Sweet bread for an indulgent weekend brunch

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This is something I have been wanting to post for a while.

The recipe belongs to Blanca Cotta, a sweet lady from whom I learnt my first chops in the kitchen… via a children’s magazine and who gave me that love for cooking and, most importantly, she taught me that cooking can be a blast, it can be fun and it can truly become a passion and a way of life as it happened to me.

Anyway, Blanca now has her own blog and I have had the immense satisfaction of being able to tell her all of this.

I have made many recipes of hers over the years and her books are the ones that I keep coming back to, the empanadas and the dulce de leche everyone knows in London are made from her recipes (why tweak what is really a perfect recipe?).

The recipe I am posting about now is that of a sweet bread, I have had the recipes for many, many years and one day I just said: “Today’s the day to make it”. It is a sweet bread, not unlike panettone or Stollen only that it doesn’t have any fruits or nuts to enrich it. Instead, it has a wonderful, crunchy, Streusel topping which makes it perfect for brunch or breakfast when you really want to indulge.

Streuselkuchen by Blanca Cotta

Dissolve 50g fresh yeast (remember to halve this quantity if using dry yeast) in ½ cup of warm milk (I use the ones with 250 cc capacity), add 3 tbsp sugar, pinch of salt and leave to rest, covered for 5 minutes. Then add 2 beaten eggs, zest of 1 lemon and 2 ½ cups flour, alternating with 6 tbsp of melted butter. Once the ingredients have been mixed, topple over the worktop (scattered with flour) and knead quite energetically  for at least 15 minutes. Then place the dough in a bowl (previously greased with melted butter), cover it and leave in a warm place to double in size. Then roll out the dough in a suitable tray (you can see in the photo I used a regular oven tray, the only one I had), leaving it 1 cm thick. Leave it again to prove, covered while you make the topping.

For the topping: mix 100g cold butter diced small, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of flour. Avoid using your hands (I use a scraper for this).

Once the dough has risen again, brush it generously with more melted butter and add the topping.

Bake it in a moderate oven (180°C or so) until it has puffed up, become golden and your whole house smells divine!

You can see that, despite what I said above, I tweaked this recipe a little bit. The first time I made it, I did it with the regular Streusel topping I’ve just described but having both read Nigella’s version in Nigella Bites and realising I had some flaked almonds and frozen berries in the freezer, I just couldn’t resist… Enjoy! If you try it, you  will thank me….

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Nigella´s famous cake and what happened afterwards



Or:How to Turn a Long and  Winding Recipe into an Easy Peasy One.

I must confess I have always been puzzled by unnecessary steps in cooking, particularly if such steps are reeeeeeaaaaaaaaaally long.

I learnt the hard way not to take what’s written on a recipe as if it was written in stone. (I am equally annoyed by unnecessary ingredients added to a recipe for no reason like, when they don’t change the texture or flavour of a dish. I will rant about this in another post. Keep waiting).

So what I do is this. First time, I follow the recipe. Second time, I start meddling with it. Believe it or not, sometimes omitting those (long) steps really works.

Unfortunately, one of the persons that does that is my beloved Nigella.

I’m all up for simple, speedy things, when I can. Shortcuts? I don’t mind. And if you work in a hectic restaurant kitchen, believe you me, ANYTHING that will make your life easier will be welcomed with wide open arms.

I love Nigella. Seriously, I do. You should realize it by the number of recipes by her I’ve cooked and posted on this blog.

But sometimes her recipes have THESE-UNNECESSARY-LONG steps which get me thinking: ‘Won’t I live longer if I just don’t do that?’

Like, for example, in her Rosebud Madeleines recipe, she recommends resting the mixture in the fridge for an hour and then at room temperature for another half an hour more. Why? Oh, why?

I let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes and my madeleines turn out fine.

I should know since madeleines are pretty much the only sweet cakes I bake. (That is because my madeleine tin is the only one I have left. For now).

I had heard so many people talk about NIGELLA’S CLEMENTINE CAKE that I knew I had to try it. So when I went to Argentina last year, Nigella’s cake was one of the recipes on my ‘to-do’ list.

It was a treat to make it, the clementines in Argentina are so big and juicy and here, well, here in London they’re just teeny-tiny… Oh, well…

Back to my issue with unnecessary-long steps in a recipe.

For this cake Nigella advocates boiling the clementines to death (for 2 hours!!!!!!) and believe me, if you don’t, you’re in for a surprise ‘cuz… nothing’s gonna happen. Really.

Don’t get  me wrong: the cake was delicious. It was a beauty. So I didn’t want to give up on it completely.

So what happened afterwards?

Well, Nigella’s lengthy, somewhat fussy cake became the easiest thing in the world.

And all that because I didn’t boil the clementines to death. No, I didn’t. and you know what?


They turned out fine.

Also, I experimented using plain flour and baking powder instead of ground almonds because I didn’t see how that could fail. It didn’t. True, made with almonds is a different story altogether but that doesn’t mean that if you haven’t got ground almonds you can’t enjoy this beautiful cake because you can.

I found recipes that used butter instead of oil and that worked fine as well.

These recipes are super easy. All you need to do is blitz everything in the blender (skins and all) and pour the mixture into the cake tin.

Honestly? I didn’t notice the difference.

Nigella’s Clementine Cake – from Nigella’s website

4-5 clementines (about 375g total weight)

6 eggs

225g sugar

250g ground almonds

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. (!!) Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Dump the clementines – skins, pith, fruit and all – and give a quick blitz in a food processor (or by hand, of course). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190ºC. Butter and line a 21cm Springform tin.

You can then add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix. Or, you can beat the eggs by hand adding the sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped oranges.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the tin. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it at any time.

I’ve also made this with an equal weight of oranges, and with lemons, in which case I increase the sugar to 250g and slightly anglicise it, too, by adding a glaze made of icing sugar mixed to a paste with lemon juice and a little water. (this is Nigella talking, not me)


Clementine Cake with oil – adapted from Recetas de Tortas Inolvidables by Blanca Cotta

2 clementines (use 3 if they’re small) If you live in the UK, chances are they will be

3/4 coffee cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup sugar (250cc)

1 ½ cup self-raising flour (I actually used 1 cup)

Cut the clementines in half and blitz it together with the juice of the other clementine. (I didn’t bother and used the 2 whole clementines). Add the egg, sugar and oil to the liquidizer. When everything is well processed, transfer to a bowl and add the sifted flour mixing with a spatula.

Transfer to a greased and floured mould (unless you have silicone moulds, I don’t. Yet.). The mixture should reach  2/3 of the mould because it will grow when baked. (Yes, I know you know, but still…)

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or so until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Clementine Cake with butter – adapted from another recipe by Blanca Cotta

zest and juice of 4 clementines

100 g butter

2 eggs

1 cup sugar (250cc)

200g self-raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Cream the butter with the clementine zest and the sugar. You won’t be able to. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking really well. Now add the juice of the clementines (passed through a chino). The mixture will appear separated but don’t worry. Keep going. Now add the flour sifted with the baking powder. Mix with a spatula, transfer to a mould and bake in a preheated oven (see above).



Christmas edible gifts: clementine candy

 

Christmas in Argentina means HEAT. Nothing like Europe. But since here clementines are in season for Christmas and this is a no-cook recipe, it makes a nice fusion for people in both hemispheres who want a nice recipe for Christmas. 

My friend Mary was in for a treat as I made it with freshly squeezed orange juice (although I suppose you can use normal orange juice out of a carton and nobody will complain).

 

 

 

Clementine candy – adapted from La Cocina Divertida by Blanca Cotta

Carrots, boiled and passed through a sieve, 400g

Sugar, 400g plus extra

Orange juice, 400g

Juice and zest of 1 lemon (optional)

  1. Put all ingredients in a pan and stir continuously with a wooden spoon, over high heat, until you get a shiny and thick “ball” that comes off the sides of the pan.
  2. Place on the worktop.
  3. Take small portions of the mixture, mould them between the palms of your hands in the shape of little balls.
  4. As you shape the little balls, roll them in caster sugar, flatten them and shape them like clementine segments.  
  5. Place the candy on a tray and leave to dry outside the fridge until the next day.
  6. Put them in a box in individual paper cases.

Jam session

 

 

Another post that went bonkers…

 

I have committed an act of disappearance again.

This time due to a long-due, much needed break to go back home.

The holiday was great, it was a highlight all the way through.

The only thing I regret about it was that it was too short. I’ll keep you posted as to my wanderings over there, not necessarily in chronological order.

It was great to see my friends and do a bit of local cooking.I hadn’t been there for ages in the summer and it was lovely to be able to wear sleeveless T-shirts and see the sun at 8 pm still high up in the sky.

Of the many wonderful moments I had, for today’s post I rescue my friend’s birthday, which she celebrated with a “mateada”. 

Mateada is a wonderful custom we have back home. We all drink mate through a sort of metal straw and we take turns in the round. There are many cebadores, the people who re-fill the mate for drinking. It’s a skill, it’s not that easy and I have to say, I can’t do it!

 

But it’s wonderful because it creates that friendly atmosphere which is so unique of the pampas. To be fair, there were many wonderful things to eat on that occasion, including warm ham and cheese croissants to die for. My contribution to it were bizcochitos for the mate (a must!) and as a bonus, prune jam. 

 

 

bizcochitos.jpg

 

Being back home I also took advantage of the time to make some home-made dulce de leche as a gift to friends and family. My friends were delighted (or so they said) as they are not so keen on the industrialized version. I have to say it takes a bit of time (I started it, left it to watch “Mujeres Asesinas”, an excellent Pol-ka production, and went back to it to finish it) but it’s definitely worth it. 

I hope you try making the jams and enjoy them as much as everybody did back home.  

 

 mermelada-de-ciruelas-pasas-blanca-cotta-2.jpg

   

 

 

Prune Jam – from La Cocina Divertida” by Blanca Cotta  

 

Ingredients:

 

Prunes, 2 cups

Apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces, as needed

Sugar, as needed

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Beetroot (raw) peeled and grated, 1

 

 

 

 

 

How to make:

1.        Place the prunes in a small pan, cover with water and leave them to soak overnight.

2.        Boil them until they are tender. Rinse them and core them. (Do not discard the cooking liquid).

3.        Mash them with a fork until you have pureed them.

4.        Measure the puree in cups and place it in a pan.

5.        Add the same amount of cut apples, same volume of cooking liquid (and water if necessary) and same volume of sugar.  

6.        Cook over low heat, stirring ocassionally, until it thickens. Add the juice and zest of lemon and the grated beetroot.

7.        Boil until it thickens like jam.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dulce-de-leche-blanca-cotta-2.jpg

 

 

Dulce de leche – adapted from La Cocina Divertida by Blanca Cotta

Ingredients:

 

Milk, 4 litres

Sugar, 1 kg

Vanilla pod, 1

Bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon

 

 

 

 

How to make: 

 

1.        Boil the four litres of milk, sieve it and pass it to another pan because the milk, as it boils, almost always leaves solids behind. To do it, choose a VERY BIG pan because dulce de leche, as it boils, climbs up like a thief on the run…

2.        Add the sugar, the vanilla pod and the bicarbonate to the milk. The bicarbonate is added so that the dulce de leche doesn’t split and also to give it a dark colour.

3.        Boil over high heat all the time. Beware because at the beginning there will be a lot of bicarbonate-induced foam. This is why I suggested a BIG pan.

4.        As soon as it boils, dulce de leche will begin to thicken, just as it happens when you make syrup. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, so that the dulce de leche doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

5.        When the dulce de leche thickens like a light bechamel sauce, take the pan off the heat, place it in the sink previously filled with cold water and stir all the time with a wooden spoon until it cools down. Place it in sterilized jars and give it away as a present!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bizcochitos for the mate – adapted from a recipe by Blanca Cotta in Viva magazine

 

200 ml cream (either single or double)

2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Self-raising flour, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste 

 

1.      Place the cream and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix with a fork as you add the flour. You should add as much as you need to form a soft dough.

2.      Place on the workplace, sprinkle it with flour knead. Do this as many times as you need to get a dough that is not too sticky. Roll it out and cut it into small rounds.  

3.      Place them onto buttered and floured oven trays. Fork them and cook them until dry.       

 

 

Bombs Away

 

After many adventures in the kitchen of Westminster College which included exploding roly polies and Pithiviers on the run, we finally got on to make something worth of the name bomb: profiteroles which, in Argentina, are called little cream bombs.

 

profiteroles-2

 

 

 

To make them, you have to start by making a pâte à choux which you can then use to make small profiteroles or a big ring for the Paris Brest for example.

Contrary to what you might read in countless cookery books, these gorgeous-looking profiteroles are NOT easy to make. I suppose it’s not that bad when you’re using an electric whisker but when you’re doing it all by hand, man that’s a whole other story. I will not be making them like this again unless I am at gunpoint or I am asked to do them for a test at college in which case I will not have a choice in the matter.

 

 

Pâte à choux  (basic recipe) adapted from Técnicas  y recetas básicas by Blanca Cotta

 

Ingredients:

 

Water, 1 cup

Flour, 1 cup

Salt, a pinch

Butter, 70g (o margarine)

Eggs, 4

 

How to make:

 

1.      Place the water, salt and butter in a small pan and bring to the boil.

2.      As soon as it boils, add the flour all in one go, as you stir quickly with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky, uniform mass that comes off the sides of the pan (stir continually over the heat so that it doesn’t burn.)

3.      Take the dough off the heat and put in a bowl. Wait a few seconds so that it loses a bit of heat but do not let it go cold.  

4.      Whisk the eggs and add, little by little, to the paste, stirring well after each addition. If you add the eggs gradually like this instead of whole as the classic recipes would indicate, you will avoid the split and you won’t have to whisk endlessly to bring it back together again.

5.      Once you’ve added all the eggs, put the pâte à choux in a piping bag (remember that as they cook, the profiteroles will double or treble their size) and form little balls on a greased and floured baking tray. Leave some space between the balls. If you don’t have a piping bag, use two teaspoons. They work equally well. Press them down gently with a wet finger.

6.      Bake the bombs in a very hot oven first, until they puff up, and then carry on cooking them in a very low oven, until they are dry and goleen. If you are too impatient and take them out as soon as the bombs puff up… their internal humudity will flat them and you will believe you have flopped. This step is fundamental to dry them out on the inside and to make them keep their shape.

 

Note: It makes a world of difference if you actually spray your bombs as you put them    

          in the oven. That extra steam will help them puff and grow.

 

 

 

New Year, new start

 

I guess that, in my case at least, you could say that. Yesterday I moved into my new place, I have a (relatively) new job so yes, 2009 is looking promising for me.

I wanted to do a short post and today’s recipe will be for doughnuts. We did it a while ago in my Patisserie course but, since doughnuts are strongly associated with the New Year in many countries  I have been saving the recipe until now.

In all honesty the dough is the very same that we used for the cinnamon buns but, just in case, I will be providing an alternative recipe should you wish to try it instead.

Doughnuts go  by many names and can be eaten plain or with filling, they can also have a hole (in the American fashion) or not.

They are Olliebollen in the Netherlands, Pączki in Poland and, interestingly enough, Berliner in many other places including Argentina (where we know them as berlinesas) and everywhere in Germany except in Berlin itself where they are called Pfannekuchen. All of these countries include doughnuts as part of their traditional New Year fare perhaps because they are round in shape and anything circular is considered a symbol for a cycle that’s coming full circle as it were since times immemorial. For this reason they are also considered lucky.

 doughnuts

Doughnuts or Berliner – adapted from La Cocina Divertida by Blanca Cotta

 

                                                                             

1 tbsp. fresh yeast

¼ cup tepid water

flour, as needed

1 cup milk

100g melted butter

200g and 1 tbsp. sugar

3 egg yolks

3 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

pinch of salt

lemon zest, 1 tbsp.

quince cheese cut into small squares or thick jam, to taste

vegetable oil, to fry

sugar, as needed

 

 

1. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water together with a tsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. flour.  

 

2. Whisk well with a whisker until bubbles have forme on the surface.

 3. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove until it resembles a bubbly foam.

 

4. Put three cups of flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre.

 

5. Put inside the fermented yeast, the salt, the lemon zest, the 200g sugar, the egg yolks and the melted butter.

 

6. Add the milk while you mix everything with an open hand to air the mixture.

 

7. Add the egg whites, beaten to hard peaks while you add more flour until you have a dough that comes off the sides of the bowl.

 

8. Place it on the worktop and work it a little bit until you have a smooth dough.

 

9. Put the dough in a bowl, which you would have floured a little and leave to prove, covered with a tea towel until it doubles in size.

 

Shaping and cooking:

      1.      Roll out the dough leaving it of 1 cm thickness. 

      2.      Cut into rounds of 5 cm diameter.

3.      Place a bit of dulce de leche or jam in the middle of a disc, brush the dejes with a little water and cover with another disc.

 

4.      Once made, roll the dough in your hands to give it a circular shape.

 

5.      Shape the rest of the berliner in the same way. You can also cut out the dough using digital scales and shape them into balls to be filled later with jam or dulce de leche. (In Argentina these are also known as Friar’s Balls, no really!).

6.   Place them on floured trays (uncovered) and leave them to prove until they look lovely and puffy. 

7.      Fry them in abundant hot oil, preferably using a deep frier. 

 

8.      Fry little batches each time so that they can swim at leisure and they don’t stick together, turning them over once, so that they cook evenly. 

 

9.      When they are completely golden (really dark), drain them on kitchen paper and roll them in cinnamon sugar while they’re still hot.

 

Note: You can also roll them in a mix of sugar and cinnamon or you can flavour the dough with vanilla essence or lemon zest. If you’re planning to fill the doughnuts that don’t have a hole, wait until they are cold to do it, otherwise they will spit the filling right back at you! Fillings can be jam, crème patissiere, dulce de leche…                                                                                                          

 

 

Bank Holiday

 

 

As you have probably guessed from the title, it was a bank holiday in Argentina yesterday, but because it fell on a Sunday, they moved it to today. Lucky devils! 

 

This being the case, I wanted to celebrate it by posting another recipe typical from my country.

 

This time it is alfajores.  And yes, I absolutely love my alfajores de maicena (the recipe for which I will be posting later, sometime) but, this time I decided to go for something else.

 

But I have a confession to make.

 

These alfajores look way, way better than they tasted.

 

You see, that’s the problem with being adventurous. Sometimes… it’s not quite right.

 

I have loads of reliable recipes for alfajores but, daring as I am, I wanted to try something new… and different. And while they were not that bad, I thought they were a bit bland. But there you go. If you decide to try them (it is probably one of the few recipes by Blanca Cotta that did not turn out spectacularly well) let me know whether you agree with me… or perhaps not?

 

 

 

 

 

Mini-alfajorcitos from Viva magazine by Blanca Cotta 

 

4 egg yolks

1 tbsp. butter, soft
flour, as needed
dulce de leche, as needed
prune jam, as needed
 
Extras:

 

1 cup icing sugar

hot water, as needed

  

Place 1 cup flour on the worktop.

Make a well in the centre.

Place the yolks and the soft butter in the centre of the well.

Bind the ingredients together until you have a dough which is not sticky.

Add a little more flour or a little more water, if necessary.

Work the dough on the worktop, which will be dusted with very little flour. Do this until the dough is soft and pliable.

Roll it out to a thickness of about 2 cm.

Take it off the worktop with a palette knife.

Cut it into little rounds (about 3 cm diameter more or less).

Join the leftover dough and cut out more rounds.

Place them on greased trays and make holes in the centre with a fork.

Bake them in a hot oven until dry and pale golden.

Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool really well.

Once cold, join them in two with dulce de leche or prune jam.

Once assembled, cover them with a frosting made with the hot water and icing sugar.

 

 

 

Note: To make the dulce de leche more special, I added a dash of cognac and some chopped nuts (a treat!). For these type of alfajores we normally use what is called dulce de leche de repostería. If you can’t get it, just dissolve 1 tbsp. cornflour in some hot milk (just a little bit) and to the dulce de leche which you would have heated in a pan. When it cools down, the dulce de leche will be thicker and much harder to  spill out, you get the idea.