December 30, 2011

worthy of emperor's taste buds for sure!

Meet the Napoleon Torte !
a traditional New Year's Eve dessert for millions of
people in ex soviet countries, loved by everyone I know to this day.
Time consuming? yes! Delectable ? You'll wanna slap your next door neighbor!
Yes, not grandma, coz she taught me to do it, neighbor, coz it's that good the mere
thought of sharing it with someone will make you wanna slap them! :D

without further ado, here is the beauty :

this recipe is very easy to make, minus the grueling labor when rolling out those tiny tiny layers , mine had 12 this time, and 16 last time i made it.
this amount of dough makes a 20cm / 8 inch diameter cake.
I doubled the recipe to get 16 layers and made the cake 30 cm/12 inch cake.

200 gr margarine (1 cup minus 1 tbsp)
3 cups of flour
1/2 cup cold water
1tbsp vinegar

grate chilled margarine and cut it with the flour.
once the mixture looks like fine crumbs, add water and vinegar, knead the dough gently into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to cool while you're making the cream.

I used pastry cream that's made in 2 steps:

3 cups of milk-- heat on medium heat while mixing following ingredients in a separate bowl:

1c sugar
1c milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp flour

Once the milk has started boiling reduce the heat a little bit and start pouring the egg mixture slowly into the milk,whisking it constantly to avoid forming lumps. When the cream has thickened, cover it with a towel and let it cool (if you're lucky and have minus temperature outside, it won't take long)

Once the cream has cooled completely, add this mixture to it:

300 grams of butter (1cup plus 5 tbsp)
1 cup of sugar
(whip it with the mixer until sugar completely incorporated)

Add one table spoon at a time to the cream, and whip it with the mixer after each addition.

let it stand it the fridge for an hour or so.

Get your dough ball out, cut it into 12 equal parts,shape them into small balls and place them back in the fridge, using one at a time, so they don't start melting on your table,it makes it very hard to roll out.

Dust the work surface with flour and roll the balls as thin as you possibly can. Move onto baking sheet and pierce wholes all through with the fork.

Bake at 240 c (464F)
the layers bake very quickly, so watch out for them getting scorched. If you have an eager set of helping hands, that's the time to employ them.

Cut the layers into the shape you wish, I prefer the cake round, and I use this glorious TRICK, I take a lid off any of my pots and cut the layers with it, the actual layer gets stuck inside the lid and i can move it without breaking it onto the plate that the cake will be served on;) veeeeeery handy ;)

Reserve the leftover cutoffs from the cake layers, they will be turned into crumbs and used to decorate the cake.

Once all of the cake layers are ready, pour the cream on each layer, pressing lightly to 'glue' the layers together. If you like the layers half dry, this is not the cake for you,it's very moist and heavy.

Make sure you have enough cream for the top layer (I reserve it in advance just in case)
Once you have poured the cream on top, cover it with crumbs all over, wrap with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to soak up the cream overnight. I remove the cake the next day and let it sit at room temperature for complete 'soakage' lol ;)

It's time consuming, but very rewarding!
Everyone who tries this cake is smitten with it's delightful aroma and flavor, not to mention the texture of 12 layers of pastry melting in your mouth!


Happy New Year!

October 31, 2011


Happy Spooky Halloween to all!

Gotta love this holiday! Get to play dress up,
eat crazy looking food, drink toxic beverages, and what's most
fun trick or treat! :)
Not sure if little trick-or-treaters would love the idea of brain-dead
cupcakes with blood clots bursting out of them, but I am more than certain
PG 13 audience most definitely will!

No specific recipe to be followed here,use your favorite cupcake and frosting
recipe, cut holes in the cupcakes, fill with strawberry or cherry pie filling until they are about to burst.
Frost with squiggles that look like brain matter and voilà,your toxic brain cupcakes are ready to be served!

Your friends will be delighted! Make sure you have plenty of napkins in store,it could
get messy!

Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2011

Decadent indulgence

I've always loved caviar! Salmon, beluga, cod, you name it--I like it! all but fake caviar, eek!

Sadly, most people I speak to hate it, I usually hear something like :" EEEEEEW , fish eggs". Makes me laugh, they don't know what they're missing!

On special occasions I make some crepes and eat caviar rolled in a crepe with crème fraîche, blissfully yummy! On the days when I have no time for crepes, I butter fresh bread and spread generous amount of caviar on it, top it with a thin slice of lemon, perfection!

When I have guests that enjoy caviar as much as I do, I always make sure to serve these little appetizers, Halloween table will have them on too, especially since they go nicely with the orange color scheme;)

If you never tried caviar, go for it, especially if you're not the 'eek-fish-eggs' type ;)

Don't they just look gorgeous? Orange pearls of salty goodness , yumm!

October 22, 2011

Churros with a Cause

I dreamed up my Pink Ribbon Churros last night,I was staring at all the beautiful recipes online, drooling over the thought of making them first thing in the morning. Morning came,it was a very cold morning, so standing around a hot pot of oil was more than pleasant ;)

they are really easy to make, and there are millions of recipes out there, I liked this one coz it uses eggs,somehow makes me feel good knowing there are eggs;D Weird, I know:)

Onto the serious part. I made these in the shape of the ribbon to mark the Breast HEALTH Awareness Month. I refuse to call it anything else but that, HEALTH awareness. I believe we should be aware of health and put effort into maintaining it, rather than going to see a doctor only when you get ill.

Therefore, even if ONE female reads this blog entry and decides to get an appointment to get checked out or does a self exam, I will be happy as a big pink elephant ;)

Onto churros, to make them you will need:

Churros with a cause !

1 cup = 250 ml container

1 cup of boiling water
100 grams of butter (just a bit snipped off 1 full stick)
zest of 1 orange or lemon
1 cup of flour
1-2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten

vegetable oil (I used peanut oil ) - for frying
cinnamon and sugar - for dusting

Bring water to boil and melt butter in it. Add zest, sugar salt mix until melted and toss flour in , mix vigorously until you get a smooth thick dough. Whisk eggs lightly and slowly pour them into hot dough, continuing to mix like a mad housewife ;D
If you still have lumps in the dough, just run it through a sieve--my best friend in the war with lumps ;D
Once cooled, pack the dough into pastry bag or syringe fitted with a large star shaped tip.

Heat oil on medium heat, to check if it's ready toss a small cube of white bread in, if it turns light brown, it's ready, if soaks up the oil and floats lifeless it's not hot enough, if turns dark brown quick, it's too hot, take it off the heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes, you don't want your churros ugly brown color.

Fry churros for a minute each, they don't take long, once they are light brown, they are ready to come out. Toss on the paper towel to absorb excess oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Hot (or cold) chocolate dip:

1 cup of milk or 1/2 c cream +1/2 c cream if your naughty ;)
200 grams of dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

melt chocolate with milk either in a saucepan or a microwave, add vanilla essence and enjoy hot or cold;) I like it cold believe it or not ,when it's hot it's too overpowering for my taste buds;)

Eat churros right away dipping them into the chocolate, they are perfect when they are hot, they are just as good when cold ;)

Enjoy! and stay healthy!

p.s original recipe can be found here :

October 20, 2011

Macaron love!

I finally went to Venice last week, it was a glorious day! Sunny and crisp, not yet cold, basically perfect for a stroll around tiny streets of Venice.

Needless to say after all the walking we did, we got hungry, went to a beautiful little restaurant, enjoyed some Venetian style squid, cooked in it's own ink, very flavorful, and oh so different to say the least! Toothbrush would've been a great helper getting all that black out of my teeth, but, with some ingenious inventions in front of the pretty little bathroom mirror, my teeth were good as new!

Long story short, dessert didn't fit in my stomach right away, so I decided to walk it off and get something later.
Loads of beautiful patisseries all over the place, one better than the other, displays were bursting with sweets and I spotted something I've been dreaming of tasting, but was holding out for Paris...
I hear macarons reign supreme over there. I hesitated, but figured, they originated in Italy, surely they will be good here and oh my LO-R-DAY was I mistaken! Now, here's a disclaimer, I didn't go to a patisserie that specializes in macarons, and I do not say that all of Italian macarons are bad. I was just unlucky. They were hard, flavorless, brittle chunks of plastic mixed with powdered sugar and coloring... eek!

I mourned a little, but was determined to erase that awful incident off my taste bud memory, so I came back home and made them myself, easy as that! :D

If you embark on this journey, please prepare for it in advance, here's what I learned :

1. egg whites NEED to be aged (mine were a week old!!!)
2. almond flour needs to be sifted, you'll find some huge chunks in them for sure!
3. all the measurements need to be precise, digital scale is a must!
4. have all the ingredients set out and measured before you start,it will help you avoid running around the kitchen like a headless chicken when your caramel is burning ;D
5. If you have an eager set of helping hands, use them! it will cut piping and filling time in half ;)
6. don't be scared, they are not that hard to make:)
7. start with the lowest temperature, make a small batch and learn from it, all ovens are different, so are the geographical locations;) it matters a lot where you are when you're making macarons,Italy or California ;)the conditions will be different so will results if you don't adjust.
8. I used parchment paper, people say it's best to use silicone pads, I don't trust them, they move too weird and feel like some sea creature, too wiggly :D
9. Over-beating...something you'll see on a lot of blogs and in tons of books, but there is no certain way to do it right, I mixed my ingredients till everything was uniform. Didn't count the times I did the folding, nothing like that.
10. to dry or not to dry the piped macarons...I did, for 30 minutes, they turned out lovely! some say no need for it, some say leave them for a few hours or even overnight!!!'s up to you.

I am in no right to give out advice, I made them the 1st time and they turned out brilliant, so I'll attribute the success to the gorgeous genius of Pierre Hermé and my prep effort! I read the recipe 100 of times, plus had everything set to go when I was ready to bake.

Without any more twaddle I introduce you Pierre Hermé mouthwatering Frivolté
Salted Caramel Apple Macarons!

for the macaron batter you'll need( feel free to cut the amounts in half, this makes enormous number of macarons!) :

step 1:

300g ground almonds
300g powdered sugar

sift and run in the blender or food processor for a a minute, don't overdo it, you're running a risk of extracting almond oil into the batter, and you sure don't need that!

step 2:

110g aged egg whites (3-4 they shrink like crazy when they dry;))
yellow food coloring

mix together well, do not beat, and pour over the almond/powdered sugar mixture.

step 3:

330g sugar
75g bottled still water

bring to 118C on the candy thermometer and set aside (if you have a helping hand, get someone to start the sugar syrup while you beat the 2nd batch of the egg whites)

step 4:

110g aged egg whites

start beating the second batch of the egg whites (stationary mixer is preferred, but handheld will do just as good. Switch to high speed and pour sugar syrup in slowly, continue beating on high speed for 2 minutes, the whites will get thick but still a little runny. Set aside to cool.

step 5:

once egg whites are cooled off pour them into the powdered sugar/almond/colored egg white mix and fold gently, incorporating the mixture fully, but not over processing it. The batter will be thick but slightly runny, not too liquid.

step 6:

prepare piping bags fitted with #12 tip in tall ,place them in glasses (for easier transfer, it gets a bit messy)
pour the batter into piping bags, start piping macarons onto parchment paper. Some draw circles, I didn't , they came out just fine without any unnecessary geometry ;)(never liked it anyway;D)Make sure you leave enough space for them to expand though, about 2-3 centimeters is enough.
let them sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours, I left mine for 30 minutes, they were just fine. You'll know they are ready once the top of the macaron has a slight film that won't stick to your fingertip if touched.

step 7:

Bake in a preheated oven at 165C to 180C (I went with the lowest temperature and was happy about it). Bake for 12 minutes, opening the oven at the 8 minute mark slightly(macarons should have the crust and the 'feet' developed, you'll see them when it happens;))to let any condensed steam to come out (I stuffed folded paper towel in the oven door to let the air in).
Once done, remove from the oven immediately onto work surface covered with a flat towel. Let cool, and put the next batch in.

Filling :

for the filling you will need :
NOTICE : if you're using homemade dried apples, do this step a day in advance!

(I suggest buying something like this : )

4 to 5 apples (peeled and cored)
(you can bother with drying them in the oven, I see no point, just buy dried apples in the health store, but make sure they are not the super dehydrated kind, but white and soft )
30g lemon juice
20g sugar

step 1:
cut the apples into small chunks, douse them with lemon juice so they don't brown, add the sugar and spread on the baking sheet in one layer. Bake at 90 c until slightly dehydrated, but not crisp, remove from the oven and let stand covered with a paper towel,they will dry some more overnight.

step 2:
making caramel
you'll need:

330g sugar
335g cream
65g salted Butter

Heat the cream in a small pot and set aside (do not need to bring it to boil).
Toss sugar into a sauce pan over medium heat and mix with a wooden spoon until it all melts and turns dark amber color, turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Bring it to 108C and add salted butter, be careful it will be a little angry at you and spit ;) set aside to cool, cover with cling film and transfer to the fridge to cool off completely.
TIP: if you do not have salted butter just add a pinch of salt, I like to actually taste the salt in my caramel, so I went a bit over 1/4 teaspoon of pink salt (I like it cause it's not too overpowering and natural, it's hard to over-salt with pink salt).

step 3:

290g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

whip the butter until it's light and fluffy (about 10 minutes) and add caramel in 2-3 batches to incorporate fully.

Last and the awesomest step :

assembling macarons!

is fun and easy! make sure you don't apply to much pressure, pipe the filling onto a macaron, top with 3-5 chunks of apple , I squeeze them into the filling a little bit and cover with a second macaron.

'They' say you need to wait for at least a day to eat your macarons, I can't wait that long, I had them right then, and they were glorious!
thank you Pierre Hermé , you are indeed the MAN! :)

and here's my shot of the beauties before I devoured them!

Enjoy! and come visit my facebook page Cooking Pretty with Julija Art for this and other recipes.
Baci xxx

June 08, 2011

3 am Mascarpone

Sometimes I take forever to get to making food, yesterday
was not that kind of day ;)
3 am, when normal people are fast asleep, I decided I need to make some
mascarpone, so I did ;)
Good thing I always have cream in my fridge:) Instead of dragging my sleepy
self to bed as I should,I went to the fridge.
It takes very little time to make, cooling is what slows it down, I am impatient :)
Watched an episode of 'I love Lucy', laughed and went to bed bed dreaming of my breakfast ;)

Mascarpone easy as 1-2-3

1 cup (250ml carton) of whole cream
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

most recipes say 'use double boiler', but who needs that mess ;)
heat the cream in the pan on medium heat til it reaches bubbling stage (90c) watch it not to run over--it gets real fluffy and has a big desire to escape the pan ;)

turn the heat down a bit, add lemon juice or vinegar
stir gently

it will thicken up pretty quick, once it starts sticking to your spoon turn the heat off and let it stand for 20 minutes till it cools off.

to strain the whey out, line strainer with cheese cloth, if you don't have any , wide gauze will do ;)
put it in the fridge overnight covered with plastic wrap

Enjoy first thing in the morning:)

p.s you can season it with your fav herbs and garlic and spread it on bread--yumm!!! :)

June 01, 2011

Summer In The City!!!

Right off the bat my summer is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!

First thing in the morning I got a phone call from my bestest friend! with some fabulous news! Then I went out to pick some fresh wild strawberries and cherries conveniently growing in my back yard! :)
A nasty little tick came as an added 'bonus' with the berries. Lucky me it was slow,  unlucky the tick-had to fly back into the grass hungry. I am paranoid enough to check myself the second I get out of the grass.

Eeeeeek! you should've heard me scream! My neighbors got a bit of a show with me ripping articles of clothing off in panic :D (it's a good day for everyone I guess;)

Apart from creepy crawlers that come with summer time, I love everything about it: the unexpected rain showers, the thunder and the scorching heat and sunkissed skin ! L-O-V-E it! 

I feel it's only right to celebrate the first day of summer with some yummies! Nothing better than a popsicle to cool you off on a sunny day. I made some 'über' healthy ones and some slightly decadent ones ;)
Eather way they are refreshing and yummy! 

Peaches 'n' Cream Popsicles:

2cups of frozen peaches
1/2 cup cream
sugar/agave/stevia to your desire  (I used none, peaches were really sweet)

blend all ingredients together 
pour into popsicle molds
wait for them to freeze [very impatiently!] :)

Lemon and Wild Strawberry Popsicles: 

1/2 c lemon juice
1c water 
sugar to your preference
fresh wild strawberries ( if you use larger ones,like strawberries or cherries,cut them in quarters)
mix ingredients, make sure sugar is dissolved

Pomegranate Tea Popsicles:

brew tea (3-4 packets) to a cup
add sugar or any other sweetener you use
cool and freeze 

Have a YUMMY summer everyone!