Cookbook Review: My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson
Fany is an accomplished writer, with two published cookbooks. I am thrilled to provide some insights into her first book, My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats, a 2010 James Beard Award Nominee. Fany pours her spirit into these recipes and provides a personal story for each one. On a personal note, my family used to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Mexico when I was a kid. The recipes and photos in My Sweet Mexico brought back so many memories of those wonderful times. Interestingly, my very favorite thing in the world to eat back then was paletas de chabacano, the handmade apricot popsicles sold in the little bodega across the street from the apartment we rented every year in the heart of the Zona Rosa.
The book is organized beautifully, with helpful information at the front. Fany provides an Ingredients Guide that defines quintessentially Mexican terms, like “azahar,” “tecojotes,” and “mamay.” I learned a lot from the section, “Understanding Coconut.” There is also an Equipment Guide that includes 4 pages of kitchen items you may need. Then come the recipes, which are organized as follows:
Bebidas / Beverages
Dulces de Convento / Sweets from the Convents
Maiz / Corn
Dulces de Ataño / Heirloom Sweets
Pan Dulce / Morning Sweet Breads
Fruta / Fruit
Postres / Desserts
Delicias Heladas / Frozen Treats
Mexico Moderno / Modern Mexico
The hot chocolate recipe in the Bebidas / Beverages section comes with the history of chocolate and a story of murder by cocoa. The Ate de Membrillo / Quince Paste recipe from the convents is something I definitely mean to try. My mother would fill her suitcase with round tins of this sweet confection on the way home every year. In the Maiz / Corn chapter is a recipe for Flan de Elote / Corn Flan. This creamy corn custard recipe is also on my schedule for the next high corn season at the Greenmarkets.
My husband and I are part of a group of neighbors who have dinner together every weekend. We call it Sunday Family Dinner. We all love to cook (although frankly I prefer to eat), and these dinners are a way to focus on friends, fun, and the future. What better way to try out a recipe than at Sunday Family Dinner? I chose to make Jericalla, or “Burnt” Custard. It looked like one of those recipes that seems simple enough but would be fun to make and impressive to present for dessert to this discerning bunch. And I can’t resist a water bath. This recipe is from Guadalajara, and Fany writes about spending two days sleuthing out the recipe for the best jericalla in town. She got some clues and developed this recipe around them.
We were seven at the table, and after everyone had scooped every bit of custard out of their own ramekin, we all demurely ignored the last ramekin of warm, creamy jericalla that rested on the platter. Finally, I said, “Who wants to help me finish off the whole lot?” I managed to duck the barrage of spoons flying towards me and still get one last mouthful of dessert.
I recommend this cookbook very highly because the recipes are so interesting across the board and very easy to follow. Even if you are not a cook, consider My Sweet Mexico as a culinary tour guide across this vast, wonderful country just to the south of New York City.
If you have a burning question, send Fany a tweet at @LaNewyorkina. I bet she’ll get back to you with just the answer you’re looking for.
(The Recipe is below the the photo gallery.) [nggallery id=109]
Recipe: Jericalla / “Burnt” Custard
Summary: Light, Sweet Custard from Guadalajara, Mexico
4 cups whole milk
1 (3-inch) piece “canela” Ceylon cinnamon stick
1/3 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Butter 8 ramekins.
Combine the milk, canela, and sugar in a pot, bring to a boil over medium heat, and remove from the heat.
Let cool for 10 minutes.
Remove and discard the canela.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and then add about 1 cup of the warm milk, whisking continuously.
Return the pot to the stove and add the vanilla and salt.
Place the ramekins in a towel-lined baking dish to prevent them from sliding, and fill them with the custard.
Fill the baking dish about three-fourths of the way up the sides with hot water.
Bake, uncovered, until the tops start to bubble and become dark brown, 25 – 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, remove the ramekins from the baking dish, and let cool to room temperature or chill briefly before serving.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
My rating 5 stars: ★★★★★ 1 review(s)
Microformatting by hRecipe.
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