Rhubarb coconut cake

rhubarb and coconut cake

It’s rhubarb season! Which makes me really happy because I love it when you can spend a month or so eating only one thing because you know it’s going to be gone soon. Other popular seasons for me are asparagus, clementine and strawberry season. I think I’ve gone through several kilos of rhubarb in the last 2 weeks and 6 recipes. What I found was that you need to know wether you want sweet or tart. Also, success in cakes is entirely dependant on how “juicy” your rhubarb is. One cake I tried was still soggy after the recommended hour in the oven. Not so good. Last but not least, you need to know that rhubarb may look pink at first but it can change colour throughout the baking/cooking process. I’m not a fan of food colouring so I left it out. The result was pink lemonade and yellow curd all from the same batch of stalks. But the taste was out of this world (I’m a big rhubarb fan).

This rhubarb and coconut cake is a recipe I found on 10thKitchen. And it’s one of the best recipe out of the 6 I made. The cake is soft, sweet and with a hint of coconut. The rhubarb is tart and adds beautiful texture. On top is gloriously toasted desiccated coconut. This cake has some of my absolute favourite flavours.

I pretty much stuck to the recipe, only changing one or two things. So credit to 10thKitchen for this scrumptious cake which is now on my “best cakes” list.

Do you eat seasonal? What is your favourite seasonal dish?

slices of rhubarb and coconut cake

Rhubarb and coconut cake

(yields 8-10 slices)

Ingredients:

250g flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

200ml coconut milk (from a can)

3 eggs

200g sugar

12 tbsp coconut oil, warmed so it is liquid

200-220g (approx. 1 big stalk) rhubarb

6-8 tbsp desiccated coconut

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a cake tin (approx. 20×10) with baking paper.
  2. Take 1 tbsp of flour and put it in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Wash the rhubarb and cut off the top and bottom bits. Now slice it lengthways and then cut the 2 lengths in cubes. Toss them in the flour making sure all the cubes are covered.
  4. Sift the remaining flour in a bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a second bowl, whisk the eggs and coconut milk together and set aside.
  6. Use a handmixer or a standmixer with a whisk attached and mix together the coconut oil and the sugar until the mixture is smooth (about 1 minute).
  7. Still using the mixer but now on a low speed, add half the flour and mix. Then add the milk-egg mixture and mix. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and mix.
  8. Fold in the rhubarb with a wooden spoon or spatula and pour the mixture into the cake tin. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the desiccated coconut and then loosely cover the tin with some tin foil.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the tin foil and bake for another 35 minutes. If you think the coconut is getting too brown, put the tin foil back on.
  10. Take the cake out of the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before removing it from the tin and letting in cool further on a wire rack.

Note: You can also make this into cupcakes. Just cut the rhubarb cubes smaller (size of a pea) and bake for about 30-35 minutes. 

This recipe was originally published on www.10thkitchen.com.

 

 

 

 

 

All about spring cleaning

spring bouquet

Spring has arrived in Berlin! The sun is shining, my winter jacket has been banished to the back of the wardrobe and socks are slowly on the way out. When the weather gets warmer and the trees start showing some green I can literally feel my energy levels going up. Even in my sleep deprived state (one or both of the kids has been waking up at night for the last couple of weeks, in other words, me too).

I suddenly got it into my head that we had too much stuff. And even more unused stuff (cakepop maker anyone?). I blame/thank Marie Kondo for making me reassess our Stuff Situation. If you really think about it, you don’t need half the stuff you have. So in an attempt to clean up, tidy up and move forward, I set to work last week. Books we have never read and were catching dust on the bookshelf? Gone! Babybed sheets and blankets? We have 2 toddlers now, so, gone! All those frames for all those photos we never get round to printing? Gone! I didn’t even get to the double buggy we still need to get rid of or the 20 plus wooden hangers we have no use for.

There is another reason for this spring clean. Personally, I need things tidy for my brain to be calm (emphasis on tidy, i.e. all the kids book either on the shelf or as a stack in the corner of the living room, or in the toy pram etc.). Mess causes chaos in my head. I don’t like chaos, it makes me unable to think. And I’m thinking a lot these days. I’m full of ideas! I have lots of dreams and plans. I want to do this and try that. Do you get that too?

3 months ago, at the start of this year, I set myself the task of drawing for 30 minutes each day. I use the Flow Calendar of Tiny Pleasures as my background, think of an idea that would work well and then draw it. I really enjoy it and my goal is to do this for every day of this year (and hopefully beyond). I want to get better at drawing and the only way that’s going to happen is if I practice. Even if it’s only 30minutes a day drawing a simple little figure with a blue hat and a stripy scarf. You can see what he gets up to on my Instagram account.

Big things have small beginnings

When I started this blog, I did it with the goal of awakening my dormant creative side. I had very little time and energy back then (2 small kids and a recent move from one country to another) so the most obvious way for me to be creative was to bake. I didn’t need anything special for it. Most of the time it was just some eggs, butter, flour, sugar, a bowl and a mixer. But now I find myself at a point where there is room for more.

Spring has always been the symbol of new beginnings. And I feel that my blog could do with some freshness and newness too. I’m not yet completely sure how that will go but the ideas are there. I am holding the seeds. I just need to plant them but for that, the conditions need to right. My conditions need to be right.

Are you doing/planning a spring clean in your life? What is it you want to tidy up or get rid of?

Berlin Tierpark in the spring

 

 

Hot cross buns

Easter baking: hot cross buns

It’s been a weird week for me. On Tuesday my home country, Belgium, found itself under a very dark cloud. Today is Friday and I feel that the cloud slowly is lifting. I think about what happened a lot. Like a lot of people I have questions. Lots of questions. Am I angry? No, just disappointed that one human would want to hurt another. And that is true for every conflict that is going on anywhere in the world, wether it be war or in the family home. But this is what I believe: we are strong. Like grass. You can step on grass but it doesn’t break. It just bends. And then it raises itself back up to grown some more.

Here in Berlin, spring is becoming more and more present. Small blossoms are appearing on the trees in the street, yellow and purple crocuses as well as snowdrops are pushing their way through the soil and grass; strong, green grass; is growing again. Today is the start of the Easter weekend. For me, it has always been the moment where I choose to leave the dark winter days behind and focus on the new life and opportunities that spring brings. So, despite what happened this week, I am going to keep focusing on the good things.

We are all home for Easter this year. This doesn’t happen often when you have a pilot husband. I am so excited about that, that I think I’ve made too many plans for things we can do together. On top of that, our son is turning 3 only 2 days after Easter. I suppose we are looking at 5 solid days of celebrations. To start off this Easter weekend, S. (home from Kita with fever) and I made these lovely hot cross buns. The list of ingredients is on the longer side but once you have them all assembled it’s a piece of cake. The mixer does most of the work. Then it’s just the waiting and the finishing touches to do. Class them as bread and have them for breakfast. Call them buns and have them with your afternoon coffee. Or just have them because you want something sweet that isn’t a chocolate easter egg.

I now have a jar of mixed spice. What do you think I should bake with it?

Hot cross buns for Easter

Hot cross buns

makes about 18 buns

Ingredients:

7g dried yeast

50g sugar

375ml milk heated to lukewarm

700g flour

1 tsp mixed spice * (recipe all the way down)

1 tsp ground cardamom

250g raisins

60g soft butter in cubes

1 egg

For the cross: 5 heaped tbsp flour

For the glaze: 5 tbsp apricot jam

Method:

1- Use a standmixer with the dough hook attached.

2- In the bowl of your mixer add the flour, spices, raisins and yeast. Let it mix for a minute.

3- Add the sugar to the milk and give it a stir. Then pour it into the bowl and add the egg and butter too. Mix this mixture for about 10 minutes on the lowest speed. The dough will form into a ball and start to come away from the bowl sides.

4- Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and make sure all the raisins are evenly distributed within the dough. Then form into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

5- When the dough has risen enough, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured service. Knead it for another minute and shape into a long sausage. Cut 18 equal bits from the dough and shape into balls. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving about 3 cm between each ball. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

6- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

7- For the cross, put the flour to a small bowl. Gently add some water, tbsp by tbsp until you have a paste with the consistency of pancake batter. Put the paste in a piping bag with a nozzle that has a diameter of about 5mm.

8- When the buns have risen they should nearly touch each other. Make the crosses by piping across all the buns at the same time. In other words, you will be making several long horizontal lines and then several long vertical lines.

9- Bake for 20 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.

10- During the last 5 minutes of the baking process, heat the apricot jam in a saucepan on a low heat. Once runny, pass the jam through a sieve to get rid of any bits. Brush the het cross buns with the jam when they come out of the oven and still hot.

11- Let the hot cross buns cool inside the tray.

HAPPY EASTER!!

Easter treat: hot cross bun

*Recipe for mixed spice:

1 tbsp ground allspice

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

No service and time to read

Evening sun in Usedom

I’ve been off the air for the past 4 days. Really off the air. My phone permanently had the words “No Service” on the display. I actually liked it…

Two weeks ago we spontaneously decided to book a family trip. Life has been so busy for us that we felt like we needed a change of scenery. Away from chores, deadlines, house planning and the every day routines. Time for each other. Real family time without distraction.

And so it happened that both P. and I had no phone reception or any means of accessing the internet. I admit, that some times it was awkward. When we travel we rely on Google Maps a lot. It’s a great tool to figure out where the next pee break for the kids is going to be (unless it becomes an emergency then anywhere will do) or even for mapping out forest walks or the quickest route to the ice cream place. We used to plan our trips a lot in advance but now we tend to check Google for museum opening times or Trip Advisor for the best fish restaurant in town. How we travel has really changed over the years. This weekend we went “old school” and used paper maps and brochures and asked an actual person for recommendations for places worth visiting.

But one thing that has remained the same is that I use holiday time to read. I pack a stack of unread magazines and possibly a book. Neither of these will get fully read but at least I will get past the first couple of pages, which as a busy mother or 2 is a luxury. Here’s what I packed:

  • Der Mama Styleguide: Mode-, Wohn- und Lebensstil mit Kind (Knesenbeck Verlag): I bought it to practice my German reading skills :-) Actually, I have been following the photographer for this project, Jules Villbrandt, on Instagram and when I saw that she contributed to this book I was curious. For me personally, this book is a breath of fresh air. It tells and shows what life is really like with kids in tow wether you are a single parent or part of a couple. Wether you are a young mom or a mother of teenage kids. And for me, most importantly, the reality of the working mum anno 2016. It turns out that you can be a successful working mom even if you can only manage 5 hours of work a day (provided no one is sick etc.). Why is it I never saw this? Or have I been defining personal succes the wrong way? In any case, I am grateful for living in Berlin, the childcare options it provides and therefor the work opportunities it offers me. If you don’t know German it is still worth checking out the photos in this book for inspiration, as is the Mummy Mag Pinterest account for inspiration for all things Mother/Woman/Kids.
  • Flow Magazine: Last year I ditched all the glossy women’s magazines. I found that I only read half of the articles and always got annoyed that the first 10 pages were just ads. Flow Magazine has very little adds and is full of things I want to read. Instead of screaming: “Buy these killer heels NOW!” it whispers: “Get yourself a cup of tea and relax for 5 minutes because everything will still be there when you’re done sipping a good brew and you deserve 5 minutes to yourself.” I really prefer the whisper… besides, I’m a city mom now which means lots of walking, sandy playgrounds and dragging buggies up and down U-Bahn (underground) steps (when the lift is missing or the queue for one is too long). Killer heels are no longer part of my life. That’s just the way it is.
  • Several interior design and architectural magazines: we bought our very own bit of Berlin property! The inside will be unfinished which means there is still a lot of work to be done. But it also means we have a blank canvas. It’s a scary but exciting project and we can’t wait to get stuck in. A bit of inspiration is always needed but more importantly, since we are still quite new to Germany, lists of stockists are required, hence the home magazines.

I hope you had a good weekend. I’m now looking forward to getting back into the swing of things though maybe at a slower pace.

Have your travel habits changed over the years because of technology? And what is your favourite thing to read when you escape the every day?

Chocolate coconut scones

chocolate coconut scones

 

Oh my, I forgot what it was like to be struck by flu. I wasn’t too annoyed about the fever and the fact that every muscle and bone in my body hurt. It was the utter exhaustion that came with it that stopped me in my tracks. I’m still not 100% since it hit me 3 weeks ago but I do feel the brain fog slowly lifting and I’m starting to feel strong again. So in order to ease myself gently back into the baking zone I’ve made chocolate coconut scones for you this week. Scones are the simplest thing to make. It took me a while to realise that though. Actually, it was moving away from the UK that forced me to make my own. Scones aren’t readily available in the shops here in Berlin. And I have to say that so far I haven’t found a coffee shop or bakery that sells ones that I think make the cut.

Right at the start of my blogging days, I made these plain and raisin scones. And this time I am using the same basic recipe out of “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”. I chose not to add sugar to these scone because I think the chocolate and coconut chips add enough sweetness. If you do prefer your scones sweeter, just add some sugar (see recipe below).

Scones are great to have around the house. You can freeze them in a box or bag and take out however many you need. Perfect for unexpected coffees with friends. An easy to grab snack for the kids when heading out to the playground. That something sweet for your movie night. You can eat these chocolate coconut scones as they are or you can add some butter or clotted cream if you want. Either way, they are delicious.

Chocolate and coconut is one of my favourite flavour combinations so I decided to put it in a scone. What’s a flavour combo you’d like to see in a scone or bun? 

scrumptious chocolate coconut scones

Chocolate coconut scones

Makes 16 small scones

Ingredients:

225g flour

1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder

40g softened butter

optional: 25g sugar

1 egg

about 100-110ml milk

75g dark chocolate for baking (or use chocolate chips if you want)

20g coconut chips

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Put the coconut chips in a food processor and whizz for about a minute so that the pieces are about the size of a pea. Finely chop up the chocolate with a sharp knife.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Use your fingers to rub it all together until it resembles really fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the coconut chips and chocolate to the mixture and rub it in.
  5. Crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the milk until the mixture totals 150ml. Whisk and then take a tbsp of the mixture and leave it in a small bowl (this will be our glaze for later).
  6. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to combine. Then use your hands again to make a smooth but still wet dough. Do not kneed it too much, you just want it all to come together nicely.
  7. Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the dough on a floured surface/silicone mat until it’s about the thickness of your baby finger.
  8. Use a fluted cutter or a small glass to cut out the scones. Don’t twist the cutter/glas! Push straight down and lift the scone straight out. Place them on the baking tray.
  9. Use the left over egg-milk mixture to glaze your chocolate coconut scones and bake them for 10 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.
  10. Cool them on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

a basket full of yummy chocolate coconut scones

Blog acceptance

In 7 weeks I will be traveling to Dublin to attend the brilliant bloggers conference the Hive. It’s the second time I’m going and I feel excited, eager to learn more and looking forward to seeing old and new faces. But (yes, there is a but!), it has also meant that for the past few months I have been questioning my own blog.

How’s it going?

Am I happy with my content?

Am I still committed and passionate about my subject and how I present it?

What is my actual goal?

It seemed that all I could see lately was people with more Instagram likes for the same kind of picture I had posted. Was no one interested in my work? Or did I not engage enough with my followers? And why was it that my Twitter feed seemed full of people thanking their followers for hitting another milestone (“10K followers! Thanks guys!”)? What were they doing that I wasn’t. And WHY did I suddenly become trapped in this thought that my success was measured in likes and followers?

As I am writing this, I have missed my personal post-deadline for the last 2 weeks. No new recipe. No new pictures. No social media strategy. Nothing. Part of me wants to apologise for this and start giving you the reasons why I couldn’t make it. But the other part of me keeps reminding myself that this blog was meant to be fun. It was supposed to be my creative outlet.  This blog is not my job nor is it part of my job. It was never supposed to become a burden or a reason for stress.

I admit, that at times I have felt stressed to produce content I am happy with. Sometimes, with all the other crazy stuff going on in my life (kids, work, pilot husband’s weird working hours) I find myself  thinking that I would rather sit on the sofa for a bit, with a cup of tea, in peace and quiet, than baking a batch of cookies, styling them, shooting them, editing and writing a post on them. But I usually choose the latter because I don’t want to let anyone down and what if people don’t take me seriously if I don’t post this week?

I’ve just watched the video of last year’s Hive again and was reminded of the following:

What Nathalie said about success: “You need to decide what success looks like. And when you get there you need to pat yourself on the back”.

What Janna said about following your thoughts: “It’s OK to question yourself. It’s OK to follow your thoughts if something is nagging at you and to pivot your ideas and try to find a new way of having a balance between new things that come up and the basic of your character.”

And what Ellen said which really made me stop and think: “Stop being a follower. You be you. Be confident”

With the Hive less than 2 months away, I feel I have 3 things to work on:

  1. Accept the blog I have, be proud of what I have produced and what I have achieved so far.
  2. Not to be scared of the new ideas that I want to add to my blog.
  3. Stop comparing myself to others.

This is not an easy task, but I am determined to find the way that is truly mine and nobody else’s. I can’t remember who said this at last year’s conference but I intend to remind myself more frequently about it: “Everyone is different. You are unique, therefore your story is unique” (or something like that). In other words, accepting my blog the way it is means that I am accepting my stories and how those stories got there. It means I accept my person and my achievements. All of the achievements, both big and small. Accepting is not always easy but resisting is much harder.

So now I am going to book my flights to Dublin and buy myself a nice, new notebook full of empty pages to fill with my new ideas and thoughts. I think I sense some excitement in my flue stricken body…

Do you have a blog? Have you questioned your blog and the direction it was/is going in? What advice would you give someone who is questioning their work?

Books, tea and beautiful hydrangea

“Ireland”

 

 

 

 

 

Speculaas meringue pie

Speculaas meringue pie

 

I think I’m done with winter. Or the lack of a proper one anyway. You know, the kind with freezing temperatures and snow that lasts more than a couple of days. I’ve started to replace the candles in our house with fresh flowers, mostly tulips. I let my daughter pick a bunch the other day and she went for a multicoloured bouquet and called them “her rainbow tulips”.

Next week is Valentine’s Day and last year I made these yummy truffles at the very last minute because we hadn’t planned anything. Plus, we’re never sure how to celebrate because P. has his birthday 2 days later. The trend in our house seems to be to keep Valentine’s simple (think sofa, movie, snacks) and then P.’s birthday gets a bit more attention (family breakfast, cake, babysitter, dining out).

Tulip in full bloom

This Speculaas meringue pie also seems to be a trend because I’m pretty sure I made it for his birthday last year. The base is crunchy and caramely. The filling creamy and full of vanilla. The top is his favourite: meringue, in any shape or form. I’ve made this with a french meringue before but this year I wanted to try Swiss meringue. Either way, the result is delicious and the pie will be gone before you know it (which is a good thing because it doesn’t do so well in the fridge). You can easily half this recipe and make a smaller version to share with your loved one if you’re celebrating Valentine’s this Sunday.

What’s the best thing your loved one has ever baked or cooked for you in an effort to impress? Did it work? Were you impressed?

Speculaas meringue pie up close

 Speculaas meringue pie

(serves 8)

Ingredients:

For the base:

200g speculaas cookies (biscoff)

80g butter

For the filling:

500ml milk

50g flour

100g sugar

2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg

seeds of 1/2 a vanilla pod

For the meringue:

2 egg whites

80g sugar

Method:

  1. Make the pie crust first.  Put the cookies in a food processor and whizz until you are left with fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can put the cookies in a large freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. It’s important to not have any big cookie lumps left.
  2. Now, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then add the butter to the cookie crumbs and mix thoroughly. Press the mixture into a springform or loose bottomed pie dish. Make sure the base is level (it doesn’t need to go up the sides) and use the back of a spoon to really press down the crumb mixture. You don’t need to bother greasing the tin/dish. Place the crust in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  3. Now, make the filling, which is a basic crème patisserie. In a bowl mix together the egg, egg yolks and sugar. You can do this in a standmixer or using a handmixer. The mixture needs to double in volume, become thick and turn a pale beige. This can take up to 10 minutes. Sift in the flour, add the vanilla seeds and mix for another minute or 2. In the meantime, heat the milk in a saucepan on medium heat until nearly boiling.
  4. Once the milk is hot, slowly add it to the egg-sugar mixture and mix on a very slow speed. Once everything has mixed, pour the contents of your bowl into the saucepan you just used and return to the heat. Use a simple whisk to gently whisk the mixture as it heats up and thickens. This can take 10 minutes or longer depending on your hob. When the mixture is thick enough, pour it into a heatproof bowl and cover the actual crème (not the bowl) with clingfilm and let it cool completely.
  5. When the crème has cooled, it’s time to make the meringue. If you want to make a french meringue, use this method and make the circle slightly smaller than your crust size. For the Swiss meringue, mix the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl using a handmixer until just combined.
  6. Fill a saucepan with about 3 cm of water and heat until it simmers. Then, place the bowl with the egg whites and sugar on top and use your electric handmixer to continue whipping the mixture. The heat from the simmering water will melt the sugar and once this is done and your egg whites have formed stiff peaks, take the bowl off the pan. Continue to whip with your handmixer until the meringue is stiff and glossy and back to room temperature.
  7. It’s time to assemble the pie. Take the crust out of the fridge. Spoon or pipe the crème patisserie on top to about half a cm from the crust edge. Then pipe the meringue on top and use a knife to create some texture if you like.
  8. If you have a blow torch in your kitchen, you can use it to give the tops of the meringue some colour. I stuck the pie under the grill for a minute or two. Or, you can leave the meringue as it is.
  9. Carefully, remove the pie from the tin and serve the same day. This pie does not keep well in the fridge.

ENJOY!!

Blooming tulip

 

Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

Traditional Swedish Lent buns called Semlor

Next week we will be celebrating Fasching here in Germany, but you might call it Mardi Grass, or Carnival. The day is traditionally one of indulgence and different countries have different foods that they make to celebrate with. In the UK for example, pancakes will be in the menu. In Berlin, there will be a type of jam-filled donut called Pfannkuchen. And in Sweden people will feast on semlor.

Semlor are sweet yeast buns that smell beautifully of cardamom. They are filled with a simple almond paste and some cream, then finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Simple and elegant, these buns look like they could be part of an afternoon tea as well as being a nice addition to a late winter Sunday morning brunch. But first and foremost, they are Sweden’s Fat Tuesday treat. I suggest that you immerse yourself in some Scandinavian baking this week and make these your pre-Lent treat.

Next week I’ll be working on Valentine’s Day recipes. If the sky was the limit, what would you want your loved one to bake for you?

Simply Swedish Semlor

 Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

(makes 8)

Ingredients:

125ml milk

50g butter

1 tsp instant yeast

pinch of salt

20g sugar

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 egg yolk

225g flour

plus: 1 egg, whisked, for glazing

For the filling:

50g ground almonds

50g powdered sugar

2 tbsp water

100 ml whipping cream

plus: icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Heat the milk and the butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Set aside and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom. Let it mix for a couple of seconds.
  3. Pour the milk mixture in the middle of the bowl and mix for a couple of seconds. Then add the egg yolk. Mix the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be slightly wet and feel sticky.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it rise for about 2 hours or until the dough has double in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  6. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal parts. Shape them into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then place a damp tea towel over the dough balls and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  7. Remove the towel and brush the balls with the whisked egg. Then place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake for a total of 10-13 minutes, turning the baking tray half a turn after 6 minutes to ensure even browning. The semlor should be a light golden brown.
  8. Take the tray out of the oven and place to one side. Cover the semlor with the damp tea towel while the buns cool.
  9. Now, make the almond paste by mixing the ground almonds, powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a bowl.
  10. Once the semlor are cooled, carefully slice off the top and scoop out the center. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add to that the almond paste and 2 tbsp of the cream. Mix it all together.
  11. Fill the semlor with 1-2 tsp of the almond paste mix.
  12. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff and scoop or pipe it on top of the almond paste mix. Then put the “lid” of the bun on top of the cream.
  13. Dust with some icing sugar to finish them off.

ENJOY!!

Selmor - Swedish Lent buns

Shortbread

A plate of buttery shortbread

When I was 8 we moved half way round the world from Belgium to Hong Kong. I have memories of that time but they are very much the memories of a child. I remember the colours of the curtains in the plane for example. I remember how cool I thought it was that all the kids in my new, British school got crisps in their lunchbox. And how uncool I thought it was that my mum refused to take on that habit. I have fond memories of a very unorganised stationary shop in Shatin Plaza shopping centre where I would carefully pick out the nicest smelling letter paper (this was the era of smelly letter paper and stickers, even erasers!).

I personally hold British Airways and Cathay Pacific responsible for introducing me to small blocks of orange coloured cheddar cheese and Walker’s shortbread fingers in their distinctive red wrapper. I have loved them ever since that very first flight half way around the globe. Sometimes I prefer the convenient, factory made versions. Other times, I prefer to go to the cheesemongers at our local farmer’s market for a good piece of cheddar. In the same way, I sometimes prefer to make our own shortbread.

Shortbread triangles

Shortbread is quick and easy to make. For the basic version you only need 3 ingredients: sugar, flour and butter. That’s it! And mixing it couldn’t be easier. A bowl and a set of hands will get you the perfect shortbread dough in minutes. No overworking the dough though. It needs to be crumbly. The crumblier the better the finished result will be. It will look gorgeously rustic and smell buttery and sweet. I think that after speculoos, this is my favourite childhood cookie.

What’s your favourite childhood cookie? Can you tell me how to make them?

Shortbread

(recipe from “Jamie’s Great Britain”, Jamie Oliver)

Makes 8 big cookies or 16 smaller cookies

Ingredients:

200g flour

50g sugar

125g butter (unsalted), cubed

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter cubes.

3. Using your fingers, rub the butter, flour and sugar together. When you start to get crumbs, use your hands to press it all together into a ball and transfer onto the lined baking tray.

4. Using your hands, press the shortbread dough down into a circle, square or rectangle about 1 cm thick. It it rips or crumbles, just press it all together again. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect.

5. Use a knife to score lines where you plan to cut the shortbread after it has been baked. Then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon on sugar.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it starts to lose its pale colour.

7. Take the shortbread out of the oven and let it sit to cool for 5 minutes. Then take a sharp knife and cut along the scored lines. Let cool a further 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!!

buttery and crumbly shortbread

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

IMG_6058

I grew up on a breakfast of buttered bread with a layer of jam and fresh pastries on Sundays. That’s how we did things in Belgium back in the 80’s. Cereal was new and expensive and I don’t think a lot of people had heard of muesli. Compared to all the breakfast options we have today, it seems very boring and unhealthy. Now and again though, I like to go back to this kind of breakfast purely for nostalgic reasons.

Something that was always on the table at home was peperkoek (spiced bread). It’s not really a bread in the traditional sense. The concept is similar to banana bread: looks like cake but is called “bread”. The proper peperkoek has rye flour and lots of honey. It is light on the inside and has a dark brown, soft, sticky crust. I found this version of peperkoek when I was looking for a simpler recipe that didn’t have so much sugars in it. Granted, this recipe still calls for 250g of brown sugar but the amount of the honey is limited to 1 and a half tablespoons.

Buttered knife with crumbs

The spices is what makes this bread an absolute dream. If you are a fan of speculaas (biscoff cookies) this will be right up your street. It uses the exact same spices. You can find my recipe for speculaas spice mix here. The only way to eat this peperkoek is with a rather thick layer of real butter. Another way to really enjoy it is by putting a slice in between 2 slices of fresh, crusty white bread.

So this isn’t going to be in the top 10 of “healthy breakfasts for you” but it definitely would be part of the “tastiest breakfast treats” list. I think you should try this peperkoek. If anything, for the fact that it makes your house smell amazing. But, if you’re trying to cut down on sugar as part of a new year’s resolution, just save it for later via my Pinterest board.

What is your favourite breakfast? Do you make an extra effort on the weekend? And does anyone make their own croissants?

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

Makes 1 big loaf

Ingredients:

100ml of water

250g flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp speculaas spice mix

1 1/2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.

3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a big bowl and a handmixer), mix all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder.

4. When the mixture is smooth, add the flour and baking powder, a tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then mix on medium-high speed for about 7-10 minutes. When you stop mixing you should see bubbles trying to form on the surface.

5. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr. Use a knife or skewer to check if it is baked completely.

6. Take the peperkoek out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the tin and letting it cool further on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

 Spiced bread or peperkoek