Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of JennyBakes in 2013

This was an interesting year of international baking experiments and further attempts to making low-sugar baking palatable.  Along the way, I made some memorable dishes!
  1. The time I colored eggs using natural dye
  2. The first attempt at Turkish cooking - börek (and it was delicious)
  3. Frying food is always scary, but for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday of Thanksgivukkah, I made an exception for pumpkin butter sufganiyot
  4. A new reading friend said I needed to bake with more poppy seeds, and sent me a recipe to try.
  5. Puerto Rican comfort food becomes a breakfast favorite in my house
  6. An anniversary dessert so decadent we couldn't even finish our pieces
  7. A trip to a random bakery leads to a Finnish breakfast treat that we find excuses to make
  8. Finding my way with coconut flour and a trusted blogging friend = decent low carb pancakes
  9. Experimenting with the newest trendy food (I'm not convinced)
  10. A special holiday dessert combining unexpected ingredients
Happy New Year everyone!  My only culinary resolution is to bake and post more in 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review of Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home

Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the HomeWintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home
by Tammy Donroe Inman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher summary:
While many people think cold weather spells the end of the spectacular seasonal ingredients that make baking so exciting, Tammy Donroe Inman thinks otherwise. For Tammy, winter is the sweetest time of the year—a season that practically begs you to stay inside, fire up the oven, and produce decadent desserts from the bounty of wholesome winter ingredients like squashes and pumpkins, parsnips and carrots, pears, apples, citrus of all stripes, and feel-good ingredients like nuts, cheese, and chocolate.

The fresh and rustic recipes in Wintersweet push the envelope of traditional winter desserts like pumpkin or apple pies, with such delicacies as Pear Cranberry Clafouti, Spicy Prune Cake with Penuche Frosting, and Goat Cheese Cake with Dried Cherry Compote, plus a few surprises like Chocolate Beet Whoopie Pies, Parsnip Spice Cupcakes and for those in need of a winter pick-me-up, Coconut Sunshine Cake with Citrus Curd. These are recipes that celebrate the cozy character of winter—for when you’re snowed in and need the perfect blizzard boredom-buster, to your next family gathering around the fire.
This is a beautiful cookbook with stunning photography, and probably my favorite of 2013. The idea of building a cookbook around winter ingredients for baked goods is brilliant and much appreciated. There are chapters on nuts and squashes and citrus, to name a few. I appreciated the variety and creativity.  This is not just a book of rehashed recipes that you have made before!

Both recipes I tried were not dishes I had seen in other cookbooks, and had interesting flavor profiles. I made the butternut squash cake twice!

Butternut squash cake:

Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova (I couldn't resist the striking color in this dish and the added ingredients of balsamic and cardamom made for a very sophisticated bite.)

Highly recommended, and would make a wonderful holiday gift!

I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I knew from first glance I'd have to try the cover recipe (the pavlova.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cookie Box 2013

This is my last December as the Music Librarian at Furman University (I'm still working in the library but we hired a new music librarian to start in January) and this year I made some of my old favorites for all the student workers who cycle through shifts in the music library between 8 am and midnight.  I always try to have snack bags put together by Study Day, that brief gap between classes and final exams.  I rediscovered the holiday-themed takeout boxes I'd bought last year on post-holiday super-clearance sales at World Market, and decided they would be perfect for Study Day Treats.

All in all, 17 students cycle through the music library on a regular basis, and I had 15 boxes.  I decided to give the two students who consistently take the 8 am shifts bigger containers with more treats.  8 am is rough! (Don't tell the others.)

Should we take a look inside?  I tried for one piece of fudge and two of each cookie.  My original plan of course included more, but at this point of the evening I had been making cookies for four hours and decided to call it good!

I posted this teaser picture to Instagram, knowing a few of my student workers follow me there.  This is the peppermint fudge, which I made by making the usual fudge recipe but substituting peppermint oil for vanilla and using the peppermint morsels instead of the chocolate.  In the end that meant half the chips were white chocolate, making the fudge milder in chocolate flavor than I would have liked, but it seemed to get better as it aged a bit.  Luckily I had made this a few days in advance.

The cookies inside included:
By the way, we found out that the ginger cookies are just as good with chocolate chips added, but that variety was not included in the boxes.  

Lower Carb Gingerbread Waffles

Sometimes the Internet can make a person feel like a stalker.  I follow Maya from the Alaska from Scratch blog in Pinterest and Instagram, and often see pictures of recipes before they end up on the blog.  (By the way, she also posts the most beautiful pictures of the Alaskan wilderness in Instagram, just breathtaking.)

I had seen the idea of gingerbread waffles and eagerly awaited the recipe, wondering if I could adapt it all all to be lower carb.  Notice that I said lower, not low, because I didn't think it could be gingerbread if I omitted the molasses; nut flours still have carbs albeit it more protein. 

The recipe of what I came up with is below.  If I did it again, I'd probably use less liquid so I didn't have to use coconut flour at all, something I added at the end of mixing everything together and having too thin of a batter.  Still, the flavor of gingerbread is strong in this waffle, and it is a delicious and almost-healthy breakfast recipe for the holiday season.

Lower-Carb Gingerbread Waffles
(Based on the recipe for Gingerbread Waffles on the Alaska from Scratch blog)

  • 2 cups nut flour (almond, hazelnut, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Splenda packet or 2 Tbsp sugar-free gingerbread syrup (if using syrup, add with wet ingredients)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk 
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  1. Preheat a waffle iron and prepare as directed.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flours, Splenda, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, milk, yogurt or cream cheese, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. Fill your waffle iron with batter according to the manufacturer's instructions. Cook until crisp and browned. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining batter.