David Lebovitz’s Dulce de Leche Tart

I would like to thank my friend in Berlin for sending me the recipe for this delicious tart. I am sorry that I didn’t do such a good job with the photos, but it tasted really good! I pinky swear it!

The fact that you can now buy cheap, ready made Dulce de Leche from Rewe was the reason I decided to make this tart for my birthday. And I wanted to test my brand new mixer 😀  Since I didn’t have a pie dish with a detachable bottom, I had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t gonna lift perfect slices, despite oiling the pie dish very heavily.

If you don’t have pie weights, you could use dried beans, like chickpea. I used mung beans, which you could in turn make into guinataang munggo (remind me to share you the recipe one day).

The recipe was published in David’s book My Paris Kitchen. This is how I made this tart

For the Crust: 6 Tablespoons/ 85 g butter (preferably salted) at room temperature or softer, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 large egg yolk, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, and 1 Tablespoon water (optional)

Filling: 230 g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup (240 g) dulce de leche, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.

Make the crust before the filling. Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the powdered sugar at low speed, until smooth. Mix in the yolk, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the flour and the cocoa powder together, and add to the butter mixture until the dough comes together. If it looks dry, add a tablespoon of water (which I did). Roll into a ball. Pull a plate- sized (about 15 inches by 15 inches) portion of saran wrap (cling film) on a flat surface, place the dough ball on it, flatten a bit with the heel of your hand and wrap the dough in the film.  Set aside for 30 minutes. You can also use a clean plastic bag, it is probably easier.

After 30 minutes, roll the dough relatively flat in the bag or unwrap the dough, place another sheet of cling film over it, and roll with a rolling pin. When the dough is wide enough to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart ring with a removable bottom, remove the top sheet, place the dough in the tart ring by flipping it in using the plastic film for stability, and try to evenly cover the walls of the dish by pressing your fingers at the dough located at the bottom and sides of the dish and pushing the dough up the walls, until the rim. Sprinkle the sea salt over the dough and press it into the pastry. Cover the tart ring with the wrap you used to roll it in, and freeze for 30 minutes. Colder temperatures means that I could just open the balcony door and let it rest outside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Once the 30 minutes are up, line the dough with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and the weights, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the shell feels set. Take the shell out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C.

During the waiting/baking period you can get cracking on the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bain-Marie, remove the bowl from heat once melted, and set a strainer on top.

Whisk the eggs into a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm, and whisk the milk into the eggs. Not too warm, we don’t want the eggs to scramble! Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or a wire whisk, until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate, and add the vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Carefully spread the Dulce de Leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer. It helps to let the Dulce sit for 30 seconds before spreading, the warmth of the tart bottom will soften the cream enough, making it easier to spread. Set the tart sheet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then carefully pur the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with more salt.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the tart with the door closed for 25 minutes more.

You can remove it from the oven and let cool before serving. I just let the tart in the oven overnight and served it to my guests the day after.

David recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but the tart is so filling, I don’t think you will need more sweet! The crust tastes a lot like Oreo cookies, so it was really addictive.

Sushi and Japanese

Sushi and Japanese is quite an interesting book to read. Part history book, part encyclopedia, it the perfect book for somebody who wants to start learning how to cook Japanese.

All I know about Japanese food is basically all that I have eaten in restaurants and have re-created at home. This book offers a glimpse of what the ordinary Japanese women make for dinner for their families.

I’ve tried some of their recipes, and they have left me with the distinct impression that though Japanese food is simple, they are not easy to make because of the extreme fussiness of their food preparation techniques. But hey, who said that making good food is easy?

Do NOT Disturb A Hungry Man

I like this fellow Patrick Stäbler. He’s a journalist. He likes food. He’s adventurous. In these points we have a lot in common. However, his curiosity has taken him somewhere I haven’t been yet. Namely through Germany. Patrick, who is quite the gourmet, has realized that he eats Sushi more often than he does Schweinhaxe. So he goes on a journey to eat obscure regional dishes from each of Germany’s 16 states.

So to make the trip a whole lot more difficult and interesting, he decides to hitchhike to his destinations and crash at people’s apartments along the way. He wrote a blog, and found himself a publisher. The book, Speisende Soll Man Nicht Aufhalten, has a double meaning in German. You could translate it like I have in the title, or as “Do NOT Stop for a Hungry Man.” Then his trip became part of the Leipzig “Iss Was!?” exhibit, which is how I decided to stop by the gift shop to get the book.

In between bites of funny-sounding unheard-of specialties like Dibbelabbes or Schnüsch, he eats other, more popular regional specialties like Döner and Currywurst. And he meets a motley crew of people along the way, like the chic Russian nurse who commutes from Germany to Luxembourg, to the neo-Nazi who took him to Berlin.

The book is funny and well-written, I feel that he tries too hard at some places,  but that is okay, since his earnestness is winning. Like most blog turned books, the book has a chronological narrative, and can seem boring at times, especially when he describes the days when he could not get anyone to pick him up.

It was strange to read Patrick rhapsodize about German dishes. Maybe it’s just Thuringia, but I do not experience a vielfalt of flavor when I eat German food. It has basically three different flavors: sweet, salty, and fatty. Maybe sour if you eat Sauerkraut or Sauerbraten. Let’s just say that while I like a good Braten, the taste palette is sehr begrenzt.

In general, I would recommend this book for people who want to prepare obscure German dishes (the recipes are in the book), for immigrants who want to learn more about Germany (provided that your German is at a B1-B2 Level), or for anybody who likes German food in general. I hope that it’ll be successful enough to warrant an English translation. And if you are ever in Berlin, the best Döner I’ve ever had was right across the road from the Zoobahnhof. Alas, I think it doesn’t exist anymore.

Book Review: Cooked by Michael Pollan

I would like to thank Adam for giving me this book. It was a wonderful present. As you notice, I have managed to wear out my copy in a short while, and I have been reading and re-reading it for the longest time, and trying out the recipes too.

If you haven’t heard of Michael Pollan, he is practically a god in the foodie and DIY circles, basically an ur-hipster who has been tinkering about in his garden and kitchen and writing about his musings. And he’s not even a trained-trained cook, but a journalist.

In many ways, our philosophies and curiosities intersect. So I was really excited to read his latest book.

The book is divided into four parts, corresponding to the four elements, and ways we use these elements to prepare food.

Fire deals with spit roasting. Roasting a whole hog, or lechon as it is known in the Phiilippines, is a big deal in parts of the Southern US. It was very testerone-laden, to correspond with his observation that while cooking is traditionally regarded as wimpy women’s work, the Barbeque is a man’s job, his way of offering a sacrifice to the gods. Then he goes into this theoretical mumbo-jumbo of spirituality and the barbeque, and his more down-to-earth experience with helping serve barbeque in New York.

Thankfully, the weakest part of the book is over. if you haven’t given up on reading it because of Fire, Water, or the art of stewing and braising, is infinitely more interesting. I will have to try that soffrito recipe when I have a free weekend.

Then there was Air, or the world of obsessive bakers trying to make the perfect sour dough bread. This was the most fascinating chapter for me since I have been trying to perfect the art of sour dough bread myself. The perfectionism of these artisanal bakers, their devotion of “thinking like a seed” appealed to me very much. I mean, to actually make a marble grinding wheel that will crush grain one kernel at a time in order to make the perfect flour for the perfect bread? It’s quixotic, impractical, but something that I see myself totally doing if I had the resources.

And finally, Earth, or fermenting. It is the funniest part of the book, and where Pollan finally hits his stride. Pickling Sauerkraut, Kimchi, fermenting alcohol and his immersion in the world of “fermentos,” or people devoted to pickling food, makes for a funny story

So what I get from this book is that all the processes of changing the composition of food is basically chewing the food outside of our stomach to make up for the loss of another, “second” stomach, which most animals have. We are able to more readily unlock the nutrients in the food because of it.

The most interesting theory for me is his treatise that bacteria is not bad, and managing them is very beneficial to both our species. He also goes on about the role the bacteria in our gut how they affect our general health.

A very good read, and I would recommend it to anybody who is interested in the creation of food.

Book Review: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is an American classic, a cookbook normally handed down through generations.

Written by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle, it revolutionized post-war American kitchens by breaking middle-class America’s infatuation with processed food and replacing it with another infatuation; namely French cuisine.

I got the book after our book club watched the film “Julie and Julia” over the Christmas holidays. I decided to read it like a novel. I am still at “Sauces.”

What they say about this book is really true: the recipes are all road-tested and fool-proof. Have you ever tried a recipe, and then ended up adding this and doing that differently because it didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to? It has never happened with this book. Not yet, anyway.

The descriptions and instructions sometimes bug me, because it is just so anal, but I get it, Julia and Simone. I understand why you are being so anal. It’s not to annoy me, it’s basically to ensure that I get the best–dare I say–the only? result I am supposed to get.

I have tried to see whether I can find shortcuts to some of the procedures. I still haven’t thought of one that would give me a better result. If I do find that rare loophole, I’ll let you know. Anyway, this book is a keeper and worth the money you’ve paid for it. Get the hardbound version, you won’t regret it.

Book Review: Larousse Gastronomique, 2009


When I saw this book lying at TK Maxx for an unbeatable 29 euros, down from the orginal 69, I caught my breath and asked myself, “am I worthy?”

See, I still feel very insecure about my abilities as a cook. I am not very inventive. I am more of an experiment with what I know person. Filipinos have a saying for amateurs, that they “still need to eat a lot of rice.”  I feel that about myself.

Am I worthy enough, am I good enough, to buy this book? A book that is a bible for many cooks?

I was afraid that this book would be better bought by someone who has better talents in the kitchen than me. I still do that when I shop. Do I need it, or will it better serve another person? Despite my doubts, I bought the book, my curiosity overpowering my nervousness.

I am still so afraid, so in awe of this book that I consult and peruse and imbibe whatever knowledge that I can (did you know that the wasabi that we buy in the market is not real wasabi, but a mixture of horseradish and mustard?). Normally, I do try to read a book from cover to cover, even if it is an encyclopedia.

It is very informative about western cooking, especially French cooking. It is understandable that the history of cooking as written in the book is French-centric, given that this is a French book.

Is it a necessary investment? Well, let’s just say that if you didn’t study at Le Cordon Bleu, this is a cheap alternative to be one step closer to being a Le Cordon cook!


I Love Me Some Pumpkin

Now that the weather is getting colder and Halloween is around the corner, I’d like to talk about my favorite Fall crop, the pumpkin.

I first encountered pumpkins in Germany, since the Philippines is firmly sqash territory, it being a tropical country. I have learned to appreciate Hokkaidos, and I would like to try carving my own pumpkin either this year or next year.

My favorite squash/pumpkin dish is Guinataang Kalabasa (Squash stewed in Coconut Milk),  a stew with chunks of pork, squash, and string beans. I’ll put up a post when I make one.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy working through the last of my Hokkaidos. On top is a soup I picked up from the book “Growing Vegetables,” one of my TK Maxx finds. It’s just a soup version of the stew I mentioned above. I’ve noticed that pumpkin or squash always goes with coconut milk or heavy cream, ginger, and some meat.

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? What other ingredients complement pumpkin?

Book Review: Nigella Express

My dirty secret: I pick up books from TK Maxx (yes, you read that right. They’re called that in Germany). They occasionally have English-speaking cookbooks, and since I live in a place where English has come to die, I grab them all to myself while cackling …mine, mine , MINE!

I am vaguely familiar with Nigella Lawson, since I have seen some of her shows when I was still in Manila. When it was on the TK Maxx shelf I picked up Nigella Express half-off. The book is fairly hit-miss. All of the recipes are quick and easy-ish to make, and some are really good, like the peanut flavored Asian noodles. There are several recipes here that I make a better-tasting version of. Some recipes don’t really speak to me flavor wise. Sometimes, her writing smacks of trying hard to be breezy, that hey with a snap of my fingers and a click of my heels I just managed to make this scrumptious dessert!

However, I have this book to thank for the second most fluffiest*, the most economical pancake mix recipe I’ve ever encountered. It is so flexible, so practical, that I now have time to make pancakes every weekend (and sometimes during the weekday!). with a little more water, it becomes German pancakes. If I am in the Philippines, I substitute the vanilla sugar in the UK recipe (which is what I have) with a tablespoon of vanillin flavoring.

For the US version of the recipe, click here.

*The fluffiest pancakes are Amiexpat’s Bilberry Pancakes