Rhubarb Upside-down Cake

3 slicesHappy Mother’s Day! I fully intended to post about this cake last week so you would have ample time to plan ahead and make this cake for your mom. But unfortunately, the ultimate mother (Mother Nature), did not cooperate. Local rhubarb only showed up at my market yesterdayfresh rhubarbThe hardest part about making this cake is arranging the rhubarb in this gorgeous chevron pattern. I have been going through a chevron phase for a few years now and I’m still not tired of it. I alternated the rows, cut side up and cut side down, for an ombre effect. Rhubarb Cable Knitbaked 1It really links like a chunky cable knit sweater! Sadly, with my poor fine motor skills, this is as close to knitting that I am ever likely to get. Arranging the rhubarb is really not that difficult to do. It just takes some planning, patience and precision. If that’s not for you, feel free to slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch thick pieces and just scatter them on the bottom of the pan.

I created this video to walk you through the process.

If you were one of those kids that excelled at Leggo and puzzles, this will be a piece of cake for you. Once you get the main chevron pieces in place, you need to go back and fill in the top and bottom gaps with little wedges of rhubarb. For the record, I am spatially challenged, so if I can do it, anyone can. spooning batter Raw rhubarb is quite astringent, not to mention tough and fibrous. But blanket it with butter and brown sugar and it just it melts into silkiness in the oven.  The sour cream in the batter makes for a super moist cake.

Click here to print recipe for Rhubarb Upside-down Cake.

ready to serve 1

one slice

 

 

Granola Bark

3 bowlsIf you’re one of those people that pick all the big clumps of granola out of the bag, leaving the little crumbs for the rest of your family, then this granola bark is for you.broken into piecesThe recipe comes from the cookbook Tartine All Day, by pastry chef Elizabeth Prueitt. She and her husband, bread baker extraordinaire, Chad Robertson, are the owners of the Tartine Bread empire in San Francisco.

I recently sorted through all my cookbooks and got rid of a big pile that just didn’t bring me joy anymore. I wasn’t planning to buy any new ones.  We’re in declutter mode around here these days. But I’m happily willing to make room for this book on my shelf. It is filled with inspiration for way we want to eat now, melding new ingredients with old techniques. These are the recipes that Prueitt cooks for her family everyday.

Start by gathering the dry ingredients. Rolled oats (not quick cooking), pumpkin seeds, unsweetened coconut, golden flax seed, sesame seeds, cinnamon, whole almonds and ground almonds (almond flour). Feel free to substitute other seeds and nuts. Chia seeds and sunflower seeds would be good. Pecans instead of almonds would be delicious. For Nutella fans, try using hazelnut flour instead of the almond flour.Dry ingredientschopping almondsFor the liquid ingredients, maple syrup is simmered with water, coconut sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Prueitt calls for vegetable or olive oil, but I used coconut oil. The final liquid ingredient is an egg white, which helps make the granola bark extra crispy.Liquid ingredientsall mixedspreading out barkBefore baking, it is important to press the granola quite firmly into the pan. The easiest way to do this is to cover the granola with a sheet of parchment paper and press a second pan over the  bark.
compress 1compress 2
.compress 3compress 4
Once baked and cooled, break bark into big pieces and pile them into a big glass jar and set it on the counter for snacking.
in a jarOr crumble it up into your yogurt for breakfast.one bowl

Click here to print recipe for Granola Bark.

with a latte

Toasted Coconut Cold-Brew Iced Coffee

ready to drink 3Remember the movie Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner, hears a voice telling him “If you build it, he will come.”  I love this philosophy. Some may call it wishful thinking, but I think it’s more powerful than that. I am putting a bathtub into our new condo, in the belief that if I do, one day I will have grandchildren to bathe in it.

And, I truly believe that if I make this Toasted Coconut Cold-Brew Coffee, summer will finally arrive. Full disclosure, as I was shooting this post on Sunday, snowflakes were falling outside my window. But let’s remain positive, shall we?

So, cold brew coffee. What’s all the buzz about? It’s not the same thing as iced coffee. Iced coffee is made by brewing strong coffee, chilling it and then pouring it over ice. Cold brew is prepared by saturating coarsely ground beans with cold water and then letting it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Then it is strained and served over ice.

Cold brew is much lower in acid than traditional iced coffee. It has a natural sweetness and smooth finish. If you are curious to understand the chemistry behind this culinary alchemy, check out the post I wrote last summer.ready to pourBut now, onto the toasted coconut part. My daughter alerted me to the fact that Starbucks recently introduced Toasted Coconut Cold Brew to their summer lineup. While their Unicorn Frappuccino or Pumpkin Spice Latte hold zero appeal for me, this introduction has my name written all over it. My love of all things coconut is no secret to regular readers of this blog. This is my 21st coconut post!

Kat Boytsova, recipe tester over at Epicurious figured out how to make this at home. To make the toasted coconut flavouring syrup, simmer toasted coconut, water, honey and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it steep for a while. Strain the coconut and you have toasted coconut syrup.

I used coconut sugar instead of regular white sugar. While I am under no illusion that coconut sugar is healthier for you than regular sugar, I do enjoy the nutty taste and faint coffee aroma it imparts.pouring coffee 2Pour the cold brew over ice, add a splash of coconut syrup and finish with some coconut milk.

pouring coconut milk

Click here to print recipe for Toasted Coconut Cold Brew Iced Coffee.

ready to drink 1

 

Asparagus Ricotta Galette

BakedOnce local asparagus shows up, you know that flip flops and a chilled glass of rosé can’t be too far behind. This tart is a splendid way to showcase asparagus, Post-Asparagus Stinky-Urine Disorder, be damned.one sliceMild, milky ricotta is the ideal partner for asparagus. They complement each other perfectly. Ricotta can be a bit bland, so I added  lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes to ramp up the flavour. Some grated Gruyere cheese and a beaten egg add some heft to the filling.

For the dough, I decided to use Kim Boyce’s Rustic Rye Dough, from her book Good to the Grain. The hearty rye dough stands up quite well against asparagus’ strong flavour.

This dough takes a bit of time and needs several hours to chill. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, I think that this tart would still be very delicious using my go-to simple Galette Dough.making rye dough 1Rye flour, all purpose flour sugar and salt are sifted. Cold butter is worked in with your hands. Ice water and cider vinegar bring it all together.making rye dough 2Once the dough comes together, let it rest in the fridge for about an hour, then roll it into a rectangle, and fold the rectangle into thirds, like a letter. This is similar to the process of making puff pastry. The dough gets rolled and folded two more times and is then chilled for an additional hour. You can make the dough and the filling components a day ahead and then just assemble and bake before you are ready to eat. making rye dough 3making rye dough 4I decided to roll the dough into a rectangular shaped tart, but feel free to to roll it into a circle. I have a strong aesthetic sense and I prefer the linear way the asparagus line up in a rectangular tart.

To punch up the flavour profile even more, I spread the tart with a pistachio pesto (recipe from Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook.)  Whole grain dijon mustard or a jarred basil pesto would  be good substitutes.Spreading pistachio pestoSpreading ricotta fillingThe border of the tart just gets folded over the filling. No need to be too precise or precious about it. It’s supposed to be rustic. galette ready for ovengalette cut upThis would be great as a light lunch or dinner, or cut up into smaller squares and served for aperitivo with a freezing cold glass of Prosecco, on the dock. (I have big plans for this tart!)3 plates

Click here to print recipe for Aspsaragus and Ricotta Galette.

Click here to print recipe for Rustic Rye Dough or here to print recipe for Galette Dough.

galette with a glass of wine

The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

petal cake with candles 1I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CAKE!! Sorry for the shouting, but I can’t contain my elation. As Joy would say, this cake is “Bonkers Awesome.” My search for a blog-worthy gluten free chocolate cake has been going on for quite a while now. My youngest son follows a gluten-free and casein-free diet. For special occasions he goes off the wagon, but he doesn’t feel all that great when he does. This week is his birthday and I wanted him to celebrate without feeling sick.sliced cake with glass of milkThe problem with most gluten-free cakes is that they have a dry and crumbly texture. They often fall apart when you bite into them. The main reason for this is that gluten is a protein that provides structure and strength to baked goods so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also forms air pockets in the batter which leads to light and fluffy baked goods.

The good folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out how to get around these problems and created a stellar GF chocolate cake. I made the cake twice. The first one was served to my son’s co-workers at his office. No one could believe this was a GF cake. Unfortunately, I could not photograph the inside of that cake, because it would be kind of rude to serve a previously sliced up cake. I made the second cake to have at home with friends and family. To them I served a cake that had been hacked up and photographed, because that’s what you do with family.3 slicesThe cake batter comes together very quickly and does not require a mixer. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Mix. In gluten free baking, it is important to use a blend of different gluten free flours, not just one kind. Using both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder provide the perfect chocolate flavour. Baking soda and baking powder give the needed lift and xanthan gum supplies strength and structure. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten free baking. Without gluten you need something to act as the binding agent for the flour. It keeps things moist and helps to hold the cake together without crumbling.

Vegetable oil, instead of butter is the perfect fat of choice as it keeps the cake incredibly moist. I substituted coconut milk for whole milk, as I wanted my version to be dairy free. Almond or rice milk would work too.

To keep the cake super moist, I brushed the cooled cake layers with a coffee flavoured simple syrup. For the frosting, I decided to make a mocha flavoured Swiss buttercream. I substituted unsalted margarine for butter, because I wanted to keep it dairy free. While the taste and texture of margarine will never beat that of butter, in this application, with the addition of chocolate and coffee to create a mocha frosting, the results were very delicious.Ingredients for Swiss Meringue ButtercreamA Swiss buttercream is a bit more complicated than an American buttercream. In an American buttercream you simply beat powdered sugar and butter, and any flavouring you like. With a Swiss buttercream, egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked and heated to 160°F and then whipped into a meringue. Softened butter (and any flavouring) is then added to the meringue. Swiss meringue is smoother, lighter and less sweet than American buttercream. Yes, it’s more work, but I think it’s worth it. You will need a stand mixer and a candy or instant read thermometer.cooking meringuewhites and sugar whipped to stiff peaksmocha buttercreamI decided to decorate the cake with a petal frosting technique. It looks quite impressive but is actually quite simple to execute. You will need a 1/2 inch round piping tip, some disposable piping bags and a small spoon or off-set spatula. First, pipe a vertical row of dots. Next, spread the buttercream dots with a small spatula or spoon. This creates the look of petals. Repeat, one vertical row at a time, until you go all the way around the cake.petal cake 1I have demonstrated the technique in this video.

sliced cake with milk pitcher

Click here to print recipe for The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.

slice with milk