Braided Buns

Braided Bun
Braided Bun

Seems like Fall is in the air as I’m finding myself seeking all kinds of excuses to stay home and bake.

Yesterday I stumbled upon this blog  Almond Corner and was absolutely thrilled by the recipes on there and fascinated by the photography.  A Maltese saying goes L-ewwel Ma Tiekol L-Ghajn…and it is so true with anything.  Loosely translated, it means that the eye is the first to eat…as now I’m completely hooked.

As soon as I saw these braided buns, I knew I had to make them.  I felt slightly uneasy at first as I had to convert the weight to my lbs and ozs…I know, I’m still living in the middle ages.  But besides that, I also halved the recipe and used my bread machine.  I thought the recipe called for a bit too much yeast so I adjusted it to what I thought was a good amount.  And even after all that, I was blown away by the result!

So here’s my adaptation for these delightful buns.  As you can see from my photos, I attempted braiding them but after the second try, I aborted the mission and resorted to forming them my way as I was getting myself into a knot too.

Ingredients

1lb all purpose unbleached flour
1 oz sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 oz milk
4 1/2 oz butter
3 tbs oil
1 egg
2 1/4 tsp yeast

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

Warm the milk until it’s luke warm.

Put all the ingredients in your bread machine and set on the dough cycle.

When the cycle is done, take out the dough, cut into about sixteen equal portions and form into rolls or if you’re brave enough, into braids.  You can find instructions on here

Brush each with a beaten egg and bake.  After they’re done baking for about 15-18 mins, brush with some melted butter and put them back in the oven for a short while. (I skipped this step this time, but will definitely do it next time.)  These are best eaten on the first day.

I had mine with a bit of cream and jam…mmm

 

Not Braided Bun
Not Braided Bun

Pesto

Basil Leaves
Basil Leaves

Pesto needs no introduction in any Mediterranean kitchen. It is definitely a staple in my pantry as it is so easy to whip up a quick meal when you in a hurry.

I usually grow basil in a pot just so I could place it in my bay window and have it be easy to access while cooking.  I find that it would get root bound too fast this way  and start turning yellow in a matter of weeks, so this year I decided to grow them in between my rose bushes and let them grow freely.  And wow, did they like this so much more!!

CameraAwesomePhoto-3-3

There are many ways to make pesto…with cheese, without cheese, with pine nuts or walnuts, with basil or parsley…so use whatever you have and adjust or substitute to your taste.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the basil and the pine nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor.
Add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few times more.

Pine Nuts
Pine Nuts

Slowly add the olive oil in constant stream while the processor is on. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, baked potato or spread on your favourite sandwich.

Pesto
Pesto

From Simply Recipes

Oven Dried Tomatoes ~ Tadam Imqaddet

Packed in Oil
Packed in Oil

This year I went a little bit crazy buying tomato plants.  Over the past few years I’ve tried planting eggplants and I’ve tried zucchini and cucumbers…but always had a measly return for my efforts making me feel like a green failure. Tomatoes on the other hand, grow like a weed and produce exceptional fruit!  So this year, I filled every bit of soil with Early Girl tomato plants and a couple of cherry tomato plants.

And now…a few months later, I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, and have been trying out numerous recipes to use them.  So far I’ve canned whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. I’ve tried tomato jam with great results.  And of course I’ve had hobz biz-zejt u t-tadam (bread with tomatoes and olive oil)…which is my ultimate favourite summer food!!

Then last week, my friend Terrie whom I have known since our school days, posted photos of her oven dried tomatoes and I could not stop drooling!! So here it is…all the way from Holland…Terrie’s Oven Dried Tomato recipe.

Like every maltese cook, Terrie’s recipe went something like this…

“Bit of this and a pinch of that”

You get the picture…so I’m going to try my best and give you the quantities, but please feel free to add or omit and adjust to your heart’s content.

Ingredients

3 lbs tomatoes cut in half and deseeded
salt

1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp  fresh basil
1 tsp mint
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

enough oil to pack the tomatoes

Freshly Cut Tomaoes
Freshly Cut Tomaoes

Cut the tomatoes in half and deseed.  Sprinkle some salt on each half and place them face down on paper towels in a dish and leave them there for about half an hour to absorb some of the juices.

In the meantime, mince the garlic and place in a small bowl along with the rest of the chopped up herbs and salt and pepper.

Quarter the tomatoes and brush them with oil mixture. Place in a prepared dish about half an inch apart.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Bake in 250 degree oven for about 3-4 hours depending on your oven.  Mine took longer so keep checking them until they’re done.

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Oven Dried Tomatoes

Let cool and place in sterilised jar. Pour enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Store in refrigerator.

Packed in Oil
Packed in Oil

Torta Tal-Marmurat ~ Almond and Chocolate Tart

Torta Tal-Marmurat
Torta Tal-Marmurat

Hello again!  I hope you’re all having a lovely summer whatever you’re doing and wherever you are. I know Summer is all about salads and baking is probably the last thing on anybody’s mind in this heat, but I’m a baker at heart and nothing, not even the worst heatwave will deter me from my beloved oven.

So since my last post, I have been working hard on this recipe, trying to get it the way I remember it to be growing up.  There are a few recipes online that looked promising but somehow neither of them seemed to be authentic to my memory…so after about a dozen try outs, and with the help of all my friends who have tried this and given me their honest opinions, I think I am ready to post it.

Nanna Kelina
Nanna Kelina

This recipe has a special place in my heart as it reminds me of my beloved nanna.  Every Saturday, I used to stop by the Kiosk at the entrance of Valletta and get one to take to her on my way home from the disco (ha ha…disco…those were the days).  Then we’d sit down and have a cuppa tea and a chat together while we shared the pastry. To tell the truth, I always ended up eating most of the tart as it was my favourite but Nanna didn’t seem to mind and we were both glad of the chance to spend some time together.

I have to say that this is a very rich dessert and a little goes a long way.  One 4″ tart serves 6-8 people.  They are usually sold in little four inch tarts but you can make one big tart if you prefer. This recipe makes exactly four 4″ tarts.

Crust

200g flour
50g butter
50g shortening
grated rind of half a lemon
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
little bit of milk

Torta Tal-Marmurat
Torta Tal-Marmurat

Filling

75g almond meal
50g pure ground almonds
75g crushed rusks
60g chopped candied peel
1tbsp marmalade
1 egg
50g sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
12g cocoa powder
pinch of cinnamon and cloves optional

Fudge Frosting

50g of bittersweet dark chocolate
50g sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp butter 

 

Ready to Bake

Crust

Make the crust by putting the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Rub in the butter and shortening. Add the egg yolk and bind until the dough comes together nicely.  Add some milk if you see the dough is too dry.

Filling

Put everything in a bowl and mix together.

Using your dish of choice, roll out the dough and place in your dish.  Add the filling and bake in 375 degree oven for about 20 mins depending on your oven.

Fudge Frosting
Fudge Frosting

Prepare the Fudge Frosting

Put the chocolate, sugar, milk and butter in a pot and stir until melted.  When the pies are done, cover with the frosting.

Let cool until the frosting sets.

This is a very heavy type dessert so a little goes a long way.  Best served with some strong black coffee or espresso.

 

Torta Tal-Marmurat


One tip I have for you is to make your own candied peel…it takes time, about three days to make it from start to finish, but it does not compare to what you get from the store.

Zalzett Malti ~ Maltese Sausage

Maltese Sausage
Maltese Sausage

OMG!!  Yes!!!  This is how excited I am at finding the right recipe to make these garlicky Maltese sausages!

Parsley
Parsley

Ask any Maltese person which food they miss the most when living abroad and the top three answers would probably be…Ftira, Gbejniet and Maltese Sausage!  So far I’ve attempted the first two with great success but somehow making sausages seemed a little bit daunting for me. Just the thought of handling meats and the idea of stuffing casings and actually getting the results I craved for, just didn’t seem possible. Until I saw how Karl, from A Maltese in NY, does them and that took away all the mystery. Having a sausage stuffer attachment or a sausage machine would definitely help the process but if you’re like me, and have no room for any more gadgets, you can certainly stuff them by hand.

Coke Funnel
Coke Funnel

 

When I want to make something there is very little that can stand in my way. So the first stop was to go and find a funnel with a tip wide enough to get the ground meat through and into the casings.  Of course, as luck would have it, none of the stores nearby carried any and since time was of the essence (I had waited 20 yrs and could  not wait a moment longer) the next best thing was to make my own.  And it worked like a charm! I got a small 500ml coke bottle and cut the top 1/3 off and used that.

Garlic Cloves
Garlic Cloves

So once I had the funnel, the ground pork, the casings and all the rest, I set about making them.  I am not going to say it is easy to fill these sausage manually as I got pretty frustrated at times. Like when I tried to take a short cut and stuffed more than I should and ended up ripping the casings only to have to start all over again.  But once I got going, and realised I had to be patient and take my time, it was ok.  I shall be making these again and again.  They are worth all the work involved!

 

Ingredients 

4.5 lbs of ground pork butt or shoulder
1oz black pepper ground
0.5-1oz coriander seeds crushed
1-2oz sea salt
10 garlic cloves minced
bunch of parsley finely chopped

I asked the butcher at Whole Foods to mince the meat for me and he was very helpful and even explained to me the difference between the pork butt and shoulder.  How the pork butt has the fat in the meat and the pork shoulder has the fat all around.  I took his word for it. He also said that they use what they call the Picnic to make their sausages as it is “more economical and more flavourful”, and that’s what I used.

Ingredients
Ingredients

Put all the ingredients together and mix well. Fill the casings according to your machine’s instructions.  Or, if you don’t have the machine…start by putting the opening of the casings to the funnel, hold on tight to it and stuff the filling until you get enough to have two sausages any length you like.  Leave about two inches of casing on either side, cut and tie a knot at both ends and twist in the middle.  Prick them all over so they don’t explode when you cook them.  Rinse them and hang them to dry for two to four days in a cool place.

Thank you Karl for sharing your wonderful recipe. Now everybody will be able to taste of Malta wherever they may be.

Drying Maltese Sausage
Drying Maltese Sausage

Kannoli ~ Cannoli

Cannoli
Cannoli

 

Rose
Rose

This recipe has been in my to do list for about three months and the reason I had not attempted it before now is because it is a recipe shared with me by my very talented baker friend Rose and I was so blown away by the taste and presentation of her Cannoli that I felt a bit intimidated to try them myself in case I did not do it justice.

But now that the kids are off from school and I have a lot more time on my hands, I thought I’d give it a try and hope hope hope that I make them half as good as you Rose!

I am probably the only living soul on this planet that is not crazy about cannolis. I love ricotta but mainly in savoury  dishes and find ricotta desserts to  be a bit too heavy for my liking.

So when offered dessert at one of our get togethers at Rose’s house, I opted for the fruit salad, but couldn’t help eyeing the cannoli which were on the top tier of the dessert stand looking down on the other pastries acting holier than thou. But as I reached over for a taste, it took me all of two seconds to realise why.

Cannoli Molds
Cannoli Molds

Cannoli Shells

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1/4 cup Sauterne wine
egg white + tbsp of water

Cut in the 2 tbsp cold butter in with the flour, sugar and salt.

Add 1 egg slightly beaten.

Add the wine and form into a dough.

Roll out the dough to a 5 setting on the pasta machine.  If you don’t have a pasta machine, then roll the dough quite thin, as you would ravioli.

Cut dough into 4″ circles and form loosely onto metal tubes.

Beat the egg white and brush the ends of the dough to glue the ends making sure not to get any on the metal tube. Make sure you seal properly.

Deep fry in melted Crisco when it reaches 400 degrees, until golden brown and drain the shells on paper towels.

These make about 30 shells depending on how big you make them.

Cannoli Filling

Candied Peel
Candied Peel

2lbs ricotta
2-4 tbsp powdered sugar to taste
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped orange candied peel
1/2 cup chopped candied citron peel
1/2 cup chopped good quality milk or dark chocolate
1-2 drops of cinnamon oil or to taste

Mix all the ingredients until well combined

To assemble Cannolis :

Pipe or spoon ricotta filling into the shells and sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Perfect dessert to have on hand when you’re hosting a dinner because you can prepare both the shells and ricotta ahead of time and assemble them just before dessert time.

Thank you Rose!

Yummmmm!!
Yummmmm!!

Cannoli Tips :

I did not have cinnamon oil so I used ground cinnamon instead.  I hear it makes a difference and it’s on my list of things to add to my baking ingredients for sure. Some people prefer the taste of Fiori di Sicilia…I still have to try that one too.  Apparently it’s a wonderful addition to a lot of baked goods.

Do yourselves a favour and make sure to use egg whites to seal the cannoli dough before you fry them cause they do unfurl if you don’t.

Another tip is, that if you have a pasta machine, USE it.  It gives the cannoli perfect thickness and consistency.  I was a bit lazy to take mine out at first and tried to roll it out with a rolling pin.  It worked ok…BUT towards the end, I decided to use the machine and and realised how much better the shells turned out.

I fried the shells one at a time as they brown really quick and a few seconds makes all the difference between golden brown to charcoal black.

If you made the ricotta from scratch, do not let it drip too dry.  If that happens, add some whey to make it creamy.

If it’s not sweet enough, add more sugar to taste.

Follow all this and you’ll be left with cannolis to be proud of…

Zucchini Bread ~ An Old Faithful

Zucchini Tops
Zucchini Tops

I can’t think of a more appropriate time to post this recipe than now.

This is the first year that I planted zucchini…or rather that the zucchini that I planted are actually rewarding me with its fruit.  Did you know that?? Zucchini is actually a fruit?   A fruit that is prepared as a vegetable.  I thought that was very interesting, because to me, anything green is a vegetable…except watermelon of course.

Happy Birthday Dylan
Happy Birthday Dylan

So this is a quite an old recipe…18 yrs old in fact! As old as my first born and it’s a known fact that I spent the better part of nine months eating this bread.  I’d go visit my family out on Long Island and my  cousin Dianne would never let me go back home without a loaf, all sliced up and ready to eat on the one hour long trip back home. And by the time I got home, there’d be nothing left but a few crumbs.

Dylan Graduation
Dylan Graduation

So this morning, when I went out to the garden and noticed that some zucchini were ready for picking, I had to use it to make this bread.  Also, it’s Dylan’s b’day next week…18 yrs young!!  Where has the time gone??  Seems like only yesterday we were so excited at welcoming our newborn.  And now it’s almost time to say goodbye as he heads off to a new beginning…the college years.

And it all started with zucchini bread!

It’s a simple recipe and makes two medium sized loaves.  Perfect for sharing with friends…your friends will love you for it! Also freezes very well.

 

Ingredients

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated zucchini
2 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
3 eggs

Just mix everything together.

Pour into prepared greased and floured loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 for about 45 mins.

Zucchini Bread
Zucchini Bread

In my opinion, the next best thing to cookies and a glass of cold milk is zucchini bread and a glass of cold milk.  So satisfying and comforting anytime.  Thank you Dianne for sharing this with me…still one of my favourites and not just for the memories!

Delicious treats from Georgina's kitchen