24 Meals.

August 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

birthday

Last Saturday I celebrated my 24th birthday.

There was a moment, as we waited for my sister to emerge from the kitchen with a cake ablaze, that I paused to gaze at the faces of the friends who crowded around our table, singing Happy Birthday to my sister and me. How blessed I am, I thought, to enter a new chapter in a chorus of love.

birthday1

I didn’t expect to be home for my birthday. This year had its surprises for me — some of them sobering enough that I’m amazed and humbled to have tumbled through them to find myself in summertime, in summery spirits, surrounded by the people and pursuits that fill me up with gratitude. Good food and dear friends. May the year continue in this way.

birthday2

I’m taking this milestone as an opportunity to begin a new project, to help me expand my repertoire of recipes and move me along in my dream of becoming an exceptional cook and savvy hostess.

The goal is very simple: to prepare 24 meals over the next 12 months. Each meal should include a drink, a salad, an entree, and a dessert. I will try to host a dinner party each month to put my culinary matchmaking skills to the test.

24 years, 24 meals. This is going to be a good year.

—–

birthdaycake

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

To begin, here’s the remarkable cake my sister made for me. The recipe comes courtesy of Regan Burns at CHOW.

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter, for coating the baking dish
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish with butter; set aside. Place the flour in a small bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer. Reserve the whites in a separate, very clean, medium bowl. Add the sugar to the yolks and, using the paddle attachment, beat on high speed until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl; set aside. Thoroughly clean and dry the stand mixer bowl. Place the egg whites in the clean bowl and, using the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir about a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites. Sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold it in, just until there are no more white flour streaks. (Do not overmix.)
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until the cake is puffed and golden and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the three milks and the rum in a large bowl and whisk until combined; set aside.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Using a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Pour the milk mixture evenly over the cake and continue cooling, about 45 minutes more. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  7. When the cake is ready to serve, spread the coconut in an even layer in a large frying pan. Toast over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. (If the coconut begins to burn, reduce the heat.) Immediately remove from the pan to a small bowl.
  8. Place the heavy cream and powdered sugar in large bowl and whisk until medium peaks form. (If you like, flavor it with a teaspoon of dark rum.) Slice the cake and serve topped with a mound of whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.
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