My Sourdough Story: Grandma’s Black Loaf

“To the loyal and to the blood-lovers, in the good families and in the fiery dynasties, life is family and family is life. It is the same people who give advice and their vices to live well who turn out to be the ones who give resource and reason to live long.” Criss Jami

Almost every sourdough-baker has their own story of bread-baking. Some filled with history, some filled with experiment, but, oh boy, all filled with both sadness and joy. I started baking at a very early age, so I had the majority of fails under the watchful eye of the family matriarchs, who guided me through – sometimes in a friendly manner, sometimes with ruthless rigour – all the mistakes I encountered around the kitchen desk. In my childhood-Eastern-Europe baking was a part of life, not some kind of fancy hobby, but way of and means to feeding a family’s stomach, heart and mind.
When I started to bake bread in my first own kitchen, my aim was to be a good wife by keeping things simple and authentic, so what better than to follow the trace of someone in the family, with my grandmother’s baking phenomena being the one. My grandmother’s culture was not at all like the popular 100 % hydration, wet-type sourdoughs of today, but it was a simple bone-dry ball of leftover dough that my grandma collected by scraping off the sides of the wooden dough bowl she made the bread in earlier. She kneaded it with some additional flour and left it to dry out on a little plate in the larder window. Two days before the baking process started, she soaked ‘The little Crumble’ (what she called it) in spring water, and there it was…live and fierce. This, she used for making a leaven, which then created the base of the final dough.
My sourdough story is full of history…and full of sadness. But that sadness does not originate from numerous fails (even though I had many), but it comes from the painful lack of love, nurture and advice, the late baking family members used to shower me in… They have gone and so many questions remained unasked. So many doughs remained unproven. So many techniques remained unwatched… Therefore, with every spoonful of flour, with every bake, with every heated oven, I still try to reapair the void, whilst trusting and praying that I would never bring shame on Grandma’s Loaf! And even though it may not be as wet, as full of air, as light as the engineered sourdoughs I pushed myself to make, it is hearty, filling and motivated by love.

“A house needs a grandma in it.” Louisa May Alcott

Ingredients
For the leaven:
1 tablespoon active sourdough starter
75 g white bread flour
75 g vegetable juice (used cucumber)
For the dough:
1 tablespoon salt
300-400 g water (dependent on type of flour)
125 g vegetable juice
2 tbsp poultry lard
350 g bread flour
350 g brown, wholegrain flour

Method
For an active starter, if the sourdough has been in the fridge, take it out 2 to 3 days before using and feed it daily.
To make the leaven overnight: the night before making the dough, combine a tablespoon of active sourdough culture with the flour, vegetable juice and water for the leaven. Mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight, for about 12 hours.


To make the dough: Combine the salt and 50 grams of water in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring every so often to make sure the salt dissolves. Combine the leaven and the remaining liquid. Stir the flour into the water and leaven with a spatula. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. This is the autolysing stage where the flour is fully absorbing the water and enzymes in the flour begin breaking down the starches and proteins. Pour the dissolved salt over the dough. Work the liquid and salt into the dough by pinching and squeezing the dough. To fold the dough, grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four times, moving clockwise from the top of the bowl (or giving the bowl a quarter turn in between folds). Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then repeat. Do this a total of 6 times, every half hour for a total of 2 1/2 hours. The dough will gradually smooth out and become tighter with each folding.
Let the dough rise undisturbed. Shape the dough into loose rounds with surface tension. Once the dough is shaped, let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten again before final shaping. Prepare a bread proofing basket/colanders/mixing bowls, line it with clean dishtowels. Dust it heavily with flour. Dust the top of the ball of dough with flour. Flip it over, the tops and sides of the shaped loaves generously with flour. Place them into the proofing baskets upside down, so the seams from shaping are on top.
Let the dough rise 3 to 4 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
To bake heat the oven to 240°C. Place a heavy-bottomed pot with lids in the oven. Tip the loaf into the pot so the seam-side is down. Score in a slight angle using a lame or a sharp knife, cutting almost parallel to the surface of the loaf. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes covered, then reduce the oven temperature to 200-210°C and bake another 10 minutes. Remove the lids and continue baking 15 to 25 minutes. Continue baking until the crust is deeply browned. Lift the bread out of the pot and cool completely before cutting.

“A Grandmother thinks of her grandchildren day and night, even when they are not with her.She will always love them more than anyone would understand.” Karen Gibbs

The Art of The Paper-thin Pastry: Traditional Strudel and Baklava

“…wanted to leave the past a few hundred miles down the road, shake it off like dust. But that was the problem with the past. It kept finding…” Suzanne Woods Fisher

Creating new recipes, new combinations is an uplifting act for the creator-baker. Featuring unexpected combinations of flavours in classic baked goods always goes a long way, eaters will, and really will, talk about it… However, traditional, tried and solidly unchanged recipes of the past can be just as uplifting on their own way… Baklava, the syrupy, well-known and truly-loved treat of the East is a common discussion subject. Who made baklava first? The Greeks? The Turkish? Filo dough was not born in Greece, but rather in Istanbul during the Ottoman reign. Greeks claim creating the paper-thin version. In reality, there are filo-like pastries in various cuisines all over the world. A close relative to filo is pulled strudel dough… Pulled pastry or handmade strudel – just as sweet and syrupy as baklava – has a crackling quality missing from the machine-made variety.

Pulled Strudel (homemade filo pastry)
Ingredients (for 1 large roll)
For the dough
400g flour
1 egg
300 g lard
250 ml water
4 drops of vinegar
1 pinch of salt
For softening the dough inside and outside
200 g lard, melted
3 tbsp soured cream
For the filling
150 g sugar
200 g cooked pudding rice (prepared in milk)
700 g cherry compote or cherry preserve
Method
Place the ingredients of the dough into a large bowl and knead until a soft, shiny and airy texture is achieved (at least ten minutes by hand).When ready, form two balls,oil them on the top and rest them in a slightly oiled, clean bowl for 20-30 minutes.

Take it out and lay on a well floured, large and dry kitchen towel. Dust it with flour underneath and on the top, then slowly, from the middle towards the outside start to pull, stretch the dough. From time to time place it back on the kitchen towel and gently blow underneath or wobble (ideally, this should be done by two people to avoid tears).


Stretch until a large square is achieved. Once pulled to desired size, drizzle some melted lard, then some soured cream on the dough. After the softening of the dough, layer the filling ingredients evenly. To form the strudel roll, firstly fold the longer sides of the dough in a little bit, then hold the kitchen towel and roll the dough towards the middle from both sides by gently lifting the towel underneath.


Place the roll with the aid of the kitchen towel (as it is too soft to lift) onto a oiled baking tray. Brush with the mixture of the leftover lard and soured cream and bake it in a hot oven (preheated to 210 degrees C) for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 160 degrees C, and bake for further 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy on the top. With wetter filling such as grated apple, the strudel may needs to be baked longer.

It is well known that the Turks brought baklava to Central Europe, but almost all the communities of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans, Caucasia; Turks, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians introduced baklava as their national dessert. If considered that all of these regions once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, it is obvious to conclude that Baklava is an Ottoman dessert.

Ingredients
100 g hazelnuts, grated
100 g cashew nuts, grated
150 g sugar
150 g brown sugar
100 ml acacia honey
A large handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
Zest of an orange
Zest of a lemon
100 g walnuts,grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
200 g butter , melted
20 sheets/600-650 g of filo pastry


Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Place the sugars, honey, fresh mint and zests in a sauce pan together with 300 ml of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it bubble away, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by a third. Leave to cool completely before assembling. Before assembling mix the nuts with the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Lightly grease a shallow tin (about 20 x 40 cm) with the melted butter. Gently unfold the filo and cover with a damp tea towel to stop it cracking. Layer sheets of filo in the tin and brush each layer with melted butter. After 3 layers, scatter over some of the the nut mixture; repeat with layers of filo, then the rest of the nuts, until 4 layers of nuts achieved. Top with the last layers of filo, then generously butter the top. Cut into diamonds with a sharp knife – ensure the blade goes right to the bottom.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven on a hot baking sheet for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, reducing the temperature to 170C/gas 3 if the baklava looks as though it is browning too quickly. Remove the baklava from the oven and spoon half the cooled syrup over the top. Leave for 5 minutes, then spoon over the remaining syrup. Allow the baklava to cool before removing the individual pieces from the dish with a palette knife.

These recipes, made with hand-pulled pastries, are kind of forgotten, because it’s not so easy to prepare the dough, therefore people buy it or they make something that reminds them of this kind of treats … but it’s never the same anymore. Making them the proper way though, is less about the pastry and more about connecting to a time before politics forced people to live the way they do, a link to the past…

“The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time–maybe, hopefully, against all odds, we will get it right.” Leslie T. Chang

Cheats’ Puff Pastry: Wild Garlic Croissant

“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti

Who in the world doesn’t love croissants? But majority of home-bakers always postpone to make them because of the long process a classic croissant dough requires to make… No doubt that homemade croissants are the best of all – of course when not in Paris… – but is it really possible to make them quick? To make them dairy-free? To fill in between the layers? It is actually quite easy.. it really takes no more than 20 minutes of work… the rest is simply waiting, and the croissants are wonderful. They are probably not nearly as flaky as the classic ones but for all the little work involved they are just perfect. Crispy on the outside, buttery, flaky, a perfect treat for breakfast or brunch. They can be served plain with a bit of jam alongside coffee or tea, or even house a delicious sandwich.

“Every flower blooms at a different pace.” Suzy Kassem

This croissant can be achieved by two speedier methods. One of them is based on freezing the butter and quick turns, the other one’s secret is layering.

Ingredients
60 ml lukewarm water or rice milk
3 tbsp sugar
25 g yeast
350 g flour
10 ml vinegar
10 ml oil
A pinch of salt
1/2 banana, mashed or one egg
130 g dairy-free margarine/spread, half of it mixed with finely chopped wild garlic
2 tbsp oil to glaze

Method
Freeze-turn Method
With the first method freeze half of the margarine, chill the other. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Rub in the chilled butter using fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually add enough of the liquid ingredients mixed together to form a dough. Roll the dough out into a rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Grate half of the frozen butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold down the top third and fold up the bottom third as if folding a letter.
Turn the folded dough through 90 degrees and roll it out into a rectangle again. Repeat the process of adding the remaining frozen butter and fold as before. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.
Layering method
In a large bowl combine the lukewarm water with sugar and yeast and set aside until it starts to froth up. Mix in flour, vinegar, salt, oil and mashed banana, and knead into a soft, smooth dough. Cover with clingfilm and rest in the fridge until risen. Mix the margarine with the wild garlic, then chill. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and roll each out on a floured work surface. Grate the margarine if hard. Spread an equal amount of margarine on seven of the dough pieces and layer them onto each other. If margarine become too soft, rest in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Roll out the chilled dough and cut into eight triangles/wedges. Take each triangle in turn and pull the two corners at the base to stretch and widen it. Starting at the base of each triangle, begin to gently roll into a crescent/croissant, being careful not to crush the dough. Continue rolling, making sure the tip of each triangle ends up tucked under the croissant to hold in place. If adding any fillings, place across the widest part of the triangle before rolling up. If so desired, bend the ends of the croissants inwards, then transfer to baking trays lined with baking parchment, spaced well apart. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for 2 hrs, or until doubled in size. Heat oven to 180-190 degrees C. Generously glaze the croissants with oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown, then cool on wire racks.

“Love has no speed limit.” Debasish Mridha

Heavenly Herbs: Lemon Balm and Mint Macarons

“Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints…” William Shakespeare

Traditional medical benefits of herbs have been used by herbalists and apothecaries throughout the centuries. Herbs do more than simply adding flavour and colour to dishes, their healing and restorative powers are pretty impressive too…

Mint has got to be one of the most versatile herbs around. No herb or vegetable garden should be without at least one of the 40 or so sweet-smelling members of the mint family, as they are simply too useful and too easy to grow to miss…

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is considered a calming herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion. Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits and help heal (physical and mental) wounds.

“Lemon balm causes the mind and heart to become merry.” Seraphio

When placed in unexpected food-hosts like macaron, herbs elevate the flavour from great to royal, the colour from nice to sensational, and the aroma from inviting to sexual, whilst also lessen the feeling of guilt…actually macarons with herbs have be eaten for the benefits, never mind the – rather generous – dusting of sugar…

“All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it.” Philippus Theophrastrus Bombast

Ingredients
4 egg whites, at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
130 almond meal
280 g confectioners sugar
3 tsp dried lemon balm
3 tsp dried mint
100 g dark chocolate, melted
100 g white chocolate, melted

Method
Sieve the almond meal and icing sugar together, set aside. Beat the egg whites over medium-high speed until they begin to froth, then add granulated sugar, gradually. Continue beating the mixture until eggs whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. 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. Divide the batter in two. Mix 3 tsp dried lemon balm and yellow gel food colouring into half, and stir in the mint with green food colouring into the other half. Transfer batter into a piping bags, 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 170 degrees C and bake the macarons for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, lift parchment paper with macarons onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Fill mint macaron shells with dark chocolate and lemon balm macarons with white chocolate.

A Tasty Affair: Chocolate Cheesecake

“It is important to experiment and endlessly seek after creating the best possible flavours when preparing foods. That means not being afraid to experiment with various ingredients.” Rocco DiSpirito

Chocolate and cheese surely must be two of the most loved foods around the world…
Who doesn’t love cheese or chocolate? But together? As weird as it sounds, they can actually create the perfect flavour-combination when carefully selected and paired.

Cheese and chocolate are quite different on the palette of taste buds, therefore, the idea of combining them probably seems. Even though, they might appear very different at first, fundamentally, they are quite similar too: rich, buttery, nutty, creamy…can be interchangeably used to describe the eating experience of both chocolate and cheese! It may not be an obvious match. In general, lighter and creamier cheeses pair better with lighter, creamier chocolates. Cheeses and chocolate have flavour components that complement each other well: the sweetness of the chocolate will emphasize the nuttiness of the cheese without being too intense or overpowering. The key to this marriage of ingredients is keeping the recipe simple and choosing high quality ingredients. Both are very rich foods and with these type of foods modest (little in variation and little in amount) goes a long way…

“Modesty is the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.” Oliver Herford

Ingredients
180 g leftover chocolate biscuits
75 g butter
360 g cream cheese
200 g mascarpone
180 g sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the base of a 20 – 22 spring form cake tin. Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Melt the butter and add the biscuit crumbs, stir to combine. Add the zest of a lemon and an orange. Place in the base of the cake tin and spread in an even layer, then flatten tightly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. Remove and leave to cool while preparing the filling. Reduce the oven to 160 degrees C. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar until smooth then add flour, vanilla and eggs, beating well between each addition. Act quickly, as beating too much air in adversely affects the surface of cheesecake. Pour the cream cheese mix on to the biscuit base then bake in the oven for 60 minutes. The cheesecake should be just set with a slight wobble and should still be creamy on top with just a slight crispier hint around the edges. Once the cheesecake is cooked, turn off the oven and prop open the door so that it is slightly ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for another hour or so. Once the oven is cool you, remove the cheesecake to cool completely before removing from the tin. Decorate with fresh chocolate shards and icing sugar.

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour.” William Cowper

An Edible Zoo for a Young Macaron Lover

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France

A young person is an honest and cruel critic of all things person-made even if artistic… The same intensity that young hearts turn towards the God-created beauties of nature with, defines their opinion about the art made by their fellow humans…regardless of what the art actually is, painting, drawing, collecting or baking… Baking, however, has an array of opportunities for creating, making and wowing the taste buds, eyes and nose of all people big and small… Baking is an art where people use the characteristics of ingredients and suggestions of recipes as inspiration rather than the letter of the law – ingredients are approached and adjusted depending on personal tastes. Measurements and timings are vague and rely on knowing appropriate textures, colours etc. Results are inconsistent until recipes have been tried many, many times, however, this inconsistency can be understood as uniqueness and personality…Fabricating personal messages via the art of ingredients, food and baking is a delicate art that needs a deep understanding of how foods link and how they affect each other under different conditions.

Apart from the obvious aim of eating, the edible art has many benefits and meanings: it teaches about sustainability, emphasizes  thoughtful consumption, driving the message that knowing where food comes and supporting local growth is critical in lowering people’s global carbon footprint. Baking  has the magic power to age-appropriately combine nature’s beuty with hand-made creations, whilst gloriously mixing art, food and fun…

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” James Herriot

Ingredients
4 egg whites, at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
130 almond meal
280 g confectioners sugar

Method
Sieve the almond meal and icing sugar together, set aside. Beat the egg whites over medium-high speed until they begin to froth, then add granulated sugar, gradually. Continue beating the mixture until eggs whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. 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 170 degrees C and bake the macarons for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, lift parchment paper with macarons onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” Martin Buber

A Tasty Hero: Kossuth Crescent

“And if you cannot remain indifferent, you must resolve to throw your weight into that balance in which the fate and condition of man is weighed.” Lajos Kossuth

Lajos Kossuth was a Hungarian lawyer, journalist, politician and Governor-President of the Hungarian Kingdom during the 1858-1849 revolution. He was an oral genius with extreme talent in rhetoric, leading political debates and public speeches. Kossuth emerged from a poor gentry family into regent-president of the kingdom. As the most influential contemporary American journalist Horace Greeley said about Kossuth: “Among the orators, patriots, statesmen, exiles, he has, living or dead, no superior.” Kossuth’s powerful English and American speeches impressed and touched the most famous contemporary American orator Daniel Webster so, that he wrote a book about Kossuth’s life. He was widely honored during his lifetime, including in Great Britain and the United States, as a freedom fighter and bellwether of democracy in Europe.

“It is the surmounting of difficulties that makes heroes.” Lajos Kossuth

As a young politician he often dined in Palugyay Jakab’s restaurant, the Ironspring in Bratislava (which was part of Hungary at the time, named Pozsony). The menu of the popular eatery consisted local delicacies. One of the area’s typical dishes was a sponge-like simple cake which had variations made with walnut, hazelnut and almond. As Kossuth loved the dessert, the culinary world just calls it the Kossuth Crescent. Kossuth, who lived in a simple household with a peasant kitchen, was not choosy or picky, he accepted and tasted all foods that were offered to him. This little gem is -despite of its simplicity – really tasty.

Ingredients
200 g butter
180 g flour
200 g icing sugar
4 eggs
1 pinch of baking powder
Zest of one lemon
100 g walnut or almonds, chopped fined


Beat the butter, eggyolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggwhite into stiff peaks, then gently fold into the eggyolk mixture. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the batter, and carefully mix together. Pour it into a lined baking tray and scatter the chopped walnuts on top. Bake in preheated 180 degrees C oven for about 30 minutes. Once cooled, cut crescents with a round cookie cutter.

“The unspoken word never does harm.” Lajos Kossuth

The Perfect White: Swiss Meringue Buttercream

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” Coco Chanel

The colour white is colour at its most complete and pure, the colour of perfection. The psychological meaning of white is purity, innocence, wholeness and completion, the colour of new beginnings. It is the blank canvas waiting to be written upon. While white isn’t stimulating to the senses, it opens the way for the creation of anything the mind can conceive. White contains an equal balance of all the colors of the spectrum, representing both the positive and negative aspects of all colors. Its basic feature is equality, implying fairness and impartiality, neutrality and independence. New lives come into the world with a perfect balance of white, ready to imprint their lives with all the colors of the spectrum from all life experiences.

The colour of snow, white is often used to represent coolness and simplicity. White’s association with cleanliness and sterility makes it pleasing to the human eye, a bright and brilliant colour that can present the perfect elegance on a cake: pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the needs…really is a thing of beauty….

“Black and white, oldest of the vintages, newest of the last season.” Vikrmn

Ingredients
3 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Few drops of vanilla extract
300g unsalted butter, softened

Method
Tip the egg whites into a bowl and add the sugar and salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the mixture, preferably using a table-top mixer, until it becomes a thick meringue and whisk in the vanilla extract. Cut the butter into chunks and whisk it in – the mixture may collapse and go runny, but keep whisking it at full speed and it will combine together to give a fluffy buttercream. Use this buttercream to frost any cake or cupcake. It can be frozen stored in an airtight container for up to a month.

“A lie has many colours, while white is the only faithful colour of truth.” Munia Khan

Cupcake Dress for the Hungarian Somloi Galuska

“I’ve never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn’t fix.” Sarah Ockler

One of Hungary’s best known delicacies is the decadent sweet dish known as somlói galuska (shom-loh-ee gah-loosh-kaw)…The name translates as “Somló dumpling” in English, Somló being a town near Lake Balaton, well-known for its wine. Calling the dessert a dumpling is a little misleading, as the mixture of the three different flavored sponge cakes, pastry cream, raisins, walnuts, chocolate sauce and whipped cream is technically a trifle, far from anything what is known as dumpling. Rum is traditionally used in the form of a simple dressing syrup on the sponge layers.

It was first made for the World Exhibition of 1958 in Brussels by József Béla Szőcs. It won the professional price and became an instant favourite. The confectioner simply named the cake after the town where he had lived and worked. The original recipe is still a secret, but many people tried to recreate it which is why many variations of the recipe exist. However, one can tell when eating the real deal…

“Life is short. Eat dessert first.” Ernestine Ulmer

The traditional presentation is created by scooping three balls of the assemble sponge layers into a bowl or on a plate, with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate sauce garnish, however, it makes a charmingly romantic looking, light cupcake with layers of flavour surprises.

Ingredients
For the cakes
4 eggs
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa
2 tbsp ground walnut
6 tbsp milk
Vanilla extract
2 handful of raisins soaked in rum
For vanilla cream
300 ml low-fat milk
3 egg yolks (about 100 g)
45 g cane sugar
1-2 tbsp vanilla extract
10 g maize starch
zest of half untreated lemon
For the assembly
2 tbsp rum
250 ml whipping cream
50 g dark chocolate
A handful of walnuts

Method
Soak the sultanas in rum.
For the vanilla cream heat the milk with the lemon zest and place in vanilla extract. Beat the egg yolks with the cane sugar until white and creamy. Mix it with a ladle of warm milk, until incorporated it well. Put this mixture into the remaining milk, then heat gently, stirring it until thickening.
For the sponge cake beat the egg whites with the half of the sugar to a meringue-like stiff peak foam, then set aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and shiny , then carefully fold the sieved flour into the egg white with a flexible spatula. Divide in three parts. In one of them mix the grounded walnuts with 3 tbsp milk, in another mix the cocoa powder with 3 tbsp milk, whilst the third one will be plain. Pour all three mixtures into a piping bag with a plain, wide nozzle. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases, and pipe the three batters, alternating the different mixtures, scattering in some soaked sultanas in between, filling each case two-thirds full and smoothing the top with gentle shaking. Bake in preheated 175°C oven for 18-20 minutes, then set aside to cool. When cool, cut the cupcake tops in an angle to create a hole and fill with the vanilla cream. Place the top back. Once it has set, brush rum on the top, and decorate with whipped cream, walnut chunks and melted chocolate.

“Dessert is to a meal what a dress is to a woman.” Béatrice Peltre

The Cake Business That is Worth Making Cheese for…

“Life is great. Cheese makes it better.” Avery Aames

Good cheesecakes are based on simple recipes… Although some might think it is a craft difficult to master, when the balance of soft cheese, eggs, sugar and a few flavourings is right, making cheesecake is a straightforward confectionery affair. Cheesecakes are technically baked cheesy custards on beds of cookie base. There are different  fundamental types of cheesecake, caused by the variety of cheese affecting the texture and taste: curd cheesecake, ricotta based Italian cheesecake, quark in the German cheesecake, cream cheese founded New York cheesecake and the unbaked French cheesecake. They all have different origin, however going back to the same roots: the ancient Greeks made the earliest known cheesecakes, consisting of patties of fresh cheese pounded smooth with flour and honey and cooked on an earthenware griddle. In the late medieval Europe the cheesecake reformed in tart form with a pastry base. For the following five centuries, almost every subsequent English cookbook contained at least one cheesecake recipe.

“Dessert without cheese is like a beauty with only one eye.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Preferring one or the other is simply a result of personal taste, rather than a choice being based on the existence of an “ultimately perfect cheesecake” – there is no such recipe… However, homemade cheese definitely makes any cheesecake more of an unforgettable culinary experience than any other version.

Making cream cheese
Ingredients: 500 ml whipping, pasteurized and 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Preparation: In a heavy saucepan, bring  the cream to 87 degrees C, stirring often. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles (all that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, covering the  back of the wooden spoon thickly). Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Making the cheesecake
Ingredients: 180 g leftover biscuits, 75 g butter, 360 g cream cheese, 100 g mascarpone, 100 g natural yogurt, 180 g sugar, 4 tbsp plain flour, 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla extract, zest of two lemons and two oranges


Method: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the base of a 20 – 22 spring form cake tin. Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Melt the butter and add the biscuit crumbs, stir to combine. Add the zest of a lemon and an orange. Place in the base of the cake tin and spread in an even layer, then flatten tightly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. Remove and leave to cool while preparing the filling. Reduce the oven to 160 degrees C. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone, yogurt and sugar until smooth then add flour, vanilla and eggs, beating well between each addition. Add the zest of a lemon and an orange. Act quickly, as beating too much air in adversely affects the surface of cheesecake. Pour the cream cheese mix on to the biscuit base then bake in the oven for 60 minutes. The cheesecake should be just set with a slight wobble and should still be cream on top with just a slight golden hint around the edges. Once the cheesecake is cooked, turn off the oven and prop open the door so that it is slightly ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for another hour or so. Once the oven is cool you, remove the cheesecake to cool completely before removing from the tin. Decorate with fresh fruit and sugar.

“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” Gilbert K. Chesterton