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Esteban Castillo's 'Chicano Bakes' is a panadería in a book

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

And finally today, if you have a sweet tooth, then we've got a cookbook for you. It's called "Chicano Bakes" by Esteban Castillo. He's a food blogger who started cooking in college when he'd get homesick for Mexican food. But he had just one problem - following his mother's instructions.

ESTEBAN CASTILLO: And so I would try to get these recipes out of her. And it really just left me with so many more questions, and it left me even more confused than I already was. She would say (non-English language spoken) or add a little bit of this or a little bit of that. And really, it was just like being left with a puzzle with so many missing pieces.

LIMBONG: So he taught himself to cook a range of Mexican dishes, blogged about it and gained a large following. And in his latest book, he's turned his skills to baking. One of his recipes is for a type of pan dulce, or sweet bread.

CASTILLO: Orejitas are essentially palmiers, and they are a really simple pan dulce that you can make using store-bought puff pastry.

LIMBONG: He says they're easy to prepare.

CASTILLO: Take your puff pastry. It comes folded in three different sections. You unfold it. You let it thaw out for a couple of minutes, and then you brush it with melted butter. You sprinkle cinnamon sugar over it, and then you fold it into a certain way where it ends up looking like little ears, which is how the pan dulce gets its name.

LIMBONG: Fold both sides of the puff pastry towards one another until they touch. Then bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Another recipe is for Mexican sprinkle cookies. The dry ingredients you'll need are flour, salt and baking powder.

CASTILLO: You start by creaming butter and sugar together, and then you mix all of your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. And you start incorporating this into the butter and sugar mixture. You add your egg yolks, and then you scoop out the dough into little balls and toss it into a bowl filled with little sprinkles. And then that's pretty much it. You bake it off for like, 25 minutes, and you're done.

LIMBONG: Castillo says baking should be fun. So he included a playlist for this book on Spotify, which features a lot of disco.

CASTILLO: So the one song that really gets me into like the cooking and baking spirit is Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)." Every time that song comes on, it has this, like, really futuristic feel and dancey vibe to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU MAKE ME FEEL (MIGHTY REAL)")

SYLVESTER: (Singing) You make me feel mighty real.

LIMBONG: But the disco and sweet treats are just a part of a larger message Castillo is trying to get across.

CASTILLO: I always feel like the conversation around Mexican food is that it can't be glamorous, it can't be expensive, that it always has to be cheap or look a certain way. And so I hope that readers really do challenge their biases and their opinions on what Mexican food or Chicano cuisine has to be.

LIMBONG: That was Esteban Castillo. His latest cookbook, "Chicano Bakes," is out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mia Estrada is a 2021-2022 Kroc Fellow. She will spend the year rotating through different parts of NPR, including the Culture Desk, National Desk and Weekend Edition.