Last-minute Easter Egg Shopping – Visit Maison Blanc

Last weekend I was in Hampstead in London and went for lunch with a friend at Maison Blanc, Raymond Blanc’s popular patisserie/boulangerie.  The cafe also boasts a charming little shop and this time of year is filled with charming Easter products including Russian decorative eggs filled with praline chocolates.  The decorative eggs make a charming decoration, regardless of the chocolate, although it’s a wonderful bonus!

Priced at just £6.99 I thought these would make a perfect last-minute easter gift.

To locate your nearest stockist visit www.maisonblanc.co.uk

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Traditional German Ginger Cake Recipe

There is something about the smell of ginger and spices that fill the house with the internal warmth one seeks during the cold, bitter, winter months.  And haven’t these last few weeks been bitter!  I believe the UK has had more snow than some of the East European countries famed for their skiing.  I’m no gourmet cake expert but I do love throwing everything in, stirring and baking making this recipe ideal.  Using a foil tin in place of a baking dish (only an option) also means there is little washing up!  I warn you, this is rich and for those who would prefer something a little lighter it may be best to omit 1/4 of the treacle in place of an extra 1/4 of golden syrup.  Enjoy with a mug of tea or strong coffee.

Traditional German Ginger Cake

Ingredients

150g butter

200g golden syrup

200g black treacle

125g dark muscovado sugar

2 tsp finely grated ginger

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp bicarbonate soda dissolved in 30ml warm water

250ml full-fat milk (do not use semi-skimmed or skimmed!)

2 eggs, beaten

300g plain flour

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (adjust for a fan oven) / Gas Mark 3

Grease a 30 x 20 x 5 cm foil tin

(Alternatively, line a roasting tin or ovenproof dish with baking parchment)

Melt the butter on a low heat in a saucepan

While the butter melts, add the sugar, syrup, treacle, fresh and ground gingers and cinnamon

Traditional German Ginger Cake

Take off the heat

Add the milk (this cools it slightly so the egg should not scramble)

Add the eggs and dissolved bicarbonate

Put the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients

Traditional German Ginger Cake

Beat until well mixed

(The batter is not thick which makes the cake very sticky)

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes until risen

Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the tin before cutting into squares

Traditional German Ginger Cake
The cake can also be stored whole in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost thoroughly at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours and then cut into squares. Cut when desired.

Traditional German Ginger Cake

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Lenivye Vareniki – Cheese Dumplings

These little Russian dumplings, a cheesy version of Italian gnocchi, are a real favourite of mine, but be warned, they require some time to make.  Personally, I think the easiest thing is to make up a huge batch once or twice a year, freeze in small batches, and simply defrost and reheat when you want them.  This is such a typical little East European dish which can be eaten either savoury, such as with bacon, or as a dessert with smetena (sour cream) and sugar.

dumpling-1
Lenivye Vareniki

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Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits

This biscuit recipe is one of my tried and tested favourites.  I took a particular interest in Jewish history and Judaism while at school after visiting the Synagogue in Reading.  I studied Religious Studies after school as an extra GCSE and during the year in which we looked at Judaism, Joe Perl and his wife Sylvia who were Holocaust survivors, would come in and tell us about their beliefs and feed us scrumptious food that they would normally eat over festivals or holy days such as the Sabbath.  A year or so after I left school I came across a giant Jewish cookery book.  I’ve used it so much and its dessert recipes are usually good.  This is my adaptation of the traditional Jewish Kipferl biscuits which originated and continue to be popular in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire states.  They make great presents when tied up in some cellophane, and I usually hand them out, somewhat ironically, at Christmas time.  I suppose I should really call them my Hanukkah gifts!

Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits
Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits

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Russian Drachena Recipe

This little but absolutely scrumptious dish is a sort of cross between a pancake and an omelette, however, unlike the aforementioned, it is cooked in the oven.  This dish is super quick and very easy, requiring relatively few ingredients which makes it ideal to serve as a starter with a garnish of green salad, as part of a tapas selection, or even for a perfect evening supper dish when you are tired after getting home from work and want a quick and delicious snack.  Sweet alternatives can also be made, just exclude the vegetables and sweeten with sugar and/or honey.

Spring Onion, Garlic & Tomato Drachena
Spring Onion, Garlic & Tomato Drachena

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Plum Streusel Slices

This recipe is of Saxony/German origin where fruit desserts are very popular.  A basic pastry base is used, with a plum filling (although apricots can be used if preferred) and topped with a streusel/crumble topping.  I am not normally a fan of fruit desserts, or desserts in general, but my Mother bought me 1 1/2 kg of plums and I sickened myself of eating them for breakfast.  I tried this recipe to try to use some of them up and was pleasantly surprised.

Ingredients (makes 14 slices)

225g plums, stoned and chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

100g caster sugar

115g butter

1 egg yolk

150g plain flour

For the topping:

150g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

75g butter

50g soft, brown, light sugar

50g chopped hazlenuts

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Grease and base an 8-inch square cake tin

(I used a round enamel one but if you want to cut the streusel into slices a square tin is easier)

Put lemon juice and plums into saucepan and heat on low heat for 5 minutes

Lemon juice & plums

Add 50g of caster sugar to plums

Simmer plums until very thick

Leave to cool

Beat the butter and 50g caster sugar together in bowl

Beat in egg yolk

Mix in flour to make soft dough

streusel-dough

Press mixture into base of prepared cake tin

Bake for 15 minutes in the oven

baked

Remove from oven and spoon over plum filling

(Tip:Do not put the filling all the way to the edges as it will ooze when it cooks and become difficult to cut into slices/remove from tin)

plum-topping

For the topping:

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl

Rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs

Stir in brown sugar and chopped nuts

topping

Sprinkle topping mixture over the plums

Press topping down gently

streseul-for-oven

Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned

cooked

Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into slices (or portions)

Remove from the tin when completely cold

Serve!

Serve!

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Jewish Almond Cake

This is a real favourite of mine.  It can be served simply with a sprinkling of caster sugar, or with a fruit coulis.  It is a very traditional cake and will be found throughout Eastern Europe, particularly in former parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  I love making this cake because it is really simple.  It really is a case of throwing everything in one big bowl and stirring, though not too aggressively.  If you want, you can freeze the cake for up to one month, but I think it is best eaten fresh.  It will keep in an air-tight container for three to five days.

Ingredients:

125g butter

150g caster sugar

2 drops of almond extract

1 drop of vanilla extract

3 eggs

75g ground almonds

40g plain flour

Instructions:

Grease 7-inch (17.5cm) tin

Cover base with greaseproof paper or silicone

Preheat oven to 180ºC (Gas Mark 4)

Cream together butter and sugar

Butter & sugar

Add almond and vanilla extract

Add eggs one at a time, each with a third of the ground almonds

Eggs & ground almonds

Beat until fluffy

Sift flour and fold in

Flour

Mixture in tin

Put in over for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean

Out of oven

To prevent top of cake from burning, it may be necessary to cover with foil halfway through cooking

Cool and sprinkle with caster sugar if desired

Serve small portions as it is very rich!

Serve small portions as it is very rich!

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Deliciously Light Lemon Cake

If you are permanently on the hunt for the lightest cake in the world, look no further.  This Romanian cake is made from a blend of thick yogurt, lemon and honey and is the lightest cake I have ever consumed.

Ingredients:

50g butter

115g caster sugar

2 large eggs

115g Greek yogurt

Grated rind of 2 lemons

Juice of 1/2 lemon

150g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

curls of lemon rind to decorate

For the syrup: juice of 1/2 lemon, 4 tbsp honey, 3 tbsp water, 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 190ºC

Grease and line a shallow, 7-inch square cake tin (I made extra to fit my rectangular tin)

Allow butter to soften.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar either in a bowl or a mixer until pale and fluffy.

Creamed butter and sugar

Slowly add the egg yolks, Greek yogurt, lemon rind and juice.

Beat until smooth.

Smooth

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until just stiff.

Egg whites

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Fold flour and baking powder into yogurt mixture.  Fold carefully, do not excessively stir because you will stretch the gluten in the flour.

Yogurt mixture, flour, baking powder

Then, fold in egg whites, again carefully, making sure they do not lose all their air, otherwise the cake will not be light.  A top tip is to use a metal spoon not a wooden one!

Ready for the tin!

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Ready for the oven!

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch.

Turn out on to a plate and peel off base paper.

For the syrup, put the lemon juice, honey, water and cinnamon stick together in small pan.

Honey & cinnamon

Stir until boiling.

Cook until syrupy.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.

Syrup done!

Spoon the warm syrup over the cake then sprinkle with lemon rind.

Leave to cool completely and cut into 16 pieces.

Finished product

Finished product ready to cut into slices.

Serve!

Serve!

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