Monday, April 20, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes with Royal Icing

At Easter I usually bring a trifle to add to the dessert table. I wasn't in a trifle mood this year, so I decided to make cupcakes. I used a recipe from the Joy of Baking website found here.

I thought these were good, but not super duper. The cake was very delicious, but maybe not as fluffy as I like. I did not have any cupcake liners, so I just buttered the pan, which made them nice and buttery. My younger brother was only so-so on these, saying it reminded him of corn bread. Weird.

I also used Joy of Baking;s royal icing recipe found here. My brother also wasn't into it, as he prefers a whipped frosting. I loved the icing, which had a refreshing lemon flavor.

I'll try a different recipe next time. There's always a good excuse to make cupcakes.

Easter Feast

I'm very big on family dinners. I think its really important to surround yourself with great people and delicious food. This Easter, we went to my parent's place for the annual Easter feast. For some stupid reason I did not take photos of the desserts - woops. From mouth watering prime rib, lamb in red sauce, to the best roasted lemon potatoes, my mom did a great job feeding us all. And to think she kept apologizing for not making enough food!

Mom's Homemade Bread

Cheesy Pastries

Friends of the family always bring these delicious cheesy pastries. I was very surprised to learn that they use the Parmesan cheese in the green can! Seriously--they taste so high class, I was in shock.

Pork Souvlakia

Roasted Lamb

My mother has mastered this. I, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do.

Green Salad

Lamb in Red Sauce

Absolutely delicious! The meat just fell of the bone. I must learn this one. I believe there is some cinnamon and clove here.

Pasta with Red Sauce

Wonderful combo here - it uses the red lamb sauce! My cousin is vegetarian and I thought it was really cute how my mom suggested to his mother he have some, as she made the sauce very light. Ah well!


No skimping on quality here.


Roasted Veggies

Yummy peppers, mushrooms, eggplants and onions roasted with the perfect amount of spices for a nice kick!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread

Every year at Easter time, my mother makes a truckload of tsoureki, or Greek sweet bread. I think she makes the best tsoureki in town, but maybe I am a bit on the biased side. With a baby in the family now, and celebrating our first Easter with him, I thought it was important to bake something traditional for the holiday.

I sat down with my mom, and she gave me the ins and outs of her recipe. She even gave me the unique Greek spices that I didn't have in my spice rack. As you can see, there are some odd measurements here : a water glass of oil and 20 soupspoons of sugar. That's just the way it is in a home recipe I think. I eagerly tackled this, and was overjoyed with the results! I can honestly say it is a mirror image of my mom's bread. Sure the braiding isn't as well done, but I never braided anything before, ok? In-fact, I Googled how to braid bread to get the design right. Gotta love Google.

8 Eggs
20 soupspoons sugar
4 teaspoons yeast
1 water glass vegetable oil
1 water glass milk
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 lemon's zest
½ teaspoons anise
½ teaspoon mastihi
½ teaspoon mahlepi
sesame seeds
sliced almonds

1.Warm up the milk (not too hot!) , and add it to a medium bowl which has the yeast. Stir it up a bit. Add 1 cup of flour to that, stir and wait. This mixture is your proof, and will plump up in size and become all frothy and fluffy, in 15 minutes or so.

2.In a large bowl, combine your eggs, sugar, all spices, vanilla, zest and oil. Hand whisk to combine the ingredients together.

3.If your proof is ready, add it to the egg mixture.

4.With one hand, add flour to the mix, one cup at a time. With the other hand, mix the dough together. Keep adding flour until you get a nice soft dough. Your dough should be sticky, but also fairly smooth.

5.Cover dough with a clean cloth, and let rise for at least 2 hours, or until doubled.

6.Once your dough has risen, prepare your baking sheets. I used Silpat® sheets, but you could also line your baking pan with parchment paper, or use a non-stick spray. Sprinkle the baking surface with sesame seeds.

7.Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 equal parts each part represents a loaf. Form each loaf into a braid or whatever shape you like, and place on baking sheet. (Try braiding, as it is the tradition, and looks impressive!)

Let these loaves rise another 2 hours, or until doubled.

9.Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Apply an egg wash to the surface of each loaf, and sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced almonds on the top.

10.Bake for 22 minutes. (Test doneness by inserting a knife and making sure it comes out clear.) Do not over bake! If the bread browns to quickly, avoid burning by laying tin foil on top.

This bread is great for dipping in tea or coffee, or just simply munching on its own. You'll also love the aromatics that will fill your home – a very fond memory of my childhood.