The Cake

The cake

For many years now, this cake has accompanied every celebration in my family home. A sponge cake, one half made with ground walnuts, the other left plain, with a filling of rum, vanilla and lemon. It is only fit that it follows my third blogiversary. 🙂 I’m sure my mum would approve.

Sorry about the atrocious photos. They were taken with very little light coming from a very weak tungsten bulb, handheld.

Mum's torte

Mum’s Walnut

Cake

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SOURCE:  Mum, recipe adapted from the one she got off a family friend

PREPARATION TIME: about 1 h

COOKING TIME: about 30 min for the filling, and 1 h for baking

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: A crowd!

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INGREDIENTS:

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PLAIN SPONGE

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

6 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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WALNUT SPONGE:

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

7 tbsp finely ground walnuts, heaped

2 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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FILLING:

7 dl milk (full fat, or semi-skimmed)

3 tbsp corn flour, heaped

3 tbsp flour, heaped

250 g butter, at room temperature

300 g icing sugar

20 g vanilla sugar, or 2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tbsp rum, or to taste

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TO DECORATE:

About 20 – 30 whole walnut halves

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METHOD:

Note: It’s a good idea to start with the filling, so it has time to cool while you prepare the sponge cake.

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I. FILLING

1. Stir in the corn flour and plain flour into the milk, until smooth, and with no lumps.

2. Put the milk to boil, stirring constantly, avoiding lumps to form. When it thickens, leave to cool. (It’s supposed to be fairly thick, barely leaving the spoon when you tap it.)

3. Meanwhile, beat the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon with an electric whisk until smooth. Add rum to taste, and possibly more lemon if you like it more lemony.

4. Combine the butter and milk mixtures, and mix well together.

5. Leave to cool again. (Mum says this makes it easier to spread later on.)

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II. SPONGE

Note: both the walnut and the plain sponge are made in the same way. Ground walnuts are added at the same time as the flour.

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1. Preheat the oven to 180 C, and grease and flour a 25 cm tin, or two. Sift the flour and baking powder and bicarbonate soda together.

2. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until the volume doubles in size, and when you lift the mixer out of the bowl, the egg mixture that drops from it traces a ribbon on its surface.

3. Add the flour to make the plain sponge, or flour and walnuts for the walnut sponge. Fold in with the mixer turned off, and then switch the mixer back on and mix briefly, until combined.

4. Pour the mixture in to the prepared baking tin, and bake until the cake is risen, and a toothpick or skewer inserted inside it come out clean. This should take about 20 – 30 min.

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Repeat the process to make the walnut sponge, using flour and walnuts in place of flour only.

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III. ASSEMBLING THE TORTE

1. When the sponge cakes have cooled, cut them both in half, and then spread the filling on top, alternating the the brown and yellow cakes. Decorate with the remaining walnut halves, and chill.

This cake gets better with keeping, and can ‘survive’ in the fridge for about 4 – 5 days, provided it’s not eaten before that!

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Notes:

Instead of walnuts, you could use almonds or hazelnuts, but we usually use walnuts. I think the original cake might have had 1 chocolate layer, 1 walnut, one hazelnut and one plain.

The cake

Photos updated 7 May 2014.

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More sweet Croatian recipes on this blog:

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Orahnjaca (Walnut roll)

Orahnjaca or orehnjaca (pronounced ‘orahnyacha’ and ‘orehnyacha’ respectively, and with an audible ‘h’ sound, like the ‘h’ in ‘hotel’) is roll with a yeasted dough and walnut filling. I used to think it was Croatian, but it looks like I was wrong, and the similar cake is popular all over Eastern Europe.

This is my mum’s recipe. Like a lot of good things, it takes a bit of time and attention, but it’s well worth it.

One word of warning though. We don’t really cook on a small scale here, and in this case, without thinking about dividing it into portions. The recipe below yields 2 large rolls (about 36 cm long, 7 cm tall, and 10 cm wide). When the cake is baked, it is cooled (barely!) and then eaten by the whole family throughout the day, or for a few days if you’re lucky and if everyone is not at home, until it runs out. It’s not really a dessert as such, though I wouldn’t stop you if you wanted to serve it as such. I’d just say it’s better after lunch, than dinner, if the dinner is your main, big, meal.  You could think of it more as a piece of cake to eat with your morning coffee, or during the day. But whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

 

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Orahnjaca (Walnut roll)

 

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SOURCE:  Mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 2 h (includes 1.30 h resting time)

COOKING TIME: about 1 h

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: Loads!

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DOUGH:

400 g plain flour

7 g powdered yeast

80 g butter, melted

2 large eggs

80 g sugar

2 dl warm milk

1 lemon – zest only

a little salt

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GLAZING – optional

1 egg yolk, beaten

10 g vanilla sugar

some lemon juice

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FILLING:

300 g ground walnuts

70 g sugar

1 dl boiling hot milk

2 tbsp dark rum

20 g vanilla sugar

a little lemon juice

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METHOD:

I. DOUGH

  • Warm the sifted flour slightly in the oven (on low heat). Mix in the powdered yeast and salt, and then add all the other ingredients. Stir to combine and make a soft dough.
  • Set aside until doubled in size. Mum’s special tip: Place the bowl with the dough over a bowl of warm water. That should speed it up, and it will take about an hour.

II. FILLING

  • Put the ground walnuts into a bowl and pour the hot milk over. Add all the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

III. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

  • When the dough has risen, divide it in half, and then roll each piece to 6 mm thickness. Divide the now cool filling in two, and spread over the dough. Roll each piece, and place onto the baking tray, leaving a large gap between the two rolls (they spread when they bake).
  • Leave to rise for 30 min.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 C, and butter and flour a large baking tray. Mum’s is 36 x 36 cm.
  • Before placing the rolls into the oven, you can glaze them with beaten egg yolk and lemon, and sprinkle with vanilla sugar, if you want. This is what mum does.
  • Bake the rolls for about 1 hour, or until done. Test with a skewer or a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Enjoy!

   

I’m submitting this to Ajme koliko nas je blogging event, hosted by Jasenka. The theme for the event is nuts.

 

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More sweet Croatian recipes on this blog:

  • Fritule (aromatic bite-sized dough balls, flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest, grape brandy (loza in Croatian) and/or dark rum, and sprinkled with icing sugar)

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Taste of Home: Some photos from Croatia

Until life moves into a slower gear and I have a chance to sit down and write some posts about my recent trip home, to Croatia, here are a few food photos.

 

Sweet taste of home:

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Orahnjaca

Orahnjaca – walnut roll

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Turkish coffee in the mountains

Freshly made Turkish coffee every day, even half-way up the mountain! (while visiting the national park Paklenica, on the Velebit mountain)

Kiflichi & coffee

Kiflichi & coffee

Mum’s Kiflichi (biscuits stuffed with jam) for breakfast, or with coffee during the day

Mum's torte

Mum’s walnut cake with lemon and rum filling that graces every family celebration (photographed in extremely bad light, at night! sorry!)

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Savoury taste of home: 

M's black risotto

Cuttlefish risotto. The first time my brother M cooked for me. 🙂

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Freshly picked wild asparagus (for making aspragus and prosciutto frittata and asparagus salad with eggs)

 

asparagus in the wild

Asparagus growing wild. You can see the brown edible shoots, and the prickly plant

Sarma

Sarma (sauerkraut leaves stuffed with beef and pork mince)

Brudet od sipa

Brudet od sipa s palentom – Cuttlefish stew with polenta

 

  

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More photos and recipes coming soon!

What would you like to see first?

 

 

Festive Food from Dalmatia: FRITULE

At Christmas time, upon entering my Dalmatian home, you will be greeted by a bowl of fragrant and sweet fritule. Shrug off the cold, and close the door behind you. Come in. We will exchange Christmas greetings, and have a chat over fritule, and perhaps a little brandy to warm you up. The next guest will be also greeted by fritule, and by our laughter.

 

For this year’s Festive Food Fair hosted by Anna of Morsels and Musings, I present you –  fritule, a traditional Dalmatian sweet that can be found on every Dalmatian table at Christmas! Fritule (pronounced ‘freetooleh‘) are aromatic bite-sized dough balls, flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest, grape brandy (loza in Croatian) and/or dark rum, and sprinkled with icing sugar. Everyone has a winning recipe of their own, and this one is my mum’s tried and tested version! We made these together this summer. These days, whenever I go home, I use this as an opportunity to learn a new Croatian dish or sweet from my mum, and rediscover the good old familiar dishes. 🙂

Fritule

 

 

SOURCE: My mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min + the time the dough will take to rise

COOKING TIME: 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Croatian – Dalmatian

SERVES: Loads!

Ingredients:

50 g of raisins, rinsed and soaked in warm water (this softens them)

1 kg of all purpose flour

3 eggs

3 tbsp sugar

2 sachets of vanilla sugar (or two tsp of vanilla essence)

1 1/2 cube of fresh yeast (40 g), or 3 sachets of dried yeast

1 dl vegetable oil for the dough + more for frying

zest of 1 – 2 lemons

zest of 1 – 2 oranges

2 tbsp dark rum (or loza, grape brandy, or why not both!)

warm water as necessary

METHOD:

1. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil in a bowl, and beat together with a wooden spoon for a little. Add lemon and orange zest, and raisins.

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2.  If you are using dried yeast, mix in the yeast in one part of the flour. Then, add this to the eggs.  OR If you are using fresh yeast, melt the yeast in 2 dl warm water. Then add the yeast to the egg mixture, and then the flour.

3. Mix with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until the dough stops sticking to the wooden spoon.

IMG_7500  4. Leave the dough to stand, until it almost doubles in size. The mixture is going to be warm, but it mustn’t be too warm otherwise it will ruin the yeast (says mum). If your pot/bowl is cold, put it in another bowl/pot filled with warm water. IMG_7560

5.  Pour some oil in a pan – you need to have enough so that the fritule don’t touch the bottom of the pan when you add them to the oil. Heat the oil until fairly hot.

6. Dip a spoon in the oil. This will stop the dough from sticking to it. Then, take a bit of dough in your hand, squeeze it in your fist, and scoop off what comes out between the thumb and the index by using the spoon. IMG_7586

7. Put the dough ball into very hot oil. And repeat the process: dip the spoon into hot oil, then scoop the dough, then put the dough ball into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. IMG_7574 

8. Turn the dough balls over. Start taking them out when they get this (see below) nice light brown colour. IMG_7564 9. Take them out in batches and put on some tissue paper which will soak up some of the oil.

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10. Put the fritule in a pan and cover with a lid to keep them a little warm.

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11. Repeat the process until you use up all the dough. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving. Fritule don’t need to live in the fridge, and can last for a few days.

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NOTES:

Surfing the net for some background info on fritule, I came across this interesting idea: add prunes instead of raisins, and slivovitza, plum brandy instead of loza/rum! Which gave me another idea: use apricots and loza, or any apricot brandy! 🙂 Not traditional, but I’m sure it would be tasty! As you can see,the basic dough lends itself to creativity well. Excellent!

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My mum’s tomato sauce OR Mamin sug od pomidora

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Today, I’d like to share the recipe for my favourite tomato sauce with you – my mum’s tomato sauce. This sauce is THE tomato sauce for me – I adore it! Over the years I’ve learnt to like and prepare the more minimalist (onion, garlic, tomato, basil) versions, but this is the tomato sauce I grew up with. You will notice that it is very different from Italian versions. The onions are browned (rather than cooked until translucent), together with carrot, and pepper. Garlic is added together with tomatoes (rather than with onions), and parsley and leaf of celery are used instead of basil.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a very important herb in Croatian, especially in Dalmatian cooking. It’s practically ubiquitous! We use it in meat and vegetable sauces, sprinkle it (together with garlic) over grilled fish – everywhere really! I’m submitting this post to Kalyn for the Weekend Herb Blogging event!

I must admit that this post is long overdue. The sauce was made during the summer, as a part of our zimnica, or winter foods, when the tomatoes were at their best. I had some issues with my posting photos plus slow Internet connection so I’m posting it only now. Unfortunately, the tomato season is finished here… If you can find them, plum tomatoes make a really nice thick sauce.

The pot you see below has the capacity of 9 litres! We make 2 or three of those! We always make a huge batch and freeze it for the winter. We use it with pasta, with polenta (it works really well! it’s one of my mum’s favourite dishes), or to make tomato risotto (simply add rice, and cook it in the sauce. I like to top it with yogurt.) Also, this is the sauce we use to make Stuffed Peppers (punjene paprike). Please note that you may need to scale up or down the recipe for the sauce, depending on how many peppers you’re making (details in the stuffed peppers post).

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My mum’s tomato sauce OR Mamin sug od pomidora

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SOURCE: Mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: 4 – 6

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INGREDIENTS

Vegetable or olive oil

2 – 3 onions, finely chopped

2 large carrots, grated

2 yellow or red peppers, chopped

1 kg tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bulb of garlic

Fresh Parsley, chopped

Fresh leaf of celery, chopped

Salt, pepper

Sugar

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METHOD

1. Fry the onions, grated carrots and peppers until light to medium brown (but not burnt). Please don’t skip this step, it’s very important for the flavour of the dish.

2. Add tomatoes, garlic, leaf of celery and parsley.

3. Season to taste and add a little sugar. (I always add a little sugar when I’m cooking with tomatoes. This offsets the sourness of the tomatoes.)

4. Cook until the vegetables are soft, and colour of the sauce turns from bright red to a orange and red. Reduce the sauce to desired thickness.

5. Process the sauce so it becomes smooth. My mother uses a special kitchen gadget for this, but I’m not sure what the word is in English – perhaps tomato press or something like that. (Asked the hubby – he doesn’t know either) The gadget is used to process tomato sauce specifically. It looks like a type of grinder, you pour in the tomato sauce, turn the handle; out comes the smooth sauce, and in stays the tomato peel. That way there is no need to peel the tomatoes before cooking! Perfect!

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Suggestion:

Serve with pasta, with polenta, or make a risotto by adding some risotto rice to the sauce, and cooking it in the sauce. Don’t forget to stir often! 🙂 I like this risotto with a bit of yogurt on top.

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