2014 Chocolate Kings Cake With Crumble

A very traditional cake we usually do every Christmas in Greece & Cyprus with a chocolate twist! The King Cake (Vasilopita in Greek or galette des rois in French),  is a New Year’s Day cake which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are attached to Epiphany or to Christmas.

On New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various symbolic people or groups, depending on local and family tradition.  In older times, the coin often was a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a prearranged gift, money, or otherwise, to be given to the coin recipient.

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INGREDIENTS:

VASILOPITA:

  • 250 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
  • 400 g. butter
  • 300 g. brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bulb fresh ground nutmeg
  • 400 g. almond powder
  • 10 eggs
  • 175 g. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Decorative nuts and bonbons

ALMOND CRUMBLE:

  • 125 g. butter
  • 150 g. brown sugar
  • 30 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
  • 125 g. flour
  • 50 g. almond powder

METHOD:

  1. Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter in the microwave.
  2. In a bowl add the eggs and beat with a hand blender or whisk.
  3. In another pan , place the melted chocolate with the butter , add the brown sugar , cinnamon, cloves , nutmeg , the almond powder , beaten eggs , flour and lastly the baking powder.
  4. Mix well and pour the mixture into a 28cm diameter tin, with a built bottom foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 170 degrees C for 30 minutes and at 160 degrees C for another 30 minutes.

FOR THE ALMOND CRUMBLE :

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  2. In a bowl add the butter, brown sugar, almond powder and stir briefly with an electric mixer.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and flour, continuing to stir.
  4. Take it out of the bowl and roll it out into a thin sheet of thickness 3 mm with a roller pin and place it in the fridge.
  5. When frozen cut a disc diameter smaller than the hoop of the Kings Cake.
  6. Cover the surface of the almost cooked cake with the crumble and continue baking for 15 minutes until the crumble is cooked.
  7. Garnish with decorations of your choice .

Brown Butter Ginger Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

makes ~5 dozen

  • 5 cups flour
  • 4 tspn baking soda
  • 2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Tbspn ground ginger
  • 1 tspn ground cloves
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1/2 cup brown butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbspn molasses
  • 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger (bigger pieces are better than smaller)

METHOD:

  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Stir the eggs and molasses into the butter mixture.
  4. In two stages, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix until combined.  Stir in chopped ginger
  5. Let the dough rest, covered in plastic-wrap, in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  7. Remove dough from freezer.  Shape the dough into small spheres, about an inch and a half in diameter.  Place the dough spheres on silpats, parchment paper, or a greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Press down lightly–but only enough to keep the dough spheres from rolling.  Do not press the cookies flat!
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until firm.

White Peach and Olallieberry Walnut Galettes

INGREDIENTS:
makes six individually-sized galettes, ~5 inches in diameter

for pastry:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tspn sugar
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 12 Tbspn butter
  • 4 Tbspn cold water

METHOD:

  1. In a food processor or using a pastry cutter, mix the flour, sugar, and salt to combine.
  2. Cut in the butter to the flour mixture until it is the size of peas.
  3. Gradually add the cold water and pulse just until a dough begins to form.
  4. Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.

for filling and baking:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Tbspn flour
  • 2 Tbspn + 1 tspn sugar
  • 1 lb. firm and ripe white peaches, thinly sliced (~4 medium white peaches)
  • 2 heaping Tbspn light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbspn + 1 tspn cornstarch
  • 6 oz. olallieberries
  • heavy cream, for brushing on galettes
  • turbinado sugar
  • apricot jam

METHOD:

  1. Place a baking stone in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 205 degrees C.
  2. In a food processor, grind together the walnuts, flour, and 2 Tbspn of sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the peaches, brown sugar, and 1 Tbspn of cornstarch. Toss to coat the peaches and set aside for at least ten minutes. Set aside.
  4. In another small bowl, combine the olalliberries, remaining 1 tspn sugar, and remaining 1 tspn cornstarch. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the pastry into 6 six-inch circles. Pat down about 2 Tbspn of the ground walnut mixture in the center of each pastry circle, leaving about 2 inches of a border.
  6. Drain the fruit thoroughly. Arrange the sliced peaches on top of the ground walnut mixture in the pastry crusts and then top with berries.
  7. Fold the sides of the galettes over the fruit by rotating and pinching the dough.
  8. Brush the exposed dough on top with heavy cream and sprinkle the entire galette generously with turbinado sugar.
  9. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from baking stone and oven and place the galette on a wire cooling rack.
  10. Warm the apricot jam and brush a thin layer over the fruit and top of galettes. Let the galettes cool a bit before serving, though they are best enjoyed warm with a scoop of maple nut ice cream on top. Galettes can be re-warmed in a 190 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Tip: When using fresh fruit, it’s important that your peaches are ripe but firm–soft peaches will release too much liquid. Also make sure to drain the fruit as directed in the recipe to avoid soggy galettes.

INGREDIENTS:
makes ~1 quart

for ice cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy or manufacturing cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 Tbspn sugar
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (the darker the better)
  • 1/8 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. Place cream in a bowl with a fine mesh sieve on top. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks until light. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and sugar. Bring to a bare simmer.
  4. Whisking constantly, pour a small but steady stream of the heated milk into the egg yolks to temper. Do this slowly, while whisking quickly. Once the milk and egg yolks are combined, return to the saucepan and to the stove.
  5. Heat the egg yolk and milk mixture while stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so that nothing burns or sticks. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about one minute. Remove from heat immediately.
  6. Pour the hot creme anglaise through the strainer into the cream. Stir to cool and then stir in the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract.
  7. Chill the mixture thoroughly. Meanwhile, make the walnut mix-in.

for walnut mix-in:

  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbspn dark amber maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then chopped coarsely
  • large pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. In a saucepan, cook the maple syrup until it comes to a full boil.
  2. Stir the walnuts into the maple syrup and return to a full boil.
  3. Remove the walnuts from heat and let them cool completely.
  4. Freeze the ice cream mixture in your ice cream maker of choice. freeze it in your ice cream maker of choice.
  5. In the last minute of churning, add the walnuts to the ice cream. Alternatively, fold the walnuts into the finished ice cream before returning the ice cream to the freezer.

Almond & Stanford Citrus Marmalade Crostata

INGREDIENTS:
Three Citrus “Stanford” Marmalade
makes ten 8-oz. jars
Note: make sure to allow two days for the marmalade process.

  • 5 lbs of citrus, total:

~2 lbs grapefruit
~1 1/2 lbs oranges
~1 1/2 lbs lemons

  • 5 lbs sugar
  • 5 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

METHOD:
Day 1: Fruit Preparation

  1. Starting with the grapefruits, cut each fruit in half and squeeze and strain the grapefruit juice. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator. Place the grapefruit halves in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Discard the liquid and repeat the boiling and simmering once more. After draining, cover the grapefruit halves again with enough cold water so that the fruit floats freely in the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and keep at a lively simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring periodically, until the grapefruit is fork-tender. Remove the pot from heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.
  2. For the oranges, juice each half and add the juice to the grapefruit juice. Slice the oranges. Place the orange halves in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Discard the liquid and repeat the boiling and simmering once more. After draining, cover the orange slices with one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and keep at a lively simmer for 1-2 hours, until the oranges are fork-tender. Remove the pot from heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.
  3. For the lemons, slice each lemon thickly. Place the lemon slices in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Drain and discard the liquid. Return the lemon slices to the pot and cover with one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and keep at a lively simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, until the lemons are fork-tender. Remove the pot from heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2: Marmalade

  1. Place a few spoons on a plate in the freezer. Place clean jars and lids on a baking sheet and bake at 120 degrees C for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Strain the grapefruit halves from the liquid, reserving the liquid. Over a bowl, scoop the insides out of each grapefruit, scraping to remove excess pith around the insides. Strain the flesh and pith, reserving the juices and adding them back into rest of the cooking liquid. Discard the remaining solids. Cut the grapefruit into thick slices.
  3. In a large bowl, mix to combine the grapefruit, oranges, lemons and their cooking juices with the sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and reserved grapefruit and orange juices. Transfer the mixture to a 11- to 12-quart pot with a wide mouth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook at a rapid boil for at least 25 minutes. Do not stir until the mixture starts foaming. Then stir slowly to prevent burning. Test for doneness once the marmalade starts to darken slightly.
  4. To test for doneness, remove the pan from the stove. Retrieve a spoon from the freezer and scoop a small amount of liquid. Return the spoon and sample of jam to the freezer for a few minutes. Once cooled, hold the spoon vertically. If the marmalade does not run off the spoon and is thickened to a jelly consistency, the marmalade is done. If not, return the pan to the stove and continue to cook for a few minutes more before testing again.
  5. Jar the jams in the sterile containers. Return the jars to the oven for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool, being careful not to disturb the jars during this time. The jars should seal while cooling.
Almond and Citrus Marmalade Crostata
makes one 6 or 7-inch crostata

  • 1 3/4 cups (245 gr) AP flour
  • 1 cup (100 gr) slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 9 Tbspn butter, cold and in chunks
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tspn almond extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • marmalade (~ 1 1/4 cups), recipe above
  • heavy cream
  • turbinado sugar

METHOD:

  1. Combine the flour, almonds, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor. Process until the almonds are finely ground.
  2. Cut the butter into the almond mixture using a pastry cutter or the food processor until the size of small peas.
  3. Add the egg, egg yolk, almond extract, and lemon zest. Process just until a dough begins to form.
  4. Remove the pastry dough from the food processor, form it into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tart pan.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into thirds. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The bottom should be slightly thicker than the edge crusts. Fill the tart with a thin layer of marmalade. Roll out the remaining dough to about 1/8-inch thick and cut into strips. Lay the strips in a lattice on top of the marmalade.
  7. Brush the top of the crostata with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes, until the crust begins to turn golden brown. Do not let it darken too much. Remove from the oven and let cool until room temperature before cutting.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake:
  • 130g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 100g peanut butter (I used crunchy)
  • 45g unsalted butter, soft
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 75g (1.5) eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75ml buttermilk

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 150g dark chocolate (approx 72%)
  • 125ml double cream
  • 25ml buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

To finish:

  • small handful of peanuts (I used salted)
  • approx 1 tbsp cocoa nibs

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and flour a 6″ cake tin (double all ingredients for a 9″ tin or two 8″). Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.
  2. Weigh the peanut butter, butter, caster sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together, beating for about 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg in small splashes, beating very well in between. When the egg is incorporated, clean down the sides then add half the flour. Mix on low speed until the mixture starts looking uniform, then add the buttermilk in a steady stream. Once you’ve added all the buttermilk, take the mixture off the stand mixer. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula.
  3. Transfer to the prepared tin and level. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be removed cleanly from the middle. Leave in the tin for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. When the cake is totally cool, split it into two or three layers with a serrated knife.
  4. To make the ganache, chop the chocolate up into small chunks and place it into a bowl. Put the double cream, buttermilk and brown sugar in a small pan and warm over a medium heat. When it starts to steam, pour over the chocolate, pushing all of the chunks into the liquid. After a few moments start stirring in the centre, slowly incorporating the rest of the liquid until you have a thick, glossy ganache. Leave to cool for a few minutes to thicken slightly.
  5. Place the layer that was the top of the cake upside down on the serving plate on top of some strips of parchment paper. Smear some ganache over the layer, then add the next cake layer. Repeat for the next layer if you cut into three. Cover the cake with a thin layer of icing – a masking coat – then put in the fridge to chill. Finally cover the cake with a full layer of ganache, trying not to overwork it. Arrange the peanuts and cocoa nibs on top of the cake for contrasting crunch.
  6. Best served at room temperature, though it keeps well covered in the fridge for a few days.

(Makes approximately 8 slices)

Peaches with Ginger, Pecan & Brown Sugar Cake

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 8″ round cake
for ginger-pecan cake:

  • 1 cup (140 gr) All purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (60 gr) toasted pecans, finely ground
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 30 gr (1 oz) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 cup (200 gr) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. If desired, use bake-even strips.
  2. Whisk together the flour, toasted and ground pecans, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer bowl, combine the grated ginger, brown sugar, and butter. Cream on medium until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the whole milk. Beat well after each addition, but do not overmix.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spatula if necessary. Bake for ~60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.

for brown sugar frosting:

  • 2 1/2 Tbspn All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup (50 gr) dark brown sugar
METHOD:
  1. Combine the flour and milk in a small saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the mixture thickens considerably. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy and the sugar is no longer grainy. Beat in the flour and milk mixture.
  3. Spread over cake.

for topping:

  • 2 large peaches, sliced

METHOD:

  1. Arrange the peach slices atop cake.

Cognac-Caramel, Pecan, and Pear Pudding Cake

INGREDIENTS:
for poached pears:

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbspn sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tspn cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 mini pears

METHOD:

  1. In a small pot, combine the water, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the pears and hollow out the seeds using a melon baller from the bottom end.
  3. Poach the pears in the simmering water until fork tender all the way through, about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pears.
  4. Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside.

for cognac caramel:

  • 2 Tbspn butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 tspn coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cognac

METHOD:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the brown sugar and coarse salt. Cook until the sugar has melted.
  3. Slowly add the water to the sugar and bring to a bowl. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the cognac. Set aside.

for pudding cake:

  • 6 Tbspn butter
  • 2 oz. pecans, toasted and finely ground
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar, optional
  • heavy cream, optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
  2. In a small saucepan with a light-colored bottom, melt the butter. Cook over medium heat until the solids in the butter drop to the bottom and brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Solids will continue to brown as it sits.
  3. Combine the ground toasted pecans, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together lightly beaten eggs and brown sugar. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Slowly add the brown butter, making sure to incorporate it fully into the liquid.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two stages, combining thoroughly. Do not overmix.
  6. Divide the batter amongst the six ramekins/mini cocottes. Pour the cognac caramel over the batter, diving amongst the six ramekins. Place a single poached pear in the center of each ramekin, pressing down into the batter. Batter should reach the near the top brim of the cocotte.
  7. Bake for ~30 minutes, until the tops of the cakes are dry and a toothpick insert 3/4 of the way in the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from oven and let cool at least five minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar or heavy cream.

Backyard Apple and Walnut Cake

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 9 x 3″ round cake

  • 975 g (~9 – 10) small apples
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup + 5 Tbspn (297 g) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 90 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour the insides and bottom of a 9 x 3-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment paper round. Wrap the outside of the pan with bake even strips (see note).
  2. Using a mandolin, very thinly slice two of the apples. Arrange the slices on the parchment paper at the bottom of the cake pan, starting from the inside and working outwards.
  3. Finely grate the remainder of the apples, resulting in about 600 g of grated apple. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, whisk to combine the whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking powder, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the grated apple until combined. Add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat briefly until combined, but do not overmix. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  6. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Use the back of a spatula to gently press the batter into the apple slices on the bottom and to smooth out the top. Tap the bottom of the pan gently on a counter to release any air bubbles.
  7. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden brown and just beginning to pull away from the edges, and when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove the cake from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 15 minutes, until the pan is cool enough to touch. Run a sharp, thin knife along the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a plate, remove the pan and parchment round. Let cool completely.

Note regarding bake even strips: Normally, I’d say that bake even strips were optional, but because this cake will be flipped on its head, a flat top is preferable. If you don’t have bake-even strips, try using a 9 x 3-inch springform and trimming the top before flipping the cake over.

Note regarding peeling apples: For the sliced apples on top of the cake, I prefer to leave the skins on so that there are borders to the design on top of the cake. Just make sure to use a mandolin to make very thin slices so that the peels don’t get chewy. For the grated apples inside the cake, I left the peels on because the apples are finely grated and a teeny bit of peel doesn’t bother me much. If you’d like a smoother texture, you can peel these apples first before grating them.

Oatmeal Caramel Bars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 32 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped OR homemade caramel (recipe below)
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream (omit this if you’re making homemade caramel)
  • 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats (quick or old fashioned, or a mixture)
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or Dark Chocolate chopped)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the caramels and heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth (or make homemade caramel using the recipe below).
  3. Line a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter until well blended.
  5. Press a little more than half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Reserve the rest.
  6. Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over everything.
  7. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20-22 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted.
  8. Allow to cool completely. Pull the entire thing out of the pan using the edges of the foil/parchment.
  9. Cut into squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
Caramel
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. In a large heavy saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Once it’s boiling, clip on the candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 110 degrees.
  2. Remove pan from heat, carefully add vanilla extract and stir. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and set aside while you prepare the bars.
Note: If you decide to use this homemade caramel, you’re likely to end up with a little extra caramel to eat on the side.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee, Coconut, and Walnuts

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (or 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toffee bits–use recipe below or use store-bought
  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or macadamia nuts

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 135°C.
  2. Combine ½ cup raisins with hot water in a food processor and blend on high speed for about 1 minute or until very smooth.
  3. Combine raisin puree with the vegetable shortening, butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour dry mixture into the wet and mix just until combined.  Stir in the toffee bits/chunks, coconut, and walnuts.
  5. Roll 3-tablespoon-sized portions of dough in your hands and press to 1/2 –inch flat on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Leave about 1 ½ inches between dough discs.
  6. Bake at 135°C for 18-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
If you like the idea of the white chocolate & Craisin version, omit the toffee, coconut, and walnuts; and add 1 cup white chocolate chunks and 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries (aka Craisins).
Toffee
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper or non-stick foil. Set pan on a cooling rack or stovetop. (You will be pouring the lava hot sugar into this later, so you want to make sure it’s on a heat-proof surface.)
  2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 150°C on a candy thermometer. Stir in the chopped almonds, and immediately pour into the prepared pan. Allow to cool completely. If you’re in a hurry, pull the parchment paper/foil out and place directly on a cooling rack. The glass pan retains heat and causes the toffee to cool more slowly.
  3. When completely cool, break apart into about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch pieces.
  4. You will probably end up with more than 1 cup of toffee in the end. Store the remaining  bits in an air-tight container and use in another recipe or for ice cream topping, or just as it is.

English Toffee

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds or macadamia nuts (roasted unsalted)
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds or macadamia nuts (roasted unsalted)
  • 3/4 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 9 ounces chocolate, melted and tempered (Milk Chocolate)

METHOD:

  1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper (I suppose the non-stick foil might work as well…). Spread coarse nuts in bottom of pan. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 150°C on a candy thermometer. At that point immediately pour and spread over the nuts. Allow to cool 5-6 minutes.
  3. With a bench scraper, cut toffee while it is still soft into 16 pieces. Allow to cool to the touch, and break apart. Set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Over a double boiler, melt chocolate until it is 2/3 melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Place finely chopped nuts in a shallow pan.
  5. Using two forks, completely coat each piece of toffee with the chocolate. Toss in the finely chopped nuts until coated. Return to parchment paper to cool and set.

Makes 16 yummy chunks.

Note: An easier alternative to coating individual pieces is to just pour melted chocolate over the cooled, uncut toffee and sprinkle with nuts. Then when the chocolate has set, break toffee into pieces.

Dark Chocolate Stout Brownies

Image

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled with new water
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour or all purpose
  • 2 1/4 cups raw sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of stout beer, such as Guinness (or water)
  • 1 cup nuts or chocolate chips, optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Return the black beans back to the can and fill with water.  Puree the beans and water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, coffee power, salt and baking powder.  Add the black bean puree, vanilla and stout to the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.  Don’t over mix.
  4. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through. They should be almost firm in the center.
  5. Let brownies cool completely then cut into 24 squares.

Blonde Nanaimo Bars

INGREDIENTS:

Bottom

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (digestives)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Middle

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Custard Powder / instant vanilla pudding powder
  • 3 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Top

  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted white chocolate for garnish (optional)

METHOD:

Bottom

  1. Line a 9×9″ square pan (or I like to use a rectangular 7×11″ pan) with parchment paper. You may need to spread a tiny amount of butter on the bottom and around the edges to get the paper to stay in place.
  2. In a 150 C oven, toast the coconut and pecans on a cookie sheet until toasty brown and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally during that 10-15 minutes because they tend to brown around the outside first.
  3. Beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In the top/bowl of a double boiler over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup butter with the brown sugar. When butter is melted, stir vigorously (but carefully) until the butter and sugar come together. Once the butter and brown sugar are completely mixed, whisk in the egg until mixture is thick. This should only take a minute or so.
  5. Remove top of double boiler and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and pecans. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in refrigerator while you prepare the middle layer.

Middle

  1. Beat the butter, custard powder, and cream/half&half until mixed. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar. Once powdered sugar is incorporated, beat filling until it is light and creamy.
  2. Remove bottom layer from refrigerator and spread this middle frosting evenly and smoothly over the top (I use an offset spatula, but if you don’t have one, I’d recommend you use a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon).
  3. Return pan to the refrigerator until the middle layer is firm, at least one hour.

Top

  1. In the double boiler over medium heat, melt the white chocolate and vegetable/canola oil. When it’s 3/4 melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
  2. Remove pan from the refrigerator again and pour and spread melted white chocolate over the top. Drizzle with the 1 1/2 tablespoons melted white chocolate, if that’s what you’re doing.

Finishing

  1. This is where it gets tricky, and I’ll have to try this again, but this is what I recommend. Return the pan to the refrigerator for 4-5 minutes. When chocolate on top looks just set, cut into 20-24 bars. Return pan to refrigerator for chocolate to completely set, about 30 minutes.
  2. Carefully pull bars out of pan by the parchment paper, which may rip. Then you just carefully remove the bars and plate them for serving.

Makes 20-24 small bars.

Mango Snack Cake

Mango Cake

Mango Cake

INGREDIENTS:

Serves 8

  • 2 mangoes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar (aka raw sugar, sub white sugar)
METHOD:
  1. Preheat oven to 180. Slice and peel the mangoes. Place mango flesh in a food processor or blender and puree for 10-20 seconds (I like to leave some chunks in it).
  2. Combine mango puree, sugar, and egg in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add flour and baking soda and stir until just combined. Pour into a small baking dish (8×8 or comparable). Bake for 20 minutes or until just barely set.
  3. Remove from oven and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Turn on broiler and return to oven for 5-8 minutes, watching the sugar so it doesn’t burn. It should turn a golden brown color and melt into a shiny top layer. Remove from oven when the top is golden brown all over and let cool for 15 minutes. Top with butter, just because.

Espresso-Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Espresso-Bourbon Caramel Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

METHOD:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, cream, and corn syrup and stir until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat, whisk in the bourbon and espresso, and set aside until slightly cooled, about 20 minutes. Before serving, whisk the sauce until smooth.

Banana Lumpia with Coconut Caramel Sauce

banana lumpia

banana lumpia

banana lumpia

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 small bananas
  • 20 fresh lumpia wrappers
  • 1-2 cups oil for frying
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • water

METHOD:

  1. Pour the coconut milk into a medium saucepan over low heat. Heat until bubbling slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and stir until smooth. Thicken the sauce to your desired consistency by keeping it at a low boil and stirring very frequently. I kept mine on the heat for almost 30 minutes. It thickens slightly as it cools, but you should be able to see it thickening in the pan as well.
  2. Steam the lumpia wrappers for a few minutes to soften them and make them easier to pull apart. I just held mine over the top of the steaming sauce pan for a few minutes.
  3. Peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthwise. Place the banana on the lumpia wrapper. If they are still too long to fit inside your lumpia wrappers, cut the ends off or cut them in half again. Dip your fingers in water and run them along the edge of the lumpia wrapper to make them easier to fold. Fold the top and bottom over the banana, and then roll it sideways, sealing the banana inside and using a little more water to make the wrapper stick together.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan over low heat. When water sizzles across the top, add the lumpia, a few at a time, and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g (9 oz) blackberries, washed
  • 500g (1 lb) cooking apples, cored and cut into chunks
  • 25g (1 oz) soft brown sugar
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) butter
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 75g (2½ oz) porridge oats
  • 50g (2 oz) plain or wholemeal flour
  • 40g (1½ oz) brown sugar
  • 40g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, cubed

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C/356°F/gas 4).
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the apples and sugar, stirring over a low heat until the apples are soft. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and gently stir in the blackberries and cinnamon and place the mixture into a pie dish.
  3. To make the crumble, rub the oats, flour, sugar and butter together in a bowl until well mixed. Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown.
SERVING SUGGESTION
  • Serve warm with cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.