Pastel De Tres Leches - Daring Bakers Challenge

This month's challenge for the Daring Bakers was just perfect to cool off the heat this past week. A chilled super moist cake soaked in a mixture of sweetness layered with fruit and whipped cream...mmm..! Sound familiar?

"Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!"

I've made Tres Leches before so this wasn't so much of a challenge for me. What was different however, was the fact that this was a free-standing layered Tres Leches as opposed to the Tres Leches I've always made which is a cake soaked in a pan. I never had to worry about how well the cake was soaked or if it would make a huge mess by oozing out the excess milk mixture. So this, I really wanted to try. 

Recipe Source: This recipe is slightly adapted from an interview given by one of Mexico's best Pastry Chefs; Paulina Abascal to the magazine Revista Secretos de la Pastelería Caserais. It produces a super moist, yet light Tres Leches.


Mandatory Items: You have to make 1 three milks cake.

I was waiting all month for a reason to make the Tres Leches.I didn't want to land up eating all of it myself :) I'm taking this to dinner to a friend's place tonight. 

Preparation time: 1 hour and a half
Equipment required:
• A scale for measuring all ingredients
• Some bowls
• Stand mixer
• Strainer to sift the flour
• Egg Whisk
• Square Cake pan 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan
• Saucepan
• Pastry brush
• Pastry Spatula 

Classic Three Milks Cake:
Servings: 12

You will need:

For the Sponge Cake:
5 large eggs at room temp (separated)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) (5 oz) (140gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)

For three milks syrup:
1 can (14 oz) (400 gm) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) (340 gm) evaporated milk
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (about 35% fat) or 1 cup of half & half or 1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rum (or other flavoring)

Topping and filling:
2 cups (500 ml) of whipping cream (about 30% fat)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
Canned or fresh fruit (to fill and decorate the cake)

Directions For the Sponge Cake:
  • Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Prepare a square 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan by greasing with butter and dusting with flour.
  • Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
  • Beat the egg whites on medium speed, 3 - 5 minutes.
  • When soft peaks form slowly add the sugar in small batches.
  • Whip until stiff peaks form about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  •  In a medium bowl beat egg yolks at medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the egg yolks become pale colored, creamy and puffy. Stir in vanilla.
  • Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites, gently fold until just combined trying not to lose any volume from the mixture.
  • Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain. Mix until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake).
  • Pour the batter into the prepared 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) square cake pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan.
  • Bake in the preheated moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean
  • Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cool, split the cake in half, flip the top of the cake and place it on a base. Using a fork, poke holes on the cake to help absorb the milk syrup.

In a saucepan add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove it and let it cool.

Once it is cool, add the rum or any other flavoring you choose to use. I used Vanilla extract.

Gradually brush all the milk soaking liquid into all sides of the cake (including the cut surfaces) until all absorbed. I brushed the cake with the milk mixture and waited 5 minutes to let it absorb, then brushed it again. This ensured the cake soaked up the liquid well. 

Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread 1/3 of the cream on one half of the soaked cake. Spread evenly using an offset spatula. Top with your favorite fruit. I used canned, drained pineapple chunks and mandarin oranges.

Slowly transfer top half of soaked cake onto the bottom half, soak with remaining liquid if any. Use remaining cream to frost the entire cake with a spatula. Decorate the top with more fruit. 

Let chill overnight which allows the cake to soak up all the liquid well and also a chilled Tres Leches tastes far better than one that isn't! 

Delicious fruit on a super delicious cake.. I had no trouble finishing an extra large slice! Thanks to Inma, for giving me a chance to make this crowd pleasing dessert again. 

Egg Biryani with Cucumber & Onion Salad

I've always been a fan of eggs, in almost any form and I try to incorporate it in our daily diet to benefit from the protein factor in eggs. I've tried different variations of Egg curries and Egg biryanis. One such variation is what mom makes and something I had forgotten about completely until recently. Hubby doesn't like the smell of cooked/fried eggs so when he is around I usually make Egg Biryani with boiled eggs. It's when he is out of town and its just me and my little guy, out comes this flavorful recipe.

This recipe is different in the fact that the ingredients are simple, and the eggs are scrambled and cooked along with the rice in a pressure cooker. This allows each grain of rice to take on the nice 'eggy' flavour. At first look this may seem like its Egg Fried rice but wait until you've tasted it, I'm sure you will be licking your fingers as well as changing those thoughts. 

Egg Biryani:
You will need:

1 cup Long-grained Basmati Rice
4 Eggs
3 tbsp Oil
2 Bay leaves
4 Cloves
3 Whole Green Cardamom
1.5 " piece Cinnamon
6-8 Green chillies, slit (adj, to heat preference)
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh Mint leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp fresh Lemon juice
2 cups Water*
* Basmati Rice usually requires only 1.5 cups of water to a cup of Rice, but I prefer to add a little bit more to compensate for the water lost in steam so that the grains are well done and the rice remains moist.

Wash the Basmati Rice and soak in cold water for 15 minutes. 

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the Bay leaves, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Let the oil take on the flavors for a few seconds. Then add the slit green chillies and saute for 30 seconds. Now add the ginger garlic paste and saute until fragrant. Add the thinly sliced onions and saute until translucent. Meanwhile, crack the eggs in a clean small bowl. Using a fork, whisk to break the yolks. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and set aside. Once the onions are done, lower heat and then add the eggs. Scramble them using a wooden spoon. To this add the drained basmati rice and chopped mint leaves. Add water and season with salt to taste. Add the lemon juice and combine well. 

Turn up heat, cover the pressure cooker with a lid. Wait for the pressure to rise.When it begins to, place the weight on the lid, turn down heat to low and cook for 9-10 minutes. Once done, let the cooker cool slightly, fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot with a refreshing Cucumber & Onion salad. 

Cucumber & Onion Salad: 

Most Biryanis are made with a variety of spices and hence are usually served with a cool raitha which is yoghurt based. This Biryani doesn't have many spices and is mildly flavored and is paired best with a refreshing and fresh cucumber & onion salad.  

You will need:

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup thinly chopped cucumber
2 green chillies, sliced at an angle
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Chopped cilantro

Combine all of the above in a small bowl and refrigerate for an hour. Serve with Egg Biryani. The lemon juice helps break down the onions a little and reduces the pungency. If you like the heat from the raw onions, reduce the quantity of lemon juice.

Grab that fork, what are you waiting for? :)

Mawa Cake & Bolinhas de Coco cookies for the Daring Bakers

I'm back after a very long break from blogging. Little did I realize when I wrote my last post I would have to take an extended off from blogging and the demands of a baby( now my adorably cute tot) would keep me busy round the clock. It's been a lot of fun nevertheless and I missed updating here.

Since I was missing in action all these months, the Daring Bakers Challenges took a back seat too. I used to check on the challenges but never got around to attempting them. This month I decided this would be the post that would revive my blogging.

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

I chose to make the Mawa cake and the Bolinhas de Coco cookies. Fresh mawa or khova/khoya isn't easily available where I live. It is used in a variety of Indian sweets. Mawa is basically the milk solids that result after boiling down whole milk for a long time. I needed just this excuse to make it at home.

MAWA CAKE: (Cardamom Flavored Milk Cake)

Preparation time:

1 to 2 hours to make the “Mawa”.
15 to 20 minutes to mix the batter.
About an hour to bake the cake.
Cooling time.

Equipment required:

• Heavy thick bottomed deep pot/ pan, preferably non-stick, large enough to comfortably hold a litre (4 cups) of milk.
• Wooden spoons
• Hand-held electric beater
• Large mixing bowl
• Sifter for flour
• Mortar & pestle to crush cardamom
• 8 inch (20 cm) round spring form cake tin with removable base
• Parchment paper to line cake tin
• Foil to tent the cake to prevent browning too much

Mawa Cakes are a specialty cake that is the hallmark of Irani cafés in India. The Iranis are Zoroastrians who left Persia/ Iran in the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape persecution of non-Muslims, and settled down and thrived here mostly in the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. They’re most famous in India for their friendly informal cafés/ restaurants that serve the most awesome food. The brun pav or maska pav(kinds of bread) with Irani chai (thick, strong, sweet and milky cardamom flavoured tea), their Shrewsbury biscuits and Mawa cakes are just a few of them.
Mawa (also known as Khoya/ Khoa) is made by slowly reducing milk (usually full-fat) until all that remain is a mass of slightly caramelized granular dough-like milk solids. Mawa is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun and Peda, to mention just two. Mawa is pronounced as Maa-vaa; Khoya is pronounced as KhOh-yaa.
In this cake, Mawa lends a rich and a caramelized milky taste to this cake which is slightly dense and reminiscent of a pound cake. Cardamom and cashewnuts are typical of a Mawa Cake, though blanched almonds are also used. Mawa Cakes are also bakes as cupcakes.
The cake is very easy to make and the Mawa is not too difficult. It just requires some time, patience and a lot of stirring!


For the Mawa:
1 litre (4 cups) full fat milk
For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted Butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (10 oz) (280 gm) castor sugar
3 large eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered, (about 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom)
2 cups (500ml) (9 oz) (260 gm) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract (optional)
Cashewnuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)

First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.  The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.

It took me close to two hours for the milk to completely reduce and form the mawa.

Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan. 

Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.

You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre (4 cups) of full-fat milk.

Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat till mixed well.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.

Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look.  

Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.  Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the pan. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

BOLINHAS DE COCO (Cardamom Flavored Coconut Biscuits/ Cookies)

Bolinhas are cardamom flavoured coconut and semolina cakelets or biscuits (In India we call them biscuits and not cookies) from the Indian state of Goa. They are a little crisp/ crunchy on the outside and soft and have a melt-in-the-mouth texture on the inside.

As the name suggests this recipe, like a lot of Goan Catholic cooking, is very much influenced by the Portuguese occupation of Goa.

Bolinhas de Coco are a Christmas-time treat and a Goan Christmas sweet platter would be incomplete without them, though they’re eaten throughout the year.

What is unusual about these biscuits/ cookies is they are made entirely with semolina and fresh grated coconut (no flour), and making the batter involves an overnight rest of at least 8 hours so that the semolina can soak up liquids and become really soft.

2 cups (500 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) fresh grated coconut, packed
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) semolina
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (8-3/4 oz) (250 gm) granulated sugar
3/4 cup water (180ml) (6 oz) (175 gm) water
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) ghee (clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter
2 large eggs
8 to 10 pods cardamom, powdered (about 1-1/2 teaspoon)

Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are smaller and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste. Keep aside.

Put the semolina in a pan and toast/ roast it, over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing colour. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.

In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but is still watery. Do not cook until it forms a thick syrup.

Add the toasted/ roasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and ghee (or melted butter) and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and easily forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. For really fluffy biscuits/ cookies, the overnight rest is recommended. 

Whisk the egg whites by hand until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well till incorporated. You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit. Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line your baking trays with parchment or grease them well with some ghee or melted butter. 

Take the dough out and pinch off walnut sized bits of dough. The dough should be firm enough to handle without difficulty. If the dough is sticking to your palms, lightly dust your palms with flour before shaping the dough. Roll the bits of dough into balls and then flatten them very slightly.  

Decorate the top by marking criss-crosses (3 equidistant lines one way and another 3 crossing them at right angles), with a table knife. Press down a bit but not too deep or right through the biscuit/ cookie. Use up all the dough this way. Place the shaped dough on the baking trays leaving a little space between them. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re a golden brown and done. Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.Store the biscuits/ cookies in airtight containers. This recipe makes about 4 dozen Bolinhas de Coco.

The Mawa cake had the texture of a dense pound cake. The longer it was stored, the taste became denser. Bolinhas de Coco cookies were a pleasant surprise. Who would have thought flourless coconut cookies would taste this good :)

Thanks to Aparna for a fabulous cake & cookie challenge!

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