Bolo de Coco (Coconut Cake)

Coconut CakeCake is a popular item in my house. Almost once a week I can expect a question from my husband asking me when I am going to bake a cake. You see, Brazilians absolutely love cakes. They like a simple cake that they can eat for breakfast that will have tons of flavor and just hit the spot to start the day right.

Coconut CakeYes, I did say cake for breakfast. I know, I know, I know, it is slightly weird to think of eating cake for breakfast. It definitely took me a little while to wrap my head around this one. Cake for me has always been something to eat for tea break in the morning with a cup of black tea or coffee. Or to have later in the afternoon. But, Brazilians view cake a little bit differently. Yes, they do eat cake at other times during the day, but as I have discovered with my husband, morning seems to be the favored time of day to have a slice of cake.

Coconut CakeAfter experimenting with cake for breakfast I have actually come to really enjoy it and never pass up the opportunity to have a slice of cake with my breakfast. Eating a yummy slice of cake early in the morning does have the tendency to help get the day off to a great start.

Brazilian cakes are generally very simple. And it is the simplicity of these cakes that make them so enjoyable for breakfast. Brazilian cakes have a simple flavor, light and fluffy texture, and either some icing or no icing.

This coconut cake is perfect for breakfast or with a cup of tea or coffee in the late morning or afternoon.

Ingredients

Cake
3 cups white flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200 g  butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
80g shredded coconut

Chocolate Glaze
4 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp milk

For the cake:
Heat the oven to 180C. Place the butter in a glass or metal bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add all of the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, and salt together with the coconut milk. Mix well. Add the shredded coconut and mix lightly until it is just mixed in. Transfer mixture to a pre-greased baking tin. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center of the cake clean.

For the glaze:
Mix the cocoa powder, sugar, and milk until it is a very smooth consistency. When the cake is taken out of the oven, immediately remove from the tin and place on a plate. Cover the cake with the glaze and return to the warm oven, make sure the oven is turned off. Leave the cake in the oven with the door open for 15-20 minutes.

For a PDF of this recipe CLICK HERE!

Coconut CakeSources:
Pitadinha: O bolo de coco mais gostoso do mundo

Rural Brazil – With Spring comes lots of planting

Remember last months post where I told you all about the dirt road to get up to my farm? Well, this month I will tell you what is at the end of this road when you get to my farm. Although my husband and I do not have the typical lifestyle of people in rural Brazil, I really want to share a little bit about what happens during our daily lives working in the beautiful Brazilian countryside of Minas Gerais. Of course I could continue last months post and tell you all about the dirt road adventures we had this month, but I will leave that topic for now by just saying that on one trip up to our farm our beautiful white truck arrived completely orange from the mud and before retrieving anything from the back we needed to hose it down!

Now let’s talk about farming.

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On the 22nd of September we welcomed spring here in Brazil, most of you in the northern hemisphere welcomed autumn and the shortening of days, here we have been welcoming warmer and longer days. With spring has come lots of rain and the grass has turned from yellowish-brown to a beautiful green. Yes, spring has come and with it an abundance of work, seeding, planting, weeding, and soon lots of wonderfully tasty vegetables to be harvested.

Although spring for us means a quick kick into a higher gear – more work – our growing season does not stop throughout the calendar year. We can grow vegetables throughout the whole year and even during the winter we can be found working outside in t-shirts sweating away. The difference between winter and summer for us is that during winter there are fewer vegetables we can safely grow; frost is common at night. So, with spring in full swing we are planting many more vegetables. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, potatoes, and melons are among some of the vegetables that we only grow during the spring and summer months.

The month of October brought with it a lot of planting on the farm. It seemed that from one day to the next we had a giant pile of vegetables that needed to be seeded into the ground and it doesn’t really feel like we have stopped planting since. The farm has gone from looking bare of vegetables to vegetables growing everywhere. Our planting streak started with potatoes. Oh potatoes how I love to plant thee in the ground. One of my favorite things to plant, by far, are potatoes and definitely a wonderful way to begin a busy planting season. Why? Probably because it seeding is pretty fast and easy (my husband will get a good laugh from that), but also because right before the potatoes are going to be covered with soil they look so beautiful sitting in their nice straight rows.

Planting somewhat goes the same for almost all vegetables. We first need to make the beds, this often takes the longest as it means setting up strings to make sure that we make the beds straight (I have the tendency to be lazy and often can’t be bothered to use strings which leaves me with beds looking like snakes). Next we need to come a long with a large hoe and dig a path on either side of the bed. Next it is time to put some lime dust on the beds to help the soil and plants grow (our farm is organic so there is always a lot of extra things that we need to build-up the soil). Once all the extra good stuff is on the bed we rake it flat. At this point the beds always look beautiful and I never want to mess up the tidiness of them. Next, depending on what we are growing we either dig holes for the plants or make a trench for the plants. Once holes are dug they are filled with dark yummy smelling compost. At this point the bed is completely ready for the plants to be planted and the fun part of putting the small seedlings into the earth begins. Once everything is planted we need to give them some water to help them get off to a good life of growing tall, big, and healthy.

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Making beds, spreading organic fertilizers, spreading compost, and planting is always a daily happening around the farm, but these last weeks have definitely been more busy than usually. We got potatoes, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers in the ground. We managed to plant zucchini, beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, chinese cabbage, carrots, eggplant and lots more. The fields are getting full and slowly all of the plants are growing. Hopefully soon we will be harvesting all of these beautiful vegetables.

Now, planting may sound easy from what I have described above, but when you are the only female with two men on the farm it can be pretty tough. I do my best to carry weight and show that I can dig paths between beds, carry compost, and prepare a bed all on my own, but I don’t think I have quite managed to prove to my husband and our employee that I am able to do everything on the farm without their help. Ok, so I am not going to be carrying heavy bags of compost or potatoes, but really, I can make a bed without any help. I think my husband is starting to have more faith in my farming skills and ability to do heavy work and I hope that with my potato planting and onion planting I am beginning to prove to our employee that I can do the heavy work too (but, when I scream at a rat and our employee needs to help me load wood into the wheelbarrow I am not doing a good job of showing my abilities to manage all aspects of farm life). But, with time and more planting I will show the men on this farm that I can do everything that they can….well almost everything, they can still carry the really heavy loads!

Escondidinho

The last few weeks have been crazily busy for me and trying to get a lot of cooking done has not been easy, especially when I am trying to learn how to cook new dishes. Writing posts at the end of a busy work day has been almost impossible, so you will have to excuse my tardiness this week with my posts.

EscondidinhoToday I decided to dig into my collection of food that I have already made and share with you a wonderful dish for a cold day. When I made escondidinho a few weeks ago it was not my best cooking day, to say the least. While cooking the mandioca (manioc or yucca) I stupidly decided not to use my pressure cooker and ended up burning my pan because I did not put enough water in to properly cook the mandioca. As a result, I only half managed to cook the mandioca. Mashing the mandioca became a whole other headache: I couldn’t properly mash the mandioca because not all had been properly cooked. So, to make a smooth mixture proved very difficult and I decided to use my food processor to help me out. Oh man was that a mistake. After successfully pureeing the first batch the second load was too much for my small food processor to manage and smoke started to leak from the motor. I quickly turned it off and decided to settle with a lumpy mixture! I am not sure if my processor is actually working properly as I have not dared to try it again; I couldn’t bare to have to throw it in the trash. Anyway, the mandioca part of this recipe proved to be a challenge. It didn’t need to be, I just had a bad kitchen day and didn’t have my cooking hat on! But, to my surprise dealing with the rest of this dish was a breeze.

So, with my rant of the difficulties that I encountered with this recipe over, let me tell you what escondidinho is. The easiest way to describe escondidinho is by saying that it is similar to a Sheppard’s Pie, but at the same time it is really nothing like it. Escondidinho is made with carne seca, a dried, salted meat similar to jerked beef, and manioc/yucca. It is baked in the oven and perfect for a cold night or with beer. From what I have been told, escondidinho is not a dish that is commonly made at home, but instead can be found in bars. Popular in the state of Minas Gerais and other states in the northeast of Brazil it is simple and tasty. According to wikipedia it mentions that escondininho was invented for two young boys, Adolfo and Norberto Canelas who were hungry and only had manioc/yucca and carne seca. Out of these simple ingredients was born this wonderfully simple dish.

EscondidinhoNow, before I share the recipe with you, I have to be completely honest that this was not my favorite dish that I have made or tasted. Although I had the reassurance from my wonderful husband that I had done a really good job with making the dish and it tasted exactly how it should, I did not really like it. I figured out pretty quickly what I didn’t like about this dish and it was the mandioca. Mandioca has a slightly bitter flavor and although lots of people may like this, I cannot bring myself to enjoy the bitterness of it. On the other hand though, the carne seca was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t get enough of it. I think that next time I will put a european twist on this dish and make it with mashed potatoes!

But, I have not given-up using manioc. This week I tried out a manioc bread and it turned out wonderful. I will be sharing the recipe soon, once I have fine tuned it:)

Carne seca is not easy to find outside of Brazil. A solution that some people making escondidinho have come up with is using ground beef. Take a look at this wonderful recipe from Tiffany at A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of Salt. Or if you are determined to make this the right way you can buy carne seca online.

Here you are, after all of my ramblings I give you the recipe for Escondidinho! Enjoy.

Ingredients

1Kg carne seca
500g manioc/yucca
200g cream
1/2 cup milk
2tbsp butter
salt
1 onion
parsley

Put the carne seca in cold water and leave to soak for up to 24 hours to remove all of the salt. Cook the carne seca in a pressure cooker for approximately 30 minutes. When cool shred the carne seca and set aside. Cook the manioc/yucca in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes. Remove from the water, remove the hard fibre in the middle and mash. Add the cream and milk to form a smooth mixture. Set aside. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Sauté until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the carne seca, salt, and parsley. Sauté for up to five minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F. Using an oven proof dish put the carne seca mixture on the bottom of the dish and cover with the manioc mixture. Smooth the top. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is crisp and brown.

For a PDF of this recipe CLICK HERE!

Papaya or Mamão? What Is It?

Mamão is a fruit of the tree Carica Papaya. Native to southern Mexico, mamão is grown in many tropical countries, with Brazil being one of the largest producers today.

The tree-like plant which the mamão grows from has a single stem that stretches from 5 to 10m (16 to 33ft) tall. The large leaves are confined to the top of the tree and fruit are produced throughout the whole year. The flowers of the tree determine the shape, amount of pulp, and flavor of the fruit that it will produce. The Carica Papaya tree has masculine, feminine, and hermaphroditic flowers. The masculine flowers produce a fruit that is pear shaped and have no commercial value. The feminine flowers produce fruit that are round and have little pulp, resulting in fruit that also has a low commercial value. The hermaphroditic flowers produce the most desired fruit, they are long with lots of juicy pulp.

What we know as papaya in the USA is actually just one variety of mamão that is found in Brazil. There are many different varieties of mamão in Brazil, ranging from small to large. Brazilians, most commonly, eat the larger mamão  variety known as mamão comprido. Although the flavor across mamão variaties must certainly change, I have not tried enough of the mamão variaties to have a good opinion on this. Instead, I will just say that no matter which mamão you decide to try it will be tasty and worth it.

Mamão is used for so many different things in Brazil and is so easy to find that it is one of those fruits that is a MUST TRY when you visit. Used in drinks, like the absolutely amazing vitamina, or desserts, or eaten just like that, it is a fruit that becomes very addicting.

The papaya that can be found in the USA is much smaller than those in Brazil, but besides that there are not many differences. The skin is green when not ripe and yellow when ripe. Soft to the touch, like an avocado, tells you that the papaya is ready to eat. The flesh is always a beautiful reddish-orange. Remove the interestingly round-black seeds and dig into this deliciously delicate fruit.

Sources:
Sexagem do mamoeiro e sua aplicação na produção (http://www.ceplac.gov.br/radar/Artigos/artigo39.htm)
Wikipedia: Papaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya)
Wikipedia: Mamão (http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mam%C3%A3o)
Cultura – Mamão (http://www.seagri.ba.gov.br/Mamao.htm)

Manjar Branco

Manjar BrancoSome months ago I came across this Brazilian dessert on the wonderful blog Brazilian Flair in the USA. I had never heard of it before, but the combination of milk, coconut, plums, and caramel sauce was irresistible.

Manjar BrancoFor a long time I had plans to make manjar branco but never found the right opportunity. Finally, we had a lot of people gathered together for a churrasco (barbecue) and I was able to try this dessert. It turned out wonderful and was definitely one of the best desserts I have made and tasted. Unfortunately the next time I tried to make manjar branco it went horribly wrong but the taste was still wonderful.

Having one successful result with this recipe and several unsuccessful results I became pretty discouraged to try it again. My recommendation is once the mixture starts bubling set a timer for 20 minutes and do not remove the mixture from the heat until the time goes off!!!!!!!

I hope your first attempt will be as successful as mine was. And…..your following attempts continue to be a success.

Ingredients

1 liter milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup coconut milk
100 g shredded coconut
5 tbsp cornstarch

200 g sugar
350 g canned plums

Add the milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut to a saucepan and mix together well. In a small bowl put the cornstarch together with a little bit of milk, mix together and then add to the saucepan with the other ingredients. Place on medium to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to stir the mixture until it thickens, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Once thickened pour into a bundt pan that has been run under water. Leave to cool for about 1 hour, then cover with aluminium foil and place in the fridge for 3 to 24 hours. Once the pudding is completely cooled turn onto a plate.

To make the caramel place the sugar in a saucepan and add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of water or liquid from the canned plums. Make sure that you do not make the sugar to wet. Place on a low to medium heat and let the sugar melt. Leave on the heat until the caramel begins to turn a light brown. Add the plums together with some extra water or liquid from the canned plums. Leave to boil for approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened. Set aside to cool. Once at room temperature pour the mixture over the coconut pudding and return to the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool sufficiently.Manjar Branco