Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kumquat and Turmeric Upside Down Cake!

When I first moved to Madrid, it was a bit hard for me. I left my family, friends and country behind for the first time. That was a real challenge. However, Madrid is such a welcoming city and its people are really nice that I quickly managed to adapt. Now after all these years, I can easily say Madrid is my home. Even when I escape its hectic city-life pace, I quickly miss it and can't wait to get back.

Probably, the things that I love the most about Madrid is how cosmopolitan it is, its amazing parks, beautiful streets and its hidden little gems here and there that can be easily missed if you don't know your way around the city.  Being an international city, home to millions and welcoming millions of visitors annually, you are spoiled by the variety of ingredients you would find here.

As I walk around my neighborhood, a favorite pastime of mine,  I am always delighted to discover new shops that open up and showcase ingredients that are not readily available elsewhere.
Recently I discovered a Chinese grocery and was so glad to see a wooden box full of kumquats. Without much thinking, I went inside and bought these little nuggets of intense zesty freshness.
I ate half of what I bought and saved the rest for a recipe I wanted to test: a citrusy cake spiced with turmeric!

The end result was a cake that's easy to make, full of flavor, and quite pretty without any post-baking decoration.

For a 20 cm pan you need:
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 110 g sugar
  • 110 g soft butter
  • 120 g cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp to 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • zest of 3 kumquats or half an orange
  • 1/2 tsp cointreau (optional)
  • About 10-15 kumquats for the bottom
First grease the pan, cover it with parchment paper and generously butter the bottom and the sides.

Sprinkle sugar over the butter, slice the kumquats and arrange them over the butter and sugar layer.

In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, turmeric and salt and set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter and the sugar, then add the eggs one by one while mixing and finish with the zest and cointreau. Once everything is well combined, fold in the flour mixture.

Pour the batter in the pan and bake in a preheated oven (180C) between 25 to 30 min. Remember the baking time varies between an oven and the other, the size and the material of the pan, so always check after 20 min.

Once the cake is well baked and golden in color, take it out and let it cool for about 5 min and the flip it over the serving plater. Peel of the parchment paper and let it cool completely.

The cake is perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, you can also serve it with whipped cream or yogurt and honey. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blueberry, White Chocolate and Cardamom Bondies!

One of the reasons why I love baking and cooking is that it allows me to experiment with new flavors and create my own version of popular sweets. I may lack courage in some aspects of my life, but when it comes to the kitchen, I just love to play around with different flavors. After all, if the result is not what I wanted, I can start again.

Brownies and blondies are 2 easy recipes that everyone can make whenever craving for something sweet. The base recipes call for only few ingredients and from there you can take the recipe the way you want by adding spices, fruits, nuts, chocolate chips or any other ingredients you could think of.

The blondies featured in this recipe combine between the sweetness of white chocolate and the tart flavor of the blueberries. These two ingredients alone would give you a wonderful flavor, however, I wanted to add a spice and I was not sure which one. I surely didn't want to use cinnamon as I have used quite a lot recently  even if it would have been a great combination. Instead, I went with cardamom, a deeply aromatic spice with a citrusy character that goes well with the tartness of blueberries and complements it. 

Though I had a feeling the combination of these three ingredients would work, but I wasn't sure as I had never tried it before. Now I am happy to say that the flavors are complementary, well balanced and utterly delicious. I couldn't have asked for more! 

Once baked, the blondies had such an enticing aroma that I had to refrain myself from eating the whole batch before I finished photographing them. 

And now let´s start with the recipe.

For this recipe you need (18 x 18 cm pan):
  • 100 g fresh (or frozen) blueberries 
  • 100 g butter
  • 120 g flour
  • 1/4 tsp of salt and another 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100 brown sugar (for optimum results use dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (depends on how strong you want the flavor)
  • 100 g white chocolate cut into small pieces 

Start by combining the flour with the salt, cardamom and baking soda.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan; you want to melt the butter and not to heat it, just warm it through. Add  the butter to the sugar  and whisk until well combined.

Now add the egg and mix well again.

Slowly fold in the flour. Finally, mix in in the chocolate and the blueberries.

Pour the batter in a pan (previously lined with baking paper), and bake them in a preheated oven (180 C; 350 F) for about 20 to 25 min, or until the edges and the top have a golden brown color.

Let the pan cool down. Remove the blondie and then cut into squares or rectangles. 

Enjoy the tasty spicy, tart, and sweet little squares of decadent blondies with coffee or on their own.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Chocolate and Marsala Poached Pears Cake.

What's life without few healthy addictions here and there? I know that many, like me, cannot go by a day without having a small piece of good quality chocolate or a small glass of wine. Luckily, though I love chocolate, I can control my cravings and limit my consumption. I honestly think that if you have a small piece of good quality dark chocolate (70% and above) you won't feel the need to eat the extra sweet chocolate offerings that are more sugar and cream than chocolate.
I noticed that my chocolate craving is higher in colder weather than warmer one. I guess it's the comforting feeling of chocolate at work!
This winter in Spain has been really weird. We had some really warm spring-like days  while others were icy cold.
The past weekend was one of those rather cold days, and of course for me this weather is all about comfort and soul food.

In this recipe I used two of  my favorite ingredients, chocolate and wine, in a rather easy recipe to make with an amazing result. The recipe will get extra marks from you if you like the taste of spices.

Let´s tackle to the recipe that has two parts.
First you need to poach the pears. For that you need:
  • 3 pears (I used limonera pear)
  • 500 ml Marsala wine
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 strip of orange peel and 1 of lemon 
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 20 g sugar

Peel the pears. In a pot combine the wine, sugar and spices then add the pears and poach for about 20 min. Make sure not to overcook the pears as they will go to the oven again. Remove the pears, and leave the wine to reduce a bit more. You can do this the night before,

For the cake, (enough for a 20 x 11 cm pound cake pan) you need:
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 100 g soft butter
  • 100 g white sugar and 20 g brown sugar
  • 100 g cake flour
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 g baking powder (a bit less than a tsp)
  • 50 g melted chocolate
  • 75 g of the wine and spices syrup

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter, add the eggs one by one and mix until well combined. Add the chocolate and mix again. When you have an homogeneous mixture, fold in the flour mixture and at last add the wine and mix well. Pour 2/3 batter in the greased and prepared, line the pears, then cover with the rest of the batter. Bake between 35 to 45 min in a preheated oven (180), or until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake has a deep flavor, with a crumblyand melt in your mouth  texture and a soft fruity and spicy heart. For me it's a perfect comforting dessert best enjoyed with a cup of coffee watching a movie after a long day's work.

You can serve the cake as it is, but I wanted some more chocolate so I made a syrup/ganache. If you want to make it you need:
  • 75 g chopped chocolate
  • 75 g cream
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chocolate liquor (optional)
Combine cream, cocoa powder and honey in a saucepan and heat until all is well combined. Off the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until it melts, add the liquor and your done!

Served alone, with cream or with the warm chocolate ganache, this cake is really worth the try.