Coconut Cake (Bolo de Côco)

10 Mar 2011 Blog, Desserts, Recipes

Recipe for Toalha Felpuda

This is Toalha Felpuda adapted from Colher de Pau’s original recipe.

Serves 8 to 10


6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1 ½ cups (250g) potato starch, sifted (**)

1 ¾ cups (350g) sugar, divided

½ cup (125 ml) coconut milk, heated and cooled (to soak the cake)

Coconut Pastry Cream:

1 2/3 cup (400ml) coconut milk

3 egg yolks

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons (25g) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150ml) heavy cream

¾ cup (50g) unsweetened grated coconut

Coconut Meringue:

50 ml water

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (190g) sugar

125 ml egg whites

Pinch salt

¼ cup (60g) sugar

1 ½ cup (100g) unsweetened grated coconut, preferably fresh


1. Set an oven rack in the middle position. Pre-heat the oven to 325˚F. Butter a 10X2 inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter again, and dust with flour shaking off the excess.

2. To Make the Cake: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whish the yolks with ½ cup (100g) of sugar until it has thickened and turned pale yellow.

3. In another bowl also fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle the remaining sugar and beat until soft peaks forms.

4. Using a rubber spatula, fold one third of the whites into the yolk mixture, then the remaining egg whites.

5. Slowly sprinkle the potato starch over the mixture and fold carefully with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the potato starch from accumulating or making lumps.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake rotating the sheet about two thirds of the way through the baking time until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

7. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cake out and let it cool completely on the rack.

8. To Make the Coconut Pastry Cream: in a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and cornstarch.

9. In a saucepan bring the coconut milk to a simmer. Whisking constantly, pour the hot coconut milk into the bowl with the yolk mixture, gradually at first to temper it, and then more quickly. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture should thicken to a pudding-like consistency, about 3 minutes.

10. Transfer the coconut pastry cream to a bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to cool a bit. Whisk in the butter and vanilla.

11. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until nice and fluffy. Fold into the coconut cream pastry cream. Finally fold in the dried coconut. Press plastic wrap directly over the cream to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

12. To Make the Coconut Meringue: Place 1 cup of the sugar with the water into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to boil. When bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, begin to whip the egg whites.

13. Place the egg whites, pinch of salt, and the remaining sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until peaks form.

14. In the meantime, insert a candy thermometer into the sugar mixture. When the sugar reaches 250˚F (121˚C), pour the cooked sugar down the sides of the bowl while you continue to whip the whites. (Alternatively, you can check the sugar by plunging your fingers into an ice water then dipping quickly into the sugar to catch a sample – it should feel like what is called – a soft-ball stage). Continue whipping the meringue on medium-high speed until the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes.

15. To Assemble the Cake, use a long serrated knife to trim the top and sides of the cake. Cut the cake into three equal horizontal layers. Set one layer cut side up on a cardboard and brush deliberately with coconut milk. Scoop about half of the coconut pastry cream and spread over the cake with an offset spatula. Top with another layer, brush with coconut milk, and spread the remaining coconut milk. Set the third layer on top, cut side down, and give a very thing coating of the meringue to capture any loose crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes, until the meringue is set, and spread the cake with the remaining meringue. Gently press the coconut all over the cake to coat completely.

(**) Different brands of potato starch weight differently. If using Bob Red Mill brand, add 3 tablespoons of potato starch to reach exactly 250g.

Portuguese Flan from Priscos (Pudim Abade de Priscos)

Portuguese Flan from Priscos (Pudim Abade de Priscos)

10 Jan 2011 Blog, Desserts, Recipes

Pudim Abade de Priscos

My love for Portuguese sweets keeps on growing at the first sight of an eggy recipe. So after writing this 3 part series, I couldn’t resist to offer you a recipe for Pudim Abade de Priscos, originated in the Convento dos Congregados, in Braga, Portugal. Traditionally, this Pudim is made is a large single mold, but due to its richness I find it is better served in a small individual ramekin.

OBS: In Portuguese we use the word PUDIM usually referring to a molded custard, not to be confused with pudding.

Inspired by The Food & Cooking of Portugal/ Miguel Castro e Silva.

Makes 18


2 cups sugar

¾ cup + 4 tablespoons water

¼ cup (45 g) lard *

1 cinnamon stick

1 small piece lemon rind

15 egg yolks (about 250 g)

¼ cup (60 ml) Port wine

½ teaspoon lemon juice

18 one-once ramekins (or custard cups, or mini muffin molds)


1- Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F (do not use convection oven). Line a roasting pan or a large baking dish with double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil;, when it boils, turn off the heat.

2- To make the caramel: Place 1 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons water into a medium size heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar turns into an amber-colored caramel, about 4 minutes. Distribute the caramel carefully and evenly among the ramekins coating the bottom. Set them aside.

3- To make the pudim: In another medium heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup water, lard, cinnamon and lemon rind to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar mixture becomes thick syrup (about 215 ˚F on a candy thermometer). Strain into a bowl and chill over an ice bath for 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and lemon.

4- Place the yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk in the port and lemon juice. Add the cooled sugar syrup and whisk everything until it’s nice and smooth. Strain once again into a large bowl with a spout.

5- Distribute the custard evenly among the ramekins pouring carefully without forming any bubbles. Place the ramekins inside the roasting pan and fill with hot water from the kettle to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the pudims are set, about 35 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pan once during baking time,

6- Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, about 15-20 minutes.

7- Run a knife between the custard and the sides of the ramekins to loosen it. Place a small plate over each ramekin, quickly flip the plate and ramekin over and remove the ramekins; the pudim will shimmy out and the caramel will coat the pudim.

* lard is rendered pork fat, easy to find at your regular butcher or supermarket. Technically you can also use bacon fat, but the smoky flavor of the bacon does not go so well with this dessert (at least in my opinion).

Tamarind Ice Cream

Whenever I think of tamarind, the first thought that comes to my mind is a small, round, dark brown candy that was sold by the street vendor in front of my school. When I was a little girl in Brazil, I use to eat one every day after school while waiting for the bus.

But the fruit of the tamarind is far more than a memory from childhood. It is one of the greatest sources of sour taste in cooking. It is broadly found in the cooking of India, Asia, and African dishes. In Brazil, although the fruit grows abundantly since the tall tamarind tree adapts perfectly to our tropical climate, it has never been explored to its full potential. But now in the wave of “wake up to our local ingredients” it’s nouvelle cuisine.

Recently in Brazil, I bought a small tray and devoured the whole thing by myself in a matter of minutes. To suck on a tamarind pit is to experiment the quintessential taste of the exotic. As you can see in the photos, the fruit itself is not your typical apple, orange, or banana. There is very little pulp, and the size of the pit occupies most of the fruit. In my opinion, this so called “fruit” is almost like a natural paste of tamarind that carries so much acid and so much sugar that it feels like eating that tamarind candy of my childhood.

The secret of cooking with tamarind is how to best extract the pulp. To use the fruit, you have to crack the fava, peel it, and clean away the “hair”. If you have about ¼ lb (125g) place that in a glass bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes periodically mashing the tamarind with your fingers. Strain and discard the pit and any debris. Keep this concentrated paste in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Tamarind can be used in many different ways: In Brazil it is mostly used in sauces, and juices. In India is common in chutneys and curries. In the US, tamarind can be found in the form of paste, cubes, or frozen pulp.

The recipe below is adapted from ©Joseluis Flores and Laura Zimmerman Maye cookbook Dulce, Rizzoli, 2010

Tamarind Ice Cream

Helado de Tamarindo

Serves 8

2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream

1 cup (240ml) whole milk

¾ cup (150g) sugar

7 egg yolks

1 cup tamarind puree*

1 – In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

2 – In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Continue whisking while pouring a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the yolks. This will temper the yolks and keep them from curdling. While whisking the hot cream mixture, gradually add the tempered yolk. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium – low heat until the custard coats the back the back of the spoon, being careful not to boil, about 4 minutes. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a clean bowl.

3 – Chill the custard in the refrigerator until very cold, about 3 hours or use an ice bath. Stir in the tamarind puree. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

* In the US tamarind paste can be found in many Asian or Indian markets. In New York, I recommend

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are quite a few foods from the American cuisine repertoire that are now deeply entrenched in my vein and I just can’t live without them. Even when I am in Brazil, surrounded by passion fruits, pineapples, and other exotic fruits, images of the foods I eat at home in America often swim across my brain.

Chocolate chip cookies are on top of my list. My infatuation with this quintessential American treat started when I was a 14-year old teenager in a foreign exchange student program in San Diego, CA. I started my trip fairly skinny and came back with a generous 10 pounds extra, all on chocolate chip cookies. At that time, Miss Fields and David’s Cookies cluttered every corner of the sunshine state. So there I was, a declared Brazilian cookie monster, literally.

Fast forward 20 years, I have tried hundreds of recipes since then and became very particular about the subject. My children often eat chocolate chip cookies out of a bag, those small little quarter sized cookies, much too crispy and completely dried all around. They don’t even tickle me. Other times I see chocolate chip cookies the size of a salad plate. Not a chance– pass. In my opinion, the perfect chocolate chip cookie (a Brazilian talking about a chocolate chip cookie? I know I am being brave here) should be about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter (7 to 8 cm) so that the edges are crispy all around and the center slightly chewy. In every bite I want a combination of both and only a cookie with those dimensions will really provide you with such memorable mouthful bites.

On my last trip to Brazil, already aware of my usual spasms of Americana homesickness, I came a little better prepared. I brough along a recipe that changed my life. About two years ago, food writer extraordinaire David Leite (publisher of the amazing web site published an article at The New York Times about chocolate chip cookies that captures every thing I always wanted from a cookie.

We don’t even need to talk about the kind of chocolate to use, do we? Take all those chips you bought in your regular groceries store from your pantry and throw them away – they are designed to resist melting. You want chocolate that melts; disks or coarsely chopped, either one will be just fine.

Back to the amazing recipe, the breaking ground of the article is … drum roll, please…that dough improves while resting in the refrigerator. That’s right, no chocolate chip cookie is worth eating unless the batter rests for 2 days in the fridge.

“ A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving”, David wrote.

I tried the recipe many times, and made a slight modification by trimming the amount of sugar. Other than that, the recipe is a winner. Another point that is crucial to remember is that the best time to eat cookies is 20 to 25 minutes out of the oven.

If a cookie has been sitting there for hours, here is what I do: bring the cookie back to life. First, take it home. I know you want to eat it immediately, but hold your horses and be a little patience. It’s worth it. Pre-heat the oven at 350˚F and re-bake the cookie for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the cookie from the oven and transfer to a rack for another 20 minutes. Grab a glass of milk, and munch, munch,munch…

Like everything in life, a little bit of patience also gives chocolate chip cookies the best results.

Here is my adaptation of David Leite’s The New York Time’s Chocolate Chip Cookies from my Brazilian kitchen in Rio:

3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks (60 % cacao content)


1. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop six 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

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