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Posts Tagged ‘Ana Sofia Pelaez’

Rosca de Pascua: Argentinian Easter Cake with Jordan Almonds

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)

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31 Days of Cookies: Sleeping Almond Meringue Cookies

This year, we’re celebrating the season with a month of nonstop cookies. For the 24th day of cookies, ’twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, we were channeling a good night sleep with Sleeping Almond Meringue Cookies.

I think what I miss the most about believing in Santa Claus is falling asleep on Christmas Eve and knowing that, in what feels like the blink of any eye, I’ll be under the tree, ripping into boxes and finishing off cookies left out the night before. Now that I’m the one hiding the presents and baking the cookies, the lure of sleeping in while someone else does the work is that much more appealing.

It’s also why I love making these sleeping almond meringues. For years, I’d been trying to make my grandparents’ meringue cookies, which were always crisp on the outside but creamy in the center. The recipe, a straightforward combination of egg whites and sugar, was too simple for them to write down, and I couldn’t seem to replicate it. Most recipes I found gave helpful tips on how to completely dry out the meringues, which is exactly what I didn’t want to do, and the opposite of what I remembered.

Finally, a friend shared her own grandmother’s recipe. The meringues are piped onto baking sheets, then placed in a scorching-hot oven that is immediately turned off. Though they were wonderful with just a little bit of lime juice and vanilla for flavor, I couldn’t resist the added crunch of toasted almonds. Left on their own overnight, they take on a pearly sheen that gives way to a taffy-like center — just as long as you can keep yourself from peeking in the oven until the next day.

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Venezuelan Pan de Jamon: Christmas Ham Bread

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

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Puerto Rican Pasteles: Tamales for the Holidays

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

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Buñuelos Colombianos: Colombian Cheese Fritters

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

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Cuban Sugar Cookies with Guava and Lime (Torticas de Morón)

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. Your favorite chefs & Food People have opened their kitchens to share their best cookie recipes. From mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies to Chuck’s Maple-Pecan Shortbread, we’ll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to FoodNetwork.com for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

When I was growing up, the closest thing we had in Florida to a white Christmas were the piles of sparkly cotton batting surrounding Santa’s village at the mall. It may have been in the spirit of the season, but cheerful decorations of snowmen, reindeer, and bundled-up elves looked out of place during a balmy December in Miami. Occasionally the odd cold front would move through the area to drive our family’s Noche Buena celebration indoors, but it was rare. Now that I live in New York, I realize that there are worse things then spending the holidays under the stars, and appreciate the sight of palm trees strung with lights, radiating the warmth of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Spending time by a warm oven baking cookies during our tropical Christmas didn’t always make sense either, but some holiday traditions are too delicious to pass up. Torticas de Morón, named for the town in central Cuba where they come from, are sold year-round in bakeries throughout South Florida. Spiked with rum, flavored with lime and filled with jewel-toned guava preserves, the torticas were once made with lard, but I substitute butter, which adds its own richness. Possessing all the brightness of a day at the beach, these simple sugar cookies are a perfect way to enjoy the holiday — wherever you might find yourself.

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Raise a Glass of Atole de Calabaza for Day of the Dead

Atole de Calabaza Recipe

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.

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HungrySofia Nominated for Saveur Food Blog Award

Hungry Sofia by Ana Sofia Pelaez

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:

Torrejas with Lavender Honey Syrup

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Pescado en Salsa Verde

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.

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How To Make Fresh Corn Tamales

Tamales Recipe

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.

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