~ "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~ "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" ~ "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." ~ "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."~

Thursday, August 14, 2014

French Style Omelette... with herbs and cheese.

French Style Omelette... with herbs and cheese. With summer in full bloom, my garden has yielded plenty of herbs... mostly in stages throughout the summer season.However, I don't always use all the herbs growing, as some of it goes to seed rather quickly. But somehow, parsley and chives have been plentiful all summer long. And so recently I was determined to use some of them in a dish...

For some time now we've been buying local farm fresh eggs and love their taste. As of late though, we've been able to get them delivered in town which makes it much easier for us... eliminates the long drive down to the farm. In any case, my husband ends up picking them up during the work week and brings them home... right around lunch time. It's the perfect time to make a super quick and delicious meal... with ingredients I have on hand. Ingredients that are super fresh. And of course an omelette is always welcome.... but the French style makes it especially nice.

The French style omelette is different than a regular omelette in that it is much creamier.... has small curds rather than large. And it also has a smooth surface that lacks the usual golden color found in regular omelettes. Traditionally, the omelette is stuffed with herbs or cheese and then rolled in a cylinder. Looks pretty fancy. And when you think about it... it's just eggs:). 

But making the omelette does take some practice. However, once you learn the technique it's real fun to do. And you can easily change it up by using different fillings and herbs... or if you want, you can even leave it plain. But a good French omelette is almost custard-like in texture... so you don't want to over cook and have the center be dry. Unless of course you prefer it that way:).

There are a ton of videos online that show you how to make the French style omelette, but I've only included a link to the more traditional technique mastered by Jacques Pepin. You'll find the link below. I fold mine a bit different than Jacques Pepin, just because I find it easier for me(and it's not so wet inside)....but feel free to use whatever folding method works for you. Hope you enjoy...     

Note: While I used herbs I had in my garden(parsley, dill and garlic chives) you can use whatever herbs you like ... classic combination is chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley.

Tip: If you would like to see a video of the technique you can see Jacques Pepin making the French omelette HERE . Practice does make "perfect":)...
You will need:
2 ex-large farm fresh eggs
1 TBS butter( now, I'll be honest, I also use oil)
2-3 tsps fresh herbs of choice*
salt and pepper to taste
*I used regular chives, garlic chives, parsley, dill... can use tarragon, chervil,etc. or chives only.

Additional Filling: optional, can use other fillings of choice like cooked vegetables or meat.
1-2 TBS grated cheese (gruyere, jarlsberg, or whatever cheese you like and have on hand)

1. Finely chop herbs of choice. Set aside. Grate cheese if using and set aside.
2. Crack eggs and beat well. I love to use my chopsticks, but you can use a fork or rubber spatula. 
3. Season eggs with salt and pepper and add the herbs. Mix to combine.
4. Heat a 6 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add a pad of butter and allow it to melt and sizzle.
5. Lower heat to low and pour the eggs in the hot buttered skillet. With one hand, using your chopsticks, fork or rubber spatula,mix the eggs continuously but gently.... while all along shaking the skillet back and forth with the other hand.... until mixture resembles small curds surrounded by liquid egg. 
6. Stop moving the pan and scrambling the eggs and allow the eggs to set for 30 seconds or so.... making sure the top is still somewhat wet.  
7. Remove skillet from heat and use the chopsticks or a rubber spatula go around the edge to release the sides, making sure the omelette can easily move in the pan.

7. Tilt the pan so that 1/3 of the omelette is sitting in the "lip" of the skillet, sprinkle the cheese in the "nook"and fold the omelette in thirds(like a letter) using a spatula if needed. Place it back on the heat to set a bit (only if you feel it needs it) then roll it onto a plate... making sure the fold is underneath.
8. Form the omelette into a pointed long cylinder shape. Serve immediately.
OPTIONAL: Brush the top with a bit of melted butter. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Romanian Cozonac... using the tangzhong method.

Romanian Cozonac... using the tangzhong method. I know this is not the time to share a recipe for a sweet bread. Summer isn't for using your oven. But I've been playing with a favorite recipe of mine for some time now. It's interesting, but I find much relaxation when it comes to working with bread doughs. 

In all honesty, I haven't been cooking and baking very much... have kept our meals very uncomplicated with the usual salads, eggs, grilled veggies and sometimes sandwiches. However, I have, at times pulled up old favorites to make... only because necessity required it.... like having guests over:). But it was fun going back to my recipe index and pulling out a few favorites to make again... favorites like the Best Ever Bagels, King Arthur Flour Brownies, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Romanian Mititei, and a few others. 

But several weeks ago, we went to visit a friend and I decided to make some cozonac. Thought it would be nice to bring something sweet to share with a cup of coffee. We all enjoyed it, so I decided to share my new tweaking of the old classic Romanian dessert that's also found in my recipe index.   

Ever since I tried the tangzhong method I've applied it to many yeast doughs because I rather liked the end result. This time I used it again to make my Romanian cozonac. Loved  how soft and fluffy the cozonac came out. Pictures don't do justice, because I sliced it after I had frozen the loaves. But you can see a bit of the fluffy texture in the last photo up on top... 

Now, I need to say that while I've included amounts for the flavorings used in the cozonac, you can easily adjust the flavorings to taste. Don't be put off by not making the cozonac because you may not like the rum flavor... opt to use vanilla instead... or you can even add some almond flavoring. And as for the citrus flavorings, you can stick with just using lemon and omit the orange. My husband loves the orange flavor so I add it, but you can choose to omit or even combine the 2 citrus flavors, which is what I often do. The thing about cozonac, is that you want it to have plenty of flavor, otherwise it just becomes a sweet brioche bread... which isn't necessarily bad:).

In any case, for now, here is another variation to the Romanian cozonac.  I have to say that I am still working on another tweaking that I am excited to try... am hoping to make it again but maybe I'll wait the summer out:). Hope you enjoy...       

Note: The dough is on the sticky side... so don't feel too tempted to add extra flour. If need be, you can add about 1/4 cup extra flour... only if you feel it really needs it.... otherwise, just use oiled hands to work with the dough. 

You will need:

Nut Filling:
10 oz (or about 2 1/2 cups) finely ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
rum extract to taste(I use .5 oz extract) *
1 tsp orange or lemon extract
2 tsp orange or lemon peel
*don't like rum, use vanilla extract

1/3 cup bread flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
1 cup water

Sweet Dough:
1 cup milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
3 eggs, beaten
3 tsps orange or lemon peel
1 TBS rum extract, or to taste*
1 tsp lemon extract
285 grams + 550 grams bread flour, divided
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
all of the cooked tangzhong
4 TBS softened butter
*don't like rum, use vanilla extract

beaten egg for brushing loaves


Make Nut Filling: (I like to do this a day ahead, refrigerate and then bring back to room temperature the day of baking.)

1. Place milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat pan on medium-low heat and whisk mixture until sugar dissolves.. 
2. Add walnuts and keep stirring every so often... until mixture thickens somewhat (about 10-12 minutes).
3. Add cocoa and continue to cook further until filling thickens even more and becomes paste-like. Add flavorings and stir to combine.
4. Remove from heat and set filling aside to cool....it should thicken even further as it sits.

Make Tangzhong:

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk flour and water well so you don't have any lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring consistently with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula to prevent burning and sticking while you cook it.
2. The mixture becomes thicker and thicker.... similar to a creme patisserie (thin pudding-like ). You will notice some “lines” appear in the mixture every time you stir and the roux should fall slowly off a whisk ... the temperature should be at 150 deg F.   Remove from heat.
3. Transfer the tangzhong into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap. Let cool to room temperature.  

Make Sweet Dough:
1. In a saucepan, heat milk, butter and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool till just warm.
2. Add beaten eggs and blend to incorporate, then whisk in the flavorings... lemon/orange peel, rum/vanilla. 
3. In mixer bowl, add 285 grams flour, tangzhong, instant yeast and warm milk mixture. Using the paddle attachment mix the batter for 3 minutes on medium speed.
4. Remove paddle and attach the dough hook.
5. Add 550 grams of bread flour and knead for an additional 7 minutes.... speed 2/3 on Kitchenaid mixer. After 7 minutes, with mixer running, begin adding small pieces of softened butter, waiting until each piece is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Continue adding the rest of the butter pieces, one at a time, until all 4 tablespoons of butter is fully incorporated into the dough... this should take another 5-7 more minutes of kneading. Total mixing/kneading from start to finish should be about 15-18 minutes.
6. Form dough into a ball... (dough is on the sticky/tacky side)... and cover with plastic wrap.
7. Place bowl in a warm place(I place mine in a slightly warm oven, free from draft) and let rise till doubled. This usually takes about 1 1/2- 2 hours, or so.

Prepare 2 (9x5) loaf pans by buttering/oiling pan and lining with buttered parchment paper. This will ensure the loaf will not stick in the final baking stage.

8. Lightly oil your counter space and using lightly oiled hands punch dough down and remove from bowl and place on countertop.
9. Divide dough in 4 equal pieces. 
10. Lightly oil a rolling pin and working with one piece at a time(cover the rest), begin rolling the dough into a rectangle(roughly 13x7 inches) and about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.
11. Spread 1/4 of the nut filling evenly over the surface and roll short side of the dough in jelly roll style.  Set aside.

12. Take second piece of dough and repeat process until you have 2 filled and rolled dough logs.
13. Twist the 2 logs together and compact the dough from both ends so the length is as close to the length of the baking pan as possible. Quickly lift up the twisted dough and place in a parchment lined baking pan.
14. Repeat the process with the next 2 pieces of dough and fill the second pan. 
Note: Sometimes I like to form the twisted dough in the form of an oval before placing in pan... see photo in collage.
15. Brush loaves with beaten egg and cover with oiled plastic wrap. 
16. Allow to rise for about 40 minutes or until nicely puffed(maybe an inch above the lip of pan... you don't want it to be over-proofed) in a warm environment... 

Preheat oven to 350 deg F... 

17. Place pans on bottom third rack in preheated oven. 
18. Bake for about 25 minutes, and lightly place a sheet of aluminum foil over top of cozonac.
19. Bake for another 20-25 minutes... for a total of 45-50 minutes. Remove foil if not completely browned all the way around the last 10 minutes or so. The foil is there to prevent the dough from burning... use your judgement as when and how long to keep it covered as all ovens are different.
20. Remove from oven and allow cozonac to cool in pan for about 15 minutes or so. Remove from pan and cool completely. 
I love to freeze the cozonac then defrost as needed... and rewarm slightly. Find the flavor is best after it sits awhile.

Friday, June 20, 2014

European-Style Crusty Rolls...

European-Style Crusty Rolls...  I've been looking for a crusty bread roll recipe for the longest time. I simply love crusty rolls that have a tender crumb inside. And I'm not talking about your typical soft dinner rolls... nor am I talking about the rolls that have a chewy crust where you need to tug at them.  These rolls are special.

The rolls have a crust that is crispy and crunchy rather than chewy... and they have a wonderful soft tender crumb. They remind me of a cross between a good french bread and a baguette. Oh, and the flavor is unbelievable! I've been on the lookout for this type of bread roll for years...  and I mean years! And you can see I'm quite excited:). I just had to share it with you...

Interestingly, I had given up on ever baking this type of bread roll at home... simply because I never really found a recipe that looked good enough to try. I wanted a crispy roll... wasn't looking for a chewy crust or super hard crust. I wanted rolls that were like those you tend to find in bread bakeries all over  Paris or other European bakeries. I realize I'm not good at describing this roll... but it's the best I can do.

And so, this past week,  while looking at a favorite blog, I noticed a recipe for the type of roll I had been searching all these years. The title sure sounded promising... Hard European-style Crusty Rolls. Why, that's exactly what I wanted to make. The pictures looked just as promising... it had to be good. And I was willing to set aside a day to make them. On top of it all... it came from a reputable bread source... none other than King Arthur Flour.  

And the result? The rolls were amazing... exactly what I had been looking for all these years! Oh, and they are simply delicious. They have such a great flavor from the starter... slightly mimics the tang in a sourdough bread. Not tangy, mind you, as a sourdough... but different enough, that lets you know it's not your typical quick risen bread.

I have gladly stopped my search for crusty rolls. So grateful to KAF... for sharing such a beauty of a recipe. Here's another recipe that needs to be shared with you all. Definitely a favorite! And it needs it's place in my recipe index. Hope you enjoy...   

Note: This recipe needs quite a few hours of "idle" time. It's best to bake this bread on a day when you have things to do around the house. While you don't need to do a  lot of hands on per se... the bread dough does need plenty of time to rest, rise, cool and bake.... something like 6 hours(that's not including the overnight starter).  I ended up shortening the cool rise in the fridge by an hour and still got outstanding results.

Tip: Rolls can be frozen after baking... and the rolls re-crisp to amazing crunch in the toaster oven.

You will need: adapted from King Arthur Flour and their  helpful step-by-step pictorial

Makes 12 small rolls

Overnight Starter (room temperature):
1/2 cup cool water
1 cup(4 1/4 oz) all purpose flour (I used King Arthur Flour)*
1/8 tsp instant yeast

Main Dough:
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz) all purpose flour (I used King Arthur Flour)*
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
all of the starter from above
* make sure you fluff up the flour and then scoop if not using scale, as that is what I ended up doing. I put the scale amounts for those who need it.

Egg Wash:
1/3 cup water 
1 egg white


The Night Before Make Starter: 

1. In a bowl, mix the starter ingredients together until smooth. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Second Day Morning:

1. In bowl of a standing mixer bowl, combine the dough ingredients and starter from the night before.
2. With dough hook, knead  for 7-8 minutes... until dough is somewhat smooth and soft.... and just tacky to the touch. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water at the beginning of kneading if you find the dough is too stiff... or a couple of tablespoons of flour at the end of kneading if the dough is too soft. 
3. Shape dough in a ball and place dough in oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour in a warm place. After 1 hour... gently deflate dough (it won't have risen much), cover again and allow to rise for another 1 hour. Gently deflate and gather dough from ends and bring it to the center, cover and allow to rise one more hour another. Total rising time is 3 hours.
4. Place dough on an oiled counter and divide dough into 12 pieces. Shape dough pieces into balls. I just like to grab a lime size piece of dough from the bowl and shape into a ball eliminating the oiled counter.  

5. Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover them with an oiled piece of plastic wrap.
6. Let  rolls rise for 1 to 2 hours in a warm place ( left mine for 1.5 hours) until they're puffy... almost but not quite doubled. 
7. After the 1-2 hour rise time, place rolls in the refrigerator for another 2 to 3 hours. I ran out of time and left mine in the fridge for only 1.5 hours.

1/2 hour before baking: Preheat the oven to 425°F.

1. Whisk together the egg white and water until frothy. 
2. Remove  rolls from the refrigerator, and brush them with the egg wash... Don't worry, you will not use all of egg wash. 
3. With a VERY sharp knife, slash a 1/4-1/2 inch deep cut across the top of each roll. 
4. Immediately place the rolls in the preheated oven.... middle rack.
5. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they're a deep golden brown. 
6. Remove rolls from the oven, and cool on a rack.  I left mine only for 20 minutes, and turned off oven and allowed the rolls to cool off in the oven with the door wide open.

Tip: For best crunch, open the oven door, and allow the rolls to cool in the turned-off, open-door oven.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Romanian Chiftelute Marinate... Chicken Meatballs in a light tomato gravy.

Romanian Chiftelute Marinate... Chicken Meatballs in a light tomato gravy. I realize I haven't posted in a great while. Probably the longest break I've taken since the first day of blogging. Many of you may have wondered why the absence. 

I can't explain how it all happened. It didn't happen all of a sudden. But I've come to a point where I've lost the passion I once had, that kept me blogging because I LOVED it. I still love to cook and am in the kitchen cooking or baking most days.    

While this blog will always have a special place in my heart (I still use it for my personal reference), I've slowly decided to back off a bit. I'm sure I'll still be around... especially to answer questions... and post a new recipe every once in a while. And I ALWAYS love to hear your feedback. 

But for the past several years, I've struggled to write about what matters most to me... here on a food blog. My relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ has hardly been mentioned... aside from the verses posted on the side and banner above.... and in a few comments.  I didn't know how to combine the two without feeling like I'm "shoving Christianity" your way.  So I've kept this site mostly free from what matters most to me in my life... and that is my Saviour, My King, the Lord Jesus Christ.   

So during my absence, I've been trying to strengthen my spiritual walk in written form. As a little girl I used to write in a journal of sorts. It wasn't daily, but it was a special place where I could talk with my Lord about what mattered most to me. I kept the journaling for a few years... then college years arrived, then marriage and slowly my journaling dissipated from my life.  

This past February I decided to blog about my walk with God... in another place. Separate from food. Separate from other activities. I didn't want to share my spiritual blog with anyone....  Didn't see the need to. Actually, my writing started well before February, in a small notebook...  and later on it moved to a blog. Since writing on the blog, the Lord kept nudging at me... share it... because someone may be encouraged. 

My desire is for all my readers to know the true Savior... the one who died for our sins, that we might have eternal life. I realize that God has to do the work of salvation in each of our hearts... He ultimately  does the saving. Not me, not you. But He does use us to further His kingdom. And so I'll share my other blog... for spiritual food... for those of you who care to drop by and be encouraged to walk daily with the King. Here is the link: God's Grace In Montana. I'll also place a link on the side bar for quick reference.


I couldn't drop by without sharing a recipe... a recipe I LOVED as a child. I made it recently and thought to add it to my Romanian section and hope you enjoy it as well. The recipe, in order to work, requires made-from-scratch meatballs... you could probably get away with using a good quality chicken stock, but I highly recommend a homemade version as well. And while you can serve the meatballs and sauce with rice or pasta, I wouldn't recommend it... just because good mashed potatoes and this dish work incredibly well. 

The sauce is a light tomato gravy that has a slight tanginess from the vinegar...but is balanced by a touch of sweetness.  Yes, it's simple, but it's delicious with the flavorful meatballs. There is no garlic or onion in the sauce.... and I wouldn't add it either, just because in order for this dish to be different from other sauce recipes, the sauce has to let the meatballs shine. There's nothing overpowering. 

I'm sure there are a ton of variations to this dish... but this is the way my mom made it and I wouldn't have it any other way. I know I usually say you can change the recipe to fit your tastes... and you definitely can:)... but somehow this recipe is good as is. You can decrease the vinegar a bit if you like, and if you like your sauce a bit more tomato-y, feel free to use rounded tablespoons.  Also, if you like a thicker gravy add slightly rounded tablespoons of flour as well. 

Thank you for being faithful readers and for being with me all these years. I'll do my best to post a recipe every so often.... but my priority is growing in the knowledge of the LORD. Hope you enjoy...
You will need:

Note: I've included the links below to the meatballs, stock and mashed potatoes.

2 TBS oil
2 TBS flour
2 TBS tomato paste
1-2 TBS apple cider vinegar, depending on tanginess desired
1/2 tsp sugar
few whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
chopped parsley


1. Add oil in a medium soup pot  and heat on medium/low till oil gets somewhat hot. 
2. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or so... until flour is thoroughly mixed in with the oil and turns a pale color. 
3. Remove pot from heat and add vinegar... it will sizzle and clump up somewhat. 
4. Off heat, add the tomato paste and whisk until fully combined with the flour mixture.
5. Slowly add the chicken stock while whisking continuously to remove all lumps. 

6. Place pot back on heat and add sugar, bay leaves and a few whole peppercorns. You may choose to season with salt if needed... depending on how salty the chicken stock is. 
7. Add cooked meatballs to sauce and increase heat to bring the sauce up to a boil. Cover pot and lower heat to maintain a simmer.
8. Cook sauce for 10 minutes covered. 
9. Remove lid and cook an additional 20 minutes ... adjusting heat to maintain a soft boil. I left my heat on a medium/low. Stir sauce every so often to ensure nothing is sticking. 
10. Cook until sauce coats the back of the spoon and thickens slightly... similar to a gravy. Sauce will thicken a bit more as it sits and cools down.  
11. Season with salt if needed and ladle unto a mound of creamy mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley and freshly cracked pepper. Serve with a salad... or pickled vegetables/sauerkraut/pickles.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Apple Pie Cookies... and a gluten-free version.

Apple Pie Cookies... and a gluten-free version. I'm sorry I don't intend on posting too many dessert recipes one after another... but I've had a few sitting in my draft that I should post. So bear with me as I "clean" my draft folder.

If you remember I posted a make-ahead pie crust recipe some time ago... a pie crust you could store in the freezer for future use. Well, I wanted to show you what I ended up doing with half the batch. I made these apple pie cookies last year, for a church Christmas hymn sing, but I'm finally getting around to posting the recipe.

The idea of making apple pie cookies might not be so new, as I'm sure many of you have seen apple pie cookie recipes floating all over the internet. Personally, I've always wanted to make them. I thought they were the cutest of things:).

Since I always make my own pie crust, I ended up using my homemade version, but this recipe can easily made with any pie crust really. You can use a ready-made store bought pie crust, or even use your own pie crust recipe that's special to you... maybe handed down from your mother or grandmother. The recipe I use is an all-butter crust...  which makes for a tender and flaky pastry-like crust.

I love adding a nut filling to my apple pies, as it gives it extra flavor and a bit of texture. It also holds the bottom of the pie crust from getting too soggy. I applied the same idea when making these pie cookies, but you can certainly skip the nut filling if you want... or you can add a bit of caramel.

While you can make simple, round, double-crusted apple pie cookies, I rather like the lattice look. It makes the cookies look a bit more elegant... more pastry-like, rather than cookies. But feel free to make the cookies without the lattice top.

And since I also made a gluten-free version, I thought to post that as well. The lattice for the GF apple pie cookies was quite a bit harder to make. I'd recommend crisscrossing the lattice part, without interweaving them, or even skipping the lattice part completely and using just round pie circles(double-crust). The GF crust is much more fragile... prone to breaking, and giving you a headache:).

Hopefully, the apple pie cookie idea is seen in this post, my intention was not to make it look too complicated:).... because it really isn't.  They're just mini apple pies... flatter... to take on the form of cookies. You'll  have a few scraps from the cutouts, but you can bake them as is, or place the scraps in x-small muffin tins.... makes really good mini "tarts". Of course, you can skip the cutouts and  make one large lattice apple pie cookie. Actually, I thought of  making one large cookie myself... but I'd probably call it an apple pie tart:).... especially if you cut it in wedges. Maybe next time. Hope you enjoy...    

You will need: makes about 20 ( 2-3 inch) apple pie cookies

Ingredients For Making Pie Cookies:

2 pie crusts
apple pie filling
nut filling, or can use a caramel filling
cinnamon, nutmeg sugar
raw sugar crystals
icing, optional
beaten egg for brushing top of pie cookies

Nut Filling: For one regular apple pie cookies recipe. Will need to make another 1/2 of the recipe for a GF version 

1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 TBS brown sugar, or to taste
1 TBS beaten egg
1/8 tsp vanilla

Apple Filling: will need only 1/2 of the filling to make the regular apple pie cookies recipe... can freeze the rest or use the rest to make the GF version below

2 large apples*
1 TBS cornstarch
4- 5 TBS sugar
2-3 TBS lemon meyer juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
* I used 1 large fuji apple + 1 large pink lady apple= 4 1/2- 5 cups sm. dice apples


Make Nut Filling:
1. Beat egg, and remove 1 TBS beaten egg and place in a bowl. Reserve the rest of the egg for brushing the top of the cookies.
2. To the 1 TBS beaten egg, add the ground walnuts, brown sugar and vanilla. Combine all ingredients. Set aside. This nut filling makes enough for just the regular pie  cookies, but if you would like to make a gluten-free version, then you will need to make another 1/2 a batch. Set aside.

Make Apple Filling: 
1. Peel and cut apples in small dice pieces( 1/4 inch or so)... you should have about 5 cups.
2. In a medium saucepan, add diced apples, cornstarch, sugar, and cinnamon. Heat on med-low and mix ingredients until combined. Cook, stirring often... till apples slightly soften and thicken. This will take about 10 -12 minutes or so. Taste filling, adjust for sweetness and add the lemon juice. Stir in the vanilla. Set aside.

Make Cinnamon Sugar + Icing:
1 TBS sugar+ 1/4 tsp cinnamon+ a few gratings of nutmeg
Powdered sugar+ a bit of water + lemon/vanilla extract to drizzling consistency

Assemble Apple Pie Cookies:
  • Preheat oven to 375 deg F
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

1. Roll out one pie crust to about 12 inches in diameter... or so. 
2. Spread nut filling on bottom of crust... all the way to the edge.
3. Place about 1 cup of the diced apple filling and spread on top of the nut filling. You will have some apple filling leftover. You may freeze the rest for another use,  or use it to make another small batch of GF pie cookies , as I did.
4. Roll out second pie crust to about 12 inches and cut 1/2 inch strips. Place strips in lattice design on top of the apple filling. 
5. Brush lattice top with beaten egg, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, can add a bit of raw coarse sugar as well, if desired.
6. Using a 2 1/2- 3 inch sharp round cookie cutter, cut out cookies... making sure to leave as little a space between cutouts to maximize the number of cookies you get.
7. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet. With scraps, I like to use a mini muffin tin and bake them... this way I don't waste the scraps and turn them into mini muffin pie scraps.  You can see this in the GF version photos below.
8. Bake in preheated 375 deg F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
9. If you like, you can drizzle some cookies with a powdered sugar icing. 

Gluten- Free Apple Pie Cookies
Note: It is best to keep pie crust cold, as it is difficult to work with if dough is soft. And use a bit of GF flour to dust work surface as you roll out dough.

You will need:

1 GF pie crust recipe, 4 pieces, rolled in 6 inch circles
1 cup diced apple pie filling
1/2 nut filling(recipe above)

  • Preheat oven to 375 deg F
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
1. Cut pie crust in 4 pieces. You will need to work with smaller pieces, as the crust is quite fragile. Roll out one piece of the dough to about 6 inch or so.
2. Spread about 2 tablespoons or so of nut filling on crust, then add about 1/2 cup of apple pie filling and spread it to the edge.
3. Roll out another 6 inch pie crust, cut in strips and form lattice top.... 
Now, I must admit this was quite challenging as the dough breaks easily. I used a knife to lift up the strips and had many broken pieces. In the end it turned out ok. It's doable, but if you want to make it easier, you can opt to cut out small shapes and use those instead or even placing another rolled out crust on top as you would when making regular pies(w/out any lattice work). 
4. Brush top with beaten egg, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, can add a bit of raw coarse sugar as well, if desired.
5. Using a 2 1/2- 3 inch sharp round cookie cutter, cut out cookies... 
6. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet.
7. Repeat the process with the other 2 pieces. 
8. With scraps, I like to use a mini muffin tin and bake them... this way I don't waste the scraps and turn them into mini muffin pies. 
9. Bake in preheated 375 deg F oven for 15 minutes or so... or until golden.
10. If you like, you can drizzle some cookies with a powdered sugar icing.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Opera Cake... with recipe for joconde almond cake and French/Swiss buttercreams.

Opera Cake... with coffee buttercream, ganache and coffee soaked almond jaconde. I have to caution you before scrolling down... this post is VERY, very long. Probably the longest post ever! 

I debated if I should split the recipe... with a separate post for the different cake parts... the joconde layer, the French buttercream, and the Swiss Meringue buttercream. Because if you wanted to, you could use the individual recipes for other types of desserts. But in the end, I decided to put every part of this cake recipe under one post ... just because I personally like to have everything in one place without having to go back to another part in another post. It would be too complicated that way.   

In any case, this particular cake has been on my mind for a VERY long time! It's a cake we often order when travelling... because when we travel, we don't set too many restrictions on the foods we eat. We really enjoy trying out as many new or different foods as possible... We'll share most times, this way we don't overeat and get sick:). Actually, it's a good thing we don't travel often:). But if we see an Opera cake offered in a bakery, or if it's on the menu, we most likely will order a piece:).

I love to challenge myself from time to time with certain recipes that are a bit more complicated... recipes that include a variety of baking techniques, like making croissants, danish pastry, puff pastry, baguettes, various desserts, etc. But for some reason, I tend to stay away from challenging myself in the cake department. However, I love European desserts.... anything multi-layered will get my attention. This Opera cake has been on my mind for so, so long. Like a really long time.

So one day, when my husband was busy travelling with work, I decided to attempt making the cake... I wanted to surprise for him when he came home. 

When making the Opera cake, I  tried going the traditional route ... however, I ended up making mine with 4 layers, versus the more traditional 3 layered cake. AND I didn't skimp on the butter or eggs... can you believe that:)?! To make me feel better, I did cut the sugar down a tiny, tiny bit:). 

The post is long because I wanted to be detailed a bit, in case some of you might want to try the recipe as well. It's not a complicated recipe, but it is best if you bake the joconde a day before... this way when you make the buttercream and assemble the cake it won't be overly tiring. I'm thinking you can even make the buttercream ahead if you like... just bring it back to room temperature.

This recipe makes quite a bit of cake, so you could easily make a half batch if you like... or you can freeze the rest. And because it is a rich cake, I suggest cutting the cake in small pieces. 

One thing I would like to do next time is to bake the cake layers a but thinner ... maybe similar to the Dobos cake. Oh, and make the chocolate top much, much thinner... because when the chocolate hardens it is really hard to cut through the cake. You want it thin... mine was quite thick, due to me fumbling with the camera and allowing the chocolate to cool down too much, making it harder to spread thinly.  But as it was, my husband really enjoyed the cake:). Another cake crossed off my bucket list:). Hope you enjoy...         

You will need: inspired by Joe Pastry

NOTE:  You will have 6 egg yolks leftover from the joconde... it will be perfect to make a whole batch of the FRENCH buttercream.... and that will be enough buttercream for the whole Opera cake recipe. I ended up making my Opera cake a few days later... so I used up my egg yolks ( didn't want to leave the yolks in the fridge for too long) and made some fresh pasta dough. 

When I finally made my buttercream(s), I ended up using just 3 whole eggs...  with the 3 yolks I made a half batch of the FRENCH buttercream... and with the 3 egg whites I made a half batch of the SWISS meringue buttercream. I figured I'd show you both buttercream techniques... you can choose to use either/or.
JOCONDE (Almond sponge cake) 
Note: use scale amounts for better accuracy

6 egg whites ( room temp)
1 ounce(2 TBS) granulated sugar
8 ounces (2 cups) almond flour
8 ounces (2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
6 large eggs (room temp)
2.5 ounces( 8 TBS) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces (3.5 TBS) melted butter
1.5 oz melted chocolate

COFFEE SYRUP... if you want the cake to be really, really moist, you may want to make another batch(or half a batch). 

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBS instant coffee ( I used 1.5 tsp instant + 2.5 TBS ground espresso powder)


10 oz semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz heavy whipping cream
1 tsp rum extract(or vanilla), I used rum

FRENCH BUTTERCREAM ( can use all of it for the whole cake... or halve the amount + use 1/2 of the SWISS buttercream). I cut the recipe in half and used it for 1/2 of the cake.  

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
16 oz butter, room temp.
1 TBS coffee extract + 1 tsp espresso powder (can use instant coffee here to taste) 
1 tsp vanilla

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM (can use all of it for the whole cake... or halve the amount + use 1/2 of the FRENCH buttercream). I cut the recipe in half and used it for 1/2 of the cake.  

6 egg whites
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar ( I used 1/2 cup)
16 oz butter, room temp.
1 TBS coffee extract+1 tsp espresso powder
 1/2 tsp rum extract + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can use all vanilla)


6 oz chocolate, melted
1 oz melted butter



  • I like to bake the cake a day before assembling.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Line 1 or 2 sheet pans (jelly roll pans 13x17 inches) with parchment and brush with melted butter. 
~NOTE: If baking joconde in 1 pan, you will need to split the cake in two. I baked mine in one pan and cut the layers in 2. BUT you can bake the cake in 2 pans and not have to deal with splitting the cake. Baking time will differ by a few minutes. 

~Gather your ingredients, weigh each one... and allow ingredients to get to room temperature before starting.

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites to soft peaks... about 1 minute on high speed.  Add the sugar, and continue to whip until you get stiff peaks.... another 30 seconds to 1 minute on high speed. 
2. Remove meringue into another bowl.
3. Wash, clean and dry mixer bowl. 
4. Add eggs, almond flour and powdered sugar  to mixer bowl whip on medium/high until light and increased in volume... about 3 minutes. 
5. Sift the flour over almond egg mixture. Fold the flour in until it just disappears.
6. Add 1/4 of the reserved meringue and mix in. Gently fold the rest of the meringue in 3 subsequent batches. 
7. Remove 1/4 cup of the batter and mix with melted butter. Pour this over the rest of the cake batter and gently fold it in.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans ( or 1 pan like I did)... spreading it as evenly as possible over the two pans... or the single pan.

 9. Bake for 5-7 minutes ( if using 2 pans)... or about 8-10 minutes if using 1 pan.... until the cake is lightly browned. 
10. Remove from the oven and place the pan(s) on a cooling rack. Cover cake with a sheet of parchment, then flip the pan over. Carefully peel off the baked layer of parchment, then turn the cake over and allow to cool completely. 
11. If baking only one sheet, then cut cake layer in 2, width wise(short side). Using a very long serrated knife split(cut) the cake pieces in 2 horizontally.... this will give you 4 cake layers that are about 8x11.5 inches.... and about 1/2 inch thick.
If freezing, wrap cake layers tightly with plastic wrap, making sure you place a piece of parchment paper between layers so the cakes don't stick together. The cake layers can be frozen for up to a month. 

1. In a medium saucepan, add water, sugar, and coffee. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat off.
2. Allow to cool completely. Set aside. 

1. Place cream in a medium sauce pan. Bring cream to a simmer, turn heat off and add chocolate. 
2. Allow chocolate to sit in the hot cream for 3-5 minutes.
3. Whisk chocolate ganache until smooth and add rum extract... or vanilla to taste. Set aside to cool and thicken, until you can easily spread it. I left mine at room temperature for a few hours.... so it thickened to a frosting consistency. 
FRENCH BUTTERCREAM: ( I ended up making half the amount (for one set of cake)... using only 3 egg yolks)

1. Place your room temperature yolks in a mixer  bowl. Using the whisk, whip the yolks for five minutes on high speed... or until they appear light in color and a bit foamy.
2. In the meantime, while the mixer is going... make sugar syrup. 
3. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan with a spout ( if you have one). Heat syrup to 248 degrees F. If you don't have a saucepan with a spout, then immediately pour the syrup into a pyrex measuring cup with a spout. 
4. With the motor off, start drizzling the syrup into the yolks a little at a time, then whip the mixture for a bit on low(gently)... so as not to splatter it all onto the sides of the bowl, as it will harden and make sugar threads. Then drizzle a little more of the sugar syrup, run the machine a little, stop, drizzle... and repeat until all the syrup is incorporated. Whip the yellow egg foam until it’s cool to about room temperature.
5. When egg foam is cooled, start adding your butter, a piece or two at a time until it’s all in. Add the coffee extract, espresso powder and vanilla.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM ( I ended up making half the amount (for one set of cake)... using only 3 egg whites)

1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a large metal or glass bowl (can use your mixer bowl). 
2. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk, continuously, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture looks opaque.... around 160 deg F.  
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer it to your mixing bowl...  only if you've used another bowl. 
4. Whip on high speed until completely cooled and meringue is at a medium soft peak. Add coffee extract, espresso, rum and vanilla. 
5. Whip in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until thick and fluffy. If it begins to look curdled (it probably will), continue to whip until it comes back together...  then add in the remaining butter. This process took close to 10- 15 minutes... don't fret if the mixture starts out looking curdled... the longer you beat it, the quicker it will come out smooth and silky.


1. Melt 1.5 oz of chocolate until fluid... then take one cake layer, which will be your bottom layer for the Opera, and spread a thin coating of melted chocolate all over all the way to the edges. Place chocolate side down unto a piece of parchment paper. 
Note: The chocolate on the bottom layer will help the joconde cake to release and not stick later on when you cut the assembled Opera cake... it makes it really nice to lift the cake pieces from the plate without any cake pieces being stuck. 
2. Allow chocolate to cool and harden, then remove parchment paper and  cut cake layer in 2 ... to yield 2 pieces that are about 8x11.5 inches. 
3. Cut the rest of the cake layers to the same size. You will have 2 sets of 4 cake layers that are about 8x11.5 inches.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper(or foil) on large plate or tray that is big enough to hold the cake layers flat and leveled. You could use a plastic/wooden board as well.  
5. Working with 1 set of cake layers(4), place the chocolate covered cake layer on the parchment lined plate... chocolate side down.
6. Using a pastry brush soak cake layer with some of the coffee syrup... making sure all the layer brushed well. 
NOTE: Make sure you divide the syrup( I sort of eyeballed it) so you have plenty to go around for all 8 cake layers (both sets)... you don't want one cake layer to be overly saturated while one is barely soaked. 
7. Place about 3/4 cup of the buttercream unto the soaked cake layer... and using an offset spatula spread buttercream evenly to the edges of the cake.... making sure the buttercream is as level as you can get it to be. 
8. Add a second layer of cake, soak with coffee syrup and add about 1/4 cup of the chocolate ganache (which has thickened and is spreadable). Spread ganache evenly to the edges.
9. Add a third layer of cake, soak with coffee syrup and add another 3/4 cup of coffee buttercream, spreading the buttercream evenly to the edges.
10. Add the last layer(4th) of cake, soak with coffee syrup and spread a VERY thin layer of ganache,..  this is just to smooth out the cake layer to an even and smooth surface... so it will be ready for the melted chocolate glaze. Place in the fridge to chill and harden.
11. Repeat process with the second set of cake layers....
Note: you may have some buttercream and ganache leftover, just freeze those for another use.
CHOCOLATE GLAZE... to be made only after both sets of cakes have been layered and refrigerated.

1. Melt chocolate and whisk in melted butter. Spread about half  the chocolate glaze on one set of cakes, Using an offset spatula, carefully spread the melted chocolates evenly over the entire surface, working quickly so that the chocolate doesn't harden( I left my chocolate to cool down a bit and it is a bit harder to spread cleanly)... try not to go over it too much with the spatula, so it stays shiny.
2. Repeat the process with the second cake and spreading most of the remaining chocolate glaze you .. you probably won't use all of the glaze. I reserved some and placed it in a small sandwich bag to use for the top decoration( writing out the OPERA name, you could do whatever decoration you like, a music note, a few lines, etc... or you could add an edible gold leaf).
3. Using a long sharp knife trim the edges of the cake.
4. Allow the chocolate glaze to set a little, and then using a knife, score the cake in whatever size pieces you want. Write the Opera word, if desired, with the chocolate glaze or any other melted chocolate (can use white chocolate), or decorate as desired. Repeat the process with the second set of cake.
5. Place Opera cake in the fridge to chill further... the cake is easier  to cut when buttercream is chilled and layers are set. The top chocolate glaze will harden, but you can use a sharp knife dipped in hot water (then wiped) for an easier and cleaner cut.  Wipe knife between every cut. The opera cake is always best after several hours (overnight is best)...