Abuela’s Tocino de Cielo

Slice of Heaven, Tocino De Cielo Handwritten Recipe

Tocino de Cielo was my abuelo’s favorite Cuban dessert. The sweet yellow custard is heavy on the yolk and rich decadence in each sugary bite. My abuelo loved sweets and was notorious for drinking insanely sweet coffee and adding sugar to batidos or milk shakes. Tocino de cielo is like flan’s distant cousin. Flan is very very easy to make, but tocino de cielo requires a little more timing and gentle handling.

 Sugar and Lemon Room Temp Eggs Simple Syrup

This recipe is my abuela’s, and it is the very best tocino de cielo recipe on the planet. The name translates roughly to bacon of the heavens or sky, a name which alludes to its sweet greatness. My abuelo loved when she would make it for him, and my mom would always make it for him as a treat. I tried to make it once from a random website as a surprise for my mom, and the recipe was god-awful- I mean seriously terrible and nothing like the delicacy I knew. Thankfully my mom supplied me with abuela’s handwritten recipe- the secret to perfect Cuban tocino de cielo.

       Pour Strained eggs into Flanera      Poured into the Flanera

I imagine tocio de cielo being served in tiny portions during a 9-course meal, with each dish more decadent than the last. This dessert is incredibly rich, so smaller portions are advised. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied with a small amount of this traditional Cuban dessert. The bright yellow dense custard of this classic Cuban sweet is perfectly golden on top and swims in a caramel sauce. Although flan is my preferred dessert, tocino de cielo will always make me think of my abuelo and how much I miss him.

Tocio de Cielo Perfect Tocino

Abuela’s Tocino de Cielo (tocinillo de cielo)

1 ½ cups sugar

¾ cup water

4 drops lemon (I interpreted this as a lemon twist)

3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Boil water, sugar, and lemon twist until it thickens and is reduced to 1 cup. You MUST constantly stir this mixture. I repeat CONSTANTLY stir. My initial attempt at making this thick syrup failed terribly. I made hard butterscotch candy…hahaha seriously…it was rock hard. Trust me, stir the syrup constantly, this takes around 7-10 minutes. I recommend putting the temperature to around 6-7 on the burner dial. The syrup can quickly burn! Pour the contents into a cup measure, if it is slightly over that is fine, it’s better to just go with that than cook the syrup for longer and risk overcooking it. Allow the syrup to cool.

        Sugar and Lemon Twist      Eggs and Cooled Syrup

In the meantime heat 1/2-3/4 sugar in the Cuban flanera (flan mold) on low heat. This will create the golden amber caramel that pools on top of the tocino de cielo.

        Caramel Bubbles      Stir the sugar so it wont burn

In this original recipe my abuela had written ½ cup yolks and ½ cup eggs, we have translated this to mean 6 egg yolks and 3 eggs. Beat yolks and eggs just until they are juuuuuust mixed. Add the cooled simple syrup and the vanilla. Strain through a colander (this step is important otherwise there are ‘tough’ parts in the custard) and pour into a flanera. Bake at 350F for 1.5 hours en un baño de María (or a water bath). Hint: put the baking pan on the oven shelf and THEN add the water to the pan.

       Hot Tocino       Baked Tocino de Cielo

Once finished baking in the oven, allow the custard to cool on the stove-top before placing in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving run a knife along the edge of the custard. You can garnish the tocino de cielo with the candied lemon peel used in the simple syrup, with fresh raspberries, or spun sugar.  Place a plate on top and invert the tocino de cielo in all its golden glory.

*Knock gently on the back of the flanera to release the Cuban dessert from the mold if it doesn’t come out immediately.

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Cuban Croquetas

Croqueta FillingPlated Croquetas

Croquetas are the ultimate Cuban comfort food, the best meal on the run, but the treat you rarely make at home. In Miami, croquetas are everywhere, perfectly browned, and crispy delicious. They are a must-have at any family party, or with your afternoon cafecito or a cold Iron Beer. You can see locals toting small white paper bags speckled with oil stains and a colada in the other hand. Although they are ubiquitous, I haven’t had a homemade croqueta in years. The fresh filling makes all the difference in this Cuban specialty.

 Ground HamAdd Ham to Onion and Butter Thicken with flour

Milk + Ham Mixture Add Milk Slowly Croqueta Filling

This croqueta recipe is dear and special to me because it is my abuela’s. She was a fabulous cook and could whip up an entire Cuban feast at a moment’s notice. I was lucky enough to take cooking lessons from her and learn traditional Cuban recipes. I would go over to her house on the weekends, and we would cook a spread of the very best Cuban dishes, writing each recipe down one by one. One of the classics she taught me was how to make croquetas. My favorites are croquetas de jamón or croquetas de pollo (ham or chicken croquettes), but I know some diehard bacalao lovers out there, it’s just not for me.

          Almost done!     Ready to Cook or Store

                 Up Close Croquetas

My abuela perfected this recipe after many years, and she always insisted it was perfect, and it really really is. The bubbling butter bronzed the onions and made the basis of the creamy ham filling The rich, hot, filling tastes so decadent you’ll want to spread it on crackers or warm bread and just stop right there and enjoy. The ingredients are so simple; and the aroma of frying croquetas is familiar and inviting. When I close my eyes and smell the cooking, I am taken back to those afternoons with my abuela, and I am grateful for the memories and the knowledge she passed on to me.

             Croquetas

 Croquetas de Jamon

1 stick butter

1 medium roughly chopped onion

2 cups cooked chicken or ham

4 heaping tablespoons of flour (Abuela said FULL, FULL, FULL tablespoons!)

2 cups whole milk Pepper to taste (Abuela said do NOT add salt)

½ tsp Sazón Completa (ONLY add to chicken or fish, DO NOT ADD to ham croquetas)

For the breading:

2-3 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk

1 cup flour (not an exact measurement)

2 cup bread crumbs (not an exact measurement, you may need more breadcrumbs, i did)

Grind meat finely in a food processor, set aside. Grind onion till it is granizado, and looks like chipped ice in the food processor. Melt 1 stick of butter in pot. Add onion and cook until golden. Add ham (or chicken or fish) and mix well with onion and butter. Now slowly add the 4 heaping tablespoons mixing well after each addition of the flour tablespoons. The mixture will form essentially a doughy ham ball. Allow this mixture to brown a little in the pan. Slowly add the milk, mixing well after each pour. Add pepper to taste.

 Keep on mixing until you can see the bottom of the pan (scrape the bottom and see if the mixture separates so you can see the bottom momentarily as in the picture above). Spread mixture in a large dish thinly spread so it can cool. Ideally you should let this cool on the countertop before placing it in the refrigerator till cold and firmed up enough to shape and handle. In 3 separate bowls put (in this order) flour, beaten eggs, and the bread crumbs. Take a big spoonful of the mixture, and each spoonful will be one croqueta. Makes 20 medium or 30 smaller croquetas.You need to shape it a little bit. Then dip in flour-> egg-> bread crumbs.

          Add Croquetas to Hot oil     Browned Croquetas

Place in dish to cook later (or you can cook immediately, the nice thing is they store well in the fridge). When ready to eat, cook the croquetas 5-7 at a time in 2-3 inches of oil in a pan. Wait until the oil is HOT on around 5-7 temperature on the burner. Cook until golden. Drain on paper towels. Eat on crackers with a squeeze of lime. Try croquetas smashed in a sandwich called a croquet preparada or smashed in a breakfast sandwich. Buen provecho!

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