8 cups, or 2 liters goat milk, you can substitute or combine with cow’s milk
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar or shredded piloncillo
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Place a large pot (I use my new copper one!) over medium heat. Pour milk, vanilla, sugar and baking soda, give it a good stir and let it come to a simmer. Keep it at a steady medium simmer for about one hour and a half, stirring occasionally, every 15 to 20 minutes or so, with a wooden spatula or spoon. The mix will gradually thicken and darken.
After about an hour and a half, the liquid will have thickened and reduced and the simmer will become stronger. Reduce the heat to medium low, to keep it at that constant medium simmer. You want active bubbling, but not over the top angry bubbles. Stir a bit more frequently, as you don’t want the bottom to develop a thicker layer.
You know the cajeta is ready when: It achieves a caramel brown color; it is thick as liquid caramel or syrup, much like a chocolate syrup consistency; it envelops the back of the spoon; when you gently stir across the pot with your wooden spoon, a slightly delayed trail behind the spoon appears, revealing the bottom of the pot if only for a few seconds; as you slowly lift up the wooden spoon or spatula, cajeta takes it’s time to drop and lastly, the sides of the pot show how the cajeta has cooked down and if you run your spoon across that side, you get a fudgy (and delicious) residue.
Turn off the heat and let cool (it will thicken considerably as it cools).
Place in a glass jar, cover tightly with a lid. It will keep in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
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ROSQUITAS: SWEET ANISE ROPES
Rosquitas de Anis
Makes about 24
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 tsp anise seeds
4 oz, or 1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
4 oz, or 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup warm water
Confectioners’ sugar, optional
Mix the all purpose flour, baking powder, salt and anise seeds in a large mixing bowl. Toss in the butter chunks and the vegetable shortening in spoonfuls. Begin to mix it with your hands, until the butter and vegetable shortening are mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.
Add the sugar, egg yolks and warm water, working everything together with your hands. In less than a minute, the dough should be soft and malleable enough to be turned into a ball. Don’t knead it more than necessary, as soon as it all comes together in a homogeneous mass it is good enough.
Butter a large cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
One by one, make cookie balls with the palms of your hands, of about 1 1/2″. Then roll it out either with your hands or on a lightly floured surface, into a short rope form, of about 3 to 4″ long and less than 1″ wide. Twist the rope a bit and close the two ends making a loop. It is very easy! Like a doughnut shape!
Place the finished rosquitas on a buttered cookie sheet until you have finished the dough. Place them in the oven anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked and lightly browned on top. Remove them from the oven, let them cool, and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Acitrón is one of the few ingredients used for Mexican cooking that is still very hard to find outside of Mexico. Acitrón is made with the pad or paddle -leaf- of a cactus plant called biznaga, which is similar to the prickly pear but rounder in shape and it also grows in dry land. To make acitrón, the leaves are peeled off the outer skin along with the little thorns, sometimes soaked in a lime solution, dried in the sun and finally simmered in a syrup made with water and sugar or honey, then left to dry again.
In Mexico it is sold in stores and markets in square or rectangular small blocks along with other candied fruits or vegetables, of which my favorite is the candied sweet potato or camote.
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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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Plantains are now available almost anywhere in the United States. They have the appearance of being thicker, longer and bigger type of bananas. But they are not. No wonder they are called macho bananas, plátano macho, in most areas of Mexico. Although from the same family, plantains are a different ingredient. They are starchier, meatier, firmer, milder in flavor and have much thicker skin than bananas and are better treated as vegetables in a culinary sense, since they are only eaten cooked.
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