Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, January 6, 2014

Roscón de Reyes (King Cake)

Roscón de Reyes / Bolo de Reis

My favorite time of the year is coming to an end, and later on today I’ll put away all my Christmas decorations – it’s such a pity, I love seeing them throughout the house.

The sixth of January is also the day to celebrate the Three Kings, and to do so I bring you this delicious recipe, a sort of brioche topped with a lemon glaze – unlike the King Cake I’d seen on this book, Gourmet Traveller’s version is a lot prettier, with no plastic baby hidden inside: just tender sweet bread with almonds, ginger and cranberries.

Who said atheists can’t enjoy some of the Catholic traditions? ;)

Roscón de Reyes (King Cake)
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Gourmet Traveller

110ml whole milk
2 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
60g granulated sugar
500g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
55ml olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped and softened
glacé ginger, halved glacé cherries and blanched almonds, for decoration – I used dried cranberries instead of cherries

Lemon glaze:
100g confectioners’ sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Warm milk and 100ml water in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm, add yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and set aside in a warm place until foaming (4-5 minutes). Combine flour, salt, oil, citrus zest and remaining sugar in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, gradually add milk mixture, beat for 5 minutes, add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Beating continuously, gradually add butter and beat until a soft dough forms (3-4 minutes). Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size (1-1½ hours).
Knock back dough, cover and set aside to rest (10 minutes). Lightly butter a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, roll into a 30cmx50cm rectangle, then roll into a long cylinder, pinch edge to seal firmly, then bring ends together to form a ring and pinch to seal. Place seam-side down in prepared pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until nearly doubled in size (30-40 minutes). In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto rack. Cool completely.

Lemon glaze: sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and gradually add the lemon juice, stirring until drizzling thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle roscón with glaze, set aside until icing is almost set, then top the glaze with ginger, cherries and almonds and serve.

Serves 8-10

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Red velvet cookies and another German movie

Red velvet cookies / Biscoitos veludo vermelho

I’ve been really into Europeans movies lately and, so far, I have seen really good films: after the Danish directors I went a little South and watched the excellent The Edukators (with the now Golden Globe nominee Daniel Brühl).

Since I’d already loved Soul Kitchen and The Wave I got into a German state of mind and decided to watch another movie from my grandmother’s home country, one that everyone I know tells me I would love, and indeed I did: Run Lola Run. It is such an amazing movie, very different from most things I’ve seen, with a very unique rhythm that is absolutely contagious – Franka Potente does a terrific job as Lola (all that running must have been physically challenging) and after I read that she could not wash her hair for seven weeks to avoid discoloring it I admired her even more. :D

My Christmas series has come to an end and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have – the last recipe is for these delicious cookies, as red as Lola’s hair. :D

Happy Holidays!

Red velvet cookies
from the always stunning Donna Hay magazine

100g unsalted butter, room temperature
160g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
185g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
pinch of salt
1 ½ tablespoons red food coloring
200g dark chocolate, in chips or small chunks
about 100g icing sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the melted chocolate. On low speed, beat in the flour, baking powder, cocoa, salt and food coloring and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips/chunks. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Sift the icing sugar into a shallow bowl. Using a cookie scoop, portion 1 leveled tablespoon portions of dough and roll in the sugar, then carefully form into a ball using your hands and roll again in the sugar, this time covering the dough ball very generously with it. Place onto prepared sheets 5cm (2in) apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cracked and slightly firm around the edges. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack.

Makes about 50

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas torrone and a very overrrated movie

Christmas torrone / Torrone de Natal

I was reading something about Spring Breakers yesterday and decided to watch the notorious Kids, which script was written by Harmony Korine. I remember all the fuss created by the movie when it was released many years ago and now that I have seen it I know it was only because of its “controversial” subject, not because it’s any good. It’s a poor movie, uncomfortable to watch and completely unnecessary - one and a half hours of my life wasted with something very overrated.

When I was little, every year in the middle of December, my father received a basket of goodies from the company he worked for: there was panettone, prunes, raisins, chocolate, and torrone (which was my favorite treat in the basket). Nowadays, the torrone I find in shops is nothing like the torrone of those days – I believe both the product and my taste buds have changed – and up to recently I though the candy was really overrated (and what 6-year-olds know of good sweets, anyway?) :D.

That was until I made it at home. ;)

If you’re short on time, though, or don’t have a candy thermometer around (which is mandatory for making torrone), use your egg whites, pistachios and cranberries to make the financier version of torrone.

Christmas torrone
from Martha

edible wafer paper, enough for 2 layers in pan
1/3 cup corn starch
3 large egg whites
1 cup honey
3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
½ cup (70g) confectioners' sugar
130g shelled raw pistachios
130g dried cranberries

Piece together wafer paper, without overlapping, to fit bottom of a 22.5x32.2cm (9x13in) baking pan, and set aside. Liberally sprinkle a clean surface with the corn starch. Pour egg whites into bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine honey and granulated sugar. Place over medium heat; cook until mixture just begins to simmer, about 4 minutes. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of saucepan; continue to heat, stirring occasionally.
Beat whites until stiff peaks form; add confectioners' sugar, and beat until combined. When thermometer registers 157°C/315°F, remove honey mixture from heat. Temperature will rise to 160°C/320°F. Stir until temperature drops to 148°C/300°F, 1 to 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour honey mixture into egg-white mixture (at this point, whites will double in volume; let stand a few seconds; volume will return to normal). Beat until mixture thickens and begins to stick to beaters; beat in the pistachio and cranberries.
Pour mixture onto cornstarch-covered surface (I found it easier to remove the mixture from the bowl using my hands, because it’s so stiff a spatula wouldn’t work); knead 3 turns and avoid incorporating too much corn starch. Stretch and roll to fit pan; place mixture in pan. Cover with another layer of wafer paper; let cool on wire rack. Cut into slices while still warm; store in airtight container, with parchment between layers, for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 40 large pieces – I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan

Monday, December 16, 2013

White chocolate ginger buttons + the best horror film of all time

White chocolate ginger buttons / Biscoitinhos de gengibre com chocolate branco

Much like my “to make” recipe list, the list of movies I want to watch grows longer every day – there is always something interesting I haven’t seen yet, new releases every week... I don’t think I’ll be ever done with either list. :D

To make things harder, now and then I feel like watching my favorite movies again, especially the ones I saw in my teenage years – it seems that now that I’m older I can savor them a lot more. Last week I watched Angel Heart again (for the third time, to be more precise) and I found it to be even more fantastic than the last time, years and years ago. I found the acting even better – how great is Mickey Rourke in this movie? – the writing even more genius, and the way Alan Parker develops all that is sublime. I consider The Exorcist the scariest horror movie ever made, but the best, to me, is Angel Heart.

I thought I was done with ginger cookies this Christmas but when I saw these pretty buttons I could not resist – if I can’t help watching certain movies over and over again, how could resist spiced cookies filled with white chocolate (two things I love)? ;)

White chocolate ginger buttons
slightly adapted from here

2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup (80ml) molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140g (5oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
pinch of cinnamon

Cookies: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg, molasses and vanilla. On low speed, add the reserved ingredients and beat just until combined.
Roll dough by 1 leveled tablespoon into balls; place 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets. Press the center of each ball with your finger or a small measuring spoon. Bake just until edges are lightly golden, 10-12 minutes. (Wells will have mostly filled in.) Remove from oven; using the back of a round 1 teaspoon or the end of a wooden spoon gently re-press wells. Let cool on sheets over wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; let cool completely.

Filling: in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water), melt white chocolate, stirring until smooth. Spoon about ½ teaspoon chocolate into each well. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Let stand until chocolate is firm, about 1 hour.

Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 45 cookies

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas rocky road + two out-of-this-world performances

Christmas rocky road / Rocky road de Natal

Days ago, thanks to wonderful people who post movies on the Internet (thank you so much!), I could finally watch Behind the Candelabra and what an excellent movie it is: I expected something good because, well, it is a movie directed by Steven Soderbergh, but it turned out to be so much more than what I’d expected because of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. I could never have thought Douglas could deliver such an amazing performance – I guess that depending on how old we are we tend to associate him with the action hero type or the sexual roles he played in the past (I liked him a lot in Traffic, too, and it’s not his fault Oliver Stone ruined Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps).

For a couple of hours Douglas was Liberace, going the extra mile and doing so much more than just wearing extravagant clothes – the voice, the hair, the manners, it was all there, all perfectly executed.

I love versatile actors and that is why Matt Damon is one of my favorites: with his pretty face he could have easily settled as a heartthrob and taken the romantic-comedy route, but he chose diversity instead and has showed us what a great actor he is. He’s brilliant as Scott Thorson and it’s a shame him and Douglas are going head to head in the awards season, because both deserve to be showered with awards.

My Christmas series continues, this time with a very easy, no-bake recipe – as Liberace clothes were studded with crystals and rhinestones, these rocky road squares are studded with deliciousness, such as nuts and dried fruit. :)

Christmas rocky road
slightly adapted from the always stunning Donna Hay mag

800g dark chocolate – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
120g dried cranberries
180g mini marshmallows
200g Turkish delight, diced
120g pistachios, coarsely chopped

Very lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan and line it with foil (the butter will keep the foil from sliding around in the pan).
Place the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water – do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water – and stir occasionally until melted.
In a large bowl, combine the cranberries, marshmallows, Turkish delight and pistachios. Set aside about 1 cup of the chocolate mixture and pour the remaining over the ingredients. Stir until well coated.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and press it down. Drizzle with the reserved chocolate and smooth the top with a spatula.
Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Cut into pieces, remove the foil and serve.

Makes 74 tiny pieces (or cut them larger if you prefer)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vanillekipferl (Viennese vanilla crescents), and a not so fair competition

Vanillekipferl (Viennese vanilla crescents) / Vanillekipferl (biscoitinhos de baunilha de Viena)

The people behind the Oscars have apparently developed a strategy of leaving the most powerful performances out of the competition (maybe to make sure the-not-so-great ones get the awards? Who knows). Last year both Tilda and Michael Shannon weren’t included in the game (and they were absolutely magnificent in We Need to Talk About Kevin and Take Shelter, respectively), and 2013 will be remembered by me as the year Marion Cotillard got ignored even though she kicked everyone else’s butts with Rust and Bone. The movie is so amazing I haven’t been able to write a single line about it so far (the“The Tree of Life effect”, as I call it), and Marion’s portrait of Stéphanie is something sublime. Harvey Weinstein must have felt relieved when Marion did not get nominated, for she would definitely make things a lot harder for Jennifer Lawrence – I adore her, but that Oscar was a joke (and a demonstration of the power of lobby).

These cookies, with their German name and their amazing vanilla flavor, are one of the best I have ever made (and I have made quite a few); they are delicious, melt in the mouth, and since they also look pretty they would be great as a gift or as an addition to the Christmas table – I just feel sorry for any other cookie around them as I don’t think it would be a fair competition... ;)

Vanilla beans are a luxurious ingredient and I don’t use them often, but since it’s Christmas I thought a bit of splurge wouldn’t hurt; if you intend to make the cookies don’t forget to plan ahead since the sugar needs some time alone with the vanilla. ;)

Vanillekipferl (Viennese vanilla crescents)
slightly adapted from the über complete The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes

Vanilla sugar (for dusting the cookies):
170g confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds remove with the back of a knife

245g all-purpose flour
25g confectioners’ sugar
pinch of salt
70g almond meal
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds remove with the back of a knife
170g cold unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Start by making the vanilla sugar: place the sugar, vanilla seeds and bean in a small bowl and mix with your fingers to perfume the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature overnight.

Cookies: in a food processor blend together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, almond meal and vanilla seeds. Add the butter, pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the vanilla extract and process just until a dough forms. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Roll ½ tablespoon (leveled) of dough per cookie into a cylinder, then bend the ends over to create a half-moon. Arrange the crescents onto prepared sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until pale golden.
While the crescents are still warm, gently toss them in the vanilla sugar, then allow to cool completely on wire racks.
Let the cookies cool completely before transferring them to storage tins. Sift more vanilla sugar over the cookies before serving.

Makes about 50 cookies

Monday, December 9, 2013

Eggnog bars and messing up with iconic things

Eggnog bars / Barrinhas de eggnog

Many people I know are against remakes – I’m not; there are wonderful remakes out there – some are even superior to the originals – and there are bad ones, too. That’s life, right?

I think it’s hard to deal with traditional and iconic characters (unless you’re David Fincher), and maybe some of them should be left alone in all their glory. Chloë Grace Moretz has done a disservice to her career by very poorly portraying a character that Sissy Spacek elevated to perfection, and Carrie is such a bad movie in general that not even the goddess Julianne Moore can save it (and that, to me, says a lot).

Let’s mess with traditional and iconic things in a better way, shall we? Let’s get a celebrated Christmas drink and turn it into cakes, cookies and cheesecake bars – I don’t think anyone will be disappointed. ;)

Eggnog bars
slightly adapted from the wonderful The Good Cookie: Over 250 delicious recipes, from simple to sublime

150g digestive cookies
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 tablespoons (125g) unsalted butter, melted

335g (12oz) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
3 tablespoons brandy
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg + a bit extra for sprinkling on top of the bars before serving

Crust: position oven rack in the center of oven; preheat to 180°C/350°F.Lightly butter a 20x30cm (12x8in) baking pan, line it with foil so that the foil extends 5cm (2in) beyond the short ends of the pan; lightly butter the foil.
In a food processor, blitz the cookies until ground. Pulse in the cinnamon. With the motor running, add the butter and process until combined. Transfer crumbs to prepared pan and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until it is slightly puffed and set.
Cool slightly over a wire rack while you make the filling. Decrease oven temperature to 160°C/325°F.

Filling: in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Beat in the cornstarch; add the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, beating until blended and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the heavy cream, brandy, vanilla, and nutmeg. Scrape filling into the slightly cooled crust; bake for 15-20 minutes, until the filling is set. Cool completely over wire rack, then refrigerate.
Before serving, sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg and cut into bars.

Makes 24

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chewy speculaas blondies and one of the most beautiful trailers I've ever seen

Chewy speculaas blondies / Blondies de speculaas

My sister and I love watching the trailers when we go to the movies, and after each one we turn to each other and say “yes” or “no” (if we will or will not watch that movie once it premieres). Weeks ago, on the Catching Fire session, we saw the trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I must confess that when Ben Stiller’s face first appeared onscreen I was more than ready to say “no” – I really can’t stand his movies – but by the end of the trailer we were both enthusiastically saying “yes”. :)

One of the most beautiful trailers I’ve seen and the equally amazing music (the song has been in my head ever since) have made me want to watch a movie starring Ben Stiller – I could barely believe it. :D

It was also hard to believe I could have speculaas without all the rolling and chilling and cutting (and then more chilling) of dough – one roll out cookie in this heat is enough already. :) Edd Kimber’s blondies do deliver all the speculaas delicious flavors and with chocolate to boot – what’s not to love? :D

The blondies turned out flavorsome and thin, but to me that’s not a problem: I became fan of thin bar cookies after being introduced to Alice Medrich’s brownies.

Chewy speculaas blondies
slightly adapted from the delicious The Boy Who Bakes

½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
200g light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
30g white chocolate, in chips or chopped
30g dark chocolate, in chips or chopped
60g almonds, lightly toasted, cooled and chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium high heat, add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool. Whisk in the egg and vanilla, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the white and dark chocolates and almonds, then pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs (like a brownie). Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack, then slice into squares to serve.

Makes 16

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chocolate pain d’épice, two versions of the same song and of the same baked good

Chocolate pain d'epice / Pain d'épice de chocolate

One day, back when I worked as a teacher, I told my students I liked Soft Cell and, two days after that one of them brought me the “Memorabilia” album and begged me to listen to it – he was sure I would love it, and in fact I did. On that CD there was a slightly different version of “Loving You, Hating Me” from the one I knew (and already liked) – the arrangement was a little less metallic, let’s put it this way – and I fell completely for the new version (it became one of my all-time favorites).

Last year I posted a recipe for pain d’épice and now I bring you another one, made with whole wheat flour and chocolate – I like both, but the chocolate version won my heart over (thank you, Eric Lanlard). :)

Chocolate pain d’épice
slightly adapted from the absolutely beautiful and delicious Chocolat (I bought mine here)

200ml whole milk
8 tablespoons clear honey*
125g dark chocolate – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
300g whole wheat flour
65g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 900g loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and honey and heat gently but do not let it come to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted. Cool for 5 minutes.
in a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt. Make a well in the center and whisk in the eggs, vanilla and orange blossom water. Whisk in the chocolate mixture, then whisk until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack. Cool completely, then remove the paper.
The pain d’épice keeps well for up to 2 weeks if well wrapped in plastic.
You can toast the pain d’épice slices and serve them with butter or jam.

*measuring honey by the spoonful is a pain in the neck – if you don’t feel like doing that, go ahead and consider that I used half a 350g jar

Serves 8-10

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gingerbread stars because Christmas is around the corner

Gingerbread stars / Estrelinhas de gingerbread

One of the things I hear the most these days is that time flies and I couldn’t agree more – I cannot believe that December has already arrived; it’s time to decorate the Christmas tree, to buy gifts for the loved ones and to start thinking about the food – since it’s too early for turkey I kicked things off with these cute and delicious gingerbread stars. :)

I usually shy away from cut out cookies at this time of the year because of the insane heat, but days ago the sun wasn’t so harsh and I managed to make these without much trouble, just refrigerating the cookies before actually baking them. A sprinkling of icing sugar to mimic snow and my Christmas series begins now (and if you’re looking for inspiration and can’t wait there are several posts from previous years here). :)

Gingerbread stars
slightly adapted from Mowie’s beautiful blog

130g unsalted butter
4 tablespoons corn syrup
110g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
330g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
icing sugar, for sprinkling

Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a small saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cool, then stir in the vanilla.
Place flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, add the melted mixture and mix until a dough forms – I used an electric mixer for that but the mixture wouldn’t come together no matter how much I mixed it; therefore, I cracked an egg in a small bowl, lightly beat it with a fork and, with the mixer on, l added the egg gradually until the dough came together (I used nearly half the egg).
Divide the dough into half, form a disk with each half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to 5mm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and place onto the prepared baking sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack, then sprinkle generously with icing sugar. Reroll dough scraps once.

Makes about 4 dozen using a 5cm (2in) star cookie cutter

Sunday, December 23, 2012



This year's Christmas series has come to an end and for that I chose a delicious and very easy recipe, that comes from a book I adore. These cookies are wonderful, super tasty and quick to prepare, and I think they would make a great last minute Christmas gift.

I hope you've enjoyed the holiday recipes I've posted and I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

from the amazing beyond words Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
scant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (131g) brown sugar, packed
¼ cup mild flavored molasses
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) icing sugar, sifted, more if necessary

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, allspice, cloves and pepper.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and molasses until creamy and lighter in color. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients.
Using 1 tablespoon for each cookie, roll dough into balls and place them 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake until golden brown on the bottom and just fir to touch, about 14 minutes. Cool on the sheets over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully coat warm cookies with the icing sugar. Transfer to the rack and cool completely.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cinnamon and cherry biscotti

Cinnamon and cherry biscotti / Biscotti de canela e cereja

The Christmas biscotti I made last year were so delicious I decided that this year I needed Christmas biscotti again, but to change things up a bit I used one of Donna Hay's wonderful recipes, mixing cinnamon and dried cherries. You might think that when it comes to biscotti I'm biased (and you're right), so I'll let two very talented ladies convince you that biscotti is a delicious treat - and dead easy to make.

Cinnamon and cherry biscotti / Biscotti de canela e cereja

Cinnamon and cherry biscotti
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Donna Hay Magazine

2 cups + 2 tablespoons (300g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup (95g) dried cherries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until a dough forms. Incorporate the cherries.
Shape the dough into a log, approximately 30cm (12in) long. Place onto prepared sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to touch. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet over a wire rack for 30 minutes. Line another baking sheet with baking paper.
Carefully slice the logs into 3mm-thick slices and place onto prepared sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool on the sheets.

Makes about 25

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nougat flavored financiers

Nougat flavored financiers / Financiers com gostinho de torrone

I might have been oh, so brave facing the heat and making pastry anyway but that, folks, was pretty much it: when it came to making nougat I gave up. :S However, that doesn’t mean I can’t have a nougat flavored baked good, right? When I looked at the egg whites left from making the eggnog frosting I instantly thought of financiers, and the candied orange zest left from the panforte inspired me to make these treats – they are tender, delicious and unlike real nougat, they’re very easy and quick to make.

Nougat flavored financiers
adapted from Bill’s wonderful financier recipe

2/3 cup (67g) almond meal*
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar + plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup (46g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
4 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm
1/3 cup (43g) unsalted pistachios, slightly toasted, cooled and chopped
¼ cup chopped candied orange zest
1/3 cup (36g) dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter and flour eight 1/3-capacity muffin pans (mine were silicon, so I just buttered them).
In a large bowl, sift together the ground almonds, icing sugar, flour and salt. Stir in the egg whites until just combined, followed by the vanilla and orange flower water. Stir in the melted butter, then the pistachios, candied zest and cranberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans over a wire rack for 5 minutes then carefully unmold onto the rack to cool.
Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

* I had 2 tablespoons very finely ground pistachios left from another recipe and I used it mixed with the almond meal

Makes 8

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gingerbread marshmallows

Gingerbread marshmallows / Marshmallows de gingerbread

I’ve been baking lots of cookies lately – these books have been at my kitchen counter all the time – but I wanted something else for the people at work, something that to them would sound unusual. Marshmallows were the perfect choice: upon delivering some of the small plastic bags filled with the candy some of my coworkers were really intrigued by the idea of homemade marshmallows, and “did you actually make these???” was the sentence I heard the most throughout that day. :)
Besides that, there were other reasons behind the choice: I hadn’t made marshmallows in a very long time, they have a Christmassy feel, the recipe yields a lot – that way many, many goodie bags would be made with it – and I also wanted to please my sister, who is absolutely crazy about them. I waited for her feedback, thinking that she might find them too spicy, or too gingery, but she said they were fantastic – she’s a grown up now and bold flavors don’t scare her anymore (but she still won’t eat bacon, which is something I’ll never understand). :D

Gingerbread marshmallows
adapted from the always gorgeous and delicious Donna Hay Magazine

4 tablespoons powdered gelatin
1 cup (240ml) warm water
3 ¼ cups (650g) granulated sugar
¾ cup corn syrup or golden syrup
½ cup + 1 tablespoon molasses
2/3 cup (160ml) water, extra
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
vegetable oil and icing sugar, for the pan

For rolling the marshmallows:
1 ½ cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons corn starch, sifted

Lightly oil a 20x30cm (8x12in) cake pan and dust it generously with icing sugar*.
Place the gelatin and warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir well to combine and set aside. Place the sugar, glucose, molasses and extra water in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat without stirring. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until soft ball stage: 115°C/240°F on a sugar thermometer.
With the mixer running at high speed, gradually add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture – carefully because the mixture may splash. Add the vanilla and the spices and beat for 10 minutes or until thick and fluffy. Pour into prepared pan and leave at room temperature overnight.

Place the icing sugar and corn starch in a bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle some of the mixture onto a surface and unmold the marshmallow onto it (loosen it from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife). Using a lightly oiled knife, cut into squares and roll into the icing sugar mixture. Store in an airtight container.

* the recipe yielded so much that I was able to fill two 20x30cm (8x12in) pans with it, and in the end I got 110 marshmallows

Makes about 50 marshmallows

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mulled wine jelly and a giveaway

Mulled wine jelly / Gelatina de vinho quente

Christmas is coming and I have a gift for you, my dear readers: Zinio has given me 5 free magazine subscriptions to share with you! If you’re not familiar with Zinio, take a look at their website and you’ll see that there are hundreds of wonderful digital magazines for you to choose, including my favorites Donna Hay and Delicious Australia.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post between today, December 17th and December 31st – only one entry per person, no anonymous comment will be eligible. I’ll announce the winners on January, 3rd. Good luck!

And while you take part in this great giveaway, I’ll leave you with some delicious and boozy jelly, a nice dessert idea for Christmas since it can be made in advance, and the recipe comes from DH mag, one of the great digital magazines you’ll find at Zinio.

Mulled wine jelly
from the always beautiful Donna Hay Magazine

1 ½ tablespoons gelatin powder
2 cups (480ml) cranberry juice
4 cups (960ml) red wine, such as Pinot Noir – I used Shiraz*
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
rind of 1 orange, remove with a vegetable peeler
1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 teaspoons icing sugar until soft peaks form

In a small bowl, combine the gelatin with ¼ cup of the cranberry juice. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the red wine, remaining cranberry juice, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange rind and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the gelatin. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a 3-liter capacity serving dish (or individual cups as I did). Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until set.
Serve with a dollop of the whipped cream.

* the jelly tasted great but to my taste it was a bit too strong on the alcoholic side – I would definitely use less wine and more cranberry juice next time

Serves 8-10

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gingerbread linzer tartlets

Gingerbread linzer tartlets / Tortinhas linzer de gingerbread

So I decided to grab the hot weather by the horns and make Christmas tartlets anyway, but with my dried fruit stash reduced to a sad handful I dropped the fruit mince tarts idea and went for something else: the beautiful gingerbread linzertorte I’d seen on Martha’s website, which was the perfect choice since I had a couple of jars of jam in my pantry. The good thing is: I made the recipe into tartlets, which looked adorable and were a hit with my husband, my sister and my one of my sisters-in-law. The bad thing is: the dough is ultra-mega-soft, kind of hard to work with, and it would have been better to make one large tart (less work). I’m stubborn and didn’t give up on my tartlet idea, but I’ll admit it that while shaping the dough I felt like banging my head against the wall, Heathcliff style. :)

Gingerbread linzer tartlets
slightly adapted from Martha

2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (88g) packed dark-brown sugar
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup unsulfured molasses
2 large egg yolks, plus 1 large egg white
1 ¼ cups raspberry jam – I used cherry jam

Sift flour, baking powder, spices, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar; mix on medium-low speed until combined. Add butter; mix until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add molasses and egg yolks; mix until dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roll two-thirds of the dough into a 30cm (12in) round, 6mm (¼in) thick. Fit into a lightly buttered 25cm (10in) tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
Roll out remaining dough between pieces of floured parchment paper to a 30cm (12in) round, 6mm (¼in) thick. Transfer round with parchment to a baking sheet; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut out shapes from round with dot and snowflake-shape cookie cutters. (If desired, reserve snowflake cutouts - bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F and sprinkle tops with confectioners' sugar.). Spread jam over bottom of shell. Lightly beat egg white; brush over rim of tart shell. Carefully slide dough round over shell; press edges to adhere. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 165°C/325°F with rack in lowest position (I baked my tartlets at 180°C/350°F).
Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Serves 8 – I made the exact recipe above using 10cm (4in) tartlet pans and got 5 tartlets

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fruit mince muffins with eggnog icing

Fruit mince muffins with eggnog icing / Muffins de fruit mince com cobertura de eggnog

Eggnog is not part of Brazilian Christmas celebrations but everything I’ve made so far flavored as the drink turned out delicious, the sablé rounds and Flo Braker’s cake being my favorites –therefore, I bookmarked Rachel Allen’s muffins the minute I saw them on the book. This fantastic recipe is a keeper, not only because the delicious muffins match eggnog and fruit mince, flavors I love, but also because Allen’s homemade fruit mince is very tasty and easy to make – so good that I used it in my brownies, too.

Fruit mince muffins with eggnog icing
slightly adapted from the wonderful Cake (mine was bought here)

150g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (112g) granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 quantity fruit mince, cooled - recipe here
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon corn starch
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
½ cup (120ml) heavy cream
½ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
12 dried cranberries, for decoration (optional) – if you decide to use them, place them in a small bowl with some hot water till they plump up

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F, and line a 12-hole (1/3 cup-capacity cavities) muffin pan with paper cases.
Muffins: using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla, then the cooled fruit mince. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in gently to combine. Divide between the muffin cases, filling each ¾ full, then bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen, golden on top and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes then carefully remove from the pan and transfer to the rack. Cool completely.

Icing: whisk together all the ingredients and place in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until it starts to boil and becomes thick, then remove from the heat and put through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, whisk continuously for a few minutes until the mixture has cooled and become very thick (after doing that, I refrigerated the icing for 30 minutes and it became easier to spread). Spoon the icing onto the muffins and decorate each with a dried cranberry.

Makes 12

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Alsatian Christmas cookies

Alsatian Christmas cookies / Biscoitos de Natal da Alsácia

One of my favorite expressions in the English language is “a hidden gem” – I find if perfect to describe certain things. To me, “Killing Them Softly”, an excellent movie no one I know has watched, is a hidden gem, with its great script, powerful performances – especially Ben Mendelsohn’s, whom I’d already loved in the fantastic “Animal Kingdom” – and equally powerful directing. Another hidden gem is Tish Boyle’s amazing “The Good Cookie”, which I bought ages ago – it took me a long time to start using this book (and I don’t even have an explanation for that) but nowadays it’s the first cookbook I reach for when I want to bake cookies. These delicious cookies, heavy on the cinnamon flavor – which I love – were made into beautiful little stars in Boyle’s hands, but worked perfectly as slice and bake cookies, too – I am sure that even if you’re not battling the heat as I have been lately you’ll love this more practical and quick way of baking them.

Oh, and the lovely Christmas tags you see on the photo - and that now are decorating my tree - were found here.

Alsatian Christmas cookies
slightly adapted from an amazing book

2 ¼ cups (225g) almond meal
2 ¾ cups (330g) cake flour*
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (240g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork and a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Place the almond meal, cake flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg, then the vanilla. At low speed, add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time and mix just until blended. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place each on a piece of parchment paper; shape dough into logs. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press into a 3.5 cm (1.4in) log – like Martha does here. Wrap in parchment. Chill in freezer until very firm.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Unwrap one log at a time (keep the other in the freezer). Cut into 6mm (¼in) thick rounds; space 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Lightly brush each slice with the egg glaze and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
Bake for 17-22 minutes or until they are set and their bottoms are evenly golden brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on wire racks for about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks and cool completely. Repeat the process with the other dough log.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

* homemade cake flour: 1 cup all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons corn starch

Makes about 60 cookies

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pain d’épice

Pain d'épice

Being in a Christmas food mind set, I knew I had to make a gingerbread cake, not only because it's traditional but also because it's delicious. However, I remembered that once, a long time ago, my friend Ana told me that Suzanne Goin's pain d'épice was super tasty, and boy, was she right: this turned out so good I had three slices at once, and I'm not even ashamed to say it. :D

Pain d’épice
from the beautiful Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table

¾ cup honey
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
¾ cup (180ml) water
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger (save the juice while grating it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C/350/F. Lightly butter a 22x12cm (9x5in) loaf pan. In a large saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar, and water to a boil, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Immediately take off the heat. Sift in one cup of the flour, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Set aside.
Sift together the remaining cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, ginger, ginger juice and vanilla. Whisk in the honey mixture. Slowly fold the remaining dry ingredients into the batter in three parts. Go slow to avoid lumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, until the loaf is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 25 minutes then carefully unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

Serves 6-8

Friday, December 7, 2012

White chocolate, honey and almond panforte

White chocolate, honey and almond panforte / Panforte de amêndoa, mel e chocolate branco

Back in my college days, I had a classmate that was ten years older than me (I was 16 then) and we used to disagree about music preferences: she loved Brazilian music while I preferred American and British rock bands. She used to tell me that when I got older I would begin enjoying the kind of music she did back then. Well, eighteen years have passed and nothing has changed: I still don’t listen to MPB and American and British bands are still favorites (with a pinch of French and Canadian bands here and there). :)
I might not have changed my music preferences, but all those years have brought me something I lacked in the past: patience – in my case that virtue is very much liked to getting older. I am sure that if I had baked this panforte years ago I would have thrown the whole thing in the garbage the minute I unmolded it and saw that the baking paper had stuck on the bottom of the candy – but now at 34 I serenely removed it, little by little, with a sharp knife and tons of patience.

White chocolate, honey and almond panforte
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Delicious - Australia

300g white chocolate, chopped
¾ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (185g) all purpose flour, sifted
¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
¼ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
200g whole almonds, toasted and cooled
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Line a 22cm (9in) springform cake pan with baking paper*.
Place chocolate, honey and vanilla in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water), stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside.
Combine flour, crystallized ginger, apricots, orange peel, spices, salt, black pepper and almonds in a bowl. Stir in melted chocolate mixture until combined.
Pour into the cake pan and press down with the back of a spoon. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden but soft to touch (cover loosely with foil if it is browning too quickly). Cool in pan, then turn out and dust with icing sugar, slice and serve.

* I used a regular 22cm baking pan, buttered, bottom lined with a circle of baking paper buttered as well. It was easy to remove the panforte from the pan, but the problem is that the paper got stuck on the sweet! I had to remove it with a sharp knife and it was a pain in the neck to do it (and it took me half an hour). I haven’t tested it yet but I believe foil would be a better alternative (buttered as well)

Serves 12-14

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