Saturday, June 25, 2016

Apple and rye cake and there is no accounting for taste

Apple rye cake / Bolo de maçã com farinha de centeio

To me part of growing up was understanding that there is no accounting for taste: I used to be too emphatic about the things I like – and sometimes still am – but I try not to be too pushy. Until a certain age I used to think that “OMG, the things I like are the best things” – not anymore. At least I try not to be like that (please note that I am not saying I am successful at that). :)

I think I told you ages ago how much I was enjoying Ra Ra Riot and I recently found out there was a new album by the band on Spotify (not sure when it was released, since lately I have been struggling with balancing work + personal projects, not much time left to constantly be updated on certain subjects). So I ended up googling a bit about it and read a text by a guy that hated the album and complained at how much the band sounded like a band from the 80s and also that they seemed possessed by Journey on Call Me Out – I smiled and thought: “well, that is one of the reasons I like the band and Call Me Out is my favorite song of the album”. There is no accounting for taste, indeed. :D

Maybe many of you won’t like the cake I bring today because it is dense, very moist and the rye flour gives it a nutty aftertaste – it you ask me that is exactly why I loved the cake so much. A matter of taste, or just what I felt like at the moment I ate it. If you want a light, fluffy cake, please check my recipe index for inspiration – but if you are in the mood for moist and dense, please go to the grocery store and buy a couple of apples. :)

Apple and rye cake
slightly adapted from Lucy Cufflin

1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter
¾ cup (150g) demerara sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk, room temperature
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely grated
1 large egg
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup (70g) all purpose flour
½ cup (70g) rye flour
½ cup (50g) almond meal
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 ½ tablespoons rolled oats, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 5-cup loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Put the butter, sugar and milk into a saucepan and warm until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and cool. In another bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, rye flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the ingredients from the saucepan, the grated apples, egg, vanilla and mix until smooth.

Transfer to the prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the batter with the oats.
Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 25 minutes, then carefully remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Carefully peel off the paper and serve.

Serves 8

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Linguine with chorizo tomato sauce

Linguine with chorizo tomato sauce / Linguine com molho de tomate e chorizo

Even though I haven’t had the time to post here as often as I would like to, I have been cooking and baking quite regularly – family and friends thank me for that. ;)

I have been, however, a bit tired (too much work, I guess): days ago I was watching a rerun of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (you know how much I love that show!) and it took me a good while to recognize Carrie Preston in the episode: I was sure I knew her from somewhere, but she was a blonde then and without Arlene’s bold red hair my brain was very slow in processing the info. :D

And speaking of bold red hue, may I introduce you to the dish I made last weekend that got my husband asking for seconds? The idea was to make bolognese pasta, but when we arrived at the shop the meat grinder was broken. I’d already decided to make a simple tomato sauce when I opened the fridge to get the onion and garlic and spotted a piece of chorizo right there, in front of me – I chopped it in small cubes and used it to replace the beef mince. A bit of sherry to make things more Spanish, a handful of marjoram – a herb that I love pairing with pork – and lunch was served.

Linguine with chorizo tomato sauce
own creation

1 ¼ cups (175g) diced chorizo
½ large onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sherry
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 400g (14oz) can peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
handful of fresh marjoram leaves
300g dried linguine or other long pasta shape you prefer
parmesan or pecorino, to serve

Heat a medium saucepan over medium/high heat and add the chorizo. Cook until it releases its oils and starts getting crispy. Add the onion and cook until soft, 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t catch in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the sherry and cook until reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and crush them with a potato masher. Fill the can by half with water and add to the sauce. Stir in the sugar, season with salt and pepper – gently, since the chorizo is already salty and spicy – and add the bay leaves and the marjoram. Cook over low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

In the meantime, cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes (check the package instructions). Drain the linguine and stir it into the sauce. Serve immediately sprinkled with freshly grated pecorino or parmesan, or for an even more Spanish touch, manchego chese.

Serves 3

Friday, June 10, 2016

Nutty butter cookies and a wandering mind

Nutty butter cookies / Cookies de paçoca

As I was driving home from work days ago, in the middle of a massive traffic jam, I started listening to The Wallflowers and that led to a trip down memory lane: in the far, far away year of 1996, I spent months listening to Bringing Down the Horse, a CD I bought because I fell in love with One Headlight the minute I heard the song for the first time.

So there I was, driving in the rain listening to 6th Avenue Heartache (my second favorite track of that album), and my mind wandered a bit and I thought about the music video clip, so beautiful, directed by David Fincher, one of my all-time favorite directors.

One band, one song, one video clip, one favorite director.

One good thing leading to another, like my purchase of a huge jar of peanut butter leading to a bunch of recipes made with it, like the super easy fudge I posted the other day and these cookies. These cookies are delicious – the oats are toasted in butter before being added to the cookie dough and that, combined with the demerara sugar that I decided to use instead of the granulated one, gives the cookies the most delicious caramel flavor (and I added a bit of whole wheat flour to help with the nuttiness of the whole thing).

Nutty butter cookies
slightly adapted from the always fabulous Martha

¾ cup (170g/1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened – divided use
1 cup (90g) rolled oats
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/3 cup (67g) demerara sugar
½ cup (88g) light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
½ cup peanut butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (70g) whole roasted salted peanuts

Melt ¼ cup (½ stick/56g) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oats, and cook, stirring, until toasted, 5-7 minutes. Spread oat mixture on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Let cool completely. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together remaining ½ cup (113g/1 stick) butter and the sugars until pale and creamy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add nut butter and vanilla, then beat on medium speed until well combined.
Add oat mixture and peanuts, and mix on low speed until combined. Add flour mixture, and mix just until combined.

Drop 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie onto the prepared pans, 5cm (2in) apart. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown around the edges. Cool completely in the pans
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 28

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Oh-so-easy peanut butter fudge

Oh so easy peanut butter fudge / Fudge de amendoim facílimo

Like many of you reading me right now (I am sure), I am the kind of person who has fun at the grocery store and supermarkets – I know that for many people going to such places is one very cruel way of torture, but I absolutely love it. And then there are the supermarkets where you find huge packages of products – a whole new level of fun! My heart is filled with joy when I think that in my cupboard right now there is a 5kg-package of sugar just waiting to become cake/bread/dessert on the weekend. :)

I do, also, buy things that I use much less than I use sugar, like peanut butter, for example, but how could I resist buying an 800g-jar of pb for the same price I’d seen a half this size jar? Naturally I brought it home and now I have been making some (or should I say many?) delicious recipes with it, like this fugde: it is really, really easy and can be put together in a matter of moments. You just need some patience to let it set before cutting it into small squares. I thought I would have to send these to friends in order not to eat them all myself, but my husband tried one and it was impossible to stop him from eating the whole thing himself – the same husband that doesn’t like sweets. :D

Oh-so-easy peanut butter fudge
slightly adapted from Lucy Cufflin

¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) demerara sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
generous 1/3 cup (100g) smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, sifted – you might not use all of it

Line a 20x10cm (8x4in) loaf pan with baking paper.
Put the butter, sugar and milk in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir very gently until the all the sugar has dissolved.
Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and, without stirring, cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla extract and salt. When well mixed, gradually add the icing sugar, beating with a wooden spoon – the mixture should be smooth and creamy, not dry (if too dry, add a few drops of water and stir vigorously).
Spoon the fudge into the prepared pan, press it down using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon and level the surface. Leave to cool, uncovered, for 4-5 hours or overnight.
Lift out the fudge in its paper and cut into neat, even squares – it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Makes 36

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cream cheese and blueberry cake

Cream cheese and blueberry cake / Bolo de cream cheese e mirtilo

I have been busy at the kitchen again – thank heavens! – but I haven’t found the time to sit down and write posts – so, my apologies for those of you who have stopped by lately only to stare at the red wine cake for ages. :S

And a special hug to Ellen, a lovely and dear reader who makes the recipes and always sends me the sweetest and warmest comments. <3


A couple of weeks ago I was going through beautiful recipes online and found Emiko’s mascarpone and blackberry cake – it looked so beautiful! I felt like grabbing a slice from the screen, but since that is (still) not possible I went to the kitchen and made my version of her cake, changing a few things: there was a tub of cream cheese in my fridge begging to be used and a bag of blueberries in the freezer. The result was wonderful and pleased everyone who had a chance of snacking on it.

Cream cheese and blueberry cake
slightly adapted from Emiko Davies’ gorgeous blog

Blueberry compote:
1 cup (140g) blueberries – I used frozen, unthawed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cake:
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
180g cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons Cointreau (optional)

Start by making the compote: place the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan and warm until the berries soften and the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes – stir occasionally. Squash the berries with the back of a spoon as you stir. Cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 5 ½ cup-capacity loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add the butter and cream cheese and cream until light and fluffy – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and the Cointreau (if using). On low speed, add the flour mixture mixing only until incorporated – do not overmix.

Pour the cake into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Top with the blueberries, keeping most of the juice (so the cake don’t get soggy). Swirl the berries through the cake with a butter knife. Smooth out the top without mixing too much.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Serves 8

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