Bebe uskrsne Primorski (Easter Bread babies)

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I am participating in a lot of challenges lately. Not that I mind, though! I have joined the bakers from Bake the World a while ago but so far I hadn’t been able to join in the fun for various reasons. When I discovered what they had in store for March’s challenge, I knew I didn’t want to miss out.

This unusual Croatian bread (unusual for me, at least) is similar to other sweet breads baked around the world for Easter. Eggs, too, play an important part in the symbology.

I looked up many recipes (in various languages) but finally decided on the one by Ana, whose beautiful blog won’t see the last of me. 

I followed her recipe quite faithfully although I halved the recipe, the only minor change I made to the ingredients was to substitute part of the milk with water to get a fluffier dough (it was a dream!). As for the method, I changed it slightly: I melted the butter in the lukewarm milk and then added it to the dry ingredients alternating with the beaten egg. My facilities are a bit limited so I didn’t dry the eggs (also because the ones I had weren’t white so I left them as Nature intended them to be). With the leftover dough I am now making some off-seasonal Stollen as I find the dough to be similar (you’ll have to wait till Christmas to see the photos!).

 Bebe uskrsne Primorski (Anna’s recipe)

 Makes 2 loaves, 12 bread dolls or 1 loaf and 6 bread dolls

2 cups milk, scalded and then cooled to room temperature

2 packages active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 eggs or 6 egg yolks, beaten

½ cup butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Over medium heat, heat milk until small bubbles appear on the surface.  Remove from burner and allow to cool – the milk should still be warm but not hot.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the milk, stir gently to combine and set aside to proof until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, butter, sugar and salt at a medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Begin adding the flour one cup at a time, alternating with roughly half a cup of the milk and yeast mixture.  Repeat this until you have added 4 cups of flour and all of the liquid.  After this point, begin adding ¼ to ½ cup of flour at a time, waiting until all of the flour is fully incorporated into the dough before adding more.  Stop adding flour when the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl (you may or may not use all 6 cups of flour).  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times into a smooth, round ball.  Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and set in a draft-free area of your kitchen until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours.

When the dough has risen, punch the centre and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.  Separate dough into the required pieces, depending if you are making loaves or dolls, or both (each loaf and doll requires 3 balls of dough to braid).  Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Braid the dough, following the pictures above (for the dolls, wrap the eggs in the dough as tightly as possible so that the eggs don’t fall out when finished baking) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg, 2 tablespoons of water) and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes before baking.  Bake until the tops are golden and the bottom is light brown, around 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

Sweet bread for an indulgent weekend brunch

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This is something I have been wanting to post for a while.

The recipe belongs to Blanca Cotta, a sweet lady from whom I learnt my first chops in the kitchen… via a children’s magazine and who gave me that love for cooking and, most importantly, she taught me that cooking can be a blast, it can be fun and it can truly become a passion and a way of life as it happened to me.

Anyway, Blanca now has her own blog and I have had the immense satisfaction of being able to tell her all of this.

I have made many recipes of hers over the years and her books are the ones that I keep coming back to, the empanadas and the dulce de leche everyone knows in London are made from her recipes (why tweak what is really a perfect recipe?).

The recipe I am posting about now is that of a sweet bread, I have had the recipes for many, many years and one day I just said: “Today’s the day to make it”. It is a sweet bread, not unlike panettone or Stollen only that it doesn’t have any fruits or nuts to enrich it. Instead, it has a wonderful, crunchy, Streusel topping which makes it perfect for brunch or breakfast when you really want to indulge.

Streuselkuchen by Blanca Cotta

Dissolve 50g fresh yeast (remember to halve this quantity if using dry yeast) in ½ cup of warm milk (I use the ones with 250 cc capacity), add 3 tbsp sugar, pinch of salt and leave to rest, covered for 5 minutes. Then add 2 beaten eggs, zest of 1 lemon and 2 ½ cups flour, alternating with 6 tbsp of melted butter. Once the ingredients have been mixed, topple over the worktop (scattered with flour) and knead quite energetically  for at least 15 minutes. Then place the dough in a bowl (previously greased with melted butter), cover it and leave in a warm place to double in size. Then roll out the dough in a suitable tray (you can see in the photo I used a regular oven tray, the only one I had), leaving it 1 cm thick. Leave it again to prove, covered while you make the topping.

For the topping: mix 100g cold butter diced small, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of flour. Avoid using your hands (I use a scraper for this).

Once the dough has risen again, brush it generously with more melted butter and add the topping.

Bake it in a moderate oven (180°C or so) until it has puffed up, become golden and your whole house smells divine!

You can see that, despite what I said above, I tweaked this recipe a little bit. The first time I made it, I did it with the regular Streusel topping I’ve just described but having both read Nigella’s version in Nigella Bites and realising I had some flaked almonds and frozen berries in the freezer, I just couldn’t resist… Enjoy! If you try it, you  will thank me….

Magic in the kitchen: Gordon’s honeycomb

I’ve been wanting to do this recipe for a long time now.

Once again, I was reminded of why I love cooking so much.

There is something so festive about the golden colour of the honeycomb and the magical way in which it comes to be, bubbling like something out of a Harry Potter Potions lesson that while I was cooking it, I found myself thinking of Nigella and how she would describe it with her  wonderful prose. Indeed she has a very similar recipe which she poetically calls Hokey Pokey (hocus pocus?) but this, alas, is not hers. This is Gordon’s. It is moments like this which remind me of why I am a chef, not that I need reminding very often. It is quite telling that a lot of job specs for chef jobs actually ask for someone who has fun in the kitchen. And it makes all the sense in the world for cooking is a passion, being a chef is something you either are or you aren’t. This is not just a job, it is something some lucky ones are born with.

 

Gordon’s honeycomb

 

Makes 400g

 

75g clear honey

140g liquid glucose

400g sugar

5 tbsp water

2 tbsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

 

1. For the honeycomb: Line a shallow baking tray with parchment paper. Place the honey, liquid glucose, water and sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the mixture starts to turn a light golden colour. Mix in the baking soda. The mixture will erupt into a foaming mass. Pour immediately into the prepared baking tray.

 

2. Leave to cool, then place in the fridge to set. This takes approx 6-10 mins. Break up with the end of a rolling pin and store in an airtight jar if not using immediately.

 

For an even more festive touch, I dipped the tips in chocolate.

Simple but effective

 

 

Sometimes this is just what you need, something simple, unfussy which will calm your sweet tooth.

This is a very nice recipe to have at hand and it’s very quick to put together.

 

Ingredients

 

200g butter

2 cups flour

4 cups plain flour

4 tsp. baking powder

2 cups milk

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs

 

 

Cream the sugar and the butter (which should be very soft). Add the eggs one at a time while you continue whisking.

Sift the flour and the baking powder over the mixture.

Mix with a spatula, slowly incorporating all the ingredients while you gradually add the milk as you sift the flour. Add the lemon zest or vanilla extract.

Bake at 180 C for 45-50 minutes.

 

 

 

Edible gifts: Christmas chocolate cupcakes

So, once again it’s Christmastime. And, once again, the tradition of the edible gifts has begun. There is nothing about Christmas I love the more than giving gifts of food. In fact, the tradition of giving gifts around this time is very ancient and has its roots on Pagan festivals where the farmers gathered to celebrate the ending of the Winter (with the Winter solstice being the shortest day of the year, the days began, once more, to get longer) and they would swap the food they had preserved to use during the winter months.

Then, there is the cookie swap tradition which also has its roots on ancient Pagan festivals. In Scandinavia, the people who were too poor to offer animal sacrifices to the gods, would offer them animal-shaped biscuits instead.

This year, one of the stars of my edible gifts hamper were these delicious chocolate cupcakes by, who else? Nigella…

Nigella’s Christmas chocolate cupcakes

Ingredients

  1. 125g soft unsalted butter
  2. 125g caster sugar
  3. 2 large free-range eggs
  4. 100g plain flour
  5. 25g cocoa
  6. ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  7. 2 tsp baking powderfood
  8. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 2-3 tbsp full-fat milk

For the decoration

  1. ½ x 500g packet of instant royal icing
  2. Christmassy sprinkles
  3. Red and green ready-made roll-out fondant icing or sugarpaste (optional)
  4. Seasonal sugar decorations (optional)

 

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

With an electric mixer, mix the eggs and the sugar to ribbon stage. Add the dry ingredients, sifted, and then the melted butter.

Bake at 180ºC for around 10 or 15 minutes.

You can freeze them, without the decoration as soon as you’ve made them.

For the icing:

Mix some icing sugar into some boiling water and add some lemon juice.

It has to be pretty thick for it to run smoothly yet stay on the cupcakes.

Doña Petrona by me: chocolate cake



There was a big hoopla recently following Narda’s departure from El Gourmet to Utilísima. There she is cooking recipes from Doña Petrona´s book Julie-Julia style. Every Argentinian household worth its salt has a copy, mine is no exception. It was my referent when I was too little to think about buying cookery books but not too little to discover the joys of baking.


My battered copy is still at home (in Argentina) but I still use it a lot whenever I’m there.

This cake is a bit unusual in that the liquid element is boiling water: not milk, not anything else but good old boiling water. It does remind me a bit of the English chocolate pudding in this respect. The pudding though, has a much softer consistency than this. It’s a veritable cake. And delicious.


This is my adapted version of the cake.

 Doña Petrona´s chocolate cake

Ingredients:

320g plain flour

4 tsp. baking powder

200g sugar

100g cocoa

1 tsp. vanilla essence

120g butter

2 eggs

250cc boiling water

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa in a bowl. Add the sugar and the butter, cubed. Crumble the butter into the rest of the ingredients until you get a sandy texture.

In a separate jug, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla essence. Add this to the dry ingredients and combine using a wooden spoon. Add the hot water and pour the mixture into a buttered and floured cake-tin. Bake at a moderate temperature until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

You can cut it in half and fill it with dulce de leche but, as you can see, I didn´t bother and it was delicious all the same!

The Danish Cousin

 

I mentioned before that my introduction to biscotti was via Denmark, when I learnt to make kammerjunker.

These are basically the Danish version of biscotti for the procedure is the same. The only variation is that they are made with melted butter instead of oil and also that they are significantly smaller in size. But that’s it.

They are not only dead easy to make, you can also make them when you haven’t got anything in the fridge.

 

Kammerjunker

 

4 eggs

300g sugar

100g melted butter (cold)

600g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

 

Whisk eggs and sugar. Add melted, cooled down butter. Sift dry ingredients and add, folding. Shape (almost like pate sablée, clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 25 minutes. Then divide into 6 equal parts and shape in long cylinders (small round cookies). Bake like this first, then cut into little rounds and bake again.

Bake at 150 C.

If they go too hard, warm up again so that you can cut them. These kammerjunker are traditionally served with koldskål in Denmark. The biscuits provide a much needed contrast to the soupy, creamy dessert. Even without the koldskål they are dangerously addictive!