Archive for the 'Dessert' Category

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Amazing Chocolate Cupcakes

My daughter decided she wanted us to make chocolate cupcakes together yesterday. Not really being a big fan of sugary, buttery and frosted baked goods myself, I tried to persuade her to bake muffins instead, but she had none of it. So I started my search for an easy cupcake recipe, which I could change a bit to make it not quite so sugary and buttery. It didn’t take me long until I found a “One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake” recipe on marthastewart.com. I liked the recipe, because it mentioned ‘one bowl’ in the title and didn’t include butter. It also listed lots of glowing reviews from people raving about these cupcakes. I decided to apply my general rule for Martha Stewart’s baking recipes, using only two thirds of the sugar requested and substituting white flour for whole wheat pastry flour.  It always works.

My daughter requested pink icing and pink sprinkles, but I changed the icing to a chocolate ganache and only stuck to the sprinkles request. We used India Tree’s Nature’s Colors Pink Nonpareils on the kid’s ones, which I love and buy every time I go back to the U.S.

The cupcakes turned out so delicious, I was shocked. The frosting was a delight and I couldn’t get enough of it. I finally understood the cupcake craze and am sure to give these another try VERY soon.

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Millet and Amaranth Pudding

A couple of days ago, I was in the mood for comfort food. The kind that reminds me of my childhood in Germany. Growing up, we used to have one sweet lunch per week. Most frequently it was rice pudding with cinnamon, sugar and sour cherries out of a jar. It still is a hugely popular dish and served in most households. You can buy special ‘rice pudding’ rice in every grocery store. My grandma also loved to make waffles or thin pancakes with apple sauce or bread pudding with vanilla sauce. I loved those lunches and I try to keep this tradition in my family. Admittedly, these are almost the only German things I cook, although I will give “Spaetzle with Lentils” another go as soon as it gets a bit cooler.  

My favorite of all the sweet dishes is rice pudding, which pretty much sustained me through out university and my slightly “larger” years.  It is so easy to prepare, always a crowdpleaser and has the added bonus of giving me a night off from chopping. Yeah! I now cook it with short grain brown rice, maple syrup and vanilla extract and serve it with fresh berries and mangoes. It is so delicious, comforting and easy. Since I try and avoid cow’s milk, I usually make mine with fresh almond milk, which works just fine. I also use almond milk to cook our oatmeal in winter and not even my cow’s milk loving men can tell the difference.

Back to a few days ago, when I had the serious ‘urge’ for pudding. I decided to swap the rice for millet and amaranth which have been begging to be used for months. They have a similar cooking time and require about 2 1/2 cups of liquid per one cup of grain. A perfect match. Both grains are wonderfully healthy, gluten-free, full of protein, b-vitamins and minerals. I still make my own almond milk, as the Australian store bought stuff is absolutely undrinkable. I soak 1 cup of almonds in filtered water over night, give them a good wash in the morning and blend them with 4 cups of fresh water in my blender. I then strain the liquid through a special almond milk bag, which I got at a local health food store. I usually freeze the left-over pulp and add it to muffin or cake batter later on. When in the States, I use the “Whole Foods” brand organic, unsweetened almond milk, but I also like the “Blue Diamond” one.

I like to give the pudding a slight Indian touch by adding a few cardamom pods, ginger and cinnamon. It is best with fresh or frozen berries and toasted almonds. If you have any left over, it makes a delicious and very sustaining breakfast the next day. I add a bit more almond milk as the pudding turns quite solid when cooled, stir it and warm it for a minute in the microwave or on the stove. Shame that it’s all gone now, writing about it makes me want to cook some more already again…

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Spelt and Hazelnut Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour (or half white/half whole spelt)
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons butter (140g), room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • colourful sprinkles

Method

Sift together flour, ground hazelnuts, baking powder and sea salt.

Using hand or standing mixer, whisk together butter and sugar for 3 minutes. Add egg, whisk for another minute, then add vanilla extract.

Fold dry ingredients into butter mixture until well incorporated. 

Turn dough onto cling wrap, flatten into a disk, cover with more cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or over night.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Roll out dough between 2 large sheets of cling wrap until it is about 1/4″ (0.5 cm) thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out hearts in various sizes. Place cookies on parchment lined baking tray and brush lightly with milk. Top with sprinkles and refrigerate for 10 minutes. If dough gets too soft when cutting the shapes, wrap it up again and refrigerate some more. I always use only half of the dough while the other half rests in the fridge.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating baking trays back to front and top to bottom half way through.

Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

Share with loved ones!

Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

We are going through gallons of ice cream and popsicles at the moment – that’s how hot it is. As a special treat on Sunday evening, I made ice cream sandwiches. Not a typical dessert in Germany, but one of the ingenious things I passionately adopted once I came across it in the States. Since oatmeal cookies are my absolute favorite, I also use them for ice cream sandwiches. Not the “Oh-So-Good Oatmeal Cookies” I wrote about in an earlier post, but the buttery kind that turn into a flat and snappy cookie when baked. The “Oh-So Good” ones are perfect to eat by themselves, but since they have a lot less butter in them, they don’t go flat when baked and hence aren’t ideal for this type of dessert.

Most recipes I scanned use 2 cups of sugar, usually a mixture of white and brown, white (all purpose) flour, 2 sticks (226g) of butter and varying amounts of dark chocolate, raisins or cranberries. I did see the need for the amount of butter, but used only 1 1/2 cups of sugar and whole spelt flour plus oatbran instead of white flour. I am sure whole wheat and oat-or wheat bran will work just as well. I chopped up one bar (3.5 oz or 100g) of 70% chocolate, but there is definitely room for more, if you like yours really chocolaty. As to the sweetness, we found ours sweet enough, but if you have a sweet tooth, just add another 1/2 cup of sugar. The cookies are quick and easy to make and if you don’t want a large batch of 30 cookies all at once, you can freeze some of the the dough and use is later. Just let it defrost until you can scoop it out and increase the baking time by a minute or two.

I used plain storebought vanilla ice cream for our sandwiches, but chocolate and other flavors will be delicious as well. Hopefully I get a chance to dig out my ice cream maker later this week and concoct some on my own.

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

This one is for all my friends in the Northern Hemisphere, who are currently inundated with zucchinis and need help finding new ways to reduce their supply. Zucchinis have long been a staple in baked goods such as delicious zucchini bread, but the combination with chocolate is fairly new – at least to me. I made them 6 months ago for the first time and no one in my family could tell they had zucchini in it, which is a good thing. They are much more open to bananas and cranberries. I have made them ever since and get a total kick out of the surprise on people’s faces when they find out that they are loaded with vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and agave syrup. I admit, the combination sounds a bit scary and way too healthy for a treat like a muffin. But that’s what I am here for, to find new ways to combine the tasty with the healthy and make it delicious. I used agave syrup as a sweetener, which has a neutral taste and won’t give you the sugar high you will get from regular sugar. I packed in 2 medium zucchinis, grating them extra fine in the food processor and squeezing out the liquid with my hands. The flour is once again spelt and buckwheat, but any other will do without the need for adjustment. I used extra virgin olive oil, which might come as a bit of a surprise to you, but it’s my favorite oil and I try and use it whenever I include vegetables in my baking. You won’t notice the taste difference, I promise! Right at the end, I couldn’t resist and added 3.5 oz. of 70% chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Heaven!

Makes 12

Ingredients

2 small to medium zucchinis, finely grated and some excess liquid squeezed out

1 bar (100g or 3.5 oz.) of good quality 70% chocolate, cut into small pieces or a generous 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole spelt flour
  • 1 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients.

In large mixing bowl, mix together wet ingredients.

Add half of dry ingredients to wet mix and gently combine. Mix in grated zucchini and stir until incorporated. Add chocolate. Gently fold in remaining half of dry ingredients. Don’t overmix!

Divide batter into 12 muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes.

Berry and Almond Scrunch

I first ate this dessert in London’s “Food For Thought” restaurant 20 years ago and I liked it so much that I had to eat it whenever I was in London. About 10 years later, I discovered there was a “Food For Thought” cookbook. Luckily it contains the Scrunch recipe, which I have made ever since, especially during summer. My favorite fruit combination is strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but if you only have strawberries, that’s also fine. Sometimes I combine the berries with chunks of ripe mango, mmmm. It is loved by all and makes for delicious breakfast if you should be so lucky to have some left over. I adapted the recipe slightly over the years and use drained whole or low-fat yogurt instead of the yogurt/whipped cream mixture the original recipe asks for. After draining the yogurt for at least 5 hours or over night (see pictures below), I add some freshly squeezed orange juice and maple syrup and stir it all together. It comes out very creamy and you would never miss the whipped cream. Enjoy!

Berry and Almond Scrunch

Serves 10

Base                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           300 g rolled oats
150 g whole wheat/spelt flour
100 g butter cut into pieces
100 g brown sugar

Melt butter and set aside to cool. Mix dry ingredients, pour in melted butter and combine well. Press evenly into baking tray or 2 cake pans and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

Bake for 15-20 min until light golden. Let cool and cut/break into 1 inch pieces.

Cover base with washed and halfed strawberries ( about 3 punnets) or other fruit or your choice.

Glaze                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mix juice of 1 orange and 3 tablespoons of strawberry or other jam in small pan and heat till jam is dissolved; let cool down and drizzle over berries

Yogurt Topping   

1 1/2 kg whole or low-fat milk yoghurtdrained over cheesecloth lined colander for several hours, or greek style yoghurt (which is thick already and doesn’t require draining)
Juice of 1 orange
Maple syrup or honey
to taste (about 4 tablespoons)
Mix until smooth and pour over fruit.
Top with 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until use.

Summery Red Currant Cake

We arrived yesterday, the hottest day in England so far this year. There I was, hoping to show off my new jacket and cool rain boots, and instead sat in the shade eating lots of ice cream. Wherever I go, it’s usually hot and as you might have guessed by now, heat and I don’t go together very well. But then again, I realize that most importantly all these poor white English people deserve a bit of sunshine and that my live will be much easier with my children happily playing crocket (English game – don’t ask) outside instead of being miserable and fighting inside.

One of the first things I did after we arrived, was checking out my father-in-laws beautiful vegetable garden and raiding it for lunch. Fresh beets, crisp lettuce and delectable broad beans and I quickly got over not going to be able to put on rain gear for at least another week according to the weather forecast. We ate our way through the remaining day to find some energie and keep ourselves from falling asleep too early. Well, I made it until 8.30 in the evening and slept like a baby until my daughter thought it was time for breakfast just before 5 am. We ate fresh strawberries and lots of red currants with cereal, when I got the sudden urge to bake something with all those lovely and abundant red currants. I miss fresh currants wherever we live. They were hardly ever available in Texas and even less affordable, existent only as decoration on beautiful buffet displays in fancy Thai restaurants and literally non-existant in Western Australia. That’s where I tried to grow them myself, unfortunately without success. Hence the immeasurable delight when I saw all the fruit laden bushes in the garden.

It wasn’t even 7 am when I started rummaging through my mother-in-laws cupboards looking for potential cake ingredients. I found whole wheat flour, brown sugar, almonds, vanilla extract, butter and eggs, exactly what I needed. I didn’t find the right size cake pan, and decided to bake two small cakes instead. In theory, one could always be frozen… The gas oven gave me a bit of a fright, what with gas marks instead of temperature scales. But eventually another grown-up got up and together we figured it out. The base of this cake is very simple and can easily be adapted, by, for example substituting apple sauce for some of the butter, using spelt four, instead of whole wheat, ground hazelnuts instead of the almonds, rice or almond milk for cows milk and maple syrup instead of the sugar. The topping can be any fruit in season, I particularly enjoy it with fresh peaches in summer or pears in fall, but even frozen berries work well. I did underestimate the acidity of the currants a bit and should have used a little more sugar in the topping. Instead, after the cakes cooled down, I dusted them with some icing sugar and now they are perfect. (I changed the amount of sugar in the recipe, so unless you like it really sweet, you won’t need to add any icing sugar.) I ate 2 pieces already, and seriously doubt that the second cake will ever see the inside of the freezer. Happy summer days!

Red Currant and Almond Cake 

serves 10

2-3 cups red currants, all green bits removed

2 cups whole wheat flour, self raising

1 cup almonds, lightly toasted and finely ground

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

125 g unsalted butter (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon), room temperature

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Topping:

3 tablespoons light brown or demerara sugar

1/3 cup almonds, coarsly ground

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 5 (350 F, 180 C)
  • Toast almonds in oven until slightly fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Grind almonds in food processor. Personally, I like them fairly coarse, to give the batter a bit of extra texture.
  • Sift flour and combine with almonds and salt.
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, 1 egg at a time, beating until incorportated.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mix,  followed by half the milk, another 1/3 of flour mix, the remaining milk and finally the last third of flour mix. Incorporate each ingredient gently, careful not to overmix the batter. It will be slightly moist and sticky.
  • Spread batter in one 9-inch springform pan or divide into two small baking pans.
  • Top with red currants and gently press down into batter.
  • Mix extra sugar and ground almonds and sprinkle over cake.
  • Bake large cake for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. If you made 2 small cakes, bake for 40 minutes.
  • Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a healthy food blog, but here is comes… Serve with lightly sweetened, freshly whipped CREAM! 

Flourless Almond Poppyseed Cake

adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

This is a delicate light cake with a bit of crunch from the poppy seeds and a hint of citrus flavor. It’s delicious with yogurt on the side and it keeps well. It was part of my baking class test recipes and I’ll definitely include it in the gluten-free class later this year. I love the challenge of making something delicious “out of the box” and I can’t wait to find more of those recipes down the line.

For the cake:

1/4 cup (60 g) butter, softened

1/4 cup unsalted almond butter

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 tablespoon white caster sugar

zest of one organic orange and lemon, finely grated

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons, ground almonds or almond meal

1/2 cup poppy seeds

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

For the lemon syrup (optional):

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown rice syrup

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C) and grease a 8-inch springform cake pan.

Combine the butter, almond butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and the orange zest in a large bowl. Cream together with handheld electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) for 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and mix until fluffy.

Combine the ground almonds and poppy seeds in a medium bowl.

In a clean, grease-free bowl, combine the egg whites with the salt and baking powder. Using an electric mixer, beat until the egg whites are fluffy. Add the 2 tablespoon of white sugar, and keep beating until the egg whites form a smooth and glossy mass.

Working with a light hand, add one third of the egg whites to the first mixture and stir with a spatula to lighten. Fold in half of the poppy seed mixture. Add another third of the egg whites, folding it in gently with a spatula. Fold in the remaining poppy seed mixture, and add the last of the egg whites, working very gently to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites, until the egg whites are completely incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little lumpy.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until puffy and lightly brown. Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside to set for another 10 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack, and drizzle with half the syrup. Let cool for 10 more minutes, before drizzling cake with remaining syrup. Run a knife around the cake to loosen, and then remove sides of pan.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake is one of our favorite deserts. We used to buy it from a lady at the market, which was divine. Unfortunately, she sold the business and now I have to make it myself. Actually it is rather easy and quick.  Which of course no one can tell – it’s always a show stopper at a party. To get a deliciously light-textured cake, take it easy on the beaten egg whites.. Really good quality dark chocolate makes a difference as does toasting and grinding the almonds yourself.  I am sorry to all my American friends that this recipe comes with metric measurements. The next time I make it, I will definitely measure everything out in cups and take some better pictures. In the meantime, check out the conversions link. Good luck!

 

 

Serves about 8.

150 g dark chocolate (70% works well)

100 g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs at room temperature

100 g raw sugar

70 g white caster sugar

200g ground almonds                               

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350F)

Grease the side and base of a 20cm ( 8 inch) diameter springform pan.

Place butter, chocolate and vanilla in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when chocolate and butter have melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, taking care not to break the yolks. If any of the yolk gets into the whites, the yolk will prevent the egg whites from whipping properly.

In large mixing bowl, beat yolks with raw sugar using electric hand-held beaters or an electric mixer. Beat until mixture is light, thick and creamy.

Gently fold cooled chocolate mixture into yolk mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with the white sugar using electric hand-held beaters until stiff peaks form.
Working with a light hand, add one third of the egg whites to the chocolate/egg mixture and stir with a spatula to lighten. Fold in half of the almonds. Add another third of the egg whites, folding it in gently with a spatula. Fold in the remaining almonds, and add the last of the egg whites, working very gently to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites, until the egg whites are incorporated. Don’t stir too much, it’s fine if you leave a few streaks of egg white in the mixture.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside to set for another 10 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow to cool in pan.

Serve slices of the cake with whipped cream, berries, ice cream, chocolate sauce or simply dusted with icing sugar.