Here’s a question: What’s silver-coated, saffron-coloured, bumpy in texture and topped with nuts?
Here’s your clue: Gifts of Diwali sweets are flying back and forth between homes and offices.
So the question should be easily answered, right? And is your answer boondi laddoo?
Häagen-Dazs’ bite-sized mithai lookalike ice-creams as part of its Festive Delights offering.
Wrong. So wrong. The answer is ice-cream. These silver-coated, saffron-coloured, nut-topped, round objects are ice-creams created by Häagen-Dazs as part of its Festive Delights offering for the jaded Indian palate this Diwali.
But this is just one of the innovative new mithais that might arrive at your doorstep soon.
Taste of India
Come Diwali and as packages arrive, we guess what they might contain – barfi, dry fruit and laddoo. All lovely, true. But as Moriarty from the Sherlock TV series would say, "Bo-ring."
Also read: Whipping up a storm, home bakeries get goingSo sweet-makers have had to become innovative. "Tastes have evolved and consumers are getting more adventurous," says pastry chef Radheika Mittal who runs the Delhi-based cake boutique, Exotic Cakes & Desserts.
Who doesn’t love cupcakes? Radheika Mittal offers interesting Diwali-themed cupcake flavours such as rose and pistachio.
But even if traditional sweets are slowly being replaced by more contemporary creations, the sense of occasion remains, says Antony David, head chef of Häagen-Dazs. “For Diwali, customers expect sweets. So we decided to Indianise the Häagen-Dazs ice-creams.”
Also read: Pour me a champagne cocktail
So the aforementioned alleged boondi laddoo is made from mango ice-cream; and gulab jamun with – brace yourself! – Belgian chocolate. The look and feel is traditional. The taste and texture are something else altogether.
However, not every innovative sweet-maker is willing to cross the taste boundary like Häagen-Dazs.
“Ideally, people would like a dessert that is not mithai, but has an Indian flavour to it,” says chef Mittal. So her cake boutique stocks items like masala chai chocolate bon bon and rasmalai tiramisu.
Modern mithai: MOD’s Diwali Celebrations range has fusion items like this Motichoor Donut
Even at your neighborhood Mad Over Donuts store, things are getting Indianised. Who could have imagined that a gulab jamun ganache could be tucked into a doughnut? Tarak Bhattacharya, COO of Mad Over Donuts, calls this fusion modern mithai.
Also read:Why the world is going cronuts
“Three years ago, when we launched these doughnuts specifically for Diwali, they became an instant hit,” he says. “Twenty per cent of our sales during the festive time came specifically from these doughnuts.”
According to chef Mittal, traditional mithais, especially the milk-based ones, have a short shelf life. “That’s why there is an increasing demand for fondant cakes and cupcakes, chocolates decorated in the theme of Diwali or with a Diwali motif,” she explains.
At the same time, novelty matters, says Aji Nair, vice president of the F&B division of Mirah Hospitality which owns Khandani Rajdhani.
In its drive to be out of the box, Khandani Rajdhani has introduced gooey spirals of jalebi with a tinge of apple topped with rabri and halwa made with tomato or corn. “Diwali is when people expect something new from us,” says Nair.
Apple jalebi with rabri at Khandani Rajdhani.
Some innovation also comes from a focus on health. Much as we love our mithai, we do hate cholesterol, so it was natural for chefs to experiment with recipes.
Mittal uses honey and jaggery instead of white sugar. Sweets and cakes are increasingly being loaded with fresh and dry fruits. Flavours like apple-cinnamon, banana-chocolate chip and blueberry are major hits. Chocolates also have low-calorie options, such as roasted almond, cashews and raisins.
Keep it authentic
Does this mean no more traditional sweets? Certainly not. Innovation can happen here too. So bite into a custard-apple mithai, a rose-petal ball, or a sandesh rose, all from a new brand, Signature.
New-age diwali sweets: A spin on traditional mithai by Signature.
A collaboration between Lite Bite, an F&B conglomerate, and Puranmal Foods, known for its authentic Indian delicacies, Signature hopes to give a spin to traditional sweets, complete with customisable flavours, boxes and online order-taking.
“Traditional mithais have their own market,” says Deepti Chawla, director, Puranmal Foods. “No matter how much people love cakes and chocolate, Indian households will always prefer mithais over any other sweet.”
Ain’t that sweet?
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From HT Brunch, October 19
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