Empanadas de Camote: Yam Turnovers

IMG_0519

Empanadas de Camote are our favorite Mexican pan dulce (pastry). After years of trying different doughs, from cream cheese and butter dough that was delicious but fell apart, to yeast dough that reminded us of Rio Grande valley empanadas,, I hit the jackpot with modified pie dough! Easy to make and easy to use, light and tasty!

Makes 8 large empanadas

Ingredients: 

Dough:

1 cube cold salted butter

1 Tb frozen shortening (Crisco)

Dry ingredients:

3 Tb  granulated sugar

2 Tb  brown sugar

1 2/3 cups  all-purpose flour, divided into 1 cup and 2/3 cup

1/2 tsp  Kosher salt

1/2 tsp  baking powder

1/2  tsp cinnamon

Liquid ingredients:

1 Tb half and half

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Filling:

1 large yam, baked for an hour and 20 minutes until super soft, peeled and smashed

1 Tb  brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

A couple of shakes pumpkin pie spice

A few more shakes nutmeg

2 Tb half and half

Egg Wash:

Reserved egg and cream mixture

A pinch of coarse demerara sugar to decorate

Directions:

Sift 1 cup of the flour together with the other dry ingredients into a food processor, and pulse a few times to mix.

Slice butter and shortening into small pieces. Stir gently into the flour with a fork, so they separate and are coated with flour.

Pulse until butter and flour become a paste.

Break up the dough with a knife and then add the rest of the flour and pulse just a few times so that the flour-coated butter pieces range from from pea-sized to crumbles. Empty processor into a medium-large mixing bowl.

Whisk together egg, cream, and vanilla in a smaller bowl. Set aside 2 Tb to brush on the empanadas.

Add the vinegar to the butter and flour mixture along with 1 Tb of the liquid mixture. Toss with a fork and add more liquid, a little at a time until it’s just moist enough to squeeze with your hands to form a large piece of dough. The dough should not be too dry with cracks nor should it be sticky.

Form dough into a round shape, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or more. This allows the dough to resist shrinkage. If you leave it overnight, let it sit for at least half an hour to soften before rolling.

Form into balls that fit in your hand and place each ball between plastic wrap. Roll each ball in a circle. Dough should be about 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches diameter. Put a 6″ diameter bowl over the dough like a cookie cutter and peel away the excess dough so the circle will have smooth edges. You can also roll out 1/3 of the dough at a time and cut out 2 circles from each piece. Refrigerate the dough circles for 1/2 hour or more.

IMG_0609Mix the brown sugar, spices and cream into the yam.

IMG_0610Whip the yam mixture until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400′

Scoop a ball of yam mixture (about 2 – 3 TB) into the dough circles. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edges.

Hold the empanada in your hand. Starting in the center and working your way to the edges, fold dough over to make a half moon. If there’s room for more filling, add it a little at a time before you seal the last edge.

Crimp to seal using your thumb and forefinger, starting at the middle and working your way to the edges.

To make pretty repulgues, fold over the triangular edge of the empanada, then fold the next triangle, continuing all around the edges. Fold the last triangle under. This takes patience and lots of practice!

Brush with reserved egg wash using a pastry brush or your finger. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake at 400′ for 20 minutes until golden brown

 

Mexican Wedding Cookies with Anise: Pastelitas de Boda con Anís

IMG_0278Bizcochitos are anise studded Mexican sugar cookies. I combined this idea with the recipe for  Mexican Wedding Cookies I found in Joy of Cooking. It made a tasty cookie even more delicious. These are a special treat at Christmastime which melts in your mouth with a lovely anise flavor.

Ingredients:

Anise

1 cup shelled pecans

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound), softened

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar plus 1/3 cup for rolling the cookies in

1 Tb vanilla

1 teaspoon anise seeds

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

raosted pecansSpread pecans on a baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes. Let cool on a plate. Run in food processor until they are in tiny pieces, but not powdery or oily.

whip butterBeat softened butter, add salt, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla on medium speed until it is fluffy. Gradually add pecans and anise and beat until they are incorporated into the butter mixture.

Sift the flour over the top and slowly beat until well blended.

Grease cookie sheets. Roll 1 inch balls between your palms and place them on the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake the sheets one at a time at 350′ for 12-15 minutes until tinged with golden brown. Rotate the sheet halfway through for even browning.

Place sheet on a rack to cool until the cookies begin to firm. Then remove the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

roll in powdered sugarRoll cooled cookies in 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar to coat them.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Banana Bread

chocolate banana bread

I added cocoa to my recipe for 4 Bananas Low-fat Banana Bread or Muffins and achieved the perfect balance of rich banana and chocolate flavor that’s not too sweet. I used four soft, speckled bananas to add natural sweetness to this delicious bread with minimal oil and sugar. The bananas and just one tablespoon of olive oil make this bread very moist.

I used whey from plain yogurt instead of the milk and lemon. But you can go either way. (Pun intended).

Ingredients

1/3 cup 1% or skim milk or a combination of whey and milk

1 tsp lemon juice or 1/4 tsp white vinegar

1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Valrhona cocoa, available in bulk from Berkeley Bowl)

A dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 eggs

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tb turbindo sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

4 bananas (1 ½ cups mashed)

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Tb olive oil

½ cup walnut and/or pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Add lemon juice or vinegar to milk or milk/whey combined. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle, resembling buttermilk. (You can skip this step and use buttermilk or just whey instead if you prefer).

Sift both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and flax seed.  Stir well to combine ingredients.

Whip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add brown sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy.

Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher. Add them to the egg mixture, along with olive oil and vanilla. Whip for another minute.

With mixer on low, add half the milk and half the flour mixture, and then repeat. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts and strawberries until they are just combined.

Spray a loaf pan or muffin tins with non-stick spray. (because of the low fat content of the ingredients, you should spray paper muffin cups with non-stick spray if you choose to use them.) For extra buttery flavor, wipe a smear of butter at the bottom. Pour in batter. Sprinkle the top with turbindo sugar if desired.  Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 50 – 55 minutes, muffins for 35-40 minutes,  just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out somewhat dry. Remove bread from pan and let cool on a rack before slicing.

 

 

Peachy Challah Bread Pudding

 

bread pudding serving1I made this with Challah left over from our Rosh Hashanah dinner. I stirred together the custard and bread the night before and let soak overnight in the fridge. The second time I made itn for the Yom Kippur break the fast dessert, I only had 15 minutes to soak the bread, and it was fine.  Either way, it made a yummy breakfast and dessert. If your challah is fresh, toast it lightly so it can absorb the custard. I put in seasonal fruit – in this case fresh peaches. You can also add blueberries or other soft fruit. The chocolate chips add a gooey richness.

challah braided in circleIngredients:

Canola nonstick spray

4 eggs, whisked well

2 cups warm milk (I used 1%) I drink lactose free milk, so that’s what I used.

1 tsp vanilla

3 Tb sugar

a few shakes salt

1 tsp cinnamon

A few shakes each nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice

1 Tb bourbon whiskey

About 1 1/2 cups leftover challah, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 Tb semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup pecans

2 large peaches, sliced

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1 tsp butter for topping

1 tsp coarse sugar such as Demera

Directions:

Whip eggs well in a mixmaster or large bowl. Warm the milk in microwave, then stir in sugar, salt, vanilla, bourbon, and spices. Whisk into eggs. Stir in challah pieces. Cover bowl and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. If you don’t have time, it will still work to soak the bread about 15 minutes.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350′ Set a large roasting pan in the oven with about 2 inches of warm water on the middle rack.

peaches n pecansSpray a flat casserole dish with nonstick canola oil spray. Cut up peaches and stir with blueberries, chocolate chips, and pecans. Spread in the bottom of the casserole dish.

bread pudding before bakingPour soaked bread and custard into the dish. Cut 1 tsp of butter into tiny pieces and scatter across the top. Sprinkle 1 tsp of Demera sugar over the top.

Carefully place the casserole dish into the the water bath in the roasting pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm (but it’s also good cold).

bread pudding serving

Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry shortcake on plateSpringtime brings juicy sweet strawberries that are wonderful just on their own. But sometimes an occasion begs for something fancier – in this case dinner with an old friend. I sweetened my recipe for Light as a Feather Cream Biscuits and added vanilla and a squeeze of lemon juice, spread them with freshly whipped cream and sliced ripe strawberries.

Makes 6 strawberry shortcakes

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1/2  Tb baking powder

1/8 tsp salt (I use sea salt)

2 Tb sugar

3/4 cups cold cream. I put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before mixing it in the dough.

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tsp melted butter, cooled

For cream:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tb sugar

1 pint strawberries (Organic is best. Farmer’s market organic is even better!)

Preheat oven to 450′

Melt butter and let it cool. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add cream, vanilla and lemon juice and slowly stir until the dough is shaggy.

Oil a cookie sheet. I use the insulated kind. Grab a piece of dough the size of the biscuit you wish to make. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter and place on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool until you can handle them, then split horizontally.

open biscuit

Add vanilla and sugar to 1/2 cup cream.  Whip until thick. Spread on biscuits. Slice strawberries and put atop the cream.

open strawberry shortcake

Cover and enjoy!

strawberry shortcake on plate

Lemon Fruit Tart

lemon-tartI just made this lemon fruit tart for my daughter’s 24th birthday. She declared it the best birthday dessert she’s had. Which of course raises the bar for next year!

Although I didn’t have any rosemary blossoms on hand, I used lemon-rosemary tart pastry
(It still works without them.)

I filled it with lemon curd. I used the recipe from epicurious http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/lemon-tart-231349 which they call Lemon Sabayon:  I used a tad less sugar (2/3 cup instead of 3/4 cup) than their recipe called for. Here’s their recipe with the reduced sugar:

  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 2 large egg yolks, cold
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

    1. Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
    2. Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.
    3. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.
    4. Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.

I topped the tart with raspberries, strawberries and pomegranate seeds. I put a slice of orange in the center, sprinkled with a bit of orange zest, and cut out the middle white part to place a candle inside.

candle-tart

Summer and Autumn Fruit Tarts

It’s so fun to decorate a tart with seasonal fruit. Fill lemon-rosemary tart pastry with pastry cream, decorate with fruit, and then glaze it with apricot preserves.

Autumn fruit tart

Autumn fruit tart with blackberries, fuyu persimmons, kiwi fruit and strawberries

peach and berry tart

peach and berry tart

peach tart with thyme

peach tart with thyme

I substituted fresh lemon thyme leaves for the rosemary when I made the peach tarts. I garnished the peaches on one tart with small sprigs of thyme.

Pastry cream:

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar

2 Tb all-purpose flour

2 Tb cornstarch

4 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% )

2 tsp vanilla

Separate eggs and remove the thick white chalazae from the yolks. Whip egg yolks on high speed. Add sugar and sift in flour and cornstarch, then whip again until light colored.

Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it just begins to simmer. With mixer on medium-low, slowly pour 1/2 cup  milk into the egg mixture until it is well combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and whisk in well. Then pour it slowly back into the pot with rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Cook over low-medium heat and continue whisking while the mixture thickens, then whisk for another minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Strain the pastry cream into a clean container,

Place plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the hot pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool on the counter. Pour the pastry cream into the cooled lemon-rosemary tart pastry  and spread it evenly.

Wash fruit, then dry on paper towels. Cut the green tops off the small strawberries and slice the larger fruit lengthwise.

Arrange fruit on top of the pastry cream. Have fun and let your artistic side come out!

Heat about 1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1 Tb water in a bowl for about 30 seconds in a microwave and stir well. Strain into another bowl. Gently brush jam over the fruit for a shiny glaze. You can glaze the strawberries, then layer them to stick them together, then glaze again.

peach berry tart

peach berry tart