Friday Finds

Hello December! Can’t get over how cute these mini gingerbread house mug toppers are. All you’ve got to decide is what to fill your cups with: hot chocolate, coffee or mulled wine?

By Bake Noir:

mini gingerbread house

Photo by Rumiana Bosseva, via Flickr:

mini gingerbread house

Anthropologie:

mini gingerbread house

By Caitlin of Glitter Guide:

mini gingerbread house

By Eure Vivienne of Piepmatz Blog:

mini gingerbread house

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Carrot and Plum Pie with Meringue Topping

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

Hi guys! Hope you had a great holiday. As you may or may not know, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here, but we’ve managed to stuff ourselves silly over the weekend nonetheless. Can you not do that with pulled pork? I don’t think so.

Anyway. This time I’ve decided to be a little showy with my baking. It’s not something I normally aim at (in fact, looks come after taste in my kitchen without a question), but I think festive season is a great time to challenge yourself a bit.

This recipe from the September issue of Magyar Konyha  magazine, created by the team over at Marangona, Budapest’s chic bakery of the moment was top on my list. I only made slight changes, namely reducing the amount of plums (I could’t fit the given amount on top of the batter), omitting citrus peel (merely because I can’t stand it, but feel free to use it) and cutting down a teeny bit on the sugar.

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

I was always intimidated by meringue to some degree so I’ve never done a meringue-topped pie before, but there’s a first time for everything as they say. And it turns out my reservations were all but fictitious!

Creating fluffy, feathery meringue peaks is only a matter of attention and a food thermometer. I had the good sense to educate myself on the topic before I started cracking eggs, so here’s the essence of my meringue studies:

There are 3 types of meringue. The one made most commonly at home (as in: the easiest) is French meringue, when sugar is whisked into beaten egg whites. Swiss meringue is made by beating egg whites and sugar together over a water bath until the sugar has dissolved, then beating until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. Italian meringue, the most popular with professional bakers (read: the most difficult) is made by whisking a hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites.

Italian meringue tends to hold its volume the best, but there isn’t much room for error with this one. If you fail to boil the sugar syrup to the right temperature, don’t beat the whites to the proper stiffness or the surface of your pie is too damp, the meringue may start to weep.

Weeping occurs when some of the sugar in the meringue liquefies and seeps out. Weeping meringue won’t interfere with the taste of your pie, but it’s not visually pleasing. Shamelessly admitting mine did weep a little. Oh well 🤷‍♀️ It still gave this scrumptious autumnal pie a light and dreamy topping.

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

Note that all amounts are given in grams. I’m a fan of measuring by cups (volume), but when it comes to baking, weights and measurements are sometimes critical and scales are the key to accuracy. It’s a small investment for peace of mind when measuring ingredients.

Carrot and Plum Pie with Meringue Topping

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Sweet, cinnamon-y and seasonal pie with a fluffy meringue topping. Adapted from Magyar Konyha magazine.

Ingredients

for the pie:

500 g plums, pitted and halved

30 g cinnamon sugar (30 g brown sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

20 g powdered sugar

pinch of salt

55 g egg yolk (3-4 eggs)

80 g egg whites (cca. 4 eggs)

45 g granulated sugar

165 g carrot, grated

133 g almond flour

5 g baking powder

30 g AP flour

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

140 g walnuts, roughly chopped

for the meringue topping:

100 g egg whites

100 g granulated sugar

100 g granulated sugar + water

Directions

Make pie:

  1. Butter and flour a 25 cm (10”) pie dish.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, almond flour, baking powder, half of the chopped walnuts and vanilla seeds.
  3. Mix egg yolks with powdered sugar in a bowl with a handheld mixer until pale, 3-5 min.
  4. In another bowl, beat egg whites with the pinch of salt. When stiff peaks start to form, gradually add granulated sugar and whisk until shiny, another 1-2 min.
  5. Using a large spatula, carefully fold in egg whites with yolks mixture.
  6. Gently fold in carrot, and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
  7. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
  8. Transfer batter to the baking dish and distribute in an even layer.
  9. Arrange plum halves on top of batter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and remaining walnuts.
  10. Bake until risen and center is set, about 40 min.

Make meringue topping:

  1. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine first part of sugar with as much water to just cover it.
  2. Heat over high heat, cooking until syrup registers 115°C (240°F) on an instant read or candy thermometer.
  3. Meanwhile, start whipping egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed. When soft peaks form (about 3 min), gradually add second part of sugar.
  4. With the mixer running, carefully and slowly pour in hot sugar syrup. Increase speed though and whip until mixture is stiff and has cooled.
  5. Transfer meringue to a piping bag and decorate the pie.
  6. Bake pie at 180°C (355°F) for 12 min, until meringue peaks start to turn slightly golden. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: What I write about business establishments on My Chest of Wonders represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Friday Finds

This year I’m seriously considering a minimal festive decor with more greenery and less everything shiny, starting with the Christmas wreath. Who even said it has to be circular, right?

By Marij of My Attic:

minimal wreath

By Leesa of The Makers Society:

minimal wreath

By Rachel of Made From Scratch:

minimal wreath

By Fleur McHarg via Vogue Australia:

minimal wreath

By Francesca of Fall For DIY:

minimal wreath

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

 

Hearty and Warming Chanterelles Risotto

chanterelles-risotto

Let’s get the Health & Safety over with first: you are taking a risk when foraging for wild mushrooms (or anything that grows in the wild for that matter), but it would be a shame if we stopped eating them.

Please be very, very careful about what you collect! Many edible mushrooms are so surprisingly similar to toxic varieties that only an experienced professional can tell the difference. Yes, cooking does destroy some poisons, but rather learn how to identify a few edible species and pick only them. If you have the slightest doubt about what you are looking at, leave it alone!

And now with that out of the way: chanterelles.

Found from July through December, these yellow, funnel-shaped beauties with gill-like ridges emit a distinct fruity aroma and have a mild, slightly peppery taste. Chanterelles were notable for being served at the tables of nobility, and many chefs consider them on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles. No wonder the price they sell for…

Chanterelles are well-suited for drying and freezing so if you got lucky foraging, you can save some for later. I had a serving in my freezer from the last time my uncle called my father with the news there are basketfuls at one of his secret locations. I do consider myself lucky.

The most flavorful compounds in chanterelles are fat-soluble, making them good mushrooms to sauté in butter, or the key ingredient in a creamy sauce and so the dish I made truly does them justice: a warm, creamy, rich risotto going hard on the cream and the parmesan, topped with my chanterelles sautéed in butter.

Yup, if you’re on a low-on-everything diet, better leave now. I warned you!

Having the basic risotto recipe mastered and up your sleeve will give you so many opportunities when it comes to quick and tasty meals. You can top it with whatever is lying on the pantry shelf/withering away in the fridge, it’s a really versatile dish. The only mild frustration is you have to be present all the way through the roughly 25 minutes of cooking.

Chanterelles Risotto

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Rich, creamy and satisfying risotto with fruity sautéed wild chanterelles. Serves 4.

Ingredients

For the sautéed mushrooms:

2 cups chanterelles

3 tbsp butter

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the risotto:

1 l (4 cups) simmering vegetable or chicken stock

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

280 g (about 1 1/2 cup) arborio or other risotto rice

150 ml (2/3 cup) dry white wine

3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Grans Padano

200 ml cooking cream (20%)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Clean the mushrooms by gently rubbing the dirt off or rinsing them quickly under running water. Let dry on a paper towel.
  2. Bring stock to a slow simmer.
  3. Heat butter over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan big enough to accommodate the mushrooms in a single layer.
  4. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir to evenly coat with butter. You should hear the mushrooms sizzling. In 1-2 minutes the mushrooms will start to release their moisture.
  5. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms start to turn darker, about 5-8 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle parsley over mushrooms, set aside.
  7. For the risotto, heat butter and olive oil in a deep heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
  8. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add garlic and stir.
  9. Add rice and mix to coat in oil and butter. Cook, stirring, until grains are translucent, 2-3 min.
  10. Add the wine and cook for 1 min, until reduced.
  11. Reduce heat. Gradually add stock, a ladleful at a time. Stir constantly and add more liquid as the rice absorbs each addition. Liquid should be bubbling between additions.
  12. Continue cooking like this for 20 min, or until all the stock is absorbed and rice is creamy. Season to taste (note that stock might be quite salty).
  13. Remove from heat and add cream. Mix well.
  14. Add Parmesan, stirring until it melts.
  15. Put a scoop of risotto on each plate, add sautéed chanterelles on top. Garnish with more parsley and freshly ground pepper if desired. Serve at once. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Simple, Basic Coffee Cake with Hazelnut & Pear

pear hazelnut coffee cake

You blink once, and holiday lights are going up in the city. I love this festive time of the year: it makes me want to nestle in, slow down and make the house smell amazing by baking something every day.

In theory. The reality is my days are already bursting at the seams with work and commute and all the other stuff life throws at you, but heck, I’ll find the time to bake something on the weekend.

It’s gonna be a simple and easy coffee cake.

I like simple and I do simple often. More often than not, to be honest. It doesn’t always have to be something lifestyle magazine-worthy. Baking should be about bringing joy: to you during the process, and to those who you share the fruit of your work with. At the end of the day only the smiles count, no matter how simple or complicated the recipe was.

If you are a novice baker, I say you start with coffee cakes – success guaranteed, provided you measure the ingredients properly. Cups are great, but get a scale (Christmas wish list alert).

Coffee cake generally refers to a sweet cake intended to be enjoyed with coffee or tea so basically it can be any cake-like substance, but for me a proper coffee cake is always a variation on the plain yellow cake with the moist and tender crumb.

My go-to recipe was pirated from my granny’s hand-written recipe collection but don’t expect big surprises here, these dense cakes are made with pretty much uniform ingredients and techniques.

Once you have your basic recipe mastered, the sky is the limit for what you can stir or layer into the batter. Wherever you stand on glaze, streusel and fillings, it doesn’t really matter as long as you stay true to the roots, that is: easy and down-home delicious, the reason why coffee cakes are on major repeat in most kitchens.

What you need for this informal, everyday sweet treat is stuff you already have in your pantry, namely butter, sugar, flour and eggs. I love nuts, so I always add either ground hazelnuts or walnuts too (I reserve almonds for butter cookies). And to top the cake, my favorite fruit is pear. And apples. Or plums. Oh, the plums! Here’s the recipe before I get further carried away:

Hazelnut & Pear Coffee Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Simple, basic coffee cake with fruit and nuts.

Ingredients

for the cake:

200 g butter

200 g white sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

225 g AP flour

75 g hazelnut meal

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

for the topping:

2 medium pears

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. Mix sugar with cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl.
  2. Wash, peel, core and slice pears.
  3. Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F, grease and flour a 23 cm / 9” springform cake pan.
  4. Mix flour, ground hazelnut, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer (or in the stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment) on medium until creamy.
  6. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  7. Add flour mixture to butter mixture by tablespoons, beating on low until combined.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula.
  9. Arrange pear slices on top, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake for 45 min. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set.
  11. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes; remove sides of pan. Cool completely before slicing.

pear hazelnut coffee cake

Love,

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

Time to start thinking of those wish lists, and the pretty gift wrap options! Which of these styles resonate with you?

Powdery hues by Elisabeth Heier:

gift wrapping

Natural and stylish by Abi of These Four Walls:

gift wrapping

Modern in glacier blue via Pinterest:

gift wrap

DIY paint flicked by Toni of The Pretty Blog:

gift wrap

Pretty in copper by Cox & Cox:

gift wrap

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

The Secret to Making the Best St. Martin’s Day Goose Legs

grey goose

On November 11 Saint Martin of Tours is celebrated throughout Christian parts of the world. Many customs are attached to the Roman soldier-turned-monk who is also a patron of my country. Some of these traditions are living part of our folklore to this day ever since medieval times, but the most popular of all is no doubt the Martin Day Feast.

The eating. Because of course.

This religious observance marks the end of the agrarian year and was the last chance to rejoice before the 40-day Advent Fast, so it is no surprise people shaped the festivities to be about eating, drinking and general merriment.

Legend has it that humble Martin hid in the goose pen trying to avoid being ordained bishop, but was betrayed by the cackling of the birds. This is how the goose became the symbol of the Saint. Anser anser domesticus is also the bird of the Roman god Mars and has even been worshipped, but that never stopped anyone from eating the poor things.

And indeed: domestic geese are fully grown and ready to be slaughtered precisely this time of the year, making them the star of the holiday table. A traditional Hungarian St. Martin’s Day menu is goose with braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes, a rich wintery dish followed by the new wines of the year. Which also happen to be ready now. Am I the only one sensing a conspiracy theory here? 🤔

We also have a saying that goes like this: those who do not eat goose on Martin’s will be starving throughout the next year. That’s serious sh*t, folks! I therefore believe it’s in public interest I share how to make the best leg of goose (pssst: duck is all right if you can’t get goose).

There is only one secret: confit.

Confit is an age-old process for preserving food, created as a matter of necessity before the days of refrigeration. The fancy French word (simply meaning to preserve) may be pure gibberish to my grandma, but she knows the how-to all right: pieces of pork not going to be cured (ham) or smoked (sausages) ended up in a big, heavy pot, cooked to melt-off-the-bone tender, and kept under their own fat for months to be thoroughly enjoyed.

How is this extended shelf life possible? By slow-cooking in a liquid (fat in this case) that is inhospitable to bacterial growth and then packed completely submerged in that liquid, creating an impenetrable, airtight barrier.

The difference between deep-frying and confit is in the temperature. Confit is a low and slow process – we’re talking hours here. During the course of cooking, the fat temperature will not rise above 95°C (200°F). It’s hot enough to break down tough connective tissue and tenderize the meat to perfection.

There’s no need to heavily flavor the goose: salt on its own is enough. Rub some freshly ground black pepper in the skin and pop a sprig of rosemary in the pot if you must, but no more.

What you will also need is rendered goose or duck fat, and quite a lot of it: enough to cover the legs completely. Here in Hungary, this liquid gold is available in most supermarkets, I hope you guys can buy it too.

And if you really want to make the most of your goose confit – and why wouldn’t you – try to find goose or duck skin with fat (it’s what you get by carefully removing all of the skin and fat from a whole bird, cutting close to, but avoiding the meat – also commercially available here). The tasty bonus is fritons, or goose cracklings, a highly addictive, crispy snack. After cooking, reserve the flavorful fat in the fridge for another use.

Goose Leg Confit

Fall-off-the-bone goose legs, the ultimate St. Martin’s dish.

Ingredients

4 goose legs

25 g salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

1 sprig of rosemary (optional)

1 l goose or duck fat

500 g goose or duck fat with skin

Directions

  1. The day before making this dish, check goose legs for remaining feathers, wash them and pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt and pepper (if using) into the skin, cover and leave to cure in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 120°C / 250°F.
  3. If using, cut fat with skin to uniform chunks, about 1″x1″.
  4. Arrange fat chunks on the bottom of a heavy pan or dutch oven in an even layer, place goose legs on top of it.
  5. Pour rendered fat and ½ cup of water over legs to cover completely. Add rosemary, if using.
  6. Cover dish with a lid or foil and place in the oven to cook for about 3 hours or until meat easily comes off the bone. The skin on the legs and the cracklings should be dark golden.
  7. To crisp up the skins before serving, remove legs from fat and pan fry skin side down over medium-high heat for 5 min. Turn the legs and transfer the pan to the oven for 20 min. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

‘Yellow-billed grey goose portrait on the farm’ photo by Csehák Szabolcs via Shutterstock

Friday Finds

November brought along the first frost this week. It’s time we cozy up!

DIY Giant Tassel Throw by Bre of brepurposed:

tassel throw

Wool Bedspread via Etsy:

wool bedspread

Luxury herringbone throw via Pinterest:

beige throw

Throw Blankets as Decorating Essentials by Liz of Love Grows Wild:

white throw

Making Guests Feel Welcome by Kristi of Making It in the Mountains:

patterned throw

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Banana Bread, As Healthy As It Gets

healthy banana bread

I am posting this all-American comfort food because somehow people (ok, me) always end up with a few very ripe, brown and spotty bananas just sitting on the counter.

Bananas that are too ripe to eat, but are just perfect for baking.

I make this classic treat quite often in the cold season, because that’s when I buy bananas (the other part of the year my parents’ garden supplies us all with plenty of fresh fruit). This time I felt dedicated to find inventive ways so I could have my cake – and eat it totally guilt free. That meant swapping a few ingredients for a lightened up, better-for-you banana bread that is not only just as delicious as the original, but also wholesome and nourishing.

I believe in tradition, but I also like altering classic recipes sometimes to make healthy treats. It’s all about smart changes. Flavor is super important but the result needs to be lower in calories, sugar and fat and at the same time, higher in fibre, protein and healthy oils.

This banana bread has all those redeeming qualities. It won’t send your blood sugar levels for a loop, not to mention that you can whip this up with just one bowl, a few measuring cups and some basic ingredients. The Husband approves too, so I can assure you: the loaf passed the taste test.

Moist and dense, delicious and filling. Perfect for breakfast and beyond, also freezable. The homey comfort of banana bread, updated to fit a more health-conscious life.

healthy banana bread

Some notes, if I may:

  • This recipe is dairy free.
  • You can make this recipe gluten-free by using a GF flour blend, or oat flour.
  • Bananas: the riper the better. They are super sweet! I actually made this recipe without any sweetening, and it was still totally enjoyable.
  • You can use any other kind of nut meal instead of walnuts, or omit nuts completely. In that case, increase the amount of flour to 1 cup.
  • Sweeten the batter with the natural sweetener of your choice. So far I tried it with birch sugar, honey and maple syrup, all working well.
  • Feel free to substitute the currants with blueberries, cranberries, raisins, or whatever floats your boat.
  • Banana bread keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. It’s best if you slice before freezing to be able to thaw individual pieces.

healthy banana bread

Healthy Banana Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Classic banana bread recipe updated with better-for-you ingredients. Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp natural sweetener of your choice

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup walnut meal

½ cup vanilla protein powder

½ cup fresh or frozen blackcurrants

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F), lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan (or line with parchment paper).
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork.
  3. Add eggs, salt and sweetener, whisk well.
  4. Add walnut meal, protein powder, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to blend with a spoon or spatula, just until combined.
  5. Gently fold in fruits, if using.
  6. Pour batter in pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-50 min.
  7. Let cool in the pan for 10 min before transferring to a wire rack for another 20 min before slicing. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi