Sunday, August 26, 2012

Coffee chocolate cake / Chocolate cake (for) coffee.

After last week filled with crazy temperatures, unusual heat and so much sunshine that even my sun batteries went to overheat mode, I'm really looking forward to fall. I never thought I would ever say it, since summer is my favorite season but this year I feel like I have had enough and with a big smile on my face looking forward to a bit colder season.

This summer was super intense, with traveling, working, summer visitors and overdue get-togethers with friends. So finally when this weekend seemed to be empty, I sighed with relief - ufff.... Maybe I will find a little moment to catch up with dusted-over hobbies...?

And a lazy weekend like this calls for something sweet. No more fruity cakes, sweet ice creams or sour sorbets - this weekend we are craving chocolate in big amounts, a cake that would go well with a cup of coffee or ...  why not combine those two into a coffee chocolate cake?

Coffee Brownies
prep time 15min, baking time 30min

125g dark chocolate
125g butter
150 g flour
1 teaspoon spoon baking powder
3 eggs
150g sugar
50g wallnuts
3 tblsp strong coffee
*opt 80g raisins/cherries

1. Melt chocolate in a thick-bottomed pan. Add butter constantly mixing.
2. In a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs with sugar for about 5min. Add melted chocolate/butter, then flour, baking powder, nuts, raisins and coffee.
3. Pour into previously buttered baking form (see picture). Bake for 30min in 180 degrees.

The idea comes from my brownie book, as usual slightly modified. Since before baking I quickly cleaned  the cabinets and found there some dry cherries, they also ended up in the cake, adding a nice touch of moist fruity taste to the deliciously dry chocolate-coffee substrate. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Green - or how to cleverly hide a broccoli in a delicious meal.

Summer is as its fullest, days are long and sunny, sky is blue, windows stay open until it's dark out, meals are simple and quick. My computer is not being as used as much as in the colder times - who wants to stay indoors when summer is calling?

But all blissfulness has to finish sooner or later, mine got slightly crushed by my doctor's news, which said 'too low levels of iron'. Well, I thought, not the worst thing in the universe, simply have to add more greens, dried apricots, seeds of all kinds and grains (no-meat eater). Quick sandwiches have to be replaced with more thought through options - spinach salads, beans, quinoa and broccoli....

Broccoli is one of those vegetables, similar to spinach, that even the sound of it makes some shiver. Thankfully not me, but my other half - yes indeed. And rarely, very rarely but still (here comes my dirty secret) - I try to smuggle it anyway. Hidden in sauce or a soup, mixed with other tastes and textures it gets eaten.

Today I'll show you one of my favorite smuggling successes, which is also one of my favorite green dishes.

Broccoli pesto quinoa
prep time 20min, serves 4ppl

1 cup quinoa
2 broccoli florets
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, lightly roasted on a dry frying pan
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
4 tbl spoons of olive oil
salt to taste

1. Prepare quinoa as instructed on the package.
2. Meantime steam cook broccoli. When soft and ready to consume set one aside and put the other one in a blender with garlic, sunflower seeds (leave a spoonful for decoration), cheese and olive oil. Mix until well blended.
3. Add pesto mix to cooked quinoa, cut the remaining broccoli florets and serve on the plate next to the quinoa/pesto (if your companions are not frightened by it. Otherwise blend both florets in the blender).
4. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining sunflower seeds.

I've discovered this recipe in one of my favorite blogs and the dish immediately stole my heart. The taste of broccoli (for those who can stand it) is very well hidden in the sunflower pesto, leaving a tangy and spicy buzz on the tip of your tongue.
Packed with iron and all kinds of other good stuff. Green and summery!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First real summer meal

The first days of July always bring back memories of the days of first days of summer vacations. School was out at the end of June and suddenly two full months of summer laziness would begin. Waking up in a summer cottage and having a full day of tranquility ahead of me. The only must was a trip to the bakery to get a couple of loaves of warm, crusty bread - of which one would disappear before we made it back to the cottage. Swims in the lake, sunbathing on an old wooden lounge chair, afternoons with a book, and definitely picking a few jars of fresh blueberries. That was called a real summer vacation!

(a long long time ago - blueberry picking)

 Berries are definitely my favorite type of fruit, that can serve as breakfast, lunch, quick snack or dinner. The dishes are usually not too complicated - simply add some berries to rice, cottage cheese, oatmeal and there you have it - full of valuable nutritious juicyness, that has summer written all over it.

So it's really no wonder that I also like blueberry pierogi, a very Polish dish, although a bit more time consuming, but definitely worth every minute. As a child, I usually just helped and watched, but this time, for the first time in my life I've decided to try to experiment with it myself.
Here are the results:

Blueberry Pierogi
prep time: 20min + 5min boiling, makes abt 40 pieces

3 cups flour
1 cup of warm water
1 egg
pinch of salt
tbl spoon of oil

+ 2 cups of fresh blueberries sprinkled with 2 spoons of sugar

sugar and/or sour cream for serving

1. Prepare dough: mix all ingredients (except blueberries) until soft and smooth (if too sticky add more flour).
2. Sprinkle flour on a pastry board to avoid the dough sticking to it. Roll up the dough on the table or pastry board, to a thickness of about 3 millimeters.
3. Cut circles in dough using glass rim. In the middle of each circle arrange a (table) spoon of blueberries, then fold the filled circles into half moons, sealing the edges and pressing shut with your finger.
4. Bring a large shallow saute pan of water to a boil, add a spoon of oil (to prevent them from sticking together) and gently boil the pierogi in batches for 5-6 minutes (a couple of mins after they rise to the top of the surface), then remove carefully using a wooden spoon.
Serve warm, sprinkle with some sugar and/or sour cream.

I haven't found too many variations of the actual dough recipe, but maybe next time I'll experiment a bit adding some vanilla sugar to make it a bit more dessert-like. The batch of pierogi disappeared very quickly, I enjoyed it for dinner, a friend at work had it as a snack and there are some left for tomorrow's lunch. Definitely summer like!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Strawberry weekend.

It was a perfect weekend. Just the right amount of everything - food market, sun, fresh veggies, brunch with friends, afternoon nap, delicious dinner, evening with a book, wide open windows until late, coffee with cream and fresh strawberries....

It really feels like the weekend was a day longer or at least somehow it squeezed in an extra couple of hours.

Summer food is definitely more veggie / fruity - heavy dishes turn into salads, soups into fruit smoothies, desserts into a simple bowl of fruit, lightly sprinkled with sugar. Unless there's an occasion to make a real fruity masterpiece.

Strawberry bday cake with vanilla cream.
prep time 30min, baking time 40min + breaks to cool things down

for base:
6 eggs (separate yolks from whites)
160g sugar
180g flour
1sp baking powder
50g almond powder (grained almonds)

for cream:
4 egg yolks
50g sugar
1 cup milk
1 vanilla stick (cut in the middle)
1sp gelatine (soaked in 2tbsp of cold water)
1 cup of cream (36%)

+ 400g of fresh strawberries

1. Mix egg yolks with sugar, beat whites until stiff then gently add to yolks/sugar mix. Constantly mixing add flour and baking powder, then almond powder. Pour into a round spring form (greased). Bake for 40min in 180 degrees. Take out of the oven, set aside to cool. When cold cut the middle part out (don't throw out, just set aside for later), leaving just thick rims and bottom.
2. Prepare cream. Mix egg yolks with sugar. Boil milk with vanilla stick, then slowly add egg mixture. Pour back to into the pot and continue boiling, constantly mixing until thickens. Take vanilla stick out and add gelatine - stir to make sure it's well dissolved. Set aside to cool.
3. In a separate bowl beat cream until thick. Add cold yolk mixture (point 2) and crumbled pieces of remaining base. Gently pour into the base, decorate with strawberries and leave in fridge for min 30min before serving.

This recipe is not easy and it involves multiple little steps. You need to make sure you have enough time in between to let things cool. The result is stunning and will make every bday person (and I guess not only) happy. I only used half of the remaining base for the cream and only half of the cream to fill the cake. The remaining cream will be used as extra and to decorate the plates.
Last but not least - I have been waiting to make it for a year. The cake was on the cover of last years 'Kuchnia' magazine and I just could not get it out of my mind...

Voilà! Enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Finally a weekend at home and some summer muffins!

After a few weeks of traveling this weekend was supposed to be about relaxing, catching up, cleaning, de-cluttering, organizing, and hundred other things that I'm forgetting about. All of that crammed into 2 short days, which now I know was just wishful thinking....

Saturday started with perfect blue skies and sun, ideal for catching some sun rays on the beach with a good friend. I managed to quickly bake a batch of summer muffins, to take with. Nothing better than a lazy summer afternoon spent talking, in company of heavenly tasting muffins!

Unfortunately I forgot the camera to save those beautiful moments... So the photos here come from this morning, as usual my colleagues were tasting the remaining few pieces.
Upside down rhubarb muffins
prep time 15min + baking, makes 12 muffins

for fruit topping:
6tbsp brown sugar
4tbsp butter
2 cups of rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1cm pieces
for muffin batter:
4tbsp soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1.5 cup flour
1sp baking powder
1/2sp baking soda
pinch of salt
pinch of muscat spice
1/2 cup milk
orange zest from one orange

1. Combine sugar with butter, mix until butter gets soft and sugar partially dissolves. Add rhubarb pieces and mix again. Place into bottoms of previously well greased muffin form (no muffin lining).
2. Using a food processor or mixer mix butter with sugar, then add an egg and stir until well combined.
3. Mix all the dry ingredients and then slowly add to the butter mixture - little by little alternating with milk. Lastly add orange zest. 
4. Place in the muffin form on top of the fruit topping. Bake for 25min in 180 degrees.
5. When baked, cool for 5min in the form, then gently take out each muffin and place up side down - with fruit topping on top (if needed for more stability, cut the bottoms even). Serve and enjoy!

(as said, didn't need to wait long for the muffins to disappear...)

The muffins have a sweet-sour summer taste, they are very fluffy and light. I found this recipe in a Polish cooking magazine 'Kuchnia' and got an idea to experiment a bit and maybe one day changing those muffins into a cake.... Just have to wait for another weekend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good weekend brunch.

Mid week is just perfect timing to start preparing weekend plans. And weekend meals of course!

The idea of brunch was on my mind for a while - and then there was this perfect Sunday to try a new recipe for the delicious little pancakes. Brunches like this make all Sundays sunnier - and then start the week in a very positive way.

So, how about some brunch this weekend....?

Ricotta pancakes with blueberries.
prep time 10 min + frying, serves 4 people

200g blueberries
2tbsp sugar
for the pancake batter
3 eggs
250 g ricotta cheese
50g sugar
2tsp vanilla sugar
25g melted butter
50g flour

1. Warm the blueberries very gently with the sugar, until they begin to break open. Cool a little while you make the pancakes.
2. Separate the eggs, and whisk the white until stiff. Mix all the other pancake ingredients together in a bowl, then gently fold in the whites.
3. Fry pancakes on a large, thick bottomed frying pan. Make sure you don't tip them over until they are properly set underneath.
4. Eat hot with warm blueberries

This perfect inspiration comes from Camilla Plum's book 'the Scandinavian Kitchen'. I must admit that it was the very first recipe I tried from this book, and now I'm very excited to try more delicious meals from it. The pancakes are very fluffy and reminded me of lazy summer mornings and eating late breakfast on the balcony.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tiramisu for a May weekend.

So finally it's really May! Sure - it still gets cold in the evenings, and I haven't dared to pack my winter jacket into the bottom of the 'seasonal clothes only' suitcase in the basement, but at least I did take out my spring coat! And in this very spring coat, halfway unbuttoned I paraded to and from work yesterday - with a big smile on my face.
Spring, it's really in the air, the Sun is shining brighter and the air smells like fresh grass. To make sure that it's really spring everywhere, we took a little car ride into the country side - and this is what we found:

perfect blue skies, green grass and yellow blooming fields.... What a nice beginning to this spring weekend!

Spring is the time for more light and fruity cakes - rhubarb, strawberries and blueberries... But before I officially start this kind of cooking, I want to tell you a story of one tiramisu...

I ate the original tiramisu at an Easter get-together with my high school girlfriends and completely fell in love with it. I realize of course that there's a recipe for tiramisu on every mascarpone box, but this was really special, and tasted amazingly delicious while chit-chatting and catching up after months of not seeing each other. So I decided to try it myself and as usual, all I needed was a good occasion. And then it appeared - another friend's from the office birthday +  I discovered that it was an anniversary of me working with them! Voilà, the excuse ready!

Tiramisu - simple cake for many occasions.
prep time 15min, cooling 2hrs

750g mascarpone cheese
3 eggs (separate yolks from whites)
3tbsp sugar
1 cup espresso, cooled and mixed with
2tsp dark rum or amaretto
24 packaged ladyfingers
2tbsp dark cacao

1. In a glass bowl (here 20x20cm) arrange half of the ladyfingers in order to fit the bottom, then soak them with half a cup of coffee + alcohol mix.
2. Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, for about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth.
2.  Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until thick (turn the bowl up side down, it's ready when the mixtures stays attached to the bottom of the bowl). Then gently add to the egg yolk mix.
4. Spread evenly 1/2 of the mascarpone + egg whites mixture over the ladyfingers (about 2-3cm layer). Arrange another layer of ladyfingers soak with coffee and top with remaining creamy mixture.
5. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, sprinkle with dark cacao.

I've decided to share this recipe here because of the combination of its simplicity and deliciousness - very high rankings in both. The final product looks very yummy, unless of course it's more than halfway gone - as on the here attached photo. But it only means that they loved it - what else is there to want?