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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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

Galette de Rois – 3 Kings pie

Galette de rois

Happy New Year!

I know it’s already been a week since we all stepped into 2016 but nevertheless I wanted to wish you all the best for the coming 366 days. If this is the start of a new beginning for you, I wish you luck on your journey. If you mean to keep going as you did when 2015 ended then I hope it keeps going well for you.

As a child, I remember very well how we celebrated the arrival of the 3 kings (or wise men) on January 6th. We would dress up, cut a star out of cardboard and attach it to a stick then find something that could pass as a small treasure chest. We then went on our way around the neighbourhood singing the 3 kings song to any one who opened their front door. As a reward, we would get a chocolate gold coin or a clementine. When we had enough treasure we would go home to warm up and eat 3 Kings cake, or galette de rois as its called in French. My mother made a different version of the galette de rois than the one I’ve made but the concept is the same: make a cake or pie, stick in a coffee bean or almond or small toy and then see who gets the slice with the surprise. The lucky winner is crowned king for the day. Something we took very seriously as we got older (as in, we would boss around our siblings because, you know, we were the king).

Celebrate with a 3 kings cake called galette de rois

This galette de rois is not difficult to make. Buy yourself some ready rolled puffed pastry and the rest is just a matter of mixing and assembling. The recipe is for 1 galette enough to feed 6 people but I chose to make smaller versions because we’ve been eating so much cake in this house lately (Christmas, New Year and 2 kids celebrating their Name Day in the space of 14 days) that I wanted to tone it down a bit.

What about you, do you stop baking for a while after all the celebrations or do you just opt for healthier or smaller bakes?

Galette de rois

(serves 6)

Ingredients:

500g puffed pastry

125g soft butter

125g sugar

125 almond meal

2 eggs

1 tbsp Amaretto

1 egg yolk for glazing

1 coffee bean, almond or small heatproof toy

Method:

1. Using a standmixer with whisk (or a handmixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs one by one mixing in between each egg. Mix well until the eggs are COMPLETELY combined. This can take a couple of minutes.

3. Add the Amaretto and mix.

4. Using a spatula, fold in the almond meal.

5. Cut 2 plate size circles out of the puff pastry. Place one on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Add a about 1/2 a tsp of water to the egg yolk and mix. Using a pastry brush, brush the edge of the circle with the egg yolk (about 2-3cm thick).

7. Spoon the almond cream into the middle of the circle. Spread out until it nearly reaches the egg yolk. Be careful not to pile the cream too high. You might have some left over cream. Now place the bean/almond/heatproof toy somewhere in the cream.

8. Place the second circle of pastry on top and lightly press the edge down onto the bottom circle edge. The egg yolk will help the circles stick together.

9. Decorate the edge of the galette like this using the back of a knife.

(this image is from http://www.blogdechataigne.fr)Galette de rois: how to do the edges

10. Decorate the top of the galette if you want to. Using a sharp knife draw out a pattern without cutting through the pastry. Then brush the entire galette with the egg yolk and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

11. While your galette de rois is in de fridge, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

12. Take the galette out and put it in the middle of your oven. After 15 minutes, turn down the temperature to 190 degrees C and bake for another 20 minutes.

13. Take out the galette when its a nice shiny, dark brown colour. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Make sure that if you use a small toy as surprise it can withstand high temperatures. Also, if you have small children it might be best to skip the surprise because of the possible chocking risk. 

If you want to try making smaller versions, reduce the oven times to 5 minutes at 220 degrees followed by 10 minutes at 190 degrees C. 

ENJOY!!

3 kings and galette de rois

Crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits

As this is my last post for this year I want to start by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

It’s the third week of advent and it seems that it is entirely dedicated to baking. Although, to be honest, I am suffering from a very annoying cold which means I’ve had to scale back my plans a bit.

Did you enjoy last week’s post on St. Lucia? We were in Spain staying with my Swedish parents-in-law for the occasion. We ate a lot of saffron buns and gingersnaps and the kids dressed up as Lucia and the gingerbread man.

Being on holiday in Spain, we ate a lot of good food. Between tapas, paella and ice-cream there was also room for local cured meats, traditional Spanish Christmas treats and these crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits courtesy of my mother-in-law.

These thin chocolate biscuits are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They are easy to make and take very little time. You probably already have most ingredients in the house.

When these biscuits come out of the oven it will look like they’re not done. Don’t panic. This is exactly how they’re meant to be. You need them to be soft so you can cut them into thin strips before they cool and harden. I made these crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits for my son’s kindergarten Christmas party yesterday. I took an empty box back home so I think they were well received.

The original recipe calls for light syrup (like Lyle’s Golden Syrup) which I can’t find in my local supermarket. Instead, I used treacle which is darker in colour and slightly different in taste. The result was the same though. Speaking of syrup, what kind do you use for baking gingerbread houses and men? Or does your recipe not call for it at all?

Crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits

(makes about 30-40)

Ingredients:

100g butter at roomtemperature

90g sugar

2 tbsp light syrup or treacle

130g flour

2 1/2 tbsp cocoa (NOT the chocolate drink kind)

1 tsp vanilla sugar

1/2 bicarbonate of soda

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a handmixer) cream the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and syrup until light and fluffy.

3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and the bicarbonate of soda and keep mixing.

4. When all the ingredients are well mixed together, take out the dough and shape it into a ball on a floured surface. Divide into 2 equal parts and the roll the balls into sausages about 5cm in diameter.

5. Place the sausages on a baking tray lined with baking paper about 15-20cm apart. Flatten them slightly with floured hands.

6. Bake them in the middle of the oven for 15 min. The dough will spread a lot and become very flat. Take them out and let cool for about 3 minutes, no more! Take a sharp knife and cut strips about 3cm wide along the length of the baked dough.

7. Leave the biscuits on the baking tray to cool completely. Then store in an airtight container so they don’t lose their crispness.

ENJOY!

(No pictures yet as I am having trouble uploading them to this post. You will find some on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook though)

Traditional Swedish saffron buns

It’s the second week of my Christmas countdown. Did you have a go at last week’s Sinterklaas treat? How did you find it?

This week we’re leaving the Belgian traditions behind us and heading north to Sweden. St. Lucia is the beautiful celebration of light in the winter darkness. Kids dress up as Lucia in a white long dress and wear a wreath with candles on their head. Others choose to dress up as a gingerbread man, a small Santa or a star boy. This is will give a better idea of how it goes.

Saffron gives these St Lucia buns their golden colour

No Lucia celebration is complete without Lussebullar or Saffron buns. Saffron isn’t cheap but for this special occasion really worth the expense. Its colour is bold and bright and I find it smells divine. Last year I made this lovely golden loaf for Lucia but this year I wanted to keep things really traditional. The kids absolutely love them and for P. it’s pure nostalgia. These saffron buns also freeze really well so go ahead and make a big batch. They are perfect when coming in from the snow, perfect to munch on while watching a classic Christmas movie or have them for breakfast on boxing day (26th December). Either way, I think you should submerge yourself in a little, golden Swedish saffron tradition. Have I convinced you?

Swedish saffron buns

 

Traditional Swedish saffron buns (Lussebullar)

makes 15 buns

Ingredients:

7g dry yeast

80g butter

250ml milk

0,5g saffron (yes, it is a lot of threads)

1/2 tsp salt

85g sugar

400g flour

for glazing: 1 egg

for decorating: raisins

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Then add the milk and heat up to about 37 degrees C. Your finger should neither feel hot or cold when you put it in the mixture.

2. Put the yeast in a bowl and pour the sugar over it. Then add the salt on top of the sugar. Add the saffron threads and then the warm butter-milk mixture. Mix it on a low speed if using a stand or handheld mixer. You can also just use a whisk. Mix until the sugar, salt and yeast has dissolved and the saffron is giving off its yellow colour.

3. Add most of the flour, leaving several tbsp to one side. Let the machine knead the mixture (or use your hands) and check after 5 minutes. If the mixture is too wet, add a tbsp of flour. Continue to knead and check. I used nearly all the 400g of flour.

4. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the mixer bowl.

5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise until double in size (approx. an hour).

6. Knead the dough again for several minutes then divide it into 15 equal bits.

7. Roll out the dough bits into sausages about 20cm long and the shape them into an “S” making sure the tops are really curled in, like a snail’s house.

8. Put the buns on a baking tray lined with baking paper and then cover with clingfilm and let double in size.

9. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Whisk the egg and brush the buns with the egg wash. Put a raisin in the middle of each “snail-house” and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

Christmas time in Sweden-Lussebullar or Saffron buns

Traditional Belgian Sinterklaas treats

Christmas flatly with red

That moment when November turns into December it’s like a switch in my head flips and I am in full Christmas countdown mode. Taylor Swift’s latest album gets pushed to the side and Michael Buble and Bing Crosby take over my playlists. I poke my nose in every bit of fir and spruce I can find and get excited about peeling a mandarin (oh the smell!). Yes, December first marks the start of the Christmas countdown in this house.

This is how it looks:

1st December: Start of Advent

6th December: Sinterklaas

13th December: St. Lucia

24th December: Christmas Eve

We started with lighting the first candle of our Advent wreath and opening the first door of our Advent calendar. This coming weekend we will celebrate Sinterklaas with the kids and next week St. Lucia, thus keeping their Belgian and Swedish Christmas heritage alive. And then we finish off with family dinner and presents on Christmas Eve.

I talked about Sinterklaas in this post and this one too. If you want to have a go at putting together a Sinterklaas treat for your kids (or yourself) here is what you will need:

Traditional Sinterklaas treat

– Speculaas (Biscoff) cookies are a must. Try making your own with my recipe.

– Flemish Christmas buns or Sinterklaaskoeken are perfect for breakfast or afternoon coffee. Make sure to spread them thick with butter. Here’s my version of these sweet yeast buns.

– clementines

– chocolate coins

– Nic Nacs which you can buy or make yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

Next week I’ll be baking traditional Swedish saffron buns to celebrate St. Lucia. In the mean time, what does your December countdown look like?

Vintage Sinterklaas postcard

(image source: Vintage images, http://vintageimages.org)