Tag Archives: recipe

Baking, Lately.

I have two recipes to recommend this time, I have made both on several occasions and they always turn out great. I’m sorry for the quality of the photos – they were made with my phone and then I fiddled some with the settings, but they’re still pretty amateurish. I haven’t been baking that much lately, mostly because I never seem to find the time, but I miss it, so I made time for these.

plum-cake1The first is a plum cake from The Smitten Kitchen (recipe here, she calls it “Purple plum torte”). Every autumn, my mother-in-law’s plum trees bear an enormous quantity of fruit, so we make jam and freeze some pitted plums to enjoy treats like this cake in the middle of the winter. This probably sounds like I’ve been making jam for the past 20 years – in fact, I made my first batch (rhubarb, yum!) three years ago.

My only deviation from the recipe is the amount of plums in relation to dough – I poke the halves into the sticky mass vertically, so I get a higher plum-to-dough ratio (as seen in the photo, pre-baking). I like my cake moist (by the way, moist is one of my favourite English words – inspired by this).

pulla2The second recipe I made recently is one for Finnish pulla – or butter eye buns. It’s appropriately multicultural because the blog from which I got it is Australian! I ate these buns every day for a week when we went to Helsinki in 2013 and I had to recreate them at home. I don’t know much about Finland and its cuisine – which is a shame because I loved my visit to Helsinki – but everything I ate there was amazing, especially the baked goods, which are available even in the tiniest of the supermarkets.

The yeasty dough is scented with cardamom and has so much butter it’s better not to think about it. I love kneading dough – it’s so squishy and soft! :) It’s also a great workout. My deviation: I added a bit more sugar to the dough, but it’s by no means necessary. Warning: don’t over-bake them!

cinnamon-rolls2I halved the dough and made a dozen or so of these eye buns and a dozen cinnamon rolls. For the buns, you poke a hole into a ball of dough and fill it with a half teaspoon of butter and a half teaspoon of sugar so you get a lovely crater of crunchiness. For the rolls, I rolled the dough out, spread melted butter and cream on it and sprinkled it with sugar, cinnamon, and some ground almonds. So good.

* * *

You might also like:

cookies & cheesecake, muffins, peach jam, or more jam & ice pops.

* * *

Have you baked or cooked anything delicious lately?

I’m always looking for new recipes to try!

Cookie (and Cake) Time!

lemon-thumbprint1I used to bake quite a lot but now I never seem to find the time. The holidays gave me a great opportunity, however, and I decided to try a new cookie recipe instead of sticking to the old favourites.

I made this recipe for lemony thumbprint cookies with apricot jam and they turned out great! The video accompanying the recipe is very clear and the recipe itself is pretty straightforward.

I only had lemons on hand, so I used them instead of a combination of lemon and lime. I think they’d be just as good if I used some orange zest, for example. There’s a moment when I was mixing the dry ingredients into the buttery mixture when the dough looked all dry and crumbly, but I persisted in mixing it and it all bound together in a silky clump of dough, perfect for rolling into balls (I did that without the ice-cream scoop, I just used my hands).

lemon-thumbprint2They’re really easy to make and they look cute (like a dozen fried eggs – sunny side up), but I think this recipe isn’t really perfect for packaging – the jam stays soft and mushy and it would get everywhere if you tried to stack them. They make for a pretty presentation if you plate them, though. They also taste like summer, which is a welcome taste in the middle of the winter!

 

cheesecakeI then baked a cheesecake for New Year’s Eve dinner – a trusty old Jamie Oliver recipe that never fails (I’m sure it will be a total flop the next time I try it, now that I’ve written this). It doesn’t require a water bath or any other dangerous, time-consuming methods that make your hair go gray prematurely. We ate it for two days afterward and it was still awesome. I usually make some sort of fruit sauce to go with it (blueberry-ginger-lemon was a favourite of mine).

 * * *

What’s your favourite dessert recipe? Did you bake anything special during the holidays?

You can follow me on Instagram for more slightly terrible food photos and an occasional bookish one.

Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

christmas-cupcake-cafeChristmas at the Cupcake Cafe (At the Cupcake Cafe #2) by Jenny Colgan, first published in 2012 (but this edition’s pub date is set as October 14, 2014).

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: e-ARC through Edelweiss (thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks, for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!).

Genre: chick-lit.

Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another …Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun. (Goodreads)

* * *

My rating: 3/5.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a Jenny Colgan fan. I’ve read, loved, and reviewed Little Beach Street Bakery and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, but I actually fell in love with her writing way before I started blogging. The first book of hers that I read was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and today, I’m reviewing the sequel.

I love series (and spinoffs, to a lesser degree). I love how the characters feel like old friends, how their surroundings seem like a favourite place to be, and how I can predict their actions – and be surprised by them, time and again. In Colgan’s novel, we meet Issy and Austin, as well as the Cupcake Cafe staff, and follow their story beyond that “happily ever after” that we saw at the end of Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe.

The first part of this book, however, gave me the impression that the characters became caricature versions of themselves. Issy and Austin were largely untouched by this, but the supporting cast seemed to go out of their way to do and say silly things that underlined the character flaws that Colgan hinted at in the first novel.

Incidentally, the first part of the novel also featured more talk about the social conditions of these people, the mass-consumerism problems of the Christmas season, etc. While this is definitely a welcome critical addition to such a conformist genre as chick-lit, I felt it could have been done in a more subtle manner, as the narrative dragged somewhat because of it.

The second part of the story was way better. Issy and Austin’s story (his potential move to the US, the conflict and the love) picks up speed and it is in this part that Colgan’s wonderful writing truly shines through. If it took me a while to chew through the first part of the book, I flew through the second, fighting tears at moments and rooting for the lovely couple.

All in all, I’d recommend this book to Colgan fans who have read Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and wish to indulge in something sweet and – surprisingly – only half-fluffy. If you haven’t read her books yet, they’re perfect for any season, not just the holidays! Oh, the book has an appendix of recipes, as do all of Colgan’s novels!

* * *

Do you read/buy seasonal (Christmas) books or do you absolutely loathe them? 

Do you like to start celebrating Christmas early or are you more of a last minute person?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Chasing Summer with Muffins

We didn’t get much of a summer here in Slovenia this year. It didn’t bother me as much because I really don’t like the sweltering heat that is completely unbearable in the city, but lots of holidaygoers were really disappointed. Also, summer isn’t really my favourite season – I much prefer spring and fall with their changing nature and milder temperatures.

Nevertheless, I like some summery things. I like eating watermelon, ice-cream and fresh veggies from my parents’ garden. I like reading in the shade. I like the smell of freshly mown grass and barbecue. I like sitting outside in the evenings without having to put a sweater on.

mafini4

These muffins* remind me of summer. They are tender and moist and fragrant with spices. My parents’ garden always has a huge zucchini outburst somewhere in the middle of the summer and we usually run out of ideas for using them, so I’ve recently started baking with them. mafini3

See how glossy they are? That’s an orange glaze, people, and it’s delectable. I highly recommend making these if you have spare zucchini on hand.

* Notes:

  • The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar – I used 1 1/4 cups and still found them plenty sweet.
  • Also, the glaze recipe on the site makes you use 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar – that would make enough glaze for… something like 50 muffins in my opinion. But then I didn’t want the glaze to be overwhelmingly thick on top, I just wanted another slight hint of orange and sugar.
  • I filled 12 muffin cups with the batter and it almost overflowed – I guess if I used fancy tulip-shaped cones like Martha, I could have put more batter in each one. Or maybe my muffin tin has smaller cups? Who knows.

I also made this zucchini spice bread recently (exchanging some of the white flour for the whole-meal variety) and it was really, really good. A friend’s toddler ate two whole slices and had to be stopped eventually – though in all fairness I think he’s just in the phase where he’ll eat anything sweet that they give him.

mafini2

Do you have any favourite zucchini recipes? I’ve got several waiting to be used and I could really do with some inspiration!

How about a favourite muffin recipe?

Summer in a Jar

I don’t know about you, but I strongly associate certain smells with specific seasons. Freshly mown grass means spring. Cinnamon means winter. And peaches definitely mean summer.

peaches1

I got a small crate of these velvety lovelies from my mum who bought them at the farmers’ market and I decided to preserve their wonderful smell, taste, and colour by making my first ever peach jam. I’ve done rhubarb and plum before and they’ve both turned out really nicely, but this one *might* just be a new favourite. The jam is a vibrant orange in colour and is wonderful on toast with a bit of salted butter.

The recipe below is loosely inspired by this and this; I just did what I do with plums and rhubarb and it worked!

Peach jam

  • 2.5 kg peaches (a bit more if you weigh them at the beginning as you’ll be peeling them and removing the pits)
  • 800 g sugar (This depends on the sweetness and ripeness of the peaches. Mine were very sweet, so I used less sugar than those other recipes said and the jam is still plenty sweet.)
  • a pinch of ground ginger (optional)
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • a dash of lemon juice (optional; I didn’t have any lemons at home but I would have added some if I did)
  1. Boil a large pot of water and prepare a separate bowl with very cold water. Cut an X into the bottom part of each peach so you break the skin. Carefully drop several peaches at a time into the boiling water (use a ladle), boil them for a minute and then transfer them to the cold water. Repeat with all of the peaches, changing the cold water when it gets warm.
  2. Peel the peaches – this goes more or less smoothly, depending on the ripeness of the fruit – and roughly chop them, removing the pits.
  3. Put them all into a large, heavy pot, add the sugar and spices, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Taking care with the splattering, boiling jam, mash the larger pieces with a potato masher if you like your jam to be chunky, or puree them with an immersion blender if you like it smooth (this is what I did). Alternatively, you could puree them in a blender, but that would require a bit more work.
  6. Bring back to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring often, until the jam has reached a nice consistency – it won’t go hard or anything, but the longer you cook it, the thicker it will get. Take care, it might burn at the bottom!
  7. In the meantime, carefully wash the jars – I used 9 smallish ones, but it’s always a good idea to prepare more, just in case.
  8. Place the jars and the lids on a baking sheet, place them in a cool oven and turn it up to 100°C (215 F), so they get sterilized. You should wait at least 10 minutes before taking them out once the oven reaches the required temperature.
  9. Working carefully (I wear a kitchen mitten on the hand with which I hold the jar), ladle the hot jam into jars. Wipe the rims, screw the lids on tightly and turn the jars upside down – this creates a vacuum and seals the jars.
  10. Properly sealed jars will keep for quite some time, but be sure to keep any opened ones in the fridge and use them up in a week or so!

Whew! It’s really not as involved as it sounds, I promise. :) And it’s totally worth it! The entire process takes about 2 hours, I’d say, and I feel it’s time well spent if I’ll be able to smell summer in the middle of bleak November!

peaches2

What’s your favourite summer smell?

Do you have any jam-making experience?

I’d love to hear about it! 

Spring Kitchen

Hello, people!

I’ve been busy making yummy things in the kitchen this spring and here are three of the best recipes I’ve made in May!

1. Watermelon-Strawberry Ice Pops (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

ice-pops

So we used these molds to great success. If your watermelon is quite sweet and you don’t add too much lemon or lime juice, you don’t really need any additional sugar. Passing the mixture through a sieve will get rid of most of the strawberry seeds (I’m quite particular about that), but you should definitely seed your watermelon before you add the pieces to a food processor! :)

2. Rhubarb Jam

rhubarb jam

I don’t think there’s any way to make these look truly pretty, but they’re really good. My rhubarb was more on the greenish side (with a few red bits), but I imagine this jam would look beautiful if it was made with the hot pink rhubarb I see on the internet sometimes. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the blog I got this from a couple of years ago, for which I’m really sorry, because this is a truly simple and delicious recipe and I should give credit to the original publisher. This was the first jam I ever made (last year) and I was scared of messing up, but the process is really straightforward. Here are the instructions:

  • 1500g rhubarb stalks, cleaned and cut into approximately 1-2 cm pieces
  • 700g white sugar
  • a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1-2 lemons: both the grated zest and the juice; depends on how much you like the zesty taste.
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large pot, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour so the rhubarb releases the juice.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring quite frequently, for 1-2h or until it reaches the desired thickness (you should take care because the thicker it gets, the easier it burns).
  3. Wash your jars and lids well (you’ll need approx. 6 250g jars – this is the standard size for European jam, I think, but it’s better to have more small jars than fewer large ones, I think).
  4. Put the jars on a baking sheet and heat them at 100°C (215 F) in the oven for at least 10 minutes (alternatively, you could boil them for as long, but I find this method to be easier and less messy).
  5. Taking one jar at a time from the oven (wear kitchen mittens!), ladle the hot jam into it with little or no room to spare, screw on the lid tightly and immediately turn the jar upside down on the counter. Repeat with other jars.
  6. Leave to cool before turning right side up again (this will ensure that the vacuum forms, apparently). The jam will keep for at least a year at room temperature, but keep any opened jars in the fridge. Good luck!

3. Elderflower syrup

Ohh, this one has been making our appartment smell like spring for a week now! It’s also dead easy to make, so give it a try if you can find elderflower blossoms that aren’t growing right by the road. elderflower

The recipe for approximately 3 litres of syrup goes like this:

  • 90 large elderflower blossoms – cleaned of any bugs and larger stems snipped off, so mostly the small flowers remain (if you’re picking them and don’t want to count – this is approximately the quantity of flowers you can stuff – unviolently – into a regular sized linen tote bag, if that helps at all)
  • 2 litres water
  • 2 kg white sugar (it sounds like a lot, but you’re making a syrup, not juice, so don’t use less – it helps with the conservation)
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 20g baggy of citric acid (I got mine in the baking aisle of the supermarket and it looked like this)
  1. Boil the water and the sugar together until the sugar melts, then cool completely.
  2. Put the flowers into a very large pot (I used two smaller ones) and pour the sugary syrup over them, so they’re submerged.
  3. Cover with clingfilm and let sit for 48 hours, stirring twice a day. The flowers on the top will brown slightly, but it won’t make your syrup a nasty colour, so don’t worry.
  4. After 2 days, strain the syrup into another large pot and add the lemon juice and citric acid, mixing well.
  5. Pour into glass bottles with tight-fitting caps. You don’t have to refrigerate it, but keep it somewhere cool and dark just in case.
  6. I find it’s best served over ice and with sparkling water, but plain water works just as well!

Here’s another recipe from The Wednesday Chef, in case you want to check an alternative method (it’s not much different, but still).

elderflower2

I feel like these are the perfect recipes for capturing the mood of spring (or early summer) for the months to come. This is my favourite part of the year, when everything smells nice and blooms and the weather hasn’t yet turned into the sweltering heat we usually get in the summers here.

* * *

What are your springtime favourites?