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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Raffaello Macaroons (Almond Coconut White Chocolate Macaroons)You know those Ferrero Rocher balls, the white ones called Raffaello? I like them. They’re the inspiration for this cookie.

I’m delighted with how these macaroons turned out. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. The flavours marry beautifully, yet there’s still a subtle taste of each individual ingredient.

Recipe: Raffaello Macaroons (Almond Coconut White Chocolate Macaroons)

Makes approx. 36 cookies. This recipe is gluten-free!

1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/4 cups finely shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 cup coarsely grated white chocolate
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine egg, egg white and sugar in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until thick, light coloured and frothy. Gently mix in the ground almonds, shredded coconut and shaved white chocolate.

Make 1-inch size balls and place on baking sheet 2-3 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Sticky Cranoffee Pudding (Cranberry-Date Upside-Down Cake)Some ideas take a long time to mature.

I started experimenting with the idea of an apple-cranberry upside-down cake two years ago. I was intent on this fall flavour combination and tried several variations.

None turned out the way I wanted. Either the cake wasn’t right or the caramelly cranberry bottom/top didn’t work out.

That cranberry season passed.

Last fall I was busy with a new little person in my life. No time for testing recipes.

Another cranberry season passed. But the idea didn’t go away.

In the meantime, I discovered a flavour combination that quickly became a favourite: dates and cranberries. The other day I was flipping through one of my cookbooks, when the recipe for sticky toffee pudding caught my eye.

And then it hit me: forget about apples and cranberries!

Sticky toffee pudding is made with dates and is served with a gooey toffee sauce. Make it like an upside-down cake with cranberries, the sauce becomes part of the cake and the cranberries add a tart twist to the cake’s deep flavour.

Recipe: Sticky Cranoffee Pudding (Cranberry-Date Upside-Down Cake)

The cake recipe is an adaptation of Marion Kane’s Ultimate Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe, while the caramel is borrowed from my tarte tatin recipe. I used a pie plate with an 8-inch bottom, but you could also use a normal cake pan (not a spring-form; the caramel will leak out).

Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

Date purée:
1 cup roughly chopped dates
1/2 cup water
1 tsp instant espresso powder or 2 tbsp strong coffee

Cake:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cranberries (or enough to make a layer in the bottom of your baking dish), picked over, washed and dried
Date purée (see ingredients above)
Whipping cream, for serving

Butter baking dish.

Make caramel. Pour sugar, then water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. Let cook until it turns amber.

Amber sugar for making caramel. Remove from heat at this stage.

You want the sugar to be this colour before adding the butter and the cream.

[Yes, that means DON’T TOUCH! Resist every urge to swirl or stir the contents of the saucepan – this will prevent the sugar from sticking to and drying out on the sides – and just let the heat do the work. The process may take up to 30 minutes or more. Watch carefully once the sugar starts changing colour, it darkens fast.]

Once the sugar is amber, remove from heat. Immediately whisk in butter and cream. [Expect a lot of frothing and steaming, as the cooler butter and cream hit the sugar. Just keep whisking.] Whisk until completely incorporated and smooth. Pour into buttered baking dish.

Make date purée (you could start this while the sugar is cooking). Place chopped dates, water and coffee in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until dates are soft. Blend mixture with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350° F .

Caramel and cranberries in baking dishMake cake. Place cranberries on caramel in bottom of baking dish.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a second bowl, cream butter until light. Add brown sugar and continue beating until well incorporated. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Mix in flour mixture alternately with the date purée, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour batter over caramel and cranberries. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean and cake is springy to touch.

Remove from oven and invert immediately onto serving plate. [Choose a large enough plate, preferably with a small rim, since the caramel will flow around the cake.]

Serve with whipped cream.

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Fruit and banana yoghurt popsiclesEarlier this year, my mom gave me popsicle molds. The same ones she used for my brother and me when we were little. Nothing fancy, just the plain Tupperware kind.

Little did I realize then that they would be in regular use. Not surprisingly, especially with the recent heat, popsicles have become Baby’s daily afternoon snack. And I’m having fun coming up with recipes and flavour combinations! I think I’ve created my keeper though.

This recipe is healthy and versatile, using whatever fruit is in season. However, it works best with fruit that pairs well with and can stand up to banana. The banana mainly adds sweetness and creaminess, but also a touch of flavour. Think strawberry, blueberry, mango, raspberry… I find that stone fruit like peaches, apricots and plums don’t work well, even when they are super fragrant, same with melon. My two favourites, so far, have been blueberry and orange (using orange juice).

Baby eating popsicle

Baby eating her first popsicle at almost 10 months.

Recipe: Fruit, Banana and Yoghurt Popsicles

Makes approx 6 quarter-cup-size (60 mL) popsicles.

1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen), cut into smallish pieces, OR 1 cup fruit juice
1 two- to three-inch piece of banana
3/4 cup yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp maple syrup (depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your personal preference)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth. Fill popsicle molds. Freeze. (Drink any remaining mix like a smoothie!)

Sometimes I add 1-2 tbsp hemp hearts to the mix before blending. They boost the protein of the finished product, and add some texture.

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Almond Zucchini BreadI have my go-to zucchini bread — err, actually cake — recipe, but it’s nice to switch it up sometimes. Now that the zucchini in the garden are finally abundant, I’m stocking up the freezer with this almond zucchini bread.

The recipe is super easy. Like muffins, it’s the mix-wet-ingredients-mix-dry-ingredients-combine method. The resulting cake is moist, with an even texture and a pleasant almond flavour.

Recipe: Almond Zucchini Bread

This recipe is adapted from a blog called Whet Your Appetite. I’ve significantly reduced the sugar, because I prefer my cakes less sweet, and the other flavours can shine through. I make this recipe into two medium-sized loaves, but I imagine you could also bake one large cake.

3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 tsp almond extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup ground almonds
Sliced or slivered almonds for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two loaf pans.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar, oil, yoghurt and almond extract.

Combine wet ingredients with dry; do not overmix. Fold in grated zucchini and ground almonds. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with sliced or slivered almonds if desired.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.

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Herb Butter

Fresh herbs for making herb butter.

Herb butter is a handy condiment to have on hand. It adds a taste of summer to steak, baked or roasted potatoes, pasta, sautéed vegetables, fresh crusty bread…

I make a batch once the herbs in my garden are established and starting to get big. All it takes is a handful of fresh herbs – whatever combination you have or prefer – and half a pound of softened butter.

My food processor doesn’t do well with herbs. I chop them finely first, then put them in the food processor with the butter and several pinches of salt. Blend until well combined. Herb butter keeps well, so I put half the batch in the fridge and the other half in the freezer.

Freshly made herb butter.

Freshly made herb butter.

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Pan-fried black salsify, overwintered and harvested in SpringTwo Autumns ago, I didn’t get around to digging up the black salsify before Winter covered the garden with a blanket of snow. I was pleasantly surprised last Spring to discover that it had overwintered beautifully – even through Ottawa’s cold winter.

After digging up the deep-reaching black roots, David prepared the salsify in a simple pan-fry and it was delicious. Tender, sweet, subtle, creamy. I’d say the winter even improved its texture and flavour.

Last Fall, we were lazy again… and rewarded again with a healthy harvest of black salsify this spring. What a way to maximise the garden! At the end of the season, we’re busy eating the chard and kale. By spring, we’re so happy to eat something different and fresh, even if it’s only one meal.

Preparing black salsify is a bit of a pain, because of its sticky sap. Usually we peel it, immerse it immediately in lemon water, then boil it until tender in some vegetable stock. Finally we pan fry it with a generous amount of butter, a couple of springs of thyme and season it with salt and pepper.

I just read though that it can be boiled first and then peeled. We’ll have to try that method next spring!

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Date and Cranberry Muffin with Oatmeal Streusel ToppingI’m a fan of date squares, but often I find them too sweet. When I tried the cranberry-date squares from 3 Tarts, a bakery in my neighbourhood, I thought “what a smart combination!”

Those squares became the inspiration for these muffins. The dates give them a rich flavour (and minimize the sugar required) while the cranberries offer a pleasantly tart contrast to the dates’ natural sweetness. The oatmeal streusel topping provides some nice crunchy texture.

My mouth is watering as I write this. Time for a muffin!

Recipe: Date and Cranberry Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel Topping

Dry:
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 3/4 cup regular spelt flour and 3/4 cup whole spelt flour)
1/2 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced dates (raisin-sized dice)
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Wet:
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 cup date puree (see ingredients below)
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Date Puree:
1 cup whole pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup water

Oatmeal Streusel Topping:
1 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 flour
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line/grease 12 muffin cups.

Date Puree: Combine chopped dates and water in a saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until dates are softened. Puree with an immersion blender, a food processor or food mill. Should yield 1/2 cup (no worries if it’s a little more or a little less).

Oatmeal Streusel Topping: Mix oatmeal, brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Add butter and, with your hands, rub all ingredients together until combined. Set aside.

Muffins: In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Combine all dry ingredients (except for cranberries) in a second bowl. The chopped dates will tend to stick together. With your fingers separate them once they are in the flour mixture; coating each piece with the flour mixture will prevent them from sticking together.  Add cranberries and toss to combine and coat the cranberries with flour.

Pour wet ingredients into dry, and blend until flour mixture is just moistened.

Fill muffin cups. Cover each muffin with some of the streusel topping, pressing it lightly into the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tester comes out clean.

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