Saturday, 27 September 2014


The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

Quite an interesting challenge considering I've never tried kolach before. So how was it? Well, as of posting time it is still cooling on a wire rack and I only tried a little portion without the cream filling. It was a bit bland though springy and soft which makes it perfect for some sweet or creamy filling. I was intrigued by the mayonnaise in the recipe but if you think about it mayonnaise is made up of oil, eggs, and vinegar or lemon juice. These ingredients are ubiquitous in cakes and breads so I was not surprised it worked.

A number of tweaks were done in the recipe such as reducing the size of the bread itself, added more baking time, and halved the streusel topping. Otherwise, it is a great recipe as an introduction to the world of kolaches!

Prague Kolach

Prague Kolach

250 g  [1 3/4 cups] plain flour
7 g  active dry yeast
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
5 Tbsp milk - warmed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 egg - slightly beaten
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

*Streusel topping:
3 Tbsp plain flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar (superfine)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter - chilled

*For finishing:
1 egg - beaten

*Cream filling:
2 cups full-fat milk - divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanillla extract
1/2 cup custard powder (vanilla pudding powder)
1/2 cup butter - room temperature
5 Tbsp double cream - chilled

*For cake:
  1. In a large bowl, sift flour and make a hole in the middle.
  2. Pour the yeast, 1 tsp of the sugar, and 1 Tbsp of the warm milk in the hole. Lightly mix the yeast, sugar and milk with a fork and sprinkle the surface with a little flour.
  3. Cover the bowl with kitchen towel and let rise for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead with dough hook or by hand until you have a smooth dough (about 10 minutes).
  5. Lift the dough from bowl. Lightly flour the bottom of the bowl and set the dough on it. Cover with clingfilm or towel and let rise for an hour until double its volume.
  6. Punch dough and knead a little. Form the dough into a ball and place onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.
  7. Press the dough with your hands to shape it to a disc about 7 inches (18 cm) in diameter and 3/4-1 inch thick (2-2.5 cm). Cover with clingfilm and let rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C/fan 140°C.
  9. Brush top of the cake with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the streusel topping generously.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. Cut the cooled cake crosswise and spread the cream onto the bottom half. Cover with the upper half.

*For the streusel:
  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  2. Cut in the chilled butter in the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until crumbly.

*For the cream:
  1. Mix 1/2 cup of the milk with the custard powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan mix the rest of the milk and sugar and bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Add the custard powder mixture and simmer for 3-5 minutes while stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl of your electric mixer and cool completely while blending at low speed.
  5. Add diced butter and beat until well mixed in.
  6. Whip the double cream in a separate bowl into stiff peaks. Fold in the custard mixture into the double cream.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

White Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is more on the periodically running saga of using up ingredients about to expire. We had several bars of excellent Cailler baking white chocolate from my sister in Switzerland. It was expiring at the end of last month so we had to think of a way of using it very quickly! Fortunately, the cookie recipe we found in the Nestle website was really spot on. And it was so easy that my youngest was able to do all by herself. I think we just made a few adjustment on some ingredients and reduced the cooking time. Other than that it was really really good and delicious especially for a first time bake by a 13-year-old.

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup [250 g] butter - softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]
1/4 tsp fine salt
2 cups [350 g] white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. [Optional] Grease and line baking sheets.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and both sugars in a bowl with an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
  5. Add vanilla and the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Mix in the flour mixture in batches into the butter mixture.
  7. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the white chocolate chips until well combined.
  8. Form into balls, about 1-inch in diameter, then arrange on the baking sheets making sure to leave enough room between for it to expand.
  9. Bake for 11-12 minutes.
  10. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

Monday, 15 September 2014


With the aid of a food processor, this a very easy thing to whip up. Hummus is one of my all-time favourite snack dip. And now that I've got a recipe that I adapted from Angela Nielsen's The Ultimate Recipe Book you can be sure this will be a regular on our table.

As for the recipe, it was good as it is even without the yoghurt (I didn't have one at the time) but it would have been better if I reduced the garlic (too overpowering) and the reserved brine (to make it thicker). So all of these are reflected in the adjusted recipe below. Otherwise, it was simply delicious especially with crudites, tortillas, and pita breads.


1 x 400 g  tin can of chickpeas
2 garlic cloves - peeled and chopped roughly
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp plain natural yoghurt (optional)
  1. Drain chickpeas from can and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.
  2. Transfer the chickpeas and reserved liquid into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Scrape the sides if needed.
  3. Add in all the other ingredients and process again until completely smooth. Taste then adjust salt and lemon juice according to personal preference.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Mini M&M Cookies

Mini M&M Cookies
Look, a yummy cookie recipe with only 5 ingredients! How's that for simplicity? I was trying to find a cookie recipe that would include M&M chocolates instead of the usual chocolate chips. The allrecipes website turned up with this gem of a recipe that not only is simple to make but is scrumptiously delicious, too. Plus, it does not use eggs so perfect for those with egg allergies. It was a definite thumbs up from the kids. We did change the volume, however, as in cut it in half since we don't really need that much cookies.

Mini M&M Cookies

Mini M&M Cookies

250 g  butter - softened to room temperature
125 g  caster sugar (superfine)
200 g  condensed milk (half of a 397 g  can)
312 g  self-raising flour - sifted
250 g   chocolate M&Ms
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease baking trays.
  2. Beat together butter, sugar and condensed milk until light and creamy.
  3. Add flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in the M&Ms with a wooden spoon and mix well.
  5. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls (about 3/4 inch in diameter).
  6. Place on prepared trays and flatten slightly with a fork.
  7. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until lightly golden.
  8. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes then remove and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Coiled Delight

Baked Ensaymada
The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

Actually, the challenge was to do either the kurtoskalacs or the ensaymada. Naturally, I chose ensaymada - the Filipino version that is. This recipe from my sister-in-law (Ate Eva) has been in my to-do list for years! I finally had a good kick in the butt to do it.

The ensaymada of my childhood were very much like the original Spanish version. They were coiled flat and more flaky with lard often used for this purpose. Sometimes there were nuggets of raisins in it that were like little oasis of delight in my juvenile mouth. Yum! Nowadays, the modern Filipino ensaymada are more brioche-like. In fact some of them are so rich they resemble cakes more than a pastry. Nevertheless, they are equally wonderful and great as a midday snack. As with most things in Filipino food, the modern ensaymada combines the buttery sweet taste of the butter-sugar topping with the saltiness of the grated cheese so you get that familiar salty-sweet flavour with the soft pillow-like pastry.

Ensaymada resting
This recipe is indeed a challenge for me. I am not very experienced with pastry so when the dough came out very very sticky after the first rising, it took me a looong time to get it to a manageable state with all the kneading and adding of more flour. In the end it was still sticky but did not cling too much when handled. I think I'll reduce the liquid a lot the next time I bake this. This particular recipe is not the 'special' ensaymada variety they call in the Philippines. That one has *a lot* of eggs and butter which make it more cake-like and quite rich. Ate Eva's is less rich and more bread-like. As a matter of fact, when I tasted the finished product bare without any toppings I thought it was okayish. But when you combine it with slathered soft butter, sugar, and grated cheese on top it was great! Exactly what I intended to make.

Ensaymada out of the oven
As a note to myself, this is the actual recipe from my SIL (with some adjustments in some ingredients and more elaborate procedure steps). And it makes a ton of ensaymada! It roughly makes about 30 medium-sized ensaymada and probably double that for the muffin-sized ones. In which case I believe this can be done with just a third of the recipe if only to keep me from eating ensaymadas for weeks!
The freezer is my friend now.

Baked Ensaymada


*Yeast mixture:
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar

*Dough mixture:
6 1/2 cups strong flour (bread flour)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cooking oil

butter - softened to room temperature
granulated sugar
grated cheddar cheese or edam
  1. Mix the yeast mixture in a small bowl, cover and set aside. After about 15 minutes it should start to foam. If it didn't that means your yeast is probably old. In that case, throw away the mixture and start again. If you are using instant, rapid-action, or fast-action dry yeast you can skip this step and add the yeast and sugar directly with the flour and the water with the other wet ingredients.
  2. Combine the flour with the sugar in a large bowl.
  3. In separate bowl, mix the melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla.
  4. Add in the milk. Mix well.
  5. With a wooden spoon or with a mixer on low speed, stir in the milk mixture and the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Combine well.
  6. Add in the cooking oil and mix until well combined.
  7. Cover and let it rest to rise in a warm area for about 1 hour or until double the size.
  8. Punch down dough and turn out onto a well-floured surface.
  9. Knead the dough while adding more flour. In the end it should be soft and sticky but should come away from fingers when kneading.
  10. Prepare the baking moulds by brushing the bottom and sides with softened butter.
  11. Divide into portions - 75-80 g  for medium-sized ensaymada and 25-30 g  for small ones.
  12. On a greased surface, roll out each portion thin into a rectangle shape and brush generously with softened butter or with your choice of fillings - cheese, chocolate, ham, etc.
  13. Roll portion from the long side into a thin log (about 1/2-inch or less in diameter).
  14. Coil the rolled dough into a spiral shape inside the prepared moulds taking care to tuck in the outer end.
  15. Cover loosely with tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. They will double in size again.
  16. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F for about 18-20 minutes for medium-sized ensaymada.
  17. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  18. Put toppings - slather softened butter then press top onto a small bowl full of sugar then sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Baked Ensaymada

Friday, 22 August 2014

Ludlow Food Festival - Do It On A Budget

Ludlow, set in the beautiful county of Shropshire is the perfect setting for one of the most popular and well respected food festivals the UK has - the Ludlow Food Festival. It’s been in existence since 1995 and in the twenty years since its inception, it’s been the ideal place to visit for those with more than a passing interest in good food, drink and excellent company – all with a local slant.

The event takes place in historic Ludlow Castle, which although built during the very early medieval period is probably best known for the fact that Catherine of Aragon lived there with her first husband, the future King Henry VIII’s older brother, Prince Arthur at the turn of the 16th Century. The rich history of its past blends perfectly with the present and makes it an ideal setting for such a great weekend.

Visiting a food festival as lovely as Ludlow can be made all the better if you plan ahead, especially with regard to money! It can be all too easy to pay a visit to an event like this and overspend without really realising it. One of the best ways of managing your money is to make sure you decide on your budget before you go – draw out the requisite amount of cash to take with you and leave your credit or debit cards at home. This makes it easier to plan and to have fun without worrying you’ll have bled your bank account dry.

This year the festival will take place on the 12-14 of September 2014. A few years ago, I was fortunate to attend it for a day. I enjoyed that visit immensely so next month I hope I'll be there again to sample the foodie delights this food festival can offer. It's just a matter of deciding which day to go!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Baked Pasta with Chicken

This month, the Daring Cooks challenged us to think inside the box - the icebox, that is! Audax taught us some really cool tips and tricks for stocking our freezers with prepare-ahead meals that can keep our taste buds satisfied even during the busiest of times.

Apart from the Mac and Cheese, I've never done a baked pasta dish with white sauce. I thought this will be a good test if white sauces freeze well. And it really does. Thanks is in order to Martha Stewart's website for the recipe that I adapted. It just needed a little tweaking in salt and pepper department plus extra cheese to prevent the sauce getting too bland. This recipe also confirmed my dislike for chicken breast. Believe me, it didn't do anything to the dish in terms of flavour. It was just there as a cardboard-like protein but virtually no chicken flavour. I even bought a free-range one but it was just ... meh! So next time either I add in non-breast chicken meat or maybe put in some chicken powder in the sauce. This recipe is definitely still in the tweaking stage so don't be surprised if there are changes later. However, I do love the garlic in the sauce that really lifted it up from the ordinary.

Baked Pasta with Chicken ready to freeze

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

500 g  penne rigate or rigatoni
6 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup plain flour
6 cups whole milk
2 tsp coarse sea salt
450 g  boneless chicken meat - cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp olive oil
300 g  white mushrooms - trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes - drained and thinly sliced
2 cups grated provolone or matured cheddar
125 g  [about 1 cup] finely grated parmesan
some salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta 3 minutes short of package instructions. So if it says cook for 12 minutes then cook for just 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Grease ovenproof pasta dishes and set aside.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour in olive oil, heat for a minute then add the chicken. Season with some salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. In a 5-liter heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.
  5. Add garlic, cook for about 1 minute or until aromatic.
  6. Add flour, whisk for 1 minute.
  7. Gradually add 2 cups of milk while whisking all the time. Bring to a simmer. Repeat this until all milk is used.
  8. Add 1 tsp of the sea salt. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
  9. Add the mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes; cook for 1 minute.
  10. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the provolone (or cheddar) and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
  11. Taste the sauce. If need be, add the remaining 1 tsp sea salt and some ground black pepper.
  12. Add the chicken and pasta to the sauce. Divide among the prepared dishes and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
  13. Bake uncovered in a preheated 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F oven for about 25 minutes.
  • To freeze: do up to step no. 12. Cover tightly with cling wrap and/or foil and freeze up to 3 months.
  • To bake from frozen: Preheat oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F and bake covered in foil on a baking sheet until centre is hot, around 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
    Defrost completely and follow baking instructions in step no. 13 above.

Baked Pasta with Chicken