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Sweetened condensed milk: two recipes

Sweetened condensed milk is one of the vastly under-rated wonders of the universe. Cow's milk, reduced in volume by removing some of the water, and with sugar added (both as a preservative, and to create an early type of infant formula), then canned, had many advantages before refrigeration became common. But the processing serendipitously produced a mixture that simplifies making delicious custards. Here are two recipes.

1. Spanish flan, or crème caramel

You will need eight custard cups, and a rectangular roasting pan that they will all fit in with some room to spare. You'll also need a skillet for caramelizing the sugar, a mixing bowl, measuring spoons and cups, a whisk, a mixing spoon, a small rubber spatula (for getting all the condensed milk out of the can), and a wire cooling rack.

3/4 cup white sugar

4 "large" eggs
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk!)
1 1/4 cup regular milk
1/4 cup rum, brandy, coffee liqueur, sherry, or similar kind of liquor (or another 1/4 cup milk)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Put the sugar in the skillet over medium heat, and heat, stirring, until the sugar melts and begins to turn golden-brown. Watch it carefully, because it can go from a lovely amber to burnt in the blink of an eye. And be very careful handling the caramel, because it's extremely hot and can cause nasty burns. When it's a nice dark amber color, pour some into the bottom of each custard cup, distributing it equally, and moving the cup around to coat the whole bottom evenly. Set them aside while you make the custard.

Whisk the eggs until evenly mixed, then add all the other ingredients and whisk and/or stir until everything is well combined. Divide the mixture equally among all the custard cups. Put them in the roasting pan, and place it on the middle rack in the oven. Gently pour your hottest tap water into the pan, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the custard cups - don't get any water into the custard! Close the oven, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes; the custard should just barely move when you jiggle the pan very gently.

Remove the whole arrangement from the oven, and remove the cups from the water. Place them on the wire rack and let them cool to room temperature. Then cover each one with plastic wrap, and put them in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight. To serve, loosen the edges with a table knife and place a serving plate on top of the cup; turn it over and shake it - release the suction with the knife, if necessary - so that the custard falls onto the plate. The caramel will have absorbed some moisture from the custard and formed a sauce; if any sauce remains on the bottom of the cup, scrape it out with a spoon and put it onto the custard. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream (optional), serve, and devour!

2. World's Easiest Pumpkin Pie

You will need a 9" pie crust (partially pre-baked until just firm), a mixing bowl, a whisk and/or a mixing spoon, a small rubber spatula (for getting all the condensed milk out of the can), measuring spoons, and a wire cooling rack.

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 "one-pie" can of plain pumpkin
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons "pumpkin pie spice", or a spice mixture of your own (typically cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, allspice, and cloves, in whatever proportions you prefer)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat the eggs until combined, then mix in everything else until well blended. Pour into the pie crust, which is sitting on a baking sheet to catch spills. Bake at 425° F. for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F.and bake for another 45 to 60 minutes. If the edges begin to brown too much, lightly cover them with aluminum foil. The pie is done when it quivers very slightly when you jiggle the pan. Slide the pie pan onto the cooling rack and let the pie cool to room temperature. Serve it either at room temperature, or refrigerate it and serve chilled. Serve with lots of whipped cream, or ice cream, or a small wedge of sharp cheddar cheese (sounds weird, but it's an old-fashioned custom that some people still enjoy).


no ez-bake
Food Snobbery: Hardcore food.

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