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12/18/2014

~ Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread~

IMG_9712Like many others in the food world, over the next two weeks, my kitchen is going to experiece a marked increase in activity.  Some of it has been planned in advance, some of it will be impromptu, but all of it will be casual -- very casual.  I have my reasons.  Suffice it to say that during the holidays, I offer my kitchen counter as an oasis -- a respite from blinking lights, blaring carols and brash displays of lawn ornaments.  It's all about friends and family finding the time to stop by to sip on a beverage, tell a tale or two and exchange a yuletide greeting.  Depending upon the time of day, I always offer a snack:  Coffee or 'nog and cookies in the morning hours; wine or cocktails with some form of cheese and crackers for the afternoon or evening.

IMG_9707 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0ad3556970cThis year, I reached for my pizzelle irons.  I made a big batch of my ~ Double-Lemon and Vanilla Kissed Pizzelle Cookies~ (recipe in Categories 7 & 12), and an even bigger batch of my ~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers ~.  I made enough to last for two weeks and each one is safely stored in a big cookie can on a shelf in my pantry.  

IMG_6747Baking savory "cookies" is as easy as baking sweet cookies, and, I must report:  people expect homemade cookies, but they get really exited about homemade cheese crackers.  My post ~ Home for the Holidays, The Cheese Cracker Tray ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 or 11.  Pictured here are my Brie Shortbread, Cheddar Cheese Sticks, and, Gorgonzola Wafers.  Needless to say, these were the inspiration for me to develop the Pecorino and Pepper Pizzelle Snackers!

While my savory pizzelles are great on their own, I did come up with a quick and easy cream cheese spread to serve with them.  The spread contains all the same seasonings I used in the pizzelles, plus some garlic powder too, so it complements the pizzelle perfectly.  Once the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature, it gets mixed in less than one minute.  

I'm willing to wager you have all of the ingredients on-hand!

IMG_97648  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  tablespoon herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9776~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place all of the ingredients as listed:  

IMG_9768Starting on lowest speed of hand-held electric mixer and gradually working your way up to high speed, thoroughly combine, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of bowl almost constantly, about 45-60 total seconds.  The mixture will be soft, smooth, creamy and spreadable.

~ Step 3.  Transfer the mixture to a 2-cup food storage container, cover it, and, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  It's best after it has time for all of the flavors to marry.  When you want to serve it, remove it from the refrigerator about 30-45 minutes ahead of time.

Let's make a fancy presentation!  It's the holidays! 

Because I want to have this spread on hand to serve randomly to my guests over the next two weeks, I've come up with a way to allow me to make a triple or quadruple batch, portion it into 6-8 molds, refrigerate it, and, serve this, at the spur of the moment, and in an attractive way!

IMG_9779Meet my 3"-round, 2"-high, 1-cup size, restaurant-quality, mini cheese cake pans, complete with removable bottoms.  I have a two dozen of these and I love them.  I invested in them several years ago for a catering client who wanted individual cherry cheesecakes served for dessert.  These are the perfect size for me to mold almost any cream cheese-based spread, and remove it all in one piece for a pretty presentation!

IMG_9795Using a pen or a pencil, trace around one the bottoms on a piece of parchement paper, making as many circles as you'll need.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut around the inside of the lines.  

IMG_9798Place one cutout in the bottom of each pan.

Using an ordinary tablespoon, portioning and dividing as evenly as possible, spoon the soft cheese IMG_9804spread between the two molds, mounding it towards the center.

IMG_9809Using the back of the spoon, press and spread the mixture evenly down and into the sides of the mold.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate as IMG_9814directed (at least 2 hours).

IMG_9811To serve, remove from refrigerator. Using a sharp paring knife, cut around the perimeter of pan, to loosen the spread from the sides of the pan.  Invert onto a serving dish and gently press down on the bottom.  The cheese will slip out effortlessly onto the dish.

When desired consistency is reached -- it's snack time! 

IMG_9733Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of cheese spread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/lid, or, 2, 3"-round x 2" high mini-cheesecake pans w/removable bottoms; parchment paper; kitchen shears; tablespoon; plastic wrap; sharp paring knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a19469970cCook's Note:  For those occasional times when I entertain overnight guests during the holiday season, casual is the theme that reins supreme for breakfast at my kitchen counter too.  My decadent, make ahead recipe for ~ Rise and Shine: Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche ~ can be found in Categories 3, 9, 11, 14, 20 or 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

12/16/2014

~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~

IMG_9707'Tis the season for cookie baking, and, if you own a pizzelle iron, it undoubtedly is or will be out on your kitchen counter.  Pizzelle, which is plural for pizzella (pronounced "pit-sell" with a "ts" sound like in "pizza") are large, thin, crisp, embossed wafer cookies that are formed using a special iron.  It is said they were born in central Italy, in or around Rome, and were served to honor important government celebrations and family weddings because they were so beautiful to look at (not to mention delicious).  Historically, each family's pizzelle iron was embossed in the center with the family crest or other symbols of specific meaning, which indicated that each cookie was made by hand, and, these irons were passed down from generation to generation.

6a0120a8551282970b015438a33ea0970cAntique irons are very hard to find and can be quite expensive, $100-$300.  The traditional iron is made of cast-iron, and in effect is a double skillet intended to be held over an open flame. Modern versions of these are easily found and cost much less, $50-$70.  They are lightweight, easy to maneuver and are simply held over a hot burner of the modern-day stovetop.  That said:

6a0120a8551282970b015438a36048970cFor $50-70 you can buy an electric pizzelle iron, like mine, which is pictured here.  I t works like a waffle iron and I would never consider trading it for a traditional iron.  Once it is preheated, I place my cookie dough on the surface, close the lid, and, in less than one minute, a perfectly baked pizzella emerges. A little red light on top even blinks on to tell me when the cookie is done. Did I forget to mention how much easier the after-baking cleanup is? These machines are seriously well-worth the investment.

IMG_9595Note: While all brands work on the same principle, similar to a waffle iron, the shape and surface area varies from manufacturer to manufacturer -- some make smaller cookies, some make larger cookies. This means you will have to experiment and adjust the amount of cookie dough you use, via a smaller or larger cookie scoop, to avoid cookies that end up too small and not completely formed, or, cookies that bake with excess dough spilling over the sides.

Meet my mini-pizzelle iron!

IMG_6747I bought this machine two years ago because it makes small, 3"-round pizzelle, which are perfect cookies for making ice-cream sandwiches. Then, back in early November, I wrote a series of posts about "savory cookies":  ~ Home for the Holidays, The Cheese Cracker Tray ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 or 11.  Pictured here are my Brie Shortbread, Cheddar Cheese Sticks, and, Gorgonzola Wafers. Needless to say, these were the inspiration for my new:  Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers!

It's crunch time -- If you're still looking for one more holiday snack to serve, these easy, cheesey, cripsy treats are it!

IMG_9733These cheesey, peppery, pizzelle "snackers" (short for "snack cracker") are so much better than a plain cracker, and, oh boy, they're even better with a slather of any kind of herby cream cheese dip or soft, spreadable cheese -- Boursin for example. They're easy to make, and, the recipe doubles, triples or quadruples with ease, so, in a relatively short amount of time you can make a big batch -- they'll keep stored in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks (if they last that long)!

IMG_96043  large eggs, at room temperature

1/2  cup salted butter, melted and cooled about 5 minutes

1  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup finely-grated and lightly-packed Locatelli cheese, or your favorite high-quality Pecorino Romano (Note:  The tangy, slightly bold and salty flavor of Pecorino Romano is perfect for these snackers.  I always use a microplane grater to get the necessary fine texture.)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2  teaspoons cracked black pepper

1  teaspoon herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, majoram, thyme and savory)

1 1/2  teaspoons onion powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9611~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave and allow it to cool about 5-6 minutes.  While the butter is cooling, using a microplane grater, grate the cheese.

~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cracked black pepper, herbes de Provence, onion powder and salt. Set aside.

IMG_9621 IMG_9612~ Step 3.  In a medium mixing bowl, starting on low speed and increasing to high, beat the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute.  

Turn the mixer off and drizzle in the melted butter.  On medium speed, blend in the butter, until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.

IMG_9631 IMG_9627                                                 ~ Step 4. Add the flour mixture -- all at once is ok.  Over medium-low speed of mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl constantly with a rubber spatula, beat until a soft, slightly-sticky but workable dough forms, about 30-45 seconds.  Allow dough to rest for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_9657~ Step 5.  Place iron on a sheet of parchment and preheat.  Baking pizzelle is a bit messy.  Placing iron on parchment makes cleanup of drips easy!  When preheated:

IMG_9645Using a 1" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place well-rounded (not flattened) scoopfuls on each of the pizzelle grids.

IMG_9647Tip from Mel:  When you close the lid on the pizzelle iron, it is going to push the balls of dough foreward into each of the circular grids.  

If you place each scoop of dough in the center, but, towards the back of each grid (rather than spot on in the center), when the lid closes, the dough will spread forward evenly into each grid and you will get nicely- and fully-formed pizzelle -- you can thank me later!

IMG_9667 IMG_9661~ Step 6. Close the lid on the iron and secure the clasp to lock the handles.  Bake for about 50 seconds.  Unlock and open the lid, pizzelle will be barely or lightly-browned.  This is how I like mine baked.  Five to ten seconds longer will result in more browning, so, suit yourself.  Using a small spatula remove pizzelle to a cooling rack.

IMG_9686Tip from Mel:  Hot off the iron, pizzelle are firm but pliable (they crisp up as they cool), and, they cool very quickly, within 2-3 minutes.  If you are a perfectionist like me, use a pair of kitchen shears to trim the raggedy ends.  Do this within the first 30-40 seconds off the grids -- they won't be too hot to handle.  Waste not, want not -- eat the trimmings -- they're a reward!

Cool & stack the trimmed pizzelle on a rack as you work...

IMG_9696... and have yourself a merry little snack attack:

IMG_9728Savory Parmesan-Pepper Pizzelle Snackers:  Recipe yields 4 dozen, 3"-round savory snackers.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; microplane grater; hand-held electric mixter; large rubber spatula; parchment paper; electric pizzelle iron preheated according to manufacturer's specifications; 1" ice-cream scoop; small spatula; cooling rack; kitchen shears

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c71b97a7970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b01675f1b881b970bCook's Note: My recipe for the traditional pizzelle,  ~ Double-Lemon & Vanilla-Kissed Pizzelle Cookies ~ can be found in Categories 7 or 12.  These cookies are made on my full-size pizzelle iron then trimmed and cut into pretty fan shapes while they are still hot.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

12/14/2014

~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~

IMG_9574Amatrice is a town in the mountainous northeastern panhandle of Lazio, near Abruzzo (central Italy).  "All' Amatriciana" means "made in the style of Amatrice and sugo Amatriciana is one of the oldest Italian sauces.  It's a humble, rustic pasta dish commonly found on the restaurant menus of Rome.  This immortal sauce is bold-flavored, and, like many Italian classics, it is easily prepared with a short list of ingredients, but, the list is specific and the dish is only as good as the quality of said ingredients.  Recipes vary, so there is some room for improvisation, but this is seriously not the time to let your creative self stray too far from the traditions of home Rome, and:

IMG_9438This dish is all about the pork fat - not that there's anything wrong w/that!

IMG_9566That said, I have no first-hand knowledge of this dish or romantic tale to tell about eating it in a restaurant in Rome or getting an old and authentic family recipe from a friend.  I learned about it on TV, more specifically from Mario Batali, and, I was fascinated by what he had to say and what I learned that morning.  It was years ago, back in the days prior to The Food Network transitioning to silly, cheap reality game-show cooking programs -- the star of those shows actually cooked and knew their own recipes -- their job required personality + intelligence.

Amatrice.8A bit about all' Amatriciana (ah-ma-tree-she-ana):  The ancient version of the dish was created centuries ago by the shepherds from the coastal plains near Rome who would drive their flocks to the high pastures near Amatrice for the Summer months.  Throughout the "transumanza" ("migration") they prepared "pasta alla gricia" for themselves (Grisciano was a hamlet near Amatrice).  Gricia, a lesser-known dish that is still served today, is the original "white" version of present day all'Amatriciana.  

Gricia is/was a simple dish of pork, pecorino, peperoncino and pasta -- it contained no tomatoes, because at that time, tomatoes did not exist in Italy.  Then, in the latter 1700's, when tomatoes became a culinary ingredient in Italy, the Italians were happy to add them, and, the name was affectionately changed to "Amatriciana", in honor of the town which made it famous!

Amatriciana:  Five Basic Ingredients = One Iconic Italian Dish.

When 'Much Ado About Nothing' = Ado About Everthing! 

IMG_9314A bit about the ingredients for all' Amatriciana:  cured unsmoked pork, Roma tomatoes, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, pasta.  It sounds easy enough, and it is, but to get it right, read on:

IMG_9369Cured unsmoked pork (guanciale, pronounced gwahn-CHAY-lay, or pancetta):  Every traditional and authentic version of Amatriciana is made with guanciale (pig jowl).  It is saltier, fattier, slightly sweeter and bolder in flavor than pancetta -- it also gets buttery and translucent after cooking.  Guanciale is also hard to find (I need to special order it from a chef friend), so, if you do not have a source for it, pancetta has become, and is, the accepted substitute.  That said, some people prefer the taste of one over the other, so, let your taste break that tie. I love guanciale and keep a piece in my freezer at all times. Because American bacon is smoked, please do not do that!

IMG_9333Roma tomatoes (canned or fresh): Surprisingly, in the case of this dish, canned tomatoes are preferred, and, the best  fresh tomatoes in Italy are San Marzano. Why canned tomatoes and not fresh tomatoes?  As it was explained to me, the rugged mountains of Lazio, where Amatrice is located, was not prime territory for growing tomatoes, meaning:  they could be grown, but the growing season was so short, it was normal and common for them to prepare this dish using home-canned San Marzano tomatoes when they had no fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce with.  So, yes, high-quality canned tomatoes in the off-season -- by all means!

IMG_9347Pepper (red peperoncino or black):  In the case of this dish, peperoncino (red pepper flakes) are authentic and always used. Black pepper is typically not.  It is, however, worth noting that black pepper is typically used in the curing process of both guanciale and pancetta, so, it does make an unnofficial appearence in this dish. Many Americans don't realize that Italians use red pepper flakes much like we use black pepper -- crushed or powdered it gets added to simmering liquids or sprinkled on top of finished dishes.  Many kinds of capsicums are grown in Italy, and Calabria grows some of the finest red chile peppers in the world!

6a0120a8551282970b0168e9a4231d970cGrated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano):  It is grated Pecorino Romano all the way baby.  Pecorino is a hard, salty, sharp grating cheese made from sheep's milk ("pecora") -- it's perfect for bold-flavored dishes and Locatelli is considered Pecorino Romano royalty.  It was a staple in the diet for the legionaries of ancient Rome and is still made exclusively from the milk of sheep raised on the plains of Lazio and Sardinia according to the original, time-honored methods.  Logic alone should tell you if this dish was invented by the shepherds around Rome, they were not preparing it using cow's milk Parmigiano-Reggiano, and neither should you!

IMG_9377Pasta (bucatini or spaghetti):  It depends on who's dinner table you are sitting at.  There are two factions, the fanatical left and the fanatical right, and trust me, you do not want to disagree with either. Personally, I say it's the one-of-a-kind super-long stranded, thick, hollow-centered bucatini that gives this dish its real-deal slurpy character and sloppy charm, and, it has nothing to do with arrogantly thinking spaghetti is too ordinary.  It comes  from making Amatriciana both ways. Bucatini's thickness gives it the surface area during and after saucing to produce the ideal result:  a balanced dish consisting of pasta lightly enrobed in, not drenched or hidden by, a bold-flavored, slightly cheesy-tasting sauce studded with crispy pork!

Parting shots before preparing my version for Sunday dinner:    

IMG_9389What the food police say about garlic, onion, herbs, wine & EVOO:  We Americans tend to associate Italian food with garlic and tend to put garlic in anything and everything we associate with Italian cuisine.  Italians ridicule us for this.  This dish needs no garlic -- even if you love garlic in general, restrain yourself.  That said, adding diced onion to the guanciale fat and sauteing it until translucent adds pleasant sweetness to the tomato sauce -- even the purists agree there is no crime in that.  As for herbs, since San Marzano tomatoes have a few basil leaves packed in the can, if you feel the need to include an herb or garnish with an herb, use fresh basil.  As for a splash of splendid wine or a drizzle of fruity EVOO to finish off this modestly seasoned, hearty dish -- what happens in an Italian kitchen stays in an Italian kitchen!

IMG_9400For the pasta:

16-18 ounces bucatini*

5 quarts water

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

*Note:  The average length of a strand of real-deal Italian-made bucatini is 40 inches (that's over 3 feet).  I'm sure it would be amusing to cook them "as is" some day, but, to make them user-friendly, I break the long strands in half "at the bend", then break the lengths in half again!

IMG_9415For the Amatriciana sauce:

8  ounces guanciale, 8 ounces after removing any visible rind

1  28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand-crushed

1 1/2  teaspoons peperoncino

3/4  teaspoon sea salt, to taste, do not oversalt*

6  ounces finely-grated Locatelli cheese, about 3 cups

*Note:  If this doesn't seem like enough salt to you, the guanciale is going to add additional salt to the sauce, and to the finished dish.  The grated Locatelli cheese is going to do the same.    

IMG_9408 IMG_9401~ Step 1.   Using a chef's knife, slice and discard any visible rind from top of guanciale.  Slice, like you would bacon, into thin, slightly less than 1/4"-thick slices, then cut the slices into short 1/4" chards.  Slicing it this way results in it being crispy on the outside w/a slightly-chewy center.

IMG_9419 IMG_9426~ Step 2.  Place the guanciale in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan over medium-high heat.  Using a slotted spatula or spoon, stirring almost constantly, saute until it is golden brown and puffy, about 8 minutes (more or less).  To know exactly when it is done, look at these photos:

IMG_9421 IMG_9429When the guanciale starts to heat up, the fat will turn translucent (Jello-like looking).  As it sautes, translucent will turn to opaque.  When opaque turns to golden, the guanciale is cooked perfectly. Overcooking it will dry it out -- don't do that.

IMG_9432 IMG_9438~ Step 3. Turn the heat off.  

Using a slotted spatula or spoon, transfer the guanciale to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to drain.

There will be a lot of flavorful, fatty drippings in the bottom of the pan. This is exactly want you want.

IMG_9450 IMG_9447~ Step 4. Add the tomatoes to the pan drippings, then, add the peperoncino and salt. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover the pan and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sauce will be reduced a bit, thickened and emulsified (fat will be incorporated):

IMG_9459 IMG_9455Cover pan completely, remove from heat and set aside while cooking the bucatini as  directed below:

~ Step 5.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the salt. Add the bucatini and cook until al dente.  This timing will vary IMG_9489slightly, depending on the manufacturer -- the bucatini I used today took 11 minutes.  Drain into colander.

IMG_9493Note: You're thinking this thick pasta should take longer?  The center hole allows water to flow through, so, it cooks about the same as others!

IMG_9500 IMG_9501 IMG_9514 IMG_9524

 

 

 

 

Steps 6, 7, 8 & 9.  Add the steaming hot, drained pasta to the sauce.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until pasta is evenly and lightly coated.  Toss in two cups of the Locatelli cheese.  Toss in the crispy guanciale pieces.  Cover and rest about 5 minutes.

Toss in the last 1 cup of finely-grated Locatelli and toss again: 

IMG_9546ASAP garnished w/more Locatelli & peperoncino: 

IMG_9576When in Rome, start with:  Bucatini all'Amatriciana:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, preferably nonstick; slotted spatula or spoon; 8-quart stockpot; colander; salad servers or two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b01a73dd57389970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another Roman specialty, one that I do have first hand experience with, click into Categories 3, 11, 12, 14, 21 or 22, to get my recipe for ~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna:  Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Creame Sauce & Lasagna ~.  Pictured here tossed with the traditional pappardelle pasta, this long-simmered ragu is perhaps my favorite of all Italian sauces!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

12/11/2014

~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~

Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk #1I was just asked a question from a KE reader who said, "I ruined my mother's pumpkin pie recipe at Thanksgiving because I substituted condensed milk for evaporated milk.  I'm about to bake some Christmas cookies from one of her recipes, and, while I won't make that mistake twice, I still don't understand what the difference is between the two.  Can you quickly explain it to me?"

It only takes a taste of each to know they are very different...

1380405_881838341849337_4484291976577709115_nNo kidding around, I thought everyone knew the difference between these two commonly used ingredients -- I remember learning about them back in 7th grade Home Economics (thank-you Mrs. Richards).  I don't know if they even offer Home Ec any more.  I'm certain this info is available in almost every baking book printed in the USA today, and, I know it can be found elsewhere on the internet as well.  That said, when asked I answer, and, the question prompted me to write a quick Q&A post ASAP today so folks can learn about it here on Kitchen Encounters too.  Let me start with the most important information first: these two products cannot, under any circumstances, ever be used interchangeably. 

... and cannot be used interchangeably!

IMG_9301Evaporated milk is a canned cow's milk product that has about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk.  Sweetened condensed milk (also referred to as condensed milk), like evaporated milk, has the water removed from it, but has quite a bit of sugar added to it as well.  They cannot be used interchangeably. But, if you find yourself without either one and no means of getting to a grocery store, there are emergency substitutions:  

Substitutions for evaporated milk are:  an equal measure of light cream, half & half or cream.  I have read that buttermilk can be substituted too -- I have never tried it, but, I think the tangy taste of buttermilk may not bode well in some culinary applications.  If you keep dry (powdered) milk in your pantry, you can mix it with 40% of the water the package directions require and use it too.

Substitutions for condensed milk are:  if you do a quick internet search they are there, but they all require messy, time-consuming machinations that don't consistently result in an admirable result.  My recommendation on this:  get in your car and go buy the condensed milk.  If you are still intent on trying it, in a blender combine until smooth: 1 cup dry (powdered) milk, 1/3 cup hot water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.  Refrigerate.

A little bit of interesting background and history:

Both products have a unique flavor, creamy texture (with condensed milk being much thicker) and on the shelf, physically take up half the space of milk.  Evaporated milk was invented by dairy farmers over 100 years ago, because fresh milk, without refrigeration, had a very short shelf life and could not be shipped very far.  In the 1920's and 1930's evaporated milk gained favor as a baby formula.  Evaporated milk is still widely used in many countries were no refrigeration is available.  Sweetened condensed milk was invented in France by Nicolas Appert in 1820.  In 1853, Gail Borden, Jr., was the first to market condensed milk in the USA.  The US Government ordered huge quantities of it during the American Civil War and handed out its 14-ounce/1,300 calorie cans as field rations to the soldiers.  By the 1860's the soldiers had spread the word and condensed milk became a major product in the American marketplace... sweet!

Pay Attention to that Expiration Date!

Once the cans are open, both must be refrigerated, or, like fresh milk products, they will spoil.  Even though both products have a long shelf life, with condensed milk lasting longer than evaporated milk, you still need to check the date on the can before using either of them.

Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk #2Condensed milk should be thick, yet drizzly and pale cream-colored.  Past the expiration date, it tends to seize up or crystallize and darken to a caramel-color, which does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, but:

If in doubt throw it out!  

I managed to track down a can well past the expiration date.  While it tasted just fine, I probably wouldn't use it because the change in color and consistency would most likely affect the cookie recipe I am planning to bake next.

In the case of evaporated milk, if it does not pour smooth and isn't a uniform, light creamy white color, or, if it has any has any lumps in it, throw it out immediately.  A few parting words:

When using either of these two products for any purpose, be it in cooking or baking (which relies upon weights, measures and precise ingredients), PLEASE remember to read your labels and check your expiration dates before even getting started!

6a0120a8551282970b01a5116ae038970c-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)