Pão de Queijo – Cheese Breads (Brazilian)

Gluten-free and wheat-free products/baking seems to be a trend and a popular thing lately. It’s just like gourmet cupcakes, which now isn’t as popular and hot as it was a few years ago.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Breads)

A friend suggested that I try a recipe he found online for Pão de Queijo, which means Cheese Breads in Portuguese. These are Brazilian breads that are gluten-free and wheat-free and made from Tapioca Flour (starch). The recipe was simple and didn’t take long too make.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Breads)

However, shaping and rolling them wasn’t that easy. They were so sticky and clung to my fingers and palms. Rubbing vegetable oil onto my hands helped a bit. I wish I had my ice cream scoop, it would have made it easier.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Breads)

These were tasty, for sure. Crispy on the outside, but incredibly chewy on the inside. They also make great dinner rolls. The recipe can be found here: http://globetrotterdiaries.com/recipes/pao-de-queijo-brazilian-cheese-breads

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Breads)

I followed the exact same instructions and ingredients, but with three modifications.

1. I added freshly chopped Lemon Thyme and Rosemary from my garden, which made it delicious.

2. I brushed it with egg wash 10 minutes before it came out of the oven, so that it would be shiny and golden.

3. I didn’t roll them into balls, because it was too sticky. I simply just scooped them with a spoon and slapped them onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This gave it a more rustic look.

In case you’re wondering, that was my dinner: Chinese stir beef with tomatoes, served with rice, a fried egg, and the Pão de Queijo dinner roll. 

Room Temperature? It Butter Be Quick!

Almost always, butter and eggs are the key ingredients in baked goods. Oftentimes, those ingredients are called for at room temperature and that takes one or two hours to set, depending on the temperature of the room. And if you’re like me, you like to bake at the spur of the moment and “ain’t nobody got time for that…” to be at room temperature! But you can easily bring those ingredients to room temperature in minutes.

Butter & Eggs

For the butter, I like to chop them into cubes then let them sit for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature (enough time for you to prepare the next steps/ingredients for baking). This allows the butter to set more easily at room temperature, because air is more evenly distributed among the individual pieces. Of course, you can pop the butter into the microwave for a few quick seconds, but having it set at room temperature is best. Why? Because butter tends to melt in the microwave and there’s always a few spots in the butter that isn’t at the correct temperature since the heat wasn’t evenly distributed. 

Butter & Eggs

As for the eggs, put them in a bowl and soak them in hot tap water. It takes about 3-4 minutes, since the shells aren’t that thick they set quickly.

Baking with room temperature ingredients yields noticeable differences in the texture. 

Cooking with a Friend

I cooked and baked with a friend yesterday. He showed me how to make a prosciutto wrapped chicken breast stuffed with cranberries.

It’s such a gratifying experience being able to share a cooking and baking lesson with a good old friend. It was an afternoon well spent catching up, he’s a friend from my high school days and went to George Brown College in Toronto for Culinary Arts. Since I’m stronger in baking arts, I showed him how to bake a Focaccia bread and he showed me his signature piece. Exchanging foods and sharing the recipes was really fun! The best part was eating everything we made! 

Here are some pretty pictures…

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Banana Upside-Down Cake

I find upside-down cakes very fascinating, because of the fact that I won’t know what the cake will look like once it’s been inverted. It’s one of those cakes that surprises and delights you, but of course that’s like all baking goods… you never know what the end result is going to be until it’s out of the oven.

About a week ago, I baked a Banana Upside-Down cake. I’m not sure why I wanted bananas, as most upside-down cakes I’ve had have been Pineapples. Maybe I was lacking potassium in my diet?

Bananas are one of those versatile baking ingredients that you can use in any kind of cake or cookies. They maintain their shape, their taste, and their moisture through the baking process. Caramelizing the bananas just adds an extra kick and elevates the taste.

Upside-down Banana Cake Upside-down Banana Cake Upside-down Banana Cake Upside-down Banana Cake Banana Upside Down Cake 

Banana Layer

3 bananas, sliced lengthwise then in half
2 Tbsp water 
1 Tbsp vinegar 
3/4 cup sugar 
6 Tbsp unsalted butter 
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs, separated at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt 

Directions Banana Layer

1. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan and place it on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, set aside.

2. In a sauce pan add water, lemon juice, and sugar and bring to a boil on medium heat. Brushing down the sides occasionally.  Do not stir.  I find this part takes a lot of patience, because it takes a while for the sugar to turn an amber colour (Can take an upwards of 15 minutes).  Once an amber colour has been achieved remove from heat and pour the syrup into the prepared spring form pan.

3. Arrange the bananas on top of the syrup in a pattern of your choice. Sprinkle walnuts on top.

Cake 

1. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and sugar in a bowl until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and sour cream to the mixture until well incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt together.  Stir into the butter mixture.

3.  In a clean bowl, mix the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks are formed (see picture above for soft peak). Once achieved, fold to the cake batter in two additions.

4. Scrape the batter on top of the banana layer and ensuring that the sides are filled first.  Bake in the oven for 50 to 55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool in pan on top of a cooling rack for 20 minutes.  Run a knife around the cake and place a large plate on top of the pan and invert it.  Remove the spring form pan and voila: a Banana Upside-down cake!

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Upside-down Banana Cake Upside-down Banana Cake

Celebrating 24

I turned 24 on Monday and had a wonderful weekend celebrating my birthday with good friends.  My best friend and his boyfriend decided to host a surprise birthday party for me on Saturday night and invited my closest friends to their place. 

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I’ve never been surprised before, ever.  And this was the first time.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been informed or had an intuition that something was going to happen at all kinds of events.  For example, receiving scholarships to university… I knew there was a good chance I’d receive them, because I was a good student and one of the few who applied for them.  Or at an awards ceremony back in middle school, I was robbed of being surprised when somebody handling the awards back stage came up to me and said, “David! You got an award!”  Bitch.

Even though the party crowd was small, the joy it brought was BIG.  I was immensely happy to be surrounded by really good friends.

On my actual birthday, I baked my own cake to celebrate with my family.  A zucchini cake covered in decadent semi-sweet chocolate maple syrup glaze and sprinkled with lightly toasted cashews.  

24th Birthday

Chocolate-Glazed Zucchini Walnut Bundt Cake
By Anna Olson, Back to Baking pg. 155 with alterations by me

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut pieces
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
1 cup PC decadent chocolate chips (available only in Canada)

Chocolate Glaze

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used the PC decadent chocolate chips, only available in Canada)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
Lightly toasted cashews

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a removable tube pan, tapping out the excess flour.

In a food processor, pulse the sugar, oil, maple syrup, and eggs until blended.  Then add the walnuts and zucchini (half a cup at a time) and pulse to combine.  Remove the batter and pour it into a large mixing bowl. 

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add to the cake batter until combined.  Add chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tube pan and bake in the oven for 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  (My removable tube pan sometimes likes to leak, so for safety I like to bake it on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper).

Remove the cake and let it cool to room temperature in the pan for about 90 minutes.  Then remove from pan and place it on a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath.  

Glaze

For the glaze, melt the butter and chocolate and stirring constantly.  Add the maple syrup and stir to combine.  Pour the glaze on top of the cake ensuring that every bit of the cake is covered.  Be sure to make the drip lines on the sides to make it look more rustic.  Sprinkle cashews evenly on top and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Slice and serve. 

24th Birthday

Now one of the highlights of my birthday was also meeting… Anna Olson, again!  Anna Olson was also at the Good Food Festival and I decided to pay her a visit. I got her to autograph my other book and made sure she knew it was my birthday.  Then she called security on me… kidding.

Anna Olson's Autograph

 24 is going to be amazing, I just know it!

Flax Seed Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I’ll admit, if there’s one thing I really suck at in baking… it’s baking cookies (an exception are the checkerboard and chocolate swirl cookies). The simple cookies are the hardest cookies, literally. They never turn out right for me and they’re always so damn HARD. I’ve avoided baking cookies for years and always stuck with coffee cakes or bread. I decided to revisit baking cookies again, because I have so much time on my hands now, I need to perfect them. And that I did!

Before I made cookies, I did some research on baking cookies using “The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book” and “Back to Baking” as guides to baking the softest cookie.  What I learned was that the eggs NEED to be at room temperature too! That’s one thing I didn’t do back when I used to bake cookies. Corn starch is also an ingredient that is used to make cookies soft. 

Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of chocolate chip cookies despite being a chocolate lover. It’s not something that I enjoy baking, although I do like eating them occasionally, but I prefer cookies with fruits and nuts. I had a lot of flax seeds, oatmeal, and raisins in my baking pantry. I decided to use those ingredients to bake a Flax Seed Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. And they turned out really well. Crunchy in the outside, soft in the inside, and not too sweet.  Perfect for hypertension… thanks to the flax seeds. 

 

Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed Cookies Flax Seed CookiesFlax Seed Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 egg at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp potato starch (corn starch works perfectly well)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cook or instant)

2/3 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup sultana raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar together until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture until well incorporated and making sure that the raisins are evenly distributed in the dough.

Using two tablespoons or an ice cream scoop, drop the dough by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets and spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake until golden and no longer shiny, about 10 minutes.  To test the doneness, using a spoon or a fork lift the cookie slightly from the sheet, if it doesn’t break then it’s ready.  Cool the cookie sheets on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes, then remove the cookies and cool onto the rack to room temperature.  Best stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Chinese New Year

It’s the year of the snake, which is also my year. Yeah, I’m old.

I always try to bake one Asian thing every Chinese New Year, this year I decided to go with something simple… Hong Kong Style Egg Custard Tart. I’ve never made them before, so this was completely improvised. But it turned out alright. 

Hong Kong Style Custard Egg Tart

Ingredients 

Cream Cheese Tart

  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 Cup of butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Custard Egg Tart (Filling)

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of whole milk (if not available, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of 2% milk and let stand for five minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (pure is best)
  • pinch of salt

Directions

1. For Tart: Mix cream cheese and butter together until well blended. Add flour and mix until a dough forms. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350F Remove Dough from fridge and using a large cookie cutter cut out 12 pieces and press them into a medium 12 cup muffin tin pan. Using pie weights bake the tarts for 10-12 minutes until the edges of the tart are lightly brown. Remove from oven and let them cool slightly. Turn oven heat down to 325F. 

3. For FillingWhisk  eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, whole milk, and salt together until well blended. Pour into a measuring cup and pour it into the tart shells (you can also use a ladle and ladle it into the shells). Bake for 25 minutes until the filling is bubbling. 

Traditionally served warm, but tastes just as amazing cold or at room temperature.

I also made some Italian Arancini Rice balls. These ones are no-fry and I baked them instead. Deep fried foods are BAD for your heart. I discovered this method while figuring out how to make deep fried foods without deep frying them.  I brush them with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then bake them in the oven for 10 minutes. 

No-Fry Arancini - Italian Rice Ball

No-Fry Arancini - Italian Rice Ball

Arancini - Italian Rice Ball

Kinda strange to have Italian food during Chinese New Year? Not really. Chinese New Year is all about food and the more food you have, the luckier your year will be. It means you won’t go hungry for the year. Another interesting fact: Arancini derives from the word arancia, which means Oranges in Italian. During Chinese New Year there is an abundance of oranges and tangerines and they’re passed out freely, because the word for oranges and tangerines in Chinese sound like “luck”.  So it seems fitting to make aranicni, plus they taste amazing. Why not start the new year off with good food? 

Happy Black Water Snake New Year to you! 

Snow Storm

A snowstorm is pounding Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and dumping up to 25 centimetres of snow. This is the biggest snowstorm since 2008, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle! 

But traveling anywhere is a great annoyance, since traffic is awful and walking isn’t much of a difference because not everyone has shoveled yet. Staying in is the best option, so why not bake? 

I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I’m obsessed with Anna Olson’s baking and cooking. She’s incredibly amazing. So I made her Butter Tart Coffee Cake. Words can’t describe how amazing this cake is, it’s so gooey, rich, and it tastes so right!  

You can find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/butter-tart-coffee-cake/recipe.html?dishID=12780

Mine looks nothing like the picture, but the taste makes up for it.

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This One’s For You Dad!

Of all the things I bake, my dad only likes one thing of mine: Corn Bread. 

It’s funny, because I bake so many different things but he was never a fan of them. He thinks they’re too sweet. Corn Bread, he claims, is healthy and tastes great. I think it’s bland. 

But, being the good son I am… I made him corn bread. Made with 3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and brown sugar, it was baked in a cast iron pan.

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Happy (egg-free) Birthday to you…

After spending the weekend trying to come up with an egg-free recipe for a cake, I settled with an orange cheesecake. 

Similar to the egg-free chocolate orange-zested cheesecake, this one had a graham cracker crumb crust. The filling is made up of orange zest and a hint of vanilla and topped with home-made candy orange slices.

He liked the oranges on the cake, as you can see… Egg-free Orange Cheese Cake Egg-free Orange Cheese Cake Lennox's Birthday Lennox's Birthday Lennox's Birthday