Monday, October 05, 2015

Low Carb Gluten-Free Marionberry Scones

Something standard in practically every Oregon coffee shop is the marionberry scone. Marionberries were tested in Marion County, Oregon, a blend of raspberry and blackberry, and is central to the Oregon berry experience. Once you move outside the state, they are much harder to find! During our last trip to our home state, Nathaniel went to the Willamette Valley Pie Company for pie with his Dad, and learned he could order berries from them. Recently a variety of berries showed up at our door, so I had to make marionberry scones before anything else. Since I wanted him to eat them too, I had to find a low-carb recipe, which we thought was pretty great. I adapted it slightly using coconut sugar instead of a chemical - it has slightly higher carbs but I just can't stand the taste of chemical sweeteners.  I also made regular sized scones in a scone pan, which were a little hard to get out while warm; next time I make these I might just do drop scones on a pan.

Marionberry Scones
(adapted from a recipe by Carolyn at All Day I Dream About Food)

2 ½ cups almond flour
½ cup golden flax seed meal
½ cup granulated erythritol or sweetener of choice (I used coconut sugar)
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup almond milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen marionberries

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, flax seed meal, sweetener, baking powder and salt.
  3. Stir in eggs, coconut oil, almond milk and vanilla extract until dough comes together. It will be quite sticky.
  4. Stir in raspberries until well distributed.
  5. Turn out dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and pat into a rough rectangle, 6 by 8 inches. Cut into 6 even portions, and then cut each portion in half diagonally to make 12 triangular scones.
  6. Gently separate scones and place around cookie sheet, leaving at least 1 inch between them. Bake 28 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
  7. Remove and let cool on pan.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mexican Hot Chocolate Pancakes (lower carb, low-sugar, gluten-free)

This is a version of the recipe that we have almost every Saturday. We vary it by making it as crepes and filling it with fruit, as pancakes and adding berries or sugar-free chocolate chips or nuts to the batter, or baking it in the oven with apples or stone fruit for another texture. Nathaniel was craving Mexican hot chocolate, so I added a few ingredients to our standard recipe.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Pancakes 
For two thick 6" pancakes or 4-6 thinner crepes:

4 large eggs
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Splenda packets or equivalent sweetener (we don't like ours too sweet so you should find what works for you)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Sugar-free chocolate chips or super dark chocolate chips (optional)

Blend everything except chocolate chips together. (I use an immersion blender.) Heat small skillet pan to medium heat. Add about half the batter if you're making two thick pancakes, sprinkling chocolate chips in the pan if you choose to use them. Cook until set and flip.

We ate our pancakes with bananas, sugar-free maple syrup and sugar-free whipped cream. It would have been nice with pecans too!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Visit to Vortex Doughnuts in Asheville, NC

Asheville has always been the Appalachian brother of Portland, OR, so it was no surprise to see a doughnut shop open there. Vortex Doughnuts opened in October 2014 and is going strong, with freshly made doughnuts, including vegan doughnut and drink options, locally sourced ingredients, and business choices such as paying employees a living wage. Oh Asheville, you complete me.

On Labor Day, with the day to myself and seeing in Instagram that they'd still be open, I decided to journey up there to see what they had going on. I joined the Ashevillians in line for doughnuts and ordered a box of four plus one of the interesting drinks. I ended up with three cake and one yeast raised doughnut - one apple cider, one Black Mountain Chocolate ganache, one blood orange (and chocolate drizzle), and the yeast doughnut was topped with a raspberry and matcha glaze. I chose a Thai Eye Opener for a drink - two shots of espresso, lemongrass syrup, and coconut milk (so a vegan option by default.)

It seemed like the flavor options were available as either cake or yeast, and I saw something on the board about chocolate cake, but during the minutes I was ordering, there wasn't a chocolate cake doughnut in sight. I know their flavors change frequently, and following them on Instagram can be quite alluring.  

The yeast doughnut was fine, but these are not my favorite kinds of doughnuts. I always judge a doughnut place on its cake doughnut and I have to say that their cake doughnuts were impressive. The one topped with Black Mountain ganache may have been the most perfect cake doughnut of all cake doughnuts. It had a slight chew instead of being stale or crumbly. It had been freshly topped, unlike a certain unnamed local donutier who makes her doughnuts the night before she sells them, which is doughnut blasphemy.  They are creative with flavor but start with a good base. It isn't just cleverness; it's backed up with quality. I feel I have to clarify after a disappointing trip to Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts, which long ago traded quality for kitsch. 

I try not to eat a lot of sugar but I would probably return to Vortex just to try another creative drink. They have a few details that they would benefit from sorting out - the one public bathroom had a line the entire time I was there, and most of the people there had parked illegally since there aren't enough spaces in the immediate vicinity.  These are practicalities that I hope the business will attend to as they grow their customer base.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Palacsintas (Hungarian Crepes)

 Palacsintas with Apricot Jam and Powdered Sugar

1 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 extra large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup apricot jam*
⅓ cup confectioners sugar

Blend the milk, flour, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter and add to the blender. Blend until smooth.

Melt 1 tsp butter in an 8-inch skillet. Coat the bottom of the pan with a very thin layer of batter. Basically make crepes, don’jt feel like typing it all. After flipping and cooking 30 seconds, while still in pan, put a heaping tablespoon of jam down the center of the crepe and roll up, pressing slightly. Transfer to a baking sheet. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Repeat to make 8, adding butter as you go. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar pushed through a sieve.

*I used raspberry!

This recipe comes from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease: 325 Inspiring Recipes from Award-Winning Chef Rozanne Gold 

Like pancakes? I seem to make them from around the world! Check out the Finnish pannukakku, Icelandic pönnukökur, Papua New Guinean banana pancakes, the Danish ebleskiver, and what we call the German oven apple pancake. I also made ratio pancakes from Michael Ruhlman's book, which we can call American.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Coffee Cake Banana Bread (low-sugar, low-carb, paleo)

PaleOMG remains one of my go-to websites particularly for weekend breakfasts, and this coffee cake banana bread is no exception. Since I now keep almond flour, coconut sugar, and coconut flour on hand, I had all the ingredients I needed. I did substitute coconut flour for maple syrup in the cake part and found it to definitely be sweet and moist enough with that substitution.

I'm even including a picture of the full loaf because I love how the streusel looks. 

  • 3 brown bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
For the toppings
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) grass fed butter, at room temperature (or coconut oil)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup pecans, crushed
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8.5×4.5 baking dish with oil then line the middle with parchment paper. It will make it easier to remove from the pan without it coming apart.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together bananas, maple syrup, vanilla extract, eggs, and almond butter.
  3. Then add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  4. Pour batter into baking dish. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. In a small bowl, add butter, coconut sugar, almond flour, cinnamon, and pecans. Use your hands to mix the toppings together.
  6. Place chunks of the toppings all around the top of the banana bread mixture.
  7. Place in oven to bake for 50 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven, place on cooling rack and let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Baking Around the World: Spekkoek

Spekkoek is often mistranslated as "spice cake" because you would think it meant that, when you see the ingredients of the cake. But spekkoek actually means "bacon cake," a reflection of the striping effect of the cake rather than its contents.

I think of spekkoek as the "cake of empire." It would have been impossible for this cake to exist without the European influence and the Indonesian spices. Dutch traders and settlers in the Indonesian islands came together to create this cake, and it is one of the remnants of empiricism worth hanging onto.  It seems like a cake designed to be either simple or impressive - a quick Google search will reveal some spekkoek that are complete works of art, simply unbelievable.

The cake uses a pretty unique technique - the two flavors of batter are alternated in thin layers of the pan and broiled until just set. Ideally the cake is quite high; I didn't pay attention and used a regular cake pan. It worked but I ran out of pan before I ran out of batter. The batter is thinner than normal cake batter, and it is almost like a pancake.

Some of the pictures I've seen have a darker brown batter, and I'm not sure if they are using more clove. One idea I had was to add espresso to help with the contrast. I also added some pandan juice to the white layer, but not enough to alter the texture or flavor really. There was a bit of "oh what is that" that can probably be blamed on the combination of six spices and pandan. (Also I used Chinese Five Spice Powder in place of the star anise that I didn't have on its own so that wasn't very traditional.)

One thing I liked about this cake was that once it cooled, I could slice it into wedges and drop them into a ziploc to take to work. It is sturdy and snackable and would be great for lunches the next day!

I used the recipe from Jenessa's Dinner but there are many out there (plus I thought her suggestion of serving this with maple syrup was strange so I did not do that). I also watched a fantastic instructional video in Dutch from an old grandmotherly type who clearly makes spekkoek pretty regularly (3 at a time!).  I'll add it to the end of this post.


Ingredients: (makes an 8"-9" round cake)

  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground anise 
  • 3 sticks/1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Prep: Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper, and butter well.  Set the oven to broil.
  2. Combine all spices in a small bowl, set aside.  Separate the eggs.
  3. Cream the butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Add the egg yolks, and mix until smooth.
  4. Fold in the flour by hand with a spatula.
  5. Combine the egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, beat with a hand mixer until very stiff.  In four parts, fold the egg whites into the other batter.  Do not over mix.
  6. Divide the batter into two large bowls, stirring the spices into one.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of the spiced batter to the bottom of the buttered pan, spreading it evenly over the bottom.  Cook under the broiler for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.   Spread a 1/2 cup of the plain batter on top of the cooked layer, broiling again for 2 minutes.  Repeat this process of layering/cooking with alternating batters until the pan is full.
  8. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.
  9. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve with maple syrup, whipped cream, or fruit preserves.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to store

Monday, August 24, 2015

Baking Around the World: Pandan Chiffon Cake

I'm finally back to some Oceania baking experiments. I've hopped on a boat and moved to Indonesia, which isn't far considering I was last in Papua New Guinea and West Papua, part of which is technically a part of Indonesia today.

An ingredient that comes up frequently while researching Indonesian baked goods is pandan.  Pandan is a leafy plant that smells of grassy vanilla. Just like vanilla in other countries, pandan is often imitated with chemicals - artificial flavorings and colorings. Around my area, it can be hard to find the real thing.  I did find some other crucial ingredients for my cooking and baking experiments.

I could find a lot of fake pandan. Fake pandan is easy to spot because it is bright almost neon green, and is a popular flavor throughout Southeast Asia - Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia too. Pandan cakes, pandan bubble tea, pandan ice cream and pandan paste. I really wanted to use the actual thing. Although my local Asian market did not carry the leaves (neither fresh nor frozen), I was able to find pandan juice made from actual pandan leaves, in a can.  And okay, I bought one little packaged cake with artificial pandan and a thai coconut layer jelly cake with artificial pandan, because I was curious!

A recipe I found multiple versions of along the way is Pandan Chiffon Cake. There is a lot of discussion on how the chiffon cake is a reflection of American influence in Southeast Asia, as opposed to the Dutch influence that may be seen in other recipes (stay tuned next week for an example!).  I'm not sure how American the chiffon cake is, but I had never made one. I had made angel food cakes back in my tearoom days, including a mocha version that I thought had more flavor - but angel food cakes are completely free of egg yolks. Chiffon cakes are made in a similar fashion, and folding the egg whites in at the end is a crucial step, but the batter contains a bit more fat in the form of oil and egg yolks.

This is one of the versions of Pandan Chiffon Cake that specifically mentioned using pandan juice in place of homemade paste or artificial flavoring. At the same time, I wonder if the change in liquid amount didn't have a slight change to the final product. I wasn't a huge fan of the texture, it was rather dry to my taste, and despite using 2 oz of juice I could hardly taste the flavor of it. While it was baking it smelled divine but I wish more had come across in the cake itself. Perhaps I should have boiled down the rest of the sugary canned juice into a syrup. You also can't taste the coconut milk as much as I would have expected, so I'd like to find a way to magnify that flavor as well. Coconut and pandan seem to be frequent companions.

A co-worker said her chiffon cakes don't normally have the larger holes in them so there is a definite chance I overmixed or underbeat or all the bad things that can happen to chiffon cakes. The 9 egg whites created quite a bit of volume to fold into the other batter and I actually think my standard KitchenAid mixing bowl was not large enough to accommodate it. 

There are quite a few different recipes for this cake out there. It must be one of those standards that every grandmother has a different recipe for. I looked at some that depended on the artificial pastes, and some that started with fresh pandan leaves. I went with the recipe I found on Serious Eats because it allowed for pandan juice and did not seem to rely on artificial extracts for flavor. I'm not sure how it compares to the rest. (The recipe is labeled as part of their "Singapore Stories" series and I have my eye on the Chinese Egg Tarts if I ever do a year of reading in China.)

Pandan Chiffon Cake
recipe from Yvonne Ruperti, Singapore Stories, Serious Eats

Notes: Look in your local Asian market for fresh or frozen pandan leaves. If you can't find it, increase the pandan extract to 2 tablespoons. Either green pandan paste or clear pandan extract can be used.


  • 6 pandan leaves, washed and roughly chopped
  • 6 large eggs, separated, divided
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons pandan extract
  • 1 3/4 cup (7 ounces) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of 10-inch tube pan with parchment paper. Place chopped pandan leaves in food processor and add 2 tablespoons water. Blend until leaves are pulverized, about 1 minute (add an extra tablespoon water if mixture is too thick to blend). Strain mixture though cheesecloth, squeezing tightly to extract as much juice as possible. You should have 3 to 4 tablespoons juice.
  2. In large bowl, whisk 6 yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until very light, about 1 minute. Whisk in oil until combined. Whisk in coconut milk, pandan extract, and 3 tablespoons pandan juice until combined.
  3. Sift cake flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Gently whisk flour mixture into pandan mixture until smooth.
  4. Using standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat 9 egg whites on medium low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium, and continue to beat until meringue begins to look opaque. Increase speed to medium high and slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat until meringue reaches stiff but not dry peak.
  5. Fold 1/3 of meringue into batter until combined. Carefully fold in remaining meringue in two stages until just combined, being careful to not deflate meringue.
  6. Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan and bake until cake is golden on top, set, and long skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Completely cool cake in pan, about 2 hours. Invert onto serving plate to serve.