25 nov. 2015

Cinnamon Girl turns 5!

I can't believe today's my 5th blogiversary! Five years, wow time sure does fly by!...specially when you're having fun and doing one of the things you love the most: baking and eating homemade treats. I've been looking back at old recipes and, man! I've learned quite a lot of things food and photography wise. Yet I feel like there's so much work to do, because every recipe is a new little challenge to me, when I'm shooting a new recipe I always try to take better pictures each time...to improve and always move forward. I'm an hyper-perfectionist and that makes the whole blogging experience quite stressful certain days (not to mention the deadline panic). 'I should have tried the other frosting'...or 'this picture is out of focus, dammit!'...or 'I need a better camera'...or 'did I really capture the moisture of this brownie?', all these questions and many more pop into my mind every time right after I hit the "publish" button. But at the same time there's a great feeling of accomplishment, to see (and taste!) that idea you had in your mind come into life is awesome and so much more when the outcome is far better than expected. Yes, there are also lots of kitchen 'experiments' that go straight to the trash and days when I simply want to throw out the window that underbaked cake and smash my oven like there's no tomorrow.
But what happened when I sliced this Red Velvet cake was pure magic and love at first sight. Honestly, this is one of the cakes I'm most proud of! I love how the layers came out so even and the frosting so velvety smooth. Like I've said before, it was one of those recipes when the results are far better than expected even though I wanted to bake a vegan cake at first, and was quite hesitant to use butter. Specially now that I'm trying to eat as healthier and fat-free as possible right before the Christmas feasts begin. My sister convinced me after a long conversation because it was also her birthday and she wanted something decadent, in her own words: "something I'd like to stuff my face with", hahah. She then took her favorite cookbook 'Vintage Cakes' by Julie Richardson and picked the Red Velvet Cake (in my next life I want a little sister that delivers homemade desserts, ha).
I made a few adjustments to the recipe and opted for a different frosting but I was absolutely blown away by the delicious taste: velvety, extra tender, flavorful and perfectly sweet. The maple cream cheese frosting is to die for!
I'm glad I made up my mind and finally baked this glorious cake to celebrate my blog's fifth anniversary. Last but not least, thank you all so much from the very bottom of my heart.

Here's to many more years to come!

Red Velvet Cake
(recipe adapted from 'Vintage Cakes' by Julie Richardson)

(6 to 8 servings)

- For the cake:
1 1/4 cups white pastry flour.
1/4 cup pure cocoa powder.
1 teaspoon baking powder.
1/2 teaspoon himalayan pink salt.
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sunflower oil.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
1/2 tablespoon red gel food coloring.* 
85 g (3 ounces) organic unsalted butter, at room temperature.
185 g (6.5 ounces) organic cane sugar.
2 free-range eggs, at room temperature.
1 free-range egg yolk, at room temperature.
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature.

- For the maple cream cheese frosting:
1 cup (227 g/ 8 ounces) organic unsalted butter, at room temperature.
453 g (1 pound) cream cheese, at room temperature.
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
2/3 cup grade B maple syrup.

* I used Wilton's 'red-red'.

- To make the red velvet cake:
Grease two 6 in x 4 in (15 x 10 cm) round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 ºF (180 ºC).
In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, mix all the ingredients by hand with a wire whisk to aerate the mixture.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the oil, vanilla and food coloring with the mixer on low speed.
You might need to stop the mixer frequently and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure the food coloring is completely blended into the batter.
Blend in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, on medium-high speed.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour (flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour). Mix until just barely blended and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula, this way we make sure not to overbeat the batter.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans and tap the pans on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles on the surface. 
Bake for 30 minutes approximately, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes before removing from the pans. Continue to cool on a rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature. Transfer the cake to the fridge for a couple hours, I find it easier to divide into layers when the cake is well chilled.

- To make the maple cream cheese frosting:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add in the cream cheese and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and no big lumps are visible (around 1 more minute). Finally blend in the vanilla extract and maple syrup and mix on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl a few times to make sure the frosting is lump-free. It should look smooth and thick enough to use with a piping bag. If you want it to have a more thick consistency reduce the amount of butter to 3/4 cup approximately until you reach the desired thickness. If not used immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

- To assemble the cake:
Once the cake has set in the fridge for a couple hours (or preferably overnight) we can start the assembling. Cut each cake in half to get four even layers and spread the frosting using a metal spatula, repeating the process until all the layers are frosted. With this frosting recipe you will have enough to fill, frost and decorate.
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of the frosting, let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes approximately and frost the entire cake with the rest of the cream cheese frosting. First cover the sides of the cake and then spread the remaining over the top.
If desired, you can pipe the leftover frosting and add some decorations. I opted for a different style: cut a super thin layer of cake, crumbled into a food processor and lightly toasted them in a frying pan.
Then I added the toasted sprinkles on top of the cake and voilà!
Store the cake in the refrigerator and let it soften at room temperature around 15 minutes before serving.

19 nov. 2015

Chocolate Chip Quinoa Cookies

My love affair with quinoa started long ago, it's such a great nutritional powerhouse! It's full of proteins, iron, magnesium, fiber and so much more. I like its particular texture, like small air bubbles...it's kinda hard to explain cause quinoa it's tender on the inside but also a tad bit crunchy and chewy at the same time. I add it to salads, soups, veggie burgers and bowls of roasted veggies; actually it goes really well with almost anything.
But I've never cooked with quinoa flour...until now, and let me tell you that it's a great alternative to other flours and gives a special aroma and flavor to your baked goods. For my first time I went for the easy option: cookies. Because I'm still a newbie in the world of gluten-free flours and was afraid to make a cake or muffin entirely with this flour, though the team at El Granero Integral sent me enough flour to test as much as I want so expect more quinoa-ish recipes in the future!
These cookies with dark chocolate chips were delicious! No one noticed a strong quinoa flavor or something 'strange' in them, I'm an avid quinoa eater so I asked to other people who has never eaten quinoa before to taste my cookies. For example my dad, who never eats "those weirdly-named hippie foods" (like he says), he absolutely adored them and said they had a yummy cakey texture.
Yes, they are definitely not your typical chocolate chip cookies and that's what makes them so interesting and different from the rest (and dare I say 'healthier' too?). Sweet, cakey, with a special nutty quinoa flavour and packed with big dark chocolate chunks and walnuts.
Let the pictures do the talking, don't you think? ;-)

Receta elaborada para El Granero Integral.

Quinoa flour cookies with dark chocolate chips
(yield: 9 big cookies)

2/3 cups organic quinoa flour.*
1/3 cup almond flour.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp baking powder.
1/4 tsp fine sea salt.
1/3 cup mild-tasting olive oil.
1/2 cup raw cane sugar.
1 flax egg.*
2 tbsp natural almond butter.
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract.
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks.
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped.

* This recipe can be made completely gluten-free if you make sure your quinoa flour has been certified gluten-free.

* Flax egg = 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds + 3 tablespoons water. Combine with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes, the liquid will resemble egg whites.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180 ºC (350 ºF).
Sift the quinoa flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk vigorously the oil, sugar and flax egg. Add in the almond butter and vanilla extract, stir just until combined.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Finally add in the chocolate chunks and chopped walnuts.
Using an ice cream scoop with trigger scoop the dough and remember to leave enough space between them. Flatten them a bit and and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until borders are golden brown but tops are still tender to touch.
Cookies might look underbaked but they will harden as they cool.
Let cool in the baking sheet for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to let them cool completely.

12 nov. 2015

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

After several days trying to fix my crappy wireless router I gave up and bought a new one and now that I finally figured out how to set it up and all I've just found my e-mail inbox all cluttered, lots of messages to reply and so many pending recipes to publish! This one in particular was planned to be published last week but I was so busy making my sister's birthday cake and preparing my blog's 5th anniversary special post that it had to wait until today. Talking about Cinnamon Girl turning 5, I can't wait to show you what I've prepared! I'm very happy with how that recipe came out and I'm sure you will all love it. In less than two weeks, november 24th, I'll be blowing out the candles again. :-)
Back to this recipe, my dad brought me a lot of pumpkins and butternut squash the other day and obviously the first idea that popped into my mind was "let's make something sweet with them". I could have made a big batch of comforting pumpkin soup but: 1, it's still quite warm here and 2, dessert is always my first choice. Even though autumn started long ago I still haven't shared any pumpkin-related recipe this season so here we go!
This healthier version of the classic crème brûlée is so easy to make, you'll just need to bake the pumpkin in advance and the rest of the process is super quick. I'd recommend though to let the mixture rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours so it thickens. I said it's a healthier version because all the ingredients are vegan: that means no eggs or heavy cream. The 'custard' is made with full fat coconut milk.
The recipe yields 4 big servings or 6 normal servings; I used the only ramekins I have (pssst Santa, I need some cute small ramekins, preferably pastel-colored porcelain ramekins) and they are quite big so, trust me, use the small ones because you'll have more than enough!
I hope you enjoy this spiced, maple sweetened and perfectly autumnal dessert; now I'm off to check the italian bread that is in the oven...the smell is simply divine.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
(4 or 6 servings, depending on the ramekins size)

300 g pumpkin purée (approximately 1 1/3 cups).
1 can full fat coconut milk.
1 vanilla pod.
1 1/2 teaspoons agar powder.
Scant 1/4 cup pure maple syrup.
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.*
Pinch of salt.
Caster sugar for the topping.

*See 'how to make pumpkin pie spice' here (at the end of that recipe).

I made my own pumpkin purée instead of buying the one that comes canned because the brands I find here are not so natural and I got plenty of pumpkins and butternut squash from my dad.
Homemade pumpkin purée is so easy to make: preheat oven to 200º C (392 ºF), cut the pumpkin or butternut squash in medium chunks, scrape out the seeds and the 'stringy' pulp from the center and bake on a lined sheet until the flesh is tender, around 20 minutes. Remove the skins from the pumpkin pieces and mash with a fork until pureed.
Blend all the ingredients (minus the vanilla pod) in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Transfer this mixture to a medium saucepan, add in the vanilla pod and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the cream for 15 minutes approximately, stirring a few times to prevent a skin from forming. Remove the vanilla pod and pour the hot mixture into ramekins.
Let them cool at room temperature and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to thicken.
Sprinkle around 1 1/2 tablespoons of caster sugar over each ramekin and spread it well to make sure it is completely covered. Use a blow torch to caramelize the sugar and be careful not to hold the flame for too long or you will burn the sugar too much. We want it to look caramel-brown and get a crispy consistence.

3 nov. 2015

Hemp Protein Bars

I'm back! Feels like I haven't posted in ages because I usually publish every week and after this forced three week break I can finally sit down in front of my computer and share a new recipe with you. I said 'forced break' because it wasn't actually a break nor I wanted to stop blogging; long story short: I've been hella busy!...and to top it all off an impromptu photoshoot with my brother happened and now I have like 50 pictures to edit. But it felt so good to grab the camera again and look through my lens with a more creative perspective; some of you already know that photography has always been my main passion, but the majority only have known my food photography and, even though I love and enjoy shooting my recipes, I've missed so much the conceptual and more personal part of my photography work. I will share some of the finished shots on my Flickr gallery, so in the meantime you can see some of my old works here.
Also I wanted to tell you that this week I'm featured on Cut Out + Keep, it's an on-line community where people share their craft projects, recipes and other interesting DIY-related things. They have chosen me as their 'Cooking Superstar' of the week (sounds cool right!) and each day I will be sharing one of my favorite recipes from the blog on their site, plus I did an interview that you can already read here...so you get to know me a little bit more.
So now let's talk about today's recipe: no-bake hemp protein bars. They are 90% raw but since I roasted the peanuts to make the butter I used in this recipe I didn't want to "offend" the raw vegan purists, hehe. These bars are packed with lots of good healthy fats, nutrients, energy and a good dose of protein; so good for those mid-morning craves or after a workout session. They are made with organic ingredients, naturally sweetened and so much more healthy than those store bought 'low-fat' cereal bars. Hemp is such a great source of protein (good for your muscles and bones!) and also of iron, I added a couple tablespoons of maca powder for an extra boost...so important to help me get through the day now that I'm a busy bee! 
I love to always have a few in the fridge to grab when I'm in a rush, they are a great snack on the go that will help you feel full until the next meal and specially good after a long run or a sweaty workout. Easy, healthy, no oven required, dairy and gluten-free, sweet and yummy. Go make them!

Receta en español aquí!

Hemp Protein Bars
(yield: 8 bars approximately)

16 medjool dates.
4 tbsp natural peanut butter.
2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil.
2 tbsp raw cacao powder.
2 tsp ground cinnamon.
2 tbsp shredded coconut.
4 tbsp hemp protein powder.
2 tbsp maca powder.
- Toppings:
Shelled hemp.
Cacao nibs.
Raw cacao powder.

Pit and cut the dates in halves.
Put all the ingredients (minus the toppings) in the bowl of your food processor and process until a smooth sticky ball of dough forms. You might need to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
Transfer the dough into a lined brownie dish and firmly press it down with a silicone spatula or a small cookie roller. Make sure the dough spreads evenly to the edges and it looks as smooth and flattened as possible so all the bars will have the same size.
Sprinkle shelled hemps, cacao nibs and raw cacao powder on top and gently press down again.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight before slicing.
Divide into 8 big bars (you can make more or less bars depending on how big you want them) and store refrigerated in an airtight container.
You can also freeze the bars for up to three months if you don't plan to eat all of them in the following weeks, they taste good straight out from the freezer but for the best flavor (only if you freeze them) I recommend to let them rest at room temperature a few minutes depending on how cold or hot is at your home.

14 oct. 2015

Bloody Halloween Cupcakes

Here it comes again, that time of the year I'm most looking forward to is right around the corner: Halloween! I love preparing my Halloween recipes cause they have a quite different look from the ones I publish the rest of the year; a little bit spooky, fun and above all dark.
'What should I come up with next year?', this is what I think every year right after shooting the pictures...and I must confess my list of Halloween ideas is quite long, I'd also add that I already know what I'll be baking for Halloween '16! Wish I could prepare more than one recipe this year but here in Catalonia we celebrate 'La Castanyada' the same day as other countries celebrate All Hallow's Eve and so I must prepare the typical marzipan sweets that we eat here along with roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes (I love this festivity!). I will show my marzipan delights for this year's Castanyada on my Facebook page. They are super easy to make and you can create so many different flavors!
Well, now let's talk about these Halloween cupcakes. I wanted to go for something dark with a gothic atmosphere yet not too obviously spooky or less appetizing. Let's be honest, some Halloween recipes out there look like everything but food; I mean, something that doesn't look edible it's not my kind of recipe. So I thought to maintain my style food-wise and focus more on the props and the decoration in general. It was fun to create that dark gothic atmosphere and not too complicated since I wanted to keep things as clean as possible. I didn't hesitate too much about the flavors, chocolate and cream cheese frosting are one of my favorite combos and to add a small eerie touch I finished them with a "bloody" drizzle of strawberry jam.
I hope you like these chocolate bloody cupcakes!

Receta en español aquí!

Bloody Halloween Cupcakes
(yield: 12 cupcakes)

- Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.
1 cup organic whole cane sugar.
3/4 cup pure cocoa powder.
2 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp salt.
1 tsp pure vanilla bean powder.
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder.
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp soy milk.
1/2 cup sunflower oil.
- Cream Cheese Frosting:
24 oz (680 g) cream cheese.
1 cup confectioner's sugar.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder.
- 'Bloody' drizzle:
Strawberry jam.

- To make the chocolate cupcakes:
Line a standard 12-cupcake pan and preheat oven to 356 ºF (180 ºC).
In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Add in the sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, vanilla and espresso powder. Stir everything together and mix well.
Whisk the soy milk and oil in a separate bowl and pour into the dry mixture until combined. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full and bake for 20 minutes approximately, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and let them cool completely before piping the frosting.
- To make the cream cheese frosting:
In the bowl of your stand mixer beat together the cream cheese with the icing sugar at low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle, add in vanilla and increase the speed to high; beat for 3 to 4 minutes, until fluffy and smooth.
Store the frosting in the fridge until ready to use, up to one week. Remember to let it soften a little bit (just a little!) if it gets too hard after sitting in the fridge.
- To make the 'bloody' drizzle:
Simply place the strawberry jam (around 3/4 cup) in a small saucepan and add a bit of water or lemon juice (2:1 ratio, 1 tablespoon water for every 2 tablespoons of jam) to create a glaze. Bring to a low boil, stirring slowly until reaching the desired consistency. You might need to put it through a sieve to remove seeds and pulp.

Note: I used the Wilton 2D tip to pipe the cream cheese frosting.