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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.

 

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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Chinese Sausage Baked Buns

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I  bought a package of uncooked Chinese style sausage recently at my local supermarket and decided that this would be the way to go with it.

Raw Chinese style sausage

Raw Chinese style sausage

I thought about doing steamed buns, however; I couldn’t locate the steamer baskets for my wok. Baked buns, it is. The recipe I used for the dough was taken from Pinterest. I generally credit things like this, but I completely forgot to make note of the source. But for full disclosure, I did NOT create this dough recipe. If you search Pinterest for Chinese Baked Buns, you may stumble across it. The filling IS my creation. I just boiled the sausage to cook it through before making the filling. So, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

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Filling:

3 Chinese Sausages, cooked and diced small

1 T. Fermented Black Bean Paste

2 T. Ketchup

2 T. Soy Sauce

1 T. Honey

2 T. Vegetable Oil

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Combine all the ingredients, except the sausage, and make a sauce/marinade.  Add the cooked, diced sausage and stir to evenly coat. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble buns.

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Dough:

10 TBSP whole milk

4 TBSP butter

2 tsp rapid-rise (instant) dry yeast

2 1/2 TBSP lukewarm water

1 large egg

2 1/2 TBSP sugar

12 1/2 oz All-purpose flour (About 2-3/4 cups)

1 large egg, lightly beaten (To brush buns before baking)

Glaze:

2 TBSP honey mixed with 1 TBSP warm water

For the dough, melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, or until warm (about 110°F). (I melted butter in the microwave, added milk and microwaved another 15 seconds and then cooled briefly.)

Put the yeast in small bowl, add the water, and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the milk mixture and the egg to blend.

Combine the sugar and flour in a food processor. Pulse two or three times to blend. With the machine running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. After a sticky mass of very soft dough forms, about 5 seconds, (I added about 2 extra tablespoons of milk for mine to form the ball) continue processing for 45 to 60 seconds to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough that mostly cleans the bowl.IMG_20160210_121839764 The finished dough should stick a bit to your finger when pressed. Lightly oil a clean bowl and add the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place (for example, the oven with the light on) to rise for about 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper before beginning to assemble the buns.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put on a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times, then cut it in half. Cover one-half with plastic wrap or an inverted bowl to prevent drying. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch log, and then cut it into 8 or 16 pieces for medium or small buns, respectively. I find the bigger ones easier to handle and fill.IMG_20160210_132400953 (Halve or quarter the log first to make it easier to cut even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball and then flatten each one into a 1/4-inch-thick disk. Use a wooden dowel-style rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter for small or 3-1/4 inches in diameter for medium buns. The rim should be thinner than the center; keep a 1-inch-wide belly. The finished circle will rise as it sits. Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear they will stick.IMG_20160210_132704653

To form a bun, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a spoon or fork to center about 2 teaspoons of filling for small buns, or about 4 teaspoons of filling for medium ones, on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly.IMG_20160210_133007204 Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling while the other hand pulls up the dough edge and pleats and pinches the rim together to form a closed satchel. (I don’t know about the crimping meticulously thing, but I got mine sealed and ball shaped.)

Pinch and twist the dough closed at the end. Place the bun pleat side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Set in a warm, draft- free place (for example, the oven with the light on) for 30 minutes to rise. Meanwhile, work on the other dough half to form more buns.IMG_20160210_133242039

To bake the buns, about 10 minutes before the rising time is over, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. (Let the buns finish rising at room temperature if you’ve had them in the oven.)

Bake one baking sheet at a time, brushing the top and side of each bun with the egg right before baking.IMG_20160210_153039114 Bake small buns for about 14 minutes and medium buns for about 18 minutes, or until a rich golden brown; the cooked buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove them from the oven, set on a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.

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Brushed with honey glaze

Brush the honey mixture on the buns for a sweet-glaze finish that will also soften the crust. Enjoy warm and out of hand. Refrigerate left- over buns for up to a week and reheat at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until hot. When making the buns in advance, wait to brush on the glaze until after you’ve reheated the buns. These buns may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw them completely before reheating.

 

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Traditional Scottish Shortbread

32 year holiday tradition!

32 year holiday tradition!

Well, I thought I had documented this recipe somewhere before, but I could not find the entire process anywhere. So, this is it! I was reading food magazines and cookbooks when I was a kid (along with comic books). In 1983, Cuisine Magazine printed an article called “My Father’s Scottish Shortbread”. It was a beautiful remembrance of a woman’s Father and his tradition of making Scottish shortbread, by hand, and how he passed it along to her. I kept that magazine and faithfully re-read the article every year and followed the process religiously for decades. Eventually, I lost the magazine. Then, with age, my hands started having trouble with creaming the sugar into cold butter and then working in the flour. I have, in the last few years, adapted to using my KitchenAid mixer to make the dough.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

You just have to make sure the butter doesn’t warm and soften, or it will separate. Once you start the dough, you need to work steadily until it is back in the refrigerator.

Also, the tradition was to make the shortbread only between around November through February or March. This was when the cows were brought in from pasture for the Winter and they switched from eating a variety of plants to eating grain. “Summer milk” is less consistently flavored than “Winter milk”, so goes the butter. However, with today’s milk production practices, that isn’t really true anymore…unless you get your milk from a friend’s cow and make your own butter.

The recipe is deceptively simple. Just four ingredients. But the process is a little more intense. And, unless you are really good or have someone make you a frame, the dough may not have the same dimensions every time. The important part is to get the thickness pretty uniform, about 3/8″, and the length and width in dimensions the one side can be marked off in one inch increments and the other side in two inch increments.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Then you use a straight edge and score the pieces and mark each with the tines of a fork, three times. This is both for decoration and prevents the dough from puffing up during baking. I roll my dough on parchment or wax paper.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Make sure you have a refrigerator shelf clear and transfer the dough to it. I carefully slide my dough onto a cutting board to move it to the fridge.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

The dough needs to chill for at least 30 minutes; otherwise, the cookies will spread when they bake. When ready, you carefully break into pieces and bake.

THE INGREDIENTS 

1 lb real Butter (I use lightly salted)

1 cup Sugar

4 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Salt (1/2 tsp, if using salted butter)

DIRECTIONS

Cream the sugar in the cold butter, until well blended, but still cold. Add the flour until the dough is starting to come together. It will be crumbly. Don’t overwork it. Using you hands, press it all together and compact it into a dough. Overlap a couple of pieces of wax or parchment paper. Roll dough out and form a rectangle about 3/8″ thick and about 10″x 15″. That can vary. See notes above. Mark 1″ x 2″ pieces, score the dough and prick each piece three times with the tines of a fork. Transfer to refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Chillin'.

Chillin’.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Put the dough on ungreased cookie sheets leaving an inch or so between them. Pop in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Immediately turn oven temperature down to 275F. Do not open the door for 30 minutes! What you are looking for is a sand color for the tops and lightly browned on the bottom.

Light brown bottoms.

Light brown bottoms.

Sad colored tops.

Sand colored tops.

You make have some ready before others, depending on size and thickness. It may take 40 to 50 minutes to finish cooking each batch. Reheat oven before the next batch goes in, but don’t forget to adjust it back down as soon as the dough goes in the oven. Remove to wire racks to cool. They smell great, but need to cool to really be good. Enjoy!

 

 

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Yellow Squash Banana Bread

Mmm...warm Yellow Squash Banana Bread!

Mmm…warm Yellow Squash Banana Bread!

I’m making a version of this recipe that I found at :http://www.cooks.com/recipe/5s7g16m9/squash-banana-nut-bread.html   I always like to give credit to my sources and recommend them.

The recipe is as follows:

>>>SQUASH BANANA NUT BREAD

from COOKS.COM

1/2 c. butter, softened

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 med. bananas, mashed

1 c. grated raw squash

2 c. all­purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. chopped nuts

In a large mixing bowl cream butter with sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla, then bananas and grated squash. In separate bowl sift together dry ingredients and beat into first mixture. Stir in nuts. Pour into greased, floured 9×5 inch loaf pan. 350 degrees 55­60 minutes.<<<

So, I made a couple of minor changes. None of us are big fans of nuts in brownies and breads, so I left them out. The recipe sounded a little bland without any spices, so I added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice. In addition to those minor ingredient changes, I also baked mine in 5 mini loaf pans, instead of the single large loaf. I baked them at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, testing with a skewer for doneness. (Mine did take the extra five minutes.)

Filled the mini loaf pans about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Filled the mini loaf pans about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

The results were delicious! They were not overpowered by the spice, but it was a good tweak. The banana flavor comes through nicely. The kids love them…and THEN I told them that there was yellow squash in them. My son was shocked, but could not deny how good they tasted! (I had one that stuck to the pan a little and got a little messed up, so it was sacrificed to sampling.) This recipe WILL be used again! Enjoy!

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Awesomest Cookie Ever?!

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I love cookies. For health reasons, I generally avoid buying any cookies that I like, to eliminate the temptation. Unfortunately, my wife brought home some chocolate chunk cookies recently and I reaquainted myself with love! They came from Chik-Fil-A and I don’t really know anything else about them…I don’t even know how much they cost. I just know that they were GOOD! (If Chick-Fil-A would like to send me free chicken sandwiches, I’ll be glad to stop by my local location to pick them up!)

So, now I’m at home, following a minor surgery, and can’t drive while on pain meds…and I’m craving cookies! My first choice would be white chocolate/macadamia  cookies, but I don’t have those ingredients on hand. After some research, I found a chocolate chunk cookie recipe by reknowned New York chocolatier, Jacques Torres. Now, Mr. Torres would probably be horrified, but; despite my “foodie” status, I’m not a big fan of most dark chocolates. I like the sweet/creamy flavor of milk chocolate. And, since I have some other ingredients that I want to use before they go stale, I’m also thowing in some butterscotch chips and pecan pieces. One other change: I’m substituting whole wheat flour for the pastry flour, because I don’t keep pastry flour on hand. The texture probably won’t be as light, but I like the nuttiness of whole wheat flour. So, with all due repect to Jacques Torres, could this be the awesomest cookie ever?!  Well, they are darn good!!! (I still love me some macadamias, though!) I got 2 dozen BIG cookies and 10 smaller ones. Here’s the original recipe* with my changes…so you could try it either way! Or do your own thing! Enjoy!

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes twenty-six 5-inch cookies or 8 1/2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cookies

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

4 large eggs

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour (substituting whole wheat flour)

3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (substituting 11.5oz milk choc. Chips, 11oz butterscotch chips, and 6oz pecan pieces)

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.

– In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.

Creaming butter and sugars.

Creaming butter and sugars.

– Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Always break the eggs into a bowl...so you can make sure no shells go into the cookies.

Always break the eggs into a bowl…so you can make sure no shells go into the cookies.

– Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined. (I was able to add the pecan to the mixer, but I had to add the by hand. This is a pretty large recipe!)

Mixing in the chips.

Mixing in the chips.

– Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. (I used a #12 disher/ice cream scoop, which is 2-2/3 ozand I only got 6 per 1/2 sheet pan)

Big balls ofcookie dough!

Big balls of cookie dough!

– Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies.

Out of the oven.

Out of the oven.

– Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I found the original recipe on someone else’s Pinterest site and do not know if it has ever been published elswhere or has copyrights established, so I am making every effort to give Jacques Torres credit.

https://www.mrchocolate.com/

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2014 Foraged Muscadine Jelly

Muscadine Jelly 2014

Muscadine Jelly 2014

This year, my first batch of forgaged grapes went towards making wine.

Muscadine Wine in the fermentation bucket

I have almost 3 gallons fermenting, but when the crushed grapes are removed (they are in a mesh bag), and I go through the process for extended fermentation and clarifying, I’ll probably wind up with about 2 gallons. So, I went for another round of grapes from my closest sources and gathered another 2 pounds of grapes, plus a couple of ounces. Referring back to last year’s post, I made another batch of jelly. The main difference is that this year, I was short on the juice by just a little over a cup. So, I pulled out a pint of crab apple juice that I canned last year and brought the measurement up to 5 cups.

Prepared crab apple juice, high in pectin.

Prepared crab apple juice, high in pectin.

Crab apple juice that has been made from cooked crab apples, and strained, is supposed to be high in pectin, too.

I followed the instructions and wound up with eight 1/2 pints and a little extra that I stuck in the fridge.

Eight 1/2 pints of muscadine jelly

Eight 1/2 pints of muscadine jelly

As I write this, the *ping* of sealing lids is making me happy! Will one of these jars be a ribbon winner at this year’s N.C.State Fair? Time will tell.

Here’s a link to last year’s post with instructions for making the jelly. (Store bought or farmer’s market bought grapes are usually bigger and juicier…but they ain’t free!) https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/wild-muscadine-grape-jelly/

This year, I have a compost bin, so I’ll be composting the grape skins/seeds. Since the seeds have been boiled, they should compost and not germinate.

Cooked and squeezed grape must, headed for compost bin.

Cooked and squeezed grape must, headed for compost bin.

I pulled the little extra jar from the refrigerator, once it had chilled and sampled it…a little tart, great grape flavor. The texture good…not loose. Good stuff. This would qualify as “spoon fruit”!

Pretty...tasty.

Pretty…tasty.

Little extra for sampling.

Little extra for sampling.

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