Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tres Leches Cake - Three Times The Delicious-ness

Sometimes my sister asks me to hook her up with baked goods for her and her daughter's church. Cupcakes, cookies, cakes: she asks for it, and I try my best to make it happen. Seeing as that I haven't been to church in eons, I figure my goodwill will help me out later down the line, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, my sister remembered a really great Tres Leches cake that she'd had back in the day, and she asked if I could make that. Tres Leches is a Latin sponge cake soaked in 3 different types of milk: heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. I told her that I would keep my eye out for a good recipe. On my way to work later that day, I bought the August issue of Bon Appetit before I hopped on the train. What did I find in the first few pages? A recipe for Tres Leches! It must have been fate.

I did use a different sized for the recipe though. I used a 12 x 9 pan, which gives you a really puffy cake, with a lot more surface to soak.

I preheated my oven to 350, then used baking spray to grease the pan. Since that stuff's been invented, I haven't buttered and floured a pan in years.

I whisked a 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Then, I busted out my lovely red Kitchen Aid, and used my whisk attachment to whip the heck out of 6 egg whites for 8 minutes. I started out on the lowest level, to get some bubbles going. Then, I hiked up the speed. You basically want firm peaks to form. You'll know when you get there because if you stop the machine, take off the whisk, and turn it upside down, the egg foam will stand up and not collapse.

Next, I added a 1 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg foam, with the machine running on medium speed. Then, one at a time, I dropped in 3 egg yolks, leaving some time time between each addition. This way, the eggs could get really mixed in. I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (next time, I'm definitely going to experiment with different extracts), and then lowered the mixer speed again so I could throw in the flour mixture without getting it all over my kitchen.

I added in the flour in 3 installments and 1/2 cup of whole milk in 2 (Flour, milk, flour, milk, and ending with flour). With a final blast of high speed, the batter was ready to be baked. I poured the batter into the pan, smoothed it out on the top, and popped it in the oven. I baked the cake for 20 minutes at 350, then dropped the temp to 325 for another 20 minutes. The initial high heat helps the cake to rise nice and tall, and then baking it at a lower temperature cooks it the rest of the way through.

After it revealed itself to be golden brown and delicious, I let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. While the cake cooled, I made the milk soak. I used 1 cup each of skim evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream, mixing it up in a small bowl. To flavor it, I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. The recipe also called for dark rum, but I decided to refrain because after all, this would be served to some God fearing children. for the fun part.

I poked the cake all over; the recipe called for a skewer, but I had a fork. Just do don't use your thumbs or anything. Then, I poured half the milk over the cake, making sure I got the mixture all over. I paused for a second to let the milk soak in, and then I poured the rest of it over the cake.

If you have the time, make this cake the night before you want to serve it. The flavors meld and just infuse the cake with other-worldly milky goodness. And since it's a sponge cake, and not a butter based cake, it won't get soggy! Even with all of the milk in it. I call it, a food miracle.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What I Ate This Summer - A Love Story in 5 Dishes

Another sweltering summer in New York City has come and gone, leaving a sticky trail of humidity in its wake. As a huge fan of the summer months, I'm pretty sad to see the season go. But, I can take comfort in knowing that I ate and drank all that the summer had to offer.

Remember in elementary school, when you'd go back to school for the fall, and your teacher made you write an essay about what you did over the summer? Well, here are some of the highlights of what I ate this summer.

William Hallet - Salmon with Long Island corn, lima beans, Holland peppers, butter nage

I don't order fish often in restaurants, and I'm not exactly sure why. I grew up eating tons of seafood, and I love this stuff; I guess I'm scared of someone messing it up. I had this early in the summer on my first trip to Astoria's William Hallet, and it was so nice to have something light, but really substantial and delicious. The salmon was simply seasoned, and served with a light butter nage (sauce) that highlighted its meatiness. The veggies were at their peak, and weren't overcooked. I really enjoyed this.

Traif - Strawberry Cinnamon Baby Back Pork Ribs

Even saying the name of this dish makes me squirm with delight in the most lovely way. Sticky, just sweet enough with a whisper of warm cinnamon. JUST LOOK AT THE PICTURE.

I went here for my good friend Rae's birthday, and we proceeded to have one of the best meals I've ever had. A lot of the meals here are pork based, and it was exciting to have ribs that were a little out of the ordinary.

Fort Reno - The Hot Mess

Oh, baby. The.Hot.Mess.

So, whenever my coworker and I come here for after-work vittles, I without fail, get this. A savory parfait of  pickled vegetables, cornbread, baked beans, pulled pork, and on the bottom: macaroni and cheese. Crunchy, meaty, creamy, salty, sharp. It doesn't look too pretty, but it tastes beautiful to me. And, it's only  seven bucks! Seven bucks for a glass of pretty much everything on the menu. Layered lovingly, just for you.

BonChovie - Fried Anchovies (Heads off)

Anchovies. Such a little fish, yet it inspires so much hatred! I usually think of them as the scraggly little things on crappy take out pizza. So, I stay away from them at all costs.

Enter BonChovie. BonChovie has been a stalwart vendor of both Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg. I'd been hearing so many great reviews about their fried anchovies, that I couldn't resist giving them a try.

Thank God I did. So crunchy, so flavorful.... Unbelievable. Nothing like the stinky fish that I'd always feared.  Dunk these in the smoked paprika mayo, and you have seafood heaven.

And last....but never least....


Momofuku Noodle Bar - Fried Chicken Dinner

Two whole chickens.

Two styles: Old Bay Southern Style and Spicy Korean Glazed.

I'd been trying to make the reservation for this dinner for almost a year. This summer, I struck paydirt. Happy Damn Birthday to me!

This bountiful feast of fowl came wish mu shu pancakes, four different sauces ranging from a fiery chili sauce to a savory hoisin, and a bowl of fresh veggies. The idea is, you can either eat the chicken straight up, or make it into tasty wraps.

I think you can imagine how I ate mine.

What did YOU guys eat this summer that blew your minds? Leave a comment and tell me about it.