Dec 3, 2011

Happy Holiday Baking!

Dear foodie friends,

Holiday baking has started in my house, and it smells soooo good. So gingery, warm and comforting.

I though of my blog, and how much I love and miss blogging, and I though of all my foodies. One of them is Shelby of The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch. I got an email from her, that just melted my heart; never though she would remember… We started blogging around the same time, and I was one of her first readers, as she was mine. I loved her blog instantly because it is so full of life, love, and good food, and the author is so engaging with her beautiful personality. I am yet to email her back, more on that some other time… Thank you Shelby!

I have had the blog set to private because I was being overwhelmed with questions about recipes, and I never had time to answer them, so I felt like it would be best to close the blog because I am so unavailable. I have also had my fair share of mean comments, anonymous of course, and I guess I got tired of that.

However lots of people also emailed me asking to be added as readers, or to simply make the blog public again, so here it goes. I am so grateful for your wonderful emails, and kind words. Thank you!

With the blog open again, I just cannot promise I will email back responses to your questions as promptly as active food bloggers would. Nature of my job is complicated, I work a lot, sleep very little, never know what the next day will be like, and never can commit to anything but work… I do miss you all, and I miss my kitchen…

I am happy there is still a day here and there when I can actually bake, like this morning, I made these gingerbread cookies with my kids (well I made the dough the day before). Yes, we love Gingy from Shrek! They are now adorning our Christmas tree, and they are also delicious. You can find the recipe here.

Happy Holiday baking!

May 24, 2011

Cold Cubes

Cold cubes

For Lydia! Thank you for emailing me, glad you like this cake! I have made this cake so many times, I don‘t even look for the recipe any more. It is simple, delicious, juicy, classic, and a real good dessert for summer, because we don’t always feel like eating fruity stuff just because it‘s berries season! I wanted to share how to make it with as much detail as possible.

For the biscuit:
6 eggs
6 tbs flour
6 tbs sugar
1 heaping tbs cocoa powder (or a bit more for a darker & more flavorful result)
2 tsp baking powder

To soak:
3 cups water
1 ½ - 2 cups sugar (however sweet you want the cake to be, filling is not too sweet because this is supposed to be)

For vanilla/banana filling:

2 (50g/1.75oz) vanilla puddings, cook 7 serve kind (or 1 vanilla, 1 banana)
You can substitute pudding for corn starch, same measurements, and add vanilla extract, or banana extract
3 2/3 cup milk
8-10 tbs sugar
8oz/ 2 sticks of unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature

Chocolate glaze:
100g/3.5 oz dark chocolate (I used Dove dark chocolate silky smooth promises)
3 tbs oil
(or use your own chocolate glaze or ganache recipe)

First make the filling/custard. Mix pudding mix/corn starch with sugar and some of the milk, like ¾ cup, until there are no more lumps. Set the remainder of the milk to boil, reduce the heat, and gradually stir in pudding mix, but mixing fast, until it thickens, and starts erupting. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and cool to room temperature. Cover the pudding so the skin wouldn’t form on top, and mix occasionally too.

When cooled to room temperature, add the butter or margarine (very important that its room temperature, both butter and the custard/filling), and mix well with a hand mixer. I normally add few drops of banana extract no matter how I made the filling,

While you’re waiting for the pudding to cool, make the biscuit. Preheat oven to 400° F. In one bowl mix egg whites until stiff enough that it wouldn’t fall out of the bowl if you flipped it upside down :)

Mix egg yolks with sugar until frothy, then add the egg whites, and fold in, then mix only a little just till it’s all incorporated nicely. Mix flour with baking powder and coca powder, and gradually add it to the eggs. Mix well, but don’t over mix.

Pour it into a baking dish. I use 15”x10” glass baking dish, no need to line it, or grease and flour it. Bake until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. One trick to have the biscuit come out nice and even is to slightly raise the baking dish from the countertop and then let it fall (have a kitchen towel on the countertop for a smooth landing :) ), several times, this releases the air out of the batter, works like a charm.

When it’s baked, it will be quite dry, but should be nicely risen, and even. Cool completely, poke with a toothpick all over, then boil sugar and water, and pour it over the biscuit. This will create a bit of mess on top, because the top skin with mush up, for the lack of a better word, but you can very easily remove that by scraping it with a spoon. Let it cool again, then spread the custard/filling over it, and even it out. You do all this in a baking dish, no need to take it out of the dish. I normally get the exact same height of the filling and biscuit, but this time that didn’t happen. No worries, still equally delicious.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate, and mix in 3 tbs of oil, or you can do this in a microwave if you’re skilled enough. Pour the chocolate as evenly as possible all over the cake, then even it out with a spoon or spatula, whatever works.

Cool in a fridge at least over night, and before serving cool in a freezer for a short time, just until it’s very cold, but not frozen. First piece of cake is impossible to cut out perfectly because the cake is in the dish, you’ll need to scoop it out with a spoon, so the first one goes to you! So make it a big one!!! :) After that cut as usual, and also cut or use fork to raise each cube from the bottom. Once you’re done with about 2 rows of cubes, you can slide the knife under the rest of it for an easier/cleaner bottom cut. Enjoy on a hot summer day!

Apr 24, 2011

Kate By Gayle

Kate in a bag by Gayle's Chocolates

This post is a special thanks to Gayle from Gayle’s Chocolates, a Royal Oak, Michigan chocolate company, who was so kind to send me a sample of her sweet work, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I received the package, and got my very own “Kate”! Why Kate? Keep reading…

My 11-year-old daughter’s eyes were as wide as they can get, as she starred at my beautiful chocolate shoe, and I was battling with my mother’s instinct; I just couldn’t say the words “you can have it”, I needed to own it at least until the photo shoot was over, and maybe some time spent in a display for everyone to see : )
No worries, it is now her “Kate”, along with all the bragging rights! I love you baby!

This beautiful chocolate high heel shoe was designed in honor of the British Royal Wedding, and is respectively named "The Kate". It’s made of premium white chocolate, with dark chocolate jewel, and dusted with non-toxic edible pearl and sapphire dust, and it measures 7 inches long and 5-1/2 inches tall. Look how beautifully packaged it is!

I know that in order to provide you with a full review, I should say what it tastes like, but I can’t bring myself to bite into it, it’s to adorable. I can say this though, it’s smells sooooo good, and soooo creamy, I simply know it’s delicious! As soon as I get a replacement for Kate, and I have my eyes set on a few beautiful creations by Gayle, I will update this post, and tell you all about it.

I am so proud to have been invited by a local Michigan company to sample their work, it’s a great honor. Whether you live in Michigan, or not, be sure to visit Gayle’s Chocolates, and surprise your loved one with one of many beautiful creations Gayle makes, or a box of her handmade truffles or chocolates.

Kate by Gayle's Chocolates

Apr 22, 2011

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

There is still no spring in sight, at least here in Michigan; we get a teaser here and there, but the heat is still running, and the birds are still hiding in the trees, confused… Well, at least I managed to get some spring on my table, by making a fruit cake with some spring tone to it. I got the recipe for this cake from my late mother in law, and it’s my husband’s favorite. Happy Easter to all who celebrate this weekend!

Apple Cake
5-6 medium apples (Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Red Rome, McIntosh)
Some ground walnuts to fill the apples
Some vanilla sugar to sprinkle

4 eggs
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp oil
4 heaping tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder

1 1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
1 fruit pudding powder (cook & serve kind), strawberry or some other kind
4 oz (1 stick) butter or margarine, room temperature

Make the cream first. Mix pudding powder, sugar, and some milk (out of those 1 1/3 cups) until there are no lumps. Boil rest of the milk, reduce heat, and gradually, but quickly add the pudding mixture, stir fast, and cook for a minute until it thickens. It will be very thick. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap so the skin wouldn’t form on the top. Cool to room temperature, then with a hand mixer, mix in the butter (or margarine) with some powdered sugar ( I have added only about 1 ½ tbsp).

While waiting for pudding to cool, preheat oven to 395° F. Peel, and core apples, and trim them if necessary so they fit nicely in a 9 inch spring form pan. You can use 5 in a circle, or 6 with one in the middle, depending how big the apples are. Fill them with ground walnuts, just as much can fit, don’t over pack, then sprinkle the tops with vanilla sugar. No worries if some walnuts fall into the pan, it’s all good, and it will be baked in for a better cake.

Bake apples for about 15-20 minutes, really depends on which apples you picked; just don’t over bake them, they have some more baking to do when you pour the biscuit mixture over them. So, when they just started softening in the oven (check often), pour the biscuit mixture over them, and do it slowly, making sure you coated each apple. Reduce the heat to 375° F. The biscuit will rise to the height of apples. Bake for about 20 minutes. When it’s nice golden color, check with a toothpick to see if it’s done. Let it cool to room temperature.

When cooled, flip it upside down onto a cake platter, spread the cream evenly over the top, and frost generously with whipped cream. I use powdered whipped cream, because I can control the consistency of it, and I prefer it’s taste over heavy whipping cream. Cool in fridge, and enjoy!

Apr 18, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins

Woke up this morning to another round of snow! Yes, it didn’t stick around, however it has managed to ruin my day…well, for a while anyway... I have decided to make something comforting, something simple, something I could enjoy within 30 minutes of mixing it up…and who doesn’t like muffins? Blueberry are my favorite. It was a joy watching them rise in the oven, and a real nice way to start, and improve what was to be a bad day.

Blueberry muffins in a basket

Blueberry Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter (no substitutes)
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
Coarse sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin pan cups (obviously, I have used stand alone paper muffin cups). Set aside.
Stir together flour, the 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.

Combine eggs, milk, butter, and orange peel; add all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each almost full. If desired, sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups. Makes 12.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Apr 9, 2011

Esterhazy Torte

Esterhazy Torte

It’s been a while yet again, but here I am, found some time to make a cake, yeah!!! Couple of weeks ago my kids’ godmother asked me if I ever made Esterhazy Cake. I didn’t until now, and I remembered my dear foodie friend Marija of Palachinka Blog (this links to recipe) did, so I paid her blog a visit, and promised myself I would make it.

Toasted almonds, and vanilla cream sounded heavenly, and I can’t believe I never made this cake before. I was a bit hesitant to commit myself to making 6-7 biscuit layers, but I just bought a pretty large Amish table, so I had no excuse, had plenty of surface to work on.

I was intimidated with making the white cake mirror with raw egg white; don’t really trust the eggs from the grocery store, so I opted for plain powdered sugar with orange juice instead (200g powdered sugar + 5 tbs freshly squeezed lemon/orange juice), and of course it gave me different results, and the cake isn’t as pretty as Marija’s. However, I am pretty sure that my impatience had a lot to do with it as well, as I hurried to make the net, and the whole thing started running down the sides; that was the moment I have instructed everyone to move out of the kitchen/dining area!!!!

All was great though, the next morning, when I finally tasted the darn thing, and decided I have found another favorite! The whole family loved it, and that’s rare, usually someone stays reserved.
Please consider making this cake, it is absolutely scrumptious!!!

Jan 23, 2011

Bohemian Cake

Lots of eggs makes for lots of cause for concern, but it also makes a great cake, with a smooth, and silky filling. Thin slices is all you need to enjoy this rich cake, and it’s very presentable, and pretty. Only I don’t like thin slices; instead I have indulged, and dusted off my treadmill to make up for it. Dusting takes care of the extra calories --- my treadmill is actually out of order : )
For all of you adventurous souls out there. Enjoy!

Bohemian Cake

For the filling:
15 egg yolks
4 tbs corn starch
7 ½ dl milk
300g sugar
4 tsp vanilla sugar
200g unsalted butter or margarine (room temperature)
100g dark chocolate
2 dl heavy whipping cream
1 whipping cream stabilizer
Powdered sugar (to taste) to sweeten the whipping cream

For the cake layers:
15 egg whites
300g sugar
350g ground walnuts
3 tbs all purpose flour

To make the filling:
Cook 7 dl milk, sugar and vanilla sugar in a pan, until it starts boiling. Mix egg yolks, ½ dl of milk, and corn starch until well combined, and there are no lumps. Mix it into boiling milk, reduce heat, and stir quickly. Cook for few minutes until thick. Let it cool to room temperature.
When cooled mix in the butter until nice and silky. Divide into two, and add melted chocolate into one part. Let it cool for a while in the fridge until you make the cake layers.

To make the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 395° F. Mix egg whites and sugar on a high speed until stiff meringue forms. Add walnuts and flour, and combine, but don’t over mix. Divide into three, and bake three cake layers. Cool the layers before applying the filling. I have used 9” spring form pans.
To assemble:
Divide the two fillings into 2 parts each. Arrange in the following order: cake layer, one part vanilla filling spread evenly over the cake layer. Then place one part of the chocolate filling in a ziploc bag, make a hole in one corner, and squeeze over the vanilla filling evenly in a circular motion starting from the middle. Repeat with another cake layer, vanilla filling, then chocolate filling, then top with the last cake layer. Apply whipped cream all over the cake, and decorate as you wish.

Adapted from magazine “Gurman” with minor modifications.

Jan 16, 2011

Chocolate Charlotte with Bananas

Hello my dear food bloggers, followers, and friends. It’s been a while, and I’m very appreciative that a lot of you still visit, and ask about my whereabouts. I miss blogging, and discovering what you’ve made every day.
Except for working too much, not much is new with me. I’m still holding on to my 20s, which is proving harder every day, esp. first thing in the morning before I apply layers of makeup : )

Like many of you, I’m enjoying the serene winter scenery, minus the morning car troubles, and huge winter heating bills. I have a had a great Holiday season, with December 31st being my busiest work day, and for the first time in my adult life I fell asleep and woke up next year without my share of New Years Champagne.
My family petitioned yesterday that I reclaim my throne in the kitchen and finally make something homemade. Well, I cheated a little, but it’s almost completely home made.

I decided to go though the whole usual works of making them wait for dessert till I snap a few images to share with you. Hope you like it, and hope you are all having a great New Year!

Chocolate Charlotte with Bananas

1 package lady fingers
Some milk to soak the ladyfingers

2 packs Dr. Oetker pudding (available at ethnic stores, Italian fruit markets, or Meijer if you have one)
3 1/3 cup milk
9 tbs sugar
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature

Set 2,5 cups milk to boil. Use the remainder of milk to mix pudding powder and sugar, the add to boiling milk, reduce heat, and stir quickly for few minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Combine with butter (or margarine).

For the biscuit:
3 eggs
6 tbs sugar
0.5 dcl/ 1.7 oz milk
0.5 dcl/ 1.7 oz oil
7 tbs flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Mix eggs with sugar, add oil, milk, then flour mixed with baking powder. Bake until golden, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I have used the 8” pan.

To assemble:
Line a glass bowl with clear plastic wrap. Dip lady fingers into lukewarm milk, but don’t soak them too much, just quickly, and arrange them around the bowl wall. Add 1/3 filling to the bottom, then add a layer of lady fingers on top of it (not soaked), then 1/3 of filling, then 2 whole bananas bent a little to make a circle, then remainder of the filling, and close it all up with a biscuit. Let cool in the fridge over night, then flip it onto a cake stand. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy.
Note: It is very important to have the pudding and the butter at the same temperature, or it won’t combine nicely. Mine was not so perfect because I was impatient, or shall I say the entire family was : )