Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Confessions from Cinco de Mayo

I don't have a drop of Hispanic blood anywhere near my veins. If you dig back far enough, you can unearth a lone Native American woman who gave her German husband 12 strapping sons... but that's about the extent of it and she was over a hundred years ago.

But, it's been AGES since the last lunch at work, and we needed a holiday so I grabbed this one in both paws and held on. (Although, if I'd have caught on a BIT sooner, I'd have totally made them celebrate Star Wars Day, which we will be doing next year. May the fourth be with you! And yes, someone did have to explain to me that it wasn't EVERY fourth but May 4th, 'cause you know, it mentions May right in the phrase. Sometimes? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. *sigh*)

So today's feast included homemade salsa, tacos from the authentic (and very yummy) restaurant down the street, homemade guacamole and assorted other treats. I made a flan cheesecake thing that turned out MUCH better than I expected. I also made an appetizer that was okay, but not really worth sharing.

I grabbed both of these recipes off of the internet. I'm not sure where the flan cheesecake recipe came from; the salsa bites were from Pampered Chef. I started with the actual recipe, then anything I changed is listed at the bottom. If it's in italics, I fussed with it - make sure you read below.

Flan Cheesecake

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1.5 cups milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set a large bowl of ice water next to stove. Put sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, stir the sugar occasionally, being careful not to get any grains stuck against the sides of the pan, until it has all dissolved. Swirl the pan every minute until the sugar becomes a golden reddish-brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shock the bottom of the saucepan by placing the bottom in the ice water to stop the cooling and then equally divide into 10 to 12 (3.5 inch) ramekins and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese with eggs on low speed with an electric mixer until combined then increase speed to medium high and beat to completely incorporate. Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk and vanilla extract and continue to beat together until everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Ladle the custard over the caramel into the ramekins, filling them up to 1/2-inch from the rim. Place a kitchen towel in a deep baking dish in the oven and using a pitcher, pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to get water in the ramekins. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the flan is just set, about 30 minutes. When you tap the edge of the ramekin the flan should still wobble in the center.

Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil and let the ramekins cool slightly. Using tongs remove the ramekins from the water and set on a towel to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Once cooled completely, the flan can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before unmolding and serving. To serve, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the ramekin to loosen the flan, and invert onto a plate.

Okay, there were several things in this that make me wonder if the originator actually ever made this thing. I've never shocked the pot before when boiling sugar. It starts to harden so fast normally that I totally skipped this step - just take it off when it's more golden, with just a hint of the reddish brown. And, I didn't use the pastry brush either - but I did add a dollop of corn syrup. (I happened to have dark in the cupboard, either is fine. Someone told me once that it helps prevent crystallization. I don't know if it's true, but it didn't hurt.) Once it has started to warm, but not yet bubble, stir it a couple of times with a table knife. After that, do not stir - just gently swirl the pan every minute or so. It'll take care of itself. Don't leave it unattended though - once it starts going, it gets where you need it quickly.

Don't get too uptight about the room temperature thing. I set everything out, then did my thing with the sugar then started mixing the rest of it. Then I realized that I needed another egg, and I didn't set the milk out so some stuff went in cold. You don't want it too cold or you may end up cracking your caramel layer, but don't wait for it to get to room temp either.

Also, I didn't use the ramekins. This recipe makes A LOT. I ended up using one 9" high-sided pie plate and 4 1-cup sized glass bowls, and I had enough left over that I made another one the next day using a normal 9" pie plate. I have an 11" x 15" x 2" baking pan that I used. I like the towel idea - it helps keep everyone where you put them and prevents the hot water from splashing all over the place. I put the leftovers in a glass bowl, covered it and left it in the fridge overnight. The next evening, I boiled more sugar, brought it out of the fridge, whisked it well and it turned out fine.

I put the kettle on to boil about the time that I started adding the milk to the mix. When it was time to add the hot water, it was boiling and I poured it straight from the kettle. BE CAREFUL. Preheat your oven to 340 or so. Then, pull the rack out and place the baking sheet onto the rack BEFORE you add the water. Add the water, cover it, push the rack GENTLY back into the oven and then turn the heat down to 325.

Several people in my office are dieting, so I used that 1/3 the fat Philly cream cheese, along with no fat evaporated milk and 2% milk. (The condensed was what I already had in my larder.) The 4 glass bowls were not originally planned and didn't have the sugar layer. They were served with a bit of whipped cream and were very yummy that way, so you could just skip the whole boiling sugar thing if you wanted to.

I have no idea how the person got it cooked in 30 minutes. That's nuts. Of course, I'm not really into wobble, and prefer mine a bit more cooked so that may be part of it, but at thirty minutes, this is still soup. Count on an hour. It's covered and cooking with water to keep the temperature constant, so it's pretty forgiving. Actually, at one hour and ten minutes, I decided it was mostly done. Then I turned the oven off and went to bed - leaving it in the oven. The next morning, I carefully removed the cool baking pan from the oven. This may be the best way to handle it. Heavy, sloshy liquids are not fun, especially when they're covered and you can't see how close they are to overflow.

Be aware that the sugar will be liquid underneath the flan so don't freak out, decide it's still not done and cook it for another several hours. It's okay. It's supposed to be like that. Since I had to transport mine, I actually drained most of the liquid off prior to wrapping it for the road.

It's not a typical flan - it's creamy, with a mild but rich flavor - VERY good. Once again, I brought back an empty plate.

I hope you had a great Cinco de Mayo, whatever you ended up eating.

1 comment:

Suldog said...

We should all endeavor to find as many excuses as possible to eat interesting things at work. Good job!