Holiday Kourabiedes – Walnut Sugar Cookies


Tis the season to learn of new traditions. When I first heard of these I couldn’t help but be excited.

Greek Kourabiedes are popular special occasion cookies. They are often served at weddings, christenings and of course, Christmas. You might also find them on an Egyptian cookie tray for the similar celebrations. There, they are called Kahk.

They remind me a bit of what a cross between a shortbread and a sugar cookie.
They’re simple, nutty AND they use some of my orange blossom water I coveted for recipes past.

Kourabiedes are subtle and not too sweet. The seasonal walnuts may be traded for almonds, but I love the combination of the bitterish walnut and bursts of salt with a hint of citrus and the warming, sweet and intriguing fragrance of orange blossoms. They’re perfect for the Holidays. I hope you try them.

KOURABIEDES – WALNUT SUGAR COOKIES

3/4 Cup Walnuts
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) (vegan) Butter, like Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup Confectioners Sugar, plus more for dusting
1 Tablespoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
2 Tablespoons Orange Flower Water

Toast the walnuts in a 350ºF oven, until golden brown, about minutes.
Pulse about 1/4 cup of the nuts in a food processor until finely ground.
Add the flour, baking powder, remaining nuts and salt. Pulse again to mix everything together and roughly chop the remaining nuts.
Meanwhile, beat the butter, sugar,  Cointreau, orange zest and vanilla extract together with an electric or stand mixer until and fluffy.
At a low speed, stir in the nut/flour mixture to make a crumbly dough. Bring the dough together with your hands (it IS crumbly). Flatten it into a disk, like pastry dough, and wrap it in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate dough for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone liner.
Unwrap the dough and cut into 20 pieces. Roll into balls between with your hands. Flattening to shape each piece into a round   disk.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the cookies are golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and lightly brush the orange blossom water over the tops of each cookie.
Transfer to a cooling rack and dust with additional confectioners sugar.

Strawberry Breakfast Cake


Seems late for strawberries, but this year the weather went from hot to cool and rainy then back again. It may leave me with not being able to pack my long pants away but at least I have more time to visit the strawberry field. Usually the year’s weather will determining the look (and taste) of the strawberries for the season, however this year they were all over the map. I suppose you could say, kind of like that weather.

The cooler sunny days seemed to make them smaller, sweet and abundant. Of course you won’t hear any complaints from me.

After picking several pounds of them, I naturally feasted, making full meals while hulling sinkside. I revisited my recipes of past years, I even shared a few baskets. With my last two pints in the fridge, I wanted some for snacking but I was also left craving something a little less sweet and perfect for a Sunday morning, or anytime. This is strawberry season of course.

STRAWBERRY BREAKFAST CAKE

1 Cup Self Rising Flour
1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Quick Oats
1/3 Cup Semolina
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 ½ Cups Soy Milk
1 Banana, well mashed
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest, about 1/2 an orange
1 Pint Strawberries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Prepare a 9” round cake pan with oil and a dusting of flour.
Hull the strawberries and roughly dice half of the pint, equally 1 Cup.
Slice the remaining strawberries and reserve for serving. Macerate strawberries in orange juice, sugar and Contreau, if desired and it’s brunch, not breakfast:).
In a large bowl combine the flours, oats, semolina, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
In a pourable measuring cup, mix the soy milk, mashed banana, oil and vanilla.
Add the milk mixture to the dry stirring just to moisten and combine.
Fold in the orange zest and chopped strawberries then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester can be removed cleanly from the centre of the cake.
Cool to remove from the pan and serve with reserved strawberries.

Celebrate Life With National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day



Who knew?

When I saw that reminder on Twitter, I couldn’t help myself but to think that I may not have been celebrating enough lately.
How about you?
Life a little busy? Preoccupied with everything?

I had a pineapple sitting, waiting for someone to enjoy it, so when I saw this, I just couldn’t help myself… plus I made it small. Perfect for date night or a celebration of one.

Every time I think of pineapple upside-down cakes, I think of my nana or some other 50’s era mom baking this for some backyard bbq but apparently this cake has been around for at least another generation than that. Either way, it’s quick, it’s retro and it’s fun.

Why not celebrate?


VEGAN PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

1/4 Cup Vegan Butter, like Earth Balance – softened
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Pineapple Juice
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Soy Milk
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut, optional
1/2 Cup Fresh Pineapple, thinly sliced, about 1/8″thick
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Lightly spray one 9 inch or two 4 inch spring form pans.
Evenly sprinkle over the brown sugar and fan out the pineapple slices in one layer.
Sprinkle over coconut, if using.
Meanwhile, cream the butter with the granulated sugar, then add the juice.
In a pourable measuring cup, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and stir.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter.
Pour the batter over the prepared pineapple pans, dividing batter equally, if using the two 4 inch pans.
Set pans on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes for the 4 inch pans and 40 minutes for the 9 inch or until a cake tester comes out clean from the centre of the cake.
Cool, invert and release from the spring form pan.

Oh, and just to be interesting, I made these cupcakelettes for the kiddies. Same idea, only easier.
Sprinkle of brown sugar on the bottom of the mini- silicone “papers” with a thin slice of pineapple.
Topped with the same cake batter, I just lessened the timing and baked these for about 12ish minutes.
Way more kid friendly and so fun for party popping.

Beautiful Restrictions


I was recently invited to attend a wedding celebration for good friends of ours.
Ecstatic, we did the usual most people do to prepare; plan a gift, get a new outfit, a hair do…
but you see I also had the pleasure of being asked to cater.

For the small gathering, I was asked to bring the desserts, only there were a few little catches.
Being vegan was a given, so any baked goods were to be egg and dairy free, but add a few more allergies and the offerings now needed to be gluten and nut-free too.

I am a girl who loves a challenge. And this day was to be all about love, wasn’t it?

I wanted to have a few selections, so I opted for small, and the mother of the groom suggested that it would be great if we didn’t need to cut cakes or fumble with too much extra cutlery. Small and quaint, that was the goal.

With weeks of research in, I gave myself two days to prep and begin baking. Thankfully, I had a Daring Baker deadline looming, and, like always, I figured it would fit into what was going on in my life this month.

Of course, ever since a botched my daughter’s first birthday cake, I’ve always seemed to find gluten-free baking a little daunting.
Since that day, of any research I could muster, I’ve realized that it take a good number of replacement  flours to create a good combination. Different flours do different things. Some are starchier, heavier and most create a much drier batter than you might be used to. Considering this, I thought I’d create a bit of a safety net by combining my little cakes with a touch of fruit.
That and I put together a few recipes, you know, just in case.

CARAMEL APPLE GATEAU TATIN

1/4 Cup White Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Flour
3 Tablespoons Spelt Flour*
2 Tablespoons Cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
1/4 Cup Hot Water
1/3 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

5-6 Firm Apples, I used Empire
2 Tablespoons Butter, vegan
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Apple Juice

*To go gluten-free, substitute the spelt for 3 Tablespoons of rice flour.

Peel and slice the apples 1/4″ thick.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, then shake over the sugar.
Once the sugar has begun to melt and bubble, add the apples in an even layer.
Cook until the apples are tender, then add the apple juice, stirring to incorporate. Coat the apples well before removing from the heat to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the flours. (If not going gluten-free, 3/4 cup of an unbleached AP, may be substituted.)
Add the cornmeal and baking powder and sift together.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut oil and the sugar with a stand or hand mixer until well combined.
Mix the ground flax and the water, then add it and the vanilla to the sugar mixture.
Alternate adding the flours and the soy milk until everything has been added.
Spoon about 3 slices of apples, along with a little “caramel” into a oil sprayed miniature muffin tin.
Next drop the batter, by the tablespoonful, over the apples then bake for 18-20 minutes.
Cool slightly, then gently run a knife around the edges to release the cakes.

If desired, garnish with dried apple chips.
To make, thinly slice one apple with a mandoline. Squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Drop onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and leave in a 200ºF oven for at least 2 hours or until crisp.

What Ever Became of You?


We found ourselves getting a bit carried away, shall we say at the apple orchard last week.
At least, not until we’d discovered an overwhelming tree full of brightest red Mac’s. Our picking was literally done in minutes. With my filled bag, I headed to the scales and the woman running the show was notably impressed by our haul.
I’m greedy, I thought. We leave on vacation in four days, how are we possible going to go through an 18 pound bag of fresh apples?*

As I listed off potential recipes to make a dent, we were invited for a casual afternoon with friends so, this is what we made.
Thrown together, it was a cinch to make and although it only used up two apples, it was pretty delicious and perfect for tea.

APPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter, divided (vegan, Earth Balance) softened
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 1/4 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup Plain Soy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Medium Apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4″ thick

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the two flours with a fork and set aside.
Cream the butter, less the two tablespoons, with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar.
Pour in the teaspoon of vanilla extract and add the 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.
Add the baking powder and soda then continue to mix until fluffy.
In a measuring cup, soy milk and lemon juice.
Add half soy milk mixture to the creamed sugar, then half of the flours, mixing until each is combined, repeating with the remainder.
Evenly spread the butter over the bottom of an 8″x8″ baking pan. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Lay out the apple slices over top of the sugar in an even layer.
Add the cake batter to the pan.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes or until a cake tester can be cleanly removed.
Cool in the pan then gently slide a knife around the edges before turning it out to a cooling rack or a serving plate to completely cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Oh, and just as an update, after creating and edible centerpiece, a few pints of slow-cooker apple butter and a pot of pumpkin soup, I’m down to four (count ’em 4) apples! I had to restrain myself not to get any more… but I have about 50Lbs of pumpkins… and a whole other story.

Blueberry Peach Sonker



Really?
I didn’t know what a “sonker” was either until I looked up what was closest to what I’d made.
Just think of it as a cobbler on it’s head, I did. So, when I looked up an inverted cobbler, I found Pandowdys, grunts and a sonker, which seemed closest to what was baking in my oven.
But please, if you have any suggestions, I’m open.

This time of year I seem to have ample berries on hand that I don’t have to ration when it comes to snacks. I’ll typically set out a big bowl of each of what I have on for breakfast and see where we’re at by mid-day
After lunch, I looked across a messy table to a bowl of blueberries and half a plate of freshly sliced peaches.

It’s already known that blueberries and peaches are a match made in heaven – or in August around these parts, but still, I couldn’t help imagine what I would do with them next.

I was thinking cobbler, but wanted something a little more plateable for an afternoon tea with our neighbour and so, the “Sonker” is where we evolved. A crumbly biscuit like cake, perfect for soaking up those juices, that’s sweet, but not too much and topped with a good layer of fruit, zest of lemon and sprinkling of sugar.

Pretty simple, but impressive and delicious, especially with a dollop of “cream”, iced or not.

BLUEBERRY PEACH SONKER

1/2 Cup Earth Balance (Butter)
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Soy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Blueberries
2 Cups Peaches, pitted & sliced, about 4
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar, packed
Zest of 1/2 Lemon, optional

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Grease and flour an 8″ round cake pan.
Cream the butter with the granulated sugar until well combined and fluffy.
Add the vanilla to incorporate.
Add the salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 cup of flour.
Add 1/2 cup of soy milk and mix well.
Add another cup of the flour and once incorporated, the remainder of the milk followed by the last of the flour to form a thick batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Use a spatula, which has been dipped in water, to spread evenly to the edges.
Top with the sliced peaches and blueberries. Sprinkle over the zest and evenly distribute the brown sugar.
Bake for 60 minutes, or until a cake tester can be cleanly removed from the center.