Vanilla is such an extraordinary ingredient.
As basic as that little black dress in your closet, it can be pulled out time and again, bringing class, flair and comfort every single time you wear it. Vanilla’s flavor and fragrance has come to embody comfort in kitchens worldwide.
However, given its popularity it has been overused in unfortunate ways, like bad imitation extract and exaggerated aromatic imitators. No wonder it has tried to be replicated though, vanilla comes with a high price tag.
But here is the thing: you can make a vanilla bean go a long way. You can extend its exuberant properties and multiply its uses by flavoring other basic ingredients with it.
Continue reading Five Ways with Vanilla Beans
It’s true you can always buy frozen puff pastry at any grocery store. But, in less than the time it takes for the frozen puff pastry to thaw, you can make your own from scratch. I have a simple recipe I learned at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, that is the one I turn to time and again. I just adapted it to make a larger quantity and also to give you a bit of a more detailed description.
The key to making good puff pastry dough, or any flaky dough for that matter, is keeping everything very cold (well the flour and salt are fine at room temp!). You’ll want to cut your butter into chunks while being very cold.
Begin by simply placing your flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add your chunks of butter and pulse several times (about 10 times) until the butter chunks are reduced to pieces about the size of peas. Feel free to use your hands to feel the mixture to estimate the size of the butter pieces.
Continue reading Hojaldre or Puff Pastry
For years, I’ve managed to turn every Mexican vacation into a working trip. As soon as I touch Mexican soil, I set up interviews, plan research tours, library searches, cooking adventures, all the while trying to tweet and instagram. And facebook, pinterest and blog too… My appetite expands outrageously as if giving me a chance to try all that my eyes can see and my mind can gather. Even with the best of intentions to relax and disconnect, they only last so long.
My family had been enthusiastic about it until recently: my husband announced last summer he’s had it. He won’t travel with me to Mexico when he wants us to vacation, together.
So when I suggested we go visit for the December holidays, he said “no, no, no Pati, you can’t control yourself there.” I kept pursuing Mexico because I missed it so bad, seeking out a place where I wouldn’t be tempted to work. San Miguel de Allende sounded like just the spot.
Continue reading Homemade Cajeta
There are so many ways that you can have and enjoy tortillas de harina at home. You can make them the traditional way, the fast-track-modern way (if you have an electric tortilla maker such as the REVEL…), or buy them ready made at the store. Different from corn tortillas, which rule Mexico’s south and are made with a base of nixtamalized corn, flour tortillas rule Mexico’s north and are wheat flour based. The latter also have an element of fat (either lard, vegetable shortening or oil) and are milder, sweeter and softer.
Sometimes both kinds of tortillas, flour and corn, work interchangeably for a dish, say cheese quesadillas or chicken tacos, and may depend on the preference of the eater. However, beware, there are other times when either the flour or corn tortilla should be the prime choice. Take Chilorio, it needs to be tucked in a flour tortilla. Yet any kind of enchiladas, enfrijoladas, or casserole must, REALLY MUST, be made with corn tortillas because they withhold the sauce much better than wheat flour ones, and sweetness may be uncalled for.
Continue reading Homemade Wheat Flour Tortillas
You can use almost anything to serve ice cream. We love ice cream so much around here that we have collected all sorts of ice cream scoops! Just as you can use many kinds of scoops to serve, there are many ways of making ice cream at home.
The best part of making your own ice cream is that you can choose whatever flavor, whatever consistency and whatever mix. Your uncle who is crazy about bourbon is coming over? Bourbon ice cream it is. Your kids are crazy about peanut butter and banana? You can even make it a chunky mix.
Here are some ways you can make ice cream at home…
Continue reading Ice Cream Makers
Jello molds or moldes para gelatina are as versatile as Jello desserts themselves. Plastic, metal, ceramic, stoneware, porcelain, glass and silicone are all suitable materials for molding Jello. They can vary from multiserving ring molds to individual portions in plastic cups or ramekins (even water glasses or anything you can pour a drink onto!), or in silicon shaped, like anything from pyramids to cartoon characters. It’s important to make sure your molds are heat-tolerant to avoid warping when using hot liquids.
I tend to make my Jellos in clear and simple plastic cups like the ones you’d see on street stands in Mexico. It is simple, fast and you can see through all the colors and layers of your creations without having to unmold the Jello. It is also great for kids because they can just eat the Jello right out the cup. Also, in a way, servings are pre-measured.
But if you want to be artistic with the shapes, aside from the flavors of your Jello creations, the newest molds are made of high-quality silicone and come in elaborate shapes.
See below all the choices I could gather for individual servings of Jello…
Continue reading Jello Molds or Moldes Para Gelatina
If you were to ask me what cooking tool I could not live without, I would tell you it’s my Mexican-style lime squeezer.
Limes are one of the most iconic ingredients of Mexican cooking. Not lemons. Limes! To me, limes have a much more concentrated citrus punch, and I like the fresh juice. I have a deep disregard for pre-squeezed lime juice bottles sold at the stores; they taste like airplane food.
What’s complicated about squeezing a fresh lime? Nothing much really. But when you use as many as I do, this squeezer is a delight: gets as much juice as the lime has in a snap, feels heavy and powerful in your hand, and it is easy to maintain and keep clean.
My lime squeezer is as common as common gets. You can find one easily in just about any Mexican kitchen. It is made of cast aluminum, which resists corrosion from the acidic juices. It is super simple to use: open it up, place a halved lime cut side down and just squeeze the juice wherever you want it to go, directly over food or into a bowl or measuring cup. Close and squeeze the long handles that give you leverage to extract all the juice and that’s that. Since it is so big, it works with lemons too… (continue for more information and photos)
Continue reading Lime Squeezer or Exprimidor de Limón
Yes, you can buy them already made at the store… but there are few things that can compare to the nurturing and filling sensation of homemade corn tortillas.
Continue reading Making Corn Tortillas
Tostadas and chips are very versatile ingredients to have in the kitchen. If you don’t want to make them at home, you can buy good quality already made tostadas and chips in the stores these days.
If you are going to make chips, cut them into 6 triangles before letting them dry.
Continue reading Making Tostadas and Chips
The molcajete is a cooking tool that although not absolutely necessary this day in age, it does have its uses, benefits and looks. Mexico’s version of the mortar and pestle (the pestle being called tejolote) it has been used for thousands of years to pound, smash, grind and mix ingredients such as herbs, spices and chiles, create rubs, pastes and sauces.
It it is traditionally made of basalt volcanic rock, which is very porous and rough and it makes it very heavy. There are however, newer versions of lighter material, that I am not so fond off. When new, there are many takes of how to “cure” them, so they can begin to be used. Some people grind white rice, while others grind peeled garlic cloves. I like to do both. So just take either one or the other, or both, and grind them with the pestle. Then just wash with a soapy sponge and rinse under cold water.
Continue reading Molcajete