Friday, February 28, 2014

Pastillas de Leche (Philippine Milk Candy), No-Cook Version and Variations

Strangely flat pastillas de leche.

Traditionally, pastillas de leche are made with carabao (water buffalo) milk.

I can't even recall if I've ever had carabao milk pastillas de leche, but given that I do like me a good mozzarella di bufala, I can well imagine the joy in eating carabao milk pastillas de leche.

But, we all live in an imperfect world.

Pastillas de leche are simply cooked down milk and sugar, formed into logs (pastilles, if you will).

Milk candy, in other words.

I tried my hand making them a while back, but it was laborious, all that stirring and watching over the milk, the worrying about scorching and burning the milk, the constant scraping of the bottom of the pot... I believe it was not long after that experience that I discovered (or searched for, perhaps) the existence of a shortcut way of making pastillas de leche.

For this version, all one needs is condensed milk and powdered milk. Of course, this makes sense, for what is condensed milk if not cooked down milk with sugar?

If I can't have carabao milk, then I'll definitely take condensed milk. Besides, it's a badly-kept secret how much I love condensed milk. (You cannot even imagine.)

The condensed milk and powdered milk are combined, then formed into little logs.

There are two ways this log shape can be achieved. One can pinch off a piece from the mixture and form those into logs individually. Or, one can form a long strip with the milk mixture and cut off segments, much like how one would make gnocchi.

Dulce de Leche variation
If you were feeling a wee bit industrious, you can heat up the mixture until it becomes a tad caramelized and becomes a faux dulce de leche.

Or, even easier, simply buy dulce de leche.

What a fantastic idea: dulce de leche pastillas!

The shaped logs are then coated in granulated sugar.

I don't know what I was thinking or doing, but somehow I don't think I added enough powdered milk to the condensed milk. See how loose my mixture is? Each "log" is blob-by and spreading out!

The mixture needs to be more dough-like in consistency.

My pastillas are so weird and flat!

Earl Grey Tea variation

I thought I'd be hoity-toity and have some Earl Grey tea-scented pastillas.

One could go about this in a number of ways. But, the simplest I found was simply dumping a bit of the tea into my granulated sugar. If your leaves are large, or if you have whole-leaf tea, then give them a buzz in a spice grinder first. I could've added the tea to the condensed milk-powdered milk mixture directly, but I wanted to keep that pure.

See the bowl of sugar on the bottom right? It has some tea dumped in it.

After the roll in sugar, each log is wrapped in paper. Actually, each piece is wrapped in regular paper, then the paper-wrapped log is wrapped in tissue paper.

I must confess, though, I gave up wrapping mine. What's the point of wrapping them up when they were to be devoured a few minutes afterwards anyway? We don't know what self-control is.

(There is a demo of the wrapping of which I speak in the embedded video at the end of the post.)

I don't know if I had eaten all the Earl Grey ones, but somehow these guys were the only ones left for the photo shoot. But, look up there, there's a piece there with Earl Grey tea specks.

Other variations
As you may have gathered, pastillas de leche lend themselves to countless variations.

While there are traditional variations (like citrus zest, purple yam, jackfruit, coconut, squash), why not try matcha, coffee, or any of the myriad types of teas?

Or try adding avocado, because you know avocado and condensed milk go so well together.

GENIUS IDEA -- why not try a play on Cuban Guava and Cheese Pastries and add guava paste and cream cheese to the mixture? WOWZA!

Yes, why not add some sort of cheese?

Or, instead of tropical fruits, one can add berry purée to the mixture, either solo or mixed. Or a purée of any stone fruit (your peaches, your nectarines, your apricots).

Or an apple butter.

Or a nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter).

Or speculoos cookie butter. SPECULOOS COOKIE BUTTER!

Or nutella.

Or, leaning towards more adventurous flavorings, how about saffron pastillas de leche?

Or lavender pastillas?

Of course, there are all those spices!

Or add a textural component to the lot -- crushed nuts, pinipig, shredded coconut, cacao nibs, sesame seeds, chia seeds -- either into the mixture or as part of the coating.

Endless possibilities.

It doesn't really matter how my pastillas de leche turned out this time, because for me, it's just an excuse to eat condensed milk.

Eating it straight out of the can seems a little gauche, but how the addition of a little powdered milk changes everything!

Perhaps, though, you will make yours nice and pretty. =)

For more pastillas de leche reading, check out the post on Tangled Noodle
Sugar Pills: Pastillas de Leche
It's good stuff.


Pastillas de Leche, No-Cook Version

2 to 3 cups powdered milk
1 can (300 mL) condensed milk
granulated sugar, for rolling 

paper or cellophane, cut to size

Use dulce de leche instead of condensed milk.
Add any sort of texture component (pinipig, shredded coconut, crushed nuts, etc.) either in the milk mixture, or as coating.
Add fruit purée to the mixture for fruit-flavored pastillas de leche.
Add an appropriate cooked vegetable purée to the mixture (eg, squash/pumpkin, taro, purple yam, etc.).
Add any nut butter.

Mix together condensed milk and powdered milk until the consistency of dough. 

Scoop out about a tablespoon's worth of "dough" and roll into a log. Roll log in granulated sugar until coated. Repeat until all the milk mixture is done.

Wrap each log in paper or cellophane. 

A video by Pinay Cooking Lessons for your reference:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hot Pot Fun (Chinese New Year 2014)

Perhaps the most important part of Cantonese-style hotpot: the condiments!

We have finally succumbed.

For so long, we have resisted its siren song.

For ten years, every time we navigated the meat and produce aisles of our Asian supermarkets, we would see the signs and the little stickers.

clockwise, from top left: Sliced beef, pork & veg dumplings, fish tofu, Shanghai thick noodles, sliced pork butt.

Pre-sliced beef in trays. "Hot Pot Fun"

Pre-sliced pork in trays. "Hot Pot Fun"

Pre-sliced lamb in trays. "Hot Pot Fun"

clockwise, from top left: Those same dumplings and fish tofu, beef and pork balls, "tortellini"-shaped dumplings, fish balls.

Fish balls. "Hot Pot Fun"

Chicken balls. Beef balls. Pork balls. "Hot Pot Fun"

All other manner of balls: fish, squid, cuttlefish. "Hot Pot Fun"

Wontons and dumplings in the freezer. "Hot Pot Fun"

clockwise, from top left: Watercress, Napa cabbage, lotus root, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms.

Oyster mushrooms. "Hot Pot Fun"

Enoki mushrooms. "Hot Pot Fun"

We've tuned them out, deaf to the delights they promise.

See, we're not a big hot pot family. Sure, we've gone to hot pot restaurants but the number of times we've done that in the past ten years can be counted on my fingers. It seems the suggestion of going to a hot pot restaurant is met with sighs of resignation.

None among us, except CSC, are particularly fond of hot pot.

I probably am the most amenable among the non-hot-pot-lovers, given that I would miss the hotpot experience sometime, thinking to myself that it can be quite healthy, especially when I load up on my vegetables.

She lies! JS actually loves hot pot!

Look at that incendiary broth! (Little Sheep, December 2012)

I especially loved the hot pot experiences that we've had when we travelled to Taiwan. That was where we first had "spicy Sichuan-style mala (麻辣) hot pot", and "pork and pickled cabbage hotpot".

I love mala 麻辣 hot pot! Well, in general, I would not crave hot pot, but if I were to go, I would only want Sichuan-style hot pot. The one we first had in Taipei in 2009 was quite eye-opening; it was spicy as spicy can be, but without sacrificing flavor. Why am I yapping about it? I should just show you. I will get on that. Anyway, I'll let JS continue.

As I was saying...

I probably am the most vulnerable one -- and one that would be the easiest to crack under this Hot Pot Fun assault.

The past couple of months, during all grocery visits, I would observe people with their hot pot fun trays at the checkout counter. I noticed how people would linger at the propane cans for the burners.

"Asian foods in every aisle" at the new Safeway. And yes, even they were getting in on the "hot pot fun" action!

When our local Safeway opened, with "Asian Foods in every aisle," we were bombarded again. Their flyers would brazenly advertise the promise of so much hot pot fun!

The very hot pot fun we apparently are not having!

Fine, hot pot we will have!

Chinese New Year

That is one very full pot.

Chinese New Year's Eve it is!

Or is it?

I suggested to CSC and Mama that we can have hot pot on CNYE. But this was a thought just thrown out there. There was no resolution and we didn't come to any consensus. Mama finally decided that she would order some food for takeout -- at least, we'd have something to eat.

Having takeout for Chinese New Year? That just seems so sad! This news galvanized me. We definitely need to put on some spectacular hot pot fun.

Brand-spankin' new induction burner.

First, we had to get the equipment sorted out.

As the hot pot lover that she is, and coming from a family of ardent hot pot lovers, CSC mentioned that they had the whole shebang: tabletop burners, the pots (even the divided ones), the ladles, and the little ladle nets.

TS and I decided that this was just too much. We'll have to make our own hot pot fun with less.

We didn't really want to fiddle around with a tabletop burner with propane cans so we decided to go with an induction cooker that was selling for a very reasonable price.

We had to make sure we had a burner first before proceeding to buy the food. TS and I got around to shopping for the other ingredients a little after 4 pm.

There was an air of frenzy at the supermarket. That buzz and excitement finally jolted me: yes, we are having hot pot!


When I saw the whole chicken, I figured what the heck -- we might not be going all out for Chinese New Year's celebration but we had to have at least a whole chicken. And we do mean the whole chicken: head and feet included. It was boiled simply with ginger, green onions and Chinese mushrooms.


left: Large pot of chicken broth; right: Whole chicken

For our broth or soup base, we had plain ol' chicken broth. See that large pot beside the chicken dish? We couldn't really have any other soup base as no one else in the family is game for Sichuan or any other broth.



from top: 
Pork slices, beef slices, Shanghai thick noodles, pork & veg dumplings, fish tofu, other dumplings, beef and pork balls, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, watercress, lotus root, Napa cabbage... and the condiments!

Our little hot pot fun spread. For me, I just concentrate on beef slices and mushrooms and vegetables (such as watercress and lotus root, for example). All the other stuff is extraneous. Like, what's with all the balls and dumplings?!

As we were laying out the ingredients, I mentioned to TS that it was starting to look like a party! Hey, this hot pot thing was looking, in the words of Boss#1, "realer"!


With such a "bland" soup base, the key to making this hot pot fun is through the condiments. Here are the standard Cantonese-style condiments.

Clockwise, from top left:
Soy sauce, satay/sacha sauce, sesame paste, garlic, green onions, cilantro.

Just choose whatever you desire and mix them together to make your own sauce.

One can also add chilies or chile oil, ginger shreds, vinegar. And actually, we should've pictured at least one sauce bowl with this, a raw egg that's stirred into the sauce!


There was also takeout on the table! (Except the whole chicken dish and the pot on the induction burner.)

Of course, when we were shopping for ingredients, I told JS that she had to call Mama and tell her not to get takeout.

But, of course, JS did not make the call. And of course, we had a whole bunch of takeout in addition to the hot pot fun. The insanity!

This is what the entire spread ended up looking. May I remind you that there were only seven adults eating this meal.

Hot pot fun with some takeout interlopers.

The induction cooker that we bought seemed to lack enough power and was slowing the cooking down. Mama kept suggesting that we should dump the ingredients in a big stock pot and do the cooking on our kitchen stove.

I couldn't agree -- I kept saying that if we did that, we're not really having hot pot, we are just having soup!

The hot pot party was pretty satisfying for me. I mean, I was coming off a stomach bug and had to eat more cleanly and simply, something not too heavy and greasy.

Simply dunked vegetables, some fish balls, wontons and dumplings, a few pieces of beef and pork, a bit of noodles -- laced with "my sauce," which consisted of soy sauce, sesame paste, a bit of chili oil, garlic, green onions, and cilantro. It was delicious!

It is certainly an easy way to have a party since there was no cooking involved. Minor prep, like laying out the ingredients and cutting and washing the vegetables.

Maybe all those little stickers were right.

As promised.

Check out:
eatingclub Chinese New Year Menu 2011

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