Monday, January 26, 2015

Low-Carb Low-Sugar Gluten-free Microwave Single Serving Brownie

Well, you know, lower-carb. Lower-sugar.  I am not sure where the line is really drawn to call something actually low. I started with the recipe on the No. 2 Pencil blog, which makes a tasty regular one-serving microwave brownie. 

JennyBakes' Low-Sugar Low-Carb Gluten-Free Single Serving Microwave Brownie
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 tbsp brown sugar splenda (6-12 carbs)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons of almond flour (5 carbs)
  • 1 tablespoon of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder (3 carbs)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar free chocolate chips (optional, 9 more carbs)
1. Melt the butter in a microwave safe container.
2. Stir in brown sugar splenda and salt.
3. Stir in egg yolk.
4. Mix in almond flour and cocoa powder.
5. Spray nonstick cooking spray on ramekin or custard cup or mug. Spread in batter.
6. If using, sprinkle chocolate chips on top and press into the batter. It will be very thick.
7. Microwave for 45 seconds.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mini Cocoa Pavlova

In my attempts to make sweets from Southeast Asia and Oceania, I would be remiss to overlook Australia! Pavlova is a standard Australian and New Zealand dessert, one I've made several times. There was the time I went searching for a cloud-themed dessert and made a pavlova topped with passion fruit, whipped cream, and fresh fruit. Then there was the time that I had to make the cover recipe from the amazing Wintersweet cookbook - the Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova. Pavlova isn't new, but I had egg whites to use and an Australian book on the horizon - something by Richard Flanagan, most recently awarded the Man Booker Prize.

This recipe is a mashup of the cocoa pomegranate pavlova, Nigella Lawson's mini pavlovas, and an attempt to use a sugar replacement to make this lower in sugar and carbs.  It was very tasty but the texture wasn't quite right. Perhaps I could have baked them longer or left them out to dry a bit overnight. Sugar really is integral in establishing the structure of a pavlova; I should be applauded for not including it.  Ha.

<b>Lower Sugar Cocoa Mini Pavlova</b>

6 egg whites, room temperature
pinch salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar Splenda
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Sugar free whipped cream
Fresh fruit, raspberries ideal
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt until they start to hold a bit of shape.
  3. Mix the splenda and corn start together. You can even whiz it in a grinder to make it finer, but I just mashed it until it was powdery. Add the mixture 1 tbsp at a time to the egg whites, letting it incorporate.
  4. Beat whites until stiff peaks form. In the last minute, add Balsamic vinegar and vanilla.
  5. Take off beater. Sift cocoa powder over surface and gently fold in.
  6. Spoon circles, 8-10, onto cookie sheet. Make well with back of spoon.
  7. Bake 60-75 minutes, until outer shell has a bit of a crunch. Turn off oven and leave an additional hour.
  8. Remove and let cool completely.
  9. If you put in an air tight container, they may soften. This is not what you want!
  10.  Serve with whipped cream and berries. If you're feeling extra special, melt down some sugar free dark chocolate and coat the bottom of each pavlova first - outside or inside.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Baking Around the World: Banana Pancakes (Papua New Guinea)

For the past few years, I have been involved with a marvelous reading group in Goodreads called The World's Literature. In 2012, we read books from Japan, in 2013 it was Turkey, and this past year we focused on Iceland.  I learn so much during these group reads, whether I read a long with a book everyone is reading, or select my own books to read from the country or region.

This year, we are focusing on the large swath of the globe from Southeast Asia down to New Zealand, and all the tiny islands making up the South Pacific and Oceania in between.  There are a lot of different names for it, and a lot of places I've never read about before.  We are starting the year with a group read of Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak. 

I have never been to Papua New Guinea, but I spent a semester in an independent study on world music my junior year of college, where I did a research project on music composition among the Kaluli, one of the highland peoples in PNG.  I was *this* close to spending the summer there with a Wycliffe ethnomusicology internship, but that didn't come together in time.

Trying to find recipes from PNG and other similar places can be difficult, because most of the cuisine in places like this has to do with what can be grown or caught.  Pork is used a lot for ceremonial dishes, but can't be eaten daily. Much of the traditional cuisine is vegetarian!  And there are a lot of bananas.  Banana leaves are used to cook the food, particularly in the special mumu dish I kept coming across, but then you also have bananas galore. So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I am making banana pancakes.  I still balk somewhat at the authenticity of it, but I read an interesting article about the "banana pancake trail" claiming that bananas may have originated in PNG.  (You'll have to read the article for the origin of the banana pancake.)

And of course there is a song all about banana pancakes by Jack Johnson, but I have to warn you that his music sounds nothing like music from the highlands of Papua New Guinea!

In Four Corners, fried bananas are often served to the author in times of high stress.  This either speaks to bananas as a comfort food or their sheer number, but regardless, I took note of this fact - when the women were trapped by the rascals on "payday" inside the YWCA ("to help distract us, one woman prepares a snack of fried bananas"), and when she meets with the head of the OPM, the guerilla resistance movement working against Indonesia.  Phew!  Eat some bananas.  I'm taking fried bananas up to being friend inside a batter, but I figure it's close.
This isn't very much outside my comfort zone taste-wize, but it definitely has some strong connections to my new region of the world.

Banana Pancakes
recipe from

Servings: 4
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 45 g butter, melted
  • 2 -3 bananas, very ripe, mashed 

  1. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients, add flour and beat until free of lumps.
  4. Heat frypan with a little extra butter or oil.
  5. When the pan is hot spoon in desired amount of mixture.
  6. When bubbles start to appear in the batter, flip over and cook the other side.
  7. Eat with more bananas sliced on top and drizzled with Honey or with fresh fruit, or a squeeze of lemon/lime and sprinkle of Sugar. (I added pecans.)

Monday, January 05, 2015

Paleo Low-Sugar Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I kept forgetting to post these cookies, but now that all of you are brimming with new year's resolutions, this recipe couldn't come at a better time.  This is pretty versatile as far as the bits you add, and I started with a sweet potato recipe, using pumpkin instead.  Just to clarify, pretty sure cavemen weren't running around eating sugar free chocolate chips, but most of the time I'm starting with a paleo recipe and turning it into a low-sugar recipe instead.  They are close but not exactly.

The recipe originates in Paleo Magazine, with credit to, but the recipe below is my tweaked version.  To use their recipe, use maple syrup for the Splenda, nuts or dried fruit for the chocolate chips, and sweet potato for the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, low-sugar

1 cup almond meal
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup sugar free chocolate chips
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 egg
4 tbsp brown sugar splenda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Stir together all the dry ingredients.
3. Add egg, pumpkin, and coconut milk and mix well.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop cookies about 1 heaping tablespoon per cookie.
5. Bake for 10-20 minutes (recipe in magazine says 20 but this is too long! watch them before that please.)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Baking Around the USA: Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies (Georgia)

It has been a while since I made a baked good to pair with a book I had been reading, but that's about to change around here!  I only have 12 states left in my Around the USA reading challenge, and my World Lit group is tackling Australia/New Zealand/Oceania/Southeast Asia.  Tasty treats will be essential!

I binge-read Flannery O'Connor short stories.  If you aren't familiar with her, she is one of the quintessential southern writers, from Georgia.  Do you know what else is from Georgia?  No, don't say peaches.  (Stephen Colbert begs to differ.)  Pecans!  Yes!  My inlaws gave me some Georgian pecans and I had been pondering what to make ever since.  As I read these stories, my brain was demanding something southern, something sweet, and I remembered a recipe I'd had pinned for a few years.

I took this recipe from a guest post on the Tator Tots and Jello blog.  I didn't change a thing, except to clarify that it is only if you make the cookies 1" that you will end up with 5 dozen. I used a regular cookie scoop and had exactly 2 dozen. The icing was perfect for that number, and I topped mine with chopped pecans.

These are delicious, but like many southern baked goods, very very sweet.  The nuts help to balance the sweetness a little, but grab a big glass of milk or sweet tea!

Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Brown sugar frosting (see below)
  • Pecan halves (or chopped pecans) for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Add sugars and beat until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped pecans. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. (If making larger cookies, add an extra 1 to 2 minutes to baking time.) Cool 2 minutes on pan and remove to wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.
  5. To frost, spread about 1 tsp of the brown sugar frosting on each cookie (more for larger cookies) and top with a pecan half or more chopped pecans. Yields approximately 5 dozen.
Brown Sugar Frosting
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Combine brown sugar and half and half in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Add 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Consistency will seem thin but will thicken as it cools. If frosting seems too thin, add enough of the remaining powdered sugar to desired consistency.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Yule Log or Buche de Noel - Gluten Free

Yule, Winter Solstice, or however else you'd like to refer to it, arrives on December 21.  You still have a day to consider making this very traditional yule log cake! I have made a version very similar to this one before, using Nick Malgieri's recipe start to finish (except the marzipan). I still prefer his cake but it has flour, and this year I was going to a party where two people eat gluten-free.  Most of us have friends and family where this is an issue, so I dug through recipes online to find a combination that would work for even our gluten-free friends.  If you're just now thinking about it, the mushrooms are easy to make a day or so in advance. The rest of it is best if it is made the day of, because I prefer this silky buttercream never chilled in the fridge.

Cake: Nigella's Yule Log (naturally gluten free as it does not contain flour, only cocoa powder!)
Icing: Nick Malgieri's Coffee Buttercream (the silkiest around!)
Mushrooms: Meringue Mushrooms from Joy of Baking (simple but impressive)

Since recipes can't be copyright protected, and I am always worried something I have used will get taken down, I will copy them all here, but with complete respect and credit to their originators.

Cake from Nigella's Yule Log Recipe
6 large eggs (separated) 
¾ cup superfine sugar 
½ cup unsweetened cocoa 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g / ¼ cup of the superfine sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but not dry.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining superfine sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the unsweetened cocoa over, then fold both in.
  4. Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
  5. Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
  6. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little confectioners' sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
Coffee Buttercream

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the mushrooms.

Meringue Mushrooms

2 large (60 grams) egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (100 grams) superfine (caster) white sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Have two pastry bags ready (one for piping the caps and stems and one for gluing them together). Fit one small pastry bag with a number 3 (1/16 inch diameter) (.2 cm) round plain tip (used to glue the stems and caps together) and one large pastry bag with a number 6 (1/2 inch diameter) (1 1/4 cm) round plain tip (for stems and caps). Fold down the tops of the bags to form a deep cuff on the outside and place each bag in a tall narrow glass for support. This will make it easy to transfer the meringue to the pastry bags.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (100 degrees C) and place 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

In bowl of electric mixer, at moderately slow speed, beat the room temperature egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating (increasing speed to high), gradually adding the superfine sugar, until the whites are very stiff and glossy. (You want to make sure that the sugar has dissolved completely - to test rub a little of the meringue between your fingers.)

With a rubber spatula place approximately 1/4 cup of the meringue in the pastry bag with the small tip (used to glue the caps and stems together). Place the remainder of the meringue in the large pastry bag.

To Pipe Caps: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the parchment paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into even rounds building up the meringue to form a 2 inch (5 cm) round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high. Sharply twist the bag and stop the pressure as you slowly move the tip off the meringue. Try to make the top as smooth as possible but use a wet fingertip to smooth out any bumps.

To Pipe Stems: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the parchment paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into a cone-shape, making the base of the stem a little larger than the top. The stem should be about 1 inch (2.54 cm) high. Try to keep the stems as straight as possible. Some of the stems may fall over on their sides during baking, so it is a good idea to make extra.

Bake the meringues for approximately one hour, or until the mushrooms are firm enough that they can be lifted from the baking sheet without sticking. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back (about three quarters of the way through) to ensure even baking.

Remove from oven and with a small sharp knife, make a small hole in the middle of the underside of each mushroom cap. Using the small pastry bag fitted with the 1/l6 inch tip, pipe a little bit of meringue in the hole and gently press the top of the stem into the hole.

Place the mushrooms, caps down, on a parchment lined baking sheet and return to oven for about 15 - 30 minutes, or until the mushroom are dry. Remove from oven and lightly dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder. Use a small pastry or paint brush to smudge the cocoa powder, if desired.

Store in an airtight container for several weeks.

Makes about 24 - 30 mushrooms (depending on size)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Homemade Mint Marshmallows

I had a bit of a caramel-making mishap in my holiday baking spree weekend this year. It's not that much of a surprise, as caramel is my nemesis. But then I had to figure out something to make for the people who couldn't have gluten or didn't like molasses (the rest of the recipes I was making were gingerbread themed.)

I have had my eye on this marshmallow recipe since I saw this beautiful book last year, and decided to make the mint variety.  I made them slightly green but I think next time would do red/pink and sprinkle in some crushed candy canes for increased visual appeal. The green along with the spongy alien texture was slightly off putting but they were still delicious!  This recipe is so easy! I gave all of what this pan made away but I was tempted to squirrel it all away for a cocoa krispies rice krispie treat with the mint marshmallows!

I will be making these again!

Butter's Famous Marshmallows Recipe, mint variety
from the Butter Baked Goods, which I reviewed in January

Serves: 64 1x1-inch marshmallows
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • a few drops green or red food coloring 
  • Generous amount of icing sugar to coat the marshmallows, about 2 cups
  1. You will need: 1 (9- × 9-inch) baking pan, buttered
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour in 1⁄2 cup of the water and sprinkle with the gelatin.  Set aside to allow the gelatin to soak in.
  3. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1⁄2 cup of water.  Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  4. Turn the mixer to low and mix the gelatin once or twice to combine it with the water.  Slowly add the hot sugar mixture, pouring it gently down the side of the bowl, and continue to mix on low.
  5. Turn the mixer to high and continue to whip for 10 to 12 minutes until the marshmallow batter almost triples in size and becomes very thick. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to avoid the batter overflowing as it grows. Stop the mixer, add the vanilla, peppermint extract, and green food coloring, and then whip briefly to combine.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and use a spatula or bench scraper to spread it evenly in the pan. Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it sets.
  7. Grease a sheet of plastic wrap with butter and lay it across the top of the marshmallow. Press down firmly on the plastic wrap, to seal it smoothly and tightly against the mixture.
  8. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. The marshmallow will be too sticky and soft to cut if you try too soon.
  9. Sprinkle a work surface or cutting board with the icing sugar. Run a knife along the top edge of the pan to loosen the marsh­mallow slab. Invert the pan and flip the marshmallow out onto the counter or board. Scoop up handfuls of the icing sugar and rub all over the marshmallow slab.
  10. Use a large knife to cut the slab into 1- × 1-inch squares. Roll each of the freshly cut marshmallow squares in the remaining icing sugar to coat them completely. (In this picture I cut into 2-inch squares 1-inch high, about the size that would fit in a mug of hot cocoa. Be creative!)