How to make a flawless cake – part I

This is my walnut sponge egg cake with Dulce de Leche filling. :)

This is my walnut sponge egg cake with Dulce de Leche filling. 🙂

When people talk to me about baking a cake, most of them have some complaints and think that baking is either very hard or a mystery. The most common complaints they tell me are: “My cake doesn’t rise enough!” or “Why do my cakes always turn out uneven?”. So, I decided to dedicate this post to all you guys who have this problem when trying to bake a cake. On this post I’ll be giving you some tips on how to make your cake look even. For the ones who have other kinds of problems, don’t worry. I’ll give other tips in the next posts that may be just what you need. 😉

Measuring_flour

For my beautiful cake I needed exactly 46 grams of all purpose flour. Respecting weigh makes a huge difference in the final results.

  If your cake rose unevenly what probably could have happened was: you didn’t weigh exactly one of the ingredients, there was a processing mistake or both. You didn’t weigh and had a problem in processing some steps. But don’t panic, let’s figure it out. 🙂

These are the basic mistakes that can make your cake become uneven:

1) Too much sugar: Weighing the ingredients is a very important step of the recipe and must be weighed carefully, that’s why I prefer scale rather than cups or spoons. When you add more than the necessary sugar your cake can become very heavy and it gets unable to rise properly.

 2) Too much baking powder: Believe it or not, if you add too much baking powder it has the opposite effect. While in the oven, the cake rises beautifully. It rises so much that you feel proud of yourself, but when you take it out the oven it falls immediately, right? Not anymore! Weighing the baking powder carefully may be effective and solve your problem.

 3) Little liquid: Liquid can be any ingredient which contains water in its composition like milk, for example. When you start mixing the ingredients you always have that little thing called conscious in your mind telling you something like: Oh, that’s too much flour, this recipe must be wrong or I’m gonna put a little bit more of this ingredient, etc. If you do so, that’s the reason why your cake gets uneven. Trust the measurement required in the recipe and don’t worry if the batter isn’t the way you expected it to be. Little liquid can make your cake uneven because, like too much sugar, the batter becomes very heavy and unable to rise.

4) Not enough blended or beaten: Usually all purpose flour is added at the end of the recipe, so if you don’t blend or beat the batter well it will fall during baking. It happens because you don’t give enough time for all purpose flour to be incorporated into the batter. You know, some things take a little extra time to be achieved, like this step. 😛

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Can you see those lumps in the cake batter? You have to get rid of them otherwise your cake will fall. Mix the batter well and gently to ensure the lumps won’t be there anymore.

 5) Oven temperature: If you preheat the oven, but it doesn’t keep the same temperature from the beginning to the end of the baking process the result is tragic. One very common mistake is opening the oven to check if everything’s ok. If you do that the temperature will fall drastically. If you’re not sure whether your cake is cooking well or not wait at least 15 minutes (or two thirds of the time required in the recipe) before you open the oven, this will prevent your cake being uneven. Never change the oven temperature after putting the cake in because it messes the rising process up. Remember that each one of you know (or should know) your oven well. It means that 180ºC can be as hot as hell and 280ºC can be as cold as Alaska. It depends if your oven is new, old, home or industrial. You’ll only know your oven well after using it a couple of times.

This is considered low heat, so your cake will rise slowly and perfectly.

This is considered low heat, so your cake will rise slowly and perfectly.

 6) Rotate the tray: Some ovens have different temperatures according to where you place the tray. So, rotating the pan will prevent it from rising only one side. Don’t forget that you have to open the oven after at least two thirds of the amount of time the recipe requires.

 I hope you keep baking delicious cakes no matter what: rainy day, relieve stress, receiving a friend at home, or any other special reason. If your cake doesn’t rise be calm and try it again in another time or day; never give up. I’m sure that the ones who eat it would be really sad if you don’t give it a trial. And only one more thing: in case your cake falls don’t waste food by throwing it away, instead cut it into small pieces and bake for more 10 minutes or so. Now you have delicious cookies to eat in your tea time.

 Sources: Escola de Chefs – Chef School Joanna Farrow, London, Hamlyn – 2009 (p. 214 – 222)

Pastry – Senai 4th Edition São Paulo, SP – 2012 (p.16)

Flora

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Cook Perfect Fluffy Rice

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I usually try to post original recipes in order not to be too boring but today it couldn’t be more bland than simple rice! Yes just how to cook properly rice without any extras. I am actually just posting the recipe for my self, because I keep on forgetting how to do it right and I always need to ask Kris on how he’s doing it (he is the perfect rice cooker!). But why not sharing it with the rest of the world?

So off we go for lovely fluffy non sticky Basmati rice.

What you’ll need? Guess what? Indeed Basmate rice.
How much of it? 1 Cup for maybe 2-3 servings.

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1. First thing: Rinse the rice. How often? A professional cook would tell you “until it is perfectly clean!”.

Rice 2

I would suggest you about 3 to 5 times. Try to get the water as clear as possible.
After rinsing the rice leave it to rest for about 20 min.

Rice 3

2. Then put the rice in a cooking pot and add 1 cup and half of cold water. Leave the pot uncovered and cook on medium to high heat until small little ‘craters’ start to appear (do not stir in the meantime!).

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3. Once those ‘craters’ appear, stir the rice ONCE with a fork, turn to low heat and keep on cooking the rice for 8 minutes, this time covered. After 8 minutes turn the stove off and leave the rice to rest. If you want to eat the rice right away still leave it for another 8 to 9 minutes covered without cooking.

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Et voilà now you should have your perfect fluffy non-sticky rice à la Kris!

A little suggestion which might sound strange to many readers: if you eat bland rice, try to add a egg yolk (of course super fresh!) and mix it well, add a bit of salt and pepper. I love it! The family of my friend Catherine showed me their family invention when I was about 7-years-old and until today my Mum cannot understand why I like eating it this way.

Rice 7

Nathalie

Homemade Biscuits

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This biscuits recipe is a creation of mine and they really turned out well: Everyone at home loved them! And the best of it: It’s so easy to make them, I’ll show you how.

What you’ll need:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
100 g of butter without salt (melted)
2 lemons

So, that’s it, that’s all you need for these delicious biscuits. Let’s start the recipe then.

Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
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After you finished mixing all the ingredients, you have to mix the dough by hand to get all the pieces together. 3

The dough has to be like it shows in this below picture, that’s when you know that this is ready to be extended with the rolling pin.
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When your dough  is like in the picture, leave it to rest for a bit until you prepare the next step, which is to put some flour on the counter top so you can extend the ball.
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With the rolling pin, extend the ball until you get more or less 1.1811inchs (3cm), so then you are prepared to cut it out.
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Since I don’t have special cutting shapes for the dough, I got creative and used a wine glass instead. It worked very well, but you can cut it with whatever you want. 🙂
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So, start cutting it and put all the pieces in one pirex already covered with butter and flour to avoid the cookies from sticking in the plate. 
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Now, put them in the oven (preheated at 400ºf) for more or less 30 min.
When you see them turning brown on the top, that’s when you know that they are ready to get out of the oven.
Take them out and let them cool down (if you can wait that long!). Enjoy them with some coffee or tea. 🙂
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Enjoy your biscuits and have a great week! 🙂

Lili

Grilled Yoghurt Salmon

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Kris and I love fresh fish. However we are not really fan of fried fish. We like it either simply  grilled or baked with lemon or with a nice marinade. Kris would usually do an Indian inspired marinade (he is all about Indian food!), I tried a recipe with a yoghurt marinade from my German cooking book. Quick, simple, easy and… very tasty!

What you’ll need:

3 garlic cloves
1 piece of fresh ginger (about 1 cm)
1 red chilli (I used a dried one since I didn’t have any fresh at home. Here is depends how much eat you can and want to handle)
1 tsp of coriander seeds
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of sweet paprika powder
1 pinch of cinnamon powder
2 tbsp of lemon juice
250 of creamy yoghurt
salt
4 pieces of salmon filets (about 160 g each)
Aluminium foil (if you grill over charcoal)
A bit of olive oil for the coating

And here comes the nice and easy procedure:

Salmon 1

1. Peel the garlic and the ginger and cut them in very little pieces. Wash the chilli and cut finely.

Salmon 2
2. Heat a small pan, toast the coriander and the cumin seeds (stir!) for roughly 1 minute until they spread a nice spicy smell.Poor in a mortar and grind them.

Salmon 3

3. Add the paprika, cinnamon, lemon juice and the yoghurt and mix well. Season the marinade with salt.

Salmon 4

4. Either turn on you BBQ or you oven grill (this was my option this time). On the BBQ put the aluminium foil and grill the fish on it for roughly 10 minutes. Turn once. It you grill the fish in the oven as I did: put the fish in a greased baking dish. I added the left over of the marinade and put it on top for extra flavour. Grill again for roughly 10 minutes.

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5. It is tasty with some fresh bread and a nice salad. Lovely spring or summer dish! Enjoy!

Nathalie

2 Ingredient Cookies

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When someone on Twitter said there’s a cookie recipe that only called for 2 bananas and 1 cup of quick oats, I couldn’t believe it. I clicked on the link; it was a recipe from the blog The Burlap Bag. I didn’t read it wrong, so this two ingredient cookies really exist!

I didn’t have quick oats, so I used almond granola. It turned out great, too! One thing that is also great about this recipe is the fact that you don’t have to put sugar into the “dough”. The sweetness of the cookie comes from the bananas, so it is a totally guilt-free snack/dessert!

You will need:

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  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup quick oats (I used almond granola)

Also, you can add whatever you want to make it yummier: chocolate chips, raisins, walnut pieces, cinnamon, etc. I put some dark chocolate covered almond pieces. 🙂

almond

Measurements can vary, since all bananas are different sizes. So if you think your “dough” looks too wet, add more oatmeal (or granola). Also be careful not to add too much stuff, because the cookies won’t hold together very well.

1. Grease your cookie sheet and preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Mix all the ingredients. When well mixed, make the cookies and put it on the cookie sheet. I measured like this: 1 tablespoon of cookie dough = 1 large cookie.

3. Bake them for 15 minutes.

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Pre-cooking stage

And that’s it! Very complicated, right?

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When they just came out of the oven

These cookies taste great! They are very healthy too, since you’re eating just bananas and oatmeal.

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I made 8 large cookies with this recipe. But you can always make smaller ones and have more cookies.

Hope you like it! Tell me if you add something else on the recipe. 🙂

Gabriela

Raw Vegan Gluten Free Cashew Cheesecake

vegan cheesecake 8

Okay I have to say at the start: I do find it funny to call a dish with a name which doesn’t contain the product itself? You don’t follow me? Well this lovely vegan gluten-free cheesecake doesn’t contain any cheese (obviously since it’s vegan!). But of course I know the message: it looks and feels a bit like it. In the end it doesn’t really matter. This cake is simply divine and so fast to make since it doesn’t require any baking (raw!). I have to thank my friends Jess (vegan) and Susi (gluten intolerant) for challenging me when they come around. I wouldn’t have tried this recipe.

Ingredients:

High-powered blender
9-inch (23 cm) springform pan

Filling

4 cups raw cashews, soaked (1 L)
1 cup filtered water (250 mL)
1 cup raw agave nectar (250 mL)
1 cup melted coconut oil (250 mL)
1 tbsp raw vanilla extract (15 mL) (next time I will try a vanilla pod)
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (10 mL)

Crust

2 cups whole raw pecans (500 mL)
1/4 cup chopped pitted soft dates (60 mL)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (2 mL)

Preparation:

Filling:

1. To soak the cashews for this recipe, cover with 8 cups (2 L) water. Set aside for 1 hour. Drain, discarding soaking water, and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear.

vegan cheesecake 1

2. In a high-powered blender, combine soaked cashews, water, agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla and lemon juice. Blend at high speed until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

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Crust:

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3. In a food processor, pulse pecans, dates and salt until smooth (no large pieces should remain). Press into bottom of pan, ensuring that there are no gaps.

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Assembly:

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4. Pour filling over crust and freeze for at least 2 hours or until firm in the centre  This dessert can be made ahead and kept in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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5. When you are ready to serve, remove from freezer and set aside to thaw for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pan sides and slice. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

6. To check if the cake is frozen all the way through, insert a tester such as a wooden skewer or toothpick. If it comes out clean, then the cake is ready to be thawed.

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The nice thing about this cake, no need for guilt! We could even consider being a healthy treat! So enjoy this nutty coconut tasting cake!

Nathalie 

7 steps to prepare a recipe without making a mess – By Flora Murai

Let’s Eat Out (1967) by Gil Elvgren

Illustration: Gil Elvgren

My name is Flora, I’m 27 years old and I’m from São Paulo – Brazil. I knew Outland at Home through Gabi. I’ve known her for about 4 years when our husbands used to work together here in Brazil. I also met Lili when I went to California in 2012. We laughed, went shopping and had lots of fun together.

What I love most is: cooking. Since I was 5 years old I used to watch my mom Sonia cooking. It was so inspiring and I remember the smell of her delicious food going from the kitchen to the whole house. Maria Estela, my grandma, used to spend some days at home when I was a kid and it was amazing because she is an extraordinary cook. She taught me many of the tips that I know today. I can say that both my mother and my grandma inspired me to cook. Another really important person in my family was Mr. Murai, my father-in-law, who taught me many of his accurate and amazing techniques from traditional japanese food. He passed away in 2011 and left a lot of excellent memories with me.

In 2012 I decided to specialize in Pastry; it was an eight-month course in which gave me a very good foundation in efficiency, organization and accuracy without losing the magic and passion in the final results. I also had a wonderful cupcake class in New York and it was interesting to learn the difference between Brazilian frosting (usually made with sugar) and american frosting that is commonly made with butter.

flora_perfil

Me and an amazing carrot cake 🙂

Here in Brazil we have a lot of influences in our cuisine; from countries in Europe (Portugal and Italy) to some countries in Africa (where our “feijoada” came from). It’s very usual to see a pizzeria next to a Japanese restaurant around here. And São Paulo is one of the best places in Brazil to see this difference and eat excellent food.

My cooking style reflects this Brazilian variety .

I’m very glad to have recently been invited to collaborate with the girls in the Blog and share what I know with all you guys. I’m willing to learn a lot from you too!

When I first began cooking I realized that sometimes I used to forget doing some very important steps in order to gain time and not being lost in the kitchen. Sometimes I forgot to weigh one of the ingredients I was about to use, so I had to stop everything I was doing and go back to the ingredients I had already stored in the cabinet, for example. The step that I screwed most was greasing the cake pan. I forgot to do it all the time.

I realized I had to create some steps in order to organize myself and spend less time and money, but most of all, avoid being frustrated in the kitchen. The only thing that came to my mind were these 7 Steps. These steps were just what I needed to organize myself in a quick, simple and super efficient way.

Here are 7 steps which help me not being lost and frustrated in the kitchen:

1)  Choose your recipe: I like to choose my recipes according to what I intend to have: lunch, dinner, dessert, etc. Another thing that makes me choose a recipe is the season; if it’s winter I prefer comfy and hot food, but if it’s summer I prefer something light and fresh, like a fruit salad or an ice cream, for example. The place the meal will be really matters to me: a park (picnic), friend’s house, etc. For these places I’d rather prepare finger food or any other recipe which requires few or no utensils at all.

2)  Study the recipe: After choosing my recipe I read it carefully and check which ingredients I already have at home not to buy unnecessary food (wasting food by buying ingredients you already have is not nice and very expensive). I am careful with products that are in my cabinet – expired date product is dangerous and could kill someone. I also prefer to buy natural, fresh and healthy ingredients – low fat, low sugar or sodium are always welcome.

3) Go shopping: If I don’t have any of the ingredients that I need I make a list to go shopping. You could take your cute DIY Tote Bag that Nathalie taught you how to make and feel nicer. Buying an extra flower to put in your shopping bag wouldn’t be a bad idea. :

4)  Preheat the oven: If it requires me the use of an oven, I preheat it before starting making the recipe. It prevents extra unnecessary time cooking and spending energy/gas/money. And don’t forget to grease your cake pan like me, please. I’d do it now.

5)  Organize ingredients and utensils: I’m not a chef, but I confess that I love reading about cooking and I learned these French words: Mise en place (pronounced miz on plas), which means “everything in place”. This is like a miracle to help you in the kitchen. According to Wikipedia:

        “Mise en place is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and          arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare during his/her shift. The practice is also effective in home kitchens.”

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise_en_place March 16th, 2013 – 00:00)

If you noticed “other components” would be trays, bowls, spoons, cups, scale, pots, pans or everything you might need to prepare your recipe. The last sentence is really true and works really well.

        How you’ll measure the ingredients depends a lot. I weigh them in an ultra thin digital kitchen scale – 5 kg (love kitchen gadgets). In my opinion, it’s better than measuring by volume (cups and spoons) because it’s much more precise; it’s a little more expensive tough. Actually it’s up to you; you can use spoons, cups, scale or whatever you want to. But if you really enjoy cooking and cook everyday, investing in a scale would be a good idea.

flora_utensilios

Some of my utensils

6)  Follow the recipe directions: Now I’m ready to follow the recipe directions safe and sound. I also wear some protection like oven gloves, apron, etc. Security in the kitchen is a priority to me. Yeap, have already had accidents in the kitchen. 😛

7)  Do the dishes: I confess that I really hate this last step, but it’s really important to keep your kitchen always clean and tidy for the next cooking adventure.

Anyways, I hope these steps can help you enjoy cooking in a nice and organized way. I’d like to know if you’ve ever forgotten to do something which drove you crazy (like me), if you have other tips to make our lives easier in the kitchen and if you’ve ever had an accident in the kitchen. Tell us, guys!

Flora