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Irrelevant Facts – Fresh Fruit Cake

25 de April de 2010

Nobody asked, but here are some totally irrelevant, although real, facts:

  • Just the other day I’ve opened a fortune cookie from the Chinese restaurant with no fortune inside. That made me a little disturbed.
  • I wanted to be a supermarket cashier when I grew up.
  • I’ve watched “The Sound of Music” more than a hundred times.
  • I’ve tasted armadillo meat once.
  • If I had a superpower, it would be complete control of time.
  • If I could choose a second superpower, it’d be invisibility.
  • My 2 year-old says please and thank you.
  • I absolutely can’t stand when people bring a guitar to a party. Unless it’s Eric Clapton.
  • Sometimes I get too lazy to use the electric mixer when making a cake and do it by hand, but always regret it when my arm starts to hurt.

Fresh Fruit Cake (from here)

I’ve made this cake a few times now, using different kinds of fruit – it’s always great, with berries, apples or even kiwis. The recipe suggests you mix the batter by hand, but you can do it with an electric mixer too.

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups diced fruit (I used blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the grated lemon zest. Add the eggs, and vanilla, stirring each to combine. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8″ pan. Top with the fruit. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture on top of the fruit. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is browned.

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Playing with Food – Easter eggs and rolled fondant

18 de March de 2010

I wasn’t even thinking of Easter yet, but Xandoca (my chocolatier husband) started with some chocolate egg testing, while I was making some rolled fondant decorations for a cake.

I couldn’t help myself:

Mr. and Mrs. Egg Head, Mr. Potato Head distant cousins

If you wanna make your own chocolate egg shells, there are some good tips here and here, but I think it could be a great idea customize store-bought plain eggs and make it a unique gift.

Some tips:

  • I used rolled fondant for most part of the decorations. Gum paste, candy, sprinkles should do the trick as well.
  • Try to make the decorations first, then put some rubber gloves on to glue them – that will avoid finger marks on the chocolate.
  • To glue the parts, I used candy melts in the same color as the chocolate – I guess royal icing could be used, but I think the candy melts dry a lot faster, making the work easier.
  • Use a small clean brush to apply only a little bit of the “glue” in the decoration, then fix it in the egg.
  • Decorate each half of the egg separately – when everything is dry and fixed, glue the two halves together.
  • To keep the egg in place while drying, make a “nest” with a very clean cloth.
  • If making the decorations freehand is difficult for you, use your cookie cutters! Stars, flowers, hearts, polka dots, letters, they all would look cute decorating the eggs, don’t you think?

Happy Easter!

Smitten Kitchen’s Cheese Straws (with a rosemary twist)

25 de February de 2010

Long time, no see…

Things are pretty slow around here, because, unfortunately, I had to be put on a diet.  The sad reality is I found out the hard way I’m not a kid anymore, and there are things like high cholesterol and blood pressure in the world. So uncool.

It’s been tough to stay away from sugar, so I had to give my oven a break. But I missed it, my dear old tiny oven, so when hubs said some friends might stop by, I had the perfect excuse to make a little something.

I had this recipe bookmarked for a long time, and it’s savory, so not that bad, right? And boy, these are DELISH – cheesy, buttery, flavorful. I’m glad the guests liked them too – they disappeared before I could wreck the diet completely.

Cheese Rosemary Straws (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

The original recipe is made with sharp cheddar cheese and pepper, but I used what I had in hand – provolone and rosemary – and it was just as delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheese (sharp  cheddar, provolone, or any variety you like)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh or dried rosemary (or pepper)
  • 1 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and rosemary (or pepper) in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the MILK and process until the dough forms a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle. With a pastry wheel or a large knife, cut the dough into strips. Dust the dough with more flour if needed.

Transfer the strips to the baking sheets, leaving at least 1/4-inch between them.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

End of Recess – Blackberry* Ice Pops

29 de January de 2010

My name is Paula and I survived TWO WHOLE MONTHS  of summer school recess with a 2-year-old at home. *applause*

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it and probably gonna cry a river when the school gates close next Monday, but it requires a lot of imagination to entertain these little devils.

We painted real masterpieces with our fingers, crafted precious noodle jewelry, bought a fish now baptized as Hippopotamus, planted a black bean seed that now is getting gigantic and has to be transplanted to a vase, put our bathing suits to play in the shower on a rainy day, watched Snow White, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid a thousand times, baked cookies, draw on the living room wall with a red crayon (well, my participation on this one was only in the cleaning part) and made blackberry ice pops.

Blackberry* Ice Pops (makes 6 small pops)

These are pretty easy to put together, great to make with kids. I don’t have ice pop molds – the shot glasses worked very well and I believe small dixie cups would work too. For you guys on a diet, the sugar can be substituted by artificial sweeteners, to the taste.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups frozen blackberries (or any other berry)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or to the taste)
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 6 shot glasses
  • 6 pop sticks

Place the fruit and sugar in a food processor or a blender. Add hot water and beat for several minutes, until the mixture turns into a purée. Pass through a sieve, pressing well, and discard seeds.

Transfer the mixture to the glasses and place the pop sticks. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

To release the ice pops, dip the glasses in warm water for a few seconds.

* There was a discussion on twitter if these are blackberries or mulberries, and I couldn’t find a reliable source of information to identify them. Here in Brazil they are all called amoras. Feel free to correct me anytime!

Orange Thumbprints

20 de January de 2010

I swear I’ve tried for a few days to come up with an amusing little story for this post, but the apartment right above mine is being renovated. They are making a new bathroom. Right this moment, they are banging and breaking the walls. Since 8AM.

I thing I might bring some of these orange cookies to the workers, and see if they can, for the love of Martha, make a gentler use of their hammers.

Speaking of Martha, this recipe came from the Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets magazine, which landed in Brazil only because my friend Caroline Adobo was super sweet to send me an issue. Thanks for helping a friend in need, Caroline! A little something is going your way and should arrive soon in California! 😉

I really liked the recipes in the magazine, and these pretty little treats are a very good sample of them – a tender, buttery cookie with a creamy orange filling, not very sweet, perfect with a cup of coffee.

Orange Thumbprints (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Holiday Sweets magazine/December 2009) – makes 60

For the dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (used almond extract)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

For the filling

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Make the dough: Cream butter and granulated sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Add yolks and vanilla, and beat for 1 minute. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour and salt until combined. Cover, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (or up to 1 day)

Make the filling: Preheat oven to 325 °F/ 180°C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk granulated sugar, flour, and eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in lime zest and juice and salt.

Roll balls using 2 teaspoons dough for each. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. With the handle of a wooden spoon, press gently in the center of each ball to create an indentation. Bake for 10 minutes. If indentations lose definition, press centers again. Spoon filling into centers. Bake until cookies are light brown around edges, about 10 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 2 days. Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

New Year’s Rituals – Tecolameco

8 de January de 2010


On New Year’s Eve, we Brazilians have tons of “mandingas”, or little good luck rituals you have to do at midnight SHARP.

If you are at the beach, you should jump over seven ocean waves. If you are indoors, you should eat 12 grapes, and make a wish for each of them, or eat seven pomegranate berries, and keep the seeds in your wallet for the year. Then, you must eat a fullspoon of lentil, for money, and you can NEVER eat animals like chicken, or turkey, cause they scratch the soil backwards (bad luck) – fish is much better, because, you know, they swim straight ahead always.

And you MUST wear brand new underwear, and choose the color accordingly – white for peace, red for love, yellow for money, and the other colors have meanings too, but I can’t recall of them all – my bad.

In that spirit, I decided to make a very rich and delicious dessert for our New Year’s Eve dinner, because I really wanna have a rich and delicious 2010. Besides that, this recipe was a precious gift, left on the comments of this very blog, by Laura, a reader from Portugal. According to her, it’s a “family jewel”, a very typical dessert from her region, made for very special occasions.

Couldn’t have decided better – the dessert is scrumptuous, creamy, almondy and so beautiful.

Tecolameco – makes one 20cm round cake (please check the link for measurement conversions at the right side bar)

The recipe I send you is a family jewel, very Portuguese, with all accurate measurements (aunt Laura is very meticulous about that). Tecolameco is a very traditional sweet my family makes for weddings, christenings and special occasions.

From Portugal, my friendly regards,

Laura.”

Ingredients:

  • 500g sugar
  • 250g almonds (peeled and finely ground on a food processor, or you can use almond flour)
  • 25g butter
  • 10g lard or margarine (I used butter)
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 300ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ground cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 30°F/ 170°C. Butter a 20cm/ 9-inch round pan, cover the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper.

In a saucepan, bring the sugar, water and cinnamon stick to a boil. Let cook until a candy thermometer marks 107°C/ 224°F. Remove the cinnamon and add the almonds, and cook until the mixture has thickened (about 5 to 8 minutes). Remove from heat and let it cool a little, about 10 minutes.

Add yolks and whole eggs, and a pinch of cinnamon, and mix well until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Invert on a serving plate and cover with icing sugar . Decorate with a flower. Serve at room temperature.

Note: For these photos, I cut rounds of the cake with a cookie cutter for individual portions.

Happy New Year!- small batch chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream

31 de December de 2009

To the readers, friends, bloggers, tweeps, to those who left comments, to the ones just browsing, to you who made a recipe that worked, to you who made a recipe that didn’t work, to you coming back and to the first timers – I wish you the best year of your lives, full of love, peace, fun, joy, sweetness and health.

See you in 2010.

XO

Paula

Last Minute Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream (adapted from here) – makes 4 cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk (I use yogurt)
  • yolk of 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I use vegetable oil)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Line 4 cups of a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and sugar. In another bowl, mix well the yolk, the oil and the yogurt.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and fold until incorporated. Distribute the batter between the cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

White Chocolate Buttercream for small batch cupcakes (please check the conversion calculator for measurements on the right side bar)

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 75g butter, cut in cubes/ room temperature
  • 50g melted white chocolate

In a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (160°F/ 71°C).
Beat the egg white mixture in the electric mixer on high-speed until it holds stiff  peaks and the mixture is fluffy and cooled.
Switch to the paddle attachment. On medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. If the buttercream looks curdles or separates, beat on high-speed for several minutes and it should come together. Stir in white chocolate with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth. It can be used immediately or you can keep it for until 2 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for 2 months – just bring to room temperature and stir before using.