Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Roasted Cranberries Bundt Cake!

The year 2016 is only one day away. Time surely flies by. What an exciting year 2015 was for me! I learned a lot of new recipes, experienced new flavor combinations and new methods of cooking. It is only fitting to say goodbye to this year in baking style!

The last bake of this season had to be beautiful and featuring the season's colors and flavors. It  had to be easy to make too as no one wants to be tied down to the kitchen during these festive times! My answer to all of this was a roasted cranberries cake baked in a beautiful bundt mold.

To make this cake you need to start with its flavor base: the roasted cranberry sauce. The process is really straightforward, you just need to get the ingredients and combine them together. For this you will need:
  • 125 fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cm of ginger, fresh and grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 strips of orange zest
Combine all the ingredients in a pan, and slowly roast them in the oven at 150C for about 20 min. They will be done when your whole house smells like Christmas!
Let the cranberries mix cool down as you prepare the cake mix. 

 For a pine forest mold with 10 cups capacity you will need, :
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 150 g soft butter
  • 220 g white sugar
  • the cooled roasted cranberries with their juice
  • 220 g cake flour
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150 ml whole milk or cream
  • 1 tsp cointreau (optional)

First combine the flour, the salt and the baking powder and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Start adding the eggs one by one, making sure the egg combines well with the dough before adding the next one. 
Now add 1/3 of the flour mix, beat until combined then half of the milk and mix again, repeat with another 1/3 of the flour, then the rest of milk and finally the rest of the flour. Finally, gently fold in the cranberries and their juices.

Pour the batter in the greased and floured pan and bake for about 45 to 50 min in a preheated oven (175C).

Leave the cake to cool in the pan for around 5 min and then flip it over a cooling rack.

Dust with some powdered sugar and enjoy the deep flavors of this wintery cake!

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, yet again, and a very happy new year. May it bring you nothing but joy and loads of sweetness!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Salted Caramel Candies, a Great Gift this Christmas!

With this post we will continue the series of festive recipes. However, this is a special recipe since it requires only 4 main ingredients to end up with something really impressive!

If you follow my blog you would know that I do love a good caramel. Added in the right amounts, caramel transforms ordinary sweets into spectacular ones. What if caramel is not one of the elements of a recipe but is the actual hero of it? Well that's what this caramel candies recipe is all about.

Following the recipe specified in this post you will get around 21 pieces of candy. I should specify that I used an 8 x 16 cm cake pan. I trimmed the edges of the caramel and cut it into 2 x 3 cm candies.
The only difficulty in this recipe is to get to the right temperature as to have a set caramel but that is not rock solid and to attain this temperature you do need a thermometer. It sounds a bit technical and it kind of is, but these cooking thermometers are widely available nowadays at fairly reasonable prices.

Now, let´s caramel:
  • 200 g sugar
  • 150 g cream (35%)
  • 40 g cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or fleur de sel

In a heavy bottom pan add the sugar and let it melt over a gentle heat. Cook the sugar until you get an amber color and you can smell the distinctive caramel aroma. Slowly pour the cream taking extra care not to splatter any of the hot sugar on you.
Continue cooking the caramel for at least 10 minutes and over a gentle heat. The mixture needs to get to 125C (257 F) and when it does, turn off the heat and add the butter whisking well until it  is well combined. Finally add the salt and whisk again for a bit.

Pour the caramel in the parchment covered pan and leave it to cool. Place the pan in the fridge for an hour or two. 

Remove the pan from the fridge. Take the caramel out of the pan and cut it into 2 x 3 cm rectangles. For an extra hit of salt, you can sprinkle a touch of sea salt on the caramel pieces or over the caramel slab before you cut it.

Wrap the candies in wax paper or candy plastic wraps and share them with your loved ones as a special and homemade gift for Christmas. 

Chocolate Christmas Gifts.

Only a few days separate us from Christmas and the pressure is on! I feel I have a million things to do but I don't have enough time. That's why I decided to prioritize and just stick to the basics, and what's more basic than gifting loved ones on Christmas?
During previous years, I baked batches upon batches of cookies and decorated them. The result was wonderful but really time consuming. This year I decided to make simple yet elegant and delicious gift items. Chocolate was the answer!

One of my favorite flavor combinations is that of orange and chocolate. I have used it before in so many of my recipes and I keep on experimenting with it.  Candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate, known as orangettes, make the perfect gift item and are the ultimate way to do justice to this amazing food pairing. 

I used 3 medium size oranges  which yielded more than 30 orangettes. This should give you an idea and help you adjust the quantities according to your needs.

As orangettes require only two main ingredients  this means that you need to get both of them right. The candied peels need to be sweet enough, bursting with citrus flavor, and neither too soft nor too thin and dry. The chocolate needs to be tempered just right.

Temper more chocolate than you need. This would give you the opportunity to make another excellent and fast dessert that is also a great gift idea: mendiant. Mendiants are made from chocolate shaped like a disk and topped with dried fruits and nuts.

Now let's get started on making these two delicious and easy to make chocolate specialties.

For the orangettes you need:
  • 3 oranges (pick varieties with a rather thick peel) 
  • water
  • sugar
  • the juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp of cointreau (or any other orange liqueur) 
Cut off the head and bottom of the oranges, then cut through the skin to get 4 big segments.

Cover with cold water, heat and when the water starts boiling leave it for 2 min then drain the water and repeat the process for 2 more times. This removes the excess bitterness from the peel but keeps the much loved orange flavor.

After the third boiling, drain the peels and let them cool down. Once cooled, cut them into strips and weigh them. Add the same amount of sugar as the weight of the peels. In my case I added 220 g of white sugar.

Add the orange juice, cointreau and then cover with just enough water to cover the peels.  Cook for about an hour. Leave the peels in the syrup for an additional  hour, or until they cool down completely, then remove them and let them dry for a day over a cooling rack!

Now it's just a matter of dipping the orange strips into the chocolate. I  personally like dark chocolate for this recipe, but you can use the chocolate you prefer. 
Temper the chocolate, with the technique you like. I tempered around 300 g.
Just dip about 3/4 of the orange strip into the dark chocolate  and place them on a parchment paper until they harden. 

For the mendiant:
Spoon some melted and tempered chocolate on a parchement or wax paper, swirl a bit to get a beautiful disk shape then drop the nuts or candied fruits of your choice. Ever so gently press the surface of the nuts and fruits to make sure they stick to the chocolate once it hardens. 

Arrange a collection of orangettes and mendiants in the boxes of your choice to make great gifts for your loved ones during Christmas. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ferrero Rocher Brownies!

We're only just few weeks away from Christmas and I couldn't be any happier! 
Christmas has cast its magical spells all over Madrid. The lights, the special Christmas markets, the masses of crowds shopping and the many little things here and there make this time of the year truly wonderful and my favorite.

Ferrero Rocher chocolates are delicious any time of the year, however, they are definitely more popular during Christmas as they make a really nice and tasty gifts. In preparation for Christmas I bought some boxes and I have to say they do make a fancy addition to the dining room table! As I love mixing and experimenting, I decided to create a special holidays brownies, a posher version if you want, using the delicious Ferrero Rocher chocolate balls. Besides being so popular and delicious brownies are extremely versatile and everyone seems to have a special or favorite recipe. With one star ingredient, this would be my special take on brownies for the holidays. They are definitely more indulgent but still easy to make and bake and above all a joy to share with your loved ones during this season of sharing.  

So let's get started. For 9 generous servings you need:
  • 150 g 72% dark chocolate
  • 120 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g white sugar and 50 g dark brown sugar
  • 50 g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 30 g praliné paste

Line a 18 x 18 cm pan with parchment paper. Sift the flour and the cocoa powder and add the salt.

In a double boiler and over a gentle flame, melt the chocolate and butter. Add the instant coffee and the praliné to the melted chocolate and butter mix and combine well until it dissolves. Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, but don't add too much as its powerful taste can mask all other flavors!

When the chocolate mixture has cooled, add the sugar followed by the eggs and the vanilla. Mix until everything is combined well. Now add the sifted dry ingredients, and mix well.

Pour the batter into the pan. Add the Ferrero Rocher but don´t put too much. Just make sure each piece of brownies will have one in the middle,  

Bake for about 25 to 30 min in a preheated oven (180C).

Try my Ferrero Rocher brownies for a jazzed up classic suitable for the holiday season. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Special Thanksgiving Treat: Nutty Pumpkin Pancakes!

Christmas, my favorite time of the year, is all too near, eventhough it means that the end of Autumn is near, my favorite season with all its colors and flavors.
Thanksgiving, though specific to North America, reminds us just how close Christmas is and incites us to celebrate all the goodness this season has to offer.

I know I will probably sound like a broken record, but I am really nuts about pumpkin especially during this season. I have already shared many recipes featuring pumpkins and I can guarantee that you'll always find the results to be super satisfactory.

Besides trying a variety of sweet and savory recipes using pumpkins, lately I have been experimenting with different types of flours. I have bought chestnut flour and I was eager to try it in a special recipe that would make use of its deeply nutty and sweet flavor. That's why I decided to combine these two earthy ingredients in a special Thanksgiving recipe. And what better way to celebrate this typical North American holiday than with the all time American favorite: pancakes! Interestingly enough, if you omit the toppings I used you will have delicious gluten and lactose free pancakes; a good option for individuals who have allergies to these ingredients.

So let's get ready and make some sweet nutty and spicy pumpkin pancakes!

For 2 servings you will need:
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 100 g pmpkin purée
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil (no need for extra virgin) 
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 50 g apple butter (substitute with an extra 50 g of pumpkin purée if you don't have it)
  • 85 g chestnut flour
  • 15 g roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 grated nutmeg
  • dash of salt
Mix the flour, nuts, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, nutmeg and salt and set aside.
In another recipient blend the egg, oil, maple, pumpkin purée and apple butter until they come together nicely. 
Now you just need to combine the dry and wet ingredients and leave the mixture to rest from 5 to 10 minutes.

Cook the pancakes in a lightly oiled pan until set and cooked through but be careful as you don't want to overcook them.

I served them with some cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon and lots and lots of maple syrup. 

The texture of these pancakes is just wonderful. They are moist, soft and the combination of flavors is comforting and absolutely delicious with a delicate balance between the sweetness, nuttiness and the spiciness.  And should I remind you that they are gluten and lactose free?

Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ginger, Orange and Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cointreau Ganache!

The 15th of November is the National Bundt cake day. Bundt pans come in different shapes and sizes but they always produce beautiful looking cakes with minimal efforts from your part. My favorite is the traditional gugelhupf pan. I purchased some Bundt pans a while ago and I felt it's time to put them to good ause nd celebrate the extra something these pans bring to the baking world.

The gugelhufp is perfect for the approaching holiday seasons and it will help you make beautiful cakes, brioches or regular breads. As the idea of the Bundt Day is to encourage people to prepare for the Christmas Holidays, I decided to make a cake using flavors inspired by those common in Christmas desserts. I relied on ginger, orange and chocolate to achieve a beautifully flavored cake. The result is a slightly spicy, refreshing and chocolaty one, with a rich, moist and fudgy texture that can be served as it is with perhaps a light sprinkle of dusting sugar or a glaze. After some hesitation, I finally decided to top the cake with a chocolate and cointreau ganache to reinforce the chocolate and orange aroma.

Ok now let´s bundt!

The mold I used has the capacity of 10 cups and for it you need:
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 150 g soft butter
  • 160 g white sugar, 80 g brown sugar
  • 100 g chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 30 g cocoa powder
  • 200 g cake flour
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150 ml whole milk or cream
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp and 1/2 of grated fresh ginger and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cointreau (optional)
First sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In your mixing bowl, beat the sugar, butter, orange zest and ginger until creamy and well combined.

Add the eggs one by one, making sure they combine well before adding the next egg then add the cointreau. Add the chocolate, and mix again at a low speed.

Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, 1/3 then add half the milk, another 1/3 flour, the rest of milk and finish with the flour.

Pour the mixture in your greased pan and bake between 45 to 50 min in a preheated oven (175C) or until a skewer comes out clean, Leave in the pan for 10 min then unmold and  leave it to cool on a cooling rack.

For the ganache:
  • 150 g finely chopped chocolate
  • 125 ml cream
  • 25 g butter
  • 2 tsp cointreau (or vanilla extract)
Gently heat the cream and pour over the chopped chocolate, whisk until all the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and cointreau and whisk again and finally pour over the cake while it is still runny!


Friday, October 30, 2015

Autumnal Apple, Pumpkin and Walnut Cake

It has become a habit of mine to post a recipe or two around this time of the year featuring pumpkin purée as a main ingredient. Pumpkins are brilliant, versatile, delicious and very healthy. In baking pumpkins do wonders to the texture of cakes and of course add subtle, autumnal and  comforting flavors; flavors that keep you coming back for more.  Pair this ingredient with the smooth and wonderfully spiced apple butter, sprinkle in some walnuts and you're in for a superb autumnal cake that will surely please everyone!

The recipe is perfect for less a gory Halloween celebration or for a sweet finish to your next thanksgiving dinner but it's also perfect for any rainy day when all you want to do is just cuddle under your blanket, drink tea and enjoy a sweet piece of moist  and delicious cake with a soft and creamy frosting. Sounds perfect, right?

Let´s start baking then.

For the cake (6 to 8 persons) you need :
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 210 g brown sugar
  • 150 browned butter (the French call it beurre noisette)
  • 9 g baking powder
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 210 g cake flour
  • 115 pumpkin purée
  • 115 apple butter
  • 100 g lightly toasted and roughly ground walnuts (leave some big chunks if you like)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spices (cloves, star anise, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg)
  • dash of salt

Start by combining the flour, walnuts, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.

In your mixing bowl beat the eggs on a high speed and add the sugar, when the mixture triples in volume and becomes pale and thicker add the browned butter at low speed and mix until combined.

With a spatula add the pumpkin purée, the apple butter and the maple syrup, mix again and lastly fold the flour mixture.

Pour the batter in three 15cm pre-prepared pans (or in two 23cm) and bake in a preheated oven (175C) for 25 minutes. Remember that the baking time might vary so check on the cake after 20 minutes.

For the frosting you need:
  • 250 g soft butter
  • 250 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 220 g powdered sugar
  • flavoring: 1 tsp maple syrup, 1/4 tsp mixed spice or just use vanilla essence.
Combine all ingredients and beat for about 5 min until creamy and fluffy.

Smear some frosting on your cake tray or stand. Put the first cake layer and pipe a generous amount of frosting. Add the second layer and repeat with the second and third layer. Cover the last layer with the frosting. 

I decorated the cake with marzipan apples, pumpkins, acorns and leaves and colored the frosting to go along with the painted fruits and leaves.

Do take some time to make this cake and I´m sure you will like it.
Finally I wish everyone a Happy Halloween.
For more pumpkin recipes click here, here and here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Autumnal Treat: Apple Butter.

Apples are incredibly useful fruits and I always make sure to have some in my kitchen. Apples come in many different colors, textures and sweetness to please even the pickiest of eaters. You know how some fruits are just meant to be consumed fresh? Luckily apples are wonderful as fresh and get even better when cooked or baked. Apples go so well in way too many sweet recipes and what's more, they make wonderful ingredients in several savory dishes.

Nowadays we can have apples all throughout the year, however, the best apples are had during autumn. During this time of apple-plenty, one thinks of ways to capture the essence of apples while they are at their best. Apple jams and preserves is one way but another and perhaps lesser known way is apple butter. Spicy with a silky soft butter like texture, this preparation is a wonderful addition to many sweet and savory goods.

During old times, apple butter was seen as a way to make use of excess apples and since then many recipes have been developed. I opted for a simpler and quicker recipe that delivers the flavor and texture expected from apple butter.

Next time you have lots of apples, make some "butter" for yourself and for others, as it makes a great gift: autumn in a jar!!

To make the apple butter you need:
  • 1 kilo of  peeled, cored and cut into chunks apples (I used different types of apples like granny smith, russet, red delicious, royal gala and fuji as this will provide a mix of sweet and tart flavors)
  • 40 g dark brown sugar, 40 g white sugar (you can adjust the amount to your liking)
  • mix of spices, 1/4 tsp of ground cloves, ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground all spice, ground star anise, ground nutmeg, orange zest and 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • squeeze of lemon

In a pot, mix the apples, sugar, salt and the lemon, add a tbsp of water and cook on a gentle heat until soft. Process the apples into a purée. I used a hand blender and it took me just a few minutes.

Add the spices and cook again until you get the desired thickness. The cooking time will depend on the kind of apples you use, mine took about an hour before adding the spices, and after that they needed about 10 to 15 minutes.

Now you´re ready to fill the apple butter into your sterilized jars. Once cold leave in the fridge.

The uses of this butter are unlimited. Put some in a melted cheese sandwich or with chicken, on a pizza instead of the tomato sauce with arugula and Parmesan and many more. But for me this apple butter really shines in baked goods and I invite you to make it and experiment with its uses. I'm pretty sure you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sour Cream, Vanilla and Red Berries Cake

As I have already mentioned before, sometimes I buy more than I need and I end up with ingredients piling up in my fridge.  Every now and then I feel compelled to tidy up the fridge and use the ingredients that I have before rushing to buy new ones!

I had some sour cream that needed to be used before hitting its expiry date. Sour cream is such a wonderful baking ingredient; it enhances the texture and adds lightness and subtle flavor to baked goodies. With that in mind, I baked a vanilla and sour cream cake and I was so pleased with the flavor and texture that I had to do it again and share the recipe.

This cake is so moist, rich, melts in your mouth and carries the wonderful flavor of vanilla. Add some frosting, the fruits you like and you'll have a great cake to share with family and friends or just for the self-indulgent you!

Let's get going and make this cake.
For 6 to 8 servings you need:
  • 3 large eggs (60 to 70 g) at room temperature
  • 240 g sugar
  • 210 g cake flour
  • 150 g melted butter
  • 150 g sour cream at room temperature
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp baking soda (about 3 g)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract or vanilla paste 

First sift the mix the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Whisk the eggs with the vanilla and when frothy add the sugar and beat for about 5 minutes until you have a tick and pale mixture. Add the butter and sour cream and beat at the lowest speed. Once well combined turn off your mixer and with a spatula fold in the flour mixture. 
To bake the cake I used three 15 cm pans but if you don´t like a high cake use two 23 cm pans. Cover the pans with baking spray, or butter them, place a baking paper on the bottom, lightly spray again and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes in a preheated oven (180C).
Check after 20 min with a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake and it should come out clean if the cake is ready; if not bake them for few additional minutes.

Leave the cakes to cool for 5 min in the pan, then remove them and let them cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:
  • 200 g soft butter
  • 50 g sour cream, room temperature
  • 200 g sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
Combine all ingredients. Start whisking slowly then increase the speed and beat for about 5 min until creamy is almost white.

Smear with a bit of cream the serving plate you're going to use and put the first cake layer. Pipe a generous amount of frosting, put the second cake layer and repeat the process. On the final layer I added just a bit of frosting and arranged a mix of red fruits.

Cut, serve and enjoy a moist and super delicious cake.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chocolate Orange Crinckles and Crackles

After a long and hot summer, I can´t be happier with the arrival of autumn. The temperature are still rather high for this time of the year but not hot enough to prevent us for enjoying chocolate in all its baked goodness. Baking season is on again, and what better than chocolate cookies to start with?

The chocolate cookies recipe I chose will yield not only delicious but also very pretty cookies without any decoration effort. The cookie dough expands and cracks the white sugar layer creating a mosaic effect of black and white that is unique to each cookie.
These cookies have a soft and fudgy texture and can be made in no time. Kids and adults alike can enjoy them with a cup of milk or a cup of coffee.

Like always, recipes can be tweaked to suit your individual taste. The flavors I used to enhance and complement that of chocolate were orange and coffee. But you can add whatever flavor that goes well with chocolate or just enjoy the taste of pure chocolate. 

For  about 24 to 25 cookies you need
  • 110 dark chocolate, melted
  • 60 g soft butter
  • 100 g brown sugar (you can use more if you like sweeter flavors)
  • 100 g flour
  • 25 g cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (about 3 g)
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee (optional)
  • the zest of one small orange (about a tsp)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • fine sugar and powdered sugar for coating 

First sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt then add the coffee if you are using it.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest. Once the mixture is creamy add the egg and whisk until combined, add the chocolate and mix again. When the mixture is homogeneous, and at the lowest speed, add half of the flour mixture mix then add the milk and finish with the second half of the flour mixture.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, either in the bowl, or transfer it to a small square container (about 16 x 16 cm). Once the dough is really cold, you can use a small ice cream scoop to form small balls or just use a spoon. If you left the dough in the square container, divide it into 24 small squares and roll them into balls.

First, roll the balls in the fine sugar then give it a good coating of powdered sugar. Be generous with the sugar to get a really elegant and beautiful result.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cookie balls on top and make sure you give them enough space to expand while baking. The recipe will be enough to fill 2 baking sheets so if you don't have 2 sheets, bake the first  batch while the remaining cookies still happily in the fridge.

Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for 12-14 min. Leave the cookies to cool for at least 5 min on the baking sheet before transferring them onto a cooling rack.

Enjoy a mouthful of melting chocolate cookies with a refreshing autumn flavor that will comfort you any time and every where.