Thursday, August 30, 2007

Almost Greek salad

Almost Greek salad

Yep, almost Greek. Because I used a different type of cheese to replace feta – queijo Minas frescal. And I used lime juice in the dressing, instead of red wine vinegar.

The verdict? I had a huge bowl of this salad. HUGE. I mean it – it was all I had for lunch, with a glass of wine. Ok, 2 glasses of wine. :)

I still want to try it with feta, but my Brazilian twist worked so well I’m submitting this salad to this Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by its creator, the lovely Kalyn, of Kalyn’s Kitchen.


Almost Greek salad
adapted from Kitchen: The Best of the Best

4 ripe tomatoes
2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
1 red onion
175g (1 cup) Kalamata olives
½ teaspoon dried oregano
200g queijo fresco or creamy feta

juice of 1 small lime
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into chunks and arrange on a serving platter.
Thickly cut the cucumbers; cut the onion in paper thin slices. Add to the tomatoes and scatter the olives over the plate. Cut the cheese in thick slices and arrange over the vegetables. Sprinkle the salad with the oregano.
Make the dressing: mix well the ingredients. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

You can present the salad as I did, inspired by one episode of Take Home Chef: mix the vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with the dressing.
Place amounts of salad on serving plates and top with the slices of cheese. Drizzle once more with the dressing.

Serves: 4 (as a side dish)

Almost Greek salad

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Daring Bakers present: Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Chocolate and caramel – a match made in heaven. That’s what I thought when Veron showed me this recipe – she was the host of this month’s challenge and asked me to be her partner in crime – thanks, sweetie! :)

We exchanged emails with many suggestions for the challenge but truth be told, who can resist this tart? I couldn’t, and didn’t.

The tart is delicious, but not as rich as I thought it would be – the chocolate topping is very light and smooth. The caramel fragments add a delicious crunch to it and the shortbread base is so delicious I have been thinking of using baking the amount left on my freezer as cookies.

I halved the entire recipe and got a 24cm round pie, with only a handful of pastry left.

There’s also some info I need to share: I ended up using the metric system to measure some ingredients and cup/tablespoon/teaspoon to measure others because some of the measurements were a bit confusing in my opinion – for instance, I weighed 2 ½ tablespoons flour and got more than 15g.

You’ll need to chill the pastry overnight, so plan accordingly.

Don’t forget to check the other Daring Bakers’ tarts – there’s a link to the complete list on my side bar.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry:*
250g unsalted butter, softened
150g confectioners’ sugar
50g ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4 ½ cups cake flour**
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

A day ahead:
In a mixing bowl of a food processor – I used my brand new Kitchen Aid, with the paddle attachment, yay!!! - cream the butter.
Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together
Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly; sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.
Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight – take it out of the refrigerator a while before rolling it out, otherwise it will be too hard.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Caramel filling / chocolate mousse topping:
250g (½ lb) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe above)
300g granulated sugar
250g heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche – I used 25% cream, which is the one available here in Brazil
50g butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups whipping cream
250g (½ lb) milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 160ºC/325ºF.
Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry (roll it between plastic pieces and it will be a lot easier) and bake blind for 15 minutes.
In a saucepan, caramelize 200g granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes (I baked for 20). Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream – I set the chocolate aside for a couple of minutes to cool because adding the warm chocolate to the whipped cream did not seem right to me.

Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Alternate Caramel Method:

If you have problems with the dry method, you may use this method.

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Set mixture in a pot over medium-high heat and stir slowly. When the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and leave it alone. Wait till desired color is attained.
Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Caramel Fragments:
Melt 100g granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

Makes: One 22.5cm (9in) square or one 25cm (10in) round tart

* chocolate shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells

** there’s no cake flour here in Brazil, so I used a substitute I found on the web: 1 cup cake flour = 7/8 cup all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons corn starch


Friday, August 24, 2007

Brazilian candy in tiny cups: brigadeiro, beijinho and bicho-de-pé

Brazilian candy in tiny cups: brigadeiro, beijinho and bicho-de-pé

Brigadeiro and beijinho are very popular types of candy served in parties here in Brazil - bicho-de-pé is a bit less usual, but equally adored.

They all start with a can of sweetened condensed milk - something we love around here. Many of our dessert/candy recipes call for it.

The difference is in the flavors: beijinho is made with coconut, brigadeiro is chocolatey and bicho-de-pé is (artificially) strawberry flavored.

After the candy is cooked and left to cool down, it is shaped into balls and rolled on some sort of coating (granulated sugar, desiccated coconut, chocolate sprinkles) and then placed into very small fluted paper cups (don’t mind the horrible photo, I made these for her birthday last year):
Since I was making all the candy without any help - my sister/birthday girl/sous chef had another birthday party to go to that afternoon - I decided to spare some time and use an idea I'd seen in a couple of websites - to serve the candy inside small cups. I bought tiny plastic cups (15ml each), poured the candy while still hot inside them (before the mixture starts to firm up) and served with small wooden spoons.

The candy was a huge hit at the party – a lot more than the cake! :)

Brazilian candy in tiny cups: brigadeiro, beijinho and bicho-de-pé


1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut

Mix the condensed milk, butter and coconut in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly – when the bottom of the pan starts to show and the mixture is a bit thicker, remove from heat and immediately pour the candy into the cups.
After it’s completely cool, sprinkle with unsweetened desiccated coconut and decorate with a clove.
If you want to shape the candy into balls, pour the mixture onto a greased plate and let it cool completely before using. Lightly coat your hands with butter, grab small portions of candy and roll into balls. Roll them in unsweetened desiccated coconut or granulated sugar and place in small fluted paper cups. Decorate each ball with a clove.

Makes 25 tiny cups (15ml) or 40 balls (approx. 2cm each)

Brazilian candy in tiny cups: brigadeiro, beijinho and bicho-de-pé


1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Mix the condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly – when the bottom of the pan starts to show and the mixture is a bit thicker, remove from heat and immediately pour the candy into the cups.
After it’s completely cool, sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.
If you want to shape the candy into balls, pour the mixture onto a greased plate and let it cool completely before using. Lightly coat your hands with butter, grab small portions of candy and roll into balls. Roll them in chocolate sprinkles and place in small fluted paper cups.

Makes 25 tiny cups (15ml) or 40 balls (approx. 2cm each)

Brazilian candy in tiny cups: brigadeiro, beijinho and bicho-de-pé


1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ package (40g) strawberry flavored gelatin powder

Mix the condensed milk, butter and gelatin in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly – when the bottom of the pan starts to show and the mixture is a bit thicker, remove from heat and immediately pour the candy into the cups.
After it’s completely cool, sprinkle with granulated sugar – I preferred to use a tiny piece of strawberry.
If you want to shape the candy into balls, pour the mixture onto a greased plate and let it cool completely before using. Lightly coat your hands with butter, grab small portions of candy and roll into balls. Roll them in granulated sugar and place in small fluted paper cups.

Makes 25 tiny cups (15ml) or 40 balls (approx. 2cm each)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Herb ricotta cannelloni

Herb ricotta cannelloni

It's funny how we spend time with people and still don't know hundreds of things about them. Or we think we know something, but we don't (This is not a philosophical post, I promise).

I was going through a couple of books trying to choose something for lunch and suddenly João looked at a photo and said "why don't you cook this?" - I looked at him and replied "but you don't like cannelloni. And you don't like ricotta either". "Of course I like cannelloni. And I would definitely try your ricotta cannelloni - but don't add spinach, please"

After my jaw was back where it belongs, João was off to the grocery store to buy the ingredients and I was glad to know he's more open to trying new food. :)


I'm submitting this post for the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Scott, from Real Epicurean.

Herb ricotta cannelloni

I adapted a recipe from this book and used a combination of parsley, chives and basil to replace the spinach.

Herb ricotta cannelloni
adapted from Modern Classics Book 1

500ml readymade tomato sauce
4 fresh lasagna sheets, halved lengthwise
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, extra

750g (1 ½ pounds) fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil*
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons chopped basil
4 tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs – I made my own with some stale Italian bread
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
To make the filling, combine the ricotta, olive oil, parsley, basil, chives, parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the base of a greased 20x30cm (8x12in) ovenproof dish.
Lay a lasagna sheet on a flat surface, spoon on some ricotta filling and roll up. Place in the baking dish, seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining filling and sheets.
Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cannelloni, sprinkle with the extra parmesan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

* I added the olive oil because the ricotta I used was too crumbly – it helped create a creamier filling

Serves 4

Herb ricotta cannelloni

Friday, August 17, 2007

Parsley polenta with balsamic tomatoes

Parsley polenta with balsamic tomatoes

One of the bad things about living in São Paulo is the huge traffic jams I have to face every single day; it takes me forever to get to work and then to get back home. So exhausting.

I don’t know what happened in one of these days but the streets were so free that I arrived home in less then 40 minutes! A miracle! That deserved a celebration – a delicious dinner that I put together in 20 minutes.


This recipe was really good so I’m submitting it to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Zorra, from the blog Kochtopf.

Parsley polenta with balsamic tomatoes
adapted from Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry

4 ripe tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons basil leaves

2 cups (480ml) hot water
2 cups (480ml) milk
1 cup quick cook polenta*
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
60g (2 oz) butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, in an ovenproof ceramic dish. Combine the oil, balsamic, sugar and basil and pour over the tomatoes. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.
Make the polenta while the tomatoes are roasting. Place the water and milk in a saucepan over medium to high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the polenta, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Stir through the parmesan, parsley, butter, pepper and salt.
To serve, spoon the polenta onto serving plates. Top with the tomatoes and the pan juices. Finish with extra parmesan and serve.

* I made the polenta little bit thicker because that’s how João likes it.

Serves 4

Parsley polenta with balsamic tomatoes

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Caramel banana pie (and a trip down memory lane)

Caramel banana pie

We have been celebrating Father's Day with a get together/lunch at my house ever since I got married, in 2005. I love it - besides my father, who is the star of the day, my brother and sister come too and they are both great people to have around (of course I'm biased. And I don't care). :)

Since I didn't want to make the same old desserts again (the sweetened condensed milk custard is my usual choice), I called my dad and asked what he wanted for dessert - he's not into sweets and not into chocolate, so I had to ask him.
His answer was a big surprise: "I'd like to have that banana pie your mother used to make for me. The one with the "dough snakes" on top".
"Ok, of course, I'll make it".

The thing is...



…I don't have the original recipe. I remembered my mother's banana pie, even in a detailed sort of way, but that was all. No recipe!!!! I started to panic.

My salvation: a recipe for pie crust found in Bon Appetit (July issue) + remembering a pie filling I used to make as a teenager for fruit pies + memories of the caramel banana topping.

My father loved the pie and told me it was exactly like my mom's. Even though I know he said that not to hurt my feelings, there's a smile on my face every time I think of his words. :D

Caramel banana pie

2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1.25cm (½-inch) cubes
½ cup chilled lard or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut 1.25cm (½-inch) cubes – I used regular vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water – I needed 6

2 cups (480ml) + 3 tablespoons milk
5 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch
1 egg yolk - I forgot to add but I liked the result anyway
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 small bananas, sliced - approx. 2 1/2 cups
1 ½ cups sugar

Start making the crust: Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. If making by hand (which I did): pinch and rub flour and fat between your thumb and fingertips (this works well if you have cook hands).
Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough – I used ¾ of the dough for the crust and ¼ for the “snakes”; flatten each part into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Dough can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF.
Roll out dough from the center out, lifting and rotating it frequently, clockwise and counterclockwise – I kept the dough wrapped in plastic while rolling it out.
Using the rolling pin, transfer the dough from countertop to pan (22cm/8.5in) and unfold it. Press it gently on the pan and cut off excess.
Blind bake until the crust starts to get golden; remove from the oven.

For the filling: pour 2 cups milk into a medium saucepan. Add sugar and mix well.
In a cup or small bowl, mix the 3 tablespoons milk and the corn starch until well dissolved. Add to saucepan and mix well.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until cream thickens.
Remove from heat, add vanilla and mix well. Set aside to cool, stirring every now and then to keep it free of lumps.

Make the topping: Place sugar in a large saucepan and cook it over low heat until caramels forms. Add the bananas, being careful not to get burned. Stir every once in a while and cook over low heat until the bananas soften and melt a little.
Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble the pie: Pour the filling over crust and top it with the banana caramel mixture.
Make “snakes” with the remaining chilled dough and place them on the top of the pie, forming a sort of lattice effect.
Bake again, in a 200ºC/390ºF oven, this time for 25-30 minutes, until the “snakes” are baked.
Set aside to cool and refrigerate before serving.

Serves 8.

Caramel banana pie

Monday, August 13, 2007

Totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies

 Totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies

I made these cookies for one of my co-workers – she’s a secretary, too, and such a sweet person!

I was flipping through the book and couldn’t decide which recipe to bake for her – should I go with ginger? Walnuts? Peanut butter, perhaps? So many options…

Then I thought that one just can’t go wrong with chocolate, especially when it comes with more chocolate. :D

 Totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies

Totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies
from Big Fat Cookies

2 2/3 cups (450g/16ounces) semisweet chocolate chips*
1 cup (140g) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup (23g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
½ cup (85g) packed light brown sugar
¼ cup (60g) granulated sugar
1 large cold egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 165ºC/325ºF.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put 2/3 cup (112g/4 ounces) of the chocolate chips in a heatproof container or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir the chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute.
Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate chips until blended. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until blended, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in the remaining 2 cups (338g) chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup with a ¼-cup capacity, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 3 inches apart.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until they crack slightly on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out with moist crumbs, not wet batter, about 18 minutes (if the toothpick penetrates a chocolate chip, test another spot).
Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The outsides of the cookies will become crisp as the cookies cool.

The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
* I used 112g/4 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate for the cookie dough and then only 220g chocolate chips (instead of 338g) – they were pretty chocolatey to me.

Makes 12 – I used a tablespoon to measure the cookie dough and got 38 cookies

 Totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My BBM package has arrived!

Yay!!! My Blogging by Mail package has arrived!!!

And all these fantastic things were sent to me by the sweet Molly, from the wonderful blog Batter-Splattered - all the way from Alaska!! Not only is she a terrific baker, but also a very thoughtful person!

She sent me these delicious chocolate bars (it was sooo hard NOT eating them before taking the photo) and I was so glad because I’ve read about Dagoba chocolate but it’s impossible to find it here in Brazil; some environmental friendly paper bags I knew nothing about (I’ll be filling one of them today with freshly baked cookies), these lovely napkins and a moose cookie cutter!

And she sent these gifts beautifully packaged.

Molly, I was delighted to receive these gifts - thank you, thank you, thank you!

And I also want to thank Steph, from Dispensing Happiness, for organizing and hosting this magnificent event!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Parmesan-stuffed chicken breasts

Parmesan-stuffed chicken breasts

Ever since I bought this book I’ve been meaning to make every single recipe from it – the food looks delicious!

These chicken breasts were good, but not what I expected - I truly believe that marinating the chicken for a couple of hours - instead of seasoning it right before baking it - would do wonders in the flavor department. Not sure I’d give this a go again, though.

I reduced a little balsamic vinegar just to decorate the plate.

Parmesan-stuffed chicken breasts
from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
¼ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon - about 1 tablespoon
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 bone-in chicken breast halves - about 1,350g/3 pounds (the ones I bought were much too large, I guess the chicken was a mutant or something)

Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF. In a small bowl, mix the parsley, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and zest. Season the mixture with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Divide the parsley mixture into 4 mounds. Carefully loosen the chicken skin with fingers, tuck the parsley mixture under the skin – I needed to use a couple of toothpicks to secure the stuffing inside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place in a greased 22x33cm (9x13in) roasting pan.
Bake until the skin is crispy, the chicken s cooked through and an instant-red thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat register 73ºC/165ºF, about 30 minutes – I baked mine for 1 hour.

Serves 4

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Brazilian anthill cake

Brazilian anthill cake

This cake is called “anthill cake” because when you slice it, it looks like there are a thousand ants inside it:

Brazilian anthill cake

Don’t be scared! These are chocolate sprinkles. :)

I think I had not eaten this cake in 8 years or so – I’m not kidding!
It’s a very traditional cake here and delicious even without any icing. Some recipes call for desiccated coconut, but the one I grew up baking doesn’t.
I used to bake this cake all the time when I was a teenage baker. It would be the perfect afternoon snack for me, my brother and Julio (my stepmother’s son) after we finished our homework.
The first time I made this cake was bit tragic, though: I poured too much batter in the pan and then it started to overflow… The batter on the oven got burnt and the kitchen was full of smoke. As I was a silly girl, I gave up the cake and went to my room to cry.

That day, we had company at home: my cousin Daniel and a friend of the boys’ were there, too.
Half an hour or so after the disaster, the 4 boys came to talk to me. They told me they had cleaned the oven and also washed the cake pan; they asked me to bake the cake again – of course I couldn’t say no to such a sweet request!

This time I used a recipe from a friend for the cake and chose the same chocolate icing I used for my Brazilian carrot cake. And apparently I haven’t learned my lesson – again, cake pan was a bit too small:
Brazilian anthill cake

3 eggs
pinch of salt
240g sugar
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200ml milk
300g all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

Chocolate icing:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF. Grease and flour a 24cm ring pan.
Separate the egg whites from yolks being careful to not contaminate the whites with the yolks. Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Using a mixer, beat yolks, sugar and butter until light and creamy. Start adding the flour, alternating with the milk and beat well.
Add the baking powder and the chocolate sprinkles and mix well with a spoon. Fold in the egg whites – the batter is very thick. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes then invert the cake onto a serving plate.
Make the icing: mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it boils.
Remove from heat and pour it over the cake.

Serves 10-12.

Brazilian anthill cake

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