Sunday, February 12, 2017

Romantic and Sweet, a Valentine's Special: Chocolate and Raspberry Swiss Roll



Valentine's day is a special occasion to remind us of how important love is in our lives. While there's no one way to celebrate this day and express your love, for me the simpler the better. A nice romantic dinner with a sweet finish is all it takes. Let your gift for your significant other be a dinner prepared with love and finished with my idea of a perfectly romantic dessert: a chocolate, raspberry, rose and mascaprone Swiss roll.

You cannot go wrong in the romantic department when you combine chocolate, raspberries and roses; it's not even possible. This cake is not only delicious but it is also easy to make and you won't have to spend hours upon hours to make it perfect and ready for the occasion.


Let´s start rolling:
For the sponge cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g brown sugar
  • 80 g flour
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp of rose water 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a bowl combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and rose water and mix for about 8 to 10 minutes until it triples in volume and becomes pale yellow and rather thick.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix them well together. Sift the dry ingredients over a baking paper. 

Gently fold the flour  mix with the beaten eggs using a rubber spatula.  Make sure there are no lumps in the mix. It is better to add the flour mix in batches to avoid lump formation.

Spread the batter evenly on a 30 x 25 cm baking sheet covered with baking paper, greased and sprinkled with cocoa powder,

Bake in a preheated oven (200C) for 10 min. To make sure the sponge is baked nicely, gently press it in the middle and if it springs back then it´s done.


Let the cake cool for 3 minutes, then flip it over a baking paper covered with cocoa powder.  Gently peel off the baking paper that you used to bake the cake and cover it with a new one or a clean kitchen towel. Flip it again, trim the edges and roll it. Make sure to cover the edges well and let it cool completely. 

For the filling you need:
  • 250 g mascarpone cheese at room temperature
  • 30 ml rose water
  • 40 g powdered sugar (you can add more if you want it to be sweeter)
  • 100 g fresh raspberries
In a bowl, mix the cheese, sugar and rose water until you have a smooth and fluffy mixture. I used a hand whisk and it took just few minutes.


Assembly:
Unroll the cake, remove the top layer of baking paper, spread the mascarpone mix evenly over it and scatter the raspberries. With the help of the baking paper or towel you used on the bottom of the cake roll the sponge slowly and tightly. Remove the baking paper or towel and transfer the roll to a serving platter.

You can serve the cake as it is with a sprinkle of powdered sugar but  I decided to add chocolate rose water ganache. 


For the ganache you need:
  • 75 g of 70% dark chocolate, chopped finely
  • 100 ml cream (35%)
  • 1 tsp rose water
Heat the cream until it simmers, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until all the chocolate melts. Add the rose water and mix again.


Pour the ganache over the swiss roll to cover it completely. Let it cool for 15 minutes, and you´re ready to serve. If you decide to use the ganache to frost the roll, do this before you transfer it to the serving plate.

Enjoy a chocolaty, creamy and  aromatic cake with your loved one or ones! 

Happy Valentine! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Banana and Peanut Butter Pancakes


After a long working week, we all crave the break the weekend provides. On Saturday mornings, when Monday still feels distant, there's nothing better than to wake up a bit late and enjoy a relaxing breakfast.

To be honest, I often plan during the weekdays what I will have for the weekends' breakfast; something to do with planning ahead and avoiding wasting time! Quite often, I choose pancakes because they are easy to prepare and can be made with just about any flavor you can imagine.


I have shared several pancake recipes before and experimented with many flavors. This time, I decided to combine the flavor of bananas with that of peanut butter, for a sweet, protein-packed, and healthy start of the day.

For 4 people you need:
  • 180 g cake flour
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 g baking soda and 4 g baking powder
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 60 g peanut butter (if it´s too stiff heat it in the microwave for few seconds)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 50 ml milk (use more if the batter is too thick)
  • dash of salt
In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
In another bowl whisk for a couple of minutes the eggs, banana, peanut butter, vanilla and milk.


Now all you need to do is to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones, the mixture should be rather thick but liquid enough to be poured on a hot pan.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the batter on a greased and hot pan. Cook until you see bubbles surfing on the top of the pancake then flip it and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side.



Once you finish baking all the pancakes, serve them warm with some maple syrup, honey, or fresh fruits, and enjoy a comforting and delicious breakfast!

For more breakfast ideas featuring pancakes, check these recipes: hereherehere and here . 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Roscón de Reyes or "The Kings' Cake"


The holidays are over in many parts of the world but luckily here in Spain they linger till the 6th of January. Gift sharing is synonymous with Christmas across most of the world, however, for the Spanish, gifts are exchanged on the morning of the day awaited by children and adults alike: Día de los Reyes! This feast, which occurs on the 6th of January, is known elsewhere as the Epiphany and is celebrated much more modestly. However, in Spain and much of the Hispanic World the feast is celebrated widely.

On this special day, before unwrapping the gifts, the family gathers around a breakfast consisting of hot chocolate and the star of Christmas desserts in Spain and in many Hispanic countries: el Roscón de Reyes. The whole day and feast pays tribute to the Three Wise Men or Magi that foretold the arrival of Jesus Christ. Tradition has it that children receive gifts not from Santa Clause but from the Reyes or Wise Men themselves.

The roscon is a brioche like dough, though less buttery, that is usually decorated with candied fruits and can be filled with whipped cream. Small figurines are hidden in the cake and the one who finds it will be a king for a day and will supposedly have a better year!


I usually miss this celebration as I go home for Christmas and New Year celebration. This year, however, my family came to Madrid to spend the holidays. Even though I could have bought roscon from any pastry shop, supermarket or market fair, I decided that it is time to make it at home! It is always so much nicer when you share homemade desserts with your family. It is even better when you eat this delicious dessert with your favorite hot chocolate recipe.


To make the roscon you have to start with the start dough or poolish. The quantities listed are for 4 to 6 people.

You need:
  • 75 g strong bread flour
  • 75 g milk at 37 degrees C (98/99 F)
  • 3 g fresh yeast
Mix all the ingredients together, cover and let the wet starter proof for 30 minutes. It should double in size and be full of bubbles.

For the final dough:
  • 175 strong bread flour
  • 40 g honey
  • 1 large egg (50 g of it will go into the dough the rest will be used for the egg wash)
  • zest of one medium orange and zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp of bourbon
  • 2 tsp of orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 g fresh yeast
  • the poolish made previously
  • 50 g soft butter
In a big bowl combine all the ingredients but the butter, and with the hook  attachment knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should become smooth and shiny. Add the butter and knead again for another 10 minutes. After that time you will  have a smooth, elastic and shiny dough. Grease a bowl, put the dough inside of it, cover and let it rise until it doubles in size, which will take between 1 hour 30 min to 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, deflate it a bit by taking the sides of the dough and bringing them to the middle. Cover again and leave it the fridge for the next day.
If you don´t have time or you can´t wait, drop the dough on a lightly floured surface, shape it into a ball , make a hole in the middle and start stretching it carefully until you have a ring shaped roscón. I made a slight mistake while shaping mine as the hole should have been bigger so it won't close almost completely once baked. 
If you decide to leave the dough in the fridge overnight, you just need to make the same step mentioned above, 
Once the ring is formed, cover it and let it proof until it doubles in size, if the dough is cold it will take a bit longer! This step will take around 2 hours.


Preheat your oven at 200 C/392 F. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the rest of the egg with a teaspoon of milk and few drops of vanilla or cointreau.

Brush the dough with the egg wash and decorate it as you wish: candied fruits, pearled sugar, slivered almonds or whatever you like.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Traditionally the cake is served as it is, but in recent years some fillings like whipped cream or chocolate cream were added to spice up the traditional cake. 

Have the cake with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and enjoy a piece of Spanish tradition!


Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Chocolate and Chestnut Cake For New Year!


As the year 2016 ends and the year 2017 is about to start, it is only fitting to end the old year and start the new with a sweet note. As chestnuts and glazed chestnuts are popular around this time of the year, I was inspired to incorporate sweetened chestnuts with a rich chocolate cake.

This chocolate and chestnut cake is rich, moist and delivers just the right amount of sweetness for New Year's Eve and the day after!


Although the cake will take some time to make, the steps needed are quite straightforward, and the end result is well worth it.

For the chocolate sponge cake you need (4 layers, 15 cm pan):
  • 3 small eggs
  • 20 g maple syrup
  • 180 g sugar (I used 50 g brown sugar and the rest regular white sugar)
  • 180 g cake flour
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150 g butter
  • 100 g chopped dark chocolate
  • 160 g chestnut butter or spread or cream (whatever you call it) (recipe here)
  • 50 g milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • Pinch of salt
First combine butter and chocolate and melt them on a gentle flame. Set aside.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a bowl, start beating the eggs, then gradually start adding the sugar and keep beating until mixture doubles in volume and becomes pale in color. Put your mixer at the lowest speed and add the chocolate and butter, once combined turn off your mixer.

Sift the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold with a rubber spatula. Once combined add the chestnut cream and fold, and finish with the milk.

Divide your batter into four 15cm pans, previously greased and covered with parchment paper (if you don´t have 4 pans just divide the batter in 2, bake the first batch while you keep the rest in the fridge, or use one pan then cut the baked cake in half) and bake for 25 min in a preheated oven (180C).
Once out of the oven, let the cakes cool for 5 min in the pans then remove them and put them on cooling rack to cool completely.


The filling is a made from pastry cream mixed with chestnut cream/spread.
For the pastry cream:
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup and half milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp of corn starch
  • 100 g butter
Heat the milk on a gentle flame. Beat the eggs with the sugar and corn starch. Temper the egg mix with some warm milk, then pour the egg mix into the milk. Continue heating and stirring the cream until it thickens enough. Mix in the butter until well incorporated. 

For the chestnut pastry cream:
  • prepared pastry cream
  • 250 g chestnut cream
Just combine the two creams until well mixed!

For the assembly:

Spread the chestnut pastry cream on the first cake layer and stack the second one. Repeat the process. Garnish the cake with chocolate shavings. I stacked the cake in a way as to look like a wood log, complete with rings on top and chocolate curls that look like bark plaques as they detach from the trunk.


At the end, I would like to wish to all of you the best and sweetest year you can possible have! 

Chestnut Spread: a Winter Special!



Late fall/early winter is not the typical season of plenty, but it does have its star ingredients, with chestnuts being one of them. Most people appreciate the rich flavor of chestnuts and their floury texture, once cooked. I like to use chestnuts within desserts or savory dishes whenever I have the chance.

Chestnut spread is such a useful recipe that makes good use of this tasteful ingredient in a simple way. The spread is good consumed on its own over a warm toast drizzled with honey or incorporated in other baked goods like in this chocolate and chestnut cake recipe!

To make about 500 g of this chestnut spread you need:
  • 250 g of roasted and peeled chestnut
  • 350 ml of water
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract or paste
  • a generous pinch of sea salt
  • hot water

Place the chestnuts in a sauce pan and cover with water. Cook the chestnuts for about 30 to 40 min, or until the chestnuts have absorbed most of the water. While they still hot, place them in a food processor or hand blender, add the sugar and salt and blend until smooth. Add water if you find the paste to be too thick!


Fill the jars with the paste while it´s still hot, cover tightly, let it cool then refrigerate!
The spread has endless uses. You can use it in healthy breakfast spread over a whole grain toasted bread and sweetened with apple and cinnamon, or use it to impart a deep earthly flavor to cakes, pancakes, cupcakes or to cake frostings.

This flavorsome chestnut spread represents the essence of the cold seasons in a jar! Make it and use it in the best way that fits your needs. 


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Rosemary Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Bourbon Frosting



When cranberries are in season, I can't help but buy as many as I can. What I don't use (or eat) immediately gets stacked in the freezer. I must confess that I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I have cranberries on standby in my kitchen!

Cranberries are quite popular in this festive season as they feature in many savory dishes and desserts. They definitely add an extra flavor that cannot be replaced by any other ingredient.

With that said, I wanted to try  a recipe that is very easy to make and is packed full of flavor. Now as you can tell from the title of the post, the ingredients used will certainly deliver a complex, fragrant, rich and tangy flavor. The frosting, with its creamy texture and Bourbon flavor adds another layer of complexity making this humble pound cake an absolute winner.


For the cake you need (23 x 10 cm pan)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 100 g soft butter
  • 50 g creme fraiche 
  • 100 g white sugar plus 50 g brown sugar
  • 150 g flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spices (cloves, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom)
  • 80 g fresh cranberries (frozen is fine too)
  • 100 g chopped white chocolate
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp bourbon
For the frosting you need:
  • 100 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 75 g powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of bourbon (or 2 if you like a stronger flavor) 
  • 1 tbsp or 2 of milk

To make the cake, start by combining the flour, baking powder, mixed spices and salt.
In a bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one by one and whisk  to combine.  Add the flour mixture and mix well. 
Lastly combine the cranberries and the white chocolate.

Pour the mixture in a greased and floured pan and bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 min or until a skewer placed in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Once done, take out of the oven and let the cake cool down for 5 min in the pan and then remove and continue cooling it on a wire rack.


While the cake is cooling tackle the frosting.

With a whisk, cream the cheese for a minute or two. Add the sugar and whisk again. Mix in the milk then the bourbon. If the mixture is too thick, thin it down with milk, adding one teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Once the cake has cooled completely, pour the frosting over and let it drip on the sides. You can microwave the frosting for just a few seconds in order to become just a tiny bit runnier.

Decorate to your liking. I added a few sprigs of rosemary and sugared cranberries!
If you want to make sugared cranberries,  all you need to do is to whisk an egg white until frothy. Drop in the cranberries and coat them with the egg white. Remove them from the egg white and roll them into sugar. Leave them to dry for a couple of hours! The sugared cranberries look like frozen ones, a tribute to the winter season and the holiday spirit.

Make this cake during the holidays. It is the perfect accompaniment  with your afternoon tea or coffee or as part of your breakfast. Eaten alone or with family and friends, the cake is delicious, but as always sharing food with beloved ones just reinforces our ties with them. And what better time to do so then during the holidays?

Happy Holidays!


For other cranberry recipes click herehere and here

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Melamakarona, a Special Greek Christmas Cookie



On my trips back home from Spain, I used to travel via Athens. During December, the meal served on Greek airlines would include a typical Christmas Greek dessert. I was never sure what the Greeks called this special cookie but I was always sure of its taste! After some fiddling around, I managed to know what this sweet cookie was: melamakarona, the Greek honey cookie.

These yummy cookies feature the best of warm and Christmas flavors: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, oranges and honey.

The name of the dessert reminded me of a famous Levantine dessert: maakaroun. However, maakarouns are made on the feast of the Epiphany. Moreover, alhough they are shaped similarly, maakarouns are fried while melomakaronas are baked.

If you enjoy trying recipes from all over the world, then you should add this recipe to your book of baking. During December, I get a bit more active in trying out various recipes from all over the world and I will leave the links at the end of the post of some of what I tried.


Now let´s make some melomakaronas. For 25 to 28 pieces you need:
  • 250 g flour
  • 50 g fine semolina
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 1/2 or 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp of baking soda and 1/8 tsp of baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • zest of half an orange
  • 100 g mild olive oil
  • 100 g orange juice
  • 5 to 10 g brandy
For the syrup:
  • 150 g water
  • 200 g sugar
  • 100 g honey
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • one thick slice of orange
First, start by making the syrup. In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients but the honey . Put on a gentle flame and simmer for about 5 minutes. When the sugar dissolves completely, add the honey and simmer again for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.


To make the cookies, combine the wet ingredients: olive oil, orange juice and brandy and stir.In another bowl mix all the dry ingredients and mix well. Now add the wet ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a soft and manageable dough.

Leave it to rest for 20 minutes.

Now take about 20 g of the dough, shape into a ball or sausage shape and gently pass it over a grater to create the shape of the melomakarona. Place the shaped cookies over a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.


As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven dip them in the cool syrup. Remove from the syrup and place them on a rack to let them drain. Once they cool sprinkle some chopped walnuts and  you are done!

The cookies can be served alone or with a warm cup of tea or dark coffee. They are deeply scented by all those wonderful spices, honey and oranges and go so well these hot comforting beverages.

With every bite I took into the melamakarona, I was transported to a different spot in Greece, a country that I love dearly and visited many times. Now it's up you to travel the world through sweets, and if you're short on ideas, why not travel to Greece like I did? I promise, you will enjoy every moment of it! 
To check other christmas recipes click on the following links: herehereherehere and here

Friday, November 25, 2016

Spicy Apple Bundt Cake


On the 15th of November, the  world of sweets celebrates bundt cake day. In this post you can read more about this special day and the bundt pans.
This year, I  wanted to celebrate that day by baking an autumnal cake in a beautiful chiffon bundt pan. What's better is that this cake goes perfectly with the apple cider caramel that I told you about in my previous post

The choice of the ingredients was pretty easy: apples, spices and mulled cider, yet again!  It's true that sometimes I get obsessed with certain combinations, but once you try this cake you will understand why, especially if you like apple cakes!


And now let´s bundt!

The mold (Nordic ware chiffon pan) I used has a 10 cups capacity, and for it you need:
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 150 g soft butter
  • 220 g brown sugar
  • 200 g cooked apple (I chopped the apples into small dices, added the spices, a tablespoon of maple syrup and cooked the apple pieces until slightly tender and not falling apart)
  • 220 g cake flour
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50 ml of mulled cider, see note below (you can substitute the mulled cider with cream, but the taste will be slightly different)
  • 100 ml cream
  • 2 tsp of mixed spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, star anise)
  • 1 tsp brandy (optional)
First sift together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.

In your mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter until creamy and well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they combine well before adding the next egg. Add the cooked apples, the brandy and mix for just few seconds.
Turn off your mixer and with a spatula, fold  the flour mixture in 3 batches. Start with the first third then add the mulled cider, another third followed by the cream and finish with the last third.


Pour the mixture in your greased pan and bake  between 45 to 50 min in a preheated oven (175 C) or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake it in the pan for 10 min then unmold and  let it cool completely on a cooling rack.


Once the cake has cooled completely, transfer it to a serving plate.

This cake is delicious as it is. It captures the essence of autumn in every bite-size piece!  You will love how comforting and scrumptious it is.



To please your palate even further, why not pair the cake with a decadent drizzle of apple cider caramel. The combination is heavenly, I kid you not!

Though it looks quite sophisticated, this recipe is actually easy to make and would be the ideal sweet finish to a hearty Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a special family gathering meal. Try it, it will not fail you.


Note: For the mulled cider all you need to do is add whatever spices you like (cinnamon, star anise, cloves, Jamaican pepper, juniper pepper, nutmeg and a strip of orange peel) to a litre of apple cider, and let it simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes!



Monday, November 21, 2016

Spicy Apple Cider Caramel!


The changing colors, the cooler temperatures, the cloudy skies, and the many characteristic products are all the things I love about autumn. As the nights get chilly, it is so comforting to sip on a warm drink while tucked in bed and watching nice show on TV.


The other day I made a mulled apple cider to enjoy on my Friday night, and so I did! Inspired by the drink, I decided to try out a recipe for an apple cider caramel I saw a while back on Pinterest. This seemed all too fitting as I am a big fan of caramel. I have shared many caramel recipes before (links at the end) so it was time to add a new recipe to the bunch!

To make this caramel, you need few ingredients and a bit of patience!
First you need to make a kind of mulled apple cider that needs to be reduced and then you can proceed with the standard caramel making process.

For reduced spicy cider you need:
  • 250 ml apple cider
  • one stick of cinnamon, 
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 4-6 allspice corns
  • 4-6 juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar


Make sure to use a good quality cider. In Spain, the northern region of Asturias produces some of the country's finest ciders, and I always use a cider from that region for my recipes.

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, and let them simmer on a gentle heat for about 30 minutes. The liquid has to reduce and become darker in color. Needless to say that at this point your house will smell amazing!

For the caramel, you need:
  • 60 ml of the reduced apple cider
  • 150 g sugar
  • 60 g cold butter cut into cubes
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 ml cream (35%)
Put the sugar in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Once the sugar is golden brown add the mulled apple cider and let it simmer for few seconds. Always be careful when adding liquid to a hot caramel as it will splatter. Add the cold butter and let it melt. Add the salt and finally the cream.
Let the sauce cook for a few minutes until it thickens.

Lift the saucepan off the stove and allow the caramel sauce to cool down.

Pour the sauce in a clean jar and refrigerate if you will not use it within the day of its making.

This caramel sauce can be used in so many ways. It will go well with pancakes, crepes, sponge cakes, cheesecakes, as a sweet dipping sauce, and so much more.

This caramel sauce is just divine: sweet, spicy and with just the right amount of acidity from the cider. Do give it a try, you won´t be sorry!

For other caramel recipes click hereherehereherehere and here