Pastel de Tres Leches

According to wikipedia, the three milks in this cake are evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. I made it with three different milks: coconut milk, dulce de leche and good old cow's milk. This is one of the most complex recipes I have posted, but if you want to try something different, impress someone and have a recipe that will challenge you, make this. It's not hard to make, but it's time consuming and has several steps.

While working at the restaurant, one of my weekly duties was making a princess cake which is a sponge cake filled with diplomat cream, a thin layer of raspberry preserves, fresh raspberries, a thick domed layer of whipped cream covered with a green colored marzipan. This cake is delicious, and when I found a recipe for a tres leches cake with diplomat cream and dulce de leche, I was sold. Also- it happened to be my husband's birthday, so... perfect!

First, the sponge cake. This sponge cake was really easy to make. Make a dwell with sifted flour, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar, baking powder, salt and the ground nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks, veggie oil, coconut milk (unsweetened) and water.

Pour the wet mixture and whip by hand for about a minute until smooth and lumps free.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of the cream of tartar, or 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice and add the rest of the sugar (1/4 cup) after the whites are frothy. If you don't have an electric mixer, this will replace your daily work out, so get whipping. Once you've formed peaks, fold them into the wet mixture. For this recipe, you'll have 4 left over yolks. I saved them and made home made ice cream, which was a great addition for the cake.

Place them in two parchment lined 9" spring forms. I lined the edges as well, so I wouldn't have to clean the oven in case they rose too much. 

Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool completely on cooling racks and unmold them after cooled.

I wrapped the cakes with plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge overnight. It's a lot easier to cut them into layers when cold.

Second, is the syrup. The tres leches cake is known for being soaked, so this will the syrup that will do that for you. The syrup is super easy, just place coconut milk,sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a small saucepan and bring it just to a boil, remove from heat after that.

Cut the cake into layers and have them waiting in the fridge while you work on the diplomat cream.

Third is the diplomat cream, the diplomat cream is pastry cream with whipped cream and unflavored gelatin to stabilize it. The pastry cream is where the second milk comes in.

I used vanilla extract but if you can get a vanilla bean, this will be well worth it. Cut the vanilla bean length wise and scrape the beans with the back of the knife and place them in a saucepan with the milk and salt. While the milk is warming, beat the eggs with the cornstarch and sugar.

Bring the milk right below boiling point and pour or ladle it over the egg mixture.

Whisk constantly while pouring the milk so that you don't end up with scrambled eggs. This method is called tempering; you're pretty much introducing the hot ingredient to the eggs slowly, so the heat doesn't cook the eggs right away. This is done for most custards and ice creams. Pour the egg mixture now with the milk back to the saucepan, whisking again.

Whisk constantly over medium heat. The cornstarch will start cooking and the mixture thickening. Once the mixture comes to a boil, keep whisking for another minute over the stove, and remove from heat. It is very important you don't stop whisking, so even after removing from the heat, don't stop.

Add the butter, and incorporate it. Don't stop whisking, this will melt the butter. After the butter is melted, pour the pastry cream onto a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the plastic wrap is in contact with the pastry cream, otherwise, the pastry cream will create skin, and nobody likes that.

Now you have the pastry cream ready. Mine is not as pretty as it could be, when you use the vanilla bean, the black spots will make it a lot more attractive.

To make it into a diplomat cream, you have to dissolve the gelatin on it and add the whipped cream. This is the trickiest part of it, I have learned the hard way. I messed this up twice in a day, and after I got it right, it became the favorite thing to make at the restaurant.

For the gelatin, you always have to first activate it which is to put it on a cold liquid and it becomes like a gel. After that, you have to dissolve it. It needs to get hot, otherwise it doesn't dissolve.For this gelatin part, while the pastry cream is hot, activate the unflavored gelatin with two tablespoons of cold water, mix with a fork and after it has gelled, whisk and melt into the pastry cream, and cover again.

Now, we have to add the whipped cream. If the pastry cream is too hot, it will curdle the whipped cream, and look disgusting- trust me. If the pastry cream is too cold, the gelatin will start solidifying and you'll find little gelled pieces, and that's not good either, it should be smooth. So, after you whip the heavy cream; you should only fold it into the pastry cream when is slightly warm to the touch. If you have a kitchen thermometer, it should read 35 Celsius or 95 Fahrenheit. If the pastry cream got too cold while whipping the heavy cream, put it over a water bath to warm, no microwave shenanigans.

The third milk, I just used store bought dulce de leche.

Now the assembly part. Line the spring form with plastic wrap over the edges, so that after the cake is assembled, you can cover it.

Place one cake layer and brush it evenly with a quarter of the syrup. Don't worry if you think it's too much, as a matter of fact this is where i made the mistake and didn't put enough of the syrup.

Spread an even layer of the dulce de leche

Spread an even layer of the diplomat cream. Use about a quarter of it.

Repeat until you use all cake layers. On the top one, soak it with the syrup, cover and refrigerate.

While it's cooling, whip the heavy cream with the sugar, and then cover the cake, using an offset knife, or a butter knife... and you're done. What better than rewarding yourself with a big slice of cake? Enjoy!

Pastel de Tres Leches

Sponge cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of veggie oil
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (i bought a can and it was the perfect amount for this cake)
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
 Pastry Cream:
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Make into diplomat:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of dulce de leche
  • 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 4 teaspoons of sugar for covering the cake
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Baking, painting, feasting and no blogging

I've been meaning to update my blog for a couple of weeks (or months) now, so I apologize for the long wait in between. I cannot believe it's 2011 now! During my long blogging break, I made a potica for the first time.  It's very much like a Slovenian bouche de noel.

My husband's grandmother (his mom's mom) was Slovenian and used to make this during the holidays. Unfortunately I never met her but the more I hear about her, the more love I have for her. She was a very loving grandma; very crafty and an amazing cook and baker. This year, when I asked Jeff what I should bake for Christmas, he thought a potica would make his grandpa happy and bring back some old memories, so I decided to give it a shot. Since I wasn't familiar with this treat, I spent a good amount of time reading about it on blogs and getting familiar with recipes and what it should look like. There ways to make it fancy but I went for the simple version (less chances to mess it up!).

For holiday orders, I made some mini panettone among other cookies and treats for orders; I'm really enjoying working with yeast and I'm definitely not as scared of it. Too bad I was busy wrapping and packaging everything that I didn't take a single picture of the adorable mini panettone. Boo-hoo!

Anyhow- here's the potica!

(Recipe follows below)

First of all, you have to activate the yeast, so dissolve the yeast in warm (not boiling) milk with 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix it and let it sit in a warm place (the turned off oven on pilot works wonders) until frothy.

While you wait, cream the room temperature butter with the remaining sugar. Add the egg yolks incorporating them one at the time. Add the frothy yeast mixture, remaining milk and salt.

Start adding the flour, one cup at the time. I started with the paddle attachment,

and once it incorporated the flour, switched to the hook.

Knead the dough for a good 8 to 10 minutes until it incorporates all the flour and it's elastic but not sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the bowl to coat the dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit in a warm place for an hour.

While you're waiting, you can get the rest of the ingredients together. You will need 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1 cup of honey, 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit, 1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts and 1 table spoon of cinnamon. Since the recipe makes two potica logs, divide these ingredients in two.

Once the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough in half and punch it out to deflate.
Now is a good time to preheat the oven at 350. 

 In a clean and lightly floured surface, stretch the dough flat and using a rolling pin, stretch the dough about 1/4" thick.

The dough is really easy to work with, since it's not sticky and very elastic.

Brush it with the melted butter, be generous, this will prevent the layers to sticking to each other and create that rolled up look.

Pour half of the honey and even out with the back of a spoon to cover most of the surface. I suggest you leave about an inch from the edges free of butter and honey, since that will make the pinching of the dough later easier.

Add the nuts and the dried fruit and sprinkle the cinnamon evenly.

Start rolling the side closest to you.

Pinch the edges

And place seam side down in a cookie sheet. Let the dough rise again, for about 15 minutes and bake for 60 minutes until brown.

My placing of the seam side down wasn't great so and i lost part of the honey... and cleaning the pan wasn't fun either!

That's ok... because the end result was still yummy!

It was the best potica ever (maybe because i didn't have anything to compare it with)! Heh!

While in Connecticut for Christmas, my mother in law showed me her mom's old recipe books, among them was the "Slovenian Women Union of America Cookbook". This would have made the potica better since it had at least 5 variations of it; so next year i'll be better prepared. The book suggested the Slovenian home makers to share the potica with their American friends. I'm far from being Slovenian, but here... try the potica!


Activating the yeast:
  • One package of dry instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of flour (all purpose)
  • 1/4 cup of warm milk
  • 1 cup of room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt  
  • 4 to 5 cups of flour depending on your dough
  • 1/2 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 1/2 cups or raisins (i used a dried berry mix)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
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