Sequillos - An Asturian Cookie of Love

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We love to travel, and try to do it as often as possible.  We love exploring the sights, sounds and flavors of places that are full of life.  We recently returned from a 12 day trek through the northern part of Spain. What a glorious part of the country. Mountainous and green.  Fresh air and beauty abound. The views are more spectacular than any lens can capture, but I did my best.  And in those 12 days, we saw, did and tasted a lot but there is still so much more to see, do and taste. We thoroughly enjoyed every inch of our tour through the north. However, the absolute, truly most special part of this trip was when we stayed with our dear friends, Marcos and Angelica in Marcos' hometown of Amieva, Asturias.  What an enormous treat.  An adventure like no other.   

Beauty which ever way you turn.

Beauty which ever way you turn.

This tiny town of 200 people is tucked away high in the mountains and provides picturesque views from every angle. I promise I will be writing more about our entire trip and the special time at their home and all the unbelievably delicious food we were treated to. Today I want to focus on a simple little cookie that grabbed my husband's heart.  And when something grabs hold of him that he enjoys, I do what I can to ensure he gets grabbed again.  Knowing how much he loved eating these tiny bite sized treats with his espresso, I asked Marisa, a local to the town and chef of the house, to fork over the recipe. As with everything she did, she did so with "alegria”.

Sofia looking on as Maria sifts the flour and Marisa mixes the dough.

Sofia looking on as Maria sifts the flour and Marisa mixes the dough.

These cookies couldn't be easier to make. Much less work than any of the more labor intensive cookies I bake for Christmas. So, here it is.  From Marisa in Amieva, Asturias to me in Hartsdale, NY to you, wherever you may be.

I snapped a few shots of the lovely María and Marisa making yet another batch since every time they made them, these not too sweet but really satisfying cookies disappeared.

(That's something I loved about the style of living there.  It was no big deal to just whip up another batch of anything.  No worries...we'll make more!)

A tiny side note; another thing I loved about the original house -  the big kitchen. I loved how everyone was in it. Making stuff, prepping stuff, snacking, drinking and chatting.  Oh, if only I had a kitchen this big and ample to gather all my loved ones.  This tugged at my heart every time I stepped into it.

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Maxi and Sofia making fresh orange juice while the sequillos are being made further down this long kitchen work space

Maxi and Sofia making fresh orange juice while the sequillos are being made further down this long kitchen work space

A dream of a space where everyone could wander in, sit down or participate in the festivities.  I can dream, can't I?

Back to Marisa's setup and making of the cookies.

Marisa's set up in Amieva.

Marisa's set up in Amieva.

Sifting the flour.

Sifting the flour.

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And now the details of how to make them.

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ingredients

600 gr (2.5 c + 1 heaping T) flour
2 eggs
250 gr (1 c)  sugar
250 gr (1/2 lb) butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp heaping baking powder
5 T Anís or Anisette
(I used Vermouth because it was all I had.)

 

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and make a hole in the middle. Then add eggs, (cooled) melted butter and Anís in the middle.  Begin to combine all ingredients together until it forms a dough. Taking small pieces, form a round shape (approximately 1.5" w x 1/2" thick) and place in tiny cupcake papers to make them the traditional way.  

My dough

My dough

Marisa's cute little cookies in cupcake holders.

Marisa's cute little cookies in cupcake holders.

Since I like finding ways that are not only efficient, time saving but help make each one look consistent, I rolled the dough out and used a cookie cutter.  However, I should have made them thicker like Marisa's. So, definitely make yours at least 1/2" thickness. (Not as thin as mine below.)

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If you are using the cupcake papers, just place them on a baking sheet.  If not, then line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place each cookie at least 1" apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.

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Mine, a bit flatter, wider but still tasty.

Mine, a bit flatter, wider but still tasty.

Marisa's, gorgeous, chunkier ones.

Marisa's, gorgeous, chunkier ones.

Once they cool down, place them on cute plate or stack up on cake stand.  Well, the serving device might not matter because they may not last long before you need to make another batch.  

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Thanks to Marcos and Angelica for sharing the joys of their home, family, friends and traditions with us.  So I could bring this little treasure back for you from the mountain tops of Spain. The simple but delicious, simply delicious Sequillos. Que disfruten!  (Enjoy!)

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Cream Puff -What Did You Call Me?

Cream Puffs have been a part of my life for a long, long time.  My mom has been making them ever since I can remember.  Quite honestly, since she always made them, I never did.  That was until a caterer friend of mine hired me to bake for one of her clients.  One of the orders was for 100 mini cream puffs.  Thus began the start of MY cream puff making. 

First,  a little culinary lesson for those who may not be familiar with these little, light puffs. The pastry used for cream puffs is called pate a choux.  Yup, just like a lot of good pastry, it's French.  This is a very specific type of pastry that when baked at a high temperature puffs up with a crispy but tender exterior and hollow interior.  This creates the perfect pocket to fill with any type of stuffing you can imagine.  The classic fillings are a vanilla pastry cream for the traditional cream puff or ice cream drizzled with chocolate, which are known as profiteroles.

Because experience whether good or bad always serves, here's a bit of valuable info and full disclosure.  My first attempt at making cream puffs was a complete disaster.  They turned out like portobello mushrooms.  And when I say portobello, I mean large, flat and blackish brown. How did that happen, you ask? Ha, I certainly asked myself that same question.  So what do you do when you need answers to life questions? Call your mom. Which is what I did. She explained that the choux pastry is very delicate and temperature has a huge effect on it.  Well, there you have it, my answer in spades.  I had been baking for 9 solid hours to fulfill the catering order and the kitchen was piping hot. Worse possible scenario for this recipe. However, this was a great lesson that yielding an enlightening tip which I am now passing along to you. I recovered that day by turning off the ovens, letting the kitchen cool down and starting from scratch at 10pm so I could fulfill the order. I have been making these tasty little puffs perfectly ever since.

Here is the basic recipe for pate a choux.  (Don't let the amount of photos make you think this is hard.  It's not.  I just loved some the images and also wanted to show some of the steps.)

 INGREDIENTS

Yields approx. 44
(2" puffs)

  • 1 c water

  • 1 stick butter

  • 1 c flour

  • pinch of salt

  • 4 Lg. eggs

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the butter in water then add the salt and flour. Take pot off the heat and stir until the mixture comes together in a ball.  Let the mixture cool slightly and add one egg at a time.  I use a wooden spoon to combine but you can also use a hand mixer.  

Butter melting in water

Butter melting in water

Add flour

Add flour

Stir quickly to bring together

Stir quickly to bring together

One egg at a time

One egg at a time

When you add the egg the dough will separate. Not to worry.  Keep stirring it until it combines, and it will combine. Then add the next egg.  Continue until all eggs are incorporated.

Notice how the pastry seems to get gloppy. Just keep stirring.

Notice how the pastry seems to get gloppy. Just keep stirring.

For quickness, ease and to make the puffs all the same size, I have found that using a piping bag is the best method. Fill the bag and squeeze out the size you desire.  My mom makes hers on the larger size.  I make mine smaller.  If you don't want to use a piping bag, you can use two small spoons to dollop the pastry onto a greased baking sheet.  

Spoon into piping bag. You can also use a large plastic bag and cut the corner off.

Spoon into piping bag. You can also use a large plastic bag and cut the corner off.

Traditionally, cream puffs are not fluted like seen here, but this was the piping tip I had so I used it. It makes them pretty so why not.

Traditionally, cream puffs are not fluted like seen here, but this was the piping tip I had so I used it. It makes them pretty so why not.

Two important notes.  Try to make them as close to the same size as possible so they will cook evenly, as well as they look nice when you present them for dessert.  Consistency in size really ups the level of presentation in anything you serve, especially in baking.  Second; swirl the top so as to not create a long tip or tail, since it will burn.  If you do get a little tip, wet your finger with some water and dab the tip down.

 

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Bake for 10 minutes at 450, the lower the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Lines of perfectly baked puffs awaiting their filling.

Lines of perfectly baked puffs awaiting their filling.

Filling - the Classic

The classic filling is vanilla pastry cream which can be made using this link recipe.  But my mom took a short cut which seems to work well and is quick and simple.  It may be a cheat to the traditional method but it tastes pretty darn good.  Here's what she passed down to me.
 

Ingredients
 

1 box Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 c milk
2 c heavy cream
Powdered sugar for decorating

Instructions
 

Add the milk into the pudding mix and beat until combined.  Refrigerator while you whip the heavy cream to soft peak.

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Combine the two together to get a light filling.

Combine the two together to get a light filling.

Once the cream is whipped, fold the pudding into the cream and thoroughly combing.  Fill a piping bag.

Clearly, I love using a piping bag. It really does make things so much easier.

Clearly, I love using a piping bag. It really does make things so much easier.

Using the tip, gently push a hole into the bottom of the puff and fill 'er up.

Once you have all your puffs filled, stack them on a cake plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

And there you have it.  Light and fluffy filled with creamy lusciousness.  If that's the definition, then go ahead and call me a Cream Puff!  Enjoy with an espresso and don't forget to share the love.

Other fillings:  Oh there are so many that this post would go on for pages and pages.  Why would I do that when I could use all those good ideas to write another blog post... which I will.  You can fill these little delights with whatever your heart desires.  I promise to post a handful of savory ideas in the near future.