Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dark chocolate-dipped goat’s milk butter cookies

I’ve never met anyone in my life who would say no to a cookie if offered one, and as a person who likes to bake and offer cookies to anyone who would take them, I have to say that there can never be too many cookie recipes in anyone’s baking arsenal.

This one deserves a place in yours.

It’s a butter cookie but not made with any old butter, but with goat’s milk butter. Greeks use goat’s milk butter often, but the kind we mostly use is a combination of goat’s and sheep’s milk butter that’s been clarified (it’s the one we use for Christmas kourabiedes for example). This kind of butter, however, is not clarified and it’s made with just goat’s milk.

The difference between the clarified goat’s-and-sheep’s milk butter, cow’s butter and this one, is in the color, the texture and the flavor. This butter is white and shiny. It’s very creamy, even creamier than cow’s milk butter, and not grainy as clarified goat’s-and-sheep’s milk butter is. It has an ever-so-slightly tangy flavor that is also richer and more complex than cow’s milk butter and understandably so, since goat’s milk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. It has a more gentle flavor than goat’s-and-sheep’s milk butter, not quite as aggressive, and it’s a little sweet, with sour and umami notes.

Adding it to these cookies makes all the difference as it has a particular effect on the flavor and texture compared to cow’s milk butter. These are like Viennese cookies but thinner and a bit more delicate, somewhat crumbly and soft yet crispy and impossibly buttery, and partly covering them with chocolate elevates them to another level of deliciousness.

Hope you enjoy them.

Dark chocolate-dipped goat’s milk butter cookies

Don’t substitute the goat’s milk butter with clarified goat’s-and-sheep’s milk butter because they’re not the same in consistency or flavor and you won’t get the desired result.

Use good quality chocolate with 55-60% cocoa solids. For a more “adult” version of the cookie, use a 70-75% cocoa solids.

By the way, pictured with the cookies is the best ever, heavily spiced hot cocoa I have ever made or tasted. I need to share with you, soon!

Yield: 28 cookies

200 g goat’s milk butter, softened
50 g icing sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
200 g all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp corn flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder, sifted

200 g dark chocolate (55-60% coca solids), chopped

Special equipment: stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer, fine sieve, plastic wrap, baking paper, baking pan

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add the butter and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or with an electric hand-held mixer) for about 5 minutes on medium-high speed until pale and light. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Then add the sifted flour, corn flour and baking powder and mix until combined and you have a smooth dough that will be somewhat firm.

Take it out of the bowl and shape it into a cylinder (log), 3-4 cm thick. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 170°C.
Line a baking pan with baking paper.

Take the log out of the fridge, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap. Cut the log into 1 cm thick cookies using a thin knife and place them on the prepared baking sheet spacing them apart by 5-6 cm as they will spread during baking.
Bake in the middle rack of the preheated oven for about 13 minutes, until pale golden, turning the baking pan around midway through baking time.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the pan. Then transfer them gently using a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate and dip one end of each cookie in it. Leave on a piece of baking paper to set.

They keep well for more than a week in a cookie tin at room temperature.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Black eyed bean salad with spices and herbs

This Monday, it will be Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday), the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent, and the day when the table will be set for a feast of seafood (octopus, shrimp, mussels, calamari), taramosalata, lots of dips and salads, legume dishes (fava, my favorite), lagana (Greek, Lenten, yeasted flat bread) of course, and halva, both sesame and semolina.

I wish I was back home in Athens for this day as my mom and grandmom make the best dishes for Kathari Deutera but instead, I’ll be here, in my little expat kitchen in the Netherlands, where I will be making a valiant effort to celebrate the day with as many dishes as time allows me to cook.

Legume dishes have a great place in traditional Greek cuisine and much more so during Lent. They are filling dishes, substituting the meat for protein intake, keeping you well fed and satisfied. Fasolada, fakes, fava are among my favorites and this one is slowly becoming a favorite as well. Not a stew or soup, but a salad. One of the best legume salads in my book, as all its flavors really appeal to my own particular palate. Hope to yours as well.

A salad of black eyed beans/peas that can be eaten either warm or cold. A salad flavored with fenugreek, fennel and coriander seeds, petimezi (Greek grape-must syrup) and fresh herbs.

It’s a quick salad to make, especially if you opt to use canned black eyed beans, a little more time-consuming if you choose to use dried beans. I tend to go for the dried ones as I prefer their flavor, but there’s no judgment either way.

The flavors are interesting from the warming spices, the meatiness of the beans, the hint of sweetness from the petimezi and the freshness of the herbs. There’s no need to overcomplicate a dish when the aromatics and spices have such a beautiful effect on it, no?

It’s perfect served as a main dish, together with some good bread and feta, and it can surely be served as a side dish/salad, to accompany fish or meat.

Black eyed bean salad with spices and herbs

I believe this could be equally delicious with other kinds of beans as well. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand, but I rather prefer the small black eyed beans because they are tender and have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.

Yield: 2 servings

400 g boiled black eyed beans (homemade or from a can)
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
¼ tsp ground fenugreek seeds
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the top
2 medium-sized shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp petimezi (Greek grape molasses)
Small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Small handful fresh fennel leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper


If you’re going to boil your own beans from dried, rinse them under cold, running water, place them in a large pot and add 2 liters of cold tap water. Cover the pan and bring water to the boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, drain the beans in a colander.
Return the beans in the pot and add 2 liters of boiling water. Bring them to the boil over high heat, then turn heat down to medium-low and cook the beans until they soften. This may take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on the beans. Not all beans are the same so you need to keep an eye on them. You want them to be tender but not mushy. Start checking them after 30 minutes to make sure. One way to check doneness, apart from simply tasting one of the beans, is by pressing one with your finger; if it breaks easily, it is ready, if not, you need to cook them for a while longer.
Drain them in a colander and set aside.

If you are using canned/bottle beans, rinse them well and drain them before using them in the salad.

In a wide pan frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn heat down to medium-low, add the shallots and cook until they soften, for about 9 minutes, stirring often. Then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Then add the ground fennel, coriander and fenugreek seeds and sauté for 1 minute. Add the beans and warm them through if they are cold. Then add the vinegar, the petimezi, a little salt and pepper and mix through. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.
Finish with the chopped parsley and fennel, mix gently and serve in individual plates or a salad bowl. Drizzle with some olive oil and enjoy!

You can either serve it war or cold. It keeps very well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 2-3 days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vanilla bean panna cotta

I’m definitely not one to celebrate Valentines’ day. The idea of celebrating my relationship on demand together with millions of others is a rather unappealing thought.

It wasn’t always the case, though. When I was a teenager/very young adult, it was one of the most anticipated days of the year. I got to celebrate it with my boyfriend and expected a card and flowers from him; I expected him to profess his undying love to me and when he did, I was the happiest girl alive.

I still am, because I am with my other half, the man I get to share my life with, the man I am lucky enough to call my partner in crime and without whom I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. And one of the ways I profess my love to him, every single day, is by cooking.

He loves food, and he loves desserts. Unlike me, he is not a hard-core chocoholic, at times he prefers the flavor of vanilla over chocolate, so if I were to make him a dessert for Valentine’s it would be this panna cotta.

It’s easy to make, quick as well, and is very special, if done right. Because you definitely don’t want rubbery or liquid panna cotta on your dessert plate, that’s for sure. It’s all about the recipe, and if you follow this one, you’ll succeed.

A creamy, rich, smooth, wobbly panna cotta, full of pure vanilla flavor from a real vanilla bean and not cloyingly sweet.

It would be perfect served with a raspberry sauce (coulis) that’s slightly sharp and fruity to cut through the richness of the panna cotta, or topped with some fresh raspberries or any other slightly acidic fruit like red currants, but you would definitely love it as is too.

Vanilla bean panna cotta

The vanilla flavor in this panna cotta is outstanding, basically because I use a vanilla bean. If you don’t have that, the next best thing is vanilla bean paste. Please don’t use vanilla extract, it’s not the same. Plus the little black specs of vanilla seeds on the off-white of the set cream give a nice visual contrast to the dessert.

Yield: 2 servings

1½ gelatin leaf
250 g cream, full-fat
20 g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped (or 1 heaped tsp vanilla bean paste)

for serving (optional)
- Raspberry sauce (coulis) (recipe here)
- Fresh raspberries, red currants or other fruits

Special equipment: hand whisk, fine sieve, dariole molds or ramekins, plastic wrap

Add gelatin leaves to a bowl and cover them with cold tap water. Soak them for 15 minutes until they soften.

In the meantime, in a small saucepan, add the cream, sugar, split vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla bean paste) and place over a medium-high heat. Stir with a spatula to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
Discard the vanilla bean.
Remove the leaves from the water, squeezing them well with your hands and add them to the saucepan. Whisk well to dissolve the gelatin in the cream. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and into a jug.

Pour the panna cotta mixture into 2 dariole molds or ramekins, dividing the mixture evenly between them.
In my case, I used little brioche molds that were a little tricky to unmold. Some people lightly grease the ramekins before pouring in the panna cotta mixture but I don’t like the grease on my panna cotta and I wouldn't suggest you do this either.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap so it adheres to the cream and leave in the fridge to cool and set, for about 5 hours.

Unmolding the panna cotta: Panna cotta won’t stick to a smooth surface, it adheres to it by suction, so if you create a small air pocket, by running a knife around the mold or pushing the set cream slightly away from the side of the ramekin, it will do the trick. So, once you have taken the ramekins out of the fridge, do what’s described above, and also dip it briefly in hot water to loosen it. Be careful not to get any water inside the ramekin though. Dip the ramekin in the hot water up to ¾ up the sides, holding it by the rim. Then, turn the panna cotta onto individual plates, giving it a firm shake, and serve immediately.

Note: If you make the raspberry coulis, don’t pour it over the panna cotta but around it, as it will look more appealing.