Friday, August 31, 2012

Gingerbread, pear and almond tart

Gingerbread pear tart / Torta de pêra e gingerbread

I got hypnotized by this tart when I first saw it on the DH mag – it looked so beautiful and delicious! My first thought was to make it at the end of the year and post the recipe as part of my Christmas series, but then I remembered that pears are at their peak now, and I had a small amount of marmalade in the fridge (left from a cake I’d made a couple of weeks before) that ended up being the exact ¼ cup called for in the tart recipe; as the universe had conspired in my kitchen before and the results were wonderful, I went ahead and made the tart, and that turned out to be a very smart decision. ;)

Gingerbread pear tart / Torta de pêra e gingerbread

Gingerbread, pear and almond tart
from the always gorgeous and delicious Donna Hay Magazine

½ cup + 1 tablespoon (127g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup golden syrup (I used corn syrup)
2 2/3 cups (373g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) almond meal
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
3 firm pears, halved lengthwise, each half cut in 4-5 slices
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar, extra
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup orange marmalade
icing sugar, for dusting
whipped cream, for serving

Place the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup, flour, ginger, baking soda and salt and beat until mixture just comes together to form a smooth dough. Divide in two equal portions and form each one into a rough rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, mix together the almond meal and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside. Place the pears, extra sugar, vanilla and marmalade in a large bowl and mix to combine.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Roll each portion of dough between two pieces of lightly floured baking paper until you get a 20x30cm (12x8in) rectangle. Sprinkle the almond meal mixture down the center of each dough rectangle, leaving a 5cm (2in) border. Place the pear filling on top of the almond meal and fold the edges of dough over the pears. Transfer to the prepared sheet. Refrigerate the tarts for 20 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked and golden. Cool in the pan over a wire rack – you can serve the tarts warm or at room temperature.
Dust with the icing sugar and serve.

Makes 2 tarts, each serving 4-6

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Banana cake with rum glaze

Banana cake with rum glaze / Bolo de banana com calda de rum

“Artificial Intelligence: A.I.” was on cable last night and I after watching half an hour of the movie my opinion about it did not change after all these years: it is not Kubrick. I know that Kubrick worked on the project for many, many years and reading the movie trivia again I remembered that several details were chosen/decided by him, but I think it was just not enough; I find Spielberg to be a very boring director – and quite corny sometimes – so to me he shouldn’t have been chosen to work with something so dark and disturbing; leave it to Cronenberg, Fincher and even Nolan to deal with that kind of movie, and not someone who digitally replaces shotguns for walkie-talkies.
But there’s one thing I like about “A.I.”: I find Jude Law perfect as Gigolo Joe – he’s such a versatile actor and one of my favorites.

***

I loved this very tender and delicious banana cake – Lisa Yockelson’s cakes are always wonderful – but when I placed it in the oven I thought it would be too plain (very much like Spielberg); therefore, I drenched it in a rum glaze and that made things a lot more interesting. :)

Banana cake with rum glaze
adapted from the wonderful and delicious Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes and Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth

Cake:
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (80g) cake flour (homemade: ½ cup all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon corn starch)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups + 1 tablespoon (262g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas
½ cup (120ml) buttermilk*

Glaze:
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup (44g) light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) dark rum

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together 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 and the bananas.
In low speed, add the sifted ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes – in the meantime, make the glaze: combine butter, water and sugars in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high-heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.
Carefully unmold onto the rack and brush it generously with the glaze (you can save some to serve with the cake). Cool completely.

* 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

Serves 10-12

Monday, August 27, 2012

Glazed lemon biscotti

Lemon glazed biscotti / Biscotti de limão siciliano

I know what you’ll think: since becoming a biscotti-fanatic it was just a matter of time before I baked lemon biscotti, right? So, here you have it, and to make up for all this time it is a double lemon biscotti: the biscotti are heavily perfumed with lemon zest and the glaze is deliciously tangy from the juice – as Brilynn would say, “go big or go home”. :D

Glazed lemon biscotti
slightly adapted from the wonderful Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets

Biscotti:
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, slightly firm
finely ground zest of 2 lemons
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
1 ½ cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn syrup
about 1 tablespoon hot water

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and zest on medium-low speed. Increase to medium and add the sugar in a steady stream. Beat for 1 minute longer.
Beat in the egg, then the yolks and vanilla and beat for 1 minute. On low speed, add the sifted ingredients in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Spoon half the dough onto one side of the prepared sheet and, with floured hands, shape it into a 5x35cm (2x14in) log. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until set on top and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and place over a wire rack for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C/325°F and line another large baking sheet with baking paper.
Carefully lift one log at a time from the baking paper and slice into 1cm (½in) slices. Lay the biscotti slices onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes each side or until golden. Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack.
In the meantime, make the glaze: combine the sugar, lemon juice, corn syrup and the water and mix until the glaze has a drizzable consistency – add more water if necessary. While the biscotti are still warm, place them very close together in the sheet then dip a fork in the glaze and quickly move it back and forth over the biscotti. Let cool to room temperature and wait for the glaze to dry before storing.
Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Makes about 40

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chestnut spice cake

Chestnut spice cake

I like my things organized but I'm not too strict about it: I try to keep things in place on a daily basis and from time to time I have "organization-craze" moments; having one of those with my fridge the other day I realized that the expiration date of my chesnut flour was a few months away only; since I don't want to waste such precious ingredient, I went into a chestnut-flour-baking-frenzy, which resulted in three different treats on the same day: one of them is this delicious and very tender fragrant cake, which smelled so wonderful while baking I had to really hold my horses in order to avoid eating a slice of it the minute it was out of the oven. :D

Chestnut spice cake
from the delicious Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen

1 ¾ cups (245g) all purpose flour
¾ cup (75g) chesnut flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar*
½ cup honey (chestnut if possible)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cognac
1 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)
1 cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.Butter and flour a 23cm (9in) springform cake pan**.
in a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, chestnut flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and honey until creamy and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, the cognac and the Amaretto. Scrape the bowl again.
In low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the sides of the bowl again then beat the batter for 15 seconds on medium speed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes then carefully remove the sides of the pan and let the cake cool completely.
Dust with the icing sugar before serving.
The cake can be wrapped in plastic or stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* the cake tasted delicious but if I were to make it again I would reduce the sugar just a bit

** I used a regular 23cm (9in) cake pan (no removable bottom), therefore I lined the bottom of the pan with a circle of baking paper, then buttered and floured the pan; I cooled the cake in the pan over a wire rack for 25 minutes, then carefully inverted in onto a plate, removed the paper, then inverted it again (top side up) onto the rack to cool completely

Serves 8-10

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cheese and onion scrolls and changing my mind after the first bite

Cheese and onion scrolls / Pãezinhos de cebola e queijo

The minute I pulled these rolls out of the oven I decided not to publish the recipe on the blog – they did not look cute like the ones on the magazine, and being the perfectionism-freak that I am I got really disappointed at how they’d turned out. But the smell in my kitchen was so wonderful that I felt the urge to try one scroll, and that was when I completely changed my mind: it tasted so delicious I would have to share the recipe with you. I immediately grabbed my camera because the rolls were so good I did not think there would be any left for the photos afterwards. :D

The dough is super soft and that made it difficult to shape the scrolls, but I advise you not to add more flour to it, even if you feel tempted to: you’ll love the oh, so tender texture of the rolls, and that great texture did not change after the bread cooled down.

Cheese and onion scrolls
adapted from the always gorgeous and delicious Australian Gourmet Traveller

1 onion, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon (255g) all purpose flour
¾ cup (105g) whole wheat flour
1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 ¼ teaspoons (7g) dried yeast
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
150g fontina cheese, coarsely grated, divided use
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, plus extra for brushing
1/3 cup (80ml) water

Stir onion and oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until tender (4-5 minutes), set aside. Combine flours, sugar, yeast, chives, 50g of the fontina cheese, onion mixture and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Warm milk and water in a saucepan over low heat until lukewarm, add to flour mixture, knead until smooth and elastic (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (45 minutes-1 hour).
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang in two opposite sides.
Knock back dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 20x40cm (8x16in) rectangle. Scatter with remaining fontina cheese then roll to form a long cylinder. Cut into 8 pieces, place cut-side down onto prepared pan, 1cm (½in) apart. Cover and stand until slightly risen (10-15 minutes). Brush tops with milk and bake until golden (20-25 minutes). Serve warm (they tasted delicious at room temperature, too).

Makes 8

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Red currant financiers + The Smiths

Red currant financiers / Financiers de groselha

As you know I wasn’t familiar with most of the cast of the wonderful “Animal Kingdom”, so as soon as the movie ended I went to IMDb for some information and that was how I found out that one of James Frecheville’s next projects is a movie about the demise of my #1 band – I found the synopsis really interesting and the title chosen for the movie absolutely perfect (it is one of my most favorite songs, too).

After the London Olympics Closing Ceremony ended, I was talking to a couple of friends about how I thought The Smiths should have been mentioned during the show being one of the most important British bands in History, and we wondered if that had been a decision made by the people in charge of the ceremony because of the band’s political criticism or if Morrissey hadn’t allowed the songs to be used – both scenarios make a lot of sense, I think. :)

***

I find red currants one of the most beautiful things Nature has to offer when it comes to fruit: they look like gems. The first time I saw fresh red currants was years ago at the Borough Market – I had never seen them here in Brazil before. What a lovely surprise it was to find some at a grocery store a couple of weeks ago – I ignored the price and brought home a small box of the precious berries, turning some of them into these delicate financiers.

Red currant financiers / Financiers de groselha

Red currant financiers
adapted from the wonderful Simply Bill

2/3 cup (67g) almond meal
¾ cup (105g) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup (47g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
4 egg whites (112g)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
about 70g fresh red currants

Butter and flour eighteen 2-tablespoon capacity financier molds.
In a medium bowl, sift together the almond meal, icing sugar, flour and salt. Stir in the egg whites and vanilla until just combined. Stir in the melted butter. Refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Divide the batter evenly among the pans. Arrange the red currants on top of each financier.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until risen and golden - the friands should spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and leave in the pans over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack to cool.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 18

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Orange cream bars - a layered treat with some layered music on the side

Orange cream bars / Barrinhas de laranja

I love layers. Layered cakes, layered performances, layered music... That is one of the reasons why I love most of Silverchair’s songs so much, especially the ones in "Diorama": they have so many different layers, so many different details that one can really feel that there was real effort put into those melodies – as their audience, I feel spoiled and lucky being treated that way. One of my favorite songs is “Across the Night” – how can one not love a song that starts with the sound of a harpsichord, followed by a big band feel? And then, in the end, there is a complete change in music, it’s like getting two different songs in one (which reminds me of the amazing “Layla”) – sublime doesn’t being to describe it.

With those talented boys and their layered music in mind, I bring you some delicious layered bars, which might seem like a lot of work but it’s not: it’s just a bit time consuming (I’ll admit that), since you need to make the layers separately and they need to cool/firm up in between; I used that time for a little TV treat since I hadn’t started reading this book by then.

Orange cream bars
from the always delicious The Good Cookie

Crust:
1 ¼ cups (175g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (94g) confectioners' sugar, sifted if too lumpy
pinch of salt
10 tablespoons (140g) unsalted butter, cut into 1cm (½in) cubes

Orange curd filling:
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup (120ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
pinch of salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Topping:
¾ cup (180ml) sour cream*
¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 23cm (9in) square baking pan with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil.
Crust: place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until blended. Scatter the pieces of butter over the mixture and pulse 6-8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Process until the mixture forms large clumps and holds together when pinched between two fingers, 15-20 seconds (I had to add 1 teaspoon ice water to the pastry to get the right consistency).
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer. Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Curd: set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar until blended. Stir in the citrus juices, orange zest, salt, and butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 7-8 minutes (do not let the mixture boil, or it will curdle). Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve, pressing it through with a rubber spatula.
Transfer ¼ cup of the curd to a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate. Scrape the remaining warm curd onto the cooled crust and spread it into an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until the curd is cool and firm.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Whisk the sour cream, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into the reserved orange curd. Gently spread the mixture over the cooled orange curd layer.
Bake the bars 10 minutes, just until the topping is set**. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely, then chill in refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to a day).
Using a thin sharp knife, cut the bars into 16 squares, wiping the blade clean after each cut (I wiped the blade clean 3 times, tops). Serve chilled.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

* 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)

** my bars were in the oven for 25 minutes (!!) and the topping did not firm up – I removed if from the oven and it ended up firming in the refrigerator, but not enough to hold its shape once the bars got sliced

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rangpur lime and almond muffins and a grumpy baker

Rangpur lime and almond muffins / Muffins de limão-cravo e amêndoa

I must be honest: these muffins did not get the best of me while I was making them – little old grumpy me kept thinking “muffins are supposed to be practical and quick to make!”, and “with these many steps I could be making a cake!”. Yes, I know, not very civilized of me, but it IS a fussy recipe and there ARE too many steps and too many ingredients. But in the end the result was so good I had to let it all go and share the recipe with you, especially because less than 30 minutes after the muffins had been placed in the oven I was biting into one of them already, which is something I would not be able to do with a cake. :D

The original recipe called for lemons, but I decided to use the super fragrant rangpur limes I had around instead.

Rangpur lime and almond muffins
slightly adapted from one of my latest purchases

Topping:
½ cup (55g) sliced almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Muffins:
1 ¼ cups + 1 tablespoon (185g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (46g) confectioners’ sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
2 ½ tablespoons whole milk
1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
finely grated zest of 1 rangpur lime
1 tablespoon rangpur lime juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (36g) sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F; butter a muffin pan with twelve 1/3 cup (80ml) capacity muffin cups – you’ll use 10 of the 12 holes.
Make the topping: in a small bowl, mix together the almonds, sugar, milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, rangpur lime juice and zest and vanilla.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar and almonds on medium speed for 1 minute. On low speed, slowly drizzle the liquid ingredients into the bowl – the mixture will look lumpy. By hand, quickly fold in the flour in 3 additions but do not overmix.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, filling each cavity 2/3 of its capacity. Place spoonfuls of the topping on the top of each muffin. Before baking, fill the empty cavities halfway up with water.
Bake until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
Let cool in the pan over a wire rack for about 7 minutes then carefully unmold and place on the rack to cool.

Makes 10

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cream cheese apple cake - the most tender cake I've ever seen + another great movie

Cream cheese apple cake / Bolo de maçã e cream cheese

My good movie wave continues and apparently it is in full bloom: I watched the fantastic "Animal Kingdom" a few days ago and I’m still stunned by it.
I first read about “Animal Kingdom” at my source for all things cinema, and could not wait to watch it - as it usually happens to many great films, it took the movie forever to arrive here and it went straight to DVD. But it was worth the wait: a great script, beautifully directed and with equally wonderful performances. Guy Pierce, one of my favorite actors, was the only name I recognized from the cast, and I remembered Jackie Weaver from the Oscars, but that was it: the director was completely new to me, and he’s also responsible for the script.

* spoilers *

I might not be familiar with the cast, but everyone impressed me in a great way: James Frecheville could not ask for a more powerful debut – he perfectly nails J., dealing well with the way his character starts the movie and the curve ahead of him (not to mention the poetic ending); he’s sublime in the scene in the bathroom at his girlfriend’s house. Ben Mendelsohn’s character, who at first to me looked like a crying baby desperate for attention, asking everyone to talk to him, slowly shows why he’s the leader of the pack – he’s pure evil and also seems to be the only one not gravitating around the mother, who is brilliantly portrayed by Weaver; minutes into the film I kept waiting for the Best Supporting Actress Nominee performance to show – see, I love Judi Dench but I don’t buy that 8-minute-performance-Oscar-thing, so I wanted more from Weaver and when I started doubting her she smashingly brought it: her character looks both angelical and devilish, motherly and incestuous at the same time – just divine. Later on I learned that David Michôd had written the part especially for her – wise man. And that same wise man directs this great movie beautifully, putting his own ideas and words into action, moving the camera around at different speeds and getting the most amazing effects with slow motion (something Zack Snyder completely ruined in “Sucker Punch”, it drove me crazy and made me hate the movie), combined with a subtle yet efficient music that reminded me of the music in “The Insider”.
“Animal Kingdom” is an excellent movie, one I would love to have at home to watch it over and over again.

* end of spoilers *

The idea of mixing butter and cream cheese in a cake batter not only seems genius – it IS. This is the most tender cake I have ever seen, made or eaten and I believe that the recipe can be made in several ways: forgoing the apples for berries or chocolate chips or simply omitting them and turning the cake into a citrus treat by replacing the cinnamon with zest; just a couple of ideas I think you would like. :)

Cream cheese apple cake
adapted from the delicious and great The Grand Central Baking Book

2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (9oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons (375g) granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into 1cm (½in) chunks
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light in color – almost white – and the texture is fluffy, about 8 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice during the process to ensure that the butter is evenly incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients; stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated. Fold the apples in by hand using a stiff spatula, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes over a wire rack, then carefully unmold onto the rack.
Cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 10-12

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lemon brioche rose cake

Lemon brioche rose cake / Brioche de limão siciliano

One of my ideas for the weekend was to bake bread, and I after the huge hit I’d had with his passion fruit cake I wanted to make Dan Lepard’s sticky toffee apple buns; unfortunately, all the apples in my fridge disappeared quite mysteriously, and I had no fruit left to bake with, except for a bag of lemons.

You know what they sat, when life gives you lemons make delicious and super tender brioche with them. :D

Lemon brioche rose cake
from the beautiful Dolci: Italy's Sweets

Dough:
¾ cup (180ml) whole milk
2 ¼ teaspoons (7g) dry yeast
2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For brushing and sprinkling:
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Make the dough: warm ¼ cup (60ml) of the milk and transfer to a large bowl. Add the yeast and mix with a fork. Set aside until it bubbles. Stir in 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (55g) of the flour, stirring until a dough forms, and adding a few drops of milk if the mixture is too dry. Knead the dough inside the bowl until smooth, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
To the dough, add the remaining flour, the remaining ½ cup (120ml) of milk, the egg yolks, the sugar, the oil and salt. Stir until a dough forms, then knead until smooth (I used the Kitchen Aid for that). Set the dough aside while you make the filling. Lightly butter and flour a 23cm (9in) round cake pan.
Make the filling: in an electric mixer, beat together the butter, the granulated sugar, the lemon zest and the cinnamon until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 30x45cm (12x18in) rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the dough all the way to the edges, leaving a 2.5cm (1in) strip uncovered at the long end. Gently roll the dough, starting at the long end of the rectangle closest to you, forming a cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 thick slices. Place them cut side down in the prepared pan, about 1cm (½in) in apart. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for about 1 hour or until risen.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush the cake with the egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden. Cool in the pan over a wire rack.

Makes 8

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Orange-blossom madeleines and the end of another trilogy

Orange blossom madeleines / Madeleines de água de flor de laranjeira

After two months of ups and downs, I have finally finished reading "Mockingjay", and I want to thank the readers Gertrude and Debora for their comments, for they were the reason I did not give up on the book; after what seemed to be ages – but was actually a handful of pages – the story got super interesting again, like it was in the two previous books: I could not put the book down and seriously considered taking it to the shower with me. :D
A quick visit to one of my favorite websites shows that the list of great actors for “Catching Fire” grows almost on a daily basis, and now that Peter Jackson has made me lose all the interest in “The Hobbit” I can go on and focus my attention – and anxiety – on another movie. :D

I love making madeleines and hadn’t made any in quite a while – I guess they were sort of forgotten, just as the poor “Mockinjay”. The orange blossom water adds a subtle and delicious touch, but if you haven’t gotten any – of don’t like it at all – omit it and use the zest of the whole orange to make orange madeleines.

Orange-blossom madeleines
slightly adapted from the always stunning Australian Gourmet Traveller

½ cup + 1 tablespoon (127g) unsalted butter + a bit extra, melted, for brushing
1 tablespoon honey
finely grated zest of ½ orange
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (124g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon orange-blossom water, or to taste

Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until light golden. Remove from heat, stir in honey, orange zest, orange-blossom water and vanilla and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt and eggs in a bowl until smooth and creamy, then set aside to rest (10 minutes). Gradually add cooled butter mixture, beat until smooth and just combined, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (overnight).
Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly brush 24 madeleine molds (1 tablespoon capacity each) with the extra melted butter, then refrigerate for 10 minutes. Spoon in heaped tablespoons of the madeleine batter into the molds. Bake until golden around the edges and humped in the middle (10-12 minutes), then unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Makes 24

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Passion fruit cake with coconut streusel

Passion fruit cake with coconut streusel / Bolo de maracujá com cobertura streusel de coco

It was my dear friend Valentina who introduced me to Dan Lepard’s wonderful recipes years ago – I saw a beautiful cake on her blog and the recipe was Dan’s. However – and I do not know why – it took me ages to start baking some of his great recipes, and now that I have started I have no intention to stop. His latest (and fantastic) cookbook is one of my top favorites and each and every recipe made from it so far has been a huge hit.

Being a passion fruit maniac I could not resist this recipe: it is delicious and the seeds peeking out from the cake squares make them look beautiful – my coworkers loved it.

Passion fruit cake with coconut streusel
adapted from Lepard’s delicious column at the Guardian

Coconut crumble:
85g (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut in small cubes
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (125g) all purpose flour
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
½ cup (45g) unsweetened flaked coconut
pinch of salt

Cake:
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (127g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) passion fruit pulp, with the seeds
4 tablespoons corn starch, packed
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (160ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups (325g) all purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Make the crumble: in a medium bowl, rub the butter through the flour, sugar, coconut and salt with your fingertips until it turns crumbly. Refrigerate while you make the cake.

Cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F; butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) cake pan.
Place the melted the butter in a large bowl, then beat in the oil, sugar, passion fruit, corn starch, egg yolks, cream and vanilla. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with a spotlessly clean whisk until it holds soft peaks when the whisk is pulled out. Sift and fold the flour and baking powder into the passion fruit mix, then fold in the egg whites gently and spoon into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top of the cake then press gently to adhere. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.

Serves 15-18

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blueberry almond tart + Michael Shannon

Blueberry and almond tart / Torta de amêndoa e mirtilos

I will always remember the 2012 Academy Awards as the year in which the people who should have won the statues weren’t even nominated: as happened to Tilda and Lynne Ramsay, Michael Shannon had, to me, the most striking performance as an actor last year but was forgotten by the Academy. I’ll also keep in mind that the people responsible for the nominations chose Jessica Chastain as a contestant for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – which is perfect – but signed her in with the wrong movie; I wonder if the person reading the instructions got confused, Jack Palance style. :D

I find subtlety to be an essential quality for an actor, and Michael Shannon has tons of it – I feel that his Curtis would have become a walking cliché in the hands of a less talented actor. Shannon had impressed me before in rather short but powerful performances, and after watching the absolutely amazing “Take Shelter” I have become officially a fan: I am pretty sure he’ll nail the part of General Zod, making the always great Terence Stamp proud, and there are two other movies on their way that sound really interesting, one of them reuniting Shannon and Jeff Nichols – I’ll be watching those, you bet. And if you, like me, find that Shannon’s bony, squared face gives him a sort of intimidating look, you should know that he can be oh, so adorable and funny. :)

***
This tart, though not as simple as making a cake, is worth every second of preparation: the almond filling is luscious and moreish, while the berries, after baked, taste like little bubbles of jam exploding in one’s mouth. Oh, so good.

Blueberry almond tart
slightly adapted from the very, very delicious and beautiful Good Things to Eat (mine was bought here)

Pastry:
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
¼ cup (35g) icing sugar, sifted if lumpy
pinch of salt
1/3 cup + ½ tablespoon (83g) cold unsalted butter, in cubes
1 egg
1 teaspoon ice water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (112g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (125g) almond meal
½ tablespoon all purpose flour
pinch of salt
125g blueberries
icing sugar, for dusting

Pastry: place the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few times until mixture resembled coarse breadcrumbs. Break the egg into a small bowl, add the water and vanilla and lightly whisk with a fork. With the motor running, gradually add the egg mixture and process just until a dough starts to form (you won’t probably use the whole egg mixture). Transfer to a lightly floured surface, form into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (can be frozen for a month with a double layer of foil on top of the plastic wrap).

Lightly butter a 30x10cm (12x4in) tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry into a 35x15cm (14x6in) rectangle. Line the pan with the pastry, removing the excess pastry. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F and place a large baking sheet in it. Line the base and sides of the pastry case with a piece of baking paper and fill with dried beans/baking weights. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the sides have set. Carefully remove the beans and the paper, reduce the oven to 180°C/350°F, then bake the pastry until dry in the bottom and is starting to turn pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave it on. Cool the pastry for 10 minutes.
Make the filling: in the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract, almond meal, all purpose flour and salt.
Sprinkle a third of the blueberries on the bottom of the pastry shell. Cover with the almond filling, then sprinkle the rest of the berries on top. Bake until the filling is set and golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Dust with icing sugar to serve and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cheesecake swirled chocolate cake

Cheesecake swirled chocolate cake / Bolo de chocolate com recheio de cheesecake

I have something to write about Christopher Nolan, but that involves some "TDKR" spoilers - if you haven't seen the movie yet, scroll down for the recipe.

* spoilers *

Many of the people I have talked with about "TDKR" think that Nolan should return for another Batman movie, especially because of the way "TDKR" ended, but I disagree ; As much as I love the three films he superbly directed - and you know I am a fanatic for his trilogy - I believe that it is a cycle that ended beautifully and now it's time for him to move on as a director. That is very clear to me when I think of the amazing films he has made aside from the Batman trilogy - he even made me like Robbie Williams! - and I would be absolutely thrilled to watch more films like the fantastic "The Prestige".

* end of spoilers *

I love the idea of a cake that comes out of the pan already filled, and for someone who adores cheesecake like I do this chocolate cake is just perfect.

Cheesecake swirled chocolate cake
from a lovely book I bought ages ago and hadn’t used in years

Cheesecake swirl:
225g (8oz) cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

Cake:
2 eggs
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan.
Cheesecake swirl: in a medium bowl, mix together the cream the cheese, sugar and vanilla with a whisk until creamy and smooth. Beat in the egg. Set aside.
Cake: in the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until thick and smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Spoon 2/3 of the chocolate batter into prepared pan. Using the back of a spoon, make a trough in the batter, all the way around the pan. Carefully spoon the cheese mixture into the trough. Gently cover the filling with the remaining chocolate batter and smooth the top. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, over a wire rack, for 15 minutes, then turn onto the rack. Cool completely before serving.

* 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

Serves 10-12

Friday, August 3, 2012

Banana streusel muffins + "Skyfall"

Banana streusel muffins / Muffins de banana com cobertura streusel

I must admit that I’m not a fan of the 007 movies – it’s not my thing. I tried watching several of them, many, many times, but 20 minutes into it and I was either changing the channel or had fallen asleep. :S
The first Bond movie I watched from beginning to end was “Die Another Day”, and well... let’s just say that by the end of it I wished I’d spent those hours baking a cake or something. :)
Years later, I gave the movie franchise another chance and decided to watch “Cassino Royale”: the trailer seemed interesting and I wanted to see how Daniel Craig would do as the new 007; I thought he did an excellent job, giving the character an emotional depth I hadn’t seen before (and Eva Green was pretty amazing as Vesper, too). Despite not having watched “Quantum of Solace” yet, I know for sure I’ll be in the theater next November for “Skyfall” – Craig, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes together in a movie would be reason enough for me, but to top it all off beautifully “Skyfall” is directed by Sam Mendes, a director I adore. The new trailer is out, and it is worth watching.

***

These are called banana muffins (even though they’re made as cake) and they’re super tender and very delicious – their perfume while in the oven was intoxicating. The streusel topping tastes great and adds a nice crunch – I swapped a bit of the flour for the oats as a way of making them a bit healthier and it worked out fine.

Banana streusel muffins
from a book I adore and should definitely use more often

Streusel topping:
¼ cup (35g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (38g) rolled oats
½ cup (88g) light brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup (56g/½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Muffins:
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas (I used 2 giant ones)
½ cup plain yogurt

Streusel topping: in a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the butter and work it into dry ingredients using your fingers or a pastry blender until mixture is lumpy. Refrigerate while you make the batter.

Muffins: preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and bananas. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, beating just until the flour in absorbed. Mix in the yogurt.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle each with streusel topping, pressing down so the mixture adheres to the batter. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins come out clean. Let cool in the pan, over a wire rack, for 8 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack to cool.

Makes 12 – I made the exact recipe above, using this pan (¾ cup capacity each cavity) and got 8 (very high) muffins

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