Focaccia is a really easy bread to bake, so good to start with if you’ve never attempted it before. This particular dough is soft, stretchy and will result in a super fluffy bread. You need strong white bread flour and semolina flour. Semolina flour is used to make pasta but also goes very well in bread. It has a high protein content so will create great gluten development. This bread goes great with some hearty soup and also does well at parties with some olive oil to dip in. You can choose whatever topping you like, I’ve also seen yummy focaccias with mozzarella, onions and parmesan. Enjoy!
300 grams strong white bread flour
150 grams semolina flour
300 grams water 20-25 C
45 grams olive oil
4,5 grams instant yeast
8 grams salt
150 grams cherry tomatoes, halved
dried or fresh mixed Italian herbs
fine sea salt
more olive oil
Combine flours, water, olive oil, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make sure the yeast and salt don’t touch directly. Knead until the dough passes the windowpane test.
Prepare a 13×9 inch baking tray by greasing it with olive oil and lining it with baking parchment. Shape the dough into a ball using oiled hands and place in the baking tray. Cover with greased clingfilm. Leave to proof for 45-60 minutes.
When proofed for the first time, cover the whole bottom of the baking tray with the dough. Push the dough out into every nook and cranny with oiled hands. Cover with greased clingfilm and proof for 20 minutes.
When proofed for the second time, use oiled fingers to create dimples in the dough. Push the cherry tomatoes into the dough skin side down. Sprinkle with herbs, sea salt and lastly with some olive oil. Cover with greased clingfilm and proof another 30 minutes.
In the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 C.
Once the dough has done proofing the third time place the baking tray in the oven and bake the focaccia for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Take out of the oven, leave in the tray for 5 minutes, then lift it out with the baking parchment and place on a wire rack to cool. It’s best eaten fresh but you can freeze the bread easily in a paper bag.
Last weekend, I got to experience one of the coolest things ever in my life: I went to a 1 Michelin Star restaurant! Nadine and I had participated in a Christmas bread competition in November and Nadine won first place. Part of her prize was a dinner for two at “Sense” restaurant in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and I was lucky enough to be invited along. We made a whole weekend out of it where we slept in a yoga-themed B&B (with awesome breakfast, yoga and bathroom – see my Instagram). It was quite cold and rainy so we also did a bit of shopping. While we were roaming around it turned out the sole of my shoe was broken so I had to buy new ones right away (wet socks anyone?). I also scored some cheap books at a local bookstore (being the bookworm that I am..I scored Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Froer for €5 and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler for €4).
Anyhow, the restaurant was absolutely amazing, although I felt a bit uncomfortable every now and then because it was all very fancy. The food was scrum-diddly-dum-ptious. I have never had a meal so tasty! Everything was extremely well thought out when it came to textures and flavor and just. wow. They had a dumpling that blew my mind. And we had 9 courses in total which was absolutely insane. I’ll scratch it off my bucket list and it’ll go on my list of best things I have ever experienced in my life!
All of the dainty food inspired some dainty baking, therefore I baked these madeleines. They should have “bellies” on the plain side but only one turned out that way for me – they were still delicious. It’s a simple recipe that’s do-able for everyone with a madeleine tin! Dig in!
Recipe French Madeleines
Source: The Weekend Baker by Paul Hollywood
Tools: Madeleine tin
Yields: 20-24 madeleines
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Leave it on low heat until brown flecks start to appear. Take it off the heat, leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease and dust the madeleine tin(s) with flour.
Mix the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very fluffy and light. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda onto the egg mixture and carefully fold it in. Then add the cooled butter and carefully mix it in. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Fill the each madeleine mould in the tin 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Pop them out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar. Best eaten on the day of baking.
I know, Sinterklaas has been over and we have to wait another 11 months for the ancient bearded man to arrive again..but while it’s still icy cold and time for a cuppa hot cocoa, I’ll keep dipping those speculaas. I have found speculaas to be an excellent dipping agent 😉
Of course, a perfect pairing for speculaas is mandarin, so I have incorporated mandarin marmalade in this cheesecake for extra pozzezz and tanginess. I have included a recipe for mandarin marmalade below if you can’t find it in your supermarket! It’s easy to make and tastes great on toast with some butter as well…
Mandarin and Speculaas Cheesecake
First published in Dutch the Magazine, november/december 2016 issue.
7 oz. speculaas cookies
⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cups full-fat cream cheese
¾ cup caster sugar
3 ½ tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mandarin marmalade*
Preheat the oven to 265F. Grease and flour a 9.5 inch springform baking tin, cover the base with baking parchment.
Crush the speculaas cookies into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and toss until everything is evenly moistened. Transfer the crumbs to the tin and press evenly into the bottom (use a spoon if necessary). Leave to firm up in the fridge.
To make the filling, add cream cheese, sugar, flour and eggs to a bowl and mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
Pour filling into baking tin. Drop in tablespoons of the marmalade, make sure you divide it evenly so that every slice of cheesecake has roughly the same amount of marmalade in it. Place in the oven, bake for about 1 to 1,5 hours. The middle of the cheesecake should still be wobbly. Leave to cool on a wire rack, then transfer to the fridge and leave to set for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight).
* Mandarin Marmalade
1 ½ cup sugar
Simmer the mandarins in plenty of water for 45 minutes.
Quarter and deseed the cooled mandarins and chop them in a food processor fit with a blade attachment.
In a sauce pan, mix the sugar and chopped mandarins and simmer for 35 minutes. Leave to cool and scoop into a jam jar. Store in the fridge.
I recently purchased Dorie Greenspan’s book “Cookies” and oh my, is it chock-full of the most amazing cookie recipes… I had no idea where to start! Since Christmas is coming up and the promise of snow is in the air (a promise that hardly gets fulfilled where I live), I thought I might go with a snowy theme. These brownie cookies fit perfectly into that: they’re topped with snow 😉
They’re soft and chewy and a little gooey with lovely chocolate chunks throughout. I would say it’s one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted, even though they might not officially (schmofficially) be cookies. The dough needs plenty of time for chilling so make sure you start well ahead. Christmas is all about planning anyway, right? Have fun with these!
Recipe Snowy Topped Brownie Drops
Source: Dorie Greenspan – Cookies
Heat 170 grams of the chocolate and the butter together au-bain-marie until they have melted. Set aside. Chop the rest of the chocolate into fine chunks and set aside.
Mix the sugar with the chocolate-butter mixture. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well. Then whisk in the vanilla extract and salt. Carefully fold in the flour and chopped chocolate. Transfer dough into a bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to chill for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 175C/350F. Line two baking trays with baking parchment (don’t use a silpat mat, the cookies will stick to it!).
Weigh out 30 gram pieces of the dough. Roll the pieces into balls. Dredge them through icing sugar. Place 10 dough balls on each baking tray. Make sure they have plenty of space to spread out. Bake for 6 minutes, then rotate the baking tray and bake another 6 minutes. Take tray out of the oven, leave cookies on the tray for about 2 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely. These cookies are perfect for ice cream sandwiches!
5 years ago I made my last pumpkin pie – it was awful. I wasn’t a very good baker yet back then, and the pastry was too thick, the filling too clove-y. I decided to try again after seeing my friend Nadine’s decorated pie (she really has the best ideas!!). Alright, it still took me about 4 years to get around to it but yeah.. I did it 😉 And oh my – this is the best pie I have EVER had! I am not overstating the deliciousness of this pie. It is the. absolute. best.
The recipe is from a book called Ms. American Pie, written by the lady who lives in the American Gothic house. The book, apart from being filled to the brim with delicious pie recipes, chronicles how the writer’s husband passed away and how she found solace in baking pies afterwards. It is a touching story and I love how baking can help people get through difficult periods in their life – it’s the same for me!
I’m not quite sure, but the filling recipe might be taken off of the “Libby’s” pumpkin puree can – we don’t have Libby’s here but the recipe hinted at it. I do know that Libby’s pumpkin puree is a staple item in America around Thanksgiving – can any Americans attest to that? I made my own pumpkin puree for this pie by simple boiling some diced butternut squash until it had softened and then blitzing it to puree. It worked amazingly well!
To make your pumpkin pie extra special, you can go with the decoration as Nadine has thought up: pipe on dark chocolate to make a pumpkin and gorgeous swirls and for an extra touch add some pumpkin seeds. It’ll make an otherwise “boring” pie that much more exciting!
To make the dough: blitz butter, flour and salt together in the bowl of a kitchen processor with a blade attachment until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add half of the water, blitz again, if necessary add more of the water until the dough is moistened. Wrap into cling film and chill for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C/430F.
Mix all of the filling ingredients together until combined.
Line a pie tin with the dough. If possible, crimp the edges. Add the filling.
Carefully place the pie in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 220C/430F, then turn oven down to 170C/340F and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the middle of the pie comes out relatively clean. The filling will rise in the oven, it will come down again when cooled.
Leave pie to cool on a wire rack. Melt the chocolate au-bain-marie. Fit a piping bag with a small round tip. Fill bag with the melted chocolate. Pipe on a nice design. Add some pumpkin seeds. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!