Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Cake

So I had this whole brilliant, funny post written to go along with this lovely lemon blueberry gluten-free, date-sweetened cake. It talked about how lemon always brightens up a gray, dull winter like the one we're having in New York this year, and about how wonderful it is that citrus season is winter when nearly all the other fruits are off-season. 

But then, even though I had saved the draft, and even confirmed that it was still there later, this morning the great google machine blogspot had swallowed it up into the infinite abyss of lost posts, and it was gone. 

A true tragedy. There's nothing that ruins your morning quite like finding out you have to redo something that was already done. Not to mention remembering the details of what I wrote yesterday. Lets see, I wrote about the grayness of winter, and about how winter is thankfully citrus season, oh, and I told a really embarrassing winter story so maybe it's for the best that the post was lost...

Oh, what's that? You still want to hear my embarrassing story? Ok, fair enough. So I was out for my morning run on Sunday, and it was very rainy so I was running on a path beneath a roadway by the river, I was running down to my bank to deposit some checks at the atm and then back up to the apartment, a bit over a 3 three mile round trip. 

At one point on the run, I have to cross out from under the highway, and on my way down I noticed that the ground exposed to the rain was a bit slushy with melting snow from a recent snowy day. I was careful across it, but it didn't seem that slippery anyway. So I continued on to the bank and then looped back on the same route.

As I approached the corner right before the slushy area I reminded myself to be careful, but from my first step into the slush I knew it was going wrong. My toes started to slide around in the inch of clear melted ice coating the asphalt. I took another step and this time my left toes slid wildly to the right, while my elevated right foot came down towards the ground my left foot slid even further, completely crossing over my right causing me to trip myself with my own right foot. 

I windmilled my arms around wildly, yelping and whooping in fear, imagining my knees and elbows slamming into the asphalt, the cold slush rising up to soak my clothes, my socks, my phone. I stumbled  a few more steps before managing to come to a stop in a twisted, cross-legged version of chair pose, and as I regained my balance I chuckled to myself. 

And then I heard my laughter echoed back at me from an overhang near the river. I looked up to see three guys taking shelter from the rain while laughing enthusiastically at my struggles. They were positively cracking up. One of them was even a little doubled-over laughing at my near-miss with the pavement. 

Needless to say, I jogged off slowly, with my head hung in shame. I jogged home and whipped up this cake, so I could eat way my embarrassment. And it is a lovely cake. I'm just crazy about these date cakes. This is the third one I've made for this blog (Chocolate, Spice Cake), and I just don't get sick of them. They have such a brilliant texture- dense, but not heavy. And they're pretty darn simple to make, too. 

I love that this cake is decadent, rich, and very flavorful, yet it's totally gluten and sugar free. It has a lovely consistency that reminds me a bit of a clafoutis. It's sturdy enough to hold together just fine, but has a light custardy texture that I adore. It makes a lovely dessert on a cold blustery winter's night, but would also be delightful as a sweet note to round off your brunch, and is just perfect eaten as a little afternoon pick-me-up!


8 oz dates, pitted
1/2 C butter, melted* (butter-free option below)
3 tbsp honey
5 eggs, separated
1/3 C coconut sugar
1 C ground almonds/almond meal
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 lemons
1/2 C blueberries

Blueberry Honey Sauce:

10 oz blueberries
1/4 C honey

*If you don't eat butter, feel free to use about 1/4C melted coconut oil, mixed with 2tbsp melted coconut butter/manna.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a 10 inch springform pan, (if you don't have a springform line a pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make removing cake easy.) I also like to cut a circle of parchment paper to match the bottom of my springform pan, and line it with it, to make cake removal a snap.

Zest all three lemons, set zest aside. Juice 1 lemon, pour the juice into a small skillet, add the pitted dates, and heat over medium low heat, stirring dates occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until dates are plump and have absorbed some of the lemon. 
Pour dates and any remaining lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor, add the honey, and blitz until a thick paste forms. Using a spatula, scrape puree into a medium sized bowl, and add the melted butter to it. Mix until butter is well incorporated. 

Juice the remaining two lemons, set aside.
In  a second medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks and coconut sugar until creamy and slightly foamy. Stir egg yolk mixture into date mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in the ground almonds, lemon juice and lemon zest. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently. Do not be over aggressive mixing in the egg whites quickly, take time and fold them in slowly and gently until they are well mixed in to the batter. 

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost entirely clean. Allow to cool for atleast 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 

While the cake bakes, make the topping. In a small saucepan combine the blueberries and honey. Heat over medium low heat, occasionally smushing some berries with your spoon and stirring 10-12 minutes, until the berries have eeked out their juices, and the liquid has thickened some. Sauce will thicken more upon cooling, but you do want it to be beginning to thicken when you remove it from heat. Cool for atleast 15 minutes before serving, to allow it to thicken. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is a wonderful dish. It's basically dessert for breakfast, which I can always get behind, and it involves streusel topping, which is certainly one of the great wonders of the world. I decided to mix it up a bit with this coffee cake, so I cut back on the amount of cinnamon and added cardamom instead.

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. I discovered it when I got into making my own Chai blends in college. It hails from India, Pakistan, and Nepal- all chai making countries, and has a spiced, deep flavor similar to cinnamon or ginger, but also entirely it's own. Though powerful in flavor I wouldn't call cardamom spicy, unlike cinnamon or ginger too much won't give you a bit of a mouth searing. 

I was getting over a nasty virus, hence the lack of posts last week, so I decided to take a bit of an easy way out, and I slightly modified a Pioneer Woman recipe for this cake base. I knew this would be a safe option because I have never tried a Ree Drummond recipe I did not like! 

I cut back on the sugar, and added cinnamon and cardamom to the cake base because I love spices in the coffee cake itself, not just in the topping. What I didn't do was cut back on the quantity, even though I know every Pioneer Woman recipe produces enough food to feed an army. Seriously, sometimes S makes her Mac'n'Cheese, and I tell him to cut the recipe into one-third of it's original quantity, and we still end up with leftovers. Consequently, I ended up with a big 10" coffee cake and a few muffins made of leftover batter! 

Luckily, the cake is delicious. I know most coffee cake is delicious, but this stuff is a step above any coffee cake I've ever tried. The cardamom streusel is really out of this world. I mixed a bit of cinnamon into the butter with the cardamom so there would be familiar notes in the streusel, but the major flavor is definitely the cardamom, which makes a brilliant, sweet, spiced, complex streusel. On the first day, when it cools, it's crispy crunchy, but by the second day it's softened up a bit from all the butter it's soaked in, and then it's really magical.  

The cake has a magnificent texture. Not too dense or too airy, it holds together well but isn't thick or hearty. It's distinctively light and almost melts in you mouth- that's the 3 sticks of butter in action. The cinnamon and cardamom give the cake nice lightly spiced taste, so even a bite without streusel  still tastes lightly of cardamom. 

We ate it for breakfast, and dessert, and occasionally a snack, for about 4 days before we finished it off last night. When I told S we were eating the last slices, he was disappointed. I told him not to worry, I already want to make this cake again, but this time with blueberries and lemon in it! Or maybe apples! Let's make it with ginger streusel next time, I said, and put vanilla bean in the cake! The adaptations and changes you could make to this cake base are endless. Enjoy!

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 2/3 C Sugar
3 C Flour
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/4 C Whole Milk
3 Egg Whites
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Cardamom
Pinch of Salt

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, softened
3/4 C Flour
1 1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 cake pan, or a 10" springform pan (also line the bottom of the springform with parchment paper)
In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Whisk together. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter. Alternating, add the milk and the dry ingredients in thirds while mixing. Mix until everything is well incorporated, but do not overmix.

In a separate bowl, combine all streusel ingredients with a fork, pastry cutter, or your hands, until thoroughly combined. 

Pour batter into prepared pan, if batter rises above the halfway point, use the rest of the batter to make some tasty muffins* (directions below). Sprinkle half the streusel topping over the batter, and use a butter knife to lightly swirl it into the top of the batter. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping on top (reserve some for muffins, if making)
Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool atleast 6-7 minutes before removing from springform pan, or before serving from a 9x13 pan.

*For Muffins: 

If you have leftover batter, grease a muffin tin or line it with paper or silicone liners, and fill each cup just a bit over halfway. Sprinkle leftover streusel topping over the top. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.