Thursday, April 24, 2008

When life gives you free organic gigantic lemons...

I'm lucky enough to have friendly neighbours that have lemon trees. It's not unusual to come home and find a plastic bag hunging on my door nob full of these wonderful fruits. Last week we had not 1 but 2 full bags of gigantic lemons given to us, so not wanting them to go bad I decided to make lemon juice ice cubes.

So I got almost all of the lemons (left some to use fresh) and cut them in half. Got my juicer and ignoring the burning sensation from the cuts in my hands I made more than 1 liter of juice that I then strained. Being a clumbsy person I thought it would be dificult to poor the juice into those ice cube bags without spiling but actually I did quite well! Yeah!!!!! Off they went to the frezzer and I now have enough lemon juice for ice-teas, granitas, sorbets, etc, for a while. Plus divided like that into convinient cubes/doses it's much easier to use. I guess I was having my "2 minutes smart time" I'm awarded each month...

Today the sun is shining bright and inviting me for a homemade ice-tea, much better than any store bought kind!
  • LEMON ICE TEA

  • 1 frozen lemon juice cube (the juice of 1/2 lemon I'm guessing)
  • 1 bag black tea
  • 1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
  • Ice cubes

Make the tea and dissolve the sugar while it's still hot. Add the lemon juice and adjust the sugar if you think it needs. Poor over ice cubes and serve or store it in the fridge for later.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One weekend... two cakes

Last weekend I had 2 birthdays, and in my language that means 2 cakes! First one was for my cousin 20th birthday, he plays bass guitar in a band and is also full of exams at university. So here it is, him trying to escape the book with the music close by. It's an M&m's cake and it was a big sucess with his friends!

And this girly little cake was for Julieta's 1st birthday. She's the daughter of a dear friend, the first baby of my group of friends so it' s a pleasure to spoil her! This one was marbled chocolate and coconut.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ganache step-by-step

Today I decided to talk about one of the most used creams in pastry: The Ganache. It has so much versatillity and can be used in so many ways, with diferent flavours that I think everyone should know how to do a good one. Ganache has it's origins around 1850 in France or in Switzerland. History (or legend) says it was invented by accident by an apprentice baker, who by mistaque poored cream into melted chocolate. The pastry chef was so mad that called him a ganache (a silly person in french), but then after tasting the mistaque he decided it was very good and started using it.

A basic ganache can be made with just 2 ingredients, chocolate and cream, and optionally butter. You can use any kind of chocolate and even mix different kinds to achive the bitterness/sweetness you're looking for. It can be used for truffles, fillings for molded chocolates, fillings or icing for cakes, sauces, rich tart fillings, to glaze or sandwich cookies, etc. It can even be whipped for a lighter texture almost like a mousse.

Here I'm using half dark chocolate, half milk chocolate. The consistency of the ganache will depend on the percentage of cream but also from the type of chocolate. Darker chocolates with a higher cocoa solids will make much more consistent ganaches than the ones made with milk or white chocolates.

Flavours will depend on your imagination: licors, coffee, caramel, extracts, teas, spices, fruit purés, herbs, etc. In the picture above I'm using black tea infused in the cream. You can infuse whatever you want, but if using alcohol be sure to add it at the end.

Regardless the types of chocolate or the amount of cream, the method of doing the perfect ganache is the same:

Slightly melt the chocolate (not totally) as seen in the picture on top. Use chips or finelly chopped chocolate and 1 minute in the microwave will do. Get the cream and heat it just until before boiling point, add here the flavorings you're going to use. Straine the cream unto the recipient where the chocolate is and let it rest for a couple of minutes without touching it (1). This will slowly melt the chocolate and create a better texture (2). After a couple of minutes you can start mixing it using a spatula (3).

Start from the middle and you'll start to see the texture changing. It will look strange at first, but it will all come together nicely and soon you'll have an uniform shiny cream (1-3).

At this point add little nobs of butter at room temperature, if using, and keep mixing until the butter is melted and fully integrated in the ganache (4). The butter will give a bit of elasticity and also more shine. Add licors now at the end, alcohol will create a reaction with the fat and will make it much thicker after cooling but you will notice it right away.

Ok, now you have your ganache ready! It will need some chilling time to gain consistence to spread or to make balls for truffles. If it becomes to thick, leave it at room temperature until it's softer.

Me? I poored mine into a tray to cut later and make bombons, I'll show you those some other day.

Here are 2 other examples of ganaches: 1 is a milk chocolate ganache with chestnut pure added at the end and 2 is a plain white chocolate ganache.

  • BASIC GANACHE

  • For truffles and bombons

  • 1 kg (35.7 oz) chocolate
  • 500 gr (17.9 oz) cream
  • 50 gr (1.8 oz) butter (optional)
  • Flavour of choice ( I used 30 gr (1oz) black tea)

  • For fillings

  • 1 kg (35.7 oz) chocolate
  • 1 kg (35.7 oz) cream
  • 50 gr (1.8 oz) butter (optional)
  • Flavour of choice

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No-recipe Crumble

When I’m working I really have to follow recipes word by word. It’s important to have consistency when you’re serving costumers and this is true both in cooking or baking. But specially in baking, often related to science, things have to be really accurate, in order to obtain the exact same product over and over. It’s amazing how a simple change will change the final product, sometimes a “silly” thing as a different type of flour or sugar, oven temperature, whipping time or even a brand of a product. For instance the other day I received a call from a restaurant where I’ve created the desserts and the girl was all stressed out cause things were coming out strange: Girl: There’s something wrong with the recipes, desserts are not coming right… Me: But weren’t they working until now? Girl: Yes… Me: Are you sure you’re following the recipes, you didn’t change anything? Girl: No, I do them the same way always… And it’s not only one thing, there’re a couple of things that are coming differently… Hummmmmm what a mystery… But after she told me what exactly was happening to the desserts I asked if they had changed the cream. They had changed the brand of cream, and this new one has a much higher percentage of fat. Mystery solved! So they went back to the old one and everything was fine again. Anyway back to my point here. I don’t know if it’s because I have to be so strict at work, but when I’m baking at home I enjoy a bit of freedom! A lot of times I don’t use recipes and trust my instinct to eyeball the ingredients. This really annoys my mom, when she wants to recreate something I have made and I don’t have a recipe to give her, only ingredients with no measurements… I’m going to make the same thing with you, hoping you won’t be annoyed! Crumbles can be a diet dessert, because you can adjust the ratio filling-crust to suit your taste or your waist… You can easily use 3-4 apples with no added sugar for the filling and use as little as ¼ cup crust to top it and just give it a special feel you don’t get from eating a plain apple. Also if you’re a carbs person, you can use like 2 apples for 2 cups of crust (one in the bottom and one on top). Either way, there’s no going wrong with this, even without a recipe…

NO-RECIPE CRUMBLE

Crust:

Whole weath flour (or AP, or whatever you fancy)

Light brown sugar (or white…)

Butter (cold)

Rolled oats

Flax seeds (very optional but I like to use it)

Ground walnuts

Salt

Cinnamon

Ginger powder

Filling:

Apples (or pears, or a mixture of the 2…)

Cinnamon

Light brown sugar

Raisins

Prepare the crust: in a food processor place flour, spices (to your tasting), salt (a pinch), oats (about 1/3 of the amount of flour) and a little each of flax seeds and walnuts (omit or use other nuts). Pulse until combined. Add the sugar, again to your tasting (if you have no clue add about half the quantity you have in your food processor by now) Now get the butter and add little by little (1 tablespoon more or less), pulse and add more butter until you’re happy with the texture (some like it crispier- add less butter, some prefer it more consistent- add more butter and let the dough bond a little).

For the filling: Peel and dice the apples in small chunks. Toss with a bit of cinnamon and sugar to taste.

Assemble: Get about 1/3-1/2 of the mixture and pat down on a baking dish. Cover with the apples and top them with the remaining crumble mixture. Sprinkle with more rolled oats for extra crispiness. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) until it’s golden brown.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

7 Things

The nice Hendria who bakes from Canada tagged me to share 7 things about myself. So very quickly here it goes:

7 Things about me:

  1. I allways drink a huge very hot latte for breakfast.
  2. So far I have lived in 5 different countries and I don't know if there will be a 6th.
  3. I can't ride a bike. I know, I know it's about time...
  4. My favourite thing of all times to eat is Ice-Cream! Anytime, any place, any flavour! Love them and have eaten meals only of ice-cream. It's nutricious after all...
  5. I live very close to the beach. It's great to get up in the morning, put my blinds up and look at the wonderful sea.
  6. Besides this blog I have another one for more than 3 years now.
  7. Last! I'm a very clumsy girl! Still in a funny kind of way, but there is not a day going by that I don't bump into something. I'm allways covered in bruises, burns, cuts...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My grandma's lard cookies

Ok here's the thing, if you are a vegetarian, jew, on a diet or simply have something against pork fat you might wanna stop reading now. My grandma is from a very small village, where back in the days people were quite poor and with no acess to many ingredients. People had to turn to things that were most common and used them with criativity to creat sweets. So many great things were borned this way, I love this kind of family recipes. Butter was considered a luxury item and was not available in that village until much later. One thing they had were pigs and all pig related stuff. Lard pared with olive oils were the only fats used. The recipe of these cookies was given to my grandma by an old lady that owned a bakery. My mom and oncles grew up on these, but they were not the only lucky ones. Me as well, I was fortunate to have done the cookies many times with grandma. Don't be turned off by the amount of lard. Note that the recipe makes a lot of cookies and the lard gives them an unique texture that you can noy get with anything else. And no, they don't taste like pork. And you know what? My grandparents must have eaten tons of these thru out their lives and they are both alive still today with 86 and 89 years old!
  • MY GRANDMA'S LARD COOKIES

  • 125 gr (4.5 oz) lard
  • 125 gr (4.5 oz) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lemon (rind)
  • flour: more or less 400 gr (14.3 oz)
  • cinnamon (to sprinkle)
Melt the lard and add the sugar. Use a spoon to mix it, add the eggs and lemon. Add the flour little by little until the dough is playable and you can mold balls without getting it sticking to your hands. Roll small balls and if you want sprinkle with cinnamon before putting in the oven. Bake at 180º C (350º F) for about 7-8 minutes. Cookies will be white and soft, but they will get harder when cold.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spring Flowers

Margarida, the name of the birthday girl means daisy in english, so these were perfect for her. It's a basic sugar cookie with vanilla icing.
I guess they were a sucess with people and bugs alike!...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Brigadeiros

Eduardo Gomes was a brigadier that run to president of Brazil in the 1940s. He was an handsome man that conquered the brasilian ladies of that time, that used to throw parties in its honor to promote his candidature. This sweet thing was born in one of these parties and named after the brigadier (brigadeiro in portuguese).
Because of the War there was a shortage of nuts, fruits and other products so the ladies created this truffle-like candy with chocolate powder that Nestlé has just introduced in the country. They also used sweetened condensed milk, very much apreciated in all South America.
As it was so easy the "brigadeiro" soon expanded to all the coutry and became extremely popular. It is probably the most knowned sweet in Brasil. There is no party today without a tray of these sweet little balls. Some people don't even bother molding them, they just eat it out of the pan with a spoon, then called "brigadeiro de panela" (pan's brigadeiro).
Althout I'm not from Brasil I grew up on this. I don't know anyone that would say no to one, everybody just loves them, specially kids. I made 2 huge trays for my little cousin's birthday and they were gone in less than nothing!
  • BRIGADEIROS
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tbsp chocolate powder
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee (optional)
Mix everything in a pan and take it over low heat stirring constantly with a spoon. Let it thiken until the spoon can leave a path in the bottom of the pan. poor into a buttered plate and let it cool down.
Butter your hands as well to mold little balls and pass them on chocolate or colorful sprinkles. Put On little paper cups and watch disappear.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mom's fiber cookies

I invented this yesterday for my mom. She just loves this kind of "healthier stuff", I think she feels less guilty eating this things made with brown sugar and whole wheat flour. I actually also liked this ones, they're quite addictiv, very tasty and with different textures.I'm guessing they have a similar amount of calouries than "not so healthy" cookies, but this ones are probably much better because they're real high in fiber.This is just a twist on a normal sugar cookie but made with whole wheat flour, brown sugar and some bites and bytes I had arround.
Usually low fat or low sugar pastry items are not very exiting, that's why I like to play with these ingredients and transform them in something really nice even I (Miss sweet-tooth) like
They are also really nice with jam, (just ask my mom!)... She actually called me today to forbid me of making more of these, because she ate almost all of them allready!
  • MOM´S FIBER COOKIES

  • 250 gr (9 oz) whole wheat flour
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz)low fat soft butter
  • 80 gr (2.9 oz) dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried plums
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds

Mix everything together (no worries) by hand or with a mixer (paddle attachement). Put in the fridge for a couple of hours and roll out. It's easier to do in between 2 sheets of baking paper, then precut the dough or cut into shapes. Arrange in a cookie tray and bake for about 15m at 175ºC (350ºF).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Let's start this...

I've been thinking about having a food related blog for such a long time... Now with all these food blog events I've been bumping into lately I really felt the urge of being part of this growing and friendly comunity! I'm a pastry chef and can you tell I love my job?! I just love it! Even when I'm not at work I can't get enough of new recipes, pictures (great consumer of foodporn here) and... you've guessed it if you said food blogs! I'll be posting recipes from my homebaking adventures, thoughts, maybe a bit of history on food and some stories from the kitchens where I bake. I also enjoy cooking so you may expect to see some salt here as well from time to time. I love to feed people and I hope I can feed you with fun and yummy posts!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Welcome to my kitchen!

I'll be baking soon!