Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blog Change

Dear readers, we are changing our blog name and you can find us here.
mushitza is my nickname and the brand I'm using for the last three years to sign everything I (we) make, this is why we decided to make it our blog name.
We hope you'll continue reading us on

Friday, July 2, 2010

Strawberry Pate de Fruit Cake

Early sunday morning. We were having 2 kilos of fresh milk in the fridge but there was nothing that could go with a cup of milk. I needed something sweet and cakey, and fruity, and I needed it baked, cooled and served in less than two hours for breakfast.

We still had some of those fancy looking pate de fruit squares we made last week. Or we ate them and these are from the subsequent batches we made, oh, I don't remember. Recently we are making so much pate de fruit as a birthday presents for friends and relatives that I lost the count.

So in general this is how this cake was born.

Strawberry Pate de Fruit Cake Recipe:
Makes one 20x7 cm cake loaf
  • 30 gr butter;
  • 30 gr sunflower oil or any vegetable oil;
  • 90 gr sugar;
  • 1 large egg;
  • 80 gr sour cream;
  • 50 gr yoghurt;
  • 150 gr whole wheat flour;
  • 1 tsp baking powder;
  • 1 pinch salt;
  • 1 Tbsp orange blossom water;
  • 5-6 squares of strawberry pate de fruit or one strip (long as the length of the baking dish).
Preheat the oven to 180º C. Line with paper a cake baking dish.

In a large bowl beat the butter, oil and the sugar, then add in the egg. Mix in the sour cream and the yoghurt, then add the dry ingredients and at last – the orange blossom water.

Pour the batter into the paper lined dish. On top place the pate de fruit squares and press them down to sink by half into the batter. During the baking the batter will rise and the pate de fruit will turn out in the middle of the cake. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turkish Pidé Fresh from the Oven

It's june 28, so it's time for Fresh from the Oven challenge. This month it was hosted by Pei Lin a.k.a Mrs Ergül and it was a very good one. We made Turkish Pidé - a special Turkish bread for Ramadan.

We've eaten this bread before so we made it with a great delight as soon as Pei Lin posted the recipe. But then we had to make it again.

I saw it's going to be a big loaf but that didn't stop me to put it in my favourite 25x15 cm baking dish. Ivan had some good arguments contra but I had to do what I've put onto my mind. A little part of me knew I was wrong but it was out of spite ignored. The bread was rising and rising, and rising, and ... at the end we ended up with a huge loaf – 10 cm tall, 25x15 cm large. Of course I've whipped off some “I told you” eye rolls, but it was too late. And, yes, I was wrong. We had a huge bread but it was so creamy (because of the butter), soft and sweet, and simply delicious, that none of us argued. But we had to do the challenge again. No problem. No matter if the bread has the right shape, it is indeed so good that one could make it again and again without complaining.

This time we made half of the amount given in the recipe and we've got a great inspiration watching these guys.

So instead of scoring the pidé with a knife, we (Ivan, I've already missed my chance) did this with hands. Besides the dough is rather soft and it's easier to press it with hands than using a knife. This time we had a great shape and once again a great bread.

Turkish Pidé Recipe:
adapted from Iffet's My Turkish Kitchen
  • 4 cups (to 5 cups) all purpose flour;
  • 1 and 3/4 cups lukewarm water;
  • 1/2 stick butter (melted);
  • 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast;
  • 1 Tbsp sugar;
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt;
  • black and white sesame seeds for topping.
In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and lukewarm water into this mixture and knead. The dough should be sticky. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place for rising. Let the dough rise to double its size.

Knead the dough again until it is bubble free. Place a parchment paper on a baking tray. Take the dough to the tray and make it flat with your hands until it cover all of the surface of the tray. Dampen your hands with water if the dough sticks to your hands on this step.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180º C). Let the dough rise for half an hour. Then take a knife and give the dough square shapes going deep down or use your hands (watch the video). Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the colour of the pide turns light brown. Take the pide out of the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel to keep it soft.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Our first Daring Bakers' challenge. To tell you the truth this was quite a challenge for me as I don't like meringues. Actually I hate them. But... Apparently when there is cocoa involved everything becomes better.

This month the Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged us to make Chocolate Pavlova and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The recipe is based on a recipe from the book "Chocolate Epiphany" by Francois Payard.

I found the meringue is better when there is cocoa powder added but after all it's not my type of treat. But I really enjoyed the rest of the recipe. And I could have eaten all the mousse and cream if it wasn't Ivan to foist in some meringues beneath them.

We made one hole batch of the meringue recipe (6 meringues approximately 10 cm in diameter) and a half recipe of the mousse and cream and even this way the mousse and the cream were in abundance (lucky me!).

Chocolate Meringue Recipe:
(for the chocolate Pavlova)

  • 3 large egg whites;
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 gr) white granulated sugar;
  • ¼ cup (30 gr) confectioner’s (icing) sugar;
  • 1/3 cup (30 gr) cocoa powder (The recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, but we used dutch processed cocoa powder and added a pinch of citric acid to the egg whites at the foam stage).

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 Tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. The whites should be firm but moist.

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and gently fold the dry ingredients into the white.

Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp (It took us one and a half hours) . Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse Recipe:
(for the top of the Pavlova base)

  • 1 ½ cups (355 gr) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 9 ounces (255 gr) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 gr) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) Grand Marnier (we used rum)

Pour ½ cup (120 ml) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to simmer over medium high heat. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stay for a couple of minutes, then whisk until melted and smooth. Leave at room temperature until cool.

Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.

Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Mascarpone Cream Recipe:
(for drizzling)

  • 1 recipe crème anglaise
  • ½ cup (120 ml) mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) Sambucca (rum, again)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream

Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool.

Put the heavy cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Crème Anglaise Recipe:
(a component of the Mascarpone Cream above)

  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp (75 gr) sugar

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.

Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Assembly: Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cherry Clafoutis

We have never eaten so many cherries like this year. Downstairs, beneath our apartment, our neighbours have opened a “Fruits and Vegetables” shop. The place isn't big, actually it was a garage once, but it's well stocked with fresh produce. It's like a little farmer's market just at two paces distance away from me. Literally. And the best part is that while drinking my tea on the balcony it's enough to show my head for a quick peek and I already know what they have today. (It's peaches and apricots today, just in case you are curious).

Two days ago the shop was overstocked with cherries and so were my shopping bags. The rest is easy to figure out – lots of cherry sweets.

Cherry Clafoutis Recipe:
Serves 2
  • 300 gr cherries;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 65 gr confectioner's sugar;
  • 50 gr heavy cream;
  • 1 Tbsp kirsch (or rum);
  • 65 gr all purpose flour;
  • ½ tsp baking powder;
  • butter for the baking dishes.
Preheat the oven to 140º C.

Rinse and pit the cherries. If you leave them with the stones they will be more aromatic, because during the baking the stones release additional flavour. But I prefer to pit them as it's easier to eat them that way.

Beat the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the heavy cream and the alcohol. Add in the flour and the baking powder.

Butter generously 2 small baking dishes (mine are approximately 8x15 cm) or one larger. Arrange the cherries at the bottom of the dishes and pour the batter on top. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until nicely golden.

You can take it out of the baking dish and serve it upside down, so that the fruits will be visible but I prefer to bake it in individual dishes and eat it with a spoon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Pate de Fruit

I wasn't a big fan of pate de fruit. I've always found it too sweet to eat it. Even now when thinking of store bought pate de fruit my teeth are aching. I just don't like to eat foods in which the dominant taste is that of the sugar. It's named “pate de fruit” so you should feel the fruits in your mouth not solely the sugar.

But when it comes to home made one – I'm drooling over these fruity thoughts. For the last week we've made strawberry pate de fruit twice – one with just strawberries and one with some fresh mint and basil leaves added. And while I'm writing this Ivan is stirring up some bubbling cherry pate de fruit.

So, we are in a pate de fruit rush. And as it bubbles up madly it's very likely to get some red stains on your clothes. If this happen – rinse the stain out with cold water and soap and leave it to dry in sun. And just in case don't wear your favourite T-shirt. (Fortunately the stains disappeared after this procedure).

Strawberry Pate de Fruit Recipe:
  • 550 gr strawberries;
  • 500 gr sugar;
  • 15 gr citrus pectin;
  • ½ tsp citric acid.
Line a 20x20 cm pan with paper.

Puree the strawberries in a food processor. Pass them through a sieve over a heavy bottomed saucepan. (We've started with 550 gr fresh strawberries and ended up with 500 gr strained puree.) Add in the citric acid and 100 gr of the sugar. Cook over a medium heat until the temperature reaches 45º C.

Combine the remaining sugar (400 gr) and the pectin and mix well. Thus the pectin will be evenly distributed and won't form any lumps when brought into contact with the puree. Add this mixture into the strawberry puree. Stirring constantly bring the mixture to 93º C. Keep it at this temperature for 2-3 minutes, if needed turn the heat down for a while. Then slowly bring the mixture to 106º C and keep it there for 2-3 more minutes. Stir all the time and be careful as it bubbles up.

Remove from the heat and pour into the paper lined pan. Let set overnight at room temperature.

Cut in squares or whatever shape you prefer and roll the pieces in sugar. It's ready to eat. Place in hermetically closed box and refrigerate.

If you live in a humid climate like us, don't let the pate de fruit stay at room temperature too long after it has set because it will start to collect humidity from the air.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cherry Pie in a Black Pepper Cherry-Brandy Pastry

In my mind cherries are associated with the date May 24 - the Alphabet, Culture, and Education Day of Bulgaria. When I was in the primary school on this day all the students were marching via the center of the city in their full dress with a blue or red scarf around the neck, depending if they were chavdarcheta or pioneers. Chavdarcheta were the youngest children, which later became pioneers. (I was to become a pioneer when the Communist System was knocked down). After the parade, on the way home, my mother was buying for me and my sister a bunch of cherries. Because these were the first cherries they were sold in bunches of 10 cherries, like little bunches of flowers. For me this was the best part of the day. I still remember these little bunches of underripe cherries and the delight with which me and my sister were eating them slowly in order to prolong the grassy-fruity taste.

Now, when cherries are in full season, it's time for a cherry pie. I love pies but I hate the mess in the oven after making them. The juices of the fruits are bubbling and making such a fuss, that I have to clean the oven thoroughly after that. For preventing this mess I usually place the pie dish in a larger dish (meaning the baking dish that came with the oven). Thus the juices of the fruits will mess up only the larger dish.

This recipe is adapted from “Great Pies & Tarts” by Carole Walter – a lovely book with a lot of basic techniques and useful information about baking pies and tarts.

Cherry Pie in a Black Pepper Cherry-Brandy Pastry Recipe:
Makes 4 15-cm (6-inch) mini pies

For the crust:
  • 270 gr all purpose flour;
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar;
  • 2 pinches salt;
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper;
  • 190 gr cold butter;
  • 5-6 Tbsp cherry brandy (rum or white wine). I've used home made cherry brandy.
Mix the dry ingredients. Add in the cold butter. Using a pastry cutter or a fork cut the butter into the flour until coarse crumbs form. Add the cherry brandy, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing the mixture with a fork to blend. After 5 Tbsp have been added, press the dough with your fingertips to see if it will hold together. If not, add the remaining tablespoon of brandy. Don't overmix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:
  • 1 kilo cherries;
  • 1 Tbsp instant tapioca;
  • 200 gr sugar;
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch;
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon;
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper;
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice;
  • 1 coffee spoon almond extract;
  • 1 Tbsp butter;
  • 4 tsp sugar for finishing (optional).
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Turn on only the bottom heat and the fan function.

Wash and pat dry the cherries. Remove the pits and the stems. Place the fruits in a large bowl and distribute evenly the tapioca.

In a small bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and black pepper.

Prepare the bottom crust – roll out the dough and cut it accordingly to the shape of your baking dish, but 3-4 cm larger on each side. Place the bottom crust into the pie dish. Scrape down any excessive dough, make it to a ball and roll out again to make the lattice top.

Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture over each of the 4 bottom crusts. Toss the remaining of the sugar mixture through the cherries. Add the lemon juice and the almond extract and mix well. Divide this cherry mixture among the 4 mini pies and dot with butter on top.

Make a lattice top with the remaining pastry and seal the edges by folding the pastry strips under the bottom layer of dough. Sprinkle every lattice with 1 tsp of sugar (apparently I've forgotten to do so). Bake for around 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown and the juices of the fruit bubbles up. If during the baking the lattice gets brown too early lower the temperature. When it's ready remove the pie from the oven and let cool. Let stand for at least 4 hours before serving – during this time the juices will settle down and thicken.

Because the pastry contains alcohol open the oven door a couple of times for a few seconds while baking to let the fumes escape.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bitter-Sweet Brownie Bites

I find brownie is one of the easiest desserts to make. It happened to me to make it with a fork or even a spoon instead of a whisk. It happened to me to make it with overheated and water damaged chocolate. It happened to me to make it without using any measurements, just keeping an eye on the consistency and tasting the raw mixture. It even happened to me to bake it in my sister's little grill oven with one non working heating resistor while waiting guests for dinner. No matter what the circumstances and the obstacles were the results were always superb. So far I've tried several different butter-chocolate-eggs-flour ratios and here's the last one. This time the chocolate is of a particularly good quality, I'm measuring all the ingredients till the last gram and I'm baking it in my oven.

In this recipe the emphasis is laid upon the chocolate and the cacao powder. I've used Cacao Barry's Saint-Domingue chocolate which contains 70% cocoa solids and has an extremely pronounced cocoa flavour. Besides it's bitter than the regular 70% chocolate and gives a long lasting pleasant feeling in the mouth.

Cacao Barry's Plein Arome cocoa powder is very potent and complements the strong cocoa flavour.

Bitter-Sweet Brownie Bites Recipe:
Makes 48 2cm square bites
  • 100 gr butter + additional for greasing the baking pan;
  • 125 gr dark chocolate with minimum 70% cocoa solids;
  • 180 gr granulated sugar;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 100 gr all purpose flour;
  • 20 gr dutch processed cocoa powder;
  • 1 scant Tbsp baking powder.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking pan with paper and butter it lightly. Set aside.

In a medium bowl sift and mix together the flour, cocoa powder and the baking powder. Set aside.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and the butter. Remove from the heat and add half of the sugar to cool the mixture.

In a large bowl slightly beat the eggs. Add the remaining sugar and continue beating for one more minute. Beat in the chocolate-butter mixture. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix well. Pour in the prepared baking pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. When ready, cool completely on a wire rack then cut it into 2 cm square bites.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Blueberry Cream Cheese Cake for My Sister

25 years ago on this very date my parents gave me the most lovely present I could have ever imagined – my sister. Firstly I didn't like her very much. I thought of her like of a toy doll with which to play but she didn't seem to be very interested in my games. She did nothing but crying, eating and sleeping. So I wasn't very pleased with my toy's design and behaviour and secretly was dreaming that my parents could change it for something better. Later, through the years as a typical teenager who changes their mind every few minutes I hated her and loved her. But she was my little sister so all the children who behaved bad with her had a great deal of trouble with me.

Then she grew up, we both grew up. And before one realises it she became my best friend, the person I could always rely on, the person I would always love and be proud of.

Since she lives in France we are celebrating her birthday without her and I made this Blueberry Cream Cheese Cake because I know this is exactly her type of cake – something between spongy cake and cheese cake, topped with blueberries – all her favourite things. I'm eagerly looking forward to her coming in the summer. Then I'm planning to indulge her with a lot of sweet treats and baked goodies.

This recipe comes from Jane's Sweets - a blog I really enjoy reading. All of Jane's recipes I've tried so far turned out to be amongst my favourites. This one too.

This cake consists of 4 layers – spongy cake, cream cheese layer, blueberry jam and crumbled top.
In the original recipe Jane uses fresh blueberries and reduces them to a sauce, but I have a lot of home made blueberry jam and it suits very well.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Cake Recipe:
Adapted from Jane's Sweets
  • 270 gr flour;
  • 150 gr granulated sugar;
  • 100 gr butter;
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder;
  • ¼ tsp salt;
  • 200 gr sour cream;
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract;
  • 1 big egg;
  • 250 gr cream cheese;
  • 80 gr granulated sugar;
  • 1 big egg;
  • 220 gr home made blueberry jam.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking pan with paper and butter it lightly.

Make the crumbs - place 150 gr sugar and the flour in the bowl of the food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add in the cold butter chunks, and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Separate out 1 cup (approximately 100 gr) of this mixture and set it aside as this will be used later as crumbs topping. The other part of the mixture will be added to the spongy cake.

Make the spongy cake - add the salt and the baking powder to the bigger part of the crumb mixture in the bowl of the food processor. In another large bowl beat the egg. Mix in the sour cream and the vanilla extract. Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine. The batter will be quite thick.
Using a small offset spatula, spread the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan – this would be the spongy layer.

Make the cream cheese layer - pulse the cream cheese, 80 gr sugar and the egg in the food processor until smooth. Spread this on top of the spongy layer.

Now pour the blueberry jam on top of the cream cheese mixture. Use the spatula to spread it evenly, but not very close to the sides of the pan.

Sprinkle with the reserved crumbs over the blueberry jam.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling seems set, and the cake's topping is light golden. Cool the cake in its pan, on a rack, for 10 minutes then carefully pull it out of the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pizza Napoletana Fresh from the Oven

Last month I saw some really tasty croissants photos that made me want to join to the bread baking community Fresh from the Oven. So this is my first Fresh from the Oven challenge. This month's challenge is hosted by Lauren from Coffee Muffins who chose a recipe for Pizza Napoletana from Peter Reinhart's “The Bread Baker's Apprentice”.

This recipe is quite different than the one we usually make. Firstly I thought there is too much oil and water and quite little yeast in it. But considering that the recipe should be made over two days the yeast quantity is just fine. As for the water-oil part – I needed to add some more flour, but every flour has a different ability to absorb water depending on the producer, the wheat quality and the grinding mode.

However, because of the oil the dough was very elastic and easy to work with. And the crust was pleasant and crunchy.

As I'm not used to measure the ingredients in cups and ounces I've written the quantities in grams (in the brackets).

Pizza Napoletana Recipe:
Serves 6 9-12 inch pizzas
  • 4 1/2 cups or 20.25 ounces of unbleached high-gluten bread flour (570 gr);
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons or 0.44 ounces of salt (12 gr);
  • 1 teaspoon or 0.11 ounces of instant yeast (if using active dry yeast you will need to increase this by 25%) (3gr);
  • 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of olive or vegetable oil, optional (56 gr);
  • 1 3/4 cups or 14 ounces of ice cold water (396 gr).

While you don't need any special equipment for this recipe (I don't have any of the following) a pizza stone and peel may help with the final outcome. Oh and if you have an electric mixer with dough attachment that would be good - but if you don't you can do it the old fashioned way.

Stir together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a large bowl. With a large wooden spoon stir in the oil and water until all the flour is absorbed.

To do by hand, you need to stir with one hand and turn the bowl in the opposite direction with your other hand. You need to do this for 5 to 7 minutes, occasionally changing the direction as to really help develop the gluten. This method of mixing is actually quite a difficult task, sort of like rubbing your tummy while tapping your head, but as long as you are mixing the dough it should work out ok.

To do in a mixer, make sure you are using the dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes.

Either way you mix you should end up with a smooth dough which is a little sticky. It should clear the sides of the bowl but not the bottom. If it isn't clearing the sides then add a little more flour and mix again. If it clears the bottom then add a couple of drops of water, and mix again. The finished dough should be springy, elastic and sticky but not tacky. At this stage my dough was quite tacky so I added 60 more grams of flour and then it was ok.

Now prepare a sheet pan with baking parchment and spray oil. Flour your counter and remove the dough on to the counter. Using a metal dough scraper (or your hands) create 6 equals sized pieces of dough. Flour your hands and shape each into a ball, if your hands stick add more flour and try again. Place each ball onto your sheet pan, spray each piece of dough with oil. Once all pieces of dough are on the tray, enclose it in a food-grade bag and pop it into the fridge. I found it easier to place the whole piece of dough into a well closed plastic bowl and then - into the fridge. I divided it the next day just before forming it.

The next day a couple of hours before you want to cook them remove the dough from the fridge. Dust your counter with flour (and your hands) then spray oil on top. Place each ball on the counter and then gently press each into a flat disc about 1/2 inch thick. Top each with a little flour and oil and cover with a clean towel or plastic bag. Let rest for 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before cooking put on your oven on at it's maximum temperature (mine goes up to 250º C, which worked ok) up to 800ºF (430ºC). If you have a baking stone put it in the oven now. If you don't have a stone then you can use a normal baking sheet, just don't preheat it first. I used ordinary pizza pans.

Now comes the tricky part to stretch out your dough, dust your peel or sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Coat your hands in flour including the backs and your knuckles. Gently lay the dough on to the top of your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion. As it starts to spread out you can move to the full toss method (flinging it above your head and hoping it doesn't fall on the floor - good luck!). If it sticks to your hands at any point lay it out flat and redust your hands, continue stretching until it is the desired width.

Once you have reached the desired width place the stretched dough on the peel or baking sheet.

Now you can top it as you wish. For the top I used a thin layer of tomato sauce with basil, oregano and minced garlic cloves. Then added some porcini mushrooms, bulgarian kashkaval (a type of yellow cheese produced here) and fresh tomato slices. When out of the oven I garnished with some fresh garlic and arugula sprouts.

Now that your oven should have preheated, transfer the pizza to your oven. It should only take between 8 and 10 minutes to cook. You might want to turn it 180 degrees after 2 minutes, if you think it might overcook on one side.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chocolate Jaggery Raisin Cookies

You may have probably noticed that we are huge jaggery fans. I know, this jaggery obsession could be quite annoying, but since we've found jaggery relatively soon we are still enjoying experimenting with it. Considering the fact that until two months ago we weren't familiar with this sweetener we googled it for more information and here's what we've found.

Jaggery is unrefined sugar, produced without adding any chemicals. It is obtained from the sap that drips from the cut flower buds of several palm trees – palmyra, date, sago, coconut and some other palms. The sap is collected then boiled until a sticky sugar remains. Jaggery is also produced by boiling sugar cane juice. However, it is not as highly processed as refine sugar, so the colour, consistency, flavour and the level of sweetness vary from batch to batch, even within the same producer. Depending on how long the sap was reduced the colour can vary from light beige or yellow to dark brown and the consistency – from soft and gooey to hard as a rock.

Compared to other sweeteners jaggery is very high in micro and macro nutrients. The mineral content of jaggery includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron and the vitamin content includes folic acid and B-complex vitamins. Jaggery is considered to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections. It also prevents rheumatic afflictions and bile disorders. It increases haemoglobin level and prevents anaemia...

There are so many reasons to fall in love with jaggery. But first of all we love its taste and smoky flavour. Besides it's devilishly good in cookies and other sweets.

We made these cookies as a present for our new friends Kynchin, her son and Sima. They opened the Indian food store in the town two months ago and they were those who have stirred our enthusiasm for jaggery. This was our way to thank them.

Chocolate Jaggery Raisin Cookies Recipe:
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 180 gr all purpose flour;
  • 25 gr cocoa powder (We are using Cacao Barry's Plein Arome cocoa powder and since it is very strong 25 gr are okay. But if your cacao powder is a weaker one - increase its quantity);
  • 2 tsp baking powder;
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon;
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom;
  • ½ tsp salt;
  • 140 gr butter;
  • 70 gr granulated sugar;
  • 110 gr jaggery (grated or finely chopped);
  • 1 large egg;
  • 120 gr raisins.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly butter a baking sheet, set aside. If using a silicon pad – no need to butter it.
Mix the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until uniform, set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar and jaggery in a large bowl until creamy and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Remove the beaters and stir in the prepared flour mixture with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the raisins until soft drop-cookie dough.

Drop by rounded or tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet or silicon pad. Space the heaps about 4 cm apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the cookies), or until the top is dry and a little bit cracked but the insides are still soft.

Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, afterwords transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Simple Yoghurt Cupcakes

We've had strawberries for the first time this year. I know they were selling them for quite a while but since they were imported I prefered to wait for the local ones. I'm just not very fond of the idea of having fruits and vegetables from all parts of the world all year round. I'm okay when it comes for those that doesn't grow here, like bananas, citruses and the tropical ones. But when it comes for strawberries, cherries and apricots I'm always waiting for the local ones.

So, we had strawberries, we had whipping cream and peppermint leaves - a perfect combo. But we wanted something as a base. While wondering if it should be a biscuit, cookie or a cake we've found ourselves whisking butter, sugar and honey, then adding eggs and yoghurt... In the end the results were these simple yoghurt-honey cupcakes – a perfect base for strawberries and whipped cream.

Simple Yoghurt Cupcakes recipe:
Serves 12

225 gr all purpose flour;
1 ½ tsp baking powder;
¼ tsp salt;
zest of one lemon;
60 gr butter;
100 gr granulated sugar;
75 gr honey;
2 eggs;
125 gr yoghurt;
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease 12 cupcake cups, or line with paper liners. Sift the flour in a bowl. Mix in the baking powder, salt and the lemon zest. Set aside. Whisk the butter, sugar and honey until well blended. Add the eggs one by one. When homogeneous beat in the yoghurt and the lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients and whisk for another minute until the batter becomes smooth. Divide the mixture among the cupcake cups and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean).
Garnish with strawberries and whipped cream.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Banana – Jaggery Ice Cream

We've never thought we could make a decent ice cream without an ice cream maker. But two months ago David Lebovitz posted his recipe for banana – brown sugar ice cream that we couldn't resist and had to give it a try. Actually it was Ivan who was overwhelmed by enthusiasm of making “the perfect scoop”. As for me – I thought his enthusiasm would transform the kitchen into a perfect mess without any significant ice cream result. Besides in the end I would be the one doing the dishes and clearing up the hole mess. So I wasn't very keen on the idea.

But I have to admit – I was wrong! Really!

Although it's colour was a little bit obscure, this was the best banana ice cream I've ever eaten! And it was made even without an ice cream maker. And I even didn't complain while doing the dishes.

Yesterday Ivan was in an ice cream making mood again. But this time he adapted it his way.
Banana – Jaggery Ice Cream Recipe:
Serves 2 or 3 depending on your ice cream devouring abilities
  • 2 big ripe bananas – after peeling ours were 270 gr;
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice;
  • 60 gr jaggery;
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla syrup (we are using home made vanilla extract made with vanilla pods macerated in sugar syrup);
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom;
  • 2 Tbsp rum;
  • 250 ml heavy cream.
Peel the bananas and place them in a bowl with a lid. Add the lemon juice and smash the bananas with a wooden spoon. Stir in the jaggery and the vanilla syrup. Place the lid and set aside for half an hour. The lemon juice will prevent the oxidation of the bananas. This will keep them from turning brown and their colour will remain unaffected. On the other hand the sugars (jaggery and vanilla syrup) will enhance the flavour of the bananas. So after resting for half an hour their aroma will be richer and more intensive.

Place the mixture into a heavy bottomed saucepan on a medium heat. Add the ground cardamom. Cook just until the jaggery dissolves. Do not caramelize the mixture in order to keep the colour nice and bright. Besides we like the flavour of the jaggery and prefer it not caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the rum.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Incorporate the whipped cream into the banana-jaggery mixture. Transfer into a container with a lid and place in the freezer. After freezing if it is too hard puree in a food processor until smooth.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Potimarron Fondant

Yeah, I know it's a little bit late for a pumpkin recipe. But Ivan's parents had a lot of pumpkins last year. Actually it was their first year of growing pumpkins and they didn't even know how to plant them, so the neighbour came to aid. In fact she did the whole work in five minutes. Couple of months later the yard was full to bursting with pumpkins. They were everywhere – hanging down from the fence, over the woods, even into the compost container.
There was a pumpkin as a present for everyone of my parents-in-law friends and neighbours. There were a lot of pumpkins for us too. So this was the season of the big pumpkin eating. We've used them for baking, poaching, juices, jams... We've made pumpkin breads, muffins, cakes, bonbons and whatever you can imagine.  
At last we are finishing the last one. 

I've bought this book on a clearance sale, just because it was too cheap, but all the recipes I've tried so far turned out to be a real gem. This one too. And like a bonus it's gluten free. Even Ivan liked it considering the fact that he is not such a pumpkin eater as I am.

Potimarron Fondant Recipe:
Serves 4
  • 2 eggs whites;
  • 2 egg yolks;
  • 200 gr pumpkin pulp;
  • 40 gr brown sugar;
  • 60 gr confectioner's sugar;
  • 80 gr ground walnuts;
  • 35 gr melted chocolate;
  • 50 gr melted butter;
  • Butter and cacao for the baking dish.
Steam the pumpkin pulp and mash it with a fork. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Butter and dust with cacao the baking pan or individual molds. Set aside.
Beat together all the ingredients except the egg whites. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks and gently incorporate them into the mixture. Pour into the prepared dish or dishes and bake for approximately 35 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. Serve with sprinkled confectioner's sugar on top.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Milky Cake with a Scent of Passion Fruit

We've found a tiny dairy shop near the marketplace in our neighbourhood. All the products come from a dairy farm near our home town Silistra. Actually they sell only 3 types of products – milk, yoghurt and white brine cheese /as I said it's a really tiny shop/. But all the products are of a very good quality. But when I saw their brochures and advertising materials  I thought they were disastrous. On the instant I thought I want to rewrite them, no I won't charge them, I will eagerly do it for free. When I said this to Ivan he started laughing and said he knew I would say so. It's what I say every time when I see somebody is trying to make a good product but lacks a little bit of inspiration to show it to the world in a written form.For now I feel a bit uneasy to contact the farm's manager and just say “Hi, my name is Silvia and I want to rewrite your ad materials.” He would probably ask “Who the he.. are you and what's wrong with my advertising materials?” It's a kind of weird, maybe. So for the present I'm doing nothing on the matter but I would be really happy to be a part of a project like this. Who knows, maybe one day... For now maybe it's better just to work on our blog because it definitely lacks of materials. 

As a huge dairy products lovers we've made this milky cake and considering how fast we've eaten it I'm seriously thinking of making it again soon. It's very simple and easy to make – a cocoa genoise cut in two layers with cream cheese filling between them and strained yoghurt cream on top, all flavoured with passion fruit extract. So light, milky and fruity in the same time.
It's been more than two months since we've bought a small bottle of natural passion fruit extract and we haven't got an occasion to try it yet. So this was the perfect time and it happened to be a perfect combination - strained yoghurt and passion fruit extract. The acidity of the yoghurt combines so well with the  passion fruit flavour that makes you want more and more.

Milky Cake with a Scent of Passion Fruit

For the cocoa genoise:

  • 4 eggs;
  • 125 gr sugar;
  • 95 gr flour;
  • 30 gr cocoa powder;
  • butter and flour for the baking pan.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and set the rack in the middle. Butter and flour a baking sheet and line the baking
pan with it.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water till the mixture reaches 40ºC /if you don't have a candy thermometer, it should be warm to touch but not hot/. Then remove from the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is completely cooled. Remove the beaters and with the help of a wooden spoon gently fold in the sifted flour and the cocoa powder.
Pour the batter into the baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 250 gr cream cheese;
  • 200 gr confectioners' sugar;
  • 70 gr butter /softened/;
  • 1 Tbsp passion fruit extract.

In a medium bowl whisk together the cream cheese and the butter until creamy. Mix in the sifted confectioners' sugar and the passion fruit extract.

For the strained yoghurt cream:

  • 200 gr strained yoghurt or 650 gr yoghurt – it's best to be full fat, but as we didn't have full fat yoghurt we used yoghurt with 2% fat content;
  • 100 gr confectioners' sugar;
  • 1 Tbsp passion fruit extract.

Strained yoghurt is sold here as it is an important ingredient of many traditional bulgarian recipes, but we   didn't have any so we made it ourselves.
Place a strainer or colander in a bowl where it doesn't touch the bottom and line it with a piece of cheesecloth. Place the yoghurt into the center of the cloth. Bring the four corners of the cloth together and twist them to squeeze out the liquid which will drain through the cloth. Leave it to drain overnight. From 650 gr 2% fat yoghurt we received nearly 200 gr strained yoghurt.
Mix the yoghurt, confectioners' sugar and fruit extract till creamy.

For the simple syrup:

  • 300 ml water;
  • 100 gr sugar;
  • 30 ml rum.

In a small saucepan over a medium high heat bring all the ingredients to a simmer until the sugar dissolves.

To assemble:
Using a cake string cut the genoise in two equal layers. Place one of the layers on a tray and spread some syrup on it. Pour the cream cheese filling on top and smooth with an offset spatula. Top with the other genoise layer and spread some syrup on top. Top with the strained yoghurt cream and smooth well with the offset spatula. Sprinkle some coconut flakes on top. Refrigerate until set.

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