Crème de la Crème: Mom’s Liptauer

hungarian liptauer

Quick and easy to prepare, körözött is a tangy cheese spread very popular in Hungary. Such a word must be close to impossible for most of you to pronounce, but good news: it’s also known as Liptauer (pron. lip-tower).

The name derives from Liptau, German for the Northern Slovakian region Liptov that is also called Liptó, for it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why yes, it was quite busy around here in the last 1100+ years 🙂

I’m sure after this brief lesson in history it will come as no surprise that Liptauer appears in cuisines of all our surrounding countries. And if you guessed it’s made a little different everywhere, you were right. Let me tell you how much so!

Not every nation, not every region, not even every family, but each household has a very own recipe. Liptauer is a highly personal matter, regardless of the fact that all are variations on the same theme. Now good luck determining the „original”!

One thing that’s sure: the recipe was based on Bryndza, a type of sheep milk cheese but nowadays it’s usually prepared with quark (the same cottage cheese-like dairy product that makes my country’s favorite dumplings).

Liptauer is traditionally eaten on an open sandwich or toast, but is equally delicious as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables. An essential to every picnic basket and a great side to your leftover Easter ham as well.

hungarian liptauer on bread

The recipe below comes from my mother. I was spooning it straight out the bowl not once – that is how deep my love for it goes, but don’t tell her that. She is from Veszprém county so we could consider it Liptauer à la Balaton-Highlands, but other family members from the same region would surely disagree. So why do I still think it appropriate to raise this one a little above others?

Because we have been asked to share the recipe on multiple occasions and some friends specifically ask us to bring this to potlucks. It must be hard for the uninitiated to understand the full complexity of this high art, but in a country where everyone’s fully convinced of the superiority of their own recipes, this is quite a big deal.

hungarian liptauer

So, Liptauer: seasoned quark with onion, sour cream and butter. Did you just say margarine? I’d heard rumors to that effect but as your informal representative in this matter, I would strongly advise against that. Oh and no cumin in this one either. #sorrynotsorry

Hungarian Liptauer Spread

  • Time: 10 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tangy cheese spread popular in Central-Eastern Europe.

Ingredients

250 g quark

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black peppecorns, ground

2 tsp paprika powder

1 small onion, or half of a medium one

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter, cold

Directions

  1. Peel and very finely chop onion.
  2. Put quark in a medium bowl. Season, add paprika, onion and thin slices of the cold butter. Give it a good stir with a fork.
  3. Add sour cream 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until you reach desired consistency (quark can be creamier or more crumbly depending on the producer and fat content).
  4. Let rest for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Keep refrigerated, but it won’t spoil if you take it on a picnic).

What is your favorite schmear?

Love,

Fruzsi

Easter Ham With a Shortcut

easter ham platter

Gadget of the Day: the pressure cooker. I was planning on raving about this device for some time and what an opportunity presented itself: the crown jewel of the Easter table, no less!

Definitely not in my top 5 when it comes to frequency of use and not the cheapest cookware either, a pressure cooker is an item well worth investing in nonetheless. But what the heck does it actually do?

Glad you asked! If you’re into science to some degree, you’ll find this interesting. If not, feel free to skip the next paragraph or, you could read on and tick the ‘Today I Learned’ box.

Invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin, the pressure cooker is a vessel with a lid that seals airtight, fitted with a regulator valve for the slow and safe release of steam. The method is quite simple: during the cooking process, pressure builds up inside the pot increasing the boiling point of the cooking liquid.

Why is this any good? Because the cooking time shortens – you get the same result as if the food has been braised long and slow, but much quicker and with less energy used.

As I mentioned my pressure cooker isn’t out very often, but there are a few dishes I haven’t made in any other pan since I bought it. And Easter Ham is one of them.

cooked easter ham

BTW, have you ever wondered why we eat ham on Easter when under Jewish dietary laws pork is strictly forbidden? The answer is actually quite profane: it’s in season. Just like fruits and vegetables, meats also have seasons even if this fact is mostly shielded from us by modern storage techniques and efficient food supply chains.

So the tradition of eating pork instead of lamb to celebrate Christ’s resurrection started for practical reasons. Salted, smoked and cured hams of pigs slaughtered in the winter are ready to eat in the spring. And what a reward to think about during a long period of Lent!

easter ham slices

In Hungary, we cook our ham for Easter. Traditionally I mean as I, for one, love to prepare the roasted and glazed variety too. For this dish I buy boneless, cured, smoked and netted shoulder cuts with the skin on. These are smaller pieces around 1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs, but would still feed an army (remember to leave room for all the other holiday delicacies!).

Naturally, you can make this in an average pot, but this way the cooking won’t take up half a day. Just put all ingredients in the pressure cooker, set the stove on high to reach boiling, than reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Steam and pressure will do the rest in less than an hour. Top tip: the remaining broth worth its weight in gold and it’s freezable!

I like to do the cooking the night before. After the meat has cooled slightly in the stock, I transfer it to a tray and carefully remove the netting. After a night’s resting, we eat it thinly sliced on Easter morning with hard-boiled eggs, radishes, spring onions, tangy horseradish sauce and fresh braided challah.

When I am to roast ham, I cook it the same way first. What if this year you stopped at that stage too?

Hungarian Easter Ham

  • Time: 1 h 15 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cooked, not roasted: the Hungarian Easter classic.

Ingredients

smoked, netted ham around 1,5 kg

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp whole black or mixed peppercorns

cold water

Directions

  1. Put ham, peeled onions and spices in the pressure cooker, fill up pot with cold water to cover ham.
  2. Close lid. Cook on high until boiling, reduce heat to low.
  3. Counting from reducing the heat, simmer for 40 min.
  4. Switch stove off. Let cool for at least 30 min, open pressure cooker.
  5. Transfer ham to a tray, remove netting.
  6. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve and keep for later use.
  7. Let ham cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

easter ham with egg

easter ham with egg

Do you also eat ham come Easter? How do you do it in your country? What do you eat it with?

Happy Easter!

Love,

Fruzsi

Opening Grill Season With Langalló, the Hungarian Pizza

hungarian langallo flatbread

Grill season is here and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve a smile on my face just thinking of all the F&Bs we’re going to consume this year on the patio. Our back yard is not huge by any measure, but that’s not stopping us from doing cookouts. Let the good times roll!

It’s true the weather can be quite unpredictable in April around here (it’s sunny and then a minute later there’s a shower) so to open garden season, I thought we’d play it safe. In the time Husband mowed the lawn and I tended to my awakening herb garden, a batch of langalló dough has risen nicely.

Langalló (pron. laan-gaallow), also called kenyérlángos (pron. ken-yeer-laan-gosh) is a type of flat bread baked with various toppings. Traditional Hungarian fast-food, or our take on pizza if you please. Let’s start with a brief lesson in history. I promise to keep it short!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Still with me? Great! So according to the Hungarian Baker Association, we eat langalló since the 14th century. Round and somewhat thicker than the Italian cousin, it was the typical meal of bread baking days: prepared from the leftover dough after loaves were shaped, eaten fresh out the furnace.

Today, we don’t have to bake bread to eat langalló, it’s available at bakeries and is a favorite of fairs, markets and festivals. The shape changed to rectangular over time to fit commercial baking trays, but it’s still best eaten fresh and warm.

Baked in a hot oven until golden, langalló smells and tastes like fresh bread. Crust should be crunchy outside and soft inside. Classic toppings include cottage cheese with dill, sour cream with garlic, smoked sausage slices, bacon or pancetta, red onions, grated cheese and – although not as often as I would like – bone marrow or duck cracklings.

A very filling meal high in simple carbs and fats of not exactly the best kind. Precisely what was needed in the times people worked on the fields from dawn till dusk, but not exactly what we call healthy these days.

But it’s OK to indulge sometimes when you’re on an otherwise balanced diet, and making langalló is doing it good while you’re at it. Just wait until you smell the baking bread and roasting garlic!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Sadly, I don’t have a wood-burning furnace and while that would be peak hygge for me, the oven is an acceptable compromise. Surely, smoke adds more flavor to any food but it adds more clothes to the laundry as well, so let’s just count our blessings on this one shall we. 🙂

Back to the dough: it’s not at all complicated, basically just flour, water, salt and yeast. Additionally, almost every recipe calls for boiled potatoes and I use them too to soften the dough (remember reserving the cooking water to add extra starch).

Whichever topping you decide on, be it traditional or something entirely let’s-see-what-we-have-in-the-fridge kind of spontaneous, I’m warning you: beer and wine spritzers go equally well with langalló. Are you drooling yet?

Hungarian Langalló

  • Time: 2 h 30 min total
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A type of flat bread baked with seriously sinful toppings.

Ingredients

For the dough:

500 g (4 cups) bread flour

1,5 tsp salt

1 medium potato

300 ml (10 fl oz) of the boiling water reserved

3 tbsp vegetable oil

20 g (0.7 oz) fresh yeast

Toppings:

250 ml (1 cup) sour cream

2 garlic cloves

50 g (½ cup) grated cheddar

2 medium red onions

200 g (7 oz) bacon or smoked sausage

Directions

  1. Peel, cube and boil potato. Reserve 300 ml of the cooking water, set aside. Mash potato with a fork and let cool.
  2. Sift flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook, add mashed potato, oil and lukewarm boiling water, crumble yeast on top.
  3. Start kneading on low until dough comes together, then increase speed to medium. Knead until dough is shiny and not sticking to the side of the bowl.
  4. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 min.
  5. While dough is rising, prepare toppings: season sour cream with salt and pepper to taste, add crushed garlic. Grate cheese, peel and thinly slice red onions, cut bacon or sausages. Set aside.
  6. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
  7. Turn dough on a lightly floured surface, roll out and fit into baking tray.
  8. Top dough: cover with sour cream, pile on cheese, onions and bacon or sausage.
  9. Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F, let dough rise until oven is heating up.
  10. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 min. Serve warm. Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite foods to prepare outdoors during warmer months? By the way, grill or BBQ? Store bought spice mixes (which brand?) or secret family concoctions? I’d love to hear it all!

Love,

Fruzsi

Say Bye to the Cereal Box with Homemade Granola

homemade banana granola

They say in America everything is bigger and better. Surely not everything, but this certainly holds when it comes to the world’s most popular breakfast foods: I’m talking about the granola vs muesli debate. Both are simple, filling, and (more or less) full of good stuff, but there are differences.

Granola, invented in Dansville, NY by Dr. James Caleb Jackson is a sweetened, baked cereal consisting of oats, nuts, seeds, often including mix-ins such as dried fruit or chocolate. Some kind of fat is also added to achieve the crumbly texture.

Muesli on the other hand, introduced by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, is neither baked nor sweetened, and not that crunchy either.

As a European I feel inclined to say how I enjoy the pure flavor of muesli, how much I appreciate the distinctness and the way oats, nuts and seeds complement one another, but I’ll cut the bullshit right there. Let’s face it: granola is just more delicious. That’s it, I’m sorry Max!

The perked-up version is more popular state-side and humble muesli on this side of the pond. We therefore don’t have such an impressive selection of baked cereals in our supermarkets here. And what we do have is quite expensive for what it is.

My old favorite comes in a big cardboard box with a small plastic bag inside containing just a handful of the simply too sweet stuff bind together with a not specified type of vegetable oil (how reassuring). A 100 g serving contains about 60 g carbohydrates and over 12 g fat. Wow. I still eye that fucker on the store shelf sometimes, but my body just deserves better.

Luckily, making the crunchy clusters at home couldn’t be easier! Replacing the processed, packaged kind is great not only because from now on it’s in your control what goes into your brekkie bowl (I loathe thee, raisin!). It doesn’t have to have a shitload of sugar and fat either!

(I was about to add reducing your ecological footprint too, but had to revise my opinion as the ingredients you’re about to use also come packaged. Bummer.)

homemade banana granola

Checked out many recipes and made a few batches until I found what works best for us. Granola is not an exact science, you have to tweak the ingredients to suit your taste, but that’s the beauty of it: having your own, special edition.

I wanted mine to be free of processed sugar, so I use bananas and a little honey instead to sweaten. Also decided to cut down on fat and substitute it with a healthier alternative: extra virgin olive oil, one of the richest in polyunsaturated fatty acids (a.k.a the good guys).

I use the same seed mix in my granola that I bake into my breads: equal parts sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, lint seeds and pumpkin seeds. As for the nuts, almonds and walnuts are our favorite, but hazelnuts and pecans are also a great choice. For mix-ins, I prefer spices. OK, sometimes I give in and add dark chocolate chips too. 🙂

This amount, kept in a glass jar, lasts for about a week in our house. I like to eat it with low-fat natural yogurt and berries that are a bit sour (just.love.blackcurrant.) while Husband is not that hard-core as he likes to put it, and prefers milk and banana slices drizzled with pure maple syrup.

homemade banana granola

See how a healthier, homemade granola is such a no-brainer:

Banana Granola

  • Time: 15 min prep + 30 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A healthy take on store-bought cereals

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats (half fine, half coarse)

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

½ cup almonds, whole or sliced

¼ cup seed mix (sesame, lint, sunflower, pumpkin)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

a handful of dark chocolate chips (optional)

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F, line baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In two separate bowls, mix wet and dry ingredients except chocolate (if using).
  3. Combine wet & dry ingredients well to coat evenly.
  4. Spread mixture on baking tray in a thin layer.
  5. Bake for 30 min or until dark golden.
  6. Allow to cool, than crumble.
  7. Mix in chocolate chips, transfer granola to a glass jar or other airtight container.

How do you do breakfast cereal? I’d love to see some ideas so I can switch things up a bit from time to time.

Love,

Fruzsi

An Unorthodox Tiramisu

tiramisu

a.k.a Operation Salvage

I couldn’t master the strength for a full-blown spring cleaning yet but I did review my pantry last weekend, checking for close to or a little over their best before date items. I found (among a few other things) a package of lady fingers. Hm.

The following boozy and indulgent treat was our farewell to cold season. Be prepared for a tear in the fabric of averageness though! This tiramisu turned out to be the best* I’ve ever made, (*not my words, before you think I’m trying to paint myself in glowing colors) so good actually that I crossed out all the other tiramisus from my recipe collection. I won’t be needing them.

Before we even begin: if you are a true-born Italian and/or a die-hard dogmatic, you’ll probably find the recipe featured in this post not strictly… appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, tradition is important to me but this time I tried to strike a balance between principle and pragmatism.

I’ll tell you in advance that compared to the classic, this version is lacking – horribile dictu! – both eggs and marsala.

One thing to know about my relationship to eggs: I couldn’t care less about the expiry date written on them. OK, I can feel that’s a bit strong so let me explain.

Eggs don’t automatically go bad after a certain time. Understand that the freshness of an egg does not singularly determine its edibility. I’m looking at you, water testers! While there is science behind the method (egg shells are porous – over time air makes its way in causing older eggs to be buoyant), but it’s just that: establishing that they are not that fresh any more. Please don’t toss them just yet, they are not necessarily bad!

If you’re not sure whether your eggs are ok to use – even when they’re not yet beyond the date indicated on the carton – you have to crack them open, preferably one by one in a separate bowl. Believe me when I say you’ll notice if an egg is spoiled due to funny colors and an even funnier smell. Nothing suspicious? Great, you may carry on.

That’s my rule of thumb when eggs are going to be properly cooked. To support my theory, here’s what my grandmother told me: Back in the day come fall, surplus eggs were put away in the granary for the winter when hens were laying less to none. Stored this way, they lasted as long as Easter, still fit for consuming (for making delicate sponge cakes even!).

Raw eggs are a completely different matter however as food poisoning is no joke. Not even a tiramisu is worth the gamble with  Salmonella and E. coli. Just imagine being responsible for the dessert that sent your guests down a road paved with diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, fever and abdominal cramps, even ending up hospitalized due to dehydration in more severe cases. I’d say that would be a textbook example of transferring yourself from likeable to loathsome.

tiramisu

Taking the above into consideration, I always use whipped cream as substitute for eggs when making tiramisu.

That said, the case with marsala is much less complex: I just don’t keep it at home. I have orahovac though, a dark, sweet, nutty-flavored liqueur made with green walnuts, popular throughout the Balkans. It’s the secret ingredient in some of  the most well-received desserts I make and goes with coffee like a dream. If you travel to this region, try to get your hands on it (or look for nocino in Italy, it’s basically the same thing).

What else goes with coffee so well? Irish cream (Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day!). I also had an open bottle with just a few sips left, so in the mixture it went too. Not at all dominant, but adds yet more complexity to the flavor.

I have experienced a big revelation too. I was sure I’d messed up when I absent-mindedly poured the cream into the bowl already containing the mascarpone, without whipping it first. Well, as it turns out you can whip the two together beautifully so I’ll never bother with careful folding (and washing an extra bowl) again.

There you have a story of working with what I have.

Unorthodox Tiramisu

  • Time: 45 min + 3 h chilling
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A safer and savvy take on the classic Italian dessert. Serves 8.

Ingredients

200 g lady fingers

150 ml fresh coffee espresso

2 tbsp orahovac (or other liqueur of your choosing)

250 g mascarpone

600 ml whipping cream

50 ml Irish cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp sugar

unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Directions

  1. Brew coffee, let cool to room temperature and mix with the liqueur in a shallow bowl.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whip irish cream, mascarpone, sugar and cold cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, set aside.
  3. Dip half the biscuits in the liquid for a few seconds each side (until soaked but not collapsing), arrange in a single layer to the bottom of a 20 cm / 8″ serving dish.
  4. Spread half the cream evenly over lady fingers.
  5. Dip remaining biscuits, arrange over layer of cream.
  6. Transfer remaining cream to a piping bag with a wide nozzle, decorate top layer of the dessert.
  7. Chill overnight, or at least 3 hours. Dust with cocoa powder before serving. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Do you have a system for tracking the expiry dates of products in your pantry? Also, are you taking the dates indicated seriously, or you open and check if they are still good before getting rid of them? Let me know!

Dutch Baby, the New Star of Our Weekends

dutch baby in skillet

I might be a little late to the bandwagon with this one as one Manca’s Cafe of Seattle already owned the trademark for the Dutch Baby in 1942 and it is said to actually derive from German pancakes, so you probably won’t find anything revolutionary below.

Still, this hybrid of a beauty (hello, crepes, pancakes and popovers!) is new to our breakfast routine. First, because when we say pancakes in Hungary what we mean is the thin, French crêpe filled with apricot jam or sweet cottage cheese. And also because pancakes are considered dessert or eaten as second course after a hearty soup.

I took my chances despite all the rules – going against tradition and making dessert for breakfast. I’m telling you, Dutch Babies are on demand ever since! And as my country is becoming more acquainted with brunching, I’m sure we will soon see them popping up (literally!) everywhere.

I don’t think pancakes need much explaining to anyone. All versions of this pastry are prepared from eggs, milk, flour, sugar and salt, leavened or unleavened. And while I like and regularly make most of the variations, dutch babies are particularly awesome because it’s not necessary to prepare several pieces from the batter: one skillet, one pouring, and you’re set.

BTW, skillets. I bought a cast iron skillet and not used it for years. Nowadays, it’s out constantly. I found the idea of seasoning too much of a hassle first, but once I got the hang of it, this lasting piece become one of the trustiest items in my kitchen (read this short how-to if you need some clarifying on the subject).

dutch baby slice

Anyway. Here’s a few Dutch Baby tricks I’ve learnt:

Don’t start with preheating your oven. Make the batter, and then switch the heat on. In the cca. 15 minutes the temperature reaches ‘hot’, the flour will have time to start absorbing the liquid. The result is a softer, tender texture and crunchy edges.

To help your pancake puff up nice and high, use a smaller skillet (like a 9″ or 10″). Although any oven-safe pan (even a pie dish!) will do, cast iron is best without a doubt. Using a hot pan also helps increase the puff, so warm the skillet along with the oven.

This one is from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: using your blender to make the batter. A few pulses and the ingredients are mixed smoothly with no lumps, much better than me and my whisk would ever be able to. The washing-up is the same, so you decide!

Dutch Babies can be pretty versatile too. Enrich the batter with caramelised fruits like apples or pears (when adding fruits, remember to arrange them over the bottom of the pan first, pouring the batter over top: this way the add-ons won’t weigh your Baby down). Cocoa powder and spices also work wonders. Think cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.

I’ll add the recipe, just in case you lived under a rock like I did don’t happen to have one. This batch serves the two of you. If you have more mouths to feed, offer slices along with other breakfast favorites. Recipe can be scaled up.

Dutch Baby Pancake

  • Time: 5 min prep + 20 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A spectacular skillet pancake guaranteed to wow.

Ingredients

4 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

pinch of salt

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Measure ingredients except butter into your blender and pulse to mix well, about 2×10 sec.
  2. While batter is resting, preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F, along with the skillet.
  3. Carefully take skillet out and toss in butter, swirl to cover sides as well (watch out for sputters)
  4. Pour batter in skillet, transfer to hot oven immediately.
  5. Bake until puffed up and golden, about 15-20 min. Serve hot.

Do you make Dutch Babies often? What do you prefer eating them with? Melted butter? Drizzled with honey? Maple syrup? Jam? Fresh fruits? Or simply dusted with powdered sugar?

I just love squatting in front of the oven to watch as it puffs.

Love,

Fruzsi

Billet-Doux to Summers Past: Clafoutis

sour cherry clafoutis

Recently weather has been playing make-believe with us. I was searching for a word to best describe this time of the year, but all I came up with was uncertainty. End of February is a non-season, don’t you think? Had our fair share of cold, days are getting longer, but spring is not quite here yet either. We’ll just have to endure some more.

It’s also the toughest time of year in the kitchen when you cook produce oriented (which I try to do, within reason). I wanted to whip up dessert, but not something overly decadent. I was dreaming of light, fruity stuff. But what kind of fruit, really? Apples and pears are all from storage and I’m so tired of citrus and bananas by now.

I finally got inspired when we went out to dinner to Pavillon de Paris in celebration of Husband’s name day (also known in some circles as Valentine’s Day 🙂 ). Started off with Escargots de Bourgogne followed by duck and quail, and finishing with a perfect Crème brûlée for him, and Clafoutis with forest fruits for her.

Their clafoutis was a little unorthodox, served not in slices but in a ramekin and I absolutely loved it! Instead of the classic custardy pancake batter, the texture was a lot fluffier, soufflé-like. I think I felt a hint of almond in there too, which was also a wonderful touch.

Decision made, clafoutis it is. Sure, any fresh, local fruit is months away but I have access to the next best thing: frozen fruits. It’s about time we started cleaning out mom’s freezer anyway to make space for this year’s harvest (let’s just hope this isn’t wishful thinking).

You should know my parents maintain a mini model farm of a garden in their backyard with an amazing array of fruits and vegetables and what we don’t eat fresh gets conserved. They have a big capacity chest freezer literally overflowing with home-grown produce.

So we’re set. Or are we? I’ve read through dozens of recipes in search for this airy light take on the traditional French dessert, one that will hopefully puff up nicely and stay that way instead of collapsing in the middle as it cools, but came up empty-handed. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, I just didn’t happen to stumble upon it.

Eventually, I made an educated guess: the truth must lie in the intersection of pancakes and sponge cakes. I used some milk as per pancakes, and separated the eggs, as per sponges. Further on, I’ve decided to stick to the roots with sour cherries, although clafoutis works well with just about any fruit.

sour cherry clafoutis

The authentic way would have been using whole cherries. This is said to add more flavour but to be honest, I find having to deal with pits in your mouth a severe blow to the level of enjoyment. But, do as you like. Also note that frozen fruit should be thawed and drained beforehand.

Sour Cherry Clafoutis

  • Time: 20 min prep + 30 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The rustic, French country dessert with a twist in texture.

Ingredients

400 g sour cherries pitted or whole, fresh or frozen

3 eggs, separated

50 g + 3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp kirsch or meggy pálinka (strong, clear fruit brandy, optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

50 g almond flour

50 g all-purpose flour

60 ml (1/4 cup) whole milk

powdered sugar, for dusting

butter, for greasing the pan

Directions

  1. If using frozen fruit, thaw and drain.
  2. Grease a 32 cm / 13” pie plate generously with butter, preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F.
  3. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Adding a tbsp of sugar at a time, continue whisking until stiff and shiny. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining 50 g sugar until pale.
  5. Add vanilla, alcohol (if using) and milk. Mix well.
  6. Add almond flour and all-purpose flour, mixing just until incorporated.
  7. Carefully fold in egg whites and pour batter into pan. Arrange cherries on top.
  8. Bake for 30-35 min until set and golden. Transfer to a rack to cool, serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar.

slice of cherry clafoutis

How do you deal with winter blues?

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Risk it for the Biscuit: Danish Vaniljekranse

danish vaniljekranse bisuits

You guys have to see this! Long story short, it was time for another of the necessary culls at my parents’s house last fall, targeting the kitchen and pantry this time. Chipped mugs, gift-pack whiskey glasses, you know, the stuff that keeps culminating over the years.

And so, I see my mom putting this in the toss section:

universal dough press

This memento cannot go was my reaction. Never been big on baking, you take it then, she shrugged. So here we are, an iconic article and me in my kitchen: I give you the glorious Universal Dough Press biscuit maker!

Produced in the ’80s by the booming centrally planned socialist command industry of Czechoslovakia, no less! This is serious retro alert for me, regardless of the fact that my Birth Certificate was issued with the red star still in it.

Hell-bent on using the device ever since I took it in, biscuits were on the proverbial chopping block. And then February, well, being February with gloomy, rainy, dull end-of-winter days finally made me go for it.

So next, a review of a kitchen gadget showcasing that Eastern Bloc zeitgeist nostalgia, plus a yummy Scandinavian-inspired recipe (for maximum geopolitical contrast, if you know what I mean).

Because who doesn’t love Danish butter cookies? I know I do, but I find shaping Vaniljekranse the traditional way with a piping bag quite the workout. Will it be easier with my newly acquired biscuit maker? We’re about to see!

vanilla pod and seeds

First, I made a batch of the simple dough (keep reading for the recipe). So far so good. It was time to assemble the dough press. Good thing I haven’t turned the oven on right away!

There’s a users manual included in the box written in Czech. The text wasn’t impossible to understand as I speak some Russian, but to actually get the concept? I eventually got so confused and fed up that I just tried figuring it out on my own.

Fast forward to choosing a disc attachment and filling the cylinder with dough. Let the fun begin! When I say fun, I mean I made a total mess of my kitchen – only started to get the hang of it somewhere between the 15th and 20th cookie. The predecessors were so distorted I had to mix them back in the batch.

biscuits on baking tray

They baked fine, taste great and in the end, after some considerable amount of practice most of them turned out looking acceptable.

dough press attachments

I have a few observations though:

You have to have a really soft, soggy dough, otherwise you’ll need the power of a soviet nuclear reactor to press it through the tiny slits on the discs.

Forget recipes calling for anything not in powdery consistency: oatmeal, crushed walnuts and the like will plug up the device in the blink of an eye.

Also, the aluminum it’s made of is not dishwasher safe: good luck with all those small, crooked particles…

Bottom line? I totally don’t need this dough press in my life. Mom, if you’re reading this: you were wise not to ever use it!

By the way, I’ve found one of these on Etsy for $110. Give me half of that and this piece of crap history is yours!

vaniljekranse-closeup

Danish Vaniljekranse

  • Time: 10 min prep + 20 min shaping + 10 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Danish butter biscuits with almonds and vanilla.

Ingredients

1 vanilla bean

175 g (6 oz) sugar

200 g (7 oz) butter, room temperature

2 eggs

250 g (9 oz) all-purpose flour

75 g (3 oz) almond meal

pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F), line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Scrape out seeds from the vanilla pod.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients to make a soft dough.
  4. Shape cookies: either fill dough into piping bag with the star nozzle attached and extrude into circles of 4 cm (1.5 inch) in diameter, or use a dough press with the disc of your choosing.
  5. Place cookies on baking tray about 3 cm (1 inch) apart.
  6. Bake for 8 min, until light golden around bottom.

Batch yields about 40 traditional ring-shaped cookies, or around 100 bite-size tea biscuits.

Love,

Fruzsi

You Asked So Here It Is: Vanilla Brioche

vanilla brioche

After the post about yeast dough and my favorite cookbook on home baking, many of you requested that I share some recipes. And I’d love to oblige of course! The recipes in said book however are copyrighted material owned by the publisher, and I take intellectual property seriously.

But good news! Because of the high demand I’ve contacted Marcsi, the author and face behind Limara Péksége and she was kind enough to agree that I translate and convert recipes from her blog to share with you guys.

I’ve chosen her amazingly soft and fluffy vanilla brioche, a spectacular pastry looking like you picked it up from a chic high street French bakery. It’s guaranteed to impress with it’s fancy voluted shape, yet it’s much less difficult to make than you’d think.

Brioche, sometimes also referred to as the queen of yeast doughs, is a leavened Viennoiserie (the group of Viennese-style baked goods): it is made like bread, but has the richness of pastry because of the added eggs, butter, milk and sugar.

It is common to fill brioche with both sweet and savoury fillings although in this recipe, the vanilla is kneaded straight into the dough itself. Those lovely, tiny black seeds! Also this time, I had some leftover sliced almonds from Christmas baking which I sprinkled the chignons with (optional).

Rich and tender, this sweet treat is perfect for breakfast with butter and homemade jam, or would be an amazing snack to accompany a steaming cup of tea, latte, or hot chocolate and a girly chat.

They are best eaten fresh and warm, but stay soft and very enjoyable the day after thanks to the butter content.

vanilla brioche with almonds

And now without further ado, the recipe as promised:

Vanilla Brioche

  • Time: 2 h 30 min total
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Recipe adapted from Limara Péksége.

Ingredients

600 g/1.32 lbs all-purpose flour

seeds of 1 vanilla pod, scraped out

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 egg + 1 yolk of an egg

3 tbsp sunflower oil

300 ml/10.1 fl oz warm milk

30 g (1.06 oz) fresh yeast or 9 g (1/3 oz) active dry yeast

150 g/5.3 oz butter, room temperature

1 egg whisked, for eggwash

Directions

  1. If using fresh yeast, add 1 tbsp sugar to 1/3 of the milk in a mug, crumble yeast in it and mix with 1 tbsp flour. Let yeast starter rise for 15 min, until top is crackled.
  2. If using dry yeast, sift it with the flour.
  3. Add all ingredients except butter to the bowl of an electric mixer attached with the dough hook, start kneading on low. After dough comes together, continue kneading on medium, for around 15 min.
  4. Cover, let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 min.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide to 6 or 12 equal parts, depending on how big brioches you want.
  6. Roll out dough balls to 6 mm / 1/4″ thickness and spread 1/6 or 1/12 of the butter on each. (Step A)
  7. Beginning with the long side, roll up buttered dough jelly roll fashion, to form approx. 40 cm/15.5” length ropes. (Step B)
  8. Make the chignons, tucking the end of the dough underneath. (Step C)
  9. Lay brioches on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, keeping enough distance between them and let rise for 45 min or until doubled in size.
  10. Preheat oven to 180°C/355°F. Wash brioches with the egg, than bake for around 20 min, until golden.
  11. Cool on a rack.

making brioche step 1
Step A
making brioche step 2
Step B
making brioche step 3
Step C

Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Family Heirloom Vanillekipferl

vanillekipferl title

Fact: in this part of the old continent there is no Christmas without Vanillekipferl. These crescent-shaped biscuits are very popular in the Advent season throughout Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania and in my home country.

To confuse you, we all call them different names, but shhh! they are virtually the same. I’ve decided to refer to them by their German title in this post simply because I thought it will be the most familiar of the bunch.

Legend has it the flaky, buttery pastry was created to celebrate the 1683 victory of the Austro-Hungarian army over the Ottoman Turks in the siege of Vienna: the shape of the cookie is said to represent the half-moon of the Turkish flag.

Wether this is true or not, Vanillekipferl spread and soon become a festive specialty in Central-Eastern Europe. The dough is a simple shortcrust or shortbread pastry enriched with ground walnuts, almonds or hazelnut depending on family tradition (= what your folks could get), shaped into tiny horseshoes, dusted generously with vanilla sugar.

Now, I could call my recipe the Best Ever Vanilla Crescents or Impossible Christmas Biscuits, but those attributes are so overused. Also, this pastry is assumably not the best, nor is it impossible. What it is is sweet and humble, just like my beloved granny who taught me how to make it.

Vanillakipferl is more than a winter treat for us though: it’s tradition, family and the essence of Christmas in a delicious bite the size of your pinky. Ask anyone from this region, childhood memories will be sure to pop up regarding the delicate little crescents.

And today I’m giving you my family heirloom recipe, just in time for the holidays. They probably won’t be the star of the holiday table when it comes to looks, but these crescents make Christmas magic happen. Just watch!

Oh, and don’t even bother making one batch, double the recipe! It will quickly disappear.

vanillekipferl closeup

Vanillekipferln (Traditional Christmas Vanilla Crescents)

  • Time: 15 min + resting + 45 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) butter or margarine

280 g (10 oz or 2 ¼ cup) all-purpose flour

50 g (1.78 oz or ¼ cup) granulated sugar

100 g (3.5 oz or ¾ cup) finely ground walnuts

1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 pack (8 g or 1 ½ tsp) vanilla sugar mixed, for dusting

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients with your hands until dough comes together.
  2. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in cling foil and let rest in the fridge at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 175°C / 350°F, line baking tray with parchment paper.
  4. Divide dough into two parts. Work with one portion at a time, put remaining dough back in the fridge (when cool, it’s easier to shape and crescents hold better during baking)
  5. Pinch off chunks from the chilled dough, shape into crescents the size of your pinky.
  6. Place crescents on baking sheet a little apart.
  7. Bake for 25 min, until slightly golden on the sides.
  8. Gently roll in vanilla sugar to coat while still warm.

Yields approx. 75 crescents, filling 1 and a half baking trays. Stored in an airtight container, vanilla crescents are delicios for weeks.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for all!

Love,

Fruzsi