DB#21 or Winter in Summertime!


It's Daring Bakers time again! Chris from Mele Cotte chose a recipe of Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream (from Great Cakes by Carol Walter) that had a little smell of winter with nuts, chocolate and buttercream. Mine ended up with fruit in and on, which gave it a weird look of summer in wintertime! I hardly bake a full sized cake these days. Nothing new under the sun - you know my love for individual cakes. Sometimes I just think that I do it to hide my non-existing decorating skills... the bigger the cake is, the messier it gets for me. But this time, I've decided to go by the book, and bake a 'real' cake. It was my husband's birthday after all! As I had to make some substitutions to allow my mom-in-law to have it (she's lactose intolerant), things didn't go according to the plan, and I had a few issues with the buttercream. The flavours and combinations were also changed to match the birthday boy wishes when asked about his cake. Cherries, I want cherries. Cherries you'd have, my love. The cake looks... well, rustic. I blame it on using soy instead of cream, and Yes, those are blackberries and redcurrants, and No, they weren't suppose to be used if the buttercream had come together, which never happened.


My thoughts on the challenge

- The gateau was the only part of the recipe that I haven't changed any flavours. In the sugar syrup I replaced rum for Ginginha, a Portuguese liqueur made with sour cherries.
- My buttercream never completely came together, despite all my efforts re-heating and beating again as the recipe suggested. I had replaced the butter and that's why I think it didn't work out. But it tasted great with the praline. I'll definitely be doing this again with the right ingredients.
- I used cherry jam instead of apricot, to match.
- My chocolate ganache didn't have the mirror finishing. Again I think the substitutions are to blame.
- I used the runny buttercream in the cake but of course it was impossible to pipe it or use it in any kind of decoration. Ergo, the blackberries and redcurrants, as the cherries were all used in the filling...
- In the end, I did so many substitutions that the recipe can't be blame for all the problems I had. The hazelnut gateau was a winner, and the buttercream with the praline was perfectly balanced in flavour.
- Not my best challenge but the cake was very tasteful. I'll always have winter to try the recipe properly. ;)

For the original recipe, go to Chris post.


Thank you Chris from Mele Cotte for choosing a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, and Ivonne and Lisa for starting such a wonderful group! Please visit all the other Daring Bakers for endless interpretations of the recipe.


HHDD#21 - It's Tiramisu!

Almond Caramel Tiramisu

You're not named "pick me up" for no good reason. And the reason is it makes people happier just by looking at it, not to mention taste it! Yep, it's Tiramisu!

I love Tiramisu. When Alexandra from Addicted Sweet Tooth, the brilliant winner of HHDD#20 - the Choux Edition hosted by this truly yours, announced the theme I was jumping on my chair. But then I got a little scared: what should I do with an already perfect dessert? Maybe I could make a plain tiramisu with just a little twist...

Tiramisu is fairly recent, supposedly invented in Treviso, in the north of Italy, only a couple of decades ago. This italian dessert has many variations, with the only constant ingredient being the mascarpone - a creamy soft cheese made from crème fraîche. The basic traditional recipe is made in Italy using raw eggs, with little variations except for the ingredient quantity. My own recipe, pieced together over the years, calls for raw eggs instead of whipped cream - mascarpone and whipped cream seem somehow redundant to me, and the eggs add the perfect texture to the zabaglione - just my 2 cents. ;) Using fresh eggs is crucial. Not a problem to me since my Dad retired to become what a call Hen Chief Executive Officer... but that's another story I'll tell some other day!

First things first.


Almond Ladyfingers

Makes about 4 dozens

3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp sugar superfine
1/2 Tbsp almond extract
1/2 cup (about 65 grs) cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
extra sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 3 egg yolks with 2 Tbsp sugar, until thick and doubled in size. Add the almond extract and the chopped almonds, and fold. Mix in the sifted flour with a spatula, folding just 4-5 times. In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the lemon juice, until soft peaks form. Add 3 Tbsp sugar, one at a time, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Fold in the yolk mixture, making sure not to break the meringue but mixing until completely incorporated.

Spoon the batter into a large pastry bag, with a round tip (about 1,5 cm) and pipe the ladyfingers onto the parchment paper. Make sure to allow enough space around each one. Use a wire strainer to dust the ladyfingers with the extra sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven. Using a flat spatula, release the ladyfingers from the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Almond Caramel Tiramisu

Almond Caramel Tiramisu

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Donna Hay, Modern Classics 2, p.124

Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Place 1/3 blanched almonds in a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Place 1/2 cup superfine caster sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the mixture until a golden colour. Remove from the heat, allow the bubbles to subside and pour over the almonds. When set, break the praline into chunks, and process in a food processor.

Mascarpone Cream
300 grs mascarpone cheese
4 large fresh eggs, separated
4 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp sugar superfine
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp Amarguinha (Portuguese sour almond liqueur), or more to taste
40 almond ladyfingers (see recipe above)
1/2 cup (125 ml) strong espresso, cooled
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 4 egg yolks with 4 Tbsp sugar, until thick and doubled in size. Gradually, add the liqueur and the mascarpone cheese, and mix until fully incorporated. In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the pinch of salt, until soft peaks form. Add 2 Tbsp sugar, one at a time, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Fold in the cheese mixture, making sure not to break the meringue but mixing until completely incorporated.

Soak each ladyfinger in the coffee. Place it in a large or individual dish or bowl, and arrange into a layer. Cover with a layer of mascarpone cream. Sprinkle a couple of Tbsp of praline on top. Repeat until you run out of ladyfingers, making sure you finish with mascarpone cream and praline. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds. Refrigerate for 2 hours, as it's best chilled.

So this is my entry for HHDD! Hay Hay It's Donna Day is a food event created by Barbara from WinosandFoodies and now taken care by Bron Marshall.


Luscious Berries

Raspberry Financiers

I don't think I've ever been so behind with my posting... No worries, this will be my only remark about time! I usually shoot whatever looks like a good recipe, a different version or a featured recipe. After that, I choose what to post without much thinking. Checking my recipes to post, I counted around 20 queuing... My mind was made: I will not shoot before posting at least half of those! Whilst reading Food Blogga I realized Susan was hosting Sugar High Friday, under the theme berries! I *just* love berries!! I wasn't entering until those raspberry financiers looked fitting to the theme, and I could keep my promise!

Raspberry Financiers*

Makes 8-10

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 Tbsp sliced almonds
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/3 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 tsp rose extract, or to taste (optional)

Place the butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside. In a food processor, put the almonds, sugar, baking powder and flour, and pulse until no almond chunks are visible. Add the egg whites, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt, and the rose extract, and mix until smooth. Mix in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or best overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Stir the mixture briefly to deflate it. Spoon the batter into each mold and sprinkle with the berries over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.

* Financiers, also called Friands, are small almond cakes, usually with a rectangular or trapezoid shape. Round molds can also be used, like muffin tins. I used heart shaped silicone molds.

I'm submitting my raspberry financiers to this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Susan at Food Blogga, and originally created by Jennifer at the Domestic Goddess.


Fig Mania

Fig Salad

It's hot. It's hot, and I have to work. Actually, it's hot, I have to work and my vacations in the beach seem like ages away (when there's just a couple of weeks to go). You probably guessed it by now: I'm grumpy. I'm also tired which helps my bad mood. Time seems to vanish these days! Before I can get to half of my daily things-to-do list, the evening arrives and my body refuses to keep going. My kitchen has been more or less idle with little time and energy after long days at work. Soups, sandwiches, salads, savoury muffins and tons of summer fruits did the trick for us. It is said that human beings could live on figs alone — such is the goodness and nutrition in this fruit. I could definitely corroborate that myself! When my mom-in-law brought me a bunch of figs - first ones of the year - I knew exactly what to do with them: a salad, no more.

Fig Salad

Fig and Rocket Salad

Serves 2

2-3 handful rocket
4 ripe figs, halved
3 Tbsp golden raisins
1 cottage cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp honey
salt and black pepper
4 slices brioche (or bread)

Put the rocket in a mixing bowl, and drizzle with the honey. Half the figs, and place them in the bowl. Add golden raisins, and cottage cheese. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Toss together.

Pop the sliced brioche in the toaster, and serve warm with the salad.


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Beat olive oil and balsamic vinegar, until thick. Pour over the salad. Serve immediately.


Lunch in the Mountains

Hermanov Hram

My most memorable meal in Slovenia was minestrone, a plate of mushroom gnocchi and a slice of apricot apple strudel. Does it sound like too 'normal' food? Perhaps it sounds plain ordinary to you... Well, simple things never cease to amaze me, specially when quality ingredients are used by a talented cook. Don't get me wrong, this heavenly meal didn't take place in a posh restaurant by the hand of a well-known Chef. When my colleague kindly offered to drive us out of Ljubljana in her day off (the national holiday - Slovenia's Day), I chose Lake Bled almost immediately. Very well - she said - we can make it to the mountains, and have lunch there. You won't be served truffles or caviar but the food couldn't be better. So true!

This lovely restaurant in the mountain close to the Italian border is run by an adorable couple. The view is breathtaking. I just couldn't stop staring, not even when a crowd of Italian cyclists arrived laughing and talking loudly - typical Italian Style - and my thoughts were cut off.

View from Hermanov Hram

Why don't you stay outside? It's so much nicer - the lady asked. And so we did. I felt at home when we were asked to set the table! The food was top class: first of all, minestrone - actually the best minestrone I've ever had. When I told her that, the lady offered to teach me how to make it, and gave me the recipe straightaway! My hubby was thrilled until he heard the soup had barley in it... Barley! How interesting, I thought. Like if he could read my mind, my husband almost jumped on his seat. You will not take barley from Slovenia. No way! Hehehe, how well does he know me?


This minestrone is on my to-do-list, as soon as I have the time to go look for the barley someone didn't let me buy in Ljubljana!

My second plate was a tasteful mushroom gnocchi [above, top right]. Perfect in every aspect, flavour, texture, colour, everything in the right place. My husband had goulash with polenta [above, bottom right], another traditional dish, that smelled heavenly. Our meal was finished with a local strudel, again very simple with a special note of apricot to spice up. Yummy!

Apricot Apple Strudel


Beloved Ljubljana


Small is beautiful. After a hectic week-end in Paris - where everybody seemed to be in the street to celebrate the June solstice, Ljubljana was a relaxing and very interesting place to stay afterwards with its rich culture and historical legacy. Ljubljana is a beautiful mixture of Renaissance, Art Nouveau and modern Baroque architecture, built up across the Ljubljanica River and its surroundings. The main responsible person for the beauty of Ljubljana's architecture is Jože Plečnik, also known as the master of Prague.

Ljubljana's Library

Ljubljana (loo-bli-ana) translates into English as 'beloved', which could not be more appropriate to such an appealing city. A Slovenian proverb says that A heart with no words is better than words with no heart. Perhaps that's why I can't find the right words to express how special Ljubljana is for me, and how I will keep it in my heart...

But it's not only the architecture that impresses. Food (after all this is a food blog!) also deserves a note. Let's start with the traditional Slovenian dessert.

Prekmurska gibanica

Originally from the Prekmurje region (the eastern part of the country), Prekmurje Gibanica has become a popular dessert throughout Slovenia. It's made of several layers of Phyllo pastry alternating with cottage cheese, poppy seed, raisin, walnut and apple filling. Gibanica (ghee-bah-nee-tsa) draws great attention not only for its several layers and mixed flavours but mostly because its English translation is... “moving-cake”! This is a very funny name for a cake, and it made me laugh when I first heard it. How cool is a dessert called the moving cake?

Ljubljana's River


Beautiful Slovenija!

Bled, Slovenia

Perhaps what makes something special are tiny little things like a smile or a good laugh. Or big things like a stunning view of a waterfall from a cliff or a quite big lake in a very hot afternoon. Once we shared one of those, a special link is created. One day, I will remember Bled's Lake [above] or the Open Theater [right, last set of 2 pictures] as lovely places but today both are just small parts of a bigger picture of a beautiful country with beautiful people.


My working trip was planned a long time ago under a strategic plan that was designed to enhance international connections. This destination was decided because it filled the criteria. It wasn't a traveling destination, my expectations had little to do with the country itself... I just wanted our meetings to be fruitful for everybody.


Maybe that's the reason why the small beautiful beloved Ljubljana, the mountains and the amazing forests had me from the first moment. Or perhaps it's because we've been spoiled by the lovely people we had the privilege to deal with, and will never forget their generosity and kindness. Hvala!


Either way, I feel moved by the experience, and hope to be back in the (near) future. I miss Slovenia!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

You were all right about my destination! Brilliant! Talida and Clumbsy Cookie please email me your address so I can send you a little something from Slovenia. ;)

Stay tunned, I'll post a most memorable meal in the mountains, and a traditional "moving" cake very soon.