Friday, September 18, 2020

LAVENDER HONEY BREAKFAST PASTRIES

My love for breakfast pastries dates back to my earliest days of primary school, as the school bakery had them fresh and abundant every morning. A lot of time has passed since those chilly mornings, but my love for pastries remains. Especially if they are like these; rustic, ever so slightly sweet, nice, golden, and crispy on the outside, and pillowy soft on the inside. And that is exactly where the beauty of baking lies, in the complete freedom to make these, and any other pastries, completely to your liking.
These beauties are rolled with delicate and fragrant lavender honey, sweet enough to brighten them up, but not as far as to make them into dessert pastries. The honey melts into the dough itself, almost making them flaky, like laminated pastry, which is marvellous when you unravel them slowly, and dunk them into an icy cold jam. They are best served hot, right off the baking tray, with a tangy jam of your choice, and a large cup of freshly brewed coffee. And if you like your pastries on the sweeter side, do dust them lightly with icing sugar just after serving.


Ingredients
450 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
150 grams buttermilk
100 millilitres warm water
60 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
20 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150 grams lavender honey

Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt, whisk well, and set it aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fresh yeast, sugar, and the warm water, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast has activated, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour in the bubbly yeast, buttermilk, half of the oil, vinegar, and vanilla, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. It should not stick to your hands, but if it is, add another tablespoon of flour, but not more, as the dough needs to be as soft as possible. It is better to let the dough rest briefly and knead it again, than to add more flour. Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Once the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly, and then divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each of the dough pieces into a large circle, about 30 centimetres in diameter, and drizzle a generous spoonful of honey all over it. Roll up the dough into a long log, pinching the seam so it stays tightly rolled. Coil the dough into a swirl, or your favourite shape, and place it on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. If you want a more intricate shape, you might need to add a tad more flour, to braid or twist it more easily. Continue shaping and rolling until the dough is used up, and then let the pastries rise in a warm spot for another 30 minutes, to rise again. Just before baking, brush them with a bit of the reserved vegetable oil, and bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15-18 minutes. Serve hot, with a spread of your choice, and a cup of strong coffee.

Friday, September 11, 2020

RUSTIC CRESCENT ROLL BREAD

This is one of my tried-and-tested bread recipes, perfect for those days when it seems that twenty-four hours is simply not enough. Light, ever so slightly sweet crescent rolls, crunchy on the outside, and delightfully soft on the inside.
With colder weather approaching, comfort classics will be on the menu more frequently, and these are simply made for dunking into homemade soups, served hot, straight out of the oven. Moreover, they are particularly good for thicker stews or even sauces.
They can most certainly be baked as regular crescent rolls, but arranging them in this fashion and letting them bake together into a lovely decorative bread gives such a special touch to everyday meals. And if you like, brush them with a dab of melted butter just as they come out of the oven, for a softer crust.


Ingredients
Ingredients
300 grams plain flour
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
120 ml lukewarm milk
100 grams cream cheese, softened
60 ml vegetable oil


Preparation
Add the cream cheese and milk into a large bowl, and whisk vigorously to combine. Drizzle in the oil, and blend well. At this point, the batter should be smooth and blended. Sift in the baking powder and salt, and whisk again. Finally, sift in the flour and the corn flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms and starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It should not stick to your hands.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour, and place the dough in the centre. Carefully roll it out into a large circle, about 5 millimetre thick and around 25 centimetres in diameter. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, divide the dough circle into 16 triangles, and roll each one from the wider towards the narrower side, only lightly pressing.
Place a cake ring (23 cm in diameter) on a large baking sheet, and arrange the rolls in a circular fashion, as shown, so they touch. Make sure you place them seam side down, so the weight of the roll stops it from unravelling during baking. Generously mist them with cold water, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 20-25 minutes. Let them cool down slightly, and serve.

Friday, September 04, 2020

VANILLA BEAN DAMSON JAM

Autumn is just around the corner, and the time is right to start preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter months. Jam making is one of my much-loved autumn kitchen activities and plum jam is among my favourites, partly due to the nostalgia, partly due to the effortlessness of the process.
Generally, when making jam, always use ripe fruit. It is the sweetest, most fragrant, and perfect for jams. Of course, before making the jam, do go through the fruit and remove the imperfections or bruises, to make the jam last longer.
This particular jam is very forgiving, requiring very little preparation work, but also very rewarding, with its smooth texture and incredible flavour. Ripe damsons, warm, earthy vanilla, and a drop of dark rum; the perfect combination of signature autumn flavours, perfect for sweet breakfasts, roulade fillings, as well as for simple enjoyment with a smallest teaspoon, right from the jar. Do not fret the dark rum; it is there just as a pleasant undertone, rather than a sharp bite.


Ingredients
1. 2 kilograms ripe damsons, stones removed
350 grams granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean
2 teaspoons dark rum


Preparation
Place the plums into a large blender, and blend until they are completely pureed. When they almost resemble a smoothie, strain them into a large pot, preferably non-reactive, and tip in the sugar. Stir briefly, and let the fruit macerate for about 30 minutes.
Place the pot on medium-high heat, and add in the scraped seeds from one-half of a vanilla bean. Let it come to a boil, and then cook, for about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring often, and removing the foam that appears on the surface.
After about 25 minutes, check if the jam has reached its setting point, either by testing with a thermometer or simply dropping half a teaspoon onto a chilled plate, and seeing if it sets or not. If you check using a thermometer, it should reach 105°C, and if you check with a chilled saucer, let the jam stand for about 2 minutes before gently touching it with the tip of your finger. If the surface wrinkles, it is ready. If not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes, and check again in the same fashion.
Once the jam reaches its setting point, remove it from the heat and let it cool down just enough so the surface stops steaming. Add in the dark rum and stir well. Pour the jam into prepared, sterilised jars and close the lids well. Keep it in a dark and cool place, or in your refrigerator, for the best taste. Yields 800 grams of jam.

Friday, August 28, 2020

VEGAN CHOCOLATE PANCAKES

Pancakes will always be one of the most loved menu items. The true classic, lovely little stacks of deliciousness, perfect to brighten up the breakfast or sweeten up the brunch. There are many types of pancakes, but the simple vegan kind remains my favourite. Uncomplicated and quick to make, and especially delightful enjoyed right off the pan, with plenty of berries, and some melted, still warm, dark chocolate.
There is a long-standing belief that the first pancake has to turn out misshapen, but that mainly happens because pan was not prepared properly. When preparing a pan or a griddle, always heat it over medium-high heat, as the high heat will burn any batter poured into it. In addition to that, before the pancake is cooked, do add the smallest piece of vegan butter on it, let it melt fully, and then wipe the whole surface with a paper towel. Being abundantly careful, of course.
Even though these are chocolate pancakes, they are not overly sweet on their own. Depending on your preference, you can add a bit more sugar to the batter, if you like your pancakes on the sweeter side. I usually serve them with a tart topping, either fresh berries or a berry coulis, so it balances the flavours nicely.


Ingredients
180 grams plain flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
50 grams granulated sugar
15 grams baking powder
pinch of salt
300 millilitres oat milk
50 millilitres cold water
25 millilitres vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Preparation
Sift the flour and the cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add in the sugar, salt, and baking powder, and whisk very well. If necessary, sift everything again, to make them light and airy. Pour in the milk, water, oil, and the vanilla, and whisk until combined. If there are a few lumps of flour, it is fine, it is better to leave them to dissolve than to overmix the batter.
Place a large, non-stick pancake pan over medium-high heat, or use a pancake griddle at the same setting. Scoop the batter with a small ladle (80 millilitres), add it to the pan, and let it naturally spread out. Cook each pancake about 1-2 minutes on one side, or until bubbles form on the surface. Gently turn over the pancake and cook for about another minute or so, until the other side is nicely cooked. Serve immediately, with assorted berries or some melted chocolate. Yields 8 large pancakes.

Friday, August 21, 2020

CHOCOLATE KEFIR CAKE WITH POACHED FIG SAUCE

The time between late summer and early autumn is such a wonderful time, and with the sweetest of dilemmas – whether to enjoy the delicious fruit all on its own, to add it to desserts, or to preserve it in sweet syrup for the winter months. Figs, delicate and sweet, are in season just during this time, between summer and autumn. They are naturally fragrant and pair incredibly well with cinnamon, just a tiniest drop of orange blossom water, and dark chocolate.
I am a great supporter of adding fermented milk products to cakes. Especially chocolate cakes. Utmost softness aside, they truly give a unique, delectable flavour to any chocolate cake. Every slice of this little charmer is a true delight, light and velvety, and topped with a tender poached fig, like an amber jewel. Soft and sticky, it almost resembles a toffee pudding in texture.
Serve it well chilled, when the syrup is icy cold, and the figs are soft and bursting with flavour. And by all means, do pour a glass of your favourite dessert wine.


Ingredients
For the chocolate kefir cake
200 grams kefir
150 grams plain flour
150 grams granulated sugar
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
50 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
For the poached fig sauce
450 grams fresh, ripe figs
450 millilitres cold water
250 grams granulated sugar
50 grams dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt

Preparation
To make the poached fig sauce, very delicately peel the fresh pigs, and remove the stems. Pour the cold water into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in both types of sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and very gently mix so the sugar starts to dissolve lightly. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and let the sugar syrup come to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for 5-6 minutes, or until thickened. Carefully add in the figs, gently shake the saucepan, and lower the heat so the syrup only gently simmers. Simmer the figs, without stirring, until they become soft, but not mushy, about 30 minutes. The syrup should be glistening, and the figs should be tender. Let the sauce cool down completely.
To make the chocolate cake, take a large mixing bowl, and sift in the plain flour and the cocoa powder. Briefly whisk together, and then add in the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and the baking soda, and whisk again. In a separate bowl, whisk together the kefir, oil, vanilla, and the orange blossom water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and mix until only combined. Line a small square baking pan (18x18 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter, and bake it immediately in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15-18 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick, there should be no crumbs sticking to it when taken out. Let the cake cool down completely in the pan. To serve, place a piece of the chocolate cake on the serving plate, add a fig or two on top, and a generous drizzle of the syrup. Yields 9 rich servings.