Sunday, February 24, 2013

Caramel Custard Cake

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
When I went to college in Manila ages ago, I would walk by a bakery shop which sells these treats. I never had enough money to buy them so I will look on in envy and wonder how they tasted. My other thought was how they managed to make the treat which is half caramel custard and half chiffon cake? Do you bake the cake first and top with the custard or make the custard and top with the cake batter and bake to finish the cake? I may have saved enough to try one of two every now and then and I think they were always a joy to eat. My memory of having eaten this treat is a bit vague.

Here at work, they also sell these treats at the cafeteria. I had one last Friday actually and it was kind of fortuitous that the same exact recipe is featured in one of the blogs I do read every now and then, Kusina ni Manang. Her blog is a lot more popular than mine so I look on in every now and then, mostly in admiration because of the volume of traffic of her blog, and also for the wonderful recipes she posts. She posted this recipe just last week and it was from her that I learned that the cake batter floats on top of the custard due to its airiness so both the custard and cake are baked together. That, at least answers one question. Anyway, here is my take on the same recipe with a few changes of my own. For one, I used my old recipe for the flan  but in terms of the chiffon cake, I stuck by the recipe except that I did away with the lemon extract and used vanilla extract in combination with lemon zest instead. I hope you do try this out. It is delicious.

Caramel Custard Cake - Adapted*

Custard and Caramel:

8 egg yolks
1 15oz Alpine evaporated milk
1 14oz Milkmaid condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups white sugar

Chiffon Cake:

5 egg separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
2/3 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil
6 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp lemon rind

1. Prepare the caramel by melting the sugar over low heat in a non-stick pan.
    Once golden amber, pour into the prepared pans. For this recipe, I used 3 
    ramekins and one 9-inch round pan.  Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven 
    to 325°F.

2. In a large bowl, prepare the custard by combining the egg yolks, vanilla 
    extract, evaporated and condensed milk, and the lemon zest. Whisk until 
    mixed and smooth. Set aside. 

3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at high 
    speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside. 

4. In a 4th bowl, sift the dry ingredients for the cake batter. Hollow out the 
    center to make a well. In a small measuring cup, combine all the wet 
    ingredients and whisk until mixed. Pour into the dry ingredients. 

5. Using the same beaters, beat the batter at low speed until the wet 
    ingredients are incorporated into the dry ingredients. Do not overbeat. 
    Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter and mix until just combined. 

6. To assemble the cake, pour the custard mix over a sieve into the 
    ramekins and pans. Fill the ramekins just below the halfway mark. Pour 
    the rest into the 9-inch pan. 

7. Ladle the cake batter over the custard mixture and smoothen the tops. 
    Fill the ramekins until just about 1/4 of an inch from the top. 

8. Bake pans in the preheated oven in a water bath about an inch high the
    sides of the baking pans. Bake the ramekins for 25-30 minutes and the 
    large pan for about 45-50 minutes. 

9. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick and it should come out clean. 
    Cool to room temperature and chill in the fridge if desired.

* Kusina ni Manang: Filipino Custard Cake.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Star Fruit of All Seasons

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Summer is definitely making its presence felt as fruits that usually come in season during the warmer months have started showing up on the market. Case in point, the star apple. Growing up, we had two star apple trees in our yard and we had no need to buy the fruits since we only had to rig a fruit picker long enough to reach the taller branches of our fruit-bearing tree. However, I remember them bearing fruits by March and they start to ripen some time by June. We had both the green variety out back and the greenish purply one in our front yard but both are equally delicious. 

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
In our dialect, we used to refer to them as tar apple due to the latex-like residue that oozes out from the rind when you cut into the fruit. To enjoy the fruit, you basically have to spoon out the sweet flesh of the ripe fruit making sure you spit out the seeds. We used to eat them straight from the tree without any utensils by prying them in half using our thumbs and diving straight in. Ah, the joys of childhood. If you do cut the fruit crosswise, you can see the star shape which is why the fruit is named, thusly.

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have seen the fruits being sold as early as January which was quite a surprise to me. Still, I was not craving for them yet so I kept my eyes on another tropical fruit, the Chico which is hands down, my all time favorite fruit. However, these were being sold in the fruit stands today and they were cheap so I decided to go for them instead. I usually eat them at room temperature without any special preparation whatsoever but I've seen these being served in milk and crushed ice during the summer months. Ice cold is the only way to go when serving them this way and I have to say, they are delicious. No recipe required. Just combine the flesh of 2 lbs of ripe fruit, 1 can of evaporated milk and 1 cup of crushed ice. Cool in the freezer until ready to serve them.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kheema Aloo (Mince and Potato Curry)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dish is originally cooked with lamb. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find ground lamb in my local grocery store so I used ground beef instead. The author actually suggests ground chicken or pork but I think a less leaner cut of ground beef will do just fine. The dish is simple enough but the spices used give it an unusual twist to the normal flavors associated with a ground meat dish. The blending of flavors is surprisingly delicate I was tempted to amp up the amount of spices used but I figured, it must have been intended to be a delicate dish. Lamb meat has a gaminess to it and aromatic spices are traditionally used to either mask this flavor or to enhance its innate delicacy. In this case, I think the original dish went for the latter. I believe this dish is Pakistani in origin although I found the recipe in my Indian cookbook. 

Kheema Aloo - Adapted*

2 lbs ground beef
1 lb potatoes, diced
1 lb tomaotes, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp garlic, grated
2 tsp ginger, grated
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1. In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the 
    cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon sticks and fry for one minute. 

2. Add the ground beef with the garam masala, cinnamon powder, chili, and 
    the grated garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and fry 
    for about 5 minutes or until the meat has browned. 

3. Add the potatoes and the water and cook covered for about 5 minutes. 
    Add the tomatoes with the tomato paste and mix well. Cook uncovered 
    until the potatoes are tender. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly.

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Geln Publishing, California: 2000.    

Milkmaid Leche flan

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I'm trying a new recipe of leche flan and it is one that I call a work in progress although this one resulted to something quite spectacular. It was on my fifth or sixth try before I was able to make a passable leche flan since I arrived in April last year. I was not expecting it to be that good after so many failed attempts so as a result, no pictures to prove my success. It was devoured in a flash. I knew that all of my friends are crazy over this dessert and maybe that is the reason why we are still friends 25 years or so after. However, the more they ask me to make this dessert, the more resentment I feel over this unachievable feat of coming up with a recipe that I can prepare with my eyes closed knowing it will turn out perfectly every single time. This has been my gripe in that I cannot seem to make a consistent version of this dessert which I used to prepare without any fuss at all while still living in the US. I had "the recipe" that was fool-proof and now all of a sudden, it just wouldn't work. 

I have had a lot of issues when making flan here back home. First, I noticed that the milk is a bit diluted and I was told that even our condensed milk contains coconut milk so it does not cook to the right consistency. Second, there is something off in terms of the sugar content of the condensed milk here as well. For some reason, it is very liquidy even when you buy the most expensive brand. I tried making a baked custard dessert one time and ended up with condensed milk syrup. I had to dump the whole thing as it was just unappetizing to look at much less, eat. A friend gave me a helpful tip to use the correct brand of milk and so far, my success rate has gone up a little bit. You do end up with an expensive version of the dessert but at least, you end up with something edible. 

Milkmaid Leche Flan

12 egg yolks
1 can Milkmaid condensed Milk
1 large Alpine evaporated milk
1/3 cup sugar + extra for the caramel
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix with a wire whisk. Set

2. In a small non-stick pan over medium low heat, caramelize about 1-1 1/2 
    cup of sugar until golden brown and syrupy. Pour into an 8-inch round 
    baking pan. Coat the pan evenly with the caramel syrup. 

3. Pour the custard mix into the prepared pan over a fine sieve. Cover with 
    aluminum foil. 

4. Steam the flan in a large pot over barely simmering water for about an 
    hour or until set. Remove from the steam and allow to cool. 

5. Once cooled, store in the fridge for at least four hours prior to serving. 

To make the caramel, make sure that you move the pan around to caramelize the sugar evenly. If you have a silicon spatula, you can use it to break the lumps but never use any metallic utensils. 

To serve the flan, run a knife around it before inverting onto a large serving platter. 

Ginger Chicken

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have been making Indian dishes since I received my Garam Masala spice mix from my friend Mara. It was on my wish list in terms of spices that I desperately needed and now that I have quite a bit of it, I am very excited to cook Indian-inspired dishes that I used to love and still do. For Sunday lunch this weekend, I thought a curry dish was the perfect meal to start out my Indian-inspired culinary odyssey.I actually wanted to try out this dish for the second time after making it a few days ago while away at work. In the comfort of my kitchen at home, I was able to correctly season the dish since I had my complete stash of spices on hand. It was definitely a vast improvement from an already great tasting dish when I first made it to something even more spectacular. I did concede on one important ingredient due to its unavailability. Plain yogurt was not available in large buckets so I had to settle for a small one which I used to sour my heavy cream. Still, it ended up just like how I wanted it. 

Ginger Chicken - Adapted*

2 lbs chicken breast, quartered
7 oz yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp grated garlic
2 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder**
4 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup broth
cilantro to garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine the cream with the yogurt. Add the freshly grated
    ginger and garlic, together with the powdered cumin, chili and coriander. 
    Mix well and set aside.

2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Brown in a large pan 
    preheated over medium high heat in the vegetable oil. 

3. Once the chicken pieces are browned, lower the heat to low and add the 
    broth with the yogurt mix. 

4. Allow the curry to simmer until the chicken pieces have cooked and the oil 
    starts to separate from the creamy base. This will take about 15-20 

5. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. Garnish with fresh cilantro and
    serve with steamed basmati rice. 

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, California: 2000. 

** If you are accustomed to heat, use the Chinese or Korean brand of chili powder. However, since I'm serving this to kids as well, I used the American chili powder mix which gives off a wonderful aroma and color with just a mild hint of heat. 

Grilled Calamari

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Calamari or squid is an enigma of sorts for some people. A friend of mine has never tasted squid ever which to me is quite unusual and so I tried easing her into the succulent world of the squid. Fresh calamari breaded and fried and served in a brown bag in an upscale restaurant in Bozeman Montana was the venue for this new experience and her only comment was that it was rather rubbery. However, I had to finish the whole bag for her so I didn't really mind that much. It was expensive to order a calamari dish in Bozeman which is situated high up in the mountains of the the Bridger mountain range and considering we were in a steak house, I was happy to oblige. 

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
When I went home last year, I posted a couple of recipes including squid cooked in its own ink and a grilled stuffed squid as well. However, I was not happy with the quality of the pictures that I took even though the recipes were okay. I then took the chance to remake them and repost the recipes all over again since summer is almost here and squid is quite plentiful in the market. Today was no exception and priced at around 2$ per pound, they are wonderfully plump and juicy once grilled. The smaller ones are better cooked in an adobo dish but for the bigger ones, grilling or deep frying is definitely the way to go. 

Grilled Calamari

2 lbs fresh squid
2 tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
salt and pepper

1. Clean the squid by removing the gladius along its spine. Remove the beak 
    by pinching the head of the squid in between the eyes until the beak pops 

2.  Season the onions and tomatoes with salt and pepper and stuff the cavity 
     of the squid. Secure with toothpicks to ensure the head does not fall off. 

3. Season with more salt and pepper and grill over hot charcoals until the 
    squid is no longer opaque and inky liquid starts to ooze out from the 

4. Serve immediately. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Homemade Goat Cheese

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This was a project I undertook upon the urging of my friend Mae. She has been into baking and cooking a lot lately so I may have found my kitchen soul mate in a way. We have been best friends since the 6th grade so I guess that makes sense. Anyway, she has been telling me about this source for goat milk and she has been asking me what we can do with it. Since I never drink milk other than cow's milk, I suggested that we make goat cheese.

I love goat cheese and while I was still living in the US, I buy them during special occasions. They are a bit expensive but boy are they delicious. When added into a salad with arugula and roasted beets, they are transformed into something heavenly. 

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Despite my hectic schedule this weekend, I had to find the time to make the cheese. One, the milk was already there in my fridge. It will not last for more than a week since it is fresh milk. Second, I am so excited to give it a try and have a bit of taste. I have been imagining it on sliced bread with a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and my mouth is already watering. 

The process of making goat cheese is very similar to making Indian paneer. The only difference is of course the milk. After looking at a few websites and blogs, I finally found a recipe which I could work with. I just have to make sure it does not dry up like paneer which is is usually fried and cooked in a curry sauce. With goat cheese, you want it to be soft with a texture that resembles cream cheese. To achieve this effect though, one important gadget is a good candy thermometer. It is essential that you do not overheat your milk. Trust me on this. Otherwise, you basically spoil a ton of perfectly good batch of fresh milk. Another precaution is to keep an eye on it when draining the whey. Drain it until you have achieved the consistency you like. I stopped draining my cheese about 10 minutes after I poured the curdled milk through a cotton sieve.

Homemade Goat Cheese

4 quarts fresh goat milk
4 large lemons, juiced
1 tsp coarse salt
olive oil
dried herbs (lavender, tarragon, basil, chives or any dried herbs you like)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
1. In a large work, heat 
    the milk over medium 
    heat until you reach a 
    temperature of 180°F. 
    Stir occasionally with a 
    wooden spoon. Turn 
    off the heat.

2. Add the lemon juice and
    stir with the spoon. 
    Allow to curdle and 
    leave it for another 5 

3. In a large colander lined with cheesecloth, pour the milk mixture and 
    gather the edges. Tighten the cheesecloth and drain as much liquid 
    as possible. Allow to drain for another 10 minutes until cool enough to 

4. Check for flavor and you can season the cheese with more salt and the 
    herbs at this point. Fresh garlic aside from dried herbs are also 
    considered as classic flavoring agents to the fresh cheese. 

5. Shape into the desired shape and drizzle with olive oil to coat the cheese. 
    Store in the fridge for about a week.