Friday, April 29, 2011


These rolls have become an Easter tradition in our family.  The Greek name for them is Galaktoboureko, which I'm not even sure I can say correctly, but we just call them farina rolls.

Farina, more commonly known as semolina, or cream of wheat, is cooked into a custard with milk and eggs, and then rolled into sheets of phyllo dough which have been generously brushed with melted butter.  They are baked up until golden brown and crispy, and are then doused in a simple syrup flavored with cinnamon, amp; vanilla, & sometimes orange or lemon.  Completely delicious served right out of the oven, and just as good served room temperature the next day - they may be the perfect dessert.  I've also seen had this served up as a pie, but it's just more fun to eat in cute little cigar sized rolls :)

I was lucky enough to receive a reprinted copy of an old church cookbook that my Grandma used to cook out of, so I know this recipe is as authentic as it gets.

For the custard:
1/2 cup farina/semolina/cream of wheat (not instant!)
3 cups milk
4 egg
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
zest of one orange (optional)

Heat the milk over medium heat until warmed through.  Combine eggs, farina & sugar in another bowl, then add to milk mixture.Continue to cook over medium-low heat until it thickens (approximately 10 minutes).  Add butter and vanilla, then let cool completely before proceeding.

To make the rolls:
You'll need 1 lb of phyllo dough, thawed, and 1 stick of butter (at least!) melted.

Cut one sheet of phyllo in half (the short way), brush with butter and fold in half (the short side, again).  Add a tablespoon of custard, roll the top over once, then fold the sides in and roll the rest of the way.  Repeat until all the custard is used or you run out of phyllo.  When you finish each roll, place into a jelly roll pan and keep covered with a damp towel, as you would with the unused phyllo.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.  When rolls come out of the oven pour the simply syrup on them while they are still hot.

3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
lemon or orange peel

Boil sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and fruit peel until thickened.  Remove peel and stir in vanilla.  Let cool before using.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's all Greek to me...

Tsoureki is a traditional Greek Easter bread that is sweet & spiced & rich like brioche.  It often has a red egg (or two) baked into it to represent new life (the egg) & the blood of Christ (the red).

Or sometimes the eggs are pink, because the packet of Greek red egg dye your Aunt sent you has instructions that include measurements such as "a bowl of water" and "a glass of vinegar" & you just have to guess at how much to use.  Regardless, the loaf was pretty from being braided & brushed with an egg washed and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, & I got to cook out of a cookbook that my Grandma used.

I'm not going to include a recipe for this because I wasn't 100% happy with the recipe.  It called for 3 teaspoons of salt for 1 loaf of bread.  Of sweet bread.  I had to read it a couple times, and considered altering it, but it was from an old church cookbook, so I went with it.  And my bread was salty.  Next year, i'll know to not use as much salt & be sure to find some mahlepi (a seasoning made with ground cherry stones) to make it even more authentic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peep Show

I've been wanting to make marshmallows for at least a few months, if not longer.  I saw beautiful marshmallows pop up on many other blogs and I couldn't get over how fluffy & pretty they looked.  I planned to make them during my Christmas baking, and ran out of time.  I recently saw some home made Peeps that Martha Stewart had made and put them on my baking list for this weekend.  They almost got skipped over again due to time constraints, but I was able to fit them in at the last minute.  These are so easy to make - they hardly take any time at all.  The taste is so worth it, too.  Make sure to use a good vanilla or other flavoring, as that will really shine through.

Piping Marshmallow
from Martha Stewart

1 cup sugar
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1 tsp of vanilla or other flavoring

Mix 1/3 cup cold water with a packet of unflavored gelatin in a bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 5 minutes.    While you are waiting for the gelatin to bloom, combine 1/4 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir until the sugar and water are combined and they come to a boiler.  Let boil without stirring.  Using a candy thermometer, let the mixture boil until it reaches 238 degrees (soft ball).  Once the sugar mixture reaches 238, shut the heat off.  Add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture, and stir with the whisk attachment for a few minutes.  Once fully combined and slightly cool, add the flavoring of your choice, then mix on medium high for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and forms stiff peaks.

You'll want to use the mixture immediately, so while it's mixing, prepare a piping bag (or gallon sized freezer bag) with a piping tip.  Transfer the mixture to the bag and pipe onto a baking sheet generously sprinkled with sanding or white sugar.  Pipe into shapes of your choice, sprinkling with sugar after piping each shape.

To make the "Peep" shape, I used a Wilton #12 tip and piped an oval, then added a head and tail.  It takes some practice, but they'll eventually being to resemble little chicks.

The marshmallows will set up after 15-20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Banana Bread

Even though I already have a go-to banana bread recipe, I still love trying new recipes.  I've heard nothing but rave reviews about the recipes that come out of the Baking Illustrated by Cooks Illustrated cookbook that I bought a few months ago.  With a couple of ripe bananas to use up, I flipped to the recipe & got started.

Banana Bread
from Baking Illustrated

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (unbleached) and some for dusting
  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts coarse chop (optional - I omitted)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cool
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the middle position.  If you're going to add nuts, toast them on a baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully.  Mix together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda & salt) in a large bowl.  In another bowl, mash the bananas, and add the yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla, mixing until well combined. Gently fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, until just combined; the mixture may still be a little lumpy.  Pour into your prepared 9x5 loaf pan (I just used cooking spray) and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean - mine took closer to 65 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Wrap the loaf for storage for up to 3 days.

The result?  Banana bread that had a crusty top, but was perfectly moist inside.  This rose a little higher than my usual recipe, but the taste was very similar.  Either recipe is a winner in my book!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tall Cake

My cake decorating classes are limited now that I've completed all three Wilton courses.  Thankfully, my instructor told me she was offering a one day class, Tall Cakes.  The course was about how to construct stacked cakes & we were instructed to bring a 10" cake and a 6" cake. Until the day of the class, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the cake, which meant I still hadn't decided how to decorate the cake.

Luckily, my instructor came to my rescue and taught us how to pipe corneille lace.  I added a few flowers, and I was set!

The bottom layer is a rich chocolate cake, layered with dark chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and strawberries.  The top layer is white almond cake layed with dark chocolate swiss meringue buttercream.  The cake was iced in dark chocolate swiss meringue buttercream, or, my new favorite frosting.  The lace piping was done with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.  I used royal icing apple blossoms and primroses (look familiar?) for a finishing touch.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flower Cake

My final cake for Wilton's Flower & Cake Design Course:

For my final cake, I used an 8" square cake.  The cake is white almond vanilla, with raspberry filling.  I frosted it in Swiss Meringue Butter Cream, which was also used for the piping detail.  The flowers are made from royal icing - on the sides are apple blossoms and on top are primroses.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blog update

I added new pages to act as a gallery of different cupcakes, cakes, and treats I have made but not blogged, & an "about me" page!

Check them out!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Baptism Cake

Here's another cake I did this weekend... I was busy!

This was a baptism cake for a baby girl.  The mom requested a simple design, and this is what I came up with:

White almond cake, filled & iced with vanilla almond buttercream.  The cross is made out of fondant flowers, and the cake also had a pink fondant stripe border around the bottom.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Baby Shower Cake

I made this two-tiered cake this past week for a baby shower.  The bottom layers were white cake with vanilla buttercream, and the top layers were red velvet, also filled with vanilla buttercream.  The cake was covered in marshmallow fondant.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirled Brownies

Peanut butter and chocolate is a classic combination.  I'm also a fan of cheesecake swirled brownies, which meant that peanut butter cheesecake swirled brownies had to be a winning combination.

I did cheat a little and use a box mix for the brownie base - I went with a Hershey's dark chocolate brownie that you add the special dark syrup to - since I was short on time.  The peanut butter cheesecake swirl was easy to mix up, and these brownies baked up beautifully!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
from Annie's Eats
For the peanut butter cheesecake swirl:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Prepare your favorite brownie batter.  Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula.

To make the peanut butter cheesecake portion, combine the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until completely smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Drop spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture over the brownie batter in the pan, creating a cobblestone appearance.  Use a knife or wooden skewer to gently swirl together the peanut butter mixture and brownie batter.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until the center is just set.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled before slicing and serving.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spaghetti & Meatballs

I made some delicious spaghetti & meatballs for dinner last night...


Ok, so I made some delicious cupcakes last night.  And made them look like spaghetti & meatballs.  Super easy & super cute!  You still have time to make these and fool someone today!

What you'll need:

24 cupcakes - use your favorite cupcake recipe (I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe)
1 batch of buttercream icing (recipe below)
Icing/food coloring (I used Wilton's Buttercup)
24 Ferrero Rocher chocolates (I used the Rondnoir dark chocolate ones)
1 jar of strawberry/raspberry jam or sauce

Bake cupcakes and let cool.  Prepare buttercream icing:

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening (used to help the "noodles" hold their shape)
4 cups (or 1 lb) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 to 4 Tbsp heavy cream

Cream the butter and shortening with a mixer until well mixed and fluffy.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, and then beat on medium speed for a minute.  Add vanilla & half of the cream.  Beat until combined & fluffy.  You want a thinner consistency here, so use the rest of the cream as needed to achieve a loose, but not runny, frosting.  Color with a yellow icing gel to get a noodle color.

Pipe onto cupcakes using a piping bag and #5 tip.  If you don't have a piping bag or tip, you can use a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off.  To make the noodles, simply hold the bag about 6 inches above the cupcake and squeeze.  The noodles will really form themselves, just move the bag around to completely cover the cupcake in noodles.

Once the noodles are piped on, place your jam in a bowl and stir to loosen it up.  Place the chocolates in and cover them in jam, then spoon onto the top of the cupcake.  You can add an extra dollop of jam on top of the meatball and help it spill down the sides.

See how easy it was?  You still have time to whip up a batch and fool someone!

Cupcake idea from Hello, Cupcake!