Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tres Leches, Tres Thumbs Up

I was first introduced to tres leches cake on a family trip to Costa Rica in 2000. It is -- without a doubt -- the moistest (is that a word?) cake you will ever eat. The name, tres leches, comes from the three different milks that make up this decadent dessert: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. After the first bite I knew this was something I had to bring from Costa Rica to California. It took a few tries, dozens of recipes, and just over a decade to find the perfect tres leches cake. Lucky for you, I'm a believer in equal opportunity deliciousness. I made the cake pictured here for my gorgeous niece's six-month birthday celebration. (I know, who celebrates their six-month birthday? Indians. We love any excuse to hang out and stuff our faces.) The cake was such a hit that it was devoured in moments leaving the store bought cake was largely untouched. En-joy, en-joy (said in an Indian accent with accompanying head bob).

What You Need:
6 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Tres Leches:
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites

Raspberries for garnish

What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9" diameter springform pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, slowly beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat to peak to stiff peaks. While still beating, add yolks one at a time. 

Quickly sift the flour and baking powder and into the eggs, alternating with the milk. Add vanilla and spill into pan. Bake until golden, 25 minutes.

The Tres Leches: 
Using an immersion blender (or regular blender) combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and blend until blended on high speed.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, use a fork or toothpick to place holes all over the cake -- be generous! Pour the cream mixture over the cake. (You may need to wrap your pan in foil to ensure there is no leakage). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan -- bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. Remove from the heat. In a bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks and slowly add sugar/water mixture while beating. Beat until the mixture is cool and glossy.  

Remove the cake from the springform pan and spread the icing over the top. If you don't use it all or there is spillage, don't worry. Garnish with raspberries or fruit of your choice and let the compliments roll in.

P.S. If you're in the mood for a bit more decadence, you can top your cake with a standard whipped cream instead, but I personally prefer this version.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spicy Shakshuka (and Hello Again!)

So, word on the blogosphere street is that one year between blog posts is the latest trend. Ok, err . . . maybe not. While there are no excuses for ignoring my beloved Cupcakes and Curry for nearly an entire year (still a week to go until the actual one year mark!), I will offer up plenty of excuses and you can judge me accordingly:

  • I made a career change.
  • I'm back in school.
  • My sister had a baby.
  • I went on a 10-day juice cleanse and pretended to be a vegan after watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. (And promptly ate a burrito and gained back any weight lost upon completion.)
  • My husband got a new car.
  • My favorite chopping block grew a nasty fungus. (True story, any tips on treating an effed up Boos block, much appreciated.)
  • I went to Mendocino for a weekend getaway.
  • I became highly active on Pintrest (and am consequently constantly buying Vinegar and mixing it with baking soda to clean my house).

Getting paid to write (I was working as a freelance writer before my recent transition) ironically made me not want to write -- at least for myself -- anymore. Funny how that works. All of this busy-ness also made me not cook and moreover cook not-so exciting things. Now that it's summertime, things are a bit slower and my love for all things delicious has returned with a vengeance. To be honest, my hunger never waned, just my ability to create a blog post. This post marks my spicy (or tikka as we Indians say) return to my little blog that could. Fingers crossed it's less than a year until my next post!

This recipe is inspired by our very dear friends who lived two blocks away from us. They sadly just moved back to Israel forcing me to re-create this delicious dish -- Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a traditional Israeli masterpiece of tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and eggs that's eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (Yup, eggs for dinner, score!)

What You Need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 jalapeƱos, seeded and de-veined, chopped (Optional)
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons sweet-smokey paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Parsley and cilantro (For garnish)

What To Do:
Preheat your oven to 425°. I used my cast iron skillet, but any ovenproof medium-sized skillet will work. Heat your pan over medium-high heat and then add the oil. Add in the onion and let brown for about 3-5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and jalapeƱo if using. Stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the can of garbanzo beans, paprika, and cumin and let simmer for about two minutes. Once everything is nicely mixed together, stir in tomatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Let it simmer until the sauce thickens, for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper (I like to use kosher salt and then add a bit of sea salt at the end). Sprinkle feta evenly over sauce (I went a bit feta-crazy and it was an excellent idea!). Crack eggs one at a time and distribute evenly over sauce mixture. Place hot skillet to heated oven and bake until eggs are cooked. (Set whites, runny yolks.) Garnish with a generous handful of diced parsley and cilantro. Serve with hunks of pita and a side of hummus for a true taste of Israel.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

If I can toot my own horn, my shakshuka made for quite a marvelous meal. A definite addition to our dinner rotation menu and another incentive to travel!