Monday, September 16, 2013

Orange and marmalade bars with almond crust and a certain British actor

Orange and marmalade bars with almond crust / Barrinhas de amêndoa, laranja e geleia de laranja

Right after I started watching "Game of Thrones" (I have just finished the first season, so no spoilers, please), I accessed Sean Bean's profile on IMDb to check on his age, because on the show he just did not look as his regular charming and handsome self. :) The text says he's England's most versatile actor, and as much as I adore Sean Bean the person who wrote that clearly hasn't been introduced to Gary Oldman. :D

When it comes to versatility Alice Medrich's bars are hard to beat: I have made them in numerous ways already, with and without nuts on the crust, with different jam flavors, you name it. This time I've adapted the recipe once again, using oranges instead of lemons and making it in a larger baking pan so I could feed more people with it. Delicious.

Orange and marmalade bars with almond crust
adapted from the delicious Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

180g all purpose flour
60g almond meal
75g granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (168g) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g marmalade
½ cup (120ml) freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (12x8in) baking pan, line it with foil, leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.

Crust: place the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter and vanilla and mix until smooth. Press dough evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until fully baked and golden brown in the center.
Towards the end of the cooking time of the crust, make the topping: in a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and flour. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the marmalade, breaking up any large pieces, then stir in the orange juice. Pour the filling over the crust. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the topping no longer jiggles when the pan is tapped. Cool completely over a wire rack. Cut into bars.
Bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 24

Friday, September 13, 2013

Spiced honey cakes and another TV show

Spiced honey cakes / Bolinhos de mel e especiarias

The best TV show ever made is sadly coming to an end and I felt like finding another addiction to watch. :) I’d read somewhere that “Broadchurch” was good (and then avoided reading more about the show because apparently people can’t write about movies and TV without resorting to spoilers) so that was my choice. Because it is a show with a very short season (only eight episodes) I finished it in no time and yes, it is every bit as good as I’d expected and both David Tennant and Olivia Colman are magnificent on it (note to self: try to find “Tyrannosaur” as soon as possible).

Though considered a no-no, I sometimes like to eat while watching TV and if it’s something tasty even better: these cakes, which are super easy to make (melted butter, no need to wait for it to soften), turned out delicious and utterly tender, and one of them was devoured still warm from the oven while I watched the season finale of “Broadchurch” – lucky for me the episode really got my attention, otherwise I would have eaten another cake right after the first one. :D

Spiced honey cakes
slightly adapted from the always stunning and delicious Gourmet Traveller

180g all purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (44g) light brown sugar, packed
120g honey
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
100ml whole milk, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons whisky
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour eighteen 1/3-capacity muffin pans.
Sift together flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt, add sugars and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center, add honey, butter, milk, egg, vanilla and whisky. Whisk until smooth, spoon into prepared pans and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pans over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the pans and cool completely on the rack.
Sift with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 18 – I made the exact recipe above, used 180ml-capacity pans and got 8 cakes

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Umbrian cheese bread and ignoring one instruction on the recipe

Umbrian cheese bread / Pão de queijos da Úmbria

When it comes to cooking or baking one thing I have learned over the years is to read the entire recipe before actually making it – that has saved me a lot of trouble in the kitchen and a lot of frustration, too, and it’s a habit I highly recommend you to acquire.

Days ago I decided to put the cheeses in my fridge to some good use by baking Nick Malgieri’s wonderful bread – I sat down and carefully read the entire recipe, top to bottom. Off to the kitchen I went and a while later the bread perfumed my house while in the oven: it turned out delicious, crusty on the outside and tender on the inside, with an amazing cheese flavor. After placing the bread onto the wire rack I remembered Malgieri’s instructions to cool the bread completely before serving it and I had a big laugh: that was never going to happen. :D

Umbrian cheese bread
slightly adapted from Nick Malgieri's Bread: Over 60 Breads, Rolls and Cakes plus Delicious Recipes Using Them

3 teaspoons dried yeast
¼ cup (60ml) slightly warm water
400g all purpose flour
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, chopped
5 large eggs
80g parmesan cheese, finely grated
40g pecorino Romano, finely grated
80g gruyère, cut into 5mm dice
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and water. Set aside until bubbly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and no large portions of butter are visible. Switch to the dough hook. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture to the bowl and mix on low for 1 minute to combine, then add the cheeses, salt and pepper. Mix on low-medium until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it starts to puff, 15-20 minutes (mine needed 35 minutes). In the meantime, butter a 20cm (8in) deep round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and cover with slightly oiled plastic wrap. Let it rise until it reaches the top of the pan, about 45 minutes – while that happens, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the bread until deeply golden and well risen, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold and remove the paper. Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm (this bread also reheats well at a 180°C/350°F oven for a few minutes).

Serves 8-10

Monday, September 9, 2013

Zesty oaty cookies + the book I have finished reading

Zesty oaty cookies / Cookies cítricos de aveia

It took me a while to start reading "Gone Girl" but when I did I found it impossible to put the book down: I’d be reading it every chance I got, even if it was for five minutes while waiting for the elevator. I got seriously hooked on Gillian Flynn’s story and how well written it is. While reading the book I kept thinking of how perfect Rosamund Pike is for playing Amy and how wrong Ben Affleck is for the movie – I might have liked “Argo” a lot, but I don’t think he can pull the part of Nick Dunne off – or Bruce Wayne, for that matter. :S

If you, like me, are diehard fans of the amazing Millennium trilogy and are looking for a book that will keep you up till 3 in the morning go ahead and give “Gone Girl” a try. And if you like baking like I do and not a weekend goes by without you making a cake take a look at Amber Rose’s beautiful book – I have tried several recipes from her and the results were always a hit, like these soft oaty cookies, packed with citrus zest and spices – I take them as a more delicious and healthier version of granola bars.

Zesty oaty cookies
slightly adapted from the absolutely gorgeous Love, Bake, Nourish (I bought mine here)

220g unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
90g all purpose flour
150g honey
70g demerara sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
70g golden raisins
80g dried apricots, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
140g rolled oats

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, then scrape the side of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, beat in 1-2 tablespoons of the flour, then beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Gently fold in the rest of the flour along with all the other ingredients – do not overmix; the dough will be soft. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Roll 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie into balls and place 5cm apart onto prepared baking sheets. Press each ball slightly with the back of a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack.

Makes about 25

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lemon and blueberry cornmeal cake

Lemon and blueberry cornmeal cake / Bolo de fubá, limão siciliano e mirtilos

Even though I’ve been very focused on my inventory project (two years now, wow) I still love to go around the supermarket aisles to see if there’s anything new I haven’t tried yet – my husband says that if we went grocery shopping at the same time with the same list on our hands he’d be finished in half the time (and he’s right). :D

Weeks ago I discovered a new brand of corn products, a Brazilian one, and those products are made of non-transgenic corn. I found that such a wonderful thing that I couldn’t resist and brought home a bag of corn flour, which was used to make Clarice’s beautiful cake. Since the cake turned out so good, I was inspired to bake again with that corn flour, this time using a recipe that originally called for polenta. The cake turned out delicious and really tender, with the blueberries popping like small bubbles of jam at every bite – I found the cake so good on its own I skipped the icing entirely.

Lemon and blueberry cornmeal cake
slightly adapted from here

225g unsalted butter, very soft
225g granulated sugar
4 large eggs
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
100g corn flour (not corn starch)
150g all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
200g blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan and line it with baking paper, buttering the paper as well*.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. Fold in the corn flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, salt and lemon juice to make a smooth batter. Carefully fold in half the blueberries. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Scatter over remaining blueberries.
Bake for about 40minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.

* I used a pan with a removable bottom, so I just buttered and floured it – I did not use baking paper to line it

Serves 20

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Almond poppy seed cookies + someone who should shut up

Almond poppy seed cookies / Biscoitos de amêndoa e sementes de papoula

I have, several times, spoken of my love for Jamie Oliver’s recipes – except for one problem years ago, everything I have made from his books and website turned out really good. But unfortunately when the guy opens his mouth for something else other than eating we are “graced” by so many ridiculous remarks that it’s very hard to digest. It’s a shame that someone like him, who reaches out to thousands of people and could send messages about understanding chooses to be judgmental about something he has no knowledge of – and when I think of his shows, especially the 15 minute meal one with all those dishes made with preserved lemons, harissa, pistachios and even saffron I can’t picture someone living in poverty being able to spend money on ingredients like those.

One of the things that aging has brought me is the constant exercise of not pointing fingers at others – I don’t always succeed, as I’m only human, but I try as hard as I can because the “if I can do it so can you” philosophy makes me sick – and that is exactly what Jamie Oliver is doing. Shame on him.

As I am overly disappointed at Mr. Oliver, I decided to post a recipe from a book that, up to this moment, hasn’t failed me – it has become one of my favorite baking sources, one I reach out for quite regularly and with excellent results every time.

Almond poppy seed cookies / Biscoitos de amêndoa e sementes de papoula

Almond poppy seed cookies
slightly adapted from the delicious The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest's Celebrated Bakery

1 ½ cups (210g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/8 teaspoon table salt
¾ cup (170g/1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
85g (3oz) almonds, lightly toasted and cooled, coarsely chopped
granulated sugar, extra, for rolling the dough logs

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds and salt.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then add the vanilla. On slow speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until they disappear into the dough. Fold in the almonds with a sturdy spatula. Divide the dough in half, then place each on a large 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) and roll log in the extra sugar, coating it evenly, then cut into 5mm thick rounds. Place them onto prepared sheets 5cm (2in) apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Cool in the sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 40

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chocolate financiers with lemon crumble + a lovely French movie

Chocolate financiers with lemon crumble / Financiers de chocolate com cobertura crumble de limão siciliano

I find it impossible to think of French movies without thinking of Audrey Tautou – because of “Amélie” she occupies the place in my mind that was once shared by Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve (it’s just a matter of order, not talent, of course).

Yesterday I watched “Delicacy”, and felt so moved by it: a movie that is romantic without being cheesy, about love, loss, life. Tautou with those big eyes of hers makes you cry and laugh without resorting to silly things or situations, and by the end of the movie you’ll feel like catching a plane to Paris asap. :)

And to continue with the French feeling caused by that lovely movie, I bring you these tasty financiers: a French treat by a French chef – I would never have imagined that financiers could be topped with crumble, but I’m glad Eric Lanlard did. :D

Chocolate financiers with lemon crumble
slightly adapted from the über delicious Chocolat (I bought mine here)

Crumble topping:
25g all purpose flour
25g icing sugar, sifted
50g almond meal
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
pinch of salt
25g unsalted butter, cold and diced

40g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
75g unsalted butter, chopped
50g almond meal
125g icing sugar, sifted
40g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 24-cup mini muffin pan.
Crumble: place the flour, icing sugar, almond meal, zest and salt in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Refrigerate while you make the financier batter: melt chocolate and butter together in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Cool for 5 minutes, then stir in the almond meal, icing sugar, flour, salt and vanilla. Stir in the egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan filling each cavity ¾ of its capacity. Generous sprinkle with the crumble mixture, packing it lightly to adhere. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until risen and a toothpick inserted in the center of a financier comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan and transfer to the rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 24

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