Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hungarian Walnut Torte - A Baker's Odyssey Challenge #41

Last month I celebrated a milestone - my 50th birthday! No tears here....50 years and alive and kicking is something joyous to celebrate.

A few months earlier I had noticed that the annual over 40's cricket competition was scheduled for the same weekend as my birthday. My husband loves to play in the this competition still believing he is the talented cricketer he once was. The festivities start on Friday night and cricket is played all day Saturday and Sunday. There are plenty of refreshing beverages to be enjoyed over the very male dominated weekend. In the preceding weeks he gingerly asked me if  we were doing anything for my birthday "like going away or something? You know, it's the over 40's cricket comp that weekend?". Not wanting to say no but thinking he would figure it out for himself I replied "I won't stop you playing. You make the decision". So he did make the decision and he did join the team. Let's say I was not pleased.

Leading up to the weekend there were many training and fitness sessions. Fresh from training and on our way to church with our young adult children, my husband told us that the draw had been announced. "And we got the raw end of the deal, we have to play 3 games on Sunday! Well, I'm not playing next year!" he declared. I couldn't believe it...this year was the year to not play...I would be 51 next wouldn't matter! By the time we walked into church we all had our feathers ruffled. And the priest began his sermon like this..."I'm going to tell you a story about a woman who was turning 50 in a few weeks....." We all looked at each other in disbelief. To cut a long story short, the woman in the story had a bad heart, collapsed and was in hospital the day before her birthday. On waking the morning from her birthday she discovered that her husband made the ultimate sacrifice by giving her his heart. It's just a story but the irony was not lost on us.

The day before my birthday I too got a surprise. Delivered to my workplace was gorgeous arrangement of 50 red roses! Ahhh, he does love me!

Has he redeemed himself? Yes, I think so.

My birthday fell on the long weekend of the Australia holiday of Labour Day. So on the Monday we hosted a small family barbecue in honour of my birthday and I made my cake.

In keeping with my endeavour to bake through the amazing cookbook by Greg Patent, A Baker's Odyssey, I prepared the Hungarian Walnut Torte for the occasion of my 50th birthday. It was a fitting celebration cake.

Hungarian Walnut Torte (adapted from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent)

dry breadcrumbs to dust the cake pans

340g walnuts, about 3 cups
85g fresh white breadcrumbs, about 1 1/2 cups loosely packed
12 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch salt

Mocha whipped cream
1/3 cup water
3 teaspoons instant espresso coffee ( I used Moccona)
1/3 cup castor sugar
3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
85g dark chocolate

to decorate
walnuts and choc chips

 You will need 3 x 23cm/9inch  round cake pans. Adjust your racks so that you can fit in the 3 cake pans and then begin to heat the oven to 170C/340F. Butter the pans well, fit the bottom with a round of non stick baking paper, butter the paper and dust the pans with dry breadcrumbs.
Finely grind the walnuts. Greg Patent suggests a manual nut grinder of a Mouli grater, of which I have neither. So, second best is the food processor but be careful not to over process. Process in 3 batches adding a 1/3 of the breadcrumbs to each batch. Pulse until the nuts are powdery and fluffy. I think I over processed my first batch. The walnuts need to be as fine as possible but not pasty.

Using a stand mixer beat the yolks using a whisk attachment until thick and lemon coloured. Lower the speed on the mixer and gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Return the speed to high and beat well for about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the lemon zest then scrape this mixture into another large bowl. Wash the mixer bowl and whisk attachment. In the clean bowl whisk the egg white and salt until thickened and white. Gradually add the remaining sugar whisking until firm peaks form.
Sprinkle a quarter of the nut mixture and add a quarter of the white to the egg yolk mixture. Fold in very lightly to combine. It is ok if there are a few streaks of white - it's better not to over beat.

Continue add the remaining nuts and whites in 3 batches, folding in gently until no whites show. No mixture should be light and airy.

Divide equally between the three prepared cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Don't overbake.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the mocha cream, heat the water, sugar and espresso powder in a pan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Combine the cream, syrup and vanilla in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat with whisk attachment until cream thickens. Fold in the grated chocolate.
Place one layer of cake on a serving plate and spread over about 1 cup of cream, top with the second cake. Again use about 1 cup of cream to cover the top of the second cake and top with the last cake. Use the remaining cream to spread carefully around the top and sides. I had enough to pipe cream rosettes around the top edge and decorated it with walnuts and choc chips. Chill for several hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kouign amann

Isn't it amazing the variety of recipes around the globe? Some are similar and some are very different. But each culture has their own unique way of preparing food. I particularly love that a baker can take baking basics such as flour, sugar, butter, eggs maybe a little yeast and create something which is totally their own.
This month in the Daring Kitchen we were challenged to prepare  kouign amann. Now this I had never heard of! According to our host,   Meredith. from The Poco Loco Olsons - "a kouign amann (prounounced “kwee-amahn”) is a round crusty pastry that originated in Brittany in roughly 1860. It is made with a bread dough that is laminated (think of a croissant or puff pastry) and then sprinkled with sugar before being cut into squares and baked in muffin tins".
I decided mine could do with a square of chocolate in the middle. Yup, these are good. Very good!

Kouign amann

Servings: 12


300g/10 1/2 oz / 2 2/5 cups strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5g / 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast OR 6.75g / 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5g / 1 tsp salt
200ml / 6 3/4 fl oz / 4/5 cup warm water
25g / 1oz / 1 3/4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
250g / 9oz / 1 1/5 sticks / 1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, in a block
100g / 3 1/2 oz / scant 1/2 cup caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling


1. Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes.
NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first.

2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

3. Sandwich the butter between two sheets of grease-proof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm / 5½” square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm / 8” square. Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough

 Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.

5. Roll the dough into a 45 x 15cm / 18 x 6” rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.

6. Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.

7. Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40 x 30cm / 16 x 12” rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with additional caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares. I added a small block of chocolate in the middle of each.

8. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover.

Sprinkle with additional caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.

9. Preheat oven to 220°C / 200°C (fan) / 425°F / Gas Mark 7. Bake the pastries for 30 - 40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.

10. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Samosas - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #40

Growing up in an Italian household one would never think curries were even thought of. However my Italian parents seemed to acquire a taste for curry and a tin of Keen's Curry Powder was ever present. In fact, my father made a great prawn curry which everyone loved. And so it is that I have never lost my taste for curry spices.
As I continue my slow journey cooking through this wonderful book by Greg Patent, I find myself gravitating towards recipes with spice such as this delicious recipe for samosas. Greg tells us that this pastry recipe by Bipin Patel is not a traditional one. Bipin likes to add cabbage and corn. I substituted carrots for the peas and parsley for the cilantro (coriander). But it would seem, whichever combination you choose, these spicy vegetable samosas are enjoyed by everyone.

Samosas adapted from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent

500g/ 1lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely chopped chilli
2 teaspoons garam marsala
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions

1 1/2 cups atta flour ( or 3/4 cup wholewheat flour plus 3/4 plain flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup tepid water

Vegetable oil for frying

Boil the potatoes in salted boiling water for about 8 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and fry off until they pop which should only be a matter of seconds. Add the cumin to brown a little but careful not to burn them. Quickly add the onion, stir and cook until tender, 3 or 4 minutes. Don't allow to brown.

Add the ginger, chilli, garam marsala, tumeric and salt. Cook for 5 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and allow to wilt for 5 minutes or so. Add in the potatoes, carrots, corn and lemon juice. Cook for a few minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley and spring onions. With the back of the spoon crush the potatoes a little. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You might need a little more lemon juice.
Allow to cool. This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and rub into the flour. Gradually add the water, mixing with a fork until the mixture clumps. I needed more water to bring the dough together. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and refrigerated but allow to come to room temperature before using.

To prepare the samosas:
Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a log about 20cm (8 inches) long. Cut each log into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Allow to rest for 10 minutes covered with a tea towel.
Have ready a small cup of water and little extra flour. Lightly flour a ball of dough and press out with your fingers to a 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 inch) circle. Then roll out to about 15 cm (6 inches) with the rolling pin, flour if necessary. Cut the circle in half.

Now you need to shape each semicircle into a cone. Dampen half of the straight edge with water, bring the other half of the straight edge over it to overlap. Press to seal. Holding the in one hand as in the photo, spoon a generous amount of filling in but  don't overfill and pack it lightly.

Dampen the edges of the dough and bring together to seal and form the triangle samosa shape. Cute, aren't they?

And so continue until all the pastry has been used up. If you happen to have leftover filling it is delicious served with yoghurt.. Allow the samosas to dry for an hour or so, turning them over once or twice and checking that they are well sealed.

When ready to fry heat the oil and fry a few at a time until bubbled and browned. I shallow fried but Greg recommends deep frying for even browning and crisping.

Either way the samosas are yummy!

Monday, March 28, 2016


What is a stroopwafel? Same question I had when I saw this was our Daring Kitchen challenge for March. So, a stroopwafel is a waffle biscuit (or cookie, depending on where you live) filled with a sticky delicious carmel which is the "stroop". Very popular in their native country, the Netherlands where market vendors continue to make these in the traditional way and their delicious scent calls to customers.Cinnamon flavours the biscuit and the filling but maybe other spices, vanilla or finely ground nuts could be used.

Our host Juliana from Egg Day said "They are a little fiddly and timing is critical. They are a yeasted cookie dough made in a shallow waffle cookie press, like a pizzelle iron, split down the middle and filled with a gooey dark brown butterscotch filling." Wow, Juliana wasn't kidding! I struggled splitting these little wafels down the middle! I used my electric pizzelle maker but had to be careful not to close it too tightly lest I create a wafel so thin that splitting was impossible. Nonetheless, stroop wafels are delicious and I thank Juliana for introducing me to these delights.

This is Juliana's recipe with my comments in red


Servings: 24


For the Wafels:
1/2 cup / 120ml warm water (105-110°F / 40-43°C)
1/4 ounce / 7g / 1 envelope active dry yeast (regular, not quick rise)
1/2 cup / 100g granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
4 cups / 500g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Stroop Filling:
1 1/2 cups / 300g brown sugar, packed
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter
1/3 cup / 80ml dark corn syrup (see note below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oil spray for cookie press (I didn't need this, there is a lot of butter in the dough)

IF you can't find dark corn syrup here are some substitutes

1/4 cup / 60ml light corn syrup plus 4 teaspoons/ 20ml molasses
1/3 cup / 80ml molasses
2/5 cup / 80g packed brown sugar mixed with 4 teaspoons / 20ml hot water


In a stand mixer bowl combine water, yeast, a pinch of sugar from the ½ cup and salt. When the yeast is foamy (about 3 minutes) add the remaining sugar and butter, blend together. Add the eggs and mix. Add the flour and cinnamon. Mix one minute beyond just combined. Allow the dough to rest, covered or wrapped in film, while you make the stroop.

In a heavy bottom pan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil, not stirring. Attach candy thermometer.
In a heavy bottom pan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil, not stirring. (I stirred otherwise it would have burnt) Attach candy thermometer. Brush the sugar down from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Bring to 234-240°F / 112-115°C / soft ball stage. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test it - at this point the syrup dropped in to cold water can be formed in to a soft and flexible ball. Remove from heat, add cinnamon. Stir until smooth. (I then cooled the pan in a bowl of cool water because I was worried about the caramel overcooking. Next time I would probably stop cooking the caramel before it reached temperature. My caramel was quite firm towards the end of making the wafels.)

Preheat waffle iron.

Measure the dough into 24 to 26 x 1 1/2 ounce / 42g balls. Roll into round balls.
Lay out a cutting board, round or decorative cookie cutter, knife, and offset spatula.

In quick order spray the cookie press, put in a ball of dough into each side of the cookie press. Close quickly using pressure to flatten the dough. Timing varies for each iron, roughly 1-3 minutes, allow your cookies to cook. Look for the steam coming from your press to diminish noticeably. You are looking for a dark golden brown. If they are undercooked they will not be crispy when cool. If they are overcooked you cannot split the cookie to fill it.

As soon as the cookie is cooked (it may be puffed, if you’re lucky) cut with the round cutter. This gives you a clean edge to halve the cookie.

Cut it through the middle to make two disks. It will be hot, use a clean tea towel to handle the cookie if necessary. Spread 1-2 tablespoons stroop onto one half of the cookie, then top with the other half. Allow to cool. If you move quickly, you can refill the cookie press after you’ve cut and split the cookie.

Those cookies can cook while you are filling the ones you just removed from the iron. If you move quickly, you can refill the cookie press after you’ve cut and split the cookie. Those cookies can cook while you are filling the ones you just removed from the iron.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Spinach and Cheese Katmer Pie

I'm not a very competitive person but when it comes to cooking and baking I'm always tempted by a challenge which is why I back in 2009 I joined the Daring Bakers. Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks belonged to the online baking group The Daring Kitchen. Over the years the group has grown and together learnt many challenging techniques and discovered wonderful recipes from around the world. As we move forward this year, we have condensed to just one group The Daring Kitchen which may present baking as well as cooking challenges. I notice that this group's popularity is waning a little. Maybe it's had it's day, maybe there are no more challenges exciting enough (I doubt that!) or maybe this is just a lull. Or perhaps like me life is busy and it becomes more and more difficult to bake and post challenges as much as one would like. In any case I do still enjoy the challenges and I have good intentions of baking and posting on time, even if it doesn't happen often.

This month Milkica from Mimi's Kingdom  presented a recipe for Katmer pie. This is a traditional recipe from southern Serbia which can be made with either a savoury or sweet filling. Katmer pastry is an old variation of puff pastry usually made with lard but other options are available such as butter or oil. I found the pastry quite easy but mine pie didn't have the puff and layers it should have so maybe I did something wrong! It was delicious though filled with spinach and cheese.  Many thanks to Milkica for introducing a traditional recipe from Serbia.

Katmer Pie with Spinach and Cheese



One large pie baked in a dish approximately 16 x 16” / 40 x 40cm (enough for family of six)


4 cups spooned & scraped / 500g all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups / 300 – 350ml warm water
More all-purpose (plain) flour for dusting
2 – 3 tablespoons / 30 – 45g soft lard


1. Measure all purpose flour, warm water and salt. Put lard in a small bowl and leave on a warm place.

2. Mix all ingredients except lard in glass or plastic bowl. You will have relatively soft dough.

3. Transfer dough on a floured surface and knead it a little until you achieve elastic, but soft dough.

4. Dough should look as on this picture. Maybe you’ll need additional 6 tablespoons / 50g of flour.

5. Divide dough in six equal pieces and shape every piece in round form. Leave them to rest 10 minutes.

6. Using rolling pin roll every piece of dough into flat, round shape, approximately 1/8” / 3 - 4mm thick. Divide pieces in two groups of three. Brush first piece of dough with melted lard and cover with another piece of dough. Brush second piece of dough with lard and cover with third piece. Do not brush this third piece of dough with lard! Repeat the same with another three pieces of dough.

7. You will have two piles of dough pieces. Leave them again to rest for 10 minutes.

8. Roll every pile using rolling pin into round shape, approximately 1/4 - 1/3” / 5 - 8mm thick.

 9. Using sharp knife make eight cuts around the formed circle

10. Brush surface with melted lard.

11. Fold brushed, cut petals into middle part of dough

12. Continue until you fold all eight of them.

13. Turn the dough so the folded parts are underneath. Do the same with another pile of dough. Leave both pieces of dough to rest until you prepare the filling.

Spinach and Cheese Filling

Given recipe yields enough for one Katmer pie.


1 pound / 500g spinach
2 cups / 500g soft cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt (amount depends on cheese you use, you should try prepared filling and add more salt if necessary)


1. Prepare all ingredients.
2. Cut spinach into strips and steam until softened. Cool and place it in bowl. Add remaining ingredients

 3. Mix all ingredients using spoon or your hands. Filling one is ready.

To assemble pie:

1. Turn on your oven on 350F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. Roll one of the pieces of dough on lightly floured surface into large, square or rectangular shape to fit your baking tin.

2. Transfer layer of dough on baking tin brushed with melted lard.

3. Arrange your filling all over the first layer of dough.

4. Roll out the other piece of dough and transfer it to baking tin, covering filling completely. Press edges with your fingers to stick together.

5. Brush surface of pie with melted lard.

6. Cut whole pie into small square pieces.  Bake pie in preheated oven around 30 minutes until deep golden in color.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Red Velvet 21st Birthday Cake

This month my daughter celebrated her 21st birthday. And my 18 year old son has graduated from high school and is embarking on a new beginning. Where has the time gone? I'm feeling a little melancholy but am so fortunate I have been able to spend so much time with my precious children. They have grown to be wonderful, sensitive young adults and I am very proud. It is now time for me to let go and allow them spread their wings. I know, that with God's grace, they will accomplish what they set out to do with integrity and respect for themselves and others.

The 21st birthday celebration was an understated affair with a simple meal at our home on the front lawn with close family and friends. My daughter has always loved selecting a birthday cake and this one was no exception. It had to be red velvet, multi layered and decorated with lots of colour. And so it was.
Red velvet cake was layered with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream and covered in dark chocolate ganache. It was a riot of colour with cherries, raspberries, blueberries,fresh roses and assorted sweets and biscuits to accompany the homemade decorations.  I made lots of little pink, orange and yellow meringues, red velvet macarons (recipe coming), honeycomb and sugar paste butterflies to decorate the cake.

The sugar paste butterflies are part of this month's Daring Kitchen challenge hosted by  Shillpa Bhaambri from Cakeline the Journey. Shillpa challenged us to become cake designers using fondant, sugar paste or modeling chocolate to create a design for a cake or cupcake. As I already had a plan for this cake I decided I could incorporate the butterflies into the design. I used homemade sugar paste coloured pink, orange and yellow to cut out butterflies using a cutter. A piece of cardboard bent into shape and covered with non stick baking paper served to shape the butterflies.

After they dried overnight I used a little black colour thinned with vodka edge the wings. Then once that dried a sparkle dust dry brushed on lifted the colour of each butterfly. With a little royal icing (egg white and pure icing sugar) a thin wire was secured to the underside.

Happy birthday to my beautiful girl!

The red velvet cake is a recipe by one of my favourite bakers Summer from Cake Paper Party and the Italian meringue butter cream is by Warren Brown with my adaption of cream cheese.