revisiting a favorite

i am hard at work on what i hope will be my next book.  one of the recipes i plan to include is for the quesadilla cakes that i made a while back.  in order to get my notes cleaned up and ready for the folks up north, i decided to make them this morning.  
first thing i did was grab the camera and my nifty new macro lens.  best investment i have made this year:  digital photography classes.  second best, that lens.  
the original recipe is found here.  when i made them, i used parmesan cheese because that is what the nice young lady working in a local mexican bakery told me they use.  all research on the internet mentions a traditional choice of cotija with parmesan as a close substitute.  this morning, i bought a package of crumbled cotija.

 it resembles finely crumbled feta or parmesan but the flavor is milder than either of those.  i also think it is a little saltier than parmesan but that could just be this particular brand.

 rice flour is a popular ingredient in el salvador, i have a co-worker from there and she mentions baking with it at home too.  this brand, tres estrellas, is easy to find in supermarkets; just look in the section where they stock the latino ingredients.

 don’t be lazy-generously grease and flour the pan to make it easy to get the cakes out.  i used spray grease and i am thinking that next time, i will use shortening since they still stuck-even with the flour!

tasty!!!  go on a cotija hunt and try these out, you will enjoy them- i promise!

that can’t be a quesadilla…

 one of my coworkers is from el salvador.  every now and then, she will arrive in the cafe with a bag of sweets from her favorite bakery, la espiga.  even though it is a mexican bakery, they often have traditional little el salvadorian cakes called quesadilla.  yes, quesadilla and no, it doesn’t have tortillas in it.  these cakes are popular all over el salvador and are made with cheese-usually a freshly crumbled farmers cheese, but frequently parmesan cheese.  they are wonderfully rich with a slightly cheesy aroma.  and much to my surprise, even better if they sit for a day.

on a recent visit to a new mexican bakery near my house, i spied a tray of quesadillas in the showcase and added it to my tray.  all of the mexican bakeries are self serve; you pick up a tray and a pair of tongs and make your selections from the cabinets and racks and then give it to the cashier.

not bad for less than $5 dollars.  from the left:  bolillo(i bought 2 but the other is missing…), concha, quesadilla, butter cookie(that tasted a little like coconut to me) and a cheese turnover.

 the quesadilla from la conchita panaderia y pasteleria.  they had a little bit of a sandy texture from what i am guessing is rice flour.  the cake is sweet and even though it contains parmesan cheese, i could not detect it in the flavor.

now that i am not obsessing/stressing over pies, i decided that it might be fun to try and make some of these at home.  a quick surf and off i was baking my own quesadillas.  after about 5 or 6 batches, i finally settled on a recipe that isn’t too buttery but is plenty moist with a noticeable cheese aroma.

 i can have cake?  twitch likes cake…
no cake for twitch!!!

 the fine, moist crumb and slightly cheesy flavor makes these good with a cup of dark roast coffee.  a few notes;  i tested these with rice flour, equal parts of all purpose and rice flour as well as masa harina(buy the plain stuff not the tortilla/tamale mix).  every recipe i read called for either all purpose or rice flour or a combination but either will work.  one recipe i read called for cake flour but i did not try that.  i used buttermilk but it could be sour cream, mexican crema or just milk.  and if you do not want to use parmesan, try a mexican crumbling cheese, just be sure to break it into small pieces.

el salvadorian quesadillias
yields 6 muffins
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup rice flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
sesame seeds
preheat the oven to 325.  grease and flour a 6 cup muffin tin.  melt the butter and set aside to cool.  in a mixing bowl, whisk the rice flour, sugar, cheese and baking powder to combine them.  pour in the butter and the buttermilk and stir to make a paste.  whisk in the egg and combine completely.  divide the batter between the cups in the tin.  sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn them out to cool completely.