Illegal Baker

A journey through my life as a baker

Papas rellenas and Cuban seasoned ground beef (picadillo)

Papas Rellenas (Fried Stuffed Potatoes)

4 large potatoes, peeled and boiled
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs beaten
Dry bread crumbs
1 lb. Cuban seasoned ground beef or picadillo (recipe below)
Flour (enough to roll the papas rellenas in)
Peanut, vegetable, or corn oil for frying

Boil potatoes until they are fully cooked. Drain. Mash potatoes with the salt (do not add any butter, oil, or liquid!) and let cool.

Grab a handful of mashed potatoes, split the handful in half, and make each half into a little bowl by pressing in with your fingers.

Stuff the indentation in each half with the spiced ground beef (recipe below) or picadillo.

Bring the two halves together and smooth to make a round ball, about the size of an overstuffed golf ball.

Dip the ball into the beaten egg, and then roll in the flour until lightly covered.

Dip the ball in the egg again and roll in the bread crumbs to coat thoroughly.

Use a frying pan with enough oil to cover half the ball at a time.

Heat oil to the frying stage (about 375º F) and drop each papa rellena into the hot oil.

Let it cook for about two minutes or until golden brown.

Turn the balls and cook the other half in the same way.

If you have a deep fat fryer, heat the oil to 375º F.

Place a single layer of papas rellenas in the basket, drop into the oil and cook for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

Be careful not to overcook.

Cuban Seasoned Ground Beef (Picadillo)

1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 large Green Bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
4 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon vinegar

Sauté the onions, and green pepper until the onions are limp.

Add the garlic, ground beef, salt, cumin, black pepper, tomato paste, and vinegar.

Continue to cook until the meat is completely cooked. Drain off excess fat and let cool.

Chocolate And Strawberry Cream Puffs


1 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
1 1/2 Cups Water
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter
5 to 6 Eggs
Bring water, Salt, and butter to a boil. Add flour and cook until a dry dough forms. Cool in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time. Pipe into lined sheet pans and top with streusel (optional) Bake at 375 F for 15 mins then at 350 for 15 more minutes Do not open the oven during baking


2 Oz Flour
3 Oz Cocoa Powder
5 Oz Brown Sugar
4 Oz Butter
pinch of salt
Mix ingredients until a dough forms. Roll on parchment paper to 1/8" inch thick. Freeze and cut circles to fit the top of the profiterole. Bake immediately

Fresh Strawberry Preserve

2 Cups Fresh Strawberry Puree
2 Cups Sugar
1 Oz Pectin
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Mix sugar and petting. Add to the fruit and bring to a boil. Add lemon juice and boil for 2 minutes.
Allow to cool.

Chantilly Cream

1 Pint of Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Bean Paste
Whip all ingredients to stiff peaks. Place in a pastry bag with a large star tip

For assembling:

Cut profiteroles in half. Fill the bottom part with the strawberry preserve. Pipe a large rosette of cream in the center and place the top on. Dust some powder sugar and decorate with more strawberries.

Sponsor: Roth Living


The power of protein

Eggs are fascinating. Not only do they have the ability to become life, they also have almost miraculous powers. They hold things together, they add color and taste, they help products retain moisture, increase in volume and create amazing textures. And did I said they are nutritionally loaded? From cakes to custards they are virtually irreplaceable.

No, I am not talking about the well loved latin dance. Few people know the versatility of meringues, they can be eaten raw, cooked or baked. They can be added to other recipes or they can be used as toppings, they can be torched and so much more. They are made with just the egg white and here are some rules you want to make sure follow. 
  • Make sure the egg whites are free of yolk or ever contaminated with any fat, this will prevent the egg from ever become a strong foam
  • Always use room temperature eggs for fluffier meringues
  • All equipment used should also be clean of fat residue and at room temperature
  • Humidity is the worst. Stay away from making meringues on rainy/humid days
  • The higher the sugar content the more stable meringue
  • Make sure to keep whipping the meringue on low speed to prevent it from setting to early

Here are some basic recipes and their uses

French or Common Meringue
The very first recipe I ever lay my hands on. Nothing Simpler than a common meringue. But very easy to mess up. Follow instruction carefully for a successful and beautiful cloud of whipped egg whites.
  • 4 Oz Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 4 Oz Fine Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Oz Confectioners Sugar, sifted (optional)
  • pinch of Salt

Whip egg whites until slightly double in size, Gradually add the granulated sugar, making sure the previous sugar dissolves before adding the next. You can do this in  three stages. Once all granulated sugar is added, slowly add the confectioners sugar and  whipped to the desired consistency, this will depend on the use. To add to cakes soufflés and sponges whip to medium peaks. For toppings and macarons, whip to stiff peaks. This meringue can be now used for toppings  and can even be torched. You can also pipe in parchment lined sheet pans and dry in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours.

It was summer in Havana

1st Edition

And my grandma Irene was ready to make something special. She had a clear glass soup plate in one hand and a fork in the other. Inside the plate a yellowish gooey substance.

Me: Abuela, what are you doing?

Grandma: I am making clouds. Come, sit and watch

Her skinny arms starting moving faster than I though it was possible for an old lady like her. And suddenly the yellowish substance starts turning into a beautiful cloud of fluffy meringue. Little did she know that, that day she sparked a curiosity about food that’s very much alive until today. 

Now what?

It’s been over 30 years and I’m no longer a kid, neither do I live in Havana. On the other hand, I did become a baker and pasty chef and here are some of the things I have learned since that fortuitous summer day in the county I was born.