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Posts from the ‘Custards, Puddings & Mousses’ Category

A Mother’s Day Meringue

Many people have a hard time imagining their parents as children, but I very much see my mother in the little girl pictured above — sweet, expressive and indistinguishable from the cake set before her, in essence if not in form.  Last year around this time, I asked my mother to show me how to make her merengue con crema de leche.  A combination of meringue and custard sauce, it’s similar to a French île flottante but much, much sweeter — Cuban sweet.  She always made it for special occasions, though never the same way twice.  Used to feeling her way around until she got it right, I distracted her with questions.  I tried to note everything down, but secretly believed she was making things up as she went along.  When I caught her consulting with her chihuahua about the consistency for the syrup, I knew we were in trouble. Read more

Lesson Learned

I never thought of myself as spoiled but since starting this blog, I am constantly coming across ingredients and recipes that I disliked as a child for no good reason.  Pudín de pan is another example.  It’s only crime against me was not being natilla, panetela or another of my grandparent’s desserts that I loved.  I’d come to their house for lunch, excited to see the flan tin brimming with the tell-tale amber glaze, only to be disappointed when a caramel drenched bread pudding filled with dried fruits and nuts would arrive at the table.  The adults were thrilled but the kids were underwhelmed.  Where was the flan?  Did that pruny pudding thing eat it? Read more

Manjarblanco de Chirimoya

I’ve had one recurring thought since I tasted my first chirimoya a few months ago – there are parts of this world where flan grows on trees.  Flan on trees.  I’ve been pining for chirimoyas, also known as custard apples, ever since.  In response to my previous post where I used them to fill pavlovas, my aunt described an alternative recipe that’s popular in Peru.  The chirimoyas are folded into manjarblanco  that’s been lightened with whipped cream and chilled, like dulce de leche pots de crème.  I went back for more to but it’s been weeks since I’ve seen them.  Then suddenly, there they were, looking proud but out of place at the Park Slope Food Coop.  I scooped up a pretty heart shaped one and let it ripen on my counter like an avocado.  After the whirl of Easter weekend had passed, I finally got down to using them.  It was as simple as it seemed and the fresh fruit provided the right balance to the manjarblanco.  I don’t know when I’m going to find them again but I’ll always look.  From the moment the last scoop was served, I started to miss them.

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Merengues con Chirimoya

I’d been looking for a way to use chirimoyas since I came across them a few months ago in a nearby market.  Originally found in the Andean region between Peru and Ecuador, they’re also cultivated in small pockets throughout Chile, California, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel.  Heart-shaped and scaly, they could be a dragon’s paw and are almost as rare in my Brooklyn neighborhood, so I was excited when I found them.  Also known as custard apples, they’re like everything and like nothing else.  The fruit can be likened to strawberry, banana, pineapple, papaya, avocados, mango, ripe pears, and commercial bubble gum while Mark Twain described it more simply as “deliciousness itself.” Read more

That’s No Lady

I have a regrettably low tolerance for alcohol.  Typically, I’ll sip a mojito till it’s watered down to nothing or nurse a light Mexican beer most of the night.  I’m that girl.  So it’s odd that I’ve spent this week spiking sorbet with cava, getting a lobster drunk on rum, and now drizzling lady fingers with vermouth and yet more rum for a Bien Me Sabe,  a Venezuelan dessert of lady fingers layered with coconut cream.

Whenever I have people over, I always go to Latin Chic written by my friend Isabel González-Whitaker and co-author Carolina Buia.  Living in the neutral territory of New York City where everyone is from somewhere else, it’s full of simple but great ideas to add a cultural twist that’s honest to entertaining in Latin American style.  Looking for a dessert to bring to a dinner party, I made their version of Bien Me Sabe or “It Tastes Good to Me”.  This one in particular comes from Carolina’s great-aunt Mercedes Camps.  The legend goes that she made it for Venezuela’s future president Rómulo Betancourt when he was hiding from political adversaries in her home.  It’s impossible not to admire a woman who not only offers refuge to those in need but then throws in dessert.  After three weeks, she smuggled out the father of Venezuelan democracy disguised in one of her dresses. Read more

Something Sweet

This week I’ve been practicing my Abuela Carmita’s natilla, a traditional custard similar to the Spanish crema catalana.  A teacher in Cuba, my sister and I were left with her in the morning to learn Spanish which our parents worried we’d forget.  After making us cafe con leche with toast (sliced in thirds and sprinkled with sugar), she would start the natilla early so it would have time to chill.  Setting aside the whites to make meringues later, she’d heat the milk and beat the egg yolks.  My sister and I would watch her stir, ready to fight over the wooden spoon and the raspa left behind in the still warm pot after she’d poured out the custard into individual blue bowls.  Mixing the meringue with my grandfather, they’d piped it into tiny mounds and set them to bake, then he would make lunch while we sat down to our lessons.  Lamenting that if we still lived in Cuba we’d be learning French instead, she’d lead us through the letters and rhymes in our silabarios until lunch was ready.  When it was finally time for dessert, my grandfather’s bowl would have the cinnamon stick and lime peel (not sure why) while ours had our initials written across the top in cinnamon (which I just realized is almost impossible to do).  The crisp meringues would disappear in a puff leaving behind a slightly soft center while the custard was smooth and creamy but held its form.  Teaching myself the recipe, I worried that the yolks would scramble and spent almost an hour in my sweltering kitchen stirring one batch over too little heat.  Remembering her easy patience, I tried again. Getting it right on my third attempt, I can’t stop going to my refrigerator to look down at the same blue bowls finally full of my grandmother’s natilla. Read more

Laylita’s Mousse de Maracuya

I have wanted to post this recipe for mousse de maracuya/passion fruit mousse for a couple of weeks.  Written by Layla, an Ecuadorian woman who now lives in Seattle, Laylita’s recipes is full of great ideas for recreating traditional recipes far from home.  This light mousse can be made with frozen fruit pulp as a substitute for fresh passion fruit and replaces condensed milk with heavy Read more