Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Small Batch Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnuts (#ChocPBDay)

    Guess what, everybody! It's Chocolate Peanut Butter Day today (March 25)! Invented and once again co-hosted by Carla (Chocolate Moosey) and Miriam (Overtime Cook), this is the second year of an event that promised to be sweet, salty, sinful and all things delicious. I participated last year and came away with a ton of new ideas and recipes, and this year there looks like even more treats to drool over!
      This year, I took a cue from Carla herself and decided to make a small batch of treats - since we were off of work all last week, I was without the majority of my "eating audience" - and since not only did my mom and grandma had their joint birthday party the week before, but mine is the week after next, having any more large batches of tempting goods around just don't spell anything good for the waistline! That said, while these doughnuts of mine are not precisely a health food, they are baked, vegan, whole grain, wheat free and without any added fat besides what is naturally present in the peanut butter. Do they like other dry and cardboardy "diet indulgences" you can buy in meetings and health food emporiums? Heck no! In fact, I had to print out the nutritional calculations for this batch to give to one of my Zumba instructors because she was feeling guilty about eating chocolate before lunch!

      Small Batch Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnuts

      Whether you opt for the no-fuss, (little) muss chocolate chip topping you see below (ideal for the lunchbox because it won't melt or ooze off) or get all fancy with a chocolate or Tiger Butter-esque coating, bringing a rich, salty-sweet treat like these Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnuts is the perfect solution. Making a batch will not only bring you to #ChocPBDay heaven, but if you share you might just find yourself making a batch or three a week!

      Check out the other goodies we have cooked up:

      Sunday, March 22, 2015

      Sticky Carrot Squares #SundaySupper

      Hallelujah! It's finally Spring - well officially, at least. Outside, we're still dealing with blustery winds and waking up to snow or light frost on our cars, and we know that "real" Spring is still a few more weeks away. That said, I am still more excited than ever that the season has begun, since the heirloom seeds I ordered for this year's crops just arrived! I've got Rosso SicilianBlack Pineapple
      and Black Vernissage tomatoes on the go in seedling pots now, plus Gelber Englischer Custard, Kuri and Delicata Squash that I'll be starting in the next week or two. Once the ground thaws (it has to eventually!), there's Lutz beets, Spanish Black and Atomic Red carrots and even tigernuts to be directly sown. I haven't decided which herbs to grow this year, but I'm telling you the sight of green shoots will be a gift in itself!

      To celebrate the bounty that is yet to come, I put together a recipe adapted from Jenna Zoe's book Super Healthy Snacks and Treats dense, just this side of squidgy carrot bars laced with almonds. Packed with flavour, texture and indulgence, they're perfect if you (like me) adore all things carrot, not to mention they're all these things while also being vegan, gluten free and sugar free! I kept things over on the "dessert" side of the taste spectrum by using a combination of xylitol and liquid stevia, neither of which "bake out" like sugar does, ensuring a moist final product. The two-part baking process was unusual to me too, leaving semi-crispy shells with sticky middles of goodness rather than dry-all-the-way-through biscotti. They were devoured by everyone I served them to, and even froze and thawed spectacularly (without losing any of the delectable squidginess!).

      Sticky Carrot Squares

      What does Spring mean to you? Well, our #SundaySupper group is celebrating the beginning of the season with all things food this week, with hosts Valerie of Lifestyle Food Artistry and DB of Crazy Foodie Stunts. Check out all our fresh fare below!

      Beverages

      Appetizers


      Sides


      Entreés


      Desserts


      Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

      Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

      Saturday, March 21, 2015

      Gianduja Creme Filling

      When it comes to cravings, the women around here (including myself) simply refuse to ignore the call of the cocoa bean. In particular, my sister and I adore the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate - her, in the form of the classic Nutella spread, while I lean towards the more bittersweet forms of gianduja like this spread. That said, until recently (when my hazelnut allergy developed), I was hard pressed to pass up any confection where the words "chocolate" and "hazelnut" appeared in the description. 

      Now that eating them (or even handling the nuts without gloves) is not an option I've become even more obsessed with creating treats with those flavours. Call it a sad form of self-torture, but I just can't stop myself! Luckily, I have lots of willing taste-testers on hand to make sure my goodies pass muster... When it came to this smooth, thick and dark chocolate-hazelnut creme filling, I was lucky to come out of the kitchen with any left to actually fill chocolates with! I can certainly understand, though - while the base recipe is essentially a modified ganache (cream, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, chocolate-hazelnut extract and Frangelico), it truly morphs into a thick, velvety "custard" of sorts  with the addition of guar gum. 

      Gianduja Creme Filling

      Usually reserved for gluten-free baking in my kitchen, I've since discovered it's handiness for thickening sauces and purees (it has saved my vegan, gluten free stir-fry sauces more than once). Adding even a smidge more than you really need in a dish can drastically change the texture, and by looking at how much is technically required to thicken x amount of liquid I was able to figure out just the right quantity to add for my runny chocolate sauce to become a smooth, pipeable creme. What didn't get eaten right away, I stashed in a freezer container for filling chocolate shells later on - given the amount of Nutella fans I know, there still won't be enough to go around!

      Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten Free Fridays

      Wednesday, March 18, 2015

      Blueberry Crunch Bread

      If there's one food I know my family would be lost without, it's bread. It's a component of at least one meal or snack every day, from the outside of breakfast egg sandwiches to a base for late night cinnamon toast, mid-morning coffee break fare and even in-a-pinch salad toppers. Granted, most of the family are dedicated to the storebought, white and in my opinion spongy loaves out there - why, I'm not quite sure - but my mom and I are longtime converts of homemade, hearty and ever-variable breads that hold their own without needed pomp and circumstance. 

      Even the healthiest bread is no good on our table without a good dose of flavour going for it, though. For mom and I, that usually means one (or more) of three things: natural sweetness (from honey or maple syrup), fruit or crunchy bits like grains, seeds and nuts.When my mom was pining for a crusty,  artisan-style loaf with the fruitiness of my Multigrain Spelt and Blueberry Sourdough but a slightly richer crumb, I thought immediately of a recipe I had bookmarked from Flavored Breads: Recipes from Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe. A few slight modifications later (based purely on what I had available) and I had a perfectly workable dough stuffed with fruit and begging for just a little something more. A handful of Gingerbread Love Crunch from Nature's Path added subtle crunch and flavour perfect for offsetting the tenderness of the bread.

      Blueberry Crunch Bread

      Shared with YeastSpotting

      Saturday, March 14, 2015

      Pumpkin Apple Tart (It's Pi(e) Day!)

      Happy Pi(e) Day, everyone! Now, I have never been a fan of math, but pastry? I can get behind that!

      Because this year marks a truly epic Pi phenomenon (today is 3.1415!), I wanted to share an epically delicious tart with you that both the adults and kids I served it to adored. Coincidentally, the recipe also looks long enough to have it's own 3-hour movie - but luckily each component can be made in advance without an issue, and any leftovers of the finished pie can be frozen too. I actually made a double batch of the filling in preparation for a Home Ec pastry lesson, which almost didn't make it to this tart because my kids were in love with it!

      Pumpkin Apple Tart

      Now, I know neither apples nor pumpkin are overly "in season" right now - so you have two options if the idea of this combination of a buckwheat sablé-style crust, sweet and spicy custard filling and just tender roasted apple with a sprinkle of raw sugar turns your crank:

      1. Wait until September / October and try again
      2. Buy a bag of local "storage" apples and either a buttercup or kabocha squash and get baking!

      In fact, you will likely get better results with one of the two "alternate" squashes I mentioned than with a run-of-the-mill pie pumpkin - neither is as watery and both (to me) taste a bit sweeter and well rounded. When I make apple-pumpkin butter in the Fall after apple picking (same recipe as below, minus the starches and eggs), I usually pick up one of those instead!

      Now, since the whole recipe takes a bit of time to complete, it's great that you can also effectively make both components at once. After the filling goes into the oven, make, chill and roll out the crust, fitting it into the tart pan and re-refrigerating - up to 3 days, if wrapped! Then, while the filling cools, crank that already-hot oven up and blind bake the base, which gives you time to clean up, make the custard and slice the apple. After that, it's all assembly, baby... and waiting one last hour and a half for it to bake and cool enough so you don't scald your mouth.

      A lot of work? Yes. But if you have anyone to impress (even if it's just yourself), it's a winner.