19 June 2019

Zefir

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I've been working my way through a left-over bag of giant shop-bought marshmallows and wondering how difficult it would be to make them myself. My standard procedure in these cases is to watch videos on YouTube, the site turned out surprisingly helpful and pointed me towards "zefir" or "zephir". This is a Russian type of marshmallow sweet, which looked so beautiful and seemed quite easy to make, so I got on with this, especially since I had strawberries left over from the Rhubarb Dream Cake and a lot of agar agar in the cupboard following my experimentation with jelling liqueurs at Easter. I guess all my recent searches for Russian recipes is what prompted the zefir suggestion. I liked this one best, though I took inspiration from others as well. Below adapted amounts to fit with the strawberries I had to use up.

Ingredients

Makes 20 at 5 cm diameter

265 g strawberries
110 g caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 large egg white
78 ml water
212 g caster sugar
2 tsp agar agar powder

icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. First line several baking sheets with paper and make the strawberry puree by trimming, washing and quartering the strawberries and placing in a saucepan.
  2. Add the 110 g caster sugar and lemon juice and simmer for about 10 minutes and stirring occasionally.
  3. Push through a sieve to remove the seeds and get the puree really smooth and let cool down to room temperature, if it's still warm.
  4. Place 150 g of the puree in a large glass or metal bowl, add the egg white and whisk until it goes pale and very fluffy, like meringue.
  5. In another saucepan make the syrup. Place water,212 g of caster sugar and agar agar. Stir together, then place on the hop at medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil while stirring. Let simmer for a further 7 minutes, while stirring constantly.
  6. When the syrup goes a bit gloopy, it's ready. Remove from the hob and slowly pour over the strawberry meringue fluff, while whisking continuously, very much like an Italian meringue.
  7. Once everything is incorporated and well mixed, transfer the mixture to a piping bag with an open star nozzle.
  8. Pipe 40 rosettes of about 5 cm diameter on the lined baking sheets, then leave for at least 24 h to dry out, it may take longer if the air is humid.
  9. Once a skin has formed on the surface, carefully peel from the paper and stick the bottoms together pair-wise. Sprinkle generously with icing sugar, then brush off the excess and store in an air-tight container. If they are still a bit sticky, cut up the baking paper and put between each or place in paper cupcake moulds.

I quite liked both the texture and the flavour, though I think the traditional size was a bit too big, as they are very sweet. So next time I'll aim for bite-size rosettes. Lundulph wasn't too impressed, he thought they were missing something and suggested they'd be better as decoration of a cake rather than to be eaten on their own.

Here they are on the dining table:
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However, I gave a few to my Russian friend Byala and her response was to say it's the best zefir she's ever had and that she'd eaten almost all of them in one go.

Update on 2019-07-20: During our recent trip to Bulgaria, we found a shop selling Russian food and I bought a packet of pink and white zefirs - I'm pleased to say that I did get them right for texture and sweetness, though of course in the humid UK air, I needed 2 days for the drying and they were still rather sticky. I think Sweden in deepest Winter might be ideal, with its super dry air. My parents weren't too excited either, my Dad didn't like the texture much. I'm wondering if these could be piped on a plain and not too sweet biscuit to offset all the sugar. I must experiment.

16 June 2019

Rhubarb Dream Cake

My Mum is well aware that we have surplus rhubarbs and whenever she comes across a recipe with rhubarbs, she sends it over. The latest crop is called "Rabarberdröm", which translates to rhubarb dream. I made this for a family barbecue at brother-in-law Roger's place for Father's Day. It didn't turn out pretty, but was very yummy.

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Ingredients

Cake sponge
2.5 tsp baking powder
2 dl plain flour
100 g soft, unsalted butter
2 dl granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 dl semi-skimmed milk

Almond meringue
5 large egg whites
2 dl granulated sugar
1 dl blanched almond flakes

Compote
250 g rhubarbs
250 g strawberries
2 dl granulated sugar
4.75 tsp vegegel

Decoration
3 dl whipping cream
large, pretty strawberries
lemon balm leaves
blanched almond flakes

Method

  1. Butter and flour two cake tins of 20 cm diameter. Alternatively butter and line with baking paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the baking powder and flour.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk to a light and fluffy consistency.
  4. Add the yolks and incorporate well, then add the remaining ingredients and whisk to a smooth batter.
  5. Distribute the batter between the two cake tins, level and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 150 °C.
  6. Clean the whisks thoroughly, place the egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl and whisk to soft peaks.
  7. Add the sugar, a little at a time while whisking to stiff peaks.
  8. Spread the meringue over the cake batter and sprinkle almond flakes on top.
  9. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, the meringue should have a nice golden brown colour.
  10. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool down completely in the tins.
  11. Wash and cut the rhubarbs and strawberries for the compote. Place in a saucepan on high heat and bring to the boil while stirring.
  12. Once some liquid has been released, add the sugar and the vegegel, stir in thoroughly and let simmer according to the instructions for vegegel.
  13. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down completely.
  14. When you're ready to put together, whip the cream to stiff peaks.
  15. Carefully take out one of the sponges from the cake tin and place on a plate.
  16. Spread half of the whipped cream and more than half of the compote over.
  17. Place the second sponge on top, followed by the remaining cream and compote.
  18. Wash the pretty strawberries, cut if very large, and decorate the cake, along with lemon balm leaves and more almond flakes.
  19. Serve immediately.

Instead of mixing regular sugar and vegegel, jam sugar or preserving sugar can be used - it already contains a jelling agent, so should work similarly. The amounts for the compote result in a lot of it, not everything needs to be used and also, the sponges and the compote can be made a day in advance and stored in room temperature.

I only have one spring form for cakes and an adjustable cake ring, so I used that. However, I hadn't thought things through very well, so couldn't quite fit both in the oven at the same time and ended up tilting the spring form slightly. This transferred to the finished sponge and so when I built the cake, it barely stayed upright.

I also suspect the oven temperature might need to go down a little, the meringue ballooned, but luckily it sank down again.

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Still it was very intriguing to bake a sponge with a meringue on top and in one go, I've not come across this before. It makes for an extremely sweet, light and moist cake.

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9 June 2019

Svekolnik

I have a lovely colleague from Russia, Byala, and one day on the train home from work, we compared traditional summer foods in Russia and Bulgaria. It seems Bulgarians aren't the only one partial to cold soups like tarator, Russians are too and Byala told me about two of them, svekolnik or holodnik and okroshka.

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I've been waiting for a hot day to try these out, but after the lovely Easter week, it looks like we won't be getting any of those for a while, so I decided to make the holodnik, since I had a couple of beetroots in the fridge screaming to get eaten.

I didn't spend much time in researching recipes, but I found this one that seemed quite appealing and put together my shopping list for the other ingredients last Saturday.

Ingredients

2 beetroots, washed and trimmed
a little oil
1 cucumber
1 bunch salad onions (7 - 8) with good green bits
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 litre kefir
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
salt & pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
6 eggs
cold water
100 g sour cream
1 kg salad potatoes

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C, rub a little oil on the beetroots and wrap in aluminium foil and bake for an hour. Check with a skewer if they're done, it should go straight through them.
  2. While the beetroots are baking, peel and dice the cucumber, wash the onions well and cut relatively finely, but keep a handful of the green bits for decoration.
  3. Hard boil the eggs and cool down quickly under the cold tap, then peel and chop three of them. Keep the others for decoration.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the cucumber, oniols, kefir, horseradish sauce, salt, pepper, lemon juice and chopped eggs. Cover and put in the fridge.
  5. When the beets are ready, remove from the foil and let cool down a bit, then peel off the skin, preferably wearing gloves, or your fingers will go bright pink.
  6. After the beetroots are peeled, grate coarsely and stir into to the the mixture and the soup will go bright pink. Put to chill until serving time. If the soup is too thick, add some water.
  7. Just before serving, wash, dice and boil the potatoes.
  8. Serve the soup with an egg halve, a tablespoon of sour cream and sprinkle with green onions. Add a small bowl of warm potatoes next to it.

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During the baking of the beetroots, the most wonderful smell spread through the house, Lundulph said it reminded him of the smell at his Nan's when they went there for Sunday roast dinner. I did waste a lot of energy running the whole oven for two beetroots, I think it should be possible to do a tray of them, covered with aluminium foil and use for other things. My sister Bip said they would be really nice with goat's cheese.

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A couple of notes - the website said to put in 1 tbsp of horseradish sauce, but the embedded video said 1 tsp. I thought I'd err on the safe side, so just put a tsp in, but I think a tbsp would have been OK. I also think capers or fresh tarragon would be rather nice.

We started out by having the warm potatoes on the side, but soon Lundulph tipped the potatoes into the soup and it combined very nicely too. It was surprisingly filling, but if you want even more protein in the soup, you can add some diced ham.

The only thing is that it isn't as quick to make as tarator, but it's a nice alternative.