Tag Archives: evaporated milk

Almusal ng Amerikano (An American Breakfast in a Filipino Home)

Evaporated Milk or Golden Syrup?

On weekends, when we were kids, our mom would make the typical Filipino breakfast for us. Our rich morning meal would provide the nutritious energy my brothers and I would need for our weekend activities. This usually composed of the previous night’s batch of leftover rice, which in the morning turned into garlic fried rice. Accompanying this staple were fried eggs and whatever type of fried meat we had on hand:  chunks of Tocino (sweet cured beef), Tapa (cured beef) or a few links of Longanisa (sweet cured pork sausages).  Depending on the combination, the dishes were called by blending the names of the three ingredients together. Singangang stands for garlic fried rice. Itlog means egg. If we were served Tocino, it would be called Tosilog, Tapa is Tapsilog and the sausage plate, Loonsilog. We three would happily devour our nourishing plates of carbohydrates and protein, but there were times when we begged our mom to cook us an “American Breakfast.”

In our minds, an “American Breakfast” meant pancakes. On these special weekends, mom would whip out her trusty bright yellow box with the cobalt blue letters making up the word ‘Bisquick‘ written across the top. Yes, ‘Bisquick’ was our connection to pancakes and for much of my youth, that is how I thought these flat round  breakfast cakes were made. A few cupfuls of the magic powder, eggs and milk and voila… pancakes!

In Mark Bittman’s book, “How to Cook Everything,” he writes “Americans must have been sadly alienated from the kitchen for pancake mixes to have gained a foothold in the market, for these are ridiculously easy to make.”  It seems my mother was not the only one relying on these ready-made pancakes to go. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the pre-packaged stuff, but once I started cooking for myself, I also thought they were”ridiculously easy to make.” I will admit that when I first lived away from home and when a craving for pancakes hit, I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t thought of packing boxes of ‘Bisquick’ in my shipment and I also couldn’t find them in the supermarkets of  Milano, Italy. Luckily, as a going away present, I had received a fine cookbook and thanks to Mark Bittman, I no longer had to rely on the boxed stuff. Instead, I learned different ways to create quick, simple and delicious pancakes from scratch.

When I was a child, I knew for sure that there was something drastically peculiar about the way we ate our pancakes at home. Mom did not serve this breakfast treat in the “American way.” The image we upheld came from a few visits to McDonalds. Three golden hotcakes patted with butter, lying flat across a white styrofoam platter with a small plastic container of golden syrup on the side. No…we were slightly different. Our breakfast table supplied butter, but there was also a bowl of sugar and a pierced can of evaporated milk sitting ready to top the pancakes with. Yep, that was how we ate them.

Hot off the griddle, my mom would stack a few of those light brown circular steaming cakes to our plates. We would quickly grab our silver knives to spread the butter and let it evenly melt around. Then with a teaspoon, we sprinkled the white sugar crystals in liberal amounts, poured the evaporated milk over the pancake and let it to soak up the mixture. Moist and sweet, this was how we feasted on pancakes. Eventually, our increased exposure to American commercials and  New York diners led to our requests to also have syrup at the table. Aunt Jemima’s Golden Syrup, however, was unable to ever conquer the reign between Carnation’s Evaporated Milk and Sugar alliance.

Mark Bittman’s pancake recipe was my introduction to cooking pancakes from scratch and since then I have explored many new ways to make them. Lately, the one I enjoy most is a very healthy version from “The New Laurel’s Kitchen.” However, I don’t follow it to the exact measure and therefore, I think my adaptation has lost some of its nutritious value. The book calls for whole wheat flour and oat bran. I use a cup of white and a cup of whole wheat.  The cookbook also suggests a recipe that substitutes milk for buttermilk. I discovered that by using this thick, sour and creamy liquid, it produced a fluffy texture and I have never gone back to using the plain ol’ stuff. When the pancakes are ready to eat and it comes time to add the toppings, I travel back to my roots. I gladly dive into the sugar bowl, reach for that can of evaporated milk and drown my pancakes. Old habits are hard to let go.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

1 cup all-purpose white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

2-2 1/2 cups buttermilk (add more if batter is too dry)

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Butter or Oil for the pan

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, beat the two eggs and then stir in the buttermilk.

Add the liquid mixture and oil to the dry mixture.

Stir ingredients well.

Heat up the pan.

Add a dab of butter or oil.

Pour half a cupful or less of the batter into the pan.

Watch for bubbles. When you see them, flip pancake over.

Cook until lightly brown.

Add the toppings of your choice!

Our Filipino Family’s Favorite:

Butter, Sugar and Evaporated Milk

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“I confess, I smuggle cans of evaporated milk.”

Leche Flan

The two main dishes that I must pull out during the holidays are my parents glazed ham and my mother’s leche flan. This main course and dessert were regulars at our family’s table on Christmas and Easter. I don’t really celebrate these holidays in the religious way, but I do like getting my friends and family in Prague around the table for some eating marathons. On this Easter Sunday, I called a pot luck in honor of a friend’s birthday so this day was a special double bill. My contribution to the feast was Filipino Hamon (Glazed Ham) and Leche Flan.

When I travel home to NY or visit another place, a mandatory visit to the  grocery store is scheduled into our itinerary. One of the things I am often searching for are cans of evaporated milk. Yes, this is a treasured item in my pantry. On my last trip home, I managed to pack 6 cans in my suitcase and on a recent trip to London brought 2 cans back with me. A good friend even carried a few cans back with her on a recent trip to California. I think that would be the last time she would ask if she could bring me back anything back from the States.

Can you see how much it means to me? I can not live without my mom’s caramel vanilla soft custard that just melts in your mouth. I am aware of the many types of flan recipes out there and many do not call for evaporated milk. However, my mother’s does and hers is the one that I grew up with and nothing can compare. I guess I am just a little old-fashioned when it comes to flan. Leche means milk, therefore, to get that state of perfection I never worry about the excess baggage weight my few cans of evaporated milk could cause. I do, however, hold my breath when I wheel my suitcases pass the custom guards at Prague airport. Then again, would they really take away my beloved  containers of evaporated milk? Honestly, I don’t ever want to find out.

Just in case I did have a shortage of these precious cans of milk, I have researched the web for ways to substitute it, and found that it is possible to make at home. However, that would require some extra work and one of the things I love about making this dessert is that it is very effortless and uncomplicated. You only need a few ingredients, then there are a couple of quick steps and an easy clean up. Aside from it being one of the simplest desserts to whip up, it never fails to delight the taste buds.

Then one day Tesco comes to the rescue! This is the name of the mega supermarket in my neighborhood. During one of our grocery runs, as I was looking for some cream for a quiche, I noticed there were some new products in the dairy aisle and what do you think I found there? Yes! EVAPORATED MILK! I have lived in Prague for five years and evaporated milk has just come into the market, there is a god! But, hold on. How good is this type over the ones I have hauled back from different parts of the world? I would have to test it out…

Leche Flan

1/4 to 1/2  cup of Sugar

8 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups of Condensed Milk

1 1/2 cups of Evaporated Milk

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Grated Lime Zest (optional)

-Heat oven to 180 or 325 degrees

– Pour sugar in a 8” round baking tin: silicone or aluminum works fine

-Over a low flame, hold the pan over the heat and let the sugar caramelize. This can take a few minutes. This is the trickiest part of the recipe. You don’t want to burn any fingers and you don’t want the sugar to burn.  As the sugar is melting, swirl the pan around so that the bottom and the edges are evenly coated. Put aside when done.

-In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, condensed and evaporated milks, along with the grated lime zest and vanilla. Stir and mix all ingredients well.

-Pour into the baking pan. Cover pan with foil.

-Using a larger baking pan that can hold the flan, place it in the oven filled halfway with water.

-Then place the flan inside the steam bath.

-Bake for 1 hour.

-When done, let cool and refrigerate  for at least 2 hours until ready to serve. (I always make this dessert the night before)

-When you are ready to serve it, be sure to carefully flip the flan over to display the beautiful caramelized top and let the syrup fall along the sides. I usually slide a knife along the rim to loosen it and then take the platter where it will be served, place it on top and flip it over as quickly as possible.  Garnish with mint or berries.

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