Daring Baker -May 2013: SWEDISH PRINSESSTÅRTA!

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

I have never been much of a princess kinda girl. Ask my parents, I wanted GI Joes for christmas, I had a tool box, a wood saw kit or a basket ball. Though my mum wanted me to keep my hair long as a child (and I was happy to cut them shorter when I grew up), I'm thankfull for my parents not pushing any stereotypes on me, I didn't have to wear a pink dress and flowers in my hair, and could be what I wanted to be.

Even though I'm still looking like a tomboy today, I believe I've learned to be in touch with my "girly" side. And making this cake was definetly a good way to that! My nieces, who are not found of desserts in general (it cuts into their playing time!!) were all over it. So I guess the cliché still stands today, and (most) little girls want to be princesses.

I've basically used the recipe given by Korena, I've just made my custard with soy milk and I was a little low on time, so I used store bought marzipan to decore it with daisy (not roses like the tradtional one). Even if it is time consuming, by taking it step by step, it does make a great cake with an impressiv result.
Thank you Korena for this fun and girly challenge, and please, I don't want to be told the calory count for each slice ;)

Traditional Swedish Prinsesstårta

Servings: 8 – 10. Makes one 9” round cake.

Vanilla Custard

1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, divided
4 egg yolks from large eggs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream until smooth. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean and bring just to the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean pod, leaving behind the seeds. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the bowl with the egg mixture to temper the eggs.
2. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick like pudding and just comes to a boil. The mixture must hit a boil for the cornstarch to properly thicken the custard, and also to cook out any starchy taste. If it starts to look curdled or lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth, then return to the heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
(If desired, pass the custard through a fine mesh sieve before continuing.)
3. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cold. Can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Sponge Cake

Fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan (such as crushed panko)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) granulated white sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (65 gm) (2¼ oz) potato starch (or cornstarch)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Thoroughly butter a 9” (23 cm) round springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the buttered pan with enough breadcrumbs to coat the bottom and sides, just like flouring a cake pan. Set aside.
2. Place the eggs and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment until the eggs are tripled in volume and very light coloured and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall from the beaters in thick ribbons. Don’t overbeat the eggs – once they form thick ribbons and stop growing in volume, stop beating.
3. Sift the all-purpose (plain) flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. With a balloon whisk, fold the flour into the eggs until blended, keeping as much air in the batter as possible. Use large, gentle yet confident strokes, bringing batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Once mixed, the batter should be quite thick and smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake in the lower third of the preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes then run a knife around the edge and remove the sides of the springform pan. Don’t worry if it sinks a bit in the middle.
Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. If the cake is lopsided, press gently to make it level, then allow it to cool completely before continuing. The cake can be made a day ahead and stored, well-wrapped in plastic, at a cool room temperature.

Prinsesstårta Assembly

2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, chilled
granulated white sugar, to taste (scant 1 tablespoon is plenty)
Sponge Cake, cooled
1/3 cup (80 ml) seedless raspberry jam (or regular jam pressed through a sieve to remove seeds)
Vanilla Custard, chilled
Marzipan Covering and Rose
Icing sugar, for rolling and dusting
Optional: melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel
1. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste (keep in mind that the rest of the cake components are sweet, so the whipped cream should be very lightly sweetened at most) and continue whipping the cream until stiff. You want it to be sturdy enough to provide structure to the cake, but not over-whipped enough to make butter. Set the whipped cream aside.
2. With a long serrated knife, slice the sponge cake into three even layers. This cake is very delicate, so do this as carefully as possible. Use a gentle sawing motion to move the knife through the cake instead of trying to pull it through the cake. Use a spatula to help you lift off each layer after you cut it. Set aside the middle layer – this will become the top layer of the assembled cake as it is the most flexible and therefore easiest to bend into a dome over the whipped cream.
3. Place one of remaining layers on a cake board or serving platter and spread it evenly with the raspberry jam. Spread or pipe half the chilled custard over the jam in an even layer, leaving enough room around the edges so that it doesn’t spill over the sides of the cake.
4. Top the custard with another layer of cake. Spread or pipe the remaining custard evenly over it, again leaving some room around the edges.
5. Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the stiffly whipped cream. Pile the rest into a mound on top of the custard. Spread it into a thick layer with a thin, flexible spatula or off-set spatula, then hold the spatula at an angle to shape the whipped cream into a dome, piling it up in the middle of the cake as much as possible.
6. Place the final layer of sponge cake (the one cut from the middle of the cake) on top of the whipped cream. Do not press on the top of the cake – instead, gently tuck the edges of the cake layer into the whipped cream, so that they are flush with the cream. This will create a smooth, seamless dome on top of the cake.
7. Gently spread the reserved ½ cup (120 ml) of whipped cream over the entire cake to fill in any cracks and even out the surface. If necessary, refrigerate the cake to firm it up before continuing.
8. Dust your work surface with icing sugar and press the marzipan into a 6-inch (15 cm) disc (knead it a bit to warm it up first). Coat both sides with icing sugar and roll it out into a 14” (35½ cm) diameter circle less than 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, you can roll the marzipan out between two wide sheets of parchment paper (still use plenty of icing sugar).
9. Use the rolling pin to drape the rolled-out marzipan sheet over the cake and smooth it around the cake gently with your hands.
If it seems like it wants to fold or buckle around the cake, gently lift and stretch it away from the cake with one hand while smoothing it down with the other.
Trim the excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake with a paring knife or spatula blade.
10. If desired, cut leaves out of the scraps of green marzipan (you can knead in another drop of green food colouring to make the leaves a slightly darker green). Use a paring knife to score vein-like lines, then pinch one end of the leaf to give it some shape.
Dust the cake with icing sugar, then place the marzipan rose and leaves in the middle of the cake.
(You can also use melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel to pipe a design on top of the cake, if you wish.)
11. To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a large, sharp knife (run the blade under hot water and wipe it clean after every cut for neater slices). The cake can be served immediately but will be easier to slice after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.


Strawberry and Tea Jelly

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein), cooks, bakers and food blogger must be really sane people! As our time spend in the kitchen is mostly about trying, changing ingredients, temperatures and proportions to finally come to the expected result.

Because in life, much like in the kitchen, we should all learn from our mistakes. Not falling back to old patterns, we may know as familiar, but that will end up being bad for us. This is how I think we grow, even if we all have our crosses to bear and our walls to break.
Coming back to food, if desserts, chocolate or sugar would be illegal, I'd be an outlaw for sure. But I know I have to be (most of the time) carefull and wise, that's what this dessert is about.

I hope I'm not making this sound too boring, because even if I came up with this recipe in order to have a lighter dessert, I really enjoyed this and will do it again. Plus, you can mix and match teas and fruits. Regular gelatin could work too, but Agar-Agar is a healthier option in my opinion and is quicker to set. If there was any sun around, it would be a nice summer dessert.

Strawberry and Tea Jelly

Serves 3

1/2 a Liter of Water
2 Tablespoons of Strawberry Flavoured Black Tea
2 Tablespoons of Agave Nectar (Syrup)
2gr of Agar-Agar
10 Strawberries
6 Tablespoons of Vanilla Yogurt

Prepare your tea, boil the water and let the tea infuse for about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour your tea in a sauce pan thru a sieve (to remove all residue from the tea) add the agave nectar (or honey if you prefer) and the Agar-Agar (mine is powder), bring to the boil and set aside, check if it's sweet enough for your taste.

Wash the strawberries, than cut of the top and slice them not too thinly. I used 3 glasses (20cl), place the sliced strawberries evenly in each glass, than pour the tea slowly over. Leave it too cool on your kitchen counter, before placing them in the fridge. They just need a couple of hours to set, but you can leave them overnight.

To serve, pour 2 tablespoons of vanilla yogurt on top of each jelly and enjoy.


Greek salad meets couscous, or the other way around

You know it's a bad start into the week when you put on your "bad days" jeans, and they feel a bit tight. Ahhhh, just the kind of monday I enjoy... But I have an explanation to this: I've recently discovered the joy of stretch-fabric jeans, did you know they made these???
Not being very aware about fashion and stuff, I use to buy the old kind of way jeans, the ones you need to wear for months until they soften somehow, the one that would not forgive you any extra slice of desert, at the risk of running out of air, and you have to put them on lying on your bed (you know what I'm talking about, right?)

Enters the stretchy jeans. Oh the joy! They adjust, adapt and expend if needed! But how sneaky is that in the end? I didn't notice that extra slice of pie made any difference (ok, I may have gone ignorant on purpose here too). It's like my old jeans were my too-much-dessert-chastity-belt... ehm.. so to speak.
The weather being so cold here doesn't really help on switching to a "summer" diet either. But I'm not looking for any more excuses, I know better than that by now, I just enjoyed my food lately, and now is time to be a bit more carefull and wise.

So today it's all about vegetables, I couldn't choose between making a greek salad or some couscous, so I decided to mix and match. This works hot or cold, as a main dish or as a side (see how flexible I can be). I used the vegetables I had at hands, feel free to add the ones you like to the recipe.

Greek Couscous

Serves 2/3

150gr of Couscous Semolina
2 Carrots
1 Kohlrabi
1 tin of Chickpeas
1/2 a Celeriac
1 Liter of Vegetable Brothe
1 Teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
1 Teaspoon of Red Paprika
1 Teaspoon of Cumin
1 Tomato
2 or 3 Green Fresh Onion
4 or 5 Pink Radish
1/2 a Cucumber
1 Tablespoon of Capers
50gr of Feta Cheese
Olive Oil
Apple Cider Vinegar

Start by making the couscous vegetables ready. Peel the carrots, the celeriac and the kohlrabi, slice the carrots and dice the celeriac and kohlrabi. In a pan place those vegetables in 1 liter of vegetable broth with the spices (ras el hanout, paprika and cumin), cook it for about an hour, try the vegetables they should be cooked thru and a bit spicy.

In the meantine, make the salad vegetables ready. Wash the radishes and slice them (I used a mandoline to have something even), than cut the green onions thinly and place them in a bowl with about 2 tablespoons of the vinegar.
Clean the tomato, remove the stem and the seeds inside just to keep the flesh and dice it quite small. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds aswell and dice it the same size as the tomato, set aside.
Chop the capper and the feta cheese too.

If your vegetables are almost cooked, add the drained chickpeas so they heat up. In an other pan, heat up the volume of salted water that matches the volume of your 150gr of couscous semolina. When it's boiling, take it of the heat, add the semolina, put the lid back on and let it sit like that for 5 minutes.
After those 5 minutes, pour some olive oil on it, and using a fork, separate the little grains of couscous.

Drain the couscous vegetables in a colander, you can keep the water to add to your plate if you like it spicier. In a bowl, still using a fork, pour in the semolina, the tomato, the cucumber, the radish, the onion (with the vinegar), the capers and the feta cheese, stir to combine all ingredients. In a deep plate, pour in carefully your couscous and salad mixture so it forms a dome, than make a bit of a well in the middle and place the drained vegetables on top. Serve cold or hot.


Bulgur Croquettes for a tiny celebration

I like that on international worker's day, I do close to nothing, at least nothing work related. There is an irony there, that Alanis Morissette could have sang about. But beside celebrating work (or the lack of it, in my case), the 1st of May is also the day I started this blog, and it's been 2 years already! It was only yesterday that I realised that, otherwise I would have planned a cake recipe.

So thanks to everyone out there on the internet, who drops by occasionally, by mistake or on purpuse, it has been a great deal of fun for me so far. Let's hope for many more years to come, a lot of discoveries, recipes and culinary adventures on the journey.

Lately I've been trying to refrain on the purchase of magazin, because as much as I pick my books up every now and than, the magazins tend to be read once and end up on a pile. But the nice covers and  promise of great recipes always get me!

So let's make it usefull and try one of the recipe of this month "Saveurs", from it's vegetarian section: Bulgur croquettes. I'm not the biggest fan of frying stuff (mostly because I don't like the smell afterwards), but those are really nice finger food to enjoy in front of the TV and a day like this.

Bulgur Croquettes and Red Bell Pepper Dip

Makes about 12 croquettes

100gr of Bulgur
100gr of Flour
1 Egg
50gr of Cheese (I used Comté)
1 Small Onion
1 Clove of Garlic
Fresh Chives and Rosemarin
Dried Marjoran and Oregano
Olive Oil
Salt Pepper
1 Red Bell Pepper (or 4 small ones)
1 Greek Yogurt
1 Lemon
Balsamic Vinegar

Heat up a pan of water, when it starts to boil, add the bulgur and leave it to cook for 11 minutes, then drain the water and set aside.

In a small blender, blitz together the small peeled onion, the clove of garlic and the fresh and dried herbs (adjust the quantities to your taste), than add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the egg, blitz some more and set aside.

In a bowl, put in the flour, the grated cheese, the cooked bulgur and the herbs/egg mixture from the blender, season with salt and pepper and combine with a spatula.

Form the croquettes using 2 spoons (or your hands if you prefer). In a pan, heat up some olive oil on a medium heat, and start cooking them for about 5 minutes, turn them so they color evenly. Place them on a kitchen towel when they have a nice golden color. You might need to do a few batch depending on the size of your pan.

Wash and dice your red bell pepper, and start cooking it slowly in some olive oil. When it has cooked for about 10 minutes and seems tender, add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar in the pan, leave it to cook on a higher heat for 2 minutes and set aside to cool a little.

Add the juice of half a lemon to your greek yogurt, than the red bell pepper that has cool down, mix a little and place it in a service bowl.

Voilà, enjoy both together, or as suggested in the magazin you can also have the croquettes with some tomato sauce.