Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blueberry Macarons

Let me tell you, if you want to treat yourself or someone else with something really special you should bake these macarons. Little acidic taste that comes from blueberries combined with white chocolate ganache filling and crunchy texture of macarons will make experience out of this world.

Although this fruit is generally great in baking, have in mind that fresh, frozen, or even dried blueberries won't do the job when making macarons. What I used instead were dehydrated or freeze-dried blueberries and they worked pretty well, both in shells and filling. They produce nice taste and natural purple color. Freeze-dried blueberries are available in Trader's Joe, Whole Foods or Target. I like to make bagels with them too - more about it soon on the blog. Recently I found freeze-dried strawberries in a store and got very excited - still trying to figure it out dessert that I would like to make with them.

Blueberry Macarons

You need:

140g egg whites, on room temperature for few hours
100g white granulated sugar
160g finely ground almond (almond flour)
240g powdered sugar
10g freeze-dried blueberries powder (pulverized in food processor)
2-3 drops purple food color

For filling:

200g white chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
10g finely chopped freeze-dried blueberries


Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl combine powdered sugar with ground almond.

In another bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed and while mixing gradually add granulated sugar in 3 batches, one at a time. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Stir in nut-sugar mixture and food color using spatula. Do not over mix it. Batter shouldn't be too thick or too lose.

Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe rounds, 1-inch apart, on the baking sheets. Let it stand 20-40 minutes, until dry film forms on surface. This is very important stage, if there isn't dry film on surface it will cause macarons to crack while baking.

Preheat the oven. In my oven I bake macarons on 285F. Usually, people do it on 300F. Do not open the oven for first 7 minutes. In my oven, it takes 13 minutes for macarons to be done. You can check if they are done by touching them and moving them, if they break they are not ready to go out. To much of baking is not good either, because they get brown and change their original color.

When shells are done, cool them on wire racks.

Make ganache. Heat heavy cream until it starts to boil. In a bowl, place white chocolate chips and butter cut in small pieces. Pour in hot cream, cover the bowl with lid and wait for few minutes. Then stir ganache until all chocolate is melted. Add chopped freeze-dried blueberries and stir until they start to dissolve. Remove it to fridge for 15 minutes to thicken. Spoon it into pastry bag and fill between two macaron biscuits, making a "sandwich" held together by ganashe.

Store macarons in airtight containers in the fridge.

I took a picture of macaron with a bite just to show you how nice it looks inside. See it bellow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Naturally Dyed and Decorated Easter Eggs (Using Onion Peel and Turmeric)

At some point of my life I decided to make only all-natural Easter eggs. Although I like to see variety of egg colors in an Easter basket, I don't feel comfortable using artificial dye, even if it says it's food-grade. That's especially the case if the dye penetrates below egg shell, for example seeing blue strains on my egg white is not really appetizing for me.

Dying with onion peel is a traditional and still very popular way of decorating Easter eggs in my homeland, Serbia. You wouldn't believe how many eggs are decorated over there, I am talking about several dozens per single family. Egg hunt is not so popular; instead we exchange Easter eggs with neighbors, friends and relatives. We also have egg-cracking competition, tournament style: each family member chooses an egg and then gently (or less gently) bumps against someone else's egg, trying to crack it, while keeping their own whole. Ultimately, whomever is left with unbroken egg is a winner.

On the pictures you can see how Easter eggs look like when dyed with onion skin (brown eggs) or turmeric (yellow ones). Very natural, indeed. Below, I will show you how to do it, plus, I will teach you how to make beautiful decoration with leaf imprints.

White or brown eggs?

If you use onion skin for dying you can use both, brown eggs will get deep brown color, white ones will be more light brown and reddish. However, if you use turmeric try white eggs.

How to get dry onion skin?

Last few years I have been collecting dry onion skin weeks ahead of Easter. But, you can always buy a lot of onions and peel off their skin. Also, many times I was allowed to peel onions placed on display in grocery stores.

I typically use brown and yellow onion, but you can try red onion skin too.

Onion peel dying 

You need:

12 eggs, white or brown

5 cups packed dry onion skin

4 or more cups of water to cover eggs in a pot

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

Vegetable oil for shiny look


In a  medium pot, place half of onion peel on the bottom, than 12 eggs on them, and the rest of onion peel place over the eggs. Pour in water to be 1-2 inch above eggs and peel, then add vinegar and salt. Heat the water until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the eggs for about 20 minutes on low temperature. Check if the eggs are turning brown. When done, remove the saucepan from the cooker, wait for the eggs to cool down.

Give the eggs final touch by gently rubbing vegetable oil on them. Use cotton towel. They will be smooth and shiny, just perfect.

Turmeric egg dying

You need:

12 white eggs

6 tablespoons turmeric powder

Water to cover eggs

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons salt


Follow instructions for onion peel coloring above. Instead of using onion peel add turmeric powder.

When done, place eggs on paper towel to dry.

Leaf imprint decoration

Eggs decorated with arugula, parsley, sage, geranium leaves and geranium flower

You need:

Bunch of leaves of early spring plants that you can find nearby. Tender leaves are better choice. My favorites are Italian parsley and Chervil (French parsley).

A pair of old panty hose, cut into 4-5 inches wide stripes



Before you use leaves leave them in a dish filled with water, it will be easier for you to apply them on the eggs.

After you lay leaf on the egg, cover it with hose stripe, then pull the hose very tightly on the opposite side of the egg, make a twist and secure it with string. Cut the part that hangs. Place the eggs into the saucepan with onion peel and follow cooking instructions from above.

When the eggs are done and cooled down, remove hose and leaves using scissors and let them dry. Then apply vegetable oil.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Coconut Crescent Rolls (Kokos kiflice)

My mom used to make these when I was a kid and I loved them so much. They are somewhat similar to German vanilla crescent rolls, but with added taste and texture coming from coconut flakes. They will start melting in your mouth with first bite. Then you have a sip of black coffee and you can be sure your day started well. You have to admit - life is good.

Although our relationship in the kitchen has always been very complicated, I have to say that my mother's little coconut crescent rolls are the best. Bellow is her recipe.

You need:
1 3/4 stick (200g) unsalted butter, softened on room temperature
2 cups (250g) powdered sugar + 1/3 cup (50g) for coating
2 eggs
2 cups (200g) finely shredded coconut
3 1/4 cups (400g) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 335F (170C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment pepper.

Beat butter and sugar with a hand mixer until you get nice consistent creamy mixture. Add eggs, one by one, and vanilla extract, while you are mixing. Then add flour and shredded coconut. Mix everything using hands and put dough to fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

Make the balls (walnut size) with the dough using your hands, then roll them, lightly flatten, and fold ends to create crescent shape. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes - until they start getting golden color. Roll the warm rolls in powdered sugar until completely coated.

Rolls can stay fresh for days, actually getting even better over time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sarma, Stuffed Cabagge Rolls

Sarma is the king when we are talking about Serbian food. Probably the most authentic dish in Serbian cuisine. Sure, you will find stuffed cabbage rolls in other Eastern European countries, but Serbian recipe calls for pickled cabbage leaves, not fresh ones, and, believe me, that makes a huge difference.

Serbs are so crazy about Sarma that they make it for any important event: weddings, slava (holiday dedicated to family's patron saint), Christmas, New Year's Eve, name it.

Serbian Christmas Feast: SMashed Potato, Sarma and Prebranac (Baked beans).

Fall and Winter are the seasons for making Sarma. This dish is too heavy for the Summer, plus it is hard to find pickled cabbage that time of the year. In Serbia, people pickle cabbage at home, starting in the early Fall, by putting whole cabbage heads in big barrels, adding only water and salt. Although I've never made it myself, I know it is not easy to make good pickled cabbage. One of the tricks is to keep cabbage heads tightly pressed by putting heavy weight on top of the barrel. Although we preserve cabbage mostly for use in Sarma, we also shred it to make healthy low-calorie winter salad, adding sweet paprika on top of it. It is very similar to sauerkraut and the taste is the same. Also, people drink the juice from barrel to cure hangover.

Around Spring time, as the weather warms up, if supplies have not been completely depleted, you will start to notice rather unpleasant smell from barrels with preserved cabbage. Pray that your neighbors, who keep cabbage barrel on their balcony, remove it soon, otherwise you are in trouble.

For good Sarma you need well preserved cabbage leaves, not too firm or soft, not damaged either. If you do not live in Serbia, you can buy it in some specialized ethnic stores with imported food. They are sold in big jars or plastic bags.

Pickled Cabbage Leaves in the Jar.

The most complicated part of this recipe is folding cabbage leaves into Sarma rolls. Pay attention to the steps on the pictures below. Also, although Sarma takes long to be cooked, do not overcook it. Rice in the filling should stay firm enough.

Serve the dish with mashed potatoes, and pair it with Merlot. 

You need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5-6 slices of smoked bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
500g (1 1/10 lb) ground beef
500g (1 1/10 lb) ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 ground black pepper
1 cup rice
2 large jars / packages pickled cabbage leaves
Water to cover

Smoked pork ribs, optional

Finishing sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 tablespoon paprika


In a saucepan, cook oil and onion on medium heat for few minutes. Add beef, pork, salt and black pepper, mix everything together and keep stirring until meat is cooked medium well. Remove from the heat and add garlic and uncooked rice. Mix rice with the meat uniformly.

Now you are ready to fold rolls.

Lay cabbage leaf flat on the cutting board.

Trim down the central rib, so the leaf remains uniformly thick and soft. Make sure you don't puncture it.

Put about 2 tablespoons of meat-rice mixture on the leaf, side closer to you.

Roll the leaf outward. When completely rolled, use your index finger to push leaf sides in the middle of the roll. 

Finished roll should have shape of a cylinder.

Gently put roll in a big saucepan which bottom had been previously covered with few leaves (this is to protect rolls from being burnt at the bottom).

Repeat the process until you run out of ingredients and saucepan is filled with rolls.

Tuck in slices of bacon among rolls, this will give Sarma nice, smoky flavor. Gourmet option would be to add smoked pork ribs.

Cover rolls completely with water and if there are any leaves left, use them to cover the dish on the top. Simmer Sarma covered for about 90 minutes on low-medium heat.

When Sarma is done, pour over it the sauce that you made by lightly browning flour on oil on medium heat for a minute or so, adding paprika at the very end. The sauce will give thickness, color and extra flavor to the water in which the dish was cooked, so the liquid can be used when serving Sarma, as a gravy on top of rolls or mashed potatoes.

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!

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