quarta-feira, 30 de setembro de 2009

Cocoa and almonds cookies for a favorite cake

Cookies can be a great addition to cake or torte recipes. Regularly used to make tart and pie crusts they can also be used as a substitute to flours in many cake recipes. In this cake I added grounded homemade amarettis to the cake dough and reduced the amount of almonds and . The cake has a kind of financier style however, instead of using egg whites only I used whole eggs. The result is a light, crunchy and very nutty and aromatic cake that tastes better if eaten on the same day.

Cocoa and amarettis teacakes
(250 ml cup)

100 grams butter
1/4 cup of grounded almonds
1/4 cup grounded chocolate amaretti (12 cookies)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



Butter twelve small muffin cups or tartelette molds and set aside. In a small pan melt butter let it cook until golden brown (beurre-noisette), keep you eye on the butter until it is cooked as it can burn very easily and you will have to start again. Once it smell nutty and has a beautiful golden color remove it from heat and set aside.

In a food processor ground the almond with the amarettis, cocoa powder, flour and sugar. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. In a large bowl whisk the eggs using a whisk (fouet) until foamy. Add the flour mixture, in batches, until well incorporated. If using vanilla extract add the vanilla extract and mix. Finally add the butter while it is still warm and mix to incorporate it into the batter completely. Divide the batter in the prepared pans. Bake the cake in a hot oven, at 180C/300F, for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Sprinkle some confectioners sugar on top of cakes before serving.

Makes 12 cakes.

Chocolate Amaretti

1 cup grounded almond
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of Disaronno almond liquor or natural almond extract
pinch of salt
Sugar to roll the cookies

Preheat the oven at 180C/350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside. In a food processor ground the almonds with confectioners sugar and the cocoa powder. Whisk the egg whites with salt until foamy, add two tablespoons of sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add liquor. Add flour mixture to egg whites mixture and stir until incorporated. With a teaspoon spoon small amounts on the prepared sheets, sprinkle crystal sugar over the cookies. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 60 cookies

quinta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2009

My homemade plum liquor

Inspired by the most amazing plum harvest and a recipe for Italian liquor Bargnolino, a plum liquor from Parma ( just like the ham and the cheese) I made some plum liquor. We have two beautiful plum trees in our garden and the liquor was just one of the many plum products we produced this year.

I found a very simple recipe to make Bargnolino and I was finally able to make my own version of Plum Liquor. I love fruity and nutty liquors and we drink liquors quite often and currently my favorite is Disaronno another Italian liquor and maybe for this reason I can say I normally prefer Italian liquors to French ones.

However, my greatest inspiration are the Brazilian fruit liquors made with cachaça such as graviola , jabuticaba , pitanga and genipapo which are as old as the first cachaças which were first marketed in the first half of the 16th century.

The Italian recipe asked for pure alcohol but I prefer more flavored drink and I used cachaça which is perfect for liquors as, depending on the type of cachaça used, it also add a subtle or even strong flavor of sugar cane on the end. I just love cachaça based liquors and I hope this one will be the perfect one for me. Now I have to wait until the end of December, shaking the my jars every week to make sure the liquor gets the best out of the plums and the sugar...

Plum liquor

Inspired by the liquor Bargnolino

Version 1:

1 Kg of small sloe plums
450 grams of sugar
500 ml of pure cachaça
3 freshly emptied vanilla pods


Sterilize two jars with one liter capacity or one big jars with two liters capacity by boiling the jars for 10 minutes. Wash the lids and dip them in boiling water and set them aside. The jars must have 2 liters or 1 liter capacity.

Place the fruits in the jars filling the jar up the top but don't overcrowd it, leave 2-3 cms from the top. Place the open deseeded vanilla beans between the fruits. Add the sugar over the fruits and vanilla beans (seeds). Fill the jars with cachaça, just enough to cover the fruits. Close the jar without pressing and let the mixture set in a dark, dry spot in your kitchen for 90 days. You will have to shake the mixture everyday during the first week and once a week during until the end of the 90 days. The shaking is very important to help the integration of sugar and alcohol in the mixture.

After the 90 days of infusion you must filter the drink through a clean and boiled cheese cloth and with the help of a funnel transfer the drink to a clean glass or divide it among smaller washed, boiled and dried jars. Makes around 700ml of liquor.

The liquor can be kept closed for long periods of time but the exact time depends on the conditions of production, storage and bottling.

Obs. 1 The final amount of alcohol needed to fill the jars will depend on the amount of sugar and fruit you have used. It may vary according to the form of jar and your preference for sugar...

Obs. 2 You can use pure alcohol but if you are in Brazil use the best organic cachaça you can find...

Obs. 3 In December I will return to show my liquor...

Obs. 4 There are thousands of ways to make liquors at home and you can use any type of alcoholic beverage to make liquor, choose the one you like best and just go for it...

quarta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2009

Guava and tapioca thumbprint cookies

This is one of the most traditional of the Brazilian cookies, I am not afraid to say that it may be the favorite nationwide. Whether made of manioc starch (cassava) or corn starch it is always very buttery, dense, crunchy and melts in your mouth. Besides, it has the most powerful guava aroma. According to me, guava is the most powerful aroma of the tropics, a strong and distinctive perfume which make this fruit unique.

In more temperate zones fruits like strawberries and raspberries have a powerful flavor-aroma and color which can be used in many other food recipes. The red guava, I dare to say, has the same power as those red berries. Guava jam and guava compote are regularly used as fillings in cookies and cakes. In my opinion, the only fruit sauce to match the power of the red berries is guava sauce. I made some guava jam thumbprint cookies with manioc starch and they were delicious.

Guava Thumbprint cookies

is gluten free

(250ml cup)

100 grams butter in room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups tapioca starch
1 egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
80 grams guava jam


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

In the bowl beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat some more. Add flour to mixture, one half cup at a time, beating until well combined to make a very soft dough. Eventually, and depending on the humidity in your kitchen, you may not need to add all the starch. Keep your eyes open, but in case the dough gets too dry add some drops of milk to soften.

Make small balls of dough and place balls on parchment-lined baking sheet. Make a deep indentation in the center of each ball with your finger or bottom of a thick wooden spoon and fill them with a small spoonful of jam.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden on the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 50 cookies

quarta-feira, 2 de setembro de 2009

Passion fruit mousse with milk caramel in a bath of milk chocolate

Last week I was totally seduced by the image of a passion fruit semifrio (semifreddo) I saw on blog Mesa para 4. The picture of the semifreddo was really attractive and I had to try it myself. I changed a couple of things in the recipe, for example, I substituted the 400ml of sweet condensed milk for 200 grams of milk caramel and I used passion fruit flavored gelatin instead of pineapple flavored gelatin.

This recipe was recently published on Mesa para 4 inspired in a recipe published on Portuguese food site Sabor Intenso which I had never heard before and I was quite pleased to find. This mousse is a very simple type of "juice-cream-and-gelatin-mousse" which is very popular in Brazil. Passion fruit mousse and passion fruit mousse tarts are, or better, remain among the most popular desserts in Brazil of the last 20 years and I just can't resist to try it again. Passion fruit and chocolate is just irresistible...

Passion fruit mousse with milk caramel in a bath of milk chocolate

400 ml pure passion fruit juice
500 ml heavy cream
200 grams milk caramel (doce de leite)
250 ml boiling water
2 sachets of passion fruit flavor gelatin (each sachet for 500ml liquid)


In a saucepan dissolve the gelatin with the boiling water and let it cool. Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk milk caramel with passion fruit juice until totally incorporated. Add the cooled gelatin to juice-caramel mixture. Whip the cream until soft peaks. Add the cream to the caramel-gelatin mixture, in batches and with a spatula fold to incorporate cream completely. Divide into ramekins, glasses or pudding pans. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Serve with milk chocolate sauce.

Serves 10

Milk chocolate sauce

200 grams milk chocolate (I used with 40% cocoa)
200 ml low fat milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


Cut chocolate into small bits and set aside. In a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat bring milk and cocoa powder to a boil whisking to incorporate. Once mixture boils reduce heat to low and start adding the chocolate bits whisking to melt the chocolate completely. Remove from heat and whisk vigorously until chocolate is totally melted. Let it cool slightly and serve with the passion fruit mousse.

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