Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ambrosia

I'm down to my last champagne mango, and I think I may have to go get more, because I've just discovered something absolutely amazing to do with them.

You start with a piece of this Korean popped snack, which I discovered at the H-Mart. I'm absolutely enthralled by this stuff. As far as I can tell, they just make a slurry of rice flour, wheat flour, water, and a bit of oil, and then they put it in this machine that sort of flash-cooks it at high heat until it shoots out with a loud popping sound. (You can watch this fascinating process here.) The result is a feather-light, crispy cake with a taste and texture that I can best describe as something like a giant Rice Krispie. They literally melt in your mouth, especially when dunked first in a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. Best of all, they're only about 15 calories each, so I can indulge to my heart's delight without putting my waistline in any real danger. The only snag is that they're a bit pricey—three dollars for a bag of 15 cakes—so I have to try to pace myself and not gobble the whole thing in two days.

Anyway, when trying to analyze what I found so addictive about these things, I mentally compared the lightness of their texture to whipped cream (which I also adore), and that put the idea in my head of trying one topped with some whipped cream and diced fruit. So I diced up half of my last champagne mango, arranged it on a cake, added a puff of whipped cream, and ohhhhhhhmigod.

This stuff is ambrosia. It's a lot like a Pavlova, only much easier to make. The juice from the mango just barely softens the cake, so it's already melting a little bit when you put it in your mouth. And with the sweet, juicy fruit tucked between the puffy rice cake and the fluffy whipped cream, it's like biting into a fruit-filled cloud. The only fault I can find with it is that it's a bit difficult to eat neatly; the bits of fruit tend to spill off the edge. But that's easily remedied by breaking the cake into pieces before adding the topping.

As desserts go, this is incredibly light in calories as well as in texture. A single champagne mango has 110 calories, which means that half of one has only 55. A piece of popped snack has 15, and a 2-tablespoon puff of whipped cream also has 15. Of course, I have no illusions that I actually used only 2 tablespoons of whipped cream making this, but if I managed to keep it down to four tablespoons, that's only 30 calories, for a total of exactly 100 calories. That's about the same as two Oreos, and way more decadent.

For an Epicurean delight, it's not that expensive, either. The popped snack costs $3.00 for 15 cakes, so that's 20 cents each; the champagne mangoes cost $5.00 for eight, so that's another 31 cents. The can of whipped cream I just bought for $1.50 says that it contains 37 servings, so if I use two servings to make this dessert, that's another 8 cents. Total: 59 cents per serving, making this a decidedly affordable luxury.

The tricky part, I suspect, is going to be talking myself out of using the low cost and calorie count as an excuse to scarf down two or three of these in a row.
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