Espumillas

Espumillas

The other day I tried to make a Salvadoran “Torta de Yema” and it was a complete failure. The good news is that I had a bunch of egg whites left over and I used them to make espumillas, which are like the Latin American version of meringues. As you can see, I simply dropped mine by the spoonful onto the baking sheet, but if you want to be super fancy, use a pastry bag, (or even a ziploc bag with one corner cut off), to give them a prettier shape.

Espumillas

You need:

4 egg whites (cold)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
food coloring (optional)

sprinkles and/or ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 225 F.

2. Beat whites to stiff peaks.

3. Mix in sugar little by little.

4. Add vanilla extract and food coloring. (If you want to make several different colors, separate the mixture into a few bowls before adding the colors.)

5. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop spoonfuls of the mixture. You can put them close together because they won’t spread but make them no larger than about an inch and a half in diameter. If your espumilla is too large, it won’t properly bake/dry in the middle.

6. Sprinkle with sprinkles or ground cinnamon. (I find the sprinkles prettier but the cinnamon ones, not pictured, were tastier.)

7. Bake for 1 hour. Do not open the oven door. After one hour, turn the oven off. Leave the espumillas in the oven while it cools down for at least two hours.

8. Break one open. Espumillas should be shiny outside, dry in the middle with a crunchy texture, and sweet candy-like flavor. Enjoy!

Fresqui-Top

Fresqui-Top

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Recibí un email de una lectora con la pregunta: “¿Qué es fresqueto? Mi esposo salvadoreño me dijo que es una bebida popular con los niños en El Salvador pero cuando fuimos a la tienda él me enseñó un bote de Kool-Aid.”

Bueno, primero pensé que ella malentendió la palabra “refresquito” pero para asegurarme, pregunté a Carlos. Inmediatamente Carlos respondió, “Ah, ella quiere decir Fresqui-Top.”

Aparentemente es una bebida con sabores de fruta que viene en paquetes de polvo igual que Kool-Aid. Eso bebía Carlos en El Salvador cuando era niño.

¿Recuerdas Fresqui-Top?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I received an email from a reader with the question: “What’s ‘fresqueto’? My Salvadoran husband told me it’s a popular drink with kids in El Salvador but when we went to the store he showed me a canister of Kool-Aid.”

Well, at first I thought she had misunderstood the word “refresquito” (a little refreshment/drink) but to make sure, I asked Carlos. Immediately Carlos responded, “Oh, she means Fresqui-Top.”

Apparently Fresqui-Top is a powdered drink that comes in packets of various fruit flavors just like Kool-Aid. This is what Carlos drank in El Salvador when he was a boy.

Do you remember Fresqui-Top?

(Image source)

Torrejas Salvadoreñas en Miel

Torrejas

Torrejas are kind of like French Toast and in El Salvador as well as in other parts of Latin America, they’re eaten during Semana Santa (holy week, Lent, and Easter), with a special homemade syrup. One of the things that make Torrejas more amazing than your average homemade American French Toast is that after it’s fried to a golden brown, it’s cooked a second time in the syrup. The type of bread used is also important, as your common white sandwich bread will not do! Salvadorans use thick slices of a bread called “torta de yema” but it’s difficult to find in the United States. Good substitutes for torta de yema include Challah or “pan de leche” (milk bread.) Challah can be found at some grocery stores and the “pan de leche” I used for this recipe was from a Latina bakery.

Another ingredient I want to explain a little is the “dulce de panela.” Panela is an unrefined brown sugar and it looks like this:

dulce de panela
(Wrapped in plastic)

dulce de panela
(Wrapped in dried corn husks)

dulce de panela
(Salvadoran “panela”)

If you’re unable to find Salvadoran “panela” at your local Mercado Latino or International Market, then you can substitute about two 8 ounce Mexican piloncillos or about 2 cups of dark brown sugar.

Ready for the most amazing French Toast experience of your life? Then you’re ready to make Salvadoran Torrejas en Miel!

Torrejas Salvadoreñas en Miel

Torrejas Salvadoreñas en Miel

First, How to make the “miel” (syrup):

You need:

1/2 of a 28 oz. panela (So, about 14 ounces. For substitutions see post above.)
3 cups water
10 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. (The panela will melt and break up on its own. No need to force it.)

2. Boil for a few minutes, stirring when necessary to keep it from boiling over.

3. Lower heat and simmer for a few more minutes until the liquid thickens slightly. (Dip a spoon in and watch the way it coats the spoon and drips off it. This will give you an idea of whether it has thickened a little. Note that the liquid is a thinner consistency than American-style syrup or honey – that’s okay!)

4. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. (The liquid will thicken a little bit more upon cooling.)

5. Now this is ready for the Torrejas! Set aside and continue below.

How to make the Torrejas:

You need:

2 tortas de yema (or 2 loaves of Challah, or milk bread/pan de leche)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups 1% milk
8 eggs

Canola oil for frying
a batch of “miel” (the recipe above)

1. Slice the bread into thick slices, (about 1 inch thick or a little more.)

2. In a large shallow dish, beat the eggs, milk, salt and sugar until well combined. (You can use an electric mixer for about 1 minute.)

3. Dip the bread slices into the egg/milk mixture one-by-one, allowing them a few seconds on each side to soak up the liquid. Fry in oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan, being careful not to crowd the slices in the pan. (My pan only fit two pieces at a time.) Flip when golden brown and cook the other side the same.

4. When each slice is golden brown on both sides, remove to a large rectangular baking dish or Pyrex lined with paper towels to absorb some of the oil.

5. Preheat oven to 350 F.

6. When the entire batch has been fried, carefully remove the paper towels from beneath the torrejas.

7. Some people cook the torrejas in a frying pan with the miel, but I find baking them works great and is much easier. Pour 1 cup of the miel onto the torrejas in the Pyrex, making sure that all get some of the “miel” on them. (Avoid including any of the cloves.)

8. Bake at 350 F for 5 to 10 minutes.

9. Serve with additional miel to drizzle on top.

Note: You will probably have leftover miel. This can be put into a jar and refrigerated. Use it in other recipes such as Jocotes en Miel or Nuegados!

Torrejas Salvadoreñas

Dulce de Leche Valentine Cookies

Dulce de Leche Valentine's Day Cookies

Yesterday I got a sweet craving, and re-discovered a jar of dulce de leche in the refrigerator. Instead of eating it with a spoon like a heathen (not that I haven’t done exactly that before), I decided to make a batch of simple sugar cookies since I was all out of galletas Marias. Naturally since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I grabbed a heart-shaped cookie cutter from the drawer, and thus Dulce de Leche Valentine’s Day Cookies were born. When dusted with powdered sugar, they’re kind of like alfajores! … Make a batch for your corazón de melon, your niños, or even yourself.

Dulce de Leche Valentine’s Day Cookies

You Need:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
a little less than a 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 jar or can of your favorite dulce de leche
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Method:

1. Beat the softened butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt – sprinkling the baking powder and salt so it’s evenly distributed on the flour. (This is a short cut to avoid having to combine dry ingredients separately in another bowl!) Use a rubber spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

3. Form the dough into a large ball and cover tightly with plastic wrap inside the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven heats, work with small amounts of dough, (leaving the rest covered in the refrigerator), to cut out the cookies. You can use a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, but it isn’t necessary. You can simply flatten a small amount with your palm right on the parchment paper covered baking sheet, then use a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the flattened dough. Remove the excess dough from the edges of the heart shape and re-use for the next cookie you cut out.

5. Bake cookies about 1 to 2 inches apart, (if the dough has been properly chilled and your pan is not hot before going into the oven, it shouldn’t spread and will maintain its shape.)

6. Bake about 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. (Bake time may be slightly less or more, depending on the size and thickness of your cookies. My heart-shaped cookies were about palm-sized and no more than a 1/4 inch thick.)

7. Remove cookies to cool on clean, dry paper towels, (or on wire racks if you’re fancy. I personally don’t own any of those.)

8. For the first few hours these cookies will be mostly soft and chewy, but if you make them in the evening and wait until the next morning (which is what I prefer), the texture becomes chewy on the inside but more crisp on the outside.

heart-cookie

9. Use a butter knife to spread your favorite dulce de leche either on top of the cookies, or on the bottom of one to sandwich it between two cookies.

dulce-de-leche-cookie

10. Dust with powdered sugar. (I recommend doing this by putting a small amount of powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve and gently tapping it over the cookies to avoid large clumps of powdered sugar.)

11. Give to your valentine before you eat them all yourself.

Agua de Berenjena (Eggplant Water)

eggplant-water

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Con el tiempo Carlos va tomando más responsibilidad en su salud. Hay un edad cuando uno se da cuenta que el pan dulce es para de vez en cuando y no cada día, y lamentablemente esos días están aquí para Carlos y yo.

Una de las preocupaciones Carlos tiene es sobre el colesterol porque es un problema hereditario para él, (y bueno, un amor para hamburguesas no ayuda.)

Recientemente Carlos mencionó la reducción del colesterol a su hermana y ella recomendó el agua de berenjena. Ella dijo que su suegra corta una berenjena en pedazos (con la piel), y la pone en una pichel de agua durante la noche. Durante los próximos días, se bebe una taza de agua berenjena cada día.

Busque alrededor de la internet y parece que esto es un remedio casero muy conocido en la comunidad Latina para todo tipo de problemas de salud. ¿Alguna vez has oído hablar de Agua de Berenjena? ¿Lo has probado?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

As Carlos grows older he takes more and more responsibility with his health. There’s an age when one realizes that pan dulce is a once-in-awhile food, not an everyday food, and unfortunately those days are here for Carlos and myself.

One of Carlos’s concerns is about his cholesterol because cholesterol problems are hereditary in his family, (and well, a love of hamburgers doesn’t help anything.)

Recently Carlos mentioned reducing cholesterol to his sister and she recommended Eggplant Water. She said her mother-in-law cuts an eggplant in pieces (with the skin), and she puts it in a pitcher of water overnight. Over the next few days, her suegra drinks a cup of the Eggplant Water each day.

I looked around the internet and it seems this is a well-known home remedy for all kinds of health issues in the Latino community. Have you heard of Eggplant Water? Have you tried it?

Hot Dog & Egg Tacos

hotdog-eggs

On occasion I’ve been known to make hot dog and scrambled egg tacos for breakfast. I was actually introduced to the use of hot dogs like this by my suegra. To be honest, for many years I thought it was just one of her weird inventions but when we went to El Salvador there were hot dog slices on pizza and finely diced hot dog pieces in Chinese fried rice, so I began to get the idea that this unconventional use of hot dogs wasn’t just a suegra thing.

If you want to give it a try, here’s my recipe for hot dog and egg tacos. Feel free to experiment and give it your own spin!

Hot Dog & Egg Tacos

You need:

2 eggs per person
1 hot dog per person
diced Poblano or Anaheim pepper (about 1 pepper)
finely diced vidalia onion (a small handful)

salt to taste
white corn tortillas, warmed and lightly toasted
Cholula (optional) or Salsa Verde (optional)

Directions:

1. Crack eggs into a large bowl and lightly whisk. Set aside.

2. Cut hot dogs in circles or dice – whichever you like. (Diced is safer for little kids.) Add to a non-stick pan with the onion and Poblano pepper over medium heat, stirring for a couple minutes until hot dog is lightly toasted and the onion and pepper have become slightly tender but not soft.

3. Add the eggs to the pan. Use a spatula or flat ended wooden spoon to gently move the eggs around as they cook. Try not to brown the eggs. Remove from heat.

4. Salt to taste if desired. Serve inside warmed and lightly toasted tortillas with a little Cholula hot sauce or salsa verde.

Optional: If you happen to have frijoles molidos on hand, you can spread those on the tortilla before putting the egg and hot dog mixture into it!

Tamales y Creencias

tamal-pollo-salsa-roja

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Ayer no tuve tiempo por escribir para Spanish Friday porque estaba haciendo tamales para una reunion que voy a tener con mi familia. Este año hice tamales de pollo en salsa roja y también tamales de rajas con queso. Yo estaba un poco nerviosa porque cambié muchas cosas este año. Para los vegetarianos en la familia en vez de usar manteca en la masa, usé aceite. Y en vez de caldo de pollo usé caldo de verduras. Déjame darte un consejo que aprendí: Cuando utilizas el aceite en tu masa, cocinar el aceite primero en una olla. Traer el aceite a hervir por un minuto y luego dejar que se enfríe. En este video, la señora dice que da un mejor sabor.

Este año también usé MASECA para tamales porque mi tienda no tenía MASECA normal (y en mi opinión, la textura fue mejor – es un poco más gruesa.)

Las proporciones aproximadas que utilicé para mi masa vegetariana (porque alguien pidió que la compartiera) fueron:

1 2/3 tazas de aceite de canola (“pre-cocinado”)
32 oz de caldo de verduras (marca Swanson)
4 a 6 tazas de MASECA Tamal (Lo que dice “para hacer deliciosos TAMALES”)
1 a 2 cucharaditas de polvo para hornear de doble acción
1 a 2 cucharaditas de sal
1/4 a 1/2 taza de salsa roja (mi receta está aquí)

(¡Lo siento que estos son sólo aproximaciones, ya que no escribo esto mientras yo cocinaba!)

Primero mezclé la MASECA y polvo para hornear con la mano. Añadir sal al gusto. (Cuando puse una pizca de la masa seca en mi lengua, sabía sólo un poco salada.) Añadir el aceite y mezclar con la mano. Añadir la salsa y luego poco a poco el caldo de verduras. Mezclar con la mano hasta que la masa esté bien combinada. Dejé la masa a temperatura ambiente cubierta con plástico por una hora, no sé si eso hace diferencia o no. Esta cantidad de masa fue suficiente para hacer alrededor de 36 tamales de tamaño mediano.

Finalmente, usé el consejo que aprendí en el blog La Mija Chronicles de Lesley Tellez. Ella dice que en México hay una creencia de que si quieres que salgan bien tus tamales, tienes que tratar bien a tu olla. Algunas personas atan tiras de hoja de maíz a los mangos de la olla, cuenten chisme a la olla o cantan a ella. Según Lesley esto evita “mala onda”. Qué interesante, ¿verdad?

¿Cuāles consejos, secretos o creencias sobre como hacer tamales tienes tú?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Yesterday I didn’t have time to write for Spanish Friday because I was making tamales for a family get together. This year I made tamales de pollo en salsa roja and also tamales de rajas con queso. I was a little nervous because I changed a lot of things this year. For the vegetarians in the family I used oil instead of lard. And instead of chicken broth I used vegetable broth. Let me give you a tip I learned: When you use oil in your masa, “cook” the oil first in a pot. Bring the oil to a boil for a minute and then let it cool. In this video, the woman says it gives the oil a better flavor.

This year I also used MASECA for tamales because my store was out of the regular MASECA (and in my opinion the texture was better – it’s a little coarser.)

The approximate proportions I used for my vegetarian masa (because someone asked me to share) were:

1 2/3 cups “pre-cooked” canola oil
32 ounces vegetable broth (Swanson brand)
4 to 6 cups MASECA Tamal (the one that says “para hacer deliciosos TAMALES”)
1 to 2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup salsa roja (my recipe is here)

First mix the MASECA and baking powder by hand. Add salt to taste. (When I tasted a pinch on my tongue, it tasted just slightly salty.) Add the oil and mix in by hand. Add the salsa and then the vegetable broth little by little. Mix by hand until everything is well combined. I let the masa sit at room temperature covered in plastic wrap for an hour, I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. This amount of masa made about 36 medium-sized tamales.

Finally, I used the advice I learned on the blog La Mija Chronicles by Lesley Tellez. She says in Mexico there’s a belief that if you want the tamales to come out well, you have to treat the pot well. Some people tie strips of corn husk to the handles of the pot, tell the pot gossip, or sing to it. According to Lesley this helps avoid any “mala onda.” Interesting, right?

What advice, secrets or beliefs do you have about tamales?