FAMILY: Delightful desserts

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Nothing beats a good dessert. Foodie dad Dharm Navaratnam has some suggestions

I’VE always felt that the crowning glory to a good meal is a great dessert. There is nothing quite as bad as being let down by a dessert. Then again, I’m probably biased because I have always loved desserts and consider myself a little bit of a dessert king.

You can hate my cooking but don’t ever think of complaining about my desserts! To me, the greatest insult would be someone offering to bring dessert to a pot-luck or dinner at my house.

My love affair with desserts started at a very young age. In fact, I started to make desserts and bake before I started to cook. Mum and Dad used to throw dinner parties every now and again and there was this once when Mum asked if I would like to help make the dessert since she was busy with other things.

I jumped at the chance and diligently followed Mum’s recipe for a Chilled Cheese Cake.

The recipe was handwritten in this Green Diary that served as a repository for her personal collection of recipes (she still has this green diary!).

The cheesecake turned out pretty well and was a hit at the dinner. This became my signature dessert for many years. During my university days, I would often make this dessert to try and impress the girls.

My favourite dessert, however, would have to be Chocolate Mousse. My children love this too and can never get enough. My first exposure to chocolate mousse was when I was about 8 or 9.

My parents took us to the Equatorial Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, which used to serve these great High Teas. The dessert spread was huge and they had Chocolate Mousse served in martini glasses. That was my idea of heaven at that age!

Since I loved Chocolate Mousse so much, I had to make my own. I played around with different recipes and finally achieved my own version — what I think is the perfect Chocolate Mousse.

I like to dress up the mousse with strawberries to make it just a little more special for the kids although they are quite happy to wolf the mousse down on its own!

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients
•     250g thicked dark chocolate
•     300ml thickened cream (Unsweetened) or use whipping cream
•     ⅓ cup icing sugar
•     4 eggs
•     1-2 tsp Rum, Brandy or Kahlua (optional)

Method
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Take care to ensure that no water gets into the chocolate or it will seize. Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Again, make sure that no water gets into the egg whites. Also make sure that no egg yolk gets into the separated whites.

Once chocolate is melted and smooth, leave on heat and quickly add in lightly beaten egg yolks a little at a time. Stir well to incorporate the eggs into the chocolate. Mixture will become slightly thick and lumpy. Remove from heat and keep stirring or beat till smooth. Let cool.

Whip cream with sugar until stiff and fluffy. If using liqueur, add into the mixture now. Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream. Whisk egg whites until stiff. Fold in egg whites to the chocolate cream mixture and ensure they are well incorporated. Pour into a small glasses or a large bowl and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours

Chocolate brownies
ANOTHER crowd pleaser and a firm favourite at home are my Chocolate Brownies. They are without a doubt one of my children’s favourite cakes. My son and daughter love taking these to school for their break time and sharing it with their friends. They love their brownies so much that no birthday is complete without Chocolate Brownies. Fortunately for the kids, Chocolate Brownies are not limited to birthdays. They love eating these delectable, chocolatey morsels with a bowl of ice-cream, with a glass of milk or simply on its own. Brownies are always spectacular when they are zapped in the microwave to warm them up before served with a scoop of ice-cream and even better when drizzled with some chocolate sauce.

Ingredients
• 250g butter
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 4 eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla
• ¾ cup cocoa
• 1 cup flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 100g walnuts - chopped
• 100g chocolate chips

Method
Melt butter and let cool. Beat melted butter with sugar till nicely combined. Add in eggs one at a time and continue to beat until creamy.

Sift flour with baking powder. Fold into cream mixture. Add in cocoa and mix well. Stir in vanilla, nuts and choc chips. Mix well. Spread into a greased and lined rectangular pan and bake in a preheated 170°C oven for 40 mins or till done.

Caramel pears
IF chocolate or baking a cake isn’t your thing, why not try these fairly simple Caramel Pears. This is another of my son’s favourites. Since this is mainly a fruit dessert, you can even pretend it’s healthy by ignoring the fact that it’s covered in caramel. Should be eaten with whipped cream or ice-cream!

Ingredients
•     6 fresh pears, peeled, cored and     halved
•     300ml thickened cream or whipping cream
•     1 cup sugar
•     ¼ cup water

Method
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Make the caramel by melting sugar with water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil without stirring and continue boiling till sides of syrup start to turn golden. Gently stir to spread the melted sugar and continue boiling till all of the mixture turns golden.

Allow the caramel to cool slightly and then add in the cream. Be careful as the mixture will splutter. Continue to boil, stirring frequently, until mixture becomes thick.

Arrange pear halves in a baking dish, cut side up and bake the pears for about 30 minutes or until tender. Spread ⅓ of the caramel over the pears and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve the pears with the remaining sauce.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use Canned Pears if you don’t want to waste too much time baking. If using canned pears, drain the pears and arrange them cut side up. Spread ⅓ of the caramel over the pears and bake for 15 minutes.

I would say that the only challenging part to this recipe is in making the caramel but if you follow the recipe carefully it is really not that difficult. Whatever caramel sauce you have left over you can keep in the fridge and pour over ice-cream or even mix up with some milk for a caramel milk shake. If you are not too confident of making your own caramel sauce, you can always use the store bought variety.

I use six pears because 1 serving is hardly ever enough. Also, it keeps really well in the fridge and only needs to be zapped for a short while in the microwave to warm the pears and melt the caramel before its ready for dessert again the next day!

So if you are making these, you may as well make a batch that will last for a few meals!

The next time you’re wondering what to serve for dessert and are thinking of just buying some ice-cream or a cake from your favourite bakery, think again and make your own desserts!

Find more desserts made by Dharm Navaratnam at his blog dad-baker.blogspot.com.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate brownies

Caramel pears


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