Sorry I have been a little absent the past few weeks. I was away having a terrible time in South America..
I'll write a post in the blog section about all the food I ate. I can assure you I certainly ate enough of it. I am fearful to jump on the scales but looking at the area where my abs used to be I would say a solid 3kg has found itself keeping them warm. I am still having barbecue withdrawals, the meat was incredible. The desserts were incredible. The people were incredible.
I decided to stop off in Santiago on my way home. A few weeks prior to leaving Auckland I met a young man by the name of Andres in the back of my car (I was sober driving a bunch of people into town). Turns out he was flying home to Santiago the next day. How convenient. We exchanged details so I could hit him up about things to do while I was there for a day and a half. I flew in on Chile's Independence Day and before I knew it I was invited to Andres' friend's Independence Day barbecue and having a ball of a time.
The fact that I had only met Andres for ten minutes prior to this was really cool. On hindsight what I did was absolutely ridiculous and I could have gotten myself killed but on the other hand what one hell of a way to experience the real Santiago. I took away from this experience a more hospitable attitude. The next time a friend I meet on my travels says they are coming to New Zealand I am going to make sure they see some of the best kept local secrets.
I was ordered by Andres to go out the next day and try some of the many delicious baked treats that Chile has to offer. Due to the heavy European influence in South America, delicate and delicious pastries are things Chileans do well. I stumbled across this little shop called Casa Dulce and was immediately drawn in my this mesmerizing meringue and dulce de leche creation in the window. Turns out this was a milhojas, or a thousand layer cake. Layers upon layers of flaky pastry filled with dulce de leche. There are quite a few versions of this cake but the one I tried had custard alternating the delicious caramel and as well as being smothered all over in meringue. It was love at first bite. It was like a regular old bake house custard square went all Pretty Woman on us. I vowed that this would be my first attempt at a South American delight when back home.
And so here I am up to my elbows in dulce de leche and custard. This isn't a cake of impulse. On Friday night I made my pastry dough and boiled up my tins of condensed milk for three hours to make 'kiwi' dulce de leche (the closest thing you can get to it here without paying an arm and a leg for a small jar). On Saturday I baked my pastry discs, made my custard and then assembled the cake before letting it set overnight in the fridge. Then finally on Sunday I smothered it in meringue and baked it until golden.
The taller your cake tin the more layers you can make this. I was only able to squeeze in ten discs of pastry into my 15cm tin but if you've got a deeper dish, please be my guest and tower it up!
A note on that condensed milk boiling though, in a large saucepan filled with hot water place your sealed tins of condensed milk (I usually boil three at a time to save time in the future). Making sure the pot never boils dry, boil the sealed tins of condensed for three hours so that it caramelises. Leave the tins to fully cool before opening. These will last for yonks at room temperature if left unopened.
Milhojas (Chilean Thousand Layer Cake)
Makes a 15cm cake
For the pastry
2 cups flour
170g salted butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
For the custard
500ml full fat milk
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
120g castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or vanilla bean apste
For the dulce de leche filling
Either 400g of dulce de leche or a 400g can of condensed milk that has been boiled in a saucepan of water for three hours (tin still sealed).
1 cup walnut pieces, chopped finely
For the meringue
4 egg whites (approx 90g worth)
Twice the weight in castor sugar eg 180g
In a cake mixer (or with a food processor) mix together the flour, butter, egg yolks and milk until a dough starts to form. Being careful not to over handle and melt the butter with your hands, form a smooth disc with the dough, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
Five hours later or the next day make the custard. Beat together the eggs, yolks, sugar, flour and vanilla until a thick and pale paste forms. Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot but not simmering. With the beaters turning at a medium pace, gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture (not too quickly or else you will scramble the eggs!). Mix until the milk is evenly incorporated into the egg mix. Return the raw custard to the saucepan and begin to cook over a medium to low heat. Stir the custard continuously being careful not to let it simmer. Use a rubber spatula to help scrape the thickened custard off the bottom of the pan. Patience is key with this but in the end you with have a lovely thickened custard. If you have lumps, never fear, just get out your beaters again and give it a good mix to smooth those out. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Take the rested pastry and divide the dough into 10-12 small portions. On a floured surface, roll out each ball until it reaches a diameter of 20cm (I used the base of a cake tin to trace with). Cut out a 20cm circle and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, prick all over with a fork to stop puffing from occurring. Fit as many as you can on the tray then bake for 6-8 minutes until the pastry becomes golden. Transfer baked discs to a cooling rack. Repeat for the rest of the balls.
To assemble your cake, take a 15cm spring form cake tin. Use the edge of the tin to help 'cookie-cut' the baked discs of pastry into exactly 15cm (don't worry if they break slightly). Place the first disc of pastry in the base of the tin. Take a generous spoonful of dulce de leche or condensed milk caramel and spread it evenly along the base. Sprinkle with a small handful of walnuts. Place the next disc of pastry down and spread over good dollop of cooled custard. Place another disc of pastry and continue to alternate between the dulce de leche and the custard layers until you either run out of discs or space in your tin. Secure the final layer of pastry, wrap the cake tin in cling film then refrigerate for another 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius on bake. To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until they foam up. Gradually pour in the sugar with the beater still going. Beat for around ten minutes or until the meringue forms a glossy stiff peak. If you take some meringue between your fingers you should feel minimal sugar crystals. Remove the cake from the cake tin and generously spread over the meringue so that all sides are covered. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper and place in the oven in the bottom quarter. Check the brownness of the cake every minute just to be safe. Once it reaches a pale golden colour remove from the oven. You could also use a blow torch for a more rustic effect (my friend had borrowed mine or else I would have done that!). Transfer onto a plate and serve!