A crazy, hot day in Lisbon yesterday. I didn’t even know they were rebuilding the river-side, so I jumped out of the train in Alcântara and made my way to Cais do Sodré hoping to get the last of the Tejo before I leave (ah yes, to PARIS). My day wasn’t particularly busy, and I could always take advantage of my trip and drop by the “El Corte Inglés” (my favourite excuse) to check out the supermarket. I know, when you’re expecting a girl to be at Zara looking at the latest trends (I consider seasonal ingredients a trend, if you know what I mean)! Very unfortunately, not even the “El Corte Inglés” had a full turkey, and I really wanted to make roast turkey for Saturday’s dinner. I came back to the Chiado lighter, you might say…
As I’m climbing the steep street that goes from the Armazéns do Chiado to the Praça de Camões a recent pregnant lady comes up to me, and asks if I want to take a picture for a magazine. This is not very uncommon in the middle of the city. A quick shoot in the middle of the street, and we continue our lives in peace. But no, this one I surely didn’t expect! They actually gathered a bunch of people from the crowd and led us straight to their little atelier (or all-purpose studio) in the Rua da Trindade: &SoWhat. This is an alternative beauty salon, which makes the productions for most of Edit Mag‘s fashion magazine (I suppose). The magazine’s anniversary will be in September, and their idea was to make cover photographs of different people found in the centre Lisbon. This might seem like an everyday happening for most, but I have to admit to being absolutely surprised with the production they organized. I even got to take the picture home! How cool is that?
I believed that making bagels at home was a challenge I would never achieve. I remember picking up a recipe for it a year ago, but after reading a few times, came to the conclusion that I was too much of an airhead to pull it off. The truth is, only an airhead like me would put something like this on practical terms. The “buy frozen” argument is indeed convincing. My only obstacle is the inexistence of something even vaguely similar to a bagel in this country. Forget it. And that’s only one of the various specialties that you, just simply, do not get here. People don’t even know it exists.
After making and tasting them, I had my doubts about it’s taste being like a bagel’s should. I even asked my dad! And after confirmation, I came to the conclusion that I had succeeded in making bagels. It takes time, like all yeast breads do. But this process is not quite the same as other loaf breads concern. These little fellas only go in the oven after being boiled in water. I suspect this to be the main reason for it’s uniqueness.
And this is how it goes:
Ah the tons of things you can make and re-make with chocolate…Today I dedicated my afternoon to chocolate confection experiences. A bit like a wacky scientist. My family got me for Christmas new cooking material and books, and I just couldn’t wait any longer to try it out! So…as it’s the 1st of January, let’s use my new Candy Thermometer.
Chocolate is a great thing to work with as long as it’s tempered. You can form all types of shapes and use according to your likings. People often think of chocolate confectionery as something that only the finest chocolatiers can make. Wrong! Anyone can do it at home (of course not like a chocolatier, that is unless you’ve got the skill). Before I get into the recipes, let me tell something more about how to temper chocolate:
- Use a double boiler, or a saucepan over simmering water to melt the chocolate. Don’t worry about the temperature just yet.
- When it has finally melted, remove from the heat and use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. You should let it cool until it reaches about 29º-C31ºC, then it’s ready to be worked.
- If you plan on doing constructions (such as little houses and such), pour the chocolate over a parchment paper in your kitchen counter. Let it harden a bit and cut the pieces to assemble later. To assemble, use the leftover cut-outs as glue. Put them in the saucepan again and melt it. This time, you don’t have to use a thermometer. Just wait until it melts and remove. While it’s still hot, use a tip of a knife (or similar) and glue your pieces together. Stick it in the fridge for while to incorporate and to harden, just so it doesn’t fall apart!
A few experiments of my own for practice:
250g of dark couverture chocolate (preferably good-quality)
handful of sesame seeds
Melt the chocolate and temper it (instructions above). Spread over a cookie sheet in your counter-top and sprinkle your seeds over it freely. You can use any type of seeds and nuts here, even breakfast cereals (and that can be quite interesting). Stick the parchment paper in the fridge until used. If you can’t possibly resist, at least try to leave it there for about 15 minutes.
Chocolate and Walnut Crumble Hearts:
You will need some molds for this. I only have the heart-shaped, but you can use any that you like. The process is the same for all, regardless of the size.
150g dark couverture chocolate (70% cocoa solids and good-quality)
50g of walnuts
Here we go through the exact same process in melting the chocolate. Instead of spreading it in a piece of parchment paper, pour into the molds.
Crush the walnuts with a mortar and pestle or ground them in a food processor. Sprinkle the nuts over the molds so it creates a base for the candies. Refrigerate until you feel that the chocolate is no longer smooth. This way you can unmold them more easily without chocolate sticking in the bottom of the molds! If you wish, refrigerate again (the heat of our hands tend to melt it a bit).
To assemble: Take the bark out of the fridge, let it soften slightly and cut in strips. If you have any more left-over cut-outs, use them to melt and create your glue. Glue the end of each bark strip to the base of each heart. and refrigerate to solidify! You can make any creation you like, as you can see. I have done this before in Pastry classes, but (as you can imagine) at home it’s completely different. Very good practice though!