Over the years I've tried to learn the art of diplomacy. It's not something that comes easily to me. My father is one of the most blunt people that I know and thinks nothing of being brutally blunt much to the amusement of those in the know around him and the flushed looks of the offended. He would always end off with a puzzled look and a "Whaaat?" not quite knowing how or why he had offended someone.
At home, dinner conversations used to go a little like this.
My mother: "Do you like it? It took me five hours to make it, what do you think?" she would say after spooning some onto his plate.
My father: "It's ok" (shrugs)
My mother: "Well...that took a lot of time" (sniffs)
My father: "It's ok... but I have had better. And you got sauce on my spoon".
Over the years we've had to explain his behaviour to others with a "Don't worry, he's just like that" and Mr NQN and I laughed recently at how he has managed to get away with all sorts of bluntness. We discussed the merits of having an "Answer your emails in a blunt way day" i.e. you would pick a random day of the week when you can be brutally honest in your emails. If your boss asks you "Do you mind staying up all night and writing that presentation only for me to present it like I wrote it?" you would answer "Yes in fact Bill* I really do. You see I'm busy reading gossip blogs and after that I'm going home to drink too much and think of ways to bludgeon you and make it look like an accident".
I considered putting this post up in time for Valentines Day but I thought better of it given the literal English translation of the Spanish name Tocino de Cielo. I imagined a conversation going like this.
"This was a perfect Valentines Day dinner, what did you make for dessert?"
"Something that's just you honey - Heaven's Little Pig..."
"I've always hated you".
Heaven's Little Pig is a dessert for those eager bakers that always seem to have a surplus of egg yolks. Egg whites are fine, they freeze well and seem to last almost forever but the yolks, well bakers will know the dilemma. We've made brulees and custards and cakes trying to use up our supply but sometimes you may want something different. Something that uses up a mother lode of egg yolks. This simple custard is made up purely of egg yolks and sugar and is reminiscent of creme caramel. It's from the cookbook Miguel's Tapas by Miguel Maestre and I made this because when I mentioned it a few weeks back a few of you asked me to. I first tried it at The Provenance where it was a a spoonful of heaven.
I didn't make it using 36 yolks but I had 4 egg yolks spare and adjusted the recipe accordingly using a calculator. I've given the original recipe with all 36 eggs full of indulgent richness. This is best made the day before and then refrigerated-I have read that is tastes too much like sugared egg yolks otherwise. I waited until the next day and tried it. Oh me oh my, it was rich, creamy and wobbly and worth every calorie.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a very diplomatic person?
*Bill is Bill Lumbergh from my favourite film ever Office Space.
Heaven's Little Pig Pudding (Tocino De Cielo)
Adapted from Miguel's Tapas by Miguel Maestre by New Holland $45
Makes 1x 30cms/12 inch one (I made two medium ramekins with 4 egg yolks and adjusting the recipe accordingly)
1 kg/2lb caster sugar
1 litre /32 fl ozs water
2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped out
1 cinnamon quill
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
36 egg yolks
250g/8ozs caster sugar
250ml/8 fl ozs water
Step 1 - Make the custard first as it needs to cool. Stir the sugar and water in a medium sized heavy based saucepan over medium heat without boiling, untik teh sugar dissolves. Add vanilla beans and seeds, cinnamon and rind. Boil gently for about 15 minutes or until it thickens to a syrup and large bubbles appear ont he surface. You do not want the syrup to colour). Strain through a sieve. Cool.
Step 2 - Make caramel. Place the 250ml of water and the 250g of sugar and in a medium sized heavy based saucepan and stir over medium heat without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Brush any stray sugar crystals into the syrup with a wet pastry brush. Bring to a boil uncovered without stirring until the syrup turns a golden colour. Pour it into a deep, ungreased overproof dish or cake pan. Allow to set (it doesn't take long to set).
Step 3 - Preheat oven to 170C/360F and set a kettle of water to boil. Back to the custard. The syrup should have now cooled (I rested the bowl of syrup on top of a bowl of ice cubes to hurry it along). Whisk egg yolks in a large glass bowl until combined. Gradually beat in the cooled syrup. Skim off any bubbles or froth as you want the surface to be smooth. Pour the custard over the set caramel toffee.
Step 4 - Place the round dish in another baking dish and make a water bath by carefully pouring the recently boiled kettle water around the round dish until it reaches about halfway up the outside. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until custard is just set (I baked my 4 egg custard for longer than initially thought, about 25 minutes). Cool for minutes and remove the round dish from the baking dish. Cool to room temperature.
Step 5 - Carefully dunk the round dish in some hot water to loosen it. Run a sharp, thin knife around the edge of the custard and insert onto a plate. Place in the fridge overnight.