Baking

Nutella Swirl Banana Bread Recipe

slices of nutella swirl banana bread

I made so much nutella the other day, I didn’t think we would ever finish it. So, I decided to add some to this delectable banana bread. And who doesn’t love banana bread with chocolate chips and swirls of nutella!

nutella swirl banana bread on a plate

I have made loads and loads of banana bread – ever since I was a teenager. I actually won a contest when I was 17 for banana bread in our local newspaper and won some sensational kitchen flooring for my parents. I really wanted the silver tea set that the person one down from me won, but c’est la vie. My parents were happy.

slices of nutella swirl banana bread

This Nutella Swirl Banana Bread has it all; moistness from the bananas; just enough sweetness from white and brown sugars and nutty aromas from the browned butter. And if you slice it up while it’s still warm, the nutella and milk chocolate chips will be warm and molten. Double yum!

I made this Nutella Swirl Banana Bread with browned butter to amp up the flavour components. I have instructions in a previous post on how to brown butter, if you have never done that. It’s really easy, by the way!

slices of nutella swirl banana bread

Some people like to spread butter on banana bread, and that’s ok, but this one is so loaded with browned butter and chocolate and nutella, I think it’s absolutely delicious on it’s own. It would be fantastic with a large mug of a spicy herbal tea or a chai latte. So good!

Enjoy!

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 loaves Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 very very ripe bananas, mashed or pureed
  • 1 cup butter (browned)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup white spelt flour
  • 1 cup oat flour (whole oats pulverized in your food processor)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 nutella (warmed)

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2

Line two loaf tins with parchment paper.

3

Brown the butter (see instructions above).

4

Add sugar to browned butter.

5

Once the egg and butter mixture has cooled, add in the eggs, vanilla, yogurt and bananas.

6

In a separate large bowl, stir together the flours and baking soda.

7

Add butter and sugar mixture to dry ingredients.

8

Stir all ingredients together until mixed.

9

Add chocolate chips.

10

Add about 1/4 of the mixture into each loaf tin.

11

Spread 1/4 cup of the warmed nutella down the centre. Swirl with a butter knife.

12

Add the rest of the batter overtop of the nutella. Then spread another 1/4 cup of the nutella on the top. Swirl with a butter knife, mixing the batter with the nutella.

13

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

14

Let it cool in the loaf tins for about 10 minutes. Then remove from the loaf tins and cool on a rack.

Notes

These loaves freeze very well. If freezing, use within 3 minths.

Baking

Orange Nutella Alfajores

raw dough for orange nutella alfajores

I have been wanting to make alfajores cookies for a very long time. Their common description of being a melt-in-the-mouth cookie sandwiched together with dulce de leche just seemed heavenly. And they are.

Alfajores Cookies are one of the simplest cookies to make. They are made from just a handful of ingredients; flour, cornstarch, butter, sugar and egg. And they are ready in a jiffy.

The first batch I made was a regular cookie with dulce de leche inbetween. But with Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted a chocolate filling. I added orange zest to the cookie dough, sandwiched them together with Nutella, and Orange Nutella Alfajores were born. And I must say it is a heavenly match.

You can use store-bought Nutella. Or if you have time, make your own. It’s divine.

Alfajores cookies have been popular in Uruguay, Peru and Argentina since the mid 1800’s. Common fillings in alfajores are dulce de leche, chocolate mousse, fruit or cream. Toppings include meringue coating, milk chocolate, coconut or a sugar glaze.

The word alfajor comes from the arabic al-hasu, which means filled or stuffed. Culinary experts have traced Alfajores to Andalusia, Spain during the occupation by the Moors. There is a strong similarity between alfajores and mamoul, a buttery confection filled with date paste that is popular in the Middle East and North Africa.

orange nutella alfajores

Alfajores are so popular in Peru and Argentina, that there are chain restaurants that only sell alfajores. Casa del alfajor is one such chain in Peru. And Havanna, in Argentina, which has been around since 1947.

Try making a batch. You will love them!

Orange Nutella Alfajores

Print Recipe
Serves: 18

Ingredients

  • 200 gram flour
  • 300 gram corn starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250 grams softened butter
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 3 3gg yolks
  • 1 T brandy
  • zest from one orange
  • nutella (store bought or my own - see above)

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

3

Mix together flour, corn starch and baking powder and soda.

4

Cream together butter, sugar and orange zest for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.

5

Add the egg yolks and brandy to the butter mixture.

6

Add in the flour mixture.

7

Mix briefly until well incorporated.

8

Roll out dough until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies with cutter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

9

You can place them relatively close together, as they will not spread.

10

Bake for about 10 minutes, only until slightly golden around the edges.

11

Cool on baking tray for 5 minutes, then place them on a cookie rack to cool.

12

Sandwich them together, when they are cold, with nutella.

 

Baking

Orange Coconut Anzac Cookies

orange coconut anzac cookies on cookie rack

Anzac Cookies are a delicious mixture of oats, flour, coconut, dark brown sugar, golden syrup plus a few more things. I have added orange extract to really brighten up the nutty flavours. In the middle of winter I just love a burst of orange! These cookies have a nice sweet, nutty taste. I make them small, only about 1.5 inches after baking, so they are a perfect treat when you’re in the mood for something sweet.

Anzac cookies originated in Australia and New Zealand and were made popular during World War I. I had read for years that women would bake these cookies and send them to soldiers fighting on the front lines and that’s how they came by that name. However, this appears to be a myth. They were, however, baked for fundraisers back home to raise funds for the war effort. A connection was made between these cookies and soldiers fighting during the war, so they became known as Anzac Cookies.

Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is protected under Australian law. Anzac cannot be used in Australia without permission from the Minister of Veterans Affairs, especially for commercial purposes.

These Orange Coconut Anzac cookies are made without eggs, and therefore keep quite well. You can make them chewy or crisp, but this recipe makes quite chewy cookies.

If you want to make vegan Orange Coconut Anzac cookies, swap up the butter for vegetable oil. Super simple.

raw dough of orange coconut anzac cookies

I made these cookies quite small. I used a very small cookie/ice cream scoop to get nice, evenly shaped dough.

orange coconut anzac cookies stacked One or two or these cookies goes very well with a hot beverage on a cold wintery day.

Orange Coconut Anzac Cookies

Print Recipe
Serves: 36 Cooking Time: 12-15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 2/3 dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 Tbsp boiling water
  • 1 tsp orange extract

Instructions

1

Stir together the dry ingredients.

2

Melt the butter, golden syrup together in a small pot or in the microwave.

3

Add the orange extract after the butter and golden syrup are combined.

4

In a large bowl, add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

5

Drop by teaspoon (or very small ice cream scoop) onto baking sheets.

6

Leave 1.5" inches between cookies, as they will spread.

7

Flatten slightly.

8

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden.

Baking

On-the-Go Carrot, Apricot, Walnut Muffins

carrot, apricot, walnut muffins

This is such a super busy, stressful time of year for most people. The festivities in November and December are overwhelming: Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas all come within weeks of each other. And each of those festivities are accompanied by cooking, baking, shopping, office parties, school concerts, music concerts etc.

To help get through it all without getting sick, or super stressed, it’s super important to take care of yourself during these hectic months. Eat healthy, stick to a regular bedtime schedule and try and get some exercise, even if it’s a 30 minute walk in the sunshine during your lunch.

Whenever I go out to do errands, I always try to take a hot mug of tea, or a bottle of water and a small snack. These On the-Go Carrot, Apricot, Walnut Muffins are perfect for that. Besides carrots, apricots and walnuts, they also contain coconut and applesauce.  When I bring my own snack, I am less tempted to buy a high calorie snack and sugar laden coffee at the corner coffee shop. This saves me a ton of money and I know I’m eating something healthy.

carrot, apricot, walnut muffins

These muffins freeze really well. When you’re heading out, you can just pop a muffin in a container to take away with your favourite on-the-go drink. It will thaw out and be ready to eat within 30-40 minutes. Packing a snack is a good habit to get into even if you’re just going out for a couple of hours.

carrot, apricot, walnut muffins

I hope you enjoy them! And Happy December!

I really liked these stress relieving tips. My favourites from this list were walking, enjoying the sunshine and laughter.

If you find any of the tips helpful, please share!

On-the-Go Carrot, Apricot, Walnut Muffins

Print Recipe
Serves: 16 Cooking Time: 20

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped apricots
  • 1/4 cup coconut

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2

Fill muffin tray with paper cup liners.

3

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

4

In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce and eggs.

5

In a third bowl, mix together the carrots, walnuts, apricots and coconut.

6

Add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients.

7

Add in the oil/applesauce and egg mixture.

8

Stir briefly until everything is combined.

9

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. You should be able to fill about 16 cups.

10

Place muffin tray in oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Muffins should rise nicely and be golden brown when done.

 

Baking

Festive Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate

Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate

Christmas Cookie baking has begun! I started my baking season with these Vegan Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate. This cookie is normally made with Strega, a herbal liqueur from the Basilicata Region of Italy, which supposedly goes really well with chocolate. That liqueur is difficult to find where I live, so I used brandy, which I always have on hand this time of year., and which also works well with the mocha, almond flavours in this cookie.  This is a super delicious cookie, made without eggs or butter.

 

Mocha, Almond, Brandy StrazzateI woke up the other morning to this snowy site and decided it was the perfect day to begin my Christmas Baking.

Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate

It’s never too early to start baking Christmas cookies or playing around with Christmas lights: two of my favourite winter activities.

These Mocha Almond Brandy Strazzate cookies come together very quickly. And the taste is divine. A cookie dough made with cocoa powder and chocolate chips so you get chocolate goodness in every bite. The dough also contains ground almonds + chopped almonds – double goodness again! And the espresso coffee blends with the chocolate to create than umami mocha flavour that is so powerful.

Like I mentioned above, this cookie is traditionally made in the Basilicata Region of Italy where Strega is made. I think any liqueur/liquor that goes with mocha and almonds would work. If you don’t drink alcohol, try a strong spiced herbal tea or chai. Those would work too.

Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate

You can eat them plain, or sprinkled with some icing sugar. So tasty. Make a splash with your Christmas Baking this year. Try something new.

Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate

Print Recipe
Serves: 16 Cooking Time: 30

Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp finely ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp white flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 tsp espresso powder, dissolved in 1/4 c. boiling water

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2

Mix together the ground almonds, chopped almonds, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips and cocoa powder and olive oil.

3

Dissolve the baking powder in 2 teaspoons of hot water.

4

Add baking powder solution, coffee, and liqueur.

5

Give it all a good brisk stir. The dough will be very wet.

6

Form into 30 gram balls (or 1 ounce).

7

Place on parchment paper about 1 inch apart.

8

Bake in oven for 30 minutes, until dried out and set. The bottom will be slightly golden.

9

After 30 minutes, remove from oven.

10

Let dry on baking tray for 2-3 minutes.

11

Remove from baking tray to cool on a rack.

12

Enjoy!

Notes

These cookies will keep in a coo, dry place or 3-5 days. Or you can freeze them for up to one month.

Recipe slightly adapted from Saveur Magazine February 4, 2013.

Baking

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Bread

cinnamon swirl pumpkin bread

Who’s up for Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Bread! This bread has everything: subtle spicy sweetness rolled inside a delicious pumpkin enhanced bread with a really good crumb. It is delicious on it’s own or toasted and spread with cinnamon butter.

cinnamon swirl pumpkin bread

I always make pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and then wonder why I don’t cook with pumpkin more often. Pumpkin is fantastic in so many baked goods. It has a beautiful colour and texture. And it is the perfect vehicle for all those delicious baking spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

This Dairy-Free Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Bread is made with coconut milk, so it’s a dairy-free dessert. Whether you eat dairy products or not, you will not miss them in this sumptious loaf.

This bread has two rises in it, so it’ll take a few hours before it comes out of the oven. But a lot of that time is inactive, just waiting for those busy yeast cells to multiply and plump our dough up. So, while the bread is doing both of it’s rises, you could do some other fun stuff like read a chapter in a book, do some gardening, or go for a nice long walk.  However you spend your day, you will definitely have a feeling of satisfaction when this lovely Dairy-Free Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Bread comes out of the oven.

Not only do I love the taste of pumpkin, I just love the look of them: big, orange globes that come in so many shapes and sizes. Pumpkins are super fun to grow. As they grow on a meandering low-trailing vine, you don’t necessarily need a separate, huge garden to grow them. They can wind their way through your flower garden, too.  We grew some a few years ago, in a small veggie garden we created in our backyard. It was super fun. Our kids really enjoyed watching the pumpkins grow throughout the summer. Our pumpkins didn’t get super big, but by the end of October we had six pumpkins that we drew faces on for Hallowe’en. How fun is that!!!!

cinnamon swirl pumpkin bread

This loaf is perfect as it is, but if you wanted extra sweetness, you could add a drizzle of icing over the top of the loaf.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Bread

Print Recipe
Serves: 12-16 Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • Cinnamon Filling
  • water
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger

Instructions

1

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

2

After the yeast is frothy, add the milk, egg, pumpkin, oil, 2 cups of flour, brown sugar, salt, and spices to the yeast mixture.

3

Stir by hand or use an electric mixer and mix for about one minute.

4

Using a dough hook, add remaining flour in small increments. The end result should be a dough that is just slightly sticky.

5

Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

6

After the dough has doubled in size, roll into a 9" X 18" rectangle.

7

Rub the water over your hands and then over the surface of the dough.

8

Sprinkle the spice and sugar mixture over top of the dough, covering the entire surface.

9

Beginning at the short side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seams to close. You may have to use some water to seal the seams closed.

10

Place the dough, seam side down, in a buttered bread pan.

11

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Place in a warm area and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

12

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown on top.

13

Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and let cool.

Recipe is adapted from Karma Per Diem’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread

Baking

Apricot Cherry Oat Bara Brith Loaf Recipe

apricot cherry oat bara brith

Bara Brith is a lovely Welsh snacking cake. It is quick to prepare but very hearty. Bara Brith means speckled bread in Welsh.  It is a delicately sweet loaf that is loaded with dried fruits that soak in strong tea overnight. I have added a bit of rum to the tea to smooth out those black tea tannin flavours. The rum is optional, but it really brings together the tea and dried fruit flavours very well.  But, by all means, leave out the rum, if you must. It is completely optional.

I have added in loads of extra flavour components to really make the flavours of this Apricot Cherry Oat Bara Brith pop! There is maple syrup, marmalade, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger as well as demerara brown sugar and dried fruit. The aromas coming from the oven are to die for!

 

apricot cherry oat bara brith

Bara Brith has been made in Wales for over one hundred years and was traditionally eaten on St. David’s Day or Christmas day, thickly sliced and slathered in butter. It has fallen from popularity in the last ten years and therefore some major supermarkets have removed it from their shelves. Traditional Bara Brith is made with currants. In this recipe I have used a combination of dried apricots and dried cherries which go really well together. And the oats add a lovely texture to this baked treat.

This Apricot Cherry Oat Bara Brith makes a lovely addition to packed lunches. It is also excellent with morning coffee or your afternoon tea. Not bad with your favourite program or movie after dinner either.

 

apricot cherry oat bara brith

Next time you are in the mood to bake a sweet treat for your family, try this Apricot Cherry Oat Bara Brith. It’s really hits the spot.

Apricot Cherry Oat Bara Brith

Print Recipe
Serves: 8-10 Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 75 g dried cherries
  • 175 g dried apricots
  • 250 mL of strong black tea
  • 2 Tbsp rum
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 2 T marmalade
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g medium sized oats
  • 100 grams whole wheat flour
  • 250 g white flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 175 grams demerara sugar
  • 2 T maple surup
  • 2 T milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger

Instructions

1

Soak the dried fruit in the strong black tea and rum (optional) in a bowl overnight.

2

Next day: Preheat oven to 350 F. degrees

3

Drain the dried fruit mixture.

4

Mix together the melted butter and marmalade. When this mixture is cool, add in the two eggs.

5

Mix together the flour, oats, baking powder and brown sugar and spices.

6

Add the butter, marmalade, egg mixture to the flour. Add in the milk and maple syrup.

7

The batter should be able to drop from a spoon. If it is too thick, add in more milk.

8

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

9

Pour batter into a prepared loaf pan.

10

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top starts to over brown before the cake is done, cover the top of the cake with tin foil and continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean.

11

Cool cake in the pan for about 5-10 minutes. Then remove onto a rack.

12

Wait until the cake is cold before cutting. About 1-2 hours.

13

Serve as is or with butter.

14

Enjoy!

Baking

Lancashire Maple-Oat Parkin Cake for a Late Summer Evening

lancashire maple-oat parkin cake

 

With the days getting cooler, especially the evenings, I start thinking more about baking. This Lancashire Maple-Oat  Parkin Cake is a fantastic late summer bake with it’s ginger, treacle and maple syrup flavours.

A few weeks ago, my Scottish cousin, Anne, sent me a lovely little vintage Trex Cookery cookbook. She knows that I love cooking and baking and spotted this booklet in a vintage shop. The first recipe that I spotted was the Lancashire Parkin and knew straight away that would be the first recipe to try. Lancashire Parkin checked all the boxes for me for a lovely bake: oats, syrup, ginger and demerara sugar.  She also sent me a beautiful cake tin with a lovely photo of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to store my cake in.

Lancashire Parkin is a Northern England Version of gingerbread. It is a sticky, moisty lightly spiced cake. It originated in Yorkshire, but is also popular in Lancashire, which is just to the west. No one seems to know where the name Parkin comes from.

Parkin cake is traditionally eaten in England on Bonfire Night, November 5th. Bonfire Night celebrates the epic failure of Guy Fawkes, a Yorkshire man, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

lancashire maple-oat parkin cake

Parkin Cake is a moist chewy cake due to the addition of oats. This cake also always contains sweeteners such as molasses,  black treacle or golden syrup, and light or dark brown sugar. I added maple syrup to my Lancashire Maple-Oat Parkin Cake, to reflect my Canadian roots.

Don’t be tempted by the divine aromas of the cake after it has come out of the oven. After it is cold, wrap it up and store it for 3 days. You will be happy you did!

Enjoy!

Lancashire Maple-Oat Parkin Cake for an Autumn Evening

Print Recipe
Serves: 12-16 Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 225 grams flour
  • 225 brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 22 grams medium oats
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 225 grams melted butter
  • 225 grams golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Prepare 9 inch by 12 inch baking tray with parchment paper.

2

Melt the liquid ingredients together (butter, golden syrup and maple syrup). Let cool to room temperature, about ten minutes.

3

Mix the milk and eggs together and whisk until the eggs are incorporated into the milk.

4

Mix the dry ingredients together.

5

Add melted mixture and egg mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed together well.

6

Pour into baking dish.

7

Bake for about 60-90 minutes. It should be a nice golden colour on top when done. And a cake tester should come out clean.

8

Let cool in the pan for about 1-2 hours, until cool. Then turn out onto a cake rack until cold.

9

Once cold, wrap in plastic wrap or place in a plastic container and store for about 3 days.

10

Slice and enjoy!

 

Baking

Japanese Matcha White Chocolate Cake for a Summer Picnic

matcha and white chocolate cake with green tea

Awhile ago I bought some matcha powder from The World of Teas here in Ottawa. There were so many things that I wanted to make with it, smoothies, ice cream, lattes and this cake. My son bought me this amazing cookbook for Christmas two years ago: Tokyo Cult Recipes by Maori Murota and inside was an easy recipe for Matcha Cake.

ingredients for matcha and white chocolate cake

Matcha powder, for those of you who don’t know,  is made from finely ground green tea. There are many varieties of matcha powder to buy, depending on whether you want to cook with it, or drink it. I used Culinary Matcha Powder, which is excellent for baking cakes and cookies, as well as using in smoothies and Matcha Lattes. It’s also a bit cheaper than some of the other matcha powders available purely for drinking.

Have you ever baked with matcha powder before? Well, this was my first time and all I can say is, Wow! Matcha powder is so fun to bake with! It’s like a little pinch of magic. In it’s packaging, it is dry, dusty and green….

matcha and white chocolate cake

…but once you add butter, sugar, flour etc. the flavour and aroma of the green tea really pops! And when the cake is baking in the oven, the aroma is just delicious.

I also love the effervescent shade of green. If you love green tea, then you will really enjoy this bake-up. This Japanese Matcha White Chocolate Cake is the perfect summery bake. The soothing sweet white chocolate is the perfect match for earthy and grassy notes of green tea. It’s just what you need for a summertime bake.

matcha and chocolate cake with green tea
Besides the great aroma and taste of this cake, I also just love that I can bake a green cake and you will too,

Japanese Matcha White Chocolate Cake for a Summer Picnic

Print Recipe
Serves: 12 Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams butter, softened
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 100 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon matcha powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 70 grams white chocolate chips

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.

2

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Or alternately, coat loaf pan with some softened butter, and then sprinkle flour on top. Shake out excess.

3

Beat the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until very very pale and very fluffy.

4

Add in the eggs, one at a time. Beat the mixture in between each egg addition.

5

Sift the flour, baking powder and matcha powder.

6

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter sugar mixture either on very low on your mixer or with a wooden spoon or spatula.

7

Stir in the white chocolate chips.

8

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

9

Bake in the oven for 40-60 minutes.

10

Remove from oven when cake tester comes out clean.

11

Let cool in tin for about 10 minutes. Then remove and let cool on a rack.

12

Slice into approximately 12 slices.

 

 

Baking

Focaccia Bread with Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Focaccia Bread with sea salt and black pepper on a plate with butter and knife and drink

The first time that I had focaccia bread was at a little sandwich shop in downtown Toronto. It was so delicious:  chewy, warm, fragrant with olive oil drizzled on top and crunchy with salt and rosemary.

Years later Ifinally learned to bake it myself, after I had bought Antonio Carlucci’s Italian Feast cookbook.The back cover of his cookbook shows four variations of focaccia bread, each one as delectable ss the next.

I don’t know why I waited so long to bake sme, as Focaccia bread is very simple to make. It only has one rise so there is minimal kneading, and it is baked flat  on a cookie tray – so no shaping! And in the summertime, we bake ours on a pizza stone on the barbeque, so you don’t even need to turn on the oven.

Focaccia Bread with sea salt and black pepper on a plate with butter knife and drink

Focaccia bread is delicious eaten plain at dinnertime, or you can use it for sandwiches.  You can also make killer breakfast sandwiches with a simple omelette nestled inbetween two soft warm slices of focaccia.

This bread is delicious at room temperature, but I love it when it’s soft and warm. To warm the focaccia, simply wrap some slices in tin foil and put in the oven on low for about ten minutes, or inside the barbeque for 3-5 minutes.

Focaccia is an excellent starter bread for beginners. This bread bakes up very fast and when baked on the barbecue has a lovely smokiness to it. Baking bread on the barbecue means you can bake anytime of the year.  And the crust is simply amazing; crunchy, hot, smoky. Yum!

Focaccia makes great picnic food. It pairs well with sliced meats, cheese, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and other pickled vegetables. And makes fantastic picnic food.

Sometimes on a hot summer night, we’ll just pack up all our picnic foods and lay them out in the backyard. A picnic in your backyard: nothing could be simpler.

Focaccia Bread with Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 15 - 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Dough
  • 500 g (1 1/4 lb) strong white plain flour
  • 15 grams fresh yeast or 7 grams dry
  • 300 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 g sea salt
  • For the Topping
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (or chopped onions rosemary or other herbs)

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 475 deg F (with pizza stone) or preheat BBQ with pizza stone

2

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Once yeast has bubbled up, add to flour along with the rest of the water, oil and salt. Mix everything together and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and springy. You can do this in your kitchen mixer with the dough hook.

3

Put the dough in a bowl that has been slightly oiled with olive oil. Place a damp cloth over top and leave it for one hour until double in size.

4

Knead the dough again after an hour to knock out any bubbles. Flatten the dough until it is an oval shape and about 1" thick. To create indentations, press your knuckles into the dough several times, keeping the indentations about 1 inch apart. Spread about half the olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle on the toppings. Leave to rise again for about 30 minutes, then pop in the hot oven or BBQ for about 15 minutes until the base sounds hollow when tapped, or when the bottom and top are a nice golden colour.

Adapted from Antonio Carlucci’s cookbook, Italian Feasts.

Baking

Egyptian Basbousa Cake Recipe

egyptian basbousa cake on plate

Many years ago, my best friend Bonnie and I took off from Canada for a year long travel adventure. We had planned and saved for our trip for many years; we cut out travel stories from the newspaper and collected travel tips from friends. Bonnie and I were only 19 years old but we were ready for a big adventure.

It was a beautiful spring day when we landed in London, England.  We spent a few weeks in that lovely old city before continuing our travels through the United Kingdom, Europe and into northern Africa as well.

Europe is a fascinating place to travel at any age, but when you’re 19, it’s magical. We enjoyed all the art museums, comfortable, punctual trains, and the beautiful old buildings but my favourite part was the food:  Austrian coffee, italian pizza and gelato in little cups, french croissants, greek baklava and egyptian falafels: all were breathtaking.

Over the course of twelve months, we sampled many delicious dishes and sweets. And my cooking at home is still influenced by that trip so many years ago. This year, while happily remembering our travels, I made one of our favourites sweets from our trip: Egyptian Basbousa Cake. We sampled many slices of Basbousa Cake while we travelled from Cairo to Luxor and to Hurghada on the Red Sea.

Basbousa Cake is a very popular dessert in the middle east. Many countries in this region make their own variation: Revani from Northern Greece, Ravani from Southern Greece and Hareesa from Jordan, the Maghreb and Alexandria. The names may be different, but the cakes are very similar.

egyptian basbousa cake with a bowl of semolina, a lemon and a jar of honey on a wooden table

Egyptian Basbousa Cake is super easy to make as it only requires a few basic pantry ingredients.  It is traditionally made  with semolina and has a surprising wheaty aroma and taste. I have also made it with cream of wheat cereal, and while it has a coarser texture, I still really like it.

Basbousa is luxuriously sweet, with a cold lemon-scented sugar/honey syrup poured over the hot-from-the-oven cake. This technique also makes the cake super moist.  Because it is a very moist cake, it doesn’t slice as neatly as other cakes, but is so so delicious. A traditional finishing touch to the cake is to place whole almonds in the centre of each slice.

egyptian basbousa cake in a tin

This cake will keep for serveral days. It is excellent with tea or coffee. It would also be an excellent addition to an afternoon picnic on the beach. If you want to ramp this cake up a notch, served it with a dollop thick whipped cream.

Egyptian Basbousa Cake

Egyptian Basboussa Cake

Print Recipe
Serves: 16 Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups semolina (you can also use cream of wheat cereal)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup of yogurt
  • syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2

Grease a baking pan 9 X 9 inches.

3

Whip the butter and sugar until well blended and a pale yellow colour.

4

Add the eggs one at a time.

5

In a separate bowl, mix the semolina and baking powder and soda.

6

Add dry mixture and yogurt to butter/sugar mix, alternating between the dry mix and the yogurt.

7

Pour into greased pan.

8

Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean and the cake is slightly golden on top.

9

While the cake is baking, you can make the syrup. Combine all of the ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil, stirring lots to help dissolve the sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Then pour the syrup into a heat resistant bowl or very large measuring cup. Place the bowl in cold water to cool down the syrup. You could also place the container with the syrup in the freezer until the cake comes out of the oven.

10

Once the cake has come out of the oven, pour the syrup over the hot cake, until it is all soaked up. You may not need all of it, but you will be surprised how much it soaks up. Let the cake cool in the pan until cold.

recipe is slightly adapted from Tess Mallos The Complete Middle East Cookbook

Baking

Pirozhki Meat Stuffed Buns Recipe

5 pirohzki buns

I absolutely love pirozhki buns! Pirozhki buns are bread dough stuffed with a variety of savoury fillings. They are popular in Russia and the Ukraine. This Pirohzki recipe is filled with seasoned ground beef and cheddar cheese. You can also make  vegetarian pirohzki filled with cabbage, mushrooms, onions or chopped hard boiled egg.

two pirohzki buns

A few years ago, my parent’s neighbour mentioned how he loved to make homemade buns stuffed with meat and cheese. He would freeze them and then pack them up for lunch on a workday. I had never heard of that idea but loved it right away.

Last week, I baked up some meat filled buns for my husband’s lunch and he couldn’t have been happier. After he polished off my first batch, he said, “When are you making more?”.

pirozhki bun

The dough for these pirohzki is made with sour cream. I love the tart and creamy flavour it imparts. You could also use regular bread dough without sour cream. Or pastry dough or puff pastry if you want something flaky.  Personally, I love that fresh bread taste, as opposed to pastry.

The seasoned ground beef and cubes of cheddar cheese wrapped inside the rich bread dough tastes amazing! Almost like a hamburger without the toppings – but better! My pirozhki were about six inches long, which is great for a packed lunch. You can also make them smaller if you wanted to serve them with soup.

As I researched  pirohzki I discovered many similar buns from around the world. Greece makes a deep fried version called pirouskia.  In Iran, pirashki is sweet and filled with custard. Estonia makes pirukad which has a meat and chopped hard boiled egg filling. In Finland, karelian pastries (open-faced egg tarts) are very popular and eaten for breakfast. And in Japan they fill their savoury buns with curry. They all sound amazing to me!

I hope you enjoy these as much as we have. If you experiment with a different filling – let me know. There are so many variations to try. Pirozhki are so versatile!

pirozhki meat filled buns

Pirozhki Meat Stuffed Buns Recipe

Print Recipe
Serves: 16 Cooking Time: 15-20

Ingredients

  • Dough
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (480 grams)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (113)
  • 1/4 cup softened butter (57)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp active yeast (or 1 package)
  • Filling
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 250 grams ground beef
  • 170 grams cubed cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg mixed with 1 tbsp water to spread on dough

Instructions

1

Dough: Proof yeast in water for 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, sugar, sour cream, soft butter and eggs to mixing bowl. Using dough hook, mix until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

2

Rub olive oil in a separate medium sized bowl and place dough in bowl. Let dough sit for about 90 minutes, until puffed up. It does not need to be double in bulk.

3

For Filling: heat oil in pan, add onion and garlic cloves. Saute until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Add chilli powder, salt and pepper and mix in. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.

4

Place beef mixture in a bowl and let cool until room temperature. Then stir in cheese. You can make this filling ahead of time and store it in the fridge until ready to use.

5

Divide the dough into 16 equal sized pieces. This is easiest if you have a scale. Each piece of dough should weight about 2 oz or 55-57 grams each. If you do not have a scale, just try to make sure each bun is close to the same size. (A tip to get similar sized dough balls: flatten dough slightly, and then divide dough in half, then divide each half in half so that you have four equal sized pieces of dough. Divide each piece in half again, and now you'll have 8 pieces. Divide each of the 8 pieces in half to get 16.)

6

Shape each piece of dough into a nice ball shape. Place on a parchment lined baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

7

Flatten each piece of dough into a 5 inch oval shape. Brush the surface with the egg wash. Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of filling and place it in the centre. Pull the dough over the filling and seal the opposite edges.

8

Place on baking sheet and let it rest for one hour, until slightly puffy.

9

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, about 10-15 minutes before the end of the rise. Brush the egg wash over the buns.

10

Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes, until they are a nice golden brown. Don't worry if some of the seams come undone. Remove from oven and place on wire rack for about 15 minutes before eating.

11

Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator when thoroughly cooled. You can eat these hot or at room temperature.

12

Pirozhki can also be frozen for up to one month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour Stuffed Buns