Mexican desserts! You may not want to admit it, what with wasted calories and excess fat grams being so unpopular and all, but I bet this is your favorite section. It's mine!
I've included an array of Mexican desserts here from Baja and mainland Mexico, plus a few from the Caribbean, Spain, California and New Mexico. Many sound quite sophisticated, but I assure you, they aren't all that difficult to make.
Enjoy yourself -- as you choose between Citrus Flan, Margarita Pie, Churros, Pineapple or plain Sopapillas, Watermelon-Lemon Ice, Fried Bananas Vera Cruz Style, and Mayan Mango Madness. YUM! Pick a dessert and get ready to prepare it tonight.
MARC'S CITRUS FLAN EXTRAORDINAIRE
The day I met Marc Spahr at his Caffé Todos Santos near the southern tip of Baja, he sent this flan out as a gift after our meal. In all our years of traveling in Mexico, I have never, ever tasted flan this good. I consider it a real honor to have been entrusted with this recipe, and now it's yours too.
Marc was never formally trained as a chef. He came to Todos Santos about ten years ago to grow tropical fruits -- and he's as successful a farmer as he is a restaurateur. Married now to a lawyer in La Paz, he's definitely integrated himself into the Southern Baja culture. He likes to tell the story of how he started cooking. His first attempts at baking were in a wood-fired brick oven on his farm. He started selling breads, cakes and cookies to the local gringo community. Pretty soon he was hired as head chef at the El Molino Restaurant in Todos Santos. By 1993 he'd taken the big step and opened his own restaurant.
If you ever are so fortunate as to find yourself in Todos Santos, make sure you stop in at Marc's restaurant. Try it for breakfast, lunch or dinner -- or anytime in between. Sit in front in one of the hand-painted artsy chairs, or waltz through the kitchen and eat outdoors in the cool, lovely patio. You won't be disappointed. No way José!
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Expresso
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick (4 inches long)
1 tbsp citrus zest (lemon, Mexican lime and/or Orange)
1 tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg (fresh, grated)
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
In a small copper saucepan, mix sugar and coffee. Cook over medium heat, stirring only until sugar is dissolved. Then cook until syrup forms a soft ball when dropped into ice water. (If you have a candy thermometer, this happens at about 238° F) Pour mixture into mold -- a nine-inch round, two-inch deep cake pan works well. Let the syrup set up in refrigerator while making flan.
Preheat oven to 325°. In medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon stick and zests. Cook until almost boiling on low heat, stirring, constantly. Pour mixture through fine sieve into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar. Pour milk mixture slowly into egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Remove mold with caramel from refrigerator and pour flan into it. Set this mold inside a larger mold (a ten-inch round cake pan works) filled a quarter of the way up with water. Bake for one hour. Remove from oven and refrigerate for four hours. To serve, loosen edges with a knife and invert onto a platter. Cut flan into eight wedges.
Video Recipe Mexican Flan by Jauja Cocina Mexicana
Margarita pie is a perfect way to end any elegant meal. Light, unusual and incredibly tasty, your guests will feel the essence of Baja Magic tickling their tongues as they slide that first bite of pie into their mouths. And they'll definitely be back for seconds. This makes two pies.
1 - 7 ounce package lemon pudding mix
1 - 7 ounce package lime Jell-O mix
2 cups water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Mexican Controy, Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 1/2 cups whipped topping
2 9 inch graham cracker crusts
1 lime, thinly sliced
Combine pudding mix and Jell-O mix. Stir in 1/2 cup water and beaten eggs. Blend well. Add remaining water and pour into medium sized sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a full boil.
Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, tequila and Controy and chill two hours. Fold whipped topping into chilled mixture. Spoon into pie crust and chill until firm, at least two hours. Garnish with lime slices.
Churros are Spanish doughnuts, squeezed out through a pastry bag and fried in long ribbons. In Spain they are served with piping hot chocolate. In the mall at La Bufadora, on the sidewalks of Ensenada and in line at the border in TIjuana, vendors wave them in front of your eyes, offering you a free sample in hopes that they can entice you to buy a bag for $1.00. Recipe makes 1 1/2 dozen churros.
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1 cup corn or canola oil
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon
In a medium sized saucepan, combine water, salt, sugar and butter and bring to a full boil over high heat. Add flour and remove pan from heat. Beat mixture with spoon until smooth and it comes away from the sides of the pan. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after adding each egg. Stir in lemon extract and cool for 15 minutes.
Put half the dough in a large pastry bag with a large star tip. Heat oil in deep skillet or deep fryer to 400 degrees. Squeeze dough into oil until you have a ribbon about 7 to 9 inches long. Cut it off with a knife. Fry 2 to 3 ribbons at a time for 6 or 7 minutes each. When golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve warm.
Sopapillas have been a New Mexico favorite for hundreds of years which made their way to Baja during the first half of this century. Derived from Indian fried bread, they are generally served hot with cinnamon and honey for dessert. Light and scrumptious! Makes approximately 20.
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp solid vegetable shortening
2/3 cup cold water
1 cup corn or canola oil
honey and/or cinnamon sugar to taste
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut shortening in using two knives until it forms a coarse mixture. Gradually add cold water. Mix together just enough to hold together as you would if making a pie crust. Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until smooth. Cover and let dough sit for five minutes. Roll into a rectangle about 12" x 15". Dough will be very thin.
Cut into rectangles about 2" x 3" in size. Heat oil until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into it in large skillet. Drop a few sopapillas at a time into the oil. Turn them over three to four times to make them puff up evenly, then fry for two to three minutes on each side, until they are golden brown and puffed up like small pillows. Dust with cinnamon sugar or pour small amount of honey over the sopapillas. Serve hot.
A delightful variation of sopapillas are these pineapple filled treats. By using the above recipe, and adding the filling you have a different Mexican dessert that will please adults and kids alike. Makes approximately 20.
Recipe preceding for sopapillas (without cinnamon & honey)
2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1 1 lb 4 ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained (or any other canned fruit)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Before frying the sopapillas, make the filling. In a medium sized saucepan, combine granulated sugar and cornstarch. With wooden spoon, stir in pineapple. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until boiling. Boil one minute, stirring and set aside to cool.
After sopapillas have been made, and while they are still hot, make a slit along one long side and one short side of each pillow with a sharp knife. Lift up the corner and fill each with a slightly rounded tablespoon of the filling. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar and serve warm.
WATERMELON - LEMON ICE
Watermelon-lemon ice is an easy sherbet-like Mexican dessert that you can make with your kids' help. It's a refreshing after dinner treat during the hot months and one that will make you feel that you're barefoot under a palapa in Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta or Los Cabos. Makes 1 1/2 pints.
2 cups pureed watermelon pulp
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 6 ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup water
Combine watermelon pulp, lemonade and water, Pour into freezing tray and freeze until mushy. Place in chilled bowl. Add egg whites and mix thoroughly. Return to tray and freeze until firm, stirring twice while freezing.
FRIED BANANAS VERA CRUZ STYLE
Fried bananas were transplanted to Baja from Vera Cruz. Or Cozumel. Or some other exotic spot on the Gulf Of Mexico or in the Caribbean. Fried and lightly spiced with Orange and cinnamon, it's a simple Mexican dessert that will please everyone. This recipe serves eight.
4 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 green tipped bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
Melt margarine in skillet with brown sugar, Orange juice and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add banana slices. Stir and cook over medium high heat for four to five minutes until bananas are golden and liquid is almost caramelized. Serve immediately.
MAYAN MANGO MADNESS
From the deepest jungles of the Yucatán, where the Mayans once ruled (and still live to this day), to the produce section at Gigante on the south end of Ensenada, you will never see mangos or papayas any bigger, sweeter or juicier than the ones they grow in Mexico.
You can make this Mexican dessert with either mangos, papayas, strawberries or peaches. It's a truly delectable summer treat, or great in the middle of winter when you're dying for something tropical. Serves eight.
2 1/2 pounds fresh mangos, peeled and seeded or 1 can Mangos
(you can substitute papayas, strawberries or peaches)
1 cup water and 1/2 cup dissolved sugar or juice from the canned mangos
1 ounce brandy
3 3 ounce packages lady fingers
1 pint whipping cream
sugar to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans, 3/4 cup chopped only
Chop mangos into small pieces. Place fresh mangos in sugar and water, or return canned mangos to their syrup. Add brandy.
Dunk lady fingers into fruit syrup quickly one by one and line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 14 glass pan. Add a layer of chopped mangos.
Beat sugar, vanilla and whipping cream. Place a layer of cream and a layer of chopped pecans on top of the mangos. Alternate layers of lady fingers, mangos, cream and pecans, ending with whipped cream. Garnish with pecan halves.
Refrigerate three to four hours. Cut in squares to serve. And enjoy.
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Recipe and tips provided by Ann Hazard.