Thursday, March 17, 2011

My favorite Nica snack

In the multitude of corn-based foods made in the northern region of Nicaragua, where I live, my favorite by far is the rosquete (ros-ket-ay).  It is similar to its famous relative (often exported), the rosquilla which is like a Nicaraguan version of a Cheese-It.  I believe rosquetes are superior however because they contain no cheese and have a wonderful crispy taste, similar to a Swedish gingersnap.  They are coffee’s perfect  acompañante. 

Every little pulperia (store) in my town that sells rosquetes knows that they are my favorite snack.  When I enter the store they automatically tell me if they have rosquetes or not, the former being said with a large smile “They’re your favorite, right?” and the latter being said with a sympathetic downcast look. 
I had wanted to make rosquetes since the beginning of my service, but finding someone who bakes them on a regular basis has proved quite difficult.  There are always rumors of who is making them, on what day of the week, and where they live… Well, this past week I finally was able to find the infamous (and elusive) Doña Chana who has been making rosquetes for decades out of her home with her children and grandchildren.  I stopped by late morning and they already had the dough ready and were rolling out the doughnut shaped rosquetes, pressing the distinctive design into each one using a cheese grater (so that’s how they do it!)  The dough contains ground corn, sugar, vegetable shortening,baking soda, and a bit of salt.  They had woken up at 3:30 AM to start preparing the dough and were rolling out rosquetes until about noon, making over 1,000!  Doña Chana let me make a pan of my own rosquetes, and needless to say they weren’t as perfectly formed as hers or her daughter’s were, but they ended up tasting the same!
Doña Chana (right) and her daughter rolling out cookies

Making the circular forms, then using the cheese grater to make the design
Ready for the oven! The pan in the foreground is the one that I made (they look a little irregular compared to the others :)
In the afternoon, they fire up the large dome-shaped brick oven in her backyard – filling it with firewood and lighting it, letting it heat up to a high temperature.  Then they take out the wood, leaving the space inside hot enough to bake rosquetes to a nice, signature toasted crisp.
Lighting the wood to heat the oven
Removing from the oven
Nice and toasted!
As we talked about my impending departure in April, Doña Chana seemed appalled that soon I would be back in the U.S. where she had heard that Nicaraguan staples like yucca root was apparently $5/lb. (here it is less than $1), and where there would be no rosquetes available!  She promised to mail me some, but I doubt they would taste the same after two weeks in-transit to Alaska.  She did give me a simple recipe, and if I can find some good corn, I may be able to make some.  Here is Doña Chana’s recipe for a small batch of rosquetes:  5-6 pounds of corn (cooked then ground), 1 pound of vegetable shortening, 1-2 pounds of sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda, and a pinch of salt.  Mix all ingredients and form into rounds (use a cheese grater to stamp the top if you want), place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  I can’t wait to try it out back home – probably won’t taste the same coming from a gas oven rather than a woodstove though.
Ready to eat!

1 comment:

AKgirlie92 said...

It blows my mind how early these Donas get up to make their foods. I'll wait to try that recipe until you get here!