PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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HOMMAGE TO THE SUN

For those living in certain areas of the United States, August 21st marked a very special day. A total eclipse of the sun was visualized all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. I remember watching a solar eclipse in Brazil with my Dad when I was very young. I’ve always thought it was a total eclipse, but it turns out in São Paulo it was more around 75% coverage of the sun by the moon. Still, we darkened pieces of glass with smoke from a candle, a popular home-made strategy those days to be able to follow the event. Honestly, I don’t remember much from the actual eclipse, more the excitement of getting ready for it. Until now, I was not aware of the striking difference between a 95% eclipse to what is described as “totality.”  Here is my advice: if you ever have a chance to place yourself in the path of totality, do not hesitate. It is totally worth it (pun intended).

Our town was within driving distance to the path of totality. One of our colleagues organized a one-day scientific meeting on Membrane Biochemistry on August 20th, so that next day all participants could drive to their chosen spot to visualize the event.  The meeting started on Sunday at 9am, and yours truly was asked to bake something as a breakfast treat to the participants. After I stopped hyperventilating about it, I went with the suggestion of my friend Denise, and baked a cake from Mary Berry, the goddess behind The Great British Bake-Off.  Its bright yellow color would pay tribute to the sun in all its glory…

 

LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE
(from Mary Berry)

for cake:
225g (8 oz) butter , softened
225g (8 oz) sugar
275g (10 oz) self-rising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons

 for topping:
175g (6 oz) granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to fit the base and sides of a 12 x 9 x 1 ½ inches baking pan. Grease the pan and then line with the paper, pushing it neatly into the corners of the tin. Heat the oven to 325°F.

Measure all the cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until well blended, an electric mixer is best for this but of course you can also beat by hand with a wooden spoon. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to remove all of the mixture. Level the top gently with the back of the spatula.

Bake in the middle  oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with a finger in the center and is beginning to shrink away from the sides of the pan.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes then lift it out of the pan still in the lining paper. Carefully remove the paper and put the cake onto a wire rack placed over a tray (to catch drips of the topping).

To make the crunchy topping, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar in a small bowl to give a runny consistency. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake whilst it is still just warm. Cut into squares when cold.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I really think I should try it before you share with your colleagues, Mom…

Comments:  Make. This. Cake. That is about it. It is so easy to make that you can definitely do that as a project with young kids. One bowl. Have your butter room temperature soft. Same for the eggs. Add everything to the bowl, mix two minutes. Pour in the pan. It will seem like not enough batter. You will have intense pangs of self-doubt. Ignore them all. Keep calm and bake on. Make the drizzle. Drizzle. Store the cake until totally cold (there I go, totality again). Cut in squares. Share with loved ones. Maybe offer a tiny sliver to your faithful canine companions. Forget the maybe. They deserve a little treat. Just like a total solar eclipse, cake doesn’t happen very often in a doggie’s life. The cake is a burst of lemon, the crunchy topping a perfect crowning for it.

THE ECLIPSE. We had quite  a bit of excitement that morning. The weather seemed horrible at first, we drove through storms, small storm cells were all around us. We were sure the day would be a complete disappointment. First we were headed to a small town called Wymore in Nebraska, but when we got there the sky was too heavy with clouds, so we kept going north, hitting Beatrice. We stayed there from the very beginning of the event, until the sun was about 75% covered, then Phil decided to go reverse-cloud-chasing, using his intuition and sense of direction to place us in a better spot. To make a long story short, with 8 minutes to totality we found ourselves all alone on the side of a farm road. Absolutely no other cars, no other human beings. Total silence, except for the chirping sound of birds and crickets or other creatures I am not too fond of, to be honest. Then, it all went dark, and we saw the magnificent corona forming around the now dark sun. It is so sudden, as if someone flipped a switch to turn it on… It is so bright, so magical, we were absolutely mesmerized by it. To the right, Venus popped up, its presence made visible by the night sky in the middle of the day. For two minutes we were surrounded by darkness, with a delicate shade of red around the horizon. But not in a million years I could foresee what was coming. I had heard of the diamond ring effect, but its explosion of beauty right in front of our eyes was almost too much to take. I offer you a link to a youtube made in Beatrice, a bit to the north of where we were. The images we saw were brighter because we had less cloud coverage. You can see the diamond ring quite clearly in the end of the video.

No matter how many explanations and videos, nothing could have prepared me for those 2 minutes that went by fast, fast, fast, hard to take it all in. The majestic beauty of the universe, watching an event that was part of human history for thousands of years, provoking fear, provoking all sorts of emotions, until science could predict it to the second. Still, being able to understand it cannot take away the beauty of it, the way it makes us all feel small in comparison to the universe staring back at us. Mind blowing. I hope we, as a species, can do our best to preserve the planet, to make it viable for many MANY generations to come.
 

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BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE COFFEE CAKE

As I mentioned before, one great food blogger I follow is Helen Fletcher. She is an expert baker, and also a natural teacher. Each of her posts is a detailed tutorial that allows even the most insecure baker (Sally raises her hand…)  to feel comfortable to face a little baking challenge. A few months ago she blogged on a Blueberry Coffee Cake that had a nice twist to it, the inclusion of a crumb topping.  I was intrigued. It turned out as a delicious, moist and tender cake, one that prompted Phil to grant me an unexpected compliment: “this is exactly the type of cake my Aunt Mildred would bake and we loved so much!”  Can you grasp the full impact of those simple words put together? Me and his Aunt Mildred, joined in the same level of cake baking.  I had to hold myself on the side of the counter top, my knees went a bit weak as my blood pressure dropped from the sheer shock of it. And then… then I could not stop smiling.

EASY BLUEBERRY CRUMB COFFEE CAKE
(from Pastries Like a Pro)

for the cake:
2 + 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (315 grams)
1 cup sugar (200 grams)
3/4 cup butter, cold (170 grams)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
9 ounces frozen blueberries (255 grams)
for the lemon glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar (130 grams or 4 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons lemon juice (plus more if needed)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9″ cheesecake pan or springform pan and set aside.

Combine 2 cups flour and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Mix on low at first until most of the butter has been cut in. Raise the mixer and continue to mixing until crumbs form. Aim for fine, not large crumbs.

Remove 1/3 of the crumbs (about 210 grams) and set them aside. They will be used for the topping.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, baking soda, egg and buttermilk to the remainder of the crumbs in the bowl. Beat on low to bring it together then on medium to smooth it out. Stir half of the frozen blueberries into the batter. Spread it evenly in the pan.

Place the second half of the blueberries over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the blueberries. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until a tester comes out clean. The crumbs will be light in color. My cake took a little more than 1 hour in the oven.

Let cool before removing from the pan.

For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and stir until smooth and with the right consistency to be drizzled. Place the cake on a rack over waxed or parchment paper for easy clean up. Drizzle one way,turn the cake and drizzle in the opposite direction. Allow the glaze to set before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: for a step by step tutorial, make sure to stop by Helen’s site using the link I provided under the recipe’s title. Once you pour the cake batter in the pan, it will seem as if it’s not enough.  Don’t worry, just go on and follow the recipe as specified. I suppose my glaze could have been slightly thicker so that it would stay more as a drizzle, but even if a bit thin, the taste was not compromised.

As usual, this was shared with our co-workers on a Monday morning. It is one of my favorite things to do, bake something on Sunday and share with our departmental colleagues. The cake was gone before 9:30hs, which is an excellent indication of approval. But, truth is, I could not ask for a better compliment than that of my beloved husband, the resident cake-critic, the one who was raised by bakers probably as talented as… Helen Fletcher!

Helen, thanks so much for another great recipe, I now need to take a deep breath and make your Portokalopita! If anyone is puzzled by the name, go visit her site, it is a cake that uses phyllo dough in the batter!  Can you imagine that?  Mind blowing!

ONE YEAR AGO: Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Red Grapes and Avocado

THREE YEARS AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

SIX YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

SEVEN YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

 

 

 

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PATI JINICH’S FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE PECAN CAKE

I started watching Pati’s show on PBS about a year ago. Not only every recipe I made from her show (and cookbook) worked great, but I became more and more fond of her warm personality, authenticity, down to Earth way. The type of person I would not think twice about inviting over for dinner or sitting down at a cafe to shoot the breeze. Her show is always refreshing and fun. In her travels around Mexico she visits interesting spots and focuses on real people, fishermen, cooks on street stands, farmers, I always learn something new. Come to think of it she is the antithesis of Giada in her current show on FoodTV. I keep losing my enthusiasm for Giada, more and more, due to her excessive focus on Hollywood-style glamour. Hosting a fashion dinner on the rooftop of the Prada store in Firenze, with chamber music playing and wearing a Dolce & Gabbana dress?  The whole time acting all matter-of-fact about it?  It’s a bit much for me…  But, back to Pati. This cake is a cinch to make, tastes wonderful, and is superb with a cup of coffee. Try it, and you will love it.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE PECAN CAKE
(from Pati Jinich)

1/4 cup  (56 g) unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon for buttering the pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup  (125 g) pecans
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (200 g) sugar
Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt
confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and the 1/4 cup butter in a microwave at 50% power for a couple of minutes, stirring after one minute. Set aside to cool.

Using a blender, chop the pecans finely. If you have a Vitamix, it will take about 30 seconds, do not let it turn into pecan butter. Add the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt and melted chocolate mixture, blending until smooth. Pour the batter into the buttered springform pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out moist but not wet, about 40 minutes.

Once it has cooled a little, run the tip of a knife around the pan and release the cake from the pan. Invert onto a plate, and then again, or serve directly onto plates if left on bottom part of springform pan. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is by far the easiest cake ever to make. Perfect to bake with kids, since it will be ready in minutes with the help of a blender. Pour the batter into the pan, and you are done. It is very moist, the pecans giving it a perfect additional flavor that matches the chocolate quite well. It has of course the added benefit of being gluten-free, so if you bake for someone with gluten sensitivities, it is a must-have in your repertoire.

I took it to our department and it was a huge hit with everyone who arrived early enough on that Monday to enjoy a piece.  Pati says in her show that she’s been making this cake for many years, it is a favorite with her family. Once you baked it, you’ll see why. Simple, no fuss, sweet but not over the top, rich but not too extravagant. My favorite type of dessert.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Tale of Two Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Chicken in Green Pipian Sauce, Sous-vide Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Classic Shrimp Gobernador Tacos

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

 

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KALEIDOSCOPIC MACARONS

One more take on my ongoing obsession… But first, a relevant question: how far can we stretch the boundaries of these adorable cookies and still be comfortable calling them macarons? Apparently the boundaries are very blurry. From colors, types of fillings, decorations on top of the shells, we see endless variations. I cannot call myself a purist, as I am often taking liberties with classics, but I think my standards would be: macarons must be prepared with almond flour as the main component.  If other ground nuts are added, let them be a very minor player. Must contain a meringue incorporated with the flour by the macaronage method. Must have discernible feet. Other than those three requirements, I’ll accept anything. Savory fillings, neon-like colors, cute alternative shapes. For this batch, I experimented with a color effect. Some newbie errors took place, but I still performed better than I do at the golf course. Much, much better.

KALEIDOSCOPIC MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, slightly adapted from Craftsy.com

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
chocolate ganache with finely chopped hazelnuts
recipe in this post

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and lavender in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Bet until firm peaks form. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Open a plastic wrap on the counter, paint three lines of gel color of your choice separated by one inch. Pour the dough on top, wrap the plastic around, and insert the whole thing in a piping bag, making sure to have an opening in the wrap connected to the piping tip. Pipe shells on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours for best texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I know it’s hard to believe but I used three different colors for the shells, the green is barely noticeable, only in a few of them. Many of the shells got zero color. Puzzling? Read on, and the mystery will be solved. There are essentially two types of strategies to get more than one color in the macaron shell. You can make the dough, divide it in two (or three) portions, color each one separately, add them to the piping bag and allow them to mix during piping. I decided not to do it, because I was a bit insecure as to when to divide the dough, and maybe deflate it too much when mixing with the colors. I normally add the color very early in the process.  That brings me to method number two, which gives a very interesting marbled effect, when done correctly. You start by opening a plastic wrap over your counter. Then, you paint two or three solid lines of gel color over the plastic. Pour your dough with the optimal lava consistency over the plastic, wrap it around, and insert the whole thing inside a piping bag. See the photo below.

I realize it’s hard to see the lines of gel color on the first picture, but trust me, they are there. To my disappointment, the first 20 or so shells I piped were totally white! The reason is, when painting the lines they must go all the way to the icing tip, otherwise obviously you’ll get no color until the dough moves through and gets in touch with the gel.  Alternatively, you can use a long brush and paint the inside of the piping bag itself, making sure to reach down all the way to the tip. I must re-visit this technique and get the effect I was hoping for. It was quite frustrating to keep piping shell after shell, with no color, and then a little bit here and there. But hopefully practice makes perfect, and I will succeed next time.

As I mentioned before, the parallels between making macarons and golf are truly amazing! Once you take that golf club back, it’s over. For macarons, a little misjudgment and you don’t get what you want. The Macaron Gods are not very forgiving. And I’ve probably been extra naughty lately. You’d think?

Almond flour: $9.99

12 eggs: $3.50

Powdered sugar: $2.50

Matching outfit to macarons: Priceless!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

FIVE YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

SIX YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

 

 

 

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES THREE

Back in February I made a post with four super-duper simple recipes, and here I am again to showcase three more. A drink, a side-dish, a dessert. Like last time, they all deliver a lot more than you would expect.

ONE

Starting with the drink. Fabulous. Refreshing. Delicious. I saw the recipe at Mike’s The Iron You, and made it the day after. Exactly as he posted, except that I cut the sugar down a bit. Since then, I’ve made it four times, and adapted it, simplifying it even further and leaving sugar out completely. You will need to find your favorite way, but trust me, this is a drink you must try if you love tea. The touch of genius is a pinch of baking soda after brewing. Do not twist your nose, it is magical. Have I ever lied to you?

MINT AND GINGER ICED GREEN TEA
(adapted from The Iron You)

4 cups of water
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 bags green tea
1 bag of mint tea (or 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves)
1 lemon, divided
Pinch of baking soda
sugar is optional (coconut sugar is particularly  nice)

Combine water and ginger in a pot. Bring to a boil. Once the water boils, remove from the heat and add tea bags and fresh mint (if using them).  Cover with a lid and steep for 15 minutes. Remove the bags and strain tea separating the liquid from the mint leaves and ginger slices. Stir in sugar, juice of half lemon, and baking soda. Transfer to a pitcher and let cool before refrigerating.

Serve on a tall glass with lemon slices and fresh mint added, if you so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I reduced the amount made to four cups instead of six, because I’m the only one drinking it. When I make it before dinner, I have leftover drink to enjoy next day at lunchtime, so that works well for me. Check out Mike’s original version and see if that appeals more to you in terms of amount and level of sweetness.

TWO

 

Second, a side-dish that is ready in 6 minutes. That is 360 seconds. Ok, if you have to cut the broccoli florets yourself, it might take you 10 minutes. Best broccoli ever. Perfect texture, bright taste, and you can change it around by using different herbs, vinegars, spices. Love it.

PAN-STEAMED BROCCOLI WITH ORANGE AND CILANTRO
(adapted from Ellie Krueger)

1 large head of broccoli florets (1½ pounds)
zest and juice of half an orange
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
1 ½ tablespoons  olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the broccoli florets more or less in a single layer inside a saucepan. Add ½ cup water, cover and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Do not remove the lid during cooking. When the broccoli is done, it will be cooked to crisp-tender. If you prefer it a bit softer, remove it from the heat and allow it to sit, covered, for another minute or two.

While the broccoli is cooking, zest the orange into a large bowl. Juice half the orange into the bowl, add the lemon juice. Add the cilantro to the bowl along with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the bowl with the orange mixture and toss gently. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: During the time the broccoli is cooking (pay close attention to the timer, it’s important), make the flavoring mixture right on the serving bowl.  Check Ellie’s gremolata in the link, or try anything you like. I find the combination of orange with broccoli quite delicious, but to cut excessive sweetness I added some lemon juice to it. Apple cider vinegar could be wonderful too. Consider options such as za’tar, a very discreet touch of sesame oil, black olive tapenade, sesame seeds…  This recipe has the potential to become your favorite way to enjoy broccoli. Cannot beat the texture. Am I repeating myself? Apologies, I tend to get excited about stuff like broccoli with perfect texture. There, I said it again!

THREE

Soft-serve pineapple. I saw this one at The View from Great Island, a blog I’ve cooked from many times, Sue’s recipes never failed me. She talks, I listen. It is ready in minutes, once you freeze the pineapple pieces. It is perfectly smooth and soft-serve-like when you first process it. In the freezer it will turn a bit hard, but a little encounter with the microwave just to break the ice (literally), turns it into real sorbet consistency. I had no idea that a pineapple could become a luscious dessert just with the help of the food processor. Remember a few years ago when everyone was processing bananas? Well, pineapples are harder to peel, but totally worth the trouble. A friend from Facebook mentioned that 1 egg white can be added to this type of recipe, to give extra smoothness.  I have to try that soon.

SOFT-SERVE PINEAPPLE-CHILE SORBET
(slightly modified from The View from Great Island)

1 pineapple
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper (ground)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the pineapple into 1 inch slices, core and all. Chop the slices into bite sized pieces. Arrange the pineapple on the baking sheet. Freeze for 2 hours, or until frozen solid.

Put the frozen pineapple chunks into a high power blender or food processor. Add the lime juice and chile powder. Process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the machine as necessary. Serve right away for a slushy, soft-serve consistency, otherwise, spoon the mixture into a loaf pan and put in the freezer to firm up, at least 4 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Adding pepper to sorbet can be quite interesting, but maybe it’s not for everybody. A purist would probably prefer it “virgin.” I reduced the amount of chipotle and omitted the cayenne that Sue used, so stop by her site to see her version too and decide what to do.  We also made two batches of cantaloupe sorbet (already in the blog), one with pepper, one without, and a few days later enjoyed a triple dessert, refreshing and hot at the same time.  We like to share a single bowl and take turns, a little bite with pepper, a little without… Simple Summer evening pleasures.

😉

And with that, I wrap up three super simple recipes that are sure to please you. I think that even if you are not into green tea, the addition of that pinch of baking soda might change your mind. It removes that bit of harshness, objectionable to some. Worth a try.

ONE YEAR AGO: Dan Lepard Simple White Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Maureen’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Wheat Berry Caraway Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mexican Focaccia 

FIVE YEARS AGOSunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

SIX YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls

 

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS EIGHT: TWO MILESTONES AND A TRIPLE GIVEAWAY!

*comments are now shutdown, winner to be announced July 3rd, 11pm*

Here I am, wrapping up my eighth year of food blogging. But, are you ready for something even more amazing than that? Today, on this exact day, with this very post, I reach ONE THOUSAND ARTICLES PUBLISHED. I can hardly believe it myself… Can you imagine the odds on that? Gives me a thrill, that’s for sure. I actually noticed that those events could coincide, so I increased up slightly the pace of posting this month, lending a little helping hand to fate. Still, it deserved a very enthusiastic version of Sally’s Personal Happy Dance.  You should be grateful that there are no videos. But, to what matters most. What is a Birthday without cake? It is an idiosyncrasy. I could not allow that to happen. So, I rolled my sleeves up, took a few yogic breaths in and out, sat down on a rug staring at a candle for a full 19 seconds, and look what I baked for this party:

A Ferrero Rocher Cake, with – obviously – eight bonbons decorating the top. One for each year, my friends!

The interesting thing is that I own a pathetically large number of cookbooks. Of those, many, I repeat, many are cake cookbooks. Is this recipe from one of them? Obviously not. Why would I take the sensible path? No, not a chance. I got this recipe from the youtube channel hosted by Chetna Makan, the wonderful contestant of  The Great British Bake Off. A couple of months ago she demonstrated this Ferrero Rocher cake, making it seem easy and doable. I could not take it out of my mind. Plus, the idea of topping it with eight bonbons… how could I not go for it on this occasion? You can see Chetna in action with a click here.  And without further ado, I share with you my transcript of her recipe.

FERRERO ROCHER CAKE
(slightly modified from Chetna Makan)

for the cake component:
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
50g melted dark chocolate
5 eggs, roughly whisked
200g self-rising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs milk

for the ganache:
375g dark chocolate
450mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
30g unsalted butter

for the icing:
300g salted butter, softened
600g icing sugar, divided in two equal portions
2 Tbs milk
4 Tbs finely ground hazelnuts

for the pouring ganache and decoration:
50g dark chocolate
150mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
8 Ferrero Rocher bonbons

Make the sponge cake component: prepare three 9-inch round pans by greasing them with butter and placing parchment paper on the bottom. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, combine the softened butter with superfine (caster) sugar. Beat until creamy, a couple of minutes. Add the melted chocolate, mix a few seconds.  Slowly add the eggs, a little at a time with the beater running in low-speed.  Still in low-speed, add sifted self-rising flour, cocoa powder and the additional teaspoon of baking powder.  Mix until combined, add the milk, and mix well. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make the ganache: place the chocolate cut into pieces in a large bowl, add very hot –  almost to the boiling point – cream, allow it to sit for a minute, then slowly mix with a spatula. When the chocolate is dissolved, add the butter. Reserve, covered with plastic wrap.

Make the buttercream icing: Add the softened salted butter to the mixer, beat with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the sifted powdered sugar in two additions, 300g each. Mix well, then add the finely ground hazelnuts. Taste a little bit and dream. Reserve.

Assemble the cake: place the first layer to a cake stand, add the cooled ganache. Spread almost to the edges. Sprinkle diced hazelnuts all over the ganache. Place the second cake layer on top, repeat the ganache/hazelnut spreading. Place the third cake on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Ice the cake with the buttercream hazelnut component. Try to make it smooth on top and sides. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.

Make the pouring ganache: mix the chocolate in pieces with almost boiling heavy cream. Wait a minute or so, then stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Pour on top of the cake, allowing it to flow down its sides. Sprinkle the top with more chopped hazelnuts, decorate with Ferrero Rocher bonbons….  Place in the fridge until serving time, removing it to room temperature about 30 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I decided to take my time to make this cake. Baking the cakes on a Saturday, making the ganache and frosting the following morning, assembling the cake in the afternoon. A well-laid plan indeed. To my delight, the cakes baked beautifully, flat and smooth. I removed them from the pans as if I was born doing it. Something we all know not to be the case. Next day the ganache and buttercream preparation went flawlessly. I was radiating self-confidence and pride. Then, I confronted the hazelnuts. A portion to be coarsely chopped, a smaller portion processed more finely. Hazelnuts are kind of expensive, so I bought them whole. That was a move to regret for as long as I live. Have you ever had to peel those pesky creatures? The skin seems to be covalently bonded to the nut. If you are not into chemistry, let me explain. Covalent bonds are strong. The atoms involved are sharing electrons, and the electrons don’t intend to stop dancing together in that complex, undetermined space. I sense an essay coming:  Implications of Sub-atomic Interactions for Cake Baking.  Anyway,  it took me 90 minutes to peel the hazelnuts. On my first innocent attempt I trusted instructions to simply roast them “and the peel will come off easily by rubbing them with a paper towel.” That is not only wrong, it is cruel. In desperation, and with two fingers burned, I googled for alternatives. Found out that if you boil them for “a couple of minutes” the peel should come off with “very little effort.” When I did that, I could hear the dancing electrons laughing at me. No intention of leaving their Covalent Gala. More google action. Found yet another set of instructions, more realistic as it included a clear warning – this method won’t be easy, but it’s by far the best way.  You do boil them, but with baking soda. A lot of it, actually (3 tablespoons for 2 cups of water). The pan will look like a witches brew, as you can see on the composite photo below. 

Get a bowl of cold water ready. After 4 minutes, grab a couple of hazelnuts with a slotted spoon and throw them in the water. Rub gently with your fingers, if the peel starts to come off, you are done. If not, keep boiling them, stirring constantly in low heat, otherwise you will have a very epic mess  on your stove (no need to ask me how I know). Once you reach the point of peels starting to come out,  drain the whole batch and shock them all in cold water. Peeling them will still be a labor like no other. Messy and long-lasting. An ordeal that I do not wish on anyone. In fact, I tell you what a great concept for hell could be. A place where you spend your full day peeling hazelnuts. In the background, the song “Don’t worry, be happy” plays non-stop. Once you are done, you can go to sleep, but not before watching Titanic, beginning to end. That is hell. Hazelnuts, Bobby McFerrin & Titanic, day in, day out.

But was it worth all the trouble? Oh, yeah! I tell you one thing, the icing with the finely ground hazelnuts is to die for, some serious deliciousness in taste and texture. If you like Ferrero Rocher, this cake is the ultimate celebration of it. The creaminess of the ganache, its intense chocolate taste echoed by the sponge cake. A real winner. Now, if you watch Chetna’s video, you’ll notice that her pouring ganache ended up thicker than mine. I think it’s a matter of the ingredients used. She used double cream, easily available in the UK, I had to go with our regular whipping cream. If I knew my way around baking, I would probably adapt it, perhaps using a higher proportion of chocolate. At any rate, I am happy with the way it turned out. Also, a warning: the ganache makes more than you’ll need. Chetna baked four cakes, I went with three, slightly larger. But trust me, you can use the leftover ganache in many tasty ways. Macaron filling? Yesssss!  Stirred into the morning cappuccino? Oh, yessssss…

So here I am, at the eight year mark! According to Foodista, 8% of the blogs make it to six years, no statistics available for food blogs older than that. What matters is that I am still having fun, and intend to keep going, so if you’d like, step with me into the 9th year of adventures in our kitchen.

source Foodista

To celebrate my special double milestone, I am offering a triple giveaway!  Three cookbooks that deal with some of my passions. The Book of Buns, a delightful publication that covers all sorts of breads, from simple to more complex. Second, Les Petits Macarons, because… how could I not include this colorful obsession of mine? And finally Flavor Flours, in my opinion the best cookbook for gluten-free baking. If you follow my blog, you know I don’t have any dietary restrictions. But recipes that try to adapt classics to gluten-free alternative versions fascinate me.  I’ve made quite a few of her recipes, and they were all top-notch. Alice Medrich does her homework before coming up with a recipe.

If you’d like to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment, and I’ll draw the winner on June 30th, announcing it the day after. I intend to give the books either as real hard copies (for those living in the USA), or as Kindle copies to those anywhere else in the world. Of course, if you live in the US but rather have the virtual versions, let me know.

 

Grab a pin to celebrate!

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

SIX YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

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