Posts Tagged 'cloves'

Gingerbread

Merry Christmas and happy holidays…

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Etc, etc, etc…

I HEART THE HOLIDAYS!

This really truly is my favorite time of year.  Something about the cheesy joyful Christmas music and festive decorations and anticipation in the air makes me warm and fuzzy and happy inside.  I am proudly a total sucker for it and feel all cozy everyday and everywhere I go.  Even the chilly weather is tolerable!  Ehh…sort of.  I don’t do well with cold.  Unless it’s snowing!  Sigh.  Contentment.

That said, the older I get, the more the season sneaks up on me.  It seems that Thanksgiving dinner dishes are barely washed when I blink and it’s Christmas.  All before I can even get a chance wear my favorite holiday sweater!

Well, this year, I said no more!  I made a vow to go immediately into holiday mode the second Thanksgiving weekend was over.  So my mini-Christmas tree quickly found its way out of the box under my bed and onto the dining table.  Little Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines stand by its side.  A scented candle is lit every night – smelling of cinnamon snap then spiced pear then Christmas cookie as the wick burns down.  Holiday tunes are loaded onto my iPod and played on the daily.  Both work and personal computer background images are now illustrations of Christmas trees.  My Google homepage displays the Winter Village theme – super cute btw! – right above a red and white Christmas countdown.  I even manually changed my Gmail colors to be red and green!

With all of these steps taken to be Miss Holiday Spirit 2009, all that was left to do was bake up a season-inspired treat.  So I decided to try my hand at Gingerbread!  I’ve always been curious about Gingerbread – because it is quite possibly the epitome of holiday baked goods – but have never actually eaten it.  I know, weird, right?  I guess I was always too busy filling up on peanut butter kiss cookies and Grandma’s pumpkin cake roll to bother looking its way.  It was about time.

Here’s my recipe for Gingerbread, adapted from this recipe:

1/2 cup Sucanat

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix Sucanat, vegetable oil, egg and molasses until well combined.  In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just blended.  Stir in hot water.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Now I know I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I thought the Gingerbread tasted delicious!  The spice combination worked wonderfully together and completely captured the flavor of the holidays.  And the brown rice flour gave the bread a bit of texture – sort of like cornbread!  I was a fan.

Is there a holiday treat you’ve always wanted to try, but never have?

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Pumpkin Brownies

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I found myself with a whole lot of of pumpkin to use up the other day – remains from the giant-sized can I was forced to buy when my grocery store ran out of cans for normal-sized people.  What else is a girl to do but purchase enough squash for a small army when pumpkin pancakes are on the mind?  I promised myself I’d bake something with the leftovers.  And so here I am!

There’s obviously LOADS you can do with pumpkin, but I wanted to get creative.  Actually, what I really wanted was a brownie.  But I couldn’t forgo the pumpkin mountain in my fridge to fulfill my chocolate-y desires.  How utterly wasteful that would be.

Then it hit me. Pumpkin. Brownies. Half fudgy brownie.  Half dense, pumpkin-y delight.  I was so very excited about my highly original, super fun, and simply ingenious idea. Then I found out Martha Stewart had already done it.   Of course she had.

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Not to be outdone by the diva homemaker, I set out to put my own twist on the pumpkin brownie idea.  And twist it I did!  Along with performing my standard Sweet + Natural adaptations to Martha’s recipe – whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, Sucanat for sugar, etc. – I made a bunch of other changes to ensure I got exactly what I was looking for.  Added some extra spice to the pumpkin…used a bigger pan…but most importantly, eliminated the baking powder.  Martha’s brownie pics look too much like cake, right?  Now, I have nothing against cake.  Unless it’s trying to pose for a brownie.  In that case, believe you me, I will not be fooled.  I want fudge, not fluff.  No baking powder = lower rise = density-dense flavor-packed yumminess.  Yes.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Brownies:

Base mixture:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Sucanat

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mixture:

6 ounces grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pumpkin mixture:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  For the base mixture, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, eggs and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until blended.  Divide this mixture into two bowls.  For chocolate mixture, melt chocolate chips and oil in a bowl.  Stir into one half of the base mixture.  (Note: If batter feels dry, just steal some base mixture from the remaining half and add it in.  I found the chocolate batter to be drier than the pumpkin batter, so this is totally cool to do.  The pumpkin batter is very generous and will not hold it against you.)  For pumpkin mixture, combine pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a bowl.  Stir into other half of base mixture.  Spread chocolate batter evenly into prepared pan.  Top with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 24 brownies.

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Success!  The no baking soda idea did the trick in making these Pumpkin Brownies brownies and not cakey, chocolate-and-pumpkin flavored squares.  They were indeed the fudgy, dense, pumpkin-y delights I set out to achieve.  They also just so happen to be orange and black – quite fitting for the upcoming Halloween holiday, wouldn’t you say?

What’s the most interesting brownie you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. After mentioning it in my last post, I’ve had a request to share my European vacation with you all. Now I know such a trip is totally unrelated to Sweet + Natural baking, but I’m highly tempted to oblige – mostly because I love reliving it! Would you guys be interested?

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Carrot Cake + Yogurt Glaze

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I love visiting my family in St. Louis for lots of reasons…I get to see mom, dad, brother and sister – and dog and cat!  The lazy suburbs are a nice break from the constant go-go-go of New York City.  I get to spread myself out over an entire house rather than a teeny apartment. And I get to bake for a whole group of people instead of just myself!

This last point, my friends, is a very important one.  You see, it’s just me and my roommate at home in NY.   And since she’s not a big fan of sweets – I know, what?! – and I probably shouldn’t eat ALL of what I make by myself, I’ve got to spread the wealth of my oven around to Dan and my friends to make sure every last goody is eaten while it’s still deliciously fresh.  This is where the practical girl in me takes over.  I tend to shy away from baking things that aren’t easily dividable and transportable – it’s always cookies and muffins instead of cakes and pies.  Baking for the family in St. Louis, these little details are non-issues.  Freedom!

So…you can imagine my excitement when I asked my sister what she wanted for our Christmas Eve dessert and she replied without hesitation – carrot cake!  A CAKE!  Hooray!  Apparently she has recently discovered a special fondness towards carrot cake and her college winter break would not be complete without it.  Fine by me!  But I wanted to do a little something different, of course, so I topped the cake with a yogurt glaze instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting.  And to make sure the cake really soaked up that glaze, I poked holes all over it and let the yogurty sweetness ooze in.  I also did a bit of lightening up by using applesauce instead of oil and egg whites instead of some whole eggs.

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Here’s my Yogurt Glazed Carrot Cake recipe, adapted from Baking With Agave Nectar‘s carrot cake:

Cake:

3 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 eggs

2 egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Yogurt Glaze:

1 1/2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together carrots, coconut, agave nectar, eggs, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool in pans. 

While cakes are cooling, prepare yogurt glaze by mixing together Greek yogurt, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt.  Once cakes cool, poke holes in them using a fork and remove from pans.  Drizzle half of yogurt glaze over cake #1 and sprinkle with half of the walnuts.  Place cake #2 on top of cake #1.  Drizzle remaining glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.  Note: You may want to do this over a wire cooling rack with something underneath to catch the dripping glaze.  Makes for easier clean up! 

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The tip of a cake slice is the best part!

The cake got the approval of the fam!  It was perfectly spiced and super moist, especially where the yogurt glaze seeped into the poked holes.  And that glaze complemented the cake wonderfully.  It was nice and light but still flavorful – I actually thought it tasted a lot like cream cheese!

Are you a carrot cake fan?  What’s your favorite baked good with a vegetable star?  

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Crystallized Ginger Cookies

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Christmas tiiiime is heeeeeere.

A little Charlie Brown Christmas anyone?  I totally grew up on that movie.  My parents still have the VHS – yup, you heard me, VHS – in their film collection.  And my mom gets super excited when it’s on TV each year.  It’s like network television’s sign that Christmas has arrived.  And we all know that network television is the calendar of the modern age.

Anyway, I LOVE Christmas and was really excited to start getting some Christmas baking business up on the blog.  Since Andrea over at bella eats [and runs] chose ginger as this week’s BSI, what better way to welcome the holiday cheer than to spice up a traditional Christmas ginger cookie!  I adapted this recipe and doubled the ginger fun by adding crystallized ginger to the mix.  And there you have it!  Crystallized Ginger Cookies.

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Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons skim milk

2 tablespoons molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped*

* I used crystallized ginger that was made with raw unrefined sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  In a large bowl, cream together sugar and oil.  Add skim milk, molasses and vanilla and blend.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and blend.  Stir in crystallized ginger.  Dough will be sticky, so you can refrigerate for 15 minutes or so to make it easier to work with.  Roll heaping tablespoons into balls, flatten to about 1/3 of an inch and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let stand two minutes and remove to cool.  Makes 14 cookies.

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These cookies are super soft and super SPICY.  The crystallized ginger really gives them an extra kick!  If you’re a ginger fan, you’d love them.  I do think next time I’ll throw an egg into the batter though – I’d like a little more crispy action around the edges!

Do you have a fun ginger cookie recipe?

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