Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rustic Pear Galette

If you don't know what a "galette" is, don't feel bad.  Until recently I didn't know either, but then one day I was googling "desserts to make with pears" and I came across this beautiful, rustic, fruit-filled tart that looked like it was meant to be served at an antique farmhouse table surrounded by mason jars filled with wildflowers... and I had to try it.

The best part about this dessert is that it looks impressive but it is SO easy to make!  Roll out some dough, top it with some fruit, pop in the oven & you're done!  And the varieties are endless.  I made mine with some apricot preserves and fresh bartlett pears - but you could use apples, peaches, berries - whatever you have on hand.  (I even made a more savory one the other day with pears, gorgonzola, walnuts & a balsamic honey glaze and it was AMAZING).  This one is best served with a side of vanilla bean ice cream or some sweet whipped cream.









Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
2 large Bartlett pears, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado (aka "raw") sugar

Directions:

*Preamble:  When making any kind of pie/tart crust you always want your butter to be super cold (so that, when you blend it in, the butter remains in tiny chunks that get coated in flour and will expand during baking which creates air pockets - and a light, flaky crust).  So before I begin I like to take my 1/2 cup of butter and chop it into cubes and place them in a bowl in the freezer where they will sit and chill until I am ready to use them You don't want them frozen, but butter softens really quickly on a counter so putting it in the freezer for a few minutes keeps the pieces nice & hard until you are ready to use them.

1.  Now for the crust:  In food processor, combine your flour, sugar, cornmeal & salt.  Pulse a few times to blend.  Then add your (cold, cubed) butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Now, with your food processor running, slowly add the buttermilk. Mix just until your dough starts to form into a ball.  Remove the dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it into the fridge to chill for around 45 minutes. Note: I only chilled mine for about 15 and it turned out great, so if you're impatient like me then have at 'er.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Thinly slice your pears.

3.  Remove dough from fridge (or go watch House Hunters International if you'd prefer to let your dough rest for the full amount of time).

4.  Using a rolling pin (or an unopened bottle of wine - yes, I have done this) roll your dough into a big flat circle (about 15" in diameter). Place on baking sheet. You can also roll it out directly on parchment paper and place the whole thing on your baking sheet if you find it easier.

5.  Using a spoon, thinly spread your apricot preserves around the dough.  Then arrange your sliced pears in a pretty spoke pattern, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge.

6.  This is my favorite part:  Fold the edges of the dough in over the pears. It will overlap in places, creating that lovely "rustic galette" look. Press down lightly so it stays together.

7. Lightly brush the border of your galette with the beaten egg and sprinkle the whole thing with turbinado aka "raw" sugar (aka one of those little brown packets of "sugar in the raw" from Starbucks).

8. Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven, let cool slightly & serve!  Beautiful on it's own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

*You can also make this galette with apple or different types of jam/preserves. Use your imagination!





Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Snickerdoodles








Even though temperatures in LA reached 107 degrees this past weekend, September is upon us and that means I am ready & waiting for my most favorite season.  The boots & scarves are unpacked, the cinnamon-scented candles are out, and the pumpkin spice lattés are just waiting to be cupped by a pair of mitten-warmed hands...  Okay, sometimes I forget that I live in California - but that doesn't mean I can't get a head start on the most amazing season for baking!  The flavors of fall are some of my all-time favorites; warm cinnamon, spicy nutmeg, the tartness of newly harvested apples and the sweetness of a golden-colored squash...  These are the ingredients that fill your home with the most incredible scents and remind us that all one really needs is to be surrounded by friends, family, and a giant pile of Pumpkin Snickerdoodle cookies.



Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup pumpkin purée

For rolling:
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice & cinnamon.

3.  Using a mixer, cream together the butter and 1.5 cups of sugar until light & fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined. Add pumpkin purée & mix well. (Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is mixed in).

4.  Now slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until combined.  Don't overmix. The dough will be quite sticky so place it in the fridge for 15-20 mins to chill - this will make it easier to roll.

5.  Stir the 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tbsp. cinnamon together in a small bowl.

6.  Using your hands, roll the dough into 2" balls and then roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on cookie sheet. Repeat!

7.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until edges of your cookies turn golden.  Remove from oven, cool & enjoy!  This recipe makes about 48 delicious cinnamon-y, pumpkin-y cookies.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Nanaimo Bars - A Canadian Tradition

Happy Labor Day everyone!  Suffice it to say, I haven't posted for quite a while.  My first excuse is that I was away in Canada helping my best friend get married - and although we cooked quite a bit, any would-have-been blog time was spent either wedding crafting, hiking or beaching.  My second excuse is that I have been working on something new and exciting that for now is a surprise but I hope to be sharing with you before the end of October (no mum, you're not a nana yet).

I did, however, collect recipe ideas while I was away.  One of which is so Canadian that unless you grew up riding the BC Ferries, you may have never heard of it.  It is the legendary "Nanaimo Bar" (pronounced "na-nye-moe").  According to Wikipedia, this dessert originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia in the early 1950's (read more about it's tasty history here) and has since become the island town's namesake dessert.  Nanaimo bars are offered in all BC Ferry cafeterias and I grew up enjoying these every time we made a trip over to Vancouver Island.





The Nanaimo bar is comprised of three layers.  The bottom layer is a chocolate/graham cracker/coconut crust, the second layer is a cross between an icing and a sweet vanilla custard, and finally it is topped off with a layer of rich dark chocolate.  They are so good that I had one while we waited in line for the ferry and another once we were on the boat.  My husband also tried his first one ever and fell in love, so I knew I had to find a recipe and make a batch myself.  Luckily the city of Nanaimo has the original recipe posted on their website.  That, and a little research to find out where to buy custard powder (apparently it's pretty easy to find in Canada but in the US you'll have to make a trip to Cost Plus World Market) and soon I had a flat of the most delicious Nanaimo Bars I have ever tasted.  Seriously, they were spot-on and about ten times better than the ones they sell on the ferry.  Do yourself a favor favour and make these asap.  And then make them again because you ate them all.



Ingredients:

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds (I used almond meal)
1 cup coconut

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (I used Bird's, see here)
2 cups icing sugar

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each) = 113 grams
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter



Directions:

1.  Bottom Layer:  In a large bowl, mix together crushed graham cracker crumbs, coconut & almonds.  Set aside.  *Tip:  Crush graham crackers by placing them in a ziplock bag & rolling over them with a rolling pin.



2.  Melt butter, sugar & cocoa in top of double boiler (I just use a heat-proof metal bowl on top of a pot.  See instructions here).



3.  Once melted, slowly add beaten egg while stirring.  Remove from heat.  Pour into graham cracker/coconut mixture and mix well (you can use your hands!).



4. Press mixture firmly into an ungreased 8x8 pan (or a 9x9 which is what I had).




5.  Second Layer:  Using stand mixer or hand beaters, cream together butter, cream, custard powder & icing sugar. Beat until light & fluffy.  Spread over bottom layer.



6.  Third Layer:  In a saucepan, melt chocolate & butter over low heat.  Once cooled slightly, pour over custard layer and put in refrigerator to chill (so chocolate can harden).



7.  Cut into squares & enjoy!




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

I love the idea of cookies for breakfast, but not the idea of starting the day off with a pile of sugar.  These breakfast cookies are amazing because, if you take a look at the ingredients, they contain everything you would find in a healthy bowl of oatmeal - and NO sugar!  Their sweetness comes from the fruit and the cinnamon so you can feel great about enjoying these with your morning cup of coffee. Or throw a few in a ziploc bag for breakfast on-the-go!

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas (mashed)
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 cups quick oats (uncooked)
1/4 cup milk (any kind!)
1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries, blueberries - anything goes!)
1/2 cup chopped nuts/seeds (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

2.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

3.  Using your hands, form dough into balls and place on cookie sheet (I flattened mine slightly with a fork).  Bake for 15-20 minutes, let cool & enjoy!




Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cozy Day Banana Bread

Today is one of those cozy days in LA.  It's not quite raining but it looks like it could at any moment and the air smells fresh and of damp flowers (I know this because I walked down the street to get my coffee this morning as we ran out & I forgot to buy more).  Maybe it's my Vancouver-heritage but I love these days in LA when I get to wear sweaters, and hot beverages make me feel cozy instead of like I'm melting.  Everything just seems a little quieter and I like to imagine people cuddled up inside with tea & blankets.  It's the perfect day for things like crafting and baking and good books and homemade soup...

One of my favorite things to make on days like today is a warm loaf of banana bread (if you just laughed at "warm loaf" you're awesome).  I love to get up and bake it in the morning so I can have it fresh with my coffee (okay, my 2nd cup of coffee - first cup must be consumed prior to opening eyes).

This banana bread is especially great because it doesn't contain any refined sugar which means you can feel good about pretending it's a breakfast food (unless you add dark chocolate like I do with mine in which case you now have to pretend that chocolate is a breakfast food - but I've never had much of a problem with that).  It also happens to be vegan which, again, means you can totally eat the batter.  Get ready to not have any leftovers with this one.



You will need:

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I like to use white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
1 cup of chopped nuts/seeds (I used a combo of walnuts & sunflower seeds)
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate - about 100g. (optional)

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup of milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
6 tbsp. coconut oil (you can also use olive oil or butter)
5 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 4 or 5)


Directions:

1.)  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2.)  Grease & flour your pan or line it with parchment paper (I used a loaf pan but you can also use an 8x8 cake pan)

3.)  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients & mix well.

4.)  In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients (I mixed mine in the food processor.  If you don't have one you can do it by hand, just mash the bananas separately first or it will be difficult to get rid of the chunks).

5.) Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients and gently stir until combined.  (When mixing wet & dry ingredients for baking you want to stir them as little as possible because once flour is mixed with a liquid it activates the gluten and the more you stir it the more the gluten develops.  Over-developed gluten will make your baking dense & tough instead of light & fluffy).

6.)  Now fold in your nuts and/or chopped chocolate.

7.)  Pour into your pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick comes out clean (or covered in melted chocolate - just not batter).





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Best Baked Mini Donuts on Earth

I LOVE mini donuts.  Those warm, cinnamon-sugary ones that they always sell at fairs and amusement parks (and at my favorite sandwich shop on Venice Beach - if you ever go, get the "Mr. Electric" - you won't be sorry).  I'm actually surprised I still love them considering that, most of the time, devouring a bag was swiftly followed by being violently flung about on some giant death-coaster - but I guess the power of the donut is just too strong.

The idea of frying anything in a giant pot of boiling, flammable oil has always terrified me, so when I came across a recipe for "oven-baked donuts" I was intrigued.  Could they really be as good as the original version?  I wanted to find out (and I really wanted to buy one of those adorable mini donut pans) so the test was on.  I baked these with my friend, Amanda, so we made a vegan version using egg replacer instead of real eggs.  The best part about doing this is that you can fearlessly eat all of taste the batter (I know people do this anyway but I am kind of a freak when it comes to anything raw - more later on how it takes me 12 utensils to cook a piece of chicken).  Let me just say, the batter was my first hint that these were going to be AMAZEBALLS.  It tasted so good it took everything I had not to just throw in the towel and call this recipe "Tasty Bowl of Donut Batter" - but I pressed on.

You'll get the play-by-play in a minute, but basically these donuts are the greatest thing on earth.  Not only are they SUPER easy to make, not fried in bad-for-you oil, and totally adorable - but they taste like the real thing!  I don't know WHAT they put in there (actually, I do, because I put it in there) but the combination of the sweet cinnamon and the fragrant nutmeg along with the rest of the ingredients somehow makes for an incredible, authentic-tasting mini donut.  And did I mention how good your house is gonna smell?  Move over, donut-scented candle that I always want to eat!  There's a new donut in town and it doesn't taste like wax.



Ingredients:

Dry ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Wet ingredients:

1/2 cup milk (we used vanilla almond milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg (or egg replacer for 1 egg)
4 tbsp butter (we used Earth Balance)

For the icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk (again, we used almond)
sprinkles!

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 F.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

3.  In a small pot, mix together the wet ingredients.  Heat on the stovetop on low heat and stir until blended.

4.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients & lightly mix until just blended.

5.  Place just under a teaspoon of batter into each section of mini donut pan.  It's sticky so you may have to use your fingers to spread it around a bit.  The batter will rise a lot so only fill each section about halfway.

6.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Tip baked donuts onto wire cooling rack & they should just pop right out.  Repeat until batter is done!  (We got about 36 mini donuts out of the batch!)

7.  To make your icing (which is really more like a glaze) just mix the icing sugar & milk together in a bowl.  Once the donuts are cool enough to touch, dip each one in the glaze and then into your bowl of sprinkles.  Place on pretty plate, take a picture & then eat 'em!  (as if you haven't tried one already...)


*Note:  You could also make some chocolate-dipped donuts by melting some chocolate in a double boiler, dipping the donuts & then letting them set on some parchment paper.  Sprinkle with nuts or coconut if you like - use your imagination!

Also makes a great birthday gift!




Monday, June 18, 2012

Mumma's Spinach Dip

We had some friends over for board game night last night (epic Cranium battle) and I decided to make my mum's amazing spinach dip for one of our snacks.  I contacted my sister, Tanya, for the recipe and she e-mailed it to me with such entertaining commentary that I'm just going to paste it here exactly as she wrote it:



Ingredients:

- 1 cup mayonnaise (Funny thing to do - fill up clean, empty mayo container with vanilla pudding and sit in a busy public area happily eating it with a spoon)
- 1 cup sour cream (1 small container)
- 1 packet knorr dry leek soup mix
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed & well-drained (chopped, not whole leaves or you get long, stringy weird bits)
1 can of sliced water chestnuts (Tanya's nuts roasting on an open fire.  Tanyaaaa nipping at your noooose...)
1/4 of a red bell pepper
- fresh garlic (I put about 4-5 cloves in mine & it's super garlicky and delicious)
1 sourdough loaf (Mmm, loaf)

Directions:

1.  Thaw & drain spinach.

2.  Put all ingredients into food processor (chop up red pepper & garlic first).  Blend.  Serve with sourdough bread for dipping (or, if you can find a round sourdough loaf, you can use it as a bread bowl!)

*Note:  You can also make this without the leek soup mix & just add a little salt & pepper.  It tastes just as good.  Also, I used what I had on hand for mine which was Trader Joe's vegan mayo & fat free sour cream - healthier & still delicious!

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