Sunday, June 30, 2013

Oatmeal maple cookies + a book I never finished reading

Oatmeal maple cookies / Cookies de aveia e xarope de bordo

I was reading a friend’s blog post about books when I suddenly felt a pang of guilt - I felt guilty because I love to read but haven’t read anything in months because of a book that I started reading but never finished.

It all began last year after I watched the first trailer for “The Great Gatsby” – I deciced to read the book before the movie got released. And then I tried reading it. Many, many times. I even took the book with me to the hairdresser since it’s one of the most boring places in the whole world. But I never got hooked. I know it’s a classic and I know it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and I should have read it in college but I couldn’t go through with it. Could that be a case of bad timing? Maybe I should try going back to it in the future.
In the meantime, I think I’ll watch the movie, that might inspire me. And I’ll also start reading another book – I will have to be strong enough to put my cookbooks aside, especially my current favorites like "Piece of Cake", which these great cookies come from.

Wish me luck. :)

Oatmeal maple cookies
from the oh, so delicious Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple

225g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
250g rolled oats
225g dried cranberries
175g unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup (60ml) pure maple syrup
115g granulated sugar
175g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

175g confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup (60ml) pure maple syrup
¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the oats and dried cranberries and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, maple syrup, and sugars on medium speed until creamy and well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until evenly incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula.
Using 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie, roll into balls and place 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown, especially around the edges. Cool on the sheets over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Spoon glazer over cookies and let set for 30 minutes.

Makes 40

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spiced orange and currant rolls and another food show disappointment

Spiced orange and currant rolls / Pãezinhos de laranja, canela e passas de corinto

Once again I watched a TV cooking show only to get disappointed with the winner – I should have learned from “Top Chef”, shouldn’t I? :/

* spoilers of “The Great British Bake Off” seasons 2 and 3 *

Choosing John over Brendan was completely unfair – Valentina thinks they went for the one who would look better on TV and cookbook/magazine covers, and I agree with her. I own John Whaite’s cookbook and after watching “The Great British Bake Off” I felt that the book doesn’t sound much like him; the recipes look delicious, but in my opinion they don’t match the boy I watched on TV – from the book he seems to be a lot more skilled than he was on the show.

I haven’t watched season 2 of “The Great British Bake Off”, but I bought Jo Wheatley’s cookbook, which is packed with wonderful recipes. I don’t know how well she did throughout the competition but if these rolls are any indication I guess she deserved to win after all – the boozy currants are my contribution to the recipe.

Spiced orange and currant rolls
adapted from the beautiful A Passion for Baking (I bought mine here)

350g all purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoons dried yeast
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, warm
finely grated zest of 1 orange
¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
30g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup currants
1/3 cup Marsala wine
¼ cup (50g) demerara sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (55g) pecans, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

In the large bowl of an electric mixer place flour, yeast, sugar. Place the salt in the bowl away from the yeast. Add the milk, orange zest and juice, butter, egg and vanilla and, using the hook attachment, knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly buttered large bowl, cover with plastic and set in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Meanwhile, butter 8 cavities of a 12-hole (1/3 cup capacity each cavity) muffin pan and make the filling: place the currants and Marsala in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it boils, remove from the heat and cool completely. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Set aside.

Punch the dough with your fist to deflate, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to a 40x30cm (16x12in) rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle the pecan mixture evenly over it. Drain the currants (discard the wine) and scatter over the filling. Starting from a long edge, roll up the dough into a long, thin sausage shape.
Using a small sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 even-sized pieces. Place them with their cut sides up in the prepared pan. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and leave to rise again (prove) for about 1 hour until the buns have risen. Towards the end of the proving time, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C. Before placing the rolls in the oven, fill each empty cavity halfway through with cold water.
Bake the rolls for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for about 8 minutes, then carefully remove and transfer to the rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving – you can serve the rolls warm or at room temperature. They also reheat very well.

Makes 8

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chocolate and beer cake

Chocolate and beer cake / Bolo de chocolate e cerveja

Every time I discover something interesting about food I feel like sharing it with you here on the blog – to me it’s like establishing a conversation about it (though sometimes it feels like a monologue).
For instance, I have found out that Waitrose – which website is a great source of recipes like the apple marzipan rolls I made the other day – has a You Tube channel, too, full of recipe videos, and some of them are presented by Will Torrent (the boy being bossed around on James Martin’s videos). :)

I bought Torrent’s cookbook a couple of weeks ago and this amazing chocolate and beer cake, moist, tender and full of flavor, was the first recipe I tried from it; when I noticed that the recipe yielded only one loaf I decided to double it and bake two loaves at once – that proved to be a very wise decision. :) With such a great result I cannot wait to bake more from both his book and his videos, and I believe that the bakewell muffins will be next on my list.

Chocolate and beer cake
from the absolutely beautiful Patisserie at Home: Step-By-Step Recipes to Help You Master the Art of French Pastry

125g unsalted butter
½ cup (120ml) lager beer – I used Stella Artois
125g self-rising flour*
½ cup (45g) unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
125g granulated sugar
75ml whole milk, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, in chips or chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 1kg (2 pound) loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well
Put the butter and beer in a saucepan over a low heat until it melts. Cool for 5 minutes.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl and add the sugar, milk, egg, vanilla, chocolate pieces and melted butter mixture. Mix to combine.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes. A skewer in the middle of the cake should come out clean and the top of the cake should bounce back slightly when prodded. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then carefully unmold. Cool completely over a wire rack, then carefully peel off the paper.
The cake can be served warm or at room temperature.

* as I usually do, I replaced the self-rising flour for a combination of all purpose flour, baking powder and salt; since I doubled the recipe I ended up using 250g all purpose flour + 1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder + 2 pinches of salt

Serves 6-8

Monday, June 24, 2013

Amaretto panna cotta with caramelized pears

Amaretto panna cotta with caramelized pear / Panna cotta de Amaretto com pêras carameladas

A couple of pears that looked good but tasted really sour were the inspiration for this dessert: I thought of the delicious apples used in this cake, cooked in butter and honey, and gave the pears the same treatment, adding a pinch of cinnamon. They turned out really good and could have been part of a cake, too, but I already had something chocolaty in the oven. My idea then was to pair the fruit with something silky and refreshing, so a panna cotta with a touch of Amaretto (an addiction of mine) sounded perfect – and indeed, it was.

Amaretto panna cotta with caramelized pears
adapted from the always wonderful Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful, also inspired by the beautiful Love Bake Nourish

Panna cotta:
1 ½ tablespoons water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 cups (480ml) heavy cream
75g granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) Amaretto
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Caramelized pears:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 small pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1cm pieces
pinch of ground cinnamon

Start with the panna cotta: place the water in a small bowl or cup and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set aside for 5 minutes or until gelatin absorbs the water. Combine the cream, sugar, Amaretto, vanilla extract and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has just dissolved. Add the gelatin mixture and cook, stirring, for further 1-2 minutes or until gelatin is dissolved. Strain into a jug and cool for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide mixture into six ½ cup (120ml) capacity glasses or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Pears: melt the butter and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and bubble until it caramelizes a little. Add the pears and cinnamon and cook over medium-high heat until the fruit pieces are golden and the syrup is sticky, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Serve the panna cotta with the pears on top.

Serves 6

Friday, June 21, 2013

Brown sugar coconut cookies - a good recipe for an empty pantry

Brown sugar-coconut / Biscoitos de açúcar mascavo e coco

These simple yet delicious cookies, packed with coconut, are a good solution for those days when we want something sweet but there’s nothing in the pantry; I’m usually stocked with ingredients for my baking sessions, but that Saturday I was out of just about everything: fruits, chocolate, jam. I guess that I focused so much on having flour, eggs and butter that I ended up forgetting other important items. Heavy rain and some laziness made me immediately cancel the idea of a trip to the grocery store. I did, however, have some coconut, and that saved the day: it was transformed into cookies that go well with strong coffee or a glass of cold milk.

Brown sugar coconut cookies
from the delicious and foolproof Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes

2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (88g) packed light brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1 ½ cups (150g) sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in the egg, then scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla and milk. On low speed, blend in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, beating just until the flour is absorbed. Stir in the coconut.
Take 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie and shape into an oblong shape. Place onto prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart. Lightly flatten each oblong shape with your hands, then using a lightly floured fork, striate the tops of the cookies.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until set and golden around the edges. Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then carefully remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Makes about 26

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pb & jelly bars + a TV show I deeply love

Pb & jelly bars / Barrinhas de manteiga de amendoim e geléia

One of my all time favorite TV shows is “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” – I began watching the show because of Vincent D’Onofrio and ended up addicted to it. I hated it when they added Chris Noth to the equation and completely abandoned the show when Jeff Goldblum took over – without Goren and Eames things weren’t interesting anymore.

With the help of my good buddy Netflix I’ve been watching the show from the beginning, from the very first episode, and enjoying it a lot: there are episodes I did not see back in the day when they were aired here and some of them I could barely remember (I’d forgotten how the whole Nicole Wallace thing had started, for instance). It’s such a joy to watch a talented actor in action – not many can be proud of their big break the way D’Onofrio can, and to be thanked during an Oscar speech having nothing do to with the movie in question is even for fewer – and it doesn’t hurt when they’re eye candy as well: if he’s your type you should really watch him dance with a very lucky lady in one of the show episodes: jump to 2:13. You’re welcome. ;)

Peanut butter and jam, such a classic combination: a very American thing I learned of when I started reading food blogs, many years ago. In these bars – which are dead easy to make – the combo is lovely and the flavors perfectly complement each other: Goren and Eames in food form. :D

Pb & jelly bars
slightly adapted from here

125g unsalted butter, melted
70g light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200g all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ heaping cup raspberry jam
395g can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted peanuts*

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30 (8x12in) baking pan, line it with allowing a 2cm overhang on all sides, and butter the foil as well.
Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Sift flour, baking powder and salt over butter mixture. Stir until well combined. Press mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
Spread jam evenly over base. Place condensed milk, peanut butter and peanuts in a bowl. Stir until just combined. Pour milk mixture evenly over jam. Bake for 30 minutes or until edges are deep golden and center is just firm to touch. Cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.

* I had only salted peanuts at home, so I rinsed them thoroughly under cold water then patted them dry with paper towels

Makes 24

Monday, June 17, 2013

Easy almond cake for Nigella

Easy almond cake / Bolo fácil de amêndoa

Yesterday morning, while editing some of my photos, I read the shocking news that Nigella had been abused by her husband at a restaurant – that made me angry and sad. If that douche bag feels comfortable enough to do such things in public, I wonder what he does to her inside their home, when no one is watching. I felt so sorry for Nigella, for her kids. My heart goes out to them, and I hope she is able to get out of this terrible situation soon. I try to be a balanced person and I know that violence is not the answer, but a guy that grabs his wife by the neck four times and then say that it was just a “playful tiff” deserves a lesson – I very painful one.

Because the lovely British cook is on my thoughts today I bring you this delicious cake, so simple and easy, from one of Nigella’s cookbooks, the wonderful "How to Be a Domestic Goddess".

Easy almond cake
from the always delicious and foolproof How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking

250g unsalted butter, softened
250g marzipan, softened – I used homemade
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a round 20cm (8in) cake pan (with high sides), line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a food processor, process the marzipan, butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and process again. Add the eggs, one at a time, down the funnel, processing after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and process until incorporated. Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 50 minutes (checking from 40) or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack, then carefully unmold. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Serves 8-10

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pine-nut cookies with thyme

Pine-nut cookies with thyme

My memory for grocery lists might not be the best around, but certain recipes stick to my head and I count the days until I make them. I saw these pine-nut cookies on Martha's website and thought they were really interesting, since it's a regular cookie dough - made by creaming butter and sugar together - but there's the addition of herbs, pine-nuts and olive oil, ingredients usually used in savory recipes. Pine nuts are absurdly expensive here in Brazil, but I brought home some from a "Whole Foods" I visited in NY - they were perfect for these cookies.

Pine-nut cookies with thyme
slightly adapted from Martha

3 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled, plus more for topping cookies
2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons (140g/1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (224g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Finely chop thyme in a food processor. Add pine nuts; pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in 2 cups (280g) of the flour, baking soda, ginger, and salt; set aside.
Put butter and granulated sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in oil. Reduce speed to low. Mix in flour mixture. Add cream; mix until well combined, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg, then remaining ¼ cup (35g) flour.
Shape dough into 2cm (¾in) balls, and space 5cm (2in) apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with fingers, and top each with a pine nut.
Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, about 13 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on sheets on wire racks. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 3 days.

Makes about 6 ½ dozen – I halved the recipe above, used 1 ½ teaspoons of dough per cookie and got 60

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apple and blueberry crumble cake + a movie that could be about my own life

Apple and blueberry crumble cake / Bolo de maçã e mirtilo com farorinha crocante

My dear friend Valentina introduced me to Nigel Slater years ago and I instantly became a fan: his simple way of cooking produces absolutely delicious food and he does it in a way that anyone watching him feel they can do it, too – to me, it’s like watching Nigella around the kitchen: it’s never intimidating. They have similar names and similar styles, and they both call themselves cooks, not chefs.

Months ago I watched “Toast”, which is based upon Nigel Slater’s memoirs, and I believe I’d never cried and laughed so hard before while watching a movie. The cast is divine: Helena Bonham Carter is every bit talented as she is crazy, and the once little and adorable Freddie Highmore has become a fine young actor. There were moments in the movie that I felt like I was watching a movie about my own life, so many similarities... It was pretty intense, yet I felt light after watching it – empty Kleenex boxes aside. :)

Every time someone finds out I have a food blog they ask me if I have watched “Julie & Julia” (I have) - that seems to be the ultimate foodie movie out there (maybe it’s the Meryl Streep effect). However, I can relate a lot more to “Toast” since, like Nigel, I grew up without a mother, with a father that couldn’t care less and an evil stepmother – the difference is that his mother could barely boil an egg while my mother was an excellent cook. :)

This moist and delicious cake is an adaptation of a recipe from Nigel Slater’s book on fruit, the gorgeous “Tender II”: it is one of the very best cookbooks I own.

Apple and blueberry crumble cake
slightly adapted from the marvelous “Tender II” (I bought mine here)

50g unsalted butter, cold and diced
50g all purpose flour
60g granulated sugar
2 heaping tablespoons rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
juice of ½ lemon
150g unsalted butter, softened
75g granulated sugar
75g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
85g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
100g almond meal
120g blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 22.5x12.5cm (9x5in) loaf pan, line it with baking paper leaving an overhang on the two opposite long sides and butter the paper as well.
Make the crumble: in a small bowl, rub together the butter and flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, oats and cinnamon. Refrigerate until needed.

Cake: thinly slice the apple and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice to stop the apple slices from turning brown. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the mixture and fold in. Fold in the almond meal. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Arrange the apple slices and the blueberries on top of the batter, and push some of the fruit down onto the batter. Sprinkle with the crumble and bake for about 1 hour or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out slightly moist. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully remove the cake from the pan using the baking paper as aid.

Serves 6-8

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Salami and cheese rolls from a fantastic recipe source

Salami and cheese rolls / Pãezinhos de salame e queijo

I might be the owner of too many cookbooks, that is true, and still one of my favorite sources for great food is Gourmet Traveller: the photos are crazy beautiful and the recipes are delicious and never disappoint. With a long holiday ahead and the urge to bake bread I went straight to GT’s website for some inspiration and there I found the perfect recipe: it was yeasted, as I wanted, and it called for cheese and salami, two ingredients I had in the fridge that needed to be used with some urgency. While the bread was in the oven my husband – the salami eater of our house – kept telling me how good it smelled, and after tasting one of the rolls he told me that next time he bought salami he would bring home some extra on purpose so I could make these rolls again. Indeed the bread turned out fantastic but I would do two things differently next time: amp up the amount of cheese and double the recipe – 8 rolls were gone in no time. :D

Salami and cheese rolls
adapted from the always stunning Gourmet Traveller

1/8 teaspoon dried yeast
pinch of sugar
125g all purpose flour

½ tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, finely diced
1 ¼ teaspoons dried yeast
pinch of sugar
2 cups + 2 tablespoons (300g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
30g unsalted butter, softened
70g salami, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
100g fresh mozzarella, grated

Make the sponge: combine the yeast, sugar and 1 tablespoon warm water in small bowl, stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add 1/3 cup (80ml) warm water and the flour and stir for 2 minutes or until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and stand for 3 hours or until doubled in size. Starter can be refrigerated at this stage and brought to room temperature before using.
In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Dough: combine yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons warm water in the large bowl of an electric mixer and stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add starter and, using the dough hook, mix for 4-5 minutes or until smooth. Add butter and combine. Add onion, salami and oregano and mix until well combined. Add the flour, salt and pepper and knead for 3 minutes or until shiny and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap stand for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Lightly brush with oil a 25cm (9in) round cake pan.
Knock back dough, turn onto a floured surface and roll out dough to a 50x30cm (20x12in) rectangle, scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then roll into a cylinder beginning with the longer side. Cut into 8 pieces and place, cut-side down, onto the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and stand for 30-40 minutes, then bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. These are delicious warm drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and reheat really well – keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Makes 8

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dark chocolate and raspberry brownie tarts

Dark chocolate and raspberry brownie tarts / Tortinhas de brownie e framboesa

I love brownies and make them quite often, so when I saw these little beauties on one of my Donna Hay magazines I had to make them: raspberries are naturally tart and taste wonderful with chocolate, not to mention that the brownies looked adorable shaped as tartlets. The recipe is really easy to prepare and if you're having people over I am sure these tartlets would impress your guests; I also think they would be a nice idea for dessert on Valentine's Day (here in Brazil it is celebrated next week on the 12th). ;)

Dark chocolate and raspberry brownie tarts / Tortinhas de brownie e framboesa

Dark chocolate and raspberry brownie tarts
from the always gorgeous and super delicious Donna Hay Magazine

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
¼ cup (35g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
¾ cup raspberries – I used frozen, unthawed

Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F. Lightly butter four 10cm-round springform cake pans, line the bottom with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Place chocolate, butter, sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Add the vanilla, then cool for 5 minutes.
Place the eggs , flour and salt in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until combined. Pour into the prepared pans and top with the raspberries. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Makes 4 – I made the exact recipe above, used 10cm tartlet pans and got 5 tarts (since the pans are nonstick, I just brushed them lightly with butter and did not use baking paper)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The best gnocchi I have ever made + cookbooks that go beyond recipes

The best gnocchi I have ever made / O melhor nhoque que já fiz

It’s not a secret how addicted I am to cookbooks and after I discovered the amazing “Eat Your Books” I no longer felt guilty for buying so many of them because I actually use my books all the time – I cook and bake from them regularly. Some cookbooks I love because of their recipes, while others won my heart over for reasons other than food. Some of them get me really emotional, while others are a lot of fun to read, like Andrew Carmellini’s “Urban Italian”: not only is the food great, but his writing is equally wonderful. How could I not love a cookbook that mentions “Law & Order” and that asks for garlic sliced a la “Goodfellas”? :) And on top of that it’s Carmellini’s the recipe for the best gnocchi I have ever made.

Tomato sauce / Molho de tomate

The best gnocchi I have ever made
from the delicious and beautiful Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

900g (2 pounds) Idaho potatoes, scrubbed (I used Asterix potatoes)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour + extra flour for rolling the gnocchi
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 200°C/400°F. Prick each potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a small knife (about 1 hour).

Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly—just enough so that you can handle them, not more. They should still be steaming when you cut them open (about 6 to 10 minutes). (If you let the potatoes get too cold, the proteins in the egg won’t bind with the potatoes, and your gnocchi will fall apart). Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Press the potato flesh through a ricer set over a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, melted butter, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of flour. The mixture should be stirred only until the ingredients are combined: anything more will overwork the dough, and your gnocchi will come out tough. Work the mixture into a smooth ball; if the dough seems a little too moist for this, add a touch of flour (the moisture level in every potato is different, so every batch of gnocchi will be a bit different, too).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, divide the dough into 6 portions. Roll each portion into long logs, approximately 30cm (12in) long. Sprinkle the rolled-out logs with a tiny bit of flour to keep them from sticking to the surface. Cut each log into gnocchi-sized and place the pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover this with a cloth or plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, so they don’t dry out.

Cooking the gnocchi: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi in batches. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface (about 1-2 minutes); wait one more minute and then, using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi – I place them directly into the hot tomato sauce so they don’t stick together and grab as much flavor from the sauce as possible.

Serves 4 – this recipe served 3 at my house

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chocolate Victoria sponge cake

Chocolate victoria sponge cake / Bolo Victoria de chocolate

This delicious and very easy to make Victoria sponge was the first layer cake I baked in years: after my sister became an adult and started to celebrate her birthday with her friends (and now boyfriend – I am definitely getting old) I had no excuses to bake layer cakes; the hubby and I both like to celebrate our birthdays by going out to dinner, and my brother and I are no longer close as we used to be. So there was no one left to bake a birthday cake for. :(

Last week, however, I received some great news and decided to bake a layer cake to celebrate it – Annie Bell’s beautiful yet simple Victoria sponge caught my attention, and I felt really glad while making it. Layer cakes are one of my favorite things to bake and after I finished spreading the icing on top of it I thought to myself: “I should make layer cakes more often – birthdays or no birthdays”; after all, I have so many wonderful layer cake recipes at home just waiting to be prepared, it would be a waste not to – it’s like having a Ferrari without knowing how to drive (or having Christina Aguilera’s voice and record the songs she does). :D

Chocolate Victoria sponge cake
slightly adapted from the magnificent Annie Bell's Baking Bible (I bought mine here)

1 ¼ cups (175g) self-rising flour*
½ cup (45g) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups + 2 tablespoons (224g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100ml whole milk, room temperature

100g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons cocoa powder, sifted
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
2 tablespoons (14g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (30g) cocoa powder, sifted
50ml water
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter two 20cm (8in) round cake pans, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed, mix the dry ingredients, then the milk, and mix just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the two pans, smooth the surface, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans over a wire rack.

Filling: in the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, icing sugar, cocoa and salt until fluffy and lighter in color – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and beat for 1 minute longer.
Assemble the cake before making the icing: unmold one of the cakes and place onto a serving plate or cake stand. Spread the filling evenly on top of the cake. Unmold the other cake and place it over the filling.

Icing: place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water – do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir occasionally until smooth and melted. At the same time, combine the cocoa, water and honey in a small saucepan and heat until it starts to boil, whisking to dissolve the cocoa. Add this to the melted chocolate and blend to a thick icing. Immediately spread the icing over the cake (if you wait too long the icing might lose its shine).
This cake keeps well in a cake tin for several days.

* instead of self-rising flour, I used 175g all purpose flour + 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder (in addition to the 2 teaspoons of baking powder called for in the recipe)

Serves 8-10

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lemon and coconut brownies

Lemon and coconut brownies / Brownies de limão siciliano e coco

Watching a Brazilian cooking show the other day I thought it was really disgusting to see the presenter transfer the cake batter to the pan using his hands: as much as one uses their hands for cooking and baking – and I certainly do that a lot – there are tools for determined actions. Jamie Oliver practically kneading his guacamole on this video almost made me lose my lunch – there are certain cooking habits I really can’t stand. I don’t like to think of myself as a conservative person but I guess I am.
I do, however, have a more liberal side when it comes to cooking and unusual recipes always get my attention – how could I resist baking brownies that contain no chocolate at all? These delicious bars taste like baked curd and are irresistible.

Lemon and coconut brownies
slightly adapted from here

250g unsalted butter
350g granulated sugar
4 eggs
225g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup (100g) sweetened flaked coconut
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
¼ cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan, line it with foil leaving two overhands on opposite sides and butter the paper as well.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and stir until mixture is thick and glossy.
Sift the flour and salt over the egg mixture and stir until well combined. Stir in coconut, lemon zest and juice and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar then cut into bars.

Makes 20

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Banana and blueberry muffins

Banana blueberry muffins / Muffins de banana e mirtilo

Every time I have a surplus of ripe bananas at home and I can't find a way of using them immediately I place them in the freezer - they last long there and can be used in most baking recipes after being thawed. However, when there is only one frozen banana to be used things get a bit more complicated, since most recipes call for 2-3 bananas, or even more (that was when I had to drop the idea of making Rose's banana cake with white chocolate frosting). These muffins were the solution I needed: the recipe called for only 1 large banana (exactly what I had at hand) and the blueberries make them even more interesting, delicious and nutritious.

Banana and blueberry muffins
slightly adapted from here

225g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large ripe banana, peeled and mashed
1/3 cup (80ml) canola oil
2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed), tossed with 1 teaspoon all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Line a 12-cup muffin pan – 1/3-cup capacity cavities – with paper cases.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together with a fork the banana, oil, milk, egg and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until just combined. Don't over-mix. Fold in the blueberries.
Fill each paper liner ¾ full and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through (test with a toothpick).

Makes 12

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