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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Romanian Bird's Milk ("Lapte de pasăre")

Now this is a touchy subject because there seem to be two completely different desserts in Europe called "bird's milk".  One is the Polish and Russian bird's milk, but it is not to be confused with what the Romanians and Hungarians call "bird's milk", while the French and English reffer to it as floating island. This is what my mother used to make for me when I was little (and for my cousin Noemi too - she was so amused by the dessert's name that at first she didn't believe it was actually called that!). Today I am visiting my parents and took the opportunity to make it with her again :). I am very warmed by the thought that through this blog of ours such traditional dishes - relevant not only to our story as a country, but most of all to us as sons and daughters who relate to certain foods and smells in a very emotional way - will be kept, will remain somehow "saved" for our sons and daughters and so on. :) Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves about 6):

  • 1 liter Milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 150 g sugar (or powdered sugar)
  • zest from a lemon
  • 1 vial of vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla stick
  • a sprinkle of salt 
(it's best if all the ingredients - the milk and the eggs actually - are at room temperature and not from the fridge)

First, get a double-layered pot (or another suitable for bain-marie). If you don't have one you can find instructions on how to improvise a bain-marie here (the part about the cheese fondue). Take the eggs and sepparate the yolks from the whites, putting the yolks in the bain-marie pot and the whites in some other recipient:

When all six yolks are in the pot, add a sprinkle of salt:

Grate the zest from the lemon:

Put the lemon zest in the pot over the yolks and also add the vanilla extract:

Add the sugar:

Mix very well until creamy and even:

Add 500 ml milk (half the total quantity):

Mix well until creamy and put it on medium heat, continuing to stir once in a while:

The composition should be left on the heat source to simmer until you're done with the rest. So, meanwhile, return to the egg whites. Add a little sugar (1-2 sprinkles) to them:

Mix them for about 5 minutes (using an electric mixer or blender) until the whole thing gets thick (and doesn't fall from the recipient if you try to turn it upside down):

Next, put the remaining milk (500 ml) in another pot and heat it until it boils:

When it's boiling, reduce heat to make it simmer and put large chuncks of the beaten egg whites into the milk to boil them:

Boil them in the simmering milk for about 2 minutes on each side:

When they're done, put them in a drainer:

Repeat the procedure with the remaining egg-white composition until you finish it. When you're done, put all the yellow cream (from the bain-marie pot) into a large serving bowl, then top it with the egg-white dumplings:

Now, it's very important to let it cool a bit and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. But other then that, it's all done. :)

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