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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Add caption
All the noble Baker's loaves
by definition
track back 
to their master's true ambition.

Droves of cooling breads
spread their 
unison tell tale song
of what went well and what went wrong;

"The world around us hurls and changes, but we sing!
Hail to our king, who arranges each and every day
the tweaks we need to live and rise.
Not a thing escapes his heart, his soul, his eyes;

A drop of water here,
a freeing slash, an ear.
There a firm yet gentle hand.
carefully planned and executed."

Deeply rooted in the here and now,
at days against all odds,
lots of Bakers weigh their knowledge,
play college with the world around.

Pound your dough, mix your rye
shape that greatest symbol of mankind.
And for your humble peace of mind
don't ask why we think it's but simple what you do.

Know your work is an anchor
in a world full of bankers and takers.
Make us share your loaves one after the other,
dear father, dear mother, dear friend and dear brother.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fresh Watermelon Cake - boating, waving & failed jumps starts

failed jump starts

(to the Dutch version) Summer has possibly started. Possibly, because this year, around the globe, we seem to be experiencing a summer that could be best qualified as a string of failed jumpstarts. The few days with the promise of summer weather in Amsterdam are met with a frenzy of activities.

The last two days in Amsterdam were tropical. So tropical in fact, that even my visiting tropical mother in law took off her winter coat.

We experienced some severe weather in Paris a few days earlier. The sky went dark at 11 in the morning. To a jaw dropping point. On our way home, the storm followed us north.

The Louvre just before a hellish storm
Today it swooshed over the east of the Netherlands.

boating and waving

When it's hot, Amsterdam goes a little crazy. Boating has always been a popular pastime with the locals, and with all the canals around here, you can imagine a lot of them have a small boat. Or a big one. And some a very very big one.

Once a year, somehow all of the city decides to take all these boats for a spin.

Today is that day.

Sitting on a bench by the canal, watching the boats glide by, taking it all in with my better half, I wonder out loud why it is that people start waving at each other as soon as they are on the water.

boating = waving
"Because they are having fun"

"I meet a lot of people in the street having fun. They never wave."

It is like a switch is flipped: people on boats wave to people on other boats. People on boats wave to people in the street. People in the street wave to the people on the boat.

Sometimes the people in the street start to wave. Sometimes it's the people on the boat. Rarely ever is it a synchronized wave.

We spot a few of them, usually being exchanged between captains. Their casual waves serve another purpose than all the other waves. In keeping boat and passengers out of harms way, it pays to acknowledge your obstacles.

"It is about acknowledging."

"Acknowledging what?"


A man on a very big boat, filled with what appears to be his family, waves at us. We wave back.

"His wave, for instance, could mean; hey look at me, I'm special, I'm on a boat."

People in the street, probably tourists, start waving back as well.

"Now we are saying; Yes, look at you, you're on a boat. We acknowledge you are special!"

"You're such a mood killer. Just wave back and have fun!"

"I'm sorry. It's second nature to me to ask questions about behavior. Call it an occupational deviation."

improper conduct

At the other side of the canal a boy and a girl get ready to unlock their bikes and move elsewhere. The magic of summer is happening right in front of our eyes. There is an embrace, a tentative kiss, and soon a full blown display of improper conduct in a public place.

It silences us both. And makes us smile. The sun is finally defeated behind the horizon. Under the cover of the last bit of twilight the couple goes unseen by the occasional boat that is still going strong.

A young man walks past the kissing couple. He knows he'd be best of just ignoring them. But I see the slight drop in walking rhythm. I see him pushing his peripheral vision to the limit. And I see him decide to glance back at the couple, a split second before he actually goes ahead and does it.

He keeps on walking and looks back, swinging his head back low, stealing a glance from behind his own left shoulder. Just a split second. Then he turns back. He sees us, at the other side of the canal.

I can't help it; I wave at him. He waves back. A short, discrete little wave. A 'I know you saw what I just did and I feel a bit awkward now'-wave, accompanied by a smile that communicates the same.

"How warm is it now?"

"still 28° C."

"And tomorrow? What is tomorrow's forecast?"

"16° C."

"Guess we'll have to create our own summer this year..."

Fresh Watermelon Cake

1 ripe watermelon
any other fresh fruits available
1 or 2 cans of full fat coconut milk
3-5 TBSP of confectionery sugar
½ vanilla pod

The only time the oven isn't fired up in this house is when it gets really, really warm. To nevertheless meet any baking expectations on those days, you have to think out of the box. On the Internet, you can always find some one who did that for or before you. So, when I decided I wanted something cake and watermelon without turning on the oven,  Google came up with this, and after some rummaging around I went along with this. Notice how I search for recipes using pictures instead of text? You want to know why? It saves the hassle of clicking through a lot of recipes from conglomerate food sites that aren't always helpful. And pictures often speak louder than words, so I find researching and sourcing recipe ideas a lot less time consuming!

The recipe is simple. You take your watermelon, cut of the rounded ends, and shape yourself a nice cake base. The watermelon should be just about ripe so it won't leak too much liquid. I got a seedless one to make it easier to eat.

From here on there are two ways to go. You can either simply cut the rest of your seasonal fruits and dress up a colorful fresh-fruit-cake. Or you can start with whipping up a can of coconut milk that you have chilled overnight in the fridge and 'frost' your melon. Whipping cream out of coconut milk, can that be done?

Yes it can! You are going to need full fat coconut milk. The best way to ensure success is to avoid any liquid left in the can after refrigeration. Use two cans if you have a big cake, and just scoop out the solids, add some sugar to taste and some vanilla, and whip it up as you would with normal cream. It doesn't quite behave like the real thing, but you'll be surprised how good it holds on a watermelon.  Dab the melon as dry as you can manage and  cover with coconut. Make a nice decoration of other fruits on top and around the base of the cake. Here is a recipe for coconut whipped cream.

If you really want to go all 'you'll never guess there is a REAL watermelon inside of this', you can toast some almond slivers and sprinkle them on the frosting. No one will see it coming....

All in all it is a great 'cake' for various reasons: it is dairy free, gluten free, there's just some sugar in the coconut cream (that could even be left out if you really wanted to) and, most and foremost it is bake free, and that makes this a perfect option for a hot summer day!