Sunday, December 27, 2009

Waiter, there’s a gingerbread house in my popcorn!

See what happens when you have very little time, a naked gingerbread house and a bowl of popcorn?

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I went with the recipe provided by Y, but I only did half of it.

Y's Recipe: Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga) from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
  • 1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

I knew I was not going to be able to do a very detailed decorated house, because of the busy holiday baking marathons I had to run... I knew I had to do something very simple... And that’s how this idea popped into my head: A popcorn house!

To make my popcorn house I’ve followed the recipe's instructions, did a simple template and baked the house pieces. Then I’ve popped my corn, did some caramel and used it to glue my popcorn to the walls of the house. I’ve also used the caramel to glue the house together. I’ve then completed the blank spaces where the walls where glued with some more popcorn strategically positioned. And that was it! Fast and fun, and if I may say myself, quite cute!

I think I'm gonna eat it while I watch a movie... And by the way, Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ich bin ein berliner

It’s about time to tell you about my wonderful short trip to Berlin!

I went to visit my friend Sarah who lives there now and 2 other friends of ours that I haven’t seen in about 8 years also joined us. It was so good to see the girls again!

It’s always great to visit a place guided by a person that lives there, isn’t it? Sarah took us to see all the “touristic stuff” like some pieces that are left from the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most important symbols of the city.

And knowing me she also took me to eat the most traditional foods. I mean you can’t leave Germany without eating a Bratwurst, right?

Even if you have to eat one that’s about the size of your arm...

And then there were the Bretzls, the german pretzels. Of course I had to try them with salt and with cheese, and of course I preferred the ones with cheese.

What about the sweets?! I really liked the pastry scene there, and oh boy, German people love their cakes and cookies! And now I love them too!

In fact I loved them so much that I brought back some ingredients to bake some things here. One of the things I brought was a mix of spices to make a famous German cookie: the Spekulatius.

This is the recipe printed on the spice mix package, I gave it a go and it was quite good! I also brought the cute spoon cookie cutter from there.

SPEKULATIUS (from the spice mix package)

  • 250 gr butter (9 oz)
  • 250 gr sugar (9 oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 gr flour (18 oz)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 10 gr Spekulatius spices* (o.6 oz)
  • 250 gr almonds (I dind't use them)

Mix the butter with the sugar, add the eggs. Mix the flour with the baking powder and spices and then add to the butter mixture. Mix just until well incorporated. Roll the dough, cut in the desired shapes and bake in a pre heated oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for about 8-10 minutes.

* You can make your own spice mix (that’s what I’ll have to do next time). The typical spices used in spekulatius are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper.

Ok, I’ve spooned it all out for you. Now it’s time to go back to my holiday baking marathon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

To Cannoli or not to cannoli...

I had all the intentions of doing the Cannoli. I swear I did…

… but the fettuccine attachment of my pasta machine started calling me and that was the end of the cannoli dream.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

First the recipe:

  • 2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
  • Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand- I've used rose
  • 1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
  • Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)

Pasta Machine method: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them. Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli.

Since I didn't exactly do the cannoli I won't put the directions here. But you can find them at the hostess blog.

Here’s what I though: cannoli, fettuccine… it’s all Italian, right? What about some ravioli? Ok, to go with the theme let’s do some as well…

I’ve made some filled with Nutella. I've cut round shapes of the rolled dough, put a tablespoon of Nutella in the middle, closed and pressed the edges with a fork.

I've also made other raviolli filled with orange pastry cream.

For these I've used a big stripe of dough and put tablespoons of pastry cream with a about 5 cm (2 inch) distance between them. I've closed the dough to the other side, pressing around the cream and cut around each one.

But I was getting a bit tired of Italy, so I decided to move to Mexico... Why not make more tortilla chips?

So here they are, canolli tortilla chips with raspberry pastry cream dip.

I'll leave you with all non-cannoli family: fetticini, raviolli and tortilla chips! Enjoy them while I'll enjoy a short trip to Berlin! I'll tell you about it when I'm back!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boleima: a cake made with bread dough

It might sound strange to you, if I say that one of the ingredients of this wonderful cake is raw bread dough

It doesn’t sound strange to me because I grew up eating this cake. Boleima it’s traditional from my grandparents’ little village, where people didn’t have much access to a lot of ingredients and had to rely mostly on their imagination to bake...

This is a dense cake, kind of chewy, with a tight crumb, very aromatic and with a slight tang (from the bread dough). I personally love it!

This recipe was given to me by my cousin that got it from her mother. My cousin always buys the bread dough to make it, but I make my one. This time I decided to experiment with the master recipe from the book Artisan Bread in five minutes a day and it worked beautifully!


  • 250 gr (9oz) bread dough (raised)
  • 250 gr (9oz) flour
  • 250 gr (9oz) sugar
  • 125 gr (4.5 oz) lard, softned (you can use butter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lemon (peel)
  • Cinnamon sugar* (for sprinkling)

It’s so simple to make! You just mix all the ingredients and you’re done! I’ve used my hands, because I’m a hands-on kind of person, but a mixer or a spoon are fine too.

The batter is a bit odd for a cake, since it’s quite elastic. I’ve baked mine in a square 20cm (8inch) pan, buttered and floured. One important step is to heavily sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of the batter before baking. Gotta love a crunchy top!

For the Cinnamon sugar* I’ve used 4 tsp sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon. Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 20m or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean and the top is golden.

This is the plain version, but there’s also Boleima de Maçã (Apple Boleima) that is made by putting half the batter in the pan, covering it with a lot of sliced apples, walnuts and cinnamon sugar, and then top it with the rest of the batter. I think that version is even better, but since I was trying a new bread dough and wanted to keep it simple. Still it’s great!

Now all you need is a cup of tea! Have you ever tried a similar cake?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not your average Madeleine

Everybody loves a good madeleine, a good, soft and squidgy Madeleine with a nice bump. Well, this is not your typical madeleine.

This is not really a recipe, but just an idea… I had some sugar cookie dough left and decided to play around with it.

So these are sugar cookie madeleines! It’s only a fun way to eat a simple sugar cookie. You just get your dough, press it into your madeleinle’s molds, bake it, and you’re good to go. As simple as that…

I’m always trying new sugar cookie recipes, I’m still looking for the ONE, but this that I’ve used here is pretty good. But any recipe will do, use your favourite.

You can enjoy them as they are, but I have to tell you that they don’t mind being sandwiched together with some Nutella…

… and I don’t mind that either! At all!...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DB's Macarons: two for the price of one

Oh lá lá les macarons… This month the Daring Bakers transformed normal people into macaron-obsessed people! If you ask me I mush prefer macaron-obsessed people than normal people! I loooooooooooooove macarons!

Two for the price of one: Oreo and Rice pudding macarons!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I usually do my macarons with cooked egg whites, but it’s always fun to try new recipes! I had a little trouble with this recipe provided, well, not the recipe exactly but the temperatures, I had to make some adjustments. My changes are in bold.

Oreo cookie or macaron?

I’ve always wanted to try making Oreo cookies macarons, so this was the perfect opportunity!

  • Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
  • Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) I’ve used 140 gr
  • Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
  • Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
  • 20 Oreo cookies (without the cream)


  • Filling of 20 Oreo cookies
  • ¼ cup cream cheese

Mix and refrigerate until it’s time to use.

Very dunkable, like the real thing!

But then… since I had some rice pudding left, I had to try my hand on Rice pudding macarons too.

  • Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
  • Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
  • Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
  • Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Cinnamon shells


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C) I’ve started at 320ºF. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl (time to add the grinded Oreos or the cinnamon). If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
  2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
  3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
  5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
  6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes (Baked mine for about 7 m). Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored. (I’ve lowered my temp to 300º F and let them for 4 minutes more).
  7. Cool on a rack before filling.


  • 1 cup rice pudding
  • 60 gr (2 oz) white chocolate

Blitz the rice pudding in the food processor until you have a cream. Melt the white chocolate and add to the rice pudding cream.

Bite me!

Once I start making macarons I just want to make more and more, but the thing is once I start eating them, I also just want to eat more and more. Is it just me?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sorbets anyone?

I don’t know when Fall is planning to arrive here. They say it’s tomorrow, so I’ll wait and see.

Lemon & honey trio

But the truth is that in the calendar it has already arrived a while ago. So it was time to go back to the artisanal ice cream factory where I do seasonal works to create ice-creams, sorbets and desserts for their website.

Sauteed pineapple cubes with pineapple & vanilla bean sorbet

If you know me you probably have guessed by now that this is the kind of work I do with great sacrifice. Ahahahah, yeah right!...

All the pictures in this post are from Pedro, a photographer that comes to take pictures of my desserts for the website. He says those are the only photo shoots that end up with him eating the models…

Caramelized rice pudding with orange & cinammon sorbet

Of course I can not give you the recipes for the sorbets, but I'll leave you the recipe of these nice lemon & honey cookies that are a part of the lemon & honey trio: tea, sorbet and cookies!


• 90 gr (3.2 oz) butter
• 40 gr (1.4 oz) powder sugar
• 2 egg yolks
• 60 gr (2.1 oz) honey
• 180 gr (6.4 oz) flour
• 2 lemons (zest)
• sugar (for sprinkling)

Beat the butter (must be soft) with the powder sugar. Add the yolks, lemon zest and honey and mix well. Lastly add the flour and mix just until the dough is uniform. Wrap in film and take to the fridge for at least 1 hour. Roll the dough, cut into shapes, pierce with a fork, sprinkle with the sugar and bake at 170ºC (325ºF) until golden.

If you live in the Lisbon area and want to try these and other sorbets and ice-creams you can go here! Hope you enjoy them!