Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brigadeiros (Brazilian Chocolate Truffles)

If there's one thing that you'll find at just about every party, of somebody of any age, from 1 to 100, at least in the U.S., it's probably... Well, I don't know. We don't really have that one thing- it might be pizza, soda, maybe a birthday cake? In Brazil, there is one thing you will always find: Brigadeiros.
These are the simplest chocolate truffles- a can of sweetened condensed milk, a few tablespoons of sweetened cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix, cooked until the right consistency, refrigerated, rolled into balls and then in chocolate sprinkles. Make them the size you want, throw them in some little candy cups (don't use mini cupcake wrappers, unless you want enough richness in each one to last you a week), and these chewy chocolate bites will be a huge hit. They are sweet, chocolatey, the perfect texture for everyone from babies to great-grandparents. If you don't want the fuss of rolling, spoon the hot mixture into shot glasses and it will be like having a little grown-up pudding cup. Either way, delicious, and a Brazilian classic. Enjoy! <3

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sweetened cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix
chocolate sprinkles, for rolling

Stir together milk and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave for two minutes, stir, two minutes, stir. Microwave in one-minute increments until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick caramel sauce: too thin for scooping but too thick for easy drizzling (this should only take an additional 2-3 minutes, but depends on your microwave.)
Refrigerate until completely cool and thickened, about 3 hours. Once cool, scoop into small balls (less than a tablespoon usually, but the size is up to you) and roll in chocolate sprinkles. Place in candy cups and leave at room temperature until serving.
Note: while in the microwave, the mixture may overflow; just pause, stir, and continue.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flourless Corn Coconut Pudding-Cake

My mom and I came home a few days ago, tired from walking around the Brazilian malls (hard life, huh? You must hate me right now... Trust me, I wish this were my year-round life too!) to find my grandma in the kitchen. My grandma doesn't often cook or bake (although when she does, whatever she makes is always delicious), so I knew something special was going to come out of there.
She said she was making a gluten-free cake for my mom. This "cake" takes just a couple of ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, eggs, dried coconut, coconut milk, and canned corn. That's it. No flour or thickener of any kind. You would expect something like this to fall apart, but somehow, maybe magically, it doesn't. Straight out of the oven, it's almost like a pudding. Once cooled, it's a very moist cake- I decided to all it a pudding cake. It's not overly sweet, the perfect afternoon snack with a cup of creamy coffee or tea. Although I still have no idea how these ingredients come together into a cake, I guess that's simply the kind of magic that comes out of a grandma's kitchen. I just hope it happens in my kitchen once I get home, too- this pudding-cake is so delicious, you can bet it's going to be in my house very often. Enjoy! <3
Flourless Corn Pudding-Cake

3 eggs
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 14-oz. can corn kernels, drained
1 200-ml. bottle or can coconut milk (can be light)
100 grams dried coconut, preferably unsweetened

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 6-cup bundt pan (or double the recipe for a regular-sized pan).
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to desired consistency- I like a few pieces of corn in there, but you can blend it until totally smooth if you like.
Pour into greased pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Eat warm or let cool for a firmer dessert.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TWD: Popovers

Today's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe made me very very happy. It wasn't because popovers are delicious- although they are. It wasn't even because they went perfectly with the big salad lunch we had before leaving for the airport to come to Brazil- although they did. It was because as I woke up the morning of our trip and realized I still had to make this recipe to post while I was away, they took me about five minutes to throw together, enough time to get dressed and ready to go while they baked, and could (and should) be eaten hot out of the oven. How delicious they are was just the cherry on top ;)

This recipe is definitely one that I'll be making plenty of times in the future for a quick side dish or breakfast. I loved eating them with this honey butter, or with some sort of jelly. Thanks to the great hosts this week: Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake with Amy. As always, the recipe can be found on their blogs or in Baking with Julia.
Enjoy! <3

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are so many recipes out there that have a big reputation. It seems like when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, everybody has their own version that is, according to them, the greatest ever. The New York Times, The Doubletree Hotel, even Hillary Clinton- their recipes are sworn to be the best by lots of bakers (and tasters!) I have tried many a chocolate chip cookie recipe and have yet to make a truly bad one, but Dorie Greenspan's and the classic Nestlé recipes are two of my favoritesThey are a classic, crisp cookie with a hint of vanilla. This week I wanted to bring chocolate chip cookies, such an American treat, to Brazil with me to share with family. Sick of the same old recipes, I decided to go after one with a great reputation.
So many bakers promise that the Jacques Torres recipe for chocolate chip cookies is the greatest in the world. There are a few different versions of it online, but I decided to go with the New York Times's printed version, which seems to be adapted from the original. My friend recently came home from a vacation in France with a bag of Valhrona "fèves" for me, which are discs of bittersweet chocolate. They happened to be one of the suggestions for "chips" in the cookies, so in went the huge, delicious circles.
This dough is refrigerated overnight before baking; I baked one without refrigerating and the rest after, and can't say that I noticed a huge difference, but in the future I will refrigerate unless I'm short on time. I made them about half of the weight the recipe calls for- my balls of dough were each about 1.5 oz.- but they were still huge. With the big disks of chocolate, don't try to make them any smaller. Don't worry- they are so good, you can handle a big cookie.
Be warned, this cookie is not for the faint of heart. It is more chocolate than cookie dough, but is so delicious. The dough part of it is sweet and buttery, and the chocolate is nice and dark. Be sure to use good-quality chocolate here, as you will really be able to taste it. Additionally, don't skip the step of sprinkling salt over the unbaked dough- it makes a huge difference. These cookies are so rich, they aren't your average afterschool snack, but at a party (or really for an indulgent treat any time of day), they are perfect. Enjoy! <3

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
(slightly adapted from The New York Times)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
sea salt, for sprinkling

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
Scoop 6- 1 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cookies sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Eat warm, or cool, or at room temperature... they will be delicious any way!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

KitKat Ice Cream Torte

Remember how I was telling you about Brazilians and how much they love trifles? Well, this is a frozen trifle. A frifle? I decided to call it a torte.
In this party-perfect dessert, brigadeiro, the gooey chocolate made of sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder that is often rolled into little truffles, is layered with KitKats and vanilla ice cream. The ice cream is filled with chocolate shavings- we bought it that way, but it's easy to do yourself if you can't find it to buy. The three layers go perfectly together: the crunchy, cookie-like KitKats, the gooey, chocolatey brigadeiro, and the creamy, cool ice cream.
According to my aunt, who taught me how to make this, it is easily adaptable. Don't want all the chocolate flavor in the brigadeiro? Just leave out the cocoa powder and make it just with the sweetened condensed milk and butter. If you don't want vanilla ice cream with chocolate shavings, substitute a different add-in or change the ice cream altogether. However you make it, I promise it will be delicious. Enjoy! <3

KitKat Ice Cream Torte

Enough KitKats to cover a 9x9" pan, cut into fourths
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sweetened cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup chocolate shavings

Cover the bottom of a 9x9" pan with the chopped KitKats.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter, and cocoa. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, 2 minutes, stir. Continue microwaving in 1-minute increments, stirring inbetween, until the mixture reaches the consistency of a caramel sauce: too thin to scoop, but too thick to drizzle easily. Pour over KitKats and put pan in the fridge until cool.
Soften the ice cream by microwaving for 15 seconds or leaving out at room temperature for a while. Stir in the chocolate shavings and spread the ice cream over the chocolate layer. Freeze until serving, at least an hour.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pineapple Coconut Trifle

Here in Brazil, there are a few desserts they are really crazy about. One is trifles- they like to later just about any sort of sweet things in a dish, and somehow it always works out. Another dessert they love is brigadeiro- a chewy chocolate truffle made simply of sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder that is cooked, cooled and rolled into balls coated with chocolate sprinkles. These brigadeiro have many variations- I recently tried a delicious salted caramel one- among them brig a white brigadeiro. It is made by omitting the cocoa powder and simply cooking down sweetened condensed milk. I like to make this easier by doing it in the microwave!
This dessert, which I got my aunt to teach me how to make, combines a trifle with brigadeiro. Instead of rolling the white brigadeiro into balls, it is made a bit thinner and layered with pineapple and coconut shavings. It is the perfect combination of classic tropical flavors. The chewy coconut, juicy pineapple and creamy brigadeiro pair together very well. The one above was made with just one layer of each, but it is even better with two. Double layers of all the delicious flavors make it a classic Brazilian dessert that can, and should, be made everywhere. Enjoy!

Pineapple Coconut Trifle

1/2 of a pineapple, cut into very small pieces (you can also buy crushed pineapple and drain it)
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded coconut (we used fresh, but you can used dried if you can't find fresh)

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk with the butter.
Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, another 2 minutes, stir. Microwave in 1-minute increments, stirring inbetween, until the mixture reaches the point of a caramel sauce- not thick enough to scoop but not thin enough to drizzle easily.
Layer half of the chopped pineapple in a glass dish- a 2-quart one will do. Cover with half of the milk/butter mixture and then half of the coconut. Repeat the three layers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Virgin Sparkling Lime Mojitos

Some summer nights just beg for a cool, sweet beverage. As a teenager, it can be hard to find something tasty besides soda to drink. So when we were having friends over for dinner the other night, I asked my mom to make something I could drink. She suggested these non-alcoholic mojitos, and I'm so glad she did!
Mojitos are generally made with lime, sugar, mint, water, and rum. To make these non-alcoholic, we took out the rum, but we wanted them to be more than a mint limeade. So instead of water, we used sparkling water, which made them bubbly and that much more refreshing. If you want to make an alcoholic version of this, you can keep the same idea but use regular water (the bubbles and rum just don't really go together) and add rum to your liking. The measurements below are approximate- my mom thought up the "recipe" but added more sugar and line as we went on- so put in more or take away ingredients to make your ideal mojito ;)
On a summer night, or any night for that matter, this is a lovely little drink. As refreshing as lemonade but with a slightly more sophisticated (or "grown up") and delicious twist. Enjoy! <3

Virgin Sparkling Lime Mojitos

1 lime
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1 cup sparkling water
1/2 cup ice

Squeeze the juice of the lime into a small bowl (don't discard the lime after squeezing). Pour in the sugar and mint leaves.
Mash with a mortar and pestle (or sturdy spoon) for several minutes, until the sugar is nearly dissolved and the mint is crushed.
Mix with the sparkling water and pour into a glass filled with the ice. (If desired, add one jigger of rum.) Cut up the squeezed lime and drop into the glass. Taste and add more sugar or lime as desired.
-makes one mojito- multiply as needed

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TWD: Mixed Berry Galette

Although people keep talking about the beginning of fall, I am a firm believer that we are still in the warm happiness that is summer. I am leaving for the airport in an hour to go to Brazil to see family, and I am beyond exited that I get to spend an entire month there. I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to get some recipes baked up, so expect less posting than usual but still a few treats while I'm away.
This galette is the perfect summer dessert. The crumbly, sweet crust (I made mine gluten-free with gluten-free all-purpose flour and xanthan gum), the fresh berries bursting with juice, and a little drizzle of sugar and honey. That's it- no complicated custard or pastry cream, no cooking of any fruit, no overnight rests or days of preparation. Great for when you just want something that will get you in and out of the kitchen quickly, but still impress.
I served this at room temperature with some vanilla ice cream, sitting in our friends' backyard. It was just the thing for a warm summer evening, and was light and fresh. My crust crumbled as I was putting the galette together, which is why mine isn't as pretty as many of them, but once it was dark out, nobody noticed ;)
Thanks to Lisa of Tomato Thymes in the Kitchen and Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness for hosting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe can be found on their blogs or in Baking with Julia.
Enjoy! <3

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lemon Cranberry Irish Soda Bread with Honey Butter

I am a firm believer that Irish Soda Bread is a year-round food. Lots of people only make it around St. Patrick's Day, but it is one of my dad's favorite treats, so it gets baked during all four seasons in my house. The bread TWD made a while ago is a traditional one, and is simple to put together; however, it isn't very sweet at all. My family prefers the American-ized version, which is sweet and more cake-like. I have a go-to recipe, which is great, but I was sick of the same raisins and plain flavor. I found this recipe, which has lemon and cranberry, and decided to give it a try.
I liked it a lot. This is even more cake-like than the other (really not like a bread), and quite sweet, but is perfect for a snack or light breakfast. The tart cranberries and lemon go together so well and the flavor combination is one of my favorites. It is served with a sweet honey butter that is so easy to whip up, and is the perfect spread for this bread/cake- although if you want to skip it, the bread tastes great on its own. The best part of this recipe? It was approved by my dad, who is quite the soda bread connoisseur. Enjoy! <3
Lemon Cranberry Irish Soda Bread with Honey Butter
(ever-so-slightly adapted from Eat and Relish)

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar, + extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup hot water
juice and zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the dried cranberries, hot water, and juice from the lemon into a small bowl, and let the berries soften. Cut a piece of parchment to fit into a 8″ round cake pan, and place inside. Lightly butter the parchment.
Whisk the flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in alarge bowl to blend. Add the butter, and using your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a coarse meal forms. It will be very dry.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk and the lemon zest. Gradually the stir dry ingredients into the milk with a spatula to blend until they are just combined (do not overmix – mix only until the ingredients just come together, otherwise your bread will be tough). Once combined, drain the cranberries and discard the liquid. Squeeze them to remove any excess moisture, and add them to the dough. Carefully and gently fold them in.
Transfer dough to the prepared pan and smooth out as much as possible with your hands (you may want to flour them). Flatten slightly (dough will not come to the edges of pan), and brush the top with the milk. Sprinkle the bread with the remaining sugar.
Bake the bread until it is light golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, just about 40 minutes — start checking it around 30 minutes to avoid overcooking. Cool the bread in pan 10 minutes, then gently transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with honey butter (recipe below).

Honey Butter

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Beat butter briefly until it is creamy. Beat in the honey. Refrigerate so that it is no longer liquidy (it can get liquidy as you are beating it), but let it soften slightly before serving.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Soft and Puffy Snickerdoodles

Earlier this week, I was in Texas for three days. The meals we had in the small city where my grandparents live were nothing special - mostly revolving around IHOP and Chinese takeout - but these cookies were there for us at the end of every meal. They are the perfect anytime snack. Sweet enough to be a satisfying dessert, yet no so sweet that you feel guilty having one before lunchtime!
I made these the night before we left, and they were whipped up in less than an hour altogether. These cookies are so easy to mix up, and a great cookie for late at night when you want your dessert fix and don't have a whole lot of time. As we discovered, they also keep well for several days.
I believe these were supposed to come out thin and a bit crispy, but mine came out thick and pretty soft. That's okay- I loved them anyway! The cinnamon sugar on the outside created a crisp little shell around the pillowy interior; one delicious cookie.
Enjoy! <3
Soft and Puffy Snickerdoodles
(from Cannella Vita)

1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TWD: Blueberry Nectarine Pie

Sorry for the 2-day delay on this TWD post; I went away for a few days and completely forgot to post this! Well, the delay is definitely worth it for this pie.
I had a couple of issues with this pie. The first was that I made the crust gluten-free (by using gluten-free all-purpose flour and a little xanthan gum) for my mom, but it just didn't hold together like it should have. I had to piece together the bottom crust, so I decided to not try and roll out the top crust - I cut out little butterflies instead! I think it ended up looking cute.
The other problem I had was with the fruit filling. Instead of flour I used cornstarch, but I must not have put in quite enough, because the filling was pretty runny. Once we kept in the fridge overnight it was fine, but when we ate it warm it was more like a cobbler. Hey, nobody ever complained about a tasty cobbler, did they?
This is one great summery fruit pie. The blueberries and nectarines go together really well, and the slightly tart filling pairs perfectly with the sweet crust. The recipe can be found on the hosts' blogs: Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake and Hilary of Manchego's Kitchen, or in the book. Enjoy! <3