Once in a while, the sweet tooth aces for attention and I suddenly feel the urge to whip up something sweet and tasty. When ever this phenomena occurred growing up, these chocolate balls was an often recurring star. It takes minutes to throw together and is made with ingredients already often found at home.
You might think it’s more of a kid’s treat than an adult’s but I beg to differ. I am pretty sure my parents ate as many of these as my sisters and I did. They might absolutely, totally and 100% disagree, but who would you believe anyway?
As a great addition to a kid’s party, roll them in colourful sprinkles and sparkles. For the adult party, add a splash of your favourite rum or cognac, and cover them in the traditional coconut flakes or pearl sugar, or why not try chopped pistachios?
For those of you who still think this is not for me, well, listen to your inner child. Don’t deny it, we all have them. Listen carefully. I think it’s time to give him or her a treat!
100g butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup oats
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp cold coffee
shredded coconut or pearl sugar as garnish
In a bowl, beat together butter and sugar. When well mixed, add the cocoa, vanilla and coffee. Blend until smooth. Stir in the oats.
Roll into small 1″ balls, and roll in shredded coconut or pearl sugar.
Take a freshly made, golden brown bun, cut the top off. Scoop out the centre of the bun and fill it with a delicate, soft almond and marzipan paste flavoured with vanilla. Cover the paste with lightly sweetened whipped cream before placing the top back on and dusting the whole creation with icing sugar. Sounds delicious? Well it is.
This is the very traditional Swedish semla. It originated a long time ago and was only eaten on one day of the year- the day before the Lenten fast begun. The Lent was a six week long christian fast ending on Easter Sunday. Preparing for this meant loads of very fatty food were consumed on this day – always on a Tuesday. The day is still known as Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday.
Nowadays, semla is more or less the only thing that reminds us about this out drawn fast. And this almond and cream bun is sold and eaten for 3-4 months out of the year, rather than on this one very special day. It’s not bad though for a little bun to gain it’s own day. If you happen to be in Sweden tomorrow, on February 9th, which is Fettisdagen this year, go ahead and treat yourself. You can’t escape them this time of year. Enjoy it with a rich dark coffee or a nice cup of your favourite tea.
For the buns:
1 1/4 cup milk
50g fresh yeast (5 tsp dry)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp horthornsalt
1 2/3 cup cake and pastry flour
2 cups all purpose flour
For the marzipan filling:
Enough for 6 semlor ********?
200g almonds with skin
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1 egg white
1/4 cup whipping cream
centre of 3 buns
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
In a small sauce pan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the milk and warm to a temperature of 98F (37C). Remove from the stove and add the yeast. Mix well and let stand for 10 min.
Meanwhile, in a blender add salt, sugar and egg. Beat well. Sift together horthornsalt and flour. Add the yeast to the egg mixture while stirring and then slowly add the flour, a little bit at a time. Touch the dough to feel if it is too sticky to handle. If too sticky, add a tbsp or more of flour until the dough can be handled. It’s very important not to add too much flour, or you will end up with really dry buns. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest, in the bowl, for about 30 min.
Preheat oven to 485F.
Scoop the dough onto a flat surface dusted with flour. Kneed into a ball and divide into round balls, roughly 2″ diameter. Place on a baking sheet, cover and let rest for another 20-30 min. They are ready when you gently poke the buns and they spring back up. Brush them with lightly whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 min or until golden. Transfer the buns to a rack and let cool. The buns can be stored in the freezer and thawed as needed.
Only prepare as many buns as you need.
Cut off the top of the buns, about 1/2 down. Pick out some of the bread in the centre of the bun, and crumble it into a bowl. Crumble Grate the marzipan into the bowl and add the sugar, cream and vanilla. Stir until you get an even paste. It should be quite loose, but not runny. Fill the centre of the buns with the marzipan filling.
Pipe or scoop some whipped cream on top of the filling and finally place the ‘lid’ back on. Dust with icing sugar and place on a serving platter.
Note: The traditional way of eating semlor is to start with the lid. Scoop some of the cream onto the lid and take a bite. Once the lid is gone, the rest of the bun can be eaten with knife and fork, but I prefer to see who manage to take a bite without getting the tip of their nose covered in whipped cream!
Clafoutis. Such a beautiful word for an equally decadent dessert. Fresh fruit enclosed in a firm custard, scented with a hint of vanilla. The name is easy to pronounce and most people have heard it. A little while ago I got the worst craving for clafoutis.It hit me like a brick. I was standing in the kitchen and I suddenly said loudly to myself: “I have to make a clafoutis”. I’m not quite sure where this all came from since it’s safe to say I haven’t thought about this creation for years.
Here is the funny part. While researching what went into and how to actually make a clafoutis, I noticed that some recipes referred to the clafoutis as flaugnarde ([floɲaʁd]).
That is odd, I thought to myself. Continuing my research I found out why. Clafoutis is the proper name for this French dessert ONLY when baked with black cherries, which is what was traditionally used. Any other fruit used when making clafoutis, it is not actually a clafoutis, but a flaugnarde. Perhaps not as pretty of a word or easy to pronounce, yet it is proper.
Clafoutis was made using fresh black cherries, pits still in. When baking, the pits gave the dish a hint of almond. Nowadays, as an easier, safer and more elegant way of eating it, pits are removed before baking and almond extract would be added in their place.
Whenever you make a flaugnarde or clafoutis, remember to always use fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is too broken down and will produce too much liquid. Also remember that the final product will not be a fluffy airy cake. In fact, it won’t be cake like at all. Think very thick and firm custard, almost like a creme caramel.
I happened to have fresh nectarines and raspberries at home so, flaugnarde it was. Next time I will make a traditional clafoutis full of black cherries. Who knows. Perhaps I’ll even leave the pits in.
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375F.
Cut the nectarines into 1/2” pieces into a bowl and mix with the raspberries. Set aside.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt along with 2 tbsp of the melted butter to a mixer. Blend well, then sift in the flour while mixing and mix until smooth.
Pour the rest of the melted butter into a 9” baking dish and spread evenly on bottom and sides. Add the nectarines and raspberries in an even layer, then pour the batter to cover.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-50 min. Turn it around halfway through to make sure you get an even bake. When done, the center will have a slight wiggle and it will be golden brown. It will most likely deflate a touch when cooling but that is normal. When cooled for a while, dust with icing sugar.
I am always drawn to it whenever I see it on the list of desserts during a nice dinner out. Tiramisu. How true the saying, there is always room for dessert. Bruno is more of a dessert person than I am. I mean, he LOVES desserts. I don’t mind them once in a while. I can easily go without them. Face starting to twitch. Sweets don’t do it for me. I’m really neither here nor there about it. Nose beginning to grow.If I never had dessert again – ok, fine, who am I kidding. I too love desserts. I don’t think I’ve ever turned one down. Whether it’s offered to me, or teased in front of me in the shape of a nicely printed restaurant menu. My inner monologue about not having dessert is gone, evaporated.
A couple of days ago I decided to make lady fingers. Decadent cookies made from egg whites gently folded with egg yolks, sugar and vanilla, then baked until fluffy and weightless. I’m not sure why I came to think of them, but I’m certain my subconscious craving for this moist cake had something to do with it.
I have to admit we ate most of them with coffee that same afternoon. Trust me, eating just the one fresh out of the oven lady finger is nearby impossible. Not having enough cookies left for a proper cake, this is what came out of it. I replaced whipping cream with ice cream. Blended all the ingredients together and voila- the elegant flavours of tiramisu- in a glass.
8 lady fingers cookies
1 double espressos, cold (or 1/4 cup strong cold coffee)
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp cocoa
2 cups vanilla ice cream
4 Lady Fingers for decoration
Place the lady fingers in the bottom of a bowl and pour over the espresso. Set aside to soak. Add mascarpone cheese, vanilla and cocoa to a blender and mix until smooth. Add the softened cookies and leftover liquid to the blender. Scoop the ice cream in small pieces and add as well. Pulse a couple of times, but not until completely mixed.
Pour into glasses, powder with cocoa powder and decorate with a Lady Finger. Serve immediately.Serves 4.
If you don’t want to buy lady fingers but want to make your own below is the recipe I use. It is taken from Hilaire Walden’s The Great Big Cookie Book.
2/3 cup plain flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
icing sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 300F.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with a thin layer of icing sugar.
Sift the flour and salt together twice. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in the remaining sugar until glossy. Sift the flour over the yolks and spoon a large dollop of egg whites over the flour. Carefully fold in with a large spoon or spatula, adding the vanilla essence. Gently fold in the remaining whites.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. Pipe 3in long lines on the parchment paper about 1in apart. Sift over a thin layer of icing sugar.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until crusty on the outside but soft in the centre. Cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
And just like that it’s fall. The excitement of harvest. A flurry of activity. Long days. Very long days. Our grapes have all been picked, hand sorted, fermented and pressed. It’s a nice feeling. We are now in control, rather than being dependent on Mother Nature. I have to say, she’s been generous most of the summer. A bumper crop is always nice to get.
Now that the grapes are in, the apples are next. Luscious golden russets. Bin after bin arriving at the winery to be sorted, crushed and pressed into what will be 2015 sparkling cider. They are good apples. Crazy good. Just as we constantly taste the grapes at harvest, we munch on the apples when they come in as well.
The other night we had friends over for dinner and I wanted to make a crumble – Swedish style. It’s a fairly recurring dessert here. Simple, but delicious. I mostly make this crumble using blueberries but is equally as tasty using apples. One can opt for vanilla ice cream alongside the crumble, but nothing beats a smooth mouthwatering homemade vanilla custard. I always make the custard in advance and serve it slightly chilled with a warm crumble. Heaven.
Crumble Blueberry or Apple
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
125g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced in thin wedges
1/4 cup sugar
In a food processor, add the sugar, flour and butter. Pulse until the butter are in tiny pieces. This will not create a moist sticky dough. It looks more like a powder.
In a pie dish, add the apple slices (or blueberries). Sprinkle with the sugar.
Pour the flour/sugar/butter on top. Spread out evenly to cover.
Place in the upper part of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
8 egg yolks
2 tbsp corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
In a large sauce pot, heat up milk and cream over medium heat. Remove from heat when bubbles form along the edges of the pot.
In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch and whisk until light and fluffy.
Very slowly, while whisking, add the warm milk. It’s important to add the warm milk slowly since you don’t want to shock the yolks.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the sauce pot and slowly heat it up over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or flat edged wooden spoon. Take off the heat once the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 10-15 min. Set aside and add the vanilla extract. Mix well.
Use warm, or, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar if you want to leave it to cool. This will prevent skin forming on the surface.