Yesterday I celebrated. It was the first day off I had in the new apartment where I didn’t have to unpack boxes or assemble tables and cupboards, I had just found a small corner for the oven just next to the Kitchen Aid I have owned for over a month now, but which I yet had to start using, and I had bought butter and cocoa with the only intention to bake something easy but deliciously tasty.
So after a morning session at the gym I came home in the mood to celebrate; to celebrate our new beautiful apartment with leaking sink and ceiling, my job which I love and R’s new job, every little step we both accomplished during 2013 both individually and together, us and life.. basically to celebrate this moment.
So I opened the notebook where I keep my own basic recipes at the first page, right where I wrote “Chocolate Cupcakes” over five years ago. The very first recipe that I wrote down, the recipe that made me feel that baking is fun, and the recipe I have used as base for many other cupcakes and cakes.
Despite not having any scales, I was able to make an acceptable batter and make a few of my old-school cupcakes. I decorated them with chocolate frosting and sprinkles and I celebrated. Life is good.
Here’s a beautiful song all for you.
I swear next time I’ll try to post something healthy
Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 12)
150 g unsalted butter, softened
100 g granulated sugar
175 g self-raising flour, sifted
3 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven at 180 C. Line 12 cupcakes liners in a cupcakes tray or baking tray.
Beat the eggs, add the butter and mix. Add Sugar and flour, cocoa and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.
Fill the cupcakes liner until 3/4. Put in the oven for about 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool before decorating.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (for 12 cupcakes)
225 g unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
250 g icing sugar
150 g dark chocolate, 80% or more
Melt the chocolate au bain marie. Mix butter and egg yolk until soft and smooth. Add the icing sugar little by little and while you keep mixing add the melted chocolate. Pour in a piping bag and decorate cupcakes (or cake). Put lots of sprinkles on them, to make them more colorful!
I am not good at blogging. A good blogger starts talking about Thanksgiving a month before Thanksgiving, a good blogger posts recipes for Easter a week before Easter, so that people can actually use the recipe, a good bloggerbakes Christmas cookies in November.. I am not a good blogger.
Two days ago Holland celebrated Sinterklaas; this is my (late) post about it. It is my favorite time of the year, but also the most hectic. So many things happen and so many things have to be arranged that the Internet passes on the background of life. Roberto and I celebrated it on Monday, because Sinterklaas had a heavy gift for me (geez, I still can’t believe what I got!!), and couldn’t travel around the Netherlands with it, so he decided to stop early at my place. We lit candles, sang songs, ate chocolate and pepernoten and unwrapped presents. Such a nice evening!
Sinterklaas arrives in town around the end of November and he starts wandering through the cities on his white horse with his little helpers, the Zwarte Pieten. He meets children, gives them small presents if they sing for him and give the horse a carrot. He also brings lots of sweets: he trows Pepernoten in the room, so that children can look for them, he brings everyone a chocolate bar in the shape of the initial of the person’s name, he brings taai taai and marzipan.. and this year I got it all and I ate it all!
This title sounds more complicated than the dish itself, really.
Sourdough bread reminds me of my childhood best friends’ and their family (they are brothers). Their mum always used to make sourdough in a way I have never been able to replicate, with a prefect degree of acidity and saltiness. She used to pack a couple of slices with organic peanut butter for our school lunch; it was delicious, even though I also had a slight aversion towards it, since other children used to have sweet snacks with them. We always were the weird foreigners who live on the top of the mountains, and they often thought me and my friends were brothers and sister just because we were all Dutch.
Anyway, after these childhood traumas *cough* *-not-* *cough*, I started making sourdough bread myself a couple of years ago. Making a starter is not as hard as one might think and it just needs a little attention during the first ten days, then you are all ready to make your own sourdough bread. Patience is key and that for me has never been a problem. You can, in fact, let the dough rise overnight and you can put the bread in the oven first thing in the morning and after half an hour you will have your wonderful homemade sourdough bread! That’s not that hard, is it?
That is exactly what I did this morning. I woke up, I turned the oven on, I washed my face, came back to the kitchen, put the bread in the oven, crawled up in bed another half an hour and, waited until the delicious smell filled my room, got up and had a few slices of freshly baked spelt bread. How awesome is that? The perfect way of starting a Sunday.
There was another reason, though, behind me making that bread today. I wanted to make Crostini with Caramelized Pear and Goat Cheese from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. Of course, I had to change the recipe, so here is my version:
Crostini with Caramelized Pear, Feta and Thyme (for two people)
4 thick slices of sourdough bread (I used half spelt and half rye)
1 pear (not too ripe, still compact)
15 g Goat Feta
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp honey
some thyme (to decorate)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven at 200 C. in a small bowl combine a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, the chopped garlic clove and 2 TBSP olive oil. Brush the mixture on the slices of bread and put in the oven for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the pear in longitudinal slices. Put the slices in a bowl and add the other half of the olive oil and the honey. Place a grill pan on the heat and when it’s hot place the slices in the pan carefully. When grilling stripes will form on one side, flip them over and wait until the stripes will appear on the other side as well.
Allow the bread slices to cool down a bit, but leave the oven on. Put the pear slices on the bread, then crumble some feta on top. Put in the oven for another 4 minutes until the cheese starts to melt slightly.
Plate and decorate with some thyme leaves which will not only be a decoration, but will also add some flavor to the dish.
agave nectar, almond, almond milk, bake, baking, breakfast, cinnamon, coconut, food, food photography, food styling, granola, happiness, hemp seeds, homemade, how-to, milk, oats, quinoa, recipe, sweet
Last night I woke up at 3.30 and just couldn’t fall back asleep; I wasn’t too bothered by it though: I was just thinking about how grateful I am to have found a job that I really like, even if it’s temporary. I was thinking about how important a job can be, how life becomes so much easier when you like what you do, how your job influences your happiness, but also your relationship with the people around you. I am being much happier now, and I notice it reflects on my social behaviors: I am less shy, more open, I am caring less about other people’s negativity and soaking in all the information I get from the outside world.
Whilst having this deep stream of thoughts, suddenly something muchless deep and thoughtful, and totally unrelated popped in my mind: quinoa. I like quinoa, but until today I thought it was not very versatile. I made quinoa salads and ate quinoa as a main warm dish, but it always turned out to be a dish with nothing really sticking out. However, I knew there are many more ways of eating it. I have seen it around the Internet, I have seen it in magazines.. so I decided to use quinoa for a different purpose: breakfast.
So this morning I made it happen, and I have to say, I am really happy I did. I made this Granola packed with healthy ingredients and some delicious tastes: Quinoa, Oats, Hemp Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Shredded Coconut, Agave Nectar, Cinnamon,.. What’s not to love about this?
To complete the Granola I decided (ok, ok, I have to admit I had decided to make this even before the idea of the Granola itself) to make my own Almond Milk for the first time. After watching this incredibly inspiring video by Sarah Britton (Sarah writes one of my favorite blogs, My New Roots) I decided to give it a go and, people, it’s amazing! So easy!
This morning everything was just perfect, I am so happywhen I make something myself, get the chance to photograph it without too much fuss, just standing in my pajamas with my hair tied up in a bun and working my way through jars and bowls. Every day I am becoming more aware that I don’t have to do what other people expect from me (or what I think other people expect from me), but I really just have to do what makes me happy. It’s as simple as that, right?
Quinoa Hemp and Cinnamon Granola
100 g quinoa
100 g rolled oats
1 Tablespoon Hemp Seeds
1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1 Tablespoon Shredded Coconut
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar
Preheat the oven at 150 C (300 F).
In a bowl combine quinoa, oats, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, sesame seeds,cinnamon, vanilla extract. The quantities are not very important, it’s up to you, if you like more cinnamon, add more cinnamon (I know I did), if you don’t like sesame seeds don’t use them, you can decide whether you want to replace it with some other seed or not, it’s totally your choice.
Add coconut oil and agave nectar. Stir. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and pour the mixture on the tray. Spread it out and put in the oven for 20 minutes, until it becomes golden-brown. Stir every now and then to keep your granola from burning. When ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool.
Almond Milk (makes 1 liter)
250 g Peeled Almonds (soaked overnight)
1 l Water
Agave Nectar/Honey (optional)
You will need a cheese cloth, or as Sarah uses a nut bag, or some old stockings or t-shirt
Let the almonds soak overnight. In the morning pour the almonds in a blender and add the water. Blend and pour the mixture in a bottle/bowl/container sieving it through the nut bag, cheese cloth or old stockings (I used the latter). Squeeze all the ‘milk’ out. Add agave nectar or honey to taste if you like.
I hope you will like it as much as I did. I can’t wait to try the granola with yogurt, and I can’t wait for it to be breakfast time again.
After the busiest week at work and a great and intense day of shopping with my friend and colleague in Amsterdam, I definitely needed a day at home. Nothing was planned for today which usually ends up with us deciding either to go out and explore some new places, or stay home and bake whatever we are craving.
It was already decided that I wanted to bake some bread, and Roberto wanted to make a quiche, to try out his new recipe for the crust. Then I wanted to make something sweet as well, and finally Roberto craved some soup. So instead of talking and going on about which one to choose, this time we just made it easy for ourselves: each one makes whatever he/she wants and then will eat whatever he/she wants.Well, it was a success!
Sourdough bread, leek and tomato quiche, pea soup and creme fraiche and mixed berries pie.
Sometimes I just need a break from the city and all I wish is being in my woods again, picking berries, the apples from our trees and carrying wood home for the fireplace. So, today we took our bikes and went just outside the city, where there are some beautiful farms with horses and sheep, chicken and goats, and soaked in some of today’s beautiful sun.
We biked just until we came to the place where our dream house stands: a beautiful light-blue colored, wooden house. We dreamt a bit and had a walk around.
Just after coming back home I baked some sourdough bread, which had been in the making since yesterday. A few days ago, I finally decided to make a new sourdough starter again, after the last ones were abandoned.
Meanwhile Roberto made some soup; I love autumn evenings, when it’s getting colder and sometimes, even if it’s Saturday, you don’t even want to go out.
Queen’s day was wonderfully warm and enjoying this day without a coat on was just what I needed. I woke up early feeling incredibly happy without any reason, so I decided to make the most of this feeling.
We walked around the city: people wearing orange everywhere, children selling their toys, music being played in every corner..
When R. left to go to work I met with some friends, we walked around another while, and then I went home to bake some bread. I finally found whole wheat flour in the supermarket and I’m back baking brown bread!
The windows wide open and music coming from the street, when the loaf of bread came out of the oven it was dinner time: two slices of bread with tomato and basil for me. A bit of Italy in this beautiful, nice, orange day.
Start taking the butter out of the fridge.
Ok, now you can go on reading.
When it comes to baking the harder the recipe looks, the more I will be likely to try it out. There is this myth that croissants are very hard to prepare, therefore I felt like this would be a nice challenge for my Friday evening.
Usually I use recipes just as a guideline. I replace this with that, add a bit more flour here and a bit less sugar there.. so it will be hard for me to tell you the exact recipe I used. Basically, the recipe is based on this one, but, as I said, I changed a lot.
Warning: you will need time and a book/guitar/music/a good movie (one that you can pause). I used a tv series and some music.
The ingredients I used are white flour, whole wheat flour, dry yeast, honey, milk, water, an egg, vanilla flavor, chocolate, salt, and, well, butter of course! I’m afraid to say the quantities, because we don’t have any scales, yet and I just did what I thought might go. I made 8 small croissants; 6 already disappeared.
In a small pan I heatened up about half a glass of milk with half a glass of water (we use glasses and handfuls instead of cups and tablespoons over here!). Stirred in a teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons of dry yeast. Set aside until bubbled formed on the surface.
Meanwhile I took the soft butter, I would say 70 grams, 3/4 of a glass or so, and stirred in some whole wheat flour, just until it became play-doh-like and malleable, but no so sticky anymore.
Going back to the yeast: it had the bubbles, so I poured it into a large bowl and added a tiny amount, just the tip of the teaspoon of vanilla flavor, salt, a teaspoon of honey and one egg. I stirred and started adding a little of white flour. Then another handful of whole wheat. Another of white.. and so on until a soft dough had formed.
I placed the dough on a piece of baking paper, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 30 minutes. I rolled the dough out into a rectangle. It was about 1/2 cm thick. Flour lightly. Then I took the butter that I previously set aside and molded it on 2/3 of the dough and folded the dough as a business letter. It harder to explain than to do it, if you don’t understand what I mean, you might want to look at my guideline recipe where it is explained and also photographed very well. It went back into the fridge again to come out another 30 minutes later and repeating the process of rolling out and folding. This has to be done at least four times.When you have done this for the last time you can cover, place in the fridge once again, and go to sleep.
This morning (the morning after), I woke up at 7.30 because I was too excited to see how the croissants would turn out. I preheated the oven at 200 C, then took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it out until it was about 1/2 cm thick and cut the dough with a knife into long triangles.
I placed one small square of chocolate on the dough, more at the wide end of the triangle, and rolled the croissants up. They stayed in the oven for about 20 minutes and came out with a nice crunchy crust, soft inside and filled with melted chocolate.
It was grey outside, and it was starting to rain again. I woke R. up and we had a very nice breakfast talking about our week and the plans for the weekend.
I hope you will try these out, they are not so hard after all, you just need patience.
PS: I created a portfolio for my photography, if you like my photos please visit it, and let me know!