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Monday, February 28, 2011

Kok a sweet delight

Can you say "kok" (coke) or "ko ka kia"?

If you're from Greece you're probably smiling right now. If you're not, you are probably asking yourself? Did she say coke? Really?

To begin with, Kok is not, blow, coke, snow, charlie, c, or nose candy! Nor is it your carbonated beverage drink. It is actually your greek equivalent to the Boston cream pie. And of course it is definitely not a pie. It's sort of like a cookie and sort of like a cake: Two palm-size (or smaller) circles of soft, cakey cookie with creamy pastry cream filling in between, dipped in light simple syrup, and topped with a chocolate glaze. A glaze that artfully drips onto the sides of the kok.

Kok is a popular dessert in all of Greece, and is fairly easy to make. It’s also easy to find fresh ready made kok at any zaxaroplasteio (pastry shop). It's is a dessert fit for all occasions, which is the reason for it's popularity. Well that and of course the chocolate glaze, which could be a thin layer of glaze, or a thicker ganache layer made with melted chocolate and cream. But its combination of vanilla pastry cream filling and chocolate topping is what gives it that defined balance of flavors. You can actually taste each component of the kok without any of it overpowering the other. An amazing experience for the tongue, wouldn't you say?

You can also find a few other flavors of Kok. Lots of pastry shops make a strawberry custard version topped with chocolate glaze which is seasonal, as well as a chocolate filled kok rolled into coconut. But its the traditional flavored kok that no one seems to get enough of. So whatever flavor you decide to indulge in or bring as a gift to a friend it is sure to be a hit! Enjoy!


For the cookies:
2/3 cup of sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 cup of flour
6 1/4 tablespoons of cornstarch

For the filling:
1 cup + 3 1/2 ounces of whole milk
2/3 cup of heavy cream
6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup of cornstarch

For the syrup:
2/3 cup of water
3/4 cup of sugar
For the chocolate glaze:
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 ounces margarine
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat the oven to 390F (200C).
Cream 3/4 of the sugar and the egg yolks. Beat the remaining sugar and egg whites to stiff peak stage. Add half the egg white mixture to the egg yolk mixture, stir lightly and slowly add the the flour and cornstarch. When mixed, add the remaining egg white mixture.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a pastry bag, squeeze out small cookies the size and shape of vanilla wafers: circles about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch high. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.
Pastry Cream
Place milk and cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Combine sugar, cornflour, egg and egg yolk, and add 1/3 of the warmed milk and cream mixture before it boils. Stir well, then pour back into the saucepan and continue to stir. As soon as the cream melds and begins to bubble, remove from heat. Empty the cream into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to cool.
When the cream cools, stir gently with a wire whisk to soften, then place a small amount of cream (1-2 teaspoons) of cream on the flat side a cookie and place the flat side of another on top to create each pastry.
Boil the sugar and water together for 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then dip one side of the filled kok cookie in the syrup. Set aside, syrup side up, on wax paper.
Chocolate Glaze
Prepare the chocolate icing by melting the margarine and stir in all the ingredients but the egg yolk. When the mixture is smooth and well combined, stir in the egg yolk. Pour chocolate icing over the cakes. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving..
Dip the kok into the chocolate glaze on the same side as the syrup.
Refrigerate in a covered pan or dish for 1/2 hour before serving.

Yield: approximately 30-35 pastries

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A cut above the rest

This global financial crisis has thrown us in an save your penny frenzy ( sorry Marc jacobs wool coat see ya next year). I see family and friends starting to tighten their belts. They are staying home more, cooking more and who would have known that dinner parties would become the new eating out. Making your own-pizza rather then ordering Dominos would be the new trend and the so called " cheap" cuts of meat would make a comeback.

It's a bit ironic though if you think about it. Did we need a worldwide financial crisis to make us look at thing with a different perspective. To actually see things that have been overlooked for such a long time and look at them as for the first time. And so much so that we made them trendy again. For instance the so called " cheap" cuts of meat. These cheap cuts of meat are not reffered to as "cheap" because they are inferior in any way. Oh no. They are nicer to your wallet kind of cheap. You see it all starts and ends with supply and demand. Greater demand for a fillet or a porterhouse steak just means that the price goes higher. So I ask, are we getting played for, suckered into believing that we are buying the best cut of meat? Why not get a nice peice of flank steak or great short ribs that have great flavor and are wallet friendly...

The way i see it is that it's a good thing that short ribs for instance are are considered a " cheap cut". They are the sort of thing I love to cook when the weather is cold outside. And since you slow cook it for hours you end up with a rich moist piece of meat that melts like butter in your mouth. Its a crowd pleaser! What could be better then that? So serve these argodolce (sweet and sour) short ribs on top of a mash potato, polenta or a bowl of rice and a glass of Pinot and sit back and let your taste buds be seduced. Sorry Marc 2011 just wasn't our year. See ya in 2012....

Beef Short Ribs Agrodolce
This dish is based on Paul Bertolli’s recipe in Cooking by Hand (Clarkson Potter).
Serves 4, Cooking Time Prep time 40 mins, cook 2 hours 40 mins

1.2 kg (about 4) beef short ribs
60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
50 gm prosciutto, coarsely chopped
3 lg onions, finely chopped
3 finely chopped garlic
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
5 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
15 gm dried porcini, soaked in water for 15 minutes
2 tbsp tomato paste
250 ml (1 cup) red wine
125 ml (½ cup) saba (see note)
60 ml (¼ cup) balsamic vinegar
900 ml beef stock

1 Preheat oven to 180C. Season beef ribs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat olive oil in a wide heavy-based casserole over high heat, brown ribs (on all sides except bone side) in two batches for 2-3 minutes each. Transfer to a tray.
2 Pour off half the oil and discard, then return casserole to heat and add prosciutto, sauté for 1 minute, add onion, carrot, celery, herbs and drained porcini, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables caramelise (8-10 minutes). Stir in tomato paste, reduce heat to medium and cook until dark red in colour (4-5 minutes). Add red wine, saba and vinegar and cook until reduced by half (10-15 minutes). Add beef stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat, then return beef ribs to casserole and bake, covered, until ribs are tender (2 hours).
3 Transfer ribs to a warm serving platter and pass vegetables and juices through a mouli (see note) into a saucepan. Skim fat from surface, then cook over medium heat until thick (3-5 minutes). Season with 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Pour over beef ribs and serve immediately.

Note: Saba is the sweet reduction of grape must and is available from Williams and Sonoma. A mouli is a rotary sieve available from specialist kitchen supply stores. Alternatively, you can use a coarse sieve and push processed vegetables through using the back of a ladle.

Drink Suggestion a Robust red.

Note: If you cant find Saba you can substitute this Bordeaux Syrup.

Bordeaux Syrup
1/2 bottle Bordeaux Red Wine
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/3 cup honey

Put all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan. Reduce slowly over medium heat, until it becomes a syrup, about 50-55 minutes. .

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chocolate the elixir of love

Chocolate is considered the elixir of love. So much so that even the gods made it there drink of choice. Random? I think not! So how can mere mortals resists its allure and power? Its luscious taste?

In ancient Aztecs and Mayans times cocoa bean was prized for its caffeine-like effects. The beans were used as a sort of currency. These days, cocoa has gained momentum not so much so for the chocolate's natural stimulants but rather for the health benefits of eating it. And don't forget its romantic and erotic associations: Perfect for Valentine's day.

So in honor of Valentine's Day, here's my recipe for romance: candlelight dinner at home, a glass of Veuve Clicquot, a little Harry Connick Jr in the background and--as the pièce de résistance, a rich, sensual, totally irresistible dessert. In aid to Cupid's cause, this valentine I give you chocolate cakes with raspberry ganache centers. Enjoy!

Chocolate Ganache Cakes
(from the book Harvest to Heat, with a few changes of my own)
Yields 8 individual cakes

For the ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
9 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tbs. Raspberry liquor

For the cake batter
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
6 oz milk chocolate, roughly chopped
4 lg eggs, room temp
2 lg egg yolks, room temp
1/2 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
1/8 ts coarse salt

Whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream for garnish

Make the ganache
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Put the Chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Once the cream comes to a simmer, pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Gently whisk the cream and the raspberry liquor into the melted chocolate, being careful not to incorporate any air. Chill in the refrigerator.

Make the cake batter
Combine the Butter, 1 cup of the sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the butter is melted. Put the bittersweet and milk chocolates in a large heatproof bowl. Pour the butter- sugar mixture over the chocolates and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well blended.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is pale yellow and forms thick ribbons.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs until well combined. Fold in the flour and salt. Refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Assemble the cakes

Reserve 1/2 cup of ganache, then divide the rest of the ganache into eight equal parts and roll into balls.

Butter 8 individual ramekins and fill each one third full with the cake batter. Place ganache ball in the center of the mold and cover with more batter, filling each mold three quarters full.

Heat the oven to 350F. Bake the cakes until the sides are set and their tops puff up but are still soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes and then invert the cakes onto individual serving plates. Gently warm the reserved ganache and drizzle over warm cakes; serve while warm. Add a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Note: depending on your oven the cakes might take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes. Keep checking your cakes after you reach the 15 minute mark.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A time for tea

I must admit to you all, that i was never a tea girl. Drinking Tea for me was only when i was sick or when i needed hydration after a lustful encounter with a bottle of kettle one. But as my twenties left me behind and my thirties came pounding at my door i found myself looking at tea in a different perspective. Now a day doesn't go by that i don't find myself sipping on a cup of tea. From that first drowsy sip of strong english breakfast tea blend in the morning, that clears your boggled mind and senses, to that really needed afternoon pick me of oolong.

I can't say that it's just the taste and smell of the tea that makes me enjoy it so, but the actual ritual of brewing it. Warming the pot, measuring out the leaves, heating the water to just the right temp and steeping it for the exact amount time is so soothing. It so simple yet so easy to screw up that it takes patients and practice to perfect it. It is truly an art. An art that the Japanese have brought to the next level with their exquisite tea ceremony.

Cooking with tea has become such a big trend. Its in cookbooks in magazines as well as in the blogging world. The momentum that tea has received is not what has amazed me but its versatility as an ingredient. Each different tea has it's own character that adds remarkable complexity to the dish you add it to.
I am very lucky to have such a wonderful friend and tea purveyor that lets me sample his teas and create new recipes for his tea site/blog and

Left photo by: Athens, Greece based photograper, Monika Kritikou  fiorello photography
And even though my twenties are long gone and plenty of tea tins take up most of my cupboard space, i will never forget my lustful encounters with my bottles of kettle one.

Here is a wonderful recipe that has been inspire by the exotic stock of teas form and

Black Chai Tea Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered (confectioners') sugar
1 teaspoon loose leaf black chai tea finely grinded
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Baking powder
3/4 cups cornstarch
1/8 tsp cinnamon
powdered sugar for dusting the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy looking. Add powdered sugar; mix until light and fluffy. Add black chai tea and vanilla extract; beat well. Add flour, baking powder, cornstarch and cinnamon, into butter mixture and mix well until well combined. At first the dough will look dry - but don't worry, as the dough slowly comes together as you mix it and the butter melts into the dry ingredients.

Do not refrigerate this dough, as the butter will harden and make the dough unmanageable for rolling into a ball. Using your hands, roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 15 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Remove from oven, carefully remove from baking sheet, and cool on wire cooling racks (when warm the cookies are delicate).

When cookies have cooled completely, dust with powdered sugar.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size.

NOTE: Grind loose leaf black tea with spice grinder. The butter you use must be room temperature (not softened or melted butter). If you cookies turn out very crumbly then your butter was not room temp.

Do not be afraid of the cornstarch that the recipe calls for. It is correct.

- Black chai tea can be found at or any other loose leaf tea purveyor.