It’s been a tough week. A while back I got it into my head to do some major upgrades on the site, which also involved moving the site to a new platform, which subsequently prompted (or I should say, “required”) a move to a dedicated place to park the site, rather than sharing a machine in a nameless office park, with a bunch of other sites like I did before. So after my relaxing week in the south, I returned a nearly blank space where my site used to be.
I say ‘nearly’ because in the vast whiteness of the blank pages that kept coming up instead of my site, there were error messages and mumbo-jumbos of numbers that confounded me, and the tech support people on the phone didn’t realize my knowledge of numbers only extended to quantities of butter and sugar for baking cookies, measuring cups of flour, and counting out eggs for a custard.
So while I sat there dumbfounded by all the technology, I decided to check out other sites on all the internets that were working, and read some simmering debates about which words (and emoticons) are okay to use when writing about food, and which should be avoided. Words like ‘delicious’, ‘tasty’ and ‘yummy’ are the objects of scorn and are supposed to be banished from recipes. Other no-no’s are exclamation points and emoticons. But when something just is so delicious that you find it indescribably yummy, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth smiling about : )
And I’m not kidding! ; )
On the plus side, when I came back from my trip, a copy of My Sweet Mexico had arrived in the mail from my publisher. They’ll often send me books that have me scratching my head, such as the River Cottage Meat Book. Then I’ll start flipping through it, and realize why they sent it to me. Like that book on meat that has become one of my favorites, My Sweet Mexico is gorgeous and beautifully photographed. Sorry to use those words, but it’s been a long week. (And to anyone who doesn’t like it—just be glad you’re not looking a blank page to look at right now.)
Aside from the recipes that caught my attention, this is a lovely book. Mexican desserts and sweets aren’t as popular as their other courses, but this book has recipes for things like Chocolate Milk Fudge, Corn Ice Cream, Burnt Custard, and even Calabaza en Tacha, whole candied pumpkin, that might change your mind.
But it was the Impossible Chocolate Flan that made me slip a bookmark in the page. Reading through the headnote at the beginning of the recipe, Fany Gerson, the author, wrote:
“…when you check whether it’s done a little while later, you find that the flan is hiding somewhere and all you see if the chocolate cake! You wait for it to cool, unmold it, and there is the flan!”
I don’t know about you, but if I made a two layer flan, put it in the oven, and opened the door a few minutes later and saw that one of the top layer disappeared, I’d be speaking with a few exclamation points, too.
Still, when I saw the picture of the two-toned cake, with dark chocolate on the bottom and a dulce de leche-caramelized top, I knew that was the first recipe I wanted to tackle.
Mine came out a bit different than it looked on the pages. For one thing, the recipe called for a full cup of cajeta (or dulce de leche), which seemed like an awful lot. Not that one can ever have too much dulce de leche. And sure enough, there was quite a bit left in the cake mold when I released the flan. So I reduced the quantity in her recipe a little. (Although I know exactly what to do with the leftover dulce de leche.)
Also the chocolate cake layer wasn’t as majestic as the accompanying photograph. (I hope it’s okay to call a cake ‘majestic’….) But indeed, it did separate out when I sliced into the cake. Just not as dramatically. Still, I am really looking forward to working my way through some of the Mexican sweets in this book.
In the meantime, I’ve got a cake mold that needs my attention…
Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Flan
Adapted from My Sweet Mexico (Ten Speed) by Fany Gerson
Serves 8 to 10
You can use either cajeta, which is traditionally made with goat’s milk, or dulce de leche. In France, it’s called confiture de lait (milk jam), although I generally make it myself.
The author says that in Mexico, this is called Chocoflan, or “Impossible Cake”, and after I made it, I realized that I think I’d like it with a little more of a chocolate cake layer. So I scooted around the internet and found a few recipes that had a thicker layer of cake, and noted those recipes at the end of the post. The next time I try it, I might try one of those recipes and see what the difference is.
3/4 cup (210g) dulce de leche
For the cake layer:
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- 3/4 cup (110g) flour
- 1/3 cup (35g) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk or plain whole milk yogurt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the flan layer:
1 can (12 ounces, 340g) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces, 395g) sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC.) Lightly brush or spray an 8-inch (20cm) porcelain mold or cake pan (not a springform pan) with oil.
2. Smear the dulce de leche around the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the mold or cake pan in a larger roasting pan, which you’ll use as a double boiler for baking.
3. To make the cake layer, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk or yogurt, vegetable oil, 1 egg, and vanilla.
5. Use a spatula to stir the wet ingredients into the larger bowl of dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Scrape the batter in the mold, over the dulce de leche.
6. Make the flan layer by blending together the evaporated and condensed milks, the 4 eggs, the vanilla, and salt, until smooth.
7. Over the back of a large spoon (like a big mixing spoon), pour the flan mixture over the cake layer, using the spoon to diffuse the custard as you pour.
8. Cover the mold or cake pan loosely with foil, fill the roasting pan with very hot water, so it reaches halfway up the side of the mold, and bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out relatively clean.
(Note: I found the flan took considerably longer to bake than 50 minutes; mine took practically an 1 1/2 hours. So being checking it at 50 minutes, but note that it may take longer.)
9. Once done, remove from the oven and carefully lift the custard out of the water bath wearing oven mitts, then let the flan cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate the flan until ready to serve.
To serve: Run a knife around the perimeter of the flan, then set a cake or dinner plate overturned on top of the mold or cake pan. Holding both the mold and the plate, flip the two simultaneously and shake gently, until you hear the flan release. Remove the mold. And remaining dulce de leche can be smeared back over the flan.
Storage: The flan can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator.
Related Recipes & Links
Impossible Cake (Rick Bayless)
Chocoflan (Marcela Valladolid)
Mini Chocoflan (The Food Addicts)