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April 22, 2012
Mexican Chocolate 1-thumb-510x342-769

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.

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Mexican Chocolate

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JAMAICA WATER
Agua de Jamaica
Makes 4 to 5 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 cup jamaica concentrate (see below)
3 to 4 cups water

TO PREPARE
When ready to serve, dilute 1 cup concentrate with 3 to 4 cups water, or to your liking, and some ice cubes.

JAMAICA CONCENTRATE
Makes about 5 cups

INGREDIENTS
8 cups water
2 cups dried hibiscus or jamaica flowers, about 2-3 ounces, depending on how tightly you pack the cups
1 1/2 cups sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or to taste

TO PREPARE
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.


January 29, 2010
Conchas

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.

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Sweet Conchas!

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January 7, 2010
Cafe de Olla

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.

So instead of complaining, this is what I do: I take out my Piloncillo, or brown sugar, my bark of Ceylon or True cinnamon, some dark roasted coffee and make myself a Café de Olla.

Continue reading Comfort me with Café de Olla (or Coffee from the Pot)


December 11, 2009
Salami de Chocolate

Come December, everyone seems to be thinking about end of the year traditional tasty treats. Though in my family we used to eat them all year round; chocolate salami came to mind, as it is such a funny, creative and addicting nibble. It works great to bring along to friends (it will make them laugh, you will see…), as well as to keep some at home for an anytime sweet bite, since they keep in the freezer for months.

Growing up, my sisters and I used to make batches in minutes. We also managed to eat so much of the chunky, crunchy, funky, gooey batter in the seconds it took to transfer the mix to the wrapping papers set on the table. We would get all messy as we helped my oldest sister give the dough their salami shapes. Then, it was so hard to wait, until the chocolate salamis were frozen and hard enough to slice.

My oldest sister, Karen, told me the recipe came from a Women Community-Cooperative cookbook called Tu y Yo Cocinando (You and I Cooking) which was popular in Mexico City around the 70’s. That book was one of those fabulous gems, where participants pitched in their tried and true favorite recipes.

Continue reading Salami de Chocolate (with Coffee Liqueur made with Tequila)


November 27, 2009
coconut flan

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.

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November 18, 2009
CAP_piloncillo.jpg

Piloncillo is the rawest form of sugar cane. The same thing as cane juice but in a solid form. It typically comes in a block, with the shape of a cone, square or round.

It can be substituted for brown sugar. However, the flavor of piloncillo is more rustic. Reminds me of foods eaten in small villages or pueblos, it is homey. It adds that extra “something”, be it depth, color, aroma, that is hard to define but amazing to taste.

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Piloncillo

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November 18, 2009
sweet potatoes with orange piloncillo syrup

Our friends Tamara and Sean are crazy foodies and fans of the richness and versatility of chilies. So after receiving the invitation to join them next week for their Thanksgiving feast, I started playing with options on what to bring; with chilies of course.

This is one of the things I came up with and can’t wait for them to try:  creamy and soft sweet potatoes bathed in a buttery orange-piloncillo syrup sprinkled, with toasted chile de arbol. How good are they? That fork in the picture I just shot accounts for my third consecutive serving today. How easy are they to make? Read below…

Continue reading Sweet potatoes with orange-piloncillo syrup and chile de árbol


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