Mical’s Eritrean Coffee Roasting Technique

It’s the middle of the month which means we shipped this month’s kit!  Current subscribers, Eritrean with Mical is on it’s way to you and you are in for a treat.  You’ll be exploring the flavors or Eritrea through Mical’s favorite stew style recipes as well as receiving everything you need to have an authentic Eritrean coffee ceremony.  In case any of you want to see Mical demonstrate how to best roast your coffee beans, check out this video to see her in action:

Chocoflan- Delicious Mexican Treat

So most of you know what Flan is, the lovely vanilla custard with caramel sauce that makes your mouth water.

Now how could such a thing get better? Add chocolate.

Paloma is sharing a sweet dessert her children love at home, and a great pairing option for your Mexican Mole Fiesta.  Now fret not if you are just making a little mole for you and one or two others, the Chocoflan is well worth the addition cooking, and somehow I bet no matter how big your crowd is you will all be members of the clean plate club.

Ingredients:

12 oz. Can Evaporated Milk
14 oz. Can Condensed Milk (Paloma loves La Lechera)
6-7 eggs (3 for flan and 3-4 for cake)
2 Tbs Vanilla Extract (pure is best)
1 Standard box cake mix (or your favorite chocolate cake recipe- one that makes a light fluffy cake)
1/4- 1/2 cup veggie oil (depending on your cake recipe)

Tools needed:

Blender, spatula, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl, foil and 1 deep 9-10 inch round cake pan. (Alternatively, you can use 2 shallow 8-9 inch round cake pans as Paloma did in these pictures, depending on whether you prefer 2 short cakes with thin layers or 1 tall cake with thick layers.)

Instructions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Create a water bath (baño de María) by filling a large pan (large enough to fit your cake pan inside it) half full with water and place in the oven on a middle rack. You want the water to be roughly half the height of your cake pan.

Follow the instructions on the back of your standard chocolate cake mix to make the chocolate cake batter, set aside.

In a blender, pour the evaporated milk, condensed milk, 3 eggs, and 2 tablespoons vanilla. Blend until fully combined.

In a skillet on the stove over medium heat, add a 1/2 cup of sugar and stir continuously. You want the sugar to melt but, not burn. When the sugar is melted and a light golden brown color, it is finished. Immediately pour the melted sugar into the cake pan. Swirl the caramel until you have completely covered the bottom on the pan, let harden.

Pour the contents of the blender (the flan) into the cake pan with caramel. Pour the chocolate cake batter into the same pan on top of the flan mixture. Don’t worry if the two batters mix a little, as they will separate in the oven.

Cover the cake pan with foil and place into the shallow pan of water in the oven. You want the water level to be slightly higher than your flan layer. Once you have set the pan in the water, make sure the water level is low enough that no water enters the cake pan. Cook for 60 minutes.

Check the cake by piercing with a toothpick of knife. If it comes out clean, it is ready. If the cake needs to bake longer, continue to bake without the foil cover for an additional 5-8 minutes and then check again.

When the cake is done, remove the pan from the oven. Cool for at least 10 minutes before platting.

Place a serving dish over the top of the cake pan. Holding the serving dish against the pan with oven mitts or pot holders, flip the serving dish and cake pan at the same time, and gently remove the cake pan from the chocoflan.

Serve immediately or let the cake sit for 40 minutes to cool completely and then serve. You can eat Chocoflan either warm or cool, but Paloma prefers her chocoflan chilled.

We <3 Substitutions: A World of Poblano Mole

That secret mole recipe…every Mexican family has one.

Whether it has an extra cinnamon stick, multiple types of peppercorns, a carrot, or extra peanuts, the one common thing among all these mole recipes is the large quantity of spices, nuts, seeds, and chilies that comprise that special sauce, which sometimes totals 20 different ingredients! No matter where in Mexico you travel, you will find some variation of Mole, but one state holds the crown for the tastiest and rumored home of mole, Puebla.

This month, we are debuting Paloma’s incredible family recipe for mole taught to her by, of course, her grandmother. This Mole Poblano is rich and sweet and full of layered flavor. Now, the box contains all the dry ingredients that make famous mole, but there are still a few ingredients that may be a little harder to find if you don’t have access to a Mexican or Latino market. Fear not: our team of recipe developers and testers have tested a plethora of substitutions to make for a tasty mole even if you can’t make it to the Mexican Market.

Bolillos are Mexican rolls. These rolls are dry, crunchy and are often used for Mexican sandwiches because they are known for not being too sweet.  Bolillos aren’t commonly found in regular bakeries, but they are a staple at any Mexican market or bakery. Can’t find a bolillo? Here is a common substitution to make sure you have a tasty, thick sauce.

French Bread/Roll

French bread worked well as a substitution, as it is the most similar to Bolillo bread, only with a rougher crust. Using french bread produced a richer and sweeter mole compared to Paloma’s recipe. The sweet flavor highlights the cinnamon, though, so beware!

Bimbo White Bread 

Do not be fooled: all white breads are not equal. We know it might be tempting to just swap out your bolillo for sliced white bread, but from our experience, we advise you to resist the urge.  We used the commonly found Bimbo sliced white bread and it was much too sweet for the mole! Instead of helping to bring out the mole flavors, it overpowered it. Most importantly, the mole lost its spicy kick!  Take our advice and avoid the sweet, soft sliced white breads.

Plantains are in the banana family but aren’t quite the peelable lunch variety. In mole recipes, plantains act as a thickening agent to help create a deeper flavor of the nuts and chocolate.  Plantains come in a few varieties and stages of ripeness. They are common in Mexican and Latino markets, but if you can’t find them at your local grocer, feel free to use these one of these two substitutions.

Unripe bananas

Using unripe bananas produced a flavor closest to Paloma’s mole. The consistency of this mole was slightly sweeter, creamier, and had a bit more kick at the end of every bite making for a nice finish.

Sweet Potato 

Using sweet potato definitely thickened up the mole sauce compared to Paloma’s mole, which produced a slightly grittier and less pureed mole that left us tasters with the occasional spicier bite. While the flavor wasn’t too far off from Paloma’s mole, make sure to add more chicken broth and blend for longer if substituting sweet potato for plantains, as they proved to be tough to blend!

Peanuts–to shell or not to shell? 

There are so many steps to making mole that we attempted to shortcut one, the shelling of roasted peanuts. Instead, we used pre-shelled peanuts. While the flavor wasn’t too far off from Paloma’s mole recipe, it did produce a slightly sweeter, thicker and creamier mole lacking the more full-roasted flavor when shelling peanuts yourself. If you want the real deal, set aside to the time to crack all the shells from those peanuts!

We hope this informs your grocery shopping efforts and saves you some time when looking for those less available mole ingredients that we can’t ship you in your CK Box!

Happy Mole-making!

The Culture Kitchen Team

Culture Kitchen Vietnamese Box with Linh

We love hearing directly from our Master Cooks! This month get to know Linh and the incredible recipes she is sharing in the next Culture Kitchen kit.  In a few minutes you will get to know all you need to cook and eat like a true Vietnamese expert.

Want to see more videos? Let us know on Facebook.

We <3 Substitutions: Coco Rico, the Fizzy Coconut Drink

When developing our third Culture Kitchen Kit we discovered that some of the ingredients our Master Cook Linh uses can be impossible to find if you aren’t in a medium to large city.  But fear not, we got to testing in our labs and found great substitutions even Linh would be happy to use.

Coco-Rico, according to it’s labeling, is a “natural coconut-flavored soda” that is sold in six packs of 12 ounce cans in the beverage aisle of Asian and Latin grocery stores.

Coco Rico has a light coconut flavoring and subtle carbonation which brings a delicate coconut flavor and fluffy consistency to whatever batter it is used in. If you’re like us, you’ve probably had never heard of Coco Rico. But, if you want to make Master Chef Linh’s delicious Coconut-Turmeric pancakes, Banh Xeo (featured in our most recent Culture Kitchen Box), or the mini cake version, Banh Knot (on our website), you will be surely be scrambling to find this fizzy coconut drink.

Put the car keys down and take a deep breath: we have you covered. Our team of fearless cooks has tried a number of substitutions to make your pancakes and other wonderous Vietnamese dishes light and full of flavor while saving you the aggravation and gas costs of traveling to multiple markets.

Trial by fire!  First trial = failure.
We never said we’d get it right the first time! Here is the proof: we tried a few substitutes that didn’t quite make the cut.

(1) Coconut milk and baking soda,

(2) Seltzer and coconut extract,

(3) Coconut water and baking soda

Do not put baking soda and turmeric together: they are not friends and make for a pretty scary red sight with a very bold baking soda flavor!  While substituting coconut extract was closer to the real thing, the texture was lacking the fluffy and light consistency of batter made with Coco Rico and left the cooked pancakes a bit oily and rubbery.

So we went back to the drawing board.

Bring me some tonic–I need to celebrate success!
We knew that coconut flavor needed to be involved, but incorporating carbonation was the tricky part. Tonic, the sweet and fizzy drink, was our missing link. For whatever amount of Coco Rico your recipe calls for, swap with either of the following:

(1) 1/2 tonic + 1/2 coconut milk
(2) 1/2 tonic + 1/2 coconut water

Using coconut milk leaves a slightly richer batter compared to using Coco Rico and using coconut water produces a batter slightly flatter than using Coco Rico, but both variations produce good substitutions to using the real thing and taste delicious.

Happy Vietnamese Cooking!
The Culture Kitchen Team

Getting That Perfectly Steamed Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, sweet rice, glutinous rice–whatever you call it, this rice it is a staple in Thai cooking, with desserts. But how on earth do you cook it?

In this month’s Thai Culinary Explorer with Suparvadee we get a taste of sweet sticky rice with mango. Here is an overview of ways to prepare this delicious dish at home:

Unlike other rices such as jasmine or brown rice, sweet rice is not supposed to be cooked directly in liquid. Instead, the rice gets steamed and the water vapors create this lovely tacky texture that is commonly found in Thai cooking.

So if we aren’t cooking the rice in boiling water, how on earth can we make this at home? Here are three techniques all approved by Suparvadee to ensure you get an authentic sticky rice:

Firstly, put those rice cookers away, unless you have a specially equipped steam basket that can hold the rice. It is better to use more traditional methods of steaming.

Suparvadee uses an old fashioned foolproof steaming system, the bamboo steamer. This steamer is unlike anything we have seen.  It is composed of two parts, a water pot and a bamboo basket. The cone-shaped bamboo basket sits above two inches of boiling water and fully cooks the rice from the bottom and top. After the water boils, you slightly lower the heat and put your basket on top of the pot with the sticky rice cradled in the bamboo weave. Place a regular kitchen bowl over top of the rice inside the basket to create a chamber that traps the water vapors in. After ten minutes of cooking you will need to flip your rice by carefully removing the bowl, shaking the basket to loosen the rice, and giving it one forceful toss. The entire block of sticky rice will turn over. Cover with the bowl again and return to the boiling pot for ten more minutes. Then you will have perfectly cooked sticky rice.

But you might be wondering what should we do if we don’t have a Thai Bamboo steamer. We have two simple solutions that will get you such great rice that you will think Suparvadee came to your home and made it for you.

Option 1. Sweet and simple bowling

Take a large pot with a lid and a small bowl with a foot (a ledge that raises the bowl off the floor and creates a bit of space between the bowl and any surface it touches) and some water. You are looking to boil roughly two inches of water. Take your bowl and fill it with your cleaned sweet rice. Once the water is boiling, using a pair of strong tongs, add the bowl to the center of the boiling water and lower the heat to a medium/low flame. Cover with a lid and let cook for 13-15 minutes. After 13-15 minutes, mix the rice–your goal is to flip the grains from the bottoms to the top. Cook for another 13-15 minutes with the lid on. Taste the rice. At this point you are searching for a sticky but not gummy texture–you want the rice to be cooked throughout. If the rice is still a bit raw, cook longer.

Option 2. A splatter guard that cooks

What makes a bamboo steamer such a great cooking method for sticky rice is its ability to allow the steam to enter the rice from all sides. A great, simple way to recreate that is by using a shallow pan and a splatter guard.  A splatter guard is a thin mesh fryer cover that is used to prevent splattering. Create a mound of sticky rice in the center of a splatter guard. Place the guard over a shallow pan of boiling water. Cover the rice with a medium-sized bowl. Your goal is to allow for a bit of clearance around the rice, which will allow the rice to properly steam from all sides. Lower the heat to medium/low and cook for ten minutes. Once you have fully mixed your rice, return the inverted bowl to the splatter guard and cook for another 10 minutes. This should give you enough cooking time for a perfect sticky rice.

So whether you want to get an original Thai steamer just for sticky rice or make do with a few key tools in your kitchen, everyone has the ability to make incredible sticky rice at home. We hope you give one of these trials a test cook and let us know what you think.

Enjoy good food, good company, and explore!