Luscious Thick Cacao Caramel Sauce

This sauce is more than just caramel. It is so perfectly thick, silky smooth, milky with a hint of cacao. I based it on traditional Polish chewy fudge candy called “krówki” (little cows). Perfect for any cake or pie, but apple pie especially, since apples and caramel go together so deliciously.

Tips:

01
Seriously, do not stop stirring the sauce even for a second. You will be rewarded for all your hard work by the most perfect caramel sauce you have ever tasted!

Ingredients:

250 ml condensed milk
 200 g honey
150 unsalted butter
1½ cup sugar
2 tablespoon cacao

Method:

01
Mix sugar with sifted cacao with a whisk. It will prevent big lumps of cacao forming in your sauce.

02
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, preferably with a solid, thick bottom. You can opt for a non-stick pot, too.

03
Set high heat first and keep stirring the mix until all is combined and first bubbles appear.

04
Reduce the heat slightly and keep stirring constantly until all sugar caramelises and the sauce is thick and dark.

05
Take off heat and cool down. When it is cool enough, place the pan in the fridge. The sauce will loosen in room temperature, so it best to take it out at least 10 minutes before serving it.

Enjoy!

Pierogi Dough and Making Technique

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi [pee-yeh-roh-ghi] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

It is a very basic recipe, but it works every time. I like this dough for its elasticity. It makes making pierogi easier, it does not tear and they do not stick to each other during cooking.

Approximately 40 servings • Preparation time: about 15 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
Perfect pierogi need a specific filling to dough ratio. This means the dough cannot be too thick. Make sure you roll the dough enough and if it is still too thick, stretch it out a little in your hands before adding the filling.

02
Do not forget to add oil to water, it will prevent pierogi from sticking to each other. In fact, when you are placing them in water, try aiming at oil patches.

03
Pierogi can be eaten straight after cooking or fried. In my family, we always fry them and this is how I prefer them, but with freshly cooked pierogi you have a choice. After cooling them down, or freezing them, you will need to fry them until brown and crispy.

04
Fry them in olive oil on small heat, so they have time to get hot inside. If the heat is too high they will brown nicely on the outside, but the filling will remain cold.

Ingredients:

300 g all-purpose flour
 125 ml boiling water
20 g butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

Method:

01
Melt the butter in boiling water and add it to the flour and salt. Mix briefly, then add the egg.

02
Mix everything thoroughly and knead for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is perfectly smooth and springy.

03
Cover with beeswax wraps and set aside for about 30 minutes.

04
Take the dough out of the fridge and split it in 4 equal parts. Lightly dust the worktop with flour and roll the dough until it is about 2-3 mm thick.

05
Using a round cutter or a glass, cut circles in the dough.

06
Take a circle and stretch it a little bit in your hands. Be careful not to get flour on inner edges, since they need to stick to each other. The outer side can be dusted with flour, so they don’t stick to the surface, while they are waiting to be cooked.

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07
Put about a teaspoon of filling in the middle.

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08
Fold in half and press the filling a little to shape your pieróg.

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09
Squeeze the edges together, so they stick to each other.

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10
To make the edges look nicer and make them more secure, pinch the dough around.

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11
Set aside your fresh pierogi on flour dusted tray or plate. You can cover them with a tea towel to prevent them from drying.

12
Boil at least 3 litres of water in a large pot, add about 2 tablespoons of oil and a pinch or two of water. Gently, one by one, put about 15 pierogi to cook. Once they float, cook for about 2 minutes and gently take them out with a draining spoon.

13
Eat directly, or set aside to cool.

Enjoy!

Polish Cottage Cheese

Name and pronunciation: twaróg [t-fah-rook]
Description: cottage cheese
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

Twaróg is dry variety of quark very popular across various Eastern European cuisines. In Polish, another name for this kind of cheese is simply “white cheese” ser biały [seh-r biah-we]. It is delicate, crumbly and slightly sour. Unfortunately, it has to easy replacement in local shops, but you can get in any Polish shop. It is worth the trip!

Uses:

Pierogi, pierogi leniwe (lazy pierogi), sernik, traditional Polish pancakes, pasta, cheese spreads.

Tips:

01
There are few types of cottage cheese. You can choose between full-fat 10%, semi-skimmed 5% and skimmed 0,5%. I always choose full-fat option. It is creamy and it is truly best for cooking and baking.

02
If you are planning to bake a traditional Polish cheese cake, look for an option that is pre-ground cheese available in 1 kg buckets. Otherwise, you will have to do it yourself three times!

Enjoy!

Polish Sour Cream

Name and pronunciation: śmietana [sh-me-eh-tah-nah]
Description: sour cream
Typo of cuisine: Eastern European

In Polish cuisine, sour cream is so important. It is not often used as an actual ingredient, but it is not a mere garnish either! There are some dishes that are just not finished without sour cream. In fact, if you ask for “cream” in Poland, you will get sour cream as a default.

Uses:

Different sorts of dumplings (pierogi, leniwe, kopytka, etc.), potatoes (young, boiled potatoes, potato pancakes, etc.), soups, sauces and salads instead of greek yoghurt.

Tips:

01
In Polish, śmietana means sour cream, but by śmietanka (“little cream”) we mean crème fraîche.

02
Buy Polish sour cream if you can. I always look for local replacements when it comes to cooking abroad, but Polish sour cream really is different. First of all, we have a choice of fat content, but the most popular ones are 12% and 18%, which is rather uncommon in Luxembourg. Also, it is slightly more sour and creamier than the Luxembourgish counterpart.

03
If you do not have an access to a Polish shop, do not fret. Try to source a local version of sour cream and adjust it. In Luxembourg, you can buy a version with 30% fat content, so you will need to dilute it with yoghurt (“Fjord” is the absolute best since it already has a consistency and flavour similar to Polish sour cream) or a dash of milk, until it has a consistency of very smooth, thick greek yoghurt. If it feels a little too sweet, you can add few drops of lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Paper Thin Basic Crêpes

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These crêpes are perfection! Delicious, paper thin but stron are perfect for rolling, folding or wrapping any filling your heart desire. This recipe is super easy, always works and, most importantly, they are not greasy at all, like some other recipes tend to be.

8-10 servings (depending of the size of your pan) • Preparation time: about 30 minutes

Tips:

01
If you have time, set aside your crêpes batter for about 30 minutes just before frying. It will make them more elastic and easier to flip. Just before frying, give it a quick stir to bring the flour up.

02
You can add a little bit of sugar to your batter, if you prefer your crêpes slightly sweeter, but I do not find it necessary if your filling is already sweet.

02
The batter can be mixed with a whisk or any type of blender. If you have a smoothie blender, it will make your batter extremely airy and light, but it is not a requirement.

Ingredients:

1 cup of all-purpose flour
 1 cup of milk
✽ ¾ cup of water (sparkling will make the pancakes a little fluffier)
 2 eggs
 3 tablespoons of oil (try to choose a taste-neutral oil, so olive oil is not the best here)
 pinch of salt

Method:

01
Mix and blend all ingredients until it is perfectly smooth.

02
Use a flat, non-stick pan to fry them on maximum heat. Pour a bit of batter on your pan and try to move it around very quickly to spread the batter thinly and evenly. They will only take few seconds on each side, so be careful not to burn them.

03
Stack up hot pancakes on a large plate. They will get a little moist and very soft from the steam of fresh pancakes on top. It makes them even more elastic. Cover them with the second plate after you have finished, so they do not get dry around edges.

04
Quickly stir the batter every few pancakes. This way the flour will not sink to the bottom of your bowl, leaving you with uneven batter.

Enjoy!

Sourdough Starter

Tips:

01
Sourdough is nothing more than wild yeast that is all around us. You need to give it time and nutrients to start, and then feed it regularly by adding the same amount of flour and water every week or two. Opt for 50 g of flour on 50 ml of water, or 100 g of flour on 50 ml of water, depends on how much starter you use and need to replenish.

02
Storing your starter is easy. Just keep it in a fridge, take a portion you need for your bread and leave the rest chilled. Every 7-10 days add another equal amount of flour and water (50 g + 50 ml or 100 g + 100 ml), mix thoroughly and put back to the fridge. It will be happy for another week or so.

03
I keep my starter in a bail jar. I cover the lid, but without closing the clasp. This way it receives enough air to live, but at the same time it is protected from drying out.

04
Healthy starter should smell acidic, somewhere between lemony and beery. When you are not sure if your starter is good just by looking or smelling it (although you really should be), taste a small drop. It should taste acidic, but not bitter. If there is any trace of mould on top of it, discard it and start again.

05
If there is a dry layer on the surface and the starter seems fresh underneath, it is all right to just get rid of the dry part and keep the rest.

Ingredients:

100 g of all-purpose flour
 100 ml of water

Method:

01
It is enough to mix the same quantity of flour and water and leave out on a kitchen counter lightly covered with a tea towel or a paper napkin. It is good for 14 hours, then it is time to feed it.

02
Feed your new yeast by adding 100 g of flour and 100 ml of water every day for seven days.

03
On day 2 or 3, you should be able to observe first bubbles and the mixture will start smelling sour. It will become a little more liquid, but should not change its colour. When you mix in fresh flour and water, the bubbles will disappear, but they should re-appear about an hour after each feeding. Sometimes clear liquid will separate on the surface, it is completely normal. Either mix it in or discard it, as you wish.

04
After seven days your starter should be ready, but it can still be a little weak. You can give it one week (the first week without feeding) to get stronger and then start baking your delicious bread.

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Enjoy!