Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tocino de Cielo y Tocino de Tierra

My husband and I look for recipes based on what ingredients we have in the house. “What? No lettuce? Guess we can’t make BLTs; oh well, let’s just eat the bacon.”
Bacon is awesome.
Last week we happened to have an overabundance of egg yolks, and I made the mistake of saying that I would make him a chiffon cake. If I say words like “cake” in his presence and don’t start working on it immediately, he will often start chanting at me. “You said you’d bake us a cake. You said you’d bake us a cake. You said you’d bake us a cake!” So to distract him, I started pulling out cookbooks, and he consulted ye olde internet.
The first thing we discovered was that chiffon cake, like sponge cake and pound cake, uses as many egg whites as it does egg yolks. So I put my books away, and leaned over his shoulder. One of the best things he found was a list of recipes to use up extra egg yolks. It had links to recipes that would help you use up one egg yolk (by making homemade mayo or some cheese straws) and recipes that would get rid of a dozen egg yolks for you (Daffodil Cake does not contain any actual flowers, unless you count flours).
After some more searching and narrowing down and calling my mom, I had it down to two recipes: Momofuku’s Crack Pie and Tocino de Cielo.
Momofuku Milk Bar is a bakery in New York City; they charge $44 for one of their Crack Pies (or you can spend $5.25 per slice). This recipe made two pies (if you’re keeping score, that’s $88). It has an oatmeal cookie crust that requires you to bake the cookies beforehand and then crumble them up to make the crust. According to the article on latimes.com, the total time spent making these pies is eleven and a half hours, plus cooling and chilling times. There was no way my husband was going to wait that long.
I glanced at the Tocino de Cielo recipe, didn’t see anywhere that it would take over half a day to make, thought, “eh, I can whip that up in no time,” and my decision was made.
“No time” turned out to be about five hours, but last time I checked, five is less than fourteen.
I’m not a confectioner and I’d never attempted anything like this before, so I was a bit baffled when I looked at the first line of directions. “In a small saucepan, cook ½ cup sugar over medium-low heat and stirring regularly, until it comes to a medium amber color.” I raised my eyebrow. “What?” I thought. “Just the sugar? No... water or anything?” I felt like an idiot standing there stirring half a cup of sugar around in a saucepan, but eventually it started to clump up and get darker. Then I looked like an idiot, because I started jumping around and saying, “It’s amber, it’s amber!” I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to let it get thick or if it needed to stay sugar-consistency, so I probably took it off the heat sooner than necessary.
Next, it called for me to ration the amber sugar into four six ounce ramekins. I don’t have ramekins. I grabbed a jumbo muffin tin out of my cupboard, filled two thirds of the cups, and set it aside.
The next step was heating a cup of water and half a cup of sugar with some orange and lemon zest to two hundred twenty degrees. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so my meat thermometer was going to have to do. I learned that holding the thermometer steady while keeping it in the liquid but not on the bottom of the pan while also not scalding myself on superheated steam (ow!) was pretty difficult.
What was even more difficult was trying to figure out how I was going to get 225 degree liquid down to room temperature so that I could mix in the egg yolks and vanilla, toss it in the pan on top of the amber sugar, and bake it in the oven so that I could let that sit in the refrigerator for two hours before my husband and guests would want to eat it. Half an hour in the cool of the refrigerator did the trick, and the last few steps were completed in a hurry before my sister-in-law came over with my nephew to help start dinner.
We were talking about how we would fit two chickens into my oven when I realized the timer for the Tocino de Cielo had already gone off and I’d forgotten to take them out of the oven. My hands were covered in chicken goo and spices, so my sister-in-law carefully took the 9 by 13 pan out of the oven so that she wouldn’t slosh out any of the water that I’d had to put under the muffin tin.
By the time the chicken was eaten, everything was cleaned up, my kids were in bed, and we were all watching Downton Abbey in the living room, the dessert had been sufficiently cooled. I scraped it onto some plates and served it. “It’s good,” my husband said. “This is soooo sugary!” my brother said. “It doesn’t have any dairy in it, so I can eat it!” my sister-in-law said.
“Want me to tell you what the name means?” I asked. They nodded. “Tocino de Cielo: Bacon from Heaven.”
Mine didn't look nearly as nice as this.
Tocino de Cielo was good, but not as good as bacon. And it didn’t taste like bacon. Maybe since the name “bacon” is already taken in heaven, we’ll have to call it “bacon from earth” when we get there.
Because there’s no way that they won’t have bacon in heaven. It’s awesome.

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