Friday, 26 June 2009

More Dessert...

I have a friend in Prague this summer who just spent her last year in London. I've been dying to bake something, but only if I have someone to share it with. I asked her what, if anything, I could maybe bake. Cookies? Brownies? Cake? She told me about this place called Ben's Cookies in London that apparently has the most amazing cookies. They're soft (not really crunchy) and they have some amazing flavors, including ginger and dark chocolate. Well, I had some ginger left over in my fridge, so decided to try it out!

Instead of using my standard Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, I decided to do a search for "Buttermilk cookies" Why? Because I know that when you make a cake with buttermilk, it is UNBELIEVABLY moist and soft. Also, I have 2 containers at home and wanted to use them before they went bad.

Ideally, I would have used candied ginger as well, but I was too lazy to go out and find it, so I stuck with powdered and freshly grated. Doing the buttermilk cookie search, however, was the best idea EVER. I am a complete convert and will use this recipe as a cookie base from now on. These cookies are AMAZING. But, if you like a crunchy cookie, then don't make these. You won't be happy. If you like soft, cakey cookies, then get thee to the kitchen ASAP and make a batch! They are to die for!

Buttermilk Cookies (with ginger and chocolate chunks, see note at bottom)
(adapted from Buttermilk Cookies, from

125 g (1 stick) butter

120 g (1/2 c) packed, dark brown sugar

60 g (1/4 c) white sugar

1 tbs freshly grated ginger

1 tsp ground ginger

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract
360 g (1 and 1/2 c) flour

1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
80 g (1/3 c) buttermilk
200 g (7 oz) chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (300 F)

Cream butter, sugar, and gingers together til light and fluffy
Beat in egg and vanilla

Add flour, baking soda, and salt while alternating with the buttermilk

Stir in chocolate chunks
CHILL dough for about 10 minutes in a freezer
Spoon rounded teaspoons onto a greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet
Bake for about 15 minutes or until cookies don't look wet on top.

NOTE: You can modify the flavors too if you like! I made another batch the next day, and used 200 g white chocolate chunks and about 100 g chopped roasted salted peanuts. Mmm mmm!!!


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Time for dessert...

The abundance of produce here, as I mentioned before, is amazing when summer comes. I went to the open air market the other day and bought a big container of red currants. For the US readers, a red currant has a taste a bit like a cranberry. Sweetish sour, but unlike cranberries, you can just eat red currants straight. What did I do with my currants?

First, I froze two icecube trays of them. I mushed some berries, left some others whole, and put them in the individual icecube slots. Then I poured a bit of water over it all, and froze them. I plan on putting them in vodka or soda water!!

Then, I wanted to really showcase the currants, so I decided to make a not too sweet pie dough, and put in the currants. Any pie crust recipe will do, but what I did was grind up some almonds, and replace about 1/4 c. of the flour with those. It added a delicious nutty taste, and the fat from the almonds added moist richness to the dough.
Then, I pressed balls of the dough into a muffin tin, about 1cm up the sides, to make little tartlet shells. I baked in a 350 (170 C) oven for about 20 minutes, and then popped the shells out. After that, I heaped red currants into the shells, sprinkled some sugar over them, and baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes.

With the leftover currants (yes, I still had more!!!) I combined them in a saucepan with chopped peaches, a sprinkling of sugar, and a tablespoon of light cream. I simmered on low heat for about 45 minutes, and then put it in a container in my fridge. I'll probably use it as a jam, or as a filling between biscuits.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


I have been COOKING!
Oh my goodness the things I've been cooking. It's spring/summer time, so the produce is positively BURSTING! For starters, here are a couple of salads I've made:

Chickpea Salad
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tbs chopped summer savory
several handfuls halved cherry tomatoes
Sliced leek rounds
2 cloves of garlic mashed with a bunch of salt
4 generous tablespoons EACH of cilantro (coriander) and flat leaf parsley

Sopsky Salad
Chopped green pepper
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped cucumbers
Chopped onions
Mix with feta, vinegar, and a generous helping of salt and pepper

To make the Sopsky Salad really Czech, sprinkle a bit of sugar on it as well.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake - STACKED

So my birthday was 2 weeks ago. I just had my party yesterday though. Birthday parties rock because you get to have CAKE. If you like baking and like cakes the way I do, it is pure bliss!

So originally, I had wanted to make a chocolate peanut butter cake, specifically this one from epicurious which looks SO. GOOD. I had 3 problems though:

1) no butterfingers in the Czech Republic
2) I knew that someone would inevitably be allergic to peanuts or hate peanut butter
3) I didn't have 3 of the same size (9 inch) cake pans.

So I had to have a substitute. When I go to restaurants and order dessert, I LOVE ordering dense, fudgy, flourless chocolate cakes if they're on the menu. I mean, I DO have a double x chromosome, that means love for chocolate runs in my GENES for heaven's sake! So I hit up epicurious again looking for a flourless chocolate cake with one other caveat: No separate beating of whites and yolks. Why? Truth be told, I'm really just lazy, and I have 1 hand mixer and not many bowls. I didn't want to have to go through the charade of separating eggs, getting many dishes needlessly dirty, and cleaning and re-cleaning my mixer blades. Besides, beating the whites and then folding them in makes for a more spongey cake, and I wanted FUDGEY, damnit!!!

So I found this recipe, and due to my living in Europe with European measurements, I had to modify it a bit. GOOD thing I did too, because I had been debating about whether I could stack two flourless chocolate tortes or not (I searched the net, but nothing seemed to come up) and eventually had to, due to the amount of extra batter I had. Why would anyone want to stack TWO already rich chocolate tortes? Because I like to do things to excess, and I wanted my cake rich, rich, and rich.

So here is the recipe that I modified a bit from the original:

500 grams bittersweet chocolate
500 grams unsalted butter
1 cup strongly brewed coffee
1 cup packed brown sugar
9 medium eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Line bottom of 2 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with parchment.
Place all chocolate in large bowl.
Bring butter, espresso and sugar to boil in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Add to chocolate; whisk until smooth.
Cool slightly. Whisk in eggs.

Divide batter into prepared pans. Place cake pan in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until center of cake is set and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from water. Chill cake.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting:

120 grams butter

50 grams melted white chocolate

100 grams sour cream

3 tbs powdered sugar

dash of vanilla extract

Whip all ingredients until combined and stiff

Put the first cake on a platter. Spread it with the frosting. Garefully invert the other cake onto a different plate/platter. Slide it off carefully in your hands and place it top side down on the frosting. It took me quite a bit of banging and pleading to get the cakes out of the pans, but eventually they came. I had buttered and floured my pans instead of the parchment, but I would HIGHLY recommend the parchment...

Finally, I glazed it with bittersweet chocolate mixed with some light cream. SO. GOOD. I probably gained about 5 pounds though from it. The good thing too, is that this cake is so rich that it feeds a LOT of people. I think I served about 15-20 with it. :-) I wish I had a picture of it but I totally forgot my camera. Oh well.

Ok, that's a bit of a lie. Here's a picture cropped from another picture. It doesn't look so appetising, but it SO was....

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Barbeque Sauce

I like barbeque. Who doesn't? My partner ESPECIALLY likes barbeque sauce; it's his ideal. Thick, spicy, sweet, has everything he wants in a sauce. In the Czech Republic though, bottled barbeque sauce is either a) a bit expensive or b) overly sugary.

I've never been as obsessed with barbeque sauce as my partner, but I've always sighed in frustration at the lack of barbeque sauce recipes that DON'T contain ketchup. My goal, one day, is to make a barbeque sauce from purely basic ingredients (this includes omitting worcestershire sauce and getting down to the meat and bones of the sauce ingredients - one by one) While I didn't have time to omit the worcestershire, I definitely thought I could omit the ketchup. What more is ketchup than tomato paste, sugar, and salt? So I finally got in the kitchen and made a barbeque sauce without ketchup! I used only the back of a barbeque sauce ingredients label (and a few obvious additions) as a guide. The only problem is, I didn't measure the ingredients (like always) but I'll make a list of ingredients, and whoever wants to try this can adjust to their tastes. When I was done adding sauce ingredients, I put in some cubed pork shoulder for a good ol' American tasting barbeque treat on the stovetop.

Paste of 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 jalepeno with seeds (if you want it spicy)

After they sweated a bit I added:
50 g tomato paste
2 tbs mustard powder (I may have added more in later, I forget)
1 tbs of tamarind pulp
Several long glugs of tomato juice (maybe about 600-700 ml?)
tbs or two of maple syrup
3 de-seeded finely chopped tomatoes
2 finely chopped sundried tomatoes
bit of water
LOTS of worcestershire sauce
chile powder
garlic powder
onion powder
red pepper flakes
2 tbs mushroom flavored soy sauce
about a tbs of liquid smoke
splash of vinegar
Generous pinch SALT

Try it. Play with it. I guarantee you it'll be delicious. I left mine un-pureed and had little chunks of tomato and onion in it, which I thought was just fabulous