Happy Holidays from My Blog to You!

christmas styling

Wishing you and yours a most joyous holiday season and a prosperous New Year! Also, I think this is the perfect time to express my appreciation and gratitude for the love and support of my dear readers. Thank you for visiting, liking, commenting and following! Stay safe and enjoy your vacation with family and friends – see you in 2018!

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo & styling: Anna Kvarnström

You’ve Got Bread Pudding, We Have THIS

hungarian makos guba

Christmas is unthinkable in Central-Eastern Europe without sweets made with nuts. If it’s mostly walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds in your region, depends on the climate but all of us in the heart of Europe bake similar traditional holiday treats.

And there is another very important ingredient in Hungarian kitchens around festive season: poppy seeds. The symbol of richness, also supposed to bring you luck. Such a favorite many of us enjoy it all year round.

We use poppy seeds in a great many recipes from bejgli (a poppy or walnut filled pastry roll), to nudli (small potato dumplings sprinkled with sugared poppy seeds) to rétes (strudel) to flódni (a Hungarian-Jewish pastry with layers of fillings), and I could just go on and on.

If you happen to have some sweet type of bread that dried on you – because you forgot to put it in the freezer – you are in luck! Your negligence just landed you the opportunity to try the one particular poppy-based dessert that’s intentionally not listed above: mákos guba (pron. maa-kosh goo-bah).

It’s a great and easy recipe to repurpose leftover, dry bread. Whatever you have on hand works from regular white bread to brioche, buns, crescent rolls and the like. Just avoid sourdough or whole-wheat loaves; the savory flavors don’t make them suited to a sweet bread pudding.

Because mákos guba is a kind of bread pudding: the pastry slices are layered in a baking dish, softened with sweetened milk, sprinkled with ground poppy and powdered sugar, than baked until the middles are soft and the top is crunchy and golden.

hungarian makos guba

I always liked this dessert but only begin really loving it when I deviated a little from the family recipe and traded in crescents for challah and sugared milk for crème anglaise. That seriously raised the bar! This new and improved mákos guba made it from a frugal weekend dish right to our holiday table: as part of creating new traditions for ourselves with the Husband, it’s going to be dessert after a hearty soup for lunch on December 24th.

Here’s how I make it:

Hungarian Poppy Seed Guba

  • Difficulty: easy
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Sweet bread pudding layered with vanilla-flavored custard and ground poppy seeds. Serves 4.

Ingredients

100 g poppy seeds, ground

80 g powdered sugar

an 500 g (1 lb) challah or brioche, a little dry, cut to 14-16 slices

800 ml whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

50 g granulated sugar

2 tbsp butter

Directions

Make crème anglaise:

  1. Heat milk and vanilla in a heavy bottomed saucepan until steaming, but not boiling.
  2. While milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until pale.
  3. Temper custard: whisking constantly, slowly but steadily add hot milk to egg mixture.
  4. Transfer back to saucepan and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the consistency of a pouring sauce is reached. Set aside, divided: use 500 ml to soak challah, reserve 300 ml to serve.

Arrange guba:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (355F), butter a deep baking dish using 1 tbsp of the butter.
  2. Mix poppy seeds with powdered sugar.
  3. Cover bottom of dish with challah slices. Soak slices with custard, than sprinkle generously with the poppy mixture. Continue layering until you run out of challah.
  4. Put remaining butter pieces on top and bake until golden, about 30 min. Enjoy warm, served with remaining crème anglaise and/or whipped cream.

 

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

Friday Finds

Have you seen Zara Home‘s Holiday Collection? Guess it’s not yet not too early for Christmas, but these are just so pretty I have to show you:

Candelabra with clear square base:

zara home candelabra

Cutlery with white handle:

zara home cutlery

Porcelain three level serving dish with mistletoe motif:

zara home serving stand

Mistletoe print table runner:

zara home table runner

Napkin rings with burgundy berry details:

zara home napkin ring

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Mulled Wine Season Is Here

mulled wine season title

It’s holiday season, y’all! But it’s cold and it’s getting dark early and has been very windy for a couple of days now too, and these conditions call for a little extra pampering. Cozy up, light a few candles and switch your well deserved glass of vino to a steaming cup of mulled wine!

I’m hoping to make you love this drink as much as I do, which is a tall order because I like it a lot. And I really mean a lot: come the first cool-ish breeze in early September, right until I disgrace myself by still drinking it in April, I don’t stop making it and I’m here to share how it’s done.

But first, a little history. Although some say it was Hippocrates himself who invented it (and recommended as remedy for various medical conditions – I like the guy’s thinking!), the practice of mulling wine was more likely introduced by the Romans.

As a matter of fact, their reasons were rather practical. Providing the proper conditions for making wine was, well, haphazard those days, so there was a good chance wine would go stale. Trying to save it and make it enjoyable drinkable, strong spices were added to coat the vinegary, sour taste and there you go, mulled wine was born.

Greek or Roman, one thing is for sure: we did not start drinking spiced wine just yesteryear. Luckily, we also got way better at wine making since, so mulling is not to mask unpleasantness any more either. Spiced wine is here to warm and cheer you up!

Several varieties spread and become popular throughout the continent, in my country for example, hot wine was already a Christmas staple in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Since this cold weather favorite is so well-known in Europe, it would be foolish to pick any recipe and call it the original. What we can safely say is that it’s done by heating wine with sugar and spices.

White, red and rose are all accepted, choose according to your preference. There is one rule you’d be wise to follow though: while you most definitely shouldn’t alter a very expensive bottle this way, quality is important. So no, you can’t make lousy wine any better by adding fragrant stuff to it. Another myth busted, sorry. The rule of thumb is to use wine you’d be willing to drink straight.

And now, adjust the sweetness to taste, and pick your spices. I mean, I’m not really being helpful here, am I? Ok, I’ll give you my secret recipe (shhh!), then some alternatives and additions you can work with to create your own personal favorite.

Oh, just one more thing! I may start a riot with this among mulled wine enthusiasts, but I do add water to the wine. I promise this won’t dilute or ruin your drink. You should know me better than that anyway!

mulling spices

Mulled White Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves

Directions

Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

Mulled Red Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves

6-8 allspice

1 star anise

Directions

Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

mulled red wine in mugs

Instead of simple granulated sugar, you may use brown sugar, honey, or even maple syrup to add depth to the flavor.

Fruits like citrus slices, peeled apples, pears or dried plums can also be added to the wine. Don’t discard, eat them!

Add nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, bay leaf, coriander, thyme, or chili to your wine for an unexpected twist.

Got a scraped-out vanilla pod lying around? Pop that in the pot too, there’s still plenty of flavor left in it!

Disclaimer: No animals or human beings were harmed in the making of the photographs, although the Fiance and I got quite tipsy by the end of the sesh. Everything for the audience!

Love,

Fruzsi

“Top view of spices on the table” photo featured in title image by dashu 83 / freepik

Friday Finds

The first Sunday of Advent is already upon us. I wish you a candle-lit next two days filled with peace, love and the smell of baking cookies.

Contemporary holiday decor with eucaliptus (via Sheerluxe):

contemporary christmas decor

Don’t forget:

confucius quote motivation

A pile of comfort in grey hues (via Pinterest, source unknown):

grey knits

The magic of baking (photo by Renée Kemps):

baking process

Time to put the bird feeders out (robin in snow, photo by Ross Hoddinott):

robin in snow

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Pantry Staples: Gingerbread & Lebkuchen Spice

pantry staples gingerbread lebkuchen spice cover

Gift Idea Alert! I know, I know, it’s mid-November but you can never start too early if you want to take the stress factor out from holiday gifting. (OK, my Christmas shopping during summer sales might be a bit extreme, but you get the concept).

When it comes to presents, you can expect food favors from me, and as we approach festive season I will post delicacies that double as gifts to help tick some names off your list.

Today, I’m here to give you the ultimate winter classics: gingerbread spice and Lebkuchengewürz. Lebkuchen is also a gingerbread variety: the traditional German Christmas treat made with honey, spices, enriched with nuts and sometimes icing on top.

Gingerbread and Lebkuchen spices are similar, but not identical. Equally heavy on the cinnamon, while a traditional UK/US gingerbread blend has ginger, cloves (sometimes nutmeg and allspice is also added), Lebkuchen spice is more complex with coriander, star anise, cardamom and black peppercorn.

Both are versatile mix of spices perfect for baking the classic cookie, and can also be added to lots of other things. Basically, whatever you want to have a holiday flavor, let it be food or beverage.

Gingerbread spice is great in fruity sauces to accompany roasts, to sprinkle on a towering whipped cream mountain floating on your hot cocoa, on roasted butternut squash or carrots, adding to waffle batter, oatmeal, rice pudding, bundt cakes, crumbles, pies, to infuse honey and for making sugar syrups. Just to mention a few. 🙂

Stating hereby I have nothing against buying gingerbread spice at the store, since I usually have all the ingredients in my spice cabinet, I make it for myself. When I can’t get something like it happened with cardamom not so long ago, Kotányi Honey Cake spice mix (the one I used for my Festive Plum Preserve) or Bella Lebkuchen Spice from Aldi are tried, true & much loved replacement items.

bella kotanyi gingerbread spice mix

Wether your taste gravitates towards the Anglosphere or Germanoshere, all you need is 5 minutes of your life to pre-make these endlessly customizable blends to have at the ready for several rounds of holiday baking and gift-giving. Fragrant, warm and aromatic, gingerbread spice is the perfect pantry staple to transform any food into a festive treat.

You can buy ground ingredients, or for an even richer aroma, buy whole spices and grind at home in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

gingerbread spice ingredients

A little tip for mixing the spices evenly that I’ve learnt on family sausage stuffing events is to measure everything into a plastic bag, twist to close (don’t press air out) and shake.

mixing spices for gingerbread spice

mixing gingerbread spice

Gingerbread Spice

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 parts ground ginger

2 parts ground cinnamon

1 part ground cloves

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients well
  2. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place

Lebkuchengewürz

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground star anise

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp ground black peppercorn

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients well
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place

Go on and get bakin’!

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.*

“Store shelves with goods” illustration featured in title image © Redspruce