Saturday mornings in Florida means Cuban Coffee with Sweet Toast. More accurately my order at the cafe was for “Un Café Cubano y dos Torrejas por favor.” It is the equivalent of Coffee and croissants you would order in France. It is a gloriously decadent way to spend a Saturday morning. You sit outside at a small table and watch the world wake up from their Friday night festivities. It is also a good cure if you had imbibed a bit too much the night before.
Cuban Coffee with Sweet Toast (Torrejas)
This month’s recipe redux challenge for the group is to share a recipe that is inspired by food you had experienced while on vacation. I lived in Florida for a bit, and while I did, it truly felt like I was on vacation every day. It was in Florida, where much of my cooking style and flavor profiles were first explored. I was heavily influenced by the rich Cuban, Latin, and Caribbean flavors that define the cuisine of the area. Cuban Coffee with Sweet Toast was a go to favorite, typically enjoyed at a table outside one of the many Cuban Cafes in Tampa or Ybor City.
What is Cuban Coffee (Cafecito)
Cubans (like many other nationalities) swear that they have perfected the cup off coffee. I personally love many different coffees, but I do maintain a special fondness for the sweet cup that is Cuban Coffee. What makes it so special? It is the espuma! The espuma is the frothy layer of foam created by whipping sugar into a foam with the espresso. I know many people will refer to it as a crema, but they are wrong. A crema is made with frothed milk or cream. It is that whipped sugar foam the sets the Cuban Coffee (Cafecito) apart.
How to make Cuban Coffee
You need a special piece of equipment: a stovetop espresso maker. These aluminum pots range from about $10 to $40 for one, and can be found at most stores where coffee makers or pots are sold. If you can’t find one locally, you can find them easily on Amazon:
Next, grab a coffee that has been ground to an espresso quality grind. If you can find a Cuban/Spanish coffee like Bustelo, Pilon, or La Llave, that is great! If not, a quality local roast will do. The final, and most important ingredient is the sugar. The Cubans love their coffee to be sweet. Regular granulated sugar is fine for this, but when I take the time to hand craft Cuban coffee, it is a treat, so I want to add a special sugar as well. A turbinado (raw) or demerara sugar (cane) is what I prefer to use. They can be found at finer stores, or online as well.
Recipe for Cuban Coffee (Cafecito):
- 3 Tbsp Espresso Coffee Grounds
- 3 Tbsp Sugar (white granulated turbinado or demerara)
Disassemble your stove top espresso pot (mine says it is a six cup or oz. pot)
Fill water into the bottom chamber of the pot to just below the release valve
Fill the filter with the espresso grounds to the brim, but do not tamp or pack down (the steam won't be able to pass through to make the coffee)
Reassemble the pot making sure all seals are tight
Place the pot over a burner on the stove the is set to medium-low heat.
In a glass bowl with a pour spout (like a liquid measuring cup) add the sugar to the bowl
Once you have the first Tablespoon of coffee in the pot, pour it over the sugar and return the pot to the stove for the rest of the coffee to brew.
Using a spoon, whip together the sugar and coffee furiously for 2-3 minutes until you have a tannish brown foam start.
Once the pot finishes brewing, add the whole pot to the bowl with the sugar mix and start beating again until you have a nice layer of a tannish brown foam at the top (the espuma)
Pour carefully into two demitasse cups so as to preserve the foam top on each cup and serve immediately.
Cuban Sweet Toast (Torrejas)
Cuban sweet toasts will make you think of French toast, but these syrup infused toasts are nothing of the sort. In fact primarily because they are served cold. Oh they can be eaten fresh off the griddle as well, in fact I have had them that way many times. The foundation for the toast is the bread. Here is where we need to watch the sodium. You could go with a Low Sodium Bread like King’s Hawaiian, or find a french or brioche roll that is under 170 mg for the whole roll. I use a brioche roll here.
These toasts are eggy like a French toast, but they are also sticky sweet from being infused with a cinnamon-lemon syrup that is delightful.
Recipe for Cuban Sweet Toasts:
- 1 Cup Sugar (White granulated Turbinado, or Demerara)
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- Peel & Juice from 1/2 Medium Lemon
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Cup Nonfat Milk (for the lower sodium you could add another layer of flavor here with coconut milk)
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 8 Brioche Rolls sliced lengthwise to form a top and bottom like a bun
In a saucepan, make the syrup by bringing the water, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, and cinnamon sticks to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the syrup reduce and thicken for 20 minutes.
Remove the syrup from the heat, strain out the peel and cinnamon sticks and save the syrup until later.
Heat the oil to medium heat in a skillet or deep frying pan.
Prepare two bowls to dip the bread in prior to frying.
In bowl number one, add the 3 egg yolks and beat until frothy.
Add the milk, ground cinnamon, and vanilla and mix well.
In bowl number two, add three eggs and beat them thoroughly.
Take each slice of bread, and dip into bowl one until the bread soaks in a bit of the liquid, then dip them into the egg wash in bowl two and place into the heated skillet for frying.
Fry each side of the toast until golden brown and remove from the skillet.
Line up the fried toasts in a shallow baking pan and pour the syrup over all of the toasts allowing the syrup to sink into the bread.
Dust the bread with a bit more of the cinnamon
If you wish to eat them hot, serve immediately, or place the sheet in your refrigerator for an hour or so.
I will be the first one to admit that Cuban Coffee with Sweet Toast are a bit sweet, which is why it was a Saturday treat. Cuban Coffee with Sweet Toast is a wonderful breakfast solution that is easily modified to lose the salt, but none of the taste.
Check out these other healthy recipes inspired by vacation foods from the other wonderful dieticians and nutritionists of the Recipe Redux crew. While all these dishes are tasty and healthy, I can’t vouch that they are low sodium. As always check the ingredients and modify them to fit your low sodium life!
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