Thursday, June 28, 2012

Raspberry mousse cake

I never could understand why some people dreaded Mondays. I have been quite fond of them since I can remember. Early on, that meant that I would go to kindergarten and color to my heart's desire, then it was school (which I LOVED by the way), then work. 
Every Monday was a new beginning, new adventure for the week, until this past one.

I don't think I will hate Mondays, but now I can say that I have had a bad one.

So, I'm sitting nicely and trying to sort out my cooking books when one of them opened on a desserts page. Mousse! I love mousse. Fluffy, light and delicious. 
Couple of weeks ago, I was glancing through some blogs and the idea was born. It was the day for the Raspberry mousse cake to be made.

I gathered all of the ingredients, measured everything and started. So far, so good. No glitches, no hitches. I made the cake, stashed it in the fridge and I was pretending to watch TV. I use the TV only as a background noise, to drown the construction works going right, left and centre, but I had few hours to kill until the cake was set, so I can add the final touch, the chocolate topping. I stared at the TV with no purpose, read the online newspapers and 'killed' those couple of hours. Oh yeah, it was chocolate time!
So, I'm melting the chocolate (in the microwave) and seeing that the blasted chocolate chips aren't losing their form. Hmm, lemme check if they're still cold, maybe there's something wrong with the microwave.
BIIIIGGGG mistake! Touched one of the chocolate chips in the dish and in that very instant, I got me a blister on the left forefinger. That will teach me not to use short-cuts. Chocolate SHOULD be melted only in double boiler. Period.
So, I did the double boiler thingy and started stirring the chocolate with a little oil to cool it down. Then, the doorbell rung. OK, I said to myself, here goes another concerned citizen about the state of my soul. Lately, I've been plagued by people that claim that want to save my soul. 
I picked up the intercom and was ready to say 'no speak English', but then I heard familiar voice: 'Hiya, it's the vet!'
I had totally forgotten that Fluffy had to get his vaccine and Mikki (the cokatiel)  had to have her wing checked, as she was holding it on a strange angle.
I buzzed the vet in and left my bowl of chocolate on the counter top.
We had a little small talk before he got around the animals, Fluffy was fine, he was a very brave boy, didn't even blink when he gave him the needle. Mikki was a proper lady, a little scared, but not biting (which surprised the vet, as cokatiels are somewhat ferocious biters). The verdict was that she had broken her wing, but it will mend on its own. All righty... Paid the vet, saw him to the door and went back to my cake.

By the time I was back in the kitchen, the chocolate looked a lil' bit thick, but I really didn't feel like reheating it (hey, you can't blame me, it was 40 degrees Celsius in the house).

So, I poured the chocolate over the mouse and uh-oh... it wouldn't spread. 
After some unladylike behavior and bunch of profanities spewed at inanimate objects, I shoved the cake in the fridge and decided that Tuesday should roll out as soon as possible.

Several hours later.....


I woke up in a good mood, but the cake bit was bothering me. Opened the fridge, stared at the cake, no changes... lumpy chocolate covering. I sighed, made some oatmeal and while mindlessly eating it and staring into some of the ceiling patterns, I decided that dessert after breakfast is the new 'in'.

Took the PINK knife, poured some water over it and cut me a slice. I removed the lumpy mess of a chocolate and slid the spoon through the mousse. Like a hot knife through butter. 
It was a love at first bite! Yummylicious, delicious, everything wickedly -icious! 
So, the day went fine and after dinner, I offered Mr. F a slice of cake. He's not very keen on desserts, but he didn't find a fault. Yay me!


As usually, I spend the day reading, writing, doing some housework until dinner. Mr. F wanted spaghetti with 'surprise me' sauce, so I made for him, but I wasn't hungry, so I 'attacked' a peach. After taking the dishes to the sink, I couldn't believe what I heard:
'Do you still have a slice of that raspberry cake?' 
Mr. F ASKING for a cake!!! Second time in the history of our togetherness!


Despite the lack of aesthetics, I decided to share the recipe with you, hoping that you'll do the chocolate bit right. So, here it goes:

For 20cm cake mould you will need

1 small (store bought) Swiss roll

450 grams raspberries
70 grams sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
500 ml heavy cream
4 tsp gelatin granules

For the chocolate topping:

50 grams dark chocolate chips
2 tsp cooking oil


Cut the Swiss roll into thin slices (3-4mm thick). Line the bottom and the sides of the cake tin with the slices.
Puree the raspberries with a stick blender or in food processor. Pass the puree through a sieve to remove pips. You'll end up with about 350 ml of nice, pip-less puree.
In 1/3 of the puree, add the gelatin and let it stand for 5 minutes. In the remaining 2/3 add the lemon juice and sugar.
Heat the puree with gelatin on low flame, until the gelatin has melted. Add it to the rest of the puree and put it in the fridge until you whip the cream.
When the cream is nicely whipped, ad the raspberry puree and stir to combine. 
Pour into the cake tin and chill for at least 5 hours before you do the chocolate glazing.

For the chocolate topping, melt the chocolate in double boiler and add 2 tsp of cooking oil. Stir until cool and pour over the top of the cake. Spread evenly with a palette knife and return to the fridge until serving time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bite my... bagel!

Ah, New York! Home of the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge...
Home of millions of people, smells and flavors. Fusion of the old, new and ultra modern.
And you know what? I never been there *sad face*

I have seen one too many movies and documentaries back in the day to know the landmarks and I even went as far as asking native New Yorker how the city smells.

One of my favorite TV programs was taking place in New York, Ugly Betty. Now, Betty was far from ugly and she was very smart girl, so whenever her boss would feel angry or hungry, she would bring him a bagel. Cream cheese and onion one. 

I always wondered how bagels taste. You see, living in a world couple of worlds away from NY has some disadvantages. I just can't pop out and get me a bagel. In fact, I could, if I wanted a dreadful little thing called bagel, full of additives and heaven knows what. There's a place that brings frozen bagels and bakes them, but I'm not after that experience. In fact, I had tasted one of those and it was rather disappointing, so I rolled up my (proverbial) sleeves and set to make me a NY style bagels. And the adventure began....

I'm sitting nicely yesterday, mumbling about the heat and hating summer before it even (officially) started, and in a fit of sheer insanity, I decided to bake! 
It's not that I am a bad baker, mind you, but the thing is, the thermometer was about 37C or 98.6F if you will, and I'm not blasting the air conditioner just yet. Insanity, I know, there's no other word for it.

I made the dough and let it prove, it said you need to let it hang in the bowl for an hour. Yeah, no problem, I'll just play some mind numbing game on a social network and the time will pass soon enough, I said to myself.

It did pass fast enough and I was doing whatever I had scribbled in my little notebook, oven heated at 220C/425F, large pot of boiling water hissing at the stove, adding a couple of degrees to the overall heat and I'm profusely losing great percentage of my body water, but that didn't stop me. Despite the fact that I suffered moderately mild dehydration just few days ago.

So I did all things in order and put the first batch in the oven, happily baking. After some 10 minutes I went to peek through the oven glass and pouff! The oven light went off. Oh well, I shall call someone to change it, I made mental note. But then... it was too quiet... I couldn't hear the monster fan in the living room. That means two things then:

1. I made some booboo and cut the electricity supply
2. The electricity company made some booboo and we have national blackout

I went downstairs where the electricity meter is, opened the box and everything seemed fine. Then I heard Jane shouting out of the window, asking Mary if she has electricity, it was in the lines of: "Aww, Mariiii, ghandek dawl?" and Mary shouting back "Leeeee, m'ghandix!"
So, I put two and two together, or Jane and Mary in the case, and figured out that it is the number 2 on my possible scenarios. It might not have been national blackout, but good half of the island didn't have electricity. 

Well, that wasn't problem for my bagels, my oven is not running on electricity (one of the things I'm very grateful about), but it was not going to be very convenient to live in the house for the next couple of hours. Yeah... I'm "strange" allright... I DON'T have doors between the rooms. Of course, there's the front door, the door to the bathroom and the stairway door, but that's pretty much it. Doors make me feel restrained and I'm not the type that likes restraints. 

Long story short, I finished my bagels which came out divine, by the way, but the electricity was out for whole 4 1/2 hours... at the worst (read HOTTEST) part of the day. And now, I vented, said what I wanted to say, the only thing that is left to do is give you the recipe for

New York style bagels (with my twist, of course!)

Ingredients for 8 medium sized bagels:

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons of sugar
½ cups of warm water 
3 ½ cups (500g) of bread flour or high gluten flour
1 ½ teaspoons of salt

Little olive oil for greasing the baking sheet

Large pot of boiling water
2 tbsp honey

If you would like to use topping:
1 egg white
1 tbsp cold water

For (optional) topping you can use sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds... whatever tickles your fancy. I used poppy, sesame and nigella seeds.


In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for 5-6 minutes and then stir until it all dissolves in the water.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make well in the middle. Pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.

Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. 
It needs to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
Lightly brush a large bowl with some olive oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Let prove in a warm place for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and form a ball. Work it against smooth surface, so the ball would be seamless. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough and place them on lightly oiled baking sheet.
After shaping the dough, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into little flour and make a hole in the centre of each piece. Stretch the hole about 3cm (1 1/4 inch), and let them rest for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tbsp of honey in the boiling water and reduce the heat to simmer.
Use slotted spoon to drop the bagels in the water. Do not overcrowd them, they need their space. Let them boil for 1 minute on each side, or if you want the NY experience, make that 2 minutes on each side. Drain the water and place them on oiled sheet. If you want to use topping, make eggwash from 1 egg white and 1 tbsp of cold water. With a pastry brush apply the eggwash and then your chosen topping.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. The sound should be hollow when tapped at the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool down and enjoy! 
You can freeze them for up to 3 months.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Choco-mint cupcakes

Lately, I've been hung up on mint, like there's no tomorrow. (OK, besides my mint smokes. Bad, bad, bad Dijana.)
Out of the gazillion (and then some) cooking books around the house, I couldn't find one thing that appealed to me mint-wise, so I decided to experiment. 
Earlier in the day while running an errand, I took a quick turn to the supermarket and a bottle of green food coloring caught my eyes. Pretty, I thought, but then I do like green (a lot), so of course that green equals pretty. I picked up a couple of odd things and the tiny bottle with the green color too. What's better than having a minty idea and getting a bottle of green food color, eh?

Well, I still had bunch of errands to run, but I had about 2 hours to kill at home, so the choco-mint cupcakes were born. Oh so light, oh so fluffy, oh so delicious *HUGE smile*, oh so NOT green *sad, sad, sad face*.

However, the lack of 'greenery' didn't affect the taste, so it is worth sharing the recipe. I cannot stress enough, use your trusted brand of coloring, do not try new one just because it looks pretty.

For 6 cupcakes (regular size, or slightly smaller than regular) you will need:

50 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
50 grams of sugar
50 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 heaped tablespoon (unsweetened) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 teaspoon green food coloring (your trusted brand, NOT the one that looks pretty in the bottle)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Mix the flour with the baking soda and baking powder and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until amalgamated. Add the flour and then the milk while still beating.
When all is well amalgamated, divide equally between 2 bowls. Beat the cocoa powder and vanilla essence in one and the mint extract and the green food coloring in the other.
Line muffin tin with paper cases and spoon alternatively of both colors into the cases. With a toothpick, give a little swirl, but do not overdo it, it has to be green AND brown.
Bake 18-20 minutes (depending on your oven, or until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean).
Cool about hour or so before frosting, if you decide to frost them, although they're delicious even without the frosting.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Microwave made Strawberry jam

Sometimes I wonder if it's 'old' age catching up with me or it is simply the fact that I have too many things, that I'm getting forgetful. Scary thought, either way.
So, I'm rummaging through the fridge and searching for that blasted piece of cheese that I know I have and it pops out a whole box of strawberries! I had forgotten that I bought them!

I don't like wasting food, so I decided to see what can be saved. Out of 600 grams of strawberries, I managed to come up with 400 grams of a bit sad strawberries, but I wasn't in the mood to eat them. Looking through some magazines, I came upon a recipe for strawberry jam made in a microwave oven. Well, it was time to try it. I adjusted the quantities and I came up with a full jar and 2 teaspoons of pure delight.


400 grams of strawberries
55 ml lemon juice
300 grams jam sugar (or caster sugar)


Put the strawberries into a deep dish and put them in the microwave on high setting for 4 minutes. Remove them and add the sugar and the lemon juice. Make sure that the dish is really DEEP, as the melting sugar and the juices will rise.
Set the microwave oven to high and the timer to 20 minutes.
Voila! You've got yourself a strawberry jam! Pour into a sterilized jar, seal and let it cool completely. Refrigerate after it has cooled down. It won't last ages, as it doesn't have preservatives, but that's good for you :) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gluten free cupcakes (Almond cupcakes)


300 grams ground almonds

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoons of ground nutmeg

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons demarara sugar

5 large eggs

125 grams grated carrot

100 grams crushed pineapple

150g sultanas or raisins

handful of chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 170C

Whisk lightly by hand: the eggs, the oil and the sugar until they are completely combined.

In another bowl mix the almond with the spices, salt, carrots, dried fruit and nuts (if using).

Mix both together until thoroughly incorporated.

Place a tablespoons each of this mix into silicone muffin shapes: there should be exactly for 12.

Bake for around 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool

thoroughly (around an hour) and then smear with a cream cheese frosting: a mix of cream cheese and, if you like, icing sugar (or even sweetener: since there is no cooking involved it will keep its flavour). Decorate if you like.


If there's one thing I sincerely miss from my homeland, it would be pepper. Not the black pepper or the bell pepper or whatever. The one called 'banana pepper'. Subtle and mild taste, the lovely crunch and the yellow/green color. Oh, and the versatility!
In 12 or so years I have been living on this little rock, once only I found these peppers in supermarket. And that was it. Never again.

Just a couple of weeks ago, while shopping for fruit and vegetables, I found some green (bell) peppers that looked well, a bit strange. They were quite light of color and the flesh wasn't as thick. Got me a couple, I like throwing them into salads. Our summers aren't cook friendly.
So I was going through the fridge and thinking what to do for lunch, and then, I found my funny green peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow pepper. I decided to make my very favorite pepper dish, Pindjur (pronounced pin-joor for the English speaking world).
If peppers and tomatoes could dream, their dream would be to be made into pindjur. Yeah, it is THAT good. All you need is a piece of white (Feta style) cheese and some crusty bread. Forget forks, forget manners and dip your heart out. I know I did.
I'm not going to give you quantities and persons of number serving size, but there's a rule. The more-the better. Oh, and it tastes soooo lovely the day after... when all flavors have mixed.
The original recipe calls for the above mentioned 'banana' peppers, but nothing wrong with the regular green ones. 

3 large green peppers
1 large yellow pepper
1 large red pepper
1 chilli pepper (optional, for those that like it hot)
3 cloves of garlic 
4 large tomatoes
salt to taste
4 tbsp olive oil (any vegetable oil will do)


Roast the peppers in the oven until they have the skin blackened. Turn them several times, so they blister nicely on all sides. Close them in a plastic bag (or pot with lid) and let them cool down. Peel off the skin, remove the seeds and tear them into strips with your hands.
Cut up the tomatoes into small chunks and set aside.
In a mortar and pestle, ground the garlic with little salt into a paste. Add the pepper strips and pound and ground. Don't overdo it, you still need some texture. Add the tomatoes and continue pounding and grounding. 
Pour the contents into a deep dish and add salt to taste.
In a separate dish, pour the oil and bring it to sizzling point. Remove from heat and pour over the pindjur. Mix well. If you're using chilli, add thinly chopped chilli just before you add the oil.
Serve with crusty bread and a chunk of white cheese.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Persian rose water ice cream

For the fast version of this wonderful ice cream, you will need:

1 litre vanilla ice cream
1 pinch of saffron (about 100 micrograms)
1 tablespoon hot water
1 tablespoon rose water
4-5 tablespoon shelled and chopped pistachios


Let the ice cream soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Mix the saffron in the hot water and add to the ice cream.
Add the rose water and pistachios and mix well to combine.
Return to the freezer for 3-4 hours before serving.
Scatter some chopped pistachios on top and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glutton's Heaven (aka Chocolate zucchini cake)

I had prepared a long rant before I wanted to share the recipe. Now, it is all forgotten.
Why, you ask?
Let me tell you why.
Because I just ate a slice of what seems the most wonderful cake in heaven, hell, Earth, Middle Earth and the Universe, that’s why.
I’m in glutton’s heaven and the world is at peace. Birds are chirping, the breeze is swaying the curtains and wonderful smell of spices fills my house.
Because I’m up to my elbows covered in cocoa, chocolate and spices.
Because I was able to forget my troubles for blissful couple of minutes and enter a different dimension, preceded by explosion of flavours on my tongue. A feast for all senses allright. Almost, just almost as good as s*x.
And now, I’m not going to taunt you, but will share the recipe for:

Chocolate zucchini cake

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup of light muscovado sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup of yogurt
2 cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of espresso powder
2 cups of  grated zucchini
½ cup of dark chocolate chips (70% cocoa)
seeds of 6 cardamom pods, ground with a mortar and pestle
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients for the ganache:

1 cup of heavy cream
1 ½ cup of chocolate chips
generous knob of butter at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease your baking pan and dust with cocoa. Shake the excess.  In a bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the oil, sugar & vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined. Stir in the yogurt alternately with the flour mix. Then add the cocoa and espresso powder and the spices, mixing well until smooth.
At the end, fold in the zucchini and the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the baking dish. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden skewer or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the dish and transfer the cake on a wire rack.  Cool for hour or so before pouring the ganache.
To prepare the ganache, scald the cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and pour in the chocolate chips. Stir until completely combined and glossy. Add the knob of butter and let it cool.

Monday, June 4, 2012

...Let me play among the stars

I sincerely cannot explain my fascination with stars. Not the people that we call stars, but the real deal and the geometrical shape.
Every time I talk on the phone (usually with my mother, as those calls are really, really long), I have piece of paper and a pen and doodle stars and hearts. Maybe it's the child in me, never wanting to grow up, attracted to all things cute, shiny and pretty.
So, when I got a baking magazine and found a recipe for star shaped cakes, that day, my world was complete.
The recipe is adapted from 'Baked & Delicious'.
If you don't have little star shapes, you can always make cupcakes :)

Espresso flavored star-spangled bites

Ingredients for the sponges

50g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
95ml milk
2 tsp espresso (or any instant coffee granules)
2 tbsp hot water
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the buttercream

50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk
a few drops vanilla essence


Star shaped silicone mini moulds


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
Put the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and beat to fine crumb consistency with electric whisk. Pour in half of the milk and beat until just combined.
Dissolve the coffee granules with 2 tbsp of hot water. Add the coffee, egg and vanilla to the remaining milk and whisk together. Pour this mixture into the batter and mix until smooth.
Use a teaspoon to fill the moulds. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until the tops are springy to the touch.
There should be enough batter to make 36 stars.

For the buttercream, beat the butter with electric whisk until fluffy and light. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar, milk and vanilla essence. Beat until pale and creamy.

Cool the star-spangled bites on a wire rack for about 50-60 minutes and then spread or pipe some buttercream and decorate as you wish.