Monday, April 30, 2012

Nutmeg butter cake - perfect with a cup of tea

Nutmeg butter cake / Bolo amanteigado de noz-moscada

As much as I love gooey, chocolatey baked goods like last week’s rocky road brownies my Achilles' heel is, really, the simple cakes (as you already know). This butter cake, perfumed with freshly ground nutmeg is the kind of cake I crave most of my days, and even more in cold ones like today because it goes perfectly well with a cup of tea. I’d thought of skipping the glaze all together but at the end I was glad I did not: its crunchy texture and (also) buttery flavor compliment the cake really well.

Nutmeg butter cake
from the Butter Cake Queen

3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream*

6 tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter, chopped
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (157g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 14-cup capacity Bundt cake.
Make the cake: sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, then beat well until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl. Blend in the vanilla.
On low speed, alternately add the sifted ingredients in three additions with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 55 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minute – in the meantime, make the glaze: place the butter, sugar and nutmeg in a small, heavy saucepan. Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and sugar is slightly dissolved. Remove from the heat. Unmold the cake onto the rack and brush it generously with the glaze. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

* 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 usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Serves 16 – I made ¾ of the recipe above and baked it in a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rocky road brownies

Rocky road brownies / Brownies rocky road

I bought a bag of mini marshmallows last week with these cookies in mind – I found the recipe going through my folder of torn magazine pages and thought it would be great to use whole wheat flour in my baking (haven’t done that in a while now). But the reviews discouraged me to make the cookies. :(

Luckily, Alice Medrich – a.k.a. the Chocolate Queen – came to my rescue and I ended up with these brownies: they are so good, so sinfully delicious that I wished the recipe had yielded more than 16 pieces. :D
While tasting one of the brownies I knew I had done the right thing by buying Medrich’s new cookbook – cannot wait for it to arrive.

Rocky road brownies
from the wonderful Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

120g (4oz) dark chocolate – I used one with 50% cocoa solids
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (90g) all purpose four
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (262g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup mini marshmallows
90g (3oz) milk chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup (110g) pecans

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter an 8in square cake pan, line with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.
Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat eggs, sugar and salt on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale and about double in volume. Fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs until partially incorporated. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and fold just until blended. Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Distribute the marshmallows over the batter, followed by the pecans and the milk chocolate. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a cakey part of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares.

Makes 16

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Almond and raisin cake

Almond and raisin cake / Bolo de amêndoa e passas

I love movies with strong female characters – you know I like them complex – and last week, besides Saoirse Ronan’s amazing Hanna, I got to know Jennifer Lawrence’s brave Ree. The fantastic “Winter’s Bone” is another example of the theory I wrote about a couple of posts ago: the story is perfectly told and directed, and the performances are excellent. Jennifer Lawrence, talented as hell, is the back bone of the movie but all the other actors (most of which, I’ve read, are from the area where the movie was shot and had never acted before) are great, too – John Hawkes, brilliant as Teardrop, makes me want to watch “Martha Marcy May Marlene” even more (as soon as it gets here).

Lately I have thought twice before recommending movies to people I know – because most of them turn to me later on to tell me how much they hated them – but I do not feel this way writing on the blog, maybe because those of you reading me for a while now already know the kind of movie I’m interested in. I’m not the romantic-comedy-happy-ending kind of girl. So if you are anything like me I am sure you’ll love “Winter’s Bone”.


I baked Flo Braker’s tea almond cake a couple of weeks ago and after that I started obsessing with almond cakes in general (the one on “Tartine” is next on my list); therefore, when I saw this almond and raisins cake on Gina DePalma’s wonderful “Dolce Italiano” I immediately marched to the kitchen to prepare it. The cake is very tasty, with great texture, but I think that an extra handful of raisins would make it even better.

Almond and raisin cake
slightly adapted from the delicious Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen

½ cup (120ml) Marsala wine
½ cup (77g) golden raisins
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
¼ cup (25g) almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
100g (3 ½oz) almond paste – I used homemade
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (60ml) whole milk, room temperature
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 22cm (9in) round cake pan*, line the bottom with baking paper, butter the paper as well and dust it all with flour, tapping out the excess.
Combine the Marsala with the raisins in a small saucepan and place over medium heat until the wine just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the almond past until smooth.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. On low speed, add half of the dry ingredients, beating well. Scrape the bowl again. Add the milk, beat well, then beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Switch to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds. Switch to low speed again and add the raisin and the wine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the rack. Cool completely.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20cm (8in) cake pan (7cm high)

Serves 8-10

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cherry jam frangipane tartlets + "Hanna"

Cherry jam frangipane tartlets / Tortinhas de frangipane e geléia de cereja

Sometimes I get mad at things that usually do not bother other people; for instance, I hate it that some incredible movies go straight to DVD here in Brazil, after I’d waited forever to see them on the big screen: that has happened quite frequently lately – “Take Shelter”, “Jane Eyre”, among others – and it was the case with “Hanna”. It is such a shame that not many people have heard of such an amazing film: brilliant script, great music, and the cast...

* spoilers *

Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses – I love how versatile she is, and here, as one of the villains, she’s fabulous: the tone of her voice, the color of her hair, the way her eyes move... Fantastic. Eric Bana proves that good looks and talent can go hand in hand: he won my heart a long time ago playing the Hulk – I know that not everyone liked Ang Lee’s version of the hero, but I did; Bana played Banner as a very contained man, which is the perfect counterpoint to his explosive alter ego. He’s played a perfect Henry VIII and will play another King – I’m looking forward to it. Tom Hollander, so brilliantly playing a villain that looks he has come out of a cheap 1970s movie. And Saoirse Ronan... she’s the soul of the movie and having watched “Atonement” and “The Lovely Bones” I expected a lot from her, but she transcends as Hanna – the physicality of the role seems to be something quite difficult to accomplish, but what really stunned me was how perfectly she portrays Hanna’s emotions, her discovery moments: the first time seeing a plane or listening to music – the way her eyes shine... Her performance is poetic.
I’ve been telling everyone I know to watch “Hanna” as soon as possible and now I am telling you, too. :)


I really don’t mind doing the dishes but I hate washing the food processor parts: I usually cut my fingers while washing the blade and that sucks. Therefore, when I grab the food processor to make pastry, sweet or savory, I double the amount and freeze some – that is what I did when I made the chocolate crème brûlée tartlets, and a couple of weekends after that I used the frozen amount to make these delicious frangipane tartlets, courtesy of the always wonderful Jamie Oliver.

Cherry jam frangipane tartlets
slightly adapted from the amazing Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast (mine was bought aqui)

6 small deep shortcrust pastry cases*
1 egg
1 cup (100g) almond meal
100g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of ½ orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup cherry jam, or your favorite flavor

Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Put the 6 pastry cases on a baking tray. In a medium bowl, make the frangipane: combine the egg, almond meal, butter, sugar, zest and vanilla and mix everything together. Spoon a small teaspoon of jam into each pastry base. Top with a heaped teaspoon of frangipane, add another small teaspoon of jam, then finally another heaped teaspoon of frangipane. Put the tray in the oven on the middle shelf and bake until the filling is puffed and golden, about 20 minutes
Serve them warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or crème fraîche.

* I used this recipe to make the tartlet cases; baked them in 1/3-cup (80ml) capacity muffin pans (as described here) and got 8 tartlet cases; I halved the recipe above and it was enough for the 8 tartlet cases

Makes 6

Friday, April 20, 2012

Buffalo mozzarella, artichoke and lemon pizza - a great idea for the weekend

Buffalo mozzarella, artichoke and lemon pizza / Pizza de mozarela de búfala, alcachofra e limão siciliano

Mark Bittman is trying to convince people to make pizza at home and his argument is that not only is it budget-friendly but the pizza also tastes better – I have got to agree with the guy. :)
The last time I ordered pizza at my house was nearly 7 years ago and so far we haven’t missed it – actually, to be honest, the pizzas we ate at other people’s homes (because I am the only “crazy person” who makes them at home) cost a lot and/or weren’t all that in terms of flavor.

Here’s my pizza, if you’re interested in becoming a “crazy person” like me; I used to make Richard Bertinet's pizza dough (which is amazing) but since I am always pressed for time I’ve switched to Donna Hay's recipe: it is much faster and equally delicious.

Buffalo mozzarella, artichoke and lemon pizza
adapted from the wonderful Modern Classics (Book 1) and from the always delicious Donna Hay Magazine

Pizza dough:
1 teaspoon dried yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 cup (160ml) lukewarm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ¾ cups + ½ tablespoon (250g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt

1/3 cup tomato sauce (more if you like it)
200g buffalo mozzarella, coarsely grated
6-8 store-bought marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved lengthwise
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
fresh basil leaves

Place the yeast and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the water and mix with a fork. Let stand for 2-3 minutes or until foamy. Add the olive oil, flour and salt and mix to combine. Transfer to a clean surface (no need to flour it) and knead until smooth and elastic – sprinkle with a little flour if necessary. Form dough into a ball. Lightly oil the same bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F. With your hands, shape the dough into a rough circle and transfer to a large baking sheet*. Spread with the tomato sauce and cover with the mozzarella. Arrange the artichoke halves on top of the cheese, sprinkle with the lemon zest and bake until golden, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil leaves and serve.

* I place the baking sheet in the oven for a good while before baking the pizza; then, I place the dough onto it when it’s really hot, spread the sauce and topping over it very quickly and put it back in the oven – it works really well (since I do not have a pizza stone) and the crust doesn’t get soggy

Serves 4 (at my house it serves 2). :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apple pie bars + a disappointing cookbook

Apple pie bars / Barrinhas de torta de maçã

I have got to tell you something: I’ve removed Leila Lindholm’s book from my favorite cookbooks list – I’d placed it there because of the beautiful photos and delicious-looking baked goods, but then, reading the recipes thoroughly, I noticed that they seemed a little strange. It suddenly hit me: it must be a translation problem, an idea confirmed by the customer review section at Amazon (which I should have read before buying the book, right?). :(
Since I wanted to bake cookies to bring to work but wasn’t in the mood for recipes that do not work – am I ever? – I went straight for Carole Walter’s wonderful cookie collection and these bars were the result. They might seem like a lot of work with three different layers but trust me, they’re not – there’s even time for some TV while the apples cool down.

Apple pie bars
from the amazing Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets

Apple filling:
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 6mm (¼in) thick
1/3 cup (58g) brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, slightly firm
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Streusel topping:
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (44g) brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
¼ cup (56g/½ stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 1/3 cups (146g) pecans, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped

Start by making the filling: combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to let the apples release their juices. Uncover and cook until the juices have evaporated and the apples are soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Crust: Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly butter a 22x32cm (13x9in) baking dish, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides, then butter the foil as well*.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, then the egg, and mix just until blended.
Add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until incorporated – dough will be soft; place spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking dish then, using lightly floured fingertips, spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until just golden and coming away from the sides of the pan. Turn the oven down to 180°C/350°F.
In the meantime, make the streusel: in the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt on low speed. Add butter and mix until mixture is crumbly and barely holds together when squeezed. Stir in pecans.
When crust is done, immediately spread apples over it, and sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until streusel topping is light brown and crisp (mine needed 32 minutes in the oven).

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan; since it has a removable bottom I did not line it with foil – just buttered it well

Makes 24 bars

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sticky lemon and poppy seed cake (with a secret ingredient)

Sticky lemon poppy seed cake / Bolo molhadinho de limão siciliano e sementes de papoula

Not that I need a reason for baking a lemon cake (we all know that) but to be honest this recipe got my attention because of the addition of finely ground oats to the batter – what might seem like a plan to trick picky eaters into eating more fiber turned out to be one of the best cakes I’ve made: great texture, moist and oh, so delicious.


I can’t remember how I got to this link, but I found it so amazing I had to share it with you: even I, someone who absolutely hates spoilers, clicked throughout the 50 movies and found several favorites of mine there. Just remember: spoilers galore.

Sticky lemon and poppy seed cake
from the wonderful Short and Sweet (mine was bought here)

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (224g) granulated sugar
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (127g) unsalted butter, softened
100ml canola oil
finely grated zest 3 lemons
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (60ml) hot water
1 ¾ cups + ½ tablespoon (250g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup (75g) rolled oats, finely ground in a food processor
3 tablespoons poppy seeds

¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
100ml lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) square cake pan.
Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar with the butter, oil and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the hot water into the egg mixture until smooth, then fold in sifted ingredients, the oats and the poppy seeds. Pour into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
As soon as the cake is out of the oven, make the syrup: heat the sugar with the lemon juice until dissolved, poke a skewer deep into the cake dozens of times, then spoon all the syrup over the top. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.

Serves 16

Friday, April 13, 2012

Raspberry muffins + a very specific question

Raspberry muffins / Muffins de framboesa

I have a very specific question for you today: have you read “The Hunger Games” trilogy? Because I liked the movie a lot and have been thinking of reading "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" and would love to hear the opinion of those who have read the books. Would you recommend them? I wonder if these books would grab my attention the same way the Millennium trilogy did.

These were my third attempt at raspberry muffins: before them I’d tried a recipe by Donna Hay and another by Alice Medrich, but both were disappointing. Cindy Mushet's, however, are perfect: delicious, tender and the raspberries don’t get mushy in the batter.

Raspberry muffins
from the great The Art and Soul of Baking

2 cups (280g) unbleached all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (133g) + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (84g/¾ stick) unsalted butter
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk*
2 large eggs, room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
170g (6oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin.
Whisk together the flour, ⅔ cup (133g) of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter with the lemon zest. Turn off the heat. Add the buttermilk and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes, just until it is tepid. Pour the liquid into a medium bowl, and add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well then stir into dry ingredients just until combined – do not overmix; batter should be lumpy. Gently fold in the raspberries until evenly distributed.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle it over the tops of the muffins.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops feel firm and a skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently run a knife or spatula around each muffin to free it from the pan, lift the muffins out, and transfer them to the rack to finish cooling (careful, these are tender while hot). Serve warm or at room temperature.

*homemade buttermilk: to make 1 cup buttermilk place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 240ml-capacity measuring cup and complete with whole milk (room temperature). Wait 10 minutes for it to thicken, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Makes 12 – I halved the recipe above, used 1/3 (80ml) capacity muffin pans and got 8

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cherry tomato and thyme focaccia

Cherry tomato and thyme focaccia / Focaccia de tomate cereja e tomilho

I’d never heard of “The Hunger Games” book trilogy until the frenzy for the movie started but since I adore Jennifer Lawrence – how can anyone not? – I decided to watch the movie; I thought it was really good but it was also, certainly, the most agonizing hours I’ve spent in a movie theater recently – as I went home I felt my body sore from all that tension. :/
I really don’t mind going to the movies alone but when I saw Josh Hutcherson on screen I wish my husband were there with me: we both adore “Little Manhattan” so much and it was a surprise to me to realize that yes, time has flown and that adorable little boy is now an adult. :D


Usually cherry tomatoes don’t last long at my house: I nibble on them all the time, pretty much every time I open the refrigerator – I even like them pure, without any seasoning, but they taste especially delicious with a sprinkling of salt (I like Maldon a lot) and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Yum. But last week I managed to save a handful of cherry tomatoes for this focaccia and it was worth the “sacrifice” – it’s dead simple to make and flavorsome and it’s great split in half and filled with cheese.

Cherry tomato and thyme focaccia
slightly adapted from the always fantastic Australian Gourmet Traveller

2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons dried yeast
500g all purpose flour
100ml extra-virgin olive oil + extra for greasing and drizzling
¾ teaspoon table salt
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
5-7 thyme sprigs
sea salt (I used Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper

In the large bowl of a stand mixer combine sugar, yeast and ¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water. Mix with a fork and stand in a warm place until foamy (5 minutes). To the yeast mixture add the flour, oil, table salt and 200ml water (room temperature). Using the electric mixer fitted with the dough hook knead until a soft smooth dough forms (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and stand until doubled in size (1 hour). Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with oil.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and, using your hands, shape it into a 22x27cm (9x11in) rectangle. Cover with a tea towel and stand until doubled in size (20-30 minutes).
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Press tomatoes cut-side up into dough, scatter with thyme, drizzle with oil, season to taste with sea salt and black pepper and bake until golden and cooked through (15-18 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Serves 6

Monday, April 9, 2012

Simple cardamom sponge + Jason Reitman

Simple cardamom sponge / Bolo simples de cardamomo

I watched “Young Adult” last Saturday in an almost empty theater and at the end of the movie, to my surprise, most of the viewers were saying awful things about it; I understand that Jason Reitman’s kind of humor is not the very popular kind (thank heavens!) and I’ll admit that his movies should come with a bar of chocolate attached – a little mood enhancing for the end of the session – but to say that a movie sucks because you expected something different entirely... It’s not an argument I’ll buy. I loved the movie and its clever dialogues, found it very funny and sad at the same time – which is exactly how “Up in the Air” made me feel – and Charlize Theron is absolutely amazing in it: I’m glad that at least the Golden Globes gave her performance some recognition.

Maybe Jason Reitman is like cardamom – odd to some while others love it. This very simple cake is the one that was delicious served with the spiced plums.

Simple cardamom sponge
from the beautiful Piece of Cake (mine was bought here)

½ cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon whole cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground in a pestle and mortar
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (224g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
breadcrumbs, for preparing the pan
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter an 8-cup capacity ring cake pan and dust with breadcrumbs, removing the excess.
Combine milk and cardamom in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until melted.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the milk mixture and mix. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the bowl and carefully fold to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack. Cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Serves 8

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spiced plum pavlovas + a nice hint

Spiced plum pavlovas / Pavlovas de ameixa e cardamomo

You know well about my love for Donna Hay’s work: I have some of her cookbooks – cannot live without “Modern Classics 2” – and I’ve been a subscriber to her magazine since September 2006. But for the past year I’ve been having trouble receiving the magazines – last year’s winter issue never arrived and the same happened to this year’s summer issue. I do not know if they’ve changed the shipping method or something, because a friend of mine – who lives here in Brazil, too – has had the same problem. I’d been thinking (with a broken heart) of cancelling my subscription until yesterday, when I saw this on Donna’s website – I purchased the summer issue and now I have it on my computer. I printed one page as a test – wonderful. Since some of you love the magazine I thought you should know about its digital version. Hope you enjoy it!

These pavlovas were the dessert of choice for a dinner with friends last week – I made them because I wanted something pretty and fresh. But what really got my attention here was the plums: they were delicious and paired beautifully with a simple cake I’d baked, too. Just perfect.

Spiced plum pavlovas
slightly adapted from the most wonderful dessert book I own

4 large egg whites (112g)
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon white vinegar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

450g plums, halved, pitted, sliced into eights
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

To assemble:
1 cup (240ml) chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted

Meringues: preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and resemble marshmallow creme, about 5 minutes. Beat in cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla. Drop meringue onto prepared sheet in 6 mounds, spaced 7cm (3in) apart. Using back of spoon, make depression in center of each.
Place meringues in oven. Immediately reduce temperature to 120°C/250°F. Bake until meringues are dry outside (but centers remain soft) and pale straw color and lift easily from parchment, about 50 minutes. Cool on sheet on rack. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Plums: combine all ingredients in large frying pan; toss to coat. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until plums are tender but still hold shape, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes longer; cool to room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to bowl. Cover and chill.)

Before assembling the pavlovas, beat cream and sugar in medium bowl until medium peaks form.
Place meringues on plates. Spoon whipped cream into the center depression. Arrange plum slices on top of the cream and drizzle with the plum juices.

Serves 6

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Apple and cinnamon hot cross buns for Easter + "Soul Kitchen"

Apple and cinnamon hot cross buns / Pãezinhos hot cross de maçã e canela

Someone told me once – and I hate it that I cannot remember who it was – that I would love “Soul Kitchen” because it is a movie about a restaurant and there was food involved; since watching the excellent "The Wave" I’d become more interested in German movies, so I rented “Soul Kitchen” and yes, it is a movie about a restaurant and there is food involved, but it’s so much more than that: to me, it’s about relationships and how they affect people’s lives.

* spoilers*

“Soul Kitchen” is full of funny elements – Zinos’ ringtone being one of my favorites – and yet it brings up more dramatic subjects, many of them some of us can relate to: Zinos’ struggle to maintain the restaurant, his need to decide between being with his girlfriend and staying where he feels he belongs to, the brother who causes nothing but trouble (and is a gambling addict, no less)... All of that mixed with images of whipped cream, lamb chops, white chocolate and vanilla beans – I loved it and have added other movies by Fatih Akin to my “to watch” list.

Hot cross buns have some interesting story behind them – while researching I found this adorable video with Heston Blumenthal; it was my first time making these buns – I used a recipe from the always beautiful Gourmet Traveller and the buns turned out tender, moist and delicious – the apple compote while cooking had such an amazing smell that I wish there could be a way for it to be trapped in scented candle form. :)

Apple and cinnamon hot cross buns
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Australian Gourmet Traveller

Apple and lemon compote:
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (375ml) water
1 lemon
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored, diced
1 cinnamon quill

5 cups (700g) all purpose flour + 1/3 cup (46g) extra for the piping mixture
1 cup (155g) golden raisins
80g dried apple, diced
14g (2 sachets/4 ½ teaspoons) dried yeast
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
5 ½ tablespoons (65g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (375ml) whole milk
100g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg

Start with the compote: combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan, then squeeze in juice of half the lemon and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, cut remaining lemon half into 3mm-thick slices, add to saucepan with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon quill. Bring to the simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook until lemon and apple are translucent (20-25 minutes). Strain, reserving fruit and syrup separately. When cool enough to handle, dice lemon, combine with apple. Remove the cinnamon quills, add them to the syrup and set aside.
Combine flour, raisins, dried apple, yeast, ground cinnamon, allspice, zests, sugar, apple compote and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan, warm over low heat until butter melts and mixture is lukewarm. Whisk in egg, then add milk mixture to flour, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes) – I used my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook to knead the dough; gradually added 1/3 cup flour because the mixture was too wet.
Place in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (30-40 minutes). Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with foil.
Knock back dough, divide into 20 even pieces, then knead each piece into a smooth ball. Arrange dough in a large rectangle, placing balls side by side onto prepared sheet, leaving 1cm between each for dough to expand. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (30-40 minutes).
Preheat oven to 220°C/428°F. Combine the 1/3 cup extra flour and ¼ cup (60ml) cold water in a bowl and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a cross shape onto each bun. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce oven to 200°C/400°F and bake until golden and buns sound hollow when tapped (10-12 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine reserved syrup and cinnamon quill in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until syrupy. Brush thickly over hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 20

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