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Vanilla


TRES LECHES CAKE
Pastel de tres leches
Serves 10 to 12

INGREDIENTS
Cake Ingredients:
9 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Sauce Ingredients:
1 14oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

TO PREPARE
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Butter a 9×13-inch pan, lining the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the pan.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of your mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they hold soft peaks. Slowly stir in the sugar and continue beating until they hold harder or stiffer peaks. Turn off the mixer and, with a spatula, move the egg white mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Rinse the mixer bowl and its whisk. Now, pour the egg yolks into the bowl and beat on medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the yolks become creamy and puffy and their color has toned down to an almost cream color rather than a loud yellow. Stir in the vanilla and continue beating for another minute.

Pour the egg yolk mixture onto the egg white mixture and, with a spatula, in circular motions, combine them into a homogeneous single batter. Do so gently, trying not to lose too much volume gained from beaten egg whites. Fold in the flour, scraping the bowl with the spatula so that all the flour is well mixed.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and place into the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. It can be a bit moist, but not wet. The top of the cake should be tanned or golden brown.

Once it cools down, turn it onto a platter. Remove parchment paper, cover the top with an upside-down platter and invert again. The platter should be large enough to hold the cake and the vanilla sauce you are about to prepare. Using a fork, or two, poke holes all over the cake so that it will better absorb the vanilla sauce.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, milk, and vanilla extract. Pour the vanilla sauce over the cake. It may appear like too much sauce, but it will all be absorbed!

In the bowl of your mixer, whip up the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture holds up stiff peaks. Spread the whipped cream all over the already-wet cake and place it in the refrigerator. You can decorate the cake with berries or any other topping of your choice.


Vanilla only comes in a bottle, right? Oh, it’s a bean!? Where on earth do I find vanilla beans and then how do I cook with them? Do I crack them open? Wait, vanilla comes from Veracruz, Mexico–not Madagascar!? This episode will explain all of that, plus share a few amazing vanilla-infused recipes, including:


GRILLED SHRIMP & PINEAPPLE SALAD WITH VANILLA & CHILE DE ARBOL VINAIGRETTE
Ensalada de Camarón y Piña a la Parrilla con Vinagreta de Chile de Arbol y Vainilla
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS
For the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 vanilla bean (or about a 2″ piece), chopped
1 to 2 chiles de arbol, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Ground black pepper, optional
1/4 tsp sugar, or more to taste

For the Salad
4 fresh pineapple slices(about 1/2″ thick), peeled
Safflower or corn oil to brush the pan or grill
1 lb large or extra large shrimp, fresh or thawed from frozen, rinsed, peeled, deveined
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
kosher or sea salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
12 oz mixed spring salad(or your choice of mixed baby lettuces)
1/2 cup red onion, slivered

TO PREPARE
For the vinaigrette:
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic clove, vanilla bean and chiles, and cook about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let them burn, remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents into a mixing bowl to cool.

Combine the safflower oil, red wine vinegar, salt pepper, allspice and sugar into the same bowl. Pour all the mix in the blender, puree until smooth, and reserve. The vinaigrette will be textured as the vanilla bean will not let itself be entirely pureed. But that makes it even more delicious! If you will not use the vinaigrette in the next couple of hours, cover it and refrigerate. It will keep for a week, but re-emulsify or thoroughly mix, before using.

For the grilled pineapple:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Place the pineapple slices and cook for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from heat. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut in half, remove the core and cut into strips along the grain. Reserve.

For the shrimp:
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over high heat. Once the butter sizzles, add the shrimp, you may need to do it in batches so they they don’t overlap, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side. They should have plumped up and changed color on both sides, but be careful not to overcook them. Remove and reserve.

To assemble the salad:
Place the greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette and toss, so that they are lightly coated but not soaked. Assemble on individual salad plates. Divide the shrimp, pineapple and red onion on top of each plate. You may drizzle a bit more of the vinaigrette on top and serve.


GRANDMA LALI’S FLOATING ISLANDS
Las Islas Flotantes de Vainilla de mi Abuela Lali
Serves 10

INGREDIENTS
For the Floating Islands
12 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

For the Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the Vanilla Sauce
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 inch piece vanilla bean
10 strawberries optional for garnish, sliced, or any other fruit of your choice

TO PREPARE
To make the caramel:
Place sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar melts, moving the pan so it will not burn, until it has a caramel consistency. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel quickly into individual flan or custard molds as you tilt them, so the caramel covers the bottom of each mold. The caramel will quickly cool and set.

To make the floating islands:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place egg whites in a mixer with the salt and cream of tarter and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Add in the extracts and the sugar and mix until combined. Then top each of the molds with the egg white mixture.

Place molds in a large baking pan. Pour about an inch of boiling water into the pan to create a water bath. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The top of the islands will look browned and crispy. Turn the oven off, open the door oven slightly and let the islands cool inside of the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven.

To make the vanilla sauce:
In a saucepan, lightly beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour.

In another saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean (make a slit on its side and free the seeds into the milk). Let it heat until very hot but not boiling. Slowly, in a very thin stream, add the hot milk into the yolk mixture, emulsifying with a whisk until it is all incorporated. Place over low heat and stir until the sauce almost reaches a boil, and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off and keep on whisking slowly, for about a minute or so. The sauce can be served hot, warm or cold. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month once cooled.

Once the molds have cooled to room temperature, you can unmold them. Use a knife to go around the edge of the molds and carefully turn them onto a plate. Drizzle the caramel from the bottom of the molds on top of the islands. Add a couple tablespoons of the vanilla sauce on top. You may garnish with strawberries or any other fruit of your liking.

Islands can be refrigerated in their molds, covered, for up to 5 days.


TORITOS: PEANUT AND VANILLA APERTIF
Torito: Bebida de Cacahuate y Vainilla
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
1 14 oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup cane liquor (aguardiente de caña), or rum, more or less to taste
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or espresso if you want to make it coffee flavored)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice, to taste

TO PREPARE
Place the cane liquor, evaporated milk, condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract in the blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Alternatively, you may also pour directly over ice cubes or add some ice cubes to your blender and make it a Frappé! In any case, serve very cold.

NOTE: There are different Torito flavors. To make coffee Toritos, substitute peanut butter for a cup of strong coffee and add more sugar to taste. To make fruit Toritos, substitute peanut butter for about 2 cups of guaba or mango (or any fruit of your choice) pulp, and sugar to taste.


HORCHATA WITH CINNAMON AND VANILLA
Horchata: Agua de Arroz y Canela
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
2 cups long or extra long white rice
3 cups hot water
1 cinnamon stick, (ceylon or true cinnamon, if you can)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cup sugar
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top, optional

TO PREPARE
Place the rice in a bowl and cover with hot water. Roughly crumble a piece of True cinnamon into the rice mix (Cassia will not let you break it…) and let is all sit and rest anywhere from 2 to 8 hours outside of the refrigerator.

Place half of the rice mixture in the blender with half of the milk and vanilla and blend until smooth, then strain into a pitcher or container (if using Cassia cinnamon, remove it). Place the other half of the rice mixture in the blender with the remaining milk and the sugar, pure until smooth and strain into the same pitcher or container.

Stir well and serve over ice cubes, or place in the refrigerator until it is cold. Serve with more ice cubes to your liking, and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top if you wish.


February 19, 2010

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 Piggie 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: La Lechera 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 Tres Leches Cake

Continue reading
Tres Leches Cake

COMMENTS (284)


October 30, 2009
birthday cake with meringue and strawberry jam

It seems that when it comes to birthdays and cakes, most of us grown ups are like little kids too. So this year, I planned my husbands’ cake with a little help from my three young boys.

The night before, as I tucked them in bed, we talked about making an irresistible I-want-to-jump-into-that-cake kind of cake. It had to be something that could WOW him away and could also feel yummy and soft when they dipped his face in it (yep! that was their plan).

This talk led me, once again, to tell the boys stories about cakes from my childhood. Most of those cakes came from Sanborns’, a chain of stores that sells almost anything you can imagine: books, DVD’s, make-up, electronics, luggage, candies, the best ever chocolate covered raisins, marshmallows and toys. It also has great coffee-shop style restaurants with some of my favorite molletes and enchiladas. Not to forget its perfumeries and pharmacies. It is a serious knock out one-stop-shop. But most importantly, it was, and may still be, one of the most popular places to get a birthday cake.

One of the cakes that left me with a permanent impression went something like this: A couple layers of fluffy and moist vanilla cake, a foamy and soft meringue filling paired with old fashioned strawberry jam and pecans, the same soft meringue layered all over the top, some more pecans and whatever decorations you fancied.

That cake, by itself, made a party happen. It was a creation worthy of its own celebration.

Continue reading A Cake Worthy of its own Celebration


July 10, 2009

“Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a vanilla class taught by Patricia Jinich, chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, where she sauteed vanilla bean for a salad! She said that, contrary to popular belief, vanilla did not originate in Madagascar but in Veracruz, Mexico. And she shared a love story about the legend behind the pod…”

Continue reading this article and check out the accompanied recipe of Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Salad with Sauteed Vanilla Bean click here!


July 10, 2009

No matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t stay dry.

A single step out of the plane and it all seemed part of a magical realism novel from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. In that hot, humid and tropical pueblo, every move was slowed down in a permanent mist, which made my clothes feel damp. Under the open sunny sky, that mist was shiny and full of light as it transformed the colors from the exotic overgrown plants, colorful houses and small streets. There were cute little insects, bees and hummingbirds moving all around. Wide chubby trees offered some shade, as people walked by with no hurry, wearing earth colored hats.

And everything, absolutely everything, was infused with the lusciously sweet aroma of vanilla.

No. I don’t do drugs.

This is a true description of a small town in the region of Totonacapan in the state of Veracruz, where vanilla originated and is still heavily grown. Also where my husband and I were invited to a wedding, more than a decade ago. And it was in that small pueblo, where I tasted the best horchata I have ever tried.

Continue reading We could all use a little Horchata…

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