Friday, February 28, 2014

Cornmeal-pistachio biscotti and going back to dramaville

Cornmeal-pistachio biscotti / Biscotti de fubá e pistache

I try not to be such a creature of habit sometimes but apparently I fail miserably at it. After watching dark drama after dark drama, I felt I needed to take a breather – it was time for a comedy. To avoid repeating the mistake of months ago, I asked the lovely Amanda for some tips on comedies, and despite being a drama kind of gal like me she commented something about Community, Parks and Recreation (that one I already adore) and 30 Rock – I’ve read tons about the latter but never watched it, so I decided to start with it.

I watched the pilot and found it funny and clever; however, by the end of it I felt there was something missing – maybe the tight muscles or the teeth clenching, I don’t know. One day later I was back to dramaville, this time accompanied by Hellboy and Peggy Bundy – if that isn’t sheer perfection I don’t know what is. :D

Every time I feel like baking cookies I have to fight the urge of making biscotti – they are easy to make, taste great and can be kept in an airtight container for a good while – what’s not to love? I sometimes manage to vary a little but end up going back to my addiction – this time I was lured in by the addition of cornmeal to the dough, which turned out to be a delicious idea.

Cornmeal-pistachio biscotti
slightly adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

125g pistachios
¼ cup (56g) cold unsalted butter
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar
1 large cold egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Amaretto
1 ¼ cups (155g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal – I used corn flour (not corn starch)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt

Preheat oven to 165°C/325°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Roast the pistachios on a small baking sheet until they are fragrant. Finely chop ¼ cup of the nuts; coarsely chop the remainder.
In a medium bowl, barely cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and Amaretto.
In a separate bowl, combine the nuts, flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until homogenous.
Divide the dough in half. Roll the dough into logs about 2.5cm (1in) in diameter. The dough should be cold enough to handle without difficulty, though you may need to dust the counter with a little additional flour if the logs start to stick.
Place the logs on the baking sheet, spacing them at least a few inches apart; they will swell considerably. Bake until slightly brown and firm on the surface, but yielding to light pressure, 15-20 minutes. Rotate the pan if they are browning unevenly. Don’t underbake, or the baking powder will not complete its job, and the cookies will be hard and dense rather than crisp and with a great coarse texture.
Slide the paper with the logs to a wire rack and let cool for 5-8 minutes. Turn the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F.
Slice the logs on an angle about 1.25cm (½in) thick. Line the warm baking sheet with baking paper. Place the biscotti cut side down on sheet and bake for another 5 minutes or so to brown lightly. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 30

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Honey cake, relating to characters and "Philomena"

Honey cake / Bolo de mel

I believe it’s part of movie/TV show watching to relate or not to characters, to analyze if we would act like them or not in certain situations – for instance, I would never spend time in a cabin in the middle of the woods and I would certainly never enter a dark attic (or basement) all by myself holding nothing but a lit candle. :D

Speaking of a more serious subject, I watched Philomena yesterday and by the end of the movie I thought it could have been called “Pollyanna”.

Judi Dench is spectacular in the movie – just for a change – and there are several funny moments developed by her character (which reminded me of my paternal grandmother – she’ll say anything that comes to her mind). However, it bothered me much how Philomena deals with the situations she faces, I couldn’t understand it therefore I could not relate – I actually saw myself as the journalist, I would have behaved pretty much like Martin Sixsmith did or worse, I believe. SPOILERS I would have trashed that convent from top to bottom and would have slapped that nun like there was no tomorrow – there would be no forgiving of something so cruel and monstrous. END OF SPOILERS

There is a scene in the movie in which Steve Coogan’s character is having some tea and goes completely bonkers for the cake he’s eating – I felt the same way about this honey cake: it’s extremely simple – no frosting, no filling, nothing – and yet its flavor and texture are absolutely divine. A perfect match for a cup of tea or coffee.

Honey cake
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful National Trust Simply Baking

115g mild honey
115g unsalted butter, softened
115g granulated sugar
2 medium eggs*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
about 100ml full-fat milk, room temperature, as necessary
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) square pan, line the base with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
If your honey is thick, gently warm over a low heat, then set aside until tepid but still runny.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the honey, followed by the eggs, a little at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg over the mixture and fold in, using a rubber spatula. If necessary, add a little milk: the mixture should drop from the spoon in soft blobs (I used only 60ml of the 100ml called for in the recipe). Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden, risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 30 minutes, then carefully unmold, remove the paper and turn the cake back onto the rack. Cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

* I always buy large eggs, so I chose the smallest 2 in the package to use in this recipe

Makes 16

Monday, February 24, 2014

Coconut and apricot bars to shake off the sadness

Coconut and apricot bars / Barrinhas de damasco e coco

My sister and I take turns choosing the movies we watch together at the theater, and last Saturday it was her turn to pick it: I wanted Robocop, but she went with The Book Thief.

I haven’t read the book, therefore can’t verify if the movie is faithful to it, but in general I liked the story and I’ll watch anything with Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush, actually. However, the movie made me feel really sad at the end – movies about the Nazism are never easy to watch, but I’d seen more graphic ones on the subject, and up to now I haven't been able to figure out why Liesel’s story had stuck in my head like that.

I went home thinking about it and tried to shake it off by spending some time on the treadmill, with no success. Then I decided to bake something, something sweet, and all that sugar and coconut and apricots took my mind off the sadness for a while – by the time I removed the cake pan from the oven I was feeling a little lighter already, and then I had something tasty to munch on while I watched another episode of House of Cards – the Underwoods make me so nervous I could have chewed all my nails off.

Coconut and apricot bars
slightly adapted from a Bill Granger recipe published by The Independent

120g unsalted butter, melted
120g granulated sugar
50g sweetened flaked coconut
150g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
180g ready to eat dried apricots, chopped

150g sweetened flaked coconut
50g granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square cake pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.
Crust: in a large bowl, mix the melted butter, sugar, coconut, flour, baking powder, salt and egg. Spoon into the pan and spread the mixture out into an even layer. Dot the chopped apricots over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
Make the topping: in a medium bowl, mix the coconut, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla until combined. Remove the pan from the oven, spread over the jam and use 2 spoons to spread out the coconut mixture in a rough, even layer.
Return to the oven and cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until top is golden. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into bars to serve.

Makes 16

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake, a great mini-series and a truly deserved Golden Globe

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake / Bolo de avelã, coco e canela

I like watching award shows basically for two reasons: it is great to see my favorite actors and directors get awarded – which, unfortunately, doesn’t happen as often as I would like – and I also love seeing the dresses and hairdos worn by the stars (to later comment on the hits and misses). :D

There is, however, another really good reason: TV shows or movies I haven’t heard of, interesting things to look up and maybe add to my already long “to watch” list.
It was because of Elisabeth Moss’ win at this year’s Golden Globe that I learned of Top of the Lake, and what a great mini-series it is: a dark story created and director by Jane Campion – a badass director whose work I admire –, it is set in beautiful locations in New Zealand, with great writing and acting. I already liked Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson – probably the best thing in Mad Men – and here she’s even more fantastic. She truly deserves the GG she took home, and I don’t know how the Globes ignored Peter Mullan, absolutely amazing as the terrifying Matt.

As does The Fall, Top of the Lake discusses violence against women and its consequences – not an easy subject to watch but completely necessary to be portrayed (and here it is done in a very realistic way).

I got addicted to Top of the Lake after minutes only and watched the seven episodes in a matter of days (unfortunately there won’t be additional seasons); every time I saw the characters walking near that cold water I felt like having a cup of tea – and a slice of cake wouldn’t hurt, either. :D

This is a recipe I made because I found the combination of hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut an unusual one, and it turned out to be a delicious one (and the yogurt makes the cake moist and tender to boot).

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Delicious UK

4 medium eggs*
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
230g all purpose flour
50g corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
185ml canola oil
420g plain yogurt
1 cup (100g) sweetened flaked coconut
100g hazelnuts, lightly toasted, cooled and finely chopped

For dusting the cake:
50g icing sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 12-cup nonstick capacity Bundt pan – if using a regular pan without nonstick coating, butter and flour it (I was stubborn and used a 10-cup capacity pan, so I had to bake the excess batter in a 1-cup mini pan).
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the oil, yogurt, coconut and hazelnuts until combined. Stir in the egg mixture.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour/1 hour 20 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack. Cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine the icing sugar and cinnamon, then sift the mixture over the cake.

* I only buy large eggs, so I chose the smallest 4 in the package to use in this recipe

Serves 10-12

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lime, vanilla and poppy seed madeleines and a very interesting character

Lime, vanilla and poppy seed madeleines / Madeleines de baunilha, limão e sementes de papoula

The young ones reading me today won’t remember it, but back in the 90s a pop group called the Spice Girls became a huge hit and their main motto was “girl power” – I was about eighteen when “Wannabe” was released and, back then, I didn’t think there was anything empowering to women in what the group sang or did (and to be honest I’m 35 now and still don’t get it).

Cut to many years later: because of what I’d been watching, Netflix suggests The Fall, and I got immediately interested in the series both because of its dark nature and of Gillian Anderson – that is how I’m introduced to Stella Gibson, the most feminist character I’d seen on TV shows and definitely one of the most interesting ones. As I watched the five episodes of The Fall – and thought of how much I wanted those five to be fifteen, twenty –, the more I liked Anderson’s character and the more I thought of her as the personification of girl power, so much more than an empty slogan shouted at the top of a hotel in Cannes.

The way Stella behaves and the things she says on the show are truly amazing – I believe she’s sending a message to everyone watching, and it’s a very positive one. That kind of strong female character is a delight to watch and Gillian Anderson is sheer perfection portraying Stella Gibson – the good news is that there will be a second season, so there’s more real girl power coming our way. \0/

And because this is a feminist post about a feminist character, nothing better than a baked good with a woman’s name to go with it.

Lime, vanilla and poppy seed madeleines
slightly adapted from the always stunning Gourmet Traveller

80g unsalted butter
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
65g granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped with the back of a knife
½ tablespoon light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
½ tablespoon mild honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ tablespoon poppy seeds
melted butter, extra, for brushing the molds
icing sugar, for dusting

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat, add lime zest and set aside until cooled to room temperature but still liquid (2-3 minutes).
Place the granulated sugar and vanilla beans in the bowl of an electric mixer and rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add the brown sugar, eggs, honey and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Sift over flour, baking powder and salt, add the poppy seeds and fold through.
Fold in butter mixture a little at a time until just incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (4 hours or up to overnight).
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Brush twenty two 2-tablespoon capacity madeleine molds with melted butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Brush the molds again and refrigerate for another 10 minutes. Divide the mixture between the molds (do not spread it out). Bake until golden and cooked through (8-10 minutes), then immediately unmold onto a wire rack.
Dust with icing sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 22

Monday, February 17, 2014

Salted peanut butter and jelly blondies, two great guys left out of the Oscars and a mediocre movie

Salted peanut butter and jelly blondies / Blondies de manteiga de amendoim e geleia com um toque de sal

When it comes to the Oscars apparently every year there is a very talented person (or more than one) left out of the competition, and I’ve written about it already. This year both Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass were “forgotten” for their remarkable work in Captain Phillips, which is really unfair to me. I wouldn’t say Hanks’ performance was the best among the nominees – that title still belongs to Leo – but it is certainly superior to Christian Bale’s in the mediocre American Hustle and to Matthew McConaughey’s in Dallas Buyers Club.

As far as directors are concerned, David O. Russell’s nomination is just a bad joke and to think that he was included in the game at the expense of Greengrass makes this year’s competition even more ridiculous (I think you’ve already noticed how much I hated American Hustle). :D

After wasting 138 minutes of my life on such a lame movie I needed something tasty and quick to put together – the halfway-through jar of raspberry jam in my fridge (left from the cookies I baked a while ago) and the recently bought jar of peanut butter were combined to create these blondies. As I sliced them into squares and thought of the movie, it hit me that Bradley Cooper – the poor actor who stars in things like The Hangover – is a two-time nominee in a two-year period (for two below the average movies) while it took the Academy more than twenty years to first nominee the best actor in the world – that made me so mad I had to eat a blondie right away. :D

Salted peanut butter and jelly blondies
slightly adapted from Bon Appétit magazine

½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, melted
1¼ cups (175g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
200g light brown sugar
¾ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ tablespoons raspberry jam
flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a square 20cm (8in) baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and table salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract; fold in dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Dollop with the jam. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16

Friday, February 14, 2014

Orange sour cream Bundt cake, the Internet and high-waisted pants

Orange sour cream Bundt cake / Bolo de laranja e sour cream

Days ago, a friend of mine asked the following question on Facebook: “how was your life before the Internet”? I did not answer but have thought about it ever since. I love the Internet and not a day goes by without me using it, even if it is for 5 minutes: it’s great not having to go to the bank to pay a bill, being able to buy movie tickets ahead of time (no lines!), watching movies and TV shows that take forever to arrive here in Brazil (if they arrive at all), and well, I love writing a blog, too. :D

Of course there are horrendous things online, too, but that’s life, isn’t it? There are the good things and the bad things – it’s human nature, I guess (unfortunately).

I am unashamedly curious, so the Internet is a really useful tool; for instance, while I watched Her the other day I kept thinking about the high-waisted pants worn by the male characters of the movie – I was sure they meant something, and a couple of clicks helped me find out all about it (Spike Jonze’s said that the pants “'feel kinda like you're being hugged", and that has everything to do with the movie theme, which made me love it even more). <3

The Internet is also very helpful when I need to substitute ingredients: ages ago I read somewhere how to make sour cream at home (since not until recently was the product available here in Brazil). I’ve been using that precious hint in recipes for years now, such as the delicious, moist and irresistible orange cake you see on the photo – if you like cakes drenched in syrup that get even tastier the day after they are baked this recipe is for you (and if you’re a citrus freak like me, you’ll love it, too). :D

Orange sour cream Bundt cake
slightly adapted from here

1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar, divided use
4 eggs, separated
finely grated zest of 2 large oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 ½ cups sour cream*

¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice
2 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

¾ cup (105g) icing sugar
3-4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup capacity Bundt or tube pan.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter with 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in orange zest and vanilla.
In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; on low speed, add to the butter mixture alternately with sour cream, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of sour cream. In separate bowl and with clean beaters, beat egg whites until frothy; gradually beat in remaining ¼ cup (50g) sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third into batter; fold in remainder. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake in center of the oven until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Carefully turn out onto rack.

While the cake cools in the pan, make the syrup: in small saucepan, bring sugar, orange juice and liqueur to boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup (80ml), 3-4 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Brush over warm cake. Let cool.

Glaze: in a small bowl, sift the icing sugar, then gradually add the juice, mixing until pourable (add a little more juice if necessary). Slowly pour over cooled cake. Let stand until glaze is dry, about 30 minutes.

*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 10-12

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds and "Her"

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds / Espaguete siciliano com tomates, alho e amêndoas

As I continue my marathon to watch this year’s Oscar nominated movies, I was extremely surprised by how moved I was by Her – though genius sometimes, Spike Jonze’s style to me is on the verge of crazy (right there with Michel Gondry), therefore I really did not expect to love the movie as much as I did.

Joaquin Phoenix is an amazing actor – the Academy should have cut the trophy in half back in 2001 for him and Benicio to share it – and his performance in Her is so sublime it’s difficult to find words to describe it. I could have easily squeezed him in for Best Actor this year, and I could also vote for the film for Best Movie (despite my love for Gravity) and most definitely for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. After I read the film synopsis I kept thinking of how it would be possible for Jonze to find a decent way to end it, but he did and to me it was perfect.

Also surprising, to me, was this recipe: when I saw Nigella cooking it on TV I had no idea that something that simple could be so good – all you have to do is cook some pasta and whiz all the sauce ingredients in food processor. The sauce is not cooked and that makes this dish perfect for the insanely hot days we’ve been having here (less time in front of the stove).

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds
slightly adapted from the wonderful Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes

200g spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice)
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
10g golden sultanas
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon capers (drained)
25g blanched almonds
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil

Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.
Just before draining the pasta, remove ½ cup of pasta-cooking water and add ½ tablespoon of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go.
Return the drained pasta to the hot saucepan, pour over the sauce and toss to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it). Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Serves 2

Monday, February 10, 2014

Citrus and poppy seed slice and bakes, Matthew and Leo

Citrus and poppy seed slice and bakes / Biscoitinhos cítricos com sementes de papoula

I admire actors committed to their craft who are willing to go the extra mile for a part, but getting fat/thin/ugly to play a character must be part of the preparation, not the only highlight – the physical transformation and the talent to play the part must go in hand. Nicole won an Oscar with a prosthetic nose and not much else, while Christian Bale’s impressive weight lost in The Fighter was part of his portrayal of Dicky Eklund, not all of it.

I watched Dallas Buyers Club last week and though not very impressed by the movie – it is an OK movie with great performances, like Monster – the amount of dedication put into characters by both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto is outstanding. I wish Leto had had more screen time for he’s absolutely amazing as Rayon, and Matthew’s contained yet strong performance is something completely different from the movies from his past, but I think that a better script and a more talented director could have gotten much more out of him (he’s even more brilliant in True Detective, for instance).

Having said that, if I were the one choosing the winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role this year Leonardo DiCaprio would take the award home: he is ten times the actor Matthew will ever be (and the latter has evolved quite a lot in the last few years) and his character is a despicable one, even with the sort of comedy route Scorsese chose for the movie, while Matthew’s character has the empathy/sympathy factor going on for him; the Wolf is a complex character that expresses and ignites several different feelings and emotions throughout the three hours of the movie and Leonardo adds layer after layer to the character, making him hateful yet very interesting, and I did not see that in Ron Woodroof – I think that the character could have been taken to a whole new level by someone more talented, such as the very Leo or Christian Bale.

These slice and bake cookies are delicious, buttery and a snap to make – the original recipe called for lemons only but I decided to use oranges, too, and added poppy seeds to make the cookies even more interesting, for they add crunch and make the cookies look beautiful.

You can omit them, of course, for the cookies will still taste great – let’s say that they will be the Matthew McConaughey version while the ones with poppy seeds will be the Leonardo DiCaprio version. ;)

Citrus and poppy seed slice and bakes
slightly adapted from Epicurious

2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons table salt
2 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup (226g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

¾ cup (105g) icing sugar
½ tablespoon lemon juice, more if necessary
½ tablespoon orange juice, more if necessary

Cookies: whisk flour, salt and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar, lemon and orange zest and vanilla in a large bowl, occasionally scraping down sides, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks; beat just to blend. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture and beat, occasionally scraping down sides, just to blend. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place each on a piece of parchment paper; shape dough into logs. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press into a 3.5 cm (1.4in) log – like Martha does here. Wrap in parchment. Chill in the refrigerator until very firm, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Unwrap one log at a time (keep the other in the fridge). Cut into 5mm thick rounds; space 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are firm and golden brown around the edges, 12-14 minutes. Cool slightly on sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the other log.

Icing: whisk sugar and juice in a small bowl, adding more juice by ½-teaspoonfuls if too thick. Spread or drizzle icing over cookies. Let stand until icing sets, about 10 minutes.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 50

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stuffed cabbage parcels - different from the ones my mom used to make

Stuffed cabbage parcels / Charutinhos de repolho

Still on the changing of tastes subject, there are foods nowadays that I adore that I didn’t as a kid (or as even a young adult). I’ve written about it already, but these cabbage parcels made me think about it again because my mom used to make a version of them when I was little and I simply hated it. You might think that I had issues with the dish because I was a kid and kids hate veggies but, that was not it – I would eat a bowl of raw cabbage, just drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with salt. The problem to me was that the rolls were mushy and watery, and the stuffing (made with a mix of rice and beef mince) would become a compact rock inside the cabbage leaves – and my mom was an excellent cook, which makes me feel sorry for everyone else eating cabbage rolls made that way. :S

These cabbage rolls, however, a recipe a slightly adapted from Anna Del Conte, are a total different story, and that is why I felt like making them as soon as I read the recipe: instead of rice, the mince in the filling is paired with sausage and parmesan – off to a good start already, right? And I added a healthy handful of parsley because everything tastes better with fresh herbs. Then the rolls are baked instead of cooked in water in a pressure cooker – another great step to avoid a watery dish. And, to make it all even tastier, there’s tomato sauce involved, and I’m a sucker for anything with tomato sauce.

The cabbage rolls turned out delicious and to me this has become THE way of cooking them – my husband, who also grew up with cabbage rolls made the other way, loved them, too. :)

Stuffed cabbage parcels
from the always mouthwatering Delicious UK

400g green cabbage, outer leaves discarded (or kept for another dish)
350g lean minced beef
2 sausages, skins removed, crumbled
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 large egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
30g white bread, crusts removed
5 tablespoons whole milk
1 clove
generous handful parsley leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, halved
olive oil for greasing
4 very ripe tomatoes
25g unsalted butter

Cut off the core end of the cabbage, then gently unfold and separate the leaves. Wash them.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the cabbage leaves, then blanch for 3 minutes. Remove them carefully from the water using a slotted spoon and put in a single layer on a double thickness of kitchen paper.
Filling: in a large bowl, combine the beef, sausage meat, parmesan and egg. Season with salt and pepper, the nutmeg and mix to combine. In a small saucepan, place the bread, milk and clove and cook over low heat, stirring, until the bread has absorbed the milk. Discard the clove and tip the mixture on the bowl with the meat, mixing to combine. Season again if necessary, then mix in the parsley.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Set aside a shallow large heatproof dish (one that can hold the cabbage bundles without overlapping) and rub it with the 1 clove of garlic (set aside – you’ll use it again in this recipe) and some olive oil. Pat the cabbage leaves dry with kitchen paper, then remove the tough center stalk. Place 1 heaped tablespoon of stuffing in the middle of each leaf, then roll into bundles, tucking under the ends. Place the bundles side by side on the prepared dish. Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and place them in a food processor with the garlic cloves (the one you rubbed the dish with, too), salt and pepper. Whiz until pureed and pour over the cabbage. Dot the bundles with the butter, cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 – with this amount of filling I got 16 cabbage bundles

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lager and lime cake and tastes changing through time

Lager and lime cake / Bolo de limão e cerveja

I find it fascinating how our taste changes with time – I was listening to the radio yesterday when “I Stay Away” started playing, a song I hadn’t heard in ages, and then I thought of how Alice in Chains was my favorite #2 band some good 18 years ago (The Smiths always have and will always be #1). Today, except for 2-3 songs, I can’t listen to those CDs anymore because people screaming drives me crazy, I just can’t stand someone yelling instead of singing (I told you I was getting old).

In my early twenties I rarely drank and I didn’t understand how people could like beer – to me it was something too bitter. In my late twenties, however, I started enjoying a glass or two of Prosecco from time to time and beer no longer tasted bitter – ice cold beer actually tasted great on a hot summer day. I’m no connoisseur and my favorite beer is Stella Artois (though I will have a sip of Guinness every now and then), and when I saw this recipe on Olive magazine I immediately wanted to try it – pairing beer and citrus in cake form seemed an excellent idea after I’d tried the beverage with chocolate with great results.

The original recipe was for a layer cake sandwiched and iced with lager buttercream – with the Sahara temperatures we’ve been having here I thought that buttercream was overkill, so I skipped it and baked the cake in a Bundt pan (and me being me I amped the amount of lime zest, obviously). :D The cake turned out extremely tender – like the ones that usually have sour cream or yogurt in their batter – with a nice hint of lime; you can’t actually taste the beer in the cake but you feel there is something else going on other than the citrus flavor – I thought it was delicious.

Lager and lime cake
slightly adapted from the delicious Olive magazine

225g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 limes
2 large eggs
200ml lager (a light one – I used Stella Artois)
juice of ½ the lime

½ cup (70g) confectioners’ sugar
about 2 teaspoons lime juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.Butter and flour an 8-cup capacity Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and lime zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the lager in two additions (begin and end with the dry ingredients). Fold in the lime juice.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, gradually add the lime juice and whisk until drizzable. Drizzle over the cooled cake and let the glaze set for 15 minutes.

Serves 8-10

Monday, February 3, 2014

“Jamaretti” cookies

"Jamaretti" cookies /  Biscoitos de amêndoa e geleia de framboesa

It is no secret that the list of recipes I want to try is an endless thing, but sometimes because of the large amount of recipes it is hard to choose just one (or two). I usually use the contents of the fridge and cupboard as a guide, but sometimes not even that is enough – I just need something more specific.

When inspiration doesn’t seem to be striking any time soon I turn to the lovely and fun Sarah Carey, and while I watched her make these cookies I thought of the jar of raspberry jam sitting in my cupboard and the homemade almond paste stashed in my freezer – that was when I knew exactly what I would be baking on the weekend. :D

These are delicious and dead easy to make; too bad I didn’t have apricot jam around – I am sure the cookies would taste amazing with it, too.

“Jamaretti” cookies
from the lovely Sarah Carey on Martha’s website

2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup almond paste – I used homemade
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup jam (apricot, blackberry, or raspberry) – I used raspberry

½ cup (70g) confectioners' sugar
2-3 teaspoons whole milk

Cookies: whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a food processor, pulse almond paste and sugar until smooth. Add butter, eggs and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add flour mixture and pulse until dough forms (here I added 30g of flour because my dough was much too soft). Divide into 4 equal pieces, wrap in plastic, and chill 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll each piece into a 25cm (10in) log. Transfer logs to prepared sheets 10cm (4in) apart, then flatten to about 5cm (2in) across. Bake until just dry, 12-15 minutes.
Remove from oven; with the handle of a wooden spoon, make a trench down each log. Spread 2 tablespoons jam into each trench. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Whisk together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over logs. Let glaze harden, 20 minutes. With a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 2.5cm (1in) slices (cut the cookies using the knife like a guillotine - don't use a sewing motion).
Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.

Makes about 3 dozen – I cut my cookies slightly thinner and got 45

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