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Take your sweets with a pinch of salt

Desserts are no longer pleasing the palates of those with only a sweet tooth. Bakers in Mumbai are dishing out the last course with a touch of salt and pepper. Sonal Ved tells you about the best salted 'sweets' in town

For some, using the words salt and dessert in the same breath, would be criminal. And yet, there are those who are cutting across the codes of confectionery and creating desserts with a dash of savoury elements. Take for instance 'desserts' such as Thyme cookies, Chive cr me brulee, Sweet potato mousse and Chocolate and zucchini cake, which are doing the rounds of high teas, brunches, cocktail parties, bachelorettes and baby showers across the city. "A savoury dessert is essentially a dish where the cooking, mixing and baking process is exactly like a sweet dessert, only the ingredients vary," says Pastry Chef Vikas Bagul, from The Oberoi Group. The hotel recently hosted a savoury souffl � festival at their restaurant Fenix in Mumbai.

What separates savoury from a sweet is the usage of vegetable and meat in the batter, and the replacement of sugar with salt. "However these are not standard norms," says Chef Bagul who takes the trend further with some of his creations. According to him, sometimes salt and sugar, both can be used to create a dessert, which is essentially sweet, but on the verge of savoury.  For instance, he recently made a Paprika mille feuille for a banquet function. The layered dessert had sweet cake that was topped with Chocolate and jalapeno mousse. Though the dessert had its hot and fiery moments, it was infused with a lot of sweet as well -- thanks to the usage of ample chocolate.

This trend is very recent in Mumbai and Chef Pooja Dhingra of Le 15 Patisserie points its origin to France. "Eating Cake sal � before meals is an old tradition among the French," says the chef who dabbles with savoury cupcakes when she is not piping macaroons. Cake sal � (pronounced as saa-lae) is French for 'cake of salt'. It is a savoury loaf that looks and tastes just like a pound cake. The snack has pieces of meat and veggies and is nothing like a typical sweet-batter cake. As chefs in Mumbai are infusing a lot of creativity in whipping up savoury desserts, we picked out the best dishes in town that help you indulge your taste buds.

Scamorza cheese brownie
The namesake brownie served at 5 All Day is ideally placed in the appetiser section of the menu. The Spinach and cheese-flavoured brownie has a texture and form that resembles its dessert cousin but the core taste is that of salty Scamorza cheese. Served along with a homemade yogurt dip and tomato and chilli sauce, the gooey dish has a soft bite of saut �ed onions, garlic and leek.



The dish is made a la minute, which ensures that it arrives on your table warm and soft. Unlike Parmesan or Goat cheese, the chef has wisely chosen an Italian smoked Scamorza that melts more evenly. For those who shy away from greens, these squares are the perfect way to get your fix of vitamin A.

Baker babble: Chef Mrinmoy Acharyya says, "The brownie has been on our menu ever since the restaurant opened three months ago. It is particularly popular with those who like to experiment with old flavours served in new ways.

The technique of making these is similar to baking sweet brownies -- we have simply twisted all the ingredients. The combination of spinach and cheese has been tried and tested with various pasta dishes and therefore it works for the brownies as well. Scamorza complements spinach as it elevates its primary bitter taste and gives it a finer flavour." 

At: 5 All Day, inside Hotel Apollo, Behind Regal Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai
Contact: 022 22873312, 022 65247070
Price: Rs 193 with tax

Kacchi kairi mousse
Kacchi kairi mousse teamed with sesame-sprinkled Lavash (a thin and crispy flat-bread made with flour and water), is what lazy Sunday brunches should be made up of. The two-ingredient dip that comes in cutting-chai glasses is thick in texture and creamy on the palate.


The vanilla and green chilli creme brulee is made on special
request


The raw mango pulp that is used to flavour the cream, cuts through the dairy richness and gives it a faint green colour. Icing On Top also does two other flavours of savoury mousses. While the Beetroot mousse spiked with orange is escapable, we highly recommend the Sweet potato one. Blended with velvety cream cheese, the mousse has a delicate, sweet flavour. On special request, they also make a Vanilla and green chilli
cr me brulee.

Baker babble: Baker Ayushi Shah says, "Savoury mousses have recently been introduced on my dessert-dominated menu. I decided to include them after it became an instant hit with my family when I first tried it out.


Kacchi kairi mousse

The method to make these varies from  sweet mousse in many ways. Most dessert mousses use eggs or gelatin to help it set. Since I'm a vegetarian, I developed an egg-free recipe that doesn't take too long to settle and has a perfect mousse-like consistency. The dish works exceptionally well with dry snacks such as chips, crackers, lavash and bread sticks."

Price:  Rs 45 per glass
At: Icing on top, 601, Sushant, 208, Bhagwandas Indrajeet Road, off Narayan Dhabolkar Road, Napean Sea Road, Mumbai: 400006
Contact: 98670 13315 /98673 46102

Savoury cupcake
Beating stress with a gooey chocolate cupcake is pass �. The next time you feel the blues, indulge in a savoury cupcake by Le 15 Patisserie, instead. The comforting, savoury cupcakes come in two flavours. We highly recommend the Zucchini, mushroom and red pepper cupcake topped with a swirl of herby cream cheese frosting.



The bite-sized cake is soft and airy and comes loaded with small pieces of neatly chopped veggies. Cookie fans should pack some rosemary cookies (priced at Rs 220 for 1/2 dozen). The biscuit is sparingly flavoured with the herb and proves to be an ideal tea-time snack. 

Baker babble: Chef Pooja Dhingra says, "Savoury desserts work well for people who are open to experimenting with their food. Though we don't have savoury cupcakes on display, we make them by order. These work well during wedding brunches, baby showers and tea parties.


Lavender-rosemary cookies are the ideal tea-time snack

Certain savouries such as the cheddar-paprika cookies and rosemary-lavender biscuits can be used as wedding giveaways too. Though the menu is restricted to a few flavours, we plan to introduce a line of savoury desserts like blue cheese, dark chocolate and walnut loaf, olive oil cake, zucchini and chocolate cake in the months to come."

Price: Rs 45
At: Le 15 Patisserie, Shama Hair and Skin Boutique, Krishna Building, near Podar Hospital, JN Palkar Road, Worli
Contact: 9820487727

Herby scones with chilli jam and clotted cream
Only a brave heart would spoon into a jam that contains an extract of 16 kinds of chillies. Despite having yellow banana chilly and Thai chilli paste, the jam that accompanies the herby scones is surprisingly sweet. The scones, infused with herbs such as thyme and rosemary, are light and graceful on the palate.


Savoury eclairs stuffed with  wasabi mayo sauce

When teamed with clotted cream, the snack transports you to the cobble-stoned bakeries of Bath. In close competition, the caterers serve savoury Eclairs (priced at Rs 500 for two dozens) that are stuffed with Wasabi mayo sauce. For those who want to stick to familiar flavours, Onion marmalade thumbprint cookies (priced at Rs 600 for half kg) and Parmesan-sprinkled doughnuts (priced at Rs 1200 for four dozens) are a good bet.

Baker babble: Food consultant and baker Nidhi Behl says, "I wanted to go beyond conventional dessert preparations and therefore created a range of savoury ones. I started my experiment with a bread pudding. At first, I flavoured it with chocolate and salted caramel. When that went off well, I infused it with a unique combination of chocolate and cayenne pepper.



After that, I tweaked the entire recipe to create a complete savoury bread pudding, full of vegetables like mushrooms and leek. I created the other savouries after a lot of research and experimentation. These 'desserts' work best for hosts who want to give a pleasant surprise to their guests at parties."

Price: Rs 800 for two dozens of scones
At: Tout de suite, 21st floor, Hassa Mahal, next to Taj Vivanta, Cuffe parade, Mumbai
Contact: 9833047724

Try this at home
Cheddar and paprika cookies

Ingredients: 
>> 65 gm cheddar cheese (grated)
>> 65gm cold butter (cubed)
>> 65 gm flour
>> 1 tsp paprika
>> 1 tsp mustard
>> A pinch of pepper

Method:
>> In a bowl, mix cheddar cheese with cold butter, flour, paprika, mustard and pepper.
>> Mix all ingredients and knead it into a tight dough.
>> Wrap the dough, refrigerate it for two hours and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
>> Roll the dough out to 0.5 inch thickness and using a cookie cutter, cut 20 cookies and line them on a baking tray.
>> Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Once you remove them from the oven, leave the cookies on the tray for 15 minutes to cool.

Recipe by Chef Pooja Dhingra

Carrot and jalapeno cr me brulee
Ingredients:

>> 500 ml milk
>> 200 gm carrot puree
>> 1 tsp castor sugar
>> 1 tsp cornflour
>> 25 gm jalapenos (finely chopped)

Method:
>> Combine 475 ml milk, carrot puree, sugar and jalapenos in a heavy
bottomed-sauce pan.
>> Whisk the corn flour and remaining milk together and combine with the carrot and milk mixture.
>> Stir the liquid on a low flame till the texture gets thick and custard-like. Remove from flame and let it cool slightly.
>> Pour it into individual ramekins (small glazed ceramic or glass serving bowls) and place them in a water
bath.
>> Bake the pots for 20 minutes at 140 degree C and remove the ramekins from the oven to refrigerate overnight.
>> To serve, sprinkle a light coating of castor sugar on top of the pudding and blowtorch it lightly. If you don't have a blowtorch, put it under the broiler till the sugar crystallises. Serve immediately.

Recipe by baker Ayushi Shah

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