Tag: European Baking Tradition

Legendary Dishes | Castagnaccio / Baldino (chestnut cake)


In Siena, where the chestnut cake is part of a rich tradition of cake making, the bakers keep their secrets to themselves, not least with the centuries old methods of making castagnacci. The big secret is the ratio of liquid to chestnut flour, the next is the oven temperature, then the baking time, and then the amount of olive oil. The difference is a hard (less liquid) or soft (more liquid) cake, an even bake and a crisp crust.

  • 700 ml water
  • 500 g chestnut flour
  • 10 g rosemary, fresh, chopped small
  • 90 ml olive oil
  • 100 g pine nuts, whole
  • 100 g raisins, soaked in water, drained, dried
  • 75 g walnuts, crushed (optional)
  • 50 g candied fruit
  • Salt, pinch

Preheat oven to 200ºC.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, pour the water into the bowl in a drizzle, whisking constantly to eliminate lumps.

Separate a tablespoon each from the pine nuts and raisins, set aside.

Add salt, candied fruit, pine nuts, raisins and walnuts to the batter.

Grease a 30 centimetre round baking tin with 60 grams of oil, pour in the mixture, sprinkle surface with rosemary and remaining nuts and raisins, finish with remaining oil.

Bake for 35 minutes.

The cake should have a dark chestnut colour, a crispy cracked surface. Cut, it will be soft and slightly moist.

Indigenous Ingredients

Pine Nut

Legendary Dishes | Bricelets (waffle biscuits)


Swiss breads and pastry confections are among the most diverse in Europe, and more than equal the quality and quantity of the Turkish (and Ottoman) tradition. This expertise comes together every year with the Bénichon meal in the canton of Fribourg, where the breads and confections include beignets, cuquettes, croquets and pains d‘anis, and in the delicious crispy brown biscuits known as bricelets.

Cream plays a huge role in the bricelet so it is no surprise that country women are among the best exponents in the art of waffle making.

Denise Bongard of the Fribourg Association of Countrywomen is one of eight women on the Au Bricelet d’Or (Golden Waffle) group. ‘As we are all countrywomen, we use our own cream, which we skim and leave to rest for two or three days,’ she says.

Bongard is also a wizard with a bricelet wand, the tool that is needed to produce the distinctive hollow cigar shape. And this is the problem for anyone who wants to make these delicate delicacies. A waffle iron is required.

The modern waffel iron, in two pieces, which open like a book, appear to be an invention of the 1700s. In western Switzerland they were forged with a decoration, which imprinted a particular pattern on the biscuit.

Nowadays the bricelet iron fer à bricelets is an electronic affair.

The traditional bricelet is generally made with butter or cream, flour, salt or sugar and water. Cheese, eggs and seeds (caraway, poppy or sesame), lemon juice and wine add colour and flavour. Butter is used sparingly because it can run out of the hot irons, while thickened stale cream is preferred by bricelete artisans.

The rolled cigar shape is often found coated with chocolate or filled with thick cream.

Wafers and waffles have a long tradition, going back over a thousand years.

This is a small amount to start practising, the lemon giving these biscuits a subtle sweet hit.

  • 100 g white spelt flour / white wheat flour
  • 85 ml stale double cream
  • 65 g sugar
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Beat the cream in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk the sugar into the lemon juice and wine until the sugar dissolves, add to the first bowl.

Beat the mixture, add the flour, zest and seasonings. Whip into a paste, refrigerate overnight.

Using a dessert spoon place a large dollop on the hot iron.

Close and cook for one minute.

Leave as a wafer shape or twist around the handle of a wooden spoon to form a cigar shape.

Cool on a wire rack, keep in a sealed box, consume at your leisure.

Indigenous Ingredients


Legendary Dishes | Boterkoek (butter cake)


Made with shortbread ingredients, this cake is more like a biscuit, and yet another confection with the egg dilemma. Some cooks make it without a filling or make a small gesture with almond paste. This version has a rich filling, the ginger in syrup adding an oriental touch. We are not using an egg!


  • 200 g butter, chilled
  • 200 g vanilla sugar
  • 125 g almonds, ground
  • 125 g white spelt flour
  • 15 ml milk, for brushing
  • Salt, pinch


  • 100 g apricots, dried, soaked, chopped small
  • 50 g almonds, skinned, flaked
  • 45 g ginger syrup
  • 30 g root ginger in syrup
  • 24 cm cake mould

Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl whisk the sugar into the butter, add the almonds, flour and salt.

Form into a dough, divide into two equal pieces.

Combine apricots, syrup, ginger and flaked almonds.

On a floured surface roll a piece of the dough to amply cover the base of the cake mould.

Spoon filling onto this base.

Roll second piece of dough, place over the filling.

Brush top with the milk and with a fork or knife create a motif on the surface.

Bake for 55 minutes until golden brown, cool and cut into wedges.

Breads of Europe | Baslerbröt (Basel bread)


Basel is well known for its bakers and it is also known for a bread with a soft crumb and a floury crunchy crust that may have originated in the home not the bakery. Traditionally Basel bread is made with a levain (starter) and with ruchmeal (the half white flour characteristic of Swiss flour mixes).


  • 300 ml water
  • 150 g whole wheat flour
  • 150 g white wheat flour, t550 or higher
  • 5 g yeast


  • 600 g levain
  • 600 g white wheat flour, t550 or higher
  • 500 ml water, warmed
  • 100 g whole wheat flour
  • 40 g yeast
  • 35 g salt

Combine the ingredients for the starter, and leave to ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.

Dissolve yeast in the warm water.

Mix the flours in a large bowl, add the yeast water and the starter, work with a sturdy wooden spoon for ten minutes.

Cover and leave to rise for 50 minutes.

Using floured hands turn out out onto a floured surface, and with several folds push the air out of the dough.

Leave to rise for a further 50 minutes.

With floured hands divide the dough into four equal pieces, shape into rounds, place on a baking tray with the floured sides up and leave to rise, about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 300ºC.

When the dough is ready reduce the temperature to 230ºC, bake for 60 minutes.

Indigenous Ingredients


Breads of Europe | Kmecki Kruh (farm bread)


Beer bread is associated with northern Europe, but this Slovenian bread is delicious, homely flavours that make it unforgettable. A traditional favourite.

We made it with wholewheat flour, it can also be made with white wheat flour and wholewheat flour combined.

  • 900 g whole wheat flour
  • 350 ml beer
  • 200 ml milk
  • 80 g butter
  • 50 g sourdough
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 40 yeast

Warm the beer, add yeast and honey, leave for 15 minutes.

Warm the milk, add butter and leave to melt.

Sieve flour into a large bowl, putting the leftover germ into the milk.

Pour the yeast-beer and germ-milk liquids into the flour. Add sourdough, form into a loose dough, knead on a clean work surface for 15 minutes.

Leave to rise for an hour, de-gas, leave for a further hour.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into rounds or place in loaf tins and leave to rise, about 90 minutes.

Bake for an hour in a 190°C oven.

Indigenous Ingredients

Slovenia version, photo courtesy Slovenia Tourism


Legendary Dishes | Tarta de Santiago (almond cake)


As you can see we had some difficulty removing the template. There was a small tear and this was enough to let sugar fall into the shape. Fortunately the flavour of the cake compensated for the appearance!

Traditionally made with a pastry casing, the modern version of this iconic confection omits the pastry to produce a soft almond-lemon cake.

Indigenous to Galicia torta de Santiago is known across the Iberian peninsula and beyond.

Associated with an old tradition, the modern version is enigmatic because of the decorative silhouette of the Cross of Santiago, a recent adornment.

Also modern is the association with the almonds of the Mediterranean, the varieties called comuna, largueta, marcona, mollar, largueta and planeta.

Almonds must account for a third of the almond-egg-sugar mixture.

  • 275 g almonds, ground
  • 250 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 25 g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet wine / lemon liquor
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Combine the eggs with the sugar to form a homogeneous mixture, about 5 minutes on an electric mixer.

Stir in the liquor or wine, the zest and, if using, the cinnamon.

Fold the almonds into the egg-sugar mixture.

Pour the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper.

Bake for 60 minutes.

Leave to cool.

Arrange the Santiago Cross in the centre of the cake, dust with icing sugar.

Indigenous Ingredients


Legendary Dishes | Fyrstekake (Prince cake)


This princely cake of Norway is iconic because it combines a tender pastry base with a subtle sweet filling.

The traditional filling is a paste made with almonds, egg whites and sugar. Butter is an addition. Whole eggs are a variation. The paste can be enhanced with cardamon and vanilla. Fruit is also an addition.

The traditional base is made with baking powder, butter, eggs, flour and sugar.

A lattice work occasionally decorates the top of the cake.

This is the basic recipe.


  • 150 g almonds, ground
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Combine ground almonds and icing sugar, fold in the two egg whites. Put in fridge for several hours. This is the almond paste.

Base Dough

  • 175 g pastry flour
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 100 g strong white wheat flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 80 g brown sugar
  • 8 g baking powder

Beat brown sugar into the butter, stir in the three egg whites, baking powder and sieved flours. Knead into a smooth ball. Leave for an hour.


  • 30 g almonds, whole, blanched, skinned, halved for topping
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • 22-25 cm diameter flan tin

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Place the dough in the bottom of the cake tin, push it across the base and up the sides with a one centimeter overlap above the rim.

Spoon almond paste on top of the dough, wash with egg, top with almond pieces.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Dress with icing sugar.

Breads of Europe | Baguettes Maison (home-made bread sticks)

  • 1 kg white wheat flour, t650
  • 660 ml mineral / spring water, warmed to 38ºC
  • 25 g yeast
  • 20 g salt
  • 10 g sugar

Dissolve yeast in the sugar and 130 millilitres of water.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the salt, yeast mixture and remaining water.

This mixture requires extensive hand kneading, to produce a soft dough that is not sticky, somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes.

Leave to rise covered for three hours, degas twice.

The dough should be shaped into long slim loaves, and placed between folds of parchment on baking trays.

Leave to rise for at least an hour, preferably two depending on the ambient temperature.

Preheat oven to 235°C.

Place a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.

When the temperature comes back up to 230ºC, bake baguettes for 20 minutes.