GREEN BEANS AND CARROTS WITH SPICY ALMONDS

Green beans with almonds is such a simple recipe. A bit like avocado toast: grab bread, toast it, smash avocado on it, top with whatever you like, give it a fancy name and be done with it. Yet, here I am to share an almost non-recipe with you. It turns out that this was unexpectedly delicious. And I will be making it again and again. That makes it blog-worthy in my book. So there!

GREEN BEANS AND CARROTS WITH SPICY ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground za’tar
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
a touch of olive oil butter
⅔ cup slivered almonds (or amount to taste)
green beans, cut into 1½-inch lengths
carrots, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

To make the almonds: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, chili powder, za’tar, salt, and cayenne. Heat the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle them with the sugar-spice mixture and stir almost constantly until the spices are fragrant, do not let it burn. Move them to a plate and reserve at room temperature.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. You have two options: add the green beans and carrots and cook both together until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Or if you prefer the carrots a bit more tender, add them first, cook them for about 3 minutes, then add the green beans for additional 4 minutes of cooking. Drain both veggies well, lay over paper towels or a kitchen towel to remove all excess water.

Finish the preparation: Add the olive oil to the a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-heat. Add the green beans and carrots and toss well. Sautee until you get some color on some of the green beans and carrots, the less you move them around the more they will brown. Season with salt, add the almond mixture, toss just a couple of times to spread them around the veggies. Transfer to a serving dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Two game changers here, the inclusion of carrots and the sweet-and-spicy mix. We have green beans with almonds very often, but this preparation feels like a totally different recipe, with the carrots bringing a nice contrast of color, and the spice mixture giving just the right amount of naughtiness to the almonds. Simple, no doubt, but so delicious. Cumin could be a nice addition, although I do feel that it tends to overpower things a bit. You should come up with your own version of spices just keep the sugar and use your imagination. Keep in mind that nothing brightens up this type of dish more than a little squirt of lemon juice in the end, right before serving. I totally forgot about it.

Leftovers were great next day, but probably a lot better if someone had not picked all the almonds as a post-dinner snack. Confession: I did it. They were that tasty. I am sorry. Kind of.

Dinner is served!  Store-bought rotisserie chicken, a bit of rice and this tasty side dish.
Easy to bring to the table even after traveling the whole day.

ONE YEAR AGO: Quiche 101

TWO YEARS AGO: Persian Butternut Squash Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

NINE YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

 

 

SOUS-VIDE OVERNIGHT OATMEAL

Let me get this out right away: I don’t care for oatmeal. At all.  Growing up in Brazil it was not part of my breakfast, in fact I only learned about it when I was 26 years old and arrived in the US for the first time for a post doc. I thought the texture was unpleasant, the taste very bland, unless you dump a ton of brown sugar and heavy cream and this and that on top. What would be the point then? However, oatmeal is very popular, considered a healthy option to start the day, keeping you full until lunch time with good amount of fiber, the right carbs, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. None of this would make me look forward to a bowl of oatmeal to start my day, especially considering I am not a breakfast person. But hubby loves it. And that was enough to make me try a sous-vide version. I had no idea it would be a game-changer for me. It’s really tasty. So, if you are an oatmeal hater who owns a sous-vide gadget, I urge you to give this recipe a try. If you don’t have a sous-vide, I heard that crock pot versions can be excellent too, but I have no personal experience with it.

OVERNIGHT OATMEAL SOUS-VIDE
(adapted from several sous-vide sources)

jars:
8 jars with 4-ounce capacity
or
4 jars with 8-ounce capacity

for each small (4oz) jar:
2 tablespoons steel-cut oats
70 g water
pinch of salt

for each bigger (8oz) jar:
4 tablespoons steel-cut oats
140 g water
pinch of salt

Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 155°F.  Fill the jars of your choice with the appropriate amount of oats, water, add the salt. Seal jars. If they have screw-caps, don’t tighten them too much. Lower jars slowly in the prepared water bath until fully submerged. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 hours.

Remove jars from water-bath. Stir oats and serve with the toppings of your choice. If using the small jars, you’ll need two of them to make a single portion.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I now realize that texture was my main issue with oatmeal. For some reason, even after cooking for so many hours, the sous-vide results in oats with the exact amount of bite for my taste. I still prefer to have them later in the day with a fried egg on top. I call it light lunch. The jars, once ready, can sit in the fridge for a few days. When you are ready for breakfast (or any other time of the day you feel like it), pour the contents in a bowl and warm very very briefly in the microwave. Add the toppings you love and you are done.  Golden raisins and a touch of brown sugar is a nice combination, and yes, I’ve had that for lunch more than once.

As I mentioned, you can find plenty of recipes for overnight oatmeal using a slow-cooker.  I imagine they will please all oatmeal lovers, but if you are part of my team, sous-vide might be the real winner. Plus, I am always happy to find new uses for my beloved Anova gadget.

One last thing: many recipes using sous-vide call for longer cooking times. I prefer to keep a maximum of 12 hours, but 10 hours worked better for us. After 12 hours of cooking the texture got a tad too soft for our taste.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Valentine’s Day Opera

TWO YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

NINE YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

VALENTINE’S DAY SWEETHEART COOKIES

Back in December, I made a batch of cookies and “decorated” them. After that experience it became clear that the road to hell is paved with Royal icing. Since it was a real roller coaster, I decided I was done with it for the rest of my existence. Having said that, I don’t know exactly why I woke up one day thinking that the combination of sugar cookies with Royal icing would be the best way to start Valentine’s week. A real sucker for punishment I am. Was it that bad? Sort of. Let’s say it had some ups and some dark and scary downs.

SWEETHEART SUGAR COOKIES WITH ROYAL ICING
(adapted from Alton Brown and Sweet Sugarbelle)

what you’ll need:
heart-shaped cookie cutter
scribe tool
piping bags
icing tips size 2 or 3
rubber bands for piping bags (2 per bag)
paper towels and water for constant clean-up
a Zen attitude
a very understanding partner in case you run out of previous item

for the cookie dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour (360 g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (225 g)
1 cup sugar (225 g)
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 tablespoon milk

for the icing:
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar {907 grams}
5 tablespoons meringue powder {approximately 53 grams}
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract (I used clear vanilla extract)
1/2-3/4 cups warm water

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, lemon zest, milk and vanilla, beat to combine. Put mixer on low-speed, add flour, and mix just until the mixture starts to form a dough. Do not over mix or your cookies might be tough. Remove the dough from the mixer and finish mixing it by hand, gently.  Divide the dough in half, flatten each portion as a square or rectangle and wrap in plastic foil. Refrigerate for 1 hour minimum.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling-pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut into heart shapes, place on baking sheet over parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to cool on a rack. Ice the cookies when completely cool, or on the following day.

Make the icing (you can make the day before and store well covered at room temperature). Stir the vanilla into half of the water and reserve. Keep the other half of the water measured and ready to go.

Using a paddle attachment gently mix the sugar and meringue powder. With the mixer on the lowest setting slowly add the water/flavoring mix to the dry ingredients. As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy. Continue to add the remaining water {this may or may not be the entire amount} until the mixture reaches a thick consistency. At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2-4 minutes until the mixture is thick and fluffy. When it forms a soft peak, it has been beaten enough. Avoid mixing further, as you don’t want to incorporate too much air in the icing. Too much air might result in bubbles forming after icing.

Adjust the consistency that you need for flooding the cookies, separate the icing in portions, add dye according to your planned decoration. Store in air-tight containers at room temperature. If needed, re-adjust the consistency before piping.

Add the different colors of icing to piping bags fitted with the appropriate icing tips. I like number 3 for the basic color used for flooding, and a number two for the details. Flood each cookie, make the edges as neat as possible with the scribe tool. Decorate with the design you like, one cookie at a time, as the base color needs do still be wet, unless you prefer to do a wet-on-dry method. In this case, the base needs to dry for several hours before proceeding with the decoration.

Dry the cookies for at least 6 hours before handling them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had no issues with the cookie component, I prefer the taste of a sablé type cookie, but as far as sugar cookies go, these are very nice. They retain a little chewiness upon baking (especially if you don’t let them get too dark), and the lemon zest brightens them up considerably. Now let’s talk Royal icing. I watched online classes and youtube videos. I read cook books.

Here is my advice for those who are as inexperienced as myself and for some irrational motive decide that a naked cookie must be dressed for party.

  1. Make the icing and the cookies the day before decorating them. Not only it is better to ice cookies that are not freshly baked (I am echoing some experts here), but it will save you a lot of trouble and make decorating day easier.
  2. Keep things simple. White icing plus two or at most three colors. Trust me on this. You will need bags and icing tips for each color you want to work with. Some people can make those cute piping bags from parchment paper. I am not one of those people. Sometimes I get them right, more often than not there is drama.
  3. Prepare all materials you will need and have them ready on a neat and clean counter top. Paper towels and a bowl with water are two best friends of the rookie-decorator.
  4. Tie your hair up if you have long hair. Wear gloves if you prefer to avoid stained fingers.
  5. Get rubber ties for your piping bags like these. They are indispensable and work better than improvised methods. Tie the bag close to the icing tip before you fill it. Tie the top after you fill it (see my composite image, middle photo in the bottom row). Remove the band closest to the tip when you are ready to ice your cookies. This simple measure prevents quite a bit of mess from happening.
  6. Have a rack ready to spread the freshly iced cookies with enough surface to accommodate them all. They take hours to fully set and should not touch each other. Be very careful not to grab them touching the icing. Often the surface looks dry but it’s still soft and fragile (don’t ask me how I know).
  7. Let your inner Rembrandt fly. Or Monet. If all fails, go Pollock. Not that there’s anything wrong with him. Obviously not.

But, the most important thing is obviously the most elusive for beginners: the consistency of the icing. Nothing is more frustrating than filling the piping bag and realizing the icing is a tad too thick. Or worse yet, too thin, which will cause the icing to roll off the cookie and tears to roll down the baker’s face. There are tricks to judge the perfect consistency. For instance you can run a spatula or small knife into the icing bowl, and in about 15 seconds it should go back to a smooth, leveled surface. I was probably off by 20 seconds on my first attempt, which led me to say a few choice words, empty the bag, thin the icing, and start all over. Sadly, it was still a bit thick, but I could not bring myself to empty the bag again. So the white icing used to flood most of the cookies was not top-notch. Getting the consistency perfect is probably something that comes with practice. Perhaps I’ll get there before 2019 is over.

I developed a huge respect for those who do this type of stuff for a living. It is really time-consuming, and I imagine the profit margin is very low. Especially if a baker uses the best ingredients and does intricate decorations, he or she will have to charge a lot more than the stuff you can by at the grocery store in those big plastic boxes. But I guess that is a problem professional bakers are forced to deal with.

Several of my cookies had small boo-boos, but some made me very happy. So happy that I created a little composite photo with them.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

ONE YEAR AGO: Fesenjan, Fast-Food Style

TWO YEARS AGO: Lavender Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

FOUR YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

NINE YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

PINK PRALINE BRIOCHE

Sometimes I wonder what makes me try a new recipe. Of course, reading tons of cookbooks and food blogs, new things show up on my radar often. I might make a mental note to try it at some point, labeling them as intriguing or interesting, but for the most part I move on. Then, there’s Pink Praliné Brioche. And no easy way to get it out of my mind. Having lived in Paris for a few years, it was hard to accept I’d never even seen one. Pink praliné. The stuff dreams are made of.

PINK PRALINÉ BRIOCHE
(adapted from Murielle Valette’s Patisserie)

3.5g fresh yeast (I used osmo-tolerant yeast)
25ml milk, at room temperature
250g bread flour
5g salt
15g sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature (about 150g)
125g soft butter
120g pink praliné, crushed lightly in a food processor (recipe follows)
egg wash

Whisk the yeast in a small bowl with the milk.  Put the flour, salt, sugar and eggs into the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer. Add the milk and yeast, and knead it for about 10 minutes at low-speed.

Little by little add the butter and continue kneading in low to medium speed until the gluten is well-developed.  Place the dough in a bowl lightly coated with oil, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The following day, turn over the dough on a work surface and gently press it as a rectangle of around 8 by 12 inches, then cut it lengthwise in three strips. Roll each piece to flatten it slightly, sprinkle a line of crushed pink praliné in the center, and enclose it with the dough, rolling it well to seal. Do the same with the other two strips, then braid them together, keeping the seam side down at all times.

Sprinkle more pink praliné over the shaped bread, letting them fall in the folds of the braid.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it at room temperature for a final rise until it almost doubles in size. Mine took 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 F, and right before baking, brush the surface of the braid with the egg wash.  Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Brioche dough contains not only flour and yeast, but additional fat in the form of eggs, milk and butter. This type of enriched dough does well with a slow fermentation, so I prefer to mix it the day before. It also makes the actual baking day a lot easier, as you can shape the bread straight from its overnight proofing time in the fridge. It warms up quickly and it’s not hard to work with at all. You could ferment the dough at room temperature for 4 hours or so, but it will be a long baking day. Your kitchen, your call.

If you prefer to buy the pink praliné, amazon sells it, but be prepared to wait, no free 2-day shipping for this one. To make your own, follow the recipe below. 

PINK PRALINÉ
(from Cooking with Bernard)

450 g sugar, divided in 150g amounts
A few drops of red food coloring
125g whole hazelnuts, peeled (about 3/4 cup)
125g whole almonds (about 3/4 cup)

Place one-third of the sugar (3/4 cup / 150 g) in a large frying pan with just enough water to moisten it. Add a few drops of red coloring.  Stir well and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil. When large bubbles start forming, add the hazelnuts and almonds, stirring non-stop. Control the heat, so that the nuts don’t burn. The syrup will begin to crystallize, and look very grainy. Don’t despair, keep stirring so that the nuts are well coated in sugar. Keep simmering, the sugar that does not coat the nuts will slowly start to melt and turn into a thick liquid. Transfer the contents of the pan to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. You should have nuts and some “free” caramel-sugar. Reserve the nuts and place the sugar in a clean saucepan.

Add another third of the sugar (150g). Add a little more red coloring and water – just enough to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue until all the pieces of sugar are completely melted. Switch off the burner, add the reserved nuts to the frying pan, but don’t switch turn the heat on yet. Wait until the syrup in the saucepan reaches 255°F. When the syrup is almost at the desired temperature, switch on the burner below the frying pan. It should be at medium heat. Pour the syrup over the nuts, stirring as you pour. You will need to wash this pan to use it again, so make sure to take it right away to the sink and fill with water.

Coat the nuts. The syrup will once again become grainy. Allow the sugar that does not coat the nuts to melt. Transfer the contents of the pan to a sheet of parchment paper and set the coated nuts to one side and the remaining sugar to the other. Place the remaining pink sugar in the saucepan and add the last third of the sugar (150 g) with more food coloring and enough water to moisten it. Allow to melt and bring to 255°F / 124°C. Return the nuts to the frying pan and pour in the syrup when it reaches the right temperature, stirring constantly. At this third stage, the syrup should coat the pink nuts quite well. Stir and wait for the syrup to become grainy and any sugar that does not coat the nuts should melt again.  Pour all the contents of the frying pan onto a sheet of  parchment paper. By now, there should be almost no sugar left unstuck to the nuts.

Final step: Heat the oven to 160°F and bake the candied nuts for at least 45 minutes to dry them out completely. Mine took almost double time to dry.  Let them cool and store in an air-tight container. They are ready to nibble on or use in recipes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Making pink praliné is a labor of love. You can buy it ready, but  the whole process of making it seemed fascinating enough to make me go for it. Essentially, you are slowly covering hazelnuts and almonds with a red-dyed caramel syrup. The coating happens in three stages. It is a bit time-consuming and also potentially dangerous. I got a burn with one tiny microscopic drop of super heated caramel and trust me, it hurt like hell. Then, it left a tiny scar, perfectly round and brown. Kind of cute, actually. But I don’t recommend it.

Pink praliné is a wonderful snack, and the pups tried some, yes they did. There was intense wagging of three tails. In São Paulo, when I was growing up, they sold a type of peanut made by Japanese immigrants that comes close to pink praliné but not nearly as good. It is called “amendoim doce” (translates as sweet peanut) and you can see it in the link that it also has a pinkish sugary coating, just a bit lighter. Anyway, if you are fond of nuts and feel crazy enough to be around boiling caramel for an extended period of time, try making these babies. They keep for a long time, which is a bonus.

So here it is, the Pink Praliné Brioche! It is absolutely delicious and yes, it was worth the trouble. If you google for photos, you’ll see it in many different sizes, shapes, and variations on how to incorporate the praline in the dough. Some just sprinkle a huge amount on top of a roundish loaf. I like this method better, because some of it gets truly deep inside the bread. The sugar that glues to the nuts melts slightly during baking, and when you bite into it, you get this concentrated sweet taste, truly delicious.  It is not sweet like a spoonful of sugar, of course not. The caramelization process gives the sugar a slightly bitter edge. Perfect, according to my taste buds.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

TWO YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SIX YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

NINE YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

 

BLUE MOON MILK

Have you heard of butterfly pea flower? Apparently it is a big thing now, or at least I see it everywhere, popping up in all kinds of preparations. It is a beautiful little flower, with an intense blue color, common in Thailand and Vietnam. You can use the flowers of the Clitoria ternatea plant (yes, that is the scientific name) to brew a beautiful tea, or you can also get it in powder form. The color changes according to the pH, so if you add lemon juice it will be pinkish purple, whereas baking soda gives a deeper blue.  Of course, the possibilities are endless to explore this ingredient. I’ve seen it used in breads (even croissants!), in cocktails and buttercreams, but today I share with you a very simple way to enjoy it, which I first saw in Lindsay’s blog, Love and Olive Oil.

BLUE MOON MILK
(slightly modified from  Love and Olive Oil)

1 cup almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon butterfly pea flower powder (or adjust according to preference)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch freshly ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together milk with honey, butterfly pea powder, and spices until powder is dissolved and milk is warm but not yet simmering. 

Whisk to create a fine froth using either a wire whisk, a milk-frother, or an immersion blender. 

Pour into warm mug, relax and… 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this preparation, I think the powder is a must, as it is very concentrated and you don’t really need to boil the almond milk in order to get it properly dissolved. Another thing to keep in mind is that different brands of the butterfly pea powder have different strengths, mine is definitely stronger than Lindsay’s. I am now using 1/4 tsp of the powder for 1 cup of almond milk, and like the flavor better. It is hard to describe it, actually. Earthy, maybe?  Along the lines of green tea but less sharp.  I also liked it very much with cardamon instead of nutmeg.  Below is a picture of a version with reduced amount of powder (1/4 tsp instead of 1 full tsp).

Some say this beverage helps combat insomnia. I am an excellent subject to test the hypothesis, and I can tell you it failed big time to have any positive effect. But I like the flavor, the color, and the soothing atmosphere that holding the cup with the hot, light blue liquid provides.  Of course, I intend to play with it in the near future. Macarons? You’d think?

Matching fingernails, just a happy coincidence…
🙂

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooked Chicken Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Zesty Flourless Chocolate Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Maple Pumpkin Pecan Snacking Cake

FOUR YEARS AGOSilky Gingered Zucchini Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

SIX YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

NINE YEARS AGO: White Bread

 

 

 

RASPBERRY ANGEL FOOD CAKE

I admit I am passionate about many things. If that’s a crime, I plead guilty without thinking twice. Currently, my list of passions include all things designed by the brilliant patissière Ekaterina (aka Miúda) from the blog verdadedesabor. I have attempted one of her recipes in the past, and dream over every single of her creations. Every time I get an email notification of a new post in her blog, I cannot wait to see what it is all about. It still amazes me that she keeps her site all the way from Russia in two languages, one of them being Portuguese. Too cool! Recently she shared two desserts using Angel Food Cake as a starting point. One of them seemed way too complex for my level, but the second one I thought that maybe I could do without losing whatever is left of my mental sanity. I had a few issues here and there, cannot say I hit it perfectly, but I am happy with the way it turned out. A nice mixture of flavors and textures, this might be a perfect cake to celebrate Valentine’s Day…

RASPBERRY ANGEL FOOD CAKE
(slightly modified from Verdadedesabor)

for the cake:
125 g cake flour
75 g powdered sugar
240 g egg whites
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
135 g superfine sugar
15 g vanilla sugar (I used this one)

for the raspberry confit:
150 g raspberry puree (seeds sieved out)
90 g of sugar (or to taste)
3 g pectin NH

for the raspberry mousseline:
125 g milk
125 g raspberry puree (seeds sieved out)
90 g of sugar
3 g vanilla sugar
6 g cornstarch
8 g flour
1 egg
130 g softened butter

for the mini-meringues:
35 g egg white
35 g of superfine sugar
35 g powdered sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar
pink food coloring

Make the cake: heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place a 8 in x 8 in square frame on top.  Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Reserve.

In the large bowl of the mixer, using the wire whisk, beat the egg whites until they begin to froth. Add the cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Gradually add sugar and vanilla sugar. Continue to beat until firm peaks form. Turn off the mixer. Sieve the flour with the powdered sugar again on top of the beaten egg whites. With the help of a silicone spatula, gently mix the batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared ring, smooth the surface. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the ring. Remove the ring, and if you like, shave the sides to show the white crumb.

Make the raspberry confit: In a pan, heat the puree with half the sugar until it reaches 104 F (about 40 C). Add the rest of the sugar mixed with the pectin. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, transfer to another container, cover with plastic film touching the surface, let it cool to room temperature then place in the fridge.

Make the mousseline: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla sugar, cornstarch and flour. Stir well with a wire whisk. Add the milk and the raspberry puree stirring constantly. Add the egg and incorporate well. Heat the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the cream thickens, and the temperature reaches about 180 F. Remove from heat, transfer to another container and cover with plastic film touching the surface. Allow to cool to room temperature, place in the fridge.

Thirty minutes before making the mousseline, remove the cream from the fridge. Beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the cream (it is important that the cream and butter have the same temperature), continuing to beat until you get a fluffy cream. Transfer the cream to a confectioner’s bag with a 1M tip or another tip of your choice.

Make the mini-meringues: Heat the oven to 185 F. Line a tray with parchment paper or silicone mat. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until firm, but do not let them dry. Slowly, add the sugar and beat at the top speed until it has dissolved. Reduce the speed to the minimum and gradually add the powdered sugar and the pink food dye.

With a piping bag fitted with a round tip, pipe very small meringues in the prepared tray, and bake for about 2 hours  or until they are dry and crunchy. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool inside.

Assemble the cake: Apply a thin layer of confit to the top of the cake. Then, with the help of the pastry bag, spread the mousseline cream on top. Decorate with the mini-meringues, and sprinkles of your choice. Cut in squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was my first time making Angel Food Cake, one of Phil’s favorite cakes. Ever since I met him he talks about his Grandma’s Angel Food Cake with a particular type of frosting that as far as I can tell might be a boiled frosting known as Ermine. Obviously, I have a mental block about baking that cake, how could I compete with sweet childhood memories? But perhaps this little adventure into angelic territory will give me a bit more confidence.

I made the cake and the mini-meringues on a Saturday, and also prepared the raspberry puree (sieving that stuff is not something I look forward to), reserving everything in the fridge. Sunday was dedicated to making the confit and raspberry mousseline (mousseline-virgin here).  There were moments of drama, as so often happens when Sally bakes cake. Mousseline: I was very careful monitoring the temperature of butter and raspberry custard component, I swear they were similar but still the whole mass turned grainy right in front of my eyes. I checked what time it was in Moscow – middle of the night. What would be the chances that Miúda suffers from chronic insomnia and checks her blog at 1:55am? Not very high, I’d say less than 5%. So, I took matters in my own desperate hands, and grabbed my personal life-saving device, the hair-dryer. Warmed up the side of the bowl, continued beating and sweating (from nerves, not the hair-dryer thing), and then, all of a sudden, I had the most beautiful mousseline ever seen in Manhattan, KS. My sense of relief was palpable.

I really loved how all the components worked together in this dessert. The angel food is a kind of a humble cake, with unique smooth texture but not much in the flavor department. The raspberry confit is quite the opposite, it’s all about flavor, hitting you intensely with the tart-sweetness of the fruit. Then it all gets mellowed down by the mousseline cream. The mini-meringues surprised me because at first I thought about skipping them, but they give this dessert an additional crunchy texture that is pure joy. If you make this cake, bake a batch of meringues, you will be glad you did.

Notes to self:
add a little pink food dye to the mousseline…
spread the confit layer a little bit thinner…
pipe meringues with slightly more pointy tops…

Thank you, Miúda, for your patience with my questions and your words of encouragement…  Looking forward to your upcoming baking adventures at verdadedesabor

ONE YEAR AGO: Caramel Chocolate Tartlets

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Korma-ish

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunday Gravy with Braciole

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

ROSE HARISSA CHICKEN THIGHS

Harissa is an ingredient I am quite fond of. Not only for its intense taste, but because I was introduced to it in a restaurant in Paris and the whole experience was pretty magical. It was my first time enjoying Moroccan couscous. I was with a Parisian friend who ordered the Couscous Royale, a real feast with several types of meat, including lamb and merguez (which I fell in love with at first bite). But what I remember the most was the waiter offering to add some harissa to our plate. He grabbed a ladle of the couscous broth, added this sexy red paste to it, mixed it with a small spoon, and poured it over our serving of couscous. Just a little bit, so I could decide if I wanted more, which obviously I did. When I learned from Ottolenghi that there’s this thing called Rose Harissa, I could not wait to get it and try it. If you think the regular kind is sexy, this one is sexy and she knows it.

ROSE HARISSA CHICKEN THIGHS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from Ottolenghi’s Simple)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 celery ribs, diced
5 boneless, skin-less chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons rose harissa
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced thin
1 can stewed tomatoes
15 g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
cilantro to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker or regular large sauce pan. Sautee the celery pieces seasoned with salt and pepper until very fragrant and soft. Add the chicken pieces, let them briefly color on both sides. Add the harissa and the paprika and saute it all together for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and the juices, the red bell pepper, and if cooking under pressure, add just about 1/2 cup of water, or enough to cover the  meat. Add the chocolate pieces, cover the pan and cook under pressure for 25 minutes. If using a regular pan, add the full cup of water and simmer it all gently for 40 minutes or longer, until the meat is very tender. After 30 minutes, add the pieces of chocolate and mix to dissolve.

When the meat is tender, or the pressure cooking time is elapsed, remove the chicken and, if needed, reduce the sauce and use an immersion blender to make it a bit more smooth. No need to fully blend it, just process until some pieces of tomato and red bell pepper still remain more or less intact.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and lemon juice right before serving.

Spoon the sauce over the reserved pieces of chicken, serve with white rice, mashed cauliflower, polenta… anything you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I opened the pressure cooker, I was hit with such intense peppery blast, that I thought dinner was ruined. Thankfully, it was not the case. The sauce turned out with a very nice flavor, hot, but not burning-hot, the rose component just made it all taste complex. We liked it so much that, contrary to what happens most of the time, I had nothing left for my lunch next day. We stopped when all chicken thighs were gone. Pups got nothing, not even a taste. Yeap, that’s how greedy we were.

We had quite a bit of leftover sauce, which I used as the basis for a turkey chili made a couple of evenings later. It would go very well with lamb, perhaps a perfect pairing for that tender lamb I spoke about not too long ago. And now, I am on a mission to find new uses for my sexy Rose Harissa. If only all life’s problems were as hard as this one…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Caramel-Chocolate Tartlets

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Korma-ish

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunday Gravy with Braciola

FOUR YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version