Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan)

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     For someone with a serious sweet tooth, pancakes are a quick and convenient way of whipping together a satisfying meal using ingredients that I already have on hand. They are also a low risk way of experimenting with a variety of wheat and non-wheat flours, and are easily made without eggs or dairy. Lately it has become a worthy challenge for me to prepare all the food that I make for myself with ingredients that are organic but also cheap and accessible, and as a result pancakes have become a staple in my diet. If you can’t find organic currants, a 1/4 cup of raisins or chopped dried apples make tasty alternatives. Top these fancy hotcakes with freshly sliced bananas and maple syrup and invite your best vegan friends over for breakfast.

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 Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unbleached white pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour), spooned and leveled

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 1/4 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk

3 tablespoons organic raw sugar or sweetener of choice (I often use sucanat)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup shredded carrot, lightly packed

3 tablespoons organic dried currants

Method:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the currants and toss to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour for the wet ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk, raw sugar, oil, and vanilla extract. Try to dissolve the sugar as much as possible by giving the mixture the occasional whisk until it is time to combine the liquid with the dry ingredients.

Heat some oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Prepare the shredded carrot while you wait for the pan to become hot.

Add the grated carrot to the wet ingredients and give the mixture a final good stir. Poor the liquid into the centre of the flour and use a wooden spoon or a small stiff spatula to stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Begin in the center and work outwards, slowly drawing the flour into the milk in circular motions until no streaks of flour remain.

Spoon 1/4 cup sized scoops onto the hot pan. Let the pancakes cook until there are open holes on the top of the cakes and the edges are a noticeably darker colour. Flip the pancakes and cook for several minutes more until the bottoms are a dark golden brown. Serve immediately.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines

Earlier this week I ventured into the heart of hipster Toronto, to visit my old haunting grounds in Kensington Market. This is one of my favourite places in the world for several reasons, but what really keeps me coming back is the sheer density of food, art, and fashion jammed into one energetic space. Nothing gets me excited like the thought of more culturally diverse markets, spice stores, and delicatessens than I know what to do with. It did not take me long to spot a bakery that had sprung up in my absence, and I was dancing when I realized I was in for a treat. Go to Blackbird Baking Co. and get yourself some bread, because the wholegrain Pullman I took home set a whole new standard. And if vegan restaurants and vintage clothing is more your thing, there is plenty of that in the area as well.

With it being fall, the season in which we add spice to everything, my main mission was to restock my depleted spice cabinet. A fist-full of whole nutmegs, ground ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all-spice, and Chinese 5-spice together create the base of a solid winter horde. Since balancing spice is an acquired skill, I thought what better to learn than to whip up batches of bite-sized madeleines, each flavoured with a slightly different combination of spices. After much munching, this version emerged as the winner.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines
adapted from Epicurious, Spiced Madeleines

Ingredients: 

3 3/4 oz unsalted butter, browned and cooled*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (94g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon regular cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
large pinch all-spice
pinch salt
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature

*Click here to learn how to make brown butter

Method: 

Brown the butter. Whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool to lukewarm.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice, and salt.

Whisk the eggs and sugars together until well combined.

Add the flour to the egg/sugar mixture and gently whisk, or fold with a rubber spatula, until no streaks of flour remain. Quickly fold in the cooled butter just until you have a uniform batter.

Cover the top of the batter with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Butter and flour a madeleine pan. Fill each cavity 2/3 full with the chilled batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until the centers spring back to the touch.

Turn the madeleines out onto a wire cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving, or drizzle with a simple glaze of water and icing sugar once they have cooled.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

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Apples rank high among the many ingredients that I have no excuse for purchasing anywhere but locally, and lucky for me sometimes I don’t even have to do that. This versatile fruit is much like rhubarb and zucchini around here, in the sense that during one week of the year everyone suddenly encounters an overabundance of crop. If that sounds like a complaint than I apologize, because what I really want to do is bust out the bobbing barrels and throw an apple harvest party. Before you laugh, remember that we have entire festivals dedicated to both maple syrup and pumpkins.

Certainly worth celebrating is the fact that Ontario is home to some of the best baking apples in the world, including the much coveted and super crispy Northern Spy. The key characteristic one is looking for when choosing apples for pies and other desserts, is a flesh that holds its shape well after baking. Some apples will rapidly disintegrate when heat is applied, which is especially problematic if you like to partially cook the fruit or prepare the filling beforehand. A quick internet search will turn up which varieties grown in your area are the best for baking, and which are best left for making applesauce. In this particular pie I used a 3lb bag of local McIntosh, but when options are available consider using a combination of apples and playing with different flavours.

For the crust, use your favourite recipe for all-butter pie pastry or try this one from Four and Twenty Blackbirds via Food52. Their formula and method is genius, and certainly deserves a place in a serious pie maker’s repertoire.

Apple-Cranberry Pie
Adapted from Four and Twenty Black Birds via Food52
And Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

2 discs prepared pie pastry*

3 lb (whole) tart baking apples
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 ground all-spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 oz fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

*For complex designs or heavy lattice patterns, part of an additional disc of pastry may be required.

Method:

Prepare the pastry as directed. Roll one disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle, and fit it into a 9 inch pie plate. Return the shell to the fridge to chill while you make the filling. Roll out the second disc of pastry as thinly as possible without stretching or tearing the dough. Using a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or scalpel, cut the pastry into long strips for a lattice. Alternatively, use cookie cutters to stamp out pieces for a unique design. Refrigerate the prepared pieces of top pastry.

In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, salt, and tapioca starch. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4 inch thick wedges. In a Dutch oven or a large non-stick pan, gently toss the apple slices with the sugar mixture until they are evenly coated. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until the apples begin to tenderize. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Let the filling cool to room temperature.

To prepare the cranberries, combine with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the orange juice in a medium saucepan. If using frozen cranberries, cover the pot and heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the berries have thawed. For fresh cranberries, cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until some of the berries begin to break down and the natural pectin has thickened the liquid. Remove from the heat and let cool completely to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Using a rubber spatula, gently combine the cooled apple and cranberry mixtures. Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell, leaving only enough room to fold over and crimp the pastry (if you have some filling leftover that is fine). Arrange the top pastry over the fruit, seal the edges if necessary, and crimp as desired.

Bake in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is a rich golden brown. Rotate the pie halfway through baking to ensure even colouring, and use a pie shield to prevent the edges from overbrowning if necessary.

Let cool completely before serving.

Cardamom Pound Cake

There are some baking books that gather dust on your shelves, and then there are others with missing covers, pages stuck together, and unraveling spines. The number of chocolate finger prints in the margins can tell you just how important a recipe is, and if there is one book in my collection that is in rough shape, it is The Cake Bible.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for “Perfect Pound Cake” produces exactly that; a buttery, dense crumb that slices like a dream and stays moist for days. The addition of cardamom, a warm and smooth spice, elevates the melting texture and richness of the cake.

If you do not own a 6 cup bundt pan, an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan will work equally as well. Increase the baking time to 55-65 minutes for a loaf, and use a foil tent after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Cardamom Pound Cake
adapted from “Perfect Pound Cake”, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bilble

Special Equipment:
Stand mixer, 6 cup mini bundt pan – or a 4 x 8 inch loaf pan

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons milk (not skim), room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour (150g)
3/4 cup white granulated sugar (150g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (6.5 oz)

*if you decide to make the chocolate glaze, increase the cardamom to 1 teaspoon

Tips for Success: 

  1. Ensure that the eggs, milk, and butter are all at room temperature so that they emulsify properly. For the purposes of baking, room temperature butter measures between 65° and 68° F. If you do not have a digital candy thermometer, use your finger to test the temperature by pushing on a cube of butter. When the butter is ready, it will be pliable but still cool to the touch and your finger will leave a smooth indent with no cracks. If the butter is too warm it will feel very soft and offer no resistance to pressure, and it must be returned to the fridge.
  2. Eggs can be quickly brought to temperature by submerging them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
  3. When using the reverse creaming method, the speed and length of the beating process is crucial. You want to whip the batter sufficiently in order to incorporate air and create structure, but overbeating can result in a dense and dry cake. Large holes throughout the crumb are also a sure sign of overbeating. Speed 3 on my Kitchen Aid mixer is ideal, but consider setting a less powerful machine to medium speed.

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cut the butter into cubes and allow it to come to temperature (65°-68° F) while you prepare the other ingredients. Thoroughly grease and flour a 6 cup mini bundt pan. If you are using a loaf pan, grease it and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom into the bowl of the stand mixer. Whisk to combine the ingredients, then attach the paddle beater.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract or seeds. Whisk lightly with a fork to separate the eggs and combine the ingredients.

When the butter is the correct consistency, place it in the bowl with the dry ingredients and add half of the egg mixture. Stir on the lowest speed just until the dry ingredients are moistened, including the flour at the very bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium (speed 3 on a Kitchen Aid) and beat for 1 minute to aerate the batter and develop structure. Stop the mixer and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating at medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. At each pause, scrape the bowl to ensure that all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Use a large spoon to dollop the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (55-65 for a loaf), until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The top of the cake should be peaked and cracked, and only begin to pull away from the sides of the pan upon removal from the oven.

The cake will keep well for 4-5 days, wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature. Pound cake is delicious when glazed, iced, or served with fresh berries and whipped cream.

 Quick Chocolate Glaze
adapted from The Cake Bible

Ingredients: 

3 oz dark chocolate, slivered and finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Method:

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Set the cream over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and cover the bowl with a plate or lid and wait 5 minutes. Stir the mixture gently until it is completely smooth. Use immediately.

Just for Fun: Sparkling Apple Snacking Cake

Remove chocolate from a basic brownie recipe, and you get a blondie. But what happens when you take the caramel, or the brown sugar, out of a blondie recipe?

This apple cinnamon snacking cake was inspired by yet another winning Dorie Greenspan recipe, this time from Baking: From My Home to Yours. Her books are full of jumping off points, and we love her for that. The ratio of ingredients and the method are what makes this cake unique, as they result in an ultra dense and moist vanilla cake with a thin crackly top reminiscent of a tray of brownies.

Always a sucker for baked apple treats, we chose to adapt the original recipe to create a no-fuss cake filled with the flavours of honey, cinnamon, and one tart Ida Red. Simple, comforting, and so quick to put together that you can pull dessert from the oven just as your friends arrive, this cake makes it easy to impress.

Tips for Success:
• Wait until the last minute to shred the apple, as it will quickly turn brown in the open air.
• Take the time to drain any excess water out of the shredded apple to avoid a soggy cake.
• Keep in mind that just like brownies, the center of the cake may appear slightly under baked when you remove it from the oven.

Sparkling Apple Cake 

Yield: 9 inch round cake
Prep: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

Cake
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (175g)
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (125g)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter
1 medium tart apple

Topping
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.

Melt the butter and let it cool.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder.

Put the sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Whisk in the honey, salt and vanilla extract.

Peel and shred the apple, and use your hands or a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out the excess water. Set aside briefly.

With a rubber spatula, stir the flour into the egg/sugar mixture until there are no longer any streaks remaining in the batter. Gently fold in the melted butter until smooth, then fold in the shredded apple, making sure it is evenly dispersed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Make the topping by combining the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over top of the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle has a crackly, paper thin crust.

The cake may be served slightly warm, but it will also keep very well for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.

 Inspired by: Dorie Greenspan’s “Swedish Visiting Cake”, from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Austrian For A Day: My First Linzer Torte & A Tale of Homemade Jam

Welcome to January, the not-so-gentle reminder that the warmth of the holidays is behind us and most of winter’s snow has yet to fall. When the fields have frozen over, bakers and chefs alike begin to dig deep into their pantries and freezers to gather stockpiled ingredients. Faced with an over abundance of fresh fruit and garden vegetables during the summer harvests, and imports far past their prime on the grocery shelves come midwinter, learning how to preserve food becomes an important and rewarding task. And while traditional canning is the preferred method, freezer jams offer a slightly less complicated alternative for small scale storage.

In this approach, the cooked preserves are cooled to room temperature and then immediately stored in the freezer, where they will last the winter, or kept for up to one month in the refrigerator. The best part is that there are few, if any, strict rules for freezer jams. All you need is a lot of fruit and at least some sugar.

Once you have made your custom condiment, it can be put to many uses. Spread it on toast, sandwich it between two cookies, or use in a recipe that calls for a similar jam. We took the opportunity to make a variation of the Linzer Torte, a traditional Austrian dessert composed of a thick, crumbly almond pastry filled with a layer of raspberry or apricot preserves. Its robust, nutty flavour just might have you saying Auf Wiedersehen to raspberry pie forever.

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In Photos: Spiced Butternut Squash Hand Pies

Hand Pies 101

  • Keep it small. Not just the size (think poptarts) but also the number of pies you plan to make. Baking three pies for twenty-five people is much more practical than fashioning individual hand pies for each person. Save this project for a weekend treat to share with a few well deserving friends.
  • Keep that pastry cold. Always work with a well chilled pastry to ensure that the pies will hold their shape and bake up nice and flaky. Store the cut circles in the fridge and assemble them one at a time, and once they are sealed place the pastries in the freezer for 5 minutes just before baking.
  • Right before they go into the oven, brush the pies with a light eggs wash to promote a golden finish, cut two small slits in the top pastry for ventilation, and sprinkle with course sanding sugar for crunch and sparkle.
  • Eat with vanilla bean ice cream.

Up Next: An ‘original’ recipe for squash cake. Squash cake… squash… cake. Or shall I say, how would you like a lovely Acorn Tea Loaf, or a perhaps a streuseled Butternut-Pecan Coffee Cake?

the finished product