Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

What better way to express love than classic chewy chocolate chip cookies!

A beautiful way to spoil your loved ones on Valentines Day or any other day of the year for that matter! I finally found THE recipe that even my Monsieur approves. Crispy and chewy simultaneously, these cookies are positively addictive. Enjoy and let me now if you try out the recipe!

Chocolate chip Cookies recipe

Ingredients
  • 225g (1 cup) butter, melted
  • 220g (1 cup) brown sugar, packed
  • 220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pack of vanilla sugar / 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 315g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g (1 1/2 cups) chocolate chips
Instructions

Preheat oven to 190C (375F)

In a mixing bowl or in the stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and melted butter, until everything is well combined and the mixture is light in color.

Add in the eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.

Add the flour and baking powder, stirring until the dough is nice and smooth.

Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Scoop 9 small or 6 bigger balls of dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let the cookies set on the baking sheet for about 3-5 minutes,then transfer on a wire rack to cool down completely. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea or why not with a tall glass of milk.

You can store the cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze it for up to two months.

The most practical way to freeze cookie dough is to form the balls of dough of the size you prefer, place them on a parchment lined baking tray and put them in the freezer for an hour. When they are solid just transfer to a freezer bag.

To bake the frozen dough balls, remove desired number from the bag and place them on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 min at 190C (375F).

Homemade chai latte

A steaming cup of a comforting drink that is simultaneously spicy and silken. Is there anything better?

I have always liked the taste and smell of chai spices but in all honesty oftentimes I was vaguely disappointed with what I was served under the name chai latte. There was always something lacking or something too much about the drink: too watery, too sweet, not spicy enough or too much of one spice that overwhelmed everything else. You get the idea…

I had seen recipes pass by on my Pinterest feed but never really thought about looking up how to make a chai latte from scratch before this last autumn. And I really cannot imagine why! I suppose it seemed something that would be too long or needed many exotic ingredients… I really do not understand what took me so long to start making the concentrate myself! It is ridiculously easy and all the ingredients came from my closest supermarket! And the taste!! It is just marvelous! I have found the spiciness and sweetness balance that is just right for me. My coffee-machine makes lovely milk foam to pour on top. As an added bonus, every time I make the concentrate, my whole house smells wonderful!

Chai latte recipe
Ingredients for the chai concentrate
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 4-6 sticks of cinnamon
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 tbsps of black peppercorns
  • A 5 cm / 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 L (4 1/4 cups) of water
  • 3-4 tbsps of loose-leaf black tea (preferably Indian Assam or Ceylon tea)
  • 3 tbsps of brown sugar or 4-5 tbsps of maple syrup
Instructions

Crack the cardamom pods and break the cinnamon sticks in smaller pieces. Put the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in the pot. Singe the spices at high heat for about two minutes until fragrant.

Chop the ginger in slices. Pour 1 L of water over the spices, add the ginger and turn down the heat. Let simmer for five minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the tea leaves and let steep under lid for 10 minutes.

Add the sugar or the maple syrup, stir until it’s dissolved and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher or a bottle.

You can store the chai concentrate for up to a week in the refrigerator.

To prepare your latte:

To get a real latte with the cloud of milk you need to foam the milk (although I must admit that I find it equally good with just plain hot milk). If you are lucky you’ve got a foamer or a coffee-machine that foams the milk for you. If you don’t, no worries, it is absolutely doable to make foamed milk without all the fancy gadgets. Just use one of the ways cited below.

Once you have the milk foam just heat up 1/3 of a cup of chai concentrate and pour 2/3 of a cup of milk foam on top. I like to stir the foam lightly into the concentrate so the milk has the nice spicy flavor to it as well. You can sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top for the subtle smell at every sip and enjoy your lovely spicy drink.

Three ways to make foamed milk at home:

1. In a jar

The easiest way – you don’t need anything but a jar with a lid. Pour hot milk in a jar (filling the jar max halfway). Roll the jar in a towel so you don’t burn your hands. Shake the jar vigorously for about a minute or until the milk has become frothy.

2. In a French press coffee maker

Pour hot milk in the coffee press and pump the press up an down for multiple times (it doesn’t take more than about 10-15 sec). Be sure to hold the lid down with your other hand to avoid catastrophes. This option works really well, makes a nice firm foam and also the coffee-maker is not a gadget with just one purpose. I used this version for years with great success.

3. Use a froth wand

OK yes, a froth wand is a gadget, but honestly, it can be found quite easily in a supermarket or online and it is really small so it won’t take much place in your cupboard. Anyway you just need to put the wand in a cup with a bit of hot milk and keep it in there for as long as it takes for the foam to be firm enough for you. This is the least messy and the most precise way in my opinion.

How to make homemade pumpkin puree

If people knew how easy it is to make pumpkin puree at home they would never buy the canned stuff ever again. The homemade version is so much richer and tastier and also you know exactly what is in your food, meaning there will be no conservatives, no salt, nothing unnecessary added to that wonderful taste of pure pumpkin.

The pumpkin puree is much more in use on the other side of the ocean (in the Northern America) than in Europe but people use it more and more here as well. In France you don’t find canned pumpkin in shops so the only way to have some puree is to make it yourself.

This method couldn’t be any easier You just clean up the inside of the squash, cut it in half or in more pieces if it’s a big one and place it in the oven until it’s cooked through and soft. Take it out the oven, peel the skin off (this is sooooooo much easier after roasting compared to trying to peel the raw squash), whizz some time in a food processor and you’re done. I use this method mostly for butternut squash because I like the slightly nutty taste, but it’ll work as well with any pumpkin or squash with soft and smooth flesh.

How to make homemade pumpkin puree
Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash or any other squash of smooth texture
Instructions

Heat your oven to 180C / 375F.

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise.

Remove the seeds with a tablespoon.

You can brush the cut sides with some olive oil if you wish but I usually don’t add anything since I use the puree for both sweet and savory cooking afterwards.

Place the squash halves on a baking sheet or an oven dish, cut sides down. They may let out quite a bit of liquid depending on the squash or pumpkin you use so I suggest a baking sheet or a dish with small sides.

Roast for 40-45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and turn the roasted pumpkin pieces on a plate cut sides upward for them to cool down faster. Be careful not to burn yourself because the flesh of your vegetables will be soft now!

Do not leave them to cool on the baking dish because they will reabsorb all liquid that oozed out during roasting and the puree will become soggy and wet. It is not a problem if you plan on using it for soup for example but for baking you need drier puree.

Once the pumpkin has cooled down a bit you can very easily peel off the skin. Cut the peeled squash into cubes and place it in a food processor or a blender. Mix until smooth and silky.

You can use the puree right away or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

The puree also freezes really well. You can freeze fresh pumpkin puree for up to a year but to maintain the best taste quality I suggest you to use it in 6 months at the latest.

TIP! I use zipper freezer bags for freezing anything puree-like. I fill the bag with the amount of puree I usually want to use in any given recipe, zip it closed with as little air in it as possible and pat it flat on a freezer shelf so it becomes a sort of a tile of puree. It makes organizing the freezer so much tidier.

Some ideas of what to do with homemade pumpkin puree:
  • Pumpkin soup
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Add it in the dough or filling of pumpkin sweet rolls or any other pastry
  • Pumpkin blinis
  • Add some in your morning smoothies (for this you can freeze some puree in the ice cube tray so you have small portions you can easily throw in your blender)

 

Lemon meringue pie

I give you THE classic elegant French dessert: a flaky pie crust and a fluffy cloud of meringue that are separated by a layer of tangy and smooth lemon curd.

This is one of my go-to desserts when I’m receiving guests. It is easily made in advance, meaning no fuss about preparing or decorating on giving final touches at the last minute and honestly, it has a way of delighting nearly every human on earth (or at least a good majority of them). There are so many ways to twist and turn this dessert but I find that the original pie form stays the most impressive.

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Lemon meringue pie recipe
For the pie crust
  • 100 g (0,5 cup) of butter
  • 250 g (1 cup) of flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 tbsps of water

Pour flour and salt in a bowl, cut butter into small cubes over the flour. Work the butter and flour between your fingers into small crumbles. Add the water and mix with your hands until you can press the dough into a ball. If it doesn’t stick well together, add some more water a tablespoon at a time. Do not add too much water as the crust will become too firm afterwards! Place the dough ball in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Heat your oven to 200C/400F. Roll the dough into a disk, place in a pie/tart pan. Cover the dough with aluminum foil and place baking weights or dried beans upon the foil. Bake the crust for 20 min. Remove the foil with the weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The baking time varies a bit depending on your oven so be sure to check the crust towards the end of the baking time.

The lemon curd

During the refrigerator time make the lemon curd. Here is the link to a really easy lemon curd recipe.

When the crust and the curd are cooled down a bit, pour the curd on the crust and let cool completely.

For the meringue
  • 4 egg whites
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) white sugar

Whisk 4 egg whites in a large bowl or in a stand mixer. When they have firmed a bit add the sugar one third at a time and whisk well until the Consistency is and everything looks glossy and lovely. When you take out the whisks they should form stiff peaks or as they say in French a nice “bec d’oiseau” – the end of the whisk should look like a beak of a bird.

Use a rubber spatula to spread out the meringue on the pie forming little peaks all over. Or if you have time and patience you can pipe pretty patterns with a fancy piping nozzle.

Singe the top of the meringue with a blow torch or put it under the grill function of your oven for a few short minutes to get the beautiful look of slightly charred peaks and golden waves.

Place the pie in the refrigerator to cool for at least three to four hours or even overnight.

It is a wonderful dessert to make in advance that will definitely wow your guests. Enjoy!

Gravlax

Gravlax is arguably the easiest fancy appetizer you can ever learn to make! Five minutes of prepping and a day or two of resting time results in delightful slices of luxury you can serve your guests or enjoy yourself just because you can.

Now that the Christmas is over it is time to concentrate on New Year’s wishes and promises and of course planning a really fancy New Year’s Eve party. Well in our case it means getting together with my best friends’ family and going to the seaside. Since the oldest kids around the house are five and the youngest one years old, our huge party will be sitting around the fireplace, having a glass of champagne or a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate and enjoying a leisurely dinner. It has been quite a demanding year for both of our families so a bit of relaxation will be wonderful to send it off and to welcome a new year that will probably be as fast-going and challenging (we do have six, soon-to-be-seven children all under six years old between the two families 😀 ) but definitely worth living as fully as possible.

The fact that we are not out and about in town or organizing a fancy elegant dinner party does not mean that we cannot have some fancy elegant appetizers to start the evening with. Nevertheless let’s be realistic: nobody has time to prepare something extremely elaborate when these adorable little monsters called children are around.

Fortunately there are a few wonderful appetizers that demand little to no work at all to prepare and that can easily be made in advance. One of these recipes is gravlax which is another word for salt cured salmon. In my family we have made this since I was a little girl. Actually in all Nordic countries this is a really regular food used on sandwiches or as an appetizer or a first course. I must admit I was very surprised to find gravlax in the supermarket aisles when I came to France. Well I suppose you can find it in stores in Estonia as well but I honestly had never noticed. Still I think I will never buy gravlax at a shop since it is the easiest thing on Earth to make yourself.

NB! Be very careful to choose the freshest salmon you can find! The curing will “cook” it a bit but it still remains raw fish. Be sure to tell your fishmonger you need sashimi-quality salmon!

Go ahead and have a try with this recipe!

Gravlax recipe
Ingredients
  • 450 g of really fresh salmon fillet
  • 3 heaping tbsp of coarse sea salt
  • 2 heaping tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried dill (or a small bunch of fresh dill
Variations

Add:

  • Crushed red berries or
  • Crushed black pepper or
  • White pepper
  • Chili flakes
  • Fennel seeds
Instructions

Mixed together salt sugar and dill. Place salmon fillet eat a container with a lid. Pour salt mixture over the salmon and rub it over the entire surface (skin side as well). Let the salmon rest under the sea salt blanket for 24 hours. And you’re done: gravlax is ready! Cut extra thin slices with a really sharp knife and serve. Gravlax makes a fancy appetizer served with tsatsiki sauce on homemade blinis or toast. It would also be lovely as a first course accompanied by toast or plain lettuce and a quarter of a lemon to drizzle on top.

Sliced gravlax will store fine in the refrigerator in a sealed container for 2-3 days  Keep in mind that it is still raw fish even if the salt cure does increase its shelf-life by a few days.