Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moon Cakes - Prepare to be nutellanized!



"In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at shooting. His wife was Chang'e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang'e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang'e keep the elixir. But Feng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Feng Meng broke into Yi's house and demanded Chang'e to give the elixir to him. Chang'e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband very much and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang'e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang'e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi."

It's harvest time! And this year a lot of goodies came our way. From family and friends' gardens as well as from my own balcony here in Amsterdam! Hail pummeled yet delicious tomatoes, mirabelle (marmelade), garlic, cherries (jam), carrots and walnuts from the house in France where my neighbour resides in summer, to name but a few.

traditional Cantonese mooncakes
September 8th 2014 is Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Families come together, by tradition to bring in the harvest. In a sort of Thanksgiving kind of way. Prayers are going up for a long, fertile, healthy and prosperous life. The object of worship is the moon. Offerings are made to the lunar deity Chang'e mentioned in the story.

The traditional moon cake can be a tough cookie for the western palette. The salted duck egg yolk going into the center of the cake -a symbol for the full moon-  is an acquired taste. The tasty and chewy thin pastry skin is made out of a sugar syrup, flour and oil. The dough is tenderised with a minute amount of lye water.

prepare to be be nutellanized!

jelly mooncake
spiral mooncake
The -traditional- fillings of the moon cake (lotus seeds paste, jujube, sweet bean paste) can be rather sweet. Over time, more and more alternative techniques, shapes and fillings have emerged. Like so many other traditional recipes, the moon cake won't escape 'nutellanisation'... There are Jelly Moon Cakes and Snow Skin Moon Cakes now, and the once innovative fillings like Taro Paste and Pineapple are taken over by chocolate, coffee, mixed nuts, durian, pandan etc. The possibilities are endless!

I've tried to make a traditional moon cake that would please both western and asian palettes. I stuck with the lotus seed paste as the main filling and took out as much sugar as possible. Replacing the salted egg yolk took some creativity. In the end I decided to go with candied orange.

lotus seeds paste

lotus flower with seeds
You can of course use a store bought version of this typical asian flavour, but making your own, if you have access to fresh or frozen lotus seeds, is really easy, and of course makes all the difference in the end product. Most Asian shops carry either dried, pre cooked or raw and frozen lotus seeds. This recipe gives you more than enough purée to use in the moon cake recipe

400 gr. /  14.1 oz. lotus seeds
200 gr. / 7.0 oz. fine sugar
200 gr. / 7.0 oz. peanut oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)

big pot

lotus seeds

If using dried seeds, rinse and soak the seeds overnight. If using frozen or fresh seeds, just rinse them. Remove any green bits, if any, from the cores of the seeds.

Bring the seeds to a boil and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool a little. Grind the seeds to a
fine paste in a kitchen machine or food processor.

Pulse the sugar into the paste.

Transfer the paste to a frying pan. Cook the mass over a medium heat. When the sugar has completely dissolved add the oil in small quantities. Incorporate all the oil into the paste before adding more.

Continue cooking and stirring the paste until it thickens. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool completely.

Lotus and Candied Orange Moon Cakes

Depending on the size of your moon cake moulds, this recipe will make 4 or 5 big moon cakes or 8-10 smaller ones, or about 13-15 mini moon cakes.

100 gr. / 3.5 oz.  all purpose flour
60 gr. / 2.1 oz. golden syrup
½ teaspoon of lye water
30 gr. / 1.1 oz. peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)

470 gr. / 16.6 oz. lotus seed paste
35 gr. / 1.2 oz. candied orange peel
egg yellow food coloring (optional)
rice flour for coating

egg wash:
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon of water

In a big bowl, combine the golden syrup, lye water and oil. Knead into a supple dough. Leave to rest for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Divide the lotus seed paste into ⅓ and ⅔. Return the bigger portion to the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180° C / 355° F.

To make the moons; take the smaller portion of lotus paste and the candied orange and blitz them together in a kitchen machine or food processor. Add some egg yellow food colouring to make your moons shine brighter!

To make the moon paste easier to work with, chill it for an hour or so. Then divide and roll them into the number of balls matching the number of moon cakes you expect to make.

Roll the balls through the rice flour to prevent the yellow moons from bleeding into the rest of the paste during baking.

Roll the plain lotus seed paste into balls. Make a dent in the middle that fits the yellow ball. Carefully and evenly envelop it, making sure not to deform the sphere inside. Put a moon inside every ball of plain lotus seed paste.

Divide and roll the same number of balls out of the dough for the skin.  Cover a ball with a piece of cling film and flatten it into a thin circle.

Envelop all the balls with the filling in the thin dough circles and pinch them together on top to close them well.

Place the ball into a well oiled moon cake mould. Gently press down to transfer the imprint on top, making sure not to deform the moon inside too much.

Remove from the mould and put onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Prepare the egg wash. Whisk the water and yolk together.

Bake the moon cakes (without egg wash) until they color slightly around the edges and the imprint. Take them out of the oven and give them an egg wash. Place them back into the oven and bake until golden brown for just a few more minutes. Getting the right colour can be tricky. Keep a close eye on the cakes after the egg wash.

Place the cakes on a rack to cool completely.

Depending on the size of your moulds, baking takes from 10 to 20 minutes. 10 Minutes for the mini moon cakes, about 15 minutes for the medium sized ones, and up to 20 for big ones.

Store in an air tight container at room temperature for two days. The oil in the skin will make the moon cake glimmer with a nice shine! After a few days it is ready to eat.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Götz no Glory - Hot Blooded Buns

"Hearty, smokey rolls with a thin crust. With a swirl of spiced smoked paprika and dipped in a seed mix consisting of both brown and blond flax seeds, black and white sesame, black and white poppy seeds and millet." 

"Are you sure about this?"

That's never a good question to ask an adolescent. 

On the table is a pile of bulky, slightly dusty books. German plays and poetry. Goethe, Schiller and something Dutch I don't remember.

The high school librarian, a lovely blond woman, takes small strips of cardboard stamped with dates out of the sleeves of the books, swings her date stamping device into striking position and keeps it there. Hovering in mid air. She looks up at me, ready to strike. 

"Not a lot of people take out these books, you know." 

Languidly drifting away on waves of adolescence just seconds before, now suddenly a hovering stamp demands immediate attention. I quickly translate what the librarian just said into adolescent;

"Are you crazy? What are you reading dusty German poets for? Don't you read thin books, like the rest of your kind? 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagul' and such?"

"Yes, I'm sure" I respond. 

Down comes the stamp, with all it's force. 

I have a small date stamp like that, at home. Not a 'professional' one, like the librarian is using here, but the same principal. Mine runs until 2016. I got it as a kid and made a promise to myself to use it the 31st of December 2015. I still own it and will keep that promise and stamp something, anything, deo volente.

"I think it's a first for Götz here. It's never left the building" 

She stamps a blank strip of card board and puts it back in the sleeve of the copy of 'Götz Von Berlichingen'. And smiles.

I was very Sturm und Drang at the time. Actually, I still am. Happily suffering along with the likes of young Werther, Götz or any other romantic, hot blooded, ratio declining character in world literature trusting their guts, so to speak.

After six years of reading the school library to bits, I was ready to take my hot blooded romantic self out of my small hometown and move to Amsterdam for some serious coming of age.

Kiss my ass
I walked straight into a big life lesson. Something that I had never seen coming. As I stepped out into the world on my own, I found people didn't quite recognise me as a young Werther, or a Götz. I pretty much got stamped the opposite, whatever that meant.

It made me ask myself this question; What am I to do? Put my guts to rest and be who people expected me to be? Or stick with it?

Although 'Götz Von Berlichingen' somehow never made it to my personal library, the most famous line in it has become one of my life mottos. 

Any one of you who knows the work can guess that motto. For those who don't; please engage in an interactive blog moment and listen to this Mozart canon.

If you just thought that, although you don't speak a word of German, the first line in that Mozart song sounded quite familiar, you are right. Trust your instinct.

Leck mich im Arsch. Kiss my ass!

I stuck with myself, as you might have guessed. I am who I am, I gotta be me and all that. By now I have reached a  stage in life where I'm not too bothered about impressions and perceptions. My mooning days are over. I stopped shouting 'kiss my ass' long ago. Nowadays a confident glance works the same magic.

Castle Business

Now then. Down to business. What do we want? 


When do we want it?


My constant source of inspiration Karin Anderson lured me, quite effectively, into cooking up a nice little something for the Götz Von Berlichingen castle she recently visited. The magnificent surroundings deserved a better bread then what she was served. 

This is my suggestion;

If Götz first saw the world in that castle, it deserves a bread that reflects the Sturm und Drang movement his story ignited much later on in history. Goethe took Götz' story and made it his, I read Goethe and added my perception of Götz to it. And now you are reading this and adding yours. Poor Götz; drowning in perceptions. Or maybe he got away lucky, being remembered a hero he himself never really was...

Himmelhoch jauchzend oder zum Tode betrübt; a romantic hot blooded hero appreciates some heat in his buns, some Sturm und Drang! These are hearty, smokey rolls with a light thin crust. On top and inside they have a swirl of spiced smoked paprika , and after being formed they are dipped in a mix of seeds consisting of both brown and blond flax seeds, black and white sesame seeds, black and white poppy seeds and millet. Paprika was around in Götz's days, and he most certainly would have been familiar with smokey foods. 

The sturdy seeds  protect and envelop the swirl. Like the bark of a tree protecting its guts. Keeping the fire within alive.

It would work with anything meaty on the breakfast buffet. With salmon or a variety of cheeses they'd make a tasty bun. Or as an accompaniment to a nice salad or soup. With eggs and omelettes in all possible sunny side ups and downs! And the chicken itself would work as well.

I can only hope Karin, who is somehow reading over my shoulder while I write this, agrees with me on this; the slower you let your breads rise, the better it tastes. If however, you are adding a pronounced flavour to your dough, by enriching it with anything that isn't water or salt or yeast or flour, retarding your dough isn't really the trouble any more. The butter, the sugar or in this case the smoked paprika, will blow the flavour benefits of retarding right out of the water.

Nevertheless, I often retard an enriched dough to fit my schedule, or sometimes use a bit of fresh yeast together with the wild yeast to speed up the process. In this recipe I use a little fresh yeast. Feel free to leave it out and expect longer rising times.

Multiseed wild yeast smoked paprika buns

makes about 9 buns of 80 gr.


for the dough:
450 gr. bread flour
50 gr. white rye flour
50 gr. wheat levain (@100% hydration)
1 gr. fresh yeast (use 0.4 grams instant)
290 gr. water (60%)
8 gr. salt
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika powder
⅛ - ¼ teaspoon of chili powder

for the seeds:
3 tablespoons of each golden and brown flax seeds, black and white sesame, black and white poppy seeds and millet. Any other seeds like quinoa or chia work as well.


Mix together the flours and the salt. Stir the levain and the fresh yeast ino the water. You can also choose to leave out the fresh yeast, the rise will take longer then. Roughly stir the yeast mix into the flour. Knead on low speed for about 4 minutes, and then 3 more minutes on second speed. If you are kneading by hand; this dough should pass the window pane test. The dough should feel slightly tacky, but not sticky.

first rise
Form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled container. Cover it and let it rise at room temperature for about 2½ hours or until it has risen sufficiently. One way to check if your first rise is ready, is to stick a floured finger into the dough. When the imprint keeps its shape, the dough is ready to move on to the next level. If it springs back, you might want to give it another 15 minutes or so. 

Lightly flour your work surface. Turn out the risen dough. Punch it back with the palms of your hands. Flatten the dough ball into a rough rectangle. Roll out the dough to 35 x 30 cm. If the dough resists, cover it and leave it for 5 minutes before going on. Brush or dust a thin and even layer of smoked paprika onto the dough. Then roll the dough as tight as possible into a log, starting on widest side. Pinch the seam shut.

Leave to rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the seeds onto a baking tray.

Cut the log into 8 or 9 pieces. Carefully close the seam  on one side of each piece of dough. Brush the sides with water, then gently place the dough in the tray to cover the lower half in seeds. Lift the dough pieces out and arrange them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.

second rise
Cover the baking sheet and leave the dough to rise until nice and fluffy. For the second rise, the poking method also works, but slightly different. In the second rise, if you poke the dough and it doesn't spring back at all, you probably went a bit too far with the proofing. A second rise is done, and a bread ready for the oven, when the dough springs back slowly after being poked. If it springs back with enthusiasm, give it more time. Expect a rising time of about 1½ - 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 230°C. If you are using a baking stone, make sure to preheat your oven early enough to give your stone the heat it needs.

Just before putting your baking tray right on the stone in your oven, spray some water in your oven to steam it up.

Bake the buns at 230°C for about 12 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 200°C and bake for about 12 more minutes until the tops turn golden. This will fade the attractive paprika swirl to almost invisible as well, but it still hides inside, and will be a surprise when the bun is sliced open. If you are using a fan oven, turn the tray around halfway the bake for even browning. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Quesillo with Orange

It's a flan from Venezuela, and tastes great in itself. Infuse it with orange and it becomes a flavour bomb. Try it, you won't regret it. I love the texture just after cooling down. My better half likes it better the next day, when the flan has become a bit denser. The light caramel and orange go very well together. Try to get as much orange flavour in there as you can; juice, zest and liquor!


for the flan:
5 medium eggs
397 gr. / 14 oz. condensed milk (1 can)
230 gr. / 8.1 oz. whole milk
4 teaspoons milk powder
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange based liquor or orange extract

for the caramel:
200 gr. / 7 oz. sugar 
a few drops of lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 190° C / 375° F. Pour boiling water in a large roasting pan until half full and put it in the oven.

With a (stand)mixer, beat the eggs until they are fluffy. Add the whole milk, the condensed milk and the powdered milk, the liquor and the zests. Mix until well combined and set aside.

To make the caramel, put the sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add a few drops of lemon juice or water, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has melted and the liquid is amber coloured. Be aware that the caramel is very hot and handle it with care! Don't make the caramel too dark; you will lose the typical flavour of this dessert.

When the caramel is ready, cautiously pour it into a round or square cake tin (750 ml to 1 liter) and swirl the caramel around to coat the bottom and part of the sides. The cake tin will probably heat up so be careful. Keep swirling the caramel around until it thickens and sets. 

Give the egg mix another good beating to get the zests that have sunk to the bottom evenly distributed through the mixture again and pour it in the cake tin over the caramel.

Cover the top of the cake tin with foil and carefully place it in the water bath in the oven. Leave to bake for about 40 to 50 minutes. The flan should be set, but will still be wobbly.

Leave to cool completely. 

To get the flan out of the mould easily, leave it in the fridge overnight. The next day, dip the cake tin in hot water (careful!) for 30 to 45 seconds and turn it out onto a plate. 
Alternatively, when you are confident enough your flan has set, you can live on the dangerous side and turn out the flan when it has cooled to lukewarm and the caramel is just starting to thicken again. Or when your patience runs out.

To serve; slice with a sharp knife and ladle some caramel sauce over the top. If you want to add a crunch, go for maple sugar.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jamaican Allspice, Cranberry & Pecan Apfelstrudel

Three for One
(to the dutch version) Unlike the name suggests, allspice is not a mix of several different spices. It's a spice in its own right. It got its name because the flavour resembles a blend of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is mildly peppery and pleasingly aromatic. Native to Middle America and the Caribbean, it is now produced wherever it will grow. 

Jamaican Allspice is just like any other allspice. Of all varieties however, it has the highest content of eugenol in the essential oil that determines the taste. Eugenol is also the flavouring element in cloves. So the Jamaican Allspice is quite 'clovey'.

Jamaican Jerk
Locally, the stuff is known under a wide variety of names; pimento or pimiento being the most wide spread. Freshly ground allspice is one of the essential spices to use in the celebrated Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. In Caribbean cuisine it is used in a variety of savoury dishes. The rest of the world for some reason prefers to use it mainly in desserts.

Bass Solo
Allspice can really transform a dish, when used in the right quantities. A couple of whole berries in your stew are enough to lift it to a completely new level. Be moderate is my device, although the recipe that I'm about to share with you shouldn't be considered as a lesson in moderation. In a lot of dishes allspice is the base tone around which all the other flavours curl and whirl and take their spotlight. This phyllo pastry is more like a bass solo...

Jamaican Allspice Cranberry & Pecan Apfelstrudel

2 big tart apples, diced into small cubes
± 16 sheets of frozen phyllo dough (or ± 8 big ones)
25 grams of dried cranberries
150 grams of finely chopped pecan nuts
150 grams dark brown sugar
50 gram light brown sugar (plain sugar is okay as well)
80 grams melted butter
1 teaspoon of Jamaican Allspice


Preheat your oven to 190° C / 375° F

Take the frozen phyllo sheets, wrap them in a moist kitchen towel and leave them to thaw gently.

In the meantime, peel, core and dice your apples. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over them to keep them from turning brown.

Chop the pecans together with the dark brown sugar and the Jamaican Allspice.

Gently melt your butter.

Assemble the strudel on a baking sheet. Take the thawing phyllo sheets and gently peel off 4 (or 2 big) sheets. Cover the remaining phyllo sheets with the moist towel. Lay out your first layer and brush it with the melted butter. Spread out ⅓ of the brown sugar-pecan mix evenly. Peel off the next batch of sheets to create another layer of phyllo. Brush it with the butter again and spread another third of the pecan mix evenly. Repeat this one more time for the third layer.

Brush the fourth and final layer with butter. Toss the apples with the light brown sugar and the cranberries and divide it over the phyllo.

Roll up the layers into a sausage.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake until golden. Depending on your oven that will take between 20 and 30 minutes. If you are baking with convection, make sure to rotate the strudel halfway through the bake.

Leave the strudel to cool on a wire rack to make sure the bottom will be crispy as well.

Generously powder the strudel with confectioners sugar.


Friday, November 1, 2013


All Saints Day

(to the dutch version) Today is All Saints Day here in Catalunya. I've been residing in Barcelona for about a week now, accompanying my partner who's working abroad for a while. The recipe I'm sharing is a typical Catalan treat that is associated with All Saints. All around town they have been staring me in the face all week; round little balls covered in pine nuts, shiny with a royal egg wash. 

Yesterday I stumbled upon a most amazing little store here, next to a bakery by the same name; Forn Baltá (calle de Carrer 115-119, for those visiting  Barcelona in the future). They have an amazing array of flours on sale; Spanish, French and German wheat, rye, wholewheat, bio... you name it, they sell it. Needless to say I stocked up on some flour that I just had to get. I'm especially curious about the Navarra-flour that I got. They also had a kit that came with everything you need to make your very own panellets. Go figure! 

Dutch Oven within a Dutch oven
My plan was to bake some serious bread while I was here, but the oven in the apartment we were dealt with, turned out to be a microwave with the tiniest grill function... No bread to be made in that thing! 

Being a creative mind I set out to put together a little make shift oven that WOULD do the job. With the few things found in the poorly equipped kitchenette I constructed something that actually worked. I call it my Dutch oven within a Dutch oven-system!

Setting my standards as low as possible I even managed to get some nice buns on the breakfast table; simple white rolls sprinkled with lemon salt flakes. They were a bit on the crusty side but hit the spot anyhow!

I doubt that I'm going to do any serious bakes here, but the panellets turned out to be easy baking. So here you go! They are traditionally eaten with roasted chestnuts, roasted sweet potatoes and a accompanied by a nice sweet wine like moscatellmistelavi de missa or vi ranci.



250 gr. confectioners sugar
500 gr. almond flour
about 75 gr. water
250 gr. pine nuts
1 egg


Mix the sugar, flour and water into a paste. Use just enough water to form a paste. Knead it until smooth, cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours but preferably 24 hours. The more it matures the better the result is going to taste! 

Preheat your oven to about 180C. 

Take the almond paste out of the fridge and roll balls out of them, about the size of a walnut. Beat an egg until foamy and roll the balls in it. Put the pine nuts on a plate and roll the balls through it until covered. This is a bit of a messy affair at first, but once covered you can roll the little balls between your hands to make the pine nuts really stick and 'line up' with the dough. 

If you want to make them extra shiny, give them a royal egg-white wash after they are assembled. Put them in the oven and bake them until the pine nuts are coloring golden, about 10 minutes, but keep a close eye on them; you don't want your almond paste to get too hot and sag into semi-spheres!

Leave them to cool, store in an air tight container until ready to eat. You can also cover them in crushed almonds or grated coconut ( I did!)

Enjoy! Make sure to visit 'The Breadlab' on Facebook, if you haven't already.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Butterscotch Chocolate Flan Cake - the last will be first

Is it a cake? Is it a flan? It's a flancake!

(naar de nederlandse versie) A flan is nothing new to me, I make them all the time. With a latin better half that is hardly surprising. It is a first that I'm making a flan with a cake base. And in this recipe it is kind of cool how it gets there.

The flan is baked (au bain marie) in the oven. First you put your caramel sauce in a reversed Bundt pan. On top of that you spread the batter and then you pour in the flan mixture...

The last will be first

Whilst running over to the computer one more time to ensure that I read this right, I remembered this was the reason I bookmarked and saved this recipe in the first place. To see if it really does what it promises; the cake batter you pour in first will float up to the surface while baking, and after unmoulding ends up as the base layer of the cake.

I can tell you: it works! Despite my suspicion that batter should be heavier than a runny flan mix, the cake layer rose indeed to the surface of the Bundt pan, trading places with the sinking flan. Quite a journey, when you come to think of it. The caramel sauce however, snuggly stays where it's supposed to be; on top!

The original recipe is huge. I've toned it down to a Bundt-pan of about 1½ liters. To add some crunch and extra caramel flavor, I chose to use butterscotch chocolate.

Butterscotch Chocolate Flan Cake


the cake:
75 gram / 2.6 oz caramel sauce
40 gram / 1.4 oz all purpose flour
20 gram / 0.7 oz cocoa
¼ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
60 gram / 2.1 oz butterscotch chocolate
45 gram / 1.6 oz unsalted butter 
60 gram / 2.1 oz buttermilk
60 gram / 2.1 oz sugar
1 egg
½ (good) scraped vanilla pod

the flan:
480 gram / 17 oz condensed milk
300 gram / 10.6 oz whole milk
85 gram / 3 oz cream cheese
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ (good) scraped vanilla pod


Preheat your oven to 175°C / 350°F. Fill a big roasting tin halfway with boiling water. Place the tin in the oven.

Thoroughly grease the 1½ liter Bundt pan.

In a glass bowl, melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of barely simmering water. Combine until smooth.

Take the bowl off the heat. Add buttermilk, sugar, the egg and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture. Stir until well combined. 

In another bowl, mix the flour, the cocoa, the salt and the baking soda. Add these dry ingredients to the wet and mix until it combines and smooths out.  

Pour the caramel sauce in the Bundt pan first.

Carefully spread the chocolate batter on top of the caramel. 

In a food processor or a blender, mix the condensed milk, the whole milk, the cream cheese,  the eggs, the yolks and the vanilla. Process for about one minute. 

Pour the flan mixture carefully on the chocolate batter. 

Place the Bundt pan in the roasting tin with boiling water in the oven and bake the flancake for about one hour on 175° C / 350°F. Test with a skewer to see if the cake is fully done. If you have a core thermometer; the temperature should register about 82° C.

Take the flan out of the oven and leave it to cool to room temperature in the mould on a cooling rack. Then transfer the flan to the fridge to let it set completely, preferably overnight. 

To unmold, place the pan for about 30 seconds in boiling water. The outer layer of flan will melt and make unmolding a breeze. Serve cold. 

               Baked Bree

Friday, August 16, 2013

the perfect buttercream

The Perfect Butter Cream

(to the dutch version) When it comes to fillings, I've always been a bit reluctant about butter cream.

An epic fail in the reward-center of a child's developing brain stays with you for life.

Standing just outside of the supermarket. Holding a bottle of pop we just bought. Me and my friends. We are all thirsty. It's hot. God knows where we got the money. What we thought was refreshing, sparkly and sweet lemonade, turns out to be tonic water. Bitter. Unsatisfying. Disappointing. I've never come near it again in my life.

The same goes, to a certain extent, for butter cream. My first encounter with it was in Germany. I had participated in a balloon contest. In those days, knotting a little piece of paper with your name and address to a helium balloon and letting go of it was still a worthy pastime. People would send back the card they found. The balloon that got the furthest got the prize.

Mine landed 200 km away, in Germany (Hülsen, if I remember well). A correspondence ensued between me and the German girl that found it. One day, my whole family got into a car and drove to Hülsen. We were met, on a Sunday, with a table filled with cakes, pies, pastries, cookies and whipped cream; the famous German 'Kaffee und Kuchen'. Never had I seen anything like it.

I was in awe with the center piece cake. It had a brownish cream neatly piped all over it. And hazel nuts. I loved hazelnuts. It looked intricate and intriguing and I longed for that cake all through the meeting and greeting rituals that usually come with these visits.

When I finally sank my teeth into it, I was shocked to taste butter. Fat. Slippery. I diverted to the copious amount of freshly whipped cream that was passed around. It seemed a perfect plug for my disappointment. It had no sugar in it. What sort of Tantalus torment was this!

Nowadays I prefer sugarless whipped cream, and thank my German friends for teaching me that less is more. The butter cream however, has always remained a bit of a problem.

This is the one I make whenever I can't come up with a viable alternative filling. It's a lot lighter and fluffier than your average butter cream. And the eggs in it are cooked by the sugar syrup, so it's salmonella safe. 

It takes some practice to get this one right, but once you have it on your repertoire, I dare say it will stay with you for the rest of your baking career!

the perfect butter cream

150 gram / 5.3 oz whole eggs
80 gram / 2.8 oz egg yolk
200 gram / 7.1 oz fine sugar
75 gram / 2.6 oz water
400 gram / 14.1 very soft butter

special tools: kitchen thermometer

Make a sugar syrup; Put the sugar and the water in a super clean small or medium saucepan (avoid non stick) and gently bring it to a boil. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.

At the same time, whip up the eggs and the yolks until they go all fluffy and light.

Heat the sugar syrup to 120° C and (careful, this syrup is very hot!) slowly pour it into the egg mix, and continue to beat until it cools down to ambient temperature.

In a separate bowl, first cream the butter with the paddle attachment and then whisk it until it gets thicker. Make sure your butter is very soft, but not 'oily'. Let your butter come to ambient temperature slowly. Melting the butter will give a poor result in texture in the end product.

Add the egg mixture to the fluffy butter and mix until well incorporated and the mixture smooths out. Make sure not to over beat at this stage.

The butter cream is ready to use now. You can add flavor and or color to it to your liking. Perfect for filling your home made macarons