soon. If you visit a Persian restaurant get it, you will love it. 

In this updated version of the Indian drink, I've skipped the dairy in favor of almond milk from Califia. Falooda is all about the layers so I stuck with the theme because that's what makes it rather exciting, besides all the lovely flavors. I kept the vermicelli and the rose, well sort of. Ideally you would use rose syrup but rose water is much gentler and you can control the sweetness, the syrup on the other hand can be super sweet in this drink. Basil seeds can be tricky to find but chia seeds are easily found at most stores and give a similar gelatinous texture after being soaked. I added a layer of strawberry purée to give a pop of color to the drink (usually the rose syrup does that job) , the purée is also sweetened with sugar which is why I avoided sweetening the almond milk but if you want you can sweeten the milk or use Califia's sweetened almond milk. The garnishes I suggest are all optional, some of you might like edible rose petals while others might not but the ice cream is always a nice touch (you know how much I love ice cream, I'm rather surprised that for once I didn't have any at home to add to this falooda).

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this drink,

  • You'll notice I don't call for adding any extra sugar or sweetener to the almond milk. The strawberry purée is pretty sweet to begin with so I didn't find the need to add any more. However, if you want it sweeter, feel free to add more sugar. You can also use Califia's Almond Coconut milk blend or their pre-sweetened almond milk. They will all work very well in this drink.
  • Chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid, you might find the need to shake or stir things up in the jar when you soak them overnight. You might also need to add a little more milk to the seeds if you find them in a big chunky clump. 
  • The strawberry purée is rather thick but if you want you can thin it out a little if you prefer with water or simple syrup. Just remember that as it thins out the vermicelli will sink through and sit on top of the chia seed layer. 
  • This drink is pretty heavy and I find it best served after a really light lunch or dinner. 
  • Since this drink is all about layers when presenting, it's important not to mix them up when preparing the glasses. Carefully prepare the layers but be extra careful when pouring the almond milk over the vermicelli layer. Another trick that works well here, carefully pour the milk over a spoon so it doesn't disturb the layers.
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda

yields: 2 servings

ingredients 

4 cups unsweetened Califia almond milk, chilled

3 tablespoons chia seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups water 

1/4 cup vermicelli noodles (broken into 2 to 3 inch long fragments)

1 tablespoon rose water 

1 tablespoon dried rose petals (optional)

ice cubes/crushed ice for serving (optional)

vanilla or strawberry or rose ice cream for serving (optional)

1. Take 1/2 cup of the almond milk in a medium-sized clean glass jar, sprinkle the chia seeds over the milk. Close the surface of the jar with a tight lid or cling film and shake. Leave the chia seeds to expand and absorb liquid for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours but preferably overnight in a refrigerator.

2. To prepare the strawberry purée, place the strawberries in a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat along with the sugar and half cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low then cover with a lid and cook the contents of the saucepan for another 5 minutes. Remove from stove, allow to cool and then purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Strain the purée through a fine mesh strainer and discard the seeds. Reserve the strawberry purée and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to chill before use. 

3. To prepare the vermicelli noodles. Bring the remaining two cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the vermicelli and cook until soft and tender (they do not need to be al dente but should be cooked completely). Remove from stove, drain the hot water carefully and add cold tap water to cool the noodles. 

4. To prepare the falooda, take 2 tall glasses. Layer each with half of the chia seeds. Then layer about 1/2 cup of strawberry purée (you can use less if desired) over the chia seeds carefully with a spoon. Drain the water from the cooked vermicelli and divide the mixture equally between the two jars over the strawberry pureé layer. To the remaining almond milk, add the rose water. (You can also sweeten the milk with a little sugar or sweetener of your choice. See Note in Tip section above). Pour the almond milk over the layered noodles in each glass carefully to avoid the layers from mixing. Garnish with rose petals or ice cubes/crushed ice and/or ice cream if desired (you can do all three if you want in any combination). Serve chilled with a long spoon. Before drinking, stir the contents of the glass.

Note: This post was sponsored by Califia farms and all thoughts expressed here are solely my own. 

chai and rose fresh berry cake

Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

Earlier this week, I met up with the amazing Cheryl from 5 Second Rule. Cheryl is one of the nicest people I've spoken with, she is humble and kind even though she is an award winning blogger and has several cookbooks. We talked for quite a while about blogging, food and life in general. Cheryl also has a new book on one of my favorite ingredients, yogurt. Yogurt culture comes out this April and I can't wait to check it out and see all the fun ways I can eat my favorite dairy.

I have a few small pots on our balcony and got all sorts of dwarf trees when we moved in. You can imagine my excitement when I found blooms in my blood orange plant, I wasn't expecting any in the first year! The fig tree has awakened but I haven't noticed any future ovules that will become figs yet. Fingers crossed!

Over at Instagram, I hinted earlier that I would revisit this cardamom lime spring berry cake I made last year. Berries are probably one type of fruit that I eat all the time so I feel obligated that I owe lots of "dessertly" tributes to them. This version is completely different, the cake is flavored with Indian chai (Chai is the hindi word for tea) and edible rose petals and then sprayed generously with rose water. In Indian food you will find rose water and rose petals being used to infuse their delicate sweet flavor in several desserts and drinks, it's one of the culinary traditions that's come via the influence of the Mughal empire in India. This cake takes all of those flavors into account and I tried to bring it all together to make one spring treat. The frosting is made of light whipped cream and cream cheese with a hint of rose water. Then there's a little layer of berry jam and fresh berries in there for that burst of sweetness. Now, my frosting skills are not the best but I have improved significantly since I started working at the bakery. For one, I've learned to hold a piping bag correctly, frost cakes quickly, and decorate them as needed. No more wrist pain with piping bags! 

Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown TableChai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown TableChai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this cake that you might find useful,

  • Here's the deal with dried edible rose petals, they smell wonderful and will impart their delicate floral flavor to anything they are added. But trying to eat them directly is no fun. I do garnish the top of the cake a little with the dried petals but don't get too carried away. You'll end up chewing way too much for comfort. 
  • I use whole wheat white pastry flour as it has less gluten than the regular red grain variety resulting in a tender cake crumb.
  • I can never remember to leave my butter out to warm up when I need to in a recipe. But a little trick I've learned at work, wrap the butter up in cling film and pound it till it is just soft  and pliable. Use the softened butter as needed. Coincidentally, this is also something I saw the students do when they were preparing their laminated doughs in the pastry class I audited a few days ago.
  • To slice the cake, I pass 4 bamboo skewers through the center of the cake at mid height. I then slice the cake in half using the skewers as a guide. After the cake is halved, I remove the skewers out. You could certainly, cut the cake in half using any method that works best for you.
  • You can use any type of jam in the cake. I recommend trying jams that are a little more tart such as raspberry or black currant, I personally find strawberry jams to be a bit too sweet and overpowering at times. 
  • You can use a springform or regular circular 9 inch pan that is around 3 inches in height. 
  • The strawberries help to hold the cake layers together and prevent the frosting from squirting out. But I still recommend keeping it chilled even when you cut through the cake. Use a clean and warm serrated knife when you slice it to get clean and even slices. 
  • I use a spray bottle to evenly infuse the cake with rose water. Get a cheap one from the dollar store. Alternatively, use a brush to flavor the cake. I didn't add any sugar to the rose water because there really is no need with the jam, the frosting and the cake's sweet profile. 
  • I cut back on the amount of cream cheese that would be used in this frosting. Ideally you would use 8 ounces cream cheese to 2 cups heavy whipping cream but I find that to be very salty in taste. If that doesn't bother you adjust the frosting accordingly. 
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

chai and rose fresh berry cake 

 

 

yields: one 9 inch cake 

ingredients 

1/2 cup (100mL) water, boiling

1 tablespoon darjeeling/assam black tea leaves

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon fine grain kosher sea salt

2 tablespoons dried edible rose petals, ground to a fine powder

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and chopped + extra for greasing the pan

5 large eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoons + 50mL rose water 

1 quart heavy whipping cream

8 ounces cream cheese, warmed to room temperature and whipped

3/4 cup (5 ounces) sugar

1 cup raspberry or strawberry or mixed berry jam (I used raspberry)

2 cups strawberries, fresh and ripe, halved

2 cups blueberries, fresh and ripe

1 cup raspberries, fresh and ripe

 a few extra berries for garnishing the top of the cake 

a few dried edible rose petals for garnishing the top of the cake

1. Sprinkle the tea leaves over the boiling hot water and leave aside to sit for 5 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves, you should have between 75-50mL of tea infused water left behind. Cool to room temperature completely before use. 

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and rose petal powder four times and keep aside. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F.

3. Line the base of a circular 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and grease lightly with a little butter. Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the paddle blade to the mixer and cream the sugar and butter on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time and whisk until combined. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix on low speed for about 1 minute until just combined, then add the tea prepared in step 1 along with the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes until the center is springy, yet firm to touch or a skewer comes out clean when passed through the center of the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then release from the sides using a sharp knife and cool on a wire rack. Once the cake is cooled, wrap it in cling film and freeze it for at least 2 hours before frosting.

3. Place the heavy whipping cream, cream cheese, sugar and 3 tablespoons of rose water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Keep refrigerated and chilled until ready to use. 

4. Place the cake on a cake stand/turntable and slice it in half (see kitchen tips above). Spray the inner sides of both cakes with the remaining 50mL rose water using a spray bottle. Layer the bottom half of the cake with the jam using a large offset spatula. Then take 1 cup of the whipped cream frosting and layer it over the jam. Then layer the cake with place the strawberries top side facing upwards in three concentric circles. Fill the gaps between the circles with the raspberries and blueberries. Top the berries off with about 1/2 cup of whipped cream and then place the top layer of the cake over it. Frost the outside of the cake using the spatula to get a smooth and even finish. Decorate with extra berries and a few rose petals. Refrigerate the cake for an hour or two before cutting to serve. This cake will be good for up to 2-3 days. 

lychee rose boba with pistachio jelly {a blogger collaboration}

dual work filtration

I had met Phi of the Princess Tofu blog online, (honestly, that's how many of my food blogger relationships begin). I lived in D.C. at the time and she, in San Francisco. We quickly became virtual friends and upon finding out that I would be moving to the S.F. Bay Area, I was super excited to finally have the opportunity to meet her. I have to say, Phi has been the sweetest host, we've geeked out over all things related to food blogging while eating pastries at some of her favorite bakeries in the city. She's taught me so much about fun things about the city that only a seasoned local would know! 

Phi had spoken of her friend, Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet before and already being a huge fan of Alanna's work, you can just imagine my excitement when they asked me to join them for a little session of pistachio milk jelly and rose boba making. 

pistachio milk making.gif

I took a bag of fresh lychees and some samplings of tea over to Alanna's house (Alanna makes the best drinks and snacks and Phi had these cute and tasty Mickey Mouse waffles) where I got to watch and learn from both of these extremely talented and wonderful people. It was so much fun working with them because for one, you get to watch each person in action and observe their different styles and work aesthetic and two, because action shots are much easier when more than one person is involved (I don't have to balance myself shooting and moving the subjects simultaneously with the risk of dropping or breaking something). 

pistachio nut milk

The process began with the grinding of some presoaked pistachio nuts in a blender to produce the nut milk which Phi then filtered through the nut sac ( The word "nut sac" sounds so inappropriately funny and yeah we were all pretty red, every time one of us mentioned it). Once that was complete, Phi prepared the pistachio milk jelly by adding agar agar which set pretty fast. Unfortunately by this time, I had to leave and meet M who was coming to pick me up for dinner but the girls went on and made a second batch because the felt the jelly was a bit too soft to use. 

sugar syrup

Unfortunately, I missed tasting Phi and Alanna's final concoction which looks amazing but I had such a blast spending the day with them. Please do go ahead and check out both their websites to see what we were up to that day.  The recipe is here at Phi's site and Alanna has more photographs on the drink preparation that I wasn't there for. 

pistachio milk jelly