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.