Crema de Pino o Nuez Encarcelada (Pine Nut or Pecan Cream)

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From Diana Kennedy, Recipes from The Regional Cooks of Mexico. A dessert of Spanish origin traditionally uses pine nuts but pecan can be substituted as well. Ms. Kennedy's version is a bit less sweet and uses some egg yolks to help thicken the mixture. For best flavor the dessert should be served at room temperature. Any leftovers should be refrigerated.
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    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 4 1 inch piece canela (cinnamon) roughly broken up
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 pound pine nuts or pecans (2 1/4 cups, approximately, roughly chopped, plus a few whole nuts for garnish)
    • 2 egg yolks, well beaten
    • 1/3 cup brandy or rum or 2/3 white wine or to taste
    • 10 ladyfingers roughly broken up


Well butter a shallow dish, ideally about 9 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep.

Bring milk to a boil, then add the canela, and stir in most of the sugar, reserving a little to grind with the nuts. Lower the flame and stir until the sugar is melted. Stir 1/4 cup of the warmed milk into the cornstarch and work to a smooth paste. Stir this into the sugar mixture and continue cooking, stirring all the time, until it thickens slightly.

Grind the nuts with the reserved sugar in a food processor until very fine and stir into the boiling milk mixture. Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened--about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add about 1 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolks and beat together well. Return to the pan and continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly, until the mixture thickens to the extent that you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir. (It should coat the back of a wooden spoon thickly). Stir in about two-thirds of the brand or wine.

Pour half of the mixture into the prepared dish. Cover with the lady fingers, sprinkle with the rest of the brandy or wine and cover with the remaining cream.. Decorate the top with the whole nuts and set aside to cool off to room temperature--do not refrigerate--before serving.
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