Laufabrauð – Icelandic leaf bread

This decorative fried bread is a staple in Icelandic homes at Christmas, with families gathering together for the day they prepare it.

Laufabrauð - Icelandic leaf bread

This recipe was adapted from a few I found online, here and here and a video recipe here. There are loads of recipes and videos online. Mine are far from perfect to look at, they were a lot of fun to make!

Laufabrauð is eaten, slathered in butter, with Christmas dinner. Apparently, you are absolutely not allowed to eat them before Christmas eve, but you absolutely should fry up the offcuts (they are too dry for re-rolling) and eat them immediately as your reward for all that effort. Those offcuts were our first taste of laufabrauð and we felt supremely rewarded! 🙂

Makes 20 – 30, depending on size
Preparation: Several hours. Many pairs of hands makes for both a fun day and a lighter workload!
Note that I have reduced the baking powder in the recipe here, because mine puffed up too much – turns out when I halved the recipe I forgot to halve that bit.

Ingredients

500g (4 cups, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
15g (1 Tbsp) sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
300ml (1 1/4 cups) whole milk
60g (4 Tbsp) butter

vegetable oil for frying

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Heat the milk and butter over low heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to combine, then turn it out and knead by hand to a dense dough.

Roll into a thick sausage and let rest for about 30 minutes wrapped in plastic or under a damp cloth.

Cut off portions – mine were about the size of a ping pong ball, but you’ll need bigger pieces for bigger rounds – and roll them out on a lightly floured surface – they should be very thin and 15 – 20cm (6 – 8″) in diameter. Trim the edges with a sharp knife or wavy pastry cutter, using a plate as a guide (I used a 15cm / 6″ saucer). Stack them between sheets of baking paper.

Decorate by cutting out patterns with a small, sharp knife. The traditional chevron design is made by cutting rows of parallel pointed cuts, folding back every second one and adhering it to the one behind.

Heat about 2cm / 1″ oil in a pan to 180°C / 355°F.

Prick the rounds with a fork to avoid blistering too much, and slide one carefully into the oil. It will sink then float up, at which point you should flip it over with a fork or something similar. They are ready when golden – it takes about 30 seconds for each one.

As you remove them from the oil, let the excess drip off then lay them on a piece of paper towel, cover with another piece and use a saucepan or wooden board to gently press it flat for a few seconds.

Continue cooking until they are all done, and stack in a cookie tin or airtight container when completely cool.

Stored in a cool, dry place, leaf bread should keep for months.

Posted in bread, icelandic | 1 Comment

Baked apples with brandy ice cream

Apples stuffed with mincemeat (fruit mince), served with a scoop of brandy spiked no-churn ice cream – all the flavours of Christmas, but lighter and naturally gluten free. And because this is such a busy time of year, the stuffing and ice cream can be prepared well ahead of time, to make your special day so much simpler.

Baked apples with brandy ice cream

After first making mincemeat (fruit mince) a couple of years ago, it quickly became something I love to do for holiday baking! Of course, you can use store bought for these apples, but I really enjoy the fact that it can be personalised by making your own. The batch I made this year varies a bit from the first batch, so I’ll include the new recipe here, to inspire you. Obviously, this recipe will make waaaaay more than you need (unless you’re stuffing enough apples to feed an army), but it makes a great gift!

Ingredients per serving

1 apple (I used Golden Delicious)
1 heaping Tbsp mincemeat (fruit mince)
1-2 tsp dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1 small cube butter, about 1cm / 1/3″

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Use a sharp knife to core the apples, leaving a cone-shaped well in them but keeping the base intact.

Arrange the apples snugly in a baking dish, stuff each one with a heaping tablespoon of mincemeat (fruit mince), then top with a little brown sugar and a cube of butter.

Bake in centre of oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until soft and starting to wrinkle.

Serve warm with the juice from the baking dish spooned over the top, and a scoop of ice cream on the side.

Fruit mince
Males about 1kg / 4 cups

100g (2/3 cup) diced dried figs
100g (3/4 cup) diced prunes
100g (1 cup) dried cranberries
150g (1 cup) golden sultanas
100g (2/3 cup) raisins
50g (1/3 cup) diced candied peel
1 large (approx. 200g or 7 oz) cooking apple
juice and finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
juice and finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
150g (3/4 cup, packed) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground mace
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
100g (7 Tbsp) unsalted butter
75ml (5 Tbsp) brandy

Combine all ingredients except the brandy in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Add the brandy and stir well, cover and let rest at room temperature overnight – about 12 hours.

Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

Can be processed in jars to keep in a cool, dark place for a year.

Brandy ice cream
Makes about 1 litre / 1 quart

500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
60ml (4 Tbsp) brandy, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not to the texture of whipped cream, 3 – 4 minutes on medium.

Add the condensed milk and brandy, and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Pour mixture into a container, seal tightly and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight. Keeps for three months in the freezer.

Posted in dessert, ice cream, preserves, sweet | 2 Comments

Vegan White Christmas

White Christmas is a traditional Australian treat enjoyed throughout the festive season.

vegan white christmas

The recipe usually includes powdered milk, and often includes white chocolate, and I was originally going to make the family recipe that we were treated to each year as children, but that recipe seems to have been lost. So, as I try to include at least one vegan recipe in my holiday baking routine, I decided to have a go at veganising various recipes that I found online – I have to say, this works just as well and tastes just as good!

Makes: about 60 small pieces
Preparation: 20 minutes
Chilling: about 2 hours
Note on sugar: The advantage of living in Europe is that our locally produced sugar comes from beets, and, unlike cane sugar, is not bone char filtered. If you’re not vegan or vegetarian it’s not an issue, but if you are, you need to be careful about brands. Alternatively, you can substitute coconut sugar.

Ingredients

125g (1 cup unsifted) powdered sugar
100g (about 2 1/2 cups) puffed rice cereal
75g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
100g (1/2 cup) glacé cherries, halved
100g (3/4 cup) candied fruit
75g (1 cup) sliced almonds
1 x 13g envelope (1 heaping Tbsp) vanilla sugar
200g (7 oz) cacao butter
200g (7 oz) coconut oil

Directions

Line a brownie pan (about 20 x 26cm / 8 x 10″) with plastic wrap and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Using a double boiler or a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, gently melt the cacao butter. It’s slower to melt than chocolate, so just be patient.

Add the coconut oil and stir until melted.

Pour the melted ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine well.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan and chill for about 2 hours, until firm.

Turn out of the pan, peel off the plastic wrap and cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Posted in candy, dessert, snack, sweet, vegan | Leave a comment

Jólakaka – Icelandic Yule cake

This traditional Icelandic Christmas cake is super simple to make, and a thick slice (or two) is just perfect smeared with butter or jam and served with a steaming hot cup of tea.

Jólakaka - Icelandic Yule cake

Makes 1 medium loaf cake
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 1 hour

Ingredients

115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
125ml (1/2 cup + 2 tsp) milk
1 tsp lemon juice
250g (2 cups, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
100g (2/3 cup) raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 175°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4, and grease a medium loaf pan.

Using a hand-held electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each one, then add the milk and lemon juice and beat well to combine.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, add to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.

Add the raisins and stir in gently.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan, smooth the top and bake in centre of oven for one hour.

Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store wrapped in foil or plastic, or in an airtight container, for up to one week.

Posted in breakfast, cake, dessert, icelandic, snack, sweet | 4 Comments

Christmas macaroons

Light and fluffy coconut macaroons, studded with candied fruit and enrobed in white chocolate.

christmas macaroons

French-style coconut macaroons (congolais) are made with just coconut, sugar and egg whites and flavoured with a touch of lemon zest, and are much lighter than their condensed milk counterparts. With candied fruit added to them, they are an extra delicious treat. Covered in white chocolate, they are an indulgent holiday favour!

Makes about 36
Preparation time: about 4 hours, most of which is inactive

Ingredients

150g (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
200g (2 cups) desiccated coconut
100g (3/4 cup) finely diced candied fruit (reserve enough pieces for decorating)
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
100g (3 large or 4 small) egg whites

Note
You need to use desiccated, finely grated coconut for the macaroons, because the long strands of shredded coconut won’t shape as well. If you can only get shredded coconut, try pulsing it a couple of times in the food processor, but be careful not to overdo it or you’ll end up with flour.

Directions

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the sugar, coconut, lemon zest and candied fruit. I use my hands, so that I can be sure the lemon zest and candied fruit don’t clump.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to firm peaks.

Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients with a spatula until just incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2 (bottom-only heat, if possible, to prevent them browning on top) with the shelf in the middle position, and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Gently press the mixture into walnut-sized balls. This part is messy and can be frustrating if they don’t hold together, but persevere gently or you’ll crush all the air from the mix.

Place on the sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely on the sheet – they will be too delicate to handle while hot.

White chocolate coating

300g (10 ounces) white couverture chocolate (or candy melts)

Notes
* If you’re using candy melts, there’s no need to seed, so you can melt it all at once.
* If you’re melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water, or the chocolate may scorch.
* Do not get any water in the chocolate – just a drop with make it seize beyond repair. The bottom of the bowl or double boiler will be wet with condensation, so I recommend laying out a kitchen towel on the work bench to put it on, so you don’t end up with a puddle.

Directions

Using a double boiler, or a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or a microwave on medium power in 20 second increments, melt about 2/3 of the couverture. Remove from heat and add the remaining couverture by handfuls, stirring gently until completely melted by the residual heat of the melted couverture, and it reaches body temperature.

Using two forks to hold and manipulate them (without stabbing them), gently roll the macaroons one at a time in the melted couverture to coat completely, shake off the excess, then put them on a sheet of wax paper, top with a piece of candied fruit, then allow to set completely. If you live in a very hot or humid climate, you might need to pop them in the fridge for a few minutes to set.

If the couverture cools and thickens too much while you’re working, reheat it gently back to body temperature.

If they have large feet, you can trim them with a paring knife.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, separated by layers of parchment if not wrapped.

Posted in biscuit, candy, cookie, dessert, french, snack, sweet | Leave a comment

Pumpkin spice macarons

Pumpkin coloured shells with a delicious spiced buttercream filling.
Perfect for your Hallowe’en celebrations!

Pumpkin spice macarons

Makes 30 filled macarons
Preparation: 20 minutes
Resting: 20 minutes
Baking: 2 x 18 minutes
Cooling: 30 minutes +
Filling: 10 minutes
Maturing: up to 24 hours

Ingredients

The shells

140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water
orange gel or powder food colouring (optional)

The filling

125g (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) butter, room temperature
250g (2 cups unsifted) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring, if desired – the quantity will depend on the brand and shade you want, but bear in mind that it will become significantly paler when you mix in the meringue. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2”, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you gently touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

If not filling straight away, store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

The filling

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add spices and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then beat on high until smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add a bit more powdered sugar or a few drops of milk to adjust consistency if necessary, but you want it quite thick for piping.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for 24 hours before eating, or at least overnight. Remove from fridge an hour before eating to allow the filling to soften.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, sweet | 5 Comments

Caramelised apple and pear cake

Beautifully fluffy cake with a crisp sugar crust on top and a soft, moist fruit filling.

Caramelized apple and pear cake

Caramelising the apples and pears before adding them to the batter gives this cake a huge hit of flavour, plus the rich taste of wholemeal flour, muscovado sugar and a hint of nutmeg bring it all together for perfect autumn fare.

Caramelized apple and pear cake

Makes 1 x 23cm / 9″ cake
Preparation: 30 minutes
Baking: about 60 minutes

Ingredients

For the fruit

30g (2 Tbsp) muscovado sugar
30g (2 Tbsp) butter
2 medium (approx 300g / 10oz) apples (I used firm Golden Delicious)
2 medium (approx 300g / 10oz) firm pears

For the batter

200g (1 cup, lightly packed) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
150g (1 1/3 sticks or 2/3 cup) butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
240g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg, to taste
30g (2 Tbsp) raw sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat oven to 160°C / 325°F / Gas Mark 3, and butter a 23cm / 9″ cake tin.

Peel, core and dice the apples and pears into pieces about 1.5cm or about half an inch. Heat 2 Tbsp muscovado sugar and 2 Tbsp butter in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Add apples and pears, then toss frequently as they cook for 5 minutes. Set the pan aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture and stir together until well combined – the batter will be thick.

Stir in the apples and pears and caramel sauce from the pan, then scrape into the cake tin. Smooth the top with a spatula and then sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake in centre of oven for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes put clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted in cake, dessert, sweet | 6 Comments