Mar 3, 2015

sticky date cake with toffee sauce & thank yous

one of the first food blogs i've ever read, years back (probably almost a decade by now?) was heidi swansons (by now classic) blog "101 cookbooks". i still remember how i felt humbled, awed and like something "clicked" when i found it. i felt oddly connected to heidi, who, in my eyes, was a hero already at the time. besides, my own cookbook collection ranges in the high two-digits veering towards 101, too, so there was this connection as well. needless to say, i read her blog religiously every day (and still to this date do).

a few cookbooks in my collection later, and i'm a food blogger myself. for over 5 years, i've been cooking and baking up a storm, creating a mess in my kitchen (and, frankly, all over the place, ahem) and learning the odds and ends of my camera's functions. from what started out as something more like a personal diary no one but my mom was interested in, this space here has become my second home and family, with a solid follower base that makes me feel appreciated and like all the work is actually "worth" it. 

of course, there were times when i didn't feel like blogging, let alone cooking. times when i didn't even have time to make the dishes, next to my official job. times where everything i cooked or baked looked dull and uninspired. times when i didn't feel like eating my own food because i was so fed up with it. so where did i get the energy to keep going?

it was you. it was you cheering me on as i went. it was you reviewing my vanilla dream cake and commenting on my latest smoothie. it was you venturing with me into this blogger universe, becoming part of a community and family. it was you who made my day when sugar alone wouldn't do. 

so i'm thanking you today for bearing with me, believing in me and cheering me on, constantly. you might, at times, think your feedback goes unnoticed, and that i don't recognize your efforts. but i do. i recognize both every comment and every like, and i'm always thrilled to hear your voice. thank you infinitely. thank you for giving me the power and the passion. thank you for your voice that's cheering me on. thank you for believing in fork and flower. thank you for making room 

so if you like, i'd love for you to nominate fork and flower over on saveur's for the food blog award 2015. so that we can kick ass and take this baby to the next level, together. let's see where we're headed with fork and flower. the possibilities are endless, and today, they feel like they're seizable.

now, enough with the brabble and on to that sticky date cake! 

sticky date cake with toffee sauce
recipe adapted from the book "sunday suppers" by karen mortdecai

yields 1 square pan (about 10 inches / 24 cm)

ingredients for the cake:
275 g dates, pitted and finely chopped
2 1/4 cups water, boiling
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
115 g butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour
1 pinch salt
a little coconut oil for greasing the pan

directions for the toffee sauce:
100 g butter 
3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
whipped cream with cinnamon for serving

preheat the oven to 180 c / 350 f and grease a square pan (10 inches / 24 cm) with a little coconut oil. finely chop the dates, then soak in the boiling water. add the baking soda and let sit for 30 minutes for the dates to soak up the water. then puree the dates in a food processor or blender until very smooth. 

in another bowl combine the melted butter, both sugars and the eggs. stir to combine. add the date puree, then sieve in the flour and salt. pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. after which the cake will still be sticky, so the inserted needle will likely still be sticky, too. that's okay. 

while the cake is baking, make the toffee sauce. put all the ingredients together in a pan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir continuosly for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens and turns into a dark toffee shade.

serve the cake warm, with a drizzle of the warm toffee sauce and some whipped cream with cinnamon, if you like. 

Feb 27, 2015

rye crispbread sticks

were i to host a party - which, at the moment, won't be happening, as i'm super busy* from day to night and am happy i find enough time to wash my undies, frankly (ahem) - i'd probably make a healthy kick scandi inspired party. something featuring this insane rye crispbread. maybe a crispbread bar with lots of different healthy toppings, like greek yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, watercress, sprouts, tomatoes, herbs, carrot ribbons, cucumber slices, cheese, smoked salmon and roast turkey breast... i'm beginning to drool as i speak, really.

* the "being busy" part is due to a couple of exciting new projects, that i'm revealing shortly. luckily, i'll get to share the results with you here, when the time is right. for now, though, please excuse the lack of "tons of pictures", as i'm really rather focused on getting my deadlines done. bare with me, it will be worth it *smile*. xxx

healthy rye crispbread sticks

recipe inspired by the current issue of Essen & Trinken

200 g rye whole meal flour
80 g wheat whole meal flour
2 tsp. dried yeast
40 g butter
80 ml buttermilk
80 ml water
2 tsp. salt

combine flours, yeast and salt in a bowl and combine. melt butter and add buttermilk and water, let cool before adding to the flour. knead for 10 minutes (either with your stand mixer with the dough hook attached or by hand) until the dough is smooth. cover and let sit for 1 hour. flour your work surface and roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. transfer it to the baking sheet lined with parchment. pierce with a fork, then cut into stripes with a pizza roller. bake at 200 c / 420 f for 15 minutes, then turn the bread and bake for another 5 minutes. let cool and break into sticks along the cuts.

Feb 26, 2015

brown butter choc chip cookies

i'm still - and might be forever so - on the hunt for the perfect cookie. one that's slightly chewy and soft, not too sweet, not too thin, with a nice, buttery flavor. i'm still not sure if the lack of the perfect home made cookie in my life is due to my lack in cookie baking skills (might be, in all honesty) or due to the actual lack of the perfect recipe. either way, i miss a good chocolate chip cookie, from time to time. these are probably my favorite so far, closely followed by these - but they're both based on white chocolate. different story.

the one positive thing about the hunt is, that i'm forever and always on the lookout and open to new cookie recipes and secrets. here's another one i tried along the way. and though it's not the perfect cookie (for me), it's still worth sharing.

brown butter cookies
recipe adapted from tutti dolci (where they looked more than mouthwatering)

yields about 18 cookies

1/2 cup / 2 sticks / 125 g of butter
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
3/4 cups dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 100 g dark lindt chocolate chips (cubed)

for garnish: 
1/4 cup / 50 g dark lindt chocolate chips (cubed)
sea salt

melt the butter in a pan and slowly let it turn brown. pour into a little bowl and let come to room temperature and let solidify, for about 1-2 hours.

in a bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, corn starch, baking soda and salt. cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla. sieve in the flower mix bit by bit and combine until homogenous. fold in the chocolate chips. refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

after that, remove the dough from the fridge and let come to room temperature, letting it stand for 30 minutes or so. don't panic if the dough looks reeeeally hard - it will eventually be shapeable. preheat the oven to 180 c / 350 f and line a baking sheet with parchment. shape into little balls, flatten a little and press in a couple of chocolate chips. sprinkle with a little sea salt. bake for 8 to 10 minutes. let cool and store in an airtight container.

Feb 21, 2015

roasted peppers mashed potatoes

i'm not the biggest fan of mash - though my better half definitely is. he likes everything mashed or pureed, from potato mash to celery mash and pumpkin and everything in between. so, occasionally, i'll venture into mash land, and this particular time, we came up with a fantastic combination, that even won me over. mash can not possibly get any better. the creamy potatoes are married with the smokey, spicy peppers, and suddenly, you've got an middle eastern inspired, lush vegetarian dish, that's anything but boring (inspite of the missing meat). vegetarian how i like it.

roasted pepper mashed potatoes
a new favorite

3-4 large floury potatoes, peeled and in large pieces
1/2 l milk
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp. butter
nutmeg, salt, pepper

2 red peppers, in fourth and deseeded
1 green, longish pepper (from the turkish shop), in fourth and deseeded
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50 g black olives, finely chopped
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. paprika flakes (spicy)
1/2 tsp. tomato puree
1/2 tsp. maldon sea salt
parsley for garnish

cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and put back in the pan. let them sit there to evaporate, without the lid covered. heat milk in a separate pan, add garlic, salt, pepper and musk. when hot, stir in the butter. now either put the potatoes into the hot milk and mash with a potato masher or work through a passe-vite. stir well to combine, the mash should be fluffy. adjust seasoning with nutmeg, salt and pepper and keep warm.

in the meantime, prepare the smokey peppers. quarter and deseed them and bake - skin sides up - on a baking sheet lined with parchment at maximum top heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skin is black and blisters. remove from oven and cover the peppers with a humid kitchen towel. let cool a litle, then remove the skin from the peppers. finely cut them. 

heat butter and olive oil in a pan. sweat the garlic in it, then add the chopped, roasted peppers, olives and finely chopped parsley. add the tomato puree (for a litle red kick) and the pepper flakes. the butter should now be red, hot and spicy and smell smokey and divine! season with salt and pepper. 

to serve, combine the potato mash with the pepper mix, garnish with a parsley leaf and serve immediately. 

Feb 17, 2015

oat lace cookies & maca almond milk hot chocolate

today, it's healthy desserts day again. because i'm knee-deep into this very interesting and fun project, where i get to research - and cook up - what feels like a hundred healthy dishes. ask me anything about superfoods - chances are, i'll come up with a wikipedia-worthy reply in a whiff! still lazy as fuck on some days, i admit, but when dessert is healthy, tasty and fast - like this one here - i'd say a recipe is a winner, huh?

oat lace cookies & maca almond milk hot chocolate

250 g oats, rolled
250 g butter, melted
200 g sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 egg
1 egg yolk

combine the oats with the melted butter, sugar and honey in a bowl. cover and let sit overnight (or at least for a couple of hours) at room temperature. add the eggs and stir to combine with a handmixer. ladle about 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet line with parchment. bake at 200 c / 400 for 3-4 minutes or until golden and crispy. let cool completely before removing from the pan. store on a plate and not in a tin or tupper wear, as the cookies might turn mushy. 

Feb 13, 2015

veggie wonton miso soup

i made my own soup before i even knew how to spell it. at my montessory kindergarten, there was a proper oven and stove, one that really worked and heated up nicely. i was totally fond of the thing and volunteered in making soup for all of the kids, on every occasion.

some 30 (cough) years later, i still like making (and slurping) soups. when i know i should incorporate something healthy, for example, i'm always relying on soups to do the trick. you can pack in as many nutrient rich greens and vegs as you want and it will still taste hearty, without being to heavy. 

granted, my knowledge about the asian cuisine is pretty superficial. yet, i find it pretty intuitive to combine things (while i'm sure that's probably not "comme il faut"...). so i combine wontons in a miso broth, naturally, making it a chinese-japanese fusion (of sorts). as is my tea china. ahem. it's probably the same as comparing switzerland to sweden (we've been there) but hey, at least they're both in europe, right?

when it comes to folding your dumplins correctly, i admit i'm a sucker for online tutorials. there are so many and you can get lost in the 1001 ways to fold a dumpling! it's a pretty nerdy pastime, but then again, a passion i'm forever proud of. serving up a home made bowl of goodness with neatly folded dumplings - surely, nothings beats that?

veggie wonton miso soup
serves two

ingredients for the wontons:
1 pack gyoza or wonton skins - from the asian shop
300 g organic shiitake, chopped
300 g baby spinach leafs, washed
1 piece (2 cm) ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sriracha hot sauce or other chili sauce

ingredients for the miso soup:
1 liter vegetable broth and/or miso broth (i used a combination of both)
1 large piece ginger, peeled and julienned
3-5 (depending on size) dried shiitake
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 bok choi
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 (asian) spring onions, finely sliced

sriracha hot sauce, chili powder, soy sauce, sesame, vinegar and other condiments - to taste
other additions, like ramen noodles, extra shiitake, carrots (julienned), spinach leaves or snap peas

for the dumplings, defrost the wonton or gyoza skins. for the filling prepare the spinach first. wash the leaves, pick over and put in a bowl. pour over boiling water (from the tea pot) and let wilt for 1-2 minutes. drain, squeeze out to remove any excess water and pat dry. chop very finely and put in a bowl. add the finely chopped shiitake, garlic, ginger and spring onions. season with soy sauce and sriracha. the filling shouldn't be too moist, but the soy sauce adds a lovely taste to the filling. 

for the wontons, keep the skins hidden under a moist kitchen towel while producing them, so they don't dry out. take one skin at a time and place a teaspoon full of the shiitake filling in the middle. brush the rim of the skin with a wet finger, then fold the dumpling to a half moon shape, removing any excess air from the inside out as you go. take the dumpling in your hands and fold in little "pleats" now (they add extra stability - besides looking neat). per person, you might want to make around 6 to 10 dumplings (depending on what other additions - like ramen or vegs - you plan on adding to your soup). spread the finished dumplings on a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate until used - or freeze, at this point, for later usage.

for the miso broth firstly start by julienning the ginger. add it to a large pot together with the vegetable broth and/or miso powder (i used about half and half of each) and the dried shiitake (that you can remove after cooking - they're just for the lovely taste). bring to a boil. this is the basis for the soup that you can now refine - to taste - with soy sauce (for saltiness), sriracha sauce or chili powder (for spiciness) etc. keep the bok choi, julienned carrots and sliced spring onions at the ready as soup additions.

to finish the soup, quickly blanch (in simmering - not boiling water) the wontons in batches (just the ones you will need for your first serving of soup). they're ready when they float on the top, which takes about 2-3 minutes. carefully remove them with a sieve and keep ready on a wooden board (careful, they are quite sticky when blanched) - or already divide between the bowls. shortly before serving add the bok choi and carrots to the broth and heat through, just a few seconds. ladle the broth into the bowls, adding bok choi and carrots, place the dumplings on top (some might drown, others float on the top, neatly) and sprinkle with spring onions. serve hot and with love.

i always serve the condiments aside for my guests to custom make and refine their soup according to their taste. the things that are essentials for a good asian (chinese-japanese fusion, if you want) broth according to me are: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sriracha hot chili sauce, chili powders (i have it in various heats and colours, even a black one that is very fancy and evil looking, harr), sesame, miso powders and maybe even pickled ginger. you can even put bowls of scallions, sprouts, blanched edamame, shiso sprouts or herbs (cilantro is nice) on the table for the guests to pick their favorites.

for a different - and particularly hearty - version, add some noodles to the dumplings soup! i like rice noodles, udon or soba, on some nights, but my favorites are the rumpled and nest-like ramen (egg noodles), that you might know form one-pot ready meals. you can pick them up at a well stocked delicatessen or an asian shop. they're usually ready in a couple of minutes. my go to noodles for everything that's not italian pasta.

Feb 10, 2015

vanilla dream cake

at sprüngli, the local confiseur, one of my favorite products is a vanilla bean coated truffle. it's not a vanilla yellow, but a vanilla black, so much vanilla is incorporated into it. so much so, that i inofficially dubbed it "the vanilla bomb". strangely, they're a seasonal produce though, so i am not able to indulge in my vanilla craving whenever i feel like it. so i had to make my own cake. one that could take it up with the vanilla bombs from sprünglig. it had to be a very intense vanilla one. this cake here did the job: a double vanilla cake, that's infused with a heavy vanilly flavoured syrup. vanilla squared, so to say. and really just so good you have to name it "the vanilla dream cake". i think i'll just stick to this for my vanilla addiction until, one fine day, the bombs are back at sprüngli.

vanilla dream cake
for one round 17-20 cm cake pan

300 g soft butter, room temperature
300 g extra fine cane sugar 
6 eggs, broken up
410 g flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
6 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. vanilla bean paste

for the syrup: 
150 ml water
115 g extra fine cane sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla bean paste
1 vanilla bean, slitted lengthwise & extracted

preheat the oven to 160 c / 320 f. grease a round spring pan with butter, then line the sides of the pan with a sleeve of baking paper, so that the cake can rise to double the height of the cake, approximately. cream the butter with a hand mixer, add sugar and stir some more until fluffy and light. add eggs little by little. sieve in flour and baking powder, add salt and stir to combine. carefully fold in milk and vanilla bean paste. fill into the pan and bake for 1.5 hours on the lowest level. insert a needle to see if the cake is done: when it comes out clean you're good to go.

for the syrup, heat water, sugar, vanilla bean paste and vanilla bean in a small pan, until sugar has dissolved. remove from the heat. 

as soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce with a long needle or skewer, all the way through to the bottom of the cake. spoon by spoon, baste the cake with the vanilla syrup. you can do this while it's still in the pan and hot. make sure the cake soaks up the liquid nicely. let cool completely, then remove from the pan. can be served for up to 5 days, as the syrup makes it really moist inside.