Little Lime and Meringue Tarts

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I spent New Year’s Eve with my cousin Justine, her two-year old Inaé, and my grandma Paulette (who always hated her name, and tried to get us to call her mamy Pauline instead, still does) 🙂 three generations of women. Justine and I were born exactly four weeks apart. And the funny thing is, she was born two weeks early, and I was born two weeks late 🙂 so I like to think that we would have been born on the same date. Her coming out early, and me holding on and coming out a bit later, is also somehow indicative of our personalities. She’s a lot more ‘here I am world, hear me roar’, than I am. And I like to stay cosy and warm, and just hang back a little bit 🙂 when we were little, before I moved to Copenhagen with my mum at the age of 4, Justine and I did everything together, and with both our parents working, grandma was usually the one taking care of us, and picking us up after school. We would take naps on my grandma’s bed, and go for walks in park Solvay, which had a garden with a lot of little round ponds, that were usually full of tadpoles. Justine and I have stayed very close, and although we’re super different in personality, she’s more like a sister to me than a cousin. I guess having a crazy family kind of makes you sisters in arms 🙂

Last night we drank fancy champagne that my grandma brought, ate salmon toasties, a thai take-away, and then these little lime and meringue tarts that I made earlier in the day. Lime curd is so easy to make, and somehow a tiny bit less sharp than lemon curd (which I also love love love). I love most things citrussy. Did you ever try adding lime juice to pineapple juice? If not, you should try it. It’s like tropical heaven in your mouth. I feel like this would also be extremely delicious with a bit of rum.

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I usually make a biscuit base when I make a lemon-meringue tart, but the digestive biscuits in my cupboard expired in February 2015, so I went for this short crust/sablée pastry from Maja Chocolat instead. Quick and easy to make, even without a food processor, and very easy to work with 🙂

For lemon meringue, I swear by this recipe by the sorted boys, it’s so easy and so so yummy, and looks crazy impressive even though the only thing that takes a bit of time is the curd, and it really doesn’t take very long at all… If I make a regular-sized tart with a biscuit-base, I always make it in a springform pan, so that it doesn’t get messed up when I’m unmolding it 🙂 I think I’m gonna stick to making mini ones in a muffin tin though, because it looks so much more impressive, and people go cuckoo for coco puffs for individual little desserts. This time, inspired by Maja Chocolat, I decided to swap lemon for lime, and I don’t think I’m ever going back. I just fricking love limes.

This recipe makes quite a lot, but you could always halve it 🙂 I made a double portion of pastry (mainly because the original recipe calls for ½ egg, and you know how sometimes, when you’re busy, making a double portion rather than faffing about with weighing an egg to split it in half, somehow just seems quicker and like less work?), which made for 21 little tarts, but if rolled out a bit more finely than I did mine, I’m sure it could stretch to make 24-25 little tarts! Since I’d doubled the pastry, I guestimated that I would need about 1 ½ portions of the curd from the sorted recipe, which left me with a small pot of leftover lime curd (so just enough to make 4-5 more little tarts). I also made 13 more meringue, but I needn’t have, so I’ve put the quantities for a single portion down below, it’s more than enough.

These could very easily be made in advance – make the pastry shells and lime curd the day before, keeping the filled little tarts in the fridge until the next day, then making/burning the meringue on the day of. I would also recommend doing this if you’re going to travel with the tarts, as the meringue will very easily start to slide off if held at even a slight angle (which I discovered to my great dismay, upon arrival at my cousin’s 😉 ), resulting in lopsided little tarts – which is a shame when you’ve just spent ages making and decorating them 🙂 as for the burnt/caramelised meringue, I recently acquired a blowtorch, but before then I would simply turn on the grill in my oven, wait until it was nice and hot, then briefly put the meringue-decorated tart under it with the oven door open, keeping a sharp watch so as to only just burn the meringue, but not melt the curd underneath 🙂

Little Lime and Meringue Tarts
Adapted from chocolat.dk and sorted.com
Yield: 21+ little tarts, depending on how thinly you roll out your pastry

Short crust:

  • 150 g cold butter, cubed
  • 300 g flour
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white, for brushing the pastry

Lime curd:

  • Juice and zest of 6 limes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225 g sugar
  • 150 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ tsp corn flour, heaped
  • (You can add one drop of green food colouring, if you prefer your lime curd to be nice and green! But I don’t find this necessary 🙂 )

Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites*
  • 120 g caster sugar

Something to make with your leftover egg yolks!

First, make the crust: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar and salt, then mix in the butter with your fingers until it resembles finely ground parmesan cheese/fine breadcrumbs. Beat your egg slightly in a cup or bowl, then pour into the the flour mixture, mixing with a fork or spoon for a bit then using your hands to press the dough together. It will be quite dry and easy to work with.

Roll out bits of the dough at a time on a cutting board, cutting out rounds of it with a cutter about
6 cm/2 inches in diameter (I used a large IKEA glass). Carefully lift each pastry round off the cutting board with a spatula, and place in an ungreased muffin tin. Gently press down to make sure it lays flat against the bottom and the sides (I also pres down with my nail all around the top to make a pattern, before pressing the pastry back against the sides. This makes a sort of flower petal/scalloped pattern which looks lovely once baked).

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Place the muffin tin with the pastry in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then poke little holes in the bottom of your pastry with a fork, to prevent it from bubbling up too much.

Bake in a preheated oven at 175°C/350°F for about 15 minutes, then briefly take your mini crusts out of the oven to brush them with egg white (just the bottom and sides, not the edge), and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden. The egg wash will keep your tart crusts nice and crispy once filled with curd and cooled.

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Slip the crusts out of the muffin tin, and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the lime curd:

Juice and zest your limes into a small pot. Whisk in your eggs.

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Add the butter, sugar and corn starch, then heat up over medium heat, whisking throughout. Once the mixture starts to simmer and thicken, turn the heat down to low, and allow to keep on simmering for a little while, about 5 minutes, whisking now and then.

When your tart shells have cooled, pour about a scant ¼ cup/50 ml into each shell, so that it just reaches the edge.

Place in the fridge to cool (I like to place them in a roasting dish with sides higher than the little tarts, so they don’t get smushed, and cover them in tin foil). They should take a few hours to set completely (less if your fridge is set quite cold because you need to shower and finish the desserts and be at dinner in an hour and a half!).

Finally, make the meringue (once the curd has set completely!):

Beat your egg whites until they make stiff peaks. Then add in your sugar, and beat until the meringue is thick and glossy.

Pipe unto the little tarts however you please 🙂 I used a plastic freezer bag and cut a little hole in one of the corners because my piping bag is dead, so mine are a little rustic-looking 😉

Caramelise your meringue, either by using a blowtorch, or by placing the tarts (briefly!) under a hot grill.

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Keep in the fridge, and take out for about 5-10 minutes before serving 🙂

The tarts keep for a few days in the fridge, and are perfect to have for breakfast on January 1st, accompanied by tea, buttered toast and poached eggs! 😊

🎉🎉🎉 Happy 2016!!! 🎉🎉🎉

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The Ambition Bird

I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the past few nights.

It happens sometimes, when i’m not aware that something is on my mind, or when I am 🙂 I always liked to stay awake when everyone else was asleep. Have you ever read Tom’s Midnight Garden? It’s a children’s book from the 1950’s that my mum got for me when I was about 11, about a young boy who goes to stay with his aunt and uncle, and discovers that he can enter a beautiful Victorian garden whenever the grandfather clock strikes 13 at midnight. He befriends a young girl called Hatty, in this midnight garden, and whenever he goes back it’s at a different time, and she gets older. The whole book has a strange and lovely, almost ethereal feel to it. I guess that’s that feeling I get from being awake late at night, when everyone else is asleep. A feeling like dark blue. Everything is quiet, it’s when I’m at my most productive. At university I would stay up to write essays until 7am, although I’m not very good at sleeping during the day to catch up on sleep afterwards. So it’s not very sustainable 🙂 Now, with a 9:30am-6pm job, I’ve gotten better at going to bed early. But it’s different when you’re unable to sleep because your head is buzzing with thoughts, and your heart is beating fast and loud in your ears.

A few nights ago I was looking through a book of poems by Anne Sexton. I love Anne Sexton. She writes some of the most honest things I’ve ever read. And also really beautiful, in the way that truth and honesty can be. Not very polished, but raw.

Anyways, this one is called The Ambition Bird. It sprang back into my mind last night, as I couldn’t sleep.

It goes:

 

So it has come to this —
insomnia at 3:15 A.M.,
the clock tolling its engine

like a frog following
a sundial yet having an electric
seizure at the quarter hour.

The business of words keeps me awake.
I am drinking cocoa,
that warm brown mama.

I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.

It is my immortality box,
my lay-away plan,
my coffin.

All night dark wings
flopping in my heart.
Each an ambition bird.

The bird wants to be dropped
from a high place like Tallahatchie Bridge.

He wants to light a kitchen match
and immolate himself.

He wants to fly into the hand of Michelangelo
and come out painted on a ceiling.

He wants to pierce the hornet’s nest
and come out with a long godhead.

He wants to take bread and wine
and bring forth a man happily floating in the Caribbean.

He wants to be pressed out like a key
so he can unlock the Magi.

He wants to take leave among strangers
passing out bits of his heart like hors d’oeuvres.

He wants to die changing his clothes
and bolt for the sun like a diamond.

He wants, I want.
Dear God, wouldn’t it be
good enough to just drink cocoa?

I must get a new bird
and a new immortality box.
There is folly enough inside this one.

I guess I’m digesting the year that was, and feeling more thin-skinned as the year rounds off. Things are resurfacing, or surfacing, thoughts about the past, and the future. Sometimes I think how beautiful it would be to only think about the now. But then where would we be 🙂

And yet. Wouldn’t it be
good enough to just drink cocoa?

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Chocolate Toffee Sauce

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I made this sauce by accident. But what a beautiful accident it was. It’s thick and drizzly, perfectly speckled with tiny bits of dark chocolate that melt on your tongue a moment after the toffee sauce does.

To my great dismay, some of the Christmas presents I ordered never arrived (they finally arrived today!). Not wanting to get the person something else, since I really wanted to get them this specific thing, very late on December 23rd (so late, in fact, that it was almost the 24th), I had the idea of trying my hand at chewy chocolate toffees.

Not owning a sugar thermometer I decided to eye-ball it, and after happily watching my mixture of sugar, syrup, cream and dark chocolate bubble away for what seemed like nearly an hour, I decided the mixture must surely be close to soft-ball stage (even though when I poured some into a glass of cold water it didn’t really form the malleable ball it was supposed to, which I decided might be because of the chocolate I’d added, and not because the mixture wasn’t actually the desired temperature yet), and poured it into my baking parchment-lined pan. The next morning I awoke to a glorious pan of thick chocolate toffee sauce, which was hard to get too annoyed about.

So I made my brother an I’m-sorry-your-present-didn’t-get-delivered-in-time-for-Christmas mug (like this!), and spooned the toffee sauce into a sterilised jar. That jar is now happily sitting in my fridge, one third emptier than on the 24th because I had a friend over for dinner last night, and we heated some up and poured it over vanilla ice cream (*smacks lips happily*).

(Accidental) Chocolate Toffee Sauce
Slightly and accidentally adapted from chocolat.dk
Yield: one large jar. Keeps for about 3 days at room temperature, and several weeks in the fridge (my guestimate is 4-6 weeks, but I’ll test this and get back to you!).

  • 200 g sugar
  • 100 g golden syrup
  • 400 ml heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 50 g dark chocolate, chopped

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, mix cream, syrup, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil.

Let it boil away at medium heat until the caramel begins to get more golden and thick. Now and then give the mixture a stir.

Add your chopped chocolate, and keep on letting the caramel boil, giving it a good stir now and then, to mix in the chocolate.

After about 20 minutes, when the mixture is starting to thicken but is still quite liquid (indeed, before it reaches a temperature of 120°C (248°F/soft-ball stage), pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool at room temperature before keeping in the fridge to use however you please (over ice cream, in cupcakes, or simply eaten by the spoonful). Straight out of the fridge I think it could even be eaten as a kind of chocolate-caramel spread on bread. For use over ice cream, blitz it in the microwave for just a few seconds, to make it ever so slightly less thick, or allow to come to room temperature, before drizzling over the ice cream.

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* Should you wish to make the actual toffees, let your mixture reach 120°C, then pour into a pan lined with baking parchment (about 15×25 cm) and let cool over night at room temperature, covered in tin foil. Once cooled, cut into little squares, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

🎄⛄️Farmors Brunkager ⛄️🎄

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Today was my last working day of 2015 (yay!!!!), and tomorrow (the 23rd) is lillejuleaften, as we say in Danish – little Christmas Eve 🙂 For Danes, that’s when the Christmas celebrations really  begin. As in, we start making the food, and things get serious. Serious eating, serious drinking, serious Christmassing.

We’re spending Christmas at my parents’, who just moved house and are living in a maze of opened and unopened boxes. The kitchen came several weeks too late and is still being installed, and the Christmas tree has yet to be decorated (gasp) – so things promise to get a little bit chaotic!

But let’s worry about that tomorrow 🙂 Tonight there’s still time for me to finish my Christmas baking, which I am seriously behind on. But that’s all I have planned for tonight – baking, baking, baking! So Christmas is saved, at least on the cookie front 😉

I made brunkager last year as well and really loved them, but decided to try another recipe this year, for three reasons: whilst most recipes for these little Christmas cookies use dark syrup, last year I used light syrup. Moreover, last year’s recipe produced a very thin and melt-in-your-mouth cookie, which, although delicious, was not the classic brunkage-texture I was after. And finally, the dough was a bit finicky, and this year I’m just not having any of that. I loved them and will definitely make them again, but they were not like a ‘true’ brunkage, which is very thin, but also super crunchy, and very dark, not all that sweet (but just sweet enough).

I wasn’t going to make any this year, but then I stumbled upon a recipe by a favourite Danish dessert-blogger of mine, Anne au Chocolat, in a little e-magazine for a Danish brand, to which she’d contributed a few recipes. I took a screen shot but lost the link, which I guess doesn’t much matter, as long as the recipe is intact 🙂

What prompted me to try it is the fact that it’s super simple and quick. Moreover, ‘farmor’ means grandma, which led me to believe this would indeed produce a very traditional brunkage. And it did 🙂 Thin and crisp, dark  and ‘mollasses-y’ from the syrup, fragrant with cloves and cinnamon and studded with slivers of almond – this is a true brunkage. And really quick to make, which I think is always an plus during the December rush.

The recipe said to bake them for 8-10 minutes, but I ended up burning several batches this way, and finally settled on 5-6 minutes. My oven runs pretty hot, but it’s important not to bake these at too low a heat, or they don’t get as crispy-crunchy as they should. This is not a soft and chewy cookie. As they’re quite dark and fragrant, it’s important that they not bake for too long, they need to bake JUST until they begin to darken – and then, as soon as they’ve crisped up on the baking sheet for a few minutes out of the oven, they should be transferred to a cooling rack. Anyways, they’re quick to make, and taste like Danish Christmas to me 🙂 and my mum loves them, so I had to make them. I’ve included the quantities for cups and ounces below, but this recipe is definitely best to make using kitchen scales, as the conversion from grams doesn’t yield round numbers.

Wishing everyone a happy end of the year and a Merry Christmas, see you in 2016! 😊

❄Farmors brunkager❄
Yield: about 80 little cookies

  • 125 g butter (1.1 stick/0.55 cup), softened
  • 85 g (3 ounces/0.43 cup) sugar
  • 125 g (90 ml/2/5 cup) dark syrup
  • 200 g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) roughly chopped almonds, or store-bought almond slivers

In a big bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and dark syrup. If your butter is soft enough, a hand whisk or spatula should do.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Mix this into the butter mixture with a silicone spatula until just combined, then mix in the almond slivers or chopped almonds (although home-blanched/-chopped almonds will produce a better ‘bite’, I used store-bought ones this time, which are thin slivers, rather than chunky. Next year I might chop up some whole, blanched almonds though, I think, as I like the added texture it lends to the cookies 🙂 ).

The dough will be super sticky. On a lightly floured chopping board, and with floured hands, grab a chunk of the dough and, as swiftly as you can in order to avoid the need for more flour, roll it into a log about 3,5-4 cm (a little over an inch) wide. There shouldn’t be any flour visible. Place a piece of kitchen film on top, and wrap the dough, using the kitchen film to shape it into a nice log, patting the ends somewhat flat. Place on a clean chopping board, and repeat with the rest of the dough. You should have two or three little logs. Place in the fridge over night.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F.

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Slice the logs thinly, about 2-3 mm, and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes, keeping a close watch on the cookies during the last minute. They should begin to brown along the edges, but be careful to take them out of the oven before they get too dark.

Let them cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

As soon as they cookies have cooled completely, place them in a cookie tin (they get soft quite quickly if you leave them out too long!).

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The cookies keep for several weeks in a cookie tin, if not eaten 🙂

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🌲⛄Thumbprint Cookies and Jødekager⛄🌲

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I wasn’t completely ready for it to be Christmas this year, to be honest. I feel as though the past year just whizzed by, and wasn’t it just Christmas 2014? But then the last week of November rolled around, and I started to feel the tingle of anticipation creeping up on me. Last weekend we decorated my flat, and I bought a ridiculous amount of fairy lights.

So my Christmas excitement is once more alive and well, and I’m not even going to apologise for the explosion of snowflakes, Christmas trees, candy cane hearts, and snow men on this page. The fairy lights are up and the baking has begun.

Although I’m generally very much against fussy recipes, for some reason most of the Christmas cookie recipes I grew up with, and HAVE to make each year because I love them, are all a bit finicky. But a few weeks back I stumbled across the easiest, and no less delicious for it, Christmas cookie recipe. It’s even versatile. It’s most definitely going to be part of the annual Christmas cookie baking bonanza, and I may or may not have eaten a few dozen of them already.

These super moorish little thumbprint cookies are kind of like a shortbread cookie, but a little lighter (because of the baking soda), tender and crunchy at the same time, with a lovely little jammy centre 🙂 I used raspberry jam, and it was perfect, these cookies definitely need a slightly sour, or tart, sort of jam I think. I’m also going to try apricot, and maybe also some lemon curd. I think these would be killer with homemade lemon curd.

The first time I made this cookie dough I only made the thumbprint cookies, but the texture of the cookie made me think the dough would also be perfect for Danish jødekager (‘jødekager’, which translates as Jewish cakes, purportedly got their name because they resembled a type of cookie/biscuit that was traditionally sold in Jewish bakeries and shops in Copenhagen a few hundred years back), a crispy little cookie with cinnamon sugar and chopped almonds on top. I make these every year, each time using a different recipe because I can never find one I’m completely satisfied with. Until now, that is 🙂 I made some last year that I thought were perfectly lovely, but these are so much better, and so much quicker to make since there’s no faffing about with rolling pins and cookie cutters (even if I LOVE my cookie cutters – and my friend recently gave me a dinosaur-shaped one that I have yet to use!). I brought them to the office glühwein (or ‘gløgg’, in Danish) party this Thursday, and they all disappeared even though the table was almost completely covered in Christmas goodies, and I ended up taking about half of the thumbprint cookies back home with me (not a problem, they have now vanished). I think these would also make for really lovely snickerdoodles, were they to be rolled entirely in cinnamon sugar, and flattened slightly less than you would to make the jødekage-variation.

To make the jødekager, follow the instructions beneath the thumbrint cookie recipe. To make both, use half of the dough for the thumbprint cookies, and half for the jødekager (or however you want to split it, should you want to make both variations).

❄Thumbprint Christmas Cookies❄
Adapted slightly from Epicurious – makes about 4 dozen little cookies

  • 225 (1 cup/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 310 g (2 1/2 cups) flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 cup/120 ml jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together on medium until nice and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating for another minute or so.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda (I don’t always have the patience for sifting, and whisking the ingredients together with a hand whisk usually means it’s ok to skip this step).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a silicone spatula until everything is just combined. I use my hands to press it together at the end.

Ideally, cover the dough and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I didn’t do this for the first batch though, and they were fine.

Roll little 1½ cm / ½-inch balls of dough between your hands, and distribute evenly on a non-stick baking tray, leaving at least a few cm between the cookies. Don’t make them too big, as they will expand slightly, and the bigger they are, the more they’ll spread out. You want it somewhere around the size of an unshelled hazelnut, if that makes sense! The original recipe calls for them to be a little bit bigger, about twice the size of mine, but I prefer them smaller, as I find that the bigger ones expand too much and make for a less satisfying cookie-to-jam ratio.

Press a nice, deep indentation into each cookie – I find it easiest to use my pinkie or ring finger, holding the cookie steady between the thumb and index fingers with one hand, and pressing down into the cookie with the pinkie finger of the other hand, giving it a little wiggle to gently expand the hole. Scoop about 1/4 tsp of jam into each ‘thumbprint’, just enough so that it peaks out from the indentation.

Bake for about 10 minutes at 175°C/350°F, taking them out when the edges begin to brown a bit. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While one baking sheet is cooling, roll more little cookies out, place them onto a second baking sheet, make the thumbprint/fill with jam, and bake. Repeat this rotation about 4-5 times, until you run out of dough, each time letting the baking sheet cool before you place the fresh batch of unbaked cookies on it.

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Dust lightly with icing sugar, if desired 🙂 keep the cookies in a cookie tin, separated by layers of baking parchment.

Jødekager

  • One/one half portion of the cookie dough above
  • Cinnamon sugar (I just mix unprocessed cane sugar with ground cinnamon in a cup, I don’t really measure!)
  • 25 g whole almonds, blanched and chopped roughly

Blanch the almonds: pour boiling water over them in a small bowl, cover them, and leave them for about 10 minutes, whilst the skins loosen. Then pour out the hot water, and squeeze the almonds out of their skins. Chop chop chop them up roughly.

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Shape the cookie dough into little balls, about the size of an unshelled hazelnut/1-1½ cm in diameter. Place them on an ungreased, non-slip cookie sheet. Press the cookies flat with the ball of your hand, so they’re about 2-3 mm thick. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top in a sort of stripe through the middle, then press a few bits of almond on top. Bake for about 9 minutes 175°C/350°F, until they only just begin to brown around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The thumbprint cookies keep for a bit more than a week, but are best the first two days, after which they tend to get a bit stale and the jam loses it’s glossy sparkle. I’m thinking I may try to make them thinner, and coat the thumbprint in egg wash next time, this might allow for the cookies to keep for a bit longer without going stale (the thickness of the cookie, along with the moistness of the jam means that the cookie loses it’s ‘crunch’ after a few days).

I suspect the jødekager keep for much longer, since they’re crispier and don’t have the jam moistness ‘issue’. But I will report back 🙂

FYI – this dough is actually best used at room temperature, or it ‘cracks’ around the edges when you smush it down. If your dough is fridge-cold and you don’t have time to let it sit, I would roll it out into a log, and cut it as finely as possible, with a sharp, thin knife (for the jødekager, that is, for the thumbprint cookies it’s not a huge problem as you don’t need to flatten them quite as much). The dough will keep in the fridge for several days, but is easiest to work with on the day it’s made (and since it’s so quick to make, this isn’t really an issue, in my mind 🙂 ).

I’m also thinking of making these with nutella or something similar. Or maybe a dark chocolate variety, although they’d lack the chewiness of the jam, once cooked. Ooh, and I also think a tart cherry jam would be really lovely with these!

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Carrot Cupcakes with Lemon-Orange Frosting

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I first tried making these moreish little cakes about a month ago. They’re super moist (‘dejligt svampede ‘, as my Danish colleague said, which translates roughly into ‘nice and mushy’ – which appeared to be a good thing).

(Side note: I’ve stopped freaking out about the word moist – am I alone in that? Most people get really bummed out at the mention of the word, but I say we take it back, because it’s so useful when describing cake. I mean, what alternatives are there, really, to describe cake that isn’t dry? ‘Wet’ certainly won’t do. Neither will ‘damp’. ‘Squishy’? I really don’t think so. I say we reclaim ‘moist’, at the very least for baking purposes. End of side note.)

Aaanyways, these are super moist, super quick to make, and super easy to eat. And who doesn’t love carrot cake? I really don’t know.

The first time I made them it was without frosting, as I’m really not a fan of cream cheese frosting, and I personally think that carrot cake is so delicious on its own that it really doesn’t need any frosting to begin with. I know that to many this is a slightly controversial statement, and I know a lot of people go mad for cream cheese frosting, but… meh! I don’t know, it just doesn’t do anything for me. And neither does buttercream frosting, I find it a bit off-putting and not all that interesting-tasting… BUT – on this particular Sunday, feeling adventurous, I decided to google ‘alternatives to cream cheese frosting’, and came upon an orange frosting that uses a little bit of butter, but not enough to be off-putting to me (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE butter in cake, and on fresh bread or toast, but I just can’t see the appeal when it’s mixed into sugar and milk and vanilla, in an unbaked form…). While I really liked the orange frosting, I still didn’t find it tangy enough, so I added some fresh lemon juice, and lo and behold, it turned into a lemon-orange frosting delight! At least I think so 🙂 And my colleagues seemed to really enjoy them when I brought them into work! Though they do tend to be rather forgiving whatever type of (more or less successfully) baked good I bring in, they were especially vocal about these ones. I’ll test the few ones that are left on my friends later today.

I also decided to forego the ginger in the original recipe this time around, and upped the cinnamon content slightly – although I love ginger, I prefer my carrot cake to be a little more on the cinnamon-nutmeg side 🙂 I also swapped part of the sugar for brown sugar, I’m not sure whether I’ll do this next time, but it does add a bit of ‘oomph’. And finally, while I personally don’t think they need any frosting,
it doesn’t hurt, and this one is dreamy, adds a lovely tang and off-sets the spices in the cake nicely. If you are a die-hard fan of cream cheese frosting, I’m 100% sure the original maple cream cheese frosting from smitten kitchen will more than do the job! And if you’re into something in between a thick glaze and a buttercream frosting with a nice zing of lemon juice and orange zest, then do give this one a go 🙂

Carrot Cupcakes with Lemon-Orange Frosting
Adapted slightly from smittenkitchen

  • 250 g (2 cups) flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 300 g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 300 ml (1 1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots
  • (optional: 100 g/1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts)

Line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners, and preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F.

Peel and finely grate your carrots, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda. Stir the mixture into the wet ingredients, followed by the grated carrots (and nuts, if using). Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling the cupcake liners about 3/4.

Bake them for about 15-20 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean. These are almost impossible to over-bake, but you don’t want them to burn on top. I do, however, find that it’s best to err on the side of 20 minutes, to make sure the cakes aren’t too wet at the bottom (they really are extremely moist). It’s also a good idea to turn your pan around halfway through baking, to ensure the cupcakes rise evenly, and not more on one side than the other.

Let cool for five minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Lemon-Orange Frosting
Adapted from be-ro

  • 50 g (2 ounces) butter, melted
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1-2 tbsp (15-30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • 225 g icing sugar

Beat together the melted butter, orange and lemon juice, orange zest and icing sugar, beating for a good 5 minutes or so, until the mixture becomes light and airy, and has a spreadable consistency. Set aside until the cupcakes have cooled completely, then add little dollops to each cake, spreading it out with a knife.

Makes 24-28 little cupcakes, depending on the size of your cupcake liners.

 

 

Vegan Banana Cake :)

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I have a very problematic relationship with vegan baking. My lovely, vegan friend Klaudia is always missing out on dessert whenever we have a dinner party or some such, which made my sweet-toothed heart cry for her. Determined that she should want no more, I got googling and baking. But these adventures in vegan baking have been very tough on my baking self esteem. However, having wasted crazy amounts of perfectly good chocolate, and many, many bananas, I am happy to report that here is a vegan cake that doesn’t taste… well, vegan.

I know a lot of people say  it’s easy to bake tasty vegan cakes, but I think they must have forgotten what butter, milk and eggs taste like. I’m not a fan of margarine or soy milk, and I always try for recipes that don’t need anything ‘out of the ordinary’ to work. But in the end, I always find that, at the most, they taste ok, but lack something. Either in flavour or consistency. Maybe I’m mistaken, and I’ll happily be proven wrong, it’s just that I’ve tried (and failed) at so many vegan cakes now, that I’ve become very apprehensive at the idea of wasting any more chocolate. Some of these cakes have tasted fine enough.. But not in the way that you’d want to make them again.

And don’t even get me started on vegan chocolate cakes… I just cannot express how many times I’ve been disappointed, when the cake that smelled so good coming out of the oven, was just… meh. So much chocolate wasted. So. Much. I’ve also tried making ganache with coconut oil, but I just find the subtle taste of coconut distracting. Anyways, do please send me your (non-fussy) vegan chocolate cake recipes, if you have any, maybe I’ve just been unlucky!

Whilst more or less an omnivore, I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian food, simply because it makes me feel better after I eat it, and I feel as though I digest it better. And the way we produce and farm animal protein really disturbs and upsets me. I try to be conscious of where I buy my eggs and butter from, but even so… long story short, I’m always happy to find recipes that are vegetarian or even vegan!

I already have a favourite (non-vegan) recipe for banana cake, but this one is, dare I say it – just about as good. And vegan to boot. It’s from a Danish blogger, Månebarnet, which means the moon child 🙂 and it’s everything a banana cake should be, in my opinion – it’s really, really, crazily moist, studded with dark chocolate and walnuts, and strikes a perfect balance between salty and sweet. I’m really curious to try out some more of her recipes! This one turned out so yummy, and she has a lot more interesting and yummy-looking recipes.. albeit in Danish 🙂 I’m especially tempted to try out this courgette/zucchini cake. I shall report back!

Moist Vegan Banana Cake 🙂 (makes one round cake, or 20 little muffins*)
From Månebarnet

  • 200 g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 130 g (1 1/3 cups) sugar (preferably cane sugar)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar/powder/extract
  • 100 ml (just over 6 1/2 tbsp) vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 3 ripe, mashed bananas (about 250 g)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • 50-60 g (1/3 cup or 2.1 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (obviously one containing no dairy!)
  • 100 g (1 cup or 4.3 ounces) chopped walnuts

Whisk together all your dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar, as well as vanilla if using vanilla sugar/powder). Mush up your bananas, then chop your walnuts and chocolate.

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Add the lemon juice or vinegar, the oil and the mushed bananas (and the vanilla, at this stage, if using vanilla extract) into the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined (don’t over-mix, as the cake will become heavy). Add the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, and transfer to a greased springform tin (about 20 cm/9 inches in diameter).

Bake for 45-55 minutes at 160°C/320°F, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool before attempting to cut (although it’ll taste phenomenal, it won’t cut very neatly otherwise!).

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Keeps for several days, wrapped in tinfoil or covered with a cake dome. 🙂

P.s.: I may try drizzling a bit of dark chocolate over this next time I make it! Where other vegan banana cakes I’ve tried weren’t quite sweet enough, and were easily tipped over the edge towards too bitter with the addition of dark chocolate, this is quite a sweet cake, so I think it could handle a bit of a decorative dark chocolate drizzle. Not that it needs it, but it wouldn’t hurt at all! I also think this would make for wonderful little banana-nut muffins* – with or without chocolate 🙂

*Update: I’ve now tried making these as muffins, too, and they were wonderful! And somehow even more appealing, because they’re slightly easier to eat/transport etc, in this format 🙂 The recipe makes for about 20 little muffins. I added about 100 g finely chopped walnuts on top of the muffins, to add a nice crunch and make them a bit more appealing, visually. Bake them in muffin liners, at 160°C/320°F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Havuçlu Kek (Turkish Carrot Cake)

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This Sunday I made two different carrot cakes, 1) because I was curious to try out this recipe, and 2) because I’d grated too many carrots for the one I had initially decided to make, which was already in the oven, and so it seemed meant to be that I should bake this particular cake right this instant.

Please excuse the lack of pictures – I managed to gobble up all of the cake but for one little tinfoil-wrapped piece, which I hurriedly took a picture of before eating it for breakfast a few days ago. This is different to any carrot cake I’ve tried, more a cinnamon-spice cake really, than a classic carrot cake. It’s super moist but somehow less ‘wet’ than most, containing about half the amount of grated carrots than other carrot cakes, sweet and subtle and perfectly studded with roughly chopped walnuts. It’s my favourite carrot cake to date, and that’s saying a lot, as it’s hard to go wrong with any carrot cake, in my opinion. While I don’t think any carrot cake really needs frosting to begin with (I know that this may come as a shock to most of the die-hard classic cream cheese frosting fans out there, but I am not one of them!), this cake is somehow even more unassuming than other carrot cakes, and is just perfect as is – no muss, no fuss, and no frosting. Just perfectly moist cake with cinnamon and walnuts, and a hint of grated carrot. I even ended up bringing all of the carrot cupcakes with lemon-orange frosting I’d just made to work with me the next day to give to my colleagues, although they were perfectly delicious, because I only want to eat this one right now. It also seems completely perfect for this time of year, red and yellow leaves on the trees and ground, and brisk autumn winds and all 🙂 the same way spiced cider and big, woolly scarves do.

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Long story short, I’ll certainly be making this again 🙂 and most probably not just in autumn.

Havuçlu kek (Turkish carrot cake)
Adapted slightly from Hayriye’s Turkish Food and Recipes

  • 3 eggs
  • 300 g sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer)
  • 250 g (2 cups) flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (I used 1 whole tsp because the salt I have is fleur de sel, but if you’re using fine table salt, then I suggest cutting the amount to 1/2-2/3 tsp)
  • Grated zest of one half to one whole lemon, depending on how big your lemon is. If in doubt, go for half (I didn’t have any oranges, but I will try adding orange zest as well, next time I bake this) (*I’ve now tried adding the zest of one orange as well, and while I don’t think it makes a huge difference in taste, it certainly doesn’t hurt!)
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot (240 ml)
  • 100 g (1 cup) roughly chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale and foamy. Add the oil, and mix well. Add in the grated carrots, lemon/orange zest and chopped walnuts. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, then fold this into the wet ingredients.

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Pour the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured bundt cake tin, and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin, then carefully cut around the edges with a very thin knife, to loosen it from the sides of the tin. Turn the cake out onto a plate, and enjoy 🙂

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Keeps well for several days wrapped in tin foil.