These rice cakes may be a simple looking confection, but they lack in bakery (think curbside) appeal is more than made up in flavor. And they could not be easier to make. Many thanks to Spain for bringing us this excellent little cake.
There are as many ways to prepare Bilbao rice cakes as there are snowflakes in a blizzard. Some are simple; others are a little too Martha.
But I think I reached a good compromise and found a way to make them incredibly easy to make. And the best part after making 400 gazillions is that no matter how they come out looking, they will always (always!) taste great. Significant enough; in fact, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t make a double batch.
The popular way to make them in Bilbao (or anywhere, actually) is to bake the custard in a bit of crust, sometimes a puff pastry crust. Our recipe includes a version in a pie crust with the addition of pineapple, and the other version is more traditional but without a crust, baked in a muffin tin, making individual little cakes. The miniature muffin tin version forms its own caramelized crust when you butter the pan.
For the larger version with or without a crust, make sure your pan is large enough so that the cake is relatively thin – it isn’t a quiche or a regular-looking American pie. Sometimes it forms two layers, with the bottom being a little chewier than the top, but it still does not detract at all – it still tastes great. Beginning with the heat on high helps it puff up and caramelize a little bit, and finishing it at a lower temperature will make the custard bake gently.
I would even bet you have all the ingredients on hand. So make some. Everyone will be glad you did.
- In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and shortening and pulse until uneven, coarse crumbs form. Incrementally add the water while beating the machine until the dough comes together in a ragged smeary ball. You probably won’t use all the moisture.
- Roll dough between sheets of plastic wrap large enough to fit a 9-inch to 10-inch springform pan. Line the pan with the crust coming up the sides about halfway. Patch any holes or tears. Refrigerate crust for 15 minutes while the oven preheats.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chilled pan with crust on a baking sheet. Bake crust for 18 minutes and remove. Cool slightly. Continue with the recipe.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. Wrap the pan in foil to catch any leaks and place the wrapped pan on a baking sheet (double leak insurance).
- Place milk in a microwave-safe container and add the butter. Heat the mixture until most butter melts, and the milk is a bit hot (too hot to touch, but just). There may be a few lumps of butter remaining – stir them until they dissolve. Add vanilla. Beat eggs in a small dish. Add some hot milk mixture to temper the eggs. Stir the tempered eggs into the milk mixture. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Mix in flour.
- If using pineapple, place the well-drained crushed pineapple in a single even layer on the bottom of the crust or greased pan. Strain custard into the crust over the pineapple, pouring slowly, so the pineapple stays in place. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg if using.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F and then turn the oven temperature down to 325°F and bake 35-45 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and puffy and the filling jiggles just slightly. The crust should be lightly browned.
- Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes and then transfer pan onto a rack and calm for at least an hour. Gently remove the foil if using (some of the fillings will have leaked). Using a butter knife or a small offset spatula, free the crust from the edge and gently remove the collar. Gently slide the cake onto a serving plate. Serve just barely warm, at room temperature or cold. Tastes excellent at all temperatures.
Muffin Tin Cakes
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter (2) 12-count muffin tins.
- Make the filling as directed above but omit the pineapple and crust. Pour the filling into the prepared pan(s), filling about halfway. Place muffin pans on baking sheets (very important – if you don’t do this, you’ll have butter leaking all over your oven, and that is not pretty). Bake 5 minutes at 400°F and then turn the oven temperature down to 325°F and bake 25-30 minutes more or until the tops are caramelized and turning golden brown, and the edges are darker. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and using a butter knife or an offset spatula, free up the edges and remove from the pan to a rack to cool to room temperature. Best served just warm, room temperature, or chilled. Makes 22-24.
- Please store either version in the refrigerator.