eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Category: TO BAKE

23 Recipes for Cozy Christmas Baking

Maltese Christmas Cookies

I’m sitting at our dining table, listening to Jingle Bells, wrapping Christmas presents, and waiting for the snow to fall. It’s the last weekend before Christmas, the last chance to fill the kitchen with the tempting smell of cinnamon, cloves, and citrus fruits, cardamom, chocolate, and candied nuts, so what am I going to bake? I picked 23 recipes from the last four years of cozy Christmas feasting on Eat In My Kitchen and I love each one of them. Just a look at the pictures and my taste buds get excited. I can remember the woody notes of my Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies, the citrusy-buttery sweetness of my Mediterranean family’s Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies, the elegance of my mother’s classic, her Linzer Cookies, and of course, my annual highlight, the best Vanilla Kipferl in the world. You can find a variation of this famous German cookie in my Eat In My Kitchen book, wonderfully fragrant Cardamom Kipferl. So, happy baking, treat yourself to a cozy weekend with the ones you love and indulge in the pleasures of Christmas baking!

Click on the titles for the recipes:

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Christmas Chocolate Panettone

Chocolate Panettone

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies

Maltese Lemon Cookies

German Elisenlebkuchen

Lebkuchen

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Cookies

Chocolate Spice Cookies

Claire Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Linzer Cookies

Sandwich Cookies

German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Maltese Essijiet Vermouth Cookies

Essijiet Cookies

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

 

Dark Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

Vanilla Kipferl

Vanilla Kipferl

Red Currant and Oat Cookies

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

Buttery Blue Cheese Crackers

Buttery Blue Cheese Cookies

 

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

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My granny Lisa was loved and adored for many of her baked goods. She truly mastered the German Sunday coffee table, filling the house with the sweetest smell of butter, sugar, and eggs every weekend. To please her six children’s cravings, and later a growing pack of grandchildren, she sometimes baked seven different cakes in one day. Sponge and fruit cakes, cream tarts and crumbles were often lined up on her kitchen counter and doubtlessly influenced my own baking habits. Her Donauwelle – a marbled cake with cherries and buttercream – will always be my favourite. It’s the taste of my childhood – and the beginning of my ever hungry sweet tooth.

Six to eight weeks before Christmas, Lisa used to take orders from friends and family for another one of her celebrated classics: stollen. It’s a German staple that you can find at every bakery, in every household as soon as the Christmas lights leave the boxes to twinkle behind wintery windows. The original stollen is quite a dense treat, it’s a heavy yeast dough, the texture is crumbly like a fruit bread, but it has richness and depth. Raisins, candied orange and lemon peel infuse the cake for weeks while it sits wrapped in parchment paper in the darkness of the pantry. The top brushed with warm fat and then generously dusted with icing sugar, preventing it from drying out and giving it its snowy white Christmas look.

You can find various interpretations of the basic formula and fill the cake with marzipan, hazelnut or poppy seed paste to add taste and moistness. This is the first stollen recipe I ever created and I wanted it to be an aromatic firework of flavours without distracting from the classic’s qualities. I went for bittersweet chocolate chunks, candied orange peel, and a touch of christmassy cardamom and aniseed. I’m more impatient than my granny, so we ate the stollen immediately. There’s only one treat that I manage to wait for and that’s English Christmas pudding.

Thanks to Kærgården for sponsoring this post, thanks for reminding me of my granny’s kitchen and inspiring me to create my first stollen recipe!

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chocolateorangestollen_IG2

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

plain flour 450g / 3 1/2 cups (divided)
granulated sugar 70g / 1/3 cup
ground cardamom 5 teaspoons
aniseed, finely ground in a mortar, 1/4 teaspoon
zest of 1 large orange
fast-acting yeast 2 sachets (7g / 1/4 ounce each)
water, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
soft butter, unsalted, 250g / 9 ounces
candied orange peel (preferably organic) 100g / 4 ounces
almonds, roughly chopped, 150g / 5 ounces
bittersweet chocolate (50%), roughly chopped, 170g / 6 ounces

For the topping

butter, unsalted, melted 50g / 2 ounces
icing sugar, sifted, about 4-6 tablespons (to taste)
ground cardamom (optional, to taste)

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 260g /2 cups of the flour, the sugar, cardamom, aniseed, orange zest, and yeast. Add the water and, using the hooks, mix for about 2-3 minutes or until well combined. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C (100°F) warm oven, for 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

If the dough has almost doubled in size, add the remaining 190g / 1 1/2 cups of flour, the salt, butter, and orange peel and, using the hooks of the stand mixer, mix for about 3 minutes until smooth. Add the almonds and chocolate and continue mixing until well combined. The dough should be soft and shiny, but not sticky. Take the dough out of the bowl and, using your hands, knead for about 1 minute.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet and form a short-ish loaf-shape. Flatten the dough a little, flip one long side over until it reaches the middle, then flip over the other long side (see 6th picture), pushing the layers softly together, but don’t flatten the loaf, it will expand when it’s in the oven! Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.

Bake the stollen for about 45-50 minutes or until the loaf is just baked through.

For the topping, brush the top of the warm stollen with the melted butter and dust immediately with icing sugar. If you’d prefer the cardamom to be more present (I recommend to try the stollen first), combine some icing sugar with additional cardamom (to taste) and dust the top of the stollen.

You can serve the stollen immediately, yet I prefer to eat it when it’s cool and the chocolate isn’t soft anymore. Keep it wrapped in parchment paper and aluminium foil.

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Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tahini Cake with Tahini Frosting

Chocolate Tahini Cake

Time can feel like a race, it drags you back, you try to keep up, but there’s no way to stop. My summer flew by and then there was autumn, as quick as a storm that sweeps all the leaves off the trees, within one night they are all gone.

My last post was on August 27th. Since I started these pages, my Eat In My Kitchen blog, I have never ‘abandoned’ it for such a long time. It used to feel weird if I didn’t come back here every day, like in the first year, or at least every few days like I did in the past 3 years. It was my routine that I loved and hated. Sometimes I did feel pressured, just by myself, and the best thing to escape pressure, at least for me, is another project that sucks me in with such intensity that all my brain cells are too busy to think about anything else. I’m involved in a new project at the moment that I’ll only be able to share with you at the beginning of 2018, and this project took me around the world within just a few weeks. I met the most amazing people, I felt hungry and inspired every day, I pushed my borders, which I need to keep my creativity flowing and which I could only do because I had an amazing team around me (thank you my travel buddies, Jamie and Phillip Mall). So far we went to California, Italy, France, and Japan, and there will be more countries to come. It’s quite a journey.

These trips in the past 2 months were one of the reasons why I stayed away from my kitchen, why I didn’t go to the farmers market as often, why I didn’t experiment, fail and succeed at my cooker, but I discovered new worlds and culinary universes that I can’t wait to include in my own cooking – once I’m fully back home and ready to cook.

The second reason I stopped writing, is one that hit me deeper, right into my head, my heart, and my bones. On October 16th, Daphne Caruana Galizia was brutally killed in Malta. She was the most wonderful woman, the bravest I know, she was a mother of three young men, and she was a friend. Daphne fought for freedom and justice, for all of us, she was a well known investigative journalist and blogger. It was late in the evening and I was in Tokyo when I found out, I could only scream and run outside into the dark. Since then, I’ve been angry, too angry, which never helps anybody. I tried to find words for what happened, but I didn’t manage. A few days after I found out, I started writing a post to share here, but it was just anger screamed out into the world. You can say that this is a food blog, and you’re right, but this is a food blog written out of my perspective, so whatever influences me as a person will find its way into my kitchen, onto my table, and onto this blog. I can’t really say more, my words aren’t really back yet, I still feel numbed, but I wanted to put what happened in words, that Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed for saying the honest, painful truth, for being critical, for fighting for our freedom. I will never forget her and my thoughts are with her and her family every day. One of her sons, Matthew Caruana Galizia, continues her work, he just won the Pulitzer prize as a part of a group of investigative journalists who disclosed the Panama Papers first and then the Paradise Papers just recently. We have to support the ones who are brave enough to open their mouth and talk, maybe louder than we’d dare to do, and we have to show that they are not alone and that we are with them.

My mother taught me that life can be beautiful and brutal and that we have to deal with both sides. Sometimes they lay so close to each other that we don’t even know how to deal with it. We enjoy the heights to the fullest and then, in the next second, we seem to drown. The place where I often go to when I feel battered by life, is my kitchen, I cook and I bake. And although I’ve neglected this space so much recently, I have long lists of kitchen projects that I want to dive into during Berlin’s long lasting winter.

To cook – and bake – from my friend Molly‘s Molly On The Range cookbook was on the top of my list, her book came out at the same time as mine, a year ago. Molly and I just met again while I was in California, her compelling, charming way to talk about food and life in general never ceases to amaze me. Molly also knows how to make cakes look so pretty that you wouldn’t dare to cut them, like her famous Funfetti Cake or her Gingerbread Farm, a replica of the actual farm where she lives with her husband (you can read her interview for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature in 2015 here). Molly is the kind of person who somehow manages to combine the talents of a perfectionist with the casual laid back attitude of a person who doesn’t care about perfectionism at all. Molly’s German book was only recently published and when I got the book and spotted the recipe for today’s chocolate tahini cake, I was hooked as soon as I read the title.

This was the first cake that I baked in months, and I didn’t even notice how much I missed baking until I turned on the oven and thumbed through the pages of Molly’s beautiful book. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is to take some time for myself in my kitchen, with eggs, butter, and sugar (and some tahini), and listen to Molly and bake this cake that tastes so unbelievably perfect. It’s chocolate, it’s tahini, it’s sweet, and it’s all I needed at the moment to feel ready to face the world again, with all its beauty and its brutality. Thank you, Molly!

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

Chocolate Tahini Cake with Tahini Frosting

from Molly Yeh’s ‘Molly On The Range – Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm’

I only made half of this recipe and decorated the cake with dates and sesame seeds.

Makes one 2-layer 8-inch (20cm) cake or 24 cupcakes

For the cake

1 3/4 cups / 350g sugar
1 3/4 cups / 220g flour
1 cup / 100g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup / 240ml whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup / 4 tablespoons flavorless oil
1/2 cup / 120g tahini
3/4 cup / 180ml boiling water

For the frosting

1 cup / 240g  unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup / 120g tahini
2 cups / 200g confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

To make the cake, preheat oven to 350ºF (175°C). Grease and line the bottoms of two 8-inch (20cm) cake pans or line 24 cupcake tins and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil, and tahini. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk in the boiling water.

Pour the batter into the cake or cupcake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes for cakes and 18 minutes for cupcakes.Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove to the rack and cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and tahini until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.

To assemble, you can either go the traditional route, or crumble up the cake layers with your hands, layer about a 1/3 of them in the bottom of a larger bowl, top it with 1/2 the frosting, another 1/3 of the cake, the remainder of the frosting, and then the remainder of the cake.

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

 

Chocolate Tahini Cake

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tart

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

I allowed myself a few treats during our Mediterranean summer in Malta. I went snorkeling far more often than in the past few years, when my cookbook determined my schedule, I had a few girly shopping moments, and my man and I relaxed at the stunning – and newly renovated – Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta. We enjoyed stunning views from their infinity pool with a glass of crisp Maltese wine close at hand and indulged in lush breakfast buffets and fine French inspired cuisine on their gorgeous terrace overlooking the gardens.

Malta treated us well, the Mediterranean pace and hot climate force me to slow and calm down, something I only truly manage there. Nothing feels as heavy, as worrying or threatening as it might feel anywhere else, everything feels manageable and enjoyable. It’s not so much about duties, but about collecting and treasuring the good moments in life. This also reflects in my cooking. If I spent a couple more hours at the beach, we just cooked dinner a bit later, or kept it simple by throwing a fish on the grill and drizzling some fresh lemon juice over it. It’s pure, it’s good, and it allows me to have more time to chill and chat with a friend, to sit on the rocks a little longer and see the sun disappear into the sea’s faded evening-blue.

Another one of my lazy summer recipes is this lovely little sweet and savoury tart: ripe peaches, soft chèvre and Mediterranean rosemary spread on top of (store-bought!) puff pastry. You could also make your own, or use short crust pastry, but my lazy self just went to the supermarket and bought frozen Maltese puff pastry – the best I know.

The tart turned out even better than expected, offer it to your friends who don’t have a sweet tooth at teatime, or slice it up for a relaxed late summer dinner in the garden or on the balcony and pop open a bottle of wine. Heaven.

This recipe also works with grapes!

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tart

Makes 1 (28cm / 11″) tart, serves 4-6

frozen puff pastry, defrosted, 320g / 11 ounces (you can also use short crust pastry)
large ripe peaches, cut into wedges, 4-5
mild soft chèvre, crumbled, about 150g / 5 ounces
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 generous tablespoon
liquid honey 2 1/2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F and butter a 28cm / 11″ tart pan.

Line the tart pan with the puff pastry, pushing the pastry into the pan, and put in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Spread the peaches in a circle on top of the pastry, sprinkle with the chèvre and rosemary, and drizzle with the honey. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp at the edges (mind the heat, I use a gas oven in Malta, which is not as precise as my oven in Berlin).

Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

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Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Think of Black Forest Torte and meringue pie, take out the heaviness of the whipped cream, and you have a rough idea of the taste of this opulent beauty. My Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie has all the nice features of the famous southern German coffee table classic, including dark chocolate, Kirsch Schnaps, and sweet summer cherries – it’s just lighter.

My Maltese Mama Jenny was the first baker who introduced me to meringue pie, her formidable lemon meringue pie blew my mind. Although we have similar cakes in Germany, like a sponge cake layered with gooseberries and meringue, it doesn’t have the same qualities as a pie. It’s richer, a proper German torte. A pie, however, focuses on the fruit filling, there’s only a thin buttery short crust base holding all that lusciousness together. The wonderfully fluffy, airy meringue topping adds a very fine sweetness, wrapped in fragile crispiness. It works perfectly with sour rhubarb, a pink spring pie that became a popular recipe on the blog. I could have used the same formula for my plump black cherries, but I wanted a chocolate base. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I’m glad that I didn’t, it’s the perfect Schwarzwälder Kirsch Pie (the German name for black forest).

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

You’ll need a 23cm / 9″ shallow pie dish for this recipe.

Makes 1 pie

For the cherries

fresh sweet cherries, pitted,  about 550g / 1 1/4 pounds (about 4 cups pitted cherries)
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Kirsch schnaps 3 tablespoons
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup

For the pastry

plain flour 160g / 1 1/4 cups
Dutch-process or natural unsweetened cocoa powder 50g / 2 ounces
granulated sugar 3 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter 120g / 1/2 cup
cold water 3 tablespoons

For the meringue

fresh organic egg whites 3
a pinch of fine sea salt
granulated sugar 80g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon

For the cherry filling, in a medium saucepan, heat the cherries, sugar, and cinnamon over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar dissolved, stir in 2 tablespoons of the schnaps, close with a lid, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cherries soften. Turn the heat down to low. Add 2 tablespoons of the liquid of the cherries to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, pour back into the saucepan, stirring constantly until well combined. If you’d like the schnaps to be more prominent, add 1 tablespoon of the spirit. Pour the cherries and all the liquid into a wide pan and let them cool completely.

For the pastry, in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly. Add the water and, using the hooks of the stand mixer, mix until combined. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 210°C / 410°F (conventional setting).

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it into a circle, large enough to line a 23cm / 9″ shallow pie dish. Push the pastry into the dish, trim any excess dough off the rim with a knife, then prick the pastry all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Let the pastry cool completely before you assemble the pie.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg white and salt for 1 minute. Adding the sugar gradually, continue mixing for about 1-2 minutes or until stiff.

Preheat the oven to  210°C / 410°F (conventional setting).

Pour the cool cherries and all the liquid on top of the pastry. Scrape the stiff egg white on top, shape it to a dome and form little peaks with a knife to create an uneven surface. Bake for 7 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crisp. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving, the cherries need to set.

The pie tastes best on the 1st and 2nd day, however, you need to keep it in the fridge, which softens the pastry.

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

Camembert and Pear Challah

A lot of cracking and aching was going on in the oven while I watched my camembert, pear, and thyme challah bake. At one point I got worried that my braided bread was going to explode. It rose and expanded on all sides, it looked more like a challah pancake than the elegant breaded loaf I had in mind. Maybe I filled the single yeast dough strings a bit too generously with ripe – and stinky – cheese and chopped crisp fruit, but I had a feeling that the recipe needed it. So I trusted, which is always the only sensible thing a baker can do when the object of attention doesn’t perform as expected.

To my surprise, it worked out in the end and the shape still reminded me of a Hefezopf – the German name for challah. I used my classic plain challah recipe and replaced the sugar with honey. It’s common in Germany to use butter and milk for this kind of bread, instead of water and vegetable oil, which you usually find in traditional challah recipes. I like the added richness coming from the dairy products, I find it tastier. Seeing as the fruit and cheese bring in even more juice and moistness, I could have made the dough a bit drier, added more flour to help it keep its shape. But the final texture was so nice, soft and spongy, that I’d rather accept the pancake-look than ending up with a dry Hefezopf.

If you don’t feel like camembert, you can also go for any other aromatic cheese that melts well. I already have a raclette challah in mind, next time. And I’m sure that apricots or peaches would also do a pretty good job instead of the pear. So feel free to experiment, but keep in mind, the juicier the fruit, the more it’ll soften your dough.

This challah is a perfect picnic, brunch, or Saturday lunch treat, preferably accompanied by fresh fruits, wine, and a selection of cheese and prosciutto. A green salad with juicy tomatoes also goes very well with it.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

When I baked my challah, it was a very hot day. So the butter in the dough literarily melted in my hands and turned braiding into a fiddly task. The single braids stretched quicker than I reacted, I was too slow. If you also happen to go for this recipe on a day with high temperatures, to avoid stress and frustration, try to work quickly when you braid the loaf. Keep the braids a bit shorter to begin with, due to the filling they’ll expand in length.

Makes 1 large challah

honey 2 tablespoons
butter, melted, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
organic eggs 2
plain flour 520-550g / 4 cups – 4 cups plus 4 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon

For the filling

aged camembert, cooled and cut into thin strips (it’ll be a mess if it’s too soft), 250g / 9 ounces
medium to large firm pear, cored and cut into tiny cubes, 1
fresh thyme and a little rosemary (the needles, chopped), a large handful

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon

Stir the honey into the hot melted butter and whisk until combined, let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Add the milk and eggs and whisk, the mixture should be lukewarm.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the milk-butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix for about 5 minutes or until well combined and smooth. If it’s too soft and sticky, add a little (!) more flour. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for about 3-5 minutes or until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C (100°F) warm oven, for 60-70 minutes or until almost doubled in size. If it’s a hot summer day, you can let the dough rise at room temperature (that’s what I did this time).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the dough is puffy and almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide into 3 parts and roll them into longish, but not too thin sausage sausage shapes (see picture above). Flatten each piece of dough until it’s roughly 7.5 cm / 3″ wide. Divide the camembert, pear, and herbs between the 3 pieces of dough and spread, leaving a little rim all around the filling. Fold over each piece of dough, roll it gently, and seal the overlapping side and ends well. The filling should be completely wrapped inside the dough.

To braid the bread, work quickly, as the dough stretches. Lay the ends of the dough rolls on top of each other at one end and braid them tightly. If they become too long and thin, squeeze them together a little. Bend both ends of the bread under the loaf and quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes or until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting).

For the glaze, whisk the egg yolk and water and brush the top of the challah. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and spongy. When you knock on the challah’s bottom, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting the bread into thick slices.

The challah tastes best on the 1st day.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

The temperature’s high, the brightest blue is painted all over the sky, and my kitchen countertops are piled with berries and stone fruits. Strawberries, raspberries, the first red currents, peaches and apricots – I’m in fruit heaven. And soon I’ll be back in Malta, where figs, naspli (also known as loquat fruit or Maltese plum), and bajtra (prickly pear) will be added to the table. I adore summer, I love its richness and lusciousness, the vast variety of colourful produce that inspires me every time I go to the farmers’ market. A handful of ingredients perfectly ripened under the warm sun turn the most minimal dish into a regal meal. Or a simple sponge cake sandwiched with a creamy filling and seasonal fruit. Is there a better way to feast and celebrate summer than with a Peach Ricotta Torte?

When I was a child, my mother introduced my sister and me to a beautiful Sunday afternoon tradition. We’d pick a recipe, for cake or waffles, chat and bake, and listen to classical music. When our work was done, we’d get cozy on the sofa (in winter) or set up our teatime table in the garden. One of my culinary summer highlights is my mother’s sponge torte with whipped cream and strawberries. It’s almost too pretty to eat. And my uplifted summer mood called for a revival of our little tradition. Instead of German Rührkuchen – a sponge cake made with butter, which my mother bakes – I went for a lighter fat-free sponge, made with lots of beaten egg white. It’s soft and airy, not filling at all, which explains why the two of us ate almost the whole cake in one day.

Malta was my inspiration when I thought about the filling: I chose the lemon-ricotta filling for Maltese cannoli from my book. Lighter than whipped cream, it has a slightly sour touch, perfect for a summer torte. My cake only had one layer of ricotta, but feel free to double the amount and also use it as a topping – in case you aim for a richer cake-sandwich. A little icing sugar to finish it off was just right for me.

White soft and juicy vineyard peaches (also known as doughnut peaches) added the right amount of sweetness, red currants to decorate the cake brought a sharp note to the palate. Stroll over the farmers’ market and grab whatever fruit pleases your eyes and taste. Just try to balance out sweet and sour – that’s what a fruity summer torte is all about.

More fruity summer sponge cake and swiss roll inspiration:

Blueberry Victoria Sponge Cake

Cheesecake Swiss Roll with Mascarpone and Blackberries

Bittersweet Chocolate and Orange Sponge Cake

Blueberry Lemon Swiss Roll

Strawberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cake

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

Strawberry Cream Roll

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Makes 1 20.5cm / 8″ cake

For the ricotta filling
Double the amount for the filling if you also want to use it to spread it on top of the cake.

fresh ricotta, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
freshly grated lemon zest 2 teaspoons
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2

For the sponge cake

organic eggs, separated, 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
granulated sugar, divided in half, 150g / 3/4 cup
freshly grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
plain flour, sieved, 160g / 1 1/4 cups

The fruit

ripe white vineyard peaches or doughnut peaches, with or without skin, cut into very thin wedges, 3 plus 1 peach cut into thicker wedges, for the topping
red currents and raspberries, for the topping, a handful

icing sugar, for the topping, in case you don’t double the ricotta to also use it for the topping

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting). Butter a 20.5cm / 8″ springform pan and line it with parchment paper.

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds until creamy and transfer to the fridge.

For the sponge cake, in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg white and salt for 1 minute. Add half the sugar (75g) and continue whisking for about 7 minutes or until very stiff and glossy.

In a clean bowl, using a stand mixer, beat the eggs yolks, the remaining sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds for about 2 minutes or until light yellow and creamy.

Gently fold the stiff egg white into the egg yolk mixture, it should be almost combined. Then fold in the sieved flour, stir gently until relatively smooth and combined. Don’t overmix it and don’t worry if there are a few smaller pieces of egg white left here and there, however, there shouldn’t be any flour left.

Scrape the batter into the lined springform pan and even out the surface a little. Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until light golden and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the sponge cake cool in the springform pan for about 10 minutes before you take it out and transfer it to a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper from the cake; let it cool completely before you cut the sponge cake and assemble the torte.

When the cake is completely cool, using a sharp large knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread the cold ricotta filling on the bottom half of the cake (if you doubled the amount of the filling, only use half the ricotta). Spread the thinner peach wedges in circles on top of the ricotta and gently push them into the filling. Lay the top of the sponge cake on top of the peaches. Either dust with icing sugar or, if you doubled the ricotta, spread the remaining ricotta filling on top of the cake. Decorate with the thicker peach wedges, raspberries, and red currants.

Serve immediately or keep the torte in the fridge, it tastes best on the first and second day. Take the torte out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before serving and dust with additional icing sugar, if necessary.

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

This spring feels strange, it doesn’t seem to start. Most of the time it’s either too cold, too grey, or too wet, I’m more in the mood for cozy stews and hearty pies munched away on the sofa than the springy treats that I usually crave in May.

I’m impatient (not just in the kitchen), I tend to rush to the next season with hungry excitement. I find it hard to wait for the right ingredients to appear at the farmers’ market for all the dishes that I already picture in my head. So, I guess I should be thankful for the unpleasant weather, it helps me to stick to the actual season – spring with a wintery touch. Unfortunately, the unusual frosty temperatures at night are a tough burden for the farmers. Their produce suffers, which narrows their harvest dramatically. The white German asparagus that I tasted wasn’t as thick and tasty as in the past years, strawberries – by far – aren’t as sweet. It reminds me that we’re in nature’s hands. It’s an important reminder, showing us that we live in a fragile system that we easily tend to forget about.

Although I’m not too impressed by the strawberries’ taste, they are totally fine in a cookie. Accompanied by nutty pistachios, smooth white chocolate, and a handful of oats, I turned them into the best cookies that my kitchen has seen in a while. They are sweet, soft, and so addictive. Have a bite, close your eyes and you can feel summer.

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Makes about 20 cookies

plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
rolled oats 50g / 1/2 cup
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
baking powder 1 teaspoon
butter (soft) 130g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 150g / 3/4 cup
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/4
organic egg 1
white chocolate, roughly chopped, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
unsalted shelled pistachios, roughly chopped, a small handful
fresh strawberries, ripe but not soft, cut into small pieces, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces

Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (preferably convection oven) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take 1 heaped tablespoon off the flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining flour, oats, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg for a few minutes or until fluffy. Add the egg and continue mixing for about 1 minute until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate and pistachios.

This will make it easier to mix in the strawberries: Sprinkle and mix the strawberries with the heaped tablespoon of flour. Crumble and spread the dough on a baking sheet. Spread the floured strawberries on top of the dough and, using your fingers, gently (!) fold in the berries. Don’t worry if it looks loose and messy, mind not to squeeze the berries too much. Scoop out a heaped tablespoon of dough for each cookie and gentle form a ball slightly smaller than a golf ball. Spread the dough balls on a dish that’s safe to keep in the freezer, then put the cookies in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until hard but not frozen. Spread the cookies on the 2 lined baking sheets, mind to leave enough space between the cookies, they will expand in the oven.

Bake, one baking sheet at a time, for about 13-15 minutes or until golden but still slightly soft. After 5 minutes, using a fork, flatten the cookies softly. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them onto a wire rack.

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

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