Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Zen Carrot Cake Muffin Recipe

Zen Bakery replication success again! So last week I was down in San Diego and picked up a box of the actual thing and OK, it's not an exact replica, but as close as I'm going to get. Those mushroom muffin tops have me baffled and I think I've thrown in the towel on trying to achieve them. At any rate, here's a good, solid, healthful way to start your morning:)

olive oil spray
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons walnut oil (or any mild vegetable or nut oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 ounces crushed pineapple (canned or fresh)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup raisins (plumped by soaking in hot (boiling) water for a few minutes and draining)
Yields 6 muffins, 241 calories/5g fiber each

Preheat oven to 400F and spray 6 muffin cups with olive oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour through the ginger.
In a separate large bowl, combine the agave nectar through the vanilla.
In a small bowl, combine the carrots, pineapple, and poppy seeds. Add these to the wet ingredients once evenly combined. Then add the dry ingredients without over mixing. Throw in the raisins last and distribute batter into muffin cups.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Let the tray cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before placing the muffins directly on the rack to cool the rest of the way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies #4: German Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne)

It looks like I was on a bit of a German cookie kick this year because this batch was an additional tribute to the O Tannenbaum spirit. Not only that, but these and the other German cookie I made (Lebkuchen) were the overall favorites of the lot. The Cinnamon Stars are unusual and surprisingly simple - yet very delicate and delicious. A food processor works wonders on this recipe, which was a foodnetwork.com find.

2 1/4 cups organic confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling
10 ounces raw almonds, with skin
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, room temperature (I let the eggs sit out overnight)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
sliced almonds or sprinkles for garnish

Sift the confectioners' sugar (I forgot to do this, but somehow they turned out fine).

Put 1/2 cup of the sifted confectioners' sugar, the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.

Whip the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more. Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies. (I misread the instructions and set aside 2/3 of the entire meringue batch for topping, which left me with a whole lot of leftover meringue for the compost. Surprisingly, again, the cookies still turned out fine.)

Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off a sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.

Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Excess dough can be rerolled.) Use a small spoon, brush or offset spatula to spread the reserved meringue over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. Press or sprinkle sliced almonds or sprinkles in a decorative pattern into the meringue.

Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30-40 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Cookies are about 110 calories each.

Busy baker's tips: The dough can be frozen between the sheets of paper for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies #3: English Toffee

OK, I know English toffee isn't actually a cookie, nor does it involve any baking, but I'm taking the liberty of including it in the Christmas cookie section since I don't plan on making any other types of candy this season. It was my first time making it and surprisingly easy and delicious! The ingredients are pricey, if you're using quality, but it makes for a great gift. I couldn't find our candy thermometer, which would have come in handy. Luckily, it turned out well nonetheless. I go the recipe from a new site that I found by googling "English toffee recipe" and I really liked the format of it and how everything was explained - from an engineering perspective! Who knew...

6 oz. (170 g) 72% organic dark chocolate bar, chopped
1 cup (200 g) evaporated cane sugar
1/3 cup (40 g) almonds, chopped in food processor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic unsalted butter

Select a small saucepan that is large enough to contain about double the volume of the butter and sugar. Melt the butter in the saucepan with the sugar, salt and a about 2 teaspoons water over gentle heat. (Low heat is important to prevent separation later. Just be patient and let it melt together.)

Once melted, increase to medium-high heat, stirring constantly. The butter and sugar will bubble and foam as the water boils off. This can take several minutes because butter contains a decent amount of water. The volume of the mixture will increase dramatically at this point.

Once the water has boiled off, the mixture will collapse and thicken. The temperature will also start to rise again. The goal is to remove the pan from the heat once the mixture passes 300°F (150°C) and before it reaches 320°F (160°C). Use an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature as you heat and stir because the temperature can change pretty rapidly once the water boils off.

When the mixture reaches 300°F (150°C), remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and 1/3 of the chopped almonds (the biggest chunks). Pour the mixture onto either a silicone baking mat or a large sheet of parchment paper set on top of a sheet pan. Immediately after pouring, use a spatula (again silicone works best for working with toffee) to spread the toffee into a rough rectangular shape.

While the toffee is still hot, sprinkle the surface with the chocolate. Use your spatula to spread the chocolate once melted. Sprinkle the chocolate surface with chopped almonds.

Let the toffee cool to room temperature before refrigerating the pan. Once completely cooled and hardened, remove and break into pieces.

Christmas Cookies #2: Chcolate-Cherry Biscotti

My general attitude toward Christmas baking is that all "light" recipes are out - it's full fat, full taste all the way (because if you can't do it at Christmas, when can you?)! These chocolate-cherry biscotti were the one exception this year because I don't think you really miss out on anything due to the nature of biscotti. I don't like them buttery or overly sweet, so a lightened version is fine with me (and might even be closer to an authentic biscotti anyway). I used a Cooking Light recipe for this one and so far they've been an all around crowd pleaser! They taste best a few days after baking.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons almond extract (the recipe calls for 1 1/2 but that's all I had left)
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard)
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and salt in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer at high speed until thick and pale (about 4 minutes). Add oil and extracts, beating until well-blended. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half; turn out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Shape each portion into a 10-inch-long roll, and flatten to 1-inch thickness. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove rolls from the baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Cut each roll diagonally into 20 (1/2-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over, and bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack

Yields 40 biscotti at 80 calories per.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cookies #1: German Soft Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)

'Tis the season for prolific baking! I've been printing out Christmas cookie recipes off the internet for the past three months now, so I was so excited when I could officially start baking them the day after Thanksgiving. The first I went for was a German soft gingerbread like one I tried from Trader Joe's. Now, I'm not ordinarily a fan of gingerbread - but these looked yummy and calorie friendly (120 for a generous sized cookie) at the store, and after one bite I was a convert! Here's a recipe I adapted from http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2009/11/12/lebkuchen-german-christmas-cookies/
with the addition of a chocolate dip. You can never go wrong by adding chocolate...

For the Cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup molasses

1 3.5 oz bar 70% organic dark chocolate bar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets with olive oil spray.

2. Sift together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

4. Beat in the honey and molasses until thoroughly combined.

5. On low speed, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

6. Turn the dough out from the bowl onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as kneaded, until a stiff dough is formed.

7. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

8. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9×12-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into rectangles or use a cookie cutter. I did the latter, but the re-kneaded dough made up from the scraps of the first batch baked into a really tough, super hard, tooth breaking cookie.

9. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

10. Heat the chocolate bar over low heat (or a double boiler) until fully melted. Dip the completely cooled cookies on one side and rest the cookies on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, chocolate side up, until the chocolate hardens.

My batch yielded 44 cookies at around 100 calories per cookie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zen Apple Bran Muffin Recipe Success!

Those of you who have been following my blog since day 1 know that I have been on a mission to replicate the Zen Bakery bran muffin recipe since they are a) muy expensive to buy and b) not available in all varieties here in San Francisco. Their apple bran muffin is one of my favorites and also not available here in SF (though I've searched high and low). After several test runs I've come up with the following recipe that matches the calorie count and is only shy of the whopping 10g fiber per muffin by 3g. I still can't achieve Zen's monstrous tops, but taste-wise, these are pretty close. Here's one key I've discovered with baking with whole wheat: they taste much better the next day. I think it has something to do with letting the wheat settle and absorb the flavors.

Apple Bran Muffin Recipe
2 cups boiling water
1 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup (30g) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (60g) medium whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar (honey would probably work fine)
2 tablespoons walnut oil (canola would be a cheaper alternative)
1 large or 2 small granny smith apple(s)
1/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400F and spray 5 large muffin cups with olive oil.
In a medium bowl, pour 2/3 cup boiling water over the wheat bran, stir, and let sit to absorb.
Pour the remaining boiled water over the raisins, separately, and also allow to sit.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir until mixed.
Grate the apple(s) with the skins on, saving the juice.
Add the oil, and agave to the wheat bran and stir until well mixed.
Add the wheat bran mixture to the dry mix and stir only until combined.
Strain the raisins well and add them, the apple and its juice to the mix, stirring minimally until combined.
Fill the muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy THE NEXT DAY. Trust me, they'll taste much better then!
217 calories and 7g of fiber per muffin

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tofu Bulgur Autumn Special

Now that I've discovered such an easy way to make pomegranate seeds ready to eat, I love the flavor combination of them with walnuts in pretty much any dish. They're in season now (so reasonably priced!) and packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C to fight off those loathsome winter bugs. Just slice into quarters and submerge in a bowl full of water to peel. The seeds sink to the bottom while the thin skins float to the top. Easy, no mess pomegranate seeds. I used to avoid buying them just because they were such a messy hassle - and now they're a winter fruit bin staple. I usually peel 3 at a time and store the seeds in an empty glass jar so they're ready to eat for the rest of the week. A 1oz serving is 25 widdle calories.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Heidi Swanson's (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/bulgur-celery-and-pomegranate-salad-recipe.html), substituting Swiss chard for celery and adding tofu.

2/3 cup (100g) bulgur
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
3/4 of a standard sized carton firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup (50g) chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
Italian parsley (to garnish)

Pour 1 1/3 cup boiling water over the bulgur and let it soak until all the water is absorbed (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Swiss chard and cook until wilted (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Add the tofu and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook an additional 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through.

Top the bulgur with the tofu mixture and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top.
4 servings at 326 calories and 7.9g of fiber each.