Friday, February 5, 2016

Mocha slice cookies, for someone that now loves coffee

Mocha slice cookies / Biscoitos mocha

These delicious cookies, another great recipe from Martha, are called mocha slice cookies, but they could easily be called “in search of lost time cookies” – after years of not drinking coffee (36, to be more precise) and avoiding each and every coffee flavored sweet I bumped into, I got a new job with completely different dynamics from the previous one (a job I had for ten years) and the new routine made me reach for a cup of joe on a regular basis, for I worked so many hours a day it was either having some coffee or sleeping over the keyboard.

I discovered that I love coffee. :)

Because of that, I have been going through my books and bookmarks, searching for the coffee desserts and baked goods I ignored over the past years, and these cookies were one of them – the mixture of coffee and chocolate is one of the most celebrated ones, and not for nothing.

I forgot to roll the cookie logs in sugar before slicing and baking them, but after trying the cookies I thought they were sweet enough without the extra sugar coating.

Mocha slice cookies
from Martha

1 ½ cups (210g) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
¾ cup (68g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
pinch of table salt
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder – I used 1 Nespresso capsule (Volutto), about 1 tablespoon
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ sticks (170g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (60g) cocoa nibs

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle; mix on medium until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in cocoa nibs.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place each on a piece of parchment paper; shape dough into logs. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press into a 3.5 cm (1.4in) log – like Martha does here. Wrap in parchment. Chill in the fridge until very firm, about 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Unwrap one log at a time (keep the other in the fridge). Cut into 6mm (¼in) thick rounds; space 2.5cm (1in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake until centers are set, 10-12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then carefully slide the paper with the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 55

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lime gateau for a predictable person

Lime gateau / Gateau de limão

Last week I had a craving: I wanted to eat cake. I wanted a cake cooling down on my kitchen counter. I flipped over some books and magazines, browsed a couple of websites, only to end up making a lemon cake – actually, a lime one, since I did not have any lemons at home.

I am a very predictable human being. :)

This recipe is from a cookbook I’ve had my eye on for a while now, and I have not purchased it yet because of a resolution of not buying any new cookbooks for the first six months of the year (let’s see how this goes, since it is only February). I found the recipe on Martha’s website, changed one or two little things and ended up with a fragrant and flavorsome cake, drenched in lime syrup – absolutely delicious and perfect for the summer.

Lime gateau
slightly adapted from this beautiful book, recipe found on Martha’s website

2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 3 limes
2 eggs
¾ (105g) cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup (93g) confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, rub sugar and zest of 2 limes with your fingertips until fragrant. Add butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, followed by the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until well combined – batter might look curdled, but it’s fine. Add flour, baking powder and salt and continue to beat until a thick, smooth batter forms. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake cake until a thin wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and prick top of cake all over with skewer. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and remaining lime zest and juice (about 70ml) . Pour glaze gradually over cake and allow it to be absorbed. Cool completely in the pan before serving – this is a very delicate cake, difficult to unmold from the pan because it is very tender and moist, therefore a pan with a removable bottom is required.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers / Macarrão com pesto de brócolis e tirinhas de pimentão assado

Certain foods have a very special meaning for me: it might be something my mom cooked when I was a kid that takes me back in time, something I cooked for someone I love or something I ate at a special place. I first ate pasta with pesto sauce in Rome, and it was also the first time I ever traveled abroad, many years ago, so it holds a very dear place in my heart.

I make pesto quite regularly at home, for my husband have learned to enjoy it as well, and sometimes I switch the basil for other options, such as arugula, for example. This time basil was replaced by a mixture of broccolini and fresh oregano leaves, with a fiery touch of dried pepper flakes and a bit of sweetness from roasted peppers – a wonderful combination of flavors is the work of the man behind the best gnocchi I have ever made. To make things ever better, this is really easy to put together, and you can even roast the peppers in advance and keep them refrigerated in a bowl or glass jar with some olive oil to avoid them from drying out.

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers
slightly adapted from the always delicious Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

2 small red peppers
olive oil to drizzle over the peppers
200g broccolini florets
½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 fat garlic clove, minced
½ cup grated parmesan
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g long dried pasta – I used fusilli lunghi

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C. Line a baking sheet with foil, brush it with olive oil and place the peppers onto the foil cut side down. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until skins are blistering. Remove peppers from baking sheet and place in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the skins from the peppers and cut them into thin slices. Set aside.

Pesto: bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil – you’ll cook the broccolini and the pasta using the same water. Blanch the broccolini the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove them using a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop them from cooking (keep the water boiling too cook the pasta). Use your hands to squeeze out as much excess water from the broccolini as possible and transfer to a blender. Add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, red pepper flakes, oregano and blitz to a paste. Season with salt and pepper and blitz again. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if pesto is too thick.

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss pasta with pesto, adding some of the water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Stir in the roasted pepper and serve at once.

Serves 4

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tara’s great chocolate chip cookies

Tara's great choc chip cookies / Os deliciosos cookies com gotas de chocolate da Tara

As much as I like making different things in the kitchen, there are certain recipes – the classics, if you will – that I keep coming back to: a good crème caramel, a chocolate mousse for when people come over for dinner, brownies to cheer friends up, and chocolate chip cookies, the ones I saw on American movies as a teenager.

I wasn’t so thrilled with the last batches of chocolate chip cookies I made, and because of that I did not even shared the recipes with you: some of them lacked flavor, some spread like crazy on the baking sheets and turned out as flat as a sheet of paper… Disappointments. But the ones I bring to you today are the complete opposite: they taste delicious, look beautiful and the dough is super easy to make – you don’t even have to wait for the butter to soften. These cookies are exactly what I wanted when I set out to make them – sheer perfection. I shared them with my family and some friends and all I heard was compliments – now I feel like sharing the recipe with you, for it is such a huge success. I have Tara O’Brady to thank for – not only has she a published a beautiful cookbook but has also restored my faith in chocolate chip cookie recipes. :)

Tara’s great chocolate chip cookies
barely adapted from Tara O'Brady, via Apt. 2B

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, chopped
3 ¼ cups (455g) all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
1 ½ cups (262g) light brown sugar, packed
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
300g (10oz) semi or bittersweet chocolate, chopped – I used one with 70% cocoa
flaky salt, to finish – I used Maldon

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over the lowest heat possible, stirring occasionally. Take care that the butter does not sizzle or bubble which means it's losing moisture. Cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt. Set aside. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and whisk in the sugars until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until just combined. Stir in the vanilla. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until barely blended. When things are still looking a bit floury, stir in the chocolate until all of the ingredients are just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into balls using 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie and arrange them on the prepared pans, leaving 5cm (2in) between each cookie. While baking each batch, keep the remaining dough in the fridge. If you don’t want to bake all the cookies at once, refrigerate the dough balls loosely covered, overnight.)

To bake, sprinkle each cookie with a bit of sea salt and bake until the tops are cracked and cookies are golden, especially around the edges, 15-18 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then slide the paper off the sheet onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 38

Monday, January 11, 2016

Simple cornmeal cake, or "bolo de fubá"

Cornmeal cake / Bolo de fubá do Panelinha

The first cake I ever made was a cornmeal one, made with corn flour (not corn starch - the same corn flour used in these tartlets), which is a very common ingredient here in Brazil. “Bolo de fubá” is one of the most beloved cakes we have here, a favorite of many and it goes particularly well with coffee – I was always a tea kind of girl, coffee is something I have learned to enjoy in the past few months.

I guess I was feeling a big nostalgic last week, for I felt a sudden urge to bake a bolo de fubá – so here it is. It is a very simple cake, prepared with the help of a blender, also something very common here in Brazil. It is also best served on the day it is made, and it tastes delicious still warm from the oven - I should know, because I ate several slices in a row – shame on me. :)

Simple cornmeal cake ("bolo de fubá")
slightly adapted from here

soft unsalted butter, to prep the pan
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
1 ½ cups (210g) corn flour (fine cornmeal - fubá) – not corn starch, the same corn flour used in these tartlets
pinch of salt
4 large eggs
1 cup (240ml) canola oil
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240ml) plain yogurt
1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 25cm, 10-cup capacity (10in) Bundt or ring pan.

In a large bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, corn flour and salt. Set aside.
Place the eggs, oil, sugar and yogurt in a blender and mix until smooth, about 5 minutes. Pour over the dry ingredients in the bowl and whisk gently until smooth. Whisk in the baking powder.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely (this cake tastes absolutely delicious warm).

This cake is best served on the same day it is made – I found it a bit on the dry side on the following day.

Serves 10-12

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