Coffee Latin Flan

December 6, 2014

Flan is baked custard, usually served with caramel sauce. The first time I had ever heard of it was in 1995, when my neighbor asked a woman who I was dating at the time if she knew how to make Flan.  “Of course”, she said, “Flan Royal”. Wow, not mere flan for commoners, but Royal Flan. I thought she was a “keeper”. But it turned out that Royal was just a brand of Jell-O; most Latin Americans do not make flan from scratch, much in the way we (as a country) no longer make chocolate pudding. (Note to self: make chocolate pudding.)

Wow, easily impress your friends

Wow, easily impress your friends

The Flan was truly impressive, but I was a little nervous that it would release properly and the caramel would be thick and fluid. I could not have asked for anything more. I liked the addition of espresso powder as it made the flan more interesting. The flan is very potent and this yields enough to serve a large crowd. 4-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. For me the caramel cooking times were all considerably longer than specified in the recipe. The most critical thing was that I continued until I saw the reddish-amber hues specified in Step 3.
  2. Because my cooking times were noticeably longer when making the caramel, I used 3 tablespoons of water instead of 2 tablespoons specified in the recipe. My fear was that more of the water had an opportunity to evaporate and that the caramel might completely seize up in my loaf pan. The final consistency was perfect.
  3. I would recommend making your caramel in a stainless steel clad pot. I made mine in a Calphalon (anodized aluminum) pan, and it was difficult to see the color of the caramel to judge its readiness. The good news is that the reddish-amber color was easily spotted.
  4. Chris Kimball also has a variation using almonds (which uses 1 teaspoon almond extract in lieu of espresso powder). Or for a regular flan just omit the espresso powder.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $3.50.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time: 1 PM. End time: 4 PM. (for serving the following day)

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Resulted in less caramel than I thought

Resulted in less caramel than I thought

2/3 cup sugar (4-2/3 ounces)
2 large eggs plus 5 large yolks
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
12-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Mix until sugar is completely wet.
  2. Put pan over medium-high burner and bring up to a boil (4 to 5 minutes). Cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Gently swirl pan and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until it becomes the color of peanut butter.
  3. Remove for burner and swirl the pan until the mixture turns red-amber, about 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add 2 tablespoons warm tap water, which will bubble a steam, and swirl until it becomes incorporated.
  4. Empty caramel into an 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ loaf pan (mine was 9″x5″). Do not scrape out saucepan, only allow the liquid to pour by itself. Set loaf pan aside.
  5. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees. Fold a dish towel so that it will evenly fit in a 13″x9″ Pyrex baking dish, and set aside. Bring two quarts of water to a boil.
  6. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks. Add  sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla extract, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  7. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the loaf pan containing the caramel. Use aluminum foil to tightly cover loaf pan and set in baking dish ontop of dish towel. Put in oven and carefully add the two quarts of boiling water into Pyrex baking dish.
  8. Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours until the custard reaches 180-degrees. The center of the custard will still jiggle slightly. Remove foil and allow to completely cool in the water bath; about 1 hour.
  9. Once cool, remove from water bath and tightly cover using plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight of from up to 4 days.
  10. When you are ready to unmold the flan, use a paring knife to slide around and loosed the edges. Invert serving plate ontop of loaf pan, flip over. After it releases, you can use a rubber spatula to scrape and remaining caramel onto the flan.
  11. Slice and serve, and any leftovers can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
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No-Knead Artisan Dinner Rolls

December 4, 2014

I wanted to make delicious dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, but wanted a recipe that would work within the tight oven schedule of Thanksgiving day. So for this special dinner I combined recipes and techniques from a few different breads that I have made in the past (see here, here and here). I included a biga for great depth of flavor; which I started on Monday night. On Tuesday night, I made a wet dough so that I wouldn’t have to knead it by hand, since my KitchenAid mixer broke a few years ago (see “Autolyse”). After a few hours rising, I refrigerated the dough to stop the yeast from rising. When dealing with a wet doughs they are much easier to handle when chilled. Because dinner rolls take a bit of handling, the 36-hours in the refrigerator made the shaping process easy. Overall, the rolls were delicious. However, the subtitles added by the biga are largely overpowered by the small amount of rye and wheat flour. 4-stars.

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Because I was pulling this recipe from a lot of different places, I tested out the recipe a week prior to Thanksgiving. But the rolls were too small; perhaps because of beer, which I have noticed tends to retard rising. I abandon that recipe, and came up the this recipe to solve the problems that I had encountered.

Comment:

  1. Yay! I finally ordered a new KitchenAid standing mixer. It had gone on sale for $225 at Target.com. The difference between their Professional and Artisan series is the steel gears of the professional series are more durable when making a lot of dough.
  2. My test batch of dinner rolls from last week also reminded me how quickly they became hard; within just a few hours. Unless you are going to eat them right away, you must keep them wrapped in plastic.
  3. If using a separate container for rising, do not attempt to do the mixing and rising directly in the same container. It is impossible to properly mix the dough anyplace other than a regular bowl.
  4. The recipe yielded too much dough, so next time I will cut down on the recipe by about 15%.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.25 for 16 rolls.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 10:30AM pm Ready:  12:00.

The recipes from which I developed today’s bread are here, here and here. The final descriptions of how I prepared the bread are given below:

Biga Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)

  1. Make the biga the night before baking the bread; combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 minute until the mix appears uniform.
  2. Use plastic wrap to cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature. If you kitchen is much below 70-degrees, then you can use a slightly warmed oven (but turned off) which will ensure there is sufficient warmth.

Dough Ingredients:
2-cups water, preferably non-chlorinated spring water.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-ounce rye flour
1-ounce whole wheat flour
3-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat 2-cups water to 100-degrees; about 45 seconds in the microwave. Add yeast and kosher salt to warm water, allowing it to hydrate while measuring out the flours.
  2. Add biga to a large bowl. Place bowl on a kitchen scale and zero out; you want to add a total of 22-3/4 ounces of flour. Add rye and whole wheat flour. Add all-purpose for a total of 22-3/4 ounces. Mix until combined, but without kneading. Empty the dough into a 4-quart container and let sit at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size; between 2 to 4 hours. Put container in refrigerator until ready to use. The dough is very wet, so allowing it to cool completely will make it easier to work with.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle evenly with a very thin coat of flour.
  4. Carefully remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half with a bench scrape or chef’s knife and carefully stretch each piece into a 24”-long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into quarters; then cut each piece into two (yielding a total of 16 evenly-sized pieces).
  5. If you slightly squished the cylinder as you made each cut, restore its roundness. Put 8 pieces of dough in each cake pan with the cut-side up; placing one piece of dough in the center and the other seven pieces like the spokes of a wheel.
  6. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 500-degrees. Cover pans with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes until they have double in size. You can also test it because the dough will spring back if you gently press with your finger.
  7. Discard plastic wrap and lightly spray the rolls with water. Bake for 10 minutes until the rolls are brown. Turn the oven down to 400-degrees. Remove rolls and turn them out onto a rimmed baking sheet. After 5 or 10 minutes the rolls will have cool enough to handle, pull them apart and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 10 to 15 minutes; rotating the pan half-way through baking. They should have a deeply golden crust, and sound hollow if you tap their bottoms.
  8. Allow to cook on a wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

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