Ask an American what a “quesadilla” is and most likely they’ll tell you it’s thin flour tortillas with cheese melted in between – but that’s a Mexican quesadilla, and not the one I’m talking about today. Salvadoran quesadilla is a rich cheese-flavored pound-cake-like sweet bread which is perfect with a cup of coffee. You can buy them at some bakeries and Latino markets in the United States but often times, you’ll find they aren’t fresh and have gotten a bit dry. The good news is, you can make your own “quesadilla salvadoreña” at home, and believe me, it’s even more amazing than the store bought ones.
I’ve actually been meaning to share a quesadilla recipe here for years, but the first one I tried was given to me by a friend who generously emailed me her family’s recipe, and thus it wasn’t mine to give away. Over the years I tried other quesadilla recipes, and eventually, tweaking here and there as I do, I ended up with a recipe all my own, but it still wasn’t perfect. I continued baking and changing things, and the quesadillas were usually good, but I definitely had some complete failures along the way, too. Last week I decided to make another attempt and, (bendito sea!) success! Finally! Delicious success!
We ate every last crumb of the one in the photos, and days later, I made another just to double check my recipe, (and because we wanted more quesadilla!)
So here it is, just in time for making as a holiday gift for family, friends and neighbors, (if you can stand the idea of parting with it.)
1 stick (8 tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, separated
1 (slightly rounded) cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% milk, room temperature
1 tsp. baking powder
1. Combine sugar, flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Note: The cup of sugar should be rounded, so it’s slightly more than 1 cup.
2. In a medium bowl mix the cheese and butter and then add the milk. Set aside. Note: The cheese can be cheap non-brand name Parmesan. Grated “queso duro blando” or “queso duro viejo” can probably be substituted for Parmesan but I haven’t tried it yet. You could also use 2% or whole milk in place of the 1% milk, but I do not advise skim milk.
3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the yolks, then add the cheese mixture. Beat at medium speed, slowly adding in the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
4. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan or round pie pan. You can also use a 7×11 rectangular pan, which is what I used the second time. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Note: Springform pans tend to leak a little until the batter has set up, so put a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven to catch any drips.
5. Bake on the middle rack of your oven at 300 to 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. (Actual cooking time will vary slightly depending on the size and type of pan. My oven runs a little hot, so I baked mine at 300 F.) Keep an eye on it starting at 30 minutes as it continues to bake to make sure you remove it before it begins to burn. It goes from yellow/unbaked to golden brown to burnt pretty quickly.
6. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. (It tastes better the next day, actually.) Cut into slices and serve with coffee.
UPDATE: I made this recently again in our new oven. (My old oven used to run hot.) In the new oven I baked it at 325 F in a 7×11 glass Pyrex and it came out perfect. 30 to 35 minutes may not be long enough depending on the pan size and varying oven temperatures, so don’t be afraid to leave it in longer as long as you’re keeping an eye on it. Don’t take it out of the oven too early. It should be nice and browned like in the photos. It should not look like yellow cake on the outside! Also, I just want to say again that cheap store-brand Parmesan works great. That is my go-to for this recipe.