Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dentelles Coeurs de Bruges or Heart-Shaped Lace Cookies from Bruges, Kletskopper

Two swans touch each other´s beaks gently, arching their necks together into a heart shape, as a third bird glides away like a white, slippery soap bar in a bathtub. In the vine-covered town of Bruges, in Belgium, the canals surround minute, narrow dwellings that make you wonder if Rumpelstiltskin will emerge, skipping, from around the next corner. You won´t have to spin wool from large spools of thread, but you will occasionally see a lady wearing a bonnet seated outside on the sidewalk, as she swirls long beads to spin a delicate strand of white lace. 

History of Bruges
In the 1300´s and 1400´s, Bruges was a wealthy city in Europe, filled with bankers from different countries, that was a major textile trade center. However, its water connection to the sea closed naturally in the 1500´s, leading to its economic downfall. The city first became a tourist attraction in the 1900´s.

Lace Cookie from Bruges in Belgium
A special type of tuile cookie (a thin wafer that is pliable when warm and bent into the shape of a rooftile, or tuile) is left flat, and its batter leaves irregular holes in the cookie, which are found to be similar to lace. The cookies are thus named after the lace and this town, and are called "Dentelles (lace) de Bruges".  Another name for the same cookie is "Bruges Kletskoppen (shiny head of a bald person)", in Dutch. The shiny surface of the cookie reminds people of the shiny head of a bald person. The taste is sweet, buttery, and crunchy.
Dentelle/Lace Cookie

Dentelle Shadow

Recipe (Source:, submitted by Sansan de Romsee to
150 g butter
250 g granulated sugar
300 g brown sugar or muscovado sugar
250 g all purpose flour
150 g chopped almonds
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
100 g warm water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cream the softened butter and sugars. Add 100 g of warm water and mix.

Add sifted flour, cinnamon, and salt. After combining them with the rest of the batter, mix in the almonds. Place the batter in teaspoonfuls on parchment paper on the baking sheet; take care to leave a lot of space in between each cookie; an advisable amount of cookies per sheet is 9. If you don´t have parchment paper, you can grease the sheet and place directly on the sheet.
If you use parchment paper, you should bake the cookies for 6 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let the cookies become firmer for two minutes, before removing them from the paper carefully with a spatula, and placing them on a cooling rack.

LACE/DENTELLE TUILES: If you would like to bend them into a rooftile shape, or tuile, place over a wave former, cannoli cylinder, or a horizontally-placed glass.

LACE/DENTELLE SHAPES: If you would like to make heart-shaped dentelles, or flower-shaped dentelles, take metal cookie cutters in the wanted shape, and place on cooking sheet over the teaspoonful of dough. You will only be able to do as many shaped dentelles at once per baking sheet as the amount of cookie cutters you have. You could try placing different shapes on the same sheet, or using different sizes of the same-shaped cookie cutter, if you have a set. When the cookie is baking, the batter will spread out until it fills the cutter, and its shape will be defined when you remove it from the oven. You will have to adjust the quantities of dough, depending on the size of the cutter.
Result: The cookies are crunchy, thin, with a strong flavorful butter taste.

Flower-shaped Dentelles


Saturday, February 25, 2012

One Colorful Big Cinnabon! Disguised as a King Cake

A third King Cake- New Orleans Mardi Gras King Cake
Plush, silver and gold jesters, or flamboyant bright-colored feathers floating on cold white masks are stacked high in stores in Venice, Italy.  As you walk down the narrow sidewalks, and cross the canal over the Rialto bridge, you can imagine how Venetians used to celebrate Shrove Tuesday and the preceding two months several centuries back.
Only two hundred years ago, in 1867, Galveston, Texas, also began its carnival celebration during the same season, before Lent. There are traces of the Mardi Gras enthusiasm all year-round, with tell-tale metallic-colored neclaces on display or for sale in shops, reminding locals and tourists of the carnival bead-throwing tradition.
In addition to sharing the bead-throwing pastime, Galveston´s neighbor, New Orleans, is located only 60 km to the south of  a place called "Mardi Gras Point" by a French Canadian  Explorer in 1699. After New Orleans was established, it began its carnival celebrations in the 1730s. 
The French that went to Louisiana from Canada took their King´s cake tradition with them around the 1850´s. When the first carnivals started shortly after, in 1872 it was said that a Russian visitor chose the Carnival colors. The next year, they voted on what the colors stood for--green for faith, purple for justice and gold for power.
Colorful French Market, where you can find the Mardi Gras King Cake all year-round, in New Orleans
This Mardi Gras King Cake is eaten in New Orleans between January 6th and Fat Tuesday (which is on February 21st this year). It is either a brioche or Danish-like pastry filled with cinnamon and butter and frosted with a white creamy glaze. You can find the Mardi Gras King Cake year-round, however, at the French Market. King Cake Salesmen cry at the stand that sells not only traditional king cakes, but apple-filled, pastry cream or cream-cheese filled cakes as well: "Oh, this is so good... it is so good.."
Before the Civil War the "bean" placed in the King Cake, in Louisiana, was gold, silver, diamonds, or other valuable; after that, it was peas, beans, pecans, or coins.


Here´s my first Mardi Gras King "cake wreck":

The second time around I decided to make a cinnamon roll recipe instead, and chose a mock cinnabon recipe:


a.Cinnamon Roll Dough
b.Mock cinnabon frosting
c. Green, purple, and yellow food coloring
d. Mardi gras bead neclace

a.Cinnamon Roll Dough  Find ingredients at the following link: ( )

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat milk and add yeast when lukewarm. Add butter, salt, eggs, white sugar and flour; then knead 8 minutes. Let it rise for 2 hours. Roll out dough into 16 x 21 inch rectangle. Spread melted butter on the dough; sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top. Roll into a long cylinder. Cut into 12 pieces. Let rise for forty minutes. Place in oven and bake the rolls for 15 minutes. Take out of oven and cool for 10 minutes before applying the frosting.

b. Mock Cinnabon frosting (Find recipe at: )

Beat ingredients with mixer until creamy and fluffy. Divide into three equal parts, and color each differently, with the purple, yellow and green food coloring. Once the bread has cooled, apply with spatula on cinnamon rolls or King Cake.

Once the rolls come out of the oven and they´ve cooled, frost them in the Mardi Gras colors: green, yellow, and purple, and place some beads around them. 

After you´ve admired your own King Cake decoration, cut it into pieces and enjoy! Here´s what it looks like inside:

References   (green-faith, purple-justice, gold-power) video

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Linzer Cookies

Mozart´s house in Vienna
After enjoying desserts that seemed to be almost exclusively adorned by giant "erdbeeres" (strawberries) at a Viennese cafe, it is a good idea to walk them off under snowflakes sprinkled by clouds onto the sidewalks, and head to a small apartment that is announced by large, proud, flags that sway in the breeze over centuries-old cobblestones. After you climb the staircase, you can find documents signed by Mozart, as well as reproductions of the Marriage of Figaro, which he composed in that very house, which he lived in for four years. To this day, Austrian and foreign spectators flock daily to the Mozartkonzerts, to watch men in bulky pastel-colored wigs sing and play instruments. The harmonious symphonies bring tears to the public´s eyes, even if they have heard them time and time again. Even the tourists who didn´t listen to classical music are converted to Mozart after this initiation.
When Mozart began living in Vienna, he took a trip to do several concerts, stopping long enough to write a famous symphony in the town of Linz,the home of the oldest torte known in the world. Might he have eaten a piece of this torte, as he scribbled notes furiously with a quill pen, with music flowing from imaginary instruments dancing through his head?

The linzer torte, or a deep dish pie made with almond flour crust, has a lattice top that is dark brown in color, and is brimming with preserves; it is a good way to showcase a special jam one has previously prepared. It was created in Linz in the 17th century. Rumor has it that the recipe travelled with Austrian immigrants to Wisconsin.  The traditional ways of cutting the cookie version of this torte are to have a bottom circle surrounded by scallops and a top cookie that has three holes in the middle, called eyes (Augen).  It is made with almond flour, though some cooks substitute pecans or hazelnuts, which must result in a tasty dough as well.

Wilton Linzer Sandwich Cookie Recipe, which comes with cookie plunger for the Linzer Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely ground almonds (2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam or apricot jam or black currant jam
Confectioners´sugar (optional but recommended)

First, you blanch the nuts if they have the skin on them, then remove the skins, and grind them in a coffee grinder. Beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy.Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Combine nuts, flour, and cinnamon, and add to the mixing bowl. When the dough is completed, chill in the refrigerator,  in 2 separate pieces, and take out later to roll out 1/8 in. thick and cut out the cookies. Cut out the same number of tops and bottoms. The bottoms don´t have any holes, and the tops will have cut-out hearts, stars, circles, etc. Place the cut-outs on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Using parchment paper is fun, and is often advised especially when you´re working with almond dough, for some reason.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until ight golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes; remove from sheet and cool completely. Invert botton cookies and spread with a teaspoon of jam. After the cookies are out of the oven, use a sifter to place the confectioner´s sugar on them, and make sure you do it BEFORE you fill the cookie. If you make a mistake and do it after you filled the cookie, just open up the sandwich, rearrange the jelly or put some more in the center, and close it up again.  Makes 20-24 cookies.
The traditional preserves used to fill these cookies are black currant, raspberry and apricot.
In addition to apricot and strawberry (I didn´t have raspberry) I also used chocolate hazelnut spread, as some people do. What´s that you say? That´s not traditional? I don´t understand what you mean....All I know is that it´s delicious.

Upcoming recipes
New Orleans Mardi Gras King Cake
Guatemalan White Canillitas
Spanish Natillas with Berries
Irish St. Patrick´s Cakes
Salvadorean Pastelitos de Leche Poleada (Custard Tartlets)
and more!


Videos of Vienna:
Video of Vienna:

Here´s other recipes:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mexican or Guatemalan Chocolate Strawberry Tamales

Tamales placed in water to boil them

Walking past performing monkeys and birds in the streets, I neared the most important pilgrimage site in Mexico. Large quantities of candles were in piles, outside the walls of the church. Inside, lines of people were organized so they could walk quickly past the portrait of the Virgen de Guadalupe, much in the way people are hurried by on a belt when they go to see the Queen´s jewels in the Tower of London.
Later, in the downtown area, a group of performers, colorfully dressed in feathers and the traditional clothing that the Aztec indians once wore, dance to the beats of drums, entrancing tourists, who feel that they have travelled in a time machine that takes them back many hundred years back.
Back to a time when tamales were eaten by high priests.

History of Tamales in General
The aztecs and mayan indians made and ate tamales. These were often had only during festivities or special occasions, such as weddings or Christmas. Its presentation certainly matches the occasion--they look like wrapped presents! Their preparation was and often still constitutes a ritual in itself; tamales are thus believed to be full of symbolism. Some go so far as to associate the tamal with the womb and Mother Nature.

The tamal, (which means wrapped),  a staple in much of Latin America, is made of corn flour. It is usually savory and contains chicken, and sometimes is sweet and has raisins. It is not usually chocolate-flavored nor does it have a strawberry filling--except in some places of Mexico and Guatemala,  where the black tamal, or "tamal negro", is served for weddings. In Mexico, where there are hundreds of varieties of tamales, chocolate is mixed into the dough as well, and in Guatemala, the dough has cinnamon and the chocolate sauce goes in the center. Apparently there is also a Colombian version of the chocolate tamal.

Recipe (adapted from Cocina Latinoamericana, 2005, by Elisabeth Luard)
2 1/2 tbsps. honey
1/2 pound of corn flour
2 tbsps. hot water
9 tbsps. cocoa
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3 oz. Mexican or Central American chocolate, grated
8 banana leaves
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 pound of strawberries
Chocolate chips

Mix the honey, corn flour, hot water, cocoa, butter, vanilla, salt, and Mexican or Central American chocolate until you form a ball of dark, chocolate-colored dough.  Cut the strawberries in quarters and toss gently with lime juice. Heat the banana leaves briefly over a flame or over the stove burner to make them more pliable.

How to wrap the tamales.
If you don´t have any banana leaves, you could use aluminum foil, though it is better to use the leaves.
First, you place a rectangle of dough on the left corner of the banana leaf, that is closest to you. You place a teaspoonful of filling in the center (in this case, three strawberry quarters plus a few drops of the liquid, and a couple of chocolate chips). Next, you start wrapping the leaf starting at the end closest to you, rolling in the direction farthest from you.

When you finish rolling, turn over the tamal so the ends of the leaf are touching the counter, then press with both hands at the same time, starting at the ends and pushing the dough towards the center, and pressing hard. Then fold the two ends, left and right, underneath, so they touch the counter.
Place the wrapped tamales in a pot with some water. It can be tricky because you need to make sure the tamales are tightly wrapped so water won´t seep in during the cooking process. Alternately, if you are afraid the water will seep in, the option most people go for is to place them a tamale pot, or in a pot where only the vapor will cook the tamales, and the water will boil underneath, without touching the pot that holds the tamales. 
Cook the tamales for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour out the water, and serve in their leaves. Make a slit in the center of the leaf, so the fork or spoon can be inserted to pull the food out of the leaf. If they won´t be eaten immediately, let them cool before placing them in a container in the refrigerator or freezer (for a longer time of storage). You don´t want to put them away hot because the condensation will wet the dough.

You can also remove the tamal completely from the leaf and serve accordingly, with a strawberry for a decoration. 

While you´re at it, and have a lot of leftover banana leaves, why not think of making savory tamales too? That´s what I did...

Other decadent, unusual tamal versions:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Candlemas/Chandeleur and Heart Crepes

In a French university, students swarm around a stand like blue morpho butterflies do around ripe bananas. The rules for the queue are the same that applied in my high school for a bake sale: if you push a little more to get to the counter, you´ll get your crepes faster. Plus, if you´re small, you just might be able to fit next to the last person on the edge of the counter, much like an extra last-minute dinner guest crams into a corner at the dining table. 
Inside a couple of stands, there´s a "crepe sale". A few of the classmates donned aprons; they swirl crepe batter around in a couple of skillets. Another heats up sliced apples, sizzling in butter, to make "Crepes au Pommes". Still another collects the coins and takes the orders from the clients. There is an impromptu sign offering many kinds of flavors: nutella, apple, preserves, mushroom or ham and cheese savory crepes, among others... Instead of placing the filled crepes in a paper cone, they slap them on paper plates to deal them out to the customers, like cards.

Chandeleur, or Candlemas, Crepe Day in France
This festive crepe sale might very well have taken place on February the 2nd, or the Chandeleur (Candlemas). Many centuries ago on this day, the Virgin Mary went to the temple in Jerusalem to be purified, forty days after Jesus was born; the young boy was thus presented in the temple.  The French celebrate this day by making and of course eating crepes. The golden disks symbolize the sun
Golden disks symbolize the sun
that begins to appear in the springtime, which is what the Romans originally celebrated on this same day, before the festivity turned into the Chandeleur. The Celtic and Roman pagan rites by Candlemas, and torches were taken into the town to conmemorate the day. 
On this day, cooks are supposed to place a coin on their left palm, and use their right hand to maneuver the skillet handle and flip the crepe. If they are successful, this will grant them good luck and prosperity during the entire spring season!

History of the Crepe
The Ancient Romans concocted the Alita Dolcia, a fried food vaguely similar to current pancakes. Today´s pancakes and crepes evolved in the Middle Ages. 
The crepes (from the latin word crispus that means curly, like its edges indeed are) originated in Brittany, where they make sweet crepes like the ones featured in this article today, and savory crepes made with buckwheat flour that are called "galettes" (which means pebble, what it used to be cooked on) and often feature a sunny-side up egg on top. They are now habitually eaten all over France.

5 crepes (1/2 of Alton Brown´s sweet crepe recipe:
For the liqueur stated in the recipe, choose rum
1/2 lb. of strawberries
Juice of half a lemon

About Crepes: If you want to make savory crepes as well for Candlemas, you could opt for the plain crepe version, which is more versatile, so you don´t have to make two different crepe recipes. However, if you want a sweet crepe that tastes good all by itself for dessert, (such as prepackaged crepes sold for a snack in a gas station or supermarket) without a filling, you should choose the sweet version and place liqueur in it. 

Mix the ingredients stated in Alton´s sweet crepe version (1 egg, 6 tbsps. milk, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup flour, 1.5 tbsp. butter, 3 3/4 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, and 1 tbsp. rum) with a wire whisk, in a small bowl. Heat the skillet at medium heat, placing a little bit of melted butter, which will suffice for all of the crepes. Remember that the first crepe is the hardest, so don´t despair if it tears a little, or doesn´t turn out as well. Measure 1/4 cup of the batter and pour quickly into the center of the skillet, then drop it quickly aside and swirl the batter to cover the bottom of the skillet. As soon as bubbles surface, try unsticking the crepe from the sides with the spatula. If the bottom of it looks golden, it´s time to turn it over. 

Wait only a few seconds, then take it out of the pan, as the second side takes much less time to cook than the first side. Continue with the rest of the crepes; don´t add any more butter, as it won´t be necessary.
This "bat-heart" is why I decided to use a template

To cut the crepes into a heart shape, print a template if necessary:  Fold a crepe in half, place the folded template on top (if you need it) and use the shears to cut the heart shape. Open it up, place it on a plate, and decorate it with cut strawberries that have flower shapes. To make it even more romantic, place one heart on top of another.
Like the ´80´s song: Two of Hearts

To cut the strawberries follow these instructions. Flower 1: Take the tip of the strawberry and make four incisions that don´t reach the top of the strawberry (if they reach the top of the strawberry, the pieces will be completely cut off), leaving a center square. Those four incisions will create four flexible petals around the strawberry core. Flower 2: Make three or four incisions lengthwise on the strawberry. Take the top of the strawberry and twist lightly to turn it into a fan.

Second Crepe Heart with Strawberry Coulis Center: Fill 2 crepes with a tablespoon of nutella each, and roll them. Place the rolled crepes, one on each side, and bend into a heart shape; each one will shape one half of the heart. Take the strawberry coulis (instructions below) to fill the empty space in the center, on the plate. Take the decorated flower strawberries and place to further adorn the dish. 

Strawberry Coulis 1: Place the hulled, halved strawberries with the juice of half a lemon in a blender and puree them for a few seconds.
Strawberry Coulis 2: Place the hulled, chopped strawberries with the juice of half a lemon in a skillet, and heat for a few minutes. Puree them in a blender, or beat in a bowl with a mixer.