In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I’ve noticed the windows of Italian bakeries steadily filling with Easter cakes and breads during the past few weeks. While the marzipan lambs and braided loaves stuffed with dyed eggs are lovely eye candy, they only reminded me how badly I wanted to make my own Argentinian rosca de pascua this year. The brioche-like bread that is shaped into a ring, covered in pastry cream and topped with candied cherries or almonds is traditionally sold in Argentinian bakeries in the week leading up to Easter. Like the Italian version, hard-boiled eggs are sometimes baked into the bread, but chocolate eggs have become a popular substitute.
I decided to keep this recipe simple by brushing the loaf with a light glaze and then covering it with toasted almonds. Instead of dyed eggs, I added a few Jordan almonds for their shape and color. To ensure an even layer of rich cream throughout, I used pastry cream as the bread’s filling. If the Latin American rosca de reyes marks the end of the winter holiday season and its cousin the Mardi Gras Louisiana king cake signals the beginning of Lent, then the Argentinian rosca de pascua lets you pick up right where the others left off.
Rosca de Pascua (Argentinian Easter Cake)
Continue Reading Rosca de Pascua: Argentinian Easter Cake with Jordan Almonds
Throughout the month of December, Venezuelan bakers produce countless loaves of pan de jamón — sweet dough rolls containing ham, olives, raisins and sometimes bacon that are baked and sliced. Served alongside hallacas (tamales), pernil (roast pork), ensalada de gallina (chicken salad) and ponche de crema (eggnog) on Christmas Eve, the recipe hails from a bakery in Caracas, Venezuela. It is simple to prepare and often shared with loved ones.
When I return to Florida for the holidays, I am greeted by one of my favorite adopted traditions: a pan de jamón prepared by family friends or neighbors in place of the traditional fruitcakes and panettones. While roasted pork and glazed hams dominate holiday tables throughout Latin America, the lighter and varied seasonal dishes like Venezuela’s pan de jamón are all the more special for coming only once a year.
Pan de Jamón Navideño: Christmas Ham Bread Recipe
Continue Reading Venezuelan Pan de Jamon: Christmas Ham Bread
Some people are just better at celebrating holidays. In Puerto Rico, the season starts after Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas and Three Kings Day to the Octavas and Octavitas, a religious observance that extends the celebration through mid-January. The Fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastián caps it all off over the course of three days in Old San Juan. Friends will show up at loved ones’ houses singing and playing music, like Christmas caroling but with maracas, güiros and cuatros.
It’s common during these celebrations to make large batches of pasteles. Similar to tamales, pasteles are a combination of grated green unripe bananas called guineos, plantains and either yautia or yuca, blended to make a masa seasoned with achiote oil. The filling — pork, ham or chicken simmered in a sofrito of peppers and onions, then mixed with garbanzos, olives, capers and raisins — is tucked into the prepared dough and wrapped in plantain leaves. Once the pasteles are filled and wrapped, they can be frozen, then steamed or boiled just before serving so they’re ready to welcome anyone who may turn up at your door.
Pasteles Puertorriqueños: Puerto Rican Tamales Recipe
Continue Reading Puerto Rican Pasteles: Tamales for the Holidays
While it seems like the holidays begin earlier every year, in Colombia the season has always started on Dec. 7 with la noche del alumbrado, or Day of the Candles. People light candles in their homes and by parks, public landmarks, stores and churches. The celebration continues on Dec. 16 with the first of nightly novenas that will continue until Christmas Eve, when families and friends gather for prayers, petitions, villancicos (carols) and, of course, food.
While the observances vary from family to family, one constant element is the buñuelos: fritters made out of a smooth dough composed of fresh cheese blended with cornstarch, an egg and milk. I was given this recipe by family friend Oscar Marin who recalls buñuelos made with freshly ground corn in his youth. He makes sure to get the oil to just the right temperature so that the buñuelos rise to the top and swell up as they turn in the oil. If they rise too quickly, they won’t cook all the way through — too slowly, they’ll take on too much oil and become heavy. Traditionally served with hot chocolate or natilla made with whole cane sugar for the perfect combination of salty and sweet, buñuelos are a seasonal treat that are longed for year-round.
Buñuelos Colombianos: Colombian Cheese Fritters Recipe
Continue Reading Buñuelos Colombianos: Colombian Cheese Fritters
Few holidays capture the imagination like El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. From November 1 (All Saints’ Day) through November 2 (All Souls’ Day), families throughout Mexico and Central America build elaborate altars to lay out the favorite foods of their dearly departed. Platters of rice and beans, moles, tortillas, tamales, calaveras (candy skulls) and brioche-like pan de muertos dusted with sugar welcome the spirits home — albeit for a brief time — before the food is shared by family and friends.
Atole, a hot beverage thickened with fresh corn masa, corn flour or cornstarch, is a holiday staple, though it’s enjoyed for breakfast year-round. Traditionally sweetened with unrefined cane sugar, or piloncillo, and flavored with fruit, a chocolate version called champurrado is served at Christmastime. This atole de calabaza is made with fresh pumpkin slowly cooked with aromatic spices like anise, allspice and clove. While the Day of the Dead is a time to reflect on the past, this richly textured drink will keep you looking forward to the crisp fall days ahead.
Continue Reading Raise a Glass of Atole de Calabaza for Day of the Dead
Congratulations to Devour contributor Ana Sofia Peláez, whose personal blog hungrysofia.com has been nominated for one of Saveur.com‘s Best Food Blog Award 2012.
Ana Sofia covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine for Cooking Channel’s blog, Devour, and in her own blog. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.
Her blog is nominated in the category of Best Regional Cuisine Blog. Voting ends on April 26th, so hurry over to here to vote for hungrysofia.com.
And bring a bit of Latin America into your kitchen with her best recipes from Devour:
Continue Reading HungrySofia Nominated for Saveur Food Blog Award
Trying to stick to fish every Friday during Lent comes easy at first, but my resolve wears thin with each passing week. Forgoing the usual salmon or seared tuna, I decided to make pescado en salsa verde — buttery white fish fillets drenched in parsley sauce then baked with slices of potatoes. A staple in our Cuban house growing up, I asked my mother for her recipe.
I found that using half as much olive oil and vino seco as her recipe was more than enough, but cooking the potatoes without overdoing the fish was tricky. Starting them in the oven earlier, I used that time to pull the sauce together. Smothered in sweet onions, there was just enough garlicky salsa verde to warrant a second dip of crusty bread.
March is about looking forward to spring, but sometimes a quick look back lets you see something you may have missed.
Continue Reading Pescado en Salsa Verde
I was determined to make tamales this summer but kept hearing that the corn piling up at the markets wasn’t the “right” kind. Sweet and bursting maybe, but not the starchy field corn needed to make traditional tamales. Though they can be made year round using cornmeal, masa harina or tamal flour specially made for the purpose, it seemed a shame to make the same tamales in July that I could have in December.
I was about to go the all-maseca route when I tried a Guatemalan tamal from a street vendor. Sweet, airy and topped only with crema and fresh cheese, it had the delicate flavor of the white summer corn crowding the farm stands. Known as tamales de elote in Mexico and Central America, humitas in the Andes, and green corn tamales in the States, these fresh corn tamales could be made with domestic corn and just a small amount of masa harina to approximate the taste and texture of starchier varieties. Though savory fillings can be added like shredded pork or chicken, they’re wonderful just on their own blended with fast melting cheese like Oaxaca or Monterey Jack and green onions. With every part of the corn, from the husks to the kernels to the cobs, imparting their own shades of flavor, you can savor everything the season has to offer while it lasts.
Continue Reading How To Make Fresh Corn Tamales