Rum-Soaked Golden Raisin and Walnut Knots

Viviana's Kitchen

Last month I spent a solid, good two consecutive weeks being Chef Viviana, plumping myself and my family up with sugary carb foods like what I’m about to share today, and enjoying the start of a new year in a relatively relaxed environment, on the precipice of starting Marie Kondo’s decluttering KonMari method in my life – which, by the way, is going somewhat slowly, and my room currently looks like a tornado blew through it.

PHEW. What a mouthful. ANYWAY – I’ve been following Thida Bevington on Instagram for a while, and her feed is a dessert lover’s dream, to be honest. In January I decide THAT’S IT. Her Nutella knots were so aesthetically pleasing, I thought to myself, I need to exercise my creativity one way or another, why not through something my mouth can enjoy?

I tried the knots with Nutella first, but I find that it sort of…evaporates? in the baking process. I did a couple more batches afterwards with my signature walnut-almond and rum-soaked white raisins, which I enjoyed much more.

Enjoy the recipes below:

Sweet Dough

250g milk
60g butter
500g white flour
120g sugar
15g fast action dry yeast
1 egg
10g salt

Walnut-Raisin mixture

3/4 to 1 cup golden raisins
1-2 cups walnuts, ground
1/2 cup almonds, ground
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup rum, cognac, or whiskey
water
A blender, but if you don’t have one you can smash them up in a bag with a kitchen hammer

Instructions

For the dough:
1. Warm the milk and butter to about body temperature, should feel lukewarm.
2. Place the flour, sugar, and yeast in a bowl (I use a stand mixer) and mix together.
3. Add milk and butter, egg, and salt and mix with a dough hook for 2 minute on low.
4. Increase speed and mix for another 5-6 mins, until well incorporated.
5. Lightly knead dough on a floured surface and form a ball. Place in a clean bowl and let rise in warm environment for 2 hours, it should double in size.

For the walnut mixture:
1. In a small bowl, soak your raisins in your choice of liquor (I use rum), while the dough is rising. I usually start this process before anything else, and you can even do it overnight.
2. Grind your walnut and almonds to a fine texture until you have about 4 cups worth.
3. Heat your honey in a small pot until it just start to bubble then add honey and raisins (with the liquor) to your nuts.
4. Add water by the tablespoon as needed if mixture is too dry.

How to put it all together:
1. On a well floured surface, roll out your dough into a big rectangle, something around the size of two baking pans, but make sure it’s not so thin it rips.
2. Spread half your nut mixture evenly on the middle third of your dough canvas, then fold over one third of your dough, and spread the remaining mixture on top of that, then fold the last third on top of that.
3. Gently roll out your dough until it is flatter, then cut it long ways into 8 strips.
4. Knot them up to your liking and in the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 355F.
5. Lightly beat 1 egg and egg wash your rolls before popping them in the oven for roughly 30-40 mins, or until they’re golden brown.

Please visit Thida’s Instagram for tutorials and visual step-by-steps of everything I’ve just written!

You can also follow me on Instagram riiiiiight here.

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Romanian Style Crepes

Viviana's Kitchen

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all.

I was visiting my aunt a couple weeks ago and happened to stop by while she was preparing to make Romanian crepes – or as we call them, Clatite. So I asked her to explain her process as to how she makes them, and surprisingly, it’s pretty easy. The thing is, it’s not a set recipe, so I’m going to try to translate it into one as best as I can.

Her style of making crepes is delicious and I personally view it as one of her specialties, so I was geeked to try it out on my own. Below, I have a recipe that should yield roughly 16 crepes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2-3 eggs
a good pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
milk
mineral water
rum extract/essence of rum
a small bowl with oil and a silicon brush
filling of choice (we like prune or rosehip jam)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine flour, eggs, salt, sugar, rum extract, and milk until blended together well. Add the milk slowly so you can build a batter.
  2. Once you’ve got a mixture that’s a little on the thicker side, slowly add mineral water to the mixture until the consistency becomes almost soupy. You don’t want it too thin, but you don’t want it so thick that you can’t swivel the mixture around in the pan to coat it.
  3. Add rum extract to taste. My aunt dumped like a good 2 or 3 TABLESPOONS in there, but probably a solid 1 to 1.5 teaspoons should be good.
  4. Heat up a large skillet on high heat. Before putting in your batter, brush the skillet using a silicon brush with some oil to ensure your crepe doesn’t stick.
  5. Pour a large ladle-full of batter in the center of your skillet and take the skillet off the stove while you swivel it to ensure the batter coats the whole bottom of the skillet.
  6. Using a long knife, (you can use a spatula, but a knife works better – and if you have a particularly flexible knife, use that) flip your crepe after roughly 30 seconds or  until the batter is no longer wet and cook for another ~30 seconds or so.

Tips:

  • If you’re having trouble swiveling the batter, your batter may be too thick. Add more mineral water or milk.
  • If you’re having trouble with your crepes breaking after the first couple (flipping them with a knife does take some practice) your batter may be too runny and you should add a little more flour to thicken it up.
  • In our family, and even traditionally in Romania, we like to roll up our crepes with prune jam or rosehip jam, but you can eat them however you please.

Carrot Cake Snowballs

Viviana's Kitchen

Like just about all of my great recipes, I found this one on Foodgawker and it looked so delicious and so easy, I said LET’S DO IT!

I’m not a huge fan of carrot cake – but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the vast majority of American desserts. I find that most of them taste like sugar on steroids rather than actual flavor. However, this one has that middle eastern twist and I can deal with that.

They involve pitted dates, but given that I live within 5 minutes of a middle eastern grocery store, I have something better – DATE PASTE. No need to get your blender sticky with dates.

This recipe also contains cashews – my new favorite nut, by the way. I only had salted cashews, so I rinsed them before I pulverized them in my Ninja blender. I also gave the oats a spin in there. If you’re using a package of date paste, I suggest doubling up on the other ingredients.

My altered recipe is below:

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 13 oz date paste (1 package)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted cashews
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • zest from 1/2 orange and freshly squeeze juice from said orange
  • desiccated coconut for rolling

Directions

  1. Peel and wash your carrots. Grate your carrots.
  2. Rinse your cashews if they’re salted. Pop them in a blender 1/4 cup at a time and burst blend them until they’re between coarse and fine.
  3. Blend your oatmeal as well. You don’t want a fine powder, but you do want everything to be about the same size.
  4. In a large bowl, combine carrots, date paste, oats, spices, salt, zest of an orange, and the juice if your orange together. You can of course opt to do this in a blender, but why clean more than you need to? Use your hands to mix together well.
  5. In a separate bowl, add coconut. Form your snowballs into balls and roll around in coconut.
  6. Pop the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving, to firm up.

#Single4Life

Miscellaneous, Viviana's Kitchen

Alright, first thing’s first.

For all you photophiles (what’s the actual word though?) who wanna see more of my photography, you’re in luck! I decided to make an Instagram account for just my photography, @vivianapodinaphotography, after finding out you can now link your accounts and switch between them easily. I’m pretty excited and geeked and thrilled by the small gathering of followers I’ve already accumulated (18 with just my first photo, how cool!) and I’m looking forward to discovering more artists and photographers and being discovered by others as well.

That said, it’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means I’ll be doing absolutely nothing differently from any other day of the year because I’m #single4lyfe. But I thought this would be a great occasion to gift myself something I’ve wanted for a while – new workout shoes! I found this gorgeous orchid purple pair at DSW on clearance and they’re SO COMFORTABLE. I’m in love.

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On my way home I also stopped by Natalie’s Bakery to pick up bread and indulged myself in some V-Day treats. Picked up some cannolis, a little strawberry heart tart, and a slice of honey sea salt pie (not pictured). I haven’t tried the pistachio cannoli or the tart yet, but the orange zest cannoli and honey pie are superb.

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Hope you guys have a good weekend! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you regardless of relationship status. <3

Lemon Poppyseed Tiramisu

Viviana's Kitchen

I’m a huge fan of anything lemon flavored, and after making two tiramisus around Christmas/New Years, I had a brilliant idea – how about I alter the recipe and make a lemon tiramisu instead?

I finally did a couple days ago after work.

It’s pretty simple, as you really only need to change a few things:

  • I used lemon liquer instead of brandy/cognac.
  • I dipped the lady fingers in a slightly sweetened lemon juice & water mix instead of coffee.
  • I topped the tiramisu with poppy seeds instead of cocoa powder.
  • I added in fresh grated lemon rind from a whole lemon to the cream.

The result is absolutely delicious. I squeezed fresh lemon juice on top of my individual slice to give it more of a sour kick and it’s seriously so good.

Here’s the original recipe for those of you who are interested.

Ingredients

6 eggs, separated
~6 cups coffee, cooled
16 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup sugar (I usually use 3/4)
1/4-1/3 cognac or brandy
1 package lady fingers
cocoa powder for dusting

Directions

  1. Combine 6 egg yolks, 2 tbsp coffee, sugar, and cognac into large bowl and beat 3 minutes.
  2. Add Mascarpone cheese and beat 5 minutes until smooth.
  3. In another bowl, combine 6 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form (and you can turn the bowl upside down and it won’t fall out).
  4. Gently fold into the Mascarpone mixture.
  5. Quickly dip lady fingers into coffee and lay out into a baking dish. Pour half the mixture over, and repeat the steps.
  6. Dust with cocoa powder and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

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