Category Archives: sweet

Not so perfect

To keep the birthday theme going for yet another post, this month Daring Baker challenge chosen by Morven was Dorie Greenspan´s Perfect Party Cake, which made the perfect choice for one of my birthday cakes.

with caramel sauce

Yet even though it turned out delicious, it was one of those near disaster stories. As wise people know, it´s not… well, wise, to bake when you are tired, in a hurry, and have a massive headache from the previous night´s festivities.

But the clock was ticking and it was my one opportunity to make the challenge, so I forged ahead. And I had a few problems: first of all, the cakes were quite flat (it might be the lack of cake flour in Argentina, so I had to use all purpose minus 2 tablespoons per cup), which had me rushing to make a third cake to create more height, but said cake broke into pieces when trying to unmold it, so I had to make do with a 2 layer cake instead of a 4 layer cake because I didn´t dare splitting my thin cakes into 2.

my cousin Martin

I had earlier on decided to skip the buttercream and use flavored whipped cream instead because I´m not a big fan of buttercream and I think I mentioned I was a BIT stressed out, so the simpler, the better. So my flavor combo was coconut whipped cream + dulce de leche, just because dulce de leche and coconut are those flavor combos destined to live happily ever after.

dripping

Another problem I had was not having two cake pans of the exact same size and not having enough time to make two batches, hence the irregular shape of my so-not-perfect cake.

Once assembled, the cake looked a bit blah, so I drizzled some of the leftover caramel sauce I had from this other cake, and it improved quite a bit.

all-white version

And, stress and all, everyone raved about the flavor of the cake. The lemon zest in the cake (I didn´t use the lemon extract because I´m not too fond of extracts) was the perfect complement to the sweetness of the dulce de leche and the coconut. And the texture of the cake was delightfully spongy even though it hadn´t risen much. So this one might call for a repeat performance.

If you want to see much more polished versions of this cake, check out the creations of the rest of the Daring Bakers. And if you don´t have time to see them all, at least check out Helene´s version, it´s so chic it hurts.

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Having your cake, and eating it too

So the birthday parties were a blast, but did leave this birthday girl a bit exhausted (I guess I am getting old!). Luckily, my gym gave me a free massage for my bday, so I´m all better now, and ready for a quick recap of the menus.

On Friday, I made a simple meal that didn´t need knives and forks, because, well, I really don´t have that many forks! So it was time for homemade burgers (with store-bought buns because making the buns would have added another layer of stress, and another layer of dirt to my overworked, tiny kitchen). As a “starter”, I served these arugula-sundried tomato-prosciutto-cheese bread rolls I discovered last year… which, incidentally, if you haven´t made them, you really, really should, trust me on this one.

tomato-arugula rolls 2

And for dessert/birthday cake, I went with something that had no way of going wrong: Dorie´s Caramel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. It was marvelous, as is to be expected, but I think next time, I´m gonna underbake the cake even more because it came out a bit drier than brownie-style cakes are meant to be even though I baked it for 30 minutes instead of the 40-45 indicated in the recipe. Other than that, the cake is a keeper, especially the caramel sauce (which produces about half a cup of extra sauce and Dorie instructs to reheat later on with some more cream and drizzle on ice cream… I haven´t tried that yet, but I see that working and I also envision that sauce over homemade flan, that would be just sigh-inducing deliciousness.)

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I´ll tell you about Saturday´s menu next time, but in the meantime, I´d like to recommend another recipe I made for my birthday (this time for the pre-bday party on Thursday night): David Levovitz Black bottom cupcakes. The combination is very interesting and easy to whip up. Though next time I´m gonna try making my spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa a bit skimpier because I´ve discovered there is such thing as too much chocolate sometimes.

black bottom cupcakes

black bottom cupcakes

birthday party number 1

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Dark and handsome

It´s not that I´m feeling uninspired in general at all. Daydreaming about new apartments and my trip has been my favorite pass-time lately. But it might be that food and I are trying to find some middle ground (like still loving each other but going easy on sweets and stuff like that,) and when that happens, I don´t want to be thinking or writing about that particular chocolate cake that made me swoon last month but I´d better not recall while on a “diet” and PMSing.

But I hate not writing here for that long, and that chocolate cake was too good not to pass along. So here it is:

Chocolate-beer cake

It uses stout beer and unsweetened cocoa, and it´s covered with a velvety ganache on top. And I don´t even like beer in general, but here it compliments the chocolate beautifully because it creates a subtle contrast to the sweetness.

Chocolate-beer cake

And since it´s most likely winter where you are right now instead of summer like in Buenos Aires, I urge you to make it today, it´s that good, and bathing suits are far, far away.

Chocolate-beer cake

PS: I´ve just updated and reorganized the Recipe Index you can find above the header, so drop by to get some fresh, or not so fresh, ideas.

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How to do acid…

…well, using lemon of course. Even though this isn´t really the best season for lemon desserts here, I have always been a sucker for lemon meringue pie, so when Jen chose it for our January challenge I was delighted. Yes, the lemons wouldn´t be the most lemony they can be, but it was the first challenge with something I had made before, so I must admit deep inside a little voice said “hell, yeah, something easy!”

lemon meringue pies

But then I started reading comments by other Daring Bakers in our blog crying over liquidy lemon curds and I started to worry a little bit, maybe 15 minutes in the oven after the curd had set were a bit too much… I didn´t really fancy the idea of lemon-meringue soup.

lemon meringue pies

lemon meringue pie

Yet luckily, it all turned out fine, except for the fact that the meringue started “weeping” after a few hours, which was very annoying and made a mess, and ended up with one sticky Phoebe… though that should teach her not to be around begging for food when I´m unmolding a tart!

The curd wasn´t my favorite either, but that could be the weaker lemons anyway. As for the meringue and the weeping-shrinking problem, I´ll go back to my usual French meringue or Italian meringue recipe and that should fix it (French meringue requiring you to heat up the whites with the sugar a little bit and then whisking the meringue, and Italian meringue using a hot water-sugar syrup instead of granulated sugar: what you want to do is cook the egg whites so that the meringue sets better and has a better staying power.)

lemon pie

As for the decoration, there wasn´t really much going on except for the variation I did using lemon curd topped with softened guava paste I had laying around and wanted to use somewhere. Oh, and I do use cherries to decorate EVERYTHING these days, can´t help it!

lemon meringue pie

lemon meringue pie

Check out Jen´s blog for the recipe, and the other DBs takes on the recipe, it´s bound to be hilarious with all the mixed reactions to the recipe and the disaster stories!

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My very own magic mushrooms

Yule log

Phew! That was close! I´m barely managing to get my Yule log (also known as Buche de Noel in French and Brazo Gitano in Spanish) done in time for posting… in fact, at this point, I haven´t even tried it, I just know it looks pretty, I´ll tell you if it tastes good later tonight.

I´m delighted I got to make the recipe because it´s a great example of what the Daring Bakers are all about. I mean, there was no other way I would be piping meringue to make mushrooms… oh yeah, those mushrooms you see there are literally handmade, and I love them, in fact, they might be my favorite part out of the whole challenge, even though they do require a bit of extra patience. But I just can´t get over their cuteness, so they are worth the meringue-sticky-Marce they created.

Yule log

Yule log

For the filling, instead of using the same buttercream used for the frosting, I halved the frosting recipe and went with a simple combination of whipped cream and fresh cherries for the filling because yep, it´s summer around here la la la la la la 😛 But I´m a bit worried about how the cherry flavor will work with the coffee in the buttercream because the coffee flavor was more pronounced than what I had originally thought… hopefully, it´ll mellow out in combination with the other elements.

Yule log

So all in all, I think the recipe isn´t too complicated at all, and it´s one of those things that are bound to impress a few people if you bring it to a dinner party. And of course, if you decide to go lazy and don´t want to tackle the whole thing, just do the mushrooms! They might not be magic in a trip-inducing sort of way, but they sure look pretty!

Yule log

For the full recipe, visit Ivonne´s blog (our other host and Daring Baker mom, Lis, should have her post up soon), and for hundreds of other takes on the Yule log, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll, you are bound to be impressed.

Yule log

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After the cookies are gone…

Oh yeah, I have been caught amidst the craze that is Christmas and the approach of the new year as well. But the good news is that I´ve been receiving plenty of work lately, which being a freelancer means more money for my pockets and for the trip I´m making to the US in April (more on that later.)

And the increase in my workload hasn´t stopped me from hanging out with my friends and family: especially since my dear friend Jenny was moving back to Seattle and leaving Buenos Aires, and my older brother Javier, who lives in Spain, is here for a visit. So off I went to enjoy springtime in the city before it got too hot (as in, days like today where the farthest I´m willing to go is my own patio before the sun goes down.) This past Tuesday I also got to enjoy the last show of two music legends: Serrat and Sabina, which was a true blast.

homemade granola

And the cooking hasn´t stopped either. Granted, I´m not cooking as often either, but I do have plenty of material to write about here, the problem is there has been little time to sit and write, and, to be honest, sometimes I don´t feel like sitting in front of the computer for an extra hour or so after being tied to the desk for most of the day.

But today was the day, and it was time to break my unanticipated break from blogging. And since everyone is going to be stuffing their mouths full with cookies and pies soon. I decided that it was a good idea to share a great recipe for something a bit healthier: homemade granola.

homemade granola

I got Heidi´s book a few months ago and this was the first recipe I decided to tackle. And I certainly didn´t regret my choice for one minute. It´s got tons of grains, subtle yet charming flavors and even making half a batch, it yields quite a bit, so I got to enjoy it for over a week.

Heidi uses tropical flavors, but I didn´t want to go in that direction, so I omitted the grated coconut and coconut oil, replaced the tropical fruits with apricots and plums, and added a touch of sesame to the mix.

So by the time you are done reincarnating the cookie monster, prepare some homemade granola, enjoy it with a bit of yogurt and a drizzle of extra honey, and wipe off your guilty feelings while indulging in something delicious and seriously filling.

(PS: The Daring Bakers challenge is due either tomorrow or Sunday, but I´m not sure I´ll be able to make the deadline this month, so as Truman would say: “In case I don´t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night”, or in my case, Merry Christmas!)

homemade granola

Grain-ola (adapted from Super natural cooking by Heidi Swanson)

makes about 10 cups (I halved the recipe and still had plenty)

4 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts, chopped into halves or quarters (here I went with almonds instead)
1 and 1/2 cups assorted sulfur-free dried fruits (she used tropical fruits because she added shredded coconut to the mix, I used dried apricots and plums), chopped
Grated zest of 2 oranges
3/4 cup raw mild-flavored honey
1/4 cup oil (she used coconut oil, I didn´t have any, so I went with corn oil and about a tablespoon toasted sesame oil instead)
sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons (optional since this is my own addition)

Preheat the oven to 300°F and set aside 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried fruits, and zest (and sesame seeds if you are using them) in a large bowl. Heat the honey and oil in a small saucepan over low heat, whisk to thoroughly combine, then pour over the oat mixture and stir until everything is well coated.

Divide the mixture between the baking sheets and spread into a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for about 40 minutes, until toasty golden brown. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Frutillitas

Do you guys remember Strawberry Shortcake? Well, she was Frutillitas in Argentina, which would be something like Fresita in most of the Spanish-speaking world (Frutilla meaning strawberry, the shortcake part was eliminated, because, believe it or not, there´s no tradition of eating something like strawberry shortcakes here.)

Frutillitas

Yes, I do know that´s terrible, but what can I say?, sometimes we Argies are quite blind to sweets without dulce de leche in them.

But since I´m not as close-minded as some and I love me some strawberries with cream, and adding a shortcake to the mix could only make things more enticing (plus, I used to love Frutillitas, I even had a sticker album back in the day! hahaha)… I decided to give them a try.

strawberry shortcake

So I called the one and only Jenny to come by for a movie and some strawberry shortcakes one rainy afternoon, and you know, when you have the right type of friends, they never think even for a second of refusing offers like that.

shortcake

I made the shortcakes while Jenny was browsing my ever-growing collection of cookbooks and deciding on which movie to watch… which did lead to my distraction and to a little mistake on my part: I forgot to brush some cream and sprinkle some sugar on the shortcakes until I had already put them in the oven, which led to my opening the oven 2 minutes later, and I think could be the reason why the shortcakes didn´t really rise much.

But I wasn´t going to be phased by that, instead of slicing the shortcakes, I put one in the bottom and one in the top, and voilá… I think Frutillitas would be proud of me!

strawberry shortcake

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Cinnamon buns… second helpings

Just when you thought you had seen all there was to be seen in terms of cinnamon rolls, Lis comes to the rescue with a knock-off of the famous Cinnabon rolls.

cinnamon rolls part II

You know, just in case we needed an extra bit of butter and sugar… and of course I was ready, summer just around the corner and all. And I have to say, I don´t regret it for a single minute.

First of all, chatting to the girls on yahoo while we did a bakeathon around the world was hilarious, even though some of the gals couldn´t make it (the whole group was comprised of Lis, Helene, Sara, Kelly, Laura Rebecca, Chris and Mary). I mean, it isn´t every day that you get to compare notes in real time with bakers all over the world… with different confidences and even curses towards yeast thrown in for good measure.

cinnamon rolls part II

And the recipe itself was quite easy (except for the frosting I didn´t really get right, I blame it on being Argentinian, which means I hadn´t tried or made a cream cheese frosting before), and the rolls were even yummier than Reinhart´s… I know, I didn´t think it was possible either! I´m so sorry, Peter, I did cheat on you. But you see, they did tempt me with brown sugar, a generous amount of cinnamon and a profusion of butter… what was I to do???

If you want to do a comparison yourself just in time for Christmas prepping, here´s Reinhart´s recipe and Lis has the recipe for the cinnabon knockoff.

cinnamon rolls part II

See you on Monday with the Daring Bakers challenge.

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Drum roll…

Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a recipe index! It´s right above the photo header with the dripping dulce de leche. And while it´s not ordered alphabetically or anything, it does have different sections to keep things useful, so I hope you like it.

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A full year

I seriously can´t believe it´s already been a year since I started this blog. After 130 some entries, some things have come to feel normal… even stalling people before they can dig in so I can take pictures of food (and pretending they don´t hate me for it), but I still marvel at many things that foodblogging has brought into my life, especially all the wonderful people I´ve met this year, both virtually and in person.

Even though I don´t talk much here about my life unrelated to food, I think our attitude towards food and our memories or experiences can be easily associated to different areas in our lives, and are a good reflection of our personalities. I would still like to talk more about other aspects of life sometimes, but something usually stops me, I don´t know if it´s lack of writing skills, shyness or what, but I´m going to be working on that for this second year of blogging.

For our little blog-anniversary celebration, I´m bringing some brownie-like chocolate cookies Molly posted about last week that I´ve already made twice: both in the very same version and with a touch of cinnamon, and even a lemon version for my grandma because she´s allergic to chocolate.

chocolate and lemon cookies

What´s remarkable about these cookies is that they don´t have obscene amounts of butter, which is always a welcome change.

The full recipe comes at the end of the post, but first I want to thank Deb for the inspiration to start this little blog of mine, and each and every one of you for reading my recipes and rantings, and for taking the time to comment, since I just love our little conversations (and to the many lurkers as well, because I know we don´t always have the time to comment). This has been a full year for me in many, many ways, and this blog has been a great companion while I try to grow both as a person and a cook. Thanks for tagging along!

Now for the second year, I need to get some stuff done, one of which is doing a recipe index (coming soon) and also finding out how to do those “one year ago” links at the end of each post, do any of you know how to do that? If so, please give me a hand, because I´m still sadly incompetent with many technical things.

chocolate and lemon cookies

Chewy Cocoa Cookies with Chocolate Chips Adapted from Alice Medrich, as seen in Orangette
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
7 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup plain yogurt, preferably not low- or nonfat
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli brand, either semisweet or bittersweet

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (about 175°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave briefly, until just melted. Add the sugars, and sift in the cocoa. Stir to blend well. The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture, and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

4. Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. You should be able to fit about 8 or 9 cookies, nicely spaced, on a standard sheet pan. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: About 15 cookies

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