Monday, January 30, 2017

Really simple brownies - easy, delicious recipe that yields a lot

Really simple brownies / Brownies super simples

I had been meaning to make brownies for weeks, but I wanted to try a new recipe instead of going to my usual suspects, Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownies. As I flipped through books and magazine pages and browsed around the Internet I found beautiful looking brownies – and you know I am a sucker for beautiful food photos – but as I started reading the recipes I did not feel like making them: I was not in the mood of using 350g of chocolate and 500g of sugar to make a 20cm square brownie pan.

I gave up on the brownies and baked a lemon cake instead. :)

But the brownies got stuck in the back of my brain and I went back to my search, and ended up finding these: easy to make, calling for just a bit of chocolate, yielding a big 20x30cm full of brownies with that crackly, shiny top. I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit, since I did not have unsweetened chocolate home (I used one with 53% cocoa solids), and the brownies turned out fabulous. I have packaged some for my friends at work and I hope they like them as much as I did.

Really simple brownies / Brownies super simples

Really simple brownies
slightly adapted from here

150g dark chocolate, finely chopped or in chips – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped
1 ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (10g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) metal baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.

In a large heatproof bowl place chocolate and butter. Melt them over a saucepan of barely simmering water – do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Once the ingredients are melted, remove from the heat and cool. Whisk in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vanilla.
Stir in the flour, cocoa and salt until a smooth batter forms. Spread onto prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 24

Monday, January 16, 2017

Honey bee cake - four years later

Honey bee cake / Bolo de mel com amêndoas

I have told you already how influenced by beautiful photos I am – if I see a stunning photo of a cake or a pasta dish I instantly add it to my mental to do list and cannot wait to make it. Sometimes that happens within the following weekends, sometimes it takes months, or even years – too many recipes, so little time. :)

This cake, from this gorgeous cookbook, have been on my mind for ages – the photo got stuck in my head when I purchased the book, a long time ago (2012, to be more precise). There were times I felt like baking it but had no honey in the pantry, other times I had no almonds at hand. So here we are, more than four years later, with a cake I could not wait to share with you: tender, perfumed, sweet, delicious – I hope you don’t wait as long as I did to make it.

Honey bee cake
slightly adapted from this beautiful cookbook

2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (100g) honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup (180ml) buttermilk, room temperature*

½ cup (150g) honey
3 tablespoons (41g) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
½ cup (56g) sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom or use a springform cake. Line the bottom with a disc of baking paper and butter the paper as well.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, honey and vanilla on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Stop and scrape the bowl down often during the whole process. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yolk.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl after each addition and do not overmix.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Rap the pan firmly on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until cake is golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean – it is OK if the surface cracks a little while baking.

When the cake is almost ready, make the glaze: place honey and butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until combined, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer. Turn off the heat, whisk in the vanilla and the salt and set aside – it has to be still warm when you pour it over the cake.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and poke holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour half of the glaze over the cake, evenly sprinkle the almonds over the cake, then pour the rest of the glaze over the almonds. Place the pan back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully unmold the cake, peel off the paper and transfer to a serving plate.

Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
*homemade buttermilk: to make 1 cup buttermilk place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 240ml-capacity measuring cup and complete with whole milk (room temperature). Wait 10 minutes for it to thicken, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Serves 8-10

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Orange berry financiers to start 2017

Orange berry financiers / Financiers de laranja e frutas vermelhas

Happy New Year, everyone!

I wish each and every one of you all the best in 2017 – lots of love, joy and happiness.

I am back at work, after having a week off to enjoy Christmas and spend time with my family. It was a calm week, filled with good food, TV shows and movies, hot days – which are a nightmare for me, but hey, it is summer, after all – and loads of rest, including strategic naps after lunch. ;)

I did not bake much, however: I felt paralyzed with heat and was not brave enough to turn on the oven. I made a chocolate cake for my nephew – he asked for one after watching an episode of Peppa Pig – and it was pretty much it. But I bring you a recipe I made many weeks ago and that tasted delicious: these financiers made with orange and berries. The berries become little pools of jelly when baked and their flavor pairs beautifully with the orange.

These financiers are everything I want 2017 to be: beautiful, delicate, perfumed and delicious: fingers crossed that I get my wish. ;)

Orange berry financiers
adapted from the always delicious Simply Bill

¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
¾ cup (75g) almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1/3 cup (46g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
5 egg whites
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (35g) blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
¼ cup (30g) raspberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
icing sugar, extra, for dusting

In a large bowl, place the orange zest and the sugar and rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the almond meal, flour and salt. Stir in the egg whites, butter, and vanilla until batter is smooth. Fold in the berries – if you prefer, leave some to be placed on top of the financiers before baking them. Cover batter 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 – a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans over a wire rack for 2 minutes. Carefully unmold onto the rack and to cool completely. 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. If days are too hot, keep refrigerated to avoid the berries going moldy.

Makes 10

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