Guatemalan Coffee Brownies with Walnuts

Coffee BrowniesCoffee and chocolate are definitely a no brainer! I mean, just think about Caffé Mochas! The rich, slightly acidic coffee plays well with the sweet hit of cocoa and sugar. For brownies, a full-bodied coffee from Indonesia or Guatemala would pair beautifully with dark chocolate brownies. These brownies call on cocoa, walnuts and ginger, used as a garnish to compliment a full flavoured Guatemalan coffee bean, like an Antigua Coffee would work great! This recipe will make 15 brownies.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (2 sticks minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons finely ground Antigua coffee beans
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup walnut pieces
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed Antigua coffee
30 thin strips crystallized ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal pan with nonstick spray. Combine sugar, butter, cocoa, ground coffee, and salt in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until butter melts and ingredients are blended (texture will be grainy). Remove bowl from over water; cool mixture to lukewarm if necessary. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour over and fold in. Mix in walnuts.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies in pan.

Place chocolate chips in small bowl. Bring brewed coffee to simmer in small saucepan; pour over chips and stir until melted and smooth. Let ganache stand until cool and beginning to thicken, about 1 hour; spread evenly over brownies. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.) Cut brownies into 15 squares. Top each with 2 ginger strips.

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Hamentashen

HamentashenThere are a million different flavours out there for Hamentashen! You can go old fashioned with prune or poppy seed, traditional with jam, or try some new modern twists! Below you’ll find a basic dough recipe, and then some new fillings to try this year! I hope you like them!

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
¾ cup margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
Filling of choice (See below for some options!)
egg wash (egg + water)

Instructions:

Sift together the baking powder, flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the margarine. Add well beaten eggs and mix together to form a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board to ¼” thickness. Cut with a large, round cookie cutter. Put a spoonful of desired filling in centre, and pinch together to form triangular pocket. Brush with an egg wash, put on a well-greased pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Poppy Seed Filling:

Ingredients:
¾ cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons margarine
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

Directions:
Beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Whisk in the coconut milk, sugar and honey and simmer over a low flame until the sugar is melted. Pour half the hot mixture into a cup. Very slowly drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten egg, whisking constantly. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until it thickens. Remove from fire. Whisk in the poppy seeds and refrigerate until fully cooled before using.

Fresh Cranberry Filling:

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 ¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 ¼ water
Zest of one orange

Directions:
Bring water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes, until mixture is syrup–like. Add cranberries and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until berries pop. Remove from heat. Pour into bowl and refrigerate overnight or until chilled.

Apple Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
2 apples, very finely diced
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:
Peel and dice the apples very finely. Mix in the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until apples are fully coated.

Coffee Cake Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews
2 tablespoons melted margarine
1 to 2 tablespoons apple butter

Directions:
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and nuts together. Slowly drizzle in the margarine in, and then toss to mix with the apple butter. You may find it easier to blend in the butter if you microwave it first for about 15 seconds.

Pecan Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup almond milk
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup pecan pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Whisk together the maple syrup, almond milk, salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture boils and thickens. Once boiling, turn off the heat and stir-in pecan pieces and vanilla. Allow to fully cool.

Lemon Bar Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup arrowroot or tapioca starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 lemons, juiced (just under 1 cup juice)
zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs
¾ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Combine arrowroot or tapioca, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, palm sugar, and maple syrup. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan on low-medium heat, and whisk continuously for 8-10 minutes until a thick custard forms. Be very careful to continue whisking on a lower flame or the eggs might scramble. Allow to completely cool.

Hello Dollies Bars

Hello DolliesIngredients:

¾ cup butter (or 1 ½ sticks)
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
⅛ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like my walnuts toasted first)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 9”x13” baking pan. Mix together in a bowl the cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the crumb mixture evenly over melted butter, and push down so that the mixture becomes the crust. Pour the condensed milk over the crust, and then spread the coconut evenly over the milk. Scatter chocolate chips evenly over coconut. Spread walnuts over chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes*. Cool completely and cut into bars.

*If using a dark coated pan lower temperature to 325 degrees, as the edges tend to get dark.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo BarsFor the mint version of this dessert, add some mint extract and green food colouring to the middle layer. This recipe will make about 32 bars.

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
3 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)

Middle Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream
¼ cup custard powder (if you can’t find this, use vanilla pudding mix)
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract (for mint flavoured option)
2-3 drops green food colouring (for mint flavoured option)

Top Layer:
8 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter

Directions:

For the bottom layer:
In the top of a double boiler, combine 1cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs until they are well combined. While constantly mixing, add a small amount of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture so that the eggs can come up to temperature. Slowly add the egg mixture to the main cocoa mixture, until both are combined. Make sure to whisk the entire time so that the eggs do not cook and curdle. The mixture will thicken up, after about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds (if you like). Press into the bottom of an un-greased 9×13 inch pan.

For the middle layer:
Cream together 1 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder (pudding mix), and if using, the mint extract and food colouring, until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.

For the top layer:
While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter together in the microwave or over low heat. Spread over the chilled bars. Return to the refrigerator to let the chocolate set before cutting into squares.

Dessert Bars! All Ages Allowed!

Dessert BarSo two brownies walked into a bar… ouch! What? You haven’t heard that one before? That’s right, it’s bar week…. dessert bar week that is (sorry… maybe one week I will do drinks. Hey, how about I do drinks one week? Good idea!) So this week is all about dessert bars… not cookies and not cakes, but 2 to 3 bite wonderful bars sent from Heaven to torment us with these horrible things call calories.. Wow.. I’m in a weird mood today, sorry.

Back to the desserts. So these are all going to be hand hold-able sweets that will hit the spot. Seeing as how it is so cold out, and I am Canadian… let’s start out with Nanaimo Bars. The exact origin of the bar is unknown, though it is attributed to Nanaimo, British Columbia. The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe using the name “Nanaimo Bars” appears in the Edith Adams’ prize cookbook from 1953. A copy of the book is on view at the Nanaimo museum.

Other unconfirmed references date the bars back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as “chocolate fridge cake”. Some New Yorkers claim the recipe originated in New York and refer to them as “New York Slices”. However, Tim Hortons coffee shops, a Canadian chain, sell them in New York as “Nanaimo bars”. One modern reference even refers to the bars’ existing in nineteenth century Nanaimo. Well, whatever they’re called, and wherever they originated, they are a yummy no-bake layered dessert bar that tends to have 2 main variations: original and mint. I’m going to be giving you the original version, plus the additions needed if you wish to go minty!

Twisted Chocolate Babka – Шоколад Бабка

Chocolate BabkaThis recipe will make 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

Ingredients:

Dough:
4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Grated zest of half an orange
3 large eggs
½ cup water (warm, between 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
¾ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature
oil, for greasing

Filling:
4 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or approximately ¾ cup chocolate chips)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, cold is fine
Scant ½ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Syrup:
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Make the dough:

In a small bowl mix together the warm water and the yeast, with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let this stand aside and foam up. This should happen within 10 minutes.

Combine the flour, remaining sugar and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low to combine. Add the foamy yeast water, and the eggs (one at a time), while the mixer is on low with the dough hook. Keep the machine mixing, increasing the speed as the ingredients come together to form a dough.

It’s okay if the dough is on the dry side, but if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. I usually found that after 10 minutes, the dough began to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, you can add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.

Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic place in a warm area to rise, about 2-3 hours. Once the dough has doubled (or close to it), stick it in the fridge to cool. This will help with the rolling out of the dough in the next segment.

Make filling:

In a small pot on med-low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and cinnamon; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Remove from the heat and set it aside.

Assemble loaves:

Coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.

Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a ½ -inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. I found that transferring the log to a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes made it much, much easier to cut cleanly in half. Repeat with second dough.

Trim last ½ -inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. In one batch, mine was long enough to “S” inside the pan and I nested the trimmed ends of the log in the openings. Even if you don’t (and choose to bake them separately in a little pan, as I did in other batches), the dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 ½ hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, but there’s no harm in checking for doneness at 25 minutes. A skewer inserted into an under baked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If you babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While babkas are baking, make syrup:

Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist. Let cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating.

Coconut Flan

Coconut FlanIngredients:

2 cans full fat coconut milk
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons shredded coconut (optional garnish)

Directions:

In a small saucepan heat the coconut milk until bubbling – careful to reduce the heat so it doesn’t bubble over! Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until total volume decreases by ⅓ original volume. Add in ½ cup sugar and whisk until dissolved.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Allow the mixture to cool while you make your caramel and your water bath.

Water bath:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and fill a baking dish with water just under half way up the side. Place in the oven.

Caramel:

In a small sauce pan heat remaining ½ cup sugar with water over medium high heat until completely dissolved and bubbling. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Once the mixture is syrupy move quickly to pour equally into 6 ramekins or one deep pie dish.

Whisk eggs together until evenly mixed in a medium sized bowl. Slowly, pour a stream of the coconut mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t cook. It helps to do this a little at a time or have someone help you pour while you whisk.

Pour flan mixture into caramel-lined pan or ramekins. Place into hot water bath in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until custard is set (middle might be slightly wiggly still, which is ok).

Cool for 15 minutes, then chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour (preferably 3 hours or more).

To serve, run a knife alongside the pan or ramekins and carefully invert onto a plate, allowing the caramel to flow over the custard. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and serve!

Chocolate Banana Fried Won-tons with Boozy Caramel Sauce

chocolate banana wontonsIngredients:

For Won-tons:
2 very ripe bananas
⅓ cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ (14 ounce) package won-ton wrappers
oil for frying

For Boozy Caramel Sauce:
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon brandy-based orange liqueur (such as Grand Sabra Orange Brandy), optional
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

To make the filling:

Place the bananas, chocolate chips, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla into a mixing bowl, and mash until evenly blended. Alternatively, chop the mixture in a food processor until the chocolate chips have been reduced in size. This will help prevent the chips from poking through the won-ton skins as you handle them. It will also change the texture of the filling – you will not have pockets of melted chocolate in the won-tons.

To make the won-tons:

Separate and place the won-ton wrappers onto your work surface. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the banana filling onto the centre of each wrapper. Use your finger or a pastry brush to lightly moisten the edges of the won-ton wrappers with water. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling onto the opposite corner to form a triangle. Press the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Fry the won-tons in the hot oil a few at a time until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn the won-tons over halfway through cooking so they brown evenly. Remove, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

To make the sauce:

Prepare the sauce by combining the butter, brown sugar, orange liqueur, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is smooth, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

To serve:

Serve the won-tons warm with the caramel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips to garnish.

Pere al Vino Rosso (Pears Poached in Red Wine)

Pears poached in wineIngredients:

8 pears, peeled
1 bottle of red wine, or enough to cover the pears
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of cinnamon
3-4 whole cloves
Zest of half a lemon or orange*

Directions:

Peel your pears—one per serving—leaving on the stem if the pear has one. Then place them snugly in a saucepan with just enough room to hold the pears in a single layer.

Pour over the wine over the pears, so that they are at least ¾ of the way covered. Then add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and if you like, some lemon or orange zest.

Allow the pears to simmer for about 20 minutes, turning them if need be so that they cook and colour evenly, until they are quite tender but not falling apart.

Remove the pears onto a shallow serving bowl or plate, and continue to simmer the wine until has reduced into a syrupy consistency, then strain and pour over the pears. Allow the pears and their sauce to cool before serving.

* Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Stained Glass Window Cookies

Stained Glass CookiesThese are cookies which have open spaces which are filled with crushed hard candy. When baked, the candy melts and gives the appearance of “stained glass”. You may find that you don’t need to break up the candy first, but if you do, you might find that it melts more evenly. This recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

⅔ cup butter or margarine
1 ¼ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk/soy milk/almond milk
40 fruit flavoured hard candies

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and eggs. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture alternately with milk.

On a floured surface, roll the dough ¼ inch thick. Using a cookie cutter (shape of your own preference), cut out the cookies. Then taking a smaller cookie cutter than your first, cut out the centres of your newly made cookies, so that you now have a “window” for your candy to fill.

Keeping the colours separate, place candy in plastic bags and crush with a meat mallet. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop some crushed candies inside the “window frames” that you have made. Don’t put too much candy in, as the “window” will be too thick and make eating difficult. You can mix up the colours of the candies in each window if you like for a tie-dyed effect.

Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until candy is just melted. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, until candy is hard. Carefully lift cookies off baking sheet with spatula.