Perfect meringues

I have to confess. When it comes to sweet treats my weakness is called meringues. I have this weakness since childhood. I have struggled then so many times to make them right and all of the times I was ending up with some sticky, brown on the surface meringues. They were tasty but they were all the time sticking to my teeth.
At a certain moment I simply gave up. Then, one day I manage to make them well. Here is the recipe.
Since then, I tried the exact same recipe many times and I simply couldn't get them the same. So I gave up again.
Few days ago, a friend of mine posted some incredible meringues. I couldn't resist and asked him for some tips and tricks. He kindly exposed all meringue secrets so I decided to give them another try.
They turned out to be PERFECT from the first trial. And I know now what was my mistake before.
It is a love and hate story between meringues and me. I am crazy about their taste but it kills me how much sugar they contain. So, every time I was making them I wanted to reduce the amount of sugar, and this was my biggest mistake. The sugar gives them the structure and I was destroying this. Sugar is a very unhealthy food but good meringue without the proper amount of sugar cannot exist. So it all resume to temptation... difficult to chose: incredible taste and all the unhealthy sugar inside or ... just nothing. I tried to stay far from them, as I couldn't make them right anyway, but now that I have finally found the recipe.... it will put me under even a bigger temptation :)

By all means, if you love meringue.... this is THE recipe I have looking for more than 30 years. Thank you Rick for sharing the secrets of this recipe with me.

Baked doughnuts

When my sandwich maker died, I chose to buy a more versatile snack-grill with interchangeable trays. You can cook waffles, doughnuts, biscuits, sandwiches, bread, meat or whatever you may think of. Of course this was just a caprice I did for myself but it turned to be very practical. No big trays to wash manually, just 2 small ones that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Overall it takes a bit more time to bake them all but I get such nice shapes that you can eat the food with your eyes.
I will not advertise the brand as you do not need such an extra kitchen device if you have a conventional oven.
I have already said that I like doughnuts very much. What I do not like at them is to be fried in oil. They are more tasty if fried but baked, they are more healthy. So I go for the healthiest version.

If you like, you may add some sourcream and jam and you get the famous desert called "Papanasi". I have done them before with a different recipe in another post, here.

But lets try these ones!

Lavender bath bombs

Last batch of bath bombs was a bit oily and my daughter was not very into it. It was then the time to try another recipe.
Two summers ago I have been into a such an amazing trip to Province in France. I have incredibly wonderful memories from there and only thinking back puts me in a dreaming phase.
I came back from there not only with memories but with 1kg of lavender essential oil. Yes, you read it well, 1 kg. I took it from a country farm, straight from the producer. Meantime I used it for relaxing moments although not at all during my pregnancy. At that time I was not having in my mind to do soaps or any homemade cosmetics but I bought it because I was loving the smell of lavender and because I was buying it almost from the field.
Now, the time has come to use it in my homemade products. Bath bombs were on the list, so here they come...

Adding soap colorant instead of food colorant gave a lighter color to the mixture. When using it in the water, it did not color the water that much. The smell from these bath bombs is persistent and so so relaxing. And yes, they fizz. Try it for your next relaxing hot bath!

Natural dishwasher tablets

I have done homemade dishwasher tablets before but they were not 100% natural. This time, here they are.
They smell incredibly nice and they leave the dishes in a brilliant state. What can you ask more from a dishwasher tablet?

Healthy teething biscuits

As a mother, I simply cannot understand how come that internet is full of teething biscuits that contain sugar, salt and other ingredients forbidden for small babies. On the other side, there are mothers not giving anything than vegetable purees to the kids until 2-3 years. Well, let's be reasonable and look at baby food recipes from the health perspective without exaggerating. 
Up until the first anniversary of your baby there are a lot of alternatives to replace a teaspoon of sugar or a pinch of salt. Fruits contains fructose, they are healthy and add a beautiful sweet taste to your baby food. Spices can replace salt and add taste to the food. Do not get yourself trapped in the idea that if you do not like a food your baby won't like it either. It's simple: no salt, no sugar for small babies.
Then, we are turning the world to give healthy food to our babies. But what about us? This recipe for biscuits is perfect for your child as soon as s/he has some teeth and for you as well. I ate these biscuits together with my little son and daughter and we have all enjoyed them.

Healthy biscuits for babies and perfectly good and tasty for you too. Let's see ...

Multigrain toast bread

With this cold and rainy weather, as much as I like doing bread in the wood fire oven it becomes a bit difficult to make it every weekend. This is how, today I said I am going back to the conventional oven this time.
Also due to the lack of time, I chose a yeast based bread and added an extra sourdough that was meant to be discarded.

Uh... it was so quick and so easy to do it. No bannetons were needed, the loaves were put straight into the pans after the first fermentation. However with all these advantages, I find that the sourdough bread is always superior.

I went back looking for my pans as lately, I discovered that my daughter likes very much sandwiches that I make in the sandwich maker. As my bread slices coming generally from rustic breads are not having the nice squared shapes that suits best the sandwiches, preparing them in the sandwich maker was always a challenge. And you probably know, for kids is so important that the sandwiches look so much with the ones seen on commercials, photos or simply colleagues or friends.
As the problem was only about the shape, I had to adapt and make my breads more squared. This was simply achieved by using some classic cake pans. So here they are, not perfectly square but almost.

Merry Christmas !

Aloe vera soap

Uhhh, another soap with adventures but what a lovely result!
I made this soap on Sunday when outside was snowing. I prepared the oil mixture in advance and let it cool to room temperature. I took my lye and iced aloe vera and milk outside in the greenhouse to avoid smells going all around my house. As you can imagine, the temperature outside was close to 0ºC. In these conditions, the lye mixture didn't warm too much so when I brought it back inside the house it was cooler than the oils. As I was under the time pressure I couldn't wait longer and mix them together. I was surprised to see that the soap mixture started to harden to reach a false trace. I continued to blend until all the oils were incorporated. The mixture arrived in the end to be quite thick but it was OK to pour it into the mold. Lovely color, lovely texture and nice swirls in the middle. But ooops...I left something behind...the essential oils. No, No, No way to let my soap without a scent so no matter what was about to happen I poured the essential oils on top and mix them in the soap with a thin stick. Uuuuuh luckily...they were absorbed and mixed into the soap. I was almost about to fail... what a beginner mistake ! But in the end what does matter is the result.
The essential oils were well absorbed, the soap looked good, smelled nice and in the end everything was great.

Pumpkin soap

I had in mind to do a pumpkin soap for more than a month ago.  I weighted and saved the pumpkin puree in the freezer and waited to spare 1 hour of my time to actually do it. It took one month to find this time until I said it shouldn't wait for longer.
Well, I prepared everything and launched myself in actually doing it. Everything went smoothly, the preparation of the lye, the mix of the oils, the essential oils and one of the coloring. As the uncolored part was not that orange, I wanted to add some more food coloring to reach a pumpkin color. Just when I added the color and turned on the blender to mix it, my blender decided to reach its end life. The soap was enough thick and adding this jelly yellow color was a bad choice. I've tried without success to mix manually the color, you can still see some concentrated spots of color.
Finally I gave it up and let it like that. The result is this soap with spots of yellow-orange color that was not mixed. Not totally a disaster but that's it, I couldn't do it better.

What I liked with this soap is that it maintained a nice blue color and didn't turn to green after saponification.
The light scent of cloves makes the soap lovely to use it for washing your hands regardless the nonuniform yellow color.

Tartine durum bread

With the crazy schedule that I had in the last time I simply forgot that I made this bread almost 1 month ago and I simply didn't have the time to publish it. So finally, here it is.

I have tried a lot of recipes lately but this one was outstanding. I made 2 loaves of this bread, one was eaten immediately and the second one I put it in the freezer. It is not such a big surprise to tell you that even the frozen one was eaten from a glance. And this, not because we were that hungry but because this bread is a jewelry. Its white crumb and dark crust are contrasting in a beautiful way adding to the impressive taste and texture also a pleasure to look at it first before taking any bite. Let's see the recipe...

Traditional Romanian pretzels

Pretzels... ah those Romanian pretzels. Every time I go back to Romania I cannot resist stopping in front of a little patisserie that sells pretzels. We call them "covrigi". They are just a simple dough with all kind of toppings. My favourite version is with poppy seeds and coarse salt. Probably because of me, my daughter started to love them as well. She loves them now so much that last time when we have been to Romania she told me: "Mommy I would like to take our house, my daddy and my little brother and move to Romania". I was astonished about this remark so I asked her why. Her answer was as simple as this one "Because in Romania we have pretzels".
With this comment from my daughter, I couldn't do more than putting pretzels on my TO DO cooking list. So now it is the perfect moment, as on the 1st of December is the Romanian national day. Happy National Day my dear Romanians!

10000... well this number has nothing to do with the reasons mentioned above, but with something that I love very much.
A bit more than 3 years ago, when I started to love to make sourdough bread, I was looking for a place where I can learn, share and be in contact with people having the same passion as me. As I couldn't find the perfect community of bread baking on the web, I decided to make one myself. It is called Bread lovers. Since then, in this journey of learning and sharing, I've met a person with who I simply "clicked" on the same passion. I didn't know him before but I have found out that we were living in neighbour counties. One day he made a trip to Belgium and we have finally met face to face. His name is Rick and he was happy to join me as a moderator in this community. He put a lot of effort in inviting members to this community, to back me up every time I was in holidays, maternity leave or just busy and, at a certain moment the community has grown its own identity. Now, the community has reached an incredible number of 10 000 people. I wouldn't have thought that so many people are interested in bread baking and this makes me very happy. One person more loving to make his/her own bread is one person less buying the low-quality bread. Thank you Rick from all my heart, this community wouldn't have reached so far without you. Thank you to all the active members who were sharing all their beautiful bread creations, thank you to all "listener" members who are here to learn and admire the bread posts.
We've learned together so much, thank you to you, all 10000. This community belongs to you!

After post remark: Please note that G+ platform was closed and the group does not exist anymore under this platform. The group was recreated on Facebook under the same name Bread Lovers.

Homemade fabric softener

When I was pregnant with my second child, one of the smells I couldn't stand was the one of the freshly washed clothes with a well known fabric softener. In fact I couldn't stand any artificial strong smell. That made me thought of changing some habits. To solve the problem back then, I simply gave up using a fabric softener. After that period has passed I restarted to use it but not for long.
I have in mind a totally natural fabric softener and I'll do it one day. Till then I tried another simple recipe. The thing that convinced me started with a laundry accident. Without noticing I washed a brown wool pull of my husband at 60ºC. Imagine that later he wanted to wear it and ... surprise... the sleeves were to short, the pool was also too short and too narrow. Thinking that I managed to ruin it completely I started to wear it myself. In the meantime I found out about a trick to stretch back a wool pull with hair conditioner. It was hardly to believe it but I didn't have anything to loose so I tried it. I put the pull in cold water with hair conditioner and let it there for 30 minutes. Then I rinsed it gently and stretched it slowly on a flat surface. Unbelievably it came back to its shape after 3 days slowlydrying at room  temperature. If you think a bit, it makes sense, as wool comes from an animal and normal laundry detergents are not made for washing hair.
What this story had to do with the homemade fabric softener? Well, that made me thought that ahair conditioner might work as a laundry softener so I tried it.

Tartine buckwheat flaxseed bread

After all the tests with the basic country bread. it was the time to experiment some variations with other types of flours. Buckwheat was the choice for this one. It is not an easy flour at all. It gives also a heavy taste and a change of color to the bread. But is healthy and I like its taste. Let's see...

Clove bath bombs

Let's continue the adventure with bath bombs. This recipe is more compact as it contains more liquid compared to my previous recipes.
With a lovely spicy aroma of cloves, do you think you can resist using them with your next bath?

PS: My daughter tried one and although she liked the color given in the water she disliked the oily trace. We also found that the fizz was really reduced and that's why my daughter lost the interest in them.. I have then used them myself and although the oil content was indeed too high when bathing, the good thing was that there was no need of using a moisturizing cream after the bath. So one downside but an advantage and a gain of time in the end ;)

Homemade tooth paste

It is well known that sodium bicarbonate makes wonders for your teeth. The coconut oil comes as an antimicrobial enhancement and the eucalyptus essential oil keeps the infections away from your mouth.
I have tried before to use just sodium bicarbonate but it is getting a bit messy everywhere. I loved the results but not the mess. So, here it is, a more concentrated homemade paste with a lovely taste that is perfect to wash your teeth with. It is also 100% natural. Try it....

Homemade laundry detergent

I had in mind for a long time to make my own laundry detergent so here it is, 100% natural.
It took me a while to arrive here but I finally did it.
First, I had to do the laundry coconut soap and let it end its saponification process. Then I had to struggle to find the washing soda and the sodium percarbonate, and believe me it was not an easy task in Belgium. Although they are such basic ingredients I could find them only in some organic shops stored somewhere in the back. Even the lady selling them had no clue what to do with them.
With these 3 ingredients gathered, I managed to make my homemade 100% natural laundry detergent.
I had this recipe already from my friend so all I needed was to test it.
I washed the clothes (those of my kids included that are usually full of stains) in the washing machine and when I looked at them, I did not notice any difference compared to my older expensive bought detergent. So, why should I continue to buy detergent from the supermarket that has a lot of harmful ingredients to us and to the environment when I can simply make my own, 100% natural?
Later, I've test it on all kind of clothes... white, colored, dark and even for delicate ones. Impeccable !
The only difference I found was the smell. Instead of the strong smell of the bought detergent I've got a fresh natural smell of cleaned clothes.

If you do not dare letting your old detergent or if you still have some bought, do like me, combine it with this homemade detergent until you finish it and after that use only your homemade one. Take a big jar or a bucket and go to a proportion of 1 to 4, mix the 2 well and use the same dosage.

Why these 3 ingredients?
The soap is an obvious ingredient, because it cleans.
The washing soda reduce the hardness of the water and helps your soap attack the dirt from your clothes. It successfully removes stains of grease, tea, coffee or fruits and vegetables.
The sodium percarbonate comes with its properties to detach stains and dirt, to disinfect, to remove odor and not at last, as a whitener.

Tell me then, what else do you ask from your laundry detergent?

Tartine whole-wheat bread

I have tried this recipe dozens of times lately hoping to reach to a good combination in the wood fired oven. The author of this recipe recommend baking this bread in a dutch oven but I wanted to use the wood fired oven.
First, I have tried to make the bread in one piece so I ended with a big loaf. While trying this, I ended up 2 times with an unwell cooked bread: burned on the outside and sticky in the middle of the crumb. I have tried putting a metallic cover on top of the bread to take advantage of the trapped steam but I didn't find any difference. Also, using the original recipe, with 700g of wheat flour instead of 800g as mine was leading me with a dough that was falling quickly on the peel and was very difficult to slide it down in the hot oven. Adding 100g more flour solved the issue but I remained still with an unstable cooked bread. So I gave up on doing a big bread and split the dough in 2. That solved the issue of the uncooked bread.
As it is a high percentage whole wheat bread you should not expect to have an incredibly tall bread with big wholes in the crumb.
The most important thing is that with these trials it didn't happen at all for me to throw away the bread. Everything was completely eaten.
Now that I have reached to this acceptable recipe from all points of view, I am read to present it here. Another nice trial would be to use the conventional oven and follow the author's recipe by the book. Until then, here it is my well tested recipe.

Laundry coconut soap

This is a very simple recipe that can be easily a normal hand soap or a laundry soap.

This recipe has no fancy oil and no essential oil. If your intention is to use it to wash your hands then the recipe can be enriched. However, for laundry, I needed just a simple recipe.
This soap gets hard very quickly, so needs to be cut in 2 hours after was poured in the mold. In one week is already cured and can be used.

Why laundry soap? Well, I had in mind for a while to make my own washing detergent and one of the basic ingredients for this detergent is a soap like this. So, first on the list was the laundry soap. As you can imagine, by now,  I have already made the washing detergent and use it, but this will come in another post.
I am not usually washing clothes by hand unless there are very delicate clothes. I did this when I was very young and the washing machine in our house was used mainly for bed sheets. Since then, the technology advanced and the difficult things like washing clothes was taken by machines. It is a wonderful invention that saves a lot of time and energy for anybody. But this doesn't mean that we have to use only the "recommended"detergents that are full of chemicals and could irritate your skin. The point is to use basic, natural ingredients and take advantage of the technology. Let's see ...

Yogurt and chocolate biscuits

I have found this recipe in a book that has almost the age of my mother. As usually, I couldn't resist to adapt it with the available ingredients. My daughter was delighted to cut all the biscuits and of course ... to eat a big part of them :)

Homemade dishwasher tablets

This version of dishwasher tablets is not 100% natural but for sure it reduces the amount of items you need to buy for cleaning. It reduces also the amount of packaging  (as generally each tablet is packed separately) made usually from plastic that you throw away.
Although I know another recipe that is totally natural, I am going for this one for the moment as I still have in my pantry some liquid dishwasher. But once is gone... I remove also the liquid dishwasher from my shopping list. Until then, let's cut just the bought dishwasher tablets from the list.

In a dishwashing machine you usually need 3 items: a dishwasher tablet/detergent, some rinsing liquid and a dishwasher salt. All these 3, you can find as separate products in a supermarket but what if I tell you that you need none of them to buy? For the dishwasher tablets, you find the recipe below. For the rinsing liquid, for sure you have already a miracle product in your kitchen called vinegar. The vinegar also replaces the dishwasher salt that was there just for the purpose of softening the water and to reduce the spots left by the hard water on your dishes. More, the citric acid found in this dishwasher tablets recipe is even more powerful in softening the water than vinegar. So now, tell me, for what reason should I buy 3 extra products full of chemicals?
I assure you that at the end of the washing cycle the dishes are sparkling and you can find no difference between this handmade dishwasher tablet and one bought from the supermarket. If you do not believe me, just try.
Make also a simple calculation, and you'll find out that this homemade dishwasher tablet helps you to keep your money in your wallet as it cost at least 3-4  times less than the one you can buy in the supermarket.

Goji nutty muffins

This is the perfect example of starting with a recipe and arriving to something different. It is not that I like to change things in recipes but most of the time I improvise with the ingredients I have at hand. These muffins were suppose to be with walnuts and dates but I didn't have enough walnuts and any dates. So let's change... replace walnuts with other dried fruits and the dates with goji. Then, the recipe was asking for milk cream but I didn't have at all, so I replaced it with mascarpone and milk. Sugar...was cut almost in half. And so on... this is how I customize my recipe unintentionally but in a practical way. It is a risk, as you can end up with a failure but you can also arrive to something more interesting. This is actually the case with this muffin recipe. I bet that all these changes made a better result than the original recipe.

Natural and healthy shampoo solid bar

First time when I heard about a homemade natural shampoo solid bar I was a bit sceptical although the idea of using something natural was tempting me a lot. I remembered my grandparents who were using only soap for washing their hair. During those times, there was no fancy shampoo so they were using the only soap that they could make themselves.
Nowadays, if you want to change your shampoo you'll probably spend a quarter of an hour in front of a supermarket shelf reading the titles on the labels from all the bottles. And that without turning the bottles to read the tricky list of ingredients. You'll find shampoo for greasy hair, dry hair, normal hair, dyed hair, curly hair, rebel hair, anti dandruff, shiny hair, for women, for men, for volume, for fine hair, for growing hair and so on. Which one should you buy? And what if you want a shampoo for women, for greasy hair, anti dandruff, for fine dyed hair in the same time? Should you buy more bottles and mix them or should you pick which characteristic is more important? And which one is more healthy for your hair? Difficult decision and you probably do what I used to do ... just pick one and try.
Over the years I tried so many brands, from the cheapest ones to the most expensive ones and lately I remained to one that my husband also has found acceptable as was not making dandruff. Most of the brands I tried, after few washes (if not from the start) they were leaving the scalp dried and soon it was creating dandruff. The problem with shampoo is that you have to change it from time to time otherwise becomes ineffective.
But when I started making my own soap I arrived immediately studying about shampoo solid bar recipes. There is no difference between making a soap and a solid shampoo if you are looking at the process. The only difference is the ingredients that are giving specific properties. Specific essential oils like tea tree, peppermint or rosemary increase a lot the health of your hair. Vitamin E as well, and the mixture of these amazing oils comes to complete a healthy recipe for both your hair and scalp.

The biggest advantage of a natural shampoo is that it does not clean your good oils of your scalp as most of commercial shampoos are doing. You need those oils to grow and maintain a healthy hair and avoid your scalp to dry. There will be then no dandruff to appear. That creates a perfect environment to grow a healthy hair.
When using a shampoo solid bar you absolutely need a conditioner because of the difference between the PH of your skin and the one given by the shampoo. You can buy a conditioner from the supermarket or you can easily make one from 1 cup of water mixed with 3 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. This conditioner will unclutter you hair and give a soft and easy touch. It is also very healthy for your hair.

People are getting a variety of opinions about solid shampoo. There are ones who love them but there are ones who simply don't go along. Before using it I was wondering if for me it will work or not. I tried before to use soap instead of shampoo and I ended up having a greasy hair right after washing or having a heavy hair. The secret is of course in which ingredients are used. But I created my own recipe that I must confess that I love. I was simply impressed with its result. My hair is not greasy after washing, it brings volume, it is making my hair to shine and it is not making my hair heavy and cluttered. Another good thing is, you do not have to change it from time to time as with the harsh washing commercial shampoos.

There is another thing that you should know about changing to a natural shampoo solid bar. Do not have an opinion just after one wash. Give it a chance for 3 weeks to 1 month so that the remains of your previous shampoo are gone. If you do not like it, stop and look for another natural recipe, maybe more adapted to your hair type. For me, this one is making miracles and I have no intention to change it.

Chocolate cracked macarons

As funny as it sounds, I made this recipe almost by mistake. I was looking for a biscuit recipe, I looked at the photo in the magazine and I said that's it. I prepared my ingredients, and let's go. When checking the sugar... 200g was way too much from what I would like in a biscuit recipe. So, when my eyes read the title... I was doing macarons. Don't get me wrong... I love macarons but in the same time I hate them as they have so much sugar and unfortunately for them you cannot reduce the amount of sugar as it is needed for a good structure. Well.. that's it... let's continue then with the recipe. I made them, they dried well and cracked in the oven exactly as the recipe was mentioning.
The big surprise... my daughter was in love with them and you can easily guess why :D.
I tasted them, they are crunchy and perfect near a cup of tea or coffee.

Autumn pumpkin soup with lard

I don't think I ate pumpkin soup before arriving to Belgium. It was simply not very common in my family and probably in Romania either. We were eating instead big slices of roasted pumpkins. Their taste and sweetness was enough to not feel the need of adding more sugar. At least these are my childhood memories. Nowadays I have difficulties finding tasty pumpkins in both countries. Even cooked in a fire wood oven they taste like cucumbers. Sorry but this is the bare truth. Sometimes, I am lucky and I find a tasty one and then there is fight on it in my family.
Tasty or not, it is a matter of preferences. However, they can be turned into other dishes like soup. Their benefits to a healthy lifestyle cannot be ignored. It is said that pumpkin improves your vision,  your heart and your sleep. They are rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. So, if the taste doesn't convince you, maybe their nutritional values.

Let's do a pumpkin soup that has been assorted with smoke lard and fresh cream. If you prefer the vegetarian option, ignore these 2 and enjoy it as it is.

Quick apple tart

It is autumn, so by default it is time for an apple tart. This is a variation of an old recipe of mine called Alsatian apple tart. It couldn't be less tasty and delicious than the previous one. What I like about this tart is that is extremely quick for a great result.
I made this cake for a visit we pay to some friends of mine. It was served with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Mmmm mniam mniam. Should I mention that it was gone in one shot?

Relaxing blue bath bombs

I continue the serie of natural cosmetics with another recipe for bath bombs. This time, with another special essential oil. The ylang ylang essential oil is well known for being antidepressant, relaxing, sedative and aphrodisiac. What else can work better for a evening bath after a tiring cold day of autumn?

Have a warm bath using these bath bombs and you'll relax and sleep like a baby.

Elsa doll cake

 I knew this moment would come one day. I have avoided Elsa when my daughter made 3 years, I have skipped making myself a cake at 4 years but when my daughter had its 5th anniversary there was no escape. She had her dress ready since last year. She had everything prepared to be the frozen princess for one day.  My task was, of course to make her cake... you can imagine what... Elsa doll cake.
My hold in doing this cake was just because this princess is so much in fashion nowadays between the little girls. It is everywhere and everybody knows her. But well, what a mother doesn't do for her daughter... so here it was, my daughter dressed in frozen princess and with a similar cake.
It took me some time to make researches about how to do the Elsa doll cake. It took me even more to really make it, but at the end of the day, when the party was over and the cake was gone eaten, my daughter came closer to me, she gave me a hug and a kiss and she told me with a sweet voice: "Thank you , mummy". What more satisfaction a mother can have?

Lemon Eucalyptus scented hand soap

I continue my journey in the "soap land" with a hand soap.
I cannot forget my grandmother, who was living in the countryside, how she was managing everything in her household. Everything was natural, everything was homemade, everything was recycled and there was almost no garbage left. Of course, the world evolved since then, new technologies appeared and they came with good things but also bad things. Sometimes, when advanced or over processed things hurt you, it is inevitable that you are thinking to go back to the basics and you're recalling how our ancestors were doing those things.
One of the things that my grandmother was doing regularly was soap. She was making big batches so she had enough for an year. There were big blocks of soap as I remember them, cubes of maybe 15-20cm wide. Small pieces were used for washing hands, while the big cubes were meant for washing clothes. How can I forget the big wood trough, cut from a tree trunk, that was serving for making a bath or for washing clothes outside during the summer. And that smell of basic homemade soap she was using is still with me today.
She was doing the soap from lard... only lard as oil. At that time there was no fancy oil available. In Romania there is a tradition that for Christmas a pig is sacrificed. Nothing was thrown away from the pig, not even the greasy lard. I also recall that poor families were passing the winter eating only lard on a slice of bread. Others, like my grandmother, were using it for making soap. Nowadays, I hear many people staying as far as possible from lard. If you want to go on the vegetarian side, I can understand that. However, our ancestors proved lard to be very effective in soap so, it would be difficult to convince me that it is not a good option.

For this particular soap, I have 2 main basic ingredients and some fancy ingredients to adjust and improve the properties of the soap. Lard and sunflower oil were the basic ones. The fancy ones are castor oil, almond oil, coconut oil, palm oil. Maybe in other areas these oils are not so fancy, but for me they are. Ah, and by the way, do not hit me for the palm oil ... I bought one made from sustainable agriculture.
Just for fun, I have added some food coloring. It is totally optional.
As for scent,  I picked a combination of essential oils that was (funny) effective as insect repellent. This gave to the soap a strong citrus smell and I simply love it!

Sour cherry popsicles

This is that kind of recipe that can be made from one single ingredient. I made it however from 2 because I found the sour cherries being too sour this year. So, I added a some sugar.

Pink lemon bath bombs

Some time ago I have received from a friend a pink fizzy salt for children's bath. My daughter was extremely delighted with it and she asked for more. The problem was that the salt has been brought from Germany and asking my friend to provide me more was a bit too complicated. But why not to do them myself, from healthy ingredients? Anyway, for my daughter anything that mattered was to be pink and to make a fisssss.
Making them was also an enjoyable activity with my daughter who was more than excited to contribute. After that, the difficult part was to be patient until it was the time for bath.

Grilled pepper and mascarpone soup

I would rarely do a soup out of grilled peppers and this is not because I do not like it but because the grilled pepper would not survive, being eaten first in a recipe like Roasted pepper salad.
When I was in Romania I brought some frozen homemade grilled peppers. As they were a lot, I picked a soup recipe with grilled peppers that I would not do myself from the start. It was then the perfect occasion to try it.

The taste of grilled peppers is persistent in the soup and this makes this soup a very special one. It is a rich tasty soup and the combination with mascarpone and basil makes it outstanding.

Charcoal red clay soap

I know, this is not for eating. This is a new challenge I've got as my best friend inspired me to try it. Knowing myself having too many passions I was somehow afraid to try a new one :) :) :) and after some years resisting and being only the user of my friend's soaps, she convinced me so I tried to do it myself. Thanks a lot G. for teaching me how to make soap and for introducing me to the world of natural homemade cosmetics. I never thought of finding so much fun in making your own soap and cosmetics...
I won't start now making a new blog with how to make soap as I am just a beginner in this area and, as I said before, I have other deep passions to follow. However, from time to time, I'll share here the photos of my trials and the recipe I used. For how to make soap or cosmetics, the internet is full of guides and I suggest that if you want to try, give a simple search or start reading sites like and look for videos instructing how to do it.

This is my very first soap I ever made. It has a nice combination of oils and 2 great ingredients: red clay and activated charcoal. I made it with the idea of creating a facial soap but it is for sure very good for hands and body washing.

Basic country bread (version 2)

There is a love and hate story with this bread. And maybe this is what makes it exceptional. I love the taste, I love how it grows, I love its texture, I love how it sings, I love how it opens its ears, I love its colour, I love everything about this bread except what I hate for it... and that is working with its dough. It is so so difficult to preshape and shape such a wet dough. It is more like a running dough that sticks to everything: the board, the cutter, the hands. When you face this, the only way is to add more flour at the preshape phase in order to get rid of the whole mess.
Remembering the experiences, I have added 50g of flour more straight from the start. This made wonders later in the preshaping phase.
Other changes I made for this version were totally unintentional. The schedule was a complete challenge to fit in the program of the baking day, so I handled the bread phases only between other things.
The unexpected impressive result made me wonder what have I changed so much to make it so better.
Basically, we have the same recipe as for Basic country bread with few differences. Practically, even if the taste is as great as before, the aspect is much improved. Here it is:

Sourdough brioche

After a lot of days during this summer being away from my oven, I was so happy to come back to my sourdough baked breads. During this time, I have tasted a lot of breads bought from supermarkets, restaurants, local shops, from the most cheapest ones to the most fancy ones made with sourdough... or at least labeled like that. I couldn't find even one bread to say it was OK. What a disappointment... and you realize this only when you know what a good bread means.
This is a brioche recipe. Brioche might look sweet or maybe you think it is a kind of cake, but it isn't. It is very common that this kind of bread contains milk and/or butter. It might also contain sugar... well not in my case.
I have to be honest and recognise that this is not my type of bread, but I made it with a purpose: sandwich bread.  My daughter started the school and I wanted to make some sandwiches for her. It is true that for sandwiches what was annoying me when putting the bread in the sandwich maker was the shape. To get the shape you don't necessarily have to bake a brioche, it can be any kind of bread. However, I wanted to retry a brioche recipe (maybe to reconfirm to myself) and ... the bread was fine but.. simply not for my taste. The milk in bread makes it sweet and change totally the flavour of the classic bread. It is not bad, but it is just not the type of bread I prefer.

Sour cherry chocolate cake

I am so proud to make this cake for a very special occasion. My son just celebrated 4 months of life or 123 days. My daughter was the one selecting a chocolate cake for his celebration and she was so happy to blow the candle for him.
With such emotional moments, my small chocolate cake was a perfect choice. Also my husband was delighted to see his favourite fruits inside this cake.

When on top of the ingredients list you add passion and love, the experience of making an anniversary cake turns out to be a magical one.
Of course you can make this cake with fresh sour cherries but when their season is off you can chose to use defrosted. Or maybe you can extract them from compote.

As this cake is heavy enough because of the butter cream, I have kept the sugar at the minimum. Anyway, the chocolate contained enough sugar to make the cake sweet.

Enjoy !

Stureby Deluxe white bread

I made this bread hoping that it would look like in the photos of the original recipe. The bread turned out to have an exceptional taste but for the outside look, my expectations were too high. For the sake of the taste, I made this bread for the second time. This time, I made it following strictly the original instructions and baked it in a wood oven hoping for an improved result. There was however something that I have changed and this is the way the 2nd fermentation was done. I did it at room temperature, while the original recipe asks for a retard in the fridge for 10-14 hours. In this way, the bread had a less sour taste. Both times I didn't reach that good looking bread but if you close your eyes and just eat it... you can call it a perfect bread.

Apricots and almond milk ice cream

I continue my adventure with ice cream recipes. Now it is the season of apricots and I like very much their taste but my stomach likes them less. So, the only way to satisfy both my body and my taste is to cook them. Making ice cream from apricots sounded then a brilliant idea.

Olive bread (version 2)

In life we are always looking for new things that we believe they could make us happy and we forget that often, the happiness might already be found between the things we already have. A similar thing happens to me: I am very tempted to try every time a new recipe and not always I end up with a satisfactory result. So, why then try new recipes when the key of success might have been already tried. This is how I decided to revisit one of my old successful recipe and make just few changes to it. First of the change was of course the oven. The previous bread was baked in a conventional oven while this time I baked it in a wood oven. The quantity of olives was also substantially reduced. Then, as I needed a bigger quantity I have multiplied some of the ingredients by 1.5. One may say that in this way I ended up with a totally different recipe but what it is more important is the result. This bread is INCREDIBLE ! It is my favorite between maybe all the breads I made and ate in the last year. So, why to look for a successful bread between new recipes when I have already reached perfection with one of my old breads?

When doing this bread I forgot one thing and that was to flour well the bannetons. When turning them, the dough was stick to their bottom and I reached to that moment when you say "Ohhhh, nooo... forget about a good looking bread today :(((( ". Well, somehow I reached to have the dough of the loves in one piece and give it a slight new shape. The surprise came from the oven, where the bread raised unexpectedly well. Adding to this the INCREDIBLE taste and a gorgeous crumb... here is the recipe for a successful bread.

Vanilla ice cream

A very classic recipe of vanilla ice cream that is homemade. Classic, but it can beat any vanilla ice cream found on the market.
I was used to make ice cream by freezing smoothies. It is more simple this way but it lacks the creamy aspect. I thought making creamy ice cream is something complicated. Well with this recipe I discovered that it is not. The vanilla ice cream is in fact a classic vanilla custard that is frozen. What you get is an amazing ice cream to have in your freezer when you want a little treat for yourself.

Seed bread

A bread full of seeds, all kind of seeds. The most exotic type of seed used here is the mustard seed. I have never used this seed before in a bread and I was surprised to see it between the ingredients. It adds a bit of a spicy flavour and taste. Of course, the quantities of each type of seed is a matter of choice. You can easily chose to change how much of each seed type or even to avoid some. Also, the variety of seeds is not limited to my list. You can be as creative as you like. I have put 250g of seeds in total in this bread. You can put more or less.
My target with this bread was to taste the mixed taste of seeds inside of the bread and this is clearly achieved.

Sour cherry and orange cheesecake

I have started with a recipe of a lemon cheesecake. By improvising, I have arrived to this amazing cake. I have replaced the lemon zest with orange zest collected from some organic oranges. As it is the sour cherry season, I was thinking to make a red topping to give a bit of strong color to the cake.
The sourness of the sour cherry layer contrasts perfectly with the heaviness of the cheese layer.
Decorated with some extra cherry makes this cheesecake a good candidate for a festive cake, for example, for a birthday cake. It gets such a refined taste while it is not too sweet.
I think I can call this cheese cake one of my best ever done. When it was put on the table, it disappeared almost instantly.
My daughter usually picks what she likes best when she is in front of a slice of cake. Incredibly, she eated all layers: she loves biscuits, so the base was her favorite, she loves cheese and oranges too, so the cheesecake layer was good as well and she loves red, so the jelly topping was not put aside.

Buckwheat bread

I had an opened bag of buckwheat flour that was standing in my way anytime I was looking for something in my cupboard. One day I have found a good place for it, back in another cupboard, somewhere in the back. But the next day I saw this recipe and I realized that the best place for that flour was to not in the cupboard but in a bread.

I needed some bread for the same day so, sourdough was not really the option. The original recipe was asking for dry yeast but I used fresh. Anyway, the recipe was meant to be made with a bread machine, so I had to adapt it to my own way. Even from the list of ingredients, I removed the sugar and the lemon juice.
However, there was an element that tricked me when doing this recipe and that was the weather. During the day, the outside temperature has raised a lot and caught me with an unprepared oven when the dough was ready to be baked. The result was that the bread was over proofed. Well, not that much to miss a beautiful bread, but enough for the bread to be flattened.

The crumb of this bread has a gray color and this is due to the buckwheat flour. Its percentage in the total flour is not that much but is enough to change the taste of the bread and to make it delicious.

Potato and spring onion gratin

Most of the people think nowadays that the use of a fire woven is mainly for pizza and maybe bread. In fact, in a fire oven you can bake everything that you bake in a classic oven. The only trick is to master the temperature inside.
For baking a gratin, handling a fire oven is a piece of cake. I had my oven heated at 300ºC. It may look a bit too much and at this temperature, the gratin can become very quickly brown on top. To avoid this, use an aluminium foil ... it will work like a miracle. If you want in the end to give a light brown color to the crust, just remove it and let it bake for few minutes more.

Baking this in a fire oven adds a smoky flavour to the dish and improve the original flavours of the vegetables. Of course, this dish can be cooked in a normal oven also but in my opinion, the taste you get in the fire oven is greatly improved. I probably didn't mention that the spring onions were harvested fresh from my own greenhouse ...

Angel cake muffins

No wonder that this cake is called an angel cake. It is so soft, so pure, so white ... so divine.
I made it only because I remained with 6 egg whites from another recipe and it proved to be a real success for my daughter. She simply loved it !

White flour warm spot levain

This is one of the most difficult bread I have ever made. It is not the process itself that gives you troubles but its schedule. I wanted to make this bread for a very long time but I never found the time to fit it in my daily life.

You make this bread in 3 days. In the first 2 days you grow up a preferment and, at the end of the second day, you prepare the final dough. The loaves are baked on the third day after they have spent the second fermentation in the refrigerator overnight.

More, you need to make this bread during a hot summer. In my case, there were more than 30ºC foreseen in the first 2 days, so it was the perfect time for me to try this bread. If you do not have a high temperature outside during these 3 days when you are in the mood of making this recipe then use a hot spot from your house.

Simple lemon tart

This is probably the simplest recipe of lemon tart I have ever seen. It is quick, does not require any fancy ingredient and the lemon provides a strong flavored taste to the tart.
Usually, the lemon tarts can be decorated with meringue or whipped cream. However, for this time, I chose not to decorate it, to remember its simplicity.

This tart was dedicated for the end of the school year party of my daughter and I can assure you it has disappeared almost instantly from the table. And yes, her second kindergarten year is almost gone, and as a parent, I can only wonder where all this time has gone while she has grown so big. Can we stop the time and enjoy our kids for longer? I think we cannot, so that's why, every moment spent together is so precious as it will never come back.

You can also try other recipes of lemon tarts that I made: Lemon tart and Lemon tart with meringue.

Spicy carrot soup

During the summer, it is a light soup that I like to eat. Vegetable soups are perfect for the hot days, so why not to try a delicious spiced carrot soup.
There is no wonder that so far I tried different recipes for the carrot soups like  Carrot soup or Spicy carrot-zucchini soup with lovage. Which one I like the most ? Well ... all of them are great and it is difficult to chose.

Coconut and chocolate muffins

Quick, tasty, flavoured and delicious muffins.
I did not top them with any creamy or glossy composition as they were meant to be snack for my daughter at school. This is actually the main reason why I usually do not make a creamy top for my muffins.

Although they were for my daughter, I must declare myself guilty of eating half of them myself. I couldn't resist them... so delicious... so soft and so much coconut flavour.

Dark whole wheat spelt sourdough bread with sunflower seeds

This is my third bread baked in the wood oven. If the first 2 were a bit burned, this one I managed to do it better.
As I mentioned before, the tricky part in baking the bread in the wood oven is to get the right temperature for both the air inside the oven and the floor.
Even before buying the wood oven I have made some researches regarding what it should be done when the oven is hot. I have seen people removing the charcoal from the oven, cleaning the floor with a wet cotton towel and then putting the bread inside. This looks quite complicated, considering that you have to handle burning charcoal and then clean inside the oven where the oven is so hot.
I also discovered that there is not necessary to remove the charcoal from the oven and is enough to move it to the side. This is also keeping the oven hot for longer time and avoids any mishandling of burning charcoal.
The second part was about cleaning the floor. I thought (as nobody was mentioning otherwise) that the cleaning of the floor before putting the loaves inside was to avoid that the bread collects ashes on the bottom. This is indeed correct, but there is another reason why: to reduce the temperature of the oven floor and to add a bit of steam in the oven. There are people who dislike having ashes on the bottom of the bread loaves but no matter if you like it or not, ash on the bottom of your bread is not dangerous for health unless it comes from burned chemically treated wood (wood that I do not advise anyway to use for cooking). This reason has in fact more sense and this is what I have tried with this bread. First I moved the burning charcoal to the left side of the oven (as I did with the first 2 breads as well), then, with a tool (made from 2 sticks nailed in a T shape) I have removed any rough traces of charcoal and ashes. In the end, I have put on top of this tool used a wet cloth and clean the oven floor. I have measured the temperature of the oven floor with a infrared thermometer both before and after this operation and actually it has reduced the temperature from 350ºC to 270ºC. This was what made the difference in avoiding burning the bottom of the bread.
The next step was to put the bread inside using a long peel and close the oven almost completely (both the oven door and chimney door) to conserve the heat inside. When you close the oven the temperature goes instantly higher (remember that the charcoal is still inside the oven). Closing the oven completely removes the oxygen inside and the charcoal will stop burning and starts smoking. What I did, was to let the holes in the oven door just a bit open so the burning still continues even during the bread baking. When I am talking about burning charcoal I am referring to the hot wood that has yellow-red color not to the wood on flames. As for making a barbeque, it is expected to wait until the flames are gone before cooking your food. A flaming wood releases a very high temperature and what you need in the oven is a moderate and constant one.

I reached in the end not have a burned crust for the bread. Although the bread was ready in only 30 minutes, in my opinion it could have been taken out 5-10 minutes earlier, or the temperature reduced more before putting the loaves inside the oven. The result was a well risen bread (and that even if it was more a whole wheat bread) and a well cooked crust and crumb. What I didn't achieve with this bread was a shiny crust and deep bread ears... but this, maybe with the next bread.
There is another thing that I would like to mention about a wood fire oven: it is economic and efficient. With only 2 logs I cook 3 pizzas, 3 breads and I can even continue to cook something at around 200ºC for about an hour after. So far, every time I baked bread I also cooked the 3 pizzas. Baking bread works perfectly in combination with bread baking as the pizza needs a high temperature for only 2-5 minutes to be cooked. Making pizza in a wood oven is very simple (not like in the case of bread :) ) and you gain a beautiful crust with a smokey and incredible taste. I'll post in the future some pizza recipes explaining also how to bake it in a wood oven.

Whole spelt sourdough bread with pumpkin seeds

It was a long way to arrive here but here I am, back again. Although I was not posting too much, baking bread was one of the few things I kept doing every week. The reason behind my absence was another kind of bake... a little bun in my own oven that now has the name of Theodor. I passed through tough months, especially in the beginning when the smell of everything (bread included) was making me sick immediately. I stopped cooking but I did not stop baking bread. This is definitely my call ...

Not long after I managed to be back on my feet again, I fulfilled one of my oldest wish, to go with the baking to another level and buy an wood fired oven. This is a brand new experience for me and I learn new things with every bake. I'll share all the tricks here and in my future posts.

The bread of this post is my second try of baking a bread in the wood fired oven. For the first one, I used the same recipe but the result was a burned bread. Both on top and bottom. I had to cut a layer from the crust in order to reach an eatable crumb. And with this it came my first lesson... the time it takes to bake a bread in an electric oven is much higher than the one in an wood fired oven. If in an electric oven it takes me 45-60 minutes (depending on the size of the bread) for the wood fire oven it takes maximum 30 minutes with the same temperature of the air inside the oven. The temperature in the wood oven is well distributed. The exception is of course the floor of the oven on which the burning charcoal was sitting. To continue the comparison, it is easier to bake a bread in an electric oven than in a wood fire one. The modern electric ovens can be scheduled, can have the temperature adjusted without too much human intervention. With a wood oven, everything is manual. However, I was not expecting to be easier to cook my bread in a traditional way. Instead, I was targeting something else... the taste. And to achieve this, any effort is well worthed.
To control the heat in a wood fire oven there are some tricks that can be used. First of course is how much and what quality of wood is used to make the fire. After the wood is burned, closing the oven completely (door and chimney) makes the temperature to go high.

In my kitchen electric oven I was using volcanic stones to create stem. The steam helps the bread to raise high in the first 15 minutes of bake. In the wood oven it is difficult to use a steaming system and then, you risk to break the walls or floor of the oven. There is however another option to achieve the same results and this is to use a higher hydrated dough.

With my first bread my mistake was to bake it for 45 minutes. With my second bread (the one in the photo) I learned another lesson, that the temperature of the air in the oven is different from the one of the floor. So, this time, only the bottom of the bread was burned while the top of the bread remained white. This happened because I forgot to close the chimney of the oven and created a big difference between the air in the oven and its bottom. For this bread, only a small layer from its bottom had to be scraped. It took only 30 minutes to be cooked and the temperature of the oven floor was clearly too high.
By the time I am writing the text of this post I have already baked the 3rd bread in the oven and with this I learned to better control these temperatures... but this, in a future post.

For now, let's see the recipe of this bread.

Kiwi-pineapple-strawberry raw vegan cake

This was my birthday cake for this year. I went for an easy one, with fresh fruits (except strawberries) and not so sweet. Although I would go for this type of cake anytime, I have to mention that the combination between coconut oil and pineapple had a strange taste in my opinion. Other people didn't find it strange but for sure, next time I won't use pineapple for this type of cake. Mango might be a better choice ;).