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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

 

 

 

Shortbread cookies hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. I have been eating them my whole life. They remind me of my parents–who are entering their twilight years, and who both love shortbread over all other cookies. I used to relish opening a new tin of Walkers assorted shortbread cookies, carefully selecting different shapes. And I like shortbread because I generally distrust sugar and love butter.

I also like that I don’t mind giving my children a shortbread cookie as a sweet treat since they’re relatively low in sugar (emphasis on “relatively”), yet my kids still see it as a cookie, a treat. They also enjoy helping me make the cookies, which can be whipped up in 30 minutes. Well, full disclosure here, it is currently so hot in Brazil, that by the time I incorporate the butter with the dry ingredients, it has melted so much that I have to chill my dough before rolling, cutting and baking it. But in most parts of the world, shortbread cookies can be made quickly and easily with so few ingredients.

Perhaps the best part about shortbread is that you can add just about anything you want to the dough. Here, the recipe is with fresh-grated lemon zest, but you can add chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, grated orange zest, ginger, lavender, or chopped nuts and dried fruit as seen in my holiday recipe for pistachio cranberry shortbread.

 

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature or slightly cooler

1/3 cup sugar (also good using just 1/4 cup)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

zest of one lemon (finely grated)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (140 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour, I like this brand 

1/3 cup almond flour

 

Preparation

In a medium-size bowl, or food processor, combine the butter and sugar until evenly incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Whisk together the flours and salt in a small bowl and add to the butter mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle that’s approximately 3/8-inch in thickness. Cut into bars roughly 1.5 inches by 3 inches or use cookie cutters to cut into different shapes. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown on the edges. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or munching. These cookies keep for several days if you store them in a airtight container after they’re completely cooled.

Enjoy!

 

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Why not publish a post of a dessert fit for Valentine’s Day, the day after Valentine’s Day? That’s exactly how my life has been going as of late. I’ve been so swamped at work, and with raising the children, that I haven’t found time to post. But the great news is, I’m posting this dessert which is absolutely delicious, nearly guilt-free, and super easy to make. You don’t even need to turn on the oven. You just need a few ingredients, a refrigerator and a little time to allow everything to work its magic. And although I think raspberries and chocolate are perfect partners, you could easily use other fruit as a substitute.

If you use raspberry preserves made without refined sugar, this recipe would also qualify as Paleo. However, I like to use Bonne Mamam Raspberry Preserve because the raspberry flavor is really intense and I like a bit more sweetness.

(Recipe modified from Bakerita’s Paleo Vegan Raspberry Chocolate No-bake tart.)

 

Crust Ingredients

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup pecans, very finely chopped (I use the mini-processor)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

 

Filling

3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk

5-6 oz  bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Green & Black’s Organic 70% bar)

¼ cup raspberry spread (use 100% pure fruit if you have it, otherwise use a low-sugar raspberry preserve

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

2 cups fresh raspberries

 

Directions

Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with coconut oil. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the crust and stir together until fully incorporated. Press evenly into the prepared tart pan and set aside.

Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk until it’s just about to boil. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate and let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in raspberry preserves, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. (The filling mixture should be “runny” enough that it evenly fills the tart shell.)

Place tart in the refrigerator to set for 1 hour.

Garnish the top with raspberries, and return to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until completely set.

Slice and serve.

Store leftovers–if there are any(!), in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

 

 

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I’ve been trying to keep my mother’s tradition of making “Star Cookies” every holiday season. If you didn’t see that post and/or haven’t made those cookies, check it out here.

But this year I wanted to make something different and equally festive, so I started recipe testing pistachio cranberry shortbread cookies. Like with most of my favorite recipes, these are easy to prepare, simple and relatively low-sugar–especially for a dessert!

 

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup cane sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest

1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

3 tbsp coarse ground sugar, such as turbinado

 

Preparation

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in the vanilla extract and orange zest. Blend in the flour mixture one-third at a time until fully incorporated. Fold in the chopped cranberries and pistachios. Scrape the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Carefully form it into a roll with flat ends. Note: You can put a little extra flour on the palms of your hands if the dough wants to stick to your hands. Wrap up the paper and place in the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours.

 

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the roll out of the refrigerator and unwrap. Brush the outside (not ends) of the roll with the egg yolk, and sprinkle generously with the coarse sugar. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4-1/3-inch slices. Place on the parchment-lined sheet approximately 1/2-inch apart. Bake 15-18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are starting to golden. Let cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days.

Enjoy!

 

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I’ve been promising–at least on Instagram, to share the gluten-free version of my Winemakers Cake (see original recipe here). It’s all I’ve been making lately because it’s super easy and fast to prepare, looks nice when serving to guests, and I especially love that it’s gluten- and dairy-free since I avoid both most of the time. In fact, I like the gluten-free version so much that I’ve been favoring it over the original recipe on most occasions. The crumb seems a bit more delicate even though the gluten-free version doesn’t rise as much as the original recipe.

My local grocer keeps stocking Thomson grapes, too, which is the preferred grape for this cake, and it really feels like an “Indian Summer” dessert–lightly sweet, not too rich or heavy and using the fruit of the season.

If you haven’t already tried this recipe, please do. I know you will love it–especially how easy it is.

 

Ingredients

2 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup evaporated cane juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk or good-quality almond milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tbsp coconut flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp almond extract

10 oz (about 1-1/2 cups) small, purple grapes**

Confectioners sugar for garnish (optional)

*I like to use Bob’s Red Mill “1 to 1 All-Purpose Gluten-free flour.”

**Thomson or Thomcord grapes work the best because they’re small and jammy in flavor. I’m sure this cake would taste delicious with other varieties, but I would avoid using the more common green or red grapes.

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow in color, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, non-dairy milk, vanilla and almond extracts, and mix until blended.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Add the lemon zest, and toss to coat. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir 1 cup of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top using a spatula or back of a spoon.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes before sprinkling the remaining grapes over the top of the cake. Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake has a nice light golden color.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the sides before releasing the removing the side of the springform pan. Serve at room temperature with a dusting of confectioners sugar. You can store the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Enjoy!

 

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“Blondies”–along with really good shortbread and perfectly-cooked snickerdoodles, continue to top my list of favorite cookies. I’ve always loved “blondies” more than “brownies.” I can’t say what it is except that I like my chocolate in small doses and brownies just seem like too much of a good thing. I also like how blondies offer a subtle butterscotchy-maple flavor–something that hints of a more decadent dessert, such as sticky toffee pudding.

I’ve been tinkering around with this recipe for a few weeks, and I finally like where it is. First, these cookies can be made in about 30 minutes with less than 10 minutes of actual work time involved! Second, the top is a little crunchy while the inside is fairly gooey/chewy. They’re not super low sugar like many of my desserts, but they have substantially less sugar than many of their counterparts.

These blondies are also loaded with protein, and they’re gluten-, egg- and dairy-free to boot.

Ingredients

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp almond butter or other nut butter (I like to use half almond, half cashew)

1/4 cup non dairy milk, such as almond or coconut

2 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut sugar or other unrefined sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 cup gluten-free flour (I use 1/2 cup all-purpose plus some arrowroot and cassava flours)

Scant 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup raw pecans, finely chopped

1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (I like this brand)

1 tsp coconut oil

blondie5

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the almond butter, non dairy milk, coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until well combined and smooth.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined.

Fold in the chopped pecans. Drop the very thick stiff batter into the pan. Using a spatula, press the batter down to even it out in the pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is be set. While the blondies are baking, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. When the blondies are out of the oven, drizzle the melted chocolate mixture over the pan. Let the blondies cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Makes 9 cookies approximately 2 inches by 2 inches.

Enjoy!

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fig tart1fig tart2fig tart3

I’m a little late posting this, so please forgive me!

Like the orange and beet salad I shared in my last post, this tart is another great dish for transitioning into autumn. Granted, depending on where you live, you may already be deep into autumn. But this dessert is so insanely simple to make and delicious to devour that I couldn’t wait until next summer to share it!

Here in northern California, we’re lucky enough to have access to fresh blueberries nearly year round, and our fig season is at least six months long. If you have access to fresh blueberries and figs where you live, give this tart a try. You can use black mission figs or the more spectacularly colored kadota figs (shown here).

It’s also one of those desserts that makes an al fresco dining experience that much better. And, of course, like many of my the recipes I share, it’s very low in added sugar, so you feel no guilt when you take a second slice after dinner. This dessert relies on the natural sweetness of fresh blueberries and figs.

Use your own tart crust recipe or my gluten-free version (here).

 

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend*

1 heaping tbsp cane sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter

2-3 tbsp ice water

8 oz marscarpone cheese

2 tbsp raw honey

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

7-8 smallish figs (black mission or kadota), sliced in half

1 cup fresh blueberries

*I like to use 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, such as Bob’s Red Mill, 1/2 cup arrowroot powder/flour and 1/4 cup almond flour. You can also sub a little buckwheat flour and alter the almond to arrowroot ratio.

 

Preparation

Heat oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the gluten-free flour blend, 1 tbsp sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry cutter, two knives or whatever technique you like, cut in the flour until it’s evenly incorporate. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of ice water and continue mixing, adding a little more water if necessary until there is no more dry flour on the bottom of the bowl, but the mixture should still seem quite dry.

Dump the contents into a 9-inch tart pan and press the crumbly mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan, being careful not to work the dough too much (or it will get tough!). Chill in the fridge until the oven is ready.

Bake crust for about 15 minutes or until golden. Place on a rack to cool.

While the crust is cooling, whisk the mascarpone cheese with 1 tbsp of honey and the vanilla until you have a spreadable mixture.

When the crust has cooled enough to touch, carefully spread the mascarpone over the bottom of the crust in an even layer. Top with the fruit–either in a pattern or simply dropped in a haphazard fashion, and drizzle with 1 tbsp honey.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

fig tart4

 

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plums4

 

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been cooking and eating plenty. Aside from a two-week holiday to six East Coast cities and towns, I have spent countless hours in biblical history. What’s that, you say? Well, in reality, it’s likely just the result of the drought we’re experiencing throughout California, but we’ve been plagued with everything from mites on the chickens to fleas on the cats to ants invading our kitchen. And I’m not alone in this plague of pestilence. Even the restaurants in our local towns have been battling the ant problem. Ask for a cup of tea, and you’re likely to get it with a pinch of tiny ants. Every possible little pest is hungry and thirsty and running amuck since temperatures continue to run higher than normal and their normal food supplies are scarce–or so I’ve been told. Now I could launch into a larger discussion about global warming, but let’s save that for another time and get back to food.

The most amazing plums keep piling up on the produce stands in my area. They’re rich in color, incredibly juicy and sweet as can be. I don’t know many recipes that use plums, but plum crisp would beat them all anyway. I find that cooking plums with a little lemon zest and sugar really concentrates their flavor. I’ve made this crisp using plums and apples, but plums alone offers the most intense flavor.

 

Ingredients

7-8 plums and/or pluots, pitted and quartered

zest from a lemon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp cornstarch (optional)

1 tbsp coconut or cane sugar

3/4 cup porridge oats

1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 cup almond flour/meal

1/2 coconut or cane sugar

1 pinch of sea salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the plum segments, lemon zest, and vanilla. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar and the cornstarch if using, and toss to coat evenly. Evenly divide and scoop the fruit mixture into four ramekins.

plums rawplumscps

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together with a fork. Break down any lumps in the almond flour and stir until everything is thoroughly combined. Using a pastry cutter or two knives and two good hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon out evenly over the fruit in the four ramekins.

plums filled

Place the ramekins in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the crumb topping turns golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes (or tongues will get burned!).

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or coconut milk ice cream.

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Enjoy!

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