Zelnik {Spelt Phyllo Pastry from the Balkans}

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It’s been more than a month since we’ve returned from our longer trip to Macedonia and I hate to admit it, but up until now, I haven’t made any of the recipes I’ve learned to make when I was there. So last week, out of nowhere, I decided it was time to make the “zelnik”, bought a bunch of leeks and planned on making it once in the next few days. Well, that “once” happened to be the same day at 10 p.m. because (as I mentioned in my previous post) I get really impatient when it comes to cooking and want to make everything right away if not sooner. It may not have turned out as perfectly as the one I made in Macedonia under the watchful eye of my boyfriend’s mother, but it tasted really good.

For those of you who don’t know, zelnik is a traditional pastry from the Balkans composed of thin layers of phyllo pastry filled with different ingredients, usually combinations of white cheese, eggs, sorrel, browned meat and leeks, sometimes also brined cabbage and spinach, from which the dish derives its name: “zelje”means spinach. Zelnik is served with yoghurt and is best eaten warm. Continue reading

Cookie Baking Marathon

Objava je spodaj na voljo tudi v slovenščini!

piskotki_2Design by Designlicious

If you ask me, December just calls for at least a day of baking cookies. My mom, my brother and I used to bake these basic cookies each year that only required 4 ingredients and were so easy to make but were so delicious. We would cut out different Christmas motives and cover some of them with my grandmother’s homemade jam. So easy and quick but so much fun. And the way they made the house smell! Mmm! For the past few years I’ve also been making gingerbread cookies and they were a big hit with my family and friends. Their smell is even more christmasy because of all the amazing spices. I attempted vanilla crescents a few times before too but that was about it. This year I decided to go big and make a few different cookies all in one day. I decided to make a cookie baking marathon or a cookie bake-off with myself if you will.

I searched through the internet, trying to find ideas for the best Christmas cookies and narrowed it down to the following (click on each type of cookies to go to the recipe on my blog):

Basic Cookies with Melted Chocolate and Rainbow Sprinkles (I don’t know the author of this recipe, it’s been in our family for years)

* Gingerbread Cookies

* Vanilla Crescents (original recipe by Jaz kuham)

* Outrageous Chocolate Cookies (original recipe by Martha Stewart)

* Chocolate Chip Cookies (original recipe by Cooking Channel TV)

* Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze (original recipe by Cooking Channel TV)

* White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies (original recipe by recipe by Taste of Home) and

* Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies (original recipe by Sally’s baking addiction).

Oh and I also built a gingerbread house. As if making eight different kinds of cookies wasn’t time consuming enough 🙂

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All cookies have been made healthier (as healthy as they can be with the smallest amount of modifications) by me, but otherwise I do not take credit for any of the recipes. I mostly replaced white flour with (whole wheat) spelt flour, white sugar with Xylitol or brown sugar, milk chocolate with dark chocolate and so on.

If you decide to bake all these cookies in one day, a little planning will be required. Here’s what I did. First of all I printed out all the recipes, calculated the amounts of spelt flour, xylitol, butter etc. I would need and wrote down a shopping list. Believe me, you do not have these amounts in your pantry! Next, make sure you have all day. I knew the baking would take me a while but I did not expect it to take so long. I started making the first cookie dough at 8 a.m. and did not sit down until 4 p.m. when I took the last batch out of the oven. This did not include me making the gingerbread house, I finished that in the evening. But lets go back to planning. Even though these cookies all take about 10 to 15 minutes to bake, there will be so many batches to put in the oven and take out that the 8 hours will fly by in no time. My advice is to make dough for the four types of cookies that require resting first.

These are Basic Cookies with Melted Chocolate and Rainbow Sprinkles, Gingerbread Cookies, Vanilla  Crescents and Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies. Place them in the fridge and you will return to them once you’ve finished baking the other four. You can decide for yourself in what order you want to bake the remaining four types of cookies.

IMG_0201I do not suggest baking all these cookies at once if you don’t have any guests planned in the near future. Eating all of these by yourself can seriously hurt your health. But on the other hand, so does the eight hour baking. I think I might have gone a little crazy yesterday, but that is for you to judge after reviewing my below selfies 😛 All I can say is I really enjoyed myself yesterday. It definitely was a culinary adventure. Now all there is left to do is to eat all the cookies. Tough life I would say 😀

IMG_0213Another great thing that came out of my cookie baking marathon yesterday was my collaboration with the very talented Kristina Smodila from Designlicious. She made my cookie picture super pretty and cute, don’t you think? Check out her facebook page Darilo iz kozarca as well!

Maratonska peka piškotov

piskotki_1 (1)Oblikovanje fotografije: Designlicious

Po mojem mnenju mora biti vsaj en dan v decembru namenjen peki piškotov. Z mami in bratom smo vedno pekli preproste piškotke iz samo štirih sestavin, ki so izredno enostavni, ampak tako okusni. Z bratom sva jih oblikovala s pomočjo različnih prazničnih modelčkov, nekatere obogatila še z babičino marmelado, mami pa je poskrbela, da so prišli v pečico in iz nje. Res enostavno, pa tako zabavno! In kako je cela hiša dišala po njih! Mmm! Zadnjih nekaj let pečem tudi tako imenovane gingerbread piškote (slovenski prevod naj bi bil medenjaki, ampak to niso čisto pravi medenjaki), ki so pri mojih bližnjih zelo priljubljeni. Njihov vonj je še toliko bolj božičen zaradi vseh različnih začimb, ki jih vsebujejo. Nekajkrat do sedaj sem se lotila tudi peke vanilijevih rogljičkov, to pa je bilo vse. Letos pa sem se odločila, da je čas, da naredim nekaj ekstremnega in maratonska peka piškotov se mi je zdela super ideja.

Preiskala sem kar nekaj spletnih strani in skušala najti ideje za najboljše božične piškote. Na koncu sem se odločila za sledeče (za posamezen recept klikni na ime piškotka (recepti so na voljo samo v angleščini):

Osnovni piškoti s čokolado in barvnimi mrvicami (avtorja recepta ne poznam, saj je recept že leta v naši družinski zbirki receptov)

* Gingerbread piškoti

* Vanilijevi rogljički (originalni recept: Jaz kuham)

* “Nezaslišani” čokoladni piškoti (originalni recept: Martha Stewart)

* Piškoti s koščki čokolade (originalni recept: Cooking Channel TV)

* Limonini piškoti z rikoto in limonino glazuro (originalni recept: Cooking Channel TV)

* Piškoti z belo čokolado in brusnicami (originalni recept: Taste of Home) in

* Mandljevi “odtisnjenčki” z malinovo marmelado (originalni recept: Sally’s baking addiction).

Aja saj res, poleg vsega sem se odločila narediti še hiško iz medenjakov. Očitno mi samo peka osmih različnih vrst piškotov ni zadoščala 🙂

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Vse recepte sem poskusila narediti čim bolj zdrave s čim manj spremembami originalnih receptov, za katere si seveda ne jemljem nobenih zaslug in jih lahko najdete na zgornjih povezavah. Večinoma sem le nadomestila belo moko s (polnozrnato) pirino moko, bel sladkor v brezinim sladkorjem ali rjavim sladkorjem, mlečno čokolado s temno itd.

Če se boste tudi vi odločili za tak podvig in pekli vse te piškote, bo potrebno kar nekaj načrtovanja. Jaz sem si najprej natisnila vse recepte in izračunala koliko pirine moke, brezinega sladkorja, masla itd. bom potrebovala in sestavila nakupovalni seznam. Verjemite, količine so precej ogromne in jih definitivno nimate na zalogi v svojih shrambah! Naslednja pomembna stvar je, da si morate za takšen maraton rezervirati cel dan. Namreč, čeprav sem vedela, da mi bo peka vzela kar nekaj časa, nisem pričakovala, da mi bo vzela kar osem ur. Dejansko se včeraj nisem uspela vsesti vse od osmih zjutraj, ko sem začela pripravljati testo za prve piškote,  pa do štirih popoldne, ko sem iz pečice vzela še zadnje piškote. Čeprav se posamezni piškoti pečejo le kakšnih 10 ali 15 minut, je le-teh tako veliko, da osem ur mine kot bi mignil. Svetujem vam, da najprej pripravite tisto testo za piškote, ki mora pred peko še nekaj časa počivati v hladilniku. Takšni so osnovni piškoti s čokolado in barvnimi mrvicami, gingerbread piškoti, vanilijevi rogljički in mandljevi “odtisnjenčki” z malinovo marmelado. Ko naredite testo za te štiri vrste piškotov, ga shranite v hladilnik, nato pa se lotite peke vse ostalih piškotov. V kakšnem vrstnem redu boste pekli preostale štiri vrste piškotov se odločite sami.

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Če ne načrtujete v bližnji prihodnosti na obisk povabiti večjega števila prijateljev ali sorodnikov, vam takšno maratonsko peko piškotov odsvetujem. Tolikšna količina piškotov namreč lahko resno škoduje vašemu zdravju. No, po drugi strani, lahko vašemu zdravju škoduje tudi osemurna peka piškotov. Sama mislim, da je name vsekakor vplivala, kaj menite vi, pa presodite po tehle selfijih 😛 Skratka, v maratonski peki piškotov sem neskončno uživala. Nedvomno je bilo to še eno super kulinarično doživetje. Vse kar mi sedaj preostane je, da se lotim piškotov preden se pokvarijo. Res trpim, kajne! 😀

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Iz moje maratonske peke piškotov je nastalo še čudovito sodelovanje z izredno nadarjeno Kristino Smodila, oblikovalko, ki je ustanovila Designlicious. Se strinjate, da je mojo fotografijo piškotkov naredila še posebej prikupno? Oglejte si tudi njeno spletno stran Darilo iz kozarca!

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

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I always wanted to make thumbprint cookies. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know the answer to that question. Probably because I find it fun to stick my fingers in cookie dough. But I find anything related to cooking and baking fun so that can’t really be the reason. No matter why I decided to make these cookies, the fact is that I made them (once again after changing the recipe just a little bit to make the cookies healthier and to feel less guilty after eating them) and here is the recipe.

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Ingredients:

Cookies:

1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2/3 cup (134g) Xylitol

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups + 2 Tbsp (264g) spelt flour

1/2 cup (160g) raspberry jam

Glaze:

1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar

1 Tablespoon (15g) milk

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional) 

Instructions:

1. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Switch mixer to medium speed and add the sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Turn the mixer off and pour the flour into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed. Press the dough down to compact it and tightly cover with plastic wrap to chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats (silicone mats preferred to reduce spreading). Shape the cookie dough into balls. Mine were about 1 Tablespoon of dough per ball. Make sure they’re nice and smooth. If you find that the balls of dough are sticky and/or have gotten a little soft after rolling- place the balls of dough back into the refrigerator to firm up. You absolutely DO NOT want soft dough. Make an indentation with your thumb into each ball. The dough may crack slightly when you press your thumb into it. Simply smooth it out with your fingers if you can. Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to have a few cracks. Fill each with jam.

3. Bake the shortbread thumbprint cookies for 14-15 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges. The cookies will puff up and spread slightly. Do not overbake. In fact, I only baked mine for 13-14 minutes. I prefer them a little soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before glazing.

4. Make the glaze:stir together glaze ingredients until smooth. Add more liquid to thin out or add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken to your desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Glaze will set within a couple hours.

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White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

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I usually don’t eat white chocolate. Not because I would have an opinion on it being healthy or not but because I simply don’t like the taste of it. I find it to sweet and miss the cacao flavor in it. But these cookies here proved me wrong. The combination of white chocolate and cranberries in these cookies is amazing and these cookies might just be my favorite out of all the cookies I’ve baked in my cookie baking marathon.

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Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup Xylitol

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped

Instructions:

1. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture and mix well. Stir in cranberries and chips.

2. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks.

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Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

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I always liked the lemon flavor in desserts. There is something really refreshing about it. In combination with the ricotta cheese, these cookies turn out light, fluffy and refreshing. A nice alternative to the usually heavy and chocolaty cookies.

Ingredients:

Cookies:

1 1/4 cups spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup Xylitol

1 egg

210g whole milk ricotta cheese

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 lemon, zested

Glaze:

3/4 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 lemon, zested

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:

1. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electricmixerbeat the butter and Xylitol until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

3. Line a baking shees with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Who doesn’t know chocolate chip cookies? And even more importantly – who doesn’t love them?? One of the best things about chocolate chip cookies is the raw cookie dough. You know something is really good if they make an ice cream flavor out of it. There is a danger, though, that your tummy might start aching if you are (like me) not smart enough and don’t know when to stop eating it. Anyway, this recipe here is a bit healthier that the usual chocolate chip cookies. That does not mean that you can eat all the raw cookie dough though. Believe me, I ate too much and had to bear the consequences.

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Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup Xylitol

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl, mixing until pale yellow and light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla until combined. 

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips. Portion 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie and roll together to form a ball, spacing the dough balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. 

4. Bake until the edges just start to brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Basic Cookies with Melted Chocolate and Rainbow Sprinkles

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This is a recipe for the most basic cookies you can think of. The dough is really simple to make and you can play with the ingredients a little by replacing some of the flour with ground walnuts or cacao or simply by adding a teaspoon of homemade jam before baking. There are also no limits as to how you can decorate them. They are perfect for baking with your kids or little nephews plus they are really healthy because you use spelt flour and Xylitol. So wait no more, bake these cookies and have fun!

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Ingredients:

200g butter

125g ground Xylitol

1 egg

350g spelt flour

100g semisweet chocolate

Rainbow sprinkles

Instructions:

1. Whisk the butter and Xyiltol to reach a fluffy pale mixture. Add the egg and sifted flour and knead into soft dough.

2. Cover the dough with plastic foil and place in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

4. Take the dough from the refrigerator, remove the foil and roll the dough on a floured surface until about half a centimeter thick. Cut out desired shapes and place on a tray with baking paper.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and allow for them to cool down. In the meantime, melt the chocolate with some butter and milk. Once the cookies have cooled down, dip them in chocolate and cover generously with sprinkles.

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