Category Archives: Desserts

Paleo Banana Bread

Paleo Banana Bread

I’ve been cutting a lot more grains out of my diet recently. All grains, to some extent, are hard to digest and I just feel better when I don’t eat them. Trying to dodge around diet restrictions, making gluten free cookies or ordering gluten free pancakes for brunch increasing feels like a thinly veiled lie to myself that I can bake a cake and eat it too…so to speak.
One type of flour that I—at least up to this point—seem to have no trouble with though is almond flour, which apparently lends itself beautifully to sweet breads. I found several recipes for zucchini breads, banana breads, pumpkin breads, etc. and the best part is how simple they are. You don’t have to mix 3 different kinds of flours (usually at least two of which I’m not supposed to eat anyway) along with xanthum gum (which just makes me feel like I’m running an elaborate science experiment) to concoct something that really does need gluten to give it the familiar consistency you crave. Loafs should be heavy and moist, and therefore can rely on ingredients other than gluten for structural stability. Almonds also make a flour with a mild flavor but one that compliments most breads.
This banana bread isn’t very sweet at all, which makes it a great on the go breakfast option, but can also be toasted and slathered in honey and almond butter, which is my go to for a healthier dessert.

3 bananas
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. honey
¼ c. coconut oil
2 c. almond flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

– Preheat oven to 350°f
– Blend bananas, eggs, vanilla, honey and shortening in a kitchenaid or food processor.
– Add almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until well combined
– Pour batter into greased loaf pan (use 7½” x 3½” or similar for taller, loaf-life slices)
– Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes.


The Great Florentine Tradition

Morning Tea
As usual, I’m posting pretty late. The Christmas cookie storm has long been replaced by black eyed pea soups for the new year and vegan dips to help maintain resolutions, but this was the second year I made these bars for my family and this year my dad declared that they would have to become a holiday tradition.
My family doesn’t have a lot of recipe traditions. (Discovering the truth about the date balls I grew up thinking my grandmother made every time I visited coming crashing down when she permanently retired from cooking, but the date balls kept coming, brought this to light recently) So instating a cookie, or bar really, as a “family tradition” meant a lot to me. It probably had a lot to do with a few key ingredients that make this decadent dessert perfect for my intestinally challenged family: The original recipe I found called for gluten free flour. I have since become gluten free and so have tried it both ways. Notes on gluten-free flour follow but this was a huge plus for us this year. Also the recipe has always called for a drizzle of chocolate over the top. I have always intended to do this, get all the way through cooking, and realize how frickn good they are without chocolate. My dad, who is allergic to chocolate has always very much appreciated this last minute laziness and now that’s just how they are for me. Beyond that, almonds, apricots and cranberries smothered in gooey caramel? You really can’t go wrong.
So if they’re a family tradition they’re never really too late to share, right? I’m really just super early for next year. Or maybe I’ll make a batch for Valentine’s Day.

*gluten-free flour: I am still hoping to find the particular flour mix that magically can be seamlessly substituted for gluteny flour leaving cookies chewy, biscuits fluffy, and no one the wiser, but I haven’t found it. I like King Arthur’s Gluten Free Flour Mix a lot, but for this recipe used an Arrowhead Mills mix. It worked surprisingly well for the lobster pot pie we made but was pretty crumbly for this recipe. Make sure to chill the bars completely before you cut them to help with this problem.

Apricot Cranberry Florentine Bars
(adapted from Sweet Twist of Blogging)

3/4 cup (a stick and a half) butter
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup gluten free or AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp orange zest

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
½ cup dried apricots
1 tsp orange zest

For the Crust
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 10 inch square pan with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray. Make sure the parchment reaches all the way up the sides of the pan.
Beat together butter and egg yolks until combined in a stand mixer. Add brown sugar and 1tsp zest and beat until light and creamy. Add flour and salt and blend until just combined.
Press the dough in to the pan. If you use gluten-free flour it will be extremely sticky, just stick with it, show it who’s boss. Bake crust 15 minutes, or until golden, remove from oven and let cool.

For the Filling
Heat butter, sugar, cream and honey over medium heat. Continue to cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240F, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in almonds, zest and dried fruit. Pour over cooled crust. Bake another 15 minutes.
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting. I left mine in the fridge for a bit just to make sure the gooey deliciousness is solid enough to keep the crust together when you cut through it. If you can remove the sheet of bars by pulling up on the parchment paper this will really help with the cutting process, but cutting in the pan is fine too, just be careful not to peel up the parchment too!

Florentines night

Peanut Butter + Cherry Feel Good Cookies

These are very similar to the Healthier cookies I made a couple of weeks ago so I will keep this short, but I wanted to take the idea one itty bitty step further. I’m moving extremely slowly toward ‘healthy’ sweets and gluten free baking, but it’s a tough road and you’ll have to bear with me as I put one foot ever-so-slightly in front of the other.

The other reason I wanted to include these butter free, whole wheat cookies is because I packaged them and sent them down to Texas to meet my newly relocated grandparents. After fifty years in a sleepy, but extremely friendly northern Texas town they’re children, my mother and uncle helped them move to the big city to be closer to my uncle in Dallas. My grandparents really aren’t Dallas people. In fact, they were such an institution in their town that the county newspaper wrote an article about their leaving and reflecting on their impact on the local community.
To welcome them to their new home in the big city I wanted to send them some comforting snacks, but something that would make them feel good too, and I thought these Peanut Butter and Cherry just-a-bit-healthier cookies would do the trick.

PB+Cherry Feel Good Cookies
Adapted from: Passtheplateblog

½ c. Peanut Butter (smooth or chunky)
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
¼ c. cinnamon apple sauce (regular works too)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c whole wheat flour
¼ c. cup almond flour (use more whole wheat if you don’t have any almond available)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Couple dashes cinnamon
1 ½ c. quick cooking oats
1 c. dried cranberries (dried tart cherries would also work well)

NB: I mixed these by hand, I think I was having a “cooking honesty” moment. But there’s no reason you couldn’t use a stand mixer.

Preheat the oven to 375F
In a large bowl beat the peanut butter, sugars, applesauce, egg and vanilla until smooth.
In a separate bowl whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Add the flour mixture and oats to the peanut butter in a few chunks until just combined. Sprinkle cranberries over and briefly mix once more.

Drop about tablespoon sized cookies on a parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheet. And bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Otherwise you run the risk of moving structurally unstable cookies and they will just fall apart in your hands. I think the whole wheat flour and PB makes this a bit more of a concern than normal cookies but please, let me be the one to make this sort of impatient move and confirm that there is a reason people tell you to leave the cookies on the sheet!

“Healthier” Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

About midweek I had a baking craving. I’d been dreaming about Momofuko milkbar compost cookies for days. I love the idea of having a cookie base and then throwing in whatever you have in the pantry, or making up new combinations. Sort of like the baker’s Sunday evening casserole.
But when I’m just baking for myself, especially mid-week, I had to maintain some modicum of healthiness. Fortunately there are about a billion women out there with the exact same dilemma as me and at least as many recipes trying to put a healthy spin on a guilty classic. I poured over several recipes, but I picked this one to start from for a few reasons: they had chocolate and dried cherries in them, they didn’t use too many health-nut ingredients I had to go out in search of an (yes, this played a large part in the decision making since I was most likely going to ignore half the recipe anyway) they looked the most guilt-inducing, classic cookie gorgeous. We had a winner.
I had some coconut in the cupboard, so I added that in leiu of some of the brown sugar. I also cut half the almonds in with hazelnuts. Skipped the AP flour for all whole wheat and just put a tiny pinch more baking soda in. The cookies were knobbly, chewy, super flavorful and bore that guilt-free “healthy” tag that eliminates any excuse you tried to give yourself not to eat 10.

adapted from Let Them Eat Cake and Ice Cream

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut (if not sweetened add a bit more sugar or replace with an additional ¼ cup brown sugar)
1 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (I used almonds and hazelnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350. In a the bowl of an electric mixer combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl melt the butter, add the sugar and coconut (if using) and mix until well combined. Add the sugar mixture to the flour and oats and beat on medium speed. Add the vanilla and egg and continue to blend.
At this point your dough may look very crumbly, it should be ok. Make sure to beat well between each addition and keep at it. The baking soda will help the cookies rise and become more cohesive in the oven.
Pour in the cherries, nuts and chocolate chips, stir on low until each is just combined. Spoon out tablespoon-ish sized dollops of dough and place about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until edges start to turn golden. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to wire racks (since there is so much stuff in each cookie it helps to leave them on the baking sheet until they solidify a bit more).

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Ganache Filling

I was so proud of myself on March 18th, all ready to post my St Patty’s day cupcake recipe, having photographed, lightroomed, and typed up my notes.  Everything was ready, and then I decided to watch a video while drinking a glass of water and in my excitement over…something, knocked the water glass into my keyboard.
So after a week of laptop rehab (a garbage bag and some industrial strength silica gel packets) I’m finally ready to post! So without further ado, a recipe I’ve been waiting to make for a long time and one I hope you enjoy as much as my friends and I did.

I’ve had my eye on Nigella’s Guinness cake for far too long not to have just come up with an excuse to try it. But what better time than a St Patrick’s day birthday party? This cake is very dense, but not super sweet, leaving the sweetness up to the filling and frosting. Cream cheese frosting is not only my favorite but exactly what Nigella calls for in her recipe so I started there, but half way through I was out of frosting and still had a tray of unadorned cupcake tops so I whipped up a ½ recipe of quick buttercream to make up the difference. It didn’t taste as decadent but it did stiffen up beautifully and when I poured green sprinkles over the frosted spirals they ran down and collected in the valleys of the frosting which I thought looked rather charming, so I’ve listed both frosting recipes below.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Cake

For the Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1tbsp vanilla extract

For the Ganache Filling
5oz dark chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream

I made both cream cheese and buttercream frosting. One for taste and one for looks but turns out several people prefer the buttercream anyway (who knew). Double either of these to cover all cupcakes in one frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting (the most delicious and more rustic look)
1 8oz package cream cheese
1-1½ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

Buttercream Frosting (more ‘icing’ taste but beautiful for decorating)
4 Tbsp butter
1½ -2 cups icing sugar
1-2 Tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

For the Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350f and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Combine Guinness, butter and sugar in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add cocoa and sugar and whisk continuously until smooth. Remove from heat.
In a mixing bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sour cream for a couple minutes. Add the chocolate and Guinness mixture and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients in a few installments, mixing slowly and only as much as necessary to combine. You can finish this step by hand with a rubber spatula for gentler mixing.
Pour batter into lined muffin tins about ½-¾ full. Bake until cakes pass the toothpick test, about 16-18 minutes for full sized cupcakes, 11-12 for mini cupcakes. Let cool before filling.

For the Ganache
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat. When cream begins to simmer remove from heat and immediately add the chocolate, broken into small chunks. Let sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter, also cut into small chunks, and baileys and continue to stir (or whisk) until smooth.
Using a large round piping tip or small end of a funnel to cut out the centers of the cooled cupcakes. Aim for about ¾ of the way down and ¾ to 1” diameter for full sized cupcakes and ½” for minis.
Using a small spoon, piping bag, or zip lock with the corner cut off (my favorite) pour the ganache into the cut out centers. Let settle and come back to fill up to the top if filling sinks into the center.

For the Frosting
Cream Cheese: whip cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy (As fluffy as cream cheese will get) slowly sift icing sugar over cream cheese, whisking well after each addition. Finally add Baileys (or other flavor of choice). Add a bit more sugar if your frosting is too thin.
Buttercream: Whip butter (at room temperature) in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly add sifted sugar to the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. (Rumor has it this is the trick chefs in the Martha Stewart Test Kitchen use to keep their quick buttercreams smooth and creamy. It also means you need less sugar for the same stiffness, which I’m all about, generally considering buttercreams to be too powdered-sugar-sweet.) When desired consistency is reached add Baileys or other flavoring and whisk a bit more. Add sugar if your icing thins but it shouldn’t.
Pipe frosting onto cupcakes using a large star shaped piping tip or spread on liberally with a butter knife. giving the effect, as Nigella says, of a frothy head on the top of a pint of Guinness.

Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Less amenable to the classic cupcake spiral but lovely if you're going for the 'frothy guinness head' look

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Lemon Curd

“You can’t mail custards, are you crazy?” was my mother’s response to my very enthusiastic telling of my plans to mail two friends pots de crème as birthday presents. Truth be told the time, temperature and rough handling that wreaks havoc on all mailed food items really hadn’t really occurred to me. The adorable 4oz canning jars I’d found at my neighborhood convenience store that afternoon had distracted me into a world of beautiful little potted custards, transported safely to far away friends. I had immediately run out to the store and bought supplies for lemon-vanilla, and ginger-chocolate pots de crème and called my mother on the way home to share my brilliant idea. ‘you can’t mail eggs, that’s not…no, you can’t do that, not unless they’ve been stabilized somehow, like canned or something’. And my custard dreams were dashed.
20 minutes later, and 2 pints of whipping cream I had no use for later I had a new plan, to make lemon curd, and somewhere, along the way, to figure out how to can things. All the canning sites I found confirmed I that one could, in fact, can lemon curd. And that, with a large enough pot, one could accomplish this without a pressure canner.
The lemon curd was much easier than I expected, and really quite delicious. I used a couple meyer lemons I had left from my CSA box and I’m fairly sure all the hype anyone’s ever gushed over meyer lemons is completely true.
I used this recipe from kitchenconfidante

3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
¾ cup sugar
½ lemon juice (meyer lemons if possible)
zest from two lemons
4 Tbsp butter cut into small cubes

The important thing here, as with any eggy sauce, is to keep whisking. Whisk the egg and yolks in a small saucepan until well combined. Continue to whisk while adding the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon (mine didn’t take anymore than 8 minutes). Remove saucepan from heat and add the butter, stirring until completely melted. Sieve contents into canning jars and seal with lids.

Curd can be chilled in the refrigerator and eaten within 3 days without canning. But since I was on a shelf-stabilization kick I did the following:

Fill your largest pot water and set on high to boil. (and I was only working with 4oz jars, I don’t think any of my pots would have been large enough to do ½ pints) Once boiling, place jars into the water and start timer once water returns to a full boil. Boil jars for 15-20 minutes (accounts differ depending on contents and jar size but 15 seems to be about the minimum, even for something that seems as fragile as an eggy custard). And then, voila, apparently your jars are shelf-stable. Curd won’t last as long as other jams or preserves and should be consumed within a couple of months, but still leaves plenty of time for sharing and gazing at the pretty yellow jar on your shelf.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

rosemary cake with lemon glaze
I’m always a sucker for the odd ingredient combo, savory desserts or sweet side dishes, so the idea of a rosemary olive oil cake definitely attracted me. I hardly ever make cakes, but I had some extra rosemary from my CSA box and decided to give this one from Mario Batali a whirl. My Mario Batali dutch oven has never steered me wrong, so should be a go, right? Right.

tools for cake baking

4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1½ cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 and oil the inside of an 8-inch cake pan.
Beat the eggs with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and continue to beat until pale in color and light and foamy.
With the mixer running, drizzle the olive oil into the eggs. Then fold the rosemary in with a spatula.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl and add to the mixer bowl slowly. Pour batter into your cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating halfway through for even color
The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean and the cake springs back when poked.

By the time my cake sprung back when poked and past the toothpick test it turned out much drier than I expected. So the next morning I made a simple lemon glaze I found from another rosemary olive oil cake recipe, skewered my dry cake several times and poured the glaze liberally over the whole thing. It didn’t quite fix the dryness but I did very much like the addition of the glaze.

Images are shown with whipped plain Greek yogurt with a bit of sugar and vanilla added. Also a good fix for dry cake!

Lemon Glaze
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until smooth. Let mixture cool slightly and pour over cooled cake.

slice of olive oil cake with yogurt sauce