30 March 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake - DB March 2008

Well, this is my first Daring Bakers challenge. And yes, I did leave it to the last minute, but I've been busy with other things.

Finished cake

I didn't make the finals on Art You Eat either, but thanks to all other participants, I have plenty of new ideas that'll keep me going for a while. That was great and I'd like to try more of that.

But back to the cake and the Daring Bakers challenge. It certainly was a challenge for me - the cake batter is different to what I've done before and I'd never made butter cream before either. Also I haven't seen such a thing as cake flour in the UK, so I used plain flour and used Ulrike's metric conversion as a basis.



300 g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
300 ml full fat milk
4 large egg whites at room temperature
300 g granulated sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
115 g unsalted butter at room temperature
0.5 tsp lemon extract

Butter cream

200 g granulated sugar
4 large egg whites at room temperature
60 ml lemon juice
1.25 tsp liquid vanilla extract


120 g raspberry preserve
1 dl dessicated coconut
1 dl coconut flakes
200 g fresh raspberries
1 tsp lemon zest

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
  2. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites enough to mix them together.
  3. In a third large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together. The sugar becomes moist and wonderfully fragrant.
  4. Add the butter to the sugar, a bit at a time and whisk it in with an electric whisk. There may be need to get your fingers dirty here too, my whisk wasn't very good at the start.
  5. Add the extract, then a third of the dry ingredients, whisking all the time.
  6. Then add half of the milk-egg white mixture, then another third of the dry ingredients.
  7. Finish with the last half of the milk-egg white mixture and the last of the dry ingredients and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth.
  8. Divide between two cake tins - 22.5 cm/9" diameter and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C (gas mark 4). The sponges should take about 30 - 35 minutes. Leave to cool when ready.
  9. For the butter cream, make Swiss meringue with the sugar and egg whites, by whisking them together over a bain-marie until it's nice, firm and glossy.
  10. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until the meringue cools down. Then add the butter to it, a bit at a time, still whisking, until it's completely incorporated. Then continue whisking for about 10 minutes until the butter cream is smooth and thick.
  11. Add the lemon juice gradually and finally the vanilla extract.
  12. Slice the cake sponges so you have 4 cake layers. Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thin-ish layer of butter cream between each sponge layer, leaving about a quarter of the butter cream for decoration.
  13. Cover the assembled cake with the butter cream and decorate with the coconut, lemon zest and fresh raspberries.
On the whole, this was a very tasty cake, but with the butter cream it felt a bit rich. Also making it took most of yesterday, there are many turns to do for the butter cream and I'm not sure the 10 minutes of whisking made any difference.

And it didn't help that I didn't have 9" cake tins. I have one 7.5" and one 13" and I wasn't sure if I should use either of them. And because I didn't want to buy new cake tins, I bought cake liners at the right size. Unfortunately they didn't stay in shape too well and I ended up with two oval cake sponges and so my original design had to be drastically altered.



This was interesting, but I'm not sure it was worth all the effort it took. I'd never made sponge cake with egg whites only and also butter cream was a new thing too. Also I really liked rubbing the sugar and lemon zest together, the smell was so wonderful, and I have three new things I've learned from this challenge.

20 March 2008

The Sujuk is ready!

If you thought the sujuk had failed and I was going to let it slip away quietly, you were wrong. It has taken almost twice as long as recommended in my parents' recipe. Lundulph has already developed a theory about that.

I powdered it with the flour and paprika mixture a second time over a week ago and since then the sausages didn't really look like they were making any progress in the drying direction. Also I took three out and placed in the freezer in an attempt to test the concept of freeze drying. But yesterday I gave them a probing squeeze - one of them was practically rock solid! Time to eat!

And so, today being effectively Friday in an end of the working week sort of way, we took one out and stripped it of it's dusty clothing...

...and cut it up...


...before devouring it quickly together with a glass of the finest rakia we have. This is a nice, mature rakia, very smooth and oh so easy to drink.

The sujuk didn't taste exactly like the one my parents make, but then, they don't mix their mince - pure extra lean beef. I had 3 parts regular beef and 1 part lamb, so our sujuk had a slightly higher fat content. Also as you perhaps can see here


the middle is still soft and pink-ish.

Needless to say we gobbled up the whole thing. Very quickly too. There are seven sujuks left now. How are we going to manage?

Now to Lundulph's theory. The higher fat content may have increased the drying time - fat not really containing much water, it would be difficult for it to dry. Also possibly the horse shoe shape may have provided some delay - whatever fat could would have gathered at the bottom at the bend, which is still indeed the part of the other sujuks that's still a bit soft. If we make the sujuks straight and then alternately hang them from either end every week or so, this would perhaps help dry them quicker.

Of course a straight sujuk is called a lukanka (луканка) and I'll have to perform a mental struggle to overcome this change in concept. There, done.

I'm sure many Bulgarians will disagree with me - sujuk and lukanka are completely different things. Well, yes in a way - it's about the spice combination as well - you wouldn't put cumin in sujuk and you'd definitely put it in lukanka. But then every village in Bulgaria have their own spice mixture. So I can't say there are any definitive rules to follow.

The chilli flakes I used are our own thing - we put chillies in everything these days. They weren't noticeable at first, but after having eaten half a sujuk, there was a wonderful background heat so to speak, nicely enhanced by the rakia.

On the whole, I'll try to get hold of a small battery operated fan to put in the fridge when I make sujuk next year, to increase the air circulation and speed up the drying. Unless I work out something better. My parents used to hang their sujuk in the loft, but it helps to have proper winters which suck out every ounce of moisture of everything. I was thinking of a herb dryer, but I haven't found anything that would be remotely useful on the internet.

To sum up - get extra lean beef next time, or better yet, make my own mince, I have the attachment for the Kitchen Assistent. "We have the technology...". And as a reminder, here's what the sausages looked like the day I made them.


16 March 2008

Easter Once Again

Cooking and baking are now becoming serious hobbies of mine and a lot of time I spend reading foodie blogs for ideas and tips. Clicking around, I found the Art You Eat blog, which I thought was a wonderful idea. This month the theme is of course eggs, with Easter coming up and all and so it's time for the annual kozunak baking. This time, I wisely only made one lot and so will get to bed on time, being school night and all.

Unlike last year, I've decided to make the kozunak egg baskets. These are something that my Dad talks about around Easter, with his eyes glittering in nostalgic memories. Apparently his Grandmother used to make these for all her grandchildren.

For each basket a hard boiled painted egg and a twig of willow or hazel is needed. The twig should be thin - about 1 cm diameter at the bottom end, straight with no branches at all and be about 80 - 90 cm long. I used regular food colours for the eggs - 1 tsp of colouring in about 1 dl lukewarm water. I left the eggs in for about 6 hours.

Painted eggs

The twigs should be washed thoroughly, then twisted around to a hoop.

Willow hoops

Willow hoops tied in

Prepare the kozunak dough as per my recipe. Then after the dough has risen take about a quarter of it for one basket. Divide the quarter into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a long sausage, it should be about 2 cm diameter.

Press in the willow hoop into the rolled dough and make sure it's well covered and evenly thick throughout. This will be the basket handle.

Handle in place

Roll out the second part to the same length and thickness, then spiral around the knot of the willow hoop and upwards. Make sure the dough layers overlap a little.

Handle and bottom in place

Roll out the third part like before, then place the egg over where the second part ends and continue to spiral the third part around the basket incorporating the egg as well.

Easter Egg Basket ready to proof

Leave to proof for 30-40 minutes, brush with whipped up egg and bake on gas mark 3 (175 degrees C) until golden brown.

Easter Egg Basket

Also what I've spotted on my blog readings is a bread called Challah and by the look of it I have a suspicion that kozunak is related to it. And so with the remainder of the dough, I made two traditional plaits.

Note: Yes, I started out with two eggs and two willow hoops and I made two baskets (one for each niece), but I keep forgetting that I have a double oven and the basket with the green egg sort of rose too much and was almost twice the size of the one in the photo above, so I didn't include it in the final photo. In fact it cracked the egg shell completely! That didn't stop my nieces from eating the baskets a few days later.

11 March 2008

Müsli bar challenge 3

Yesterday it was time to finally put my original idea into practice - a whole batch of my regular müsli apart from the porridge oats, which were made into porridge with milk. I used 1.5 pi of porridge oats to 2 pi of semi-skimmed milk and boiled stirring on low heat. I also added 2 heaped tablespoons honey.

Once the porridge was ready, I added the müsli mixture and stirred it in as well as I could, which was difficult. This filled up my big pressure cooker pot quite nicely.

As the dry ingredients tried to suck up whatever available moisture there was, the whole thing went quite stiff.

I put most of it in one of the deep baking pans and again put the second one on top and weighed it down. What was left, I distributed over two muffin tins, again trying to compress the mixture. After about an hour, I removed the weights from the baking pan and left it together with the muffin pans to cool down overnight, covered with kitchen paper.

This morning I was almost late for work, as I had to cut up the big slab. It was still fairly moist and spongy to the touch. I cut it up and put it in my big cake tin, on layers of baking paper. The muffin shapes needed to be poked out, but came out in one piece. Lundulph took two pieces with him to work and said they were good. But since I made a whole batch of müsli, these should last him a couple of weeks and a worry is how this will work, if at all. Especially the milk is bound to go off. So after an e-mail discussion, we decided to bake this lot on low, just like meringues. Sadly I forgot to get this started when I got home, so there are some left to do tomorrow.

When I checked them half an hour ago, the pieces had definitely a dried feel to them. At that point they'd been in the oven for just over an hour.

Hopefully this will be the one good recipe.

Update 12 March: I had a bite of this version and frankly it didn't taste too nice, almost like eating bran flakes out of the box. But it's definitely the healthiest version.

Update 14 March: I've frozen most of this version of the müsli bars and a good thing too, Lundulph says that the ones he had this morning left a bit of an odd aftertaste. We're guessing that the milk in the porridge is going off.

4 March 2008


The famous Swedish mustard dill sauce that goes so well with all kinds of salmon is called hovmästarsås, which translates as Maître d's sauce. Sainsbury's used to have one very similar, but they seem to have discontinued it, at least I haven't seen it in the superstores I've been to. So tonight I picked what came on top of the google search, from the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Here's the translation.


2 tbsp granulated sugar
0.25 tsp salt
6 tbsp fresh finely chopped dill
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 dl grapeseed oil
finely ground white pepper

  1. Mix together sugar, salt and dill in a pestle and mortar, as this brings out the dill flavour.
  2. Stir in the mustard and vinegar.
  3. Slowly add the oil, so the sauce doesn't split.
  4. Add pepper to taste and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.
Writing the recipe, I realise that I made several mistakes, which is why I ended up with a pesto lookalike. I didn't have fresh dill and used dried instead, so halved the quantity, but I should have used maybe a quarter at most. Next I only added 2 tbsp mustard. Third, I didn't have red wine vinegar so used white wine vinegar, though I don't think this made too big a difference. Finally I didn'thave white pepper and was going to use black pepper, but forgot completely about it.

As this is very much a mayonnaise type preparation, it might speed things up if it's made in a blender. I stirred manually and I didn't achieve the magical point when it all goes creamy, so my sauce kept separating fairly quickly.

But as Lundulph put it, it has sugar, salt and mustard, so all the right flavourings are there and you can't go wrong. Well obviously I did.

We had cold smoked salmon slices accompanied by ratatouille and steamed Jerusalem artichokes. It actually tasted very nice.

In order to correct things, I'll keep adding non-dill ingredients until it reaches the look of creamy mustard with bits of dill in it.

Update 5th March: I added another tablespoon of Dijon mustard and not only did the sauce get closer to it's correct colour, once stirred in, it didn't start separating immediately. It's still very green though.

3 March 2008

Müsli bar challenge 2

Due to an extremely busy week-end, I didn't manage to do a second attempt at a healthy müsli bar for Lundulph.

Ginger's suggestion about a bran muffin made me think. What if I make a muffin batter and mix in a lot of the müsli? So I did.

However, most batters contain eggs and I'm not sure it's a healthy thing to have lots of them, so I started with my cake recipe without eggs but with some modifications.


butter and flour
1.5 dl grapeseed oil
1.5 dl brown sugar
2 dl yoghurt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 dl plain flour
1.4 litre müsli mix

  1. Butter a deep baking pan and dust with flour. Have all ingredients to hand.
  2. Mix together the oil and sugar.
  3. Stir in the soda into the yoghurt, bubbles will start to appear.
  4. Quickly whisk in the oil and sugar mixture, then the plain flour.
  5. Add the müsli mix and stir until well coated with batter. This needs to be done manually, when I ran the electric whisk, bits of oats flew in all directions.
  6. Pour the müsli blend into the baking pan, level and bake for about 30 minutes at 175 degrees C or gas mark 3. My pan is about 25 x 40 cm. The cooking time needs to be adjusted to the thickness.

It smelt fairly nice, but as you can see in the photo, it's far too crumbly for eating in the car.

Oh well, back to the drawing board again. I suspect my idea with porridge will give a similar result.

National Day of Bulgaria

Today is the National Day of Bulgaria. I'm not sure how it's to be celebrated, but I made some Bulgarian flags in meringue.

2 March 2008

Creme Parfait for Mother's Day

This is my Mum's version of a dessert that was served in the 70s in the fancy "Кристал" (Kristal) cafe in Sofia in Bulgaria.

She's been making it regularly and at some points my Dad didn't bother with a plate, but just worked his way through the baking pan.



2 dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1.5 dl granulated sugar
2 - 3 dl orange juice


1 litre fresh custard
12 sheets of gelatine
5 dl double cream
5 tbsp icing sugar


1 dl double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
chocolate thins

  1. Mix the flour and the baking powder well.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar white and fluffy.
  3. Slowly add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture, while whisking.
  4. Line a shallow baking pan of about 30 x 40 cm with baking paper making sure that it folds up the edges.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan and level out with a spatula. Tap the whole pan a couple of times to make the mixture settle.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven at 200 degrees C or gas mark 6 until the base goes golden brown.
  7. Take out and turn over, either on a second sheet of baking paper that has a little granulated sugar sprinkled on it, or better, straight back into the baking pan and peel off the baking paper while the base is still hot. The base needs to be back in the baking pan and left to cool down.
  8. Heat up the custard while stirring so it doesn't burn.
  9. In the mean time, soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water for a few minutes.
  10. When the custard is hot take it off the heat, squeeze out the exess water from the gelatine and add it to the custard and stir in well. The custard will go quite runny once the gelatine has dissoved, that's OK.
  11. Let the custard cool down completely.
  12. Add the icing sugar to the double cream and whip it to stiff peaks.
  13. Carefully stir in the whipped cream into the custard, this will double the cream in volume.
  14. Distribute the orange juice over the sponge base and let it soak in for a couple of minutes.
  15. Pour the cream over the base, level out with a spatula and also give the pan a tap like before.
  16. Place in the fridge overnight to set.
  17. For serving, cut the creme parfait into squares, whip the cream and icing sugar and place a teaspoonful on each square and push in a chocolate thin in the middle.
Normally my Mum makes custard from powder and it's a lot sweeter than the fresh one. Unfortunately I didn't think it through and didn't add extra sugar, so my creme parfait was fairly bland. I also cut too large squares and it was too big and felt a bit heavy. I'll try to post an alternative recipe for the custard, I think a variety without eggs would be lighter.

This is the very basic one. But it'll work very well with bits of fruit - strawberries or blueberries - or even with chopped nuts or chocolate. All can be added to the cream before pouring it over the base.

The quantity of gelatine is what was recommended on the packet for one litre. This is the second time I use gelatine, so I'm not entirely confident on this, but the final result had the correct texture, so I guess it was OK.

Decoration is also quite easy to vary with chocolate sprinkles or whatever you fancy. My Mum made this dessert when we visited for New Year and she had red and green coctail cherries that she pushed into the blobs of whipped cream on top of each square.

From the brief search on google, this is quite different from what is called parfait in other countries.

Update Tuesday 4th March:
My Mum had forgotten the sugar in her recipe. Also the cream is not custard, but a cream based on potato starch. Corn starch works as well. These are the proportions:

1.5 dl milk
1 tbsp starch
1 tbsp granulated sugar

This would of course need the addition of some flavouring.

She also suggested I use some of the wonderful white cherry jam to sort out the lack of sweetness.

Clotted cream project

Well, I promised I'd make clotted cream and I did. On the whole it's perhaps a bit too much effort to put in, but it was interesting to try it out.

So I bought 2 litres Jersey gold top. This is milk from the famous Jersey cows. I've seen them, they are pale brown and very friendly. They also produce a wonderfully creamy milk - 5.2%.

So step one was to pour the milk into a shallow pan. The pan had to be stainless steel, pyrex or heat proof porcelain. The pan should be shallow, but still deep enough to go into a bain-marie. What's of importance is the surface - the larger, the more clotted cream allegedly.

So on Friday morning, before going to work, I used my large pyrex dish. It could only take 1 litre. Oh, well, that leaves one as backup. The milk had to be left to stand "overnight" which in my exprience is about 12 hours.

12 hours later, I placed the metal plate from the pressure cooker in a shallow casserole, then placed the pyrex dish on that. I poured water in the casserole and set it to boil on the lowest setting.

The recipe was not very specific on how long to do this - it depends on the depth of the dish the milk is in. I guessed that my dish was on the deep-ish side and opted for 2 hours of "just under simmering". Fairly quickly after placing it on the hob, it developed the familiar yellowy crust.

After two hours, the dish is to be stored in a cool place "overnight". I covered the pyrex dish with plastic foil and then it's lid and then put it outside, it's still as cold as a fridge outside. To be on the safe side, I placed a large log on top of the lid, in case some of our wildlife should get interested.

The next morning, the cream was to be skimmed off. Well, I skimmed it off and there wasn't much at all - about half a decilitre, barely enough for our two hot cross buns this morning.

It tasted OK and looked OK-ish too. But for the resulting amount it was a lot of effort, I think. I also think the temperature wasn't high enouth, I shouldn't have used the metal plate in between. And maybe follow the alternative recommendation of adding some double cream to the milk, it might yield more.

Hot tip on eating - use scones, not hot cross buns. The hot cross buns are too spicy and it makes it impossible to taste the flavour of the clotted cream.

1 March 2008

Happy Baba Marta

Today is 1st March and in Bulgaria it is celebrated as the beginning of Spring. People give each other мартеници (martenitsi) - small items made of red and white yarn. I didn't have time to make any this year, I normally do though. So instead I made meringue martenitsi.

Won't last as long of course.