Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farro Bake

Here's another proof that healthy food can also be delicious. I like all kinds of grains but farro is among my favourites. 
This farro bake is very simple and maybe that's why I like it. The two bright flavours you basically taste is parmesan and tomato sauce. That's why I suggest using homemade tomato sauce. If it contains basil, oregano, onion, garlic - even better! If using simple tomato sauce, feel free to add herbs like dried oregano or basil. Just be sure you sprinkle enough Parmesan on top!

Farro Bake

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp salt
300g/1 ½ c pearled farro
225g/1 cup tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
600ml/2 ½ c vegetable broth
60g/1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, divided
1) Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Prepare 20x20cm/8x8" silicone baking pan or lightly grease a metal pan.  

2) In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion, salt and garlic and bring to medium-high heat. Cook onions until they start to turn translucent. Stir occasionally. Add farro and cook for another minute. Add tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

3) Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Cut a few slits in the foil. Bake for 45 minutes, removing the foil when it's almost done just to let the top darken. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Recipe adapted from here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everybody's searching for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. To me the best cookie is large, thick, chewy in the center and has a lot of chocolate chunks in every bite. Well, these cookies have all of those features! I have made very similar cookies before, and I have also tried chocolate chip cookies which contained oats and were as thick as these were, but what makes these "perfect cookies" perfect, is cornstarch. Yes, only two teaspoons of cornstarch make all the difference! It makes cookies soft and chewy. But I think even cornstarch is not the most important thing to make cookies perfect. I have made chocolate chip cookies many times in my life and I realized that the most important thing is not to overbake them. It is a must to turn off your oven when they still look a little bit underbaked. Also, chilling is very important too! Chilled cookie dough doesn't spread that much and the result is thicker cookies. So be patient!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

170g/3/4 cup butter, room temperature
150g/¾ cup brown sugar
55g/¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
220g semisweet chocolate chips

1) Cream together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

2) Mix together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. 

3) Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and blend. Stir in chocolate chunks. 

4) Chill the cookie dough for at least one hour in the refrigerator. Take out of the refrigerator, form the balls, place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5) Next day, take the chilled cookie dough out of the freezer and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes until you preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Let cookies set on the pan for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Recipe adapted from here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Coffee Cupcakes

I couldn't remember when I made cupcakes for the last time and it was a great excuse to try coffee flavoured cupcake recipe which has been in my to-bake list for a long time already. This recipe is a keeper! The muffins came out moist, soft and as delicious as I expected. It is a good dose of coffee because both the cupcakes and the frosting have coffee inside. If you are a coffee addict like me, this is the recipe you've been looking for.

Coffee cupcakes

250g/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
120ml/1/2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
60ml/1/4 cup milk
113g/1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
110g/1/2 cup white sugar
100g/1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs

1) Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

2) Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3) Combine together instant coffee powder and boiling water. Let cool and mix in the milk.

4) In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the coffee mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

5) Divide the batter among 12 muffin liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centres comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

Coffee buttercream

113g/1/2 cup butter, room temperature
190g/1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons of boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk (optional)

1) Beat butter and instant coffee mixture on high speed until light and fluffy.

2) Reduce speed and add confectioners sugar in 2-3 additions. Beat until incorporated. Add vanilla extract. If the mixture looks too thick, add one tablespoon of milk. Beat until you reach the desired consistency.

3) Frost and enjoy! 

Cupcake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crostini with Camembert, Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam

A few weeks ago my mom brought me lots of cheese from France. I was literally forced to eat it every day because I really had so many of different cheeses and their expiration date was coming near. But it's so boring to eat cheese with baguette all the time, isn't it? So I had to think of something more fancy to make out of them. Of course, Crostini was the first dish that came to my mind and it was a completely perfect idea. Crunchy bread rubbed with garlic, topped with soft Camembert, fig jam and caramelized onions. Amazing. 

Crostini with Camembert, Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam

1 long French baguette
Olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
~300g Camembert cheese

2 small onions, sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch salt
1 tsp sugar
Olive oil
Fig Jam

1) Preheat oven to 230C. Prepare two baking trays.

2) Slice baguette into 1,5-2cm pieces. Brush one side with oil and arrange on baking tray (olive oiled side down). Bake for a few minutes until golden.

3) Take out of the oven and let cool slightly. Rub garlic over the olive oiled side of crostini. 

4) In a small saucepan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook onions until translucent. Add salt, sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook, covered, for a few minutes until completely soft and fragrant. Let cool completely.

5) Top each slice of baguette with Camembert. Top half of them with onions and another half - with a teaspoon of fig jam.


Recipe by collecting memories

Friday, January 10, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

I have been making so many dishes with pumpkin recently. I guess I won't stop until I try it with everything. This one's a perfectly creamy, mild, light and satisfying dish. It is also very easy to prepare as there are just a few ingredients.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

200g your favourite pasta (I used Lumache)
300g pumpkin puree
60g sour cream or yogurt*
50g your favourite hard cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

*I used sour cream which contains 10% of fat so you could also probably use Greek yogurt instead.

1) Boil the pasta in a salted water according to the directions and drain well.

2) In a saucepan over low heat, combine together pumpkin puree, sour cream and cheese. Mix well until smooth and the cheese has melted. Add pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with some shredded cheese.

Serves 2.

Recipe by collecting memories

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Pumpkin Risotto

Cheesy, creamy, yummy, perfect pumpkin risotto! Probably the best I have ever made. I was really surprised that pumpkin works so well in this dish. It adds extra creaminess and the final result is just fantastic. I didn't use white wine though, it is not an authentic risotto. But it's still very, very good and quite easy! You will only have to be a little bit patient while mixing the rice constantly. But this is so worth it!

Pumpkin Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
200g rice for risotto
300g pumpkin puree
40g parmesan, shredded
1l (about 4 cups) vegetable stock
salt and pepper, to taste

1) In a heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and fry a few minutes. Add rice, stir to coat with oil. Add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of stock and repeat the process until you use all the stock and the rice is almost done. You may not use up all the stock, I always have about 1/4 cup remaining. By the end of cooking, add stock in smaller quantities so you can see how much you will need. One important thing - do not stop stirring! Be ready to spend 20-25 minutes next to the stove.

2) When rice is almost done, add pumpkin puree. Cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add parmesan (you may leave some for the top).

Recipe by collecting memories

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Chocolate Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Strawberry Jam

This cake is one of the best I have EVER made. The layers were very, very, very rich and fudgy and moist, the white chocolate cream cheese frosting was amazing, and finally, the layer of homemade strawberry jam made it divine. It was a little bit sour which matched perfectly with the sweetness of the cake and the frosting. The next day, after setting in the fridge, it was even better. To be honest, the longer it stayed in the fridge, the better it was.

Chocolate Cake

250g/2 cups all-purpose flour
400g/2 cups sugar 
85g/¾ cups unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
240ml/1 cup milk (or buttermilk)
120ml/½ cup oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
240ml/1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter two 23cm/8inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper or butter and flour the pans.

2) Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together and mix until combined. 

3) In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add coffee and stir just to combine. 

4) Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, turn them out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slice each cake in half. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

300g cream cheese
100g  powdered sugar 
200ml heavy cream, divided 
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces

1) In a bowl, beat cream cheese until softened. 

2) In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat 100ml of heavy cream until very hot and pour onto white chocolate. Leave for 2 minutes and then stir to combine. When slightly cooled, fold into the cream cheese and mix until smooth.

3) In a medium bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat remaining 100ml of heavy cream with powdered sugar until stiff. Gradually fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (I was very impatient and chilled it just for a half an hour. Don't repeat my mistake!)

Strawberry Jam

230g/2 cups frozen strawberries

50g sugar 
8g/1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 30g of cold water

In a small saucepan over low heat, place strawberries and sugar. Cover and simmer until strawberries start releasing liquid. Mash them with a fork and keep simmering until the sugar has melted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate for an hour. 


Place one cake layer on a large plate. Spread 1/3 of cream cheese mixture, cover with another cake layer. Spread the strawberry jam and cover with another cake layer. Spread 1/2 of remaining cream cheese mixture and place the last cake layer on top. Cover with remaining cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Recipe by collecting memories

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