Uncategorized

Basic Flan

Basic Flan. Yum!

Flan. Not what most kids want for dessert. But, if you can get them to TRY it, many will like it. As an adult, with more mature tastes, almost everyone will appreciate it. Flan is a custard that is pretty firm, and is baked with caramelized sugar that becomes a syrupy sauce.

Many cultures have a version of flan, especially Latino and Hispanic cuisines. The one I am doing here is a pretty simple, basic Mexican style flan. I ordered a flan pan via the internet to cook mine in; however, you can use an 8″x3″ deep cake pan or something similar, with or without the water bath. Using the water bath, I believe is supposed to give a more even heat and a finer texture.

Here’s the recipe:

Basic Whole Egg Flan

5 whole eggs

1 can of evaporated milk

1 can of condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to to 350F. Add sugar to a small saucepan, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Pay close attention and stir often. Adjust heat as necessary.

Starting the caramel.

Sugar starting to melt. Stir!

In a large mixing bowl, add 5 whole eggs. (I remove the little white globs with a fork, or you could strain, after mixing in other ingredients.) Add condensed and evaporated milks and vanilla. Combine well, using a wire whip.

Eggs and milks.

When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color. It will burn VERY quickly, so don’t push it too much and pay close attention! It will be extremely hot and sticky, so handle with care! I think I went just a bit too long, as some stuck to the pan and was hardened. (see photo below)

Caramel is ready!

Carefully pour the caramel into the flan pan or baking pan.

Caramel in the pan.

Ladle the egg mixture into the pan. I probably should have let the caramel set-up just a minute or two. We’ll see how it turns out. (see photo below)

Custard mixture added.

If using flan pan and water bath, affix lid to flan pan, place in a larger, oven safe dish, on a sheet pan or other larger baking pan. Add boiling water to the bath pan, coming halfway up the flan pan. Carefully transfer to preheated oven.

In the water bath and oven.

If not using flan pan  or water bath, just put baking pan on a cookie sheet onto the oven rack. Oven rack should be in the center of the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for a least a couple hours prior to serving.

Out of the oven and cooling.

To serve, run a knife around the sides to release, invert a serving dish onto the flan baking dish. Make sure you have a dish that will hold the caramel liquid, without overflowing!

I used a pie plate to invert my flan onto.

Carefully, but quickly flip over, and then remove the baking dish.

Ta da!!! Looks like I should have let the caramel set for just a minute, but looks pretty good.

Some caramel hardened onto the pan. Next time, remove from heat sooner?

Heading to the fridge for a couple of hours.

Cut into servings, plate, spoon syrup over.

May be served with whipped cream and/or berries, if desired.

You can find versions of flan with various flavors, such as coffee, chocolate, pumpkin, almond, coconut, and more. Once you are comfortable with the basic recipe, try some variations! Enjoy!

UPDATE  (9/2/17)  Since the initial post, I’ve made a couple more flan and experimented a little. First, the hardened caramel kind of bugged me, so I’ve tried to remove it from the heat sooner…just trying to make sure its completely melted. I also have given just a couple of minutes before adding the custard mixture. I’m still getting some hardened caramel, though. But I’ve found that I can break it up, and either eat it like candy, or try to melt it in a sauce pan with a couple tablespoons of water and then pour it back over the flan, after it has cooled. Melting it again takes some time and constant vigilance, though.

Eat it,or melt it?

It has produced a better top surface…nice and smooth.

Nice smooth top.

Other experimentation, has been in flavoring variations. The above photo is actually a coffee flavored flan. I just dissolved some instant coffee, about 1/3 cup, into just enough water to dissolve it. I stirred than into the custard mix until well combined. I think it was very good.

The other variation, that I did today, was chocolate. For this one, I added 1/3 cup cocoa powder directly to the custard. It was a little messy and slow to get mixed in, but I worked at it and prevailed! Here are a few photos of that flan coming out of the pan:

Out of the oven and lid removed.

Smooth, glassy top!

Mmmm…chocolate.

Nice! Definitely has that cocoa powder chocolate flavor.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

Standard
Uncategorized

Minnie’s Cinnamon Rolls

Leftover dough equals cinnamon roll goodness!

Leftover dough equals cinnamon roll goodness!

So, with the scraps from Dad’s Yeast Rolls dough, after cutting out the rolls, I made some cinnamon rolls this morning. This takes me back to circa 1979, to my first job: Morrison’s Cafeteria. There was a short, snaggle-toothed, older German lady there that did all the baking. There was always some leftover dough and, with both managers weighing in at over 350lbs…maybe 400+…they gave her no arguement when she used it to make some of the best cinnamon rolls ever known to man! Those memories have led me to name this blog entry after Minnie. She looked like a bulldog, baked like an angel, and had a heart of gold. Thanks, Minnie!

Because I had just a handful of dough, I made my cinnamon rolls in a rolled loaf and cut them after baking. If I were dedicating a whole dough recipe to cinnamon rolls, I would roll it out a bit thinner, cut the roll into rounds, and place them on the baking sheet. The leftover dough from the previous night was wrapped in plastic overnight. If making same day, follow Dad’s Yeast Rolls recipe through until punching down the dough, after the first rise.

Sprinkled liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon and rolled.

Sprinkled liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon, rolled and brushed with butter.

The basic procedure is to roll out the dough into a rectangle, about as thin as pizza dough…maybe not quite that thin. Bush the dough with melted butter, scatter brown sugar over the dough to cover. Leave a little room around the edges. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the brown sugar. Drizzle with a little more melted butter. (Optional: at this point, you could add some chopped pecans, if you like.) Roll the dough tightly, along the long side of the rectangle. Now, for my leftover batch, I baked the whole roll, brushed with more melted butter. For a larger batch, gently cut 1″ pieces and carefully lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400F oven until nicely browned. I have to admit, I didn’t set a timer or note the cooking time exactly, but it was probably about 15 minutes. Brush with melted butter and drizzle with icing, if you like.

Baked roll.

Baked roll.

For the icing drizzle, I eyeballed a couple spoons of powdered sugar and a tablespoon or so of half’n’half. Powdered sugar doesn’t need much to liquify, so go easy! Use a wire whip to whisk thoroughly and eliminate any lumps. Use a spoon to drizzle over the rolls. Enjoy!

Drizzled with icing.

Drizzled with icing.

Standard
Uncategorized

Strawberry Pie in a Graham Cracker Crust

Strawberry Pie...fresh!

Strawberry Pie…fresh!

Many years ago, in another life and when I still had amazing stamina, I worked for the restaurant chain: Shoney’s. I worked my butt off from 60 to 80 hours a week. It was definitely a burnout job, only suited for the young! I worked there for a few years through and, for awhile, out of college. I worked as a cook, a kitchen manager and an assistant manager. While I was glad to move on, I did learn a few things. In addition to peeling, butterflying and breading shrimp, 20lbs at a time, and learning to make really good onion rings, I also learned how to make strawberry pies. LOTS of strawberry pies. I washed and capped flat after flat of strawberries and assembled pies using very specific techniques. Mother’s Day was a strawberry pie circus!

All these years later, I’ve decided to make one strawberry pie. That’s right: one. I happen to like graham cracker crumb pie crusts,,,and they’re easy to make! So, instead of making and pre-baking a pie dough crust. I’m going the graham cracker crumb route. I mixed 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs with 3 tbsp. sugar and then added 1/3 c. melted butter and mixed well. I lined a 8″ round cake pan with plastic wrap and dumped the crumb mixture into it. I then pressed the crust down on the bottom to form an even layer and also pressed up the sides. I covered the crust and popped it in the refrigerator.

Press in the graham cracker crumb, sugar and butter mixture.

Press in the graham cracker crumb, sugar and butter mixture.

Lined a pan with plastic wrap.

Lined a pan with plastic wrap.

Next, I took a pint of strawberries that I had already capped and made the strawberry glaze. This is a step I didn’t have to do before, because Shoney’s got their glaze in a bucket, already made. I found a recipe on Pinterest and gave it a try. In hindsight, I think I will try my juice extractor next time and not just mash the berries for the sauce…it doesn’t come out nice and clear…and it was a little thick. The recipe called for a  pint of strawberries, a cup of sugar, 3 tblsp corn starch dissolved in a little cold water.

Added sugar and corn starch...cooking the glaze.

Added sugar and corn starch…cooking the glaze.

DSC04893

 

I used a potato masher to mash the berries and added the sugar and corn starch.The mixture was brought to a boil, the heat reduced, and the mixture stirred constantly for about 10 minutes. I transferred the glaze to the refrigerator to cool.

Finished glaze...a little thick. I'll rework the recipe before next time.

Finished glaze…a little thick. I’ll rework the recipe before next time.

The pie assembly is pretty simple. Pre-bake your pie crust, if you’re using a dough crust, and cool. Bring the glaze to room temperature. Spread a fairly thin layer of the glaze on the pie crust to act as glue for the berries.

Positioning the berries, pointed side up.

Positioning the berries, pointed side up.

Arrange whole berries, point side facing up, in the pie crust, until snugly filled. Ideally, the glaze should be loose enough to pour off the side of a large spoon as you move the spoon from right to left in a motion that drapes the glaze evenly over the berries. You want the berries completely covered by the glaze, so there is no exposed berry. If the glaze is too thick, do the best you can. (Like I did this time!) It will still taste good!

Glazed strawberries.

Glazed strawberries.

Just try to avoid having it clump too much in any one spot. Serve immediately with whipped cream or refrigerate for up to a couple of hours.

To serve mine, I use the plastic wrap to help carefully remove the piece of pie from the pan and then  top with whipped cream.

The final product...yum!!!

The final product…yum!!!

Slice of fresh strawberry pie.

Slice of fresh strawberry pie.

You can certainly buy a pre-made crust , either dough or crumb. Just remember to bake your crust, if using a dough crust, according to recipe, before filling…and enjoy!

Standard
Uncategorized

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I recently had a snow day. After getting the kids squared away with going out to play, I decided to make some English Sticky Toffee Pudding. I had been put in the mood for ESTP when I had some nice English Strong Ale from a local, new brewery that specializes in “English inspired Ales”. I had ESTP several times while in England for a vacation several years ago…it quickly became a favorite and “must have”. Well, I found a two-pack commercially available product in the grocery store…in the Britsh Stuff section. It was okay, to satisfy an immediate craving, but it wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. So, I jumped on Pinterest and read several recipes and found one I liked…one that used American measurements and ingredients. My only edits were adding a little more molasses, because I only had light brown sugar and substituting Half’n’Half for heavy cream, in the sauce.

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

(found at http://www.lafujimama.com/2012/08/sticky-toffee-pudding/ . Further credits referenced there.)

Ingredients:

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

For the cake:

6 ounces chopped and pitted dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and add 1 T. Molasses)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Sauce:

2 cups heavy cream (or Half’n’Half)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and increase molasses by 1 T.)
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
1 pinch sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and then grease an 8×8 square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2" square for an 8"x8"x2" pan

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2″ square for an 8″x8″x2″ pan

2. Make the cake: Combine the dates and water in a sauce pan.  Bring the water to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking soda, (It will foam up…don’t let it surprise you!) then set the saucepan aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Next add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.

5. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low.  Then add all of the date mixture and mix to combine. Then finish by adding the remaining half of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Mixing

Mixing

6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cake is springy in the middle. (Test with cake tester or skewer…should come out clean…or almost clean. Better to be slightly underdone than over.)

Into the oven!

Into the oven!

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes and then poke holes in it with a skewer.  While the cake is cooling prepare the toffee sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Toffee Sauce

Toffee Sauce

7. Make the toffee sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Let the sauce boil until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

8. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the cake and let it soak in until ready to serve.  Turn out cake onto a service plate and remove the parchment paper.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

Serve in square pieces about the size of a cupcake.

Cut view

Cut view

Nap the cake with sauce on what has now become the top side. Use the rest of the sauce for serving along with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. This cake is best served warm!

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I was very pleased with the results and I’m sure you will be too! Don’t be put off by the dates. if you just haven’t had experience with them before. They practically melt into the batter and just add a rich, sweet, caramel flavor. The little bits in the cake are pretty much indistinguishable…not like raisins or chips at all!  The only thing I may do differently in the future is look for a sauce that doesn’t use milk or cream. Technically, that would make it caramel. I know. But I seem to remember sauces more like dark caramel in England and I preferred them. I used Half’n’Half in this recipe, because I didn’t have heavy cream, but it turned out fine. I hope you’ll give it a try. Sticky toffee pudding is equally good with a nice English stout or strong ale, coffee or milk. A warm piece of Sticky Toffee Pudding on a cold day…mmm. Talk about comfort food! Drop a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top and really indulge yourself! Enjoy!!

Standard
Uncategorized

Apple Butter Coffee Cake

Have a nice wedge!

Have a nice wedge!

I have crabapple trees in a common area near my house and I hate to see the fruit drop and rot! Starting last year, I gathered crabapples and made jelly. (2nd place winner at the NC State Fair in 2012!) Then I experimented with crabapple butter. Then I found that I can use the pulp leftover from the jelly making process to make the crabapple butter…even more efficient! Now, I need some way to use some of this crabapple butter. I can only use so much on toast, biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches. So, I came up with this coffee cake and it uses two cups of fruit butter! I’m calling the recipe “Apple Butter Coffee Cake” for wider appeal. Heck, you can even buy apple butter at the store and use it, but there’s something really satisfying about using foraged, free fruit! Either way, I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy! (Before starting recipe, see update and amended recipe below!)

Crabapple Butter Coffee Cake

Crumb topped coffee cake with a layer of old fashioned crabapple butter in the middle. (You can substitute apple butter.)

For the crumble: ¼ c. King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 T. Granulated Sugar

1 T. Butter

Ingredients

Ingredients

For the batter:   2 c. King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

¾ c. granulated sugar

1-1/2 t. Baking Powder

1 stick (1/2 c.) Butter

1 whole egg, large

1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

¾ c. milk, 1% (2% or whole milk are ok substitutes)

For the Filling:    2 c. Prepared, Homemade Crabapple Butter. (Homemade or purchased apple butter are ok substitutes.)

Assembly:  Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9” cake pan. Make the crumble by combining the ingredients and working the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbles form, about the size of small peas. Set aside.

Next, in a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the batter and stir or whisk to combine. In the same manner you worked the butter into the crumble, work the stick of butter into the dry ingredients for the batter. A looser texture is okay here.

Batter, lightly combined

Batter, lightly combined

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Whisk to combine well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until all the dry ingredients are just evenly moist, but do not overwork the batter.

Crabapple Butter filling

Crabapple Butter filling

Put half of the batter into the buttered cake pan and spread evenly. Put the crabapple or apple butter in a bowl and stir to make sure it is smooth. Spread the fruit butter evenly over the batter, leaving ¼” from perimeter edge. Top with remaining batter and spread evenly to cover. Distribute the crumb topping over the top.

Covered with more batter and crumbles added.

Covered with more batter and crumbles added.

Golden brown and delicious!

Golden brown and delicious!

Bake the coffee cake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the crumbles are browned and a toothpick or skewer poke in the center of the cake does not quite come out clean.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature (or almost!). Serve with hot coffee and enjoy!

***UPDATE: I am entering this coffee cake in a competition sponsored by the King Arthur Flour Co. at the NC State Fair. After my test-bake, I decided to make some tweaks to the recipe. I added a little sour cream, hoping to keep the cake a little more moist. I doubled the amount of crumbles and added cinnamon to them. I also cut the apple butter in half. It just seemed like too much in the test cake. Here is the amended recipe:

 

Ready for competition.

Ready for competition.

Apple Butter Coffee Cake

Crumb topped coffee cake with a layer of old fashioned apple butter in the middle. (I like to use homemade crabapple butter!)

For the crumble: ½ c. King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 t. Ground Cinnamon

4 T. Granulated Sugar

3 T. Butter

For the batter:   2 c. King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

½  c. Granulated Sugar

¼ c.  Light Brown Sugar, packed

1-1/2 t. Baking Powder

1 stick (1/2 c.) Butter

1 Whole Egg, large

1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

¾ c. Milk, any fat content is okay

1/3 c. Sour Cream

 

For the Filling:    1 c. Prepared Apple Butter. (Homemade crabapple is even better!)

 

Assembly:  Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9” cake pan. Make the crumble by combining the ingredients and working the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender until crumbles form, about the size of small peas. Set aside.

Next, in a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the batter and stir or whisk to combine. In the same manner you worked the butter into the crumble, work the stick of butter into the dry ingredients for the batter. A looser texture is okay here.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, sour cream and vanilla. Whisk to combine well.  (You can get this much done the night before, cover, and refrigerate. Finish the process and bake in the morning.)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until all the dry ingredients are just evenly moist, but do not overwork the batter.

Put half of the batter into the buttered cake pan and spread evenly. Put the apple butter in a bowl and stir to make sure it is smooth. Spread the fruit butter evenly over the batter, leaving 1/2” from perimeter edge. Top with remaining batter and spread evenly to cover. Distribute the crumb topping over the top.

Revised recipe final product...ready for competition!

Revised recipe final product…ready for competition!

Bake the coffee cake in the center of the oven for 55 to 65 minutes, until the crumbles are browned and a toothpick or skewer poked in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy! ***NOTE 10/27/13 UNFORTUNATELY, I DID NOT HAVE A WINNER THE BAKING CONTEST. JUDGES HAD FAVORABLE COMMENTS. THE ONLY NEGATIVE WAS “A LITTLE BIT DRY. IT WAS DEFINITELY MORE MOIST THAN THE TEST BAKE. IN FACT, ALL THE TWEAKS THAT I MADE WERE IMPROVEMENTS. ONE OF THE WINNERS WAS A “CINNAMON PECAN COFFEE CAKE”. HOW ORIGINAL/CREATIVE IS THAT?! I STAND BY MY RECIPE!

After the competition, I finally got to see it cut and try it myself! I'm happy with it!

After the competition, I finally got to see it cut and try it myself! I’m happy with it!

Standard