Half of me wants to detox and diet but half of me wants to celebrate the new year. I am so thankful to have another year to look forward to, a blank chapter to fill with life stories. I know that sometimes we just get dragged along by life's currents that we are only half aware that time is ticking by. While it may seem that life just goes on and on, for someone like me who has experienced a drastic life changing event, life can seem pretty volatile. I have now learned that life is indeed fleeting. Our courses have been charted for us and we do not know where that leads and when we'll reach our final destination. I'd like to take the opportunity to appreciate each day and enjoy life and everything it gives.
Let's celebrate the new year with desserts that have stayed firm favourites in the Philippine food scene. Silvanas and sambos are twin desserts that are decadent yet simple to make. Silvanas are meringue wafers made of toasted ground cashews and egg whites, filled and frosted with buttercream and coated with cake crumbs. Sambos are a variation of silvanas. The frosting and cake crumbs are chocolate flavoured. Every bite is a contrast of textures and flavours. The crisp, nutty wafers, the creamy frosting and the soft cake crumbs all contribute to a different level of deliciousness.
Silvanas are a miniature version of a cake called sans rival which is basically the same but is in gateau form and has cashew nut sprinkles instead of cake crumbs. They are very similar to macarons but having toasted ground cashews instead of almond meal gives them an edge in terms of flavour. Cashews, especially when toasted, has a smoky aroma that gives a distinct flavour to this dessert.
Here's to wishing each of us a good year filled with blessings and love.
Recipe adapted from The Maya Kitchen Cakes and Pastries Cookbook.
Yield: 12 pieces
INGREDIENTS FOR THE MERINGUE WAFER:
1 3/4 toasted ground cashew nuts
2 T. plain (all purpose flour)
1/2 c. sugar
5 medium egg whites
Pre-heat the oven to 130º C/250° F. Pulse about 300 gms. of whole raw cashew nuts in a food processor to grind. Do not over process as the cashews will begin to exude oil and clump together. Pass through a sieve. Transfer the sieved ground nuts to a pan and toast until light golden brown, hot and fragrant. Transfer to a tray and leave aside to cool. Line cookie sheets with non stick baking paper. Draw circles (I used a 21/4 diameter template) or ovals on a piece of paper to make a template for the wafers. Slide the template under the baking paper and use as a guide when piping the meringue wafers. Combine the 1 3/4 c. toasted ground cashew nuts, flour and half of the sugar. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the rest of the sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Fold in the cashew nut mixture.Transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe round shapes of the mixture onto the baking paper, starting from the edge of the circle and ending at the center.Bake for 1 hour or so until lightly browned and crisp. Wipe the underside of the lining paper with a wet paper towel to release the wafers. Alternatively, spray the underside of the paper lightly with water. Invert the wafers onto cooking racks and leave to cool before frosting.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
1 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 c. evaporated milk, cold
1 c. (1 250 gm. block) unsalted butter, room temperature
Combine the sugar and milk together in a jug. Cream the butter until pale and very fluffy. Add the milk and sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.
You will also need a butter cake for the silvanas and chocolate cake for the sambos. Trim off the outer crust of the cakes for even coloured crumbs. Grate through a medium grater then sift through a coarse sieve.Fill the underside of 1 wafer with about 1 T. of buttercream.
Cover with another wafer and frost all over with buttercream. I found it less messy to poke the middle of the sandwiched wafers with a skewer and use that as a handle.
Take the skewer off and very gently pat the sandwiched wafers into neater shapes. They will be soft at this stage but will firm up once refrigerated. Refrigerate before serving.
For the SAMBOS:
Add 2 T. of cocoa and 1 tsp. coffee to the rest of the buttercream (about 2 c.)
Use to fill half of the wafers then roll in chocolate cake crumbs.
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