Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spice financiers to kick off the holiday recipes

Spiced financiers / Financiers de especiarias

As said a couple of posts ago, I now start my holiday recipe series 2011 – I had so much fun in the previous years making these recipes I hoped I could do it again. I thought that star-shaped financiers would be a lovely way to begin – with all those delicious spices to boot – but I’ll be honest with you: the stracciatella ice cream in my freezer is the reason why I baked the little cakes. :)

These financiers are melt-in-your-mouth tender and have a wonderful smell – not to mention they look oh, so cute. :D

Spice financiers
adapted from the gorgeous and very girlie Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes

1 ½ cups (210g) icing sugar, plus a little extra for serving
6 tablespoons (60g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (50g) almond meal (finely ground almonds)
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, melted

Sift icing sugar, all purpose flour, salt and spices into a medium bowl. Stir in the almond meal. Add the egg whites and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the butter and mix to combine. Refrigerate batter for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly butter fifteen 3-tablespoon capacity silicone pans or butter and flour metal financier molds.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and place them onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the financiers comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes then carefully unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 15

Monday, November 28, 2011

Simple orange cake (that got devoured in a couple of hours) + a lovely movie

Simple orange cake / Bolo simples de laranja

I thought I was the only one around here who loves simple cakes, but apparently my coworkers share my opinion: this orange cake got devoured in a couple of hours and was elected their favorite baked good – who would imagine that orange could beat chocolate and caramel?

Speaking of favorites, I watched “Restless” last Saturday and absolutely loved it – sensitive, delicate, with nice dialogs, moving without being sappy. Just beautiful. If Gus Van Sant continues to make movies like this I might forget he was responsible for “Finding Forrester” and “Good Will Hunting”. Might. :)

Simple orange cake
adapted from the always wonderful Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups (266g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
finely grated zest of 2 oranges – the ones I used were the size of my head, lots of zest
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (390g) plain yogurt
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice

1 ½ cups (210g) icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons orange juice

Start by making the cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 32.5x22.5x5cm (13x9x2-in) metal baking pan. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in large bowl until blended and smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then orange zest and vanilla extract. Mix in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with yogurt in 3 additions. Mix in orange juice. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake cake 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.
Make the icing: sift icing sugar into a small bowl, add the juice gradually and mix until desired consistency. Drizzle over the cake*.
Cake can be kept in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) metal baking pan; since the pan has a removable bottom, I unmolded the cake before drizzling it with the icing

Serves 15

Friday, November 25, 2011

Oatmeal sandwich bread

Oatmeal sandwich bread / Pão de aveia

While organizing my books on the new bookshelf I grabbed "Good to the Grain" and stared at its beautiful cover (those delicious rhubarb tarts!) for a few seconds... Then it suddenly hit me: I hadn’t used that book in ages; it’s one of my favorite books and that makes me wonder about the poor books I seldom or never use. Well, that’s just me. So I decided to make something – anything – from the book. Since there was a package of oats listed on my inventory this bread was the recipe of choice. I think you can see on the photo how tender it was and I have got more news for you: this bread makes a killer grilled cheese.

Oatmeal sandwich bread
from the gorgeous Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

2 ¼ teaspoons (7g/1 package) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
2 ½ cups (350g) whole-wheat flour
2 cups (280g) bread flour – I used all purpose
1 cup (115g) rolled oats
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ tablespoon table salt*

Lightly butter a large bowl and a 22.5x12.5x7.5cm (9x5x3in) loaf pan. Set aside.
Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast and molasses to the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir, then allow yeast to bloom (about 5 minutes) until it begins to bubble.
Add the flours, oats and butter to the bowl and stir together with a wooden spoon. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
Attach the bowl and the hook to the mixer, add the salt to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides of the bowl without sticking to them. If dough is too sticky, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour (but only if absolutely necessary – avoid adding extra flour).
Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Transfer to the buttered bowl, cover with a towel and leave it to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it onto a rough rectangle (with the smaller side facing you). Fold the dough like a letter, then roll it to get a cylinder. Pinch the seams together and transfer to the prepared loaf pan, seam side down. Leave to rise again in a warm place for about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Before baking, sprinkle the top of the bread with oats (optional)**. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top crust of the bread is as dark as molasses*** and the bottom crust is dark brown. To check for doneness: give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow – if it doesn’t, bake the bread for another 5 minutes. Check again.
Remove from the oven and carefully remove the loaf from the pan. Cool over a wire rack.

* bread wasn’t salty enough for me; I’d add more salt next time
** I brushed the loaf with melted butter to make the oats stick to it but it did not work – as soon as I unmolded the bread the oats fell off on the sink
*** my bread is a little on the pale side but still delicious – it would have burned it I’d waited for it to brown as much as the recipes calls for

Makes 1 large loaf – I made the exact recipe above and got two loaves, using two 20x9cm (8x3½ in) loaf pans

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Really good one-bowl chocolate chip pecan cookies - dead easy to make

Really good one-bowl chocolate chip-pecan cookies / Cookies com gotas de chocolate e pecãs muito bons

I’ve been searching for inspiration for Christmas recipes – my plans are to make a series of recipes like last year’s – and a good place to start is Martha’s website; there are so many wonderful ideas there, everything’s so beautiful that the difficult part of it is choosing what to bake.

Going through some of her cookie recipes for the holidays I remembered that I hadn’t posted these chocolate chip pecan cookies yet – suggested by my friend Ana Elisa I baked them back in July (if I’m not mistaken) and they were fantastic: delicious, easy to make (no special equipment necessary) and you won’t have to remember to take the butter out of the fridge in advance.

Really good one-bowl chocolate chip pecan cookies
from the adorable Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth

2 cups (220g) pecan halves, lightly toasted and cooled
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup (131g) dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (360g) semisweet chocolate chips

Place the butter in a large heavy saucepan. Cook it over low heat, stirring, until completely melted. Remove from the heat and add both sugars, stirring to combine. Add the salt, vanilla and eggs. Stir until just smooth. Stir in the flour, baking soda and baking powder just until incorporated and a soft dough forms. Carefully fold in the chocolate chips and the pecans.
Use an ice-cream scoop or a ¼ cup (60ml) measuring cup to measure out the cookie dough. Place the cookie dough balls on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Place the chilled dough balls onto prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart. Bake until the cookies are crisp and golden around the edges but still a little soft in the centers without being gooey, 15-18 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly on the sheets over a wire rack, then carefully transfer the cookies to the rack and cool completely.
Cookies can be kept for up to 2 days in an airtight container, at room temperature.

Makes 18 - I halved the recipe above, used 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie and got 13

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemony nectarine cake + Bill Condon

Lemony nectarine cake / Bolo de nectarina e limão siciliano

I always say that a good director can get blood out of a stone – that is why I had a feeling that “Breaking Dawn” would be the best movie of the Twilight saga. I adore some of Bill Condon’s work – both "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey" are part of my list; he got a good performance out of Brendan Fraser – a miracle! – and made it possible for me to stand Beyonce and Eddie Murphy for two long hours. :D

Now, the cake: very tender, with a delicious lemon hint. I think that a few raspberries scattered over the batter with the nectarine slices would be a good idea.

Lemony nectarine cake
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Donna Hay Magazine

175g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (162g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup (65g) plain yogurt
2 nectarines, sliced
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) round baking pan, line the bottom with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6–8 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the mixture. Add the yogurt and beat until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth the surface. Top with the nectarine slices and bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan, over a wire rack, for 15 minutes then carefully unmold. Remove the paper then invert the cake again. Cool completely and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Serves 6-8

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vanilla bean and blueberry mini cheesecakes

Vanilla bean and blueberry mini cheesecakes / Mini cheesecakes de baunilha e mirtilos

My initial idea was to make Nigella’s peanut butter cheesecake – that was why I bought several packages of cream cheese after all. Peanut butter cheesecake with a milk chocolate glaze... Yum, yum. But I had a surprise after opening the peanut butter jar: it was almost empty; I was furious for a couple of seconds then remembered that I’d had several spoonfuls of peanut butter lately. Too many, I guess. So I went after another cheesecake recipe and found one on my currently favorite dessert bible. The blueberries were the icing on the cake (I apologize for the lame pun – I just couldn’t help it). ;)

Vanilla bean and blueberry mini cheesecakes
adapted from the wonderful Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

1 cup (100g) graham cracker or digestive cookies crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, melted

300g cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup (100g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds removed with the back of the knife
2 large eggs
½ cup (120ml) sour cream*
generous ½ cup fresh blueberries

Start by making the crust: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter four 1-cup (240ml) capacity mini cake pans (mine have removable bottoms).
Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pans. Place pans onto a baking sheet and bake until crust is set and deep golden, 6-8 minutes. Cool crust while making filling. Maintain oven temperature.
Now, the filling: place the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla seeds, eggs and sour cream in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Divide the filling evenly among pans. Sprinkle the filling with the blueberries. Bake until set around edges, and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely over a wire rack then refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hour or overnight. Carefully unmold and serve.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I left mine on the counter overnight – on a cold night – and it was beautifully thick and silky the next morning)

Makes 4

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nigella’s everyday brownies

Nigella's everyday brownies

These are called “everyday brownies” but that doesn’t mean you can eat them every day – that would be nice, though. ;) Or you can just pretend you never read my post and eat them on a daily basis – who am I to judge, anyway?

For some reason the chocolate chips sank to the bottom of the pan, but let me assure you that it did not make much difference as far as flavor is concerned – it just bothered me, the baker; I don’t remember anyone saying anything about that while tasting the brownies. ;)

Nigella's everyday brownies

Nigella’s everyday brownies
from the gorgeous and delicious Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home

¾ cup (68g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks/140g) unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups (306g) packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
170g (6oz) milk chocolate, chopped into small nuggety chunks (or 1 cup chips)
confectioners' sugar, to dust, optional

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F; lightly butter a 32.5x22.5cm (13x9in) baking pan, line with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sites then butter the foil as well*. Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and pinch of salt in a bowl; set aside.
Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (still over a low heat) to help it blend with the melted butter. Stir in the flour mixture - when mixed (this will be a very dry mixture, and not wholly blended at this stage), remove from the heat.
In a bowl or jug, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and then mix into the brownie mixture in the pan. Stir in the chopped chocolate and quickly pour and scrape into the prepared pan, spreading the mixture with a spatula then bake for about 20-25 minutes. It will look set, dark and dry on top, but when you feel the surface, you will sense it is still wibbly underneath and a cake tester will come out gungy. This is desirable.
Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely before cutting. Sift with icing sugar before serving.

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

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

Makes 20

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chestnut cakes with raisins, almonds and honey

Chestnut cakes with raisins, almonds and honey

After making Alice Medrich’s chestnut pound cake several times I thought I should find another recipe for my chestnut flour – that was when I found these adorable little cakes on one of my old Gourmet Traveller issues. They looked so perfect! I had to bake them. The cakes turned out incredibly tender – I had to be very careful while unmolding them – and delicious. I never thought I’d say that, but Alice’s chestnut cake – which is one of my top favorites – has found some serious competition... ;)

Chestnut cakes with raisins, almonds and honey

Chestnut cakes with raisins, almonds and honey
adapted from the always amazing Australian Gourmet Traveller

1/3 cup (50g) golden raisins
100g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150g) superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
65g chestnut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100ml whole milk
3 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, extra, melted, for drizzling
honey, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour four 1 cup (240ml) capacity mini cake pans.
Place raisins in a small bowl and pour enough hot water to cover. Set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Sift in all purpose flour, chestnut flour and baking powder, stir to combine, stir in milk, then spoon into prepared pans.
Drain raisins, pat dry on absorbent paper and combine in a bowl with the almonds. Scatter over cakes, drizzle with the melted butter and bake until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean (25-30 minutes). Cool cakes in pans over a wire rack for 10 minutes then carefully turn out onto the rack. Cool completely.
Drizzle cakes with honey before serving.

Makes 4

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese

Spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese / Sopa apimentada de tomate com queijo-quente crocante

I must start this post by saying that I love canned tomatoes – they’re a great pantry staple and I always have a couple of cans around. But even though I use them to make tomato sauce all the time I wasn’t very fond of the idea of using them to make soup – for absolute no reason, since I’d never tried canned tomato soup in my life. For a moment I thought “Oh my goodness, I’m becoming my husband!” – the one who hates food without even tasting it first – and that, my friends, is NOT going to happen. :)
So I made the soup, tried it and felt like a fool for avoiding it for so long – it tasted really good and comforting. But the addictive component of this meal is the grilled cheese: my two favorite things in the savory world, bread and cheese, heavenly combined in a crunchy, delicious way. I’m in eternal debt with Barbara Lynch. :D

Spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese / Sopa apimentada de tomate com queijo-quente crocante

Spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese
adapted from the beautiful and very well written Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 x 400g (14oz each) cans plum tomatoes
generous pinch of sugar
7-8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 ¼ cups (300ml) boiling water
very generous handful of basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream, to serve
dried oregano, to serve

Grilled cheese:
½ baguette
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus more to serve
1 cup good melting cheese, grated, such as Fontina (what I used) or Gruyère

Start by making the soup: heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Add the tomatoes, breaking them with the spoon, followed by the sugar, thyme and the water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the basil, season lightly with salt and pepper and let cool briefly before pureeing the soup in a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids with a ladle (Barbara Lynch’s advice: “save the pulp – it’s delicious on crostini or baked eggplant”). Keep the soup on low heat while you make the grilled cheese.
For the grilled cheese: preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Have ready two large baking sheets so one can nestle into the other. Line one of them with baking paper.
With a serrated knife, cut the bread into 6mm (¼ in) slices (if necessary, place the bread in the freezer for a while to make slicing easier). Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the oregano. Brush half the bread slices with the butter and place the buttered side down, in contact with the baking paper. Divide the cheese evenly among the buttered bread slices. Cover the cheese with the remaining bread slices and brush the top with the butter. Place a large piece of baking paper on top of the sandwiches and stack the second baking sheet on top of the paper.
Bake until the bread is golden and crisp, 15 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and peel off the paper. Remove the sandwiches from the baking paper.
Ladle the soup into bowls, cover with some crème fraîche and a sprinkle of oregano and serve it with the grilled cheese.

Serves 2

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elvis Presley’s favorite pound cake + my role choices if I were an actress

Elvis Presley's favorite pound cake / O bolo favorito do Elvis

I don’t have any talent for acting but if I’d become an actress I would be interested in complex roles, characters full of layers; I would not want to play the girl next door – no, sir; I would like to be Alex Forrest, Isabelle de Merteuil, Patricia Hewes (yes, I love Glenn Close), Ada McGrath, Marla Singer, Mary Magdalene, Sarah Pierce; Sister Aloysius Beauvier, Nina Sayers, Lisbeth Salander – everything but plain roles.

But as far as cakes are concerned I love them plain, with just a hint of vanilla, with a simple icing like this butter cake or no icing at all, like Elvis’ favorite: nothing fancy or complex as far as flavor is concerned but with such tender texture that I can easily say it is one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.

Elvis Presley's favorite pound cake / O bolo favorito do Elvis

Elvis Presley’s favorite pound cake
from Gourmet’s fantastic recipe bible

3 cups (360g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)*
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
7 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Generously butter and flour a 25cm (10in) tube pan (11.2cm/4 ½ inches deep, not with a removable bottom) or a 12-cup Bundt pan**.
Sift together the flour and salt twice. Set aside.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour mixture, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 180°C/350°F***. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 to 1 ¼ hours. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely.
Sift with icing sugar to serve.
Cake keeps, covered well with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, at room temperature 5 days.

* homemade cake flour: 1 cup (140g) all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons corn starch

** I used this pan (25cm/10in) but it did not hold all the batter – I divided the remaining batter among three 1/3 cup (80ml) mini loaf pans

*** I did not read the recipe properly and ended up baking the cake in a preheated oven (180°C/350°F) for 1 hour

Makes 10-12 servings

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blueberry crumble and my love for crumbles

Blueberry crumble / Crumble de mirtilos

I’ve come to a conclusion: crumbles have become my favorite dessert. As much as I love ice cream and fruit tarts crumbles are now to me a synonym to feel-good-food. The flavors can vary from traditional to tropical, it doesn’t matter: crumbles make me happy. :)

I ate my first crumble in my late twenties and first made one myself in my early thirties, yet I feel that it could have easily become a childhood favorite had I been introduced to it earlier in life – it would have been perfect for all those afternoons watching "Seven Faces of Dr. Lao" over and over again. :D

Blueberry crumble
inspired by the gorgeous Tender, Volume 2: A Cook's Guide to the Fruit Garden

150g blueberries – I used frozen, unthawed
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
3 teaspoons granulated or caster (superfine) sugar
¼ teaspoon corn starch

Crumble topping:
1/3 cup + ½ tablespoon (50g) all purpose flour
2 ½ tablespoons (35g) unsalted butter, room temperature, chopped
1/3 cup (33g) almond meal (finely ground almonds)
2 ½ tablespoons granulated or caster (superfine) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Have ready two 200ml capacity ovenproof ramekins or cups.
In a small bowl, mix the blueberries, lemon zest, sugar and corn starch. Divide equally between the ramekins.
In a medium bowl, place flour and butter and, using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the almond meal and sugar and mix. Sprinkle over the blueberries and bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden and fruit is bubbling.
Serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 2 – but I must confess that I ate both ramekins myself. ;)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tomato tart

Tomato tart / Torta de tomate

Some things instantly remind me of others (and sometimes they’re related): the first time I watched "The Cell" – I know it sounds crazy that someone would watch a movie with J. Lo more than once, but Vincent D’Onofrio and the director made that possible – I found that the red “uniform” she wears (while getting into someone else’s mind) looked a lot like the medieval war armor Gary Oldman wears at the beginning of “Dracula” (years later I read that Eiko Ishioka was responsible for the costume design of both movies). :)

This tart, while in the oven, perfumed my apartment with a delicious pizza scent; despite the similarities of smell and ingredients, it’s a completely different thing – one I think you should definitely try. ;)

Tomato tart
slightly adapted from the wonderful Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Pâte brisée:
2 ½ cups (350g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
¼ cup (60ml) ice water, plus more if necessary

1 head garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ recipe pâte brisée (recipe above)
1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese (about 85g/3oz)
3-4 ripe but firm tomatoes, sliced 6mm (¼in) thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs fresh thyme

Make the pâte brisée: combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces of butter, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky – do not process for more than 30 seconds. Squeeze a small amount of dough together – if too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Form dough into a ball, divide in half, then shape into two flattened disks. Wrap in plastic wrap as refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight – dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Place the garlic on a large piece of foil, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and fold the foil to encase the garlic – seal the edges well. Place onto a small baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside. When garlic is cool enough to handle squeeze the cloves out of their skins – do not discard the olive oil left in the foil. Place garlic in a small dish or bowl and mash with a fork. Set aside.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of lightly floured baking paper to a rough 35x15cm (14x6in) rectangle. Transfer to a lightly buttered 30x10cm (12x4in) tart pan and press into the edges. Trim dough flush with the top edge of the pan and prick dough all over with a fork. Freeze tart shell for 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F. Spread the roasted garlic evenly on the bottom of the chilled tart shell. Sprinkle with ½ cup of fontina, then arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place a few sprigs of thyme over the tomato slices and cover with the remaining cheese then drizzle with the garlic infused oil. Bake tart until crust is golden and tomatoes are soft but still retain their shape, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then serve warm.

Serves 2 (generously)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dark and white chocolate cookies

Dark and white chocolate cookies / Biscoitos de chocolate meio-amargo e branco

No, these are not the traditional black & white cookies – but it was impossible for me not to think of Seinfeld after baking them.

Peace! :)

Dark and white chocolate cookies
from the always gorgeous Donna Hay Magazine

¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, chopped
100g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
150g white chocolate, melted

Place butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla, egg and the butter+chocolate mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms. Turn dough onto a large piece of baking paper and shape into a long cylinder – like Martha does here. Twist the ends and refrigerate until firm, 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Remove the dough cylinder from the baking paper and slice into 5mm thick slices. Place onto prepared baking sheet 2.5cm (1 in) apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies begin to firm up.
Cool completely on the sheet over a wire rack.
Dip half of each cookie in white chocolate and place onto a rack or piece of baking paper to set – be gently when removing the cookies from the rack or paper because the white chocolate coating might stick to it.

Makes 36 – I made the exact recipe above and got 24 cookies

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