Lost in translation: It isn’t only an acclaimed movie that I could not bring myself to like.
The language barrier is one of the biggest problems we have when writing articles, and even more so when developing and writing recipes.
Not only do you have two people here who speak different variants of English, and for whom ingredients and methods can have different names, but we also have a global audience that, sometimes within the same country, does not use the same words for the same things.
One of our solutions has been simply to try and use American English as much as possible (after all most of our audience hails from the USA). Another is to try hard to describe rather than name things. This has solved some of the problems, but not all.
Take cornmeal, for example. It’s called harina de maiz in Spanish, a not quite literal translation. On top of that if you study the supermarket aisle you will find several products labelled “cornmeal”, and they don’t all look the same.
The cornmeal that is equivalent to the Dominican “harina de maiz” and that we use throughout our sites is not the coarse one that is used in some Southern US cuisines, neither is it the fine one used in Venezuelan cachapas, for example. Both would produce results far from the intended ones. So how do we solve this dilemma?
Let’s try this: If you are unsure, and you have never seen the ingredient used in our cuisine, please feel free to ask. Not only will I try to find the answer (I’m not familiar with every brand, obviously), but there might be somebody from your neck of the woods who does know the correct brand or name. Deal?
And by the way, our cornmeal has roughly the texture of cane sugar (finer than polenta).
Pan de Maiz is served with cocoa as a snack or as dessert after a meal. It is easy to prepare and very popular in the Dominican Republic. Give it a try.
- 1/2 cup of softened butter
- 2 cups of evaporated milk
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of corn starch
- 2 cups of cornmeal
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 cup of raisins (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (for covering the pans)
- Pre-heat oven to 300ºF (150ºC)
- Mix milk and cornmeal. Let it rest for an hour (this is an optional step, but I have found it results in a more tender cornmeal bread).
- Pour the cornmeal mixture into a large bowl.
- Add eggs.
- Add butter (leave just a bit for covering the pans).
- Add cornstarch, salt, raisins (if you are using them), baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
- Mix all the ingredients by hand or mixer until all the ingredients have been incorporated.
- Butter and flour two small (9") loaf pans (or whichever shape of pan you choose, cake pans will produce a moister result).
- Pour the batter into the baking pans making sure to stir while doing so, otherwise the solids will fall to the bottom of the mixing bowl (do not worry if it is too runny, that is OK).
- Bake for 35 minutes or until you insert a knife and it comes out clean.
- Cool before removing from the pan.
- Serve with hot cocoa, coffee or hot drink of your preference.
Do not expect something that has the texture of a cake. Dominican pan de maíz is drier, more dense and less sweet than your regular cake. For a result closer to a cake substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour for 1 cup of cornmeal (skip the resting time).
Originally posted Dec. 2005. Revised Sept. 2011.