16 Oct 2014

The list of curious souls

One day last winter, on the 30th of January to be exact, my boyfriend and I were sitting in Café Brecht, one of our favourite places in Amsterdam. Sipping our drinks in the old armchairs, we noticed that the small table in between us had two drawers. Curios to see if there was something inside, we opened them. The drawers were empty.

"Should we put something in there...?" I pulled a small folded poster out of my bag, ripped it in two and wrote the following:

The list of curious souls
This is a list of all the curious minds who have opened the drawer, peeked in and found this note. Give your curious mind an applause and leave your traces here.

To Brecht's staff: Great, you're cleaning the drawers! :) However, keep in mind that bad karma will follow those who throw treasures in the bin...

A few months passed until the next time we visited the cafe. We were excited, of course - would someone had found our note? Would we have some messages waiting for us? However, much to our disappointment, the drawer wasn't there anymore. "They probably changed the furniture." We accepted the fact that we might never find out what had happened to the drawer, the note or if anyone had ever even found it.

Last weekend, after strolling around the city, we ended up in Café Brecht again. The place was quite busy, but we found ourselves two armchairs in the back of the cafe. It wasn't until we sat down that we noticed a small table between us. The table had drawers. "It's not the same one, is it?" My boyfriend opened the first drawer; nothing. The second drawer…well, see for yourself:

Ever single name and date on the list made us smile like crazy, and especially the small doodles on the paper's edges were hilariously sweet; a visualization of karma being a beach and a wurst from Vienna (see top right corner) were our favourites!

FYI, the note is still there, hidden at Café Brecht with an extra page attached! ;)

7 Oct 2014

The (almost) perfect pogacas

Pencils and papers aside, it's time to talk about something else!

The topic of the day is pogacas, the amazing Turkish pastries that rank just as high on my list of Awesome Edibles as savoury scones (I was about to pass out of happiness when I tasted the ones in the cafe of Victoria & Albert Museum a few years ago). Pogacas are kind of like bread rolls with herbs mixtured in the flour, filled with cheese and/or potatoes. The first time I ate pogacas was in Turkey in a small seaside village called Gümüslük. We were drinking tea, when my boyfriend decided to pop into a bakery nearby. Without knowing that he was about to give me a piece of heaven, he bought a simple dill and feta cheese pogaca. Ever since, I have been more or less (mostly more) obsessed with those pastries. We can find them here in Amsterdam in Simit Sarayi as well, but as I find them quite rip-offish, it has become my mission to learn to make them myself.

There are tons of recipes for pogacas online, and I have tried about 5-6 different ones. First batches I made were pretty far from the heavenly pastries I was aiming for; no matter whether I used baking powder, soda or yeast, my pogacas just wouldn't rise as much as I wanted them to. As a result, they would always end up too firm, flat and chewy.

A while back, I decided to continue with my battle against the chewy pogacas. I just knew there had to be a recipe for the perfect pogacas hiding somewhere in the depths of internet! I asked Google "how to make pogaca soft" and found a recipe from a blog called Mum! What's for dinner?. The blog belongs to Donika, who had found her own solution to the chewy problem. I decided to give her instructions a go and followed them with a few alterations.

As I was working my way through Donika's recipe, my expectations began to rise with the dough that was doubling its size in a bowl. And indeed, when I took the pogacas out from the oven, they had risen beautifully and were soft as cotton balls! My greatest achievement in the kitchen since learning to flip pancakes, no doubt!

Here's my version of the recipe (original version here) for the almost perfect pogacas with a few tricks and some tad bit healthy, fiber-rich changes.

  • 1,2 dl (or 1/2 cup) yogurt
  • 1,2 dl lukewarm milk (or 1/2 cup)
    The milk shouldn't be too warm, otherwise the yeast will refuse to grow and prosper!
  • 1,2 dl olive oil (or 1/2 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 dl all-purpose flour
  • 3 dl whole wheat flour or oat flour
    Oat flour is super easy to make - just grind some oats into fine flour with a blender!
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • at least 1/2 dl dried dill - the more the better, if you ask me!
  • around 200 g crumbled feta cheese

Dissolve sugar in warm milk. Mix in the yeast with a non-metallic spoon or fork and let foam rise. (Apparently, there isn't any scientific proof of metal killing yeast, but the fist time I made pogacas with yeast, I used a metal spoon and the dough didn't rise properly. Maybe it was the metal, maybe it was me, but anyway, I thought it'd be wise not to take any risks.) Be patient, because this will take a few minutes. Add the yogurt, olive oil and egg to the yeast mixture and whisk together till blended. Pour in the flour with salt and knead till you have a soft dough. Cover the bowl of dough with cling wrap, put it in the fridge and let the it rise overnight. (If you are impatient, you can also place the bowl inside a bigger bowl filled with very warm water. The warmth will help the dough rise and make it ready for baking within an hour or two.)

When the dough has risen, add the crumbled feta cheese and dill to the mixture. (Some people prefer their pogacas with a filling, but I like them better when the cheese and dill are nicely spread all over the pastry.) If necessary, add some flour to make the dough easier to handle. Take small portions of the dough and roll them into balls. Place them on a baking tray. Brush the pogaca balls with egg yolk or water for a nice, golden colour and garnish with sesame seeds or black seeds. Bake in the oven in 200°C for about 20-30 minutes until the pogacas are golden. Voilá...or what ever they would say in Turkey!

After all this praise, you might be wondering why I call these master pieces just almost perfect. As my very critical jury aka boyfriend pointed out, despite these pogacas being much better than the earlier tryouts, the texture was still not quite right: apparently, they were a bit too spongy and lacked some crust. Therefore, my experiments shall continue ― one day, I will master the art of baking perfect pogacas with a crust and no almosts attached!