A few of you asked for the Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe about which I posted yesterday. Since I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the pumpkin bread on its own, and I was most assuredly dissatisfied with the sweetened condensed milk (the base for the caramel sauce) on its own, I hadn’t intended to post the recipe.
But you know what they say about the sum of individual parts. . . despite the haphazard way the dish came together, it ended up being a winner, so I’ll try to reconstruct the recipe here. It was a huge hit and would make a spectacular New Year’s Eve dessert served in wine or martini glasses.
[BIG caveat: I didn't take notes while making this, so you may have to play with proportions a bit, particularly with the caramel sauce. Results may vary.]
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (GF option)
With pumpkin in both the bread and the “custard” in which it bakes, this pudding is definitely rich in pumpkin. Lightly spiced, this moist bread pudding is highlighted with a rum-infused caramel sauce.
For the Bread Pudding:
1 pre-baked pumpkin quick bread, such as the one in Simple Treatsor this or this (for GF) or this (not vegan) or this (I didn’t add raisins or nuts to mine, however)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick or instant)
1/2 cup (120 ml.) packed pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml.) agave nectar, light or dark
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
For the Caramel Sauce:
1 recipe of condensed milk (I used agave instead of sugar and almond milk instead of soy)**
about 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
about 1/4 cup coconut oil
2-4 Tbsp. (30-60 ml.) rum, if desired
pinch fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) 9-inch (22.5 cm.) square pan or soufflé dish.
Slice the bread into thick slices, about 2 inches (5 cm.) thick. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes on each side to dry out the bread somewhat (alternately, if you’ve already got stale bread–great!). Cool the bread and break it into bite-sized chunks; place in a large bowl.
In a blender, grind the oats until they are the consistency of a coarse meal. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture over the bread in the bowl, pushing the bread down with the back of a spoon so that all pieces are submerged. Allow to sit 20-30 minutes, pressing the bread back down occasionally, until the bread is completely soaked through (there may still be liquid left in the bottom of the bowl; this is fine).
When the bread is all soaked, spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, and smooth the top as best you can.
Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until puffed and browned on top and a knife inserted in the centre comes out wet but clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with caramel sauce, at room temperature, or cold. Makes 8-12 servings.
Follow directions for sweetened condensed milk, cooking until the milk is reduced to 1 cup. Add remaining ingredients and heat over medium-low heat until the mixture starts to bubble; then continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until the sauce is thick and has darkened. To test if it’s ready, pour about a teaspoon of the sauce into a small, chilled bowl. If it thickens to the desired consistency, it’s ready; if it’s still too thin, cook and stir another 5-10 minutes. Pour over warm pumpkin bread pudding.
**Note: I used the condensed milk as the base for caramel sauce because I’d already made it for another purpose, and wasn’t happy with the result for that recipe. . . so decided to turn it into caramel sauce. Of course, you could just use ready-made sauce, or any other recipe for caramel sauce if you prefer. [UPDATE, November 2011: it appears that the original recipe I linked to is no longer available, so I've linked to a recent recipe I found on the internet. Worth a try!].
[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
As I’m wont to do during the drive to work, I tuned in to the CBC this morning and overheard Jian Ghomeshi (isn’t he just the dreamiest??) talk about how excited we Canadians get any time we’re mentioned on American TV. Last evening, in fact, Jon Stewart satirized our impending governmental crisis (if only that were a dream!) on The Daily Show. As a food blogger, I must admit I felt the selfsame patriotic pride last month when Susur Lee (also dreamy) was fêted by Ruth Reichl et al in New York, for the opening of his newest resto, Shang. I mean, now that we’re all firmly entrenched in the Era of the Celebrity Chef courtesy of Food TV, isn’t it just as exciting for us Canadians to hear mention of a Canadian chef in the U.S. media?
Stern was one of the very first “celebrity” chefs in Canada, known across the country at a time when the only viral netorking was an actual virus that networked its way through your mucus membranes and into your sinuses. She ran a highly successful cooking school in Toronto, she owned a kitchenware store beside it, she published severalbest-sellingcookbooks, had her recipes published in a variety of newspapers, and even tried her hand at her own cooking show for a time.
Back in the 90s, at the apex of Stern word-of-mouth buzz, I attended one of her cooking classes; the topic was “Homemade Gifts for the Holidays.” I was thrilled to have secured a coveted space in the always-sold-out classes, even at the exhorbitant fee of $95 (back then!). I was primed to observe the doyenne of cooking in her element, absorb every word she uttered, and finally become privy to the professinal tips and tricks she’d reveal as she prepared the most delectable and irresistible tidbits I’d ever tasted on a holiday table.
Well, I have to tell you straight up that I was bitterly disappointed. Sitting against the back wall of an auditorium-sized classroom (seriously, I had closer seats for forty bucks at the Bruce Springsteen concert that year), all I could see was a tiny figure in the distance that resembled the barely distinguishable collection of phosphor dot people I squinted at regularly on my (then) 12-inch television screen at home–and it wasn’t even Stern herself; it was a poor substitute, a culinary surrogate! After whipping up a series of recipes in quick succession and without much instruction, the recipe demonstrator passed around trays of thimble-sized samples for each person to nibble upon, all fairly bland and unexciting.
One recipe, however, stood apart from the rest, and it alone was (almost) worth the price of admission: Honey Liqueur Fruit Butter. It was a quick, easy spread consisting of dried apricots, candied ginger, and orange liqueur. Although I’m not, as a rule, particularly enamored of jams or jellies, I fell in love with this spread. I swooned. I drooled. I surreptitiously tasted three thimbles full.
I returned home and promptly re-created the spread, not once, but several times over the following few months. I gave away little jars as hostess gifts; I bestowed a few jars on my sisters and close friends; I spread it on bagels, pancakes, muffins and bread. And then, I tucked the recipe away in a file folder and forgot about it for over a decade.
That very folder–older, grayer, fraying at the edges–has been packed up and upacked during seven separate house-moves since that time. This year, while pondering what I might cook up as holiday gifts from my kitchen, I finally remembered it. Like the memory of a first kiss, the thought of that recipe unearthed a wave of longing and a compelling desire to once again re-create that long-ago, captivating sensation. I dug out the file folder and cooked up a batch. And (perhaps unlike that first kiss with your childhood sweetheart) this spread was just as good 15 years later.
I’ve subbed agave for the honey and brandy for the liqueur, with spectacular results. This is a smooth, glossy spread that will keep for more than a month in the refrigerator, since the alcohol acts as a preservative. I love this slathered on breakfast food, but it would be a terrific filling for a danish or rugelach as well.
(“Mum, too bad we can’t have anything with alcohol in it. . . but we’d be happy with all those breakfast foods on their own, next time you’re slathering.”)
Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread
My notes from the original class tell me you could also substitute dried pears for the apricots, or a combination of prunes and dried apples, adjusting the liqueur accordingly (poire William and armagnac come to mind, but any favorite will work nicely).
8 ounces (225 g.) dried apricots (I used unsulphured organic–fabulous in this!)
2 ounces (55 g.) dried candied ginger, chopped
1 tbsp. (15 ml.) each, grated lemon and orange zest
2 cups (480 ml.) water
1/2 cup (120 ml.) agave nectar, or more to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml.) brandy, orange flavored liqueur, or other liqueur that you like)
Place the apricots, ginger, citrus zest and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until fruit is soft and almost all the water is absorbed, 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
Turn the mixture in to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the agave and liqueur and blend again until perfectly smooth.
Spoon into clean glass containers or jars; cover and refrigerate. Mixture will keep about a month in the refrigerator.
[NB: A huge "THANK YOU" to all of you who sent good wishes my way yesterday. I really wasn't intending to sound so "woe-is-me" (I do that quite enough around the diet issues, thank you), but just reflecting on how the day could elicit positive vibes for all concerned. Your comments sure worked toward that end for me, though: big hugs to all of you! ]
In my mind, here’s the perfect way to wake up on a Sunday morning:
Outside, the weather is balmy. A mild breeze whispers through the slightly opened window, curtains undulating softly with each invisible breath. The sun makes its presence known through the diaphanous curtain as it tickles the pillows of our bed with little sparkles of laughing light. Elsie pads quietly over to my side of the bed and, as gently as a rose petal floating to the ground, taps my open palm with her soft, moist nose. I open my eyes slowly. Glancing toward the window, I stretch luxuriously and think, ”Ahh, yes! Another lovely, sunny Sunday! This is a perfect time to have. . . BREAKFAST.”
Unfortunately, the reality yesterday morning was more like this scenario:
It’s dark; the cold, clammy night air refuses to release its death grip on the house, barreling its way into the room through the open window. Thin and defenseless, the curtains ripple and flap, rousing me with their wistful ”flltt, flltt, fllllltttt” tapping an SOS against the pane. Chaser thumps enthusiastically over to my side of the bed and, with a serviceable impersonation of an approaching foghorn, targets my exposed ear with her wet, cold nose. My eyes pop awake and dart toward the window: monochrome grey sky, raindrops still clinging to the glass. Outside, there’s a constant flutter of leaves pelted by rain. I jerk upright, reach for the bedside lamp and lament, “Aaarrghh! Another crappy, rainy, gloomy Sunday.” But wait; pause. My smile returns, and I reconsider: ”Oh, well. Typical Toronto day. But at least it’s time for–BREAKFAST!”
Like bright copper kettles and whiskers on kittens, breakfast does seem to make everything a little better, doesn’t it?
Well, as soon as I read about the second Recipe Remix blog event, hosted by Robin of Made with Love and Danielle of Make No Little Meals, I knew I had to enter. The event focuses on breakfast foods, asking bloggers to “remix” a traditional food in a new way. Admittedly, the breakfast pickings were pretty slim (ah, if only I could say as much for my thighs): six dishes, five of which contained eggs, and all of which contained wheat–both no-no’s for this brekkie lover. Initially, I narrowed the choice down to pancakes, crepes, or French toast.
Now, as much as I love pancakes and crepes, I’d already dealt with both of those on this blog. Time for a new challenge. But why, oh why did it have to be French toast? I hate French toast. Okay, maybe that’s being slightly dishonest. The truth is, I TOTALLY, WHOLLY, ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY hate French toast. Can’t stand it. Never touch the stuff. Blech! French Toast is my mortal enemy! And I’m really not particularly fond of it, either.
I’m not sure why I developed this bone-chilling aversion to what is, arguably, a well-loved (and certainly popular) breakfast staple. Perhaps it was my mother’s tendency to use approximately half a tub of margarine when frying the stuff, resulting in that previously unknown breakfast delicacy, Deep Fried Brick. Despite the slices fairly floating in grease like aging Floridians at the pool, the toast inevitably still turned out slightly scorched on the outside. At that point, my mom would stack the slabs on a plate (no blotting on a paper towel for her!) and douse them in corn syrup. The heavy, unctuous substance would spread, a slowly oozing blob that was eventually absorbed by the top slice, leaving it wet, weighted, and about as appetizing as a kitchen sponge just lifted from the bucket of grey, murky, muddy water. Ooh, yum. French toast, anyone?
I knew had to get over my childhood toast trauma. I decided to approach it like an episode of Iron Chef: I’d been challenged to transform the lowly pain grillé into something mouth-watering, something delectable. Was I up to the task? Alas, I couldn’t think of anything. I was at a loss; I was afraid I’d blow it. In fact, I was certain I’d be. . . well, toast.
But this blog event was called Recipe REMIX, which meant I had carte blanche to change up the dish any way I wanted. And who ever said that French Toast has to be fried? In fact, it was the preparation method alone that rendered the stuff unpalatable to me; change the method, change the result. Eliminating the frying would also result in a lighter, airier product. I decided to bake the dish instead, after breaking the bread into smaller bits so they could soak up the liquid ingredients while nestled in a single soufflée dish: a French Toast casserole.
Working with a fairly standard (egg- and dairy-free, of course) mixture for soaking French toast, I added a few extra touches, such as a splash of berry liqueur or some mixed berries as a reminder of spring, a means to elicit that sunshine I missed so much in the morning.
As the mixture baked and browned, the bits of bread continued to soak up the batter, expanding and puffing like a male dove preening for a mate. It rose up so much, in fact, with such a fluffy and almost mousse-like texture, that I decided to call it “French Toast Soufflé.”
We ate it warm, bites of spongy, soft bread punctuated with bursts of juicy berries; but it could easily be served cold. And while I didn’t have time to make any soy-free whipped cream yesterday, a dollop of cream would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of this fruity, light and delectable dish.
Go on, indulge. Why not have a big bowl for breakfast? It will make the rest of the day seem that much better.
French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries
I think this is what someone like Nigella would call a “summer pudding,” though I’ve never had one of those. It would be a fabulous dish for a springtime brunch buffet, or even as a dessert following a light summer meal.
8-10 slices stale sourdough spelt or kamut bread
1/4 cup (60 ml.) old-fashioned rolled oats
2-1/2 cups (620 ml.) vanilla rice or soy milk
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 ml.) agave nectar
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2-3 Tbsp. (30-45 ml.) berry liqueur (framboise, cherry, etc.–I used Cloudberry, but it’s pretty rare)
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) fresh lemon juice or 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1-1/2 – 2 cups (325 to 500 ml.) fresh or frozen mixed berries
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) pan or soufflé dish.
Break the bread into bite-sized chunks and place in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a blender, grind the oats until they are the consistency of a coarse meal. Add the remaining ingredients except for the bread and berries, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture over the bread in the bowl, pushing the bread down with the back of a spoon so that all pieces are submerged. Allow to sit 20-30 minutes, pressing the bread back down occasionally, until the bread is completely soaked through (there may still be liquid left in the bottom of the bowl; this is fine).
When the bread is all soaked, spoon half the bread slices and half the remaining liquid into the prepared pan. Top with about 2/3 of the mixed berries. Cover the berries with the rest of the bread and liquid, then top with the last 1/3 of the berries.
Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the centre comes out wet but clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Makes about 8 servings. This is best served the day it’s made, though it can be re-heated the next day.
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook page.]
So, I heard somewhere that it’s hockey season now. Oh, don’t look so surprised: despite having been raised in Montreal (a hockey town if ever there was one), I am indifferent to the sticks-and-pucks revelry. Personally, I’d rather read about the latest face-off between, say, brownies and blondies than between the Habs and the Flyers.
In fact, I can’t say that I’m too interested in any team sports–or, come to think of it, any sports at all. Is it any wonder? Perpetually the “anchor” in tug-of-war; too uncoordinated to hit a baseball with a screen door; lacking even the modicum of balance necessary for hockey (though I did go skating, once, when I was about 15, soley to impress a guy I had a crush on. Oh, I made a lasting impression, all right–somewhere on the upper right thigh, just where my skate sliced through the flesh, if memory serves.)
This is not to imply that I don’t enjoy a good competition with myself every now and again, in a constant effort to improve on my own “personal best.” (And speaking of competitions, I’ve just gotta say it: time to wave goodbye to Jason Castro, don’t you think?). I’m forever asking questions like, “Can I increase my speed on the treadmill this week?” “Can I accomplish a bicep curl with a 15-pound weight?” “Can I use up every single veggie from our weekly organic box?” “Can I manage to sweep my kitchen floor every daythree times a week monthly before the dust bunnies take up permanent residence on the living room couch?”–and so on.
(“You know, Mum, we’d be happy to chase those bunnies for you. And while we’re on the subject, why are they allowed on the couch when we’re not?”)
As far as I’m concerned, a little healthy competition in the kitchen can only be a good thing. In order to improve a recipe-in-progress, I might tinker with it 10 or a dozen times to get it right, often in a single day (why, yes, it’s true: I don’t have anything better to do!). Is the muffin better with agave or maple syrup?–let’s bake a new batch and find out! Should I use barley flour or oat in the apple bars?–only another round of baking will tell! Can the cashew cookies stand up to cardamom, or would ginger be better?–let’s test ‘em out and see!
This somewhat peculiar proclivity in the kitchen was the impetus behind a strange experiment last week, one I conducted after receiving my copy of Carole Walter’s James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, in the mail. As some of you may recall, my recipe for Maple-Walnut cookies won the book in a recent CookthinkRoot Source Challenge for recipes based on maple syrup. (Hmm. Yes, I suppose that made me “competitive,” though of course not in the athletic sense.)
As soon as I ripped open the package, I was charmed by the clean, clear layout, the stunning full-color photographs and the innovative, precisely written recipes (200 of them!). And even though it’s filled with traditional recipes with conventional ingredients (think eggs, milk, butter, etc.), the book focuses on homey, classic treats, which are fairly easily adaptable to NAG principles.
Virtually everything in the book appealed to me, from the Vanilla Bean Poundcake to the Irish Whiskey Cake to the Apricot and Dried Pineapple Muffins to the Fig and Walnut Loaf. Lest you think the book is partial to goodies baked in pans, Walter also includes recipes for cookies, bars, biscuits, strudel, danish, buns and braids–plus many more treats shaped by hand.
My gaze lit upon a recipe called “Favorite Vanilla Muffins.” Vanilla muffins? Sure, I’d sampled many a vanilla cake in my time, but never a vanilla muffin. With its denser, moister texture, might a muffin be a better foundation to showcase the fragrant, floral tones of pure vanilla extract? A competition was in order!
I thought about the differences between the two. Like the Olson twins (though of course, in this case, actually connected to food), muffins and cupcakes are the same, but different. Both are single-serving renditions of a larger baked good (loaf or cake); both sport domed tops, flat bottoms and angled sides often encased in frilly paper liners. To muddy the batters even further, both may (but are not required to) contain chopped fruits, nuts, or chocolate.
How, I wondered, would that Favorite Vanilla Muffin stand up against its cakey counterpart? I decided to bake one of each (both using my adaptations of Walter’s recipes) and compare the results. Granted, my creations (no matter how delectable) would never be exactly as Walter intended; but I was okay with that. I chose a Classic Sour Cream Cinnamon and Nut Coffee Cake (without the cinnamon/nut filling) for my cupcake, mostly because, like the muffin recipe, it called for sour cream (and I needed to use up the tofu-based batch I’d be concocting). That would leave me with one vanilla; two vanilla (any more than that and we’d have the unfortunate Milli Vanilla).
[Coffeecake cupcake--with its intended filling. Get a load of that cinnamon-pecan swirl!]
Which won the competition? As expected, the muffins were heavier and denser. In fact, apart from the shape, they were a different animal entirely. For some reason, in these particular muffins, the vanilla essence proclaimed its presence assertively, even before you bit into the soft, moist interior; the sweet, floral aroma fairly radiates. And even though I knew my “sour cream” was soy-based, there was an incredible richness to these muffins that rendered them filling and satisfying; no need for fruit or fillers.
The cupcakes, for their part, were equally delectable. Undisputably more delicate with a tender crumb, the cakes were lighter both in texture and color. The vanilla essence here was definitely noticeable as well, though in a more understated fashion. Like pitting Ella against Diana singing Cole Porter classics: each transformed the outcome into something unique and exceptional, though clearly hailing from the same original concept.
So, in the end, it was a tie. Two winners–two delicious baked goods to eat. Everybody wins!
Vanilla Muffins and Cinnamon-Pecan Cupcakes (inspired by recipes in Carole Walter’s Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More)
[Left to Right: Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcake; Vanilla Muffin; Vanilla Muffin with Cashew-Cardamom variation]
For the “Sour Cream” (makes enough for one batch of each, muffins and cupcakes):
12 oz. (350 g.) firm silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu
2 tsp. (10 ml.) agave nectar
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) lemon juice
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) smooth cashew butter
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender, until perfectly smooth.
For the Vanilla Muffins:
1/2 cup (125 ml.) “sour cream” (half the batch)
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) coconut butter, melted
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (150 ml.) agave nectar
2 tsp. (10 ml.) Salba (ground chia seeds)
1 tsp. (5 ml.) apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups (220 g.) light spelt flour
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners for large muffins, or 12 cups for smaller muffins, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the sour cream and melted coconut butter; whisk until well incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla, agave nectar, salba and vinegar and set aside.
In a larger bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until well moistened (don’t worry if there are a few small dry spots here and there).
Using a scoop or large spoon, fill cups 3/4 full for larger muffins or 2/3 full for smaller muffins. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool five minutes in pan before removing to cooling rack. These freeze well.
Cashew-Cardamom variation: Mix together 1/2 cup (125 ml.) chopped cashews with 2 Tbsp. (15 ml.) Sucanat and 1/4 tsp. (2 ml.) cardamom. When ready to scoop the muffins, fill each cup halfway. Top with a spoonful of the cashew mixture and cover with another spoon of batter. Bake as above.
For the Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcakes:
1/2 cup (125 ml.) “sour cream” (half of the batch)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
1/2 cup (125 ml.) pure maple syrup
1 tsp. (5 ml.) Salba (ground chia seeds)
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup (140 g.) light spelt flour
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) baking soda
1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt
Optional Cinnamon-Nut Filling:
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) Sucanat
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F (180C). Line 6 muffin cups with paper liners for large cupcakes, or 8 cups for smaller cupcakes, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the sour cream, oil, maple syrup, Salba, water, and vanilla until well mixed. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and whisk until well combined.
Fill each muffin cup about half full. Top with about 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) of the nut filling, then cover with more batter. You can draw a knife through the mixture once if you like to create a little swirl inside (but not more than once, or the filling will become too blended with the batter).
Bake the cupcakes in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until the tops are golden and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool 5 minute before removing to a cooling rack. These freeze well.
*Okay, so it’s not really Polish. But the topping reminded me of a German Chocolate Cake topping, and since (half) my ancestry is Polish, I thought I’d just use the same concept for this cake’s name.
Did you hear the one about the (half) Polish woman who wanted to bake a cake?
All right now! ‘Nuff of those wacky rawdishes we’ve been seeing the last couple of days!! Time for some CAKE.
One of the greatest challenges of living in a long-term, committed relationship is dealing with those areas in which you and your partner don’t necessarily mesh. In order to coexist harmoniously and still retain one’s sanity, it’s sometimes necessary to make accommodations. (Okay, fine; not only “sometimes,” but pretty much every day. Okay, fine; several times a day.).
Since this union is the second go-round for both the HH and me, we no longer bristle at the petty, quotidien issues that drive some newlyweds crazy (does the toilet paper roll from the top or the bottom? Do you re-fold the newspaper in its original configuration after reading, or leave it in separate, blowzy sections once you’re done with it? Is it okay to exchange sotto voce commentary while watching Atonement in the movie theater, or not?). Nevertheless, we do make our own concessions. The HH prefers to play music ultra loud (beyond 11, even), whereas I prefer it as a soothing backdrop to other activities. He takes a laissez-faire attitude toward housework and disciplining The Girls; I prefer a schedule, and rules. (“And we definitely prefer Dad’s approach. . . sorry, Mum.”)
One major difference that forces the issue pretty much daily is our respective dietary habits: as I may have mentioned (perhaps, on occasion, in passing?) the HH loves to eat meat; I do not.
So when it comes to food, we’ve both learned to adapt. Over the past 11 years, the HH has eaten more tofu, collards, rice noodles and quinoa than he ever knew existed in the world. He’s also sacrificed some of his own cherished favorites, as when I had to cut out all alcohol (plus sugar, and fermented products, and fruits. . . don’t ask) from my diet for 2 years. He cheerfully complied and went without at home, with not a peep of protest.
So, as I browsed through my bookmarked recipes this week for something to bake, I was pleased to land on a recipe for Lemon-Coconut Bundt Cake from Deb’s great blog, Altered Plates. The HH adores coconut (whereas I’m fairly indifferent to it); coconut cream pie tops his list, but he’ll embrace cookies, muffins, bars, or any other coconut confections as well. I thought this would be the perfect cake to show my appreciation for his tolerating my (fairly) unconventional dietary habits over the years.
When I discovered that the Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe originated with Veganomicon, I wasn’t at all surprised. Seems you can’t read any food blog–vegan or not–these days without stumbling on a reference to that revered tome. I’ve tried many recipes from my own copy of the book, but none of the baked goods. In general, Moskowitz and Romero (I like using their surnames–it’s actually the correct format when referencing other authors; and besides, it makes them sound like a comedy duo that way: “Romero & Moskowitz’s Laugh-In,” or maybe a law firm: “Moskowitz and Romero, LLP“ ) often make use of baking ingredients far removed from my own kitchen cabinets: white sugar, wheat flour, margarine, and the like. And while it’s not difficult to adapt those kinds of recipes to my own requirements, I already had plenty of other recipes lined up.
I was definitely drawn to the concept of lemon and coconut coexisting in harmony (sort of like the HH and me!). But an entire Bundt cake seemed massive (I mean, how many extra baked goods can one bring to the office?). I decided to halve the recipe and bake it in a round cake pan.
In addition, M & R recommend serving the cake unfrosted. Now, maybe a naked Bundt (like the Venus de Milo or Miley Cyrus’s shoulder) is sufficiently alluring on its own; but an unadorned, plain-Jane round layer, sans frosting or filling? Well, that just wouldn’t do. Instead, I omitted the coconut from the cake itself, then added it to a a lemony, gooey topping, reminiscent of the frosting on a German Chocolate Cake, for a little more flair.
I’m happy to report that the HH was very pleased with the final result. The cake itself revealed a cheery yellow, moist and light interior; the slightly more brash lemony topping, lush and loaded with coconut, provided a great contrast in texture and sweetness. In fact, the HH seemed so pleased with his treat that I felt perfectly justified asking him to turn down that deafening volume on the stereo.
This cake is very moist with a gooey, rich and intensely lemon topping. Perfect for a dessert or an afternoon snack, it keeps well in the fridge (and is even better the second day).
1/3 c. (80 ml.) agave nectar
1 Tbsp. (10 g.) organic cornstarch
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut milk
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) unflavored soymilk
2 tsp. (10 ml.) freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml.) vanilla
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) soymilk powder
3/4 cup (60 g.) shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
3/4 cup (175 ml.) agave nectar
1/3 cup (80 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (200 ml.) coconut milk (1/2 a 400 ml. or 14-ounce can)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) unflavored soymilk
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. (10 ml.) freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground chia seeds
1 cup (150 g.) light spelt flour
1/2 cup (70 g.) coconut flour
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) sea salt
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml.) baking soda
Make the topping: In a small saucepan, whisk together the agave nectar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in the milks, lemon zest and turmeric. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture for one minute, stirring.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla and soymilk, whisking until smooth (don’t worry about tiny lumps, as they’ll be camouflaged by the coconut; if you want it really smooth, you can blend with a hand-held blender before adding the coconut). Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the vanilla and coconut. Allow to cool while you prepare the cake.
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease an 8″ round pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the agave, oil, milks, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and chia seeds. Whisk to ensure that the chia is evenly distributed. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift the spelt flour, coconut flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir the wet mixture into the dry until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out perfectly clean. Alllow to cool about 20-30 minutes, until cake is no longer hot.
Scrape the coconut filling over the cake and spread evenly. Refrigerate until cold, about an hour. Cut into slices and serve. Makes 8-10 servings.
[This recipe also appears in my cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 75 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the Sweet Freedom button at left, or visit this page.]
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this second entry, I'm focusing on Quinoa. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on quinoa.]
The moment I decided to present a Lucky Comestible series about quinoa, I simultaneously decided I’d have to include at least one baked goodie. I know what you’re thinking: “Now, Ricki, haven’t you already included a recipe for said baked goodie? After all, you did post about Almond-Quinoa Muffins before the involuntary GBR, didn’t you?”
Why, yes! Yes, I did. However, technically speaking, muffins are a “baked good,” not a “baked goodie“–the latter term reserved for dessert-type treats, such as cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, or bars. I wanted to see if I couldn’t turn quinoa into something at least quasi cake-like, despite its elevated whole grain status–something worthy of the term, “dessert”–something that even skeptics like Johanna or Wendy (who mentioned on Johanna’s blog that quinoa reminds her of worms!) could enjoy.
So, even though personally, my favorite use of quinoa is as a base for salad (where its true essence can shine through), I let my mind wander back toward baking. And while so doing, I remembered that, in actuality, quinoa is not really a grain–it’s a seed related to beets and leafy greens such as spinach or chard. Well, okay, I’ve already used spinach in a previous baked goodie, so that didn’t deter me at all. And even if my quinoa creation didn’t turn out as decadent as a molten chocolate cake, I figured I could still whip up something with both a great nutritional profile AND a sweetness rating high enough to please the kids as an after-school snack, or to serve unexpected guests, with a steaming cup of green tea. (“And don’t forget, it’s also good enough as a special treat for your sweet and devoted Girls, Mum! We LOVE apple-quinoa cake. . .”)
Since we already had a bag of Macintosh apples withering away on the counter, I started there. I imagined that a lightly spiced batter would work well with the sturdy taste of quinoa, which can sometimes be a bit domineering in a crowd. For some reason (perhaps because quinoa itself is gluten-free), I decided the bars should also be celiac-friendly.
What I ended up with was a light and moist cake, studded with raisins and sunflower seeds alongside thin shreds of apple and grains of quinoa. The cake is slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, with a tender crumb and pleasing spice. And because it’s fashioned from leftovers of both quinoa and apple, I thought it would be a perfect submission to the Leftover Tuesdays event, hosted by Project Foodie.
“Mum, you disappoint us. Raisins? You knowwe can’t eat raisins. But maybe you could pick them out for us. . . ”
Next time you cook up some quinoa and find yourself with leftovers, try this great snack cake. Without being excessively sweet and boasting sunflower seeds, two fruits and two whole grains, the cake is nutritious enough to eat for breakfast, though still light enough for dessert. The subtle apple and trio of spices is a tantalizing combination–you may have to stop yourself from having more than one piece!
2 whole medium apples, cored and coarsely grated (about 1 cup lightly packed or 200 g.)–I used Macintosh and left the skins on
1/2 cup (125 ml.) agave nectar
1/2 cup (125 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
2 cups (160 g.) cooked quinoa
2 tsp. (10 ml.) finely ground chia seeds*
2 tsp. (10 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml.) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (40 g.) sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (40 g. ) raisins
1-1/3 cups (160 g.) whole oat flour
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) baking soda
1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground ginger
2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon
1 tsp. (10 ml.) or less, to taste, cardamom
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) sea salt
1/4 cup whole oats
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a 9″ square pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the grated apple, agave nectar, oil, quinoa, Salba, vanilla, vinegar, sunflower seeds and raisins. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, and sea salt. Add the oats. Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well.
Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.
Makes 9 breakfast servings or 12 dessert servings. Best eaten the day it’s made.
* If you don’t have or can’t find chia, you could try substituting 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds; but the cake will probably be denser and heavier this way.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with the antipodes. Well, come to think of it, that would be a one-sided love affair, since I’ve never actually been there. But hey, that’s okay. I’m accustomed to those; my entire adolescence was flush with unrequited love.
I’ve dreamt of visiting the Land Down Under since I was about 13. When the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks finally made their way across the Atlantic, I was first in line to buy them (favorites include Biscuits and Slices, Vegetarian, and Chocolate titles). I’ve read The Thorn Birds and Oscar and Lucinda; I dutifully watched the Crocodile Dundee movie and delighted over Babe; I was a devoted fan of the Dame Ednashow and ran out to buy the first Crowded House CD to hit our airwaves (though I never became a fan of Kylie Minogue). I adore the whole lot of Australian thespians: Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, and of course Nicole Kidman (I mean, how could you not? She’s just so NOT Julia Roberts).
Age and years didn’t dampen my ardor, either. While studying for my PhD, I had a searing crush on a fellow student, Charlie Ferrall (I know! Can you believe his name is a homophone for “feral”??), whose Australian accent, the same one my friend Sterlin and I tried to imitate and had decided was the most incredibly sexy sound on earth, was his natural way of speaking. (Hey, Charlie, if you’re reading, G’day! How ya doin’, mate? Ever get that dissertation finished?).
Then, several years ago, I managed to arrange a teaching exchange with a college professor in Melbourne. Yippee–an entire year of Living the Dream! The arrangement had us trading jobs while still technically employed by our “home institutions”–perfect for me, considering that the Canadian dollar was worth more than the Australian dollar at the time. We got as far as the final stages of the exchange–down to specific dates, meeting places, and a steamer trunk purchase–before the other woman backed out at the last moment.
“I’m so sorry to do this to you at such a late date,” she wrote in an email. “But we looked into the rentals in Toronto, and simply can’t afford to live there.” Apparently, Toronto has recently been dubbed ”the New York of Canada,” and astronomical rents may be one reason why. In fact, if I remember correctly, that Australian teacher ended up in Manhattan.
In the end, all I had to cling to were my memories of my (one-sided) intercontinental romance, a bad imitation of an Australian accent, and yet another CD to sell on eBay.
Well, I had been disappointed in love before, so I decided to stop whinging about it and just get on with it–no worries! And since I’ve entered the blogging universe, I’ve come across several fabulous Australian-authored blogs, many of which have become bookmarked favorites, so I can at least pursue a vicarious existence across the Pacific. If I couldn’t actually live there, I could cook as if I did. After all, this Sheila can still bake, right? And that made me one happy little Vegemite (though I probably still wouldn’t eat the stuff; sorry).
I’d read about Anzac cookies several times over the years, and always wanted to give them a try. A quick search on the internet turned up some interesting information. Apparently, the original cookies, baked for soldiers abroad during World War One, were created so that something nourishing (they contain whole oats) could be sent to the troops in Gallipoli without spoiling before they got there. In order to accomplish that lofty goal, the biscuits had to be able to withstand a two month-long boat ride without refrigeration. The resulting biscuits were very dry, not very sweet, and baked within an inch of a career as Tony Soprano’s favorite footwear.
Modern Anzac biscuits, I’ve discovered, have a bit more sugar in them than the traditional kind, but are still crispy biscuits made with only a few basic ingredients. Every recipe I’ve seen calls for boiling water mixed with baking soda, which is then poured into the cooked sweeteners. All the cookies contain flour, oats, and coconut, but no eggs (or salt or vanilla), so they’re naturally suited to vegans, too. My HH adores coconut, so it was a fair bet he’d like them.
I decided to play with the traditional recipe somewhat and add the missing salt and vanilla. I also used a combination of brown rice syrup (to duplicate the golden syrup of the original) and Sucanat for a little more sweetness. And, of course, I baked them a little less than the traditional kind, as I am fond of my teeth and would like to keep them. The result was a spiffy little biscuit–and that’s no skite.
Well, enough yabbering. Time for the recipe. You reckon?
(“Mum, you know we love you and everything, but sometimes, you can be such a whacker.”)
Anzac Biscuits (original recipe from Kitchen Classics’ Sweet and Savoury Bites, edited by Jane Price )
[Note: mine really did turn out pretty yellow, though not quite as Day-Glo as in this photo. I think it had something to do with the combination of brown rice syrup and being north of the equator.]
125 g. (1 cup) all purpose flour (I used spelt)
140 g. (2/3 cup) sugar (I used Sucanat)
100 g. (1 cup) rolled oats
90 g. (1 cup) dessicated coconut
125 g. (4-1/2 oz.) unsalted butter (I used coconut butter)
90 g. (1/4 cup) golden syrup or dark corn syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. boiling water
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, oats, and coconut and make a well in the centre. Put the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir over low hear until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.
Dissolve the soda in the boiling water and add immediately to the butter mixture. It will foam up instantly. Pour into the well int he dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Drop level tablespoons of mixture onto the cookie sheets, allowing room for spreading. Gently flatten each biscuit with your fingertips.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until just browned. Leave on the tray to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Way back in my salad days. . . . (Come on, now, who am I kidding? Okay, let’s start again):
Way back in my cake-for-breakfast, Snickers-bar-for-breakfast, leftover-nachos-for-breakfast days, I was seemingly able to get it all done: work at a burger joint until 1:30 AM, sleep five hours, get up and make it to school for an 8:30 class, get my groceries done, clean my apartment (ah, the days of the bachelorette apartment–only one set of dishes to wash!), pay my bills, wash out 44 pairs of socks and have ‘em hanging on the line! Starch and iron 2 dozen shirts before you can count from one to nine! Cause I was a woman–W-O-M-A-N–I’ll say it again!. . . . oh, wait a sec, wrong memory. Excuse me.
What I mean is, I was able to get everything essential done, eat whenever I wanted, and still remain relatively healthy. Of course, in those days, I didn’t appreciate how resilient my body was (looks like George Bernard Shaw had a point), and never worried about consuming a “healthy” breakfast. Or a healthy any other meal, for that matter.
These days, I am living proof of the adage that one really must have a good breakfast. On the days I don’t, my day is off to a horrendous start and I feel lethargic for the next 15 or so hours. What to do, then, when you’ve got papers to mark, classes to prepare, blogs to write, dogs to walk, HH’s to hug, dinners to cook, 44 pairs of socks. . . etc.? (Actually, one thing I don’t have to do any more–hallelujah!–is my laundry; as Elizabeth Gilbert marveled at the beginning of Eat, Pray, Love, I, too, am blessed with a guy who does the laundry in our house, skivvies and all).
As I may have mentioned before, breakfast is actually my favorite meal of the day. Something about breakfast foods just appeal so much: they jump start your day, they’re cakelike or crunchy, they’re either sweet or fruity-tart or scramble-spiced, it’s bright and sunny out, you’re well rested, the birds are twittering in the trees (well, in another 8 months they will be, anyway). . . and so, I love breakfast.
I’ve got a fairly large repertoire of morning ”regulars” I rely on to break my fast, all of which are quick and easy. One of my favorites is a smoothie. So versatile, you can throw anything in a blender and just whizz away; then, presto, change-o!, a delicious, nutritious breakfast magically appears. And it doesn’t hurt that it resembles a milkshake in taste and consistency, either.
Today’s recipe is what I called a “Mystery Smoothie” when I taught it in my cooking classes. These days, what with Jessica Seinfeld’s bestselling cookbook (I’m not even going to link to it; she’s got enough attention already), the concept of spinach in a smoothie is oh-so-passé, but for many moms who are new to alternative or vegan cooking, adding hidden spinach in a sweet and kid-friendly breakfast drink can be a revelation. It’s a great way to infuse your drink with vital minerals and protein, as well as Omega 3 fats (yes, in spinach!). Which, of course, makes it the perfect recipe for me to submit to Cate at SweetnicksARF/5-A-Day Roundup on Tuesday.
In addition, it’s infinitely variable according to your own tastes, since you can substitute pretty much any greens for spinach and add any other fruits. I’d recommend still leaving the blueberries in, though, unless it’s St. Patrick’s day, Halloween, or your kid thinks s/he’s a Martian.
This smoothie can be served as a full meal or a dessert/snack–it all depends on the quantity. This smoothie combines the rich nutrient content of spinach with its creamy, fruity base. No one will ever know!
1-1/2 to 2 cups soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk (regular or vanilla)
1/2 cup blueberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen
1/2 banana, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped mango, peaches or apricots, fresh or frozen
1-2 tsp. agave nectar or honey
1 tsp. carob powder (optional)
1 tsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2-1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves (or try other greens, such as chard, kale, or lettuce)
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and no lumps remain. Pour into glasses immediately and enjoy! Makes 2-3 servings.
“You know we love this smoothie, Mum. Can we help clean up the leftovers?”
Aren’t chocolate truffles just the height of decadence?At this time of year, they seem to abound on coffee tables, in buffets, or in scalloped porcelain dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Well, for dessert day here at DD&D, I thought I’d share a recipe for my favorite NAG-friendly chocolate trufffles.
I’ve always loved these ultra-rich, velvety treats, but in recent years have sought out other, more health-supportive ways to indulge my hankering. When I discovered raw truffles, I knew I’d found the winner–the candy I could eat with impunity yet would still allow me to feel just a little bit naughty while I savored them. And these babies actually contain many compounds that are good for your heart!
There are many recipes for raw chocolate truffles on the Internet and in raw lifestyle cookbooks (though not on the Holidailies site). I was given this recipe by a friend a couple of years ago, and I tinkered with it quite a bit before ending up with this version. The recipe uses both maple syrup and agave nectar, which allows for a smoother, silkier texture.
I also favor dark cocoa powder rather than Dutch process. Yes, I am aware that those in the upper echelons of the food blogging world would never make use of such a base form of cocoa; but it turns out, in fact, that the darker the cocoa, the more flavonoids it contains. So Dutch process is actually less efficient at fighting off all those pesky chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, or Type II Diabetes. Mary Engler, in her article, “The Emerging Role of Flavonoid-Rich Cocoa and Chocolate in Cardiovascular Health and Disease,” tells us,
“It is important to note that the amount of flavonoids in chocolate is not only dependent on the cacao bean, but also on the processing steps involved in its manufacture, e.g., excess heat and alkalization (“Dutch” process) can significantly reduce the amount of flavonoids.”
Besdies, dark cocoa just looks so much better in this recipe.
Similarly, the fats in the cashews (mostly unsaturated) are also good for your ticker. And according to one of my favorite sites, cashews also contain a fair amount of magnesium, equally beneficial for heart health. If you aren’t concerned about the cashews being raw, go ahead and use regular cashew butter–it will still taste amazing.
These truffles can tend toward the soft side, so you must be sure to refrigerate them if you want them to hold their shape. If you’re not too fussy about achieving a perfect sphere, dig in as soon as you’ve rolled them.
Mostly Raw Chocolate Truffles
1 Tbsp. instant coffee substitute (such as Krakus, Caf-Lib, etc.)
In a small bowl, dissolve the coffee substitute in the vanilla and tamari that have been blended together. Measure the sweeteners into a measuring cup and add the tamari mixture.
Place the cocoa in the bowl of a food processor and add the cashew butter along with the liquid mixture in the measuring cup. Process until well combined and satiny smooth, scraping down sides as needed, about 3 minutes (mixture will thicken and become glossy).
While soft, divide mixture into 12-15 equal parts and roll into balls with your hands. Dust with more cocoa powder if desired, or create variations by adding chopped nuts, fruits, candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 10 days (good luck keeping it that long).
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]