About a week ago I happened to spy My Sweet Mexico on the new book shelf at the library. While there are many titles I await with anticipation, this was one I knew nothing about: but, since I love Mexican food (eating it, anyway–don’t know much about cooking it as you may have noticed) I quickly picked it up. It also appeals to the side of me that, after all, was a Spanish major (though most of my exposure to Spanish these days comes via um, telenovelas).
I am not sure what I was expecting (I sort of nabbed the book in a “drive by” on the way to the circulation desk), but whatever my expectations were, they were exceeded. The book is beautifully put together and lovingly written; it’s my favorite type of cookbook in that it is part travel guide, part social-historical essay, and finally, of course, filled with unique, delicious-looking food.
Then only a few days later I saw an interview with the author, Fany Gerson, over at The Mija Chronicles. It’s an interesting interview–and made me realize how unique this book was; as the author is putting down in writing many recipes that only survive in oral tradition or may even be disappearing.
So what to make first? You may know that this time of year in Mexico is the Dia de los Muertos celebration. So, of course I made pan de muerto!
I made a few alterations to the recipe–rather than measuring out the flour by cups, I used a weighed measure of 4.5 ounces per cup of flour which may not have been enough–my dough turned out quite wet and never completely cleared the sides of the bowl, though it did hold together. However, because the dough is cool while shapes, I figured that that it would be manageable enough to work with (and I didn’t want to over-add flour). I also used 1.75 teaspoons of instant yeast (rather than 2.25 of active rise), especially as I have that special “osmotolerant” yeast that is formulated specially for sweeter, fattier doughs. (Lesley has the full recipe from the book here, no doubt that many versions abound).
Yeah, fattier–this takes a lot of butter, along with a fair helping of whole milk and eggs. Much like a brioche, so we know already it’s going to be good stuff. My favorite part? I loved adding orange blossom water–it lent such a lovely perfume to the entire kitchen, that permeated the air from the moment it was added to the dough Sunday night (heightening the anticipation) through the baking process the next day.
My shaping may leave something to be desired–in part because I’m not so adept at forming bones out of dough, but also because, as I mentioned, my dough was a bit wet. I ended up patching a few pieces of dough together for the bones rather than successfully forming adequately long cylinders of dough. This may have been the reason things got a little funky during the baking process–you can see for yourself that the bones “broke” apart where I had patched things together, and I think they would have held had I shaped them better. Regardless, it puffed up beautifully in the oven (I was a bit shocked at how much, in fact, it did grow) and didn’t affect the taste: slightly sweet, floral, rich yet incredibly light. How can something with so much butter taste so light? It’s one of the great mysteries of baking!