Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brownies with white chocolate chips and cocoa nibs

Brownies com chocolate branco e nibs de cacau / Brownies with white chocolate chips and cocoa nibs

One can tell that I am crazy for brownies by the amount of brownie recipes on this blog, however in my defense I have to say that I do not bake them for my own pleasure only: every time I want to make someone’s day better I give brownies as gifts (some of my friends already know that very well). :)

I had a small package of cocoa nibs at home and wanted to use them in a nice recipe – since they are on the bitter side, I thought that pairing them with the sweetness of white chocolate would work well - the creamy, gooey brownies are the perfectly vessel for that flavor encounter, and I added a touch of dark cocoa powder to the batter for extra richness.

Brownies with white chocolate chips and cocoa nibs
own recipe

¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened and chopped
170g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
100g white chocolate chips
1/3 cup (40g) cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) square pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides, and butter the foil as well.

In a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) combine butter and chocolate and stir occasionally until both are melted. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the white chocolate chips and cocoa nibs.

Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16

Monday, August 21, 2017

Roasted tomato and red lentil soup and freezing feet

Roasted tomato and red lentil soup / Sopa de tomates assados e lentilha vermelha

I believe that one of the reasons why my love for the winter has considerably decreased is the fact that at least here in Sao Paulo we are not actually prepared for cold temperatures: there is no heat inside most of houses and apartments, stores and restaurants – one suffers with the cold both outside and inside. Taking a shower is a nightmare, getting dressed another one. :S

As I type this recipe on a very cold Sunday with a piping hot mug of tea by my side, my feet are covered in two pairs of socks and yet they feel like two ice cubes. I dream of nicer weather, and while that does not happen I make soup – this is simple, delicious and the heat turns the tomatoes into gold even if they are not at their peak, while the lentils make the soup thicker and more fulfilling.

Roasted tomato and red lentil soup
own recipe

For the roasted tomatoes:
8 ripe Italian tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh oregano
2 bay leaves

For the soup:
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white part only, finely sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups (720ml) vegetable stock, hot
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (100g) dried red lentils

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
Place the tomatoes on top of the foil, cut side up, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place the oregano and the bay leaves on top of the tomatoes and roast for 40 minutes or until very tender. Remove from the oven and discard the oregano and bay leaves.

Start the soup: melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with any juices from the sheet. Add the vegetable stock, then blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Stir in the lentils and cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Check seasoning and serve.

Serves 4-6

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Coconut sour cream buns and polarizing flavors

Coconut sour cream buns / Pãezinhos de coco e creme azedo (sour cream)

I thought I was crazy for sweets until I started working at my current job, two years ago: my coworkers are addicted to all kinds of sweets, and being a Swiss company you can imagine the ridiculous amounts of chocolate coming every time someone travels from headquarters to Sao Paulo. :)

One of the executives at the office keeps a jar of candy on top of his desk, and the group is welcome to get some whenever a sugar high is needed. Everyone that travels brings candy for the jar, which I find very nice and generous. Last week we started a debate about flavors because of the jar: my boss reached out for some candy, and since she does not speak Portuguese I warned her that those were coconut-filled candy bars. She told me she loved coconut, and then someone else replied that they hated it, while another person said they loved it too, and my boss said she believed that coconut is one of those flavors that polarize people: you either love it or hate it – like cilantro. :)

I am part of the coconut fan club for I love it in absolutely anything, including savory dishes. For that reason I wanted to come up with a recipe for buns made with coconut, but no only in the filling, as most recipes I have seen – I wanted a double splash of coconut, both in the dough and in the filling. I came up with these delicious buns that look super cute by being baked in a muffin pan, and they taste oh, so good. The addition of both sour cream and butter to the dough makes them insanely tender.

Coconut sour cream buns
own recipe

2 ¼ teaspoons dried yeast
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120ml) lukewarm water
½ cup (120ml) sour cream*
1 large egg yolk
2 ½ cups (350g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/3 cup (33g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, very soft

¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, very soft
2/3 cup (66g) unsweetened flaked coconut
4 tablespoons demerara sugar

For the egg wash and sprinkling the buns:
1 egg, + 1 teaspoon water, lightly beaten with a fork
3 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut

Start by making the dough: in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough attachment, mix yeast, pinch of the sugar and water with a fork. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sour cream, yolk, remaining sugar, flour, salt, coconut and vanilla and mix for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Gradually beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition – dough will be soft. Transfer to a lightly buttered large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.

Generously butter a 12-hole nonstick muffin pan. Set aside.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 30x40cm (12x16in) rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough leaving a 1cm (½in) border. Sprinkle the butter with the sugar, then with the coconut. Starting from the longest side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, then slice into 12 equal pieces. Place each piece into a cavity of the muffin pan. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to prove again, 40-45 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°/400°F.

Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with the coconut. Bake for about 25 minutes or until risen and golden. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold the buns and transfer them to the rack to cool completely (they are delicious served warm, too).

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Makes 12

Friday, August 11, 2017

Orange, blueberry and olive oil muffins and a lactose problem

Orange, blueberry and olive oil muffins / Muffins de laranja, mirtilo e azeite de oliva

I know how rare it is nowadays to post recipes on the blog on two consecutive days, and I am still running around like a headless chicken trying to do everything I have to do lately, but since next week will be even busier than the week ending today I decided to go crazy and bring you these muffins: again a speedy recipe, but a very delicious one. These muffins are golden and really moist, very tender and perfumed with orange zest.

I am a complete sucker for citrus as you all know and in these muffins the orange flavor compliments the blueberries in the most wonderful way. The addition of olive oil is a nice surprise, not to mention that this became my go-to muffin recipe after I was diagnosed as lactose intolerant, a month ago or so: I have made it using lactose-free milk with good results (next time I will try making them using almond milk).

Orange, blueberry and olive oil muffins
own recipe

¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 8 paper cases. Fill the empty cavities halfway through with water (this will prevent the pan from warping).

In a large bowl, place sugar and orange zest and rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, olive oil and vanilla until smooth. Pour over dry ingredients and stir lightly with a fork just until combined – do not overmix or your muffins will be tough; muffin batter is not smooth as cake batter.
Stir in the berries. Divide the batter among the paper cases, then bake for about 20 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the muffins from the pan and transfer to the rack. Cool completely or serve warm.

Makes 8

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Peanut cinnamon amaretti and no time for blogging

Peanut cinnamon amaretti / Amaretti de amendoim com um toque de canela

My days have been pretty busy lately, and I guess that some of you already know that given my disappearing from the blog. :)

However, I wanted to stop by quickly today and give you a recipe that I simply adore - and that is also quick to put together: the amaretti I make by replacing the almonds with a very Brazilian ingredient, peanuts, and adding a touch of cinnamon. Let’s call this an Italian-Brazilian cookie (I do like to mix and match countries in my kitchen). :) They go wonderfully with coffee and tea, and are also delicious broken into smaller pieces and sprinkled on top of ice cream.

Peanut amaretti
own recipe

2 ½ cups (250g) peanut meal (finely ground peanuts)
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 large egg whites (56g)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut meal, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the egg whites and the vanilla and mix until a dough forms.

Roll 2 teaspoons of dough per cookie into balls and place onto prepared sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart. Press down slightly with your fingers. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool in the sheets over a wire rack.

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 35

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