Olive oil sorghum biscuits with ginger and cinnamon

Lately, I found myself thinking how we humans have a tendency to overdo – whatever we are doing really. A cake has to have two icings, or more than two colours for decoration. A dress is too plain without an additional scarf or a necklace. Watching a movie and not having popcorn is unthinkable. Doing at least one more thing while we are on the phone, well we can’t imagine the other way around. The list can go on and on… and that is life these days.

Yes, I agree, some things give us pleasure, they don’t necessary go just under a must category. Like the popcorn we’re eating while watching a movie with our child, for example. That wasn’t my point though and the question to myself and to all of us is – can we just be? Can we create only simple things and  maybe gain extra free time? Imagine having that free time – every day. What would you do with it? How about – nothing and just be? Wouldn’t that be nice?

How many times have I done that? Not many if I want to be honest as I have the tendency to bake every chance I get. You might say that these gluten-free biscuits contributed to my tendency to overdo things, but you see, I had a good reason for baking these! A friend of ours is baby siting our son and the parents – us, are leaving the house for a movie session and a glass of wine. I had to add something sweet to their pizza and a movie at home. After all it’s one of the ways of saying thank you to such a good friend. You have to agree it’s a mighty good reason for baking biscuits.

As our friend is a gluten intolerant I planed a gluten-free treat. Although no one in our family is gluten intolerant, we enjoy all those flours for their particular taste. Sorghum flour is one of them. Lately I like to use it for biscuits more than cakes (the youngest in our family is not so crazy about cakes made with sorghum flour) and these are one of them. They go very well with Miyazaki movies and with a glass of wine afterwards.

Olive oil sorghum biscuits with ginger and cinnamon

200 g sorghum flour

50 g arrowroot flour

200 g  rice flour

1 teaspoon gf baking powder

150 g raw sugar

pinch of sea salt

150 ml olive oil

50 ml water

1 egg

1 egg yolk (I used the egg white to brush the biscuits)

1 lemon zest

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mesure and mix the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt in one bowl.

Whisk the egg yolk with the water in the food processor and add slowly olive oil until you make mayonnaise. The mayonnaise won’t be as thick as normally is so you shouldn’t worry if it looks a bit runny.

Pour the mayonnaise into the flour and mix with your hands (which is what I did) or use a stand mixer with a classic beater attachment. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and knead until you get a nice and smooth dough. Don’t overdo it; you don’t want to warm up the dough too much.

Cover with clear wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Once ready, roll the dough into 5 millimetres thick sheet. Using a ruler and a pastry cutter cut the strips 4 centimetres wide. Cut again, horizontally, to make the rectangular-shape biscuits (I made mine 6 centimetres long). Use all off cuts to make the biscuits by repeating the process.

Place the biscuits onto the baking tray, leaving enough room in-between. Brush with the lightly whisked egg white and dust with the ginger powder and cinnamon powder.

Bake for 20-25 mites or until the biscuits change colour.

Once done leave on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack.

May be kept in the airtight container for 2 weeks.

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.

Gingerbread art for rainy days

These days surprisingly we have been rewarded with a few warm days after a very long and cold winter. I thought I’d ever say these words here in Melbourne as I always compare this winter with the one in Europe just to conclude that they are nothing alike.

This winter though, was something different. Long and very cold, making us unwell all the time. When finally the weather changed its course and spring offered us different colours, followed by a different fragrance in the air and everything seems to be falling into a good place, Maksim got sick – again. Thankfully good treatment worked perfectly and he was much better after just a few days. Still, it was highly suggested to us to keep him away from a big crowd (like a classroom) for a couple of weeks. I am not used to seeing my child being so sick and I followed advice without asking additional questions. We are going to stay out of school but since he is  feeling better we need a home schooling program or at least  an organised fun time, otherwise we will end up with a bored child (and we all know what that looks like) and a screaming mother!

On the first day that Maksim felt like doing something exiting we ended up – baking! He wanted to make gingerbread and more importantly to decorate them, because that would be the funniest part. I had no objection to that as I know that art finds its mysterious ways – everywhere. Let me just add, they are very tasty too! Although cookies don’t match my idea of healthy eating and recovering from the nasty bacteria, we ate most of them in no time.

While this might seem just like a fun time to you, I assure you that it was not. Even better, I’ll give you the inside of our fun baking time.

We had a chance to talk about numbers and letters, while writing a recipe. We talked about different geometric shapes while comparing different baking tins. The oven could be dangerous while it’s hot, so we talked about high temperatures which ultimately led us to the Sun and Solar system…different colours of different planets gave us ideas for the colours he used for colouring the cookies. We talked about healthy eating and we even managed to keep honey in this recipe, which is a small milestone as honey was always a big NO to this little guy. We counted cookies and divided them between two baking tins. Then we summed them up again so we knew what the total number was – because math is fun! I decorated one heart and he did the other and we dedicated one to each other. We talked about love, how to be together and how to separate (while Maksim mostly talked about us being baker kings as he was so proud of our work). Again the major lesson on family stability, support and trust. We ate them while doing different artwork and we agreed that they are super yummy and well deserved to be shared… and that is how we had a sweet day baking, exercising our brains and recognising our emotions at the same time.

Of course we watched loads of movies, played with Lego and cooked other meals but a little project like this one made a difference to our staying at home days.

Gingerbread 

250 gr plain flour

130 gr rye flour

150 gr butter

50 gr brown sugar

4 tablespoons honey

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 lemon zest

Icing:

500 gr powdered sugar

food colours of your choice

1/2 lemon juice

a few drops of water

Melt the butter and sugar over low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Leave aside to cool for a few minutes. Add  honey and stir until honey is melted.

In a medium sized bowl mix all dry ingredients, flours, spices, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest.

In a smaller bowl mix the egg with a whisker until fluffy. Pour butter mix over the egg, making sure that the butter is not too hot as the egg will curdle/cook in that case.

Add all wet ingredients to the flour mix and knead until all combined. Wrap into a clear wrap and leave into the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Once ready to use, take the dough out of the fridge, leave for 15 minutes to rest on the work surface. Roll over between two baking papers into a 4-5 millimetre thick dough. Cut out the gingerbread dough using a  cutter and place onto a baking tray, previously lined with baking paper.

Bake for 12-14 minutes on 180C. Once baked leave on the cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.

For decoration use an icing mix of powdered sugar, lemon juice and a few drops of water if needed. The icing needs to be very thick but be careful as you have to be able to squeeze it through a piping bag. Use food colours for your colour choice. We ended up using an icing set bought at the market as that was easier for little hands. That’s fine too.

Pischinger waffles

New ingredients (and there are still a few on my list) or new and challenging recipes are something that I am easily drawn to. As a matter of fact, quite often that would be my first choice. It is so challenging and exciting to make something new! The thought you have to put in, the energy, not to mention the adrenalin, is enough to make any food making lover all excited. This is how it looks, at least around here: There is always an intriguing reason to start with a new recipe. Sometimes I just read quite a few recipes that include the new ingredient – hoping at the same time that I can bring it down to only one recipe. In the end I discard all that has been read and start from scratch thinking only how much sweetness, sourness, bitterness and God knows how many other ..ness –es I can combine together to get the desired taste. The small moment of truth is that building/creating the recipe is definitely one of the most exiting things for me to do.

Then again sometimes, when I am reminiscent and in need of something that will remind me of my own childhood, a certain recipe might cross my mind! At that very moment an understanding husband would have to go to the shops in the eastern suburbs to buy the right ingredients. Sometimes, he gets distracted and buys an ingredient that has a sticker with an expired date on it and he needs to go back and bring home the right ones because it’s important to fulfil the basic needs for chocolate delights. It’s a small price to pay (this applies to the husband) considering the benefits. Pulling out a recipe that hasn’t been done for years in our family and the excitement I get from seeing my 6 year old tasting it for the first time is more that rewarding. It’s heavenly good! It’s a circle of luck. My happiness from my childhood transferred to my son!

This leads me to a story about circles (with a deeper side) that I had explained to me the other day. I was engaged in a new project with my son. He wanted us to make a collage and we decided that it’s going to be about nature. Next step –  a sun, little hill, a lake were to be made … and while I was busy gluing a part of the tree, I’ve noticed how concentrated he was while creating huge waves in his little lake. Huge waves were forming quite an amount of foam on the top and that was intriguing enough to ask the question. What are those waves representing and why are they so foamy…he simply explained.

“Waves form the foam which crushes down just to become water again”. My eyes wide open led him to a more precise explanation. “It’s a circle mum, you know just like life and death”!

A philosophical child with a love for chocolate is a very sweet combination, I say! In our case we bake all the time as our love for it and love of it makes our own circle – of happiness.

Chocolate and walnut Pischinger

1 small package pischinger waffles

4 large eggs

300 gr sugar

100 gr dark chocolate

125 gr unsalted butter

125 gr walnut meal

This is a no bake dessert and as such, quite easy to make. It can be kept in an airtight container for 5 days at room temperature or for 2 weeks in a refrigerator.

The hardest part could be finding the actual base for this desert. I find that Middle Eastern shops quite often have them.

Whisk eggs with sugar with a hand whisker in a metal bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water and cook for 5-8 minutes or until egg mixture becomes thicker.

Reduce the heat, add chocolate and butter and stir with spatula until both dissolved. Add walnut meal at the end. You can use the chocolate filling straight away. In that case the sheets will become soft, maybe even soggy but the desert can be used straight away.

The second option and the one I go for is to leave the chocolate filing to cool almost completely and then use it. In that case you will need to leave it so the waffle sheets can absorb the moisture from the chocolate filling for ideally 24 hours. It’s the harder way but the result is much more rewarding.

Divide chocolate mixture in four parts as that is how many times you will need to use it (4 of the  same bowls, equally filled will do the job).

Place one sheet of pischinger waffles on the working bench and layer with chocolate filling. Repeat the process until you have used all of the filling. Do not put the chocolate filling on the top of the last sheet. That can be decorated with melted chocolate – as I like to do or leave it clean – which is the usual way to do it.

Wrap desert into clear wrap and place something heavy (like wooden chopping board) on the top, covering the whole sheets, to help  compress the waffles. Leave overnight or 24h to rest.

Slice with a sharp knife into desired shape. Diamond is the most common shape but can be done as squares or rectangles. Enjoy!

Yeast rolls aka kiflice

I felt almost guilty for having a fabulous day, doing everything I wanted and all in the  company of 5 year old. We bought a brooch that I had wanted to buy for some time (M got to choose which one from the choice of few though), I had a coffee in one of the cafes I wanted to visit and by the end of the day I got to bake one of my favourite sweets. Luckily Maksim loves buying new things, he is becoming a fan of  hot chocolate and baking is one of his favourite things to do (not a surprise really) actually we bake together so often that I should have called this space – baking with my son, that would be so true. So maybe I should feel less guilty?! Because after all I made sure we filled a few rolls with chocolate – just to be on the safe side because although sesame seeds are one of his favourite, I doubted tahini filling would make Maksim’s day as much as it made mine.

Kiflice (diminutive from Kifle), savory or sweet are on our home menu quite often, maybe even too often, but we just love them. Originally from Austria but well known in the whole of Europe and I am sure every house has it’s own recipe inherited through generations. It is one of those treats that every grandmother in the Balkan regions will bake just to make the home warmer  or more welcoming to family and neighbours . On a rainy day like the one today, when we run around early in the morning to finish our errands just to have enough time during the day to enjoy the slow process of baking – I bake these.

I made a half quantity today, because the whole one is too generous unless you have people coming over or are planning a picnic with friends for example. This batch will provide 16 rolls and I made a fair share for all of us, filling them with three different fillings. Chocolate for the youngest one, tahini and honey mostly for myself and mandarine and orange marmalade for my husband. Of course I got to taste all of them and because of that no sweets for me in the next, hmm, day or two I guess!

Kiflice – rolls

550 gr plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 full teaspoons dry yeast

2 eggs

1 egg white lightly beaten

250 ml milk (I used soy)

75 ml olive oil

jam, chocolate or your choice for filling

In a large bowl add flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In a different bowl or jug, whisk warm milk with eggs, just to combine them. Mix flour mixture thoroughly with a wooden spoon, make a well in the middle and pour in warm milk with eggs and oil. Mix again with a spoon and knead for a few minutes or until you get nice and smooth dough. (Add flour if you need – meaning the dough shouldn’t be sticky). Leave in the bowl, covered with a cotton cloth, for an hour to rise.

Once the dough is ready, roll into a round shape (25-30 cm in diameter), 0.5 cm thick. I start with a cross in the middle and then just cut around until I get pieces the size I like. You should have 16 rather long triangles, which are great for rolling into rolls. Top everyone with topping of your choice, (marmalade is the most common one) on the wider end. That is the starting point for rolling as well, so you end up with a pointy part on the top of the roll. Arrange rolls on the baking tray, making sure there is enough room in between every roll and leave for another 20 minutes to rise. Brush with lightly beaten egg white, sprinkle with sugar and bake on 180C, with fan on, for 15-17 min.

The biggest challenge is not to eat them straight from the oven. Then again, why not?

Ricotta and cardamom spelt cookies

Very soon we will be travelling across the world to visit our family and friends. Now that we are so close to packing and leaving I can’t stop thinking about all the important and maybe not so important but inevitable things that I need to organise before the departure. Who is going to water our plants? The Christmas tree needs to survive because we will be back by then and we are going to need it and the blinds need to be fixed…but I better stop before you lose all interest.

Instead, let’s talk about things that we like to do or make, for people we love. Lately I am more for doing and making as opposed to buying, when it comes to showing emotions or gratitude. Maybe that is because I am in a very creative phase of my life but I have grown to like the idea so much that I might stick with it for a while. Creating a gift for someone is like giving away a bundle of feelings, more that anything else, and I find that absolutely precious. Raising a child has actually helped quite a bit with developing this idea. For example, Maksim’s last birthday party was done exactly the way he wanted, I just followed all his steps. Interestingly enough that didn’t include any presents from our side, instead he wanted us to make a 7 layered cake (most wedding cakes that I’ve seen would have been smaller) and we needed to add all the decorations he wanted and mostly, created himself. So we rolled up our sleeves, baked together, got dusty with flour and sugar, ended up covered in food colouring and most importantly, had heaps of fun. We had a special time for ourselves, created something magical and gave it away to the people who joined us at the party. I call that – a circle of happiness!

The clown/magician that entertained the kids was an extra treat and produced a lot of laughter so I would call it a good investment in happiness. A dear friend gave away a bicycle that her son is not going to use any more and that covered the gift idea that we secretly had in our minds but the biggest gift to all of us and something we are going to remember forever, was the time we spent together preparing the party and celebrating our time together!

So while I was in such a festive spirit, I created some cookies that very much reflect my feelings towards the people that I am going to see soon. Spelt flour is always a good choice, and cardamon is such a fantastic pairing. Add a thin layer of icing on top, and you get such a lovely delight in a small portion. I love them but I love even more the idea of giving them away to the people I love.

Ricotta and Cardamom spelt cookies

120 gr wholemeal spelt flour

100 gr plain flour

100 gr raw sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

100 gr sea salty butter

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

3 cardamom pods grind in the mortar

1 lemon zest

60 gr ricotta cheese (if not dry squeeze well before use)

30 ml full cream

1 egg

Icing

200 gr powdered sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

grounded cardamom

Heat the oven to 160C and line baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium size bowl mix the flours, baking powder, sugar, cardamom and sea salt. Add butter and work with your fingers until crumbly. In a different bowl whisk the egg, add full cream, vanilla paste, lemon zest and ricotta cheese. Make a small well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture then add the egg mixture and work on the dough until well combined and smooth.

Roll the dough to a 5 mm thickness and cut into a 6 cm round shape. Line onto the tray, keeping a distance between the cookies and bake for 12-14 min or until they get a golden colour. Cool onto a cooling and top with icing. I have found that the taste improves every day, but it is hard to resist them freshly baked as well.

Lavender cookies

Friday is my day off – off everything else, except this space. I wake up, have a slow breakfast with my son, pack all our bits and bobs to take to the kinder with us and walk to the train station to catch the magical train. That is the favourite part of the week for my son – catching a train! It’s only a few stops, but we don’t miss the opportunity – it is so special. We ride mostly in silence, my son in his own thoughts, occasionally turning to me with a glazed look, with reflection of the buildings that he has just seen through the window, still in his eyes and whispering; I love trains! To me, it’s magical just to look at him but I love trains as well, the way they are, speedy on the outside but slow when you let a magic be involved in your ride. Except this time, the moment we walked into the carriage I was distracted by the rather loud conversation of two businessmen. Dark suits and red ties would indicate an importance in their work routine, the way they spoke as well, except they were talking about sharks and snakes! You can imagine what kind of conversation those two predators, as a main characters could have and since I don’t like that kind of action I have tried to exclude myself from listening by transferring to different cities and same life situations. Would I hear this kind of conversation in the London Tube or the Paris Metro? The New York Subway maybe? No, I can not recall any similar situation. In New York people are actually really quiet on trains or if they talk, they talk to themselves. London and Paris, well tourists mostly, even on a such an early ride, but…

“Mama, mum, look, I really like this tower with a clock on it..looks like Big Ben! and the building behind has a roof that looks like a Pyramid…”Well, what can I say, trains are special because they can transfer us to a different places – all the time.

But the true highlight of my day had to be these cookies. They are special for many reasons, but one of them is that I make them with plain flour. I wanted lavender to dominate and plain flour is, well plain, so the first time I made them I decided to go that way and I haven’t changed that since. We all love them, my son had one yesterday before dinner “(mum I really don’t think they are too sweet, so I can have one before dinner, as an entrée you know – said my 5 year old and one, or maybe two, after).” They are not too sweet but very aromatic and seductive so once you have one you might have a problem stopping at that.

Lavender cookies

180 gr plain flour

50 gr rice flour

100 gr butter

small bunch of fresh lavender

1 egg

70 gr raw caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1 vanilla pod, scraped

4 tablespoons rice milk

1 lemon zest

Heat oven to 150C and line baking tray with baking paper.

With these cookies there is a preparation that needs to be done in advance but it’s a very easy job. Melt butter at a low temperature with 4-5 lavender buds. Leave to cool and then transfer to the refrigerator for 2-3 hours minimum before use or it can be  stored in the freezer and used when you need to.

Pulse flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, vanilla bean in a food processor. Add egg yolk, lavender butter, lemon zest and continue to pulse adding one by one spoon of rice milk. You should get very smooth and soft dough, easy to work with. Dust working bench with flour  and roll dough into a round shape, 1.5 cm thick. Cut cookies with 3-4cm round cutter and before placing them onto a baking tray, roll them slightly again not being so precise in making perfectly round shapes. That is what I do especially when I have the help of one 5 year old boy and I like the not so perfectly round look we get. Of course you can roll the dough to 1 cm and cut your cookies the shape you like but that is also less fun.

Brush them with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with raw caster sugar and lavender mix. (I make this mix using a mortar and pestle, approximately 100 gr of sugar grinded with 4-5 lavender buds). Bake for 12-15 min. Cool on a cooling rack completely before transferring to a cookie jar.

Chocolate buckwheat cookies

Buckwheat flour and I have a rather long history. The first thing that would cross my mind and is related to this flour, would have to be pastry sheets made of buckwheat flour and all the beautiful pies made out of them. Cheese and spinach to start with then apple pie, pumpkin pie and any berry pie and I can go on like this forever, obviously. I am quite sure you get the picture but just in case, I’ll tell you one more story: Last year my son and I made a trip across the world to visit the grandparents. We hadn’t seen each other for some time and we were all looking forward to it. Alas, when we arrived to my mum’s house late in the evening, we were all tired and Maksim had a temperature as well but I can still remember how my heart melted when I saw the choice of food my mum had made for us. A buckwheat filo pastry goat cheese and spinach pie. I could not think of anything that would make me happier or anything else that could bring back so many memories. Maksim didn’t eat much that evening or any other actually whereas with me it was quite the opposite. Continue reading “Chocolate buckwheat cookies”