Vanilla Cloud (aka Pavlova) for Busy People

Spring is a busy time for everyone. The unhappy task of apartment cleaning somehow takes up your entire Saturday, the office suddenly decides to need you on Friday until 9pm, and don’t even get me started on Easter travel. It takes a week to mentally prepare myself for the hordes of children racing around the airport, tripping on suitcases and screaming in a mini-egg -induced stupor. The sun feels warmer now, so naturally you must take advantage of the extra daylight and this means you do not want to be in your kitchen making dessert for that dinner party you pretty much forgot about. This is perfect recipe for you busy people who need something dreamy and gorgeous to present to a crowd, but just don’t really have the time to bake a 6 layer cake with pistachio buttercream (does anyone? jk we know Martha and Ina like to throw up a good 6 layer cake on the regular).

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Pavlova is a light dessert (think marshmallow fluff with a meringue crust) travels well, takes few skills in the kitchen and is SO versatile. You can use coconut whipped cream instead of regular for dairy issues, add some flavour to the filling (mint! lemon zest! cocoa! rum!), throw whatever you like on top (chocolate shavings! bananas + caramel! raspberry coulis!) This one is simple and spring-inspired, with pretty pastel-pink meringue because of the vanilla extract.

Makes 1 pavlova that serves 4-6. You can easily double this recipe for a big crowd.

pavlova

2 egg whites (room temperature)

pinch of salt

3/4 cups superfine sugar (you can use granulated, but it won’t dissolve nearly as well)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

filling

1 cup whipping (heavy) cream

lime zest

2 tbsp liquid honey

fruit for topping (I used coconut shavings, blueberries & raspberries, and passion fruit)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear off a sheet of parchment big enough to cover a baking sheet, trace a circle in pencil. This helps guide the shape of your pavolva so it doesn’t look like an ugly blob. Flip the paper over and place on your baking sheet.
  2. Whip egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment for about 5 minutes until they are thick and stiff, starting with mixer on low and building up. Basically, if you dip the back of a spoon into the egg whites, there should be shiny, satiny peaks that fall over but still hold shape.
  3. Start beating in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until you get shiny, stiff peaks. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Make sure when you take the whisk out, the peaks stay in place and are stiff (the very tip may fall over, but the rest will stay up!). Better to overwhip than underwhip!
  4. Add cornstarch, vanilla, white wine vinegar and FOLD in gently with a spatula. Now, take a spoon and pour the meringue into a pile in the middle of your drawn-on circle. Spread it out so there is a bit of a lip at the sides of the circle, and a dent in the middle.
  5. Place in oven and reduce heat to 300 right away. Let bake for 60-70 minutes, until hard and golden. Remove from oven and let cool. Some recipes say to let cool in oven which you can do too, but if you are in a rush, it’s just fine to cool on the counter. 
  6. Whip the cream until thick, add honey and lime zest.
  7. Spoon cream onto pavlova, leaving a slight border around the edges. Place fruit on top and add some lime zest to finish
  8. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, up to 2 hours.

 

 


The Simple French Yogurt Cake of Your Dreams

I would like to make a case for yogurt cake. Yes, it might be “boring” and everyone is going dairy-free these days, but yogurt adds something special to a loaf that a pound of butter just cannot. Sorry butter, not this time.  French yogurt cake is creamy with a nice springy crumb, is lightly sweet and vanilla-scented, and has that unique  subtle tang from the plain greek yogurt. It’s so nice by itself that I usually cut a big slice to have alongside a cup of black tea as is, but I’ve also jazzed it up for company with a dollop of tart raspberry jam and/or coconut whipped cream.

I am a desert minimalist, and this cake can be whipped up very quickly with only a few ingredients that you likely have in your pantry already. Have a slice with your cafe creme, and you’ll be instantly transported to grandmaman’s light-filled Parisian kitchen.

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Makes 1 Loaf or 1 8 inch cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

zest of 1 orange or 1 lemon (or lime – any citrus fruit works here!)

3/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil (you could also use olive oil but your cake will be much denser)

2 large eggs (room temperature)

2 teaspoons good vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter your cake or loaf pan and dust with flour, tap out the excess.
  2. Mix together the sugar and orange zest with a fork or spoon so that the zest releases it’s oils and scent on the sugar
  3. Add the eggs, yogurt and vanilla extract to the sugar. Whisk to blend well.
  4. sift together the flour, salt, baking powder.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix together (do not go crazy mixing here, just until it’s combined and no dry bits remain, there will be some lumpy looking bits but its likely the yogurt).
  6. Bake for about 50 minutes (for the cake) 55 minutes for the loaf pan.
  7. Once a toothpick comes out clean, let the cake cool for 20-30 mins (until you can touch it) and then let it cool further on a rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy!

 

 


Healthy Banana Carrot Cake

Everybody loves guilt-free desserts. Here is a new recipe that combines two of my favourite cake flavours for spring – banana and carrot. I love cream cheese frosting and buttery cake as much as the next person, but when you’re working on your beach body for spring break or just want something a little more virtuous, give this loaf a try. It’s moist, toothsome and lightly sweet, making it the perfect morning or tea time snack. It has heart-healthy walnuts, is dairy free, and has no refined sugar – not to mention the health benefits of potassium-rich bananas and vitamin-c loaded carrots. Yes, it’s still a treat, but it’s certainly better for you than a huge buttery pain au chocolat (brb googling if ubereats can deliver me one of those).

This loaf is REALLY good toasted and spread with almond butter or butter and honey. You can also make it more desserty and add a yogurt glaze. If you have a nut allergy in the house, omit the walnuts and use regular cow’s milk instead. Very ripe bananas are key. Happy baking!

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Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup unsweetened, desiccated coconut (if you aren’t a coconut person, try replacing with quick cooking oats)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 medium/ overripe bananas

1/2 cup coconut sugar (or organic cane sugar, or brown sugar)

1 large room temperature egg

1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoons melted, cooled coconut oil or melted butter

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 large carrots – I find using a medium/small grate is best)

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a traditional loaf pan wth coconut oil, or grease with butter.

Whisk together the flour, coconut, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and and baking soda. Set aside.

Mash banana in a separate bowl, and then add coconut sugar, egg, vanilla, almond milk and applesauce. Fold in grated carrots. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix JUST until combined and no dry bits remain – overmixing will make the cake tough!

Carefully and gently fold in the nuts and coconut oil. For extra panache, slice a whole banana lengthwise and place slices on top, drizzle top with honey.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. If you use a 9×5 pan, it may take less time, so check the bread before 45 mins is up. Make sure a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes and then remove for serving.

 

 

 

 


Salty Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

This recipe is the “cheat’s” version of Alison Roman’s Salted Butter & Chocolate Chunk Shortbread from one of my favourite new cookbooks, Dining In.

One Sunday, I needed to whip up something sweet for a casual dinner party and really wanted to make Alison’s shortbread. I was strapped for time, and you need to chill the dough for a few hours – not going to happen. I decided to create something inspired by her recipe that didn’t require chilling, but kept the flavour profile. I can’t get enough of the addictive fullsizeoutput_1268salty/sweetness of these squares (which can also be shaped into cookies). One of the dinner guests said he preferred these to regular chocolate chip cookies, which to me is basically the equivalent of an Oscar nomination.

Make sure you use good salted butter. I am a hardcore devotee of Maldon sea salt, which I generously sprinkle on top pre-bake.  Try to make sure your butter hasn’t been sitting out for days in a warm room – JUST room temperature butter will produce the best results.

 

Makes 12 large squares

1 cup salted butter (room temperature)

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups of good dark chocolate chunks (you can use chips, but I prefer the look of chunks and it’s easy to chop up some 70% chocolate bars)

Flaky sea salt for top

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 9 square baking pan and line with parchment paper. It should hang over 2 sides only, so trim it to fit the pan on the other two sides. This will allow you to easily lift it out.
  2. Cream butter and two sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a large bowl with mixer.
  3. Add vanilla extract, kosher salt, and mix for 30 seconds.
  4. Sift flour and add slowly to the mixing bowl. Mix until incorporated, so no dry bits remain. Dough will be crumbly and slightly dry.
  5. Add chocolate chunks and only mix until evenly combined – don’t overmix.
  6. Spread the dough into the baking pan, and press down with your hands. Then, press with the back of a spoon to smooth.
  7. Score the shortbread into squares (take a sharp knife and cut lines into it so there are 12-16 squares, depending on how big you want them to be) and prick 3 lines of holes with the tines of a fork.
  8. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes. They should be brown on the edges and a light golden colour in the middle. If you make them into cookies, I would suggest baking for 12-15 minutes instead.
  9. Let cool completely in the pan. Then, remove from pan and re-cut with a sharp knife to serve.