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.