A Baker’s Dozen: A Rich Mexican Food Heritage

by Dianne Boate

There was a terrible sound from the kitchen, an ominous chorus.  I took another sip of champagne, closed my eyes, and waited for the four folks in the kitchen to report their mischief. These well-meaning individuals had decided to cook up a spaghetti / meat sauce dinner-–(“You won’t have to do a thing, Dianne.”) Dianne wasn’t about to do anything, having cooked and baked her heart out for 12 people at a Stern Grove Concert Consular Corps Table picnic that day.

“Now, nothing is wrecked.  Your herb jars stuck, but the cayenne pepper went free fall into the sauce.”  Unhappily there was more: a person named Jane grabbed the garlic salt and showered everything liberally: the garlic bread, the salad, and the plates of spaghetti. Too upset to speak, more champagne, please, with my naked spaghetti.

Not wanting to waste good ingredients, what to do with the sauce?

As a big believer in Solutions (“I will think of something … hah! a giant pound cake once consumed a whole bottle of sherry to hide a few problems”),  I froze it. Then a new Consular Corps assignment came to entertain the Mexican Consul General. Aha! Empanadas!  Could I camouflage the sauce somehow? I remembered an Irish friend stirring a big pot of corned beef and cabbage, exclaiming about the merits of The Big Potato, helping extract excess salt. Well, why not cayenne pepper?  Yes! It worked, aided by more ground beef, garlic, tomato sauce, raisins, and olives, baked in crust.  Saved again.

Dive into the world of empanadas and a magical kingdom of unlimited combinations surface. This is very good considering you are simply putting a filling in a crust and baking it. I have a cookbook that states any pie crust will do, but in a Gallician Empanada recipe (there are several on the Internet) it was made with yeast, very close to pizza dough. With that in mind, you could buy pizza crust, make up your filling and bake!



For savories, fillings with meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and vegetables; on the sweet side, fruit mixtures, chutney, jam, etc. Based on this, I recently made a terrific empanada with a cheddar cheese crust and apricot chutney inside.



Caramel Cream Cheese Custard a flan without cloying taste of sweetened condensed milk

2/3 cup caramel-flavored ice cream topping poured into buttered (or use baking spray) 9-inch round cake pan, at least 1½ inches deep, set aside

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese at room temperature

½ cup sugar

6 extra large eggs at room temperature ( I use extra large eggs in all my recipes)

2 cups warmed whole milk (Place milk in saucepan, have burner on low, heat just until warmed. For many years I just added cold milk. This caused clumping in the mixing bowl. Warming it first solves that problem.

In a large mixer bowl using whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth; then beat in sugar and vanilla.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth after each addition. Blend in milk at a low speed. Strain into another bowl then carefully pour mixture over caramel topping in pan. Set the cake pan in a larger pan, add about 1 inch boiling water to the outer pan; bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until set in the center.

Cool custard on a cooling rack then refrigerate 2-3 hours. Gently loosen custard from pan edge with a knife.  Place your rimmed serving plate over the custard and quickly flip upside down; spoon over any remaining caramel.  Cover loosely; chill. Serves 6-8.




Presenting, the best Mexican Wedding Cookies of Ms. Lani Boucher from Kitchen On the Hill

She is an extraordinary executive chef in San Francisco that I met years ago, at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.   PHOTO Beautifully wrapped cookies, crunchy with pecans are housed in an attractive box, ideal for your gift giving and eating needs year round. Dangerously delicious. Call quickly! 415 643-3500 or email lanicooks@aol.com.

Finally, my best Mexican flavored adventure: Hiring a Mariachi band by phone as a surprise for a special party in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for my husband, Robert. I asked them to park secretly, quietly walk up a small wooded hill and burst forth in music as they reached the top where the party was.  An extraordinary success. You could do it, too.


Dianne Boate headshot

Dianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area.  Between cake assignments she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at http://www.boatecollection.com.

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