CHOCOLATE AND CAJETA CUPCAKES
Recipe from my sister Alisa Romano
Cupcakes de chocolate con cajeta
Makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water
3/4 cup cajeta or dulce de leche
1 cup heavy whipping cream
14 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
To prepare the cupcakes:
Place oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the cupcake molds.
In the mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix it up and add it to the butter mixture. Pour the buttermilk and continue beating. In a small bowl, combine hot water and cocoa powder and stir into the mix, beat until combined. Pour the batter into the cupcake molds.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cupcakes rise, are cooked and tanned on top. Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Using a paring knife, cut a 1-inch piece from the top of each cupcake. Save the cut pieces. Fill each hole with one tablespoon cajeta and replace the cut-out pieces. Top the cupcakes with the chocolate ganache.
To prepare the ganache:
Mash the butter until it’s creamy and has no lumps. Heat the chopped chocolate in a double boiler water bath and let it melt. Warm the heavy whipping cream slightly
Slowly fold the whipping cream into the melted chocolate. Finish off the ganache by folding in the softened butter and adding sugar until everything is well combined.
JUJU’S BIRTHDAY CAKE
Pastel de chocolate de Juju
For the cake:
1 cup water
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter or vegetable shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
For the Frosting:
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup sprinkles, optional
To prepare the cake:
Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter. Cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, over medium heat, pour the water, stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Let it heat for a few minutes, stirring now and then, until it all dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat.
In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In another, beat the eggs and combine them with the sour cream.
In turns, add a quarter of the flour mix and then a quarter of the sour cream mix at a time into the pot with the cocoa mixture; stir with a spatula, mixing all of the ingredients as you move along. Pour onto the greased cake pan and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out barely moist but not wet.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool a bit while you prepare the frosting.
To prepare the frosting:
In a saucepan, over medium heat, pour in the milk and the vanilla. Stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Heat and stir until everything is all dissolved and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Thoroughly mix with a spatula and set aside.
Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake onto a platter and gently remove the parchment paper. Pour the still-warm frosting over the cake and gently spread it out with a spatula. If you wish, you may add sprinkles of your choice before the frosting hardens (NOTE: The cake is soft and moist the first couple days, then hardens like a brownie afterwards if left uncovered– perfect for packing in school lunches).
CAJETA CRÊPES WITH TOASTED PECANS
Crepas de cajeta con nuez
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Pinch kosher or sea salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
Extra butter to oil the pan
2 cups cajeta or dulce de leche
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon rum, optional
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted, to garnish
Vanilla ice cream, optional
To make the Crepes: In a small pan, heat the butter over low heat until it melts. Set it aside. Place flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt and melted butter in the blender and purée until smooth, for about 10 seconds. Add water and blend again until smooth. You can also mix the ingredients by hand, following the same order.
Place batter in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour, up to 12 hours. Once ready to make the crêpes, whisk the batter well with a fork or a whisk.
Set a crêpe pan or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Butter the bottom of the pan and ladle about ¼ cup of batter onto it. Instead of working from the center to the sides, tilt the pan and pour the batter over one side and spread it as quickly as possible to the rest of the pan, so that it covers the entire surface.
Cook for about 20 to 25 seconds, until edges are cooked and begin to dry out and the bottom of the crêpe is lightly browned. With a small spatula or fork, lift one edge of the crêpe and turn it over quickly with your fingers. Cook the second side for about 10 to 15 seconds, or until it has lightly browned. Flip the crêpe onto a plate.
Repeat with the rest of the batter. After 3 or 4 crêpes, you may need to butter the pan again. If it isn’t a nonstick pan, you may need to do it for every one. Stack crêpes on top of each other with the first, darker side down. That darker side will become the outer layer of the crêpe once you fill them up or fold them.
If you aren’t going to use all of the crêpes at once, or if you are making them ahead of time, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in a closed plastic bag and store in the refrigerator up to 4 days, or in the freezer for weeks.
To make the Sauce:
Pour the cajeta and the milk in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring and gently simmering it for a couple of minutes until it is completely mixed together and well dissolved.
Place a crêpe on a plate and spread a couple tablespoons cajeta sauce all over the surface. Fold crêpe in half, add a couple more tablespoons of sauce into the middle of the half-moon shape. Fold the crêpe again to make a triangle shape (with a rounded bottom) and pour a few more tablespoons of sauce on top.
Garnish with the toasted pecans and serve. You may want to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream too…
When I was about 10 years old, my parents developed a habit of traveling during the December holidays without my sisters and I. Don’t ask me why they thought it was a good idea.
Continue reading Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!
BLACKBERRY AND PECAN TAMALES
Tamales de Zarzamora y Nuez
Makes about 20 tamales
25 dried corn husks
1 cup vegetable shortening or good quality lard
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb instant corn masa mixfor tamales, or about 3 1/4 cups, such as Maseca
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
12 oz blackberries, rinsed
To make masa for tamales:
Place the vegetable shortening or lard with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a mixer and beat, until very light and spongy, about 1 minute. Add the baking powder and salt, and then take turns adding the instant corn masa mix and the water. Continue beating until the dough is homogeneous and fluffy.
Mix in the sugar and cinnamon and continue beating until everything is well mixed. You may also do it by hand.
You know the tamal masa is ready if:
1. When you lift a big spoon with masa, drop it into the dough it falls “de golpe” or heavy.
2. It has the consistency of a medium thick cake batter.
3. If you place 1/2 teaspoon of masa in a cup of cold water and it floats.
To prepare the steamer:
Place water in the pan of a steamer and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer with one or two layers of corn husks. Use the dough to form about 20 corn husk wrapped tamales.
To make tamales:
Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for a couple of minutes, until they are pliable and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapered ends facing towards you. Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the masa into a 2 to 3 inch square, the layer should be about 1/4 inch, leaving a boarder of at least 1/2 inch on the sides. Place 1 to 2 blackberries in the middle of the masa filling and sprinkle about a teaspoon of the pecans on top.
Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together, causing the masa to surround the berries and pecans and fold them to one side, rolling them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open.
Prepare the tamales and then place them vertically in a container. When you have them all ready, place them as vertically as you can in the prepared steamer, with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in more corn husks so the tamales will not dance around. Cover with more corn husks and steam, covered for 50 minutes to an hour over medium heat. You know the tamales are ready when the tamales come easily free from the husks.
Finished tamales will stay warm for about 1 to 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in the steamer. For refrigerated tamales it will take about 15 minutes, and for frozen tamales about 45 minutes.
Plantanos Macho al Horno
Serves 2 to 4
2 ripe plantains
Salt or sugar to taste
Preheat the grill to medium heat or the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut a few small slits into the sides of the unpeeled, ripe plantains with a knife, since the plantains will expand as they cook. Individually wrap each plantain in aluminum foil and place them on the grill or in the oven. Let them cook for about 45 to 50 minutes, until they are soft and cooked through.
You know they are ready when they feel extremely soft to the touch and the sugar of the plantain has begun to caramelize. Open the aluminum foil, make a slit in the plantains, sprinkle with salt and sugar and eat them up!
Orange and Almond Flan
Flan de Naranja y Almendra
1 cup sugar for caramel
1 1/2 cups peeled and slivered almonds
3/4 cup sugar for flan
1 3/4 cups orange juice
Grated zest of an orange
2 tbsp quince liquor, or Grand Marnier, optional
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.
In a pan, heat the cup of sugar over low heat until it achieves the consistency of caramel. It takes a while, but don’t leave it unattended and move the pan as it begins to melt. Once it looks like caramel and is melted, decide how dark and strong you want the caramel to be. The lighter the color of the caramel, the lighter flavor. But be careful because if it gets too dark it can taste bitter and can burn quickly. Take it off the heat and pour it into the bottom of a flan or round tube mold or into 10 individual custard cups. Do so quickly, since caramel hardens fast.
Place the almonds and remaining sugar into the blender or food processor and finely grind. Add the orange juice, orange zest and blend. Add in the eggs and quince liquor or Grand Marnier and puree until combined. Pour the flan mixture on top of the hardened caramel in the molds.
Place the molds in a hot water bath in a deep baking pan. Make sure the water comes up to about half the height of the molds and that the water is very hot. Slide the baking pan with the molds into the oven. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a flan comes out clean. When ready, take them out of the oven, out of the water bath and allow to cool.
If flans will not be eaten on the same day, they can be covered and refrigerated, for up to a week. Before unmolding, you can place the molds in a container with very hot water for 5 to 10 seconds, so that the sugar will melt a bit, and help the flan come out. You can also run the tip of the knife around the rim of the flan. Then turn the flans onto a plate, but wait a bit until most caramel pours on top of each flan.
If you’re fighting a war, how do you cook food on the run? What sort of meals can you make around ranches, porches, and rustic bonfires? What might Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata have eaten? This episode looks at the culinary legacy of the Mexican Revolution, with recipes that include:
Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk’s Cake, is one of the most, if not the most popular and sold cake throughout Mexico. It is also amongst the most requested recipes I have been asked for after Pickled Jalapeños and Piggies cookies. So dear readers, I am sorry it has taken this long but here it goes! I promise to get to the other requests, which I love getting on your emails, as soon as possible.
Tres Leches is a sweet, practically wet, homey cake. Its base is a vanilla sponge cake, completely soaked in a sauce traditionally made with three kinds of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk. Some versions substitute regular milk with heavy cream. The cake will sometimes have a topping like fresh whipped cream, which I seriously consider of utmost necessity (!). Sometimes the topping turns out to be meringue or even chocolate ganache.
Growing up in Mexico City, there was a bakery called La Gran Via, which sold such delicious Tres Leches that even though it was far from home, we used to drive many Sundays to get one. These days La Gran Via has become a large chain store of bakeries… it has been years since I have eaten one of their cakes. This recipe, is as close as I get to my nostalgic memories.
Continue reading Pastel de Tres Leches