82. Pastelillo de guayaba (guava pastry)

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Pastelillo de guayaba is a Cuban style baked, flaky-puffed pastry filled with a firm marmalade fruit pulp known as guava. The pastelillo can also be filled with other type of fruits, such as:

  • pineapple
  • strawberry
  • apple
  • mango
  • coconut

Another variation to making guava pastry is adding soft cheese, preferably cream cheese. This is known as:

  • guava and cheese pastry
  • guava pastry with cheese
  • guava and cheese pastelillo
  • pastelillo (or pastelito) de guayaba con queso
  • Cuban guava and cheese strudel

The cream cheese for the pastry is similar to cheesecake, in flavor and texture. It is sweet and usually made by beating together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract with either an egg yolk or small amount of milk.

I prefer my guava and cheese entrée to be plain and simple. I do not add extra sugar, egg or milk to my cream cheese filling, nor do I process it to become extra smooth. I also, do not brush an egg wash, nor simple syrup on top of the pastry sheet before baking to give it a sheen or shiny top crust. Hence, I save a lot of steps, eliminate the extra carbs and calories, while maintaining a delicious outcome. Sprinkling confectioner sugar on the top crust of the baked pastry, is also optional. It simply makes it taste good, as well as, look aesthetically pleasing.

Although, having the same meaning, I prefer to use the spanish word for pastry to identify as follow:

  • “pastelillo” for the sweet filling pastry
  • “pastelito” for the savory filling pastry

This is my personal preference, not the rule of the norm.

The pastelillos can be cut into rectangular, round, square or triangular forms, and varies according to a person’s style in food preparation and presentation.

The baking time will vary based on gas or electric heating source. It is highly recommended not to bake the pastry puff sheets using a convention or toaster oven. It doesn’t provide the expected outcome desired.

You can make 16 or more mini servings instead of the typical 9 servings from the pastry sheet. You will need to cut the guava into small portions, about the size of your thumb, and take the extra step to cut the pastry into small rectangular or square bite size, then press down to seal the edges, before baking.
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homemade guava and cheese pastry

81. mofongo

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Mofongo is a plantain dish that originates from Puerto Rico with strong African and Taino influences. From the:

  • Africans – we get the mashed plantains
  • Tainos- the pilon (a mortar and pestle) to mash food
  • Puerto Ricans – sofrito (cooking base)

The mofongo is made with green plantains. If the plantain is soft or turning to a yellow color, it cannot be use for this dish. The basic method to make mofongo is:

  • slicing the unripe plantains
  • frying them to a crisp
  • mashing it with a pilon
  • using oil to help bind the mashed plantains

pilon (mortar and pestle)

I purchased an IKEA Adelesten mortar and pestle for $9.99. It’s made of heavy marble, instead of the traditional wood. It also has a wider circumference, compared to the traditional models that are very deep and narrow. Unfortunately, IKEA no longer sells it. Hopefully, they’ll bring it back into their inventory.

IKEA mortar and pestle

If a pilon is unavailable to you, a great alternative is using a potato masher. A food processor can also be substituted. Although, from experience, using a food processor causes the mashed plantains to have a different consistency than the desired mashing process by hand. Using a food processor requires adding more oil for the plantain to stick together.

After the plantain are crush down and mashed well to bind, it is shaped into a dome or half round ball (flat bottom), using either a:

  • pilon
  • deep small bowl
  • spoon
  • hands

The dome shaped plantain is then inverted onto a plate. A pork mix, usually chicharon (pork crackling) is blended into the mashed plantain. Mofongo is usually served with a protein based criollo sauce, stew or broth to moisten the crispy plantain and richly boost its flavor. It can also be eaten as is, without any type of sauce. If serving the mofongo as a main entree, a nice accompaniment is to plate it on a bed of lettuce.

Other alternatives for dense protein to compliment the mofongo are:

  • beef chuck
  • steak
  • pernil
  • shrimps
  • crab
  • lobster
  • chicken

My preference is boneless country pork ribs cooked in a criollo sauce. The dish is known as cerdo guisado or lechon guisado. The English translation is pork stew.

There are 2 types of mofongo:

  • mashed plantain with dense protein blended in, then rolled into a ball, inverted and serve on a plate
  • mashed plantain shaped into a concave well, stuffed with a dense protein filling, then inverted onto the plate

I prefer to steam, boil or pressure cook the plantains before frying into a crispy, dark golden brown. The reason: it helps the inner portion of the plantain to be well cooked.

The stew for the mofongo varies according to what I have available to flavor at the moment. There are times I add:

  • stuffed olives
  • Sa-son Accent Original seasoning
  • fresh cilantro

Other times, I add:

  • more tomato paste to make the stew a thicker consistency
  • more water for less viscosity
  • chicken broth to further enhance its flavor, while providing a lighter textured broth

Mofongo is usually blended with an oil and garlic infusion. This provides structure when shaping the plantains into a dome. My garlic sauce to blend with the mashed plantains, is based on the mojito dipping sauce, similar to a mojo sauce. I love mofongo with lots and lots of garlic.

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homemade mofongo with pork stew, rice and sliced avocado

80. cheddar betta biscuit

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I have been making homemade garlic biscuits, since I was 13 years old. Back then, my ingredients were:

  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • buttermilk
  • cheddar cheese
  • butter
  • garlic powder
  • parsley flakes

All ingredients were blended together and baked in 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Through the years, I have altered and adjusted the recipe according to my liking.

This was way before I have encountered Red Lobster serving complimentary biscuits as part of their entree menu. After that first eating experience of having theirs, it inspired me to adjust my recipe to have an:

  • airy consistency
  • moist texture
  • slightly salty
  • laced with a melted garlic butter topping

Every time I would go to Red Lobster, I would dissect the biscuit to see if I can decipher what ingredients and method were adopted.

One thing I kept experimenting with, was the liquid ingredients. I have always use buttermilk to make my biscuit. But observing their texture was very light and airy, I began to believe, no milk was use in theirs. It inspired to revitalize my recipe using water, then trying out various type of wine. Prior to that, I tried different type of milk, but it made the biscuit’s have a density, not the ethereality I wanted. Whether using buttermilk or different milk, it did not provide the taste or texture I was seeking. I went through many trials and errors, before I met my expectation using pinot grigio. Pinot grigio is an Italian white grape wine, that is light and crisp, and provides an outcome, close to what I wanted in specific taste and texture. Pinot gris (a French white grape light wine) made the biscuit have a slightly spicy edge that did not fancy my taste.

During my early years of making biscuits, I use flour and baking powder. Every now and then, I would use self-rising flour as an alternative, since it is a blend of flour, baking powder and salt. My mom like using Bisquick to make pancakes and for other type of food. One day, I discovered it had a recipe on the back to make biscuit that save time, money and eliminate extra steps. Bisquick is a pre-mix made with flour, baking powder and shortening. After becoming aware I can use Bisquick and add my personal twist to it, and never went back to using flour and baking powder, or self-rising flour. The extra shortening ingredient added to Bisquick makes the biscuit have that right texture and taste that I seek. I have began a new era to use only Bisquick to make my homemade biscuits. I can break it down to add my own:

  • flour
  • baking powder
  • shortening (whether oil, lard or butter)

But, the ratio in the Bisquick product is just right, and again saves me time and extra steps.

During the 1980s, Red Lobster biscuits were known as “complimentary hot cheese garlic bread”. It was actually a freshly baked garlic biscuit, and found it misleading identifying it as a garlic bread. Years later, the “hot cheese garlic bread” was renamed to “Cheddar Bay biscuits”. All I can say is, before receiving my main entree or even my appetizer, I could not get enough eating those biscuits. It was addicting and all you can eat, at no extra charge!

As the years went by and the internet has become the information superhighway for research, I have seen thousands of recipes online to clone, copycat and recreate the Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits. I have noticed a common attribute with these versions using either buttermilk, milk or plain water. As stated above, when I started to make my original garlic biscuits, I added buttermilk. Nowadays, I will not consider using any type of milk for my exclusive biscuit recipe.

As years went by and figuring out their ingredients and method, I concluded, I did not want to blend the garlic and parsley into the dough before baking. To make it moist, I decided to make the dough with just the flour, cheese and wine, then pour 1 Tablespoon of melted garlic butter on top before baking. If I use a mini muffin pan, I add 1 1/2 teaspoon to each dough before baking. This chemistry help provide a mild garlicky flavor, moist texture and toasty crust as it bakes.

After the biscuits were baked, I felt it still needed an extra boost and decided to top it with a little more garlic butter. The amount of garlic butter added to the freshly baked biscuit is a variable. I figured, it should not be more than 1 teaspoon per biscuit. Sometimes, I add 1/2 teaspoon of melted garlic butter, other times just 1 teaspoon.

I usually top the biscuit with just the melted butter (sans the garlic powder and parsley that is in the dish), since the baked biscuits are already flavored. Other times, I add the melted butter with the garlic powder and parsley, it has. Either way, it is a personal choice, and depends on the moment if I want add the extra visual components in the butter that will give the biscuits more presence, and still taste great.

adjust the amount of garlic butter to your taste; once baked, up to 1/2 Tablespoon per biscuit.

The Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit gave me the inspiration to recreate my recipe to be more moist, and have a light and airy in texture. I never considered my biscuit to be a copycat or a clone to theirs. Mine was developed using my creativity and perfect it through the years, to what it is now. I gave my signature biscuit the name, Cheddar Betta Biscuit.

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cheddar betta biscuits

79. Cuban paella

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Paella is a saffron and olive oil based rice casserole. Paella is pronounced “pah-ay-jah”, NOT “pah-ella”.

There are different versions to make paella, according to culture and regional ingredients. My paella has strong influences from Cuban cuisine, in which is distinguished with the following dense protein combination:

  • chicken
  • chorizo
  • 2 type of seafood (shrimp and lobster)

The paella has certain inspirations from Valencia, Spain. But, an actual Valencia paella does not have any seafood or pork in it.

All paella made today, have origins from the Moorish Mediterranean coastal region of Spain. The Moors brought with them a variety of new foods, including rice. The word “arroz” derives from the Arabic word “arruzz”.

During their 780 years rule of Spain known as the Islamic Golden Ages (711 to 1492 AD), the Moors establish the custom of eating rice during their occupancy and often made casserole with rice, fish and available spices, especially saffron. Pork has never been part of their dietary laws or culture to eat. Their casserole of rice, seafood and spice dish was not known as a paella.

300 years later, during the 19th century in Valencia, Spain, the Moors’ rice and seafood casserole (recognized today as seafood paella), was modified using local ingredients and cooked in a large shallow pan into the dish that is known presently as a Valencia paella. The Valencia paella did not contain any seafood. The actual ingredients for a Valencia paella are:

  • chicken (or duck)
  • rabbit
  • snails

Again, a true Valencia paella although has the same spices (especially saffron), it did not have any seafood or pork added.

The large and shallow pan to cook the paella is identified as a paellera, and dates back a few centuries beforehand.

Paella derives from the Latin word “patella” (meaning pan). The 14th century Romance dialect known as Old French, modernize the word to “paelle” (also meaning pan). During the 18th century, Valencian use the word “paella” for all pans, including the specialized shallow pan for cooking the paella. However, in Spain and throughout Latin America, the term pallera is common for a very large round and shallow pan.

To distinguish its difference, there are 3 known paella and its dense protein:

  • Valencia (Spaniard) – chicken, rabbit and snail; eel is sometimes added
  • Seafood (Moors) – shrimps, fish and lobster; scallops and mussels are generally added
  • Mixed (Cuban) – chicken, Spanish sausage (chorizo) and shrimps; lobster and mussels are customarily added

Every now and then, I buy 4 lobster tails. For the video, I opted to using canned lobster. It taste very fresh and just as good. It also saves time steaming, cracking shells and cutting into pieces.

Personally, I do not eat mussel. I do add it to my recipe, since my husband and guests enjoy eating it with this dish. My preference is buying pre-cooked frozen mussels marinated in butter garlic sauce.

frozen pre-cooked mussels in butter garlic sauce

A few reasons I like frozen pre-cooked mussels compared to purchasing fresh mussels are:

  • no need to remove the beards
  • no need to deal with dead mussels, since it is pre-selected and pre-cooked

Adding Puerto Rican sofrito and olives are optional. You can omit it.

I love adding Budweiser beer to my paella. Other times, I add wine.

If adding beer, the ratio is 1 regular can of beer to 2 cup of chicken broth.

If adding wine, it is 1/3 cup to 3 cup of chicken broth.

I also replace the chicken broth with shrimp stock. I boil the shrimp shells with 4 cups water, filtered it through a strainer to remove the shells, and add the shrimp stock as my broth. Whether shrimp or chicken broth, both taste just as good.

In regards to the rice. I like using Goya paella rice mix. The seasonings are pre-mixed into the rice and taste delicious. It saves me time with no need to sort out which spices to add or measure.

Bomba (also known as calasparra) is a pearly round short grain rice from Calasparra, adjacent to the town of Valencia. It is the authentic type of rice to make a paella. One of the properties to why it is the best is due to the ability to absorb liquids and flavors very well, while its texture stays relatively separate (not sticky) during cooking.

Valencia rice (sometimes called paella rice) is short grain pearl rice from the town of Valencia, Spain. Bomba (calasparra) and Valencia rice only difference is based on the region it comes from. From my personal experience, bomba rice is a slightly better than Valencia rice in regards to the texture and how it absorbs more flavor, once it’s cooked. Basically, they are cultivated the same way. Overall, they are both high quality short grain pearl rice with great taste and consistency to make authentic paella.

If using short grain rice, the ratio is 1 1/2 cup of rice to 10 strands of saffron. Due to saffron being very expensive, I prefer to buy the Goya prepackaged paella rice mix that has all the seasoning in it with annatto infused oil. The prepackaged paella mix also saves time calculating how much other seasonings I need to add to the rice cooking process.

I have difficulties finding bomba rice in my area. The best replacement is Sello Rojo pearl rice. It absorb the flavors of other ingredients, especially the stock (liquids), and doesn’t become starchy or sticky. Pearl rice is my preferred choice, especially when I choose not buy the Goya paella mix.

Arborio is an Italian short grain rice. Due to its glutinous  starch, if stirred too much during cooking, it tends to become creamy-like in consistency. Hence, it must not be stirred too much and why arborio rice is best for rice pudding. Therefore, arborio rice is ok for paella, just don’t stir it too much, while cooking.

Basmati is a Persian/Indian long grain rice. This type of rice is aged to decrease its moisture content that allows it to have a fine texture. Due to this, basmati rice is unable to absorb the flavors and liquid for making into a paella.

You can use medium grain rice, if no other options are available. It is not my preferred choice to cook for a paella. But, it is an accessible alternative.

After the paella is fully cooked, I always garnish the dish with:

  • sliced fresh lemon (slice on side to rim, then twist opposite sides for a decorative look)
  • sliced roasted red peppers
  • sweet green peas

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Cuban paella

78. potato salad (Puerto Rican style)

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Potato salad is a side dish made with boiled potatoes. The potatoes can also be bake, broil or steamed.

There are different versions to potato salad according to various regions around the world, and their local ingredients. Potato salad can be served heated, such as a German potato salad. In the USA, it is popularly served cold, such as Amish, ranch, picnic or deli style. It is often served with hot or cold dishes, whether beef, pork, venison, poultry, seafood, or any type of hot or cold sandwiches.

Potato salad is usually prepared with mayonnaise, seasonings and diced vegetables. Adding eggs or cold cut meat, is optional.

For the Puerto Rican potato salad, the very basic ingredients are:

  • onion
  • bell pepper
  • mayonnaise
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

According to your taste and preference, other optional ingredients may be added, such as:

  • carrots
  • celery
  • tomato
  • roasted red pepper
  • corn
  • green peas
  • string beans
  • cucumber
  • pickles
  • relish
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • cooked ham
  • salami
  • bacon
  • salad dressing mayonnaise (such as Miracle Whip)
  • vinaigrette
  • sour cream
  • buttermilk
  • vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • mustard
  • horseradish
  • parsley
  • tarragon
  • chives
  • olives
  • capers
  • paprika
  • adobo seasoning
  • cayenne

For my Puerto Rican potato salad, the following are the basic ingredients I add:

  • 1:1 ratio of regular and salad dressing mayonnaise
  • white onion
  • bell pepper
  • tomato
  • carrot
  • celery
  • Kosher pickle
  • hard-boiled egg
  • smoked ham
  • dry adobo seasoning
  • mustard
  • lemon juice

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Puerto Rican style potato salad with homemade angus burger

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77. roasted red peppers

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Roasted red peppers (known in Spanish as piquillo or pimentos) are made by fire roasting or cooking in high heat until fully charred. Once roasted, it is temporarily stored in a paper bag, sealed container or in a bowl with a plate to cover as a lid. This process allows the steam to further soften and separate the outer surface of the peppers for peeling. Once cooled, the charred skin is easily removed in a scrape motion with any preferred utensil – spoon, fork, knife, etc. Afterwards, it is preserved in oil.

The roasting can be done by using a:

  • gas burner
  • grill
  • broiler

Besides roasting with fire or a gas broiler, the peppers can be heated until charred in either a:

  • toaster oven
  • convention oven at very high temperature (400+ degrees)
  • electric oven under broil setting

Compared to flame roasting method, the process takes longer, since it is dry heat and requires 1 hour or more, until the skin is completely charred. A baking sheet is required, since the concentrated juice will drain out of the peppers, as it is cook in an oven. I have noticed cooking the peppers over a flame intensify the flavors to be more juicy and sweet.

Jarred roasted red peppers are available in most supermarket, in the condiment aisle. On the other hand, with time and patience, it is easy to make at home, as well as more affordable. Roasting pepper not only taste great using red bell peppers, but also using poblano,  jalapeno or any other type of capsicum annuum (bell pepper).

The roasted peppers can be stored in the freezer for a prolong time and maintain its freshness. If roasting a couple of pepper, it can be portioned and stored in zipped plastic bags, glass jars or plastic containers. The individual storage bags can be thawed out and use as needed.

To roast the peppers is easy and efficient to make. I only use 2 simple ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • red bell pepper

You can experiment adding other ingredients to your liking. Some prefer a:

  • brine or pickled flavor – adding vinegar, citric or pickling juice
  • sweet flavor – adding quaint amount of sugar, honey or other sweetening agent
  • spicy flavor – adding raw crushed garlic, hot sauce or hot pepper flakes

Altering to enhance the flavors are endless with options of your choosing. I prefer to keep my roasted red pepper mild and basic, and boost it, as needed with other ingredients at any given moment.

Roasted red peppers are delicious on any dish, such as:

  • crostini
  • pimento cheese
  • certain dips
  • condiments
  • sandwiches
  • salads (meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables)
  • ceviches
  • dense protein dishes (meat, poultry or seafood)
  • egg dishes
  • pasta dishes
  • rice dishes
  • savory pies
  • pizza
  • soups
  • stews
  • casseroles
  • as part of the cooking base (sofrito or mirepoix)
  • as a garnish on food

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roasted red peppers

76. tres leche cake

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Tres leche cake is a:

  • sponge cake drenched with a milk sauce, and topped with whipped cream
  • rich dessert, very high in calories and carbohydrates

The basic core components to make a 3 leche cake are:

  • sponge cake
  • dessert sauce made with 3 type of milk:
    • sweetened condensed milk
    • evaporated milk
    • heavy cream, half & half, or milk (cow, soy, coconut, almond, rice, etc.)
  • whipped cream topping

There are many variations to make 3 leche cake, according to cultural region, background and preference.

The sponge cake flavoring does not have to be limited to vanilla only. Other flavors can be:

  • coconut
  • pumpkin
  • chocolate
  • dulce de leche
  • guava
  • banana
  • cinnamon

Below, I share the reasons why I have chosen specific ingredients, the chemistry analysis, selected calculations, and preparation to create my recipe version for tres leche cake.

CAKE

To create the sponge cake, I use only cake flour.

  • Reason #1:  cake flour has a very low protein value compared to all-purpose, pastry or bread flour; the very low protein in cake flour allows the baked cake to be tender and light (airy).
  • Reason #2:  cake flour is bleached; this causes the protein (its gluten) to weaken, hence produces a finer texture and will not cause the cake to rise too much.

The protein percentage in flour is related to the amount of gluten it has. Gluten develops when the flour protein combines with liquid and form elastic strands. The strength and weakness structure of elastic strands are based on the enzymes from the type of flour being used.

Flour with higher protein percentage will cause the gluten to have more elasticity and to expand (stretch), especially in yeast products, and causes a more dense and chewier texture. High protein flour, such as all-purpose (10 to 12%), bread (13 to 14%) or gluten (45%) flour, is best for:

  • bread
  • buns
  • pizza
  • bagel
  • noodles
  • firmer textured cake

Lower protein percentage flour is made from soft milled flour. Most cake flour are bleached and causes the protein to form weaker gluten. Lower protein flour, such as cake (7 to 8%) or pastry (9%) flour, is best for

  • pie crust
  • pancake
  • waffles
  • biscuit
  • muffin
  • pastries
  • soft texture cake

I add baking powder to the cake flour, since it is a leavening agent, to help the cake expand or self rise a bit in volume. It also lighten the texture to be more soft and airy. Basically, adding baking powder, gives it a subtle boost to lift the cake. This is similar to self-rising flour, except, it has a lower protein percentage to make the cake a smoother and airy texture.

I sift the flour and baking powder together, to removes lumps and aerate it. This process allows the wet ingredients to easily moisten completely into the dry ingredients.

For my sponge cake, I separate the egg yolks from the albumen (egg whites). The reasons are as follow:

  • The flavoring for my cake is made with a “ponche de huevo”, which is raw egg yolks whipped with sugar until it becomes a creamy consistency (a process known as egg foaming). In the Puerto Rican culture, this egg foaming creamy mixture is mixed with a carbonated barley juice known as Malta, for a drink known as “ponche”, English translation is “eggnog punch”. For my recipe, the egg foaming and dry ingredients are combined, then blended with milk to create a cake batter.
  • The next process is beating the albumen (egg whites) until it becomes frothy and foamy. This helps the cake become light and smooth in texture, similar to angel food cake. The frothy egg white is gently folded into the batter, then bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 35 to 45 minutes. The reason for a 10 minutes difference, is due to weather temperature changes, barometric pressure, and also humidity affects the baking process. After 35 minutes, I check the cake by piercing a knife in the middle, if it comes out clean, the cake is done. After baking, the cake is cooled for 15 to 30 minutes.

One important thing, I only use stainless steel bowl to whip eggs, sometimes glass. I never use aluminum or plastic bowls.

MILK SAUCE

The tres leche sauce has 3 type of milk combination. Two are commonly known, which are sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. The 3rd milk is considered a variable. It can be any type of milk (regular, skim, low-fat, half & half, almond, coconut, soy, etc). My personal preference favorite is heavy cream. I like my milk sauce to be similar to a Puerto Rican coquito drink (minus the eggs).

I add 1 1/4 cup heavy cream. It is OK to increase the heavy milk to 1 1/2 cup, instead of using 1 1/4 cup, or any other type of milk, you prefer. I simply like the creaminess heavy cream provides and the 1/4 cup difference will not alter the taste or texture, since not all the milk syrup will be saturated into the cake. Some will be set aside as a complimentary dessert sauce to serve with the cake.

In addition, I add 2 to 4 Tablespoon (1/8 to 1/4 cup) of Malibu coconut rum. Seriously, the fusion of rum with the milk mixture enhances the flavor. The Malibu brand is a smooth coconut rum, unlike Bacardi light rum, which tends to gravitate a bit strong when blended for this dessert sauce. Bacardi light rum taste great for drinks, but as part of the milk sauce for this cake, I prefer a more gentle tasting Malibu coconut rum. This is strictly my personal opinion. If serving 3 leche cake to minors, it is recommended to eliminate the rum liquor altogether. I tend to interchangeably use the word “milk sauce” and “milk syrup”, since both have the same meaning in regards to this type of cake.

Once the cake is cooled, it is flipped over and poked with a fork. The milk mixture is poured over the cake and allow to soak in. I cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate to blend the flavors for 2 to 3 hours. If the cake is to be served for a casual affair, I keep the cake in the baking pan. If it is a special occasion, I flip the cake over on to a jellyroll baking sheet with a lifted edge to prevent the sauce from spilling out.

I like to set aside some of the milk in a separate container, and add a small portion to the cake being served.

FROSTING

The frosting is usually topped with a dairy whipped dessert topping, such as the aerosol canned whipped cream (ie: Reddi-Wip), the frozen tub whipped topping (ie: Cool Whip) or homemade whipped cream (beaten heavy cream and sugar). I prefer making a homemade marshmallow creme frosting. This marshmallow topping enhances the flavor to the sponge cake.

First, I create a simple syrup using:

  • sugar
  • light corn syrup
  • water

This concoction is gently boiled until clear and bubbly, about 15 to 30 minutes. Once the syrup is bubbly, I whip egg whites into a meringue by adding cream of tartar. This helps produce volume and stabilize the structure to hold its shape and prevent from collapsing (this process is what makes it a meringue). Adding cream of tartar to the egg whites also prevents the hot simple syrup from crystallizing (harden) while blending together to create a creamy and silky smooth, thick frosting.

The marshmallow meringue creme is refrigerated for at least 1 hour before spreading on to the cake. Any leftover creme is stored in a sealed jar or glass container for future use as a topping for brownies, cupcakes, pies, dessert salads or ice cream. To make the creme into solid form to create marshmallow, I add 2 to 3 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin into the prepared simple syrup.

Once the cake has been coated with the marshmallow meringue, it is covered with aluminum foil that has been tented with enough gap to avoid touching the frosting. It is then refrigerated for another 2 to 3 hours.

Before serving, each cake is topped with a maraschino cherry.

Now you have the analytic reasoning and food chemistry to why I utilize specific ingredients and techniques to create my tres leche cake.

I have seen “tres leche cake” written and spoken as “tres leches cake” with an “s” added to the end of the word “leche”, in which is incorrect. Milk is milk, whether singular or plural, regardless if English or Spanish etymology. Milk is a non-count noun. This means 2 milk, 3 milk, etc., not 2 milks or 3 milks.

Using the plural form “leches” is considered incorrect linguistic of speech and improper grammatical word structure, in both languages. Leche or milk, whether by itself or more than one content, is written and pronounce the same, without the “s” added to the end of the word. It is spelled and pronounced as tres leche cake (three milk cake), not three milks cake or tres leches cake. Now, on to enjoy this scrumptious dessert.

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tres leche cake with Puerto Rican inspired coquito flavored milk sauce and Cuban style marshmallow frosting

 

75. snickerdoodle cookies

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Snickerdoodle is a crunchy or soft batch drop sugar cookie with a slightly cracked or crinkly top surface. The dough is rolled (or coated) with cinnamon and sugar, before baking.

Snickerdoodle cookies are made with basically 4 main ingredients:

  • butter
  • sugar
  • flour
  • cinnamon sugar

The difference between a traditional sugar cookie and snickerdoodle are:

  • sugar cookies are rolled or coated in white sugar
  • snickerdoodles are rolled or coated in a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon

I enhance the flavor and further soften the texture to my snickerdoodle by adding a small box of sugar-free Jell-O vanilla flavored instant pudding mix.

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homemade snickerdoodle cookies

74. Western omelet

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An omelet (also written as omelette) is a fluffy egg dish made with:

  • beaten eggs
  • heated in a frying pan
  • cooked with butter or oil, or a combination of both

The omelet does not have a specific origin to its first whereabouts. Yet, its etymology can be traced through word association:

  • Latin origins with the word “lamina” (a thin plate)
  • From there, Roman Empire formed the word “lamella” (small thin metal plate)
  • In 1393 France, the word was revised to “alumete” (small round plate)
  • In 1651, Francois Pierre de la Varenne, founding father of French cuisine and author of “Le Cuisinier Francois” (French culinary cookbook), identify the fluffy fried beaten egg dish as “amelette”
  • Circa France’s 18th century Revolution-Modern Era, the French took the word “alemette” and decided to change the spelling to become “omelette”
  • During the 17th century, the British allowed the French word to be translated in English to be pronounced and written as “omelette”, as well as, in the shorter version “omelet”.

 There are many different types of omelets, such as:

  • Chinese egg foo yung
  • Denver or Western omelet
  • French omelette
  • Matzah brei
  • Italian frittata
  • Philippine torta
  • Spanish tortilla

The Denver and Western omelets are made with beaten eggs, onion, bell pepper and ham. The only difference, the Western omelet has cheese.

There are certain regions in the USA, that serves a Western omelet with cheese as a topping, and the Denver with none.

Other locations differentiate the Western omelet as having a cheese filling, not as a topping. The Denver omelet, as in other regions does not have any cheese added.

It all depends in the area where the Western omelet is being prepared, and according to cultural acceptance to how it is made to order, whether having a cheese topping or cheese filling.

I decided at the spur of the moment to use chopsticks as a cooking utensil, instead of my regular nylon flexible spatula and whisking fork. You can use a wooden, silicone, nylon or stainless steel fork, spoon, spatula, whisk or turner. Whatever you have available and are comfortable cooking with.

The Western omelet dish I like to make has:

  • beaten eggs
  • milk
  • onion
  • red bell pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • smoked ham
  • cremini (baby Portobello) or white buttoned mushrooms
  • cheese (I prefer American, Cheddar or Swiss)
  • oil and butter, to cook
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper

Western omelet can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I enjoy my omelet as a sandwich, between 2 slices of nicely toasted and buttered sliced bread.

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western omelet with cheese and buttered toast

73. arroz con leche (Puerto Rican rice pudding)

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. Typical rice pudding is a dish made with:

  • rice
  • bovine milk
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • raisins

I am extremely selective on the flavors and texture of rice pudding. I prefer to make mine with strong influence from the Puerto Rican style known as “arroz con dulce”, translated into English as “sweetened rice pudding” or “candied rice pudding”. It is a flavor and texture that I love and enjoy to eat.

My rice pudding has 3 specific ingredient that is a must:

  • cinnamon (prefer 3 large (cut into half or quartered), or 6 small cinnamon sticks)
  • cloves (I pick the thickest whole cloves in the batch)
  • raisins

I love arroz con leche that has cinnamon, cloves and raisins. Hence, my signature dish can be known as a cinnamon raisin rice pudding.

The milk use for my version is a 2:1 ratio of

  • 4 cups half and half
  • 2 cup of milk (almond, evaporated or whole milk)

Almond milk provide a nice flavor and added protein. If using regular milk, adding 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract slightly enhances the flavors of the custard. I also add 1 Tablespoon butter to slightly boost the flavoring, as well as, a nice glossy smoothness.

The sweetness for the rice pudding derives from using:

  • 1/2 cup (lightly sweetened), 2/3 cup (my preferred choice) or 3/4 cup (sweet) granulated sugar
  • 1 can (8 oz) sweetened condense milk

Short grain rice is my preferred choice for making rice pudding. I particularly favor pearl rice.  Any other type of short white grain can be use, such as arborio or sushi rice.

I like the arroz con leche to have a thick and creamy porridge consistency, and the rice to blend (almost melt) with the custard’s soft texture, as eaten. I do not like the rice to be firm to the bite.

Adding a dash of ground cinnamon or nutmeg (or combination of both) as a condiment topping, is optional.

Overall, you need to have lots of patience with each step of the cooking process to make my style of rice pudding known as arroz con leche. The final culinary product is a dish that makes a delicious dessert.

arroz con leche (Puerto Rican rice pudding)