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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cajeta et Cetera

I made the chocolate-Kaluha flans from the Rick Bayless book the other day, and while the flavor was nice (of course I made an extra one for tasting) the texture was a little gritty and the caramel that kind of makes flan flan didn't soften and come out of the mold. And I didn't like how the top—the bottom when it's unmolded—stiffened, like an extreme verison of pudding film (which Mr. Chalmers loves, cutely but inexplicably). So this gave me the excuse I didn't really need to make cajeta, goat's milk caramel, which I've been wanting to do forever. I used about half goat's milk (the evaporated canned stuff you can find in grocery stores, diluted 1:1 with water) and half whole cow's milk. (My mom said she made cajeta a week or so ago using nonfat dry milk powder, which is clearly a sign of insanity.) The following is basically the recipe from the Bayless book, which is basically the recipe you'd find in three dozen places online, but here it is anyway:
Cajeta: Combine 1 quart goat's milk or cow's milk or a combination, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, and a 1 1/2-inch length of canela (the crumbly Mexican "cinnamon") in a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, then move the pot from the heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water; the mixture will bubble up a lot: stir it down, then return the pot to medium-high heat. Cook at a low boil, stirring more frequently as the mixture thickens, until the caramel is caramel-colored (natch) and the consistency of maple syrup—this'll take about an hour, not the 25 minutes RB claims. Pour through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the bits of canela, and let cool. Cover and refrigerate. It thickens quite a bit after it's been in the fridge awhile. I microwaved it for a few seconds before drizzling it over the tarts.

Yes, I've had more than one spoonful of it straight in the last twenty-four hours.

I happened to have a bunch of apples, so I made little individual rustic tarts to go under drizzles of cajeta. To sweeten the apple filling, I used mostly regular sugar, plus some grated piloncillo, the Mexican unrefined brown sugar that comes in cones—this gave it a deep, kind of subtropical rummy flavor. And I topped the tarts with some chopped pecans mixed with butter and a little more grated piloncillo.

Here they are before they went in the oven and got even more rustic-looking.

Since the debate started later than the Democratic one last week, and because the bug's bedtime comes early these days (let's not talk about her wakeup times right now), we and our guests were able to sit down at the new dining room table at dusk and have a regular supper, with candles and everything. It felt very adult—that is, pre-kid adult.

These are the stuffed anchos in escabeche (I could eat the latter straight too). I used fresh bay leaves from the bush in the front yard.

Here's the picadillo taco filling as it simmers and thickens. This was pretty easy to make over the course of several days, and I hope to do it again someday after the bug's in kindergarten.

Not that she wasn't a big help in the kitchen. She kept grabbing onto the bowl when I was cutting in butter and shortening for the tart dough and pulling it to her to look closer. She got to taste everything, and she seemed to like the escabeche best, which makes sense given her love of all things pickled and sour. Cajeta made her smile. Fork-smashed rice and black beans for lunch made her pretty happy too.

And we took lots of breaks to play outside—or in my case sit and read the Atlantic while the dogs watched over her.

1 comment:

Mary Jessica said...

I don't think it's possible to get much more idyllic than that last photo. Just beautiful.