FCI Menu Project- Venezuelan Food Refined: Tres Tasitas de Leche

(Three Little Cups of Milk)
The Final Course in FCI Menu Project

Tres Copitas de leche

Tres Leches is popular all over Latin America and it was one of my favorite desserts when I was a kid.  In high school, one of my best friends would make it whenever she had the urge to bake, and then we’d dive in to enjoy her work. As I got older, however, I began to find that most versions were too cloyingly sweet for my liking. One day, a friend brought a store bought version from Whole Foods, which amazingly provided the answer to my problem with this cake.  A hint of coffee had been added to the cream mixture, and it cut through sweetness perfectly. I started adding coffee and then liqueurs and spirits to the cream whenever I made it at home.

Eventually, my husband, Greg, added another modification.  During our eight years of living in Los Angeles, we had the chance to try a lot of Mexican products, and among the items we grew to love was cajeta. Basically, cajeta is just like dulce de leche (or arequipe as it is called in some countries) except that it’s made from goat’s milk, which gives the flavor a nice tangy quality.  Greg got into the habit of adding a dollop of the stuff to his plate whenever we had Tres Leches at home.

As much as I love this cake, for this already rich menu, a piece of cake seemed much too heavy. Instead, I wanted a few small, sweet bites to close the meal, along with a small glass of fine Venezuelan rum to sip while conversing with friends.

Pairing:  Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario
The rich molasses and spice notes of this smooth rum paired perfectly with caramel flavor of the cajeta.


Yield: 8 servings

For the Choux
Yield: 25 small choux
(Recipe taken from FCI Level 2 Course Book.)

125 ml (4.2 oz) water
57 g (2 oz) butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
Pinch of granulated sugar
70 g (2.5 oz) all-purpose flour, sifted
2 to 3 eggs
Egg, for egg wash
Cream (or milk and a pinch of salt), for egg wash

For the Cajeta Pastry Cream
(Recipe adapted from FCI Level 2 Course Book.)
240 ml (8 oz) milk
2 egg yolks
20 g (0.7 oz) sugar
2 tsp flour
2 tsp cornstarch
148 ml (5 oz) Cajeta (or dulce de leche/arequipe) 
Sea Salt, to taste
For the Tres Leches Sauce
(Adapted from Tres Leches recipe by Alton Brown.)

180 ml (6 oz) evaporated milk
207 ml  (7 oz) sweetened condensed milk
120 ml (4 oz) half-and-half
120 ml (4 oz ) coffee
60 ml (2 oz )  Rum, preferably Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario

For Crème Chantilly
(Adapted from recipes in FCI Levels 2 and 3 course books.)
120 ml (4 oz) heavy cream
Vanilla extract, to taste
2 Tbs sugar
For Garnish
Fleur de Sel, as needed


For the Choux
1. Put the water, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. 

2. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil and the butter is completely melted, take it off the heat and add all of the flour at once. The flour should be added to the water mixture as soon as it boils; if the water boils too long, the proportion of the liquid to dry ingredients will change.

3. Place the pan back on a medium flame and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture thickness and forms a mass that does not stick to the pan.   Stir the mixture over heat for another minute or two to dry out some of the excess moisture. (Dessécher)

4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a clean bowl.

5. Crack the eggs into a bowl before adding to the dough. Add the cracked eggs to the dough one at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next. The eggs can be added by hand using a wooden spoon or in the mixer using the paddle or flat beater. The mixture should be firm but smooth. It has absorbed enough eggs when:  
  • The spatula lifted out of the bowl forms a ribbon connecting the spatula to the batter. 
  •  A finger run through the batter leaves a channel that fills in slowly.  
  •  A dollop of batter lifted on a spatula curls over on itself and forms a hook.
6. Fill a pastry bag half full with the pate a choux. Pipe out choux onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. The portions should be evenly sized so they bake at the same rate.

7. Brush the choux gently with an egg wash that is made by beating 1 egg with a tablespoon of heavy cream or milk and a pinch of salt.

8. Bake at 400°F (204°C) in the oven, until the choux are completely browned.

9. Lower the oven to 300°F (149°C) , and leave the choux in for another 5 to 10 minutes to dry out. Removed the choux from the oven when hey are dry and feel light and hollow. Set the choux aside to cool.

For the Cajeta Pastry Cream

1. Bring the milk to boil in a russe with the vanilla bean.

2. Work the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow (blanchir).

3. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and add the sugar-yolk mixture. Stir to remove lumps.

4. Whisk part of the sugar-yolk mixture with half of the hot milk to temper, and then return it to the pan.

5. Heat the cream over a medium flame while stirring with a whisk. Be sure to scrape the bottom and lower inner edges of the pan to prevent lumps and to keep the mixture from scalding.

6. Cook the pastry cream for 3 minutes after it has come to the boiling point.

7. Remove the pot from heat. While the milk mixture is still warm, add in the cajeta and stir to incorporate well. Add salt to taste.

8. Transfer the pastry cream to a stainless steel bowl and cover with melted butter or plastic wrap to prevent the formation of a skin (tamponner). If using plastic wrap, plush it down so it is touching the surface of the cream and allow the mixture to cool. Hold for service.

For the Tres Leches Sauce

1. Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and the half and half in a bowl and whisk together.

2. Reduce the coffee in a small saucepot until it reaches a syrupy consistency.  Add the milk mixture.

3.  Reduce the milk mixture slightly, over medium-low heat. Once the sauce is just nappant remove from heat.

4. Stir in the rum to taste and transfer to another container to cool.

For Crème Chantilly
1. Put the heavy cream in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl of heavy cream over another bowl containing ice.

2. Beat the cream with a whisk until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and a small amount of vanilla extract.

3. Continue beating until the cream is stiff; don't overbeat, or it will turn to butter.

For Service
1. Fill pastry bag fitted with a small star tip with the pastry cream.

2. Pipe pastry cream into the choux. Sprinkle a few flakes of fleur de sel on the pastry cream of each choux.

3. Quenelle Crème Chantilly and spoon onto the side of a rectangular plate.

4.  Spoon the Tres Leches mixture across the center of the plate.

5. Arrange the choux filled with cajeta pastry cream on top of the Tres Leches sauce.

6. Serve with a small glass of  Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario.

Tres Copitas de leche