Friday, August 29, 2008

Orange-spice glazed cookies and horror movies

Orange-spice glazed cookies

My mom did not let me watch horror films when I was a kid. But I usually found a way of peeking, at least for a couple of minutes. Some movies were terrifying, I’ll say - mom was right. Two got stuck in my head and to this day I don’t know their names.

In one of them, a very happy family starts falling apart because the younger daughter is possessed or something. On the scene I remember, there’s been a car crash and all the family get out of the car before it explodes. But the little girl ties up her older sister’s shoe laces together so she can’t move. And she dies. So creepy.

As for the other movie, all I know is that it ends with a man screaming, the camera getting closer to him until it goes down his throat and everything turns black. Then, the credits. Equally scary.

Do you know which movies are those? I keep thinking that they might be really crappy movies and here I am, curious about them for so long.

Like these cookies. I was curious about them for many, many months and when I finally baked the cookies they did not turn out cute like the ones on the original recipe. :(

UPDATE: My good friend C. read the post and got so angry at me! She says that I'm not being honest with you, guys. According to her, I took photos using light colors on purpose to make the cookies look bad and did not mention that they tasted fantastic.
Ok, C. - message delivered!

Orange-spice glazed cookies

Orange-spice glazed cookies

1 ¼ cups (175g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

1 cup (140g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
a splash of vanilla
2 tablespoons orange juice

Grease two baking sheets well and set aside – I lined the sheets with baking paper.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix well.

Add the cream of tartar, flour, zest, spices, and salt, and mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth.

Remove the dough from the mixer and form it into a ball. If it's too soft to handle, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it firms up a bit – I refrigerated mine for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and make the glaze by mixing the powered sugar, vanilla, and orange juice until smooth.

On a well-floured board, roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Cut into shapes with the cookie cutters of your choice. Place on the prepared pan and bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately brush each one with a good amount of glaze, then place them back in the oven and bake until the glaze starts to crackle and the cookies are a golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes more. Remove the cookies and let cool on the pan.

Makes about 30 medium-size cookies – I halved the recipe and got 35 cookies with a 5cm flower cutter

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grilled cheese and basil polenta

Grilled cheese and basil polenta

I never thought this would happen, but it did. Donna Hay disappointed me.

It was last Saturday – my Amazon box arrived and I couldn’t wait to go through my new cookbooks. Donna’s book looked so adorable and cute... I started to flip the pages, eager to choose the first recipe to prepare. Unfortunately, as I glanced at the photos there was only one thing going on in my mind – “I’ve already seen this. And this. And this one, too.”
Several of those recipes had been published in other Donna Hay’s books and magazines – the ones on my bookshelf. :(

I’m not interested in buying cookbooks with recipes I already own and I guess you aren’t either – that’s why I thought you should know about this. I have deleted the other “Simple Essentials” volumes from my wish list.

To remind me of how wonderful Donna’s recipes are, I prepared this polenta (from her magazine, issue 40). I’ll tell you, my friends: this is what I call reconciliation. :)

Grilled cheese and basil polenta

Grilled cheese and basil polenta
from Donna Hay magazine

3 cups (750ml) water
1 cup (170g) instant polenta
60g butter, chopped
½ cup (50g) finely grated parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup basil leaves
2 cups (200g) grated mozzarella*
olive oil, for brushing

Place water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir through the butter, parmesan, salt and pepper. Pour half of the polenta into a 20cm square pan lined with non-stick baking paper (I used foil) and spread to smooth. Top with the basil, mozzarella and remaining polenta. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until set.
Cut into squares/rectangles and brush with oil. Heat a char-grill pan or barbecue over high heat. Cook the polenta for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden and the cheese has melted. Serve with pan-fried veal cutlets, grilled lamb or steak and baby spinach.

* I used the yellow mozzarella we have here, that seems to be really similar to Monterey Jack

Serves 2 - I think it can serve 4, depending on what you serve it with

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sake panna cotta

Sake panna cotta

My dear and sweet friend Clarice is hosting a special event to celebrate 100 years of Japanese Immigration in Brazil. She is a Brazilian of Japanese ascendancy and has been living in Japan for almost 2 decades now.

evento Clarice

The event is about cooking or baking with Japanese ingredients. I thought about so many different recipes, but ended up choosing this one – all I did was use sake instead of grappa. It was my first time making a panna cotta and I was pleased with the result – the sake flavor is very subtle and the cooked apples and syrup compliment it beautifully.

Clarice, darling, I hope you like my entry! It took me a while to post it because I wanted to make it in my brand new kitchen. :)

Sake panna cotta

Sake panna cotta
adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

300ml double cream
300ml pouring cream
110g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a peeler
60ml sake
2½ leaves of gelatin (titanium strength)*, softened in cold water

Sake apples:
2 pink lady apples, cored and cut into thin wedges – I used Gala apples
juice of 1 lemon
165g caster sugar
grated zest of ½ lemon
12 cloves
125ml sake

Heat creams, caster sugar, lemon zest and half the sake and stir over low heat until combined (4-5 minutes). Increase heat to medium and cook gently until mixture comes to the boil (4-5 minutes). Squeeze excess water from gelatin, add to cream mixture and stir to dissolve, remove from heat and cool to blood temperature. Strain, add remaining sake, stir and pour into six ½-cup-capacity dariole moulds rinsed with water. Refrigerate overnight or until set.

For sake apples, combine apples and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside. Heat sugar, lemon zest, cloves and ¾ cup water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until reduced to ¾ cup (8-10 minutes). Drain apples, reserving liquid, add apples and half the sake to sugar syrup, return to the boil over medium-high heat, then simmer very gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender and translucent (35-40 minutes), add reserved lemon juice and remaining sake and cook until syrupy (8-10 minutes). Cool to room temperature.

To serve, briefly dip panna cotta moulds into boiling water and invert onto serving plates. Serve with sake apples to the side, drizzled with extra syrup.

* I had no idea of kind of gelatin this was, so I used 6 leaves of regular gelatin. I think I could have done with 5.

Serves 6

Sake panna cotta

Friday, August 22, 2008

Damp lemon and almond cake

Damp lemon and almond cake

KJ and her fun challenge have been such an inspiration to me. I have so many cookbooks and magazines but usually reach for the same ones over and over again (Donna Hay, anyone?) :)

I want to use other books, those I haven’t taken out of the shelf for quite some time. Deciding which book to grab was not an easy task; choosing the recipe, on the other hand, was a walk in the park.

Nigella says that if you manage to resist the cake – which I dare you to – you can wrap it in a double layer of foil and leave it for a couple of days; both the flavor and the damp texture will increase. I don’t know about that, since there was no cake left to be wrapped in foil after all. :)
I believe that the only way one could ever know if Nigella is telling the truth is by making two cakes at once. :)

Damp lemon and almond cake

Damp lemon and almond cake
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess

1 cup (226g/2 sticks) soft unsalted butter
¾ cup (150g) sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup (47g) all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups ground almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line the bottom of a 20cm (8-inch) springform pan with parchment paper – I used one with a removable bottom.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until almost white. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond extract, lemon zest and juice. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes - you may have to cover the cake loosely with foil after 30 minutes so the top won’t burn.
The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Don’t overbake the cake or it won’t be damp.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes in the pan; then turn it out o a wire rack and leave till cool.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pine nut-crusted cheese with roasted pepper

Pine nut-crusted cheese with roasted pepper

I think you have all been there: you see a wonderful recipe but one of the ingredients is not easy – or worse, impossible – to find where you live. That’s fine - we use something else instead.

Valentina had told me that queijo coalho is similar to haloumi – it even “squeaks” on the teeth once bitten. So queijo coalho it is. But the type found in the supermarket was one already cut in sort of sticks. :(
Not wanting to make my poor hubby march towards another grocery store, I decided I would glue the cheese sticks on the frying pan before dipping them on the pine nut mixture. Oh, yeah, I’m so smart, aren’t I? Except for one small detail: the cheese wouldn’t melt. At all. That’s why my plan did not work, as you can see on the photo. But this is such a delicious recipe I had to share it with you.
I highly recommend it - with the right cheese, of course. :)

Pine nut-crusted cheese with roasted pepper

Pine nut-crusted cheese with roasted pepper
from Donna Hay magazine

½ cup (80g) toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves - I mixed parsley and fresh oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g haloumi, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
450g store-bought char-grilled red bell peppers, torn*

Place the pine nuts, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a small food processor and process in short bursts until just combined. Spread the pine nut mixture on the haloumi. Heat the extra olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook the haloumi for 1-2 minutes each side or until browned.
Serve immediately with the roasted bell pepper.

* Or cut off the top of a (or more) bell pepper, cut it in half, remove all the seeds and pith and place it on a lightly oiled baking tray, skin side up. Brush the skin with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven (200ºC/400ºC) until the skin starts to blister. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the peppers to a glass bowl, covering it tight with plastic or cling film. Set aside to cool. The skin will be removed very easily, then.

Serves 4

Monday, August 18, 2008

Triple lemon chiffon cake with strawberries for my little sister’s birthday

Triple lemon chiffon cake with strawberries for my little sister’s birthday

She may not look like me at all, but at least we have one thing in common: my sister loves citrus flavors, too.

Jessica, my brother and I

When she was little, I’d take her everywhere with me – we were like peas and carrots. :)

Sometimes we’d go out for dessert and among all the decadent chocolate cakes and sweets her choice was only one: passion fruit mousse tart. I used to think that happened because back then she wanted to do everything I did – same clothes, same food... But now she has become a very independent adolescent and her love for citrus and acidic sweets is still there: I told her to choose a cake flavor for her birthday and she asked for some ideas. “How about chocolate + strawberries? Or lemon + strawberries?” I said. And the answer made her big sister very, very proud. :)


I adapted three different recipes from the same book: one for the cake itself, another for the filing and a third for the frosting. The result was a very tender cake – so soft it was almost impossible to slice – with the delicious lemon touch. The recipe I’m posting is for three 9-inch cake pans; I used 10-inch pans and for that I needed to do some crazy Math: I made ¾ of the cake recipe for 2 pans, then half of that recipe for the third pan. For the lemon mousse and the buttercream, I made the recipe below + ¼ (there was ½ cup frosting left).


I think I’m not the only one, but at the age of 15 I felt quite lost and alone. That’s when Jessica arrived in our lives – she brought so much love and understanding to a home that was almost falling apart. She was a gift for all of us and I’ve always tried my best to be a very good sister – so now that she is 15 she doesn’t feel lost like I used to.

Triple lemon chiffon cake with strawberries for my little sister’s birthday

Triple lemon chiffon cake with strawberries
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

8 eggs, separated
¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup (80ml) water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
1 ¾ cups (245g) cake flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Lemon white chocolate mousse:
100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup (180ml) heavy cream
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sugar
zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1 ¼ cups sliced strawberries

Lemon buttercream:
3 egg whites
¾ cup (150g) sugar
¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
9oz/252g unsalted butter, room temperature

candied lemon peel and/or fresh strawberries

Start with the cake: preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch cake pans with round of parchment or waxed paper but do not grease the pans.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, lemon juice, zest and water.

In a large mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add ½ cup (100g) of the sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Sift the flour, remaining 1 cup (200g) sugar, baking soda and salt into a very large bowl. Whisk gently to combine. Make a well in the center, pour the egg yolk mixture, and stir to make a smooth paste. Add one-fourth of the beaten egg whites and fold in to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

Bake for about 16 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let the cakes cool completely in their pans. To unmold, run a blunt knife around the edges to release – I did not need to do this, since the cakes pulled out from the edges as soon as they began to cool. Invert to unmold; carefully peel off the paper liners.

Make the filling: melt the white chocolate with ¼ cup of the heavy cream in a double boiler or in a small metal bowl set over a pan of very hot water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and mix well. Let cool to room temperature.

When it has cooled, beat the remaining ¾ cup heavy cream with the lemon zest until firm peaks form. In a clean bowl, whip the egg white with the sugar until you get a firm meringue.

Fold the beaten egg white into the white chocolate cream, then fold in the whipped cream until just blended – err on the side of undermixing. Refrigerate until needed.

Now, the buttercream: place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and set the mixer up with the whip attachment.

In a nonreactive saucepan, heat the sugar and lemon juice, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage, 115ºC/238ºF on a candy thermometer.

Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, taking care not to pour it onto the beaters. Beat on medium speed until the meringue cools to body temperature.

With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the butter several tablespoons at a time. Beat until a smooth buttery frosting forms.

Assembling the cake: place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Top half the filling and place half the amount of strawberry slices over the mousse. Place another cake layer, spread the remaining filling over it and top with the strawberries. Top with the third cake layer. Frost the top and sides with the buttercream. Decorate with candied lemon peel and/or fresh strawberries.

Serves 16-20

Triple lemon chiffon cake with strawberries for my little sister’s birthday

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chocolate chip and almond cookies

Chocolate chip and almond cookies

An episode of “Law & Order – Criminal Intent” made me think of substitutions – to be more precise, of how some work while others, don’t.

As much as I adore Mr. Big, what the heck is he doing in Robert Goren’s place?? The character is the soul of that show and Vincent D’Onofrio is absurdly fantastic (yes, I’m a huge fan). Imho, a very bad substitution – Chris Noth should go back to the other L&O.

These cookies, on the other hand, surprised me in a good way. I have always seen pecans or walnuts in choc chip cookies, but never almonds. That’s why I wanted to give this a try. The recipe makes a ton of cookies – which was good, since I intended to share them with a large group of people – and the combo chocolate/almonds really works.

Chocolate chip and almond cookies

Chocolate chip and almond cookies
from here

2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (175g) packed dark brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 ¾ cups (385g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
12 ounces (335g) semisweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 cup (4oz/112g) chopped toasted almonds – I used sliced almonds

Heat oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the butter, brown and granulated sugars, corn syrup, and vanilla for 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Add the chocolate and almonds. Using 1 leveled tablespoons of dough, make balls and place on prepared pans, 2 inches apart.

Bake until lightly browned at the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks. Cool completely.

Makes 60

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nigella’s unpestoed pesto

Nigella’s unpestoed pesto

Part 2 - that is not something I like seeing on the title of a movie. Some do make me curious, I’ll admit it, while others... Can even become a dark spot on someone’s career - I bet that the Oscar nominee Amy Adams would agree with me here. :)

You’ll think: “she’s already posted pasta al pesto”. And you are right. Since sequels can be masterpieces, too, I present you my pesto part 2.

I saw Nigella cooking this dish on TV but couldn’t write down the recipe - I eyeballed all the ingredients. As I ended up finding it online, I’ll post it here for you.

Even though this pasta recipe is insanely simple, I’ll be honest: I prefer the original pesto sauce. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give the part 2 a try.

Nigella’s unpestoed pesto

Nigella’s unpestoed pesto

1 pound (450g) spaghetti
1 cup (240ml) olive oil – I used less
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts
8 ounces (224g) whole Parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and then add the spaghetti. While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a large frying pan and throw in some peeled cloves of garlic. Cook over gentle heat until the garlic starts to turn light brown and its scent wafts upward. Remove the cloves from the pan and take the pan off the heat.
Roughly chop or shred a mound of basil leaves, set aside. In a second dry frying pan, toast a handful or so of pine nuts. When the pasta is ready, drain it, toss it in the garlic-infused olive oil, and then transfer to a warm bowl.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave in the parmesan and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Toss well, throw over all but a small handful of the basil leaves, and turn again.
Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and the remaining shredded basil leaves and serve at once.

Serves 4

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dorset apple cake

Dorset apple cake

May I start by “saying” that you, my fellow food bloggers and readers, are fantastic? Thank you for all the poppy seed offers and also for the best wishes for my new home! You have put a huge smile on this exhausted girl’s face. :)

I still have things to unpack, but at least now the place looks like a home, and not a warehouse. :)

I haven’t baked in my new kitchen yet and the only cooking I did was a quick spaghetti for lunch yesterday – Joao and I couldn’t stand sandwiches anymore. Luckily, I have a couple of recipes to post while I organize my house.

This cake was a hit – I shared it with a number of people and everyone loved it. It was moist and tender. I was a bit worried when the center of the cake sank, but Joao saw the original recipe and said that it looked like the one on the photo had sunk, too. I decided not to be so hard on myself and believe my husband’s opinion – even though boiling water is the only thing he can do in the kitchen. :)

Dorset apple cake

Dorset apple cake
from Delicious magazine

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
450g Granny Smith apples
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
225g caster sugar, plus extra for dredging
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
25g ground almonds
1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF. Grease a deep 25cm springform cake pan – I used one with removable bottom - and line the bottom with baking paper.

Peel, core and cut the apples into 1cm pieces, and toss with the lemon juice.
Using an electric hand whisk or stand in mixer, cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a little flour with each addition to keep the mixture smooth.
Sift the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold in with the ground almonds. Drain the apple pieces well, then stir into the mixture.
Spoon into the prepared cake pan, lightly level the top and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well-risen, brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to look a little too brown, cover with a sheet of baking paper after about 45 minutes.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Dredge heavily with the extra caster sugar. Cut the cake into generous wedges and serve warm with a spoonful of clotted cream, if you like – I served it with thick yogurt.

Serves 8

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grilled eggplant with tomatoes and cheese and a new home

Grilled eggplant with tomatoes and cheese

A quick post this time - I’m moving today and lots of boxes surround me right now.

If you like veggies, please, make this dish. It couldn’t be simpler and the flavors are so good. Serve it with some crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Grilled eggplant with tomatoes and cheese

Grilled eggplant with tomatoes and cheese
inspired by a recipe from Family Food

2 eggplants, sliced
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb 2 oz (510g) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons capers, drained
½ cup mozzarella – the one I used seems to be similar to Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
small basil leaves, to garnish – it was raining heavily so I couldn’t go outside to pick them

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/392ºF.

Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Brush the eggplant slices with some of the oil. Grill the slices on both sides until they are soft and begin to brown, then lay them in a large, shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the rest of the oil in a small saucepan, add the cherry tomatoes and garlic, then fry briefly until the tomatoes just start to soften. Add the capers for a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the tomatoes over the eggplant, and sprinkle the mozzarella and the parmesan on top.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden. Remove from the oven then sprinkle the basil leaves over the top. Serve at once.

* garlic is not my best friend when it comes to digestion, so I used garlic infused olive oil and omitted the garlic cloves.

Serves 4

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lemon poppy seed cookies... And no poppy seeds in Brazil

Lemon poppy seed cookies

After posting this cake, I received several emails and comments from people here in Brazil asking me where I had bought poppy seeds, because they couldn’t find the seeds anywhere. I had no idea there was something going on – I had purchased the package a while before that.

I call the store I usually buy spices from and the employee told me that poppy seeds had been forbidden in Brazil for a while; now, they are no longer banished, but there are so many rules for importing them that the companies prefer not to. I am so mad! I don’t write about politics on my blogs because it’s not my goal and I respect my readers, but I thought that forbidding poppy seeds is too much – there are so many illegal and wrong things happening in Brazil that they should worry about what really matters.

I baked these super yummy cookies months ago and publish them now hoping this ridiculous situation ends soon and Brazilian cooks and bakers can use poppy seeds again.

Lemon poppy seed cookies

Lemon poppy seed cookies
from here

¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups (250g) sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons lemon zest
3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds + extra for topping

Preheat oven to 175ºC/350ºF; line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a small saucepan, bring lemon juice to a simmer and let reduce by half. Once it has reduced add ½ cup of butter (113g) and let melt, remove from heat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In another bowl whisk remaining ½ cup of butter (113g) and 1 cup of sugar (200g) together until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg and melted lemon-butter mixture, beat on medium-high with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, or until very light and pale in color. Mix in vanilla, poppy seeds and 3 teaspoons of lemon zest; once combined, add dry ingredients and mix on low until smooth, you may need to stir in the last 1/3 to 2/3 of a cup by hand. Blend until smooth.
In a plate, combine the remaining ¼ cup of sugar (50g) with 1 teaspoon of lemon zest – rub the sugar and zest between your fingertips to obtain a lemony sugar. Roll leveled ½ tablespoons of dough into small balls and place on a prepared cookie sheet, 5cm (2in) apart. Using a very slight moist glass, dip the bottom into sugar mixture and flatten cookies, follow by sprinkling a few poppy seeds and a pinch of the sugar+zest mix over the top of each cookie.

Bake for 11-12 minutes (mine needed 14) or until perfectly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack.

Makes 70

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cinnamon French toast

Cinnamon French toast

I love breakfast food. In a perfect world, people should be able to eat pancakes, waffles, muffins and bread all through the day. :)

This was the first time I tried french toast, though. We do eat something really similar here in Brazil, called rabanada, but it’s usually prepared around Christmas time and it’s not a daily breakfast meal for us. It’s equally delicious: the bread is soaked in a mix of milk and sweetened condensed milk, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

I had drained some yogurt and was looking for something good to use it with - Pea’s “refund” muffins crossed my mind, but the amount of yogurt was not enough. The answer was on this book.

I used plain sandwich bread (which was the only kind around the house that day) and it worked fine, even though they were not very thick. I just had to be careful when frying and flipping them over.

Cinnamon French toast

Cinnamon French toast
from Kitchen: The Best of the Best

4 thick slices white bread, crusts removed
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar – I used vanilla scented sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (120ml) milk
butter, for frying
extra sugar, for sprinkling
175g plain yogurt, to serve
fresh seasonal fruit, to serve
100ml maple syrup, to serve – I used honey
toasted pecans, to serve

Cut each slice of bread in half to make rectangles. Beat the egg, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then add the milk and combine well. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a frying pan – I used non-stick - over medium heat. Dip the bread into the milk mixture, covering both sides. Sprinkle one side of each piece of bread with sugar and gently fry, sugar-side down, for 3 minutes, or until the undersides are golden. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and flip over. Cook until golden. Serve with yogurt, fresh fruit, maple syrup/honey and sprinkle of pecans.

Serves 4

Cinnamon French toast

Friday, August 1, 2008

Waiter, there's something in my... picnic! Olive, herb and parmesan sticks

Olive, herb and parmesan sticks

I haven’t taken part in blog events lately – I never seem to keep the deadlines in mind – but picnics are something I hold very dear and they are the theme for this “Waiter, there’s something in my...”, hosted by Johanna, Jeanne and Andrew.

When I was little, my parents used to take me and my brother to parks on the weekends, and we had wonderful picnics there (I once wrote about it here). To this day I can remember the towel over the grass and all the yummy snacks prepared by Mom – she was a magnificent cook/baker.
After she was gone, my paternal grandmother - who looked after us for a couple of years - would let my brother and I have picnics on the living room; she would lay the towel on the carpet for us to eat, just like my mom did on the grass.

These delicious bread sticks are my contribution to the event. Just stay away from them as they come out of the oven – otherwise, there will be none left for the picnic.

Olive, herb and parmesan sticks

Olive, herb and parmesan sticks
from Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads

5g fresh yeast or ½ envelope (3.5g) active dry yeast – I used dry
250g white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (180ml) water, room temperature

¾ cup purple olives, such as Kalamata, with pits in
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
cornmeal, for dusting – I didn’t have any at home, so I used flour instead

Start with the dough: using a mixer with the dough hook, put the flour in the mixer bowl and rub in the yeast (if using dry, just mix in). Switch the mixer onto the slowest speed, add the salt and then the water, and mix for 2 minutes, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for another 6-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured counter and mold into a ball.
Place in a lightly floured large bowl, cover with plastic/cling film and let rise in a draft-free area for 1 hour.

Make the filling: pit the olives and cut each one roughly into three (I cut into more pieces). Mix the olives, cheese and herbs together in a bowl. Set aside.

Assembling: with the help of the rounded end of your scraper, turn the dough onto the counter, lightly dusted with cornmeal. Using your hand, flatten out a rectangle about ¾-inch (2cm) thick. Sprinkle the filling on top and press it into the dough with your fingertips. Fold one third of the dough into the center and press down with your fingertips. Then fold the opposite side over on top (as if you were folding a letter to put into an envelope). Press with the palms of your hands to work the olives into the dough. With the flat edge of your scraper, cut the dough widthwise into 10-12 strips about ½-inch (1cm) wide. Flour the counter with cornmeal. Twist each strip (I pressed the sides together so the filling wouldn’t fall off) and roll them a little on the counter so they stretch to the length of your baking try (nonstick or covered with foil so the cheese in the dough won’t stick to the tray) and place the strips on top, leaving a gap between them – 1 inch (2.5cm) is fine.
Cover with a lintfree dishtowel and let rise for 30-45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/428ºF; put the baking dish into the oven and mist the inside with a water spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Use a spatula to lift them from the baking tray. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10-12 – I got 16

Olive, herb and parmesan sticks

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