vegetarian

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel and Carrot Tomato Soup

Baked Falafel

Raw April has begun with its streams running across the pavement and the crazy sun blinding you after all the winter gloom and the wind blowing in your face trying to get inside your clothes. You can have got snow, rain and sun all squeezed into one hour. Those swings of weather can sometime be pretty tiresome but you won’t fool us, April dear, we know spring is here!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

When spring turns into summer, there’s already that joy you have in your heart that you don’t really notice it. When summer turns into autumn there’s always so much drama. When autumn turns into winter… Well here in St Petersburg there’s hardly any (even fine) line between them. But when winter turns into spring there’s no drama, there’s plain happiness.

Baked Falafel

Children playing hide-and-seek outside (well, that’ll be the least loud of all their games at the moment), there’s light until almost 8 pm (already in April!) – and that after those long winter months with barely any light at all! Although the change in the nature is gradual process, the difference is so stark here in the North that you inevitably dedicate a post or two to this spring coming every year 🙂 Oh that city of contrasts, our glorious St Petersburg.

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

I haven’t done anything Easter-specific this year, although I am thinking of making some poppy seed roll sometime soon. It’s our family classic for the Easter time. No died eggs either. Instead I’m going to share with you an idea of a well-rounded vegetarian meal – a spicy chunky soup with a whole0wheat pita filled with baked falafel, salad and yogurt. Let’s start with the soup:

Carrot Tomato Soup

A year ago – Avant-Garde Architecture at Narvskaya Zastava

2 years ago – St Petersburg in March

3 years ago – Kaliningrad in Spring: Ships, Sea and Robots (I miss this city!)

4 years ago – Tea Muffins with Blueberry Jam

5 years ago – Crostata and Challah, United

6 years ago – Bring Some Artisan Bread to Your Life

Carrot Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots – roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions – roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • soy sauce
  • 2-3 T tomato puree
  • a handful or two of red lentils, rinsed
  • stalks from coriander, dill and parsley – optional
  • wheat bran
  • dried thyme, basil, dill, marjoram
  • paprika, pepper, curry powder
  • salt, (brown) sugar

Procedure:

First, sautee your carrots and onions in a frying pan with some sunflower oil. I also add all the dry herbs and seasoning (except for the salt) at this stage. When the oil seem to be all gone I add a splash or two of soy sauce and continue cooking the veggies at low heat. Add your minced garlic and continue cooking. When the veggies are almost soft, I add some water (which also helps get all those dried herbs stuck to the bottom get into the soup and infuse it with their flavours while making washing up easier) and the tomato puree. As we don’t like our soups sour, I add a tablespoon of brown sugar to counterbalance the acidity of tomatoes. You’ll get sort of a ‘sauce’.

Meanwhile start heating you water for the soup – I use a medium soup pot, that’s about 2 liters. You can always add more water if you get too thick a soup. We have this thing of keeping the washed & cleaned stalks from fresh coriander, dill and parsley in a container which we put in the fridge for the next soup we’re making. As soon as the water starts boiling, we throw all these stalks in and thus make a sort of a ‘broth’, leaving the water to simmer for a while. We then remove the stalks before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can skip this step or make your broth with any other way you prefer.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the water (do not turn the heat off). Then pour in all the veggies together with the ‘sauce’ and season with salt. Continue cooking for some time. Then fish out most of the carrots, onions and anything that gets into the ladle. Blend the veggies until desired consistency and return into the pot. Reheat the soup a bit and check it for the consistency and salt. The good thing about chunky soups is that you can add more water (if needs be) and then just say you wanted a less thick soup 🙂

Carrot Tomato Soup

Remarks: I tend to leave some carrots and (mostly) onion ‘whole’ for a chunkier texture. Serve with fresh herbs and sour cream.

Result: Hearty, chunky and spicy. Also a tad sweet with all the carrots inside! By the way, the soup does not feel too carrot-y as it is pretty spicy.

And now on to the first Egyptian recipe on my blog – the traditional flatbread Aish Baladi that is made with 100% whole wheat flour. I was looking for a different recipe for pita bread and this seemed to be a nice one. Which it is!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

Aish means ‘life’ and Baladi is anything ‘of the country’, traditional, rural etc etc. (By the way, a Wikipedia page leads to this very recipe shared by Karen, I found it out when googling what Baladi means 🙂 ). So you can imagine that this is going to be quite a hearty bread indeed!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

Aish Baladi or Egyptian Flatbread from www.karenskitchenstories.com will make chewy flavourful pita-like bread. Follow the link to get the full recipe with all the instructions.

My changes: Did not make these 100% wholewheat – mixed in some plain all-purpose flour too. I didn’t bake both batches one by one, as the oven was occupied in between, so the other 4 balls of dough were waiting much longer for their turn. Interestingly they were much more pocket-like (not that flat as the first batch) and with a more developed flavour as well. I baked both batches for a bit longer than 8 minutes, flipping them upside down somewhere near the end of the baking time.

Remarks: I bet you won’t make pita out of just plain flour after this recipe anymore! There’s just so much flavour to it, that even if you eat it as part of a composite dish (as in falafel), you cannot miss it, you do pause for a while to contemplate this pita’s taste.  Were pretty fine when I reheated them in the turned down oven (after I baked falafel there) the next day – there was those extra crusty parts to it as well.

Result: Sheer wholewheat joy. These flatbreads have a taste of their own. Can be used for falafels or gyros (I can imagine) or just enjoyed plain. The wheat bran really does make a difference!

Baked Falafel

As for the falafel part of it, I was using a recipe which is no longer online, although it did go wrong at the moment of frying (that’s why I rarely fry anything, I so much prefer baking!) – it just disintegrated into bits of chickpea puree and onions 😉 So instead I added an egg (which was optional) and more wheat bran and baked the lot instead. Today I used up the leftover chickpea puree and made more falafel straight in the oven, without even trying to fry them. I guess for me it’s just the best option. So here’s the baked falafel recipe:

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 250-300 g chickpeas
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • dried oregano, thyme, basil, dill
  • curry powder, paprika
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T tomato puree
  • 2 T wheat bran and / or buckwheat flakes (aka instant buckwheat)
  • wheat bran for rolling in

Procedure:

Soak your chickpeas in water overnight or about 8 hours (I did it during the day, removing their skins all the while). Drain them, add fresh water to cover them and cook over medium heat. Remove all the foam that forms with a spoon and continue cooking until the chickpeas soften. This might take more than an hour and the water might disappear almost entirely. I forgot to add salt but you can add it towards the end. Drain (I retained some of the water) and then blend the chickpeas to the desired consistency. Finely chop the onions and add to the chickpeas. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough wheat bran to get a soft but pretty thick mixture. Place some wheat bran on a plate, take a tablespoon of the mixture and shape it into a sort of a patty, then roll it in the wheat bran. Place your patties apart on a greased baking dish (can use parchment paper instead). Bake in the oven preheated to 190-200 ‘C for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for several minutes more.

Remarks: Baking falafels instead of frying them has several advantages, like using much less oil, being free while the falafels are in the oven, and also making sure they do not disintegrate while cooking in the oil 🙂 I didn’t make all the falafel at once, leaving some chickpea puree for the next day. I guess any bran and flakes will do as long as they soak in some of the juices and help you for the falafels. You can also use flour instead.

Result: Crispy and flavourful, a tad on the dry side (typical for falafel) which can be aided by some yogurt.

To assemble falafel in pita: My version is to cut the pita ‘pocket’ leaving an edge uncut (if you know what I mean), put some yogurt on the bottom, then in any order – falafel, cucumbers, bell pepper, salad leaves and more yogurt.

Baked Falafel

Try other variants of pita and tomato / carrot soup. You might want to try chickpea soup.

These recipes go to the Yeast Bread, Lunch/ Dinner and Country-specific collections.

G.

bread · vegetarian

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

This is my first Cuban recipe here on this blog – though not the first one that I’ve ever tried. There is not much I can tell you about the Cuban culinary culture but I was quite surprised that they make such whity-white bread there. I was imagining something more yellow, I mean, with corn. But Wikipedia claims this is the traditional Cuban bread made into long loaves for perfect Cuban sandwiches.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

And ooops, seems like I accidentally left out that very ingredient which distinguishes Cuban bread from its French or Italian counterparts – some tablespoons of lard! Can’t say it drastically affected these loaves – though the crumb would definitely have been different.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

Looks like my vegetarian soul just shuts all the unwanted ingredients out of my attention –  I realized I left it out only when I started writing this post. So my version is thus both for vegetarians and those who try to cut on fat in their cooking.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

And although you won’t be able to make the real Cuban sandwiches with these rolls rather than baguettes, I promise whatever shape they are, you will no doubt enjoy them. We didn’t mind at all.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

I made my photos on two consecutive days so the cut version is in less bright colours as the day was pretty moody. The weather changes these days as it normally does in this very very early spring when you are not at all sure whether to call it winter or spring already.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

Year ago – Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

2 years ago – Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning (no recipe)

3 years ago – Lappeenranta in (Spring) Details (no recipe)

4 years ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above (no recipe)

5 years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

6 years ago – Double Citrusy Heaven

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca adapted from karenskitchenstories.com will make four cute loaves with crunchy crust and soft but chewy crumb. Here are my remarks and changes to the original recipe which can be found along with all the essential information on the Karen’s Kitchen Stories website.

My changes: I didn’t use bread flour, just regular all purpose flour (not the super refined one though). Yes, absolutely forgot the melted lard (which I wouldn’t use anyway, I would normally substitute it with melted butter or sunflower oil). Made shorter logs (2) and rolls (2) with pointed ends. Mixed this bread by hand – not exactly for 15 minutes, probably, but definitely quite long for my usual lazy baking.

More remarks: Compared to the cute sandwich loaves baked by Karen, mine were smaller and the crumb was less dense and less homogeneous. Mind that this recipe calls for an overnight poolish as well, so plan ahead.

Result: Perfect breakfast bread. Do I need to add anything to that? Ok, it’s crusty and soft at the same time – just as we all like it! Made some (read: many) thick Russian buterbrod  with cheese and some greens.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

Not these greens though – they still have some time to live yet. Its is one of the frail parsley I planted back in late autumn. They have been pretty slow to grow but now the sun is making its magic.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

You can actually feel how turbulently this bread spent its time in the oven:

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

These two are the closest I could get to the baguettes, haha 🙂 Well, to tel you the truth I did write the recipe down in my ‘shorthand’ (which quite often means leaving out some crucial ingredients or steps) and then ‘forgot’ about it for several weeks. So by the time I was actually making the bread, I couldn’t really recall which shape they should be. And I was to lazy to check again.

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

Did you notice these ‘holes’ in the top crust (bottom of this photo)? I find them lovely- whatever sign they might be of some particular technological gaff from my side 🙂

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

I seem to be mesmerized by these cracks. I know some will say it’s not a good sign when your bread makes these instead of a perfectly straight crack exactly where you slashed the dough… But you know what? Who cares – everybody eats!

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

And the last crack:

Cuban Bread or Pan Cubano de Manteca

This post goes to the Country-specific and Yeast Bread collections.

Looking for more Cuban bread experience? Try this Cuban sandwich bread which I baked several years ago, though I didn’t make any Cuban sandwiches with it :).

G.

Family recipe · on USSR / Russia · sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Jam Cigars from my Granny’s Recipe Book

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

It’s been a week since my Granny died. A few hours before she actually died while turning my thoughts back to my Babushka I for some reason had a ‘vision’ of those sweet rolled things filled with jelly she used to bake – called sigary, i.e. cigars. I told myself that I would make them too.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Although in my mind I confused them with somewhat similar dessert – not with jelly but with nuts, I found a copy of the original recipe in my Mother’s recipe book and – a bit taken aback by the sheer… brevity of its instructions – I however ventured on this experiment.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Can we call it a traditional Russian recipe? Probably not. But this is definitely a Soviet recipe. Soviet recipes has at least three features in common. Firstly, they can have very vague ingredient measurements. Like this phrase ‘put as much flour as the dough will take’ which can mean anything from several glasses (Soviet cooks do not use cups) to a kilo or more.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Secondly, the procedure itself might be quite elliptical in its explanation. Like… no procedure at all, just the ingredients  or something like ‘bake until done’ without any indication of temperature, time or even any instructions on what to do before baking (how come you don’t know what to do if the recipe’s title is ‘cake’?!).

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Thirdly, the ingenuity with which a Soviet cook would use the ingredients (the choice of which can be quiet scarce and / or striking to begin with) tells you a lot about the Soviet way of life in general.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

The recipe in question is at the very bottom of the page, written by my Granny’s hand. Some of the instructions must have been added later, probably when my Granny’s memory started to fade a bit and she had to resort to more detailed recipes. I will share with you my Mother’s take on this recipe combined with my changes, so this is a true family recipe.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

A year ago – Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

2 years ago – Finnish Sourdough Flatbread and Cookies with History

3 years ago – German, French and Polish Sourdough Bread

4 years ago – Winter Light and Lemon Cake

5 years ago – Winter’s Here. Time for Spicy Rye Bread

6 years ago – Flammekueche

Sigary or Cigars from my Granny’s recipe book

Ingredients

  • 200 g smetana or 15% fat sour cream
  • 180 g butter, melted*
  • 2-2.5 glasses or about 320-350 g flour
  • jelly / jam / confiture of your choice (tangy ones are best)
  • powdered sugar

Procedure

Melt the butter and add in the smetana. Start adding the flour gradually until you get smooth malleable dough. Optional – place your  dough covered into the fridge for about half an hour. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 190 ‘C**.

Take a piece roughly the size of a big walnut and start rolling it mostly in one direction so that you get a long strip resembling an oval. The thinner you roll your dough the more layers of it you will get in your cigar. Spread your jam over the dough in a thin layer leaving narrow margin on the edges. If your jam has bits of fruit in it, place a small bit in the middle of the strip. Start rolling the strip starting from the top edge (it’s somewhat easier this way) so that you get … well, a cigar. These cigars won’t spread so you can place them pretty closely on the baking mat but mind that the jam will most certainly leek out (I would suggest using silicon rather than paper – to collect all the jam drippings :).

Bake for about 20 minutes or until your cigars are nicely browned. They become crispy and pretty fragile when they cool down. While they are still warm, roll them in powdered sugar. The best here is home-made grounded sugar that will contain some larger bits as well – for a more Soviet-gourmet experience.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Remarks

As I was making this recipe I had to stop as I realized I didn’t really know what to do once I mixed all the ingredients. So I put the dough into the fridge, a step which was not in the recipe, until my Mother came back home and explained me the procedure. I guess you can omit it or give your dough a short chill anyway. For this recipe I used two types of homemade (Mother-made) jam – plum jam and apple jam – both with large bits of fruit in them. I had to pick out one piece of fruit per a cigar. You see, the dough itself is quite fragile so you probably won’t be able to put in a chunkier jam. My Granny’s side note says that you can add some sugar to the dough but I wouldn’t do that as the jam provides all the sweetness you need.

* I reduced the amount of butter in this recipe – the original recipe actually called for margarine as it was and still is much cheaper than butter.

** We had to experiment with the oven temperature with the first batch. For some reason my Mother thought that these should be baked at a pretty low temperature, so we started somewhere at 120’C and them moved up to almost 200 as the cigars just wouldn’t brown. We baked our second batch at about 190’C for exactly 21 minutes.

Result

Sweet and tangy, crispy but moist too. Such a treat! One of those things I haven’t tasted for years.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

I intend to make more recipes from my Granny’s recipe book. There are those that with just their taste can bring back so many childhood memories.

And no, I do not smoke and in no way do I promote it!

Adding this post to the Sweet recipe collection.

G.

bread · Greek recipe

Greek Bread with Yogurt

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

I just adore this little pinnacle on top of the white bread loaf I baked recently – succumbing to a sudden desire to make white bread finally. White-white bread. White as snow which hopefully will not come in an avalanche as it did last November.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Here it is once more:

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

And although I did cheat with this recipe using smetana (Russian 15% fat sour cream) instead of Greek yogurt, it turned out really nice and almost … creamy. It was a challenge not to throw in some extras which I’d normally use (all types of bran, wheat germ, whole seeds, ground seeds etc) but I held on tight.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

1 year ago – Tram to Polytechnic University

2 years ago – Tarascon and Beaucaire, on Bike and on Foot

3 years ago – Enjoying Indian Summer in Imatra, Finland

4 years ago – Two Recipes for Your Loaf Pan

5 years ago – Borodinskiy Rye Bread

6 years ago – I’m Alright! Still Baking =)

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι adapted from the homely tantekiki.blogspot.com will make super-soft super-white bread perfect for cheese sandwiches or buterbrot. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients

  • 550 g all-purpose flour
  • 9 g yeast (1 package) – I used active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 300-310 ml lukewarm water
  • 80 g yogurt – I used smetana, aka 15 % fat sour cream but feel free to use (Greek) yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (Greek, please!)

Procedure

In a bowl place flour, yeast, sugar, yogurt and olive oil (as I was using active dry yeats, I first activated it in lukewarm water with sugar and salt). Dissolve salt in lukewarm water and then gradually add it to the bowl in three parts, starting to knead. If the dough is too sticky, do not add more flour but oil instead to grease your hands. Knead some more till you get a soft ball of dough. Grease your bowl with oil as well as the dough ball. Cover and leave inside your oven with the light on for 1-2 hours until the dough is fully risen (I just left it in a safe spot of my kitchen).

When the dough doubles, divide it into two equal parts and shape each into oblong loaves (I only made 1 loaf). Place the loaves into appropriate pans lined with parchment paper that you should grease with some oil (which I did not). Cover and leave to rise again for 40-50 minutes more or until they rise and cover 2/3 of the pan. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170 ‘C.

Make 4-5 diagonal slashes on top of the loaves, spritz with some water and then brush with oil (optional). Place the loaves on the second shelf from the bottom, also placing a baking dish with some water in it on the bottom to create steam (I usually use the metal shelf placed right onto the bottom). Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Take them out of the oven, leave for 5-10 minutes to cool and then take them out of their pans onto a cooling rack. When the bread is completely cool, you can also slice the loaves and freeze them (I normally freeze whole loaves).

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Here the bread is pictured with some Rossiysky cheese (aka Russian cheese). Which comes in all sort of flavours and shades, can’t really make head or tail of it but can easily identify it if I taste it. Kind of moist and rubbery and usually abhorred by cheese-pampered foreigners.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Remarks: This bread gets dry pretty fast – as any 100% white yeast bread.

Result: Soft and almost sweet bread from Greece, for a classic Russian breakfast 🙂 Have your black tea ready!

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

By the way, King Arthur Flour just published great tips on bread scoring techniques on their blog.

This post goes to the Yeast Bread and Greek recipe collections.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Cheese. Crunchy pastry. Worth some effort that the traditional Greek phyllo pastry requires – as well as worth a short walk to get some Georgian cheese 🙂 It’s a coincidence that I found some flat suluguni cheese in our local ‘farmers” store (they say it is a blini type of suluguni and sell it in disks) – which looks just like the pastry before it’s rolled out into sheets.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have been meaning to use this recipe for the Greek phyllo pastry since I saw the video on the Food Wishes blog (the videos are always enjoyable – even from the language side of it – fellow linguists will understand:) some time ago. And finally I did dare to make a cheese pie with it – a sort of tiropita.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have to admit this recipe is not a very quick one but you’ll see the difference and you’ll like the result for sure. And moreover there’s the video so you just have no excuses not to make this phyllo pastry and use it for savoury or sweet pies like bougatsa or baklava (there’s another video on how to make baklava). Careful though – baklava is super nutritious and addictive!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Don’t get intimidated with the seemingly complicated recipe procedure – Chef John’s instructions will guide you through it and after several it-will-never-work-out-well moments you will master this pastry that they use in so many pies in Greece. Oh, Greece is the heaven for pie fans!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

1 year ago – Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

2 years ago – Pear Croustade and Pane Tipo Altamura

3 years ago – From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in St Pete

4 years ago – Plum Cakes from Italy and Austria

5 years ago – Shangi, Pies from the North and Urals

6 years ago – Ode to My Baboushka

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry adapted from the hilarious foodwishes.blogspot.com will make an almost authentic Greek pie… well, at least you can imagine it is! Go to the link above to watch video instructions for the pastry (attention: requires some time and effort!). See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil – for some reason I thought it was 5 TABLEspoons 🙂
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar – our 10-year old vinegar from France gave too much of flavour
  • 3/4 cups warm water

filling:

  • about 300 g rubbery cheese, ideally – suluguni, if not – haloumi, grated / mashed
  • about 300 soft fresh cheese in light brine, ideally Feta, Imeretian or Adygea cheese, grated / mashed
  • salt with dried herbs, pepper

starch mixture:

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch – I had only potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Procedure:

Make the pastry: Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the oil, vinegar and the warm water plus the salt. Mix these ingredients with your fingers (not with someone’s else of course) in the bowl, then place on the surface and kneed into a smooth and soft ball, about 5 min. Roll the ball into a log and then back into a ball for several times. Wrap and leave to rest for at least 1 h at room temp.

Divide the dough into balls of 20 g (mine were about walnut size), cover the ones you are not using. Take 5 balls and roll each of these balls into a small disc, dust each of them really well (!) with the starch mixture and stack all 5 together. Then roll the stack out to about double the size, separate the discs (this will come with practice…), dust each disc again, re-stack them together in any order you like and roll out again into a sheet of pastry – the thinner the better.

Place one sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of parchment (reuse them in baking later), roll into a log (do not press), wrap in plastic (I placed them in a plastic bag) and leave in fridge / freezer if not using straight away.

When assembling your pie, use several sheets for the bottom layer and some more for the top layer (or even in-between layers, as in baklava). Drip olive oil over each 2nd sheet of pastry and do not forget to pre-cut the pie (do not cut through). Bake at 350’C for about 1 h (I did not have that much time so I switched the fan on at 180’C and reduced baking time to 30 min).

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Remarks: Chef John says the recipe will make enough for about twenty sheets of pastry but I got 3 sheets with 5 layers + 1 sheet with 3 layers which was enough for a rather large though flat pie. I didn’t roll my pastry out too thin though. And yes, re-separating the discs of pastry is the most challenging part of the process, I only got the trick after rolling out and re-separating two stacks.  After all, phyllo means a leaf (or a sheet in this case)… Another remark, the cornstarch mixture makes a bit too much for this amount of pastry – I used the leftovers in a cake. Also, I used quite a small baking sheet so had to make rather thick borders – better avoid it, the pastry get too tough at the edges.

Result: Crusty-crunchy flat cheese pie. Do you need any more comments to persuade you to make it here and now? That’s what you are striving for – the crunchy outer layers of the pastry:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…and these layers that separate from each other on their own once baked:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…which are not that easy to separate before baking 🙂 Here is one of the stacks before rolling out:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

and before re-separating the discs:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

I was a bit late to photograph the entire pie – this is what was left next morning:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

And yes, my blog has just turned 6!

This post goes to the Lunch / Dinner and Greek recipe collections where you will find many more Greek – and not only – pies.

G.

pies · sweet

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Red Currant Pie

Berries from dacha. Some of them are now frozen, some of them turned into a sort of zhivoe varenye (live confiture, consisting of berries strained with sugar, no boiling involved – the best way to preserve all the good stuff in the fruit), some of them eaten raw (gosh, they are so sour!) and some end up as a filling to numerous cakes, muffins and this time also a pie.

Red Currant Pie

This summer with June and July almost sun-less, has not given the berries enough sugar so they are eeeextra sour. Thanks God, no apples this year – I can only imagine how sour they would be…

Red Currant Pie

Red currants are traditionally extremely sour. Yet, I like baking with them, they seem to give that special ‘it’ to the cakes and pies.

Red Currant Pie

After making quick cakes and muffins, I’ve finally got over my laziness and here’s a pastry pie I baked today with the last red currants from our dacha – soft and zesty. Why peanuts in a berry pie? Well, I just had some in front of me.

Red Currant Pie

Same goes with why I decided to add this tolokno (see Remarks below) layer to the pie 0 I guess I just had it on the table at that moment too! However, it seems it was not that bad an idea after all – it has given the berries an extra soft (and sweet) layer and also prevented the juices from destroying the bottom of the pie. I think it worked in a sort of custard-y way.

Red Currant Pie

1 year ago – Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

2 years ago – Greek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

3 years ago – Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

4 years ago – Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

5 years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Ingredients (as with most of my recipes – the amounts are very approximate!)

  • 150-200 g sugar, divided
  • lemon zest, to taste
  • 90-100 g butter, cold or from freezer
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • handful of peanuts, ground into flour
  • all-purpose flour, enough for the pastry
  • 2-3 Tb oat flour (preferably tolokno or kama, see Remarks)
  • 1/2 cup warm water, or more as needed
  • fresh red currants

Procedure

First, make the pastry. Cut cold butter into small pieces, mix in about 50-70 g sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pastry, lemon zest and the egg. Working rather quickly before the butter softens too much, add a pinch of salt, ground peanuts and start adding all-purpose flour, delicately but swiftly kneading the pastry with your hand. My idea was to make it rather soft and crumbly so I did not knead it into a disk. Leave the pastry covered in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Meanwhile, prepare the oat flour layer. I used the easiest method for making kasha from tolokno (see Remarks), by mixing it gradually into a small bowl with some warm water, adjusting the amount of flour to achieve rather thick consistency. Add in about 50 g of sugar (the mixture will get more runny).

Line a round or rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Take the pastry out of the fridge and distribute a bigger (2/3) part of it on the bottom, by gently rubbing it through your fingers. In this way you’re creating a more ‘aerated’ sort of pastry layer rather than a smooth one, so no worries if there are ‘holes’ in the bottom layer. Keep the rest of the pastry in the fridge.

Pour the oat mixture over the bottom pastry layer and scatter red currants on top, finishing with some more sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries (ours are as usual super sour). Take the remaining pastry from the fridge and rub it through your fingers over the berries. There will be more spaces in the top layer with berries popping out as you’ll have less pastry for it but that’s exactly what you need.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Bake for about 40-45 min. until the top layer is golden and the berries are happily bubbling away.

Red Currant Pie

Remarks

Tolokno aka kama or talkan, is a traditional grind of slightly toasted whole oats, considered to be healthier than what you get with the industrially milled oats. In Karelia they eat it with berries and it’s such a treat! You can of course use oat flour or grind some oatmeal instead.

Red Currant Pie

My pastry ‘recipe’ is not anywhere close to what you would call classic, so feel free to use your favourite recipe. Anyway, I have to confess, putting enough butter into the pastry does make a difference – it’s just what I wanted – soft and crumbly!

Red Currant Pie

Result

Sweet-n’-sour in one bite, very soft and peanut-y, with distinct flavour from the oats detected.

Red Currant Pie

This recipe goes to the Berries and Sweet collections where you will find many more recipes with red currants in particular, like Cardamom and Red Currant Cake, Coconut Red Currant Bread, Pretty Good Red Currant Coffeecake, Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant CakeRed Currant Meringue Pie, Red Currant Flan and Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls among others.

G.

cookies · muffins · sweet

Sugarless: Oatmeal Cookies and Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

My sister is temporarily on a no-added-sugar diet so I’ve been experimenting with sugar-free baking for a while. She is also avoiding honey and industrially made juices which turned it into a bit of a challenge. So bananas, dried fruit and fresh fruit have all been summoned instead to substitute sugar and make my sister enjoy her meal anyway.

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Here are two of the recipes I’ve come up with: oatmeal cookies and muffins with dried fruits and fresh apples.

1 year ago – Trans-Siberian Trip Part 4: Siberia Begins with Tyumen

2 years ago – Birthday Kovrizhka and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 years ago – While Zucchini Are in Season…

4 years ago – Italian Delicacies a la Russe

5 years ago – Fruit Post

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • about 300 g old-fashioned oatmeal, roughly ground (or a mixture of oats, rye, barley and wheat flakes) plus some quick-cooking oats, whole
  • 60 g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana, preferably overripe
  • dried apricots and dates, chopped
  • sesame seeds, ground
  • mixed nuts, roughly ground
  • optional add-ins: ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), flax bran*, wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon, cardamom
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

First, beat butter with the banana and eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order (I added while quick-cooking oats last). Adjust the amount of flour and/or add-ins according to the consistency. Cover and Let chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Then form dough balls (preferably the size of a small tangerine) and place on a baking mat / baking parchment. The cookies won’t spread so mo need to space them a lot. Slightly flatten the balls with your finger.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180-190 ‘C for about 15 minutes (depending on size). My cookies did not brown much on the top but looked apparently cooked on the bottom.

Remarks: Add more dried fruits for a sweeter result. These smell delicious in the oven!

Result: Cheeeewy cookies for those on a sugar-free diet; for sweet-tooth people these cookies won’t be as attractive though they definitely contain quite a lot of nutrients and healthy stuff.

And here’s the other recipe:

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Fruit Muffins 

Ingredients

  • 3 small eggs
  • 100 g dried apricots
  • A handful of dates
  • A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 150 ml sour cream (smetana)
  • 50 ml sunflower seed oil
  • Flax bran*, wheat germ, ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), ground old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, adjust the amount accordingly
  • A tangerine, peeled and chopped
  • Half an apple, diced
  • Cinnamon
  • Sesame seeds, for decoration

Procedure

Scold dried fruits with boiling water, drain, pour some more hot water and let them soak (I usually use a colander placed on a deep bowl). When they get soft enough, drain them (you can use the water in the recipe but I chose sour cream instead) and stone the dates.

In a blender, reduce dried apricots and hazelnuts into a sort of chunky puree (I left dates un-blended). Beat eggs with sour cream, then beat in the oil. Add the fruit and nut mixture into the eggs. Thoroughly mix baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour and add it to the eggs and fruit mixture. Add the extras (ground oatmeal, bran, germ, flaxmeal) and the dates. In a sort of a last-minute inspiration, add in chopped tangerine and some apple. Mix well but do not overmix.

Preheat the oven to 210’C. Divide the batter into the muffins cups and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for about 17-20 minutes (mine were baking on the upper shelf together with bread below them). Left sit in the cups a bit and then leave them cool on a wooden cutting board.

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Remarks: I added flaxmeal hence this somewhat darkish colour but you can add any healthy extras you desire. Same applies to the dried fruits, nuts and the last-minute ingredients you throw in – choose them to your liking but don’t forget to check that the dried fruit do not contain added sugar (sometimes they do add it to the cranberries). You can also add extra chopped dried apricots or mash in a banana for a sweeter result.

Result: Though you have to be on a no-sugar diet to appreciate these in terms of their very low sweetness, the muffins are soft, good in texture (not rubbery as I feared) and they rose nicely.

Adding these recipes to my Sweet collection.

*Flax bran – a recently discovered flax seed-derived thing, looks like very roughly ground golden flax seeds. Might be just a new name for coarse golden flaxmeal (as opposed to the more traditional ‘dark’ flaxmeal). Been adding it to my sweet baking.

This post was made using mobile phone pictures. But I think I’d rather keep to my good ol’ camera!

G.