Cheese crackers

After the success of my Feta waffle crackers I looked for another version on which to improve two things: use more feta cheese and reduce the time for the preparation.
Using a waffle maker is time consuming and I thought changing the way of shaping them will drastically reduce the time. This time I choose to stretch the dough and cut it with a pasta waved cutter while cooking them all in the oven. Easy right? Well, moving each piece, brushing with egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds took a bit of time. In the end, when you compare the 2 options, yes, it takes you just a little less time than baking them with a waffle maker.
The second point was the addition of the feta cheese. This was indeed a very good idea. These crackers are more salty, they have more texture and the quantity of the feta cheese is just the right one.
You can serve these crackers as they are or you can dip them in a bit of creamy sauce. I prefer them just as they are.

Simple red velvet cake

When your daughter asks you to make a cake for her nameday you drop any other plans and you do it. Time to make it was limited, so I didn't adventure myself in making a fancy version but rather a simple one. She desired a doll cake, so I opted for a dome shaped cake, inside which I could easily slide a small doll.
I cooked the sponge (red velvet) cake the evening before. Somehow, due to its semi-spherical shape, the pan has fallen on a side in the oven during the baking, without me noticing it and I ended up with a weird shaped cake. My daughter was away for some activities for the evening and she had only seen the baked cake on her return.  She was completely disappointed to see a small dome cake with an unusual shape, not looking at all like a princess skirt. I, also went to sleep that night disappointed that I did not bake something at my daughter expectations for such an important occasion for her.
The next day I faced 2 options: bake another cake for the following day, or trust my experience that I could turn the ugly cake into a beautiful doll dress cake. I asked then my daughter about her preference. She went for the option to have the cake ready, as soon as possible. Due to lack of time, to my relief, this was also what I was hoping for her to chose. I had then the important task to make miracles with this cake.
First step was to cut the uneven side of the cake that my 2 kids devoured in almost one bite. In this way, I returned the dome cake back to its intended shape.
Next problem was to raise the cake with the filling, as the dome remained quite small. I cut the cake in 5 slices and filled the space between the slices with generous layers of whipped cream. Yes, just whipping cream, as there was no time for another type of cream. Whipping cream also on the outside but in a very fine layer as I was planning to cover the hole cake in sugar paste. From experience I know that sugar paste and whipping cream do not go along very well in keeping the shape for more than few hours.
Talking about the sugar paste, this was another challenge. I had 250g of white sugar paste in the pantry in a sealed package but when I grabbed it I discovered that it was almost dried and not enough to cover my cake. I even managed to break my rolling pin trying to stretch it. The only solution for this situation was to go to the shop and buy a good one.
The new fresh sugar paste, I stretched it very well and managed to cover the full cake. With the remaining part, I did a top for the doll dress and a lace for the bottom of the dress.
I didn't have the chance to photograph the doll cake before putting the knife in it but the remaining slices ended up in front of my camera.
It was quite an adventure with this cake that finally was successful. It was for sure one of the quickest festive cake I've made and the experience gained with it was definitely worth.
Needless to say that the final cake was exceeding my daughter expectation and the joy that I've seen in her eyes when I brought the cake on the table, filled me with a big satisfaction.

Feta waffle crackers

Having a homemade snack in the house for kids is always a good idea. And, if they are not sweet is even a better idea.
I remember my mother doing these quite a lot when I was a small child. There were no electric machines back then, so she was using a manual iron press. It was a messy process but these snacks were quickly disappearing.

I wanted that taste again so I started searching for a good recipe. Making the dough is quick and easy with a standing mixer. Baking them though, it takes time even with a dedicated waffle cracker maker. It took me around 2 hours to bake them. But if you have time or small things to do aside this is quite convenient.
In the beginning it was a challenge to put some on the cooling rack. They were eaten by my kids before I was able to make a new batch.
As taste, hmmm they are great. The addition of the feta cheese makes them salty, although, if I do this recipe again I put more cheese for a even more pronounced flavor. They are great, however this is not my mother recipe taste or texture that I remember, so I'll have to ask for it. Let' crack now ...

Black forest cake

Happy New Year, 2020!

We start a new year, a new page in our life that I wish it would be better than any year before for everyone.
A new fresh year can only start with a remarkable cake. The Black Forest remembers me of the mountains from where the beautiful Danube springs. Danube remembers me of childhood, the big river that I used to cross over with a boat every summer to go to the seaside.
This is by far the tallest cake I ever made. Seven layers of sponge cake, cream and sour cherries. Chocolate decorations, topping with drops... it is also the most complex cake I made so far. Also very time consuming, I made it in stages in 3 days. But I do not regret any minute I spent for it. I learnt a lot. I did mistakes, sometimes I had to restart but finally I succeeded. The result was very satisfying but the road to it was much more accomplishing.
To start, the sponge cake was a success from the start. I wanted a small cake but tall. I had a 15cm pan and I filled it full. It raised higher in the oven and I managed to cut 7 layers from it. The recipe and instructions I used for it (see bellow) were very good with no surprise. While baking it I was nervous if it was not too small or not too high enough. Later, after putting the filling I was afraid to not be too high.
The first filling step was simple. Just whipping cream. No extra sugar. With sour cherries inside.
I made the sponge cake the evening before and the layered cake the next one. After constructing the cake, I left it in the fridge for the night. Whipping cream is very tricky as its structure is not that stable. For a tall cake, to insure that the next day I won't see a Pisa tower in my fridge I put a stainless steel straw just in the middle of the cake, that I removed before the final topping decoration.
The most challenging part was to make the decoration. I had in mind a splash. I tried as others with a balloon and it popped from the warm chocolate. The chocolate was all over the place, including my pull and trousers. Balloon was not an option then. I looked for a normal ball in my children toys. The size of a stress ball or a bit bigger. But how I was to remove the chocolate after? I used some film that I stretched very well over the ball. First try was a failure, too much chocolate and the drips were not visible. Second time, with less chocolate, ended up perfectly. Easy to remove from the ball and from the film after hardening.  With trees, was just a play... I had some left over chocolate from the splash and I wanted to draw something with it. Just perfect from the first try.
The next day, was the decoration day. First, I was not sure how the cream will hold to cover the cake on the side. I used the trick to put some mascarpone in it and worked great. It was just a bit difficult to pipe it out but it was a piece of cake to smooth it.
Second, and the most scaring part was the dripping. I was wondering about a lot of things: would the consistency of the topping be good to do the drops? would the cream melt while pouring the chocolate? Well, everything turned out to be just perfect. When the dripping stage was over, I felt confident to have a nice cake.
Now, once the photo was done, I cannot wait to cut it when the New Year has arrived.

Chocolate almond pear tart

I used to eat a lot of pears in my childhood. I remember those yellow juicy pears leaking on your hands when eaten. But somehow, when I think about tarts, apples comes first than pears into my mind. This time instead, pears are the main ingredient for this tart.
Remember to use pears that are not that soft otherwise it will be difficult to slice them nicely.
As a filling there is a secret ingredient and this one is the ground almond (or almond powder). I din't have almond powder so I had to grind it myself.
For decoration I played a bit with chocolate. I picked some strawberry leaves from my garden and painted them with chocolate on the textured side. After resting them in the fridge, I removed the strawberry leaves and wooow.... I had wonderful chocolate leaves. It was a bit tricky to remove the leaves as the chocolate was quickly melting on my hands and I had some broken but most of them were perfect to decorate my tart. Here it is....