Friday, August 30, 2013

Beef and broccolini stir fry for a trauma-free husband

Beef and broccolini stir fry / Stir fry de carne e brócolis

After my husband got back from China I stopped making Asian food for quite a while – it already was something I cooked very seldom and from that it went to non-existing in our house.

Weeks ago I made an adapted version of Nigel Slater’s caramelized pork ribs for Joao and since he enjoyed them I thought that the Chinese food trauma was a thing of the past – that was when I reached for John Gregory-Smith’s beautiful cookbook for inspiration on something tasty and spicy and found a recipe for a beef stir fry – this is my version of his dish, and not only it tasted delicious but it was super quick to make, too.

Beef and broccolini stir fry
slightly adapted from the delicious Mighty Spice Cookbook: Fast, Fresh and Vibrant Dishes Using No More Than 5 Spices for Each Recipe

2 tablespoons canola oil
450g (1 pound) beef fillet, finely sliced
½ large onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm (1in) piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
300g broccolini florets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 large handful basil leaves, roughly thorn*

Heat a wok over a high heat and add the oil. Once hot add the sliced beef and stir-fry or 1-2 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrot and broccolini, season with the salt, sugar and soy sauce and mix to combine. Clamp on a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes or until the carrots and broccolini are cooked but still crisp – when I started cooking the beef it released juices and the liquid sort of steamed the vegetables once the wok was covered and also created a delicious broth in the end of the cooking time. If that doesn’t happen to your beef you might want to add some water or stock to the wok after adding the vegetables.
Check the seasoning, remove from the heat, add the basil and serve immediately.

* I personally think that the basil added nothing to the recipe – the flavor just didn’t match the other ingredients. Next time I make this I’ll add cilantro instead

Serves 4

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Apple, raspberry and pecan muffin cake + "The Great Australian Bake Off"

Apple, raspberry and pecan muffin cake / Bolo muffin de maçã, framboesa e pecã

After the disappointment with American version of “The Great British Bake Off” I wasn’t sure I would watch “The Great Australian Bake Off”, but when I read that Dan Lepard would be one of the judges I immediately changed my mind: I’m a huge fan of his amazing recipes, each and every one of them I have tried so far turned out delicious. The other judge is Kerry Vincent and the woman is merciless: her sour comments and lack of tact drive the contestants to tears – she’s a crankier version of Paul Hollywood, while Dan is absolutely adorable, much like Mary Berry (I like him even more after watching the episodes).

I had never heard of Kerry Vincent before and kept thinking that Delia Smith could be an excellent judge for the show, but I guess that being Australian is a requirement (I had no idea Lepard was an Aussie). :)
The show is not as good as its British cousin, but it’s way better than the American version – I highly recommend it for those of you baking fanatics (like me). :)

Speaking of Delia, this wonderful cake is an adaptation of a recipe that comes from her latest cookbook, which is packed with superb baked goods and beautiful photos.

Apple, raspberry and pecan muffin cake
slightly adapted from Delia's Cakes (I bought mine here)

275g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
170ml whole milk, room temperature
75g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
110g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and in 1cm dice
100g raspberries, frozen and unthawed
1 heaping tablespoon demerara sugar
75g pecans, roughly chopped
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190°/375°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in with a fork – do not overmix; fold in the apples, then transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with the raspberries, then the demerara sugar and finally the pecans.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes – a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan using the removable bottom. When completely cooled, invert the cake onto a place, peel off the paper, then invert it again onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Serves 8-10

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nib praliné brownies + a new band (at least new to me)

Nib nougatine brownies / Brownies com praliné de semente de cacau

Days ago, while looking for good haircuts for fine hair (something that would make me look like I have tons of hair, which unfortunately is not true) I ended up on this lovely website and watching one of the videos I was introduced to “Foster the People” – I got hooked and can’t stop listening to their songs, especially “Helena Beat” and “I Would Do Anything For You”. Such a nice discovery.

I’m not usually that good to remember where and when I first found things, but I am quite sure that cocoa nibs were introduced to me by Alice Medrich; here the nibs are turned into a delicious praliné and then folded into brownie batter, and that alone made me drool when I read the recipe. The praliné recipe, however, yielded twice as much as the amount called for to be used in the brownies, but I went on and used the whole batch anyway – some of the caramel melted and formed a layer on the bottom of the brownies and that made slicing a little bit harder. Now it’s up to you: you can either follow the recipe below and use only ½ cup total of praliné in your brownies or you can go crazy like I did and caramelize the heck out of your bars – just make sure you have a sharp knife around. :D

Nib praliné brownies
slightly adapted from the adorable Luscious Chocolate Desserts

Nib praliné:
1/3 cup (40g) cocoa nibs
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) water
¼ cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt

1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter
112g (4oz) dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup (70g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (33g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt

Start with the praliné: line a large baking sheet with foil and butter the foil. Spread the cocoa nibs over the buttered foil.
Heat the sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and do not stir any longer. Cook the mixture until a dark golden brown caramel forms, washing the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals – it should read 160-165°C (320-330°F) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the caramel over the cocoa nibs. Set aside to cool completely, then break into pieces- for a finer texture, process in a food processor.

Makes about 1 cup (you’ll use half this amount in the brownies)

Brownies: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on the two longest sides and butter the foil as well.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
Beat sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture just until blended. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt over the mixture and fold gently. Fold in ¼ cup of the praliné.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan, then top with the remaining ¼ cup praliné. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out sticky with just a few crumbs. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 20

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vanilla cookie buttons with strawberry icing and being tricked by my memory

Vanilla cookie buttons with strawberry icing / Botõezinhos de baunilha com cobertura de morango

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mind plays tricks on me and I just can’t trust my memory. I was listening to “Never” the other day when my husband asked whose song that was. I told him it was Heart’s and said “remember that band from the 80s formed exclusively by girls?”, but he had no recollection of it. Then I decided to show him the music video, and there was a man playing the drums and another playing the guitar. “I could have sworn there were only girls on this band”, I said, and the hubby stared laughing. :D

Having too many cookbooks can wreck someone’s memory as well – thank heavens for EYB. I set up to make Nancy Baggett’s beautiful cookies – I was thrilled with the idea of a pink icing made without artificial food coloring – but really could not wait 6 hours for the cookie dough to chill (who has that kind of time these days? Not me). Ok, I’d slather the icing onto someone else’s vanilla cookies. As usual, I reached for Martha, but rolling cookie dough was definitely out of the question. I knew I’d seen drop sugar cookies somewhere, but my memory had already been tricked by people with big hair, I could not trust it. :) EYB helped my find John Barricelli’s super easy recipe, which I modified slightly for I did not want the cookies to spread – it turned out perfect.

Vanilla cookie buttons with strawberry icing
adapted from two great sources: The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook and The All-American Dessert Book

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (175g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg

½ cup strawberries
2 cups (280g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
generous ½ tablespoon corn syrup

Make the cookies: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy. Beat in the egg. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Make balls using 1 ½ teaspoons of dough and place 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Cool on the sheets for 2-3 minutes, then slide the paper with the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Icing: Sift the icing sugar in a medium bowl. In a food processor, process the strawberries with 2 tablespoons of the icing sugar until puréed. Press the mixture through a fine sieve to extract as much of the strawberry pulp and juice as possible. Add 2 tablespoons of the strawberry pulp to the icing sugar, with the butter and corn syrup and mix to combine. Gradually add more strawberry pulp, mixing until desired consistency.
Dip the top of the cookies into the icing and place them onto a wire rack for the icing to set, about 2 hours – there might be some icing left.

Makes about 70

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Broccolini and white bean soup to celebrate winter

Broccolini and white bean soup / Sopa de brócolis e feijão branco

Unlike most of my friends and colleagues I adore the cold weather we’ve been having here lately, and to be honest I really don’t get all the hate: a cold day in the middle of January is a bad thing, but to complain about the cold in July and August seems unreasonable to me.

I love soups and these wintry days are ideal to cook them – I don’t know about you, but cold soups are something I’m not fond of: I have tried several of them but they’re not my cup of tea – I like my soups piping hot, preferably with some nice crusty bread alongside. :)

Martha’s recipe calls for broccoli but as I often do with broccoli recipes I replaced it with broccolini – the problem was my husband loves it, too, and I almost had to hide the steamed florets from him before actually making the soup: every time I looked he was eating one of the florets drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. :D

Broccolini and white bean soup
slightly adapted from the wonderful and delicious Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes

450g (1 pound) broccolini, cut into florets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 ½ cups (600ml) vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled
shaved Parmesan cheese to taste, for serving

Steam broccolini until tender and bright green, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Reserve ½ cup florets for garnish.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add beans and stock and bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and add broccoli; puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish each bowl with the reserved broccolini florets, the pine nuts, and shaved Parmesan.

Serves 4

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cornmeal cake with passion fruit glaze and a childhood memory

Cornmeal cake with passion fruit glaze / Bolo de fubá com calda de maracujá

Days ago, while remembering my childhood and my beginning as a cook, I thought of the first cake I ever made and it occurred to me that I hadn’t made it in years. Many years. It was a bolo de fubá, a cake made with corn flour (not corn starch), a sort of very fine cornmeal – I instantly craved that cake but no longer had the recipe. Luckily, I knew exactly where to find a great recipe for it: my lovely friend Clarice adores bolo de fubá and she has plenty of recipes on her beautiful blog. With her help, I picked one and it was absolutely delicious.

I don’t know how difficult it would be for people outside Brazil to find corn flour, but I believe that in the U.S. it might be found since Kim Boyce has some recipes with the ingredient on her amazing "Good to the Grain".

Since cornmeal cakes are great paired with citrus flavors I decided to drizzle my bolo de fubá with a passion fruit glaze – it was a very tasty addition, but the cake is equally wonderful without it, too.

Cornmeal cake with passion fruit glaze
slightly adapted from my dear friend Clarice

1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
1 cup (150g) corn flour (not corn starch)
1 rounded tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (180ml) canola oil
1 cup (240ml) boiling whole milk

½ cup (70g) confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons passion fruit juice

Cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan (the one I used holds 10 cups and I had to bake the excess batter in a 1-cup capacity small pan).
In a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the sugar, whisking, then whisk until thick and glossy. Gradually add the oil, whisking. Turn off the mixer, then sift the dry ingredients once again directly onto the egg mixture. Fold in gently with a spatula, then fold in the milk – the batter will be very thin. Pour into the prepared pan and tap the sides of the pan with your hands to remove any air bubbles. Bake for about 50 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minute, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl and add the juice, stirring, until you get the desired consistency. Pour over the cooled cake.

Serves 10-12

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Banana poppy seed muffins with almond streusel topping

Banana poppy seed muffins with almond streusel topping

Last week I had a sudden urge to eat banana cake, but it was a busy Sunday and I would not have enough time to make the cake and then wait for it to cool. Stephanie Alexander's muffins, topped with Thomas Keller's streusel, turned out to be a delicious and very fast alternative to my cake cravings, and they turned out so tender I had to be super careful removing them from the pan, even with the paper liners.

For a little more color and caramel flavor, brown sugar might be used to replace half the granulated sugar in the batter.

Banana poppy seed muffins with almond streusel topping
adapted from two wonderful sources: The Cook's Companion and Bouchon Bakery

Streusel topping:
60g all purpose flour
60g almond meal
60g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, cold and diced
handful of sliced almonds

1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
150ml canola oil
¾ cup (180ml) whole milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, mashed with a fork

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan (1/3 cup each cavity) with paper liners.

Streusel: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt. Add the butter and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the sliced almonds. Refrigerate it while you make the muffin batter.

Muffins: in a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Whisk in the sugar and poppy seeds.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, milk, egg, vanilla and bananas until combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until combined – don’t overmix. Transfer batter to the pan and pack the streusel on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until risen and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold (they’re very tender) and transfer to the rack.

Makes 12

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Patchwork strawberry & apple pie

Patchwork strawberry & apple pie / Torta patchwork de morango e maçã

As if being a cookbook junkie wasn’t enough, I’m hooked on food magazines as well – Donna Hay, Gourmet Traveller and Delicious Australia are my favorites, but there are others I adore, too, and use very often. BBC Good Food always comes with delicious recipes from people like Mary Berry and James Martin, and the photos are beautiful (I highly recommend a visit to the magazine’s website).

Months ago, a strawberry and gooseberry pie was published, and the patchwork topping looked gorgeous – it reminded me of the strawberry and rose hazelnut tart I made years ago. Because gooseberries are impossible to find here in Brazil I replaced them with something equally tart and flavorsome, a Granny Smith apple – the result was truly great.

Patchwork strawberry & apple pie
adapted from the delicious Good Food mag

1 large egg, at room temperature, separated
225g unsalted butter, soft but not greasy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
350g all purpose flour

400g ripe strawberries, halved, or quartered if large
75g granulated sugar
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
pinch of ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons semolina or ground almonds

Pastry: put the egg yolk, butter, vanilla, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse until creamy and soft. Add the flour and pulse until the mixture comes together in clumps – don’t overwork it. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and squish the dough together. Split into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other, then shape into rectangles. Wrap in cling film and chill for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling: put the strawberries and sugar in a wide pan and cook for 5 minutes or until syrupy. Drain in a colander over a bowl and leave to cool completely (reserve the syrup to be served with the pie later on).

Lightly butter a 35x10cm (14x4in) tart pan with a removable bottom and line it with the larger piece of pastry. Prick the base several times with a fork, then freeze for 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F and place a baking sheet in the oven. Line the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake on top of the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the bottom of the pastry is golden and feels sandy. Roll the second pastry disc to roughly the size of the tart and cut into 4cm squares. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
Scatter the semolina or almonds over the pastry base (this will help to prevent a soggy bottom). Add the apple and cinnamon to the drained berries, mix to combine, then place on top of the semolina/ground almonds. Space the pastry squares over the tart, brush with the egg white. Wrap only the edge of the pie with a collar of foil to protect it from overcooking (I didn’t do that), then bake for 30 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve warm with thick cream and the fruity pink syrup in a jug for pouring.

Serves 6-8

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Caramel cake and my bookshelf is back

Caramel cake / Bolo de caramelo

I have told you before about my love for simple cakes: they’re good on their own, with a cup of tea in the winter or a glass of cold milk in warm days, and with the help of some poached fruit and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream they can be transformed into delicious desserts.

This is a very simple cake – just as I like it – but the caramel glaze turns it into something even more delicious: it might not look stunning but it does taste great. You’ll be tempted to lick the spoon after pouring the glaze over the cake, but wait a couple of minutes – trust me on this. :D

Oh, and my bookshelf has been reinstated by Blogger – they said they’d analyze my case in two business days but it took them sixteen. Pretty close, huh? #not

Caramel cake
from the delicious Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen

2 cups + 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (or 210g all purpose flour + 40g corn starch)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (240ml) well-shaken buttermilk*

Caramel glaze:
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
½ cup (88g) packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 20cm (8in) square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles (I forgot to do that). Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely.

Glaze: bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 98 to 100°C (210 to 212°F) on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.
Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

* 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

Serves 8-10 – I made the exact cake recipe above using a round 20cm (8in) cake pan with tall sides; it was my second time making this cake and the first time there was a lot of glaze left, so I halved the recipe above and the mixture took almost no time at all to get to the temperature described on the recipe

Friday, August 9, 2013

Iced little lemon drops and the reasons behind each recipe

Iced little lemon drops / Biscoitinhos de limão siciliano com cobertura

Those of us who cook and bake have different reasons for choosing this or that recipe, right? I believe that wanting to eat is the most basic reason, but that is followed by the ingredients available, the seasons, the weather, if we’ve having company or if we’re eating alone... Do you agree?

I add to that list a certain technique I want to learn or improve, recipes with curious names, and peculiar or unusual methods, the latter being the reason why I made these cookies (plus the beautiful and fragrant lemons I had around). Here, part of the unfinished dough is set aside only to become the icing later on – I thought that was really interesting and had to try it myself. It worked perfectly and the cookies turned out delicious, very delicate in size – which is something I love – and very lemony, on the verge of puckering lips – which is something I love even more. :)

Iced little lemon drops
from the delicious Simply Sensational Cookies

finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks/170g) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (280g) icing sugar, divided use
generous ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups (210g) all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Preheat to 180°C/350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.
Put the lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer, then reserve the juice separately in a cup. To the zest add the butter, 3 tablespoons of the reserved lemon juice and 1 cup (140g) of the icing sugar. Beat on low, then medium speed, until lightened in color and fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes – mixture might look curdled at first, but keep on beating it. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the beaten butter mixture and reserve in a small deep bowl; it will be used to make the icing.
On low speed, thoroughly beat the baking soda into the butter mixture left in the large bowl. Then beat in the flour and salt just until evenly incorporated. If dough is very soft, let it stand for 5 minutes.
Drop dough by heaping measuring teaspoons, spacing about 5cm (2in) apart on baking sheets; keep the cookies small.
Bake on middle rack one pan at a time for about 10 minutes, until cookies are tinged with brown at the edges and just firm when pressed in the center top. Transfer pan to wire rack. Let cool.
Stir 1 ½ tablespoons of the reserved lemon juice and the remaining 1 cup of icing sugar into the reserved 2 tablespoons butter mixture until very well blended. If necessary, then the icing with a little more lemon juice stirring well, until it is fluid but no runny. Stir in a little more icing sugar if the icing is too runny to hold some shape. Spread the icing on top of the cookies then place them on a wire rack until the icing sets, 30-40 minutes.

Makes about 30 – I made the exact recipe above, used 1 ½ leveled teaspoons of dough per cookie and got 70 tiny cookies

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ricotta and spinach manicotti and cooking = power

Ricota and spinach manicotti / Manicotti de ricota e espinafre

Not until recently I started thinking of cooking as something both empowering and liberating and that comes to my mind when I think of certain passages of my childhood.

In the period between my mom’s death and my father marrying again my paternal grandmother lived with us and she did all the cooking at home. She was an amazing cook – still is at 88 – but she rarely made the dishes I liked – I know it might sound bitter and very “oh, my granny liked my brother more than me”, but it’s true: she would cook anything my brother wanted without hesitation, but never paid much attention to what I liked to eat – the perks of being the older child, I suppose.

One of the dishes she made very often was savory crepes filled with beef mince and covered with tomato sauce. See, I didn’t like beef as a kid, but I still had to eat the damn crepes. My brother, however, didn’t like tomato sauce but he didn’t have to eat the beef filled crepes – instead, he asked for his crepes to be filled with French fries (!), and granny wouldn’t say a word about it. And that is just one of the situations from those days.

Now, as a grown up, I cook what I want when I want it. My savory crepes are filled with ricotta and spinach and I don’t have to beg anyone else for it.

Ricotta and spinach manicotti / Manicotti de ricota e espinafre

Ricotta and spinach manicotti
slightly adapted from the beautiful and delicious Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie's Kitchen

1 ½ cups (360ml) whole milk
1 large egg
½ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
canola oil, as needed to lightly grease the pan

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
200g spinach, stems removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
450g (1 pound) ricotta cheese – I used homemade, recipe here, using 5 cups of milk
handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 ½ cups tomato sauce, recipe here
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Make the crepes: place the milk, egg, salt and flour to the bowl of a blender. Blitz until smooth, then leave at room temperature for 1 hour (or at least 30 minutes).
Heat a nonstick 20cm (8in) skillet over medium-low heat. Brush pan lightly with oil, if needed. Pour in enough batter to coat bottom of skillet then swirl it around to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook 30-45 seconds, flip and cook for 15 more seconds or until golden. Transfer to a flat dish then repeat with remaining batter.

Filling: heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, then the spinach, and cook until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cool slightly, then chop and transfer to a colander and squeeze to remove the excess liquid. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the remaining filling ingredients and mix to incorporate. Check the seasoning.

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Spread ½ cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 22x32cm (9x13in) casserole dish.
Lay each crepe on a flat surface and spoon an even amount of filling in a long strip down the edge of each one. Roll crepes closed, and place seam-side down into the casserole dish.
Evenly pour remaining sauce over filled crepes. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake 20 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Makes about 10 crepes – I got 9; the first two crepes I made got torn in the middle, so I got to serve 7 in total

Monday, August 5, 2013

Passion fruit drizzle cake, zombies + some improvising

Passion fruit drizzle cake / Bolo com caldinha de maracujá

Weeks ago, my sister and I were determined to go to the movies, but the options were very limited: some of the movies weren’t interesting, and some of them we’d already seen. That way, we ended up watching “World War Z” and, several screams later, to my surprise, I kind of liked it, zombies and Brad Pitt and all – I guess I should thank Marc Forster for that, since he directed two favorites of mine. :)

Around that same weekend, I was determined to make Valentina’s beautiful coconut and passion fruit loaf, but despite having some great passion fruits home I didn’t have any coconut. Or coconut milk, for that matter. See, I told you I completely suck at making grocery lists. :S Therefore, Tina’s loaf would have to wait a bit longer and Tana Ramsay’s lemon loaf was made instead – with a passion fruit drizzle replacing the lemon. Oh, so good.

Passion fruit drizzle cake
slightly adapted from Tana Ramsey’s lemon drizzle cake

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour*
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Passion fruit drizzle:
1/3 cup (80ml) passion fruit juice
85g granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 22.5x12.5cm (9x5in) loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Cake: in the large bowl of an electric, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, then add the lemon zest and mix until well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen and golden and a thin skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place the cake onto a wire rack and make the drizzle: in a small bowl, mix together the passion fruit juice and the sugar. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer, then pour over the drizzle.
Cool completely in the pan. Carefully unmold and peel off the paper.

* I replaced the self raising flour for 225g all purpose flour + 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder + pinch of table salt

Serves 6-8

Friday, August 2, 2013

Grown up Oreos

Grown up Oreos - Oreos versão adulta

My visit to Bouchon Bakery last year was one to remember and every now and then I think of the delicious treats I had there. However, I never got to taste Thomas Keller’s version of the Oreo cookie – me being me I ended up ordering lemon and raspberry sweets.

Days ago I set out to make Keller’s Oreo cookies, a recipe from "Bouchon Bakery", but wasn’t in the mood for rolling out cookie dough – I get lazy sometimes, you know. :) I thought that the slice and bake chocolate cookies I’d seen on Gourmet Traveller’s website would make great substitutes – and indeed, they did.

My Oreos don’t look as pretty as the cookies served at Bouchon Bakery, but I can guarantee that they tasted really good. :)

Grown up Oreos
from two gorgeous sources: Gourmet Traveller and Bouchon Bakery

260g all purpose flour
160g icing sugar, sifted
50g cocoa powder, sifted
pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, cold and cut into 2cm pieces
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

125g white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (120ml) heavy cream

Cookies: process flour, icing sugar, cocoa and salt in a food processor to combine, then add butter and pulse until mixture is sand-textured. Add yolk and vanilla and process until mixture comes together (here I added another egg yolk because the mixture wasn’t coming together at all). Turn out onto a work surface and gently knead to come together. 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 refrigerator until very firm, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Unwrap one log at a time (keep the other in the fridge). Cut into 5mm thick rounds; space 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies edges are firm (10-12 minutes). Cool slightly on trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the filling: in a small bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together. In the meantime, bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour it over the chocolate and butter mixture and whisk to combine. Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hour or up to 1 day. Right before assembling the cookies, beat the filling with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a piping bag with a small tip.

Assembling the cookies: arrange half of the cookies on a work surface, bottom side up, and pipe the filling onto each. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, pressing to spread the filling to the edges – I used a small cookie scoop instead of a pastry bag and placed rounded mounds of filling on the center of each cookie, topping with another cookie and pressing down gently to squish the filling.

Makes about 30 sandwich cookies

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