Thursday, December 22, 2016

Eggnog rice pudding with roasted cherries and the reason why I love Christmas so much

Eggnog rice pudding with roasted cherries / Arroz doce de eggnog com cerejas assadas

I think it is fair to say that the main reason why I love Christmas so much is because it reminds me of my mom: she loved it and I can’t forget all the preparation around the house while the holiday songs were playing on the record player. Because of that, I decided to finish my Christmas series this year with a recipe that I make every time I miss her more than my heart can bear: rice pudding.

Unfortunately this is not her recipe – once my father got married again his wife made sure everything related to my mother got destroyed and tossed away, and the recipe notebooks were then gone forever – but it doesn’t matter: it reminds me a lot of rainy afternoons with piping hot rice pudding and cartoons on TV.

This time I served it cold because of the delicious roasted cherries I paired with it, and I added nutmeg and brandy to evoke the flavors of eggnog – it was delicious and it filled my heart with joy.

I wish you all a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year – thank you for keeping me company all this time! xx

Eggnog rice pudding with roasted cherries
own creation

Roasted cherries:
150g fresh cherries
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
juice of ½ large orange, freshly squeezed
1 small cinnamon stick

Rice pudding:
½ cup (110g) long grain rice
3 cups (720ml) whole milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start with the cherries: preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Cut cherries in half and remove the pits. Place them in a 4-cup shallow heatproof dish, stir in the sugar, orange juice and cinnamon stick, then roast for 20 minutes or until fruit is bubbly. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.

While the cherries are roasting, make the rice: place the rice in a colander and wash it under the tap with cold water, rubbing the grains with your fingers until water runs clear. Set aside to drain for 10 minutes.
Place the rice, milk, sweetened condensed milk and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring, until mixture starts to boil. Turn down the heat, add the nutmeg, brandy and vanilla and cook, stirring so mixture doesn’t catch in the bottom of the saucepan, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Serve the rice pudding with the cherries on the side.

Serves 4

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rum nutmeg snowballs and handling cookie dough on a hot day

Rum nutmeg snowballs / Bolinhas de noz-moscada e rum

Weeks ago, while I was putting together the list of recipes I wanted to bake to give as gifts to my friends I saw these cookies on one of Martha’s digital magazine issues (the subscription that was a real bargain). So I decided to make that money count and use the recipe – the cookies looked adorable after all, and the flavor combo sounded delicious.

However, I was baking the cookies on a very hot day, so it was a nightmare trying to shape the dough into crescents – by the time I had finished shaping two cookies the whole dough was going soft. So I put it back in the fridge for a while and decided to turn the crescents into balls – snowballs, for that matter. In the end it was a good decision: cookies looked pretty and tasted great. Win/win situation. :)

Rum nutmeg snowballs
slightly adapted from Queen Martha

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg – do not pack it in the spoon when measuring it
¼ teaspoon table salt
¾ cup (170g/1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (70g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons white rum (Martha uses brandy)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For rolling the cookies:
½ cup (70g) confectioners' sugar, sifted

Whisk together flour, nutmeg, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter with confectioners' sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rum and vanilla; beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, beating until just combined. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Working with one disk at a time (keeping the other refrigerated), scoop 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie and roll into a ball. Arrange 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets.
Bake until golden on the bottom, 16-18 minutes. Transfer cookies on sheets to wire racks; let cool 5 minutes. Working in batches, carefully toss warm cookies in confectioners' sugar, then transfer to racks and let cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. Dust with more confectioners' sugar before serving.

Makes about 42

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Panettone muffins - for the days with no time (or will) to work with yeast

Panettone muffins / Muffins de panetone

Last weekend my oven worked like crazy: I baked different types of cookies to give as gifts to people I adore (one of them being pfeffernüsse, my favorite Christmas cookies) and I also baked these delicious, perfumed and oh, so tender panettone muffins – they are the perfect solution to those days when I crave panettone but don’t have the time (or sometimes the will, let’s be honest here) to work with yeast.

I used the same flavorings I had used for the actual panettone – orange and lemon zest, vanilla, Cointreau and Amaretto – and also the same dried fruit combo, with the addition of apricots. While I baked the muffins, my husband came to the kitchen to ask what I was making because of how wonderful it smelled. The muffins turned out insanely tender and really tasty, and two days later they were still great – just make sure you keep them tightly sealed in an airtight container at room temperature. They are also delicious toasted with a little butter on top – yum!

Panettone muffins
slightly adapted from King Arthur's little beauties

1 large orange
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/3 finely diced dried apricots
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice
2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Amaretto
2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, room temperature
2 tablesoons finely chopped crystallized orange peel
1 ½ tablespoons demerara sugar, for sprinkling over the muffins

Finely zest the orange and place the zest in a large bowl (you will use an electric mixer to make these muffins). Set aside.

Place the dried fruit and the orange juice in a small saucepan and heat over high heat until the juice starts boiling – remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
To the large bowl with the orange zest, add the butter, oil, granulated sugar and lemon zest, then cream until smooth and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Beat in the vanilla, Cointreau and Amaretto.
With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions – start and end with the dry ingredients. Stir in the crystallized orange peel and the dried fruit with any remaining orange juice.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cases and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the muffins from the pan and transfer them to the rack. Cool completely.

Makes 12

Monday, December 12, 2016


Panetone / Panettone

Even though I have been posting Christmas recipes at this time of the year for a long long time, I have not baked panettone – or chocottone, for that matter – in ages. We sometimes get panettones as gifts, and my husband sometimes buys some at this time of the year.

This year, however, Joao told me he wanted homemade panettone and since I was on a Christmas state of mind I decided to make it. It was a rainy Saturday, I did not want to go anywhere, so I made the panettone and watched Carol in between (by the way, I am still trying to understand all the fuss over the awards season).

This is an adaptation of Paul Hollywood’s panettone and it turned out really delicious – the tender brioche dough perfumed with citrus and dotted with chewy and sweet raisins and dried cranberries. But unlike Paul’s brioche, that still tastes great a day after it is made, the panettone got a little tough on the following morning – it was still delicious, but texture-wise it was better freshly baked. If your family is big, I am sure the panettone will be gone in no time, but if there are not many of you around to eat it within a day no worries: it makes a killer French toast. ;)

slightly adapted from Paul Hollywood

14g dried yeast
140ml whole milk, lukewarm
75g granulated sugar
500g all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Amaretto
200g unsalted butter, softened
120g dried cranberries
120g golden raisins
120g dark raisins
50g crystallized orange peel, finely chopped

Egg wash:
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork

In the bowl of an eletric mixer, place yeast, milk and a pinch of the sugar and mix with a fork. Set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the flour, salt, remaining sugar, eggs, orange and lemon zest, vanilla, Cointreau and Amaretto, then mix on slow using the dough hook for two minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for a further 6-8 minutes until you have a soft dough.

Add the softened butter and mix for another 5-8 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Dough will be very soft. Mix in the dried fruit and crystallized orange peel. Transfer the dough to a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight until the dough has firmed up enough for you to able to shape it.

Prepare a 18cm/7in panettone pan by brushing the inside generously with melted butter*.
Remove the panettone dough from the fridge, knock back the dough, shape into a ball and place into the pan. Leave to prove at room temperature for a further 2-3 hours, until the dough just starts to dome over the top of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Brush the top of the panettone with egg wash and bake for about 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F and bake for a further 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Check the panettone periodically in case of oven hot spots. Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough could brown too much before it is actually fully baked – if panettone starts to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
Remove the panettone from the pan immediately and allow to cool over a wire rack.

* I used a 20cm (8in) round cake pan to bake my panettone – I made a collar with a double sheet of baking paper folded in half (that way getting 4 layers of paper) and buttered it all with melted butter (there is a photo of the prepared pan on my Instagram).

Serves 8-10

Friday, December 9, 2016

Apple gingerbread crumble and weekends

Apple gingerbread crumble / Crumble de maçã e gingerbread

Today is Friday (thank you, Universe!), or as I call it the Universal day of people asking each other what they will do on the weekend. :D

I am a very talkative person and luckily I have a good relationship with most people at the office. On Fridays some of them usually stop by my desk and ask me what my big plans for the weekend are, and it is funny to watch the look on their faces when I tell them that I intend to bake and watch Netflix. :D

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons one of the things I like doing the most is making a crumble with whatever fruit I have in the fridge/freezer and then seat comfortably on my couch to watch a movie or a TV show – it relaxes me and makes me happy. I did exactly that last weekend with a handful of apples and since I have been on a Christmas vibe lately I added a few spices to the crumble topping – it turned out delicious, therefore I share it with you now.

Apple gingerbread crumble
own creation

5 Granny Smith apples
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
5 tablespoons demerara sugar
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
70g unsalted butter, cold and diced
6 tablespoons rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Peel, core and dice the apples, then place them into a shallow 4-cup heatproof baking dish (if you prefer, make individual crumbles dividing the apples among four 1-cup heatproof ramekins).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices and salt. Add the butter and rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a fork, stir in the oats. Sprinkle over the apples and bake for about 25 minutes or until topping is golden and crispy.
Serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4

Monday, December 5, 2016

Spiced cake bars (gewürzschnitten) - flavors of my childhood on a recipe I had never seen before

Spiced cake bars (gewürzschnitten) / Bolo de especiarias e chocolate (gewürzschnitten)

In my searches for Christmas themed recipes every year I have learned about new types of baked goods, have seen beautiful photos and known gorgeous food blogs and websites. Some of the recipes were completely new to me, some were made of flavors I recognize from my childhood, from the sweets my German grandmother used to make.

These delicious bars, super easy to make, were new to as I did not know their name – gewürzschnitten; however, the taste was no stranger to me: as I bit into a square and tasted the mix of spices, chocolate and lemon from the glaze, my taste buds took a trip down memory lane. I don’t really remember what I ate as a kid that reminded me so much of these bars, but what started as inspiration found on this beautiful blog ended up as wonderful discovery – grandma Frida is no longer around for me to ask her this, but I can start my own tradition and bake gewürzschnitten every December from now on. <3

Spiced cake bars (gewürzschnitten)
slightly adapted from this beautiful blog

1 ¼ cups (175g) all purpose flour
¾ cup (75g) ground almonds
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
pinch of salt
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar, divided use
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Amaretto (optional)
100ml whole milk, room temperature

¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square baking pan, line it with baking paper leaving an overhang on two opposite sides, then butter the paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, cocoa, baking powder and spices. Set aside.
In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add half of the granulated sugar (75g), beating until mixture gets thick, silky and shiny. Set aside.
In another large bowl, using again the electric mixer, beat the yolks, butter and remaining sugar until light and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and the Amaretto. Add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold in the egg whites. Spread onto the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until risen and cooked through when tested with a skewer. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.

Glaze: mix the icing sugar and lemon juice until you get a thin glaze. Spread over cooked cake, set aside until set and then cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Winter snowball cookies to kick off this year's Christmas series

Winter snowball cookies / Bolinhas de neve de chocolate e amêndoa

My favorite time of the year has arrived – it is December! \0/

Last week I decorated my Christmas tree and scattered Christmas decorations around the house – that made me feel absolutely happy. I see golden candles and snowmen when I go to the kitchen for a glass of water and the big Santa Claus hanging on my door salutes me every morning before I go to work: it definitely feels like Christmas already. <3

A couple of days ago my husband and I were at the mall and Christmas songs were being played there – it seemed to be the very same songs my mother used to play at this time of the year when I was a little girl. I had tears in my eyes remembering her, but some of those tears were tears of joy because of how much I love the holiday season.

My Christmas series starts today with these delicious and light in texture snowball cookies – they are really easy to make and placed in a plastic bag tied with a beautiful ribbon can become a very nice gift.

Winter snowball cookies
slightly adapted from The Italian Baker

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
¾ cup (75g) almond meal
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Amaretto

To dust the cookies:
1 cup (140g) icing sugar, sifted

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

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, almond meal, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and icing sugar (the 105g) until light and creamy – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Mix in the vanilla and the Amaretto. On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Roll 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie into a ball and place 2.5cm (1in) apart onto the prepared sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the bottom edges are golden.
Remove from the oven, cool on the sheets over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the cookies from the paper and roll them into the icing sugar, coating them generously. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48

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