Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lemon and Thyme Shortbread Cookies.

I like neighborhood shops, of all kinds. They are more friendly and have this extra human interaction that you just don't get in large supermarkets. Down in my building, there's a shop that saw many businesses come and go in the past few years. Last winter, I couldn't be happier to see that this place is now a flower shop. As I go to work and come back home I am greeted with various beautiful shapes and colors and not to mention the familiar and exotic scents.
I often stop by to check out the latest arrivals and last week a small plant with the cutest small purple flowers caught my attention. It was a thyme plant with a fantastic aroma; I bought it immediately.

As I got home I started thinking of the many recipes that one could make with thyme. I went with one that would also feature the fresh lemons that I got from Valencia and it is this recipe that I am sharing with you. Both lemons and thyme capture the essence of Mediterranean summers and having both ingredients in one recipe is just what I needed to cope with the hot days Madrid has been experiencing lately. There are many recipes of shortbread out there and almost all are pretty easy and straightforward. Like many basic doughs, shortbread dough is flexible enough and can absorb as many flavors as your heart desires and this is what I did with the lemons and thyme I had!

To make around 8 to 10 round shortbread cookies flavored with thyme and lemon you need:
  • 120 g white flour
  • 25 g potato flour (you can use rice flour or cornflour instead)
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 g butter (room temperature)
  • zest of a small lemon
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of chopped thyme leaves
  • dash of salt
Cream the butter with the sugar. When well combined, add the lemon zest, the thyme, the salt and mix again. Finally add the flour and mix well with the butter mixture. 
Wrap the dough in plastic and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight as I did.
You can shape the cookies as you like. What I did is to flatten the dough until about 1 cm thick and then used a 6 cm round cutter to cut out the dough.

After shaping you need to refrigerate the cookies for half an hour. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven (170 C) for 10 to 15 min. The baking time depends on the shape of the cookies and your oven. The rule of thumb is that you don't want to cook the shortbread for too long. You just need  the cookies to acquire a light golden color.

The cookies are delicious as they are, but if you want you can add a bit of lemon icing for an extra  touch. The icing is made by simply mixing some powdered sugar with lemon juice. You add just enough lemon juice to have the pouring consistency you like.

Decorate, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ruffled Milk Pie, a Greek Classic!

I don´t know about you, but in most of my trips to the supermarket I end up forgetting what I came in for initially and instead buy stuffs that, let's say, were not really needed urgently.

So during my last supermarket adventure, I bought filo pastry because it was just there and I couldn´t resist! I also bought way too many blueberries and raspberries. When I left, I thought to myself, how on earth am I going to consume all of these fruits before they go bad or are no longer in their prime flavor and texture?

In my head I started jumping from one recipe to another in which I would use the fruits and the pastry together, and I finally landed on a pie I saw many years ago while watching a Martha Stewart show. The Galatopita, a typical Greek recipe, was prepared on the show  by Vefa Alexiadou and I loved how simple and beautiful the pie was.

I felt that the pie would lend itself beautifully to berries and so I decided to twist the original recipe a little by omitting the cinnamon and using the excess blueberries and raspberries I had. If you want to stick to the original recipe, by all means do, it is perfect as it is: sweet, crunchy, creamy and with a mild taste of cinnamon.

To make this pie, for an 18 cm pan you need:
  • 7 filo sheets
  • 50 g melted butter
  • 100 g of mixed berries: blueberries and raspberries
  • 130 g sugar
  • 2 eggs (about 100 g in total)
  • 100 ml milk and 100 ml of cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
First you need to generously butter your pan. Then brush a filo dough with the melted butter and place some berries at the longest side of the sheet; I used 3 blueberries and 3 raspberries in each sheet. Roll the sheet to just cover the fruits then gather the rest of the sheet to create the ruffles.

Roll the ruffled sheet into a flower shape and place in the pan. As you work on one sheet of filo, make sure to cover the other sheets with a damp cloth or kitchen towel to prevent them from drying.

Once you have all your filo filled and rolled bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 25 to
30 min or until the dough is golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine the milk and the cream and let them simmer on a low heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, slowly start adding the hot milk mixture. You need to temper the eggs before adding the rest of the milk and cream mix.

Add the custard mix over the filo and bake in the oven again for another 20 to 25 min or until you see that the mixture is set. If you feel the custard mix is in excess to what the pie needs, reserve the excess and cook separately.

Serve with a dust of powdered sugar and extra fruits. Enjoy the crunchiness of the filo on the top layer, then the tart and fragrant flavor of the fruits and the velvety smooth creaminess of the bottom layer.

What a wonderful Greek pie! I highly recommend you try it, especially if guests are coming over!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Gluten Free Chocolate Cake with a Spicy Twist!

It must be one of my favorite combinations: chocolate and salted caramel. Add to the chocolate chili, you will get an exquisite dessert that combines spicy, chocolaty, nutty and sweet flavors.

This cake is adapted from a Jamie Oliver´s recipe, it´s really easy to make and you can add your own twist to it. In my case I added chili, I just love how chocolate and the strong hot chili flavor combines to the perfection. I have used this combination before and for me it's a winning one. Here you can check my chili chocolate soufflĂ© recipe, it´s really worth a try.

To make this cake you need few ingredients and a little effort.
For 4 to 6 portions you need:
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 100 g dark chocolate (I used a 72% variety)
  • 20 g sugar (if you don´t want to  add the caramel you might want to add more sugar)
  • 80 g ground almonds
  • 20 g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • dash of salt
  • 1 chili finely chopped (use less if you can't handle the spice or more if you can!)

First melt the chocolate with the butter. I usually  melt them over a bain marie, but this time I used the microwave. The results are similar. In the microwave you need to carefully melt the chocolate in short bursts of 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Don't be tempted to leave the chocolate for a long time, as chocolate can burn really fast in the microwave if you are not careful. Ideally, put the mix of chocolate and butter for 30 seconds, remove it, stir and put it back again for another 30 seconds until the chocolate melts. Use shorter cycles once you see most of the chocolate pieces have started to melt. 
In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar the eggs yolks, until the mixture thickens and becomes pale yellow.
Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until you have stiff peaks.

Now combine the yolk mixture with the chocolate, add the vanilla, the chili and the almonds, Mix until well combined. Now add 1/3 of the egg whites and beat until you have a loose mixture, then gently fold the rest.
I used an 15 cm springform for the amount of batter, which I lined with a parchment paper and covered with baking spray.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake between 15 to 20 min in a preheated oven (175C). The longer cooking time will give you a more set and cakey cake whereas the shorter cooking time will give you a soft and gooey center! You choose depending on your preference.

If you want to serve it with salted caramel here is my recipe for a luscious caramel sauce.This cake is a must try if you love adventerous food combinations or if you are a fan of heat in your food!

Serve the cake with a dust of cocoa powder and coffee, or add the caramel on top of a vanilla ice cream scoop, and get one amazing dessert that will please everyone!