We were sitting on the stoop, back in 2019, watching the world go by in Moron, Cuba. Across the street from our rented room was a gentleman patiently sanding the bumper of a blue 1959 Chevy. In the shop next to us, a woman had just butchered a pig and hung the head on a post, letting her neighbours know that fresh pork was ready.
"Torticas, torticas", the man called from his bicycle down the road. While I didn’t fully know what the word meant, I was confident it had something to do with sweets, so we flagged him down. From a well-worn wooden box strapped behind his seat, he began doling out small, sugar dusted cookies. My son Clark and husband Ivan started sampling while I fished in my pocket for some cash. Their eyes lit up. "Mas! Mas!" they said in unison. They wanted more.
The latest updates on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.
"How much," I asked in my limited Spanish. His response sounded either ridiculously low or astronomically high. You see, in Cuba at the time we visited there was still two currencies in play. One was dedicated to tourists and the other used by locals. Since I didn’t feel like doing a whole lot of math, I handed the baker the equivalent of roughly $3 Canadian dollars. He proceeded to empty his entire inventory into my hands and offer copious blessings and thanks. Neither party was disappointed.
I later learned that this city of 60,000, about an hour’s drive from the popular tourist destination of Cayo Coco, is famous for its Torticas de Moron. I also did some math and figured my Canadian cash could have purchased dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies on the open market. Maybe hundreds.
The community dates back centuries but the town really started to grow about 100 years ago when it become headquarters for a rail line used in the sugar industry. In fact, the Terminal de Ferrocarriles, with its elegant 1923 architecture, remains a busy place.
When you’re ready to travel again and if you’re interested in a break from the all-inclusive vibe of seaside resorts and want to see what life is like inland, a visit to Moron will fit the bill. Stay at one of the privately-run casa particular — just like a bed and breakfast — where you’ll get Cuban hospitality to spare and an abundant breakfast. Tour the town and pick up a handmade basket that everyone uses to carry groceries and everything else. Pop into the Museo Caonabo for a little history lesson and take a selfie with the town statue — a strutting rooster. You’ll change your mind about Cuban food after a meal at Don Papa, where fish, seafood, chicken and meat is cooked over charcoal. The lobster spaghetti with a starter of kidney bean soup will not disappoint.
Although we aren’t headed back to Cuba in the near future, thankfully I have the recipe for those delicious cookies — they really do bring us back there, if only for a moment.
Torticas de Moron
Chocolate and fruit are popular additions to these addictive cookies. My version gets a double hit of fresh lime and plenty of sweetness from the icing.
Makes 24 cookies
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
One cup icing sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup coconut oil (solid)
Zest of one large lime (two tablespoons)
Two tablespoons fresh lime juice
One cup icing sugar
One to two tablespoon milk or cream
Zest of one large lime
Mix all ingredients together. Icing should be on the thin side and drip off the edges of the cookies.
Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together icing sugar, margarine and coconut oil. Add lime zest and juice, then add flour and cornstarch mixture and beat until well combined. Form dough into a log, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours.
Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from plastic and slice into ‘coins’ about 1/2- inch thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly brown around edges. Cool on a wire rack. Coat liberally with icing.