Archive for May, 2012

Rhubarb

May 31, 2012

May is the start of the rhubarb season, and these last couple of weeks my house has been constantly overflowing with it. We bought our first rhubarb stalks at the farmer’s market in Brussels a couple of weeks ago. I knew I wanted to bake something rhubarb-y, but I wasn’t sure what yet. After having decided on cupcakes (two different kinds – because I couldn’t decide which recipe to try) we found ourselves with even more rhubarb after a friend of the family dropped some off at our place. No problem, I said to myself, I’ll try out an Italian rhubarb soda syrup with these new ones. Then my friend Greet got me even more rhubarb, and I made a rhubarb buckle that was wildly popular around the house. The last of the rhubarb (another 2 kg!) was used to make jam.

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Walnut and coffee gateau

May 29, 2012

For someone who likes baking so much, the amount of baked goods I don’t like to eat is alarmingly high. In my  post about mini!donuts I already expressed my dislike for anything that has to do with sweet puff pastry. During my recent trip to Sweden I also had to confess to my friends that I do not like chocolate mousse (though maybe in that case I’m just a bit squicked by the idea of eating raw eggs). Another thing I don’t really do is nuts.

Don’t get me wrong! There are certain types of nuts that I do enjoy eating. I like peanuts and pistachios – and it’s always really hard for me to resist some of those salted cashews. But that’s the thing: I prefer my nuts to be savory/salty. The only exceptions here (because of course there would be exceptions where I’m concerned) is peanut butter and chocolate – a match made in heaven. And when I’m eating a really yummy carrot cake with nuts I don’t mind so much either. In most other cases, however, I’m not a fan.

You know who is a fan, though? My mom. My mother loves nuts, loves loves loves them. So when I saw this recipe in the spring 2012 issue of the BBC Baking (good food home cooking series) magazine we picked up in Scotland I just knew I had to make it for her – and because Mother’s day was just around the corner, I figured this would be the perfect time to try it out!

Now the thing is – besides the nuts this gateau also has coffee. Another one of those things that I hate, and the rest of my family (or, you know, the rest of the world) loves. I hope I’m not scaring anyone of though: if you like walnuts and coffee I’m pretty sure this will be the thing for you. My family, friends and neighbors loved it, and my next door neighbor requested I make it for her again for her granddaughter’s christening party.

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Cupcakes [Easter themed]

May 29, 2012

Cupcakes! I’m an absolute sucker for cupcakes. But then again, who isn’t? I just love everything about them, the way they taste (if they’re good!) the way they look, the way you can decorate them to create the most wonderful constructions. Awesome!

I made these cupcakes for Easter (so this is a bit late!) but it’s cupcakes and chocolate and tiny eggs – that stuff is good every day of the year, right?

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New York Cheesecake!

May 28, 2012

I’m sorta crazy about cheesecake. I’m really very crazy about it, actually. My obsession with cheesecake runs so deep that I still remember the very first piece of cheesecake I ever ate. My brother and I were out shopping with my mother when we ended up in Dille En Kamille in Antwerp. Back then this amazingly lovely store still had a small pastry section where you could drink a cup of tea and have a slice of pie. After tasting it that first time I always (always) went for their cheesecake when we were over there. Dille En Kamille has long since renovated and sadly enough their pastry section was removed (the store has otherwise remained fabulous and amazing though).

While we do have cheesecake in Belgium I don’t come across it that often. When I do go somewhere with the explicit desire to eat cake or pie and cheesecake is on the menu, chances are pretty big that I’m going for the cheesecake. It really just calls for me. (Aline. Aliiiiine! Eat me.)

Previous attempts at making my own cheesecake have been incredibly disappointing. I have no idea why – maybe it was my inexperience in the kitchen that made the cheesecakes come out wattery and horrible. The disappointment proved a bit too hard on me and it’s been years since I last tried to make it. (Except for the recipe for cheesecake my mom likes which calls for semolina, admittedly one of my favorite things in the world.) After I came across a recipe for cheesecake by Keiko I decided I really had to try again though.

My dad is crazy about the recipes Keiko posts. They are usually pretty “difficult” but explained so well (both in words as with videos) that even the hardest pastry recipes tend to work after one or two tries. The cheesecake recipe actually looked easy so I thought: this time I will conquer this cake! You have to be a registered (paying) user to see her recipes, so I’m not sharing the recipe here. There are pictures, though!

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All about chocolate

May 28, 2012

Let’s be honest, chocolate is pretty damn amazing, isn’t it? Yeah – it really is. The only moments I ever feel quite proud to be Belgian is when the topic shifts to chocolate (as it tends to do from time to time). Just the other day I was watching the BBC and the Hairy Bikers’ bakaction episode was set in Belgium (Bruges) and they were talking about chocolate. Yeah, no surprise there, but to see them speak so highly of our chocolate (as they should!) made me feel quite proud – even though I personally have nothing to do with the tradition of Belgian chocolate. But I guess that’s how that works, national pride.

There will be a couple of different things in this post. First I’ll talk a bit about tempering chocolate (melting it the “proper” way) and then I’ll give a couple of quick ganache recipes. Good stuff all around, I assure you!

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Donut ever let me go

May 27, 2012

Belgians don’t really have anything with donuts. Sure, they’re sold in bakeries and supermarkets here, but I -personally at least- never really had any real affection towards the deep-fried treats.

Then again maybe I’m not the best person to ask because I don’t often like any of the sweet things bakers sell. I’ve never been a fan of what the English speaking countries call Danish pastries, and what we call boterkoeken or koffiekoeken. I always think it’s a very Belgian thing, those boterkoeken. Our bakeries and delis are filled with them much more than they seem to be in other countries. I always find them such a waste of puff pastry. There are only a few things in this life that are better than puff pastry, but it has to be filled with something savory. Chicken pie, sausage rolls, spinach puffs. YUM.

But I digress: donuts. I’m pretty sure the only reason I even knew they existed as a kid was because of The Simpsons. My brother and I watched the show religiously when we were kids. A Belgian television channel would air two episodes back to back every day, sometimes twice a day (early mornings, before school, and then early evenings, after school). And the idea we had of donuts was basically that they were pink and had sprinkles on them. Oh, and police officers seemed to really love them too, according to the television.

They come off as a very American thing, so I was surprised to learn -during my research for this post- that some people believe it’s the Dutch settlers who introduced the snack in America. Huh. While I’m not Dutch, I do feel pretty related to my neighbors up North (a shared language and a close friend in the country will do that to a person). Then I read that the Dutch oliebollen and Flemish smoutebollen are kind of our version of the donut, and those I do really like. Dutch people usually eat oliebollen (oil balls) on New Year’s eve. When my Dutch friend Heleen came to spend New Year’s Eve (and my brithday) with me in Belgium she brought some with her to share. We Belgians eat our smoutebollen (lard balls) mostly at fairs and carnivals. Grease and sugar, what more can a person ask for?

Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest donut fan, I saw this mini-donut baking tray and immediately thought it was too adorable to pass. Because if there is one thing about donuts that does appeal to me is how cute they look. I did some research and apparently deep-frying isn’t the only way to make donuts. (Deep fried donuts are either made by rolling out a sausage and connecting the two ends, or by rolling out the dough and cutting out the donuts with a donut-form). These donut trays are used to make cake donuts. Cake? Yeah – after I head you could almost immediately count me in! Though they aren’t like “real” donuts, I still found them incredibly cute, and really tasty!

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