Loving… Day&Night Cupcakes

“It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.” Stephen King

Love is – at the same time – obviously natural and undeniably difficult. Just as a baked good, similar to a cupcake, human relationships have a complex mixture of ingredients that might seem simple to source for one but prove difficult to understand for the other…there is no perfect recipe. Recipes only work if taken time and effort, crafted with “love” as a primary ingredient. Happiness – ultimately- depends on the peaceful acceptance of both sweet and savoury, light and dark moments. Without savoury, sweet would taste dull, without bitterness, chocolate would be blend, without dark, light would have no significance.
Memorable cakes are often the ones that carry some form and degree of opposites…a crunch with softness, a bitter flavour with sweetness, a liquid element within a deeper texture, but often the pure contrast of visual differences can result in a dramatic experience. The Day&Night cupcake builds on the visual and tasteful difference of white and dark chocolate, and that of the soft cream and rich cocoa.

For the cupcakes
100 g plain flour
50 g cocoa powder
120 g caster sugar
50 g melted dark chocolate
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter (essential that it is at room temperature)
100 ml cream
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
50-60 g melted white chocolate
For the topping
225 g cream cheese
2 ts vanilla extract
115 sugar
450 g heavy cream
1 tbsp melted chocolate
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Prepare a 12-hole cupcake tray,lined with paper cases. Mix the flour, cocoa powder,sugar,baking powder,salt and butter and beat on a slow speed until achieved a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Whisk the cream, egg, melted chocolate and vanilla extract together in a jug ,then slowly pour into the flour mixture, beating continuously to combine for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not over mix. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes,or until the sponge bounces back when touched.A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
When the cupcakes are cooled, cut the top in an angled lie to create a well and fill with melted white chocolate.
To make the icing combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak. Divide in three bowls. Leave one white, mix the melted chocolate into the second one, and mix the cocoa powder thoroughly into the third. Try to make sure different types of icing are roughly the same consistency before using. Fill all three in separate bags. Fill them a little less than 1/3 full, flatten them out and stack them on top of each other. Trim off the tip of each bag and slip them into the bag fitted with the decorating tip. Firmly squeeze the bag until getting equal parts of each icing from the tip. Decorate with bright coloured embellishment.

“Dawn gifts a soft touch
An invitation to love
Sweetest surrender”
Mia Rose

Love is Golden Brown: Caramel Wafer Slice

“I think love is caramel. Sweet and fragrant; always welcome. It is the gentle golden colour of a setting harvest sun; the warmth of a squeezed embrace; the easy melting of two souls into one and a taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away. Once tasted it is never forgotten.” Jenny Colgan

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Anything made with caramel results extremely warming treats. Especially comforting, with its sweet scent and taste, caramel makes the perfect filling for simple baked goods.
Soft caramel candy is an American invention. By about 1650, Americans were boiling water and sugar in deep kettles in their fireplaces to make hard candies. Someone, at some point, added butter and milk to the pot and invented the caramel. By the mid-1800’s, there were nearly 400 American candy manufacturers producing hard candies as well as caramels.

In the modern taste palette caramel can be found in just about any course of a meal…tea, coffee, meat, dessert, however, its best companion is forever a soft, buttery cake…

Wafer sheets ingredients:
2 egg whites
80 g melted butter
90 g sugar
66 g flour
3 tbsp cold water
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk the egg white with the sugar to soft peaks. Add the melted butter, water and sieve in the flour. Stir gently to create a homogeneous batter. To make the large wafer sheets, line a square tin with baking paper, and pour the half of the mixture in, creating a thin, even layer. Bake it until golden brown around the edges, then cool it on a flat surface, alternatively press on a patterned surface to create a visually more exciting wafer.

Chocolate base ingredients:
4 egg whites
160 g sugar
4 egg yolks
110 g flour
70 ml milk
40 g butter
30 g cocoa powder
Directions:
Place the egg whites in a bowl, and whip with a handheld mixer. When the egg whites are whipped to an even, smooth consistency, add 1/2 of the granulated sugar and whip together. When it’s very fluffy add the rest of the sugar, and keep whipping until it turns into a smooth, shiny meringue. Add the yolks to the meringue and mix well. Sift the cake flour into the batter. Use a rubber spatula and mix gently but thoroughly in a cut-and-fold motion. Put the butter and milk into a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for a minute and a half. When the butter and milk are warm, sift in the cocoa powder and mix to dissolve. Add the mixture to the batter a little at a time. Pour the batter into the lined mold, possibly the same as the one used to make the wafer sheets. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a preheated 170°C oven. (As soon as it’s baked, drop it at a height of 20-30 cm onto a work surface to prevent the cake from shrinking.)

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To make the filling and assemble:
300 g unsalted butter
175 g sugar
175 g icing sugar
8 egg yolks
300 g ground walnuts
Directions:
Cream the butter with the icing sugar with a hand or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add one egg yolk at a time, beating after each addition. Add the ground walnuts. Put 175 g sugar in a heavy skillet over low-medium heat and stir until sugar is melted and light brown. Remove the pan from the heat and pour over the walnut mixture. Stir quickly until well combined. Place back over low heat and slowly bring to a boil stirring continuously. Smear the cream on each wafer sheet while it’s warm, then secure the stack on the sponge base with the filling. Start to cover the wafer sheets from the inside and make sure to cover the edges of the wafer sheet with filling. Cover it with baking paper and place something heavy on top so that the filling will glue the wafer sheets. Leave it at least 2 hours or overnight. Once set, cover with melted chocolate and chopped walnut.

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The Flavour of History: Flódni, the “Thousand-Goods Cake”

“If you don’t know what you’re living for, you haven’t yet lived.” Rabbi Noah Weinberg

As a child I heard many stories about life. Almost every bite, every smell and every flavour on the table had its own background to tell, some more remarkable than others. The route that the famous Hungarian-Jewish dessert, the flódni has found its way to my grandmother’s kitchen, has always seemed one of the most romantic, heroic tales out of the family records.

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During the world war after the German invasion, there were initially different local decrees requiring Hungarian Jews to wear a distinctive sign under the General Government. The sign was a yellow badge in the form of a Star of David on the left side of the chest and on the back. The star was intended to humiliate Jews and to mark them out for segregation and discrimination. The policy also made it easier to identify Jews for deportation to camps. All around the country thousands tried to escape prosecution. My Swabian maternal grandparents, who lived and worked as country farmers in the South-West of Hungary, had business relationships in the capital, knowing the tailoring-owner Beck family very well. This relationship eventually led the Beck family hiding in the loft of my grandparents country residence, trying to avoid being collected by the Germans. Throughout my childhood my grandmother communicated many pearls of Lady Beck’s Jewish wisdom, including observations, advices and recipes, therefore, I always assumed that Grandma Meci’s flódni secret has been a part of the good old Jewish lady’s secret knowledge. It wasn’t though. The recipe originates from the wife of a Jewish merchant, referred to as the “Perger Hócs” by my grandfather. They lived in the same village as my grandparents and were liked and respected by all. Our flódni, despite of my paternal grandmother being Jewish is from the friends’ heritage, rather than a family recipe.

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In Hungary many bakers claim that they sure have the original version of the recipe. Well, I believe there is no such a thing. Flódni was the homecooks’ creation and festive treat, therefore, each family had their own original. One of the biggest differences as opposed to my version is that some do not spread a layer of jam under the walnut, poppy seed and apple filling layers, but add the jam as separate layer. The versions all, however, have one thing in common: flódni is not for the faint-hearted. Being called the “thousand goods cake” for a reason, containing all things good as ingredients, it takes time to make and takes time to eat…

” According to the effort is the reward.” Ben Hei Hei, Ethics of the Fathers, 5:26.

Ingredients
For the pastry:
480 g flour, 2 tbsp corn grits, 50 g roasted walnuts, ground, 250 g butter, 100 g icing sugar, 3 egg yolks, 50 ml white wine, 50 ml cognac, a pinch of baking powder, a pinch of salt, 10 g fresh yeast, 3 tbsp milk
For the apple layer:
800 g apple, 2 tbsp honey, zest and juice of 1 lemon, some cinnamon, some ground cloves
For the poppy seed layer:
200 g ground poppy seeds, 100 g sugar, 50 g raisins, 150 ml white wine, juice and zest of one lemon
For the walnut layer:
200 g ground walnut, 100 g sugar, 50 g dried apricots, chopped, juice and zest of one orange, 150 ml white wine
For the assembly:
200 g plum jam, 100 g apricot jam, 1 egg

Method
To make the pastry mix the yeast with milk and some of the icing sugar and let it froth up. Combine it with all ingredients of the pastry and make the dough by hand. When kneaded until smooth, cover in a kitchen foil and rest it overnight in the fridge.
To make the walnut layer heat up the white wine with the sugar, boil slightly and mix with the rest of the ingredients of the walnut filling in a large bowl, finally let it cool. Repeat the method to make the poppy seed filling. For the apple layer peel and core the apple. Once all done and washed, grate and squeeze the apple (so to get rid of the excess liquid) and season with the rest of the ingredients.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a rectangle. Cut it into four equal parts, about 25 x 30 cm each. Lay the first pastry into a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread the apricot jam on the top of it, then dub the walnut filling across. Cover with the second piece of pastry and layer half of the plum jam and spoon all of the poppy seed filling on it. Place the third pastry rectangle to cover the poppy seed filling, followed by the rest of the plum jam and the apple. Finally set the fourth pastry on top and finish with an eggwash.
Bake it in a 180 degrees C preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden and the needle inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let it rest for a day for the perfect flavour.

“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Just a Bit of Love through Cake Layers: Zserbo, the timeless Classic

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Zserbo is a classic Christmas-spreader of joy. It is a cake with all things good…walnut, jam, chocolate, meringue…Emile Gerbeaud, the creator of this cake, was a Swiss confectioner, who arrived in 1889 to work as a partner in a famous Budapest café, which he overtook and which is nowadays called “Gerbeaud”. Zserbó szelet (literally “gerbeaud slice”) is now firmly established as one of the Hungarian classics. Sold and consumed in local cafés, pastry shops as it requires long experience to look as neat as the original…

My recipe comes from Mummy and it is every bit (and bite) as professional, perfect and delicious as the original. Her version calls for three pastry layers and this is the version I grew up with and stuck to, obtaining a rather surprisingly neat result. Even though using my mum’s old family Zserbo recipe, the little tweaks of the ingredients in my first creation resulted in a messier appearance despite of precisely following the methodical instructions (it was very moist and tasty, however). The cake -together with my wisdom that keeps me away from trying to experiment with tried and tested traditions- improved with time and practice. Therefore in the time of classics, which Christmas definitely is, I returned to the pure original dough (100 g yeast, 250 g flour, 1 egg, 80 g lard, 50 g sugar and as much milk that creates a soft pastry), the original use of pure walnut and apricot jam in the filling together with my mum’s meringue topping, still obviously following the same method of making…

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The method resulted in tasty perfection…

HIS NAME IS JESUS by BL DEVNATH

Holy infant’s born
in Bethlehem of Judah
His name is Jesus

on the Christmas eve
we celebrate His Birth Day
our savior angel

Christmas carol’s sung
light illuminates from tree
Santa brings sweet gifts

Universal heart
with unconditional love
showed the path of God

Merry Macarons: Mixed Spice Magic

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Charles Dickens

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Mixed spice…this spice is really the essence of Christmas. When it slowly heats up, mixes with honey and fills the house, majority of people instantly think of winter celebrations…

The blend is called on a variety of names with delicate differences, and can be found all over the world in slightly differing versions. The British blend which is also referred to as pudding spice is a mixture of sweet spices, similar to the pumpkin pie spice used in the United States or the honeybread spice in Hungary. Cinnamon is the dominant flavour in all, in the Hunagrian version together with nutmeg,cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and star anise. Its Dutch sibling is called koekkruiden or speculaaskruiden, both used mainly to spice food associated with the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration at 5th of December. Koekkruiden contains cardamom just like the Hungarian blend.

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This spice is often used in baking, or to complement fruits or other sweet foods. The term “mixed spice” has been used for this blend of spices in cookbooks at least as far back as 1828. The spice has very traditional functions in classic recipes, but it also has a right to be among modern ingredients, serving current trends…

The warming relationship of mixed spice, walnuts, white chocolate and citrus creates true festive magic in the flavour of the mixed spice macaron.

Ingredients
4 egg whites, at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
100 g almond meal
30 g roasted, ground walnuts
280 g confectioners sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
For the buttercream
235 ml thickened cream
170 g white chocolate, diced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

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Method
Sieve the almond meal, walnut and icing sugar together, set aside. Beat the egg whites over medium-high speed until they begin to froth, then add sugar, gradually. Continue beating the mixture until eggs whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until well blended. Add half of the dry mixture to the egg whites, fold slowly until all ingredients are well combined, then repeat with the other half of the dry mixture. It should slowly dripping off the spatula back into the bowl and easily absorbing back into the batter at the bottom. Transfer batter into a piping bag, than pipe onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When all the batter is piped out, firmly tap the baking sheet onto a hard surface. Preheat the oven to 150-160 degrees C and bake macarons in oven for about 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven, lift parchment paper with macarons onto a wire rack and let cool completely before filling. To make the buttercream, heat the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour over the diced chocolate in a mixing bowl, let sit a minute then whisk until smooth. Add zest and whisk again. Cover and chill six hours. Beat the ganache with an electric beater until it has the consistency of whipped cream . Once the macarons have cooled, pipe a generous layer of icing between two halves.

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“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” Bob Hope

The Scent of Christmas Love: Traditional (Honey) Gingerbread

“Life is the flower for which love is the honey.” Victor Hugo

 

Gingerbread is an ancient tradition that is still flourishing in many European countries. The oldest gingerbread molds found in Hungary were made more than two thousand years ago, and today’s tradition of gingerbread goes back all those years. In the beginning, the original mix of flour and wild honey together resulted in a delicious, sweet bun baked in clay molds – the shape, quality and taste has improved greatly through the years.

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Initially, gingerbread was baked in monasteries for sacred purposes. At that time the production was a domain of artisan gingerbread makers. According to surviving written evidence, this craft existed on the territory of present day Hungary as early as the 14th century.

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Mezeskalacs is the Hungarian version of gingerbread cookies, even though they have more of other spices than ginger. Mezeskalacs is also known as honey cookies, honey puppets, honey scone or honey cakes. They are delicious, can be decorated beautifully, and are often seen at the holiday markets in Hungary. The traditional decoration had very important meanings and messages. One of the most traditional designs, the red heart shaped gingerbread with mirror (similarly to a modern day compact mirror, its mirror was aimed to aid a girl in keeping herself pretty) was used as a “love gift” to show interest from a boy to girl. If the gift was accepted that meant they were a couple. Decorating flowers were grouped in threes, to represent eyes and mouth, should the piece come alive. The mirror in the center represents a true feeling, clean spirit and truthfulness.

  

Mezeskalacs has many variations in terms of recipes and decorations, however, depending on its intended uses, some are more shape-keeping, whilst others are more delicious. The recipe I use originates from a traditional artist, who has built years of tradition and practice into the final secret.

  

Ingredients
1000 g flour, plus extra for kneading
500 g icing sugar
6 eggs
200 g honey
125 g lard
18 g bicarbonate of soda
18 g mixed spice
Zest of one orange

  

Method
Sift the dry ingredients. Combine all of the ingredients then mix until a smooth, sticky dough is achieved. Let it rest in an airtight container for at least 24 hours, but rather 3 days. Once rested, put it on floured surface and, adding more flour gradually, knead until smooth and not sticky. Roll into 2-4 mm thickness and bake in 190 degrees C oven for about 8 minutes. Let it cool and decorate with royal icing as desired.

 

“Be like honey bee, anything it eats is clean, anything it drops is sweet, and the branch it sits upon does not break.” Imam Ali

Grabbing the Last Pleasures of Autumn: Gluten and Dairyfree Apple-Carrot Cupcake

“Any cupcake consumed before 9am is, technically a muffin.” Brian P. Cleary

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Being gluten and dairy free does not necessarily mean giving up classic flavours and things we like. Glutenfree or not, I really believe in my late grandfather’s wisdom – who said “one has to eat a little bit of everything” -, but the sad fact is that some people do not have a choice but to eat a diet free of certain allergens, whilst still trying to maintain a varied selection of healthy foods. The notion of glutenfree does not automatically equals healthy. Glutenfree diet, unless one has a condition that requires removing gluten from their foods, has probably a much less significant effect on the health than people believe. More popular than ever, glutenfree diet obviously limits the types of carbohydrates that people can consume, which could be the reason for some to voluntarily become glutenfree. However, for those who have to avoid gluten, substitutes are important in keeping their culinary happiness…

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Ingredients
225 g gluten-free self-raising flour , plus extra for dusting
2 large free-range eggs
125 g soft brown sugar
125 ml sunflower or coconut oil
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 apple
200 g carrots
1 orange , zest and juice of
1 handful of sultanas
1 handful raisins
50 g walnuts , optional
For the glaze
200 g icing sugar
Juice of 1 orange
50 g walnuts

Method
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the sugar and oil, then mix to combine. Sieve in the flour and spices, then fold through. Peel and grate/dice the apple and carrots, then stir into the mixture along with the orange zest and juice, raisins and sultanas. Roughly chop and add the walnuts, if using.
Pour the mixture into the prepared paper cases, then place on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave them on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Mix the icing sugar with enough orange juice to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.
Once cooled, decorate the cupcakes with the icing. Lightly crush the walnuts in a pestle and mortar and sprinkle on top. I desired, finish with a grating of orange zest.

“The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.” Henry Rollins

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