Category Archives: Easter

Green Tea Green Apple ‘Gimme That’ Mini Bundt Cake

I’ve been planning to join the Matcha tea craze in baking for a while and have finally come up with this mini cakes creation: worth every penny. Not only it’s a super-cute dessert with presence and pizazz, it is a moist and dense flavor bomb with a perfect match of green tea, green apple, maple syrup ingredients enhanced with the secret organic STASH tea powder to also include: hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate and raspberry flavors. The later ingredient is optional, although it works as a great taste booster and saves you lots of trips (and cash) to groceries for special ingredients if you happen to have it already. Pure Matcha tea powder alone is also good, packing the cakes with the one and only delicate taste of Japanese tea, along with its powerful health benefits.

If you feel hooked, dear reader, let’s buckle up for a quick food journey, play some Lilly Allen and agree the ‘Life for Me’ can totally include these treats.
Of all my previous mini cakes, muffin or cupcake experiments, I had the most fun with these ones. Whether you are a pro in your own kitchen or just an amateur of an easy, but special kind of dessert you never tried before, but were potentially curious about; the texture and aroma of which would be surprising; the taste of which would linger long after the first bite; and which can be re-heated a week later to reveal even more flavor – this is your thing.  These little sweet babies are the result of my light bulb moment re-purposing the Keurig-style STASH organic tea cups, which later became a pure Matcha tea cakes experiment. Four green apples are included and maple syrup is not forgotten. Believe me, if I’ve done them 3 times in the last 30 days that means they are obsessively addictive. The mini Bundt cake pans are procurable at many places today: from Walmart to Winners, but you can as well have these cakes in the cupcake or muffin shapes.
The spring has sprung, the Easter times go on and the beautiful city of Montreal is finally awakening from the never-ending cold slumber. What a Joy! You can gauge this excitement by the special things cooking on the stoves and special desserts baking in the ovens. The green tea + green apple cakes make a perfect ode to celebrate spring and nature’s renewal…
If you plan a trip to a potluck party this week-end, these will literally sell like hot cakes. No need to advertise, just wait to watch the face expressions while the cakes will be disappearing with cosmic speed.

There are two options to finish the cakes: drizzling with the maple syrup or dusting with confectionary sugar. I prefer to do both. There’s an indefinite number of garnish: from trendy pistachios, to other nuts, to spices like cinnamon or cardamom, to fruits, to whipped cream, jams, even fresh cheese or exquisite savory ingredients like foie gras or smoked fish if you’d like to stretch them to an upscale tapas party territory.

The cakes also make a perfect picnic or Easter basket companions.  These are easy and fun to make in advance and keep for a few days or up to a week in a fridge. If you decide to revive them into something especially impressive, just warm them up in  pre-heated oven (375F) for about 10-15 minutes to have that newly developed crisp crust, which you will re-drizzle later with maple syrup and re-powder with sugar.  Amazing!

It all began with giving a new purpose to the STASH tea cups with 100% natural green tea, hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate, raspberry flavors and Matcha. The idea of using Matcha in dessert has been rattling around my brain for a while. I was going to make the usual apple cinnamon cakes and then noticed the ingredients written on the STASH tea cups. As Deepak Chopra says, ‘intention brings attention’ and eventually ‘brings the process to fruition’: I broke the seal on the cup to see the inside and the tea mix looked like a perfect ingredient to me.  In the first batch I used only two cups of STASH tea powder. I was very impressed with the taste, but felt like it can take on much more tea ingredient.

The next batch I made was with the load of pure Matcha: 3 tablespoons of Japanese Green tea and Matcha mix, which I powdered in the mortar with pestle. In the third batch I used both, STASH tea powder and Matcha and the result was outstanding: cakes bursting with flavors you always look for when ordering desserts at coffee or tea house (and often fail to find).

Tip: squeeze some apple juice out (and drink it) from the pulp to make the texture of the cakes less dense…

Give the cakes a generous maple syrup drizzle on a patriotic whim; dust with powder sugar  and garnish with crushed pistachios. Voila, your green tea cakes are ready to impress the palate.
First time I tasted it I was just struck how incredible a mouthful of green tea the cake can be.
Everyone agreed. Try it with you favorite tea or coffee and you won’t be missing anything…

Enjoy your Easter baking and have a great week-end!

Previously, around this time of the year:
BBQ Lamb Chops
Eggs Asparagus Ham Tart
Savory Easter Cypriot Bread
Lentil Avocado Spread



Yields: 5-6 cakes depending on the bundt pans’ size
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, OR gluten-free flour for gluten-intolerant
2 tablespoons Matcha green tea powder (plus 1 extra tablespoon to replace the STASH tea if necessary)
2 contents of tea bags or Keurig-style cups of STASH Pomegranate Raspberry Green tea with Matcha (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick butter, ½ cup, or 118 gm
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
3 eggs, beaten
4 green apples, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice to spray the apple pulp with
Confectionary sugar for dusting
Slivered nuts for garnish
5-6 mini bundt cake pans
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Wash, peel and grate the apples. Squeeze the juice out (to drink or discard) and drizzle the pulp with lemon juice to prevent from browning.
Unless you already have Matcha powder, ground the green + Matcha tea mix in the mortar.
Sift the flour into a big bowl and add the green tea and STASH mix tea, if using.
Beat the softened butter and brown sugar in a separate bowl with mixer.
Whisk the maple syrup and beaten eggs well.
Grease and flour 5-6 mini bundt cake pans and spoon the cake batter into.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before inverting them onto the wire rack.
Glaze the cakes with maple syrup and/or dust them with confectionary sugar.
Sprinkle with pistachios, almonds or other slivered nuts.

Sour Cherry Babka with Quark Cheese & Maple Glaze Recipe

Keep the Metamucil close, because I’m coming at you with this totally irresistible, incredibly addictive Babka with sour cherries, quark/cream cheese and maple syrup glaze. This brioche-like Babka is an awesome culinary cross between Slavic and Jewish Easter recipes. It’s a great sweet bread to make few days in advance of Easter and keep it at the room temperature or in the fridge (while secretly cutting slices at night when no one can see you devouring it with melted chocolate drizzle and ice cream).

The maple syrup glaze made with one of those gorgeous maple products you procured the other day at the SS fair will have time to get absorbed and you can add a fresh layer of it just before serving.

The down side of this yeasted cake is that you have to find half a day to make it. Allow yourself exactly 4 hours and 40 minutes to have the Babka finally baked and cooling. We made it last night, finished at almost midnight, so there will be no detailed pictures of the steps of making the dough, but I don’t think you really need them. I know the leavening part is imputed to often baking flops. Many of home bakers lambaste themselves over it, but you’ll never know until you try, right? When armed with the proper ingredients, right proportions and yeast that IS actually ACTIVE, I see no reason anyone would fail this mission.

On the upside, this Babka is incredibly deliscious and versatile with some extra additions like honey, melted chocolate, butter, maple syrup, caramel, etc. It can be stored at the room temperature for up to three days or for few days longer in the fridge.

Sour cherries give a great fresh tang balanced delicately with the cheese mix (lightened with the quark cheese instead of pure cream cheese and maple syrup to replace sugar) and spongy, yeasty dough. Simple and attainable goodness and a stunning center piece (given you saved your night trips to the fridge for the better days).

Our midnight steps… followed by some blurry final shots…

The boring part is the waiting times for the dough to rise, which on the other hand, gives you time to do many other things in between. Otherwise it’s fun to whisk, rock and roll. But if you feel that you are not yet ready for the challenge and might find the experience still humiliating, just wait till I post something much simpler but equally adorable next week.

Happy Easter Baking!
PS: Here are some other good ideas for the Easter breads we’ve posted previously:  
Yields: 10 to 12 portions
For the Babka Dough:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp plus a pinch of granulated sugar
¾ cup warm milk
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour, extra for the surface
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, extra for the bowl, pan and lining parchment paper
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of cream for an egg wash
1 ½ cups pitted fresh, thawed or drained sour cherries
For the Filling:
6 ounces quark cheese
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup maple syrup plus 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
For the Glaze:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk
Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over warm milk in a medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
Whisk together remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the egg, and yolk. Whisk into the yeast mixture.
Combine flour and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add egg mixture. Beat on low speed until almost fully combined, for about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough-hook attachment. Add butter. Beat until smooth, soft and slightly sticky, for about 10 minutes.
Butter a large bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface; knead for a few minutes until smooth. Place in bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Make the filling: stir together quark cheese, cream cheese, egg yolk, maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.
Punch down dough. Transfer to a floured work surface. Let stand for 5 minutes. Roll out to an 18-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush edges with egg wash. Spread the filling over the dough. Top with cherries. Tightly roll dough like a jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. Coil into a snail shape on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Drape plastic wrap over dough. Let stand in a warm place until risen by half, 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. Cut six ½-inch slits into top. Bake rotating halfway through, until golden, for about 55 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until deeply golden, 15 to 20 minutes more (cover with foil if the top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool.
Make the glaze: Mix together maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar and milk. Add more sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from: Martha Stewart’s Yeasted Cheese and Sour Cherry Coffee Cake

Sesame-Encrusted Savory Easter Bread

A beautiful loaf: crisp and golden brown on the outside, slightly moist and tender on the inside;  topped with sesame, cumin, poppy and caraway seeds. The sesame seeds give that wonderful nuttiness while the crushed herb seeds in the dough give it a great flavor without overwhelming the taste. The cumin, poppy, caraway and fennel seeds make it super savory. But the best things about this bread are: it is super-easy to make (even for a novice); it makes a whole lot of presentation; AND, it keeps very well. Let’s say, if you spend a few hours making it on Good Friday night, wait for lots of kudos coming your way on Sunday.
This bread is a close cousin of Greek street treat Koulouri (as well as Turkish Simit; Bulgarian Gevrek, Serbian Devrek, etc.), a ring shaped bread with sesame seeds, which, I’m sure many of you tried while traveling to those places, although it has zero sweetness compared to the bagel-shaped cousins.
Because it is full of flavors, I personally love it slightly toasted, smeared with a bit of ghee. Primarily though, this apple of the eye is a perfect party patter. Serve it sliced alongside a dip, olive salad, gourmet cold cuts, interesting crudité… and it WILL make the Easter party goers of every kind happy. And of course with its visually appealing shape and seeded crust, it makes a remarkable centerpiece statement.
From personal experience, making this bread with kids is fun (especially the rolling dough in seeds part) as well as perfect activity for kids to learn about life beyond the cream eggs. Once ready, koulouri bread also travels very well in a picnic basket.  My kids used to love to bring it to the farm visits where they could also secretly give some to animals… which is why this bread became so distinctly and wonderfully Easter to me.
Not to mention that it reminds me of my travels to Cyprus, its humble and honest food and picturesque villages perched in the mountains, where they bake this bread outdoors in a brick-clay oven . Well, we don’t have this luxury here, but no biggie: a few prep steps and it will bake perfectly well in the regular oven filling the house with the smell of freshly baked bread and herbs and putting everyone in a special peaceful holiday mood.  

Happy Easter to All of You!

Yields: one big loaf
4 cups white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of mastika & mechlebe, OR ground fennel/anise seeds
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 oz (30 g) fast action dried yeast
¼ (50 ml) cup olive oil
1 ¼ warm water
3 ½ oz (100 g) sesame seeds (mix of white and black if you wish)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Grind mastika and mechlebe, OR fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar to a smooth powder. Combine the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a large bowl and blend together. Add mastika & mechlebe OR fennel powder and knead for 6-7 minutes. Let the dough stand in the bowl covered to rest for 1 hour.
Tips the sesame seeds, poppy and cumin seeds into a big bowl and pour over a tablespoon or so of water to moisten the seeds, ballon them and release their juice.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and shape into a ball. Drop the dough into the dampened seeds and turn until covered in the seeds, then place the dough on the baking sheet and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Score a line all the way around the side of the bread and two slashes on top with the knife. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown, then transfer to the wire rack to cool. Slice only after the bread cooled completely.
Adapted from ‘100 Great Breads’ by Paul Hollywood, March 2004, Cassell Illustrated.

Nifty Herbed Lentil Avocado Spread

A quick and luscious herbed lentil avocado spread is yet another proof how delectable and versatile a meatless dish can be, specifically, towards the end of Lent.  A cross between hummus and guacamole, packed with herbal flavors and good-for-you ingredients, this speedy little thing really belongs to the party table, as it combines with number of ingredients.
Spring has finally sprung in Montreal breaking the ice on St. Lawrence, flooding the streets with melting snow and filling the air with singing birds. The other day I went National Geographic in our backyard to capture some of that spring renewal commotion, which might seem usual, but feels so refreshing to look at, after a long working day in the stone cold city. Especially after a few of those herbed spread nibbles.  
I have been starving for some new vegetarian ideas for a while now, so at some point I decided to ditch the cookbooks and just check what I have left in my pantry and fridge for an instant catch and there a can of lentils and few avocados got my attention. With a bit of lemon juice, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic, cumin and chili and a lot of fresh herbs, a nifty spread was born within less than 10 minutes.  Call it a spread or a dip – it’s all good –not only on the baguette slices (in this case, Easter Cypriot bread we baked last Tuesday which will follow shortly), but with many other things including eggs. Little quail eggs with running yolk pair fantastically with it. 
A few tablespoons of it mixed with hard-boiled egg yolks and a pinch of smoked paprika deliver smart and tasty twist on a known party pleaser: the devilled eggs. Although not as sophisticated as porcini stuffed eggs they still make a great party offering (during Easter times included) and variety.
Smear the spread on crostini topping them with thinly sliced radish, cucumber or zucchini for a crunch, or use the spread in a sandwich instead of mayo. Garnish a bowl of steamed rice with it.

Finally, my most recent application of this spread was to add a few tablespoons of it to the 10-minutes vegetable stir-fry (carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mini corn and fresh bean sprouts) at the very end of cooking. Why not? Lentils go perfect with veggies as do olive oil, herbs, tahini and lemon, while avocado (the nature’s butter) is adding a smooth soft touch to the dish.  

And that’s how I kept it simple (my 2014 credo) and used my herbed lentil avocado spread within 24 hours. If you prefer, swap lentils for canned beans or chickpeas and your spread will be as delicious. Add avocado flesh, tahini, olive oil, garlic, spices and salt … some hot sauce for an extra zesty taste if wish be. 
Few short pulses and viola: enjoy your spread!     
One year ago:   Knockout Lamb Chops;
Yields: party of 6 to 12 people depending on appetite.
2 avocados flesh, scooped out
1 can (19 oz) lentils, drained, OR beans, OR chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, a bit more for drizzling
1 small bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, etc.), coarsely chopped
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground chili (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt to taste
For serving: assorted bread, crackers, tortilla chips, crudités
Scoop the avocado flesh into a food processor. Add the lentils, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, olive oil, herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. If necessary add a bit more olive oil to reach the right consistency. Transfer the spread to bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with bread, chips and crudités.

What’s Up Egg? It’s Easter Time(s)

It is trendy for the food blogs to mimic magazines’ practices. Fellow bloggers advance their recipes weeks before the holidays, forcing themselves (and their families) to enjoy festive food way before the holiday arrives. So they can finally relax and watch TV quietly during the actual holiday, satisfied that their readers have been informed. I still have to learn how to do that. In the meantime, I am placing this little web log about our past week-end activity, and retrieve into the process of the Easter eggs coloring.
Orthodox Easter celebration: Niko Pirosmani’s  art & old Russian poster of 1900s via Wikimedia

Officially, Easter has passed as a holiday, but what about Bulgarian, Cypriot, Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian and other people of Eastern Orthodox faith? (I have a sudden flash of memory from ”The Curse of the Jade Scorpion”movie, when people are placed in a trance where the name Constantinopleis uttered.) Well, for people of the Orthodox faith or tradition, who will celebrate their Easter on May 5th this year, it ain’t over yet. (HA, I am not so late with my news, get it?)

Easter Eggs in art, old posters and postcards via Wikimedia Commons.
Coloring eggs is a custom going as far back as to the times of Mesopotamia, when the early Christians stained eggs red to represent the blood of Christ and rebirth. From the Greek Easter κόκκινα αυγά, to Russian krashenkas, to Ukrainian pysankas, to even Fabergé tsar imperial Easter eggs, there are so many traditions, decoration techniques, rituals and applications related to eggs during Easter times!
Tapping Eggs, F Sychkov, 1917

The following method of coloring eggs might not render you some state of the art Ukrainian ”Pysankas” (above), but I’m sure it will satisfy your Easter egg need big time. Dying eggs is easy, inexpensive and sooo entertaining – kids, adults, even grandparents love to do them! No need for decal or chemical food dyes. Simple, fast and very traditional. The most important part of it is to collect enough of dry onion peels, so you can prepare your own dye. Don’t worry, the eggs will not smell like onion. I usually collect the peels during the year (whenever I remember) in a brown paper bag. When ready, cover the peels with cold water, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Voilà, your dye is ready.

Once the dye is prepared, go ahead and boil the eggs in it for a nice marble tint. Or, go for an extra mile and craft original sunprint eggs with some botanicals. For that, you will need a bunch of little green leaves, flowers, petals, or, a handmade mini-decal from paper. Once your collection is ready, take some nylons, affix your selections to the egg, tie with knots on both sides carefully, submerge into the room temperature die, bring to boil and boil for a minute. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
Rinse with plenty of cold water and release the eggs. Use as a decoration and/or a part of your Easter breakfast/lunch/dinner. We had them for brunch with some crêpes and smoked salmon:
And don’t forget to do some tapping to see whose egg is left unbroken:
12+ onion peels (the more the better)
12 white eggs
Pack the onion peel in the sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to release the maximum of color. Put aside and let cool to the room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the eggs. Fix them in nylons with botanical decals, if applicable. Submerge the eggs into the dye carefully, making sure the onion dye covers the eggs. Bring to boil, then turn off the heat and wait for 10 to 15 minutes. Chill the eggs under cold running water, place in the bowl, remove the nylons and decals and let the eggs dry. Once the eggs are dry, feel free to slightly rub them with olive oil to give them a nice shine.
Easter Greetings, B. Kustodiev, 1912
Happy (Belated) Easter Everybody!