Paola Velez

Pastry chef Paola Velez's stunning buttercream-coated olive oil cake is made with a bit of buckwheat flour, which adds color and a deep earthy flavor to the cake. It's garnished with candied oranges that have been dredged in a mixture of sugar, salt, and citric acid. The combination turns the oranges into a chewy, sweet-salty-tangy treat reminiscent of candy. The orange slices are a striking garnish for the cake on their own, but you can also add edible flowers or leaves for an extra flourish.
Advertisement
These colorful and flavorful skewers by Paola Velez feature seasoned chicken, mango, pineapple, red and green bell peppers, and onion. If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in warm water so they don't burn in the oven. If you're in the market for metal skewers, look for flat ones, not round. They'll hold the food in place when you turn them over.
To make these crispy chicken strips, Paola Velez first dredges the strips in a flour mixture, then dips them in a buttermilk brine — the same brine used to initially brine the chicken, bolstered with an egg — and finally coats the chicken with a mixture of ground plantain chips and panko. The chicken is paired with yuca fries that are crisped up in an air fryer and dusted with adobo seasoning for the finishing touch. Serve the chicken and fries with mayo ketchup for dipping if you'd like, as well as lime wedges and fresh parsley for garnish.
This quick chickpea salad from pastry chef Paola Velez, a riff on this recipe from former Food & Wine Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel, is packed with vegetables and tossed with a simple, flavorful lemon-garlic and cumin dressing. Crispy, melty strips of fried queso de freir — a favorite cheese from Velez's childhood — take the dish over the top. The salad comes together in 30 minutes, making it ideal for busy nights.
Here, pastry chef Paola Velez mixes green sofrito with garlic, shiro miso, butter, and lemon for a deeply flavorful sheet-pan salmon dinner, a riff on this recipe from former Food & Wine Senior Test Kitchen Editor Kay Chun. Brining the salmon before cooking it seasons the fish and prevents it from drying out. Velez likes to serve this dish with chofán, a fried rice dish popularized by Chinese immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The salmon would also be fantastic served on top of your favorite fresh or leftover fried rice or rice pilaf.
American Buttercream
Rating: Unrated
New!
If you're looking for a rich and creamy frosting that comes together in just minutes, pastry chef Paola Velez's American Buttercream is the way to go. Velez makes hers in a stand mixer, but you could also easily make this using a handheld mixer. On its own, the frosting tastes sweet and buttery—if you want more flavor, try adding a little vanilla extract or lemon zest.
Italian Buttercream
Rating: Unrated
New!
Pastry chef Paola Velez makes her Italian Buttercream by starting with a thick, glossy meringue made with egg whites and sugar syrup. She then gradually incorporates softened butter, beating it until everything turns into a light and fluffy frosting. To make sure her meringue is light and airy, Velez wipes down the inside of the mixer bowl, the whisk attachment, and saucepan with a paper towel that has a splash of white vinegar on it to be sure they're extra clean. (Even a little bit of oil or butter in the bowl will prevent the egg whites from whipping up into the pillowy peaks needed to make this creamy buttercream.) The citric acid adds a touch of brightness, helping to balance the richness of the frosting.
Advertisement
Crunchy, cheesy, and a little bit spicy, these potato elote bites are pastry chef Paola Velez's take on bollitos, one of her favorite snacks in the Dominican Republic. She makes a spiced corn filling based on elote, the classic Mexican street food, then wraps it up in spiced mashed potatoes, and deep-fries it. The delicate crust on the potato bites is made with tapioca flour, keeping the recipe gluten-free. Garnished with lime-flavored crema and fresh cilantro, the bites are as pretty as they are delicious.
Banana Pudding Paletas
Rating: Unrated
2
For this dreamy treat, pastry chef Paola Velez takes all the components you love about classic banana pudding—complete with vanilla wafers—and turns them into creamy paletas. With nutty browned butter, bits of banana, and crushed vanilla wafers held together by pudding, this refreshing dessert will keep you coming back for more. If you don't have ice pop molds, freeze the banana mixture in a pint container and scoop it into bowls just as you would ice cream. For a grown-up version, add a splash of bourbon.
Italian Buttercream
Rating: Unrated
New!
Pastry chef Paola Velez makes her Italian Buttercream by starting with a thick, glossy meringue made with egg whites and sugar syrup. She then gradually incorporates softened butter, beating it until everything turns into a light and fluffy frosting. To make sure her meringue is light and airy, Velez wipes down the inside of the mixer bowl, the whisk attachment, and saucepan with a paper towel that has a splash of white vinegar on it to be sure they're extra clean. (Even a little bit of oil or butter in the bowl will prevent the egg whites from whipping up into the pillowy peaks needed to make this creamy buttercream.) The citric acid adds a touch of brightness, helping to balance the richness of the frosting.
Crunchy, cheesy, and a little bit spicy, these potato elote bites are pastry chef Paola Velez's take on bollitos, one of her favorite snacks in the Dominican Republic. She makes a spiced corn filling based on elote, the classic Mexican street food, then wraps it up in spiced mashed potatoes, and deep-fries it. The delicate crust on the potato bites is made with tapioca flour, keeping the recipe gluten-free. Garnished with lime-flavored crema and fresh cilantro, the bites are as pretty as they are delicious.
Banana Pudding Paletas
Rating: Unrated
2
For this dreamy treat, pastry chef Paola Velez takes all the components you love about classic banana pudding—complete with vanilla wafers—and turns them into creamy paletas. With nutty browned butter, bits of banana, and crushed vanilla wafers held together by pudding, this refreshing dessert will keep you coming back for more. If you don't have ice pop molds, freeze the banana mixture in a pint container and scoop it into bowls just as you would ice cream. For a grown-up version, add a splash of bourbon.
Platanos Foster
Rating: Unrated
New!
Pastry chef Paola Velez gives Bananas Foster, the classic flambéed dessert, a Caribbean twist by swapping out bananas for plantains and adding warm spices and coconut water to the caramel sauce. If you can't find extra ripe plantains, place them in a brown paper bag and leave them in a warm, dark place until they ripen—very green plantains could take a week or more. When flambéing, make sure to have the lid for your skillet on hand in case the flame gets out of control and you need to smother it. Rum raisin ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to the caramelly plantains.
Guava and Cheese Pasteles
Rating: Unrated
New!
Pastry chef Paola Velez uses homemade puff pastry to make these sweet, tangy pastries—which you may also find called pastelitos, pastelillos, or turnovers—stuffed with cream cheese and guava paste, a classic flavor pairing. Making the pastry does take some time but it's a straightforward process and well-worth it (and you can use store-bought puff pastry instead if you'd like). The resulting pasteles are creamy and crispy, buttery, and perfectly delicious.
Advertisement
Pastry chef Paola Velez's recipe for these chocolate sandwich cookies creates crisp, buttery cookies filled with rich, fluffy milk chocolate ganache. The creamy filling is made with chocolate and butter instead of the usual heavy cream, resulting in a softer ganache. After you bake and form the cookies, have fun decorating them with stripes and squiggles of melted dark chocolate, or dip them into the melted chocolate. Because the ganache is so soft, it's best to keep the cookies refrigerated until a few minutes before serving.
Fun and Fancy Macarons 
Rating: Unrated
New!
To add an extra-festive holiday touch to macarons, pastry chef Paola Velez paints them with several different colors of edible shimmering luster dust. As for the filling? Pick from homemade dark chocolate ganache, or store-bought holiday jam, apple butter, or firm caramel sauce. The macarons can be made in advance and frozen; wait to fill until ready to serve.
Pastry chef Paola Velez's twist on a traditional croquembouche features homemade cinnamon doughnuts instead of cream puffs. The first step is to fry up a batch of the doughnut holes. They're then "glued" together with a simple caramel to form a cone-shaped tower. For the finishing touch, dip the tines of a fork into the hot caramel, and as the caramel drips from the tines, swipe the caramel back and forth over a work surface, then gather together and drape around the tower like a sash. The dessert can be assembled up to 10 hours ahead of time and placed on a table to make an impressive edible centerpiece. There will be some caramel "glue" left over; if desired, add butter and cream and turn it into a caramel sauce for ice cream.
The 2021 Best New Chef opts for natural wine, oxtails, and lazy Sundays in the District.
Black and Ruby Cookies
Rating: Unrated
New!
Paola Velez adds her own spin to the iconic New York City treat of her youth: the Black and White cookie. She starts by going all-chocolate with the topping: one side gets piped with  dark chocolate ganache and the other with ruby chocolate, a fruity chocolate with a pink hue. Velez also swaps traditional whole milk for buttermilk, which helps the baking soda activate, leading to a tender, well-risen cookie. A touch of rye flour in the dough is not only a nod to iconic NYC deli breads, its savory, nutty flavor helps balance the sweetness of this classic cookie. Finally, she adds gold leaf to the finished cookies for a fun metallic shine. To apply the gold leaf, she brushes it on in little dabs, using a small artist's paint brush.
Tamarind Jelly Candies
Rating: Unrated
New!
Paola Velez's tamarind pate de fruit is sweet, tangy, coated with fruity sugar, and all-together delicious. Because the sugar coating dissolves within an hour, cut and coat only when ready to serve. Cover and refrigerate the remaining jelly, store the fruit sugars air-tight at room temperature, and you've got a sweet treat ready to serve in minutes. Frozen tamarind pulp can be found at local Mexican grocers and some supermarkets. Look for liquid pectin in the baking aisle along with canning supplies. 
Rich, chocolaty, and so very festive, this chocolate cake with ganache frosting is worthy of a party. Ganache has many applications in pastry, and here Chef Paola Velez uses it to make the silky-smooth frosting to top her chocolate cake. If you're making the sprinkles from scratch, remember to start one day ahead so they can dry overnight.
Advertisement
Tropical Mendiants
Rating: Unrated
New!
Chef Paola Velez's stunning mendiants are surprisingly easy to make with her simple method for tempering chocolate in the microwave. Piped into rounds, the chocolates are topped with a colorful mix of tropical fruit, toasted nuts, and seeds. Like mini, open-faced chocolate candy bars, the mendiants can be made ahead and served right from the fridge. 
Chef Paola Velez loves making crumb crusts for no-bake pies during the hot summer months. Here she uses Ritz cracker crumbs as a salty, buttery foil to a tart lemon and sumac curd filling. Sumac, a tart spice that adds floral aroma and pops of red color, backs up fresh lemon juice in this sweet and sour filling. 
Baba au Rhum Punch
Rating: Unrated
New!
Chef Paola Velez's take on baba au rhum adds layers of dark rum and fresh fruit flavor to homemade brioche. With almost a cup of top-shelf dark rum between the cinnamon-spiked rum soak and the strawberry-peach Rum Punch Coulis, this opulent dessert is only for adults. Serve warm or at room temperature with scoops of vanilla ice cream to round out the sweet spice notes in the rum.
Start with blueberry panna cotta, top it with a blueberry and chia seed pudding, and finish it with a pile of fresh blueberries for a blueberry trifecta. If you haven't had chia seeds yet, here's a delicious way to give them a try. They add crunchy pops of texture to this creamy dessert, and they're good for you, too.
Hummingbird Cream Puffs
Rating: Unrated
New!
Cream puffs go next level when topped with a buttery cookie before baking. The cookie creates a textured crispy top on these tropical treats filled with pineapple, coconut, and a banana whipped cream. The banana is whipped into the cream, adding both flavor and sweetness - no sugar needed. 
Cherry Empanadillas
Rating: Unrated
New!
This delicious cherry filling will convince you that empanadillas aren't just for savory fillings. These empanadillas are fried until golden brown, then glitzed up with a pretty pink glaze. If you don't have a cherry pitter, a chopstick does a surprisingly good job of removing the pits.
Bey and Jay. PB&J. Platano con salami. They're all iconic duos and pastry chef Paola Velez has one more to add to the canon: guava and cheese. This classic flavor combo takes a star turn in a dessert that Velez describes as "if flan and bread pudding had a baby, and it's delicious." This particular budin de pan recipe—which Velez calls "history in a bowl"—originated with Velez's husband's 101-year-old grandmother, and features a lavish custard made with what might seem like an excess of evaporated milk, but makes for an utterly dreamy texture in the final product. Mastering the homemade caramel portion calls for some close attention and meticulous stirring—Velez notes that even one undissolved grain of sugar may cause the whole mass to solidify—but the reward is sweet and filled with plenty of tropical vibes, especially if you opt for chopped mango on top.