Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer's Almost Over Again?


I can't believe how much I've neglected my blog over the summer, but come to think of it, I've also neglected the kitchen. Between being busy surrounded by baked goods all day, not knowing when/who would be around for dinner, and being pretty tired after spending the day in 80ยบ+ weather, I just never really cooked or baked much, all summer.

But that still doesn't excuse this neglect. There were things baked, there were things eaten. There were tasty salads that my dad whipped up from leftovers (can those ever be replicated though?). There was an almond pound cake I decided to bake in my 6" cake pan, with a batter-filled center that fell out-yet I managed to save it and it turned out quite delicious. There was my birthday cake, and adventures in making meringue buttercream that I ended up not using. There was a disgusting looking cake that was tasty to celebrate my friend's Notre Dame acceptance. There was my failure of a cake for my dad, that was eventually turned into a week of trifles. There was lots of smoky grilled salmon, courtesy of my dad.

But that still left me, somehow, with a blog with no posts since the beginning of June. It's the end of August practically, and I'm sitting in the waiting room while my mom's car gets serviced. And soon I'll be back to using a dorm kitchen, carrying my supplies up and down stairs, and making (and keeping) friends through their stomachs.

But I'll stop with my regretful babble. Because I have a recipe for you. It's kind of a tres leches cake, but I doubt it's very authentic, considering it's adapted from an old recipe from Cooking Light.

But it was a hit, despite being cut into 24 fairly small, yet rich, pieces, and served with some blueberries on the side. And the torched meringue top (sure, a broiler would've been easier, but where's the fun in that?) added a nice little twist as well, at least aesthetically, that is.

Tres Leches Cake
serves 12 (unless you make small pieces, in which case, 24 not-very-hungry people)

For the cake:
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour

For the milk mixture:
1 cup half-and-half
1 can (12-oz) evaporated milk (fat free or 2% work fine)
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk (fat free works fine)

For the meringue topping:
3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. (I'm usually a fan of metal pans, but in this case, a pyrex dish might work better. I transferred mine to one after baking when I realized that it made more sense with the milk mixture.)

Place egg whites and salt in a large mixer bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Place egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl (most stand mixers won't be able to mix this amount, so whisk by hand or use hand beaters); beat until thick and pale. Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture. Gently fold 1/3 cup of flour into egg mixture. Gently fold in another 1/3 of the egg whites. Fold in remaining 1/3 cup of flour, followed by the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon batter into prepared dish. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

For the milk mixture, combine the half-and-half, condensed milk, and evaporated milk in a 4 cup measuring cup, or bowl. Pierce all over the top of the cake with a fork, and pour the milk mixture slowly and evenly over the cake. It will be soaked, with milk mixture sitting on top a bit. Let it absorb for about 15 minutes or so.

For the meringue topping, beat 3 egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 238°F. Beating the egg whites at high speed, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the egg whites. Stir in the extract. Spread over cake.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Just before serving pop under the broiler for 10-15 seconds (keep an eye on it) or until the top is just lightly browned, or use a small torch and gently torch the top of the cake. (This step isn't necessary, but fun.)

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