World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Cuba

The Baker’s Passport – Cuba


Cuba is high on my list of "just once."  Most likely because its off limits to Americans. I can imagine myself out late meeting a suave dark Cuban and learning to rumba while sipping on a mojito, Cuba libre or daiquiri cocktail.  We’d roll on into the morning and have a typically Cuban breakfast of tostado and a cafe cubano.

Cuban bakeries are famous for their finger foods, such as pastelitos, croquetas, bocaditos, and empanadasPastelitos are somewhat like American turnover–a warm flaky exterior wrapped around a filling of either meat, cheese, coconut, guava, or a combination of guava and cream cheese. Bocaditos are small bite size sandwiches layered with a ham spread.  A popular dessert called capuchino.  These small cone-shaped cakes start out are baked until hard and then are soaked overnight in a syrup made from sugar, water, lemon and orange rinds, plus cinnamon and that very sweet liqueur, anis.  The name refers to the shape of the hoods worn by Capuchin monks.

Another local treat that pairs well with a cafe con leche are these cookies from, Moron, in the province of Camaguey. The town is widely known for these cookies. Many bakers who fled Castro’s oppression in the early 60’s brought their recipe for the cookie to the mainland.  Today the lime sugar cookies can be found in Cuban bakeries in "Little Cuba" in Miami. Sometimes they can found all dainty, sprinkled with sugar or all tarted up with colorful sprinkles.Torticas de Moron

Cuban Sugar Cookies

Adapted from a recipe from the Cocina Cubana Club

1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp lime juice
1-1/2 tsp grated lime rind

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix shortening and sugar together.

Slowly add flour, a small bit at a time incorporating well each time.  Watch the dough as you don’t want it stiff but not dry.

Add the grated lime juice and rind. When thoroughly mixed, roll the dough into a Roll the dough into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter. Slice the cookies about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes.

Place on cookie sheet covered with wax or parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Food Fit for a Queen

Uor4_2Over the weekend I went to the annual Fancy Food Gourmet Sale, sassily called ‘Food Fit for a Queen’ sponsored by Under One Roof. The non-profit organization, based in San Francisco is focused on raising money for over 37 AIDS service organizations such as PAWS, Visual Aid and Project Inform.  Every year donated gourmet food products are donated to the organization by participants of the Fancy Food Show–over 30 pallets of food.

The event was held in an empty and small storefront in the Castro. The volunteers keep on stocking everyday.  There is excitement in the air.  One man was shopping for his wife via his cell phone–"do you need 2 liters of raspberry syrup?"  Another woman was back for day two/round two.  "Did you get to the jams yet? No? Could I help out by stocking them?" There’s cookies, oils, spices, chocolate, syrups, jams, sauces, crackers, soups and beverages. I definitely got carried away by the selection and made the mistake of not enforcing a budget on myself.  Of course knowing that all proceeds went back to the service organizations lessened the anxiety.

I’ve had a chance to taste test a few of the products.  I picked up two new dessert sauces from Charlie Trotter’s line, Bartlett pear and caramel, the other a bittersweet chocolate-Kona coffee ($2.50 each).  I served the pear sauce over a Cuban coconut almond pound cake for Sunday dinner’s dessert.  Dee-lightful.   

However the best food treasure that I found was a hand-made yellow porcelain bottle of Spanish olive oil produced by the Nuñez de Prado family ($8.00). Since the late 1700s this nectar has been Spain’s finest olive oil.  According to their distributor, it is hand-crafted in a unique process, whereby the oil is extracted from the crush before the first cold pressing to preserve the "flor del aceite" (flower of the oil). This effort results in extraordinarily low oleic acidity. The unfiltered oil carries notes of green apple, almonds, and burnt orange.  So besides the great price and beautiful bottle why was I excited?  It retails for $45.

Mark your calendars for next year’s sale. 

continue on for the CUBAN COCONUT POUND CAKE recipe

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