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Cuban Flan de Leche

Cuban Flan de Leche

I love talking to people about their favorite recipes and the foods they grew up with. At my last job, we had some of the friendliest and most interesting produce delivery drivers. While I did not look forward to checking in the order and putting all of the produce away, I always enjoyed talking to Ben, Edward, and Ignatio when they delivered our order.

Ignatio grew up in Cuba and when I asked him about the food he grew up eating in Havana, he brought up cuban flan de leche immediately. One afternoon a few days later the kitchen phone rang and Ignatio said he was there with a delivery. We were not expecting anything but when I met him at the door he excitedly handed over a flan his auntie had made for us to try. It was, without doubt, one of the best flans I’ve ever had with a complex bittersweet caramel and a smooth, creamy custard.

I bugged him for the recipe and after getting it from his auntie and translating it, he proudly delivered it to work one morning with our produce.

Cuban Flan de Leche

Flan is a dessert found in many cultures and cuisines across the world (creme caramel in France, crema caramella in Italy, quesillo in South America) but most often associated with Spain and the countries it colonized during the early era of sea exploration. The signature of flan is the caramel used to coat the cooking mold and top the firm custard once it is released from the pan. This recipe comes from Cuba and the Caribbean influence is reflected in the use of sweetened condensed milk.

Cuban Flan de Leche

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Blueberry Peach Pie

Blueberry Peach Pie

Last Thursday evening I taught my first cooking class called “It’s All About the Pie Crust” at Cooks’Wares in Mongtomery, Ohio.

I was nervous in the days leading up the the class. Having never taught a cooking class before, I was not sure what to expect. I feared losing track of time, worried about forgetting ingredients, and was scared I would run out of things to say (which has never been an issue for me!).

Luckily, the class went well, even better than I expected. Time did move quickly and I did forget one ingredient but I never ran out of things to say. What I didn’t expect was how much fun I had.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group for my first class. The students were engaged, asked questions, and filled the room with a positive energy. It was rewarding to see how excited everyone was when they rolled the dough out and fitted into their pie plates successfully. Several students said they had never had much luck with pie and the class gave them the confidence to try baking pies at home.

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Apricot Galette

Apricot Galette

My first restaurant job was making sandwiches and salads at a small cafe that served healthy, seasonal and really delicious food.  A few times a week the pastry chefs from the main restaurant would deliver baked goods to fill the large pastry case at the front of the cafe. While making sandwiches and salads wasn’t all that exciting, I always looked forward to the pastry delivery.

The pastry case was full of customer-favorites such as chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel cupcakes, but I was most excited by the mixed berry galettes that were nearly the size of my head. Ripe berries were stewed to a thick, jammy consistency and wrapped up into an envelope by golden brown pastry crust spinkled with coarse sugar crystals.

While these were by far the most delicious and beautiful item in the pastry case, the intimidating size and tough competition meant they were not a best seller. I rarely made it out of a shift without buying something from the pastry case, but the best days were the ones where I got to take home a galette that did not sell.

Apricot Galette

Unfortunately the cafe was short-lived and is no longer in existence. I often crave the food we served and find myself thinking about the pastries.  I picked up some apricots at the market last week without knowing what I was going to do with them. On my drive home I passed the former space of the cafe and knew immediately where those apricots were headed – straight into an apricot galette.

Apricot Galette

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All Butter Pie Crust – Part 2: How to Roll Out Pie Dough

All Butter Pie Crust - How to Roll Out Pie Dough

Last week I shared (nearly) everything I know about mixing pie dough for an all butter pie crust and now it’s time to talk about the next step – how to roll out pie dough.

There is one overarching theme in every aspect of pie baking: the importance of practice. The best way to learn how to roll out pie dough is to practice. However, most of us do not have the time to bake pies every day so I have put together all of my best tricks and tips to help you succeed when the opportunity to roll out pie dough comes along.

All Butter Pie Crust - How to Roll Out Pie Dough

The other thing to remember is that no pie will ever be perfect and it shouldn’t be. It’s okay if your dough does not roll out into a perfect circle, if part of your crimp unravels, or if a small portion of your dough shrinks and slumps down. Once you slice the pie, no one will ever know. Trust me, I’ve served plenty of imperfect pies and have never once heard a complaint.

All Butter Pie Crust - How to Roll Out Pie Dough

So, let’s continue getting of the fear of making pie dough at home and start learning how to roll out pie dough. Here we go…

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