Cocoa & Black Cherry Brownies

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3/4 c. unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. caster sugar

A pinch of salt

3/4 c. dutch process cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 c. AP flour

large handful of pitted and halved black cherries

350 F / 180 C

-In a bain-marie, melt butter and add sugar, salt, and cocoa until you have a grainy mushy mixture.

-Remove from the heat and stir quickly for 2-3 minutes to cool the mixture down. Stir in the eggs one by one. Then add vanilla.

-Once you’ve added the wet ingredients, stir in the flour and pour half into a lined 9″ tin.

-Place half of the cherries on top and then add the second half of the brownie mix over them. Add the rest of the cherries over top and bake for 20-25 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean.

-Serve with 10 tons of vanilla ice cream over the top until you feel your heart shutting down.

 

Sticky Toffee Banana Cake

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When I lived in Thailand I missed a few Christmases. It was sad and a little weird, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. You learn a thing or two when you’re making Christmas dinner in a tropical country of 104-degrees. For one, I learned that no dinner is worth that amount of sweat ever again, and two, I learned that whether it be one mile or three-thousand miles, love still exists between people. We had a table of about 10 friends that year, and though we all felt the void of our parents, grandparents and cousins, we still found comfort in the presence of each other.

Anyway, before all that warm-hearted stuff, you have to actually cook the big meal. When you love someone (a.ka. Jay) who comes from another far away land other than your own, it takes a little collaboration to get the combination of traditions just right. Our result? We had sticky toffee pudding for dessert on the day and bubble and squeak on Boxing Day. That series of words had never left my mouth before so, it took Google and some serious Great British Bake Off watching to get to the bottom of it all.

Essentially, all of that was just my long way of telling you that this recipe was inspired by the sticky toffee pudding I made that year. It’s gooey, dense, and smells like caramel banana covered bliss. Just think that if banana bread and sticky toffee pudding had a baby, this would be it.

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For the caramel top:

3/4 c. brown sugar

7 T. salted butter

2 ripe bananas

  1. Melt the butter and sugar together and pour into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan.
  2. Peel and slice the bananas in half so that you have two stubs, not two long slices. then, slice the banana halves into thin slices and place them in a fan shape in the caramel. Refer to the picture if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
  3. Set aside.

For the cake:

1 1/2 c. AP flour

1/2 c. almond flour

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. soft butter

3/4 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe mashed bananas

1 t. almond extract (you can use vanilla if you don’t have this)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs, bananas, and extract until fully combined.
  3. Once combined, add the dry ingredients you had set aside just until the batter is moistened and without lumps.
  4. Pour it on top of the caramel and banana design you made beforehand and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back up when you push the middle of it. **
  5. Once done, flip onto a cake plate after about 5 minutes.

**Depending on your pan depth, you may not need all of your batter. Your pan should be 3/4 of the way full with batter.

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Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Jam

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Strawberries are here! I’m not talking store-bought, either. I’m talking the hand-picked kind. After three years of being in a Asia, I have missed the juicy unbeatable taste of a handpicked strawberry. There is NOTHING like it. NOTHING. Just try and prove me wrong.

So, if you live in an area where strawberries are in season right now, and you are not bound to your house for whatever reason, you have no excuse to not be out at a u-pick patch right now. Just consider the sweat that drips down your back and between your boobs (oh, yea) a small price to pay for what’s to come when you’re out there picking. What is it that is so worth having swoobs for, you say?

Jam.

I think, or at least I hope, that those of you that have made your own jam before know what I’m talking about. There is nothing more satisfying than sustaining yourself with hand harvested produce that magically turns into preserves of any kind, frozen or canned. You just can’t beat it, folks. There is infinite beauty in having a true connection with your food, and there is no closer connection you can have beyond understanding what it means to nurture, harvest and make it yourself.

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If there is anything you need to know before making jam, just know this: it is a process, but it is a simple process once you’ve done it a couple times. If you respect the process, you will be eating jam for months to come with a smug look on your face because you’ll know that you made that jam, damn it. Yes, you did!

Also. You’re going to get burned at one point or another. It may be from water, spitting strawberry goo or hot metal/glass. Exciting, right? It’s a dangerous sport for those brave enough to get involved. Once you’ve finished the process and you hear the little pings from the lids sealing themselves after you’ve canned the jam, you will then have a real appreciation for what you just did. That is the true glory of canning food to me.  In fact, it is one of life’s greatest yet simplest pleasures, and it will never get old.

Okay, if that didn’t pump you up for the sport that is canning, channel the warrior within and begin!

This recipe won’t be as straight-forward as others so, stick with me. It was passed down to me via my grandmother, and to avoid confusion, I’ll do my best to break it down.

**** If you’re not into canning, you could easily just skip the hot water bath and send your jam straight to the freezer. ****

 

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This is the foam that I skimmed off the top and put in a little jar in the fridge.

 

What you’ll need:

10 c. washed and halved fresh strawberries

6 T. no sugar added pectin (the pink box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

2 T. normal pectin (the yellow box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

4 c. caster sugar

1/4 c. lemon juice (from the bottle)

1 T. vanilla paste (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)

Equipment (you can buy most of this as a kit in the store.)

Canning forceps

canning funnel

9   8 oz. jars with new lids and rings (rings don’t have to be new)

1 large sturdy pot (16 – 20 quart)

1 medium size stew pot (about half the size of your large pot)

A round cooking rack that fits inside pot (or your pot may come with something that you can use to help elevate the jars from direct heat)


 

Got that? Good.

Step 1: wash, hull and halve your strawberries until you reach 10 c. worth. Then, blitz them in a food processor in batches until they are mashed, but chunky. I tend to just pulse it lightly until they’re just right. You’re not looking for them to be liquidy per say. When you’re done, you should end up with 6 c. mashed berries. Now add the berries to your medium pot.

Step 2: Sterilize your jars. It doesn’t matter if your jars are old or new, wash them with soap and water very well. Place them on a baking sheet with a lid so they don’t slide off, and keep them in the over at 200 F until you’re ready to use them.

Step 3: Fill your big pot with risen rack at the bottom about 3/4 of the way and bring water to boil. This can be done while you work. It does not have to be boiling before you begin.

Step 4: Measure out your sugar and set aside. Take 1/8 c. of the measured sugar and set aside.

Step 5: Combine the 1/8 c. of sugar with the pectin in a small bowl and then add to the berries in the medium pot. Stir and bring to a strong boil (can’t be stirred away). This should take about 10 minutes.

Step 6: Add the lids to a small pan and heat the water to very hot, but don’t boil. Let them sit until you’re ready to use them.

Step 7: Once your initial berry mixture comes to a boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. When your mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Step 8: Skim any foam that formed during the boil and put it in the fridge. This can be your test to ensure the jam will set or you can eat it right away. Once you’ve skimmed the top, stir in the vanilla.

Step 9: Transfer the hot liquid to a large measuring cup. You can do it in two batches if you want. Remove the jars from the oven and place your canning funnel in the first jar. Fill until you reach the bottom of the funnel. Go to the next jar. Once you’ve filled your jars, wipe the edges if you’ve dripped any, take your lids out of the hot water and place them on top of the jars. With an oven mitt or balls of steel, grab the now smoldering jars and place the rings over the lids and seal them tight enough that you cannot twist them anymore.

Step 10: By this time, your water should be really boiling. Take your canning tongs and place half the jars in the pot, cover and boil for 10 minutes (If you live at an average medium altitude. If you are lower, it will take less time, about 5 minutes. If you are higher, it will take more time, about 15 minutes.). When they’re done, remove them and place them on a baking sheet in a flat place and wait for the ping! You’ll hear it, most likely, within a couple hours or less.

Step 11: High-five yourself for being awesome and motivated.


 

Okay, there are a few questions that you may have, and hopefully, this might help!

Can you reuse lids you already have?

Yes and no. It’s always best to get new lids because once they’ve been sealed they tend not to lose the impression for the next batch. That said, you can boil them to help loosen the impression and make the rim ‘gummy’ again. If you do, ensure that your jars are truly sealed once you’ve finished.

Can I use regular pectin instead of a combination?

I don’t mess with a good thing, but if you use all regular, you will have to up your sugar amount to about 6 or 7 c.

Do I have to sanitize my jars?

Uh, yes!!!! The rule of thumb is to add hot into hot. So, that’s why it’s important to heat your jars before you add hot jam. If you don’t sterilize, you risk bacteria and mold. Need I say more?

What if I don’t hear a ping from my jars or my jam turns out runny?

There are ways of fixing this, and a quick google will solve it for you. Don’t worry. If your jam is still runny, it could be because a number of things, but most likely because you’ve overcooked your pectin. It’s a moody ingredient and doesn’t like to surpass that 1 minutes boil point.

Why bottled lemon juice?

My grandmother always told me that the ph level is more reliable than fresh. Again, I’m not messing with a good thing.

 

 

 

 

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Coconut Butter

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This one is plain and simple, and I love it. Like, love love it. I wanna marry it. If you buy this stuff in the stores you end up paying a hefty price for a 15-ounce jar. Something like $13! If you’re Midwestern like me, you might have a Meijer, and they sell their True Goodness Brand unsweetened organic shredded coconut for $2.39/bag. If you do the math, about 1 full bag makes 15 oz. of butter, which means you save over $10 a jar! Say what?!

Some people may not be familiar with coconut butter, but that ends right here, people. It’s relatively the same process that peanuts take to become peanut butter. Basically, you just grind the crap out of unsweetened coconut flakes until you can grind no more.

I eat it on bananas, in oatmeal, on toast, by the spoonful, with mangos, on crackers, with chocolate bars, on cake…you get the point.

The only note of caution is that coconut butter behaves much like coconut oil does (not to mention there’s a small amount of that in there too). The cooler the temperature it is, the harder it gets. So, if you live in a cold climate or intend to keep it in the refrigerator, plan on letting it sit in a bowl of hot water to let the oils soften a bit until it’s spreadable again.

I’ve not yet tried it, but adding melted chocolate to the mixture could be a genius idea. You can also do this with toasted coconut, but expect your butter to have a crunchier texture.

If you’ve been living under a rock during the past 5 years, you just need to do a quick google search session to know that coconut is a superfood in all forms as long as it stays in its natural state (sans sugar and additives). So, if you can get it in, and I know you can, do it!

COCONUT BUTTER:

2 c. coconut pulp, unsweetened

1 pinch of salt

1 heaping T. coconut oil

  1. In a good quality food processor, grind coconut pulp and oil for 10-15 minutes. It will go crumbly, to looking like paste and then to a smooth and buttery texture, which is what you want.
  2. Just when you think it won’t work, it will meld into butter. The heat from the machine might make it look like a liquid, but don’t worry. Once the temperature of the butter drops, it will come to.
  3. Add a pinch of salt, pulse the machine once more to mix it in, and voila!
  4. Store in a tub, preferably at room temperature or hotter.

Vanilla Rhubarb Meringue Pie

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Summer is upon us and our rhubarb bush is the size of a small bus. It’s time to get to work.

First up: pie.

For anyone who has their own garden or goes to a u-pick patch for their summer fruits, you know just as well as I do that sometimes you can get carried away. What do you do when you’ve taken your fruit intake one step too far? You make pies. Lots of pies.

When I saw one of my favorite Instagram accounts, Delicious Mag , post their version of this made with coconut, I tackled the bus sized bush.

FOR THE SHELL:

1/4 c. shortening or lard

1/4 c. cold unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. flour

pinch of salt

1/8 – 1/4 c. ice cold water

425 F / 220 C

  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, butter and shortening until combined and crumbly looking.
  2. Slowly add the water until a dough forms that when pinched sticks together.
  3. Pat into a disk and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out into an 11-inch disk. The dough sill be crumbly and you may have to do some patchwork once it’s in the pie tin.
  5. Place the disk into the tin and crimp around the edges.
  6. Place the prepared pie tin in the freezer for about 15 minutes unti lthe dough is rock hard.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Set aside once baked.

FOR THE FILLING: large stalks of rhubarb

7-8 large stalks of rhubarb

3/4 c. caster sugar

a splash of lemon juice

4 T. cornflour

4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)

1 T. vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean

3.5 T. room temperature butter

375 F / 190F

  1. Dice rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and toss in 1/2c. of the sugar. Dump them out onto a lined sheet pan and roast for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once roasted, blend until smooth in a blender and transfer to a sauce pan.
  3. Take a small scoop out and combine it with the cornflour and the remaining sugar and transfer back to the sauce pan.
  4. On medium heat whisk the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil and it has thickened to almost a paste like texture.
  5. Add the butter, vanilla and egg yolks and whisk quickly making sure to not let the eggs scramble. To ensure preventing this add a small amount of the hot curd into the eggs and stir before adding them to the mixture.
  6. Set aside to cool and to room temperature.
  7. Once both the pie crust and the curd are at room temperature, add the curd filling to the crust and bake for 20 minutes to set the curd.
  8. Once baked, set asie to cool to room temperature again.

FOR THE MERINGUE:

4 egg white

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. vanilla paste or 1/2 vanilla bean

425 F / 220 C

  1. in a stand mixer whisk the whites on high until they become frothy. Slowly add the sugar and beat into stiff peaks. Add vanilla.
  2. The meringue should be glossy and when rubbed between your fingers doesn’t feel grainy.
  3. Dallop in big swooshy piles over the curd until the curd is fully covered.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the meringue is golden but NOT dark brown. It can happen quickly so keep an eye one it. It may take a couple minutes more or less depending on your oven.

**When everything is assembled, baked and ready to go, let the pie chill as to not distrub the meringue. If cut when hot, it may weep.

 

 

Strawberry & Rhubarb Custard Choux Puffs

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Give these sweet little choux puffs a try. They’re filled with custard, chopped strawberries and homemade rhubarb jam and topped with whipped cream. If you need me to say more then you’re not meant to be here! Go do some online shopping or whatever.

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4 T. unsalted butter

1 t. fine sugar

1 pinch of salt

1/2 c. water

heaping 1/4 c. of flour

2 eggs

  1. bring butter, sugar, salt and water to a rolling boil. Add the flour until a dough forms.
  2. While still on the heat, vigorously beat the batter for at least 2 minutes with a wooden spoon and then transfer to another bowl. Continue to beat for a few more minutes until the batter is no longer steaming.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. The mixture should be fall off the spoon in a V shape.
  4. Transfer dough to a piping bag and pipe 1-inch rounds about 1 inch apart from each other.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Once removed from the oven, poke the bottoms of the puffs with a fork to help release the steam. Let cool.

CREME PATTISIERE:

1/2 t. vanilla bean paste

2 1/2 c. whole milk

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

1/2 c. corn starch

1 c. sugar

  1. Over medium-high heat, bring the milk and vanilla to a simmer.
  2. In the meantime, combine the eggs, yolks, starch and sugar until smooth.
  3. Remove the milk from the heat and pour over egg mixture while whisking the whole time.
  4. Transfer the mixture back to the heat and stir until thickened. It might take some time. Be careful to stir the whole time so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
  5. Transfer to a clean bowl and chill until ready to use.

STRAWBERY RHUBARB JAM

1/4 c. chopped strawberries

1/4 c. chopped rhubarb

1/2 c. sugar

  1. Place sugar and fruit in a small saucepan and add a tiny splash of water. Cook on low-medium heat until thickened. Set aside to let cool.

ASSEMBLY:

  1. Combine half of the jam and half of the cream together and put in a piping bag with the straight nozzle attachment.
  2. Insert in the bottom of each puff and squeeze until the puff is full.
  3. Dollop whipped cream on top of each one, topping with a strawberry slice.

Orange & Cardamom Ricotta Loaf Cake

 

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You’ve gotta make this cake. It’s lush and sweet and citrusy and everything nice. I opened the fridge to see a tub of ricotta cheese unused and unloved sitting on the shelf and remembered reading how perfect it is to put in cakes for moisture. It’s true, every last bit of it. Trust me.

I’ve been seeing all of these citrus upside down cakes on Instagram and I’ve been waiting for a good cake recipe to do my own on. Voila! Citrus cakes are, let’s say, not my favorite thing. BUT, when you combine it with something as warm as cardamom, it’s magic.

Cardamom is exotic and warm and it happens to pump up the flavor profile of oranges. When you finally have the pleasure of eating this cake, you won’t necessarily notice the cardamom, but you’ll just get an intensified orange flavor. I guess you could say it’s sort of like adding coffee to chocolate cake.

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CAKE:

1/2 c. brown sugar

2-4 T. water

1 c. cake flour

1/2 c. almond flour (if you prefer you can use 1 1/2 c. cake flour and omit the almond flour all together.)

2 1/2 t. baking powder

12 T. softened butter

1 1/2 c. full fat ricotta cheese

1/4 t. almond extract (or vanilla)

1 1/2 c. caster sugar

3 eggs

1 t. cardamom powder

1 t. grated orange zest

1 orange

350 F / 190 C

  1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and water to make a paste. Spread it along the bottom of your loaf pan evenly.
  2. Zest your orange for the batter and then slice the fruit into paper thin slices and layer them over the brown sugar mixture in whatever fashion you’d like and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, cardamom, zest and salt and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cheese, butter, extract and sugar together for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Then, beat in the eggs one at a time.
  6. Once mixed thoroughly, add the dry mixture and continue to beat until fully combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the loaf pan so that it’s about 3/4 of the way full and bake 40-50 minutes. The middle should spring back when you push it. Note: depending on the type of loaf pan you’re using (metal/glass/ceramic) it will bake at different times. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil over the top and continue baking until it springs back.
  8. Once baked through, turn the loaf out on a plate almost immediately by running a dull knife around the edges and flipping it over being careful not to upset the design on the bottom. If you wait until it is cool, you risk the bottom sticking.

 

 

 

Sweet Clafoutis with Summer Berries

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Kind of like the French version of a Dutch pancake, this custardy fruit clafoutis is perfect for those of you who don’t love really sweet desserts. The custard is as light as air and about the closest to cloud 9 you’ll be getting this week. It’s delicate enough to serve with afternoon tea or even for breakfast.

I used to have an obsession with making Dutch pancakes in college because they were attractive, easy and impressive for a college kid. You can make them savory or sweet and, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I love a one-size-fits-all type recipe. So when I was browsing my cookbooks and found this, I knew it was just up my ally.

If you don’t like sweet things at all, omit the sugar when making the custard and add some cheese, vegetables or herbs. Everybody’s happy and that’s what baking is about, right?!

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MIXED BERRY CLAFOUTIS:

1/4 c. cream

3/4 c. milk (not skim)

3 eggs

1/2 c. caster sugar

1 t. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

1 pinch of nutmeg

2 T. butter, melted

1/2 c. AP flour

2-3 c. fresh mixed berries

325 F / 165 C

1. in a blender blend all of the ingredients for about 5 seconds. It should be just enough time to combine the ingredients, mainly the flour.

2. Pour into a greased pie dish or anything similar in size. Arrange the berries over the top. They’ll sink, but that’s fine.

3. Bake 35-45 minutes until the sides have puffed and are golden.

4. For best results, serve immediately.

Apple, Marzipan and Mascarpone Galette

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I would call this a bit of a recycled project because I made it my mission to use up ingredients from past posts. If you have leftover crust in the freezer from a pie you made last week, this is the way to go. Even if you don’t, you can start from scratch. A galette, which is just a flat round cake of pastry or bread, is simple and attractive. It has that homemade sitting on a country window sill to cool look about it that I love.

The mascarpone is the last bit left from the polenta cake and the marzipan is what was left after making the mini Battenburg cakes. It’s lemon flavored, but luckily, a compliment to the apples. I did make the crust from scratch, but I’ve done it just as good from leftover pie crusts I’ve kept in the freezer too.

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CRUST:

1 c. ap flour

1/4 c. semolina flour

2 T. caster sugar

8 T. unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 t. sea salt

1/4 c. ice cold water

  1. In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients except the water until the butter has broken down into a crumb like texture with the dry ingredients.
  2. On the pulse function, slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. You may not need all of the water.
  3. Dump onto floured surface, pat into a disk and chill for 30 minutes

APPLE FILLING & ASSEMBLY:

2 large granny smith apples, peeled and sliced

1 T. lemon juice

1 t. corn starch

1/4 t. salt

1/4 c. caster sugar

1 T. cubed cold butter

2 T. dark brown sugar

2 T. milk

caster sugar for sprinkling

—–

1/2 c. or fist sized marzipan, softened

2 oz. mascarpone cheese

350 F / 180 C

  1. Mix apples with lemon juice, starch, caster sugar and butter. Set aside.
  2. Roll dough out on a floured surface into a 14 x 14″ circle.
  3. Roll the marzipan into a circle half the size and place in the center of the dough circle.
  4. Spread the mascarpone cheese on top of the marzipan disc.
  5. Assemble the apples into a flower shape or just pile them on top, whatever works!
  6. Sprinkle brown sugar on top.
  7. When finished, fold the dough that hangs beyond the marzipan over on top of the apple mound.
  8. Brush the pastry with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.

 

 

Vanilla Shortbread with Cranberries, Pistachios and Orange

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I bought some new vanilla paste and Irish butter yesterday because things like that get me excited. To each their own, I guess. Anyway, since cookies were on the agenda, vanilla cookies with butter were now on the agenda. Shortbread it is!

On my way to make my vanilla shortbread I got sidetracked by some pistachios, and then cranberries, and then oranges. By the time I got to my mixer it looked like a Harry & David gift box had thrown up on my counter. Just like that, my vanilla shortbread got an upgrade

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For something so simple, they are flawlessly delicious. Butter is better as they say. Not to mention, they’re quick and easy to make. If you’re like me, it’ll be your savior when you laze around all day dreading a party you never fancied in the first place and you now have only 2 hours to pull your shit together. So, from my procrastination station to yours, I gift you these cookies. You’re welcome.

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SHORTBREAD COOKIES: makes 12-14 cookies

1 c. good quality softened butter (not melted)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1 1/2 t. vanilla bean paste (or 2 vanilla beans worth)

2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. dried cranberries or cherries

1/2 c. shelled pistachios

1 t. orange zest

350° F / 180° C

  1. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla.
  2. Sift in the flour and salt and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute until it comes together. You may wonder if you’ve done it right because it starts out very crumbly.
  3. Add the cherries, pistachios and zest. Mix until just combined.
  4. Form dough into an even log about 12 inches long and roll in parchment paper.
  5. Either freeze or chill until dough is firm all the way through.
  6. Slice cookies off at your preferred thickness and bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden brown. Cooking time depends on how thick you cut them.