Monday, March 28, 2016

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain-free, gluten-free)

I found this recipe on Ambitious Kitchen, where she makes a paleo version with almond butter. I'm probably never really going to eat paleo entirely or spend money on almond butter, so I made the recipe with peanut butter. Otherwise it's the same. This is a great treat for those of us eating grain-free and lower-carb because the cookie actually feels and tastes like a cookie. Her original post has more ideas on substitutions, so check it out.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
(as seen on Ambitious Kitchen)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted creamy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (Jenny's note - I used Stevia-sweetened mini chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add in almond butter, coconut sugar and coconut oil; process until it comes together, about 1 minute. Add in eggs and process again. The dough will probably seize up at this point, but don't worry that's okay.
  3. Next, add in coconut flour, baking soda and salt; process again until a dough forms. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto prepared cookie sheet. You can flatten dough with the palm of your hand if you'd like to have cookies like mine in the photo, or if you prefer, you can leave the dough as is and cookies will be a bit puffier.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies turn slightly golden brown around the edges. Allow them to cool on cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes around 20 cookies (Jenny's note - I made 14 with my scoop.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review of Crepes et Croissants in Columbia, SC

While I do not necessarily think of Columbia, SC as a culinary destination, a growing number of restaurants have been impressing me on visits there for conferences, board meetings, and book festivals. One such place is Crêpes & Croissants, on Sumter Street, right around the corner from the Columbia Marriott and the Sheraton. I always end up at conferences at the Marriott and this is SO much better than pricey hotel breakfast. This would work for lunch too, as they are open until 2 most days.

I went with a librarian friend and we both had interesting coffee drinks, a crepe, and a pastry. I had a sweet lemon crepe (lemon curd and whipped cream), a chocolate croissant, and a cafe miel. Next time I'll try something more savory - their omelets and quiche sounded great too. This place is a bit hidden between chain restaurants but worth seeking out!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pi Day 2016 - Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue in a Gingerbread Crust

This pie feels completely out of season, and it is, but it was an idea I couldn't get out of my head for Pi Day 2016. This would be the PERFECT pie for Thanksgiving, and I suppose for spring I should have been thinking lemon meringue or something with cream cheese.

It starts with Dominique Ansel's gingerbread crust, which I did not end up caring for much. It's rather more like a soft ginger cookie than a pie crust, making it increasingly difficult to work with, but it did have good flavor. I've had it on my mind ever since I first came across it. Overall it is more subtle than I expected, which makes it more versatile (but I still probably won't make it again, maybe just add ginger to a more tried and tested pie dough recipe.)

The pie itself is a version of a popular pie idea - taking what is normally a Thanksgiving side dish in the United States (sweet potatoes or yams with marshmallows on top) and making a pie version. I used the recipe from a cookbook I have at home, The Southern Pie Book, but it is basically the Southern Living recipe which I will post below. I had to bake the pie 15 minutes longer to get it to set in the middle. I thought it was okay but overall very sweet. And as Mr. JennyBakes pointed out, if you have this as a pie then you won't have it as a side dish, and having sweet potato casserole as a side dish is like a way to sneak dessert into dinner.

Dominique Ansel's Gingerbread Pie Crust
(as seen on Eater, where the pictured pie crust is quite darker than the one I made)

(Makes 2 pie crusts)

½ cup plus 1 tbsp light brown sugar
2/3 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch nutmeg
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch Maldon sea salt

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. While continuing to mix, stream in lemon juice, followed by milk and vanilla, until evenly combined.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, grated ginger, cornstarch and salt until combined. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add in one-third of the dry ingredient mixture until evenly combined. Repeat with the next third of the dry ingredients, then the final third.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and transfer the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a rectangle no more than ½ inch thick, wrap in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Divide the dough in half (this recipe yields two pie crusts, so you can keep one half wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 14-inch round. Transfer to a pie tin, gently pressing down into the corners and up the sides. Trim away excess dough using a paring knife, leaving a 1-inch overhang around the edge. Fold the edges under, then form a fluted edge around the rim with your fingers. Lightly dock the bottom surface of the dough with a fork. Chill or freeze the pie shell in the pie pan until ready to bake.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. Line the pie shell with a coffee filter and fill with rice or dried beans to blind bake the crust. Bake in the oven for 14-16 minutes, until the bottom of the pie crust is just lightly baked.
  7. Remove from oven and discard the coffee filter and rice/beans. Return the crust to the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 4 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue
(recipe from The Southern Pie Book, originally from Southern Living) 

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 cups lightly packed, cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes)
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 (7-oz.) jar marshmallow crème 

1. Whisk together egg yolk and cream; brush bottom and sides of crust with yolk mixture. Bake 6 to 8 more minutes or until crust is golden. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.
2. Prepare filling: Stir together melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and next 2 ingredients in a large bowl until mixture is well blended. Add sweet potatoes and next 4 ingredients; stir until mixture is well blended. Pour sweet potato mixture into prepared piecrust. (Pie will be very full.)
3. Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Preheat oven to 400° F.
4. Prepare meringue: Beat egg whites and next 2 ingredients at high speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.
5. Beat one-fourth of marshmallow crème into egg white mixture; repeat 3 times with remaining marshmallow crème, beating until smooth (about 1 minute). Spread over pie.
6. Bake at 400° for 6 to 7 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Bread

Somehow we are always faced with 3-4 overripe bananas at the end of the week. We always buy more than we can chew, I guess. Often these go into paleo muffins or 1-ingredient ice cream but this time I was craving something chocolatey. I also had some cinnamon chips in the cupboard which demanded inclusion. This was delicious!

Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 medium-to-large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (what you see pictured is Special Dark)
1 cup cinnamon chips

Heat your oven to 350°F.

Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a nonstick baking spray.

Mash bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in melted butter, then brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Place baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flour and cocoa powder in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and sift over wet ingredients. Stir dry and wet ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Stir in cinnamon chips.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 55 to 65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*One egg doesn't sound like enough but bananas do a lot of the work alongside the butter to bind this all together.