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
Are you tired of the clumps and lumps when you make your own flavored Jello? Yes? No? What?! You don’t make your own flavored Jello? You should! It is healthier than the already flavored ones sold at the store and you can decide what ingredients go in it! It is tastier, exactly for the same reason, since you can choose your flavors, you can choose your own favorite ones.
Many cooks complain about the clumping when mixing unflavored gelatin with any liquid in order to be able to use it. Yet there is a fast and simple technique that provides a smooth and seamlessly effective gelatin base that will add volume and will help solidify any liquid that you may want to turn into Jello.
Note: You can find unflavored gelatin as easily as finding flour or sugar. It will be located in the baking section of your grocery store and is usually sold as a dry powder in packets or in a dry leaf form. I use the dry powder, which is most common. Make sure to buy “unflavored” gelatin.
Continue reading Using Unflavored Gelatin or Gelatina
“In Pati’s Mexican Table, the first cookbook from Pati Jinich, Jinich is not looking for culinary tourists but converts. Host of the public television series of the same name and official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute based in Washington, DC, Jinich shares her passion for the Mexican home-style cooking she grew up with in Mexico City…”
To read the entire review, click here.
The Latin Kitchen: Cookbook Shelf: Pati’s Mexican Table
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
FLUFFY PLANTAIN AND PECAN BREAD
Pan de plátano macho y nuez
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 pound ripe plantains, peeled, sliced, and roughly mashed (about 1 1/2 cups mashed)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter sides and bottom of the loaf pan and lightly dust it with flour; set it aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the sugar and keep beating until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until well mixed.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lower the speed on the mixer. Alternate between adding the plantains and the sifted dry ingredient mixture.
Add the vanilla and pecans and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and gently place a piece of aluminum foil on top. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top of the bread looks golden brown and puffed-out. If you inset a toothpick, it should come out moist but not wet.
GLAZED SANTA CLARA COOKIES
Tortitas de Santa Clara
Makes about 24 3-inch round cookies
For the Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup lukewarm water
For the Glaze:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cups raw and hulled pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds
1/2 cup milk
To Blanch the Pumpkin Seeds:
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or baking soda
To Prepare the Cookies:
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to lowest setting and gently add the confectioners’ sugar and baking powder. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, and then the egg yolks, one at a time; continue beating for a minute. Pour in the water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and can form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Let it cool until it hardens enough to be manageable, at least 1/2 hour (can refrigerate up to a couple of days).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place half the dough on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, sprinkle some flour over it and then place another piece of parchment paper on top. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough, to about 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut out circles with a round, 3-inch cookie cutter. With a smaller cookie cutter, make a circular indention in the middle of each cookie, without cutting all the way through the dough (there should be about a 1/4-inch space between the indentation and the edge). Press the edges of each cookie with a fork, as if marking the edges of a pie. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and roll it out again, making as many cookies as possible.
Space the cookies at least 1/4-inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until they are fully cooked and the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool; repeat with the remaining cookies.
To Prepare the Base for the Glaze:
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze white, as the nuns of the Santa Clara convent traditionally used to, prepare the pumpkin seeds this way:
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, add pumpkin seeds, simmer about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool, stir in baking soda or powder and let it sit overnight. With your hands, rub the pumpkin seeds between your fingers and thumbs to try to release their skins. The skins will float in the water. Carefully pour off the water, cover again with clean water and drain again. With a slotted spatula, place the pumpkin seeds on a clean kitchen towel, rubbing them so that the remaining skins come entirely off. Place the seeds in a bowl, cover them with water, rinse and place them on a cloth towel or paper towels to dry.
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze green, which is a lot less work, prepare the seeds this way:
Place hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To make the a white glaze that’s even easier, just:
Place already-blanched, slivered almonds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To Prepare the Glaze:
In a medium saucepan, place the sugar and 1/4 cup of water over medium low heat. Cook until the sugar has completely melted into the water, is no longer granulated and appears to be light syrup, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the ground pumpkin seeds or almonds and stir well, creating a thick paste. Let the mixture cook for another 3 to 4 minutes — it will thicken and become even more pasty. Turn off the heat, pour in the milk and stir well. It should be thick yet shiny and a bit more liquid.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool until it slightly thickens and can top the cookie without spilling all over. It will spread as it settles, but if it has cooled enough it will not be too runny. Yet, before it completely cools and hardens. If it does harden, just heat the mixture over low heat with a tablespoon of water until it becomes runny again.
To Assemble the Cookies:
Once the cookies have cooled, add about one tablespoon glaze to each cookie.
Makes 12 servings
To Prepare the Molds or Ramekins:
Enough butter to coat 12 molds
1 cup cajeta or La Lechera dulce de leche
For the Cake:
4 oz or 1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the Flan:
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 14-oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Garnish:
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of each ramekin or mold until evenly spread. Pour the cajeta into the buttered molds, distributing evenly between all 12.
To Make the Cake Base:
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy. Then, beat in the egg. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
At medium-low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk into the butter/sugar mixture. Then, beat in the remaining halves. Make sure you scrape the side of the bowl so all of the ingredients mix evenly. Put the mixer on medium-high speed and beat for an additional minute.
To Make the Flan:
Place the eggs, vanilla, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk in a blender and puree until smooth.
To Prepare the Entire Dish:
Pour the cake batter into each ramekin or mold. Then, pour the flan mixture on top, it will look messy, but don’t worry, that’s how it’s supposed to be! Place the ramekins in a large pan or baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish up to halfway the height of the molds. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and seal.
Place the in the oven and bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the surface of each cake feels solid, looks baked and a wooden toothpick comes out moist but not wet.
Remove from the oven. Be careful when you open the aluminum foil as the steam will be very hot. Once cool enough to handle, remove the ramekins out of the water bath. Once cool, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before eating.
When ready to serve, run the tip of a knife around the ramekin and place it cake-side down onto a plate. Lift the mold up. Drizzle with any cajeta from the mold and decorate with chopped pecans.
ROSE PETAL, MARSHMALLOW, MANGO AND PISTACHIO ICE CREAM
Helado de pétalo de rosas, malvavisco, mango y pistache
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups loosely packed rose petals, rinsed
1 10-oz bag mini-marshmallows
3 cups, or 1 1/2 lbs, or about 3 mangos, peeled and diced
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios, toasted
Pour the milk and heavy cream into a medium-sized saucepan; set it over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the rose petals, marshmallows and mangos, cooking for about 10-15 minutes until the marshmallows have dissolved, stirring occasionally, but don’t let mixture come to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they become thick and spongy.
Slowly stir 1/3 of the milk/cream mixture into the egg yolk, whisking, until thoroughly combined. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk/cream mixture.
Set the saucepan over low to low-medium heat, stirring frequently with a whisk or spoon until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Once it cools, refrigerate.
Once chilled, process in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions, and add the toasted pistachios 5 to 10 minutes before the ice cream is ready. Alternatively, freeze the entire mix.
COFFEE FLAN WITH TEQUILA WHIPPED CREAM
Flan de café con crema batida al tequila
Makes about 10 individual flans
For the Flan:
1 cup sugar
1 14oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Mexican instant coffee, dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white or silver tequila
To Prepare the Flan:
In a heavy medium saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently, until melted and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Quickly pour the caramelized sugar syrup into individual molds. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place all three milks, the eggs, vanilla and coffee in a blender. Mix until completely blended and smooth. Pour into the caramel-lined molds or ramekins. Set the molds into a larger baking dish or pan. Carefully pour boiling water (it is very important that the water already be very hot) into the larger holding pan up to at least half the height of the molds. Place on the middle rack of the oven.
Bake, uncovered, about 40 minutes, or until the center comes out moist but clean. Remove the individual molds from the water bath and let them cool completely. Refrigerate the molds, covered with plastic.
To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan between the custard and the pan. Invert the flans onto plates to unmold them. Carefully lift up the molds to allow the syrup to run over the flan.
To Prepare the Whipped Cream:
Whip the cold cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. When it starts to hold peaks, add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and tequila. Continue to whip until it forms stiff peaks. Serve flan with a generous dollop of whipped cream; serve cold.