Monday, 26 January 2015

Strawberry cream cake

For a long time, I’ve had a love and hate relationship with strawberries, although it’s getting better lately. My issue with strawberries began when I was a child. My dad came up with the idea of putting in the backyard a few (well, more than a few) of strawberry plants. Strawberry season is short, but some plants can be very productive, I mean it. 
And that bright dark pink, aromatic, nice, small and delicious fruit can eventually develop into a nightmare when you are a ten year old girl and you eat strawberries everyday for several weeks because of the season peak.
I guess at that tender age I began to understand that nothing, absolutely nothing in excess can be good (even this statement).
As a grown up, I have learn to have them again. This time, I had them with cream, but in a cake. The original recipe is Martha Stewart’s, but any Genovese or sponge cake type will do it. Just enjoy this cake that tastes likes springtime.

Strawberry cream cake
Ingredients (for a 20 cm mold)

120 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
350 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
240 grams sugar
3 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
120 ml  whole milk
500 grams strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
3 grams of agar-agar (or 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin if you use it)
350 grams heavy cream (at least 35% fat)


    Preheat oven to 180ºCdegrees. Butter bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan. Butter and flour base and sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
    Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split cake in half horizontally; place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate.
    Make topping: In a large bowl, combine strawberries and 60 grams cup sugar; set aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat cream (better if chilled, so put it into freezer 10 minutes befores use) and remaining 60 grams of sugar in a large bowl until very soft peaks form. Continue to beat, and add agar- agar; beat until soft peaks form. Arrange half of strawberries over bottom cake layer; top with half of whipped cream, leaving half centimeter border. Cover with top half of cake, cut side down. Top cake with remaining whipped cream, leaving half a centimeter border. Refrigerate cake and remaining strawberries separately, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Just before serving, spoon strawberries over cake.

    Monday, 19 January 2015

    Spinach, cottage cheese, raisins and salmon biscuit

    One knows that spring comes because the change in season is more than obvious by now. The time change confirms to the clueless, and in my home because my daughter L. about a week before Easter, injures her  right ankle and needs crutches for a while.

    I really do not know how many possibilities there are, statistically speaking, for this to happen 3 years in a row. The truth is that I feel sorry for her-at least this year it seems we have finally identified the problem and we will work to prevent future damage- , but when they phoned from school to ask me to pick her up early this I week, I really thought it was a joke. 3 years in a row, same date, same injury. Nothing the rest of the year.

    Spring at  home lately sounds like children's crutches.
    Fortunately, the problem this year is very light and she was able to remove the bandage, and she will not need the crutches and probably will be able to spend the holidays without them. But these things are what happen when you have kids. 

    On the side of the kitchen, spring smells like snacks, and Easter cooking is made of fish.  Between one thing and the other, this apetizer fits perfectly. I really wanted to make a savory filling biscuit. It is really not difficult to prepare. Just a few minutes of oven are enough to have the cake layer list, fill it  in a moment, reshaped and left in the fridge until ready to eat. It is an attractive dish and best of all: you can leave it prepared beforehand and cut just before serving. Perfect to start a meal and be great. Or so told me my friends J. and M. who were the guinea pig for this dish.

    Spinach, cottage cheese, raisins and salmon biscuit


    For the cake:

    4 eggs
    80 grams sugar
    120 grams of flour
    25 grams of melted butter (not hot)
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    For the filling:
    150 grams of smoked salmon
    200 grams of curd
    2 natural yogurt (250 grams of yogurt)
    3 tablespoons raisins
    200 grams of fresh spinach
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    black pepper


    Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone sheet. Separate the yolks and whites of eggs. In a large bowl, assemble the egg whites with a pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon) to rise. In another bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar. Add flour and mix. Add to this mix the egg whites until stiff, with encircling movements, without stirring, to try to get off to a minimum. Finally, add the melted butter and integrate. Pour this batter into the baking sheet, forming a rectangle of uniform thickness and bake 8 minutes.

    Remove from oven, putting up a clean kitchen towel, and turn around. The cloth will remain on the work surface, over at cake, and facing us baking paper upside down. Carefully remove the greaseproof paper, and using the cloth, forming a cilinder with the cake. Allow to cool and, to take shape.

    On another bowl, combine cottage cheese and yogurt in a bowl. Place a tablespoon of oil in a skillet, saute spinach with raisins. Once done, mix with cottage cheese and yogurt, stir to integrate everything.

    Open the roll cake, put salmon and spread on the inside with the mixture of cottage cheese, yogurt and spinach, and re-roll. Put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Thursday, 15 January 2015

    Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house

    Lately I can hardly find time to blog. Not that I do not like it anymore. In fact, I even have a few recipes prepared for posting, but it seems that there is a general conspiracy against me so that I am continuously asked to focus, my attention, and my energy and my time into everything but this.

     On the good side I would say I have been cooking quite a lot lately. And that, whether or not is to be published on the blog, makes me happy and brings happiness to those around me. And I have so many other things in which to put my energy that I often have to remind myself that the blog is still here. 

    Among the things I've prepared lately there two Roscones de reyes. (This is the traditional baking for the Epiphany in Spain, which closes our Christmas celebrations and all the feasting on the 6th of January). I made them with the same recipe as always, as it is still the best I’ve found so far. In Belfast, however, I have yet to find where to buy fresh yeast, so I have to bake with the lyophilized stuff. The first attempt was good as for the flavour, but more the texture was more compact than it should be. The second, on time for the 6th of January, when we were back here, was just perfect. Therefore, I had to freeze it in portions or we'd eaten all at once. Yes, on the 6th, my daughters returned to school, being probably the happiest children at school, as they had roscón for breakfast. 

     And then I've done crazy things that have nothing to do with me, like trying to make a gingerbread house before Christmas, just because I came across this magazine and my daughters begged me to make it a weekend before our holiday trip. So, much to my regret, as intrincate decorations and crafts are my kryptonite in the kitchen, but maybe full of a Christmas spirit, I printed the shopping list, bought the long list of ingredients, and I prepared for a weekend of playing to build a house and decorate it with my daughters.

     And then I made a rookie mistake. I do not know if it was all the Christmas sugary emotion in the air or just the rush and the thousands of other things I was doing at the same time, but for some reason, I did not read the whole recipe. And something as basic as that, something I always recommend everyone, that was simply foolish. Because by the time I had a table full of everything you can imagine and a little more, when I had printed templates for different pieces and parts of the house and I was mentally prepared with loads of patience for what was about to come, then I kept on reading the recipe and realized the amounts needed for the dough –well, there is much to build I said to myself, being a beginner on this myself-. There was also enough dead time to wait between dough preparation and the time to use it, which when working with children is a no-no , as their patience is something that simply does not exist. But with butter cookies it is similar, I said again to myself –by the I should have realised it was my hopeful Christmas spirit talking-. 

    The problem came when I discovered that it took several days to build the house. I could not believe. It's faster to build a real prefabricated house that to bake all that thing. Not to mention the half kitchen needed to let the pieces still while drying. Who has time / desire / site / patience and stomach to do something and then eat it? For me this was too much. So as the dough was resting in the fridge, I decided that the plan had changed and pulled out the little ginger men cookies cutter, and in a moment my kitchen was full with an army of chocolate mini men. One, two, three trays were filled in what was beginning to look like a cookie factory. There is still another thing I would suggest you never do, especially when you're baking cookies: never leave your oven unattended. Anyway, when I had just put the last tray in the oven, J. asked me something. I went upstairs, we started talking and kept talking, and when you live with someone you really enjoy talking to, chances are you engage in an interesting conversation. Needless to say, when I returned to the kitchen a smell of burnt cookie was already filling the last corner of the house. 

    Conclusion: even when you've spent years cooking you keep doing, occasionally, all those things you know you should not do. The good side of this all (it has one, for sure), is that the cookies were spectacular. They are only suitable for chocolate lovers, because they are as chocolate loaded as they could be. It's like a butter cookie but with all the goodness of dark, velvety chocolate: a real bomb. And also on the positive side is that what my daughters wanted to do with the house was playing with the icing and doing all the decorations. The taste of royal icing on a cookie is too much sugary for them not. So we prepare a couple of coloured icings and they decorated the burnt cookies. I then gave some to some friends as a gift, because at home they started to quickly disappear from the tray, and we were more than capable to eat them all at once.

    So, even though you might still feel fill up after all the Christmas overeating, I just wanted to post this recipe because I am sure I will repeat it at some point (probably just half of the original amount will be enough). At the end of the day, the blog is perfect for keeping this all together.

    Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house. 

    100g Belgian dark chocolate
    400g soft unsalted butter
    300g caster sugar
    100g golden syrup
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    700g plain flour
    100g cocoa 

    Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool a little. In a large bowl (or using the bowl of a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.
    Beat in the melted chocolate and golden syrup. Mix in the eggs until well combined and sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until it forms a cohesive dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
    Lay a sheet of baking paper on the worktop and place a quarter of the dough on top. Put a sheet of baking paper on top and roll out the dough to about 35cm x 25cm, roughly the thickness of a £1 coin. Repeat with the other quarters of dough to create 4 pieces. Carefully stack the pieces of dough in their baking paper on a chopping board or baking tray; rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
    Cut out the dough in the form you prefer -I used a gingerbread men cookie cutter- and  put them into trays covered with baking paper. Chill again for at least 30 minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan 170°C, gas 5. Bake the cookies, in batches, for about 10 to 12 minutes. Leave to cool completely on the trays. The cooled cookies should be firm to the touch. If still a bit soft, bake for a little longer, taking care not to burn the edges.

    Monday, 12 January 2015

    Dill scones

    Today I am leaving you this dill scones recipe. They are perfect warm with cream cheese and smoked salmon. If you are having them on the following day, you can toast them, as they hardly keep fresh more than a day. 
    Have a great time.

    Dill scones 

    Ingredients (for 7-8 units)
    400 grams plain flour
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    15 grams dried dill (or 20 fresh)
    50 grams butter, very cold, and diced.
    300 ml milk


    Heat oven 210º. Mix the flour, bicarbonate, dill and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then rub in the butter until it disappears. Add milk and sitr briefly to a sticky dough. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, dust the dough and your hands with more, then fold the dough over 2-3 times to smooth a little. Form small balls and flatten slightly with your palm. Brush with milk and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and well risen. Cool on a rack.