Expanding My Horizons: Savory Scones with Gouda and Chives

chives gouda scones

In an early summer post I’ve introduced you to pogácsa, the pastry above all else of my country. This time I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone and venture out into the world of flaky biscuits, exploring the scone kingdom. (Did not risk going all out though, as you’re about to see.)

Turns out these two are closer than I thought!

The origin of the scone is lost in the mists of the British Isles – read the clever title of one article I came across when I was doing research on the topic. They got their start as a Scottish quick bread, made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle, then scored into 4 or 6 wedges to serve.

Today’s versions are made with wheat flour, butter and milk, leavened with baking powder and baked in the oven both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square or hexagonal shapes. They are widely available in bakeries, grocery stores and supermarkets just like pogácsa, except I’ve never seen our baby cut to triangles.

And that is what actually made me want to try scones! Shapes affect our subconscious mind, could you ever have imagined?

Another important similarity between the two contenders is that making them at home is often closely tied to heritage baking. Both tend to be made using family recipes rather than recipe books, since it’s always a family member who holds the best and most treasured recipe (hello, grandma!).

But, and here’s the catch – British scones are most often sweetened, while pogácsa is always savory. I simply couldn’t deny my roots, so the search for savory scones began. And strictly entre nous, but there seems to be life beyond lemon curd, jam and clotted cream!

In parts of the world where afternoon tea is not a thing, scones have joined muffins and croissants as breakfast and on-the-go snack alternatives anyway, the same way we like to enjoy commercial pogácsa.

I’ve read through quite a lot of recipes and after much consideration decided on a cheese and herb scone. It turned out rather well: rich and sturdy and compact. I could easily break off pieces to nibble on and stowed one in my bag the next day without worrying about it getting smooshed. I also put some leftovers in the freezer wrapped in plastic, and after a round in the toaster it was like they just came out of the oven.

Verdict: definitely going to make scones again. Maybe even try a sweet one! I’m not so terribly discriminating about my biscuits after all 🙂

I can’t really tell where this recipe is adapted from as I picked out and merged and tweaked it based on about a dozen different ones, so I shall be generous with myself and call it my own.

Two things I’ve learnt along the recipe testing: it’s important not to over-mix the dough to get tender and flaky scones, and it takes a little more time to bake them golden than was suggested.

I give you the result of my trial and error:

Gouda and Chives Savory Scones

  • Difficulty: easy
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Cheesy, savory scones flavored with the subtle taste of chives. Makes 8.

Ingredients

2 cups AP flour (or 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup AP)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp chives, dried (or 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh)

1 cup shredded gouda cheese

¾ cup buttermilk

115 g (1 stick) very cold butter, cut to small cubes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients, including cheese and chives.
  3. Work butter cubes in the dry ingredients using your fingers until texture resembles pea-sized crumbles. Work quickly so butter stays cold.
  4. Add buttermilk, and barely stir together. Just get the dough to hold together without kneading it smooth. Lumpy is fine!
  5. Slap it on the parchment lined baking sheet and form a disc about 2,5 cm (1”) thick, handling the dough as little as possible.
  6. Cut into 8 wedges and bake until golden, 30-35 min. Enjoy warm!

chives gouda scones

chives gouda scones

Love,

Fruzsi

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5-min Creamy Feta Dip

creamy feta dip spread

Hors d’oeuvre? Warm, a little to the East. Antipasto? You’re getting there, but further eastwards. Mezze – now there you are!

Mediterranean mezze or meze, typical in the Balkans and the Near East, is a selection of small appetizer dishes just like the more renowned French and Italian varieties. Hot or cold, spicy or savory, served at the beginning of a multi-course meal or a meal in its own right, meze is a social event – you are not expected to finish every dish, but rather share at ease.

The recipe I have for you today is meze at its best: not only it is a total no-brainer to make, but also ready in under 5 and full of flavor. You might even have all the ingredients at home as we speak, and hopefully also the wine to go with it!

Fact: I am a feta addict (but you already know that). And after careful and completely unscientific observation of people, I came to realize it’s not just me. So meet your new way to obsess over feta cheese: a smooth, tangy spread Greeks call Kopanisti.

Base your end-of-summer party formula around this dip and lots of complimentary fresh veggies (think zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery sticks) and freshly toasted baguette or crusty ciabatta. Seriously, eff those carbs! Just slather on.

So, without further ado, here it is. Because you can never have too many easy, cheesy recipes up your sleeve! 🙂

Creamy Feta Dip

  • Difficulty: easy
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The taste of the Mediterranean in a schmear that’s so so easy to make.

Ingredients

500 g feta or similar white cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to garnish

optional: lemon zest, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic

Directions

  1. Use a food processor, or mash feta with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Season and mix in other ingredients.
  3. Garnish generously with olive oil.
  4. Serve with warm, toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta, or as a dip with raw vegetable chunks.

creamy feta dip spread

creamy feta dip spread

Love,

Fruzsi

Overcoming my Disdain for Polenta

polenta with telemea and spinach

How can something so lush taste so… blah? Looks can be deceiving. If I were a Brit, I’d probably describe the flavor of polenta as subtle. But I’m not and thus I won’t sugarcoat it: cornmeal, as most cereals by nature, is bland with a capital B.

As a friend smartly put it, polenta does not inspire superfandom in most people. It’s rather a love-hate relationship and indeed, no matter how much I wanted to like it, I was always quite underwhelmed by this dish. I gave chance after chance to it, and it let me down repeatedly.

It’s because I’ve expected it to be something it simply is not. Truth is, cornmeal doesn’t especially taste of anything but corn. Make peace with that. But, flavor and polenta are not mutually exclusive at all. In fact, cooked cornmeal only comes into its own when prepared with loads of seasoning.

Polenta is a great vehicle for flavours, a neutral background to something more palatable. Actually, eating it without any “disguise” would be ludicrous in my world. (There must be people out there who like it as-is. If you’re one, I’m not here to judge! 🙂 )

I actually came to appreciate the strengths of this simple, rustic dish. You should throw your apprehensions aside too (if any) and let the simplistic beauty of this Northern-Italian rural staple shine through. I hope this version I made the other day for a light lunch will inspire you to add cornmeal to your pantry!

Although it is basically very simple, there are a few tips and tricks when making polenta. Don’t fall for the “you absolutely must use a wooden spoon and you must stir in only one direction” BS though.

First of all, a 4:1 water-cornmeal ratio seems like the way to go. It’s also vital to add the cornmeal slowly to the salted, boiling water while stirring constantly. Otherwise, you’ll end up with lumps.

After that, there’s no need to continue stirring like a maniac, but more frequently than “from time to time” should be necessary as polenta has a habit of catching in pans. In any case, you need to keep an eye on it throughout.

When all the liquid is sucked up, the grits cohere into a thick mass and the polenta starts pulling away from the side of the pan as you stir, it’s ready.

And now it’s time to add the oomph! First, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Next, crushed garlic: as much as you think you can handle, and then some more. Now’s the turn of blanched and roughly chopped spinach. Since cheese is always a good idea, stir in a pile of grated parmesan or Grana Padano as well. Finally, you can either add in a tablespoon or two of butter, or drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil before serving.

polenta with telemea and spinach

polenta with telemea and spinach

Have you spotted it’s neither one of those cheeses in my photos? Good eye! It’s telemea, a fresh cheese from Romania that’s matured in brine. Somewhat like feta, but the texture is different – this is more on the crumbly side rather than creamy. It’s most commonly made of cow’s milk, but partly buffalo milk products are sometimes available, a real delicacy.

Whenever I’m traveling in the region or know someone who’s headed there, I buy straight from this producer located at picturesque Torockószentgyörgy (Colțești) village. I had the good fortune to taste many of their products and they are so so good! I’m telling you, things like 50% sour cream are what dreams are made of.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Baked Ricotta, the Appetizer You’re About to Fall For

baked ricotta

When I told you guys my plans for at-home cheesemaking and the culinary course I’ve attended, I said I’d report the results – if any – of my attempts. Well, I’m here to make good on that promise, and I’m topping it off with a recipe which defines easy entertaining.

So, ricotta. I was surprised to learn that behind the posh Italian name (simply meaning re-cooked by the way), you’ll find the very same dairy product we call orda, urda or vurda in Central-Eastern Europe. It’s a creamy, neutral tasting fresh cheese made from whey, the leftover of cheesemaking.

I don’t exactly know why, but only a few supermarkets carry it around here and it’s quite expensive for what it is. But good news! Ricotta is easy to make at home and a great secondary use for the whey which still has a lot of the goodness of milk in it, and would therefore be a waste to discard of.

For this fresh cheese, all you need to do is heat the whey from 5 litres (about 1.3 gallons) of milk to 85-92°C (right below boiling) and add 5 g (1 tsp) citric acid. Turn the heat off and wait for the proteins to coagulate: after a few minutes you’ll notice tiny “flakes” floating in the greenish-yellowish liquid. Pour through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and wait a few hours for the curds to strain. This amount of whey yields around 1 cup of fresh ricotta.

I like eating it as-is, but you may find this dairy to be a little bland. That means it’s a blank page and you can flavor the sh*t out of it! Wether you make or buy your ricotta, the following cheese number is a hugely versatile dish you can whip up in a blink of an eye even ahead of time, and play around with spices and other additions to suit your fancy.

Rich, creamy and indulgent, baked ricotta will rise nicely in the baking dish. Like a fancy soufflé, just easier – no need to worry about your folding technique. Only a few ingredients, but a gourmet addition to your repertoire.

baked ricotta

baked ricotta

Your baked ricotta will somewhat collapse after taking it out the oven but this is only natural, the steam holding it up evaporates. Serve warm on fresh baguette or as a dip with crackers.

baked ricotta

Here I made it with basil and oregano, but since then a few other variations emerged from my oven: sage and lemon zest, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, rosemary and thyme… Can’t seem to get tired of this! 🙂

Baked Ricotta

  • Difficulty: easy
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A versatile, creamy cheese number. Makes 4 ramekins.

Ingredients

500 g (2 cups) fresh ricotta

2 medium eggs

½ cup grated parmesan

pinch of salt and black pepper

any variety of fresh or dried herbs to taste

Directions

  1. Grease a medium baking dish or 4 ramekins with a few drops of olive oil, preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F
  2. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with eggs, salt, pepper and parmesan until combined with a fork.
  3. Fold in herbs of your choice, fill ramekins 2/3 full.
  4. Bake until “soufflé” has risen and set, top starting to turn golden (about 40 min).

Love,

Fruzsi

Further Adventures in Dairyland – Cheesemaking at Home

fresh cheeses

I am in a place in life right now when I feel the need to learn new things, so I’m on the lookout for culinary classes. Earlier I wrote a piece about how I started making my own yogurt and butter, and now my adventures in the land of dairy continue with cheese.

Man has been making cheese from raw ingredients with non-industrial methods for 7,500+ years. That is, waaay before refrigerators, thermometers and sterile lab equipment, so it must not be too complicated.

Or so I thought. Truth is, making cheese is both art and science. After the workshop I’ve attended hosted by chef Balázs Sarudi, this became very clear to me. Here’s a short summary of what I’ve learnt while we made our own mozzarella- and parenica style cheese plus some delicious ricotta to take home with us.

Real cheesemaking requires extensive knowledge (think MSc levels of biochemistry and microbiology) and years, if not decades of experience relying on your senses.

There are many types of cheese and just as many methods for making it. But while the recipes for all types of cheese vary (some undergo more steps and require more time to make than others), the basic process of turning milk into cheese stays the same: curdling and then separating the solids from the whey.

To make even the simplest forms of cheese – fresh cheese – at home, the most important of all is to buy quality raw whole milk, preferably from pastured cows. Evident as it may sound, getting your hands on it could be trickier than you might think. Once you’ve managed that though, you can be sure it will yield the best flavor.

Now, to turn that lovely dairy to cheese, you need to heat it first. When the milk is warm, a starter culture containing lactic bacteria is added to change lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This process changes the acidity level of the milk and begins turning milk from liquid into solid.

The next step is called coagulation, when we further encourage the milk to solidify. There are two ways to do this: using acid (like lemon juice or white vinegar) will yield small, crumbly curdles. Using enzymes such as rennet will result in a gel-like consistency, allowing curds to be stretched and molded, unlike curds formed with acid. Rennet, found in the stomach linings of cattle and sheep, is the oldest method.

After some resting, it’s time to cut curds to expel and separate whey. Generally, the smaller the curds are cut, the harder the resulting cheese will be. Whey is then drained, but it would be a shame to discard as it is full of protein and nutrients. It can be used for many things from feeding to animals, using it fresh in place of water or milk in recipes like bread and pastries, making other dairy products such as ricotta, or processed foods e.g. whey protein.

Salting the curd adds flavor and acts as a preservative as well so the cheese does not spoil. After this, the cheese is put into a mold and is pressed or turned regularly to expel remaining liquids.

And voilà! What you have now is fresh cheese, cheese in its youngest, purest form. It has a simple yet satisfying flavor, mild, maybe a little salty or tangy. With time, it would ripen and could be called aged cheese.

And that’s about it. I did not share an exact recipe as you could find everything online, but do please let me know if you’d still like me to, I am at your disposal. 🙂

At-home cheesemaking kits are available at specialty shops and also from online retailers (to my Hungarian readers: visit Panni sajtműhelye for recipes and webshop). Can’t wait for mine to arrive, hopefully my efforts will be worth sharing.

One more thing though, if you are even slightly interested in trying your hands at homemade cheese, I do encourage you to find a dairy workshop near you and attend. YouTube might have it all, but going out to see, touch, smell and taste for yourself makes all the difference.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or 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, commissions or gifts.*

‘Fresh cheeses on white wood’ stock image via Shutterstock

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

  • Difficulty: easy
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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