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.

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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.