Everyone loves dumplings, that’s just an undisputed fact. Not everyone feels confident making them from scratch though. These Cantonese Shumai are little juicy bundles of delight, they are a dim sum favorite for a reason after all, but they are also an excellent way to read more
Crema Catalana, flan, creme brulee… there’s something about a creamy custard topped with caramel that is universally irresistible. Purin is Japan’s take on the classic pairing and is incredibly popular. You can even find Purin for sale in convenience stores. It’s one of my favorite desserts for entertaining because it is entirely make ahead, uses just five very common pantry ingredients, and I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love its interplay of almost burnt caramel and silky vanilla custard. If you’ve been wondering what to serve for dessert this holiday season, this is it!
Full disclosure, I’m a sucker for new grocery items. And I really wanted to try out these heirloom blue eggs, which are my latest Costco find. I tell myself that it’s good research, but really, I need to work on my impulse purchases. Oh well, at least it’s edible. But whether you’re using special eggs (look at the orange yolks on these things!) or plain old workhorse eggs, you won’t be disappointed. So let’s get to it.
Purin is All About the Caramel!
A new season of the Great British Baking Show just dropped and I am so looking forward to another sweet and satisfying season. Do you love it too? One of the things that cracks me up is when the pressure and stress start to wear on the contestants and something that they do all the time, suddenly turns into a fiasco. I’m looking at you caramel.
And I say to myself and the TV screen, why do they always make it dry? Granted it is a little faster and we know that time for them is always an issue. But starting the caramel with water is foolproof. I have never burned it in the pan. And for those of you who may not have made caramel before, it would be my recommendation to do it this way because it’s stress free. Cooking the sugar with water gives it a buffer since the sugar doesn’t come into direct contact with the pan. So no intimidation factor here and now you too are on your way to a GBBS success story.
Making caramel is easier than you may think, and I’ve broken down the steps for you. I start by putting a large bowl of cool water by the stovetop that I use to stop the cooking process when the caramel is done.
Up until it starts boiling, you can stir, although it’s not really necessary. I usually stir the sugar until it’s melted and then leave it alone. However, once it starts boiling, you absolutely must leave it be! Stirring at that point can make the caramel seize; the sugar hits the cold part of the pan and re-crystallizes which results in a grainy finished product. Just lower the heat and keep a close eye so you can watch the color change.
I like a dark, almost bitter caramel. I love the complexity it adds to my Purin, and the contrast with custard is unmatched. This is a matter of taste and is somewhat controversial because the GBBS would definitely call my caramel burnt. But Asians in general like less sugar than others and I like that bitter contrast between the custard and the caramel sauce. When I buy Japanese Purin, the caramel sauce always has a darker color and a more bittersweet smoky flavor.
For those of you who prefer a purely sweet caramel, remove it from the heat before it gets as dark. Once removed, immediately put it in the bowl of water to stop the cooking. It only needs a second or two. If you leave it in the water bath for too long, the caramel will start to harden and it will make pouring it into the cups difficult. A quick solution if this happens is to gently reheat the caramel over low heat until it’s a loose liquid again.
Then carefully pour the caramel into small baking-safe cups and let the cups cool while you prepare the custard.
Now that the caramel is done, it’s time to make the custard. This is a very straightforward custard recipe. Like a lot of Asian desserts, it isn’t cloyingly sweet and loaded with sugar nor is it incredibly rich. Whole milk gives it the perfect richness but you can absolutely swap some of the whole milk with heavy cream or half and half for more decadence if you wish. (I have on occasion (cough cough) attempted to clear out my fridge of leftover amounts of dairy by mixing it up. This is a very forgiving recipe.)
And again, I marvel at my golden orange egg yolks. Come on, you wouldn’t be tempted to try these blue eggs?
You will need to put the custards into a deep baking dish as they will be cooking in a water bath. A water bath is often used to bake fragile foods, like cheesecakes and custards, as the water gently and evenly cooks the foods that would otherwise overcook in the oven. I carefully pour boiling water around these custards. The trick to getting the most evenly baked custards with no cracks is to use hot water. Custards are particularly temperature sensitive so every little step is important.
You only need the water to come up about a third of the way up the cups. Gently place the custards on the middle shelf of the oven and bake.
Cool the custards to room temperature (I just turn off the oven and open the oven door) and then refrigerate them for at least 2 hours. You can actually make them 2-3 days ahead of time. Reason 46982645 Purin is the ideal holiday dessert.
These Purin can take a little work to get out, and there is no shame in serving them in the containers you baked them in. Not only can you save water by washing fewer dishes, but also save yourself some frustration!
Pro tip: A trick we use in the restaurants is to bake them in foil cups. Then when you flip them over, you pierce the bottom of the foil cup with the tip of a sharp knife. The small air pocket you’ve just created will force the custard to drop onto the little serving plate. Easy peasy.
I hope you add Purin to your holiday table this year. Or better yet, make it today and treat yourself instead! It’s so easy, why wouldn’t you? While this post focuses on the purity and elegance of the eggs, you can easily spike the custard with a couple tablespoons of instant espresso, some orange zest, or a teaspoon of almond extract. Once you’ve made it, you’ll see a whole range of possibilities.
I am sure it will become a dessert you return to again and again. Let me know what you think by commenting here, and of course tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 Tablespoons water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6 Tablespoons sugar
- Set the oven to 300 and move the oven shelf to the middle.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat and then turn the heat to low. You will use this to cook the custard.
Make the caramel:
- Have a bowl with cool water ready on the side. Using a small heavy bottom saucepan, add the sugar and water and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, mixing only until the sugar has dissolved.
- You can stir the sugar and water until it comes to a boil and then do not touch it or it may seize and re-crystallize.
- Lower the heat to medium high and continue boiling for 4-5 minutes. The sugar water will first start to thicken and then turn light golden, then amber, and then dark amber. Once the sugar starts to get to the medium amber stage, lower the heat to medium. There is so much heat building in the pan that it will move from amber to completely black quickly. Once it is dark brown, gently place the pan into the bowl of water to stop it from cooking any more.
- Portion the caramel evenly into 6 small (5-6 ounce cups) and set aside.
- (I like a dark brown caramel which contrasts with the sweet custard. If you prefer a less bitter caramel, take the pan off the heat and dip it into the water bowl when it is a deep amber color.)
- Combine the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and milk in a large bowl and combine with the whisk.
- Pour the mixture through a colander to remove any bits of coagulated egg and then divide the mixture into the cups.
- Place the custards into a baking pan at least 2 inches deep.
- If you’ve beaten a lot of air into the mixture, you can use a lighter and lightly touch any bubbles with the flame to remove them. (This is an extra step I don’t usually take. Laziness is acceptable in home cooking!)
- Put the baking pan into the oven and gently pour the hot water into the baking pan. The custards should have water about ⅓ of the way around the cups.
- Cook the custards for 45-60 minutes. (The time will depend on the material of your cups and also if you’ve decided to use fewer large cups or more smaller sized cups.)
- The custards are set when the center is no longer liquid but still wobbly and jiggles.
- Carefully take the custards out of the oven and gently set them on the counter. Let them cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. (If you’re nervous handling a pan of boiling water, you can also turn off the heat and open the oven door, letting the pan cool off a little before taking it out of the oven.)
- Let the purin chill for a minimum of 2 hours. You can either serve them straight from the container or unmold them onto a dish.
- To unmold, run a thin butter knife or small offset spatula around the edge of the custard. Place a small serving dish on top of the mold and flip the custard over, holding onto both pieces.
- If that doesn’t work, try it again with a little more vigor. You can also try wedging the knife/spatula against the side of the custard and coaxing it out onto the plate. For this to work, place the plate on the counter and hold the custard upside down near the plate while running the knife along the custard. You want to create an air pocket so the custard will release.*
*If un-molding the porin sounds like too much work, just serve the custards in the cups with a spoon and a smile.
*The purin custards keep in the fridge for several days. Keep them covered until ready to eat.
Keywords: vanilla, custard, dessert, sweets, japanese, make ahead, holiday, xmas
There may not be a more crowd pleasing, popular dessert than cheesecake, and this Japanese Cheesecake is next level. It’s melt in your mouth delicious; part cheesecake and part soufflé. All the creamy tang of cheesecake, lightened with the airy cloudlike texture of a soufflé. read more
Every Independence Day deserves a showstopper of a cake, and this Flag Cake delivers! My husband is from the Philippines, so we always like to have a little celebration to honor their Independence Day, which is June 12th. Filipinos actually have a second day, July 4th, commemorating the second time they earned their independence. But whichever day you decide to celebrate, flag cake is always welcome!
I know this recipe looks very difficult and maybe intimidating, but I promise you can do this. I am by no means a professional baker, and I’m far more comfortable on the savory side of things. I’ve made this recipe a few times now, and it always comes out beautifully, even with my limited baking skills. In fact, my daughters and I typically make this flag cake each year. It’s fun and lets us spend a lot of quality time together in the kitchen. So if you have kids, regardless of their age or baking experience, you can pull it off together!
While the recipe is long (over a thousand words!), that’s because I really break down each step. I assume that like me, you aren’t a professional baker and maybe make a cake once or twice a year. In fact, this Matcha Cake is the only other cake recipe I’ve ever posted. I detail every single step so you can approach it with confidence. Let’s get into it!
My Baking 101 Tips
My baking trials and errors through the years have taught me a few key points:
- The temperature of ingredients is very important in baking. Use room temperature eggs. If your eggs are straight from the fridge, put them in warm water for 10 minutes. Butter should also be room temperature, which means you should be able to make an indent if you push a finger into it. It should not be greasy soft. Better to start with butter that is a little too cold than squishy soft, which will not aerate properly. Put the butter back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to harden if it’s too soft.
- A kitchen scale is your best friend when baking because it is the most accurate. If you do not have one, make sure you always stir your dry ingredients before scooping. Never pack flour into a measuring cup. And always level off with the back of a butter knife if using the scooping method.
- If you do not bake often, check the expiration date on your baking powder and baking soda. Many times old powders will be the reason your cake did not rise properly.
- Preheating your oven is crucial. Turn on your oven before you start the recipe. If you do not have an automatic beeper letting you know your oven is ready, let your oven heat up for 30 minutes before you start baking.
Baking the Flag Cake
While I’m mixing the eggs and sugar, I heat the butter, oil and milk until the butter is melted and the milk is hot.
I like to tap the cake on the counter several times so that the largest air bubbles come up to the surface and pop. This keep the crumb of the cake free of any large holes. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to check it early, you can always bake more but you can’t unbake. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
Flag Cake Frosting
If you look up Filipino flag cake, you will see a lot of beautiful flag cakes draped in fondant. Which may be lovely to look at it, but frankly fondant is kind of gross tasting. I wanted a delicious, creamy frosting for mine. I also don’t love frosting made with powdered sugar, I find it always has a weird, chemical aftertaste. And it’s often so sweet. So my flag cake frosting has all the good stuff-all the butter, real sugar, and dairy your heart could desire. This frosting is basically a sweet roux that is enriched with whipped butter. It’s satiny, creamy, and very stable. I think you’ll love it.
I start making the flag cake frosting by making a sweet roux. This is a very simple method but it requires a lot of stirring. Now is not the time to walk away from the stove. The roux thickens as it cooks and can easily stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Whip the cake flag frosting until it’s thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.
Once the frosting is done, it’s time to prep the fruit!
Flag Cake Fruit Topping
Luckily for us blueberries, mango, and strawberries not only are in season, but they also represent the colors of the Filipino flag. The berries get washed, dried and simply prepped.
The mango gets cut into shapes to represent the flag’s sun and stars:
Then using either biscuit or cookie cutters, cut out a circle and then stars.
Next, using the rest of the mango slices, cut 8 one inch strips and 16 smaller ones. These will be the flag cake’s sun rays.
Now it’s time to put everything together!
Decorating the Flag Cake
Next you will sketch out the flag design in the frosting, using either a chopstick or bamboo skewer. This will just be a basic guide to help decorate with the fruit.
Using that guide, arrange the strawberries like shingles on the bottom half, mimicking the red part of the Filipino flag. Kids can help with this part.
Now you’re going to put the remainder of the frosting in a pastry bag and use it to pipe frosting along the edges of the flag cake to give it a sharp, crisp look.
And with that, phew, you’re done! A magazine cover worthy Flag Cake, no pastry degree required. I can’t emphasize enough how NOT of a baker I am. If I can pull this off, you can too. And I know it seems like a lot of steps, but both the cake and the frosting can be made ahead of time, leaving just the decorating to do when you are ready to celebrate.
I really hope you give this Flag Cake a try, you will be pleasantly surprised by what you can do. Let us see those gorgeous cakes by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen, and please take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe below-we love hearing from you!
For the Cake:
- 2 cups all purpose flour (9 ounces)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 room temperature large eggs
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar (10.5 ounces)
- ½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
- 3 ripe mangoes
- ½ pound blueberries (1 pint)
- ½ pound strawberries
- 10 Tablespoons all purpose flour (3 ounces)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (10.5 ounces)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups unsalted butter (1 pound)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 dashes of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 and place the shelf in the middle of the oven.
- Spray the inside of a 13×9 pan with nonstick baking spray or liberally butter and flour the pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside until ready to use.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl to combine. Set aside.
- Beat the eggs for 1 minute on medium speed with the whisk attachment (6 on a stand/hand mixer).
- Add the sugar slowly in a stream, raise the speed to medium high (8 on a stand/hand mixer), and beat for 6-7 minutes, scraping the sides down with a rubber spatula once or twice.
- While you are whipping the eggs, heat the butter, oil, and the milk in a small pot over medium low heat. You can also put the milk, oil, and butter in the microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes if you prefer. (You want the butter to be melted and the milk hot, but not boiling.) Once the butter has melted, it’s basically ready to use (takes about 3-4 minutes). Keep the milk on low heat until you are ready to use it. You need it to be hot, not warmish.
- Once the eggs are done being whipped, add the flour mixture in thirds. First add ⅓ of the flour and mix on the lowest available speed (Stir or 1 on stand/hand mixer) for about 10 seconds, then add the second ⅓ and mix for 10 seconds, and finally the last ⅓ for another 10 seconds. Turn off the mixer as soon as you see the flour mixed in.
- Pour the hot milk into a large bowl and add the vanilla. Next add a generous cup of the egg mixture into the hot milk and whisk quickly and briskly until it’s a smooth, thick, and foamy mixture.
- Turn the mixer back on speed 1 and slowly pour the milk mixture into the bowl and mix for 10 seconds. Turn the mixer off and take out the whisk.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and gently fold a couple of times to combine any separate egg batter and milk batters until it is smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Hold the baking pan by the edges and bang the pan down on the counter 8-10 times (I first put down a wet kitchen towel so it deadens some of the sound) to burst any large bubbles in the batter.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick testing the middle comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool on the counter for 15 minutes before gently turning it out of the pan onto a cooling rack.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting:
- Place the flour, sugar, and milk in a saucepan and whisk until the mixture is smooth and lump free.
- Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture has thickened and looks like a custard or pudding, about 12 minutes.
- Take a tiny taste. There should be no floury or powdery taste. If it does, cook it for another minute or two to cook it out.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla extract and salt, and stir to combine.
- Then transfer this sweet roux into a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
- Let the bowl cool to room temperature (you can speed this up by putting the bowl in the freezer for 20-30 minutes). You can also make this ahead and store it in the fridge until ready to make the frosting. You will need to let the roux warm up to room temperature first before continuing with the frosting. The closer in temperature the roux and the butter are to each other, the easier it will be to whip up a thick and smooth frosting. (Do not use the roux warm as it will melt the butter and you will have a soupy mess. A little cold is fine as it will warm up as it gets beaten.)
- Place the butter into the mixing bowl with the whisk attachment. Beat the butter on medium high speed (#8 speed on the stand/handheld mixer) for about 3 minutes until the butter is fluffy and is a pale color.
- Lower the mixer speed to medium (#6 speed on the stand/handheld mixer) and start adding the sweet roux to the butter in generous 2 tablespoon increments. As soon as the roux gets blended in, add in another dollop of roux. (You can turn off the mixer when you’re making the additions if you find yourself making a mess. Then turn the mixer on to #6 speed to incorporate. Switch between on and off until all of the roux has been mixed in.)
- Once all of the roux is added, raise the speed to #8 (medium high), and whip the frosting for 2 to 3 minutes until the frosting is thick, fluffy, and can hold its shape in peaks. Set it aside while you prep the fruit.
Prep the Fruit:
- Wash and dry the strawberries.
- Slice the strawberries into thick slices. Set aside in a bowl.
- Wash and dry the blueberries on paper towels. Lay a couple of new sheets of paper towel in a bowl and set the blueberries in the bowl to finish drying and soak up any remaining water.
- Wash and peel the mangoes.
- Slice both of the mango into thin slices cutting around the pit.
- Using a small 1 inch biscuit cutter, punch a circle out of one of the slices and set aside.
- Next cut out 3 small stars, approximately 1” in size, out of the mango slices, either using a cutter or using a small knife.
- Cut 8 small strips about 1 inch long and then 16 shorter strips to put around the circle to form the center star.
Assemble the Cake:
- Cut the cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife.
- Transfer the bottom piece of cake to a serving platter since it is difficult to transfer the cake once it is frosted and decorated.*
- Put about 4 cups of frosting on the bottom piece of the cake. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting smoothly across the surface. Lay the thin slices of mango across the cake evenly.
- Cover with the top piece of cake. Use another 4 cups of frosting to smooth over the top and sides. Then put the rest of the frosting into a piping bag set with a medium round tip and set aside. You will be piping a border after you place the fruit.
- Next, find the center of your cake and draw a light mark through the frosting using a chopstick or some utensil. Draw one line horizontally and one line vertically through this center spot. Then draw a line from the top left corner to the center spot. And finally draw a line from the bottom left corner to the center spot. You will see that you have drawn a triangle on the left side that cuts into the two halves of the cake.
- Now it’s time to decorate with your prepared fruit.
- At the intersection of the lines, start putting down a row of strawberries on the bottom half of the cake just under the line, on the right side of the triangle. Overlap the strawberries slightly, like shingles. Keep the strawberries just shy of the edge of the cake. You will be filling up the entire wedge section below the triangle on the left side.
- Now place the three small mango stars at the three corners of the triangle area on the left. In the center of the triangle, place the circle. Next take the eight longer strips and place them around the circle. Finally you will take the sixteen smaller strips and put two strips next to each of the longer strips.
- Next you will place the blueberries at the top of the cake so that they mirror the strawberries. Start right above the strawberries and neatly place the blueberries in even lines all the way to the top and edge of the cake.
- Pick up the piping bag and push out any air at the open top of the bag and twist it shut. Squeeze from the top of the bag until you see some frosting coming out of the tip. Hold the tip close to the bottom edge of the cake. Squeezing gently, pipe a straight line along the edge. Then do the same at the top edge of the cake. The piping helps the cake look sharper and neater.
- Take a quick look and admire your work!
- Clean up any smudges around the platter and serve your flag cake with pride.
*I cheat when slicing a large cake and typically will cut down the center to the middle of the cake. Then I will cut horizontally through the cake to where the cut is. This gives me greater control in slicing the cake in half more evenly and no one will notice that the bottom piece of the cake is actually two pieces.
* This cake can be made a day or two ahead. Once the cake has cooled, immediately wrap it in parchment and then either wrap the parchment layer with plastic wrap or place the parment wrapped cake in an airtight container. The parchment paper will keep the cake from sticking to the wrap or container.
*You can make the frosting ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Let the frosting warm up for about 1 hour before whipping for a minute on medium speed to loosen it up.
Keywords: cake, dessert, sweets, filipino, flag cake