Cutting the fat allows you to eat flan with elan

March 08, 1995|By Patsy Jamison | Patsy Jamison,Eating Well Magazine

"We have tried to convert this recipe to one that more closely fits our new and healthier lifestyle, but without success," wrote one of our readers. Her recipe for Creme Renversee (flan) bakes an eggy custard mixture in a caramel-lined dish. Its richness comes from four jumbo eggs, fresh whole milk and sweetened condensed whole milk.

Sweetened condensed milk was developed in 1853 as a method for keeping milk from spoiling. In our refrigerated age, the product has found a new niche as an ingredient in creamy, sweet desserts, such as flan, homemade vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, caramel candies and Key Lime pie. But its high butterfat content is a disadvantage.

Sweetened condensed milk is essentially a concentrated (and sweetened) version of whole milk, and there are 24 grams of fat in every cup. Switching to low-fat sweetened condensed milk is the key to cutting the fat in flan: this new product, on the market since late last year, contains half the fat of the whole-milk version.

The revised recipe has only 4 grams of fat per serving, compared to 8 grams in the original. Judging by its silky texture and sublime flavor, the flan is sure to become a staple in our collection of low-fat desserts.

*

Whenever there is something to celebrate, Jean Brooks of Rutland, Mass., treats her family and friends to her aptly titled Died-and-Went-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake. This easy, one-bowl cake is a valuable recipe to add to any busy cook's repertoire. As chocolate cakes go, Ms. Brooks' recipe, at 8 grams of fat per slice, is not all that sinful, and because the recipe calls for vegetable oil instead of butter or shortening, the saturated fat was quite low. With a few simple adjustments, we were able to cut the total fat to 4 grams per slice without sacrificing the cake's chocolaty richness and moist texture.

When we lowered the oil from 1/2 to 1/4 cup, we boosted the flavors to compensate for the lost fat by substituting brown sugar for some of the white sugar. We also discovered that Dutch-process cocoa produces a darker, fudgier cake than American-style cocoa. This new version of Died-and-Went-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake is just as easy and just as delicious as the original -- reason enough to celebrate.

Eating Well's Creme Renversee Serves 6

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3 large egg whites

1 14-ounce can low-fat sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar with 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns a deep amber color, about 5 minutes. (Swirl the pan if the syrup is coloring unevenly.) Immediately pour the syrup into a 1 1/2 - or 2-quart souffle dish or casserole and carefully tilt dish so caramel coats halfway up the sides.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and egg whites. Add condensed milk, skim milk and vanilla, blending well.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into the caramel-coated dish. Set the dish in a larger shallow pan, such as a roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the larger pan so it comes halfway up the side of the custard dish. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the custard is set around the edges but still wobbly in the center.

Remove the dish from its water bath to a rack to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the dish and invert the flan onto a plate.

Per serving: 326 calories; 11 g protein; 4 g fat; 59 g carbohydrate; 148 mg sodium; 80 mg cholesterol

Eating Well's Died-&-Went-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake

Serves 16

1 3/4 cups all-purpose white flour

1 cup white sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup hot strong black coffee

ICING

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk or low-fat milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 12-cup Bundt pan or coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, invert and shake out the excess.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot coffee until completely incorporated. (The batter will be quite thin.)

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan and let cool completely.

To make icing: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough of the buttermilk or milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Set the cake on a serving plate and

drizzle the icing over the top.

Per serving: 222 calories; 3 g protein; 4 g fat; 43 g carbohydrate; 274 mg sodium; 27 mg cholesterol

Tip: Using unsweetened cocoa powder, rather than chocolate, for flavoring chocolate desserts cuts the fat dramatically. An ounce of semisweet chocolate contains 8 grams of fat, while 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (equivalent to 1 ounce of chocolate in terms of chocolate flavor) has only 1.5 grams of fat.

flead,0 While it is a matter of personal taste, our test kitchen prefers the richer flavor of Dutch-process cocoa in low-fat baked goods. "Dutching" is a process that neutralizes the natural acidity in cocoa powder, resulting in a more mellow chocolate flavor with a darker color. The cocoa is widely available.

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