20 April 2018

GOAT MILK KEFIR BREAD

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is made with a fermentation starter, often called kefir grains. It can be prepared by mixing either cows', goats', or sheep's milk with the kefir grains, and is a good source of calcium and probiotics. It can be used to make sourdough breads, and it is very useful as a buttermilk substitute when baking, which is how I use it the most.
In all honesty, freshly baked buttery bread is one of the best things to have for breakfast, especially served piping hot, right out of the oven. Rich dough, made with kefir and layered with butter, ensures a tender crumb, and a gorgeous flaky and crunchy surface. As with all the breads I make, I love brushing the surface with butter as soon as I take it out of the oven, to give it a shiny and soft crust.


Ingredients
450 grams soft bread flour
1 ½ teaspoon dry yeast
200 grams goat milk kefir, room temperature
120 ml tepid water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
100 grams unsalted butter, for layering


Preparation
Sift the flour twice and set it aside. Take a large bowl, add in the kefir, oil, water, and salt and whisk it well. Add half of the flour and all of the yeast, and mix very well with a wooden spoon, until a creamy batter forms. Then, slowly start adding the rest of the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon at first, then kneading with your hands, until all of the flour is used. The dough should be tacky, but it shouldn't stick to your hands. Wrap the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot for about an hour.
Once the dough is risen and ready, take it out of the bowl and gently knead it on a well-floured surface for a few minutes, then divide it into six equal portions, shape each one into a ball, then cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rest for 30 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter, and let it cool down slightly. Take a round baking pan (23 cm), and butter it generously. When the dough has rested, roll out the first dough ball into a circle that matches the size of the round pan you will be baking it in, then place it on the bottom of the pan.
Brush it with the melted butter, and repeat this process with the rest of the dough. Once you've layered the bread, brush the top with any remaining melted butter, and bake it immediately in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for about 30 minutes. Check the bread before the time is up, just to make sure it isn't overbaked.

Baker's note: If you wish to make a decorative bread, the preparation method is a bit different – you place five of the dough circles in the pan, cut a star shape in the middle, all the way through, then pull the petals away from the centre. Place the remaining dough ball in the centre, and bake as indicated.

13 April 2018

CHOCOLATE PAVLOVA

Pavlova is a light and luscious meringue dessert, with a gorgeous marshmallow centre, and a crispy shell. It is usually served with lots of freshly whipped cream and fruit, but this one is full of dark chocolate and cocoa. When making Pavlova, as you would with any other dessert that includes meringue, you need to keep in mind that you need to use a metal or glass bowl that has no traces of grease of any kind, because that will cause the egg whites not to whip up properly.
The meringue needs the egg whites to be as ample as they can, and grease will hinder that in a major way. Also, bake this chocolate version as you would normally bake Pavlova – in a low oven for the time indicated in the recipe, then turn the oven off, and open the door ever so slightly, so the cake cools down gradually. If you do happen to have any leftover cake, it can be refrigerated, but know that it will absorb moisture and the outer shell will lose all the crispness it had.


Ingredients
For the meringue
2 medium egg whites
150 grams granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ tablespoon cornflour (corn starch)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
100 ml heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
100 grams dark chocolate

Preparation
Place the egg whites into a large glass (or metal) bowl , and whisk with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Once the egg whites hold stiff peaks, start adding in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating really well after each addition, this time on medium high speed, until the meringue looks glossy. Sift in the cream of tartar, cornflour, cocoa powder, and vanilla, and mix them in with a wire whisk. Take a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, and place the meringue in a circle, about 15 cm in diameter.
Bake the meringue in a preheated oven, at 100°C (220°F), for an hour, then turn the oven off, and open the oven door just a bit, so the meringue can cool down gradually. This will prevent large cracks and the sinking of the cake. When the meringue has cooled completely, melt half of the chocolate and drizzle it over the cake. Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla, until soft peaks form, and spread it on top, over the chocolate, then grate the rest of it, and sprinkle on top of the heavy cream. Yields 6 servings.

06 April 2018

VEGAN CARROT CAKE

This carrot cake recipe is my favourite one. Very simple and straightforward, and it has no eggs, and no dairy. It is not a light and fluffy cake, but it is supremely moist, with lots of flavour coming from the cinnamon, as well as fresh pineapple and coconut. It is filled with a wonderfully rich and smooth white chocolate and cream cheese frosting.
Depending on the type of vegan cream cheese you use, the filling may seem soft enough to spread without adding any additional cream, so adjust it to your tastes and needs. And as a final note, of course, feel free to add more fresh pineapple to the cake, if you like pineapple, just dice it finely, so it makes it easier for you to slice the cake later on.


Ingredients
For the cake
250 grams plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
250 grams applesauce
120 grams vegan butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
60 ml vegetable oil
200 grams unrefined sugar
300 grams grated carrots
150 grams diced fresh pineapple
4 tablespoons desiccated coconut
For the filling
200 grams vegan white chocolate
100 ml coconut cream
120 grams vegan butter
100 grams icing sugar


Preparation
Take a large bowl and add in the softened vegan butter, along with the applesauce, oil, vanilla and ground cinnamon, and blend it well, either using a whisk or a hand mixer on medium. If it looks like it is not blending well, add a tablespoon or two of flour, it will help emulsify the batter. Once that is well-blended, add in the sugar, mix well, and then sift in the flour and the baking powder. Mix briefly, and add the grated carrots, diced pineapple and coconut, and fold them through.
Take four round cake tins (15 cm), grease them well with vegan butter, then dust them with flour, and divide the batter evenly between them. Bake in a preheated oven, at 170°C (340°F), for 25-30 minutes. Make sure you check the cakes with a toothpick, to make sure they are done, but not overbaked. They will be dense and moist when done. Remove them from the oven, let them cool in the tins for about 10-15 minutes, then remove them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the filling. Chop up the vegan white chocolate, place in in a saucepan, pour over the coconut cream, and let them melt together slowly over medium heat. Once melted, remove from the stove, and let it cool completely. You can speed this up by waiting until it cools down to room temperature, then placing it in the refrigerator.
When the ganache is chilled and ready, blend together the softened vegan butter and the vegan cream cheese in a large bowl, then add in the ganache, and blend well. At this point, the filling will be too soft to work with, so sift in the icing sugar, and blend it in well. When that is blended, take a spatula and stir the filling through to see if you are happy with the consistency. If it is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of coconut cream, and blend it in.
To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on the serving platter, frost it with the cream cheese filling, then top with the second layer. Continue stacking the cake until you use up all of the material, then do a light crumb coat around the whole cake with the remaining filling. Place the cake in the refrigerator for an hour, then decorate as desired, and return it to the refrigerator for another 8 hours. Keep the cake refrigerated. Yields 16 servings.

30 March 2018

PAIN AU CHOCOLAT

Pain au chocolat is a type of a laminated sweet roll. It is made from a rich yeast dough, and filled with dark chocolate. The lamination is the same as with croissants, so if you’ve ever made croissants, you can make pain au chocolat. Laminating the dough isn't difficult, but it is a labour of love, since it does take some time, because the dough has to chilled between folding, so the butter remains firm.
Chocolate batons are incredibly handy and perfect for pastries, as they melt into lush chocolate centres, but if you cannot find chocolate batons, or you do not want to use them, just chop some dark chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate) into a similar shape, and continue with the process as described. They are amazingly delicious piping hot from the oven, slightly warm, or even cold, if that’s how you like them. Serve them with hot chocolate or strong coffee.


Ingredients
For the dough
500 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
50 grams sugar
200 ml whole milk
150 ml tepid water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 chocolate batons
For laminating
250 grams unsalted butter
For the glaze
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk


Preparation
Pour the warm milk and water into a small bowl, add the sugar and yeast, stir well and leave it for 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the milk and yeast mixture, melted butter, and vanilla; and mix it well, first with a wooden spoon, then with your hands, until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes, adding a little more flour if needed. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
Take a large piece of baking paper, and place slices of the cold butter on it, arranging them in a rough rectangle, then cover it with another piece of baking paper. Roll the butter out thinly, to the size of about 30x15 cm, and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, to firm up. Basically, you need the butter rolled out to the same width, but one third shorter than the dough. Turn the risen dough out on a floured surface, knead it briefly and roll it out to a long rectangle (45x15cm). Place the chilled butter on the bottom third of the dough. Turn the top third of the dough over the butter, then turn the bottom third (dough and butter) over the top third, just like you would fold a letter. Press the edges of the dough firmly together with your fingers.
Turn the dough 90 degrees to your right and roll it out again to 45x15cm. Now turn the top third of the dough over, and again the bottom third over the top third. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, or place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. It is important to keep the laminated dough chilled so the butter doesn't melt into the dough. Once chilled, take the dough out of the plastic, and put it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out yet again to 45x15cm (18x6"). Fold it the same way you did before (like a letter), brushing off any excess flour, and put it back into the plastic, and chill for another 30 minutes. Repeat this one more time and leave the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour (up or overnight), to rest and firm up.
When you are ready to shape the pastries, put the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a large rectangle, then cut it into 12 rectangles with a very sharp knife. Place one chocolate baton on the short side of the pastry rectangle, fold the dough over the chocolate and gently press it into the middle. Place another baton right where the fold is, and fold it all the way. Arrange each folded pastry on a greased baking sheet, seam side down, with about 5 cm between them, because they will expand as they bake. Cover them with a kitchen towel and let them rise for about an hour. Just before baking, whisk together the yolk with the milk, brush the pastries evenly and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C (395°F) for about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm. Yields 12 servings.

23 March 2018

HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES

What's better than a chocolate cookie? A chocolate sandwich cookie with a creamy filling. This is a simpler, homemade version of the all-time favourite chocolate cookies. Very quick and easy to make, these are fantastic with a tall glass of milk, or a cup of strong coffee, which is how I like them. The only waiting time is the chilling time for the dough, everything else can be done in under half an hour. One optional thing - if you want, you can add some cinnamon or even espresso powder, if you want to pair them with strong coffee.


Ingredients
For the cookies
120 grams salted butter, softened
100 grams granulated sugar
1 small egg
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
200 grams plain flour
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
dash of cinnamon, optional
For the filling
200 grams icing sugar
50 grams salted butter, softened
1 ½ tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation
First make the cookies. Sift the flour with the cocoa powder and baking powder twice and set it aside. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on high until creamy, about a minute. Add the sugar and reduce the speed to medium. Beat until creamy, lighter in colour and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and blend really well. Add the dry ingredients you sifter earlier and gently fold them in with a spatula, then blend start with the mixer on low and beat until the dough starts to form. If it gets too difficult for your mixer to blend, finish the dough with a wooden spoon. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
When the dough has firmed up, remove it from the refrigerator, lightly dust the work surface with flour and let the dough sit out for about a minute, so it warms up slightly. Roll the dough out to about 5 millimetres and cut out desired shapes. Make sure you have an even number of single cookies, because you need to sandwich them later. Arrange the single cookies on two baking sheets lined with baking paper and bake them in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F) for 10-12 minutes. They will seem very soft when you take them out of the oven, but do not be tempted to bake them any further. Let them cool for about 5 minutes on the sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You should get 50 single cookies.
While the cookies are cooling, make the filling. Place the softened butter in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth and creamy. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat on low for about a minute, then turn the mixer on high and beat for 1 minute more. Add the vanilla and cream and beat for another minute on high. The filling should be smooth and thick, but easily pipeable. Take a single cookie, pipe out about half of a teaspoon of the filling in the centre, then place another cookie on top and press down slightly. The filling should hold the cookies together. Yields 25 finished sandwich cookies.