Dulce de leche in the pressure cooker

You can find various recipes for dulce de leche on the web; a gallon of milk, sugar, small amount of baking soda, vanilla (optional), cook for an hour on the stove top.

Chow.com has one where you put sweetened condensed milk in a pie plate, cover it, bake in the oven for an hour, stir, then bake for an hour and a half more.

I haven’t tried either of these methods.

In the comments section for the Chow recipe people were relating the way their mom, grandmother, etc. made it by putting an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot, add several cups of water, and cook it on the stove top. Of course there were many comments about how dangerous that is. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen. There’s also the problem with the BPA that the cans are lined with.

All of these seem like too much work to me. The stove top method is sure to need lots of attention in order to avoid the milk sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pan. The oven one takes too long. There were also comments asking how to make a lower sugar version; sweetened condensed milk is very sweet. All this got me to thinking that dulce de leche could very likely be made in a pressure cooker using the bain marie method.

I took a can of sweetened condensed milk, poured it in a metal bowl, covered the bowl tightly with aluminum foil, and put it in the pressure cooker on top of the steamer basket and poured several cups of water around it. Then I cooked it at high pressure for 1 hour.

Well, not exactly that; I first added 2 tablespoons of dry whole milk and mixed that in well before I put it in the pressure cooker. I have this dry milk, Nido, that’s made by Nestle that’s whole milk, not the usual nonfat dry milk. It’s a fine powder, not the fluffy granules like instant nonfat dry milk.

When I took the bowl out of the pressure cooker and uncovered it the sweetened condensed milk had reduced by a lot and had a slightly grainy crust on the top. So I used the electric hand mixer and mixed it well. Then I put it in a jar and put that in the fridge. It’s thick. And it tastes great.

Thinking about the lower sugar queries I made the next batch with one can of sweetened condensed milk and one can of evaporated milk. For the evaporated milk I used whole evaporated milk, not non fat. This time I added 4 tablespoons of the Nido whole dry milk. I mixed everything together well in the steel bowl using a whisk, covered it with aluminum foil and cooked it as before in the pressure cooker for an hour. This wasn’t as thick as the batch made with only sweetened condensed milk. I was almost thinking of putting it back in the pressure cooker and cooking it for an additional half hour but I decided to try letting it cool down to see if it thickened up sufficiently. It was fairly thick, but not as thick as the first batch was, which was quite thick. It also needed a good mixing with the electric hand mixer.

After an evening in the fridge it thickened up nicely. The flavor is incredible. A rich and creamy caramel to die for. But still too sweet.

I think some of the condensation is dripping back into the bowl while it’s cooking so for the next batch I’m going to cook it the way I do my morning mush. I’ll use the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup with the brown glass lid from a Pyrex pot. The glass lid is a bit too large and sits at an angle because of the measuring cup’s handle, which is good because that makes the condensation drain to the outside of the measuring cup.

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Atta flour

I made some pasta the night before last.

I keep noticing these things that my local FoodMaxx sells. For example, in the Indian section they have some spices; the first thing I noticed is that they have whole cardamom, green and black. Green is the usual one. Not only can I now get whole cardamom but their prices are so low. Next I noticed that they have whole mustard seed; enough to last me forever, but the price is so low it feels like it’s practically free. Then I noticed that they have cumin seed. Again, I was sort of put off by how much; it fills up a quart jar. But again, the price was so amazing that I figured that I’ll put it in a jar and keep it in the freezer and it’ll keep for a long time. And whole seeds last longer than ground ones.

Then I noticed that they have flour; at first I thought it was just wheat and chickpea flour, but then I noticed that they also have millet flour, of which I’d already bought some from the health food store. Then I noticed that the wheat flour says that it’s durum flour; the light bulb went off and I was thinking that durum flour is ordinarily hard to get and good for various things. So the next time I went I looked at it and not only is it durum flour but it’s whole wheat durum; that really got me excited (I don’t like using white flour unless it’s absolutely necessary). It’s marketed to be used for chapati, and it’s also used for roti, naan, and puri. There are 3 different brands; 1 of them is a mixture of whole wheat and white, one is just whole wheat, and the third I don’t remember what its composition was, and it was also the most expensive ($13) so I didn’t pay much attention to it. The whole wheat only one was the least expensive, $8, so I got it. So $8 for a 20 pound bag of whole wheat durum flour. If you buy King Arthur flour it’s $4 for a 5 pound bag; Pillsbury or Gold Medal is around $3.50 for a 5 pound bag.

So now I’ve got enough whole wheat durum flour to last me for a long time.

When I got home I pulled out some cookbooks and started looking at pasta recipes and sure enough, durum is what’s wanted for pasta. I followed one recipe but the pasta was much too dry and I had to add a lot more water, although that’s consistent with using whole wheat flour; it definitely needs more water. But the dough kept tearing while I was kneading it. I let it rest for an hour and kneaded it some more and it was still tearing, although not as much. I kneaded in some more water but then it started getting tacky. I remembered that an old James Beard pasta cookbook called for oil in the pasta dough so I kneaded in about a tablespoon of that. The additional water and finally the oil fixed the tearing. By the time I finished it was too late to cook it, and it was an experiment anyhow, so I wrapped it and put it in the fridge. Tried some the next day and it was great. I should have started with the James Beard recipe; it uses about half the flour and I’d have started with the oil in it. Since it’s whole wheat and needs more water I’m going to start by adding an egg yolk in addition to however many eggs it calls for. The Mark Bittman pasta recipe calls for 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks and there’s one in the James Beard book called French noodles which calls for 3 eggs and 6 egg yolks. James Beard also wisely stresses that it’s important to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight in the fridge.

My pasta machine’s cutters are dodgy; they cut on every other one so the pasta ends up being twice as wide as it should be with a groove down the center where it didn’t cut. For the second batch I decided to just use the pasta machine to roll the dough and then to cut it by hand, which I liked doing. I also learned a great trick from a cooking magazine for sprinkling flour; use a salt shaker for a nice even sprinkle. I bought one of those stainless steel ones that are the size of a coffee mug with a handle on the side; it was something like $1.50 at TJ Max. After sprinkling the flour on the rolled dough I use a soft pastry brush to spread it around. You can sprinkle a lot of flour on the flattened dough before you roll it into its jelly roll shape just before you cut it; it keeps the dough from sticking together and it rinses off when you cook it.

It was great when I cooked it. It was definitely whole wheat, not the tender delicate (and, to me, insipid) noodles you get from white flour, but I always prefer whole wheat. I put some clarified butter and olive oil on it and some garlic salt and freshly ground pepper. The second time I grated some Romano cheese on it. Both were very tasty.

I’m looking forward to trying James Beard’s recipe; I remember when I used it many years ago that it made a nice dough. I’ll also have to try adding 1/4 cup of some of the other flours; millet, rice, teff, barley, whatever.


Leavening versus fermenting (removed)

(A dumb post that I’ve removed.)


Maida Heatter’s pumpkin gingerbread

Here is the pumpkin gingerbread recipe from Maida Heatter’s New book of great desserts.

The changes I’ve always made are to use whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose flour, substitute walnuts for the pecans, and to dust the loaf pan with flour instead of bread crumbs. Instead of a metal cake tester you can use a flat wooden toothpick for testing doneness. I wrote a note on the page saying that the bread’s flavor improves after storing in the fridge for a day, tightly wrapped (in aluminum foil, then in a plastic bag).

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, large
1/3 cup strong black coffee (or 1 rounded teaspoon instant in 1/3 cup water)
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups pecans, broken into large pieces

Adjust a rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You will need a loaf pan that has a 7 cup capacity; that may be 9x5x3 inches (which has an 8 cup capacity), 9x5x2 3/4 inches, or it may be longer and narrower. Butter the pan, dust it all over with fine dry bread crumbs, and tap over a piece of paper to shake out excess crumbs. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and mustard and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs and beat to mix. On low speed add half of the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a spatula. Beat only until barely incorporated. Mix in the coffee. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat only until incorporated. Add the pumpkin and, scraping the bowl when necessary, beat only until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Stir in the pecans.

Turn into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Then with the back of a spoon form a trench down the middle, about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. The trench will prevent the middle from rising too high, although it will rise some anyhow, and will form a crack down the length of the cake (it is supposed to), and will be as pretty as a picture.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes until the top feels slightly firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cover the pan with a rack, turn over the pan and rack, remove the pan, cover the cake with another rack, and very carefully (do not squash the cake) turn over again (or gently turn it over with your hands), leaving the cake right side up to cool.


Pumpkin bread idea

Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming up I’m jonesing for some pumpkin spice bread. My favorite is an outstanding recipe, the Pumpkin Gingerbread in Maida Heatter’s New book of great deserts. It’s out of print but you can get it used. My plan is to “merge” it with the Butter Bran Bread from Bernard Clayton’s The complete book of breads. I’m thinking that I’ll start with his recipe, for the most part, not use the 1/3 cup or so of cornmeal his calls for, use 1 cup of pumpkin, and then enough milk to make a reasonable batter. Something like this:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups wheat bran
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon dry powdered mustard
unknown milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup walnut pieces

Mixing will be the usual Maida Heatter drill. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix and set aside. Cream the butter, add the sugar and cream some more, add the eggs and mix well. Mix in half of the dry ingredients mixing only until just incorporated, then mix in the milk, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients mixing only until just incorporated. Add the pumpkin and mix only until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the nuts. Spoon into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes.

I won’t be able to follow Maida Heatter’s careful mixing instructions since I don’t know how much milk it will need but hopefully “incorrect mixing” won’t matter too much. I’m also thinking of using barley flour instead of wheat flour.

My penciled in notes say that it tastes better after it’s spent a day well wrapped, in the fridge.

I’ll report back when I make it, successfully.

This also got me thinking that I could try using some pumpkin puree in my rusks recipes. A half cup of it, then however much water is needed to make a proper dough.


Rusks; barley flour, pressure cooked

Since I haven’t tried barley flour pressure cooked I decided to give that a try.

1 cup barley flour
1 cup wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons instant potato
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (approximately) water

The water quantity is an approximation. I add the water slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough starts sticking together in clumps I let it mix longer before I add each additional tablespoon. Towards the end the dough will clump together and stick to the mixer’s paddle. In the beginning the mixer is on low; once the dough starts clumping together I put the spatter shield on the bowl and turn up the mixer’s speed. At this point, after each tablespoon of water it needs to mix for a minute or more before I add another tablespoon. As soon as it starts sticking to the bowl I stopped adding water and turned the mixer’s speed up to high. I also felt the dough with my fingers to make sure it wasn’t too stiff or too wet.

Then I put it in a greased plastic bowl with a snap on lid, but before putting its lid on it I press some plastic food wrap down onto the dough. Even with plastic on it the top darkens. I let it rest for at least an hour before I transfer it to the loaf pan and cook it.

I let the dough rest for at least 2 hours.

The reason I let the dough rest is that I read that whole grain flours don’t absorb fluids as quickly as white wheat flour does. And that the bran needs extra time to soak up its fluids. Additionally, there is enzyme activity going on that adds complexity to the flavor of the bread, but that probably requires a longer rest (for example, a day).

After its rest I put it in the mini loaf pan, buttered, tightly covered with aluminum foil, and cook it at high pressure for 25 minutes, then let the pressure go down naturally.

I set up my pressure cooker by putting the pressure cooker’s trivet in it then I put the folding steaming basket on top of it (with its center handle removed). I want the loaf pan up away from the water and I put in several cups of water.

I chill the cooked loaf overnight in the fridge. I prepare it for the fridge by wrapping it in 3 layers of paper towel and then put it in a plastic bag which I wrap around it. The paper towels pick up any moisture that comes out of the loaf; without the paper towels the moisture collects on the plastic bag and gets back on the loaf and makes its outside sticky and gummy.

Next I slice the bread at the 2 setting. I couldn’t help myself and kept eating the odd bits that weren’t well sliced. Barley flour bread is very tasty; rich and buttery, which is why I used butter instead of oil in this recipe, to accentuate the barley flour’s flavor.

The slices are drying at 115 degrees; I set the timer for 10 hours.

After drying and several hours of resting and relaxing … quite nice. Wonderful taste; nice and rich and buttery. The texture is good as well. My only complaint is that it was hard to slice them well with the slicer; the top or bottom is thinner than the other side.


Rusks; teff flour, pressure cooked, sriracha swabbed

I’ve changed my mind about the rusks that I swabbed with sriracha sauce. A day later and they’re still nicely spicy hot but their flavor is otherwise dull and boring. The texture is still good; crunchy without being tough.

Maybe I could add some cumin or ajwain seeds to make them more tasty. I do like the burn though.