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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Biscotti

Ola Rokita26 December 2020Comments (0)

Biscotti (Cantucci)

Biscotti or better known as “Cantucci” are classic Italian cookies.

The region of Tuscany is famous for making the best “Cantucci” and if you’re ever traveling through Tuscany, you must stop at one of the local bakeries and try some. There are many excellent varieties to sample.

Some are dipped in chocolate, others are sugar glazed or dipped in caramel. Many bakers also stuff them with raisins, cranberries, or pistachios. However, the traditional kind are made with almonds.

There are two ingredients that make Biscotti special

Almonds and Anise, a uniquely flavorful spice grown in the mediterranean area. The almonds add a wonderfully nutty flavor and make each bite finish with a crunch.

Anise complements the almonds perfectly, and the two flavors create a unique biscuit that goes perfectly with a cappuccino or an afternoon tea. To add the Anise flavor, I add a few tablespoons of Sambuca, a popular Italian liquor made with Anise.

Dunk the biscotti in your coffee to soak up the flavor and to allow them to lightly soften around the edges so that when you take your bite, they’ll melt in your mouth and crunch at the same time.

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Many reasons why Cantucci are the popular cookies of Italy

I make these frequently at home because they are quick and easy to make and have a long shelf life too. Even after a week, biscotti still hold up their freshness.

Their long shelf life is one of the reasons why they became such a popular treat in Italy. Soldiers could take them on long journeys and snack on them for days. While farmers could easily take a few of them while they toiled long hours in the fields.

Initially Cantucci were not a sweet treat, but rather considered to be a bread, or more like a cracker. As they became more popular, almonds and sugar were added to appeal to the general population.

There are hundreds of biscotti recipes. Some require as many as five or six eggs, while others only call for one or two.    Certain recipes contain vanilla, while others require only lemon or lemon zest.

Many recipes call for whole almonds, but I prefer shaved or sliced ones, without the skin. It makes them more manageable to cut and integrate into the dough. Plus, the smaller pieces of almonds are easier to much on.

Ideal flour to make biscotti

Given that biscotti are an Italian treat, the tradition is to use the Italian wheat flour type 00. For my recipe I use wheat flour from Poland “Tortowa” type 450. It’s a very delicate and fine flour, comparable to pastry flour.

 

Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 3 cups wheat flour (Type 450 or Italian 00)
  • ¾ cups cane sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp Sambuca
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 cup pealed and sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit or 180° Celsius.

  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Make sure not to burn it. Let it cool for a few minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

    melted butter
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder together.

    flour with salt and baking powder
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, mix together the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, lemon zest, Sambuca, vanilla, and warm water.

    eggs with sugar and lemon zest
  5. Add the melted butter and continue mixing the wet ingredients together.

    add melted butter
  6. Combine all the ingredients together, the dry ones with the wet ones.

    mix dry and wet ingredients
  7. Work the dough with your hands until all the ingredients are combined.

    biscotti dough
  8. Add the sliced almonds and using your hands, work them into the dough.

    sliced almonds
  9. Knead the dough some more to incorporate the almonds.

    knead the dough
  10. Take the mixed dough and separate into two equal parts.

    separated dough
  11. Roll each part into a long roll and place each roll side by side on a perchmant lined cookie sheet.

    rolled dough
  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

    baked biscotti
  13. Remove from the oven and using a very sharp knife cut diagonally 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick pieces.

    cut biscotti rolls
  14. Place them face up on the cookie sheet and bake them for another 15 minutes.

    turn the cookies face up
  15. Remove from the oven and let the freshly baked biscotti cool off for at least 20 minutes before serving.

    cool off biscotti

 

Donuts

Ola Rokita16 December 2020Comments (0)

Donuts

Donuts or “pączki” as they’re know in Poland are a traditional dessert going back hundredths of years. They are typically associated with “Tlusty Czwartek” or “Fat Thursday” which usually occurs in February after the Carnaval.

Lucky Donuts

In some parts of Poland people believe that in order to have a lucky and prosperous year you must eat at least one donut on Fat Thursday. For someone like me who loves donuts, I have no trouble eating two or three, especially the ones freshly made at home.

Yeast is the magic ingredient

From the many varieties of donuts I have eaten, the ones made with yeast are the best. And, if they’re made with the right ingredients, they are light as air and melt in your mouth.

Go easy on the sugar

In many ways preparing the yeast dough for donuts resembles that of challah. The only difference is that you add a lot more eggs and a couple of extra tablespoons of sugar, but not too much. Too much sugar will cause the donuts to burn quicker during frying and will cause them to go stale faster.

If you prefer your donuts to be extra sweet, add a sweet filling or cover them with sugar glaze. If you’re adding a filling, you can either do it before the frying or afterwards.

I prefer adding the filling after my donuts are fried. If you’re doing the filling before the frying, make sure the filling is the same temperature as the dough and you enclose the dough properly so the filling doesn’t spill during frying.

When it comes to the filling, my favorite is plum butter or custard. But you can also try chocolate or strawberry jam.

If you’re going to indulge, do it smart

Donuts are packed with calories, but it’s worth it to occasionally indulge in the ones that are homemade. This is also why I make mine smaller than the typical size, so if I eat two or three it’s not the end of the world. Also, by adding a little bit of vinegar or very potent spiritus alcohol to the dough, the donuts will not absorb as much grease while frying.

Egg yolks add that fluffy effect

To make the donuts extra fluffy and delicate use a bigger ratio of egg yolks to egg whites. You’ll need at least 5 egg yolks for a basic recipe, but some recipes call for as much as 8 to 12 egg yolks. I find that too many egg yolks make the taste a little “eggy” so I like using about 5-6 egg yolks at most.

Best flour for donuts

To make the perfect dough, use wheat flour from Poland type 550 or “Luksusowa”. It’s an ideal flour for yeast-based dough. [click here to buy].

You can also use All-Purpose flour.

If you want your donuts to be extra fluffy you can also try using Italian flour type 00, a very fine flour similar to pastry flour.

 

Donuts

Ingredients

  • 3¾ - 4 cups wheat flour (Type 550 or All-Purpose)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • tsp dry active yeast (20 grams or 0.7 oz of fresh bakers yeast)
  • ¼ tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp grain alcohol or apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt

For frying the donuts

  • 2-3 cups sunflower seed oil (for frying the donuts)

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, eggs, and sugar, and whisk them swiftly together.

    eggs, milk and sugar
  2. Turn the heat on to medium level and warm up the ingredients until they are lukewarm to touch or they reach 100° Fahrenheit or 38° Celsius.

  3. Turn the heat off and add the yeast. Quickly whisk the ingredients together and let the mixture rest for about 5-10 minutes to let the yeast activate. You should see bubbles forming at the top.

  4. In the meantime, using a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat just until it starts liquifying. Don't overheat the butter nor burn it.

    melting butter
  5. Let the butter cool for at least 10 minutes.

    melted butter
  6. In a separate stand mixer bowl or a regular large mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Mix the flour and the salt together and then add the vanilla and orange zest.

    flour with vanilla and orange zest
  7. Pour in the mixture of yeast, eggs, milk, and sugar to the flour, and mix all the ingredients together with a spoon. Add the vodka or apple cider vinegar and mix some more. Once combined, use the dough hook on your stand mixer to begin kneading the dough. You can also knead the dough with your hands by pulling and folding the dough as you knead.

    add liquids with solids
  8. Keep kneading the dough until it starts pealing off the walls of your bowl and your hands.

  9. Slowly start adding the melted butter as you continue kneading. If you're using a stand mixer, reduce the speed to low as you pour in the melted butter.

  10. Continue kneading for another 5-10 minutes, or until your dough becomes smooth and elastic.

    kneading the dough
  11. Once you achive a uniform consistency in your dough, cover it with a clean dish towel and let it rest in a warm place on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes or until it doubles in size. Don't over-rest your dough, maximum an hour is all you need.

  12. Once your dough has rested, start shaping your donuts.

  13. For smaller donuts like mine, tear about 30 grams or 1 oz of dough (for regular size tear about 50 to 60 grams or about 2 oz per donut) and shape a small ball to form your donut. Repeat until you use up your dough. You can also refrigerate half a portion of the dough covered in plastic food wrap for the next day if you want more fresh donuts later.

    Shaping donuts
  14. Place your shaped donuts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper so they don't stick to the surface.

  15. Cover your formed donuts with a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for 30 minutes.

    cover the donuts
  16. In a medium pot heat up the sunflower seed oil until it reaches about 340° Fahrenheit or 170° Celsius.

  17. Reduce the heat to low and gently place 3-4 donuts at a time (depending on their size) in the pot and fry them until they start to turn golden at the bottom (about 1 minute on each side) and then flip them to the other side to fry until both sides are golden.

    Frying donuts
  18. Make sure to check the temperature of your frying oil from time to time so it does not exceed 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Temperature is very important when frying your donuts. If you notice little bubbles forming on the surface of your donuts while frying, your temperature is too high.

  19. When your donuts are done frying, place them on a cooling rack lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

    place donuts on a rack
  20. Once cooled, sprinkle them with powdered or confectionary sugar, or glaze them.

    dip donuts in confectionary sugar
  21. If you want to add a filling to your donut, you can use a large metal straw to pierce a hole.

    using a straw
  22. Then use a pastry piping bag or a dispenser to fill your donut with your favorite filling.

    filling with cream
  23. Enjoy!!!

Apple Pie

Ola Rokita05 December 2020Comments (0)

apple pie

This simple apple pie recipe reminds me of the fall season and Thanksgiving.

When I came to America and celebrated my first Thanksgiving meal, it’s the apple pie that I was most excited about. My American friend shared this recipe with me, but I made a few small modifications to enhance the flavor.

I hope you enjoy making this classic apple dessert as much as I do. For this recipe I used wheat flour from Poland called “Poznanska” type 500, but given that this an American classic, all-purpose is probably most suitable.

Still, try it out with the flour from Poland and see if you like the flavor as much as I do. I found that the crust turns out a little lighter than the one made from the all-purpose flour.

Apple Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups wheat flour (all-purpose or Polish type 500)
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • tbsp ice water
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, add the sugar, chop the butter into smaller chunks and combine all together using your hands.

    sifted flour
  2. Add the salt, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and ice water, and using your hands knead the dough just until combined into a solid ball.

    knead the dough
  3. Wrap it in foil and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. While the dough rests in the fridge, prepare the apple filling (see instructions below).

    dough ball
  4. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit.

  5. Remove the dough from the fridge, divide it in half and roll one portion flat (about ½ cm or ⅕ inch thick) using a rolling pin. Use plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking to your working surface and the rolling pin.

    flat dough
  6. Place the rolled out dough into a pie-baking dish.

    pie crust
  7. Cover it with a parchment paper and weigh it down with some rice or other lose grains.

  8. Bake the pie crust for 20-25 minutes.

    baking pie crust
  9. While the pie crust is baking, roll out the other portion of the pie crust dough in the same way as above.

  10. Once the crust is pre-baked (blind-baked), add the apples (see instructions below on how to prepare the apple filling).

    adding apples to the crust
  11. Cover the filling with the rolled out pie crust dough and remove the excess edges.

    cover the pie
  12. Press the edges tightly together using a fork to make a nice pattern.

    press the crust edges
  13. Make 6-8 cuts in the top pie crust to allow for the steam to release during baking. You can use any extra dough to decorate the top crust of your pie.

    pie crust cuts
  14. Bake for additional 30-35 minutes until the the pie starts to become golden in color.

  15. Remove from the oven and let it cool on your kitchen counter for about 15-20 minutes. Then enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

    baked pie

 

Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients

  • 8-10 medium apples
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Fill a medium mixing bowl half way with water and add the lemon juice.

    apples
  2. Peal the apples, remove the core, slice them into small pieces and place them in the bowl filled with water.

  3. As you fill the bowl with the sliced apples, stir them to make sure they're covered by the water, this will prevent them from browning.

  4. Once you peal and slice all the apples, drain them using a colander and then leave the apples in the colander for at least 10 minutes so that the excess water drains.

    draining apples
  5. In a large skillett, over a low heat, melt the butter. Make sure not to burn the butter.

    melt butter in a skillet
  6. Add the brown sugar and mix it with the melted butter.

    butter with sugar
  7. Add the apples, and using a wooden spoon, stir them so that they are mixed in with the butter and brown sugar. Increase the heat to medium and stir the apples for about 5 minutes or until they start to soften.

    add apples to skillet
  8. Place them once more in a colander for a few more minutes so that any excess liquid drains.

  9. Your apples are ready to be added to your pre-baked crust (see instructions above) and you can finish baking your delicious apple pie.

Egg Pasta Noodles

Ola Rokita02 December 2020Comments (0)

pasta with sauce

Making egg pasta noodles is easy and the results are delicious. My grandmother often made her own pasta and served it with her home-made chicken soup. On cold winter days it was the perfect way to stay warm and enjoy a deliciously satisfying meal.

Fresh made egg pasta noodles will get you hooked

Once you start making your own pasta at home, you’ll have a hard time eating the store-bought version. Over the years I have tried several varieties of pastas, and fresh pasta made from scratch always comes on top.

Thick or thin? Shape your pasta in anyway you like it

Those folks who love making their pasta at home on a regular basis invest in pasta cutters or special pasta making devices. These are great for making perfect looking pasta or for cutting the dough into very fine strands, but it’s not necessary.

Personally, I prefer thicker noodles, especially when serving them with sauces, so I simply use a sharp knife. My kids also love the hand-cut noodles and they love eating them as dessert with some butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

noodles with cinnamon

Try making egg pasta noodles with your family

The other advantage of making home-made pasta is that you can involve your kids as part of the experience. My kids love kneading and shaping the dough with their hands. It’s a great sensory lesson followed by the satisfaction of eating their personally made pasta dish.

The ideal flour for making pasta

My favorite flour to use for making home-made egg pasta noodles is wheat flour from Poland type 500, “Poznanska”. This is a classic flour traditionally used by many grandmothers in Poland to make their pasta at home. I like it because the pasta is less dense and more delicate. You can also use the “Tortowa” type 450 flour if you want your noodles to come out extra delicate.

Egg Pasta Noodles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups wheat flour Polish Type 500 "Poznanska"
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Sieve the flour onto a big working block or surface.

    Sieving Flour
  2. Make a dent inside the flour mount.

    Flour mount
  3. Add the two eggs and start scooping the flour around the eggs as you knead the dough.

    Eggs and flour
  4. In a measuring cup, combine water, milk, and olive oil and slowly add it as you work the dough.

    milk with oil
  5. Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes, or until you get a silky and elastic dough.

    knead the dough
  6. Cut the dough in half. Cover one portion with a clean cloth, and start rolling the other portion into a large flat circle.

    roll the dough flat
  7. As you roll out the dough, sprinkle some flour on both sides so that it does not stick to the rolling pin or the working surface.

  8. Once you roll out the dough, sprinkle with some flour and let it dry for about 5-10 minutes.

  9. In the meantime boil 4-5 cups of water with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil.

    boil water with salt
  10. Take the slightly dry dough and roll it gently into a log.

    dough log
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into ½ cm or ⅕ inch wide strips.

    cut the dough
  12. Once all cut, place the strips into the boiling water and boil your fresh egg pasta for about 2-4 minutes, depending on your preference for a more al-dente pasta.

    boiling pasta
  13. Once cooked, drain the water and serve it with your favorite sauce or butter.

    drained pasta

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