Husarenkrapferl, an Austrian Christmas Cookie

Time to shake up your holiday cookie roster? How about a batch of Austrian Husarenkrapferl cookies? This gorgeous almond shortbread, dusted with icing sugar and finished off with a dollop of jam, will be the talk of the dessert table.

OK people the holidays, less then a month away! Have you started your preps, like for anything, yet? I have not except for a little cookie dabbling in the kitchen. This year I am serving up some Husarenkrapferl cookies and I am so very proud to include them in a Canadian Cookie Collaboration!

Husarenkrapferl cookies

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My 8th Blogiversary: Rhubarb Walnut Marmalade

Eight years ago today, on a June 14th 2007, I posted my first blog post ever on Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this blog would still be online after so many years. This post is number 926! And I cannot believe I am only 2 years shy away from double digits! This year I will celebrate with a special and sentimental Rhubarb Walnut Marmalade.

I am forever thankful to my family, friends, coworkers and all of you online for reading my posts, eating my food, help preparing it with me and leaving your cherished comments. I could never express enough my gratitude for each time you take a minute and come visit me here.

marmalade before and after

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Roasted Tomato Jam

One thing I do miss about living in an apartment is not having a garden. In my late teen I took over a section of my parent’s backyard to grow vegetables.Only one problem: I do not have a green thumb. But still it is a fun and relaxing activity. now I have a herb garden and still no green thumb. I did try to grow a tomato plant in a big pot for 2 summers. It was not a big success.

It’s a shame because one of the great pleasures of summer gardens is fresh juicy tomatoes. And it just so happens to be the them of this month’s Creative Cooking Crew challenge. And of course to do something different! So get your fish, chicken or even breakfast toast out for my Roasted Tomato Jam.

roasted tomato jam

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The No Cook No Bake Cookbook: Tofu Carpese Stacks and Fig Chia Jam

Its a scorching hot and humid summer heatwave, the 7th day in a row, and you just spent your day traveling to and from work in an hot steamy airless packed subway and bus.  There is a respite for a few hours at work, thankfully there is AC there. When you do get home you strip and plop yourself on the couch with your fan on High aimed right at you because you only have AC in the bedroom. After 30 minutes of ‘chillin’ a horrible thought comes to mind: there is NO WAY I am cooking dinner but what am I going to eat? Panic stricken, you remember to reach for the new practical book you just got: The No Cook No Bake Cookbook!

Tofu Carpese Stacks

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Mastic Ice Cream

I am away for a little bit to frolic in the country…..enjoy this scheduled post and I look forward to posting upon my return.

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I was most intrigued when I came across a recipe with the ingredient Mastic, something I never heard of. Apparently Mastic or Masticha is the resin obtained from the mastic tree produced exclusively on the Greek island of Chios. The sun-dried resin is tear shaped and it has a yellow or orange hue.

Mastic gum was the first chewing gum, the word masticate means to chew. When chewed, the flavor is bitter at first, but after a short time this bitterness goes away and the only thing that remains is its special aroma. In Greece mastic is used to prepare mastic liqueurs mastic like Mastichato, a spoon sweet known as “vanilla”, beverages, chewing gum, cakes, pastries, sweets, desserts, breads, and in cheese production.

Different countries have different uses for it. In Lebanon mastic is used in ice cream, sauces and seasoning. In Egypt mastic is used in the preparation of different vegetable preserves, as well as jams with a gummy consistency, and in meats and soups. In Morocco, mastic is used in the preparation of smoked foods. In Turkey it is widely used in desserts such as Turkish Delight, puddings, soft drinks and also in the preparation of Turkish Coffee on the Aegean Coast. In the Maghreb countries mastic is used mainly for cakes, sweets, pastries, and as a stabilizer in meringue and nougat.

Mastic has an interesting property where it can replace cornstarch and gelatin in desserts while adding its unique flavor.  Mastic can be a bit hard to find: your best bet is a Middle Eastern grocery store and Ebay. Good news is you do not need a lot in most recipes. In my research I came across many ice cream recipes with mastic (I am an ice cream nut after all) so once I got my hands on this ingredient I had to try it out.

I read in a few places that Mastic gives a certain chewiness to the ice cream when you eat it. That was a pleasant texture I really enjoyed. It is still ice cream but it is ever so slightly gummy. Very cool. And the taste? Best comparison I can give you is spruce bear soda. You have to try it to believe it. I love spruce beer so I loved the ice cream.

≡ Mastic Ice Cream ≡

1/2 teaspoon mastic resin crystals
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 pinch of ground vanilla (optional)

Directions:
1. Grind the mastic resin crystals in a mortar and pestle along with some sugar.
2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and mastic in a sauce pan until it almost boils, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low.
4. Temper the eggs and stir them into the cream.
5. Cook at low heat until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.
6. You may want to strain the mixture at this point to remove any bits that may have formed while warming.
7. Chill the mixture in the fridge.
8. Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.

Strawberry Jam Balsamic Ice Cream

It’s so hot and I had a craving for a fruity ice cream. I just had a tiny bit left of my Rosemary Walnut one, the last I made, and I knew there was not enough to satiate my need for a cool treat. But I had no large quantity of fruits at home and no way was I going out into the furnace exterior.

But I had a new jar of strawberry jam! I am feeling a lazy way out of this one…and it was worth it even if not the real deal! I love the added touch of balsamic vinegar as it really enhances the favor of the fruit and cut the sugary jam taste.

Very simple yet very rewarding!

Ξ Strawberry Jam Balsamic Ice Cream Ξ

1 cup light cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup strawberry jam (or any jam you have)
1 tbsp  Balsamic vinegar

– Add the jam and milk into bowl and whisk until jam has broken up. Mix in the cream and balsamic vinegar.

– Use ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.

OR

– Spoon chilled custard into shallow metal pan, freeze until almost firm, about 3 hours. Break into chunks; puree in food processor.

– Pack into airtight container and freeze until firm, about 2 hour.

So good you'll like the paddle clean!

Daring Bakers: Crostata

I have been in pie eating mode lately but none were baked by me, actually from the store, because I did not have a kitchen for 2 weeks. But good news the kitchen is done and I’ll post about that experience soon! I had just bought also about a month ago a tart pan with a removable bottom (for like $8 !!! on liquidation) which I had yet to baptize. I know shame on me. So when I saw this month’s challenge, and Italian pie called a Crostata, I was very excited. I knew exactly what I would put in it but will keep you in suspense for just a bit.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona from briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Pasta frolla is a fabulous recipe used to make pie crusts or shortbread-like cookies. It is a sweet and rich crust which I find makes it perfect for a tart filling, hence it often being used with marmalade like it was suggested in the challenge. This is not your boring pie crust. I think one of the reasons I don’t make pies a lot is because I usually care more for the filling. Not the case with the pasta frolla. Here is the recipe I used but click here if you want to see various versions.

Pasta frolla

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
  1. Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs and vanilla into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on).
  4. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
  5. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
  6. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap it. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Now for the filling! I decided to go with something we did in a past challenge: my citrus preserves from the September Daring Cooks challenge. This preserve is low in sugar and high in rind so I knew it would be perfectly extra tart as I wanted it to be. Now since my preserve was made up of large pieces I just threw it in the blend to break it up into a jam consistency. 1 cup and 3/4 is required according to the given recipe.

Now I also added some shredded coconut. This coconut was actually left over from another recipe I did that day. My friend Faith over at An Edible Mosaic recently posted a recipe on how to make homemade coconut milk. I got around to making it today and by the end of it you have plenty of leftover coconut. Go to her blog for the recipe. It was quite an experience to make my coconut milk. It can get messy but definitely worth trying it once. I got over a liter of milk with a nice head of coconut cream that I can use in other recipes.

So in the bottom of the pan I put my shredded coconut and I gently spooned over my marmalade so it would cover the coconut. I found there was not enough filling for my crust…happy I added the coconut, I would go with 3 cups of filling personally. Now before I tell you how to assemble it let me tell you this dough breaks easy…do the plastic wrap suggestion. DO NOT use the parchment paper, I did that and it stuck.

Assembling and baking the crostata:

  1. Heat the oven to 375ºF [190ºC/gas mark 5].
  2. Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
  3. To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan.
  4. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
  5. If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin’s width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
  6. Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
  7. Flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
  8. Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
  9. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
  10. Spread the jam or fruit preserves evenly over the bottom of the crostata.
  11. Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes; or roll with your hands into ropes.
  12. Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes.
  13. Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs.
  14. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the tart is of a nice golden hue.
  15. When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.

Oh my the smell wafting in the air as this crostata came out of the oven was to die for. It is very hard to wait for it to cool down before attacking it. But I managed to control myself and was rewarded with a perfect slice of crostata that I enjoyed with a glass of coconut milk.

That crust is just sexy!