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I created a Valentine feast for my family in Slovenia two years ago – a series of typographic cookies inspired by my research on Mexican pan dulce (‘sweet bread’), published on my main blog under ‘MEXICO Project‘, which proved to be extremely well-visited from all over the world [see the article]. The idea was based on a particular variety of pan dulce, called besos (‘kisses’), which are especially popular in Mexico for Día de San Valentin (‘Valentine’s Day’), or more commonly known as Día del Amor y la Amistad (‘Day of Love and Friendship’). The idea was then further expanded into a typographical feast in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Slovene, Italian, German) using the words ‘love’ and ‘kisses’ as the basis for the project [see the article].

A typographic Valentine feast in 5 languages / © Andreja Brulc

A typographic Valentine feast in 5 languages / © Andreja Brulc

Description: Besos

According to Joseluis Flores – the Mexican-American Pastry Chef of the award-winning restaurants Deseo (Scottsdale) and Douglas Rodriguez Cuba (Miami) – who includes the besos recipe in his excellent book Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition:

Besos have become one of my favourite Mexican breads and are a fun recipe to make with my children. [Flores, 2010: 66]

A beso, as described by Flores, is made of two round domes, almost scorn-like breads, ‘kissing’ each other through a thin layer of jam – strawberry, apricot, raspberry or pineapple or flavour of your preference – sandwiched in between and coated with butter and granulated sugar. Although besos are popular on holidays such as Valentine’s Day, they are also eaten, like other pan dulce, at breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Besos have been cited in print since at least the 1930s [Popik, in The Big Apple].

Besos ('kisses'), a typographic Valentine feast with pan dulce / © Andreja Brulc

Besos (‘kisses’), a typographic Valentine feast with pan dulce / © Andreja Brulc

Recipe: Besos

1. Measurement Systems

I borrowed, and slightly adapted, the recipe from Joseluis Flores’ book, but since the book was published in the USA, the recipe uses USA cups – the American method for measuring liquid or dry ingredients. Conversions to grams – the metric unit system used nowadays in the UK (although imperial units are still to be found) and Europe, as well as other parts of the world (which were not part of British Empire) – are listed on the side. Generally speaking, if grams are not used, I use GoodtoKnow for conversions. Be aware – if you are a user of the metric unit system – that the American method is, indeed, very complex, as conversions to grams for liquids produce different results to those for dry ingredients, so below calculations are not my mistakes!

Furthermore, I converted tablespoons and teaspoons into grams if dry ingredients (dry yeast, baking powder) are used, and into millilitres if liquids (vanilla extract). These measurements are commonly understood in the UK as these measuring utensils are part of every kitchen that loves home baking, but they are, nonetheless, confusing for other users! Of course, to make things even worse, US tablespoons and teaspoons are slightly less than those in the UK when converted to grams or millilitres (e.g. 1 US tablespoon = 13 g / 13 ml, while 1 metric tablespoon = 13.19 g / 13.18 ml)! I use Aqua-Calc, as it does allow you to convert both USA and metric table-and-tea-spoon measurements. I find Cafe Fernando as a source for conversion tables also very useful.

2. Ingredients

The recipe makes about 30 pieces of ‘dome’ breads or 15 ‘sandwich’ besos (NOTE: the size of besos depends on the size of your ice-cream scoop for shaping the breads as mine produced 24 pieces or 12 besos based on the ingredients below)

For the ‘dome’ breads:

• 170 g (3/4 cup) butter, softened but still firm
• 150 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
• 3 eggs
• 570 g (4 cups) all-purpose flour
• 8 g (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
• 20.7 g (1 1/2 tablespoons) baking powder
• 26 ml (2 tablespoons) vanilla extract

For the filling and coating:

• 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) marmalade or jam (raspberry or flavour of your choice)
• 225 g (1 cup) butter, melted (for coating)
• 400 g (2 cups) granulated sugar (for coating)

3. Instructions

• In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow with an electric mixer. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until all combined.

• In a larger bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, approximately 236 ml (1 cup) of water, and the vanilla extract, to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on low-speed until combined. Then mix on medium speed until the dough becomes smooth and soft, with a thick, batter-like texture, for *15–20 mins. (*NOTE: I did the mixing for 5 mins taking the advice of Tennie Cakes).

• Using an ice cream scoop (*2-ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup), scoop half spheres of dough at least 5 cm (2 inches) apart onto a non-stick baking sheet or line the baking sheet with parchment paper. (*NOTE: The measurement of the scoop comes to approximately 55 g, but the one I used, available in my mum’s kitchen drawer, seems larger as, already mentioned above, I only got 24 pieces instead of 30).

• Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F or Gas Mark 4). Bake for *15–20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on a rack. (*NOTE: Your time will vary depending on how large your ice cream scoop is, i.e. your dough ‘domes’. As a rule of thumb, I would set the timer at 15 mins and then, after 15 mins, decide whether further cooking is needed, once the non-pointed tip of the knife is stuck in one of them. As my preference is that they are not over-cooked, as they still cook (harden) a bit after being taken out of oven, like biscuits, I would keep an eye on from 15 min onwards. Just make sure that they are lighter as opposed to darker golden brown).

• Spread the bottom piece of dome with about *1 tablespoon of marmalade or jam, then top it with another piece. Repeat until you assembled all pieces into besos. Coat the assembled besos with softened butter using a pastry brush or your fingers, then roll each in sugar, tapping off the excess. Store in an airtight container. (*NOTE: Use your own judgement – if your marmalade or jam is thick, then obviously the filling won’t run out of the beso. Some people prefer more filling to bread, some more bread to filling).

Bibliography

  1. Flores, Joseluis. Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition. New York: Rizzoli, 2010: 66.
  2. Popik, Barry. “Besos: Mexican pastry – kisses.” The Big Apple, 23 Jan 2008. Article [Accessed 5 Feb 2017].
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