Friday, July 10, 2009

The Best Cuban Food!!!

You know when people ask you the question what is your favorite food or what could you eat for the rest of your life? I used to always have to think about it for a little bit because I like variety sometimes and sometimes I don't. I usually say whatever my mom/grandmother would make but now I add to that mix what my husband's mom/grandmother make.

My husbands' family is from Cuba and his grandmother makes some of the best Cuban food (well to me THE best) out there. I am a very happy camper whenever we get to have something she makes. I think the one that is on the top of every one's list (after her black beans of course) are her croquettes. Oh do we all get excited when we hear that is what we are having for dinner. It is not something you get every day and we even once went a couple of years without them.

This month Mike's grandmother happens to be visiting my in-laws and I am determined to get her to teach me all the recipes we love. I just thought it was important to learn a little more of my husband's culture and to preserve the recipes we love. So of course I started with the most important of them all...the croquettes!!!

I think it was last Monday my husband was talking to his mom and she asked if I wanted to come over this week to learn the croquettes. Well let me think a I have to wait until tomorrow to come. Needless to say I was super excited to go over there this week for my first Cuban cooking lesson from the master

I am not authorized to give out any details of what goes into the recipe because it is a family secret. Believe me if I was allowed to give it out I would because I took pictures of the whole process from beginning to end. Mostly for myself because Mama doesn't cook using is a little bit of this and what you need to around out that...mixed with years and years of experience. I figured if I took pictures of what we did I would have a reference point to go back too.

The finished croquette mixture before shaping.
We made them on Tuesday and Mama was going to shape them on Wednesday. Tomorrow we are going to go back to cook and eat them. I always knew the reason we don't get this too often is because it is a long processes. After making them with her and I only did one part you realize how much time goes into them. I think this is like one of the traditional some families have where everyone gathers around to make Chinese dumplings or raviolis or something like that.

Croquettes shaped and fried

I wanted to bring something back with us tomorrow to go with our meal so I decided to try my hand at making Cuban Bread. I did some looking around online and found a bunch of recipes. I decided to start with the one that is on the King Arthur Flour website first. Mostly because I have baked a lot of their recipes before and never have problems.

Finished bread cooling off.
Pan Cubano
King Arthur Flour

4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter; or 3 tablespoons fresh lard, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) water

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. Gently fold the dough in upon itself and turn it upside-down after 30 minutes; this "turn" helps eliminate some of the excess carbon dioxide and redistributes the yeast's food, both imperative for optimum yeast growth.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as directed at left, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise, with a turn, as directed above.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients into the pan of your machine, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. Examine the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle, and adjust its consistency with additional water or flour as needed, to produce a smooth, supple dough. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.

Divide the dough into six pieces, and shape each piece into a rough log. Let the logs rest for 15 minutes, covered, then shape each piece into a smooth batard shape (a log about 8 inches long, slightly tapered at each end). Place the loaves on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet.

Let the loaves rise, covered, for 1 hour. Brush or spray them with water, and slash one long lengthwise slit down the middle of each loaf. Preheat the oven to 375°F while the loaves are rising. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until it's golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool it on a rack. The loaves may be made one day in advance and stored at room temperature, or several weeks in advance and frozen. Yield: 6 sandwich loaves.

Review: I have to say that this is very good bread and sort of reminds me a little bit of french bread. I made it the way it said to in the recipe to make 6 sandwich loaves but next time I might try to make 3 bigger ones or maybe smaller round ones. This would make excellent bread for Cuban sandwiches which if you click on the link above to King Arthur's website for the recipe has how to make the sandwich there. I can't wait until tomorrow to get the real vote if this is a keeper or not...but for me it is!

Update: Everyone LOVED the bread it came out really yummy. It is definitely a keeper and I just need to perfect the shape of it. The best compliment that I got from Papa was that it would go perfect with his Cafe con Leche.


Heidi said...

Save some for me!!

noblecita said...

This looks fantastic! I just finished lunch and you've made me hungry again :-)


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