Thursday, June 22, 2017

Puffed quinoa granola bars with dark chocolate ganache and coconut flakes

A few weeks ago I shared with you my latest granola obsession, made with puffed quinoa and rice, dried fruits, nuts, peanut butter and grape molasses. Well guess what? I turned that granola into bars and they’re fantastic. We can’t stop munching on them.

It’s that same addictive flavor of the granola but in bar form, topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache flavored with coffee liqueur and topped with dried coconut flakes. To me, the flavor combination is heavenly.

Essentially, you take the recipe for the granola, which makes two trays, so you can have a big batch of granola to eat for breakfast, about two large jars, and you turn the second tray into twenty big chocolate ganache bars to have either for breakfast or a special treat.

As bars, they are a bit crumbly at the bottom but heck, I don’t mind and wouldn’t change a thing in the recipe because they taste fantastic. The granola is made with puffed rice and quinoa, walnuts and almonds, dried figs, apricots and raisins, with the sweetening agents being petimezi (grape molasses) and soft dark brown sugar. There’s some butter in there and also peanut butter to hold everything together and some ginger and cinnamon for a heady, aromatic kick.

You bake it in the oven until it takes on some color and one tray is reserved for the regular granola which you can break up in chunks or smaller pieces if you prefer, whereas the second tray is for the bars. Or you can just make two batches of bars, the choice is yours. You don’t break that up because you need the whole tray to be in one piece, so once it has cooled, you cover it with a rich dark chocolate ganache which I chose to flavor with Khalua. You could substitute with Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) or Amaretto (almond liqueur) depending on your taste, or just add some vanilla extract if you don’t want to add any alcohol. Oh, and the dried flaked coconut on top is key.

They are light even though they contain a lot of ingredients, they’re not too sweet and they’re nutty, with crunchy and soft textures, little sticky from the dried fruits and gooey from the rich, smooth chocolate ganache. The combination of flavors is quite special and the topping of the coffee-flavored chocolate ganache and dried coconut flakes is like the cherry on top.

Hope you enjoy them! Tag me on insta if you make them so I can see them.

Puffed quinoa granola bars with dark chocolate ganache and coconut flakes

The recipe makes two trays of granola. You can either keep one tray for regular granola and turn the other one into bars, or do two trays of bars. The recipe for the chocolate ganache is for one tray of granola. If you want to make two trays, double the ganache recipe.

Yield: 20 bars


Ingredients and recipe for the granola recipe here

Ingredients for the ganache
360 g dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids)
70 g cream, full-fat
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua), or you could use Amaretto or Frangelico or 1 tsp vanilla extract

A big handful of dried coconut flakes for the top


Make the granola
Make the granola following the instructions in this post, BUT after you bake it, don’t break it up into pieces. As you will read below in the instructions of the bars assembly, you must let it cool completely in the pan and then pour the ganache on top. As mentioned above, the recipe makes two trays of granola. You can either keep one tray for regular granola and the other one make it into bars, or do two trays of bars.

Make the ganache
While the granola is cooling, make the ganache. The recipe for the chocolate ganache is for one tray of granola. If you want to make two trays, double the ganache recipe.
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain-marie) and melt, stirring often. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water otherwise the chocolate may burn. Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, remove bowl from the top of the pan.
Heat the cream until warm (be careful not to boil it) and add it to the hot melted chocolate together with the salt and the Kahlua. Mix well with a spatula until you have a smooth and glossy ganache. Don’t use a whisk to mix because you’ll create air bubbles which will make the ganache less smooth and glossy.

Once the granola has completely cooled, pour the hot ganache on top and spread it evenly with a spatula to cover the granola completely. Break up the dried coconut flakes in your hands and scatter them on top. Set aside and let the ganache set. Then place in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. Once it has hardened, pick up the whole piece from the overhanging baking paper and place it on a cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, cut into 20 bars.

Keep the bars either in the same tray covered with cling film, or transfer to airtight containers and keep in the fridge for a week.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Chocolate and almond marble bundt cake

I love bundt cakes, not sure why. I guess it’s because they remind me of my childhood and my mom’s Sunday cakes. When I’d get into a fight with my brother over who was going to lick the bowl clean. When the smell of the cake baking in the oven and the sweet anticipation of the treat seamed torturous to my young, impatient, greedy self.

It’s no different now, instead that I am the one making the cake, even though I have to say, every time I go back home to Greece, my mon always bakes a vanilla-chocolate bundt cake for me. Good habits never die.

This one is based on the classic vanilla and chocolate marble bundt cake but with the addition of a few extra ingredients and flavors that make it so much better and delicious. It is actually a chocolate and almond marble cake.

There’s ground almonds in there and some almond extract, whereas for the chocolate portion of the cake, there’s cocoa powder and dark chocolate chunks. Perfect for the chocoholic who likes to mix things up a bit.

It has a soft, fluffy and somewhat moist texture, an intense almond aroma from the extract that reminds me a bit of marzipan which I absolutely love, and a subtle crunch from the ground almonds. The chocolate flavor is pronounced and oh-so-addictive and it can satisfy even the most demanding of marble bundt cake lovers.

This is the kind of cake that can stand well on its own. I prefer it as is myself, or with a simple dusting of icing sugar, but feel free to glaze away if you’re so inclined. I’d suggest a dark chocolate glaze if you’re a hard-core chocoholic, or an almond-mascarpone frosting to accentuate the almond flavor.

Chocolate and almond marble bundt cake
Slightly adapted from Ruby Tandoh

I used a 55% dark chocolate and I would advise you to do the same (not more than 60% cocoa solids) because the cake is not overly sweet so by using a higher percentage dark chocolate, you may end up with a more bitter cake than you’d hope.

I have to say, I screwed up the marbling this time because I was in a hurry to put the cake in the oven, forgetting for a moment (oh the horror!) that I am a food blogger and that I was planning to photograph it. Please take your time with yours for a better visual result, although the taste is and will always be scrumptious no matter how bad or good the marbling is.

Yield: 1 cake / 12-14 pieces

180 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
75 g ground almonds (I used half blanched and half whole almonds and ground them myself)
2 tsp baking powder
30 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 Tbsp (45 ml) hot water
180 g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
225 g caster sugar
¾ tsp pure almond extract
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole fresh milk
100 g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), finely chopped into small chunks

Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Special equipment: bundt pan (at least 1½ liter capacity), pastry brush (optional), stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Using a pastry brush or your hands, grease the inside of your baking pan very well with some softened butter, being careful not to leave small pieces of butter in the pan walls. Sprinkle some flour inside the greased pan and tap it to go all over the inside of the pan. Tap out the excess flour.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds with a spatula.
In a small bowl, add the cocoa powder and hot water, and whisk to make a smooth paste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until creamy, light and fluffy, for 5-6 minutes. Add the almond extract and beat well. Add one egg and beat well on high speed to incorporate fully. Then add a spoonful of the flour-ground almond mixture and beat to combine. Continue in the same manner until you have added all 3 eggs. Then add all of the remaining flour-ground almond mixture and beat on low speed until it is just combined. Add the milk and beat on low until just combined. Don’t beat more otherwise the cake will be tough instead of fluffy because the gluten in the flour will be activated.

Empty half of the cake batter into a medium-sized bowl and add the chopped chocolate. Mix well with a spatula to evenly distribute the chocolate through the cake batter. To the remaining cake batter in the bowl of your mixer add the cocoa powder paste and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined and there are no visible white patches of batter.

Take your prepared bundt pan and using a large spoon or spatula, fill it by alternating spoonfuls of the two cake mixtures. Then, using a skewer or knife, make swirls but don’t overdo it like I did, otherwise you won’t have a marble effect.

Place the pan on the lower rack of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then transfer to the middle rack and bake for a further 20 minutes or until or a wooden skewer inserted into the deepest part of the cake comes out clean. Please be aware that not all ovens bake the same and not all bundt pans are the same, some have thinner or thicker wall, made from different material which make baking times differ. This cake takes anywhere between 40 and 50 minutes to cook. Mine takes 45 minutes but start checking yours from 35 minutes onward to make sure.

Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes. Then take the cake out of the pan and onto the wire rack and let cool completely. When it has cooled, you can dust with icing sugar or glaze it with a glaze/frosting of your liking.

It keeps well for 4-5 days, at room temperature. Because it contains ground almonds that become moist as days go by (due to the oils in the almonds), they keep the cake from drying out and stays fresh for longer.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Spicy red kidney bean dip with za’atar

I make bread all the time lately, at least twice a week, as I am in a serious sourdough kick, and one thing I like to have around in my fridge is all sorts of spreads and dips. Especially now that summer is here (yes, it seems that we skipped spring and went straight into summer here in the Netherlands) they make the perfect snack with freshly baked bread.

Exhibit number one, this dip. A red kidney bean dip that is following along the lines of hummus in the sense that it’s made with tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice but it also contains spices, because I’m a spice fiend. There’s cumin and two kinds of hot dried chilli pepper —pul biber (Aleppo pepper) and boukovo (Greek red chilli flakes)— that bring heat and a pungency that’s quite pleasant.

It’s a dip full of earthy and meaty flavors from the beans, with freshness from the dill, it is vibrant from the garlic and spices, rich from the tahini and extra virgin olive oil, and aromatic from the za’atar. Definitely worth dipping your best bread into it, or your favorite pita, rusks or crudités.

Spicy red kidney bean dip with za’atar

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb (with oregano, thyme, marjoram, depending on where it is made) and sumac blend with sesame seeds and it’s very aromatic and flavorful.

I always cook my own beans from dried, we Greeks do that, but you can certainly use canned and rinsed beans as well.

Yield: 4-6

250 g boiled red kidney beans (from a can or homemade)
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2½ Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp salt
1 Tbsp tahini, stirred well before measured
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
¼ tsp boukovo (or dried red chilli flakes)

to serve
A handful fresh dill, finely chopped
Pul biber
Extra virgin olive oil

Special equipment: colander, food processor

Whenever I boil beans for dips, I make a big batch and freeze about half for later use. For this recipe, I used 500 g dried red kidney beans and used 250 g boiled ones, the rest I put in freezer bags for other dips or salads.

If you’re going to boil your own beans from dried, the night before, place them in a very large bowl and add 2 liters of cold tap water. Soak them for 14-16 hours.

The next day, rinse the beans under cold, running water, place them in a large pot and add 2 liters of cold tap water. Cover the pan and bring water to the boil over high heat. You will notice that once the water comes to a rolling boil, foam will rise up to the surface of the water. Remove the foam with a large spoon and drain the beans in a colander.
Return the beans in the pot and add 2 liters of boiling water. Bring them to the boil over high heat, then turn heat down to medium-low and cook the beans until they soften. This may take anywhere from 1½ to 2½ hours depending on the beans. Not all beans are the same so you need to keep an eye on them. You want them to be tender but not mushy. Start checking them after one hour. One way to check doneness, apart from simply tasting one of the beans, is by pressing one with your finger; if it breaks easily, it is ready, if not, you need to cook them for a while longer. The beans must not be tough otherwise your dip will be grainy.

Drain them in a colander. You should use the beans to make the dip when they are completely cool and make sure to keep some of the cooking liquid to add to the dip in case it is too thick.

If you are using canned/bottle beans, rinse them before using them in the dip, but make sure to reserve the liquid from the can/bottle in case you need to loosen the dip.

Place all the ingredients for the dip in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until they start to blend. Then process on high speed until you have a smooth puree (though it will never be completely smooth because the beans still have their skin). If the dip is too thick you may add some of the bean cooking liquid.
Give it a taste and add more salt if needed. Also, you may add more olive oil or lemon, depending on your liking.

Serve in a large bowl and top with the fresh dill, pul biber, za’atar and a drizzle of olive oil, with pita bread or any other kind of bread and vegetables to dip.

You can serve it right away or keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for 1 week. The flavor is better the next day you make it.