Ola Rokita

Hi! I am Ola and I want to share with you my simple baking recipes that can change your life and how you feel.
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Thanksgiving Feast Illustration

Hello Fellow Bakers!

I invite you to discover “Better Together for the Thanksgiving Meal”. This is a short story written and illustrated by my 9-year old daughter. Elizabeth wrote her story hoping to share an important lesson about accepting and celebrating our differences.

 

Ella Illustrating her Book

 

As many nations are enduring conflict because of injustice and discrimination, it’s important to remember that our differences are our strength. Each individual brings something unique to the table.

Better Together for the Thanksgiving Meal
is a wonderful story

A heartwarming story your children will surely enjoy. Perfect for the fall season and the Thanksgiving holiday.

Although the cutlery and the dishes families live in one cupboard, they are very different from one another. Their unique skills help them tackle any meal. However, when the Thanksgiving feast is served, their attitudes towards each other are tested.

How will the two families handle all the food when they can’t cooperate?

Help us make a difference together

Better Together

By purchasing this eBook during the month of November, you will be helping feed those who need it most. All proceeds from the sale of the book in November will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

You can donate as little as $1.00 or as much as $100.00. Every dollar equals 2.5 meals.

To download your personal copy of Elizabeth’s book and support her cause, please click on the link to our shop

Thank you for your generosity. To learn more about Capital Area Food Bank and how their mission is helping a local community, please visit www.capitalareafoodbank.org

Apple Strudel

Ola Rokita20 October 2020Comments (4)

Apple Strudel with ice cream

 

This apple strudel recipe is inspired by my German friend who is an awesome baker. I asked him to share his authentic recipe with me after my trip to Munich where I ate one of the best apple strudels ever.

Apple Strudel is a classic dessert that’s perfect for the fall season

It’s very popular in Germany and Austria. In Poland, we have a similar dessert called “szarlotka” but the crust is thicker and a little sweeter.

The Mazurian region apple strudel I grew up eating was made with apples rolled in yeast cake and then glazed with sugar. It was also extremely delicious and I still make it at home today.

My favorite way to eat the apple strudel is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In Munich, it’s served with vanilla custard that soaks the delicate crust and makes the crust very moist.

Apple strudel is essentially apple pie that’s more refined

In many ways, the apple strudel reminds me of the American apple pie. In taste, the crust is very similar to the traditional American pie version, and the apples are prepared similarly. However, the big difference is thickness and the presentation.

The crust of the apple strudel is extremely thin, almost translucent. The apples are sliced into very thin slivers, and instead of being baked in a pie dish, the apples are rolled inside the dough into a long log. The result is a very refined apple dessert that melts in your mouth.

 

apples sliced

 

Adding other flavors to the apple filling

Traditional recipes call for adding raisins and walnuts or almonds, but I prefer one with just the apples. If you’re adding raisins, the preferred method for soaking them is in rum. Instead of rum, you can also soak them in very hot water. Prepare the raisins by soaking them for at least 30 minutes before preparing the filling.

 

Using the right flour is very important to ensure flexible dough

 

stretched dough

 

To make an authentic apple strudel, it’s important to use a good quality flour, one that is fine and has enough gluten to allow the dough to be stretched without breaking. For this recipe I use wheat flour from Poland type 500, “Poznanska”. But you can also use type 450, “Tortowa“.  If you’re using North American flour, I recommend using pastry flour. You can also use a very fine Italian flour, the “00” type used for pizzas.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Apple Strudel Dough

Ingredients

  • cups wheat flour Polish type 500 or 450
  • 1 tbs powdered sugar
  • 3 + 16 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seed oil
  • 1 medium egg
  • cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp spring water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Using a medium bowl, sieve the flour and then add the sugar and the salt. Mix it together with a spoon.

    sieved flour
  2. Add the egg, 3 tablespoon of chopped butter, sunflower seed oil, water, and lemon juice and combine it into the dough with your hands.

    butter flour and eggs
  3. Knead the dough until it feels smooth and elastic and becomes uniform.

    kneading the dough
  4. Wrap the dough with foil and allow it to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

    strudel dough
  5. In the meantime prepare the apple filling (see instructions below) and melt 16 tablespoons (220 grams or 8 oz) of butter for coating the rolled out dough.

  6. After the dough has rested for at least 30 minutes, find a large clean surface area to roll out the dough. You can use the dining room table if you need extra room.

    rolling the dough
  7. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit or 190° Celsius.

  8. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a very large circle, until it becomes almost translucent.

    stretched dough
  9. Using a glazing brush, delicately coat the surface of the dough with the melted butter.

    butter glazed dough
  10. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.

  11. Using a spoon, scoop the apples in a row along the edge of the rolled out dough.

    placing apple filing
  12. Gently wrap the edges of the dough and start rolling, keeping the row of the apple filling intact.

    wrap the dough edges
  13. Place the rolled apple strudel onto a perchment paper lined baking sheet.

    parchment lined baking sheet
  14. Bake for 35-40 minutes until you see golden brown color emerge.

    baked apple strudel
  15. Cool it for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting into it.

  16. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream.

    sprinkle powdered sugar

baked apple strudel

5 from 2 votes
Print

Apple Strudel Filling

Ingredients

  • 8-10 medium apples (preferably Gala or Macintosh)
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp rum (optional) for soaking raisins

Instructions

  1. Place raisins in a small bowl and soak them in a cup of warm water mixed with rum (optional). While the raisins soak, prepare the apples.

    soaking raisins
  2. Wash and peal the apples.

  3. Slice the apples into very thin slices.

    sliced apples
  4. Place the sliced apples in the sieve. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to avoid browning and let them rest for about 10 - 15 minutes. Gently stir the apples to allow the extra juice to drain.

  5. Transfer the apples to a large mixing bowl and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, and gently stir with a spoon.

    apples with raisins and cinnamon
  6. The filling is ready to be added to the dough to make the apple strudel.

Pumpkin Pie

Ola Rokita09 October 2020Comment (1)

Pumpkin Pie

 

This pumpkin pie recipe is inspired by my European baking background and by my recent introduction to American baking.

The best pumpkin pie is baked at home

I love the taste of pumpkin, but I’m not a fan of a thick crust or filling that’s too sweet. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to bake my own pumpkin pie at home, with a thinner and flakier crust and less sugary pumpkin filling.

Make your pumpkin pie crust extra flaky

The key to making a flakier crust is to avoid overworking the dough and use cold butter. I knead the dough very lightly, just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t worry about the lumps in the dough, these will melt during baking and will ensure the crust gets enough moisture to form a flaky texture.

Also, I roll out the crust dough fairly thin. Not only does this reduce the extra calories, but it also makes the pie lighter, while each bite melts in your mouth.

 

pumkin pie slice

Balance the pumpkin flavor with fewer spices

Pumpkin has a relatively mild flavor, so it’s important to use small amounts of spices, especially the ones that are very intense. With too much cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove, the subtle flavor of the pumpkin gets lost. It’s one of the reasons why I avoid using clove in my pumpkin filling.  I find that a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg is all that’s needed to make a delicious pumpkin filling. But of course, if you enjoy the wow factor, then adding clove will be perfectly fine. It comes down to a personal preference.

Made from scratch or store-bought pumpkin filling?

If you’re in a hurry, you can certainly buy pre-made pumpkin filling. However, I find that the store-bought versions are way too sweet. You can also purchase pumpkin puree in a can. This way you can control how much sugar or spices to add based on your preference.

I enjoy going pumpkin picking and then bringing it home to bake with my kids. This way the whole family is involved and they see the process of picking up ingredients from the local farm and then turning them into something delicious.

By making my own filling from scratch, I know what’s in it and I reduce the sugar. In general I believe that delicious desserts don’t need to be very sweet. Sugar should accent the flavors rather than mask them.

Enhance the texture of your pumpkin pie filling

To make the filling extra silky, I use mascarpone cheese instead of the heavy cream. I find that the texture is smoother and the filling holds its shape better. If you want a very firm pumpkin filling, add a tablespoon of semolina (cream of wheat cereal) or rice flour. This will also help the filling keep its form.

My favorite flour to use for the pie crust is wheat flour from Poland type 500, “Poznanska” or you can also use all-purpose flour.

 

Pumpkin Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (about 200 grams or 7oz)
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, add the flour and powdered sugar.

    flour and sugar
  2. Chop the butter into small chunks and mix it together with the combined flour and powdered sugar.

    Add butter
  3. Using your hands, knead the ingredients lightly together, just until combined.

    combine flour with butter
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.

  5. Add the mixture to the dough, and using your hands, form the dough into a ball.

    Work the dough
  6. Don't overwork the dough, knead it just enough to combine the ingredients together.

  7. Once the dough is made, wrap it in a plastic foil and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

    Made dough
  8. Preheat the oven to 350° Farenheit or 180° Celsius.

  9. Prepare a pie baking dish by greasing it lightly with butter or sunflower seed oil.

  10. Remove the cooled dough from the fridge. Using kitchen foil, place one piece on the bottom of the dough and the other piece on top of the dough to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter when you're rolling it out.

    Rolling out the dough
  11. Roll out the dough until you obtain a large circle.

  12. Place the rolled out dough onto the pie baking dish and using your finger tips, gently press the dough into the dish.

    lined baking dish
  13. Remove any overflowing edges and use the extra dough for framing your pie later on.

    left over dough
  14. If you want to prevent getting a soggy crust or, ensure the crust is fully baked, slightly pre-bake (blind bake) your pie crust. Take a piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the dough that's laid out inside the baking dish. Weigh it down with some rice or beans, then bake it at 350° Fahrenheit or 180° Celsius for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick is your crust.

  15. Take it out of the oven. Remove the parchment paper and the weights, and pour the pumpkin filling inside the pre-baked crust.

    adding pumpkin filling
  16. Frame it with the leftover dough by rolling it with your hand into a thin long strand. Then line it on top of the filling along the edge of the pie dish. Use a fork to add a pattern by gently pressing it into the dough.

    lining the pie
  17. Bake your pie for 45-55 minutes maximum, depending on your oven.

    baked pumpkin pie
  18. Take it out and cool it off for 15-20 minutes. Then enjoy your freshly baked pumpkin pie with a scoop of ice cream or some whipped cream.

 

Pumpkin Filling

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped pumpkin
  • 3 whole egs
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone (250 grams or 8 oz)
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Steam pumpkin chunks for about 10 minutes, or until soft.

    steaming pumpkin
  2. Once softened, set it aside to cool off for about 20 minutes.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the steamed pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and the mascarpone cheese.

    making pumpkin filling
  4. Add cinnamon and nutmeg.

  5. Using a blender, combine all the ingredients together until you obtain a smooth texture.

    blending pumkin filling
  6. Add a spoon of semolina (cream of wheat cereal) or rice flour if you want a firmer filling.

  7. Pour the filling into your pre-baked pie crust.

    adding pumpkin filling

Cheesecake

Ola Rokita24 September 2020Comments (0)

Fluffy Cheesecake

 

This cheesecake is based on my grandmother’s recipe and it’s like eating a cloud.

Generally, cheesecakes are not the easiest to bake because they can be temperamental and require delicate handling. However, with some modifications to my grandmother’s recipe, not only is this cheesecake bound to come out right, it’s also super fluffy and creamy.

Cheese makes the cheesecake

Traditionally, my grandmother used farmers cheese that she would then grind three times until the cheese would lose it’s curds. Farmers cheese is still my favorite to use for baking cheesecakes because it adds a subtle tart taste. However, it takes a lot of work to make the cheese smooth and silky.

farmers cheese

If you’re going for efficiency rather than authenticity, then I would stick to cream cheese. If you like the delicate tart taste, then adding a tablespoon or two of sour cream will do the trick.

You can also add a few tablespoons of Labneh cheese, a type of yoghurt-based cheese with a slight sour taste that’s very popular in the Mediterranean region.

In addition to cream cheese, I add Mascarpone cheese. It helps to create a silkier and fluffier texture, and gives the cheesecake a more refined taste.

Use ingredients at room temperature

It’s very important that the ingredients are at room temperature. Remove the eggs and cream cheese from the fridge at least one hour before baking your cheesecake.

Minimize the cracks

Cheesecake Cracks

 

To prevent your cheesecake from cracking, remove as much air as possible from your batter. To do this, tap, or gently pound the bowl with the beaten egg yolks against the kitchen counter for about 20-30 seconds. You should notice air bubbles coming to the surface and popping.

You can also reduce over-beating the eggs. Rather than using a hand mixer, simply whisk the eggs by hand, just until they are combined with the sugar. Although I found that this makes the texture less silky.

If you still get cracks, it’s not the end of the world. If the texture is fluffy, the cheesecake melts in your mouth, and it tastes delicious, the rest can be masked.

You can always cover your cheesecake with an appetizing toping to make it esthetically appealing.

Let the cheesecake cool in the oven gradually

To minimize the cracks,  let the cheesecake cool off gradually. Don’t take it out of the oven immediately after baking. Turn the oven off, crack open the oven door, and let the cheesecake cool for at least 30 minutes.

Also, when baking your cheesecake, put 3-4 cups of water in a large baking dish and put it on the bottom rack of your oven to create a steam effect and keep the cheesecake moist.

Take the Gluten out if you want

For those who are on a gluten-free diet, you don’t need to incorporate graham crackers or cookie base that might contain wheat and gluten. In fact, I prefer my cheesecake without the crust because my favorite part is the middle, and the topping. Also, instead of wheat flour, you can use a few tablespoons of potato flour.

I also add a tablespoon of cream of wheat, but you can skip that part if you’re staying away from gluten.

 

Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp potato flour
  • 1 tbsp cream of wheat (optional)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp lemon zest (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Just enough to melt it.

    butter
  2. Set it aside to cool off.

  3. Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit or about 160° Celsius. Place a dish filled with water inside the oven.

    dish with water
  4. Prepare the baking dish. For best results, use springform baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and using ½ teaspoon of butter, lightly grease the sides.

    cake pan
  5. Using two bowls, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.

    Divided Eggs
  6. Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with half the portion of sugar until firm and stiff.

    egg whites
  7. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining portion of sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and/or lemon zest.

    egg yolks
  8. Once the egg yolks obtain a creamy, whitish, and smooth texture, slowly add the cream cheese, cup by cup. Keep mixing until all combined. To remove the extra air bubbles, gently tap the bowl several times on the countertop so that the bubbles float to the surface and pop.

    adding cream cheese
  9. Next, add the mascarpone cheese and continue mixing.

  10. Slowly add the melted butter as you continue mixing, and until you obtain a creamy uniform batter.

    add melted butter
  11. Add the egg whites, and using a spatula, gently mix until just combined.

    add egg whites
  12. Add potato flour and continue mixing.

    potato flour
  13. Once all combined, pour the batter into the baking pan.

    Pouring batter into a baking pan
  14. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes. Do not open the oven door while the cheesecake is baking.

  15. Once the cheesecake is baked. Turn off the oven and crack open the oven door. Let the cheesecake cool off gradually while still inside the oven for about 30-45 minutes.

    cheesecake in the oven
  16. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool for another hour. You might notice few cracks, but don't worry about those. They can be covered up with an appetizing topping.

If you wish to add a crust to your cheesecake…

 

cookie crumbs crust

 

Cookie Crust

Ingredients

  • cups ground Petite Beurre biscuits or Graham Crackers (25 Petite Beurre or 12 Graham Crackers)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs cane sugar (optional) (not needed if using petit beurre biscuits)

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and set it aside.

  2. Place the Petit Beurre biscuits or Graham Crackers into a bowl.

    petit beurre biscuits
  3. Finley grind the biscuits into crumbs. Use food processor if you can.

    ground cookies
  4. Add the butter and mix together with the biscuit crumbs.

  5. If you're using Graham Crackers you may want to add a tablespoon of sugar.

  6. Once all combined, spread and press into the baking pan creating a crust.

    cookie crumbs crust
  7. Pour your cheesecake batter into it and bake your cheesecake.

    Pouring batter into a baking pan

Chocolate Topping

 

chocolate

 

Chocolate Glaze Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Using a medium size pot, heat up 2 cups of water and place an oven-proof dish on top.

    Heat up Chocolate chips
  2. Add the butter and the chocolate chips, and using a spatula, stir it until melted.

    melted chocolate
  3. Once cooled, gently pour it over your cheescake.

Cherry Topping

 

Cherry Cheesecake

Cherry Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted cherries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp potato starch

Instructions

  1. Over a medium heat, using a medium saucepan, warm up the cherries.

    Cherries
  2. Add the honey and stir.

  3. Briefly remove the pot away from the direct heat. While stirring, add the potato starch.

  4. Continue mixing vigoursly until well combined. Return the pot back onto the heat and continue stirring until you notice the mixture getting thicker.

  5. Once cooled, pour the cherry topping onto the cheesecake.

Apple Bundt Cake

Ola Rokita09 September 2020Comments (0)

apple bundt cake

There are endless ways to use apples when baking, and one great way is to make an apple Bundt cake. When I think of September, I think of colorful apples, going apple picking, and then using them in my recipes.

September is the apple month

 

Red Apples

 

The activity of going to an orchard to pick apples and then using them for baking is very satisfying. I love getting my kids involved in the process too because it’s educational and fun.

September is also the month of high holidays, and baking an apple Bundt cake, that’s also round, is a great addition to the Rosh Hashanah meal. Instead of brown sugar, use a few tablespoons of honey to make this a perfect Jewish New Year dessert.

Best apples for making apple Bundt cake

 

Green Apples

Apples make this Bundt cake very moist. Green apples are my favorite for this recipe, preferably Granny Smith. You can also try Mcintosh or Cortland variety. These types of apples tend to be less sweet and add a delicate tart taste to add character and balance the flavor.

Try to avoid using apples that are extremely juicy, like Honey Crisp or Fuji, otherwise the extra moisture could hinder the rising of your Bundt cake and it might turn out dense.

If you notice that the apples you’re using are too juicy, peal and slice them, then let them sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes. Pour out the excess juice and either drink it or use it for making pie crust.

Use delicate flour to make your apple Bundt cake supple

My favorite flour for this recipe is wheat flour from Poland type 450 “Tortowa”. It’s comparable to Pastry flour in the US or Canada, and it will help make your apple Bundt cake extra fluffy and airy.

You can also use all purpose wheat flour, but it’s a heavier flour type because it contains more protein, so I recommend you either add an extra egg or add 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder if you choose to use the all-purpose flour.

Invest in a Bundt baking pan

 

Bundt cake pan

For this recipe you’ll need a Bundt cake baking pan. I recommend investing in one if you are a fan of Bundt cakes just like me. If you don’t have one, you can also use a bread loaf pan, although you might need two to fit all the batter.

Apple Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups wheat flour Polish "Tortowa" type 450 or Pastry Flour
  • 2 tbsp potato flour
  • 6 whole medium eggs (5 large eggs)
  • 6 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt (optional)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seed oil
  • 4-5 medium green apples
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For Preparing the Bundt Cake Pan

  • 1 tsp coconut oil or sunflower seed oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Grease a Bundt cake pan with some coconut oil and sprinkle some coconut flakes to prevent the top of the cake from sticking. Set it aside.

    greasing bundt cake pan
  2. Melt the butter over a low heat.

    butter
  3. Make sure the butter doesn't burn. Set it aside to cool off.

    melted butter
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit or 180° Celsius.

  5. Wash, peal, and slice the apples.

    pealed apples
  6. Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice and cinnamon. Set them aside.

    Apples in cinnamon
  7. Using two mixing medium bowls, separate the egg yolks and the egg whites.

    Divided Eggs
  8. Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff and fluffy.

    beating egg whites
  9. Next, beat the egg yolks with powdered sugar, brown sugar or honey, vanilla, and salt.

    Egg yolks
  10. Beat them thoroughly until you obtain a creamy and fluffy texture.

    fluffy egg yolks
  11. Gently fold in the egg whites.

    egg whites
  12. Measure two cups of flour. Add the potato flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix it thoroughly together.

    flour
  13. Slowly add the mixed flour to the combined egg mixture as you gently mix the batter.

    bundt cake batter
  14. Next, slowly pour in the cooled butter as you mix the batter gently using a spatula.

    melted butter
  15. Once the ingredients are combined into a uniform batter, add the apples.

    apple batter
  16. Pour the batter into the earlier greased Bundt cake pan.

    pan with batter
  17. Put it in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.

  18. Remove the apple Bundt cake from the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.

    baked bundt cake
  19. Slowly turn the apple Bundt cake pan while pressing the plate on top, and once turned, lift the form as you place the apple Bundt cake onto the plate.

    turned bundt cake
  20. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and enjoy!

    apple bundt cake