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!

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.

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