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Day of the Dead Bread (Mexico)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On October 16, 2016 0 Comments

Every year in central and southern Mexico, the Day of the Dead is traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2. Although this holiday coincides with the Roman Catholic Church’s All Souls Day and All Saints Day, indigenous cultures have fused the Church’s celebration with the ancient custom of honoring their departed ones.

Memorial altars are erected with photographs of the dead and what used to be their favorite foods. Local bakeries sell Pan de Muertos or Day of the Dead Bread. This sweet bread is made with eggs, anise seeds, flour, sugar and yeast. The loaf is usually round, adorned with dough that is shaped to resemble bones. Although the ingredients are basic, the flavors and texture of this bread literally melt in your mouth!

Ingredients for Bread:
3/4 cup milk (low fat or whole milk)
1/4 cup water
1 package active-dry yeast (Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast®
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour.

Ingredients for Glaze:
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare the Yeast:
1. In a small saucepot, combine the milk and water; heat until mixture is lukewarm.

2. Place the yeast and lukewarm liquid in a metal bowl or a small, separate metal saucepot; cover and set aside (on a wood or plastic surface) for 13 minutes.

Mix the Dough:
1. After 13 minutes, the yeast mixture will look puffy – transfer it to a 2-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a bowl.

2. Stir in the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and anise seeds. Beat on low until mixture is barely uniform.

3. With electric beaters on low, stir in 1 cup flour at a time, until a sticky dough has formed.

4. At this point, clean off the beaters. Using a wooden spoon, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour until the dough amalgamates and becomes a little firmer (not hard).

5. Flour your hands and the dough (lightly).

6. Transfer dough onto a lightly-floured board. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic.

Set Dough to Rise:
1. Oil a clean, 1-1/2 to 2-cup mixing bowl with vegetable oil.

2. Transfer dough to the oiled bowl; cover with aluminum foil and set dough to rise on a wood surface or in a cold oven with door closed. Let dough rise for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and punch it down.

4. Remove a 5-inch piece of dough from the dough ball.

5. Shape the largest dough ball into a flat round form and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet measuring 16 inches by 11 inches.

6. Take the smaller dough ball and pull off 4 to 5 walnut-sized pieces. Roll each piece out to about 4 to 5 inches.

7. Place one rolled dough piece going from the top center and down the sides of dough round on parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Add the remaining rolled dough pieces in a similar way and evenly spaced all around the dough round.

9. Shape a round knob on top center of the dough round. The rolled dough pieces will look like long bones on the bread.

10. Set dough to rise for 30 minutes on a wood surface or cold oven with door closed.

Bake the Bread:
1. After 30 minutes, transfer the baking sheet with dough to a wood surface; set aside while preheating oven.

2. Preheat oven to 375°F.

3. When oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with risen dough on a rack positioned in center of oven.

4. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350°F; bake the bread for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until it looks golden brown. To test doneness: insert a pointed knife in center of bread. If knife comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes and test once more.

6. Transfer baking sheet with bread to a counter to cool.

Make the Glaze:
1. When bread is completely cool, place 1/4 cup sugar and the orange juice in a small saucepot and heat until the sugar melts.

2. Let the orange juice-sugar glaze cool completely.

3. Using a basting brush, glaze the bread. Sprinkle the bread with remaining sugar.

image-jaguarforest4bags

Enjoy Day of the Dead Bread with the best Mexican coffee on the market -Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee, sold at Erewhon supermarkets in Los Angeles, Venice and Calbasas, California; and also at Vicente Foods, Los Angeles; Rainbow Acres, Culver City and Marina del Rey, California.

Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee can also be found online: http://jaguarforest.com

Text and Day of the Dead Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real
Jaguar Forest® Coffee Photograph ©2016 Jaguar Forest® Coffee Company

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Easter Cookies (Mexican Pastelitos)

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On March 18, 2016 0 Comments

These delicious cookies are from Mexico. They’re called pastelitos or little cakes. I think they look like Easter eggs. Hence, they’re a perfect dessert for Easter Sunday.

Everyone will love the flaky texture and buttery-cinnamon flavors of these melt-in-your-mouth Easter cookies!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 36 o 38 cookies

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sifted, powdered sugar (for garnish)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Sift flour, cornstarch and cinnamon into a 3-cup bowl; set aside.

3. Line two 18X12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

4. In a 4-cup bowl or a stand mixer bowl, combine the butter and sugar; beat until light and fluffy.

5. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture.

6. Mix well and knead until a smooth dough forms.

7. With your hands, take a small piece of dough and shape it into a 3/4-inch ball.

8. Place it on one of the parchment-lined baking sheets.

9. Continue forming 3/4-inch balls of dough, placing them 2 inches apart on baking sheets.

10. Set baking sheets in oven and bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

11. After 12 minutes, invert upper baking sheet with bottom baking sheet; bake for an additional 12 to 13 minutes.

12. After 12 or 13 minutes, check underside of one cookie. It should look light golden brown. If it is not light golden brown, bake the cookies for an additional 5 minutes.

13. Remove the baking sheets with cookies from oven and set them on a counter to cool.

Serve the Easter Cookies:
1. When cookies have cooled, set them on a serving platter, garnished with sifted, powdered sugar.

2. FOR MAKING AHEAD: When cookies have cooled completely, sore them in double Ziploc® freezer bags up to 3 weeks ahead.

3. FOR THAWING & SERVING: Remove cookies from freezer and Ziploc® freezer bags. Place cookies on a platter to thaw for 4 hours (covered with aluminum foil). When ready to serve cookies, garnish them with sifted, powdered sugar.
Text & Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Petits Fours for Valentine’s Day

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 6, 2016 0 Comments

Petits fours is French, for small ovens. In the eighteenth century, cooks and pastry makers baked miniature confectionaries or appetizers in smaller ovens, next to the main ovens.

Serve these romantic Petits fours to your sweetheart on February 14th! They’re also perfect for that Valentine’s Day party, since they come in single servings.

Prep time: 40 minutes (for glazing & decoration)
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Yield: 12 to 16 single-serving cakes (petits fours)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2¾ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk

Directions for the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. In a large mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy.

3. Beat for 2 minutes, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.

4. On low speed, mix in the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

6. Place pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

7. Bake the cake 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, place a pointed knife in center of cake to check for doneness – if knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

8. If the knife has batter clinging to it, bake the cake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Check cake once more by inserting knife in its center.

9. Let cake cool in pan on a kitchen counter or a wooden board.

10. When cake is cool, cut it into 12 to 16 equal pieces.
Note: each piece should measure 2 x 2 inches. Set aside on a baking sheet covered with parchment or aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze and decoration for cakes-

Ingredients for the Glaze & Decoration:
2 pounds (32 ounce) confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons juice from fresh lemons
One 4.25-ounce tube green decorating icing (for leaves)
One 4.25-ounce tube red or pink decorating icing (for flower)
One rosette-shaped plastic cake decorating tip -and-
One flat-ended plastic cake decorating tip (both available at cake decorating supply shops or online)
16 cupcake papers
Optional: You can use color of your choice for flower decoration.

Directions for Glazing the Cakes:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine glaze ingredients.

2. Beat on low speed just until blended; beat on high until smooth.

3. Apply glaze evenly over tops, letting the glaze drip on sides of cakes.

4. Set the glazed cakes aside to dry.

5. When cakes are dry, place a rosette cake decorating tip on desired color icing tube.

6. Squeeze tube to create a rosette or flower in center top of each cake.

7. Place a flat-ended decorating tip on green icing tube and pipe a leaf on each side of flower on center top of cakes.

8. Place cakes on flattened cupcake papers set on a serving platter.

9. Alternatively, place cakes directly on serving platter. Cover with tented foil until ready to serve.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Halloween Oatmeal Bars

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Fun Foods, Holidays On October 23, 2015 0 Comments

These oatmeal power bars are a fun treat to make for that Halloween bash! One look at the ingredients and you’ll approve – no sugar or flour. These bars are so scrumptious and healthy that you won’t have to stop reaching for a second, third, fourth … Happy Halloween!

Prep time: 15 to 18 minutes
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes
Makes: 24 bars

Ingredients:
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted, slivered almonds
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
2/3 cup raisins
Dash salt

Toast the Oatmeal:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place oatmeal in an 18 X 12-inch rectangular baking sheet.

3. Toast the oatmeal for about 5 minutes.

4. After 5 minutes, stir the oatmeal – this prevents blackening at the edges of baking sheet.

5. Toast the oatmeal for an additional 5 minutes; stir once more.

6. When oatmeal has turned light golden brown, it is done.

7. If needed, toast the oatmeal for an additional 2 minutes. Set oatmeal aside in baking sheet to cool on counter.

8. Keep oven constantly heated at 350°F.

Prepare the Syrup:
1. In a 1-quart sauce pot, heat together the peanut butter, honey, maple syrup and vanilla until mixture is warm and runny; set it aside.

2. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the toasted oatmeal, almonds, sesame seeds, raisins and salt.

3. Gently stir in the warm syrup mixture until all ingredients are combined.

4. If the mixture is too loose and grainy, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons maple syrup to combine and amalgamate the ingredients.

5. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. Transfer the oatmeal mixture to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

7. With wet hands, pat the mixture to form an 11 X 7-inch rectangle in center of sheet.

8. Using a knife, gently cut the oatmeal mass into 24 bars.

9. Bake the oatmeal bars for 10 to 13 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

10. Set oatmeal bars aside in baking sheet to cool completely.

11. When bars are cool, carefully cut through the squares to loosen them. Serve immediately or store the oatmeal bars in a glass jar in refrigerator.

12. Halloween oatmeal bars will keep, refrigerated, up to two weeks.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Ricotta Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On April 2, 2015 0 Comments

During Easter week, my family and I prepare a variety of celebratory foods. In my opinion, the best is always saved for last – the traditional ricotta cake.

Encased in pasta frolla or a sweet shortcrust pastry dough, the ricotta filling is rich with rum, cinnamon, sugar and eggs. The flavors of this ricotta cake bring back all the memories of Easter in Italy. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Prepare the Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry Dough):
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
One 9-inch pie plate
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling cake
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream, previously published on this website
1 pint fresh strawberries

1. Combine dry ingredients in a 12-cup mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, blend in the butter until mixture is uniform and resembles small peas.

3. Mix in the eggs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition.

4. As soon as mixture amalgamates and dough is formed, divide it in half; shape each piece into a ball.

5. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, transfer dough balls to refrigerator while you prepare the ricotta filling.

Prepare the Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons Rum
Dash ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 2 to 3-quart mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together all ingredients.

3. Make sure the ingredients are well-blended; cover the bowl and refrigerate the ricotta filling.

4. In the meantime, roll out the pastry dough.

Roll out pastry dough:
1. With lightly floured hands, flatten one dough ball to a 6-inch circle.

2. Place dough between two floured 16-inch long waxed paper sheets.

3. Gently roll out dough to a 14 or 15-inch circle. To prevent sticking, peel off the waxed paper sheets and dust each side of the pastry sheet with flour two or three times while working.

4. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet. With one hand underneath bottom sheet and the other on top of exposed pastry, quickly flip pastry over and into a 9-inch buttered pie plate.

5. Peel off the second sheet. Gently fit the pastry into plate sides and, using a fork, randomly make holes in the pastry. Trim edges to a one-inch overhang and set aside.

6. Repeat rolling instructions with other dough ball; set aside.

7. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet from rolled out pastry; set aside.

Fill & Assemble the Ricotta Cake:
1. Pour the ricotta filling into the pastry-lined pie plate; set aside.

2. Using a pastry wheel, cut the second rolled-out pastry into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide strips.

3. Place the longest pastry dough strip across the center surface of ricotta filling.

4. Take the next longest strip and place it one inch apart and parallel to the first strip.

5. Continue placing the strips, one inch apart, until there are about 5 strips across filling surface.

6. In a diagonal fashion, place the remaining strips, in the same manner, over the first layer of strips.

7. Trim overhang pastry to one inch; roll the overhang underneath and tuck it between the plate and the pastry edges.

8. Using 1-inch wide aluminum foil strips, cover the pastry edges (this will avoid blackening).

9. Bake the ricotta cake for about 30 to 45 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes and to test doneness of cake, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake the cake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Test again.

11. When cake is done, transfer it to a cooling rack or counter. Let cool to room temperature.

12. Cover the cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

13. Serve cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (see above) and fresh strawberries.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real