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.

Lamington cake

My first visit to Australia was a very short one. It happened almost unintentionally as Sydney airport was the last stop on our way to New Zealand. We landed at 5am. The first thing I noticed was the heavy rain outside. Somehow I didn’t expect that! The picture of Australia I imagined had nothing to do with the reality I could see through the windows. Also, I guess after being high in the air for so many hours we expected the same light to meet us on the ground. Certainly not heavy rain!

My thoughts switched very quickly to my immediate needs as after a very long and emotionally difficult flight all we needed was a cup of coffee and a quiet place to enjoy it. It was quiet at the airport, that’s for sure! Hard to see a living soul if I want to be precise, not to mention a coffee or any kind of treat. All the coffee shops were closed and all the treats one could see were behind the windows of display fridges. That was a sad picture. All I could think was: “Is this how things are on this side of the world?” It makes me feel sad just thinking about it, even now. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect much from visiting an airport but visiting Australia for the first time I thought even airports would be more exciting. At least that’s how I saw things back then. (In our defence, we were very young).

Sometimes we see the world through different eyes. Sometimes things might look sad, and other times happy but that still might not be the real picture. So I’ll tell you about my first real visit to Sydney.

Just a few years later I had a chance to visit Sydney in a much happier mood to start with. The fact that our trip was to happen just after celebrating the new millennium in New Zealand attributed to the whole happy arrangement. Still happy from a glass or two of wine and most importantly for surviving the biggest threat mankind experienced, the millennium bug and all other unnamed bugs, we headed for another new experience. An Australia Day to celebrate in Sydney and I dare to say – the most glamorous city in Australia. How exciting!

Needless to say those days were as nothing we experienced before especially when it comes to watching the fireworks, eating the lamingtons and coping with the rain! Unexpectedly and far from our expectations, on that magnificent day it rained almost throughout the whole day and when it didn’t it was so humid that we wished for the rain to start again. We needed an excuse for hiding within the plastic raincoats we had to invest in on the spot (and I am never ever to show that picture of me in a raincoat of an undefined blue colour standing on an open field covered with wheat hay).

But I have to tell you that the fireworks around Darling Harbour were magnificent! And the lamingtons, well I still do remember those. These are their reincarnation. Beautiful, moist and festive. Enjoy!

Lamington cake

I used my favourite sponge cake, enriched with olive oil. Olive oil will give the cake an extra flavour as well as a different texture. This way the lamington base is thicker or sturdier if you like to see it that way.

110 g plain flour

145 g sugar

1/2 teaspoon aluminium free baking powder

3 eggs

100 ml milk

130 ml olive oil

150 g strawberry jam (I used this jam)

For cocoa icing:

120 g cocoa powder

220 g powdered sugar

50 ml warm water (or more if needed)

200 g desiccated coconut, to coat

Pre heat the oven to 180C. Grease a baking tin on the sides (I used 22cm round cake tin) or line it with baking paper.

Separate the eggs and whisk egg whites. Whisk for about 3-4 minutes or until they reach soft peak.

In a separate bowl sift flour, add baking powder and stir.

Whisk egg yolks with hand whisker add milk and good quality olive oil as this will affect the taste of the cake. Add flour to it and mix until you get smooth and thick batter. Add egg whites while gently string with spatula. Try not to brake the fluffiness.

Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes. Check the cake with a cake tester before taking out of the oven.

Leave on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Slice the cake horizontally in half  and spread one half with the jam. Top with the other half and leave it to set (I left in in the fridge overnight).

To make the cocoa icing you need to sift the cocoa and the icing sugar into the bowl. Add hot water just to combine, melt and mix all ingredients. My suggestion is not to make it too runny.

Spread desiccated coconut onto a baking sheet.

Cut the cake into 12 slices. Dip each into the cocoa icing and leave for minute or two on the cooling rack for the extra cocoa liquid to drain. It is less messy that way.

Roll each slice of the cake in the desiccated coconut and leave on the cooling rack to dry before placing into cake box.

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.

Cardamom carrot cake with honey glazed dutch carrots & roasted walnuts

A few years ago my in-laws flew across the world to visit Australia and spend some time with us. The days were filled with deferent activities, including many visits to different parks and other kid friendly places, in order to keep their little grandchild happy. Evenings were more reserved for food and many untold stories, until at one point my mother-in-law showed an interest in watching the TV show called Masterchef. I guess I don’t need to explain Masterchef as it’s amongst one of the most popular in Australia, if not the most popular one. To help my mother-in-law to understand completely what was going on in the show, I watched it too. Until the end of that series.

A few years after, at an event a friend organised, I got to meet with the winner of the actual show we watched with my in-laws! That was really unexpected and lovely but one more time I thought it’s the end of that story. Until the other night my 6 year old showed a great interest in watching a show that was last time watched in our house when he was just over two years old! Genes, or just an expected delaying tactic before bed time. I would say, quite possibly, both.

So, while I was trying to explain that watching television on a Thursday night, just because one of the adults wanted to check something while the little one was still around and awake, doesn’t mean it’s movie night…I glimpsed some beautiful carrots cooking in an orange juice! The goldenness of the colour and the sweetness that you could almost smell were mesmerising to me. An idea haunted me for days until it was impossible to ignore. Then again, why would anyone ignore creativity that as a final result produces a cake like this one. I love every bit of it, as I am sure you will too.

That was it really. A very simple story of a very beautiful cake. The story is almost disappointing in its simplicity but very much fulfilling in its flavour. Rumour has it that this is the best carrot cake in the World! Well, at least for our little one!

Cardamom carrot cake with a honey glazed dutch carrots & roasted walnuts 

Cake:

4 eggs

150 gr brown sugar

75 ml honey

185 ml olive oil

200 gr white Spelt flour

75 gr Oat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

300 grated carrots

50 gr roasted walnuts

1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

1 scraped vanilla pod

Honey glazed Dutch carrots:

1 bunch Dutch carrots

25 gr roasted walnuts

2 tablespoons honey

200 ml freshly squeezed mandarin juice

For the serving:

150 ml heavy cream

mandarin syrup with roasted walnuts

First year of bake and sorghum genoise with ricotta frosting and sesame praline

I talk to my son about learning new things/skills almost on a daily basis. He still doesn’t  fully understand that any person, even a little one, has to put some effort in, in order to achieve something. For him things happen in a blink of an eye. When he decided that he was ready to use his legs, he did it. He was 7 months old and standing! It didn’t take long and he was walking freely around the house. To be more precise, he was 9 months old. That was his speed and he hasn’t stopped since.

Until we come across our first obstacle, we don’t know how much effort is required – for my son, believe it or not, it was about not being able to use a swing on his own; It didn’t come as an easy package for him and we had our own first serious eye opening experience. Thus I believed that we needed to teach him how to understand the effort and beauty of slow learning. I believe that is the biggest advantage of our species and our developed brains. Lets fill them with knowledge and not be scared to do so.

I am talking purely from personal experience.

Bake is one year old! It’s a perfect example of starting from a blank page. It’s been an intense year of learning and then a bit more learning, through this space. One year ago I knew almost nothing about web sites and everything that goes with them. I am not saying that I know everything now, but I do know much more than I knew back then. And it is a wonderful feeling! The best ever and one I want to share with the rest of the world – for a long period of time. So here is the conclusion: not knowing is just the beginning of a wonderful journey of learning! It might be bumpy in the beginning but once it starts to sail smoothly and get back to you (and it will for sure) it is the most wonderful feeling. That is Bake to me.

Beginnings are something I want to remember and go back to every time I come across an unknown to remind and encourage me, because the learning process never stops. I am sure there will be many more beginnings, but I am particularly fond of this one! And I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all this without your help!

Thank you all for being part of this wonderful journey!

I’ve adopted sorghum flour sponge cake from Alice Meldrich’s Flavour flavours book (it is an absolutely fantastic book with all the flavours in it). Sorghum is one of the new flours for me, and I’ve been using it for only a few months now. I absolutely love it so far. The frosting is from one of the recipes from fantastic Emiko Davies’ blog (actually we’ve been baking the whole cake for two Birthdays party in a row – by kid’s demand). I love the combination in this cake and I love what I have learned so far in the cake world! The recipe needed to be tested before appearing in this space so the first time I made it for my husband’s birthday dinner party just a few weeks ago. I ‘ve played a bit with the appearance but the recipe stayed pretty much the same. It was a winner from the beginning and well deserved to be shared on a such a special day!

Sorghum sponge cake with ricotta frosting

Sponge cake/Genoise:

90 gr Sorghum flour

35 gr rice flour

70 gr clarified butter or ghee

130 gr sugar

4 large eggs

a pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoon water

2 tablespoon rum

Frosting:

500 gr ricotta

150 gr butter

100 gr powdered sugar

Sesame praline:

200 gr sugar

80 ml water

100 gr sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 175C. Line 3 baking tins, 4″ in size with baking paper.

You will need clarified butter for this recipe, which is a butter, separated from milk solids and water. It’s an easy process and all you need to do is: Heat the butter in a small saucepan until sizzling. Remove the pan from the heat, wait a minute until foam settles, remove it with a spoon and pour the clear liquid to a clean jar, leaving watery/milky solids in a saucepan.

Genoise is a fancier name (originally from Genoa/Genova) for a sponge cake. Love the name and now love this Genoise made of Sorghum flour. The making of this cake is a peculiar one and all the steps should be followed precisely. This cake doesn’t have rising agent, so should be handled carefully.

Heat the clarified butter and prepare the medium size bowl to be used for the clarified butter and flour batter mix.

In a medium size bowl mix the flours with 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a different bowl break the eggs and whisk with the remaining sugar and salt for 4-5 minutes or until pale and firm. This will help the cake to rise! Add 1/3 of the flour and mix gently with spatula, add the next 1/3 of flour repeating the process and finishing with the last third of flour.

Pour clarified butter into a medium size bowl, add 1/3 of eggs and flours batter and stir gently until blended. Then pour that mixture back into the eggs and flours batter and mix gently until just folded. Pour the batter into baking tins and bake for 35 minutes.

Once baked place on a cooling rack and brush generously with water and rum liquid. Repeat the process until you use all the liquid. It’s nicer when it’s well soaked, especially in this case (original recipe ask for a 8″ tin and once cooled cake is sliced into three thiner layers).

Frosting: is made of ricotta with a touch of butter and sugar and it’s fantastic as it is. Just beat all ingredients together until well blended. Do it just before you are ready to frost the cake. This amount of ricotta frosting will be enough to fill and frost the cake but in case you decide to go with a naked looking cake, the leftovers can be served separately with every piece.

Praline: Place sugar and 80 ml water in a clean pan and simmer over low heat until sugar dissolves. All the sugar needs to be soaked in water but don’t stir it, just swell the pot if needed. Increase heat to medium (but be careful not to burn it) and cook for another few minutes or until dark caramel in colour. Add sesame seeds to caramel, stir with wooden or silicon spoon until all seeds are coated with caramel. Then pour mixture onto the lined baking sheet in a thin layer. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, then break into pieces before use. Can be stored in an airtight container or zipper bag for a month.

Assembling the cake: place ricotta filling into a piping bag and pipe (making circles) the top of every cake. Sprinkle with sesame pralines. Assemble cakes and decorate with pralines and fresh fruit of your choice.

Chocolate truffles

When I decided to make my first truffles I had no dilemma about where to look for the recipe. Who else to look up but Alice Medrich, the lady who started her career making and selling truffles! The rest is really a history. I am sure that there is not a person or maybe I should be more specific, a person involved with food (even just as a gourmand), who hasn’t heard of this lady. Her recipes are unique in delicacy, balance of ingredients and beauty. I have loved everything I’ve baked from her recipe collection and these truffles are just another winner.

Truffles are a simple but rather rich dessert. They can be nicely accompanied by a glass of wine or nice sip of liqueur. I’ve made many different ones but these are my latest favourite. The texture is just divinely smooth.

I am in the middle of reading Alice Medrich’s Flavour flavours book and I am sure there will be many more recipes I will want to share with you here. In the mean time, enjoy these.

Chocolate truffles

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

455 gr bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

140 gr unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt

30 gr unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural, or as needed

115 ml water

Separate the eggs and put the egg yolks into a heatproof bowl and place it into a bigger bowl already filled with warm water (to warm up the egg yolks).

In a different heatproof bowl. add the butter, the chocolate and the salt and melt it over simmering water until it reaches at least 50C (can be done without thermometer).

Heat up the water, take the egg yolks from the larger bowl and pour the water over them. Mix with whisker until well combined (again temperature should be at least 70C), then pour the mixture trough the strainer into the butter/chocolate mixture, not forcing any eggs to go through the strainer. I used a whisker to combine all ingredients, the original recipe suggested using a food processor to process the mixture until you get a nice and smooth mixture. At this point the texture is so nice and smooth, then you can tell what wonderful truffles you will end up with.

Pour the mixture into a lined dish (I used rectangular shape 10×30 cm) and leave in the fridge for at least two ours to cool. Take the dish out of the fridge, invert the truffle onto a working bench and cut into a 2×2 cm squares. Roll or rather dust (since I kept them into a square shape) with cocoa.

A simply wonderful treat!

Spiced honey cake and a power of yum

It was just one of those lazy days when you can’t make your self  do more than go for a walk. We agreed to do just that and nothing else. So how did I find myself baking on a day like this? No answer there! I just simply found myself in the kitchen and between the dust of flour, a tablespoon of honey, a cup of buttermilk and olive oil…..maybe some walnuts(?) – 40  minutes later the cake was baked!

The cake looked divine, and needed just to be topped with something. Honey?, spices..? Yes, why not… But for some reason I doubted myself. I thought the cake might be too dry or crumbly, not sweet enough…”Mum are you baking a cake?” – (a little voice from the other room). “Can I help? Oh it’s done already”…”Can I have a piece please?” “Maybe after lunch” was my reply. That was the quickest lunch ever I can tell you that now. “So can I have the cake now?

Next scene: Me, nervously standing in the kitchen not willing even to peak into the dining room and him, happily engaged with the piece of cake and then I heard! “Yum! This is a yummy cake.” He said that mostly to himself, as I could hardly hear him but nonetheless, that turned my head around. All my doubts disappeared instantly.

Testing a cake is the best thing ever. We do that every time we bake and subconsciously we would compare well known cakes or find the similarities with the new ones. But imagine a completely new recipe with all the dilemmas that can easily come along and just one word that can make all that disappear. Yum! from a 5 year old? But I figured, if he likes it, it’s worth sharing. Kids know best! We have tested the cake many times now and it has brought us the same pleasure every time. Definitely worth sharing.

Honey and walnut cake

250 gr wholemeal flour

225 gr plain flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 eggs

125 gr brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey (warmed)

120 ml olive oil

250 ml buttercream

120 gr chopped walnuts

Topping

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

This is a rather large cake, I bake it in a 27cm round baking tin but the recipe can be reduced and used that way. Half of the recipe will make a nice 15cm round cake.

Heat the oven to 175C. Grease baking tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flours, baking powder, salt and chopped walnuts. Beat eggs is a separate bowl, slowly add oil (almost like making a mayonnaise). Mix in sugar and stir until combined, then add yoghurt and honey and stir again. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and combine together using spatula or whisker. The batter looks quite dense and thick. You might have to use a spatula to spread the batter into the baking tin. Bake for 40 minutes if using the whole recipe or less (about 25minutes) if using half of the recipe.

While the cake is baking, slightly warm the honey and mix in cinnamon powder, set aside.

Once cake is baked, make small holes using wooden skewers. It’s ok, it won’t show much and it will allow the cake to soak up the  honey topping better and that is the best part! The cake is a bit crumbly on day one but as time passes it becomes softer and you can taste the honey even better. We came up to day 3 and that is with a large cake. I am sure that it can taste good for up to 5 days! But I am not talking from personal experience.

Bon appétit!