Thursday, November 25, 2010
We have been:
a) More destitute than ever.
d)Coming up with excuses for not writing a blog post.
However, things seem to be mellowing out. Paychecks should be forthcoming in the near future. We're figuring out where the good grocery stores are. We're learning to cook in a crappy studio apartment kitchen with spartan cooking utensils. We are slowly getting off of our collective butts. Yes we can.
Coming soon, for reals now:
Puerto Rican mofongo (Plantains rule. Incidentally, their scientific name is Musa paradisiaca.)
Flan, in all of its caramelly awesomeness.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Nutella a.k.a. hazelnut chocolate spread a.k.a. sweet ambrosia of the gods:Look at the picture above. Is this food porn? Yes. Is this gustatory heaven? Mos def.
But this is a Crêpemania post, so lets talk about crêpes. Some think of a crêpe as nothing more than an extremely thin pancake, but there is more to them than that. Butter is used in their batter and also to coat the pan they’re cooked in. Butter, as we all know, is magical. Taking this into consideration, we can say that crêpes are buttery little vehicles for awesomeness.
Originally, this was supposed to be a Crêpes Suzette post. I was in a French mood and the idea of crêpes soaked in a mixture of orange juice, (more!) butter and Grand Marnier sounded heavenly. The orange liqueur was necessary for the recipe, but, alas, was way beyond my budget. Still, the Suzettes will be featured in a future post (if anybody with a well stocked bar is willing to part with some ounces of Grand Marnier).
Although I couldn’t make the Suzettes, crêpes still sounded like a good idea. The ingredients for the crêpes per se are super cheap. While one can go with somewhat expensive fillings (I was dreaming of goat cheese, spinach, walnuts and honey), there are cheaper options. I had already decided that for the sweet crêpes I would go with Nutella and fresh strawberries, but it took me a while to find a savory crêpe recipe that sounded tasty and cheap.
I finally found a recipe for a spinach, mushroom and bacon filling, armed myself with Alton Brown’s (♥) basic crêpes recipe and got to work.
Alton Brown’s Basic Crêpes [Yes, you can find pre-made crêpes at the supermarket, but come on…]
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup water
1 cup flour
3 tbsp. melted butter
Butter for coating the pan
Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse for ten seconds. Place batter in the refrigerator for an hour (this is to eliminate bubbles and prevent tearing while cooking). It will keep for 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour one ounce of batter into the center of the pan (it’s a good idea to measure an ounce of batter and pour it into a ladle or cooking spoon, that way you get a good idea of how much you’re using for each crêpe without measuring much) and swirl to spread evenly. This part can be a bit tricky. In my case, the crêpes came out best when I made sure to recoat the pan with butter every two crêpes or so. Cook approximately for 30 seconds on one side, then flip and cook for 10 seconds on the other.Remove to the cutting board or plate and, ideally, lay out flat to cool. (I just stacked them while still warm as I cooked them and it was all groovy, but I was very gentle and cautious when peeling them apart.) Continue until all batter is gone. Once they’re cool they can be stacked and refrigerated if necessary (they keep in the refrigerator for several daysand for up to two months in the freezer). If you’re using frozen crêpes, make sure to thaw them on a rack and then gently peel them apart.
Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Crêpe Filling [Found here, it yields approximately four servings]
6 slices bacon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup milk
10 oz. (approx.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (if using fresh, you must sauté to wilt)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup chicken broth
½ cup lemon juice (This amount of lemon will produce a pretty strong lemony flavor that I like, but some find too strong. If desired, use only ¼ cup lemon juice.)
salt and pepper to taste
Place the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium-high heat until it’s evenly browned. Drain, crumble and set aside. If you’re into bacon and want the filling to be a bit heartier, you can double the amount of bacon. Reserve 1 tbsp. of the bacon drippings, add 1 tbsp. butter and sauté mushrooms.In a separate saucepan, melt 3 tbsp. butter over medium-heat. Whisk in ¼ cup flour, stirring constantly until a paste is formed. Gradually stir in 1 cup milk, stirring constantly until a smooth thick gravy is formed. Add the bacon, mushrooms, spinach, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now for the egg sauce: In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice. Ok, so this is where things get a bit hairy. What we are doing now is temper (adding little by little) the eggs and broth together whisking constantly so as to cook, but NOT scramble the eggs. If at all possible (unless you’re a total expert or feel up to the challenge) get someone to help you pour in the egg and lemon mixture while you whisk like a maniac. If not, make sure that you add the eggs in a way that allows you to constantly whisk the mixture, fast. If you don’t do this, they will start scrambling. Once you have successfully tempered the eggs in without scrambling you’ll see that you’ll have a pretty liquid mix. If you have a food thermometer, you want to reach 170 Fahrenheit, but if not just keep on whisking until the texture changes (in my case it took about 3 min.). You will notice the sauce will become a bit foamy and will thicken considerably and become creamy. Now just salt and pepper to taste.
Fill each crêpe with spinach and meat filling, roll up, top with egg sauce and serve.
Ingredients [It’s a bit lame to have an Ingredients section for this one, but lets do it anyway for the sake of symmetry.]
Those who are familiar with crêpes won't find anything new in this section, but just in case lets talk about how to put these ones together. Just wash, drain and slice your strawberries. Spread some Nutella on the crêpe and put the desired amount of strawberries over it. Beware though, Nutella is delicious, but it will easily overpower the strawberries if you go all crazy chocomaniac. I would say that if you’re folding your crêpes in half, just cover half on the flat crêpe surface with Nutella then add enough berries to cover all of the Nutella. Now fold each crêpe after adding the filling, plate as desired and sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top. Super straightforward and awesome.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
However, this was not any cake. It was the magical blend of flavors and textures called tres leches. Along with flan, this cake is a dessert staple in many Hispanic countries. It’s basically a simple vanilla cake that has been soaked with a combination of evaporated milk, heavy cream and condensed milk and is topped with whipped cream.
Cake and milk... Doesn’t seem too exotic or complicated. What makes this dessert special though are the layers upon layers of awesomeness. First we have cake. Simple, yes, but we can all agree it’s always yummy. Now on top of that (or rather, seeping throughout) imagine the sweetness of condensed milk, the smoothness of evaporated milk and the richness of heavy cream. The finishing touch is a thick layer of homemade whipped cream on top. Just cool, barely there sweetness.
As for the ingredients, they were pretty cheap. I spent approximately $15 (and I had to get everything, including flour and sugar) and have plenty of leftover for other yummies. This recipe will yield at least 12 servings. Not bad at all. Keep in mind also that the recipe can be halved in order to make a smaller cake.
But anyway, let’s move on to the recipe.
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp. of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
Whipped cream (to make at home, use two cups of heavy cream, 3 tsp. sugar and vanilla extract)
Start by cracking the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Mix well for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sugar and eggs are well blended. This can be done with a mixer. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt (ideally, sift it three times), and add it little by little to the mixed eggs and sugar. Add the water and the vanilla extract (to taste, I used 1 tbsp.). Now, mix well one last time with a spatula or wooden spoon. Pour the batter into greased and floured baking dish. A baking pan can be used, but with this dessert I prefer using a Pyrex glass baking dish. Ideally, you want to prep the dessert and leave it in the pan it was cooked. A glass baking dish just looks better for presentation.
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes (make sure to preheat the oven).
Blend the evaporated milk, condensed milk and the heavy cream.
Once the cake is done, take out of the oven and, while it’s still hot, pierce its surface with a fork. You want to do this throughout the cake so that the milk mixture will seep through well. Now pour the blended milk mixture over the cake.
Let it cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Finish up by covering the cake with the whipped cream.
The easiest way to make the whipped cream is with an electrical mixer and they key thing is the making sure everything is as cold as possible. You can even put the heavy cream in the freezer and take it out right before it freezes. It’s also a good idea to put the bowl you’re mixing the cream in and the beaters in the freezer for a while. If this is not possible, you can also put the bowl you’re using to mix the heavy cream into a larger bowl that has ice in it. Mix the heavy cream until it thickens to the desired consistency. While mixing add the teaspoons of sugar and vanilla. While I used 3 tsp. of sugar, this is to taste. Just keep in mind that this dessert is pretty sweet and you don’t want to ruin it by putting overly sweet whipped cream on top of it.
So, how did it turn out? Perfect, I’d like to say, but that wasn’t the case. While my whipped cream and milk mixture came out delicious, the cake didn’t quite rise as expected. While it’s edible and decent, but it wasn’t as spongy and fluffy as I wanted it to be. As a result, the milk mixture did not seep through as well as it should have.
In this case, I would say I made two mistakes. I should have sifted the flour three times instead of only once. I also over-mixed the batter (once I added the water, I used a mixer to mix it in, instead of a spatula). In order to avoid this, make sure to stop mixing once all the ingredients in the batter are well mixed and while it still has tiny bubbles in it. This is what makes the cake rise to fluffy goodness.
Ok, so my first made from scratch cake didn’t turn out as awesome as I had hoped. My fantasies of sending some of it to friends and neighbors were destroyed. I am not a Tres Leches queen. Still, this came out well for a first attempt and the flavor that can be achieved with this recipe is amazing. Just follow the instructions closely, don’t mix the little bubbles in your batter into oblivion and enjoy!
And thanks to my friend Marcela, for being a Tres Leches and heavy cream whipping sensei! All the tips for the whipped cream came from her. The recipe (same one I used) was translated from Spanish (para los hispanos que les interese). You can see it here.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Let us know if you enjoyed this!