Pastel de Tres Leches

Wow, it's been awhile. The holidays have kept me busy and I haven't done much in the way of cooking. It has been a baking frenzy here though! Now that I have time to catch my breath, I can post my favorite of my holiday baking recipes, pastel de tres leches. This cake was amazing! Not too hard to make, thanks to my mom letting me borrow her kitchen-aid. I really have to get one someday! This is a rich, moist spongecake, covered in sweet whipped cream and tart cranberry compote. On their own, the whipped cream is way to sweet to just eat, and the cranberry mixture is face puckering tart. But put them together and you've got heaven in your mouth! The original recipe called for a meringue topping, but I thought the kids would like whipped cream even more.

Pastel de Tres Leches
(adapted from Epicurious.com)

Sponge Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk

Rum Milk Syrup
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dark spiced rum (optional)

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar

Cranberry Compote
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cornstarch (diluted in just enough water to make a slurry)

For sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 350 and line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour sides of pan. Sift flour with baking powder and cinnamon. Using a standing mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy, then slowly add sugar until whites form semi stiff peaks. Add egg yolks one at a time. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk.

Pour batter into pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until middle springs back when touched and edges pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

For rum milk syrup:
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Whisk thoroughly and reserve (if making in advance, refrigerate and stir before using).

For whipped cream:
Beat heavy cream and sugar together until thickened and fluffy.

For cranberry compote:
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except cornstarch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, until fruits are tender, stirring frequently to avoid burning. While stirring, add the cornstarch slurry. Allow to boil rapidly for one minute. Cool completely and reserve.

To assemble:
Unmold the cake while slightly warm and slice off the hard top with a serrated knife. Place cake on serving platter and spoon milk mixture over it a little at a time, until it is all absorbed, repeat until all syrup is used. Ice with whipped cream and top with compote. Refrigerate and enjoy!


San Bei Ji aka Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

As some of you know, my husband is originally from Taiwan. I love to attempt authentic Asian cooking for him, usually with good results. San Bei Ji is one of those good results. It had a deep, strong flavor, if very simple to make, and tastes even better the second day. The original recipe calls for Thai Basil, which I can never seem to find, nor do I usually have fresh basil on hand. I do have the little frozen cubes of it though, so I just pop one or two of those in the sauce and it seems to work just fine. Don't be scared off by the "three cups", you really just need three equal parts of the main ingredients. Enjoy!

San Bei Ji/Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

3 lbs. chicken, any cut (we love it with thighs)
2/3 cup rice wine
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup sesame oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 handful torn basil (or 2 cubes frozen)
2 tbsp brown sugar - optional, my kids find this too salty if I leave out the sugar

In a large skillet or wok, brown the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Stir in all remaining ingredients but basil. Stir to combine and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken and continue cooking until sauce has thickened and reduces a bit. Mix in basil, cook additional 2 or 3 minutes and remove from heat. Serve with steamed vegetables and rice (I like to mix the veggies in during the last couple minutes to get that extra flavor).


What to do when all you have is chicken?

Once again, we ate everything up before I remembered to take a picture. Oh well, it was not the prettiest meal in the world but it was definitely yummy. I can tell it's a hit when the kids actually ask for seconds. We'd been trying to get through the week without going to the grocery store, so I've had to get creative with what I had on hand. The only meat left in the freezer, besides some pork neckbones I'm saving for an italian sauce, was chicken quarters. The only canned food I had was several cans of crushed tomatoes. Can't go wrong there! I turned the juice from the pan into a gravy with a quick roux, and it was really great over rice.

Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar

5 lbs. chicken quarters (or any chicken pieces, bone-in for juiciness)
1 can crushed tomoatoes in italian seasoning
balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Sprinkle chicken pieces with sea salt and about 1 tbsp per piece of balsamic vinegar. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Pour crushed tomatoes over the chicken, add another generous dash of balsamic vinegar to each chicken piece and continue baking until done.

Balsamic Tomato Gravy

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
liquid from the baking pan

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour and continue stirring until it makes a golden paste. Slowly add the juice from the baking pan, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring continuously. When thickened, serve over rice.



I know, I really need to post something new. I just haven't made anything but convenience foods all week because I've been running on very little sleep trying to take care of three kids with the flu. Everyone is well again, so I should head back into the kitchen! I have a few ideas up my sleeve, I just need to find the time.