Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy 2008

2008. We marked it with a party chez nous, 2nd year in a row except this time - as one friend put it, 'we had more friends.' It was a lovely night but I had worried about what to do food wise. Start time was after 9pm which meant that most will have eaten some kind of evening meal. Jess had pulled out all the stops for her Hannukah party - from bruschetta to apple fritters to frittata squares it was a well executed and tasty party. But I didn't want to spend my whole night attached to the stove.

Decided to focus on dips and desserts. Straightforward offerings like feta and pepper, spicy peanut, a perennial favorite and muhamara, adapted from Howard Solomon's recipe via Paula Wolfert. Natan said he'll blog about dips so I'll go no further on these. These worked well as early nosh along with sweet and spicy pecans, vegetables, crackers and thinly sliced, fresh baguettes from Lehem shel Tomer, the local artisinal baker. Along with a later arrival of spinach pie, people happily stood around the table and ate and drank from our array of wines - Golan shiraz, Dalton Red (which is a very acceptable table wine), and Dalton Canaan, their very drinkable but light white, and whatever else got opened, along with beers of every style and type (thanks to Raphi).
But it was desserts that I was most interested in. Specifically, I'll share with you my adventures in making Passion Fruit Parfaits - it was quite successful but required a few 'fixes.'
It was really delicious. Rich and creamy without being overly sweet because of the punch of the passion fruit.

1 plastic bag of passion fruit concentrated juice - 395 grams. El Sembrador brand was recommended.

1 can of sweetened, condensed milk.

1 can of crema de leche

1 envelope of unsweetened gelatin. (Next time I'll try agar agar)

Heavy cream. We used at container which was about 25oml which is a bit more than a 1/2 pint.
Blend puree/juice and milk and crema de leche.
Heat 2 fingers of heavy cream - figure about 4 oz, and dissolve the gelatin into it. Stir and warm gently, about 5-10 minutes. Add two more fingers of heavy cream and mix.
Mix everything together and pour into small cups - I used 4oz plastic cups.
Refrigerate until firm - about 4 hours.

Sliced strawberries. Macerate with a few tbsp of sugar and lemon zest. Let sit at least 1 hour.

Whipped cream. Whipped about 250ml/1/2 pint, with a few tbsp of sugar to a nice, billowy mass.
Top each parfait with a tbsp of strawberries and then pipe in a bit of whipped cream.
Was able to make and top about 30 parfaits.

A few comments on ingredients and substitutions. I used frozen passion fruit puree which was really nice as it had some body and also the crunchy seeds from the passion fruit. I did not have sweetened condensed milk - couldn't find, so I combined evaporated milk and about 1 & 1/2 cups sugar and gently heated them up for about 15 minutes until fully combined. My next problem was Crema de leche which investigation told me was essentially caramelized milk, South American style. If one has canned condensed milk, you can fully immerse the cans into water (closed) and cook them in hot water (making sure they stay fully immersed) for about 3 hours. When you open, you've reduced the milk into a luxurious dulche de leche. Another option has you take the opened cans and pour the milk into a pan and bake it in a water bath in the oven for an hour or so - alot safer as the cans can burst and that's a mess as well as being rather dangerous. I tried Method 3 and reduced the milk in a double boiler for an hour or so until it was creamy and if not completely as unctuous as I would have liked it sure looked and smelled good. I have investigated futher into what Crema de Leche, is and Melina who's from Beunos Aires, said that it's cream but a certain kind of cream. Online, I found this..."In English its just "cream" or heavy cream.....or even light cream, its what people pour into their coffees, or to make thick sauces." So, I guess, you could use light cream for the Crema de Leche but I don't think that my reduction plan was wrong but sweetness will be lighter which is not a bad thing.

Here are some other recipe options depending in what you have in the house. My plan is to keep my eye out for sweetened condensed milk, maybe it's in Tel Aviv in Tiv Taam and keep some on hand for future batches. As well, I think this would be great made with coconut milk. I'll keep you informed of future testing.

Homemade Condensed Milk
1 cup Hot water

4 cup Powdered milk

2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Margarine or butter
Blend in blender until very well mixed.
Store in refrigerator or freezer.


Sweetened Condensed Milk-Copykat Recipe

3/4 C. sugar

1/2 C. water

1 C. plus 2 T. powdered milk

Combine all ingredients.
Heat to boiling.
Cook until thick, this will take 15 to 20 minutes.
This equals one can.


Homemade Evaporated Milk

1/3 cup powdered milk
1 cup milk
2/3 cup powdered milk
1 cup HOT water
Mix well. Refrigerate.

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