Trop­i­cal storm

Claire Ptak bakes with mango

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Claire Ptak Claire Ptak is an au­thor and food stylist and owns Vi­o­let Bak­ery in Lon­don. She is the au­thor of the Vi­o­let Bak­ery Cook­book (Square Peg); @vi­o­let­cakeslon­don

Be­fore I moved to Lon­don, I had never thought much of man­goes. I’d tried them plenty of times from the su­per­mar­ket, and even picked them off wild trees dur­ing a back­pack­ing trip in my 20s in Cen­tral Amer­ica. But they had never caught my at­ten­tion in the way other ex­otic fruits had.

I think what fi­nally did it was a chance visit to the stu­dio of food pho­tog­ra­pher Ja­son Lowe some 11 years ago. Still very fresh to my new life here, I went to meet him about the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing as a food stylist on one of his up­com­ing shoots.

I found his door and rang the bell. An as­sis­tant ush­ered me up the in­dus­trial stair­case into the workspace. Plates, glasses and teacups of all sizes and shapes lined the room in tee­ter­ing stacks. What was left of wall space was filled with cook­ery books – the best ones, hard­bound with no pho­tos, cov­ered in faded dust jack­ets.

There was a lot of cook­ing go­ing on. A stylist was busy in the open kitchen, and spicy cur­ries wafted around the room. An­other as­sis­tant car­ried a steam­ing dish to the cloth-cov­ered ta­ble in a sun­lit cor­ner of the stu­dio, then set it be­fore Ja­son and his cam­era. Ja­son moved the plate coun­ter­clock­wise and nudged a bit of the food with his thumb. He looked around for a tea towel, then thought bet­ter of it, and in­stead tasted the sauce from his thumb with an en­thu­si­as­tic “woof”. Spin­ning around, he clutched his fists, clearly de­lighted with the flavours. “Yes!” he shouted.

Next to him was a stack of colour­ful card­board boxes brim­ming with fresh, bright yel­low man­goes, packed in shred­ded In­dian news­pa­per with a few colour­ful strands of tin­sel mixed in.

“Have you ever tried th­ese?” he asked me, be­fore say­ing hello. “They are Alphonso man­goes and they are the best.” He sliced one up and shared it with the crew.

I had never tasted th­ese spe­cial man­goes, so prized in Bri­tain, and I will never for­get be­ing in­tro­duced to them with such zeal. There is some­thing so won­der­ful about shar­ing food with friends for the first time – an in­tro­duc­tion that leads to a life­long pas­sion. This week’s recipes are a re­flec­tion of that pas­sion for th­ese im­ported spring­time man­goes from In­dia and Pak­istan.

Mango but­ter­cream

5 egg whites 300g caster sugar ½ tsp salt 450g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened to room tem­per­a­ture 150g mango puree (about 2 large man­goes) Juice of 1 lime

1 Whisk to­gether the egg whites, caster sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer, or a very clean heat­proof bowl (if you are us­ing a hand whisk). Have your mixer ready and fit­ted with the whisk at­tach­ment and, us­ing a balloon whisk, place the bowl over a pot of sim­mer­ing wa­ter, whisk­ing con­stantly, un­til the egg whites reach 75C or, if you don’t have a ther­mome­ter, keep go­ing un­til the caster sugar has com­pletely dis­solved. You can tell this by rub­bing a small amount be­tween two fin­gers. This should take about 10 min­utes.

2 Once the whites are ready, re­move them from the heat and trans­fer to your mixer bowl im­me­di­ately. Whisk on high speed un­til the whites have cooled, and have tripled in vol­ume.

3 While the eggs are whisk­ing, cut the soft but­ter into 1cm cubes. Puree your man­goes, then stir the lime juice into your mango puree.

4 When the whites are whisked, turn the mixer speed down to medium and grad­u­ally add the but­ter, un­til it is all mixed in. The but­ter­cream will split, but don’t worry: it will come back to­gether. With the mo­tor on, grad­u­ally add the mango puree. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides. Whisk once more un­til you have a smooth and fluffy but­ter­cream. For use, scrape half the but­ter­cream into a pip­ing bag fit­ted with no tip.

Mango but­ter­cream chif­fon cake

You will need a stand mixer or a good elec­tric hand­held whisk for this recipe.

Serves 6-8

300g plain flour 2 tsp bak­ing pow­der 300g caster sugar A few grat­ings of fresh nut­meg 1 tsp fine salt 60g veg­etable oil 6 egg yolks 240g wa­ter 10 egg whites ½ tsp cream of tar­tar

For the fill­ing

About 900g but­ter­cream (see above) 2 ripe man­gos, peeled and cut into ran­dom pieces The juice of 1 lime

1 Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3½. Line the base only of two 20cm tins, and do not grease the tin.

2 In a bowl, sift the flour and bak­ing pow­der to­gether twice, then whisk in 150g caster sugar, along with the nut­meg and salt.

3 In a sep­a­rate bowl, whisk to­gether the veg­etable oil, egg yolks and wa­ter. Cre­ate a well in the cen­tre of the dry in­gre­di­ents, then grad­u­ally whisk in the oil mix­ture to form a smooth bat­ter.

4 In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the 10 egg whites, 150g caster sugar and the cream of tar­tar. Whisk to soft, vo­lu­mi­nous peaks, not stiff.

5 Take ⅓ of the egg white mix­ture and whisk it into the cake bat­ter. Mix un­til smooth. Fold in the re­main­ing egg white mix­ture to form a light and airy bat­ter. Try not to over­mix.

6 Di­vide the cake bat­ter be­tween the two tins, then bake for 35-40 min­utes, or un­til a skewer in­serted comes out clean. An­other good test for the done­ness of a cake like this is to gen­tly tap the sponge with your fin­ger – it should spring back without hold­ing the im­pres­sion of your fin­ger. This cake will puff up a lot, so leave plenty of room above it, and it will also sink back down when it cools, so don’t be alarmed. The rea­son for not buttering the sides of the tin is to al­low the cake to cling to the sides of the tin as much as pos­si­ble, so it de­flates less as it cools. Let the cake cool com­pletely.

7 To as­sem­ble the cake, use a par­ing knife to re­lease the cake from the sides of the tin. In­vert the cake on to a cool­ing rack. Flip the cakes back over, then level the top us­ing a ser­rated knife, sav­ing all the scraps. Split each cake into two with a ser­rated knife, so that you have four lay­ers.

8 Place the bot­tom of one of the sponge lay­ers on to a cake stand or serv­ing plate. Pipe a 2cm-thick ring of but­ter­cream around the perime­ter of the sponge. Dot the cen­tre with ⅓ of the mango pieces, then squeeze over a lit­tle lime juice. Pipe 2-3 stripes of ic­ing across the mango, us­ing up about ⅓ of the ic­ing in the pip­ing bag. Top with the next layer of sponge. Re­peat two more times, so you have 3 lay­ers of fill­ing, then top with the fi­nal layer of sponge.

9 Ice the top and sides with the re­main­ing but­ter­cream from the bowl.

I had never tasted th­ese spe­cial man­goes, and I will never for­get be­ing in­tro­duced to them with such zeal ...

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