Tag Archives: baking

Low sugar baking #2: End of summer plum cake

I’ve been spurred out of my posting lethargy by the realization that this recipe will soon be out of season (may be on its way out right now, even). Last Saturday morning I went out with a friend along a nearby run/bike/hike trail and it was starting to feel decidedly fall-like–gray sky and a tinge of moisture in the air. But enough of the weather. Plums.

This recipe evolved from a wonderful pear cake recipe that I first discovered several years ago. I started off by tweaking the batter (wheat germ! less sugar! maybe some other things…), but stuck with the original fruit of pears. This year, when plums started showing up at the market, it occurred to me that they might be a perfect substitute for pears. When I went back to look up the original pear cake recipe while writing this post, I saw that it has started life as a plum cake, so…there you go. Plums are indeed, substitutable for pears, in some instances. I changed up the spices I had been using a little too, adding a little of the mixed spice (aka Christmas pudding spice) that M. loves. Most of the sweetness in this cake comes from the plum juice seeping into the batter as it bakes, and the batter itself has just a few spoonfuls of sugar. While I normally shy away from the idea of labeling sweet baked goods as “healthy enough for breakfast”, I think this recipe comes pretty darned close.

After I made this plum cake for the first time last month, I realized it was M.’s total first exposure, as he’d somehow missed all the previous pear versions. He sometimes objects to the use of whole wheat flour, so I thought he might dismiss this cake as a little too healthy. Fortunately, my fears turned out to be baseless–maybe the mixed spice?

Lower Sugar Plum Cake
makes one shallow 10″ cake

Ingredients
1/2 c. unsalted butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 tsp mixed spice* (see note below)
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
12 plums or Italian prunes, halved and pits removed

*Mixed spice is fairly similar to pumpkin pie spice, so you could substitute in a pinch. To make your own, combine a 3:3:2:1:1:1:1 ratio of allspice, nutmeg, mace, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and coriander.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease and flour a 10″ tart pan.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and milk. Gently beat the eggs into the mixture.

3. Combine the flour, wheat germ, mixed spice, baking powder, and salt.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3-4 batches. The batter should be fairly thick and even semi-solid.

5. Pour batter into tart pan and press fruit into the top of the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until cake is browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

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Sweet potato tartlets with gingerbread crust (vegan, gluten/grain free)

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Here’s a confession for you: I’ve not done much of anything to prepare for Thanksgiving this year. Instead of preparing a traditional holiday spread, M. and I will be heading off with a group of friends to do some camping up north(ish). Thanksgiving camping has become something of a tradition for us, though this is the first time we’re making it a group outing. We will for sure be having some good food, but there’s no way I’m lugging a turkey or even a few pies several miles through the “wilderness” to get to our campsite. So, no traditional Thanksgiving dinner for us this year!

Still, I’m not totally out of the Thanksgiving loop, and I would have to be living under a rock to have missed all the recipes floating around the internet, not to mention the pumpkin pie spice smells being pumped into the grocery store. While I love a slice of pumpkin pie as much as anyone, lately I’ve been feeling more drawn to its neglected Southern cousin, the sweet potato (or really, yam) pie. And thus, these sweet potato tarts came into being. The gingerbread crust is something I’ve been fascinated with every since I was introduced to the concept five or so years back. This version is both vegan and gluten/grain free, relying on soaked almonds to form the base material. Molasses and a hefty dose of ginger, plus a few notes of cinnamon and cloves finish things off. The filling is also relatively low on sugar: sweet potato and two dates is all you need!

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Sweet potato tartlets with gingerbread crust

makes 12 tartlets (I used a 1.75″ diameter, like this tin)

Ingredients
For the crust
1 c. almonds, soaked overnight and drained
1 T molasses
1 T ginger
1 T coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves

For the filling
1 c mashed sweet potato
1 T ground flax seed
1 T almond milk
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Deglet Noor dates (I use the Hadley brand, they seem to be pretty solid–nice and moist!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. In a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade, combine all crust ingredients. Process into a thick dough/paste. A slightly “grainy” consistency from the nuts is fine, but there should not be large nut chunks.

2. Grease a mini muffin pan and start oven preheating to 350F. Press dough into muffin cups. Bake for 12 minutes.

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3. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Using the same food processor (you should scrape out any large amounts of leftover crust, but a few smears clinging to the side are no big deal), blend together the filling ingredients.

4. Fill the muffin cups. I find this step works best if you fill an icing bag with the filling and pipe it in.

5. Bake for another 12-14 minutes, until filling is just barely beginning to brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

To remove from pan, gently slide a knife around the top edge of each tartlet. They should then be ready to pop right out.

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Nut-stuffed Baked Apples (vegan-izable, gluten free)

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Last weekend, I went to the market and bought a bag full of Granny Smith apples to make today’s recipe. Then I went to the library and finally jumped on the Nigel Slater bandwagon, checking out a copy of Ripe. I’ve been seeing references to Slater around the blogosphere (Lottie+Doof seems to be particularly, and charmingly, in love with him), and when I noticed that he authored a good many of the recipes I was bookmarking over on BBC food, well…it just seemed like a sign.

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Despite what that last paragraph may have you thinking, this post is actually not about something I baked from Ripe. Nope, on Saturday afternoon I first got busy in the kitchen. Then I sat down to peruse my new literary/culinary find while the heavenly smells of apples baking slowly filled the air around me. For those of you unfamiliar, Ripe is a cookbook devoted to fruit (plus a nut or two). Each chapter is devoted to a different fruit, and the chapters proceed alphabetically. Meaning that I was reading about apples and smelling them at the same time. When the apples came out of the oven, I paused reading long enough to snap a few photos, then switched over to reading about apples while eating one. And the very first recipe I turned to when I sat back down at the table with my baked apple? Why, one for baked apples, of course. As food experiences go, it was bordering on the profound.

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My version of baked apples was conceived as an attempt to make a “healthy” alternative to the apple pie my father bakes on special occasions, something suitable for more regular consumption. I skip the pastry crust and leave the apples whole, coring them and stuffing with a spiced blend of almonds and walnuts. For those of you used to seeing apples spiced with cinnamon, the choice of cloves may seem a little odd. It’s taken straight from the recipe Dad uses, out of his classic 1970’s era copy of Cookery the Australian Way, and should be tried at least once. If you aren’t sold, you can go back to cinnamon. But I bet you won’t want to go back.

P.S. Ripe so far looks absolutely amazing and I am just itching to try some of the recipes. Perhaps this weekend I’ll buy another bagful of apples to experiment with.

Nut stuffed baked apples
makes 8 apples

Ingredients
8 Granny Smith or other tart cooking apples
3 tbsp coconut oil (for a vegan version) or butter
1/2 c. raw almonds
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 tsp. cloves

Method

1. Using a small paring knife, cut a cone out of the top of each apple, then cut out the core and seeds, leaving a small hole all the way through:

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2. Start oven pre-heating to 400F. Place 1/4 c. almonds in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process to a fine meal, then add the remaining 1/4 c. almonds and 1/4 c. walnuts. Pulse 4-5 times, coarsely chopping the just added nuts.

3. In a small, microwave safe bowl, microwave the coconut oil/butter for 20-40 seconds, until melted. Stir in the cloves. Add the nuts to the oil/butter and clove mixture, and stir until evenly incorporated.

4. Arrange the apples in a baking dish. You can also place each apple in a muffin tin, or get fancy and use individual little ramekins. Spoon the nut mixture into the hollowed out cores of the apples.

5. Bake for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of the apples and the desired level of softness. We generally like them super soft and will bake for around 35 minutes, but I’ve had large apples need a little longer. Remove apples from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Blackberry Lemon Blondies

Blackberry Lemon Blondies

Five or six years ago, I was flipping through my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance and discovered a recipe for raspberry chocolate chip blondies. For a while, they became my go-to baked good. I made them for potlucks, meetings, or just because. Then I stopped making them for a while (I think having to remember to get a container of soy yogurt frequently tripped me up). I was thinking of those blondies nostalgically recently, and one thing led to another:
Continue reading Recipe: Blackberry Lemon Blondies

Recipe: Cheddar and Rosemary biscuits (gluten-free)

What to do when you’re making a verrrry simple soup supper that needs some dressing up? Make a batch of cheesy, herbed biscuits, obviously:
 
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Yum.
 
Continue reading Recipe: Cheddar and Rosemary biscuits (gluten-free)

Recipe: Almond Biscuits with sun-dried tomato and basil (Gluten free, paleo)

We’ve been experimenting with gluten free eating lately, and I was craving a savory treat. I created these little drop biscuits to serve with a late brunch, to make sure the meal carried us through to dinner.
 
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Continue reading Recipe: Almond Biscuits with sun-dried tomato and basil (Gluten free, paleo)