Showing posts with label cinnamon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cinnamon. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back from vacation with apricot jam cake

Apricot jam cake / Bolo de geleia de damasco

Hello, everyone!

I am back after spending wonderful vacation days in Spain: beautiful places, delicious food and massive amounts of Cava. :D

I returned home very happy, but also a couple of pounds heavier, even though I walked around a lot while I was there – one can’t eat all that jamón and pan con tomate and get away with it, right? :) I intend to eat lots of vegetables and fruit in the weeks to come (there’s a huge pot of vegetable soup already in my fridge), but I know I can’t survive without a slice of cake on the weekend.

Moderation is my mantra. ;)

If you’re like me, may I suggest this jam cake? It tastes delicious and it is very tender – don’t worry if the center sinks a bit, it’s totally OK because of the weight of the jam added to the batter. I haven’t tried it with other jam flavors, but I believe it would work with something sharp, not too sweet.

Apricot jam cake
from one of my favorite cookbooks

1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened
150g light brown sugar
1 cup apricot jam
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) square cake pan, line the bottom with baking paper, butter the paper as well and flour everything, removing the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the jam until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the sour cream and mix until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden, risen and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool completely in the pan. Carefully unmold, remove the paper and invert onto a serving plate.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Serves 8

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Apple, sour cream and cinnamon crunch muffins

Apple, sour cream and cinnamon crunch muffins / Muffins de maçã, creme azedo e canela

I have to be careful while cooking or baking with certain ingredients for the reason that I adore snacking on them! Cherry tomatoes, carrots, olives, cheese, nuts – I have to control myself not to eat everything before adding the ingredients to the recipe itself. :D

Depending on the ingredient, my husband does the same, and there goes dinner.

Add to that list roasted pumpkin seeds – they’re delicious and I have to avoid getting carried away by the fact that they’re healthy. While preparing these muffins, I set aside the 2 tablespoons needed for the recipe and measured out 2 more tablespoons so I could snack on while baking – they were gone in no time (I’d just whisked the dry ingredients together in the large bowl).

I told myself that it was better to eat a handful of pumpkin seeds than a handful of candy and stopped worrying about it. ;)

Feel free to use raw pumpkin seeds in these muffins – they’re the ones called for in the original recipe – I used roasted seeds because I had them in my pantry. The cinnamon, almonds and the apple make these muffins super tasty, while the sour cream makes them moist and tender.

Apple, sour cream and cinnamon crunch muffins
slightly adapted from Grains: 150 Recipes for Every Appetite

Topping:
70g almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds – I used roasted seeds
45g light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffins:
100g whole wheat flour
100g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
75g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
75g light brown sugar
150g sour cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 large Gala apple (about 250g), peeled and chopped in small cubes

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
Topping: in a small bowl, mix together the almonds, pumpkins seeds, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Muffins: in a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, sour cream, egg and milk. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir lightly – batter will be lumpy; do not overmix. Stir in the apple and divide the batter among the paper cases. Sprinkle with the topping and lightly press it down the batter to adhere.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Leave to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before lifting the muffins out.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Makes 12

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Banana almond cake - simple yet delicious

Banana almond cake / Bolo de banana e amêndoa

After posting a recipe that calls for homemade vegetable stock, homemade tomato sauce and homemade ricotta I had to bring you something simpler, but equally good: a no-fuss banana cake with part of the all purpose flour replaced by almond meal, which gives it a delicious almond flavor and combined with the sour cream and the mashed bananas makes the cake moist and tender.

In my defense, it could’ve been worse: I could have told you to make your own sprinkles. :D

Banana cakes are favorites of mine and I always have a couple of ripe bananas in the freezer, just waiting to be transformed into something delicious – it’s too cold now for banana sorbet, so cake was my decision and it was a no-brainer, really.

The cake sunk a bit in the middle and years ago that would have stopped me from posting it here, but with time I’ve learned to dial down my perfectionism at least a bit, and I try to do that whenever possible because as much as people parade it as a “quality” I don’t think that’s true – it is actually a cage we build around ourselves and from which it gets harder and harder to escape.

The cake sunk, yes, but it tasted amazing, so I photographed it to share it with you – I hope you like it as much as I did.

Banana almond cake
slightly adapted from the delicious World Class Cakes: 250 Classic Recipes from Boston Cream Pie to Madeleines and Muffins

1 ¼ cups (175g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (65g) almond meal
2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream*
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x10cm (8x4in) cup loaf pan, line it with paper and butter the paper as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder , cinnamon and almond meal.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.
Add the sour cream and the banana and mix on low just until combined. Add the dry ingredients in and mix on low just until incorporated.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely. Peel off the paper, dust with icing sugar and serve.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Serves 8

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vanilla and cinnamon bread

Vanilla and cinnamon bread / Pão de baunilha e canela

Many people I know have been complaining a lot about the weather for many days now, but not me – I’m actually celebrating the cold days, especially after the dreadful summer we had months ago. \0/

Nothing worse than to start sweating seconds after taking a shower – I’m glad that is part of the past (at least for now).

Because of the low temperatures, keeping the oven on is always a great idea: you stay warm and there is delicious food as a result – win/win situation. :)

Last weekend was perfect for baking, and making bread is something I enjoy deeply. Without thinking too hard about what to prepare, I chose Signe Johansen’s vanilla loaf to be my afternoon project, and added cinnamon, whole wheat flour, oats and a bit more sugar to make it more my taste. The bread turned out delicious and it was also great toasted and slathered with butter.

Besides being tasty, the bread was the perfect project for another reason: I could watch a couple of Law and Order: SVU episodes while the dough proved twice.

Vanilla and cinnamon bread
slightly adapted from the über beautiful and delicious Scandilicious Baking

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds removed with the back of the knife
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
50g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
400g all purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk, extra, for brushing the loaves
handful rolled oats, for sprinkling

Place the vanilla seeds, milk, butter and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat until almost boiling and then allow to cool till lukewarm.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook, mix the flours, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and sprinkle in the dried yeast. Pour over the egg and the warm milk mixture and mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Continue mixing on low-medium speed until dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly buttered large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or so until it has doubled in size. Butter two 4 cup capacity loaf pans.
Knock back the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a large rectangle, roughly 20x30cm (8x12in), then roll each forming a tight cylinder. Place each cylinder into the prepared pans. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place for about 40 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Brush the loaves with the extra milk and sprinkle with the oats. Splash a little water in the bottom of the oven to create steam to help the loaf rise, then bake on the upper middle shelf for about 30 minutes or until the loaves are deep golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cashew oatmeal cookies and a story from the past that could be happening to someone right now

Cashew oatmeal cookies / Cookies de aveia e castanha de caju

As I was baking these cookies the other day, I recalled a time in my life when I was entering my teenage years and used to flip over my older cousins’ magazines – they used to read a mag called Capricho, a Brazilian version of Seventeen. I remember reading something about a Brazilian model called Ana Paula Arósio and the 70+ magazine covers she’d been on till then – she was only fifteen. She was stunning and looked like a grown up, and she was only two years older than me.

One of the questions the reporter asked her was how she managed to stay “in shape”, to what she replied that she ate lots of fruits and vegetables (surprise!), and things like banana with oats and honey, because they were so good for you. My thirteen-year-old brain captured that information instantly, only to feel disappointed seconds later for I, too, ate lots of fruits and vegetables, and I, too, loved bananas with oats and honey, but I did not look like Ana Paula Arósio. At all. I was a thin girl, but not skinny, and I was short and my face and arms were covered in freckles (still are, actually). I did not have any fashionable clothes and my hair was pretty much in a ponytail most of the time. I did not wear lipstick or fake eyelashes – I did not even have boobs, for crying out loud. But I did not know back then everything there is behind a magazine cover, I just thought that there was something very wrong about me because even though I ate (and loved) my greens I did not look like a model. :(

All that crossed my mind while I baked these cookies because oats are, indeed, good for you, even though for a moment in my teen years I doubted that. They are wonderful with bananas and honey (and a pinch of cinnamon, yum), great in granolas and cookies.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent for you, too, and they taste delicious, which is always a plus. So let’s keep eating our greens and our grains to stay healthy and try to stay positive and shield ourselves from all the crap the media throws our way every single day.

Cashew oatmeal cookies
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Delicious Australia

¾ cup (110g) plain flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) demerara sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
110g rolled oats
150g salted cashew nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla, then the egg, and mix to combine. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture and the oats, just until combined, then add the cashew nuts.
Place 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie onto the prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until golden around the edges, 13-15. Cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then slide the paper with the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 22

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Churros waffles for my sister

Churros waffles / Waffles de churros

I sometimes look at photos of my sister as a kid and my eyes tear up a little bit – I miss those days, she was a fun, smart kid, it was great being around her. I love telling her the funny things she used to say and do back in the day, the games she liked to play, the clothes she liked to wear – like the T-shirt I gave her when she was around two years old and that she wanted to wear every single day, to her mother’s despair – and the food she liked to eat. She was never picky; she loved salads and ice cream, strawberries and chocolate cake, and would also devour a plate of pasta or rice and beans like nobody’s business.

Her taste has changed over the years, naturally – she still loves strawberries and chocolate cake, but won’t eat bacon anymore. Still, it is always a nice feeling for me to learn that most of the things she loves are the ones I love, too. She could have become pain-in-the neck picky like my brother, but luckily she’s a lot more adventurous, always trying new things like tacos, chilli con carne and guacamole, sushi and sashimi. I can see, sometimes, a bit of me in her, and that makes me really happy. <3

Something we both love and eat together every now and then are churros, so when she came over for another Super Mario Bros. session I told her I would make waffles that tasted just like churros – she was thrilled with the idea (and so was I). :)


These waffles are the perfect way to quench the desire for churros without the frying (and also a great way of winning brownie points with sisters). :D


Churros waffles
slightly adapted from Richie, who got it from Vitor Hugo

For serving the waffles:
unsalted melted butter
½ cup (50g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
dulce de leche

Waffles:
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
35g corn starch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
200ml whole milk, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cool
1 large egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a shallow plate, mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.

Make the waffles: in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, corn starch, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the egg white until firm peaks form.
Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the egg white.
Heat a waffle iron until very hot; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Working in batches, cook waffles until cooked through.
When the waffles are cooked, brush them with the melted butter and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Serve at once with the dulce de leche.

Makes 4 waffles

Monday, June 16, 2014

Scandinavian cardamom cake with Frangelico glaze and the World Cup

Scandinavian cardamom cake with Frangelico glaze / Bolo escandinavo de cardamomo com glacê de Frangelico

The 2014 World Cup has begun and apparently it is already a hit. :)

I have been able to watch a couple of matches so far (but not as many as I would have liked to), Italy vs. England being my favorite up to this moment. I thought Argentina was going to crush Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the 2x1 score wasn’t fair: the Argentinian team wasn’t all that good, a draw would have been a better reflect of what the game really was.

There are people from all around the world walking the streets of my country as I type, and I hope they have a lovely time here. Because of the multicultural days we’ve been having, I bring you a multicultural recipe: a Scandinavian cake – packed with cardamom and cinnamon, obviously – with a Frangelico glaze, a nod to my Italian heritage, even though I feel my German blood a lot stronger most of the time, like this morning, when I saw this. :D

Scandinavian cardamom cake with Frangelico glaze
cake slightly adapted from the delicious World Class Cakes: 250 Classic Recipes from Boston Cream Pie to Madeleines and Muffins

Cake:
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom (if using pre -round cardamom that amount might be too much)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (120ml) sour cream*

Glaze:
100g icing sugar
½ tablespoon Frangelico
1 tablespoon whole milk (more if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 9-cup capacity Bundt pan (I used a 10-cup capacity pan).
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom and cinnamon.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the sour cream (start and end with the dry ingredients). Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for about 45 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add the Frangelico e 1 tablespoon of the milk, stir until you get a drizzable consistency (add more milk if necessary). Drizzle over cooled cake. Set aside for 15 minutes.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Serves 10-12

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chunky peanut, chocolate, and cinnamon cookies and laughs galore

Chunky peanut, chocolate, and cinnamon cookies / Cookies de amendoim, chocolate e canela

I’m a silly, silly person and laughing is definitely not a problem to me – sometimes I laugh so hard my eyes get all teary and I have trouble finishing reading/watching whatever caused the laughs in the first place. :D

Last week this link made me laugh for more than 10 minutes nonstop – my husband thought I was reading something else but no, it was still the kids (and now that I’ve searched for the link to post here I’m laughing like an idiot again).

Yesterday it was Jimmy Kimmel’s hilarious “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets About Themselves”, with Sofia Vergara and my beloved Gary Oldman having the best reactions to the tweets, and the reason why I got to that link was two friends thinking of me when they say Gary was among the stars. <3

I love it when people think of me when they see something cool, and another thing I love is getting food as a gift – a friend gave me a jar of peanut butter a couple of weeks ago and I turned it into these delicious cookies; it’s a recipe by Martha Stewart, and we all know that when it comes to food Martha can do no wrong.


Chunky peanut, chocolate, and cinnamon cookies
slightly adapted from the wonderful Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share

2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks/170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup (175g) packed light-brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (250g) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Add sugars; mix 2 minutes. Mix in eggs, then vanilla – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and peanuts. Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes – in the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Place 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie onto the prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until just golden, about 13 minutes (while you bake the cookies, keep the remaining dough in the fridge). Slide the paper with the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 40

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cinnamon and chocolate rolls for a mind unable to forget

Cinnamon and chocolate rolls / Cinnamon rolls com chocolate

For days in a row I had cinnamon rolls in mind and I wasn’t really sure why – maybe because I’d seen some at Starbucks when I stopped by with a friend? That makes sense. But then again I’d seen blueberry muffins there, too, and they did not cross my mind at all. My mind works in mysterious ways, I guess. :)

Because it was Easter I felt like baking with chocolate, so why not add a handful of the ingredient to some already delicious cinnamon rolls? I did, inspired by Eric Lanlard, and to make the buns more interesting I switched a bit of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour – not only was the flavor great paired with the chocolate and the cinnamon but it also added a beautiful golden hue to the rolls (and it lightened a bit the guilty factor). :D

I chose not to glaze the rolls for two reasons: I thought it would be overkill and without the glaze they can be reheated in the oven for a couple of minutes before serving – the melted chocolate combined with the cinnamon permeating the soft roll is something I can’t recommend highly enough.

Cinnamon and chocolate rolls
adapted from two wonderful sources: Chocolat and The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden

Dough:
2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
¼ cup (50g) + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) warm water
6 tablespoons (85g/¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large egg yolks
¾ cup (180ml) buttermilk*
½ teaspoon table salt
80g whole wheat flour
3 to 4 cups (420g to 560g) all-purpose flour

Filling:
100g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch of table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
100g dark chocolate, grated – I used one with 53% cocoa solids and blitzed it in the food processor

icing sugar, for dusting

Dough: in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and ¼ cup granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks, buttermilk, and salt until well combined (mixture might look curdled). Beat in the yeast mixture. Add the whole wheat flour and 3 cups of the all purpose flour and mix until combined. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, adding more flour if necessary – I switched the paddle attachment for the dough hook and kneaded the dough using mixer; in total, I used 470g all purpose flour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Filling: in a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll to a 30x45cm (12x18in) rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough, then sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture followed by the chocolate. Starting at the longest end, roll tightly into a cylinder. Cut crosswise into 16 equal pieces.
Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it lightly with butter. Place the slices side by side, 2.5cm (1in) apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until light and puffed, about 45 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown and well risen. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar.

* 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 slightly, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Makes 16

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Skillingsboller - a delicious project for a rainy day + something to go with it

Skillingsboller

I love baking with nuts and usually have at least one kind of them around – I keep them in the freezer so they’ll last longer without going rancid. Sometimes I go crazy and buy too much of a certain kind of nut and then, even with the help of the freezer, I have to find a way to use the precious ingredients.

The small package of flaked almonds in my freezer begging to be used coincided with the arrival of this adorable cookbook, and being a huge fan of cinnamon rolls only added to the equation – it was easy to pick the first recipe to be tried. The buns turned out delicious, ridiculously tender and perfumed with the cinnamon, with some crunch added by the almonds. They do take some time to be put together, I admit it, but it was a cloudy day and I had no intention to go out, therefore it was a perfect project.

Freshly baked buns + the couch on a rainy day = pure bliss. And if there is something interesting to watch, even better. \0/

Skillingsboller
from the delicious The Book of Buns

Dough:
500g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
75g granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) whole milk, heated up to just below boiling point, then cooled to room temperature
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 egg
½ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g unsalted butter, room temperature, chopped

Filling:
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
50g granulated sugar
50g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g flaked almonds

Glaze:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
pinch of salt
pinch of granulated sugar
demerara sugar, for sprinkling the buns

Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, make a well in the center and put the yeast and sugar into the well. Pour the milk over the well, toss some flour over the milk to cover it, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Add the salt, egg, cardamom and vanilla to the rested mixture and mix at low speed to combine (or mix with a wooden spoon). Mix on low-medium speed for 5 minutes (or knead by hand for 10). Add the butter and mix for another 5 minutes (or 10 by hand), until you get a smooth, elastic dough – at this point my dough was too wet from the butter, so I added 20g all purpose flour and it became smooth and soft. Transfer to a lightly buttered large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 2 hours.
For the filling, mix the butter, sugars and cinnamon until incorporated. Set aside. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan.

Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll it to a 60x30cm (24x12in) rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the cinnamon butter, then sprinkle with the almonds. Starting from the longest side of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly into a cylinder and pinch the seams to seal. Cut the cylinder into 12 equal slices and place them, cut side up, into prepared pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the buns prove for 45 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
In a small bowl, beat together with a fork the egg, water, salt and granulated sugar. Brush the buns with the glaze and sprinkle generously with the demerara sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then unmold and place upside up on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Honey cake, relating to characters and "Philomena"

Honey cake / Bolo de mel

I believe it’s part of movie/TV show watching to relate or not to characters, to analyze if we would act like them or not in certain situations – for instance, I would never spend time in a cabin in the middle of the woods and I would certainly never enter a dark attic (or basement) all by myself holding nothing but a lit candle. :D

Speaking of a more serious subject, I watched Philomena yesterday and by the end of the movie I thought it could have been called “Pollyanna”.

Judi Dench is spectacular in the movie – just for a change – and there are several funny moments developed by her character (which reminded me of my paternal grandmother – she’ll say anything that comes to her mind). However, it bothered me much how Philomena deals with the situations she faces, I couldn’t understand it therefore I could not relate – I actually saw myself as the journalist, I would have behaved pretty much like Martin Sixsmith did or worse, I believe. SPOILERS I would have trashed that convent from top to bottom and would have slapped that nun like there was no tomorrow – there would be no forgiving of something so cruel and monstrous. END OF SPOILERS

There is a scene in the movie in which Steve Coogan’s character is having some tea and goes completely bonkers for the cake he’s eating – I felt the same way about this honey cake: it’s extremely simple – no frosting, no filling, nothing – and yet its flavor and texture are absolutely divine. A perfect match for a cup of tea or coffee.

Honey cake
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful National Trust Simply Baking

115g mild honey
115g unsalted butter, softened
115g granulated sugar
2 medium eggs*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
about 100ml full-fat milk, room temperature, as necessary
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) square pan, line the base with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
If your honey is thick, gently warm over a low heat, then set aside until tepid but still runny.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the honey, followed by the eggs, a little at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg over the mixture and fold in, using a rubber spatula. If necessary, add a little milk: the mixture should drop from the spoon in soft blobs (I used only 60ml of the 100ml called for in the recipe). Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden, risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 30 minutes, then carefully unmold, remove the paper and turn the cake back onto the rack. Cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

* I always buy large eggs, so I chose the smallest 2 in the package to use in this recipe

Makes 16

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake, a great mini-series and a truly deserved Golden Globe

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake / Bolo de avelã, coco e canela

I like watching award shows basically for two reasons: it is great to see my favorite actors and directors get awarded – which, unfortunately, doesn’t happen as often as I would like – and I also love seeing the dresses and hairdos worn by the stars (to later comment on the hits and misses). :D

There is, however, another really good reason: TV shows or movies I haven’t heard of, interesting things to look up and maybe add to my already long “to watch” list.
It was because of Elisabeth Moss’ win at this year’s Golden Globe that I learned of Top of the Lake, and what a great mini-series it is: a dark story created and director by Jane Campion – a badass director whose work I admire –, it is set in beautiful locations in New Zealand, with great writing and acting. I already liked Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson – probably the best thing in Mad Men – and here she’s even more fantastic. She truly deserves the GG she took home, and I don’t know how the Globes ignored Peter Mullan, absolutely amazing as the terrifying Matt.

As does The Fall, Top of the Lake discusses violence against women and its consequences – not an easy subject to watch but completely necessary to be portrayed (and here it is done in a very realistic way).

I got addicted to Top of the Lake after minutes only and watched the seven episodes in a matter of days (unfortunately there won’t be additional seasons); every time I saw the characters walking near that cold water I felt like having a cup of tea – and a slice of cake wouldn’t hurt, either. :D

This is a recipe I made because I found the combination of hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut an unusual one, and it turned out to be a delicious one (and the yogurt makes the cake moist and tender to boot).

Hazelnut, cinnamon and coconut cake
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Delicious UK

Cake:
4 medium eggs*
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
230g all purpose flour
50g corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
185ml canola oil
420g plain yogurt
1 cup (100g) sweetened flaked coconut
100g hazelnuts, lightly toasted, cooled and finely chopped

For dusting the cake:
50g icing sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 12-cup nonstick capacity Bundt pan – if using a regular pan without nonstick coating, butter and flour it (I was stubborn and used a 10-cup capacity pan, so I had to bake the excess batter in a 1-cup mini pan).
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the oil, yogurt, coconut and hazelnuts until combined. Stir in the egg mixture.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour/1 hour 20 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack. Cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine the icing sugar and cinnamon, then sift the mixture over the cake.

* I only buy large eggs, so I chose the smallest 4 in the package to use in this recipe

Serves 10-12

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti, and when competition is fair

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti / Biscotti de amêndoa, avelã e cranberry

I have always found the Golden Globes much more fun than the Oscars, and a lot fairer, too, since they separate comedy from drama. Fair is not a word I often associate with movie and TV awards since there are always the lobbied performances that get nominated (and win) while talented people are left behind.

However, this year, as Paula Patton and Aaron Eckhart announced the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama, I told my husband: “this is unusual: each and every one of them deserve the award”. The Globe ended up in Bryan Cranston’s hands – much to my delight – but it would have been completely fair had Paula announced any other of the four nominees, and I would have liked it anyway. I think that deep down inside all four of them – and any other actor in a major TV drama - are celebrating the fact that, next year, Bryan Cranston is out of the competition. :D

My Bryan Cranston of biscotti recipes, Alice Medrich’s almond biscotti, has, after a good while, found some serious competition: these WS biscotti are just as delicious, and the soft, dried cranberries are a nice contrast to the crunch of the nuts. Don’t even think of omitting or replacing the orange zest: it really makes these biscotti.

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti
from the delicious Williams-Sonoma Collection: Cookies

250g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
80g hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
80g almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped if large
finely grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat an oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries and orange zest until evenly distributed. The batter should be very soft.

Turn the batter out onto a generously floured work surface and divide in half. With well-floured hands, transfer one-half onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into a log about 30cm (12in) long and 3.75cm (1½in) in diameter. Place on one side of the sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter, leaving 10cm (4in) the logs. (They will spread as they bake.)
Bake the logs until the edges are golden, 25-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the logs cool for 10 minutes. Slide the logs still attached to the paper from the sheet and line it again with baking paper. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into slices 1.25cm (½in) wide. Carefully place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet and return them to the oven. Bake until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes more. Let the biscotti cool completely on the sheets on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen biscotti – I got 32

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gingerbread brownies and a movie I should have seen in 2006

Gingerbread brownies / Brownies de gingerbread

While there are movies I keep watching over and over again, I can’t find a way to watch others, no matter how much I want to: if it’s on TV, I’ll probably have to be somewhere else at the same time (or it will be aired at 3 in the morning), or the weekend I brought the DVD home I didn’t have the time to sit and watch it – you name it. One of those movies was Children of Men, and a couple of days ago I could finally watch it, and what a magnificent movie it is. Alfonso Cuarón had already won me over with the excellent Gravity, and in Children of Men his work is pure perfection – what he does as a director in this movie is beyond words and it’s just ridiculous that he wasn’t nominated for Best Achievement in Directing; actually, the movie had only three Oscar nominations (while The Help, for instance, had four, for crying out loud), and Clive Owen was ignored while Forest Whitaker took the award home – I can’t even.

So here I am, seven years later, hating myself for having waited so long to watch such a masterpiece. Since I don’t want that kind of thing to happen when it comes to food, I present you some delicious and super easy to make gingerbread brownies – I wasn’t sure I was going to bake these, after all my Christmas series this year is pretty chocolaty already, but why wait? Not seven years, not even seven days. :D

Gingerbread brownies
slightly adapted from the wonderful Delicious Australia

185g unsalted butter, chopped
150g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
200g brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
100g dark chocolate, chopped or in chips, extra

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a square 20cm (8in) baking pan, line it with foil, leaving a 5cm (2in) overhang on 2 opposite sides, then butter the foil as well.
In a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water), melt butter and 150g chopped chocolate. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Add the sugar and stir to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, spices and cocoa and stir until incorporated. Fold in the remaining 100g chocolate. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake until brownies are set around the edges and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let brownies cool in the pan over a wire rack.
Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16

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

Cookies:
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

Filling:
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

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

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

Filling:
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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake + "Bronson"

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake / Bolo de chocolate e avelã (sem farinha de trigo)

Not only do I love watching movies but I also love reading about them (I am a very curious person, I’ll admit it), and when a guy I’d never heard of before won the best director prize in Cannes in 2011 I knew I would watch that movie as soon as possible (Ryan Gosling being the leading actor wouldn’t hurt either). ;) I did, and it became one of my all-time favorites, and up to this day I still listen to the soundtrack almost on daily basis.

Days ago I watched another movie directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and it made me think that we were all paying attention to Sean Penn playing Harvey Milk back in 2009, while we should have paid attention – and given all the awards – to Tom Hardy for Bronson: at first I was shocked by the physical transformation (and by how much he looked like the real Charlie Bronson), but his performance is so much more than that – it’s a tiring, intense and perfect acting exercise that goes beyond the pushups he had to make to get those muscles. It’s not an easy movie to watch – the amount of violence is disturbing – but I found it was worth every second (and if you like acting in its essence I am sure you’ll like it, too). It’s such a shame that a great performance like that didn’t get the buzz it deserved, and it is rarely mentioned among the great performances of all time – what Hardy did shouldn’t be forgotten.

And since good things shouldn’t be forgotten, I’ve been having a lot of fun rediscovering Bill Granger’s Holiday – I hadn’t used the book for ages (for no reason at all) and after making those great chocolate and caramel bars I’ve been reaching for it quite regularly. This chocolate cake is an easy and delicious idea for dessert – you can make it in advance and when the meal is over all you need to do is whip up the cinnamon cream (I skipped the electric mixer and did it manually in order to burn some of the calories I was about to ingest). ;)

Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake
slightly adapted from the always delicious Holiday

Cake:
200g dark chocolate, chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g light brown sugar
100g hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
5 eggs, separated
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Cinnamon cream:
1 cup (240ml) whipping cream
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm springform cake pan (I used a pan with a removable bottom), line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water). Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Add the sugar and hazelnut meal to the melted chocolate and stir until there are no lumps. Add the egg yolks one at a time, stirring well after each addition, then stir in the vanilla. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until firm but still gooey in the center. Leave to cool completely in the pan. Sift the cocoa over the top of the cake.

Cinnamon cream: place the cream, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Serve with the cake.

Serves 8

Friday, November 1, 2013

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle + an amazing movie trailer

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle / Bolo de banana e xarope de bordo com caldinha de caramelo

Weeks ago the trailer for Foxcatcher was released and my interest in the movie skyrocketed – I’d read about it and seen a couple of photos (in which both Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell look unrecognizable) and the trailer just made me even more curious (oh, the joy of a perfectly put together movie trailer!).

I find it remarkable when an actor chooses a project that is completely different from everything he’d done up until then, which is what Carell is doing in Foxcatcher – for the little I’ve seen and read his performance will be one to watch next year. That reminds me of other actors who emerged from comedies and delivered great performances in dramas such as Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, Jamie Foxx in Collateral (before that movie I don’t think anyone would have thought the guy could win an Oscar) and, to me, the most fantastic one, Marlon Wayans in Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky did the impossible here, let’s be honest). I cannot wait to see Carell playing such a dark character, and it’s too bad the movie release has been postponed to 2014 (apparently no one wants to compete against Gravity and 12 Years a Slave in the award season).

***
I like having a handful of ingredients in my freezer for cooking and baking, like berries, peas, spinach and nuts, and two things I always have stashed there are egg whites and overripe bananas. A while ago the egg white amount was considerably low, but there were quite a lot of frozen bananas around, and they were transformed into this moist, delicious cake (the caramel drizzle makes it extra special, don’t skip it). The cake does taste fantastic with the addition of maple syrup, but I have made this recipe replacing the syrup with a mild flavored honey and it worked like a charm, too.

Maple banana cake with caramel drizzle
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Delicious Autralia

Cake:
3 large eggs
125g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 cup (175g) light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 overripe bananas, mashed
¼ cup sour cream*
225g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
icing sugar, for dusting

Caramel drizzle:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup (60g) light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease an 8-cup capacity Bundt cake pan and dust with flour.
Beat eggs, butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla in an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until thick. Beat banana and sour cream into the batter. Sift in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt then mix until combined. Spread into the pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
Make the caramel drizzle: place butter and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it boils, whisk in the cream – carefully because the mixture will bubble – until incorporated then remove from heat.
Dust the cake with the icing sugar and drizzle with the caramel.

* homemade sour cream: to make 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream with 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until it starts to thicken. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until thicker (I usually leave mine on the counter overnight – except on very warm nights – and it turns out thick and silky in the following morning; refrigerate for a creamier texture)

Serves 8-10

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