Chocolate tartelettes

Now that we are staying home and cooking more, I asked my daughter what kind of cake she would like. She was very quick to answer, a chocolate cake. Ooook, then a chocolate cake should be.
I quickly grabbed an old good book and showed her some pictures. She picked of course the best looking one.
There were on that page 2 chocolate cakes, one more firm and one with a melted core. She wanted the firm one. I started to mix ingredients and when almost done I realized that I actually looked on the wrong recipe. Ups... nooo... I made the wrong one. But, when I looked what were the differences between the 2 cake recipes I was pleasantly surprised to see that the only difference between them were only 25g of flour. And of course a shorter baking time. It was easy then to fix my mistake.

As I baked in small ceramic pans of course the baking time needed to be reduced.
After that, my biggest challenge was to keep 3 of them just as long as I needed to photograph them.
After that moment... forget about them... they were eaten very quickly :)

Lemon hazelnuts poppy seeds muffins

I want muffins but another type that are not like all the classical ones. I found this recipe that at a first glance looked weird. I took my curage and make it. I was not expecting something wow but I was well surprised in the end.
They didn't raise as much as I wished but the taste and texture was outstanding. A nutty taste due to hazelnuts combined with a grainy texture due to poppy seeds and a moist one due to the raisins inside. A bitter light flavor was due to the boiled lemon. If you do not like the bitter sensation you may remove the peel of the lemon but I didn't. My kids were not big fans but I enjoyed them. The bitter taste is very very light that even for a person like me who doesn't like coffee is enjoyable. In fact I can say that this strange flavor for a muffin fits well with the rest of ingredients and that's what it makes it special.

Chocolate cheesecake

The cake I've got had not at all the look that I have planned for. I imagined a marbled cheesecake with a nice pattern on top and inside.
I separated the batter in 2 and colored one part with cocoa powder. This made my dark batter thicker than the other one and when putting alternative spoons of batter, almost everything mixed and I've got a fully chocolate cheesecake. The way it looks has nothing to do with its taste. The taste was exactly the one I was looking for.

Moon apple pie

I had in mind to bake a cheese cake or a creme caramel but my daughter was very clear that she wanted an apple pie. As I love to involve my kids in cooking, I had to accept the "imposed" preference. We looked together through some recipes and at a certain moment she showed me a thumb up. OK, this one should be then.
This recipe is very known in Romania, it is a classic Romanian apple pie recipe. Ask any mother or grand mother in Romania and they will give you a similar recipe. Most of the time, this pie is baked on a classic oven tray, cut in squares and powdered with a lot of icing sugar.
I love the cake but hate the squared flat shapes. I then went for a customized version, as I almost always do :)


It is not the first time I do madeleines and each time I did them before they were turning differently. I started then a kind of a serious research for the secrets of perfect madeleines.
The perfect madeleine has 2 important sides: on side is the bottom that is usually baked in a shell looking cavity. The important thing for this side is to not be too burnt and also not to under cooked. It should be just a light brown as color and the beautiful shapes of the shell should be revealed.
The other side of the shell should be bumpy. That bump is a specific for madeleines. For normal cakes you would like a nicely leveled top, but for madeleines, on the contrary, you look for an extreme bump.

First secret to obtain that bump is to place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Don't be surprised that you can even keep it in the fridge up to 3 days. What you need in fact is an aged cold dough. The trick is the following: when put in the oven, the little cake will start to cook from the exterior. It will get cooked slowly from outside to the core. But when the core starts to cook, the outside part is almost ready. The core however needs space to expand and will find a weak link in the already formed structure to get out. That weak link can be only on top and that's why is forming the special madeleine bump.
In fact, finding these secrets for cooking madeleines helped me to explain myself a bread issue I experienced.
With some breads that I cooked in the wood fired oven I've noticed sometimes a very weird shape, a kind of tail. This tail was getting out of the bread in an unpredictable position destroying my expected bread shape. The explanation is exactly the same. When the oven is too hot, the bread cooks faster outside, while the core gets baked slowly. When the core reaches the baking temperature, it wants to expand and it will find a place where the outside structure is weak, so there it will just push the uncooked dough outside that creates a look of a tail or a big worm getting out of the bread. It is the same principle. This issue never happened to me when cooking in a conventional oven as they are all limited to a high temperature. But the wood fired oven doesn't have this limitation and unless you properly measure the temperature  (like me when I am lazy) you can be easily fooled.

Second secret of madeleine is to use proper quantities. Have in mind another trick, that is related with proportions: Egg: Sugar:Flour:Butter needs to have a 1:1:1:1 ratio.
This is a good rule to have in mind and you can break it just in small changes. In my case, I didn't use 3 entire eggs as I had 4 yolks left from a meringue recipe to each I added only 1 whole egg to reach the 180g egg quantity. Second rule that I broke was sugar. For this cake the sugar is not there mainly for the structure, it is there to give a sweet taste. That allowed me to lower the quantity so I can follow my own rule of preference "no more than 100g of sugar in my cakes". However, keep in mind that this principle cannot be applied for sweets like meringue, macaroons etc. where the sugar is actually providing the structure and you need to respect the quantities by the book. Sugar also helps in browning the cakes much faster in the oven and this can be sometimes an advantage and sometimes not. For this particular recipe, halving the sugar won't make too much difference.

Cooking science is interesting for the baker, but for the eater, the most important is the taste and the good looking. These madeleines are soft and moist, they almost melt into you mouth.
Now, let's enjoy them...

Chocolate bundt cake

There has been some time since I baked the last chocolate cake, so the desire to do one came naturally.
Lately, my children are fighting to help me do the cakes. One is mixing the dried ingredients, one is mixing the wet ingredients and they both participate in cleaning the trace of batter from the bowls or whisk. Even that this requires a bit more time and attention from my side to avoid an eventual mess, I cannot be more proud to share this with them. It is that magical moment when a "which" is preparing a "potion" that will be totally transformed by the magical oven.
Coming back from the fairy tale land, this cake is a very easy to do one. It has a strong taste of chocolate that fits perfectly with all added flavors. The original recipe was suggesting to prepare a chocolate glaze and I was ready to do it. However, when cooled,  I took a bite and for me it was enough chocolate inside to add even more on top. I opted then to leave it naked and accompany it with small pieces of chocolate of the same form.

Bon app├ętit !

Hasselback potatoes with cheese and bacon

These potatoes are absolutely incredible!

I had in my fridge a big package of cheese for raclette and I wanted to use it for something different than the classical cheese melted in small pans and poured over boiled potatoes. I was looking for something roasted rather than boiled.
I saw a similar recipe once and I liked very much the design of these potatoes. The are many versions that can be done, starting from potatoes brushed with flavored olive oil until all sorts of variations of fillings inside the potatoes.
But I wanted to use my cheese and also add a bit of ham/bacon and this was for me the perfect time for me.
Cutting the potatoes and hiding the cheese and bacon inside takes a bit of time but makes the whole taste. The flavored olive oil on top is like the cherry on the cake, it helps to avoid burning and completes the extraordinary flavor.
My both kids simply loved them. For them, on one side, it was the taste, but on the other side, it was also the "game"of discovering each and every slice.
After this one, I am totally motivated to try other versions as well. In fact, my daughter already put on her wishing list of recipes cooked by mommy, the same potatoes but only with cheese. I'll let you know what are the results.
But for now, let's see in detail how to do it.