Friday, November 29, 2013

Chocolate and almond babka and another post-movie emergency

Chocolate and almond babka / Babka de amêndoa e chocolate

After watching in a row four movies by Danish directors (four amazing movies, by the way) I thought it was time for something lighter with a touch of romance, and because of that I went for Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, the reason for choosing it being that I was never a fan of Michelle Williams but that changed after My Week With Marilyn and that Seth Rogen reminds me of my 18 year old nephew, who happens to be the sweetest teenage boy I’ve ever known (and who also gives the best hugs in the world). :D

Take This Waltz is a beautiful movie, indeed, and both Williams and Rogen are fantastic in it, but my plans of a couple of hours of fun and romance completely backfired because by the end of the movie I’d cried tons and was feeling pretty miserable. :( And, as usual, I had nothing sweet around to make me feel momentarily better, not even a square of chocolate – I do have one babka just like the one on the photo stashed in my freezer (the recipes makes two loaves, which is great because the bread is delicious) but biting into something as hard as a rock wouldn’t solve my problem (it would probably create a new one involving a visit to the dentist). I guess I should defrost the baked goods prior to watching movies – or choose something really lighter. :D

Chocolate and almond babka
slightly adapted from the amazing Gourmet Traveller

180ml lukewarm whole milk
14g (2 sachets) dried yeast
1 cup (100g) granulated sugar
485g all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
210g unsalted butter, softened
100g almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork, for brushing
demerara sugar, for sprinkling over the babka

Combine milk, yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and set aside in a warm place until foamy (5-7 minutes). Add 75g of the flour, mix to combine, then add eggs, yolk, remaining sugar and salt, mix to combine. While mixing on low speed, gradually add remaining flour until combined, then add 150g of the butter, a little at a time, beating until dough is shiny and elastic (3-5 minutes; dough will be quite soft). Place dough in a lightly buttered large bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size (1-1½ hours).
Process the almonds in a food processor until coarse crumbs form, combine with remaining softened butter to form a paste and set aside at room temperature until required.
Knock back dough and divide into two. Working with one half at a time, roll dough on a lightly floured surface into a 20x30cm (8x12in) rectangle. With longest side facing you, spread over half the almond paste, leaving a 4cm-border, then scatter over half the chocolate. Roll away from you to form a cylinder, lightly brush ends with the beaten egg, then join ends to make a loop, twist into a figure of eight and place in a buttered and floured 12.5x22.5cm (9x5in) loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough, then set both pans aside in a warm place until dough reaches the top of pan (1 hour).
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush babkas with the beaten egg, scatter with demerara sugar and bake in the center of oven until golden and cooked through (35-40 minutes). Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out, cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
Babkas will keep, stored in an airtight container, for 3 days, and are best served warm or in toasted slices.

Serves 6-8 each babka

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake + "Bronson"

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake / Bolo de chocolate e avelã (sem farinha de trigo)

Not only do I love watching movies but I also love reading about them (I am a very curious person, I’ll admit it), and when a guy I’d never heard of before won the best director prize in Cannes in 2011 I knew I would watch that movie as soon as possible (Ryan Gosling being the leading actor wouldn’t hurt either). ;) I did, and it became one of my all-time favorites, and up to this day I still listen to the soundtrack almost on daily basis.

Days ago I watched another movie directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and it made me think that we were all paying attention to Sean Penn playing Harvey Milk back in 2009, while we should have paid attention – and given all the awards – to Tom Hardy for Bronson: at first I was shocked by the physical transformation (and by how much he looked like the real Charlie Bronson), but his performance is so much more than that – it’s a tiring, intense and perfect acting exercise that goes beyond the pushups he had to make to get those muscles. It’s not an easy movie to watch – the amount of violence is disturbing – but I found it was worth every second (and if you like acting in its essence I am sure you’ll like it, too). It’s such a shame that a great performance like that didn’t get the buzz it deserved, and it is rarely mentioned among the great performances of all time – what Hardy did shouldn’t be forgotten.

And since good things shouldn’t be forgotten, I’ve been having a lot of fun rediscovering Bill Granger’s Holiday – I hadn’t used the book for ages (for no reason at all) and after making those great chocolate and caramel bars I’ve been reaching for it quite regularly. This chocolate cake is an easy and delicious idea for dessert – you can make it in advance and when the meal is over all you need to do is whip up the cinnamon cream (I skipped the electric mixer and did it manually in order to burn some of the calories I was about to ingest). ;)

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake
slightly adapted from the always delicious Holiday

200g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g light brown sugar
100g hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
5 eggs, separated
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Cinnamon cream:
1 cup (240ml) whipping cream
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm springform cake pan (I used a pan with a removable bottom), line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water). Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Add the sugar and hazelnut meal to the melted chocolate and stir until there are no lumps. Add the egg yolks one at a time, stirring well after each addition, then stir in the vanilla. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until firm but still gooey in the center. Leave to cool completely in the pan. Sift the cocoa over the top of the cake.

Cinnamon cream: place the cream, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Serve with the cake.

Serves 8

Monday, November 25, 2013

Berry-berry streusel bars and another fan of "The Hunger Games"

Berry-berry streusel bars / Barrinhas de frutas vermelhas

My sister, a.k.a. my movie buddy, did not watch The Hunger Games when it was released last year, so I asked her to do it last week so we could watch Catching Fire together. She did and loved it, and then loved the sequel, too, and when I arrived home there was a text message from her on my phone: “can I borrow the books?” :) I can totally relate since last year, after watching the first movie, I got hooked on the books, too and couldn’t put them aside.

As the movie production went ahead, it was a delight to hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jena Malone were attached to the project, and while I wasn’t very sure about Sam Claflin playing Finnick Odair back then all I can say now is <3 <3 <3. :D

I’ll admit I was wrong about these bars, too: I’d ignored them forever because I’d made several different jam bars already. But with no fruits at home other than frozen berries and bananas, no chocolate either – the horror, the horror – and a bag of oats begging to be used I gave in and baked the bars, only to learn how delicious they were and how silly I’d been till then.

Berry-berry streusel bars
slightly adapted from the huge The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh

180g rolled oats
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
1 cup (175g) firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

125g frozen blueberries, out of the freezer for 30 minutes
125g frozen raspberries, out of the freezer for 30 minutes
2/3 cup raspberry jam (I used half raspberry, half cherry)
5 teaspoons all purpose flour
finely grated zest of 2 large limes

Crust: preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Butter a 20x30cm (12x8in) baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhand on two opposite sides, and butter the foil as well.
Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; rub with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press half of crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until light brown, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

Filling: mix blueberries, raspberries, jam, flour and lime zest in bowl. Spread filling over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over. Bake until topping is golden, about 35 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 24

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Citrus coconut snack cake, good casting and bad casting

Citrus coconut snack cake / Bolo cítrico de coco para o lanche

One of the many things that make Breaking Bad the best TV show ever made is the cast: each and every actor is brilliant and they were perfectly chosen to play those characters, and I don’t even have to start with the leading men – for instance, how will anyone be able to forget Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman? It’s pure genius.

That kind of amazing casting is not something we see every day – and yes, I’m considering movies, too – and what happens with The Blacklist is the extreme opposite: I don’t remember seeing Megan Boone before but in the TV show she sucks, big time. Her inability to show emotion is impossible to disguise and her lack of talent to play that character is even more evident when James Spader is onscreen – he was born to play Red and by the looks of it is having the time of his life doing so. I find his performance a great one, but I believe he would benefit from having an equally great actress to share his scenes with.

“Another coconut cake?” you might say – the reason for this was the two oranges I had in my fridge, completely naked after I stripped them out of their zest to make the cornmeal financiers. I didn’t want to waste their delicious juice, so I decided to pair it with coconut – unlike Spader and Boone, they go really well together, and since I needed a couple of lemons for a marinade I used their zest in this cake, too.

Citrus coconut snack cake
slightly adapted from the delicious Better Homes and Gardens Baking: More than 350 Recipes Plus Tips and Techniques

3 cups (360g) cake flour (homemade: 310g all-purpose flour + 50g corn starch)
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
⅔ cup (160ml) canola oil
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
¾ cup (75g) sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 32.5x22.5cm (13×9in) baking pan*.
In a very large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, orange juice, vegetable oil, zest and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat in eggs. Scrape sides of bowl; continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes more. Spread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with the coconut.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly in pan on a wire rack.

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

Serves 20-24

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marzipan cookies and less is more

Marzipan cookies / Biscoitos de marzipã

As I drove to work the other day listening to one of my favorite songs I started thinking about the two or three episodes of The X Factor I’ve watched recently and how everyone seems to sing in the absolute same tone – I don’t think that one has to have Christina Aguilera’s voice to make good music (and let’s just say that the girl shouldn’t feel very proud about her repertoire), and my humble ears would choose Nina Persson’s soft voice over all that screaming any day now. :)

As for baking, in a similar “less is more” moment, I baked these delicious and incredibly addictive cookies: only a handful of ingredients resulted in chewy and moist treats, and I found it hard to stop at one. Or four. :D

Marzipan cookies
from the always beautiful and delicious Gourmet Traveller

250g almond meal
200g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg whites
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g pure icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Combine almond meal, granulated sugar, salt, egg whites, zest and vanilla in a large bowl and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a work surface and roll into a cylinder about 2cm thick. Sieve icing sugar onto work surface, roll dough in icing sugar and cut into 32 pieces. Roll each piece into a thin log, then form into an "S" shape (I never managed to do so, so I shaped my cookies as small cylinders). Dust cookies lightly with icing sugar and place cookies 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheet and bake until golden (10-15 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 32

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beef meatloaf with spaghetti sauce

Beef meatloaf with spaghetti sauce / Bolo de carne com molho de tomate e espaguete

Jamie’s Money Saving Meals hasn’t been aired here in Brazil yet but luckily for me there are some episodes available on You Tube – I have watched six of them (not sure if there are more) and really liked the concept: the food looks delicious and not at all hard to prepare, and when I saw him making meatloaf with tomato sauce and spaghetti I knew exactly what would be the next Sunday lunch at my house. :)

I found the recipe online and tweaked it a bit to make it more what my husband and I like – we’re not huge pork eaters, though we wouldn’t want to live in a world without bacon. :) The meatloaf goes really well with the pasta and leftovers (if there are any) are delicious in sandwich form (I like mine with a spoonful of Dijon mustard).

Beef meatloaf with spaghetti sauce
slightly adapted from here

3 carrots
extra-virgin olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
500g beef mince
60g fresh breadcrumbs
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
handful of fresh oregano, chopped
handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
30g feta cheese, grated
1 large egg
a few drops of Tabasco
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce and pasta:
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 x 700ml jar of passata
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
handful of fresh oregano leaves

For assembling the dish:
30g Cheddar cheese
400g dried spaghetti

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Peel the carrots, quarter lengthways, then place in a 20x30cm (8x12in) roasting tray, drizzle with the oil and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions, adding a pinch of salt, until translucent. Cool. Transfer to a large bowl, add the beef, breadcrumbs, dried and fresh oregano, parsley, feta, egg, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Mix lightly with your hands (don’t overmix or the meatloaf will be tough), then shape into a loaf (roughly 20cm long). Make a space in the middle of the tray with the carrots and add the meatloaf. Cook for a further 25 minutes, or until the meatloaf is golden and cooked through.
While the meatloaf is in the oven, make the sauce: in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and the dried oregano and cook until slightly golden, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the passata (with a splash of water from the empty jar), the sugar, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in the herbs, cover and remove from the heat.

Have a large saucepan of salted boiling water ready (for the spaghetti).

Remove the tray from the oven and carefully pour the sauce around the meatloaf. Top the meatloaf with a spoonful of tomato sauce, then the grated Cheddar and pop the meatloaf back into the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden and delicious, and the sauce is bubbling. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions, then drain. Serve it with the sauce in the baking tray and the meatloaf.

Serves 4

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blueberry and coconut cake, female directors, a beautiful movie and a versatile actor

Blueberry and coconut cake / Bolo de coco e mirtilos

I believe that the movie industry would be a better place if more women stepped behind the camera: there aren’t many female directors out there, which is a shame. Jane Campion wowed the world twenty years ago with one of my all time favorite movies, and I’m forever in her debt for introducing me to Mark Ruffalo *sigh*. :) Nora Ephron added romance to our lives, Vera Farmiga discussed religion, Kathryn Bigelow makes movies many men would like to make, and Lynne Ramsay gave us one of the best movies of 2011 (with certainly the best acting of that year, the glorious Tilda).

A couple of days ago I watched the beautiful After the Wedding and then I could see how fantastic Susanne Bier is (In a Better World is one of the best movies I have seen in the last ten years, maybe fifteen). Never dull or boring, After the Wedding is a delight to watch – it is well written and well played by a very good cast, and what a breath of fresh air it is to watch actors with crooked teeth, facial hair, lines around their eyes – more “human” than most of people from Hollywood. If that still hasn’t convinced you to watch After the Wedding, Mads Mikkelsen *sigh* plays the lead and delivers another great performance, something completely different from Le Chiffre, Hannibal Lecter, Draco or Ivan (the guy is a chameleon, isn’t he?). Oh, and ladies: there are a couple of scenes in which he is shirtless. Just saying. ;)

Now that I have spent all my convincing cards on the movie I don’t have much left to say to convince you to make this cake; I’ll give you this: it is super tender, it is delicious, and coconut and blueberry are great together – I hope that is enough. :D

Blueberry and coconut cake
slightly adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks (I bought mine here)

200g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (25g) sweetened flaked coconut
150g blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed), dusted with 1 heaping teaspoon all purpose flour
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x7cm (8x2.8in) cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients and coconut and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the blueberries.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 45 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully unmold, remove the paper, then turn the cake onto a serving plate. Sift with icing sugar to serve.

Serves 8-10

Monday, November 11, 2013

Orange cornmeal financiers - a French-Brazilian culinary experiment

Orange cornmeal financiers / Financiers de fubá e laranja

The weather here in Sao Paulo seems to be in a roller coaster lately – in some days the temperature reaches 30°C (86°F) only to drop to 17°C (62°F) on the following morning. I prefer the cold weather but I do have something stashed in the freezer for the screaming hot periods: I made David Lebovitz’s amazing chocolate ice cream and poured it into Popsicle molds instead of churning it in the ice cream maker – the result was so good my husband is currently addicted to it. :D

With the ice cream production on full speed, my stash of frozen egg whites is regular again and that made me think of financiers once more. This time, however, I decided to add a Brazilian touch to the French treat by replacing the all purpose flour with corn flour (not corn starch), adding a touch of citrus zest to brighten up the flavor – I don’t mean to brag about my idea, but it turned out to be excellent (modesty mode off). :D

Orange cornmeal financiers
adapted from the great Simply Bill

85g almond meal (finely ground almonds)
135g icing sugar, sifted
55g corn flour (not corn starch)
pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
5 egg whites
95g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, icing sugar, corn flour, salt and zest. Stir in the egg whites until just combined. Stir in the melted butter and the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour ten 100ml capacity mini cake or muffin pans.
Pour the batter in the pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden - the financiers should spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and leave in the pan for 2 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Financiers are best served the day they’re made, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Makes 10

Friday, November 8, 2013

Caramel and chocolate bars and turning things interesting for adults

Caramel and chocolate bars / Barrinhas de caramelo e chocolate

Long ago, many years before vampires were “in” (or were turned into creatures that walk around in broad day light), a very respected filmmaker made a masterpiece out of Bram Stoker’s book, and my favorite actor set the bar high for anyone else ever to play a vampire again.

Little over twenty years later a very interesting movie trailer gets released, in which Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play vampires – apparently dark ones, nothing covered in glitter, thank heavens. :D Both of them look absolutely amazing in Only Lovers Left Alive and now I cannot wait to watch the movie. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to match Gary Oldman playing a vampire, but I really believe that Tilda and Hiddles can seriously make those creatures of the night interesting again for us, adults. :)

I’m not a spokesperson for super healthy food – I do buy and eat processed food sometimes, and I am sure you remember my baked goods filled with chopped Oreos and Snickers. :) However, candy bars are not my cup of tea: I often find them too sweet, even the ones I used to love as a kid. Bill Granger’s bars, with layers of cookie, caramel and chocolate, are a great way to turn a certain candy bar interesting for us, adults – and the salt sprinkled on top makes all the difference in these addictive little morsels of deliciousness. :D

Caramel and chocolate bars
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful Holiday (I bought mine here)

125g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (90g) sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted

100g unsalted butter
100g brown sugar
1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g dark chocolate – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
flaked sea salt, to taste (I used Maldon as suggested by Bill)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (12x8in) baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhand in two opposite sides, then butter the foil as well.
Crust: in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, coconut, sugar and melted butter and mix until a dough forms. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
While the base is in the oven, prepare the filling by placing all the ingredients into a medium saucepan. Cook over a low heat while stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, constantly stirring, until it has turned a light golden color. Pour this evenly over the cooked base and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool completely over a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Once melted, pour onto the caramel and spread evenly. Allow the chocolate to set before sprinkling over the sea salt. Cut into squares or bars.

Makes 24

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

White chocolate and hazelnut pound cake and "Ray Donovan"

White chocolate hazelnut cake / Bolo de chocolate branco e avelã

Since Girls wasn’t bringing any joy to my days – much to the opposite – I decided to dedicate my precious time to a different TV show (aside from The Blacklist, which I watch with the hubby), and being a dark-drama-kind-of-gal I went for Ray Donovan; I’m halfway through the season and loving every minute of it – the performances are outstanding (how great are Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson and Jon Voight?) and the writing is really good, too. I haven’t read much about the show to avoid spoilers but it was nice to know that there is a second season coming next year – it’s so frustrating to get hooked on a TV show only to find out later it’s been cancelled. :S

Because the episodes of Ray Donovan are one-hour long there is plenty of time for a cake to be baked: therefore, I mixed this batter (which took me hardly any time, even with the melting of the chocolate), placed it in the oven and sat down to watch the show; being a large cake, once inverted onto the wire rack it would need a good hour to cool (or even more than that), and that was the perfect excuse for a TV junkie like me to watch another episode in a row. :D

White chocolate and hazelnut pound cake
slightly adapted from the delicious Better Homes and Gardens Baking: More than 350 Recipes Plus Tips and Techniques

3 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (20g) hazelnut meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar*
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
112g (4oz) white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup sour cream**

112g (4oz) white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl stir together flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a very large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating about 1 minute after each addition and scraping sides of bowl frequently. Add vanilla and the melted white chocolate; beat just until combined. Alternately add flour mixture and the sour cream to butter mixture, beating on low after each addition just until combined. Do not overmix. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool thoroughly on wire rack.
Glaze: combine chocolate and oil in a small bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, mixing until melted. Spoon over the cooled cake, then set aside to set.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* the cake turned out delicious, but I found it a bit too sweet – I’d cut down 30g of the sugar if baking it again

** 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 14-16

Monday, November 4, 2013

Zucchini keftedes and to each their own

Zucchini keftedes / Keftedes de abobrinha

Every time I watch “The Great British Bake Off” (thanks to some really nice people who post the episodes on YouTube) I get cranky about the contestants’ lack of hygiene – all that touching of hair, then touching of the floor, then touching the food drives me crazy! I feel sorry for the judges who have to eat the baked goods. There was an episode in which a cake or something was sliced and a hair could be clearly seen on the close up – I think it was one of Cathryn’s sweets (season 3), if I’m not mistaken. Eeew. :S

To make things even more unappetizing for me the last episode I watched had the contestants baking with suet, which is something I wouldn’t eat no matter the amount of sugar and fruit added (that said, I have always wanted to make a roly-poly, replacing the suet for butter or vegetable shortening or using this suet-free version from Gourmet Traveller).

While eating suet is not part of my plans, my husband wouldn’t try anything with zucchini (to each their own, right?), and telling him a hundred times how delicious that vegetable is wasn’t really helping. Things changed when he tried these keftedes – the minute I started frying the balls the kitchen was filled with a wonderful smell, sort of like when someone is making grilled cheese and some of the cheese slips off the bread and touches the screaming hot frying pan; that got him immediately interested – he bit into one fritter, looked at me and said: “I’ll grab the Tabasco and a very cold beer”. :D

Zucchini keftedes
slightly adapted from the beautiful Full of Flavor: How to Create Like a Chef

450g (1 pound) zucchini, trimmed and coarsely grated
2 tablespoons grated onion
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¾ cup finely grated parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
6-8 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
all purpose flour, seasoned with salt, for dusting
canola oil, for frying

Blanch the zucchini in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry in a cloth (I let the zucchini cool a little before doing that because it was impossible to handle such a hot kitchen towel).
Place the olive oil in a small saucepan, add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Add the zucchini, feta, parmesan, parsley, oregano, eggs and half the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, then mix to combine. If the mixture is too wet, gradually add more breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Taste the seasoning before frying the keftedes. Shape the mixture into 2.5cm (1in) balls, then roll into the flour*.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the balls in batches until golden. Drain in paper towels and serve immediately.

* the hubby suggested that rolling the keftedes in breadcrumbs instead of all purpose would make them even nicer on the outside and although I haven’t tried doing that I agree with him.

Makes about 20

Friday, November 1, 2013

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle + an amazing movie trailer

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle / Bolo de banana e xarope de bordo com caldinha de caramelo

Weeks ago the trailer for Foxcatcher was released and my interest in the movie skyrocketed – I’d read about it and seen a couple of photos (in which both Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell look unrecognizable) and the trailer just made me even more curious (oh, the joy of a perfectly put together movie trailer!).

I find it remarkable when an actor chooses a project that is completely different from everything he’d done up until then, which is what Carell is doing in Foxcatcher – for the little I’ve seen and read his performance will be one to watch next year. That reminds me of other actors who emerged from comedies and delivered great performances in dramas such as Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, Jamie Foxx in Collateral (before that movie I don’t think anyone would have thought the guy could win an Oscar) and, to me, the most fantastic one, Marlon Wayans in Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky did the impossible here, let’s be honest). I cannot wait to see Carell playing such a dark character, and it’s too bad the movie release has been postponed to 2014 (apparently no one wants to compete against Gravity and 12 Years a Slave in the award season).

I like having a handful of ingredients in my freezer for cooking and baking, like berries, peas, spinach and nuts, and two things I always have stashed there are egg whites and overripe bananas. A while ago the egg white amount was considerably low, but there were quite a lot of frozen bananas around, and they were transformed into this moist, delicious cake (the caramel drizzle makes it extra special, don’t skip it). The cake does taste fantastic with the addition of maple syrup, but I have made this recipe replacing the syrup with a mild flavored honey and it worked like a charm, too.

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Delicious Autralia

3 large eggs
125g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 cup (175g) light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 overripe bananas, mashed
¼ cup sour cream*
225g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
icing sugar, for dusting

Caramel drizzle:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup (60g) light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease an 8-cup capacity Bundt cake pan and dust with flour.
Beat eggs, butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla in an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until thick. Beat banana and sour cream into the batter. Sift in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt then mix until combined. Spread into the pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
Make the caramel drizzle: place butter and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it boils, whisk in the cream – carefully because the mixture will bubble – until incorporated then remove from heat.
Dust the cake with the icing sugar and drizzle with the caramel.

* 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 8-10

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