Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Exuberant Rescue Deserves An Extravagant Dessert

Every video, every photo, every word written about the Chilean miners coming back to the earth’s surface is so uplifting that it’s hard to hold back tears. But dry your eyes long enough to consider making this amazing dessert, Chocoflan. It's worthy of a once in a lifetime celebration and, while not specifically Chilean, it certainly speaks to a South American and Hispanic heritage.

I made it for my 3rd Blogiversary and I promised you way back then a special post for cajeta, the caramel made from milk (sometimes goat). Well, here goes.

The Chocoflan recipe was from Marcela Vallodolid. Even though she said to buy the cajeta, I wanted to make every part of this special dessert. It’s not scary, I promise. Well, actually, it IS scary, but once you take the plunge, you’ll see how easy it is...the cajeta part, I mean.

Cajeta is a mixture of milk and sugar, with baking soda thrown in, and it’s cooked (and stirred) forever until it becomes a thick, creamy, caramel-colored sauce. (This explains why the baking soda is added.) The cow’s milk version, popular in Central and South America, is called Dulce de Leche. Manjar Blanco is the Chilean version, but in Mexico, it’s called cajeta and mostly made with goat’s milk.

Rick Bayless says the name is from the phrase “al punto de cajeta.” That means the milk and sugar are cooked to the point where you can drag a spoon through the mixture and it stays parted long enough to see the bottom of the pan.

To make the Chocoflan, the cajeta is spooned into the bottom of a bundt pan, then chocolate cake batter and a flan mixture are poured on top. When it’s unmolded, the cajeta covers the top of the flan in a golden brown, sweet and silky glaze. I drizzled a bit MORE cajeta over the top to make it extra good.

I used Rick Bayless’s Cajeta recipe, except for two things. I didn’t strain the mixture through a sieve at the end and I used all cow’s milk. I didn’t want to be tied to the stove for hours and end up with something that tasted weird, so I decided that I would forgo the goat’s milk for my first foray into cajeta. I did see a few recipes that used it, so I thought it would be okay.

I have to say that I did have one worry. I don’t have a stellar history of working with sugar. Once, a long, long time ago, I poured caramel on two of my fingers. I learned then that that’s a far worse, deeper and more serious burn than even hot oil. But I had a checkered past with sugar even before that.

I had made many attempts in the past to spin sugar over an oiled broom handle. Remember when that was the rage...when every dessert was served with a rat’s, sorry, BIRD’S nest, of spun sugar on top? All I ever ended up with was sugar strands in bits and pieces all over my kitchen floor. The broom handle remained oiled and empty.

So I approached the cajeta with great trepidation. It takes real courage to deal with sugar.

It’s about being fearless enough to leave the sugar cooking until it’s a deep golden color and not take it off the heat when it's still a liver-lilied, sallow brown. But you also have to know that it continues cooking after it comes off the stove and its transformation to bitter and burned can be as quick as lightening.

What I didn’t know at the time was that making caramel with milk is an entirely different animal than making it with water.

The milk tames the sugar and rather than dealing with an unruly (and dangerous) mixture that MUST NOT be stirred, you have a lovely blend of sugary milkiness that REQUIRES stirring, so it can cook down evenly. The stirring also gives you a second by second reckoning of its texture and consistency.

So this is the Chocoflan recipe and this is the Cajeta recipe. The video shows the transformation of the foaming, bubbly milk into the sleek and gorgeous cajeta.

But even if you decide to skip the few (thousand) extra calories of the Chocoflan, whip up some cajeta and have it over ice cream, as you celebrate the Mision Cumplida of the miners and their brave rescuers.

Viva Chile!





Emily said...

Sue, I love you!

Your chocoflan looks insane! I forgot you made that. I must, must make it soon.

That's interesting about the baking soda. I love cooking science! I would have made the cajeta with cow's milk, too. I just don't know about goat milk... I bought some dulce de leche one time made with goat milk and it wasn't very good.

I wonder if you could use buttermilk? Or would it curdle?

LOVE the video!

astheroshe said...

That looks amazing! I will make that soon :) ..

Anonymous said...

It was inspiring! And definitely worth celebrating. I used to travel to Mexico often for work and would bring cajeta back with me -- the goat's milk version is tangier than dulce de leche, but you can make a nice approximation with a little lemon juice added in.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I remember fearlessly working with sugar as a teenager without thinking twice. All it took was one screw up as an adult to totally scare me. I still do it, but I'm so much more careful now.

I would consider risking it for this dessert. I love the idea of combining a class flan with chocolate cake. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Sue said...

I know yours will be perfect.

I thought the baking soda was interesting too and, boy, does the milk foam up after you add it.

YOU stir the buttermilk for an hour and let me know if it works.

Hi Astheroshe,
Just set aside a chunk of time and you should be good to go.

I know! I just hope they don't try to dig out ugly stories on the miners. LEAVE them alone and let them earn tons of money in an interview or two.

I have to try it with goat's milk. Thanks for your email too. I did see lots of versions with evaporated milk, but I sort of thought that was cheating.

Hi Rach,
Yeah, when I was young (YOU STILL ARE), I didn't know all the dangers that awaited me in the kitchen.

The only bad thing I can say about this dessert is that it's sweet, really sweet and to me that's not bad!