Category Archives: Sweets

Eat Your Cake…and Coffee, Too

Today’s tropical recipe is like a coconut macchiato on a plate.  I started with a basic yogurt cake recipe and mixed in some coconut, fresh-ground Puerto Rican coffee beans, and a splash of coconut rum.  Topped with a yogurt-based glaze and toasted coconut, this simple cake will make an appearance on our Christmas dinner table.

Before we get to the recipe, a little coffee tour:

coffee farm


the view



We visited Hacienda Pomarrosa with Kara when she was here in September, and it was an informative and enjoyable morning in the beautiful mountains above Ponce. With our own farming background and recent experience living in the Rheinland, we really liked having an opportunity to visit with Kurt, the owner of Hacienda Pomarrosa (who is originally from Düsseldorf).  The location is a bit off the typical tourist track, but a visit to the farm is well worth the drive, and the hacienda also offers bed and breakfast stays for those who would like to spend the night in the peaceful Puerto Rican mountains.

And now, let’s get to baking!

Coconut and Coffee Yogurt Cake

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum (optional, you can omit and flavor with vanilla if you like)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon finely ground coffee
  • 1½ cups coconut, divided (I used sweetened coconut)

Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan and preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat ½ cup of the yogurt together with the sugar, eggs, coconut oil, and coconut rum.  Stir together and add the dry ingredients, folding in just until well blended, then stir in ½ cup of the coconut.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes, or until it feels springy to the touch and a toothpick tester comes out clean.  At the same time, spread the remaining cup of coconut on a baking sheet and put it into the oven until it is a toasty golden color.

After the cake cools, spread it with this glaze: stir together the remaining ¼ cup plain yogurt, 1¾ to 2¼ powdered sugar (quantity depends on how thick the yogurt is), and ½ teaspoon vanilla.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut just before serving.

cake ingredients





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Coconutty Balls

Happy 4th Day of Tropical!

Call me immature, but I still giggle when my 9-year-old son dies laughing every time someone uses the words “balls” or “nuts”.  Yes, he is still in the phase where that is funny, and apparently I am as well. B had no interest in helping me in the kitchen today, but my youngest daughter did. She is featured in these pictures.

To make this yummy treat, all you have to do is toast some coconut, chop a little chocolate, and of course add nuts.

What we used:

  • 1 ¼ cups sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used macadamia nuts and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup not super sweet chocolate, chopped (a semi-sweet bar worked great)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips


Start off by toasting the coconut in a 350-degree oven, for about 10 minutes. Next, chop the nuts and chocolate.  Melt the chocolate by placing it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water; just make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water.

After the chocolate is melted, combine it with the nuts and coconut.


Finally, scoop balls of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. We decided to sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar, before chilling them for a bit.  They turned out to be more of a blob-ish shape, but were delicious nonetheless!


B loved them, although he wouldn’t let me take his photo…





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Cookie Island

Hello, it’s me…..the slacker who used to contribute regularly to this blog.  I know, it’s been about a year since I’ve written any recipes.  What can I say?






So yeah, Caribbean life is really good, and sometimes I feel like we landed in paradise.  Sure, traffic tends to be crazy, work can get hectic, and there are lots of things yet to be done around the house.  But I do like my new island home, especially the kitchen. It’s smaller than our last one, but after almost eleven years in Germany, I enjoy having a full-size refrigerator and oven again.  One reason I’m so happy with the kitchen is the way some of our furniture found its way in here and works really well.  For example, check out how my cookbooks and Polish and Italian pottery fit into these two stacked Ikea shelving units.


Even better, what about this island Jerry made out of another shelving unit and the oak butcher block that used to serve as an office work table when it topped a couple of small filing cabinets in our old house?

kitchen island

cookies on island

Yes, indeed, the kitchen island is perfect for cookie production, and I have a perfect island-inspired cookie recipe to share.  I first made these cookies last spring as an experiment when I wanted to take a treat to work.  They’re really a basic oatmeal cookie, but instead of the typical cinnamon and raisins, I stirred in cubed guava paste, a sure bet to appeal to Puerto Rican tastes, and sure enough, the cookies prompted several requests for the recipe.  I’ve actually developed sort of a reputation among my colleagues as a baker, and it all started with these cookies.

Oatmeal and Guava Cookies   

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (quick-cooking oats will work, but I like old-fashioned better)
  • About 7 ounces guava paste, cut into small cubes (I used a third of a 21-ounce container of Goya guava paste, available from Amazon if it is not in your local store)

Cream together the butter and sugars, then mix in the egg and vanilla.  Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together, then blend this mixture into the creamed mixture.  Mix in the rolled oats and gently fold in the guava cubes.  Refrigerate the dough for an hour or more (I’ve left the dough in the fridge for close to a week and it was fine).

sliced guava

guava cookie dough

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Drop the dough by tablespoonsful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then slide the parchment onto a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for two or three days, or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

me on beach


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L + M are for Lemon + Meringue Squares

A while back, Jason had a special request for dessert.  I had made a delicious lemon cake, and the filling consisted of lemon curd.  I am, especially during the summer months, obsessed with lemon curd.  Back to Jason…he wanted lemon bars using the lemon curd, but also a meringue topping.  It sounded simple enough, so I decided to take on the task for our annual Memorial Day party.  Oh my goodness gracious, these things were amazing!  And I’m not a bar kind of girl.  I think, give me a cookie or give me a cake, but don’t combine them!  But seriously guys, they were remarkable.

I remembered a recipe that Kara had given me for lemon squares from forever ago. I’m talking back in the days of the farm forever ago.  I actually have the children’s cookbook that she got the recipe from, given to me by my grandmother after I had my own kids!  When talking to my mom about this recipe, she informed me that Kara still has the actual cookbook that we used back then.



Start by making the lemon curd.  This is the recipe I always use, and it is fantastic.  It can be made ahead, and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

lemon curd, ready to go

Now, for the crust:

Combine 1 cup of flour, ½ cup of softened butter, and ¼ cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl.  Press the dough into the bottom of an 8×8 ungreased square pan.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12-16 minutes.  The recipe calls for 20 minutes in baking time, but I feel like it dries out a bit too much.  Just bake it until the edges are slightly browned.  Whatever you do, DO NOT drop the pan on the ground after you take the picture ‘cause it’s too hot like I did!  It didn’t take too long to make more. 🙂


crust in pan

Next, make the meringue topping.  I used another Better Homes and Gardens recipe, but only used the meringue portion.  The pie in this recipe is delicious as well. Try it someday!

the cookbook



Finally, spread the cooled lemon curd on top of the crust, and top with the meringue.  We had some leftover toasted coconut that I put on top of the lemon curd before adding the meringue.  It was so yummy!

lemon curd on crust


spread meringue on curd

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.  Let the bars cool slightly and cut into desired shape/size.  Enjoy!





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Roasted Mango + Yogurt Paletas

Boom, roasted mango paleta

Stop whatever you’re doing right now.

You NEED to go make these paletas (Spanish for popsicle).

I’m not joking.

This post wasn’t even supposed to be all sweet, creamy, and tangy. It was supposed to be grilled, crunchy, and springy. But life, it is strange. Sometimes life brings you champagne mangoes for $1/each and you go crazy and buy five. Then you notice that the mangoes are getting a little too wrinkly and decide that roasting them with some habanero-infused maple syrup and a sprinkling of piloncillo for good measure would make them quite tasty. And then you realize that you have some leftover strained yogurt just waiting to go bad in the fridge, and that it’s getting pretty hot outside, and that you’ve been waiting for just the right circumstances to break out your popsicle mold and dig back into Frany Gerson’s Paletas

mangoes ready to roast

maple and piloncillo


These paletas are the perfect end to a spicy meal, or the perfect treat for days when you feel particularly dewy. I adapted them from Fany Gerson’s recipe for paletas de yogurt con moras, or yogurt ice pops with berries, swapping three roasted champagne mangoes for the blackberries. I originally intended on just chopping the mangoes and tossing them in, but I thought roasting them with piloncillo and a touch of maple syrup would make them nicely caramelized and blend well with the strained yogurt.

I was right.

blending blending


Roasted Mango +  Yogurt Paletas
adapted from Fany Gerson’s Paletas

Note: I made these with 1/2 cup sugar in the water mixture, per the original recipe. Since I also add more sugar when roasting the mangoes, next time I’ll add a little less sugar to the water mixture. The paletas aren’t overly sweet, though; I just prefer things to be less sweet. As usual, go with what you feel.

  • peel from 1/2 lemon (no need to chop it)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plain, unsweetened Greek Yogurt (you can also DIY your Greek Yogurt and make strained yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 champagne mangoes, peeled and cut into thin chunks (see picture above)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup piloncillo, roughly chopped or grated (or substitute brown sugar)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons maple syrup, optional

1.  Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon peel, lower the heat, and simmer for five minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Remove the lemon peel and refrigerate syrup until chilled.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the mango pieces on the sheet, then sprinkle on the piloncillo. Roast for 7 or so minutes, until the mangoes start to release some juice and are sizzling a bit. Remove from oven, stir everything around, and sprinkle on some maple syrup, if using. (Don’t add the maple syrup right away or it could burn.) Return to oven for another 5 – 7 minutes, until the mangoes look nicely caramelized but aren’t burnt. If you do burn them, though, I wouldn’t worry too much. You’ll just have toasted mango paletas instead of roasted. No one will be the wiser. Set mangoes aside.

3. Blend the yogurt, honey, and chilled lemon syrup with about half of the mangoes until smooth. Divide the mixture among your popsicle molds. If you don’t have popsicle molds, divide them among cups. If you don’t have cups, try ice cube trays. (Although I hope if you have ice cube trays you also have cups). Use a muffin tin if you have to. Next, divide the remaining roasted mango among your molds. Using a popsicle stick, a chopstick, a fork, or your fingers, push the mango chunks down to distribute somewhat evenly throughout each paleta. If you have a popsicle mold with the lid thing featuring slits for the popsicle sticks, insert the sticks now. If you’re using cups or whatever else, allow the mixture to freeze for about an hour until it gets hard enough to hold a stick in place. If you don’t have popsicle sticks, you could us a skewer. Or toothpicks if you’re using an ice cube tray. Or you could just go buy some.

OR: If you don’t think you want chunks of mango in your paletas, blend all the mango with the yogurt mixture. It will also be delicious. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

4. Freeze paletas until solid, about three to four hours. To de-mold, run hot water over the mold for a minute or so. The paleta will slide right out.



p.s. I got my popsicle mold here.

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As American as Mom and Apple Pie

I have something very important to share, and something really quite easy that everyone should know about:

Maple syrup? It’s not just great on pancakes, or waffles, or even in a dijon-y vinaigrette. Guess what else it’s good on?

Ice cream. Does everyone else know about this, and no one told me until now? I didn’t even come up with this concoction – I owe it all to Braeden. Last Saturday, in the midst of the July heat wave of doom, Braeden displayed what, I think, has been his most genius idea yet, declaring: “Let’s make milkshakes with maple syrup!” So we did.


Tonight, I bring you something even better, and even more simple:

Take some ice cream, any type. Put some in a bowl. Drizzle on some maple syrup, to taste. Top with a few fresh berries or slices of fruit, if you have any. That’s it.

Above, you’ll see a mixture of Ben and Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham Frozen Greek Yogurt and Vanilla Ice Cream, drizzled with a generous pour of maple syrup* and dotted with a few blueberries. (And Charlie, longingly looking on, per usual.) I never want to have ice cream any other way.


p.s. Sorry for my lack of recipe updating, but I’m glad you’ve had some nummy bits from Mom to keep you company. Look out tomorrow for a Russian savory pastry recipe and check back in a few days for a unique slaw and a few pies [update: I never posted about these pies, but they are wonderful and you should try them. See here and here] that would love a spot at your next barbecue or cookout.

*Braeden prepared the above bowl of ice cream perfection; when I asked how much maple syrup he thought he poured on, he replied “…. a lot.” So start with a light drizzle, increase to a generous pour, and see what you like best. Also, please please please use real maple syrup, preferably from Vermont.

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Perfect for catching up – Empanadas

A few (plus a few) weekends ago, my best friend Kelly visited. Kelly and I both studied in Moscow together, where we began as simply classmates, but grew over a love of food, tea, and photography exhibits to become dear friends.  Also, we randomly met Diane von Furstenberg. Kelly is in law school now (so proud of you, Kelly) and we hadn’t seen each other in a while, but quickly got to drinking refreshing drinks, eating delicious Mexican food, and creating some unforgettable empanadas.

The empanadas were fairly labor intensive, but totally and completely worth it. We made the dough from a recipe I had written down several years ago, in a recipe-collecting notebook I bought back in my Cracker-Barrel-country-store-obsessed days.  (They just have so many cool trinkets and unnecessary things, you know?) I have no idea where the recipe comes from, as it is simply titled “Mom’s Empanadas.” Mom doesn’t know, either, but we decided it tastes too good to care. You might see the recipe is also not very complete in its directions. …I don’t know if you’ve noticed before, but I’m not always the best at giving precise directions. I’m more the type to eyeball when measuring (except when baking, usually) and for this blog, that means I give directions like “just add to taste!” or “use your imagination!” If you’re the type who prefer, or even need, precise directions, then you’re in luck; Kelly faithfully took notes as I added and tweaked the ingredients and spices, so you can fearlessly recreate these delicious empanadas on your own.

Or, you know, use your imagination and go where the wind takes you.

We made two fillings – one savory, the other sweet. The savory filling is modeled after a picadillo from Pati’s Mexican Table. It’s incredibly moist, and has just the right spices to warm you to your core. If you have any left over, which I did, it’s very easy to just eat it on its own, straight from the pan. Or if you have a little more self-control, it’s also good mixed into some rice for another meal. Then again, it’d make a really good topping for polenta, or even tacos or tostadas or even some beefed up molletes.

The sweet filling is so very simple, inspired from some peach and guava empanadas I tasted at a local empanada shop. (Julia’s is also most likely responsible for inspiring me to make empanadas in the first place.) Both types of empanada are baked, and their crust is wonderfully flaky. They also reheat surprisingly well in a microwave, but I’m willing to bet they’d fare even better after a short time in a low-heated oven.

Make ahead note: The dough should be made at least 30 minutes before you want to assemble the empanadas, as it needs a little time to rest and chill in the refrigerator. You could also make it the night before, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Then again, as with most doughs, you could also freeze it, tightly wrapped, for a month or so.

Mom’s Empanada Dough

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup (give or take) cold water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • a few sprinkles of turmeric, optional (it’s a trick Kelly learned from the Jamaican version of empanadas)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; set aside. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender or two knives or a fork. Add the vinegar and as much water as necessary to form a dough (we ended up using a cup of water exactly). (Also, this is much like making a pie crust, where you don’t want too too much water or the dough will be kind of gummy. I think this dough is slightly more forgiving than pie crust, though, so don’t fret too much.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight (see note).

Filling #1 – Picadillo, of sorts

  • 3 ripe Roma tomatoes, skinned (slash an X in one end, dip in boiling water for 15 seconds, remove, and the skin slips right off), and pureed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of cumin (we used at least 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • other seasonings to taste: spice mix, garlic, ground coriander, etc
  • 1 pound (give or take) ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • salt, to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon)
  • optional: up to 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, to help thicken sauce

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat; add onion and cook a few minutes until translucent. Add spices and cook for about a minute; add turkey and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8 – 10 minutes. Add pureed tomato and let cook an additional five minutes, to get the raw tomato flavor out. Add broth (or water, if using) and stir around, then let cook for 15 minutes. The filling should start to thicken; if you think it is too dry, add more broth or water. We decided to add the cornstarch to ensure the filling was still saucy but not watery – soggy empanadas aren’t the best. Add walnuts and raisins and taste to check the seasoning, then add salt and adjust seasonings to your taste. Once the filling is at the desired consistency and taste, turn off heat and set aside to fill. Or, you can make this ahead and refrigerate for 3 or so days (or, freeze it).

Filling #2 – Guava and cream

This one is easy: buy some guava paste from a Latin grocery store (or maybe even the Hispanic section in a big grocery store), and buy some cream cheese. Once your dough is rolled out, simply spread a tablespoon of cream cheese and a slice (1/8 inch thick) of guava paste, fold over, press, and bake as directed below. You could also add more filling if you want, but I like my crust to filling ratio with sweet fillings to be more equal and less overwhelmingly sweet. You might be wondering about that turmeric we added to the dough and then proceeded to use for our sweet empanadas: we didn’t even notice it was there. Just do it.

Empanada assembly:

Now for the easy, albeit time consuming, part!

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Have a little dish with water ready to use for sealing the empanadas.
  4. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick, cut into 4 or 5 inch circles with a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, clean aluminium can, or large German Bierstein. Whatever it takes.
  5. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling on one side of a round, dip your fingers in the water and rub around the edges of the round; fold a side over to the other side and press with a fork to seal.
  6. Repeat with others, and place on prepared baking sheet.

Your first empanada might be a little…gushy. It’s ok. It will still taste wonderful, and just add less (or more!) filling next time.

Bake empanadas for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and cooked through. Be sure to let them cool, or you just might burn your mouth on the extremely hot steam that inevitably comes blasting out as soon as you break open one of your creations. If, however, you can’t seem to wait long enough to let them cool, know that your mouth will heal, and your tummy will love you.

If you find yourself with a free day and a good friend, make empanadas. They’re perfect for sipping wine and catching up on all that’s passed. Also, to make up for April’s small amount of posts, look out for another post tomorrow!



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An occasion for baked goods

Whew, what a week. I hope those pineapple tamales have whet your appetites for something sweet, because I’m bringing you another slightly sweet treat, and a bit of good news. Two bits of good news, actually!

First, the cutest news:

This is Charlie.

I know, right?

And secondly, I got a job. A real, not part-time job, which I started Monday.
Like I said, what a week.

I discovered on Friday that aside from being an interesting job, it will also provide me with ample opportunity to make baked goods – which, let’s face it, ultimately benefits you.

In honor of this crazy week of jobs and dogs, I made a little cookie for you. Don’t worry, it’s not tooooo sweet. I don’t want to sugar bomb you on my first real dessert-y post. But, it’s a start.


Cornmeal Cookies
adapted from David Leibovitz, who in turn adapted it from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

  • 3/4 cup dried fruit, such as golden raisins or currants (chopped if larger fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 5 1/2 ounces (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup polenta, regular or coarse
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Toss the dried fruit and the 2 tablespoons of flour together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand) beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy, about one minute.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, polenta, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the beaten butter mixture until incorporated, then stir in the dried fruit.

5. Form the dough into two logs, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill the dough for about an hour.

6. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325ºF.

8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

9. Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch slices and place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheets.

10. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until the cookies are very light brown on top. Remove the oven and let cool completely.

Yield: about 50 cookies

The cookies keep for about four days in an airtight container. Dough keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for one or two months.

I find these cookies go really well with Cafe de Olla, to which I’ve incidentally become very addicted. Speaking of Pati’s Mexican table, I’m going to one of her cooking classes tomorrow and I am so excited. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I’ll let you know how it goes in a future post, and maybe I’ll even get a few pictures.

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!


Looking for a New Mexican Treat? Try Pineapple Tamales

First things first: allow me to introduce my friend, Doña Sonia.  She doesn’t know she’s my friend yet, but I think I‘ll email and tell her.  Sonia Ortiz is the woman behind Cocina al Natural, and if you speak Spanish and enjoy delicious Mexican food, you’ll love her recipes and videos (if you don’t speak Spanish, check out the website anyway – use Google translator for the recipes and watch the videos to see the techniques).  Sonia’s short videos always start with a friendly greeting, something along the lines of “Hola, amigos, I invite you to put on your aprons and let the inner chef we all have inside come out!”  Isn’t that a nice thought?   For a semi-regular food blogger I have to admit I don’t have much time to read food blogs, but I make a point to see what’s new on Cocina al Natural at least every couple of weeks, and every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious.

The recipe for pineapple tamales I’m sharing today is from Sonia, and they are a terrific introduction to sweet tamales if you’ve never had them before (or if your experience was like mine, with a tía who used to make a heavy version packed with raisins and nuts for the holidays….sort of like fruitcake in that they are probably good if you have acquired a taste but I never really did).  I made the pineapple tamales almost exactly like Sonia, and I’ve added one more tropical flavor with an optional coconut cream sauce.

One more thing about the tamales before I get to the recipe: they are very low in fat!  Traditional tamales rely on a good amount of lard in the masa (corn dough).  Modern cooks often substitute shortening and/or butter, which still results in a high fat and high calorie food.  Sonia’s trick is to combine masa harina with plain yogurt, which yields a light and flavorful masa with a texture that is very similar to the traditional high-fat version.

The basic procedure is pretty simple, but you’ll want to make these tamales when you have about three hours available (half of that time is for steaming, and you won’t need to give it constant attention).  As for equipment, you need some kind of steamer with a tight-fitting lid.  My Fagor 8-quart pressure cooker pot with the steamer basket and glass lid is perfect, but before I got it I used to rig up a steamer in a big pot by balancing a round cake rack on four small tomato sauce cans with both ends cut out, and that worked just fine.

Pineapple Tamales

  • 30 dried corn husks for tamales (plus extras for the steamer if you are using a rack)
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups plain yogurt (I used 3.5 % fat)
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Extra yogurt or milk if needed to give masa a spreadable consistency

Soak the corn husks in hot water for about twenty minutes while you are preparing the masa.

If the pineapple chunks are large, cut one cup of them into smaller pieces and set aside.  Finely chop the other cup of the pineapple chunks and pour the chopped pineapple and juice into a medium bowl.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then mix in the yogurt.


In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  The resulting masa should be of a spreadable consistency but thick enough that it won’t drop off the spoon right away if you take a spoonful and hold it upside-down over the bowl.  The consistency you end up with will depend on how juicy the pineapple is.  If the masa is too thin, let it sit a while and it will thicken up; if it is too thick, mix in a little extra yogurt or milk (you also might need to add a little partway through spreading the masa, as it tends to thicken anyway).

Remove the corn husks from the water.  Squeeze the excess water out and put the husks on a kitchen towel.

For each tamal, spread about two tablespoons of the masa into an approximately 5” square on the inside of a corn husk (on the end with the straight edge – you can go to within ½ inch of the straight top edge; see the photos and it will make more sense, or you can always watch Sonia Ortiz’ video).  Different cooks have their favorite ways of spreading masa, and what works best for me is actually a butter knife.  Place a row of 5-6 small pineapple chunks in the middle of the masa square, then bring the sides up to meet and fold over to one side.  Fold the pointy end up, and if desired, tie loosely with a narrow strip of corn husk (not strictly necessary, but the tamales will look neater and stay together better).


That’s really it!  Once you have assembled all of the tamales, stand them up pointy-folded-end down in a steamer basket, or if you are using a rack, first cover it with several layers of corn husks so the tamales won’t fall through the rack, extending the husks up the sides of the pot (put about three inches of water in first, or as much as you can add and still have the level be below that of the rack or basket).  If the tamales don’t completely fill the basket, leave it open in the middle and tilt the tamales slightly so they rest against the sides of the basket or pot.  If needed, you can wad up some foil to fill in spaces so the tamales will stand up better, or you can put a tempered glass measuring cup in the middle and fill it with water to generate more steam.

Once all the tamales are in the steamer, bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat until you have a steady simmer.  You want a lot of steam but not a hard rolling boil.  Steam for about 1.5 hours, checking after an hour and adding more water if needed.  To test for doneness, pull out one tamal and if the husk peels away from the masa, it is done.

Cocina al Natural recommends serving these tamales as a dessert or snack, accompanied by coffee or hot chocolate, and I think that sounds like a fine option.  But let’s think about the ingredients: corn flour, fresh fruit, yogurt, and relatively little sugar per tamal – sounds like a good breakfast food to me!  Once the tamales are cool, place them on a tray in the freezer, and once they are frozen, pack into a large freezer bag.  I made a batch of pineapple tamales a while back, and I’ve had them for breakfast several times a week since then (just under a minute each in the microwave on high power brings them back to a fresh-from-the-steamer state of deliciousness).

If you want to serve the tamales for a dessert or snack, may I suggest a topping of fast and easy coconut cream sauce?  Oh go ahead, have coconut cream sauce for breakfast, too!  Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Cream Sauce

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk, well shaken
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Pour the beaten eggs through a strainer into a medium-sized heavy saucepan and then whisk in the coconut milk and sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and starts to boil.  Serve warm.



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