Mexican Mennonites

Two years ago my dad showed me Mujeres Flores by Eunice Adorno a photo book about female Mennonites in Chihuahua México. It blew my mind right away. I shouldn´t admit this but I´m obsessed with Mennonites. I´m very intrigued by the fact that they are almost like a secret community, they don´t mix with others, they don´t share their customs and rarely let strangers into their homes.

DSC01482 792x1024 Mexican Mennonites

Mennonites came to America in 1871 settled in Canada originally but after the First World War they were forced to learn English and migrated to America. However, in the US they were persecuted for not enlisting in the army. In 1920 a group of Mennonites asked permission to the Mexican government and they were authorised to settle in Chihuahua. Despite the migrations the community remains with the same cultural identity as they did in the 17th century in Prussia. Mennonites were supposedly very good at hiding their most prized possessions. It´s rumored that they used baked bibles inside loafs of bread and sowed grains into clothing before traveling.

DSC01499 1024x771 Mexican Mennonites

Luckly I meet Eunice and had the chance to ask her about the Mennonite women in her book. She also told me she had a Mennonite cookbook and a month ago she lend it to me. This cookbook belongs to a collection called Popular Indigenous Cooking published by the Mexican Council for Culture and Arts.

DSC01500 696x1024 Mexican Mennonites

DSC01503 1024x855 Mexican Mennonites

Food is a big part of the Mennonite identity, they have spent centuries preparing and perfecting the same recipes. They are famous for being great farmers and also for producing artisanal dairy products, breads and homemade cookies.

DSC01486 1024x775 Mexican Mennonites

This cookbook written by Katharine Esther Emilia Renpenning Semadeni includes recipes for breads, cookies, soups and other dishes. The recipes have evident European influences, they all call for very few ingredients and have simple instructions. There is no doubt that these are true traditional recipes but the instructions are too simple. After reading the book I got the feeling that all the tricks they learned after centuries of practice were not translated to Spanish, they stay in the Low German dialect and are passed from generation to generation.

DSC01489 1024x761 Mexican Mennonites

Breakfast in a tart

DSC06778 1024x917 Breakfast in a tart

Lately I’ve been working on a custom cake line. This has led me to spend hours baking cakes and making buttercream. I enjoy all this but birthday cakes are not my favourite, so I took the time to do a little experiment last week, here are the results.

I didn´t  have much time so I made something quite easy, a panna cotta. While looking for cookies or tuiles to compliment my custard it occurred to me that I could integrate the two elements into a single dessert. That´s how I got the idea of a panna cotta filled tart.

First I tried with the coconut panna cotta recipe I had already used, it was so good I decided to create a new recipe. I chose an earl grey filling because the tea flavour goes really well with the creaminess of the panna cotta and topped the tart with grapefruit for an element of freshness. I decided flambé the grapefruit with a little sugar to lower the bitterness of the fruit.

DSC06657 copy 1024x685 Breakfast in a tart

For the tart shell I used the caramel tart recipe. Just like with the caramel tart, for this tart you also you have to blink bake.

Ingredients:

- 400ml of milk

- 100g of sugar

- 2.5 gelatin sheets

- 235 ml of cream

- 3 earl grey tea bags

- 2 medium grapefruits

DSC06741.1 1024x484 Breakfast in a tart

Directions:

- Bloom the gelatin in ice water.

- In a saucepan heat milk with, remove from heat when it reached boiling point and add the tea bags. Let it rest for 15 minutes or until you get enough earl grey flavour.Remove the tea bags, add the sugar and remove from the heat the moment it starts steaming.

- Remove excess water from the gelatine and add it to the milk and sugar mixture . Once the gelatin melts add the cream and mix well.

- Strain the mixture into a your cooked tart shell. Put in the fridge for a fews hour until the filling sets.  It is important to consider that this tart has a liquid filling so you only have a few hours until the shell becomes soft.

- Right before serving sprinkle some sugar to the grapefruit and use the torch to burn the sugar. Top you tart with the fruit. If the grapefruit sinks the filling needs more time to set in the fridge.

DSC06778 Breakfast in a tart

Kids Workshop

Almost 2 years ago Rachel and I got together one afternoon to decorate cookies. I did not expect much from this project, just wanted to have fun, take pictures and bake with my friend. I could have never imagined that the idea of illustrating ​​cookies would get me to make my first video, sell cookies at CBR and give a workshop for kids.

The past weekend Comilona invited Rachel and me to give a cookie decorating workshop. Here are some of the photos.

babydeli dylannelee 1 of 38 Kids Workshopbabydeli dylannelee 12 of 38 682x1024 Kids Workshopbabydeli dylannelee 24 of 38 Kids Workshopbabydeli dylannelee 28 of 38 Kids Workshopbabydeli dylannelee 32 of 38 Kids Workshop

Photos by Dylanne Lee

25

Last tuesday I turned 25 and we celebrated over lunch at Enrique Olvera´s restaurant Pujol. This mexican restaurant is listed 20 in the world´s 50 best restaurants, needless to say I was very exited.

DSC00965 25

DSC06630 1024x728 25

All the excitement was worth it, I loved everything. If I had to choose my favourite part it would be not one dish in particular but the course of the meal itself. I loved it so much that I even forgot to take a few pictures of the desserts at the end.

Quince Jelly

Last week my mom gave my a few pounds of quinces, although I had eaten them before it was the first time I saw them raw so I was pretty exited.

Quince is a fruit from the same family as pears and apples. Unlike it´s cousins ​​is quite hard, astringent and sour so you don´t eat it raw. However it is quite perfumed and once cooked it has a lovely flavour. Because of its high pectin content it´s mostly used to make jams and preserves.  In Mexico it´s used to make quince ate, similar to a paté de fruit.

DSC06514 1024x685 Quince Jelly

This was the first time I cooked with quinces so I decided to make something traditional and simple, quince jelly. A Jelly is a preserve made with fruit but unlike jam,jelly is transparent since it only contains fruit juice.

DSC06527 1024x840 Quince Jelly

For the jelly you just need quinces, water and sugar. You start by putting quince pieces in a large pot with enough water to cover the pieces of quince by about an inch. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the quince pieces are soft. With a potato masher, mash the quince to the consistency of slightly runny applesauce. Add more water if necessary.

With the help of a strainer and a piece of cheesecloth drain the juice from the pulp. Leave it straining for at least an hour. Measure the amount of juice you have, for every 250ml add 168g of sugar.

Put the juice in a saucepan with the sugar and  let it boil, skim off the foam that comes to the surface with a strainer. Let it reach 220 º F and remove from the heat. If you do not have a candy thermometer another way to test is put a half teaspoonful of the jelly on a chilled plate. Allow the jelly to cool a few seconds, then push it with your fingertip. If it wrinkles up, it’s ready

Pour your jelly fast as possible into the jars, it hardens faster than you would think.

DSC06529 1024x799 Quince Jelly

This jelly can be used for a cookie filling, on a toast, served with cheese and even as a meat glaze.

I do recommend storing it in the fridge.

DSC06555 1024x658 Quince Jelly

Gin Tonic

IMG 0271 682x1024 Gin Tonic

You probably know by now that I love trying out new things, from restaurants to recipes or even ingredients, I’m always looking for new trends. However when it comes to cocktails I’m not very creative. I only like sweet drinks and this leaves me out of current trends. That´s why I decided to take matters to my own hands and sweeten one of the trendiest drinks, Gin Tonic.

The idea behind this cocktail was adding some sweetness to the classically bitter gin, but also adding extra flavor and different textures. Normally this cocktail is serve with ice so I thought it would be good idea to add a berries popsicle and mix it in the drink.

IMG 0137 704x1024 Gin Tonic

For 4 popsicles  I used 150g of strawberries and blackberries. First you crush them, as you can see on the picture below, I used a mortar but you can also chop or blend them,

DSC06450.1 1024x314 Gin Tonic

Once you have your fruit puree mix it with half a cup of water and a little sugar. The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of your fruits and personal taste. Pour the fruit mixture into popsicles molds filling them halfway thru.

To play more with the idea of a cocktail popsicle I used a drinks stirrer instead of a popsicle stick. This way you use it also to mix the drink.

Freeze the popsicles overnight, remove them from the fridge about 5 minutes before you use them. They start to melt slightly and will come out more easily from the mold.

IMG 0127 738x1024 Gin Tonic

To make this gin and tonic you start with a berries popsicle in a glass. You add 1 ounce of your favourite gin and 2 ounces of tonic, stir it then and add a handful of ice cubes.

IMG 0177 copy 1024x719 Gin TonicThe perfect drink for a hot summer day

Cream Puffs in Tehran

DSC06511 1024x685 Cream Puffs in Tehran The book of the month for my bookclub was Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir of literature professor Azar Nafisi. In this book the author describes her experiences during the revolution, from the difficulties of teaching at the University of Tehran to the secret bookclub she organized with some of her students at home. I started reading the book and wondered what would inspire me to create a dessert. But I didn´t have to do a lot of thinking to know what I wanted to do. A important part of this book is the meetings where the author and a number of students talk about literature. During these meetings, they drink tea and eat cream puffs. So I though that nothing would more appropriate than make what characters ate in the book. The cream puffs or choux crème are a classic European pastry so I wanted to give them a twist and use an middle eastern flavour profile. The first thing that came to mind when I thought flavours  was a dessert I ate when I lived in France.There was a restaurant, on the same street as I lived, that served shawarma sandwiches. One day I discovered a pastry they called nefertiti. This was basically a slightly crispy cone shaped cookie stuffed with a light cream, drizzled with orange blossom water, honey and pistachios. The most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. DSC06503 562x1024 Cream Puffs in Tehran Using the nefertiti pastry as my inspiration I filled my choux with honey whipped cream and covered them with a orange blossom flavoured glaze and used a roasted pistachio as a decor. I used Courtesan au Chocolat recipe for my choux, the complete recipe gives 30 small pastries. Once the choux is baked and cooled you can start with the cream. Whisk 170ml go cream in a blender and once you have a soft peak add 3 tablespoons of honey and mix until it´s incorporated. Immediately after fill the choux with a pipping bag. For the glaze I used 150g fondant glaze with 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water. The fondant glaze is a mixture of sugar and glucose found in pastry shops, is the classic choux glaze. To work with this glaze you have to add a little moisture, in this case the orange blossom water, and heat it just a bit. Keep in mind that ff it goes over 95 º F it will not be shinny. Stir with a wooden spoon until you get liquid consistency. It’s important to cover the pastries quickly, before the glaze dries completely put a roasted pistachio on each pastry. These cakes are stuffed with cream so they should be filled the day you plan to serve them. DSC06494 1024x634 Cream Puffs in TehranThe truth is that this middle eastern type of choux were a success, this combination of flavors is just as delicious as I remembered.

Caramel Tart

Pastry has always been my thing but ever since I decided that it would be my path in life I spend my days either cooking or reading about it. From magazines and books to instagram my everyday life is pastry. The advantage of having this blog is that I have an excuse for gathering all this info, without Azúcar Pastel knowing the last eclair trend would be completely useless. Despite knowing trends and seasonal ingredients it´s always difficult to make original creations. That´s why I am very proud to tell you that this tart is 100% my creation.

DSC06429 1024x975 Caramel Tart

I chose a tart because I have the most fun making them and also because no matter how much you experiment on them they will still be pretty much accessible for anyone. I took a fairly traditional base and decided to finish it with a more creative filling. The idea was to take ordinary ingredients and flavor combinations to create something unique. I chose apples only because I love fresh fruits on my tarts and I think the acidity goes very well with the caramel. The more unique side of this tart is the caramel corn, a unexpected element on a tart but quite common treat elsewhere. I made my caramel corn but you can also buy it.

Tart dough (recipe for one 8 inch mold)

Ingredients:

- 165g flour

-1 egg

- 85g butter

- 40g icing sugar

Directions:

- In the mixer cream the butter and sugar. Once the butter is soft add the egg and mix until blended.

- Add the flour and mix just until it holds together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour.

- With a rolling pin and a little flour stretch the dough  until is 1/8″ thick. Put the dough on the mold and cut the excess from the edges pressing a rolling against the mold.

DSC06405 1024x1001 Caramel Tart

- Refrigerate for half and hour and heat the oven to a 350ºF.

- Once the dough is chilled cover it with wax paper and fill the mild with beans. Baking the tart shell with weight on top will give you a nice flat surface.

- Bake it for 30 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden.

DSC06407 1024x942 Caramel Tart

While the tart is baking you can cook your caramel filling.

Filling

Ingredients:

- 150g sugar

- 180ml cream

- 80g butter

- 1 granny smith apple

- Juice of one lemon

- 100g caramel popcorn

Directions:

- In a pot heat the sugar a couple tablespoon of water.

- Boil the sugar until you have a nice caramel colour, add the cream and mix until you have an even mixture.

- Remove from heat and add the butter. Once the butter is completely melted pour the caramel mixture over baked tart shell.

DSC06422 1024x872 Caramel Tart

- Refrigarate until set or overnight.

- Cut the apple into thin slices. Cover the apple slices with the lemon juice for a couple of minutes and strain.

- Fill the tart with the apple slices and the gaps with caramel corn.

The most important part of this tart is texture so you only have a couple of hour to serve it before the popcorn gets soft.

Oaxacan Chocolate

la foto 2 1024x980 Oaxacan Chocolate

Cocoa beans were grown in Mexico by the Olmecs more than 2500 years ago. Originally they had medicinal and religious purposes but soon enough people started drinking cocoa bean beverages for energy. These beverages consisted in water, roasted cocoa beans, spices and corn. Cocoa beans arrived in Europe in 1544 but the appreciation of chocolate as a drink took place until the beginning of the XVII century when sugar and spices such as vanilla or cinnamon were added to reduce the bitterness. With time europeans went on to modify the texture solidifying the beans and creating the chocolate bar. Despite the evolution of cocoa beans in Europe the only change that has been made in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times is the use of sugar and spices. What we know in México as a chocolate drink is practically the same as it was more than 2000 years ago. This past weekend I was in Oaxaca and had the opportunity to go to a chocolate mill. I got to watch the steps to making a chocolate paste and also make my own. A chocolate paste the mixture cocoa beans that is used as a base for the various chocolate drinks. The measures I give below are the ones used in the photos. I wanted to get a slightly bitter, low on spices,chocolate. DSC06369.1 1024x759 Oaxacan Chocolate

The first step to making 1 kg of chocolate paste is grinding 500g of roasted cocoa beans with 25g of cinnamon and 50g of almond. After grinding it´s mixed with 500g of sugar, as seen on the left. DSC06378.21 1024x574 Oaxacan ChocolateAs you can see in this photos, after mixing the cacao with the sugar it goes back to the grinder until you get a homogenous paste.

DSC06395 911x1024 Oaxacan Chocolate

This mixture dries very quickly so usually it´s portioned into balls or small bars while it´s still soft. Once it dries people use it to make beverages as this water based chocolate one in the picture below.

DSC06404 832x1024 Oaxacan Chocolate

Courtesan au Chocolat

The Grand Budapest Hotel Courtesan au Chocolat

A couple of weeks ago Wes Anderson´s new film The Grand Hotel Budapest was released in Mexico. It´s and amazing movie, there are thousands of characters and details but my favorites were definitely Agatha the baker and her famous pastry courtesane au chocolat. For those who haven´t seen the movie the Budaspet Hotel is a famous hotel located in a small town in the Alps. In the same town there´s a bakery called Mendl’s where Agatha bakes the famous pastries. Apart from being the main character Gustave H. favourite´s these pastries also help him escape from a few difficult situations during the movie.

grand budapest hotel mendls Courtesan au Chocolat

After watching the movie I really wanted to recreate it and make my own version for Azúcar Pastel. I told my boyfriend Tony and he had the idea to make a step by step video of the recipe. After many hours of work this is the result, hope you like it as much as I do.