Whip up a new year storm

Invest the hour and a half to cook down the unsweetened mango juice for the fresh mango sauce. The tang against the sweet is worth it.

A Vietnamese variation on the mango cream motif.
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"Let's see you whip that cream!" Anup Chaubal shakes his head when he remembers the hazing that novice chefs received from their superiors in the kitchens of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. "There was only a 40-litre mixer and a five-litre mixer. Both were basically unusable," recalls Chaubal, the executive pastry chef at the Beach Rotana Hotel. "The only solution was to whip the cream by hand with a whisk. But the thing about whipping cream is you cannot stop. That whisk goes from your left hand to your right hand, back to your left. After doing this for a few months, you stop going to the gym."

Chaubal, who has gone on to whip (with professional mixers, thankfully) thousands of litres of cream in his 15 years as a pastry chef, confesses that "later I would do the same thing to new, incoming chefs". Cream is the boon and the bane of a baker's life. The foundation of so many desserts - from mousse and ganache to ice cream and custard - this satiny liquid is both essential and temperamental. Whip it a minute too long, you've got butter; not quite long enough, soup. Composed of butterfat skimmed from the top of whole milk, cream comes in different grades based on fat content. When you beat air into cream with more than 30 per cent fat - light whipping cream clocks in at 35 per cent - it changes into a soft solid and doubles in volume.

Of course, cream isn't only about mounds, clouds and dollops. It can be used, explains Chaubal, in its liquid form: heated and poured over chopped chocolate to make a ganache filling, or combined with eggs and sugar and baked as crème brulée or crème caramel. One of Chaubal's greatest cream challenges came when he was working at another hotel. Would he make a cheesecake without cream cheese or eggs? a customer asked. "For some reason, I thought of the tres leches cake, the most popular dessert in Puerto Rico," recalls Chaubal. "It's a sponge cake that you drown in sweetened condensed milk, cream and evaporated milk."

With this as inspiration, the chef combined sweetened condensed milk, 35 per cent whipping cream and yogurt and poured the mixture into a glass. He had to leave the kitchen before his experiment came out of the oven, however. "When I returned, an intern had removed it without checking to see if it was done." Thinking it a failure, Chaubal put the cream in the refrigerator anyway. "The next day it was solid as a brulée!" he laughs. The chef took it a step further, adding mango purée to the creamy mix and layering it with chopped fresh mango. It's still on the menu at the Beach Rotana.

You don't even need a mixer for this. Just whisk the three dairy products with the purée, bake briefly and refrigerate. Do invest the hour and a half to cook down the unsweetened mango juice for the fresh mango sauce. The tang against the sweet is worth it. If you're wondering what to bring out at midnight on New Year's Eve, this adaptation of Chaubal's elegant, simple dessert would do nicely. The recipe makes six medium servings or 10 small ones, depending on the size of your glass or ramekin, and the quantities can easily be doubled.

Ingredients 1 litre unsweetened mango juice 400g plain, full-cream yogurt 300g sweetened condensed milk 150g mango purée, canned* 250ml whipping cream (35%) 2 nearly ripe mangos * found in the canned fruit aisle Method Preheat the oven to 140°C. Start with the sauce: pour the mango juice into a deep saucepan and begin to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally while you're working on the cream.

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt smooth. Add the sweetened condensed milk, whisking to combine completely, before whisking in the mango purée. Slowly add the cream and continue to whisk until all the elements are thoroughly blended. Pour half the mango cream into a one-litre measuring cup with a spout. Set small, oven-proof glasses (no larger than 150ml capacity) or small ramekins on to a rimmed baking tray. Fill each two-thirds full with the mango cream (leaving room for the mango topping). Carefully place the tray in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes. The cream should look shiny on top and not jiggle when the glasses are moved. Do not overbake. Set the tray on a rack to cool before placing glasses/ramekins in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Check the mango juice on the stove. It should - after 1½ hours - be reduced to about 200ml and thick enough to use as a sauce.

Peel and dice the two mangos and place in a small bowl. Add the reduced mango juice, stir and refrigerate. To serve, spoon the sauce atop the cream in each glass or ramekin.