Friday, March 11, 2011

Apple cake

Pour half a batter into oiled pan.
Then add cut apples
Pour the remaining batter over the apples
The cake just out of the oven.
This is the easiest apple cake ever. And the most versatile, too. It requires just a few ingredients and some of them can be substituted. Like, sour cream can be changed to mayo or butter. Whatever you have at home at the time, will still make this cake great. This recipe is passed on from my mom, to my aunt, and then it reached me.
Whenever I don't want to fuss too much, like tonight, it's a perfect desert idea. Just throw a few simple ingredients together and you have a great cake with tea or milk.

You will need:
4 eggs
1 cup of sugar (I use the Pyrex 250 ml cups)
1 cup sour cream or mayo, or butter (half a cup, melted)
1/2 tsp of baking powder
2 cups of sifted flour
6-8 apples, cored, cut lengthwise thinly

Beat the eggs with sugar, until they double in size and the mixture becomes thicker.
Add sour cream (or mayo or butter) and baking powder. Then slowly add the flour.
Core the apples and cut them.
Take the baking pan, I like the round one, with the sides that open. You can use whatever you have. Oil the pan or put parchment paper. If you will oil the pan, don't over do it, because oil will drip from the sides (if using the pan with open sides).
Once your batter is ready, pour half into the baking dish.
Then put all the apples. Pour the rest of the batter on top. Scrape the sides with the spatula. Even it out and bake for about an hour at 350 F. To make sure it's baked, check with toothpick. I baked it tonight for an hour and fifteen minutes..

You may add some vanilla. You can also put some cinnamon on the apples with a touch of sugar. Whatever you like. Like I said, it's very versatile, it's almost like creating your own cake!
That is it. Very easy, use whatever you have at home, add some personal touches, and you will have a new family favorite. Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Zucchini pancakes

Thinking what to have for breakfast? Want something tasty, yet health? Think no further.
I make these pancakes for my family often, sometimes changing up what will I put inside. Today I had some zucchini, so it was the perfect time to make health orientated pancakes.  They are very quick to make, the kids can easily participate in the process, and the aroma of the pancakes is sure to wake even the biggest sleeper up.

You will need:  
2 small zucchini
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 tsp salt
half a cup of milk
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs

Grate the zucchini with the grater. Put all the other ingredients, except the flour. Mix well. Add flour slowly. You can use the electric mixer, to eliminate all the flour balls. The consistency should be like sour cream thickness. Or, when you put a spoonful of the batter on the pan, it should form the little pancake. Make sure is not too thick, you do not have to flatten the pancake in a pan with a spoon, it should be able to do it on its own. If the batter is too thick, simply add more milk. Fry them in a little bit of oil, about few tbsp for a big, non stick pan. They do not tend to absorb the oil, so don't worry. I use sunflower oil, unrefined, only because it's more healthy. You can use any oil you like.
Eat while hot, garnish with sour cream, your favorite jam, or nothing at all. They are so tasty, fluffy and juicy on their  own, that you may not need any extras.
Next time, you may want to make the same pancakes, except, instead of zucchini, you can add grated apples. Use 2 big or 3 smaller apples.
For those who are not used to such pancake recipe, I want to mention, these pancakes do not need any baking soda. They will rise with eggs slightly, they are very thin, somewhat similar to crepes, just a smaller version of it.
If you don't want, or don't have, zucchini, apples, etc, you can easily make them without it. It tastes really good. I make plain pancakes ofter, just then I like to add some vanilla. You won't be disappointed! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine gifts

Wanted to show how easy it is to make a pretty bag for your small kids, so they can take it to school and impress their teachers and friends.

St. Valentine cookies

 Happy St. Valentines everyone!
It is still not too late to impress your loved one. Originally, I was making these for my son to take to school. I wanted this day for him to be special. We wrapped each cookie into a little bag, put a card with 'Cars' in it , and today he took it to school for his 'girl friends' and teachers. He was very proud of himself! The girls were happy and impressed. Overall, a big success!

These cookies are quiet simple and easy to make. The patience comes in handy when cutting the forms. I bought mine at the dollar store. You can use any forms you have. If you want similar look, you will need two forms with the same pattern, just one smaller than the other.
I doubled the recipe and it was just a nice amount of cookies to share with friends. I will give you a single amount, which will make about 12 double layered cookies.

You will need:
1.5 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of butter (or half of the big stick, about 230 gr), room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, or otherwise known as sugar powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the filling: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite jam, raspberry is the best.

1. Beat the butter with electric mixer, until smooth, about 1 min.
2. Add sugar powder, beat some more, about 2 min.
3. Add vanilla extract, mixing for another 1 min.
4. Gently stir in sifted flour. Don't add all flour at once. The dough should be soft and forming a nice ball.

On the counter, roll a piece of dough, about 3-4 mm, thick. Cut the shapes. Transfer to baking sheet and bake for 10-15 min at 350 F., or lightly brown around the edges. These cookies shouldn't be brown on top.
The next baking sheet, cut the big shape, put the smaller shape in the middle, and take only the outside shell, cutting out the middle.
To assemble. Have the jam ready, mine was fairly hard, so I used about half a tsp for each cookie. The top of the cookie, dust with sugar powder prior to sandwiching them. Do not put too much jam, as it will run, once you sandwich the both parts.
Take the bottom part, put some jam, then put the top part, give a light squeeze.
If you don't have so much patience or time, you can simply make both cookies the same size, without the cut out, and sandwich them together with jam. Maybe it won't look as pretty, but it sure will taste just as good!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon cup cakes

Lemon cup cakes with icingg

In the making. Add a teaspoon of batter in  a medium sized forms

Here you can see the fluffy batter and two teaspoons, with one I put the batter in, with the other one I scoop the batter from the spoon

Golden top, made with real lemon juice and sugar

These beautiful cup cakes I found in one of the blogs I fallow 'The Sunny Kitchen'.
I had never made cup cakes before, this was my first try and definitely not the last. I fell in love with these miniature cakes. What's not to love, when it comes out so well from the very first time!

You will need:
1 1/4 cup of sifted flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt (I omitted that because I used salted butter)
115 gr. butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 big eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 lemon zest
1 lemon juice (use from the same one you grated the zest off)
If you like lemon, like me, you can use two lemon zests in your batter, because you will need another lemon juice for 'icing'.

For the non - non traditional icing
1/2 cup of sugar
1 lemon juice

1. Beat the butter and sugar with the electric mixer, until fluffy, you may need to scrape sides with spatula few times. I mix for about 5 good minutes, just to make sure it is as fluffy as possible.
2. Add eggs, one at the time, continue on beating well, to get lots of fluff.
3. Add lemon zest and one lemon juice. Beat with the mixer some more.
4. Add milk. Surprisingly, it does not cured.
5. Sift flower in a separate medium size bowl, add baking powder.
6. Start adding flour with baking powder to the mix. The batter should be about the thickness of a sour cream.
7. Get the flat baking form, line the cup cake paper forms, start filling them with the batter. Do not fill to the top. You will need to fill about 1/3. I have baked these in mini and medium forms. Either one is fine, mini forms require extra patience, though, that I don't have too much of.
Bake at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes, until golden.
8. For the 'icing', mix lemon juice with sugar. If the sugar doesn't melt and there is not enough liquid, heat it on the stove a bit. I just put on the hole, where the heat comes from the oven. Easy. Doesn't burn, yet melts some sugar. The mixture should have some sugar granules, though. It's a nice surprise, when you bite into a cup cake and find lemony sugar on top, instead of a melted juice, that could make your cup cake too soggy.
9. Once your cupcakes are ready, poke the tops with the fork, just few times, put half a teaspoon of lemon-sugar mix.

If you want to try to top these lovely cup cakes with the more regular icing, here it is. I tried it, it's very good. My son looked at it and didn't even try it. So, that idea is out for me.

Regular lemon icing.
200 gr of butter, room temperature
400 gr of cream cheese (like Philadelphia)
3/4 pounds of sugar powder, otherwise known as confectioners sugar
1 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
1 lemon juice
You can use these products according to your likes and taste. But the ratio should be similar to this.
Mix well all the ingredients with the electric mixer. I didn't have the special gadget to decorate, so I just used the plastic freezer bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner. Worked like a charm. Sure, it wasn't as pretty as you see in the store or some magazine, but it tastes great. Not too sweet, has a great lemon bite, superb!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grandma's sweet white bread

Oh, those old recipe books...They are the best and they bring the most memories.
When I came to Canada, many many years ago, I brought a few things with me. Among love letter, old diaries and pictures, I brought as many books as I could. I still have them all 'till this day. Yesterday, I took one of my cookbooks from the shelf right by the kitchen and started flipping through pages. It was first published in 1980, in Lithuania, and was called "Grandmother's feast" (Mociutes vaises). I found an appealing recipe, that called for simple ingredients and seemed easy to make. The result was divine! The aroma was floating in the house and everybody was anxious to see what will come out of the oven. Even I was impressed.
With this recipe, the loaf will come out medium size. The ingredients can be easily doubled, which I will do next time. It is my favorite sweet bread recipe at the time. I made many different, but similar breads, yet this one is the softest, the fluffy(est) one ever. The recipe called for poppy seeds, I put raisins. I should of just put both. Next time.

You will need:
About two cups of sifted flour
2 tsp of dry east
2 egg yolks
1/4 of a cup of sugar
100 gr of butter, unsalted
3/4 of a cup of raisins
1/4 cup poppy seed (optional)
1 cup of warm milk
1 tsp salt

First step. Take a big mixing bowl, add half of the sugar, east and warm milk. Mix well until east is dissolved. Then add half of the flour. Mix, cover with plastic and let stand for 2 hours in a warm place.
Step two. Your dough will have risen quite a lot. Mix it well with a wooden spoon. Beat egg yolks with the mixer with remaining sugar, to get almost white substance. Melt butter (make sure is not hot, just barely warm). Add both, the eggs and the butter, into the dough. Mix. Add the raisins (poppy seed if using). Then add the remaining flour and salt. Add the flower slowly, you may not need the whole cup. Kneed well on the counter with your hands.
Take a bowl, lightly oil it, and put your dough into it. Let stand and rise for another hour or so, until it will rise nicely. Transfer on the baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have the parchment paper, just put some oil on the baking sheet. Make a round loaf. Brush it with the egg yolk. Let rise for 20-30 minutes. If needed, brush it with the egg again. You may even sprinkle it with some pearl sugar or poppy seeds.
Step three. Heat the oven to 350 F (200 C) and place your risen bread on the middle rack. I started to bake everything on the upper middle rack, so it would not burn the bottom. If you bake once in a while, you probably know your oven. Mine has 4 racks. I now started baking everything on a second rack from the top. I call it the upper middle rack. Bake it for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven door for the first 2o minutes, otherwise, your bread may collapse. Check with the toothpick to make sure it comes out 'clean'. That means it's done. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy! Serve with milk, hot coco or (herbal) tea.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Neighbors apple cake

Cake with cream cheese and raspberry jam
I call it a Neighbors cake, because many years ago, when I was only 13, back in Lithuania, we used to live together with another family, sharing the kitchen. The lady taught me this wonderful easy to make, very tasty cake. To me it's no fail cake, because it's easy to make and always comes out very good. It brings a lot of good memories, when my biggest care in the world was homework and cake making...I used to love to cook and bake even then. My dear mother wasn't a very good cook. It was not tasty whatever she made. So I came up with the idea, to try to make something myself. And it worked. Anything I made, I always did it with my heart. That rule works until today, whenever I put a piece of my heart into my dish, it comes out great! I believe, with everything in life that you do, when you put your heart into it, the result is amazing. What comes from the heart goes to the heart. 

You will need:
4-5 eggs
1 cup of sugar plus another 1/3 of cup for the apples (may be used brown sugar)
vanilla sugar or extract (1 package or 1 tsp.)
4 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp sour cream (if you use one but not the other, just add 6 tbsp of whatever you have)
1 tsp baking powder (mix it with mayo or sour cream before putting into the batter, so there will be no aftertaste)
1 package margarine (450 gr)
about 4 cups of flour, sifted (anytime I use flour, I sift it)
8 apples
1 lemon juice
cinnamon to taste (optional)
raisins (optional)

In the picture, the filling is one of my substitutions, that I wrote about at the end of the post.

Separate the eggs. Take the yolks, put into the deep medium size dish, add sugar, vanilla and mix it until you get very light yellow batter that has almost tripled in size. The best to do this is with the electric  hand mixer. I still use mine that I bought on sale for 10$, works well. Small investment but very useful gadget for everyday cooking.
Once you achieved the desired consistency, add sour cream and/or mayo with baking powder.Mix some more. Then add by cutting straight from the package with the knife margarine. This simple technique is the easiest and leaves the least mess. Beat with the mixer for another few seconds, just until you get margarine divided into smaller pieces. Do not completely incorporate margarine into the eggs, the little pieces, that's  what makes this cake melt in your mouth.
Start adding flour, first mix with wooden spoon, then use your hands. They won't become messy. That is another reason why I love this recipe, you don't have to get your hands 'dirty'. Put flour that the dough wouldn't be sticky, but still soft. I usually need about 4 cups, however, don't put all flour at once. You may need less, depending on how much sour cream/mayo you put. I like to put generous amounts, because it only makes it taste better.
Separate the dough into two even pieces, one put in the fridge for about an hour, or less.
The other half of the dough roll with the rolling pin on the piece of plastic wrap on the counter, for easy transfer. In the original recipe, back home, when we had not even heard of plastic wrap, I would just nicely even out the dough on the baking dish, not forgetting the sides, with my hands. It takes a little longer, but it is all about the creation, using your most valued tool-your hands. The baking dish I use, is about 12 inches by 10 inches that usually come with your stove (that probably is applicable for the older version of stoves). It has to have small sides, at least 2-3 fingers thick. You can use 9 by 13 inches with sides, the most common one. I try not to make this cake too thick, I like when the pieces are about 1 and a half inches tall. But whatever you make, it will still taste good. These are just some references for you to keep in mind.
Put that aside. Wash the apples and grate them with the grater, medium size, meaning grate that it still would have some texture, not the mush. Usually, the grater has two main sides. Very fine that makes 'a mush' and the medium one, that leaves some texture.
Once you are done grating, add sugar to taste, depending on how sour or sweet your apples are. Add some lemon juice (not all, you will need the rest for the egg white topping). Add raisins, if using, cinnamon or whatever you like your apples with. Mix it.
Now, take the apple mixture and pour on top of the dough in your baking dish. Even it out.
Take another piece of dough from the fridge. Wash the grater you used to grate apples. Use again the same side, for medium grating. Take a small piece of dough and 'grate' it through the grater. You will see little crumbs coming out. Continue until you finish the whole dough. Try to put evenly on the whole cake.
Heat the oven 375 F, if you are not sure about your oven, start with 350 F. On the medium rack. Bake the cake until golder brown for an hour. When it's almost done, take the egg whites and beat them with the mixer. Make them nice and fluffy, almost white, but not quite. Don't beat to the point it will be 'standing', that is too much. Add lemon.
Take the cake out of the oven, nicely with the spatula, put the egg whites evenly on crumbled top. Bake for another 10 minutes. Watch it, as the egg whites tend to burn very fast! Bake until the top becomes slightly brown. Take it out and cut into desired size squares. You have to do that now, while hot, because the egg whites once cooled will become harder, making extremely difficult to cut.
This cake has to be refrigerated after two days! Can be easily frozen.
Since I like to come up with different fillings, I came up with one for this cake, too. For New Years, I made it with the new filling, the result was great. Instead of apples, mix 1-2 blocks (packages of 250 gr) of cream cheese ( light version is good) with half a cup of sugar. On top of cream cheese, layer any jam you like or have at the time. Proceed with crumbs. everything else is the same.
Come up with your own favorite filling and share.