Although we may change the way we celebrate Easter this year, we can still enjoy some great food. One of the special things about any holiday is the brunch that seems to come with it and Easter is no different. The word itself sounds like coziness.
The practice of creating special breads to celebrate holidays, harvests, religious rites and other occasions worldwide, dates back thousands of years. In some cases, breads aren’t symbolic as much as traditional, baked as a reminder of family, togetherness and celebration. They often contain warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some have a touch of liqueur added to them while others are created in special shapes or have little surprises baked in them.
Cardamom may not get the acclaim of cinnamon, nor does it pop up in recipes as often as ginger, but its flavor pairing capabilities are extensive. This is a flavor that you may love or hate, but for me it is very addictive. Warm, subtly spicy, exotically aromatic, a flavor that transforms both sweet and savory recipes into heavenly dishes.
With some simple snipping and shaping, this cardamom sweet dough turns into adorable bunnies for Easter brunch. Edible table décor!
Cardamom Lime Easter 'Bunnies'
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast , 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm milk. Set aside until yeast mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Set aside in a draft free place until dough doubles in size, about an 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, lime zest, cardamom & butter. Mix well. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter & lime juice. Add powdered sugar & mix until glaze consistency. Set aside until buns are baked.
Assemble & Bake
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half; roll each half into a rectangle about 12x10-inches. Sprinkle filling evenly over one of the rectangles. Place the second sheet of pastry on top. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pastry & lightly roll with a rolling pin.
With a pizza cutter cut 14 strips. You will use 12 of the strips for 'bunnies' & 2 strips for their tails. To form bunnies, overlap one end of strip over the other to form a loop; bring the end that's underneath up over the top end, letting one end extend on each side to make ears.
Place the shaped 'bunnies' on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-3-inches between them as they will expand a bit. Cut each of the remaining strips into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball & place it in the loop to form the tail. Loosely cover the 'bunnies' & let them rise for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush bunnies with egg wash & bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack.
While still slightly warm, brush bunnies with glaze. Sprinkle with lime zest & top tails with whites candies.
- If you prefer your bunnies to be a bit more plump, instead of making 12, just make 8 or 10.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.
The vegetable cake idea is really not so strange if you consider that most of these dense moist cakes are either spice or chocolate. Who would guess that ‘vegetables’ would be lurking within?
When you think of how many veggies we have incorporated into our desserts, its amazing. Carrot cake is hardly novel having been around for decades but there is also beet torte, zucchini chocolate cake, sweet potato cake or the delicious chocolate sauerkraut cake just to name a few.
The popular chocolate potato cake recipe goes back to the early 1800’s, so its likely the oldest of them all. Like buttermilk, mashed potatoes make baked goods taste better, perhaps because both have the effect of making the cake crumb more tender.
It seems the humble potato is like a blank canvas and wears every role its put in with equal flair. This is a moist, rich cake so icing is purely optional.
Vintage Chocolate Potato Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan or a 12 cup muffin pan & line the base with parchment paper or paper cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, oil & eggs then potatoes.
In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom & salt. Alternately add dry ingredients & the buttermilk to the egg mixture, beginning & ending with the dry ingredients; stirring with a spoon or rubber spatula.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30-35 minutes.
Invert the cake onto a rack & allow to cool thoroughly. Transfer to a plate & dust with powdered sugar if you wish.
- Don't hesitate to add either some nuts or raisins for some extra flavor.
Baking Christmas cookies is a customary activity of the season around the world. The tradition itself, can be sourced all the way back to the monasteries of the Middle Ages, when monks baked different sweets and breads in observance of this anticipated religious season.
Germany being a religious country, often the baking begins at the start of Advent (November 29th/20), or around the time of St. Nickolas Day and continues in preparation for Christmas. Many families still observe recipe traditions that go back several generations.
Germany’s ‘Weihnachtsplatzchen‘ is actually an umbrella term referring to authentic German Christmas biscuits more broadly and it encapsulates a number of festive treats. An all time favorite, the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ cookie being one of them.
Twelve years ago (2008), Oreo cookies were all but unknown to Germany. The beloved black (or deep brown) and white, twistable sandwich cookies have been a staple in North American pantries for a century, but now have made inroads in Europe.
These German Oreo (melt-in-your-mouth) Shortbread cookies are a unique spin on the classic version.
German Oreo Shortbread Cookies
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, Oreo crumbs (or cookies) & cardamom. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter with powdered sugar; add vanilla & mix well. Add Oreo/flour mixture; mix only enough to blend. DO NOT overmix.
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Crimp edges by pressing edge of pastry with finger & then pinching together.
Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut a circle in the center of dough. Cut round into 12-14 wedges, from circle to outer edges. Prick shortbread in a pattern with a fork. Slide a cookie sheet under the parchment that the cookie round is on & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator & decorate if you wish. Bake for about 18-22 minutes. When baked, recut wedges if necessary & cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.
This is an example of great classic Belgium cuisine. Sweet, sour and savory all in one dish! It seems, in Europe alone, many countries have their own special version of meatball dishes, from Swedish and German meatballs in brown or white sauce to Italian meatballs with their classic red sauce.
Although meatballs are a staple of Belgium home cooking, you will find a variety of different recipes throughout the country.
Boulets a la Liegeoise, (a traditional Belgium meatball originating from the city of Liege), are a blend of ground beef and pork, eggs, some bread crumbs, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. That’s it …. no fusion cooking, bells and whistles. Just good, plain food made special with a tart cherry sauce.
I just couldn’t resist making a variation of these since Brion & I have our own little cherry tree in our back yard.
Belgium Meatballs w/ Sour Cherries
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking tray.
In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & mix well. Measure out 20 meatballs, approximately 40 gm each, & place on the baking tray.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
Measure cherry juice & cornstarch into a dish to combine.
In a small saucepan, heat cherries & add cornstarch mixture. Stir until sauce thickens, add honey & stir again.
Remove from heat. Drizzle over meatballs or serve on the side. Serve hot.
In a saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste.
Serve as an alternate to the cherry sauce with Belgium meatballs.
I never fail to get drawn in by the sight of fresh persimmons at the grocery store. Not only do they have a wonderful flavor but you can use them in so many ways.
Their strangely tropical characteristics pair nicely with many spices, such as cinnamon and cardamom. With a little imagination, cakes, cookies, pies and even some ‘persimmon brioche’ can be made from the persimmon fruit.
In reading about this fruit, I came upon some interesting weather folklore. I’m unsure if its true or not, but it said you can predict winter weather with a persimmon seed.
The first thing was to find a locally grown persimmon, which of course, is not possible for us in our location. You wait to pick and cut into the persimmon after it gets a bit soft … almost mushy. Then you open the fruit and cut open the seed.
Look at the shape of the kernel inside:
- If the kernel is spoon-shaped, expect plenty of snow to shovel.
- If it is fork-shaped, plan on a mild winter with powdery, light snow.
- If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect fridgid winds that will ‘cut’ like a blade.
Persimmon & Almond Brioche Buns
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add milk & heat until lukewarm, but not hot. Stir in yeast. Allow yeast mixture to proof for about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar & salt; add both eggs & combine. Add the yeast/milk/butter mixture. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball & there is no dough sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead well until dough is smooth (about 10 minutes). Form dough into a ball. Grease mixing bowl with butter. Place dough in the bowl, cover & allow to rise until its roughly doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Peel, halve & slice persimmons into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place in a shallow dish with sugar & cardamom; toss gently to evenly coat slices. Set aside.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a bowl, whisk together softened cream cheese with milk. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until mixture is smooth. Add lemon juice & set aside.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface & punch down. Divide it into 12 equal parts. Roll the dough balls into discs 4-5-inches in diameter & about 1/4-inch thick. Place the discs onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a buttered piece of plastic wrap. & allow the dough to rise again in a draft-free place for about 25 minutes.
When dough has risen, using your fingers, press the center of each disc down, leaving about a 1/2-inch rim. If necessary, you can dip your fingers in egg wash to keep the dough from sticking during this process.
Assembly & Baking
Spread about a teaspoon of the cream cheese filling in a thin layer in the depression of each disc. Press some persimmon slices in the center over the cream cheese. Brush the outer edges of the discs with egg wash mixture. Place buns in the oven & bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & transfer to a wire rack, keeping them on the parchment paper.
Combine the apricot jam & warm water. Microwave to thin the jam to a liquid consistency. Brush buns LIGHTLY with glaze & garnish with almond slices & pearl sugar.
The perfect pie for a summer evening. First off, if your not accustomed to using sour cream in a sweet pie filling you will probably cringe. My first encounter with this idea was many years ago and I’m still addicted.
Sour Cream has worked its way into many facets of my baking and cooking, so for me its a basic fridge staple. I know for some people it happens all too often … you pick up a container of sour cream to have on some tacos and then what to do with the rest before it spoils??
This pie recipe makes an extra deep dessert. It works well in a spring-form pan or a deep pie dish. The crunchy, buttery brown sugar streusel on top is lightly accented with cardamom spice & fresh lemon zest. It is the perfect foil to the lush, rich sour cream and raspberry filling.
I should mention, its best not to use light or fat-free sour cream. Another thing, is to bake the pie until the filling is set THEN top with the streusel and bake until golden. This is a pie that is best served cold or just slightly warm as it will not be firm enough to slice if it is hot.
Raspberries lovers … this one is for you!!
Raspberry Sour Cream Pie
In a bowl, combine butter & sugar; beat until light & fluffy. Mix in flour & baking powder; blend together. Pat dough in a 9-inch spring form pan or a deep dish pie pan.
In a bowl, combine sugar, flour & salt; whisk in eggs, sour cream & vanilla until smooth. Place raspberries in pie shell & pour filling over top. Bake for 30-35 minutes OR UNTIL FILLING IS JUST SET.
In a bowl, combine all streusel ingredients until well blended. After the pie filling is set, remove from the oven & turn the heat down to 350 F. Squeeze the streusel between your fingers & palms to create clumps ranging in size from small to large grapes then top pie with it. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes OR until streusel is golden brown.
Remove from oven & allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack to thicken further. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftover pie.
- Even though I mentioned you should use a full fat sour cream, I chose to use a fat free one too lighten up on the calories.
- The only difference is, it will take longer to bake & the filling is not quite as firm in the end result.
- As far as the taste goes, there is no difference. It's heavenly!!
Frozen waffles are like having a blank canvas begging for you to add your personal touch to create something unique.
The little toaster waffles called Eggo’s popped up on the market in 1953. They were created by three brothers, Anthony, Sam & Frank Dorsa, who had previously been known for their mayo business that had took off in the 1930’s.
When Eggo’s first appeared on the freezer shelves in grocery stores, they had a totally different name … Froffles! It was meant to be a combination of frozen and waffles but it didn’t last long. The name was swapped out for Eggo waffles by 1955. This unique frozen breakfast item didn’t become truly popular until about 1968.
So if you like waffles and apple pie, this dessert should interest you.
Mini Dutch Apple Waffle Pies w/ Caramel Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together water & cornstarch. Pour into a medium pot over medium-high heat with both sugars, spices & salt. Once sauce begins to thicken up, add the diced apples & reduce heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes to soften the apples, stirring occasionally.
While apples are cooking, press waffle shells into 12 custard cups & then divide apple filling between them.
In a bowl, combine streusel ingredients; using your fingertips, work to make very coarse crumbs. Divide evenly between 'pies'. Bake for 16-17 minutes. Remove from oven & cool slightly.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sauce ingredients. Cook until bubbly & thickened, whisking constantly, about 5-7 minutes. Drizzle over apple desserts when serving.
- Adjust sugar amounts in any part of the recipe if you wish.
The dessert name of Om Ali, means ‘Ali’s mother’, has its own story. To make a long story short, not wanting to bore you with the detailed war history of Om Ali ….. Ali’s mother, was a powerful feminist of the 13th century Egypt. Her husband tried to cheat on her so she kills him and celebrates with distributing Om Ali dessert declaring her son Ali as successor. As ever, food is a much more than just the act of cooking and eating. Food is culture, history and the stories of a given people and time.
You could think of Om Ali as the Egyptian cousin of bread pudding. Same idea of soaking some type of bread with milk or cream and sugar, then baking it in the oven. Om Ali skips the eggs though, which makes it lighter in texture, looser and milkier as opposed to custardy. Instead of bread, it is traditionally made with baked puff pastry, phyllo or Egyptian flat bread combined with milk and nuts.
Om Ali has become a well loved and celebrated dessert all over the Middle East, being served at many big celebrations and events.
Instead of using the traditional nuts, raisins and coconut, I’m using the ‘Sahale Snack Mix’ which has a very similar blend in my Om Ali pudding.
OM Ali - Egyptian Bread Pudding
Allow puff pastry to thaw before using. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the puff pastry into squares & poke holes in each using a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until puffed & golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
In a saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, spices & whipped topping powder. Allow to come to a gentle simmer; add the vanilla & heavy cream. Remove from heat.
Break the puff pastry into pieces & place half of them in either individual ramekins or an oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle each with some of your fruit/nut blend, reserving a bit for topping. Cover with the other half of the pastry pieces.
Slowly add the milk mixture, one ladle at a time until the milk mixture fully covers the puff pastry. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, you'll notice that the puff pastry absorbs some of the milk. Add milk again until it covers the puff pastry.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. then place under the broiler if you wish, for a couple of minutes to get a golden top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- When baking is 90% done, sprinkle the rest of the fruit/nut mixture on top so they don't burn & taste bitter. It gives a nice eye appeal.