Orange Coconut Cake

orange coconut cake

My maternal grandmother (Teta) made an incredible orange coconut cake. Sweet, moist, and fluffy, the old recipe sitting in my mother’s tattered red leather bound book, brought back nostalgic memories to my mothers eyes as she touched its pages. She read through the fading blue ink to make out the ingredients she must’ve frantically jotted down when she prepared to fly off to America with nothing but her mother’s recipes to awaken the Egyptian flavors she was leaving behind in Alexandria.

orange coconut cake

We recently came across this recipe as we were recreating the orange cake of my Egyptian aunts and grandmother for my last orange cranberry muffin recipe. I knew I had to remake this cake for my mother, who was very fondly reminiscing the flavors of her mothers’ orange coconut cake.  The hand-written recipe was quite washed-out, but we only had to perfect some measurements that became faded overtime. With my mother’s help, I revived and baked this cake for my family’s Thanksgiving gathering, and it was a very special treat to enjoy. I experimented with the recipe at least 10 times, and this one really delivers a fabulously sweet and citrusy orange cake with hints of coconut, topped with an orange caramel glaze!

fresh orange juice

orange zest

A fragrant zest is critical. Use the clean skin of an organic orange for best results. Zest the skin of the oranges with a sharp zester or grater, such as Microplane.

Fresh squeezed orange juice, fragrant orange zest, and finely shredded coconut flakes go into this cake along with coconut oil, olive oil, and milk for moisture. 

fresh out the oven bruschetta-orangecakesugarandgarlic2016-12 bruschetta-orangecakesugarandgarlic2016-20

It is really important to generously grease and flour the bundt pan, as the cake can easily get stuck. 

orange caramel orange caramel glaze

For the caramel, I start with a basic caramel by simmering sugar and water. I add orange zest, some butter, and powdered sugar to make it more like a glaze. The scent is so delectable, you will find it hard to resist licking the spoon before serving this up! To decorate the cake, I experimented both with simmering orange slices in the caramel, as well as browning the orange slices in butter or oil. Either way, be sure to top the cake with some lightly cooked oranges; its so beautiful, fragrant, and festive!

orange coconut cake with glaze

slice of cake orange cake slice

Orange Coconut Cake
From the archives of my Egyptian grandmother, this is a sweet and citrusy orange cake with hints of coconut, topped with an orange caramel glaze!!
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For the cake
  1. 2 .5 c flour
  2. 2 tbsp corn starch
  3. 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 1.5 tbsp orange zest
  7. 1 3/4 c sugar
  8. 1/4 coconut oil
  9. 1/2 olive oil
  10. 1 c orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  11. 2 tbsp milk
  12. 1 c shredded coconut, unsweetened, plus more for garnish
  13. optional: Orange slices to garnish
For the orange caramel glaze
  1. 3/4 c sugar
  2. 1/4 c water
  3. 1 tbsp corn syrup
  4. 1/4 c brown sugar
  5. 1 tbsp orange zest
  6. 1 tbsp orange juice
  7. 1/4 c heavy cream
  8. 1 tbsp powdered sugar
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch.
  3. In another bowl, whip the eggs with vanilla extract and orange zest. Add the sugar, oils, and orange juice, and mix well.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Add the milk to soften, without overmixing.
  5. Fold in the coconut.
  6. Pour the batter into a well greased bundt pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes on a rack moved right above the center rack.
For the orange caramel glaze
  1. Over medium-high heat, simmer the sugar, corn syrup, and water until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium low, then add the orange zest and orange juice.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and heavy cream; simmer for another 2 minutes.
  3. Simmer a few of the orange slices in the glaze for a minute to flavor the sauce and gently soften the oranges, then remove them quickly before they overcook and break apart.
  4. Remove the pot from heat. Add the powdered sugar with a sifter. Stir until incorporated and thickened. If necessary, add another tablespoon of powdered sugar to thicken. Keep in mind, the glaze will thicken more as it cools.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes at room temperature before pouring over the cake.
  6. After the cake has cooled enough, flip onto a serving platter. Place the orange slices around the cake, and pour the glaze all over.
Notes
  1. You may also brown the orange slices in some butter, as this browned appearance looks beautifully rustic and tastes delicious.
Adapted from My Grandmother
Adapted from My Grandmother
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Kunafah bil Kishtah (shredded phyllo with pastry cream)

kunafa bil kishta

Kunafah is a sweet Middle Eastern pastry, made of shredded pastry dough which is drenched in a simple syrup, and filled with a variety of delicious fillings ranging from crunchy cinnamon and sugar coated nuts, a sweet cheese, or a smooth filling of cream (kishta). Lately, there is a trend of filling kunafa with all kinds of delicious concoctions such as Nutella, a mangoes, coconut cream, cheesecake or whatever else you may fancy. I personally plan to try Nutella out next, following this same recipe but without the vanilla cream. The flexibility of this easy dessert makes it something worth trying out! This variation is my recipe for a vanilla infused kishta. Kishta is the Arabic word for heavy cream, usually a creamy and decadently smooth filling for pastries. My vanilla bean kishta is an adaption of a classic pastry cream filled kunafah as is made in Egypt.

kunafa with almonds kunafa bundt

Kunafa is a childhood favorite! Every Ramadan I crave it madly. The unique texture of the shredded phyllo is so delicious and crunchy, and I love the way it absorbs the sweet flavors like a sponge. I always thought this seemingly complicated dessert is only achieved from my mother’s kitchen, or Middle Eastern bakeries. 

zoom in kunafah

Lucky for us, this dessert is extremely easy to prepare and make, despite its uniquely complex appearance and textures. My mom always made it with a delicious mixture of nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar and twisted it into a beautiful design. This is a far less complicated version made simply by layering in a pan, filled with cream. I like using a bundt to give it a special shape. You can sprinkle pistachios or almonds on top.  I infuse the cream filling with real vanilla bean, and the creamy texture is reminiscent of my all time favorite dessert: creme brûlée. 

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You will need to purchase kunafah dough at a Middle Eastern market or online. I have no idea how it is made, or who makes it, but I will find out one day. Kataifi dough is almost always purchased in the store, as phyllo dough would be. It is called “kataifi shredded dough” in most cases.  In Chicago, I go to Sanabel Bakery on Kedzie, which is a wonderful haven to get all kinds of Middle Eastern aromatic spices, herbs, and groceries. The dough is almost always sold frozen. You need to plan to thaw this in the fridge 12-24 hours before you use it. So be sure to get the dough ahead of time. In a pinch, you may leave it on the counter to thaw more quickly and use it the same day, but it must be completely thawed out so that you may work the dough properly. Thawing in a microwave will not work. Do not try it. 

kataifi kunafa dough

The first thing to do is to make the simple syrup, known as sharbat in Arabic, so that it has plenty of time to cool. The sharbat is very easy to make; it is sugar mixed with water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Many people add rose water or orange blossom essence to sharbat, but I strongly dislike that overpowering flavor and suggest avoiding it so that you may enjoy the main flavor of the vanilla cream in the pastry. Once the water-sugar mixture begins to boil, add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and reduce the heat until it thickens. The syrup needs to cool so that when you pour it onto the hot, freshly baked kunafa, it absorbs quickly, or “drinks” the syrup. Thus the name sharbat which comes from the Arabic root word sharb, meaning drink. I always like to know the origin of commonly used culinary terms. 

Next, you will prepare the delicious cream filling. This is my FAVORITE part. Your kitchen will smell amazing. I often spend too much money on vanilla scented candles to achieve this effect. So I just LOVE this step. When using a vanilla bean, place it against a cutting board and carefully slice open the top along the length of the bean, without puncturing through the bottom. The scent is divine, and once you begin to simmer it, the aroma will waft through your home.  Simmer 2 cups of heavy cream over medium heat and add the vanilla bean. Scrape out all the glorious vanilla bean caviar from the pod until the cream is speckled with hundreds of beautiful aromatic vanilla bits. I also throw in the whole wooden pod to infuse more flavor, and the scent is just incredible! Alternatively, you could place the emptied wooden pod in a sugar container to have vanilla infused sugar for baking, or for tea and coffee. After simmering for about 5 minutes, you will need to remove the wooden pod and reduce the heat to prevent any scorching of the cream. In a separate bowl, stir 2 tbsp of corn starch with cold milk until dissolved, and then pour the corn starch mixture into the cream. Stir slowly until the cream thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 

scrape vanilla bean vanilla bean in cream

Now, for the kunafa dough. The thawed dough will most likely be rolled in a thick log of finely shredded pieces; you will need to separate all these pieces with you fingers and massage the shreds with butter in a large bowl or dish.

For this pastry, you need to use samnah, which is clarified butter otherwise known as ghee. Samnah is unsalted butter with all the salt and milk solids removed. It is easy to make. Simply melt unsalted butter and once it is melted, and begins to bubble, remove from the heat and skim off the top when cooled. The salt and solid matter left behind is a delicious treat to lick up with some bread by the way! Samnah could be stored in a container in the fridge and used in many, many other recipes. You could also just use ghee sold in jars in grocery stores, but the homemade clarified butter smells and tastes much better.

break apart the shredded dough pull apart the dough butter on kunafah

It is necessary to rub and separate the shredded dough with the butter as if you are massaging it and oiling every strand. This is a fun sensory activities for kids who want to help you bake! Once all of the shredded dough is separated, fluffed out, and massaged with butter, press half of the dough onto the bottom of a circular pan. Pour the cream in the middle and then cover the cream with the remaining buttered kunafa dough. Pour 1/4 c melted butter all over the kunafa and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Making this in a bundt pan can be trickier to keep the cream in, but it looks so pretty!

cream filling layered Kunafa

kunafa in pan 2016-10-25sugarandgarlic2016-6 pour the butter

As soon as the kunafa is removed from the oven, you need to pour the sharbat all over it to sweeten. After waiting a few minutes (2-3) for the syrup to drip to the bottom of the pan, flip it onto a serving dish, so that the now permanent bottom of the cake gets sweetened as well. Garnish with crushed pistachios or a mixture of nuts as is done traditionally and enjoy! This is often served with a cup of mint or clover tea. 

kunafa with ishta cream filling kunafa

 

Kunafa bil Kishta (Shredded pastry dough with vanilla cream)
This is a sweet and crunchy Middle Eastern pastry filled with a creamy vanilla filling and soaked in a sweet simple syrup.
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For the samnah/ghee/clarified butter
  1. 2 cups or 6 sticks of unsalted butter
For the syrup
  1. 2 c sugar
  2. 3 c water
  3. 1/4 fresh squeezed lemon juice
For the cream filling
  1. 2 tbsp corn starch
  2. 1/4 c cold milk
  3. 2 c heavy whipping cream
  4. 1 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 vanilla bean pod
For the pastry dough crust
  1. One box of kunafa shredded dough
  2. 3/4 cup clarified butter (soft, not melted)
  3. 3/4 cup melted ghee
Instructions
  1. Prepare by removing the frozen dough from the freezer and thawing in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking.
For the samnah, ghee, clarified butter
  1. This is best if you make it in advance.
  2. Melt the butter in a pot.
  3. Once it boils, turn down the heat. Allow to cool. Scrape off the particles that come to the top and allow to cool until softened.
For the syrup
  1. In a large pot, stir the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, and the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon juice and reduce to medium-low heat. Allow to simmer until sightly thickened. This step could be done well in advance or even a day prior.
For the cream filling
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and simmer on medium-low heat.
  2. Slice open the vanilla bean, scrape all the beans out, and drop into the heavy cream. Add the empty pod into the cream. Allow to simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Remove the wooden pod.
  3. Meanwhile, dissolve the corn starch in the cold milk.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, and slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture into the cream. Be careful not to let the cream stick to the pot or scorch. Stir until thickened and remove from heat.
For the kunafa crust
  1. Loosen and fluff the kunafa dough in a large bowl. Massage the pastry dough with 1 cup of softened ghee or clarified butter. Rub all the dough until it is all well coated with butter and all loose.
Assembling the dessert
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F), and move the baking rack to the center.
  2. Using half the dough, press it into the bottom of a circular pan. Press firmly so that the dough goes up the sides slightly, and there are not any openings or cracks. This will eventually be the top of the kunafa when you flip it, so make sure it is evenly spread.
  3. Pour the vanilla cream all over the bottom layer.
  4. Carefully place the remainder of the buttered kunafa dough over the cream, making sure all the cream is covered all the way to the edges, without pressing the cream to ooze out. Make sure you gently pat down any of the shreds down so they are not sticking up, or they will scorch in the oven.
  5. Pour the melted butter evenly over the entire pan to soak it in butter.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden.
  7. As soon as the kunafa is removed from the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over, evenly. You might not need all of it. After about 20 minutes, flip the kunafa onto a serving platter. This is important to ensure the syrup goes to the bottom of pastry after flipping, so that is is not dry.
  8. Garnish with crushed pistachios.
Adapted from My Mother
Adapted from My Mother
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Orange Cranberry Muffins or cake

orange cranberryThis is a delicious citrus cake that is divinely moist, and bursting with tangy cranberries throughout! The recipe is so simple and quick, anybody can whip it up in no time. Orange cake is one of those nostalgic recipes that takes me back to my childhood visits to Egypt. My grandmother and my Tunte Zaineb often made this delicious cake, and we would simply eat it on the go, cut into simple little squares and stored in a plastic tupperware container. I used my grandmother’s and aunt’s recipes to recreate an orange cranberry muffin, which continues to be a favorite treat of mine at local cafes and bakeries. 

orange zest

Zest the skin of the oranges with a sharp zester or grater, such as Microplane.

fresh orange juice

The recipe uses fresh orange zest, which is so important for the orange flavor and scent. Along with some fresh squeezed orange juice, milk, and olive oil, this cake gets very citrusy and moist! Yes, olive oil.  In almost all my cakes I use olive oil. You would not know if you tasted it, the cake is still moist and fluffy, and there is no flavor from the oil. You could certainly use butter instead, if you like. Butter always lends a nice buttery taste, but for health reasons and simply because the cake comes out just as moist, I prefer to bake with olive oil.  

oranges and cranberries cranberries in batter

I also use fresh whole cranberries which are perfect because they are in season in the fall and winter, along with the deliciously juicy oranges. The festive pop of color, along with their tart and juicy flavor, goes so perfectly with this sweet orange cake! I try to buy the cranberries and keep them for a few days to make sure that they ripen and are not so tart in the cake. I found that if I use cranberries right away after I purchase them, they tend to be less sweet, which could definitely make this recipe go sour!

orange cranberry muffins orange cranberry muffin

Orange Cranberry Muffins
This is a supremely moist and citrusy orange cake bursting with juicy cranberries throughout! Make as muffins or in a bundt cake!
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 3/4 c olive oil or butter
  3. 2 tbsp orange zest
  4. 1 3/4 c sugar
  5. 1 c fresh squeezed orange juice
  6. 2 tbsp of milk
  7. 2.5 c flour
  8. 1.5 Tbsp of baking powder
  9. 3/4 c fresh cranberries, washed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the orange zest.
  3. Stir in the sugar, oil, and orange juice with the eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.
  5. Slowly stir in the flour mixture with the wet mixture. Add the milk. Do not over mix!
  6. Stir in the cranberries.
  7. Grease 2 muffin pans or place a liner in each cup, or grease a bundt pan. Fill the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Notes
  1. If baking a cake, bake on the top rack so that the bottom does not get too browned, as you will need to flip it. Shake some powdered sugar on top of the cake with a sifter.
Adapted from My Grandmother Saadiya and Tunt Zaineb
Adapted from My Grandmother Saadiya and Tunt Zaineb
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins

2016-09-30sugarandgarlic2016-9 chocolate and date banana muffin

These muffins are perfection when it comes to banana bread! Wonderfully moist and delicious, with ooey-gooey chocolate and dates throughout, this is most delicious comfort treat for rainy days like the autumn season! The cinnamon and spice paired with the sweetness of dates and bananas is a favorite treat for my family and friends. My favorite part is the bittersweet chocolate in these little cakes; they balance the sweet dates and cinnamon spice so nicely. I also love to serve this as a cake with a walnut streusel on top (if my nut-allergy husband isn’t around). These make for an excellent breakfast muffin or snack because they are so light and energizing with plenty of dates and less sugar and fat than most banana breads!

banana date muffins

I recently enjoyed one of the most perfect banana breads last winter courtesy of my father-in-law’s nurse, Karen. It was so delicious with dried cherries throughout. She has thus inspired me to bake A LOT of banana bread since then. I also learned an important trick from her recipe: to mix in the flour VERY last will prevent you from over-mixing the batter. Over-mixing banana bread batter is what makes it tough, or rubbery. Problem solved.

My version of banana bread is a bit lighter. I have completely omitted the butter and added coconut oil instead to make these muffins supremely moist with a hint of coconut. I have also cut the sugar in half and added gooey sweet dates instead. You may have read in my other posts about the plentiful health benefits of dates. They are a low glycemic sweetener and energizer, with a bounty of nutrients and minerals our bodies need. 

bananas and dates with muffin
dates, oil, nuts, bananas

Then, I add CHUNKS of bittersweet chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Here is my secret: use a high-quality bittersweet chocolate bar, and chop it. Thank me later.

chopped chocolate

Finally, and most importantly, I infuse some warmth and spice with my stash of high quality spices: a couple of heaping spoons of cinnamon, a pinch of himalayan pink salt, and a dash of ground cloves and cardamom. The sweet and spicey aroma is incredible and is the perfect flavor for this comfort treat. 

cinnamon and spice

I bake these in a muffin pan to make 12 jumbo bakery-style muffins, or I bake 6 muffins and pour the other half of the batter into a 9 inch round pan with a walnut streusel on the bottom. Simply toss chopped walnuts with a tablespoon of coconut oil and a spoon of cinnamon and sugar; spread along the bottom of the pan. The more cinnamon-sugar coated nuts, the merrier. The walnuts pair perfectly with this cake and dresses it up just enough to serve to guests. Just be sure to bake this on the top rack so that the bottom of the cake doesn’t brown too much, since you will end up flipping it to serve. 

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This recipe is very easy. You don’t even need a mixer. Mash up ripe bananas with the coconut oil. I like to soak my pitted dates in hot water to get them really juicy and gooey. I then mash the plump dates with the bananas. Add the sugar, eggs, spices, and mix-ins (chopped chocolate and  dates). Add the flour last and only stir gently until incorporated. DO NOT OVER MIX. Bake for about 30 minutes, and enjoy!

soak the dates mashed bananas with coconut oil banana bread batter chopped dates and chocolate

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Do it right, and enjoy these sweet gooey muffins or a slice of cake with a cup of tea. <3

banana muffins with teamuffins and teabanana date muffin2016-09-29sugarandgarlic2016-21

walnut banana cake cinnamon spice banana date muffins

Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins
Serves 6
These moist banana date muffins are filled with gooey chocolate and a sweet, sultry spice aroma of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 ripe bananas
  2. 2/3 c coconut oil
  3. 1.5 c sugar
  4. 2 whole eggs
  5. 1 c Medjool dates, pitted and halved
  6. 1 c chopped bittersweet chocolate
  7. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 2 tsp cinnamon
  9. 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  10. 1/4 tsp cardamom
  11. 1/4 tsp himalayan pink salt
  12. 2 tsp baking soda
  13. 3 c flour
  14. chopped walnuts, plus extra coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (F) because you will be done mixing in no time.
  2. Soak 1/2 c of the dates in hot water so that they become plump and soft for about 5 minutes. Drain the water from the dates.
  3. Smash the peeled bananas, soaked dates, and coconut oil together.
  4. Mix in the sugar and spices.
  5. Add the eggs with the vanilla.
  6. Chop the remaining dates into smaller pieces and stir into the batter along with the chocolate.
  7. Add the baking soda and then the flour last. Stir until incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
  8. Scoop the batter into a muffin pan or into two 9 inch round pans. If you want to dress up the round cake, prepare a walnut mixture on the bottom of the pan by mixing chopped nuts with coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour the batter on top and bake on the top rack of your oven.
Notes
  1. You may also choose to spread the chopped nuts smothered in coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar along the bottom of the muffin pans as well. The nuts pair very nicely with this cake!
  2. Bake on the middle to upper rack of the oven, and check after 30 minutes. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Khoshaf (Dried fruit salad) خشاف

apricots, prunes, dates, raisins, and almonds

 

This is a common starter in Egyptian homes during the months of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, which during these long summer days is over 16 hours long! When we break our fast, it is the tradition of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) to break the fast on a date and water. This dried fruit compote reflects that tradition, but it also combines other highly nutritional dried fruits and nuts. Dates are well utilized in the Muslim world as they are recognized for their high mineral content: calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, and zinc are all packed into this tiny superfood. Dates are also a supreme source of fiber and energy, and their sugars are low glycemic, releasing slowly and steadily into your body (which is a great thing for sustaining energy while fasting!). Dried apricots are also a super star in this fruit compote; they are packed with carotenoids, iron, potassium and fiber. This fruit salad compote is not only a very refreshing and nutritious way to break your fast (or start it). It is a delicious and sweet juice cocktail to enjoy, but you will need a spoon! The juice taste like an apricot drink scented with almonds and dates. I like to add extra apricot juice to the water to boost the color and flavor, but this is not necessarily traditional to the recipe. Apricot juice however, is another very popular drink enjoyed in the Middle East during Ramadan, but that is another recipe post! The dried fruits in khoshaf get very plump and juicy because they reconstitute themselves as they soak in water for a few hours before serving. 

The ingredients are very basic and easy to find; I collect them all on the same shelf at the grocery store where the dried fruits are, except for the dates. I do not recommend using chopped dates or already pitted dates, because they seem to be drier for some reason. They ar not as fresh either. We use organic Medjool dates that are very plump and sweet (Whole Foods and Costco have some of the best ones I have found). You should always slice the date open first to make sure it is clean, and also to remove the pit!

pitted dates

 

khoshaf ingredients

First, you will add boiling water to the apricots, raisins, and prunes. You could also add dried figs if you like, but I do not because I personally do not prefer the texture of figs and their seeds in this compote. 

khoshaf

Once the water and dried fruit mixture cools, you can add the chopped dates and stir in cold sugar water and sliced almonds. Refrigerate for a few hours and serve chilled. As I mentioned, this is a great drink or fruit salad to break your fast on because the dates and other dried fruits will replenish the body with several nutrients and minerals. This compote is hailed to be more nourishing and hydrating than water alone. So give it a try if you have been fasting, or if you simply need to replenish your body after a workout or marathon!

khoshaf

Khoshaf: Dried Fruit Salad
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 c sliced, pitted dates
  2. 1/2 c golden raisins
  3. 3/4 c dried apricots
  4. 3/4 c prunes
  5. 1/2 peeled and slivered almonds
  6. 2-3 cups of boiling water
  7. 1 cup cold water
  8. 1/4 c sugar
  9. 1 cup apricot juice (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash the dried fruits.
  2. Place the apricots, prunes, and raisins in a large serving bowl or pitcher.
  3. Pour boiling water over the fruits so that they are covered in water. There should be an inch of water above the level of the fruit.
  4. Once the water has cooled, dissolve the sugar with cold water and pour over the fruit mixture and stir. Add the dates, almonds, and apricot juice.
  5. Serve chilled in a large serving bowl and ladle, or in individual dessert cups or bowls. Drink with a spoon!
Notes
  1. You may also add figs to the dried fruits. Try adding other nuts such as walnuts or hazelnuts as well! This compote is very flexible to your personal tastes and preferences!
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

S’mores cookies

smores cookie

 Summer is just around the corner, bon fires are getting lit, and we are all excited to toast some marshmallows and eat some ooey-gooey s’mores! I don’t think I have ever met a person who doesn’t love and fully embrace this amazing and incredible American tradition fire-side. Chocolate melted under a gooey, oozing puff of sugar, sandwiched in between a crunchy graham cracker sandwich. How perfect. And even better is that now I can quickly whip up a batch of cookies reminiscent of these summer-time favorite flavors and textures to enjoy without the whole bon-fire thing. Because I live in downtown Chicago and I don’t have a place for a bon fire on my balcony (yet) this is always a plus. Now I can share and enjoy a s’more ANYWHERE.

marshmallow

 

I am super excited to share this recipe as this is my first time posting with the Leftovers Club! This is a wonderful haven for food bloggers such as myself, who are obsessed with baking and cooking, but cannot afford to pack on all the calories involved in single handedly devouring a whole batch of cookies. Because I have done that many times. So now I get to share my goodies and trade them for some other yummy treats in the mail! I have partnered with my blogger buddy Elizabeth from Cooking with Milton, and we shipped our surprise treats to each other (God knows I don’t need to consume this whole batch alone and I will if it sits here). The Leftovers club is a great way for foodies to share what they love with one another, so definitely check it out!  

In this recipe I use graham cracker crumbs, lots of chocolate, and yummy, gooey, bite-size marshmallows. I use vegan or halal marshmallows free of pork gelatin, which I find in Whole Foods. They are delicious! The recipe is as easy as a basic chocolate chip cookie, topping them with crumbled graham crackers, and lots of little marshmallows!

Top the cookie dough dollops with big chunks of crushed grahm crackers.

Top the cookie dough dollops with big chunks of crushed grahm crackers.

grahm cracker topping

The trickiest part of the recipe is opening the hot oven when the cookies are about 2 minutes away from perfection and quickly and carefully tossing on the marshmallows with precision. I don’t put them on in the beginning because they would scorch and completely melt if they bake for 9-10 minutes. So after about 8 minutes of baking, I pop open the oven and quickly top each cookie before too much heat escapes and before the cookies collapse- all without burning my fingers! This is the tricky part that will make you feel like you are around that traditional campfire doing the real thing 😉

Add the marshmallows when the cookies are almost set.

Add the marshmallows when the cookies are almost set.

add on the marshmallows

 

smores cookie 2015-05-07sugarandgarlic2015-5 marshmallow

S'mores Cookies
Yields 24
A delicious and scrumptious cookie loaded with chocolate, graham crackers, and oozing gooey marshmallows that will take you right back to your campfire s'mores experience.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/4 cup flour
  2. 1 cup + 2 Tbsp ground graham cracker crumbs
  3. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  4. 3 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  7. 3 tsp vanilla
  8. 3 eggs
  9. 3 cups chocolate chips ( I prefer a mix of semi-sweet and bittersweet)
  10. 1/2 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers
  11. 1 cup mini marshmallows
Instructions
  1. Make the ground graham cracker crumbs by processing in a food processor or blender until fine. Sift the crumbs with flour and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whip the butter and sugars until creamy and dreamy.
  3. Gradually add in an egg, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Mix on low-medium speed.
  4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture.
  5. Add in the chocolate chips.
  6. The mixture will likely be very soft from the heat of all the mixing, so refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes.
  7. Scoop a table spoon sized ball of dough and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Crumble coarse cracker crumbs on top.
  8. Place in oven and bake for 9-11 minutes total. Set a timer for 8 minutes and be ready to quickly pop open the oven door, pull out the oven shelf slightly without removing the cookie sheet, and sprinkle on marshmallows onto each cookie. Bake for an additional 2 minutes, max.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  10. Enjoy while warm and gooey!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/
smores cookie

The thin wafer-like texture is just like a graham cracker, with a gooey chewy chocolatey center.

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Check out all the other awesome recipes from my friends at the Leftovers Club!


Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies

salted caramel brownie cookie

Mmmmmmm who doesn’t love those chewy, fudgey, decadent, edges of brownies lining the sides of  your brownie pan? So rich and chocolatey, and a nice chewy crisp make the texture of the infamous brownies on the edge beloved to many. What could be better?

How about 360 degrees of that perfect texture in a cookie? Oh and with some creamy salted caramel. Yes, caramel. I am always looking to see how I can take my desserts to the next level. Salted caramel brownie cookies. This is it folks.

a fudgey brownie cookie salted caramel brownie cookie brownie cookie

The recipe of this cookie is a modification of one by the talented Donna Hay and is quite easy. It requires a melted dark chocolate brew stirred with a minimal amount of flour. I use Ghirardhelli or Valrohna dark chocolate, because of their superb quality, and as the main ingredient, the flavor is important.

chocolate and butter

 

First, you will melt this delicious dark chocolate with the butter. You may simply do this in the microwave in 30 second intervals of stirring and checking. Or you may opt to do this in a double boiler; I simply place a pyrex bowl over a smaller pot of boiling water. Either way works well, and with either method you need to be careful not to scorch the chocolate. 

bittersweet chocolate

Now the eggs and sugar are whipped into a creamy meringue, which lends to the perfectly shiny, crackled top of the cookie that shatters in your hands and mouth. Do not skip this step! brownie cookie batter

After you have prepared the fluffy meringue of sugar and eggs, sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the flour helps ensure a smooth batter with no lumps. I use a mesh strainer to shake the flour and baking powder through; you do not need any fancy gadgets. Next, comes the coffee, the essential companion to chocolate. Using coffee or espresso in chocolate recipes enhances and deepens the flavors of the chocolate. Then you will add that velvety melted chocolate. Try not to eat half of it as you pour and scrape the sides. If you tend to do this (as I do), then melt more chocolate than needed! 🙂

For the caramel, I use Rolos candy. I like to chop them only once, in half, to maximize the amount of caramel in each stretch. These seriously ooze chocolate and caramel in every bite! How perfect 🙂

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Finally, it is absolutely necessary to refrigerate the batter for at least 10 minutes so that you could a) easily scoop the batter into round dollops and b) so that the cookies keep their shape as they bake. Once the cookie batter is dolloped onto a baking sheet (I recommend using silicone baking mats), sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees and let the magic happen. 

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Grab a plate. And a cold glass of milk.

brownie cookie and milk

 

Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies
Yields 2
This is a delicious brownie cookie with creamy pops of salted caramel, and topped with a light sprinkle of sea salt to highlight the rich flavors of dark chocolate and caramel.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 grams of dark chocolate chunks (3 cups)
  2. 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  3. 2/3 c white sugar
  4. 2/3 c dark brown sugar
  5. 1/2 c flour
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla
  8. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1 cup chopped Rolos caramel candies
  10. 1 tsp instant coffee or ground espresso
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 cups, or 400 grams, of the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler (one pyrex bowl placed over a pot of boiling water), or in a microwave while stirring every 30 secs. Do not overheat as this will ruin the chocolate's consistency. Set aside.
  3. Whip the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes until pale and creamy.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder.
  5. Add the flour gradually to the egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the espresso or coffee grounds.
  7. Stir in the melted chocolate until well incorporated.
  8. Add the remaining chocolate chunks, as well as the chopped caramel candies.
  9. Set in refrigerator for 10-20 minutes.
  10. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet for each cookie, leaving 1-2 inches between each cookie as these will spread. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse salt.
  11. Place the cookie sheet in the middle rack on the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the top of the cookie is cracked. Do not over bake! Check on the cookies by 8 minutes as cooking times vary, depending on your oven.
  12. You may choose to sprinkle a pinch more salt on top of each cookie after baking, if the salt appears to have dissolved while in the oven.
Notes
  1. From my experience, if you have a cookie sheet baking underneath another one, the bottom rack of cookies don't develop the beautiful crackled top layer.
  2. You may use chewy caramel candies, however these did not spread in the cookie as much as the Rolos.
Adapted from Donna Hay
Adapted from Donna Hay
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Apple Cranberry Pecan Pie

Who doesn’t love apple pie?!

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The autumnal season beckons you to its scent, to bite into a warm, crusty, juicy slice with a scoop of ice cream, and to the gorgeous visions of pies to your heart’s content. Add some juicy red cranberries and crunchy pecans to the sweet caramel and flaky warm crust and you are simply… biting. into. heaven! 

Best of all this pie is SO darn easy and fast to make yet everyone will think you slaved over it all day!

Especially if you get your hands on these adorable pie crust cutters from Crate and Barrel and decorate it like a pro! But seriously, my 4 year old helped me cut out these leaves and laid them on with me. It’s that easy! Not mention how fun it is to include your children in this sensory activity!
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You simply get your favorite ready made double pie crust ( I get mine from Trader Joes because Pillsbury uses pig lard unfortunately). Lay one pie crust in your pan, throw in all your sliced apples, a handful of cranberries, and a handful of pecans and you are basically done!
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The top crust could be made with a lattice work of strips, a pattern of leaves cut from the crust, or simply laying the second crust over the apples, with some ovals cut out. Be sure to crimp the edges of your pie to prevent overspills of the liquid gold you will soon add! 
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It’s this ooey, gooey, caramel sauce that does all the work that makes you look like a culinary genius! 4 simple ingredients in the pot come together for this perfection.
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After you lay your second crust over the apples and cranberries, just pour the sauce all over and bake! Yum. Yum.
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Easy as pie.
DESCRIPTION OF THE IMAGE
 

Apple Cranberry Pecan Pie
A delicious spin off the classic apple pie, that is juicy, sweet, and bursting with autumn!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 double pie crust
  2. 7-8 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/16th slices
  3. 1/4 c fresh cranberries, washed
  4. 1/4 c pecans
  5. 1/4 c flour
  6. 3/4 c brown sugar
  7. 1/4 c white sugar
  8. 2 tbsp water
  9. 1/2 c unsalted butter
  10. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  11. butte pecan or vanilla ice cream to serve (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Lay one pie crust into a 9 inch pie pan and allow the excess dough to overhang the sides and then press up the excess to form a "wall" so that you can crimp it later.
  3. Lay the apple slices, cranberries, and pecans inside the bottom pie crust, so that it is slightly mounding.
  4. Take the second pie crust, lay it onto a floured surface, and slice into long strips. Lay the strips inter-changeably to create a lattice work of pie strips.
  5. Crimp the sides of the pie crust by taking the overhang and pressing it upward into a wall. Then, use your index finger and thumb to shape it into crimps by "pinching" the dough. See the referenced YouYube video to see how to do this. Crimping the pie is necessary in this recipe as the sauce will spill overboard if you do not.
  6. If you have the pie crust leaf cutters, cut some shapes out and either lay them around the perimeter, sporadically over the pie top, or create a repetitive pattern with the leaves instead of a lattice!
  7. Make the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well to create a béchamel paste. Add the sugar, water, and cinnamon. Boil on medium for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
  8. Pour the sauce all over the top of the pie, being careful not to let it flow over the sides. Try to pour the sauce so that it filters down into the apples, and not only on top of the pie crust.
  9. Lay the pie pan over a larger pan to catch any drippings as this bakes (to avoid burning sugar in your oven!).
  10. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce to 350 and bake for 25-30 more minutes.
  11. Serve with butter pecan or vanilla ice cream and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

 

Upside-down Peach Cake

Nothing smells like summer better than some perfectly ripe and sweet juicy peaches. The smell is just heavenly.

fresh peach sliced peaches

The peaches are fantastic this summer. I sampled one at the store, was knocked off my feet with its peachy perfect scent and sweetness, so I bought a huge crate. Then when I was at home feeding my kids peach after peach, I was worried they would run out at the market, so I went back the next day and bought more. Then I had several large crates of big, juicy, golden peaches. I bit off more than I could chew, and thought I needed to start baking some delicious treats. This peach cake was hands down our favorite!

peach upside-down cake

I took the concept of a pineapple upside down cake and swapped the pineapple for some equally golden and gorgeous peaches. I used my basic yellow cake recipe and deepened the flavor with a caramel texture by subbing out the white sugar for some sweet dense brown sugar. I also added moisture with some sweet peach juice and pureed peaches! What a perfect match. The sweet caramelized topping of the peaches dripping over the moist peach infused cake is just divine. I really intended to eat this with some ice cream. But it seems we ate it all up before I made it to the grocery store to buy some! Oh and make sure you have some people around to help you eat when you bake this cake, because it is that good. Unless you have better self control than me.

peach cake slice

Serve it up with vanilla ice cream on the side!

The cake whips up very quickly and easily and you don’t even need a mixer. I use fresh juice from these ripe peaches in the batter, which was really no problem extracting since the juice was literally dripping all over while I peeled and sliced the peaches. Any peach that got a bit goofed up while slicing, just gets tossed into the blender to puree for the batter.  Some will ask, “Can I use canned peaches?” Yes, you can but that is not as flavorful, fresh, and clean as using delicious fresh tree ripe peaches. Preservative free and whole-some baking for me! Use firm, ripe peaches, not overly ripe peaches as they will be hard to slice and peel. I found it easiest to first slice the peaches with the skin on, then stripped off the peel off of each slice. Somehow, that thin skin actually holds together all that juicy flesh.

sliced peaches

fresh peach puree

Fresh peach puree- made some great baby food as well!

peach floral design

Fleur de peach

So back to this recipe.

I arranged the peach slices in a pretty round flower design on the bottom of my pan. Notice I used a spring form pan, thinking it will be easier to pop out the cake. Horrible idea. The butter from the caramel sauce dripped all over my oven. I don’t know what I was thinking. At least I realized this before I put it in the oven and set the pan on top of a larger baking sheet. What a mess that made! And I probably lost some of that oozy gooey carmel topping! Hey, it happens. Use a regular round cake pan, not a springform 😉

I mixed the sugar and eggs with some coconut oil and olive oil followed by the pureed peaches. Then combine the flour mixture, and some moisture with yogurt and milk, and you are set for a seriously deliciously moist cake!

pour batter over the peach slices peach upside down cake

This is a moist cake, so it will bake for 35-45 minutes. Mine took exactly 39 minutes.

 peach upside down cake peach upside down cake peach upside down cake

Upside-down Peach Cake
A deliciously moist peach cake, topped with caramelized fresh juicy peaches.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. 3/4 c brown sugar
  4. 1/2 c white sugar
  5. 1/2 c olive oil or 1/4 olive oil and 1/4 coconut oil
  6. 1/4 c vanilla or plain yogurt
  7. 2 c all purpose flour
  8. 4 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp cinnamon
  11. 1/2 c pureed fresh peaches
For the peach topping (at the bottom of the pan)
  1. 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1/2 c brown sugar
  3. 4-5 peaches, sliced and peeled
For the topping
  1. Pour the melted butter on the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Be sure to sift any lumps. Place the sliced peaches over the butter-sugar mixture evenly in a circular, floral design.
For the batter
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  2. Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugars until frothy.
  3. Add the oil and pureed peaches to the egg mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the yogurt and stir; be careful not to over mix.
  7. Pour the batter carefully and evenly over the sliced peaches.
  8. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before flipping onto serving dish.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Date Truffles

These are the perfect excuse to indulge in a rich fudgy treat; packed with nutritional carbohydrates, minimal fat, no added sugars, and 7 natural whole ingredients this is the perfect snack to pop in for an energy boost! Try these before starting your Ramadan fast to have some lasting energy:) Or if you are like me and about to start an exhausting day running errands with two screaming kids with no time to eat; then these are perfect for that too!

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I love it when dessert can also be good for you. This recipe offers one delectably sweet treat, but it is oh so full of goodness and nutrition. These are also naturally vegan and gluten free so can be enjoyed by a variety of diets. These cute little truffles are delicious, fudgy, energy bites consisting of pureed dates, a dash of almond butter, vanilla extract, crushed nuts, coconut, or dried cherries (your choice!) and dark chocolate. I add some oats and flax meal for extra nutrition. Flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber and have been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce risks for cancer, and modestly decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics. Whole flax seeds however, usually pass through your body undigested, so it is necessary to consume it ground.

For the month of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally and ritually consume dates before starting and after breaking the fast, these make an excellent variation to just plain dates. Muslims start the day before fasting with a date or two in suhoor , so these come in handy with the added fiber and flavor. The sustained energy release, numerous nutrients, and outstanding health benefits of dates are all a reason to pop one (or a few!) of these into your mouth when you are running low on fuel! Check out my post on the date smoothie to try another energy boosting and natural treat and to read more about the health benefits of dates. But just to give you an idea, dates are a superfood rich in B vitamins which help you metabolize food and develop new blood cells. They are also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Dates are packed with fiber, mostly insoluble fiber, which sticks to that nasty cholesterol and fat in your body and escorts it OUT of your body (by obvious means). Of course, as you may tell from its ultra sweet flavor, dates are also high in natural sugars, making them the perfect natural sweetener in desserts and smoothies and an excellent source of natural carbohydrates because they have a low glycemic index.

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I made some of these topped with crushed peanuts and no almond butter because my husband is allergic to all tree nuts and we have a tree-nut free household. BORING, I know. He is really missing out, I often tell him. Oh, and in case you are wondering, NO, peanuts are NOT a nut. They are a legume, or little seeds that grow in the ground. So although peanuts are a common allergy, they are not the same as a tree-nut allergy. (We often have to explain this to waiters who are very hesitant to give us desserts or foods with peanut ingredients when we warn them about the severe nut allergy). Anyway, I would LOVE to make these with crushed walnuts or pecans! Try it out, you will love it!

My favorite flavor is the coconut. Just add some coconut to the mixture and then roll the truffles in some shredded coconut.

To get the dates into a workable paste, you will need to remove the pit, slice in half, then soak the dates in warm water to soften them up. This is as technical as this recipe will get! Easy, right? Then you are ready to blend! Blend the dates with liquid vanilla extract and a spoon of almond butter to break up the dates into a paste.  Then add the cocoa, cinnamon, and other ingredients until incorporated. When cocoa is one of your main ingredients, it really needs to be the good stuff. Buy a fresh batch of high quality cocoa like Valrhona or Ghirardhelli. I use my Vitamix, which works great, but a powerful food processor should do the trick as well. I added oats and flax meal to the batch, and dried cherries, crushed nuts, or shredded coconut to divided parts of the mixture to make some different flavors. Then, after rolling into a ball, roll the truffle into some shredded coconut, crushed nuts, or some cocoa powder! The possibilities are endless!

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Date Truffles
Yields 8
A fudgy and delicious treat made with dates, cocoa powder, and nuts is packed with fiber and energy!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 10 Medjool dates (pit removed, sliced in half), about 1 cup
  2. 1/4 c oats
  3. 1 tbsp almond butter
  4. 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  5. 2 tsp vanilla extract (liquid so that it breaks up the dates in blender)
  6. 3/4 c cocoa powder (Valrhona or Ghirardhelli)
  7. 1 tsp flax meal (whole seeds do not get absorbed by the body as readily)
  8. 1/4 c shredded coconut, crushed nuts, or chopped dried cherries (plus some extra to roll the truffles in)
Instructions
  1. Soak the chopped dates in hot water for about 5 minutes until softened. Drain and place slices into a blender or food processor.
  2. Add the vanilla and almond butter, and cinnamon, if using. Pulse until the dates are pureed into a thick paste.
  3. Add the cocoa powder and flax meal and pulse until you achieve a rich, fudgy mixture.
  4. Add the oats and chopped nuts, coconut, or cherries. If you choose to have a variety of flavors, divide the chocolate puree into portions and add different ingredients to each batch.
  5. Roll the mixture into balls, then roll the truffles in coconut, cocoa powder, or crushed nuts.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
  1. You can substitute the almond butter with peanut butter, but the peanut butter will tend to dominate the chocolate flavor. You may also completely omit the nut butter for a really thick and fudgy mixture (but you really need a powerful processor to break up the dates into a paste!)
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/