Friday, April 25, 2014

Dulce de Leche VS Confiture de Lait

Dulce de Leche.

Long before I know what it means, those words already looked sexy to me. Once I know what it means, candy made of milk (literally) or milk jam, and had my first spoonful of it, my mind wandered far back to my high school and college days. Why didn’t I make this when I was boyfriend-less? This stuff is legitimately Hell sent because it is too awfully good to be Heaven sent. Surely everything that is too damn good is either sinful, unhealthy, or fattening.

You don’t need to be an expert cook to make Dulce de Leche. You only need to slowly heat sweetened condensed milk until the moisture evaporates. The maillard reaction will then turn the color into brown. It is simple science. When you heat your food, the chemical reaction between amino acids and the sugar which is reduced by the high heat will brown the food and give it a new dimension of flavor. It also occurs on the surface of the bread, on the seared steak, and just about anything pan-fried. You just love that caramelization, don’t you?

There are many methods to make Dulce de Leche. You can read it here on WikiHow: Dulce de Leche. Here is mine cooked for 4 hours in the slow cooker with the setting on high.

Please don’t ask again how this tastes. It tastes like sin. 
Your wall of devotion will crumble and your faith will quiver with just a lick.

There is a problem though with this technique. In this era of research and technology, we now know that boiling can in hot water is not safe for so many health reasons like metal poisoning or the possibility of the BPA contained in the sealing agent of the can leaching into the food. But people throughout the world have been making Dulce de Leche this way for decades and they can swear to you that boiling the can in the water is THE best way to achieve the desirable result and they live to tell the tale. Such sweet, sweet, happy tale.

I’m a relapsing sweet addict.

I just gotta have it when I want it. But I graduated from just an addict to a fully functioning addict. Let me dance longer with my favorite substance by just cooking it in a more gallant way. That is by throwing away the can, put the sweetened condensed milk in a mason jar, and boil the jar just like boiling the can. It takes away the fear of getting poisoned by metal and BPA. If you think your jar can’t hold the long time cooking, well.. it can. Check this post on Natasha's Kitchen.

But if you are a purist that thinks sweetened condensed milk is an abomination or just a geek who loves trying out new recipes, then Confiture de Lait is just the right thing for you.

If Dulce de Leche originates from South America, Confiture de Lait is a specialty of Normandy, France. It is very much similar to a thick Dulce de Leche. As we know, some people like their Dulce de Leche thin, some like it very thick that it can actually be consumed like a soft milk candy. You can absolutely adjust the sweetness to your liking because Confiture de Lait is made by cooking the sugar with FRESH MILK.

Confiture de Lait
1 Liter fresh milk
150 gr sugar
150 gr brown sugar
A dash of vanilla
A pinch (or more) of salt

Cook all the ingredients on low heat if you want less stirring but it will require more cooking time. I cook mine on medium low and stir every 10 minutes or so. It is done in less than two hour.

There is no right cooking time for making both Dulce de Leche or Confiture de Lait because the thickness preference is different for each person. I like mine not too thick because I want it spreadable on my bread and easy enough to stir in my coffee.

From 1 Liter of milk and the amount of sugar I use in my recipe I get around 325 ml of Confiture de Lait. You can always increase or decrease the amount of sugar to your liking. If you do not have brown sugar, just use plain white sugar. The reason I use brown sugar is just to add  more depth to the flavor. 

I guess there is no need to deny your nature, human!

You want this. You need this. 


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pan Di Ramerino

Let’s get things straight: I am a hopeless romantic to the core of my soul.

Please do not confuse my view of romance by associating it with cheesy Hollywood rom-com. Ever.

My family was not rich, we weren’t poor either, but we never held back when it comes to entertaining our imagination. So whenever mom and dad had some extra money, they would take us shopping to our hearts’ content in the bookshop. I guess that is the greatest gift they have ever given me; to know how to seek solace and go places without actually having to budge. It’s all in our mind. How I miss my childhood..

Today is mom’s birthday and I decide to make her something she would love. She loves cake, of course, who doesn’t? But she loves something simpler, preferably with a piece of history behind its origin. So I thought why not make Pan di Ramerino? Not only today is her birthday, today is also Holy Thursday. This is the bread that the people all over Florence and Tuscany has been selling and enjoying every Holy Thursday. Back then, bakeries sell the bread after having it blessed in nearby churches.

Pan di Ramerino means rosemary bread: pan (pane or bread), di (of), ramerino (rosemary). Well, rosemary is actually rosmarino in Italian but the Tuscans dearly hold the dialect, ‘ramerino’ they say. It’s not hard to make this bread and the ingredients are very easy to find. Because mainly, all you need is.. Rosemary.

Makes 12 bread
1/4 cup olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup golden/black raisins
3 tsp instant yeast
2 tbs sugar
375 gr bread flour
1/4cup wheat bran (optional)
1-2tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-3/4 cup water
2 eggs
Another egg for egg wash (optional)
Rosemary heavy syrup:
1/3 cup sugar
a sprig of fresh rosemary
3 tbs water
~Heat on low until the sugar dissolves but not caramelized
Adapted from

-The night before (you can do this the same day, though the flavor intensifies overnight); pour the olive oil into a small saucepan. Put 3 fresh rosemary sprigs in ( I accidently put more, which is fine :). Heat it very low for around two minutes. Your hand should not burn when you touch the oil. Let it infuse overnight.

-The morning after; take the rosemary out of the oil. Add the raisins to the pan. Sauté for about 30 seconds to one minute. They will look slightly plump. Strain the raisins, reserve the oil, and set them aside to cool.

-Combine the dry ingredients.
-Mix the rosemary infused oil with eggs and 1/2cup of water. Pour into the dry ingredients.
-Knead until it is elastic, smooth, and supple. Do add more water if your dough is too hard.
-Knead in the raisins and chopped rosemary.
-Remove the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and let it rest about an hour until it doubles in size.

-Cut the dough into 12 pieces, shape them into balls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
-Brush lightly with more olive oil and let them proof about 30 minutes.
-Score a tic-tac-toe pattern (Ack! I completely forgot about scoring. It is fine and doesn’t affect the taste whatsoever) and brush with eggwash.
-Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven, 200C.                                        

-Let them cool on a wire rack and while they’re still warm, apply rosemary heavy syrup glaze.

I have been baking bread for sometime and eating bread for my entire life and this is by far the most elegant bread I have ever tasted. The crust is soft but not fragile and the crumb is like cotton and it's bursting with flavors. 

It is not your typical sweet bread because there is a hint of savoriness inside. I, who do not usually appreciate raisins, truly look at raisins with a renewed astonishment after they're cooked in rosemary infused oil. Speaking of oil, the use of olive oil in this bread somehow nullifies the fact that it uses two eggs. It somehow cuts the richness and leaves a clean aftertaste. Very light indeed!

I don't know about you.. but for me, in my moment of living this life, I am always drawn and enticed by things and people that have come before me. Making bread is not just therapeutic, it is somehow a very spiritual process because, pray tell, what is it that so major that has changed since the first bread was baked? 

I may not be an architect like my dad wanted, because I do not know how to put soul into the plan I drew. But bread, something so simple and humble, is patience comes to life. It's how I quench my unquenchable curiosity, how I retrace the steps of the dreamers that lived their life to the fullest before me.

Have a bread, have a slice of life.


Submitting this to YeastSpotting
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homemade Yogurt

Would you like to have a bowl of silky yogurt topped with avocado slices, chopped almonds, and drizzled with honey?

I know I do.
I know I want it for breakfast, snack, and dinner if I feel like eating light.

But I can't spend that much money just for yogurt. I know it's healthy, though.

What to do? Make it at home.

I’ve been meaning to write about how to make homemade yogurt since last year. Alas, the road to my computer is blocked by heaps of books begging to be read. So it isn’t my entire fault, you see. I've tried.

With prices skyrocketing, I am forced to do many DIY projects. It’s a good thing actually. So whatever the future brings, the simple, sustainable lifestyle we’ve been living should help us get through many things. Why pay for simple indulgence if you can make it by yourself?
  • A tub of 500gr good quality plain (greek) yogurt, store bought, cost 4$
  • A tub of 1kg good quality plain (greek) yogurt, homemade, cost 1.5$
That’s my rough calculation. But that simple math should make you want to start making homemade yogurt especially if it is a staple in your everyday meal and cooking.

Essential tools for yogurt making:
-Stock Pot (minimum 1.5L)
-Glass jar(s)

1 Litre of PASTEURIZED milk. Not UHT.
1 cup of good quality plain (greek) yogurt.
2-3 tbs milk powder (optional)

-Have all of the ingredients in room temperature.
-Heat the milk on medium heat, while stirring, until it reaches 85C.
-When it has reached 85C, remove the pot from the stove
-Let the milk cool in the pot until it is down to 38C
-Meanwhile, sterilize and dry the jars. You can use big Ball jar, or you can use ex-jam jars you have at home. They will all do.
-Mix the milk powder into the cooling milk, make sure there’s no lump.
-Once the milk has cooled to 38C, stir your 1 cup of room temperature yogurt in. Stir the yogurt before you put it in the milk so it would be easier to avoid lumps.
-Pour your milk-yogurt mixture in to the prepared jar(s) and close the lid(s).
-Place it in a warm place and leave it untouched for 8-12 hours to let the bacteria multiply.
-Refrigerate it right away
-Enjoy it plain or have it with toppings!

Important notes, tips, and reminders
-The use of milk powder is to thicken the yogurt, feel free to omit if you want thinner consistency.
-Ideas of warm places: On your refrigerator, next to your rice cooker, next to your slow cooker, inside your oven with the light on, your embrace.
-Do not temper with the yogurt until it’s fully chilled in the refrigerator.
-Keep 1cup of your homemade yogurt for making another batch of yogurt next time.
-This homemade yogurt must always be refrigerated and it is best consumed within 2 weeks.

Now if you have the luxury of owning a yogurt maker, you still have to follow the cooking steps. A yogurt maker is actually a warmer just like a baby food/milk warmer. You put your milk-yogurt mixture in the yogurt maker and the machine keeps it warm by generating a low heat. It isn’t a tool for making yogurt instantly. Do not be fooled. It does, I admit, help a lot. I recently purchased one and I have to say that it is the best kitchen gadget I own next to my ice cream maker. It’s cheap and consumes only 25Watt of electricity. With a steady heat like that, it takes me only 7 hours to finish the yogurt before it’s refrigerated.

Don't be discouraged to make yogurt without yogurt maker. Just find a warm spot in your house and your very own lactobacillus farm is good to go. 

Stay healthy,

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