Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Grandma's Arepa

Oh how I miss my Abuelita!  She transitioned unexpectedly 25 years ago when I was 18 years old.  Somehow it feels like it was just yesterday.  Her transition happened at a point when I was just starting to appreciate her - our relationship was deepening.  One of the things we all looked forward to as a family was when Abuela made her Dominican arepa.  The entire house smelled like 'home' when she cooked.   As a young girl I vividly recall anxiously waiting for Abuela to finish pouring the batter into the baking dish so that I could grab the pot and eat the crusty left over batter at the bottom.  A few of us would fight for the rights to that crusty pot and somehow she often favored me.  

Now I know at this point you are likely asking 'what is arepa'?   There are many cultural variations, but Dominican arepa is a very filling and dense cake made with cornmeal and coconut milk.   It is extremely simple to prepare and is quite delicious as a snack or for breakfast when paired with warm milk or coffee.

Feeling a bit nostalgic I wanted to attempt to recreate my grandma's arepa.  It came out really good and I am not just saying that;  my mom and aunt both said so.  And since I received their stamp of approval I felt compelled to share the recipe.

Dominican Arepa Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of real butter (not margarine) - for pan
3 tablespoons of real butter
2 cups of organic non-gmo cornmeal
3 1/2 cups of real milk
2 1/2 cups of organic coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of raisins (I used organic currants for a more subtle flavor)
4 cinnamon sticks broken into smaller pieces
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1/4 vanilla extract

1. Grease your pan with butter.  (I used a spring form cheesecake pan which worked beautifully for this). 
2.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3.  In a large bowl mix your 3 tablespoons of butter, cornmeal, real milk, coconut milk, sea salt, raisins, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar and vanilla.  You want to stir this well so that the cornmeal is pretty much dissolved and not in clumps.
4.  Pour your mixture into a large enough pot and turn on medium heat.  You want to continuously stir so as to avoid clumping.  It will take approximately 10 minutes for your mixture to get as thick as pudding.  When mixture stars to bubble you may remove the cinnamon sticks from the pot.  You can certainly choose to leave them in, but the cinnamon sticks will prevent clean cuts when it's time to slice your cake as they will get in the way.
5. Immediately pour your hot mixture into the baking pan.  You may want to place the pan on a cookie sheet to avoid any run off.
5.  Bake for 40 minutes.  When done remove from oven and set aside to set.  Wait several hours before cutting to ensure firmness.  Allowing it to set overnight will also make for a cleaner cut.

Enjoy this wholesome cake with a glass of milk or coffee!