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.

Daring Bakers May: L’Opéra Cake


It’s terrible but it’s the truth. I almost didn’t attempt to veganize this month’s Daring Baker Challenge.
Daunting to say the least when a cake has a dozen eggs in it to somehow replace. (…And that’s not including the other two that were in the buttercream recipe.)

After making the original version I had to share. I mean, what’s the point of this site if everyone can’t share good food together?

I halved the recipe (because the other cake was enormous) and started in on my trials. I stuck to the traditional recipe as close as I could without those eggs but having had the other I had a general idea as to what I was after. This cake is very light without too much flavour. It’s a perfect canvas to add your own and it this case we, The Daring Bakers, were able to get creative just as long as we kept it light in colour. Again having the other version I knew what I liked and didn’t so choosing a flavour this time around was pretty easy. In my traditional version, I really wanted to go give it a Taste of Yellow in honour of one great and Daring Baker, Barbara of Winos and Foodies, who hosts the Livestrong event. For that I made an Earl Grey with a lemon buttercream so for this version I wanted to keep the citrus but add some kick with just a little brandy syrup, and boy did my little cake sing.

L’OPÉRA CAKE

JACONDE

1 Cup Ground Almonds
1/4 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 1/4 Cups Soy Milk
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Vinegar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Line a 5 x 8 inch loaf pan with parchment then lightly spray with oil.
Add the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
Combine the soy milk and the vinegar, then add to the dry.
Mix vigorously with a fork.
Once combined, consistency will be similar to a pancake batter.
Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the prepared pan to cover the bottom to the edges.
Bake for 5 – 7 minutes or until the top appears golden, begins to dry and the edges come away from the sides.
Loosen edges with a knife, if necessary and top with an additional sheet of parchment or waxed paper.
Flip pan to remove the cake, cooling on a rack to room temperature.
Reline the pan and repeat with the remainder of the batter, baking three cakes.

COGNAC SYRUP

4 Tablespoons Sugar
1/3 Cup Water
1-2 Tablespoons Cognac

Add everything to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
(May be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge for up to a week.

ORANGE “BUTTERCREAM” ICING

2 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted
1/2 Cup Earth’s Balance Margarine, room temperature
Juice and zest of one large orange
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine half of the sugar with the margarine.
Add the orange zest and juice and mix on a medium-high setting.
Add the remainder of the sugar, half a cup at a time.
Once it has come together, then add the vanilla to incorporate.
Continue to up the volume with a higher speed until light and creamy.

ASSEMBLY

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Place one cake layer on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the second layer of cake and moisten again with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third layer of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

At this point a glaze of white chocolate may be made. I omitted this tradition but for a vegan white chocolate try this one from Bittersweet. Melt 7 oz of the chocolate with 1/4 cup of soy milk. Once it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Trim the edges 1/2″ to reveal the layers.
Garnish with additional orange zest, candied or not, if desired.

SPRING!!! & Oh Yeah, Hot Crossed Buns


Clawing from the depths of a seemingly endless winter, spring has finally arrived.
Of course with about a foot of snow still remaining outside of my urban home and the prediction of 6 more weeks of crappy weather, it’s a little hard to believe. Thankfully with the double whammy of this beloved first day and an early Easter, I was compelled to fill my house with flowers and the scent of cinnamony Hot Crossed Buns.

I swear I don’t remember eating these since I was a kid – back when I pulled one flattened, from a lavender and yellow bag only to be thoroughly disappointed that the cross wasn’t pure icing. Hunks of candied fruit, maraschino cherries, raisins.
Mm, delicious.
Not.

With a certain need to perk up into spring, I set off to recreate my own version. I combined dried cranberries with my own candied orange peel, for something a little more to my tastes. I have to admit that the candied peel was a bit time consuming but fun none the less. I opted to do it the night before, but made enough for a bit extra, which was a good thing since my kids surprisingly mistook it for Easter candy and were caught gobsmacking the orange loot. For a two year old with an orange peel, that must say something. But my little Easter buns were golden and puffed and I couldn’t help but sweeten the paste for the crosses, just for old time sake. Served slightly toasted with some cold butter, I thought these would be perfect to celebrate the equinox and serve up with Sunday brunch.


HOT CROSSED BUNS

1 1/2 Cups Soy Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Vegetable or Safflower Oil
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1/2 Cup Warm Water
2 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour, plus more, if necessary, for kneading
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 Tablespoons Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Crystalized Ginger, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
1 Cup Dried Cranberries
3/4 Cup Candied Orange Peel, chopped

Hot Cross Paste

3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons Water

Heat the soy milk and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
Add the salt and oil and cool to a lukewarm temperature.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let sit until it bubbles.
Measure out the flours and spices into the a large bowl or one of a stand mixer.
Stir the yeast and with the motor running, add it along with the warm milk to form a dough.
Add the cranberries and chopped peel.
Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, turning the dough out with the additional flour, if necessary to a board to completely work in the fruit.
Lightly grease a large, clean bowl and let the dough rest and rise until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
After the rise, roll the dough into an 18 inch long tube, then cut it into 18 pieces.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and roll each piece into a ball and evenly place them in six rows of three.
Cover and let double in size again.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Mix up the paste mixture and lightly indent each bun with a knife with a cross, then pipe the paste over.
Bake until golden; about 10 – 15 minutes.
Glaze with reserved sugar syrup from candying the oranges or with heated, strained apricot jam.

Candied Orange Peels


Inspired by the urge to make hot cross buns, marmalade and reading Orangette.

CANDIED ORANGE PEELS

5 Oranges, any kind
3 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Water

Soak and scrub the oranges in warm soapy water and rinse well.
Cup the tops and tails from the oranges, then peel.
Cut as much of the pith as you can without getting too crazy about it.
Slice the peels into strips and add them to a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover.
Once the water begins to boil, drain and repeat 2 – 3 times to reduce the bitterness.
Dissolve the sugar in the one cup of water and bring to a low boil, heating 230ºF.
Once the sugar syrup reaches the magic number, reduce the heat to just a simmer and add the blanched peels.
Soak the peels in the simmering syrup for 35 – 40 minutes, or until they are translucent.
If you’re finding it irresistible, infrequently spin the pan but try not to stir it since it will create sugar crystals.
Remove the peels, separate them and lay them out on a cooling rack to dry. (Or be sure to toss them in sugar first, if they’re just for snacking.)
Reserve the syrup for other uses. (Like sweetening cocktails, iced tea or as a glaze.)
Once they are cooled, store the oranges in granulated sugar until ready to use.

Curried Carrot Soup


I am one of those people who like cilantro. Cilantro is a love it or hate it kind of thing. Thankfully the herby leaf it offers to 50% of the population who enjoy it, also comes with a seed. Coriander, which the seed more commonly goes by, lends a refreshing and slightly citrusy flavour. Blended with other spices, coriander is perfect and essential for milder curry combinations.

Common yellow curry is the key to this soup. Spices like coriander, along with tumeric, cumin, mustard seed, cloves, red pepper and fennel might seem like a lot but the complexities of each spice together make for a wonderful flavour combination added to so many dishes, including the humble winter carrot.

Earthy and dense, these bright reminders of a summer past wait anxiously in the root cellar to come alive again. Flavour packed and vitamin rich carrots along with the zip of curry does us a great justice to blasting the February blahs.

My father in law is a master at soup and a farmer’s market frequenter. With a constant variety of seasonal vegetables, he has shown me tons about eating locally. This is an adaptation of the soup I’d recently devoured at his home.

CURRIED CARROT SOUP

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Stalks Celery
8 cups of Water or Vegetable Stock
3 Lbs Carrots, about 6 large ones, grated
1 Tablespoon Yellow Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Fennel Seed, ground with a mortar pestle
1/4 teaspoon Ground Red Chilies, or to taste
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 Lemon

Heat the oil in a large stock pot.
Sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until soft, taking care not to scorch the garlic.
Roughly chop the celery stalks into thirds and add to the onions along with the grated carrots.
Pour over the water, bring to boil.
Add the curry powder, ground fennel, chilies, salt and pepper.
Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
Purée using a immersion or traditional blender, in batches until smooth.
Stir in the lemon juice and readjust salt and pepper, if necessary.
Top with chopped cilantro. (If you like it.)