Sunday, September 30, 2012

Toffee-glazed white chocolate mud cakes

Toffee-glazed white chocolate mud cakes / Bolinhos de chocolate branco com calda de caramelo

My vacation is over and tomorrow morning I'm back at work; I still have things to organize at home, therefore a quick post with an equally quick recipe (despite the steps), so delicious that will certainly put a smile on my face, even now that I no longer remember what it feels like waking up early. :D

Toffee-glazed white chocolate mud cakes
from the always delicious and oh, so beautiful Donna Hay Magazine

200g unsalted butter, chopped
200g white chocolate, chopped
1 cup (175g) brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (58g) almond meal

Toffee glaze:
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120ml) water
2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter
½ cup (120ml) heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter six 1 ¼ cup capacity (300ml) mini cake or muffin pans.
Place the butter, white chocolate, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla in a heavy saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour and almond meal and mix to combine. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully turn onto a wire rack. Cool completely, then transfer to the serving plates.
Make the glaze: place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir just until sugar is dissolved, turn heat to high then cook, without stirring, until golden and caramel forms (8 minutes or so). Remove from the heat and immediately add the butter and cream – carefully, mixture may spit – and stir until smooth. Spoon over the cakes and allow to set before serving. Transfer any remaining glaze to a small bowl to serve with the cakes (if glazes hardens, place it over a bowl of very hot water and stir until smooth).

Makes 6 – I made ¾ of the cake recipe above using ¾ cup (180ml) capacity pans and got 8 cakes; I halved the toffee glaze recipe and it was more than enough to glaze all the cakes

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple kuchen

Apple kuchen / Kuchen de maçã

The idea was to make Nigella’s apple and blackberry kuchen, but my stash of frozen blackberries was long gone (and to be honest I don’t even remember what I used the berries for). Therefore I made an apple and only apple kuchen, with a sprinkling of slivered almonds, which turned out delicious, moist and tender, adjectives very commonly associated to Ms. Lawson’s recipes; I hope the mail is nice to me and delivers her new cookbook as quick as possible. :D

Apple kuchen
from a cookbook I love and should use more often

2 ¼ to 3 cups (315g to 420g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated of ½ lemon
good grating fresh nutmeg
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, lukewarm
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened

2 Granny Smith apples
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cream
grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/3 cup (46g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon hot water

Lightly butter a 20x30cm (12x8in) baking sheet. Set aside.
Put 2 ¼ cups (315g) flour into a bowl with the salt, sugar and yeast and mix together. Beat the eggs and add them, with the vanilla, zest and nutmeg to the lukewarm milk. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a sticky medium-soft dough, being prepared to add more flour if necessary. Work in the butter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes or half the time by machine. The dough should be smoother and springier when done. Put into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to double somewhere warm for 1 hour-1 hour30min. When ready, punch down and stretch out to fit the prepared sheet. Leave to prove for 15-20 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Peel, core and chop the apples finely. Beat the egg, cream and nutmeg together and brush over the proved dough, then spread the apples over the top. Mix the sugars and allspice then sprinkle over the fruit. Top with the flaked almonds and bake for 15 minutes; reduce the oven to 180°C/350°F and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden and cooked within.
Make a runny paste with the topping ingredients and drizzle over the kuchen after you remove it from the oven.

Serves 8

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yogurt cake with marmalade glaze and a solved dilemma

French yogurt cake with marmalade glaze / Bolo de iogurte com calda de geléia de laranja

The whole vacation song dilemma got solved after all: in the end, throughout my entire trip, Phoenix’s “1901” got stuck in my head in such a deep way that it ended up putting the other two songs aside up to this moment. Go figure. :D

Dorie’s delicious yogurt cake with marmalade glaze got stuck in my head for ages, but the “Tuesdays with Dorie” event made me completely ignore the cookbook for months; I don’t even know if it still goes on, but I used to find it oh, so annoying – nothing personal, but it drove me crazy to read the same recipe over and over in so many different blogs. :/
The jar of orange marmalade I had home was the perfect excuse for this recipe, and the cake turned out so good I bought another jar of marmalade just to make it again. :D

Yogurt cake with marmalade glaze
from the always great and now interesting to me again Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
½ cup (50g) almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (120ml) vegetable oil

½ cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon water

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 21x11xcm (8½x4½in) metal loaf pan and place it onto a baking sheet.
Whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl.
Combine the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and using your fingertips rub the sugar into the zest until fragrant. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk vigorously until smooth. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the oil. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
Bake until cake is golden brown and begins to pull away from sides of pan and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Carefully cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto rack. Turn cake upright on rack and cool completely.
Glaze: stir marmalade and water in small saucepan over medium heat until marmalade melts. Brush hot mixture over top of cake. Let glaze cool and set before serving.

Serves 8

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pasta alla Norma and back from vacation

Pasta alla Norma

After 11 wonderful days spent in the unforgettable New York I’m back home – very tired and immensely happy. The best trip of my life to a place I intend to go back to many, many times. My heart is full of joy but my feet still hurt from all the walking, so a quick meal is mandatory: this pasta dish is easy to make and tastes great, despite its simplicity – a weeknight favorite.

Pasta alla Norma
slightly adapted from the always amazing and delicious Australian Gourmet Traveller

1 large eggplant, cut into 4cm cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
300ml tomato passata
1 tablespoon tomato paste*
400g short pasta
6 tablespoons ricotta
1 small bunch fresh basil
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon table salt, weigh down with a plate and allow to drain for 2 hours. Gently dry on kitchen paper. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté eggplant pieces, in batches if necessary, until golden brown and tender. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a bowl.
Add garlic to the frying pan over low heat and sauté until softened. Add tomato passata and tomato paste and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the eggplant to the sauce and season with freshly ground black pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add this cooking liquid to the tomato and eggplant sauce and cook for 1 minute.
Place pasta in a large serving bowl, add tomato and eggplant sauce and combine well. Add ricotta and basil leaves and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Combine the mixture one more time before serving.

* I did not have any tomato paste at home, so I added 2 tablespoons of homemade tomato sauce packed with lots of basil

Serves 4

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Melt and mix lemon bars + songs linked to my vacations

Melt and mix lemon bars / Barrinhas de limão siciliano do Bill

It was not like I planned it, but the past two vacation periods I had were marked by a song each: 2010's vacation was all about Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" while the days off I had in 2011 come to mind every time I listen to Feldberg's "Dreamin". This year's vacation period, though, is linked to two different songs, and I can't choose my favorite. :D

Days off request my favorite flavor, and therefore I present you Bill's delicious lemon bars, dead easy to make and with a filling that reminded me more of custard than curd; for a moment I thought of dusting the bars with icing sugar to hide the small cracks, but then I came to the conclusion that the idea went against what I believe: I don't think there's anything wrong with cracks in desserts - or lines in people's faces, for that matter.

Melt and mix lemon bars
from the always beautiful and delicious Feed Me Now! (mine was bought here)

1 1/3 cups (185g) all purpose flour
4 tablespoons (40g) corn starch, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (62g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
600ml heavy cream
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
finely grated zest of 4 lemons
1 1/3 cups (320ml) lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly butter a 32x22cm (13x9in) baking pan*, line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.
Base: sift the flour, corn starch, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter and vanilla. Mix until evenly combined then press the dough into the base of the prepared pan. Chill for 30 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Bake the base for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
Filling: sift the flour into a large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together the cream, sugar and eggs. Add a couple of tablespoons of the egg mixture to the flour, whisking to dissolve it into the liquid (do that to avoid flour lumps in the mixture). Add the remaining egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, zest and vanilla.
As soon as the base is golden pour the filling mixture on top and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until set. Cool in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into bars or squares and serve.

* I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan

Makes about 20 slices

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pistachio polenta pound cake

Polenta pistachio cake / Bolo de milho e pistache

People usually ask me for advice in baking and cooking and one thing I always tell them is to read the entire recipe before actually making it: it is important to know all the details prior to preparation. That is something I learned the hard way: I can’t tell you how many times I’d already be making something, looking forward to eating it only to read “refrigerate overnight” in the middle of the recipe. :S
Having said that, because of this pistachio and polenta cake I might start recommending reading the recipe twice: I did read the recipe and, knowing I had all the ingredients at home I went to the kitchen to make it. Oven preheated and ingredients before me, I started making the recipe only to read “whisk the yogurt and cornmeal in a medium bowl and let it stand for 45 minutes”. My brain or my eyes somehow skipped that piece of information, and I had to go back to the couch and wait longer to have a slice of this beauty – at least it tasted great and it was worth the waiting. :D

Pistachio polenta pound cake
from the absolutely great Cake Keeper Cakes

1 ½ cups (390g) plain yogurt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (195g) shelled unsalted pistachios
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the yogurt and cornmeal in a medium bowl and let it stand for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Grind ¾ cup (97g) of the pistachios finely in a food processor (grind them with a couple of tablespoons of the flour mixture to avoid turning the nuts into a paste). Add the pistachio meal to the dry ingredients. Coarsely chop the remaining pistachios.
Place the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the yogurt mixture in two additions. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in the chopped pistachios.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10-15 minutes then carefully invert it onto the rack. Cool completely before serving.

Serves 10-12

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chestnut brownies

Chestnut brownies

Remember my chestnut-flour-baking-frenzy? After removing the cake from the oven and placing it on a wire rack to cool, I immediately started making these brownies: the recipe called for chopped roasted chestnuts to be incorporated in the batter, but I decided to bake the brownies without them anyway. The result was a cakey brownie, very moist and delicious; I gladly gobbled up two pieces of it and that says a lot since I’m a definitely a fudgy-brownie-kind-of-gal.

Chestnut brownies
slightly adapted from the wonderful Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen

112g (4oz) dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
10 tablespoons (140g) unsalted butter
½ cup (70g) all purpose flour
½ cup (50g) chestnut flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon table salt
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
½ cup (88g) dark brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Amaretto or cognac
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 23cm (9in) square pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, chestnut flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the sugars and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and Amaretto (or cognac). Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar (if desired) and cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16 – I made the exact recipe above using a 20cm (8in) square pan

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Apple, pecan and gingerbread loaf + "Top Chef"

Apple and pecan gingerbread loaf / Bolo de gengibre, maçã e pecã

There are shows and series I adore but never have the time to watch; “Top Chef” is one of them – I watched the first season back in the day but then never got to watch the following seasons, therefore it’s been wonderful to watch the reruns at Sony for the past months.

* spoilers – seasons 1 through 7 *

Apart from Howard, which I thought truly deserved winning “Top Chef”, I did not like all the other winners, up to season 7; by the end of each season I would promise myself not to watch the following season, but I guess that some TV shows are like bad habits we can’t quit. :)
For some reason Sony went from season 5 to 7, so I can’t comment on Voltaggio, but watching the season 7 finale a couple of days ago made me dislike Ilan even more (I was team Sam) while at the same time Hung grew on me – to watch him work like a horse to help someone else was really cool.
And you? Do you think the “Top Chef” wins have been fair? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

* end of spoilers *

Like pears apples are at their best now, in the fall, therefore this delicious gingerbread loaf could not wait until the end of the year to be part of my Christmas series; the loaf was easy to make and tasted even better two days later.

Apple, pecan and gingerbread loaf
from the absolutely beautiful Delicious - Australia

2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter
150g soft dark brown sugar
½ cup minus 1 tablespoon (150g) golden syrup – I used corn syrup
200ml whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups + ½ tablespoon (250g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (75g) pecans, roughly chopped
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm (½in) pieces

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 1.5l loaf pan*, line with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat combine the butter, sugar, and syrup and stir until melted. Stir through the milk and vanilla and allow to cool.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the cooled milk mixture. Mix until smooth, then fold in the eggs, pecans, crystallized ginger and apple.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack to cool completely (peel off the paper after the cake has cooled, because it’s too soft while warm).

* I made the exact recipe above but there was too much batter for the 1.5l pan; I ended up baking the excess batter in a 4-cup capacity loaf pan

Serves 10-12

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Orange and oat muffins

Orange and oats muffins / Muffins de laranja e aveia

I am crazy for strawberries and my husband knows that very well: last Friday he brought home two baskets full of perfumed and delicious strawberries – it was a sweet surprise. My plans were to eat half the berries with just a sprinkling of sugar and to bake with the other half, so I set out to make the lovely strawberry cupcakes I’d seen in one of my recent purchases; I guess I was out of my baking mojo that day because the cupcakes turned out horrible and ended up in the garbage can; the following morning, desperate for something freshly baked but unable to deal with another baking disappointment I turned to someone whose recipes never fail, and to make things even better I was able to rescue a lonely orange left in my fridge. :D

Orange and oat muffins
slightly adapted from the always wonderful and foolproof Short and Sweet (mine was bought here)

finely grated zest of 2 oranges
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (124g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) canola oil
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (95ml) fresh orange juice
4 tablespoons rolled oats + a bit extra for sprinkling
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Butter 9 pockets of a large muffin tray or line them with paper cases. In an electric mixer, using the wire whisk, beat the orange zest, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla for three to four minutes, or until pale and thick. Stir in the juice and oats, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold together until smooth but barely combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, filling each cavity ¾ of its capacity. Sprinkle the tops with the extra oats.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature (I liked them better warm).

Makes 9 – I made the exact recipe above using a muffin pan with 1/3 cup-capacity cavities and got 11 muffins

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peanut butter and Port thumbprints

Peanut butter and Port thumbprints / Biscoitos de manteiga de amendoim, geléia e vinho do Porto

A long time ago I bought an adorable cookbook filled with recipes spiked with alcohol; but me being me, when it came to using the book I realized I did not have all those kinds of booze around the house – I don’t even have any tequila at home! – and therefore the cookbook patiently awaited on the shelf, up until the day it suddenly hit me: I had a bottle of Port begging to be used! That is how I ended up making these delicious cookies.

Peanut butter and Port thumbprints
from the lovely The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (262g) light brown sugar, packed
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
¾ cup jam or jelly
3 tablespoons ruby Port

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy and lighter in color. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla and peanut butter. Stir in the dry ingredients just until combined. Chill the dough for 20 minutes*.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the jam and the Port and stir until smooth.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Place the ball onto the prepared sheets 3in apart. Press the center of each ball with your finger or a small measuring spoon. Carefully fill each cookie with the jam mixture.
Bake the cookies until slightly browned at the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack.

* not enough time; I chilled the dough for 4 hours and it was still too soft; I would definitely add a bit more flour to the dough

Makes about 32 cookies – I halved the recipe, used 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie and got 35; for the filling I used a generous 1/3 cup raspberry jam + ½ tablespoon Port

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