Monthly Archives: December 2009

Vegan gluten-free (I think) coconut cookies.

I am used to cooking and baking for most kinds of dietary restrictions, but gluten is thankfully not something I have to worry about on a regular basis. Flourless cakes can be wonderful, but most of the time the really good ones will contain either lots of eggs or lots of nuts. So not for me… Cutting out all of the above becomes somewhat more tricky. 

However, some of my cousins who are coming for our annual Christmas lunch are on a both gluten-free and non-dairy diet. I wanted to see if I could think of something we could all actually eat, and I think I may have done it.

The concern is that I am not really sure if they can eat oats, and these cookies do contain half a cup of oat meal/flour. But other than that, these cookies are free from wheat, dairy, eggs, and even from added fat. They turn out sort of chewy and coconutty, and quite sweet. I might use a little less sugar next time. 

The recipe is not quite mine — I adapted it from this recipe from the excellent blog FatFree Vegan. Those were not gluten-free, however, so I made some adjustments. I didn’t have pre-mixed gluten-free flour at hand, but I did have oatmeal and chickpea flour and made do with that. It worked 🙂 I also used silken tofu, and it turned out quite wet enough so I did not add any water.

Vegan wheat-free coconut cookies

  • 1/2 cup oat flour (oatmeal whizzed in a blender until it looks like flour, in this case)
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I forgot)
  • 1/2 pack (150 g) silken tofu (left over from my chocolate mousse!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix the “oat flour”, chickpea flour, sugar, baking soda, coconut and salt well. 

Whiz the tofu in a blender or with a whisk with the vanilla until it becomes smooth and soft. Add it to the dry ingredients, and mix it all together. Don’t overmix. If the batter does not quite come together and appears to require more moisture, you can add a few tablespoons of water. I found that it was perfect just with the tofu. 

Put spoonfuls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, bake for 12-15 mins or until baked through/golden around the edges. Sprinkle some sugar on top, and cool.


(Slightly) balsamic truffles.

In another attempt to fight consumerism (homemade gifts!) and use the kilo (!) of Valrhona 61% chocolate I got from my darling mother, here come the truffles. They turned out gooey and chocolatey and perfect, in all their sugary dairy fattiness. So, so good! 

The balsamic idea comes from Soma (credit where credit is due), the incredible chocolatier in Toronto’s Distillery District. I had a balsamic chocolate there back in the day (years ago!) and I still remember.. This turned out more like a slight hint of balsamic, but it’s a pleasant one nonetheless. You could flavor them any which way you like, though. 

The actual recipe (sans balsamic) is from a booklet that came with the big chunk of chocolate. 

(Slightly) balsamic truffles

  • 150 g double cream (ie 1,5 dl)
  • 25 g honey
  • 190 g Valrhona 61% couverture chocolate (nice chocolate with a high cocoa butter content — not 70%)
  • 30 g butter
  • some balsamic vinegar
  • some sugar
  • cocoa for rolling

Heat about equal parts vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan (a few tablespoons of each, I didn’t measure). Boil to reduce. 

Chop the chocolate finely and put in a bowl. Boil cream and honey. Pour 1/3 of the cream over the chocolate and wait a second — it will start to melt it. Start stirring briskly with a spatula, and add the cream gradually (“as if you are making mayonnaise”, according to the instructions — I certainly never made mayonnaise!). Stir until you achieve a shiny, uniform and elastic mixture. Ooh, beautiful chocolate. Add the butter and incorporate. Add about 1-2 tbsp of the reduced balsamic syrup.

At this point the instructions tell you to actually put it all in a pastry bag and pipe onto a surface. This seems quite redundant. Prepare some wax paper on a plate/tray and spoon portion-sized heaps onto it. Chill for several hours. Then peel off and roll into balls and roll in cocoa. They will shape up nicely, but work quickly so they don’t melt too much.

I put them in cellophane with a gold tie around, I figured that would be very Christmasy. I then put them in a Christmasy box along with some of the fleur de sel caramels as well as candied orange peel which I made yesterday. This should make a nice Christmas present, non?

Eating cupcakes in NYC.

Over three days in NYC (Dec 13-16) I sampled a wide variety of cupcakes… My friend Rita, whom I have known since I was about three years old, is living in NYC at the moment, and despite studying nutrition she shares my rather unhealthy love for cupcakes. We went on a cupcake sightseeing on Tuesday, and I also sampled some cupcakes the day before and after…

Kytofu, 9th avenue & 48th st.

This Japanese dessert place served up a so-called Chocolate Soufflé Cupcake with a shiro cream and strawberry compote. It was very tasty and wonderfully presented, but I can’t say I would really classify it as a cupcake… We did really enjoy it, though, and we also had some excellent tea. A lovely and different dessert place.

Billy’s Bakery, 9th ave and 21st st.

Next was Billy’s Bakery, which several people have recommended. And with good reason — this was the most lusciously moist cupcake with the most amazingly rich, yet fluffy, frosting. Amazingly decadent and so filling that we had to take a break from cupcakes for several hours!

Magnolia Bakery, Bleecker st and 11th st.

The mother of all cupcake shops. I did find that the cake was drier and the frosting was less luscious than at Billy’s.  A bit of a disappointment. Also didn’t take a picture.. We ate it late in the afternoon after carrying it around for a while, so it was dark outside and the cupcake looked quite beat up!

Babycakes, Broome st and Orchard st.

I shouldn’t actually eat eggs much. I do it anyway, as you can tell, but I am thrilled to find places like Babycakes. The place is extremely allergy friendly — they have vegan and gluten free cupcakes and there wasn’t a nut in sight. Also, they are agave sweetened. The chocolate cupcake I sampled was slightly dry and crumbly, which I think is acceptable when you take into consideration how it is magically free of all known allergens…! The frosting was excellent, I really wonder how they make it!

Kumquat bakery (sampled at a crafts market at Lafayette and 4th st)

I couldn’t pass up the chance to sample their mini maple bacon cupcake. I mean, how crazy is that? Sweet and savory and bite sized! It’s awkward to compare it to all these other chocolatey treats, but it was definitely interesting!

Messing up chocolate mousse.

I have made this several times before, but somehow today I messed up the texture. I got a bit carried away with the electric whisk..

This concept is genius. Chocolate mousse with very few ingredients, very little effort, and to top it all off, it’s almost healthy. Normally chocolate mousse is full of both eggs and dairy, but that is easily replaced in one fell swoop by silken tofu. And with this much chocolate, even the most ardent tofu hater won’t be able to taste that it’s there. Just don’t whisk it too much, because it will (apparently!) suddenly set into a sort of strange, crumbly texture…. At least it still tastes great!

Somewhat messed up chocolate mousse..

(Almost) healthy chocolate mousse, sans eggs and dairy

  • 150 g silken tofu
  • 150 g dark chocolate (I used 61% Valrhona)
  • 3 tsp Cointreau
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Whisk tofu with Cointreau and vanilla until it’s nice and smooth. Carefully melt the chocolate over a bain-marie. Let cool for a little while. Progressively add chocolate to tofu, combining as you go.  Whisk to combine properly and get a nice texture, just not for too long.. Spoon into glasses or cups. Chill until dessert time.

Fleur de sel caramels.

I set out on Friday to buy a candy thermometer to make caramels. I even went to a specialty store which serves the Oslo restaurant community, and gullibly accepted the thermometer I was given. They must know, right?

When I got home, however, and actually looked at the thing, I discovered that I had been sold something completely different (to measure the sugar content in wine?? Not sure). The scale only went up to 40 degrees, and it said expressly not to boil it, so clearly it was not made to measure the temperature of boiling sugar… 

I tried my luck with the caramels anyway, and they turned out super well. I really wonder if I will be able to recreate them, however, or if it was just a fluke…

For a proper recipe with indications of temperatures etc, see here. (Mine is a smaller batch)

Fleur de sel caramels

Makes about 15? Didn’t think to count. 

  • 1 1/2 dl sugar
  • 1/4 dl light syrup
  • 1/4 dl water
  • 1 dl double cream
  • 2,5 tbsp butter
  • some salt
  • Maldon salt flakes

Bring the cream, butter and salt to a boil and then set aside.

Bring the sugar, syrup and water to a boil. Only stir for a little at the very beginning to dissolve the sugar. Gently swirl the pan every now and then, don’t stir. This is to prevent the sugar from recrystallizing. Use a pastry brush in cold water to gently push down the side of the pan to reintroduce any crystals into the liquid. Keep it simmering over a medium heat.

Keep a bowl of cold water by your side. When the liquid starts to turn more golden, you can periodically test it by dropping some into the cold water. You want to be able to form it into a firm ball.

Once this happens, add the cream to the sugar. It will bubble up. Stir to combine. Boil for 15-25 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and golden brown. You can, again, test in cold water if the caramel firms up, so you know you will get caramels and not caramel sauce. 

When it reaches desired consistency, pour or spoon into little truffle molds, or alternately into a pan covered in a cookie sheet. Sprinkle Maldon sea salt on the portion sized little caramels. Cool. You can also cut them into squares once they set and press salt flakes into them. They should set into a lovely, chewy texture that slowly melts in your mouth and won’t endanger any dental work you may have had done.

Making no-knead bread.

I’m clearly years behind the curve on this one, but I recently started experimenting with no-knead bread, a recipe by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan which Mark Bittman popularized a few years back. The key (s) here is to use very little yeast, leave it to rise for a very long time, and to bake it in a dutch oven/covered pot. The results are amazing. I never thought I would eat homemade whole wheat bread with such a nice, airy texture.

The original recipe calls for all bread flour, but I have used 2/3 whole wheat to great success. This last loaf was made with Norwegian coarsely ground whole wheat (grovt sammalt hvetemel), which is really much more “wholewheaty” than the relatively finely ground flour I find in Canada. It turned out very well, although it was a bit flat (perhaps because  the pot was quite big). Yum!

Japan meets Norwegian Christmas food: Vanilla Cloudberry Daifuku Mochi

Ok, I admit it, they’re not that pretty. I’ve never made mochi before and that stuff is sticky and hard to work with. But no matter when it’s so good!

I always called these mochi, and they are also referred to as such on most packaging I see in Asian supermarkets, but the internets tell me that the proper name when they are filled and sweet is daifuku. Who knows.

We recently went to Ikea and I couldn’t help myself when I saw the cloudberry jam. It’s a Scandinavian thing. In my family we eat a cloudberry crème for Christmas dessert every year. (It’s made up of cloudberries, whipped cream, sugar and cloudberry liqueur, and I think some vanilla, if you want to try). It’s something we really only have that one time of year — cloudberries are not that easy to come by in large quantities. My parents pick them in the early fall, which usually involves long treks to remote bogs in the mountain. They only grow in the most inconvenient places, which I suppose adds to their appeal. It also makes them difficult to commercialize, and cloudberry jam is usually more expensive than other kinds.

The second part of this is that now that we have a microwave I wanted to try to make mochi. They look so lovely here… I usually like the ones I buy at the Asian supermarkets here, but I am not always such a big fan of the bean pastes they often come filled with. An acquired taste, apparently. Also, who wants dessert with mugwort flavor? I had no idea that was even safe to eat. Yeah, I’m not buying more of those at my local Korean supermarket…

So I decided to try some flavors that were a little “closer to home”, and it turned out oh so tasty!

Vanilla cloudberry daifuku mochi

This only makes a small amount (I made 5 little mochis — just fine for me so I don’t eat too many…)

  • 1 dl Mochiko sweet rice flour
  • 1/3 dl sugar (all I had in the white sugar department was icing sugar, which worked fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 dl water
  • some potato starch
  • cloudberry jam

Mix the first four ingredients. Put in a microwave save bowl and cover with plastic wrap. I microwaved for 3 minutes, you may need more or less. Most recipes say more, but they are for a larger amount. It seemed cooked through after 3 minutes for me anyway. Carefully lift off the plastic wrap to let the steam out (not directly in your face!), and cool for a bit.

When it is cold enough to work with, cut into bits. Stretch them out a little, put half a teaspoon of jam, and try to fold them up to a ball. Dust with potato starch. (Put in small cupcake liners withe the ugliest side down…)