Monday, June 13, 2011

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Frosting

Make these...Now!

Espresso Frosting!
Right now :)
Mocha Cupcakes!

See the recipe here.  (I didn't make the butter cream frosting, I just used 2 cups of powdered sugar whipped with a few tablespoons of chilled espresso).

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I've spent the last ten days meeting with government officials eating my way through Uruguay. I traveled to Montevideo on mission to supervise a WB project. It was my first trip to South America, and it definitely won't be my last.

Here's why.
Sunrise over el Rio de la Plata

Montevideo, Uruguay.
Montevideo is beautiful, the people are welcoming, and the food is amazing. Uruguay, like it's neighbor Argentina, is known outstanding beef, fresh seafood, and sweet dulce de leche. Lots and lots of dulce de leche.
Beef is simply grilled on the parrilla. The smell of the smoke from the parrillas filled the city. 
La Parrilla

Bife de Lomo

Montevideo is surrounded by el Rio de la Plata, so fresh seafood is readily available. Pasta con frutos del mar is one of my favorite dishes and the Uruguayans know how to do it right.
Rio de la Plata

Pasta con Frutos del Mar
Another thing Uruguayan's know how to do right is dulce de leche, which is caramelized sweetened condensed milk. Dulce de leche gelato, alfajores, empanadas and flan are just a few highlights!

I don't normally love flan, but covered in dulce de leche? Yes, please!

Empanadas filled with dulce de leche!

Alfajores (look familiar?) served with Mate.
Lots and lots of dulce de leche!
The mate and alfojores is a great combo. In Uruguay, everyone drinks mate. Mate consists of dried herbs  that are ground into a powdery mixture called yerba. The yerba is traditionally served in a dried and hollowed out gourd, submerged in boiling water, and is drank through a metal straw. Uruguayans carry around their mate and a thermous of hot water so they can continually replenish their drink. Mate has a large social and cultural significance in Uruguayan history. Read about it here.

Another strong custom in Uruguayan culture is their breakfast. Cafe con medialunas is the staple. A medialuna is a sweet and savory pastry shaped like a half-moon. 
Cafe y Medialuna
A typical lunch in Uruguay is the Chivito or Sandwich de Miga. A chivito is a sandwich filled with everything imaginable while a sandwich de miga is much less intimidating and served with crustless bread. I actually didn't eat a chivito or sandwich de miga, but they were everywhere.

Sandwich de Miga
While I loved Montevideo, my favorite place I visited was Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia is the oldest town in Uruguay and is known as a top tourist destination. The small town is lined with cobbled stoned streets, shops, restaurants, and open air markets. The atmosphere is relaxed and is filled with history. It was absolutely adorable. 
Rio de la Plata

Sunset over the river.

A lazy Sunday :)


El Drugstore--a great place for a relaxing lunch

The oldest church in Uruguay.
While ten days might seem like a long time, it flew by and I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what Uruguay has to offer.

Lighthouse in Colonia

Downtown Montevideo

Saturday Market

Until next time Montevideo, hasta luego!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alfajores-Shortbread Cookies filled with Dulce de Leche

Love at first bite. That is the only way I can describe my relationship with alfajores. A colleague brought back a box of famous Havana Alfajores from a recent mission. An alfajor is a shortbread cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche. The shortbread cookies are so light and airy they crumble in your mouth. The dulce de leche is so incredibly sweet and creamy. To die for, literally. 
This is the first alfajor that I have ever had. Can you believe I resisted temptation for a few days and let this baby sit on my desk for a few days before I opened it up??? Me either.
A few days later, at an office happy hour, I spotted another alfajor. This one wasn't dipped in chocolate, rather covered in coconut. Alfajores differ throughout Latin America, and even though I love, love, love chocolate, I actually prefer the coconut alfajor. I think the integrity and quality of the cookie and dulce de leche are portrayed much better without being smothered in chocolate. Sorry chocolate, I still love you, promise!

My first reaction after I had my first alfajor, was "I can totally make this". So. Here is my attempt. 

Dulce de leche is carmelized sweetened condensed milk. You can either boil a can sweetened condensed milk in boiling water on the stove, or you can bake the milk in a double boiler in the oven, covered in tinfoil. This is the route I chose because I read some horror stories about cans of sweetened condensed milk exploding all over the kitchen. I made a double batch of dulce de leche, so I baked two cans of sweetened condensed milk tightly covered in tinfoil placed inside a double boiler in the oven at 425*. In order to get the milk super caramelized, it took about 5 hours in the oven. That was a little bit of a shocker. Double batch=double time. 

The short bread cookie was considerably less time consuming, but more labor intensive. 

Short Bread Cookies Ingredients:
-2 sticks of butter at room temperature
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 egg plus 1 yolk
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 cups flour
-1 cup cornstarch
-1 teaspoon baking powder

The cornstarch is key to this recipe and is what makes the cookies crumble  in your mouth. To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and incorporate everything. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and continue mixing until it forms a consistent dough. Divide the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350*. Unwrap the dough and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough with a small round cutter. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment-paper and bake for 15 minutes, just until the edges start to brown. 

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool completely. Place a tablespoon of ducle de leche (I made extra remember!) on the bottom of one cookie and make a sandwich with another cookie. Roll the edges in toasted coconut. 

Or melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double-boiler and dip the alfajores gently in chocolate with two forks. Tap the excess chocolate from the cookie sandwich and place on parchment-paper to dry. 

And there you have it. Homemade alfajores! Yum, I'm getting hungry. Again. 

Breakfast anyone? Yes please!

Make these. Now.

I'll help!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Passover Seder

Pam hosted a great Passover Seder, a traditional Jewish dinner celebrating the beginning of Passover which tells the symbolic story of the Israelites escaping from Egypt through food. Even though I'm not Jewish, dinner with good friends is always fun!

Eva & Pam

Wine representing the 10 plagues

Seder plate (with drawings of the missing items)

Matzo ball soup

Pam and I
Pam, our beautiful host, cooked all day and Eva led the Seder.

Kasia and Eva


Chocolate Mousse & Fresh Strawberries
Dessert was followed by a rousing game of Apples to Apples. Kasia and I won! :)