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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

Since moving to Mexico I have begun to enjoy all the traditional holidays and the traditions that go along with them. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a very festive but also somber holiday honoring the family and friends that have died. Cemeteries are packed on both November 1st and the 2nd with families offering flowers and having picnics at the graves of their dearly departed, sharing their favorite memories. Altars are constructed in homes, places of business, roadside shrines, and of course cemeteries. These altars will have photos of the departed, and offer to them their favorite pleasures from this life, such as cigarettes, tequila, certain favorite foods and any other 'earthly' item that person was fond of. In many cases the altar will remain for at least a week after the celebration.

Traditional foods apply to this holiday as they do any other Mexican holiday. One of my favorites, is Bread of the Dead (Pan de Muertos). During the week prior to Day of the Dead, you can even order it in restaurants. Here is a simple recipe for your own pan. (pan means bread) The bread is for the living but can also be placed on the altar.

The decoration on top of the bread is to symbolize bones.

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk
¼ cup warm water

3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons anise seed
¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons white sugar

Heat the milk and the butter together in a small saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the warm water. Allow the mixture to cool to 45° C / 110° F.

In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture, until well combined. Add in the eggs and orange zest, beating until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and continue adding more flour until you have a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (about 5 minutes)

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down. Remove small pieces of dough and roll into long 'cigar' shapes. Form the remaining dough into a large round loaf or 4 smaller rounds. Arrange the 'cigar' shapes in an X pattern on top of the loaf. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 175° C / 350° F oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly then brush with glaze.

To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine 2 tablespoons sugar and orange juice. Heat until sugar is melted. Brush over top of the bread while still warm, then immediately sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Carrot Cake from Mexico

Living (and eating) in Mexico has opened my eyes (and mouth) to other types of cakes and desserts. I, for some reason, always thought cakes and desserts had to be chocolate … do you have a problem with that? Most Mexican cooks I know don't use chocolate for desserts because it is just too expensive. I have been introduced to wonderfully fresh tasting carrot cakes. There are probably as many recipes for carrot cake as there are cooks, so I picked one I really liked and my friend, Leti told me I could share it with you.

If you have the option of purchasing fresh pineapple, then please do. Canned pineapple is an ok substitute, but freshness is what home cooking is all about. Besides, a can of pineapple actually costs more than an entire fresh pineapple – see where this is going?

Also, a note on coconut. You are permitted to use dried coconut in place of fresh BUT use unsweetened only. Do not buy that bag of sugary coconut on the baking aisle and expect it to give you a delicious flavor in your cake. If you cannot buy unsweetened, then leave it out.

On to the recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
1¼ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups (packed tightly) grated carrots (about 1 lb / 454 grams)
1 cup shredded coconut, dried or fresh, unsweetened
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup diced fresh pineapple, make sure to catch the juice to include

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Lightly grease 2 8-inch round cake pans or one 9x13 inch.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until light yellow in color.

In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add this to the sugar mixture. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pan(s) on a wire rack.


Of course no carrot cake is finished without some cream cheese frosting. You can use your favorite recipe or try ours. Remember that the weather here is hot and humid – topics you know – so no butter is used in this recipe or it would melt off the cake.

190 grams (6½ oz) cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice (or use lemon if you like)

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add the lime juice and powdered sugar. While adding the powdered sugar, keep the mixer on LOW or you will be wearing that powder! Continue to beat until it is completely smooth and the consistency you want. Sometimes it is necessary to add a bit more powdered sugar, if so, no problem, add a couple of tablespoons at a time.

You can easily double this recipe if you want more frosting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tongue in Tomato Sauce

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you and I can see you shaking your head... thinking 'she has really gone around the bend on this one' !  AU CONTRAIRE mis amigos....  

Tongue is a big part of buffet tables in many cultures including Greek.  If you have had Greek buffet, French buffet, or even Italian buffet, then you have already eaten tongue and just didn't know it.  Aren't they sneaky to not tell you!  

Beef tongue just tastes like, well....beef.  It has a light texture and I actually prefer it in sandwiches rather than as a meat course.  The flavor is mild and is well suited for many types of sauces from a basic mustard to a more extravagant cream based sauce.  

I expect to hear feedback from you on how surprised you were at the wonderful flavor of this meat.  So let's get started...........

Makes about 4-6 servings


1 beef tongue (they are all about the same size)
3 quarts (3 liters) cold water
1 medium white onion, quartered
1 small head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half across the bulb
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt, (I use kosher always - it has no additives)

Toss all these ingredients into a stock pot.  Bring the water to a boil; lower the heat and simmer for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Do the fork test.  Allow the tongue to cool in the broth.  Remove the tongue once it is cool and peel the skin off.  For goodness sakes, it just peels off.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the broth, strained. 

Cut the peeled tongue into thin 1/4 inch or less (not thicker) slices. 

Now on to the sauce:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno chile, finely chopped (remove or don't remove the seeds)
5 medium tomatoes, diced
pinch of salt - to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet.   Add the onion and saute until lightly browned.  Add the chile and tomatos.  Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, then add the reserved broth.  

Add the tongue slices and simmer for another 10 minutes.  

Remove the slices to a platter and spoon the tomato sauce over top.  Garnish with either chopped parsley or cilantro.  Serve with sandwich rolls. 

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