Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chocolate and Walnut Squares

These little nutty truffle like sweets which are also gluten free are lovely to have after dinner with coffee. They are incredibly easy to make as they don't need any cooking or baking. I found this recipe in a fellow foodblogger's recipe collection (Lilafüge) when I was looking for something small, simple and chocolaty to make last weekend.  I adjusted a couple of ingredients to match our UK availability. They are called Diós Kocka and usually served around Christmas, cut into very small squares as they are really intense in flavour, chocolate and walnuts. You could make it with almonds or hazelnuts too, whatever you have in the cupboard. The chocolate ganache on top could be used for various toppings for cakes, very easy to make.

250g ground walnuts
230g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50ml water
10g butter
100g dark chocolate, chopped
100ml double cream

Grind the walnuts in a food processor until resembles breadcrumbs. Heat the sugar with the water and vanilla extract until completely melted and starts to boil. Add the walnuts and butter and stir this paste around on a lower heat for a couple of minutes. Pour the mix into a small (I used 20x15cm) lined tin or baking tray, smooth the surface and allow to cool. In the meantime prepare the ganache topping. Heat the double cream in a pan until it is boiling. Take it off the heat and mix in the chocolate pieces until it is really smooth and completely mixed. Pour this on top of the walnut paste, smooth it down with a spatula and let it cool. Put it in the fridge and leave it for a few hours, it will harden even more and will be really easy to cut into small bit size squares.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Csokis diós jojó Chocolate and Walnut yo-yo

I took a few shots of these biscuits and chose a less christmassy looking one as it is still only October... For those craving for some Christmas glitter there are the silver sprayed Allium heads and a candle in the background :-) These little bite size biscuits are a perfect addition to coffee, tea or a hot spiced drink. Chocolate and walnuts are main ingredients in a lot of sweet dishes, cakes and biscuits around the holidays in Hungary and having a welcome selection of sweet nibbles is very traditional when you are having friends and family around. Box them up they make a great home-baked present too!

For the biscuit base:
350g plain flour
200g butter
150g caster sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
few drops of vanilla extract
1 tsp rum
pinch of salt
grated zest of half lemon
1 tbsp milk

For the walnut crunch coating:
2 egg whites, gently whisked
250g chopped walnuts 

For the filling:
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Mix and knead all the biscuit ingredients until smooth. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour. Warm the cream and the chocolate and stir until it's completely melted, then cool it down. When cool, put it in the fridge to chill then lightly beat to get it slightly more firm. Preheat oven to 180C. When well chilled and easier to mould, roll your pastry with your hands into lots of cherry size balls. Dip them into the egg whites then coat them with the chopped walnuts and place them on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the nuts become a golden toasted colour and the biscuit cooked through. Cool and start assembling the yo-yo's by sticking two discs together with a small teaspoon of chocolate cream filling. This quantity makes about 25 yo-yo biscuits.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


One of my favourite treats from my childhood is Császármorzsa. It has to be the quickest after school nibble to make when you happen to have lots of children in the house. 
The name comes from the time of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy where it was called Kaiserschmarrn (The Emperor's Crumble) and it was first made by the royal patissier for the Emperor Franz Josef I and his wife Sissi. It is a type of pancake batter and usually served with raspberry syrup(or cordial), fruit compote or jam in Hungary. In Austria we tried it in ski resorts where it's served with apple puree and is a delicious midday treat with a cup of hot chocolate. Traditionally it's cooked in a large pancake pan and made with plain flour. In Hungary it can also be made with semolina instead of flour and baked in the oven in a large baking tray.
I find it similar to drop scones or scotch pancakes but less fiddly as it's either baked whole in the oven or you just make 3 or 4 large pancakes in one go saving a lot of time standing around waiting for lots of mini pancakes to get done. In both cases the end result is roughly chopped up into small pieces, sprinkled with caster sugar and drizzled with runny jam or dunked into apple puree. It would make an excellent quick breakfast treat too. This quantity serves 4 people.

4 eggs
80g caster sugar
400ml milk
250g plain flour (you could use self raising flour to make the batter more fluffy) 
30g melted butter
flavourless oil for shallow frying
apple puree, runny jam, and more caster sugar for serving

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until smooth. Add the flour and milk, little at a time to make sure it's all well mixed without any lumps. Add the melted butter and mix well. Spoon and carefully mix the beaten egg whites into the batter. 
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pancake pan or frying pan, pour enough batter into the pan so that it will be enough for 3 or 4 thick pancakes, depending on the size of your pan. Fry it until golden on one side then turn it over with a spatula and fry the other side. When it's done, chop it up roughly with a wooden spoon put it on a plate and sprinkle with caster sugar. If you are baking it in the oven, preheat the oven to 200C. Heat up enough oil in a large baking dish that the bottom is generously coated. Pour all the batter into the dish and bake until golden colour and cooked through. Chop it up roughly into small pieces and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Kuglóf must be one of the easiest cakes to make. It's a very popular coffee and tea time cake you can find in most European countries (Gugelhupf, Bundkuchen). It's made with a soft, sweet yeasty dough and can be filled with dried or candied fruit, nuts, marzipan, chocolate or cocoa (marble cake) and in Hungary often layered with poppy seed. My Mum gave me her lovely old blue enamel kuglóf baking mould a few years ago but it's chipped in a few places going rusty, so I need to get it fixed before I can use it. For this recipe I tried my new silicone mould, which is not as tall as the enamel one. The recipe is from one of my old cookbooks Venesz József: Magyaros konyha.
I added some sultanas to the dough as that's the only filling we used to have when we made it at home and it looks great when you slice it.

280g flour
15g fresh yeast
400 ml milk
3 egg yolks
60g butter
80g icing sugar
grated lemon zest
pinch of salt
30g sultanas

Crumble and mix the yeast with 80g of the flour  and 150ml warm milk. Cover and leave this starter dough to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes. 
Cream the icing sugar with the butter and egg yolks until smooth and fluffy. Add the starter dough, rest of the flour, lemon zest, sultanas, salt and the rest of the warmed up milk. Mix it well, until it is light and air bubbles start to form in the dough when you mix it. It will be a slightly runny, soft, sweet dough. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and dust a ring shape tin/kuglóf tin with semolina/fine breadcrumbs or use a silicone mould (you don't need to grease this). Fill the mould with the dough, cover and let it prove for another 30 minutes. Bake until cooked through and golden colour, this takes 35-40 minutes. When ready, turn it out of the mould and cool on a wire rack, dust with icing sugar.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Almás rétes Apple strudel

There is a difference between strudels depending on where they come from. This is a typical basic pastry recipe for a Hungarian strudel that can be filled with hundreds of different sweet or savoury fillings. Apple, sweet ricotta, cherry, poppy seed paste are the most popular ones, you will see in patisseries. If you are lucky to have tried some home made rétes at your or some friends grandparents house then you may be familiar with some savoury fillings such as cabbage, potatoes and sausage or pumpkin. These strudels don't have the lettuce-work pastry topping like the Viennese strudels, so don't mix them up. 
The success of a good strudel pastry depends on the flour, which has to have a high protein content. If you use plain flour, some recipes recommend adding an egg to it just to raise the overall protein content. I have not tried this yet, but searched through all the flours in the supermarket, and found the very strong bread flour had the highest gluten content of all.   This gives the pastry its elasticity so it is easy to stretch so thin that you can read a book through it. Apparently. Kneading it by hand for a good 20 minutes also helps developing the right texture. I wouldn't say my kneading was of an experienced rétes-maker, hence the layers were less impressive when it came out of the oven. More practise definitely needed! (There are excellent tutorials for stretching strudel pastry on Youtube if you can't picture how to do it).
Of course you could use ready made filo sheets, but these are usually far too small and taste a bit like baking parchment - nothing like the real thing! Also traditionally, fat would be used instead of butter, but this really wouldn't be very popular here in the UK so I adapted the recipe.

For the pastry:
500g flour (with highest gluten content)
40g butter (and more for brushing the pastry before filling)
400ml warm water (mixed with a pinch of salt and tsp vinegar)

For the filling (which I would start cooking before starting on the pastry):
1kg dessert apples
200g granulated sugar
handful of sultanas
Cinnamon stick or tsp of ground cinnamon

Make the filling first so it has time to cool. Peel, core and grate the apples. Place in a heavy bottom pan with the sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and cook until soft, almost creamy texture and most of the juices have evaporated. Cool completely before filling the pastry.
Crumble the butter into the flour between your fingers or use a food processor for this, as if you were making a crumble topping. I guess mixing by hand is more traditional and may contribute to perfect strudel stretchiness... When all mixed and smooth, start adding the water until you have a soft dough. You need to knead this, softly stretching it and knocking it back for about 20 minutes by which time you should have a soft, elastic dough. Divide this in two (for two strudels) and cover them with a warm dish (I stuck a couple of pans in the oven to warm up while kneading the dough). Leave to rest for another 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cover your dining table with a clean tablecloth and dust with flour. Start by rolling the first dough out as much as you can with a rolling pin then carefully start stretching it with the back of your hand. Stretch it as much as you possibly can but do not despair if you cannot read a book through it. You may have a few minor holes in the pastry but by the time you roll it up it will all disappear and look perfect.
Let it dry for a few minutes then brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with semolina or breadcrumbs under the filling to stop the pastry going soggy. Spread half the filling at one end of the pastry in a line and with the help of the tablecloth start rolling it up. It should be flat rather than a round roll shape. Once rolled you could cut the pastry edges clean off the end and sides if you need to. Place on a lined baking sheet and make the second strudel. When both strudels are ready, brush with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden and  the pastry layers are cooked through. Slice, dust with icing sugar and serve warm.


Rosehip Cordial Csipkebogyó szörp

Last Sunday we had a lovely morning at Stoneywish Nature Reserve recommended by my friend Briah. Because of the recent wet weather it was really quiet and we had the place to ourselves, so Leo our 18 months old could run around happily checking out the farm animals, wooden structures at the playground, the teepees and feed the ducks and the fish in the pond - which is the cleanest and most full of wildlife I have ever seen. There were few blackberries left which he all pretty much ate off the hedgerow there and then, but there were plenty of rosehips to pick from now until Christmas. Not entirely sure if it's ok to pick the hedgerows in a Nature Reserve, I had a go anyway as there were so much of it and picked a small amount (about half a large freezer bag) so there is always plenty left for the birds too. 
When I was searching for a good rosehip cordial recipe I found a great variety of them. Most will tell you to boil the fruit with water, then add sugar and carry on boiling for quite sometime to reduce to a syrup. Rosehips have one of the highest vitamin C (and other vitamins) contents among the hedgerow berries, which tend to diminish at temperatures even as low as 50-60C. Its flavours might improve with cooking, but the winter goodness that is so excellent to keep away colds will completely disappear with lengthy boiling. Some recipes suggest longer soaking time in cooler water, then adding a sugar syrup separately, which I chose to do in the end.
Picking rosehips is best around the end of October when the first frosts arrive. Make sure the berries are bright red and ripe but not yet soft. Wear some gloves and clothes you don't mind ruining, the bushes are full of thorns. 

500g Rosehips
800g granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Top and tail the rosehips removing the green stalk at one end and the black tip at the other. Wash and rinse. Chop the hips up in a food processor into small pieces. Cover them with 500 ml boiling water and 250ml cold water, give it a good stir, cool down and stick in the fridge for a couple of days. If you can remember give it a stir every so often. After two days of soaking, strain the liquid through a fine muslin to get rid of any hips and seeds, discard these, the tiny hairs on them can irritate the throat. Make the sugar syrup by gently heating the sugar with 250ml water until dissolves (do not stir). Boil it for a few minutes to thicken, cool it down slightly then gently pour into the strained rosehip juice, adding the lemon juice to it, stirring to mix well. Pour into sterilised bottles or plastic tupperware for freezing later. Allow to cool down completely before putting in the fridge or freezer. It will keep for a week in the fridge, which is why it is handy to freeze some. This makes a tasty Christmas present too if you can bear giving some away! The above quantity made us 1.5 litres of cordial.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mákos guba - Honey and Poppy seed Bread and Butter Pudding

Autumn is truly here with its damp and cold days and it naturally inspires me to cook more wintry dishes. There are a lot of store cupboard ingredients to choose from when there is less fresh fruit available, and the two most popular ones for toppings and fillings in sweet dishes in Hungary are poppy seeds and walnut. There is so much more to poppy seed than it being just a decoration sprinkled on cakes and pastries. Ground up and cooked with milk, sugar and spices it makes a delicious sweet and creamy paste, or ground and mixed with icing sugar you can sprinkle on various baked desserts. To ground poppy seed it is easiest to use a coffee grinder or a spice grinder. I mix it with icing sugar and grind it like that if a recipe calls for both. Mákos guba was originally made around Christmas time to symbolise wealth with the thousands of tiny seeds. It is still prepared as a celebration dish around the holidays. But these days many families have it all year round, it's a favourite with children too. This is a classic version of a traditional dish, but it can also be baked with custard, spices or orange and lemon zest added, served with cream or whatever takes your fancy. I love it traditionally served with a generous drizzle of honey. In Hungary you would make it with butter horn pastries (kifli), these are medium size yeasty dough pastries shape of a half moon. I will add a post on how to make these, they are really simple. This time I used a normal size baguette which is available everywhere.

1 normal size baguette (not too long and chunky)
450ml milk
vanilla pod or vanilla extract
80g black poppy seed
80g icing sugar
40g butter

Preheat oven to 180C. Slice your baguette into 1cm discs and place them on a baking tray then put it in the oven to dry them out a bit. This pudding is usually made with slightly stale bread that soaks up the vanilla scented milk better. If you have a fresh baguette, drying in the oven helps to achieve this. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't start to toast. 
Butter a medium size baking dish and place the baguette discs in. Warm the milk up with a few drops of vanilla extract or the scraped seeds and pod from the vanilla. Do not let it boil. Pour the hot milk over the bread and let it soak. Turn it if you need to so it soaks up the milk all over. Grind the poppy seed and mix it with the icing sugar. Sprinkle this on top of the milky bread, turning it to coat the whole lot. Dot the top with pieces of butter and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until warmed through and the bread is softened but slightly crispy on top.
Serve it with a good drizzle of honey.