Category Archives: sweet

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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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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Filed under food, gluten free, sweet

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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Argentina 101 part IV: Panqueques con dulce de leche

Yes, I know I´ve been gone for ages, but I´ve been quite busy and I´ve been exploring other things, like photography… yes, I finally took the plunge and started a photography course. Which is not to say I haven´t been cooking, quite the opposite, there has been plenty of action in my tiny kitchen…

Hell, I even made dulce de leche from scratch! YES, I DID! and not using condensed milk, but real milk straight from a cow. However, being a tease and not having produced decent pics from that endeavor, you are going to have to wait a couple of weeks for that particular post because I want to have perfect step-by-step photos to show you every single detail of the dulce de leche making process.

But I do have a very common Argentine dessert to show you, and I truly made it all from scratch because I used the dulce de leche I had made myself: I´m talking about “panqueques con dulce de leche”, panqueques meaning crepes.

It´s one of those simple things that are truly trascendental, especially if you make the crepes right before eating and spread the dulce de leche when the crepe is hot so it softens up and the whole thing is warm when you eat it… gimme a sec, I need to run to the fridge with my spoon to get a little reminder of what dulce de leche tastes like… ok, all done.

So, if you have dulce de leche in your pantry or know where to find it, start cracking some eggs ASAP, otherwise, wait just a little while and I promise you I´ll show you how to make some spectacular dulce de leche.

panqueque
panqueque

Panqueques con dulce de leche

Crepes (from Beth Hensperger´s The Bread Bible)

The recipe yields 16 to 18 7-inch crepes, but you can do what I did and divide it into three, either that or freeze the leftovers.

3 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup water (here I did milk as well since I was using 2% milk instead of whole milk)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cooking spray for greasing the pan

1. Using a blender, food processor, immersion blender, or whisk, combine the eggs, milk, water, flour, and salt, beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once. Add the melted butter. The butter will be the consistency of cream; adjust the consistency, if necessary. Conver and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. (The batter can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. Bring the batter back to room temperature and add the butter just before baking.) If your batter is lumpy, strain it.

2. Lightly grease a seasoned crepe pan or a 9 to 10 inch nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat until hot. Stir the batter to avoid separation. Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat and pour in about 3 tablespoons of batter, tilting and rotating the pan to completely cover the bottom. If the batter does not spread quickly, it is too thick and needs to be thinned with water. If the batter stiffen when poured into the pan, the pan is too hot. If the crepes have holes, fill in with a few drops of batter. Plan on a few uneven crepes at first while regulating the heat of the pan and thickness of the batter.

3. Cook until the bottom is brown and the top dry, less than 1 minute. Turn the crepe over with a spatula and cook the second side until speckled, about 20 seconds. Slide the crepe onto paper towels or a clean dish towel. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking as the crepes are done and spraying with cooking spray only if they are sticking. (Crepes may be cooled, transferred to a heavy-duty plastic bag and refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month. Let refrigerated crepes stand at room temperature 1 hour before filling. Completely defrost frozen crepes before using.)

For the filling:

dulce de leche, 1 or 2 tablespoons per crepe, but it depends on your sweetness level

Spread the dulce de leche down one side of the crepe and make a roll, or spread whichever way you want really and fold in a triangle or however you want really. Make sure the crepe is freshly done or reheat it quickly in the microwave or covered with aluminum foil in the oven making sure they don´t dry out. Some restaurants in Buenos Aires heat up the crepes when they are already filled with the dulce de leche, but I find that only leads to overly hot dulce de leche… which turns to burn people´s mouth (yes, I do speak from experience!).

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Filed under Argentina, food, sweet

A cake to celebrate

When the lovely Chris of Mele Cotte announced the Daring Bakers July challenge was announced, a shudder went down my spine. Nuts, and lots of them, and hazelnuts, which I´m not really a fan of. I don´t know what happens in the rest of the world, but almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts have been getting more expensive around these parts. As in, 6 pesos for 100 grams, as in, I never eat nuts.

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But I decided the recipe sounded tempting enough to go for it, especially if I managed to find a birthday to justify baking the most expensive cake ever. And I found the perfect birthday boy, my cousin and godson Martín.

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Doesn´t he look adorable? Well, he actually is, in between hyperactive fits. And he truly has a life worth celebrating, since his heart gave him trouble from the moment he was born. Fortunately, he´s perfectly fine now, and he is one of my favorite people on earth. It´s no secret I like unusual people, and Martín gives me plenty to love. Even before he was able to speak, he would crack jokes only he would understand while playing with his toys and started laughing. And he has some peculiar sense of humor… I don´t really know how to describe it exactly, but he likes to play with words and to exploit the ridiculous side of life.

And the morbid side every once in a while too. Like the time he was about 4 and he was asking everyone how old they were, so when he got to our mutual grandpa and he said “82”, so Martín said, as if he was stating the most obvious fact ever, “oh, so you are the one that´s going to die first then.” haha Ok, it´s funnier if you are not my grandpa, of course.

But I´m getting sidetracked here by Martín´s awesomeness, since we are here to talk cake, people. So, after having shelled out those precious pesos for the almonds and the chocolate. I set about to make the cake, which let me tell you, isn´t too bad if you do some things ahead of time, tedious things like peel almonds.

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And making caramel to make praline and fancy decorations.

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And then you make the cake, fill it up with whipped cream or buttercream with the praline paste you made before. Cover it up with a ganache, whipped cream or buttercream, your fancy caramel thingies, and voilá… easy, right?

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Ok, maybe not particularly fast or straight-forward, but I have to say this probably was one of the best cakes I´ve ever made. It was very moist and it tasted amazing, if I may say so myself.

So if you ever want to honor someone special and have some time to spare… or find a good bunch of almonds or hazelnuts on sale, I´d say this is the cake to make.

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And for a thousand other takes on this recipe, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did.

Recipe after the jump

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Italian sweets

Ricotta, chocolate, orange and pistachios. Not a bad combination, right? Well, that what we Bakenistas chose to bake this month, meaning cassata a la siciliana.

cassata

cassata

It´s the typical cake I would probably not tackle on my own, but is likely to surprise me, and this one certainly did, I absolutely loved it, it´s moist, chocolaty without being overwhelming, and has some extra crunch and flavor on top with the almonds and the candied orange peel.

candied orange peels

candied orange peels

The original recipe called for a rum syrup to soak the cake in, but I´m not much of a fan of rum and a friend of mine who is pregnant was going to be eating this cake, so I went with an orange-flavored syrup instead… oh and no almond extract in the glaze either, because I hate almond extract with a passion. I just covered the cake with actual almonds and candied orange peels and that was that.

cassata

cassata

Before I forget, I need to warn you that this cake is very filling (I´m thinking it´s the ricotta since it doesn´t have tons of butter or anything crazy like that), so you easily need 8-10 people to eat it. Luckily, Sunday was Día del amigo in Argentina, which is a day in which we celebrate friendship and friends, so a bunch of friends helped dispose of the cake that night. The recipe doesn´t say anything about freezing, so do a couple of minicakes halving the recipe or halve the recipe and do it in a loaf pan if you don´t want to be eating cake forever and ever… not that the cake isn´t worth it, but I just thought I´d let you know beforehand.

cassata

cassata

If you want to check out different takes on this cake and even some different frostings, see what : Lis, Ivonne, Helene, Ben, John, Chris, Stephanie, and Kelly did (Tanna, Sara , Laura and Mary didn´t bake with us this time around).

Recipe after the jump
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