Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Peanut butter and raspberry mini cakes and the fantastic "The Night Of"

Peanut butter and raspberry mini cakes / Mini bolinhos de manteiga de amendoim e framboesa

Weeks ago I told you I had dropped River because it made me feel miserable – I wanted something to cheer me up, not to bring me down.
Cut to a couple of days later and I started watching The Night Of – yes, I know, I don’t even understand myself, I don’t expect you to. :)

What an amazing TV show. What a fantastic cast – John Turturro was born to play John Stone, and I found him even more perfect for the part after reading that the first choice to play the lawyer had been James Gandolfini, and after Gandolfini died Robert DeNiro got cast. The movie gods were really watching this show, since that failed too. In my head those two actors would never be able to do John Stone justice – they lack the frailty that is so important in the character. I can’t imagine Galdonfini, so big, tall and with that characteristic loud and strong voice playing John Stone.

I can’t imagine Gandolfini doing what Philip Seymour Hoffman did with his Truman Capote.

I loved the show as a whole – writing, directing, cast, everything was beautifully put together, so perfectly as I hadn’t seen in quite a while (Breaking Bad comes to my mind, as you can imagine). Yes, the show was depressingly sad and dark and each night I would go to sleep with it engraved in my mind, but it was so great I could not drop it as I had done with River. Having some chocolate around for after each episode of The Night Of is the tip I give you – these mini cakes are a good idea, too (and the raspberries can be replaced by pieces of dark chocolate for a nice variation of the recipe).

Peanut butter and raspberry mini cakes
slightly adapted from this cookbook

3 eggs
200g smooth peanut butter
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
100ml whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons (30g) all purpose flour
about ½ cup fresh or frozen (unthawed) raspberries – I used 4 in each mini cake

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Generously butter and then flour a 12-hole muffin pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and the peanut butter until smooth. Whisk in the sugar, oil, baking soda, baking powder, salt, milk and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the flour. Divide the mixture between the holes of the muffin pan. Top the batter with the raspberries, dividing them among the cakes, gently prodding them into their middles.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden and puffed and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pan and transfer to the rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream if you want.

Makes 12

Monday, September 12, 2016

Nigel Slater’s brownies

Nigel Slater's brownies / Brownies do Nigel Slater

Remember that I told you that some recipes get stuck in my head forever? One of them was this brownie recipe by Nigel Slater – I saw it on many, many blogs, people seemed to go crazy over them. However, I kept postponing making the recipe since it required creaming butter and sugar together, something I just do not associate with making brownies (the fact that it called for 250g of butter and 300g of sugar for a 23cm pan made me cringe, too).

The day came when I finally made them, and accordingly to my husband, who doesn’t like sweets but tastes all the brownies I make, these are the best brownies I made in quite a while. I must confess I did not go crazy for them (sorry, Nigel): too much work for this result. I like brownies recipes that are practical and fast and require no thinking ahead – melting the butter is always a plus when you forgot to take it out of the fridge.

These brownies are good, but nothing I would make again – but since my husband praised them so much I decided to share the recipe with you. I have cut down the sugar slightly (for I did not have 70% chocolate around), doubled the amount of chopped chocolate folded in the batter and also used a 20x30cm pan – when I looked at the amount of batter in the bowl I was sure it would never fit a 23cm square pan.

Nigel Slater’s brownies
Slightly adapted rom the one and only Nigel Slater, recipe found here

200g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
60g all purpose flour
60g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g granulated sugar
100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
3 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, all lightly whisked with a fork
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) metal baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.

Place the 200g finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water, without letting the bowl touch the water. Remove from the heat and cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs gradually, and scrape the sides of the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla. On slow speed, mix in the melted chocolate. Fold in the dry ingredients and the coarsely chopped chocolate – mixture will be thick. Spread it evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top will have risen slightly but the middle is still soft – a toothpick inserted in the center should come out sticky, but not with raw mixture. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Serves 24

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Orange rhubarb giant financier, a TV show and beautiful things

Orange rhubarb giant financier / Financier gigante de laranja e ruibarbo

So yes, I am officially a softie. :)

I was crying easily for days and feeling very emotional. Then I decided to start watching a new TV show, but it could not be Stranger Things for everyone had been talking about it so much I was already fed up with it (plus all those spoilers on Facebook, why to people do these things?).

I went for River because I adore Stellan Skarsgård (ever since he had loads of hair in Breaking the Waves). I watched the pilot and indeed, it is an excellent show, but I felt so miserable at the end I could not bring myself to watch the second episode – I just told my husband: “let’s please watch one episode of The Blacklist now?” – I needed some of Raymond Reddington’s witty lines to improve my mood.

Beautiful things improve my mood, too, and I felt incredibly happy when my husband arrived home with a bunch of rhubarb stalks – he definitely knows my favorite kinds of gifts. ;)

I ended up making two recipes with the rhubarb, both delicious, but decided to share with you the most beautiful of them: the giant financier I made using a rectangular tart pan – I was very pleased when I got it out of the oven, it looked amazing!
I used Bill Granger’s friand recipe, one that already worked so well with cherries and pears, and added orange zest for zing. It was delicious, with a nice texture and wonderful flavor. On top of tasting great, the giant financier looked beautiful, so I had a slice of it with a cup of coffee while watching Red Reddington and I was happy again.

Orange rhubarb giant financier
adapted from Bill Granger’s friands

140g (5oz) trimmed rhubarb, cut into sticks, about 8x1cm (3x½ in) each
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
finely zest of 2 oranges
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (160g) icing sugar, sifted
1 cup (100g) almond meal
½ cup (70g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
6 egg whites
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons Cointreau – optional

Place the rhubarb in a bowl and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Mix lightly, then set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 30x10cm (12x4 in) rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom.

In a large bowl, mix the orange zest and the icing sugar and rub with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the almond meal, flour and salt. Stir in the egg whites until just combined. Stir in the melted butter and Cointreau (if using).

Pour the batter in the pan and smooth the top. Drain the rhubarb sticks and place them gently on top of the batter, without pressing them onto the batter.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the financier comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully unmold to serve.
Financiers are best eaten the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Serves 8-10

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Lime, coconut, poppy seed and blueberry cake and recipes stuck in my head

Lime, coconut, poppy seed and blueberry cake / Bolo de limão, coco, sementes de papoula e mirtilo

Some recipes get stuck in my head for a really long time: I see them once, twice, five times, and don’t make them for a number of reasons. Then, after a good while, I see them again and I don’t even remember if I actually made them already or if they are still part of my (very lengthy) mental to do list – I guess that is natural after ten years of blogging. ;)

I saw this cake on Good Food Magazine many months ago, and then saw it again a couple more times. I loved the idea of mixing blueberries and coconut, but each time I saw the recipe I did not have one of the two ingredients. Months went by and I found a handful of blueberries in my freezer, but it was half the amount requested in the recipe: I decided to spin the recipe a bit, added lime zest and poppy seeds, and instead of mixing the berries into the batter, I sprinkled them on top of the cake before baking it. The result as a very moist and tender cake, with a beautiful touch of citrus and with tiny pockets of blueberry deliciousness here and there – I don’t mean to brag, but my twists to the recipe worked like a charm (and I can cross that recipe off my mental to do list). ;)

Lime, coconut, poppy seed and blueberry cake
adapted from the great Good Food magazine

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 limes
1 cup (240ml) canola oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175ml whole milk, room temperature
½ cup (70g) fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°C. Generously butter and flour an 8-cup capacity Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds and coconut. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine sugar and zest and rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the oil, eggs and vanilla. Alternately, fold in the flour in three additions and the milk in two additions, starting and ending with the flour.
Transfer the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the berries. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Serves 8-10

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oatmeal dulce de leche choc chip cookies and some teary days

Oatmeal dulce de leche choc chip cookies / Cookies de aveia, doce de leite e gotinhas de chocolate

I don’t know why, but I have felt very sensitive in the past few days – I even thought it was PMS, but no.

I saw a photo of a father playing with his two little girls in a destroyed bathtub – someone posted it on Facebook – and cried my eyes out. I was not having a very good day, and when I saw those kids playing in a place completely destroyed by war I felt so insignificant… My problems were nothing compared to that.

Then I watched Michelle Obama’s amazing speech last night and the tears came down hard – wow, that woman touched my heart in so many ways! My husband was in the kitchen making dinner and he was like “what happened? Are you OK?”, and I was just watching Michelle being fantastic.

Minutes ago, as I reached for this recipe and started writing down the post, I thought of my nephew and how much he enjoyed these cookies: it was a matter of remembering him eating them and bam, there came the waterworks. Lately, actually, everything related to him makes me cry: as I spend time with him, watching him discover the world, I think of my mom and of how much she would enjoy sharing these moments with us. My nephew is a very smart kid – he has long conversations with us, even though we don’t understand everything he says – and he is very tender and sweet – I get kisses and hugs all the time, plus he sometimes calls me “mom”. I get emotional every time I think of her and of how much she would love her grandson if she was around. I have cried often lately, sometimes they are tears of joy and sometimes they are tears of sorrow. I guess that is life, right?

These are Martha’s oatmeal raisin cookies that got turned into something a bit different: as I grabbed the ingredients to bake them, I saw the dulce de leche left from making the molten cakes I posted days ago. So I added a very generous dollop to the batter – cutting back a bit of the sugar – and replaced the raisins for chocolate chips, since dulce de leche and chocolate go so well together.

The cookies turned out fabulous and if you don’t believe me take my nephew’s word for it. ;)

Oatmeal dulce de leche choc chip cookies
slightly adapted from the goddess Martha S.

2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (130g) packed light-brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
½ cup (150g) dulce de leche
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 cups (240g) rolled oats
1 cup (165g) chocolate chips – I used ones with 53% cocoa solids

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter with both sugars, and beat until light and creamy. Beat in the dulce de leche and vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed just until just combined. On low speed, mix in the oats and chocolate chips.

Drop 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie onto the prepared pans, 5cm (2in) apart. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown around the edges. Cool completely in the pans.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 28

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