Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tomato and rosemary strata, a TV show and a song

Tomato and rosemary strata / Strata de tomate e alecrim

What makes you take interest in something in particular?

The thought came to my mind last night, as I started watching The Americans – I’d been meaning to watch the show forever, I loved the pilot and cannot wait to watch more episodes, but I have to say that seeing – I mean, hearing – the amazing sounds of Tusk right there, in the beginning of the first episode, made me even more interested in it.

Strata was something I’d always thought of making, especially after seeing the lovely Nigella Lawson make one years ago, but since my husband isn’t very fond of the idea of a savory bread pudding – or any bread pudding, for that matter – I kept postponing it. When I saw this recipe the other day, full of cheese and tomatoes, I could not wait any longer: I cannot live without cheese and tomatoes are something I deeply love, to the point of eating a couple while prepping them for any recipe at all.

The strata turned out delicious: it sort of reminded me of pizza, but with a different texture. I had it with a salad and ate a lot more than I should have. :)

Different things can be triggers to something good: a song, certain foods… It’s a matter of keeping our eyes open – I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more strata recipes and interesting TV shows. ;)

Tomato and rosemary strata
slightly adapted from here

250g stale bread, sliced about 6mm (½in) thick
1 garlic clove, cut in half
60g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
5 firm, firm tomatoes, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 large eggs
2 cups (480ml) whole milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Oil or butter a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic. If it’s stale, just rub with garlic. Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.

Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish. Top with half the tomato slices. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt, pepper, and half the rosemary. Top with half the cheese. Repeat the layers.
Beat together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. Place in the oven and bake 40-50 minutes, until puffed and browned. Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chocolate, banana and coconut muffins

Chocolate, banana and coconut muffins / Muffins de chocolate, banana e coco

I love baking as a whole, and muffins are such favorites of mine: they’re easy to put together – no electric equipment involved most of times –, taste amazing right out of the oven – not need to wait for them to cool completely – and can turn any breakfast in a treat. I hadn’t, however, baked muffins in a long time, and I honestly don’t know why.

When the latest issue of the always wonderful Donna Hay Magazine arrived I immediately dug in and found several muffins recipes – they all looked mouthwatering and if it weren’t for the frozen bananas I had in my freezer it would have been difficult to choose which recipe to start with.

I found these muffins delicious warm, when the chocolate chips are melted – for some reason they are less interesting when cool, therefore they taste way better out of the oven – if there are any left, a handful of seconds in the microwave oven should do the trick.

Chocolate, banana and coconut muffins
from the always gorgeous and mouthwatering Donna Hay Magazine

2 ½ cups (350g) purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (30g) Dutch cocoa
2 eggs
½ cup (120ml) coconut milk
½ cup (120ml) canola oil
3 small very ripe bananas (400g), mashed with a fork
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate, in chips or chunks – I used one with 53% cocoa solids

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cases.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, coconut, sugar and cocoa. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, oil, banana and vanilla. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture and stir just until combined; do not overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until risen and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove muffins from pan and place on a rack until cool enough to handle. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 – I halved the recipe and got 8 muffins

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Almond sablés - delicious simplicity

Almond sablés / Sablés de amêndoa

I guess that the simplicity of certain things can be very surprising sometimes, and that is a good thing – while searching for a good cookie recipe, I bumped into Alice Medrich’s cookbook on cookies and since the woman can do no wrong I decided to bake one of her recipes. I had chocolate in mind, but I decided to give her almond sablés a go for I had a package of almond meal in the fridge.

As I read the recipe and saw that Alice’s suggestion of sandwiching the cookies with dulce de leche I thought of the dulce de leche left from making the churros cake and knew that was the right recipe to try.

I prepped the dough, formed it into cylinders and placed them in the fridge, always thinking of how simple those cookies would be. I baked them a day later and as the first batch cooled on the wire rack their simplicity became more visible – “yes, this is a plain cookie”, I thought, no chocolate, no spices, no dried fruit. But as I took the first bite I was in awe: they tasted so delicious I could not believe it! Yes, they were simple, but they were amazing, too. The nutty flavor from the almonds turned them into something extra special.

I sandwiched some of the cookies with dulce de leche and they were indeed delicious that way, but don’t worry about that: the cookies taste great on their own, too, and pair beautifully with a cup of coffee.

Almond sablés
slightly adapted from the wonderful Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (100g) almond meal
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, chopped in chunks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons Amaretto (optional)
270g all purpose flour

Place sugar, salt and almond meal in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed just to combine. Add the butter, vanilla extract and Amaretto and mix on medium speed until creamy. Add the flour and mix on low just until a dough begins to form. Finish stirring with a spatula.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place each on a piece of parchment paper; shape dough into logs. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press into a 3.5 cm (1.4in) log – like Martha does here. Wrap in parchment. Chill in the fridge until very firm, about 4 hours (the dough logs can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper - I like Beyond Gourmet a lot.
Unwrap one log at a time (keep the other in the freezer). Cut log into 6mm (¼in) thick rounds; space 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake until golden brown around the edges, 12-14 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets.

Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature. They can be sandwiched with dulce de leche, if desired.

Makes about 50 cookies

Friday, May 8, 2015

Churros cake and two favorite TV shows gone

Churros cake / Bolo churros

I sat down this morning to write this post when I read that two of my favorite TV shows have been cancelled: Resurrection is gone, and we’ll no longer have the lovely Dr. Henry Morgan and his son Abe on Tuesday nights. :(

It was Resurrection, along with the one and only Raymond Reddington, that got my husband hooked on TV series – I’ll always be in the show’s debt. A while afterwards we started watching Forever and loved it – I mourned the end of three great shows alone, but this time my husband is keeping me company in my sadness (and there are lots of people as sad as us over on People magazine’s website).

I saw a recipe for a cinnamon tea cake on this beautiful cookbook and as I read the instructions for brushing the top of the cake with melted butter and sprinkling it with sugar and cinnamon I immediately thought of churros – here in São Paulo it is very common to find them filled with dulce de leche (differently from the ones I ate in Spain), that is why I decided to transform a cinnamon tea cake into a churros cake by sandwiching it with dulce de leche (and according to my brother, this cake really tastes like churros). :)

After reading the news I definitely need something sweet: I’ll head over the kitchen to cut myself a (big) slice of cake and drown my sorrows in dulce de leche, sugar and cinnamon. ;)

Churros cake
adapted from the cinnamon tea cake from this absolutely gorgeous book

1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
60g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk, room temperature

1 ¼ cups dulce de leche

1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter it as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until light and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Stir in the dry ingredients and milk until smooth.
Spread mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully unmold, peel off the paper and cool completely over a wire rack.

Cut the cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife. Place the bottom half of the cake onto a serving plate and spread over the dulce de leche. Cover with the other half of the cake.
Brush the top of the cake with the melted butter. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Serves 8-10

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cardamom thumbprints for days when you're pressed for time

Cardamom thumbprints / Biscoitos thumbprint de cardamomo

As much as I love slice and bake cookies, there are times I’m in a hurry and in need of a cookie recipe that doesn’t call for time in the fridge or freezer – sometimes one just wants cookies ASAP.

I was in a situation like that last week, but every recipe I had seen lately needed to be made way in advance – don’t get me wrong, I understand that many cookies benefit from time in the fridge, but I rarely have that kind of time: I can’t wait 24 hours to bake a batch of cookies (that is why I haven’t, to this day, tried Jacques Torres’ super famous chocolate chip cookies).

I found these lovely thumbprint cookies on Food & Wine magazine and not only were they quick to make, but they were the perfect use for a delicious apple jelly I had in the fridge – the flavor of the jelly paired beautifully with the cardamom and the almond in the dough.

Cardamom thumbprints
from the always delicious Food & Wine magazine

1 cup (100g) fine almond meal
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
finely ground seeds of 10 cardamom pods
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
about ½ cup apple jelly – or use your favorite preserve/jam

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

In a small bowl, whisk the flours with the cardamom and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients, then turn the mixer on low speed and mix just until combined. Using a spatula, form dough into a ball – at this stage, my dough was a bit too soft, so I stirred in 2 ½ tablespoons (25g) all purpose flour.

Using 2 leveled teaspoons of dough per cookie, form dough into balls and place onto prepared sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart. Using the back of a teaspoon, make an indentation in the center of each ball. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until slightly firm. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and press the indentations again. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes longer, until lightly golden and dry but not hard. Remove from the oven and fill the indentations with the jelly. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack.

Makes about 38

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