“No Wall Y’all Hibiscus Flower Jam”

Tart, yet pleasantly sweet,  my “No Wall Y’all Hibiscus Jam” smeared on buttery toasted  baguette slices is something close to divine deliciousness. Have you ever had Hibiscus Flower Jam? It is quite common in Mexico and is just one of the many things I love about that country.

The culinary name in Mexico for this flower is Jamaica (pronounced ha-may-kah). Either picked and dried at home, or purchased dried in markets, these flowers have so many wonderful uses. Flavored waters, hot or cold tea, beautiful red syrups for drinks or desserts as well as thick jams are just some of the ways to enjoy.

One morning last week my friend Terry and I wandered into a restaurant, El Atrio Del Mayab, on the central plaza in the city of Valladolid in the Yucatan Peninsula, ordered cafe con leche and pan tostado with butter. The waiter brought us our order along with a small bowl of jamaica jam. I knew I would have to make a batch when I returned home.

Dried hibiscus flowers are found at most international or hispanic markets here in Nashville, or online shops.  I had some in  my pantry for making refreshing hibiscus ice tea, but made some jam instead.

Dried hibiscus flowers, freshly squeezed orange juice and zest and sugar are all you need. Mixed together and cooked down slowly to thicken into a deep carmine jam….

….put into jars and chilled…ready for pan tostado.

Make more jam, build less walls y’all.

Images from Quintana Roo & the Yucatan. Xpu Ha, Izamal & Valladolid, MX.

No Wall Y'all Hibiscus Flower Jam/Jamaica Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried hibiscus/jamaica flowers
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • zest of one orange

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Put mixture into a food processor and pulse about 10 times to break up larger flower pieces to make a spreadable jam.
  3. Spoon jam into clean jars and let cool completely. Add lid and refrigerate. Jam will keep for up to 2 months.

Extra; For Jamaica Tea steep dried flowers in hot water. Drink hot or chill for iced tea.

Viva Nigel, Viva Me, Viva Chocolate Banana Bread, Gluten Free

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In case, over the past few years, you have not noticed that I have a crush on Nigel Slater then let me say this….I do! I have even shared this with Wouter who just takes it in stride. It is not just Nigel looks (I know that is shallow of me), but his approach to gardening & cooking is very seductive. I mean who would not have a crush on a  man who has an entire mini orchard in his small backyard? A man who can give you at least two dozen ways to cook beets and you will like them all…who can whip up a loaf of chocolate banana bread without breaking a sweat?

(You can find another of my blog posts based on  a pumpkin recipe in “Tender volume I” here)

Nigel Slater Cookbook

My daughter, Whitney, gave me “Notes From The Larder” for a gift perhaps aware of my penchant for all things “Nigel”.

Discovering his recipe for “Chocolate Banana Bread” coincided with my return from a recent trip to Quintana Roo, Mexico. While on my trip I purchased some pure         Mexican Vanilla extract, a couple of bags of Muscovado Sugar which is a cane sugar that is very moist with a strong molasses flavor, as well as a few interesting bars of “Ki’ XOCOLATL” brand chocolate that is delicious for baking and nibbling on. For the chocolate banana bread I used a bar of their very dark chocolate with chipotle chile, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg & all-spice.

Chocolate, Bananas, Vanilla

When I travel one of the most important “tourist” stops for me is a local grocery store. I love perusing the aisles hunting for unusual, but useful, ingredients for cooking. Most of my gifts upon returning home come from these forays. Spices, chocolates, extracts that are typical of the region of the world I just visited.

This box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa gluten-free flour was languishing in the back of my pantry. Why not make Nigel’s recipe gluten-free? Quinoa, a grain originating in South America fit right in with the ingredients bought in Mexico.

Quinoa Flourbatter

A thick chunky chocolate & ripe banana batter (the sticker on my bananas told me they were also a producto de Mexico)……perfecto.

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This loaf has a crusty outer layer with a very moist cake texture inside.  Delicious eaten warm as is, or toasted. A recipe inspiration from an English cook using ingredients from my recent trip to Mexico….Viva Chocolate Banana Bread!

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Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

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  Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Quinoa Flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup Muscovado Sugar
  • 1 lb very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp pure (Mexican) vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 4 ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9″ loaf pan with non stick vegetable spray. Line the pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper cut to overhang the edges of the pans.
  2. Sift together the Quinoa flour & baking powder.
  3. Using an electric mixer cream together the butter & muscovado sugar until light & fluffy.
  4. In another bowl using a fork mash the bananas leaving them somewhat lumpy. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add eggs to the butter-sugar mixture and beat well.
  6. Into the eggs-butter-sugar mixture fold in the mashed bananas & the chopped chocolate until well blended.
  7. Gently fold in the flour mixture. When blended scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the center of the banana bread is set and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out moist, but clean.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Loosen sides of bread with a spatula and lift out with the parchment paper. Cool on a rack. Best served warm or toasted.

Recipe inspired by “Chocolate Banana Bread” from “Notes from the Larder” by Nigel Slater, Ten Speed Press

Dark Chocolate Cakelets Baked in an Almond Pie Crust, Que Delicioso

Dark chocolate cake pie

One of the many things I love about traveling in Mexico are the pastelerias or pastry shops that seem to be on every corner where subtle aromas of vanilla & sugar waft out from doorways. Last year my friend Terry and I found a wonderful chocolate “cakelet” that was baked in a pie crust. Encantado con esta postre.. Que magnifico!

Here is my iphone image from my trip…

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It was my first time to see a cake baked in a pie crust…easy eaten out-of-hand..not a pie, not a cake exactly…a wee “cakelet”.

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I had to give this idea a try upon returning home. I made a dark chocolate batter and an almond pie crust, drizzled with chocolate sauce and dusted with sugar for my version.

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Rings of almond dough await the batter.

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Filled & ready for the oven.

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Freshly baked and cooled.DSC_6734

A simple chocolate drizzle…..a sprinkling of icing/sanding sugar…

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Served with Mexican Vanilla flavored ice cream! Perhaps for your special Valentiine?

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Deep, Dark Chocolate Cakelets in an Almond Pie Crust

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

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Ingredients for Almond Pie Crust strips:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond flour

Directions for Pie Crust strips:

  1. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter & sugar together until creamy. Add egg and mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  2. Mix together in a small bowl the all-purpose & almond flours using a whisk.
  3. Add flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture and mix until well blended. Scrape dough from mixer bowl out onto a work surface lightly coated with additional flour.
  4. Form dough into two disks, wrap each with plastic wrap & chill for 1 hour before using.
  5. When ready to bake cakelets remove 1 dough ball from the refrigerator. Roll out on floured surface creating an oblong circle about 10-12 inches long. Cut dough with a knife (on one side of each strip) and a fluted pastry cutter (on the other side of each strip) into 10-12 inch long strips.  Make 8 strips total.
  6. Stand each strip of dough on its flat edge and wrap to make a circle overlapping where dough meets. Dab one end of dough strip with water and seal together. Repeat with all dough to make 8 standing-up on edge dough strip circles. Place these on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic and put back in the refrigerator until ready to fill with cake batter.

Ingredients for Dark Chocolate Cakelet Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa
  • 8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) + 2 Tbsps unsalted butter room temp
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsps Mexican pure vanilla extract (or any other you like or happen to have)

Directions for Cakelet Batter:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cocoa into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate with the 1/2 cup butter in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave until smooth and blended. Set aside.
  4. Beat together the eggs & brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until thickened. Reduce mixer to low and add the chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
  5. Add flour mixture in batches and beat on low until all of it is incorporated into the batter.
  6. Remove the chilled pie crust rings from the refrigerator & fill each 3/4 full with the batter.
  7. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until batter is set in the center(s) and pie crust rings are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack.

Ingredients for Chocolate  Drizzle:

  • 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate melted
  • 1/3 cup sanding sugar

Directions:

  1. Drizzle all the cakelets randomly with melted chocolate & sprinkle with bakers/sanding sugar.

teresablackburnfoodstying.com                foodonfifth.com

Nirvana in a Bowl / Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla

“Nirvana in a Bowl”

One Butternut Squash & a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula are the main ingredients for this soup recipe.

One was left languishing on my kitchen counter after a  photo shoot, the other was where I secreted off to, to do some personal languishing…a geographical place I love for all that it is. No phones, no television, no blogging…nada. Beaches, hammocks on porches, intriguing & delicious New World  food combinations, & quiet, absolute quiet except for the soft swish of palm  trees & waves.

All this Nirvana was punctuated by eating, which for me is nirvana. One night my friend, Terry, and I went to a small beach restaurant, “Tabanos”, in Tulum where we encountered some very sublime culinary combinations. Very-not-touristy dishes using  traditional ingredients in some very surprising ways.

This is their menu board. I wanted to order everything. We tried!

The first sopa/soup on the menu I ordered. Creamy soup with tomatoes & papaya and the very unexpected addition of vanilla extract. Nirvana in a bowl!

Here is my recipe inspired by the above using my re-discovered Butternut Squash &  pure Mexican Vanilla extract.

Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla:

1 Winter Squash, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 3 carrots – peeled & cut into large pieces

2 teaspoons ground cumin, sea salt & black pepper,  olive oil

3 tbsps Kerrygold butter (or any other good quality butter), 1 quart chicken stock

1 cup Lite Coconut Milk, I cup plain Greek  yogurt

2 tablespoons pure Mexican Vanilla Extract

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle ground cumin, salt & black pepper over all,  drizzle with olive oil & toss. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until vegs are softened.

Melt butter in a stock pot. Add roasted vegetables & chicken stock. Bring to a boil & simmer 3o minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Put soup into a blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until silky & smooth. Return to pan. Reheat on low & stir in coconut milk & yogurt until well blended.

Right before serving add a generous splash of pure Vanilla extract. Stir and serve soup hot with some crusty bread.  Pure, high quality Mexican Vanilla extract is not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. It adds a hint of creamy, spicy & sweet to make this one bueno soup.

Back in Nashville, very wintry & a bit gloomy. I made this soup. Wouter & I had it for a late lunch. Things were much brighter and cozy…the creaminess without cream, the warm vanilla aroma… Nirvana in a bowl.

Both Butternut Squash & Vanilla are New World foods indigenous to Mexico.  If you do not have or cannot find Mexican pure vanilla extract  then use whatever you have. There are good quality Mexican vanilla extracts readily available online from King Arthur Flour  & Williams Sonoma among many other sites.

This is a perfect soup to start off a Thanksgiving dinner.  Leftover soup just gets better.

When in doubt…eat soup.