Spicy Cauliflower Soup and Pear and Almond Clafoutis

The first creamy soup I ever made, was a cauliflower soup. The reason I remember it is because this soup was included in our new healthy diet I wrote about some time ago. Many things were new and exciting but this particular one stayed with us until current days. It was just a matter of making myself writing down the recipe, as it’s so easy to cook by adding things into a pot and not measuring the ingredients. It is an easy recipe to make and rather seductive in its taste so my guess is that it might become one of your favourite soups.

I don’t really like to use much dairy to achieve a creamy structure of a soup. I had to look for a different option. Imagine my joy when I realised that it is possible to make a creamy soup without adding full cream milk. I was over the moon with happiness! If you are one of those you will love it too! Just a tablespoon of  butter makes a whole difference to this soup – plus a lot of whizzing. It needs to be very smooth!

Another important note – the amount of chillies used for this soup is almost scary, but it’s necessary, so don’t avoid it. It goes nicely with the creamy cauliflower and most importantly it’ll make you laugh a lot while eating and afterwards! At least that’s our experience, and it never fails. On both a very cold, or a very hot day, I promise, you would benefit from eating this soup.

To find out more about cauliflower benefits, visit well-beingsecrets.com.

Cauliflower soup

1 cauliflower

1 onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 small chilli peppers

1 clove garlic

2 stick celery

200 ml water

1 tablespoon of  butter

To prep – wash and chop cauliflower. Peal and dice onion and garlic. Wash and dice celery.

In a large size pot add olive oil and once it’s heated add onion, garlic and diced chilli peppers. Cook and stir for two minutes, then add celery. Cook all together for another 2 minutes and add cauliflower. Pour in water and add salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until cauliflower is cooked. At the very end, add butter and stir until it’s all melted.

Leave it to cool down a little before transferring to the blender. Blend the soup until it is very smooth and creamy. I added micro coriander and some chilies before serving but that’s optional.

The famous French treat was just recently seriously considered as one of the leaders in our family’s world of desserts. Its name is – Clafoutis!

I remember the first one I ever made was with cherries. It’s kind of traditional one and as far as little google research goes, we are to use the whole cherries, with pits, in order to achieve an extra flavour.

While I am waiting for the cherry season to share that recipe, I’ve decided to go with pear and almond Clafoutis. It became so popular that I might never get to make a post about the cherry one, we might stick just to pear and almond Clafoutis. Then again, who am I kidding, a recipe not to be tested and posted – impossible! Stay tuned and enjoy pear and almond Clafoutis while pears are in season.

Pear and almond Clafoutis 

3 eggs

220 ml milk

150 gr sugar

80 gr plain flour

1/2 teaspoon almond essence

50 gr almond flakes

30 gr butter for greasing the baking tin

2 pears

Pre heat the oven to 180C. Grease a baking tin with butter.

Peal and slice pears.

Mix the eggs with sugar. Add the flour and mix well to loose any crumbles. Gradually pour in the milk and at the end add almond essence.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into the baking tin previously greased with butter. Arrange pears and pour the rest of the batter on top.

Sprinkle with the almond flakes and bake at 180C for 45-50 minutes or until golden. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Can be served hot or cold. Enjoy!

Tomatoes stuffed with ground beef and prosciutto

This dish brings back childhood memories as my mother makes the best stuffed veggies (her favourite are stuffed capsicums) in the whole wide world. There is a tiny secret that makes most of her dishes special. She likes to add bacon, pancetta or prosciutto to all her stuffed veggies, and with a good quality of any of those we always end up with a marvellous dinner. Nothing lifts a dish to a masterpiece as good, cured and preferably smoked piece of bacon!

Now that I’ve presented cured meat as a main achiever in this dish I wonder if there is a point in listing other ingredients at all. But there is! This particular dish wouldn’t be as delightful as it is without good and ripe tomatoes. The smell of fresh tomatoes will reflect in your dish so use the best you can find – always! The good quality mozzarella is another of my favourite parts of this dish. Creamy straight from the oven and almost crunchy just after a few minutes outside of the oven makes it an extra treat. Sprinkle of chopped spring onions brings the freshness to the whole idea of a vegetable dish and we all love it! Hope you will too.

Beef and prosciutto stuffed tomatoes

12 tomatoes

1 diced onion

2 diced small carrot

2 diced stalk celery

500 gr grass fed ground beef

50 gr prosciutto

1 fresh bay leaf

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pieces of mozzarella

3 tablespoons of grated parmesan

2 spring onions finely chopped

Slice the tops of tomatoes and set aside. Scoop out tomato flesh with a small spoon and keep it aside.

Chop prosciutto to approximately 1×1 cm pieces.

Sauté the onion, carrot and celery with bay leaf for a few minutes. Add the meat and stir until it is almost cooked. Pour in tomato flesh and cook on a low temperature until liquid is reduced. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and leave it to cool down for a few minutes.

Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, in an olive oil greased baking dish. Stuff meat mixture into tomatoes. Place tops on tomatoes and top up with small pieces of mozzarella. Grate parmesan on top and bake at 180C for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with spring onions before serving.

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.

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!

When you are in love… homemade Nutella and diverse Brioche

When you are in love, well you are in love! This sentence made me smile. You can certainly try and distract yourself by doing something else, preferably exciting like – baking, cooking, reading, singing, sewing, knitting, paragliding or dieting but at the end there is one thing you cannot stop doing and that is – thinking about the object of your love. So, I’ve been trying to ignore this object of my love for quite some time now. What is the reason for such a drastic measure, you might ask? Well, you see I actually don’t like Nutella – there I said it.

The reverse side of this story is that I fell in love with the idea of making a homemade Nutella as a revolt to the ones from the supermarket shelves. I liked the idea of mixing hazelnuts with some chocolate, milk etc. and that way providing the ultimate success. The ones I could buy in the stores, no matter how organic or super artisan they are – well I would just pass by those…

The second object of my love (I bet you didn’t see this coming) well, the second object of my devoted love is one and only – brioche. Even before I knew the name I was already in love. Growing up in former Yugoslavia, a communist country open to many western fashionable things, including delicacies, plus due to the Middle East’s strong influence, I always had the pleasure of being indulged with diverse and delicious food. So  brioche or a very similar version to it was always present, just under a different name. I won’t be stressing you with the Serbian name plus to be honest I can’t even recall any special one. It was always called simple – enriched bread (in translation) which is miles away from glamorous  – brioche, so lets stick to the famous cousin. Except I’d like to add one more thing, not in order to confuse you, but on the contrary, to make sense of it – Viennoiserie ! Another name for brioche, straight from French people, referring to any enriched bread from Vienna. Austrian food (due to Austro Hungarian Empire) had a big influence in the region in which I grew up so there you go – food travels and then stays and changes slightly and makes us want to experiment even more.

Now, to shorten a long story I had this secret plan to combine homemade Nutella with above mentioned brioche and see what would happen.

Done! The result? Shockingly good!

Home made Nutella

200 gr roasted hazelnuts

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 170C. Place hazelnuts in a baking tin, spreading evenly so you have only one layer of hazelnuts and roast for 10-12 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, place onto kitchen towel, roll around using your hands. That will remove most of the skin. In case you want to do a better job – sprinkle a tin layer of sea salt on your kitchen towel before adding the hazelnuts. The sharpness of the sea salt will help a lot with removing the skin. This is not necessary in this recipe as slight imperfections are permitted but I guess it’s good to know for the future.

Place “clean” hazelnuts in your blender and pulse for a few minutes, until you get a very creamy/buttery version of your roasted hazelnuts.

(Did you know that on average nuts are 60% fat? That is a lot but the good news is, it’s the good fats we are talking about here. They’re actually even better/healthier if not roasted but in this case we are creating a dessert and a little “cheating” is allowed).

Add cocoa powder, maple syrup, coconut oil and blend until all combined.

Transfer to a clean jar and store at room temperature.

 

Brioche buns

450 gr flour 00 grade or strong plain flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons dry yeast

280 gr butter room temperature

4 large eggs

45 ml milk

Mix flour with sugar, salt, dry yeast and leave aside. In a different bowl mix the eggs with a fork and add to the flour mixture. Mix slightly with a wooden spatula, before adding butter to it. Work with your hands until you get nice and smooth dough. Just to warn you this dough is a very soft one. Handle carefully and add flour to your working surface if you have to you.

Leave in a clean bowl to rise for at least an hour. It should double in size before handling again.

Take out to the working bench and roll into a log 25 cm long. Divide equally into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place every ball into a muffin mould and leave to rise for another hour.

Brush with egg wash (mixture of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk) and bake for 25-30 minutes on 175C.

Leave to cool slightly before serving.

I’ve served these with a splash of raspberry jam and Nutella. It’s messy, sweet and sour and urges you to dig in – as any indulgence should be. The crunchy, buttery and slightly salty brioche with a touch of raspberry jam freshness and strong hazelnut/chocolate Nutella flavour combination – divine!