18 October 2019

COFFEE WALNUT MARSHMALLOWS

I have loved marshmallows for as long as I can remember. The light and airy, spongy texture, combined with the rich vanilla flavour, was and will always be a true delight for me.
They are quite easy to make, as quite a bit of gelatine-based confections are. Moreover, requiring only a handful of ingredients and minutes of time, they are much better than any shop-bought marshmallow can be.
Kept it a box with a tight seal, they will last for days. Amazing on their cloudy own, and wonderful with a mug of hot chocolate, they are the perfect homemade gift, wrapped and adorned with a satin ribbon, and a few chosen words.


Ingredients
For the marshmallows
400 grams granulated sugar
240 ml cold water, divided
15 grams unflavoured gelatine
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the coating
150 grams ground walnuts
1 ½ teaspoon espresso powder

Preparation
Before you start, make sure everything is prepared. Mix together the ground walnuts and the espresso really well, and set it aside. Take a 20x20 cm square pan, lightly grease the bottom and sides, line it with baking parchment, and then spread some of the walnut mixture on the bottom and set aside. Pour 120 ml of cold water in a bowl of a large stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, sprinkle in the gelatine, and set it aside for about 10 minutes, so the gelatine can bloom. Pour the rest of the cold water into a heavy-bottomed, add in the granulated sugar, and place it over high heat. Let it come to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and let it boil until it reaches the soft-ball stage – 115°C. Do not stir while the syrup is cooking.
Once it is ready, carefully remove the pan from the heat, and pour it over the gelatine. Mix very carefully on the lowest speed until gelatine is dissolved, being very careful, because it is extremely hot; then bring up the speed to the highest setting and mix for about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste, and blend until it becomes very thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes more. When the mixture has tripled in volume, pour it quickly into the prepared pan, level the top, and lightly sprinkle with the walnuts and espresso. Let the marshmallows sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours. Carefully invert the marshmallow block onto a sheet of baking parchment, and then sprinkle walnuts on the bottom side. Cut into desired pieces, and roll them into the remaining walnuts. Serve with hot chocolate and cocoa. Yields 16 large marshmallows, or 64 small pieces.

11 October 2019

HONEY PUMPKIN DINNER ROLLS

When I think of pumpkins, the first thing that comes to my mind is the humble and sweet roasted pumpkin, served around Christmas, with an optional addition of cinnamon. However, pumpkin is quite versatile, and other than desserts, it is useful for a whole range of dishes, as well as pastries and breads.
These rolls come together quite quickly, the dough is soft and very easy to work with, and even though they are glazed in honey, they are just ever so slightly sweet, and perfect for hearty stews and soups. And it is worth noting that, depending on the variety of pumpkin you use, you might need to add a tablespoon or two of additional flour; but do keep the dough as soft as possible, as that will make the baked rolls nice and soft, too.


Ingredients
300 grams plain flour
20 grams fresh yeast
100 ml warm water
120 grams pumpkin purée
45 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
30 grams acacia honey
30 grams unsalted butter, softened

Preparation
Crumble the yeast into a small bowl, pour in the warm water, and briefly whisk, just to dissolve the yeast. Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre, and add in the dissolved yeast, along with the pumpkin purée, oil, salt, and ginger. Mix everything very well with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, and knead it by hand, for at least 5 minutes, until elastic. Weigh the dough, and divide it into twelve equal pieces, then shape each piece into a sphere.
Place the rolls in a round baking pan (23 cm) lined with baking parchment, mist them generously with lukewarm water, cover them with a kitchen towel, and let them rise for about an hour. Just before baking, mist them once again with water, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for about 12-15 minutes, until golden. While they're baking, whisk together the soft butter and the honey. Once they are baked and still hot from the oven, brush them generously with the butter and honey. Yields 12 dinner rolls.

04 October 2019

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER

Peanut butter is a spread I have grown to love only quite recently. Even though it is one of the most popular dessert spreads, especially with toast, shop-bought peanut butters were never that appealing to me. Homemade peanut butter, however, is a different story.
It is so incredibly easy to make peanut butter at home, and with only a few ingredients. Peanuts, honey, and oil. A few minutes of your time, and a delightful, creamy spread is ready to be enjoyed.
As I am not a fan of overly sweet spreads, this peanut butter is just right for me – a little bit of sweetness, a tiny bit of salt, and a lot of roasted peanut flavour. Roasting peanuts is not essential if you buy them already roasted, but it will give a lot richer flavour to the finished spread.
Do keep in mind that homemade peanut butter will never be quite as smooth as commercially made ones, but if you are quite keen on the smoothest possible texture, blend for a few minutes more, until the texture is just right for you.


Ingredients
200 grams dry roasted unsalted peanuts
20 grams acacia honey
15 ml vegetable oil
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
salt, to taste


Preparation
Spread the peanuts on a large baking sheet, and roast them for about 5-10 minutes in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), just to heat them up, and make them easier to blend. Remove them from the oven, reserve about 50 grams, and add the rest to a food processor or a strong blender.
Start by pulsing the peanuts until roughly ground. Gently move them around with a small spatula, then let the machine run for about a minute or so. The peanut butter will look dry at this point, but do scrape down the sides, and let the machine run for a minute more, or until it starts to pull together into clumps. Blend for a minute or two more, and it should transform into a smooth batter, that is still quite thick.
Scrape down the sides, add in the honey, oil, vanilla, and the reserved peanuts (if making it chunky), and blend for a minute or two more. By the end, it should be completely silky and spreadable. Have a little taste, and add a bit of salt to it, completely adjusting it to your taste and preferences. Transfer the peanut butter to a glass jar, cover tightly, and keep refrigerated. It should be used within two weeks, to assure it is fresh and best tasting. Yields 200 grams of peanut butter.

27 September 2019

NO-KNEAD KEFIR BREAD

Colder weather simply calls for baked bread, homemade jam, and a pot of freshly brewed coffee. Bread, the staple, what people associate with hospitality and a welcoming home-cooked meal, does not have to, nor should be, complicated or difficult to make.
One of the most basic yeasted loaves is just this one – a humble no-knead loaf, the pillowy soft bread that rises overnight in the refrigerator, giving you the opportunity to simply shape and bake it in the morning. And when it comes to baked goods, nothing compares to the flavours that develop through a long, slow rise.
It requires very little time and effort, but it rewards you with a golden, crusty loaf, perfect for jams, soups, or just a tiny piece of butter, straight from the oven. And there isn’t much work involved – just a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a few ingredients. It is quite forgiving, and its overall simplicity gives you freedom to make it just the way you want it.


Ingredients
450 grams plain flour
10 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
150 ml warm water
50 ml light olive oil
200 grams kefir

Preparation
Crumble the fresh yeast into a small bowl, pour in the warm water, and briefly mix everything with a little whisk, just to dissolve the yeast. Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the very centre, and add in the dissolved yeast, along with the olive oil, kefir, sugar, and salt. Mix everything very well with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. Cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in the refrigerator for 18 hours.
When the dough is puffed up and ready, lightly dust your hands with a tiny bit of flour, and quickly shape the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. If it is too soft to shape by hand, use a silicone spatula to help it form it into a boule. Lightly mist it with cold water, and bake in a preheated oven, at 220°C (425°F), for about 25-30 minutes. Once the bread is baked, remove it from the oven and mist it lightly with water once again, then let it cool down to room temperature, and serve.

20 September 2019

SPICY TOMATO RED PEPPER RELISH

Canning and filling the pantry for the winter brings back many fond memories. By sheer force of habit, I do almost all my canning in September and early October. The fruit and vegetables are abundant, and the weather is kinder to those who stand next to a stove for an hour or two.
For this and any other canning recipe, pick only ripe tomatoes and red peppers, with my suggestion being Roma or beef tomatoes, as well as large, sweet red peppers. This will ensure that the vegetables add as much as their natural sweetness to the relish as possible, balancing nicely the hotness of the pepperoncini and the garlic.
It goes without saying, but you control how hot the relish is going to be. If you are not sure, err on the side of using less peperoncini, rather than more.
And although quite similar to ajvar, this type of relish is much hotter and somewhat thinner in texture, making it ideal for dipping cubes of hard cheese, or pieces of freshly baked sourdough.


Ingredients
1 kilogram tomatoes
15 grams salt
7 grams sugar
15 ml apple cider vinegar
150 ml vegetable oil
1.5 kilograms sweet red peppers
20 grams fresh peperoncini
4 large garlic cloves

Preparation
Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers, and do the same for the tomatoes, cleaning them thoroughly, removing any imperfections. This helps the relish keep for longer. Separately blend the tomatoes and peppers in a blender or a food processor. Remove the stems and the seeds from the peperoncini as best as possible, then grind them too, or use a mortar and pestle to mash them into a paste. Mash the garlic cloves, too.
Take a very large, heavy-bottomed pot, ideally one that is quite wide, because that will facilitate cooking the relish, and add in the tomatoes, salt, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and 100 ml of the oil, and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring it to a simmer, and let the tomatoes cook, whilst stirring often, for one hour. This will cook off majority of the liquid from the tomatoes, and give a deep, rich tomato base.
After about an hour, add in the red peppers, peperoncini, and garlic, mix really well, and bring it to a simmer again. This time stirring more frequently, cook the relish for one more hour. During the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, add the remaining 50 ml of oil, and let the mixture cook until thick. Keep in mind that you can cook it for longer, in case you want a really thick relish, but you need to stir quite often so it doesn't burn.
After about 2 hours of cooking, or until you're satisfied with the texture, taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for about 15 minutes, then carefully pour it into prepared, sterilised jars. Keep it in the refrigerator, as it tastes best when it's served cold. Yields 900 grams of relish.