Ghee, carob and coconut Brigadeiros

“Brigadeiro” is a sort of truffle, made with condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder. It’s a highly popular sweet in Brazil, and because of Portugal’s connection with the country, we have developed a life-long love affair with the bite-sized dessert.
You can find the original version in many pastry shops, cafés and supermarkets but you can easily make this delicacy at home.

I have posted this recipe in the Portugal Resident, but am reposting it here so I can add a few more photos you can drool over.

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This is a photo I took with a macro lense – the effect of the glass table in the background, lit by the morning sunshine, is amazing. Kudos to whoever invented low aperture, it’s like my favorite photography feature ever.

If you decide that dirtying a few dishes for the sake of some homemade goodies is a delightful option, ditch leaving the house, put your apron on and turn the stove on.

Another advantage you get by making this recipe is the fact that your imagination has no limits – choose and play with the ingredients of your preference, just like I did.

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The first part of my culinary adventure was to make Ghee – Indian version of butter and what the French designate as “clarified” butter.

Basically, the process consists in slowly heating the butter in a pan and skimming the frothy foam, with a spoon, while it gathers on the surface.This might take a while (15-25 minutes), but the result is well worth it – butterscotch scented butter, without the impurities or water, a ton of flavour, a longer shelf life and a good option for lactose intolerants.

Any leftover goes amazing in, well, almost anything you decide to cook.

Ingredients
▪ 310 grams condensed milk (uncooked)
▪ 90 grams ghee
▪ 25 grams carob flour
▪ 25 grams cocoa flour
▪ Coconut shavings (for coating)

Instructions
1. Make the ghee as instructed above. Usually, 250 grams of butter will give about 140 grams of ghee (if you skim the foam carefully during the process). Each brand of butter will have a specific percentage of waste, but if you purchase a high fat content butter, you will be able to get more ghee out of the process.

2. In a pan, combine all of the ingredients and stir on medium-low heat for about 10-14 minutes (this depends on the pan and the heat). Keep in mind to stir, almost constantly, and don’t let it burn. It will stick to the pan, so make sure you take it out as soon as it’s finished. Use a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, with a bit of oil, so the mix won’t stick to this either.

3. As soon as it has cooled down enough to handle, weigh portions of about 35 grams each, roll into balls and toss in coconut shavings for a protective (yet edible) coating.

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If you want to gift someone with this edible treat, stack about five portions so they form mini cylinders, wrap in parchment paper and tie both ends with some ribbon (just like a huge piece of candy).

I used half carob and half cocoa powder because I enjoy the aromatic mix, and both ingredients actually combine very well together, without the carob becoming overpowering.

Fig Cake

Fig picking is coming close to an end here in Portugal, and after a few weeks of eating way too many of them, necessity plus a little out of the box thinking just makes you cook wonderful things. Like this cake.

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fig above

Figs are a big part of Portugal, the south in particular, where you can find a peculiar sweet treat called Queijo de Figo, which literally means fig cheese. It’s like dried fig paste with a mix of nuts and condiments, condensed into a cheese format and texture. Cabrita Neto has developed some tasty concoctions with outstanding ingredients, almonds and cardamom. They even have individual bars, that you can eat as a on-the-go snack. Because, come on, who doesn’t want to eat a tasty piece of fig cheese while walking to work or on a stroll by the coast?

Considering the overflow of this fruit through our lands, plus our cute habit of stopping the car by any road side to pick, we acquired a knack of showing you guys all the ways we love to eat, breath and speak fig.

fig picking

In my home town, at the top near the castle wall close to a garden, there is at least five trees. As soon as summer hits, the fruity smell wonders through the air, and people pop by a branch ever so often to see if any figs are ripe enough to eat. After a few weeks of hot summer heat, beachside adventures and tourist drenched streets, you will find the locals around the trees, with huge poles, that have a sort of tweezer-ish character about it, so they can reach the high branches and pick the out-of-reach fruit. It’s traditionally beautiful.

Not every tree is the same. My grandmother’s tree starts mid August, my backyard trees all sort of begin in September, and a few are still not ready to eat yet.

So, about this cake: it’s a great recipe to add any sort of fruit you wish, and it keeps quite a while considering how moist it is. The lack of dairy provides a sweet treat for a huge group of special dietary people. The original recipe called for only oil, but I have combined half olive oil, so the health benefits are present, without the overwhelming flavor some might not enjoy much in sweets. What sort of olive oil should you use? I prefer to save the extra virgin for salads and bread dipping, use the virgin one for baking as flavor wise it will just combine with the remaining ingredients plus, it will also be cheaper to concoct.

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Ingredients:

  • 250 grams brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml cooking oil
  • Lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 225 grams all purpose flour (whole grain for you health nuts)
  • 7 grams baking powder
  • 7 grams baking soda
  • 2 grams sea salt
  • 300 grams figs
  • 4 tablespoons Tawny Port wine
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (ghee for lactose intolerants)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (water for lactose intolerants)

Instructions:

  1. Roast the figs, whole, in port wine and a drizzle of honey. No need to add too much sweet, the figs speak for themselves. Let cool and save the sticky port wine syrup. This will be the base for the glaze. sem título-1079
  2. Beat the eggs sugar, oils and lemon zest for 5 minutes on medium, until a smooth paste os formed.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarb + baking powder, and add to the previous mix.
  4. Add the salt, the roasted cooled figs (cut in quarters).
  5. Place in a cake pan with parchment paper and bake at 165ºC for at least one hour.
  6. Cool the cake, remove from the pan and gently remove the parchment paper. It is suppose to look fairly rustic.
  7. Make the glaze with the roast fig + port wine syrup, softened butter/ghee, lemon zest and milk/water.glazing cake
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  9. Eat.

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Any leftovers? Eat it for breakfast, lunch, snack, whenever. It’s just that sort of cake. Goes well with everything and everyone, if you’re wondering.

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My dog also enjoyed gazing at the cake.

Casa Vale da Lama Eco Resort – Pizza Time

In Vale da Lama there is an Eco Resort. Charm full, peaceful, plus, they have a Pizza gathering every so often Saturday through the warm summer evenings. You should call to reserve ahead of time – and make sure you don’t do it the day before, otherwise you will risk not being able to go.

Once you get there, and even if you get lost on the way (I did, at least twice), you will feel at home. Random tables, cozy benches, down to earth puffs, and several relaxed people waiting for a very delicious evening. As long as your stomach can handle as much pizza as it possibly can, you won’t ever leave this place hungry, I even had to stop eating the everlasting flow of pizza, because I just cannot leave a place without having dessert.

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So, here’s the deal: you book, you arrive, you pay the 8€ that allow you to eat as much pizza as humanely possible, you buy a drink and you are seated to whichever table was assigned to you and your company. In case of small groups, you also get to know other individuals that will be seated next to you – it’s all about sharing a space, having a few laughs, eating pizza. What else cold you possibly want to enjoy on a summer saturday evening?

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The pizzas, from what I gathered, are a mix of available ingredients: mushrooms, eggplant, onion, peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese and fresh herbs.

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Besides the comfort food, the setting, the people, the whole event is an amazing experience. Whoever is preparing the pizza’s have the best mood ever – because pizza making is fun, ain’t it? Plus, you get to make a bunch of hungry people happy. That’s awesome just by itself.

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Happy people – happy food!

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The music is also fantastic! Kudos to the DJ for sharing some good tunes. This weekend coming up you can hear some live music from Mariana Root – it starts at 9:30pm. 

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Even the Pizza People show their moves!

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Even if you are not into much socializing, and want to gaze up at the vast star printed sky, you can enjoy such an event on many of their available chairs, puffs, even hammocks. On this night, I saw a shooting star.

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The dessert: carob brownie with figs. You’re not gonna find a more traditional dessert like this one, with regional and sustainable ingredients. That’s what this place is all about – eco friendly fun and life.

Visit Vale da Lama Eco Resort event here, where you can find details for this Saturday, the 19th, and contact to make your reservation. More info on their accommodation, events, get to know them through their website here.

Honey Lemon Curd Muffins

You know that saying, ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Or throw them at someone’s head?’ Well, I’ve decided to make something sweet instead.
This recipe was my solution to use up lemons that were falling desperately off the tree.

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|| Muffin batter
Ingredients
2 eggs
105 grams salted butter
80 grams brown sugar
50 grams honey
200 grams all-purpose flour
60g soy milk (lactose intolerant option)
Zest from 1 lemon, plus 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
8 grams baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Procedure
Make sure butter is kept at room temperature, and beat for at least two minutes on medium speed until smooth. Keep beating while adding the honey and sugar. Add the lemon zest and vanilla paste until combined. Beat in one egg at a time, making sure you incorporate well before adding the other egg.

Sift the flour with the baking powder beforehand; add into the butter mix along with the liquids (soy milk and lemon juice).

Let the batter set for at least an hour before cooking; this helps the flour to absorb the liquid, which makes the dough become very moist.

Fill greased muffin pan or individuals up to 3/4. Preheat the oven to 165ºC and bake for 25-30 minutes.

|| Lemon curd
(Bimby’s recipe – our favorite kitchen gadjet – it’s better than a Kitchenaid – no, seriously)
Ingredients:
160 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
60 grams salted butter
2 lemons (zest and juice)

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Procedure:
Melt the sugar with the lemon juice on low heat – don’t let it boil. Stir the syrup into previously beaten eggs and continue to mix while slowly incorporating it. Cook again on low heat, always stirring. You will recognise it’s done when a dipped spoon becomes drenched with thickened curd. Off the heated stove, add the butter and let it melt slowly.

Scientifically, eggs start to coagulate around 60°C; a bit higher they will curdle and separate. The key is a low temperature, plenty of stirring, without overcooking. Plus don’t forget to stir. If a very silky smooth texture is desired, pulsing it in a blender will do the trick.

Cut out a hole in the baked muffins and fill with the curd, sprinkle with powdered sugar or dress up with fresh thyme.

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Any leftover lemon curd? Mix it with plain yoghurt and muesli. Use it as a pancake topping, a simple spread for toast or combine with salty cheese for a sweet tangy contrast.

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Plum Crumble

Seasonal fruit, seasonal desserts. When you have too many plums ready to pop off the tree, you have to do something about it. Crumble is, and always has been, my answer to this problem.

My mother taught me well, she is and has always been my kitchen guru, the one who creates delicious goodies with whatever the farm provides. I blame her for my sweet tooth and my adorable habit to eat crumble for breakfast.

Whether it’s for dessert, a snack to keep your sweet cravings happy or a quick breakfast to get a good head start of a busy day – this is ideal!

Because it is such a versatile dessert, an easy solution for the overflow of fruit, specially if you need to kick off that guilty feeling of not eating up vitamin and fiber rich goodness.

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 I´m obsessed with these cute ramekins.
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Ingredients:
Plums
155 grams brown sugar
245 grams whole grain oats
100 grams all purpose flour
105 grams macadamia nuts
190 grams butter
Vanilla
Lemon zest
Procedure: Cut the plums in quarters, discard the seeds. If you like a bittersweet dessert, be lazy about it and keep the skin on! Don’t forget, besides being healthier, you are also being kind to the environment by not wasting nutritionally valid pieces of food.
Choose the amount of fruit you think might be reasonable for your crumble. It’s all about improvising, and getting used to being the boss in the kitchen. If you do however need a reference, I usually add more fruit than actual crumble, as this tends to bake, release moisture and inevitably shrink.
Now, for the crumble, coarsely grind the macadamia nuts, mix in remaining dry ingredients plus vanilla extract and lemon zest. With the tips of your fingers, incorporate the butter till it turns flaky. Beware, do not mix it too much as it will turn into a cookie dough rather than a crumble itself.
Plate in individual ramekins or just use a big dish if you don’t feel like fafing about with washing too many dishes afterwards.
Bake at 185ºC until the crumble is golden and you can see the fruit bubbling on the side of the dish. It should look purple and yummy.
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Serve with cozy warm custard on a fresh evening or accompany with sugar free cold yoghurt for a hot summer morning.
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Street Food Festivals – Portugal 2015 (Part 1)

In Portugal, street food has become a thing. Actually, all around the world it has gone berzerk every way possible. It’s just another one of those things that goes gourmet after years of being in the dark. The same has happened to octopus here – it used to be cheap and a certain meal for whoever couldn’t afford to buy meat or better fish – and today it’s ridiculously expensive because, well, it just became popular. This is a problem with street food, it can be great, delicious, or a right disappointment if the money is not worth the while. I don’t think many are going to do the effort to have the best mouthwatering product, they might just be more interested in promoting their facebook page or getting tagged on instagram by a new client.

And yes people, I have had my coffee this morning, this opinative text is all about to make sense in the second half (which will be published later today). Bare with me.

So recently I had the opportunity to attend the World Food Tourism Summit in Estoril organized by APTECE, the National Chef’s Congress and during that week, the Street Food European Festival was also in the vicinities feeding hungry people. And waiting for me. What a bonus! Aha! I did have fun, took some cool photos, had a great glass of wine, a few snack items and enjoyed great company while talking about food. In every possible way.

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Legal Nomads – One of the cutest trucks throughout the event, aside from the cutest lemonade stand I saw on the last day, if I were to acquire a mobile food service item, this would be it. Specialty: crepes. Pretty good, or just to say, not bad. I’m a huge fan of pancakes, crepes so so, but I think I was just a bit disappointed with the filling, it didn’t blow my mind away. On the bright side, the inside kitchen of the truck is adorable – I would have it in my own house if I could!

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Waffelaria Tradicional – These guys showed up on Shark Tank PT version – I credit them for their high quality product. Liege waffles are hard to come by, actually I don’t think I have ever had the opportunity to eat a homemade, freshly pressed waffle, let alone a chewy Liege style with chunks of sugar (just like it should be, traditionally), from a tiny stand. I totally recommend, better than any crepe, any day.

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Maria Wurst – From what I have read about Maria Wurst, it is a fusion between two female geniuses – one portuguese, the other german. This is a match made in heaven, how can a sausage business not thrive with two sausage native speaking women?

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The two sausages my friend and I had. Simply delicious and oversized compared to the size of the bun (just the way it should be). Simple, with onion, sauerkraut (which was very good) and my smoked wiener was divine! I hope to see you guys more often!

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The Skinny Bagel – CUTEST VAN EVER! No, seriously, I love the stand, the color (great marketing tactic btw – orange is one of the star colors in attracting people’s attention), the menu. Unfortunetly, the day I decided to try one – no more burger bagel, which was the one I wanted to try.

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The Crabbshack – No more soft shell crab burgers when I went to their stand. British dudes, who were invited to the event, obviously they have a fish and chips sort of concept – with squid, no more crab and they had no way of finding more because it came all the way from the UK. Shame, but I did take a photo of whatever they had left to sell.

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The Copenhagen Coffee Lab – I don’t know why I came here, honestly, after living in Portugal for so many years, I kind of poo poo any coffee that isn’t PT style. Or Kope Luwak! (good stuff)

I suppose I just wanted to know what the whole fuss was about, and was feeling in need of a caffeine boost before I went to work. Not bad, but, just a simple overpriced laté. Plus, the lady was in some sort of intense co<sçdfjknversation with some random fellow, while I stood there waiting at least 5 minutes before she acknowledged my existence and asked me what I wanted. Anyway, cute heart. And cute stand!

This is the end of part one hungry people, later on I will gather the remaining photos of day two, plus a few special extras I caught on camera at the congresses.

Fifi’s Lunch Box

Either you love bacon, or you are wrong.

This post is about a bacony place, called Fifi’s Lunch Box, in Terre Haute Indiana. I hadn’t set foot in the United States since 2002, when I was only an eleven year old girl. So, when my trip was booked after a decade, one of the items on my bucket list was to find a bacon themed place to eat. But it seemed that my list was way too long, I had too much to do with so little time to spare. Finally, on my last day, I begged my nan to drive me to this place my aunt had told me about, that had everything with bacon, even bacon soda!

Off we went, through Terre Haute’s chaotic Lafayette Ave., got lost a couple of times, nearly got hit (at least once), even stopped by the police (no ticket thank goodness – people in Indiana seem to be very kind and unusualy nice, police likewise, even if you turn on a red when you’re not suppose to).

We were about to give up, when my baconstinct said “No Megan, you are too close to just go back home now – what if you only come back after another twelve years?!” and asked around at a gas station. Obviously, everybody knew about Fifi’s, this was a good sign, and back on track we went, to find The Bacon Utopia.

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There it was, shut. I panicked, but knocked, and Jaqueline was there so kindly to open the door and question my curiosity. I think I might of gotten of as some type of lunatic, Nikon around my neck, wanting to take pictures of everything, and asking “where are the Bacon Cupcakes?”. I suppose americans are used to this, so in I went, and got talking to Jaqueline, who was just getting prepared for an event of 300 people the next day (so.much.bacon.arrghh). Their food truck was off elsewhere catering to other customer’s bacon needs in some nearby event. I questioned about their products, complimented on the bacon donut burguer (yes, they do it!) and got lost in all the bacon merchandise stacked up neatly on the shelves.

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I had to say that I was desperate into trying something, as I was from Portugal, where nowhere you can find much bacon enthused people nor places (alghtough I think if anybody would open up that type of business oversees, it would be me), and was eager to write about the shop on the blog. In the end, I took three cupcakes home and a box of bacon candy. Tempted into also buying a bacon lipbalm, and a pound of their homemade bacon (but highly doubted that customs would let me go through with that in my suitcase) I curbed my enthusiasm by sticking to my main plan – to take a few pictures of the yummy bacon sweet goodies, because bacon goes good with everything. Jaqueline was so kind into offering a sample of gooey bacon butter cake, which really tasted like bacon. It was delicious.

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My next mission was to get home with three intact cupcakes, so I could try each one of them, take notes, shoot some mouthwatering pictures and show the rest of my bacon crazed family (who lives in Terre Haute) that bacon sweet tooth works very well.

Jaqueline informed me that they are about to open a new shop, in a new location. North Terre Haute ends up being a bit out of reach, and it is a small place to cater to their upcoming fans. I hope I can check it out next time I go back, and actually enjoy having a meal there.

 So what you should know about Fifi’s is:

– They make their own bacon, applewood smoked, also have a great pork purveyor who caters to big orders, with top notch quality suine;

– The menu is amazing;

– It is a humble enviorment with a friendly vibe;

– “Bacon makes everything better” and “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon” are signs posted on the wall;

– Home of the Bacon Latte (omg);

– Bacon, Bacon and, well, Bacon.

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I hope you guys become international and think about visiting Portugal in the near future, I would definitely become a regular customer, and drag all my bacon friends there.

 About the cupcakes I tried:

Beer batter dough, cheddar cheese and bacon buttercream frosting: wow! Loved the frosting and the density of the cupcake, which was more like a muffin.

bacon cupcake with cheddar cheese

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The Elvis Presley, banana bread base, peanut butter frosting, chocolate chips and a bacon piece on top: anything peanut butter, thumbs up, with bacon? Even better.

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elvis presley up close

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Dark chocolate and buttercream frosting with a cute decorative salty piece of bacon on top: lovely fluffy texture, great color contast between the black, white and the rosie piece of bacon.

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Beyond recognition, all cupcakes were a success. My favorite was the Elvis Presley, the peanut butter goes so well with the banana and the bacon gives it that extra flavor experience, as salty savory just becomes the “cherry” on top of the “cupcake”.

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3 in a row

Before I go, I have to tell you about this awesome bacon magazine I found in Rural King (the only place in the states where you can take your pet – even a snake, as long as it has a leash on it. Oh! And free popcorn!). Only in ‘murrikuh! Everything bacon related is in it, from how to make it on the comfort of your own home, amazing recipes and plenty of delicious bacon photos.

Don’t forget to check out Fifi’s website, facebook page and if ever in the vicinities of Terre Haute, or thinking about going to a nearby festival, check out if you are close to tasting a bit of bacon heaven. With homemade bacon, what else?

 Thank you Fifi, for making my overdue trip to the states worth while, and putting up with my everlasting curiosity about meeting your shop. I approve this vittle, as a luso-american foodie! Keep up the good work!

 Bacon is life!

Profiteroles

Today is the day that my dear friend Daiane Lopes and I publish our first recipe together, in a portuguese online magazine called Umbigo. I’m very excited about this, because our first recipe is a mix between both of our cultures. Being brazillian, Daiane makes her famous “brigadeiro” (mixed condensed milk, butter and chocolate) and my american vein is bond to add a bit of peanut butter to it. So that is how our first profiterole topping/filling came about.

Even if you do not understand portuguese, please do take a look at our publication through the following link – http://umbigomagazine.com/um/2014-09-29/profiteroles.html – and appreciate one of the best PT magazines, with so much information on art, cultural events, and many outstanding writers and editors. It recently won a bronze award at Festival do Clube de Criativos de Portugal.

This is where some of our recipes will be posted through the following months, and we have enjoyed very much trying out some new recipes, just like this one.

So, first of all, the 101 Profiterole lesson. This is another recipe adapted from Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller’s book (Bouchon Bakery) and it is a very easy, accessible thing to bake. A few tricks and details however, but surely no rocket science on how you come about to cooking a golf ball sized puff of 85% air and 15% delicate ready-to-fill pastry. The filling is really up to your personal taste, and you can use various types of cream, glazes, anything worth setting inside a little golden puff of hollowness, ready to ooze out after the first bite.

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Ingredients:

  • 250 grams water
  • 125 grams salted butter
  • 138 grams flour
  • 250 grams eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Start by combining the water and the butter in a pan, over a medium heat until the butter is completely melted and the water starts to simmer. Do not let it boil, as it will reduce necessary moisture. Mix in the flour, with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. By this time, the dough will become a paste and will start to unglue from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a bowl and with a mixer, beat for about 30 seconds to release some of the leftover moisture. Add in the eggs, in 5 stages of 50 grams each. Make sure that each previous addition is well incorporated before adding the next. At one point, you might freak out because the dough will look grainy and uncontrollably destroyed – don’t panic, this will soon disappear with the constant egg addition, which is responsible for the gooey elastic texture and appearance.

Let the dough cool down a bit, for about 15 minutes, before gathering it in a pastry bag (choose whichever tip of your preference, just make sure it has a big opening). Slightly dab the corners of a cookie sheet with any remaining dough and lay a piece of parchment paper over the top (this will keep the paper stuck to the tray while in the oven, and not fly off and wreck the profiteroles). Start forming the pâte à choux disks, about 2/3 cm diameter, by pressing and slightly elevating the pastry bag to give it some volume. Stop pressing when you mean to start another one, otherwise the dough will just keep on going while you stretch the bag up and mess up the pretended format. Keep about 2 cm of distance between each disk.

Dab a finger in cold water and smooth out any tips that remained from your marvelous piping techniques (it happens to me, to you, everyone, and you just can’t prevent that tiny little bump from forming). Lay the tray(s) in the freezer until the disks are removable. This is another great freezing technique combined with patisserie excellence, first of all because profiteroles should be eaten fresh, within an hour after baking; second because by gathering the already frozen disks in a bag, you have some ready to pop in the oven whenever your sweet tooth desires (without having to defrost them); third because it stabilizes texture by preventing them from melting before “popping”.

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This is what the frozen profiteroles look like. They will last up to a month in the freezer, inside a zippy bag.

To bake: preheat the oven to 190ºC, the best setting is the convection one, but if that is not a possibility for you, then try the one you are most comfortable with. Spritz the profiteroles with water, into the oven and reduce the temperature to 170ºC. Cook for 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake an extra 10 minutes. Makes 45-50 profiteroles.

The fillings and/or toppings:

Peanut butter “brigadeiro”:

Ingredients:

  • 395 grams condensed milk (1 can)
  • 300 grams smooth peanut butter
  • 300 grams dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • 150 grams whole cream
  • 60 grams caster sugar

Preparation:

Combine the peanut butter and the condensed milk in a pan, on the stove, and bring up to a simmer. In another pan, melt the chocolate with the butter, the cream and the sugar (just until the chocolate is completely melted). Mix both concoctions and set aside.

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Whipped cream: do I really have to give you a recipe for this? I didn’t think so, but just in case, whip 250 ml of whole cream, two tablespoons of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Or just use whichever recipe you are used to.

profiterol recheio nata I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream in desserts, but when in the right amount and with a good contrast (like this sweet and smooth peanut butter chocolate Snickers tasting goodness), it tastes rather nice. 

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You can always invert the topping/filling idea. Top with crunchy salted peanut for texture and flavor contrast.

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Lime merengue: So this was another idea I had for filling the profiteroles, as I have so many of them in the freezer just waiting to be pimped with awesome flavors. And so the pieterole was born! I am feeling quite eager into trying new pie transformations into this tiny format. Just you wait!

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How the profiterole was invented: a patisserie professional, a french one (of course), one day forgot to add sugar into his pastry cream. He therefore hid it in the oven, and only later on he remembered that the oven was actually hot. And puff, that is how pâte à choux was born.

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Lime curd

Ingredients:

  • 325 ml water
  • 30 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams flour
  • 360 grams caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 75 grams lime juice (lemon if lime isn’t your thing)
  • Lime zest

Preparation:

Stir and cook the water, cornstarch, flour and sugar. As soon as it starts to bubble, cook for two minutes, always stirring. Gently poor this into the egg yolks, and stir fast so it doesn’t curdle. Cook for a further minute before adding the lime juice and zest. Once this starts to bubble, cook a further 3 minutes. Take off the stove and gently incorporate the butter.

If you think it is lumpy, by all means, pass it through a strainer.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap, contacting directly with the surface, so it doesn’t form an outer layer of unwanted skin.

Merengue

Weigh the leftover egg whites from the previous recipe, and measure double the amount of sugar. This is a recipe for an italian merengue, I find it quite stable as it lasts two days in the fridge without separating, and if you have any leftover just pipe the remaining on a tray and bake in the oven, like mini pavlovas.

Ingredients:

  • x grams egg whites (I used 70 grams)
  • 2x grams caster sugar (so 140 grams as in double the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops lemon juice/lime juice/vinegar (this prevents the merengue from crystalizing while in the fridge)

Preparation:

Heat sugar, water and acid option on the stove, till 121ºC. A bit before reaching this temperature, make sure you start to beat the egg whites. As soon as they are formed, start poring the sugar syrup, and beat until cooled down (about 5 minutes, if you have a stand mixer, even better, just let it beat a bit more).

This is a very very sweet merengue. If you want to make something lighter, just do it the traditional way (no sugar syrup, but a few spoons of sugar while beating), but remember that that sort of merengue won’t last long, if not cooked. This can be good if you are willing to scarf all of the profiteroles down in one day, the fresher the better. If you have to make this the day before serving, I advise this technique as it holds pretty well overnight in the fridge. It is a truly reliable recipe as the high temperature reached by the sugar syrup allows the egg whites to actually cook into the merengue form. Obviously after a few days it is not at its best, after two it already lacks a bit of substance, but guess what – you can beat it again, and again, and again! Because merengue never over beats. This is true. Google it if you must.

I am in the process of trying out low calorie versions of merengue whilst using gelatin powder, so it is stable without the excess sweetness, but the results so far have not been satisfactory. I have also used, in the past, alternative sugars like isomalt, but it just doesn’t taste that good, and it is not very hygroscopic (keen to holding on to moisture/water) so it acts very differently and ends up separating faster than the caster sugar version. It is beneficial for weight watchers and diabetics, because as an alcoholic sugar, it is only partly absorbed into the body. The negative side: it isn’t as sweet.

side profiteroles

bitten profiterole

To fill the profiteroles: make a little hole on the bottom side with a knife, anywhere the dough is most fragile so it is easy to poke without destroying much of the puff. Use a thin tip and a piping bag to help, and don’t overdo it with the filling – otherwise it will get too rich. I usually weigh them after filling, and between 10-15 grams of filling is perfect.

If you prefer, you can open them, fill them, and shut them again. Whatever is easiest for you, but keep in mind that maintaining the filling a secret is the best part of eating a profiterole in the first place!

For the merengue, the funnest part of all, use a torch to slightly brown the topping, it will taste like a roasted marshmallow.

Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse

First of all, I have to thank my dear friend N (i’m not spelling his whole name, but he knows it’s him!) for providing this healthy recipe of one of the most decadent desserts I know.

Don’t take me wrong, I love butter! But olive oil in a mousse? Chocolate mousse?! That’s just plain nutrition genius.

up above mousse

Best topping for a chocolate mousse? Salt. Pink pepper is also very nice.

Besides giving you the recipe, I’m also going to share my cooking experience by adding more or less sugar and chocolate to the mix. Obviously the best recipe is the one with more sugar and chocolate! And I’m about to explain why.

mousse with me

If you look closely at the spoon, you can actually see me taking the picture!

side mousse 2

The first attempt was the low cal recipe, where one tablespoon of sugar per egg is added, with 100 grams of dark unsweetened chocolate and two tablespoons of olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 7 eggs (separated)
  • 7 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 100 grams of dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Procedure: Melt the chocolate with the olive oil and the salt (save some for sprinkling before serving), making sure it does not pass 50ºC. Beat the yolks with the sugar. Incorporate the melted chocolate (when luke warm). Beat the egg whites. Fold the yolk mix into the whites, gently. Spoon into ramekins and let set in the fridge at least one hour before serving.

Now, the low cal recipe was quite a challenge, as I noticed the egg whites didn’t set very well (no added sugar, and don’t expect cream of tartar will do the trick, it is great for an even whiter effect, but not so good at maintaining the whip). The lack of sugar also contributes to a faulty consistency, besides using half the chocolate, which led to lack of cohesiveness. By the next day, the mousse had egg white at the bottom, and just didn’t have the right fluff to it, especially because there was too much available water, ready to leak and ooze out of the protein web (the richer the web, with chocolate, sugar and fat, the easier it will solidify and prevent separation, in a cold envoirment).

The best version of this recipe, decadently delicious and healthy (just because it doesn’t have butter!), has double the chocolate (yum) and four more tablespoons of sugar.

So the best recipe is here:

  • 7 eggs (separated)
  • 11 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200 grams of dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

close up mousse

A trick my patisserie teacher taught me in my second year of college was to slightly warm up the egg whites, until it is warm to the touch, before beating. This supposedly helps keep the whites from separating while in the fridge for prolonged periods of time. As a fact I have researched this, it seems to be quite an antique procedure, for when electrical appliances were scarce, and beating was done manually. I do it anyway, as I can tell a difference, specially when making lemon merengue pie. Just remember to do this over a pan of hot water, and keep stirring and checking, so the mix doesn’t coagulate. It also helps build them and maintains them steady through cold environment without separating the water from the protein. By the time the egg whites are warm, you can start beating, and add two tablespoons of the sugar when they are nearly ready.

The procedure for this recipe is the same as the previous low cal version. Remember to eat within the following three days (raw eggs).

side mousse

If your mousse sets like this on it’s side, then you made a good consistent recipe.

Reading Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen will help you understand the science of making a mousse, even if you are a kitchen newby – this is where I got all the information for this post. It is also my food bible.

Another plus about adding the extra sugar and chocolate, is the fact that you don’t even notice the olive oil flavor (for whoever does not appreciate it). Sorry if you are diabetic, I cannot help you with this one (you can try adding frutose, I personally don’t appreciate it because of the metallic after flavor, or isomalt).

Something I have to warn you about this recipe is using raw eggs. If you are a food professional like I am, you know that in your establishment you should apply HACCP knowledge and pasteurization techniques, but it’s also a harder process to achieve good mousse like consistency. By applying the bombe technique, the eggs lose aeration properties, and so lingers the need to use gelatin leaves, which gives a hell of a lot more trouble, and will alter the flavor. Non the less, you should try it out, push your patisserie capacities to the limit, so you can understand why this and that happens!

spoon mousse 2

Look how the mousse stays steady on the spoon – that’s the perfect, fluffy, gorgeous consistency a mousse should have.

spoon 2 mousse

Not pasteurizing eggs is a microbiological hazard, it is a petri dish of salmonellas, possibly a few campylobacter’s and plenty other egg loving bacteria. But hey, so many, and I mean soooo many people, including chefs and food eccentrics have risky eating habits, like raw oysters that are very dangerous because of the toxins that can act in seconds, leaving you near your death bed (PSP, DSP, NSP and ASP). Oh, the irony. But as Anthony Bourdain once said, “Your body is an amusement park. So enjoy the ride.”. This guy knows stuff.

Make the damn mousse with raw eggs, you will live.

If you are, however, prone to food disease or have a weak imune system, I advise you to purchase pasteurized eggs, or research how to do la bombe technique, where you pasteurize the eggs, with a 121ºC sugar syrup. For smaller quantities, you can use a microwave until the eggs, sugar and a bit of water reach 85ºC (the water is necessary, as it will evaporate, if it is not present, the eggs will scramble) and then beat till cool. Although this is the safest technique, and highly required in the restaurant business, it does lack substance and successful aerating. To counteract this, use gelatin leaves and whipped cream. But that’s a whole other recipe itself, far away from the purpose of this one, which is to opt for a dairy free ingredient.

choco 1

empty mousse

I used a leftover jam jar and a white ribbon, for presentation purposes. But I also choose many different jars, with different sizes, because everyone wants a certain amount.

nearly empty mousse

I couldn’t help myself. I had to eat it while photographing for this post.empty empty mousse

About the olive oil to use, and the best that Portugal can offer, I’m saving that for a future post. I think I might have overwhelmed you a bit with too much technical/scientific patisserie information. So – Keep Calm and make that mousse! 🙂

Sweet Potato and Blueberry Scones

There’s just something about sweet potato that elevates it’s standards to becoming a patisserie ingredient, beside being another tuber variety.

To whom doesn’t already know, Aljezur is the sweet potato capital in Portugal, known for having the best product in the country. Even the world. The town has a festival and a museum dedicated to it, and it is fairly popular with locals and rural tourism comers and goers.

Incorporating the sweet potato in a scone just seemed ideal for trying something new, while using a traditional and regional ingredient.

Museu-da-Batata-Doce_Logotipo1

This recipe is adapted from another I found in my favorite pastry book – Bouchon Bakery by Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller. Everytime I bake something out of this book, the results are divine and may I add that the pictures are beautiful, and not to mention that every bit of information is spot on professional. My weighing or cupping page is mostly based on everything I’ve learned while discovering this good read. Every recipe comes in both formats, so wether you prefer imperial measurements or have an everlasting relationship with your metric scale – you are bond to enjoy the results as much as the process itself.

The addition of frozen blueberries was meant for tartness, a little contrast against the sweet, and the color.

pre scones

Go nuts with the diluted egg wash and sprinkle plenty of caster sugar. Sprinkle it everywhere!

I baked this batch of scones twice: the first half was the morning after I put them in the freezer from making them the night before, and the rest two weeks later. If you are not a fan of freezers, with all those ice crystals ruining the consistency and proportionating off-flavors – please read on and think twice about this technique for baked goods, as it helps flavor maturation and texture stability. You know those delightfully scrumptious macaroons sold everywhere in France? The are sold only after at least 48 hours of chilling in negative temperatures (ºC). Michelin Star restaurant pastry chefs go by this rule, and you can’t have a star if you don’t end the meal with a bang, wether it’s dessert or Petit Fours, trust me when I tell you that at least one of those elements was previously frozen.

What I experienced with this recipe was: the second batch was better than the first. Tastier, with a better texture and a bit less fragile than the first batch. Just try it out yourself, and you will see what I mean.

after oven scones 2

The recipe (altered to include the sweet potato):

  • 152 grams whole wheat flour
  • 304 grams regular flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour – we don’t have that here, so I used what we call T55, which is sort of the same)
  • 227 grams cold salted butter (I use salted because I LOVE salty flavor in sweets)
  • 12,5 grams baking powder (ok, for all you imperial lovers, 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2,5 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 91 grams caster sugar
  • 200 ml cream
  • 180 grams baked sweet potato pure (whichever sweet potato you desire – I like the orange ones, the sweetness is wonderful)
  • 1 cup blueberries

after oven scones

Procedure: turn the oven on 200ºC and bake the sweet potatoes whole, skin on, for about 45 minutes to an hour. Peel the potatoes and blend the amount of pulp necessary with the cream. Set aside and mix baking soda, powder and sugar with the flours. Use a food processor to pulse this combination with the cold butter (or a fork – the tips of your fingers will melt the butter and reduce flakiness in the final product). Incorporate the cream and sweet potato mix, but not too much as you don’t want any of that gluten gaining any strength. Add the blueberries and stir gently. Set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

scones after oven 3

Roll the dough on a floured surface to be at least 1,5 to 2 cm high and cut to your liking. Lay on a tray with parchment paper and let them freeze for about 2 hours. At this point, gather them in a zippy bag, or if you plan to leave them in the freezer for a few weeks, wrap each one individually with plastic film.

up above scones

Now to bake them: diluted egg wash, plenty of caster sugar and straight into a 170ºC oven, for about 20 minutes, or until golden and slightly larger in size. Don’t let them defrost before going in the oven.

sweet potato scones

 Always best served warm, with thin slithers of butter. Obviously.