It’s May! And I think that Spring may be here. Lots of flowers are in bloom, but we have experienced freezing weather for the last week. As well, it is a month of birthdays: three of our circle of friends are having birthdays within a week of one another, so we are planning a mass celebration. I am making the dessert. My plan is to make takeoffs from Sarah’s Rich Table desserts – salted chocolate sablés and buttermilk panna cotta. Neither of these is an authentic recipe from Sarah (Do you think Dad could talk her out of trade secrets?) but they should be close. I also plan to gild the lily – it is Spring, remember? – with Mexican cajeta to pour over the panna cotta.
The recipe for cajeta comes from the superb cook book, Authentic Mexican, by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless (William Morrow and Co., New York, 1987, p 293). Even though the recipe calls for regular white sugar, in the past I have used piloncillo, the small cones of unrefined sugar that you can find in Mexican and Central American markets. This time, though, I decided to go with turbinado. The other decision was whether to use goat’s milk or cow’s milk. The authentic version calls for goat’s milk, and it is easy to buy from the stalls selling goat cheese at the farmers market or in cartons at health food groceries, so I went with that.
The only tricky things about the recipe are: (1) don’t let the mixture boil over when you add the baking soda, (2) stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom, and (3) watch for the change in the size of the bubbles as it boils, because that is the sign to let you know it’s almost done.
Cajeta is akin to caramel or butterscotch sauces, and it can be used in exactly the same way. It is delicious over ice cream, fruit, cake, etc. I guess you could just eat it straight out of the bowl, and some folks probably do.
- 1 quart goat’s milk
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1½ inch stick of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the goat’s milk, sugar, and corn syrup, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the cinnamon
- Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. It will foam up, so stir it vigorously to prevent boiling over.
- Return to the heat and adjust the temperature so that it simmers gently with a low boil. Stir frequently from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.
- Check frequently and stir. After about 30 – 45 minutes, the mixture will have reduced to about half or less, and the bubbles on the surface will change in size and become more glistening.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to reduce still further, but stirring very frequently to prevent burning.
- When it has thickened sufficiently – it should coat the spoon but still be fluid – remove from the heat. Cool for a few minutes, and then stir in the rum.
- Allow to cool completely and then transfer to a serving dish or to a wide-mouthed jar. It can be refrigerated for later use, but reheat gently before serving.