Did you know that tamales, enchiladas, and hot dogs are mentioned together in the 1953 science fiction movie classic "War of the Worlds"?
Speaking of movies, 3 U.S. made films with "tortilla" in the title are "Tortilla Heaven" (2007), "Tortilla Soup" (2001), and "Tortilla Flat" (1942).
St. Honorius of Amiens, whose feast day is May 16th, is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. Centeotl was the god of corn for the Aztecs while Chicomecoatl was the goddess of corn and fertility. Does anybody know if there is a patron saint of tortilla makers?
Thank you for visiting my blog!
This bread is a good living (before the yeast is sacrificed in the oven!) example of my approach to baking from a Mexican/American viewpoint. Which is why I’m bringing it to Fiesta Friday, The Novice Gardener’s weekly invitation to blogger friends to join and mingle with recipes, stories, and more. Her blog is always fresh, interesting, very expressive, and funny. It’s been an eye-opener to see her site grow and greatly expand. Give this very talented chef and blogger a visit!
Taking this bread to a party, I would be interested in how people react and ask them what flavors they can discern and what aromas they detect. I’d ask them where they think it originates from. If you were curious I’d tell you it took me several trials and errors to get it to where it is now. I tried different types and amounts of dried chile, sometimes I used olive oil, sometimes a bit of sweetener. I used different ratios of flours. It was all very good tasting but this was my favorite version. One difference between baking and other types of cooking is that once you put that dough in the oven, the ingredients are set. If you are making a sauce for example, most of the time you can adjust it during the cooking by tasting and observing as it goes along. If I’m lucky, I’m ok with a bread baking experiment after one run. But a recipe like this takes me back to the drawing board because of the nature of the ingredients and also due to curiosity which can take the better of me. I’m always tempted to do the impossible task of trying all kinds of variations.
Using ingredients, flavors, and techniques that I grew up with is the basis of recipes of this blog. I’ll also incorporate Mexican or southwestern flavors that have become available through the years. For example, two different types of chipotle chiles are now much more common here than they were 15 or 20 years ago. Amaranth is another example of a Mexican ”grain” now more easily found in some specialty grocery stores. In general, my recipes are “Tex-Mex”, Mexican or “southwestern” in style. I also try to use ingredients native to the Americas. My last recipe for example included pecans, common in Texas, and wild rice, native to some parts of the northern U.S. Some are authentic recipes while some are my take on a classic. Most of these recipes involve ingredients and techniques that are not usually found together. In some respects, it is like a gradual geographical opening up of the horizon from my south and central Texas food experience. Fusion cooking is not really the goal here though I love the idea and so it will inevitably happen along the way. I think fusion cooking is exciting and is especially beautiful when it happens within a family that is of mixed backgrounds. But I don’t wake up in the morning and say, well let’s see…, what happens when I try to combine Vietnamese and Mexican flavors in a Banh Mi(a great sandwich that has relatively recently gained great popularity). That sounds like a great fun challenge I would enjoy working on a little later down the road to perhaps introduce at my work place or include as a post. What I would tackle first though is a Mexican flavored stir fry. Stir fries have been a staple in Chinese restaurants forever and is dish I make regularly at home because it is easy to put together if I have the basic ingredients ready. Because the ingredients are handy, it’s been an easy step for me to make Mexican flavored versions. I may include one here soon.
So don’t get me wrong, if I had more time, I’d love to devote a blog just on fusion cuisine. Cultures find themselves as neighbors for different reasons. Some cuisines may have an affinity to one another no matter how close or far apart they are historically or geographically. It would be interesting for me to try combining Mexican, American and Caribbean techniques and ingredients. Mexico has the indigenous people and European influences while the Caribbean has the indigenous, African, European and other flavors from throughout the world. Maybe I’m going about a fusion path slowly because there is already a lot in my “neighborhood” to explore. Another reason may be because I’m a little cautious about instant globalization of cultures, although as long as the traditions are kept alive it’s nice to experiment.
Back to today’s recipe—Sesame seeds give a nice nutty flavor to the bread. They are often used in the famed mole sauces of Mexico and are a key ingredient in the pipan sauces. They are also a garnish in “cemita” rolls, a bread used for a popular sandwich from Puebla. Sesame seeds are also used for Mexican candies. I could be mistaken, but whole wheat flour is not traditionally used in Mexican baking. Maybe it has caught on as a healthier alternative, but I don’t think it has become a common ingredient. However, it has always been available here so I use it to give a little more depth in wheat flavor to the bread. The hardest part was deciding on a spice mix. Which dried chile flavors would come through best in a bread? After some tries and misses I decided on a mix of several different dried chiles plus other herbs and spices to round out the flavor. The spice blend I use is my personal recipe though you can use your blend or a favorite brand of chile powder. Just keep in mind that they can differ dramatically in heat and flavor.
I use a pre-ferment as I do in most of my recipes because it improves the flavor and texture of the crumb. The chew is more pleasantly substantial than that of bread made from start to finish in 4 hours or less. It seems that pre-ferments are common in Mexico.
The use of chile powder and sesame seeds give this bread a bit of Tex-Mex and a little of Mexico. My chile powder blend includes dried chipotle chiles, which are originally associated more with Mexico than the southwest U.S. The chiles above from left to right are pasilla, chipotle meco, ancho, and chipotle morita. The chipotle morita was the fierest of all and smokier than the chipotle meco. They can all vary in quality, so just beware.
This recipe is good for 2 medium size loaves.
2 cups bread flour
5/8 teaspoon instant yeast (you can make your best approximation if you don’t have the measurement for it)
3/4 teaspoons salt
about 3/4 cup water at room temperature
In a small bowl stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add most of the water to form a shaggy ball. Put it in the bowl of your mixer and begin mixing. Add more water as needed to get a smooth elastic dough. It should be a little tacky but not dry or sticky. Place it in a medium size bowl that has been lightly oiled. Roll the dough around to oil all around. Let it ferment until it is about 11/2 times the volume. You can use it now, but you can keep it overnight in the refrigerator for further development.
The final dough:
All the pate fermente
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 generous tablespoon chile powder (add more as desired, this amount gives a mild flavor) (use the recipe below or use store bought)
a heaping 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds
about 1/2 cup water at room temperature.
If using an overnight pate fermente, remove from the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan to make the dough to take the chill off. When ready cut it into 10 or 12 pieces with a knife or pastry cutter. Put it in your mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients except the water. Mix it all together well with a spatula. Add most of the water and mix to form a loose shaggy dough. Begin to mix with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer. Adjust with more water or flour if necessary to form a smooth elastic, slightly tacky dough. Remove the dough and place it on your cutting board or work station. Gently knead in the sesame seeds. It will seem like too many seeds to incorporate, but trust me, they will mix in. I usually like to knead in nuts and seeds at the very end of kneading because I think they can cut the gluten strands you’ve created during the mixing of the dough.
Form the dough into a nice round shape and place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Roll it around as you did with the pate fermente to make sure all sides get oiled. This will prevent it from forming a crust as it ferments. Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rice to double in volume. This is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the dough is ready , remove from the bowl, lightly degass it, and divide into 2 or 3 portions. Shape as desired and place them on parchment paper, and cover with plastic. Let them proof until they have about doubled in volume.
Slash and garnish the dough as desired. Place the them on your baking stone that has been preheating if your are using one. The parchment paper makes it easy to transfer. I find I can reuse the parchment paper a couple more times. If not, place them on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F. Many say the bread is ready when the it makes a hollow thud when tapped on the bottom. Let the loaves cool on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying. These make great sandwich bread. I’ve been enjoying them just slathered with butter. How about making some molletes with them? I bet they would make great croutons for soup or salad. Too bad I don’t enough time this weekend to photograph some examples.
This mix came about because I happened to have all these ingredients on hand. I wanted to come up with something that tasted distinct from the store bought kind. You don’t really need all those ingredients to make a nice tasting chile powder. A blend of ancho pepper powder, ground oregano, ground cumin, and garlic powder will do just fine. Experiment with it. Ancho and pasilla peppers are somewhat fruitier and much milder than the chipotles. If I had to pick one pepper for a blend, it would be the ancho.
The chile powder:
4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
4 teaspoons pasilla pepper powder
2 teaspoons chipotle pepper powder
1 teaspoon ground dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 good pinch granulated garlic
1 good pinch onion powder
To make the individual chile powders, place several of each of the pasilla, ancho, and chipotle peppers on a baking tray and toast in a 325 degree oven for a couple of minutes or until you begin to smell the aroma. They will begin to puff up. Don’t let them overcook. I make it a point to stay in the kitchen because it will go very quickly. I would toast each type of pepper separately so that you insure they are properly done. When the peppers are cool, open them to remove the seeds. You can include some of the seeds if you want a little more heat. Grind the chiles (and seeds if using) in a spice grinder to fine powder. Be very careful not to inhale the dust while grinding the chiles. I again recommend keeping them separate during the process. You will likely have more powders that you need for the recipe but it’s nice to have them available for other uses.
If you don’t have ground oregano, you can also grind it in your spice grinder. You may choose to toast whole comino in a frying pan and also grind it yourself.
Mix all the ingrediants together. Store them in an airtight container. I don’t use any kind of anti-caking agent, so the blend will eventually begin to clump up. No big deal in my opinion. I make it in small amounts.
Two ingredients here give a nutty, nutritious flavor to an nearly 5o% whole wheat bread. Pecans are ready to pick here in Texas from mid fall through early winter. Pecan trees are very common in neighborhoods or parks though squirrels will very likely beat you to your personal home grown harvest. So that’s the time when family and friends may go on “foraging expeditions”. As youngsters, we would visit aunts and uncles and help gather pecans. That’s when we’d hear the latest ”news” or about past glory days. Recently pecans have seemed smaller than usual. I wonder if the very hot and dry summers we’ve had lately are the cause. A nutcracker has been especially useful since the smaller pecans are much harder to crack by hand. You know that old time footage of early attempts of flying by intrepid inventors and their willing assistants. I’d be interested to see a museum of history exhibit of nutcrackers. There would be the successful inventions and designs, the less successful ones, and even the failed attempts. Can you imagine what some of the early tries may have been like? The very practical original spring jointed metal nutcracker with pick we are all familiar with was invented in 1878 by inventor Henry Quackenbush. If you are wondering, Groucho Marx’s character in “A Day at the Races” was Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush.
Wild rice of course has been an important food source to many native North American Indians tribes. Three kinds of wild rice are indigenous to the U.S. while one is found in China. In case you didn’t know, wild rice is actually a grass not related to rice. It also refers to the grain that is harvested from it. While a simple pecan bread makes a nice tasting loaf, the wild rice adds a little more depth to the flavor. You have to taste for it since it’s not very noticeable at first. I think rosemary is good option to substitute for sage though I’d be careful on the quantity.
This recipe will make 2 medium size loaves.
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water at room temperature
The final dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
2 1/4 teaspoons table salt
about 3/4 cups buttermilk at room temperature
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (optional)
To make the poolish:
In a medium size mixing bowl stir together the flour and yeast. Add the water and mix until all the flour is moistened and the mixture looks like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic and let it sit out until it becomes bubbly. It will take 3 or 4 hours depending on the temperature of the kitchen. Even though it is ready to use, I like to put it the refrigerator overnight for further development.
Cook raw wild rice by bringing to boil at least 1 1/2 cups water in a medium size pot. Add 1/2 cup raw wild rice and bring to a simmer. Make sure to cook the rice until the grains have opened. This is important because rice that didn’t soften may give some hard brittleness to the finished bread. Add more water if necessary during cooking . Strain and let cool. This may be done the night before. It’ll make more than you need for the recipe, so enjoy the extra wild rice on it’s own.
Toast the pecans in a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool down.
To make the dough:
If you have an overnight poolish, take it out of the refrigerator an hour or 2 before you plan to make the dough.
Put the poolish, the whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and sage ( if using) in your mixing bowl. Stir together thoroughly. Add most of the room temperature buttermilk and stir to form a shaggy dough. Add more buttermilk if it appears that the dough is too dry. With the hook attachment, mix the dough until you have a smooth ever so slightly sticky dough that clears the sides of the bowl. Adjust with more flour or buttermilk if necessary. Mixing will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Take the dough out of the mixer onto a cutting board or work surface. Gradually and gently knead in the wild rice and pecans. Form the dough into a round and place in a bowl or container. Cover with plastic and let ferment until double in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 portions. Form them into boules or batards as desired. Put each of them on parchment paper and cover with plastic. Sometimes I lightly spray the dough with oil so that the plastic doesn’t adhere. It depends on how wet the dough is. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Use your baking stone if you have one. The parchment paper makes it easy to slide the loaves onto the stone. Let the loaves proof until double in size.
When ready remove the plastic, and slash the loaves as desired. I sprinked them with some cornmeal before scoring them. Slide them onto the stone and immediately lower the temperature to 375 degrees. The oven is at a lower than usual temperature because the buttermilk will cause the crust to brown more rapidly. The bread is ready in about 20 minutes. Be sure to check from time to time. Use foil to cover if they are browning too soon. The bread is ready when the internal temperature is 200 degrees F.
Just one in an infinite
Take the idea of a bread flavored with sunflower seeds. When I started to teach myself how to make bread about 6 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. Sunflower seed bread back then was only a faraway idea I would eventually get to. Now when I decide to tackle it, I’m almost overwhelmed with the choices to make. What flour or combination of flours should I use to compliment the flavor. Should I use other ingredients like additional grains or oil to enhance the flavor? What pre-ferment technique do I use? How will the bread be used. How much time do I want to take from beginning to end? I also try to keep it all in the framework of the concept of my blog. I’d describe my bread recipes as experiments in progress. I usually make at least two different versions of a bread to compare and contrast to choose which I think is better. Many times they are equally good, just different. Sometimes I don’t like the results at all and let the idea go for awhile to try again later. Whatever choices I ultimately make, the end result is just one from an infinite number of possibilities that can be imagined and created by all the bread makers of the world. Each individual uses different ingredients, bakes in a unique environment, and imbues a personal ”touch” and motive.
The birth of a recipe
The featured ingredient for this bread is the sunflower seed. The sunflower is native to all of the Americas. According to the “New World Encyclopedia” the earliest known domestication occurred around 2300 B.C.E. in what is now Tennessee while evidence in Mexico dates domestication to around 2100 B.C.E. I associate it very much with the southwest. It is considered a sacred plant to many native Americans. For this bread I also wanted to make use of a combination of white whole wheat and regular whole wheat flour as I had did in my last bread. I decided to make it a sourdough because I enjoy the taste of naturally leavened bread, the experience of the process will help improve my baking, and I could afford the time this weekend. In the end I chose to make it simple with no other flavors than the whole wheat flours and the sunflower seeds. At least I have a basic recipe to expand on later. That’s what I mean when I mentioned that my recipes are experiments in progress. However, it doesn’t mean this prototype or basic recipe isn’t worth making again. It is packed with flavor, texture, and a slight tang.
1 tablespoon sourdough starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)
200 grams water at 78 degrees F.
50 grams bread flour
50 grams whole wheat flour
650 grams water (80 degree F.)
500 grams bread flour
250 grams whole wheat flour
250 grams white whole wheat flour
20 grams salt plus 100 grams water
1 1/4 cup unsalted hulled raw sunflower seeds
To make the levain:
The night before you make the bread disperse the sourdough starter in the water. Add the flours and mix until it is all moistened. Cover with plastic and leave out overnight. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, count on about 12 to 14 hours for the levain to properly ferment. Mix at the appropriate time for you. I usually do so around 8 or 9 pm. That way it will be ready between 6 and 8 the next morning. One way to check is to take a small spoonful of the levain and put it in a small bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready to use. Otherwise, let it go longer.
Roast the sunflowers on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan to insure even roasting. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Let them cool. You can roast them the day before or on the day you plan to make the dough.
To make the dough:
When the levain is ready put it in a large mixing bowl. Add the 650 grams of water and disperse the levain. Add the flours and mix with your hands until it is all moistened. Cover with plastic and let it sit for 30 to 40 minutes. Dissolve the salt in the 100 grams of water and add to the dough. Squeeze it in as best you can. Now put the dough in your stand mixer and mix for about 3 to 4 minutes. You can also do the kneading by hand. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic. After 30 minutes “turn” the dough by pulling the bottom portion up and over the top. I’ll do this manipulation twice. You may need to wet your hand so that the dough doesn’t stick to you. Turning aids in the development of the dough. After 30 minutes, take the dough out of the container, and manually knead in the sunflower seeds. A marble pastry board works well. You may need to lightly flour your work surface whether using marble or other type of board. It depends on how wet your dough is. Return the dough to your bowl or container and cover with plastic. Give 2 more turns at 30 minute intervals then let the dough continue to ferment for about 3 hours. The dough will have increased in volume by about 20 to 25%. It will lose some of its stickiness and feel softer. It will have developed a more airy feel. I always use a clear container that allows me to see the air bubbles that develop during the fermentation.
When the dough is ready, carefully remove it from the container and divide it in to 2 portions for large loaves, or 3 for medium size. With the help of a pastry cutter, shape the portions into nice tight rounds. At this stage you want to begin to develop tension in a smooth outer surface. Cover with plastic and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Depending on how wet the dough is, it will flatten and spread out a bit. If it has spread out too much, reshape into rounds and let it rest some more.
For the final shaping, lightly flour the top of one of the rounds, and flip it over so that the top is now the bottom. Grab the third of the dough nearest to you and stretch it over the center. Grab the right side of the dough and stretch it over the middle. Take the left side of the dough and stretch it over the middle. Finally grab the third farthest from you and pull it over the middle. Flip the dough so that the bottom is once again the top. Repeat with the other portions. Line baskets or bowls with a clean kitchen towel. These will hold your dough while they proof and eventually increase about 1/4 to 1/3 in volume. Using appropriate size bowls or baskets will make it easier to remove the proofed dough. Dust the towels with flour so that the dough will not stick, then gently place the shaped portions upside down in the towel lined container. I lightly oil the exposed side of the dough with baking spray then cover with plastic. I then overlap the remaining part of the towel to cover. I suppose if you sufficiently flour the towel, the plastic is not necessary. Proof the dough for 3 to 4 hours. The longer it is proofed, the tangier it will be. These particular loaves went for 4 hours. I could have chosen to let them go overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat your oven to 5oo degrees at least 30 minutes before you bake Use your baking stone if you have one. Remove the plastic and towel from the dough then carefully flip the basket onto parchment paper. Remove the basket and the towel from the top of the dough. . Score the loaves as desired. You can choose to lightly spray the dough with water and sprinkle sunflower seeds. I gently push the seeds down a little so that they will adhere. Using a peel, slide the loaves onto your very hot baking stone and immediately lower the oven to 425 degrees. If not using a stone, you can place the dough onto a sheet pan. ”Steam” the oven 3 times in the first 10 minutes with a plant mister to simulate the steam injection of professional ovens. Bake for about 25 minutes. The bread will be golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees when done. Put the loaves on a wire rack to cool down completely.
The dough makes very good pizza crust. I used a mild salsa ranchera, requeson (similar to riccota), jalapenos, and fresh oregano.
This one might do the trick for you if you’re in the mood for a bread that has a little more flavor than one made with all bread flour. I like this bread so much I’ve made it 3 weekends in a row with pretty much the same recipe. Only the fermentation times have differed. Using some white whole wheat flour makes a difference. It gives a lighter flavor and doesn’t impart the bitterness that regular whole wheat flour can. You can change the recipe and use all white whole wheat or all regular whole wheat in addition to the bread flour. Or you can change the ratio of the whole wheat flours. I really enjoy the flavor from this particular combination of the two. Ok, it’s not as good for you as 100% whole wheat bread, but it’s over a third of the way there. I’m curious now what a sourdough version would taste like.
This one makes use of a poolish. For this recipe I use Peter Reinhart’s poolish formula. This pre-ferment gives more flavor and structure to the bread. The crumb is tender and soft and yet does not disintegrate like commercially made sandwich loaves. I think it also contributed to the nice size holes. Each of the poolishes had different fermentation times only because the days dictated my schedule. The beauty of pre-ferments is that you can delay your bread making for a few days if needed. I held one 4 days in the refrigerator with satisfactory results. The crumb as well as the crust has a full fantastic flavor.
This will make 2 medium size loaves or 3 to 4 small baguettes
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water
All the poolish
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
3 to 4 tablespoons water
To make the poolish:
Stir together the bread flour and instant yeast in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the water and mix until all the flour is wet. It should look like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it becomes bubbly, about 4 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Put in the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The poolish can remain refrigerated for 3 days. It will continue to develop flavor.
To make the dough:
Take the poolish out of the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you plan to make the bread to take the chill off.
Put the poolish, 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, honey (or sugar), and salt in your mixing bowl. Mix everything well with a spatula or large spoon until it becomes a shaggy dough. With the hook attachment in place, mix on the recommended speed of your mixer, usually low or slightly higher. You will probably need to add some or all of the water to make a smooth and tacky or very slightly sticky dough. Whether you use honey or sugar will have a slight effect. Adjust with either water or flour as needed. It will take about 6 to 7 minutes of mixing. The dough will probably not stick to either the sides or bottom of the bowl. It should also have good gluten development.
Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a smooth round ball. Put it in a lightly oiled bowl and making sure all sides of the dough are very lightly oiled. Cover with plastic and let it rise to double in volume.
When ready, remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Gently degass it, and divide it into 2 with a pastry cutter or knife. Shape them as desired. Place them on parchment paper, cover with plastic, and let rise to double. I find it useful to lightly spray the dough with oil or baking spray, especially if it’s a little sticky. The plastic tends to stick to the dough, and at times becomes difficult to remove without disturbing the risen dough.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
When the dough is ready, remove the plastic and score as desired. Put the dough (which has been placed on parchment paper) on your baking stone if using one. If not, they could be placed on baking sheets. Immediately lower the temperature to 425 degrees. Mist the oven with water 3 times within the first 10 minutes. I use a plant mister.
The bread will be done in about 20 minutes. Keep an eye to see if you need to rotate the bread for even baking. The loaves will be a golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees when done.
A closed face mollete? These two sandwiches are made of refried beans, cheddar cheese, cherry tomato, and jalapenos on the light whole wheat bread. The left is made Panini style, the other was broiled in the oven. Home-made tortilla chips flavored with chili powder round out the plate.
The plan was to make apple empanadas today, but finding blackberries offered at a very low price at the supermarket made me switch gears and make a type of empanada I don’t recall coming across. I’m sure they are popular somewhere in Latin America or maybe Spain. I’m also sure every possible type of fruit has been made into a filling… After I started to cook down the berries with sugar, I saw how much liquid was released and realized this was going to be very different from the pumpkin empanadas I made several weeks ago. Cost and a more problematic cooking process might be why they are not as common around here. Unwittingly I was venturing into the territory of conserves and jams and thus preparing for a few rounds of trial and error. I didn’t want to just follow a recipe for blackberry jam. I learned about pectin and how to tell when a jam was “set”. I considered going out to look for some. Then I read that apples, oranges and lemon have natural pectin. Some recipes for conserves use just fruit, sugar, and lemon. Cornstarch to thicken was out of the question for me. I know how cornstarch can change the natural character of foods. Ultimately I wanted to keep it simple since empanadas are labor intensive. So I decided to add lemon zest and some lemon juice for flavor Maybe it would help in thickening the blackberry “jam”. I made five different batches and settled on the one I thought was best. Only because the berries were so cheap could I get away with that. The benefit I got was that I also ended up with a good supply of blackberry conserve. I think what made it work was reducing the juices until it thickened enough to congeal. For the dough I used Fany Gerson’s recipe from “My Sweet Mexico” again, the same one I used for pumpkin empanadas. Those empanadas I must say got raves from family and friends during Thanksgiving.
For about 20 empanadas:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crema or heavy cream plus a little for topping
4 heaping cups of fresh blackberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon plus the zest of one whole lemon
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy cream
For the dough
Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. I have always kept the butter as cold as possible for this recipe. Add the cream and mix until it’s just combined. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The dough will hold for 3 days in the refrigerator.
For the filling
Put the blueberries, sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and the zest of a lemon in a heavy sauce pot. Use a non-stick pot if possible. Over medium heat, slowly bring to a boil. Stir to help dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes to cook and soften the berries. Strain the berries saving the liquid and put aside. I had about 1 1/4 cups liquid. Return the liquid to the pot and put on a slow simmer. Stir from time to time to avoid possible scorching. Reduce by at least 1/2. This batch reduced to between 3/4 and 1/2 cups liquid. The juice should be thick enough to set when cooled. I also tested by dropping a teaspoon or so on a cold plate. If it thickened, it was ready. Those of you with fruit preserve experience can probably know by checking the temperature or by another method. I’m a complete newcomer to making jams and conserves. Remove the liquid from the heat and add the berries. I then put it in the refrigerator to speed up the setting.
To make the empanadas
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make an egg wash of 2 yolks and about 1 tablespoon heavy cream Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out 4 1/2 to 5 inch circles with a cookie cutter or other mold. Place about 1 tablespoon of the blackberry filling slightly off center. Use the egg wash to help seal the empanada and use a fork to press together. Place the empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or one that has been well oiled. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired. If you plan to glaze the empanadas you may not need to sugar them. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown. Rotate the pan if they are not browning evenly. Set them on a wire rack to cool.
Tips: It is a good idea to keep the dough cool when working with it. If your kitchen is warm the dough will soften to a degree that makes it hard to keep nice shaped circles. Also keep the blackberry filling cold as you begin filling the empanadas. It will more likely keep from getting too runny as it heats up in the oven.
I used ganache that was leftover from my Yule log to glaze some of the empanadas. I also dusted some with confectioner’s sugar. Semi-sweet chocolate chips were added along with the blackberry filling to a few.
I had a little fun with my camera today. Mostly however, it’s frustrating.
I was lucky to have had some time to make this famous French Christmas or Yule time traditional dessert. I’ve made it the past several years now, so it has become something of a tradition for me. One nice thing about it is that you can mix and match the components to make it to your taste. It is composed of a rolled cake, usually a genoise or other type of sponge cake, a filling, usually a buttercream, and a frosting, also usually made with buttercream. Mine is a basic yule log made with a butter enriched sponge cake, white buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache. The possibilities are endless though. A chocolate sponge cake could be used with an orange buttercream and white chocolate ganache for example. Marzipan is often used for making leaves and berries to decorate the log. Here I’m taking a short cut and making meringue mushrooms and using raspberries, blackberries and some rosemary. I originally wanted it to resemble a pecan tree log with marzipan pecans and leaves, but it will have to wait till next time. Pecan or cedar yule logs would be more appropriate in Texas.
This recipe will make 2 yule logs.
For 2 sheet sponge cakes (13 by 17 by 1/2 inch):
8 eggs separated
Pinch of cream of tartar (if not using a copper bowl)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups cake flour
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dark rum (or other flavored spirits)
The buttercream (5 1/2 cups):
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water plus more as needed
8 egg yolks, slightly warmed
1 1/4 pounds cold butter cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes
Dark chocolate ganache:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (if using blocks, chop into small pieces)
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 egg whites
Small pinch of cream of tartar unless using a copper bowl
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar if very humid
For the cakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two 13 by 17 inch sheet pans with parchment paper. Mark a large X on the sheet pan using butter. The parchment paper will adhere better while you spread the batter.
Prepare the melted butter in a small saucepan.
Beat the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar (if using) in your stand mixer with a whisk attachment on medium high until medium peaks form. It took mine about 8 minutes, but I’d keep a close watch. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar slowly and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
As the egg whites are beating whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar for a couple of minutes or until they are slightly pale.
Fold together the egg white and yolk mixture. Put one quarter of the mixture in a small bowl and fold in the melted butter. Fold the butter mixture back into the egg mixture. Now add the cake flour by sifting it into the mixture in four parts. After adding each part gently fold it in until no flour is visible.
Spread the batter evenly into the 2 prepared sheet pans. You can spray the sides of the pan with oil to help avoid sticking. Or you can just separate the finished cake from the sides with a knife. Bake about 12 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch. Rotate the pans during baking if they are cooking unevenly.
While the cakes are baking, sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar on two sheets of parchment paper at least as big as the sheet cakes.
When the cakes are done, remove them from the oven and flip them onto the prepared parchment paper. Peel off the cooked parchment paper. Let the sponge cakes cool. Trim off any uneven or dried edges. The cakes should be firm but pliable for easy rolling.
For the simple syrup
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to just a hot temperature. Dissolve the sugar using a whisk. Let it cool to slightly warm and add the 2 tablespoons rum or other desired flavor.
Brush the sponge cakes liberally (is it ok to use “liberal” ?) with the syrup.
For the buttercream
To warm the egg yolks, place the eggs in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes before cracking and separating them.
Over medium heat bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a heavy bottom saucepan. While the syrup is cooking, beat the yolks on high speed for about 8 minutes with the whisk attachment of your mixer. They should become quadrupled in size and very pale.
Meanwhile, check the syrup to make sure it is not ready before the yolks. It should eventually reach the soft ball stage (238 to 240 degrees F.). If the syrup is ready before the yolks, add 1 tablespoon water and continue simmering.
When they are both ready, turn the mixer to high and carefully pour the syrup into the yolks between the whisk and bowl. The syrup will harden and form globules if it comes in contact with the whisk. Continue beating the mixture until it is a little warmer than room temperature. The bottom of the bowl should be neither hot nor cold to the touch. It required about 8 more minutes of beating before it cooled down enough.
Turn the mixer to medium and add the butter cubes a few at a time. Make sure they are incorporated before adding more. Continue beating about 10 minutes until the smooth and fluffy. For optional flavorings add 2 3/4 teaspoons vanilla or 5 1/2 teaspoons full flavored spirits like kirsch, framboise, or dark rum.
To make the log, spread the buttercream evenly over the two sponge cakes. Take a short side of the cake and tightly roll it to the other end like you would a jelly roll. With a bread knife, cut off a small piece from both ends at a 45 degree angle to serve as side branches. Use some buttercream to attach them to the log.
For the ganache
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer in a saucepan and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit about 10 minutes then stir it with a rubber spatula for about a minute. Now use a whisk and stir until smooth. I then put the ganache in the refrigerator so that it can begin to set. At this point it is more of a sauce than a glaze. I took it out after about 1 hour, and then let it sit out at room temperature. After a total of a couple of hours it was at a good consistency to spread. Eventually it set well for the glaze, not too hard, not too soft.
Spread the chocolate ganache over the log. I used a butter knife and small spatula to help make a bark like appearance.
For the meringue mushrooms
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) on medium high with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer. Beat until soft peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat several more minutes until stiff peaks form, 5 to 6 minutes. Fold in the confectioner’s sugar if the humidity is high. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Using a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip, pipe out round mushroom cap shapes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. For the stems, pipe out slenderer elongated standing shapes. Do this by lifting the bag straight up while squeezing. Leave a narrow point on top. Put them in the preheated oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 225 degrees. It will take about 2 to 4 hours depending on the humidity. Check them from time to time, they’ll be ready when the meringue has hardened. Carve out a little hole on the underside of the caps and attach a stem using buttercream as “glue”. You’ll make more than you need for decorating but they are a tasty sweet treat on their own. I sprinkled the mushrooms with shimmer dust. The mushrooms will keep for several days in an airtight container, so they can be made ahead of time.
Do I need to mention this is one very rich cake?
This yule log is based on the one in James Peterson’s book “Baking”. You’ll find great details in all aspects of baking in there.
I hope you are having a great Christmas season and had a very Happy Chanukah!
Pumpkin empanadas have always been available year round in panaderias or Mexican bakeries all over Texas. I can’t speak for the rest of the U.S., but I’m sure it would be the case all over. I can confidently guess correctly that canned pumpkin has been used in the bakeries since it first became available. It would be nice to come up with a “from scratch” recipe but I’m not going there this time around. Apple and pineapple are two other popular flavors I remember from childhood that can still be found. The dough for the pumpkin variety bakes very soft and I’m sure it is flavored with spice. It is more brown, not golden in color. I don’t think I could ever duplicate that dough, I’m content with buying the empanadas at our neighborhood bakery. Here though I’m using the recipe for a dough that I’ve been getting acquainted with recently. It’s from Fany Gerson’s “My Sweet Mexico”, a well researched book which gives us a glimpse of the vast variety of candies and sweet baked goods of Mexico. She uses the dough for an empanada filled with an incredible tasting tomato jam. The sweet, flaky, and tender crust works pretty well for all kinds of sweet empanadas.
There is very little info to be found on the techniques used in many favorite sweets and baked items of Mexico. Experience and knowledge is largely passed on from generation to generation within family businesses and I think many recipes are carefully guarded secrets. My impression is that on the whole, the general public in the U.S. and Mexico leaves nearly all the pastry and candy making to the bakers much like bread making in France is generally left to the bakers.
I’m not sure if ginger and nutmeg are common ingredients in Mexican style pumpkin empanadas, but I’m using them my recipe.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
15 oz. (1 small can) pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
good pinch of nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crema or heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon of crema or heavy cream
To make the filling put the 2 T. butter in a sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Lower the heat a bit if needed to prevent scorching. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to mix with the butter and sugar. Add the spices and incorporate as you continue to stir. Gently cook the mixture for about 8 to 10 minutes over low to medium heat. Stir periodically to prevent burning. Remove the pan to cool.
To make the dough stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cream and mix until just combined. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform. Resist the temptation to add more cream. As you knead, the butter will moisten the dough. It will take about 2 minutes. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
After the resting period, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out circles that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter. I used a small bowl. You may have a cookie cutter about that size. A 4 1/2 inch diameter size gave me 22 circles. I suggest working with part of the dough while keeping the rest slightly chilled. If you have a warm kitchen, the dough will become harder to manage as it warms up. I think it’s due to the amount of butter used in the recipe. Use up all the dough by gathering the scraps and rerolling.
Place the circles on a lightly floured surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin filling a little off center of the circle and fold over 1/2 the circle to seal. You can squeeze together the edges to seal by hand or fork. Make 2 or 3 small slits on top. Put them on baking sheets and refrigerate the empanadas for about 30 minutes. Be sure to preheat your oven to 350 degrees as the dough chills.
Whisk 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of heavy cream together in a small bowl. Brush the empanadas with the mixture and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until they become a light golden brown. Put them on wire racks to cool.