Sunday, May 21, 2017

Y-Nots!

Editor's Note: these are very delicious.

The historical account:

The recipe for what you see illustrated comes from the 1897 edition of Brighina Young's "Minnissippi Pioneer Cooking". The recipe is Brighina's own. She dubbed them "Rye-naughts", being that they were fundamentally a twisted, spiced rye roll. Originally they were, in fact, twisted strands of dough reminiscent of the slingshots built by her younger brothers Boogham and Ian Pratt (known affectionately as Iggy Pratt.) The rolls were a favorite for spring graduation parties and eaten with cheese and lemonade. At some point, however, the language drifted, and the rolls became known as "Y-nots?", and today are made with a Y-shaped cookie cutter. Having been adopted by the local university as a culinary tradition. Minnissippi alumni of BYU often are found at the famous 750 North bakery sampling a childhood favorite. The shift in the name is quite remarkable seeing that originally the "naught" stood for the "zeroth iteration" on the recipe. Brighina was widely known for her constant iteration of favorite dishes, such as "Caverat Head Cheese", but in this case, she was satisfied with the first try. The name evolved, and only later too, the shape, as pioneer ways diminished. So while the block letter Y-nots? have become a staple, the recipe for the original Rye-naughts remain. 
Y-Nots are famous also for their soft-pretzel like use of genuine Salt Lake salt. The use of coarse salt on soft-pretzel came from having a German baker pass through Utah and be exposed to Rye-naughts, which became the basis for soft pretzels upon his return to Germany.
 There is one common misuse of the term, however. Some over zealous students have used a Y-not roll to propose marriage (or a date to the prom) by presenting the roll as if asking the question, "Y-not" marry me? And "Why-not tie the knot". Other misuses include confusion the "naught" with the "nut" part of donut or doughnut. Both of these cases should be corrected whenever possible.

1.5 c stone-ground rye flour
2.5 c bread flour
1 egg
1 T oil
2 T molasses
2 T cocoa
1 t yeast
1 t salt
1 t dried lemon peel
1 t cardamom
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t orange oil

Measurements are approximate! Make a yeast dough by standard procedure. Paint shaped dough with melted butter and sprinkle with fine and coarse sea salt. Bake for about 20 minutes. Enjoy at any temperature, with or without cream cheese. (Quite nice either way.)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Melissa Clark's Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Reb loves rhubarb!

Mom made this NYTimes recipe and Reb loved it!

The crumb is quite fatty. Perhaps it has more butter in it than it really needs.

But Reb loves butter!

2 1/2 sticks butter, at room temp, plus more to grease pans
1 1/2 lb rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2 inch cubes-- about 4 c
2 t cornstarch
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
2 c cake flour
1 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 t vanilla
4 large eggs
1/3 c sour cream
2 t lemon juice

  1. Oven to 325. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.
  5. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.
  7. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.




Friday, April 7, 2017

Reb Sauce

Here is a sauce that I like to make. You will, of course, recognize it as a romesco variant. I devised it after tasting a similar sauce at a tapas restaurant in DC a few years ago, a Basque version of romesco called salvitxada. It was served with scallops, but was also excellent with the steak, and with the charred onions, and with everything. I was able to make a sauce that matches my sense memory pretty well, although I do think it is closer to a romesco than a salvitxada. Of course I don't generally serve it on scallops or steak-- I serve it on pasta. Any pasta works, but I have a thing for angel hair pasta (which I recognize is a polarizing choice). I also like to add some browned smoked sausage.

I made it for the niblings and A. said "it wasn't fantastic like you said it would be but it was pretty good," which I count as a good review, and of course I. and C. wouldn't try it, but I think they ought to have. Baby T. loved it. It hits a lot of notes that their beloved "pasta and pesto" does. Anyway, I like it, and it's easy, and it doesn't have to dirty a lot of dishes, and I think it's pretty also.

Crusty bread: one big 1" slice or, say, 3 slices of smaller baguette, torn into largish chunks
Tomato: 1 largish or 2 smallish
Garlic: 5 cloves or so-- don't bother to peel cloves, although if you do, that's ok
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/4 c hazelnuts (skin ok) (one type of nut is ok, but I like having both)
Roasted red peppers: 2, or if they are small in the jar, enough to equal 2 red bell peppers
2 T sherry vinegar
1 T smoked paprika
salt: at least a teaspoon
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/4 c olive oil
2-4 T butter, melted (one type of fat is ok, but I like having both)
smoked sausage, if you like

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking pan with foil. On it, roast the garlic, bread, nuts, and tomato for 10 minutes or so. Remove the nuts and bread-- continue roasting the garlic and tomato for another 20 minutes or so. At this point you can roast something else on the tray too, like asparagus in oil, pepper, and salt for 12-15 minutes, or brown the sausage in little pieces. Or both. Use that pan!

Remove the tomato and garlic from the oven. When cool enough, remove tomato skin and peel garlic; roughly chop tomatoes and peppers as you add them to the bowl of a very good food processor. Add all ingredients except oil and butter (and sausage!) to the food processor. Blend until very smooth. Then put the butter and oil in the drip emulsifier thingy and let that thing run forever until it is all emulsified and beautiful. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, whatever else it needs. (I usually find that it doesn't need much adjustment past fixing the salt).

Serve on pasta with sausage stirred in if you like. Serve with the rest of the crusty bread and whatever you may have also roasted on the baking pan.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Melissa Clark's Cultured Butter Cookies

A homely little cookie that I would want to hoard for myself at home.
I rolled 1/2 in demarara sugar-- kind of disappeared, lookswise and texturewise, since the cookie is already crumbly and crisp. I rolled the other half in red and green sugar, also a looks mistake. I should have gone with a single color, red OR green. Or fine toasted coconut! Or very finely chopped nuts! NOW I'm talking!

150 g AP flour (2 cups)
3 g baking powder (1/2 t)
1/4 t salt
2 sticks salted, cultured butter, at room temperature (1 c)
130 g granulated sugar (2/3 c)
1 large egg yolk
55 g demarara sugar, for rolling, or something else

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt.

Cream butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy; beat in yolk until combined. On low or by hand, add dries until incorporated.

Divide dough into two balls. Roll each ball into a 1 1/2 inch log. Sprinkle whatever coating you're using over a sheet of parchment, and roll each log in it until the outside of the dough is thoroughly covered. Cover logs tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight.

Heat oven to 325 F. Parchment your sheets. Use a shrap knife to cut logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Bake until cookie edges and bottoms are dark golden brown, about 18 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Clementine Cake

I liked this recipe from NYTimes, but we had some discussion about if we liked the chocolate glaze on it or not. As you know, I LOVE chocolate orange.  But I do think the glaze, or at least the quantity of it, or the darkness of it, did overwhelm the cake. I might try again with a not-as-dark chocolate glaze, or less, a mere skim on top, maybe. Or the cake would be good just with powdered sugar, or with a syrup like you use on lemon cakes. The candied oranges Mom made for the top stole the show, though. They were PERFECT and beautiful.

5-8 clementines for 13 oz
Spray cooking oil
6 large eggs
1 c sugar
1 t salt
2 c almond flour
2 t baking powder
1 t vanilla

Place whole, unpeeled clementines in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 2 hours, adding more water as needed. 

Remove clementines with a slotted spoon and, once cool enough to handle, halve and remove any seeds or other hard bits. Puree in a food processor or blender and set aside.

Heat oven to 350. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking oil, line bottom with parchment paper, and spray paper with oil.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar, salt, and clementine puree. Add almond flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and starting to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack set over baking sheet. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of pan to loosed cake; remove cake from pan. Peel off parchment paper and return cake to wire rack to cool completely. 

Decorate with powdered sugar, or with chocolate glaze and/or candied clementines.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
12 T butter, room temp and cut into 12 pieces
1 T corn syrup

Heat a pan of water until simmering. Place all ingredients, plus 5 T water, in a slightly smaller metal or glass mixing bowl and set over the pan. Stir gently with the spatula until nearly all the chocolate has melted, then remove bowl from heat and set aside to finish melting, stirring occasionally until perfectly smooth, about 5-10 min. The glaze is ready to pour when it is between 88-90 degrees.

Pour glaze onto center of the cake’s top and let it run down the sides. Gently tap the cooling rack up and down so the glaze coats the entire cake. Let set for at least an hour before serving.

Lamb Masala

For our Three Kings Dinner, I was trying to mimic my favorite dish at our local Bombay House, lamb boti kebab masala. I was pretty satisfied, but it wasn't quite right. But today, as leftovers, I think it really is a great re-creation! They probably make all their masalas in advance. Fine by me, if it lets the flavors blend.

For the lamb:
1 T garam masala
1 1/2 t salt
1 t cumin (toast)
1 t coriander (toast)
1/2 t pepper
3/4 lb lamb leg sirloin, in 1 inch cubes
2 c plain whole milk Greek yogurt
3 T oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 T grated fresh ginger

Combine garam masala, salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper. Toss with lamb cubes, press gently to adhere. In a bowl, combine yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger. Toss lamb cubes in this, and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. Proceed with the masala sauce.

For the masala:
1/2 c ghee (or oil)
2 T garam masala
2 t salt
2 - 2 1/2 c onion, diced fine
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 T grated fresh ginger
2 medium serrano chiles, seeded, ribbed, and minced
2 T tomato paste
1 28 oz and 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained of fluid, fluid saved
1 c coconut milk
2 c cream (or next time I want to do plain Greek yogurt)
If using cream, not yogurt: juice of 1 small lemon or 1 t tamarind paste
Chopped cilantro, to serve

Heat fat in a big pan over medium/medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onion and salt. Cook to wilt onion, 11-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low. Add garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until onions have browned completely, approximately 7 minutes. Sprinkle with garam masala and stir to coat. Add tomatoes and, if you like, a little bit of their fluid. I added maybe 3/4 c. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have reduced slightly and deepened in color, 15-20 minutes. After this, you can hold it on low for a while if you need to.

While sauce simmers, adjust rack to upper middle (6 inches from top) and heat broiler. Arrange the lamb cubes on a wire rack set in a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Broil until the exterior is lightly charred and the lamb is yummy. Flip halfway through if you're up to it.

Right before adding lamb, add cream or yogurt and coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to make it as smooth as you can. Adjust the seasoning: salt as needed, and I added more cumin. It is also at this point that I added more cream; my base recipe just had the 1 c. Sour with lemon juice or tamarind if needed. Make it yummy. You could also add pepper, more garam masala, or individual components if you think they are needed: cardamom, coriander, mustard, cloves, chile, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

Add the lamb, heat through, and serve over basmati rice and garnished with chopped cilantro.

Epiphany Rice

I made this to go with my lamb masala. I was trying to re-invent a rice I had had at an Indian restaurant several years ago. Due to my lack of familiarity with my Mom's stove (you have to turn the heat down to 2 1/2 BUT NOT TWO) it turned out mushy, but it was yummy enough I think my invented recipe is sound. I will write it out for 1 1/2 rice, but ratios hold.

You will cook 1/3 of the rice and the other 2/3 separately, but at the same time. The smaller portion will be colored yellow, the larger will be white, but will be cooked with whole spices. You can color the yellow rice with turmeric or with saffron. If you are using saffron, the first step is to:

-- Put a pinch of saffron in a bit of water.

-- Start the ghee for the 1 c first; it will take a bit longer since you have to heat spices in oil first. When this ghee is hot, set the heat on the ghee in another skillet for the yellow rice.

-- Put in the hot ghee: 1 cinnamon stick, a cardamom pod (if you have it; we didn't), cloves (however many you think, but count them so you can remove them all-- I used 8), and be fairly generous with mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Saute these for a bit.

-- Add your 1/2 c rice to the small skillet with the ghee without spices and 1 c rice to the bigger skillet with spices. Saute the rices for a few minutes.

-- Add water and salt to the skillets. 1 3/4 c water for the smaller amount USING THE SAFFRON WATER as part of it, or adding turmeric if not using saffron; and 3 1/2 c water for the larger skillet. Add 1/2 t salt to the smaller and 1 t rice to the larger.

Cover, turn the heat down to "low" but NOT TOO LOW (2 is fine on my stove but not on my Mom's), and wait 30 minutes. Then fluff and mix the two rices together.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rose Levy Berenbaum's Deep Chocolate Rosebuds

These did not actually work when we made them. We tried to make the recipe, which, as you see, is for 12 little rose cakes, as 6 larger rose cakes. Also (this was my fault) we used prepared truffle for the filling, instead of waiting on the ganache we had prepared. The truffle sunk to the bottom of each cup, which may have contributed to how badly the stuck. By the time we got the cakes out of the silicon mold tray, they were pretty much all crumbs. But, since I am thinking about how delicious that bowl of crumbs was these few days later, I have decided to record the recipe-- in hopes of making it properly some day. Or not. I really liked that bowl of crumbs (with chunks of soft truffle).

For the "dark chocolate ganache puddles"
1.5 oz/42 g dark chocolate, 60-62% cacao, chopped
1/4 c/ 2 oz heavy cream

Heat the chocolate until almost completely melted. Use a small microwavable bowl or double boiler. Stir every 15 seconds, and when it is not all the way melted, but getting there, stir it until it gets there.

Heat the cream until quite warm. Gradually stir the cream into the chocolate. Allow to sit uncovered for about 30 minutes, more if your cream was quite hot, until the consistency of slightly whipped cream. Whisk for a few minutes to lighten and so that it holds its shape like buttercream. Cover and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

For the batter
21 g unsweetened cocoa powder (alkalized)
1/4 c / 2 oz/ 59 g boiling water
2 large eggs yolks (37 g) at room temperature
1 1/2 T water
3/4 t vanilla
2.7 oz/ 78 g cake flour
3.5 oz/ 100 g superfine sugar
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
5 T / 2.5 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature

Oven to 350.

Whisk cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover and cool to room temp. (You can accelerate in fridge but it should be room temperature when you proceed, not cool).

In another bowl, whisk yolks, 1 1/2 T water, and vanilla just until lightly combined.

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixer bowl. Add butter and bloomed cocoa mixture, and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise speed to medium and beat 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape sides. 

Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 second after each addition. Scrape.

You can use a muffin tin or the Nordic Ware Sweetheart Rose pan (with 12 cavities). Coat with baking spray and flour. (We used a larger silicone mold and didn't prep it). Spoon the batter in. They should be about half full. Smooth the tops. Dab 1 t / 5 g of the ganache onto the center of each.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cakelets spring back when pressed lightly with a greased fingertip.

Let the cakelets cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Unmold them onto a serving plate or a lightly greased wire rack. They should be about 1 3/4 inches high. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Nut toffee

Delicious. This is just a variation of the toffee (or "Dot's Candy") already posted, but here it is in another delicious way.

1/2 lb butter
1 c sugar
2 T water
2 T corn syrup
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 c chopped salted mixed nuts

Mix vanilla with nuts. It's odd, but do it.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt. Boil, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from pan and desired shade of brown is reached-- it will pass a pinkish tan into an orangey tan. Darker is better (but, of course, not burnt). Mix in nut/vanilla mixture right before you pour it out. Pour onto buttered marble slab or onto a buttered or parchmented cookie sheet. No point, really, in scoring it: just break it apart into chunks with the nuts when cool.

Turkey roulade

This was a holiday dinner request from brother Ignatius, who lived in Argentina. Our Argentine cookbook gives Mom-style recipes (see post below). So we made it up. It was very hard to roulade, but it was delicious. I think I would make it again, but not try for a roulade-- maybe just bake the "filling" on top of flattened turkey breasts.

Saute in olive oil very finely diced:
red sweet pepper
onion
carrot
with some minced garlic

Season with salt, pepper. Keep in mind the ham, bacon, and cheese will be salty.

Add finely diced:
hard boiled egg
cooked ham
crumbled crisp bacon

And:
shredded parmesan cheese
Any other salty cheese you might have around.

Flatten turkey breasts. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper or cayenne. If you are brave, roll the filling up in it and tie. Or don't. 

Bake.

Make a gravy to serve with it. 

King Cake: a GBBO technical-style recipe, or in other words, a recipe from Mom

Last Epiphany, Mom made a King Cake, and people: it was good. But of course, when I asked for a recipe, she hadn't followed one, and instead gave me an outline for how to make it without following a recipe, either. The style of recipe might remind you of what the bakers get in the technical challenge on "The Great British Bake Off." Ha!

1. Make a brioche dough.
2. Make a mixture of cream cheese, almond paste, and sugar that is a good texture and tastes good.
3. Assemble and bake.
4. Frost with a thick glaze and decorate with appropriately colored sugars.

4 & 20 Blackbirds Black Bottom Lemon Pie

Still on the same book, still on pies, still on recipes sister R executed, but hey! They're good! This one was for sister S's baby shower. I made the tea sandwiches also found on this blog.

9 inch single-crust pie partially prebaked and cooled
3/4 c heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/3 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 c Meyer lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
1/4 c fresh orange juice
finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
finely grated zest of 1/4 orange

  • Ganache layer: bring 1/4 c of the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour in the chocolate pieces. Swirl the cream around to distribute and cover the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk gently to combine. Scrape cooled ganache into the shell and spread evenly over the bottom and halfway up the sides. Refrigerate shell to set the ganache while making the filling.

  • Rack in center/ oven to 325. With mixer, combine eggs, yolk, sugar, salt-- mix on medium speed till thick and well combined. Stir in the juices and zest and remaining 1/2 c cream, blend well.

    Place the shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Strain filling into the shell. Bake 25-30 minutes, rotating 15-20 minutes in. It is finished when the edges are set and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Don't overbake. Cool on a rack 2-3 hours.

Eggnog/Butterbeer Pie

From the "Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop" cookbook. Sister R made this. The rest of the people in the house were maybe a touch skeptical, at least I was. I don't like eggnog and the rum thing was weird. Plus they call it "Egg n Grogg Pie" in the book which I get, but do not find at all appetizing. But wouldn't you know? I think I liked it better than anyone. I thought it was really delicious. Sister R said that she wanted something that tasted like how she imagined butterbeer. Now, just a few months ago, I got official butterbeer in Orlando. I didn't like it. It was very sweet, but I wanted it to taste zingier, saltier, bubblier, caramelier, darker, brighter, sharper?-- it is hard to describe, and some of you might be thinking, it occurs to me, that I am describing alcohol-- but I don't drink alcohol and never have and don't find it tempting. But this pie DID taste like what I want butterbeer to taste like. Zingier, saltier, bubblier, caramelier, darker, brighter, sharper. Rummier, I guess.

Gingersnap Crumb Crust
about 20 2-inch gingersnap cookies, enough to make 1 c crumbs
2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
4 T butter, melted
egg white wash (1 large egg white mixed with 1 t cold water), optional

Grind the gingersnaps to fine crumbs in a food processor. Add sugar, salt, and melted butter and pulse just to incorporate.

Pour crumbs into an ungreased, preferably metal, 9 inch pie plate. Spread evenly over bottom and up sides. Freeze until solid, about 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350.

Bake 12-14 minutes, until fragrant and darkened slightly. If it slumps or cracks, gently push the crumbs back into place, while hot, with a kitchen towel. While hot, moistureproof the crust by brushing with the egg wash, if desired. Bake for an additional minute to set. Cool completely, and refrigerate 10 minutes prior to filling to set the crumbs better.

Pie
3/4 c cream cheese, softened
3/4 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla paste
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch cloves
3 large eggs
1 c heavy cream
3 T dark rum
1/2 t fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 325. Place the prepared crumb shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

With a mixer, blend the cream cheese with the sugar, salt, vanilla paste, and spices until well mixed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the cream, rum, and lemon juice. Stir until well combined.

Carefully pour into the shell. To avoid disturbing the crumb crust, slow the stream by pouring it over a rubber scraper and letting the filling dribble into the pan. Bake on the middle rack 40-45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, about 25 minutes in. The pie is done when the edges are set and the middle is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Don't overbake. Cool completely on a rack, 2-3 hours. Serve a little warm, at room temperature, or cool.

Flan a la Antigua (NYTimes/Julia Moskin Flan de Leche)

Mom made this over the holidays and it was the yummiest flan I think I've had. Someone brought up that they like most of the homemade flans they've had, but never a store-bought flan. Everyone agreed, and I do too! Why such a dramatic difference? Homemade flans, like this one, can be perfectly balanced and delicious. Everyone store or restaurant flan I've had has tasted and chewed like rubber goo.

2 1/2 c sugar
3 c whole milk, or 2 c whole milk plus 1 c heavy cream
2 strips lemon zest
1/8 t salt
6 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 t vanilla

Make caramel: Pour 1 c sugar and 2 T water into a saucepan, preferably one that is white or light-colored inside. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, swirling the pan to combine the sugar and water. Do not stir. Let boil until deep amber in color, swirling the pan occasionally to caramelize evenly, about 10 minutes total. Watch the pan carefully after the mixture starts turning golden; it will quickly become light brown, then amber, then dark amber. Immediately pour caramel into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside to harden.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan or microwavable bowl or pitcher, combine milk, zest, salt, and remaining 1 1/2 c sugar. Over low heat or in microwave, heat through, stirring to melt the sugar. Set aside.

In a blender or using a hand blender in a pitcher, combine eggs, yolks, and vanilla. Blend till smooth.

Remove the lemon zest strips from the milk. With the blender running, gradually pour the milk into the eggs. Go very slowly at first so the eggs don't cook from the heat of the milk. (Or you could fridge the milk). Blend until just smooth. Pour into the caramel-lined pan.

Place a 9 x 13 pan in the lower third of oven. Carefully place the loaf pan inside it. Pour hot tap water into the baking dish until it comes about halfway up the sides of the pan. (Don't worry about the oven losing heat).

Bake 55-65 minutes, until set but still jiggly in the center. Remove from water bath and cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold and firm, at least 8 hours or up to 3 days. The caramel will soften as it sits.

To unmold, run a thin sharp knife around the edges. Center a flat-bottomed platter with a rim on top of the pan, and, holding both, carefully flip. "The flan will fall onto the plate with a squelch"; lift off the pan and let the caramel run all over the top. If the flan doesn't come out, flip it back over and rest the bottom of the pan on a hot wet kitchen towel for a few minutes, to melt the caramel.