Friday, July 23, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

The first time I ever had tres leches cake was a couple of months ago, when my cousin and I went to Mistral Kitchen. The piece of cake was tiny, about the size of half a candy bar, and we had to SHARE it. Obviously it wasn't enough!  It was incredibly good, served with a small scoop of strawberry sorbet (which complemented the sweet, moist cake wonderfully). Since then, I've been wanting to make this traditional Mexican cake myself.

Tres Leches Cake

There are a lot of tres leches cake recipes out there, but I decided to use one by Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman). As she rightly points out, there's actually FOUR kinds of milk used in the cake, so it should arguably be called cuatro leches cake. The three milks name probably comes from the fact that after the cake is made, it's then soaked in three milks (the fourth is in the batter).

Tres Leches Cake

What are the three milks? It's not health food, it's yummy food. Heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. What's the difference, you might ask? Heavy cream, at least in the U.S., has at least 36 percent fat, and is the stuff typically used in ice cream and to make whipped cream. Sweetened condensed milk (also sometimes known just as condensed milk) is cow milk that's had its water content removed and sugar added, which makes it a thick, creamy substance that's awesome just stirred into hot coffee or tea. When buying condensed milk, look at the label. There should be as few ingredients as possible (in fact, 2 is best: milk, sugar), with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Evaporated milk (aka dehydrated milk) is shelf-stable milk that's had about 60 percent of its water removed. Since you'll be making more of the cream mixture than you actually need for the cake, don't throw away the remainder; save to use in coffee or tea (unless, of course, you don't like milk or sugar in your hot beverages).

Tres Leches Cake

The cake is light and airy, due to the batter requiring meringue. There are lots of little air pockets in the cake, all the better to soak up the three milks. Right after pouring you might notice that some of the milk hasn't soaked in yet -- don't worry, the cake is a greedy sponge and the milk will eventually get absorbed while it's sitting.  TPW suggests letting the cake absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. This is not, in my opinion, nearly enough time. I served the cake after about 40 minutes of soaking and it was disappointingly dry. The next day, however, the milk had totally soaked through and it was as moist as can be. So I recommend letting it soak for several hours or overnight before frosting, to really get every bit of the cake soaked. This is actually good in terms of convenience, because it means you can make the cake the day before and the only thing you need to do day of is make whipped cream to spread on the cake.

Tres Leches Cake

The dry milk in the 'frosting' is optional; it's just a way to stablize the whipped cream (which I find more necessary when it's being used as a cake frosting).

Tres Leches Cake (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)


For the cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 12oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
For the 'frosting'
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp dry nonfat milk (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in the milk and vanilla.
  4. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
  5. Beat egg whites in a clean bowl on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
  6. Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the cake out onto a rimmed baking sheet or serving platter and allow to cool.
  9. Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream, preferably in a container that has a spout. When the cake is cool, carefully pierce the surface all over with a fork. Drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture, including the edges of the cake.
  10. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
  11. Right before serving, whip heavy cream with sugar, vanilla, and dry milk (if using) until thick (though don't overwhip or you'll have butter).  Spread over the cake.  Best served with something tart and fruity, like strawberry sorbet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sugar Donut Muffins

I admit, I mostly wanted to make these because they're sooooooooo cute!!

See, I usually prefer airy donuts (not sure what they're officially called), not cake donuts (with the exception of a glazed old fashioned, I don't know why). But these were so cute I could not resist. Especially since I had the excuse of bringing them to my cousin's eldest's 5th birthday party, so I could pretend that that was why I had made them.

Sugar Donut Mini Muffins

They were a huge hit. The muffins were being double fisted and crammed into little mouths. Okay, 5-year-olds probably don't have the most discerning of palates, but I didn't think they'd go over that well because the muffins aren't actually all that sweet. I mean, they're sweet, but they're not SWEET. My cousin's husband said later that he was trying to hoard some from the kids because he liked them a lot and wanted to have them later. I know, how shameful. On the other hand, there you have an adult's opinion of them!

I love how flexible these little muffins are, too. Breakfast? Sure! Dessert? Sure! Snack? Sure!

This is one of those recipes that's easy and a blast to make. You do need a mini-muffin tin, though. Well, you can also make regular-sized muffins from the batter, but what's the fun in that?! After they're baked, you dip the tops in butter and press them into a cinnamon sugar mixture. They end up looking like little mushrooms. :D Note: The original recipe calls for an amount of melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon for this last step that is supposed to be good for 24 mini muffins. I was able to 'frost' 48 mini muffins using this amount. Your mileage may vary, though. Still, if you are only making 24, you might want to cut the amounts in half.

Sugar Donut Muffins (recipe adapted from Baking Bites)

Makes 24 mini muffins or 10 regular muffins.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup milk (any kind)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For 'frosted' tops:
  • 2 tbsps melted butter, for dipping
  • 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light and fluffy.
  3. In small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until well combined.
  5. Add in canola oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  6. Distribute batter into muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  8. While the muffins are baking, melt the butter in a small bowl. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl.
  9. When the muffins are cool enough to handle easily, dunk the tops into the melted butter, then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quick and Easy Tuna Burgers

My friend Trixie introduced me to these. I like this recipe not just because tuna burgers are quick and easy to make while being satisfying to eat, but also because it offers another way of using canned tuna, that ubiquitous but often uninspiring ingredient. Here's what you'll need:

Tuna Burger Ingredients

A can of tuna (of course), hamburger buns, an egg, breadcrumbs, your favorite mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. And of course, any condiments you like on your burger.

Mix everything together and you'll have a mixture that looks something like this:

Tuna Burger Mixture

Now you've come to a crossroads. You can either take the entire mixture and shape it into one large patty, or divide it in half and shape into two smaller patties. A lot will depend on the size of your buns. Mine were small, so I went with two patties. Place the patty in a preheated pan -- no added oil necessary. Isn't that nice?

Tuna Burger Patty

After about 4 minutes, it'll be ready to flip. The done side will be nice and browned. Cook the other side until done, and that's it.

Tuna Burger Patty

Dress the burger(s) your favorite way. I've got cheese, pickles, and Sriracha sauce on mine (don't judge me). Serve with fries, chips, or fruit!

Tuna Burgers

Tuna Burgers

  • 1 5oz can tuna, packed in water, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of your favorite mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste 
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until well blended. There should be enough moisture keeping it together to form one large patty or two smaller patties.
  2. Place each patty in a preheated pan -- no additional oil is necessary. Cook each side for about 4 minutes, until nicely browned.
  3. Top with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc., however you like, and enjoy!
Tuna Burgers

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Raised Waffles

Marion Cunningham's well-regarded recipe for raised waffles isn't the kind of thing you can decide spontaneously to make one lazy Sunday morning. That's because, unlike most waffle recipes, it requires yeast. And as with any recipe that includes yeast, time must be set aside for it to do its thing.

Raised Waffles

And what a thing it does. These are probably the best waffles I've ever had, light, crisp, ever so slightly salty with a lovely yeasty flavor, they go incredibly well with maple syrup. Plus, they make your house smell like baking bread while they cook in the waffle iron.

The good news is, it's easy to make the batter. In the morning you'll be excited to wake up and make these waffles, and all you need to do is add eggs and some baking soda. If you don't use all the batter, it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Raised Waffles Batter

These waffles are so good, in fact, that I am finally ready to buy a new waffle iron -- one that is deserving of them. I don't typically make a lot of waffles, so I've always made do with the Black & Decker duo griddle/waffle iron that I have, but while the griddle panels work great for pancakes, the waffle panels make really thin waffles. I don't usually mind, but I think with this recipe I'd want a really hefty waffle to sink my teeth into. So if you're not a fan of thin waffles, don't judge raised waffles too harshly based on my photo. But regardless, whatever they look like, it doesn't change how wonderful they taste.

One evening when you have a few minutes and have time to make/eat waffles the next morning, give these yeasty waffles a try. I can't imagine you'll regret it.

Raised Waffles (from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham)

Makes about 8 waffles
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Use a rather large mixing bowl -- the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast dissolves.
  2. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast and beat until smooth and blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
  3. Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Cook on a very hot waffle iron (use about 1/3 cup batter per grid). Bake until the waffles are golden and crisp to the touch.
Note: If there is any leftover batter, store in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto

This 4th of July is a double celebration.  First, there's America's 234th birthday, and second, I am celebrating the second harvest from my first attempt at edible gardening! :-)

One of the first things I planted in my square-foot garden were garlic bulbs from some great garlic I'd purchased at a farmer's market.  This was last fall.  Sometime after our very mild Seattle winter, green shoots started coming up; very exciting business.  They grew and grew, until they reached a certain height (about 3 feet), then stopped.  After a few more months of waiting, longer than usual, probably, due to the extremely mild spring/summer Seattle has been experiencing, the garlic finally started sending up scapes, which is one of the first signs of the plant starting to mature (if you leave them alone long enough, they'll eventually flower).  As a gardener and a cook, the scapes are a wonderful thing to look forward to.  They're tasty, and by cutting them off the garlic plant, it allows the garlic to put more energy into developing the bulb of garlic beneath the earth.

DSC 5779

Garlic scapes grow out curly.  It's usual to wait until the scape has made one or two loops before harvesting.  I harvested mine a few days ago, so now all that's left is to wait for the leaves to turn brown, then dig those garlic bulbs out of the ground!

Garlic Scapes

There are a great many thing you can do with scapes, which taste mildly of garlic.  The most popular method of eating them seems to be in a quick stir-fry, or roasting them like asparagus.  The stem of the scape is solid, while from the bulbil up, the scape is hollow like a scallion.  Some like to cut off the bulbil and only eat the stem, while others like eating the whole thing.  It's up to you.

After some research, I decided to make garlic scape pesto.  Not only do I love normal pesto, but this way, I'd also be able to stretch my scape harvest as much as possible -- garlic scape pesto freezes well.

Garlic Scape Pesto

If you're familiar with making pesto, you know the ingredients involved are few and simple: garlic scapes/basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt.  Here I've got the ingredients in my new Viking food processor.

Garlic Scape Pesto

A few minutes later, I had garlic scape pesto, which was so incredibly inviting with its bright green freshness.  I bottled most of it to be frozen (I plan to enjoy it slowly over the summer, hopefully mostly when my tomatoes have come in), but set some aside for one serving of pasta.

Garlic Scape Pesto

It was, in a word, heavenly.  I was tempted to pull the jar of pesto out of the freezer and just eat pasta for the next few days until it was all gone, but I managed to refrain.  It doesn't taste like pesto made from basil.  It definitely has a garlicky flavor, but isn't overwhelmed by it.  Garlic scape pesto has its own delicious charm.

Garlic Scape Pesto Pasta

Garlic scape season is all too fleeting, but this is one of the ways it can be preserved for just a little while yet.

Garlic Scape Pesto

  • 12 garlic scapes
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts
  • salt to taste
  1. Chop the scapes into one-inch lengths, bulbils and all.
  2. Add the chopped scapes, cheese, pine nuts, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a food processor.
  3. Puree the mixture, adding more olive oil in a thin stream as desired.  (Less for a thicker consistency, more for thinner.)  Scrape down as necessary to make sure all the ingredients are evenly processed.
  4. Add salt to taste at the end, and pulse a few times to combine.
To serve with pasta, toss desired amount of pesto with pasta and top with parmesan cheese, if desired.  Alternatively, spread pesto on top of toasted bread and enjoy.

Garlic Scape Pesto