|Giselle's Perfect Pudim|
We call this wonderful concoction "flan", like in Mindy's post here, but there are some differences that take us from Texas to Brazil.
My friend, Giselle, who grew up in Brazil, wanted to share her recipe for Pudim with us, so she invited a group of us to her house last week to learn to make her favorite dessert, and it was so much fun, we decided to do it more often!
The secret, like most recipes, is in the method....
"How long?" we ask.
"Until it makes caramel."
"Don't you have to stir it?" We all shift uncomfortably. We know what burned sugar smells like.
"No, you don't mess with it. If you stir it, it just sticks to the spoon. Once in awhile lift and twist the pan, but don't stir it."
"Oh, and you don't walk away."
Sighs of relief. The sugar wouldn't be abandoned. It wouldn't suffer the ignoble death of burning.
And then Giselle walks away.
"While it's heating, you make the batter." On the other side of Giselle's spacious kitchen. Leaving sugar on the stove.
More nervous laughter.
We make notes.
"Now add one and a half cans of milk."
Giselle measures whole milk into the empty condensed milk can.
"You can use skim milk and other low-fat ingredients, but I like the rich taste of the real milk."
Giselle is my kind of cook :)
"Now add four eggs, one half teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon cornstarch."
"Real vanilla?" someone asks.
"Oh, yes. Real vanilla."
"The cornstarch is not necessary. It's optional. I like to add it as insurance so the batter isn't runny. My mother says no."
(That is the first hint of Pudim culture. More later.)
Giselle comes over to take a look.
"Oh yes," she says, not touching it, "it's beginning to melt."
Back at the blender, Giselle turns on the switch.
"Blend it for a couple minutes. Maybe three or four, until it's well blended. Then you wait for the caramel to be done."
"When will you know it's done?" we ask.
"When it is brown. Very dark brown. You can do it lighter, but I like it very dark."
"It has to be all liquid, though. If you don't leave it long enough, it will be separate and grainy."
Giselle reaches into her cupboard for her pan.
"When I first moved here, I couldn't find a pudim pan, so I used a bundt cake pan."
She shows us a cake pan.
"See how the middle is high enough so the pudim won't spill into it as it bakes."
Then she shows us her pudim pan.
"The pudim pan has a closed center, see? I bought this one on a trip home."
"Swirl the caramel around to coat the sides of the pan."
And then Giselle pours the batter that has been resting in the blender into the pudim pan.
"Now you cook it."
There are several ways to cook the pudim, but they all share a most important step: the pudim must be covered tightly with foil to keep water vapor from getting in and spoiling the pudim.
Cooking method one: Set the covered pudim pan in a 9"x13" pan of hot water in a 350 degree oven. Bake it for one and a half hours.
Cooking method three: If you have a pan with a lid, it only takes twenty minutes on top of the stove.
I did some research on-line and found an official pudim double boiler with a lid. It's expensive enough that I think I'll stick to Giselle's method, but if you're interested, here's the link.
Insert a knife halfway between the edge and center of the pan. If it comes out clean, the pudim is done.
When you're ready to serve it, run a knife along the edge of the pan and invert the pudim into a dish with sides. There will be caramel in the bottom of the pudim pan. Pour this over the top of your pudim. If it runs down the sides, that's good.
Now to some pudim culture.
|Giselle's "fluffy" pudim|
Sadly, our little party was also something of a going-away party for Claudia. She and her family moved back to Brazil on Thursday after only six months with us :(
The family had moved here knowing no English (Portuguese and German, yes, but no English. Claudia's husband is from Germany).
Giselle serves us a pudim she had made earlier in the day. We can tell she isn't happy with it, but it tastes fabulous.
Claudia takes a bite.
"Mmm." She nods. "It's a bit...fluffy? No?"
We look at her.
"Fluffy? Is that the right word?" She says the word she means in Portuguese, and Giselle agrees with her. Fluffy is the word she means.
Then Giselle laughs. It's part of having pudim, she explains. Brazilians have it often, and everyone makes it a slightly different way. When it's served, it has to be critiqued, but in a friendly way.
And, of course, no one makes it as well as mother does. It doesn't matter whose mother.
|Giselle and Claudia's children enjoying the feast|
Now for the recipe:
Caramel Flan (Pudim)
1 cup sugar (for caramel)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cans milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Make caramel out of the one cup sugar by cooking it on the stove.
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the sweetened condensed milk, milk, eggs, vanilla and cornstarch. Blend for 3-4 minutes.
Pour caramel into a pudim or flan pan; swirl pan to coat bottom and sides. Pour batter into pan. Cover tightly with foil.
Set dish in a 9"x13" pan with hot water. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Or cook in a double boiler on stove for 30 minutes.