Scroll through a few favorites from summers past … enjoy! (more…)
This recipe came about as the result of a conversation concerning a certain muffin (I actually think they call them ‘baby cakes’) from local Vancouver mini-chain, Terra Breads. The confection in question is something that can only be described as a symphony of apple and cardamom. Baked in charming brown paper sleeves and delicately perfumed with the alluring musk of cardamom, they are a real treat.
If you aren’t familiar with cardamom, here it is:
It’s sort of an ugly little pod, but quite delicious. It’s related to the ginger family and has a somewhat similar pungency to it. Wikipedia has a lot to say about it here. You can easily find both green or black (shown here) varieties. I am less familiar with the black cardamom so I thought I’d try it this time. In hindsight, I’d say that the two are very, very similar, but the black variety is less floral, and more smoky. It’s one of those flavours that once you have it, you won’t forget it, but it’s almost impossible to describe. Either way, it is the perfect match for the soft pears in this cake and of course, the almost magical muffins from Terra Breads.
So why not just go get one? Well, you certainly could. I certainly could have, but I enjoy the challenge of recreating and reinventing recipes. The reinvention here is threefold: 1) It’s a cake, not muffins 2) I used pear not apple 3) I used a trio of spices, one of which was cardamom, so this is less of a punch to the face in terms of cardamom flavour. All that said, this is a quick and easy cake to make (I didn’t even pull out the mixer! Mixed by hand, imagine that!) and requires no frosting or adornment besides a pretty dusting of powdered sugar — but you’d be forgiven if you plopped a cloud of whipped cream on it, or even a drizzle of caramel.
I won’t tell. Your secrets are safe with me.
Pear & Cardamom Bundt Cake
Inspired by the Apple and Cardamom Baby-Cake from Terra Breads
preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Core and chop 3 large, ripe pears (about 3 cups of fruit)
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cardamom
In a second bowl, cream together
2/3 C. butter – softened to room temperature
1 1/2 C. sugar
Once creamed, beat in
2 whole eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. milk
Add the dry ingredients to the butter, egg and sugar mix.
Stir in the chopped pear.
Scrape (the batter will be thick) into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until risen brown and a skewer or toothpick inserted into it comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the pan onto the rack and the cake should drop out. Allow to cool fully before cutting.
Most of the time the recipes that I post here are my own version of something which I have imagined and then created. Occasionally I lean more heavily on a recipe from a book or website, but by and large, I just make this stuff up. I have a fairly extensive cookbook collection, but I rarely cook from them, I just use the recipes, anecdotes and pictures as inspiration. Before I make something, I deconstruct it in my head and try to figure out all the elements and how they fit together and in what proportion. Then I make it and see how it turns out. I’m proud to say I have a pretty good ‘batting average’ when it comes to new recipes, but even a ‘failure’ is usually consumable, just not all that it was meant to be. I share the ones that work and re-work the ones that don’t. Some recipes are a bigger ‘risk’ or better put: further out of my comfort zone or my immediate knowledge.
This tiramisu was a bit of a gamble.
I have had tiramisu many times, but I’d never made it. I understood the basic building blocks and I knew what the finished product should be like, but all the steps in between were a bit foggy. I considered looking up a few recipes online first, but decided against it. I wanted it, however it turned out, to be my version. So I jumped right in.
It worked. It has all the richness you could ask for but the unmistakable lightness as well. It’s boozy, but not over powering and the texture is soft and unctuous but not complete mush. Is it entirely traditional? No, I don’t think so. But it looks like tiramisu, smells like tiramisu and most importantly tastes like tiramisu. I’m going to go ahead and call this one a winner. Let me know what you think.
1 400g package of crisp Italian ladyfinger cookies
1 cup of very strong coffee or espresso
2 tablespoons Bailey’s liquer
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 cups ( one 454g tub) of mascarpone cheese (substitute cream cheese if you can’t find mascarpone)
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder for sprinkling on top
Prepare the coffee and stir in the Bailey’s. In the bottom of a 9×13 dish, arrange an even layer of ladyfingers.
Drizzle with half the coffee mixture, ensuring each cookie gets doused. Whatever is in the bottom of the pan will be absorbed.
Next, make the mascarpone cream. Start by beating together the eggs and sugar with a wire whisk in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering – not boiling – water).
Cook the egs and sugar, stirring almost constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture is a very pale and thickened custard. You’ll know it’s thickened enough when you lift your whisk the custard drips and makes an obvious ribbon on the surface. Remove from heat, continuing to stir it until it is warm but no longer hot, about 3 minutes.
Add the mascarpone, 1 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate before adding more. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the sour cream. Pour half the mascarpone cream over the layer of soaking ladyfingers, smoothing it with the back of a spoon to get it into the corners.
Repeat with a second layer of ladyfingers, drizzle on the rest of the coffee and top with the remaining mascarpone cream.
Sift the cocoa over top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Has anyone noticed that something has happened to muffins over time? In many cases they have turned into cakes. I’m not an absolute purist when it comes to things like this, but to me there should be more of a difference between a muffin and a cupcake than the frosting. Am I wrong?
These muffins deliver on many levels: taste, texture, and nutrition. The fibre in these is off the charts and they have a minimum of sugar and fat, so we can all feel good about that. What they are not, is bland or boring. They have a decidedly homemade texture to them, and the yogurt and fruit keeps them moist while the tops get crunchy. It’s a win-win. Did I mention that they come together in about 15 minutes and only bake for 30? That means you are less than an hour away from a warm-from-the-oven snack or breakfast. Worth using up your last bag of frozen berries from last summer? Absolutely.
Bran Muffins with Oats and Berries
preheat your oven to 375 and grease (or paper) a 12 cup muffin tin
1 cup of oats (the quick oats will do, but the slow cook oats will give better texture)
1 cup of bran cereal (bran buds or all-bran)
1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups frozen mixed berries (you can use any fruit – apple and pear is delicious, but if it isn’t frozen, keep an eye on them in the oven and reduce the baking time a bit.)
Combine the oats and bran cereal. Use a very large bowl because in the end all the batter will end up here.
Add the yogurt and stir well. Set this mixture aside for about 10 minutes while you mix the other components of the muffins.
Combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine the egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a bowl. Once the cereals and yogurt have had a few minutes together to soften, add the egg and milk mix into the cereals, stirring well.
Now add the dry ingredients. Pour them on top of the wet and stir quickly but only until everything is just barely combined. Don’t over mix.
Add your berries, (or other fruit).
Stir to combine, but again, don’t over mix.
Load up 12 well greased or papered muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes (less if the fruit wasn’t frozen). They are done when they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their middles comes out clean.
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to brownies: some are cake-like and chewy, some are damp and dense and almost fudge-like. Since there is no leavening beyond the eggs, these brownies won’t rise. In fact they will puff slightly, develop a crust and then sink. This is thanks to a greater volume of chocolate than flour, much like a flourless chocolate cake. Many people will take brownies any way that they can get them, but for some of us, myself included, only the damp, fudgey ones will do. This recipe delivers just that. It is a simple recipe but decadent enough to be relegated to special occasions or extreme chocolate cravings. Enjoy!
preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Melt together over a double boiler (or a heat proof mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water):
1 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of butter
3/4 cup of sugar
Stir frequently until the mix is fully melted and glossy.
Set the chocolate mix aside to cool slightly. As it cools, butter and line with parchment, an 8×8 inch baking dish. Allow the paper to hang over the edge to act as “handles” for lifting the brownies from the pan later. Lightly butter the paper as well!
To the now cooled chocolate mixture add:
1 tsp. vanilla
2 beaten eggs
Mix quickly and thoroughly then add:
3/4 cup of cocoa
1 tablespoon of very finely ground coffee or instant espresso
Once fully combined, add
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (entirely optional)
The batter will be sturdy. Smooth it into the prepared pan and bake for 45 mins. When tested with a toothpick the crumbs attached to it will be quite damp. Don’t let this stop you!
Allow the brownies to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then carefully lift our with the paper “handles” and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 24 small pieces.