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.

Thursday, May 27, 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.

Thursday, May 20, 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.

Sunday, May 16, 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.


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