Pandan Coconut Gelato

Making pandan-infused coconut milk for gelato 
Pandan-flavoured gelato is a smooth, heavenly fragrant yet subtle way to not only enjoy this unique flavour; but also incorporate coconut milk into your diet, which will make your gelato even healthier than home-made gelato already is.

2 cups coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cups raw cane sugar
1 Pandan leaf, cut into small pieces with scissors
1/2 tsp agar-agar powder (a seaweed alternative to gelatin)

- Combine all ingredients in a medium pot
- Cook over medium heat until it reaches a boil
- Remove from heat and bring down to room temperature
- Blitz the mixture in a food processor or a blender, until the pandan leaves are chopped into rather small pieces
- Refrigerate over night
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, or through a cheesecloth, to strain out the ground-up pandan leaf
- Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Most homemade ice creams and gelato need to "ripen" for an hour or more to come to a more firm consistency without melting immediately.
- Serve alone, or along with fresh fruit or deep friend bananas.

Pandan Leaves (Pandanus odoratissimus)

You might have tasted Pandan without even knowing it. It's used primarily in Southeast Asian cuisine, in almost all desserts, so much so that it's been coined the "vanilla of the east"*, i.e.: in coconut custard, and mango sticky rice, a very popular Thai dessert, is in fact cooked with pandanus leaves, tied in a knot and removed once its sweet aroma has been infused into the rice and the coconut milk, and of course there are the less traditional but not any less popular pandan flavoured ice cream and gelato, and other simple custard-like European desserts such as Crème brûlée and panna cotta. It can also be wrapped around rice, and steamed, much in the same way as banana leaf, imparting a smooth fragrant aroma that is complementary to the rice.

Pandan leaves behind it a fine, subtle aroma that is so representative of Asian cuisine and aromatics: the aroma is reminiscent of roasted tea leaves, milky oolong, almond cream and basmati rice. And the taste is subtly sweet, like the smooth finish of fine green and oolong teas - sweet at the back of the mouth and the top of the palate.

You can incorporate it rather easily into dishes, savoury or sweet, by tying them into a knot and infusing the liquids with it; or using pandan essence (can be found in some Asian markets and grocery stores), or create your own pandan "juice" by covering cut leaves with water, and blitzing them in a food processor,  followed by straining. You'll get a green juice that can be used just like vanilla extract in baking cakes (and won't turn it green either, just like vanilla extract won't turn your whipped cream black!).

Cooking sticky rice with pandan

Kewda attar, from the pandanus flower oil which is either macerated with sesame seeds or oils, or distilled into sandalwood oil, produces a fine and unique essence. Kewda attar is distinct, exotic, floral, reminiscent of a tropical jungle and flowers all at once. Kewda is extremely heady, and may be perceived as sharp when first smelled. The sharpness being somewhat green, and mostly reminiscent of horseradish. However, the sharpness is underlined by a unique sweetness and warmth. The scent of kewda is unlike any other scent, though some may compare its dry out sweetness to that of hyacinth. The main constituent responsible for its characteristic scent is beta-phenylethyl alcohol(which makes up to 60-80% of the oil). Kewda is mostly used in Indian traditions as a perfume and as a medicine, and hardly made its way to Western perfumery.
Sticky Rice & Mango Pudding
Although pandanus flowers (aka kewda or kewra) are very popular perfume material in India, I could not find any documentation on using the leaves for perfumery. Out of curiousity, and rather on an impluse, I have began to tincture pandanus leaves in a jar of ethanol and am now crossing my fingers, hoping for the best.

Tincturing Pandan Leaves 

* Interestingly enough, the plants of pandanus have also been used as the foundation to support vanilla orchids in the plantations in Madagascar and the Reunion Islands. 

Got Milk?

A florist on Davie street is finally carrying tuberose stems on a regular basis. And so I brought one home and immediately was carried away with thoughts of milk… Or perhaps it was the previous Mother’s Day post got me thinking about milky notes in perfumery. Milk, butter, and anything that reminds us of these in taste, texture or appearance are not easy to find in the natural olfactory palette.

But it isn’t impossible either. And for a natural perfumer, imagination is the key, anticipating how notes will interact with one another to create something new and different than ever intended for the notes on their own.

Milk, like musk, is a bit vague. When I think of milk or musk notes, I get a sense of soft-focus. And indeed, some musky notes serve well in a milky way.

Butter CO2 creates a decidedly fatty, decadent flavour reminiscent of butterscotch and baked shortbread cookies.

Tonka Bean, with its high content of coumarin is reminiscent of caramel and almond milk and adds a soft, powdery sweetness like the dusting of icing sugar on a fluffly pancake.

Orris Butter, which indeed looks buttery, is one of the closest notes to the human skin – at once powdery and smooth, milky and earthy, cool and warm, oily like skin yet gritty like the earth its grown in.

Massoia Bark, with its intensely dark coconut notes due to the presence of lactones is rich and also creates a full-bodied presence like condensed milk.

And finally, tuberose in all its forms, but particularly tuberose floral wax and the fresh flower – despite being so floral, intoxicating and also green - has a certain butteriness that is irresistible and difficult to explain until you experience it.

P.s. Updates on more milky notes - May 16th, 2013:

Mysore Sandalwood, especially the vintage from 50 years or older sandalwood tree heartwood are phenomenal due to the high content of santalol. True and high quality white sandalwood (Santalum album), unfortunately, is no longer produced (the trees being cut too young, thus producing a far inferior oil, that is dry, sour and acrid). The closest I found was the smooth and suave Vanuatu sandalwood (which is from plantations in Vanuatu, and has already run out of stock due to our greediness); and organic Australian sandalwood oil which is smooth and fine, yet has a bit more of an animalic, urine-like note to it (which is a fantastic addition to masculine fragrances, as it really mimics men's pheromones).

Milky Oolong is one of the finest teas in the world, and a prime example of nature's chemistry: although tea leaves on their own do not resemble milk whatsoever, when particular tea varietals are oxidized and fermented a certain - the result is a smoothly fragrant tea, reminiscent of buttered popcorn and steamed milk. Milky oolong is not a note that you'd normally find in perfumery, as it is a very high-end tea and requires much preparations (a pound runs for at least $80, and I don't want to even imagine how much higher it would be to extract it). However, I did create my own tincture, and have been experimenting with it in perfume compositions that require a subtle tea and milky nuances.  I am tremendously enjoying the results. 

Pandanus Extract -like the milky oolong, is not available as an absolute or essential oil; so I created my own extract (tincture in alcohol) which I use in both food and perfume. It is amazingly potent for an extract, yet leaves a very subtle, steamed-rice and coconut nuance wherever it is used.

The Psychadellic Earthiness of Fairchild

Chihuly Pond of Glass, originally uploaded by tomalu.

Inspired by the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida, Anya’s Garden perfume by the same name from presents the most unusual array of notes in the line. Full of exotic tropical aromas from both land and sea, it is a boisterous earthy explosion of hot and moist notes. I have never been to Florida, but after experiencing Fairchild I can imagine how intoxicating the humid tropical air must be, hosting such intense polarities.

Fairchild perfume is exotic and disturbing – you will smell here scents that you probably never smelled before: opening with the heady, unusual peppery-floral-horseradish notes of pandanus (kewda) and the bright, more familiar hesperidious notes of pink grapefruit and sweet clementine, Fairchild’s pungent opening will wake you up immediately and grab your attention with intrigue and puzzlement. Than notes champaca, magnolia and various jasmines rein the heart; though I personally feel the pandanus notes lingers longer than all and overshadows the presence of these glorious flowers. From the tree tops bearing tropical flowers and fruit, Fairchild goes deeper, and explores the moist soil and the luscious vegetation, with air-exposed roots intertwining amongst moss and seashells and ponds. The notes of beach-harvested ambergris and the toasted seashells are very muted and barely noticeable (the latter were also used in Tango by Aftelier in a larger amount), adding complexity to the base that is at times overbearingly earthy. Fairchild smells wet, hot and tropical and the contrast between the pungent and unusual kewda jutaxposed with moss and roots creates a peculiarly psychedelic earthy feel.

According to Anya’s Garden website, Fairchild includes notes of pandanus, champaca (gold and white), a few different types of jasmine, citrus notes (grapefruit, clementine), ylang ylang, and base notes of ambergris, oakmoss, seaweed, toasted seashells, hedychium roots and spicy galangal.

Anya McCoy is one of the pioneers of Natural Perfumery, and being a Landscape Architect, she has appropriately chosen to dedicate each perfume in her line to famous botanical gardens around the world such as Fairchild and Riverside (a citrus-ambery perfume which was recently discontinued) as well as imaginary/mythical ones, like her goat-haired fougere fragrance, Pan. Anya is also the queen of tincturing rare tropical flowers that she grows in her garden, and which do not submit their essences to any form of distillation. The tinctures give a certain depth and complexity as well as a vivid aura – as if the perfume is breathing with life.

Fairchild can be had via Anya's Garden webstore, in parfum Extrait (3.5ml for $40), Eau de Parfum (15ml for $80) or in sample spray size (2ml for $20). A smaller size sample, for one or two application is also available for $5.

To read other opinions of Fairchild, visit:
The Perfume Bee
Perfume Shrine
Noteworthy Fragrances
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