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May 7, 2014
A Conga Line of Confections
Every culture’s cuisine has its own unique sweet treats, and Cuba is certainly no exception.
The following recipes are courtesy of the Cocina Cubana Club, founded by Pascual Perez and Sonia Martinez.
Banana Rum Custard Tart
For the Cashew Pastry:
1 stick butter, softened
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted cashews, finely chopped
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer or by hand until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating. Mix in the flour and the cashews. The mixture will be soft and cannot be rolled out.
Press the dough into the pie plate with your finger tips, keeping it as evenly distributed as possible. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Place foil in the shell and fill it with dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes; remove the foil and beans and bake for 5 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the Custard:
1⁄3 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsps. dark rum
4 bananas, peeled and sliced
1⁄2 cup apricot preserves
1 orange, juiced
Beat the eggs and sugar until light and frothy. Mix in the flour and beat until smooth. Add the cream and rum. Pour into the partially baked crust and bake it in a preheated oven at 350˚ for about 20 minutes or until the custard is set. Remove and cool.
Arrange the bananas on top, starting from the outside and working toward the center. Warm the preserves and orange juice, stirring until the preserves have melted.
Strain and brush the tart with the hot glaze to protect the bananas from turning brown and to add a sheen to the tart.
Cafe Con Leche Custard
Cafe con leche is the traditional “latte” that most Cubans drink for breakfast. It combines strong espresso with steamed milk and sugar.
4 Tbsps. cornstarch
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
21⁄2 Tbsps. instant espresso powder
1 cup sugar
whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish
Stir the cornstarch into 1 cup milk, stirring until smooth. Into the top of a double boiler, pour the mixture, the rest of the milk, cream, instant coffee powder, and sugar. Stir over medium-high heat until thickened. Cover and let simmer 10 minutes.
Beat the eggs well. Slowly add 1 cup of the hot coffee mixture to the eggs, beating continually. Pour egg mixture into remaining coffee mixture in the double boiler, still over heat, and beat well to incorporate. Cover and simmer 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into coffee cups. Cover with plastic wrap, leave to cool and then refrigerate. When chilled, top with fresh whipped cream and 1 chocolate covered espresso bean.
Polvorónes con Canela
The polvorón is a simple but tasty cookie with nuts, cinnamon and a hint of vanilla. The name of these powdered cookies comes from polvo, the Spanish word for “powder” or dust. These yummy, crumbly cookies are a popular treat amongst Cubans.
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature or
1⁄2 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening
11⁄2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract or brandy
2 cups flour
1⁄4 tsp. sea salt
2⁄3 cup finely ground pecans or walnuts
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325˚.
Beat the butter in a bowl with an electric beater until creamy. Add 1⁄2 cup of powdered sugar and vanilla, and continue beating until light and fluffy. Mix in the flour and salt very gradually, a tablespoon at a time, until thoroughly incorporated.
Add the nuts with the last of the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly. Using your hands, form the dough into 3⁄4-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking pan about 1 inch apart.
Bake about 15 minutes, or until the edges turn pale gold. Place the remaining cup of sugar in a shallow bowl or plate with the cinnamon.
Remove the cookies from the oven and, while still hot, carefully roll each in the powdered sugar mixture. Set aside until cooled completely and roll them again in the sugar, shaking off any excess.
The cookies can be eaten fresh or stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight tin for several weeks (although by then the powdered sugar tends to get absorbed into the cookies).
The cookies also freeze well in airtight plastic bags.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies.