Mangos and Macadamias
My current obsession with tropical fruit continues with some gorgeous mangoes I found at market last week. The tropical theme seemed fitting given the scorching weather we've been enduring in the Bay Area: days when everything seemed positively drenched in heat, the nights offering little respite. Things came to a crescendo when, one evening at my family home, the power abruptly cut out, leaving us with no fans to create the illusion of breezes, no entertainment to distract from the omnipresent heat.
Fortunately, my mother keeps a tidy and well-stocked household. Armed with candles and flashlights, we trooped outside to see the extent of the blackout and find if the air was possibly, infinitesimally cooler. From our driveway, darkness spread as far as we could see, not a glowing streetlight or window to be found. With the gentle background hum of suburbia brought to a hush, we were wrapped in rare calm, the stars showering on us from above, finally visible without city lights to dim them, crickets chirping their nighttime lullabies. Into that dreamy silence we felt the faintest brush of cool air against our faces, and we laughed in joy and relief.
The weather did finally took a turn for the cooler the next day, returning to normal within the week, and I could turn my attention back to the kitchen and these by now quite ripe mangoes and how to use them.
Unlike the prickly-skinned lychees, I can't imagine anyone not being enticed by mangoes, with their sweet-tart fragrance and rainbow-hued skins peeling back to reveal gleaming smooth flesh the vibrant, golden hue of summer. Mangoes are considered a symbol of love in India, and in ancient Hindu texts, they have been referred to as "food of the gods". I eat fresh mangoes straight, pulp running down my fingers; dried mango strips are one of best snacks I know. In short, I love mangoes in just about any form: it makes turning them into dessert quite the exercise in forbearance! (The bowl of sliced mangoes to be pureed did seem to take a suspiciously long time to fill up...)
Mango Mousse Tart in a Macadamia Nut Crust
Mangoes translate well into creamy, smooth fillings for cakes, tarts, and other desserts - some of my favorite cakes from childhood memory were the whipped-cream-covered ones from Chinese bakeries with layers of genoise-like sponge cake sandwiching mango cream. This is a basic mango mousse: mango puree folded into whipped cream with a bit of gelatin. It sets up overnight in the refrigerator and has a lovely, fluffy texture that melts in your mouth like clouds in sunshine.
The crust is from Regan Daley's excellent In the Sweet Kitchen, and it is a marvel of nutty flavor and toothsome bite. Ground macadamia nuts are added to a sucreé-like pastry, and the result, fresh from the oven, is so redolent of macadamia and so delicately flaky that I could eat up like a cookie. Filled with mango mousse, it becomes a luxe little dessert. And because the tart crust is the only thing that needs to be baked, it means oven time is minimal!
Mango Ripple Ice Cream with Macadamia Nut Biscotti
Another pair of recipes from In the Sweet Kitchen, this ice cream has bright swirls of mango puree twining through a luscious, custardy vanilla base. A crisp wedge of macadamia nut biscotti provides a delicately nutty contrast to the richly decadent ice cream. Per Daley's recommendation, the biscotti had a shorter second baking time to keep them on the tender side, instead of going for more brittle specimens for dipping in coffee. I found the combination of mango and macadamia in these desserts to be quite enticing and satisfying. As a bonus, the scents of roasting macadamia nuts and fresh-cut mango make for a most fragrant kitchen!
The best thing? Mangoes are going to be available for a while, so I've got plenty of time to enjoy them!
Macadamia Nut Tart Pastry
from Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen
3/4 cup raw unsalted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, cold
Combine nuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until nuts are finely ground, but do not overgrind and turn them into butter! Add flour and combine just until blended. Add the butter and combine in pulses until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and combine for a few seconds, just until the mixture begins to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a working surface and work it gently with your fingers until it forms a cohesive dough. Do not overwork it - you will not get that wonderful flaky texture.
Press the dough into tart tins. This is enough dough for about 6 4 1/2-in tartlette tins, or one 10 to 11-in tart tin. Cover the shells and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the bottoms of the tart shells all over. Fill the tart shells with pie weights and bake in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the tart shells are just starting to color. Remove the pie weights and return to the over for about 7-10 minutes until the shells are completely baked and are golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Sugar to taste
2 1/4 teaspoons gelatin
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Peel skin from mangoes and remove as much flesh as possible. You should get about 1 1/4 lbs of flesh. Puree the mango flesh with sugar to taste in a blender or food processor. Strain the puree to get rid of any pulp.
Pour about 1/3 of the mango puree into a pot and stir in the gelatin. Heat the puree over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and pour into another bowl. Stir in the rest of the mango puree and stir to combine.
Whip the cream in a mixer bowl until it holds soft peaks. At this point, if the mango puree is still warm, dip the bottom of the bowl into another bowl of ice water and stir until it begins to thicken. Continue whipping the cream until it reaches stiff peaks, then add the mango puree and finish whipping to combine.
At this point you can fill the cooled tart shells with the mousse. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula. Place the tarts in the refrigerator to let the mousse set overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts.
Mango Ripple Ice Cream
from Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen
2 cups half and half
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
For the custard: heat the half and half with the vanilla extract in a saucepan until boiling. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. When the half and half comes to a boil, pour it slowly into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and return to the stove. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 minutes.
Strain the mixture into another bowl. Add the cream and combine. Lay a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the mixture and cut a few slits in the plastic to let steam escape. Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
For the mango ripple: Peel the mangoes and remove as much flesh as possible. Puree the flesh in a food processor with the corn syrup and lemon juice. Strain the puree to remove any pulp. Stir the egg white into the puree. (The egg white helps to keep the mango from crystallizing in the freezer and becoming icy). Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Process the chilled custard in an ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions. As it becomes ice cream, prepare 1 cup of the mango puree, and add to the machine about a minute or two before the end of the process, so it gets swirled in but not completely combined. You will probably need to scoop out the ice cream and finish it in the freezer. Any leftover mango puree can be drizzled over the ice cream!