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Jersey Cow

Condensed Milk:
Sweet Texas Inspiration

By Lori Grossman

When you think of Borden's Milk, you probably visualize Elsie, the "spokescow" in the company's advertisements. But there was a man named Borden who started the company. Gail Borden was much more than just the founder of the Borden Milk Company.

He came to Texas in 1829 and established the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper, which kept citizens informed during the fight for Texas independence. He later became involved in the politics of The Republic of Texas and even helped write the first Texas Constitution.

He was an inventor, too. It took years to come up with the right process to condense milk, which he called "the perfect food." Finally, in 1856, he received a patent for his invention, which we still enjoy today. And here's a bit of trivia: Borden County, in the Texas Panhandle, was named for him and the county seat is named Gail. The town of Borden, Texas, where he died in 1874, also bears his name.

Texas has a state song, state flower, state tree, and so on. I don't recall hearing anything about an official Texas state dessert. In my opinion (as a native Texan), the competition for the title would come down to pecan pie and banana pudding. Not many – if any – bananas are grown in Texas, but every respectable barbecue joint or restaurant specializing in home cooking has banana pudding on the menu. Most of us have grown up eating our mom's or grandmother's banana pudding. Most of those recipes came from the side of a Nabisco vanilla wafers box. Not this one, though.

Iris (my next-door neighbor) wasn't born here but, as the saying goes, got here as soon as she could. One day, when we were sitting around talking, she asked if I'd like some banana pudding. Of course, I said yes. My wake-up call came when she took a rectangular-shaped baking pan out of the refrigerator.

Most of us use a baking dish or casserole, right? The biggest surprise came when I took the first bite. It was delicious, but there was something different that I couldn't figure out, so I asked Iris about the ingredients. She took an index card out of her recipe box and handed it to me. The mystery ingredients were sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Try it – by the time you've finished your first helping you may prefer it to your recipe.

Iris's Banana Pudding
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 16-ounce box vanilla wafers
  • 5 or 6 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped, for topping (if desired)
In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk cornstarch and sugar together. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk and continue whisking until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup of milk and microwave on HIGH for about 6 minutes total, stopping the microwave to stir the pudding every 1-1/2 minutes until the pudding has slightly thickened.

Transfer 1/4 cup of the hot pudding to a small bowl and whisk in the egg. Whisk this mixture back into the pudding. Microwave for 2-1/2 more minutes on HIGH, whisking at 30-second intervals, until the pudding is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (If you'd rather use the stove, cook in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Whisk in the egg the same way as described in the microwave method. Continue, stirring, until thick.) When the pudding has thickened, whisk in vanilla extract and butter. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

With an electric mixer, whip the 1/2 cup cream in a small bowl until it holds soft peaks. In the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan, arrange vanilla wafers in a single layer and add a row of wafers, standing on edge, around the sides. Top with banana slices and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cooled pudding, whipped cream, and condensed milk until smooth. Pour or spoon this mixture over the bananas. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour before serving. If you don't like "naked" banana pudding, whip the extra 1 cup heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks and swirl over the top of the pudding. Then, chill as directed above. Makes 8 servings.

If you love Tex-Mex food, you've probably enjoyed flan at least several times. That luscious, creamy custard with its sweet, gooey caramel sauce really hits the spot after some extra-hot chili! This flan has a kick of its own with the addition of ancho chiles. A college friend of mine shared this recipe with me. It's her mom's specialty and fits into this month's feature perfectly. It's not only the ancho chile that makes this unusual. You won't find many recipes that use both sweetened condensed and evaporated milk.

Ancho Chile Flan
  • 1 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup water
  • 8 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups whole milk (not skim)
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 2 cups sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeded, deveined, and cut into thin strips

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen orange juice
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 ancho chile, seeded, deveined, and broken into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
Place the 1 cup of sugar in a small skillet or saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Let the liquid boil down. It will turn into an amber-colored syrup.

Pour hot syrup into an 8-cup flan mold, tipping the mold to lightly coat the entire bottom and most of the sides with the syrup. Let it cool and harden.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set a pot of water on to boil.

Lightly beat the egg and egg yolks. Add whole, evaporated, and condensed milks and blend together. Stir in orange juice and vanilla extract. Mix in dark brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Fold in chile strips and pour the mixture on top of the hardened caramel in the flan mold. Place the mold in a large baking pan on the middle rack of the oven. Carefully pour the hot water (from the pot on the stove) into the pan. Add enough to reach halfway up the sides of the mold.

Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Add more hot water to the large baking pan if the level becomes too low.

Remove flan from the oven. Let cool for at least 1 hour, then refrigerate, covered, for 8 to 10 hours.

To make the sauce, blend orange juice, dark brown sugar, and ancho chile together in a blender or food processor. Pour into a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add orange rind and immediately remove pan from the heat. Stir in dissolved cornstarch. Set aside to cool.

To serve, loosen sides of flan with a knife and invert onto a large, round serving plate. Drizzle sauce over the flan. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Can you believe it? I almost made it through without a recipe that included chocolate! Actually, I had planned on a chocolate-free article, but with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I had to include this recipe. For those cheesecake lovers out there, this one is for you. It's a slight variation on the usual formula, though, with this one baked in a 9x13-inch baking pan instead of a spring form pan. It's easy to make and relatively quick (if you don't count the time for chilling the cheesecake). Allow plenty of time to make and chill it if you're planning a special dinner with your Valentine.

Marbled Cheesecake Hearts
  • 2 cups finely crushed creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 24 cookies)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with heavy foil. Combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press firmly on the bottom of the foil-lined baking pan.

With mixer, beat cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour half of the batter evenly over prepared crust.

Stir melted chocolate into the remaining batter and spoon over vanilla batter in the pan. With a table knife or a metal spatula, gently swirl chocolate through the vanilla batter to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Cool. Chill at least 1 hour. Use the foil to lift cheesecake out of the pan.

To make heart shapes, cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter or, with a knife, cut around a heart cut from waxed paper. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Makes about 12 (3-inch) hearts.

So now you know that it was a Texas hero who invented sweetened condensed milk. You can find more recipes utilizing Gail Borden's "perfect food" at www.eaglebrand.com.

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