Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hot-cross muffins

Hot cross muffins / Muffins hot cross

These delicious and tender muffins, perfumed with spices and moist from a sugar syrup, are a great way to avoid a chocolate OD during the Easter holiday: they're perfect for breakfast or brunch and are very quick to make, unlike their yeasted cousin.

Hot-cross muffins
from the always mouthwatering Delicious - Australia

Muffins:
135g dried cranberries
1 cup (150g) golden raisins
375g self-rising flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2/3 cup (160mll) canola oil
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

Syrup and icing:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup (70g) icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.
Soak the cranberries and raisins in just enough boiling water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain well, then pat dry with paper towel.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs and sugar until combined. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Gently stir in the fruit. Divide the mixture among muffin cases, then bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan and transfer to the rack.
Syrup: place the granulated sugar in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons water and simmer over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Brush the glaze over the muffins.
Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Add lemon juice and just enough hot water to make a thick, pipable icing. Use a piping bag or drizzle from a spoon to draw a cross on each muffin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* homemade buttermilk: to make 1 cup buttermilk place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 240ml-capacity measuring cup and complete with whole milk (room temperature). Wait 10 minutes for it to thicken slightly, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Makes 12 - I halved the recipe above, used 1/3-cup capacity muffin pans and got 9 muffins

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Toblerone brownies for Easter

Toblerone brownies / Brownies de Toblerone

One of the things I remember the most from going to the supermarket with my mom as a kid are Toblerone bars: they were not easy to find and were really expensive back in the early 80s, and for that reason they were a treat we never ate. Things have changed and now I find them everywhere for a couple for R$ only – maybe that is why nowadays I seldom remember they exist. :D However, I did buy a couple of bars last week and they were transformed into really delicious brownies: these are fudgy and moist – as every brownie should be – and the nougat pieces spread throughout the batter make them a very special treat; in my humble opinion these brownies would make a much more interesting Easter gift then regular chocolate eggs.

Toblerone brownies
slightly adapted from the gorgeous and delicious Nigella Kitchen

¾ cup (68g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks/140g) unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups (306g) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Toblerone bars, 100g each, chopped – I used one Toblerone milk chocolate and one Toblerone dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F; lightly butter a 32.5x22.5cm (13x9in) baking pan, line with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sites then butter the foil as well*. Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and pinch of salt in a bowl; set aside.
Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (still over a low heat) to help it blend with the melted butter. Stir in the flour mixture - when mixed (this will be a very dry mixture, and not wholly blended at this stage), remove from the heat. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and top with the Toblerone pieces. Bake for about 20 minutes –it will look set, dark and dry on top, but when you feel the surface, you will sense it is still wibbly underneath and a cake tester will come out gungy. This is desirable.
Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely before cutting.

The brownies can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container (will keep for total of 5 days).

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) pan

Makes 20

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cardamom yogurt cake

Cardamom yogurt cake / Bolo de iogurte e cardamomo

Some plain yogurt in the fridge that had to be used within a few days and no idea what to do with it - that usually happens around here. I love yogurt based cakes because they turn out really moist and tender, but I'd baked a yogurt cinnamon cake a couples of week before that was too sweet and kind of rubbery - a complete disappointment. Therefore, I decided to go to a cookbook that hasn't failed me yet, and the result was a delicious cake, perfumed with cardamom. This is a very nice cake recipe and I am sure that several other flavors can be used instead of cardamom: cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon or orange zest... Delicious.

Cardamom yogurt cake
slightly adapted from the gorgeous Cake (I bought mine here)

Cake:
250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
2 ½ cups (350g) all purpose plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Icing:
½ cup (70g) icing sugar, sifted
about 1 tablespoon plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Next, beat in the orange zest and juice, ground cardamom and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, then mix in the yogurt. Next sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, folding in just until combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 50–55 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto rack. Cool completely.

Icing: beat together the icing sugar and yogurt, adding a tiny bit more yogurt if the mixture seems too stiff. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Serves 8-10

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Colomba Pasquale

Colomba Pasquale / Colomba Pascal

My husband is not into sweets – I guess that the Universe knows better, right? :) – but he likes certain baked goods, like panettone and Colomba Pasquale. However, the store-bought versions are so heavily scented with artificial essences that he no longer eats them – he says those baked goods are not what they used to be when he was younger anymore and that all those artificial ingredients disagree with his stomach. Therefore, he was very excited about my homemade Colomba, and after having a slice of the freshly baked bread he said that not only it tasted delicious – like “the real deal” – he felt absolutely fine after eating it.

The picky-eater hubby enjoying my Colomba Pasquale really made my weekend, and reading that the production on season 2 of “House of Cards” is expected to start this month was the icing on the cake. \0/

Colomba Pasquale
slightly adapted from the always delicious and beautiful Australian Gourmet Traveller

Starter:
¾ cup + ½ tablespoon (110g) all purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon dried yeast
90ml water, room temperature

Colomba:
1 ½ cups + 1 ½ tablespoons (225g) all purpose flour
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (62g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, whole
1 large egg, yolk and white separated
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 orange
½ cup (75g) golden raisins
1/3 cup (35g) dried cranberries
75g dried apricots, finely diced
60g finely chopped candied orange peel

Topping:
1/3 cup (66g) demerara sugar
1/3 cup (33g) almond meal
30g flaked almonds

For starter, stir ingredients in a bowl until smooth, cover with plastic wrap and stand at room temperature for 12 hours.
Transfer starter to an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add flour, granulated sugar, butter, the whole eggs, the yolk, yeast, vanilla and orange zest and mix on medium speed until dough is smooth and shiny and starts to leave sides of bowl (about 8 minutes). Add dried fruit and candied peel, mix to combine, then cover and stand until doubled in size (1-2 hours).
Knock down dough and divide into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Shape the larger piece into a 30cm-(12in) long cylinder, tapering slightly at one end, and place on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Form remaining piece into a 20cm-(8in) long cylinder and lay across the larger cylinder, about one-third of the way down from the tapered end. Cover with a tea towel and stand until slightly risen (35-40 minutes). In the meantime, preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
Topping: combine demerara sugar, almond meal, almonds and egg white in a bowl, scatter over dough, bake for 15 minutes, reduce oven to 160°C/320°F and bake until golden and cooked through, 15-20 minutes (cover with foil if colomba gets too brown). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 10

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Date madeleines

Date madeleines / Madeleines de tâmara

Madeleines are a regular treat on this blog and I’ve already baked them in several different flavors – all of them delicious, by the way – but when I saw Annie Bell’s recipe for date madeleines I was very intrigued: the idea of adding puréed dates to the madeleine batter sounded really interesting. It would also be a nice way to use up the last dates I had left – believe it or not after lebkuchen and Martha's cookies I still had a handful of them around; certain ingredients in my house seem to take the Gremlin route no matter what I do. :D

The madeleines turned out really good: moist from the addition of ground almonds and with a very subtle caramel flavor.

Date madeleines
from the beautiful beyond words Annie Bell's Baking Bible (I bought mine here)

100g dates, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) water
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (24g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
50g self raising flour*
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) almond meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled + a bit extra for buttering the pans
icing sugar for dusting

Place the dates and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer until dates are tender and mushy (I used a potato masher to get a paste out of the mixture). Add the baking soda, mix well, then remove from the heat.
Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are almost white. Whisk in the lemon zest and honey. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the mixture and lightly fold in. Fold in the almond meal and vanilla. Fold in the melted butter and the date mixture.
Cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly brush two madeleines molds with the extra butter and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Fill each mould about 2/3 full and then bake in for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and turn them out on to a wire rack to cool.
Dust with icing sugar and serve.

* I replace the self raising flour with 50g all purpose flour + 1/3 teaspoon baking powder + pinch of salt

Makes 15-20 – I made the exact recipe above and got 52 madeleines total: 12 using 1-tablespoon capacity molds and 40 using ½-tablespoon capacity pans

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fruit-and-nut cookies

Fruit and nut cookies / Cookies de frutas secas

The first time I saw a date I thought it looked... weird. That encounter happened when I was old enough to know better than to judge food by its looks, so I decided to try it anyway and it was delicious - it is an ingredient I don't use very often, but definitely should. I had some dates left from making the lebkuchen and did not know what to make with them - Martha came to my rescue with these cookies, which combine other ingredients I love: pistachios, dried apricots and coconut. Irresistible and easy to make.

Fruit-and-nut cookies
slightly adapted from the delicious and foolproof Martha Stewart's Cookies

2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (175g) packed light-brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (150g) sweetened shredded coconut
1 ½ cups chopped dried apricots
1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 ½ cups (195g) pistachios, whole and unsalted

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream butter and sugars until creamy and light and color. Mix in eggs, one at a time, until combined; mix in vanilla.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in coconut, apricots, dates and pistachios.
Drop batter, 2 heaping tablespoons at a time, onto prepared sheets, spacing 5cm (2in) apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until golden brown around the edges, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven; transfer cookies on baking paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Makes about 3 dozen – I halved the recipe above, used 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie and got 26

Friday, March 15, 2013

Almond citrus drizzle cake

Almond citrus drizzle cake / Bolo cítrico de amêndoa

Many, many posts ago one of you left me a not very happy comment about how biased I am towards certain actors/actresses; I’m sorry, but I can’t help it: when I like something – or someone – I really like it/them. I have my preferences and they usually dictate what I watch, listen to, eat. That is why it’s no surprise that upon receiving this absolutely delicious cookbook the first recipe I tried from it was this citrus loaf – the idea of drenching a cake with orange and lemon juice is already a favorite around here, but this time there is an obscene amount of almond paste in the cake, which made it moist beyond words. Unlike actors, actresses and directors, I don’t usually play favorites with recipes, but this one certainly deserves an award for Best Cookbook Debut Ever. :)

Almond citrus drizzle cake
slightly adapted from the great Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple

Cake:
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (115g) all purpose flour*
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (224g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup almond paste, room temperature – I used homemade, recipe here
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon limoncello (optional)

Drizzle:
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 22x12cm (9x5in) loaf pan, line with baking paper and butter the paper as well - I used this pan but there was still some better left; I baked it in a 1-liter capacity loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream butter, sugar, lemon and orange zest until creamy. Add the almond paste and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and the limoncello (if using). On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated – finish mixing by hand with spatula. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool over a wire rack while you make the drizzle: in a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Immediately pour over hot cake (don’t wait longer or the sugar will dissolve in the juices), gradually, waiting for some of the drizzle to be absorbed by the cake before pouring more. Cool in the pan, then carefully unmold and remove the paper.

* by the time I finished preparing the cake batter I found it too liquid; I then mixed in ½ cup (70g) all purpose flour

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Almond filled brioche with plum compote + "House of Cards"

Almond filled brioche with plum compote / Brioche recheado com amêndoa com compota de ameixa

After I finished watching the fourth season of “Breaking Bad” – I hope season 5 arrives soon here in Brazil – I immediately began watching “House of Cards”: I’d been wanting to watch the series ever since I first read that David Fincher was developing something for TV – I’m a huge fan and will watch anything this guy makes. As usual, Fincher doesn’t disappoint: the series is fantastic – script, music, and the cast, everything in perfect tune. All the actors are giving excellent performances, but Kevin Spacey is the soul of the series – I might be biased because he’s one of my all time favorite actors and is part of movies I deeply love, but to me he’s kicking some serious ass as Frank Underwood, which might be one of the best characters ever played. If the world were a fair place there would be 10 Kevin Spacey or 10 Bryan Cranston for each Robert Pattinson out there. :D

And if the world were really a fair place I would be able to eat brioche for breakfast every day, especially this almond filled version, very tender and so delicious, with a spoonful of homemade plum compote. Yum. :)

Almond filled brioche
adapted from two wonderful books: How to Bake and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Brioche:
500g strong white bread flour + extra for dusting (I used all purpose flour)
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
10g dried yeast
140ml whole milk, warm
5 medium eggs*
250g unsalted butter, very soft

Filling:
4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup almond paste – I used homemade, recipe here
¼ cup (35g) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
¼ teaspoon orange flower water (optional)

Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6–8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4–5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough should be very soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firm and you are able to shape it. In the meantime, make the filling: place the butter, almond paste, flour, sugar, egg, vanilla, almond extract and orange flower water in a food processor and process until smooth.
Butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan.
Take your brioche dough from the fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead 3-4 four times, then roll it out onto a 35x20cm (14x8in) rectangle. Spread the almond filling evenly on top of the dough, then roll it like a cylinder, beginning with the longer side. Cut into 9 slices then arrange them about 2.5cm (1in) apart onto the prepared pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to prove for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.
When the brioche is proved, bake for 20-25 minutes or until brioche is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* I only had large eggs at home, so I used 4; noticing that the dough was a bit dry, I added the 5th egg

Makes 9

Plum compote
own creation

250g plums, halved, stones removed, each half sliced into quarters
3 tablespoons granulated sugar - my plums were really sour; adjust the amount of sugar depending on the plums you have on hand
½ tablespoon lemon juice
pinch ground cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons water

Place the plums, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until plums are tender and juicy. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Serves 2-4

Monday, March 11, 2013

Passion fruit tart

Passion fruit tart / Torta de maracujá

If I had to choose one dessert to eat for the rest of my life (which would be a cruel thing given that there are so many wonderful sweets out there, not to mention the ones I have never tried nor baked at home, but...) it would be lemon bars – there’s nothing I crave more, the sound of the words makes me salivate already. But a couple of weeks ago something came out of my oven that almost – and it was a really close call – stole the title of favorite dessert from the bars: this passion fruit tart, a recipe from the always breathtakingly beautiful Gourmet Traveller, turned out delicious, with its crisp, buttery base and tangy filling. Oh, so good.

Now, if I had to choose two desserts to eat for the rest of my life... ;)

Passion fruit tart
from the always so delicious and beautiful Australian Gourmet Traveller

Pastry:
225g unsalted butter, cold and chopped
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted
2 2/3 cups (375g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
150ml heavy cream
200ml strained passion fruit pulp – I used some of the pulp with the seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, for dusting

For the pastry, mix the butter, sugar, flour and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg and vanilla and process just until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to 3mm thick and use to line six 8cm-diameter tart tins, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Line pastry-lined tins with baking paper, then fill with pastry weights or dried beans and blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, but keep the oven on.
Filling: lightly mix together the eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a bowl until sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cream, passion fruit juice and vanilla and then strain through a fine sieve into a jug. Pour the filling into the tartlet shells and bake for 8-10 minutes or until just set – the filling should still wobble slightly in the centre. Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
Just before serving, dust the tarts with icing sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch or under a very hot grill.

Makes 6 – I halved the recipe above and baked it in a 30x10cm (12x4in) tart pan with a removable bottom

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cinnamon bubble buns

Cinnamon bubble buns / Bubble buns de canela

One of my favorite things about cooking and baking is being surround by fantastic smells: freshly brewed coffee, onions and olive oil being cooked together, citrus fruits while being zested or squeezed... Delicious. And to that list I'll add cinnamon - one of my favorite smells and one impossible to hide in the kitchen: it's really evident when there's something in the oven made with cinnamon, like these wonderful buns - I've replaced the sour cream called for in the original recipe for yogurt, therefore you can indulge in these and call them healthy. ;)

Cinnamon bubble buns
slightly adapted from of the best cookbooks I own

Yogurt yeast dough:
2¼ teaspoons dried yeast
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
320g all-purpose flour + a little for kneading, if necessary
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Cinnamon-sugar coating:
65g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Dough: sprinkle the yeast over the water in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until bubbly. Add the butter, yogurt, sugar, egg, and vanilla to the yeast mixture and stir to combine with a rubber spatula.
Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat in 250g of the flour, the salt, and baking soda on medium-low speed until incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the remaining 70g flour and beat until a smooth, moderately soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 3 minutes. At first the dough will be sticky. Add no more than 1 to 2 tablespoons additional flour during the kneading to combat the stickiness. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The dough is ready when a finger gently pressed into it leaves an indentation. Meanwhile, prepare the pan and make the cinnamon-sugar coating.

Generously butter a 12-cup standard muffin pan (1/3 cup capacity each cavity), then flour the cups, tapping out the excess flour.
Cinnamon-sugar coating: in a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon; set nearby. Place the melted butter in a small, shallow dish.
Gently punch the dough down to deflate it. Form it into a long cylinder, and divide it into 12 equal portions (each portion is about 1¾ ounces/50 grams). Divide each portion into 6 equal pieces, and then shape each piece into a ball. One at a time, roll the balls first in the butter and then in the cinnamon sugar. Arrange 5 balls next to one another in a circle in each prepared muffin cup, and then, using a fingertip, poke the sixth ball down slightly in the center.

Repeat with the remaining 11 dough portions. Loosely cover the buns with plastic wrap and set them aside in a warm place until puffy and doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. The dough is ready to bake when a finger gently pressed into it leaves an indentation – in the meantime, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the buns until golden, 20-22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes. Then tilt the pan and gently tap it on a counter to release the buns. If necessary, slip a knife blade between the pan and the bun to release. Transfer the buns to a wire rack.

Makes 12

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cocoa brownies with brown butter and pecans

Cocoa brownies with brown butter and pecans / Brownies de cacau com manteiga queimada e pecãs

Whenever I feel the urge to bake something delicious but am out of time I bake brownies: they’re super easy to put together, there’s not need to wait for the butter to soften – and in this recipe not even the eggs need to be at room temperature – and once in the oven all you need to do is decide whether to eat them still warm with ice cream or plain, after they’ve cooled down. :)

These brownies are a variation of Alice Medrich’s ultra delicious cocoa brownies, and even though they’re really god I find the previous version better – I like the addition of pecans but I don’t think the browned butter makes such a huge difference in this case, unlike other recipes. As I looked for the cocoa brownies link to post here for you I read there that “my 16 year old sister loves these brownies” – she’s 19 now and I’m feeling really old right this moment. :)

Cocoa brownies with brown butter and pecans
from the Brownie Wizard Alice Medrich

10 tablespoons (140g/1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chopped
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (68g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, cold
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (56g) all purpose flour
1 cup (110g) pecans, lightly toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 165°C/325°F. Line 20cm (8in) square baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 5cm (2in) overhang. Butter the foil.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla, and salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into squares.
Brownie can be stored in an airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Makes 16

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cinnamon-sugar plum cake + Helen Hunt

Cinnamon-sugar plum cake / Bolo de ameixa com açúcar e canela

I once wrote about the type of characters I’d like to play if I were an actress, and now I have to add Helen Hunt’s fantastic Cheryl to the list: not only the character herself is a very interesting one, but also Hunt’s portrayal is one of the best I’ve seen in years – she surrenders completely to the character which is something I’ve seen very few times, and that is rare because very few actresses/actors have the talent to do it. I know that my opinion doesn’t matter to the movie industry but to me Helen Hunt had the most powerful performance last year – and not even 10 Anne Hathaways shaving their heads screaming a song won’t change that. :)
Although I’m writing about Helen Hunt today, “The Sessions” is a fantastic movie as a whole: a great script – funny, witty, moving – with amazing performances; John Hawkes is absolutely magnificent – a friend sent me a link to a video of the real Mark O’Brien and Hawkes nailed even his voice perfectly – what an astounding performance. And William H. Macy, who is always very competent, is adorable as the priest. “The Sessions” is a movie worth seeing and it is even better than I’d expected.

***

Plums are in season here now and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately – unfortunately, some of the plums I’d bought were too sour, even for my taste. I then decided to bake a cake with them, and this delicious recipe – which I believe would be wonderful with nectarines, peaches or cherries – comes from the cookbook that never disappoints.

Cinnamon-sugar plum cake
from the always delicious Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

1 ¼ cups (175g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) + 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar, divided use
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 large plums, pitted, cut into little over 1cm (½in) wedges
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan*.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter and ¾ cup (150g) of the sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla, lemon zest and juice, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in flour mixture just until incorporated. Spread batter in prepared pan.
Press plum wedges halfway into batter in concentric circles, spacing slightly apart. Mix remaining 1 ½ tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over plums. Bake until cake is browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cut around cake; release pan sides. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom, base lined with a circle of baking paper

Serves 6-8

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chicken, chorizo and lemon bake

Chicken, chorizo and lemon bake / Frango assado com limão siciliano e chorizo

When I was little, roast chicken was the Sunday lunch staple: the side dishes would change sometimes - potatoes, pasta, rice, salad - but the chicken was the king of the most important Sunday meal. My mom loved it, my granny loved and I did, too - still do. After my mom got sick my father would bring a rotisserie chicken for lunch, but it was good anyway. Those days were happy days - I miss them. And when I'm feeling nostalgic I usually make things my mom used to cook, and roast chicken is one of them. I like to use different recipes now and then and this one, from Donna Hay mag, was elected by the hubby as the most delicious roast chicken I've ever made, and he went crazy with the crunchy chorizo bits and the sweet and mellow roast garlic. We like our chicken very golden and crisp on the outside - hence the long oven time - but you can play around the recipe accordingly to your taste.

Chicken, chorizo and lemon bake
slightly adapted from the always delicious and foolproof Donna Hay Magazine

4 large pieces of chicken – I used 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks

For marinating the chicken:
2 garlic cloves, bashed in a mortar and pestle until puréed
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For roasting the chicken:
1 lemon, sliced in 6 pieces lengthwise
1 chorizo, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup black olives

Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag or in a shallow bowl. Add the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix to coat the chicken pieces. Close the bag (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap) and marinate in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it in a shallow heatproof dish (if you line the dish with a double layer of foil washing up will be easier). Drizzle with some of the marinate and roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, add lemon, chorizo, garlic and thyme, drizzle with the butter and roast for another 40-50 minutes or until chicken is deeply golden brown and cooked through – in the final 10 minutes, add the olives.

Serves 2

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