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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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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.

P1080154 (1)P1080147

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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