Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kouign amann

Isn't it amazing the variety of recipes around the globe? Some are similar and some are very different. But each culture has their own unique way of preparing food. I particularly love that a baker can take baking basics such as flour, sugar, butter, eggs maybe a little yeast and create something which is totally their own.
This month in the Daring Kitchen we were challenged to prepare  kouign amann. Now this I had never heard of! According to our host,   Meredith. from The Poco Loco Olsons - "a kouign amann (prounounced “kwee-amahn”) is a round crusty pastry that originated in Brittany in roughly 1860. It is made with a bread dough that is laminated (think of a croissant or puff pastry) and then sprinkled with sugar before being cut into squares and baked in muffin tins".
I decided mine could do with a square of chocolate in the middle. Yup, these are good. Very good!

Kouign amann

Servings: 12


300g/10 1/2 oz / 2 2/5 cups strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5g / 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast OR 6.75g / 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5g / 1 tsp salt
200ml / 6 3/4 fl oz / 4/5 cup warm water
25g / 1oz / 1 3/4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
250g / 9oz / 1 1/5 sticks / 1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, in a block
100g / 3 1/2 oz / scant 1/2 cup caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling


1. Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes.
NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first.

2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

3. Sandwich the butter between two sheets of grease-proof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm / 5½” square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm / 8” square. Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough

 Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.

5. Roll the dough into a 45 x 15cm / 18 x 6” rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.

6. Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.

7. Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40 x 30cm / 16 x 12” rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with additional caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares. I added a small block of chocolate in the middle of each.

8. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover.

Sprinkle with additional caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.

9. Preheat oven to 220°C / 200°C (fan) / 425°F / Gas Mark 7. Bake the pastries for 30 - 40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.

10. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Samosas - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #40

Growing up in an Italian household one would never think curries were even thought of. However my Italian parents seemed to acquire a taste for curry and a tin of Keen's Curry Powder was ever present. In fact, my father made a great prawn curry which everyone loved. And so it is that I have never lost my taste for curry spices.
As I continue my slow journey cooking through this wonderful book by Greg Patent, I find myself gravitating towards recipes with spice such as this delicious recipe for samosas. Greg tells us that this pastry recipe by Bipin Patel is not a traditional one. Bipin likes to add cabbage and corn. I substituted carrots for the peas and parsley for the cilantro (coriander). But it would seem, whichever combination you choose, these spicy vegetable samosas are enjoyed by everyone.

Samosas adapted from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent

500g/ 1lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely chopped chilli
2 teaspoons garam marsala
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions

1 1/2 cups atta flour ( or 3/4 cup wholewheat flour plus 3/4 plain flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup tepid water

Vegetable oil for frying

Boil the potatoes in salted boiling water for about 8 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and fry off until they pop which should only be a matter of seconds. Add the cumin to brown a little but careful not to burn them. Quickly add the onion, stir and cook until tender, 3 or 4 minutes. Don't allow to brown.

Add the ginger, chilli, garam marsala, tumeric and salt. Cook for 5 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and allow to wilt for 5 minutes or so. Add in the potatoes, carrots, corn and lemon juice. Cook for a few minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley and spring onions. With the back of the spoon crush the potatoes a little. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You might need a little more lemon juice.
Allow to cool. This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and rub into the flour. Gradually add the water, mixing with a fork until the mixture clumps. I needed more water to bring the dough together. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and refrigerated but allow to come to room temperature before using.

To prepare the samosas:
Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a log about 20cm (8 inches) long. Cut each log into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Allow to rest for 10 minutes covered with a tea towel.
Have ready a small cup of water and little extra flour. Lightly flour a ball of dough and press out with your fingers to a 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 inch) circle. Then roll out to about 15 cm (6 inches) with the rolling pin, flour if necessary. Cut the circle in half.

Now you need to shape each semicircle into a cone. Dampen half of the straight edge with water, bring the other half of the straight edge over it to overlap. Press to seal. Holding the in one hand as in the photo, spoon a generous amount of filling in but  don't overfill and pack it lightly.

Dampen the edges of the dough and bring together to seal and form the triangle samosa shape. Cute, aren't they?

And so continue until all the pastry has been used up. If you happen to have leftover filling it is delicious served with yoghurt.. Allow the samosas to dry for an hour or so, turning them over once or twice and checking that they are well sealed.

When ready to fry heat the oil and fry a few at a time until bubbled and browned. I shallow fried but Greg recommends deep frying for even browning and crisping.

Either way the samosas are yummy!

Monday, March 28, 2016


What is a stroopwafel? Same question I had when I saw this was our Daring Kitchen challenge for March. So, a stroopwafel is a waffle biscuit (or cookie, depending on where you live) filled with a sticky delicious carmel which is the "stroop". Very popular in their native country, the Netherlands where market vendors continue to make these in the traditional way and their delicious scent calls to customers.Cinnamon flavours the biscuit and the filling but maybe other spices, vanilla or finely ground nuts could be used.

Our host Juliana from Egg Day said "They are a little fiddly and timing is critical. They are a yeasted cookie dough made in a shallow waffle cookie press, like a pizzelle iron, split down the middle and filled with a gooey dark brown butterscotch filling." Wow, Juliana wasn't kidding! I struggled splitting these little wafels down the middle! I used my electric pizzelle maker but had to be careful not to close it too tightly lest I create a wafel so thin that splitting was impossible. Nonetheless, stroop wafels are delicious and I thank Juliana for introducing me to these delights.

This is Juliana's recipe with my comments in red


Servings: 24


For the Wafels:
1/2 cup / 120ml warm water (105-110°F / 40-43°C)
1/4 ounce / 7g / 1 envelope active dry yeast (regular, not quick rise)
1/2 cup / 100g granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
4 cups / 500g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Stroop Filling:
1 1/2 cups / 300g brown sugar, packed
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter
1/3 cup / 80ml dark corn syrup (see note below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oil spray for cookie press (I didn't need this, there is a lot of butter in the dough)

IF you can't find dark corn syrup here are some substitutes

1/4 cup / 60ml light corn syrup plus 4 teaspoons/ 20ml molasses
1/3 cup / 80ml molasses
2/5 cup / 80g packed brown sugar mixed with 4 teaspoons / 20ml hot water


In a stand mixer bowl combine water, yeast, a pinch of sugar from the ½ cup and salt. When the yeast is foamy (about 3 minutes) add the remaining sugar and butter, blend together. Add the eggs and mix. Add the flour and cinnamon. Mix one minute beyond just combined. Allow the dough to rest, covered or wrapped in film, while you make the stroop.

In a heavy bottom pan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil, not stirring. Attach candy thermometer.
In a heavy bottom pan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil, not stirring. (I stirred otherwise it would have burnt) Attach candy thermometer. Brush the sugar down from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Bring to 234-240°F / 112-115°C / soft ball stage. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test it - at this point the syrup dropped in to cold water can be formed in to a soft and flexible ball. Remove from heat, add cinnamon. Stir until smooth. (I then cooled the pan in a bowl of cool water because I was worried about the caramel overcooking. Next time I would probably stop cooking the caramel before it reached temperature. My caramel was quite firm towards the end of making the wafels.)

Preheat waffle iron.

Measure the dough into 24 to 26 x 1 1/2 ounce / 42g balls. Roll into round balls.
Lay out a cutting board, round or decorative cookie cutter, knife, and offset spatula.

In quick order spray the cookie press, put in a ball of dough into each side of the cookie press. Close quickly using pressure to flatten the dough. Timing varies for each iron, roughly 1-3 minutes, allow your cookies to cook. Look for the steam coming from your press to diminish noticeably. You are looking for a dark golden brown. If they are undercooked they will not be crispy when cool. If they are overcooked you cannot split the cookie to fill it.

As soon as the cookie is cooked (it may be puffed, if you’re lucky) cut with the round cutter. This gives you a clean edge to halve the cookie.

Cut it through the middle to make two disks. It will be hot, use a clean tea towel to handle the cookie if necessary. Spread 1-2 tablespoons stroop onto one half of the cookie, then top with the other half. Allow to cool. If you move quickly, you can refill the cookie press after you’ve cut and split the cookie.

Those cookies can cook while you are filling the ones you just removed from the iron. If you move quickly, you can refill the cookie press after you’ve cut and split the cookie. Those cookies can cook while you are filling the ones you just removed from the iron.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Spinach and Cheese Katmer Pie

I'm not a very competitive person but when it comes to cooking and baking I'm always tempted by a challenge which is why I back in 2009 I joined the Daring Bakers. Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks belonged to the online baking group The Daring Kitchen. Over the years the group has grown and together learnt many challenging techniques and discovered wonderful recipes from around the world. As we move forward this year, we have condensed to just one group The Daring Kitchen which may present baking as well as cooking challenges. I notice that this group's popularity is waning a little. Maybe it's had it's day, maybe there are no more challenges exciting enough (I doubt that!) or maybe this is just a lull. Or perhaps like me life is busy and it becomes more and more difficult to bake and post challenges as much as one would like. In any case I do still enjoy the challenges and I have good intentions of baking and posting on time, even if it doesn't happen often.

This month Milkica from Mimi's Kingdom  presented a recipe for Katmer pie. This is a traditional recipe from southern Serbia which can be made with either a savoury or sweet filling. Katmer pastry is an old variation of puff pastry usually made with lard but other options are available such as butter or oil. I found the pastry quite easy but mine pie didn't have the puff and layers it should have so maybe I did something wrong! It was delicious though filled with spinach and cheese.  Many thanks to Milkica for introducing a traditional recipe from Serbia.

Katmer Pie with Spinach and Cheese



One large pie baked in a dish approximately 16 x 16” / 40 x 40cm (enough for family of six)


4 cups spooned & scraped / 500g all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups / 300 – 350ml warm water
More all-purpose (plain) flour for dusting
2 – 3 tablespoons / 30 – 45g soft lard


1. Measure all purpose flour, warm water and salt. Put lard in a small bowl and leave on a warm place.

2. Mix all ingredients except lard in glass or plastic bowl. You will have relatively soft dough.

3. Transfer dough on a floured surface and knead it a little until you achieve elastic, but soft dough.

4. Dough should look as on this picture. Maybe you’ll need additional 6 tablespoons / 50g of flour.

5. Divide dough in six equal pieces and shape every piece in round form. Leave them to rest 10 minutes.

6. Using rolling pin roll every piece of dough into flat, round shape, approximately 1/8” / 3 - 4mm thick. Divide pieces in two groups of three. Brush first piece of dough with melted lard and cover with another piece of dough. Brush second piece of dough with lard and cover with third piece. Do not brush this third piece of dough with lard! Repeat the same with another three pieces of dough.

7. You will have two piles of dough pieces. Leave them again to rest for 10 minutes.

8. Roll every pile using rolling pin into round shape, approximately 1/4 - 1/3” / 5 - 8mm thick.

 9. Using sharp knife make eight cuts around the formed circle

10. Brush surface with melted lard.

11. Fold brushed, cut petals into middle part of dough

12. Continue until you fold all eight of them.

13. Turn the dough so the folded parts are underneath. Do the same with another pile of dough. Leave both pieces of dough to rest until you prepare the filling.

Spinach and Cheese Filling

Given recipe yields enough for one Katmer pie.


1 pound / 500g spinach
2 cups / 500g soft cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt (amount depends on cheese you use, you should try prepared filling and add more salt if necessary)


1. Prepare all ingredients.
2. Cut spinach into strips and steam until softened. Cool and place it in bowl. Add remaining ingredients

 3. Mix all ingredients using spoon or your hands. Filling one is ready.

To assemble pie:

1. Turn on your oven on 350F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. Roll one of the pieces of dough on lightly floured surface into large, square or rectangular shape to fit your baking tin.

2. Transfer layer of dough on baking tin brushed with melted lard.

3. Arrange your filling all over the first layer of dough.

4. Roll out the other piece of dough and transfer it to baking tin, covering filling completely. Press edges with your fingers to stick together.

5. Brush surface of pie with melted lard.

6. Cut whole pie into small square pieces.  Bake pie in preheated oven around 30 minutes until deep golden in color.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Red Velvet 21st Birthday Cake

This month my daughter celebrated her 21st birthday. And my 18 year old son has graduated from high school and is embarking on a new beginning. Where has the time gone? I'm feeling a little melancholy but am so fortunate I have been able to spend so much time with my precious children. They have grown to be wonderful, sensitive young adults and I am very proud. It is now time for me to let go and allow them spread their wings. I know, that with God's grace, they will accomplish what they set out to do with integrity and respect for themselves and others.

The 21st birthday celebration was an understated affair with a simple meal at our home on the front lawn with close family and friends. My daughter has always loved selecting a birthday cake and this one was no exception. It had to be red velvet, multi layered and decorated with lots of colour. And so it was.
Red velvet cake was layered with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream and covered in dark chocolate ganache. It was a riot of colour with cherries, raspberries, blueberries,fresh roses and assorted sweets and biscuits to accompany the homemade decorations.  I made lots of little pink, orange and yellow meringues, red velvet macarons (recipe coming), honeycomb and sugar paste butterflies to decorate the cake.

The sugar paste butterflies are part of this month's Daring Kitchen challenge hosted by  Shillpa Bhaambri from Cakeline the Journey. Shillpa challenged us to become cake designers using fondant, sugar paste or modeling chocolate to create a design for a cake or cupcake. As I already had a plan for this cake I decided I could incorporate the butterflies into the design. I used homemade sugar paste coloured pink, orange and yellow to cut out butterflies using a cutter. A piece of cardboard bent into shape and covered with non stick baking paper served to shape the butterflies.

After they dried overnight I used a little black colour thinned with vodka edge the wings. Then once that dried a sparkle dust dry brushed on lifted the colour of each butterfly. With a little royal icing (egg white and pure icing sugar) a thin wire was secured to the underside.

Happy birthday to my beautiful girl!

The red velvet cake is a recipe by one of my favourite bakers Summer from Cake Paper Party and the Italian meringue butter cream is by Warren Brown with my adaption of cream cheese.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Struffoli - A Baker's Odyssey Challenge #39

Today I would like to share with you a delicious sweet treat from A Baker's Odyssey - Struffoli. 

Several years ago I pick up a copy of A Baker's Odyssey while on holidays in Brisbane. ( I was in Brisbane to see the show Mamma Mia - I love that show!) This cookbook, written by Greg Patent was published in 2007 but I had never come across it. What I loved was the variety of recipes from across the world brought to  America by immigrants. In the book Greg tells the stories of how he came across the recipes and the people behind the recipes. A true treasure! 

Do we have such a book in Australia? As a first generation Australian, I am fascinated by the immigrants that came to Australia -  the people, their food and their stories.  

Struffoli adapted from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent

3 eggs
pinch salt
1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups plain all purpose flour

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Honey sauce

1 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon orange flower water
1/4 slivered almonds
glace cherries and coloured sprinkles to decorate

In a bowl mix together eggs, salt, limoncello, oil and sugar. Slowly mix in the flour until a firm dough has formed. Turn our onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so. Wrap in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour.

Cut the dough into 8 piece and keep covered. Take one piece of dough and roll into a rope about 18 inches or 45 cm long. Cut into small pieces about 1/2 inch size which is just under 1.5cm. Repeat with all the dough. Set aside and heat the oil.

I just used a deep frying pan filled with about 1 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 185C/365F. Prepare a baking tray lined with paper towels.
When the oil is ready fry handfuls of the struffoli, stirring to separate the pieces and allowing them to brown and puff up. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and cool on the paper towel lined baking tray. Repeat with all the dough.
To make the honey sauce, place the honey, sugar and orangeflower water in a wide frying pan or skillett. Heat to dissolve the sugar then bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is glossy and thickens a little. Add the stuffoli and the almonds stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until all the struffoli are coated. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes to cool and thicken. Stir well. 

Then pile on a serving plate and decorate with cherries and coloured spinkles.

As Greg says these are so moreish, people just pluck them off to munch on and keep going back for more.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gateaux Pithiviers - December 2015 daring bakers' challenge

  For the month of December, Kat challenged us to make Gateaux Pithiviers. 

Yep, I'm late!
It's the second day of January and I am posting this December challenge for Daring Bakers.

Daring Bakers is an online baking group I joined back in 2009. I have enjoyed baking with this amazing group who have taught me the intricacies of macarons and croquembouche as well as taking me baking to Palestine, Hungary, France and Austria just to name a few. Over the years I have noticed the members participation start to wane a little. I too, find it sometimes difficult to complete a challenge and post every month. But I am not giving up just a little late!
If you enjoy a baking and cooking challenge please head over to the Daring Bakers and join us!

So this time, it was back to puff pastry. I can tell you in the heat of a tropical summer this is no easy feat. The freezer becomes my best goes the dough, board and rolling pin...the whole's the only way.
With this homemade puff pastry we made a delicious French pastry Gateaux Pithivier also called King's Cake with a small token traditionally baked into the almond filling. Whoever gets the token in their slice is King for the Day!

Kat supplied a recipe but gave us free reign to use our own puff pastry recipe if we preferred. In a previous Daring Bakers challenge hosted by Steph of Whisk and a Spoon the puff pastry recipe was by Michel Richard as the recipe appears in Baking with Julia. Watch with video as Michel demonstrates the recipe.

I just used the freezer to keep everything very cold in the hope to combat the ferocious heat we have been experiencing.

I used half of the dough to roll out and cut two 9 inch rounds for the Gateaux. The remainder is chilling in the freezer until I decide what I will make with it.

This is the recipe for the Frangipane however I found it not firm enough so added a little more ground almond and a spoonful of plain flour. For this purpose I think the frangipane should be refrigerated overnight so that it firms up.

1½ cups blanched almonds ( which I weighed to be 225g), toasted
⅓ - ½ cup (65-100g) granulated sugar, depending on your sweetness preference
4 Tbsp. (55g) butter
2 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract
zest from 1 lemon or ½ an orange or 2 tangerines
2 Tbsp. Armangac or Rum.

To make the frangipane, grind the almonds. Mix the ground almonds with the remaining ingredients. If necessary, add a little more almond meal to thicken to that the paste can be shaped into a 6" disc. It will be fairly loose. Chill at least 30 minutes.

PReheat the oven to 180C/350F

Spoon enough of the frangipane in the centre of your round leaving about 1 inch of dough all around. Brush the dough with egg wash and centre the second round of dough over the frangipane and press firmly to seal.

With a small sharp knife cut a decorative pattern on the pastry only cutting  partly through the dough. With the back of your knife mark all around the edges to give a scalloped effect.

Bake in your preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until well risen and browned. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar and place under a grill to caramelize and brown the sugar giving a glossy surface.