Recipes : Desserts
Pancho Villa, one of the most renowned generals from the Mexican Revolution was wild about ice cream. It is even said he was most fond of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate. This historic photo, published in the El Paso Times, shows him sitting at the famous El Paso confectionery The Elite, right after having an ice cream.
History has judged him both harshly and heroically. Yet, from the account of my husband’s great grandmother Regina, he was a true gentleman.
Some Latin foods don’t need translating anymore. That is the case of churros. Crisp and golden on the outside, soft and almost moist in the center, and covered in a gritty mix of sugar and cinnamon. They have to be some of the most, if not the most, irresistible fritters.
Mexicans don’t get the credit for inventing them though. That battle is still disputed between the Portuguese and the Spanish. But we do owe the Spanish for helping churros find their way to our Mexican kitchens, where we have found a way to make them our very own. More than five centuries later, so rooted they have become, it is hard to find a town, small or large, that doesn’t sell them.
You can find churros being sold by street vendors in little paper bags, in baskets, or in stands that have a heating light to keep them warm – people tend to underestimate how chilly Mexican nights can get. But there are also churrerías, places that only sell churros and different kinds of hot chocolate to accompany them.
Continue reading Churros Don’t Need Translating Anymore
Just four ingredients that you may already have at home make for one of the tastiest treats in the Mexican pan dulce repertoire: campechanas.
Not all panaderías in Mexico have campechanas though. And not all the panaderías that do carry them have fabulous campechanas. In fact, I have found that campechanas sold on the streets tend to be the very best ones.
Campechanas are one of the things I look for the moment I touch Valle de Bravo, a small town about a 2-hour drive from Mexico City. I grew up vacationing there with my family, and I still go as often as I can. It is a town whose campechanas are of the finest sort. Very puffy and dry with the perfectly crisp caramelized top, they are sold in thin plastic bags by the dozen in so many street corners.
It is practically impossible to keep them whole once you hold one up, or even as you try to take one out of the bag. The moment you take a bite, forget about it: it has crumbled all over the place into pieces that make for delirious bites. Once you have one, you can’t stop until there are no more.
Continue reading Campechanas
Not for nothing is there a saying that goes “as American as apple pie.” Pie in the US is American comfort food of the first order.
Pie in Mexico is pay.
Pay : a sweet taste of el sueño Americano, a bite of the ideal life en los Estados Unidos. Just like a milkshake, just like a Hollywood blockbuster, just like being able to wear a pair of laid-back Levi’s jeans.
In the 80s, when I was a tween like my son Sami is today, my school friends and I would go for a thick and tall slice of pay, right after watching an American blockbuster film. Which wasn’t often. Back then, you had to wait anywhere from a few months to a year for any of these movies to make their way down to Mexico, if they ever did.
Continue reading A Piece of Mexican Lime Pie
It’s ironic. The farthest away from Mexico I’ve been, the closest I’ve felt to my home country and the more I’ve gotten to know it.
Namely, there are 2,419 miles between my home in the DC area and the home I was born and raised in, in Mexico City (I’ve seen it in Google maps a thousand times with my boys), it’s a 44-hour drive if you go non-stop and a 5-hour flight with no connections.
Distance matters. It weighs, in tons of pounds of nostalgia that can be soothed in the kitchen. Distance has made my time in Mexico intense and adventurous, and the foods I am able to replicate in my American kitchen that much more precious.
Continue reading Yucatán Style French Toast: Ultra Decadent
Red, green, orange, blue… and all the colors you can dream up! Vanilla, cajeta, jamaica, chocolate, coffee, fruits, nuts… and just about any flavor you may crave. Smooth or chunky, creamy or foamy, heavy or light… choose any texture you like. Wait! We haven’t even gotten into shapes. Did you say your son likes Spiderman, your mom likes flowers or you want to go for a simple 2 layer design?
If you haven’t fallen for Jello, then you haven’t tried those in the Mexican repertoire. Forget about the 1950s-style-jello salads. Forget about the Jello you’ve seen people eat, or you may have eaten, in hospitals, too.
Mexican Jello is something to celebrate, to showcase, to boast about.
Gelatinas, in Spanish, many times come in individual servings with different flavors stacked in bright and colorful layers. Sold by street vendors who carry them in see through 2 to 3 tier covered stands, they are a common site in gas stations where cars wait for their turn and passersby can’t help but be tempted. Now you know why I always tagged along with my dad to fill up the tank!
It’s hard to show up at a kids party in Mexico and not see them. You will run into more sophisticated versions of them, standing tall, firm and proud at grown up parties, maybe with generous splashes of rum, tequila or rompope in their mix. There are simpler Jello creations brightening shelves at bakeries and grocery stores, too. In fact, Jello is such a big thing, that some cooks have elevated it to a complex art form with floral and abstract designs.
Continue reading Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello
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
I wouldn’t be caught dead without Pan de Muerto during Day of the Dead.
One of the most meaningful, colorful and delicious of Mexican celebrations, Día de Muertos has this bread as one of its trademark treats. It may sound strange to eat fluffy sugared up bread in the shape of bones, but then again, we also eat calaveritas, candies in the shape of skulls. This shows how crucial food is for Mexicans but also how it gets infused with our sarcastic sense of humor, generous spirit and gutsy attitude.
Not that Day of the Dead is such a big occasion here in the United States, but I notice an increased awareness. Teachers are starting to talk about it in schools, sugar skulls and decorations are popping up in stores…It’s becoming trendy. As it happens right on the tail of Halloween, elements from both celebrations seem to cross paths. They both include graveyards and a lot of eating, but they are quite different.
Day of the Dead, which is not one but two days, November 1st and 2nd, is when those departed have a license to come back and visit the ones they’ve left behind. And hey, if they are coming back from another world, it better be a feast worth the trip! Altars are decorated, filled with the visitor’s favorite foods and drinks, candles and flowers placed throughout, to help illuminate for a safe journey back home. There are visits to the cemetery, too, but of a different nature than Halloween: Day of the Dead is a bittersweet, sad and joyous time for gathering, feasting and remembering.
Pan de Muerto, has to be one of the sweetest sides of it, eagerly awaited by all.
Continue reading Make Pan de Muerto at Home!
Continue reading Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!