Tag Archives: Christmas

Spiced Rum White Chocolate and Coconut Truffles

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Spice Rum White Chocolate Truffles
I love chocolate truffles…I love  them in a very deep and real way. Seriously.  Appropriate for any food-related love, of course! Last year I pined for French truffles we used to buy every Christmas while still in Canada. Yet I have never tried to make them myself. How those two things are reconciled is beyond me! I guess I had a silly idea that they would be difficult and fiddly to make, and boy oh boy, was I ever wrong! Truffle making must be one of the most enjoyable activities ever and shouldn’t even be classified as cooking but rather a craft because it’s that simple and fun! So gather up your little ones, put lovely Christmas tunes on and get to it! If you make only one thing this Christmas let it be these White Chocolate and Coconut Truffles.

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Ingredients:

For 25-30 truffles

250 gr good-quality white chocolate choppedmelted truffles

100 ml whipping cream/double cream

25 gr soft unsalted butter

Spiced Rum or any other liqueur of your choice-a splash (optional)

For the coating:

200 gr good-quality chocolate, melted and slightly cooled ( I used vanilla bean white chocolate from Marks and Spencer)

100 gr shredded or desiccated coconut

Method:

Put the white chocolate, cream and butter in a pan over a low heat and stir until melted and combined, add a splash of Spiced Rum for a more complex flavour. Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the fridge for 4 hours or until firm. (Go read a book while it’s chilling or do something else fun!)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. truffles 1

Scoop out a small amount of the mixture and roll it into a ball using a spoon or your hands. I opted for the latter as I wanted mine to be perfectly round. I found I had to wipe my hands between rolling each truffle because the creamy filling made them too slippery to be effective! Transfer the truffle balls to a plate and chill for 1 hour to firm up.

Once they are firm enough to handle drop them in the melted chocolate for a quick swim and pull them out with a fork, then repeat the same with the shredded coconut. I left a few of mine coconut-free as my son claims coconut to be his latest dislike! I am curious to see how true that is in the face of temptation!

You are done! Do you see how easy that is?! I am pretty sure I will be experimenting with dark chocolate very soon.

I am very weary to compare these amazing truffles with anything but if you insisted I would say they taste like a better version of Ferrero Raffaello chocolates. Oh gasp.

Serve these delightful morsels at your next Christmas party paired with a glass of bubbly and you will surely be the most popular and sought after hostess!

Spiced Rum White Chocolate Truffles

Or give them as a clever Christmas gift to your friends although I am warning you they will be very tough to part with!

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* The recipe was adapted from Sainsbury’s Magazine December 2012

Rogalik- My Christmas Traditions Native and Adopted

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rogaliki1
One of the biggest draws of Christmas is time with family steeped in traditions. We are all creatures of habit and anticipation of something familiar is both exciting and comforting. You are probably expecting me to break into a charming little story from my childhood memories about celebrating Christmas in Russia. The truth is I didn’t start celebrating Christmas until my late teens. Among numerous holidays celebrated in Soviet Russia the birth of Christ was not one be acknowledged for 70 years! Many wonderful traditions were lost or got transferred to New Year’s Day, which became the biggest holiday of the year.

When Brad and I got married we moved away from both of our families and were very anxious to establish holiday traditions of our own to pass onto our children. Special festive food is, of course, a major part of any traditions and Christmas baking became something I dove right into! Some recipes came from Brad’s family, some from glossy foodie magazines and the one I am sharing with you today came from the Russian cookbook that was in my family for years. I was leafing through it one day when I stumbled on it. I marked it with * and jotted “Christmas” next to it. That’s how Rogalik became our family’s Christmas Tradition.

recipe
I’ve been making it ever since. For the last 12 Christmases we’ve enjoyed the taste of cinnamony walnuts drenched in honey and wrapped in flaky pastry. A cookie that has truly Russian roots but also became popular in North America through the Jewish immigrants from various Eastern European countries and known as Rugalach. Can you hear the similarity from Rogalik to Rugalach? I was also happy to learn that “rugal” in Yiddish means “royal”. Rogalik is so lovely, it’s truly fit for the King of Kings.

rogaliki 3 closeup
There are literally hundreds of recipes of Rugalach that are floating around the internet. The biggest difference between them and mine is that most of them use cream cheese to make the dough, which is not authentic at all and is rumoured to be developed by Philadelphia to help with the sale of their brand. My recipe uses sour cream and after trying all the other ones I always come back to mine. I might be partial but I believe my recipe is superior :-).
Ingredients for the dough:
Flour – 3 cups plus extra for rollingrogalik

Sour Cream (full fat)-1 cup

Butter- 3/4 cup/150gr

Vanilla- 1tsp

Egg (beaten)-1 for brushing

Ingredients for the filling:

Walnuts (chopped)-1 1/2 cupsRogalik

Sugar-1 cup

Honey-1/4 cup

Cinnamon-1 tsp.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whip your softened butter together with sour cream in a large bowl. Add flour in small portions and continue mixing. Empty the contents of the bowl on floured surface and continue kneading until you have smooth and pliable dough adding a bit more flour if sticky. Cover and let sit for 10 min.

While your dough is resting chop the walnuts finely or process them in a food processor, mix with sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Make sure your honey is spreadable, heat if needed to achieve the right consistency.

Divide your dough into 4 parts and rolls out each individually into a circle. The dough shouldn’t be thicker than 1 cm. Brush honey on it and divide into 16 even triangles.

circle divided

Now sprinkle 1/4 of the nut/cinnamon mixture on your circle. My son came to help me with this important business but got bored quickly and left me to my own devices.

mitchell's hand
The next step is the funnest of them all. That’s where the famous rogalik takes it’s shape. Roll up each triangle starting from the wide end towards the centre of the circle.
one rolled up
Arrange the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush them with the egg wash and bake them for 25-30 minutes. I strongly recommend using the parchment paper because the delicious and gooey filling will leak out a bit and turn into caramel. If you don’t use parchment paper your rogalik will get glued to the baking sheet and will make it stressful to remove.
unbaked
Once baked remove them from the baking sheet to the wire rack while still warm.

rogaliki done
These little beauties take a bit of work but I get a profound sense of satisfaction and pride when they are done and put away in lovely Christmas tins. I am even happier when I get to sit down and enjoy one with my tea.
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My little girl loved them as well this year! Bonus!
Vika eatingRugelach  or Russian Rogalik

Christmas Dinner {Part 3}- Herb, Chorizo and Fig Stuffing

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Are you set on your Christmas dinner menu already? If you are anything like me you’d be changing things the last minute, adding to already existing ones and re-arranging everything from top to bottom. It’s impossible for me to stick with just one recipe for something, I get so distracted by the variety available to me and I want to try them all!
This post is about a stuffing recipe that I invented on a spur of the moment and surprisingly enough it turned out to be delicious. In fact, my husband said he could eat it alone as a meal! It wasn’t something I thought about or planned. I was simply cooking a pork roast one Saturday and I kept adding more and more sides to it. This recipe was born!
You know I actually already have a perfect stuffing recipe that I’ve been making for holidays for a while. It’s hard to beat perfection and why would I mess with it! More importantly why would I mess with stuffing when everyone knows it has a potential to taste like a bland clump of bread! The answer is I get bored when things are the same and I need to spice them up every once in a while. Also when you work with ingredients like these how can it possible not be fabulous?!

Another reason for this experimentation is I love cooking with Spanish sausage- chorizo (and I had quite a bit of it kicking around in the fridge that needed to be used), it gives the dishes such lovely flavour and zing! It also turns everything it comes into contact with yellow or orange which is like a bit of sunshine that the Spaniards share with all of us Northerners! I was curious to see if it would work with this very non-Spanish meal.
stuffing prep
Like I said this was not a pre-meditated affair so I had to use ingredients I had on hand. Next time I make it I think I am going to add chestnuts for more texture!
In my humble opinion, there are a few ‘must have’ components of a tasty stuffing besides bread or rice- a sausage of sorts, a variety of herbs, fresh or dried fruit and nuts. All things combined will give us flavour, texture, a bit of spice and comfort!
Ingredients:

  • Bread -stale French baguette- 2/3 or 200gr
  • Butter- 1tbsp
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Apple-1/2 (grated)
  • Chorizo- 150gr
  • stuffing prep 2
  • Dried Figs-10 (chopped)
  • Sage-2-3 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Rosemary-2-3 sprigs(leaves only)
  • Pine nuts-1/4 c.
  • Stock (beef, pork or vegetable)-1c.
  • Egg-1 large (slightly beaten)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and butter an oven proof dish.

Cube your bread and put it in a large bowl. Chop up your onion and herbs and saute them in the frying pan with butter on a medium heat until translucent but not coloured for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute longer. Transfer to the bowl with bread.

Dice chorizo and figs and add them to the bowl with stuffing. Add all the remaining ingredients except the egg. Mix well together adding salt and pepper to taste. Finish off with the beaten egg, mix the stuffing again and transfer to the buttered baking dish.

Unbaked stuffing

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until puffed up and golden.

cooked stuffing

This stuffing has a slightly sweet and spicy taste. It’s crazy flavourful and although it doesn’t  have that traditional and familiar Christmassy taste it’s lovely nonetheless and goes especially well with this pork roast.

I hope you are adventurous enough to add this newbie to your Christmas table. I promise you won’t regret it and your guests will be so impressed with the bold and innovative combination of flavours!

Homemade Eggnog aka Christmas In A Cup

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Homemade Eggnog
In roughly three weeks from now we will be celebrating our second Christmas in England and so far this December has been much smoother than the last one. A year ago I was completely lost. As Christmas season was approaching I felt nothing but anxiety over where to do my Christmas shopping, how to stock up on seasonal goodies and keep them in a tiny London flat with no storage, and lastly I grieved the absence of Canadian holiday fare. Especially the last one. Once again December is upon us and things are quite cheery in my household. I personally credit mental preparation and my mad eggnog making skills to such success.

First of all, do you know that English grocery stores do not sell cartons of eggnog? Are you as appalled as I was a year ago? Do you share my love for eggnog? If you do you will understand what an important ingredient it is to the holiday cheer! You will also understand how crucial it is to have a great eggnog recipe. I’ve tried a few last year and made some pretty incredible drinks. Alas, they didn’t quite taste like the eggnog we were all craving. My morning coffee was downright unconsolable.

Yesterday I threw all caution to the wind, which is my custom to do and created my own recipe. The results were…well let’s just say as soon as I finished making it I left the house in a sprint to purchase a bottle of brandy because the taste was just perfect!

What I discovered is that the key to success is the right blend of spices and that’s very personal. The milk and the eggs are just the carriers of the taste-rich and delicious carriers.

spices
The recipe that I am about to share appeals to my taste but please feel free to adjust the amounts of various spices.

Ingredients:

egg yolks-4

whole milk-2 cups/500ml

sugar-1/2 cupeggnog whole pic

half and half/single cream-2 cups/500ml

vanilla bean-1

nutmeg-1/2 tsp.

mixed spice( a blend of cassia, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves)-1tsp.

cinnamon-1 stick

Method:

Pour 2 cups of whole milk in the heavy bottomed sauce pan, slit open your vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add them to the milk, along with the cinnamon stick and the rest of the spices. Heat the milk over a low heat until the milk is hot and steamy and about to boil. You don’t want the milk heating process to happen quickly because the milk needs time to soak up all the wonderful flavours.

While the milk is getting infused, separate your egg yolks from the egg whites and reserve the egg whites for a different use or freeze them. Whip your egg yolks with sugar in a medium sized bowl until the mixture is much paler in colour and doubled in volume. When your milk is ready take it off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick.

The next step is a little bit tricky. Our main goal here is to “cook” the eggs so they are safe to eat but not to end up with a batch of milky scrambled eggs- trust me it’s very easy to do and happens QUICKLY!

With your mixer still running slowly add half of the milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs, blend well. Tempering should prevent the eggs from curdling in the next step. Then empty the contents into the saucepan with milk and heat through while whisking continuously on low heat. It took mine 2 minutes. Take off the heat, strain through a fine sieve to ensure eggnog is smooth and silky, add single cream to it and chill until cold.

glass of eggnog from above
Enjoy with a dash of brandy or skip it if you prefer the non-alcoholic taste. My absolute favourite way to drink eggnog is in my morning coffee. Nothing can be more satisfying on a cold winter morning than sipping a cup of eggnog latte while watching your littles lazily eating breakfast by the light of the Christmas tree. Merry Christmas!!

Chocolate Stout Cake And An Early New Year Resolution

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Chocolate Guinness CakeMy husband Brad turned…ahem…let’s just say he had his birthday this past week and there are only a few things I love more than celebrating birthdays. Quite possibly this is because my own birthday is on Christmas Day and I always feel deprived of the love poured directly on me on the day that is everyone’s holiday, I try to get as much celebratin’ from my loved ones’ b-days as I can! For weeks I agonised over his present and his birthday cake until I found the perfect cake from, where else but Pinterest! Chocolate Stout Cake looked down on me from the pages of My Baking Addiction blog and I was instantly in love. Brad is a well-known chocoholic, in fact he once confessed that he doesn’t even feel like he’s had dessert unless it contained chocolate. What could make this decadently chocolatey cake even more palatable to Brad? Why, I am glad you asked! Stout! Beer +Chocolate=One Happy Man. That was my thought process. The flavour combo intrigued me and I was set out to bring the cake to life.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out the cake was quite easy to make. The recipe doesn’t require any special skills or pastry chef credentials, and as you can see I didn’t even use any fancy piping to decorate it, just a pile of chocolate curls on top makes it a show stopper. I enjoyed the process thoroughly but nothing prepared me for an absolutely outstanding result-the best cake I ever made which spurred on, what seems to be, an untimely New Year’s Resolution. Here it goes. From now forward I will ALWAYS bake with butter. No margarine, no oil. Pure, unadulterated butter. I’ve baked many, many cakes in my life and no matter the recipe I always seemed not quite satisfied with the sponge itself. The oil based ones especially, seem to have a tinge of an after taste. Not this beauty. Its clean, rich and spontaneously addictive taste comes from butter. Well, enough of this. Let’s bake the darn thing!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Guinness
½ cup strong black coffee
2 cups/ 454 gr unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

4 cups all purpose flourcake top2
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups creme fraiche/sour cream (I always replace sour cream with creme fraiche as it tastes more Russian to me)

Chocolate Ganache

2 cups whipping cream/double cream
1 pound good quality dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and butter 3 8″ cake pans and dust them with some flour to prevent the cakes from sticking.

In a large saucepan heat stout, coffee and butter together until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer, add cocoa powder while whisking continuously to avoid lumps until smooth. Set aside to cool. (I quite often take things like that and put them in front of an open window for 15 min. to cool it down quickly because my English fridge aka “beer fridge” is tiny!)

Blend flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a different bowl. Mix eggs, vanilla and creme fraiche with an electric mixer in bowl no 3.

Now check on your chocolate mixture and make sure it’s cool enough to continue the process.

Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and creme fraiche mixture and blend them together. Add flour mixture a little bit a time and beat on low speed until combined. Divide batter equally among the pans. I used to always have uneven cakes until I purchased a digital scale and started weighing them. Problem solved! Bake cakes together or separately depending on the size of your oven. Once again, just like my fridge, my European oven is tiny and I baked mine one at a time for 25-30 min. Always test your cakes for doneness with a toothpick or a cake taster if you have one. Transfer your cakes on the cooling racks and get on with the ganache making!

I absolutely adore ganache and I don’t even care how pretentious it sounds! It’s crazy how little effort you put into that frosting for it to taste THAT insanely delicious! All we have to do is to bring heavy cream to a boil and take it off the heat immediately, then add your chopped chocolate into it and stir until melted! Cool it and whip it with an electric mixer until paler in colour and fluffy! Voila! The most decadent French delicacy is ready!

Assemble the cake filling with 1/3 of the ganache between the layers like so…

Cake pre-frosted

Finish off by covering the entire cake with the remaining ganache and top with chocolate curls. You can make chocolate curls by scraping the blade of your knife along the flat surface of the chocolate bar. I have to admit my curls were a bit weak and I have to practice more to achieve perfection.

However, there was nothing weak about the taste and the cake was pure delight. It’s flavourful but somehow light in texture and very hard to stop eating!

PS. I am not sure why but the recipe I followed left me with extra batter which allowed me to bake a dozen of cupcakes as well! In my world it’s NOT a problem.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Christmas Dinner- Roasted Pork Leg with Port Gravy {Part 1}

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Believe it or not but this entire post in 3 parts was inspired by my most recent acquisition from the Greenwich market- this antique meat carving set. The vendor kept warning us about the sharpness of the blade so I had very little choice but to buy a chunk of meat and test it for myself!

Also, I am becoming very keenly aware that Christmas is very fast approaching and I would love to offer you some wonderful options from the Vikalinka’s kitchen for your festive dinner. This post is all about the meat and gravy but in the subsequent parts I will be telling all about your sides like potato and stuffing. So stay with me for the whole run!

I don’t know how you feel about roasts but I’ve always been a fan. Nothing is easier and more satisfying than throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven waiting for a couple of hours and then feasting on it for days and making your house smell heavenly in the process! My love for them only grew deeper when we moved to England where a Sunday Roast is a century-old tradition. When it comes to roasting meat I trust my favourite chef (who also happens to be a Brit), Jamie Oliver, more than anybody else in the world, even my own mother. I’ve looked through at least 6 of his recipes for different cuts and this is what I came up with- a hybrid of sorts but delicious and tender nonetheless.

Ingredients:

Pork leg- 6-7 lbs

Carrot-2 medium

Celery-2 stalks

Onion-1 medium

Sage and Rosemary- 2-3 sprigs of each

garlic-3 cloves

salt and pepper

For Port Gravy:

Flour-1 tbsp.

Port-1/4 c.

Stock- 2 c.

Method:

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature.Take your pork leg out of the fridge, rinse it with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay it on the cutting board skin side up and make slits on the skin with a sharp knife. Rub the meat with salt and paper. Take your herbs and vegetables and roughly chop them up while leaving garlic whole but smashed. Put them in the middle of your roasting pan and place the pork leg directly on top of them like that.

Place the pork in the oven and cook at 475F/250C for about 10-15 min allowing the skin to blister up, then turn the temperature down to 350F/180C and cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 145F/60C basting it with the pork drippings half-way through. If you don’t have a meat thermometer I highly recommend buying one. They are inexpensive and a great way to make sure you don’t overcook your meat and end up with something that tastes like a shoe.They are quite important as oven temperatures vary so much that going by the internal temperature of your roast is much better than the cooking time in the recipe. I suspect that the reason many people stay away from roasts is because of the memories of dry and overcooked meat from their childhood.

When your roast is done. It should look similar to this one.

Remove the roast from the pan and set it aside. Cover it with foil if you plan on eating later. On the side note, once you take the roast out of the oven and cover it, the temperature will rise a bit more as the the internal cooking is still happening. That is why it’s important to watch the temperature and take it out of the oven sooner rather than later.

Next on the list is gravy. I cook mine in the same pan where I cooked the roast. This way you can use all the drippings and the burnt bits. That’s where the flavour is going to come from…well that and port, of course!

Sprinkle your flour over the pan and blend it in the fat. (I drain most of the fat but leave about a tablespoon.) Remember all the herbs and vegetables that were hidden under the roast? They should be nice and very soft right now. Mash them with the potato masher and blend everything together. The mixture will be very chunky but we won’t worry about it right now. Add port and let it cook for a couple of minutes, let the flavour seep into the gravy and then add the stock. Turn the heat up and allow the gravy to thicken, just watch it bubble away and enjoy the aroma that rises from it. When the gravy reached the right consistency take it off the heat and strain into a gravy dish leaving all the vegetable bits behind.I can’t begin to tell you how much the roasted veggies and port in this recipe improve and add depth to the overall taste of the gravy. The sweetness that port offers works particularly well with the pork. Please, please, please give it a try! I promise you won’t regret it! And when you do try it let me know your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to come back for Part 2 and 3 of this fabulous meal.

It was such a hit with the whole family that the last words of my 6-year old before bed were: “Mummy, can I please have more of that pig tomorrow?”