Friday, July 20, 2012

Alfajores: Traditional Peruvian Dessert

Finished and ready to serve!
I don't know about you but I am a big fan of trying new foods, especially those in the dessert category. Since I love trying new foods and I like to bake I recently had a get together with some of my Peruvian friends and they taught me how to bake some traditional Peruvian desserts. Today I am going to share with you how to make Alfajores which is two cookies sandwiched together with manjar blanco, a type of carmel sauce. If you are anything like me you prefer making everything from scratch so in this recipe I will provide two methods to make the manjar blanco, also known as dulce de leche, so that you too can prepare this dessert from scratch from start to finish.

In order to complete this recipe you will need a mixer, mixing bowl, cookie sheets, rolling pin, cooling racks, a round 2-inch cookie cutter, and the following ingredients: 

  • 1 stick of butter or margarine 
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 2 cups manjar blanco
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
First off mix together the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl until well mixed. While mixing these ingredients go ahead and turn the oven on to 350 degrees F (180 C) so that the oven can heat up. 
Next add in the egg and vanilla and mix till it is nice and smooth.
Continue by adding in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix until the dough is nice and firm. Next form a ball with dough and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4 of an inch thick. To do this it is helpful to sprinkle flour on your surface you are rolling the dough on so that it does not get stuck. 
Use your cookie cutter to make your cookie cut outs and put them on your cookie sheets. Depending on whether your pan is non-stick or not you may need to spray it so that your cookies do not stick to the pan. Put the cookies in the oven and let them cook for about 12 minutes until they are nice and golden. Let the cookies sit for about two minutes after taking them out of the oven and then put them on cooling racks. 
Finally once the cookies have cooled apply a generous amount of manjar blanco to half of the cookies and sandwich them with another cookie. If you prefer you can wipe the edges of the cookies when they are done so they do not have any oozing carmel on the sides. To top off the cookie sprinkle powdered sugar over them and serve to your guests!

Manjar Blanco Recipe

There are three ways you can come about getting your manjar blanco for your alfajores: buy prepared manjar blanco (dulce de leche) at the store, prepare it in the oven with sweetened condensed milk, or prepare it on the stove with whole milk. Feel free to use whichever method you like depending on your time availability and your cooking skills. 

In order to prepare the manjar blanco with sweetened condensed milk take a look at this recipe and it gives the step by step process. All you will need is a can of sweetened condensed milk, a pie pan, tin foil, a larger pan that the pie pan will fit into, water, and the oven. 

To prepare the manjar blanco with whole milk on the stove follow this recipe and it will set you up to have a delicious carmel sauce! For this recipe you will need 1 liter of whole milk, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 shredded vanilla bean (or 1 tsp of vanilla), and 1 tbsp glucose. 

Overall I hope you enjoy this recipe and share it with your friends and family. If you have Facebook please join our page and share your experiences of preparing this recipe as well as others on this website. Please take photos of your cooking/baking experiences as well and share them on the Facebook page! Enjoy your baking! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pollo al Maní: Peanut Chicken

Ready to dig in!

If you are anything like me you absolutely love peanuts and anything with a peanut flavor. If you feel the same about peanuts then you will definitely enjoy this recipe for Pollo al Maní which is a traditional Peruvian peanut sauce chicken dish. Since peruvians are not big peanut butter eaters, like many people are in the United States, this dish was one of my first tastes of peanuts in Peru and I was pleasantly surprised by the rich taste of the peanut sauce! Also if you are looking for other peanut recipes you can check out my previous blog Peanut Passions!

In order to prepare this delicious dish you will need a large cooking pot to prepare the main dish, a medium pot to prepare potatoes, a rice cooker for the rice, a blender to prepare the peanuts and the following ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tsp of garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of roasted peanuts
  • 5 potatoes (served in halves)
  • 10 portions of chicken 
  • 10 portions of rice 
  • Water
First off turn your burner onto high and add the oil and minced onion into your large pot. As the oil begins to boil stir the onions and add in the garlic and pepper. Let these ingredients cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring and then add in 1 liter of water (about 4 1/4 cups). Once the liquid comes to a boil add in your chicken and salt and let the chicken cook for the amount of time necessary based on what type of chicken you are using. 
Chicken cooking before adding in peanut sauce.
While waiting for the chicken to cook go ahead and prepare your potatoes and rice. Typically Peruvians use a yellow variety of potato but any kind will do. 

Also while waiting for the chicken to cook prepare the peanuts by putting the contents into a blender on high until they are well chopped. Once your peanuts are chopped to the point where the blender just keeps spinning and the peanuts do not move around go ahead and add 1 1/4 cups of water in order to turn the peanuts into a smooth and liquid consistency. 
Preparing the peanut sauce.
Once your chicken is cooked add in the peanut sauce and continue to cook for about 15 minutes until more of the water has evaporated out of the pot to leave a delicious peanut chicken dish! 
Adding the peanut sauce to the chicken.
This is about the consistency when the dish is finished.
Finally serve the dish with a portion or rice for each person with the chicken and peanut sauce dished over top and half a potato on the side. If you like you can also serve up your favorite salad to add in some vegetables to your meal. 

As always I hope you thoroughly enjoy your time preparing this dish and I hope your friends and family love the taste of this traditional peruvian meal! If you do prepare this dish please share your experience with everyone by writing a comment below and/or writing a comment on the Facebook group where you can also post a picture of your final plate! Thanks for reading this post and enjoy your culinary adventures!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ají de Gallina

I am beginning to wrap up my time in Peru but that means it is time to ramp up my cooking adventures! Today was my host dad's birthday and so we had the extended family over to the house for lunch. Since there were lots of people coming over to the house Lucy and I cooked all throughout the morning in order to prepare a delicious lunch for the family! Today we prepared Ají de Gallina which is a very common Peruvian dish. Besides the Ají de Gallina we also prepared a vegetable soup, rice, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, pudding, and a emolliente beverage. Since I am a big ají lover, and I always eat chicken, this was a great dish for me to learn! 

I did some quick research about the origins of Ají de Gallina and it looks as though it comes from a mixture of Peruvian and French influence. The roots are said to come from after the French Revolution when many chefs were trying to find work and some ended up in Peru working for wealthy Criollo families. Since the French did not have the same spices and ingredients they used their knowledge to fix up meals using traditional Peruvian ingredients. One thing that emerged from these chefs was Ají de Gallina, a meal mixing the popular ají pepper from Peru and the French influence of garlic, cheese, and olives. 

In this blog entry I am going to share with you how to prepare the main course of the meal which was the Ají de Gallina. First of all you will need a blender, rice cooker (or a large pot to cook rice), a large cooking pot, a medium/large cooking pot, and a crock pot if you have one. Also you will need the following ingredients:

  • 4/5 chicken breasts (about 1.5-1.75 lbs.)
  • 6 ají peppers
  • 3 potatoes (often times Peruvians use yellow potatoes but use what you enjoy)
  • 3 eggs
  • Rice for 6
  • 1/2 loaf of wonder bread (or 6 unsweetened rolls)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 can of evaporated milk (this is about 400 grams or 1 cup)
  • 4 tbsp. grated parmesan 
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • Olives
First off if you have a crock pot I would suggest putting the chicken breasts in the crock pot in the morning and leave them there till you are ready for dinner. Overall you want your chicken cooked so that it can be shredded so for me this would be the easiest way. If you don't have time to wait for you chicken to cook in the crock pot then you can boil the chicken until it is cooked to the point that you can shred it with your fingers. Then once the chicken is ready you will put it to the side and prepare the rest of the dish. 
Boiled chicken
Next you will want to start preparing 3 potatoes in a medium sized cooking pot. Depending on how long your potatoes normally take to cook you can also put 3 eggs in the pot to prepare boiled eggs at the same time in order to reduce the number of pots and pans needed. Generally when eating this dish each person gets a half of a potato and half of a boiled egg so for this reason I am saying three of each because this recipe should cook for about six. If you like your eggs and potatoes than go ahead and prepare one for each person. At the same time as the potatoes and eggs are cooking you should start cooking rice for 6 people as well. 
Boiling the yellow potatoes 
As your rice, potatoes and eggs are cooking start to prepare your sauce by turning your burner on high and mixing the oil, garlic paste, and pepper. Let these ingredients cook for a minute or two while preparing your ají. You will need to wash, slice, and deseed your ají and put them in the blender with about 1/4 a cup of water. Rather then using fresh water use some of the broth from the chicken in order to enhance the taste. Once your broth and ají are in the blender mix well for about 30 seconds and then add the mixture in with the oil, garlic, and pepper. Continue to mix these ingredients until most of the water has evaporated and then you will add the next ingredients. 
Ají peppers
Most of the moisture is gone so time to add the bread mixture.
Once most of the water has evaporated you will need to add your bread mixture. Since you will need to blend your bread it is better if you soak the bread in water first and then wring out the water before adding the bread into the blender. Once you have done so put the bread in the blender and add 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth, from the pot with your chicken, into the blender and mix well. You may need to do this in two batches, thus use up to one cup of broth per time. Once your mixture is well blended add it to the ají sauce. 
Bread dipped in water and wrung out and ready to go in the blender.
Continue to stir the ají and bread mixture for 15-20 minutes and then add your salt and evaporated milk. Again you will stir the mixture for about 5 minutes and then take the pot off the heat and add in the parmesan cheese. 
Adding evaporated milk.
Adding parmesan cheese.
Next you will need to chop up your pecans and add them into the sauce as well. 
Mixing in the chopped pecans.
Finally shred your chicken and add it into the mixture and stir everything together. 
Stirring in the shredded chicken. 
To serve give each person a portion of rice, half or whole egg and potato, and then put your ají sauce over top of your rice. If you like olives you can also add an olive to each place. 

When you are all done serve to your family, friends, or whoever is nearby and watch as their faces light up as they eat your delicious Ají de Gallina! 

Well I hope you enjoyed this recipe and I hope you will share it with your friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other social media sites you use. If you do make this dish please put a photo of your final plate on the Facebook page for everyone to see! Also if you are currently abroad studying in another country and would like to submit a blog entry please leave a comment below or on the Facebook page so I can get in contact with you! Thanks again and enjoy your culinary adventures!