Monday, March 02, 2015

Mississippi Mud Bars

As part of my ongoing Around the USA baking project, I decided the time had come to make something from Mississippi. The opportunity came while reading The Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan, set on the Mississippi delta.  I have been exposed to some Southern writers I wouldn't have known otherwise through my participation in the On the Southern Literary Trail group in Goodreads. This was one of the picks for February.

Mississippi mud - the rich, goopy kind that happens when a river meets an ocean. Translated into a cake or a bar, you have to find something that oozes goo - so of course these have marshmallows.  These are very sweet, more sweet than chocolatey. I followed the recipe exactly.

Mississippi Mud Cake Recipe
from Southern Living, June 2004, via

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1 (10.5-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows
Chocolate frosting (see below)

Whisk together melted butter and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in flour and chopped pecans. Pour batter into a greased and floured 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; top warm cake evenly with marshmallows. Return to oven, and bake 5 minutes. Drizzle Chocolate Frosting over warm cake. Cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk 
1/4 cup butter, softened 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread from PaleOMG

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'm hooked on recipes from Juli at PaleOMG.  No, she's not paying for endorsement. I think it's because so many people who do alternative baking seem to have taken the joy out.  I need joy with my food, even when it's good for me.  I have a hard time compromising taste and texture; knowing it is healthy is not enough! Her recipes seem to demonstrate an understanding of this need, and I have found them to be vibrant and flavorful so far.

One Sunday, I had wanted to try her banana bread coffee cake, but my husband was uncertain. So I thumbed through similar recipes, and we landed on Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread.  I made this recipe pretty much exactly as described, even using honey instead of a substitute. (I always worry I will sacrifice texture when I use a dry sweetener for a wet, and it was only 1 tbsp.)  The chocolate chips I used were sugar free but not intentionally paleo, but like I've said before, I'm not going for paleo myself, just looking for recipes that aren't using traditional flour.

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread
Source: PaleOMG (the second recipe from that site in a month - also her pictures are nicer)

For the pan
  • coconut oil, to grease the pan
For the banana bread:
  • 4 medium bananas (about 1 pound)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted grass-fed butter, melted
  • ½ cup almond butter (I used peanut butter, which is not paleo, but it's what I had)
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
For the swirl:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (took out brand name since I used something else)
  • 1 tablespoon organic honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. (I used glass with spray and it came out fine.)
  2. Combine the bananas, eggs, butter, and almond butter in a food processor or mixing bowl and mix until the ingredients are well blended. Add the coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and salt and continue to mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. In a double boiler over medium-low heat, mix together the swirl ingredients. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate has melted. (I just used the microwave, much faster!)
  4. Pour the bread batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. As soon as you pour the batter, pour the chocolate swirl directly on top and use a knife to swirl the chocolate throughout the loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving. (Mine had to bake another 8 minutes.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tahini and Wholegrain Mustard Crackers from Eat Drink Paleo

I hope you aren't tired of paleo recipes because this isn't the end!  I had picked up some Snow Camp cheese from a localish dairy, Goat Lady Dairy, at our favorite local-organic market, the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. Swamp Rabbit is my go-to place for non-traditional baking - they have a better special flour selection than Whole Foods, not to mention gluten-free and vegan pastries galore, really good lattes, cheese-making supplies, and Turkish pogacha.  Anyway, I can spend a lot of money there!

I bought this lovely cheese and as we drove home I said, "Huh, what we will eat the cheese with? Without croissants or crackers, I took to the internet to see if I could find a cracker recipe.  I had used up all the almond flour, so I needed a recipe that used coconut flour.

I found a few, but none so intriguing as the Tahini & Wholegrain Mustard Crackers recipe from Eat Drink Paleo.  Almost all the ingredients are just normal pantry staples at my house, and this was super easy to pull together.  Texture-wise I should have baked the middle a bit longer, as they were a bit soft, but cracker-like enough to spread with gooey local goat cheese.

Tahini & Wholegrain Mustard Crackers
Source: Eat Drink Paleo (the blog with the original recipe has ingredient substitution advice as well as step-by-step photos)


  • 3 tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 tbsp soft or slightly melted butter, ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 1/2 tbsp coconut flour


  1. Preheat oven to 170 °C/338 °F. (The closest I could get on my oven was 340)
  2. Mix tahini, butter, egg, sesame seeds, salt and mustard in a bowl until well combined. Add coconut flour and mix until thick, sticky mixture forms. (Do not merely substitute a different flour, coconut flour has very specific properties.)
  3. Roll the mixture into a ball and place on a slightly greased parchment/baking paper (about 40 x 40 cm). Flatten with you hands in the middle until it’s a flat pancake. Then cover with another piece of parchment paper of the same size and use a rolling pin to flatten the pancake into a thin dough layer, about 3-5mm. Roll it evenly in four directions starting from the middle. Finally using a knife make small incision marks vertically and horizontally to make it easier to break the crackers when cooked.
  4. Place on the middle shelf and cook for about 15 minutes. The outer edges will cook faster so I recommend taking the tray out of the oven when those start going golden brown and slicing those edges off first, then putting the tray back in the oven for a further 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, before you put the tray in the oven in the first place, slice the thin pancake into halves and spread them apart so there is some space between the halves. When you’re taking them out, you will notice that there is of oil bubbling away around the cracker and that’s fine. Set the cooked cracker layer to cool before breaking apart.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 15 minutes
Makes about 15 crackers

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Churro Waffles from PaleOMG

Sometimes when I find a blogger I really like, I get stuck making their recipes for a while.  (Stuck isn't a bad thing exactly, but might be boring for my readers!) This happened with Smitten Kitchen, and now PaleOMG.  I actually found Juli at PaleOMG first through a cookbook that I got for review (OMG. That's Paleo?) and only then poked around her blog.

Some people say that using baking soda makes a recipe not paleo, but I don't really care about paleo as much as I care about lower sugar, grain-free recipes. So if you are paleo, check the ingredient list and make a small change accordingly.

These were pretty tasty, and just different enough from our usual morning routine to make a nice change in taste and texture.  The picture on her blog is quite a bit darker, so it's possible that mine are underbaked.  I made four almost-whole waffles with this recipe.  I will indicate when what I did differed from her recipe.

Churro Waffles
Source: PaleOMG (check out her other recipes!)

  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup canned coconut milk (I used full-fat)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon honey (I used coconut sugar and added a bit more coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons grass fed butter, melted (or coconut oil if you don’t do butter)
  • ¼-1/3 cup coconut sugar
  1. Place almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
  2. Then add coconut milk, eggs, honey, and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Place mixture into hot waffle iron and cook until cooked through. I used a non stick waffle iron but you may want to grease it just in case.
  4. Melt butter in a wide bowl and place coconut sugar in another wide bowl.
  5. After waffles are cooked through, place each other into the melted butter, soaking it on both sides, then place them into the coconut sugar to coat.
  6. Then eat!
Made 6 small waffles. Should make 3-4 large waffles

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.)