Alfajores

It’s right around the corner.  Christmas is knocking on our doors.  It’s coming to me without family, snow or a big Christmas tree.  When it comes down to it, what does Christmas mean to you?  I’m learning that it doesn’t always have to have snow.  There’s only a small percentage of the world that gets snow for Christmas if snow at all, so Christmas can’t be all about snow.  And our North American traditions are lost on the Peruvians down here.  I even played some Vincent Guaraldi – Charlie Brown music and my Peruvian friend, Sammy, asked, “Is this Christmas music?”

Chad has Slingbox, so on Thanksgiving we were able to watch football, and I was so sad when I saw that stores were opening at 9 o’clock that evening to start “Black Friday.”  Really, consumerism is consuming the hearts of many across the map.  It makes me think of 1 John 2:14-17.  I think sometimes Christians can come off as hippies, but truth be told, it’s all about love.

For me, Christmas is all about love.  That’s why we give presents, not because it’s a big excuse to spend money on things we want, but there’s a big ball of love backed-up behind that gift.  It reflects what we celebrate on Christmas.  It’s Christ’s birth and the love our Father has shown us by taking form of man and living amongst us.

I love baking, and in turn, love baking for other people.  This year I decided to make something for the people that I’m coming to know as friends and who are coming to know Christ as their Savior.  I actually felt the love pouring out of my hands into these cookies.

These cookies are easy to make.  And they are a true Peruvian/Latin American classic.  They are everywhere in street-vendors’ stands.  They are called alfajores (ahl-fah-hor-ehs (accent is on the -hor- syllable)).  They are shortbread type of cookies made into caramel sandwiches.  They are buttery, flaky, caramelly, GOODNESS!  WARNING: You will need to eat over the table, sink, or plate.

I wrapped these little cookies into stacks with cellophane and strings and will be playing Santa and will deliver these little sweets to my contacts today.  I hope it’s not too late for you to try this for your friends.

What cookies are you making this year?!

Alfajores

Indredients
2 cups flour – sifted
1/4 cup powdered sugar – sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces and softened to room temp
1 1/2 cup condensed milk OR dulce de leche

Alright, so like I said, it looks easy right?  It is!  And it works perfectly at high altitudes because, ♪ duh duh duuuuuh ♪♪ it’s got absolutely no leavening.  Love it.

The reason I say condensed milk or dulce de leche is that you can make your own dulce de leche (which down here is not called dulce de leche, but manjar (mahn-hahr)).  Go here to get the low-down.  If you make your own you will want to start this first.

Put your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and with a fork whisk them together so it’s all evenly incorporated.  Then start putting pieces of butter into the mixture and begin to cut it in.  I actually didn’t even measure my butter, I just cut it in until it formed a smooth, unsticky dough.  When it can form easily into a ball, that’s when you’ve put in the right amount of butter.  You may have to use your hands at one point to sort of knead in the drier parts that won’t mix easily.

Note: This is kind of like pie dough, so if you haven’t guessed it already, you can use a food processor.  Now, if I had a food processor you wouldn’t think this blog would be called The Handicapped Kitchen, do you?!  Go here to find detailed instructions on using a food processor for this recipe.

Once your dough is made put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and take the dough out of the fridge.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness.  You can use whatever you want to cut out the shapes.  I used a cup and some Christmas shaped cookie-cutters.  This recipe calls for a 2″ round cookie cutter to make about 16-18 cookies.  If you double the recipe like I did you can make the same amount of 3″ or 4″ sized cups.  

Place the cut dough onto a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and firm.  Take out of the oven and let sit for five minutes before transferring to cooling rack or towel.

Let cool for 25 minutes so they are completely cool.  Then you can start making the sandwiches by spreading the dulce de leche/manjar on your pieces and… well do I really have to tell you how to make sandwiches?!

Voila!  You have delicious cookies to share with your friends and family.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Maicillos – Cornstarch Cookies

“You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone,” is not a phrase that stands true only for hot-shot guys who take their women for granted.  It’s true for many occasions.

Do you have a favorite season?  Mine used to be Spring, only because my birthday was in Spring.  But then, I went to Costa Rica during my Junior Fall Semester of college and I missed Autumn.  I was going mad, calling my parents telling them to send me really, honest-to-goodness, authentic autumn leaves.  I need to smell them and crunch them in my hands.  When I got back from C.R. and the next year came around I found that Autumn was my favorite season.

Well, now I’m in a real pickle.  My whole equilibrium is out of wack.  I’ve missed every Northern Hemisphere season.  I’m in danger of having four favorite seasons.  And right now it’s winter I’m missing.  Has it snowed yet?!  I don’t even really want to know… because I’m madly missing winter.  I had never missed a winter until these two years.  It’s been two years since I’ve walked out into the cold and felt my nose hairs instantly freeze to each other.  It’s been two years since I’ve held a snowball.  It’s been two years since I’ve heard the crunch of dry snow under my feet.  It’s been two years since I’ve fallen on ice.  It’s been two years since I’ve spent Christmas with my family.  Ohhhhhh, you never thought you’d hear me say it… but I miss everything about snow from watching it fall ever-so softly from the heavens to the adrenaline-filled drives on black ice.  Could someone send me a box of snow?

There is no snow here… even though it’s cold enough sometimes to actually have snow.  You would think being in Peru it wouldn’t be cold, but then I’d give you a swift slap to the face and remind you… I’m at 12,000 ft.  There are nice days too, though.  And on one such nice day the team went out to Sillustani.

 I’m the guy on the far right whose eyebrows unfortunately look like they were misplaced or shaven off.  I’ll tell you though, I have eyebrows.  That sun is such a prankster!  I’ll let you read about Sillustani here.

I had been asked to do a post on a typical dessert in Peru.  It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now too, so being asked was the extra push that led me to Maicillos.

Maicillos’ name comes from maiz which means corn in Spanish.  The corn influence in this recipe is from the maizena… or cornstarch!  I’ve seen other recipes that call for cornstarch in cookies and call them melting cookies.  They really do seem to melt in your mouth.

And here’s something I’d like you to see from the culture.

Say you’re fat.  The people are going to tell you so.  Oh, they’ll say “Hey little fatty!”  And they won’t blink twice.  Say you have a mole on your forehead you’re a little self-conscience about.  Forget forgetting about it, they’ll remind you it’s there.  Say you’re white or black, they’ll say so!  Negrita is a common household product brand and it means “little black lady.”  It’s striking in the name alone, but with it’s logo it was rather offending to the us, the North Americans.

Back to cookies… These maicillos are typically made around Halloween for Todos los Santos (All-Saints Day).  But, I’m bringing them to you a little late.  Oops.  As a side-note, I believe these cookies to be best the day after!

Maicillos

1 1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp clove
6 tbsp butter or shortening
egg yolks
1 tbsp vodka
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

In a bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.  Then cut in the butter/shortening until it seems even.  It’s not going to look like pie crust dough, the butter/shortening will get pretty lost in all the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and put in all the wet ingredients.  It will seem hard for the dough to come together.  You may have to add 2-4 tbsp of milk to get it to come together into a ball.

 Break off pieces of the dough with floured hands and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Then, smash them flat in the palm of your hands and place on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Note: you do want to smash them down pretty thin.

Then put them in the oven and let bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Pull them out of the oven and remove carefully from the cookies sheet lest ye break them and have to eat hot cookies that burn your tongue.  I speak from experience.

Voila!  You have a Peruvian cookie.  Enjoy!

Measuring By Displacement

How do you measure butter?  Or better yet, shortening?  Do you just depend on those little lines printed on the side of your butter stick?  Well, what if you don’t have that option?  Here’s a quick lesson on how my mother taught me to measure volume by displacement of water.  Wha… what’s displacement?  You know when you fill up your bathtub with water and when you slip on in… well, that’s displacement!  The basic idea is to measure your greasy substance that’s simply difficult to get in and out of a measuring cup by putting it in water.  I use this technique for measuring: butter, shortening, peanut butter, aaaaaaaaany thing fatty.

You’ll need a normal measuring cup…

To start you need to fill your measuring cup to a base level of water.  I usually fill it up to 1 cup.  Now, it has to be to a specific measuring point.  That’s how you’re going to measure.

Then you put your shortening, or whatever it is you’re using, in the water until the water level rises to your specified amount.  For example, in this case I needed about 6 tbsp shortening.  I started out with 1 cup of water.  Now, there are 4 tbsp in a 1/4 cup so 2 more tbsp would put it at just a little more over 1/4 cup.  In this situation, I wasn’t able to make an exact measurement, but normally recipes call for measurements in cups.  So, anyway, I put my shortening into the water until the level rose to a little over the 1 1/4 cup line.  You are practically eliminating the 1 cup of water that you put in from the total measurement in the cup.

So, there you have it!  Displacement is that easy!  And I think it’s the best way to measure out shortening.  I hope this helps.  If you have questions, just ask.

Update and DSLR Giveaway

How unfortunate!  Mondays are my baking/THK creation day, but this Monday we had no running water in the house.  Sooooo, baking wasn’t an option.  Peru has a great reputation for never being reliable.  What’s that you say?  You need to get to work?  Well, I’m sorry.  There’s a strike today and you can’t get to work.  There’s broken glass all over the roads, so you couldn’t get there even if you had your own car.  Or what’s that?  Oh you’re hungry!  Well, everything’s closed because a local school is celebrating their anniversary and everyone is dancing in the streets.  SORRY!

Well, that’s really the worst of my bad news.  Thanksgiving was great, though I did get sick because I ate too much Sweet Potato Casserole.  We thankfully had turkey for dinner.  We were really nervous because we couldn’t find any ANYWHERE!  But, just two days before Thanksgiving we found one.

This is NOT my personal giveaway…

But, I’m sure what you’re really here for is this DSLR giveaway.  Again, I’m not personally giving away this camera.  I’m referring you to the folks over at  Photo Weekly.  Head over there to get more details.  The photo is linked above too.  The shindig ends on December 31, 2011… BUT it only works if they’re Twitter account gets up to 5000 followers!  So, you have to have to HAVE TO follow these guys on Twitter or we’re all left twiddling our thumbs!  OKAY!  Now, GO GO GO!  Let’s make this happen!  And tell everyone you know!

Other than that… how was your Thanksgiving?

Monkey Bread

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving!  What are you thankful for?  Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything.  In the States, we take everything for granted.  I don’t even mean material things either.  As I go through my list of things I’m thankful for (my family, my family away from family, my relationship with God, this blog and the joy it brings me, seeing people’s lives change before my eyes, the lessons I’m learning about relationships) I realize that very few of them are material!  What are you thankful for?  Think hard now!  Don’t tell me something like… my car.  Pshh.  What are you really thankful for that if you didn’t have you would be a different person or seriously altered?

Now, secondly, aren’t traditions lovely?  When I have a family I want to make lots of traditions for my kids. I wanna have pancakes on weekends, birthday donuts, birthday week, cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, hot chocolate at midnight on Christmas eve, fireworks on Christmas Eve!  There’s something special about having that connection with a particular time of year.  Oh I LOVE traditions.  My parents didn’t do a whole lot of traditions for Thanksgiving or Christmas, which I think is sad.  And the things that we did used to do all the time we don’t do anymore… because my mom is getting more relaxed.  “Come on Mom!  Let’s make some Christmas cookies.”  “No Trev, it’s too much work.”  Pooooo!

In Chad and Amanda’s family it was a tradition to make Monkey Bread for Thanksgiving breakfast.  It’s now my future family tradition as well.

What are some of your holiday or yearly traditions?  I need to know!  My future family depends upon it!

Monkey Bread

Dough
1/2 pound mashed potato (russet)
1 cup warm milk (110F)
1/3 cup warm water (110 F)
2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) yeast
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp salt

Sugar coat
1 cup white sugar
2-3 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cup butter

Sauce
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk

How this baby is done

Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside.

Melt your butter for the dough in the microwave.  Put in a mixing bowl the warm water (110 F) and dissolve the yeast.  Let sit 5 minutes or until foamy.  If you’re yeast didn’t foam you may have killed it with too hot of water, or your yeast is dead (to learn more about yeast go here).  Then mix in the warm milk, melted butter, mashed potato, and 1/4 cup sugar.  I add potato because it gives it an incredible moist factor!  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and salt and then slowly mix in the milk mixture into the flour mixture.  If the dough isn’t coming together mix in 2 to 4 tbsp more of flour.  Turn out onto a floured surface and work in a little bit more flour. Form the dough into a ball and put into a greased dish.  Cover and place in a warm area.  I turned on the oven on 400 F for a few minutes and then turned it off and put my dough in there.  Let rise for 50-60 minutes so it’s double in size.

Take your dough out of the greased  bowl and cut into four pieces.  Then cut those pieces into 16 pieces each (you should have 64 pieces).  Melt the 1 3/4 cup butter in a bowl in the microwave.  In a separate bowl mix together the 1 cup sugar and cinnamon so it’s equally distributed.  Then roll the dough pieces into little balls, dip them in the butter and then roll them in the sugar mix you made.  Then, put these into the bundt pan and let rise another 50-60 minutes.  They may rise almost over the pan.

While the dough is rising again, get the sauce ready.  Melt the two sticks of butter and then add the 1/2 cup brown sugar and work that together over medium high heat until they become one.  When the dough is done rising, pour this magic juice evenly over the dough.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Then get that bread in there.  Let bake for 30-40 minutes or until nice and brown on top.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes and then plop that baby on out onto your serving platter.

Whip up real quick that glaze with a whisk.  Just whisk together the milk and powdered sugar til there aren’t any lumps.  I also added a 3/4 tsp of vanilla to this.  That gave it a little extra flavor.  Yumm!  Then drizzle this over your monkey bread.

You’re supposed to serve this warm and gooey.  I’d have to agree that is the best way to serve this.  Good luck!  And don’t forget to let me know what your family traditions are! Aaaand don’t forget to LIKE me on Facebook.  www.facebook.com/thkblog

https://thehandicappedkitchen.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/alive-or-dead-how-to-proof-your-yeast/

Buttermilk Cornbread

Thursdays are a pretty good day.  For one, it’s the day I get to come home and sleep in my own real bed after spending the night out in Ilave on a mattress on the floor.  Secondly, I get to spend time with a family that’s heart is being touched by God’s hand daily.  Seeing their growth is humbling and a reminder for why I’m here.  Thirdly, two Thursdays from now it will be… (drumroll please)… The Handicapped Kitchen’s One Year Anniversary!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I’ve started this blog.  In another year, I will be at home with my family celebrating Thanksgiving together.  That’s a lovely thought, and also something that keeps me moving forward.

I assume that what you are here for is this buttermilk cornbread.  I will admit, I had never had homemade cornbread until I came here to Peru.  Before this, it was always Jiffy cornbread mixes, which even after having homemade cornbread, retain their high-status as da-bomb.

This cornbread is what Amanda, our house-mother, makes on just about every single Sunday.  One time, she added about double the butter by accident and the result was pretty much pre-butter pieces of cornbread.  Not a bad mistake.  Amanda… how do I explain who she is.  She and Chad are our support parents.  They take care of finances and more logistical stuff as the rest of us go out to work.  You can check out her blog at http://www.arosetta.blogspot.com/  So, along side of her very busy days, Amanda makes dinner for us four times a day.  She’s the real hero in the kitchen here!  She’s in the handicapped kitchen more than I am.  Give Amanda a thanks for all her hard work!

And really, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, this is the perfect thing to shove somewhere into the oven along side the turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, dinner rolls… oh dear, it seems you might have to buy a super-wide oven.  This bread is moist and still has that awesome cornbread denseness that I love.  Give this a try!  And like The Handicapped Kitchen on Facebook while you’re at it!

Here’s the recipe

Buttermilk Cornbread
from Allrecipes

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease the pan.
Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Like Me On Facebook!

Hey THKers!

Come and like me on Facebook!  I mean, that doesn’t mean you have to marry me, but if it’s your goal to have a man in the house who likes to bake delicious sweets, cleans the house when he’s bored and likes to take long walks on the beach then maybe we were a match made in heaven.  If not, we can still be a match made on Facebook!

I wish I had some kind of cool prize to offer the first 100 people to like my page, but I live in Peru and the chances of something getting to your front door from here to there are slim to none, and honestly, if I have to bribe you to like my page then this was probably never love in the first place, right?  I mean, who are we kidding, you are only going to marry me because I bake!  Oh right, we’re talking about Facebook.  Nevermind!

Go here, www.facebook.com/thkblog and click “Like” just because you LOVE this site and want to get updates in your Newsfeed.