give me flour

The world of cranberries!

November 18th, 2011


Last Thanksgiving I had decided this year I was going to meet the “Misses cranberries”. And by meet I mean knocking at their door, getting to know their place, having some talk and, with some luck, share a cup of coffee, just as Brazilians like to do.

So, October 7th we left home towards central Wisconsin, towards the Cranberry Hwy, a vast wetland stretched for almost 50 miles between Wisconsin Rapids and Warrens – yeah, because any fruit that worth its salt has its own highway.

What I should have guessed though is cranberries have a real character and strong personality. They don’t show up in each corner, they kind of preserve their privacy, unlike apples or pumpkins. After few hours of driving, dozens of century-old beds, a hundred thousand vines, we had spotted not a single berry. Furthermore, we were late for the show, mostly festivals had happened a week earlier and cranberries were already tired of acting like a fall celebrity.

But we could see they were still commanding a deep degree of public fascination. We came across a large group of tourists during a quick stop at the Cranberry Discovery Center and all marsh tours were booked, no spot for us. We had no choice but continue driving through the bogs hopping for something.

Suddenly, they decided to appear and, OMG, it’s no wonder cranberries have such a temper. They just sweep up all the colors of fall you are used to, bogging along the water’s surface with their rebellious red tone.

We immediately dropped in and stayed there, by the marsh, in contemplative attitude, trying to understand these elusive new friends. I guess I was too moved to talk.

But of course I brought some home with me and this is when we got a bit closer. It is the very first time I cook – or bake – with them and I have to say, we have pretty good chances to get along very well.

Another thing I brought with me was the book Wisconsin Cranberry Growers’ Favorite Recipes. Local cookbooks are one of the first things I look for when I visit a new place, I just love to collect them. And this one in particular is a little treasure, a collection of family recipes provided by who really know how to get the best of their product.

So, my cake was inspired by Ellen Potter Cranberry Upside-Down Cake recipe. The way she uses the fruit and pairs it with walnuts caught my attention. The only thing is she uses cake mix as base and I decided, since it’s for a special occasion, to come up with my own batter, an almond and orange zest cake.

Serve it with vanilla ice cream and hot cranberry compote on top and your Thanksgiving will have a happy end for sure!

Make the topping

Slice stick of butter in thin pieces. Distribute pieces evenly over bottom of a 8-inch round pan. Sprinkle walnuts over butter. Wash and dry cranberries; pour over nuts.

Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, spreading evenly over cranberries. And don’t be scared, it may seem a lot of sugar but it’s necessary to break the tartness of the cranberry and create a good caramelization on top of the cake. Set aside.

Make the cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat almond paste in low speed for 2 minutes or until it’s a little broken. Add sugar, increase speed and keep beating until the almond paste broke up as fine as possible. It may take a few minutes but you don’t want big lamps of paste in your cake.

Add  butter and mix until pale in color and creamy, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add orange zest and mix well.

Shift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Turn off the mix and add dry ingredients by hands in three batches. Don’t over mix!

Pour butter on prepared pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes. It can take longer depending on your oven.

Let it rest for 10 minutes and mold.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and simple hot cranberry compote.

Cranberry compote: put a cup of cranberries and a cup of sugar in a small saucepan and cook just after cranberries start to pop. Serve immediately.

A post as a guest!

November 15th, 2011

Just to let you know, a mashed potato is waiting for you at A Clove of Garlic, a Pinch of Salt……. Tiffany, a friend I met (not in person yet) through this wonderful blog world, asked fellow food-bloggers to share some related Thanksgiving recipes in her space and I promptly volunteered for that. Why? Because I felt like I needed to return, in some way, all the fun moments I have reading her blog and following her adventures in the kitchen.  It’s an honor to be there!

Oh, and don’t let to check her blog during the week for more Thanksgiving recipes!

November is definitely my month to give thanks. Not because it’s Thanksgiving time and not because this is the month of my parent’s birthday (yeah, both) and if they were not here I would not be in this world either. No, I could but I don’t want to go that far. I would love to be more optimistic in my life but I’m not, I’m not the kind of person who gives thanks just for being born.

I have needs, as everybody does. I’m not happy when I don’t get other people’s attention. I’m not happy when I don’t fulfill my tasks on time, when I don’t conquer my goals, when I don’t see I’m growing as a person and when I’m not doing something I really, really like. So, after at all, I’m just a normal person.

But last November, I started doing something that is filling my heart with joy; a year ago, I started Give Me Flour. And to all of you, dear readers, who had stopped by and encouraged me in one way or another, a big “THANK YOU”.

All I want now is to celebrate, slowly, in small little bites. The perfect recipe for that? Chocolate Friands, the little but “satisfyingly extra rich and moist” mini-chocolate cakes from Tartine, the book.  Actually, we were lucky enough to visit the bakery during our time in San Francisco last summer and try these temptations in their place of origin. How was it? Take a look, the pics are right here! But first, let’s start with the recipe.

Even though I typed here the full recipe, I halved it for my first try and used smaller little molds I brought from Brazil. So, I ended up with the same number of mini-cakes, 24 in total, and they were as just as moist as the original. How I love when I come across a good and well balanced recipe!!!

I did some modifications, however. The first was the baking time; 15 minutes were not enough as the center was still unbaked when I checked. But I know that’s totally an oven matter.  Just be aware of that, you may want to keep your eyes open when baking it.

Second, I don’t know if I told you already but I’m totally “superstitious” when making cake batters. In the original recipe you are supposed to add dry ingredients to the chocolate mix and then the eggs. But for me the flour has to be the very last item, I’m not a natural cake maker and if there is still something to add after the flour, no matter what I do and how I do, I always end over mixing the batter.   So, I mixed eggs first and finished with the rest.

Kitchen notes: You can use a pastry bag or a tiny ice cream scoop for filling the molds. The originals are also baked and served on 1 ½ –by ½ inch glassine cups. Very sweet!

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line up 24 mini-muffin-cup-paper liners on a baking sheet , or butter and flour 24 mini-muffins tin wells, knocking out the excess of flour.

To make the batter, place chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until very hot. Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk or stir until smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix well. Add the flour, mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, whisking well after each addition. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk until combined, and then add the remaining two eggs and whisk just until incorporate. Be careful not to over mix the batter.

Transfer the batter to a liquid measuring cup for pouring, and fill the cups three-fourths full. Bake until the cakes just start to crack on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes on a wire rack, and then unmold them if you have baked them in the muffin tin and let cool completely. If you have baked them the paper cups, just let them cool in the cups.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let seat for a minute or two. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Make sure the friands are cool before dipping them into the ganache. Holding, the friand by its side, dip the top into the ganache and them shake gently to let the excess run of the side. Return the friand to the rack and let the ganache set up in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Serve the friands within a day of making or store them in a airtight container (to avoid condensation) in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Today is my dad’s birthday! I miss him a lot! He is one of the only persons that can fight with me for the last piece of pork blood sausage on the plate.  Ok, now I’m missing this kind of sausage too! Anyway, this is a topic for another moment.

My dad, well, I can’t think about my dad without thinking about food. Our relationship happened pretty much around the table. The time we had to talk was almost exclusively the time we had to eat. But don’t take me wrong, I spent more time with him than you are thinking. The time to eat in Brazil is different, we can seat at the table with no time to get off, we can eat slowly while we talk, laugh, discuss, argument and even cry. Even nowadays, every time I get to visit my parents home I meet my dad around a portion of something, usually some pork related food. And this was the way I got from him a very peculiar taste, a taste for things like chicken livers and feet or pork feet and “knees”.

And, if there is one thing that makes me look like him, besides the eyes, is the way we eat; if there is still food on the table, we keep eating, slowly and steadily.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get many chances to cook for him in my life. Maybe, unconsciously, I’m always waiting for my dad to present me something new instead of me preparing something for us. Maybe, unconsciously, I know he will always get home with something tasty.

But today is his birthday and it’s my time to call it back: a French onion soup to tell my dad hi is special to me. I know an onion soup is everything but innovative. But it’s something I can say I really know how to do, something that would make my dad proud.

I decided to use a variety of onions for this recipe. Basically I bought all kinds of onions I found at the grocery store but the red ones; yellow, sweet, teardrop-shaped, rounded, white, cipolline, French shallots that, despite their purple-ish color, don’t compromise the tones of my soup. Yeah, I care about the color and for some reason this soup, in my mind will always be brown. But if you want to, don’t hesitate in buying the red onions. The soup will be yours, you can pick the color.

In a large saucepan, sauté bacon in medium high heat until crisp. Add butter and let it melt completely. Add onions, sugar, salt and sauté in medium heat until brown in color and well caramelized. This step may take 30 minutes to an hour and requires some attention.

Add flour and sauté for extra 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add white wine and keep cooking for 3 more minutes. In this stage, the onions may be looking like a thick batter. So, add beef stock slowly, until the “batter” is completely solved and the soup looks homogeneous.

Add bouquet garni, freshly grounded bleck pepper and ajust salt. Continue cooking for about 15 miutes or until soup looks thick and creamy.

Meanwhile, prepare the bread. Cut garlic glove in halves and rub the cut face in each slice of baguette. Set them aside.

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls, bread bowls* or one large casserole dish. Heat the oven (broiler) to 350˚ F.  Pour the soup into the dish of your choice, cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

*To make bread bowls, buy four small sourdough rouds, Remove the top third of each loaf and scoop out center, leaving 1/2″ all around. Place bread on baking sheet and bake at 350˚F until lightly toasted and it’s ready to be used.

And the last tip: this soup is even better when prepared with homemade beef stock. If you really love the kitchen room, go for it. It’s totally worth the hard work.

Homemade Peanut Butter Taffy

October 28th, 2011

Did you ever get that kind of present that makes you feel like crying? So, I got one this week, a cheese. I know, you must be thinking right now “What kind of person wants to cry in front of a cheese??”. Well, it happens that the cheese is a very special one, the legendary Serra da Estrela cheese, made in Portugal and brought here by my cousins Nádia and Alê, two people I really love having around.

The pic is here. As you can see, I had a pretty good week!

But it was busy too; crazy busy and I didn’t have time to think about Halloween until today. And while looking for a recipe for the theme, I had an insight: what could scare people more than candy making on October 31th?

Kidding people, just kidding!! The idea is exactly the opposite here, show anyone can make candies, including me. Really, I’m not a fan of sugar work. I mean, I admire who does but for me it’s more like I’m going to fail anytime I try to melt sugar.
Funny is during our road trip last summer we got to visit the Sweet Palace in Montana, an old fashioned candy store that makes “billions” of different taffy flavors and sells any kind of candy you can possibly imagine.  The experience really triggered my desire of making my own candies; I was just waiting for the opportunity.

So, Halloween would be enough for that but I had another reason I wanted to make this recipe. It happens there is an act going on this month among food blogs, the October Unprocessed. And although I’ve been following the adventures of Tiffany and thinking it’s a brave and very nice initiative, I did not participate or wrote a note to support the case.

Fortunately, there is still time. My contribution is here, for Halloween and for the “unprocessed month”: homemade peanut butter taffies.

The recipe was adapted from the book Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner. The book is for people who is serious about candy making but this recipe in particular is surprisingly easy. I took about 30 minutes plus the cooling time to get a batch of 60 taffies (not counting the one I ate before wrapping!).

Combine corn syrup, molasses, sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan. Cook to 245ºF while stirring constantly. To make the test, drop a small portion of the mixture into a bowl with cold water, the liquid should form a ball that will flatten with resistance.

Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and then add the peanut butter.

Pour onto an oiled marble slab or a greased baking sheet and turn occasionally until cooled to a plastic consistency.

Pull taffy until a bit lighter in color and texture. Pull into a rope with a 1/2” diameter. Cut 1” pieces off the rope. Here it is a good example of “how to do”.

Wrap immediately to maintain shape and to protect from humidity.

Note: A temperature of 245ºF will produce taffy of a relatively firm texture. For a softer result, cook the batch at several degrees lower but not less than 235 ºF (soft ball stage).

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