Friday, April 18, 2014

Bulgarian Easter Bread, "Козунак" :)

This year, I decided to make the traditional Bulgarian Easter Bread known as "Козунак"/ kozunak. It is yeast bread which is a must on every Bulgarian table during this holiday. It is not very sweet but if made well, it is a real treat. And here lies one of the biggest challenges for almost every Bulgarian housewife: a successful homemade kozunak! :)  Most of us remember our grandmothers and then mothers waking up in the wee hours of the mornings to start their huge batches of kozunak and knead, and knead, and wait for it to rise, and knead some more, and wait some more- a true labor of love! While the recipe I used this year does not involve any kneading by hand (yeah for my shoulders!), it still requires a good dose of patience, as a good kozunak needs plenty of time to rise not once, but twice. In fact, my mother seems to think that her mother let her kozunak rise not twice but three times. Unfortunately, she is not with us any more and we have no written recipe for kozunak from her, so we cannot know for sure how she made it exactly. Luckily for me, I found a wonderful website by a fellow Bulgarian, now residing in the U.S. like me, who converted a recipe for kozunak to U.S. standards in more ways than one. The best part of the experience- using a bread maker for the kneading and first rising! I was beyond thrilled with this discovery! Many, many thanks to Tanita from! I will be forever grateful!

So, without further ado, here is the promised recipe for "Козунак", which I translated into English for all my English speaking friends who may want to try their luck with this delicious Easter bread!

Bulgarian Easter Bread, "Козунак"

- 2 eggs and 1 egg white (save the egg yolk for glazing the bread), at room temperature
- about 1 cup milk, at room temperature (because the size of eggs varies, it is best to crack the eggs in a 2 cup measuring cup and then add enough milk to get a 1 1/2 cups liquid altogether; 1 cup= 240ml)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cooled a little
- 1 tbsp rum (optional)
- the zest of 1 lemon
- the zest of 1 orange
- 4 1/4 cup bread flour, plus more for dusting later
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- about 1/2 cup vegetable oil for adding during kneading, as well as more for oiling hands
- raisins (optional)
- slivered or whole blanched almonds (optional)

Note: For the success of this bread, it is very important that all ingredients are at room temperature!

Set your bread maker on "dough" cycle (mine takes 1h30min: the first 30 minutes for kneading, the next 1 hour for rising).  In a little bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs and 1 egg white with the milk and the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the egg/milk/sugar mixture in the bread maker, then add the melted butter, the zests, and the flour on top. In the middle of the flour, make a little "well" and put the yeast. To one side in the flour, make another little well and put the salt. Start the kneading process on the bread maker. (I am so happy I don't have to do this by hand as my grandmother and mother used to do for years and years!!!)

During the kneading, after the dough starts forming into a ball and pulls away from the walls of the bread maker, add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and dust with a little bit of flour right after that; repeat this 1 or 2 more times. Let the whole "dough" cycle finish. (Of course, if you do not have a bread maker you may do the kneading by hand, or with a stand mixer and then let the dough rise in a warm place; if you use your oven for that, make sure the temperature is no higher than 120F). Sweet dough rises more slowly, so if the dough hasn't doubled in size within the end of the cycle, let it sit longer. It should be at least doubled! The key to success with this bread is PATIENCE. :)

Once your dough has doubled in size, using your well-oiled hands, separate the dough into 2 or 3 parts. With this recipe, I was able to make three loaves: one round bread which I baked in a bundt pan, another one in a 9" round casserole dish and a third one in a standard bread loaf pan.

Every one of these parts, gets additionally divided into 3 or 4 pieces which you form into "ropes", oil really well and braid together into a loaf just like in the two photos below. Before forming the loaves, you can add raisins to your braids too (which you may want to soak in a little bit of rum first).

Place every braided loaf in a well greased and floured pan, cover and let rise in a warm place one more time. Again, if you are using your oven for that, make sure it is no more than 120 dgreees F. The dough should double or triple its size again (this may take a couple of hours, depending on the temperature in your house). Once ready to bake, set the oven to 365F. While waiting for the oven to warm up, glaze the loaves of bread with the egg yolk which you saved in the beginning and whisked with 1 tsp of milk. I used a kitchen brush for this. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top and then almonds, if using. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your loaves- if you made 3 loaves out of this dough, you should not need more than 20 minutes. If you only made it into 2 loaves, you may need 25 or even 30 minutes. Making smaller loaves is a better idea, though, as larger ones tend to brown too much on top before they can bake well on the inside.

 Once out of the oven, cool in the pan for a few minutes and then move to a wire rack. If you can resist it, wait for the bread to cool. Nobody in my family has that will power, so the loaf below was torn into just minutes after it was taken out of the oven... :)  What you are looking for in a successful "Козунак" is an interior that separates like "thread", sort of like in the pictures below...

Yes, it was one yummy "Козунак"! This is all that was left of it within 15 minutes. :)))

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arugula, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Gorgonzola Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

This is hands down one of the salads that I can literally eat every. single. day. My family is a big fan of roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower, so these vegetables are prepared on a weekly basis in our house. :) Whenever I have them ready and roasted to go, I use some of the leftovers in this salad. It is quick, easy, amazingly yummy and very filling- my go to lunch. I drizzle it with a red wine vinaigrette I make myself, but you can certainly use any dressing of your choice.

Arugula, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Gorgonzola Salad

3 cups arugula
1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes *
1/2 cup roasted cauliflower **
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese (or feta if you are not a gorgonzola fan)
drizzle of red wine vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Mix the first four ingredients in a salad bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette of your choice. Enjoy!

* The way I usually roast sweet potatoes is: I chop them in chunks, add some chopped onions, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and roast them for about 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees F, stirring occasionally.

** I roast cauliflower by separating the florets of 1 head, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and drizzling them with 1/4 olive oil which I have warmed up in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds with 1-2 cloves of minced garlic. This infuses the olive oil with the taste of garlic and makes the cauliflower really delicious as it roasts- at 425 degrees F for about 25-30, stirring a couple of times. I sometimes sprinkle it with a handful of parmesan or romano cheese a few minutes before I take it out of the oven. It is to die for! If you have never made cauliflower this way, you have to try it! You will never want to eat it any other way...

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp fresh dill or parsley
salt and freshly grounf black pepper to taste

I usually put all the ingredients in my Kitchen Bullet and run it for a few seconds and Voila! :)
But you can also put everything in a mason jar and shake it until you get a homogenous mixture or just whisk the ingredients together in bowl. It is a delicious salad dressing that I make on an almost daily basis for everybody at home: so much better than store-bought ones!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chocolate Nutella Frosting

I came up with this Chocolate Nutella Frosting because I was looking for the perfect accompaniment to the Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha Cupcakes I had made. The flavors work exceptionally well together, so this one is definitely a keeper! Luscious, velvety, decadent are just a few of the adjectives I would use to describe this frosting. You have to try it to believe it! :)
Chocolate Nutella Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
3 tbsps cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese at medium/high speed until light and fluffly, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar, covering your mixer with the shield attachment or a kitchen towel to avoid a cloud of powdered sugar all over your kitchen. :) Beat until well incorporated. Add Nutella and mix in. Add cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat again for another minute or so. Frost your cake/cupcakes or grab a spoon and eat right of the bowl (don't worry, I am not going to tell anyone). :)

Note: The photos in this post show cupcakes frosted with the Chocolate Nutella Frosting and drizzled with Chocolate Ganache:

Chocolate Ganache:
3oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Bring the whipping cream to a boil in a little saucepan. Watch it carefully, because it may boil over. Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot whipping cream over the chopped chocolate. Stir a little until the chocolate melts. Drizzle over cupcakes while before it sets.

If you want to make the Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha Cupcakes as well, here is the recipe for them:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken (or 1 cup milk and 1tbsp white vinegar added and left 5 min)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot hazelnut flavor coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with cupcake paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gently whisk.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine – scrape up from the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated. The final batter will be very, very thin- do not be alarmed: that's how it is supposed to be. This thin batter is going to produce some super moist and delicious cupcakes- trust me on this one!

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling them no more than 2/3 of the way and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until they test done. Cool in the pans for 2-3 minutes, then take out on wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Makes about 2 dz cupcakes.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birds' Nest Cupcakes for Easter

Introducing today the Birds' Nest Cupcakes I made for my son's Easter party at school! Here they are below, all lined up and ready to take off for the party... :)

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Cadburry Eggs in the "nests". Easy to make classic combination of flavors with an Easter "twist"- a special treat for first-graders... The vanilla cupcakes are moist and delicious- my favorite recipe by far. The Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting is so decadent, it can be eaten all on its own (at least in yours' truly humble opinion)... :) But don't take my word for granted- make it and see for yourself!

Vanilla Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners (for cupcakes).
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes).
Blend vanilla, oil, and sour cream.
Add flour and milk, alternating- starting and finishing with flour.
Pour in muffin tins, filling each about 2/3. Bake 18-19 minutes or until they test done.
Cool on wire racks before frosting.
Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz (1/2 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1-2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
3-4 tsp heavy whipping cream or half-n-half

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and mix to incorporate. Add powdered sugar cup by cup, making sure to cover the mixer with the shield attachement and/or kitchen towel to avoid a cloud of powdered sugar all over your kitchen once you turn the mixer back on. :) Beat until well incorporated. Add cocoa powder and mix well. Finally, mix in heavy cream (or half-n-half) until desired consistency is reached. Frost to your heart's content or grab a spoon and forget about the cupcakes... :)  It is that good!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chef Anna bakes again! :) She wanted to do something sweet for a friend of hers from school. Her plan was to bake her friend's favorite type of cookies- chocolate chip- for her birthday. She searched the web herself and found this recipe for Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Martha Stewart. It is pretty straight forward and she did all the measuring, mixing, beating, scooping. I only helped at the oven operation stage, as (thankfully) she has great respect for hot gas ovens. :) The cookies turned out fabulous! Exactly as the name claimed, they were soft and chewy and simply delicious. Anna was super happy with the result and her friend- very pleasantly surprised!


She made some jumbo cookies! :)  

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) milk chocolate chip


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.  Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
    3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Baking any longer than 10 minutes will ultimately result in dry and hard cookies (we don't like that in our family). Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

      Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

    Recipe courtesy: soft-and-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookies  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Avocado, Kale and Garbanzo Salad

I don't know about you, but I have been craving spring so badly, that the only food I can even bring myself to eat lately is salads. I love, love, love salads and I am always on the look-out for different recipes which combine ingredients I enjoy in more original ways. This super quick, yet absolutely delicious salad is a take on exactly such a recipe: familiar ingredients which I never thought to combine before. It is light but satisfying and it makes for a perfect lunch or dinner. Bonus points: it comes together in literally 5 minutes! What's not to love?!


2 avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 cups chopped kale
2-3 scallions, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup (or more) black or kalamata olives, sliced
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I omitted because I have family members who are lactose intolerant)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (not in the pictures, but definitely delicious and colorful with them)
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Mix until well blended. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha Cake with Chocolate Kahlua Frosting and Dark Chocolate Ganache

In case you didn't notice from the title of this post, it is ALL about CHOCOLATE! So if you are not a chocolate fan, you can stop reading right here. However, if you think the world will just not be a perfect place without this luscious, velvety, scrumptious, beautiful PLANT called chocolate, then this post is for you!

This was a cake I made as a thank-you to a friend of my husband's for his kindness to us. We thought this would be the "sweetest" way to say "thank you" to him. :) Apparently, so did his family: he reported the entire cake was gone in two days flat!

The cake is a modification of my beloved dark-chocolate-cake-with-peanut-butter-frosting.
It is by far one of the most extraordinary cakes I have ever baked. The full name for the cake should actually read: Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha Cake with fresh bananas (between the layers), Chocolate Kahlua Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, and Dark Ghirardeli Chocolate Ganache. I know, it is a mouthful to say and it may sound like there is just way too much going on in it at the same time, but in reality, the flavors work so exceptionally well together, that every. single. bite. tastes like you just died and went to heaven.... :)

Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha Cake


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken (or 1 cup minus 1 tbsp milk and 1tbsp white vinegar added and left 5 min)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot hazelnut flavor coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans – Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans (or use “PAM for Baking”).

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gently whisk.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine – scrape up from the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks to complete cooling.

Chocolate Kahlua Frosting

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably not all-natural
2 tsp Kahlua Liqueur (or 2 tsp vanilla extract if you want to avoid the alcohol)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter together until very light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the Kahlua liqueur (or vanilla extract). Add the cocoa powder and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar gradually and mix in fully after each addition. (I like to drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer while doing this, to avoid a cloud of powdered sugar in my kitchen- it really does help!) Cream on low speed until well blended and creamy. Gradually pour in the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is light and fluffy. Frost your cooled cake and decorate.

Chocolate Ganache:

6oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Bring the whipping cream to a boil in a little saucepan. Watch it carefully, because it may boil over. Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot whipping cream over the chopped chocolate. Stir a little until the chocolate melts. Pour over the cake before it sets.

To assemble cake, once it has cooled on wire racks, place the first layer on serving platter, spread a little of the frosting on top. Arrange thinly sliced fresh banana on top (optional but really good :)), spread more of the frosting on top of the bananas. Place second layer on top. Frosting the entire cake with the remainder of the frosting and decorate to suit your needs and/or occasion. Pour the slightly cooled (but still not set) chocolate ganache on top of the frosting. If you want to write with icing on top of the ganache, you have to wait for it to set a little bit. For this cake, I was pressed for time and had to put my writing on top of the still liquid ganache- it was very hard to do and (as you can see from the pictures above) it turned out pretty sloppy. But, the recipients were thrilled with it sloppy writing or not... :) And I am sure you will be too, if you decide to make it! Now, don't waste any time- go ahead and bake this cake, I know you want to!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Artisan No-Knead Bread

I made this Artisan bread for my family a couple of weeks ago and it was received extremely favorably. So much so, that it was all gone within a couple of days... :) Not a crumb left. That's what I call a HUGE hit. My kids kept asking me when I'd be making it again. So, I actually made a second batch shortly after. It really is easy enough to make that I could have it at home at all times. The beauty of it is- there is no kneading involved- at all! The recipe I used is from the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I decided to make the master recipe first (which I included below). There are many more variations in the book and I suspect they will be terrific as well. This method of baking does require some special equipment, such as a pizza peel and a pizza stone, but I have all these already, as we make our own pizzas on a regular basis. I assume you should be able to achieve similar (if not identical) results using regular baking pans/trays. It is definitely a recipe worth trying!

Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
cornmeal for pizza peel


1. Warm the water slightly. It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees F. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. If using cold water, it will take about 3 to 4 hours.

2. Add the yeast to the water in a 5 quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour- kneading is unnecessary. Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up the flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula; don't press down into the flour as you scoop or you'll throw off the measurement by compressing. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) fitted with the dough attachment, or a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. If you're hand mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don't knead! It isn't necessary. You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step takes a few minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

4. Allow to rise. Cover with lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you are using Do not use screw-topped bottles or mason jars, which could explode from the trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on room temperature, and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to 5 hours, will not harm the result.You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than dough at room temperature.

On Baking Day

5. The gluten cloak: don't knead, just cloak and shape a loaf in 30 to 60 seconds. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven.

Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with four. Pull up and cut of a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off- it's mot intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.

6. Rest the loaf and let it rise on a pizza peel for about 40 minutes (it doesn't need to be covered during the resting period). Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking ("oven spring").

7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

8. Dust and Slash: Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, diagonal lines, "scallop" or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated knife.

9. Baking with steam: After a 20-minute preheat, you're ready to bake, even though the oven thermometer won't yet be up to full temperature. Put your loaf in the oven. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Because you've used wet dough, there is little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the bread from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or "sing", when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. You'll find that even one day's storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread.cut off and shape more loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Variation: Herb Bread
This recipe shows off the versatility of this approach. Follow the directions for mixing the Boule dough and add 1 tsp dried thyme leaves (2 tsp fresh) and 1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves (1 tsp fresh) to the water mixture. Or use other herbs of your choice (oregano, sage, etc- it's entirely up to your preference).

Recipe source: "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Magic Cake

Chef Anna presents "Magic Cake"! Last night, she and her friend Marley put this delightful dessert together and were very proud of themselves. :) They definitely had a good reason to be proud of their accomplishment: the result was beautiful and delicious! And it was magical too, as they only put one batter in the pan but during baking it separated into three layers! It is vanilla-custard type dessert with a cake layer on top. If you are a fan of creme caramel, you will love this cake! Next time, we are going to make it with lemon flavor; we all seem to think that it will be even better!


  • 4 eggs (separate yolks from whites) at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 125 g (1 stick or ½ cup) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 115 g (4 oz or ¾ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk, lukewarm
  • powdered sugar for dusting cake

    Preheat oven to 325 F degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish.

    Separate eggs. Add the egg whites to a mixer and mix until egg whites are stiff. Place egg whites in a bowl and set aside.

    Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Add melted butter and vanilla extract and continue beating for another minute or two. Add flour and mix in until fully incorporated.

    Slowly start adding the milk and beat until everything is well mixed together. Add the egg whites, a third at a time and gently fold them in using a spatula, repeat until all egg whites are folded in. The final batter will be very runny- that's okay!

    Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and cake is set in the center.

    Cool on a rack. Refrigerate. It really is better the following day, when it sets. Before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar if desired.

  • Recipe courtesy:

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Old Fashioned Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

    These old fashioned sour cream sugar cookies were another Valentine's Day project in our home... :) Again, Anna was the one who made them all! She is becoming the sugar cookie expert! The recipe yielded about 10 dz cookies (I guess our cookie cutter wasn't that large but still, it was a TON of cookies, so if you do not need that many, I would suggest cutting the recipe in half). She rolled them nice and thin and they looked all so uniform and pretty once they were done, I was really proud of her. The decorating, of course, was even more fun! All the kids really enjoyed it and made some unique cookies (as you can see on the pictures here :)). My favorite is the marble effect, so I stuck with it, while they had a ball with the sprinkles. :)

    Now, we have plenty of cookies for all our loved ones- friends, neighbors, classmates... :) On to delivering!

    2 cups white granulated sugar
    2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup sour cream
    2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    2 eggs, at room temperature
    2 tsp baking soda
    6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1/2 cup to 1 cup more)

    Using a stand mixer, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Finally, beat in the eggs and baking soda. Mix in 2 cups of the flour and then slowly add more flour until the dough can be handled.

    Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a least an hour. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll dough to about 1/4” thickness. Keep dough in the refrigerator while working with small batches of it at a time as it gets warm quickly (especially if your house is warm) and may get sticky. Make sure you work on floured surface to avoid sticking. Cut with cookie cutter and bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. The cookies will stay the same color during cooking. Don’t let wait for them to start getting brown. Cool completely before decorating. For these, we used a simple frosting made of powdered sugar and water only.

    Makes 6-8 dozen depending on the size of the cookie cutter.

    Recipe courtesy: Sabby in suburbial 

    L. O. V. E. Lemon Sugar Cookies :)

    Happy Valentine's Day! Be loved, be blessed, be happy!

    Anna and I have been super busy baking these days. In fact, Anna was the one who did all the mixing, rolling and cutting while I manned the oven and then helped with the decorating. It all has been a work of loooove... :)

    First, Anna made a batch of these cookies for her talent show at church on Wednesday night. She didn't win a trophy from the judges, but she certainly won a lot of compliments on how delicious and pretty her cookies were. She also won my admiration, as she is definitely turning into an awesome baker! She single-handedly rolled and cut out ALL these cookies without ANY of my help! And they looked uniform in size and thickness which resulted in beautifully baked sugar cookie hearts! She chose red and pink for the icing and made it all by herself too! Don't they look fabulous?

    She also made a batch of these cookies to share with her class yesterday but...... school was closed because of bad weather- again!- and she was quite bummed after all the work she put into them...

    Then, she made a HUGE batch of old fashioned sour cream sugar cookies for her sister, Lizzie, to take to her school today. (I will blog about these cookies in a separate post- stay tuned!) The recipe produced more than 100 cookies!!! Again, she made the dough, and then rolled and cut ALL the cookies on her own. She was pretty tired by the end- I was actually surprised she managed to do it all but she didn't give up! All of this, only to find out a couple of hours later that Lizzie's school was cancelled for the day too!!! The good news is that the shelf life of sugar cookies is pretty long, so I am hoping that they will still taste fine by next week for a belated Valentine's Day party in school. I will have to look into freezing them too as another possibility. :)

    But, without further ado, here is the Lemon Sugar Cookies we made and the icing that we used for their decoration...

    Lemon Sugar Cookies:

    3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 c sugar
    2 sticks unsalted butter, cold & cut into chunks
    1 egg
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
    lemon zest of one lemon

    Preheat oven to 350F.

    Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, vanilla extract, lemon juice and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

    The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

    Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4" thick and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. (You may want to freeze the cut out cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking- they will hold their shape better). Bake for 10 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. Ice with your favorite icing. Since I am not too crazy about the taste of royal icing, I used the following recipe to which I added some lemon juice to carry out the lemon theme, but only vanilla extract would be fine too.

    Lemon Frosting:

    • 2-2 ½ cups powdered sugar
    • ½ cup oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
    • 3-4 Tbsp milk
    • Coloring, if desired

    Mix all ingredients well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency for spreading and/or piping.Have fun decorating!

    Recipe for cookies adapted from: bakeat350
    Recipe for frosting adapted from: melskitchencafe

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    Valentine's Day Pizza for Daddy!

    For those of you who have been following my blog on a regular basis, it will come as no surprise that my 9-year-old daughter, Anna is a great baker and an all around proficient cook. So, when the other night we decided to have family pizza night and make our own pizza from scratch, she was on-board 100%! Each of the kids had a chance to make their own pizza and Anna's was spot-on for Valentine's Day! First, she decided to stuff the crust with cheese by crimping the edges after lining them with mozzarella cheese. Then, she came up with the idea of shaping the pizza as a heart and executed it all on her own! I was duly impressed by the perfect heart shape she achieved without any help! Then, she proceeded in the usual way by topping the pizza with tomato and herb sauce, mozzarella, basil and in her case half the pizza with onions and the other half- with garlic: Daddy's two favorite toppings, as it was, after all a pizza for the man who has her heart- her very own Papa!

    Here is the recipe we used to make our pizza dough. It is excellent and comes out just right every time we make it!

    Perfect Pizza Dough

    1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
    1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
    1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl


    Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
    Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 1 1/2- 2 hours, or until doubled in size. 
    When ready to make your pizza, place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into three or four pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
    Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough, then transfer it to a pizza peel that has been covered with parchment paper and lightly dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top pizza as desired. Slide the dough onto the heated stone together with the parchment paper- it makes this step a breeze! Bake until the crust edges lightly brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Enjoy!

    Here is my little chef with her finished heart-shaped stuffed-crust Valentine's day pizza for Daddy- so happy and proud! :) The pizza was deeelicious! And Daddy was smitten!

    Recipe for the pizza crust originally from: Annie's eats

    Print recipe

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