Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Backup Plan: Pudim de Leche

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There are two kinds of people in any given kitchen. There are cooks, and there are bakers.

For those few brave souls who know just how to fold butter into pastry dough, who live for scones and cakes and cookies, dessert is an easy course to tackle, an eagerly anticipated one, even. For the rest of us, making dessert is a nebulous dance with disaster, a tense gauntlet wherein souffles fall, raisins blacken, and the alternative of a cheese board, a few pears, and a solid bottle of port seem like a much better idea.

I have a particularly bad case of baking phobia, and it's exacerbated by yet another heresy -- I don't have a sweet tooth, not in the least. (I know, believe me. The Pasta Burner thinks I'm nuts.) But still, I know what joy baked goods bring to people, so I do my best to make things here and there. For the most part, they're actually pretty decent, but every once in a while, a dessert of mine is an absolute, total flop.

For this reason, it's always good to have a back-up plan, a dessert that's absolutely fail safe, made with ingredients you'll find in almost any pantry. It's quick, delicious, and satisfying. It's Pudim de Leche. It's so easy, I'm going to try and walk you through the recipe with as few words as possible.

Pudim de Leche
Makes 8 Miniature Flans or one 8" Flan

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Water

One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
14 oz. whole milk (using the can as a measuring cup)

3 Large Eggs

2 Tablespoons Pure Vanilla extract (or one Vanilla Bean)

Preheat oven at 350 F. Put casserole dish with water in oven.

Cook sugar in pan. Make a syrup.

Pour 1/2 inch of syrup in each cupcake cup.

(Editor's Note: A silicon cupcake pan is a brilliant investment. Almost perfectly non-stick, they can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees F, can be used for cupcakes, muffins, panna cotta, pate de campagne, flan, and many other single-serving baked items. Consider this exempt from the whole "using as few words as possible" thing.)

Combine sweetened condensed milk...

Whole milk...

and three eggs.

Mix by hand or with a mixer at slow speed. Place cupcake pan in oven. Fill cups with milk mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Pudding will set, tops will turn golden.

Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cup. Flip over, pray that pudding falls free.

Serve. (Man, that was easy.)

The final product:

So there you have it -- dessert, easy, delicious, and you've probably got all the ingredients already in your pantry. And if you don't -- well, now you know that you should. Next time, the Pasta Burner will be taking command of the kitchen as we dabble in a little Beijing-style comfort food. It's a post that's not to be missed. As always, a little music to take us out...

Music: Neutral Milk Hotel -- "Holland, 1945"

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