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

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
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 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, room temperature
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

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