Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A journey into the 1001 Arabian Nights world of sweets and a recipe: Hays cookies

Two years ago I started this blog and a whole world opened up for me on the internet. I discovered  new ingredients, amazing techniques but above connected with amazing people who are fond of food and gastronomy like myself.

On Google Plus I´m an active member of several food communities, one of them is called Foodies, a very active community where I met amazing people. Foodies feature a monthly theme and this month's theme is "Cook A Book" where you have to share a recipe that you have read in a book be it a recipes book or a novel. I really liked the idea but finding that specific recipe you really wanted to share was quite challenging.
I thought really and in my mind came images from the world famous ancient book of 1001 Arabian Nights. It's a book that described with vivid imagination the world during those fabled times. Of course, the book drew upon the lives of ordinary people and featuring several aspects of their living, including the foods they enjoyed and the sweets they craved for.It this this enchanted world of love and intrigue, of djinnis and flying carpets, of Shehrezade and Aladdin that inspired me to make this recipe.

The 1001 tales offered an insight into the amazing foods the heroes of the plots enjoyed. Delicious ingredients like dates, figs, all kind of tasty nuts, honey and also the amazing world of aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon and much more were the basis of the food featured in the tales and the staple of much modern Middle Eastern cuisine.

After some research I decided to make a recipe I've never heard about before:unbaked cookies called Hays. As much as I love baking, but the chance any time I steer away from the oven is pleasant and even magical like the Arabian Nights tales.
The cookies featured in this recipe are so simple to make but I guarantee the result will amaze you as it amazed me. They are packed full with the flavor of nuts, honey and spices. What more can you ask for?

For these nuts cookies you need:
  • 30 g pistachios
  • 30 g almonds
  • 40 g  bread crumbs or cookies crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 20 to 30 g brown sugar (I used panela)
  • 1/2 tsp of honey
  • 15 g of butter
  • Few drops of rose water
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
In a food processor combine all the ingredients except for the honey and butter. Process until you get the consistency of fine crumbs. Add the honey and mix and finally add the butter and mix until well combined.

With a small spoon form quenelles with the cookie dough, just fill the spoon and press it againt your palm then carefully release the cookie on wax or parchment paper. You can make different shapes if you want.
Once finished forming your cookies, put them in the fridge for at least half an hour before you serve them.

Try these cookies with a cup of minted tea or coffee and enjoy a trip to culinary wonderland where you  imagine yourself hovering atop of a magic carpet cruising over the gold and white castles of ancient Baghdad and Damascus!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Deep Scarlet Red Summer Popsicles

As summer nears its end, its great to indulge in the special moments it gives us. What better way to celebrate vibrant summer flavors than to enjoy delicious deep red sweet and tart popsicles?

Like many of  you, I consider popsicles as the best companion for hot summer days. Forget about those commercial popsicles loaded with artificial flavors, colorings and are way too sugary; popsicles are easy to make at home and you control what goes in. The end result will definitely please you.

The popsicles featured in this recipe combine the robust, fruity, refreshing and fragrant flavors of lemon, blueberries and lavender.

To make 8 popsicles (70 ml approximately each) you need:
  • 300 g blueberries
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 250 ml lemon juice
  • Simple syrup (recipe follows)

First put the blueberries in a pan with one tablespoon of sugar and leave it to heat over a low flame. When the berries ooze out their juice, remove them from the heat and set aside to cool. Using a hand-held blender (or a regular one) I mixed the blueberries until smooth. You can pass the mix through a sieve to remove the seeds and the peel if you are picky, but honestly I didn't bother as I like the added texture they give. 

For the syrup you need:
  • 100 ml water
  • 130 g sugar
  • 1 tsp lavender
  • 1 small slice of lemon peel and a squeeze of lemon juice

First heat the water, add the lavender and leave it to steep. Now combine the sugar with water, add the lemon peel and let it simmer on a low heat. When the syrup bubbles vigorously  add a squeeze of lemon juice and turn off the heat. Leave to cool a bit.

Now that you have all the ingredients ready, you just need to combine them and mix.

Pour the liquid in the popsicles molds and put in the freezer to set for not less than 4 hours.

Savor these delicious ice pops on a warm summer night, close your eyes and enjoy the explosion of summer flavors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chocolate and Walnut muffin Heaven!

Chocolate is of course one of the most popular flavors in desserts and its not hard to know why. The depth of flavor chocolate imparts to sweets is hardly rivaled by any other ingredient. The flavor of chocolate is made even more sensational by pairing with nuts that, especially when toasted, add a penetrating rich buttery flavor that goes so well with chocolate.

Muffins are one of the joys of baking. They are extremely versatile, a snap to make, both savory and sweet. I had some leftover walnuts so I decided to use them with chocolate to make a wonderfully easy yet incredibly delicious muffins.

For 5 to 6 muffins you need:
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 35 g melted butter
  • 20 g melted chocolate
  • 75 g brown sugar (this quantity is a minimum you can add more if you like a sweeter result)
  • 50 g flour (I used whole grain barley flour)
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 40 g ground toasted walnuts
  • 4 g of baking powder
  • 50 ml milk
  • One tsp vanilla essence (I also added some coffee liquor)
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

First combine the combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon (if using) and walnuts mix and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the butter and the melted chocolate with the sugar, add the egg and mix until well combined.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture mix then add half of the milk and combine, add another 1/3 of the flour, mix then follow by the rest of the milk and finish by adding the remaining flour. 

Pour the mixture into your muffin tins, you can add some chopped walnuts on the top, and bake them in a preheated over (between 180 to 200C) for 20 to 25 min.
Those muffins didn't rise too high because I filled just about more of the half of the muffin cups, but you can fill them almost to the top if you want them higher.

The time of the baking will vary from one oven to another, so check them after 15 min, if they spring back when touched then they are done!

These muffins are rich, dense and crumbly perfect. They are perfect for chocolate and nuts lovers. Give them a try and I am sure you will like them.