Flan, a variation

I’m not one to indulge in desserts too often, my sweet tooth¬†is… lacking, but Flan is one of the few desserts I can’t keep my hands away from. Which means, I make it as¬†infrequently as possible to¬†keep that heart attack at bay.

I’m always reading about variations to flan, adding chocolate, pumpkin, coconut, it goes on and on. So, I thought of trying my own little tropical variation:¬†Nance.

This is a very interesting little fruit, and it IS little, anywhere between the size of a blueberry and a cherry. In fact, they are known as yellow cherries in English. The fruit has some fat and is tart and becomes sweeter after picking. It grows on a tree and when they’re ready, they fall to the ground, collected, rinsed and thrown in a bottle with water for a few days. This allows them to ripen fully and develop its sweetness.

In order to get the pulp, you either have to use your hands and squish them or put them in the blender, liquid and all, and pulse them a few times to loosen the pulp. In this case, since the nance was sold in the frozen section of my grocers’, I thawed them and whirled them about in the blender with enough water to keep them moving. Strain and you’re ready to make a chicha–Panama’s pumped up fruit drinks, pesada or this to-die-for flan.

Flan de Nance

For the caramel sauce:
1-1/4 cp sugar

For the flan:
6 whole eggs
4 oz cream cheese
1-1/2 cps nance pulp
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cp granulated (white) sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt (bit less if using regular salt)
1-1/2 cps whole milk

Preheat oven to 350¬į. Prepare a Bain-Marie: you will need a baking¬† pan that is large enough to hold the dish you’re baking the flan in. Add hot water to the large pan and place in¬†the oven.

¬†To make the caramel, following the directions I gave you before for a cheese flan; here’s the link.

Making the flan: Put all the ingredients except for the milk in a blender glass and whisk until smooth. To avoid foaming the eggs, do this by pulsating instead of letting the blender go for a long time. It shouldn’t take more than 5-6 pulses.

In the meantime, use the same saucepan you used to make caramel¬†to scald the milk. There will probably be some caramel stuck to the pot. That’s fine, just add the milk¬† and simmer until you see bubbles beginning to form around the edges. Turn off and remove from the heat.

You will now incorporate the hot milk into the egg mixture, because the milk is pretty hot, start the blender on low and slowly drizzle in the milk/sugar mix. As soon as all the milk is added, turn off the blender. Pour the custard into the carameled baking dish. Place the dish with the custard into the pan with water.

If you bake it in a 9-inch dish, it will probably be in the oven for close to 45 minutes. You’ll know it is ready when the top is golden and it begins to separate from the sides, but there’s still a jiggle at the center. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then put it in the fridge to cool it all the way through.

When you’re ready to serve, run a table knife around the edge to help loosen the cooled flan. Then invert it onto¬†your serving dish. Make sure you invert over your sink, you’ll be amazed at how much of that caramel melts away onto your serving dish and continues running down your arm and on the clean floors.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Culinary tour: Turkey

This week Foodalogue’s¬†Culinary Tour will take us to the Republic of Turkey. Do you have your passport? It’s ok, you don’t really need it, I can¬†get you through. We’re going to Turkey this week. Not the bird, the country. Turkey calls Bulgaria, Greece and Syria neighbors–among others. Turkey is a relatively young country, established in 1923 after the defeat of the Ottoman empire. I’ve never been, but I hear it is simply breathtaking and exciting.

I can’t say I am intimately familiar with Turkish cuisine, but Google is my friend and I know more about it today than I did yesterday. Since Turkey was ruled by the Ottomans for a while, you will notice their cuisine harmonizes with that of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans. As with most countries, the cuisine will vary from region to region, but there are still some common ingredients, such as eggplant, green peppers, lentils, pistachios and a number of herbs.

There is also an emphasis on desserts. Turns out, baklava is a Turkish specialty! Yes, I know. I always thought this was a Greek specialty, just as I thought it was always made with honey. How did I ever survive without the Internet, I will never know. What I do know is that baklava has strong ties to Turkey, that there are other desserts similar to it and they don’t have to include honey!!! A definite win in my book.

Wikipedia¬†provided a very detailed compilation¬†of Turkish desserts. The list started off with baklava and then mentioned other similar treats. Enter Sobiyet. I’m going to say that Sobiyet¬†is the baklava’s uppity cousin. Or the fat one. Just like baklava, Sobiyet starts off with layers upon layers of buttery pastry, but it is then crowned with a creamy filling. I found an excellent recipe here.

Following Joan’s Culinary Tour, I have a choice as to how I honor the destination.¬†I can:

  • go traditional: make one of the country‚Äôs national or traditional dishes.
  • choose a contemporary approach: take a traditional recipe and contemporize ¬†it.
  • or go for a wild card and use the flavors and techniques of the country we are visiting, and create my own recipe.

This time I opted for a contemporary approach and tweaked¬†the traditional Turkish recipe by substituting with my Latin stuff. Actually, I Panamanianized it, as the substitutions are very common ingredients in Panama. I added cashews, instead of using regular sugar or honey, I went for raspadura–unrefined sugar cane and I also added orange peel, cinnamon sticks and cloves for aromatics.

Cashew & Pistachio Sobiyet

I came across a delicious recipe by Mercedes over at Dessert Candy and followed it pretty closely except for the following changes:

For the custard filling: I allowed the milk to steep with a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, which I strained before adding the semolina. Once the custard had thickened, I added a bit of nutmeg and pureed raw cashews.

For the syrup: I replaced the sugar with raspadura, added the zest and of an orange, and a bit of vanilla extract.

For the assembly:  I sprinkled chopped cashews and pistachios over the custard. Also, when I had 2 or 3 sheets left, I topped the layer with more pistachios, I wanted the color to show through the top. I finished with more buttery phyllo.

I kinda free-formed it into a round; once all the layers were in place, I used the last 2 layers to  tuck all the edges under.

The result was a crisp, moist, sticky pastry that was (still is, there are a few pieces left) just sweet enough. The raspadura gave it a taste of caramel that seems to be perfumed with anise. It makes me think of toffee. Well, there are a lot more shots, if you care to look here.

This was an exciting destination, be sure to stop by and visit with my fellow travelers. Joan made a sinful looking dish with eggplant and my dear Norma made a 2-layer rice pudding. Join us at the next destination, Japan.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

The benefits of knowing people in Mexican places

Yesterday I introduced you to Lesley of Mija Chronicles¬†fame. She’s an expat living in Mexico City and she loves food, particularly that of the Mexican persuasion. She posted this recipe for Pan de Elote¬†just a few weeks ago, I made it the day I read it. I’m sure¬† that gives you a good indication¬†of how fantastic it is. I’m SO happy I made this. My waistline isn’t happy, well, I don’t think my waistline cares one way or the other. The mirror…, that’s a different story.

Moving on. I will redirect you to¬†her post for the actual recipe, no need to re-invent the wheel. Believe me,¬†you¬†WANT to see¬†her post. You may actually want to EAT her post, but I don’t think computer monitors will taste¬†quite the same.¬†¬†A few notes about the recipe and the steps to bring it together.

Her recipe was made with white corn, which¬†is commonly available in Mexico, but I wasn’t able to find it here in Houston. The best I was able to get was 2-color fresh corn, but still, it was mostly yellow.

I was 1 ear of corn shy of 4 cups of husked corn kernels. Upon closer inspection, I only had 3 cps. Gulp. Unwilling to take such a massive risk, and because The Hubbz will always make an emergency run for me, I asked him to get me more cobs. Crisis averted.

Because I suck at following recipes, I missed the part where it said to grind HALF of the corn…, you should do that.

I did use the unsalted butter, but added a pinch of salt for that ying yang effect. I would also suggest using a bit less of the sugar since the US corn tends to be so sweet.

For this recipe you will beat the egg whites to punto¬†de turr√≥n or to soft peaks for the non-Spanish speakers. Check it out, I’m holding that bowl over my head.

And you want to fold these beautiful whites into the rest of the batter without losing all that cloudy fluff. So, take just a bit of the whites and mix them into the batter, then fold in the rest of the whites. This will make folding the two together easier and more uniform.

And when it baked for 55 minutes or so, it came out looking like this. Can you hear the choir? Aaaaaaaaaaaaah…

The Hubbz¬†and I ate this in 2 days. I’m not proud of it, but this is about full disclosure. This isn’t cornbread as we know it here in the US, it’s not even the cakier¬†version of it. This is a cross between a souffle and an angel food cake. Lesley describes it as a buttery corn cake, and it is all of those things. We especially enjoyed this cake with a bit of queso¬†fresco sprinkled over the top. Ying Yang, baby.

Another keeper!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Thanksgiving dinner: The Dessert

Sopa de Gloria is one of the desserts you will find at every significant event/celebration in Panama. Sopa de Gloria would loosely translate to ‘Glorious Soup’, it is a rum-y, creamy trifle. My mom would make the syrup with raisins and prunes and would then add port wine, dark and light rum. As far as¬†the cream goes, it usually includes ground almonds, which makes the flavors all the more delicate.

I took the basic Sopa de Gloria and tweaked it with the flavors of Thanksgiving by omitting the almonds and adding pumpkin puree and seeds. The results… Phenomenal! This is the Jimmy Choo of desserts! The syrup and cream both benefit from being made at least one day in advance. This dessert is best served cold.

Pumpkin Sopa de Gloria
8-10 servings

For the raisin syrup:
1 cp sugar
1-1/2 cps water
2-3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2/3 cp raisins
1/2 cp dark rum (Myer’s is great)

Combine all the ingredients except the raisins in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil for about 5 minutes. Add the raisins and continue to simmer until the raisins are plump. Turn off the heat and add the rum. Allow it cool and keep at room temperature.

For the pumpkin cream:
1/2 can condensed milk (7 ozs)
1 can evaporated milk (14 ozs)
1-1/4 cp pumpkin puree
1/8 tsp mace
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cp dark rum or bourbon

In a small pan, combine the condensed and evaporated milks, heat them over medium temperature until you begin to see bubbles around the edges. Do stir frequently, to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, mace and vanilla, simmer at medium-low for another 10 minutes, again, stirring continuously. Allow it to cool and refrigerate.

In addition to the above, you will need about 1/2 cp of toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds, as well as a sponge cake, you can find an easy recipe here.

Put it together:
I made individual triffles, but usually this is served in one large punch bowl, you can’t go wrong either way. Start with a layer of cubed sponge cake, followed by a drizzle of the syrup and raisins, then topped with cream that is topped with pumpkin seeds. Repeat. And serve cold.

Check out this post to see the rest of this meal or click here for the photostream.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

How to plan your Thanksgiving Dinner

I told you before I would make a pre-turkey day dinner for your benefit, but I lied. Don’t get me wrong, you do benefit from this, but I didn’t make this dinner just because of you. The truth is, I love turkey and would eat it year-round, so when this time of the year comes and the turkeys are plentiful… I eat and eat and, well, eat.

So, I set out to put together a Thanksgiving meal that spoke to my Latin roots while still honoring the traditional ingredients. With a little push from The Hubbz and an abandonment of safety nets, I came with what I believe is an incredible menu.

yep, that's the beginning of the menu

Pay attention, this is where you benefit: I’m about to share all of it with you! The menu. The thought process. The planning. The execution. I’m sharing it all with you in the hopes that you’ll be encouraged to recreate one or more of the dishes or that you’ll through caution to the wind and try something you’ve been thinking about for while.

The Thought Process:
Cocktails: I didn’t want anything too heavy or pumpkiny, but I still wanted to keep Thanksgiving colors in mind. I knew it needed to be spicy/flavorful.

Appetizer: I went for a soup, but wanted to keep it light while flavorful and I wanted to work sweet potatoes in the menu.

Turkey: Moist is always my first priority, so I knew I would brine it. I wanted to pick up on subtle Latin flavors without fussing too much over the bird.

Gravy: It’s like the chicken & the egg. Can’t have one without the other.

Accompanientment: Usually cranberry and, I’m sorry but I have to admit I love the canned stuff, but I needed to kick up a notch. I immediately thought guayaba! Or guava as its known stateside.

Dressing: Cornbread dressing is my absolute favorite even if traditional. My thoughts were to have corn patties topped with the extras usually found in dressing. I wanted to recreate a sophisticated version of a Panamanian tortilla.

Vegetables: Indispensable, and these pickled ones help cut through the heavy meal.

Dessert: A traditional dessert found at weddings in Panama. This is pumpkin brought to Jimmy Choo levels.

The Menu

Apricot Gingersnap Cocktail


Sweet Potato Cream with Chorizo Garnish


Achiote & Herbs Turkey
-Garlic Butter Gravy
-Guayaba Compote

Polenta Tortillas with Sausage & Chicharron Picadillo


Green Bean & Carrots Escabeche


Pumpkin Sopa de Gloria

The Planning

Putting a big meal together, particularly when you have to stick to a schedule or a set dinnertime can be overwhelming. Lists make it easier. It doesn’t matter what type of project I’m working on, a list always makes me feel at ease, like I can get it done. When I just think of the big picture or the end product I can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety, like I’m going to forget something or that I don’t have enough time to finish. Lists are good. Lists are your friend.

After I had finalized the menu, I wrote down each dish and broke it down by steps. I then prioritized the order in which to execute each step.

pardon my handwriting...

The Execution – for the recipes, click on the links.

Gobble, gobble!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Friday Flashback and an alternate universe

Aside: Something weird happened this morning and it explains why this post is just coming now. See, I dutifully woke up around 5:45 am, put the post together and hit ‘Publish’. When I was at work, I checked in and noticed there was no new post. I looked and looked to no avail and, because The Man has decided is time for me to earn my keep, I couldn’t do anything about it. The long and short of it is, I have a ‘test’ blog, I accidentally clicked on that and THAT’s where this post was. All day, all by its lonesome. So here you go. Pretend its 6am.

—-

Yes, of course I’m looking back at more Thanksgiving goodies. In the weeks to come, I’ll share some new recipes for the meal of excess, but I wanted to remind you of what I shared with you last year. My blogging was in its infancy, but I can assure you my cooking was not.

Maybe you’d like to offer a little appetizer to your guests as they arrive. I love this little recipe¬†which I submitted for a Pepperidge Farm contest. It says Autumn and it says eat me.

Aaaah, yes. The Meal. This one chronicles all the eating. Oh my. I’m so ready for a repeat.

No meal is complete without dessert, right? Especially when it addresses my love affair with Honeycrisp apples. 

Thanksgiving meal
Sweet Potato pastries
Apple Squares

Fear not, my bloggies. There will be pie. Or something, but there will be plenty more.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Everybody loves dessert, right?

Sometimes I feel guilty about what I share with you, rather, what I don’t share. See, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, which is unusual when you consider desserts are my family’s business. Maybe it’s because I could smell the scent of baked goods wafting through the house almost every day of my life since age 12 or so. Or maybe I just didn’t get that gene, I don’t know. What I do know, is that I don’t share desserts with you guys very often.

I will try to pay more attention to your sweet tooth, starting with this post. It’s cake time. It’s really good cake time. This is again my mom’s basic recipe for vanilla cake, this time, though, I added some guayaba paste (known stateside as guava paste) and a frosting that includes Nutella. What else could you ask for?

Whenever I go back home to Panama I make a grocery store run, picking up all the goodies I cannot find in the US. On this last trip, I found some guayaba preserve that came in a pouch. I was transfixed by the sight of the magical, colorful pouch. Pourable guayaba preserve? Oh my.

If you have purchased this delicious paste in the US, you’ve likely found it in a round tub or a long brick. The consistency of it would’ve been pretty thick, sticky¬†and solid. Nothing wrong with that one, it is the one I’ve purchased most of my life. But being able to pour it out… Think of how you felt the first time you saw mayo in those new squeeze bottles. Heaaaavennnn.

OK, back to the guayaba business. If you are dealing with the tub or brick of guayaba paste, all you’ll need to do for this recipe, is dissolve the paste so it is liquid. I used some of the paste so I could give you some guidance. For about 1-1/2 cps of cubed guava paste, add 1/4 cp of pineapple juice, melt it over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let it cool.

Pastel de Guayaba con Glaseado de Nutella

1-1/2 cps butter (3 sticks), softened
1-1/2 cps sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cp pineapple juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cps flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 cp guayaba paste, melted

Preheat oven to 350¬į.¬†Prepare a 9×13 baking pan: use the butter wrappers to grease the cake pan, then add a bit of¬†flour to coat. Set aside.¬†Combine the milk, vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl and beat until the sugar grains are dissolved and the mixture is smooth and light in color. If the butter is at room temperature, this will take about 10 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to beat each one in completely.

Add 1/3 of the flour and mix until incorporated, then alternate with 1/2 of the juice. Then another 1/3 of the flour, followed by the rest of the juice and end with flour. Take care not to overbeat, just mix long enough to get all the flour evenly incorporated.

Spread half of the batter on the bottom of the baking pan. Then drizzle half of the the guayaba and top with the rest of the batter. Drizzle the rest of the guayaba paste over the top, going in the opposite direction you did the first time.

Use a knife or spatula¬†to swirl the guayaba into the batter. Try not to push all the way to the bottom of the pan, otherwise you’ll have problems unmolding it. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you pierce the center of the cake.

Allow it to cool for a few minutes, while you make the frosting. See recipe below. Unmold the cake onto a platter and spread on the frosting while it is still warm.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cp butter, softened
1-1/2 cps powdered sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tub Nutella, approx 1-1/2 cps

 In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, cocoa and extracts until smooth. Add the Nutella and mix until smooth and completely incorporated.

Add enough cream to thin out the frosting, it should be about the consistency of yogurt or sour cream. Not runny, just thin enough to smooth it easily over the cake. 

You’ll need a glass of milk to go with this one.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris