Pumpkin Spiced Walnut Bread

I like to trick (and treat) myself into being healthy. I feel less guilty about eating chocolate chip cookies late at night if at least my breakfast is nutritious.  Pumpkin is rich in fibre, potassium, iron, vitamins A and E. But possibly even more important is the fact that the pumpkin in this loaf, coupled with the Thanksgiving bounty spices, makes early mornings feel like a holiday. What’s more I get to savour all the pumpkin, spicy goodness of pumpkin pie without the icky, squishy, jelly-like consistency. Sorry, I have an aversion to pumpkin pie filling. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to apologize. I just don’t like the texture.  But the flavourings are totally Fall and utterly up my alley. So let’s turn a negative into a positive and bake bread instead.

Will stay moist for days, wrapped well in the fridge.

Will stay moist for days, wrapped well in the fridge.

Pumpkin Spiced Walnut Bread – Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Position a rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 inch or 8 cup loaf pan. Or fit with a sheet of parchment paper as securely into the pan as possible, no need to grease it.

Whisk thoroughly:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Combine in another bowl:

1/3 cup milk or water

½ teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil

Gradually add and beat on high speed until lightened in colour and texture, about 3 to 4 minutes (These are approximate measures for sweetness. The original recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup of brown and white sugars but I dialed back the sugar):

About ½ cup brown sugar

About ½ cup honey

Beat in 1 at a time:

2 large eggs

Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula to make sure honey is incorporated.

Add and beat on low speed just until blended:

1 cup pumpkin puree (unsweetened, not pumpkin pie filling. Can also substitute cooked, mashed squash, yams or sweet potatoes)

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with milk mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

Fold in:

½ cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans

½ cup raisins or roughly chopped dates

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Position a rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 inch or 8 cup loaf pan. Or fit with a sheet of parchment paper and no need to grease it.

Whisk thoroughly:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Combine in another bowl:

1/3 cup milk or water

½ teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil

Gradually add and beat on high speed until lightened in colour and texture, about 3 to 4 minutes (These are approximate measures for sweetness. The original recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup of brown and white sugars but I dialed back the sugar):

About ½ cup brown sugar

About ½ cup honey

Beat in 1 at a time:

2 large eggs

Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula to make sure honey is incorporated.

Add and beat on low speed just until blended:

1 cup pumpkin puree (unsweetened, not pumpkin pie filling. Can also substitute cooked, mashed squash, yams or sweet potatoes)

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with milk mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

Fold in:

½ cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans

½ cup raisins or roughly chopped dates

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Keeps for a week, well wrapped in the fridge. Also freezes well after it’s baked. Just thaw in fridge for up to two days before slicing.

Advertisements
Posted in Sweet | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chocolatiest Brownies

These are the real deal brownies. The ones you dream about. Classic, fudgy and oh so chocolately. They mix up in the snap and the recipe makes enough for sharing. Though I’m pretty greedy so I’ve been known to keep them all for myself and make an extra batch for a friend. The instant espresso powder “is almost imperceptible, but its presence gives the chocolate flavour a turbocharge,” according to Dorie Greenspan in her Baking cookbook. And because I’m a salty sweet addict I pump up the salt to 1/2 a teaspoon. But you can dial it back to your own taste. These are so sweet, salty, fudgy and nutty that they don’t need icing.

I would start with one and see how you feel. Two might be overkill.

I would start with one and see how you feel. Two might be overkill.

Chocolatiest Brownies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 ounces bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional but really yummy)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or foil. If using foil, butter it.

A kitchen towel wrapped around the bowl will prevent water from getting into the mixture.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the butter in the bowl, top with chopped chocolates and stir occasionally until the mixture is just melted. Don’t let it get too hot or the butter will separate. Make sure not to get any water into the bowl or the chocolate might seize. You can tie a large kitchen cloth as a bib around the lip of the bowl to ensure no moisture accidentally drips into the chocolate/butter mixture. Remove thebowl from the pan of water.

With a whisk stir in sugar. Don’t worry when the smooth mixture turns grainy. One by one, quickly mix in the eggs. Add the vanilla and give the mixture a vigorous whisking before gently stirring in the espresso powder, if you are using it. Also gently stir in the flour and salt. Stir only until incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in chopped walnuts.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is dull and a thin knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer pan to rack and cool to room temperature.

When the brownies are cooled you can invert them onto a rack, peel away parchment or foil and turn them right side up onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares and trim the borders a scant 2 inches on each side if you’re super meticulous. Of if you’re like me and enjoy the crispy edges, do not trim. Yum!

Posted in Sweet, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken With Red Potatoes

I’ve gotta be honest. This may be the best chicken I’ve ever made. Unfortunately, the photo of a perfectly golden bird with crispy brown skin never materialized. And that’s because the two times I made this chicken I was on my own with my toddler, Elijah, and at some crucial point in the crisping process I was distracted by screaming or howling or general tomfoolery. It’s amazing I got the bird cooked at all. So please don’t let my terrible photo deter you. This chicken is amazing.

Not the most beautiful chicken but this recipe has major potential.

Not the most beautiful chicken but this recipe has major potential.

I’ve always wanted to spatchcock a chicken but never had the guts or the sharp kitchen shears. Well I got cocky and decided removing the backbone from a chicken could be done without said tool. Just a sharp chef’s knife. And voila! Success. Roasting a chicken flat just seems more efficient. The heat gets at all the meat at roughly the same time and the skin gets just as crispy on the legs as it does on the breast. Being a white meat only girl I have to confess (sorry Kevin and Elijah) that I always spend extra time buttering the breast skin when I roast a chicken whole rather than the legs. And the breast given it’s horizontal orientation always takes the butter better. But with a flat chicken everybody wins. Crispy skin for all! Unless of course you screw it up like I did — twice. I have faith in you. Give it a try.

Spatchcocked Chicken with Potatoes — Adapted from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  You should check out her blog. I made Elijah’s first birthday cake from her Monkey Cake recipe and it was a smash.

A chicken – the variety is up to you. Will taste better and be better for you if it’s organic but it’s fine to use the supermarket variety if that’s all you have. 3 to 3 1/2 pounds fits well in a 12 inch cast iron skillet but you can use a bigger chicken and another type of pan, though cooking times will vary.

salt and pepper to taste OR about 3 tablespoons of Kevin’s all purpose rub

1 1/2 pounds small potatoes or as many as will fit in the pan, any baking variety. Cut into quarters.

2 to 4 whole cloves of garlic peeled (These get roasted and yummy but if you don’t like garlic leave them out)

2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil for potatoes

Half a lemon if using salt and pepper method

1/2 cup Kevin’s Memories of T-B-Q Sauce if using rub method, this is for serving

Preheat over to 450 degrees.

Using sharp kitchen shears or a chef’s knife remove the backbone of the chicken and freeze it, saving it for stock or makes a good soup bone. Run your knife along the spine, just to the side of the pope’s nose and follow the backbone all the way down. Do the same on the other side, holding the chicken tightly.

Season the cavity with Kevin’s all purpose rub or salt and pepper. Turn the chicken skin side up and plop into skillet or roasting pan. Wipe dry with paper towels. Season skin with rub or salt and pepper.

A small chicken fits perfectly

Rubbed and ready to go into the oven.

My potatoes were bigger than I would have liked so I cut them in quarters so they’d cook at the same pace as the chicken. Shoot for about a chestnut size. Toss potatoes and garlic with the rub or salt and pepper and the oil or butter. Scatter potatoes underneath and around the chicken.

Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thigh registers at least 165 degrees. At about the 20-minute mark take a peek in the oven and if the chicken is getting too brown, especially on the wing tips, cover loosely with a piece of foil. You can even cut a small piece of foil and loosely put it over the breast, letting the legs brown.

Transfer potatoes, garlic to serving dish. Cut chicken into pieces on a cutting board and arrange on platter. If you only used salt and pepper rather than the rub, squeeze half a lemon over dish. If you used the rub, serve with Kevin’s Memories of T-B-Q Sauce.

Posted in Savoury | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Banana Chocolate Jolt Breakfast Bread

Moist and cakey breakfasts for the whole work week.

Moist and cakey breakfasts for the whole work week.

I’ve been horrible. I’ve been eating naughty foods, nary a fruit or vegetable to be found on my plate for days. I had a bunch of legumes for lunch, but the chickpeas were doused in masala and cradled in a pillowy blanket of fried dough.

So as penance I’ve baked a nutritious  breakfast, which freezes well and can be easily transported to work and munched quickly near a keyboard and mouse. I figured the only thing that is staving off obesity is my habit of healthy morning meals often baked in double batches, ready to go each psychotically harried morning, with a second helping frozen for the following week. This concoction is based on a recipe from one of my indispensable cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking. The unusual mixing method produces a tender, cakey, moist loaf with hardcore banana flavour. To make it my own, I’ve added even more banana and some good morning goodies, like cranberries and a shot of instant espresso powder. I figured eating your coffee while drinking it is sure to wake you up. Also the espresso powder makes the cocoa taste even more chocolatey. And it’s a good way to use up overripe bananas, which I store in the freezer for spur of the moment banana bread hankerings. Also I’ve omitted the butter (sacrilege) to make it healthier, avoiding the saturated and artery-clogging fat. I’ve also replaced half of the sugar with honey, known to be slightly better than refined sugar given its trace amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. Cinnamon, nutmeg, dried fruit and coconut round out the saintliness. See. I told you I was trying to be healthy.

Banana Chocolate Jolt Breakfast Bread

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Grease a 6 cup loaf pan or cover it with parchment paper, which makes for an easy cleanup.

Whisk thoroughly in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups flour — you can use white all purpose, but given my lust for healthiness I used about 1 cup white and 1/2 cup brown flour.

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl or mixer beat on high speed for about 3 minutes:

5 1/3 tablespoons of canola oil

1/3 cup white or brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

Beat in the flour mixture until just blended and the consistency of brown sugar.

Gradually beat in:

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Then peel and mash about 3/4 cups bananas in a small bowl. It amounts to about 3 large bananas. I used 2 large and 2 small frozen bananas which I thawed in the microwave for about 45 seconds, peeled and squished with my hands.

Mix into bananas:

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Fold in until just combined using rubber spatula:

Banana mixture

1/3 cup cranberries

1/3 cup sweetened dried coconut – optional (Sorry coconut haters. Since I started this blog I’ve eaten more coconut than I ever have in my life. Suddenly I’m obsessed with the stuff). Walnuts or pecans would also be a good substitute.

Scrape the batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake until a knife inserted in centre comes out clean. About 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. It really depends on your oven. Start checking at the 55-minute mark.

Let cool in pan on a rack or directly on granite counter top for about 10 minutes. Safe to unmold at this point and eat. If storing it for later munching cool on counter for at least an hour before refrigerating in a container with tight-fitting lid. Stays moist and tasty for a week in the fridge or freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in fridge beginning on Saturday morning and should be defrosted come Monday.

Posted in Sweet | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corniest Corn Muffins

corn muffins, butter

You don’t really NEED the butter, but you know you want it .

Sure the end of summer is super sad. But at least sweet, yummy, tender corn is in season. A couple of weeks ago we were awash in a sea of niblets. My son Elijah loves the stuff and can chomp through two ears at one sitting. So we usually keep some shucked and saran-wrapped grocery store corn in the fridge just in case. Then my husband’s brother Jimmy handed off another 12 ears of the farm fresh variety. So we had corn recipes on the brain and in our bellies and here’s one of them –  Dorie Greenspan‘s Corniest Corn Muffins from her James Beard award-winning cookbook, Baking.

She says you can make these with frozen or canned corn, but fresh is really best. These easy, hand-mixed creations have a straight from the farmer’s field wholesomeness that I don’t think would be possible with preserved corn. And it’s easy, rather messy, but so worth cutting the fresh kernels off the cob. What’s more, shucking the corn is a two-year-old’s dream. It’s simple for them to pull off the green jackets and Elijah always glows with a sense of accomplishment afterwards.

To free the kernels from the cob, grab a sharp knife, stand the cob up on its base in a shallow-sided bowl and position your knife at the base of the niblets, just below your fingers, which are holding the cob gingerly at the top. Then run the knife straight down, turn the cob and do it all again. You’ll get the hang of it after the first couple of cuts. Once you’ve liberated the kernels I always run the back of my knife down the cob a few more times to squish out the sweet corn milk, which you can add to batter with the niblets.

Corniest Corn Muffins — from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

6 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking power

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons corn oil

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 cup corn kernels (Add up to 1/3 cup more if you like). Fresh or frozen or even canned; if canned niblets should be drained and patted dry.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Butter, spray or line 12 muffin cups in a regular-sized muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

He he I'm making muffins.

He he I’m making muffins.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and with a whisk or rubber spatula gently but quickly stir to just combine. Don’t worry it’s supposed to be lumpy. Stir in corn niblets. Make sure not to over mix. Divide evenly among muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops are golden and a thin knife or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Transfer pan to a rack or a teatowel covered counter. Let cool 5 minutes before carefully removing muffins. Slather with butter or eat as is. Best served straight from the over or warm up leftovers in microwave for 20 seconds.

These muffins can be frozen after they are baked. Wrap them tightly and freeze for up to 2 months. Rewarm in a 350 degree F oven.

Posted in Savoury, Sweet | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superhero Angel Cake Fit For An 80-year-old

My mom Theresa is a superhero. She raised my sister and I solo after my dad died. I was just shy of a year old, my sister was about eight. She had to go it alone in a new country, one she had only called home for three years. We were very poor, but always well fed, tidy and somehow she still found a way to spoil me whenever she could.

So when she turned 80, I vowed to make her the most delicious cake I could find. She requested coconut flavour but the rest was up to me and my husband Kevin. He picked an angel food cake, stocked up on all the ingredients, then promptly left to take our son Elijah to the park. Yikes. It was daunting at first but if you don’t deviate from the recipe, it’s totally worth the effort. The texture is ethereal, yet moist. The crumb is tender. The whipped cream frosting is the perfect topper, with a lightness that mimicks the feather-like insides. And it makes a very dramatic entrance with its sky high tallness. The butter fanatic that I am was first offended by the recipe’s complete absence of fat. And I was downright petrified of its 12 whipped egg whites. But trust me. If I could pull it off it can’t be that hard. And if you’re not into coconut, just omit it. I’ll give some other flavour options at the bottom of this recipe.

Happy 80th birthday Mum. Sophie and Elijah look hungry.

Happy 80th birthday Mum. Sophie and Elijah look hungry.

Basic Angle Cake – Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Egg whites should be cold. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have a well washed ungreased 10 inch tube pan ready. I used one with a removable bottom. I highly recommend it.

Not to terrify you, but the minute the cake is removed from the oven it will start to fall. So when it’s baked, invert it immediately. Yeah you heard me right. Turn the sucker upside down in the pan to prevent it from collapsing. Turn four glasses upside down or four cans and rest the pan on them.

Sift together 3 times.

1 cup sifted cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, beat on low speed for 1 minute.

1 1/2 cups cold egg whites (about 12 large whites)

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional and can be replaced other flavourings, see bottom of recipe)

Increase the mixer speed to medium (not high) and beat until mixture increases in volume 4 1/2 to 5 times and resembles a bowl of slightly translucent soft foam composed of tiny bubbles. This takes anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. The foam will hold a very soft, moist shape when the beaters are lifted. Beat in gradually (on medium speed), 1 tablespoon at at time, taking 2 to 3 minutes:

3/4 cup of sugar

When all the sugar has been added, the foam will be creamy white and hold soft, moist, glossy peaks that bend over at the points. Do not beat until stiff. This is really important because you do not want to beat until hard peaks, otherwise the cake may fall.

Egg whites

This is how the egg whites should look for soft peaks.

If you’re using a stand mixer with a high-sided bowl, it’s best to transfer the mixture to a wide bowl with low sides. It’ll be easier to fold in the flour.

Sift in a fine layer of the flour mixture (about one-eight of the the total) evenly over the surface of the batter and gently fold with a rubber spatula just until the flour is incorporated. Do not stir or mix. Repeat 7 more times, folding in the final amount of flour until no traces are visible. With the final addition of flour add:

1/2 cup  sweetened shredded dried coconut (optional)

Make sure to mix from the bottom of the bowl up so that no flour is lying in wait underneath the batter.

Pour the batter into the pan and tilt or spread to level the top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or long skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Invert immediately on glasses or cans. Cool completely for at least 1 1/2 hours. Frost with whipped cream and top with  about 1/4 cup sweetened shredded dried coconut.

Cool

Whipped Cream

Best to chill your bowl and beaters ahead of time. Beat until thickened 1 cup cold heavy cream. To sweeten, add 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons sugar, or 1 to 4 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar, or  two teaspoons honey. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Coconut Angel Food Cake

Other flavourings:

Lemon or Orange Angel Cake – substitute 1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract for coconut extract. Stir 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or 2 tablespoons grated orange zest into flour mixture.

Cocoa Angel Cake – substitute 1/2 cup unsifted unsweetened cocoa for 1/2 cup sifted cake flour. Dissolve 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder (optional) in the water. You can also add 6 tablespoons finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate into batter with final addition of flour.

Posted in Sweet | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Shrimp Curry with Coconut

My sister Audrey offered to make this tangy, creamy, yummy, coconutty (if it’s not a word, it should be) shrimp curry. She says it’s super easy. Funny. It doesn’t taste it. Forget takeout. If you make it for your friends and family they’ll think you’re a Bollywood superstar, who can cook. It was just for grownups, but my 2-year-old niece Sophie ate quite a bit and insists that it isn’t spicy. The part that floored me was the amount of coriander she used…about 1/2 a cup chopped….but it didn’t overpower it. It just made the end product brighter. If you don’t like coriander just leave it out, but it kind of makes the dish. I know it’s one of those flavours you either love or loathe. I hated it as a child, but love it now. Like I said it just blends into the overall deliciousness. So live a little. And you can leave out the two green chillies if you can’t eat as hot as a two-year-old.

 

Shrimp Curry with Coconut

Serves 5 adults and 1 toddler

1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, fresh or frozen and thawed, deveined

1/2 can diced tomatoes

2 medium onions, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece ginger, grated

2 large green chillies, slit and leave whole

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (just because 6 fresh cloves isn’t enough!)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed

6 cardamon ponds, shelled

2.5 to 3 tablespoons cream of coconut (it’s in a box on a shelf in the West Indian section of the supermarket. Not coconut milk.)

1/2 cup chopped coriander, just leaves and tender stems

———————————————————–

In a mortar and pestle grind mustard seeds and cardamon until fine.

In a medium-sized pot on medium heat add olive oil and saute onions until soft.

Add green chillies and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then add garlic and ginger. Fry and cook and until fragrant.

Add ground spices and fry until oil comes to the top or separates. You can add a tablespoon of water if it sticks. This is an important step so don’t rush it. Frying the spices intensifies the flavour.

Add diced tomatoes and cook until thickened.

Add shrimp and cook for no more than 10 minutes. In last five minutes add chopped coriander and creamed coconut. Taste the curry after shrimps are cooked. If it’s too spicy you can add more creamed coconut.

Serve immediately with basmati rice

Shrimp Curry with Cococut

Posted in Savoury | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment