Archived entries for the sweet

Orange-scented leche flan

Wow, was one of my New Year’s resolutions really to tend to my blog more? Well, I guess that one was over before it started!

So my first post of the year is for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge: your favorite birthday food.

orange-scented leche flan

Since my birthday is in the summer, I would probably narrow it to barbecue skewers. But this is January, so I’m not going to be standing out in front of the grill in my winter coat (although I have been known to do that in the past). That said, I would have to go for one of my favorite desserts: leche flan. This is total pinoy party food because:

a) It’s super rich. The only way it would ever become richer is if you figured out a way to add pork. (Which I don’t think I would recommend, even though I am in fact, Filipina.)
b) It’s kind of a pain to make. It’s not difficult, but there are a couple of annoying steps. And you have to wait before eating it.

I used to make leche flan with a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks, but I prefer the super creamy texture that all egg yolks bring to the table. (You can see my older recipe here — I made a video with my daughter outlining the steps.)

Filipino leche flan contains condensed milk, which adds to the creamy texture. I heat the milk mixture first, although this is something I wasn’t taught, it’s a fairly important step. The trick to making a flan is tempering the eggs. When you add hot liquid to the egg yolks, the egg yolks acclimate to the hot temperature, thus preventing them from curdling when you put the flan in the oven. (I’m sorry to say I’ve tasted a fair share of rubbery homemade flans, and this has to do with the eggs curdling, among other things.) Also important: make sure to bake it in a bain-marie (water bath).

I love the taste of citrus in flan, so I use orange zest. Lemon zest is also great, and adds a little bit of a fresh, light flavor. (You’ll like it if you’re a fan of lemon curd.) If you prefer a non-citrusy flavor, just replace the orange zest with one scraped vanilla bean.

Orange-scented leche flan
makes one 8-inch flan
I just use a baking dish, but a fluted brioche pan makes it look extra pretty. If I spotted a flan that was baked in a fluted mould, I’m sure it would whisk me back to being a 7-year-old at my grandma’s house, celebrating my summer birthday.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce (400 g) can of sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups (350 ml) whole milk
zest from a small orange (or, if not using, 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch salt
For the caramel:

  1. Have your 8-inch baking dish next to the stove — you’ll need is as soon as the sugar is done.
  2. Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and pour the caramel into your baking dish. Swirl the caramel around the pan before it sets (you’ll have to do this really quickly.) Set the pan aside.

For the custard:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Have a kettle of boiling water ready to go for the water bath.
  2. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, condensed milk, orange zest and a pinch of salt. Bring to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t come to a rolling boil.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk lightly.
  4. Whisk in the warm milk mixture. Make sure to add the milk in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly, otherwise the eggs will curdle.
  5. Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the baking dish.
  6. Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan until halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the flan is still jiggly in the dish (you don’t want it to be totally firm, otherwise the edges will be curdled).
  8. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. To unmould: Place the baking dish in a roasting pan filled with warm water, then loosen the edges of the custard. Turn the flan out onto a large plate. The caramel will pool around the custard.

Vanilla macarons: now with feet!

Vanilla macarons with coconut cream

I don’t really like macarons.

I know this is a crazy thing for a food blogger to say, but it explains why I had never previously tried making Parisian macarons, the tiny almond flour and meringue cookies that sandwich a filling of custard, jam or buttercream. That is, until I found a giant bag of almond flour at the Ven (the awesome gourmet warehouse near where I live), and thought, “Why not?”

The other thing I thought was “How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

Now I understand why every food blogger has a post on macarons. Why Laduree is a pilgrimage for any foodie visiting Paris. Why there are more than a dozen pages of macarons photos in TasteSpotting.

They are nearly impossible to make right. Like, voodoo and magic impossible. And when you can’t make it right because some variable is off — the humidity in the room, your macaronnage technique, the aging of the eggs, the heat of the oven — you become obsessed. Really obsessed.

Armed with what has to be the cutest macarons book ever, I love macarons by Hisaka Ogita, I made four batches of macarons over two weekends.

And on that magical third batch: I got feet!

Macaron feet!

Getting the pied, or feet, on macarons is one of the trickiest achievements in baking. The pied is the cute little ruffle on the bottom edge of the cookie. Without the pied, you couldn’t really call it a macaron. There are loads of things that can prevent you from getting those elusive little ruffles. Ogita says that rapping the baking sheet against the counter and drying the batter before baking are factors. Others say it’s the macaronnage (the mixing of the batter before piping) is what has the greatest impact on the feet. And still others point to humidity: the more humid the environment, the more difficult it is to make macarons in general. (Some of the best instructions I’ve found on macaron technique is on an excellent post on Food Nouveau.)

I’ve been keeping notes with what seems to go right and wrong with each step (what did I say? obsessive). Some of what seemed to go right in the batch that turned out:

  • I’ve found that the Italian meringue method is a bit more difficult, but more foolproof, especially if you didn’t remember to ‘age’ the egg whites. (Egg whites that have been separated several days beforehand whip more consistently than fresh egg whites.)
  • I also added a bit of sugar to the meringue before pouring the sugar syrup to stabilize the meringue a little bit.
  • I didn’t adjust the humidity at all; it was a ridiculously rainy day on Miracle Batch Day.
  • I felt as though I overmixed it, but I guess I didn’t. The recommendation is that it should ‘flow like lava’. (Not that I’ve ever seen lava in real life before.)
  • I didn’t dry the macarons after piping it and before baking, except for the amount of time it took to preheat the oven. (I’ve seen instructions to leave them to dry for two hours!)
  • I did rap the baking sheet against the counter a few times once I piped the macarons.
  • I stacked two baking sheets under one set of macarons to control the heat while baking.

So that’s what worked for me.

This time around, that is.

Vanilla macarons with coconut cream filling
adapted from I love macarons
makes about 16 filled cookies
I like the coconut filling because it uses up the egg yolks that you’ll have left over. I found it a bit too buttery, but I would probably just reduce the amount of butter a little bit, or just use the custard directly next time. Make sure to store the macarons in the fridge overnight before eating; the cookies need to ‘fuse’ with the filling to create that heavenly macaron texture.

For the cookies:

2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
3 ounces (85g) almond flour
5.25 ounces (150g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar through a strainer (you won’t want any big pieces of almond in the mixture.)
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the 5 tablespoons granulated sugar with the 2 tablespoons water. Swirl — don’t stir — over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat just a bit until the sugar mixture comes to a boil. You will want to use a candy thermometer to make sure it comes to 240 degrees F (soft ball stage). At this point, you will need to take it off the heat and quickly start streaming it into the meringue, so it’s important to get the meringue started as the sugar syrup is boiling.
  3. Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites in a stand mixer with the wire whisk (level 6 on a KitchenAid). When you have reached soft peaks, add the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. When the sugar syrup is ready, very, very slowly and steadily trickle it into the meringue mixture as the mixer is running. As soon as all the sugar syrup is added, you will now add the almond flour mixture.
  4. Stir in a third of the meringue into the flour mixture with a spatula until it was well combined. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in until all the flour has been combined with the meringue.
  5. The macaronnage: Using a spatula or dough scraper, scoop the entire mixture from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Do this about 15 times, or until the batter “flows like lava,” or drips slowly from the spatula when lifted.
  6. Fill a piping bag with a 1-cm tip and pipe the cookies into 1-inch (or 2.5-cm) wide circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Rap the baking sheet against the counter a few times, set another baking sheet under it, and let the cookies rest while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
  8. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.
  9. Transfer the parchment to a cooling rack while you make the filling.

For the filling:

7 tablespoons (100 g) butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
2/3 cup (150 ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup (160 g) granulated sugar

  1. In a small heavy saucepan, bring the milk and coconut to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly pour the steeped milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking the whole time so the eggs don’t curdle.
  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Stir constantly with a spatula over medium heat until the mixture starts bubbling. Cook for another 1 minute until thickened, stirring the whole time.
  4. Transfer the custard to the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat with a wire whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature.
  5. Add the butter one piece at a time. Once the butter is all added, whisk at a medium/high level until it’s creamy and light.

Preparing the cookies:
Spoon a bit of the custard cream onto a macaron and sandwich with another. Store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.

Suman inantala

Suman sa antala

Along with fellow pinay blogger Divina, I had the honor of choosing this months Kulinarya Cooking Club theme: suman. Suman is typically sweet sticky rice and coconut milk wrapped in banana or palm leaves. What’s interesting about this is that I’ve never actually made suman before, even though I grew up eating it because I had aunties who made it for special occasions.

Now I know why we only had it on special occasions: suman is a supreme pain in the ass to make. It sounds so easy: mix sticky rice with coconut milk and wrap it all up in leaves. I had no idea that I had a few hours ahead of me when I set out.

I decided to make the suman I grew up eating: I guess it’s called suman sa antala, which involves cooking the mixture of sticky rice and coconut milk, wrapping it in banana leaves, then steaming it. Other types of suman, including the popular suman sa ligia (suman made with lye water), involve placing the uncooked rice and coconut milk mixture in the leaves and then dropping the packets in boiling water to cook. I absolutely do not trust my banana-leaf-wrapping abilities, so I opted for the pre-cooked and steamed version so we wouldn’t end up with open banana leaves floating in a sticky rice boiling water mixture.

This is especially wussy of me because suman sa ibos is typically wrapped in palm leaf. Catholics out there know these leaves as the long skinny ones they hand out on Palm Sunday. Wrapping suman in this is truly an art — it should look like this photo and be totally watertight so you can drop it in boiling water without falling apart. That takes SKILLS.

For me, the most irritating step was the preparation of the banana leaves. I grew up eating suman that had a little square of banana leaf wrapped around it, then the whole thing was wrapped in foil. Now I realize why: the preparation of the banana leaves is what you might call time-consuming. You have to wipe down both sides of the giant banana leaves (believe me, you don’t want to skip this step — you’ll be amazed at the grossness that comes off those things) then run each one over an open flame to soften the leaf. Even though it took a while, there was something really therapeutic about this part — the singeing leaf kinda smelled like the Philippines. Weird but nice.

The suman wrapping actually went pretty fast after that. If you’ve ever rolled lumpia or tamales, you’ll have no problem with this. I don’t even know if I did it right, but hey, they looked like a bunch of green tamales, so close enough. I cut a small square of banana leaf (about 5 inches), then the larger square was about 10 inches by 10 inches. I used about 3 tablespoons of the rice mixture within the square. Can anyone educate me on the point of the little square inside the big square? Either way, it looked good when we unwrapped it.

I’m definitely making this again for special occasions. They look like pretty little tropical presents, and this would taste amazing sprinkled with sugar and eaten with Philippine mangoes.

Suman inantala
makes about 18 suman

3 cups sticky rice, soaked for 30 minutes then rinsed
3 15-ounce (500 g) cans of coconut milk (I like Aroy D)
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 thawed 1-pound packet of frozen banana leaf (500 g), or fresh if you have access to it

  1. Combine the rice, coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it’s really thick and the rice is nearly cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. (It’ll be pretty hard to stir at this point.) Let the mixture cool to just warm or room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the banana leaves. With a damp cloth, wipe the leaves down on both sides. Pass the leaves on both sides over a medium flame on the stove. The leaves will change color slightly and will be more pliable.
  3. Cut the leaves into 18 large squares (10-inch by 10-inch) and 18 small squares (5-inch by 5-inch). Also keep a large section of leaf available to tear into strips for tying the little suman packets shut. (You’ll need 2 ties for each packet.)
  4. Lay the small square in the center of the larger square. Both should have the matte side of the banana leaf face up (you want the shiny side on the outside of the suman). Measure 3 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the center and wrap the suman as shown in the photos.
  5. Steam the suman for 35 minutes. These freeze well, you can also store them in the fridge and heat them in the microwave before eating.
  6. Serve warm, sprinkled with sugar.

Preparing suman: banana leaf preparation
You’ll see the leaf soften has you hold it over the burner.

Preparing suman: banana leaf
Two squares of banana leaves

Preparing suman: rice

Preparing suman: wrapping the rice mixture

Preparing suman: banana leaf wrapped

Suman sa antala

Suman sa antala

Suman sa antala

Mais con hielo

Mais con hielo

We’ve been having a bit of a heat wave here in NL. (Keep in mind that ‘heat wave’ here means ‘perfect weather’ anywhere else.) It was the perfect opportunity to bust out our hidden-way-back-in-the-cabinet ice shaver for some cold treats. Tonight I decided to make a Filipino classic, mais con hielo, and it’s also my entry for this month’s corn-themed Beets N Squash.

When it comes to Filipino cold desserts, halo-halo is the undisputed king. Halo-halo is basically shave ice with milk, then topped with almost anything under the tropical sun: sweet beans, pandan jelly, leche flan, ube (purple yam) jam, ube ice cream, pinipig (crispy rice), jackfruit. If it’s sweet, you’ve probably seen it on halo-halo. It’s like the Vegas of desserts.

Halo Halo
One of many halo-halos I ate during my recent trip to the Philippines

Mais con hielo (literally meaning ‘corn with ice’) is just the opposite. It’s like halo-halo’s humble cousin. It’s the simplest summer dessert ever: sweet corn, shave ice, and whatever milk floats your boat. Some prefer fresh milk, some like evaporated milk, others like to sweeten it with some condensed milk. In the summer, we would eat this all the time at home — I mean, seriously, I loves me some halo-halo, but who has the fifty ingredients lying around to make it?

Although this dessert often makes use of canned corn, you can make it with fresh sweet corn, which has the added benefit of adding a bit of corn ‘milk’ to the mixture when you take it off the cob. (You may want to cook it just a bit in its own liquid after removing from the corn cob).

For the dairy element, I use a neutral ice cream, such as sweet cream rather than vanilla, but if vanilla is what you have, it’ll still taste great, and it also sweetens the mais con hielo so you don’t need to add sugar. I also add a splash of whole milk.

In terms of the shave ice, I think a proper ice shaver is a must. It makes the ice light and fluffy. I’ve never tried crushing it in a food processor (I don’t own a food processor large enough, so it’ll have to remain a mystery to me). If anyone out there uses something else, let me know. A bit more shave ice than the other ingredients, then equal parts corn and ice cream work beautifully, and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been eating corn for dessert all your life.

Ice shaver
The ice shaver at our house, courtesy of my mom

Mais con hielo
serves 4

About 2 cups shave ice
A pint of vanilla or sweet cream ice cream
2-3 cobs of sweet corn (or a can of crunchy corn kernels)
Whole milk

  1. If you are using fresh corn, scrape the corn kernels off the cob, also catching the liquid. Heat until warm in a saucepan. Cool in the refrigerator.
  2. Assemble the mais con hielo in tall drinking glasses: a half cup of shave ice, followed by a few tablespoons of corn, a scoop of ice cream, then a few more tablespoons of corn. Pour a bit of milk over the whole thing. Crush it all together with a spoon while eating. Hopefully it’s a hot and humid day because this is the best way to enjoy it!

Gourmet Fury: Beets N Squash

Vanilla malt polvoron

This is my first post for Kulinarya Cooking Club, a group of Filipino bloggers dedicated to sharing Filipino recipes. This month’s theme is polvoron, one of my favorite sweets.

Polvoron is powdered milk candy, so named for its crumbly texture (polvo meaning powder or dust in Spanish). In this way, it resembles the classic Spanish polvorones, which are a sandy biscuit made flavored with almonds and lard. The main ingredients for Filipino polvoron are toasted flour, powdered milk, sugar and butter.

I had this idea of incorporating vanilla bean, which complements the milky flavor. As I was toasting the flour, I then thought about one of my favorite ingredients for milk: malted milk powder. The result was addictive: like a malted vanilla shake in candy form.

I’ve learned a couple of techniques to prevent frustration while making polvoron, which is a really fragile candy. (It’ll literally crumble in your hand if you’re not careful!) After combining all the ingredients, chill it in the fridge for an hour or two. This will keep it from sticking to the polvoron mould or biscuit cutter. After shaping them, set them in the freezer. If you want to wrap them in tissue paper, or stack them in containers, this step will keep you from pulling your hair out. For me, polvoron moulds are the way to go — I haven’t tried to use a biscuit cutter. If you live somewhere where there’s a Filipino grocery, these should be relatively easy to find.

One more tip: my mom swears by Nestle KLIM for the powdered milk, so it’s the only powdered milk I will use for polvoron. Even if you don’t swear by a specific brand, do make sure you use a full-fat (definitely not non-fat) powdered milk. For the malted milk powder, I used Horlicks, which is unsweetened and has a strong malt flavor.

Vanilla malt polvoron
makes about 40 candies

1-1/2 cup (190g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) Horlicks malted milk powder
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup (160g) powdered milk
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
8 ounces (200g) melted butter

  1. In an medium-sized pan, toast the flour over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. The flour will become fragrant and should become the color of sand. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the vanilla bean, malt powder, salt, sugar and powdered milk to the flour. Pour in the melted butter and stir until the mixture resembles wet sand. (My son calls polvoron “sand sweeties”) Set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  3. Using a polvoron mould, shape the candy and place them in a container or baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze for several hours. I like to eat them straight from the freezer, but they can also be wrapped in tissue paper and eaten at room temperature.

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