Christmas cookies, Charity, CheeseBox and Currency

There is so much happening to me these days that I even have to categorize the events)

‘Christmas cookies’ stands for the recipe of amazing crispy honeysweet and spicy ginger cookies you will find in this post.

Christmas cookies_2

‘Charity’ stands for the reason I made the cookies and for a gorgeous girl Darya who works within a charity project Centre of equal opportunities Step Up. The cookies were sold at a Christmas charity fair and I really hope they helped to make someone’s life at least a tiny little bit better.

‘CheeseBox’ stands for the project I’d been working on for the last couple of months that we finally launched this week! CheeseBox is a super cosy and ‘with-all-my-heart’ kind of project. We’ve developed home cheese-making kits which allow you to easily and quickly prepare your own cheese right in your kitchen. It is super easy and fun! Plus some of the cheeses we actually don’t HAVE in our supermarkets anymore, so our CheeseBoxes may come in handy in this light, too ;). I’ll be definitely telling you more about the headway of CheeseBox in my upcoming posts. As for now you can visit our website http://www.cheese-box.com and I will really appreciate it if you tell me what you think about it! Unfortunately, the site is only in Russian as for now, but thank God we have GoogleTranslate 😉

‘Currency’ – well, RIP, rouble.  

And now back to the Christmas cookies recipe. It’s only 10 days till Christmas after all! I already have Christmas music playing on the background all the time no matter what I do. But can you blame me? One has to keep the holiday spirit alive even if everything around you is falling apart.

Christmas cookies_3

For the cookies you will need:

  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 70 ml honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

Mix flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices (ginger, cinnamon and cloves) in a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl mix butter, brown and vanilla sugar and an egg until smooth. Mix in honey and orange zest.

Gradually add dry ingredients and mix well (you will need to fold the dough with your hands at some point, as it’s going to be quite stiff).

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit at a room temperature for a couple of hours.

Preheat your oven to 190ºC.

Roll the dough between 2 pieces of waxed paper, take off the top piece of paper, transfer the bottom piece of paper with the dough onto a tray and cut out the shapes you like (just cut them, don’t try to take them out). Now put the tray into your freezer for 5-10 min. Take it out – and now you can easily remove the cut-out cookies without breaking them. Put the cookies on a baking tray covered with baking paper and cook them for 8-12 min, until slightly brown.

Let the cookies chill and then decorate them any way you like)

Enjoy!

Christmas cookies

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Heart cry…followed by a perfect cheesecake recipe

Prolog: I’m truly sorry for all the bad words I use in this blog. This one is just a heart cry.

So I’m finally doing something I really like. I’ve eventually put my foot down and decided to start my own business (I really hope you’ll be hearing more about it from me soon!). Over the past few weeks I was so busy working on it, that I kind of lost the track of time and space. Still, last few days got me back out of a clear blue sky.

Imagine you live a life with no certainty about your future. Imagine you just lose all the time only because you’d happened to be born in a certain place. Imagine most of the people around you do not even understand how deeply f***ed they all are. Imagine your plans – weekend, holidays, life… all of them simply going to pieces. And you get more and more of this every day.

Well, that’s where I am now. Not only me. Something about 143 million Russian people (well, ok, some of that 143 million being blissfully unaware).

The worst thing is…well, you just have to deal with it. It’s not that I’m some kind of a cry-baby. I’m definitely not, and I’m really working my ass off to change something, at least for me and my family. It’s just that… now it’s too late to change anything.

Let us all be strong to survive this.

PS. Now, off the reel, a perfect cheesecake recipe (I made it with my own homemade cream cheese, but you are more than welcome to use store-bought cream cheese, we just do not have it in our supermarkets anymore). It is super creamy, yet extremely light and fantastically delicious!

Cheesecake recipe

For the filling you will need:

  • 800 g cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1-2 drops vanilla essence)

For the crust you will need:

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 85 butter
  • 100 g butter biscuits or graham crackers, ground
  • 50 g walnuts, ground

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC. In a large pan melt the butter over medium heat, then add ground biscuits, walnuts and sugar. Fry until slightly browned, take off the heat and let cool for 10-15 min.

2.  Press the biscuit-walnut-butter crumbs into your baking pan and bake for 10 min. Let the crust cool while you’re preparing the filling.

3. In a large bowl beat the cream cheese, caster sugar, salt and flour with a mixer. Then add eggs, one at a time, mix well. Finally, add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla sugar and beat well until creamy.

4. Pour the filling into the pan with cooled crust, bake for 10 min at 200ºC, then reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake for 30 min more.

5. Turn off the heat and let the cheesecake cool down for 1-2 hours in the oven. Then put it in your refrigerator for 3-4 more hours.

6. When the cheesecake is ready, pour over some raspberry jam and… enjoy!

Cheesecake_1

 

Winter Is Coming

So. It’s the 17th of October and it’s snowing.

That’s pretty much all I should probably say about weather but the snow has just bummed me out so much today that I will go on with the weather subject for just a little while.

There are usually 3 unquestionable signals indicating that the winter is coming to Moscow. Luckily, not the Game of Thrones kind of ‘Winter Is Coming’ with all the ‘white walkers and direwolves and constant massacre or whatever happens in the 9th episode of each season’ kind of stuff (yeah, I loooove the series, but can you blame me?). The 3 things that every winter starts with here in Moscow are (1) enormous traffic jams, (2) snowplow trucks that make the traffic even worse and (3) massive queues of people trying to change their tyres to snow ones (does anybody do that tyre-change twice a year except for Russians?). Well, there’s one more 100% indicator: women wearing fur, loooots of fur, but that’s kind of obvious, I guess. To cut a long story short – today I’ve witnessed all of the 3 main signals + some chicas in their ‘shubas’ (that’s how we call fur coats). So I can bindingly confirm that the winter has come to Moscow today. Wow. Kinda early, don’t you think?

Anyways, yesterday, being still unaware of the coming winter I made some incredible, gingery-chocolate-orange cookies (which was, a great idea by the way, as I wouldn’t have made it today without the cookies). Orange-chocolate-ginger cookies_1

The recipe is pretty much basic but it’s the combination of ginger, chocolate, orange and (!) mint-and-basil infused butter that makes the cookies so unusual and spicy and soft and so tremendously good.

To make these you will need:

  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 80 g rye-flour (you can stick to AP flour, this one just gives more texture)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 50 g white sugar (add 2-3 tbsp more if you prefer the cookies to be more sweet)
  • 4 tbsp chocolate drops
  • 140 g butter
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • some fresh mint and basil

Orange-ginger-chocolate cokkies ingr

First prepare the mint-and-basil infused butter. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, then add basil and mint leaves in and heat the butter until it boils. Boil the butter with the herbs for 30 sec, stirring constantly. Take it off the heat, let it cool for 5-7 min and that take the mint and basil leaves out of the butter.

In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. Pour in the butter and stir well until the mix looks like small crumbs. Mix in the egg and then orange juice until the batter is smooth and a bit gloopy. Then mix in chocolate drops and orange zest until they are well distributed through the batter.

Cover a baking tray with a baking sheet. Form mid-size cookies (4-5 cm over) and place them on the tray, spacing each cookie 2-3 cm apart. Cover with a food wrap and put the cookies in a fridge for at least an hour (the batter would last for up to a week in your fridge). When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 200ºC and transfer the tray with the cookies right from the fridge to your oven. Bake for 12-15 mins until slightly browned.

Enjoy!

Orange-chocolate-ginger cookies_2

In love with autumn again. Perfect apple pie

We’re now at this ‘fantastic’ part of autumn when you don’t get much sun. And last few days there was literally NO sun in Moscow. I should say, it wouldn’t have bothered me a year ago for sure, but now I’m taking all the food pictures it turns out to be quite a problem. The most important thing you get from all these amazing food photographers is that you ‘must always take pictures of food in daylight’. Daylight. Hmmm. Light. What if we don’t have any light? What if it’s gloomy and dark all day long and your perfect burgers just sit there dreaming of being photographed and all they get instead is just being eaten by your friends (who, by the way, you also couldn’t take pictures of because it was too dark)? Well, okay, I should probably get a hot-shoe, but as per now, I feel like one of those penguins in Antarctica who live without sunlight for several months (but I of course do realize that these penguins have quite a more serious problem than I do, sorry penguins).

Anyway. Today the sun has finally broken through the clouds. Yay! And I made a perfect apple pie (which is definitely not that much of an event, but still, you know) and was finally able to take some pictures.

Apple pie_2

You should really try this one – the filling comes out incredibly rich, soft and just melts in your mouth, while the pastry is super crunchy. And if you put some ice-cream on top…you will just never even think of any other dessert.

NB: There might seem to be quite a lot of the ingredients in this recipe, but it’s basically apples, walnuts, flour, sugar, butter and eggs in different proportions – so just make sure you have these and you are ready to cook!

Apple pie ingredients

For the pastry you will need:

  • 150 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tbsp of cold water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • + 1 slightly beaten egg-yolk for egging

For the streusel you will need:

  • 25 g butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling you will need:

  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 100 g walnuts, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 25 g butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar (brown or white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the sauce you will need:

  • 75 g butter
  • 5 tbsp sugar (brown or white)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy (this time I also used a bit of home-made plum liquor, so you may try adding smth like that, too)

Pastry:

Put the flour, lemon zest, brown and white sugar and salt into a bowl. Mix in the butter with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and mix until the crumbs turn into dough. Put the dough in plastic food wrap and let it sit in a freezer about 30 mins.

Streusel:

Place flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Filling:

Heat the butter in a frying pan, add apples and sugar, simmer over medium heat for about 3-4 mins stirring from time to time, then add cinnamon, nutmeg, brandy and walnuts and cook for another 1 minute. Take off the heat.

Sauce:

Simmer butter over medium heat in a saucepan until it becomes golden-brown (it will also smell amazingly like hazelnut). While the butter is still warm (but not hot!) whisk it together with sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon and vanilla sugar.

Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Take the pastry out of the freezer and roll out 2/3 of it on a slightly floured surface. The pastry should come out about 3mm thick and c. 1-2 cm larger than your pie dish. Lower the pastry in your pie dish (the best way of doing that is just to roll the pastry over your rolling pin and then just gently ‘unroll’ it over your pie dish). Press the pastry into the dish so that there are no air bubbles left. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut it into 6 stripes.

Pour the sauce into the pastry, top with the apple filling, then sprinkle over the streusel and then arrange the pastry stripes as a ‘basket’ on top. Put some egg-yolk on the pastry stripes with a food brush.

Bake for about 45 mins.

Serve while still warm with ice-cream and mint.

Enjoy!

Apple pie_1