Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yule Log Cake, Bûche de Noël, Panj torta

This is a famous Christmas cake. In Serbia people make it for other occasions too, birthday parties for example.

Although it looks complicated, it is really easy to make and the focus is on presentation: I wanted my cake to have a very natural look of an old log, deeply in the woods, covered with snow and mushrooms, and surrounded with pine tree branches.

My preparation took a bit longer because I wanted to make chestnut filling from scratch, starting with peeled chestnuts, rather than using canned chestnut puree.

You need for the sponge:

4 large eggs, at room temperature
100g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g all-purpose flour

For chestnut filling:

300g chestnut puree, see the recipe for homemade chestnut puree
100g whipped cream
1 tablespoon dark rum (if there is none in chestnut puree)

For the chocolate glaze:

150g dark chocolate
1/2 cup (113g) butter
1 tablespoon dark rum

For decoration: Powdered sugar, meringues, marshmallows, pine branches

For meringue mushrooms:

1 large egg white
70g powdered sugar


First make the sponge. It is same one as for the Genoise jelly roll.

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).

Line the baking sheet (15''x10'') with parchment paper.

Mix the eggs with sugar until they triple in volume. Add salt and vanilla extract. Combine with flour using a wooden spoon, not hand mixer. Batter should be fluffy and light if you want to get soft and nice sponge.

Pour the batter onto the baking sheet, make it even, and place in the oven. Bake it for about 10 minutes, until color is light brown and the sponge springs back when touched.

Take the sponge out from the oven, let it rest for a minute. Remove it from the baking sheet, with the parchment paper, and place it over clean kitchen towel. Roll up everything together, sponge, parchment paper and kitchen towel, starting from a long side, and leave it to cool down completely. Then peel off the parchment paper.

In the meantime make the frosting. Mix together chestnut puree with whipped cream using spatula. You can reduce the amount of frosting but I love the taste of chestnut so much that I usually go wild with it.

When the sponge and frosting are completely cooled down, spread the chestnut frosting over the unrolled sponge and roll it back. Place the log on a serving plate. Cut one side of log diagonally about 2'' from the end. Place the cut on the side of the log just as you see on the pictures.

Make the chocolate glaze. I usually go with chocolate cream made of butter and chocolate, but you can use heavy cream instead of butter to get ganache. Melt chocolate over double boiler and add butter and dark rum. Cool it over a dish filled with ice. When it is tick enough, spread it over the log. Drag a fork through the glaze to get bark texture.

To make meringues mix egg white with sugar to get thick mixture. Pipe it over baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Bake it for about one hour on 195F (90C). 


Use marshmallows for base and meringues for cap to create mushrooms. Glue those two parts using chocolate cream. Place them over and around the log. Arrange pine branches. Sprinkle powdered sugar over everything to resemble snow.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mini Paris-Brest

This is the best dessert that I've tried recently. Yes, I do like choux pastry filled with cream, let's say Cream Puffs are my favorite thing in the world, but this one has brought it to another, higher level.

Everything is cool about Paris-Brest: the way how it was invented, puffy crust, filling with ground almond and caramel mixture, and the look. I have to say I prefer mini version because it is easy to serve; big ring can be challenging for cutting.

This dessert was invented more than hundred years ago, to celebrate famous bicycle tour in France, Paris-Brest-Paris. Cake had the shape of a bicycle wheel and quickly became popular among participants in biking event due to its high caloric value. Today, it can be found in patisseries throughout France.

I found this recipe here. When I saw Paris-Brest on that blog I knew immediately I had to make it.

You need for the choux pastry:

4.2oz (125ml) beaten eggs (2 to 3eggs)
4.2oz (125ml) water
2oz (62ml) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
2.6oz (75g) all-purpose flour
1.8oz (50g) butter

For almond-caramel mixture:

1.8oz (50g) sugar
2.1oz (60g) raw almond

For the filling:

8oz (240ml) milk
8oz (240ml) heavy cream
4 egg yolks
5.3oz (150g) sugar
1.5oz (40g) cornstarch
1.8oz (50g) butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream, optional

For serving:

Powdered sugar


Almond-caramel mixture:

Heat sugar in a small pan over medium heat.When it's caramelized, but before it starts to burn, remove it from the heat and add almonds. Mix it together and spread the mixture over parchment paper. Let it cool down completely and then grind it in a food processor.

Choux pastry:

Preheat the oven to 395F (200C). Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw 8 circles on the back side of the paper, about 4 inch in diameter. Prepare a piping bag with a third of an inch tip.

Put oil and water in a medium pan and bring it to boil. Add sugar and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in flour. Mix it using wooden spoon until you get consistent dough. Pour in beaten eggs and mix it until you get smooth and glossy mixture.

Put the dough in the piping bag. Trace the circles you already drew on parchment paper. Every mini puff should bi built of three piped circles, one outer, then inner and top one that crosses both. Or, use wider tip and make only one circle.

Place baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake them about 20 to 30 minutes, until the crust becomes puffy and golden brown. Do not open the oven until the pastry is done.

Cool puffs on cooling rack, and split them into halves using sharp knife.

In meantime, make the filling.

In a medium pan heat half of the milk (4oz) and heavy cream (8oz). Add vanilla extract. In another pan mix egg yolks with sugar and starch and then gradually add remaining 4oz of milk (it should be hot), while constantly stirring it. Then, pour that mixture into the first pan with hot milk and heavy cream. On low-medium heat cook the cream, stirring it continuously, until it thickens.

When the cream has consistency of pudding, remove it from the heat. Stir in butter.  Place the pan with the cream on a large shallow dish filled with ice. That is the best way to cool the cream quickly. When the cream is cooled completely add ground almond-caramel mixture and stir everything well.

Fill the choux rings with the cream using piping bag. Optionally, add whipped cream over the cream.

Dust the rings with powdered sugar before serving. Keep Paris-Breast covered in a fridge.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Curried Apple-Celery Root Soup

Celery root is not so popular in the U.S. as it is in my home country, where, by the way, celery stalks cannot be found in grocery stores. You would think how strange it is that different nations prefer different parts of the same plant. But, the truth is those are different kinds of celery. Celery root, or celeriac, doesn't have those succulent stalks so common on the U.S. market. I love them both, they have the same aroma, but the texture is very different.

Celery root is mostly used in Fall and Winter. It goes well with apples, and two dishes that combine these ingredients that I love the most are Waldorf Salad and Curried Apple-Celery Root Soup.

Curried Apple-Celery Root Soup is so easy to make and has taste that balances earthy (celery root), juicy (apples) and spicy (curry) aromas in such a wonderful way. Definitely my favorite soup around this time of year.

You need:

1 large celery root, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 tart apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 quart chicken broth
Salt and black pepper

For serving use sour cream and baby arugula.


Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add chopped onion and cook few minutes on medium heat. Add celery root and apple. After 5 minutes of cooking pour in broth, salt, black pepper and curry powder, and cook until celery and apple cubes become tender.

When the soup has cooled down a bit, blend it with a hand blender until texture is smooth. Add seasoning if needed. Warm it up and serve with sour cream and baby arugula.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baked Stuffed Apples

This is a perfect Fall treat. Easy to make, delicious and healthy. You can have it for breakfast or dinner. Divine smell will fill the air throughout your home while the apples are baking in the oven. 

When I was a child, my parents used to bake whole apples whenever my brother and I had tummy problems. Similar to apple sauce, they were easy to digest and contained pectin to help soothe the stomach.

Here is a version of baked apples with dried fruit, nuts, spices, and drizzled with honey. Very rich, but still healthy!

You need:

6 sweet apples
1/2 cup walnut, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricot, chopped (you can use other dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries or raisins)
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2-3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup honey


Preheat the oven to 355F (180C).

Mix chopped ingredients, apricot and walnut, with spices. Core the apples. Cut off the apple tops. Place apples on baking dish. Stuff the holes in the apples with prepared mixture. Add small pieces of butter on the top of stuffing, drizzle apples with honey and bake for about 50 minutes. If stuffing is about to get burned cover the apples with aluminum foil.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Birthday Nutella Cake

My husband had a big birthday last month. 40th. I always make famous and complicated cakes for his birthdays. This time I wanted to bake famous German Dark Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirshtorte), but he said no, reminding me that last time the cake didn't turn well because we didn't have good sour cherries, and here in US it is almost impossible to find them in the Fall, even frozen. So I said, ok, let's do something different and new.

My husband loves Nutella, kids too, so I thought, let's create an easy Nutella cake that everybody would like. I was doing some research on the Internet but didn't find anything appealing, so I came up with my own recipe. I chose chocolate genoise cake as a basis that pairs well with Nutella frosting. My idea was to keep taste of Nutella dominant as much as possible. And, I wanted rustic look too.

You need for sponge:

1 1/3cup (160g) flour
1/3 cup (50g) cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
8 large eggs
1 cup (200g) sugar
5 tablespoons butter  (heat the butter and remove the white part)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

9-inch round baking pan lined with parchment paper

For syrup:

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white rum

You need for frosting:

175g semi-sweet or dark chocolate
100ml heavy cream
50g butter
300g Nutella

Chopped hazelnuts for decoration.


Sift flour with cocoa powder three times. Add salt and mix it.

Heat the oven to 355F (175C).

Pour clarified butter into a pan and stir in vanilla and cook on a very low heat until hot. It should be hot when you add it to the batter.

Make a double boiler: a pan with simmering water and a glass bowl over it. Using whisk beat the eggs and sugar in the glass bowl. When egg mixture becomes warm and start to thicken remove the bowl from the heat. Continue to mix eggs with electric mixer, on highest speed, until the volume triples, becomes pale yellow and holds a ribbon when whisk is lifted.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to eggs and fold in gently with rubber spatula. Add the remaining flour-cocoa mixture and fold in until it is well blended. Do not over-mix it, otherwise sponge will be too dense. Place 1 cup of batter into the hot clarified butter with vanilla extract and mix together. Than transfer it to batter and gently fold it in.

Spoon the batter into baking pan and bake it for avout 30 minutes. The center should be firm enough.

When the sponge is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack to cool down.

In the meantime, prepare frosting. Melt the chocolate in heavy cream and butter, in double boiler, over simmering water. Remove it from the heat and fold in Nutella. Cool down the frosting until you get right consistency to spread it.

Cut the sponge into three even layers. First, brush the top of  the first sponge layer with 1/3 of syrup, then spread 1/3 of frosting... do the same with remaining sponge layers, syrup and frosting.

Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over the top of cake. They always add nice texture and flavor to the cake. Keep the cake in a fridge covered with a dome. Cakes are always better a day after.

Keep the cake out of the fridge for at least 45 minutes before serving. 

Happy birthday, daddy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quick Plum-Chocolate Jam (Džem od šljiva sa čokoladom)

This is a super easy and tasty jam, made for special occasions. I am not a jam person, I would always rather choose Nutella over jam to fill my crepes, but this is something even better - fruit and chocolate together.

On this blog I already have recipes with plum and chocolate: Prune-Chocolate Balls and Plum-Chocolate Tart, so now you know I am a huge fan of that combo.

Since my kids for some reason do not like dark jams, only bright ones (apricot and orange), it didn't make sense to make more than one jar. Plus, this jam is very rich in taste, so you use it in very small quantities. And, I don't like using pectin or anything artificial to keep my jam fresh for months. One jar at a time.

I've never thought about baking jam, as my mom always cooked it in large pans, but it is possible. Dutch oven is a perfect choice for that. This is a revolution method, very easy and fast, and going forward I will make all my jams this way. Look at that jam texture on the pictures, this is really great way of making it.

Plum-chocolate jam is great for crepes, but you can use it for many other things, as you do with regular jam. Recipe for crepes find here.

You can experiment with proportion of ingredients, based on you taste, but these are all good for my palate!

You need for 1 jar (375ml):

1.3lb Italian or any other plum, very ripe and sweet
1/2 - 1 cup (100-200g) sugar (depending how sweet the plum is)
100g dark chocolate (60% Cocoa)
2 tablespoons dark rum or vanilla extract

Dutch oven with lid


Wash and dry plums. Remove pits and cut them into small chunks.

Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

Place plums into Dutch oven. Add sugar over it. Bake it for 20 minutes on 450F, and then decrease the temperature to 355F (180C), and bake for additional 20-30 minutes until you get nice consistency of jam with some chunks of plum. Remove it from the oven. At the and add chocolate and  rum, stir it and cover with lid. After 10-15 minutes put jam into sterilized glass jar, very carefully, little by little to avoid breaking the glass as jam is still hot. Put the lid on. When it is completely cooled down remove to a fridge. Consume within 3 weeks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to Grill and Serve Eggplant

This is a great summer dish.When you grill meat, always remember to trow in some veggies too. Eggplant is a great choice. Let me show you how to prepare eggplant for grilling and how to serve it. Below are two different recipes, both of them produce great look and taste.

Grilled Eggplant with Red Onion, Mint and Walnut

You need for 6-8 people:

3 medium eggplants, sliced length-wise with slicer or mandoline
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
3 tablespoons walnut, coarsely chopped


Place eggplant slices on sheets of paper towel, salt them on both sides and cover with another layer of paper towel. Put large baking sheet over it, and add something heavy on top of everything to apply pressure on eggplant slices. Let it stay that way for 30 minutes. Salt and pressure will squeeze out liquid and thus take out bitterness from eggplant. Now wash eggplant with water, rinse and dry it with paper towel.

In the meantime, heat the grill.

Brush eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Grill eggplant slices for few minutes on both sides. They should get nice grill marks. Then place them on large dish as on the picture above.

Make the dressing with the rest of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Place onion rings over eggplant and drizzle the dressing over it. Sprinkle walnut and fresh mint. Serve it warm.

Grilled Eggplant Slices with Garlic Dressing

To make second version of grilled eggplant, slice it cross-wise. Repeat the same preparation and grilling method as in the first recipe.

For dressing use 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, minced 1 clove of garlic, chopped 3 leaves of fresh basil, 1 tablespoon of fresh chives, salt and black pepper to taste. When the eggplant slices are grilled, drizzle them with the garlic dressing.

Bellow is an eggplant with very peculiar shape. Sometimes you find them that way.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Easy Rolls with Feta Cheese (Brze kiflice sa sirom)

These are the best and the easiest rolls that I've ever made in my life. I found this recipe on Suzana's blog, here.

I have to make them again, as soon as possible. There is something very cool about the dough in this recipe - you don't have to wait for it to rise. That was great, because my kids didn't want to wait, they wanted to eat the rolls right away. Plus, they were my helpers, which means mess was all around... I had to work fast. My kids just love to play with dough. If you needed an idea how to entertain your kids during summer break, now you have it.

You don't need more than 20-25 minutes to make these rolls, plus baking time. Bread flour and instant yeast can be replaced with regular, all-purpose flour and active yeast, but I do not guarantee that the dough will be as airy. Also, you can replace sesame and caraway seeds with something else, but believe me, those are the best for topping.

If you keep the rolls wrapped with plastic foil they will be fresh a day after, if any left:)

You need for dough:

600g (4 1/2 cup) bread flour + some for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
200ml (4/5 cup) warm milk
100ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream

For filling:
1 egg, beaten
100g Feta cheese, crumbled

For glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk

Sesame seeds
Caraway seeds


Use food processor or mixer to make the dough. Pulse flour, salt, baking powder and instant yeast in food processor for few seconds. Add warm milk, oil and sour cream. Mix it until you get smooth and palatable dough.

Remove the dough to flour-dusted surface. Knead it few times, and shape it into a ball. With a dough cutter divide it into four even pieces and shape them into balls.

Roll out each ball with rolling pin until you get circle 12" in diameter. Using sharp knife cut the circle into 8 even triangle pieces, first making +, then x with the knife.

Mix crumbled Feta cheese with beaten egg. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling on wider half of each small triangle. Roll triangles starting from the wider side. If you want the rolls to look nicer and ensure filling doesn't spill over during baking, fold the sides of triangles and then roll them. Place the rolls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do the same with the rest of the dough balls. You will need two large baking sheets. Let the rolls rest for 15 minutes before baking.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 355F (180C).

Brush the rolls with mixture of beaten egg and milk, and add sesame or caraway seeds on the top.

Bake them for 18-19 minutes until crust becomes golden.

Serve the rolls warm.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers with Garlic Marinade

It is hard to believe but my husband managed to delete whole post that I was working on, so that is one of the reasons why I am so behind with new recipes on my blog. Other reason is terrible flood in Serbia, my home country. It happened a month ago, and the town that was hit the worst is very close to where my family lives. That town, where I used to go to high school, looked like a large lake. I was so absorbed with the disaster that I couldn't do anything else except watch news and FB statuses of my friends who suffered from the flood, all day long.

Then, my son is off his school for the summer break which means I have to watch two small and very active kids all summer. Also, I have started jogging again, in the evenings after my daughter goes to sleep, that is my window of opportunity. After running, I have to water my little garden too. So my days, short as they are, are even shorter now.

Weekends became my favorite part of the week. At least I have my husband to help me out with the kids. On weekends we like to grill.  One week we make seafood, the next one pork or beef.

When I saw these mini sweet peppers in the supermarket I knew that I would put them on the grill. I loved their colors and I wanted them to be on skewers just for fun. Peppers and garlic go so well together. I recalled that Roasted Cubanella Peppers Salad with Garlic Dressing, I planned to create something similar to that. So I used the same ingredients for marinade and later for dressing. Grilled peppers with garlic were excellent choice, they went well with roasted pork meat and they looked colorful and fun on our plates. 

You need:

2lb mini sweet peppers

For marinade:

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 tablespoons of chopped chives
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Wash and rinse peppers. Make marinade mixing garlic, chives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Toss peppers in the marinade until they are evenly covered.

Place the peppers onto thin skewers, next time I will use two parallel skewers instead of one, it is easier to handle them. Save marinade leftover to use it as dressing later on.

Grill the peppers on both sides for few minutes until they get dark grill marks.

When they are done, serve them right away with garlic dressing poured over skewers.

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