Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

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Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!

So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.

They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!

Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2009/04/flourless-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

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Over the weekend I hosted my first crafternoon, with my version of a crafternoon being: making stuff (in this case dream catchers), hanging out with friends, and treats. Heaven in an afternoon.

Leading up to the weekend, I had a recipe in progress for the treats part … which turned out to be for heart-shaped banoffee tarts: as delicious as traditional banoffee pies, but subtle enough for seconds. I used low-fat ricotta instead of cream and maple syrup in place of a traditional caramel. To make things interesting and flavoursome I used ground hazelnuts and crushed Ginger Nuts biscuits in the bases.

Here’s the recipe:

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

Tart shell

The Roaming Kitchen’s Nectarine Hazelnut Tart recipe (substituting the Digestive biscuits for Ginger Nuts).

Filling

500g low-fat ricotta

1/4 cup maple syrup

1-2 bananas (green at the tips)

Topping

30 walnuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease or line 12-14 tart moulds of your choosing. I used heart-shaped moulds, but you could just as easily use a standard muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the tart mix using the The Roaming Kitchen’s recipe above. Line the tart moulds with the mix and bake for about 10 minutes. If the tarts brown quickly, you can lower the heat or turn off the oven in the last minute to avoid burning. Cool completely.
  3. Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
  4. When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
  5. Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
  6. For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
  7. Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.

Makes 12-14 tarts.

 

 

 

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana BreadThe smell of baking coconut, manuka honey, and banana wafting from the oven was too heavenly to resist. I had to share this recipe. I had half a carton of buttermilk left over, so I decided to bake a banana loaf for the week’s snacks. The buttermilk, combined with baking soda would produce a nice, light loaf.

Always thinking of how to make food healthy, yet full of deliciousness, I added coconut oil, manuka honey, and walnuts to the mix. Manuka honey packs a nice punch in flavour, especially in low-fat baking. And nuts are always a treat!

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

5 ripe bananas, mashed

2T Manuka honey

1T coconut oil (you can also use butter or oil)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2t baking soda

1t baking powder

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 cup plain flour

1t cinnamon

1/2t nutmeg

3t ginger

10 crushed walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
  2. Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
  4. Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
  5. Stir in the walnuts.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

 

Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Loaf

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Over the holiday season, everyone in the flat was away at different times, seeing family and friends. So I thought some form of connection over this time would be nice. How about gingerbread?

Jane Brocket’s gingerbread recipe (published as a ‘ginger cake’ recipe on guardian.co.uk) produces a dense, rich, gingery slice. It’s delicious served warm, or with tea. Instructions are easy to follow and will get you to a spicy holiday destination pretty quickly. And using only 85g of butter, you’re in no danger of filling your pants before Christmas!

Labour of Love: Chocolate Caramel Cake

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So it was my friend Nicole’s birthday last weekend. And it was an honour to make her a cake. The requested flavour? Chocolate. And Caramel. “Intense” was my first thought. Nevertheless, I fossicked through a few different recipes – sans the ones with creamy fillings (I’m not really a fan), and looked for a cake robust enough to survive a few modes of public transport. (Is there a limit to love??). I finally settled on this recipe from Astoria in Lambton Quay, Wellington.

With three glorious layers (chocolate cake, caramel, and chocolate ganache) this cake is semi-high maintenance. Production requires good ingredients, time, and patience. There’s nothing instant about this cake (the only things store-bought are the raw ingredients).

However, if you use quality ingredients from the start, you’ll taste that quality in every bite of your final masterpiece. So of course the chocolate I used was 70 percent cocoa (not compound) and the eggs were free range.

The result is a rich cake that goes the distance. This cake served 10 guests, with a quarter remaining. The recipe says it serves 16, but I guess it depends on who you’ve invited to dinner …

Dinner Party Series: Our House

A short while ago, we hosted round three of the dinner ‘competition’ that I’ve been invited to join.

The theme for the night was Mexican-fusion. Not so much a ‘formal’ theme, but definitely fun. We decided on the following menu items: spicy black bean tostadas; pumpkin, feta, and pine nut quesadillas; and chocolate coconut molten lava cakes.

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The menu was shaped in part by our guests’ dietary requirements: vegetarian; and also onion, coriander, and chilli free. A common juggle amongst today’s dinner hosts! To cater to our party’s needs we also made variations of a few of the menu items, or omitted some of the original ingredients altogether.

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I think we fared well and I was particularly pleased with our entrée and dessert dishes. The tostadas were a novel introduction to the night, and the molten lava cakes were too inviting to refuse. Our guests seemed happy!

Spresso Love: Coffee Hazelnut Meringue Cakes

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For a change, I took the scenic route to last weekend’s party. Through the bush, like Little Red Riding Hood.

Given the journey ahead, my dinner contribution needed to be roadworthy. I took this opportunity to create hazelnut meringue /pavlova cakes: cake bases with crispy cloud toppings.

Despite the brilliance of this concept, I’ve only seen meringue /pavlova cakes at a couple of cafes – and they’ve been of a macaroon texture, rather than a cake texture. What’s more, the recipes I’ve seen have only been for large chocolate hazelnut cakes.

Hence, “the plan” for my own hazelnut meringue cakes:

  • A cake base mixture split into 12 muffin tins, using the hazelnut cake recipe from pastrystudio.blogspot.
  • A pavolva /meringue topping, based on the chocolate meringue recipe from taste.com.au.

For the cake bases, I omitted the orange zest and substituted the milk for a latte. And for the toppings I omitted the chocolate. (Although chocolate and hazelnut is a favourite Italian pairing, I left out the chocolate to reveal the subtle flavour of the hazelnuts).

Of importance to note, is the optimum baking time of fifteen minutes (approx), when using silicon heart-shaped moulds. A helpful point to remember: the meringue toppings obscure the cake bases, so it’s difficult to check the cakes for ‘done-ness’ with the usual touch or prick test!

Barely a few moments out of the oven and into the mouths of my tasting panel, feedback emerged: “Amazing texture” … “You could sell these in a café”.

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Phew. A safe journey completed. With no wolves in sight.

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Four Legs Good: Animal Farm Jelly, Jell-O, Jiggler shapes

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It’s a beautiful thing when people have faith in your abilities, visions beyond your wildest dreams.

Recently, I was asked if I could make “coloured” jelly for a party. I was hoping the host was thinking of the standard two-toned jelly in a bowl our family made at Christmas every year. I sent her an image of this “standard jelly” to contain expectations. Sure enough, she responded with images of delicate miniature, free-standing jellies. Even heart shaped ones.

Despite my forehead pulsating with anxiety, part of me was really excited about the opportunity. I was on it, focused, and determined to solve this jelly riddle.

I began searching for jelly recipes made with moulds and quickly realised the best source of recipes would be jelly-crystal makers’ websites. Thus I became well-acquainted with Kraft’s ‘jiggler’ recipes. There, I discovered recipes for a range of occasions, including eggs for Easter, trees for Christmas, and even “spooky” jigglers for Halloween.

After looking at a few different recipes, I decided I would concentrate the jelly mixture (by four times the usual amount of jelly crystals), to get the jellies to hold their shape. However, the heart moulds I had held about a quarter-cup of jelly – a quarter of a cup too much concentrated jelly mix for the average guest. The alternative was to use an ice tray with smaller heart moulds – however, I would risk the jellies losing their shape after removing them from their moulds (melting the jellies by running hot water over the moulds would be required to loosen them from the moulds).

This led me to settle on the cookie cutter method. I chose ‘bite-sized’ animal-shaped cookie cutters from Let’s Cook. These were 2cm deep, so I used a 4cm deep roasting pan to set the jelly.

In keeping with the host’s theme colours, I chose strawberry flavoured crystals, and next time I’ll experiment with vodka. I’ve included the recipe below, so you can make your own replica jelly Animal Farm. Four legs good, two legs bad.

Animal Farm jellies

4 packets of jelly crystals

2 cups boiling water

extra boiling water

cooking spray

Method

  1. Empty the packets of jelly into a jug.
  2. Add boiling water and whisk the mixture until all jelly crystals are dissolved. This is important, for consistency and to cut clean shapes out of the mixture when it is set.
  3. Pour mixture into a baking tray lined with baking paper and leave to cool to room temperature.
  4. Refrigerate jelly overnight.
  5. Prepare your serving plate with cooking spray.
  6. Place cookie cutters in a bowl of hot water before you use them, so they won’t stick to the jelly.
  7. Use the cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the jelly.

Tips for cutting clean, sharp shapes:

  • Push the cookie cutters straight down.
  • Push the cookie cutters down until they hit the bottom of the tray.
  • Hold the cookie cutters down for several seconds before removing them from the pan.
  • Use a butter knife to extract the shapes from the pan.

Healthy Date Loaf – designed for human consumption

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Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?

So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.

To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:

  • I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
  • To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
  • To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
  • My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.

In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*

‘Healthy’ Date Loaf 

1 cup chopped dried dates

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp all spice

Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)

1 T melted butter or oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)

1 cup plain flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
  4. Combine the flours and baking powder.
  5. Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
  7. Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.

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*Variations:

  • Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
  • Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
  • Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
  • Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
  • Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
  • Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.

Pantry treats: Clafoutis

As a rule, I try not to shop too far ahead – food-wise – in case plans fall through, or I change my mind. However, sometimes my desire for being prepared and organised overtakes! On this occasion, I’d bought ingredients for a cherry custard tart. Sure enough, plans fell through. A rich custard treat for one was out of the question, but I still had eggs that needed using …

My solution? A cherry clafoutis. A clafoutis is a French pudding, which has become one of my ’pantry’ recipes for quick and delicious; cheap and easy; low-fat and healthy. And the choice of fruit? Well, yes cherries are out of season, but I got some preserved ones for a steal at the supermarket!

Recipe-wise, there are a myriad of interpretations out there. Some that use two eggs, three eggs, six … varying amounts of milk, flour, and butter … and some recipes even call for ground nuts! Yum.

On this occasion I was looking for a recipe that used just a few eggs; ‘healthy’ enough to be enjoyed over several serves. But I also wanted a stodgy pudding to provide some winter comfort. This led me to Neil Perry’s recipe on goodfood, which sits in the middle of the road, clafoutis-wise. It uses three eggs and a cup of flour, perfect for my intent and purpose.

Here’s the result!

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Recipe: Cherry clafoutis