Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cinnamon shortbread cookies with cinnamon sugar

The Christmas tree is finally up! We trimmed it yesterday evening and my home feels Christmassy and festive and of course I’m already knee deep in holiday baking. I made melomakarona the other day, my all time favorite Greek Christmas cookies, and I plan on making kourabiedes very soon, but today I made another type of cookie that’s become a tradition in my home during the holidays, shortbread. I love all shortbread cookies, but above all those flavored with cinnamon.

I have shared with you before the vanilla and cocoa versions, and here’s the cinnamon one. It not only has cinnamon in the dough, but it has cinnamon on top as well, as I sprinkle the cookies before baking with cinnamon sugar that I make with Demerara sugar and ground cinnamon, that accentuates the flavor of the spice even more, without, however, being overwhelming, and it is fantastic. If you haven’t been sprinkling your shortbread with cinnamon sugar, then you should get on it as soon as possible.

Hope you are already in a festive mood yourselves and baking up a storm. Do try these and let me know what you think. And don't forget to tag me in your photos on instagram if you do make them so I can see them.

Happy baking!

Cinnamon shortbread cookies with cinnamon sugar

This is a shortbread full of butter flavor and a delicate texture. It is, to me, the ultimate shortbread. See here the vanilla and the cocoa versions.

This recipe yields about 35 Christmas tree cookies that have a height of 7 cm and a base with a width of 6 cm. There are so many different kinds of cookie cutters out there so of course I don’t expect you to have the same exact cookie cutters I have, so you may end up with more or less cookies.

Yield: about 35 cookies

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55 g icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
220 g all purpose flour, sieved
20 g cornflour (cornstarch), sieved, plus extra for dipping your cookie cutter
1 heaped tsp (5 g) ground cinnamon, sieved
A pinch of sea salt

for the cinnamon sugar
2 Tbsp coarse Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Special equipment: fine sieve, stand or hand-held mixer, plastic wrap, rolling pin, baking paper, cookie cutters of your choice (see note above for cookie cutters I used), baking sheet(s), small food processor

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and icing sugar and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes or until you have a very creamy and light mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate. Add the flour, cornflour, cinnamon and salt and beat on low speed. At first you may think that the mixture will not become a dough because it will look very sandy but don't worry, after a minute it will come together (like in the picture below) and gather in pieces around the paddle attachment (or around the beaters) of your mixer.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball and then into a disk. At this point you'll see the actual texture of the dough which should be smooth and firm. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, make the cinnamon sugar. In a small food processor, add the sugar and cinnamon and process for 5 seconds to combine. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want the sugar to turn into powder. We want it to add texture to the cookies when sprinkled on top.

Line your baking sheet with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Place the chilled disk of dough between two sheets of baking paper and using a rolling pin, roll it out to 0.5-0.7 cm-thickness.
In a small bowl, add some cornflour and use it to dip in your cookie cutter. In this way, the cookie cutter won't stick to the dough.
Remove the top baking paper from your rolled-out dough and using your cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them on your prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1.5 cm apart.

Note: It's best if you transfer the cut-out cookies from the baking paper to your baking sheet using a small offset spatula. This way you ensure the shape of the cookie remains intact. You need to work fast because the dough becomes warmer and softer as time passes.

Note: Any leftover dough, shape it again into a ball and place it in the fridge to firm up. Then roll it out same as you did before and cut out more cookies.

Sprinkle each cookie with the cinnamon sugar. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes or until light golden around the edges. They'll feel a little soft in the middle but that's okay. Be careful not to overbake them.

Note: If you choose a different cookie cutter, either smaller or bigger, or even of a different shape than the one I used (see note at the start of the recipe), the baking times will change. Keep a close eye on your cookies while baking so you avoid any surprises.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to stand for 2 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow them to cool completely before you transfer them to a cookie tin.
They'll keep for 1 week, at room temperature, in a tightly closed cookie tin.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cake (or brownie) and Greek yoghurt trifles with freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate

So what do you do when you have gloriously fucked up a cake that you so lovingly prepared and it ended up sticking to the pan so badly that when you finally managed to take it out, it only came out in a gazillion, unappetizing pieces? Do you throw it away, do you eat it as is, ignoring its awful appearance, or do you make something else out of it?

This is what happened to me the other day when I made a marble bundt cake. I recently bought a new bundt pan which I naively thought it was going to be like my other bundt pans that are trustworthy and cooperative and only need buttering, but no, this one was different, it required special treatment which I didn’t offer; it needed flouring as well!

So it took revenge on me by making my beautiful cake stick to all its nooks and crannies. At first, being angry at the pan, the cake and myself, I thought of tossing the cake, but then reason prevailed and realized I could repurpose it. After some very kind people on instagram gave their genius ideas, I was inspired to make cake pops (which I took to my friend’s house for whom I made the cake in the first place) and with the rest of the cake I made these trifles for us.

Layers of cocoa-vanilla marble cake, Greek yoghurt with some freeze-dried raspberry powder swirled through it and chocolate shavings. Best.Save.Ever. Because accidents can, after all, turn out to be the most delicious things in the world, and if you too have any kind of cake or brownie that you messed up, yet it still tastes delicious, do make these trifles. You won’t regret it. And by the way, they would make the cutest, festive, individual desserts for the upcoming holidays.

Marble cake (or brownie) and Greek yoghurt individual trifles with freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate

I finally found freeze-dried fruit (raspberries and strawberries) after I’ve been searching form them for ages at my local super-market of all places and I couldn’t wait to use them! They worked perfectly in this trifle but if you can’t get them, use fresh raspberries or pomegranate seeds between the layers to give sharpness and texture.
Freeze-dried fruit are pure fruit, without any additives, and they are like crispy meringues in texture and become powder when ground/crumbled.

I used marble cake (cocoa-vanilla) for this but you can use any cake or brownies (homemade or otherwise).

Yield: 4 individual servings / 4 glasses of 200ml-capacity

3-4 thick cake slices (or 3 brownies), some in small pieces, some crumbled
500 g full-fat Greek yoghurt, drained of any excess liquid
3 Tbsp icing sugar
3-4 freeze-dried raspberries, powdered (you can do this easily by rubbing them between your hands)
Dark chocolate shavings (55-60% cocoa solids)

Mix the icing sugar into the yoghurt. Swirl in most of the freeze-dried raspberry powder, leaving some for topping the trifles. Give it a taste. It should be sweet but still tangy, to create the flavor contrast with the sweet cake. Add more sugar if it’s too tangy for your taste.
Cover the bottom of each glass with a layer of cake/brownie, top with yoghurt (you could add some chocolate shavings here if you’re a chocoholic), then add another layer of cake/brownie and finally a layer of yoghurt. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and some extra raspberry powder. If you don’t have freeze-dried raspberries, you could add some fresh raspberries or pomegranate seeds between the layers to add sharpness.

They are best served the day you make them but they keep well in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for a day.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Persimmon and blackberry frangipane gallete with rye pastry + 8 years

Persimmon season is here and without exaggerating in the slightest, there must be at least three kilos of persimmons right now overflowing from my fruit basket. They are my favorite autumn/winter fruits bar none, and I invariably eat them as they are. I let them ripen at room temperature —putting them next to apples speeds up the process, or so they say— and I love eating them in all their full ripeness, juicy and jammy and so so sweet that I neglect to use them in desserts.

I use them in salads, especially the firm variety of persimmons (the flat ones), but I have never used them in any dessert. When I suddenly realized it, I thought I should rectify it, immediately, and what came to mind was a galette.

I made a rye pastry for my galette as I enjoy immensely the earthy and slightly nutty quality of rye flour as well as its depth of flavor, and it paired beautifully with the sweetness of the frangipane and the juiciness of the fruits.

The flavors and textures of this free-form tart are wonderful. The pastry is crumbly, tender, melt-in-the-mouth and slightly crispy, with a unique savory flavor that rye brings to baked goods that also manages to balance the sweetness of the galette. The frangipane is buttery and sweet with an unmistakably creamy, almond flavor and it is pleasantly grainy from the nuts. The persimmons are sweet and juicy, half-sunken into the frangipane, lending their beautiful aroma and bright color to the galette, whereas the blackberries are bursting with juices and add a somewhat tart note. The demerara sugar lends a caramely sweetness and a pleasing crunch, and the apricot glaze that finishes off both crust and fruits, adds tartness and sweetness at the same time.

There’s a brilliant balance of sweet, savory and sharp notes in this gallete, and a great balance of pastry to filling ratio. Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. I just realized that my blog turned 8 a few days ago! Eight!! Here’s to 8 more and thank you for sticking around!

Persimmon and blackberry frangipane gallete with rye pastry

You can use frozen blackberries in case you can’t find fresh. Alternatively, you can skip the blackberries altogether and make it all about the persimmons.

The persimmons I used were ripe but not overripe. If they are overripe they will disintegrate in the oven.

Frangipane is a cream or paste made with almonds that can be used as a filling for tarts or cakes. It pairs beautifully with all sorts of fruits as well as with crème pâtissière and crème légère. I have used it in the past in this tart with spiced, red-wine poached pears.

Yield: 10 small-ish pieces


for the pastry dough
125 g rye flour
125 g all purpose flour
140 g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
Pinch of salt
1 large egg yolk
1-2 Tbsp cold water

for the frangipane
65 g unsalted butter, softened
65 g caster sugar
1 large egg yolk
65 g ground blanched almonds* (see below)
¾ tsp cornflour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Amaretto liqueur (optional yet preferable)

for the galette
2 persimmons (the elongated kind) (200 g in total), skin on, cut into 5mm slices crosswise
120 g fresh blackberries

1 small egg + 1 tsp water (eggwash), beaten together with a fork, for glazing the dough
1 Tbsp demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Apricot jam, for glazing the galette

Crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream, to serve

* You can use already ground almonds or you can grind your own. I always grind my own almonds because they’re fresher and cheaper. Use a food processor to grind the almonds finely but be careful not to grind them to the point where they start to release their oils.

Special equipment: large food processor, plastic wrap, rolling pin, baking paper, rimmed baking sheet, small food processor, pastry brush, small fine sieve


for the pastry dough
• with a food processor
In a large food processor, add the flour, cold cubed butter and salt and process for a few seconds until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsp cold water and process in order to bring together the mixture into a dough that holds together in large chunks and that when you press in your hand, it becomes dough. Don’t over mix. Add 1 Tbsp of water to start, and see from there whether it needs more. You don’t want the dough to be wet.

• by hand
In a large bowl, add the flour, cold cubed butter and salt and, using two knives, a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut it into the flour, until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsp cold water and mix with your hands, working quickly, until the dough holds together in large chunks and when you press in your hand, it becomes dough. Add 1 Tbsp of water to start, and see from there whether it needs more. You don’t want the dough to be wet.

Empty the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form a rectangle, cover it and place it in the refrigerator to chill, for 1½ hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap and place dough between two large sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into an oval shape with the dough having approximately 5mm thickness. The dough should be somewhat pliable yet it will be a little stiff. If it tends to break apart when you roll it out, let it warm a bit before you try again. Place the rolled out dough, along with the baking papers, onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

for the frangipane
In the meantime, prepare the frangipane.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and using an electric hand-held mixer), add the butter and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, for 7-8 minutes. Then add the egg and beat well until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the ground almonds, cornflour and salt and add them to the butter mixture. Fold them in using a spatula until fully incorporated and finally add the Amaretto and mix it in with the spatula.

Preheat your oven to 180°C / 360°F.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, remove the top baking paper and spread and smooth the frangipane evenly on the chilled, rolled-out dough using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, leaving a 5cm rim around the edges of the dough. Arrange the persimmon slices on top of the frangipane and add the blackberries in between.
Fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling, making sure to seal any cracks. You can use the baking paper to pull and fold the dough over the filing.

Note: Make sure that the dough doesn’t have any cracks and that you have folded it well over the fruits, because the frangipane will expand and puff up during baking and push out the dough, so you don't want the dough to unfold or the filling to run out of it. I have had that happen to me and it’s not pleasant!

Using a pastry brush, glaze the dough with the eggwash and sprinkle with demerara sugar, both the fruits and the dough.

Place the baking sheet on the lower rack of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Then transfer to the middle rack and bake for a further 25 minutes or until the pastry has taken on a golden brown color.
When ready, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.
While the galette is cooling, heat the apricot jam in small saucepan and pass it through a fine sieve. Using a pastry brush, and while the galette is still warm, glaze gently the dough and the fruits with the warm jam.

Serve while still warm or when it has cooled, with some whipped cream or, my personal favorite, crème fraîche.

You can keep the galette for a day or two, covered, at room temperature but it is best eaten on the same day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fasolakia ladera (Greek braised green beans in a fresh tomato sauce), a lighter version

Fasolakia is a classic Greek dish of green beans braised in a tomato sauce laden with olive oil. Potatoes are usually included in the dish, sometimes carrots as well, but not this time.

What’s also not included this time is the copious amounts of olive oil. Not because I have anything against my dishes being drowned in olive oil, I am Greek after all, but simply because, sometimes, you want a lighter version of a dish, that’s all.

So, here it is, my lighter version of fasolakia.

Have your feta and bread ready, the classic accompaniments to this dish, and enjoy!

P.S.1 This is a Greek dish that belongs to the category of “ladera”. Ladera means “with oil” or “oily” (ladi is the Greek word for oil) and denotes dishes, specifically vegetable main dishes, that are prepared with olive oil and without the addition of any other type of fat.
There are two varieties of ladera: a) vegetables that are braised/stewed or baked in an olive oil and tomato sauce, and b) vegetables that are braised/stewed or baked in an olive oil-based sauce without tomato and with the addition of a variety of fresh herbs. This dish is of the first variety.

P.S.2 Promise to share with you the olive oil-heavy version of fasolakia —potatoes and all—, soon.

Fasolakia ladera, a lighter version – Greek braised green beans in a fresh tomato sauce

This type of flat green beans (called barbounia in Greek) are best for this dish but, frankly, you could use any other type of fresh green bean available in your part of the world. In Greece, I also use tsaoulia beans. You could even use frozen green beans if you want to make this in the winter. The beans will take a bit longer to cook but they will be delicious nonetheless.

This will probably be your last chance to use fresh, sweet tomatoes this year, but even if you can’t find good fresh tomatoes, you can always use good quality canned tomatoes, preferably whole tomatoes that you can smash up with your hands or a fork before adding to the pan.

Yield: 2 servings

800 g fresh flat green beans (weight after you trim them will be around 600 g), rinsed well
4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions (about 150 g), peeled
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
250-300 g fresh tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes)
1½ tsp tomato paste
A handful of fresh parsley, stalks and leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes (use ¼ tsp chilli if you don’t enjoy the heat of chilli)
Freshly ground black pepper, 7-8 grinds of the pepper mill
1 cup hot water

Special equipment: small food processor

Using a small, sharp knife, top and tail the beans and also cut off the vein/string that runs around the sides of the bean. If you leave it on, the beans will be unpleasant to eat. Cut the beans in half if they are too long.
Add the onions and garlic in a small food processor and process until they are finely chopped and they start releasing their juices.
In a large and wide pan with lid, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until they dry out a bit. You don’t want them to brown. Then add the prepared green beans and toss them around for 1-2 minutes in order to get covered with the olive oil and onions.
In the meantime, in the same food processor, add the fresh tomatoes and process until they become almost liquid but there are some small pieces still intact. If you are using canned whole tomatoes, you can smash them with a fork or your hands, or process them in the same manner in the food processor. Add them to the green beans together with the tomato paste and stir well to mix all the ingredients together.
Then add the parsley, paprika, dried red chilli flakes, black pepper, salt and the water and stir well. Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Then turn heat down to medium-low and allow the beans to cook, stirring them from time to time and checking if they need more water (you don’t want them to dry out or catch), for 50-60 minutes or until they are tender and you have a nice, chunky and somewhat thick sauce. You don’t want the sauce to be watery, so if this is the case, take the lid off and cook for a few minutes so that the excess water evaporates and the sauce has the desired consistency. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.

This is a dish that is best served lukewarm or even at room temperature and it tastes better the next day. Bear in mind that due to the fact that this dish doesn’t contain a lot of olive oil, the next day it will not be as juicy, but it will be more flavorful.

Serve with fresh bread and feta, and enjoy!