Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish chocolate-streusel-swirled coffee cake

Danish chocolate-streusel-swirled coffee cake

Computers can be and are used in many different ways and for both good and bad. It has become a constant part of most people’s lives and sometimes it is extremely necessary.

I was once talking to Fatima (my maid) about that and she told me that her two daughters - one is 15 and the other, 13 – had been asking for a computer. I told her that a computer would be very good for the girls – they could use it for school papers, research... And then she told me that the only thing her daughters wanted to research about was Chris Brown. :)

Like many of you, I use the computer for both work and fun. It has been a great tool for knowing people from all around the world – people who love cooking, baking and sharing recipes with others.

The sweet and talented Dita is one friend I made through Flickr. She has some amazing photos and delicious recipes there and on her blog as well. She recently made the glazed apple lattice coffee cake I posted days ago. And it looked so gorgeous! To make things even more fun, she even prepared a video!

Because Dita made such a beautiful coffee cake, I felt like making another one. I got the recipe here and loved it so much I immediately bought the book. It makes 2 huge loaves, so get people to share them with or halve the recipe.

Danish chocolate-streusel-swirled coffee cake

Danish chocolate-streusel-swirled coffee cake
from Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet, and Savory

Coffee cake:
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
¼ cup (60ml) warm water, 105 to 115ºF (41 to 46ºC)
pinch of sugar + 6 tablespoons
12 tablespoons (168g) unsalted butter at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or ½ teaspoon ground cardamom – I used cardamom
3 large eggs
4 ½ to 5 cups (630 to 700g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (240ml) warm milk, 105 to 115ºF (41 to 46ºC)

Chocolate streusel:
2/3 cup (134g) sugar
¼ cup (35g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (42g) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg white, beaten until foamy
3 tablespoons sliced almonds – I used chopped hazelnuts

Make the dough: in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Add the pinch of sugar, stir to dissolve, and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat the 6 tablespoons sugar, the butter, salt, and vanilla or cardamom together with a wooden spoon or a heavy-duty electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add 1 cup of the flour and beat until smooth. Add the milk, then gradually add 2 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well. Stir in the yeast mixture. Gradually add enough of the 1 ½ to 2 cups remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a buttered bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.

Now, the chocolate streusel: in a medium bowl or a food processor, mix the sugar, flour, butter, cocoa, and cinnamon together. Cut the butter in with your fingers or process until crumbly.

Assemble the coffee cake: punch down the dough and turn it out on a lightly floured board and knead lightly until smooth, 1 or 2 minutes. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into a 10-by-14-inch (25x35cm) rectangle. Spread evenly with half of the Chocolate Streusel. Roll up and place, seam side down, on a buttered baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, placing the loaf on a separate buttered baking sheet.

With clean scissors, snip each loaf at ¾-inch intervals, cutting three-fourths of the way through the dough:

Starting at one end, pull and twist each cut slice on its side to lie flat on alternate sides – as you can see, I wasn’t very successful here:

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Brush the loaves with the egg white and sprinkle with the nuts. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the loaves to wire racks to cool completely. Cut into ¾-inch-thick slices to serve. Or, wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.

Makes 2 very large loaves

Danish chocolate-streusel-swirled coffee cake

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bacon and oregano homemade pasta and two silly people having fun in the kitchen together

Bacon and oregano homemade pasta

I have read that food can bring people together. I think it’s true – many celebrations involve family and/or friends around a table. And one doesn’t need an established occasion at all – having friends over for dinner for no apparent reason is equally wonderful.

Joao and I make our Sunday lunches a special part of our life. Work and traffic jams already keep us apart on weekdays and there’s barely any time for cooking. That’s why I love cooking and baking on weekends – my way of having fun. I’m lucky the hubby shares that with me.

Bacon and oregano homemade pasta

Weekdays are all about what I have to do, so weekends are all about what I want to do. I want to have fun. And is it fun making pasta while Joao takes pictures? You bet!

Bacon and oregano homemade pasta

We laughed like two kids – there was flour all over my kitchen when we finished our “pasta making session”. And after that, we had delicious, fresh pasta for lunch. A pretty good Sunday, if you’ll ask me.

Bacon and oregano homemade pasta

This is my entry for the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by the lovely Kalyn, the blogger who created the event.


Bacon and fresh oregano homemade pasta
from Donna Hay magazine

400g (14oz) fettuccine, linguini or any long pasta you prefer
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
60g (2oz) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup olive oil, extra – I used a little less
crispy bacon, to serve
grated parmesan, to serve

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, return to the saucepan and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat, add the oil and oregano and cook for 30 seconds or until crispy. Drain on absorbent paper. Add the capers and garlic and cook for 1 minute or until crispy. Add to the pasta with the butter and extra oil and toss to combine. Divide between plates and top with the oregano, bacon and parmesan.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Apple filled cookies

Apple filled cookies

My dear friend Mark, a.k.a. “King of Desserts”, posted an embarrassing story on his blog the other day – he even got some bruises from it. Poor, poor Mark. It reminded me of one of the many embarrassing days I had when I was 16.

I was taking a Teaching Course and, being on the 3rd year, our class was responsible for decorating the school for Christmas. The 30-something students were divided into smaller groups and each one would have a part of the school prepped; my group got the teachers’ room – oh, yeah, sheer luck.

One of our plans was to make centerpieces using candles and pine cones and off we went to buy the material: 3kg (6 ½ pounds) of red and white thick-as-hell candles. Boy, those were heavy. But not heavy enough to stop two teenage girls with serious plans of going out that evening from going to the mall in search of the perfect outfit.

All was well until the bag with the candles broke while I was standing at the top of the escalator; I’ll never forget those people’s “WTF??” faces, having to move away from the candles, then from me trying to catch the candles – without much success, I might add.

I was so mortified I stayed away from that mall for over a year. I wish I had these cookies to comfort me back then.

Recipe from my lovely Brazilian friend Clarice – the cookies were a lot flakier the day they were made; I took the photos 2 days later. I also used a very small cutter, so there’s not much filling in each cookie – next time I make these, I’ll use a 5cm round cutter.

Apple filled cookies

Apple filled cookies

1 small apple, finely diced
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
ground cinnamon, to taste – believe it or not, I forgot to add it

80g cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
150g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 large egg yolk
iced water
1 egg white, for brushing

For sprinkling:
caster sugar and ground cinnamon

Start by making the filling: mix all the ingredients in a heatproof bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and take to the microwave oven (500W) for 3 minutes. Remove from over, stir and set aside to cool.

Now, the dough: sift flour and salt and place in a food processor, along with the butter – I used my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment for it. Pulse a few times until mixture resembles fine meal. Add the egg yolk and a little water. Pulse again and add water until dough comes together. Transfer dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to form a 1cm-thick disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line a large baking sheet with baking paper.

In a lightly floured surface, roll dough until 3mm-thick. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place a bit of filling in the middle of dough, brush edges with egg white and top with another dough shape, closing the edges so the filling won’t leek. Transfer cookies to prepared pan.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges – mine took a little longer to bake, 35 minutes.
Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll each cookie in cinnamon sugar.

Makes 38 with a 3cm cookie cutter in the shape of a drop

Apple filled cookies

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jam slice

Jam slice

My good friend C. gave me a very special gift last week – “The English Patient” DVD. It’s one of my all time favorite movies and Ralph Fiennes would be my #1 name if I had a laminated list like Ross’. :)

Back in 1996, I read the book before watching the movie and loved it too. Book, movie and actor – 3 fantastic things combined. Like the flavors in these bars.
The book would be the cookie base and the movie, the jam layer; getting face to face with Ralph Fiennes would be an amazing topping. Too bad that won’t happen – I’ll have to go with coconut instead. :)

I have made this recipe twice already – once in an 18x28cm pan, which resulted in bars with thinner layers (especially the cookie base). And the ones you see on the photos were made in a 20cm square pan - I just baked it for a tad longer to make sure it was cooked through.

Jam slice

Jam slice
from Modern Classics Book 2

125g (4oz) butter, softened
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
1 cup (135g) all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg yolk
¾ cup raspberry jelly – I used strawberry

½ cup (113g) caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line a 20x30cm (8x12in) slice pan* with non-stick baking paper.

Process the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder in a food processor until combined - I used my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment.
Add the egg yolk and continue to process until the mixture forms a soft dough. Press into the prepared pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the base is golden brown. Allow to cool then spread with the jam.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, egg and coconut. Sprinkle over the jam. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool in the pan. Cut into slices.

* I used regular pans, both times – no removable bottom. I just left a bit of paper hanging out of the pan to work as “handles” – this way, it was easier to remove the cookie from the pan and slice it into bars.

Makes 24 slices – I got 16 larger slices from the 18x28cm pan and 9 large slices from the 20cm square pan.

Jam slice

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crash-hot potatoes

Crash-hot potatoes

I was devastated when I learned that Tastespotting had been closed. Luckily for me and for all the foodies, there new options for our daily dosis of food porn: Food Gawker and RecipeMuncher. Go check them out!

Deb, from the super yummy Taste and Tell, has mentioned a couple of times that she has trouble choosing side dishes. Deb, my dear, these are for you! Not only they are extremely simple to make but they’re also delicious! And one can play around using their favorite herb – I followed one of Jill Dupleix’s suggestions and went for thyme.


This is my entry for the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Joanna, from Joanna’s Food.

Crash-hot potatoes

Crash-hot potatoes
from Totally Simple Food

16 small, round potatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme or rosemary sprigs – I used a bit more

Heat oven to 230 or 250ºC/445 or 480ºF - yes, hot. Don't peel the potatoes. Just bung them into a pot of salted water, bring to the boil, and simmer for around 15 minutes until they'll take a skewer without too much resistance. They should be just about cooked, without being soft.

Drain, and arrange on a lightly oiled baking tray or sheet. Use a potato masher to squash each potato flat, until it is twice its original diameter.

Brush the tops with olive oil, and scatter with sea salt, pepper and thyme.

Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until terminally crisp and golden. Serve hot.

Serves 4

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Glazed apple lattice coffee cake

Glazed apple lattice coffee cake

Some ideas are so great that we wish we’d thought of them ourselves. When I read that David Helfgott was the man behind the amazing piano played in Emotion Sickness I was stunned - Silverchair is just genius.

The same thing crossed my mind when I saw this coffee cake on the Oct, 2007 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. A coffee cake filled with apple, brown sugar, zest and spices was something I would love to try already. And it just got better with the addition of a lattice top. So pretty! I wish I’d thought of it. :)

It may look tricky to put together, but it’s not. The recipe is very detailed and well explained. I got it from the magazine, but you can find it here, too.

Glazed apple lattice coffee cake

Glazed apple lattice coffee cake
from Bon Appetit magazine

2 tablespoons warm water (40 to 46ºC/105ºF to 115ºF)
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast

½ cup (120ml) whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2 ¼ cups (280 to 315g) all purpose flour – I used 2 cups + 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 ¼ pounds (565g) Golden Delicious apples (about 3 medium), peeled, cored, quartered, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Nonstick vegetable oil spray or vegetable oil
1/3 cup almond meal*

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (or more) orange juice

Start with the dough: place 2 tablespoons warm water in small cup. Mix in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 6 minutes.

Stir milk, sugar, butter, and salt in medium saucepan over medium-low heat just until sugar dissolves and butter melts (mixture should be just warm). Scrape milk mixture into large bowl; cool to lukewarm if necessary. Whisk in yeast mixture, egg yolks, orange peel, and spices. Add 2 cups flour; mix with rubber spatula until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead until smooth and silky, sprinkling with more flour by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 6 minutes – it’s a very tender dough, delicious to work with. Place in clean large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel. Place in warm draft-free area (I use my microwave oven); let rise until light and almost doubled in volume, about 2 ½ hours.

Now, the filling: melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar. Cook until thick grainy sauce forms, about 1 minute. Mix in apples. Cook until apples are tender and sauce is reduced to glaze, tossing often, about 7 minutes. Mix in all grated peel and spices. Cool filling at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Place large sheet of foil on work surface; spray with nonstick spray. Turn dough out onto foil. Roll out to 14x12-inch (35x30cm) rectangle. Sprinkle cookie crumbs in 4-inch-wide (10cm) strip down center, leaving ½-inch (1.25cm) border at top and bottom. Arrange apples with any juices atop crumbs. Starting ½ inch (1.25cm) from each long side of apples, cut straight to edge of dough at 1-inch (2.5cm) intervals, making about 13 strips on each side. Fold dough strips alternately and on slight angle over filling, forming lattice. Seal open ends of dough.

Slide foil with dough onto large rimmed baking sheet; trim foil overhang. Cover cake loosely with plastic and towel. Place cake in warm draft-free area; let dough rise until light and puffy, about 1 ¾ hours.

Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Bake cake uncovered until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.

For glaze:
Mix powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons orange juice in small bowl to blend, adding more juice by ½ teaspoonfuls if too thick. Drizzle glaze over cake. Gently run spatula under cake to loosen from foil. Cut crosswise into slices. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

* the original recipe calls for finely crumbled vanilla wafer cookies or soft ladyfingers; I did not have any at home, so I went for almond meal and was pretty glad with the result.
** I halved the glaze recipe and I thought it was enough.

Makes 8-10 servings

Glazed apple lattice coffee cake

Monday, June 16, 2008

Passion fruit marshmallows

Passion fruit marshmallows

I worked as a teacher for 2 ½ years. As I taught in the evening, my students were adults, with very few exceptions. They were sweet, kind and hard working people and teaching them was a wonderful thing.
One day, two Mormon boys stopped by the school and offered to lecture the students, so they would practice their English skills. They told us about their mission in Brazil, the people they’d met, the places they’d seen. And this may come as a surprise to you, but I clearly remember what they said about the food. :)

Among other things, they were completely crazy about guaraná and passion fruit juice. They told the students they did not know how they were going to live without those beverages once they were back in the States.

Passion fruit is a huge favorite of mine and its flavor and smell are intoxicating. Marshmallows made with passion fruit juice? That sounded too fabulous not to try.

My friend Lindsey, whose husband is a fellow Brazilian like me, loves passion fruit juice. And I think she’s gonna love these, too.

Passion fruit marshmallows

Passion fruit marshmallows
from Australian Gourmet Traveller

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting*
180ml strained passion fruit juice (about 10 passion fruits) – I used concentrated bottled juice
20g powdered gelatin
500g caster sugar
2 egg whites
pinch of salt

Generously grease a 17.5x25cm shallow cake pan and dust it liberally with confectioners’ sugar. Combine passion fruit juice and gelatin in a bowl and set aside.

Combine caster sugar and 1 cup (250ml) water in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, then increase heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes, without stirring, or until syrup reaches 125ºC/257ºF on a sugar thermometer. Remove from heat, add passion fruit mixture to syrup – be careful, there will be some steam coming out of the pan - and stir until gelatin dissolves.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until frothy. Gradually add passion fruit mixture, whisking continuously on medium speed until mixture has doubled in size, then slowly decrease speed and mix until mixture is warm (about 40ºC/104ºF). Pour into prepared cake pan (spread evenly with a lightly oiled spatula, if necessary) then dust top liberally with snow sugar. Stand at room temperature for 3 hours or until firm. Using a sharp knife, cut marshmallow into 2.5cm squares and roll in snow sugar to coat – I turned the whole mixture onto a cutting board lined with baking paper; it was easier to cut the squares.
Store in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

* the original recipe called for “snow sugar”, which they describe as a confectioner’s sugar with a vegetable fat added to prevent the sugar from absorbing moisture and dissolving (available from specialty food stores); I used regular confectioners’ sugar instead and it worked fine.

Makes 54 – I used a 15x25cm pan and got about 70 small marshmallows

Friday, June 13, 2008

Zuger Kirschtorte

Zuger Kirschtorte

I usually write about myself, my family and friends here. I share info about my favorite food, music and movies with you, my dear readers. But today I am going to tell you a story that happened to someone else – Neusa, a coworker of mine.

She was once at her mother-in-law’s and was served a beautiful, delicious cake for tea. The cake was on Neusa’s mind for a while – that was, for sure, a fantastic dessert. She finally asked her MIL for the recipe. The answer came as a surprise, though: “You must be confused; I have never served such thing. Sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Neusa knew she wasn’t confused and she hadn’t dreamed the cake either. But some mothers-in-law are not very good at dialogues, and she soon learned that hers fit that bill, even though the woman was an extremely refined person.

We know great things come for those who wait and one day Neusa felt like she had been hit by something – while flipping through one of her cousin’s cookbooks, she found a photo of the cake. THAT cake. The “I-have-never-served-you-this-you-must-be-confused” cake. I don’t even have to tell you that she got a copy of the recipe and made the cake herself, do I??

She did and the cake was wonderful. Guess what she served her MIL the next time she visited? Oh, vendetta can be such a sweet thing sometimes. :)

Neusa has given me the mission of making the cake, too - a Zuger Kirschtorte. She wants me to spread the word – by posting the recipe here, many people will have access to it, which is something her MIL never intended to happen. Neusa told me that her MIL was born in 1914 and, for many people from her generation, family recipes are precious things that are not supposed to be shared. They are supposed to be prepared and served to guests who will be in awe with the food without ever knowing how to make it.

The recipe on Neusa’s book was not as accurate as I expected it to be and it kicked my a** a bit. But I finally got around and made it and I post the recipe as full as details as I possibly can.

Zuger Kirschtorte

She was also kind enough to lend me this absolutely gorgeous plate – a German piece – so I could photograph the cake on a family treasure. See how posh she is – an extremely refined person herself.

Zuger Kirschtorte

Zuger Kirschtorte

Almond meringue:
4 egg whites
120g confectioners’ sugar
20g corn starch
100g almond meal/ground almonds

3 eggs, egg whites and yolks separated
3 tablespoons hot water
80g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
10g caster sugar
50g all purpose flour
50g corn starch
pinch of baking powder

150g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk
50g currant jam – I used blackberry jam

4 tablespoons water
20g caster sugar
120ml kirsch

For sprinkling:
100g almonds, toasted and chopped – I kept the skin to add some color to the cake
70g confectioners’ sugar

Start by making the meringue discs: preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Draw two 25cm (10in) circles in a large piece of parchment/baking paper, on a baking sheet. Generously butter the insides of each circle.
Sift the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl, add the corn starch and almond meal; set aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff; remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, delicately fold the reserved ingredients into the egg whites. Spread the mixture inside the circles, leaving 0.5cm of the edges free of meringue – it will spread. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the meringue is golden. Turn off the oven and allow meringue to cool inside, for at least 4 hours (can be made overnight).

Biscuit: preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF; butter a 25cm (10in) springform round cake pan (I used one with a removable bottom), line the bottom with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Using a mixer, beat the egg yolks with the water until thick and light. Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually and beat well. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff; add the caster sugar and beat well. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the yolk cream to the egg whites. Sift the flour, corn starch and baking powder over the mixture and fold in carefully with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through – the cake will pull apart from the sides of the pan when baked.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Buttercream: using a mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually, beating well. Add the egg yolk and jam, beat well until smooth.

Syrup: in a small saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium-high heat until it starts boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Add the kirsch and mix well. Set aside.

Assembling the cake: very carefully, peel the meringue discs off the baking paper and place one of them on a serving plate. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the meringue. Place the biscuit cake on top of it and brush it generously with the syrup. Carefully spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the biscuit cake. Cover with the other meringue disc.
Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the cake and “stick” the chopped almonds on the cream. Using a sieve, sprinkle the top of the cake with the confectioners’ sugar. Draw a criss-cross pattern on the sugar using the back of a knife.
Keep it refrigerated, but serve it at room temperature – the cake gets hard in the fridge.

Recipe from a book by Roland Gööck + a little help from here.

Zuger Kirschtorte

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies

Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies

I love how our mind works and how we automatically connect certain words. Like “frogs = gross” or “Tom Cruise = weird”. In this case, the word “delicious” instantly popped into my head when I saw Haalo’s chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies.

The idea of a brownie + my favorite nut + my oh, so loved white chocolate sounded just fantastic. And after trying these I think that the person who came up with it should get a statue or something. Yes, they are that good.

Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies

Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies

125g softened butter, cut into small cubes
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
55g ground almonds/almond meal
65g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
125g dark chocolate, melted – I used one with 51% cocoa solids
110g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/340ºF; grease and line a 20cm/8inch square cake pan – leave extra paper hanging out of the pan, forming “handles”, and it will be easier to unmold the brownies. Grease the paper as well.

Sift the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa together and set aside.
Place the softened butter and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before adding the next.
Sprinkle the almond meal over the mixture and fold through using a rubber spatula. Next add the sifted ingredients and stir through.

Pour over the melted chocolate and mix this through before finally adding the white chocolate chunks.
Spoon this out evenly into the prepared pan - you may need to use the back of a spoon to smooth out the surface.
Bake for about 40 minutes - the surface should be cooked but there should still feel springy to the touch.

Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 9 large brownies

Friday, June 6, 2008

Spiced madeleines

Spiced madeleines

Ever since creating the blog, I have tried a huge number of new, different ingredients. I can’t even list them anymore – too many for my poor memory to gather up.

One of those ingredients is allspice. I’d seen it around in several recipes but it only premiered in my kitchen last week, when I baked these tender and light madeleines. For a spice fan like me, it was about time.

Speaking of "premiere" and "fan", “SATC” opened here last Friday and I absolutely loved it! I couldn’t wait to watch the movie – I have all the DVDs and have seen each episode 3-4 times; I like it to the point of knowing lots of lines by heart... :)
All the girls are fantastic, but Samantha is still my favorite – not only she’s the funniest of them all, but also the prettiest. And the oldest!

Spiced madeleines

Spiced madeleines
from here

¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon (melted) for greasing molds
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom*
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Special equipment: a madeleine pan with 12 (7.5x5cm/3-by 2-inch) molds

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Brush molds with some melted butter, then chill until set, about 5 minutes. Brush molds again with some melted butter and chill pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, spices, and a pinch of salt.

Whisk together sugars and eggs until combined well. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined, then stir in remaining butter (6 tablespoons) until just incorporated. Spoon batter into molds, filling them about two thirds full. Bake 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 175ºC/350ºF and bake until springy to the touch and edges are lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool 15 minutes.
Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

*the original recipe calls for ground coriander; I preferred to use cardamom instead.

Makes 12 – I got 12 like the ones on the photos + 15 smaller, traditional-shaped madeleines

Spiced madeleines

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Orange cranberry slice-and-bake cookies and an appeal for Bri

Orange cranberry slice-and-bake cookies

You must have already read on other food blogs that the sweet Bri is battling cancer once again. She’s shown us her strength and will power through these hard times and I’m sure she’s in everyone’s prayers.

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi are coordinating a fundraiser for Bri. The goal is to raise $12,000 to help her pay for her treatments (for a year). Click here to find out more about it and also to make a donation.

Yellow has become the color of hope – that’s why I’m posting these delicious orange cranberry cookies (a recipe by Deb).

Orange cranberry slice-and-bake cookies

Orange cranberry slice-and-bake cookies

1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
grated zest of 2 oranges
½ cup dried orange-flavored cranberries, chopped

Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt, zest and cranberries. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 ¼ inches (2.5 to 3.2cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF (I preferred to bake my cookies at the central rack, one sheet at a time). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

While the oven is preheating, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (1cm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about ½ inch (1.5 cm) space between them.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Keeping: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

Makes about 50 cookies

Orange cranberry slice-and-bake cookies

Monday, June 2, 2008

Banana, chocolate and oatmeal tea bread or how I will never understand kids

Banana, chocolate and oatmeal tea bread

One of the problems of my obsession with baking is that there’s no one to eat the tons of things I make. Joao doesn’t like sweets or baked goods and I cannot eat them all myself – no, that is definitely not an option. So it’s a great thing my nieces have been asking me for cakes. Since great part of my pleasure is in the making, we pretty much have that covered. I’ll have just a tiny slice – in order to tell you guys if the recipe is good or not, of course – and the kids will have all the cake they want.

Everything was going well - they loved both the orange and lemon cake and the marbled cake. So when I saw this loaf Valentina posted, I thought I’d hit jackpot. I’d even score a few brownie points for adding oats to the bread – which, you know, are good for you.

Auntie Patricia did not choose wisely this time. The girls did not like the bread – the older niece did not try it at all and the other one – who will eat just about anything on earth – told me she wanted a chocolate cake instead. :(

But not all is lost: the adults liked the bread.

Banana, chocolate and oatmeal tea bread

Banana, chocolate and oatmeal tea bread

1 large egg
75ml vegetable oil
125g caster sugar
3 bananas – 2 thinly sliced, for the batter, and 1 in thicker slices, to decorate the bread
30g rolled oats* - set aside 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling
150g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
40g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used 60% cocoa solids

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF. Line a 1 liter (15cm x 7.5cm) loaf pan with buttered, non-stick baking parchment or silicone paper.

Whisk the egg, oil and sugar together until thick. Whisk the thinly sliced bananas into the mixture. Fold in the remaining ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the surface with the reserved oats.
Arrange the thicker banana slices on top.
Bake for 40–50 minutes or until golden.
The cake is done when a metal skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the tea bread to cool in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

* I used oatmeal

Serves 8

Suzy’s cake

Suzy's cake

A couple of dear friends moved to Rio de Janeiro and we hadn’t seen each other in a long time. Do you know that kind of friend you can spend an entire evening talking to and laughing with? Adriana and Cadu are exactly like that.

Homemade pizza was on the menu and there was still dessert to be chosen – I had 2 or 3 options in mind. But after spending the whole day running errands and arriving home late, I had to change my plans – something quick was necessary. Pierre Hermé’s cake was perfect: only 5 ingredients and half an hour in the oven. Before serving it, all I had to do was add a bit of vanilla sugar and grated orange zest to heavy cream and whip it for a couple of minutes.

This was the second time I made this cake – the first one was ages ago, long before the blog – and again the master’s cake was a hit.

Suzy's cake

Suzy’s cake
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

250g bittersweet chocolate, chopped – I used 70% cocoa solids
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
70g all-purpose flour

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Butter a 24cm (9in) round cake pan that is at least 5cm (2in) high, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, and dust the inside of the pan with flour; tap out the excess and set the pan aside.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over – not touching – simmering water and heat until the chocolate is melted; or melt the chocolate in a microwave oven. Set the chocolate aside to cool; it should feel only just warm to the touch when you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until the butter is creamy and the sugar well blended into it. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low, pour in the cooled chocolate, and mix only until it disappears into the batter. Alternatively, you can fold in the last of the flour with a rubber spatula. You’ll have a thick, smooth, satiny batter that looks like old-fashioned chocolate frosting.

Scrape the batter into the pan, smooth the top, and slide the pan into the oven. Bake for 26 to 29 minutes or until the cake rises slightly and the top has lost its sheen. The top may crack a bit and the cake may not look entirely set in the center; when you test the cake by inserting a slender knife into the center, the knife will come out lightly streaked with batter, which is what you want. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool.

When the cake has cooled, chill it in the refrigerator for an hour or two to make it easy to unmould. Turn the cake out, remove the parchment, and invert the cake onto a serving platter so that it is right side up. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Serves 6-8

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