Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins

 

Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with  my strawberry confiture – scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes 6 jumbo muffins)

130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (18 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
70 ml whipping cream (heavy cream, fat 35%), whipped
120 g strawberry confiture

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
  4. Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180° C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

Bake-Off ! – Bara Brith and Welsh Whisky

I participated in a baking contest took place in Tokyo earlier this month. This is one of the reasons I had been a bit away from here. I don’t remember how many loaves I baked, and I have totally no idea how much flours, dried fruits etc. were consumed for this 😀

At first, I was just trying to bake Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit loaf made with tea and Welsh version of Irish Barm Brack, according to a recipe postcard from a Postcrossing friend in Wales. Then the announcement of the contest followed: ‘Irish & British Bake-off! looking for contestants’. This was organized by an English woman who runs a bakery and baking classes in Tokyo, and had nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off 😀

To be honest, it was really struggling to make a NICE Bara Brith since no butter (or no oil) is used for the cake. It didn’t work out the way as I wanted at all, so I adopted a Boiled Fruitcake recipe and mixed up the methods, which turned out to be pretty well.

Unfortunately, the cake couldn’t beat others. For me, however, the result was rather good – I had assumed the physical appearance wouldn’t attract the judges and the cake would taste too heavy for Japanese. Surprisingly, I got 6 votes! and received some nice comments. Among others, ‘the cake was rich in depth and complexity and I loved it!’ satisfied me a lot. I didn’t reveal the ingredients, but some noticed the ‘complexity’.

My cake – Entry No. 4

The ingredient that gave the cake complex richness is Penderyn, Welsh single malt whisky, and I selected dried fruits and preserves which go perfectly well with the whisky.

Penderyn Madeira

I guess most of you haven’t heard of Welsh whisky unlike Scottish and Irish counterparts. Actually, the whisky production once died out in the late 19th century, but some entrepreneurs endevoured to revive distillation in the 1990s and in 2000, the Welsh Whisky Company was founded, which is now known as Penderyn Distillery.  As of 2016, Wales has two whisky distilleries in operation. (Wikipedia)

Penderyn whisky is completely different from Scotch – I have a kind of impression that Penderyn is feminine or womanly: smooth, fresh, sweet, elegant, flowery yet deep while Scotch is manliest: strong, powerful, earthy…. I tried some Scotch for the cake, but none of them created the ‘complexity’.

What makes Penderyn whisky unique is their still:

‘Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.

Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit to be produced from a single still.’

I used Penderyn Madeira for the cake:

TASTING NOTES – Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins. Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness. Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist. 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition – Silver (from Penderyn website)

Other than the whisky, my Bara Brith requires specific ingredients and products. I’m not sure if substitutes work or not, so I haven’t posted the recipe here. Please let me know if you would like to try to bake my Bara Brith. Anyway, I am going to develop this recipe and will post it later this year, hopefully before Christmas!

Next time in London, I’ll sign up for the Great British Baking Workshop (ex Celtic Baking Workshop) at Bread Ahead Bakery & School.

Pâine de Casă & Khachapuri

The recipes that I’m posting here today are Romanian and Georgian origin.

I’ve never been to Romania, but the Pâine de Casă, Romanian bread, from my favourite bakery in Japan has attracted me for many years. (It should probably be called pâine de cartofi, or potato bread, rather than homemade bread.) I had always wanted to try to bake the bread with soft, moist and chewy texture, and finally did it recently. After a few baking attempts, it came out sooooo good!!

The pâine de casă along with khachapuri wasn’t photogenic at all, so baked another one 😀

Another recipe is of khachapuri (Adjaruli type), Georgian cheese bread. I didn’t know anything about Georgian food, but a meal photo that one of my blogger friends posted grabbed my heart – my ‘stomach’, I mean ‘appetite’, to be precise – and I had been hoping to make the cheese bread since I had tasty one in London. When my pâine de casă experiment went well, I wondered what if… and I was right! The pâine de casă filled with melted cheeses topped with a runny egg and butter turned out to be a perfect match – much better than the one I had in London 😀  Trust me! My khachapuri would never disappoint you!!

Ingredients

for the dough 

180 g floury potato (for 150 g mashed potato)
150 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
150 g strong white flour

60 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt (for khachapuri bread; add ¼ tsp more for pâine de casă)
200 g strong white flour (plus some for dusting)
100 g strong wholemeal flour

for the filling (for 2 khachapuri)

100 g grated fresh mozzarella
80 g grated Samsø cheese
80 g crumbled feta cheese (I used milder)
1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
2 egg yolk
20 g butter

Method

Pâine de Casă

  1. Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook until tender but not falling apart. Drain well, peel the potatoes and mash thoroughly.
  2.  Dissolve the yeast in the 150 ml lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Put the 150 g mashed potato in a bowl, pour in the yeasty water, and stir with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the 150 g strong white flour and mix well to form a sticky dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave the dough sit overnight.
  3.  The following day, dissolve the salt in the 60 ml lukewarm water, pour in the dough and stir well. Spoon in the remaining flours and knead into the dough. The dough should be too sticky to work with, but do not add any more flour. Cover again with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 – 2 hours until doubled in size.
  4.  Preheat oven to 220°C. Punch down and knead the dough for a few minutes in the bowl. With floured hands, shape into a round loaf and place it on a floured baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until well risen and crusty on top. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Khachapuri 

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Combine the cheeses with the yoghurt and set aside.
  2. On a floured surface, divide the pâine de casă dough into two equal pieces, and shape both into a ball. Spread each piece into a circle about 25 cm in diameter. Roll two opposite sides of the circle towards the centre so it ends up have a boat like shape. Then pinch the corners together.
  3. Put half of the cheese mixture in the middle and repeat with remaining dough and cheese. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust becomes golden brown. Make a well in the centre of each khachapuri with a spoon and drop one egg yolk into each well. Return to the oven and bake for another few minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on your oven, but the egg yolk should still be bright yellow and runny. Remove from the oven, place 10 g butter on each bread and serve immediately. When eating, mix the cheese and egg with a fork.

 

Little Georgia in London

 I learnt khachapuri from the Wife of Bath’s travel story in Georgia. Unfortunately, there is not a Georgian restaurant in Tokyo – some Russian ones serve ‘the sort of’ dishes though – so I had decided to try a Georgian restaurant in London.

Then popped in Little Georgia in Islington – walked up from King’s Cross Road, about a 20 min walk, not from Angel, the nearest tube station. It was Thursday night and the place was 80% full, so I reckon the restaurant is quite popular. It was a bit pricey for me, but it is normal in London and costs more for one person. Anyway, the food was good and satisfactory.

(source: TripAdvisor)
(source: Time Out London)
khachapuri with Georgian wine
Ask for khinkali (Georgian dumpling ) – it’s not on the menu.

Next time in London, I will try breakfast or lunch at the original Little Georgia Cafe in Hackney, a cafe with BYO policy.

Little Georgia Cafe (source: Miranda’s Notebook)
mezze platter of salads (source: Miranda’s Notebook)

 

Bolo Rei – King’s Cake and Lisbon

Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)

Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year. (Wikipedia)

As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)

I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!

My Bolo Rei with postcards from Postcrossers in Lisbon and my Portugal postcard collection.

The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.

Ingredients

For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum

35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour

50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked

100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)

For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice

For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water

Method

  1. Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 C.
  5.  Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
  6. To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
So far I have received two postcards from Lisbon, which are my faves.

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!

 


I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.

What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:

city views from above

trams

tram-3

and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!

 

MUST STAY in LISBON

Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.

A Room with a view

 

MUST EAT in LISBON

I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant  like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!

Cozido à Portuguesa, Portuguese stew with several kinds of meats and vegetables.
pudim flan

According to Tripadvisor reviews, their fish dishes look also nice.

At another restaurant, Sardinhas Assadas, Vinho Verde and Vinho do Porto satisfied me a lot…. Must go back to Lisboa!!

Rotweinkuchen – Red Wine Cake and Ahr

 Actually, I was not planning to post the recipe in December, but the result has come out satisfactory just before the festive season! The flavour is wintry and Christmassy – wine and spices –  so you might want to try this Rotweinkuchen out for the upcoming holidays. Or maybe with an unfinished bottle of wine from the feast.

As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake.  So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:

  • 140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
  • Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars

The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.

The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.


updated 17/2/2017
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:

  • from Mendoza, Algentina
    Amancaya  Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
  • from Puglia, Italy
    Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)

If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!

source: Alter Eco website

Ingredients

(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)

110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
  2. Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  6. Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.

 


Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.

Ahrweiler Markt
@Ahrweiler Markt

It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.

Ahrweiler Markt from vineyards
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)

This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀

Weingut Peter Kriechel’s Federweißer and takeaway Zwiebelkuchen

Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart  and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀

Zwiebelkuchen mit Federweißer @ Hof Bärenbach in Rech

Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.

Federrotter @ Weingut Peter Kriechel’s wine station on the Rotweinwanderweg

It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂

Roasted Fig and Almond Cake

I grabbed a bag when I came across fresh figs at a farmers’ market last week. I was hoping to bake an almond cake with the fruit one more time so that I could complete and confirm a recipe, but it’s late autumn already….

How lucky of me!! I thought the fig season had been over, and I had given up the attempt. Actually, the farmer did think so, too, but the fruit ripened somehow in late November. So they were the very last harvest!

The recipe is originally from All-in-one Rhubarb and Almond Cake, which is a nice one and I have tried several times with rhubarb. For the fig version, I altered it to make the cake more moist and flavourful: added roasted figs with honey and some more ground almond, and changed the procedure a bit.

The previous result was unexpectedly good (soooo good!) and a friend of mine loved it so much – far more than the rhubarb cake, which was tasty as well. I was not sure what made it so different other than the roasted figs. Well, the truth is… somehow, this absent-minded had added twice as much ground almond as the original quantity by mistake!! And that is the reason I needed one more experiment! 😀

Enjoy my ‘unexpected success born out of failure’ !

 

 

Ingredients

(for 18 cm cake tin)

12 figs, halved lengthways
1-2 tbsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
125 g butter, softened at room temperature
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked
150 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g ground almond
(optional: icing sugar)

 

cake-5

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C. Sit the figs cut side up on a roasting tray. Drizzle with the honey and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove the juice and cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170° C. Into a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture and ground almond gently until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon half the mixture into a lined cake tin. Arrange the roasted figs over the cake base, then drop the rest of the mixture over spoonfuls, leaving gaps.
  6. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool.
  7. Dust with the icing sugar to serve. Best eaten following day.

 

 

 

Chickpea & Almond Biscuits and Sicily

I’m a big fan of pistachio, but I don’t mean any. I fell in love with Sicilian pistachio when I travelled to the island for the first time in 2012. Pistachio gelato, biscuit, cake, pistachio cream filled pastry, etc…. I cannot help trying whenever in the island, and bringing back as many the nuts and the products as possible!

pistachio colomba (dove shaped) Easter cake
Sicilian Pecorino cheese with pistachio
shelled pistachios, ground pistachio, pistachio flour, pistachio cream, pistachio trone

Above all, the nuts from Bronte, a small town on the west flank of the active volcano Mt Etna, is the best. Bronte pistachio, so called ‘green gold of Sicily’ or ’emerald of Sicily’, is characterised by its bright green colour and its marked aroma and flavour. Once I baked a loaf with Bronte pistachios and the flour along with some lemons from my parents’ garden, which was absolutely beautiful!

My baking – ‘Pistachio & Lemon Loaf Cake’ – recipe from the Little Loaf

As for crema di pistacchio, or pistachio cream, I was no idea how to use it other than top over vanilla ice cream or spread on pieces of bread, pancakes etc. It could be used for cake filling, but one jar was insufficient in quantity…. The breakfast I was served at a B&B in Enna this March, however, gave me an idea: chickpea flour biscuit with pistachio cream filling.

Sicilian ‘sweet’ breakfast @ Bianko & Bianko (first stay)
chickpea flour biscuits with pistachio cream filling – so good!

And also, a recipe booklet the host gave me two years earlier inspired me. The booklet is a collection of sweets recipes for religious festivities around Enna, and a lovely handmade piece!

the recipe booklet
Homemade Pan di Spagna “Affuca Parrinu” – made from only eggs, sugar and starch and baked in the mold on the far left. Very light and fluffy! @ Bianko & Bianko (second stay) – the recipe is in the booklet

I added ground almond to make it more Sicilian – like pasticcini di mandorle, Sicilian almond dough biscuit, which is crispy and slightly chewy, but soft and moist inside. The first experiment turned out to be perfect except that the dough was dry and not sticky enough to wrap the cream up. Of course, it’s totally gluten free!!  I wanted to follow the traditional Sicilian style and keep ingredients simple, so I made it ‘pinwheel’ as the solution!

another sweet breakfast at Monastero Santo Spirito in Agrigento – stayed a night at the convent and enjoyed nuns’ homemade almond biscuits!

Oh, I need to mention the black spiral one with sweetened black sesame paste. The dough was going to go with only pistachio cream at first, but the experiment with black sesame paste unexpectedly resulted in a good outcome! As I didn’t have sufficient cream, I attempted with several substitutes: peanut cream or paste (but not butter) was also nice, but chestnut cream wasn’t at all. I guess hazelnut cream would work.

To be honest, however, the pistachio cream ones are not photogenic at all – the colour becomes dull when together with the dough, so this is the main reason I added black spirals 😀

Ingredients

100 g chickpea flour
100 g ground almond/almond meal
80 g caster sugar
80 g lard or shortening (trans free palm shortening)
40g whisked egg
100 g pistachio cream (or sweetened black sesame/peanut paste as such but not runny)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 140° C.
  2. In a bowl, cream the lard or shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the whisked egg a third at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and almonds until evenly combined. Divide half.
  3. Using your hands, spread half of the dough evenly on a sheet of waxed or baking parchment paper (20 cm x 20 cm square). Trim the edges. Spread half of the cream or the paste over the dough.
  4. Lift the end of the sheet, and roll up using the sheet like a sushi roll but pressing tightly. Wrap with the sheet when it comes to the end. Repeat with the remaining. Refrigerate the two rolls for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from refrigerator and unwrap, then cut into 1.5 cm slices. Put the slices apart on greased baking sheet. Bake at 140° C for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.

note: If the baking time is not enough, the chickpea dough tastes a little bit grassy. If longer, they turn to crispy like ordinary biscuits. This baking might be a bit tricky. Please adjust the temperature and time.


MUST SHOPS in PALERMO

If you’d like to purchase Sicilian coffee, then go to Ideal Caffè Stagnitta, a roasting company, just off Plazzo Pretorio. Cannot find the way? No worries, the beautiful roasting aroma will lead you to the place. You can also try a cup first at its cafe, Casa Stagnitta adjacent to the shop.

source: Stagnitta Facebook

Orland, which I mentioned on my Lemon Spaghetti post, is a good place to buy Bronte pistachios, but I found a new one near Teatro Massiomo. Genuino is a fantastic deli with good quality Sicilian food products, and Enrico will give you a warm welcome when you step into the shop. I recommend the foodstuff from his village: olives, cheeses, cured sausages, breads, sweets, nuts etc. The olives I tried were larger than normal ones, and more plump and juicy!
 
I don’t remember the name, but the cheese Enrico’s friend makes – he said it ‘invented’ – was superb! You must try it!!

 

Aperitivo (source: Genuino Facebook)

 

MUST STAY in ENNA

Bianko & Bianko bed and breakfast
First stay in 2013 on the way to Villa Romana del Casale
Second stay in 2016 to see the processions on Holy Monday

My first stay at Bianko & Bianko was so pleasant that I went back again. The host helped me a lot to plan the visit during the Holy Week – sent me the programme of the processions with useful tips. Her restaurant recommendations are always superb!

MUST STAY in AGRIGENTO

B&B Monastero Santo Spirito
Worth a stay for the church interior and the breakfast.

source: Monastero Santo Spirito website
source: Tripadvisor

Flammkuchen and Ahr Wine Region

Three flammkuchen – with bacon & onion, smoked salmon & courgette, fig & cranberry cheese – recipes to follow below.

flammkuchen with fig & cranberry cheese

As I posted last month, I went to Germany last year to see the wine festivals. What I enjoyed most there, however, is  Rotweinwanderweg, i.e. Red Wine Hiking Trail, rather than the festivals.

A view from Rosenthal Vineyard – St Laurentius Kirche in Ahrweiler Markt

Rotweinwanderweg runs high above the floor of the Ahr Valley along the River Ahr which flows into the Rhine just south of Bonn. It offers beautiful views over the vineyards and spectacular ones overlooking the valley.

The trail is 35.6 km long and takes in the winemaking villages in the Ahr wine region en route (More about the region, read my Holiday in Vineyards): from Altenahr in the west, it stretches via Mayschoß, Rech, Dernau and Marienthal, passing by Walporzheim (where I saw the festival), Ahrweiler (where I stayed) and Heimersheim (where another festival was held), then to Bad Bodendorf in the east.

 

Rotweinwanderweg Route Map with vineyard names

Unlike in the Lower Ahr Valley between Walporzheim and Heimersheim with flatter vineyards and mainly loess soil, in the Middle Ahr Valley, vines grow on the steep terraced cliffs of volcanic slate. The grapes on the south-facing vineyard slopes can receive a greater intensity of the sun’s rays, with sunshine falling on an angle perpendicular to the hillside, and the soil has an ability to store heat during the day, and gently releases it during the night. This is one of the reasons why full-bodied wines can develop here despite the northern location.

See? How steep the vineyards are!

I felt myself as if I were a ski jumper on a takeoff ramp!!

I’m not a wine expert. I don’t know much about Terroir and how different soils affect the flavour of wine, but I liked the wines from the Middle Ahr Valley more.

I hiked about 3/4 of Rotweinwanderweg – 26.1 km between Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr Ahrweiler in 3 days. Sometimes I walked down to the villages for some break and sometimes got lost in the mountains 😀  – cos it intermingles with the Nordic Walking Trail!! So I reckon I walked at least 30 km in total.

Walking in the mountains and vineyards, in the fresh air and pleasant sunshine, I felt myself extremely happy – almost natural high like a marathon runner! This is when I decided to start a blog, hence my name, ‘Rotwein Wanderer’.

Most of the trail runs through open vineyards, and various descents and paths lead you from the vineyards into the winemaking villages.

Some parts of the paths are tarmacked for agricultural vehicles.

Each village has some wineries or wine estates where you can sample some wines in their tasting rooms, and cozy restaurants and taverns which serve the local wines. (Read Rhine and Around: Ahr on wine tasting at a wine estate in Ahr – I’m glad she also found the hidden gem! and jealous cos I couldn’t try Jean Stodden’s!!)

pretty buildings in Altenahr
Mayschoß
Dernau

As usual, well-organised Rotwein the foodie had already planned where to have a break and what to eat – like a marathon runner who plots out. 😀  Then headed down a ramp for the first water station, more precisely, DRINK station in Marienthal.

Weingut Kloster Marienthal
A view of vineyards from Klostergarten

Weingut Kloster Marienthal was once state owned, but two cooperative wineries, the Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss-Altenahr and Dagernova Weinmanufaktur, and two private wine estates, Weingut Brogsitter and Weingut Meyer-Näkel, have managed since 2004. In the vinotheque, you can taste some Kloster Marienthal wines and also purchase a limited range of the four owners’ as well as Kloster Mariental’s.

Weingut Kloster Mariental is located in the former Marienthal Convent with a cafe/restaurant. I took a seat in the patio with a wonderful ambience – surrounded by the ruins of the convent and a view of the greenish vineyards ahead of me.

I ordered „Klassisch“ – ‘Classic’ or traditional flammkuchen – with bacon, onion and cheese along with a glass of their Blanc de Noir as I had found it my very ‘cup of tea’ at Heimersheim Wine Festival a few days earlier.

Flammkuchen with Blanc de Noir @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal
„Klassisch“ mit Speck, Zwiebeln und Käse @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal

The flammkuchen was superb – the best one I’ve ever had! Very crispy rather than crunchy, rich but light at the same time, perfect saltiness….

It was so good that I couldn’t help experimenting at home although I knew it was difficult to roll out the dough very thin and to make it really crisp in high flame – my electric oven isn’t enough!! I believe, however, it turned out rather good! Other than ‘Classic’, tried something different. I wanted to use Wensleydale cheese with cranberries but not available in this country, so substituted Boursin’s – the black pepper gave it a good kick!

If you would like to enjoy with some wine, try Blanc de Noir if available, or Riesling if not. As for the dessert flammkuchen? Hmmm…. Spätlese,  Auslese…. I don’t store sweet/er German wines, so paired with sweet Sicilian spumante made from Moscato Bianco, or Muscat Blanc, which went nice together.

Guten Appetit!

Ingredients

(makes 2: about 20cm x 20cm each)

for the dough (makes 2)

1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/4 tsp honey
100 ml/cc lukewarm water
150 g bread flour
30 g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil plus some for coating

for the topping

i) Klassisch (for 2)
80 g sour cream
2 tsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper, to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
50 g bacon, chopped
40 g red onion, thinly sliced
fresh chive (to sprinkle), chopped

ii) smoked salmon & courgette (for 2)
100 g sour cream
½ tsp truffle salt (I used black truffle salt)
white pepper (to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
100 g smoked salmon
½ – 1 courgette, thinly sliced
fresh dill (to garnish)

iii) fig & cranberry cheese (for 2)
100 g Boursin Cranberry & Pepper cheese
7 – 8 fresh fig, sliced
balsamic vinegar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp runny honey, to adjust (I used orange blossom honey)

Boursin® Cranberry & Pepper
flammkuchen with smoked salmon & courgette

Method

  1. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip the flours and the salt into a bowl, and mix and form a well in the middle. Pour in the yeasty water and the oil, then mix thoroughly. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add in some more flour or water a little at a time if required.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and coat the surface lightly with the olive oil. Place in a bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Divide into two equal pieces, shape both into a ball, and grease with the oil. Cover again and allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine i) the sour cream and yogurt in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, nutmeg, salt and pepper, or ii) cream the sour cream in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, truffle salt and pepper, and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  7. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough pieces (2-3 mm). Prick all over with a fork. Spread half of i), ii) the cream mixture or iii) the cranberry cheese onto the dough, but leave a small border around the edge.
  8. i) Scatter with the bacon and onion on top, ii) Top with the courgette and smoked salmon, or iii) Top with the fig, drop the balsamic on each figs and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and the bottom is crisp.
  9. Remove from the oven, and i) sprinkle with the chive, ii) garnish with the dill, or iii) drizzle over the honey.
flammkuchen with bacon & onion and Weingut Kloster Marienthal Blanc de Noir

Homemade Applesauce Cake

Last winter, I had been playing with Bramley apples for a few months – baked a pie, tarte tatin, toffee pudding etc. with Bramely every weekend – as I always do once really into something (e.g. beetroot, fennel). I was sure to miss the apples while not in season, so I made some applesauce and bottled before the season had gone.

 

Homemade Bramley Applesauce

 

Okay, it’s time to open the jar!!  and baked a cake with the sauce.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 18 cm ring cake tin)

For the applesauce 
1.8 kg Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into pieces
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300 g light soft brown sugar or golden caster sugar (I used Sanonto Sugar)
100 ml water

For the cake
90 g butter, softened at room temperature
100 g caster sugar
1 egg, whisked
190 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
160 g applesauce
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
20 g dried cranberries
30 g pecan nuts, lightly toasted and chopped

To decorate
50 g icing sugar
1½ – 2 tsp water (to adjust)

 

Method

Applesauce

  1. Put all the ingredients in a pot on low heat. Cook gently for 60 – 90 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick sauce-like consistency. Cool completely.

Applesauce Cake

  1. Soak the cranberries in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze well to remove excess water. Chop finely and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 180° C. Into a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition, then spoon in the vanilla extract.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then gently stir in the applesauce, cranberries and pecans until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon into a tin and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  6. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack, top side up, and cool. When almost cooled, wrap in cling film and store overnight for better flavour and texture. 
  7. To make the icing, stir 1.5 – 2 tsp water into the icing sugar and mix well. Drizzle or pipe the icing over the cake.

 

 

Valentine’s Day 2016

Happy Valentine’s to Everyone!

2016 Valentine's

Sorry, no recipe today!