Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cherry and Almond Advent Wreath

In Hungary Advent wreaths are normally made of fir, pine cones and 4 candles for the 3rd Sunday before Christmas, to light a candle each Sunday and then the last one on Christams Eve. I was so happy to discover that people also bake them, in fact some bake one for each Sunday of Advent! I think it's a lovely thing to do and you could decorate it with small candles if you wish.
I based the recipe on the Norwegian kringle wreath from Scandilicious Baking and glad I did. The distinctive flavour of ground cardamom in the dough and the lightness of this sweet milky bread is fantastic. I added kirsch soaked dried sour cherries instead of sultanas as they go so well with the almond paste that is the filling for this wreath. The sugar crystals and almonds on top make it look really festive too.

For the dough:
300ml whole milk
75g butter
500g plain flour
1tsp ground cardamom
3/4tsp salt
7g dried yeast
1 egg, beaten

50g dried sour cherries
3-4tbsp kirsch or cherry liqueur
150g marzipan 
75g ground almonds
50g butter
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1/4tsp salt
2-3 tbsp caster sugar

To finish:
1 egg, beaten
flaked almonds
sugar crystals (I used Lidl's edible cake decorations) or crushed sugar cubes

Scald the milk by heating it with the butter until almost boiling, this will make the bread softer. Let it cool to lukewarm temperature. Sift together the flour, sugar, cardamom, salt and dried yeast and mix well. Add the beaten egg and the slightly warm buttery milk and mix it until you get a smooth dough that comes off the sides of the bowl. Cover and let it prove in a warm place until doubles in size, for 30-40 minutes.
Make the filling by soaking the cherries in the kirsch. Mix all the filling ingredients together (add sugar to taste) in a food processor until you get a creamy paste.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface so it is a long thin rectangle of about 15x60cm. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, drain the cherries and sprinkle these over evenly. Roll it up into a cylinder, starting from one of the longer edges of the rectangle, brushing the other long edge with a bit of water to help seal the pastry. Bring the two open ends together to form a wreath shape and pinch to seal them together. Leave to prove in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. 
Preaheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Glaze the wreath with the beaten egg then sprinkle almond flakes and sugar crystals all over it. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the base. My oven is really fierce, so I had to cover it halfway with foil, but all ovens are different. Cool on a wire rack before serving. You can also make it in advance and freeze this wreath, in that case defrost in a low 150C oven for 20-25 minutes, then bake at 190C for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Chocolate coated cherries and prunes

I didn't intend to make these sweets. They ended up being a by-product of the szaloncukor batches I was making yesterday, but actually they are really delicious and make great christmas presents! I had some leftover melted dark chocolate I was using for dipping the marzipan nuggets, and didn't want to waste them. I also had open boxes of dried sour cherries and soft stoned prunes. Remembering how nice the shop bought chocolate coated dried fruit can be, I quickly made a couple of handfuls of these little treats. You could use any dried fruit you prefer, golden sultanas, figs, cranberries or even nuts would also be great. I used Lidl's 50% dark chocolate, chopped and melted in a bowl over simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water though. Dip them with the help of a fork and cool on baking parchment. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes so it is properly set, then they are ready to box. I covered a cardboard box with christmas wrapping paper to turn it into a festive gift.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rákóczi Túrós Baked meringue cheese cake

Here is another good old curd cheese cake recipe. There are thousands in Hungarian baking! This one is a huge favourite with everyone and one of the staples you can get in any cakeshop. I have been planning to make Rákóczi túrós for a while, and recently found a Polish curd cheese/cottage cheese in Asda that is very similar to the one you get in Hungary. I was very excited to try it (Saddo). You could use ricotta too. This cake is named after the French trained János Rákóczi, the Hungarian royal master patissier. He created this cake for the 1958 World Expo in Brussels as part of a selection of Hungarian dishes to represent what is quintessentially magyar in our cuisine. Rákóczi's recipe has been changed and altered by many over the years to suit changing tastes, but I followed his basic original recipe as I think it is the best and tastiest of all. He suggests a lettuce pattern of meringue and apricot jam on top, which I think is very retro in its looks and takes too long to fiddle with. So I made a plain meringue topping that I drizzled with jam (using my new drizzling gadget I got from my aunt). You could add more filling or more meringue as you wish.

For the pastry base:
250g plain flour
60g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
grated zest of half lemon
100ml sour cream
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt

For the filling:
500g curd cheese (or strained cottage cheese, ricotta)
3 egg yolks
2 egg whites
200ml sour cream
grated zest of half a lemon
few drops of vanilla extract
100g icing sugar
4 tbsp semolina and more for sprinkling

For the meringue topping:
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar

Mix the pastry ingredients together until you get a shortcrust pastry type of dough and rest it for half an hour in the fridge. Preheat oven to 180C and roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness and place in a baking tray, I used a 20x30cm tray with 3cm sides. It doesn't need lining and I cut the pastry to the size of the tray base. Prick it with a fork in several places. Bake it for 10 minutes, it doesn't need to be fully baked, just dry enough for the filling to go on top. Let it cool and make the filling.
Push the curd cheese through a potato mincer. Mix the egg yolks with the icing sugar until smooth an pale, add the vanilla etxract, curd cheese, sour cream, semolina, lemon zest.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the filling. Sprinkle the pastry with semolina and spread the filling on top evenly. Turn the oven down to 160C and bake it for about 20 minutes or until the filling has cooked through and when tested with a wooden skewer, it comes out dry. Take it out of the oven and make the meringue topping. Beat the 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form then add the caster sugar gradually. Spread the meringue mix on top of the cheese cake and bake it ready in the oven. I turned the oven up to 180C to start with to get that crisp meringue coat going, then turned it down to 140C to let the meringue centre bake a little but still keeping that lovely marshmallow texture. It really only needs to dry up a bit. When ready, cool it down and cut into squares or slices, drizzle with apricot jam.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cheese scones Juhtúrós pogácsa

Juhtúró is a soft sheep's cheese with a very strong distinctive flavour. It's delicious in a lot of savoury dishes like scones or pasta dishes. It makes a lovely moist dough for scones, they don't dry out but stay fresh for days. I haven't seen anything similar in the UK but came up with the idea of using other types of sheep's cheese widely available instead. Feta cheese mixed with a bit of natural cottage cheese gave the right creamy and slightly salty texture that juhtúró has. But ricotta could also be used instead. You could even add a sprinkle of grated Pecorino or Manchego on top, both of which are  hard sheep's cheese.  I opted for a more decorative finish of poppy seeds and sesame sprinkle. These small cheesy scones are great as a savoury nibble, or eat them with a bowl of warming soup as we did. The beautiful hand made ceramic bowl was a recent present from my Dutch friends Vera and Remco :-)

To make 45-50 small scones: 
500g plain flour
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
250g butter
200g feta cheese
100g plain cottage cheese
2 egg yolks
200ml creme fraiche or sour cream
pinch of salt
1 beaten egg for egg wash, sesame and poppy seeds for decoration

Mix the flour with the dried yeast and crumble together with the butter until it is a fine breadcrumb texture. Mix in the finely crumbled feta and the cottage cheese. Add the egg yolks, sour cream, salt and knead it until completely mixed and you have a fairly firm dough. Put in a clean bowl, cover and let it prove for 1,5-2 hours in a warm place. Preheat the oven to 180C. Knock the dough back and roll it to a 1cm thickness on a floured surface. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out the scones and place them on a greased baking sheet. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden colour and cooked through.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Chocolate dipped marzipan sweets Marcipános szaloncukor

In Hungary there is no Christmas without szaloncukor. These chocolate coated sweets are essential part of Christmas, you can buy them everywhere in large boxes and they are used as tree decorations. There are lots of different fillings, I chose one of my favourite which is a dark chocolate coated marzipan. Really quick and easy to make at home, they make great presents too, individually wrapped and if you feel adventurous you could hang them up the tree with some ribbon. 

To make about 500g or 35-40 sweets:
200g ground almond
150g icing sugar
few drops of almond extract
200g dark chocolate, chopped
about 40ml water

To make the marzipan, mix the ground almond with the icing sugar and gradually add some water until you get a paste that is easy to knead and mould into balls. Be careful not to add too much water as it will get too soft. Add a few drops of almond extract, knead it until well mixed, now you have your marzipan ready to mould. Form small bite size pieces with your fingers. Put the chocolate in a bowl and melt it over some simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. When completely melted, dip the marzipan pieces into the chocolate with a fork and place them on baking parchment. When all done, put them in the fridge to set, this will take about an hour, after which they will be ready to be wrapped.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Tear and share walnut bread - Aranygaluska

Aranygaluska if translated literally means golden nuggets. Sweet, almost doughnut rich yeasty dough nuggets layered with sweet ground walnuts and melted butter. It's a course in itself all year round, except I made this one with star cookie cutters, so it's fit for the Christmas table. If you are making it for other occasions, just use an ordinary round or moon shaped cutter. Traditionally it's baked in a round tin and you are not meant to cut it but eat it in a tear and share style, dunking it into warm custard while it's still warm out of the oven. 

For the dough:
500g plain flour
25g fresh yeast or packet of dried yeast 
3 egg yolks
250ml warm milk
50g melted butter
50g icing sugar
pinch of salt

For the walnut filling:
Grind 200g walnuts to a coarse breadcrumb texture in a food processor. Mix it with 5 tbsp icing sugar. Prepare 100g butter.
Make a starter dough by mixing 100ml warm milk, crumbled yeast, teaspoon of icing sugar and 3 tbsp flour. Put in a warm place so the yeast can activate (if using dried yeast, you can leave this stage out and mix all ingredients in one go). After about 15-20 minutes the starter dough should be ready to mix with the other ingredients, adding the melted butter last. Work this dough until smooth and silky and air bubbles start to form while mixing, either with a dough hook in a mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove and double in size, for about an hour.
Take the dough and knead it on a floured surface then roll it out to about 1cm thickness.  
Grease a 26cm loose bottom cake tin. Melt the 100g butter and have it ready in a bowl next to the sugary ground walnut. Start cutting stars out of the dough with the cookie cutter, dip each one into the melted butter then coat with the walnut mix. Place them into the tin snugly next to each other, creating 3 layers of nuggets by the time you used all the dough. Sprinkle the leftover walnut mix on top if there is any. If you don't want to dip every single nugget, then you can just brush each layer with the melted butter and sprinkle with the walnut mix. Preheat oven to 180C and let the cake rest and prove until the oven warms up. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until it's cooked through. Take the side off the cake tin and serve it warm on the tin base.