17 August 2018

ORANGE RUM BREAKFAST PASTRIES

One of the best things to have for breakfast are freshly baked sweet pastries, with a bit of jam or clotted cream on top, and a cup of hot tea or coffee. The texture of these gorgeous pastries almost resembles brioche pastry, and the fresh orange zest gives lots of flavour, combined with the warm vanilla, and dark rum.
Keep in mind that you do not have to divide the dough into eight pieces like I did, you can divide it into as many as you like, and make the pastries as large or as small as you need them to be. And also keep in mind that the baking time will vary depending on the size of the pastries, so keep an eye on them so they do not overbake. Serve them warm, with plenty of hot tea or black coffee.


Ingredients
350 grams soft flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
50 grams light brown sugar
75 ml vegetable oil
60 ml tepid water
2 medium eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
50 ml vegetable oil, for brushing


Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast, sugar and salt, and whisk it very well. Make a little well in the centre, and pour in the water, oil, lightly beaten eggs, as well as the orange zest, orange extract, rum, and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. At this point, add a bit more flour if you need to, but try to keep the dough as soft as possible. Keep kneading the dough right in the bowl, for a couple of minutes more, until it becomes lightly tacky, but you will be able to shape it into a ball. Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it for a few minutes. If the dough keeps sticking too much, add some additional flour. Divide the dough into eight pieces, and then shape each one into your favourite shape. If you aim for an intricate shape, you might need to add a tad more flour, to braid or twist it more easily. Arrange the pastries on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it sit in a warm spot for another hour, to rise again. Just before baking, brush it generously with oil and bake in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for 12-15 minutes.

Baker's note: As with any other baked bread, if you wish, you can brush the top with a bit of butter as soon as you take it out of the oven, for a softer crust.

10 August 2018

FRESH COCONUT SMOOTHIE BOWL

Smoothies in general always make for a great breakfast, snack, or even dessert, depending on what you add to them, and the same goes for smoothie bowls, of course. The difference between them being the texture, and the way of serving.
If you feel like having a healthy ice-cream for breakfast, this is the smoothie bowl for you. Fresh coconut, bananas, strawberries, currants, and some chocolate, for good measure, of course. It does require some planning, because you need to freeze the banana slices, but other than that, it is a very simple and straightforward recipe that will not take more than 10 minutes to prepare.
One other thing that is really good is that you can use vegan yoghurt and agave nectar to make this smoothie completely vegan. Feel free to add even some granola on top, for a very abundant breakfast!


Ingredients
For the smoothie bowls
200 grams fresh coconut meat
250 grams frozen ripe bananas
100 grams fresh strawberries
50 grams fresh red currants
250 grams vanilla yoghurt
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For serving
100 grams frozen fruit of your choice
100 grams fresh ripe bananas
50 grams dark chocolate

Preparation
Peel and slice bananas, and arrange the slices on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment, for easier removal. Place the slices into the freezer for at least 2 hours, but if plan to have these smoothie bowls for breakfast, you can do this the night before. When ready to make the smoothies, place the frozen banana slices, berries, currants, and the yoghurt into a food processor, and let it run for about 30 seconds to a minute, to blend it well.
After that, add in the fresh coconut meat, along with the honey, and the vanilla, and blend it well once more. When completely blended, the smoothie should resemble soft-served ice-cream. Divide it between two serving bowls, arrange some fresh banana slices on top, a few frozen berries, and some finely grated chocolate. You can add fresh or toasted coconut flakes, granola, as well as other healthy toppings of your choice. serve immediately. Yields 2 large servings.

03 August 2018

DARK CHOCOLATE COCA-COLA CAKE

One-bowl recipes are always a very welcome addition to any busy life, and if they are as delicious as this chocolate cake, even better. First time I ever encountered a Coca-Cola cake was about twenty-five years ago, in a seaside resort. If I remember correctly, that was one of the most requested desserts at the time, and it is fairly obvious why – easy to prepare, and delectably moist. Think of a cross between a really delicious chocolate cake, and a brownie.
As always, it is of the utmost importance to use real dark chocolate, with at least 70% of cacao, with my choice always being the Lindt Excellence 90%. The bitterness of the dark chocolate balances out the sweetness of the cake itself, and makes this dessert a real treat – dense and moist cake, with a lush dark chocolate frosting. It isn’t an overly rich cake, but it does have quite a deep chocolate flavour, so serve it in small pieces, along with some freshly whipped cream, and black coffee.


Ingredients
120 grams butter
200 grams brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon dark rum
180 ml Coca-Cola
120 grams plain flour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
200 grams good quality dark chocolate (at least 70%), divided


Preparation
Dice the butter into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium heat, so it can melt slowly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the brown sugar. Whisk it vigorously until the sugar starts to dissolve and blend with the butter, then add in the eggs, and whisk really well. It is perfectly fine if it still looks a bit grainy at that point. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and the baking powder. Grate half of the dark chocolate, and mix it in with the dry ingredients. Pour the Coca-Cola into the mixed batter, and whisk it in.
Finally, add the dry ingredients to the wet, and gently whisk everything until only combined. Do not overmix. Line a square baking pan (20x20 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter and bake in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F), for about 20-25 minutes. Check it with a toothpick, just to make sure the cake does not overbake. While the cake is baking, melt the rest of the dark chocolate over low heat. As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, pour the melted chocolate over the top, and tilt the pan carefully to make sure the cake is glazed evenly. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until serving time. Yields 6 large servings.

27 July 2018

GOLDEN HONEYDEW JELLY

As I always say, jams, marmalades, and spreads are always a nice breakfast alternative when you don’t have much time, or when you simply want to have a sweet breakfast. And this lovely jelly is fantastic on a lightly buttered piece of toast with a cup of black coffee. The jelly itself is quite easy and straightforward to make, requires very little involvement, yet guarantees maximum flavour. With the vanilla and citruses, it tastes like a cross between candied melon and lemon boiled sweets.
Other than honeydew melon and sugar, this jelly is embellished by lemons, oranges, vanilla, as well as melon vodka. And although I have decided to keep it very simple ingredient-wise, it really pairs very well with other spices, especially ginger or cardamom. Do not omit the lemon and orange juices, because other than the bit of pectin they add, their tartness balances out the sweetness from the added sugar. I used the golden honeydew, but you can use a regular honeydew melon, they are both naturally very sweet and fragrant.


Ingredients
1 kilogram honeydew melon
500 grams granulated sugar
1 orange, juice only
1 lemon, juice only
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 ml melon vodka

Preparation
Carefully cut the melon in half, and remove and discard the seeds. Slice each half into three slices, and remove the skin from each one. Chop the melon into large cubes, and place them in a large nonreactive pot, sprinkle on the granulated sugar, mix gently, then let the fruit macerate about 3 hours. When you are ready to make the jelly, pour all of the contents into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add in the freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice, and place the pot over high heat.
Once the mixture is at a rapid boil point, continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 25-30 minutes or until the jelly has reached 105ºC (220ºF), and has set. It is best to clip a thermometer to the side of the pot while the jelly is still cooking, because, depending on your stove, it can reach the setting point much earlier than 25 minutes.
At this point, you can purée the jelly to make it completely smooth, or you can leave it with bits of fruit, it is up to you. Remove the pot from the heat, add in the vanilla and the vodka, and mix well. After about 5-10 minutes, carefully pour the jelly into sterilized jars, and let it cool down completely. Keep the jelly refrigerated, and use it up within 2 weeks. Yields 700 grams of jelly.

Author’s note: You can test to see if the jelly is set and ready by placing a small amount of it on a chilled plate. Wait for it to cool down, then slightly tilt the plate. If the jelly doesn’t move, or it slides very slowly, it should be done. You can gently touch the surface, too – it should slightly wrinkle if the jelly is ready.

20 July 2018

CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE ICE-CREAM

Traditional ice-cream recipes start with a rich, silky custard base, which gives a thick and luxurious ice-cream, exactly because of the cream and egg yolks. Many homemade ice-cream recipes require an ice-cream machine, as it needs to be frozen as it churns, because that way, air is incorporated into the ice-cream, the ice crystals are broken up quickly, making the finished product creamy and light, instead of being one large ice block.
This ice-cream recipe, however, requires no ice-cream machine, no custard, and no egg yolks. Only a couple of ingredients, and a few hours of freezing time. No-churn ice-creams have become more and more popular over the years, simply because they are so easy to make, yet they still have a non-icy texture. The magic ingredient is, of course, the sweetened condensed milk. It replaces the cooked custard base, and when combined with the lush whipped cream, it will not solidify in the freezer, which is a problem lots of homemade ice-creams face.
This ice-cream is just like a frozen chocolate cheesecake, with rich Mascarpone, lots of cream, and a fantastic dark chocolate flavour. Mascarpone, because of its high fat content, will also help the ice-cream not solidify in the freezer. Remember to use a really good, dark chocolate bar, at least 70%, because the bitterness of the dark chocolate is there to balance the sweetness of the condensed milk, and the richness of the whipped cream.


Ingredients
200 grams sweetened condensed milk
250 ml heavy whipping cream
100 grams Mascarpone, softened
100 grams dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by melting the chocolate over low heat, or in the microwave, and setting it aside so it can cool down slightly. Take the Mascarpone out of the refrigerator, and place it into a large bowl so it can soften up just a tad, then pour in the sweetened condensed milk, and the vanilla, and gently fold everything through. You do not need to whisk this mixture, just a fold will do. In a separate, large bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cooled melted chocolate to the Mascarpone and sweetened condensed milk, and again fold it through. Finally, add in the whipped cream in a few additions.
Gently fold in about a third of the whipped cream into the condensed milk and chocolate. This will lighten the condensed milk batter, and make it easier to fold in the rest of the cream. Add in the rest of the whipped cream, and keep lightly folding it through until blended. If it at all looks odd, maybe with a few lumps or streaks, just keep softly folding, and it will transform into a smooth, silky, uniform batter. If only a few streaks of the cream remain, it is best to leave it at that moment, so you don’t deflate the ice-cream batter. Pour everything into a freezer-safe container, cover tightly with a lid, and place it in the freezer for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Serve with some additional chocolate flakes, or more melted chocolate. Yields 600 ml of ice-cream.

Author’s note: Keep the ice-cream in the freezer until serving, and use it within two weeks.