My Sweet Mexico

Mexican food gets me excited. Whether it’s fish taco night at my apartment or I’m meeting a friend for margaritas and nachos, there’s something about tortillas, carnitas and tequila that puts me on cloud nine.

Although, more often than not, I just order another margarita at the end of a Mexican meal rather than end with something sweet. I used to feast on cinnamon-sugar churros at my favorite late-night burrito spot in college, but the concept of going any further with Mexican desserts had never occurred to me.

This past Friday I got a taste for Mexican confections with pastry chef and Mexico City–native Fany Gerson, who visited ICE to teach My Sweet Mexico, a recreational cooking class covering the country’s pastries and sweet beverages. Chef Fany, who worked in the kitchens at Eleven Madison Park and Rosa Mexicano, demonstrated that not all tamales and empanadas are savory. Recreational students got to try their hand at two types of tamales, one with fresh lime zest and a second with decadent Mexican chocolate.

For the empanadas, Chef Fany made a batch with a sweet tomato jam, and another variety filled with guava paste and queso fresco — both unexpectedly delicious! Here are some of Chef Fanny’s tips when it comes to the sweeter side of Mexican cuisine:

Make the extra effort to find canela, which is real Mexican cinnamon. The whole sticks are not as pretty and uniform as the traditional Cassia variety, but the flavor makes such a difference.

To know exactly when tamale dough is ready to be put into the husks and steamed, place a small piece of the prepared dough in a glass of cold water. The dough will float when it’s beaten to the correct consistency.

For my marzapanes de cacahuate, peanut marzipans, you can substitute pecans, pistachios, or even almonds in place of the peanuts. You may need to add just a little oil to help hold the paste together.

The all-purpose flour in the polvorones (which use a combination of all-purpose and almond flour), or Mexican wedding cookies, can be replaced with just about any type of flour. If you’re allergic to gluten, use almond flour for the entire recipe. If you’re allergic to nuts, omit the almond flour and just use all-purpose instead.

Should you want to end your meal with chocolate tamales the next time you cook Mexican, take a look at My Sweet Mexico, Chef Fany’s cookbook on authentic Mexican pastries, breads, beverages, and frozen treats or try to catch one of ICE’s specialty pastry classes.

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