Monday, 25 December 2017

Date Walnut Spice Loaf

In the Caribbean we make a rich fruit cake for the Christmas that is based on the English Plum Pudding. Over the years, I have stopped making (and eating) it because it is just so rich. I found if I made it, most went to waste. This date walnut loaf is a reasonable substitute for that cake, and not as rich. It is sweet, delicious and moist and goes well on its own or with coffee. Butter and cheese make it even better. This is not your usual date nut loaf because I have added a touch of Grand Marnier liqueur and tamarind concentrate, both flavors enhance and compliment the sweet flavor of the dates and dried figs.

1 1/2 cups chopped dates, coarsely chopped
½ cup dried Mission Figs, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
5 whole Cardamom pods
½ teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon Tamarind concentrate
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a standard sized loaf pan, and line the bottom with a square of parchment paper.
  2. Bring the water and cardamom pods to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot mixture over the chopped figs and dates, vanilla, Grand Marnier, baking soda, butter, salt, tamarind concentrate, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Allow the mixture to cool and the dried fruit to soften and plump up. When cool, crush the cardamom pods against the side of the bowl, remove and discard. Puree only about one-third of the mixture in the bowl using a hand blender.More will result in too much liquid and lead to a prolonged baking time.
  4. Mix the flour, baking powder, allspice and chopped nuts together in a bowl.
  5. Lightly whisk the egg. Add this to the cooled water mixture then fold all into the flour, mixing until just combined.  
  6. Pour the batter into the pan, gently spreading the batter evenly in the pan.
  7. Bake the bread for 55 to 65 minutes. A cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.  
  8. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the bread on a rack.  Slice when completely cool.  

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Figgy Pudding Baked Oatmeal with Steel Cut Oats

This is a modification of my original Figgy Pudding Oatmeal. I like the texture of steel cut oats so wanted to find a way to incorporate them into one of my baked oatmeal recipes. Steel cut oats are less processed than the common rolled oats and rank lower on the glycemic index. They are digested more slowly than rolled oats to digest so keep you feeling fuller for longer. They also take a longer time to cook, and absorb more liquid, so the recipe had to take that into consideration. Pouring the extra half and half over the top of the mixture, and sprinkling it with brown sugar creates the islets of "custard" that are seen in the photo. When I cut it into serving portions, I cut the main square into quarters, then each quarter into 4 slices, so the yield is 16 "thick slices" that can be topped with your favorite fresh or stewed fruit. Like all the other baked oatmeal recipes on my site, this freezes well.

1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1/2 cup Scottish oatmeal
½ cup Steel Cut Oats
1/2 cup flax meal
¼ cup dry, shredded coconut
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or equivalent in Panela or Jaggery pieces)
¼ cup honey
6 ozs dried Medjool dates, chopped
9 ozs dried mission figs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 ½  teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons allspice
1 ½  teaspoon ground cardamom or about 5 whole cardamom pods
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1 ¾ + 1/3 cups half and half
2 teaspoons pure orange extract or vanilla, depending on your preference

1.      In a large bowl, combine the oats, spices, oatmeal, chopped dates and figs, walnuts, coconut, chopped nuts, flax meal, baking powder, and salt. 
2.      Mix the honey, brown sugar, cardamom pods (if using), steel cut oats and orange or vanilla extract, with the milk and 1 ¾ cups half and half. Slowly bring to below boiling, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning. Stirring frequently, partly cook the oats by simmering for 20 minutes. Watch carefully so that it does not burn. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.  The mixture will be very thick, almost the consistency of porridge.
3.      Heavily grease a 8x8x2 inch baking tin or Pyrex dish (If I’m using Pyrex, I put about 1-2 tablespoons of butter in the dish, microwave to melt, then swirl around to coat the bottom and sides just like you would do when making a bread pudding).  
4.      Whisk the eggs, and add the lukewarm milk mixture to this.
5.      Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to distribute the solids evenly. Pour the remaining 1/3 cup half and half over the top and using a wooden spoon, make channels in the mixture so that the liquid can be absorbed. Refrigerate for a few hours (6 hours at least) or overnight for the dry ingredients to absorb the wet mixture. 
6.      Before putting in the oven, peel and core half of a granny smith apple, and slice thinly. Arrange the slices as shown in the photograph, embedding each slice deeply in the mixture. Top with an additional tablespoonful or two of dark brown sugar. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour to 1 hour and twenty minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, until the center is set, firm to the touch, has a golden color, and a cake tester inserted comes out relatively clean (I use a food thermometer to make sure that the center temperature is 164 degrees Fahrenheit or just above). 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Purple Yam and Cranberry Quick Bread doesn't come out Purple! This is a delicious, light quick bread. It is difficult to eat just one slice. It's really good with cheese, especially a sharp cheddar. Purple Yam goes by many names depending on which country you live. It is called Ube Yam, Okinawan Sweet Potato, 10 month yam etc. However, it is now readily available all over the world, and is said to have many health benefits.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon Nutmeg
½ teaspoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract, depending on your preference
1 cup finely grated purple yam
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and set aside. I also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2.      Peel and grate the purple yam. Mix with the lemon zest and juice. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, spices, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, egg, sugar, milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir in grated purple yam mixture. Add this mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely before cutting into slices.