Dutch Letters

My father-in-law left this morning after staying with us for a week.  It’s interesting how many similarities there are between Dave and him!  They look alike (hmmmm).    They have the same voice (alarming).  They are both Dutch (Adieu, Kitchen Aid Pro 600 series, see you in my dreams).

No, they are really Dutch!  Funny last name and all.  FIL lives in this little town called Pella where they have even more funny last names, windmills everywhere, tulip festival, and a Dutch bakery. 

The bakery (Jaarsma) is famous for its S-shaped pastries – Dutch letters.  Traditionally the letters are baked around Christmas, but the Pella-cans bake them the whole year round.  And I don’t blame them.  The pastry is splendid!   This recipe is adopted from Saveur. 

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DUTCH LETTERS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb unsalted  chilled butter cut into pea-size cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 7 oz almond paste
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup milk

Yields 20 pastries

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the dough.  Whisk together flour and salt, add butter and mix until flour coats butter.

In a small bowl whisk water and 1 egg, and add the mixture to the flour.  Stir.

Transfer dour to a floured surface and knead until it comes together.

Roll into a 15×10-inch/38×25.5 cm rectangle .  Fold the sheet – position it horizontally, fold the sides to meet in the middle, and then fold in the middle.  Rotate rectangle and repeat rolling and folding.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Uncover; and repeat rolling and folding two more times.  Wrap dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 more hour.

Prepare the filling.  In a medium bowl, whisk together paste and 1 egg white using a hand mixer.  Add the 2nd egg white, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugars, and beat until smooth.

Prepare the egg wash by whisking the remaining egg and milk.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375⁰ F/190⁰ C.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut dough into 4 equal pieces.  Leave 3 wrapped pieces in the refrigerator, and roll the 4th piece into a 12.5×10 inch/31.75×25.5 cm.  Cut the dough sheet into 5 equal pieces  10 inch/25.5 cm long.

Using a pastry bag apply a line of filling in the middle of each strip.

Using a brush, apply a line of egg wash on one side of the dough strip.  Roll the dough like a cigar starting with a dry edge.

Place the roll on the baking sheet, seam side down, forming a letter S shape (or any other letter).

Brush each pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before serving.

 

Crunchy Granola

A stay-at-home mom with the most contagious smile I’ve ever seen, who lives on our block, made a New Year resolution she won’t regret.  She decided to hang out with the neighbors more.  It’s understandable, we are pretty awesome…  I was so excited I got a new friend!  She loves pastries, and I love to bake!  She has a cleaning lady, I hate cleaning too!  Our daughters bonded over a puddle by our house right away!  It was meant to be!

Imagine my surprise when the husband disapproved of the relationship! Apparently she is a bad influence.   He is afraid she’ll corrupt me with all the cleaning lady business!   

I married an exploiter!  He doesn’t deserve this healthy and delicious breakfast! Not one little bit!

Well, unless he buys my dream KitchenAid of course.  Wink-wink! Honey! It’s finally on sale!!!

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CRUNCHY GRANOLA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
  • 4 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tbs flax seeds
  • ¼ tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • ½ cup raisins

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325⁰ F / 170⁰ C.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix all the ingredients but raisins and lay flat on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes.  Mix the raisins in.  Voilà! 

It’s been quiet here, as I’ve been planning a huge birthday party for my now 3 year old, playing a hostess to my father-in-law, and trying to finally finish this book… while chasing the kids, of course.

I’m finally done with the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.  My old flight instructor in Paradise Valley, Montana told me about his grandson who wrote a book about a dragon, and when I stumbled upon it in Borders I couldn’t resist.  That was years ago.  The 4th and final book was recently published.  I was pretty excited, but it just seemed to be dragging on forever!  May be I finally got too old for dragon books.  May be they got too bloody for me, but it just wouldn’t click…  So, this week I decided to get over and done with it for good!  

You know how iPhones have this new feature where they color-code SMS blue or green if it was sent via special iPhone network or as a usual text message.  As a user I really don’t care as long as my message was received.  Same was with this book.  There were too many runes neither Eragon nor I comprehended, too many doors that shouldn’t have been opened…   Nevertheless, I love Christopher’s language.  It’s reach and beautiful, and even this Russian, gets mesmerized by it! So, if he writes another book, I will give it a try.

Carrot Cinnamon Cupcakes

My friend that I mentioned earlier, the super healthy one, just sent us a low fat, low sugar, and apparently enjoyable carrot cake recipe.

While chasing the kids outside this afternoon I was debating if we should give a try to this nutritious cake.  To my Evil-Me the idea seemed really disturbing.  Healthy cake? It must be AWFUL!  My Not-So-Evil-Me thought it may be beneficial for the family to eat something good. 

Then it hit me!  Why not make a “partial healthy” cake!? 

My Evil-Me and Not-So-Evil-Me reached a consensus and produced this awesomeness!  The cake part is pretty healthy while the topping is decidedly evil.  I converted the cake into guilt-free sized cupcakes! Now, if I could only manage eating them in guilt-free quantities!!!

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CARROT CINNAMON CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS:

Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 3 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
  • 1 cup raisins

FROSTING

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 8 oz /225 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1-4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon

Yields 48 mini cupcakes

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375º F /190º C.  Mix the first 11 ingredients (till carrots), making sure everything is incorporated; leaving a few lumps will make the cupcakes fluffier.

Mix in the carrots and raisins.

Line the mini-cupcake pan with paper liners.  (I like using this unbleached baking cups)

Spray them with cooking spray.  Fill each cup 3/4 full with the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the wooden stick comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes are at room temperature, with the hand mixer whip together butter and cream cheese.  Once combined and fluffy, add sugar 1 cup at a time.  I really liked the frosting with just 1 cup of sugar; however if you like a stiffer frosting, add more sugar. Add cinnamon.

Fill the pastry bag with your favorite attachment with the frosting, and decorate the cupcakes.

Now, try to restrain yourself from eating them all in one sitting!

Make ahead: these cakes will store well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

 

Russian Cutlets

I remember a year ago my son didn’t quite get the whole present idea.  Naively and cute he was thrilled about all the wrapping paper.

Today the morning started with “Mama! Birday? Presens!?” Oh! I was watching him opening all the presents, sadly wondering if his sweet innocence was forever gone,… when he asked my husband if Santa was coming…  Oh, dear…

Today’s recipe is the one he actually likes (because of the bacon).  I usually make a bunch of them, fry a few, and freeze the rest. 

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RUSSIAN CUTLETS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb (450 g) of ground beef
  • 1 lb (450 g) of ground pork
  • 5 oz (150 g) of day-old sourdough bread
  • 7 oz (200 g) of bacon
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 eggs, bitten (optional)
  • 3 cups of bread crumbs (optional)

Yields about 40 cutlets

DIRECTIONS:

Break the bread into chunks and pour milk over it.  Let soak. Note: use your favorite bread – I usually go with my 5-seed one.

Grind bacon, rice, onion, and garlic. Grind soaked bread with all the milk.

Mix ground beef and pork with the bacon/bread mixture, salt and pepper, squeezing with your fingers so that all ingredients incorporate.

Shape oval patties.  If you wish to, dip into the eggs and roll the patties in the bread crumbs.

Heat the oil on the skillet.  Fry the patties covered on mid-low heat for 4-5 min on each side.

Traditionally served with mashed potatoes or pasta, or could simply be eaten with bread.

Make ahead: you can store uncooked cutlets for up to 3 months.  Wrap each cutlet in plastic wrap, place in a zip-lock bag, and freeze.  Thaw completely before frying.

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