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Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category

Flan

If you don’t know what flan is, I recommend you go out and find some right now. Flan is a just solid custard bathed in caramel – sounds good, doesn’t it? Normally served in individual portions, but you can also make one huge ass flan and then carve out pieces. It’s very common as dessert in Spain an other European countries – Italy for sure, since I used the recipe in The Silver Spoon. Over there you can also find commercial versions in the supermarket, next the yogurt, which are not that bad (as far as taste goes, ingredients-wise I imagine they’re the same sort of shit as most desserts commercially made) and I’m partial to the vanilla flavores ones – but homemade is better.

Ingredients

Ingredients

This all started because I needed to make something that would use up 500 ml of milk. The milk hadn’t gone sour yet, but we’d just bought a new bottle at the farmers market, so it needed to be used up. I was initially thinking of making natillas which is basically a custard, still liquid but with a bit of body; the problem was that the recipes I saw asked for more eggs than I had. Then I remembered about flan!

You need 2 eggs + 3 egg yolks, which would be these

You need 2 eggs + 3 egg yolks, which would be these

To my own shame I’ll freely admit that I later forgot to do anything with those 3 egg whites on the right. The just sat in the fridge for a week before they were thrown out.

The first step is infusing the milk with the vanilla bean (slit in half), so just quickly bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat.

Milk and vanilla

Milk and vanilla

This smelled divine, though the vanilla flavor wasn’t very noticeable in the finished product. Next time I’ll try scraping out the beans, and bringing it up to a boil slowly. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

Meanwhile you whisk up the eggs with 120 gr of white sugar, until the color slightly lightens up and the top becomes frothy. Then slowly add the milk.

The custard

The custard

Then pass it through a strainer, and there you go, the custard mixture is almost done.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and start making the caramel.

Also, bring a pot of water to a boil. These babies need to be baked au bain Marie.

Caramel is one of those things that is supposed to be easy – only one ingredient, how much easier could you get. It took me 3 tries to get it to work. The book suggests slowly heating up 30 gr of sugar with one tablespoon of water – DON’T DO IT THIS WAY. I tried twice following the book’s directions and ended up with a mess of rock hard sugar that hadn’t even begun to caramelize. Frustrating, to say the least; specially when I remember that my mother did this in the frekin’ microwave, so it can’t be that difficult!

After some Googling, I came up with an even simpler option, which would only require more sugar and a clean pan. So I gave it a try.

Put sugar in a layer on a stainless steel pan. Heat over medium heat. Wait until it starts caramelizing. Mix to make sure no areas burn and it is all uniformly cooked.

That’s it. And it worked. I knew it had to be easy.

Finally - caramel!

Finally - caramel!

Now comes another point where you have to deviate from the official instructions. Well’ not deviate as such, mostly don’t get frustrated that they don’t work. Or since you’re reading this, don’t even try.

You’re supposed to put a layer of caramel on the bottom and the sides of the containers you’re going to bake the flan in. Since your container will be cold, the caramel will become hard the moment it hits it. So just worry about having a thin layer that cover all of the bottom. And don’t fret about the fact that it becomes hard.

Maybe I should have mentioned before that this makes 6 individual flans. They will be a good size for dessert. But you can make 3 big ones, snack sized. Or one huge one, specially if you just double the recipe.

Oven proof containers, round. I suppose ramekins would be the idea option, I used wide mouthed 8 oz canning jars, and they worked great – specially because I could then store the already cooked flans in the fridge with lids on. So I recommend using canning jars if you aleady have them.

Into the oven they go

Into the oven they go

Remember to fill up the baking pan halfway with water (that’s what you were boiling it for). The book said to bake for 20 minutes, but mine were still liquid inside by then and needed a good 15 minutes more. So take a peek after 30 minutes and touch the top of one of them with a spoon – if it holds its shape then it’s done, if it still feels liquid below the top layer, leave 10 more minutes.

Be patient and let them cool

Be patient and let them cool

Once they come down to room temperature, the little flans are ready to be stored or eated.

Flan for a whole week

Flan for a whole week

Getting them out of the cotainers is not as difficult as it might seem, though it’s almost impossible to avoid getting small pieces of the flan cut off. Insert a knife along the edge all the way to the bottom so that air gets in. Then turn over fast onto a plate. If air has gotten to the bottom of the container, the flan should just fall out with the caramel (which through some magic will now be liquid, even if the flan is straight out of the fridge) behind it.

It's not that hard to get it out

It's not that hard to get it out

Even if you are tempet to eat it as is straight out of the container, try to pop it out into a plate. Otherwise you won’t get the right amount of caramel with every single bite.

Flan

Flan

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Ingredients

Ingredients

This one is taken from a different blog: Under the High Chair. I’d already made it before and knew the results would be very good. It was a challenge finding a rice pudding recipe that did not involve cinnamon (as the classic Spanish rice pudding does), as Alex doesn’t like it. And making a dessert just for myself feels too piggish.

Also a big plus was using rose water. I’d bought it out of curiosity, but didn’t know what to use it for. Orange essence (agua de azahar) – which I bought at the same time – I knew went great in cakes and other spongy bakery stuff, but this? No idea. Though be warned, this particular brand of rose water (and same with the orange water) is quite weak, so you might want to be very generous with how much you use.

And the goat milk in the photo? I was curious about it when I saw it at the grocery store (it’s normally out of stock) and decided to try it. I didn’t like it. At all. But in this dish it was fine. I normally have milk in my coffe, and the warm milk meant that I was smelling it not only before drinking but also as it went down my throat. Lets just say that it smells like goat. As far as I’m concerned that’s not a good smell.

Begin by bringing to a boil

Begin by bringing to a boil

It’s actually a pretty simple recipe to make and does not take as long as the recipe says. I would say it takes around 30 – 45 minutes. If I let it simmer for 2 hours all I would have at the end is burn mushy rice!

Let it boil, and then add the rest of the stuff. I also added lemon zest. Just because.

Throw them all in

Throw them all in

What? I just like lemons!

And then let it simmer till it reaches the consistency you want. Spanish rice pudding is quite liquid, but I decided to let this one get more dense, like in the recipe’s photos.

Done!

Done!

The weird thing is that this time I turned the heat off when it was more liquid than that other time I made it, and yet when I went to eat it (once it cooled down) it was more dry than before! Crazy. Also the rice texture was different this time, more firm. Not hard enough to make it bad, ust different. The first time I made it I also improvised and used coconut water (sold as coconut juice) instead of plain old water, but you couldn’t taste it in the finished product, and I didn’t want to waste that watery goodness this time. Maybe I’ll try adding some coconut milk next time I make it…

Cardamom and rose water rice pudding

Cardamom and rose water rice pudding

The result? Yum! Subtle flavours and chewy rice goodness. More filling than you would think (that bowl up there, for example, is too big a portion).

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Yum!

Yum!

Scrambled eggs with zucchini.

Slice one or two zucchinis as thin as you possibly can (hint: a mandolin works well, or a grater with big horizontal grating holes – just make sure you don’t grate or slice your fingers, I don’t think the blood would complement the rest of the ingredients). Sautee in a little bit of oil till tender. It will take a while. I also added some garlic paste, so I guess a finely chopped up clove should do the trick.

While that is cooking, pop into a 400 F oven a tray with asparagus drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper – shaken all around so that they are completely covered by the liquids.

Once the zucchini is done, turn off the heat from under that skillet. We’re going to wait for the asparagus to be just about done before adding the eggs so that everything can be served together and warm. But you can beat up the eggs meanwhile if you want to.

The asparagus will be done when they are done. Which is to say, play it by eye. They should at the very least have turned golden on the tops, or brown but not black yet. When that happens, turn the heat back on and add the eggs (2 or 1 per person, depends on how hungry you are) and scramble all around till done.

If you’re a cheesaholic like me, serve with a slice of Manchego cheese.

I couldn’t resist taking and posting this photo as it turned so pretty. And the eggs! Oh the eggs! Just look at them! Changed “brand” of eggs to buy and I think I finally found what I wanted: much more flavourful, intensely colored yolks, differently colored on the outside, not chemically washed.

And there was even dessert that night! Estamos que lo tiramos, señora.

Refreshingly fruity

Refreshingly fruity

Strawberries, fresh orange juice, little bit of sugar. It’s always good. The strawberries were not very ripe (duh) but a nice end to the meal.

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Round 2 of chocolate overload – here we go!

After seeing how the soufflé experiment did not seem to make a dent in the chocolate supply, I caved in and decided to try to do a mousse. There was another reason, and I’m not even sure if it’s embarrassing or not, but anyway: I though mousse only used egg whites (as well as, of course, chocolate), and I had two already separated egg whites I did not use for the soufflé. The duh moment comes when the recipe called both for egg whites and yolks; separated and used in different points of the recipe, but still, I had to use new eggs. Oh well, my mousse was extra egg whitey, and it did no harm.

So, on to the recipe. Mousse. Simple. You would expect it to be in all every day cooking types of cookbooks, right? Well, it wasn’t in 1080 or the Spoon. Surprisingly, there was a chocolate mousse recipe in my other new and yet to be used book. And it included coffee. Interesting.

That over there is that book. Different from my usual, more sophisticated recipes whilst supposedly simple and doable. Supposedly. I only had a quick browse through it – oh the pretty pretty photos – and it does nto look all that simple or doable. I was frankly intimidated. Some of the recipes do look straightforward, but most of them don’t. Oh well.

The mousse recipe looked fine. Quite a bit of work – what with whipping up the whites and cream. But I already knew I was in for that when I decided to give mousse a go.

The coffee part was interesting, because it did not require a lot of coffee (couple of tablespoons) so I was curious to see^^^taste what difference it made.

Too many eggs?

Too many eggs?

Yeah, too many eggs. Remember how I said I was trying to use up all the chocolate (by the way – I didn’t)? I doubled the recipe. Of course the eggs have to be separated, but they made a much prettier setup this way – the gooey whites running down the cutting board didn’t seem too appealing for some reason.

Is that butter I see?

Is that butter I see?

Butter, coffee, and chocolate. In a double boiler until smooth. I was actually very surprised when the soufflé didn’t call for butter with the chocolate. Could this be why it didn’t work? …I’m obsessed, I know. I just want to know what went wrong!!!

Smooth and creamy

Smooth and creamy

Now this is what I’m talking about. Bring me a towel and let me take a swim in there.

This time I was a good girl and let things cool down when the recipe said too. I also remembered about the whipping metal thingy attachment for one of my immersion blenders (yeah, I have two, it’s a long story), and that made things easier. At least for the cream. The whites were done by hand. Cuz I’m tough and mean like that. Yo.

Stalagmpeak

Stalagmpeak

Do all mousse recipes call for whipped cream? I know it’s normal to have it as a topping, but I didn’t think it was part of the mousse itself. Though it certainly was in this recipe – reason why I did not put anything on top. Plus it didn’t need it. I just didn’t expect it.

Ready to fold

Ready to fold

Fold it all in – GENTLY – put in cute little bowls. Chill. Devour.

SOOOOO GOOOOOOOOD.

Reach and fluffy. The coffee hit you in the first couple of spoon fulls, but after that it was all chocolate, baby. Creamy, and rich, yet you could eat bowl after bowl of this and not be full.

Of course, it has raw egg, so it has to be eaten fast. Which is not a good combination if you remember from up there that I doubled the recipe. I was feeling generous – and yes, I wanted to show off this chocolate masterpiece – so I took some for a friend who hurt his back and was stuck in bed without being able to move. Lets just say that I believe that the reason he can now get up and move somewhat is because of the mousse. There is no other possible explanation.

And Alex made an incredible effort and a great sacrifice and ate the rest of the mousse. Well, almost all. I might have had some small bite. Or two. But small. Or something.

If you find yourself with chocolate at home: make mousse. Even if you have to go out and buy the rest of the ingredients. You will not regret it. And invite me over.

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

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A couple of weeks ago was my birthday, and as well as some great gifts, Alex made me a birthday cake. He asked me what type of cake I wanted, and what else could I say? Chocolate cake, of course! I also requested flourless – I wanted the chocolate flavour to be overwhelming, none of that spongy airy bullshit. So he did, and it was really good. I’m kind of sad that I had to share it with my friends, I could have eaten the whole thing by myself. It was that thing.

Why mention this? Well, lets just say that we are definitely not used to this US thing of measuring stuff with weird units. So instead of getting the 8 oz the recipe called for, we bought a bag of 32 oz of chocolate. Which brings me to this: all that chocolate could not be allowed to age in the pantry! Blasphemy!

So I searched my new cookbooks for chocolate recipes.

Erm. Yes. New cookbooks. What can I say, I couldn’t resist.

This is what I got – but in Spanish (I’ll talk about the other one in the next post). I didn’t even know this book existed till reading through the comments at Amazon about the 1080, when I was writing the post about the chicken with onion sauce (too lazy to dig up a link). They basically said that this was the Italian version of that book, but better, and the translation was kind of crappy as some of the ingredient measurements were clearly wrong.

I don’t know much about Italian cooking, but I know that I like it. And not just the obvious stuf like pastas, pizzas, and tiramisu – actually, I’m not a big fan of tiramisu. So I was definitely interested. Then the prize is pretty good for a big ass hardcover book. Aaand, I could get it in Spanish, which would give me METRIC MEASUREMENTS! Plus,  was pretty certain it would be Spanish from Spain and not Latin America (which, yes, I could understand, but would have expressions that would be weird to me). What’s there not to love?

The only downside – which 1080 also has – is that I will never be able to identify fish by their names. If you ask most people who learn a second language and are proficient at it, what they find most difficult about it, chances are they´ll say the food. For me it’s fish. I’m not talking about recognizing fish at the fishmonger’s – I’ve never been able to do that even at home. Basically find the Spanish name for different types of fish. 1080 kind of helps with that – titles of recipes are in Spanish and English – though not really, as the English fish names that are given I’ve never seen around here. I would dismiss it as saying that those fish must be Mediterranean, but that wouldn’t be entirely true – some I know for a fact that they are fished on the Atlantic. So yeah, ask me what a snapper is, and I won’t be able to tell you – though I will say it tastes very similar to besugo, which is the closer I could get.

All of this, of course, having nothing to do with chocolate.

So where was I? Oh, yes. With a lot of oz’s of chocolate to use up and two new cookbooks. You can probably guess what comes next.

Surprisingly, it was not all chocolate

Surprisingly, it was not all chocolate

At first I didn’t want to make mousse, because I wanted to cook something in my cute new mini casseroles. BTW, you want to see them?

Cute, huh?

And the only chocolate-heavy cooked recipe I found was soufflé. I’d heard that soufflés were pretty hard to make right, but what the hell – chocolate, eggs, and sugar – that can’t taste bad even if it doesn’t rise!

There was more chocolate than it looks like here

There was more chocolate than it looks like here

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler with some of the milk.

Let cool. This step  forgot – which might or might not explain why the soufflés never rose as they should have.

Now the yellow stuff

Now the yellow stuff

Add the egg yolks. And don’t be like the friend who was helping me out, and say that you don’t know how to separate eggs – google it, or search for it in YouTube – it’s the simplest thing ever!

Whisk up the egg whites. If you’re dumb like be and forget you have an attachement for the inmerion blender that does exactly that – then you’ll have to do it by hand. And your wrist will hurt. Maybe if you’re a guy it won’t…. not sure about that.

Houston, we have peaks!

Houston, we have peaks!

And the rest is pretty simple. Mix it up.

Fold the whites into the chocolate

Fold the whites into the chocolate

Put it in the little molds, or casseroles in my case. The recipe called for them to be greased and sprinkled with sugar, as their suggested presentation was to get it out of the containers. I think I could have gotten away with no greasing or sugaring. C’mon, I was going for cute overload – and what is cuter than those smurf colored mini casseroles, chocolate and ice cream?

The sugar almost sparkles

The sugar almost sparkles

And bake. Serve warm. Ice cream optional. Optional not being a word that really fits into my vocabulary.

The good or the bad first?

They didn’t rise. At all. Maybe when they were in the oven the tops were concave instead of flat – but the damn thing never got up. So disappointing. I guess it is difficult to make a soufflé!

Hit me with it, what did I do wrong?? We still have some chocolate left, so I can give it another try if someone lets me in on the secrets of big rising soufflés.

Chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice crea^^^liquid stuff

Chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice crea^^^liquid stuff

The taste? Did I not say you could not go wrong with the ingredients that went into this?

It was good. Very good.

But.

It pains me to say so, but it was too chocolatey and dense. I could not finish it all, in spite of my love for chocolate. And I think the reason for that might have been the fact that it didn’t rise.

Oh, and if you ever mention  – ever – that I said that something with chocolate was too chocolatey, I will deny it.

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This is basically Fat Free Vegan’s calamondin or lemon pie with oatmeal. My version is not vegan (I used real milk), but close enough – definitely vegetarian. Not that I care about such things, just felt I should point it out. I first did this cake with kumquats after they made an appereance in my CSA and I had no idea what to with them. I’d read that they are good for snacking on, but I found them way too acidic to do so. Since the recipe says that any other citrus will probably do, I decided to give it another go with strawberries and a tangelo (juice and zest).

Here we go

Here we go

What first drew me to the recipe was that it was supposed to be a pie, but it didn’t really fit into what I thought a pie was. What can I say, a pie is a very American thing. But the concept of crust and filling seemed intriguing.

I was also curious about using apple sauce instead of eggs for baking. I’d read in a couple of places that it was a good substitute, but I wanted to try it for myself. Now that I have all I can say is that it did it’s job, but I won’t be able to compare until I make a regular pie with a crust!

The first time I made this I used a cake pan I had bought to make quiche (which, by the way, I haven’t made yet – and that was over a year ago). I thought it was too wide and low for the pie. So this time I went for something different. Lets just say that my choice was not very good. Way too small – which resulted in me trying to shape the crust to cover most of the sides of the pan, but the stubborn crust would not cooperate! It slid back to the bottom of the dish as soon as it could. That’s my excuse for not having any photos of it plated or being devoured, and I’m sticking to it.

This will make the filling

This will make the filling

Now the filling is pretty easy to make. Make a cornstarch milk based gloop, the consistency of boogers. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

Yuck!

Yuck!

Disgusting.

Once you start feeling queasy because the consistency it’s taking is very gross, mix in your fruit gloop and you’re done. Well, not quite. Pour over the crust and refrigerate so that it sets.

My fruit filling of choice this time was the result of pureeing the little box of strawberries in my CSA box (sans green leaves), the juice of one tangelo, and its zest. If you have never heard of tangelos before, Wikipedia tells me they are the hybrid of a tangerine and either a pomelo or a grapefruit. Whoever it’s parents are, tangelos are really good! Citrusy and sweet. Refreshing. Couldn’t pinpoin why, but in the orangey flavour spectrum, they beat most oranges hands down.

The result of my pie making adventures? Not so pretty.

Strawberry orang^^^tangelo pie

Strawberry orang^^^tangelo pie

It looks like someone threw up in there!

It was very good, though a little too sweet in retrospect. Everyone loved it, but I couldn’t help but feel that it fell short when compared to the kumquat pie. Not just for aesthetics, but also flavour. Whilst the kumquat cake was deliciously tart and refreshing, this one was sweet sweet sweet. Nothing wrong with sweet, but I’ll stick with acid citrus goodness when making this the next time.

Oh, and because I can’t resist showing off how pretty the kumquat 1.0 version of this pie came out, here you go.

Kumquat pie

Kumquat pie

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