Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oatmeal cookies: two ways, my way!

Humble looking but oh so delicious!
After Christmas,  New Year and all their excesses, it's good to go back to normal and tone things down a notch in the sugar department. However, as a sugar-holic, it's not an easy thing for me, but luckily there are some healthier sweet recipes out there that offer joy without the overwhelming guilt.

Inspiration came while watching the lovely Julie Andrieu on her quest to understand the food culture around the world. While in Scotland, she was understood the importance of oats and oatmeal is to the Scots.
Actually it is said that the Romans had hard times conquering that country because of how strong their men were which many attribute to the oatmeal based diet!

The oat cereal was used by humans since thousands of years  but only made its way to pastry in the beginning of the 19th century!

I love oatmeal with its floury nutty taste and fibrous texture, in fact one of my favorite light dinner meals is oatmeal with spices, honey and nut soaked in soy milk. This dinner meal was an additional source of inspiration of  this recipe. But I also wanted to experiment with flavors and create different tastes using the same dough, at the end I made two kinds of cookies with one simple dough and flavorings ingredients which you most likely have at home. 
Two ways to savor a cookie classic

The first kind of oatmeal cookie was flavored with nuts, spices and  honey  whereas the second one was flavored with white chocolate and lyophilized summer berries. I usually eat these berries with my cereals in the morning and luckily they are better suited for this recipe than fresh berries as the fresh ones will make your dough too soggy.

For the basic cookie dough you need (makes about 18 to 20):
  • 55 g butter
  • 70 g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 75 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 120 g oatmeal (I used the quick cooking oats)
The two different flavoring agents

For the 1st variation you need:
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp spice infused honey (I used 4 tbsp honey, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of ground star anise, pinch of ground cloves and nutmeg. Combine the spices with a tsp of water then add the honey and simmer gently for few min).
  • 2 tbsp of mixed nuts (I used raw walnuts, pecans and almonds)
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • Tsp ground hazelnut or almond pralinĂ© (optional)

2nd variation:
  • One tbsp lyophilized summer berries
  • 40 g white chocolate
Shape your cookies and space them as they expand during cooking

How to: 
Cream the butter and sugar with a blender, add the egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined, slowly start adding the flour and oatmeal that previously you had mixed with the salt and baking soda. 

When all well mixed divide your dough in 2. Add each set of flavoring ingredients to a half. Form your cookies using an ice-cream scoop or by band and bake them in a preheated oven (180C) from 10 to 12 min. Be careful not over-bake and take them out as soon as the edge of the cookies turns golden! Let them cool for 5 min then transfer them to a cooling rack!
Milk revives the flavors of cold cookies

It  snowed in Madrid and it's really cold, but I can calmly sit on my chair looking at the snow falling outside while sipping a hot cup of milk and biting into these delicious oatmeal cookies with their heart-warming flavors.
Savor the cookies with a warm glass of milk, enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Carraway Pudding For New Borns and Christmas

Mighleh, a pudding to welcome newborns

Different cultures around the world celebrate the arrival of a newborn in different ways. However, what's common is the great joy this occasion brings and you know for sure a sweet delicacy will likely be served to mark this joyful event.
As the older sister in the family, I had the chance to savor the special middle-eastern pudding that is served on this occasion: mighleh. I still remember the wonderful spicy smell that invaded every corner of our house as my younger brothers and sisters came to life. That heavenly aroma was the same in our relatives' homes as they too welcomed their little bundles of joy.
Whether it was in the middle of winter or at the height of summer, the recipe lends itself well to all seasons. Its spiciness warms during cold times and it is usually served chilled during summer. 

Many also prepare this pudding during Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
However, Christmas has so many  recipes that sometimes you hardly have enough time to make a handful.

Madrid nights are bitterly cold and since I´m a still nostalgic for Christmas seasons, I decided to make this childhood recipe that I cherish deeply. It should warm me up!

I am not sure about the origins of this recipe, but I know that is made in many countries of the middle east. It is very easy to make and really delicious.
What's great about it too is that is naturally suitable for lactose intolerant people and for those with allergy to wheat. It sweetness can be adjusted to taste. It is an easy, healthy and delicious recipe.
The main flavorings of this pudding

To prepare this pudding for 6 to 8 persons, you need:

  • 1/2 cup of rice flour or powdered rice
  • 3 cups and 1/2 of water
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground anise
  • 1 to 2 spoons of  ground caraway seeds (it is a spice similar to anise and fennel seeds)
For the decoration you need shredded coconut (unsweetened) and a mix of various nuts.

The essential steps in making the pudding

First combine all the dry ingredients, mix well, then add the water! Put on a gentle heat and keep stirring. After 5 to 8 min you will notice that the mixture will start to thicken, keep stirring until you see bubbles forming on the top. At that point you will know that it is time to remove of the heat! 
A regular sized cup makes an ideal serving portion

Wait for the pudding to cool for about 5 min, then pour it into individual serving cups. 
Leave it to cool completely, after which put it in the fridge. 
Golden cups and serving plate add opulence to a rather humble dessert

Before serving, sprinkle coconut on top, then add the nuts you desire. Usually, pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios and almonds are mostly used, but you can experiment and use cashew or macadamia nuts or whatever your heart desires. The joy of this recipe is its simplicity and flexibility. You can omit the coconut for example or reduce the amount of sugar or come up with a unique mix of nuts!

So next time there's a new born in the family or you want an easy dessert for your Christmas dinner, surprise your family members with this creamy, soft and spicy and refreshing pudding! But you know what, you don't have to wait for that to happen, so to kitchen and get cooking!

Coconut and a mix of delicious nuts complement the flavor of the pudding

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spicy hot chocolate and Roscon de Reyes!

When most of the Christian World celebrates the epiphany, in Spain, the 6th of January the arrival of the wise men or Los reyes magos is celebrated.

On the 5th of January, you can see the wise men parade in the streets of almost every city in Spain. Families gather and wait for the passing parades accompanied by kids who feel very excited at the sight of the wise men.

For kids, the reyes magos are the equivalent of Santa Claus. In fact, the next morning the whole family gathers to open the gifts the reyes magos left for the little ones.

Before gift are unwrapped, kids have to patiently wait and have a traditional breakfast with the family. To make the waiting more manageable, the traditional breakfast offering is a sweet delicious treat: hot chocolate with roscon de reyes!

Roscon is a roll shaped bread decorated with candied fruits. Some rolls have a small surprise inside of them (usually small figurines of wise men) and tradition goes whoever gets the roll with the surprise piece will have a lucky year ahead.

I didn´t have time to make roscon, so I bought some from a local bakery, but I had time to make my favorite hot chocolate!

During the increasingly cold days of winter, the best way to warm up your heart is by sipping a spicy cup of hot chocolate. The recipe is not a discovery,  nevertheless, I like to share my take on this popular and comforting beverage!

For a cup of this hot chocolate you need:

  • 150 ml of soy milk 
  • 50 g of coarsely chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • seeds of half vanilla bean
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • whipped cream and ground cinnamon for the decoration
In a saucepan combine the milk, star anise, cinnamon, sugar, the seeds and the vanilla bean. Let them simmer for about 5 to 7 min until fragrant. Add the chocolate and whisk until it melts and is well mixed into the milk.
If you want a thicker hot chocolate you can add half tsp of corn flour mixed with a teaspoon of water then add it slowly and whisk quickly.

Pour the chocolate and add whipped cream (dairy or vegan like coconut cream)  and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy this drink on your longer winter nights or whenever you're in the mood for some comfort. Don't wait for the next winter storm, try it now!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

End and Start Your Year with Decorated Cookies

As we bid 2012 farewell and we welcome 2013 with excitement I decided to take more time to master the art of decoration, especially that of cookie decoration.
So challenge yourself this year and start 2013 on a sweet and artistic note.

I will not share the recipes now as I am short on time, but the cookies I made share the same basic ingredients but differ in the added flavorings. Both flavors are warm and festive: orange and vanilla cookies and rose petals and walnuts cookies!

With these cookies you can use your artistic imagination to create endless combinations of shapes and colors. Hopefully, I will share with you many tips and tricks on how to decorate cookies very soon.

Enjoy the pictures and hope you like what you see.
The different patterns and shapes I created
A beautiful Christmas tree

Elegant Snow Flakes
An abstract shape of a Christmas tree

Beautiful abstract green lines

Beautiful abstract red  lines

The mistletoe, a Christmas classic

All cookies wrapped in bags for individual servings.