Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pastel de tres leches

This is one of my favorite all time desserts.  I love it for it's simplicity, it's flavor, texture, and the fact that even if you screw it up and it falls apart for some reason, you can grab an ice cream scoop, plop it into a wide wine glass with a squirt of caramel and a fresh mint leaf on the top and look like a genius.  Various recipes have appeared for this cake throughout Mexico and Nicaragua.  It's not for certain where the cake originated from, however the Nestle company claims to have helped originate the cake back in the 50's.  I don't care who claims it, just let me eat it.

For the cake:
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (3  1/2 ounces) sifted cake flour
10 Tbsp (5 ounces) unsalted butter 
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
6 large eggs 
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar 
the finely grated zest of 1 orange

For the flavoring: 
3/4 cups heavy whipping cream 
3/4 cup evaporated milk 
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
Cajeta (Goats milk caramel) to garnish   

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and line a 10 inch round cake pan with parchment paper.  Toast the almonds in the oven stirring them occasionally for about 12 minutes.  Cool, then transfer to a food processor along with the flour.  Run the machine until the almonds are pulverized.  In a small pan melt the butter over medium heat, stirring and swirling until nut brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool briefly, then stir in the vanilla.  Raise the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.     Combine the eggs, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and orange zest in the large bowl of your electric mixer.  (you will need a heat proof bowl, preferably stainless steel), then choose a saucepan that the mixer bowl will fit into.  Fill the saucepan with one inch of water and bring to a simmer.  Set the mixer bowl over the saucepan, and whisk vigorously for several minutes until the mixture is very warm to the touch and foamy and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and beat for a full five minutes  (The mixture will be as thick as whipped cream that almost holds peaks.)  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the almond mixture one spoonful at a time, letting one addition disappear completely until you add the next one.  Thoroughly mix 1/4 cup of the cake batter into the butter mixture, then in 2 additions, use a whisk to fold the butter mixture into the remaining cake batter.     Immediately and gently scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is slightly springy on top and the sides begin to gently pull away from the pan, about 35 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. 

For the flavoring.  Combine the three milks together in a bowl.  With a fork, put several holes in the top of the cake.  Slowly spoon all the milk mixture over the top until it is incorporated completely into the cake.  Garnish with the cajeta.  

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