Mexican chocolate is quite different from regular bittersweet chocolate sold throughout the world.
It is sweeter, yet with contrasting layers of flavor that seem to sweep your tongue in waves as you take a bite. It is also grainy, practically gritty. It is traditionally made from a mixture of toasted cacao beans, ground almonds, regular sugar and cinnamon.
Native from Mexico, in pre-hispanic times cacao beans were transformed into a chocolate paste. In that form, chocolate was combined with water and drank every day, by the liters, by Aztec Emperor Moctezuma. It was served for him, in hand carved precious mugs and spiced up with ground chiles and sometimes honey. Only the high tier of the Aztec hierarchy had access to it, on special occasions. It was only after the Spaniards arrived that it turned into a sweeter ingredient by adding the sugar, cinnamon and almonds.
Continue reading Mexican Chocolate
Agua de Jamaica
Makes 4 to 5 cups
1 cup jamaica concentrate (see below)
3 to 4 cups water
When ready to serve, dilute 1 cup concentrate with 3 to 4 cups water, or to your liking, and some ice cubes.
Makes about 5 cups
8 cups water
6 oz dried hibiscus or jamaica flowers, about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or to taste
In a saucepan, pour 8 cups of water and place over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the jamaica flowers, simmer at medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool down and strain into a heat proof glass or plastic water jar. Add the sugar and lime juice, mix well, cover and refrigerate.
It will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 months.
Right after savagely taking a bite into a fresh ear of corn, right in front of the cashier at the Farmers Market, I felt compelled to explain that its raw, sweet, flavor reminds me of the Corn and Cream ice cream from the Chiandoni heladería in Mexico City. A staple from my childhood days.
With a bit of nostalgia washing over me and in the mood of snapping that last piece of summer from this year, I brought back a full basket of corn. I would make one last batch of summer flavored ice cream, just as the stores begin to sell Halloween decorations, shockingly early, if you ask me.
Continue reading Outrageous but Necessary: Corn and Cream Ice Cream
Outrageous but Necessary: Corn and Cream Ice Cream
This cake is a treat. What’s more, being flourless, it is perfect for both gluten free eaters and the coming Passover week.
As a fan of marzipan this cake feels like a fluffy, smooth, tasty piece of marzipan that has turned into a cake to become a bigger, lighter and longer lasting version of itself. It can be served as a dessert, with some whipped cream on top. If you are lucky to have some leftover, it makes for a decadent breakfast with a side of berries and some hot coffee or tea.
The recipe comes from the Mexican convent of San Jerónimo, where Mexico’s most famous nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was settled. It dates to the late 1600′s. Spanish nuns who came to help establish the different convents, had an indomitable sweet tooth, which paired with Mexico’s exotic ingredients, made for some of the country’s dearest and sweetest desserts. Centuries later, these desserts are staples in Mexico’s kitchens.
Continue reading Flourless Almond and Porto Cake
I can finish a normal sized Concha, 4 to 5″ round, in exactly four bites. If it has been a long time since I had one or if I am very hungry, maybe three bites. Ok, I admit it, sometimes two bites. But never one.
Conchas are named after the shape of their sugar topping, which resembles a seashell. Conchas do have a hardened crust, but it is sugary, thick, crispy and crumbles right into your mouth as you take a bite. Right after you brake through that crust, there is a fluffy, soft, sweet roll made with flour, butter, yeast and eggs. With such a pleasing experience, no wonder it is one of Mexico’s most favorite sweet rolls or pan dulce.
I have seen some in bakery shops around DC, but they just don’t taste like the ones we love at home. So on our most recent trip to Valle de Bravo in Mexico, I ventured with my boys, and many of their cousins and aunts, into a panadería, or bread shop. They make such incredible conchas, it makes me wish I had a bigger mouth to eat them each in a single bite.
Continue reading Sweet Conchas!
As we returned from our 10 day vacation to Mexico this December and walked out of the Dulles airport, I felt my bones freeze. Say what? I told my husband, I think I am turning around and catching the next flight back to Mexico.
Now we are home, with the heating so high it seems we moved to the Equator. And I admit that the cold and especially the snow, which I am watching right this minute through my kitchen window starting to magically fall from the night sky, is one of the things I love about living in the Eastern United States. We can experience the full change of seasons.
Continue reading Comfort me with Café de Olla (or Coffee from the Pot)
Comfort me with Café de Olla (or Coffee from the Pot)
I do love the change of seasons in the Eastern United States. The fall leaves change to different shades and make fluffy mountains where the boys jump a thousand times in a single day. I also like the smell of winter winds waiting around the corner as our home heating starts to warm up. And I have so much fun getting all of us coats and hats and gloves, something I never did growing up.
But I do miss my piece of beachside coconut flan. The one I used to have in Acapulco, many Decembers ago, growing up. My favorite was from Pipo’s, a restaurant in “la Costera”, an old neighborhood along the beach. It has a creamy and smooth layer on top that blends into a bottom layer of softened and nicely chewy coconut. I have tried a couple versions and the best one is also the simplest one.
Continue reading Beachside coconut flan