Lemon & Elderflower Bundt Cake #BundtBakers

Thursday, April 17, 2014


We are off to Athens today to spend Easter with family and to start looking for an apartment for our move there in the summer.

And talking about Greece...

Have you seen the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? There is a scene towards the middle, when the two families meet. The Potrokalos family had prepared a feast and were barbecuing all kinds of meats on their house's front yard, dancing and drinking, when the groom's parents arrive. The in-laws meet each other for the first time and Ian's mother presents to Maria her gift...a bundt cake. The exuberant Greek mother-in-law didn't understand what a bundt was and kept asking until a relative told her that it's a cake. She graciously accepted it and turned to leave saying "there is a hole in this cake". Then she went ahead and put a small potted plant in the hole! That's my favourite scene in the whole movie. I laugh my socks off every time I watch it. 

To tell you the truth up until I watched the movie -and looked up this bundt cake thing immediately after we left the theatre- I had no idea what it was. A cake with a hole in the middle. I remember my mother making a vanilla and cocoa marble cake like that in a special pan which had a tube and left a hole through the centre of the cake, but she didn't have a special name for it. It was just a cake, a yummy cake with a hole. 

Why am I telling you all these? Because I joined a new group of lovely bloggers who love Bundt cakes so much that they decided to gather and each month post recipes of their favourite Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. 
BundtBakers

This month it is Tara from Noshing with the Nolands who chose the very appropriate theme - Easter.


Easter means so many different things to me. When I was young my mother, sister and I went to church almost every afternoon during the Holy Week. I cannot say we were always ecstatic about going but at the end the spirituality of the special masses performed during the Holy Week got to us and we were willing to fast until Easter Sunday without too many complaints. To be honest though, the promise that on Easter Sunday a huge feast of roasted lamb on a spit as well as cheese pies and many other sweet and savoury delicacies were waiting for us always had a pivotal role to us playing along with the fasting and church-going.


Easter is also about Spring, nature's awakening from its winter hibernation. Fortunately for us here in Southern Europe the winter has't been very harsh, and Spring came quite early. The lemon and orange trees are in full bloom and it so pleasant to be outside!


That is why I chose to make a Lemon Bundt Cake as my first bake for this group. The recipe is from one of my favourite chefs, Donna Hay. It is very easy to make, as are most of her recipes anyway, and it is lemony enough to counter the richness of the traditional Greek Easter Sunday meal. I added a few tablespoons of elderflower cordial to the lemon and sugar icing, a homage to this beautiful aromatic flower that blooms just about now. It is an old time favourite from the years I spent in England. I loved it's delicate white flower yet slightly sour nose and I think it worked perfectly with the lemon in this cake.


For more information on the #BundtBakers and how you can join in the Bundt Baking fun please scroll down below the recipe.
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Lemon and Elderflower Bundt Cake
Adapted from "Fast, Fresh, Simple" by Donna Hay
Serves 10
Ingredients for the cake
3/4 cup (180ml) coconut oil
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup (280gr) Greek yoghurt
1 3/4 cup (385gr) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
Ingredients for the Lemon - Elderflower Icing
1 cup (120gr) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice 
3 tablespoons Elderflower Cordial

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Place the coconut oil, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, yoghurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine them. 
  3. Sift over the them the flour and stir gently until they combine and the mixture becomes smooth. 
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased 9.5 in /24 cm bundt cake pan and bake for 35 minutes. Test to see if it has cooked by inserting a skewer into. If it come out clean the cake is done. 
  5. While the cake is still hot remove it from the pan and place it on a plate.
  6. Make the frosting. Stir gently together the sugar, lemon juice and elderflower cordial. Spoon the frosting over the cake and allow it to set.  


BundtBakers

#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme.  You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Group here 

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. 

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email to Stacy at foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com or click on our Bundt Bakers badge above or the on my sidebar. This is a purely administrative group.  All recipes and photographs can be found on our individual blogs or our Pinterest board.

Check out what the rest of the #BundtBakers baked this month:
 Happy Easter!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies II

Monday, April 14, 2014


It's time for another gluten free cookie recipe from The Ultimate Gluten Free Cookie Book

If you've been following along, you know that I'm in the middle of a series of posts, baking and photographing my way through all 125 gluten free cookie recipes from Robyn Ryberg's "The Ultimate Gluten-Free Cookie Book".

You can find the recipes for all the cookies I've baked so far here and why not, subscribe via email to receive regular updates and don't miss a recipe.


This one is another chocolate chip cookie.

If you ask me, one can never have enough recipes for chocolate chip cookies. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to the deliciousness of chocolate chip cookies. It has everything. From double and triple chocolate chips, to filled with creamy butterscotch and dreamy nutella.

And now I am going to add another one!


This gluten free version of a classic chocolate chip cookie is made with sorghum flour and butter.

Now, if you are new to gluten free baking you might have never used sorghum flour before and that is OK. Sorghum is one of the "lesser" known gluten free flours in Europe even though it has been used in Africa and Asia for centuries. In India it is known as Jowar and is most commonly used to make a thin unleavened bread/pancake called roti that can be served plain or with chopped onions, spices and herbs. In Africa, sorghum is a staple food for millions of people living in the vast arid planes in the north and central part of the continent. It is very resilient and can survive in harsh environments where other grains do not grow well.

Even though we say that sorghum is a grain, it is actually a type of grass like the grass that grows in parks and uncultivated fields. This bright green plant has tall stalks with grains at the end that look like wheat but this is as far as its resemblance to wheat goes because sorghum is gluten free and its kernels are always ground whole giving a flour that is high in fibre, rich in protein, B vitamins and fat.


Enough with the education. Let's talk about the cookies....

They were so different from the ones I posted two weeks ago! Those had a light, subtle quality. You took a bite and the first thing that crossed your mind was to cuddle with a cup of hot milk, a blanket and a book for the rest of the day. These ones here are different. There is more punch to them that meets the eye. The taste is rich, forceful and buttery. Yes there is butter in them, nevertheless, I think, it is its combination with whole grain sorghum flour that makes their union bring out so remarkably well the rustic feel and taste of these cookies.

It is strange, but after making and tasting both recipes, I think I have experienced the yin and yang of the chocolate chip cookie world!


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Chocolate Chip Cookies II
Adapted from "The Ultimate Gluten-Free Cookie Book" by Roben Ryberg
Makes about 25 cookies


Ingredients
1/3 cup (65 gr) coconut oil
2 tablespoons (30 gr) butter
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
1 cup (135 gr) sorghum flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xantham gum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (160 gr) semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

Lightly grease a cookie tray.

Like all the other cookies I've baked so far from this book, these also follow the same method: Mix the fat with the sugar before adding flour and mixing again very, very well. Roben says that this step is critical for making cookies that are moist and last longer.

Combine the coconut oil, butter and the sugar in a medium bowl and beat well. Add the sorghum flour and beat very well for at least 5 minutes.

Add all the remaining ingredients and beat again. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. Gently, stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be soft.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough (it is quite sticky don't worry) onto your prepared tray. Wet your fingertips and press the cookies to 0.5cm/0.25inch thickness. I found that the thinner I made the cookies the crispier they became.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Let them cool on a wire rack before serving them.

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Quiche Maraîchère #FrenchFridayswithDorie

Friday, April 11, 2014


Quiche and I go way back. It was the first "gourmet" recipe I ever cooked for a boy. A rich, eggy Quiche Lorraine with a green salad on the side and a bottle of white wine was the romantic dinner I had planed for us. The quiche turned out great; its smell divine; but the boyfriend never turned up to eat it! He stood me and my quiche up and I blamed the quiche for that. Don't ask me why. There is no way to even begin to decipher the machinations of my 18 year old mind. I just know that I tossed it in the garbage bin, took the wine and left town. OK I am being somewhat dramatic here but I did leave town to go to our beach house and nurse my broken heart well and I did throw the quiche away without even tasting it!  


Fortunately this catastrophic first encounter was not enough to make me hate quiche. That would have been a blasphemy for a foodie like me because it is an incredibly flavourful savoury pastry. Incredibly flavourful and incredibly rich with a savoury custard made from eggs and cheese poured over ham, seafood or vegetables enclosed in a crispy shell of shortcrust pastry. In an ideal world I could eat quiche everyday. 

Now after so many years, quiche has became synonymous with pick-nicks at the park and dinner parties with good friends. And it is not so difficult to make, as my 18-year-old self wanted me to believe. The only part that needs some attention is the preparation of the shortcrust pastry or Pâte Brisée. And that is only for the first couple of times, because once you get the hang of mixing flour and butter with your fingers and kneading it gently to become a soft dough there is nothing really to stop you from making quiche everyday, except maybe your cholesterol. Yes, the sad, sad truth is that a true quiche carries MANY calories between its crispy bottom and its creamy filling. There are at least 3 eggs and loads of heavy cream and even more cheese (Gruyère or Comté) so, um.. yeah.. it is not an everyday indulgence. Unless of course you are French and come with a built-in mechanism that stops you eating when you have reached the minimum daily allowance of calories - in this case after the second forkful. 

 

So yes, this week's recipe for our French Fridays with Dorie cooking group is a quiche. But the Quiche Maraîchère (p.158), is not a typical quiche. It is a vegetable quiche or to be more precise a quiche overflowing with vegetables. It has leeks, celery and red peppers but it doesn't have so much custard. I could say that it is a "lighter" version of the original. 

I made my version of Dorie's quiche even lighter, using almond milk instead of heavy cream and skipping the cheese completely (I just grated a small piece of  Kasseri on the baked quiches to make them look nicer for the photo). 


Instead of making Pâte Brisée for the tart shell, I used some left-over flan pastry or pâte à foncer I had in the freezer. It was enough to make one 20cm tart and 3 baby tarts. Pâte à foncer is less delicate than pâte brisée but has a crisper texture. 


I filled the baby quiches with a few teaspoons of the quiche filling, after I had it fried in a pan like a mini omelette.


I have to admit that I was a little sceptical about the presence of the celery in the vegetable filling. Leeks and peppers are both very acceptable quiche ingredients but I have categorised celery as a soup vegetable. I know it is completely arbitrary and makes no sense because celery goes pretty much with everything but well there you have it. 


I was wrong, off course,  because celery worked amazing with the other two to give an extra savouriness to the quiches. 


The recipe was a huge success. Even in its "lighter" version it was full of flavour and lovely textures. You can find Dorie's original recipe for Quiche Maraîchère at Bookpage and to check how my fellow Doristas liked this recipe click here.
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Quiche Maraîchère 
Adapted from "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6 

Ingredients for the flan pastry - pâte à foncer -  (makes about 2, 20cm tart shells)
250 gr flour
125 gr butter, at room temperature, slightly softened and cut into small pieces
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 ml cold water
Ingredients for the quiche filling
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
1 leek, thinly sliced, only the white and light green parts
1/2 red pepper, or 1 if it is small, cored, seeded and finely diced
2/3 cup almond milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
50 gr cheese, grated

Instructions
Preheat oven to 190C/370F.

Lightly grease a 20 cm tart pan (fluted or straight).

Put the flour on the work surface. Make it look like a mountain and then make a well in the centre. Put the  butter, egg, sugar and salt in the well and start creaming them with your fingertips.

Little by little pull the flour into the well and work the dough until it becomes grainy in texture. Add the cold water, little by little, until the dough starts to hold together.

Knead the dough gently until it becomes smooth. Roll the pastry into a ball and wrap it with cling film. Put it in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes or until you are ready to use it.

When you are ready to use it, roll it with a lightly floured rolling pin (I used the plastic rolling pin I use to roll out fondant from Wilton), on a lightly floured surface, to a 3 mm thickness. Make sure that you turn it over frequently. You might have to re-flour the surface.

Transfer the dough to the tart pan and ease it in. Trim off any excess pastry with a knife or by rolling the pin over the tin. Prick the pastry with a fork in several places. Chill the dough in the fridge before baking it for at least 1 hour.

Line the tart pan with baking paper and fill it with ceramic baking beans to weight the pasty down so that it doesn't rise.

Bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and the paper and return the tart to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes. Allow the tart shell to cool before you fill it.

Heat the oil in a medium pan. Add the vegetables and cook stirring for about 10 minutes until they are tender. Season and put them into a bowl to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and put the half baked tart shell on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Spread the cooked vegetables into the tart shell.

Whisk the egg and egg yolk with the milk, season them and pour them carefully over the vegetables. Be careful not to put too much custard. Let it stand for a few minutes and then see if you can add a little more.

Slide the filled tart onto the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until it is baked and set.

Transfer the quiche to a rack and let it cool before you serve it.

Cook's Notes:

  • The pâte à foncer pasttry can be kept, wrapped with cling film, in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • If you want to make the baby quiches use small tart moulds (around 4 - 6 cm). Butter them very well and line them with dough. Prick them with a fork. Chill them for at least 1 hour. Carefully line them with parchment paper and fill them with rice before you bake them. Bake them for 15 minutes, remove the paper and rice and bake them again for 5 - 10 minutes until they are golden and fully baked. 
  • To fill the baby quiches: Cook the quiche filling in a frying pan. Let it cool and then fill the baby tart shells with one or two teaspoons of the filling and grate some cheese over them.
  • If you don't have ceramic baking beans you can use different types of pulses (dried white beans, rise).
  • If you use beans or rice you will not be able to cook them after but you can use them for baking for a long time.

Visitandine Mini Cakes #FrenchFridayswithDorie

Saturday, April 5, 2014


My brain has been a little foggy these past few days. In the mornings I open my eyes, get out of bed, put my socks on - extra-cheesy pun intended - wash my face and anyway go about starting my day, all the time feeling that I am missing something important.

It is a very strange state of mind to be in. And after a while my relationship with reality becomes hazy and I start to forget and mix things up, like what suit of cards my Bridge partner threw first (huge, friendship-braking mistake) or was I supposed to make a cake called vichyssoise or a soup called visitandine.  Major mix up!


I was almost sure that this weeks recipe for our French Fridays with Dorie was a soup. It turns out it was not. It was this humble but -oh-so-sinful- cake. It was "invented" by an order of French nuns, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, whose purpose was to visit and care for the sick and poor in their homes, hence the name Visitandines. 


Dorie says that if she had known the recipe for this cake at the beginning of her baking career, there wouldn't have been a career to talk about. I couldn't agree more. If there is one cake recipe you have to learn in your life then this is it! 


Four basic ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar and butter are all you need to bake the perfect Visitandine every time. From the eggs you use only the whites. You whisk them until firm and then you mix with the flour and the melted butter. If you want to take it up a notch, brown the butter because brown butter makes everything more fragrant and absolutely delicious. 


You can give the cake any size and shape you like. It will manage perfectly in all of them. I made mini cakes using a well buttered muffin tin and I added a few frozen blueberries and sliced almonds.

You can find Dorie's original recipe here.

Improvise and create your favourite flavour combination. Use the leftover egg yolks to make a pastry cream. Whatever you do the cake will still be fantastic.  

Who would have thought that it was "invented" by nuns! I have to hand it to the sisters, they know how to bake a cake. 

As for the soup. My woolly brain did not dream about it. The soup was last week's recipe. It was not a vichyssoise but the Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India as Dorie calls it, only that in my case it was with Chickpeas.  


It was a gorgeous soup both in appearance and in taste. Bold, aromas; subtle and comforting flavours; full of colour and character. I loved it so much I made two huge pots and put it in the freezer for the next time I am in the need for a little Indian fix. Turmeric and garam masala are the stars of the recipe and if you want to make your own garam masala spice mix head over to my friend Alice's blog for a great recipe. 


To see how my fellow Doristas like both recipes click here.

French Fridays with Dorie (FFwD) is an online cooking group where we cook recipes from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
We do not publish the recipes on our blogs. For more information about our group and on how to join us click here


Istria in March....

Monday, March 31, 2014


....still remains very close to my heart. 

It was a quick visit - one and a half day - and from what it looks it is going to be the last. Time is running out and there are still many more places I need to visit before we head back to Athens in August. 

This time is was all about my favourite places. Porec and Limski Kanal, Motovun and Rovinj. And about the food. Even though it was very early in the tourist season and most restaurants hadn't opened we were thoroughly satiated with very generous portions of meat, truffles and handmade pasta at the restaurants we did find open. I will never forget the steak tartar we ate at Konoba Daniela near Veleniki. It was made right in front of us by a very experienced waiter (and very tall, now that I mention it, all the waiters were freakishly tall at that restaurant!) who mixed ten different spices and herbs with fresh raw minced beef to produce the most amazing, velvety and so intensely flavoured paste. We spread it on toasted bread and for a minute I thought that this is how food haven must feel like.  It was so good I didn't even think to take a picture before we devoured it all. 

The weather was very good to us and we enjoyed every minute of the lovely sunny days. 

We stayed in Funtana, a small village a few kilometres south of Porec, at a small B&B. I love spending time in small family-owned places like these. We were warmly welcomed with a glass of homemade medica - pronounced me-di-tsa - which is a sweet honey liqueur and had a simple but very filling Sunday morning breakfast.

As you will see from my photographs below, my obsession with Istrian doors, windows and cats is still going strong and I was very happy to use my new 45mm lens on something other than food. 

A lone window pane at an old house in Motovun

George and our friend George - walking on the cobblestoned alleys of Motovun. There is no typo in the previous sentence. Our friend's name is George!

This is why I love cats...they always find the best place to take a nap!

Old door in Motovun


  
The view from above in Motovun

Spring is starting to bloom

The intense blue of this door, enough to brake the monotony of the greying old stones, drew my eyes like a fly is drawn to a burning light. 

The beautiful light of the golden hours
The lower hills around Motovun are starting to come alive and the green is overtaking the brown. It is lonely at the top.
Motovun is not by the sea. It's way inland, a village with stone backsteets and old houses, perched on the top of a hill rising from the flat of the planes. It is a magical place but also a very solitary place. A place where you can sit for hours, contemplate life while  looking at the valley beneath you. Maybe even write a book about it. 

Rovinj on the other hand, is alive and full of people and colours and art. I haven't seen so many galleries and artists gathered in one place in the whole of Croatia as I have seen in Rovinj. In every little backstreet (and there are so many), in every small courtyard there are shops selling paintings and clothes, jewellery and pottery all made by local artists. I remember the first time I was there in June 2012, I was entranced by the animated atmosphere of the days and the vibrancy of the nights. It is a beautiful place. A place where I would love to live for the rest of my life.

The colourful streets of Rovinj. Work is slow as the tourist season has not yet opened



Different shades of blue.


On top of the hill the Church of St. Ephemia with the iconic campanile





There are those kinds of places that really speak to you in a language that only makes sense to you and nobody else. Places that pull me towards them and while I am away continue to feed me with an endless stream of pictures, memories and wishes to come back and experience them again. Rovinj and Motovun are like these places to me. I will always keep them close to my heart. 
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