Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Caramelized onion and gruyere focaccia and the excellent "Bloodline"

Caramelized onion and cheese focaccia / Focaccia de queijo e cebola caramelizada

Now that I have brought my husband to the dark side – the side of the addicted to TV series – he keeps asking me what we’ll watch next: I find it both funny and lovely and I hope he stays this way for good. :)

We finished watching the first season of The Americans and while Netflix doesn’t bring us more episodes – I cannot wait! – I suggested we watched Bloodline, for its great cast and because Ben Mendelsohn had impressed me very much in the great Animal Kingdom. One of my readers had told me it was a wonderful show and she was right: it is well written, well directed and definitely spot on in acting – my husband loved it, too, and as we moved on through the episodes things got more and more interesting, to the point my husband said that he hoped there would be a second season (good news: there will be).

If you like dramas like the ones I usually write about here on the blog I can’t recommend Bloodline enough, and if you like baking bread and having something tasty to nibble on with a glass of sparkling wine or beer go to the kitchen and make this focaccia: it is not complicated to make and it tastes absolutely fantastic.

Caramelized onion and gruyere focaccia
slightly adapted from the delicious Home Baked Comfort (Williams-Sonoma) (revised): Featuring Mouthwatering Recipes and Tales of the Sweet Life with Favorites from Bakers Across the Country

2 ¼ teaspoons (7g/1 sachet) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) warm water
3 1/3 cups (465g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
1 scant teaspoon table salt
150g (5oz) Gruyere cheese, shredded

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, oil, salt and cheese. Attach the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it back in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until they start to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sugar and a good pinch of salt and continue to cook until the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Oil a rimmed baking sheet with 1 ½ tablespoons of the olive oil. Dump the dough onto the prepared pan and press it into a rough rectangle. Using your fingers, stretch the dough into a rectangle about 20x30cm (8x12in). Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy, about 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 220°C (425°F). Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingertips. Gently brush the remaining oil, then sprinkle evenly with the onion. Bake until gorgeously golden, about 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve while warm.

Makes 1 flatbread (serves 6-8)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Almond syrup cake and more bad TV news

Almond syrup cake / Bolo de amêndoa com calda

I apparently spoke too soon, guys – days ago I found out that another one of my favorite TV series has been cancelled. :(

The good thing is I’m not the only one disappointed by the news about Hannibal and like me many others are hoping that the show gets saved by Netflix or some other network – let's hope it works, right, boys? ;)

I’ve loved Hannibal ever since its beginninghow could I not? – and might be a little behind on the episodes because so many other shows have grabbed my attention lately, but it is still one of the best series I’ve seen even though I know it might be a little too graphic for many people – I don’t mind the gore at all because in that case it is absolutely necessary to the story being told, and not only splashed there to shock.

I haven’t baked much lately (which is a shame), but I did make this delicious cake weeks ago and here it is: I know I can be a little too repetitive when it comes to almond cakes – or TV shows ;) – but this one is really special: it tastes delicious and if there’s any syrup left after the cake is gone it is wonderful poured over pancakes or waffles.

Almond syrup cake / Bolo de amêndoa com calda

Almond syrup cake
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Donna Hay Magazine

3 eggs
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 ¼ cups (125g) almond meal
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons Amaretto
½ cup (60g) flaked almonds

1 cup (240ml) water
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (60ml) Amaretto

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter it as well.

Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for about 8 minutes or until thick, pale and tripled in volume. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, almond meal, butter, lemon zest and Amaretto. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan over a wire rack while you make the syrup: place water, sugar, vanilla and Amaretto in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Pour ¾ of the hot syrup over the cake gradually, making sure it gets absorbed by the cake before pouring more syrup. Cool completely in the pan, then carefully unmold.

Serve the cake with the remaining syrup.

Serves 8-10

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dulce de leche swirl congo bars

Dulce de leche swirl congo bars / Barrinhas congo com doce de leite

Sometimes I buy cookbooks and wait anxiously for them to arrive by mail only to go through them back and forth countless times without any idea of which recipe to start using them from – I know it sounds stupid, but that is exactly what happens around here.

Then it takes me forever to go back to that cookbook, not because I did not like it but because there were lots of other recipes grabbing my attention in between. I suddenly see the book while looking for something else and take it to the couch with me to go through it back and forth all over again, until I find that makes me run to the kitchen.

I made these bars a long time ago, after making the delicious coconut and pecan bars from the same book, but never posted them – they were scrumptious and were a hit with my former coworkers. I ended up taking a “healthy” route in my baking a while ago and thought that bars made with pecans, chocolate and dulce de leche were a bit too much. While searching for a certain photo I found this picture and thought that it was such a waste not to share this recipe with you – after all, eating a couple of these bars once in a blue moon won’t kill anyone.

While you read the recipe I’ll grab Nancy Baggett’s book and choose something tasty for the weekend. ;)

Dulce de leche swirl congo bars
slightly adapted from the delicious Simply Sensational Cookies

¾ cup (1½ sticks/170g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 ¼ cups (215g) packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 cup (110g) pecans, chopped
1 cup (165g) dark chocolate chips – I used 53% cocoa solids
1 cup dulce de leche

Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 22x32cm (9x13in) baking pan, line it with foil and butter it as well – I used a 20x30cm (8x12in) pan.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Remove from the heat and cool to warm. Stir in the sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla until well blended. One at a time, vigorously stir in the eggs. Stir in the flour just until evenly incorporated. Fold in the nuts and chocolate until evenly distributed.

Spread a generous half of the mixture evenly in the pan. Put evenly spaced heaping tablespoonfuls of the dulce de leche over the batter. Then drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the top. Using a table knife held vertically, swirl the two together to produce a slightly rippled effect; don’t blend them too much.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes 18

Monday, June 15, 2015

Peanut and white chocolate brownies and the amazing Viola

Peanut and white chocolate brownies / Brownies com chocolate branco e amendoim

Back in January I watched the Golden Globes and many of my favorites took awards home – among them was Ruth Wilson, who is absolutely amazing in The Affair, but she was competing head to head with another actress I deeply admire, the über talented Viola Davis. Back then I hadn’t watched How to Get Away with Murder yet but got immediately interested in it.

The show is really that good and each episode ends with a bang that would make my husband and I crazy to know what would happen next – we saw the season finale last night and were like “OMG!!”. Viola is, indeed, superb: the woman can pull anything off, she can play any part. I am still Team Ruth because I think that her character in The Affair is more difficult to play – it is like she portrayed two different characters – but if Viola had taken the GG home I wouldn’t have minded at all.

Gladly a second season has been confirmed for How to Get Away with Murder – enough with the cancellation of my favorite TV shows, really. :)

From a woman that can do no wrong in acting to another who does wonders in the kitchen: Alice Medrich – these peanut and white chocolate brownies are a riff on one of her great recipes and are super delicious!

Peanut and white chocolate brownies
slightly adapted from the amazing Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

10 tablespoons (140g/1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (80g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ cup (70g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (75g) unsalted roasted peanuts
½ cup (80g) white chocolate chips

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.

In a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter and set on top of a large sauce pan with barely simmering water. Melt the butter, then add sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. Next add the cocoa powder and stir until mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the water and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Using a rubber spatula, stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the peanuts and white chocolate. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares.

Makes 16

Friday, June 12, 2015

Poppy seed cake and a certain horror movie

Poppy seed cake / Bolo de sementes de papoula

I am a coward when it comes to watching horror movies – I usually spend 2/3 of them with my eyes closed – but I am a kid from the 70s and therefore was more than curious to watch the remake of one of the movies that scared the bejeesus out of me back in the day.

I would never do such thing alone, so my husband was in charge of holding my hands whenever necessary – he also had memories of Carol Anne and the scary TV from 1982.

All I can say is that aside from a couple of jumps I wasn’t too frightened or impressed: the movie isn’t all that – maybe remakes aren’t as good as the originals or maybe I have seen too many of James Wan’s movies. :)

Choosing movies to watch might be tricky: one can find something really good or something not so great, and I believe it is the same with recipes: we can’t really tell they’re good until we’ve tried them. I made this cake because I had a couple of egg whites to spare – because of these wonderful cookies – and it turned out to be a great recipe: the cake is very light in texture and tender, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

Poppy seed cake
slightly adapted from 100 Best Cakes and Desserts

125g unsalted butter, softened
finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar, divided use
1 egg yolk
250ml whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
4 egg whites

½ cup (70g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 2-liter Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, lime zest, honey, lime juice and 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg yolk, milk and vanilla – don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at this stage. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the remaining ¼ cup (50g) sugar and beat until satiny. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the cake mixture, then pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the icing sugar in a bowl and gradually stir in the lime juice, mixing until you get a drizzable consistency. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Serves 8-10

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