The name reads really well – the sort of high maintenance dish that requires hours of dedicated work in the kitchen. The truth is that it is a lot easier to bake than it sounds… After all, it is a slightly modified pound cake, with 2 very easy elements on the side. The cake itself has a pleasantly crumbly and grainy texture, ideal to combine with the rosemary infused honey. The creamy mascarpone sauce just makes everything come together. Try it with a double expresso for even better results…
Polenta cake with mascarpone and rosemary (adapted from a Eddie Russel recipe found in Food and Wine Magazine)
- 1 3/4 cup (=220g) flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup (=65g) polenta
- Pinch of salt
- 2 sticks (=220g) of unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (110g) of sugar
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 cup (=225g) mascarpone, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (200mL) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
Preheat the oven to 325°F (= 190°C). Butter and flour a metal loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the polenta and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating the batter at low speed until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
Turn the cake onto a rack and let it cool until warm.
In a small saucepan, combine the honey with the water and rosemary sprigs and simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs. While the cake is still warm, lightly brush the top of the cake with the rosemary syrup.
In a medium bowl, whisk the mascarpone with the cream, sugar and vanilla-bean seeds.
Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into thick slices and transfer to plates. Top each slice with a large dollop of mascarpone, drizzle with the rosemary syrup and serve.
Can gluten free cake be as good as “normal” cake? Well, it depends… in this case, it was. It is also a very long list of ingredients to make it taste like and feel like cake. Worthwhile the effort? Well, yes. It was pretty good cake, with a unusual texture.
The beasts My lovely co-workers had it all in a single meeting… I still have to let them know this was a specially healthy version of what they usually get…
Carrot cake (gluten free; adapted from Dias com Mafalda blog)
- 100g of brown or unrefined sugar
- 100mL of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 3 slightly beaten eggs
- 3 grated carrots
- 1 grated apple
- 100g of crated cocunut
- 100g raisin
- the zest of one orange and 1 tablespoon of orange juice
- 175g gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 of powdered clove.
Grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180oC
Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs with wooden spoon. Fold in the grated carrots, apple and coconut together with the raisins, the orange zest and juice. On top of this mix, sift the flour, the spices, baking-powder and baking soda.
Put the batter in the tin and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 20min. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should come out dry.
Take it out from the tin while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.
Mighty, gluten-free seeds, packed with omega-3, protein Blah-di-blah-di-blah-di-blah Eleven health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by science Blah-di-blah-di-blah-di-blah Great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fibre blah-di and fortunately it’s an easy food to ad lalalalala. Indeed, I am trying to repurpose this blog into an healthy super foods outlet. The thing is that I actually like the gelatinous texture with some bite and a nutty flavour. It make me feel full for a long time. It is super easy a pudding like dessert – all you need is milk or vegetal equivalent, add spices and you are ready to go. For extra healthy points, add another superfood.
Spiced chia pudding with blueberries and crunchy chocolate muesli (adapted from a recipe found in Food and Wine on-line magazine).
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/2 cup (about 120mL) water
- 1 1/4 cup (about 300mL) of light or full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- fresh blueberries to task
- crunchy chocolate muesli
In a bowl, combine the chia seeds, water, coconut milk, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
To serve, stir in the sea salt and top with fresh blueberries, granola and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve chilled.
A bit overcooked (mea culpa)… Otherwise, a spot on take on shortbread, probably the best British biscuit of all time. Very buttery and crumbly, ideal to eat with coffee or tea or in a moment of high sugary need. They can also be used to impress
the beasts lovely co-workers on the occasion of yet-another-project-update-meeting. And, maybe, the mother in law, in the case that there was indeed one…
Lavender shortbread (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
- 340g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 225g unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing
- 140g caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped lavender
Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt and set aside. Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with an electrical mixer until smooth and creamy.
Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and, with the motor running, add the lavender and then the flour a little at a time.
Stop mixing as soon as the dough comes together. Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 20min.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180oC.
To make the shortbread fingers, gently pack the dough into a lightly buttered into a shallow baking tray ( roughly 30cm*20cm). Score the surface to mark out the fingers and prick all over with a fork. If you want to make circular biscuits, roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to 5-7cm thick, then stamp out the rounds using a 6cm cutter. Transfer to 2 lightly buttered baking sheets, leaving each space between each biscuit, then them with a fork.
Bake for 15-20min until pale golden, checking ofter as the ovens vary and the shortbread can easily burn. Cool in the tin or on the sheet until firm, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The mix sounds a bit odd and way too healthy for pudding, but truth to be said, it was delicious… Not the kind of thing you would expect coming from pearl barley. The orange syrup complemented to perfection the sweetness of the barley and the sesame seeds just added a bit of complexity to it. A total foodie moment, I’d dare to add…
- ½ tbsp each white and black sesame seeds, toasted (or use 1 tbsp white)
- 1½ tbsp unrefined sugar
- 125g pearl barley, covered with cold water and soaked overnight
- 750ml whole milk
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon,
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 20g tahini paste
For the orange syrup
- 1 medium orange
- 40g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp orange blossom water
Start with the orange syrup. Shave off a long strip of orange peel, avoiding the pith, and put in a small pan. Trim off top and bottom of the orange, then cut down its sides to remove all the skin and pith. Working over a small bowl to catch any juice, cut out the segments by slicing between the membranes. Add the segments to the bowl and set aside.
Add the caster sugar to the pan with the peel and add 75ml water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves – this should take less than a minute. Set aside to cool, then add the orange segments and juices, and the orange blossom water.
Roughly crush the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoon of muscovado sugar, and set aside.
Drain and rinse the barley. Tip it into a medium saucepan with the remaining muscovado sugar, milk, vanilla pod and seeds, citrus zest and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the barley is cooked but still has some byte: if it’s becomes very thick, add a little milk towards the end. Leave to cool for five minutes, then remove the vanilla pod and divide between four bowls. Dribble a teaspoon of tahini over each portion, spoon over the orange segments and syrup, sprinkle with sesame and serve.
You cannot go wrong with an über buttery sweet dessert. Adding fruit makes it vaguely healthy, even…
Apple and walnut crumble (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday)
For the filling
- 100g roasted walnuts
- 1.25kg apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
- 50-100g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
For the crumble
- 225g plain flour
- A pinch of sea salt
- 200g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 150g caster, granulated or soft brown sugar
- 75g medium oatmeal
- 100g grounded almonds (optional)
Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in an oven preheated to 180C for about 5-7 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through, until just beginning to colour and develop aroma. Leave to cool, then chop very roughly.
To prepare the crumble, you can your own hands or use a food processor, at it fits better. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers (or pulse briefly in the processor) until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
Stir in the sugar, oatmeal and ground almonds, if using. If you prefer to have a chunky crumble, squeeze a few handfuls in your fist to make lumps
Put the apples in a large bowl, sprinkle over the sugar, to taste. Add the walnuts and the cinnamon, if using, and mix roughly. Spread in a pie dish or other ovenproof dish, getting the fruit as compact as you can.
Scatter the crumble over the apples in a fairly even layer and bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned on top.
Serve hot, with cream, custard or ice cream; or, once it is cold, serve it with a thick, rich yoghurt.
I always associated jam making with huge undertakings, which would take days, if not weeks, to complete. Nothing a single girl could make – and eat – on her own. But, slowly by slowly, I start noticing quick jam recipes, with relatively small size. Like this one, which can be done in less than 1 hour, with almost no fuss what so ever. I have to add I am not a great fan of super sugary food, but this is the kind of thing you can add to your yoghurt for a sweet treat… (Not that may) calories definitely worthwhile taking.
Berry Quick Jam (adapted from theKitchn)
- 350g fresh raspberries
- 250g fresh blackberries
- 250g fresh strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
- 200g raw cane sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a large bowl, combine the berries and sugar, and let them macerate for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit.
Transfer the berries to a heavy pot and bring to boil over a medium heat. Add the salt, lemon zest and lemon juice and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Allow the berries to gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fruit breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, thickening slightly. When almost done, the jam will still be loose, but should coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the jam from the heat and pour into a clean glass jars, cap them and allow it to cool completely.
Truth to be told, this is far cry from the true chouquettes you can buy in Paris. The multicolour beads of sugar are missing, to start with, they are too big, they were not as airy as they should have been. But, also truth to be said, while these chouquetes are a travesty of the real ones, they were still delicious. They came out as small slightly sweet breads, ideal to eat with a little butter and ham or cheese. No complaints heard from the mobile calorie intake units, at least…
- 120mL all fat milk
- 120mL water
- 120g of butter without salt, cut in cubes
- 2 spoons of sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 120g all purpose flower
- 3 tablespoons of coloured sugar beads (or regular sugar)
Pre heat the stove to 220 oC.
Line two baking trays with parchment paper
In a large saucepan with a heavy bottom, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt on a low temperate. Once the it is well mixed, bring to a gently boil and remove immediately from the heat. Add the flour spoon by spoon dstir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a tight dough forms and pulls away from the side of the pan. It should feel like a tight dough, with a texture similar to marzipan.
Quickly add 2 eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add the remaining two eggs and mix until you have a sticky soft mixture.
Using two teaspoons, make small mounds of dough, leaving enough space between them (you can also use a piping bag with a plain tip). Sprinkle with the granulated sugar or the coloured beads.
Put the trays in the stove one at a time and let cook for about 12min at 220oC. Then lower the heat to 200oC and let the chouquettes bake with a the over door slightly open (using a wooden spoon to hold the door will do).
Even food bloggers have really bad kitchen days… Everything seemed going OK until I bumped into the mother of all disaster recipes. Without going into too much detail, the whole thing ended up in the trash bin. Then, I realised I was missing the key ingredient for the next bake. In despair, I turned to google to guide my way out of this mess. “Tea and fruit bread”, said the oracle. “You cannot get this one wrong”. She was right: it is super easy, quick and more importantly, fool-proof. A couple of hours later everything was fine again…
On a side note, this is very close to what my Grandmother used call English cake and insist on buying every Christmas. Us kiddies never thought the point of it – all that crystallised fruit was unappealing. We would patiently wait for it get too dry to eat, so my Mother could convert into a much more appetising bread pudding made with custard.
Tea and fruit bread (adapted from a recipe found in nigella.com)
- 1 cup black tea
- 250g mixed dried fruit
- 250g white flour
- 2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 125g of caster sugar
- 1 large beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Grease a loaf tin (about 650g)
Preheat oven to 180oC
Put the fruit in a small bowl, and pour in the tea. Let it soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit is swollen.
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade. Then, fold in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl. Mix thoroughly
Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin
I saw it on TV, I did it and I ate it… well, with a bit of help from the mobile calorie intake units. It is just the perfect dessert – it is glamorous, delicious and can be made in advance. There is not much technique to it, except, maybe, peeling the pears. And, it might be the healthiest part of dinner, even…
Poached pears with ginger, red chilli pepper and star anise (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking)
- 8-10 ripe conference pears, peeled but with the stem intact
- 200g of sugar
- 3 thumbs of ginger, cut into thick slices (about 20cm)
- 4 star anise, crushed to fine powder with a mortar and pestle
- 3 peperoncino (or red chillies peppers, to taste)
- Enough cold water to cover the pears.
Peel the pears with a potato peeler, taking care to leave the stems intact.
Put the water, the sugar and the ginger in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the pears and peperoncino and poach for about half hour until their are soft and cooked through.
Set aside and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.
When you are ready to serve, just put the pears in the plate and sprinkle them with the star anise dust.
If you want, you can bubble the syrup for a a few more minutes to thicken a bit and serve with the pears. Or, you can prepare a chocolate sauce (just melt the chocolate in bain marie, with a bit of butter, being careful not to boil it. Add some cream and mix well). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra quick.