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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gin Tonic

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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- 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.

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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.

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- 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Azúcar Pastel/Rachel Levit 2.0

Proceso 3 Azúcar Pastel/Rachel Levit 2.0

Due to the success of past

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collaboration Rachel and I decided to make a second edition. The idea was the same: butter cookies illustrated with royal icing, to give them a twist we used a flower mold. Also instead of piping the little faces Rachel drew them with a brush and some food coloring.
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¿Which version do you like better?

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Book Club Bagels

 Book Club BagelsThis month’s book for the book club was The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Three short novels that take place in New York. I admit it was extremely easy to choose what to bake this time. The moment I read it was a New York story, I knew I was going to bake some bagels, not just because I love them but also because they are a classic New York item.

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Contrary to what you might think, bagels are easy enough to bake. I could even say they are the easiest bread I’ve made so far. You just need the time and the right ingredients . If you want to bake a real New Yorker bagel you need to use malt. The malt powder is obtained by crushing fermented barley grain, and if you add it to your dough it will help break down carbohydrates and release the flour’s natural sugar adding some sweetness your final product. I got my malt powder at a baking supplies shop but you can replace it with honey.

Ingredients (12 bagels ) :

- 910 g bread flour

- 40 g malt powder

- 15 g yeast

- 50 g sugar

- 15 g salt

- 470 g water

Directions:

- In a blender with the hook attachment, mix all the ingredients. Once the ingredients are combined, mix for 4 minutes.

- Divide the dough in 125g balls, if you want regular size bagels; or 80g for a smaller version. The ones in the pictures are 80g .

- After weighing and dividing the dough, shape the bagels. With both hands, roll the dough into a rope 8 inch long. Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle. Press the palm of your hand against the table and join the two ends.

- Once all the bagels are shaped, place them on a baking sheet coated with vegetable oil and cover them with plastic wrap. It is important to leave space between each bagel because they are going to expand. Allow them to proof in the fridge overnight.

DSC03806 copy 1024x882 Book Club BagelsThe next morning, your bagelsshould look like the ones in the picture above.

- Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Bring a pot of water to boiling point and boil each bagel for 15 seconds. With the help of a strainer, take them out of the water and put them on a baking sheet.

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- If you want to add any seeds, such as sesame or poppy seeds -like the ones in the picture-, this is the time to do it. Put the wet bagel carefully on a plate with you choice of seeds and then back on the baking sheet.
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- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool before you eat them.

- If you want to keep them fresh I recommend freezing the bagels and they will remain fresh for more than a month.
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I highly recommend this recipe, there’s no doubt these bagels were a total success. Although there are many steps in this recipe, it is actually quite simple, though the flavours and texture are anything but simple. In addition to the freshness of a freshly baked bread, the malt gives them an original flavor and texture that’s difficult to put your finger on.

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Hibiscus Macaron

This recent trip to New York reminded me how much I love macarons and it made me want to bake more for the blog.

In the past two years macarons have become very very popular. It used to be almost impossible to find them outside of France but now it´s quite common. Once you master the art the only way to make something different is by having a good filling. My way to differentiate my macarons is by using common mexican ingredients for this typical French sweet. My first idea was a mamey macaron, this time I´m making a new one with a chocolate hibiscus filling.

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Chocolate and hibiscus ganache (15 macarons)

Ingredients:

- 200 ml cream

- 100g dark chocolate

- 15g dry hibiscus flower

Directions:

- Heat the cream and hibiscus, remove from heat when it starts to boil. Let it rest for 20 minutes and heat again.

- Train the cream and add it to the chocolate.

- With a whisk stir the cream and chocolate until it melts completely.

- Put the ganache for 30 minutes in the fridge until it thickens.

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Prepare your favourite macaron recipe and add a little fuchsia coloring. Pipe the macaron onto a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully place a piece of dried hibiscus to half of your shells and let them stand for half an hour before baking. During the baking the hibiscus will dry and stick to the macaron shell.
DSC03764 copy 1024x680 Hibiscus MacaronOnce the macarons are cold pipe the ganache and cover with the decorated shells.DSC03781 1024x979 Hibiscus MacaronThe result is a chocolate macaron with a very fresh felling to it, perfect for the warmer weather.