Spiced Plum cake

By February 23, 2017 bread, desserts

Ikea has long been one of my favorite places to shop. Though the nearest one to our Cleveland area home is more than 2 hours away, I still make a trip there occasionally. When we visit my sister, in New Jersey at Thanksgiving, we all make the annual pilgrimage the next day, to the Philadelphia store. So, if you were to visit our home, you might decide that it is a sort of homage to Ikea, as our dining table, buffet, bed, dressers, not to mention many of our dishes, were purchased there over the last 25 years. And, needless to say, we never leave the store without visiting the food market.

So, the holidays are long gone, and I still have a few things left over. One of them is a half bottle of Glögg Saftglögg. Inspired by a spiced plum sauce, I decided to create a simple recipe using dried plums (AKA prunes….) infused with this tasty juice. The result is a moist, mildly spiced, not too sweet loaf cake, perfect for breakfast coffee, afternoon tea…or, how about now!

1 cup pitted prunes, cut in half
1 cup Saftglögg
zest of one orange (preferably organic)

Put these 3 ingredients in a small pot, over a medium flame. Bring to a boil, lower flame and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat,  and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the following:

1/2 cup coconut oil (or unsalted butter, if you prefer)
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 eggs

In a small bowl, whisk or sift together:

1 1/2 cups all-purposr flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Stir this flour mixture into the sugar/egg/oil mixture until just blended. Take the prune sauce that you made earlier, and, using a rubber spatula, mash the prunes a bit. Fold them into the batter, along with:

1 cup walnut halves

and scoop it into the loaf pan, spreading it evenly into the corners of the pan. Optional: Sprinkle the top with a tsp or so of sugar and a few chopped walnuts, and place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until top springs back softly, when touched. Allow cake to cool slightly, before cutting into it.


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Einkorn Banana Bread sweetened with Dates

By January 24, 2017 bread, desserts, fruit

I have long been interested in using dates as a sweetener in baked goods, so I decided to try them out in my “go-to” banana bread recipe, from Martha Stewart’s Entertaining. This version is not as sweet as the original one, and has the lovely yellowish hue of einkorn. The dates contribute their flavor, as well as their sweetness and the coconut oil makes it deliciously moist. I like to eat it for breakfast, slathered with sunflower seed butter and just a bit of honey.

Mashed banana                         1 cup (about 1 1/2 bananas)
pitted dates                                1 cup plus 3 or 4 chopped ones for topping
eggs                                              2
coconut oil, melted                   1/2 cup  (or 50/50 butter/coconut oil mix)
whole milk plain yoghurt        1/2 cup
pure vanilla extract                   1 tsp.
einkorn all-purpose flour        1 3/4 cups plus 1 TBS  (7.5 oz.)
baking soda                                1 tsp.
salt                                                1/2 tsp.
ground nutmeg                          1/8 tsp.
ground cinnamon                      1/8 tsp.
walnut halves                              1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, soda and spices. Set aside. Place the banana and dates in the bowl of a food processor. Process until fairly smooth, with some flecks of date remaining. With a rubber spatula, scoop mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the eggs, coconut oil, yoghurt and vanilla. Gently stir in the dry ingredients, and then the walnuts.

Use the rubber spatula to transfer batter to a greased and floured loaf pan. Press it into the corners and smooth the top. Sprinkle the reserved chopped dates on top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on your oven and the dimensions of your pan. You can tell that the loaf is ready if it springs back when lightly pressed.

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Rice Pudding

By January 7, 2017 desserts

(also known as: riz au lait, risgryngröt, orez cu lapte)

Rice pudding is a comfort food, enjoyed in many countries. My family always had it at Christmas, along with some lingonberry preserve. A Swedish custom is to place an almond in one of the bowls of pudding. The person who finds it will be married in the next year.

1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water
a pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 cups half & half, plus extra as needed
1/2 cup plus 1 TBS sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk

  1. Place all of the first 5 ingredients in a medium size sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  2. Add the half & half, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rice absorbs most of liquid. This should take about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, so that it does
    not boil over.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in a couple spoonfuls of the hot rice to temper the the egg, then pour the mixture into the hot rice, and stir over low heat until it barely bubbles. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If pudding is too thick at this point, stir in 1 or 2 tbs of half & half  to loosen it up a bit. Pour into a bowl, cover and chill for 2 hours. Serve with lingonberry  or other tart preserve.



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Cornmeal Almond Cake with Mandarin Orange Syrup

By October 8, 2016 Uncategorized

This simple cake has its origins in other cakes found in Italy, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. They are typically made with flour and cornmeal or semolina, and soaked with various types of citrus or spiced honey syrups. This one is made with almond meal and cornmeal, therefore it is  suitable for gluten-free diets. I have made the original recipe a bit lighter in texture, by subbing whites for some of the whole eggs, whipping them and folding them into the batter.


milk                          8 oz.
butter                       4 oz.
fine cornmeal         1 cup
egg yolks                  2
sugar                         1 cup
egg whites                6
almond flour           1 cup
baking powder       2 tsp.
salt                            1/4 tsp.
cinnamon                1/8 tsp.
zest of two mandarin oranges – save the juice for syrup


zest of two mandarin oranges
the juice of the four mandarin oranges that you zested, plus enough orange juice to total 6 oz.
honey                         2 Tbs
sugar                          2/3 cup
ginger root                1” piece, peeled and cut in half
cinnamon                  1/4 tsp.
allspice                       1/8 tsp.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) and butter and parchment-line a 9” cake pan. If you have a glass baking pan, just butter it.

Put the cornmeal in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and butter together and gradually  pour mixture over the cornmeal, whisking to combine. Add about 1/3 of the sugar and the zest, and finally, the two egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, sift or w
isk together the almond meal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, begin whipping the egg whites. When a foam starts to form,  add the remaining sugar and whip until mixture forms stiff peaks.

Stir the dry mixture into the cornmeal mixture. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter in three additions. The first addition will nearly collapse in to the mixture, but will loosen it up in preparation for the next two additions. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

While cake is baking, make the syrup by combining all ingredients in a pan. Give it a quick stir and cook on low/medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep. When cake is ready, remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. If you have bake it in a parchment-lined cake pan, you will want to invert it onto a plate. But before you do this, use a sharp knife to trim the top to make it level.Then, simply run a table knife around the edge of the pan, place a plate on top, and flip it over. Remove the parchment, prick a few holes in the top of the cake and slowly pour the syrup evenly over the top. Allow cake to rest a few minutes (if you have the impulse control) before cutting into it.

If you have baked your cake in a glass or ceramic baking dish, you can leave it there. Again, though, you’ll want to trim the top of the cake, as it will have formed a skin, preventing the syrup from soaking in. Prick a few holes with the toothpick and slowly pour the syrup over. Enjoy!

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Basil Creme Caramel

By August 31, 2016 desserts

Creme caramel is a dessert that is pretty easy to make. I generally flavor it with vanilla and orange or rum, but today I decided to try infusing it with some basil. The result was a lovely, creamy custard with a subtle anise-like flavor. It can be made in a 1 qt. ceramic oven-safe dish or in 6 to 8 ramekins, depending on their size. For maximum creaminess, I suggest baking it in a bain-marie, or hot water bath. This will ensure that the custard bakes evenly and does not develop  a hard crust on the sides. So, find a pan that comfortably holds the dish or ramekins with a little room to spare for the hot water.

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whole milk                       16 oz.
fresh basil leaves             1 TBS
sugar                                  1/4cup (57g)
eggs                                     3
pure vanilla extract         1 1/2 tsp.

Heat the milk in a pan until it barely comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the basil. Leave milk to infuse for 10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk hot milk gradually into egg mixture. Strain mixture back into the pan and set aside.

for syrup:
sugar                                 3/4 cup  (150 g)
honey                                1 tsp.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Line up your ramekins, if using, or the 1 qt. dish. Make sure they are room temp, as this will help you later when you line them with caramel.

Pour sugar and honey into a shallow pan. Add a little water, give it a quick stir and begin heating until a syrup forms. You do not want this syrup to crystallize, and the honey helps prevent this. Also, try to resist stirring it now, as any sugar crystals that may have formed on the spoon could crystallize your syrup. So continue cooking the syrup, watching it carefully as it turns a dark amber color. Do not walk away, as once it begins to change color, it happens quickly. When it reaches that color, remove it immediately from the heat and pour it into the dish and (carefully, this stuff it really hot!) swirl it around to coat the base and slightly climb the sides. If you are making creme caramel for the first time, you might want to make it in one pan and save the ramekins for the next time, since they are a bit trickier to coat.


Pour your custard into your caramel-coated dish (or ramekins) and place it in the larger pan. Fill a teapot or other spouted pot with hot tap water and pour the hot water into the larger pan around the custard-filled dish, being careful not to splash the custard. Place in the oven and bake until custard is set around perimeter, but a bit wobbly in the center, 35 – 50 minutes, depending on dish/ramekin size.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in its water bath. Once cool, carefully remove dish from water, dry the bottom and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. it can be served directly from the bowl or inverted onto a plate. To do this, run a table knife around the edge of dish, place the plate on top, and turn them over together. The custard will slide out.


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peach blueberry crostata with einkorn flour crust

By August 27, 2016 desserts, fruit

I am intrigued with einkorn wheat flour. Its golden hue and nutty flavor add interest to any application. This ancient grain has several health benefits, such as a higher protein/starch ratio, it contains carotenoids and the structure of its gluten makes it easier for many people to digest than modern wheat. That said, I am not using these nutritional perks as an excuse to consume my new baked products with reckless abandon!

Ok, so now that I’ll get to the, shall we say, “challenging” aspect of einkorn. Because of its structure, einkorn flour does not behave in the same way as the modern wheat flour I’m used to. A dough made from it absorbs water at a slower rate, and is more fragile. Keep this in mind when mixing and, and when rolling out your pastry dough, you might want to consider using a floured pastry cloth to minimize sticking. I didn’t use one here, but I also did not try to roll it super thin. The egg in the recipe adds some leavening to it, so a slightly thicker crust is just as delicious. I also highly recommend investing in a dough (or bench) scraper to aid in transferring dough to pan. Once you have this handy tool, trust me, you will find many uses for it.

einkorn pastry

einkorn all-purpose flour                         2 cups (240g)
unsalted butter, cut into small cubes    1 stick
coconut oil                                                  2 TBS (28g)
fine salt                                                        1/2 tsp.
egg, pastured                                              1
cold water                                                   3 TBS (42g)

fruit filling

unsalted butter or ghee                            1 TBS
raw sugar                                                     2 TBS
crystallized ginger, cut into strips           1 oz.
peaches                                                         4 – 5 (about 800 g or 1# 12 oz.)
blueberries                                                   1/2 cup
einkorn flour                                               1 TBS.


using a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, coconut oil and salt until finely crumbled. slowly add the egg and cold water and pulse until it all comes together. empty it onto a floured spot on the table and knead gently into a disc. wrap in parchment and chill at least an hour, until firm.

Meanwhile, prepare your filling. Peel the peaches, if desired and cut them into thick wedges, about 5/half peach, depending on size of peaches. Next, warm a large skillet on medium heat, add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the sugar and crystallized ginger and cook briefly, until the mixture bubbles up. Do not burn! Now add the peaches. Let them brown a bit, before turning them gently. Stir in the blueberries and sprinkle the flour on top. Allow mixture to cool. At this point, you could refrigerate it and finish the tart the next day, as I did.

When you’re ready to bake your crostata, heat your oven to 400F. Take your pastry out and let it rest while oven is warming. You won’t want to assemble it until the oven is hot. Once the oven is hot, roll out your dough, carefully, adding flour to the rolling surface and pin, as needed, but try not to overdo. Place your tart pan on top of the dough and trace a circle,  2” larger than the pan. Carefully fold the dough circle in half, using the dough scraper, if you have one, and place it over the pan. Nestle it into the pan, spoon the filling over it, leaving out any excessive amount of juice that may have accumulated in the fruit mixture. This would only make the dough soggy.

Fold the edges of the dough over the filling and pop the crostata into the oven. Time it for 20 minutes, then check it to see how it’s doing. If the the crust is browning too quickly, lower the heat to 375. I also like to rotate the pan for more even baking. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 10 minutes and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

What to do with that extra dough that you cut from the circle? well, roll it out sprinkle with some seeds, coarse salt, whatever you like, and make some crispy snacks to eat with beer.


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By August 6, 2016 salads

Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are all in season now, and I happen to have some leftover bread. This happy coincidence calls for that marriage of toasted bread cubes with veggies, dressed out with a tart vinaigrette, fresh herbs and a finishing touch of grated aged cheese. This was our lunch today.

2 slices stale bread
1 extra large juicy tomato, chopped into cubes, about 1″
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, quartered cut into 1/4 slices
1/2 yellow pepper, cut into 1/2” dice
1/2 green pepper, cut into 1/2” dice
1 small onion, halved and cut into thin slices
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
handful of mixed herbs, such as basil, rosemary, parsley, minced

2 TBS  balsamic vinegar
4 TBS  good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1 oz. shaved Grana Padano or other aged cheese

Toast the bread slices and set them aside. In a medium sized bowl, assemble all of the veggies, olives and herbs. Cut the toasted bread into 1” cubes and add them to the mix. Shake the dressing ingredients in a lidded jar and pour over the salad. Use tongs or a couple of large spoons to toss everything together. The mixture should then sit a few minutes for the toast to absorb the juices. Toss again, and serve with a sprinkling of Grana Padano.

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fluffy einkorn-almond-blueberry pancakes

By July 29, 2016 pancakes and waffles

I am always trying to pack fiber into our breakfast fare, while minimizing its carb load. This recipe uses einkorn and almond flours to achieve these goals.

1 1/2 cups whole einkorn flour
1 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp coconut sugar (or honey)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium pastured eggs
1/4 cup good quality olive or avocado oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water

whisk all ingredients together and gently fold in 1 – 1/2 cups fresh blueberries. Heat a skillet and brush with coconut oil. Use a tablespoon to make smallish
pancakes. This is probably enough for 3 – 4 people. Freeze any leftovers to toast later.

My Favorite Mortar and Pestle

By July 26, 2016 Uncategorized

mortar and pestle

I love using this mortar and pestle for cracking hard spices like peppercorns and coriander seeds. This particular one comes from Romania, where it is known as a “piulita” (pronounced pee-u-leetza). The weight of the brass mortar packs some good cracking power when dropped onto the seeds, and the deep pestle cavity helps contain the little guys while you’re cracking them.


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Humus with Mint

By July 24, 2016 dips

When summer days get really hot, I just want to put mint in everything. So, why not in humus? This recipe is on the light side, the fresh mint is cooling. Just the thing for a hot day.

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 TBS sesame tahini
1TBS lemon juice
1TBS minced fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1/8 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, adding additional water, if needed. Scoop into serving plate, drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, if desired, and garnish with mint leaves.