Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Paleo Chocolate Pudding

I often look to paleo recipes because they are pretty close to how we eat. However paleo allows for more natural sugar than I usually eat, often using copious amounts of maple syrup or honey. So I'm often focusing on the subsection of lower sugar paleo desserts and baked goods.

Two weeks ago, cookbook for my unread cookbook shelf project was The Paleo Chocolate Lover's Cookbook. In it, I found this pudding recipe with only five ingredients, all of which I had on hand, so I knew it would be an easy one to try. Ultimately my conclusion is that my blender does not as finely as one would want for the right texture, as my finished pudding had chunks of date in it, but it was still fairly tasty, and definitely the right consistency apart from the chunks. This is not a low-sugar dessert, but does qualify as paleo if that's your thing.


Paleo Chocolate Pudding

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
4 large, soft, pitted Medjool dates
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved
3 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the almond milk, coconut milk, dates and vanilla bean until completely smooth. The mixture will probably separate, but that's okay.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer, watching carefully so that it doesn't boil over.
  3. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking frequently.
  4. Turn off the heat, and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the pudding.
  5. Ladle the pudding into bowls, and serve it warm or cold. It will be thicker after refrigerating.
Makes 2-4 servings, depending on the size of the bowls. 

Cookbook notes: I also made the banana chocolate pancakes (not quite sweet enough and did not hold together well in the pan), which I won't post, and previously made the raspberry chocolate clafoutis in 2015. The recipe I wish I'd had time to try making was the paleoleos (similar to oreos) but was discouraged by the fact that I couldn't get my hands on one of the ingredients needed for the filling, and in seeing they had to be stored in the fridge.

All the recipes are depending on a core set of paleo ingredients - coconut milk, Medjool dates, cocoa powder, etc. I find this to be somewhat limiting and would have liked to see a slightly less narrow focus. The heavy use of coconut is surely going to decrease in popularity as the years go by, and when it does, this one will feel pretty irrelevant. Texture is sometimes sacrificed for the paleo ingredients but anyone trying to bake this way will not be that shocked! There is a distinct attempt to do more than just basic recipes, to offer some fancy yet still paleo recipes, and this is something I definitely appreciate. Interested bakers should note that chocolate is not always the central flavor, and white chocolate is given some attention as well. Because I love chocolate, I really only seriously considered the chocolate focused recipes.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Finnish Cardamom Braid (Pulla)

Last week, I posted Apricot Diamonds from the same cookbook this recipe comes from, The Winter Vegetarian. It was my cookbook for last week's focus for my year-long unread cookbook shelf project. Comments about the cookbook overall will be at the end.

Pulla is a Finnish sweet bread with cardamom. It has a similar texture to challah, with the addition of vanilla and cardamom. It came together quickly and ended up being pretty forgiving (I suspected I didn't add quite enough flour.) There are a lot of grandmothers in YouTube who will demonstrate two ways of braiding the bread - one uses three strands and the more traditional seem to use four. For simplicity, I went with three.

Pulla was delicious in slices, toasted, with butter and orange marmalade (because, you know, orange and cardamom are magical mystery twins.) It would have made good french toast too!

This recipe makes three loaves, but they freeze well. I brought two to work and kept one home.


Finnish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp plus 3/4 cup sugar
2 cups lukewarm milk*
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (from about 32 pods)*
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, melted*
4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
7-8 cups unbleached white flour

1 egg white, lightly beaten until frothy
3 tbsp sliced almonds*
3 tbsp pearl sugar or coarsely crushed sugar cubes

Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 tsp of sugar until bubbly. Stir in the milk, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, salt, cardamom, melted butter, eggs, and 4 cups of the flour. Beat well. Gradually add just enough flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until the dough is stmooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and leave to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into three pieces. Divide each piece into three balls of equal size. Roll each ball out between your hands into a rope about 12 inches long. Braid three ropes together, turning the ends under. Place the loaf on a lightly greased baking sheet (you will need two sheets). Repeat with the remianing dough. Cover the loaves and leave them to rise until slightly puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle each with 1 tbsp of almonds and 1 tbsp of pearl sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

*Notes from JennyBakes: I used buttermilk because I had some I needed to use up. I didn't notice until typing this up that I was supposed to use salted butter, so I probably should have added salt as I don't keep salted butter on hand. I did not sprinkle almonds on the loaves before baking; I was worried they would burn. I used ground cardamom and did not grind it fresh from cardamom pods!

The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein
Cookbook notes: The sticker on the front of this said it came from Half Price Books, which means I bought it used when I lived in Indiana, sometime between 2001-2006. It was published in 1996, and was also published under the title The Vegetarian Hearth. Darra Goldstein has written Russian and Georgian cookbooks previously (Georgia the country, not the state), so many or most of the recipes in this cookbook come from a Russian and Eastern European background. I wanted to focus on this one while it was still winter since so many of the recipes seem quite heavy. Back when I was trying to have a cooking blog, I made the mushroom coulibiac, and I believe that was the only recipe I'd made from this cookbook in 15 years.

This time around, I marked more recipes than I got to. I bought all the ingredients for mushroom dumplings except couldn't find mushroom broth, and it wasn't a realistic weeknight dish, so the mushrooms went bad, whoops. I did make the turnip gratin but not the rutabaga pudding, another Finnish recipe. I tried making the sweet cheese pancakes (syrniki) but I feel I must have done something wrong as they weren't a great texture. I would have liked to make the blini and more of the sweets, but the majority of recipes in this book for regular food are too rich and too heavy for how we usually eat! But you never know until you try.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Apricot Diamonds

This is the first of two recipes I'll post from this past week's cookbook focus, The Winter Vegetarian. I'll save my broader comments for next week! All that's important here is that this recipe is simple, can be made into practically any flavor depending on the jam you like best, and the cookies are tasty. I rewrote the recipe in my own words, because this recipe is so simple I could still remember the ingredients it called for.


Apricot Diamonds

2 sticks butter, or 1 cup, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup apricot jam

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
3. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Scrape down as needed.
4. Add flour and mix just until blended. The dough may not be completely cohesive and this is okay.
5. Dump 1/2-2/3 of the dough into a 9x13 pan and press down to make an even crust. 
6. Drop spoonfuls of the jam onto the crust and spread out as evenly as possible.
7. Crumble the rest of the dough on to the jam and spread evenly. It can help to press some together in flat pieces, but I found that just dumping and lightly spreading, pressing down into the jam, worked just fine.
8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browning along the edges.
9. Cut into diamonds and serve.

If you don't know how to cut into diamonds, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube with grandmas who have their own cooking channels, showing you how to cook bars into diamonds.