Sunday, June 29, 2008

Braiding along with the Daring Bakers

This month the Daring Bakers braided some beautiful Danish braids! I was of course, one of them!

Underneath those braided layers lays a ginger frangipane with a chocolate swirl. Not even Rapunzel had a braid like this one!

Ben and Kelly were our wonderful hosts and they did a great job choosing this challenge. Danish pastry is such a nice thing for everyone to try at least once and I'm sure that even the ones that would not have dreamed of doing this in a million years were very pleased and proud with their braid! So thank you Ben and Kelly!


Adapted from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking (for 2 braids)


  • For the dough (Detrempe)
  • 1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon saltFor the butter block

  • (Beurrage)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky. Cover and take to the fridge for at least 30m. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

I'ts time for that filling...

Ginger frangipane

  • Ginger pastry cream
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 30 gr (1 oz) sugar
  • 15 gr (0.5 oz) corn starch
  • 15 gr (0.5 oz) butter
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 80 gr/2.8 oz)

Peel and cut the ginger into chunks and add to the milk. Let the milk come to a boil and leave to infuse the ginger for at least 30m (but you can do this up to 1 day in advance). Mix with a wisk with the yolk, corn starch and sugar, bring again the milk to almost boiling point and add little by little to the yolk mixture. Return everything to the heat and mixing allways with a wisk let it come to a full boil and thicken for 1-2 minutes. Take out of the stove, discard the ginger and add the butter in chuncks. Mix until the butter is melted and well mixed in and cover with plastic wrap to avoid a skin. Let cool completely before adding to the frangipane.

  • Frangipane
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) butter
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) icing sugar
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • 50 gr (1.8 oz) corn starch
  • 60 gr (2 oz) ginger pastry cream

Beat the sugar, butter (softened), almond meal and corn starch. Add the egg and beat more until incorporated. Mix in the pastry cream with a spatula or wooden spoon. Keep in the fridge until it's time to use.

  • Chocolate swirl
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) dark chocolate
  • 2-3 tbsp cream

Cut the chocolate into small pieces (or use chips) Take 1 minute to the microwave with the cream. Mix until all the chocolate is melted and you have a nice uniform and shiny cream. If not there yet take 10 sec. more to the microwave or more if you need.

Let's put everything together now:

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

Spoon the frangipane down the center of the rectangle, put the chocolate cream over it and swirl. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Grease a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F ( 200 ºC). Position a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180ºC), and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

And look what I did with the leftover chocolate cream and some of the scraps of the dough:

Pan au chocolat

And with the rest of the scraps, leftover pastry cream, fresh pinapple and pisctachios:

Pineapple filled carrée pasty

"Rapunzel let down your braid, I wanna eat it"

The dough tasted amazing I had to forbid myself to eat it raw. I mean with vanilla, orange and cardamom, how could it not tasted great? I also liked my filling, I'm a sucker for frangipane and the chocolate swirl was a nice touch I think. But my favourite was the little filled carrée pastries, they were so cute and the pineapple made them so fresh.

So if you're filling like seeing more than 1000 braids check my fellow Daring Bakers! See you next month!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Am I nuts or just cheap?

Here are my wonderful organinc walnuts that I buy in big 3 kg bags from a farm. They are wonderful and I don't even use them so much in baking or cooking because I tend to eat them on their own. I love the sound of them cracking, so usually I just shell them one by one and pop them in my mouth! Another thing I love to do with my walnuts is toast them in the oven with the shells on. I've learned this when I lived for a while in Italy, my roommate's mom would send her bags of this toasted walnuts, that we would eat with cheese and bread as night snacks. Those were the days!... So next time you're using your oven just put a tray with some whole walnuts and toast for a while. Temperature and time is really relative, but as a guidance you can do it for about 15 minuts at 180ºC (350ºF). After cooling they'll open really easily, you can do it just by pressing them with your hands. They'll be crunchy and they're great with cheeses and fruits. It's a good thing to serve as an appetizer at parties as well.

So now that I gave you some nut tips I'll give you some cheap tips, that in my case are a bit related with my nuts. See the nice plate where I keep them? Well that's actually a turnable plate that also dobles as a cake decorating device...

I live in a place where finding cake decorating ustensils is very difficult or very expensive, so I usually prefer to use imagination rather than money. Imagination is much cheaper I tell you! So for a "Wilton style" cake decorating turntable, I use a regular cake stand on top of my walnut plate. Cool, hein?

What about these wooden sticks? Have you ever checked the prices of big no-handles rolling pins? Well I have and was not impressed! So on a recent trip to the DYI store I got a huge wood stick that was originally sold to use on some gardening thingy. I got it cut right there in the store and got two amazing rolling pins with different sizes for less than 3€!

Before using I sanded them a bit and they were good to go. I think Alton Brown would be so proud of me!

Do you have any saving-money tips yourself?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ex-cereal bar cookies x 4

Do you know those candy bars that you take on your backpack for a day out? You know the ones I'm talking about, the kind that are individual wraped and have the bottom covered in chocolate. The ones that almost feel like eating a candy bar, but you don't mind eating them because you convince yourself that it's cereal so it's healthy... At least that's what I do anyway... But some times you take the bar with you, forget about the "healthiness" of it and eat a real candy bar, or an ice cream or that piece of cake your aunt made or whatever and the poor bar comes back home a little bit mistreated from the bottom of the bag where it sat the all day. So the next time you go out and decide to take a bar you take a "new" one and think that you'll eat that wrinkled skashed one when you're at home. Obviously you never do beacuse you just made a batch of cookies or that ice cream you have in the freezer is more appealing.

So next thing you know you have 4 ugly looking bars and you know it's time to take an action: You decide Cookies! Or at least I decided that anyway...

Because I wanted them puffy I used this recipe as a base, since I liked it so much.


  • 220 gr (8 oz) butter room temperature but not very soft
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 360 gr (13 oz) stong/bread flour
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 cereal bars cut into chunks

Beat butter and both sugars just until they come together. Don’t over-beat. Add the eggs and beat just until incorporated. Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder . When thoroughly mixed, add to batter and stir just until blended. Stir in the cereal bar chunks and any other flavouring you fancy*. Scoop into a cookie sheet or drop by rounded tablespoons. The dough should be neither sticky nor dry. Bake on pre-heated oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for about 12 minutes or until done. Cool on sheet for about 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

* As I like variety I divided the dough into 4 and added a little different touch to each one:

  1. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  2. 1/8 tsp grounded cardamom
  3. 1 orange (rind) + 3 tbs raisins
  4. 1 tbsp cocoa powder + 2 tbs dark chocolate chunks

And here's a tip: whenever you're baking chocolate cookies and have similar non chocolate cookies to bake as well, on the sheet you have the chocolate ones, place a "white" one so you can check on doneness by its color.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Look at this! Isn't this just like paradise? Amazing mint ice cream coming out of the huge ice cream machine and me on the other side: camera on one hand, spoon on the other! Yes, I've been ice-creaming!

I've allready declared here a couple of times my absolute love for ice-creams. So can you imagine how happy I was to be hired by an Ice-cream Factory to create some desserts for their website?! The job was to help with the new flavours they wanted to launch for the Summer and create a dessert, so it involved a lot of painfull ice-cream tasting!...

The real problem I had with all this was that I couldn't get over the fact that I was being payed to do this. I mean, this people were actually giving me money to eat my favourite food! Crazy people...

They asked for simple desserts, nothing to complicated, just some ideas to complement the ice-creams. I don't think it would be good work ethic to give you the ice-cream recipes but I can share the ideas with you. We just had the photographer coming and taking nice pictures, but these were the ones I managed to take with my camera:
  • a) Dulce de leche ice-cream and chocolate cookies sandwiches.
  • b) Roasted peaches with pistachio ice-cream
  • c) Summer fruits salad with balsamic vinegar ice-cream and lemon sorbet
  • d) Strawberry ice-cream and strawberry-champagne sorbet tart

And here's the photographer getting a shot of what I called "Ice-cream for breakfast": Yougurt ice-cream with muesli and honey.

Tips for taking pictures of Ice-cream

  • Freeze the dish or bowl you're going to use and an extra dish
  • Scoop the ice cream and put it on the reserved extra dish you had in the freezer
  • Cover slighty with plastic wrap and return to the freezer (you can make this well in advance)
  • Arrange the cenario of the picture and get everything ready
  • Plate the rest of the ingredients (if using) on the frozen dish or bowl and put in place
  • Lastly get the ice-cream balls and place them on the "serving" dish
  • Shoot nice pictures
  • Eat the ice-cream
  • Blog about it so I can see it and drool a bit!

Can't wait to start working on the winter flavours!

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Green Twist

What a gorgeous day! Today, friday the 13th and we're lucky to have a holiday in my city! It was so hot allready when I woke up that after breakfast I headed to the beach, but did not go alone, I took Jeffrey with me.

Am I lucky or am I lucky?

I get very bored at the beach, I can't understand how people just lay there frying themselves in the sun. So I allways have to take something to read, and I've just started It must've been something I ate. I've seen so many good reviews on a lot of food blogs and sites that I just had to order it. So far so good, it's a good beach mate and also performs well in bed, as a night reading I mean.

In the afternoon (after a little cry over the death of beloved Tastespotting) I made myself something that allways cheers me up: a Strawberry Milkshake! But with a green twist!...

If you're a food blogger or a food blogs reader chances are that you've heard about Matcha green tea. If you have tried it chances are you liked it and if you haven't tried it chances are you want to try it. Am I right?

I have met mr Matcha a long time ago, long before I lived in the food blog land. I love it, that green powder has some magic I tell you! I have used it at work a lot in desserts but never bought it to myself, because the price here is so high! I mean I love it but there is no way I'm going to spend 40€ in a tiny 30 gr (about 1 oz) bag!

So what to do?
Take regular green tea and just blitz it on your coffee grinder and you'll have green tea powder to add to you baked goods or beverages. You see, people that know about this stuff say that green tea is great for you in so many levels, some even claim it helps loosing weight! I've read once that matcha is even better than "normal" green tea because as it's a powder you are actually putting it inside your body instead of just drinking what it releases to the water as in other teas.

Nothing compares to real Matcha of course but this way of using regular green tea is a good alternative. The taste is a bit more "earthy" and strong I think, but still very pleasant. There are a lot of types of green teas out there, so you can choose the one you prefer if you want to give this a try.

For the green twist on my milkshake I just added a small teaspoon of the green tea powder to the milk, sugar and strawberries and blended away. Have a nice weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Triple M Cake (Moist Marbled Mango)

One of my friends sells sorbets for restaurants and because she wanted me to taste them she gave me 4 containers of 2 kg each! Wow, 8 kilos worth of sorbets (flavors are lemon, tangerine, green apple and strawberry)! I can not tell you how happy I was! I just love ice-creams and sorbets and with the hot weather that arrived, they won't last long... Sorbet anyone?

Come on, take a bite! It's low fat!

And now starts the story of this cake. I had to make some room in my freezer to fit all the sorbet, so the leftover mango pure I had from the Opera cake had to be come out and be used as well as 4 egg whites I had frozen a while ago (they freeze very well). I was really feeling for a cake and since bikini season was officially opened over the weekend I decided it would be a low fat one. The cake came out very moist but still light, and the taste was great from the mango. My neighbours also liked it, so I will probably repeat it and experiment with other pures.

  • TRIPLE M CAKE (low fat)
  • 1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup low fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup mango pure
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven at 180ºC (350ºF). With a wisk mix the yogurt, softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. On another bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder and add to the liquids. Mix just until combined and add the oil, again mix until the oil is well integrated with the rest of the batter.

Wisk the egg whites until medium peeks and carefully mix them with a spoon into the cake batter.

Divide in 2 and add the mango pure to one of the halfs (I think my mango half was a bit bigger but that was fine).

Put the 2 batters alternating in a loaf pan (sprayed with cake release or buttered and floured). Mine was ready in about 30-35m.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Choux Shoe for HHDD!

Hay Hay Its Donna Day is a food event created by Barbara from WinosandFoodies and now taken care by Bron Marshall. When I found that Suzana was hosting this month I knew I wanted to participate. She made a great choice: choux! It's so versatile, it can be sweet or savory, can have many shapes, filled with so many different things, be part of cakes, be fried, etc. Well done Suzana! As the deadline for the entries was aproaching (next monday the 9th) I decided to do something today. At first I had no idea what I was going to do, so I started repeating "choux... choux... choux..." waiting for some inspiration. Nothing... I could only think of the obvious stuff like profiteroles or St. Honoré.... I kept repeating "choux, choux, choux" and then realized I was saying shoe instead of choux.

So I though "Hey I could do a choux shoe!" "Well that's just stupid... Why would I want to do a choux shoe? Just because how it sounds?" I was still thinking.... "But that's a perfectly good reason" You can see that I think a lot. Anyway I decided to give it a shot, so here they are, my choux shoes not so great for walking but sure great for eating!


  • Choux paste (I've used the one Suzana had on her blog from Donna Hay's magazine, Issue 35)

  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) water (240 ml)
  • 100 grs (3 ½ oz) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (112 ½ grs / 4 oz) plain all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Place the water and butter in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook, stirring over low heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Remove from the heat. Place in an electric mixer and beat on high, gradually adding the eggs until well combined. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with 12mm (½ in) plain nozzle and pipe shoes (oval shape blobs) onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on wired racks.

  • Orange pastry cream on the microwave

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a bowl put and mix everything together with a wisk (except the butter) and take 1 minute to the microwave. Mix again with the wisk, and take to the microwave for 30 seconds periods until it gets thick and creamy, allways mixing with the wisk. It will take in total 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and mix until melted. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid a skin on top and allow to cool before filling the shoes.

I filled the shoes with the cream cutting the top part and then dipped the bottom with melted milk chocolate. I've then made laces with the chocolate and arranged a few chopped pistachios on top of the cream.

Wanna walk in my shoes? Or maybe you prefer to eat them... I don't blame you!

UPDATE: Here is Suzana's round-up!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A friend sweet as sugar...

... Oh wait! She is sugar! For my friend's birthday a mini-cake: I don't know if you can really understand from the picture but she is inside a little expresso cup (she's addicted to coffee), holding her 2 new born nephews and surrounded by her favourite toys. She didn't want to cut it and bite into her sugar sosia, to bad for her it was a lemon cake with white chocolate filling.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A cup of peanuts for the foodies

The Soccer Euro Cup will start very soon (next Saturday) and that along side with a lot of shouting means one thing: snacks!

I love soccer! This love started when I was very young, my dad started taking me with him to the stadium when I was only 6. During many years those sunday afternoons where we would go cheer for our team were the highlights of my weeks. Now I don't go as often as I would like, daddy is not here anymore to take me, and going without him will never be the same but still I love the stadium atmosphere and try to go when I can.

Besides my team I'm a huge supporter of my national team! In fact my all country is, the country stops whenever there's a big competicion like the one that is about to start. We put flags everywhere, dress in the colors of the flag, stop working to watch the games, get together to watch them, scream, laugh and cry when we loose. We are pretty passionate about soccer arround here!

I've made these peanuts today so me and my friends can have something to munch when watching the games. The recipe is the same as this one, just change the sunflower seeds for peanuts or any other nut. They're sooooo good!

I also want to share these peanuts with all my fellow foodies from the Foodie BlogRoll that I've recently joined. Thanks to Jenn for creating this! If you want to join it just follow the link on my side bar.

Lastly I would like to invite all of you to vote and guess who will be the next European soccer champion (voting is happening on my sidebar). When the Cup is over I'll make a dessert or something sweet that is tradicional from the winning country, so stay tunned!