Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Hello my friends! I hope everyone is doing well; I missed you all! ūüôā I took an involuntary baking break while I was trying to complete some remodeling projects in the house before the winter gets here. I have not completely abandoned my artistic expression, I started two paintings and plan to finish them before the end of the year and I’ve discovered a new passion: poetry. I’ve always liked reading poetry, but have never tried to write anything. Well, a few weeks ago a “What if I tried” thought crossed my mind, so I started thinking and putting the words together and for now they sound very good to me. I am not sure if I am going to share it with the world yet, but I am sure of one thing: writing poetry brings me so much joy!

My hope is that these chocolate sandwich cookies will bring you joy of making and of course joy of tasting! They are a treasured recipe from my old-yellow-falling-apart recipe book that I started when I was about thirteen years young. These cookies are not too sweet. Cocoa gives them just a hint of gentle bitterness and the vanilla frosting just a right amount of sweetness.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

[Printable recipe]

Cookies:

  • 250 g (8.8 oz) flour
  • 65 g (2.2 oz )powdered sugar
  • 50 g (1.8 oz) cocoa
  • 13 g (2.5 tsp) baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 185 g (6.5 oz) unsalted butter (room temperature)

Frosting:

  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk
  • 4 TBSP flour (or corn starch)
  • 150 g (5.3 oz) powdered sugar
  • 2 packs vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 160 g (5.6 oz) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)

Chocolate glaze:

  • 75 g (2.6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 50 g (1.8 oz) unsalted butter

Preparation:

  1. For the cookies, combine all dry ingredients and mix for a few minutes. Add egg and butter and mix on slow until resembles a crumbly mixture. Flour your working surface and knead the dough by hand until nice and smooth. Flatten it, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the cookie dough rests in the fridge prepare the filling.
  3. Mix the flour with a couple of spoons of milk until smooth. Let the milk boil at a low temperature and pour the flour mixture into boiling milk. Whisk constantly until it starts thickening, then remove from heat and let it cool completely.
  4. In a mixing bowl combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix all together. You may add an egg yolk for a nice color, but it’s not essential. Now add this mixture to the flour base and whip it at high speed until well combined and fluffy.
  5. Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface roll out the cookie dough to about 1/2 cm (or 3/16 inch) thick and cut out cookies with a round cookie cutter (about 3-3.5 cm or 1 ¬ľ inch in diameter)
  6. Bake at 180 C or 350 F for about 12-14 minutes.
  7. Cool down completely. Glue two cookies together with the frosting.
  8. Melt chocolate and butter, let cool down for a few minutes and pour a teaspoon of the glaze on the top of each cookie.

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Flour_Milk frosting

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Pancakes: Once you go ricotta, you’ll never go back!

I have never been a big fan of pancakes… Since I wasn’t born in the USA I didn’t grow up having pancake breakfasts, I didn’t know what maple syrup was, I just didn’t know they existed at all. My first experience eating real American pancakes was quite some years ago at a classic pancake house during breakfast with some coworkers. I remember quite well I ordered pecan pancakes and coffee that morning. They looked fabulously stacked with the butter on the top and maple syrup dripping from the edges. I¬†enthusiastically dug in, but to my disappointment they somehow tasted like¬†dish-washing detergent… and I am serious when I say this! It was such a let down! I tried to finish them taking big gulps of coffee to flush them down. That first experience somehow just got me into thinking that I should never eat pancakes again. Luckily, in years to come I have had some great pancakes at friends’ homes, homemade and all yummy, but I still didn’t have the courage to try to make them myself. Since my daughter is a big fan of pancakes I’ve made them for her a few times and they’ve turned out OK, but still for me that wasn’t it. Practicing and experimenting with ricotta, I managed to come up with a recipe that totally suits my family’s taste buds. The batter is so light and fluffy, the pancakes are airy and just sweet enough. Adding some berries to it, just further enhances the taste! I will say it again: Once you go ricotta, you’ll never go back!!!

Ricotta pancakes with blackberries                        Printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 8 oz¬† (225 g) ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) milk
  • Zest of ¬Ĺ lemon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract (or pack of vanilla sugar)
  • 3/4 cup (96 g) flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • Blackberries (or blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)

Preparation:

  1. Divide the eggs. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until fluffy. Set aside.
  2. In one bowl whisk the egg yolks with vanilla, add ricotta cheese, milk and lemon zest and mix until combined.
  3. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt.
  4. Add the flour into the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Fold in the egg whites and lightly mix by hand just until combined. Batter will be very fluffy.
  5. Heat a griddle or a pan, butter lightly and using a small ladle pour the batter onto it. Add a few blackberries on each pancake and bake on each side for a minute or two until golden-brown.
  6. Serve with butter and maple syrup. Yum, yum, yummm!

Bon Appétit!

Birth of a Dream Cake

I¬†truly admire people who are able to come up with their own original recipes. I love and enjoy¬†experimenting in the kitchen, be it baking or cooking. I’ve adjusted known recipes to fit my taste and I can even say I improved some (at least I think so :)), but I’ve never created my very own recipe.

Last week, after a quite long pause, I started going to pastel painting class again. I forgot how this class does wonders to my¬†emotional wellness, inspiration, and just overall feeling of joy! As I was doodling on a note pad thinking of what could be my next painting project, I found myself sketching a cake… Weird how my mind switched from thinking of painting to thinking of a cake and my hand followed accordingly.

In the back of my mind I had plans to make a cake this weekend – a cake for my birthday. I could have let my family buy me a cake, but as¬†every other year I am totally almost expected to make a cake for each family member’s birthday. Honestly, I like it that way! Still sketching, an idea of my very own cake came to mind… Raspberries came to mind, vanilla, white chocolate, mmm… why not?! Here¬†it is! From the birth of an idea to the final product – Raspberry Dream Cake!

Raspberry Dream Cake              Printable recipe

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 6 eggs
  • 4 tbsp hot water
  • 3/4 cups (150 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¬Ĺ tsp bitter almond extract
  • 5 oz (150 g) sour cream* ( I added sour cream to the batter for additional moisture and to avoid cake being dry)
  • 1 1/4 cup (150 g) flour
  • 1 ¬Ĺ tsp baking powder
  • 5 oz (150) g ground hazelnuts

Frosting # 1 ‚Äď Semolina, butter, white chocolate frosting:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) cream
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3.5 oz (100 g)¬†semolina
  • 1 stick (100 g) butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 3.5 (100 g) white chocolate

Frosting # 2 ‚Äď Raspberry Gel√©e:

  • 14 oz (400 g) frozen raspberries
  • 6 oz (170 g) fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) water
  • 2 envelopes (14 g) plain gelatin
  • 6 tbsp water

Decoration:

  • 7 oz (200 g) white chocolate
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup (300 ml) heavy cream (whipped)
  • Sugar
  • Fresh raspberries
  • Lemon Balm leaves

Also needed: 7 inch (18 cm) spring form cake pan, parchment paper, plastic wrap, a long sharp knife, cake decorating bag with a star tip

Cake preparation:

  1. In a mixer bowl beat 6 eggs with 4 tbsp hot water until foamy, add vanilla and  bitter almond extract. Slowly start adding sugar and mix at least for 2 minutes, before adding sour cream. Combine flour, baking powder and ground hazelnuts. Turn the mixing speed to low and add the dry ingredients.
  2. Bake in a 7 inch (18 cm) spring form cake pan lined with parchment paper at 365 F (185 C) for about 30 minutes. Cool completely, remove from the spring form and slice across into three even pieces.

Prepare frosting #1:

  1. Combine cream, milk, vanilla and sugar and let it boil. Pour into it semolina flour, lower the heat and mix until all liquid disappears and the mixture has a pudding consistency. Cool slightly and cover with plastic wrap to avoid crust forming. The mixture will harden somewhat as it cools.
  2. Combine butter and sugar, mix until fluffy, add melted white chocolate and mix well. Add it to the semolina mixture and again mix well or until thoroughly combined.  Cover and set aside.

Prepare frosting #2:

  1. Line a 7 inch spring form cake pan with plastic wrap.
  2. Combine  frozen, fresh raspberries and water. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add sugar.
  3. In a small cooking pan disolve gelatin  in 6 tbsp of water, mix and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Lightly heat gelatin and let it melt, but do not let it boil. Take few table spoons out of raspberry mixture and mix it well with gelatin.
  4. Now add the gelatin into remaining raspberries and mix well. Pour it into spring form and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  5. Remove from the fridge, remove the pan rim. Slowly divide into two pieces by cutting through with a long, sharp knife.

Put together and decorate the cake:

  1. 1st of 3 cake layers
  2. ¬Ĺ half of semolina frosting
  3. 1st piece of raspberry gelée
  4. 2nd  of 3 cake layers
  5. 2nd half of semolina frosting
  6. 2nd half of raspberry gelée
  7. 3rd of 3 cake layers
  8. Melt the white chocolate with vegetable oil until liquid. Pour and spread over top of the cake and sides. Put it into fridge for about 15 minutes.
  9. Beat the cream with desired amount of sugar until dense. Decorate the sides and top of the cake with whipped cream, fresh raspberries and lemon balm.

Bon Appétit!


Raspberry Gelée

 

Buchteln – Sweet pull-apart Rolls

Buchteln¬†are Bavarian/Austrian sweet rolls or dumplings usually filled with jam. I’ve seen them served with warm vanilla sauce poured on the top of them. They are also popular in other regions of Europe, including my homeland, Bosnia. They are very simple to make. I love how they¬†snugly¬†fit together in the pan and how easily they come apart when you need one. They are great for breakfast or any other time of the day. My Grandma often used to make them filled with rosehip jam.

This cold winter morning seemed perfect for Buchteln, so I made them for breakfast filled with homemade plum jam and nutella.

Buchteln                                                         Printable recipe        

  • 4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (or 40 g fresh yeast)
  • ¬Ĺ cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla sugar (1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • Zest of one small lemon
  • 7 tbsp (100 g) butter (soft)
  • ¬†1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) warm milk

For filling:  Your favorite jam, nutella, sweetened cream cheese and raisins, etc.

For brushing: 1 tbsp melted butter

For dusting: Powder sugar

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and mix well for few minutes.
  2. Add half of the milk and start mixing.
  3. Add egg, egg yolk and butter and remaining milk, continuing mixing for another 3-4 minutes or until the dough stops sticking to the walls of the mixing bowl.
  4. Knead the dough by hand for few minutes, form it into a ball, cover with kitchen towel and let it rise for about 1 to 1 ¬Ĺ hours or until double in volume.
  5. Now roll it into a 1/3 in (about 8 mm) thick rectangle and with a pizza cutter, cut into smaller squares (about 3 x 3 in, 8 x 8 cm)
  6. Place a tbsp of jam on each square and close by bringing together opposite corners, pinching them tightly and making a small ball.
  7. Place formed buchteln into a round spring form lined with parchment paper. Melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush over buchteln, cover with kitchen towel and let rise until double in volume.
  8. Bake at 380 F (190 C) about 30 minutes. Cool down slightly, dust with powder sugar and serve warm.

Enjoy!

Julishka Pie (JuliŇ°ka Pita)

Julishka (read Yuleeshkah) is a very rich desert, loved and made for at least 60 years in Bosnia and practically all regions of Ex-Yugoslavia. It’s a classic, it never fails to surprise one’s taste buds, it is delectable! I usually make it for the holidays and my husband’s birthday since it’s his favorite desert. Julishka is entirely made from scratch and the process requires some time, but the end result is just pure joy!

Ingredients:                                                                              Printable version

  • 1 pack of¬†Puff Pastry Sheets¬†(thawed)
  • 1 cup (200 g sugar)
  • 1 pack vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 5 eggs (divided)
  • 6 oz (175 g) good chocolate* 50-60% cocoa
  • 1 3/4 (100 g) finely ground walnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 10 1/2 tbsp (150 g) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 2 packs vanilla sugar (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 tbsp confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Also needed: 9X13 in baking pan

1. Roll out both sheets of puff pastry on a lightly flour dusted surface to the size of the 9X13 in baking pan (or just a bit larger). Bake the 1st sheet on the pan turned up-side down for 10 minutes at 365 F or until nice golden color. Let it cool down for few minutes and carefully cut it into rectangles (to get about 25 pieces, make 4 cuts vertically and 4 horizontally).

2. Bake the 2nd sheet for 5 minutes at 350 F. It just needs to be half done. Set aside.

3. For the dough divide eggs. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm, set aside. In a stand mixer mix 5 yolks, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla until pale yellow and smooth. Melt chocolate in a hot water bath, add to yolk mixture and mix by hand (collage photos 1 & 2). Fold in ground walnuts and egg whites at the end.

4. Place the half done puff pastry sheet into the baking pan and pour the dough on the top of it (see collage photo 3). Bake at 375 F about 20- 30 minutes or until firm to touch. Let it cool down completely.

5. For the frosting base whisk 5 tbsp flour and 1/4 milk until smooth. Lightly boil 1 cup of milk and with constant mixing add the flour mixture to  it. Mix until it becomes thick, then take it off the stove and cool down.

6. Mix sugar, vanilla and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add it to the completely cooled down frosting base and again mix well to combine.

7. Spread the frosting onto the top of the pie¬†(see collage¬†photo 4), arrange all the puff pastry rectangles that you’ve previously cut (collage photo 5). Dust with confectioners sugar (collage photo 6), cover with aluminium foil and leave it in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

Before serving, cut into the sizes of your prearranged rectangles and voila… Enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Cake

The recipe for this fine cake I have had since 1990. It is really hard to believe that 21 years have passed by. So many things have happened in my life and made it totally different from what I would ever expect. To make a long story short – a college student from Bosnia ended up in Germany because of the war, got married, had children, immigrated to the United States to start a better life for her family, and is now sharing with you a recipe for this delicious Chocolate Almond Cake. ūüôā

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/5 stick (250 g) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 pack vanilla sugar)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 9 oz (250 g) semi-sweet chocolate (shredded)
  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) blanched, ground almonds
Frosting:
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam (strained)
  • 5 oz (150 g) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp cooking oil
1. In a stand mixer, mix butter for about 30 seconds, add sugar little by little and vanilla, mix until smooth.
2. Add an egg one by one, mixing 30 sec. after every addition.
3. Combine flour and baking powder, mix well. Fold into egg-butter mixture by hand. Add shredded chocolate and almonds and mix well.
4. Line a 9 in (24 cm) round cake pan with parchment paper. Evenly spread the batter into the pan. Bake at 375 F (180 C) for about an hour or until soft center of the cake disappears.
For the frosting, heat apricot jam for about 45 sec. and strain it through a fine mesh, to become smooth and without any apricot pieces. Brush it over warm cake.
Let the cake cool down. Melt the chocolate in a hot water bath, add cooking oil and mix it until smooth and glossy. Pour over the cake. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reserve some chocolate for the decoration.
For the leaf decoration, get some rose leaves (plastic leaves are fine too). Brush them with chocolate once, let them rest for a few minutes and then brush them a second time. Place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Gently peel of each rose leaf and you should have a beautiful chocolate leaf decorations.
Bon Appetite!

Apple Dumplings with a twist

One beautiful, sunny fall weekend in September, we made a trip to the Amish country in Northern Indiana. Driving through the rolling fields of corn, beans and soy, with patches of autumn colored trees was just amazing and so peaceful. We spent the afternoon at the local Apple Festival and enjoyed the sights of the homemade baked goods, Amish made items, apples, mums and Amish children in their simple, pretty attires.

My daughter and I ate some wonderful apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream and since that weekend I wanted to make them myself. Today was a perfect day, since I bought some small Jonathon apples at the Farmer’s Market.

For this recipe, in addition to Amish apple dumplings I was also inspired by stuffed baked apples (a desert from Bosnia). The end result was super delicious! Take a look!

Dough:

  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 9 tbsp (130 g) cold butter
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • grated peel of 1/2 lemon (+ juice)
  • 1 egg
Filling:
  • 6-8 small apples
  • 1/4 (50 g) raisins
  • 1/2 (50 g) chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark rum ( or 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
  • Egg wash:¬†1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp of milk
1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon peel and mix well. Add butter and work it into flour until small crumbles form. At the end add the egg, knead it well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. For filling combine raisins and walnuts, add brown sugar and rum (or cinnamon, or both) and set aside.
3. Wash, pat dry and peel and core apples. Brush with lemon juice and set aside.
4. Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface. Using rim of a small bowl, cut out circles for the dumplings. Cut out decorative hearts, flowers, leaves or similar with a cookie cutter.
5. Place an apple in the center of the dough circle, fill the core with the raisin-nut mixture. Enclose the dough. Brush some water over the top and place the decoration.
6. Place the apple dumplings into a buttered (or parchment paper covered) pan. Brush with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes at 375 F or 190C.
Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or apple dumpling sauce.
Note: I didn’t find necessary to make the sauce since the dumplings are already sweet and vanilla ice cream was just perfect addition.