TIP: Melting Chocolate

Beginner bakers often overheat and burn chocolate, but there are two easy ways of melting it into a perfect, silky cream without using water bath (too much hassle and dishes for me).

01
If you melt only chocolate, simply weigh the amount you need, break it into smaller pieces and place it in a pot. Set the temperature to the highest setting and once chocolate starts properly melting (after about a minute), switch it off completely and stir. The remaining heat from the pot and the already melted chocolate should be enough to finish the process, but it will not burn as you are not adding any more heat.

02
If you need to melt butter and chocolate together, it is even easier. Weigh both, but start from melting butter. It melts much easier and keeps the temperature, so heat up the pot at the maximum heat, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and switch the heat off. The butter will melt chocolate without burning it.

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Easy Sourdough Bread

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Name and pronunciation: chleb na zakwasie [h-leh-p • nah • zack-fah-sheh]
Description: sourdough bread
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

There are many different recipes for a sourdough, some more difficult than others. This is a perfect one to start your wild yeast adventure. Sourdough bread always takes a while, but this method does not take a lot of effort, just time, which is a great advantage.

Approximately 1.5 kg loaf (or two smalls ones) • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Resting time: 3 x 12 hours • Baking time: 45 minutes

Tips:

01
I find it easier to bake two smaller loaves than one large one.

02
To bake, use any cake form, but bread crust needs moisture and high temperature, so I get best results using cast iron pots.

03
Always line your forms with parchment paper.

04
If your oven does not have a steam function, place a bowl of hot water next to the forms.

05
Use bread flour of any kind you like. I usually mix white and whole-wheat flours 50/50, but you can also add some rye flour for a nice, strong flavour.

06
It is a good idea to slice and freeze all excess bread. It defrosts in minutes and remains as fresh as on the first day.

07
To make the top crust thicker and crispier, I spray the top with water several times during the last stage of rising. Be generous and make sure you spray your bread with water and generously cover with flour just before baking as well.

Schedule:

01
Morning: prepare your starter for activation and leave it until evening.

02
Evening: make the sponge and leave it overnight.

03
Morning: knead the bread dough, move it to forms, cover and leave it to rise for the whole day.

04
Evening: bake the bread and cool it. Two days before the bread runs out, prepare new starter to activate for new loaves.

Activating starter

Ingredients:

100 g cold starter
 100 g flour
 100 ml water

Method:

01 
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a non-metallic container and leave out in warmth for about 12 hours. Make sure it has space to rise. I always use a 500 ml glass.

Making sponge

Ingredients:

activated starter from previous stage
 500 g bread flour
 500 ml water

Method:

01
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for about 12 hours in a warm spot.

Kneading dough

Ingredients:

 sponge from previous stage
500 g bread flour
 25 g salt
 seeds, grains and nuts (optional)

Method:

01
Mix all ingredients and knead by pressing and stretching for at least 10 minutes. The dough needs to feel elastic and springy to be ready.

03
Split in two and roll the loafs in flour. You can mix the flour with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or oats for added crust flavour.

04
Place the loaves in forms lined with parchment paper. If you want to score your loaves, do it now. Make sure the cuts are quite deep, because the dough will still rise significantly and shallow scoring will disappear.

05
Cover with tea towels and leave for about 12 hours in a warm spot.

Baking bread

Method:

01
Pre-heat your oven to maximum temperature for about 10-15 minutes. Boil water and fill in a small bowl. Place it in the oven.

02
Bake your loaves for 10 minutes in the maximum heat, then lower it to 200ºC. Bake for another 35-40 minutes.

03
Cool down the loaves before cutting them. If you do not have time to put away the loaves away after they have cooled down, simply wrap them loosely in tea towels and leave them on a kitchen counter until the morning.

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Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pancakes

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This is one of the easiest and quickest recipes and it so delicious! Perfect from fresh or frozen pumpkin. Best topped with yoghurt or sour cream and dusted with cinnamon.

4-6 people • Preparation time: about 30 minutes

Tips:

01
It is better to fry your pumpkin pancakes a little longer on medium heat, or they might burn on the outside and stay raw inside.

02
Read this tip about choosing the right coconut milk.

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
 2 cups shredded pumpkin
 2½ cups coconut milk (you can substitute it with regular milk)
 1 tablespoon baking powder
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 tablespoon spices (cinnamon or/and nutmeg, gingerbread mix, etc.)
 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

01 
Carefully mix all dry ingredients with a whisk.

02 
Mix all wet ingredients using a blender to make the batter light and airy.

03
Gently, but thoroughly mix two parts together, you can use low setting on your blender.

04
Fry on medium temperature. Depending on the type of your pan, you will need to use little to no oil.

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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!

Iraqi Flat Bread

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Name and pronunciation: khubz [kh-oo-bz]
Description: flat bread
Country of origin: Iraq

This Iraqi version of flat bread resembles Indian naan a little. It is soft and a little chewy, and not dry and flaky like, for example, pita bread. It is absolutely delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Traditionally, it is baked on the walls of a cylinder-shaped, clay oven called “tanoor”, but this recipe is adjusted to make it effortlessly on a flat, non-stick pan you normally use to make pancakes.

8 large or 16 small servings • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Rising time: 2 x 30 minutes

Tips:

01
You can try different flour combinations. It will work each time with different types of flours, but taste and consistency will differ, so test and choose your favourite.

02
Use this tip for rising your dough quickly and efficiently.

03
Feel free to make more bread and freeze it. They defrost very quickly and stay as fresh as on the first day. Perfect!

04
Serve your khubz with zaatar, home-made hummus, or any other spread or paste. Tear a little piece or bread, fold it and use to take a bit of spread from a small bowl set in the middle of the table. If you are eating it with spices, wet it in oil first.

Ingredients:

500 g all-purpose flour
 250 g whole-wheat flour
 1 cup warm milk
 1 cup warm water
 14 g dry yeast (two tablespoons or two little sachets)
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1-1½ teaspoon salt

Method:

01 
First of all, mix water, milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl to soak and activate the yeast. It will take about 15 minutes.

02 
While you are waiting for the yeast to froth, mix both types of flour with salt and oil in a large bowl.

03
Mix the dry and wet ingredients.

04
Knead the dough for about 15 minutes. It needs to be slightly wet on the surface, but not sticking to the worktop. This is a perfect consistency. I admit, it is not my favourite dough to knead. It is rather hard to work, but if you add too much water at this stage, it will be very difficult to form your breads.

05
Form a ball from the dough, place it in a large ball and cover it with a tea towel, or even better, with a pot lid (not to allow any dryness on the surface). Put it in a warm place and let it rise for 2-3 hours.

06
After that time, it should be at least twice the size. If it is smooth and just a little bit sticky on the surface, it means you have made the perfect dough. Do not worry if it deflates and drops when you are taking it out, it is completely normal.

07
Form a large ball from your dough and split it into eight or sixteen equal parts. Take each part and roll in your hands to form a ball. Line them on a baking tray or a worktop to raise some more. Cover again with a tea towel or waxed fabric.

08
Once each ball has doubled in size, your bread is ready for baking! Heat up the pan on the highest setting (no oil needed) and start making flat breads out of dough balls. Traditionally, khubz are stretched and formed all by hand, but you can also use a roller pin to get it into shape quickly. They should be quite thin, since they will still rise a little won the pan. Do not forget to cover back the remaining balls, as they dry very quickly.

09
Once on a pan, your khubz will be ready very quickly. Within seconds you will see small bubbles forming on the surface. It is an excellent sign! Wait another minute or two, and flip it. Nothing easier, it holds shape very well.

10
During cooling down process, they will get a little wet, so do not stack them up, but rather lie them out on a tea towel and wait until they are cold and dry. Then you cab serve, store or freeze them.

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Enjoy!

TIP: Cleaning Dough Off Dishes and Utensils

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Soaking is the key here. If you try to clean it off straight away, you will end up with sticky dough clogging your sponges and sink. Simply soak the dishes and utensils in cold water for a few hours (I usually leave them overnight), and in the morning the flour will gather at the bottom of the bowl rather than sticking to everything in sight. Result!

Polish Onion Bread

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Name and pronunciation: cebularze [tzeh-boo-lah-zhuh; “zhuh” is pronounced like French “je”]
Description: onion bread
Type of cuisine: 
Polish

This onion bread is an integral part of my region’s cuisine, so I was very surprised when I learnt that only people from my area knew about it. In recent years, it got more and more popular in other parts of Poland and all my friends absolutely love it!

8 servings • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Resting time: 60 + 30 minutes • Baking time: 40-50 minutes

Tips:

01
You can prepare the onions the night before and leave them in a fridge overnight. They get very aromatic and flavourful this way.

02
Be careful not to leave them in the oven for too long. The dough needs to be soft and, since it is quite thin, it becomes crispy rather quickly.

03
Read my tip for rising perfect dough.

Ingredients:

Onion topping:
 3 large onions
 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
 2 tablespoon olive oil
 1 teaspoon salt

Dough:
500 g all-purpose flour
 250 ml (approx. 1 glass) warm milk
 7 g dry yeast (one little packet)
 60 g unsalted butter
 1 egg
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 tablespoon salt

Method:

01 
Chop onions into small cubes and fry them with a little bit of oil on low temperature until it is soft. Then add poppy seed and salt and leave to cool down.

02 
Mix flour with yeast, sugar and salt. Melt butter in milk on very low heat (without letting it get too hot) and pour the liquid over the flour mix. Gently whisk the egg and add to the rest of ingredients, leaving a little bit as egg wash for edges.

03
Mix and then knead for at least 10 minutes, until the dough is perfectly smooth and light. Leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60 minutes. After the dough has risen (best if it doubles in size), split it into 16 parts, shape each part into a ball and flatten on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving some rising space between them.

04
Put a portion of onions you have prepared earlier on each bun and leave for another 30 minutes to rise. Generously brush with egg wash around edges and bake for about 20-25 minutes in 185ºC until nice and golden.

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Enjoy!

This recipe was featured in Luxembourg City Magazine, November 2015 (page 28).

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Photos: Sven Becker for CityMag, November 2015

TIP: Rising Your Dough

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To rise quickly and be light and fluffy after baking, your dough needs perfect temperature during resting time. Optimal fermentation range is between 27ºC and 40ºC. In summer, it works well to rise your dough in the sun. In winter, place it next to a radiator. To me, the most tricky is time in between seasons, without direct sunlight and without heating working yet. Then, I place my dough in the oven on the minimum temperature mark. It cannot be more 50ºC, though, or your yeast will get killed in the process.

Our Favourite Falafel

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Name and pronunciation: فلافل [fah-lah-fell]
Description: falafel
Type of cuisine: Arabic

The day I have made falafel my husband recognised and liked, was a very happy in our family! There are as many falafel recipes as families and this is our favourite, secret flavour.

Approximately 40 falafels • Soaking chickpeas overnight • Preparation time: 30 minutes • Frying time: 20 minutes

Tips:

01
Do not use tinned chickpeas for falafel, it is much too soft. You need to use dry variety instead.

02
Fry your falafels until they are golden brown, but make sure you do not overdo it. They should be delicately crispy on the outside and soft inside.

03
They will be just as good defrosted, so try to make more and freeze a batch or two. They defrost in a matter of minutes!

04
You can serve them on a plate, or wrapped in any kind of flat bread or a tortilla. My absolute favourite is Turkish Yufka bread (dürüm).

05
Use any sauce you like on your falafels. I like it most with a mixture of mayonnaise and amba. Amba is an Arabic sauce made of pickled mango and a blend of spices. It is very Iraqi thing to put amba on falafel and for a great reason, it is a divine combination! Every brand makes their own blend, so they tend to be very different. Keep looking until you find your perfect taste.

Ingredients:

500 g chickpeas (dry, will make about 1,2 kg after soaking and cooking)
1-2 large onions
 2-4 cloves of garlic (to taste)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
 2-3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
 2 teaspoons turmeric
 some fresh parsley (optional, to taste)
 sesame seeds (optional, to taste)
 2 teaspoons cumin*
¼ teaspoon ground coriander*
 1 teaspoon black pepper*
 1-2 pinches cardamom*
* OR use about 2-3 teaspoons of ready-made falafel mix

Method:

01 
Soak dry chickpeas in water overnight (or at least good few hours) and then cook for 1-2 hours until soft enough to bite, but still a little crunchy inside.

02
When your chickpeas is ready, add all of the ingredients. I use a press for garlic to perfectly blend it the flavour and chop onion in small cubes.

03
After thoroughly mixing all ingredients, blend them with a hand blender until the chickpeas is broken down in small pieces. You might want to do it in few parts, because it is thick and tends to clog the blender a little. Keep blending patiently without adding any moisture. It is not the quickest task, but you need the mix very thick and sticky, otherwise your falafels will fall apart when you try to fry them.

04
When your mix is ready, it is time for shaping. If you can get your hands on a falafel press, they are fast and super easy to use. The best part of having one is that your falafels will start looking exactly the same from the very first time. Otherwise, you can shape your falafels between two tablespoons or in hands. The simplest way to form them in your hands is to roll a small ball and flatten it slightly. You can also make a little hole with your thumb. Try your best to make them all the same size and shape. This way they will fry evenly and look much nicer on a plate.

05
Falafel needs to be deep-fried, so if you have a deep-frier, use it! If not, just use a wok, an ordinary pan or a pot with non-stick surface. You just need enough oil to cover your falafels at least half of the height and then flip them. If the oil covers them fully, of course there is no need to flip. It is just easier to fry this way.

06
They do not take that long to fry, only a few minutes. They need to be deep golden, but not too dark, so they do not get too dry inside. Let them cool down a little a they are ready!

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Enjoy!