Strawberry Tea Loaf with Fresh Kiwi Glaze

I have always enjoyed making (and eating) tea breads. They can come in all sizes and even though they are called bread, for most part, I’d say they are cake.

Tea breads are part of the quick bread genre. They are considered quick because they don’t require kneading or rising time. Instead of yeast, usually baking powder or baking soda or a combination of both are used as a leavening agent.

Afternoon tea, the quintessential English custom, was introduced in England by a Duchess in the year 1840. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at 8 PM, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner (supper). The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread/butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. Upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five PM.

This tea loaf, pairs sweet, ripe strawberries with the bright, clean flavor of lemon zest and is topped off with a tangy kiwi glaze. A match made in food heaven.

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Strawberry Tea Loaf with Fresh Kiwi Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Instructions
Strawberry Tea Loaf
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan, line bottom with strip of parchment paper with 2-inch overhang on either end.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, lemon zest & vanilla. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in prepared strawberries. Scrape batter into pan.
  3. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until cake tested with a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan, set on wire rack, 20 minutes before using parchment overhang to lift out loaf. Cool completely on rack. Slice & serve with kiwi glaze.
Kiwi Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water & set aside to soften. Peel the kiwi and blend in a food processor or blender until pureed. Be careful not to over-process as the black seeds will break down & change the color of the puree.
  2. Add the kiwi puree to gelatin mixture. Heat mixture to dissolve gelatin but do not over heat. Continue to stir until dissolved. Keep covered in refrigerator until needed.

Kumquat Oatmeal Bread

This fruited bread is unlike any other oatmeal bread. It has the sweet tartness of kumquats, healthy oatmeal and flax, dried fruit, nuts, honey and applesauce all in one loaf.

Oatmeal bread is very nostalgic for me. Although it wasn’t one of the breads in my mother’s weekly rotation, when she did make it, it was heavenly. I’m not sure if her recipe was one she had developed or if it came from another source.

Often when it comes to choosing a recipe, we find inspiration on the packaging of our basic pantry staples. One of the most iconic brands to feature recipes like this was Quaker Oats. Their first recipe for oatmeal bread appeared in 1886. It made two loaves of sandwich bread. Somewhere along the way, they kicked it up a notch, featuring a ‘fruited oatmeal bread’ recipe.

This kumquat oatmeal bread uses baking powder as opposed to yeast for anyone with a yeast intolerance. I think you will agree, it has an amazing flavor if you get a chance to make some.

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Kumquat Oatmeal Bread
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan & set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, flax meal & oats. Add kumquat puree, honey, applesauce, eggs, vanilla, nuts & fruit. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes; don't over bake. Cool in pan for 5 minutes on cooling rack. Loosen around edges; remove from pan & cool a bit more.

Easter ‘Ube’ Cheesecake Baskets

In my second blog for the month of November/2018, I had featured an article on ‘Ube’ Sweet Rolls. This was my first experience using this interesting Filipino purple yam. Since we had really enjoyed the flavor, why not take it further?!

First, I just wanted to talk a bit more about this tuber. Ube originated in the Philippines and refers to a bright purple sweet potato. Traditionally it is boiled and mashed with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk to form essentially ‘dessert mashed potatoes’.  Unlike Matcha or Durian that have intense scents and flavors, ube doesn’t require a developed palate to enjoy.

It is easy to confuse ube with taro, but they are completely different foods. Taro is typically white on the inside and used in savory dishes, while ube is more commonly used in making sweets.

The violet purple color makes it highly photogenic, which gives it a natural marketing quality. The taste has been described as something similar to white chocolate with earthy nutty tones, gentle but not intense.

Fresh ube seems fairly difficult to find in North America but with a little persistence its possible. There are a few different forms it is sold in. Dehydrated powder, extract, ube halaya (or paste) or as a grated frozen product. Ube is not an exotic ingredient in the Philippines, but a common everyday staple that deserves a bit more respect and understanding.

When I saw a cheesecake recipe using ube, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect base for an Easter dessert. Creamy ube with the perfect note of tang and richness from the cream cheese.


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Easter 'Ube' Cheesecake Baskets

Servings


Ingredients
Crumb Base

Ube Cheesecake Filling

Servings


Ingredients
Crumb Base

Ube Cheesecake Filling


Instructions
Base
  1. Line 8-9 large muffin cups with large paper liners. In a bowl, combine melted butter & crumbs; stir until mixture looks like coarse meal & all of the crumbs are moistened with the butter. Divide crumbs between lined cups; set aside.

Filling
  1. Check for any hard particles in the thawed purple yam & discard them. Wrap purple yam (ube) in foil & steam for about 20-30 minutes or until very soft. Mash until creamy & let cool.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat cream cheese until soft & fluffy. Add sugar & salt beating until combined. Add the cooled 'ube' & beat until incorporated & smooth.

  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition then add vanilla. Pour into prepared 'cups'. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they test done when the tip of a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Lay a piece of paper towel over a wire cooling rack. Remove cheesecake cups from oven; cool for a few minutes then lift out onto paper lined rack. Cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.

Decorating
  1. Place coconut in a zip lock baggie. Dissolve a few drops of food coloring in a teaspoon of water. Pour over coconut, seal & shake until it is the color you want.

  2. Hollow out a small circle in the top of each cheesecake. Divide the yogurt between cheesecakes, filling each little divot with some. Next, divide the tinted coconut between the cheesecakes, covering the yogurt, to make a 'nest'. Top each nest with 3 'robin egg' Easter candies.

Barley Scones with Roasted Prune Plums

Barley has always been a grain I have enjoyed. I love the nutty flavor as well as the texture. Not only a good choice in soups and entrees, but perfect when ground into flour for baked goods. Barley has a weaker gluten than wheat flour, however, so it may not rise as well as recipes made with wheat flour. As a result, barley flour is usually mixed with wheat flour when baking yeast breads.

Italian prune plums have a prolific but short season. In early fall, about the same time as we see the first yellow leaves arrive on the trees, prune plums appear in the grocery stores. Then, just like that, they disappear when the pumpkins arrive. Because prune plums are firmer and less juicy than other plums, they keep their shape when used in tarts, pies or cakes. Roasting them in coconut oil for this recipe brought out their intense flavor and beautiful rich burgundy color.

Thanks to its neutral flavor, refined coconut oil makes a fantastic replacement for shortening, butter, margarine or vegetable oil. It produced a rich, tender scone that was complimented by the use of barley flour and the Italian prune plums.

Print Recipe
Barley Scones with Roasted Prune Plums
Instructions
Roasted Plums
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the plum wedges with the coconut oil, maple syrup & spices. Lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet & roast until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Scones
  1. Adjust oven heat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt & spices. Add maple syrup (agave nectar), coconut oil, vanilla & syrup from roasted plums. Stir until a dry batter forms; add the hot water & stir ONLY until flour is absorbed. Gently form into a disk shape.
  3. Place dough onto the parchment paper & press out into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Divide roasted plums among the wedges, placing on top & slightly pressing into dough. Drizzle with any remaining syrup. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar if you wish.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & re-cut wedges. Cool scones slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce

No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic. Cardamom’s complex flavor is difficult to describe. There’s nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts it will dominate whatever its paired with. Used properly, it elevates sweet and savory dishes, adding layers of flavor. 

A versatile spice, in that it can be used in everything from desserts to main courses. Relatively expensive, coming in after saffron and pure vanilla, but well worth the expense.

Today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’. My plan is to create some tender, little orange cakes and topping them with a fruit and spice mixture reminiscent of flavors from Morocco.

Print Recipe
Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce
Instructions
Fruit Topping Mixture
  1. In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & remaining orange juice & zest from cake ingredients. Season with cardamom & mace; mix well. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. Divide fruit between them; covering bottom & pressing a bit up the sides. Set aside.
Cake
  1. In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Stir flour into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice. Combine well then add zest & vanilla.
  2. Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. When ready to serve, place on individual dessert plates & drizzle with warm rum sauce.
Rum Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Combine sugar & cornstarch; stir into melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum extract. Serve warm.

Sheet Pan Pancakes

Today, March 5th, is officially known as Shrove Tuesday. This date varies from year to year and falls somewhere between Feb. 3rd and March 9th. This traditional ‘feast’ day marks the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. The expression Shrove Tuesday, derives from the word shrive, meaning absolve. This day was observed by many Christians who wanted to make a point of self-examination to consider what wrongs they needed to repent.

Shrove Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast and making pancakes was the perfect way of doing that. The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolize four points of significance at this time of year.

EGGS –creation, FLOUR–the staff of life, SALT–wholesomeness, MILK–purity

I’ve noticed this idea of the Sheet Pan Pancakes on the internet. It seems like our basic sheet pan has graduated from just baking cookies to whole meals and now pancakes. Sure looks like a good idea to me. Make up one big batter, put it on a baking sheet, top it with 3 or 4 add-ons, bake, cut into squares and serve. Seriously! Does it get any easier than that — no flipping required.

Print Recipe
Sheet Pan Pancakes
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, sour cream, melted butter & vanilla.
  2. Add flour mixture to liquid mixture & whisk together until no lumps remain. Refrigerate batter for 15 minutes before baking. You can even refrigerate overnight & bake the next morning if you prefer. During the 15 minute 'resting' time, prepare your choice of toppings for pancakes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a 16 X 12-inch sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour batter onto prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Imagine the batter in the pan divided into however many types of toppings your going to use. Top each section with your choices.
  4. Place sheet pan in the oven. Bake, rotating it halfway through baking until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Test with a toothpick in center for doneness. Remove from oven, lift pancakes out of sheet pan with edges of parchment paper. Cut into 12 pieces & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • For Raspberries & Cream Cheese Swirl - Whisk 75 gm softened cream cheese with 2-3 Tbsp milk & 3 Tbsp powdered sugar until completely smooth. Dot cream cheese mixture evenly over pancake batter, then use a knife or skewer to make a swirl pattern. Dot with 1 1/2 cups (150 gm) fresh raspberries.

Zucchini ‘Hummingbird’ Squares with Lemon Drizzle

Created on the island of Jamaica, hummingbird cake was named after the islands national bird, the Red-billed Streamer-tail. These birds are members of the hummingbird family and are only found in Jamaica.

The cake typically has two or three layers with pecans, bananas, crushed pineapple, cinnamon and a cream cheese frosting. Most probably both cake and its name originated as a Jamaican marketing ploy. After Air Jamaica was established in October 1968, the new company chose this beloved hummingbird as its logo. Shortly thereafter, the Jamaica Tourist Board distributed ‘press kits’ to the foreign media. They showcased various ‘local’ dishes, focusing on American consumers, and was intended to attract American visitors to the island.

There are several theories about the origin of the cake’s name. One is that the cake is so delicious it makes you hum with happiness while another is that it is sweet enough for hummingbirds. Yet another theory is that people hover around the cake similar to the way hummingbirds hover around flowers. Foodtimeline.org notes that perhaps it was named after the way the cake draws people in and is eaten quickly similar to the eating pattern of those energetic little fliers.

Unlike traditional banana cakes, the bananas in hummingbird cake are usually left in pieces rather than mashed, providing texture and bursts of flavor along with the pineapple and nuts. 

I am making an adaption of the hummingbird cake but using zucchini instead of bananas and drizzling it with a lemon glaze. I’ve also noticed a few other variations that sound real good. One was with grated sweet potato and roasted bananas as well as a rhubarb one — Yum!

Print Recipe
Zucchini 'Hummingbird' Squares with Lemon Drizzle
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Batter
Lemon Drizzle
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Batter
Lemon Drizzle
Instructions
Cake Batter
  1. Shred zucchini into a bowl & add 2 Tbsp sugar; stir to combine. Scrape zucchini into a mesh strainer, set over bowl, allowing zucchini to drain for about half an hour. Press to squeeze out excess juice, then place mixture onto paper towels & squeeze to get out as much moisture as you can.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter & flour a loaf pan ( or mini squares pan); set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Toss in walnuts & candied peel. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, eggs, yogurt, butter, lemon juice, vanilla, drained pineapple & zucchini. Fold the wet mixture into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Scrape the batter into loaf pan, making sure to smooth the top of batter.
  4. Bake for about 50-55 minutes for loaf (25-30 for minis), or until batter tests done when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool slightly before drizzling with glaze.
Lemon Drizzle
  1. In a bowl, combine powdered sugar & lemon juice, mixing until smooth. Spoon over warm squares allowing drizzle to set up before (cutting &) serving.

Vintage Ice Box Cookies

The icebox or refrigerator cookie has been around as long as there have been ‘iceboxes’ to store them in. The recipes produce large yields and are the quickest way to make ‘homemade cookies’ in a short space of time. The technique of what has also been called ‘slice & bake’ cookies, is nothing if not do-ahead and convenient. After the dough is mixed and shaped into logs, it may be either refrigerated or frozen. Then, when you’re ready to bake, simply remove the logs from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, slice and bake. Just slice off as many cookies as you need; any dough you don’t use can be refrozen. For a little extra pizzaz, roll the logs before slicing in crushed nuts, colored sugar, poppy seeds or finely chopped candied fruit such as crystallized ginger. The rolls of dough will keep in the refrigerator for about three or four days or frozen for up to three months.

The icebox cookie originated  before my time but I do remember my mother making a chocolate icebox cookie with walnuts in them. Refrigeration methods had come a long way by then but the original concept of the icebox cookie never changed.

In early North America, ice was harvested from ponds and then stored in sawdust insulation to last into the summer months. In the advent of the railroad, insulated box cars hauled ice to keep foods cold in the markets and restaurants. In the early 1800’s, iceboxes were developed for home use. They were simply chests with a compartment for food and another for ice. The ice was replaced as it melted.

In the 1840’s, compression methods for making ice were developed. Eventually, new refrigerated iceboxes became common in homes. By the 1920’s recipes for icebox ‘cakes’ began appearing in cookbooks. These icebox cakes evolved into today’s time-tested, icebox cookies.

At this busy time of year, having a stash of pre-made slice & bake cookies on hand is priceless. Many people love the idea of giving homemade cookies as gifts or using at office cookie exchanges. Thinking about that, I decided to feature a recipe and gift idea for some inspiration on the subject.

The gift could include an inexpensive little cookie jar with some baked cookies in it as well as some frozen logs of cookie dough (ready to slice & bake), a tea towel, a rimless baking sheet, a cooling rack, a flexible lifter, a set of dry measures, a roll of parchment paper and the recipe for  CHOCOLATE TOFFEE COOKIES.

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Vintage Ice Box Cookies
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in milk, egg & vanilla.
  2. In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt; stir into butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in toffee bits & nuts.
  3. Divide dough in half; place each half on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into log about 12-13-inches long. Refrigerate, re-rolling 2 or 3 times to keep round shape if necessary during the chilling time of 4 hours.
  4. Let stand at room temperature just long enough so you can slice them without the dough cracking or changing shape. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch thick slices; place on baking sheet & bake about 8-10 minutes. Immediately transfer cookies WITH parchment to cooling rack.

Hazelnut Liqueur Shortbread Cookies

It’s hard to think of Christmas without having shortbread. When I was growing up, fruitcake (or Christmas cake) and shortbread cookies were some of the staples associated with Christmas baking.  Fruitcake has definitely become lost in the shuffle  but it seems shortbread still remains. While the traditional shortbread consisted of three main ingredients — flour, sugar and butter, today it is flavored with any number of ingredients.

The first shortbread recipe appeared in a Scottish cookbook dated 1736. Early formulas called for yeast, but by 1850, most were utilizing only flour,  sugar and butter combined in a ratio bakers still use today. Originally it started out as a twice-baked medieval bread roll that was dusted in sugar and allowed to harden. For a number of years, Scottish shortbread (biscuits) were classified as a bread by bakers so that they could avoid the tax placed on biscuits.

There are infinite variations on the classic version such as additions of nuts, alcohol, citrus zest, dried fruit, anise spice, floral water, chocolate, lemon curd, caramel or ganache.

Some years ago, I started using a hazelnut liqueur in some of my Christmas baking. It adds a wonderful richness we really enjoy. My favorite is the Frangelico brand. It is distilled in the Piedmont region of northern Italy from an alcohol and water infusion of the nuts. Natural flavoring extracts such as cocoa and vanilla are added before blending with alcohol, sugar and water to meet the bottle strength. It’s origins go back over 300 years to the Christian monks who inhabited that area of Italy. The name Frangelico is derived from one of the monks, Fra. Angelico. The bottle itself, reflects this heritage, which looks like a glass monk complete with a rope belt. A bit pricey but if you are using it only for baking, the bottle lasts a long time. 

This recipe was featured in a ‘Canadian Living’ magazine in December 2002. The perfect shortbread for the upcoming season.

 

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Hazelnut Liqueur Shortbread Cookies
Servings
Ingredients
Hazelnut Glaze
Servings
Ingredients
Hazelnut Glaze
Instructions
Shortbread
  1. In a bowl, beat butter with sugar until light & fluffy followed by the liqueur & vanilla. Stir in cornstarch & salt. Next add flour, 1/3 at a time combining to make a smooth dough. Add nuts, then divide dough in half & chill until firm but not hard, about 30-60 minutes.
  2. Roll out each disk of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness & chill again at least 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut into desired shapes, re-rolling scrapes. Place 1-inch apart on baking sheet; chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. bake shortbread cookies for 15-20 minutes or until LIGHT golden. Remove from oven & place on cooking rack. Spread with glaze if desired.
Hazelnut Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, liqueur & 2 Tbsp water (adding more water if needed to make spreadable). Spread over shortbread cookies.

Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns

As I mentioned in a previous blog, persimmons are definitely underrated. If you haven’t used them before, now is a good time to give them a try. Where we are, here in Canada, you start seeing them in the grocery stores around October. A bit pricey at first but they get better as the winter rolls along. There are unlimited ways to use them posted on the internet.

The persimmon is Japan’s national fruit. The most commonly found varieties are the ‘Hachiya’, round with a slightly elongated, pointed base and the ‘Fuyu’, smaller and more tomato shaped. When ripe, both have a red-orange skin and flesh, creamy texture and a tangy-sweet, vanilla like flavor.

Today, I’m using a Fuyu persimmon to make some nice little sticky buns. This recipe makes a small amount and tastes amazing.

Print Recipe
Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns
Instructions
  1. Butter 5 or 6 custard cups. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter; add brown sugar. Stir until sugar is melted & begins to bubble. Divide sugar mixture between custard cups. Place a pecan half (upside down) in center of each cup. Place sliced persimmon quarters in a circular fashion on top of sugar & pecan. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat remaining 4 Tbsp butter & granulated sugar until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla, egg & milk until fully blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Add to wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended. Carefully fold in chopped pecans.
  4. Divide batter between custard cups & bake for 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in custard cups. Invert on serving platter & serve.