Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lime Tartelettes

Before the summer is officially over, here is another refreshing and delicious lemon/lime recipe!
By now, I think you are all quite familiar with my passion for lemons and all things citrus.

Though I quite like pies, I don´t make them often. I thought it's time to use more of the delicious organic limes I had at home.

The crust I made was inspired from a Marry Berry recipe but with slight modifications. with some modifications to make it even more crumbly and delicious. For the curd, I used the recipe of the famous French pastry chef Pierre Herme. I don't think you will ever use any other recipe; the lemon cream is beyond delicious.

For the crust you need (enough for 6 tartelettes, 8 cm diameter):
  • 175 g pastry flour
  • 100 g cold butter cut into cubes
  • 25 g powdered sugar and 20 g vanilla sugar
  • 45 ml of cold vodka (or water)
  • Dash of salt
In the food processor, mix flour, sugar and salt, pulse for few seconds to combine, add the butter and pulse again to get a sandy mixture. Slowly add the vodka, first one tbsp then teaspoon by teaspoon. Each flour has a different absorption capacity, so be careful not to get a soggy dough.

Once the dough forms a ball, drop the mixture on the working surface and just gather it. Do not over work it. Wrap it in plastic and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 6 mm thick and place it in the pie mold. Prick it with a fork, cover it with baking paper, add some beans or ceramic beads, and bake in a preheated oven (180C) for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and the weight and bake for extra 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 

For the lemon curd
  • 2 eggs
  • the zest of 2 limes or lemons
  • 90 ml lime or lemon juice
  • 150 g soft butter
In a big bowl combine the zest and the sugar and mix well (I did that the night before to allow the sugar to absorb the lemon flavor). ِِِِِِAdd the eggs and whisk until well combined. Add the lime or lemon juice, and whisk again. Put the bowl on a pot with simmering water (or double boiler) and keep mixing for about 10 minutes or until the mixture reaches 82 C and thickens.
Take off the heat and let it cool for at least 10 minutes until the temperature drops to under 60 C. Add the butter and whisk until well combined. Leave the cream to cool completely. You can keep it in the fridge in a well sealed jar for up to 5 days! 

For the meringue you need:
  • 60 g egg white
  • 100 g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • lemon zest or few drops of vodka
In a clean bowl placed over a pot with simmering water, add the whites, salt, sugar and zest or vodka. Start whipping on slow speed until the mixtures reaches 45-50 C. Once it reaches this temperature remove it from the heat and gradually increase the speed until you reach the top speed. Keep whipping until the meringue forms stiff peaks. 

Fill each tart shell with lemon curd and be generous to fill it up to the top.

Pipe some meringue on the top. You can skip the meringue if you want, but it does add a nice touch and it balances the tartness of the lime cream.Blow torch the meringue for a brief time to give it a beautiful color.

Decorate to your liking and you're ready to serve.

Keep in mind that once you burn the meringue you have to eat it immediately. If you place the tarts in the fridge, you risk getting a soggy meringue and wet tarts.

I hope you try these little cute tartelettes, as the French call them. They do require some time to make with several steps but the final result is so worth it: crumbly and buttery base, a lemony and creamy curd and a soft and sweet meringue! Just the perfect combination! Seriously I doubt you will stop at one, I know I couldn't!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Limoncello, a Refreshing Italian Liquor

When life gives you lemons you make tarts, cakes, lemonades and if you are feeling adventurous, you make limoncello! 

I recently got my hands on a lot of organic lemons, and they were more than I needed. However, when you get your hands on good quality organic lemons, you can use them in so many ways. I used most of them to make refreshing pitchers of lemonade to cope with the heat of sunny Spain. 
With the remaining lemons, I wanted to try something that I had never dared to make before and that is liquor. I cannot remember when I first tried limoncello, but I remember that it I loved it instantly. No surprises there, I think I love everything that has lemon in it.  Ever since I was young, I loved eating lemons slices sprinkled with some sea salt, or even eating the pulp of squeezed lemons! 

Naturally, I was excited to try this Southern Italian spirit that was first concocted at the beginning of the previous century. I had always thought that it was complicated to make, but when I read about the process of making it, it seemed pretty straightforward and simple. It only requires four ingredients and some time. 

To make one liter bottle you need:
  • The peels of 10 organic lemons (you need only the yellow outer skin and none of the white part)
  • 1 bottle of vodka (about 700 ml; use the brand that you prefer)
  • simple syrup using 200 g sugar and 220 water

In a jar, combine the peels with the vodka, tightly close the jar and leave it in a dark and dry place for at least 10 days.

All you need to do during the steeping period is to shake the jar once a day. After 10 days, the color of the vodka will take on the beautiful bright yellow color of the peels.

You can prolong the steeping period for up to four weeks, but after ten to fifteen days, the result will be pretty good.

To make the simple syrup, just combine the sugar and with the water and heat for about 10 minutes. You will get around 400 grams of syrup. This will give the liquor the needed sweetness. You can add more if you want, but I don't like it any sweeter.

Now that the vodka has all the flavor and color of the lemons, you need to strain it into a big pitcher, and mix it with the simple syrup. You need to stir well to make sure the syrup is mixed thoroughly. Transfer to a bottle and let it rest in the fridge
for few hours or a day. The recipe will yield a bit more than one liter of limoncello, so you can use a larger bottle if you want or put the rest in cute small bottles.

Limoncello makes a wonderful aperitif or digestif before or after heavy meals. It's also great on its own, mixed in drinks, added to cakes or baked goods. It's such a useful drink to make at home.

Finally, don't discard the lemon peels! You can dry and grind them to make a wonderful spice to add flavor to meringue, cakes, cheesecakes, tarts and just about anything that requires a hit of lemon flavor.

For other lemon recipes click on the following links: ricotta lemon cakelemon and shortbread cookiesblueberry and lemon popsiclesblueberry lemon and coconut cakelemon and coconut madeleinesmum's lemonade

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Matcha and Raspberry Financiers

There are so many recipes that require you to use eggs whites or eggs yolks only. This can be troubling to some, as you will be left with more yolks or whites than you would have liked. In the latest recipe that I shared, I used egg yolks and was left with the whites. I normally freeze the whites if I won't use them within 24 hours. However, I had a recipe in mind that called for egg whites and I was quite excited to try it.

The French Vistandine order of nuns developed a perfect recipe to deal with the extra egg white they had: financiers. My recipe is a take on this simple, yet ingenious, cake recipe.

Financiers are almond based and like many almond based recipes they fell out of fashion due to the widespread fear of cyanide poisoning. It wasn't until Chef Lasne, a renowned pastry chef, brought the visitandines, as they were called, to life by the end of 19th century. His shop, next to the Paris stock market, attracted financial workers who flocked to savor his cakes, especially the financiers as they were easy to carry and did not stain. To further promote the cake, he changed the mold and gave it the shape of a gold bar! His marketing strategy worked and the financier was born.

No matter what shape of mold you use, this cake is delicious, with a soft interior, a firm exterior, and a satisfying nutty flavor.

For 12 small financiers you need:
  • 100 g egg whites
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 70 g butter
  • 70 g almond meal
  • 35 pastry flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 g of matcha (fine green tea powder)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of rum (optional)
  • Raspberries
First mix all the dry ingredients together: flour, almond, salt, matcha and sugar. Sift into a bowl.
Melt the butter and cook it for about 5 min. You need to hear the butter singing and smell a sweet hazelnut aroma filling your kitchen. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Add the egg whites, the lemon zest, lemon juice and rum to the flour mixture. Mix until you get a homogeneous mixture. Add the butter and mix well again.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least an hour or better overnight.

Heat the oven at 180C. Fill your molds. I used small ones with a capacity of about 2 tablespoons. Add a couple of raspberries and bake for about 10 min.

I opted for a shorter baking time to preserve the beautiful green given by the matcha powder. In all cases, you need to adjust the baking time depending on the mold you´re using and your oven.

Let the cakes cool for few minutes in the molds. Unmold and place over a wire rack to cool completely.

Sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

These cute little cakes are soft, packed with beautiful sweet and sour flavors, and they melt in your mouth. You will enjoy each and every bite.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Red Currants and White Chocolate Pots de Crème

In summer and to cope with the heat, we tend to consume more refreshing meals, fresh fruits and vegetables, salads and chilled desserts. 

While it's entirely true that the dessert I´m sharing with you in this post is not exactly light in terms of the calories it packs, but it's served cold and in small portions making it a perfect summer dessert! 

This custard-like French dessert is very similar to creme brulée but with few key differences such as the lack of the famous caramelized sugar crust.

To the classic vanilla flavor of the cream, I added white chocolate and a touch of fresh sourness brought by the red currants. Whenever I use white chocolate in any recipe I like to balance its sweetness with tangy fruits, especially berries.

To make 6 little pots (60 ml each) you need:
  • 3 egg yolks and some of the white to weigh 75 g (note, do freeze the eggs whites if you can't find a way to use them immediately)
  • 50 g chopped white chocolate
  • half of a vanilla pod
  • 40 g sugar (adjust to your liking)
  • 200 ml cream and 75 ml milk 
  • red currants
Preheat the oven at 150 degrees C (around 300 F).

First, with the back of a knife, remove the seeds of the vanilla pod and add them to the eggs. Add the emptied vanilla pod to the cream and milk and gently heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and keep simmering for about five minutes. Once you smell the vanilla, add the chocolate and stir until it melts. 

While the cream is heating, mix together the yolks with the sugar and vanilla seeds.  You need to whisk until you get a creamy and pale mixture. 

Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks while whisking vigorously. 

Add between 5 to 7 red currants in each ramekin, then add the cream through a sieve. 

Arrange the ramekins over a tray. Put the tray in the oven and add enough hot water to cover half or two thirds of the ramekins. Be careful not to spill water into the cream.

Bake the cream pots for about 20 to 25 min in the preheated oven. Do check on them from time to time. Gently shake one of the ramekins and if there's a slight wobble in the center it's time to take them out from the oven. Remember that the cream will continue to cook for a while after you take it out of the oven so you don't want it to set completely while baking. In addition, you need to keep in mind that the baking time will differ depending on the ramekins you use, the oven, the quantity of cream you pour into each pot and even the tray on top of which you have put the ramekins. I used a ceramic tray so if you are using a metallic one you might need to consider this factor as trays heat differently. 

Once baked, take them out of the oven and let them cool completely. Put them in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve the cream pots with some red currants, shaved chocolate and a small dollop of sour cream, if you fancy some extra indulgence.

This dessert is a perfect finish to a summery dinner party and its refreshing flavors, balanced sweetness, and silky smooth texture will delight your guests. With luck, you will have some extra ramekins that you can enjoy on our own and ward off the heat!

Bon appetit  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Pecans

Vegan baking can be a bit challenging, no question about it. But with some tweaks here and there, and playing around with ingredients, nothing is too difficult.
Although vegan baking seems like a novelty, in reality, it's not. A while ago, I posted a traditional vegan recipe that I grew with and I know there are many more out there.

Most vegan recipes are an adaptation from regular ones laden with the usual suspects of non-vegan ingredients! The chocolate cake recipe I´m sharing today is adapted from a book my brother gave me a couple of years ago called "The Cake Decorator´s Bible". I tweaked the recipe a bit by adding caramelized pecans  and rum. I figured that the combination would be successful. I mean after all, it's chocolate and nuts, you can never go wrong with that!

The end result was pretty amazing. The cake was very moist and fluffy with a deep chocolate flavor and a satisfying butteriness coming from the pecans. You won´t miss the eggs and butter at all. 

To make this cake you need (23 cm loaf pan):
  • 200 g pastry flour
  • 35 cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp baking soda
  • 100 g white sugar and 50 g brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp dark rum
  • 100 g caramelized pecans, processed into powder
  • 80 ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • 230 ml water

In a bowl combine  flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground pecans. Whisk to combine, then add the oil, water and rum. Whisk until no flour lumps are visible.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for 40 to 50 min in a preheated oven (160 C) or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool for five minutes in the pan. Remove and let it cool completely on a wire rack. 

You can serve the cake as it is, or with chocolate syrup, and if you want an extra luscious touch you can prepare, like I did, an easy vegan chocolate cream frosting.

For the frosting you need:
  • 100 g vegan butter or margarine
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 50 grams ground caramelized pecans (optional)
  • 30 g powdered sugar; you can add more if you like it sweeter. 

Combine all the ingredients and whisk until fluffy. Add on the top of the cake and garnish to your liking.

I hope you give this vegan recipe a try and I would love it if you shared your ideas for vegan baking.

Bon appetit!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blueberry, Lemon and Coconut Cake

Five years have passed by since I started blogging. This blog has certainly kept me busy and distracted from all of life's stresses and hard times. Whenever I need an escape to a more peaceful and calmer world, I run to my little kitchen and start mixing, kneading, shaping and decorating. Time flies when you are doing something you love and you just enjoy every single moment!

To celebrate the blog's fifth year anniversary and all the beautiful moments it helped me to live, I decided to make a simple, easy, yet delicious cake with vibrant, fresh and summery flavors.

I´m not revealing any secret when I say that I´m obsessed with berries, all kind of summer berries, and I just love to eat them fresh or use them in my baked recipes. Blueberries were my choice for this cake and I married their flavor with that of lemons and coconuts. Trust me when I tell you, the result was amazing! Give this cake a try and you won't be sorry!

Now for the sponge you need for five 15 cm in diameter pans:
  • 5 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 150 g sugar
  • 150 g cake flour
  • dash of salt
  • 60 g melted butter
  • Zest of 2 big lemons
  • 1 tsp of kirsh (optional)
  • 50 g shredded coconut

Combine sugar, eggs, lemon zest, kirsh and salt and start whisking at low speed and then start increasing until you get to the highest one; beat for at least 5 minutes. The mixture should triple in volume, become very pale in color and with a cloud-like texture.

Add the flour and the coconut. Mix gently with a spatula until everything is incorporated. Finally, add the butter and mix slowly.

Pour the batter in the greased and lined pans.
If you don´t have 5 pans of the same size, pour the batter into 2 pans and then once baked slice your cakes. Be careful that the baking time will vary as you change the size of the pans.

Bake the cake in a preheated oven (160 C) for about 18-20 minutes. Leave the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan then unmold and transfer them to a cooling rack.

For the blueberry sauce:
  • 250 g fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 125 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • half vanilla pod
Combine everything and cook the berries for about 15 min, on a very gentle heat. If the sauce is too runny, just scoop out some of the liquid, but reserve to serve with the cake.

For the frosting:
  • 150 g soft butter
  • 50 g cream cheese or mascarpone
  • 100 to 150 powder sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Combine butter, cheese and sugar and beat until  fluffy and pale, add the lemon juice and beat for few seconds.

To assemble:

Place a bit of the frosting on the cake board and then place the first layer. Pipe some of the frosting on the cake and spread with a spatula to cover the whole layer then pipe a small circle round the edge.In the middle of the cake layer add a tbsp or 2 of the blueberry sauce and then top with another layer. Repeat until you have covered all the layers,

Add some frosting on the top and edges, smooth with a scraper then decorate as you wish. I covered the top with fresh plump blueberries and multi-colored pansies and added some petals and flowers on the sides too.

Do make this cake and enjoy its light and summery flavors.

From now and until the sixth year blog anniversary keep on baking!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Roasted Rhubarb Sorbet

I guess it's a sign of the changes to come, but summers are starting earlier and winters are becoming milder. Climate change debate aside, it has been warmer than usual for the past month here in Madrid.

When it becomes hot, I like to hide indoors whenever possible and indulge in all sorts of cooling foods and drinks. Beer, smoothies, salads, cold soups, ice cream, popsicles, and sorbet are all my go to food and drinks to keep me refreshed.

The star ingredient of this post is not something you find easily here in Spain. You have to fish for it in specialty grocery stores.  This year I was lucky to find a shop not too far from my place that sells rhubarb and I try as much as possible to buy these lovely burgundy stalks.

I bought quite a lot of rhubarb recently with the hope of using them in at least three recipes: jam, galette and a deliciously refreshing sorbet.

The sorbet comes in time to help me ward off the heat. What's more, it takes just a few ingredients to get a light dessert that is gluten and dairy free!

Ready to make some rhubarb sorbet? Let's go. You need:
  • 250 g of rhubarb, cut into 2 cm long pieces
  • half a vanilla pod 
  • a strip of orange peel
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a pan and roast the rhubarb until soft and juicy in a preheated oven (180). It will take about 20 minutes, give or take.
Set aside to cool

While the rhubarb is cooling prepare the syrup
  • 150 g water
  • 125 gr sugar
  • squeeze of half lime
  • tbsp of kirsh, vodka or rum (optional, for a softer sorbet)
In a sauce pan combine all the ingredients, and on a gentle heat cook the syrup until it thickens a bit or until it reaches 105C.

Combine the rhubarb and the syrup and process until you get a silky smooth purée.

If you have an ice cream maker, just follow the manufacturer's instructions to make the sorbet. If not you have 2 main options:

  1. Pour the rhubarb purée in a shallow dish and put in the freezer. With a fork, scrap the mixture every hour or so to prevent crystallization.  
  2. Let the rhubarb purée freeze. Once frozen, transfer the mixture into a blender and blitz until smooth.

Now just scoop and enjoy as it is or use it to make a refreshing rhubarb mimosa to enjoy with friends or by yourself!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Caramelized Pecans

Almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts were always part of my diet while growing up, in both sweet and savory dishes. Pecans on the other hand were a late discovery for me. Ever since my first pecan, I fell in love with their flavor and texture. Nowadays, I go to sleep feeling better knowing that I have a batch of pecans resting in my fridge or cupboard!

Pecans were not always easy to get by in Madrid. but lately, thanks to more specialty shops opening around every corner, stacking up on pecans is no longer a tricky affair.

Being rich in fats, all nuts pair well with sugar. In Spain, caramelized nuts are a popular treat. During local festivities you are always guaranteed to be swept away by the indulgent and enticing aroma of caramelized nuts being freshly prepared in market squares and fairs across the country.

Though caramelized nuts are more popular during winter times, there's no reason not to prepare them at home any time of the year. That's why I decided to make a batch of caramelized pecans to nibble on to ward off hunger pangs or to sprinkle on cakes and more for that buttery sweet crunch they deliver.

To make a small batch of caramelized pecans, you need:
  • 110 lightly toasted pecans (put them in a preheated oven at 100 C just until fragrant)
  • 75 brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 25 g coconut oil (for a vegan option) or butter
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)
In a saucepan combine all the ingredients but the cinnamon. Over a gentle flame, slowly mix everything until the sugar melts and coats all the pecans, once everything is combined add the cinnamon and mix again.

Quickly drop the pecan on a parchment paper and with a spatula try to separate each pecan and set aside to cool.

Once cooled down, put in a glass jar and store in a cool and dry place.

Caramelized pecans are a wonderful treat. Perfect as a light snack on their own, they can also be crushed and sprinkled over plain yogurt, or added to cakes, pancakes and muffins for added flavor and texture.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Almond and Quark Cake

It´s been a while since my last post, and I thought it was the right time to share an easy cake recipe.
The Google+ community foodies+ is celebrating the month of cheese, that's why my recipe features this much beloved ingredient. I also recommend that you check this active community for wonderful recipes from across the globe. 

I had several recipes in mind, and it was really tempting to make another cheesecake, but I didn't succumb to the temptation! Instead, I went for a gluten free cake using almond meal instead of regular flour. The cheese element of the cake comes from the quark cheese, a type of soft creamy and tangy cheese made from soured milk.

The quark cheese went into the cake batter, which helped in making the cake rich and moist. Moreover, the cheese mixed with fresh fruits made the perfect topping for the cake.

For the cake you need; for 6 to 8 servings (20 cm round pan):
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 50 g soft butter
  • 130 g quark cheese
  • 170 g sugar
  • 175 g almond meal
  • 10 g corn flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of half lemon or a 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
First combine the dry ingredients (almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and corn flour) and set aside.

In a bowl mix the butter, cheese and sugar. Once combined add the eggs one by one then add the vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk in the dry ingredients until combined. Pour the mixture into the greased and lined pan.

Bake in a preheated oven (150 C) for about 50 minutes. I opted for baking at a a gentle heat because I didn´t want for the cake to puff up and form a dome. You can bake it at 180 C and it will take less time, just keep an eye on it.

Leave the cake to cool.

For the frosting:
  • 100 g quark cheese
  • 100 g cream cheese
  • 50 g butter
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • berry coulis (recipe follows)
  • 12 tsp vanilla extract
You need to bring the two cheeses and the butter to room temperature before mixing.

First mix the cheese and the butter, and once well combined add the sugar, vanilla and the desired amount of the coulis (I added 25 g).

For the coulis or sauce you need
  • 150 g of mixed berries
  • 20 g sugar
  • 12 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
In a pan mix the berries with the sugar and vanilla, simmer on a gentle heat, once the fruits are tender. Run through a food processor and then sieve. 

Pour half the frosting on top of the cake, right in the middle. Using  the back of a spoon or spatula, spread the frosting leaving a bit of distance from the edge. Decorate with fresh berries.

Serve the cake with extra frosting and coulis if you want.

Enjoy this sweet, tangy, moist, and tasty cake with a cup of coffee or tea.