If the tapas featured in our “Tapas for the Holidays” article in the Winter 2021 issue whetted your appetite for these small-plate specialties, Chef Ben Lefenfeld and pastry chef Carrie Goltra of La Cuchara in Baltimore have more tapas creations you can prepare at home this holiday season.
Pintxo of Baguette, Boquerones, Piquillo Pepper and Lemon Aioli
Makes 4 to 5 servings
For the Lemon Aioli
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 large egg yolks
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Pintxo Slices
1 freshly baked baguette
Piquillo peppers, for serving
For the Lemon Aioli
- Sauté garlic in 4 tablespoons olive oil until lightly browned. Strain cloves from oil and allow oil to cool.
- In a metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks while drizzling in the garlic oil very slowly. Add the lemon juice and zest. Keep whisking in remaining olive oil in a slow, steady stream. If your emulsification becomes too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it out. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the Pintxo Slices
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the baguette into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned.
- Spread lemon aioli on top of each baguette. Lay 1 1/2 whole piquillo peppers on top of each slice. Cross 2 boquerones on top of the piquillo peppers. Serve immediately.
Pear Membrillo with Manchego and Walnuts
Makes 4-5 servings
4 large pears, such as Anjou, peeled and cored
1 1/2 to 2 cups granulated sugar (depending on how much pear puree is yielded)
Juice of 1 lemon
Manchego cheese, sliced, for serving
Whole walnuts in the shell, for serving
- Line a 13-by-9-by-1/2-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place pears in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add enough water to the pan to cover the pears. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and poach pears until slightly softened.
- Drain poached pears in a colander and allow pears to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Add cooled pears to blender and puree them. Transfer pear puree to a liquid measuring cup. For every 1 cup of pear puree, you’ll need to add 3/4 cup of sugar to the puree.
- Transfer puree to a heavy-bottomed wide skillet or Dutch oven. Add lemon juice and sugar to puree, stirring to combine. Bring the puree to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil mixture for 1 minute, then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently. The mixture will gradually thicken to a jam-like consistency and turn a dark-orange color. The cooking process will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The membrillo is finished when you can pull a wooden spoon through the mixture and the spoon leaves an open streak on the bottom of the pan. Remove pan from heat.
- Pour hot mixture into parchment-lined baking pan. Smooth out mixture evenly. Allow to cool overnight at room temperature.
- Run a small paring knife or a metal spatula along the edges of the pan. Invert pan and remove membrillo from pan. Cut membrillo into rectangular-shaped blocks and place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. The membrillo can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 months as you would jam or jelly.
- When ready to serve, remove a block of the membrillo from the refrigerator and cut into pieces. Served with slices of Manchego cheese and whole walnuts in the shell, accompanied by nutcrackers.
Mouchou (Almond Raspberry Sandwich Cookies)
Makes approximately 15 cookies
For the cookies:
175 grams (about 3/4 cup) almond paste
50 grams (about 2/3 cup) confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg whites
50 grams (about 2/3 cup) almond flour
For the Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, cut into chunks
4 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
For the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking pans with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine almond paste, confectioners’ sugar and 1 egg white. Mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes until well combined. Add almond flour. Mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down bowl as necessary during beating. Add remaining egg white and mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes.
- Remove egg white mixture from the mixer and fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip. If you do not have a large plain tip, you can cut an opening in the tip of the bag and pipe directly with no tip.
- Pipe rounds onto prepared baking trays. Each round should be about 1 inch in diameter. Pipe evenly, spacing about 2 inches between each round. Bake trays in preheated oven for 8 minutes, or until sides are just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While cookies are cooling, prepare the Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows).
For the Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Set up a double boiler on the stove by filling a small saucepan with about 2 cups of water. Heat water on low so that it’s at a bare simmer.
- In a bowl that is slightly larger than the saucepan, combine egg whites, sugar and lemon juice. Place bowl on top of the saucepan and stir frequently. Heat egg whites on the double boiler until a thermometer reads 160 degrees when inserted into the egg white mixture.
- Remove mixture from double boiler carefully so as not to burn yourself with the steam. Carefully pour the egg white mixture into a clean bowl of an electric mixer. Make sure the mixing bowl and whisk attachment have no traces of any fat or grease on them, which will inhibit the egg whites from whipping to optimal height.
- Place mixing bowl on stand electric mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip egg white mixture on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until you achieve a firm, satiny meringue. Begin adding chunks of unsalted butter. The meringue will appear to break or separate just before coming back together into a smooth frosting. Scrape down bowl and mix for 30 more seconds. Add raspberry jam and continue to mix until combined.
- Drop teaspoons of icing onto half of the cookies and top with the other half to form cookie sandwiches. Enjoy immediately or store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The cookies can also be frozen for up to 4 months.
All photography by David Stuck