sexta-feira, 30 de janeiro de 2009

Cacao Amaretti cookies

I have written many times, everywhere, that I am not a cookie lover. It might be difficult to be believe since I have been baking dozens of different cookies during the last three months. It is important to stress here that the term cookie is wrongly applied to all sorts of small, bite-size sweets and what I am referring to when I say that I am not crazy about cookies are sugar cookies, butter cookies, chocolate chips cookies, nuts cookies and fruit cookies even if I am crazy for almond cookies. I simply adore amaretti and basel brunsli. After some time writing about them here they are: amaretti, the traditional Italian almond cookie.

This recipe is a reduced version of a recipe I found on the blog Cream Puffs in Venice which is slightly different of the traditional recipe which uses only egg whites. This version also asks for chocolate powder which gives a special color to the cookies and a twist in the flavor. The recipe was pretty big and I decided to reduce it to try. I also made some changes as I used confectioners sugar instead of the regular sugar cubes and liquor instead of essence.

Cacao Amaretti

250 grams grounded almond
80 grams confectioners sugar
3 teaspoons chocolate powder
2 large eggs
1 table spoon of Disaronno almond liquor or almond essence
Sugar crystals to roll the cookies

Preheat the oven at 180C/350F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and reserve. Mix almond flour, sugar and chocolate. Mix eggs and liquor. Add eggs mixture to flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Use a teaspoon to make small ball and roll them on the crystals of sugar. Transfer to the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes 40 cookies

Disaronno, the traditional Italian almond liquor, is the perfect companion for a batch of amaretti. The liquor is good not only as a flavor to the cookie but can also be served with the cookies.

terça-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2009

While they were sleeping: microwave chocolate pudding

For years I have kept a very delicate relationship with my microwave. I can't exactly recall when this strange situation started, if it was a reflex of my natural indifference to kitchen gadgets as I have never been very enthusiastic of innovations in the kitchen or if it is related to some failures my mother used to relate. She has many microwaves dramas to tell but she remains to this day the most faithful user of microwaves. In the kitchen I am very simple girl, I don't mind the technological stuff. I like to keep things simple and I love to use my hands. I am more in search of simple flavors, family recipes, old secrets to comfort me. Brigadeiro is one of these simple flavors and it is all so simple and comforting. You don't really need any technology to make it right but technology can really make it easy.

Last night, moved by gluttony, impatience and a powerful desire to eat brigadeiro I challenged my past and reviewed my relationship with my microwave to make some late night pudding. I searched old recipes but was really inspired by a recipe published by Nana in her blog Manga com Pimenta here. I have made some changes in the recipe, as usual. Instead of milk I used heavy cream and 3 whole eggs instead of using only the yolks.

After mixing, buttering and draining I microwaved it! Yes, yes, I microwaved it and in 10 minutes my brigadeiro pudding was ready and delicious. I am used to bake this pudding in the conventional oven and found that the result is less soft and more dense when baked in the microwave, but the flavor is exactly the same. To make it less dense you must adjust the time of baking.

It was already 1:00 a.m when I sat and ate my individual brigadeiro pudding while it was still warm. I like it warm but I think they are more tasty and feels lighter once they have been chilled.

Microwave Brigadeiro Chocolate Pudding

330 ml of condensed milk
330 ml of heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter + more for pan
6 tablespoons of chocolate powder
3 medium eggs

Butter a microwave resistant pan or six individual ramekins and reserve. In a bowl of a electric mixer combine condensed milk, heavy cream, eggs, butter and chocolate to incorporate, for 30 seconds. Strain through a fine sieve to remove solids and transfer mixture to the prepared pan or ramekin. Fill only half of the pain as the mixture will raise in the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at high potency. The exact time will depend on the power of your microwave and the size of the pan you are using. The individual ramekins will be ready in 3 to 4 minutes. I baked three individual ramekins (3 minutes each) and a bigger pan with half of the mixture for 10 minutes. The pudding was a little bit hard as i like it more soft so I guess 8 minutes would have been enough.

Obs: You can also bake this pudding in the conventional oven. Butter a pan or the ramekin and bake in bain-marie for 30 minutes at 180C/350F.

You can also use silicone molds to bake this pudding and in this case you don't need to butter the mold.

Serves 6

P.S. Don´t bake while everybody sleeps and the night is high, you will end up with a bunch of rubbish pictures and a bad post...

terça-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2009

Party favorites: toucinho do céu

It is the end of one year and the beginning of another new year is the time of a long party season around here. Besides the traditional Christmas and New Year's parties we have three children birthday parties, one in the beginning of December and the other two in the first ten days of January. The year 2009 began with a nice family gathering on Friday January 2nd and a big party, for the entire school class on January 10th. It is a big piece of work since the children around here are very interested in every detail and keep high expectations. Maybe all children are just the same. The menu of the last party of the season was totally decided according to the interests and tastes of the birthday girl, but I have managed to include two extra desserts of my interest.

(Chocolate truffles)

It all started with some left overs of the chocolate ganache I had made to fill the chocolate thumb print. I was asked to make chocolate thumb print cookies and with the extra ganache I made some very good chocolate truffles. I rolled the truffles on cocoa powder and they were so good that I made decided to make an extra batch so we could serve truffles to our guests since the initial batch was not enough.

(Vanilla financiers)

Financiers have become a classic around here since the children love them as much as I do. Whenever we have guests or a party we got to serve some financiers. It is the first cake the kids ask for. They are so beautiful and normally I bake them in tartelette tins and they look so attractive. I have published recipes of financiers here so I won't give any recipe here today. In this party I made four different types of almond financiers: plain vanilla, with strawberries, with raspberries and with slices banana. The banana ones were the favorite and the first type to be completely finished. I didn't have any chance of taking pictures of them.

(Chocolate thumbprint cookie)

These chocolate thumbprint cookies were a huge success in our Christmas season. The children loved it so much that I had to bake it twice to keep my plan of offering some dozens of them to my in laws. They all loved it too. The kids and their parents at the party loved these cookies too, specially the smaller kids who didn't enjoy dark truffles or the chocolate mousse. I baked a double batch so I still had some left the next day. My plan was to give some of them away as party treats but I completely ran out of boxes and cellophane bags and I did not have a single chance to produce packages to give the cookies away. So, here they were and remained...

Chocolate was the main ingredient of the party. We had chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate truffles and chocolate thumbprint cookies. Besides the chocolate we had eggs and almond desserts. I used 24 egg whites to make the financiers and the 24 yolks were used to make toucinho do céu, a Portuguese dessert which is one of my favorites. Toucinho do céu makes the perfect pair with financiers.

Toucinho do Céu

12 egg yolks
2 1/2 (300g) cup blanched and grounded almonds
100 g butter at room temperature
1 cup water
2 cups (220g) sugar
1 tablespoon Disaronno or Amaretto liquor or almond essence
Confectioners sugar to drizzle on top


Butter a round or square baking pan, line with parchment paper and butter the paper. Sift yolks and put aside. In a medium pan over medium heat melt sugar and water and let it boil for 3 to 5 minutes until very shine and transparent. Remove from hear and add the almonds and the butter and mix well and fast with a spoon. Add the yolks and the liquor and take it back to heat mixing well, non stop, until the mixture starts to boil and come out from the bottom of the pan. Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan and bake at 180C/350F for 30 minutos. Let it cool, cut in squares and drizzle some confectioners sugar over the cakes.

Makes 15 to 18 squares

Toucinho do céu and Financiers make the perfect pair. Very similar and different at the same time. One is made of yolks, sugar and almonds and the other one is made of egg whites, sugar and almonds. Financiers are made of a butter 'caramel' (beurre noisette) while 'toucinho do céu' are made of sugar caramel. None are very sweet and both have very distinctive flavors from the essences and nuts. Wonderful at any occasion. One is more dense and the other one more airy. Just the perfect pair

sexta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2009

A little taste of the Argentinian summer: black cherries clafoutis

I am finally back to blog life after I have finally delivered the project that had completely absorbed my time during the last 40 days. I am so relieved to have finished it and I am also pretty satisfied with the results. The year has just started but on January 15th I kind of finalized the most important project of my year. Incredible, isn't it? The challenge now is to fill 2009 with other important projects.

Yesterday I spent the day at the university reviewing, editing and printing. On the end of the afternoon, after everything was finished, I walked to the parking area to get my car and I was so excited that I didn't pay much attention to the cold. The thermometer on the car panel showed -14C but I was not suffering. I was so happy with my project and with the fact that I had delivered it on the right time that I didn't have any space in my mind to think about the cold. The days are terribly cold in January but they will be colder in February so, why bother? The worst winter days around here always come in February.

It is pretty difficult to think of January and February as cold months as I grew up in the South where January and February mean both suffocating hot summer days and the most incredible diversity of flavors one can imagine. In this cold North January and February are poor in flavors' months (some of you might want to kill me for writing such thing) and cold as hell ( as I have once written, to me hell is a very cold place).

In the diversity of the Southern summer, besides the regular flavors of the tropics we also have all the other flavors of the very South, the beauty and juicy Argentinian cherries for example. As Brazil doesn't produce cherries, it doesn't have enough area of temperate climate for cherry trees, all the cherries we buy there are imported from the neighbor countries. Maybe, in the age of biotechnology, one day cherries trees will be adapted to the semi-temperate climate of South Brazil. Anyway, cherries from Argentina and Chile have a special place in my memory, meaning it is the end of the year, it was summer and we had it all.

On my way home I stopped at the supermarket to quick food shopping and there they were, cherries from Argentina, just like the ones I used to eat in my tropical Januaries. I brought home a bag full of them, we ate and we ate a lot of them before I decided they deserved to be pictured and transformed into a special for cherries dessert. What can be more special for cherries than clafoutis? The ultimate cherry dessert and the simplest and most comforting French dessert.

Cherry Clafoutis (*)

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar + more for drizzling the ramekins
1 1/2 cup milk (or 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup cream or sour cream)
1 cup flour (can make it 1/2 cup corn starch + 1/2 cup flour)
Scraps of half vanilla bean
200 to 300 grams of black cherries with the seed.


Preheat oven at 180C/350F. Butter a oven proof pan or individual ramekins with butter and drizzle some sugar. Divide the washed and dried cherries and reserve. Beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the vanilla scraps and beat some more. Add the milk and mix well to incorporate. Add the flour, in two or three times, mixing slowly. The batter will be very liquid. Transfer batter to the prepare pan or divide it between the individual ramekins. The liquid must cover the fruit layer. Bake for 45 minutes until slightly golden. You can serve with a drizzle of confectioners sugar and some grounded pistachio. Serves 6.

(*) Clafoutis and Flognarde

Very recently I learned that it is not necessary to write or say 'cherry clafoutis', do you want to know why? Because all clafoutis are made with cherry. When you make the French creamy egg tart mostly know as clafoutis with another fruit you actually make a 'flognarde'. The first time I read about flognarde was on Leonor's blog Flagrante Delícia . I got curious and decided to investigate more about flognarde. I made a shot research and found the origins of these desserts. Clafoutis and flognarde are both traditional desserts from Limousin, France. The origin of the name clafoutis is totally related to the use of cherries and a short explanation about it can be read here . Isn't it amazing?

quinta-feira, 1 de janeiro de 2009

A special breakfast for a special morning: tapioca cream with raspberry coulis

It was a late morning just as I had foreseen it would be. We got up pretty late and it was already one o'clock in the afternoon when breakfast was served. For this special 'morning' I had prepared the night before a special dish: a tapioca cream. I have been craving tapioca cream since I saw this recipe published on the blog Chocolatria in the beginning of December.

I followed most of the recipe but I made some changes. I did not add the condensed milk so I added five tablespoons of sugar instead of only three as suggested by Simone. However, two of those five tablespoons of sugar were of gelatin sugar which I added to harden the cream a little bit more. Besides I added 330ml of coconut milk instead of 200ml because I had a 330ml can and I wanted to use the whole can.

Simone served her cream with fresh peaches coulis but I made a coulis with frozen raspberries. In this mostly Norwegian family everything made of raspberry has better chances of success. I didn't cook the coulis, I just mixed the melted fruits with some water and sugar and drained this juice before serving. The original recipe of the tapioca cream can be read in Portuguese only on the blog Chocolatria

Even if I don't like to reproduce recipes that are available somewhere else on the internet, I will reproduce this one because it is not available in English language. It is a very Brazilian kind of dessert, something I used to eat on the beach where the street vendors (in this case beach vendors) serve the cream with a drizzle of condensed milk and some extra spoonfuls of freshly grated coconut. Tapioca and coconut make a great pair and the fact that they are cooked in milk with sugar makes the cream very basic in opposition to acid, or acidic flavors. The best coulis or sauces to be served with tapioca and coconut cream are, in my opinion, those made out of juicy acid fruits, such as oranges, passion fruits, peaches, raspberries, strawberries or even blueberries.

Tapioca cream adapted from Chocolatria

1/2 cup of tapioca (a.k.a.cassava) pearls
200 ml coconut milk
100 grams coconut flakes or freshly grated coconut meat
4 cups milk (I used fat free milk but you can use your favorite type)
5 table spoons of sugar
1/2 vanilla bean(optional)
Condensed milk as a substitute for the sugar (optional)

Leave the tapioca resting in the milk for at least half hour. When the tapioca was 'bathed' transfer the tapioca and its milk bath to a pan. Add the coconut milk, the coconut flakes, the sugar and the scraps of the vanilla bean and cook it over medium low heat, mixing it all the time until it boils. It will be thicker by the time the cream boils and the tapioca bubbles will grow bigger. Transfer the cream to one big pot or to small ramekins and let then cool. Refrigerate after the cream have cooled and served them cold or at room temperature, as you wish.

You can add some spoonfuls or an whole small can of sweet condensed milk to the milk mixture before cooking. If you add the condensed milk reduce the amount of sugar so the cream won't be very sweet on the end. You can also add some gelatin sugar so the cream will be more stiff.

Serve with some acidic sauce or fruit coulis of your preference.

Makes 6 individual ramekins

I hope you had a fantastic new year's eve and I wish you all a fantastic 2009!
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