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.

Enjoy!

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. 

Assembly:
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.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sfouf, the Vegan Anise and Turmeric Semolina Cake


In a previous post I went over that special ingredient my mother always had/has on standby to use to whip a lot sorts of sweets including a childhood favorite, the crumbly yellow yumminess we call "Sfouf".  This turmeric or saffron colored/flavored cake is still on my list of favorite desserts that are also incredibly easy to make.

The cake has some other claims to fame! Beyond being easy to make and requiring very simple ingredients, it is a vegan, suitable for lactose intolerant people and those with egg allergies. Additionally, it can be easily made with polenta or gluten free flour for gluten intolerant people.


Back home, we used to make this recipe a lot during the lent season. Being a vegan recipe, it suited my parents well as they abstain from any meat or dairy for a period of 50 days. In addition to sfouf, we would look for other vegan recipes (like this rice pudding) that suited our cravings for sweets in the lent. As traditions mean a lot to me, I like to make sfouf during this season, especially in the last days of the lent.  It's a sweet reminder of days gone by!

It is worth mentioning that there is a non-vegan recipe of sfouf, but let's leave this for another post!


As you will see, the recipe is pretty simple. It is also quite flexible and you can adapt it to your own liking. I like my version to be more crumbly. That's why I use more semolina than flour. But if you want a more consistent cake invert the quantities mentioned below. Another thing you can modify easily is the quantity of sugar used; adjust to your liking.

The main flavors of the cake come from the use of two spices: anise and turmeric. Yet again, you can adjust the quantities to your liking, just be careful that turmeric in excess would give an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.  I used anise in two ways:  anise infused water and ground anise. My parting from the traditional cake I knew is my use of a small quantity of ground mahaleb cherry seeds. The use of mahaleb is totally optional, you can omit it or use instead some almond extract.

For an 18 cm round pan you need:
  • 150 g fine semolina
  • 100 g cake flour
  • 125 g sugar (you can use less if you want)
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp ground anise
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mahaleb cherry
  • 100 g oil (I used a mix of ;light olive oil and sunflower oil)
  • 200 g boiling water
  • 1 tsp anise
  • sesame seeds, walnuts, pine nuts for the topping
  • Tahini paste to coat the pan (if not available use oil)
First you need to infuse the anise seeds in the hot water and leave to cool.


In a bowl, combine semolina, flour, sugar, turmeric, ground anise, salt, baking powder  and mahaleb cherry and stir to mix the dry ingredients.

Add the oil and mix well. Add the anise water and whisk until well combined.

The batter will be rather liquid which will give you a moist cake. Pour the batter into the tahini covered pan.

Sprinkle the topping of your choice, I used three. Sesame is the traditional topping, but you can use cashews or pecans. Experiment and make the recipe your own.

Bake for 30 min at 180 C. Check after 25 min; insert a skewer in the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean then it´s done. 



Leave it to cool for about 10 to 20 min, remove it for the pan and wait until it cools completely.
Now all you need is to slice, sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar and enjoy with a cup of mint tea or coffee.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bailey's Cheesecake, an Exceptional Cheesecake!


I often take inspiration from sights, sounds and certainly flavors that surrounded me while growing up. This post is also a trip into memory lane again like the last postDuring Christmas, as far as I can remember, tradition called for the offering of any visitor wishing us a Merry Christmas various sweet items such as chocolate, cake, dragée, and a small shot of liquor. Out of all the available options, my parents opted for Bailey's Irish Cream, and I can understand why! Though I could smell how delicious it was, I was not allowed to consume it of course. Once old enough, Bailey's was my first alcoholic experience, and it was love at first sip! Even till today, Bailey's remains one of my favorite drinks. 

In addition to drinking spirits and liquors, in moderation of course, I like to incorporate them into my cakes as they add another flavor dimension. Given how tasty Bailey's Irish Cream is, it is only appropriate that I use it in one of my recipes. The best candidate that I could think of was a cheesecake based recipe. I knew the combination would just work and I used the boozy cream in the three layers of the cake. I can't begin to describe how delicious it was, I just recommend that you try it and taste for yourself;  your taste buds will thank you for it! 



For the brownie base you need:
  • 75 g semisweet chocolate
  • 65 g unsalted butter
  • 50 g white sugar and 25 g dark brown sugar
  • 30 g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 5 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 tsp of Bailey's Irish Cream
Line an 18 cm pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. 

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 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 egg, Bailey's and the vanilla. Mix until everything is combined well. Now add the sifted dry ingredients, and mix well.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 10 to 15 min in a preheated oven (180 C). 

Leave it to cool.



For the cheesecake mix:
  • 600 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 120 g Greek yogurt ( you can use instead thick yogurt or sour cream)
  • 130 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 4 to 5 tbsp of Bailey's Irish Cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp of instant coffee

In your mixer bowl, add the cheese and mix on a low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the sugar,  yogurt, coffee and flour and mix again until well blended and no lumps are visible. 
Add the eggs one by one and keep mixing on a low speed. 

Finally add the salt, vanilla, Bailey's cream and mix for less than one minute. 

Pour the batter over the baked brownies and gently shake and tap to even the top. 

Bake in a preheated oven (150 to 160 C). 

Usually it's customary to wrap the spring-form pan with aluminum foil and place it in another pan filled with warm water and then bake for the required time that is usually for a pan of this size one hour to one hour and a half (oven-dependent).  This Bain-Marie method of cooking is needed to bake your cake at a gentler heat to avoid surface cracks.


What I do is different though. I put in the middle layer of the oven a pan and fill it with warm water then place the cheesecake pan over a cookie sheet and put both over the pan. This creates  a steamy environment in my oven and allows the cheesecake to cook all the way through while retaining a smooth creamy texture and most importantly with no surface cracks whatsoever.

After one hour, turn off your oven, shake the tray, make sure the middle is still a bit wiggly and leave the oven door cracked open for another half an hour to an hour. 

Let the cake cool completely before you put it in the fridge overnight. 


You can serve the cheesecake as it is, it´s amazingly delicious but a layer of a velvety chocolate ganache won´t do yo any harm, no? 
To make the ganache you need:
  • 100 g  dark chocolate
  • 100 g cream (35%)
  • 1 tbsp Bailey's cream
Chop the chocolate into small chunks, heat the cream to a gentle simmer, then add over the chocolate and mix until all the chunks have melted. Now all you need is to add the Bailey's, stir  and let the ganache cool down for few minutes before you pour over the cheesecake.


The cake will taste even better few days after it was baked. However, I'm sure it won't last much.  
Don't be too indulgent, invite a friend or two to share this special cheesecake with!

Enjoy! 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Semolina, Pistachio and Rose Water Cake


I grew up in a house where a jar or two of semolina were always laying around in the cupboard waiting to be used in some of our favorite recipes as kids.

My mother would always buy 2 kinds of semolina: fine and coarse. Each had a different use. Mom would use the fine one to make a vegan semolina and saffron or turmeric cake, while the coarse one was reserved to a sweet and syrupy semolina cake dotted with almonds. I will share both recipes with you the soonest.

Semolina is the star ingredient of the famous Easter cookies we make every year during the holiday. I'll be making a big batch soon and let me tell you that I can't wait to make these delicious crumbly cookies.

Taking inspiration in all of these recipes and some more, I made a cake that screams the Eastern Mediterranean to me with its delicate fresh and floral flavors. The cake is moist, packed with flavors and what's really neat is that it only takes a bowl and a hand whisk to make!



For the cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g soft butter
  • 50 g yogurt (plain, no added sugar or fruits)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g pistachio paste
  • 50 g ground pistachio
  • 175 g semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 250 ml of simple syrup (recipe follows)
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the yogurt and mix well. Add the eggs one by one and mix until well combined. Incorporate the pistachio paste, ground pistachio, salt, semolina, baking powder and baking soda and whisk again.  Finally add the rose and orange water.


Pour the batter into a greased pan covered with parchment paper. I used a 16 cm round pan, and baked the cake in a preheated oven (175 C / 345 to 350 F) for about 40 to 45 min. Check after 35 min with a skewer, it should come out clean. If you use a bigger pan, reduce the baking time.

While you bake the cake prepare the syrup:
  • 130 g sugar
  • 130 g water
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp rose water and 1 tsp of orange blossom water
Combine sugar and water and simmer on a gentle heat. Once the sugar has dissolved and you start seeing bubbles on the surface, add the lemon, leave it for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat.
Add the rose and orange water and mix.


Once the cake is baked, leave it to cool for 5 minutes, remove it from the pan and then pour the syrup all over.

To serve, decorate the cake as you see fit. I have a big box of hairy floss so I decided to add some on the top to decorate my cake; it's also quite the delicious addition.

The cake pairs well with vanilla or mastiha ice cream, Greek yogurt, and honey. However, the cake is quite delicious on its own and does not necessarily need any additions.