Daring Baker - December 2012: Panettone

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

With a little bit of delay, I wish you all a merry christmas. I hope it's been a pleasant time for you, and that you got to share it with your beloved ones.
This month's daring baker challenge is bringing us a standard on italian tables at christmas: the panettone. I never had a chance to make one before, though it resembles to something we have here, called Kougelhopf that exists in both sweet and savory version.

I divided the following recipe in half, because I only have one panettone pan, and because my family is not too found of raisins. It is quite time consuming in the process, but I loved the result and it keeps really well for a few days.
My only few changes, were switching the orange and lemon extract for orange liquor, I've only used candied orange and added a few cranberries to the raisins.

If I don't have the chance until than, let me just all wish you a happy new year!


makes 2


7 gr active dry yeast
80 ml warm water
70 gr unbleached all purpose flour

First Dough
7 gr active dry yeast
45 ml warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
175 gr unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
55 gr sugar
115 gr unsalted butter, at room temp

Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
150 gr sugar
45 ml honey
15 ml vanilla extract
5 ml lemon essence/extract
5 ml orange essence/extract
6 gr salt
225 gr unsalted butter, at room temp
420 gr unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to 100 gr for kneading

Filling and final dough
250 gr golden raisins or golden sultanas
75 gr candied citron
75 gr candied orange peel
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
15-25 gr unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour


  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the flour.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes
First Dough
By hand:
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the sponge and beat well with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir in the eggs, flour and sugar.
  4. Mix in the butter well
  5. This should only take about 5 – 6 minutes
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
By Mixer:
  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
Second dough
By Hand:
  1. Be sure to have your dough in a large bowl as above.
  2. With a wooden spoon mix in eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts and salt.
  3. Mix in the butter.
  4. Then add the flour. Stir until smooth.
  5. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  6. Turn it out and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
By Mixer:
  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate.
  4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
  7. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
First Rise
  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
  2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
    • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
    • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
    • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning but I preferred this method.
Filling and Final Rise:

  1. oak the raisin/sultanas in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Now take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni.
  3. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well
  4. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape
  5. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log
  6. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  7. Roll into a log shape again.
  8. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  9. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.
  10. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
  11. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours.
  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.
  3. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
  4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes
  5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
  6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.
  7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.


Osso Buco with Gremolata

So tomorow is the end of the world, or so it seems. I remember we had a couple of those already, like that big solar eclipse a few years back, or a random asteroïd heading towards earth. Let's face it, one day we'll be there, but I'm pretty confident this one isn't it, yet. I don't think we'll have it so quick and easy anyway, I think it will rather be long and painfull...

But where's my holidays spirit! Let's all be joyfull, because if we actually make it to the 22nd of December, we can all feel like Bruce Willis in one of those movies he's saving the whole world in (I'll let you choose your favorit one here, there quite a few options).

To balance out my very sweet and dessert oriented blog, here's a great recipe for big crowds, easy to make and that is delicious. I don't think I have to say again that italians know what they are talking about when it comes to food. So buono appetito, and in case of an apocalypse, good luck!

Osso Buco with Gremolata

Serves 8

for the Osso Buco
about 2.5Kilos of Veal Shanks
3 Onions
4 Carrots
1/2 a Celery
2 cans of Peeled Tomatoes
25cl of Tomato Paste
1/2 Liter White Wine
2 Bay Leaves
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
3 Tablespoon of Flour
for the Gremolata
1 Lemon,
1 Clove of Garlice
3 Tablespoons of Parsley

I've asked my butcher to cut the veal shanks in 8 equal parts, about 2cm thick each. Pat each one dry, cut with a sharp knife around the edges, about every 4 cm, so it won't shrink while it cooks. Dust each with flour, so they're covered on both side and shake off any excess. Set aside.

Peel the onion, dice it. Wash the vegetables, peel and dice the carrots and celery to about the same size, set aside.

In a large cast iron pan, heat up some olive oil. When it's hot, place the veal shanks in it and brown them on both side for a few minutes. You may need to do this in a few batches, depending on the size of your pan. Remove when they have a nice color and set aside.

In the same pan, lowering the heat a little, add the diced vegetables and onions with a pinch of salt, and cook them for about 5 minutes, keep stiring so they don't attach to your pan, and when they start softening, add the white wine. Let it cook for 5 more minutes, before adding the peeled tomatoes and the tomato paste. Add the thym, rosmary and bay leaves, check for seasoning and add slat and pepper if needed.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and place the shanks back in the sauce, cover it and let it cook for about 1h30.

In the meantime, make the gremolata: peel the zest off the lemon and dice as small as possible, do the same with the garlic clove and the parsley. In a smal bowl, combine all the ingredients, then cover it with clingfilm and place in the fridge.

You can serve the dish like that, or as we did, take the meat out and using a plunging mixer, you can blitz the sauce so everything is combined.

Serve the veal shank with some sauce, sprinkle gremolata on top. You can serve this with rice, pasta or as we did, with spaetzle.


Spitzbuebe: Christmas Cookies with Jam

Ho ho ho! Or something to that effect. It's christmas time, apparently... It's hard to get into the spirit these days, I guess it's just the whole rush of the season, combined with work and life in general... But I have my own way of getting into the christmas mood all by myself: I'm making christmas cookies!

It's one of the traditions that I like to perpetuate, because it results in a big box of cookies, a place that smell of cinnamon and spicies, and also a more personal gift to my family and friends. I've been doing those as a child already, they come from the same book I've used in several recipes here already, my trusty Betty Bossi Back Buch.

This year I could even make them with my own raspberry jam, all the more reason to bake some more, because as you can see on the picture, there is a cocoa-cinnamon version aswell. But my preference goes to the original, so that's the one I'm share with you today, afterall this is what this season is all about: sharing.

Spitzbuebe: Christmas Cookies with Jam (From the Betty Bossi Bach Buch)

Makes about 30

200gr of Butter, at room temperature
125gr of Icing Sugar, plus some for dusting
1 Egg White
1 Teaspoon of Lemon Juice
1 Pinch of Salt
350gr of Flour
6 Tablespoons of Raspberry Jam

In your standmixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar until pale and well combined.
Add the egg white, the lemon juice, the flour and pinch of salt, and keep beating to a soft dough.

Place the dough in a clingfilm and leave it to cool for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Roll out your dough about 3mm thick, using cookie cutters cut out the base and leave it full, then cut out the top part and make a hole in the middle (look for the pictures). Obviously, make a matching number of base and top cookies.

Cook them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, they should be a very light brown color.

In a pan, heat up your jam, than using a small spoon, place a little bit of the hot jam on the base part of the cookie, and place a top part on it, press lightly together and let it cool on a rack. When the jam has cooled you can dust them with icing sugar.


Manalas, the little brioche men

Happy Saint Nicolas day! I guess this won't mean much to most of you, but it's kind of a big deal where I live. Especially when you're a kid, for us Saint Nicolas is like Santa Claus, and has an "evil twin" in case you're not behaving, called "Père fouettard", who would threat you to take you in his bag or hit you with his martinet. That's always a great way to make children behave in my experience.

So the children who behave receive a gingerbread and an orange or mandarine, and also peanuts are traditional here. My grandma told me it was a big deal back in the days to get those sweets, they wouldn't get any others thru out most of the year. Which always makes me realised how spoiled we are, and how much worse it's getting with every generation.

No Saint Nicolas celebration would be right without our "Manala", the little man made out of some sort of brioche dough. We have that for diner on the 6th of december (or the evening before depending on the families), with tea or hot chocolate, cutting them open and spreading butter, jam or nutella on them. Completly regressic and so good!


Makes 9-10 units

500gr of Flour
100gr of Sugar
100gr of Butter
25gr of Fresh Baker Yeast
2 Eggs
200gr of Milk
5gr of Salt
1 Egg Yolk
optional: chocolate chips, raisins, pear sugar...

Heat up half of the milk, and add the fresh yeast into it, stir to combine a little. Add 100gr of Flour to that and combine aswell. Place a humid cloth on it and let it rise for 20 minutes near a radiator.

In a pan, with the other half of the milk, make the butter melt on a low heat, add the sugar and the salt with it too. Don't let it boil, and when everything is melted, set aside to cool a little.

Now combine the yeast preparation with the melted butter using a wooden spoon, or you standmixer on a low speed. Add the two eggs and the rest of the flour (400gr) and keep mixing for about 15 minutes, the dough has to be smooth and elastic. When you're finished, cover it with a cloth and leave it for 30 minutes in a hot place.

Now tip the dough on a floured worksurface and form the little men. Roll out a cylinder, about 15cm long, pinch the top part to form the head, using a sharp knife, cut the legs by cutting the lower part in two, and than cut the arms out on each side (see the picture).

Place them on the oven tray lined with parchement paper. Beat the egg yolk with a bit of milk and brush the men with it. Now you can use chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes, you can sprinkle pearl sugar on their tummies for instance.

Leave them to rise for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they have a nice golden, light brown color. Cool them on a rack and enjoy!


Beef and Root Vegetables Enchiladas

Fair warning people, this might be a cynical post. I guess I'm trying to get it out of my system, before all the happiness and merriment comes around the corner for christmas. You know people fighting in shops over the last hello kitty doll (or whatever is in fashion this year), cutting in front of you at the checkout counter of the supermarket, or drivers not stopping at the pedestrian crossing, when it's freezing out there and they are all comfy in their heated cars!

This might not reflect it, but I'm actually an optimistic person, but sometimes you just have to sit down, take a deep breath and complain! To yourself, to your cat or a really good friend, let it all out. Then maybe you'll realise it's not that bad after all, that things can turn around eventually. And in the meantime, you can turn to what makes you feel better, which in my case is cooking.

Last week on my day off, I was craving meat, which is very unusual for me. Normally, I tend to crave something sweet more than I should, or maybe some pasta every now and then. But meat sounds like a weird pregnancy craving... and for anyone who knows me for real, this is funny.
Then I realised it was full moon, so maybe I'm part warewolf and I don't know about it... it's just as plausible as me being pregnant after all ;)

Though my first impulse was making hamburger, I wanted to do something different for a change, and because of the outside temperature, I thought something with a little bit of heat would be nice. I love the tortillas I've done a while ago, but I didn't have the chance to do some since, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Beef and Root Vegetables Enchiladas

serves 2/3

6 Tortillas
400grs Ground Beef
2 Carrots
1 Turnip
1 Onion
1 Teaspoon of Ground Coriander
150ml Tomato Sauce
Salt, Pepper
Olive Oil
100gr of Cheese (I choose Comté)
Fresh Chives or Parsley to serve

Peel the onion and dice it. Clean the vegetables and peel them, dice them about the same size as the onion.

In a big pan, on a medium flame, heat up some olive oil and add the onion with a bit of salt. Stir for about 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft, but not too colored.
Add the diced carrot and turnip, stir for a minute or two, lower the heat a little and add a lid to your pan and let them cook for about 10 minutes, stir every now and then.

Now add the ground beef, and using a wooden spoon, break it into little pieces while it cooks, so it blends better with the vegetables. Then add the coriander and the tomato sauce. You don't want to add too much, just enough to coat all ingredients. Add Pepper and Tabasco to your taste (a few drops in my case). Let it cook slowly, lid off, for an other 20 minutes or so and stir every now and then.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

To serve, you can whether place some of the ground beef sauce in the middle of the tortilla and roll it to make a wrap, place the wraps you've made in an oven dish, sprinkle some grated cheese on top and place it in the oven for about 5 minutes (until the cheese melts) and serve it which freshly chopped chives.
Or in a dish place a tortilla, cover it up completly with beef, place an other tortilla on top and make layers (like you would for a lasagna) than on the last layer tortilla you sprinkle cheese and place it in the oven for 5 minutes also, and sprinkle it with fresh herbs to serve with a green salad.


Daring Baker - November 2012: Twelve Days of Cookies

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

I normally have a strict rule about not making christmas cookies, before we reach christmas time. I tend to think that shops get into the christmas decoration and products way too soon, and I only get "christmasy" when the advent time starts, so basically 4 weeks before christmas.

But as this month challenge was a little on that theme, I had to be flexible, but I choose a recipe that I don't necessarily link with the holiday season: Piped shortbread. To me shortbreads are more linked to Scotland, I bought Walkers as a child because of the tartan packaging and than kept on buying them because I liked them so much.

So it's been long overdue that I do some myself! It is a fragile cookie, so leave it to cool before moving it, and even then, do it with caution. A good handmixer or a standmixer is a must here, unless you have really good upper strenght, something I personnaly don't have.

Piped Shortbread

About 40 Cookies (depending on the size)

225 gm softened butter
175 gm all-purpose (plain) flour
65 gm confectioners' sugar
45 gm cornflour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 150°C
2. Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.
3. Beat for 10 minutes.
4. Pipe into rings.
5. Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.
6. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.
Important Tips I have learnt since I did the Food Talk Article:
To pipe shortbread beat for 10 minutes NO MORE – if you overbeat the mixture it won’t hold when it cooks.
A cool oven is important. If your oven is too hot the butter and sugar boils and you end up with lacy cookies that fall apart as soon as you try to do anything with them.
Between piping put the bowl and the piping bag away from your oven so it doesn’t get hot but don’t put it in the refrigerator because it gets too cold and you can’t pipe it.


The Easy Way: Plum Tart

Sometimes I wish life would be easy like this pie. It's crystal clear: a crunchy pastry, soft plums, a little bit of sweet, a little bit of sour, a little something for everyone. Instead, life is confusing, at least to me. You try to head into the direction you think is right, but you have to manoeuvre between the bumps and pothole, and sometimes someone puts a stop sign, right in front of your face. As someone I know would say: "That's life".

So let me get back to my kitchen, there at least, I'm the boss of what's going on. Well I said easy, because I had some leftover puff pastry from the Daring Baker's challenge, and you don't want all your effort to go to waste, plus I can find any excuse to actually make some dessert. If you do make your own puff pastry, it will be a little more work.

I've made this a while ago with the last plums I had, but I think it would work with figs, caramelized apples, pears, peaches... Whatever suits your mood of the day would do, depending on the season. I've used greek yogurt and honey on top because I love the combination, but ice cream or whipped cream would do too, aswell as adding a few toasted almonds slivers maybe... See, you can put a lot of work in the simplest thing, and it's worth it.

Plum Tart

Serves 1

100gr of Puff Pastry
2 Yellow Plums
1 Teaspoon of Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt
1 Teaspoon of Honey

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Roll out your puff pastry about half a centimer thick. Wash the plums, cut them in half to remove the pit and cut each half in 3 or 4 equal part. Place the slices of plum on the puff pastry, sprinkle it with sugar before placing it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

When the puff pastry has a nice golden color, take the tart out of the oven. You can serve this still hot, or at room temperature, with some yogurt and honey on top.


Back from the forest: Trumpet of the dead cream sauce

Some time ago, I saw on TV that if you ask children to draw a fish, some of them actually draw a square or a rectangle, or whatever shape they get when they order (what passes for) fish in big fast food chains... Is it just me or is that plain scary?
Now I didn't grew up on a farm either, I've never milked a cow or butchered a pig (I'm thankfull for that actually). Beside cherry tomatoes or some fresh herbs I grow, I'm not much of a provider myself.

But a few weeks ago I had the chance to go mushroom hunting again, which I hadn't done since I was a child I think. And it's been so nice, walking around in a peacefull, sunbathed, quiet forest, looking for what nature has to offer us.
Trumpet of the dead is what I came home with. Once cleaned, they have been dried in the oven (door open, 50°C with fan, for about an hour) and store in glass jars for the winter.

Of course it means getting up at dawn on a sunday morning, walking a few kilometers in the cold, but it's so much more rewarding than queueing at the check out line of the supermarket.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cave person, quite the opposite, ask my friends: I'm such a geek. But I think it's important to know that fish don't have the shape of a rectangle, that peas don't grow in tin cans or that bread should not come in a plastic bag with a list of 23 ingredients in it.

Pasta with Trumpet of the Dead Cream Sauce

serves 1

60gr of Pasta (orechiette)
20gr of Dried Trumpet of the dead
Hot Water
10cl of Cream
1 Small Shallot
1/2 a Clove of Garlic
1 Teaspoon of Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley
Salt, Pepper

In a bowl, rehydrate the mushrooms with some hot water. This should take about 20 minutes.

Heat up some salted water to cook the pasta, according to what the packaging is saying.

Chop the shallot  and the garlic as finely as possible, in a non-sticky pan slowly heat up some butter and add the shallot and garlic and stir for a few minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, but keep 10cl of the water you used to rehydrate them. Add the mushrooms in the pan, stir (still on a low heat) for a few minutes.

In the 10cl of water you kept from the mushrooms, add the cornstarch and stir to dissolve it. Pour this, aswell as the cream on top of the mushrooms. Keep stiring for a few minutes, until the sauce has the wished consistency. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Drain the cook pasta and serve with the sauce on top, to finish sprinkle the freshly chopped parsley on top. Instead of pasta, you could serve this white meat or game if you like.


Daring Baker - October 2012 Challenge: Mille-Feuille

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

And this one was quite challenging! Making a Mille Feuille was on my list for a long time, and the good thing about participating in a challenge like this, is that it gives you the final push to actually make it. No excuse about time or missing ingredients, you have almost a month to get set and ready to got.

Now time is actually the key to this recipe, because making puff pastry is not that complicated, it's just time consuming. The result is worth it, and I think making some a couple of times a year and freezing it, might be a valuable option.

I was pleased with the results, but in my opinion the icing should really be made as thin as possible, whereas the quantity of crème patissière should be increased. I used Suz recipe for the puff pastry, I just baked it a bit differently, but for the pastry cream I only rely on one recipe: the one from Chef Simon, I've tried many, and this one never fails on me.

Pâte feuilletée / Puff Pastry

Servings: Makes 8-10 mille-feuille (yields: 675g pastry)

250g plain/all-purpose flour
50g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
150 ml cold water

200g butter (for the beurrage), room temperature
30g plain flour (for the beurrage)

Additional flour for rolling/turning

1. Cut the larger quantity of butter into smallish pieces and set aside at room temperature.
2. Put the larger quantity of flour into a bowl with the salt and the cold, cubed butter.
3. Lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it forms a mealy breadcrumb texture.
4. Add the cold water and bring together with a fork or spoon until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl.
5. As the dough begins to come together, you can use your hands to start kneading and incorporating all the remaining loose bits. If the dough’s a little dry, you can add a touch more water.
6. Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth.
7. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
8. While the dough is chilling, take your room temperature butter and mix with the smaller amount of plain flour until it forms a paste.
9. Place the butter paste between two sheets of clingfilm, and either with a rolling pin or your hands (I found hands easiest) shape it into a 12cm square. You can use a ruler (or similar) to neaten the edges.
10. Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. If it’s still soft, leave it a bit longer. If it’s too hard and inflexible, leave it out to soften a touch. You want it to be solid but still malleable.
11. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a 15cm square. Place the square of butter in the middle, with each corner touching the centre of the square’s sides.
12. Fold each corner of dough over the butter so they meet the centre (you might have to stretch them a little) and it resembles an envelope, and seal up the edges with your fingers. You’ll be left with a little square parcel.
13. Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.
14. Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle 6 mm in thickness.
15. With the longest side facing you, fold one third (on the right) inwards, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up.
16. Then, fold the remaining flap of dough (on the left) inwards, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip.
17. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16.
18. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
19. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 twice.
20. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill again for at least 30 minutes.
21. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 two final times.
22. Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Crème Patissière

1/2 a Liter Milk (half or full fat)
5 Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Bean
1 Pinch of Salt
80gr of Sugar
40gr of Flour
30gr of Cornstarch
a bit of butter

1. Pour the milk in a medium size sauce pan. Cut the vanilla bean in two and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds and the bean to the milk. Heat the milk up on a medium flame, keep an eye on it.
2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they are well combined, a pale yellow and form a ribbon at the end of your whisk.
3. Now add the flour and cornstarch, that you have sieved, to the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk to combine well
4. The milk should be away from the flame for a few minutes, before you pour half of it in the egg mixture. Using a whisk, combine slowly and progessivly, try not to make any foam.
5. Now pour that in the sauce pan where the other half of the milk remained (take away the vanilla bean at this point) and bring it back slowly to bubble on a middle flame. Whisk all the time, special in the bottom and side of the pan, so it doesn't stick.
6. This will take a few minute, until the cream reaches the right thickness and consistency.
7. Once done, pour the cream in a clean bowl and in order not to have a "skin" forms on top, when the cream is still hot, pass some butter on top. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge.


Servings: Makes 8- 10

1 x batch pâte feuilletée/puff pastry (see above)
1 x batch crème pâtissière/pastry cream (see above)

350gm icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large egg whites
80gm dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 200°C.
2. Lightly dust your work space with flour and remove your dough from the fridge.
3. Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard.
4. Cut into three equal pieces and place on a baking tray. If you don’t have space for all three, you can bake them separately.
5. Prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork. Sprinkle some sugar on them.
6. Place a wire rack on top of the pastry
7. Bake each sheet for about 15 minutes, the rack allows the pastry to color, once it's a nice golden color, take it out of the oven, if the over side is too pale, turn it around and cook it for few minutes and this side, still with the wire rack on it.
8. Remove the baked sheets from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.
9. Once the pastry has cooled, you’re ready to assemble your mille-feuille. Get a sturdy flat board, your pastry and the chilled crème pâtissière from the fridge.
10. Lay one sheet on the board and spread half the crème patisserie evenly over the top.
11. Take the second sheet and place it on top, pressing down lightly with your hands to ensure that it sticks to the filling.
12. Spread the remaining crème pâtissière and place the last sheet of pastry on top, pressing down again. (Don’t worry if there’s some oozing at the sides. That can be neatened later.)
13. Pop in the fridge while you prepare the icing / chocolate.
14. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie, stirring periodically. Once melted, transfer to a piping bag (or plastic bag with end snipped), resting nozzle side down in a glass or other tall container.
15. To make the icing, whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.
16. Whisk in about (2 cups) 300gm of the icing sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface. If it’s too thin, whisk in a bit more icing sugar.
17. Once ready, immediately pour over the top of the mille-feuille and spread evenly and thinly! I found that I didn’t quite need all of the icing.
18. Still working quickly, pipe a row of thin chocolate lines along the widest length of your pastry sheet. You can make them as far apart/close together as you like.
19. STILL working quickly (phew), take a sharp knife and lightly draw it down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. A centimeter or so further across, draw the knife up the way this time, from bottom to top. Move along, draw it down again. Then up. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.
This (http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ss/How-To-Make-Millef...) is a better idea of what you should do.
20. Once you’ve decorated your mille-feuille, with a clean knife mark out where you’re going to cut your slices, depending on how big you want them to be and leaving space to trim the edges.
21. Chill for a couple of hours to give the icing (etc.) time to set.
22. With a sharp knife, trim the edges and cut your slices.
23. Dig in!


Cold days salad, Yes there is such a thing!

Today, I don't want to be a grown-up. I've been doing the grown-up thing for weeks now: working a lot, paying the bills, planning ahead, being reasonnable... So to keep the balance with my inner-child, I'm hanging around in my pyjama's at 11 in the morning (don't judge me), catching up on all the TV shows I haven't had time to watch for a while. Feeling decadent feels good, every once in a while.

All the working got a little in the way of the cooking these days, even if this week end was dedicated to baking, but that will remain a secret until the daring baker date arrives.
In the meantime, the days got shorter and colder, and all you want to do is find a blanket to crawl under. Unlike summer, it doesn't feel like a "salad weather", but as I tend to do things my own way, here's one of my favorit autumn/winter salad, because there's no reason to skip the greens!

So this is not much of cooking, I give you that, but I think it works well together, Corn salad is my favorit one. It makes a nice dinner to get on the table, without taking too much time. You can choose how you prefer your potatoes, if I have more time I even prefer them to be boiled before I roast them, but that includes more dishes to wash, so I'm not always up for it. This is my version, make it your own!

Corn Salad with Roasted Mustard Potatoes

Serves 1

2 Medium Potatoes
1 Tablespoon of Whole Grain Mustard
2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1/2 a Lemon, Zested
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Handfull of Corn Salad
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chives, chopped
50gr of Comté Cheese, diced into cubes
Walnut Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
"Fleur de sel" Salt, Pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Clean and brush the potatoes thoroughly, as I prefer to leave the skin. Cut the potatoes into cubes, about 2-3cm wide. Place them in a bowl and add the mustard, the olive oil and the lemon zest. Combine well so the potatoes are all seasonned.
In an oven dish, place the potatoes with 2 crushed cloves of garlic and put in the oven for about 30 minutes. But check regularly and turn them around, they should be golden and crispy, and that depends on your oven.

In the meantime, clean the corn salad in cold water, at least twice, or until the water seems clear. If you have a salad spinner, this is the time to use it!

When the potatoes are done, leave them to cool for just 5 minutes. To serve, in a bowl or a soup plate, on top of the salad, sprinkle the cheese, and the potatoes (carefull it's hot), than season with the walnut oil and the balsamic vinegar and finish with the fresh chives (add even more if you like it) and the salt and pepper.


Red Kuri Squash Gnocchi

Yes it's autumn people, and I happen to like this season, not particularly when the days are turning shorter, but there are some gorgeous colors out there for us to see, before nature goes to sleep. Too bad we can't follow nature and go to sleep aswell, but instead we get to spend more time inside, around a nice fire or (less romantic) close to the radiator, with some hearty dishes and recipe to help us get thru.

But I'm already a bit ahead, right now it's october, with it's fair share of nice days and beautiful light. October is also the month for breast cancer awareness, which is a topic I've blogged about before here, and most likely will again as long as this blog keeps going. This year in particular I feel like it's a duty to spread the word around, because I had my first mammography.

Before anyone asks, all is fine, thank you very much. I'm in my early 30's, but with a family history of cancer, so the doc prefered to make sure everything was ok. It wasn't the most fun day I ever had, but all the doc and nurses have been really nice. So all you women outhere, go and show your breasts for the good cause, if you have any doubts. And just for encouragement, let me show you mine:

So maybe a pink dish would have fitted this post better, but I happened to make those today. I love red kuri or Hokkaido squash, in soup or roasted, so I thought I'd do something different for a change. My gnocchi shaping skills still need to be perfected, but the combination with fresh chive, fleur de sel and parmesan is great, give it a try!

Red Kuri Squash Gnocchi

Serves 2

1 Red Kuri Squash
5 Heaped Tablespoons of Flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Egg
1/2 a Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chive
1 Liter of Vegetable Broth
Freshly Shaved Parmesan
Salt, fleur de sel

Preheat you oven to 180°C.

Clean and then cut your squash in half, with a spoon remove all the seeds from it. Wrap each half in an aluminium foil and place them both in a dish going into the oven. Cook them for about 45 minutes.

When you take the dish out of the oven, leave the squash in the foil for a few minutes, it will be easier to peel. Once peeled, using a potato masher or a sieve, turn the squash flesh into a purée.
In a bowl, add an egg to the purée and start adding the flour, start with 3 tablespoons, and than add more if needed, it will depend on how much water there is in. You need to have something ressembling a brioche dough.

Flour generously your working surface and your hands. Take 1/4 of the dough and roll it out until it's about as thick as your thumb. using a sharp knife, cut the gnocchis out, about 2cm each.
Again using some extra flour, take each gnocchi, place it on a fork and press it down a little with your thumb to mark it, then roll it together in the shape of a miniature bread loaf. Place the gnocchi on a floured tray. Do the same with the whole dough.

In a pan, heat up the vegetable broth, and when it starts to bubble you can place, carefully, the gnocchi in the pan. Depending on its size you might need to make several batch. The gnocchis are done when they rise to the surface of the broth, drain them carefully and set aside.

You can reheat them in a non sticky frying pan, then to serve, sprinkle with the fresh chive, the fleur de sel and the shaved parmesan.


Daring Baker - September 2012 Challenge: Empanada Gallega

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

Yeah, let's be spanish for a change, and it happens to be a region of Spain I've been before: Galicia! I find a certain comfort in typical southern dishes, and this one has been no exception. Anything in a bread dough works for me, and given the chance to experiement with it was a lot of fun.

I've done one with ground beef, tomatoes and carrot, aswell as a small one (with leftover dough) with red bell pepper and goat cheese. But I prefered this version with swiss chard. As the proportion were given for 10 people(!!!) I took the liberty to divide it in half, and it got me thru a couple of meals. I'm keeping this one on my list, and will have to try a sweet version at some point.

Empanada Gallega with Swiss Chard, Parmesan and Almonds

Dough Ingredients:

375gr of bread flour

240ml of lukewarm water (about 85°F/30ºC), approximately
1 satchel (1 tablespoon) (15 gm) dry yeast or (1 oz) (30 gm) fresh yeast
1 teaspoon (10 ml) (11 gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil (you can use oil from the pan where you have cooked the filling)
1 large egg, for egg wash

Dough Directions:
  1. Measure out all the ingredients.
  2. Shift the flour into a big bowl and make a well in the middle. Rub the yeast in with your fingers.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the water and the salt.
  4. Now, using your fingers or a wooden spoon, start adding the water and mixing it with the flour-yeast mixture. Keep on working with your fingers or spoon until you have added enough water and all the flour has been incorporated and you have a messy ball of dough.
  5. On a clean counter top, knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes
  6. You could do all the above using a stand mixer, in that case mix the ingredients with the paddle attachment until mixed and then switch to a dough hook and knead on low for about 6 minutes.
  7. Clean and oil the big bowl you used for mixing and place the kneaded dough in it. Cover it with a napkin or piece of linen and keep it in a warm, draught-free place for approximately 40 to 50 minutes.
  8. Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying.
  9. Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round.
  10. Now, the thinness of the dough will depend on your choice of filling and how much bread you like in every bite. For your first time, make it about 3mm thin (about 1/10th of an inch) and then adjust from that in the next ones you make.

Filling Ingredients

1 Swiss Chard
2 Small Onions
1 Clove of Garlic
100gr of Parmesan, freshly grated
50gr of Almonds, chopped
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper

  1. Clean the leaves of the swiss chard, separate the white from the green. Chop the white into pieces of about 1/2 a cm thick, clean again and set aside. Same with the green leaves, chop them up about the same size and set them aside too.
  2. In a big pan, on a medium heat, warm up some olive oil. Add the onions cut into half moons and with a bit of salt, cook them for about 2 to 3 minutes before adding the white part of the chard. Stir every now and then, and cook this for about 10 minutes.
  3. You can now add the green part of the chard aswell as the crushed clove of garlic, and like spinach it will reduce greatly, keep stiring until most the water steams out of it. When everything is well combined, take it off the heat.
  4. Away from the fire, add the freshly grated parmesan, the chopped almonds and stir to combine well. Taste to check for seasoning, add salt or pepper if needed. Set aside to cool down

Assembling the empanada:

  1. If you haven’t used wax paper, either lightly flour or line with wax paper your pan or tray.
  2. Cover the base and sides with the dough. Using the rolling pin or a knife, cut the extra dough.
  3. Place the filling, making sure it is cold and that all the base is covered. Using a hot filling will make the bottom layer of the empanada become soggy. Be careful to avoid adding too much oil from the filling, try to make it as “dry” as possible.
  4. Start preheating your oven to moderate 350°F/180ºC/gas mark 4.
  5. Take the other half of the dough and spread it out to the same or less thinness of the base. You can use a piece of wax paper for this too. Take into account that this “top” dough needs to be smaller around than the bottom, as it only needs to cover the filling.
  6. If not using wax paper, move carefully the top to cover the filling. If using wax paper, transfer the dough, turn upside down, cover the filling and gently peel off the wax paper.
  7. Using your fingers, join bottom and top dough, when you have gone all the way around, start pinching top and bottom together with your thumb and index finger and turning them half way in, that way you end up with a rope-like border. As a picture is worth a thousand words, please watch this video to see how it is done: http://youtu.be/CNpB7HkTdDk
  8. When you are finished, make a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top layer. This will help hot air exit the empanada while it’s baking without breaking the cover.
  9. You can use left-over dough to decorate the empanada, using rounds, bows, lines… let your imagination flow and make it pretty!
  10. Using a fork, prick the top layer or, using scissors, make snips that go all the way through the top layer.
  11. In a small bowl, beat an egg and add a tbsp of cold water. With the pastry brush, paint the top of the empanada with the egg wash.
  12. Place the empanada in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check that the bottom part is done.


The Imperfect Cookies

"Everything with passion, nothing with talent", this has been my motto for years, and I stick to it. I still can't play an F chord properly even after more than 10 years, I have to slow down when I say the word "narrower" otherwise it sounds like I'm missing out a few letters, I sing (proudly and loudly) out of key at all the concerts of my favorit artists.

So what? Life is not a perfect circle, an even square or a straight road. It's full of bumps and holes, it takes turn you don't expect, hits you in the face or hugs you, sometimes on the very same day. It breaks us down to the lowest, makes us rise again stronger.
So what? We're only humans, with our flaws and broken parts, trying to fix them and make the best out of it. And if we can't make it on our own, it's good know we have people we can count on.

This is not a perfect cookie, they're shaped in funny ways and don't look identical at all. So what? They taste like cookie should: chocolatey, crunchy and comforting. This recipe is written in my book for years, and I can't remember from where I got it, but it's my "go-to" cookie recipe in any case of emergency. And if it doesn't actually resolve any problem... So what?

American Chocolate Chips and Hazelnuts Cookies

For about 60 cookies

250gr of Butter
150gr of Sugar
120gr of Brown Sugar (Vergeoise)
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
350gr of Flour
350gr of Chocolate Chips
100gr of Hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 Teaspoon of Bicarb
1 Pinch of Salt

Take all the ingredients out an hour before starting the recipe.

Beat the butter with the sugar until it gets white and fluffy. Add both eggs and the vanilla extract. Set aside.

In the big bowl, combine the flour, the brown sugar, the bicarb and the salt. Sift in all in the egg/butter mixture and add the chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts. Using your hands, or a plastic spatula, try to combine to form a dough and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

On a baking tray lined with parchement paper, using 2 small spoons, place the cookie dough about the size of a walnut on it. Leave enough space in between them to spread while cooking (about 5cm).

Place in the oven and cook for about 15 to 17 minutes. Place them on a rack to cool and than keep them in an airtight jar.


Chocolate mousse, what else...

When life throws you out of your tracks, when it's taking an unexpected turn, when you feel like you're hanging on the edge of a cliff, not knowing if you're going to stay or jump, when you don't know if tomorow will be better or worse than today, if you should speak or stay quiet, when you just simply don't know, then, go back to what you do know.

Life is rarely what we expect it to be, or even more how we wish it would turn out. I guess what we make out of it, is really what makes the difference. So let's learn from every experience, and at least pretend it made us wiser.
Yes people, don't worry, this is still a food blog. Life, as cooking, is about failure and success, staying in your comfort zone or taking risks and learning as you go on.

And if life gets a bit too confusing, I know I can turn to my kitchen and my favorit ingredient: Chocolate. A really good one is needed for this recipe, because there is not much more needed. Fresh eggs, some blackberries, a bit of yogurt and a night in the fridge, that might be the hardest part, but as I read somewhere, nothing worth having is easy.

Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4

200gr of Chocoalte (between 61% and 70%)
5 Eggs
100gr of Blackberries
1 Greek Yogurt

Break the chocolate in little pieces, place them in a small sauce pan that will fit into a bigger one filled with water. On a medium heat, place both pans and wait for the chocolate to melt, after it started to melt, you can help by stirring gently. Set aside.

Separate the egg white and yolks. Beat the egg white with a pinch of salt to soft peak. While you beat the egg white, if you use a standmixer, you can whisk the egg yolks with the melted chocolate until it's well combined.
Start adding just one spoon of the egg white to the melted chocolate/egg yolk mixture to make it more airy. Than add the rest of the egg white and combine gently with a spatula.

Pour carefully the mixture in one big bowl or individual ones and place them in the fridge for at least 6 hours. To serve, top them with fresh blackberries and a spoon of yogurt.


Summer, are you still there?

It feels like summer is coming to an end, days are getting shorter, you need to wear your long sleeves in the morning and you can feel that little chill in the air once the sun is dawning. School is back in session, the pencils have been sharpened and the pupils are still full of good resolutions.
The long vacation days, where reading a book in the sun was the only thing on your schedule are long gone. It's september again, we're all back at work, back in our everyday life. Goodbye summer, as David would say "I would have gone and loved you anyway".

Let's hold on to one of the best things sunny days brings us, in my opinion at least, raspberries! Lots of jam is already stored in my pantry to get me thru (part of) the winter, I have enjoyed my fair share of fresh ones too, but making a cake needed to be done.
Something nice and fresh, to stay in that light summer feeling for just a little longer. Holding on to those last sunny days, before autumn sets in for good.

Raspberries Yogurt Cake

for 1 cake

4 eggs
150gr of Sugar
200gr of Flour
1 Greek Yogurt
2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
10cl of Oil (Sunflower)
400gr of Raspberries

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

In your standmixer, beat the eggs and the sugar for about 5 minutes, until it almost doubles in volume. Add the yogurt and sift the flour and the baking powder in until everything is combined. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the oil slowly, keep mixing for a minute or two.

Butter your oven dish (in this case a 23x31cm) and pour the cake preparation in it. Now place your raspberries carefully on it, you can aligne them or try to sprinkle them evenly. Place in the oven for about 40 minutes, it should be a nice golden color.

Leave it to cool and you can serve it with a bit of greek yogurt and some honey on it.


Daring Baker - August 2012 Challenge: Filled Pâte à Choux Swans

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Hello, it's Daring Baker time again! I was a bit short on this month's challenge, incredible how busy I am while everybody else seems to be on holidays. I enjoy baking pâte à choux, so this was a good excuse to make some.
But I have been making crème patissière and mousseline quite a lot these days, and I was in the mood for something lighter for a change, so my swans are a bit fruity, just like me!

Filled Pâte à Choux Swans

Pâte à Choux
115 gr Butter
240 ml Water
¼ Teaspoon Salt
140 gr all-purpose Flour
4 Large Eggs

500gr Fromage Blanc
2 Tablespoons of Honey
12 Apricots, diced
2 Teaspoons of Icing Sugar

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  2. Preheat oven to moderately hot 190°C.
  3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove.
  4. Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  6. Using a ¼” (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads. You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.
  7. Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5” (40 mm) long, and about 1” (25 mm) wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
  8. Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process.
  9. Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.
  1. Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to ½.
  2. Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
  3. Make the filling by combining the honey with the fromage blanc
  4. Dollop a bit of filling into the body, add some diced apricots, insert head, and then add wings. Sprinkle some icing sugar on the wings.