eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: aniseed

Tsoureki – Greek Braided Easter Bread with Aniseed and Orange Blossom Water

greekeasterbread1

Patience is a tricky thing, I feel it growing with every year I gain, but it still manages to drive me crazy at times. After about 1 year of working on my cookbook, developing the recipes, cooking, baking and shooting them all by myself, then going through a long process of filling the pages with my little stories connected to each and every dish, I feel a rising impatience to bring this project to an end. Month after month of working closely with my fantastic team in New York, Munich, Berlin, and London, having a daily exchange and constant flow of ideas between me and my editors, photo retoucher, and book designer; all this leaves me hungry. I want to hold the fruit of our work in my hands so badly. Our friends constantly make little jokes about me as they only see me with my laptop, glued to my chair at our long wooden dining table, which I turned into my office, or busy in the kitchen. To them, it seems like me, the chair, and the table have become one in the past year.

In German, there is a beautiful word called Vorfreude, which you could translate to the happy excitement you feel connected to a positive event lying in the future. This Vorfreude keeps me going. Sometimes I just feel my heart jump, when I think of the dedication I wrote on one of the first pages of my book for someone who means a lot to me, when I virtually thumb through the pages of my book which is still a file on my computer, or when I first saw the cover design, which I’ll share with you soon! And I’m willing to wait for these moments, I’m willing to wait to make this book better and better with every correction, addition, and change we make, and then one day, it will be printed and I’ll look at it and remember all the excitement, happiness, and frustration that’s woven into every single page of it.

Baking can be a good teacher for life and a master when it comes to patience, especially baking with yeast. It will be Easter Sunday in a week and a sweet braided yeast bread is one of the most delicious and fragrant treats that one can have on the breakfast or coffee table on this special day. But this bread takes its time, you can’t really rush – although I still try and succeed by letting the dough rise in the warm oven. It’s a little quicker but you still have to be patient. This year I go for a traditional Greek Easter bread called Tsoureki. It’s soft and fluffy, enriched with butter and eggs, and flavoured, often refined with mahlep, a ground spice made of wild cherry seeds, and mastic, sun-dried resin. More modern variations feature vanilla and cardamom but I was after a different flavour combination: aniseed and orange blossom. Years ago, I spent a couple weeks on the Greek island of Naxos and I enjoyed one of the fluffiest yeast buns with aniseed and orange in the shade of an old chapel high up on a hill. This picture in mind, I knew what my Tsoureki would taste like. It smells so beautiful and aromatic like the air in the Mediterranean, anise and orange merged in a scrumptious breakfast bread sprinkled with nutty sesame. I only left it in the oven for a little too long, just a couple minutes, but I have an excuse. Two of my cousins stopped by for an unexpected quick visit, a family chat at the table and the bread was forgotten. At one point I thought “Wow, it smells so good!”, so I ran to the oven and pulled out this nicely risen beauty (with a dark bottom).

Here’s another sweet braided bread I made 2 years ago.

greekeasterbread2

 

Tsoureki

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread with Aniseed and Orange Blossom Water

Makes 1 large loaf.

plain flour 520g / 4 cups
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
fast-acting yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
aniseed, lightly crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
zest of 1 small orange
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
butter, melted, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
organic eggs 2
orange blossom water 2 tablespoons
sesame seeds, for the topping, 1-2 tablespoons

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, aniseed, and orange zest. Whisk together the milk, butter, eggs, and orange blossom water – the mixture should be lukewarm – and add to the flour mixture. Using the dough hooks of an electric mixer, knead for about 5 minutes until well combined and smooth. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for about 7 minutes 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 100°F (35°C) warm oven, for 100 minutes or until well risen (it won’t double in size). Rising at room temperature prolongs the process.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds, then divide into 3 parts and roll them into long sausage shapes. Lay the ends of the rolls on top and braid them tightly. Bend both ends of the bread under the loaf and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for 50 minutes or until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (conventional setting).

Whisk the egg yolk and water for the glaze and brush the top of the loaf, sprinkle with sesame. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, cover the loaf with aluminium foil after 15 minutes to prevent it from getting too dark. When the bread is done, it should be golden brown, knock on its bottom, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting it into thick slices, and enjoy with butter.

Tsoureki

 

Tsoureki

 

Tsoureki

 

greekeasterbread8

Ottijiet – Maltese Tea Time Cookies with Sesame Seeds, Cloves and Aniseed

Ottijiet

Almost ten years ago, I found my favourite tea time cookie on a little island in the Mediterranean. The Maltese Ottijiet are crumbly short crust based cookies, shaped in a figure of 8, hence the name ottijiet (the plural of otta) derived from the Italian word for eight, otto. The composition is not very sweet but packed with wonderful flavours ripened under the Mediterranean sun: orange, lemon, aniseed, cloves and sesame. It’s one of the most aromatic sweets I know. Imagine the smell of the air in my kitchen while they’re baking in the oven, it’s beautiful!

When we’re on the island, I always go to my trusted confectionary Busy Bee in Msida on the first or the second day of our stay to stock up on ottijiet for our traditional 5 o’clock tea breaks in Jenny’s kitchen. As I’m not the only one in the house who is obsessed with them, I buy a few bags right away to avoid cookie shortages. This sweet became an important part of our daily ceremony, we all come together and meet around my Maltese mother’s big wooden table in the afternoon to chat and savour our caramel coloured teas. Many Maltese like to dip the crunchy rings into their warm beverage and our family has often tried to convince me of this ritual – without success, it’s not for me!

Whenever friends and family visit us in Berlin, they know how to make me happy and bring a few packages of ottijiet to our kitchen. But after so many years and cookies, I felt ready to bake my own. I was a bit nervous but luckily we still had a package from Jenny’s last visit so I didn’t have to depend on my taste memory. Ottijiet are kind of a national dish and I have learned a lot about the various traditional recipes and the obligatory spice mixtures from the cooks I met over the years. I knew roughly what I had to do but it took two batches of dough until my Maltese partner approved the result and I was happy too. But then, they were as good as Busy Bee‘s!

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 Ottijiet – Maltese Tea Time Cookies with Sesame Seeds, Cloves  and Aniseed

Before you bake the cookies, the dough should rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.

For 22 ottijiet you need

plain flour 300g / 10.5 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 3 leveled teaspoons
cloves, ground in a mortar, 20 (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
vanilla, the seeds of 1/2 pod
orange zest 1 teaspoon
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 100g / 3.5 ounces
organic egg, beaten, 1
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon
sesame seeds about 50g / 2 ounces, for the topping

Combine the flour with the sugar, salt, baking powder, spices and citrus zest. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg, juices and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the sesame seeds on a plate.

Break large walnut sized pieces off the dough and roll them between your hands for about 5 seconds. On the kitchen top, roll them into thin, 25cm / 10″ long sausage shapes and close them well to form a ring. Twist the ring to an 8 shape, dip it into the sesame seeds and spread the cookies on the baking sheet with some space in between them as they will rise. Bake the ottijiet for 11 minutes or until golden brown and let them cool on a rack. Store them in your cookie jars and enjoy with a cup of tea!

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

Biscotti with a Shot of Ouzo

Aniseed, Almond and Lemon Biscotti

This biscotti proves that cultural exchange leads to enrichment for us all! Originally, biscotti are from Prato in Tuscany. Also known as cantuccini, they are baked twice and filled with almonds. So far, my biscotti stuck to tradition but today I enhance them with a shot of Ouzo, the famous Greek aniseed spirit. The result is a mouth-watering Italian-Greek union! I add some aniseed to the dough and their taste comes through so much stronger thanks to the Ouzo. Together with the almonds and some lemon zest each crunchy bite creates an explosion on your taste buds!

My aunt Ursula told me about the Ouzo-biscotti combination and at first I had my reservations, but that soon changed! I have my biscotti with an espresso at lunch time as a delicious energy booster but they are also a great dessert with ice cream or custard. You could follow the Italian tradition and dip them in Vin Santo – or continue the Greek variation and enjoy them with a shot of chilled Ouzo!

Aniseed, Almond and Lemon Biscotti

Biscotti with Aniseed, Ouzo, Almonds and Lemon

For 46 biscotti you need

plain flour 400g / 14 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
sugar 250g / 9 ounces
salt 1/4 teaspoon
aniseed, 2 tablespoons
butter, melted,  100g / 3.5 ounces
organic eggs 3
Ouzo (or any other aniseed spirit) 3 tablespoons
zest of 1 lemon
almonds, chopped roughly, 100g / 3.5 ounces

Set your oven to 180°C / 355°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (except the almonds and lemon zest) in a bowl. In a second bowl, mix the butter with the eggs, lemon zest and Ouzo for a couple minutes. Mix the dry mixture into the butter mixture with a spoon. Add the chopped almonds carefully. Divide the dough into four parts and form each into a long bread shape (around 5cm / 2″ wide). Place them on your baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Take them out and let them cool off for around 20 minutes.

Turn your oven down to 170°C / 340°F.

For the second round, cut each loaf carefully in 1.5cm / 1/2″ slices and lay them flat on the baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for another 6 minutes. Take the biscotti out when they turn golden and let them cool.

Aniseed, Almond and Lemon Biscotti

 

Aniseed, Almond and Lemon Biscotti

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