BROWNIES, THREE WAYS

I share with you three takes on a very simple bake, the deliciously humble brownie. What makes a brownie a  brownie? Tough to define precisely because lots of different recipes will take you to that territory. In general, it is a simple cake with just a few ingredients: butter, flour, chocolate, sugar and eggs. But a leavening agent might finds its way there also, in case the baker prefers a more cake-like version. Marriages have been damaged due to brownie divergencies. I advise you to date people who share your passion for fudgy or cakey. Back to what matters. My three versions are right here for you.

BROWNIE, TRADITIONAL

I like it to be dense, creamy, not cakey. I like a brownie with substance, but that melts in the mouth and brings with each bite a moment of introspection because words seem like such a waste.

This recipe, straight from the blog of Helen, my tent-baker friend, checks all the boxes.For the recipe, visit Bakers Anonymous with a click here.

BROWNIE, DRESSED UP

BROWNIE PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the pastry shell:
(makes more than you need, save the rest in the freezer)
310g  all purpose flour
30g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
170g butter (chilled and cut in small cubes)
3 egg yolks mixed with very cold water to make a volume of 6 tablespoons

for the chocolate brownie filling:
100 g coarsely chopped 70% chocolate
10 g  Dutch-process cocoa powder
120 g unsalted butter
180 g whole eggs
130 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour, sifted
powdered sugar for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 375F.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in food processor then add the butter and process until the butter is in small pieces. With the motor running add the mixture of egg yolks and cold water. Stop the mixer before the pastry forms a ball, remove it from the processor and gently bring it all together with your hands over plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disc and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. I like to do it in between two plastic sheets (I cut the four sides of a  large ziplock bag leaving just the bottom part attached, open it and roll the pastry inside it). Roll the dough as a circle large enough to cover the pan and leave a little extra around the sides. Place it in an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Line the surface with plastic wrap and fill with beans. Wrap the plastic over the beans so that it does not touch the metal sides of the pan.  Blind bake for 15 minutes with the beans on, then carefully remove them and place the shell back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Remove and allow it to cool slightly.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 F.

Make the brownie filling. Gently melt the chocolate, cocoa powder and butter together in the microwave. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and sugar by hand. Fold in the dark chocolate mixture, followed by the sifted flour. Continue gently folding using a spatula until well combined. Place the finished mixture into the blind-baked tart shell and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is set in the center.

Allow it to cool and decorate with powdered sugar using a stencil, if you like. Refrigerate until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This was decadent. We offered pieces to some bricklayers working in a little project in our home and they were very VERY happy.  This recipe has just enough flour to hold it together, so it is almost like enjoying a piece of ready to  melt chocolate on top of a sweet tart shell. Bliss. 

Am I the only one who sees a cute alien?

Now finally, my third version for you…

BROWNIE BITES, FOR FUN

BROWNIE BITES
(adapted from The Cookery Wife)

95 g all-purpose flour
200 g granulated sugar
75 g cocoa powder (I used natural)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, (1 stick, 113 g), room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla paste
2 Tablespoons full-fat milk (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.

Spray your mini-cake pan with baking spray containing flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt. Stir to combine. Next, add eggs, vanilla, butter. Mix on low for 30 seconds, add the milk and mix on medium-high for 2 full minutes. Batter will be very thick. Place it in a piping bag (no need for piping tip). Cut an opening and fill the mini-cakes between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

Using the tip of your finger coated with a bit of butter, press the batter to smooth it out. Bake for 15 minutes until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

A toothpick can help loosen the sides, but be gentle.  Cool completely over a rack before decorating with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

First of all, don’t let the lack of a mini-cute-Bundt pan stop you from making these bites. A mini-muffin alternative will work just as well. But, you know I cannot resist a baking gadget. I was a bit afraid of them sticking to the pan, but most came out just with a gentle flip of the pan (see photo, bottom left). Just a few stayed in, but were also released with a gentle tap, no harm done. I think filling them just a little over half capacity is the ticket. If some of them dome a bit, you can gently shave the bump with a small serrated knife, so they will sit leveled.

They have great flavor and the texture is not dense, even though the batter started so thick. You can decorate them with powdered sugar, a drizzle of caramel, melted chocolate. I happened to have some leftover white chocolate ganache from a macaron adventure, so I added a touch of that to most of them. They are perfect to bring to parties or share with co-workers. I will bake them regularly, my next project will involve a lemon cake. The idea is to avoid cake batters that are too light, you need more substance to get them to unmold nicely and keep the overall design.

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

TWO YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FOUR YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

GALETTE DES ROIS

When I first applied to be on the Great American Baking Show, I started working to improve my baking skills.  I made a list of general techniques and a list of “classic bakes” to go along with them. Two years passed by. I went to the tent and came back. But this “self-improvement process” goes on. In fact, being in the show gave me extra energy and passion to get better. Tackle the techniques I still feel insecure about. Bake the classics. Such as Galette des Rois. I have always associated it with France, but it originated in Medieval times, enjoyed during Roman festivities known as Saturnalia. Usually a hidden figurine (or a bean, a whole almond) is baked in the tart, and the person who finds it gets to be King (or Queen) for a day.  I skipped that part in my dessert, afraid some departmental colleague would break a tooth. Galette des Rois: puff pastry enclosing almond cream. I can think of few things equally mouth-watering.

GALETTE DES ROIS
(adapted from Bake-Street)

For quick puff pastry:
125g all purpose flour
125g pastry flour
250 g unsalted butter, cold
6 g sugar
5 g salt
100-110g very cold water, from the fridge

for almond filling:
125 g almond flour
100 g powdered sugar
100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

to brush before baking:
2 egg yolks

to brush after baking (optional, but nice):
30 g water
30 g sugar

Make the puff pastry dough. Add the flours, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix for about 1 minute in low speed until the butter gets into small pieces.  Add 100g of the water and mix another minute, checking to see if you need to add a little more.  The mixture should not feel too sticky, but it should come together nicely if you press it with your fingers.  Do not mix for too long, to avoid developing gluten. Tranfer the dough to a plastic wrap, form into a rectangle and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out as a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. No need to worry too much about dimensions, I try to make it twice as long as it is wide. Make one envelope-type fold bringing the top down and the bottom part over it.  Turn the dough  so that one folded part is to your right. Roll out the same way, fold again.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and roll again two more times. If the dough seems too warm, and the butter is threatening to melt into it, freeze it again for 30 minutes between the third and fourth folds. Once you finish the fourth fold, keep the dough in the fridge until ready to make the dessert. You can keep it overnight or longer.

Prepare the galette: Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour. Roll the dough to a large rectangle,  around 22 x 14 inches. Cut two circles of approximately the same size, with the diameter you want your galette to be. Mine was 8 + ¾ inch in diameter.  Cover both circles with plastic and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Make the almond filling. To the bowl of your KitchenAid type mixer add the powdered sugar and butter, mix at low-speed until it starts to form a thick paste, add one egg and continue mixing.  Add the almond flour, always at low-speed, ,then the second egg. Add the vanilla and the spices, mix to incorporate.   Place in a piping bag, no need for icing tip.

Place the first round of pastry over parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pipe the almond cream makig a spiral over the circle, leaving  a space at the edge without cream.  Moisten the edges lightly with cold water. If you want to include a figurine or a whole almond, now is the time to do it.

Place the second disc on top, the water brushed on the edge should help it stick. Gently press the top dough over the filling to avoid bubbles being trapped underneath.  Use the side of a knife opposite of the blade to mark the dough all around the edges, so that upon baking, it will form a nice wavy design.  Brush the top with a well beaten egg yolk. Refrigerate for 1 hour, uncovered.

Brush with egg yolk again. Make a pattern over the surface, adding a small hole in the center to vent the galette during baking. Refrigerate, uncovered for another hour.

Meanwhile, make the syrup to brush the surface by adding all  the ingredients in a saucepan. Place on medium heat and boil until the sugar dissolves.  Cool completely before using.

Heat the oven to 375 F. Place the galette in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 340-350F and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer.  If you want to brush with the syrup, do it as soon as the galette is baked, still hot from the oven.  Let it cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The traditional scoring on the surface is a spiral design. I decided to go with a different style, inspired by sourdough slashing. After I baked this galette, I saw a very nice version on Instagram decorating the surface with many concentric hearts. Who knows? I might fully ignore that Valentine is over, and go for it in the near future. After all, I already disrespected the correct day to serve this pastry, which happens to be January 6th. So a Galette de Coeur in March or April? Does not bother me at all.

The galette dough can be made with full-laminated pastry or a quick puff. I opted for the latter because it is a type of dough I am not that comfortable with. I made some for what would have been the semi-final of the show (click here), but had to speed up the process quite a bit to fit it all in the available timing.  For this galette, you can see that once you take your time and allow the dough to stay very cold all the time, it really puffs up beautifully.

I loved the addition of spices to the almond cream, which was a twist shared in the recipe at Bake-Street. By the way, that is one of my favorite blogs, I never miss her posts, the videos are a pleasure to watch. She is the neat and precise baker I aspire to be. Next life. There’s always next life…

Grab a pin, and let’s Saturnalia together!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sous-Vide Overnight Oatmeal

TWO YEARS AGO: A Valentine’s Day Opera

THREE YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut-Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

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

SEVEN YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

 

 

 

 

 

MINI-HEART CAKES FOR YOUR VALENTINE


Valentine’s Day is so commercial. Who needs a special day to celebrate love and friendship? No one. We should all just ignore it. With that in mind, let me say I have no problem with a special day to shower all those special persons in your life with attention and affection. A partner, a special friend, that family member you look up to and adore. Today I share a recipe that seems a bit involved, but when you break it down into its components, it is quite simple. Trust me. I almost always speak the truth.

VALENTINE’S MINI-HEARTS MOUSSE CAKES
(inspired from many sources)

for the sable base:
120 g cold butter, cut in pieces
65 g powdered sugar
260 g all-purpose flour
30 g almond flour
pinch of salt
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 F.

Add the sugar, flour, almond flour and salt to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at low speed for about 30 seconds just to incorporate the ingredients together. Add the cold butter and process until the butter gets in small pieces, a bit smaller than pea-size. Add the egg and mix just until it starts to glue together as a dough, but stop before it all gets into a single mass to avoid gluten formation.  Gather the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and gently form it as a disk with your hand.

Roll the pastry between plastic or parchment paper to a 3mm thickness. Cut heart or round shapes. Place over parchment paper on a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.  Bake for about 10 minutes until it starts to get golden around the edges.  Reserve.

for the quinoa-crisp:
115 g white chocolate
20 g pistachio paste (or almond butter)
20 g puffed quinoa (or rice Krispies)
for home-made puffed quinoa, click here

Bake the puffed quinoa in a 325 F oven for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a microwave very gently. Mix the melted chocolate with the pistachio paste.  Add the quinoa and spread  in a 4 mm (1/8 inch) thickness in between two sheets of parchment paper. It will be a little sticky, try to level it as best as you can. When it is cooled down a bit, cut the exact dimension of the bigger mold you will use for the dessert. Reserve in freezer until  needed.

For the Raspberry Mousse insert:
2 g of Platinum gelatin (1 sheet)
100 g mashed raspberries (fresh or frozen), seeds sieved out
20 g granulated sugar
100 g whipping cream, cold

First, put the gelatin leaves, in a bowl with very cold water to bloom for 10 minutes.  In a small saucepan, heat the raspberry puree until it boils. Remove from heat, wait 5 minutes, drain the gelatin and add to the mixture. Mix until completely dissolved. Let cool to about 95 F.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Gradually incorporate the cream into the raspberry mixture. Place the mousse in the semi-spheres and freeze overnight.

For the mascarpone mousse:
6 g Platinum gelatin (3 sheets)
80 ml whipping cream
55 g egg yolks
80 g granulated sugar
160 g mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
320 g heavy cream

Bloom the gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes. Combine egg yolks with sugar, whisking well and set aside. In a saucepan, heat 80 ml of cream until it boils. Remove from heat, and slowly pour a bit of the hot liquid into the egg yolk mixture, to temper it gently. Add the rest of the cream and transfer all the mixture to a saucepan.

Over low heat, cook until 180 F stirring constantly. Remove from heat, drain the gelatin, and add to the mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool down to around 140 F. Add the mascarpone cheese, mix until the cheese is incorporated. Process with a hand mixer, to emulsify. Add the vanilla paste, and let it cool to around 95 F.

Meanwhile, whip the 320 ml of cream to soft peaks. Incorporate the  cream gradually to the mascarpone mixture. Place in the mini-hearts mold, 1/2 to the volume, spread gently with a spoon around the sides to avoid air bubble.  Drop the frozen raspberry inserts, cover with mousse almost to the top, place the crunchy quinoa layer on top, press gently and freeze overnight.

For mirror glaze:
3 sheets Platinum grade sheet gelatin
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
1 tsp agar-agar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
½ tsp titanium oxide (optional, but advisable)
red gel food coloring

Put the water, sugar, liquid glucose and agar-agar in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk and the titanium oxide.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. Add the red food gel dye. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve.

The ideal temperature to glaze is 92 to 94 F. Glaze the frozen mousse cakes, decorate with sprinkles if desired.

Defrost 2 hours in fridge before serving.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this dessert I used a mini-heart mold from Silikomart and a mini-half-sphere mold. The mini-heart mold I bought came with a cookie cutter with the exact dimension to made a cookie base. I am not sure every single mold sold comes with the cutter (I got mine at ebay a while ago), but any heart-shaped cookie cutter will work, if the dimensions are approximately right.

Start your preparation two days before serving, by making the raspberry centers. In this case I used a mousse, which tones down the sharpness of the raspberry a bit. If you prefer a sharper, more intense taste, consider using just the puree thickened with gelatin, like I shared in this post. You can also make the crunchy base with puffed quinoa (or rice Krispies) and the sable base two days in advance. Or even earlier. Stick the crunchy layer in the freezer, keep the sable at room temperature.

The day before serving make the mascarpone mousse and assemble the little cakes. Freeze everything and if you want to make your life very easy on serving day, prepare the mirror glaze emulsion and store it in the fridge.

On serving day, glaze those babies and keep in the fridge to defrost for a couple of hours. It is a process I love making, no matter how many times I do the mirror glaze thing, I am always in awe…

I had to add sprinkles because that’s how I roll… Also, they work wonders if you have a small boo-boo here and there on the glaze. Just drop a silver star on it, and call it a day.

You could omit the crunchy later with puffed quinoa but it is so simple to make and it does add a lot to the dessert. You can buy puffed quinoa or quickly make some, following the instructions here. If you don’t have  pistachio paste, use a bit of almond butter softened in the microwave just to make it a tad more spreadable. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will work.

I am pretty happy with the way these little hearts turned out. Both mousses combined well in flavor and texture. If you don’t have the hear-shaped mold, use large half-spheres. You can also go for dessert rings and make the insert as a smaller component with any shape that is convenient for you. Just keep in mind the volumes you will need. Every component can be scaled up easily if necessary, but the raspberry mousse already makes more than you’ll need for 8 mini-cakes. I had enough for 15 inserts and only used 8.  Leftovers are in the freezer, patiently waiting for a next opportunity to play.

Finally, when you pour the mirror glaze, do it over a baking sheet lined with Saran wrap, so you can easily store leftovers. They freeze well and if you accumulate several colors you can go Pollock on your next dessert…

ONE YEAR AGO: Blue Moon Milk

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooked Chicken Meatballs

THREE YEARS AGO: Zesty Flourless Chocolate Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Maple Pumpkin Pecan Snacking Cake

FIVE YEARS AGOSilky Gingered Zucchini Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

NINE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

TEN YEARS AGO: White Bread

 

MINCEMEAT PIES: WHEN THE THIRD TIME IS A CHARM

If you don’t live in the UK, the idea of mincemeat pie as a dessert item sounds very unappealing, to put it mildly. The thought of having ground meat encased in pastry after dinner? Or with your afternoon tea? But, of course, we should all know better. Mincemeat, a delicacy that dates back to the 15th century  is a mixture of dried fruits, spices, some alcohol like wine or brandy, and traditionally beef suet or venison. Modern versions use other types of fat, I made mine with butter. Since I had never tried or even seen a mincemeat pie in person, I was a bit nervous about making them, but decided to take it as a technical challenge. Then I proceeded to bake one catastrophic batch, one reasonably ok but not great, and finally a third version that I was happy with. No, not all in the same day, I have not fully lost it yet. I share what I learned from this self-imposed challenge in the comments. 

MINCEMEAT PIES
(adapted from Irish Times and  Nancy Birtwhistle)

Makes 10 to 12 little pies, depending on how thin you are able to roll the pastry.

Prepare your muffin pan:  place a thin strip of parchment paper inside each hole, to facilitate removal of the pies after baking).

for the mincemeat filling:
200g raisins
50g dried apricots, finely diced
50g dried cherries, finely diced
120g brown sugar
120g unsalted butter
70ml sherry
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves

Combine the fruit with the sugar, butter, sherry, orange zest, and spices  in a saucepan and put on a gentle heat for a few minutes until the butter melts and the fruit softens slightly in the buttery syrup. Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer until it gets thick, with not much liquid floating in the surface.  Cool and use to fill the little pies.

for the pastry:
310g  all purpose flour
30g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
170g butter (chilled and cut in small cubes)
3 egg yolks mixed with very cold water to make a volume of 6 tablespoons

Heat the oven to 375F.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in food processor then add the butter and process until the butter is in small pieces. With the motor running add the mixture of egg yolks and cold water. Stop the mixer before the pastry forms a ball, remove it from the processor and gently bring it all together with your hands over plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disc and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. I like to do it in between two plastic sheets (I cut the four sides of a  large ziplock bag leaving just the bottom part attached, open it and roll the pastry inside it). Cut out circles with a  9 cm (about 3.5 inches) round cookie cutter.  Place them carefully inside the prepared muffin cups. Cut out 7 cm (a little less than 3 inches) lids which should fit right over the top. Use a small star shaped or round cookie cutter to make a hole in the middle of the pastry lids.

Fill each base with the mincemeat, brush a little water on the edges of the pastry and gently lay the top over. No need to apply pressure, and no need to brush the top with egg wash. Bake for about 25 minutes until the mince pies are light golden. Allow to cool slightly before removing them from the muffin cups. Dust the mince pies with icing sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The mincemeat. You can find it in jars, and you can find it in little boxes to be reconstituted with water. I bought a small box, followed the instructions to bring it to life, and tried a taste. No way I would add that to my pies. Maybe the brand was not the greatest? I don’t know. But I advise you to make your own or get a brand that is recommended by some very experienced mincemeat pie baker.  If you make the filling, keep in mind that you’ll need to simmer it down to the point that it gets thick, with not too much liquid floating around. And that each little pie should not be filled to the top. Which brings me to mistake #1.

The picture above shows my very first batch in the making. Instead of a muffin tin, I used a little tart pan, with a very small volume, which I filled to the top. Not a wise move. But then, there was also mistake #2.

I added the top, and it was not the right size, it should have been slightly bigger in diameter to fully cover the bottom.  I won’t share a picture of these babies after baking, because not only the filling exploded through the edges and the top, but the mismatch between pastry bottom and top made them quite sad to look at. Paul Hollywood would have dragged me out of the tent while mumbling “how could you? how could you?”  Undeterred, next day I rolled my sleeves up and tried again.

My second batch seemed quite a bit more promising. I matched bottoms and tops with the precision of a NASA engineer, but still committed two major sins. First, the filling was obviously too liquid so it bubbled all over the top. Second, I forgot to add paper strips to the bottom of the muffin tin, which made removing them from the pan a real nail-bitter of a task. One broke into pieces right in front of my eyes. Much to the delight of certain pups that happened to be circling around the kitchen. Mincemeat? Did you say mincemeat?

I cannot bring myself to show you what the pies looked like after baking – the best way to describe is a micemeat crime scene – even after a dust storm of powdered sugar, you can see the stains of filling over the top.

Chef Sherry Yard was right when she kept telling us that powdered sugar covers a multitude of sins, but still, I wanted to get it right. Next day I took a deep breath and started by simmering down the mincemeat filling, until it was really thick and luscious. Cooled it down, made more pastry dough, and baked them at a lower temperature, 375F.  Worked like a charm!

They baked perfectly in about 25 minutes, no bubbling over, and the paper strip trick (thank you, Nancy) worked like a dream, I could remove them one at a time without any problem.


Of course, a little powdered sugar makes a little pie even nicer!

So there you have it, my friends. It took me three attempts to get this bake right, but I am glad I kept trying, because it is much easier to tweak things when you have all the issues fresh in your mind. I loved the filling and the texture of the pastry, which was also very easy to work with.  Can I say one more time thank you, Nancy? Since on my third attempt I made just a few pies, I used the leftover dough to make a chocolate tart, and it turned out quite tasty too. You will see it in the blog soon, I promise.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Shibari Bread]

TWO YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four – January 2018 

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Salads and a Blog Award!

FOUR YEARS AGO: When Three is Better than Two

FIVE YEARS AGO: Somebody Stop Me!

SIX YEARS AGO: Zucchini Pasta with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Take Two

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

NINE YEARS AGO: Mogo Mojo

TEN YEARS AGO: Slow-Roasted Chicken Thighs: an Ice-Breaker

BRAZILIAN PAO DE MEL

In case you’ve missed my big announcement:
12 days to showtime!

Want to say it as a native? Pay attention to the nasal sound of PÃO… and repeat after me…

Pão de mel translates literally as “honey bread.” However, it is definitely not a bread, and honey might not be the first flavor that comes to mind once you take your first bite. I admit the name is misleading, but I am thrilled to share this recipe with you, because it is a real classic in my home country. It has flavors I adore (that ginger, spicy thing), enclosed in a nice chocolate shell. The ones I grew up with were a bit on the dense side. My family had no tradition of baking, so I only had pão de mel that you get in stores, wrapped in plastic for who knows how long. This version is so good, very soft, tender, sweet and spicy. I made two kinds, the traditional, covered with a shell of chocolate, and a little departure from the classic, in bundt shape. You decide which one you like best.

PÃO DE MEL
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1 egg
250mL whole milk
90 g  sugar
270 g honey
30 g butter, melted and cooled
240 g all purpose flour
7 g baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch process is fine)

for the filling;
dulce de leche (store bought or homemade)

for covering:
tempered bittersweet chocolate, about 500 g

Mix the egg with milk, sugar, honey and butter in a large bowl. Whisk well. In another bowl, stir in the remaining dry ingredients and sift them slowly over the egg mixture in three portions, stirring well after each addition until a smooth, homogeneous mixture is formed.  Place batter in fridge for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, turn the oven on at 360 F. If using non-stick mini cake pans, you don’t need to do anything. Otherwise grease and flour the pans lightly.  Ideally you need a 6 cm round tin (a bit less than 2.5 inches). Pour the batter halfway through the tin, do not fill more than half.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Unmold the still warm rolls and let them cool completely on a rack. Cut them in half and stuff each with the dulce de leche.

Temper chocolate and cover each little pao de mel.

Alternatively, bake the batter in mini bundt pans, fill the central hole with dulce de leche and decorate with a drizzle of tempered chocolate. Mini bundt pans will take slightly longer to bake. Cool them in the mold before unmolding.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you want to make your own dulce de leche, there are many methods to do so. Pressure cooker, slow oven, even the microwave. I opted for sous-vide and must say it was perfect. Simply pour the contents of 1 can of condensed milk into a bag, seal it and cook it at 185F for 12 to 16 hours. When the time is up, simply cut the bag and pour the contents into a container. Into the fridge ready for any dulce de leche emergency.

Homemade dulce de leche is a real treat, I highly recommend you give it a try, but of course, the canned product will work well too. Pão de mel can be frozen for a couple of months without the filling and chocolate covering. You can also simplify the process and skip the filling. The simplified version is actually more common to buy in Brazil. But normally, when people make them at home, they go the extra mile. A very sweet mile, if you ask me.

Which version was better, classic or mini-bundt? I honestly have a hard time deciding. The mini-bundt is a lot easier to make because once you un-mold the little cakes the hard work is done. You can conceivably even get by without tempering chocolate, just melting it gently and drizzling it all over. But of course, the traditional version is the one that brings fond memories of my past. It’s your turn now, make both and let me know what you think…

For those interested:  this is the pan I used to bake the cakes. I love it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Stir-Fried Chicken in Sesame Orange Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Monday Blues

THREE YEARS AGO: A New Way to Roast Veggies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Two Takes on Raspberries

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spice Cake with Blackberry Puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

TEN YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

SCARY GOOD RECIPES FOR YOUR NEXT HALLOWEEN

Halloween will be back in only 361 days, so I am here to help you get into proper mood for it. Truth is, I had so much fun making these recipes, I cannot stand the idea of waiting for months and months to share. Let me introduce you then to some Friendly Ghost Cookies, Witches’ Fingers, and a Gingerbread Coffin with a chocolate cake inside so delicious that a dead body will rest forever happy.

FRIENDLY GHOST SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g granulated sugar
2 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
1/2 tsp cardamom

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup (such as Karo)
a few drops of almond extract

Heat oven to 360F.  Make the cookie dough. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia, orange zest and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

Make the Royal icing. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, with paddle attachment the water and meringue powder for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered sugar (sift over the bowl), corn syrup and almond extract. Beat on high speed for about 5 minutes.

Divide the Royal icing in three portions, one large will be left white. Two small portions will be dyed black and orange.  Flood the cookies with white icing and decorate with black and orange details as shown in the pictures.  Allow to fully dry before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here

Comments: The recipe makes quite a bit of cookies, feel free to halve them if you prefer. Rolling the dough and baking is not a big deal, but of course the decoration demands a bit of time. I made them one evening after work and had this little voice talking to myself “why didn’t you make just half?”

The composite picture below shows you how easy it is to make the decoration for the little ghosts. Three lines, wet on wet, and a needle to pull the lines through, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction.  I cannot take credit for it, I saw a similar design somewhere in Pinterest world.


The combination of orange zest, fiori di Sicilia and cardamon is really wonderful. I need to think about those flavors for macaron filling.

Moving on……


WITCHES’ FINGERS

Recipe from my friend Karen over at Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Click here to get all the details.

RECIPE STEPS IN PICTURES

Comments: At first I was a bit insecure about how much green dye to use (secret is to use less than you think you need), and how to exactly shape the fingers. Well, don’t worry too much about it, no matter how you do it, the result will be gruesome and horrific. Which is pretty much the goal of the bake, right?  They taste delicious, and the nails  almonds add a nice flavor to them. As to the jam, I used raspberry jam with a tiny drop of red food color to intensify the effect. The jam by itself was not as red as I wanted.

Moving on to the final bake…


GINGERBREAD COFFIN WITH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the gingerbread dough:
660 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops of almond extract

for the caramel glue:
200 g sugar
60 mL water
1 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice

for the chocolate cake:
463 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
70 g Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (237 g) water
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
220 g all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk

for the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

for the Royal icing decoration:
(same recipe as sugar cookies)

Make the gingerbread dough. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, cream butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then honey and molasses.

Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. Working with a third of dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness on parchment paper well dusted with flour. Cut the pieces you need for the coffin, and transfer the cut pieces to the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They must be crisp and dry but not getting dark.

Cool them completely before icing and once the icing is dry, assemble the coffin using caramel.

Make the caramel. Put the sugar and water in a large, low-sided frying pan over a medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to 320 F.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the syrup is ready when the sugar has dissolved and it turns a golden color, not too dark.  Swirl the syrup gently in the pan to even out the color. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few moments to thicken slightly to the consistency of honey. Dip the edges of the pieces you intend to glue and assemble them. Drizzle additional caramel if needed using a small spoon. 

If the syrup begins to harden in the pan, put it back over a gentle heat until it has returned to the required consistency.

Make the chocolate cake. Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, extending the paper out of the pan to facilitate removal of the cake after baking.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to it 1 cup of boiling water, stir well and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a mixing bowl, add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined. On low speed, mix the flour into the batter and then add the eggs, egg yolks and buttermilk. Do not over-mix. Pour the very thin batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a rack. Run a thin knife around the edge and jar the edge of the pan to loosen. Invert onto the serving platter. Cool completely, then cut in pieces to fit inside the gingerbread coffin. You will have to do some assembling to fit some of the cut pieces in the bottom of the coffin.

Make the chocolate icing. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Add corn syrup and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. use immediately, pouring it gently over the cake, once it’s inside the gingerbread coffin.  Allow it to set for a few hours at room temperature.  Use Royal Icing to draw a skeleton inside, if you so desire, or use powdered sugar and a stencil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Your cake will be baked in a 13 x 9 rectangular pan. You should draw a design for the coffin that makes the lid no bigger than 12.5 inches in length. The sides should be 2.5 inches in height.  It is a pretty easy design, I made the pieces in cardboard and used those to cut the gingerbread dough. The recipe has a reasonably small amount of baking powder, so that the dough does not change much during baking, but you can always use a Microplane grater to bring the edges into better shape.

Most gingerbread sculptures are assembled with very thick Royal icing. It has its problems – I will discuss those a bit more in a future post. Caramel sounds dangerous because it’s so hot and if you burn yourself it’s not fun at all, but the advantage is that it glues quickly and you don’t have the white stuff joining every piece. That is nice for a house or other structures, but I prefer the coffin to be more austere.  Apart from having to clean the pan after making the caramel, I liked the method better than Royal icing for assembling.  Live and learn.

The cake was absolutely wonderful even next day, moist, intense, it gave a bit of moisture to the gingerbread base, which I did not roll as thin as I should have. I need a lot more practice with this type of dough, and find that particularly to roll large pieces, I have issues keeping it thin and uniform. At any rate, Karl Lagerfeld did not seem to mind cutting pieces for Spider Woman. And she was delighted for catching him in her dangerous web. They do make a nice match, even if I say so myself. Biased, who moi?

I hope you enjoyed this little roundup of Halloween recipes. It is a scary job, but someone has to do it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Devil Wears Chocolate

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

SIX YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

TEN YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

FALL-INSPIRED BAKING

Everyone who knows me is well-aware I am a summer-creature all the way. But there’s something about the colors of autumn that fascinate me. I suppose they fascinate all human beings. Growing up in Brazil, I had never seen trees turning color, but used to marvel at photos from Vermont or other places famous for having the most spectacular color change in their trees. Now I enjoy them in our own backyard, Phil planted a beautiful maple tree that is thriving nicely, each year more magnificent, with a more intense red tone in the leaves. Gorgeous. Today I share with you a series of recent bakes inspired by the season.

I will start with the Maple Leaf Chocolate Sugar Cookies, because I loved making them.

MAPLE LEAF CHOCOLATE COOKIES
(cookie recipe from Lilaloa and decoration technique from Salt and Serenity)

for the cookie dough:
227 g (1 cup) slightly softened unsalted butter
43 g vegetable shortening (43 grams)
300 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs ( about 100 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
80 g unsweetened cocoa powder
490 g all-purpose flour
(if saving the dough to roll at a later time, use 420 g flour)
for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
food dye (brown, red, orange, and yellow)

Heat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix well.
Stir in the cocoa until well blended.

Add flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough holds together in a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface, cut in the desired shapes.I like to place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 min before baking. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, cool completely before icing.

Make the Royal icing: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. I like to have it at around 15 second-icing consistency, because it works both for piping the edge and flooding, which is all I need for this design.

Pipe the four colors starting with brown, finishing with yellow, but feel free to play with them in other arrangements. Pull the colors with a needle or toothpick, watch the tutorial online for details. Allow the icing to fully set at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I urge you to visit Salt and Serenity and watch Cindy’s video explaining how to make this eye-catching design. It is one of those things that seem very complicated until you see how it’s done. Basically, if “I” could do it, you will be able to do it also. Trust me. It is important to use a cookie recipe that holds its shape well, and I was happy with the one I used, especially because you can roll the dough without resting it in the fridge. You know I am not the most patient baker out there.

Moving on to Halloween Brigadeiros…

Brigadeiros are the most typical candy from Brazil, and totally addictive.  I used my default recipe and simply coated them with orange and black non-pareils. For the recipe and to read more about them, visit my old post with a click here.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
(adapted from many sources)

for the cupcakes:
170 g granulated sugar
130g brown sugar
225 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
320 g canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of a small can)
150 ml grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
for the icing:
120g unsalted butter, softened
190 g cream cheese, at room temperature
675 g powdered sugar
sprinkles to decorate

Heat the oven to 375 F.  Place both sugars in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and blend with the whisk so that no lumps remain in the brown sugar. Sift all other dry ingredients and mix well with the sugars.

In another medium bowl mix well the pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add to the KitchenAid bowl and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Place paper liners in a 12-muffin baking pan, and fill each about 3/4 of the volume.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Make the icing while the cupcakes bake and cool. Beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until pale and very smooth. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add to the butter mixture in three additions, beating well each time. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them using the icing tip of your choice. I used Wilton 1M.  Decorate with your favorite sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are deliciously soft cupcakes, with the perfect amount and combination of spices. I used two different styles of piping trying to change things a bit, but the traditional swirl still gets my vote. I suppose if you want to go the more austere route, these cupcakes will shine with just a dusting of powdered sugar, so keep that in mind.

And finally, how could I possibly make a Fall inspired baking post without French macarons?

I used my default recipe, which you can find here, but added orange and brown food color at 4:1 proportion.

PUMPKIN MACARON FILLING

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canned pumpkin pureed
2 cups powdered sugar (220 g)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
to decorate:
White Candy melts (about 3/4 cup)
black gel food dye
sprinkles of your choice

Cream the butter and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer. Add in the sugar and spices. Mix well and scrape down side of bowl. If needed, thin with a very small amount of milk or heavy cream.

Add a small amount of buttercream to a macaron shell, top with another shell. Melt the Candy melts in a microwave or double boiler. Add black food dye. Place in a piping bag, cut a very small hole in the plastic. Pipe lines on top of the macarons, immediately add sprinkles before the drizzle sets.

As always, leave the filled macarons in the fridge overnight before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the filling recipe, click here

Comments: This is my second version of a pumpkin macaron, and I like this filling better, it has a more complex flavor. For the drizzle with black candy melts I did something a bit different, and unfortunately I am not quite sure how reproducible it is. You are welcome to try it, but if it does not work for you, don’t get mad at me. A couple of months ago I was heating candy melts and used too high power in the microwave. The suspension kind of broke, and I simply tossed it and started all over. Later I learned that you can recover the broken suspension if you add a bit of oil such as grapeseed or safflower. Something mild in flavor, obviously. This time I made the suspension break and brought it back but not to the point that it was fully smooth. I wanted some texture, and I think it worked well, at least it was close to what I had in mind.  So, next time Candy Melts play a trick on you, consider using it to your advantage…

I hope you enjoyed my quartet of bakes. Since summer is over, I might as well embrace what’s good about cooler weather: BAKING WITH ABANDON!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

NINE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

TEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken