Number 3/5

Firstly, apologies for our slacking of posting new exciting recipes. It has been quite hectic around here lately. With spring finally having arrived, spending time outside seems to have won priority over slaving away in the kitchen. But here is a recipe which is definitely a keeper. After having played around with multiple banana loaf recipes resulting in quite a few failures (somehow loaf cakes and myself are not friends, they either don’t rise, don’t have enough banana flavour, or I undercook them with the fear of having dry cake, subsequently breaking them upon removal from the tin), I finally managed to create a loaf which not only rose adequately but was also moist, perfectly bananaey and scrumptious :-). This one was also baked for the previously mentioned birthday festivities. It can be made up to a day in advance and turns out best if one uses overripe bananas for the ultimate banana flavour.

Banana Pecan Loaf

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Number 2/5

Following the previous post, I present you with cake number 2 of 5 baked for the birthday festivities. A true must for both chocolate and amaretti lovers. Amaretti are possibly my favourite biscuits, they should be yours too. And don’t get me started on Amaretto, the tastiest liquor ever created. Those sours are dangerous. Remind me again why I decided to give up alcohol for Lent? At least there are only 22 days left and Fortnum’s Easter sponge pudding (honey, amaretto & almond sponge pudding with a soft chocolate centre….nom) waiting at the end of it. Not to forget the amaretto butter topping, Easter dessert wouldn’t be half as good without it.

Enough about Amaretto. This cake, like the Linzer, is best after having rested in a cool place (e.g. cellar) for a day or two. Perfect if you have a lot of baking or cooking planned!

Chocolate Amaretti Loaf Cake

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adapted from Wildeisen

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Martha’s Linzer Torte

Birthdays are funny things. The hype around celebrating them seems to come in two phases. The first one starts with birth and lasts probably until 25. At 25, after having (hopefully) graduated and joined the real working world, every reminder of age is given the evil eye and subconsciously creates internal stress: career-wise, relationships, friendships, financially, where to go in life, aaaahhhh….! Recently I saw a 15 page CV….. how am I ever going to fill so many pages in the next few years? Too much to do and so little time. Also, if you’re female, mid twenties-thirties and single, I’m sure you can relate to this dialogue from When Harry Met Sally:

Sally: AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men.

The second phase of celebratory hypes starts round about retirement age, 60 years, and lasts for the rest of your life (YAY some celebrations at the end of the 40 year working tunnel). Last week we celebrated a very special birthday within the family. Planning for the 3 day weekend (apparently the older one gets, the longer one wants to celebrate, one day isn’t enough) had begun months before. The closer we came, the only thing on the birthday boy’s mind was the party. The excitement was comparable to that of a 4 year old eating chocolate cake for the first time. Being 23, I didn’t quite understand how one could be sooooo excited about getting older, but I guess the older one gets the more appreciative one becomes of age and life (oooooo words of wisdom…. :-P). Let me get back to you about that when I turn 60.

With a guest list close to 50 and a Sunday morning plan of coffee, tea and cakes, no more needed to be said. I successfully took on my first cake marathon and baked 5. Luckily some cakes, like the one below, are best baked 2 days in advance. This made life a little easier, however with the additional skiing, small-talking and remaining birthday madness, sleep deprivation was to be expected.

Finally, about this first cake: my mother grew up with a nanny/maid called “Martha”. She joined the family when my mother was born and stayed for 50 years. Martha was like a grandmother to me. She could also bake like a goddess; her cakes were divine. The Linzer Torte (swiss style, not Austrian and overly spiced) is one of her recipes. Deciphering her jumbled handwriting and trying to follow her thoughts wasn’t the easiest, but definitely worth it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but she is always remembered when one of us decides to whip up a cake for a special occasion. The Linzer has become somewhat of a family tradition. With its special almond paste filling and generous layer of jam, it’s always a winner.

Martha’s Linzer Torte

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Pass the Parcel

How many epic birthday parties did you have as a child? They were the event of the year with endless cake, balloons, magicians, games and most importantly presents. Did your parents also go overboard with the motto: the more the merrier? Not only was the entire class usually invited, but also family friends with children of a similar age. Now calculate how many presents and cake that results in? A LOT! Aside from the obligatory goody bags, one of the best parts of these parties were the games: musical chairs, water balloons, the knife and fork chocolate game (secretly I actually want to play this again… maybe tipsy…. that might increase the entertainment factor), hopscotch, hide and seek, jump rope, capture the flag and pass the parcel. The latter was great. Despite the small probability of actually having the parcel in your hands when only one layer of wrapping paper was left between you and the prize, adrenalin was still pumping every time it was your turn to unwrap.

Unwrapping parcels, presents and posted packages remains exciting to this day, even if you think you know what to find inside. I’m sure you have even all wrapped up a present for yourself and placed it under the Christmas tree at least once in your life…. or maybe that’s just my brother. But it proves the point. Things in parcels are exciting. So why not serve food in parcels as well? Not only is it a great way to develop the flavour while cooking, but it also almost always impresses the guests. Here is my latest attempt:

Salmon, Cranberry and Couscous Parcels with Caramelised Onions

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adapted from Bbcgoodfood and Wildeisen

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A Taste of Home

You are probably familiar with those extremely lazy Sundays after a night out, the greater part entailing lounging around in bed with a constantly grumbling stomach and a craving for greasy food, but absolutely zero motivation or energy to do something about it? That probably describes most of your Sundays doesn’t it ;-)?

The most recent of such Sundays came with a rather interesting craving, but one that had to be fulfilled. After having gone through some emotionally draining turmoil (why can’t we be 5 years old again and play all day long?) in the past few weeks, my partner in crime and I longed for a soothing taste of home. Making proper butter croissants from scratch would have been excessive (although totally worth it if you ever have, let’s say, 6 hours to spare), so we opted for a low effort (and low-fat) version to satisfy our needs!

Birchermüesli

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Strike 2

The best hazelnut chocolate spread strikes again. Yes, I am talking about Nutella. At last years Salon du Chocolat (an absolute must for chocolate lovers! Three whole days dedicated to the most innovative chocolate creations…. no wonder we felt slightly nauseous by the end of it), one chocolatier created a chocolate-hazelnut paste, which actually came out of a tube like face cream. It was deceptively advertised as tasting better than Nutella. Those are daringly big words carrying huge expectations! Honestly, why did they think they could create something superior to Nutella……? The paste was tasty, but definitely miles from the all time favorite.

Needless to say, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that Nutella is the one item never missing from my kitchen. With an upcoming dinner invitation and a newly bought jar of chocolate goodness, I decided to attempt making a bring along gift instead of buying one. The result: tiny yet devilishly satisfying post-dinner delights:

Nutella Truffles

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Taken from the most epic recipe book created

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Batch 17.5

Do you remember the episode of Friends in Season 7 where Monica bakes a ridiculous amount of chocolate chip cookies in an attempt to decipher Phoebe’s grandma’s lost recipe? Batch 17 was almost perfect, but the last cookie disappears before Monica could use it to work from……. after all those cookies and all that effort I would have gone mental! (Ok, actually before she decides to use cookie 17 for further creations, she finds out “grandma’s” recipe for the cookies they are all raving about was the exact one on each packet of Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. She flipped out Monica style. But that’s irrelevant.)

Over the past months I have been through a similar, not quite as crazy, process with oat and raisin cookies: my “healthy”, satisfying comfort cookies. My already elevated cholesterol levels would certainly not have been happy had my cookie-craze been related to peanut butter and chocolate chips. Granted, oat and raisin cookies aren’t the healthiest out there, but doesn’t the name alone imply that there is some healthy aspect to them…? Health and all aside, occasional cravings have to be satisfied. Finally I managed to create near perfection, batch 17.5:

Ultimate Oat and Raisin Cookies

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