Posts Tagged 'molasses'

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?

Banana Coconut Bars

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Well, bloggie friends, I’m moved into my new place!  And couldn’t be happier.  I can’t wait to explore the hood!  I’ve already spotted a health food store, mentally noted at least a dozen restaurants to try and bought a loaf of fresh bread from a nearby bakery.  Life is sweet.  Now if only the rest of my boxes would unpack themselves…

Oh, and did I mention that my fridge now has a freezer?!  Take that old apartment!  I’m sure it will soon be filled with yummy baked goodies.  And on that note, can someone tell me how to freeze things?  I’ve had nary an opportunity to do such a thing so am clueless re: avoiding freezer burn.  Help!

The recipe I’m sharing with you today was actually not made in my new apartment, but in my old apartment…um…two weeks ago.  I know, bad blogger.  Life got hectic!  But the photos I took ages ago have been staring at me from my desktop for too long.  I could wait no more to bring you Banana Coconut Bars.

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B-t-dubs, if you think my pictures are prettier than usual, it’s because THEY ARE!  That’s courtesy of my awesome new camera, which is courtesy of my more awesome, #1, best-in-the-world boyfriend who proudly encourages my pursuit of the arts.  Yes, I am now the grateful owner of an SLR.  And my new apartment has natural light.  Things are looking up!

Back to the food…

These bars were born of a combined need to use up a bunch of uber ripe bananas and my recent interest in coconut.  Riddle me this:  I was never a fan of coconut.  I then made Super-Charge Me! cookies, which contain said ingredient.  Ever since, I’m drawn to all things coconut!  What?! I really do think those cookies are crack.

Here’s my recipe for Banana Coconut Bars:

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tablespoons molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups white whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 8×8-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas, molasses, applesauce, agave and maple syrup until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into banana mixture until just blended. Stir in coconut.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes.

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Coconut flakes!  Banana chunks!

These were go-od.  So good, in fact, that Dan ate nearly half the pan in one evening.  So good that I’m sort of regretting giving him so many…  They were super moist and banana-ey.  Like delicious banana bread in little square form.  And low in fat to boot!

What’s your favorite banana recipe?

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Molasses

SW025Molasses is:

(a) an awesome natural sweetener

(b) an example of how slow I’ve been at getting a new post up.  Badum-ching!  Cue laugh track.

How about all of the above?

Friends!  I know, I know.  I’ve been gone for far too long.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks – full of work craziness, business travels, fun travels, friends in town, etc.  And this post just sat on my To Do list.  And sat.  And sat.

And molasses doesn’t deserve that!  It treated me so well in my Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread.  It’s only right that I return the favor and write it up for you all!  So here goes.

Molasses is the thick by-product from the processing of sugar cane into suger.  It has a syrupy texture, dark, caramel color and robust, bittersweet flavor.  Quick history…It was first imported into the U.S. from the Caribbean during colonial times – for use in rum!  It was a very popular sweetener until the late 19th century because, at the time, it was much more affordable than refined sugar.  But when refined sugar got cheaper, molasses was displaced.  It still has a fan in me!

To make molasses, the sugar cane plant is harvested and its juice is extracted.  The juice is then boiled, which causes the sugar to crystallize. This happens in three different stages.  When this first boiling is over and the sugar crystals are removed, you have first molasses, or light molasses.  Light molasses has the highest sugar content of all types of molasses because not much sugar has been taken out.  Second molasses, or dark molasses, comes from the second boiling and crystal removal.  The third creates blackstrap molasses, which has the least amount of sugar of all the molasses types.  Blackstrap molasses is pretty great.  Extracting all the sugar leaves behind a bunch of good stuff – manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium.  Vitamins and minerals galore!

Molasses can be sulfured or unsulfured.  But go for the unsulfured.  That means the fumes used in processing the sugar aren’t retained as sulfur in the molasses.  No one wants that!

Molasses is about 65% as sweet as refined sugar.  If you want to substitute it in your recipes, your best bet is to use it in place of brown sugar.  The flavor profile and moisture content of molasses lend themselves well to this swap.  Try 1 cup molasses for every 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Molasses can also be used cup for cup in place of honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.  The taste will obviously change, but it could make for some fun experiments!

Do you use molasses in your baking?  What’s your favorite recipe?

Walnut Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies

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I finally did it.

I jumped on the Dreena Burton bandwagon! And let me just say how happy I am to be here. The woman is a genius I tell you.

It’s not like I was avoiding Dreena and her recipes. She’s ALL over the blog world, and I’ve done my fair share of oohing and ahhing over her creations. But I’m careful with my pennies and always felt I should make more use of the cookbooks I have before purchasing new ones. I guess that belief slipped my mind when I saw eat, drink + be vegan at the bookstore the other day. I knew I had to have it. So into my collection it went!

The first ed+bv recipe I set my sights on was for the infamous Super-Charge Me! Cookies. OMG – they were like little balls of nutritious crack. I would have loved to share them with you all, but since Dreena hadn’t posted the recipe on her site, no dice! So to celebrate my newfound Dreena love, I found another one of her cookie recipes that was on the internet to modify and write about.

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Oh, and wouldn’t you know, Dreena posted the Super-Charge Me! Cookie recipe this week? Go figure!  Or go make them.  You won’t regret it.

Anyway…

Here’s the recipe I followed to make Walnut Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies:

1 cup spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup Sucanat

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, mix together spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, Sucanat and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together maple syrup, molasses, vanilla extract and canola oil until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Place spoonfuls of batter on cookie sheets and bake for 10-11 minutes. Makes 12 cookies.

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These cookies were YUM! After tasting my Maple Almond Butter Cookies and these, I am convinced that maple syrup = cookie perfection. It really adds a depth of flavor and keeps cookies wonderfully moist and gooey. Seriously, that stuff’s not just for pancakes.

The only thing I’d change about this recipe next time around is leaving the molasses out. I’m not buying that 1/4 teaspoon is making a huge difference when spread throughout 12 cookies. I mean, really, that’s 1/48 teaspoon in 1 cookie. You know? Other than that, A+.

What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?

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Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

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Friends, I am EXCITED.
There was a new development in the Sweet + Natural kitchen last weekend that makes me so happy!  I’m pleased, I’m proud, I’m itching to get back in there and do it again.
What on earth could bring such delight to my baking life?
I made my first loaf of homemade bread!
Wheeeee! Yep, we’re talking yeast, we’re talking kneading, we’re talking rising.  And whole grains of course.  I got in there with my electric hand mixer’s special hook and went at the dough until it was shiny and smooth.  I waited patiently for hours until it doubled in size.  I shaped the loaf.  And I relished in the wheaty goodness that emerged from my oven.  I am now legit, no?
This was such a fun accomplishment for me.  Bread from scratch has been on my list-of-things-to-bake forever, but I’ve always made excuses to avoid making anything with yeast.  It takes so long!  What if something messed it up?  Would my hours of effort be fruitless? I guess I just never had the patience – or extra time! – to devote a chunk of my day to an attempt.  Well, I found myself with that extra time one afternoon and figured it was as good a chance as any to give it a go.
With this recipe and my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book (courtesy of Dan’s sister – thanks Kate!) by my side, I was ready to go.
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Here’s the recipe I followed to make Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons molasses
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix until moistened and combined. Cover dough, let rest for 20 minutes then knead until fairly smooth (I did this in the bowl with the dough hook of my electric hand mixer for about 15 minutes). Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.  Gently deflate the dough, shape into a log and place in an 8  x 4-inch bread pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan.  Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes, tenting loaf lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking.
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It looks like real bread!  And tastes like it too!
Let me tell you, I was thrilled to look in the oven halfway through baking and see a monstrously tall crust growing from the pan.  It’s working! And I was even more thrilled when I cut into the loaf to reveal it’s crumby insides.  It’s dense, but soft.  Subtly sweet.  And has a slight crunch when you get a walnut bite.  It may not the prettiest looking thing – I like to think of it as “rustic” – but it’s mine all mine.
Have you ever baked bread from scratch?  How’d it go for you?

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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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