Erin’s Chocolate, Fig and Walnut cake

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Having moved southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere a few months ago, I understand the blessing of the ‘fall bounty’ more truly. Our local farmers market and grocery shops have been full of bright harvest for the last few months. Now, as both the birds and leaves migrate southwards, the abundance has begun to fade, now revolving, as it does late in the season, around squash and pumpkins. The fig trees around our new home fruited late too, we have been tripping over the fruit as it came thick and fast in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I feel a little guilty admitting to it, but neither Asher or I love fresh figs terribly. On the other hand, I really do not like fruit going to waste and so I had been gathering it up ‘to cook’ at a later date. Perishable as tender fresh figs are, Asher began to get frustrated finding my bowls of slightly fermented figs which were good only for adding to the compost. Anyhow, with a little (negative!) encouragement from him, I started trying to cook them up. I made chilli fig jam – a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. Erin’s birthday seemed like a good excuse to have a go at incorporating the jam into some baking. I played around with a few recipes to come up with the one below – the almond meal makes the batter it more dense than an average butter cake. I might keep playing with the recipe – I will keep you updated with any break-throughs!

Base
½ cup butter, softened (115g)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
¾ cup milk
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 cup almond meal
½ cup coco powder
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt

Crumblings
75g butter
2/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts (roasted)

1 cup fig jam

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs, beat till combined.
4. Combine the milk and yoghurt, and all the dry ingredients in two separate containers.
5. Begin adding a little of the milk mixture and a little of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mixing till combined, continue the cycle of adding the liquid and dry ingredients and the mixing till combined till all the ingredients are added.
6. Set aside.
7. Beat the butter and sugar for the ‘crumblings’, add in the flour till the mixture clumps together when you squeeze it with your hands.
8. Grease a bundt tin (or whatever tin you have decided to use!) and begin adding the batter, the crumblings, jam and walnuts to the tin, jam works better in the batter not at the edge near the tin. Spreading all the different components around equally will mean a more uniform result!
9. Bake it for about 50-55 minutes – just keep an eye on the browning – if it looks like its getting toasty round the edges and you want to let it go a little longer for the sake of a cooked centre – I use foil to protect it from over-browning-that-is-really-burning.
10. Serve with ice-cream or a little whipped cream – perhaps dusted with icing sugar.

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A little (cheesecake) celebrating

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The mini cheesecake above was made by adapting this recipe by Bare Root Girl – made tiny so it could be shared between the two of us as we celebrated one year of marriage (As an aside: I would love to keep working with these cute little pans and come up withe a range of pint-sized desserts for moments when only a few need feeding but a treat would be nice!). Food manages to establish itself as central to special occasions almost unconsciously … birthday: cake, Christmas: pud (and feast!), Thanksgiving: turkey and pumpkin pie, Valentines Day: chocolate … we almost can’t help ourselves (no pun intended!). Somehow, it seems that eating allows for the fullest participation as we actually em-body, consume, assimilate, special foods symbolising the celebration by taking them into ourselves. Without thinking it all through, we just know that when its time to commemorate, party, toast, honour and remember – there needs to be some thing fit to eat. And, so, when it was time to celebrate the 12 of October one year on, Asher’s favourite dessert was in order – Berry Cheesecake. I will probably keep tweaking the recipe (I do like yoghurt, nuts and berries, I just don’t love coconut), but this was approximately what I did on the day …

Ingredients:

Base:
1/2 c. raw almonds
5 dried dates
1/4 t. sea salt
1 tbs (or 15g) melted butter

Cheesecake Filling:
2 1/2 tsp gelatin
1/2 the juice of one small lemon
1/2 cup full-fat plain greek yogurt
90g light coconut cream
30g cream cheese
45g honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp sea salt

Berry Topping:
1/2 cup frozen berries (I used a mix of blueberries and raspberries)
1/2 a small lemon, juice & zest
1 tsp honey
1 tsp arrowroot flour

Method:
1. Roast almonds in the oven at 220°C for 10-15 min. Blend almonds, dates, butter and salt using the food processor till fine. Press the mixture into the base of a 10cm diametre springform pan, lined with baking paper. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so it becomes firm.
2. Add the gelatine and lemon juice to a small bowl or enamel heating vessel and then place this in a slightly larger saucepan of simmering water. Stir the mixture till the gelatine is dissolved.
3. The rest of the filling ingredients need to be combined in the food processor. While the processor is going, carefully pour the gelatine mixture in through the top and keep processing till the mixture is fully blended (shouldn’t take longer than another 30 seconds or so).
4. Pour over the base and leave in the fridge over night to set!
5. To make the berry topping, combine all the ingredients in a little saucepan over a medium heat, keep cooking till the berries have begun to disintegrate and the whole mixture starts to thicken. If you would like it smooth to spread over the cheesecake, it can be blended using a stick blender or food processor or you can leave it chunky. Depending on the look the berry topping can be poured over just before serving or it can be given time to set in the fridge too!
6. Enjoy!

Homemade Ice-cream sandwiches

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With the ice-cream and inspiration straight from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, these are very yummy! I used this recipe from the Chocolate Covered Katie blog for the graham crackers (something we don’t have in Australia!) to make the cute little sandwiches … but the ice cream is pretty delicious on its own! It made me want to try some other flavours using the buttermilk and yoghurt as a base. This works well even if you do not have an ice-cream maker!

Ingredients:
Ice-cream –
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups low fat thick greek yoghurt
1 cup sugar
The juice and rind of a lemon

Graham Crackers –
1 cup and an extra 2 tbs whole-wheat or wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp and an extra 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp and an extra 1/8 tsp salt
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs sunflower oil
1/4 cup and an extra 1 tbs water

Method:
Graham Crackers –
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix till a dough forms.
3. Roll the dough out between two layers of baking paper and then cut into shapes using either a knife or biscuit cutters (a square one works well for cracker saving you measuring accurately!).
4. Bake biscuits for about 12 minutes … depending on how crispy you like them!
5. Allow to cool and save till you have made the ice-cream!
Ice-Cream –
5. Combine all ingredients and allow to begin freezing.
6. When the ice cream is of a spreadable thickness sandwich between two biscuits and place in the freezer (ideally wrapped up in baking paper) to harden.
7. Enjoy!

Semolina Berry Cake

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This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for ages. I had promised to bake for a friend’s Nutrimetics party and also had the chance to shop in our local IGA where there is an adventurous range of flours, so semolina came home (I limited myself to one new flour) and I dug through our much loved family collection of Super Food Ideas magazines … finally finding it! Those who tried it loved it, the recipe was shared and the cake enjoyed! Hopefully others might enjoy it too. The recipe is melt and mix (no creaming of butter and sugar) so it is very quick and easy!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fine semolina
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
185g butter, melted
250g tub natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 cups mixed fresh berries (I would add them frozen, that way the cake has less chance turning purple!)
1/2 cup flaked almonds (these I didn’t have, I just chopped whole almonds instead)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C (a moderate oven).
2. Combine the semolina, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a medium sized heatproof bowl melt the butter. Once you have allowed it to cool slightly, mix the yoghurt and vanilla essence into the same container.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to combine.
5. Fold the berries lightly through the mixture. Smooth the surface and sprinkle the almonds on top, pressing lightly into the cake mixture.
6. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes or till the skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
7. The cooked cake should be allowed to rest for 10 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack or serving plate.
8. It was delicious served alone but would also be lovely with some cream, yoghurt or some ice cream and perhaps some fresh berries!