I’ve gotten into quite a habit of choosing a savory recipe when it’s my turn to choose for Project Pastry Queen and this time is no different. It hasn’t really been soup weather around here lately but as I was flipping through The Pastry Queen this Texas Tortilla Soup jumped out at me and I knew it was the one.

I don’t love tortilla/taco/whatever soups but this one excited me because it was brothy instead of creamy. A nice, light soup sounded absolutely perfect to me! It’s a very simple soup that I threw together in no time after I got my chicken cooked (I did a whole chicken so I could knock out the meat and the stock in one go).

We really loved this! My husband stirred a ton of sour cream and cheese into his and then used it as a dip for tortilla chips which was pretty genius. It would be a fun way to change up the leftovers. If you have any, of course! Garnish as you wish – I used a really sharp cheddar instead of Monterey Jack and it was delicious melted on top.

Texas Tortilla Soup
from The Pastry Queen
Ingredients
For the soup:
  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 dried ancho chili pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can peeled tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cooked shredded chicken breasts
  • 3 ears fresh corn or 1 8-ounce package frozen corn (optional)
Garnishes
  • 2 ripe avocados peeled and sliced
  • tortilla chips or strips
  • 2 plum tomatoes diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • sour cream optional
Instructions
To make the soup:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the tomatoes in half. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a baking sheet or pizza pan and arrange the tomatoes on top, skin side up. Drizzle the tomatoes with another 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast the tomatoes for 25 - 35 minutes, until the skins wrinkle and the tomatoes are slightly brown around the edges.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute about 5 minutes, until the vegetables become soft. Stir in the chili powder and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and ancho chile. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, decrease the heat, and simmer about 15 minutes, until the ancho chile softens. Remove the chile from the soup and pull off and discard the stem. Cut the chile in half and discard the seeds, if desired. (Leaving the seeds in makes for a spicier soup.) Place the softened chile, the canned tomatoes with their juices, and the roasted tomatoes (including as much of the juices and the browned tomato bits as possible) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree the chile-tomato mixture about 1 minute. Transfer the chile-tomato mixture to the soup and continue simmering, about 1 hour. Add salt nd pepper to taste, along with the cooked chicken. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cobs, add the corn to the soup, and simmer for 5 minutes.
To garnish the soup:
  1. Ladle the soup into medium bowls. Lean 3 to 4 slices of avocado against the edge of each bowl, partially sticking out of the soup. Arrange the tortilla chips or strips in a similar way. Sprinkle each bowl with a handful of diced tomatoes, some cilantro, and 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Top with a spoonful of sour cream. Serve immediately.

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I have a Mexican food problem. Ever since we moved to Colorado, it’s all I want. I guess because there’s a taco stand on every corner and entire aisles dedicated to the cuisine in all our grocery stores. But, alas, I’m the only one in my family with intense Mexican food cravings so every couple weeks I make a Chipotle run after my kids are in bed and then I spend 3 hours lying in my bed, eating a burrito the size of my head while watching Real Housewives reruns.

It’s a rough life.

So when it was my turn to choose the next Project Pastry Queen recipe these Ground Beef Gorditas jumped out at me. At the time I had no idea what a gordita was but I knew it would satisfy my need for Mexican food.

After making these, I think they are kind of like the Mexican equivalent to the pita bread, only fried, because they are split and then filled with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and then eaten sandwich style. And they are awesome! The dough is like a super thick corn tortilla – it’s so crispy on the outside and so soft on the inside. I was seriously shocked at how amazing these were! The meat mixture – just ground beef, some spices, and tomato sauce – was simple and perfect with the freshly fried gorditas.

I made some changes, of course. I did what I always do when I’m attempting a food I’m not familiar with: I did a blog search to see what they looked like. I found Deborah’s post where she says she wasn’t thrilled with the gorditas. I trust her opinion so I ended up using a gordita recipe one of her readers left in the comments.  They were kind of a pain and I had to HEAVILY flour my board and my rolling pin but like I said, well worth the work. (I am including the original recipe from The Pastry Queen.)

Project Pastry Queen – Ground Beef Gorditas
from The Pastry Queen
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 4 cups corn masa mix or 12 ounces fresh masa dough
  • 1 teaspoon salt if necessary
  • ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Safflower oil for frying
For the beef filling
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce like Tobasco
  • 1 8- oz can plain tomato sauce
For serving:
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce shredded
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup queso fresco crumbled
  • sliced black olives optional
  • ½ cup sour cream
Instructions
For the Dough:
  1. If using the mix, mix in a large bowl according to the package instructions. Beat the masa, butter and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until it forms a ball. If using fresh dough, just add the butter and mix until a ball is formed. Using your hands, shape the dough into 8 discs, roughly 4 inches across and ½ inch thick. Grease a large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Cook the gorditas until lightly browned on each side, about 5 to 10 minutes on each side.
  2. Fill a large skillet with enough oil to come about ½ inch up the sides. Heat over medium heat until hot enough that the oil bubbles when a small ball of dough is dropped in. Lower the gorditas into the hot oil - the oil should start bubbling. Fry the gorditas for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
For the Beef Filling:
  1. Saute the beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the meat is brown - 8 to 10 minutes. Drain off the fat. Add teh garlic, salt, cumin, pepper, hot pepper sauce, and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.
Assembly:
  1. Split gorditas in half and set them on individual plates. Spoon the beef mixture over the bottom halves. Sprinkle with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. Lean the top half of the gordita at an angle on top of the beef mixture and serve.
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This week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe is the Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake, chosen by Danmy. This was another recipe I had overlooked in the book because there is no picture. I would’ve made it months ago if I’d known it was there!

Despite really loving German chocolate cake, I only make it once a year, on my mom’s birthday. I do the same recipe every year because it’s seriously delicious but I’m always willing to give a new recipe a try. I’m just sad that I couldn’t take a piece to my mom!

The cake really is pretty standard as far as German chocolate cake goes but the icing is a different story. It’s made with cream of coconut (found with the Margarita mixes and such in the grocery store) instead of evaporated milk and almonds instead of the pecans. I definitely prefer the traditional pecans but the cream of coconut was a nice addition. I also found the icing a little… drippy so you might want to cook it a little longer than the recipe specifies.

Other changes I made:

  • Did 2 layers instead of 3. Because I only have 2 pans. Three layers would’ve been much prettier. I had to bake it a little longer since the cakes were thicker – maybe 6 or 7 minutes.
  • Halved the sugar in both the cake and the icing. They were perfectly sweet without the extra sugar.

Danmy will have the recipe over at her blog. And make sure you visit all the other Project Pastry Queen blogs to see everyone else’s cake!

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I took a short break from Project Pastry Queen while we moved and got settled but I’m back and ready to bake! I’m coming back just in time for the Peach Queen Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting which was chosen by Shawnda.

So, peaches and dulce de leche? Not exactly two things I’d combine normally but I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out. It works somehow. Like really works. Like I could eat 5 of these cupcakes at once. They kind of reminded me of Millionaire’s Cake which I now want to make after looking up recipes!

Shawnda will have the recipe for you but I thought I’d share the changes I made. I did cupcakes instead of a 3 layer cake – I halved the recipe (ended up with 12 and enough batter for another 1 or 2) and baked them for about 25 minutes. I also used buttermilk instead of sour cream because that’s what I had on hand, and I doubled the vanilla. Because I wanted to.

For the dulce de leche, I used the crockpot method. All you do is put a can of sweetened condensed milk in your crockpot with enough water to cover it completely and then cook for about 8 hours. It’s like magic.

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My turn to choose the Project Pastry Queen recipe again! I went with a recipe that I had never even noticed in the book: Coconut Cream Flan.

Flan has such a bad reputation but I stand by my belief that anyone who doesn’t like it, just hasn’t tried a good recipe. It’s so sweet and creamy, like a custard pie without the crust and who doesn’t like custard pie?! This version has just a hint of coconut and is topped with caramel. It’s pretty perfect.

I found the cream of coconut in the alcohol section of my grocery store, with the margarita mixes and things like that. It took me forever (and google) to find it so I wanted to share that tidbit with you. I used heavy cream in place of the half-and-half because heavy cream makes everything better. Trust me. And I left the rum out. I don’t like rum and didn’t feel like buying a bottle just for this recipe.

Seriously, great recipe! If you’ve never tried flan or think you hate it, give this recipe a try. I’m almost 100% sure that you will love it!

Coconut Cream Flan
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 15-ounce can cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup dark rum
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Place the sugar in a small, uncoated skillet. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat until melted and golden brown. Pour it into a 1-quart baking dish or distribute it evenly among eight 1-cup capacity ramekins (about 2 tablespoons per ramekin). Tip and turn the dish or ramekins to coat the bottom(s) and sides with the melted sugar.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until foamy. Stir in the condensed milk, cream of coconut, half-and-half, vanilla, and rum. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Put the baking dish in a large baking pan and set it in the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish or ramekins.
  4. Bake 1 hour for the 1-quart or 45 minutes for the ramekins, until the center is almost set. Remove the flan(s) from the pan of water and cool on a rack. Invert onto a serving plate; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. The flan(s) will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.
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