Saturday, February 13, 2010

Multilayered honey cake for a Valentine's Day


Quite unusual  idea for a Valentine's Day. It is not pink nor red, it doesn't have a heart shape but at least it's  so sweet... just like honey. ;)

I spotted this recipe on two beautiful Serbian blogs (thank you Ljilja and Marija). The authors mentioned that it was a very famous Russian cake. Actually it is also quite popular in Poland. There are many different versions of miodownik, as we call the cake in Polish. You may found it rolled like a Swiss roll or with honey-walnut topping. There are also many kinds of fillings (with wheat cream, sour cream or  a simple butter cream). I presented my Christmas version of this cake some time ago on my Polish blog.

Today I was tempted to try the multilayered Russian version  with simple sourcream filling. I modified the original recipe (that can be found here), changing some quantities and simplifying it a bit.


I have to admit this cake is quite time consuming but definitely worth all the effort. The dough is a little bit difficult to spread in the pan (it is sticky and you want to have a very thin layer so it is easier to spread it with wet hands). You have to bake at least 3 layers (in order to obtain 9 final layers) and then spread them carefully with sour cream. The filling will be trying to escape outside the dough layers so it is important (vital) to use very thick cream with high fat content. I adjusted sugar and sour cream quantity in order to obtain the best results (IMHO). It was almost impossible for me to spread all 1,5 litre of cream over the layers, so I used instead only about 1 litre and 3/4 cup of sugar.
The cake must stay in the fridge overnight. Honey cake layers absorb some sour cream and get pleasantly moist and soft. Happy and sweet Valentine's Day!!


Multilayer Honey Cake with Sour Cream Filling (Miodownik) 

flat baking pan 30 x 40 cm
3 large sheets of baking paper 
aluminum foil

Honey Dough:
3 large eggs
pinch of salt
220 g (1 cup) sugar
70 g (4 tbsp) butter
60 g (3 tbsp) honey
2 teaspoons baking soda
550 g flour

1 litre sourcream 30-40% fat, or thick crème fraîche
170 g (3/4 cup) sugar
7.5 g vanilla sugar

Beat eggs with a pinch of salt and sugar until thay are creamy and fluffy. Melt honey and butter in the microwave or in the pan on the stovetop. Cool it and add to the egg mixture, mixing everything together. Add soda and mix again. Add the flour in batches, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you get thick but soft dough.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Divide the dough into 3 parts. With the aid of your wet hands spread each portion of the dough thinly in the pan lined with baking paper. Bake each layer for about 6-8 minutes, until it gets honey-golden (you must be very carefull and keep checking them in the oven, so they do not burn).

Mix the sourcream with sugar and vanilla sugar. Put into the refrigerator. When the honey cake layers are cooled completely carefully peel off the baking paper. Cut each layer into 3 sections (across the long side). This way you get 9 rectangular pieces.

Spread sourcream on 8 layers. The last one, which goes on top, will stay without the filling . Leave all of them for a moment so the cream moistens the cake a little (just for 5-10 min). On a large sheet of aluminum foil put the layers on top of each other (carefully transferring them with the aid of a long and broad knife). At the top stack the last layer without filling. If the sourcream spills out you may spread it on the sides of the cake. Wrap the honey cake thightly in the aluminum foil and put in the fridge. I spread the aluminum foil on a cutting board and then move it along with the cake to the refrigerator. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oranges in aromatic syrup


One of the most underestimated fruits are probably oranges. We take their robust juiciness and sweet, pleasantly acidic taste completely for granted. Lemons, oranges and tangerines are in shops all year long so it is easy to forget they are typically winter fruits. And right now it's citrus harvest time so they are at the peak of their taste.

Here in Portugal there is an abundance of citrus trees so it is quite easy to find good quality fruit, moreover without an excessive carbon print. Today I made a very simple dessert, featuring oranges. It is quite elegant and very easy to make.  Most importantly we need to get the best sweet and juicy type of orange. I really like navel oranges (did you know they come from the single mutation of one orange tree in some monastery garden in Brazil?). But for me the absolutely best ones are those picked directly from a tree in Portuguese Algarve region, famous for its orange groves and beautiful beaches. I know that this is completely silly, but I like to buy oranges at the market with leaves still attached. :)

I would like to invite you today to a nice and simple orange dessert in Northern African style, with the addition of some dried dates (apricots will do pretty nice here, too), and aromatic spice syrup.

Oranges and dates in aromatic syrup

Oranges with dates in vanilla and clove syrup

yields 4

4 oranges
250 ml water
150 g sugar
8 dates
4 cloves
1 vanilla bean

With a sharp knife remove bottom and top of each orange. Cut off the peel (with albedo) from the sides and slice the fruits horizontally. Reserve the peel from 1 orange. Remove as much of albedo as you can from the reserved peel and cut the orange rind into thin strips.

Boil water with sugar. Leave on medium heat until it thickens and begins to resemble syrup. Add orange rind, cloves, dates and splited vanilla bean. Simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes. Distribute orange slices over 4 bowls. Pour the hot syrup over them. Place two dates, one clove and a piece of vanilla bean on the top of each portion . Serve cooled. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tartiflette or what to eat this winter.


Today we have winter food for dinner as a kind of preparation for our skiing holidays in the Pyrenees mountains. This dish is, however, from Franch Savoy region (Haute-Savoie, just south of Geneva) and has a more Alpine character. 
Since the Middle Ages this relatively isolated and inaccessible region has been producing an excellent cheese called reblochon. How was it born ? Well, it was some kind of  "how to avoid paying tax" story.  In the XIII and XIV-th centuries Savoy peasants paid a tax according to the amount of milk their herds produced. Crafty folks, however, did not fully milk the cows and when the tax collector was gone they completed their milking. With this high-fat milk farmers made cheese. The name reblochon comes from the French reblocher  - "to milk a cow again". The cheese production center is Thônes, a small town in the picturesque  Aravis Massif region. As to the taste - the mature cheese has a slightly nutty flavor and intense aroma. Its interior should be smooth and almost molten in the center. Reblochon is relatively soft. Its rind colour varies from creamy white to dark yellow with a delicate mould coating. French classify it as a pâte pressée non-cuite type of cheese (actually in English wikipedia  it is called a soft washed-rind cheese which is wrong according to the producer information).

The today's dish doesn't have such a long history as its main ingredient - the reblochon cheese. Due to the wave of interest in Savoy regional cuisine in the 80s of the last century, a tartiflette - reblochon flagship dish - was invented. The inspiration came from an old regional recipe, known as la pela.  

Methods of preparation may vary a lot. Everyone has its own way of cutting the cheese. Some cut it in cubes, others cut the cheese in half horizontally and some prefer to remove the rind. Very often it is cut in slices, like I did today.  

Onions and bacon for tartiflette

I got the recipe from my Portuguese friend Celeste but of course I had to modify it a little bit. She has lived in France for many years and sometimes shared with me her great recipes for regional dishes. It is a good idea to serve tartiflette with a big bowl of lettuce salad. You can also put some thinly sliced cold roasted meat and pickles on the table. We liked it very much in the company of sweet and sour onions in balsamic vinegar. Wine is a must. Pour some white wine into the dish while cooking and drink the same white or sip a simple young red along with your meal. So today, please enjoy a simple peasant food from the French mountains. It tastes especially nice after a long day of skiing, cleaning the snow from your front porch or pretty much anything you have to do in a freezing cold weather.


1 kg potatoes, boiled in jackets in salted water  

1 tablespoon butter  
100 g smoked bacon, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
100 ml dry white wine  
100 ml crème fraîche or thick sour cream 
 salt and freshly ground pepper to taste  
1 / 2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg  
500 g reblochon cheese* 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC . Peel and cut
boiled potatoes in thick slices (1.5 cm, about 1/2 inch). Fry bacon in butter, add onion and sauté until softened. Add wine and potatoes. Mix everything well and remove from heat. Add the crème fraîche, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put half of the potato to buttered ovenproof dish. Cut the cheese in a fairly thick slices, put half of them on potatoes, spread the rest of the potato mixture and cover with the remaining cheese. Put into preheated oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes until nicely browned. 

* Substitutes for reblochon: gruyère, taleggio, fontina, raclette cheese or perhaps a ripe camembert or munster
(every soft and easily melting cheese will do). In Portugal, amanteigado cheese will be great but the best substitute for reblochon is certainly queijo da Serra.