Saturday, 27 April 2013

Simple Pleasures: Gluten-Free Apple Crumble

I've dealt with a lot of butter lately. Between creaming it into cookie dough, folding it into puff pastry, and just plain absorbing it, air-born, through osmosis, I think I've just about saturated myself as much as I'm willing to. For the time being.

Going from "hobby" to professional scale baking has given me a new appreciation for the lighter, the less diabetes-inducing, that the culinary world has to offer. I'm still dessert obsessed, don't get me wrong! But sometimes what you need isn't butter and sugar cushioning at the end of a long day but rather something nourishing and flavorful.

This crumble is definitely that. Without sacrificing any of the stomach-filling, heart-warming goodness of the apple-cinnamon-butter trinity, it cuts back some of the damage.

This recipe doesn't have any wheat flour or sugar and it's absolutely delicious. The natural sweetness of the apples made the filling perfect without any additional sweetener. A light drizzle of honey was all it took for the topping to taste fabulous too.

Guilt-free, scrumptious dessert that tastes like a cross between apple pie and oatmeal. Yum.

Gluten-Free Apple Crumble
apples (peeled and thinly sliced)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed (113 g/ 1 stick)

Mix the cinnamon and apples together and layer the apple slices in a 9"x 9" baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt and then stir in the oats. 

380° F (193° C)

Bake for 25-35 mins, until the top is lightly browned.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Making Time: Banana-Bran Muffins

Well, I've started culinary school. It's actually happening.

Evening classes can be pretty rough, and it's been a little hard adjusting to the four-to-ten schedule. It still feels as though I have no time to get anything done and then, suddenly, the day is over.

I'm working on it, though. I've even managed to do some baking at home in between all the homework and bus commutes. Whoot!

But, in all honesty, it's been pretty awesome so far. I foresee it getting really intense and stressful but, hey, how else are you supposed to learn anything?

Banana-Bran Muffins
(adapted from

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose/plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400° F (204° C). Grease a 12-muffin pan (or stand-alone silicone cups) and set aside.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, soda, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until creamy and then beat in the sugar, mixing until smooth and fully combined.

Stir in the bananas and mix well, then add the vanilla, oil, wheat bran, and buttermilk, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Now add the flour mixture, about a third at a time, mixing only until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup to the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Makes about a dozen muffins.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Smooth Garlicky Hummus

So apparently the secret to delicious, super-smooth hummus is to peel the chickpeas before blending them. It sounds pretty obvious when you think about it, doesn't it?

Don't worry. Peeling chickpeas is no where near as labor intensive as it sounds. It's more squeezing them gently until they pop out of their skins. Kind of satisfying really.

Just crack on some soothing tunes and spend about fifteen to twenty minutes doing chickpea meditation. It will actually improve your day.

Personal legume philosophies aside, I love garlic. I'm talking about raw garlic. That peppery bite and the lingering, vampire-banishing breath. I know it's not for everyone (and the amount of garlic here can easily be cut to suit less enthusiastic tastes) but this recipe is all about packing a garlicky punch.

It's incredibly simple, relying on just a few flavors and that sinfully smooth texture that keeps you coming back for more. I skipped the crackers and ate it with a spoon. No regrets.

Smooth Garlicky Hummus
1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and peeled
water, as needed
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil (or tahini if you have it)
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of salt
olive oil and cayenne for garnish

Pulse the chickpeas in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding a little water if they're too dry. Add the garlic, lemon juice, sesame oil, cumin, and salt and blend until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your preferences.

Once everything is blended and the mixture is smooth and creamy, spoon into a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Poppy Seed Cake

I'm pretty proud of this cake. It's kind of like my baby. Recently I've been ready Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, a textbook on all the geekery science behind cooking. It's pretty awesome and helped and inspired me to come up with my own cake recipes. This is the very first one.

I wanted a cake that wasn't too sweet or too dry, that was tender but had a satisfying density to it.

I think it turned out pretty darn well.

Poppy Seed Cake

1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

In the microwave or on the stove, heat the milk to almost boiling and stir in the poppyseeds. Remove from the heat and set aside to soak for at least an hour.

Grease and flour a 9" cake pan and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º F (177º C)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and gradually add the sugar, beating constantly until it's light and fluffy. This step is very important since it gives the cake it's fluffiness. If you don't spend the time beating air into the butter, the cake won't rise properly.

One at a time, beat the eggs into the butter-sugar, followed by the vanilla, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Alternate adding the milk and the flour mixture, folding them in until just combined but being careful not to over-blend.

Finally, drain the poppy-seeds and stir them into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes (it should be very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean) Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Mm, Butter: Crumbly Shortbread with Orange Zest

Can we just take a moment to be grateful to whoever is responsible for butter? I mean seriously good job, whoever you were. Really stellar work.

Butter is fantastic. Full-body massage kind of fantastic.

Yes, okay, the stuff has a sort of love-hate relationship with my waist-line. But we're adults here, we can take responsibility for our life choices. And if my life choices occasionally involve half a cup of butter, some fresh orange zest, and a little hero worship, who's to judge?

And trust me, if you have just a bite of this shortbread, you'll be sending some silent thanks toward the butter progenitor yourself. Because butter is awesome.

Crumbly Shortbread with Orange Zest
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick or 113 grams, cold but not frozen)
zest of one orange

Mix together the flours, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter and rub it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until the mixture has the texture of course sand. Add the orange zest and combine it well. Begin pressing the mixture flat with your palms, kneading it gently 5 or 6 times. The dough will still be fairly crumbly (mine didn't even come together in a lump). Chill it in the fridge for about thirty minutes (this will give the moisture a chance to disperse somewhat).

Preheat the oven to 250º F (121º C)

Once the dough has chilled, turn it out into an ungreased 9 inch cake pan and press it into the pan in an even layer. Using a fork, score the dough into wedges. Bake for about an hour in the preheated oven (the shortbread shouldn't brown at all so don't worry that it's not done). Allow the shortbread to cool in the pan and then cut it into wedges.

Consume in moderation.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Spiced Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

Isn't it kind of fantastic that nourishing, healthy food can just happen to be satisfying comfort food at the same time? There's something about soup. You can pack the veggies and the grains in and end up with something that tastes like a warm hug. A spicy, warm hug.

This soup is delicious and satisfying, lightly spiced and oh-so comforting. It's so thick, it's probably actually a stew. But we'll call it soup anyway.

Spiced Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
oil for sauteeing
1 onion, diced
3 cups carrots, diced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3/4 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cups lentils
salt to taste

Heat the cumin, coriander, and turmeric in a large soup pot, without oil, at a medium heat. Once they start releasing their fragrances, add the oil and fry the onion and carrots until they begin to soften. Stir in the minced garlic and fry it for about half a minute before adding the cauliflower. Stir the vegetables together, so that the spices evenly coat them.

Now add the chicken stock, water, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and brown rice. Add salt as needed (this will depend on the saltiness of your stock and personal taste!)

Bring the soup to a boil and then turn down the heat and leave it to simmer, covered.

In a separate pot, bring about four cups of water to a boil and add the lentils. Turn the heat down and simmer the lentils, with the lid on, until they are soft but not mushy, about 25 minutes.

Once the lentils have cooked, drain them and add them to the soup. Cover the pot again and let it continue to simmer for another 20-25 minutes, or until the brown rice is thoroughly cooked.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Birthday Indulgence: Double Chocolate Layer Cake

So, it was my birthday on Tuesday. I'm officially 22 now. This should be a good year, full of new beginnings. I'm a college graduate now. I have a part time job. I'm beginning the lengthy process of apartment searching. In about a week I'll be starting culinary school (yikes!) It's sort of all kicking off.

But for now I'm still having some chill days, cooking, and enjoying time with my parents (and my cats). We're actually currently working on eating more healthily but sometimes you just need a cake.

A chocolate cake. In two layers. Slathered with ganache frosting.

Well, if you're gonna have a cake, you may as well go all the way. Just don't do it too often.

This is a pretty decadent cake. Rich and fudgy and tastes like chocolate rather than sugar. Which is really what a chocolate cake should be.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake
(adapted from a recipe on

3 oz. semi-sweet baker's chocolate
1 cup hot brewed coffee

2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar

3 eggs + 1 extra yolk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (shaken well)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare two, 9" cake pans by greasing them and lining the bottoms with a greased round of wax paper.

Preheat the oven to 300º F (149º C)

Chop up the chocolate and, in a medium-sized bowl, pour the hot coffee over it. Leave it to sit, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is all melted and smooth.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the cocoa powder in a measuring cup to sift it and then whisk it into the flour mixture.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until creamy yellow and fluffy (I used an electric mixture for a couple of minutes). Beat in the buttermilk, followed by the vegetable oil and then the vanilla extract. Add the coffee/chocolate mixture, making sure to scrape any chocolate smear from the sides of the bowl (waste not!) Mix thoroughly.

Beat in the sugar and start folding in the flour/cocoa mixture, a little at a time. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about an hour (until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean)

Cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes and then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

Ice with ganache frosting and enjoy in moderation!