Thursday, 20 November 2014

Old-fashioned Lebkuchen Stars and Hearts

This is the classic recipe for Christmas Cookies from old Germany, or Switzerland (if you'd prefer). A recipe, I was hoping to find for a long time. Thanks to Sara Kelly Iaia and her fine memories, collected in the book "Festive Baking", I am happy to bake the first cookies for this Christmas.

The honey and the quantity of the fragrant spices make these cookies unique. I would advise not to skip any of the spices or to change their quantity. I am pretty conservative when it comes to perfumed spices. I think the simpler ingredients make one dish tastier. But here, the spices are in perfect unison.  

for the cookies:

490 g all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp powdered anise
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

225 g honey
160 g light brown sugar
134 g unsalted butter
1 large egg

1. Sift the flour in a bowl.
2. In another bowl, sift all the spices.
3. Heat the honey, sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Do not allow to boil.
4. Remove the butter from the heat and stir in the spices.
5. Beat in the flour, reserving a handful of it in the bowl. Let the dough cool a little bit.
6. Lightly beat the egg and add to the dough. 
7. Knead the dough with hands, using the reserved flour.
8. Wrap the dough in clean foil and let it rest at room temperature overnight.


The next day...

1. Divide the dough in two. Roll out each half in between two sheets of wax paper, parchment paper or cling foil. The dough will feel harder than the day before.
2. Using a star and a heart cookie cutter, cu out cookies.
3. Collect all the scraps, knead, roll and cut out cookies. Arrange all the cut outs on a lined with parchment paper baking pan.
4. Decorate with sliced almonds and raisins.
5. Brush with slightly whisked egg white.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 7-10 min, or until golden.
7. Leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack.
8. Store in an air-tight container for up to two months.

Another variation of finishing the cookies is to leave them plain, without the decoration and to brush melted chocolate (or chocolate ganache) on them after baking until they are still warm.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

"Envelope" Pound Cake

This pound cake is another way to treat yourself with respect. The recipe is just irresistible. It looks and sounds delicious. Reading the ingredients is like a first sense. But the taste is surely much more than the expectation - moist and dacquoise-taste like chocolate cake in a relationship with moist and spongy lemon cake, both enhanced with creamy chocolate ganache ... This cake was gone right away - first and only serving...

I found the recipe and the way of presentation in the new book on the shelf - "The Art of French Pastry". As Jacquy Pfeiffer's triangular cut is perfect, I tried my best in doing it professionally. I really hope that the unevenness on the chocolate ganache could be corrected in the next cakes. And I am definitely doing it again, and again and ... 

My daughter is the 'godmother' of the cake - she thinks it resembles envelope - and here comes the name "Envelope" Pound Cake. 

for coating the pan:

soft butter for coating the pan
75 g sliced blanched almonds for coating

for the dry ingredients:

16 g cocoa powder
60 g confectioners' sugar
80 g almond flour/meal

20 g flour
18 g cornstarch

52 g butter

for the lemon cake:

75 g almond flour/meal
30 g confectioners' sugar
50 g egg yolks (about 3 egg yolks from large eggs)
20 g light honey
50 g whole eggs (about 1 large egg)
5 g vanilla extract
1 organic lemon zest

for the meringue:

160 g egg whites (about 4 egg whites from extra large eggs)
80 g granulated sugar

for the chocolate ganache:

120 ml heavy cream
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
120 g dark chocolate 70% cocoa

Only about half of the chocolate ganache will be used in the recipe. The rest could be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days and used for making hot chocolate. In fact, after the cake was done, I served it with a cup of hot chocolate made with the unused ganache. 

prepare the baking dish:

With a brush, coat the bottom and the walls of the baking pan with the soft butter. Pour the sliced almonds over and distribute them evenly all over the surface of the pan. Collect the excessive amount of almonds and set aside. Refrigerate the pan, while scaling the ingredients.

prepare the ingredients:

1. Sift together the cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar and almonds in a bowl. Set aside
2. Sift the flour and the corn starch together in a bowl and set aside. 
3. Place a heavy bottomed pan with the butter in it over low heat. Cook the butter, stirring it slowly for about 5-6 min, until it has the specific hazelnut colour. Strain and leave to cool.

prepare the lemon cake:

1. In a bowl, combine the almonds, confectioners' sugar, egg yolks, honey, agg and vanilla extract.
2. Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment of a mixer until the mixture is light and pale.
3. Add the lukewarm butter. Mix lightly.
4. Take the bowl off the mixer and using a spatula, fold in the lemon zest .
5. Fold in the flour-cornstarch mixture.

prepare the meringue:

I used a handheld mixer for the meringue. 

1. Briefly, whip the egg whites in a bowl.
2. Add the sugar and whip until soft glossy peaks are formed.

Baking the cake:

1.Weigh out 120 g of the meringue and gently fold it into the lemon batter.
2. Fold in the cocoa mixture to the rest of the meringue.
3. Remove the pan from the fridge. Spread the cocoa mixture over the bottom and the sides of the pan, forming a chocolate meringue shell.
4. Fill the pan with the lemon cake mixture and smooth the top with a spatula.
5. Bake the cake at 180C for about 20 min.
6. Reduce the temperature to 160C and bake for another 10 min or until it is well baked (check with a toothpick in the centre).
7. Reverse the cake immediately onto a wire rack and leave to cool, covered with a cloth or towel.

prepare the chocolate ganache:

1. Bring the cream and sugar to boil, stirring to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.
2. Have the chocolate chopped in a heat proof bowl.
3. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate.
4. Stir with a flexible spatula until well homogenized. Leave to cool.


1. Place the cake on a cutting board, bottom facing up.
2. Create a V-cut by slicing from the edge of the cake to the centre on an inward 45-degree angle. 
3. Repeat on the other side, removing the triangular slice.
4. Spread the ganache onto the surface of the V-cut.
5. Return the triangular centre, pressing gently, but firmly in place.
6. Place the cake back into the baking pan and refrigerate for about an hour so the ganache is set well.

Serving and storing:

Store in a cool place for 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

for the hot chocolate:

The rest of the ganache is enough for 3 hot chocolate, 200 ml each. 

Bring 600 ml of milk + 3 Tbsp sugar to boil. Pour a little bit of the milk over the ganache. Stir to homogenize. Pour some more and stir again. Add the melted ganache to the rest of the milk and serve.

Sunday, 9 November 2014


In these cold autumn days I still have some flowers in the garden. How beautiful is that?! Surely, it is magically inspiring. Dessert making is even more satisfying - it gives me the feeling of cosines and warmth. With a cup of herbal tea or hot chocolate, autumn is magnificent.

I chose today's dessert to be this classic french almond tart Frangipane.  It is really delicious and have an extraordinary mild taste. It is a real celebration of the almonds. I baked it in my favourite cast iron skillet. Why? Well..., just because I really like my heavy skillet and it has never been used for preparing any desserts. Any tart pan or ring with a diameter 20-22 cm (8") will do the work.

for the pâte sucrée:

(adapted from the recipe of Sebastin Rouxel)

190 g all purpose flour
23 g powdered sugar I
47 g powdered sugar II
25 g almond meal
115 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk 

1. Combine the flour, first quantity of the sugar - (sugar I) and almond meal into a bowl.
2. Cream the butter with a paddle attachment of a mixer, or using a wooden spoon.
3. Add the sugar II and incorporate well until the mixture becomes fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla extract. Beat to incorporate.
5. Add the dry mixture in two additions, beating well after each one.
6. Add the egg and beat just to combine.
7. Wrap the dough in plastic foil. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or overnight.

for the almond cream:

130 g butter
230 g sugar
230 g ground almonds
55 g flour
3 eggs
2 Tbsp dark rum

1. Beat the butter until soft
2. Add the sugar and ground almonds and mix well.
3. Mix in the flour.
4. Mix in the eggs one by one.
5. Add the rum.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.


1. Roll out the dough to fit about 20-22 cm (8") pan.
2. Press gently to cover well the bottom of the pan. Let the dough fall over the edges. Roll over with the rolling pin to cut the dough and collect all the excessive dough to make few biscuits.
3. Once the pan is lined, refrigerate for 30 min.
4. Fill the crust with the almond cream.
5. Smooth the surface and top with sliced almonds.
6. Bake for 25-30 min at 180°C or until the crust is well browned.

Storing and serving:

Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Serve at room temperature. Store at room temperature.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Chocolate Plum Cupcake

or ...
Cupcakes for Remembrance Day

for the cupcakes:

3 eggs, at room temperature
130 g brown sugar
170 g granulated sugar
180 ml buttermilk, at room temperature
140 g yogurt, at room temperature
50 g honey

300 g all purpose flour
58 g unsweetened cocoa powder
5 g baking soda
6 g baking powder

140 g ground almonds
170 g melted butter
250 g plum purée

for the chocolate-praline ganache:

use one recipe of Chocolate Praline Ganache

Prepare the baking pan, lining with paper cups.
Preheat the oven to 190 C.

prepare the plum purée:

3 big plums would do the work + few drops of lemon juice

Pit and peel the plums. Process them in a blender until puréed well. Squeeze 2-3 drops of lemon juice if you want to keep the colour of the fruit before it oxidized. Set aside until needed.  

prepare the cupcakes:

1. Whisk the eggs and brown and granulated sugar lightly. Stir in the milk, yogurt and honey.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder, adding to the egg mixture.
3. Add the almonds.
4. Stir in the melted butter and the purée.
5. Scoop the batter into the paper cups, filling them 3/4 of their volume.
6. Bake for about 20-25 min, checking with a toothpick for readiness.
7. When ready, leave the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

prepare the ganache:

follow the recipe in Chocolate Praline Ganache post


Pipe the slightly cooled ganache over the cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

Check the post I wrote for Moms and Munchkins on how to make a gum paste poppy flower.

November is a special month of honouring Canadian solders and people proudly wear this beautiful, symbolic flower on their chests.  

Remembering is how we all sculpt our future. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Kalamata Olive Bread

for the pre-ferment dough:

7 g dry yeast
120 ml warm water
7 g sugar
140 g all purpose flour

for the dough:

pre-ferment dough
270 g water
45 ml cold press olive oil
15 g salt
450 g flour
100 g kalamata olives, pitted, cut

Prepare the pre-ferment dough:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water.
2. In a mixer bowl, scale the flour and sugar.
3. Add the yeast to the bowl and mix with the hook attachment.
4. Cover loosely with plastic foil and set in a warm place to ferment. It is ready when it starts to fall in the centre.

Prepare the dough:

1. Pour some of the water over the pre-ferment.
2. Sift over the flour.
3. Add the rest of the water, olive oil and salt. Mix with the hook attachment for 3-4 min.
4. Cover loosely with cling foil and let it rise for about one and a half hour.
5. Add the olives and knead slightly to combine well. Try not to over-knead so you do not break the olives.
6. Let the dough rise once again for 50 min.


1. Divide the dough in two. Knead every part with a bit of flour.
2. Form an oval bread from each part. Cover with cotton cloth and let them rest for 30 min.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 210 C.
4. Bake until the bread is golden and light.
5. Transfer baked loafs on a wire rack to cool.
6. Generously brush them with olive oil, while they are hot.
7. Cut with serrated knife after the bread is completely cool.
8. Serve with olive tapenade and fresh soft cheese.