Thursday, 18 December 2014

Homemade Almond Paste {Paleo, Refined Sugar Free}

For those of you on the marzipan/almond paste bandwagon, this one is for you. The topic of this delicious treat may have bakers and baked-good-eaters alike to take sides, but I am all for it. For those of you marzipan haters, more for me! Almond paste is so versatile. You can stuff chocolates with it, make cookies, cakes, pies, tarts and you name it out of it. Almond paste differs from marzipan in a few ways. The paste contains no rosewater and has less powdered sugar than its firmer, whiter cousin, marzipan.  I made mine with a hint of rosewater however, since I think the flavour compliments the almonds and almond extract.

Making almond paste is super easy, requires very little time and has barely any cleanup! The best part is, you can control how much / what type of sugar goes into it. The paste keeps in the fridge for about a month and up to 6 months in the freezer, so long as you've wrapped it nicely. Use this paste in your next baking project and you'll never go back to buying it from the store!

Almond Paste {Paleo}

1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar** (see quick recipe below!!!)
1 organic egg white
1 -2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp rosewater, optional to taste
pinch of himalayan salt

Method

First off, you need to make your own powdered sugar. Take a deep breath, it's easy! Using a Vitamix or super powerful food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups of your choice of sugar (I used a mix of maple sugar and evaporated cane juice) and 2 -3 tbs arrowroot powder. Blend on high until the mixture turns to powder. Let the sugar settle, then blend again to ensure that there or no bigs chunks of sugar left. All done! You will have about 2 cups of powdered sugar :)

In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups almond flour with your powdered sugar. Blend until the mixture looks like fine white sand. (Can you tell I need a vacation?) Add in almond extract, salt and rosewater if using. Pulse 3 -5 times. Add in egg white and blend until the mixture forms a big ball. Store in plastic wrap in the form of a log, ball, or shape of your choosing.

Delicious Egg Nog {Paleo}

Egg Nog is an essential part of December, no questions asked. I don't drink much of it, but come December, I need a glass or two and a plate of crisp ginger cookies to get me in the holiday spirit. Throw in a touch of rum and a fireplace and you're set! Nog is easy to make, but if you take the time to hunt down some quality ingredients I promise it will be worth it! I used raw milk and and raw cream, which made it super thick, creamy and fresh. Whipping the egg whites makes it even more of a treat, as it lends a light fluffy texture to the thickness of the milk.  Almond milk helps cuts the denseness as well and adds a nutty flavour that compliments the nutmeg. Play around with the spices and sugars, as different levels and types of sweeteners will all yield equally delicious yet different results!




Egg Nog {Paleo}

4 organic eggs, divided
1 1/2 cup raw grass-fed milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup raw grass-fed cream
1 tbs coconut sugar
2 tbs maple sugar
1-2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Rum, to taste ;)

Method

Beat your yolks until they've lightened in colour, about 2-3 minutes. Add in sugar and mix until combined. 

In a medium saucepan, combine almond milk, spices, extract and raw milk. Bring the mixture to just below a boil and then turn off. Allow to cool slightly, then add into egg yolk mixture in small levels, so you don't cook your eggs! 

In a separate bowl, whip your raw cream until it thickens. Don't bring it to the point of whipped cream, but get it almost there. Fold that into your yolk/milk mix and allow to cool in fridge. 

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until foamy. Add in another tsp or two of sugar if desired. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into chilled milk mixture. Let sit in fridge to allow flavours to blend. And of course pour yourself a little taster glass on the side!



Friday, 5 December 2014

Pear Apple Cranberry Crisp Spiced with Nutmeg {Paleo, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free}

It's officially December. This has many different meanings for many different people, but for me, it means great company and even greater food. My oven is now on practically on at all hours of the day as I crank out cookie after cookie and all other types of sweet treats. Once in a while I do take the time to cook main courses too, although those images and recipes never quite make it to the final copy of these pages.

We had a few friends over for dinner the other night for a "just because" kind of get together. Since we have pescatarian friends the spread was an array of veggies, salmon and of course, grass fed beef. To finish, I had an assortment of cookies that have been churned out of my kitchen in the past few days along with a fresh and delicious crisp. All in all, it was a nice quiet evening.

I love crisps so much no matter what time of the year it happens to be. To me they are a great way to feature seasonal and local fruit and play up their flavours with a little spice. Since we're reaching the tail end of pear season in Vancouver, I decided to use some beautiful pears and pull out one of the dozens of bags of cranberries I have frozen away. (Imagine two garbage bags full of fresh cranberries, then picture how that would look in Ziploc bags stuffed into two different deep freezes.) I added an apple for texture and moisture and because I found a nice one at the market. Toss all of that with a little melted butter, cinnamon, coconut sugar, homemade vanilla and some freshly grated nutmeg and you have a fall/winter crisp. I topped it with a mix of shredded coconut, almond flour, slivered almonds and butter to make a crisp yet tender crust, almost like a cookie. The finished product is a tribute to the start of winter, from the red and green colouring of the fruit to the aroma of the nutmeg and vanilla. Finish it off with dollop of ice cream, whipped cream or coconut cream to really get into the Christmas spirit!


Pear Apple Cranberry Crisp Spiced with Nutmeg

Filling

2 pears (I used Anjou) sliced into 1/2 - 2/3 in. pieces
1 crisp apple (I used ambrosia) sliced into 1/2 - 2/3 in. pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries (homemade or unsweetened)
3 tbs coconut sugar
2 tbs melted grass-fed butter
1 tbs cinnamon
1-2 tbs nutmeg, depending on taste
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp arrowroot powder, optional

Crust

7 tbs grass fed butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
3/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup slivered or shredded almonds
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a large bowl, combine diced pears and apple with berries.  Add in melted butter, tossing until coated. Sprinkle in,sugar and spices and mix until well incorporated. Transfer to a glass pie dish.

In a food processor (or by hand if you want to roll like that), combine cold butter with coconut, almond flour, sugar and spices. If mixing by hand, the almonds can be added in at any time.

Once combined, add in almonds and pulse a few more times.

Sprinkle mixture over top of spiced fruits and then press into pan to create a uniform crust. Try not to let any of the fruit peak out, as it ruins the seal of the crust and will not allow the crispy crust to form.

Cover top of crisp with tin foil, or a pie shield, then bake for 25-35 minutes. For the last 10-15 minutes, remove the foil to let the crust crisp up without burning. Remove and let cool before serving.






Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies {Grain-Free, Gluten-Free}

When the weather gets nippy and the leaves are no longer crunchy, I crave cookies. Well honestly I crave cookies all the time, but come late November I get a hankering for rich buttery cookies or deep dark chewy cookies spiced to perfection. I'm embarrassed to admit how long I will spend wandering around downtown looking for a cookie worthy enough to be consumed with a pot of tea or a cappuccino, so instead I'll just pretend that that doesn't happen on the regular and that I simply buy a cookie and be done with it.


Ginger cookies are a pretty big deal in my family. My grandma makes some stellar ginger molasses cookies, which rival her delicious whipped shortbread. They disappear pretty quickly when we receive that tin of treats in the mail. They are however, stuffed with flour, tons of sugar and sulphured molasses. (But I eat all of them anyways!) My version will satisfy any chewy ginger cookie craving, without the white sugar or flour! They still crinkle, have deliciously crisp edges and they're still oh so chewy on the inside. Promise.


I do warn you though, these are not for the faint of heart. The final addition of the powdered ginger / sugar mix makes them fantastically gingery (and oh so pretty), since I like em gingery and deeply spiced. Follow the amounts of spices and don't be afraid to add a little more! The flavours blend well together with the molasses, making them a spicy treat to be enjoyed next to a roaring fireplace with a piping hot cup of tea. Or, in a less fantasized world, just eat em right off the tray!

Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies

Makes 13 cookies

1 cup slivered or sliced almonds (toasted if you prefer deeper flavour)
2 tbs salted grass-fed butter, melted
3 tbs coconut palm sugar
1 pastured egg  @ room temp
1/4 cup + 1 tbs non-sulphured molasses (organic preferably)
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
3/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tbs fresh grated organic ginger

For crinkle cookie rolling:
2 tsp ginger
2-4 tbs sugar of choice ( I used a mix of maple sugar and evaporated cane sugar)


In your blender or food processor, blend slivered or sliced almonds until they become butter. Add in melted butter and sugar and blend until combined. Add in molasses and egg and pulse until just blended.

In a separate bowl, blend dry ingredients until well mixed. Add to wet mixture and processes until combined. The mixture should be a dark and thick paste. Taste to ensure deliciousness. If spices are right, transfer dough to a bowl and freeze for 1 hour. (do not miss this step!!!)

Once the dough has been cooled, it will be quite sticky, but you can use a spoon to pick up your dough balls. Preheat your oven to 350 (be mindful my oven is hot so I cook everything at 320-330) Using your spoon, grab about a ping-pong sized amount of dough and roll it into a ball. Drop into the ginger sugar and roll.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat mat. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8-9 minutes. Watch as they begin to melt into little crinkled delights and be careful not to let them burn! Remove from oven and let cool on tray for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Cookies keep at room temperature, in the open, for 3-4 days. They taste even better the next day!  **Note, if kept in an airtight container, they tend to lose their crisp edges**

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I'm finally getting used to fall. I've equipped myself with some comfy sweaters, some chunky scarves and a wicked pair of black leather booties. I'm set. Since the weather here has confined me to the indoors for the most part, my kitchen has been put to good use in the last few weeks. Thanksgiving came and went, Halloween slipped right past and now suddenly everything is Christmas! I am nowhere near ready for that. So to keep the fall spirit going, the next few recipes are going to be filled with everything I love about fall baking. Christmas cookies can wait!

Caramel apples used to be one of my biggest weaknesses. Every trip to the fair warranted a candy apple, no questions asked. In recent years, spending time with my cousin Sam, who is practically my sister, meant that every time we passed a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory meant we were getting caramel apples. As of late, my caramel sweet tooth has faded, but these sweet treats are a healthier (and tastier, if I do say so myself) little blast from the past that makes for a fun fall afternoon with friends. The caramel in this recipe can be (and will be!) used for many other recipes and treats to come, but this small batch makes 2-4 apples. The addition of the vanilla bean makes for a more mature adult caramel, as the seeds pop and give the caramel texture and flavour that generic corn syrup and vanilla extract can't really compete with. So call up your friends and make sure to have them bring a boat load of toppings to create fun crunchy apples! Happy Caramel Appleing :) 


Special Equipment needed * Candy Thermometer

Paleo Caramel

(Covers 2-4 apples)

3/4 cup coconut sugar
5 tbs coconut milk (not just the cream, but thick is ok)
1 1/2 tbs  grass fed butter
1 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
3 tbs honey
Vanilla bean, split and scraped


In a small sauce pan, mix all ingredients. Place over medium-high heat and stir until mixture is bubbling and boiling. Reduce head to medium and attach candy thermometer. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the caramel reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat and pour into a small glass bowl.  

If using immediately, let the mixture cool until the bubbles have settled and the caramel has thickened. Roll apples in caramel and extra goodies if so desired. Let set on parchment paper. 

If using caramel later, caramel keeps uncovered at room temp for 2 days.  To reheat, place the glass bowl in a saucepan filled partially with water over low-medium heat. Caramel will soften in a few minutes, making for easy apple dipping. 

*Optional topping combos*

English Toffee - Chopped slivered almonds, chopped dark chocolate 
Tiger - Dip in dark chocolate, then swirl white chocolate on top
Coco-Caramel - Tip bottom of caramel apple in shredded coconut,  roll sides in chocolate shavings



Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sweetened condensed milk {paleo & vegan}

I wish I could say I was a fall girl. I'm not a fan of the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte, I don't care for cranberry sauce and I honestly hate wearing pants. I am a beach loving, flip flop wearing, bathing suit and dresses kind of girl.  For me, fall is saved by chunky scarves and sweaters, crunchy leaves and the sudden demand for baking anything and everything that is rich, intensely flavourful and sweet. I'm all for that.

Since it happens to be that time of year again, I figured I would share a simple staple in my fall baking supplies; condensed milk. As a kid, I was one of the weird ones who loved sweetened condensed milk. Licking the back of an Eagle Brand lid was heavenly. Gross, I know, but there was something delicious about it back then. Now I won't touch the stuff, so I figured I would try my hand at making my own.  Condensed milk is useful for many fall and winter recipes, including pies and coconut macaroons. To date this recipe has worked wonders for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars and coconut macaroons. Once chilled, it turns into a thick pudding, making it a good base for creme brulees or simply to be eaten on its own. It could easily take the place of yogurt in a recipe or simply be used to thicken a recipe that calls for milk or buttermilk. I've tried making it with coconut sugar and xylitol (for a friend who cannot use any other kind of sweetener in her baked goods) and both have worked just fine, although I prefer the caramel flavour that the coconut sugar lends to the milk. Keep this recipe in your back pocket when making your deliciously rich goodies this fall and feel free to let me know what else you're trying!

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk {paleo & vegan}

1 can Arroy-D Coconut Milk (Do not use light coconut milk or coconut cream)
2-8 tbs coconut sugar, or other sweetener like honey, maple syrup etc, depending on sweetness. (Note: if using Xylitol, use 1-2 tbs as it is extremely sweet. It also thickens faster)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, do not discard pod

In a small pot, mix all ingredients, including the scraped vanilla bean.

Bring mixture to a boil and let bubble for 20-30 seconds. Reduce heat to low. Mixture should be bubbling slightly, but not quite at a simmer.

Leave on low for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally and scraping down the sides as needed.  Mixture will reduce to half or even less of original amount.  Remove from heat when desired thickness is achieved. (1 hour = runny when cold, 2- 3 hours = thick pudding when cold) Discard vanilla bean.

Transfer to glass bowl or jar and refrigerate. Enjoy as is or use as a replacement for traditional sweetened condensed milk.



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Autopiloting and a tasty case of identity crisis {Chewy Chocolate Pecan Brownie Cookies}

Do you ever find yourself on autopilot? We all do it in some way, shape or form. For some, it's doing a repetitive motion at work or school without even having to think about it. For others, we do it when we drive. You know, when you start at point A and suddenly find yourself at point B with no real recollection of how you got there. Scary stuff eh? For me, I turn my autopilot on when I drive and bake. Double threat right there. I constantly find myself driving to work and arriving without remembering much of the drive. Sometimes, when I am supposed to be driving to one of the pools that I work at, I find myself instead en route for the gym, my boyfriend's house or another pool. It's pretty dangerous when you think about it!



As for my autopilot baking adventures, I'd say they can be pretty dangerous too. Take this weekend for example; it was Thanksgiving and I had lots of work to do for the dinner we were going to host. I was making three pie crusts; two gluten free hazelnut sablee crusts and one regular old fashioned wheat. What did I make instead? The fantastically tasty and confused recipe I am about to share with you. I swear it started off innocently enough; one minute I was making pie dough, the next I looked down and I had made brownie cookie dough in my food processor. Oops. My bad.

Even though my unconscious desire to bake cookies ran rampant, everything else turned out great, including the dinner and delicious pies that I topped with some homemade salted caramelized hazelnuts. All other delicious meals aside, these accidental delights are the real winner of my baking adventures this weekend.  After a couple recipe tests to ensure their awesomeness, I can't quite decide what they are. They're fudgy and chewy like a brownie, yet hold together and melt down as they bake as cookies tend to do. The addition of the pecan crumbs simply adds another level of mystery to the tasty problem at hand. Quite the identity crisis don't you think? Taste them for yourself and then call them what you want, but these cookie/brownie treats are bite-sized examples of autopiloting adventures at their finest!


Chewy Chocolate Pecan Brownie Cookies

Makes 12

1 cup slivered almonds
2 tbs almond flour (use 1 tbs less for even chewier cookies)
2 tbs arrowroot powder
1 tbs honey
3 tbs coconut sugar
1/4 cup dark 70% chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tbs butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder + 1tbs
1 egg
1/2 tsp Soda 
pinch of Salt
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
Dark chocolate pieces, or round drops of couverture, for decorating 

In a food processor, pulse pecans until they are very small crumbs. Set aside. (or chop them, and then stubbornly refuse to give up, like I did the first time)

Place slivered almonds in food processor and blend until they turn into butter, 5-8 min. 

Melt chocolate double boiler style while almonds are processing. 
Once almonds have turned to butter, add honey and pulse, then add the butter and chocolate then pulse to combine. Add the rest of the ingredients, minus the dark chocolate pieces, and pulse until just combined and dough ball forms.

Transfer to small bowl and place in fridge or freezer for at least 20 min. Preheat oven to 350 while you wait.
When ready, roll out your dough into 12 even balls and roll each one in the pecans to coat. 

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet with enough room for spreading. Place your thumb in the centre of each cookie and press lightly, creating an indent. 

Bake for 6-8 minutes, until cookies have spread and cracked on top, but are not fully cooked. Remove from heat. Immediately place dark chocolate chunks in the middle of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Once finished decorating, transfer cookies to a wire rack or cooler surface and let cool. 











Cookies keep covered and at room temperature for 3-4 days.