A few posts ago, I’ve mentioned the Secret Santa I was playing along, with virtual friends that became real. The general idea was that the presents should be mostly handmade, and it must contain one thing to eat, one craft of choice and a recipe to be blogged later.
Tatu, from the lovely Mixirica blog, was my Secret Santa, and was super sweet to come to my house in person to bring her present to me.
Inside the pretty ladybug box, a bear family and farm animals cookie cutter sets, a cookie note pad (strawberry scented!), her cookbook (yes, she is a great cookbook author!) and the best muffins I’ve ever eaten – thanks, Tatu, I really loved your gifts!!!
Tatu’s book is very interesting, the recipes are inventive and original – a cross between traditional northeastern cooking and very familiar dishes that could be in everybody’s table, anywhere in the world. I chose this one because I’ve never had baked with white chocolate and the idea of adding cachaça to a cake sounded very appealing to me. If you don’t have cachaça at hand, you can skip the booze or substitute vodka or rum instead.
These blondies are moist, fudgy and nutty, just the way I like it.
Branquinho de Branquinha (blondies with cachaça) – from the book A Peleja do Alecrim com o Coentro e outros Causos Culinários: Receitas e Cordel, by Tatiana Damberg – makes 16 pieces (for measurement conversions, please take a look at the conversion calculator at right side bar)
- 200g white chocolate, chopped
- 100g butter
- 320g sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp cachaça (or vodka, or rum, or whatever booze you like)
- 140g flour
- 1/2 peanuts (I used Brazil nuts, chopped)
Preheat oven to 350°F/ 180°C. Butter a 9-inch pan and dust with flour.
Melt the butter and white chocolate together, using a double-boiler or microwave oven. Mix the chocolate mixture with the sugar. Add the eggs and the cachaça and whisk until smooth.
Add flour and fold until incorporated, then the peanuts. Pour the batter into prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbles. Let cool in the pan over a wire rack and cut in squares.
What’s you favorite thing about Christmas? Family together? The presents? Cookies? Turducken? For me the answer would have to be … the cherries!
Yes, here in South America, December is cherry season and since I was a little girl I’ve waited anxiously for the December cherries. They are not cheap, so my mother used to buy only a bag or to, just for Christmas dinner.
I know it sounds silly, but the first time I travelled to Europe it was Summer, and I think I’ve eaten cherries every single day, for a whole month.
For me, this is the perfect Christmas dessert – a little almond cake with a whole cherry inside. For you people in Cherryland, wait for cherry season and please make these, they are delicious and so chic.
Tiny Cherry and Almond Cakes (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s website) – Makes 30
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for muffin tin
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for tin
- 1 1/4 cups finely ground unblanched almonds
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 5 large egg whites
- 4 teaspoons kirsch (I use cranberry vodka)
- 30 sweet (Bing) cherries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees/ 180°C. Brush 30 cups of 2 mini-muffin tins with butter, and dust lightly with flour.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it begins to sputter, reduce heat to medium. Cook, swirling skillet occasionally, until butter has lightly browned. Skim foam from top, and remove skillet from heat.
Whisk together flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add egg whites, and whisk until smooth. Stir in kirsch or vodka. Pour in butter, leaving any dark-brown sediment in skillet, and whisk to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Pour 1 tablespoon batter into each buttered muffin cup, filling about halfway. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and cakes are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen, and unmold. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.
Yes, people, I was featured on a very important food/wine Brazilian magazine! It all happened because the columnist Marcelo Katsuki couldn’t find any Oreos around to buy, and they happen to be his favorite cookies… Of course I felt sorry for him (of all people, I can’t imagine living without my favorite cookies), so I sent him a tin of homemade Oreos. He must have liked them, because next I know here I am in the november issue of magazine Prazeres da Mesa:
The thing is, after the magazine was shown to everybody I know, including the news stand guy and the doorman in my building, I read the magazine cover to cover, and it is a GREAT issue. The photos are fantastic, several great recipes and even an interview with Heston Blumenthal (see, Heston? We are magazine mates!).
But the story that really caught my attention was a beautifully written article about traditional northeastern (Pernambuco) Brazilian cakes. These cakes and sweets are so special they were even matter of important sociological studies. There’s this one recipe, though, that is my all time favorite: the guava roll cake.
If you’ve never heard of it, let me try to explain: 13 layers of very thin buttery batter, baked very quickly, rolled with a Port wine and guava jam filling, served in very thin slices. For me, it’s one of the most delicate and gorgeous Brazilian sweets, and SO delicious you would become addicted to it.
It’s not an easy cake to put together, the one pictured here was my third attempt, and it’s not perfect. But I’m very happy with the results because it had a taste of victory for me.
Guava Roll Cake/ Bolo de Rolo (adapted from Prazeres da Mesa magazine, November/2009)
Observations from someone who spent twi entire afternoons throwing fails away:
- The trickiest part of this is releasing the delicate layers from the baking sheets.
- Although the original recipe asks for a large baking sheet to bake the cake layers, I found it easier to deal with smaller pans, so I ended up with two smaller cakes (one of them filled with dulce de leche).
- As my friend Renato says, it’s crafty but not impossible to make this recipe. Just choose a day you are up for a challenge.
- If everything goes wrong, and you decide to throw the (kitchen) towel, just make little mounds (a teaspoon or two) of the batter on a baking sheet, well spaced, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes – you gonna have delicious cookies (you can fill them with guava jam…)
- It’s in Portuguese, but the blog Rainhas do Lar, has a great tutorial with pictures that might be useful.
- If you can’t find guava jam, you can substitute with any other jam, strained or processed.
Ingredients (for one 1,5 kg cake) – for measurement conversion, please check the calculator at the right side bar
For the guava filling
- 2 cups guava jam, or 1 tin of goiabada
- 3 tbsps Port wine
For the batter
- 250 g sugar
- 250 g butter
- 4 eggs
- 250 g all-purpose flour
Make the filling
In a bowl, mix the jam and the wine until smooth. If using goiabada, cut in little cubes and cook in a small pan with 1/4 cup water until it melts and gets liquid. Add the wine, stir and let cool before using.
Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with butter or cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Grease or spray the paper again.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Place a clean kitchen cloth in a work surface and sprinkle generously with sugar. Reserve.
In the electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition, about one minute. Add the flour and beat only until smooth.
With an offset spatula, spread a very thin layer of batter on the baking sheet. Make it the thinnest you can, but be careful it’s so thin you can see the bottom of the baking sheet.
This is a tricky part: bake for 3 to 5 minutes only. You want a baked but not golden or dry cake layer, otherwise it will not be flexible enough to roll without breaking.
After many lost layers, I found that its easier to release the layer if you let it rest for a minute or two in the pan. Turn the pan on the prepared cloth and peel the parchment carefully. Spread a very thin layer of guava filling and using the cloth, roll the cake.
Now… you do that all over again! Place a new parchment on the baking sheet, spread the batter, bake and unmold.
After spreading the filling, put the already rolled cake over the new layer and roll again. Repeat this process until you finish the batter.
Wrap finished cake in parchment paper, close the ends like a candy and let it rest in the refrigerator for one day. Trim the ends and serve at room temperature in thin slices.
When I started writing this post, I intended to talk about how easy this recipe is, how I love baking with pears, and how I decided to make these muffins in a lazy afternoon. But the truth is, while I was baking these, I couldn’t stop giggling about the employee of this cafe I used to go.
The place was very plain, nothing remarkable about the food or anything, I used to go there because it was near my office and they had nice muffins to go with the coffee. The only peculiar thing about it is if you ask for a muffin there, the employee will look at you like you are a weirdo and reply “You mean a MURPHY, right?”.
Of course, I live in Brazil, we speak Portuguese here, and, like I said to my friend Hilda, I catch myself talking very bad Borat style English sometimes. What I find very curious is the fact that more and more English terms are becoming part of our lives, and they can be totally transformed into more familiar sounds to our ears.
Just the other day, a friend emailed me a picture he took in a bakery that sells pretzels, and a little tag announced proudly: “PREDSONS”. Isn’t it just delicious?
Pear Walnut “MURPHYS” with Streusel Topping (makes 12 muffins)
This recipe is adapted from a pear walnut cake recipe from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. Very juicy from the pear bits, with a delicious walnut crunch, they are even better the day after they are baked.
Ingredients (For measurement conversions, look for the calculator on the right side bar.):
- 2 to 3 pears (used 2 Bartlet), peeled and cut into chunks
- 80 grams walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 250 grams plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
- 180 grams sugar
- 125 grams melted butter, cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 100ml milk
For the streusel topping
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup plain flour
- 30 grams cold butter, cut in bits
Make the streusel
In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar and flour. Add the butter and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles corse meal, with smaller and larger clumps. Reserve in the refrigerator while making the batter.
Make the muffin batter
Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Butter a 12 cup muffin pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and nutmeg.
In a smaller bowl, mix eggs and milk.
Add pear chunks and walnuts to the flour mixture and toss with your fingers. Add the milk/egg mixture and the melted butter and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the cups and top with the streusel.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Perfect for the Holidays, don’t you think?
I had a hard time trying to figure out a name in English for it. Is it a compote? A preserve? Pumpkin in syrup? With some help from my twitter friends, we came to the conclusion it’s a pumpkin/coconut jam or marmalade. Here in Brazil it’s eaten by itself, as a spoon dessert, sometimes served with fresh white cheese, and that’s the way I know it since… forever. If you asked me to get all creative, I think it would be delicious as a cake or cupcake filling, spread on a brioche toast or even as a waffle topping, why not?
Pumpkin and Coconut Jam (adapted from TV Culinária)
- 2 lb/ 1 kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut in cubes
- 1 lb/ 500g sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 1/2 cup grated coconut
In a large pan, mix pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Cook over medium heat, always stirring, until the pumpkin starts to release juices and moist the sugar. Lower the heat to minimum and let cook, stirring every know and then, until the pumpkin turns into a paste, and a syrup has formed, 35 to 40 minutes. Add the coconut and cook for 10 minutes more. Let cool and keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.