Monday, August 26, 2013


Now we've got the biscuits, we still need a recipe for the actual tiramisu. So here it is! I can't say this is the traditional recipe, but its the most delicious tiramisu recipe of them all, so no complaining!

Making tiramisu comes in 3 steps: making the coffee, making the mascarpone and assembling. I know I say this with almost every recipe I post: but this is easy. It's a whole lot easier and faster than some other recipes of tiramisu I've come across. Because unlike most recipes, this one doesn't require any raw eggs and skills on how to pasteurize and beat them until fluffy. This one just requires an appetite.

Fills a 20x20cm pan with 4 layers - adapted from 'Basic Italian'

400 ml (strong) coffee 
2 tablespoons Amaretto or other Italian liquor
500 grams mascarpone
1 lemon 
50 ml milk
80 grams sugar
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
Savoiardi (ladyfingers) *
cacao powder

1. Start by making the coffee and let it cool down on the counter. Once it has cooled down, add the liquor
2. While the coffee is cooling, zest the lemon. Add the zest and one tablespoon lemon juice to the mascarpone in a bowl. Add the milk and sugars to the bowl as well and beat until evenly mixed. Cover and store in the fridge until you need it.
3. Find an oven dish to assemble the tiramisu in. Dip a savoiardi in the coffee for a few seconds until it has soaked up some of the coffee. Place it in the oven dish. Continue this step, biscuit by biscuit, until you have covered the bottom. Tougher, or store-bought, biscuits might need a longer soaking time.
4. Once the bottom of the oven dish is filled with savoiardi, take the mascarpone out of the fridge and evenly spread half of it onto the biscuits.
5. Then its time for the next layer of savoiardi: soak them one by one and line them up on top of the mascarpone. And finally finish with the last layer of mascarpone.
6. Place in the fridge before serving. For the best results leave everything to soak in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving.
7. Right before cutting and serving the tiramisu, top with cocoa powder.

* The amount will depend on the size of your savoiardi, how many layers you want and millions of other things I could come up with, but around 200 grams of the store-bought size would be enough or twice this recipe of savoiardi.

Since I'm always very curious to the origins of recipe I tried to find the original tiramisu recipe. Appearantly no one has any clue at all. A lot of recipes I found with 'traditional' or 'classic' in them, appear to be American variations. I've read so much stuff on tiramisu now that I could share but can't confirm any of the sites credibility. So I can't tell you what is true about the history of tiramisu, but what I can say is that no one really knows. Everyone talks about legends and theories but one website said this: "It is best to try all tiramisu!!!" With three exclamation marks you know this has to be true.


Chocolate: Add shaved chocolate onto each layer for an even more chocolaty flavour!
Non-alcoholic: You can opt for omitting the alcohol from the recipe. A flavouring in the coffee such as almond or vanilla will give the tiramisu an extra dimension to compensate!
Extra alcohol:  Add an extra spoon or two of liquor to the mascarpone.
Without coffee: Okay, we're cheating now, but if you want your kids to enjoy this as well without giving them the proper 'pick-me-up' or if you just don't like coffee: try chocolate milk.
Extra coffee: Just to compensate for what I said above: use a strong espresso rather than a normal coffee. This would be the proper way to make tiramisu! You can also go for a flavoured coffee or even add a few spoons to the mascarpone!

After I realized 'Tiramisu' means 'pick-me-up' in Italian I've been singing 'Pick me up before you go go' everryyy time I thought of this recipe. It took me a few days and cheating on Google to figure out the actual lyrics are 'Wake me up before you go go'. This didn't make my own version go away at all...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Savoiardi (ladyfingers)

Nothing can beat 100% Home-made Goodies. Something made all by yourself with lots of love is always better than anything any store can sell! Well, if you don't burn your cake or destroy your batter or mistake salt for sugar and that sort of thing. Seriously, I mean even making things yourself with pre-made ingredients is great. But making those ingredients yourself just doubles the love you can put in the dish: think of making bread pudding with home made bread, or pizza with home made pizza dough or croissants with your own puff pastry. Or: think of tiramisu with home made savoiardi biscuits.

Yes. That's exactly what we're going to do.

Come to think of it, I love how the pictures came out: dark, full of contrast and ominous, which seems a bit contradictory as these biscuits are light, soft and fluffy. Whatever made me come up with a setting like this?

Savoiardi biscuits (Ladyfingers)
makes 16-24 biscuits - adapted from mylittleitaliankitchen and Teenie Cakes

3 eggs
100 grams sugar
110 grams (cake) flour
icing sugar

1. Start by seperating the eggs and putting them into seperate bowls. Use a large bowl for the egg whites.
2. Whisk the egg whites until foamy and stiff. Use the lowest speed on your mixer to create smaller but stronger bubbles, so your batter won't collapse later on.
3. Gradually add the sugar to the egg whites while you continue to beat. Stop when the eggs are light, fluffy and the sort of stiff where the peaks will still fall back gently. It will resemble a meringue batter.
4. Beat the egg yolks until they start to foam and fold those into the egg whites. Sift the flour over the eggs and very gently fold those in as well until the flour is just incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into a piping bag and pipe lines the length of a ladies finger onto a baking sheet.
6. Sift a generous amount of icing sugar over the biscuits. Leave them for 5 minutes.
7. Sift another generous amount of icing sugar over the biscuits. This process will give the savoiardi biscuits that crunchy crust and that cracked look. Pop them into a preheated oven of 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit directly after and bake for about 10-12 minutes. As soon as the biscuits have a creamy colour and a skewer comes out clean they are done.
8. Take them out of the oven directly and place them on a cooling rack to cool down. Once cooled keep them in an airtight bag or tin.

There you have it. If you know how to make a meringue batter, you can do this as well. It's practically the same. I was quite surprised by how easy this was and how very few ingredients I needed. Which is a good thing really, because I wouldn't want to spend a few hours extra just for a more lovable tiramisu. These biscuits are done in about 30 minutes so you can make them quickly in between while you leave the ingredients for the tiramisu to soak or cool down.

Oh, I can't wait to share the tiramisu with you! I won't believe anyone who says it's not in their top 10 of most delicious deserts ever! (Visit my Facebook or Flickr for a sneak peak at the pictures!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

From Brussels: Pain à la Grecque

Vacation is over! After a three busy days in Brussels I was already back at home. It means I had to miss last weeks post like I noted on Facebook. But no worries: I brought a new recipe back from Brussels! It's a sort of sugar bread called Pain à la Grecque. The bread has nothing to do with Greece as Maison Dandoy explains on a note in front of their shop:

I really hope you can read it (click the picture to enlarge it!), but basically the word Grecque comes from the Dutch word 'Gracht', which is the name for canals through the city. When more and more French came to the city of Brussels the word 'Gracht' was poorly "translated" into 'Grecque'. With 'Pain' being the French word for bread, Pain à la Grecque translates to Bread of the Canals.

Funnily enough, I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any canals during my stay. Perhaps a river which I'd definitely call a river and not a canal. Also, all the recipes I found online claim it is a cookie even though the word 'pain' suggests this is a bread. I'm going to go with a version that looks a lot more like bread and a lot more like the Pain à la Grecque on the picture.

Pain à la Grecque
12-16 servings - adapted from Un Déjeuner de Soleil

250 grams flour
40 grams (fine/caster) sugar
5 grams instant yeast   
150 ml milk
60 grams salted butter*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
100-150 grams sugar pearl**

1. Sift the flour with the yeast and the sugar.
2. Heat the milk in a small pan on low heat until it is slightly warm to the touch. Be careful not to let the milk turn too hot as it will destroy the yeast.
3. Add the milk to the dry ingredients and knead until you have an even dough.
4. Knead the butter into the dough in 4 additions. As soon as you add the butter the dough will become an impossible sticky bunch, but as you continue to knead it all comes together to a lovely wet but no longer impossibly sticky dough. So try not to add flour but continue to knead!
5. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1,5 hour till doubled in size.
6. Once the dough has risen knead the dough again to punch back the largest air bubbles. Fold in half of the sugar pearls.
7. Roll the dough into a tube shape and then flatten the dough with a rolling pin until about half a finger/a finger's thickness. You'll have one massive and possibly rectangular flat bread. Top with the remaining sugar pearls and roll or press those in firmly.
8. Place the bread on an oven tray, cover and leave to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
9. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the Pain à la Grecque in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes until brown and caramelized.
10. Cut into 12-16 serving-sized pieces once it has cooled down a bit and serve with lunch or tea!

* I still swear by using salted butter, but if you prefer to use unsalted butter add 1 teaspoon salt to the dry ingredients in the first step.
** I had the luck of finding sugar pearls at a windmill near my home, but if you don't have any you can crush sugar cubes into smaller pieces. Make sure to weigh and use only the chunks!

And there you have it: a traditional Brussels recipe!  The cinnamon and sugar makes me think of the Dutch sugar bread. I haven't been able to figure out if they're related.

Now back to Brussels! It's an amazingly busy, historic and quite lovely city. While walking through the city center you will notice that every 10 meters there is a bonbon shop, every 20 meters there is a shop with beer and every step you're bombarded with tourism. The whole city will speak French, but everything is translated into Dutch and the language you'll hear the most is probably English.

Although the city has a lot of lovely architecture, with hints of art nouveau, I was of course most interested in the food. I was hugely disappointed on that part though: bonbon's just aren't my thing. I don't like the alcohol and praline just doesn't do it for me. The next sort of food the city is overflowing with is beer. I don't drink alcohol. So then there's another sort of food that stood out: mussels. During dinner at a restaurant my sister described them as 'salty slimy goo' and as someone who doesn't like seafood to begin with, I politely passed. That leaves two Brussels dishes that could never disappoint: Belgium fries and waffles.

I really enjoyed my stay in Brussels: I got to see loads of new things and would definitely go again on any days but Sunday (when the shops are closed) and Monday (when all the musea are closed) and when they have everything on sale (I don't ever want to see a tiny box of cookies for 40 euro's again no matter how traditional or authentic).

On last thing I have to add: Thanks a millions grandma for letting me use your tin tableware! It is beautiful and next time I'm definitely going to bring more food to photograph and increase my skills while I'm at it. I can't explain how much I love the tin tableware, the contrast that they lend so perfectly for and the old and slightly dark feeling they give to pictures.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Mysteries of Milk

After sugar and salt it was a bit of a struggle to decide what to learn about next. Before I knew it I was tangled in a whole range of dairy products with all their unique effects. In the end I slapped myself to focus on milk. It's quite hard to explain the effects of milk without also explaining the use of other dairy products, but I will do my best to stay focused!

One thing about milk you might already know: it makes cakes and breads fluffy. I always use a few spoons milk in cake batters or add a few spoons milk powder to breads for that very reason. It's my little miracle ingredient. But milk doesn't only make cakes soft. Milk affects the taste, colour and texture of baked goods, but doesn't stop at that!

Taste & Colour
Not surprisingly, milk has an effect on the taste of baked goods. Especially when using flavoured milks or buttermilk you will notice this difference. Milk also encourages the browning of cakes and breads. It produces that creamy coloured crumb and the lovely golden crust. A glaze milk gives buns a soft and golden shine. As you know sugar affects the browning process by caramelizing and thus giving baked goods a brown colour. The natural sugars in milk, lactose, do exactly the same. However, milk as opposed to sugar rarely results in a burnt crust.

Besides lactose milk also contains proteins. Proteins and lactose affect the texture of baked goods. Proteins in milk help form the structure of a cake. They reinforce the formation of gluten and stabilize emulsions. At the same time the lactose, like sugar, inhibits this effect. Lactose binds itself to the flour proteins and thereby hinders the gluten formation. In other words milk is considered a 'strengthener' of baked goods, giving it structure and enhancing the crumb. Yet at the same time it keeps the texture of the crumb moist and fluffy and the crust tender. For this reason you will notice that milk is used in cakes and sweet bakes, while we use water in breads or savory loaf.

We're not finshed
Milk doesn't stop at that. It hydrates and emulsifies the ingredients by dissolving the the individual ingredients into the batter. Milk provides food for the leavening agents. It gives cakes and breads a longer shelf life and the fat in milk prevents burning. Finally, milk contributes in nutrients as proteins and lactose aren't the only components of milk. Milk also contains vitamins, minerals and fats that are essential to our diets. About 87% of milk is water: another essential ingredients for our bodies.

What milk to use? 
There are a lot of different types of milk, ranging from fat-percentage to taste to the process with which it was made. Different types of milk include non-fat milk, skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk, full/whole milk, raw milk, milk with additives such as nutrients or flavours, Long-life/UHT milk, buttermilk, drink-yogurt and kefir. Most of these are also available from animals other than cows such as goats, sheep or horses. Milk can also come from nuts or plants: think of soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk or rice milk. All these milks can be used interchangably, but will have slightly different effect on the end results. For instance, milks with more fat will burns less easily and buttermilk will give an even more moist texture to baked goods while almond or rice milk will result in a less fluffy and golden loaf. For most baked goods you will want to go for a fresh whole milk. Fresh milk can be replaced with milk powder, which will turn out to be an even better option when you have a long rising time for breads or if you need your batter to set as powdered milk doesn't deteriorate.

That leaves us the question: can we go wrong with too much or too little milk? However the answer to this question has little to do with the actual properties of milk, rather than the consistency of the dough. Too little liquids will result in hard rocks of flour and too much liquids will result in a goo that will never turn solid in any oven. Still, adding a bit of milk to cake batter or bread doughs can go a long way in making your end product softer and fluffier. Don't forget it also enhances the taste, colour, shelf-life and nutritional value!

My References:
Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter 
Vol of halfvol? by Wilma van Hoeven
Livestrong - What does milk do in baking?
baking911 - How baking works
Culinate - Kitchen Chemistry
The Dairy Council - Varieties of Milk