Elizabeth David’s flourless chocolate cake – an idea for Father’s day surprise

We are a family of three and on a daily base the emotions easily become  intense, good or bad, as there is no one else to turn to – but us. The rest of the family lives around the world, so other than the yearly visits to see some of them and lots of Skype time, we rely on our little family of three. Or at least that is how I saw it. Our son needed some time to understand that mum and dad were there to share their time, love and wisdom with him – evenly. For him it was simply natural to be around mum, and sometimes his father had to work hard to get his attention. Although it required much patience to manage the feelings, I new that it was just a matter of time when my leaving the house wouldn’t bring tears and a simple “bye mum” would replace them. That has been the case for some time now and as much as I enjoy the emotional growth I do miss the obligatory hugs and kisses I used to receive. On the other hand, that gives me a better understanding of being “the other parent”. Now I admire the father’s patience and wisdom even more. He was always there when needed, and patiently waited for the child to realise that he could share some moments with his father only and by doing so make them even more precious.

This cake is only a symbol of our love but it’s a sweet one and we love it, so why not share it! The favourite cake of all times for this family will be this one but this new version might replace the favourite one at least occasionally, as we have learned that new exciting ventures are just around the corner, we just have to let them reach us.  Elisabeth David’s flourless chocolate cake is a perfect example. This particular one is for all the fathers out there who love chocolate cakes!

Elisabeth David’s flourless Chocolate cake

230 gr dark chocolate

170 gr sugar

170 gr butter

170 gr almond meal

6 eggs

2 tablespoons  black coffee

1 teaspoon rum

Preheat oven to 150C. Line a 23cm baking tin  (with removable base) with baking paper.

Melt chocolate in a double broiler, add the coffee and rum, stir and add butter. Stir the mixture gently until butter is melted. Add sugar and egg yolks (one at the time) and stir again.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. Cake should have crust on the top and should be very soft in the middle. That means it’s perfect! Best eaten as is or you can dust it with icing sugar.

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.

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!

Plum jam

A broken oven is never good news. For someone who is so into baking, it is a disaster. But things are looking brighter because the oven repair man is coming today! Lucky for me, just a few days ago I got these gorgeous plums (from a friend’s backyard) and since I can cook jam, I didn’t waste a minute. So, I cooked the jam, sterilised the jars and packed all in the same day! Even decorated and wrapped the jars nicely so I could give them away as presents. An act of a nervous woman I’d say. I kept myself busy…

Mornings are always better with a good breakfast and my family are lately enjoying butter and jam on a nice baguette as a favourite breakfast. Even the little one likes it (his favourite is strawberry jam though). I made breakfast for us and then, because it seemed a good opportunity to record the moment, I decided to take some photos.

That is me reflecting in a shiny spoon, standing on the ladder and leaning dangerously towards the table. We have all  done it many times, I know. The question is, how many of you have fallen over the table, spilling all the jam over the floor minutes before a person who is going to fix the oven is about to knock on the door.

Now, I don’t really want to distract you completely from a nice and sweet jam like this one so let’s get back to making a simple jam recipe with an organic fruit. I especially like the part of having healthy and fresh fruit, which gives the process an extra nice feeling.

Plum jam has to be one of my favourites. It’s a jam my mum cooked every year for us and I loved it. The plums she used to use were a different shape and colour though. I believe their name is “Marjorie’s Seedling” and they are perfect for jams. Very sweet and not so juicy so the jam was very sweet and thick, almost too hard to spread on bread.

The oven is working again! and I am about to bake a rye flour tart but that is another story…

Plum jam  

1 kg plums

1 small green apple

500 raw sugar

1 start anise

1 vanilla bean scraped

Wash your fruit even if its organic to remove all the dirt. Pit the plums and although I know it’s not an easy job, there is no way around it.  Just cut them into halves and take the pip out. Place a heavy pot on the medium heat, add plums and sugar and stir a few times using wooden spoon. Add green apple, cored and sliced first. Stir again and add vanilla bean and star anise. I don’t mind if any of these spices end up in my jar but you can take them out at the end of cooking.

Cook jam for about an hour, stirring occasionally and the most important thing, take out the hull which is going to separate from the juicy part minutes after cooking starts. It’s the old fashion way but it works and I don’t mind doing it.

Basically you need to cook the jam until you end up with the colour and thickness you like. When cooked, leave to cool slightly before pouring into sterilised jars (you can check this post for an extra explanation) or you can just use dish washer for sterilizing the jars. Pour into jars and use when needed. I always leave some in a container to use straight away, because I know we will. One of my favourite desserts lately is jam poured over Greek yoghurt! You should try that. Yum!

Sutlijas aka rice pudding

Sutlijas is one of the first desserts I remember as a child. It is a simple dessert, easy to make and I assume our working mums, who were also  good housewives had to come up with a handy solution. Sutlijas was certainly one of those. A rice cooked in milk, sweetened with sugar, but not too much, and dusted with cinnamon on the top – that is Sutlijas. It’s made like this or similarly, around the world and quite often it’s just the name that is different.

It wasn’t always my favourite dessert but I never said no to it. I guess I learned to appreciate it later in my life more than when I was little. Some things take time but not this dessert. That is another beauty that comes with age as well; you learn to appreciate time as well. Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those people who can wait for hours for the dough to rise but when you are in a hurry and you still want to finish your dinner with a nice dessert – Sutlijas is the way to go.

And then I remember exactly when and where I tasted my first rice pudding. There was a place in New York that will always be called “Hasan” by my sister’s family and me. We used to go there together every time I visited and we all loved the food. I remember you had to move a thick velvet curtain to get in. It was almost hidden from the rest of the world, somewhere between 53rd and 57th  street on the west side of Manhattan. We enjoyed spicy lentil soup, pastries stuffed with minced meat and dipped in yoghurt aromatised with fresh mint and at the end, almost always, rice pudding in a thick flute glass with curly/floral ends (one of those created just for the movies back in the 60’s), would be served. It was always decorated with pistachios. Years after we realised that Hasan was just one of the waiters’ name, not the name of the restaurant, but it stuck with us anyway. I loved that rice pudding. It was made slightly differently from the Sutlijas I knew; It was more creamy, with a slight scent of lemon and of course decorated with crushed pistachios instead of cinnamon. Still we are talking Sutlijas here.

I cook or bake rice pudding quite often and with different milk or toppings. Today I felt like having it this way – almond milk and freshly made plum jam as the right topping. Let me know if you like it too.

Almond milk rice pudding with plum jam

200 gr  short- grain rice (I used arborio rice)

750 ml almond milk

2 teaspoons honey

1 lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

4 tablespoons of plum or apricot jam

*candied orange peel

fresh mint for decoration

Boil rice in the milk on a very low heat for about 20 minutes or until almost all the milk is absorbed. Stir occasionally just to check if the bottom is not stuck and burned. When the rice is very soft and milk almost absorbed add honey and stir to help dissolve.

Cook for another 5 minutes but don’t let it become too dry. Turn off the heat, add vanilla paste and lemon zest and stir again. The pudding should still have liquid (milk) once off the heat (the rice will absorb it while cooling down).

Serve in your favourite ramekins or glasses, top with jam and decorate with candied fruit. Can be served hot or cold.

* I tend to make my own candied fruit. It comes from cooking many syrups I made for different pies (and I will post the recipes eventually). For this particular one I used one orange peel cooked in a syrup made of water and sugar. You can use the syrup to top the rice pudding as well.

1 orange peel (sliced julienne)

100 ml water

200 gr sugar (I use raw)

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)

Wash orange thoroughly before use. Peel as thin as you can using a sharp knife – I don’t mind keeping a bit of the white soft part – and slice julienne. Cook in 200 ml of water for 2-3 minutes, take off the heat, discharge water and keep orange strips. In a different pot boil water and sugar, add orange strips and cook for another 15 minutes on a medium heat. Be careful not to burn or change the colour of the orange strips too much. At the end add Grand Marnier (optional) and remove from the heat.

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.

Spelt and raspberry scones

There have been endless days of illness around here. It seems to be almost inevitable when the seasons are changing, so I have to admit that as much as I love the idea of warm weather coming up, I don’t like the difficulties my body has to go through in order to adjust to a change. To make things even more difficult we were all ill at the same time, one more than another, but still – difficult. I was the last one to fail without noticing myself – I had to be “sent home” from the job I was working on, because no one wants to be around ill people and I was definitely one of those!

So, what is it that you do when you are not feeling well? Wrap yourself in a favourite blanket (still a bit cold around here), make your favourite tea (mix of peppermint and chamomile tea with a large spoon of honey, same quantity of bee pollen and a generous squeeze of lemon juice) … but something is still missing? Of course it is! How about some comfort food? So, I had to unwrap myself from my blanket, instead to wrap around an apron, and without thinking for a second, I baked these scones. They have been on the menu for some time now and we have them mostly for breakfast or a snack during the day. But that is just not enough, not after an obvious need for them in such an emotional and susceptible situation, so officially from today I will call them – super comfort food for this family. If I can’t make my body feel better – instantly, I can work on my spirit and anyone would feel better in such good company! It took me two days to recover, so what can I thank for this? A good tea mix or healthy spelt flour scones?

Also, I’ve been encouraged (from different sources) to include more colours in my photos and to try and create some drama as well. I actually liked the idea as much as the challenge and that is why these beautiful scones accompany a rich burgundy coloured roses (that my son picked from the market a few days earlier) and fresh bay leaves, kindly picked and packed for us, from our dear friend’s garden.

Spelt scones

200 gr wholemeal Spelt flour

200 gr white Spelt flour

150 gr unsalted butter

2 free range eggs

2 tablespoons sour cream

50 gr raw sugar plus more for sprinkling

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon aluminium free baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon powder

20 ml milk (I used almond milk)

200 gr raspberries or berries of your choice

Heat oven to 160C. Line baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium size bowl mix flours, sea salt, sugar, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Add butter, chopped into small cubes and mix with your fingers until crumbly. In a different bowl beat eggs lightly with a fork and add sour cream. Combine two mixtures until you get a nice and smooth dough. Roll into a rectangular shape, to 7-8 mm thickness. Place the fruit on the top, sprinkle with sugar (1 tablespoon approximately), add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and roll into a log. Cut into triangles, brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 minutes or until done. Cool on a cooling rack if you can wait, otherwise – Bon appetite!

Marble cake

Marble cake: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Bake. How do you do? I am a Marble cake. There are other cakes around me but this is my moment and this space is dedicated to me. I am one of the most respectable cakes in the world – so don’t be surprised. Quite often I find my self in the first few pages of any recipe book. Remember recipe books, those marvellous collection of pages in which beauties like me have their history recorded. As a matter of fact the lady who is taking notes, has a few different versions of me in her own recipe book. That is how one starts a baking journey. You bake a cake like me and if it’s a good one you are on a successful road to becoming a wonderful baker. I might be a simple cake, but I am very beautiful in my simplicity. I am tough but my texture is crumbly. I am sweet but not too sweet. I like being served with a cup of tea but I am mixed with yoghurt. You can spread a thin layer of butter on a slice of me but I am baked with oil. I am white and I am black. Ladies and gentlemen I am Marble Cake”.

marble cake

 Me:”well I don’t really have anything to add. Marble cake has said it all”. Continue reading “Marble cake”