Monday, January 30, 2012

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes + The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes / Espaguete com pesto de pistache e tomates cereja assados

After months of anxiety and high expectations I could finally watch "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"; as much as I did not want to resort to a cliché to describe the film it’s impossible for me to avoid it: it is a masterpiece. Perfect in every detail, visually stunning, with a fantastic cast and amazing music. Dark and gloomy as the book itself and as only Fincher – or maybe Cronenberg – could deliver. The text below might contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the movie yet, please, scroll down to the recipe.

I tried watching a movie last night but simply could not concentrate on it – I’d start to think of scenes of “TGwtDT” every 5 minutes or so, to remember the details, to connect them with the book, and to analyze the performances... The movie stays with you, you just cannot help it – it sticks to your head like glue. Rooney Mara blew me away – forgive me the purists, but she completely erases Noomi Rapace from one’s memory. Christopher Plummer is exactly what I expected Henrik Vanger to be. I am a die-hard fan of the book but did not mind the changes on the script – I thought the whole thing worked. The violent scenes are not easy to watch but they’re there for a reason – the audience cheers for Lisbeth, we want her to have her revenge. She’s not your regular heroine and her behavior is nothing like a fairy-tale girl’s, but that is exactly what makes her so special, so unique, and I think that Fincher and Mara captured that perfectly and brought it to a whole new level – that is the Lisbeth I imagined while reading the book, that is the girl that made me devour 2,000 pages.
I drove home trying to remember the last time a movie had had this effect on me and after hours of thought I came to the conclusion that it’d been "The Social Network". Fincher, my hero. No wonder I feel joy in my heart every time I read he’s into a new project – I know for sure it will be something amazing. Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope he directs the next two movies of the trilogy.

Wow, that is a long post. I almost forgot to tell you about the pasta dish: this pesto is greenest and most delicious pesto I have ever made or tried. Forgive me the purists, but I liked the pistachio version better; to be honest what really made me curious about this recipe was the blanching of the basil before turning it into pesto, which is something I first saw on Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s beautiful book – sometimes being a curious person pays off. :)

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes / Espaguete com pesto de pistache e tomates cereja assados

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes
adapted from the gorgeous Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes

Roasted tomatoes:
400g cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
4-5 fresh basil leaves, torn

Pistachio pesto and pasta:
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1 cup (240ml) extra virgin olive oil
about ½ teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon sea salt (such as Maldon)
1 cup (130g) unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted and cooled
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
400g spaghetti

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with olive oil.
Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, onto the prepared sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and scatter the garlic and basil over the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for 30-35 minutes or until soft.
Meanwhile, make the pesto: bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice cubes and water. Add the basil leaves to the boiling water, cook for 30 seconds, then drain and transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain well then squeeze the basil between sheets of paper towels until almost completely dry.
Put the basil in a food processor with the garlic, lemon zest, oil, and salt. Puree until smooth. Add the pistachios and pulse until coarsely chopped (or to your liking). Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta (set aside some of the cooking water). Toss the pasta with the pesto, adding a bit of the water if necessary to loosen up the sauce. Divide the pasta into plates and cover with the roasted tomatoes. Serve at once.

Serves 4

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peach cobbler + Mr. Clooney

Peach cobbler / Cobbler de pêssego

One of my all time favorite cookbooks is "Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes" – it’s beautiful and packed with great layer cake recipes; I’ve tried several cakes so far and they were delicious. Therefore, when I saw that Alisa Huntsman was the mind behind this book I bought it immediately – and I have not regretted doing so.
Being a crumble addict – I do love fruit desserts – I thought I should give cobblers a chance, too, and decided to start with peaches since they’re in season. The juicy, warm filling combined with the soft biscuits make for a perfect dessert – I think that my beloved crumbles have found some serious competition. :)

Speaking of competition, as much as I want Gary Oldman to take the award home next month I believe that George Clooney will win; I watched "The Descendants" a couple of days ago and not only the movie is excellent but Clooney is absolutely perfect in it – I adore him as an actor and seriously doubted that his stunning performance in "Up in the Air" could be matched – apparently, I was wrong. :)

Peach cobbler
from the gorgeous and delicious Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe: Simple Southern Pies, Puddings, Cakes, and Cobblers from Nashville's Landmark Restaurant

Fruit filling:
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups sliced ripe peaches – 1,125 to 1,350g (2 ½ to 3 pounds) fresh peaches

Sweet cream dumplings:
¾ cup (105g) unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons (28g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup (120ml) heavy cream
demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly butter a 1- to 1 ½ quart (liter) ovenproof baking dish and place it on a sturdy baking sheet.
In a mixing bowl, stir the granulated sugar, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add the peaches and toss gently to coat them with the sugar and spices. Scrape the peach mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Make the sweet cream dumplings: in a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in the cream and mix lightly with a fork to form a soft dough (I needed to add 2 tablespoons of flour to the dough). Transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1.25cm (½in) thick disk. Using a 5cm (2in) round cutter cut into individual biscuits, reworking the scraps once to make more biscuits. Arrange the biscuits on top of the peaches and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until biscuits are golden and fruit is bubbly. Let the cobbler cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4 – I made an individual portion using a 1 ½ cup (360ml) capacity baking dish, ¼ of the fruit filling recipe and ½ of the sweet cream dumplings recipe

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Caramelized pecan-orange biscotti

Caramelized pecan-orange biscotti / Biscotti de pecã caramelada e laranja

I was writing something about my newest obsession – biscotti – but then I heard the news that Gary Oldman has finally been nominated for an Academy Award and I simply forgot what I was doing. :) Being the walking contradiction that I am – someone who doesn’t care for the Oscars but always hopes that her favorites win – my heart just lit up. ♥

Oh, the biscotti: these are delicious beyond imagination. I mean, really: chopped praliné? In cookie form? How can that not be fantastic? ;)

Caramelized pecan-orange biscotti
from the delicious The Good Cookie: Over 250 Delicious Recipes from Simple to Sublime

Pecan praliné:
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) water
1 cup (110g) pecan halves

3 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
finely grated zest of 4 oranges

Make the pecan praliné: lightly brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring the syrup to a boil. Cook without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup turns a dark caramel. Immediately add the pecans and stir to coat with the caramel. Quickly turn the mixture out onto the oiled baking sheet. Cool for 20 minutes, or until hardened. Transfer the praliné to a cutting board and, using a large knife, finely chop it. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until combined. In a large glass-measuring cup, gently whisk together the olive oil, eggs, yolk and orange zest. Add this mixture all at once to the dry ingredients and mix, still on low speed, just until combined; do not over-mix. Add the chopped pecan praliné and mix for a few seconds, until blended.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide it into thirds. Shape each portion into a 30cm (12inch) long log. Transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 7.5cm (3in) apart (the logs will spread). With the heel of your hand, flatten the logs slightly, until they are about 5cm (2in) wide. Place the baking sheet on the upper oven rack and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the dough is set. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool for 10-15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/325°F.
Slide a pancake turner under each log to loosen it from the parchment paper. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Line the baking sheet with clean parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1.25cm (½in) slices. Arrange the slices cut side down and 2.5cm (1in) apart on the two baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes, or until dry and crisp. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 54 biscotti – I halved the recipe above, shaped the dough into a 30cm (12in) long log and got 16 large biscotti

Monday, January 23, 2012

Golden mixed greens pie

Golden mixed greens pie / Torta de verdura

It might look like I live on sweets, but no – I eat savory food, too, and try to eat my greens as frequently as possible. :)
This tart is delicious and not difficult to make – you just need to plan accordingly so the dough has time to rise and the good thing is: you can make it in advance and reheat it before serving.

Golden mixed greens pie
slightly adapted from the absolutely gorgeous Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm whole milk
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (60g) cake flour*
melted butter, for brushing

1 large bunch dandelion greens or other bitter greens – I used escarole
1 large bunch spinach
½ tablespoon olive oil + more if necessary
1 garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, white and most of green parts, chopped
salt, to taste (about ¾ teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled

Dough: dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk and stir in 1 ½ tablespoons of the all purpose flour.
Break the eggs into the large bowl of an electric mixer (attached with the dough hook) and lightly whisk them with a fork. Add the yeast mixture and the remaining all purpose flour and mix on low speed until very smooth. Add the sugar, salt and butter and mix well. Add the cake flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes or until smooth.
Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered large bowl, cover well with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling: chop the greens into 2.5cm (1in) pieces, discarding any thick stems.
In a very large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and scallions and cook for about 1 minute, until the scallions begin to soften. Raise the heat to high, add the chopped greens, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute or until greens are wilted (work in batches if necessary). Transfer the greens to a plate and let cool to room temperature. Taste for salt the stir through the nutmeg and pine nuts.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil then lightly brush the foil with oil.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 slightly unequal pieces: the larger one will be the bottom crust. Flatten the larger piece of dough onto an oval about 40x25cm (16x10in) and transfer onto the prepared sheet. Press the filling onto a colander, using your hands too, to extract the maximum water possible. Spread the filling over the dough leaving a generous 2.5cm (1in) rim all around uncovered. Roll the remaining piece of dough onto an oval about 37x20cm (15x8in). Place it over the filling and fold the edges of the bottom dough up over the edges of the top to seal the edges in the filling, then twist it, making a twisted rolled edge all round. Use a sharp knife to make slits in the top crust. Brush with the melted butter (I forgot to do that).
Bake the pie for 8 minutes, then lower the heat to 200°C/400°F and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until pie is deep, rich golden brown.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

Serves 8-10

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dulce de leche pound cake

Dulce de leche pound cake / Bolo de doce de leite

As I was updating my list of books – a couple of new additions as I told you a while ago – I kept thinking of ways to make it more functional and interesting: therefore, I’ve changed it a bit. I hope you all like it.

Oh, aside from books, there is cake here today, too – and it is absolutely divine. :)

Dulce de leche pound cake
slightly adapted from O, The Oprah Magazine

1 ½ cups (340g/3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dulce de leche
2 cups (350g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
6 eggs
3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter two 22x12cm (9x5in) loaf pans*.
In a large bowl, beat butter, dulce de leche, brown sugar, and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; beat again until combined.
Transfer batter to prepared pans, smooth out the tops, and bake until loaves turn a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes. Set aside to cool in pans about 45 minutes; then carefully unmold onto rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

* I’ve made this recipe twice, using different pans: I halved the recipe above and used a 25x10cm (10x4in) loaf pan and I made 2/3 of the recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan. In both cases the cake sunk a bit in the middle; according to Dan Lepard – I cannot tell you how much I’m enjoying his "Short and Sweet" – that happened because the batter needed more flour, so next time I make this cake (and there will be a next time, because it is so delicious) I’ll increase the flour amount

Makes 2

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Coconut chews - delicious and very easy to make

Coconut chews / Biscoitos (irresistíveis) de coco

I have never baked nor cooked any of Paula Deen’s recipes – and that is something I deeply regret after surfing her website – but I have heard of her before, dozens of times, and every time I see her name I think of a lot of butter and cream and sugar. And fried food. Yum. I should give this woman’s recipes a try. Soon. :D

While going through the beautiful Loveless Cafe cookbook and deciding on what to bake from it first – a very difficult task – I saw these coconut cookies, and with the recipe there was the following text:

"When Paula Deen visited the restaurant, she was absolutely clear about her yen for coconut. These rich, buttery cookies loaded with coconut were her hands-down favorites. She even packed up a few strays that were left on the plate and took them with her.”

I stopped looking and went straight to the kitchen; knowing a bit of Deen’s reputation I replaced half of the amount of sweetened coconut with the unsweetened kind. The cookies turned out delicious and irresistible. :D

Coconut chews
from the gorgeous Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe: Simple Southern Pies, Puddings, Cakes, and Cobblers from Nashville's Landmark Restaurant

1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1⁄3 cups (326g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ¼ cups (225g) sweetened shredded coconut
2 ¼ cups (225g) unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until very creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bowl. Add the flour and baking soda and mix until combined.
Fold in the coconut by hand. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons about 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. The cookies are done when they spread out and turn golden around the edges. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack.

Makes about 3½ dozen cookies – I halved the recipe, used 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie and got 35

Monday, January 16, 2012

Raspberry crumble tart – the easiest tart you’ll ever make + the greatest actor I have ever seen

Raspberry crumble tart / Torta crumble de framboesa

I watched "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" last Saturday and the fantastic movie – what an amazing cast! – goes right into my list of reasons why Gary Oldman is one of the greatest actors out there – possibly the best I have seen acting so far (Robert De Niro lost that spot a long time ago). The movie is not everyone’s cup of tea, though – I saw some people leaving the theater long before the movie ended. Well, their loss. I’d loved the movie already and this video made me admire it even more.

The picture of this tart on the book made my mouth water and realizing how straightforward it was made me love it even more: a very simple crust (that also works as the crumble topping) that doesn’t have to be chilled or blind baked, and a filling made with berries and sugar, only – it doesn’t get much easier than that. Or more delicious. :)

Raspberry crumble tart
from The Grand Central Baking Book

2 ½ cups (350g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (226g/2sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen – I used frozen, unthawed
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 25cm (10in) springform pan*.
Dough: whisk the flour and salt together. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until creamy and light in color. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients and stop mixing when the ingredients are fully incorporated but the dough is still crumbly – this happens quickly; don’t overmix, otherwise you’ll end up with a ball of dough. Set aside 1 cup of the dough and refrigerate. Sprinkle the remaining dough onto the prepared pan, distributing it evenly. Bring the dough slightly up the sides of the pan, then press it onto the pan to hold it in place. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then bake for 25 minutes or until toasty brown.
Remove the pan from the oven. Distribute the raspberries over the crust and sprinkle with the sugar – I forgot to do that and only remembered after sprinkling the dough over the berries; then I sprinkled the sugar over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of dough over the filling.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the berries collapse and begin to release their juices and the topping is slightly brown. Cool the tart over a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

* I made the exact recipe above using a shallow 24cm tart pan with a removable bottom; I used 1 ½ cups of dough for the topping

Serves 8

Friday, January 13, 2012

Banana and coconut cake with lime icing

Banana coconut cake with lime icing / Bolo de banana e coco com cobertura de limão

I used to love pink as a kid – as I told you a while ago – and I love Lisa Yockelson’s “Baking by Flavor”; therefore, the minute I saw this book I knew I had to have it. Oh, I’m really shallow sometimes, I’ll admit it. :)

This delicious and super moist banana cake comes from Lisa’s very pink and girlish book – if the book was a director it would certainly be Baz Luhrmann. :D

Banana and coconut cake with lime icing
slightly adapted from the gorgeous Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
3 tablespoons yogurt
¾ cup (75g) sweetened flaked coconut

1 ¼ cups (175g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more if necessary

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 22x12x7cm (9x5x3in) loaf pan*.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Cream the butter for 3 minutes, then add the sugar in 2 additions, beating until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, blend in half of the sifted ingredients, add the bananas and yogurt, then add the remaining sifted ingredients. Beat just until incorporated.
Stir in the coconut. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool he cake in the pan over a rack for 10-12 minutes then carefully unmold onto the rack. Cool completely.
Make the icing: sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lime juice, mixing until desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

* I made the recipe above using a 20x9cm (8x3½ in) loaf pan but it almost turned into a disaster – I recommend using the pan called for in the recipe

Serves 8-10

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cherry-plum preserves + scones

Cherry plum preserves + scones / Geléia de cereja e ameixa + scones

I usually do not buy cookbooks without taking a look inside their pages first – I have done that in a few occasions and got really disappointed; but after reading the reviews for "Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours" and seeing a photo of one of the cookie recipes I felt I would love the book – and I did. It’s full of great recipes, beautiful photos and there are several recipes for preserves, which is something I intend to make more often – especially after tasting this cherry-plum preserves, which is one of the most delicious recipes I have ever made. I am sure the preserves would work beautifully over some panna cotta or served along a slice of simple pound cake or angel cake, but I went the traditional way and baked some scones to serve with it. Fantastic combination.

Cherry-plum preserves
from the gorgeous Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

900g (2 pounds) cherries, pitted and halved
900g (2 pounds) ripe plums, pitted and cut into about 1cm (½in) cubes
½ cup (120ml) fresh orange juice
3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) fresh lemon juice

Combine the cherries, plums and orange juice in a non-reactive large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the fruit is tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the fruit has fallen apart into a thick, chunky puree, about 20 minutes – the plums dissolved completely and the cherries remained in pieces.
Let cool completely, store in jars and keep in the fridge.

Makes 7 pints (4 liters) – I halved the recipe above and used 500g cherries + 400g plums

Simple scones
from the always amazing Donna Hay Magazine

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, cold and chopped
¾ cup (180ml) whole milk + a little extra for brushing

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to work it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Use a flat-bladed knife or a fork to mix in the milk until the dough is soft and sticky. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface and press into a round approximately 3cm (1.2in) thick.
Use a 5cm (2in) plain cutter to cut rounds and place onto the prepared sheet. Brush the tops with milk and bake for 15 minutes or until risen and lightly golden.
Serve warm with the preserves.

Makes 12

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blueberry and passion fruit muffins

Blueberry and passion fruit muffins / Muffins de mirtilo e maracujá

After watching the new trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” I felt that a masterpiece is coming our way – I would expect nothing less from Christopher Nolan. I cannot wait to see Tom Hardy as the villain and loved the addition of Marion Cotillard to the casting – I actually think that she would be perfect as Catwoman with those feline eyes of her (sorry, Anne Hathaway). :)

I found the perfect blueberry muffin recipe a while ago but could not resist the idea of a blueberry muffin with passion fruit – these are delicious and the flavors go wonderfully well together, but next time I would simply add passion fruit pulp to Flo Braker’s recipe – those were better flavor and texture wise.

Blueberry and passion fruit muffins
slightly adapted from Donna Hay’s Entertaining

¾ cup + ½ tablespoon (110g) all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 ½ (35g) tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80ml) passion fruit pulp, with seeds
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen – I used frozen, slightly thawed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter eight cavities of a 1/3-cup (80ml) capacity muffin pan – fill the empty cavities halfway through with water.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, butter, lemon zest, egg, vanilla and passion fruit pulp. Add the sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork just until combined – do not overmix or your muffins will be tough. Add the blueberries, mix lightly, then divide batter among prepared pan – they should be ¾ full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan, over a wire rack, for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold. Transfer to the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8

Friday, January 6, 2012

Nigella's crustless pizza

Nigella's crustless pizza / Pizza sem massa da Nigella

I went to the movies the other day to watch "Immortals" just because of Tarsem Singh; his work is so visually unique and fantastic that even if I hadn’t known he was the director I would have guessed it just by watching the very first scene of the movie. I did not like “Immortals” that much – bad casting (except for the fabulous John Hurt) and bad script; but again, visually striking.

Now, tell me: crustless pizza – doesn’t it have “Nigella” written all over it? The recipe comes from the beautiful and delicious "Nigella Kitchen" and it’s very easy, tastes great and you can go wild with the toppings. Perfect quick meal.

Nigella's crustless pizza
from the marvelous "Nigella Kitchen"

1 egg
2/3 cup (94g) all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
1 cup grated Cheddar – I used a different kind of cheese and it worked fine
5-6 chorizo or pepperoni slices, optional
dried oregano, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Butter a round ovenproof pie dish, 20 or 22cm (8 or 9 in) in diameter.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with the flour, salt, pepper (if using) and milk to make a smooth batter. Stir in half the grated cheese into the batter, then pour it into the prepared dish.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden around the edges. Take the dish out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and add the chorizo or pepperoni, if using. Sprinkle with the oregano. Return the dish to the oven and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes to make sure the topping is heated through and the cheese is melted.
Serve, cut into slices (with a salad, if you wish).

Serves 2

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Almost mother-in-law cake – a cake that was baked because of its name (but turned out delicious)

Almost mother-in-law cake / Bolo de quase-sogra

Despite my promises of not buying new cookbooks I ended up with a handful of new titles at home; one of them is “From Season to Season – a Year in Recipes” and after going through the beautiful book I chose this delicious cake to be the first recipe to be tried from it, and I even made my own candied orange zest to use in it: after all, how can one resist a cake with a name like that? ;)

Almost mother-in-law cake / Bolo de quase-sogra

Almost mother-in-law cake
slightly adapted from the beautiful “From Season to Season – a Year in Recipes” (mine was bought here)

1 1/3 cups (300g) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups (500g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups (350g) all purpose flour, sifted
75g unsweetened cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
½ cup (120ml) boiling water
finely grated zest + juice of 1 orange
1 cup (110g) pecans, chopped

Chocolate ganache:
¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
75g dark chocolate, chopped
½ tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
candied orange zest, to decorate – recipe here

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 25cm (10in) springform cake pan, line the bottom with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Make the cake: in the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla. In low speed, beat in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, milk, water, orange zest and juice. Beat until smooth, fold in the pecans then pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely in the pan over a wire rack, then carefully unmold, removing the baking paper. Turn the cake onto a serving plate.
Make the ganache: heat the cream over medium heat in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and butter and set aside for 1 minute. Mix until melted and smooth. Pour over the cake. When the ganache is set, top the cake with the candied orange zest.

Serves 8-10 – I made 2/3 of the cake recipe above using a 20cm (8in) round cake pan

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cherry rippled vanilla frozen yogurt

Cherry rippled frozen yogurt / Frozen yogurt mesclado de cereja

Happy New Year everyone!

The cherry overload goes on in my house – not that I am complaining. ;)
I decided to make a frozen dessert to celebrate the arrival of summer and the slightly adapted cherry filling from those delicious bars was a perfect addition to the already great vanilla fro yo; since my husband doesn’t like frozen yogurt I’ll have to eat it all myself – oh, how big of a problem I have on my hands. ;)

Cherry rippled vanilla frozen yogurt
adapted from two great books: Rustic Fruit Desserts e The Perfect Scoop

Cherry ripple:
500g (18oz) cherries, pitted and halved if small or quartered if large
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Frozen yogurt:
2 ¼ cups (585g) plain whole-milk yogurt
2/3 cup (133g) granulated or caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cherry ripple: combine the cherries, sugar, corn starch, salt, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil for 1 minute to thicken. Set aside to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Frozen yogurt: mix the ingredients together in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate for at least for 1 hour, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the machine, layer it in an airtight container with spoonfuls of the chilled cherry mixture. Freeze.

Serves 8-10

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