Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good Luck Dessert

View from the Danube
The first and only time I saw Europe's longest river, the Danube, I floated on a daytime boat trip along it, admiring the locks on the canal. The boat stopped at times; gates ahead closed off a section of the river that slowly filled with water and pushed the boat upwards. Once in a while, the opposite happened. After the gates closed, some water would be drained from the section, so the boat would travel on a lower level before entering the next part of the river. On either side, the landscape of trees and the city of Vienna were pleasant.
The options for different cruises along the Danube were tempting, and many took you to Budapest, in Hungary. I haven't visited Hungary yet, but I can definitely get to know it through its cuisine! 
Hungarians eat makos guba around Christmastime, and believe that the poppy seeds in it give them good luck for the following year. So I tried this recipe for New Year's Eve 2011. 

This treat is a good way to use up your poppy seeds! I almost always make my desserts from scratch, and happened to pick the most traditional option for making this one. All the other websites show a pudding version that uses store-bought bread and is a lot easier to make. This one is a hungarian blogger's grandmother's bread recipe, from the following travel magazine:
After making the bread dough and cooking it, you soak the hard rolls in boiling water for a few minutes. That's the first time I ever heard of that. Next, you bathe them in honey and ground poppy seed (yes, ground poppy seed, as if it weren't fine enough already). You can make your poppy seed paste by placing them in a coffee grinder. The result is a black, not-so-sweet paste that oozes around the small rolls.
I added a bit of vanilla sugar on top, for good measure.

Best wishes for 2012!

Other recipe versions of the dessert:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Raspberry Fudge Discovery in St. Augustine, Florida

Two soldiers dressed in red suits and feathered hats followed me silently at the stone fort. I tried to lose them by turning quickly as soon as I descended the long staircase, and it worked. One of them headed to a closet to take out a wooden trunk from its hiding place. I imagined it would surely hold gold coins or some sort of treasure! Instead, his ruffled arm pulled out black chains, and smoky grey cannonballs...
It was 2009, and I was at St. Augustine, the oldest town in the continental U.S., and founded in 1565. Its Spanish fort, built to protect the settlement from the British and other enemies at the time, can be visited today and is equipped with many cannons. Men hired to dress as Spanish soldiers roam the grounds, and often stop to give talks about the munitions used during the 1700´s.

After visiting the fort, I walked to St. George´s street, in the historic part of town, where I went shopping for gifts but was forced to stop to sample some raspberry fudge, which I decided was one of the best types of fudge I had yet tasted. I tried it at Kilwins.
Finally, I have been able to make the fudge myself, one day after Christmas. The result was a creamy, smooth chocolate with a highlight of cherry-like raspberry flavor to it. Exactly what I was looking for!

I got my recipe from the following blog:
3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate)
1 14-oz can of condensed milk
1 tsp. raspberry extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
First, I melted the chocolate chips with the condensed milk in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. I mixed the chips and the milk, then placed them back in that oven for another 30 seconds. I beat them some more, then added the extracts. Once the chocolate is smooth, pour it into an aluminum-foil lined 8-inch square pan. And you´re done!
Yields: 3 pounds

If you didn´t get enough chocolate from this article, or from making your own fudge, check out photos of the chocolate-making process, from Scharffenberger: or


Monday, December 26, 2011

Maple Caramels

Montreal was at -15 degrees Celsius when I visited it almost nine years ago. I was lucky because it had warmed up from the -30-degree weather from the previous week. "Run," the reception clerk at the hotel advised me, "when you reach these street corners," (she pointed at the map) "as the wind is strong and chilly."

During the first couple of days of my stay, I was brave enough to visit the outdoors, especially the old part of the city, near the port, as I slipped and slid on the steep icy sidewalks that were buried in snow. (Near the end of the trip I chose instead to listen to and purchase music cds in French because the underground five-floor shopping malls were less of a challenge). It was during my visit to the Old City that I saw maple caramels in the souvenir shop windows, that had maple-shaped store signs and turquoise-and-brown dreamcatchers hanging from the ceiling. I don´t remember the names of the stores I visited, but here are some links to a couple of shops:

Canada produces 85% of the world´s maple syrup. El Salvador doesn´t produce any, so I searched for a candy version that uses maple extract instead. The recipe is from
I´ve already included the recommended substitution for real maple syrup in mine:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/8 tsp. salt
2 oz. butter (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup milk
6 tbsps. corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple extract

Place all the ingredients except the nuts, vanilla, and maple extract in a pan. Bring to a boil, and mix until it reaches the soft ball stage, at 245 degrees F. Take the pan off the heat and add the extracts and the nuts. Be careful to not go past the soft ball stage. If you do, just add some more water to it and place it on the heat again until it reaches the soft ball stage again. Or wait till the following day, so you can do it more calmly if you´re too tired to attempt it the second time. Its resulting texture should be like Kraft caramels, not like a lollipop. Unless you prefer lollipops.

The candy looks a lot like walnut caramels that I made once, from a recipe in the Betty Crocker´s Christmas Cookbook, called Walnut Caramels, which don´t have any maple flavoring in them, though.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flower Flavored Desserts and Cooling Off

In Nice, France, I felt like I was eating a delicious garden, as the cold sherbet touched my lips. I had jumped at the chance to try a flavor that I couldn´t find anywhere else. And there was more than one option, so I chose jasmine and rose "glace", which means ice.
Ever since then, I have been on the lookout for exotic ice cream flavors in general, and on the other hand, floweromatic dessert raw materials, such as edible rose flower water. This is certainly an acquired taste, as most people don´t expect to find their perfume on their tongue. But I can´t get enough of it. It can get lonely sometimes (just kidding) but look at the positive side: it means you can repeat yourself for sure!
Last year, I discovered a lavender lemonade recipe by accident. I readily went on a quest for lavender buds at my local tea store. And today I finally made that lavender lemonade adorned with ice, which is a fancy iced  infusion blended with lemonade, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Never mind that today happened to be one of the few cool and windy days in the entire year.
Here is the recipe, from allrecipes:
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lavender buds for infusion
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Boil the water, take off heat, and infuse the buds in the water for 10 minutes. Remove lavender buds with a sifter. Next, add sugar.
8 lemons
5 cups of water
Squeeze the lemonade, add it to water in the pitcher. 
Add the lavender-sugar water. Add ice cubes and serve, or serve and add ice cubes to each glass! Enjoy!

What are your favorite floweromatic dessert discoveries? 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

German Cinnamon Star Cookies

Imagine a bakery in a train station in Munich. Among the exquisite desserts is a star: chopped nuts nestled inside a warm, soft braid. (I tried a slovenian recipe for potica which I thought was similar, but it didn´t work out well that first time). While I have yet to find the recipe for it, I do have a recipe for German Zimsterne, a Christmas classic.
The cookies are simple and flavorful, thanks to the cinnamon (valuable in the 1600´s) and nuts (almonds in the original recipe, also special treats reserved mostly for Christmastime). They were traditionally served at the first meal after Yom Kippur, which explains the six-pointed star (mine were 5-pointed because I didn´t know). These treats are slightly chewy and soft at the same time, which makes them addictive.
Here is an authentic recipe, ( or though the version I made was an easier adapted version from my Betty Crocker´s Christmas Cookbook. I shall have to try the original version sometime when I feel like grinding almonds, and if I ever get a 6-pointed star cutter.

Now that I´ve been madly baking Christmas cookies (including the cookie house you can see below), I shall have to start making the candies....
Do you have a favorite age-old Christmas cookie from another country?

References  This website tells you lots of interesting facts, such as: gummi bears were invented in Bonn, in 1922, by the owner of Haribo. This gave me the best information on the history of the cookie.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

World Desserts

In the fort town of La Rochelle, France, a tantalizing bakery held at least twenty flavors of macarons, which I readily sampled: lavender, lemon, bluegrass (?!), jasmine, chocolate, rose, pistachio, and many more... I have later attempted to recreate this fabulous "sandwich cookie" on a couple of occasions. I have yet to be successful but trust that I will complete the challenge, sometime soon. Have you ever worked hard to make a dessert from another place? Is one of your reasons for doing so, to relive the experience, and feel that you are actually in another country, another time, or another ambience? If you haven´t been much interested in cooking, you still might be interested in eating them. If so, that is what this blog is about. I will write about one culinary adventure once a week.