Roasted Maple Butter Pecans

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Roasted nuts are powerful and simple all in one bite. I sprinkle mine in salads with a nice vinaigrette or I just eat them by the handful at an alarming rate.

Two things here. Well, three. One, you can use whatever kind of nuts you want in the recipe. Two, remind yourself when you’re taste testing them that the nuts will be chewy when really hot. As they cool, they’ll become crunchy again.

…and three, it’s really hard to talk about nuts like this without laughing like I’m 12 years old again.

Roasted Nuts:

2 egg yolks

1/4 c. melted unsalted butter

3 T. pure maple syrup

1/4 c. caster sugar

1 t. salt

18 oz. raw pecans

250 F / 120 C

-Beat the egg whites on high in a bowl until frothy and white (about 20 seconds).

-Add melted butter and continue to beat. Then add maple syrup, sugar and salt. Beat until fully combined.

– Add the pecans to the mixture and fold them into the egg mixture with a spatula until they’re fully coated and there is no puddle of unused mixture sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

-Bake in 4 15-minute increments, stirring each time until the egg white mixture has hardened over the nuts entirely.  They’ll also be fragrant and be giving off a crackling sound.

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.

Gluten & Diary Free Chocolate Strawberry Cake

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Before you start wondering to yourself if this is some kind of sick joke, it’s not! And before you start wondering whether it tastes like cardboard or wet shoes, it doesn’t! It tastes like….well, like chocolate cake!

Turns out, after months of stomach aches and bloating, I’m allergic to wheat and dairy.

Great.

My solution is that I eat gluten free. Being wheat intolerant isn’t mutually exclusive with being gluten intolerant, but one eliminates the other in my case.

Anyway, this cake is my saving grace. I took a page from another bloggers book with it, and will gladly give her credit where it’s due right here. I made only a couple changes based on what I had already in the cupboard but have made it her way as well. They’re both great. Honestly.

The only thing I would further recommend is topping it with avocado chocolate frosting. Or, you know, real chocolate frosting works too. Guess my options are a bit limited these days and an avocado frosting seems to suffice.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE (Again, with my VERY slight alteration from her recipe.)

150 ml coconut oil (melted)

50 g organic & fair trade cocoa powder

125 ml boiling water

2 t vanilla

3 medium organic eggs

140 g good quality organic brown sugar

150 g ground almonds (almond flour)

½ t baking soda

a pinch of salt

350 F/ 170 C

  1. Grease and line a 9-inch cake pan
  2. Put the cocoa powder in a bowl, and whisk in the boiling water and oil until it forms a smooth paste. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl crack in the eggs, then add the sugar and coconut oil. Using an electric whisk, whisk the ingredients together for 1-2 minutes, the mix will thicken slightly. As noted on her site, doing this by hand will cause the cake to lose height.
  4. Pour the chocolate mix into the egg mixture and combine.
  5. In a separate bowl combine the almonds with the bicarb of soda and salt till the ingredients are well distributed.
  6. Pour into your cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake springs back when you push it.
  7. Top with fruit or cream

 

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.

Iced Chocolate Ale Bundt Cake

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What kind of person would I be if I didn’t make something with ale on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been to the Guinness brewery and the best thing I tasted there wasn’t the beer, believe it or not. It was the Guinness chocolate bar they had in their gift shop. My brother and I were mid-argument, something about directions, and this bar alone brought us together again. I’ve been dreaming of it ever since I took my last bite, and this is a cakeafied version of it.

That said, confession time. I didn’t use Guinness. Oops. I had to get you this far so you’d listen to me when I tell you that it’s equally as good if not better. Instead, I used a dark bitter chocolate ale that I found in a local market. The real kicker here is the molasses in the recipe. It keeps the ale very much alive, which gives the cake a real depth of flavor.

This is my second post in a row about chocolate cake, I know, but come on, what was I supposed to do? I even sprinkled a little gold dust on top. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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CAKE: (recipe used from Fine Cooking)

1 1/4 c. dark ale, like Guinness or chocolate ale (I used Old Tom)

1/3 c.  molasses

1 2/3 AP flour

3/4 c. cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

3 eggs

  1. Line your pan with butter and dust it with cocoa powder (not subtracting from the specified in the recipe).
  2. Melt in a small saucepan on medium heat the molasses with the stout and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl sift the dry ingredients together and set aside as well.
  4. In the mixer, beat the butter until smooth and then add sugar. Beat again until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding another.
  6. Then, alternate stout and dry mixture on low until both are gone and the batter is smooth with no lumps. Scrape down the sides if you have to.
  7. Pour evenly into a bundt pan and bake 40-50 minutes. the middle will spring back up.
  8. Release the cake from the pan as soon as it comes out of the oven.

ICING:

icing sugar

milk

vanilla

  1. Starting with at least 2 c. of the icing sugar and vanilla, pour milk in, a tablespoon at a time until you get a thick paste like consistency. It shouldn’t fall easily from a spoon, but drip slowly.
  2. Drizzle over the middle of the ring and let it fall down the sides naturally.

 

Salted Vanilla Mocha Cupcakes

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I have to confess that this is sort of a recycled recipe. It’s almost exactly my pistachio cake recipe, but there’s more coffee and a different frosting. I came home with a longer lunch break than usual and couldn’t resist the need to bake. I’m an addict. The Kitchen Aid is my trigger. Once we lock eyes, it’s all over. Creepy, I know.

I used dark cocoa for this recipe because the dark, almost black color of the cake is as appealing as a red velvet cake. When you see it, you just know that you want to eat it. I’d call them black velvet, but that sounds a little dark and scary, which is not what these are. They’re pillows of goodness. Try and convince me otherwise.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE: (from here)

1 3/4 c. AP flour

1 3/4 c. caster sugar

3/4 c. dark cocoa powder

1 t. baking powder

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 t. pure vanilla extract

1 c. hot water with 5 T. of instant espresso powder

350 F / 180 C

  1. In large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients ACCEPT coffee.
  2. Next, sift in dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  3. Add espresso mixture. The batter will become very wet, almost watery.
  4. Line 2 cupcake tins with papers and fill each one just over halfway. Bake 15-20 minutes until middle springs back when you push it.

SALTED VANILLA BEAN BUTTERCREAM:

3 c. icing sugar

1/2 c. room temperature butter, unsalted

2 T. whole milk or cream

1 1/2 t. vanilla or the seeds of 1-2 vanilla beans

1-2 generous pinches of sea salt

  1. Beat butter and sugar until combined.
  2. Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
  3. If you want a frosting that is thicker or thinner adjust the sugar or milk amounts.
  4. Sprinkle tops of cupcakes with cocoa powder and more sea salt.