Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cinnamon scented challah

Cinnamon scented challah

I was watching music videos on TV other day when I saw the ugliest creature ever. Really – at the moment he took off his shirt and opened his mouth I felt like running, running like there was no tomorrow.
A quick visit to a certain profile on imdb was essential to avoid being scarred for life. :D

Making something pretty also helps. I decide for this challah, inspired by the gorgeous one Jaden made a while ago. The recipe is from Zoe’s wonderful book.

Cinnamon scented challah

Cinnamon scented challah
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Master Challah dough*:
1 ¾ cups (420ml) lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup honey
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted
7 cups (980g) unbleached all-purpose flour

Filling and topping:
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a small handful sliced almonds

egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy duty stand mixer, with dough hook. If you are not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

For the filling, mix together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1 pound (450g) portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.

On baking day, line a baking sheet with non stick baking paper or buttered regular baking paper.
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound/450g (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Let’s shape the challah: use the palm of your hands and roll the dough into a thick, even log. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces with knife or dough scraper. (It’s easier to cut even pieces when the dough is not round). Roll each piece with your hands to stretch into a long 1 ½ in (approx. 3.75 cm) thick rope. Try not to just stretch it out by pulling, the dough will break. Easiest way is to place dough on counter and roll back and forth with palms of hands, starting in the middle and hands move out which stretching the dough a bit. Don’t worry about getting it to look pretty, just try to get each piece even sized.

Take one piece of dough. Use side of your hand to press and create an indent in the middle of the strand. Spread 1/3 of the filling in this indent.

Bring up the sides of the dough, encasing the filling, and pinch dough closed. Repeat with other strands.
Now, time to braid the bread: start in the middle and braid. Pinch ends, tuck under. Now braid the other side, pinch and tuck. Start braid from the middle (instead of top) so that it tapers evenly at both ends. Place on prepared sheet, over paper.
Cover with towel and let rest for 1 ½ hours; 20 minutes prior to baking, preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
When dough is ready, brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

* this amount of dough is enough to make four 1-pound (450g) challahs – you may keep the remaining dough in the fridge or freeze it (as explained in the recipe) and use as desired

Makes 1 challah

Cinnamon scented challah

Friday, December 19, 2008

Orange snickerdoodles

Orange snickerdoodles

I have been called a Cookie Monster by some of my blogging friends, but I believe I am not the only one – the lovely and dear Susan seems to love cookies as much as I do, because she’s hosting the second season of Eat Christmas Cookies!


I took part in the first edition of the event last year and so did many of talented people. There were several delicious entries and I am sure this year will be the same. To make things even better, Susan will give away one copy of Anita’s book. Yay! :D

My choice this time is snickerdoodles, but not the traditional ones - these are packed with a wonderful citrus touch. Yum!

Orange snickerdoodles

Orange snickerdoodles
from here

110g unsalted butter, softened
215g sugar
1 egg
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
200g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar (215g) until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange zest and beat for 30 seconds more. Finally add the flour and baking soda and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.

Make balls using 1 rounded teaspoon of dough and roll them in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and place on prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart.
Bake for 10 minutes, one sheet at a time, or until they swell then crack. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to a wire rack.

Makes 45

Orange snickerdoodles

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yoyo cookies with creamy passion fruit filling

Yoyo cookies with creamy passion fruit filling

A movie I simply adore was on TV yesterday – I believe it was the 7th time I watched it, no kidding, two of those being one right after the other, on the same day, when it was released.

Inspired by the two faces of that mirror, I bring you a buttery recipe with passion fruit, after the fresh one I posted Sunday. From a gorgeous passion fruit themed article on DH magazine #37.

Yoyo cookies with creamy passion fruit filling

Yoyo cookies with creamy passion fruit filling
from Donna Hay magazine

175g unsalted butter, softened
115g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
265g all purpose flour, sifted
35g corn flour (cornstarch), sifted
1/3 cup (80ml) passion fruit pulp

125g unsalted butter, softened
150g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup (60ml) passion fruit pulp

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

To make the filling, place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Strain the passion fruit pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add to the butter mixture and beat for further 3-4 minutes or until smooth. Set aside.
Make the cookies: place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the flour, corn flour and passion fruit pulp and mix in slow speed until combined. Roll 1 rounded teaspoon of the mixture into balls with damp hands and place on prepared sheets – if the mixture gets a little sticky, refrigerate it for 15-20 minutes. Press each cookie with a damp fork to flatten. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden. Allow to cool on sheets.
Sandwich the cookies together with the passion fruit filling to serve.

* I was pretty generous filling the cookies and still got loads of filling left. I believe half the recipe would be enough.

Makes 28 sandwich cookies

Yoyo cookies with creamy passion fruit filling

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A big hug, flavored with passion fruit

A big hug, flavored with passion fruit - Passion fruit jellies with banana and honey yogurt

Blogging has several good aspects, and a very important one is meeting great people – and it doesn’t matter if they live around the corner or across the ocean.

The lovely Barbara is one of those people and she’s going through a hard time right now, battling cancer once again. :(

The equally lovely Bron and Ilva organized a virtual hug for Barbara and I’m glad to be a part of it. I hope she likes this fresh and simple dessert, full of fruity flavors.

Barbara, my dear, be sure that there are Brazilian fingers here crossed for you. I know you’ll kick cancer in the ass again.
You might be half a planet away, but are certainly close to my heart.

A big hug, flavored with passion fruit - Passion fruit jellies with banana and honey yogurt

Passion fruit jellies with banana and honey yogurt
slightly adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

350ml passion fruit juice*
175ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200g sugar
6 gelatin leaves, softened in cold water
200g yogurt
30g honey
thickly sliced banana, to serve
passion fruit pulp, to serve

Combine juices, sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then pass through a fine sieve. Warm ½ cup juice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, squeeze excess water from gelatin, add to pan and stir until gelatin dissolves, then add remaining juice mixture. Cool slightly and pour into six 1 cup-capacity glasses and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.
To serve, whisk together yoghurt and honey. Top jellies with a spoonful of yogurt, cover with banana slices and spoon over passion fruit pulp.

Note: to make passion fruit juice, blend passion fruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds, then strain through a fine sieve. Twelve passion fruit yield about 1 cup of juice.

* I used concentrated bottled juice

Serves 6

A big hug, flavored with passion fruit - Passion fruit jellies with banana and honey yogurt

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coconut madeleines

Coconut madeleines

I guess I’m really getting old. Things I did not care for now bore me to death.

I remember when bands and singers came up with a new album – there would be one song to be played (to exhaustion, sometimes) at radio stations, and the musicians would perform this song in TV shows and such. After a while, they would do the same with another song, and that is how things would work.
Now I turn on the radio and there are 10 Rihanna songs going on. If her managers – and Jay Z, for that matter – think this is going to make us love her, it’s not working, At least not for me, because I can’t stand her any more. I want her to take that silly, pretentious video – does she think she is Silverchair? – and go sing somewhere else. Maybe in a rainy place, so she can use her umbrella. :)

But there is something that never bores me – madeleines. And this time I made coconut ones.

Coconut madeleines

Coconut madeleines
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (140g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
¾ cup (170g or 1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted an cooled
¾ cup (68g) sweetened shredded coconut

in a large bowl, using a large wire whisk, gently beat the eggs, egg whites, granulated sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.

Sift the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt together into a medium bowl, then fold into the batter. Finally, fold the melted butter and coconut into the batter until completely smooth. The batter should look fairly thin. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. After chilling, the batter should be thick and very firm.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190ºC/375°F. Generously butter two madeleine pans and sprinkle with flour, tapping out the excess. Fill each shell mold with about 1 tablespoon of batter, depending of their size – I filled mine up to ¾ of their capacity, eyeballing it.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the madeleines are firm and golden brown with a small hump in the center, 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack, popping them out with the tip of a sharp paring knife, and let cool – it’s important to unmold them right after the oven because they might stick to the pan once cool.

Makes 24

Coconut madeleines

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Banana almond cake

Banana almond cake

I can’t believe I finally made this cake! The recipe had been in my kitchen forever. I was about to rename it “Fight Club cake”- I have tried to watch that movie hundreds of times but never got around to do it. I’ve rented it over and over again, but for a number of reasons I always had to take it back before getting to the end. I’ve tried watching it on cable, too, with no success. And the funny thing is that I absolutely love the director – one of the few guys that can make Brad Pitt play someone else other than himself – and Edward Norton is one of my true favorites. What’s wrong with me?? :)

It’s a pity that the cake is long gone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll try watching “Fight Club” again. For the 8th time. :)

Banana almond cake

Banana almond cake

65g unsalted butter, room temperature
60g sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon rum
100g almond meal
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (packed) corn flour
2-3 large bananas
1 tablespoon lemon juice

juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon rum
½ tablespoons honey

confectioners’ sugar, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
Butter a 10x23cm* loaf pan and flour the insides, tapping out the excess.

Sift the almond meal and flour together three times. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat well. Add the eggs, gradually. Add the cream and rum. Beat to incorporate.
Fold in the sifted ingredients with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared pan.
Peel and cut the bananas into 3-4 pieces each; “stick” them into the cake batter, keeping the pieces standing – there should be half an inch of banana out of the cake batter, or so.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Mix well all the ingredients for the syrup.
Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes; unmold and drizzle with the syrup.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar when serving.

* I used a 10x26cm pan

Serves 6

Banana almond cake

Thursday, November 27, 2008



I’m kind of tired of war movies – don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful ones out there, I just think that maybe I have seen too many in a short period of time. But tell me, how will I be able to resist such a beautiful poster?

In the same way, you must be tired of seeing so many cookies around here. Bear with me, please – it’s just one more thing I cannot resist. :)

The alfajores were a present for a dear coworker of mine, Adriana – it was her birthday last week and I made these especially for her.

I used Katia’s recipe and the alfajores turned out wonderful – the dough is not hard to work with and yields a good amount of cookies. Just make sure you use firm dulce de leche – a runny kind won’t stay put inside the alfajores.



1 ¼ cup (150g) cornstarch
1 cup (140g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cognac
dulce de leche
icing sugar

Sift cornstarch, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

In large mixer bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until incorporated. Add cognac and mix well.

In slow speed, add the sifted ingredients and mix until the dough comes together – don’t overmix.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Roll out dough between two pieces of baking paper to ¼ inch (0.60cm) thickness. Using a 2-in (5cm) round cutter, cut cookies and place on prepared sheets – don’t reroll the dough more than twice. If you are working on a warm place, refrigerate the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling it.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until barely brown on the bottom - tops will be pale. Set on cooling rack to cool.
Sandwich the cookies with the dulce de leche and dust with icing sugar before serving.
This recipe can be easily doubled.

Makes 25 sandwich cookies


Monday, November 24, 2008

Chewy strawberry almond bars

Chewy strawberry almond bars

You know that feeling? When something is so good we don’t want it to get ruined?

I was watching “August Rush” on the weekend and, besides crying my eyes out, I kept thinking “Oh, please don’t let this adorable boy get lost. Don’t let him grow up and become an idiot, a crackhead, a wife beater, or anything like that”

I’d cried and laughed with Freddie Highmore before, but this time I felt like wrapping him in a very warm blanket and serving him a plate of these cookies, with some hot cocoa sprinkled with lots of marshmallows.

Chewy strawberry almond bars

Chewy strawberry almond bars
adapted from here

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (350g) packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract*
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (230g) regular rolled oats
½ cup sliced almonds
¾ cup strawberry preserves
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, extra, for the topping

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line a 30x20x5cm (8x12x2in) baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and almond extract until combined. Add flour, oats, and ½ cup almonds and mix it all in slow speed – dough will be stiff.

Remove ¾ cup of the dough and set aside. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Spread with preserves. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over preserves layer and sprinkle over the almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut cookies out of the pan. Cut into bars.

* I thought the flavor was much too strong – I’d use half the amount next time, or even replace it with vanilla

Makes about 27 bars

Chewy strawberry almond bars

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pasta with eggplant and pine nuts

Pasta with eggplant and pine nuts

Thank you all for your comments and emails – the nerd girl that never fit in is feeling pretty popular right now. :)
I’m looking forward to my next blogging year!

After all that icing – so much it could block one’s arteries just by looking at it – I thought you deserved something fresh and a lot lighter. Pasta + veggies seemed perfect.

Despite the tiny list of ingredients, this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes I have ever tried. Make it, even if you don’t have pine nuts around – it tastes great anyway.

Pasta with eggplant and pine nuts

Pasta with eggplant and pine nuts
slightly adapted from here

400g pasta
2 large eggplants
olive oil, for brushing
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a large handful of basil leaves
4 tablespoons pine nuts
fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 4 small limes

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
Cut each eggplant in half lengthways, then make criss cross cuts on the flesh nearly all the way down to the skin. Brush with olive oil, place in a lightly oiled baking pan and bake for 25 minutes or until soft. In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente and toast the pine nuts on a non stick frying pan.Remove the eggplant from the oven and, using a spoon, scrape the flesh out of the skins and place in a bowl. Pour the extra virgin olive oil gradually mixing it with eggplant until you get to a smooth paste. Season it with fleur de sel and pepper
Drain the pasta and mix it with the eggplant to coat it really well. Add the basil , pine nuts and lime juice.

Serves 4

Monday, November 17, 2008

Two years of blogging and a polka dot cake to celebrate it

 Two years of blogging and a polka dot cake to celebrate it

Lots of recipes and photos. Tons of comments and emails that have put hundreds of smiles on my face. So many wonderful people I have lost track of.
These are the results of 2 years of blogging – one of the most positive things I have ever done.

I read “The Hairy Ape” almost ten years ago and that book kept me thinking about several things. One of them was the feeling of “belonging”. That is something I used to have trouble with – I just did not fit in. The people I knew were very different from me – we did not have anything in common. I felt like a stranger most of the time. And my love for cooking and the idea of having fun in the kitchen were considered weird by others.

Blogging has opened an entire new world to me and knowing people who share my passion for cooking and baking has changed my life in many levels. I do feel like I belong now. And you, my dear readers and fellow bloggers, are responsible for this.

Thank you for standing by me for so long. I wish I could send each and every one of you a slice of this cake, with a big hug on the side.

 Two years of blogging and a polka dot cake to celebrate it

Polka dot cake
Cake and filling recipes adapted from The Whimsical Bakehouse; buttercream recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Golden butter cake:
170g (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (370g) cake flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
generous pinch of salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270ml) milk

Grease two 20x5cm (8x2 inch) round pans. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy.
At low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternately with the milk, beating until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before turning them out of their pans. Let them cool completely before continuing with the recipe.

½ cup (120ml) water
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place water and sugar in a small saucepan and mix well to combine. Heat over medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and set aside to cool.

Cookies and cream filling:
450ml heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
15-18 chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, crushed into medium pieces (place them inside a thick plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin)

In the bowl of an electric mixer at high speed, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff. Gently fold in the crushed cookies.

Vanilla buttercream:
1 cup (200g) sugar
¼ cup (60ml) water
3 egg whites
1 ½ cups (340g/3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238ºF (114ºC) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.

In a large mixer bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites until frothy. Continue beating while gradually adding the hot syrup in a thin, slow stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; avoid hitting the beaters, or the syrup may splatter. When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you're adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the vanilla extract.

To assemble the cake: using a long, serrated knife cut each cake in half. Place a cake layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Brush it lightly with the syrup and spread 1/3 of the cookies and cream filling. Repeat the procedure with the remaining cake layers and filling, brushing all the cakes with syrup and finishing it all with a cake layer. Frost the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator until the crumb coat firms up. Frost the cake completely with more buttercream.
Tint the remaining buttercream with desired colors and decorate the cake as you desire.

* there’s no cake flour here in Brazil, so I used the following: 1 cup cake flour = 7/8 cup (123g) all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons corn starch

Serves 12-14

 Two years of blogging and a polka dot cake to celebrate it

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hawaiian macadamia coconut cookies

Hawaiian macadamia coconut cookies

“Oh, no. Walnut cake. Why does he always ask for walnut cakes??” :(

That used to be little Patricia complaining about her uncle’s birthday cakes always being walnut flavored cakes. And little Patricia did not like walnuts. In fact, little Patricia thought that walnuts tasted weird.
But little Patricia has become a big girl – she’s 30 now! – and has learned to love not only walnuts, but all things nuts. And the buttery, delicious macadamias are now one of her favorite ingredients, not to mention they are wonderful paired with coconut.

Patricia has become such a centered, responsible adult that she has made everyone eat oats disguised as cookies. Again! :)

Hawaiian macadamia coconut cookies

Hawaiian macadamia coconut cookies
from here

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (132g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
grated zest of 1 large orange
1 ½ cups (210g) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups (145g) rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (68g) sweetened desiccated coconut
¾ cup (100g) macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and both sugars. Add egg and beat well. Add orange rind and beat well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Beat into creamed mixture. Stir in coconut and macadamia nuts.

Make balls with 1 tablespoon full of dough – it’s soft, so don’t roll it too much - and place them on the sheet, about 5cm (2in) apart. Press down the tops with a lightly floured fork to flatten slightly. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden – mine took 18 minutes for that.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from sheet. Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 3 dozen – I got 38

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yeasted banana bread

Yeasted banana bread

I have to start this post by deeply thanking a Brazilian reader of mine, Debora – after reading my desperate request for a good yeasted banana bread, she left a comment with a link for a recipe, and it looked like what I wanted.

I finally baked the bread and what a wonderful recipe this is! The rolls came out extremely tender and with a delicious banana hint. Since they are not overly sweet, you can use your imagination and slather them with butter, jam, or make sandwiches with multiple choices of fillings.

I used this recipe and Dominic sent me a very kind email after I left him a comment - he suggests the addition of ground cardamom to the bread. I only reduced the amount of salt and proofed the yeast before mixing all the other ingredients.

I knew I could count on my readers and fellow food bloggers to put an end on my banana bread quest. Thank you!

Yeasted banana bread

Yeasted banana bread

2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup (180ml) lukewarm water
3 cups (420g) unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1 ripe banana, slightly mashed

Place the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 pinch of the sugar and cover with the water. Mix well and set aside until foamy.
Add the flour, salt, remaining sugar, butter, dry milk and banana and mix them using the dough hook (or knead by hand) until you've made a smooth, soft dough – 5 minutes were enough for me. It should be barely tacky. Don't add a lot of extra flour - you'll end up with a dry loaf. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 to 1 ½ hours until almost doubled in bulk.

Remove dough from bowl and place it onto a lightly floured surface; knead it lightly for 10 seconds, then cut it into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Butter a 25cm (10 in) round cake pan and place the balls inside it, forming a circle. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise again for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; bake bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden. If it seems to be getting too brown toward the end of cooking, you can tent with foil.

Remove from oven and transfer the pan to wire rack for at least an hour to cool completely. Unmold bread.

Makes 8

Yeasted banana bread

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pear and cinnamon madeleines

Pear cinnamon madeleines4

I have a cousin who is less than a month older than me. One could see that as an opportunity for a close friend. But not me. She and I were enemies growing up – the more our parents forced us to be play together, the more we loved to punch each other down. Her parents came to the point of enrolling her into the school I attended. It never worked – we couldn’t stand one another.
I would always get the worst punishments, because I would never cry nor apologize, even though she was three times my size - yes, I was really petite. And mean. :)

I was such a bad kid that my love for pink would be mine and mine only. Pretty much everything I owned was pink – clothes, shoes, notebooks – and my cousin was not allowed to like pink, too. No, not her. I’d always tell her that green was her favorite color.
To this day I cannot believe what a little devil I used to be. :)

This story crossed my mind when I was taking these photos. I’ve realized that even though my favorite color is blue, my love for pink is not dead.

Pear cinnamon madeleines

Pear and cinnamon madeleines
from here

150g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, softened
50g light brown sugar
75g white sugar
2 eggs, lightly whisked
½ cup pear sauce*
granulated sugar for coating – I used caster sugar for that

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF; spray madeleine molds with non stick spray or generously butter them.
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside. In a mixer cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and pear sauce and beat until combined. Stir in the flour mixture and fold until the flour has been incorporated into the wet mixture. Place a heaping teaspoon of the mixture in each mold and bake for 12-14 minutes or until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tray and then coat lightly with sugar.

* I peeled, cored and chopped 2 small, ripe pears, then cooked them in the microwave oven for 2 minutes; smashed them with a fork, set aside to cool then pushed through a sieve to remove excess water.
The pear flavor was very subtle - maybe it would have been stronger if I has used store bought pear sauce.

Makes 24 – I halved the recipe and got 16

Friday, November 7, 2008

Polenta-crusted roasted ratatouille tart

Polenta-crusted roasted ratatouille tart

Thank you all for your comments and concern – your positive thoughts and kind words were very important for my getting better, for sure!

I have been thinking a lot about sweets lately – due to Christmas coming and the gifts I want to make for my friends and colleagues. I have so many recipes bookmarked I don’t even know where to start, really...

I found this recipe going through cookie and candy recipes for the holidays. I have no idea why it was filed in my sweet folder, but I considered it a sign. I’d rather have a sign like this than the one Francesca had in Tuscany. Eeew! :)

Polenta-crusted roasted ratatouille tart

Polenta-crusted roasted ratatouille tart
slightly adapted from here and here

1 cup (155g) instant polenta
½ cup (70g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon + a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, in cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons olive oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
1 small eggplant, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried oregano
fresh oregano leaves, to taste
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese – I used the yellow mozzarella we have here, made with cow’s milk and that looks similar to Monterrey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Start with the filling: preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºC. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat; sauté onion until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Spray 2 baking trays with cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices on the trays in a single layer and brush with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle the tomatoes with dried oregano and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.

Now, the crust: lower the oven temperature to 180ºC/350ºF.
Combine polenta, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor – I used my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and sides of a lightly oiled 24cm tart pan with a removable bottom (my pan doesn’t have very high sides).
Press aluminum foil or baking paper over the dough weigh down with uncooked rice, beans or pie weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove rice and foil. Return to oven, rise the temperature to 200ºC/400ºF and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet. Remove from oven and let cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 180ºC/350ºF.
Lay the eggplant slices on the bottom of tart; cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and some of oregano leaves. Add the zucchini and onion, top with another 1/3 of the mozzarella and oregano, then the tomatoes. Top with rest of the mozzarella cheese, oregano leaves and the parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted.
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding it. Serve warm.

Serves 6

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sweetened condensed milk cake

Sweetened condensed milk cake

Wow, almost a week without a new recipe around here... You guys must be bored to tears with my crepe photo. :)

A stomach flu kept me away from cooking, posting and reading my favorite blogs. But now I’m feeling well again – thanks to tons of medicine and rest – and eager to go to the kitchen.

This is something I baked before I got sick; you know I can’t resist recipes with sweetened condensed milk – right, Lynn? – and the thought of a cake made with it instead of sugar was too good for me to pass.

It’s a very light and sort of spongy cake. No decadent fillings or icings – just a simple cake, to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. Or a glass of orange juice on a hot day.

Sweetened condensed milk cake

Sweetened condensed milk cake
from a Brazilian cookbook

1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
120g all purpose flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; generously butter a 22cm* (9in) ring cake pan.
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean (my cake took 35 minutes to bake).
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before unmolding.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

* I used a 20cm (8 in) pan.

Serves 10-12

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Savory crepes filled with broccolini cheese soufflé

Savory crepes filled with broccolini cheese soufflé

I have certain preconceptions, must admit it. That feeling of “haven’t seen it but don’t like it already” – I’ve tried going against that, but it didn’t work out... and I think it is worse now that I’m older - I’m more intolerant.

I read something the other day about Clint Eastwood’s new movie (hey, Mark, more imdb links for you!) :). Angelina Jolie is on it, so I won’t even bother - no time to waste. If the Oscar buzz involving her drives me nuts already, watching all that “talent” in action will do me no good.

But I’m not a bad person. I also have “haven’t seen it but like it already” moments. Or, in this case, “haven’t eaten but love it already”. :)

And what a great recipe this is! I slightly changed the filling and was really pleased with the result. Running late and starving, I pulled the crepes out of the oven the minute the filling puffed and firmed – that’s why mine don’t have a gorgeously golden crust like the ones Leila made. It's OK: I’ll solve that next time, when I make the crepes filled with hearts of palm soufflé. ;)

Savory crepes filled with broccolini cheese soufflé

Savory crepes filled with broccolini cheese soufflé

125g all purpose flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
300ml milk
generous pinch of salt
oil for brushing the pan

225g broccolini florets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
45g unsalted butter
45g all purpose flour
300ml milk
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
120g cheddar, grated – I used yellow mozzarella from here, made with cow’s milk (it looks like Monterey Jack cheese)
fresh oregano leaves, to taste
4 tablespoons parmesan, finely grated
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated

Start by making the crepes: sift the flour in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Add the egg, egg yolk, salt and a few tablespoons of the milk. Whisk well. Gradually add the remaining milk, whisking between additions, until you have added all the milk and the batter is smooth (it will be a rather thin batter).

Heat a 22cm non-stick frying pan over medium heat and brush it lightly with oil. Pour 3 ½ tablespoons of batter into the pan, swirling to cover the bottom completely. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until golden; flip the crepe and cook for further 1-2 minutes. Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating the pan again if necessary – you’ll get 8 crepes.

Now, the filling: cook the broccolini florets in a pan of salted, boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, cover with cold water and drain again*.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then add the flour, stirring constantly; cook for 1 minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Put the pan back over heat, add the mustard, mozzarella, parmesan, salt and pepper, whisking until the cheeses melt. Remove from heat again and set aside to cool completely.

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF; lightly brush a non-stick large baking sheet with oil.

Add the egg yolks to the cooled cheese mixture and mix well. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Carefully fold in the egg whites into the cheese mixture, then add the broccolini florets and oregano leaves.

Divide the filling in the center of the open crepes and fold them to encase the soufflé. Place the crepes in the prepared sheet, sprinkle with the extra parmesan (I forgot!) and bake for 15 minutes or until the soufflé is puffed and golden and the crepes are crisp.
Serve with a simple salad.

* I steamed the broccolini florets until al dente

Serves 4

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