An Autumn Love Story: Golden Nectarine Cake

As it is no news to those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while, my other half is allergic to egg whites.  And while, at first it doesn’t seem like a huge deal – I mean, egg whites aren’t the most exciting foodstuff on their own, it is also an incredibly annoying allergy – because, among other things, it tends to deprive him of cake.

Now, do you understand the depth of misery that this sort of allergy is?!  I mean, no real birthday cakes when growing up, no nice slice of chocolate cake at the cafe, no brownies, no… combine this with his pretty wide nut allergy and you get the full scope of the sadness of a food-allergic dessertless existence.

Till he met me, that is.  Now, I am a persistent creature and for a while now I’ve been trying, really trying to make him a good, non-dry simple cake.  The sort that we, non-allergic types, able to eat anything in a random coffee shop without a second’s hesitation (other than perhaps wondering what this amount of sugar will do to my waistline), and certainly without any fear for our life, take for granted.  Well, I take my ability to eat whatever and not fear for my life for granted no longer – it’s amazing how quickly acquiring a significant person with an allergy adjusts one’s perspective!

The search took me through alternatives such as milk-and-hot-water cake (which turns out pretty lovely with saffron and which I should write about at some point too), and the coconut and orange cake with egg yolks (which was also lovely but not very moist so required good frosting to make it really work), and after a while I nearly gave up on real cake – until I stumbled across a cheaty shortcut which I feel the desire to share with you, along with the recipe for this easy, gorgeous and absolutely delicious cake somewhat adapted to said cheat from a recipe found on Gourmet Magazine website.

And let me tell you – if you only make one autumnal dessert this year, please, do make it this cake!  It’s aromatic with orange flower water and cardamom, it’s moist (even with the egg substitute), and the nectarines dry and caramelize under their coat of sugar and spice into a stained-glass-like beauty.  The smell as it bakes is like the very essence of Fall, the sort of thing you’d dream of when imagining yourself on a swing with a mug of hot coffee or tea, wrapped in a thick sweater and a blanket and looking out over the colors of the turning leaves.  Well, I don’t know about you, but to me, that is how it is.

The cheat in question is a vegetarian egg substitute by Bob’s Red Mill (purveyors of high-quality grains and flours and the like).  I have chosen it after reading about a lot of different egg substitutes, and checking their ingredients to find the least objectionable one.  This one is made from wheat, soy and algin (extract from seaweed), and while I am not a huge fan of soy, the small amount of soy this would add to our diet is not something I will quibble with when it allows me to simply mix and substitute this in any baking recipe where beaten eggs are called for – and have it work so wonderfully.

To top it, the cake transports without falling apart (great when you want to bring a dessert to a party!), and it keeps very well in the fridge wrapped in cling film (plastic wrap) for 1-2 days.  I can’t say if it would keep any longer as I simply don’t know – it’s not survived longer than till the morning of the day after the day it was made here.  And that was with me avoiding helping with the eating of it, too.

What you need to make it:

A bowl, a handheld (or stand) mixer or a wooden spoon, some baking paper and a standard-sized springform cake pan.  Oven doesn’t hurt either.

  • 2.4dl (1 US cup) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1g (1/5 of a teaspoon) salt
  • 125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small bits and softened
  • 180ml (3/4 US cup) sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar (divided)
  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten) or 2 tablespoons of egg replacer whisked with 6 tablespoons room-temperature water
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water
  • Zest of 1 lemon or orange (optional but very recommended!)
  • 2 nectarines, pitted and sliced into wedges.  I used a golden and a white one in the cake pictured, but the golden ones have a better flavor (more acidic), so the second cake (that got devoured without getting a photoshoot) only used golden and I liked it better.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 175C.
  • Butter the cake pan lightly and line the bottom with a round piece of baking paper (you’ll thank me later!).
  • Mix the egg substitute with water in a small bowl and set aside to stand.  It will thicken a little, but it’s not essential that it does.
  • Whisk together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and citrus zest (if using).
  • In a separate small bowl, mix the cardamom and the remaining tablespoon of sugar, set aside.
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then pour in the egg substitute (or beaten eggs) slowly in 2 stages, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in vanilla and orange flower water.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a butterknife or a spatula.
  • Push nectarine slices into the top of the batter in a circular (or any other) pattern, and sprinkle the top of the cake (batter and fruit slices) with the sugar-cardamom mixture.
  • Place on a middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (ovens may vary so check after 40 minutes and keep an eye on the cake afterwards), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on wire rack for 20-30 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan, and cool completely.
  • Carefully loosen the bottom of the cake with the parchment paper off the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and slide the cake onto the serving platter.  The parchment bottom will help avoid screeching noises when cutting the cake on the platter, and the cake slices come off it effortlessly.

Slice, pour up your hot drink, grab that blanket and go sit on the balcony in the chill wind watching the leaves turn.  Happy Autumn!

Two-Ingredient, Five-Minute Ice Cream

WARNING:  This post contains information that will come perilously close to ruining your relationship with your jeans.  And/or the mirror.  Read at your own risk!

Anyone who knows me, knows that of all sweets, ice cream is the one I have least resistance for.  Which, as it happens, does not at all mean that I’ll eat any sort of bad ice cream whenever.  Oh no.  The above only applies to exceptionally good, ice-cream-shop ice cream, or at the very least something like Häagen-Dazs. Or, preferably, the homemade stuff.

Like this.

Because really, if we could make ice cream at home without an ice-cream maker (some of us who have tiny kitchens can’t own every kitchen gadget we want because of space issues if nothing else!), of course we’d make it as amazing as we want it to be, and without anything questionable of remotely icky on the horizon.

I have made no-churn ice creams with fresh or frozen fruit before, and they turned out amazing – but when I came across this recipe, I simply had to try it.  Because it was promised that it would deliver (and boy, did it!) an even creamier version without any, any iciness at all!  And don’t color me boring, but I love vanilla ice cream.  By that, I don’t mean the plain oversugared white stuff you can find in any supermarket, no – I mean the heavily vanilla-perfumed rich and creamy vanilla ice cream that vanilla fanatics (like me) seek like the holy grail.

Personally, I think it’s sad that the word “vanilla” has come to signify in common slang something boring and uninventive.  I blame the aforementioned tasteless concoctions labeled “vanilla” that line the supermarket shelves, and the cheapening of this queen of flavors that inevitably followed – but I digress as usual, and this is a story for another time (yes, that other time is being planned… just need to take photos!).

Back to ice cream.  This ice cream is by no conceivable definition boring, unless you hate vanilla and/or ice cream with a passion (in which case I am not sure why you are reading this post).  It is lush, it is incredibly creamy and full of that rich, perfumey goodness that we expect of vanilla ice cream.  And best of all, it is very, very easy to make!

Now, like the original writer of the recipe, I cheat.  I use more than 2 ingredients, because while I imagine this ice cream would taste wonderful even without it, I have added real vanilla extract to it.  Why?  Because of all the above and how I adore vanilla.  And because I have real vanilla extract at home, made by yours truly (like I said, vanilla talk another day), and so I could.

So, what do you need for this?  (Makes just under 2L of ice cream.)

  • 2 plastic buckets or freezer-safe boxes that will hold a bit over 1L each.
  • Freezer that goes to -12C or below (Two-star or preferably more rated).  I am serious here.  Mine goes to -24C and that is how high I crank it, but those little (one-star) iceboxes in some fridges that don’t really freeze food solid won’t work.
  • Mixer.  I would not try this with a hand whisk although I have a friend who is scary with that thing and can whip cream or egg whites or whatever you want by hand.  I am not so gifted or exercised!
  • Bowl
  • 0.5L (5dl) heavy whipping cream (I used 36% one because that is what I had in the fridge, but I imagine 40% will work even better.)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (397g one which is apparently standard … who the heck came up with that amount?!)
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract (and some seeds out of the vanilla pod if you want those black specks in your ice cream)

Method:  (This takes approximately 5 minutes.  After which there is a freezing period but really, you can just go to sleep like I did and wake up to ice cream!)

  • Put your cream in a bowl (add vanilla seeds now if using), and whip it to soft peak stage.
  • Add vanilla extract and whip to stiff peak stage.
  • Add condensed milk and whip to combine.  Mixture will be somewhat softer than stiff-peaks but that is ok.
  • Pour into your boxes and freeze overnight.

Serve.  If your freezer is a mean machine like mine, take the ice cream out for a few minutes before scooping, but to be honest, with a bit of arm power, I managed to scoop this even straight from the freezer – it does not go icy and it does not go terribly solid either.  It is creamy and gorgeous and, for all of you vanilla freaks, incredibly vanilla-satisfactory.  So much, in fact, that even I tend to have a little and then feel it is enough.

Like the original author says, this is very versatile.  Next time I will make my salted caramel sauce and swirl it into a semi-frozen mixture.  Or mix in some smashed cookies like she did.  Or… the imagination is the limit, I suspect, and I really do think that adding some chocolate to the whipping cream would work wonders as well.

Now that I have this recipe, the ice cream is always, always within my reach… my jeans may think this is not such a great idea.  I may have to, you know, compromise with them and feed most of the ice cream to skinny Scandinavian friends.  Yesss… ;)

P.S.  While I make none, zero, nada claims regarding the health value of this (it has none except for those who really need to gain weight, and maybe not even then), it does have some virtues which are hard to come by in shop-bought ice cream:  It has zero food additives, stabilizers, colors or artificial flavors.  It contains no eggs at all, and so is suitable for egg allergy sufferers and vegetarians who avoid eggs.  And well… if you count your mental health, it does have a health benefit.  Like, you know, keeping you from throwing objects or crying when you have PMS.  For that, it works wonders, even in small doses.  (Yes, I’ve tried it for that.)  Oh and – for this sort of quality, it’s also really inexpensive to make, so it makes your wallet – and you – happier.  Beat that!

Gorgeous, Egg-Free Chocolate Mousse with Bourbon

Some days bring you a culinary epiphany.

Several weeks ago I had such a day.  I was lamenting in conversation with a friend, about how my boyfriend is allergic to egg whites, and how that deprives him of chocolate mousse.  My friend Nils replied incredulously: “… but why would you ever need eggs for chocolate mousse?  You only need…”

And there it was, my chocolate mousse epiphany.

Because, apparently (to me now!), when it is stripped down, chocolate mousse only has two ingredients.  Four if you want it to be luxurious.  I did – it was made for Valentine’s Day, and T deserves all there is wonderful in the world.  Every day, actually.  But, I digress.

This mousse has no eggs.  But despite that, it really does have it all – it’s light (in texture, people!), it sets beautifully, it is easy to make, it literally melts on your tongue into a whisper and a kiss of chocolatey bliss – and it can be made with anything from milk to 70% dark chocolate, with brilliant results.  I imagine you could go darker if you are a serious chocaholic!  I have not tried it with white, but that should definitely be attempted!  It can be dressed up with vanilla and a tablespoon or two of your favorite booze, or orange zest or – your imagination is the limit here, but understand this – it does not need these adornments.  It is perfectly perfect on its own, with its two ingredients: whipping quality cream (36-40% fat), and good quality chocolate.  Everything else is frills.

If you want the mousse stiffer and chocolatier, use more chocolate (though I think the 100g specified for 70% cocoa chocolate is pretty chocolatey!), and if you want it softer and silkier, go with a bit more cream.  Incidentally, if you use the darker chocolate, this is also fairly (for a luxury dessert!) LCHF-friendly and low-GI, and so also diabetic-friendly!  Not much sugar in the dark chocolate, and little or none (depends on vanilla sugar) gets added in the making!

The recipe and method could not be simpler.  (You will need an electric mixer with whipping blades unless you are really, really pro with a whisk and have strong arms!)

This will fill two large ramekins, or 2.5 of the non-standard sized ones pictured.

  • 2 dl whipping cream
  • 100g chocolate of your choice – the mousse in the photo was made using 70% cocoa, but if you like milk chocolate, go for it!  Just buy the good dessert-quality stuff!
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (the stuff with real vanilla) – optional!
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite liqueur or alcohol – I used Jack Daniels here.  Entirely optional as well.

How to do it – you will need to do this 3-4 hours to allow the mousse to set properly.  It may do so faster or slower depending on the fat content of your cream and chocolate.

  • Put chocolate into a bowl over a water bath (double boiler), so that it does not touch the water.  Bring water to low simmer and stir chocolate occasionally till it has nearly melted.  Take off heat and allow to melt completely and cool slightly.
  • In the meantime, whip the cream.  Add vanilla sugar mid-whipping (before it is in soft peaks), and alcohol once the cream reaches the soft peak stage. Mix a few seconds more to incorporate.
  • Pour the melted chocolate in while whipping the cream further.  The mixture will thicken quickly – beat until it is in stiff peaks.
  • Scoop or pipe into ramekins.  I simply scooped it in, and smoothed the top with the back of a teaspoon.
  • Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to set.

Decorate with fresh berries, a dollop of whipped cream, or whatever floats your boat.  This is amazing with a glass of port wine, if that is to your liking.

Blueberry-Raspberry-Cinnamon Quick Bread (even for those with egg allergy)

A couple of days ago, on a cold and snowy day (they are all like that now, but I’d be the last to complain), I decided to bake something on an afternoon, because T was out in the freeze (or at least traveling home through said freeze) after a long day, and I though it would be nice if he came home to the scent of baking… something?

But by the time I had this brilliant idea, it was already late afternoon and I hadn’t even started, nor checked what I have in the pantry.  Having rummaged around, I came up with a couple of eggs, a half-carton of aging sourmilk (filmjölk, which is like a luxury version of buttermilk for those of you outside Scandinavia), and some flour.  Mhm.  And then, then I remembered that I had an opened box of a bilberry (wild blueberry) and raspberry mix in the freezer.  So, with time being short and me being lazy (I am always lazy), the solution presented itself – I would bake a quick bread loaf.

Quick bread, for those who aren’t American, is essentially a muffin loaf but with less sugar or fat.  More like the muffins were meant to be, long ago before Starbucks popularized the giant cake-batter muffin.  In fact I imagine it can be baked in cupcake molds for muffins instead of a loaf, but I don’t own a cupcake mold.  And I do own a loaf tin.  And I am lazy, have I mentioned that?  So, quick breads can be made with just about any flavoring – they are essentially a soda, buttermilk (sourmilk for me), and baking powder-leavened loaves that can be sweet, or savory, or plain or chock-full of nuts, berries, cheese, chilies, bacon bits or whatever.  Though you know, if you are baking a savory one, you probably want to modify the sugar quantities and use a tablespoon or so instead.

How is this quick?  Essentially, because it is, and easy to boot.

You simply mix all the dry ingredients, mix all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and rougly stir the wet into the dry until a lumpy batter forms (overmixing = bad, lazy stirring = good!), then scrape the thick batter into a greased and floured loaf tin, sort-of level the top, and bake at 175C for 50-60 minutes (how long this bakes will depend on what you put in it – wet things such as frozen berries make it bake longer), until a toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean.  Then you let it cool on the rack for about 20 min in the form, run a knife around it and dump it out onto the rack for another 10 minutes.  Best thing?  You don’t even have to wait for it to be completely cool to cut it!

The results are well and beyond worth the minimal effort – this breakfast sweet bread is moist, flavorful, not too sweet, and the sharpness of berries cuts through the warmth and spiciness of cinnamon.  The result is so heavenly aromatic , that it is literally damned irresistible with a cup of coffee, and with or without a bit of butter and honey on it.  I say irresistible, because I tried pretty hard to resist having any alongside T, and failed.  And I do have a pretty high resistance to sweets.

In fact, if you want to take photos of it, you should not do like I did, and figure “I’ll photograph it tomorrow”, because by the time you realize there are photos to be taken, you may just have nothing left to photograph.  Or like me, find one last little slice off the end crust, with huge blueberry-explosion holes left over, and have to take pictures of it… or bake again.

My quick bread recipe is based with a few modifications on this one (which is also very good), but obviously due to an allergic boyfriend, I have adjusted it to remove egg whites.  In fact, I imagine this would work without any eggs, but with additional 60ml of sourmilk (buttermilk or yogurt).  This batter is very forgiving, so feel free to experiment!

What you need:

  • Loaf pan, something to mix with, and 2 bowls.
  • 5dl plain all-purpose flour.
  • 1.2dl sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp finely ground cinnamon
  • 2-2.5dl frozen berries of your choice (blueberries and raspberries for me)
  • 2 egg yolks (substitute additional 60ml yogurt or filmjölk for eggless, and omit the 1 tablespoon of water in initial batter mix)
  • 2.5dl filmjölk or buttermilk or non-strained (regular) plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp water (+1-3 tablespoons more to adjust consistency of batter – filmjölk is thicker than buttermilk, so may not be needed if using buttermilk)
  • 60ml vegetable oil or 60g butter (melted on gentle heat and cooled a little)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 175C and grease and flour a standard loaf tin.
  • Melt butter if using.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients+berries in larger bowl.
  • Whisk all the liquid ingredients (including 1 tablespoon of the water) in another bowl to combine, adding melted butter last.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mix, and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula till just combined.  Add water by tablespoonful only if batter is too thick and does not incorporate all the flour.  Resulting batter will be very thick.
  • Scrape batter out with a spatula into the loaf pan and smooth the top a little.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about an hour (start checking at 50 minutes), rotating once about 30 minutes into the baking time.
  • Take out, cool on a rack for 20 min, get out of loaf tin and cool another 10 minutes.

Curl up on sofa, make sure your toes are warm, and eat, looking at the snow outside.