Tag Archives: nuts

Sweets to the …

… well, ME.

A change up from the endless bread posts.

I tried out a recipe for red velvet cake for the first time by making a half batch and baking cupcakes. Next time … do NOT double the cocoa cause the liquid red food colouring ended up sort of garnet instead of the ‘red’ that the person who posted/rec’d the recipe had. Since the cupcakes went into the freezer, I didn’t make a frosting but the cream cheese/butter combo is probably warranted.

And I made a batch of date oatmeal turnovers using a tried and true recipe. I made a few changes to switch things up like NOT pulsing the oatmeal flakes a bit in the food processor, which was a mistake. There’s a bit too much texture/roughage for my taste. And, I decided to try the egg glaze to see if I liked the shiny look … meh!! (I don’t think the look is worth using up a perfectly good egg especially as I ended up throwing away the rest.) For serving, I’d make up an icing sugar/butter glaze and drizzle it over the turnovers.

A few other things I’ve made include a batch of Nutella panna cotta

ETA (04/12/2017): I decided to add the recipe in case anyone is interested.

Nutella Panna Cotta – makes ~1 3/4 cups, serves 4-6

1 cup/250ml whipping cream (**1/2 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup whipping cream)
25g/2 tbsp sugar (**reduce to 1 tbsp next time)
1 tsp gelatine (**used 1 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup Nutella
**pinch of salt (optional)

** Adjustments made

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and sprinkle the water over the top. Allow to bloom.

Scald the cream in a saucepan on the stove, or in a microwave safe bowl, and stir (or whisk) in the sugar and salt. Add a bit of the warmed cream to the gelatine mixture and stir until the gelatine is dissolved. Stir the Nutella into the warm cream until it’s thoroughly dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture and stir. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a measuring cup. Portion the panna cotta mixture evenly into 4-6 containers.

Let set in the fridge for at least 2 hrs. Four is preferable if you can wait that long. There’s no need to turn out the panna cotta. Eating it out of a pretty glass or other serving dish is fine.

.. and a quick sundae with the last of the French vanilla ice cream in my freezer and some sea salt caramel sauce.

Date Nut Quick Bread (Repost from LJ)

I was gifted with a 2 pound tub of dried dates this week and while searching for a good recipe ran across my own post on LJ from February 2015. I didn’t start posting seriously to this blog until the following month and I started by reposting a few older recipes/posts that I was particularly proud of. This simple quick bread wasn’t considered worthy of inclusion, at that time, but I’ve grown to appreciate its merits, so here you go.

Date and Pecan Quick Bread – makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf, or two – 8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch (20 x 10 x 6.5 cm) loaves

8 oz (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans or walnuts
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a loaf pan or spray it with a nonstick vegetable spray.

Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. (NOTE: I used disposable aluminum pans and just sprayed with PAM, no parchment paper needed.)

Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350 deg F for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the diced butter and using a pastry blender, cut in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.

Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen.

NOTE: I divided the mixture evenly among 2 aluminum pans and baked for a total of 40 minutes, rotating the pans after 20 minutes.

Perfect Vanilla and Crumbly Maple Pecan Fudge

This weekend I stopped in at the new city market and did some browsing. With less than $5 cash in my wallet, all I was looking for was an avocado.

They didn’t have any avocados at either the regular or organic garden fruit and vegetable kiosks but they DID have a kiosk  with Dutch apple pies etc and one with raw chocolate and fudges. It was early and there weren’t a lot of customers there yet so I struck up a conversation with the owner of the fudge stand. Even though I ‘hinted’ that I wasn’t in a position to buy on THIS visit, she offered to let me try her samples. I stuck with two, chocolate chili and chocolate cherry. They were ok, but honestly, I’ve had and even made better. I didn’t ask the price per pound/kg but it wasn’t cheap … $8 for the pre-cut and wrapped blocks which I estimate weighed ~150 gm.

In any case, I got a fudge craving so after a Saturday of watching the dough I had made with a new pineapple sourdough starter not rising, I dug out my recipe for vanilla fudge and made a batch. I haven’t made fudge for over three years, so I was a bit nervous about the process.

One thing you NEED when making fudge is an accurate candy thermometer. Mine claims water boils at 87 deg C/188.6 deg F so I use the soft ball test. I may have jumped the gun ‘just a bit’ when I took it off the heat and started cooling and then beating, but it looked good when I let it cool overnight. And the remnants of the fudge left on the pot tasted very good.

This morning, I dug the slightly soft vanilla fudge out of the aluminum pan I had poured it into, and threw it in the fridge for a half hour or so cause I wanted to get a nice clean cut.

Perfection … melt in your mouth, creamy smooth and delicious.

Vanilla Fudge – makes ~1 pound/500 gm

300 ml milk ( >1 cup, use homogenized milk, half and half is even better)
350 g granulated sugar ( 1 1/2 cups)
100 g unsalted butter ( 1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
unsalted butter for pan

Butter an 8″x8″ square glass pan, or line it with a sheet of parchment paper which has some overhang on 2 opposing side. (Your fudge will end up VERY thin so try to use a smaller pan with sides.)

Put the milk, sugar and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring all the time, until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted. Bring to the boil and boil for 20-25 minutes, stirring all the time.

When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (115°C/239°F on a candy thermometer), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. (You may see some brownish bits suddenly appear in your fudge just before the temperature is reached. This happens if you miss stirring the MIDDLE of the pot because the fudge WILL stick.)

Leave the mixture to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes until the fudge starts to thicken and the gloss disappears.  Pour into a prepared pan and leave to set at room temperature (do not put it in the fridge).

Once set, cut the fudge into small squares and store in a sealed container.

Maple Pecan Variation: Replace the white sugar with brown sugar and add 3 tbsp of maple syrup. Stir in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans at the same time you add your vanilla.

Of course, I pushed the limit and made a batch of maple pecan fudge too. I over-cooked it cause I kept cooking past the soft ball to the soft crack and then I transferred the fudge (the butter was separating as I stirred) into a large metal bowl where it started to get all crumbly. I scraped the fudge into my prepared pan, and learned it was too big for the amount of fudge I had. So, I shaped the fudge into a rough rectangle using the parchment paper and let it cool. The crumbly bits aren’t grainy in your mouth, though, and are tasty as well.

Fudge at start and towards the end of the cooking when you want to start your soft ball test.

 

 

Lesson Learned: Even a less than perfect fudge is delicious.

Sourdough Baking … AGAIN (Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka and Savoury Boule)

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Sheldon Lee Cooper … “Bread bakers be crazy!

I joined a sourdough baking group on FB … cause I’m a glutton for punishment and not wasting enough time on FB already. As a result I developed a case of baker’s envy and revived my sourdough starter. And, not only did I revive the last of a sample from the freezer, but some of the dried starter from the pantry as well. Which meant I was feeding TWO jars.

Because I had started with a very young starter when I stored it away, it took longer to re-establish than I though it would. As a result, my first bake (a 1-2-3 formula using some ground bulgur flour for texture in place of the spelt, along with all purpose, and found on friend’s blog) was a miserable failure. And I had such high hopes for it too. I ended up tossing the loaf in the garbage in disgust. I weep for that lovely blue cheese and pecans.

Luckily, I had suspected things were NOT going well so I made a batch of hybrid dough (sourdough starter and dry yeast), enriched it with eggs, butter and milk and shaped it into two babkas, which I filled with chocolate chips, Nutella (yes, I finally bought a jar) and chopped pecans. I tried two different shaping methods, one of which didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped. It was supposed to be a crumb topping but, between using powdered sugar and the warmth of the kitchen, which effectively ended up making a paste of the flour, sugar and butter, the top wasn’t very pretty. So the ugly duckling second method, ended up being the beautiful swan.

Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka

Next time, if there IS a next time, I make a babka, I’ll try basting the finished loaf with a honey/sugar syrup as some recipes show. I’ve included a recipe for the syrup in the babka recipe below. I baked my babkas in a large roasting pan which had been buttered generously and separated into two ‘pans’ with a dam of aluminum foil, folded several times for rigidity and buttered.

Hybrid Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka – 2 1/2 lbs dough, makes 2 loaves

Based on a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe I’ve used before but I increased the eggs in this enriched version to two.

Dough

1 cup active starter or discard
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 tsp instant yeast)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cup AP flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling – for each babka

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips **

Syrup (optional)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (125m) water
1 tbsp honey

Egg wash – 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water

** Use chopped chocolate next time as it melts better.

In a small bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of the sugar in the warm milk, sprinkling in the yeast and waiting for about 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and mix well.

Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture, eggs, starter and butter and with a wooden spoon beat together until you get a smooth batter. Gradually stir in about a cup of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, using only as much flour as needed to get a soft but not sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and cover with your mixing bowl. Let rest covered for 5 minutes. Knead for another 5 minutes, using as little flour as possible.

Sprinkle some flour in a clean area, place the ball of dough on the flour, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out, fill and shape.

Let rest in two 9″ x 5″ greased loaf pans, in a warm place, for about 45 min to an hour, until doubled. Brush on egg wash.

Shaping version 1

Shaping version 2

While the dough is rising, make the syrup (if using) by bringing the water, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

After the dough was allowed to rise, the egg wash was brushed on and the crumb topping was applied. The baked result is seen below.

Bake for 55 minutes. After 25 minutes you might want to cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil as the tops will get very dark.

Let cool in loaf pans for about 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool thoroughly on rack. The syrup, if used, may be brushed on after a few minutes of cooling.

Savoury Italian Boule

A couple of days later, I made a hybrid savoury bread based on the babka recipe I used above but with an Italian theme – a mixture of Italian herbs (~1 tsp) , garlic powder (1/2 tsp),  and sun dried tomatoes (1-2 tbsp).

Pictorial Boule Recipe

Boule proofed with the seam side up for 1-2 hrs until doubled then flipped over, with the aid of a baking pan, onto a parchment paper sling for scoring and transfer into the hot dutch oven.

Other changes: Substitute water for the milk used above and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter. No eggs were used in this recipe. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 tsp, just enough to activate/proof the dry yeast. After proofing, the boule was baked in a dutch oven which had been preheated to 450 deg F, 35 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. I covered the dutch oven lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil because I had concerns about it possibly burning.

It turned out beautifully as well especially the crumb.

PS: I have now tossed the dry sourdough starter cause, really, who kneads the added temptation? (Freudian slip? You judge.) I’ll continue with the current single jar of starter and refrigerate it once it’s well established.

Brownies Version 2 – Katharine Hepburn’s Recipe

Although the brownies I made last time were tasty, they weren’t the shiny crust version that I wanted. It seems you need to use melted chocolate for those. Recently, I ran across a newspaper cutting, from the days when we still subscribed to an actual newspaper and I cut out recipes from the Wednesday food section, and gave it a try. This is the version I remember making years ago.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies – makes 16 squares

2 oz/60 gm dark, unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch-square pan, preferably lined with parchment paper to make removal easier when thoroughly cooled.

Melt together butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, then take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the butter-chocolate mixture to a large bowl. Let cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs.

Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the nuts.

Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl and then fold into the cocoa-butter mixture, until just combined and you no longer see white floury areas.

Pour into pan and rap the base against the table to get rid of any bubbles in the batter.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Do not over bake; the brownies should be gooey.

Let cool completely in the pan, then remove and cut into bars.

NOTE: The thin, shiny crust shattered when I tried to cut it, both with a serrated and a smooth knife. I thought it might be the nuts but someone suggested using a plastic knife instead. I have 2 more pieces (they’re small) left in the freezer but I’ll give it a try when they’re gone.