(Cottage)Cheese Straws

As the title suggest, these are not your usual loaded with Cheddar cheese straws, these are a much lighter version, made with the Cottage Curd Cheese /Twarog

You can snack on them, serve instead of bread with soups and dips, or even with tea and coffee, if you don’t have a sweet tooth. They are very addictive though.

Also there is no limit to toppings. Traditionally, they are sprinkled with caraway or poppy seeds, but  you can sprinkle with whatever takes your fancy: paprika, linseeds, sesame seeds, curry powder, chopped nuts or as a sweet option with sugar and cinnamon.

COTTAGE CHEESE STRAWS

Ingredients:

250g twarog cheese (available at Tesco or other Polish supermarkets)
250g butter, at room temperature
350g plain flour
2 eggs  (1 — for a dough, 1 for the topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Options for topping:

Caraway seeds
poppy seeds
linseeds
paprika, etc.

Method:

  1. Beat the cheese with butter until smooth.
  2. Add the egg and sugar, beat again. Add the flour, salt and baking powder. Knead lightly until the dough comes together and is quite soft.
  3.  On floured surface roll out to a of 7-8 mm thick and cut into sticks with a width and a length of about a finger.
  4. Place the cut out strips on a baking sheet, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caraway seeds, sesame seeds or anything else of your choice.
  5. Bake in a preheated to 180C oven about 13-15 minters or until the straws are tender and golden brown.

 

 

Apricot and Pistachio Bars

Another bake from ‘Baked in America’ book and another success. To be honest it even exceeded my expectations.

One of the downside of this book is a lack of photographs. I’m not into step-by-step ones, however, I appreciate at least one photo to go with any recipe. Especially if it’s a completely unknown to you recipe, at least to know what this dish should look like. In this case, there was a photo with the recipe, but it was so dark that I presumed the bake included some chocolate or cacao powder. I read the recipe again and again and still couldn’t understand what was added to make the bake so dark. Then I realised, that if you put the required amount of sugar ( a whopping 450g for the filling and another 100g for the base!!!) that anything will turn black, as well as all your taste buds will be numb forever.

Actually, this time I baked with my friend and we decided to follow the recipe precisely, apart from adding only 1/3 of the asking sugar amount. Other than the sugar issue, it is a good bake with a rather short but firm buttery base and wonderful topping, slightly gooey, but full of texture with lovely cardamon aroma.

APRICOT AND PISTACHIO BARS

Ingredients:

For the pastry base:

90g icing sugar

300g plain flour

225g butter, softened

For the filling:

225g dried apricots

115g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

1/2 ground cardamon

4 eggs

190g light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the tin (30x23x5cm), and line with parchment.
  2. Place the dried apricots in a pan, cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Drain, cool, chop the apricots, then leave them aside.
  3. For the crust base, using mixer or processor, on a low speed combine the sugar, flour and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Dump the whole lot into the prepared tin, press it on to the bottom and slightly aside (I found the back of the metal spoon is good for that). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just barely browned. Remove from the oven, put aside, let it cool.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamon and set aside. Using the same bowl from the crust mixture, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla until evenly mixed. Then add the flour mixture, until it well incorporated. At the end, fold in the cooled apricots and the pistachios. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and smooth it.
  5. Bake it for another 25-30 minutes, until it evenly browned. Let the bake cool in the tin completely , then cut into squares or triangles, sprinkle icing sugar on top, if you wish.

Banana Bread with Chocolate & Walnuts

Banana bread is like a trusted family member you can always rely on. It is a delicious no fuss cake. Basically, if in doubt, bake a banana bread. And if it’s good just on its own, it’s even better with the addition of chocolate and nuts.

Banana and Chocolate chips bread

 

BANANA BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

Ingredients:

2-3 (depends on the size) ripe bananas, mashed

180g caster sugar

2 eggs

140g softened butter

250g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

100g walnuts, chopped in pieces, plus reserving a few for decoration (optional)

100g plain chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170C. Line the loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mash the peeled banana in a mixing bowl first. Then add the remaining cake ingredients (except the nuts and chopped chocolate) and beat with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. Once combined add and fold in with a spatula the walnuts and chocolate.
  3. Pour into the prepared tin, decorate top with some walnut halves if you want, and bake it for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave it to cool slightly in the tin before transferring it onto a serving dish.

 

Cranberry and Chocolate Squares

It’s that time of year again, when you start seeing bags of fresh cranberries popping up in the stores. Most of us probably walk by these bags filled with bright red jewels without even pausing unless we are shopping for our Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. But there is no need to wait for the traditional meal to enjoy the benefits of these tangy berries. They are packed with Vitamin C, fiber, carbohydrates and antioxidants, supporting your immune system. I just like to snack on them raw. However, if you are not very keen on too tangy taste, try this bake and you’ll love them – sharp cranberries and sweet chocolate were made for each other.

Cranberry & Chocolate Squares

CRANBERRY AND CHOCOLATE SQUARES

115g butter

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

180g muscovado sugar (or caster sugar just fine)

150g self-raising flour

2 eggs

150g fresh or thawed cranberries

For the topping:

300ml sour cream

120g sugar

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

50g butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

about 75g plain chocolate, grated for topping

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin with butter and dust with flour.
  2. Combine the butter, cocoa powder and sugar in a pan and stir over a low heat until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs and the flour. Then add the cranberries and spread the mixture evenly in the prepared tin.
  4. To make the topping, mix all the ingredients, but the chocolate in a bowl, mix until smooth, then spread on top of the chocolate mixture.
  5. To finish, sprinkle evenly the grated chocolate on top and bake for about 40 minutes, or until risen and the wooden stick inserted comes out dry. Leave it to cool completely in the tin, then cut into 12 squares. Store in an airtight container.

cranberry-chocolate-layers

Cranberry and chocolate quares

Dutch Cookies – Speculaas

I did mentioned my all-time-favourite biscuits before, but this time I’d like to praise my NEW favourites – Speculaas, Dutch spiced biscuits. Traditionally served on the eve of the Feast of St Nicholas, in early December. However, we started to nibble on them late in October, on our trip to Holland. I grew up eating  Piparkūkas (Latvian ginger biscuits). I like them a lot, but I find Speculaas to be much lighter, wonderfully spiced and moreish.

These took just a litre bit longer to prepare, compared to my Clove & Hazelnuts Cookies, mainly due to arranging the almond flakes on them. But as a reward for your efforts, you’ll get a good amount of these beauties, depending on the size of your cookie cutters, of course!

Speculaas

SPECULAAS

Ingredients:

100g butter, softened

1 egg

250g plain flour

1 tablespoon cornflour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

flaked almond for decoration (optional)

Method:

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, beat in the egg.

Sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, cinnamon, gender, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, plus a pinch of salt. Add it to the butter mixture and stir to form a firm dough. Shape it to the large, flat cake shape and place it to the fridge to chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of cling film to approx 2-3 mm thick. Cut into any Christmas shape you like, transfer to the baking sheets, making sure you leave a gap between each shape. Decorate the tops with almonds, if using.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave on the trays for another 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Speculaas

Clove and Hazelnut Cookies

Merry Christmas everyone, wherever you are! I hope your Christmas is wonderful and you are spending a nice time with your family and friends!

Here is one my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits for many years now. What makes it Christmasy is the rather prominent, but not overpowering flavour of clove. You have to love clove to love these cookies. These are wonderful with an after-dinner coffee, or wrapped up and given as a gift.

Clove & Hazelnut cookies

Clove & Hazelnut cookies
CLOVE AND HAZELNUT COOKIES

(Originally from BBC Good Food Magazine)

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened

100g hazelnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g icing sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

350g plain flour

Method:

  1. Put the butter, hazelnuts, vanilla extract and 100g of the icing sugar in a food processor, and whizz to a paste. Add 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and the flour, then pulse together until a dough forms.
  2. Heat oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and arrange on the baking sheets. Use the folk lightly squeeze each ball. Bake for 15 minutes or until they turn a pale biscuit colour (if they get too brown, they will become dry).
  3. Mix the remaining icing sugar and ground cloves, then sieve a thick layer over the hot biscuits. Leave to cool slightly before eating just warm, or cool.

Chocolatey-Nutty Muffins

It’s very straight forward here. I was desperate for something sweet with my tea, but didn’t want to spend too much time making it. I had a banana to use up, with cravings for chocolate and some crunch. These muffins ticked all the boxes. Chocolaty-Nutty Muffins

CHOCOLATE MUFFINS WITH PEANUT BUTTER CENTER

(Original recipe is from My Happy Food)

Ingredients:

100g butter
2 eggs
1 large banana
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
approx 70 g peanut butter (I used crunchy one)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Beat the butter with sugar, add the eggs one by one. Then add mashed banana.
  3. In a separate bowl/jug mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and pinch of salt. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients and mix it until smooth.
  4. Line the muffin tray with the muffin cases. Spread 1 tablespoon of chocolate mix in each muffin case, then put a teaspoon of peanut butter, finishing with another tablespoon of chocolate mix.
  5. Bake it for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.