When I asked for ingredients for this year’s 52 challenge, the suggestions I received fit into two categories: ingredients with which I am familiar, some I have even used, and ingredients with which I had no knowledge. This week’s Ingredient, bitter melon or gourd, is the latter.
I had never heard of bitter melon or bitter gourd, which are the same thing. It was recommended to me by Sarah, who is an Ayurvedic practitioner. She shared with me the digestive benefits of bitter gourd/melon. She also reminded me that *bitter* is a word most of us don’t embrace, we consider it a repugnant flavor, although many of us often eat items that are technically bitter, such as lemons, coffee, beer and unsweetened cocoa.
Unable to find fresh bitter gourd/melon, I used the canned variety. It was canned in brine, which may have contributed to the acidic taste. The texture was that of a limp pickle, the kind that sat in the back of the frig for too long. The texture is similar, which is probably because bitter gourd/melon comes from the same plant family as the cucumber.
In researching bitter gourd/melon, I discovered it is often combined with coconut, occasionally used in recipes with curry. I decided to make a sauce for a Japanese cheesecake in hopes the sweetness of the cake would compliment the bitter in the sauce. AND…it worked! I will make the sauce again, perhaps cook it down even further to use as a macaron filling. The cheesecake was also very good, just a bit shorter than I had hoped for. The texture was slightly crumbly, yet moist and the flavor was sweet without being too sweet. The sauce and the cheesecake together were so tasty that I ate the last piece for breakfast this morning, no way could I wait until lunch!
8 ounces Better Than Cream Cheese, room temp
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated*
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. cream of tartar
2 to 3 cups boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a cake pan with grapeseed oil and set aside. (I used a 9″ cake pan, smaller would work to increase the height, but also would increase the baking time.)
In bowl of stand mixer, beat the Better Than Cream Cheese and almond milk until well-combined. Add 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, cornstarch and lemon juice. Continue mixing until smooth.
Using hand mixer in a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Return to the stand mixer and gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cream of tartar. Mix on medium to medium-high for 6 to 8 minutes.
Using a spatula, fold in the egg whites very gently.
Pour batter into cake pan. Place cake pan in a large roasting pan and put into the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, enough to come about 2/3 of the way up the cake pan. This creates a water bath.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. A cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake will come out clean when it is finished. Light browning may start on the top near the end of baking time.
Let cool before slicing and serving.
*I use farm fresh eggs. Each egg in the shell weighs an average of 53 grams. It was recently pointed out from a reliable source that farm fresh eggs and typical grocery store eggs may not be equivalent in baking recipes. I thought I should let you know. Now go, find a farmer and buy your eggs there. Or get yourself some hens!
|Sauce before cooking|
Bitter Gourd/Melon Coconut Curry Cheesecake Sauce
1 can bitter melon/gourd in brine (1 lb. 3 oz. can was used)
1 c. coconut milk in a can
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut shreds
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. curry powder
Drain bitter melon, rinse with water. Chop into 1/4″ pieces.
In a small saucepan, combine bitter melon/gourd piece, coconut milk, coconut shred, sugar and curry powder. Cook over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring only occasionally. (If this was going to be turned into a jam, I would suggest not stirring at all.)
Using an immersion blender (or countertop blender if that’s what you have), puree the mixture. It will not blend to a completely smooth mixture, but instead will be slightly lumpy. It’s an unusual, yet delicious, concoction that would be tasty with cookies, on top of a waffle, as a cake filling.
Have you cooked or baked with bitter gourd/melon? I’d love to hear how you used it!
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