Posts tagged Cinco de Mayo
Tres Leches translates into three milks cake. With nearly the consistency of a pudding cake, the dense cake batter is designed to soak up a sweetened milk glaze that you pour over it before after baking and before adding the frosting.
I first sampled the traditional vanilla tres leches not in Mexico, but La Crosse, Wisconsin of all places. In a tiny Mexican restaurant frequented by college students and foodies our server brightened when we ordered the tres leches. The owner of Iguana’s Mexican Street Cafe made it from scratch and took great pride in serving us a huge slice. I’ve been thinking about making it ever since. That was July.
I wanted to amp up the flavor of the cake so of course I thought it needed chocolate. I found a version of Chocolate Rum Cake from Chow that lead me through how to add chocolate to both the cake batter and the tres leches glaze. But I also wanted to temper some of the tres leches glaze, which can become too sweet for my taste, with another ingredient. I found it in coconut milk – a great stand-in for much of the heavy cream and some of the sweetened condensed milk. I just couldn’t stop there. I also added dark cocoa powder into the whipped frosting for a rich dessert that really is more like Cinco Leches – sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut milk, heavy cream, and milk chocolate chips. I usually opt for semi-sweet but this creamy dessert works better with a milky chocolate.
Both of the recipes I combined made the tres leches cake as a layer cake. I like it better in a casserole dish – it’s easier to make that way and serves more people. If you want a layered cake go ahead but your cake may not soak up all the tres leches glaze, which was another reason I went with the dish – I didn’t want to lose any of the sauce!
For the cake
¾ cup water
2 tsp. dark cocoa powder (opt. I used black onyx)
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
5 large egg yolks
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
8 large egg whites
¾ tsp. cream of tartar
For the tres leches
4 ounces chocolate (milk chocolate chips work well)
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
For the frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
For the garnish
Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
Mini chocolate chips
For the cake
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously coat the inside of a 9” x 13” casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, oil, and extracts until combined. Whisk dark cocoa powder into the water right in the measuring cup and then whisk into the egg mixture.
- Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the flour until combined. (Lots of whisking!)
- In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites, ½ tsp. salt, and the cream of tartar in a bowl until the egg whites become frothy, about 2 minutes. (Yes, you’re essentially making a meringue.) Gradually add the rest of the sugar, ¾ cup, into the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Working in three batches, add 1/3 of the egg whites to the flour-egg yolk mixture and fold together until there are no white streaks. Follow the same procedure with the rest of the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into the casserole dish and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Test to see if the cake is done by putting a toothpick into the center – if it comes out clean take the cake out of the oven. Cool the cake for 10 minutes.
For the tres leches glaze
- In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt together the chocolate and ¼ cup heavy cream in the microwave on medium-high heat for 90 seconds. Stir until smooth.
- Allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk in coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, extracts.
- Pour 1/3 of the tres leches glaze onto the cake. Wait 10 minutes and then pour the next 1/3. Follow the same process with the rest of the glaze.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, if possible, overnight.
For the whipped topping
- With a hand-held mixer beat the whipping cream until frothy. Add the coconut milk and powdered sugar to the whipping cream until stiff, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the extracts and cocoa powder and whip 30 more seconds.
- Spread the whipped topping onto the cake using a spatula.
- Optional toppings – shredded coconut and mini chocolate chips.
- Refrigerate 1 more hour.
- On a large plate use chocolate sauce (such as Hershey’s syrup – it’s for the design not the flavor) and make a swirl shape on the plate.
- Use the extra tres leches sauce in the pan to do another swirl of sauce.
- Cut the cake into square pieces.
*Not a coconut fan? The coconut flavor in this recipe is subtle. Nix the coconut extract and the coconut milk in the whipped topping if you don’t like coconut. Keep it in the tres leches and you probably won’t notice it. Or, just go ahead and use all heavy cream instead of any coconut milk.
“Holidays” are a great excuse to introduce your kids to new foods. Yes, I’m using air quotes as I type. Cinco de Mayo–literally, the 5th of May–is an American invention (granted, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862 where the much smaller Mexican army defeated a large French force). But you won’t find any big celebrations in Mexico, outside of Puebla, to honor Cinco de Mayo. Nope, as a couple of writers recently put it: “Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.”
Whew, with that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the good stuff–getting your would-be picky eaters to sample something new.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Swap the cheese
Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese (I know, that’s pretty much a direct translation, but it’s true), tastes like a cross between feta and mozzarella with a hint of ricotta thrown in. The cheese usually comes in a solid circle that you crumble up to put on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, tostadas…you get the idea.
Picky eater tip: We call this ‘crumble cheese’ at our house for good reason–you have to crumble it before you use it. Perfect. Kid. Job. Ask your child to be the official crumbler and when she wants to sample what’s all over her fingers, say, Yes!
Bag the regular tortilla chips
My all-time favorite tortilla chips are El Milagro tortilla chips. No Tostitos. No Santitas. Not even Xochitl come close. Ahem, yes, I get a bit particular about my tortilla chips. Get this, there are all of four ingredients in El Milagro tortilla chips–stone ground corn, corn oil, sea salt, calcium hydroxide (it helps glue the corn together according to the all-knowing folks at Wikipedia). And the chips are thicker, heartier than your standard “restaurant-style” chip. Admittedly, El Milagro can be hard to find–I see them most often in Mexican grocers, but they’re starting to pop up in larger grocery chains too. Look for them!
Picky eater tip: Dip it! Give your kids some salsa for their chips and let them dip away.
Use corn tortillas
Toast them! Please. Corn tortillas are bland and caulk-like until you toast them and then something magical happens–they become entirely different in flavor, texture, aroma. It only takes a few minutes to toast up a stack of corn tortillas. Then try out your favorite taco fixins’ in the toasted corn tortillas instead of the stale, hard-shelled kind.
Picky eater tip: Break out the cookie cutters. You can make small shapes in the corn tortillas (before or after toasting). Granted, your filling may fall out of the tortillas with too many openings, so you might want to keep the cookie cutting to a few conveniently placed shapes. I use my linzer cookie cutters from King Arthur Flour.
Make your salsa
Homemade salsa is simple to make, really. You can keep it basic and just chop up tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeno chiles, and cilantro for a pico de gallo. If you want more of a authentic salsa consistency, put all of the pico de gallo fixins’ into a blender with a little lime juice for a thinner salsa.
Picky eater tip: Have your kids help you make the salsa. When my kids have friends over, we often whip up salsa together. I let them cut up the ingredients and adjust the seasonings.
Bring on the cumin
Add something new to your standard Tex-Mex recipes–ground cumin. You can find cumin in pretty much any grocery store. Sprinkle in cumin with your taco fillings, guacamole, salsa.
Picky eater tip: Your kids aren’t likely to notice this subtle seasoning added in. But it will give your Mexican dishes and added depth and more authentic flavor.
Your turn: Are you planning a special meal for Cinco de Mayo?
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share some pictures from our family’s visit to Mexico City and the surrounding area. We took our trip a couple years ago but my kids still talk about their experiences there–from watching the famed voladores dancers fly through the air outside the National Anthropology & History Museum in Mexico City to eating a milenesa tortas in Chapultepec Park to stumbling into a street fair in a town on the side of a mountain and so much more.
To capture a little bit of Mexican culture at your dinner table, here are a few of my favorite authentic dishes you might want to try this weekend:
For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.
Here’s what to do instead:
Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.
If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.
The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.
Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.
Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.
More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:
Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?
Yesterday I explained how to make your own corn tortillas at home, well today I wanted to give you an idea for a tasty, fast filling: lime-spiked shrimp.
The shrimp filling takes all of 15 minutes to make (an extra 15 if I need to thaw the raw shrimp and remove the tails). Here’s how I do it:
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
- Add 20-30 medium-sized raw shrimp to the hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and garlic powder; you can even add 1/4 cayenne if you want more of a kick.
- Cook until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink (about 2 minutes) and squeeze all of the juice of a fresh lime during the final minute of cooking. Add salt to taste.
- Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.
Cinco de Mayo is Saturday! I’m counting down the days until this American celebration of all things Mexican by posting ideas and recipes every day.
Today’s post is all about homemade tortillas. These are so easy and perfect for kids who want to help out in the kitchen.
These pictures will guide you through making tortillas. Easy peasy!
Mix water and PAN (white corn flour, NOT Masa which makes for harder tortillas) according to package directions.
Make dough into 1-inch balls and place at the center of your tortilla press that has been covered with plastic wrap on both sides (cutting boards will work too, but it’s a little harder to get the tortillas as thin).
Press the tortilla ball until thin.
Bake the tortillas on a preheated cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet.
Keep the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or a clean kitchen towel until you’ve worked your way through all of the dough.
Looking for more specific directions? No worries, check out my detailed post about making homemade tortillas at Wandering Educators.
“Mom, we should have made more.” That says it all.
Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow–are you ready? If you’re still making your dinner plans, here are a few recipes from MKES and some I’ve dug up to get you cooking something spicy.
Salsas & such
This sauce takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Plus you can freeze some for later.
Hand-crafted tortillas are deceptively difficult to make, but the thicker, easier to flip sopes–so much easier!
Nothing authentic about ‘em, just an excuse to fuse really good bacon with some Mexican flavors.
So easy and a great way to use ground turkey.
Get the flavors of Chile Relleno without all the frying and mess (not that I mind frying…)
Usually chilaquiles is made with a green salsa (and as a breakfast food) but I like the idea of adding smoky chipotles.
Sweet and spicy pork tacos are my all-time favorite. This recipe comes from Mark Miller’s excellent Tacos book.
So soothing after a hearty meal packed with chiles.
Melt-in-your mouth, buttery cookies that are covered in powdered sugar.
Deep caramel-flavored custard-like goodness.
Fried dough smothered in cinnamon & sugar. Yum!
I’m celebrating Cinco de Mayo all week long with info and recipes all about my favorite Mexican foods. So let’s get right to it. Serranos. You have to look carefully at this picture, but the serranos sold at my local market are always green (squint and you’ll see ‘em in between the red ones).
I prefer the flavor and bite of serranos to jalapeno peppers in fresh salsas and guacamole. (And truth be told, serranos are much more common in Mexico than jalapenos anyway.)
See jalapenos have a strong initial heat at the front of your mouth. The zing is overwhelming to the point I can’t taste what I’m eating. But serranos have a different heat experience entirely. It comes at the back of your throat, a little sweet, tingling of heat, building as you munch.
I usually toss in a serrano or two whenever I want to add some heat to a Mexican dish. For a real kick, don’t bother seeding them. For you slow cookers out there–add these to the pot too (the heat will diminish the longer you cook ‘em).