Oct 31, 2014

toasted bread & burrata "salad"

don't you love dinner parties? i think, my thirties are probably the decade of the "dinner parties". and i mean as both, a guest as much as a host. last week, i was definitely the host, though. i had 12 guests over for supper. 7 courses, lots of glasses, dozens of candles, two blue pumpkins, piles upon piles of plates, innumerable hours of work. a chef's life isn't easy - though the returned gratefulness and appreciation sure is lovely. 

after what felt - and actually were - 20 hours on my feet, running around my small and cluttered kitchen, all i wanted to do on sunday was putting my feet up. and, well, if you know me just a little: eat something (that wasn't just a bite of "this and that" while cooking). 

the best thing about a dinner party of those dimensions is, admittedly, the leftovers. but since my brothers is an expert at sourcing these (i still love you, big bro) i was facing a rather empty fridge in the aftermath, nonetheless. so i prepared the fastest yet probably most delicious little dish in no time: this delicious, comfy, warm toasted bread and burrata salad. 

the bread was home made the day before. i suggest you use the same bread, but that's just because i'm really picky about food. as the name suggests, a "bread" salad pretty much depends on the used "bread". the quality and taste of the bread is quintessential. it can be a couple of days old for this dish, sure, as the toasting will bring it back to life, yet again. just make sure it's a really good bread, to begin with. we're talking nice taste, moist, crunchy on the outside, smooth, fragrant. bread perfection. and i'm guaranteeing you won't want to eat your bread any other way, anymore.

toasted bread & burrata "salad"
serves 2
rezept auf deutsch auf si style

1/2 bread (can be a couple of days old), in chunks
2 small or one large burrata
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. olive oil (less would be illusory, really)
3 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
1 rosemary twig
1 tsp. fleur de sel de guérande or another, really good salt
some freshly ground black pepper

cut the bread into large chunks (like you would for a cheese fondue). in a large pan, heat the oil and butter. add the garlic and rosemary - these will give their flavor to the croutons and will be discarded later. fry the bread chunks on medium high heat until evenly golden brown and crispy. this might take a couple of minutes. shake the pan occasionally. season with salt and pepper. in the meantime, drain the burrata and carefully pat it dry with some kitchen paper. carefully remove the ribbon. arrange the bread croutons on a plate and sit the burrate on top. serve immediately, while still warm. 

you can also already tear the burrata apart and serve it with torn apart burrata chunks, this is probably easier to consume. though i quite like the look of the edgy, hill-shaped bread chunks hugged by the round and luscious burrata balls. either way, though, it's creamy, toasty perfection. make sure you add enough salt! 

ps: the beer bread was - inofficially, but even so - awarded "the best bread ever" by one of my guests. this guy even wanted to open a bakery with me as chef beer bread baker. dreamy scenario. add a dog and a house on the countryside and i'm game. life is magnificent.

Oct 28, 2014

apple & gingerbread spice cantucci

i'm a sucker for cookies, and i'm not usually discriminating. in my book, they're all equally welcome. however, i do prefer some specific types of cookies. these cantucci here are among my favorites. not only to make (because they're real quick and almost always turn out well) - but also to eat (obviously). this fall "edition" is particularly lovely. since here in switzerland we don't get pumpkin puree everywhere like most of you probably do, i opted for apple mash instead. just a s juicy, and a nice combination with the gingerbread spices. 

you can make your own gingerbread spice mix - consisting of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger and sometimes also pepper, coriander, cardamom, anise and nutmeg. i used a pre-mixed gingerbread spice mix, since i really liked that one. i assume it has hints of lemon (rind) in it, since it has a fresh note, too. but making your own is pretty simple, too, for those of you who like to experiment. 

apple & gingerbread spice cantucci
recipe inspired by this, as seen on cupcakes and cashmere (i exchanged pumpkin puree with apple sauce, since we don't get pumpkin puree easily here and i was too lazy to make my own)

makes around 30 (smallish) cantucci
rezept auf deutsch auf si style

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. gingerbread spice
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 tbsp. milk

preheat the oven to 180 c / 350 f and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. combine flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. in another bowl, combine eggs, vanilla extract and apple sauce. add this to the flour mix and combine with a spatula (or your hands) until a rather thick dough starts to form. empty the dough out onto a floured work surface, knead a bit and shape 2 longish, thin rolls (like bread loafs), that should be relatively flat (you want slim cantucci rather than rounds). bake the whole loaf for about 22 to 25 minutes, or until the log is baked through and firm. remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. then cut thin slices (pinkie width). put them back on the baking sheet. reduce the heat of the oven to 150 c / 300 f and bake for a further 15 to  20 minutes. let cool. 

make the icing: combine the sugar with a little bit of milk and stir to combine. the icing should be rather thick. pour the icing into a small plastic bag, then cut off one edge to create a tiny hole. ideal piping bag! decorate the cantucci with a zig-zag pattern (aka lines). let dry, then store in an airtight container. 

small excursus: i'm well aware that these cookies are called "biscotti" - and not cantucci - in the us and probably elsewhere, too. however, "biscotti" is the generic category description for "cookies". it simply means "cookies" in italian. the term "biscotto" comes from "bi scotto" which translates to "twice baked". which makes sense for these cantucci here, since they are actually really twice baked. but ordering a "biscotto" in italy will not bring you that much further, because they will likely ask you "which one?". there are thousands of great italian biscotti - namely "brutti ma buoni", "amaretti" or these here "cantucci". the original "cantuccio", or "cantuccino" has nuts in it, though. this recipe is wonderful without. ideal to accompany a "ristretto" or "doppio". tea as well, of course (in my case always tea, please).

fun fact: the italians do not actually have a word for "baking". isn't that funny? instead, they simply call it "cuocere al forno", which translates to "cooked in the oven". or "bi scotto", so to say. which brings us back to the start. and, well, it always ends with cookies. 

Oct 24, 2014

no knead dutch oven bread

my love of bread is... infinite. bread, butter and salt are basically my essentials. pretty much anything good can happen on a day that starts with good, rustic, home made bread smeared with butter and sprinkled with a little salt. 

now, it's not entirely easy to make such heavenly bread. or at least it's super time consuming. that's where this no knead bread comes in: it's made in a dutch oven, which makes it super crispy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside. it smells very intensely of bread (what should actually be plain obvious, but still is somehow remarkable) - which is thanks to the added beer. in other words: i think this should be your next weekend project. because it's a bread you don't need to be afraid of. no worries! dust off your dutch oven and start baking!

oh, and then, should there be any crumbs left at all (and i'm deliberately implying this will probably be hard, ahem), then make a crispy bread caprese! basically just fry chunks of bread in a lot of oil and butter, then sit a (couple of) burrata on top and serve while still warm. the creamy burrata and the crispy, warm bread will show you there is really not much more that you need than bread. and butter.

happy weekend, loves! 

no knead dutch oven bread
recipe adapted hundredfold from ny times - or actually thanks to mr. p for pointing it out to me
rezept auf deutsch auf si style

you will need: 8-20 hours (rising time) and a dutch oven with a lid

800 g flour - wheat, spelt, rye, whole or a combination... i used half spelt half white
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp. salt
10 g fresh yeast 
400 ml warm water
250 ml beer
more flour for dusting
oats, optional

put the flour(s) and salt in a large bowl and combine. prepare the warm water, and use a couple of tablespoons full of it in a separate bowl, to dissolve the yeast together with the sugar. let the yeast sit until it forms bubbles. combine the beer and the rest of the water. pour the beer-water and the yeast-mix into the flour bowl. combine everything well, no kneading required. the dough will be very moist and sticky, but don't worry. cover with cling film and let rise at a warm place for 12 to 18 hours (the longer, the better). 

when ready, preheat the oven to 200 c / 400 f. also preheat the dutch oven - without the lid - in the oven for at last ten minutes or longer. dust your work surface liberally with flour, pour the dough onto it. fold it together from top and bottom and from both sides, turn around and dust with flour. remove the dutch oven from the oven and let the bread slide into the pan immediately. no need to dust the dutch oven, it won't stick, promise! cover with the lid and bake for 50 minutes total (or longer, maybe, depending on your pan and on your oven). your bread will be ready when it has a crispy top, slightly lifts from the sides and is of a medium brown color. 

notes: after 30 minutes, i removed the lid, to make the bread extra crispy and give it a deeper color. remove and let cool in the pan, then serve with warm bread and a sprinkle of very good salt (like fleur de sel de guérande by reflet de france).

Oct 21, 2014

white chocolate & coconut truffles

the approaching season is by far my favorite... i love the holidays, i love christmas season. my mom and i would start weeks - if not months - ahead with the dreaming up and planning of our menu and the decoration. my mom usually went full out - on pretty much every aspect of the event. the food was always insane. and what i'll always keep in fond memories is the chocolate truffles she would make for dessert (or second dessert or to go with the coffee, really). it meant she would go to schwarzenbach and come back with jars full of fancy little ingredients; like tonka bean and amarena cherries and a decadent black sugar and lush vanilla beans and stuff. all of this potion like prepping and the charming end results that melted and exploded on your tongue caused me to forever think of her as some sort of willy wonka (and if you know me that much, then you know that charlie and the chocolate factory is my favorite book, ever. well, maybe straight after harry potter, that is).

my own attempts at creating truffles go back to these passion fruit chocolates that were surprisingly tangy - in the best way possible. these more classic ones were very good, too. yet, i'll definitely have to up my truffles game for christmas should i ever want to be able to compete with my mom.

white chocolate & coconut truffles
rezept auf deutsch auf si style

150 g white chocolate
1/2 cup mascarpone, room temperature
100 g desiccated coconut flakes (fine, meal-like ones)
1 tbsp. zest of organic orange, grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the decoration:
200 g black chocolate
50 g white chocolate
a little fleur de sel

melt the white chocolate in a small pan on the lowest heat possible and with a lot of patience. if you're not the patient kind, think about using a bain marie, instead. put aside for a minute to cool. then add mascarpone, coconut flakes, orange and vanilla and combine well. cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. then, shape with a melon baller or by hand into small balls. spread them on a work surface lined with baking sheet. melt the dark chocolate (see note above), pour melted chocolate in a tiny bowl and, using two forks, coat each white chocolate truffle in the melted dark chocolate. place back onto the baking sheet. proceed, then refrigerate the truffles again for about 30 minutes. then, melt the remaining white chocolate, pour it into a ziplock bag and cut off one edge (tiny, tiny hole). through this hole, you can now make some sort of pattern onto the truffles, by making lines, horizontally and vertically. let's be honest: i just used a little spoon for this, not the ziplock bag (i like to say it's because i prefer imperfection, ahem). keep cool until used.

Oct 17, 2014

pink spaghetti with beetroot pesto

these days, the weather is acting a bit crazy... beautiful red sunrises, with a sudden and harsh turn to wind and pouring rain in the morning, to scorching late summer like warmth in the afternoon and a brisk and cloudy chill in the evening. fall weather. 

with the fall weather, i've started to incorporate heavy, comforting and warm foods. like soups and braises and stews and, of course, cheese-stuff (have made 5 fondues and 3 raclettes so far, or something around those figures, anyway). but also, i'm craving color. with pumpkins, that's not too hard. and only yesterday a friend of mine told me i looked like one myself. well, i hope she meant the coat's color (which is admittedly very pumpkin-esque, a very bright orange) - and not my shape, ahem. foodwise, these pink (wow!) beetroot spaghetti were a winner, for sure. and also the taste was surprisingly convincing: earthy with a bit of sweetness and a distinct tang (coming from my beloved, favorite ingredient: the lemon). make it for yourself, then bring it to work the next day

pink spaghetti with beetroot pesto
rezept auf deutsch auf si style

2 beets, cooked and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
50 g pecorino cheese, grated
ca. 15 almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil + more for the spaghetti
1/2 lemon, juice
ca. 1 tsp. maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a little bit of the spaghetti cooking water

300 g spaghetti
2 tbsp. ricotta
some mint leaves

if you're a gwyneth - aka nitty-gritty and super health-conscious to the verge of being slightly pathetic - you're likely to want to boil your own beetroots. then i won't stand in your way. should you be a more laid-back version of a homecook, then the pre-cooked beets are just the thing for you (and me). i did use pre-cooked ones. and it was just fine. so quick!

so, cook the spaghetti al dente in enough salted water. drain, and keep some of the cooking water. coat with enough olive oil so they won't stick together.

in the meantime, prepare the pesto: combine the beets, garlic, almonds, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice in the (tall) bowl of a blender. add 2-3 tablespoons of the cooking water, this will make things more smooth and you will need less oil. pulse thoroughly until the pesto has a smooth consistency. season with salt and pepper. 

before serving, toss and turn the pasta well with the pesto - about 1-2 tablespoons needed per person -  to coat them well. everything needs to look pink, that's why. add a dollop of ricotta on top, for extra creaminess and depth. sprinkle with mint leaves and serve. 

the pesto can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. just use it like you would any other pesto: added to the pasta just like that, without warming or anything.

Oct 14, 2014

snickerdoodle cookies

if you know me a little, then you probably know that i've got quite the excessive hobby. namely turning ingredients into yummy, mouthwatering cakes, cookies, breads, salads, soups and whatnot. it's pretty time consuming.

but, the day has 24 hours. so i've recently taken up crocheting, too. crocheting, guys! basically the uncool little sister of sewing. i was wildly determined to make some headbands (note the plural... i'm always euphoric like that), also to give to my girlfriends for christmas. i actually went and bought wool, like, on the same day i had the idea. the wool was super fluffy and chunky and girly and cute. and hippie-like, my honey would say. and though i'm still not 100% sure that that's a good thing (in his eyes), then at least i was pretty sure that this wool would look super cute turned into a headband. and off i went, crocheting on a train. like a maniac old lady.

now you want to know how it turned out... my first attempt at a headband. well, firstly: i was super fast! the first headband was finished in under 2 hours (chunky wool and all). and it was... kind of fun? you know, as activities to do on a train ride that make you look 50+ years go, i'd say it's pretty far up the list of fun things. but, okay here's the thing: you (or anybody, really) would not want to wear it. because it's really kinda ugly. not to say super ugly.

now, my crocheting lessons are maybe 25 years back (this makes me sound even older, plus the crocheting fact, but whatevs, i'm an old soul, i knew that all along), so i couldn't really tell what made my nice wool turn into... this. my dreams of headband wearing little me on the powdery, wintery slopes, skiing, turned to dust. dust.

i may have started a second attempt at heandbanding. but i'm only telling once it turned out good. there you have it.

far more than crocheting, anyway, is sunday reading... now that's something i'm pro at! i've read the rosie project a while back and it made me laugh out loud all the time. and now! the sequel: the rosie effect. it looks just as promising than the one before (from where i stand - on page 20 or so).

confession (as if the crocheting wasn't enough of a disgrace in itself, already): i don't really know what snickerdoodle cookies are. or at least i never ate one. yet, i've made them, on sunday. and they turned out... well, cinnamony, and rather sweet. but i guess that's their nature. and we love all creatures, don't we?

snickerdoodle cookies
recipe adapted from "zucker, zimt und liebe" by virginia horstmann 
makes about 20 - 24 cookies
in deutsch auf si style

140 g sugar
120 g brown sugar
120 g soft butter
1 egg
200 g flour
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
more sugar and cinnamon to coat the cookie balls in (about 70 g sugar and 1 tbsp. cinnamon)

first, be sure the butter is really soft... remember to remove it from the fridge early enough. preheat the oven to 200 c / 400 f on top and bottom heat and line a baking sheet with parchment (don't all good things start with that?). in a bowl (of a standmixer) cream together the butter with the sugar. then add the egg and mix some more. in another bowl, prepare the flour with the salt, baking soda and cinnamon. add to the butter mix and combine until a firm dough forms. shape into walnut sized balls and place - with considerable distance between each other - on the baking sheet. coat in the sugar and cinnamon mix and bake for 8 minutes. let cool entirely before you remove them from the sheet as they are still very soft when warm. serve with milk (or soy milk, but you get it).

a little excursus on making cookies (i.e. the perfect spreading): i never know what to do with cookie dough (apart from consuming indecent amounts straight from the bowl and then licking the bowl) pre-baking: should i chill it in the fridge for a while? should i make balls and bake them as balls? or flatten them pre-baking? the thing about cookies is: you want them to spread nicely, i.e. not as balls but not as paper-thin slices, either. and if you chill the dough pre-baking, that considerably alter the appearance of the cookies after baking. because a cool butter melts less quickly, and thus spreads less. whereas an already warm butter spreads more quickly and considerably. i've messed up a couple of cookie dough batches in my life because i wasn't sure what to do. big confusion. so here - being the clever me - i tried all varieties: unchilled shaped into balls, unchilled shaped into balls then slightly flattened into disks and chilled as balls. i can't say any of the varieties turned out exactly the way i wanted them to (in terms of spreading / height). but it turns out the method virginia recommends here is actually really the best. namely: do not chill dough, shape into walnut sized balls, no flattening required, then bake.