Open for business

Chaifinal
I´m back, and it didn´t take me 3 years this time around!

I´m here to announce that this Friday, October 21st, my baking venture, Chai Pastelería, opens its virtual doors. I can hardly believe the day is finally here to be honest.

Torta de chocolate y café con crema de caramelo y escamas de sal gris

It took months of careful planning, website design (done by yours truly, which explains the delay!), baking, photographing, designing the logo with a graphic designer friend, finding the right boxes for the products, and on and on.

But now it´s all done and I can start actually working and enjoying the fruits of my labor… or slaving myself in the kitchen, depends on how you look at it!

You can see the website here (so far, it´s only in Spanish, but I´ll get the English version running in a few weeks at most). And you can find me in Facebook here and Twitter here.

brownies de chocolate blanco

I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to taking your orders and/or sharing a cooking class with you!

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Oh brother where art thou?

It´s been almost three years since I last wrote, I know! It just sort of happened. And every time I thought about writing a goodbye post, it felt sort of weird because I thought that no one would really mind and because I wasn´t too sure I wanted to pull the plug officially on this little project of mine.

And I was right, I just didn´t know in what way or form cooking was going to be in my life, but now I do! I´m starting a baking project soon (I need to figure out the last few details before it´s live and I can show you the website and everything).

I´m gonna bake different things to order. Namely brownies, cookies, muffins, and cakes, here in Buenos Aires, of course, I really don´t trust international delivery that much!

And I´m also going to be arrogant enough to teach small cooking and baking classes because, even though I´m not a professional cook or baker, I keep getting requests from friends and acquaintances to teach them how to cook, and I´ve done some informal cooking classes, and I´ve really enjoyed them, so I´m gonna go ahead and teach the things I know as best as I can. The idea is for people to find joy in cooking and get a bit more comfortable around the kitchen.

And, using my translation skills, I´m gonna teach a few Argentine food classes for tourists and non tourists who want to learn the classic dishes, in English and/or Spanish depending on the group.

Ok, now that the big news are out of the way, I want to catch you up a bit on my life during these past few years!

In a nutshell, I fell in love with a wonderful guy with the sexiest Colombian accent and the sweetest curls, lost 30 pounds, and traveled to NYC and Seattle again, to Colombia last summer and probably again in a few months… ok, maybe the big news weren´t over!

cocinando

brooklyn bridge

a little piece of heaven

And one of the things I enjoy the most about the mornings with my love are long leisurely breakfasts with great conversations or just comfortable silences and a few mmmms when the food is particularly amazing.

yogurt pancakes

As it was a few weeks ago when he had brought me some great homemade yogurt from the farmers market and I was trying to find ways to use it up. Along came a great recipe for buttermilk pancakes from Beth Hensperger that I did with yogurt and adapted a bit, and served with dulce de leche and a bit of cream cheese (Argentine cream cheese isn´t salty, it´s more like a cream). I still think about that breakfast and swoon, I don´t know if it is because of the pancakes or Jorge, maybe a combination of both!

yogurt pancakes with dulce de leche

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Filed under food, rambling, sweet, This and that, travel

Chocolate Yule log

I wasn´t totally sure I would be able to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge this month. As I´m sure your stress levels can attest by now, December is generally a hectic month, and not just in terms of baking since I don´t bake much since it´s summer here, just in terms of organization, gifts, work, bills, and such.

But luckily for me, this month´s challenge, while very involved, didn´t require much oven time and, even better, was served frozen! Now that I can do!

If you haven´t figured it out yet after reading post after post about “French Yule log”, well, that´s what our hosts Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux chose for us. My hat´s off to you, ladies, wonderful job on picking a challenging recipe, and managing to keep it fun.

So, we had different choices in terms of flavors for the different elements and the shape of the whole thing. I went against tradition and chose to make it in a springform cake pan since I would be serving it to my whole family on Christmas Eve, so it was important for it to be enough for everyone, but also to look big enough for everyone.

The elements I chose are:

1) Almond dacquoise Biscuit

2) Milk chocolate mousse

3) Dark chocolate ganache Insert

4) Praline (Crisp) Insert

5) Creme Brulee Insert

6) Dark chocolate icing

I know it looks scary, but you can make the milk chocolate mousse,  the creme brulee insert, and the crisp the day before, so you have half of the elements done already when you start working on the second day, and those last 3 elements don´t take long to make anyway.

I did the milk chocolate mousse, which is basically a whipped ganache starting with a caramel base (the only modification I made was adding cinnamon to the cream), which was both easy and absolutely delicious, so this one joins my baking repertoire from now on. That´s one of the beauties of multi-element recipes, you may not make the whole thing again, but you can fall in love with different elements and incorporate them to other recipes or use them on their own.

The dark chocolate ganache is also dreamy, and I added some cardamom and cinnamon to it to make it even better. In the case of the praline crisp, I was good and did the praline myself, but after that I felt I couldn´t possibly make an extra element from scratch, so instead of making “gavottes” from scratch, I took advantage of the options and ended up using oat square cereals, which I crushed before mixing with the chocolate.

Now, a big warning regarding the praline crisp: many people in the DB forum said that the crisp made it almost imposible for them to cut the log properly, crushing what was underneath. My crisp wasn´t particularly thin, so I decided to mess with aesthetics and chop it beforehand so I could sprinkle it on top of the mousse instead. It worked like a charm, but I basically lost a whole lot of definition in my layers. But I´m thiking that if you do it with crushed gavottes, you can get a thiner crisp, thus making it possible to cut the log without ruining the whole thing.

Last comments, I wouldn´t recommend making the creme brulee in the chocolate version, since making it vanilla (with a bit of lemon zest in my case) brings a much needed break to all that chocolate. And, even though it looks suspicious, the dark chocolate icing worked like a charm, and had a great shine to it.

For decorations, I did some chocolate triangles using Helene´s trick of pouring them on bubble wrap and sprinkling some leftover praline on the white chocolate.

Well, I don´t know about you, but I´m tired just thinking about all those steps, so I´m gonna go rest a bit before New Year´s Eve. But before you go, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did with this recipe, you are bound to be amazed.

animal cruelty

Oh, and a belated Merry Xmas from Phoebe and me… and yes, she looks pissed off, and I think she was, with every right too, it was her birthday and I was making her wear a Santa hat!

(Recipe after the jump)

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Caramel cake and vanilla caramels

When you have over 1,000 Daring Bakers from all over the world, it´s damn hard to chose a challenge that suits everyone´s tastes and seasons. That´s why when I read that November´s challenged involved a caramel cake and caramels I wasn´t particularly excited since caramel cake is something I could crave during the winter, but not in the summer, and it´s been crazy hot here these past few weeks, so I wasn´t too keen on turning on the oven or making a buttercream frosting.

bite

But that´s the magic of the DBs, you are bound to be surprised. And I was! First of all, I didn´t burn myself while making the caramel syrup, mostly thanks to a very clever DB who commented on the forum that a good way to avoid getting burnt by the splattering caramel was covering up the pan with aluminum foil and making a whole in the middle through which to add the water. I worked like a charm! So thank you Linda for the great tip, my arms will be forever grateful.

This month´s hosts are Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity , Alex from Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food. And they certainly did a great job picking this recipe.

The caramel cake is very delicate and moist, but in a compact sort of way, which I liked, but some people might not agree with me. It´s not hard to prepare either once you have managed to work through the caramel syrup without making a mess of yourself and your kitchen.

caramel cupcakes and minicakes

As for the brown butter frosting, there was dissent in the DB ranks. Many people claimed it was unbearably sweet, which had me quite worried. Granted, I didn´t add as much sugar as the recipe called for, but enough to get the right consistency. And I LOVED it, which is saying a lot since I normally dislike buttercream frostings. It added a whole new dimension to the cake, and although it was quite sweet, it´s wasn´t too sweet, and it complemented the cake perfectly. Maybe this has to do with getting the caramel syrup dark enough (without burning it, that is), since it is used in both the cake batter and the frosting, and I believe it can lack complexity and just taste sweet if it´s not dark enough.

caramel syrup

caramel cupcake with brown butter caramel frosting

I was about to chicken out on making the vanilla caramels since I rarely eat caramels and I don´t own a candy thermometer, nor intend to, so my chances of messing everything up were quite high. But I tried to reassure myself with the old-school methods of soft and hard ball syrups, and went ahead.

Surprisingly, the came out quite decent! When I took them out of the flame, put them in their molds and let them cool, they turn out a bit too soft (which was fixed putting them in the fridge and eating them half-cold). But I didn´t know that until later, so I put half of the batch back in the pan for a quick reheat hoping to make them a bit harder, and well, in two minutes, they went from too soft to too hard (yes, refrain that chuckle, please). So I ended up with hard caramels, but I could still cut them in small pieces and they are still edible, as long as you warn people not to chew on them if they want to keep their perfect smile.

Overall, I´m going to declare this whole venture a big success, summer or winter, and I´m sure I´ll be making the cake again as soon as the weather makes it bearable to turn on the oven.

If you want to check out tons of variations, and what I´m sure will be some breath-taking decorations, check out what the rest of the Daring Bakers were up to this month.

And if you want to give the recipe a try yourself, you can find it after the jump.

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Reinhart´s Naepolitan pizza… and a work in progress

So today is Daring Bakers´posting date and I´m running a little behind. We are doing Peter Reinhart´s Naepolitan pizza recipe, as chosen by Rosa of Rosa´s Yummy Yums. Pizza is one of my favorite foods in the whole wide world, and Peter Reinhart is a master at all things bread, and he wrote a whole book about pizza, so I was really looking forward to this one.

But being a procrastinator by nature, the month just flew by. And, as a lame excuse, I have to say I was trying to make this recipe at my parents´because they have a kick-ass bread oven with baking stones on the bottom, and the sides, and my own oven is a lame gas oven I inherited from the previous owner and I haven´t bought a baking stone yet… well, needless to say, I didn´t manage to make the schedules work, so I´m stuck baking it in my lame oven.

dough resting

As I´m writing this, the dough is resting in the fridge since last night, waiting for my friends to come over tonight to enjoy the pizza party while we watch the last episode of a lame soap opera they watch and I humor them and follow along when we get together.

But being late gives me time to figure out my toppings, and assemble them beforehand, plus I figured I would take advantage of the new poll feature WordPress has added to ask your opinion on the matter.

The recipe yields six thin pizzas, so I have a lot of room to play. My first ideas are:

1. Your typical marguerita pizza: tomato sauce, mozarella, and I´ll be drizzling some pesto on top.

2. A marguerita topped with raw arugula and dried out prosciutto ham sprinkled on top.

3. A spinach pizza with roasted garlic, bechamel sauce and onions and a generous layer of cheese on top.

I´ll update with pictures and comments as things happen.

In the meantime, you can check out a thousand variations of this recipe in the Daring Bakers blogroll.

before
Before

UPDATE 1: I´ve got all my ingredients and now is on to some prep-work. First thing, I dried out the prosciutto. How, you ask? Well, I saw it on tv a while back and it´s so easy I had meant to try it ever since. Basically, you grab two porcelain or glass plates, put a paper towel on top of one plate, then arrange some slices of proscuitto over it side by side, put another paper towel and the other plate stacked on top to add some weight. Microwave it on high for one minute, then discard the paper towels and add new ones (they get soggy with the fat that cooks off), put the top plate back on and microwave again for 1 minute.

prosciutto, dried out
After

Voilá, you have proscuitto chips that you can use as they are to decorate something or chop them up as I´m planning to do and sprinkle on top of pizza or whatever your heart desires. I took some pics for you, which aren´t the best because daylight is going away fast, but at least it gives you a visual idea of what I´m talking about.

I´ll be back soon!

marguerita

UPDATE 2: Well, the pizza is mostly gone by now, and it was a success! I ended up doing 1 spinach one because I run out of spinach and I copied Tanna´s idea of adding eggs to it since I had some killer organic eggs I could use (check out how orange that yolk is), 2 arugula ones with the dried out prosciutto, and 3 marguerita with pesto, just because I run out of the other ingredients and by the 6th pizza I was a bit tired.

pizza de espinaca

rúcula

I used half all purpose and half bread flour, and added the 1/4 cup of olive oil in hopes of having the best of both worlds. And I don´t know if it was the flours, the resting time or what, but I loved working with this dough, see, I even managed to do the flipping the dough in the air action shot! haha Which also served the purpose of adding a show to the dinner party! Oh, and for those of you wondering, the final episode of the soap was craptacular, as expected.

revoleando la pizza

I have to say this recipe is definitely becoming a regular in my house. So If you want, you can check it out after the jump, with GF options included.

PS: Sorry for the crappy pictures, it was late at night and I didn´t want to take forever with the pics. I did my best “fixing” them with Picnic at Flickr, but they are still bad.

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Filed under bread, Daring bakers, food, savory, vegetables

Gluten free Persian cardamom cookies

Where did time go exactly? Sorry about that! I think it´s safe to say I´m not one of those responsible bloggers who update regularly… I guess that, even if I struggle with it, I should keep the responsible part of my personality focused on work-related matters, this is a hobby, so I fight against the sense of duty whenever it comes up. The minute I make this another one of my duties, it turns into work, and I so don´t want that!

Persian cardamom cookies

So I guess that was my way of saying sorry, but also try to explain the lack of posting, and my utter inability to see if I´m going to go back to more regular blogging or persist in this intermittent fashion of mine. I have tons of recipes to post though, so I will probably post some without much commentary on my part in an effort to catch up.

In the meantime, bear with me as I try to find my rhythm. I love having you visit, comment, and talking to each other, so just add this to your blog feed reader to prevent unfruitful visits to the blog.

Ok, now, on to the recipe, and a book recommendation while we are at it. If you haven´t got a book called Home Baking, the artful mix of flour and tradition around the world, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, I´d say you should definitely consider getting it. For me, the photos alone make it worth your while because it´s a bit of a mix between a cookbook and a travel book, and what better way to travel than through your stomach, really (and considering the state of my wallet and the world economy right now, I would suspect we all get creative with the day dreaming and the stomach-traveling, because the real type of travel might have to wait a while!).

Persian cardamom cookies

In the book, you can find both sweet and savory recipes, many of which are on my to-make list, but the one that went straight into the top of my list was a recipe for Persian cardamom cookies using rice flour.

The fact that it was made entirely out of rice flour was intriguing, and anything with cardamom is high on any of my lists. And I have to say they didn´t disappoint. They are perfectly crumbly, and obviously a different kind of crumbly than cookies with wheat flour, but great nonetheless. And if someone is crazy enough not to like cardamom, I see this working as a template to try with different spice combinations. And if you know anyone who has celiac disease and has to live gluten-free, I figure this would be a great way to make their day and open up their baking repertoire in the process.

Persian cardamom cookies

Persian cardamom cookies (from Home Baking, by J. Alford and N. Duguid)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup confectioners´ sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (seeds from about 5 green cardamom pods)

2 cups rice flour, plus a little extra for kneading

Pinch of salt

About 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios (here I used 1 whole pistachio per cookie because I was looking for a simpler looking cookie)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with paddles (or your regular mixer, I used my hand-held mixer and it was perfectly fine), beat together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg yolk and cardamom and mix in. Mix together the flour and salt, then add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix in. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. The dough will be a little stuff for the mixer, so turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until well-blended, smooth, and soft.

2. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as 12 hours.

3. Place two racks just above and below the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper (or use your silpat mat if you have one).

4. Knead the chilled dough briefly, then divide it into 4 equal pieces. Cover and refrigerate 3 pieces while you work with the remaining piece. Cut off a generous teaspoon of dough and roll it under your palm to make a ball, then place on one of the prepared sheets and flatten it slightly. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. Use a thimble or a fork to press a pattern into cookies and sprinkle some chopped pistachio on each (here I got in an anarchistic mood and pressed them a little flatter with my hands and just placed one pistachio in the center of each cookie.)

5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly brown on the bottom; switch the positions of the baking sheets and rotate them after 10 minutes. Like all shortbread-style cookies, these are fragile right after baking; use a wide spatula to transfer them carefully to a wire rack to cool (and I suggest waiting two minutes before even attempting that). Once cooled, store in an airtight tin.

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Chocolate eclairs with dulce de leche pastry cream

Yes, it´s all about dulce de leche around here lately, but in my defense, it was too tempting not to go that route. You see, this month´s Daring Bakers challenge, as chosen by Meeta and Tony is Pierre Herme´s Chocolate Eclairs.

His are filled and glazed with chocolate, but I´ve never been one of those people who enjoy chocolate on chocolate. Maybe a chocolate cake with a ganache, but the cake has to have some extra flavor in there at least. And we were given the choice to either change the filling or the glaze, so I decided to change the filling since I figured the glaze would be straightforward enough. Wrong! I couldn´t believe my eyes when I was reading the recipe and realized that the chocolate glaze called for chocolate sauce as one of the ingredients, yes, recipe within a recipe, gotta love that.

In Herme´s defense though, that base chocolate sauce was great, very simple, and there was plenty leftover, so I got to test its awesomeness over and over again. But still, I like to keep things simple, so a simple ganache would have worked perfectly for me as a glaze for the eclairs.

But enough bitching, and let´s get down to business. For the filling, I immediately thought of dulce de leche since that´s one of the traditional fillings for cream puffs here in Argentina. And you would be right if you assume that to be over-the-top sweet. At least for me it is. But many traditional desserts with dulce de leche in Argentina are what we call “empalagoso” (meaning the kind of sweet that makes your mouth “cringe”). So you can imagine that if there´s a special word for it, there must be plenty of times when that word is necessary… even if my older brother says there is not such thing in the world as a dessert that is empalagoso, but anyways, I´m getting sidetracked here.

What I was pointing towards with this little detour of mine is that, at least for my taste, the filling couldn´t be just dulce de leche, straight up. So I decided to do a little experimentation and create a dulce de leche pastry cream. What I did is just using a regular pastry cream recipe (Dorie Greenspan´s to be precise), and adding 1/2 cup of dulce de leche to each cup of room temperature pastry cream. So I did half of that, and I used the other half of the pastry cream I had prepared as a lemon-infused filling, by adding tons of lemon zest to the half of the pastry cream I was using for this as soon as I took if off the heat (of course, if you are doing it all lemon, you can add the zest to the milk from the beginning). Another good choice for a dulce de leche filling would be to mix whipped cream with dulce de leche and use that as a filling. I personally liked the pastry cream version better for this, but the other one is still great, and it is faster, so I won´t judge you if you go that route.

Overall, the recipe wasn´t too difficult, just a little fuzzy. But it did have the unpleasant side effect of wrecking havoc in my poor little kitchen… I swear, every little thing in there was covered in chocolate.

Oh, and another thing, beware of the recipe layout, it can make you a little dizzy, like when it tells you to use the cream puff dough while it´s warm, but you had forgotten to preheat the oven early enough because it must have said that in the first page, leading to a nice freakout, and a not-hot-enough oven. And you want a hot oven when it comes to eclairs.

Don´t get me wrong, though, I did enjoy the results, oh, yes I did!

And for a thousand ideas for eclair fillings and toppings, check out what the other Daring Bakers did with this recipe.

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