Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas in Brazil

If there was ever a good excuse to get back to my long-neglected blog, it would be the annual Padula Christmas Cookie EXTRAVAGANZA! Because one of the Padula boys has a Brazilian girlfriend, this year's culinary theme was Christmas in Brazil, and it was DELICIOUS!

View #1 of the cookie exchange table. (My cookies aren't pictured, as they were on the porch chillin',)
View #2 of the cookie table.
The beautiful tablescape!
The appetizer was this Brazilian shepherd's pie type of affair with reconstituted carne seca (dried beef) and veggies underneath and mashed yucca root on top called Escondidinho de Carne Seca. Yucca is a staple in Brazilian cuisine.
These were yummy little chicken-filled croquettes called Coxinhas.
Apparently, the Christmas turkey (Ceia de Natal) is traditionally served with peaches. YUMMY!
The turkey was served with rice and black beans and Brazilian hot sauce, and a fruity bread stuffing.
I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this dried fruit-studded bread stuffing, but it was SO GOOD! I'm not sure what it's called in Portuguese, though.
This is called Farofa, and it's toasted cassava flour. It's sprinkled on everything in South America, like Parmesan cheese.
For my money, this dessert was the star of the show! It's called a Torta de Bombom Sonho de Valsa, or Bonbon Pie. AMAZING! Here's the recipe:
The other dessert (which I did not have room for, but looked incredible) was a Passion Fruit Cheesecake. (Passion fruit, or maracuja, is another Brazilian culinary motif.)
I made three different (rather homely, but very tasty) cookies for the exchange this year, inspired by a holiday baking show I saw on the Food Network recently. The first was a soft maple bacon cookie that was supposed to be a whoopie pie, but I ended up just frosting the individual cookies so that I'd have more to share.

Maple Pecan Cookies (or Whoopie Pies) with Bacon Cream Cheese Frosting
(Source: Adapted from Poet in the Pantry)

6 strips thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons bacon fat, reserved from frying bacon for the filling
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 cup dark maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Fry bacon until crisp and reserve and cool the fat.
Crumble (or cut with kitchen shears) bacon and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and confectioners' sugar for three minutes. Add the vanilla, syrup, and salt. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in the crumbled bacon. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Get out two rimmed nonstick cookie sheets and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Beat together the butter, bacon fat, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. Add the buttermilk, mixing until smooth.

In a liquid measuring cup, add the cream, baking soda, and white vinegar, stirring to combine. Turn the stand mixer on low and mix in half of the dry ingredients. Add the cream/baking soda vinegar mix, mixing until combined. Mix in the last of the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla, and beat until well incorporated. Stir in the toasted nuts.

Portion out the batter with a small cookie scoop and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges and the tops are springy. Transfer to wire cooling racks immediately. Cool completely.

Remove filling from the fridge at least 20 minutes before starting assembly. Stir before starting assembly. Using a pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip, or simply a butter knife, apply filling on the flat side of one cookie/cake. Press the flat side of another cookie/cake and press gently together.

Wrap each whoopie pie in a small piece of plastic wrap store and in an air-tight container. Best eaten the same day. For longer storage, keep in the refrigerator.

*You can also just frost the top of each individual cookie (as I did here) instead of making whoopie pies.

The second cookie I made was a sour cream cookie infused with Earl Grey tea and frosted with a honeyed lemony icing. YUM!

Earl Grey
Tea Cakes with Honey-Lemon Frosting
(Adapted from a sour cream chocolate chip cookie recipe that my friend, Kallie, gave me--unsure of the original source)
1 cup sour cream
2 bags Earl Grey tea
2 eggs
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour

Mix the sour cream and the tea from the two bags and set aside.

 Cream butter and eggs together. Add sugar and mix in. Add baking soda, baking powder and flour. Add vanilla and sour cream and tea mixture. Bake at 350° until lightly browned (10-12 minutes). Cool completely before frosting.

Honeyed Lemon Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 pound (about 2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 to 1/4 cup heavy cream
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in half of the sugar until combined. Stir in the vanilla and honey. Beat in the remaining sugar. Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest, whisk on high for 6 minutes.

The third cookie that I made--and my personal favorite--was a Rosemary Browned Butter Shortbread. Now, I am ALWAYS down with some nutty browned butter, but savory rosemary was an unusual guest at this sweet cookie party. It may sound strange, but applied with restraint, the rosemary takes this shortbread to a whole other level of deliciousness! I was loathe to give (most of it) away.

Rosemary-Walnut Browned Butter Shortbread
(Source: The Kitchn)
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped small (none larger than pea-sized)--or combine walnuts and almonds
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioner sugar (or another 1/4 cup granulated, if you don't have confectioner's)

Melt the butter in a medium sauce-pan or skillet over medium heat. Swirl occasionally and cook until all foaming has subsided, the butter is dark tan colored with little black specks, and smells fantastically nutty. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool to room temperature. (The butter should be solid but still smooshy.)

Mix the walnuts, rosemary, and all the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or medium-sized bowl with a hand mixer). While beating on medium-speed, add the cooled brown butter in several additions until it's completely incorporated and the dough looks grainy. The dough should hold together when you press some in your fist - if not, add a few teaspoons of cold water until it does.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface and shape it into two thick logs about 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter (or smaller if you want smaller cookies). The dough will be pretty crumbly, but that's ok. Wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until hard (30 minutes, or up to three days).

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take out and unwrap one of the logs. Slice it into 1/4 inch round cookies using a sharp knife and transfer to the cookie sheet. Place cookies about a half inch apart - they won't spread much during baking. If any of the cookies crumble, just press the dough back together with your fingers and a bit of water.

Bake for 10-13 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and very fragrant. Allow to cool five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Prepare and bake the other half of the cookie dough as above. Cookies keep in a sealed container for about two weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like the most delicious and unusual holiday feast ever, and I wish I could eat those cookies right now...thank you for this lovely post. Glad to see you back posting!

Gabby in Albany