Panettone

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On one of our recent trips to Milan, we discovered this delicious holiday fruit bread. It’s a classic Italian Christmas staple. Strangely, it was priced pretty high as far as fruit breads go, so I decided to try making it at home to see what the fuss was about. It’s quite a bit of time (mostly waiting for the dough to rise), but not more work than making normal bread or pizza dough – definitely worth it to make at home. My favorite part is the candied orange peels. Normally, this is made with a special deep cake form so that the Panettone poufs over the top, but I used a 20 cm springform cake pan instead (who has time to get a special pan for one dish?).

Ingredients

Starter

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/16 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup cool water

Dough

  • all of the starter (above)
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Delicious chunks (mix and match the fruits to your preference)

  • 2 tbsp orange zest (can substitute lemon zest)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup slivered dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peels
  • 1/2 cup slivered prunes
  • 1/2 cup slivered dates

Directions

  1. Knead together the starter ingredients and cover in a bowl to rest overnight (8-12 hours).
  2. Combine all the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl: flour, salt, sugar.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the yeast water, eggs, butter, and vanilla.
  5. Add all of the starter to the wet mixture and start kneading the flour mix in thirds.
  6. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 90 minutes.
  7. Knead in the fruits and zest.
  8. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a pan to rest for another hour.
  9. Bake at 205 C for 10 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to 190 C and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Reduce the heat to 175 C, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.
  12. Allow it to cool completely before cutting.

 

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Choco Coco Peanut Butter Dates

This is my first vegan dessert, and it turned out amazing the first time I made it. How many times can I claim wild success the first time I make something? If I were to imagine what a “healthy” snickers bar should taste like, it would be these chocolate covered dates. And the best part is that there is no baking involved whatsoever! Actually the best part is the leftover peanut butter mousse – it is top notch on apples, celery, toast… the list goes on.

Yield: 33 chocolate covered dates

Ingredients

  • 300 g dates
  • 64 g crunchy peanut butter (about 1/2 cup)
  • 150 g dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 can of coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

Directions

  1. Scoop out the fat in the coconut milk can (it will have separated from the liquid).
  2. Whip the coconut cream vigorously for a minute.
  3. Fold in the peanut butter and continue whipping.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. While you wait, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a small saucepan or in a double boiler.
  6. Pit the dates. I made a small slice down the length of each date to remove the pit – without the pit, the dates could still be smooshed back together. I did not cut through the date completely.
  7. Fill the empty cavity in the dates with the peanut butter mousse and smoosh them back to their original shape.
  8. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Dip the dates in chocolate. Place them on the parchment paper. A fork is very useful for this part.
  10. If it’s cold outside, put the dates outside to set. Otherwise, put them in the refrigerator. This took around 30 minutes.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

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This is is the cookie to end all cookies, although I have no idea what turtles have to do with it. The memory of eating this cookie for the very first time is seared into my brain. Some foods are just like that – I can vividly remember the very first time I tried this cookie in my high school cafeteria. Yup, this cookie brings back those kinds of memories.

Yields: 13 large cookies or 26 smallish cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100 g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (I have also tried walnuts and they work too)
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 80 g soft caramel candies diced into very small cubes

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 C
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda
  3. In another large bowl, mix the wet ingredients: melted butter, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, milk
  4. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with wet ingredients in thirds
  5. Fold in the caramel candies and the chopped nuts
  6. Form the dough into small balls and lay them out on a cookie sheet
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes (Around minute 8, I will press them down with a spoon to flatten them a little)

Cinnamon coffee cake

Soft, fluffy, buttery goodness – who can resist this, especially in the morning with a steamy cup of coffee? Extra bonus: you probably already have all these ingredients somewhere in your kitchen.

Servings: one standard size loaf pan

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 50 g melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1 egg

Topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 g melted butter

Glaze

  • 1 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk

Directions

  1. Separately mix the wet and dry ingredients for the cake. Make sure you sift the dry stuff well (saves you the headache of lumpy batter later)
  2. Slowly add the dry cake mix into the wet mix, folding well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 175 C
  4. Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan
  5. Prepare the topping by mixing all the ingredients well
  6. Pour the topping over the batter, and swirl with a knife
  7. Bake for 40 minutes
  8. While the cake is still warm, pour the glaze over it. The glaze will harden somewhat when the cake is completely cooled

Sooji

This popular south Indian dessert is one of my favorites. I like adding extra cashews to it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of upma or sooji rava
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of split cashews
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of butter or ghee
  • a pinch of saffron

Directions

  1. Toast the cashews and raisins, then set them aside
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet, and toast the rava
  3. Once the rava is a golden color, add the water and mix well.
  4. Lower the heat, and let the rava absorb the water. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once the water is fully absorbed, add the sugar. Stir well.
  6. Add the saffron and cardamom
  7. Remove from heat, and top with the cashews and raisins

Zucchini Bread

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I met some resistance from our resident Indian on the notion of using zucchini in a sweet dish, but by the end of the third slice, we rounded up another zucchini bread convert.

Servings: one 8×4 in loaf pan

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (about half a nut)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (100 g)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, or beans from 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 cup of grated zucchini (~ 1 small zucchini)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C
  2. Grease the loaf pan
  3. Mix the eggs, zucchini, sugar, butter, vanilla in a bowl
  4. Separately combine the dry ingredients
  5. Gradually incorporate the flour mix into the egg mix; stir well to prevent a lumpy batter
  6. Pour the batter in the loaf pan and tamp it
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick/chopstick comes out clean
  8. Cool for 30 minutes before attempting to unmold

Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake

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I love the way the nutmeg and almond flavors play off of each other in this recipe. For next time – the blueberries are so sweet that using less sugar would bring better balance to the cake (adjusted recipe below).

Serves: one 22 cm cake pan, or 8 slices (I used a springform cake pan – very easy to release the cake)

Ingredients

  • 50 g melted butter (around 1/4 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 100 g almond slivers
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup quark and 1/4 cup plain yogurt (possible substitute: 1/2 cup of sour cream)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • half of a nutmeg (ground) – I would estimate this is between 1/4 – 1/2 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • sliced almonds, to sprinkle on top

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C, using the convection setting (without the convection setting: 175 C)
  2. Combine the butter and sugar; mix it until the sugar is dissolved
  3. Add the egg, almond extract, milk, yogurt, and quark
  4. Separately mix the dry ingredients together
  5. Gradually add the dry mix into the wet mix, making sure to incorporate the flour smoothly in the batter
  6. Fold in the blueberries and slivered almonds
  7. Spread the batter in the cake pan
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean
  9. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top
  10. Let the cake rest for about 20 minutes before trying to unmold it