21 April 2017

PAIN AU LAIT

It is really hard to resist a roll of freshly baked bread, warm and straight from the oven; especially when it is made with milk and butter. I love pain au lait because it is a very rich bread, despite not having no eggs or no yolks. Rich dough, made with butter, sugar and whole milk, ensures a tender crumb, and a very slightly golden, crunchy surface with a beautifully soft texture. Serve them warm, with your favourite jam and tea.

Pain au lait tinascookings.blogspot.com

Ingredients
350 grams plain flour
150 ml whole milk
1 ½ teaspoon dried yeast
30 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt
60 grams butter, soft
1 egg
milk, for brushing

Preparation
Mix together the warm milk and yeast in a small bowl, along with a teaspoon of the sugar, then set it aside for five to ten minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift the flour twice into a large bowl, add the sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Dice the softened butter and add it to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until there are no lumps of butter left. The mixture should resemble somewhat wet sand. When the yeast is ready, make a well in the centre of the flour, pour it in, add the slightly beaten egg and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to form. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. If the dough sticks to the surface or to your hands too much, add a bit of flour and keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place it in a large bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Gently turn the dough out on a work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. You can weigh the dough and divide by weight if you want to be more precise. Take each piece of dough, fold the edges into the centre, then roll it on the work surface into a smooth ball shape. Using your palms, roll each piece into a cylindrical shape. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper and cover them with a tea towel and let them rest and rise for another 30 minutes. Just before baking, cut them across with a sharp knife and brush them with some milk. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for about 12-15 minutes.

14 April 2017

EASTER EGG CAKE

Easter is one of the most festive events in the Christianity. It is actually the greatest feast in the Christian calendar. So what better way to sweeten up your Easter lunch, then with cake. And what is even better, an Easter egg cake. To be honest, it gets even better, because it is a no-bake cake, and it has chocolate, and pâte de fruits.
If you wish so, you can use some roughly chopped toasted almonds, too. It takes about half an hour to make the cake, an hour in the refrigerator, and you can serve it. And if Easter is a public holiday where you live, you can use the free time to whip up this lovely cake to enjoy with friends and family! Happy Easter!


Ingredients
For the cake
250 grams unsalted butter, softened
200 grams icing sugar, sifted
100 grams dark chocolate
500 grams vanilla cookie crumbs
150 grams ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
100 ml fresh orange juice
200 grams pâte de fruit
100 grams rosewater Turkish delight, optional
For the decoration
400 ml heavy whipping cream, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons icing sugar
assorted food colouring


Preparation
Start by melting the dark chocolate in a double-boiler, or in the microwave. Melt it slowly until smooth and uniformed, then remove it from the heat, and let it cool down. Take a large bowl, and add in the softened butter. Sift in the icing sugar, and start beating with an electric mixer on high, for about 2-3 minutes. It should be smooth and creamy, and slightly lighter in colour. Basically, it should resemble a smooth and thick buttercream. By this time, the chocolate you melted in the beginning should be cool enough to be added to the butter. Add it to the buttercream in a few additions, constantly beating with an electric mixer on high. Add in the vanilla, and the rum, and blend well.
At this point, switch to a wooden spoon, or a really sturdy spatula. Add in half of the cookie crumbs, ground toasted hazelnuts, pâte de fruits, and the rosewater Turkish delight (if using), and mix everything thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add in half of the orange juice, and mix well. Tip in the rest of the cookie crumbs, and the rest of the orange juice, and mix well. At this point, if the mixture is too thick to stir, gently knead it with your hands, as you would knead a bread dough. The cake batter should be thick enough to hold its shape on its own, but not dry. If your cookie crumbs were dry, you might need a bit more of orange juice.


Take a cake platter of your choice, and gradually build the shape of the egg in the centre. Continue to smooth out and shape the cake until you are satisfied with the final shape, then place it in the refrigerator for about an hour. While the cake is firming up, pour the chilled whipping cream into a large glass bowl, add in the vanilla, and the icing sugar, and beat with an electric mixer on high, until soft peaks form.
Divide it into two parts, one larger, and one smaller - for the egg cake, and for the grass decor. Add in the food colouring of your choice for the egg, and whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the green colour for the grass and do the same. Using a small offset spatula, cover the egg with the cream, and smooth it out as much as you can. Use a small grass tip (Wilton 233), and pipe the grass around the egg. Return the whole cake into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Yields 8 servings.
Baker's note: You can decorate the cake further with some gold lustre dust, or tiny sugar flowers.

07 April 2017

INSALATA CAPRESE PASTRIES

These little canapés are bursting with flavour. Fresh ripe tomatoes, basil, and rich buffalo mozzarella cheese in a golden flaky pastry, almost reminiscent of puff pastry. An excellent finger food or any gathering, for sure. If tomatoes are in season, use the fresh ones, they have much more flavour than the canned ones.
But, if there are not any fresh tomatoes available for you, you can use the ones from a can, just make sure to strain them really well, because otherwise you can end up with too much liquid in the filling. Ideally, use fresh buffalo mozzarella, as well as fresh Ricotta cheese, for the maximum richness of the dough, and of the filling. If you wish, you can even use extra virgin olive oil, it can only make these golden parcels even tastier.



Ingredients
For the pastries
200 grams plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams Ricotta
150 grams butter, softened
For the filling
150 grams tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch)
3 tablespoons water
100 grams buffalo mozzarella, torn finely


Preparation
First make the Caprese filling, because it is a cooked filling, and it will take some time to cool down. Peel the tomatoes, and remove as much of the seeds as possible, then dice them. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the tomatoes and cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, and the tomatoes have cooked down. Add the seasoning, and be careful not to add too much salt. Finally, take a small bowl and mix together the cornflour and cold water; add it to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Remove it from the heat and let it cool down, then add the finely torn buffalo mozzarella, and mix gently. This way, there will still be some tiny pieces of mozzarella not fully melted after baking. Set the filling aside.
For the pastry, take a large bowl and beat the softened butter with the Ricotta, with an electric mixer on high, until well blended. Gradually sift in the flour and the baking powder, still beating well with an electric mixer on low, after each addition. The dough should be very soft, but not sticky. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface, then roll the dough gently to about 3-4 millimeters. Take a medium (7.5 cm; 3") cookie cutter, and cut out thin rounds of dough. Take the scraps and re-roll them on a floured surface until you make 25 rounds of dough in total. Take a round of dough and place a small portion of the filling in the centre, then fold the dough circle in half and pinch it to seal it well. Repeat with all of the dough rounds. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake them in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F), for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Yields 25 pastries.

31 March 2017

COTTAGE CHEESE HAND PIES

This has to be one of my favourite quick meals. Puffy, golden pastry parcels, filled with fresh cottage cheese and yogurt. Fantastic as a quick dinner or a picnic meal. These little rolls are great for parties, as well, because they transport very well, and they are great as canapés.
You need to be careful with the amount of salt, and take into consideration how salty the cheese is. Taste the cheese before you start mixing everything, and salt it to taste, just to be sure you do not overdo it. Serve these parcels with sour cream dipping sauces, spicy sauces, or even salsa!

Filo pastry & cheese pie recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

Ingredients
15 sheets filo pastry
500 grams fresh cottage cheese
3 medium eggs
200 grams plain yogurt
60 ml vegetable oil
100 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
60 ml sparkling mineral water
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sparkling mineral water

Preparation
Place the cottage cheese in a large bowl, and mix it with an electric mixer on medium, until creamy and smooth. Add in the eggs, and salt, and blend on high until completely incorporated. Add the yogurt and oil, and blend once again. Once the mixture is creamy, sift in the flour and the baking powder, and blend really well. Finally, pour in the mineral water and mix the batter by hand until smooth. It may seem like it is not going to blend, but keep mixing gently until it comes together. Reserve two tablespoons of the batter, and spread the filo sheets on the work surface.
Spread a portion of the batter on the pastry, roll it up (jelly roll style) starting from the long edge, then coil it around until you get a spiral. You can also fold the rolled up pastry into thirds and make longer pieces. Place the rolled up piece into a large pan, seam side down, and continue until you use up all of the ingredients. Once everything is rolled up and arranged in the pan, take the reserved batter, mix it well with the oil and mineral water, then generously brush each rolled piece of pastry in the pan. Bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 190˚C (375˚F), for 30-35 minutes, or until puffy and golden. Serve warm. Yields 6 servings.

24 March 2017

RED VELVET CAKE TRIFLE FOR TWO

Trifles are a great way to serve dessert if you do not wish to make a classic cake. All of the ingredients are there, all of the layers are there, but everything is neatly stored in a single bowl. This makes trifles also great for picnics and gatherings.
The lovely red velvet cake is generously sprinkled with the rum syrup, then layered with the cream cheese filling. If you do not wish to use rum, omit it, and go for the simplest simple syrup - it will keep the cake crumbs moist in the same fashion as rum syrup would.

Red velvet cake trifle recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

Ingredients
For the red velvet cake
150 grams butter
150 grams granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
3 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons red food colouring
150 grams plain flour
For the rum simple syrup
50 grams granulated sugar
60 ml cold water
2 teaspoons dark rum
For the cream cheese filling
150 grams cream cheese, room temperature
50 grams icing sugar, sifted
100 ml heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preparation
Dice the butter and add it to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat, add in the sugar, and the sifted cocoa powder, then mix and melt until combined and smooth. It will seem dry at one point, but that is fine, as soon as the butter starts melting, it will blend very well. Once melted, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Crack the eggs in separate bowls, then add them to the melted butter, one at a time, whisking well after each. This will prevent scorching the eggs.
Finally, add in the buttermilk, food colouring, and the sifted flour and gently fold it through only until you can no longer see patches of flour. You do not want to overmix the batter. Take a small loaf pan (9x5"), lightly grease it, then line it with baking paper. Pour in the batter, smooth it as much as possible, then bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 20-25 minutes. Since every oven is slightly different, check it with a toothpick to make sure it doesn’t overbake. Once baked, remove it from the oven, then let it cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the cream cheese filling, place the room temperature cream cheese in a medium bowl, and whisk it briefly with a wire whisk. Add in the icing sugar, and blend well. Since the quantities are small, you do not need an electric mixer, a wire whisk will be perfect. In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, then gently fold it in the cream cheese mixture.
For the rum syrup, combine the granulated sugar and the water in a medium saucepan, and place it over medium high heat. Cook, gently stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then continue to cook without stirring, until the mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove it from heat, and stir in the rum. Let it cool to room temperature before using.
Crumble the cooled cake into a large bowl, then sprinkle the chilled rum syrup over the cake crumbs. Do not use too much syrup, only until the crumbs are moistened. Layer the crumbs and filling into a medium trifle bowl, starting and finishing with the cake crumbs. Place plastic wrap over the top, and let the trifle sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, then serve. Yields 2 generous servings.
Baker’s note: The cream cheese filling is not overly sweet, so if you like your desserts on the sweeter side, feel free to increase the amount of icing sugar.