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Oct 3, 2010 09:01 PM

Baking from My Sweet Mexico

When you think desserts, Mexico is probably not the first country that comes to mind for memorable ones. So when I got My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson and started looking through it, I was excited and inspired. Not only does she discuss (sometimes at length) the ingredients and why they're used, but the history of many Mexican desserts. From pre-Colombian influences to convent sweets and candies to modern takes on the the classics, it's all there.

My biggest problem was where to start. I ended up making 2 recipes

Cubiletes de Requeson (Individual Cheese Pies) and Empanadas de Jitomate (Tomato Jam Empanadas)

Cubiletes des Requeson
Requeson (and yes there is an accent over the "o" but I can't get it on my laptop) is a grainy, lightly salted cheese, very similar to ricotta. Since I have ready access to Mexican markets I was able to find requeson without too much difficult. Ricotta is a reasonable substitute.The Cubiletes use the same empanada dough as they Empanadas de Jitomate and it's an easy, very forgiving dough, slightly sweet and surprisingly flakey.

Roll 2/3 of the dough and line the cups of 2 muffin tins with it. The filling is made with requeson, a little flour, a little sugar, some sour cream, lime zest and vanilla extract. The recipe said to use a blender, mine is a vintage (i.e. '60s model) Osterizer and the mixture was a bit to heavy for it. Next time I'll use the food processor. Fill the lined muffin cups. Roll out the remaining dough and any scraps, cut out more rounds, put on top of the filled muffin cups and seal. Egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and then bake. Cool for a few mintues in the pan than finish cooling on a rack.

The recipe is sound but I encountered a few problems on my end. I elected to use on older set of Teflon coated metal muffin tins than my flexible (made out of silpat-like material) muffin cups. Cups in the metal tin were a bit to shallow and I couldn't get all the filling into them that should have gone in. The flexible muffin cups are deeper and would have been perfect but I wasn't sure how much support the dough was going to need. This was definitely a live and learn, next time I'll use the flexible pan. The little pies did not brown as much as I would have liked. I baked them in a conventional oven and I may have some temperature issues.

All in all, however, these little pies are really quite good. I like them alot and will definitely make them again. I liked them because they are not overly sweet and have nice hints of citrus and vanilla. If I correct for my own errors, this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Empanadas de Jitomate

All I have to say is ...OH...MY...GOD. Not only is this easy, it's absolutely delicious.

As indicated above the empanada dough is an easy combination of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and crema (or heavey cream). Easy to roll, easy to manipulate and easy to cut and shape.

In the recipe header Fany said when she first encountered this recipe (outside of Monterrey) she ate the tomato jam with a spoon it was so good. I was skeptical, but as of this afternoon I became a believer. The tomato jam couldn't be simpler and is addictively good. Halved cherry tomatoes, sugar and about 55 minutes on the range top and that's it.

Roll the dough, cut large circles, fill, seal, egg wash, sugar and bake. Since I had the problem with the Cubiletes not browning I used the convection setting this time around and got nice browning. These things are way delicious.

We get so used to tomatoes as a savory dish that when they are this sweet it's a pleasant surprise.

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  1. Thanks for the review! I look forward to buying her book and trying the yummy recipes.

    1. Thanks for the review. I have the book and it's an interesting read indeed. I'm glad you tried the Empanada de Jitomate; I never would have tried that recipe on my own!

      1 Reply
      1. re: emily

        I was going to the farmers market on Saturday and figured I would find some great cherry tomatoes. I did, and they became the tomato jam for the filling. It was, indeed, very, very good and I can see how it would be addictive.

        I think after making it the first time that I would cook it a few minutes less than I did, and that I would puree it. Cherry tomato skins are not as offensive as regular tomato skins but I think the filling would be a little easier to eat if it was smoother and less chunky.

        This dessert is easy and unique.

      2. Ooh... I just put this on hold at the library! Your pictures are amazing! Just went on our 2nd annual family taco crawl, and I was severely depressed when the dessert place didn't have any sweets besides paletas! Can't wait to see what other sweets Mexico has to offer!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Katie Nell

          Probably different than what you might expect :-)

          There are a lot of ice creams in this book, along with breads and pastries. I was surprised by the number of candy recipes. This is the season, you can candy a whole pumpkin if you'd like :-). I think my next recipe will be the Pan de Muerto for Dia de Los Muertos.

          There are also a surprising number of beverage recipes in the book. What I really find of value in the book is her explanation of ingredients and the historical background for many of the dishes. So far, I'm really enjoying this book.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            This book is really, really fascinating! I spent probably 3 hours last night perusing it! The first thing I'm going to make is the chocolate tablets... I love the idea of making my own, although I'm not sure what a good source would be for the cacao beans. I would like someone else to make me the opera cake, because that's a little too effort intensive, even for me who bakes a lot! :-) Some of the candies look really great too... I'm particularly intrigued by the one made with pinto beans and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. I'll also probably be making the Concho Blanco for my father-in-law at some point... do they make these in different flavors and are they called something else too? I've seen pink, tan, and green ones too, I think.

        2. Oooohh...I wish we weren't out of cherry tomato season or I'd jump on that. Sounds amazing.


          1. NOB (North of the Border) we have Halloween. In Mexico they have Dia de los Muertos. Nov. 1st/2nd, or All Souls Day. It's the time of year when the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest allowing the departed the opportunity to most easily come back to visit. Families clean up everything in preparation, from their homes to their burial sites. And they cook. They cook the specialties and favorites for the returning souls. The first day of Muertos is usually devoted to the children and those who left this world too early, so you see sweets and less complicated preparations. The second day is when the adults and older souls return. From cigarettes, tequila and mezcal to full blown moles and tamales, Mexican cooks pull out all the stops to create a delicioius feast.

            Pan de Muertos, it seems, is almost always part of the feast. It's an buttery, egg bread with a fine, somewhat dense crumb. I'm most used to anise as the flavoring, but some parts of Mexico use orange flower water and still others sesame seeds.

            So I decided to make the Pan de Muertos recipes today. As with most Mexican recipes, it's not hard, but it IS time consuming. In fact, it took me the entire day to make this bread. It was, however, very much worth the time and effort. I made the anise version since that is what I am most familiar with. It is a stickly dough but not particularly difficult to work with. The recipe calls for 15 mintues of kneading on a stand mixer and cautions not to add additional flour until the full kneading time has elapsed. Only then, if the dough is too sticky should more flour be added, and I did have to add a couple extra tablespoons.

            There are a couple of things I'd do a little differently next time, and there definitely will be a next time. The recipe starts by dissolving the yeast in milk (or orange flower water if doing the orange version). Next time I will bring the temperature of the milk up to about 90-95*. I think this would facilitate the dissolving as well as yeast development. I don't think I got the rise that this bread is capable of. The recipe calls for flattening the dough balls once the loaf has been shaped. I think perhaps I got a little over zealous in flattening and went a little too far. Next time I won't flattern the loaf as much.

            The directions for this recipe are quite detailed. It is also featured in the current issue of Fine Cooking magazine (Nov. 2010, the one with the pumpkin cake on the cover) and there is a pictoral of the whole recipe in that. If you've got a whole Sunday to spare, make this bread, it really is that good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva

              DiningDiva, is the decoration significant? It looks like a middle big top-knot-dot and "ropes" down the sides? I just love Day of the Dead designs, all the applications in foods and decoration.

              1. re: blue room

                Yes, the "ropes" are supposed to be "bones". I had nice definition on them until the final proofing and the, poof, they disappeared. Not sure if the topknot has any significance. The ones on mine above were a bit too big.