Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spiced almonds

Spiced almonds / Amêndoas apimentadas

The year is almost over (and I am hoping that 2016 is better than 2015, please Universe, make it happen!) so instead of writing a very long post complaining about the weather or anything else I will give you a recipe that is very quick to make, tastes great with drinks and will be a nice addition to your New Year’s Eve party – or any other party, actually. :)
I used almonds because it was what I had in my freezer, but any other nut would go well here, or even a mix of nuts.

Happy 2016!

Spiced almonds
from the always great Delicious UK

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt, to taste
200g almonds, or the nuts of your preference

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, sauces, spices and salt. Add the nuts and turn to coat evenly. Spread mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then stir. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir again then tip onto kitchen paper to remove excess grease. Cool, then serve.

The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Serves 4

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cheese and poppy seed bread sticks

Cheese and poppy seed bread sticks / Grissini de queijo e sementes de papoula

It has been incredibly hot here in Sao Paulo lately, so turning on the oven is a matter of courage – as much as I love baking, and I do, you know, if possible I stay away from the kitchen while the oven does all the work. And sometimes I also try to make things to nibble with a cold beer or a glass of Prosecco instead of actually cooking – I feel like a complete loser in the summer, for the heat takes away my energy and my will of doing anything whatsoever.

These bread sticks are easy to make, last a good while if kept in an airtight container and go really well with drinks, especially with dips or rolled up with slices of prosciutto – I will make them again for New Year’s Eve, but with a different type of cheese to try new flavors (I’m thinking something sharp like feta or pecorino).

Cheese and poppy seed bread sticks
slightly adapted from Delicious Australia

250g all purpose plain flour
1 teaspoon dried instant yeast
60g strong cheddar, finely grated
2/3 cup (160ml) lukewarm water
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons poppy seeds
25g unsalted butter, melted

Combine flour, yeast and cheese in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, then, with the motor running at low speed, gradually add the water until the dough comes together. Add the salt and 2 teaspoons of the poppy seeds, then mix for a further 2-3 minutes until well combined. Knead for 2-3 minutes – either with the machine using a dough hook or by hand – until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm spot for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
Knock back dough on a lightly floured surface, then divide the dough into roughly equal 24 portions. Using your hands, roll each portion into a 1cm-thin straw approximately 30cm long. Transfer to a prepared baking tray, then repeat with remaining dough. Brush the straws with the melted butter and scatter with the remaining 1 teaspoon poppy seeds. Bake the straws, switching the position of the trays halfway through cooking so they’re evenly golden, for 30 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then serve.

The bread sticks can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 24

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Eggnog marshmallows

Eggnog marshmallows / Marshmallows de eggnog

This year’s Christmas series was not as complete as I would have liked it to be, but it was a lot of fun making it just as the previous years: my house smelling of spices, delicious baked goods cooling down over the counter… It is, indeed, my favorite time of the year, and it would not have felt complete without cookies and gingerbread cake.

I hadn’t made marshmallows in a long time, so when I saw this eggnog version I knew they would be a great addition to my sweet celebration – they turned out great, with a wonderful texture. The recipe is great and you can customize it with other flavors, or maybe making them plain vanilla for the little ones to enjoy as well.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Thank you for keeping me company all this year, especially during those moments I wasn’t around here much – I deeply appreciate it. xx

Eggnog marshmallows
slightly adapted from this beautiful blog

10 leaves unflavored gelatin, each cut in 4 pieces
1 cup cold water, divided use
336g (12oz) granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch of table salt
½ cup (60g) confectioners' sugar
½ cup (60g) cornstarch
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ tablespoon rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
vegetable oil, for brushing the pan

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with ½ cup (120ml) of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining ½ cup (120ml) water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 115°C (240°F), approximately 7-8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat – while the mixture cookies, prep the pan: in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and corn starch. Brush a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan with vegetable oil and sprinkle with some of the corn starch mixture, tapping out the excess and saving the remaining mixture for the finishing steps of the recipe.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, add in nutmeg and increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, 12-15 minutes. Beat in the rum and vanilla.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan spreading evenly. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using sharp knife brushed with vegetable oil. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining corn starch mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Makes 48

Monday, December 21, 2015

Chocolate gingerbread bites

Chocolate gingerbread bites / Quadradinhos de chocolate e gingerbread

The Internet can be a great source of inspiration, I am sure you all agree with me – not only for food, obviously, but let’s focus on that now: there are so many great recipes out there it is hard to choose which one to make, but depending on what we see it gets easier to take our pick.

I saw these bars on Rebecca’s blog and immediately felt like baking them: chocolate, spices, and molasses beautifully combined. Very Christmassy, exactly what I wanted at the moment. When I wrote to her about it, she told me she’d gotten the recipe on another blog, and that person had gotten the recipe from Martha. I then remembered I’d seen the recipe on Martha’s website more than once and thought “well, Martha did not inspire me to make these, Rebecca did”. So these delicious bars, a sort of cake perfumed with spices and moist with the addition of sour cream, have become part of my repertoire of great recipes thanks to a search online – a beautiful blog inspired me to make them, and I hope my blog can inspire some of you to make them, too.

Chocolate gingerbread bites
from Rebecca's blog

¼ cup (56g/½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup (22g) unsweetened cocoa powder + about ½ tablespoon for dusting the pan
¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (88g) light brown sugar (packed)
¼ cup (60ml) unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
¼ cup (60ml) sour cream*
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (85g) dark chocolate chips
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square pan, line it with foil and butter it as well. Dust it all with cocoa and tap out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, spices, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, butter, egg, molasses, sour cream and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.
Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.

* 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)

Makes 16

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eggnog biscotti

Eggnog biscotti / Biscotti de eggnog

It might have taken me a while to get started with the Christmas series, but once I did I was perfuming my house with spices for hours on end – my husband took a look at the kitchen counter and said: “wow, you are really inspired!” :)

These biscotti are super simple to make and might even receive other flavors if you are not that crazy for nutmeg, maybe some citrus zest? I guess they would be amazing with orange and Cointreau, for instance. The original recipe called for eggnog in the glaze, so I adapted it a little to avoid using raw eggs in the biscotti.

Eggnog biscotti
slightly adapted from here

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup (133g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (120g) icing sugar
generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
about 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.

Biscotti: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in vanilla, rum and nutmeg. Beat in eggs one at a time. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients and mix just until a dough forms (mine was too soft to shape, I added 1 tablespoon of flour).
Divide dough in half and shape each half in a log about 15x5cm (6x2in). Place the logs about 7.5cm (3in) apart onto prepared sheets and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes – leave the oven on. Line another large baking sheet with baking paper.
Slice biscotti into little less than 2cm (¾ in) slices. Place slices onto prepared sheet and bake fo 10 minutes. Turn all slices carefully, and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet over a wire rack.

Glaze: whisk butter, sugar and nutmeg until mixture starts to get creamy. Add milk gradually, whisking until drizzable consistency. Drizzle biscotti with glaze and set aside until glaze is dry, about 20 minutes.
Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days – without the glaze they last even longer.

Makes about 25

Friday, December 18, 2015

Almond gingerbread puffs

Almond gingerbread puffs / Bolinhas de amêndoa e gingerbread

I work for a Swiss company, and some of my coworkers have discovered how much I love sweets – every now and then I get Lindt chocolates, which make my days a lot sweeter. :)

I have to say that I love getting food as gifts – I believe that food = love, and I love giving food as gifts, too, especially at this time of the year. Cookies are easy to make and to package, most people like them therefore they are the perfect present. These almond puffs taste delicious and they get more intense as days go by, especially if kept in an airtight container, but they might not last that long. :)

Almond gingerbread puffs
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Delicious magazine

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (140g) almond meal
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
generous pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Amaretto (optional)
about 3 tablespoons icing sugar, for dusting the cookies

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, flour, spices and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and honey until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and the Amaretto. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until a dough forms – it mixture is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of water and mix again.

Using leveled 2 tablespoons of dough per cookies, roll balls and place them onto prepared baking sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Sift icing sugar over the cookies and return them to the oven for 2 more minutes. Cool on sheets over a wire rack.

The cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 30

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gingerbread and peanut caramel bars

Gingerbread and peanut caramel bars / Barrinhas de gingerbread, caramelo e amendoim

Having rediscovered the pleasure I used to feel in the kitchen I keep having ideas and imagining things to cook and bake – I can’t wait for the weekends, not only to get some rest but also to prepare something tasty. I made a broccolini pesto the other day that turned out wonderful – even my not-so-into-pesto husband liked it a lot. But right now we are in Christmas mode around here, therefore I bring you these bars: I saw them on the latest issue of Donna Hay magazine and since I am a sucker for gingerbread, caramel and peanuts I had to make them.

They might seem a bit time-consuming, but it is just a matter of respecting the fridge time for each layer – there is also a serious risk of eating the entire saucepan of caramel before pouring it over the gingerbread base, but that is a completely different matter. ;)

Gingerbread and peanut caramel bars
from the always delicious Donna Hay Magazine

125g unsalted butter, room temperature
90g light brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup – I used corn syrup
1/3 cup molasses
375g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

175g unsalted butter, softened
220g light brown sugar
½ cup golden syrup
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
200g unsalted toasted peanuts

Lightly butter a 20x30cm baking pan (use a deep pan, or make only 3/4 of the caramel recipe), line it with foil leaving an overhand on two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.
Place butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup, molasses, flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and vanilla and beat just until a dough starts to form. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, prick it all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the gingerbread for about 15 minutes or until golden – remove from the oven but keep it on.

Make the caramel: place butter, sugar and golden syrup in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Bring to the boil then cook for 8-10 minutes or until mixture reaches 140°C (285°F) on a sugar thermometer. Carefully add cream – mixture will spit furiously – and stir until dissolved, then cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the peanuts, remove from the heat and pour over the gingerbread base. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until caramel is slightly set around the edges (caramel will set as it cools). Cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars to serve. Keep the bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 24

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gingerbread pepper cookies

Gingerbread pepper cookies / Cookies de gingerbread com pimenta do reino

So you know that I decided to bake for the Christmas series, got carried away and made cookies beside this cake – I have to tell you, without false modesty, that the cookies turned out wonderful! Soft, packed with oats and perfumed with spices, they were a hit with my family and also my coworkers.

I used to take my baked goods to work all the time in the past, but this was the first time I baked for my new coworkers and I did not know if the girls would like the cookies – they loved them and now I want to bake more delicious things for them. <3

Gingerbread pepper cookies
slightly adapted from the wonderful and beautiful Home Baked: More Than 150 Recipes for Sweet and Savory Goodies

200g all purpose flour
150g rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cointreau (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, pepper and spices. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and Cointreau. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until combined (do not overmix).

Using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop drop portions of dough per cookie onto prepared sheets, spacing 5cm (2in) apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges. Cool on sheet over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then slide the paper onto the rack and cool completely.

Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.

Makes about 28

Monday, December 7, 2015

Gingerbread honey cake because Christmas is coming

Gingerbread honey cake / Bolo de gingerbread e mel

I was sitting home the other day, thinking about Christmas and how it is my favorite time of the year. I thought about my Christmas tree, and how I would be decorating it in a few days and felt miserable because this year I would not be able to prepare the Christmas recipes for the blog like I’d done in previous years.

I decided that there would be at least one recipe for the Christmas series this year, went to the kitchen and baked this cake – actually, I baked some cookies, too. ;)

This gingerbread cake is super tender, smells and tastes delicious and will perfume your entire home while in the oven and even after cooled down. It is, in fact, a loaf cake, but the one I used was a bit smaller and I ended up with a loaf + a small round cake (I used a 1-cup capacity pan). Since the mini cake looked so adorable that was the one I used for the photo – I hope the cake’s cuteness entices you to bake it, too, and you can thank me later. ;)

Gingerbread honey cake
slightly adapted from the beautiful Home Baked: More Than 150 Recipes for Sweet and Savory Goodies

85g crystallized ginger
50g crystallized orange peel
220g (1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour
½ cup (50g) almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
100g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 ¼ cups (300ml) whole milk, room temperature
100g light brown sugar
150ml honey
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Cointreau (optional)
¼ teaspoon Amaretto (optional)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 6-cup capacity loaf pan, line it with baking paper leaving an overhang in two opposite sides and butter it as well.

Chop the crystallized ginger and crystallized peel, place in a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the flour. Set aside.
Combine remaining flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and on low speed mix the ingredients together until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in crystallized ginger and orange peel. In the meantime, heat together over low heat milk, brown sugar and honey until honey and sugar are dissolved (mixture should not get too hot, otherwise it might cook the eggs). Pour over the flour mixture and stir until just combined – do not overmix. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, Cointreau and Amaretto.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold and cool completely over the rack before peeling off the paper.
Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Serves 8-10

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