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.