Monday, 23 March 2015

Cocoa Almond Brownies (gluten-free!)

Looking for something different to bake for a gluten and dairy-free friend? Look no further. These brownies have only, like, 4 ingredients.  Okay, 5: almonds, icing sugar, cocoa, eggs, and vanilla. 
At first, I was suspicious. And doubtful.  Then, I had a few bites and thought, maybe.  Let's put them in front of a group of people (of which the vast majority are gluten-gobblers and lactose-lovers) and see what happens. Success.  Unless they are really good liars... 

Cocoa Almond Brownies (gluten-free)
slightly adapted from Chatelaine

2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 cups ground almonds
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8 × 8-in. pan with parchment, letting it hang over the edges of pan.

Combine icing sugar, almonds, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla.

The batter will be very thick. Soldier on.  Scrape into prepared pan with a spatula.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

I recommend waiting until they are fully cooled before trying a bite - and although the appearance is a little different (you can clearly see the almond bits), these are really fudgy and tasty.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Happy St. Paddy's - Chocolate Stout Cupcakes and Blarney Chips

Happy St. Pat's!  I did you a solid. I perfected this recipe for you - this is my fourth year running baking chocolate stout cake or cupcakes and St. Patrick's Day just wouldn't be right without them.

Our surname is about as Irish as it gets - my husband's family is from Co. Cork by way of Boston - and if we moved to Boston today we would fit right in (although the O' was dropped over a hundred years ago, like so many other Irish families).  I have been fortunate to visit Ireland twice and it is truly a lovely place and lovely people - make sure you stop in Cork City for some Murphy's.  We celebrate St. Patrick's Day every year - starting the evening off with Black Velvet's (half a pint of Guinness topped with half a pint of Irish Cider) and our homemade version of Blarney Chips (waffle fries topped with cheese, green onion, diced tomatoes, diced green pepper, and more cheese) and served with salsa and sour cream.


Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup stout beer (preferably Irish - Guinness or Murphy's)
2 eggs

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at at time, beating in between with a hand mixer.  Add vanilla.  Continue to beat.

Add half the flour mixture and mix in gently, scraping down the sides of the bowl every so often.  Add about 1/3 of the stout and half of the remaining flour.  Repeat, alternating stout and flour until well combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

The batter will be thick.  Spoon into 15 greased or lined muffin cups and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Chocolate Stout Buttercream Frosting
1/4 unsalted butter, softened
1 - 2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup stout
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter with cocoa.   Add one cup of icing sugar and the stout.  Add vanilla and begin to add more icing sugar until you reach the right consistency.  If too thick, just add a little more stout!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It's three weeks until Easter! Last year on Good Friday we jetted off to Iceland for our 5th wedding anniversary (if you are even considering going to Iceland, do it!).  Our anniversary fell on Easter Sunday and we did a tour of the South Coast - it was captivating.

This year it's all about a more traditional celebration and the Easter dessert is, of course, the first thing I think about.  I did some research (umm...Google) and apparently you simply can't get any more traditional than Carrot Cake at Easter.

I have never actually made a carrot anything before....and since steamed carrots don't count, I suppose....I figured let's give it a shot.  I decided to make a 'trial' cake (why wait?) and found a lovely carrot cake recipe already scaled down for two.

Maple syrup is synonymous with spring - so I added my own twist with the addition of maple syrup to both the cake and the frosting.

Result?  Magically delicious....( only excuse for that is that St. Paddy's day is just around the corner). I think it's far too early to make a solid decision for Easter dessert, though, so the journey will continue....

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Dessert for Two

yields 1 six inch cake

1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup packed grated carrot (from 1 small carrot)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

3 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
5 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp maple syrup

Grease a 6” round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, beat oil and sugar together with an electric mixer for about 1 minute.

Beat in the egg, cinnamon, vanilla and maple syrup.  Add the carrot and continue to beat - don't be too gentle, you want it to stain the batter orange, but not so tough that the carrot is obliterated!

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture beat until just combined.  Avoid over-mixing.

Pour the batter into one 6 inch cake pan and bake at 350 for 22-24 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Let the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. While you are waiting for the cake to cool, make the frosting.

Start with room temperature cream cheese and butter.   This is important or your frosting will be lumpy.  Tasty, but not pretty.

Beat together the cream cheese, and butter.  Add in a few tbsp of icing sugar and the maple syrup. Beat a little more.  Add in the remaining icing sugar.  Add more icing sugar if needed until you obtain the right consistency for frosting.

Frost generously and keep in refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.

Tell me....what are you making for Easter?