Sunday, November 3, 2013

Butter cookies with mastic and almonds

A couple of months ago I took a short trip to the island of Bozcaada (or Tenedos in Greek). I say short trip, thanks to traffic it took about 10 hours to get there and another 10 hours to get back so it felt like a very long trip. The island was scenic and beautiful, but as always the most memorable element in my mind is the food I ate. And this included, among some delicious sea bass, these mastic butter cookies. They were sold at this tiny little bakery and they were so popular that there was a large queue of people buying them in multiples of 10 when we arrived in the morning. I decided to buy 10 as well to take back to my family, but they were so warm and tasty that I devoured half of them in about 5 mins. I am not ashamed to say that there were only a couple left by the time I got back home (maybe I am a little ashamed). 

Anyway, I've been meaning to make them ever since I got back. I finally got around to buying the mastic and got some free time on my hands, so I decided to get down to it. My advice is to eat while they're warm!

Ingredients (makes about 35 cookies):
2/3 cup almonds (or other nuts)
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup icing sugar (plus additional to powder the cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of mastic (also sold as gum arabic or acacia gum)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Place the almonds on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or until dark and crunchy. Grind in food processor until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Separately grind the mastic to powder.

Beat the icing sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Separately mix together the flour, salt and mastic. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar butter mixture. Stir in the chopped almonds and mix until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Cover the baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll the dough into small pieces (2cm wide) and place a few centimetres apart on the tray. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are brown. When the cookies have cooled slightly, about 5-10 mins later, powder the tops with icing sugar and serve when still warm (preferably).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chocolate and coffee cupcakes

These deceptively pink chocolate-coffee cupcakes (pink velvet?) are my favourite cupcakes. Moist chocolate cake + coffee buttercream topping = delicious and perfect for any occasion. I recently got the idea to start adding messages to them after hours of trawling through pictures of cupcakes on Pinterest revealed just how much human effort has been spent on trying to make cupcakes look nice. I decided it would provide a good (and easier) alternative to birthday cake, and it did as illustrated below.

For the coffee buttercream:
230 grams icing sugar
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 tsps instant coffee
Food colouring, optional

Using a mixer, cream the butter and beat in the sugar until soft and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee in 2 tablespoons of hot water and mix into the buttercream until well blended. Mix in the food colouring if using any. If the buttercream is too soft you can add additional icing sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

For the cupcakes:
50 grams cocoa powder
1 cup strongly brewed hot coffee
175 grams flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
200 grams granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Stir together the coffee and the cocoa powder in a bowl, making sure that the cocoa powder fully dissolves. Let cool to room temperature. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa-coffee mixture and stir until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Fill the batter into paper muffin cups and bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool.
Once they have cooled you can pipe the buttercream on top. I used the Wilton 2D tip.

source: joy of baking

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No-bake chocolate banana almond cake pops

One of the earliest desserts I learnt to make was the chocolate salami. Although this is apparently a Portugese dessert by origin, it is an incredibly popular dessert in Turkey (we call it "mosaic cake" due to the tiled appearance of the biscuits on each slice). This may be partly due to the ease of making the dessert, which essentially requires no baking and little preparation time. Hence me having learnt it at an early age.

These cake pops are essentially a different presentation form of the chocolate salami. If you so wish, you could follow the recipe below, shape it into a giant salami, roll it into plastic wrap, freeze, and serve as slices. The cake pops just make it seem like more of a fun dessert, that's all (obviously the decoration also helps in that department). An advantage of this dessert is that customisation is very easy - I've added bananas and almonds but those could easy be complemented/replaced by raisons/raspberries/walnuts etc.

300g biscuits (the Turkish version uses petit beurre biscuits but you could just as easily use cookies/graham crackers/digestives or anything else you like)  
1 cup milk
3 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 cup almonds
2 large bananas
Shredded coconuts, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and food colouring to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and roast the almonds on greaseproof paper for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Roughly chop the almonds to pieces.
2. Slice the bananas into small pieces. Break the biscuits into small pieces without reducing them to crumbs. 
3. Melt the butter. Transfer the melted butter to a large bowl, add the biscuits, milk, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, almonds and bananas. Mix them together well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cinnamon date rolls

I don't know if it's just me, but whenever I go travelling I become overcome by the desire to buy everything that I might vaguely want, in the misguided fear that I might never get to opportunity to do so again. I learnt early on that this results in a lot of clutter back home, not to mention the amount of money wasted due to the difficulty of getting to grips with foreign currency. These days I try to limit myself, except in the case of food of course. So it should not come as a surprise that in a recent trip to Iran I bought, among other things, 5 boxes of dates (I justified them as gifts, although I ended up gifting the majority to myself), and had so much trouble closing my suitcase that I was worried I would have to wear all my clothes to reduce luggage.

I also bought other sweets, dried fruits and saffron, which I have brought back from so many countries I might start a global saffron collection. I was told everything was much cheaper, although it's difficult to gauge the value currency when you are haggling so who knows whether it was really worth it.

All I know is that I have to consume all of these things somehow. So the first thing I did was make cinnamon date rolls. They were delicious, especially when warm. You can also serve them with icing, but they are sweet enough to just eat as is.

For the dough:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (7 grams) package instant yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 egg

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
20-25 dates, sliced into chunks

1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it boils. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, dates and softened butter.
4. Roll out dough until it is 1cm thick. Spread dough with butter/sugar/cinnamon/date mixture. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 1 inch thick rolls and place on baking tray couple of inches apart to allow for additional space for them to rise. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm!

original recipe:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Buttermilk pancakes

I realise Shrove Tuesday was over 2 months ago, but I have a busy schedule so I had to delay to pancake making somewhat. But I've made these on a Tuesday so I think it still counts. I usually make crepes but these are traditional American style pancakes, complete with maple syrup. What makes them especially delicious is that they are buttermilk pancakes, although in fact I couldn't find buttermilk and just substituted with yoghurt, so you can do the same if you don't have buttermilk handy.

Ingredients (makes 9-12 pancakes):
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or yoghurt)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

Extra melted butter to grease the pan

Mix together all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Then mix them all together until just combined, do not overmix (it's normal for the batter to have small lumps). Grease the pan with a small amount of melted butter, and heat it. When the pan is sufficiently hot, add a tablespoon of the batter and spread it so it is not too thick (the inside will not cook if it is). You should cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until both sides are browned.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chocolate plastic roses

This was surprisingly one of the easiest things to make, except it was a little time-consuming because you have to mould each petal individually. Also you can't play with them for too long because the thin wafer of chocolate starts to melt. I made it for cupcakes but I think it would actually make more sense to make one big rose and use it as a cake decoration, to cut down on the amount of time spent.

200g dark chocolate (I used couverture)
1/3 corn syrup/honey

1. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler, and stir in the corn syrup or honey. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You can also store it for longer if you do not need to use it immediately.
2. When you are ready to use it, take it out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for about 15mins or until it becomes soft enough to be pliable.
3. To start with make a small ball of chocolate which will become the core of the rose. Then take a small bit of the chocolate, put it inside some greaseproof paper (folding the greaseproof paper onto itself) and roll it out on top of paper so you are not actually coming in contact with the chocolate itself. Then unwrap it from the paper (if it has become too soft then simply put it in the fridge for about 5 mins until it hardens) and mould it into a petal shape with your fingers. Before you shape it you may need to cut it so it is the right size for the petal.
4. Once you've shaped the petal curve it around the little ball of plastic you made earlier. Keep making petals and attaching them on until your rose reaches the desired size.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Experiments with buttercream

A while ago, I bought Wilton 1M and 2D icing nozzles and have been dying to try them out. After about 6 months of procrastinating, I went crazy and all at once tried to make 3 different things. I started out with some chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream (you can see the tiny vanilla seeds in the decoration):

I then followed this up with chocolate chiffon cake, with coffee buttercream:

Then finally I made 2 large batches of chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream:

The first two were made with the 1M tip, and the final one with the 2D tip. The swirl and the rose respectively. I am now waiting to try out the Wilton 104 when I have the time.