Šape…or…Bear Paws shortbread cookies

Šape are one of the most loved, traditional Bosnian treats. When translated to English, šapa (sing.) simply means a “paw”. The old tins were shaped like bear paws, hence the name. I remember playing with my grandmother’s šape tins when I was a little girl. They had that gray and brownish patina from years of use and I wish I had somehow saved them…Today the tins come in all different shapes and can be purchased here. A madeleine tin can also be used to make šape.

Bear paws are made from simple ingredients, readily available in every household. Biting into a šapa can instantly take me back to my grandmother’s little kitchen, with wooden floors, green credenza and an old tin box she kept them in. Šape are made for birthdays, feasts, weddings, christenings, Christmas and almost every other special occasion. They are sort of a shortbread cookie, originally made with lard, but are just as good made with butter. Traditionally, walnuts are used in the cookie, but I’ve seen them made with shredded coconut, poppy seeds or spiced with cinnamon. The crumbly dough is pressed into tin forms, placed onto a cookie sheet, baked and tossed in powdered sugar. They simply melt in your mouth!

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Šape or Bear Paws

[print recipe]

Yields about 30-35 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 120 g /4.2 oz lard (or 140 g /4.9 oz butter)
  • 120 g / 4.2 oz sugar
  • 1 vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 120 g / 4.2 oz ground walnuts
  • 300 g / 10.5 oz / 2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 13 g / about 1 tsp baking powder
  • A few tsp of milk (if needed)
  • 1 – 2  tbsp honey (optional)

+

  • Powdered sugar
  • Baking tins
  • Butter (melted) to brush the tins

Preparation:

  1. Beat lard (or butter), sugar and vanilla for about 3-4 minutes, then add egg and lemon zest and mix for couple of more minutes.
  2. Add ground walnuts.
  3. Combine flour and baking powder; add to the lard mixture.
  4. The dough will be crumbly. If too dry, add a tbsp or two milk
  5. Brush the tins with melted butter, fill them about 2/3 with dough.
  6. Place the tins on a cookie sheet and bake at 180 C / 355 F for about 15 minutes or until golden-brown color.
  7. Let them cool down for a minute or two, remove from tins and liberally dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, tea or dip in milk! 🙂

Sape preparation

Šape forms

Šape

Šape

Šape

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Ginger Polenta Cookies (with cranberries and walnuts)

My Christmas Bakery is in full swing. This week I made a ton of Razz-Ma-Tazz Bars which seem to be everyone’s favorite. I made my first brittle and a whole bunch of different Christmas cookies, which I will be posting in the next few days. For today I chose the ginger polenta cookies. These are new to me and they have exceeded my expectations. I adapted the recipe from one of the many holiday cookie magazines that I’ve collected over the years.

Ginger Polenta Cookies

Ginger Polenta Cookies (with cranberries and walnuts)

[printable recipe]

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups (320 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup (80 g) polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2  cup (50 g) toasted nuts (walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, etc. – I’ve used walnuts)
  • 1/2  cup dried (50 g) cranberries (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 orange (zest + 1 TBSP juice)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks (225 g) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg  + 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) crystallized ginger (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 TSP ground ginger

Preparation:

  1. Stir together flour, polenta, nuts, cranberries and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a mixer bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, egg yolk, orange zest and juice, chopped ginger and ground ginger. Add flour and mix at low speed until combined.
  3. Gather dough into a ball and divide in half. Shape into 2 (9 inch) logs and wrap in plastic wrap with ends sealed. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or until firm.
  4. Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C). Cut logs into 1/4  inch slices and place them onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 15-18 minutes or until slightly golden at edges. Cool  completely and serve.

*** I added a bit of chopped candied lemon peel for a hint of green color.

Bon Appetite!

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Ginger polenta cookies

Ginger polenta cookies

Sweet Yeasted Buns: recreating mom’s recipe

Numerous times I tried to recreate these sweet, fluffy buns that mom used to make when we were children. I don’t have a recipe because mama always made these without one! I think today they have turned out just right – right amount of sweetness, softness, right texture and above all the right taste! I know she would be proud of me – Happy Birthday Mama! 🙂

Sweet Yeasted Buns                    Printable recipe

(KORPICE- is the name of these buns, which in Bosnian language means “little baskets”)

Dough:

  • 4 cups (512 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2.8 oz (80 g) sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup (295 ml) warm milk
  • 0.7 oz (20 g) fresh yeast
  • ½ lemon (zest only)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2.8 oz (80 g) butter (softened)
  • Flour for kneading

Filling:

  • 3.5 oz (100 g) finely chopped walnuts
  • 3.5 (100 g) fresh blackberries (mashed)
  • 5.2 oz (150 g) blackberry jam
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

***1 Tablespoon powder sugar + 1 pack of vanilla sugar for dusting

Preparation:

For the dough combine the flour, sugar and vanilla sugar in a mixing bowl. Make an indent in the flour. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and lightly pour the milk into the flour. Mix the dough until almost combined, add the egg and the yolks, mix some more and at the end add butter.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Form into a ball, place into a buttered bowl, cover and let it rest until double in size. The dough supposed to be medium firm. Once is rises is will be stretchy, soft and easy to work with.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Just mix all ingredients together and set aside until needed.

Once the dough is ready place it on a floured surface and roll it into a rectangle (approx. size 12 X 24 inches or 30 X 60 cm). With a pizza knife cut it into 24 squares.  Place some of the filling in the middle of each square, pick up opposite corners together as to form a little basket. Pinch the sides good so the filling doesn’t come out.

Cover and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Bake at 400 F (200 C) for about 15 minutes or until you see nice golden-brown tops.

While still warm, dust with mixture of sugar and vanilla sugar. Serve warm with coffee or a cup of milk.

YUM! ENJOY! 🙂

Yeast Strudel with Hazelnuts

I haven’t baked in a while, partly because the summer calls for the resfreshing, no bake, fruity desserts and partly because I was on vacation and just didn’t feel like doing much except relaxing, painting, shopping, and such… Well, last night I got a huge urge to bake! Without a particular reason, without an occasion in sight I just HAD TO BAKE SOMETHING! Those passionate about baking will understand! 😀

Ideas started forming in my mind while I was still at work – something yeasty, but not too heavy and good for breakfast… Strudel! That’s it! We, Eastern European People love our strudel! I think most of every nation of Eastern (and some of Western EU) has one or the other version of the strudel. I usually make two types of strudel – one with a very thin, phyllo-like dough and the other with the yeast dough. Fillings can vary – from a lighter cherry, apple or jam filling to a richer poppy seed, walnut, hazelnut, almond or cream cheese and raisins filling. More info about strudel here.

Yeast Strudel with Hazelnuts                      Printable recipe

Yields two 5 X 9 inches (13 X 23 cm) loafs

Filling:

  • 12-14 oz (350-400 g) ground hazelnuts
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 pack vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2-3  tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dough:

  • 1 pack of dry yeast (or 20 g fresh yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 4 cups (512 g) all-purpose flour (used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (if desired)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 cup (236 ml)warm water
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) butter (very soft)

Preparation:

Filling:

Pour the milk into a cooking pan and let it boil lightly. Add hazelnuts, sugar, vanilla, honey and cinnamon and mix well for a few minutes until the filling thickens. Make sure the filling is spreadable. If is too runny add more hazelnuts. ***You may divide filling into two parts and add 1 tbsp of cocoa or melted chocolate in one half (or add some different flavor to it).

Dough:

  1. Mix the yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes until becomes foamy.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Make an indent in the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix lightly, add the egg and then start adding water. When almost combined, work the butter into the dough.
  3. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and knead the dough by hand for about 5 minutes. Grease a bowl with butter and place the dough ball into the bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise until double in volume.
  4. Prepare two 5 X 9 inches (about 13 X 23 cm) loaf pans, grease them with butter. Cover your table with a cloth which will be used for rolling the dough. Sprinkle the cloth with flour.
  5. When the dough is ready, divide it in two. Using a rolling pin roll the dough as thin as possible. Make sure it keeps its rectangular shape. The size of my dough was approx. 12 X 20 inches. Spread the filling as thinly as possible. Lift up the cloth and roll the dough as a jelly roll. Do the same with the second piece of the dough.
  6. Shape one roll into “S”, form the other dough into a two-strain braid and place each into a loaf pan. Cover and let is rise for about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  7. Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F (175 C) and bake for another 30 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan. Remove from the pan and cool for another 30 minutes, slice and serve.

ENJOY!

Julishka Pie (Juliška 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!

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.

Grandma’s Plum Cake

My favorite kind of plums are Damson plums. They are very common in Bosnia, where I grew up. Their smell and taste remind me of my childhood and my grandparents.

I was so happy to find them on my Saturday’s visit to our local Farmer’s Market. I decided to make this cake by my grandma’s recipe. Her plum cake is delicious, rich and aromatic, and the whole house was enveloped in its heavenly smell.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) Damson plums (washed, pitted and quartered)
  • 1 pack of vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 5 eggs (divided)
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1 pack of vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 small lemon (zest and juice)
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (75 g) walnuts (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp confectioners sugar (for sprinkling the cake)
Also needed:
  • Parchment paper
  • 9 X 13 inch (23 X 33 cm) rectangular baking pan
1. Wash the plums, dry them, remove pits and quarter them. Mix sugar, vanilla sugar (or extract), cinnamon and sprinkle over plums. Mix well and set aside.
2. For the batter beat egg whites with just a pinch of salt, until shiny and firm. Set aside.
3. Mix egg yolks, sugar and vanilla sugar at a fast rate and until pale yellow, add melted butter and continue mixing for another minute.
4. Fold in (by hand) lemon juice and zest. Also gently fold in flour and at the end egg whites just until combined (Batter needs to look fluffy).
5. Now add the plums into batter and mix them in well (by hand).
6. Pour the batter into 9 X 13 in rectangular baking pan, lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
7. Bake at 395 F (200 C) about 30 minutes. Cool down completely, sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
BON APPETIT!!! 🙂
Damson Plums – fresh from the Farmer’s Market
Batter
In the pan and sprinkled with walnuts
Voila!