Saturday, January 24, 2015

Garbanzo Beans in a New Guise

I am mostly finished with the Guatemalan cookbook / memoir I have been making, though I am continuing with my effort to eventually make all the recipes I have amassed. I have 80 recipes in this book of mine. Some are recipes I copied from somewhere, either a private recipe of a family member or from a very old cookbook someone had loaned to me. These have been changed over time when I have made them, to reflect my own way of doing things. In one single instance, I clipped a newspaper recipe and embellished to my taste. In many instances, I watched someone make a dish and I went on to do something similarly on my own, with there being no written recipe involved, even from my source. Many of the foods I learned to make while in Guatemala were created from someone's description of what to do, but including absolutely no amounts, timing or any such aid to creating a dish. Sometimes, even the person giving me the ideas had never made the dish involved!

Garbanzos en Dulce
This last instance is how I came to make Garbanzos en Dulce. Garbanzos en Dulce translates to Garbanzos in a sweet form, or in syrup. I learned so many ways that sweet and savory foods crossed paths while in Guatemala. Sweet spices are used in savory applications. Savory foods are used in a sweet application. If we think of a pumpkin pie, we realize that while pumpkin is a savory food, it makes a most excellent dessert. In this case, garbanzos, while so often associated with hummus, or added onto salads at a salad bar, are not necessarily the first thing we think of in the context of a dessert. Yet, in Guatemala, they do, with excellent result. This dessert is generally served during Holy Week, but that never stopped me from making something I like when I want it.
Garbanzos en Dulce, served

Coming to the page in the cookbook, while proofreading, it occurred to me that the main reason I have not recreated this dessert since returning to the US more than 30 years back, is that in Guatemala I had access to dried garbanzo beans, which had to be cooked, then peeled and then made into the dessert. For anyone who has cooked beans, we know that it takes a while for the cooking process. To ensure the beans would peel easily once cooked, some wood ash was added to the cooking water. Once cooked through, the skins slipped off easily. The dish is really wonderful, but makes a much better presentation and texture if the garbanzos are peeled. Once all this was finally done, it came time to cook the beans into a dessert. Most every Guatemalan recipe seems to ensure the maximum amount of kitchen time possible! 

However, in this day and age, garbanzo beans are available in cans. And not only that but with the choice of regular salted beans or unsalted. It occurred to me as I was proofreading that page in the cookbook that I needn't start from dried garbanzo beans. I have cans in the pantry! All I would have to do is peel and make them into dessert. I ran to the kitchen to try it out. 

Bowl of Garbanzos in Syrup
This still leaves the peeling part. I know that not all cans of garbanzos are created equal. I have read online how many people have had great difficulty peeling garbanzos, even from a can. I have read that hummus comes out with far better texture if the beans are peeled. I have not bothered with this step for hummus, just yet. For this dessert, I wanted it to be right. I was all prepared to use the baking soda method to get the beans to release their skins, but when I opened a can of "Kuner's brand of unsalted garbanzo beans, they peeled very easily indeed. As easily, in fact, as peeling blanched almonds. I was thrilled. 

It does take a little time to peel all the garbanzos, even only from one can. For me, it was not a really big deal-breaker in this case, to spend an extra 15 minutes or so peeling the beans. It must be done carefully, as the dish really presents best if the beans are whole and not all crushed. The only thing left to do was to place the drained and peeled beans into a saucepan with water, sugar and some true cinnamon stick to cook for about half hour and voila! Nearly instant dessert. I understand if this is a little too outre for some people, but if you love garbanzo beans, you just might be surprised!

It is important for correct flavor of this dish to use true cinnamon for the flavoring. True cinnamon, versus the cassia we are generally faced with in the US, has a very different flavor, and even color than cassia. True cinnamon sticks are thin quills, generally rolled together and very easily crumbled if needed, where cassia sticks are thick, single quills, difficult to break.  True (soft stick) cinnamon quills are generally found in any Mexican grocery or in the international foods aisle in many grocery stores.

Garbanzos en Dulce

serves 3 or 4

1 can (15 - 16 ounces) garbanzo beans, preferable unsalted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, if needed
1 cup water for cooking
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 to 4-inches true (soft stick) cinnamon

Drain and rinse the garbanzos. Test peeling them. If they peel easily, skip this step and go on to making the dessert. If they do not peel easily, then first stir the baking soda into the drained and rinsed beans. Pour them into a skillet and heat them through, stirring constantly. Once hot, return them to the colander set over a bowl of cool water and rinse them well, rubbing them gently to loosen the skins. Gently make sure all the skins are loose and removed, changing the water various times during this process.

skin loosened     |   bowl of beans peeled     |         Kuner's brand  |       gently boiling in sugar water  |  boiled to syrup
Once the beans are peeled, place the drained and well rinsed beans into a saucepan with the water, sugar and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil and continue at a medium boil for about 30 or so minutes, until the liquid has become syrupy. Cool and serve. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.