Monday, January 26, 2015

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough Boule

Growing up, there was never a time that our pantry went without a jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Whether it was brand-name Nutella, the supermarket label or a totally foreign (to us) version, the flavours of rich cocoa, buttery hazelnuts and God only knows how much added oil and sugar were never far from us kids and our wandering spoons! Those days (and I sound so old saying this), we didn't have to worry about bringing tree nuts to school - only peanut butter was verboten - so my picky sister happily subsisted off of Wonder Bread and Nutella sandwiches for years in elementary.

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough BouleNow, of course, more and more things are off the public menu - peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, pork and (most recently in my school) "WowButter" type spreads (granted, this last one is out of worry that the labels will fall off or be accidentally attached to a PB containing item, since the products are so similar). I've even been warned against using chocolate in my cooking classes - which is such a shame given that I preach moderation in all things, including decadent treats. I've kept a few rich goodies on my syllabus though - no fear of that!

Thankfully, out of the school lunchbox doesn't mean off the home menu. While my mom didn't grow up with Nutella, and certainly doesn't have the addiction my younger sibling did, she does enjoy the flavours of bittersweet chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. Looking to create a hearty, crusty and lightly sweet loaf to go with her weekly soup lunches, I took a slightly different tack when it came to infusing flavour throughout the whole crumb. While warming the milk for the dough, I added whole hazelnuts which steeped and softened, giving rich nutty hints to the liquid. Bittersweet chocolate and the merest touch of sourdough starter helped cut through the richness of the nuts and any sticky-sweetness in the dough (which only contained 3 tbsp of brown sugar), and the whole wheat body of the bread stayed moist and tender thanks to both the milk and a touch of soy lecithin. Originally, I wanted to do this recipe with the hazelnut milk I had spotted at the supermarket, but (of course) by the time I got around to baking day it was MIA - no doubt sold out to other hazelnut fans!

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough Boule

A slice of this loaf made for a perfect "end of lunch" carb, not being too sweet but decadent enough for a light dessert when topped with butter or Terry's Chocolate Marmalade. Of course, for breakfast I would totally spread on the peanut butter or cream cheese, and if I wanted a rich weeknight dessert for one I'd make a slab into French toast topped with melted Nutella and dried cherries. Oh yes - I went there!

Shared with YeastSpotting

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Toast Topper #56: Spicy Superfruit Jelly #RecipeRedux

I don't know what it is about this week, but my mind seems to be like a sieve! I totally believed that I had taken photos of this stunningly colourful, ever-so-shimmery jelly before digging in... but apparently I didn't, and because the preserve was perfect on just about everything I could think of - from cream cheese on bagels to simple crackers, melted onto roasting pork chops and even used as the base for glazed carrots - the jars just didn't last!

So, for this #RecipeRedux, I have a photo-less recipe and mere memories of the spread. An unadulterated spoonful is almost like the chewing gum in Willy Wonka's factory - it starts as a blast of tangy cranberry and pomegranate flavour, which merges into the sweeter notes of the fruit accented with a stevia-sugar blend. Just as the last hint of sugar begins to fade away, the jalapeno pops it's fiery head in to say hello, leaving a lingering finish that isn't painful so much as addictive. I can say with certainty that while the chili fans on the "tasting panel" (aka my coworkers and houseguests) would have easily polished off a jar on their own, even the non-spiceheads went for seconds, and that's saying something!

This month's Recipe Redux is all about the smoke and spice!

"The New Year is heating up with smoke and spiciness. From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika." 

Check out the other spicy goodies below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Toast Topper #55: Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

About this time during the Winter, I wake up, look out the window and want to yell "will you just be over already?". Away from the whimsy and joy of the anticipated Christmas / Hanukkah season, the January-March stretch is nothing but dreary, (at times bitter) cold and boring. Sure, there are the standard holidays to "look forward to" - Valentine's, St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras - but I'll really start celebrating when the temperatures are regularly above 0.

Because this part of the year is so drab, it's the perfect time for me to dig into a bright, fruity preserve that I made late last Summer when fruit was at it's peak (and cheap!). The medley began with a pile of local, organic cherries, wild blueberries and crushed pineapple, which I loosened up with a splash of pomegranate-blueberry juice. After the mixture cooked down a touch, things moved double time thanks to a pectin-infused "jam sugar" (the same kind I've used before in preserves like this). The hardest part was waiting for it to boil (doubly true if your fruit is frozen, as it likely is now) - but the second hardest thing was waiting overnight for it to fully set. That's not to say this preserve wouldn't be delicious right away (hello, vanilla ice cream topping!) but for spreading, that pectin needs to do it's job. Sigh - the things we must go through for delicious food!

Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers (*not*) #CreativeCookieExchange

First off, I am freely admitting that I messed up this month with posting for the #CreativeCookieExchange event. Life has been absolutely crazy since coming back from Christmas break (wonderful, exciting and happy, but crazy!) so good chunks of my former life seem to have evaporated for the time being... including keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Now that things are settling back into a rhythm of sorts (if you can have one with toddlers), I'll be crawling back on the ball. Promise!

Anyways, since I did have a post primed for this month's  #CreativeCookieExchange theme (Make Someone’s Day Cookies), I couldn't hold it back. These thin, crispy-chewy, chocolate and coconut treats have become a favourite of one of my co-workers, and like my Sunny Apple Muffins every time they make an appearance in the staff room you can see her grin from across the building. Ironically, I almost threw the recipe out after making them the first time - they didn't look much like the photo on Cooking Light's page at all, even though my changes were relatively minor (using flavourful Gold Label coconut oil in place of the butter, coconut milk yoghurt and whole what pastry flour). Spread thin and flat, I was embarrassed to put them in Christmas baskets so I brought them to the staff room, where treats (regardless of their outward appearance) always seem to be appreciated. 

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers

After the reviews came in, though, I gave another batch a try, but had to stash it overnight in the fridge before baking it off. Lo and behold, I found myself with chewy, thick, still flavourful cookies that retained just the slightest bit of crispy-crunch on the edges. Packed perfectly into their tins, they were prettier than their predecessors but apparently tasted much the same. Lesson learned: chilling time = control over texture = more happy people!

Here's some more info on the #CreativeCookieExchange:

The theme this month is Make Someone’s Day Cookies! We chose someone in our lives that we loved and baked them cookies that they love! Maybe you will feel inspired to bake someone that you love a cookie! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles

One of the few things I like about winter is the availability of different citrus fruit in the markets. Until the cold weather hits, our grocery stores are devoid of some of my favourite ingredients - key limes, Meyer lemons and blood oranges! When I recently spotted the blushing, garnet-centred fruit in the produce aisle, I grabbed up a bag and knew I had to celebrate their decadent, exotic sweetness with a recipe too!

I found my winner in the book Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan, and with a few simple alterations I had a rich, ever-so-slightly healthy (!) semi-ganache ready to roll and coat sitting in my fridge. Using tahini gave the chocolate a slight toasted nuttiness that I didn't expect, but fell in love with after I tasted the warm, then chilled, ganache. To make them look as good as they tasted, I crusted the balls with a yin-yang of sesame seeds. In all, they're a stunningly beautiful combination of taste and appearance (just like my blood oranges), and with no refined sugar, no cream and no butter they're more than worth indulging in!

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles