Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tsoureki - τσουρέκι

While everyone is out and about for Easter, I'm chained to my laptop pretending to do homework, while in reality messing around with Photoshop. Okay, it's not really all that bad. For one, I have two whole Tsoureki's in this house. It's one of the most fragrant breads I've ever made or seen or tasted. Admittedly it's not a versatile bread: it's sweet so all you can really put on it is sugar or Nutella. But the smell and that soft taste, it makes up for everything.


You might not have any mahlepi (it's a spice, made from ground St. Lucie cherry seeds) anywhere in your house or even know where to find it. I have the luxury of my other half living on the Greekish side of the world so I can always beg him to send me some. Traditionally the fragrant mahlepi is used in Tsoureki. However, vanilla is a popular flavour for tsoureki even in Greece. So we can totally get away with our lack of mahlepi!

Tsoureki
1 loaf - adapted from Bread

450-500 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon dried yeast (7 grams)
zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons mahlepi *
175 ml milk
50 grams butter
40 grams sugar
2 eggs

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon water

1. Combine all the dry ingredients. Put them into a bread machine pan with the milk.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the butter to the bread machine pan and turn it on dough setting. (Alternatively, knead the bread by hand for 10-15 minutes until elastic. Since the bread is very sticky, you might have some troubles with this. Keep kneading until it stops sticking and use more flour if needed.) Leave to rise for about 2 hours until doubled in size.
4. Once the dough has risen, knead again for a few minutes to get rid of the large air pockets. Place back in a bowl or bread pan and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
5. Gently knead the dough to get rid of the air again. Divide into three equal pieces (a weighing scale helps!). Shape every piece into a long cylinder and braid them together. To make the ends look prettier you can fold the ends under the bread. Place the bread on a baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.
6. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with honey and water.
7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Once risen, place the bread in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. Brush the bread with the egg wash in the last 10 minutes of baking to give it a nice shine.
8. Leave to cool before serving.

* Can be substituted with anise, cinnamon or cardamom (or combination). Vanilla and mastic flavoured Tsoureki are also common in Greece.

Funnily enough there is a Greek Christmas bread 'Vasilopita' which also uses mahlepi. It makes me wonder whether using the same, or at least a very similar, bread for both Easter and Christmas is some sort of universal truth.

Coloured Eggs
Traditionally, Tsoureki has red eggs 'braided' into the bread. Place about 3 red eggs on top of the bread at step 5, before leaving it to rise.

3 eggs
1 scant tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon red foodcolouring
(olive) oil

1. Boil the eggs slowly on medium or even low heat for 10 minutes. The water can boil lightly, but make sure your eggs don't break!
2. Mix the vinegar with the foodcolouring.
3. After 10 minutes, place the eggs on a wire rack. Don't leave them to cool, but the water needs to evaporate. Roll them into food colouring until completely red and then place them back on the rack to cool.
4. Brush lightly with oil before using.

I'm ashamed I don't have a picture of the bread as a whole, as it's quite a beautiful bread to look at, but Tsoureki is braided and decorated red-coloured eggs inbetween the folds. The egg-wash gives it a dark shine and the orange and mahlepi together give a wonderful aroma. I'll have to bake it again to be able to show you! (that's not a bad idea..)

I hope you're having or will have a Very Happy Easter! In case you're not celebrating Easter, I hope you have a very lovely weekend in stead and get to enjoy the weather! (It's looking like Spring here!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Colomba di Pasqua

It's almost and nearly Easter! Even though I won't have time to celebrate it myself, I got really excited about baking something Easter from another country. A little bit of research showed me that during Easter the most traditional food is bread. Every country seems to have it's own Easter bread or buns. In the Netherlands we have the Easter Bread, in America and the UK you've got Hot cross buns and in Italy there's Colomba di Pasqua!


Oh yes, I know the Dutch Easter bread is exactly the same as the Dutch Christmas bread. We use the exact same bread for both occasions! We sometimes variate the topping to fool ourselves (snow-like sugar for Christmas and almonds for Easter). And it's the exact same for the Italians! Have you ever tasted the delicious fluffy Panettone? It's a sweet bread the Italians get to enjoy around Christmas and New Year. Colomba di Pasqua is the Easter version of Panettone. It's the same, but just comes in a different shape and with a different topping.

Colomba di Pasqua
1 large loaf - from MangiaBenePasta

1/2 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon yeast
3/4 cup flour

2 eggs 
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 cups flour
1 cup dried fruits*

1/2 cup almond flour or ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg white
sugar pearls or almonds
powdered sugar

1. Add the yeast to the milk and mix until dissolved.
2. Add the flour and stir. Leave your starter to rise overnight.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest.
4. Add the butter and the starter and mix again.
5. Lastly, mix in the flour and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Add the dried fruits while you are kneading. Then leave to rise for about 2 hours.

6. Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Shape the dough into the shape of a dove (Start by making the wings: one fat cylinder, slightly flattened. Flatten some more in the middle of the wings and put the body on top: one long cylinder. It might look a bit like an uneven cross). Leave to rise for another 45-60 minutes until doubled in size.

7. Grind the almonds if necessary. Add the sugar, cornstarch and eggwhite to the almonds and mix to form a paste.
8. When the dough is done rising, spread the almond-paste over the top of the bread. Sprinkle the almonds or sugar pearls on top. Sift powdered sugar on top. Leave for 5 minutes, then sift more powdered sugar on top. This gives the cracked effect on top of the bread.
9. Put in a preheated oven of 190 Celsius or 370 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. After those 15 minutes reduce the heat to 175 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit and bake for another 20 minutes. Cover the bread in aluminium foil if the top turns too dark before the baking time is over.
10. Leave to cool before serving.

* Recommended and most traditional: candied orange peel and raisins.

Colomba di Pasqua is shaped like a dove
I didn't actually realize this bread was going to be exactly like Panettone until I cut it. Can you imagine my delighted surprise once I cut into what I thought was a bread and found out it was fluffier than a cake? Since it was such a large loaf, I froze half of the Colomba di Pasqua straight away to eat it on actual Easter. The rest of the bread? It was gone in a day! And I wasn't the only one nomming it!

Chocolate Colomba di Pasqua
Not everyone likes almonds or sugar pearls, so sometimes you'll find chocolate versions. For the chocolate version:
- substitute dried fruits for chocolate chips
- leave out the almond paste completely
- Once the bread has cooled cover it with melted chocolate or nutella, zigzag a white chocolate pattern or sprinkle sugar pearls on top (preferably all three).

No, it get's better: I remember trying a Panettone recipe a few years ago and it turned out to be such a disaster I never dared to try again. Now, without knowing I completely nailed a fluffy bread recipe. I suddenly feel like I've grown so much! (Okay, I'll stop my enthusiasm here...)


I really hope you have a lovely Easter! I won't be sharing a lot of Easter traditions with you this year, but I will be sharing two lovely -traditional!- breads to enjoy! I'll be around for a few more years at least, so I'll just have to make sure to enlighten you on how people celebrate Easter next year. Please survive one more Easter without knowing whether the Chinese hide Easter eggs or not!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kimchi - 김치

Ah, I feel like I'm disappointing everyone so much! More than a whole week has gone by again without me posting anything. I haven't been able to reply to comments, update the website or even check out your blogs! And I'm pretty sure this is going to continue for another week or two. I really wish I could find the time for even the tiniest post in between, but with my research coming to an end I really don't have the time. I might not even be able to say anything about Easter traditions! After my work's done though, I swear I will make up for everything!


But between all the business I was able to cook, take a few snapshots and quickly write a post for you! I hope you enjoy this traditional Korean dish! From what I know about Korea, this is something you will find any time anywhere and all over the place. It's kind of like potatoes here, or ketchup. If I were to describe kimchi to you: it's spicy and pickled and 'fermented'. The first one is definitely there and all over the place, you're not able to taste the pickled part due to the spiciness and apart from the fact that you know it has been hanging around for a few days, you wouldn't know it was fermented.

Kimchi
makes 2 large jars

1 Chinese or nappa cabbage
1 cup (roughly 300 grams) salt
10 cups water

optional:
2/3 large carrots or Korean radishes
3 spring onions/shallot
2 onions
4 chilli's

1/4 cup rice flour
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup garlic cloves, chopped
1/8 cup ginger paste or chopped ginger
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 cup Korean red pepper flakes*

1. Wash the cabbage and chop into 5 by 5 cm chunks.
2. Take out a large bowl and sprinkle salt on the bottom. Add a layer of cabbage, sprinkle salt on top, add more cabbage, more salt, etc. until you have several layers of salted cabbage. Gently pour the water down the side (we don't want to wash all the salt to the bottom). Leave it to soak for roughly 3 hours. Give it a good stir somewhere halfway.
3.Chop the onions, carrots, chillis and any other vegetables you might like into thin slices. Put in a bowl and set aside.
4. Make the kimchi paste by putting the rice flour in a pan. Add a little water and dissolve, then add the rest of the water. Put the pan on low to medium heat and keep stirring until it starts to thicken. Leave, while stirring, to thicken until it is as thick as a paste.
5. Take off the heat and add all the other ingredients. Stir until combined.
6. Drain and wash the cabbage and put in a very large bowl. Add everything else and stir until combined.
7. Put the kimchi in airtight containers and leave it outside the fridge for 1-2 days. Afterwards, leave in the fridge. It should officially be left to ferment for around a week, but you can eat it after 2 days (or even immediately).

* or chilli flakes: see comment below this recipe!

* You can make this dish as spicy as you want! If you're really bad with peppers like I am, go for paprika powder. If you love spicy food then add piri piri flakes, hot peppers or anything superspicy you can find. Officially you should go for Korean (coarse) pepper powder or flakes, but not everyone has a Korean supermarket around the corner. Or even knows where to find one in the entire country. I for one really don't!

Since I made this recipe by studying several recipes and pictures and getting inspired all over place, I can't really give credit to one person. But since there are so many recipes that look quite good, I'll just give credit to the lot of them: Maangchi and Maangchi (best recipes I found, with lots of pictures as bonus), CrazyKoreanCooking (uses different fish sauces), EasyKoreanFood (uses pear in stead of sugar), theKitchn (most 'Western' recipe) and this link (no, I cant read it either).

There are quite a lot of kimchi recipes out there and not all of them use cabbage. Quite frankly, there's probably as much types of kimchi as there are fish in the sea, so getting creative, using what you have in your fridge and substituting half the ingredients is almost mandatory. What I do know about kimchi is that 'real' kimchi has a lot more of a fishy taste than my recipe does. I bought a bit of kimchi from an Asian supermarket, but nobody here likes the extremely fishy taste, so I'm glad I didn't use much fish sauce.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy! I'm sorry for not having the time my blog and everyone reading this deserves. I can only hope to make up for it once I'm free again!

Monday, March 31, 2014

From dieting to candy-overdose...

Look! It's another month of Foodie Penpals! Time just keeps on flying! And I get no less nervous and excited about sending and receiving packages.

This time I got to send a package to the lovely lady over at Corpulent Capers. It was my first time sending a Foodie Penpals parcel to someone who didn't want sweets, so I was a bit nervous about how things would go. But turns out she totally loved the (black) Hawaiian salt I sent her! Can I please find a mountain again to scream something along the lines of how awesome I am? I mean: YES! There's no better feeling than sending someone something they like. It's become my monthly dose of self-confidence now!


Then there was a package full of goodies for my monthly dose of calories and foreign food! Christine sent me a parcel full of little things with little notes for me to try. Most of it was gone within a day or two. I mean, look at all that candy! How long would it last for you? I mean, gummy bears are like the best things ever! And I also mean you can never go wrong with caramels that taste like toffee and no words can explain crunchy caramelized almonds in a milka chocolate bar. As in I mean I'd kill to eat that chocolate all over again! (I'm a meaningful person it seems...)


I also got two different types of drinks: a hot and a cold one. I started with the iced tea drink and I was very surprised it worked. I wouldn't have thought putting a teabag in cold water would have much effect. I did put in lots of honey though, as my idea of iced tea has nothing to do with tea. Then, even though the weather is not at all implying we drink hot chocolate anymore, I sneakily had one last night. It's not as chocolaty as home-made hot chocolate, it's very creamy so I was enjoying every sip!


But there was more! These are all things I haven't tried yet though. I can't wait to try the aromas! I wonder if it gives a stronger flavour than the zest and essences I've been using. Oh yes, you can't see on the pictures but I also got a jar of fig jam! I've made quite a few of those last summer, but the one Christine sent me is so much softer than everything I made. I love it! I totally smashed the jar even before I could take a picture of it though. The little bit I managed to save is now sitting in my fridge!

Thank you so much Christine for all the things you sent me this month! And thank you Mrs. from Corpulent Capers for sending me all those lovely e-mails and pictures of socks!! I really enjoyed this month of Foodie Penpals again!

I hope you have a lovely and amazing week!

Anyone in Europe who wants to join this lovely project of sending random bloggers foodie presents? Check this link for more information. I could totally recommend it and I would love to see you there so I can shower you in whatever goodies I can think of!
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