Monday, June 11, 2012

Childhood Memories and . . . Dorie Greenspan???

Growing up, I couldn't quite recall seeing either my mom or my grandmas preparing a lot of desserts at home, unless there was a special occasion, like birthdays . . . and, in those cases, we would indulge in the typical sweet fare back then, usually made from scratch: “flan” (caramel custard), “gelatina” (jello), “pudín” (pudding)all from a box mixor “mazamorra morada” (purple corn porridge), “arroz con leche” (rice pudding) and “leche asada” (baked milk custard). There were also other kind of desserts that we would eat, like “Picarones” (kind of fried donutswhich we usually bought from street vendorsmade with squash and sweet potato, served with syrup) or certain pastries and birthday cakes that my parents would buy from local bakeries. Oh . . . and there were a couple more things that my mom made every now and then, for no particular reason: apple pie (which was always divine!) and this homey and comforting pudding/custard like dessert called “Budín de Sémola”. And although I have eaten apple pies galore for years, I never ate again my mom’s “Budín de Sémola” after leaving Peru.
I have to confess that, after moving to Michigan, I developed a serious addiction to Pinterest (although I had created an account more than a year ago) . . . and, sometimes, I feel like there are not enough hours in a day to “pin” or “re-pin” stuff! :)
I have different boards devoted to one of my passions in life: food. And, of course, I spend a lot of time scouring the Internet in search of striking new recipes to pin.
If you are familiar with the “food blogosphere”, there is a chance that you have heard of the “French Fridays with Dorie” website—an online cooking group dedicated to Dorie Greenspan’s newest book, “Around My French Table”. And, if you are familiar with this cooking group, then you know that one of their rules state: Please do not post the actual recipes on your blog. We encourage everyone to purchase their own book in order to belong to the group”. So, needles to say, every time you stumble upon one of the weekly challenges on the Internet, you’ll see back-to-back postings commenting about a particular Dorie Greenspan’s mouthwatering looking dish . . . but you won’t find the actual recipe! Of course, there are other Dorie Greenspan’s recipes on the Internet, but they are not usually the ones the cooking group members try.
So . . . tired of this situation (ha ha ha . . . how pathetic dramatic does that sound, huh?), I put “Around My French Table” on my wish list in Amazon, knowing well that it would be a long time before I could get my hands on it because of the stiff price (more than $40 the first time I saw it!). However, about two months ago, I saw the book selling for $16! I didn’t think twice about it and ordered my copy!
Well, this past weekend—as I was surfing the InternetI came across a recipe that caught my attention because of its name: “Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake”. I have a cake recipe that I’ve prepared many times in the past that calls for semolina as one of the ingredients, and thought it might be the same one . . . nothing could be far more different from that! It was a recipe for my beloved and almost forgotten “Budín de Sémola”!!! I immediately looked for my copy of “Around My French Table” and searched for the recipe. This is Dorie Greenspan’s story about the recipe:
“It was Summer an sunny, and my husband, Michael, and I were having lunch outdoors at a tiny bistro off the picturesque and often pictured Place Dauphine in Paris. Someone had told me that Yves Montand lived in one of the stone buildings surrounding the square, and I was secretly hoping that he’d stroll past us at any moment. What I wasn’t expecting was that we’d finish our meal with a dessert that was completely new to me: it was a simple puddingish cake, almost like fine grained polenta, dotted with raisins and coated in caramel, like a flan.
Although my French friends had childhood memories of the cake and loved it, no one could tell me what was in it, because the only way they’d ever seen it made—or made it themselves—was from a supermarket mix.
It took me a while to find out that the semolina that gives the cake its name is farina, best known in our country under the brand name Cream of Wheat, the breakfast cereal. Now that I know, I make the cake often, usually to serve after a light meal. The traditional addition is golden raisins—they’re even included in the box mix—but bits of any dried fruit are fine, as are diced apple or pear sautéed in a little butter beforehand, or even small pieces of mango.
By the way, I tried the cake from the mix—it doesn’t hold a candle to this homemade version”.
All these years looking for “sémola” or semolina at the supermarket—to no avail—without having the slightest clue that it had been “staring” at me as “cream of wheat”, duh!!!
Any way . . . I read the recipe carefully and decided I would tweak it a little bit (which is what I usually end up doing with most recipes) because, for one, I only had a little bit of whole milk (but I did have one can of evaporated milk) and, for another, not only did I not have raisins, but I don’t like raisins—and they don’t like me! :)
Also, I had a bowl of strawberries and raspberries macerated in sugar and about 1/3 cup of dried cranberries . . . so, that got me thinking of the possibilities . . .
Ok, without further ado, here is my version of “Budín de Sémola”:
Ingredients for the “budín”:
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 12-oz can) of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cream of wheat
  • 1 cup sweet condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups of strawberries and raspberries macerated in sugar (without the macerating liquid)
Ingredients for the caramel:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup of the strawberries/raspberries macerating liquid
  •  Squeeze of fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack set in the center. Have a 9-inch springform pan at hand (the original recipe calls for an 8-inch round pan) and, to add extra insurance, wrap aluminum foil around the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent leakage while baking). Place your round pan into a larger baking sheet/pan that it will fit into easily. Mix the strawberries, raspberries and dried cranberries in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Place milk and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. At the sign of the first bubbles, lower the heat and stir in the cream of wheat. Cook according to package directions, constantly stirring (I would recommend using a whisk instead of a wooden spoon here) and adjusting heat as necessary, until the mixture thickens. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the sweet condensed milk and vanilla. Let stand until cooled slightly, about 15 minutes.
  3. Make the caramel: Slide the springform pan into the oven to warm—warming it makes getting an even layer of caramel a snap. Put the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small skillet or saucepan over high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon just enough to moisten the sugar, then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Don’t stir it! As the sugar starts to take on color, swirl the pan gently so that it heats evenly. Keep a close watch on the pan, and when the sugar begins to turn deep reddish-amber in color (about 5 minutes—you can test the color by dropping a bit of caramel onto a white plate), remove the springform pan from the oven (remember to wear oven mitts!) and pour caramel into it, tilting the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Scatter the berries mixture evenly over the caramel, pressing them slightly into the caramel with the back of a spoon. Set it aside.
  4. Stir the beaten eggs into the cooled cream of wheat mixture and pour the batter into the caramelized pan. Slide the pan back into the oven and bake until the mixture firms and puffs, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes.
  5. To unmold your budín, run a sharp knife around the inside edge. This will release the sides of the budín from the pan ring. Unlatch the clamp and remove the ring. Place a plate on top of the budín and gently flip it over (work carefully, remember the caramel will be very hot!). Take off the bottom of the pan very gently, so that you don’t remove any of the caramel. Let the budín cool to room temperature before serving. Makes 8 servings. Enjoy!