Believe me, I am not exaggerating a bit when I tell you that last week was one of the longest weeks of my life. We were in the middle of some renovations at home and all the anxiety that brings, when my little boy came down with a pretty bad case of chickenpox. The poor thing was covered from head to toe with blisters and red spots and I have never seen him that uncomfortable in my life.
The fever and severe itching only lasted about three days, but we were confined at home for a whole week until all spots were covered with scabs and he was no longer contagious. We did not leave the house for a whole week. Yes, an entire week.
Although I know this is a fairly common childhood illness and there was no need to be alarmed, to see my little one suffer so much and be so sleep deprived from constant itching breaks my heart. The first few days, I just kept giving him oatmeal baths and tried to keep him cool and comfortable. However, that soon passed and then came boredom.
He wanted to go outside and play with friends and didn’t understand why he couldn’t. He became fascinated with the idea that he had the chickenpox. “The chickenpox? I have the chickenpox?”, he would say. So what do we do in our family when we run out of puzzles, books, games and movies (and we watched a lot of them!)? We bake.
The first day, he helped me make arroz con leche, which is our go to comfort dessert. We make it when we are happy, when we just want to watch a movie and snuggle or when we are sick. From that came the idea of reserving some of the milk and using that to make cupcakes, which everyone loved.
We used the arroz con leche cooking milk to flavor the cupcakes and the custard we used as a filling. We even soaked the cupcakes with some of the milk while they were still hot. Very, very moist. And we topped them with a meringue icing.
The following day we made galettes with nectarines, red currant and gooseberries and some leftover sugar dough I had in the freezer. We also made buttermilk, poppy seed and red currant mini pound cakes and even baked some of the batter in individual glass jars for something fun and different.
I have to say that the uncomfortable and painful stage of the chickenpox is gone, but the poor thing is still covered in spots and scabs. We did leave the house this past weekend for the first time and I have to admit, grocery shopping has never been so exciting in my life.
Red Currant and Poppy Seed Cakes
Makes 3 small loaves or 1 large one
170 grams butter, room temperature
250 grams sugar
1 tsp vanila extract
Zest of 1 lemon
180 grams buttermilk
180 grams flour
4 grams baking powder
3 grams salt
7 grams poppy seeds
100 grams fresh red currants
Cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Add the eggs one at a time and scrape to incorporate well.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix. Add the buttermilk and mix. Add the poppy seeds and fold in the red currants.
Pour the batter into pans and bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes.
Nectarine, Red Currant and Gooseberry Galettes
Makes about 3 galettes
2 nectarines, peeled and sliced
25 grams red currants
25 grams gooseberries
15 grams flour
10 grams vanilla sugar
Toss the filling ingredients together.
Roll sugar dough to about 1/8″ thickness. Cut circles that are about 10″ in diameter. Place the filling in the middle and fold edges over. Brush edges with egg wash and sprinkle some sugar.
Bake at 400F for about 20-25 minutes until bottom golden brown.
Arroz con Leche Cupcakes
Makes a dozen cupcakes
110 grams butter, room temperature
200 grams sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
125 grams arroz con leche cooking milk
175 grams flour
7 grams baking powder
Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add lemon zest. Add eggs one at a time and scrape the bowl well.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix. Add the arroz con leche cooking milk and mix until combined.
Divide the cupcake batter into the cupcake papers and bake at 350F for about 25 minutes.
Arroz con Leche Custard
250 grams arroz con leche cooking milk
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of a lemon
3 egg yolks
40 grams sugar
25 grams cornstarch
75 grams butter, cold and cut into small pieces
We are going to make a pastry cream with all the ingredients. Place the arroz con leche cooking milk, cinnamon, lemon zest and half of the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a light boil.
Whisk together the egg yolks, half of the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. When the milk mixture comes to a light boil, temper it into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk to incorporate and then return this to the saucepan. Cook while constantly whisking until the custard thickens.
Remove the cinnamon stick and transfer the custard to a clean bowl. Whisk to slightly cool the custard down and start adding the cold butter while whisking. This will cool it down and make it shiny and creamier.
Place plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and chill.
200 grams egg whites
400 grams sugar
Mix the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the bowl over a water bath and whisk until sugar starts to dissolve, the mixture turns very white and fluffy and feels very hot to the touch.
Place the bowl in the mixer and whip the meringue until thick and the bowl feels cool.