Chocolate chip hot cross buns

One of the best parts of being a parent to me is the opportunity to exercise the brain cells and watch the learning curve grow every single day. I am not referring to the child’s learning curve here but ours, the parents’. I learn from my child every day! Most of the time something rather simple, and other times something amazing, but I equally enjoy the benefit of both. My favourite example of a simple and an ordinary hint would be our hot cross bun discovery a few weeks ago. I didn’t take these little treats seriously until my son pointed that way.

On one of our cruises through the city and bookstores/ice-cream shops days, which are nicely aligned,  with long  working hours, so a rather late afternoon stroll is possible, we decided to add a cherry on top by visiting a bakery as well. The choice fell on the chocolate chip hot cross bun, straight after the chocolate ice-cream, but on some days we have more fun than usual. The mother (me), decided to skip this treat but the son insisted I have a bite at least, as he (lucky for me) likes to share his experiences with me. One bite was enough to realise what I was missing all those years and needless to say – hot cross buns are on our menu from now on.

When I started thinking about the recipe the first thing that crossed my mind was this beautiful and unforgettable post about hot cross buns (just as all the others on the same blog) followed by a recipe, and my decision was made even before I had a chance to think any further.

I started with regular hot cross buns (as “one learns from scratch” is my motto) but the family was quite indifferent to them so I changed the recipe over to chocolate chip hot cross buns. I have to adjust the recipe to our needs and include the chocolate almost every time, and this time was no exception. Not that I am complaining, but honestly, the mother (me), needs to start a detox as soon as possible.
Chocolate chip hot cross buns

225 milk

50 gr butter

450 gr 00 flour

50 gr sugar

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

zest of 1 lemon

150 gr dark chocolate chips

For the syrup:

20 ml water

100 raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 rind of lemon

For the crosses:

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 tablespoon cocoa

1 tablespoon water

 

Melt the butter in a pot with the milk on a very low heat. Leave aside to cool or to speed the process place it in the fridge until it is cooled to room temperature. If the milk is too hot it’ll kill the yeast, if it’s too cold it’ll slow down the rising of the dough so room temperature is the best option.

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger powder using a stand mixer.

Whisk the egg lightly, add zest of one lemon and pour into the cooled milk and butter mixture.

Fold wet ingredients into the bowl with dry ingredients and start the mixer using kneed option. Work on the dough for 3 minutes, add chocolate bits and continue for another 3 minutes. I find this new stand mixer technique so easy and rewording that I am becoming a huge fan of the stand mixer era.

Cover the bowl with clear wrap and leave the dough to rise for just over an hour or until is doubled.

In the mean time make the flour paste for crosses by mixing all the ingredients, adding water only if needed. The paste needs to be thick but workable.

To make the syrup – place sugar, water, lemon and cinnamon on a low heat and cook until sugar dissolves and water becomes syrupy and golden in colour, at the same time being careful not to burn it.

Divide dough into 12 equal size pieces and arrange them onto a baking tray. Make the crosses using a piping bag and leave them to rise for another 25-30 minutes or until they double in size again.

Bake for 15-20 minutes on 200C or until golden brown.

Brush the buns with syrup (which is cooled down by now) after you take them out of the oven, sprinkle little raw sugar on them and leave them just a few minutes to cool down before your first bite!

Carob cake

Many years ago we moved to New Zealand, looking for new and bright adventures. A new start included everything being new to us. New country to explore, new people to meet, new jobs to start, and new life experiences! Perfect you would say! Except, there was one thing quite old and ruined in this perfect new world of ours, and that was the first house we decided to buy. The house we laid our yes on was neglected and unloved but we were young and enthusiastic back then and thus we thought it should be ours! We thought to fix it and live happily in it for many years to come.

We started with a rather impressive group of builders, but once some walls were removed, French door opened and bathroom and kitchen nicely done, we thought that it was a good time for us to move in! We knew that the walls needed to be done, and a few more jobs on top of that, but thought that we could do it! And we did! The house looked magnificent, at least to us, but peeling five layers of wall paper and a few other jobs were more than we could handle. After just a few weeks of living in the unfinished house we experienced such changes with our health that I had no other choice but to react the only way I knew – we changed our diet completely! All delicatessens and as you can imagine a lot of processed food was thrown in the bin and a new batch of greens (fresh and organic), found its way to our kitchen. So at least we had  healthy food on the menu every day and long walks along the beach (in-between house needing to be finished).

Now when I think about it, I am partially thankful to that experience as eating well is always a good choice. At the same time we could have done without the stress of poisoning our bodies I guess. As I said in the beginning of this story, being young and enthusiastic…can do more damage than good sometimes.

It took us almost a year to finish renovating the house. We lived another two years in it before moving across the world –  again.

While learning about healthy choices, by reading, talking to practitioners and friends, I came across carob as a new ingredient. I loved it from the very start and as carob was another way of having chocolate (that is how I saw it) I had to come up with a cake recipe. At this time we didn’t have a strong network of bloggers and finding recipes was sometimes a struggle. One would rely on books or, if you were lucky as I was, a dear friend could give you a recipe that you would adore. It stayed all these years in my recipe book, waiting for this moment to shine! It’s a wonderfully moist and comforting cake. Carob has magical ways to make you feel healthy and at the same time to be part of this sweet and delicious cake. It’s a Mediterranean tree and although it grows mostly along the Adriatic sea (I am referring to my background otherwise you’ll find carob in many other countries) if you go for a walk in one of Belgrade’s park called Topcider you will be pleasantly surprised by many carob trees! The park ground is literally covered with carob legumes at the  beginning of May, which is also a spring season.

According to some previous knowledge and recent google research – carob is rich with proteins, magnesium, calcium, iron and a whole list of vitamins like, A,B, B2, B3 and D. It found its way to the medicine as well, so as I told you – healthy and sweet. It has 40% of sugar! So let’s get back to the cake!

Carob cake

200 gr unsalted butter at room temperature

250 gr sugar

3 eggs at room temperature

100 ml milk at room temperature

200 gr oat flour

50 gr plain flour

100 gr carob powder

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

100 gr jam of your choice for filling (I used strawberry jam as this is the most popular in our household, plus I believe that it’s matches this cake perfectly).

 

Whisk the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (hand or stand mixer will do the same job). In a different bowl whisk lightly the eggs and add milk into it. Reduce the speed on your mixer while adding the egg and milk mixture. Once all is well combined add carob and on the end add flours and baking powder, spoon by spoon. Keep the speed of your mixer on low. Mix just until combined and poor into a lined 6″ baking tin.

Bake on 180C for an hour or until done (sometimes I find that I need more time to bake this cake, additional 10 minutes or so). Use the cake tester to make sure the cake is done.

Cool the cake on a cooling rack before cutting in two layers. Spread the jam onto the first layer and cover with the second layer. I never keep this cake in a fridge (but it can be done). It just changes taste a bit and I prefer when it’s nice and soft and on room temperature. The good thing in our case is that it never last for too long so room temperature is ok. Dust with icing sugar and slice into thin pieces as it is a very rich cake.

Like delights in like and peculiar thumbprints

A few years ago, I believe it was about New Year’s time, one of our friends a practical and a well organised woman, made a statement regarding the presents. She implied that she liked handmade, unique, artistic and above all beautiful plates and all other bits and bobs that could come along. It was a pure, simple and clear statement, which made our lives much easier regarding any future present for her. Since then I’ve been truly enjoying buying presents for her as I too love the same bits and bobs and nothing gives me more pleasure. Strangely enough it never occurred to me that I might become a recipient of such beautiful presents myself, which brings us to the million dollar question – How do you see yourself (or how do other people see you)? What is it that you like and what is it that other people think you like? A totally different kind of theme, I know, but if one wants to make a connection between a plate, a cookie and a friendship – one can right?

If I started with “similis simili gaudet” that should have explained everything about the above few lines. But let’s not made just an explanatory short version today, let’s add – a beautiful plate found a beautiful Russian tea cookie and they made a perfect connection. This is obviously a statement for the food blog.

On a different subject, regarding a different theme blog, I’d say – a beautiful plate travelled trough Europe and Asia and patiently waited in airbnb apartments and hotel rooms for weeks and weeks just to land in my kitchen. Because a dear friend found another friend, and a dear friend recognised another friend’s needs, and nothing could stop her, not even the fragility of a tiny plate and the zillion miles between the two destinations to make a friend smile… So the story pretty much goes this way – they lived happily ever after indulging themselves with small and precious presents from time to time; And that is unique, artistic and above all the most beautiful present a person can get. A friend!

Lets not forget the gorgeous Russian tea cookies nicely placed on an equally gorgeous handmade plate.

Walnut thumbprints with pink filling

300 gr flour

50 gr ground walnuts

1 teaspoon sea salt

250 gr powdered sugar

230 gr butter

zest of 1 lemon

2 cherries (I used frozen)

 

Beat butter with 120 gr of  sugar in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy.

(Hand mixer will equally do the trick it’s just that I recently got a present and I have to say I love it. You guessed – it’s a new stand mixer! The very first one in my life. Until now I thought that stand mixers were overrated and I always followed my mother’s easy and simple approach to baking which included a hand mixer, a wooden spoon, and lots of mixing by hand. I am not abandoning that at all but I am gladly adding stand mixer to the lot).

Add flour (previously mixed with salt) and reduce the speed on your mixer so it combines nice and slowly. Add walnuts and lemon zest at the end.

Take the bowl, cover it with clear wrap and leave it in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Once ready take it out of the fridge and roll into 22 gr (if you are as precise as I like to be) or just roll into similar sizes balls. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure there is enough room in between and bake for 10 minutes on 170C. Take the tray out of the oven and press each cookie with a wooden spoon in the middle to make the desired shape. Bake again for another 15min or until golden brown.

Once baked, leave them for 5 minute or more to cool down before transferring them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

In the meantime make pink filling by mixing the rest of the powdered sugar with one spoon of lemon juice and one frozen cherry, and then decide if you need to adjust the thickness of the filling by adding more sugar or the colour by adding another cherry. Using a teaspoon fill in every cookie with nice pink filling.

Recipe inspired by Martha’s Stewart pink lemonade thumbprints.

Vietnamese style banana bread

This is going to be a very short post as there is no history behind this cake and me. It’s all new but exciting and hopefully one day I’ll be telling you how this cake, although discovered just recently, became one of my/our favourites. In one of my new posts – of course. Until then I have to rely on my common sense and baking skills as I heard only a story about it.

You know how it is…well, just in case you don’t, I’ll tell you. You hear a story and you want to trust it. You see a photo and you want to see it “alive”.  You ache for a new challenge and you have to follow that. You’ve got the burning sensation in your fingers and it just won’t stop until something is – baked! That’s how it is. This time it was about a banana cake. Not any banana cake but the Vietnamese banana cake. Can you believe that I heard about it just a few days ago. I feel like I missed something – big time. So it’s reimbursing time! It’s fun time and it’s baking time. Would you like to join me in this part?

My favourite part of this cake is that you get to use ingredients like stale bread. Something that, god forbidden, might be even thrown away because of its lack of freshness. The idea of using every crumb of bread is good enough but the idea of using stale bread to create a completely new dish is wonderful and so rewarding. Another reason that got me all stirred up about this cake is the idea of baked bananas. Like properly changing the scientific state of bananas! If I have any resistance over food, that would be a peeled and not immediately eaten banana. Trust me I know what I am talking about as the banana cakes I have seen in the past were all with fresh bananas introduced with loads of overly sweet cream on a dry and not so tasty sponge. Ok, I might lose some of my admirers from back home now but I promise you once you taste this one it might change your perspective too.

Banana pudding

This recipe is actually a very creative one as you get to chose the shape, size and amount you want to create.

I’ve used different shapes and sizes of baking tins and they all worked. This recipe is for 16 cm round baking tin.

2 bananas sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon raw sugar

2 tablespoons honey

15 stale bread slices

200 ml coconut cream

100 ml coconut water

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons raisins

cinnamon and powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 180C. Line baking tin with baking paper.

Arrange sliced bananas onto the bottom of the baking tin and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Mix coconut cream with coconut water in a small pot. Add honey and place on the stove on a low heat. Stir until honey is dissolved then remove from the stove. Pour into larger dish, one which will be easiest to use to soak bread slices.

Once bread is well soaked place/arrange on top of the bananas. I made five layers using three pieces of bread for each layer adding raisins in between.

Melt coconut oil on a very low heat and add a bit of the coconut cream mix leftovers and pour over the cake making sure all the liquid is soaked before placing into the oven.

I prefer this one when it is cooled, the next day is even better. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon before serving. It’s very rich in flavour and I like it as it is but whipped cream can be added for serving if desired.

Chive scones with sour cream and lime topping

To tell you the truth – I wasn’t always a big fan of scones. Mainly because I grew up eating completely different pastries. The scones I know today were introduced to me much later in my life. Also if you looked for a scone recipe many years ago, the only one you could have found were the ones made with self raising flour. I don’t like self raising flour and its metal aftertaste and that was the biggest obstacle to developing my love for scones. So I had to wait to improve my baking skills and open my mind to other possibilities. However, I didn’t have to wait long and now I can’t stop baking them. This is just one of the versions of my savoury scones, lately the most loved ones. Lunch boxes, picnics, between-meals-snacks, breakfast…there are endless reasons for these scones to be baked.

Then again, when I came to the idea of writing about scones, I struggled. What does a person say about scones? It’s a such a simple and ordinary dish. I had to bake these three times just to get photos. Still not sure if I am happy with them. They are so ordinary! Then it occurred to me, it’s the simplicity that won me over in the first place, so why would that change. Simplicity with good quality ingredients is all that matters and everything else can be arranged on a good photo. Having said that, I feel that am I disregarding photography, which would be far from the truth since taking photos has become my favourite part of creating a post. So in short, good photography is equally as hard process as baking and should  be appropriately rewarded. Maybe I should bake another batch of scones? Why not!

Chive scones with a sour cream and lime 

300 gr white Spelt flour

100 gr butter

200 ml milk

1 teaspoon aluminium free baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 lime juice

1 lime zest

150 gr sour cream

100 gr grated hard cheese

1 teaspoon tapioca starch (or cornstarch)

Pour milk into a jar, squeeze lime juice and leave aside to curdle (approximately for 5 minutes). You can use buttermilk for this recipe as well, I just like the extra taste lime gives it, so I used lime.
In a medium size bowl mix all dry ingredients. Add butter chopped into cubes and work on it with your fingers until you get fine crumbled dough. Add home made buttermilk and combine everything until you just form a dough. Don’t overwork it.
Sprinkle flour onto a working surface and roll the dough gently into approx. a 2 cm thick small rectangle. Sprinkle more flour if needed and fold dough in half once, then fold again. You’ll end up with quite a small thick rectangle. Roll gently again into a 2 cm thick rectangle and repeat the whole process one more time. That is how you will achieve the flakiness of scones.
Use the 6 cm round cookie cutter to cut the dough. Make sure it’s floured very well before starting the cutting.
This is a rather small batch and I don’t like wasting much, so all the dough that is left after cutting the scones I would fold again and repeat the whole process with so I can get another scone or two. They still turn out fine.
Bake on 180C for 20 min.
Once baked, leave to cool before topping with sour cream.
Sour cream topping:
Heat sour cream, cheese and starch in a double boiler until cheese is melted. Leave to cool slightly before use. Pour over cooled scones and decorate with lime zest.

Sourdough and caramelised plums as a perfect union

Many years ago we went to a Paco de Lucia concert. We were well prepared as we knew that he was a magician more than a musician, but what followed was more than we expected. The concert started with an exquisite group of musicians and it sounded like the Earth stopped so we could all listen just the music and nothing else. I was enchanted from the first note that travelled through the concert hall. The magic started instantly. I could not have imagined that any music could sound better than that. It became immediately one of the best performances ever!

Then, while we were all spellbound by the music that was presented to us – something truly magical happened. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what it was. It didn’t really sound like music – it was so much more! It was like all the universe stopped so we could hear only that and nothing else. That was Paco de Lucia performing! I could see a person playing a guitar but it was like my eyes were not compatible with my ears, and what I could see didn’t match what I could hear! Truly a single person with a guitar cannot give us as much pleasure. I was wrong, that was exactly what happened.

Now, even though you might be used to me telling a story that has nothing to do with food, and then somehow making a connection, I have to say that I was quite surprised when all these memories flashed back the moment I had a bite of the sourdough bread I bought for the first time just a few weeks ago. The time frame is important as I live just a few meters down the road from one of the shops where this bread is delivered every morning. All these years I didn’t know that this sourdough existed.

I might have continued to be ignorant of this fact if one of our friends didn’t came over one day with a granola that tasted so much more than granola! I instantly checked the label on the bag and that’s how I was introduced to the Irrewarra sourdough family business that bakes one of the most delicious breads ever! (Just to make things clear, this is not a sponsored post, this is just me being madly in love with this bread, and sharing this new knowledge with you, so you don’t waist your time as I did!)

This bread is now present in our household all the time. For some reason I’ve decided this time to add to its glory the caramelised damson plums from a local market (another hunt of mine as those you cannot find in supermarkets). Together they taste so good that the Earth stops every time I make it –  so that I can indulge myself without thinking about anything else.

Caramelised plums on sourdough  

500gr of preferable plums

50 gr butter

2 tablespoon sugar

1 star anise

1 vanilla bean split open (1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste)

1 lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ginger spice

The reality is that you can modify this recipe and make your own preferred version. This one is just the one I make regularly at our place now. I have to say though that sometimes I replace butter with orange juice as it’s easier on the cholesterol level, and it makes me feel healthier .

Wash and dry plums, split in half and remove the pit. Melt butter with sugar in a pot on a medium heat. Caramelised doesn’t mean burnt, which is what is going to happen if you overheat your pot and that is not a pleasant thing to do as the smell and waste of ingredients will make you sad.

Once sugar is dissolved add star anise, cardamom, vanilla bean and ginger. If you want to intensify the aroma of spices then start with adding them first in a hot pot and then add butter and sugar.

Cook for a minute, then add the plums. Cook all together for about 2-3 minutes just to soften and caramelise the plums (that will depend on how ripe the fruit is).

Toast the slice of bread before arranging the caramelised plums, and then drench the bread with the aromatised juice in which the plums were cooked.

Enjoy!

A shortbread soaked into a lovely syrup aka hurmasice

We host  dinner parties at our place – quite often. Actually if I want to be honest that is the most common way of socialising lately (and by lately I mean for the last 5 years). It’s easy to make the decision between hiring a babysitter and leaving the house to see friends or staying home, cooking a wonderful dinner and having lots of fun. Staying home wins most of the time, which is absolutely fine if you are a such a keen cook and you have lots of help of course. My husband is more than happy to take care of supplies and the young one beside being a sous chef is into waitering/serving lately. He would even make a menu to look at – hilarious but also time consuming while dinner is getting cold. I guess at times like those we just have to remember that home entertaining dinner time is all about having fun and that applies to all of us!

The very best part of organising a dinner party especially for the friends who are great bakers themselves is that you might get a chance to be indulged with a wonderful present, like I did the other night. A wonderful treat like hurmasice (pronounced hoor-mashi-tseh if you really want to go that way) for example. A lovely dessert from, I would say the shortbread family, enriched with a nice syrup to make it less healthy but much more tasty. So much more tasty!

So, we can call this a guest post as I am about to share a friend’s recipe, who is a gluten free lady and she had to make this traditional recipe from Bosnia into a gluten free version –  because you just have to have recipe like this in your recipe book. I am so lucky to have a friend like this one, aren’t I?

I struggled with translating the name for this dessert. If you are not from the same region, you might never have heard of this one and frankly I still don’t have a clue how to make this easier for you. You might have to think of the name yourself or simply remember them as hurmasice (hoor-mashi-tseh). As I mentioned the dessert is originally from Bosnia, this actual recipe for sure! Then, if you go a little bit to the East the same dessert would be called Urmasice and just a bit further to the South you’ll be struggling with the name again as in Greece the same dessert is called Melomakarona. The only difference is that butter is replaced with olive oil and sugar with honey – which I applaud! I might be making that one – next.

Hurmasice – gluten free

300 gr rice flour

100 gr sorghum flour

250 gr butter (room temperature)

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

100 gr walnuts

For the syrup:

400 gr caster sugar

400 ml water

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 lemon

The only unusual equipment for this dessert is a grater, which is going to be used only to decorate the shortbread before baking.

Heat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium sized bowl mix the flours with the xanthan gum and leave aside.

In a different bowl mix the butter with the egg and  yolk until it’s creamy, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer if that is easier for you. Add the sour cream at the end and whisk all together.

Fold the flours into the wet ingredients using a spatula and finish it with your hands. The dough should be easy to handle.

Form the balls 2.5 cm in diameter or approximately 40 gr in weight until you have used all the dough. Place half of the walnut in the middle and press/flatten the balls onto the smallest wades to leave a mark.

Arrange the shortbread onto a baking tray leaving the marked size up and bake for 25 minutes or until you get a golden colour.

While the shortbread is in the oven baking you will have time to make the syrup. Pour water into a sauce pan, add the sugar, lemon rind and nutmeg. Cook on a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup becomes a bit thicker. This will take approximately 10 minutes. (Cool the syrup for a few minutes before using. I find it quite stressful for the hot dough to be poured with the hot syrup).

Once the shortbreads are baked, take them from the oven and pour half of the syrup over them. The other half cook for another 10 minutes or so, until it becomes thicker. Pour the rest of the syrup over the shortbread and enjoy them after an hour or so. They do improve over time – keep that in mind as well.

Gingerbread and ricotta cake

Purely by accident, while making gingerbread cookies with a 6 year old boy I decided on a whim to save some of the dough. I simply knew something would pop up but I newer anticipated that it would become such a delight. It took me few days to play with the idea and ricotta was there from day one as a main base for the filling. Then I realised that chocolate can never fail you (of course if you are a chocolate lover) and a gingerbread base seemed to be a good choice for this combination.

I baked the base a few days before I decided on a filling. Being a gingerbread dough that actually helped and it just improved the cake’s richness altogether. Plus the stress of making a whole cake in one day practically disappeared. Both base and filling are easy to make and you need just minutes to do it. I would’ve said that this is a winning combination if I didn’t known better. Since I do, I would say – this is a life time keeper!

The first one I made was a tiny one, just for tasting. The family gets to taste it first and my husband’s first words (after a long mouthful silence were) – “I can’t wait for the real one”- referring to the size mainly. I kept the size small though as I knew that we were not going to resist it easily, so between the two of us, one small cake is just enough! The little one still lives in a kid’s world with a strong preference for sweets. We take advantage of that for now, as we know things will change – for sure.

This cake can be served for a gala dinner or a less formal one. Also it’s very nice for morning tea or as a sweet snack after lunch. On the first day the cake was crunchy from the outside and creamy and soft inside. The next day (if it lasts that long) the crust becomes softer as the moisture from the filling  does its job. I love this little treat! The gingerbread reminds me of childhood and brings memories that way and the filling tells me how adventurous cake-making can be. All together it’s a cake embroidered with past and future with divine presentation.

Gingerbread crust cheese tart

1/3 of gingerbread dough (I highly suggest to make a whole batch and use the rest for gingerbread men)

500 gr ricotta

150 gr butter

100 gr powdered sugar

100 gr grated chocolate

50 gr chocolate for decorating (I used a block of chocolate scraped with a knife)

I used 15 cm round mould for this cake.

Spray the mould with oil before assembling the dough.

Roll the dough to a 3-4 millimetre thick sheet and cut the round shape using the actual mould/cake tin as a size helper. You’ll need another long strip for assembling the cake. Measure your mould if using a different one or if using the same size baking tin you’ll need a 45 cm long strip. The width of the strip should be approximately  the height of your mould.

Place the round part to the bottom of the mould first and add the long strip, “gluing” them together and to the sides of the baking tin. The dough is quite forgivable and if you brake some parts it’s ok as you can easily glue them back together.

Bake for 18-20 minutes on 180C. Once baked leave in the baking tin for a few minutes before taking the cake/crust out. Leave on the cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling it’s quite important to use room temperature butter. Since I don’t use microwave, I have to think ahead and take the butter out of the fridge to soften at least an hour before I need it. In a large bowl whisk the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the ricotta and mix until all well combined. Add the chopped chocolate and mix with a spatula.

Fill in the crust with the ricotta filling and sprinkle with extra chocolate for decoration.

The cake is ready to be served!

The simplicity of making ghee

Not so long ago I posted a recipe of a cake which included ghee as the main fat component. Since then I have been asked a few times now the same question. Is it really that easy to make ghee?  The answer is – yes it is! 

But lets go back to the basics first.

Lately it’s all about simplicity! Less is more is something that you hear often and relates to many subjects. I couldn’t agree more! Especially when it comes to food because I believe that is a new food driving motto. Finally, we come to our senses where quality beats quantity and we get to enjoy the beauty of the ingredients and well as the dish. That is true artisan cooking and baking, that is the art of simplicity and can’t be easily beaten.

That is ghee and the simplicity of making it. And it’s not just easy but it’s healthier and smoother! Ghee is over 60% fat but so are almonds and all these fats are good! By separating clarified butter and all milk solids we end up with clear and pure fat, which means that way we are avoiding saturated fats (those are the not so good ones) and that brings us back to the healthier side. Plus, in baking  for example, if you need a substance that will not interfere with other ingredient’s defined tastes but will help to combine them – ghee is the way to go. Although if you simmer the butter a little longer – which is how you can get a slightly nutty flavour from caramelised milk solids – it’s still very mild and won’t take over. I use ghee for making cakes, cookies, greasing pans for pancakes/waffles, making omelettes and frying vegetables. So basically it can be used for all cooking if it satisfies your taste. I have to admit that when I am thinking about ghee and when to use it, I quite often think of butter and whether I would use it in that moment. I believe that is my european background coming out. You should chose your own way.

In short, I love this golden colour liquid. It’s been present for many years now and comes from the mystic cultures of India and the Arab world. As I continue to use it I’ll think of all the untold stories that this basic ingredient hasn’t told us yet…

The shelf life of ghee is quite long. Actually I did a little experiment, purely for this purpose, and I have kept my ghee for four weeks now at room temperature and the lovely home made ghee is still fresh and ready to use. Just so you know, ghee can be made on a monthly basis and can be used for the same time. Again – simplicity.

Ghee

250 gr unsalted good quality butter

1 small pot

1 clear jar

1 muslin cloth

tea strainer

Melt the butter gently in a pot and once melted simmer for a few minutes. The process of separating milk solids from pure fat will start just after a minute or less. That is what you are waiting for. Simmer for another minute or until you get the nice golden colour of a clear butter. The difference between clarified butter and ghee is just in the simmering time. Ghee comes after clarified butter is simmered for a few minutes and in that process milk solids can be caramelised and an extra flavour will be added to the ghee. That depends on the ghee maker as well; you can decide how long you would like to simmer the ghee.

On the end you will have three layers in your pot. A thin layer of foam on the top, a thick layer of clear golden liquid in the middle and the milk solids on the bottom. Remove the pot from the stove and leave for a few second so the foam settles and is not so bubbly. As soon as that happens, remove foam using spoon and pour the clear butter into a jar trough a muslin cloth, ideally placed on the top of the tea strainer. Leave all the milk solids in the pot, you don’t want them in your ghee – after all, that is the whole purpose of this process.

Spelt bread & goat cheese

This is what I’ve been doing lately. Almost every day, because  of  “This is the best bread ever mum”! And because the little one is so right. It’s good, no doubt about that but when I think about  the best part of this story it has to be the simplicity of making and baking this bread.

But this is not a short story. There is a history behind bread making in my life. I had a thing for bread a while ago. I mean a real thing. Since I was the main baker in the house, I decided that we deserve the best that some flour, water and a bit of a leaven can produce. We are not going to buy bread as I will make it. How hard could that be? Well I can tell you that wasn’t really an easy journey, because the first steps in baking such a delicate thing were quite clumsy. But thanks to the big smile on my husband’s face, every time he tasted the bread I baked (and I could not love him more for that, because only the strongest in their hearts (and teeth) could have survived those beginnings), here we are  just about to talk about the ultimate success of home baked bread!

I was so young and enthusiastic back then and you know what – that’s fine. We were in a moment of our lives where everything had to be purified. And I kept everything clean, I had to, I was that person. Then again a few years down the road, a bit of a dust on the shelves and home delivered pizza (with a goat cheese and rucola toping) were more than acceptable.

However the baby needed to be born. The baby who didn’t sleep for the whole first year of his life! So instead of losing my mind completely, I’ve decided to refocus and let the idea of home baking bread become invisible to me like the above mentioned dust on the shelves. I had no time for slow baking – besides, babies don’t eat bread, right? So honestly I had a break from baking bread, but life makes mysterious rounds and so here we are back to my first sentence in this story where the baby became a little curious boy who was helped his mama to make and bake bread – again.

Spelt bread with goat cheese toping

For bread:

500 gr white Spelt flour

2 tablespoons wholemeal Spelt flour

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

350 ml warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg white

1 tablespoon sesame seed

1 tablespoon black sesame seed

For goat cheese spread:

200 gr goat feta

2 tablespoon goat yoghurt

diced fresh chilli pepper to taste

sea salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon choped chives

1/2 lemon zest

scallions and black sesame seed to decorate

Mix white Spelt flour, 1 teaspoon sea salt, sugar and yeast  in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Mix gently with a wooden spoon and add olive oil. Now use your hands to make a dough. Work on it until smooth, approximately for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle wholemeal flour on your working surface and do the same with sea salt. Roll your dough in it and transfer to a clean, again flour dusted bowl and leave to rise for an hour. Kneed gently just a few times before transferring to the refrigerator and leave overnight.

Once you are ready, take the dough from the refrigerator and transfer to a baking tin lined with baking paper.  Score the top of the dough with a sharp knife and leave for an hour to rest and slightly rise. Brush with lightly mixed egg whites and sprinkle with sesame seeds just before baking. Bake for 45-50 minutes on 180C. Leave to cool before cutting.

Goat cheese spread can be mixed a day in advance. Mix all ingredients, exept scallions using fork and decorate with scallions and sprinkle with black sesame seed just before serving. I served it at dinner party just a few days ago with home marinated olives. Yum!