Friday, August 22, 2014

Real Butter Cookies and Tea Under Manhattan Bridge



In this episode of my Summer Season I make real butter cookies for a picnic under Manhattan Bridge with my favorite guy, Vini . I made these cookies because Vini is obsessed with crunchy snacks and I'm obsessed with eating outdoors.

Butter cookies are very simple and easy to make and very similar to a shortbread too. They are high in fat content so their texture is almost a little humid even though they're crunchy. This recipe is not very sweet so I think it tastes best with some jam on top or with some granulated sugar sprinkled before they are baked. This is the perfect snack to bring to an afternoon tea with you


Even though Vini hates tea I made us some natural peach ice tea because there is no point of having an afternoon tea without tea, right? This one is very refreshing and a good option for that super sweet peaches laying at your house this summer. Even if they are going bad you can still use them and they'll be even sweeter.

We met under Manhattan Bridge overpass which is also know as The Archway. There, you can find picnic tables and even food vendors but only 3 times a week and only during summer. It gets pretty packed on the weekdays during lunchtime but it goes back to normal on the afternoon, that's why it was perfect at around 5pm (just that guy with blue shirt on the left messing up with my romantic photo). 


Ingredients: 
for cookie:
7 tbsp cold butter (90g)
2 cups all purpose flour
pinch os salt
1/4 cup confectioners sugar 
Scant 1/2 cup cold heavy cream (barely 1/2 cup - 100g)
for ice tea:
1 Liter water
2 bags of tea such as Darjeeling or Earl grey 
1/2 lemon sliced
3 peaches 
1/4 cup honey
mint leaves to serve

Directions:
Preheat over at 350F
With your fingertips rub the butter into the flour with salt. When crumbly  like breadcrumbs add the cold heavy cream and sugar in the middle of the mixture. Slowly incorporate everything and stop mixing it once you are able to form a ball with it. Flatten it up, cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hr .
After the dough has been chilled roll it up between 2 pieces of parchment paper to about 1/8 in thick . Cut the cookies in the shape of your preference, place them in a baking tray and prick them with a fork. Freeze for 2 minutes only and bake at 350F until the edges are browned, approximately 25 minutes. 
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. 

To make the peach ice tea bring the water to a boil. Pour it over the sliced lemons and the tea bags. Let it steep for 5 minutes . Meanwhile blend together the peaches and honey with little bit of the tea. Pour the tea in a thermo with ice (or any container) removing the tea bags and the sliced lemons.  Stir in the peaches mixture and refrigerate. Serve it with mint leaves. 







Monday, August 11, 2014

Crème Brúlée without a Torch



Crème Brúlée is  a classic that can easily go wrong (very encouraging statement, Raiza). I mean, not completely wrong since there are cream and sugar in the composition but what I mean is that it can easily lose its suburb characteristics such as creaminess (Crème) and crunchiness (Brúlée). 

People are still debating who really invented it, the French, the English or the Spanish but the truth is: It doesn't matter, the recipe is out there and now nobody lives without it ;)

A good Crème Brúlée starts with a good cream (at least 40% butterfat) and a low heat to bake the Crème without overheating it. The second (or maybe first) best part of a Crème Brúlée is the caramelized crunchy layer on top of it, nowadays this crunchy  layer is created with a torch but to me there is no point if I have to go buy an accessory in order to make a recipe. For this reason in this video I'll teach you how to create an incredible Brúlée without the use of any special equipment, you'll only need a spoon, very old school. To me this technique of burning the sugar creates a more stable Brúlée that keeps its crunchiness for longer (not too long though) and looks really good too.

Crème brûlée in glass storage container for easy transportation

Serves 6 people
Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream (organic and local brands are usually higher in butterfat)
1 vanila bean(if you substitute for extract- which I don't recommend-  add it after the cream has been heated)
6 egg yolks 
1/2 cup granulated sugar + more to Brúlée (I've noticed that the less refined sugars such as the organic brands are easier to Brúlée with my spoon technique) 
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese (this elevates the butterfat in your Crème creating an outstanding texture) - optional

Directions: 
1- Preheat oven at 300F.
2- In a pan add the heavy cream and vanilla bean with the seeds scraped out. Over medium heat let them come to almost a full boil, as soon as it rises to the top of the pan turn it off immediately, and put the lid in the pan. Let it steep for 10 minutes.
3- Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow.
4- Re-heat the heavy cream and whisking constantly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper it.
5- Pour the Crème in a shallow ramekin or any glass or ceramic container. Fill them only 1.5 inches up.
6- Place them inside a baking pan and fill the baking pan with hot water enough to cover half way up of the Crème (bain marie).
7- Bake them for approximately 45 minutes or until if feels set to your touch. If the top looks puffed up you overbaked them. Let it cool at room temperature and then you can store your Crème Brúlée for up to 2 days in your refrigerator. 
Before serving:
8- Place a metal spoon on your stove top with the flames on high for 5 minutes.
9- Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar on top of each  Crème Brúlée and burn the top of it by slowly sliding the hot spoon over it. As soon as the spoon cools off you have to wash it thoroughly and scrub it to remove the bits of caramel from underneath it in order to re-heat it again.

Serve cold or at room temperature. The Brúlée maintains its crunchiness for 1 hour only.

Crème Brúlée is definitely one of my all times favorite recipe. Have you ever had one before?


























Friday, August 1, 2014

Madeleines with Lemon Curd at Brooklyn Bridge Park



Today starts my new summer season 'I really wanna go outside'. All new episodes every Friday for the next 5 weeks featuring my favorite recipes to take out on a sunny day. By the end of each episode you'll watch me savor my recipe outdoors at some of my favorite places in Brooklyn with my friends/family/dog.

In this first episode you will learn how to make a chewy Madeleine filled with lemon curd. This classic buttery cake with hints of orange will get even better if you decided to fill them with my sweet-tangy-creamy lemon curd . After baked you can also play with as many toppings as you want and half dip of fully dip your Madeleines into chocolate or sugar glaze and sprinkle it with... well, whatever!



Ingredients:
madeleine
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp orange zest
4 egg whites
1/2 cup butter - 100g
lemon curd
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
yields 22 madeleines 

If you are interested in making my pink raspberry lemonade with real colors from mother nature, here it is:
3 lemons
1L water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup raspberries

Directions: Squeeze the lemons in the water . Use a sieve since there are a lot of seeds in lemons. In a pan add the raspberries and sugar. Over medium heat cook it for 7-10 minutes until syrupy. Let it cool and add to the lemonade. Stir and serve it with ice cubes and fresh raspberries .

Oh summer, please promise you won't 'leave' soon?!

























Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Perfect Berry Sauce and a Lovely Outdoor Kitchen



This episode was filmed in Catskills, upstate NY. I love to skip from the city every once in a while, it's good to slow down my pace and to reconnect with what really matters, nature! 
I enjoy cooking outdoors, it can be challenging sometimes specially for desserts because of the lack of equipment but if you keep it simple and keep it fresh it will all work well in an outdoorsy way ;) 


This berry sauce is my ultimate recipe for any toppings I might need for my desserts: Cheesecakes, crepes, cakes, pancakes, even as a sauce with chocolate desserts, really, anything that requires (or not) a topping. The secret to this sauce is the wine, it adds complexity to something essentially simple and the orange zest and vanilla also plays an important role here. Everything is balanced out very well, so well that the sauce can be served by itself as the main dessert just by boiling it down for a little bit longer and it becomes a Berry Soup! Served with a dollop of whipped cream, ice-cream or creme fraiche is really everything you need in a hot summer day in the woods. 



Ingredients: 
sauce/soup: 
450g (1lb) mixed berries - I used cherries, strawberries and blueberries but any berry is welcome.
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar - if you don't add cherries lower this amount to 100g- 1/2 cup .
150ml dry red wine - use a wine that you'd drink- always! (or you can omit if you prefer) 
1 large stripe of orange zest - no white pith 
1/2 vanilla bean and seeds 
to serve
1 cup heavy cream 
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar 

Directions: 
In a heavy bottomed pan add fruits and sugar and stir. Bring to medium heat and once the pan is hot add the wine, orange zest and vanilla. Let the mixture boil until the sugar is dissolved (around 10 minutes) and the sauce is ready. If you want to serve it 'Soupy' style, let it boil for longer until the sauce is very thick and rich. In this case some of the fruits will lose its shape and everything will gain a dark purple color (just like in the photos here).
for the whipped cream:
In a bowl add cold heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar and whisk it by hand until the cream is thickened. The right consistency is when a peak forms when the whisk is lifted. 

Remove the zest and vanilla bean from the sauce before serving. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top if serving as a soup.  


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ombre Birthday Cake! Moist Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting



All of us at some point of our lives wished we knew how to make a celebration cake, not only for us but for all the special moments we get invited to by friends and family. There is always that wedding, that baby shower, that birthday party... Making a cake for a special event also comes with a lot of pressure - is it going to look good? Taste good? blah blah blah... 
Cakes don't have to be overly decorated to impress, in fact, the over decorated ones are the cheesiest. A celebration cake only needs to look classy and delicious and I think this is exactly what this one here is all about.


I don't know why but I don't like cakes very much. I rarely eat them and rarely make them but at least once a year I save an afternoon just to bake the most amazing and decadent chocolate cake that anyone can possibly eat- my birthday cake!


Yes, it's my birthday and in this episode you are going to learn how to make the cake that i'm going to serve to my guests at my birthday party in my house: An ombre cake with fresh flowers - the moistest chocolate cake on earth with milk chocolate frosting. This cake is not complicated at all to make, it doesn't even require a mixer and all the ingredients are very simple to find. The trick to achieve a really moist texture is to make the batter release carbon dioxide as it bakes and this is achieved by mixing an alkaline ingredient such as baking soda with an acid such as sour cream. This secret will keep you safe for the rest of your life and all the other tricks on how to decorate the cake and make it look "festive" you can learn by watching this video.


My birthday is my favorite day of the year and I not even once not celebrated this date. Happy Birthday to all the Gemini(s) out there! 

This recipe will make two 9" round cakes enough to create a two layer cake like mine. 
Ingredients:
for frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 tbsp honey
280g dark chocolate - 60% cacao or more
280g milk chocolate
1 cup confectioners' sugar
200g cold butter (1 cup)
for cake:
2 cups sour cream  (450g) - or unsweetened yogurt or creme fraiche
340g dark chocolate - minimum 60% cacao
1 cup unsalted butter (200g) - room temperature 
1/4 cup cocoa powder dissolved in:
3 tbsp boiling water
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 cups flour (preferable cake flour but regular flour is ok) 
3 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder 
pinch of salt 
Directions: 
Preheat oven at 350F. Butter and flour your baking pans. 
In a saucepan add the heavy cream, salt and honey. Bring it to a simmer. In a food processor add the chocolates. With the blades running add the hot heavy cream through the tube; process it for 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar and process it again. With the machine running add the cold butter little by little and process until all the butter is incorporated and dissolved. Pour it in a bowl and let it rest at room temperature (in a cool area of your house) to gain consistency. About 2 hrs.

Start making the cake. In a large bowl add the sour cream, chocolate and butter. Melt this mixture over a water bath (pan with boiling water). In a separate bowl combine the cocoa powder with the 3 tbsp of boiling water and add it to the melted chocolate mixture; stir to combine. Remove from the water bath and reserve.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Reserve.
In a third bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients little by little and stir to incorporate everything. 

Pour this cake batter in a pan coated with butter and flour and bake it for approximately 35 minutes in the middle rack or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.





Sunday, June 8, 2014

How to make Real Vanilla Extract



In my new series named "Don't be fooled, Know your food" I'll teach you how to make an ingredient that you never thought it would be possible to make at home and you will learn all the dirty secrets behind the fabrication of this ingredient when made in massive scale.


Our generation (anybody born after the 50's actually) have a tendency to think that ingredients magically appear on shelfs of supermarkets and grocery stores. Here, every other week I'll show you how something is done from scratch and the result will be much superior and much cheaper than the industrialized versions you can find  out there.

Our regular episodes continues and this series are only going to substitute my old "Le Techniquê" episodes because it has a similar approach but are much better with me on camera- yey!

Let me know what you think and I will take your suggestions for next episodes. What do you usually buy at your grocery store that you'd love to learn how to make at home?

Love,

Ra.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Tart au Chocolat with Crunchy Crust



There are some recipes that you need to make before you convince yourself that they are good. Some others you just know immediately that you will love them. This Tart au Chocolat is one of those you know it's good even before making it. It uses only the simplest of the simplest ingredients, it contrasts textures and it's super chocolaty. You already know it's good, right?


My parents were visiting me this month of May and my dad has a really big sweet tooth but I rarely make him desserts when he's here because there's an amazing french patisserie close to my house where my dad visits daily and comes back home with 2 éclairs, 1 french baguette and 2 croissants. I'd make them dinner everyday but I never saw the need to actually make something sweet for them.  Few days before they left my dad said "my friends won't believe when I tell them that you never made me a dessert during my stay". Well.... I think I got his message. He wanted me to make one of my scrumptious desserts and you know what? I did it. I did it so well that my dad almost had an indigestion from eating too much chocolate.

Even though no sugar is added to the creamy filling and the chocolate used here is 70% this dessert is still sweet enough, mostly because of the crunchy crust that is a mixture between almond brittle and hazelnut paste. I have already taught you how to make almond brittle here and caramelized hazelnuts here but just in case I'll teach you all over again in this episode.
This tart is not baked and the chocolate, eggs and heavy cream are enough to harden it and to create a super smooth creamy texture. If you are in a hurry and you don't want to prepare the ingredients for the crust yourself you just have to buy a nice almond brittle and some hazelnut paste. That's it!

My dad has always played the acoustic guitar for fun (only at home). Mostly rock classics and brazilian music like bossa nova. Because of the complicated chords those songs requires- specially in brazilian songs- he'd never memorize the lyrics and since the age of 3 I was the one who sang along with him while he concentrated in all those crazy chords. To me, using my dad as part of this episode by playing live music just felt very natural. He is awesome and my best friend. I could say we are the perfect duo for music and life!


Ingredients: 
if you don't want to make the brittle I'd recommend using the 'English Toffee' sold at Trader Joe's. You will need 1 1/2 cups
 for almond brittle:
100g cup granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
85g light corn syrup - 1/4 cup
40ml water - 2 tbsp
pinch os salt
50g unsalted butter - 1/2 stick
1 tsp baking soda
70g chopped almonds - 1/2 cup
for hazelnut paste:
you can use store bought hazelnut paste or even hazelnut spread such as Nutella if you prefer. You will need 1/2 cup
200g granulated sugar - 1 cup
100g toasted hazelnuts - 3/4 cup 
for filing: 
2 eggs
460ml heavy cream - 1 1/2 cups
340g dark chocolate (minimum 60% I used 70%)
for caramelized hazelnut:
50g granulated sugar - 1/4 cup
10 hazelnuts

Utensils: Tart pan (I used a 12"x 5"), food processor or mixer, toothpick and parchment paper or silpat. 

Directions: To make the almond brittle add the sugar, light corn syrup, water and salt to a pan. Stir to combine and cook it over medium heat until it boils. As soon as it boils add the butter and let it cook until it caramelizes and gains a dark amber color. Turn off the heat, add the almonds and baking soda. Stir. Pour the mixture over a silpat or parchment paper and spread it evenly. Let it cool and break it in smaller pieces. 

To make the hazelnut paste add the hazelnuts to a baking pan. Bake it at 350F for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Rub it with a clean dishcloth to remove some of the skin. Add it to a food processor or mixer and process it until fine. In a pan add the sugar. Over medium heat stir until the sugar caramelizes completely. With the food processor or mixer still running, pour this hot caramel over the hazelnuts to form a paste.  

In a bowl add 1 1/2 cup of finely chopped brittle and 1/2 cup of hazelnut paste (if the paste is too hard microwave it for 15 seconds). Mix it with your hands to combine. Spread it in the bottom of your pan and press it to flatten. Refrigerate until needed.  It is possible that you will have leftover brittle and hazelnut paste. Both can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months. 

To make the filling whisk the eggs together. In a pan add the heavy cream and wait just until it reaches a full boil and rise to the top of the pan. Immediately remove from heat and pour it over the eggs whisking constantly. Add the chopped chocolate to the warm mixture and stir it until smooth. 

Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust and refrigerate it for 1 hour at the top of your fridge (coldest part). Meanwhile make the garnish by melting 50g of sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Once melted, let it cool for 1 minute to thicken a little bit. Insert the tip of a toothpick in a hazelnut and dip it into the caramel. Lift it and place them in a place where they can harden, preferably hanging upside-down at the edges of your cabinet's door. 

Before serving, heat the edges of the pan to help unmold it. Slice the tart and place one caramelized hazelnut over each slice. This recipe yields one 12" x 5" Chocolate Tart (approximately 10 slices).