KARITHOPITA – AN EASY-TO-MAKE GREEK WALNUT CAKE

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Photo by Alexa Speyer

Summer is here and my hibernation is over! It’s time for light summer meals, BBQs on the patio and weekend entertaining. It’s been a long winter here in New York, stretched out by a spring that felt almost as cold as the winter itself.

So what has cheffie been doing? Yes, I know I’ve neglected this blog, but I’ve been busy promoting Book Two in The Gift Saga: Waiting For Aegina and writing the third and last book in the series. Not to mention holding down a day job, running a household and spending quality time with my ninety-five year young dad.

Like the first two books, recipes will be included between some of the chapters, and I’ve been thinking about which ones I’ll share with readers. So far, each of the recipes has been a Greek one, most of them handed down to me by my mother and my yiayiá (grandmother). This time around don’t be surprised to find a French recipe thrown in to set the mood—hint, hint of a new local and adventure for some of the characters.

This recipe for Karithopita, I’ve already decided, will be added to Book Three. It’s delicious, easy to prepare and one of the many recipes my mom had handed down to me. Karithia is the Greek word for walnuts and this cake is loaded with them, doused in simple syrup and cut into individual squares.

Karithopita

Preheat oven to 350º

4 cups coarsely crushed walnuts

1½ cups sugar

3 cups flour

½ cup butter, softened

8 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolks and cinnamon together. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to a meringue. Fold into butter mixture. Add the walnuts. Mix together the flour and baking powder before adding it to the mixture. Stir until fully blended.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

5 cups sugar

5 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

Add all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut the cake into even-sized squares. Cool to a warm or room temperature. Add the warm syrup, allowing the cake to absorb the liquid.

I suggest letting it sit for several hours or overnight.

 

 

 

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! CINNAMON CHOCOLATE CAKE

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Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are looking for an easy last minute dessert to make for a special dinner tonight, this cake is the answer to your prayers. It couldn’t be simpler to make and requires very little time. I can assure you it will impress the special person or people you are serving it to.

Although I love solid dark chocolate, I am not a chocolate cake lover. Many times, I find it way too rich and sweet. This cake has a nice balance of sweetness and chocolate, and is not too heavy or rich. Yet it will satisfy that chocolate craving. The cinnamon adds another interesting dimension of flavor.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to enjoy this dessert. Indulge anytime the mood strikes you. You can whip it up so quickly, it’s practically magical!

 

CINNAMON CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 cup flour

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons white vinegar

¾ cup whole milk

5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350º

Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, melted butter, vinegar, vanilla and egg whites together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and beat using a mixer on medium speed for two minutes.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and flip over to serve pan side up.

**Garnish – You may simply dollop each slice with fresh whipped cream and dust with cinnamon, or add a drizzle of raspberry sauce or Crème Anglaise.

 

 

VALENTINE’S WEEK TREATS!

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I never let an occasion pass without doing something to commemorate it. Most of the time, food is involved in some way. Valentine’s Day is the day to show your love for the ones you care for. We naturally think of romantic love, but the love for your children, extended family and friends may also be displayed. Each year, I make a special Valentine’s dinner. Something a bit more elaborate than the average meal, but I place my main focus on creating a mouth-watering dessert. More times than not, chocolate is involved.

I’ve made chocolate soufflés, chocolate lava cakes and chocolate truffles. But some of my favorite recipes use no chocolate at all.

Heart shaped Linzer tart cookies filled with dark cherry preserves is a favorite amongst the family and friends I deliver them to. I sometimes dip one corner in chocolate and garnish them with nonpareils. I packaged each cookie in a cellophane bag and tie it with a pink ribbon.

Red velvet cupcakes are another crowd-pleaser. No need to wait for Valentine’s Day, though. I get requests for these all year long.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ vegetable or canola oil

1 ounce red food

1 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cocoa

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350º F. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together. In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix oil, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Add to egg mixture until combined.  Add the flour and Greek yogurt, alternating dry and wet ingredients, starting with the flour. Pour batter into paper cupcake liners. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking rack.

Cream cheese frosting

1 cup unsalted butter

2 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 pounds confectioner’s sugar

1 vanilla bean (optional)

Cream softened butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla. If using the vanilla bean, slice the bean longwise and scrape out beans. Mix well into frosting. Fill a pastry bag to frost cupcakes then have fin decorating. Simple sprinkles or chocolate shavings are perfect.

REVANI – CHRISTMAS COOKIE & PASTRY MARATHON…DONE!

 

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With just a couple of days left until Christmas Eve, I finally finished boxing and cello wrapping trays of cookies. The pastries that require syrup I always make last—baklava, melamakarona and revani. By the time they will be consumed, the sugary liquid will have fully absorbed into the pastry, yet will still taste freshly made.

There are other pastries drenched in delicious syrup—ones I’ll share with you on another occasion—Karithopita, a cinnamon walnut cake. And Galaktoboureko, a semolina pastry cream, layered between fluffy phyllo dough.

But today, if you are looking to make a quick dessert, nothing could be easier than a pan of revani.

This ends my Christmas cookie blog posts for this year. If you are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a joyous and peaceful one. If you’ve already celebrated your holiday, I hope you had a very Happy Hanukkah. And for those celebrating other holidays this season, I hope the message of your holidays bring happiness to your lives.

Revani

Cake

1 1/3 cups flour

1 cup farina or semolina

8 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

Zest of 1 orange

 

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine flour, farina, baking powder and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer. Mix in vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add the farina mixture and mix through. Pour batter in a buttered 11x 14-inch baking pan and bake 35 minutes. The cake should take on a light golden color. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.

Syrup

4 cups water

3 cups sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 slices of orange rind

Juice from ½ orange.

Add all ingredients into a pot. Boil for 10 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes.

The juice from the orange is optional. I decided to put the orange juice in the syrup so not to waste the orange I took the zest from. The cake had a more intense orange flavor than usual. If you only wish to have only a hint of orange flavor, omit the juice and use only the rind.

After the cake has cooled a bit, cut it into serving size squares or diamonds. Pour the warm syrup over the cake and let it absorb the syrup before serving.