Apple Speculaas Crumble, and How to Rescue a Cake-Wreck

speculaas-apple-crumble-with-banner

Have you ever heard of CakeWrecks? People post pictures of cakes gone wrong, whether it’s a bad icing job, or a cake that never rose. (Personally, I prefer PinterestFail.) Today, however, I managed to a) bake a cake wreck and then b) rescue said cake.

How? Ah, read on, dear reader!

This week, my bake-a-long group is baking Apple Speculaas Crumble from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. As I have some Dutch heritage (what, my last name didn’t give it away?), as soon as I read the title of the recipe, I was excited! Speculaas is the Dutch version of ginger cookies, delicately spiced, and buttery-rich. To bite into it is to love it. I grew up eating these cookies, whether they were purchased from our local Dutch food importer, or sent in a Christmas package from relatives. I even have a Speculaas cookie mold on display in my bookstand! (Because where else would you display a cookie mold, but in a bookstand? I mean, really!)

In the last few years, it seems like the cookie is everywhere, albeit under the name of Biscoff, and often in jarred spread form. I’ve never tasted it, but I know the spread has its own following and has inspired many a baker. It’s supposed to taste all deliciously spicy and buttery with caramel notes. Eh, I’ll stick with the cookie proper!

But how does speculaas relate to my cakewreck? Well…I wanted to bake a cake for the DH to take into his work this week. I had the day off today (thank goodness, as I had an IBS attack yesterday at work and needed a day to recover) and decided today was the day. I made a sherry cake (this recipe) using some almond cream sherry that I had sitting around. I didn’t have a cake mix, as the recipe calls for, because I try to reduce my consumption of processed foods, so I made my own homemake cake mix instead (this recipe). The batter? Was odd. Too granular, for one, and just…not right. Oh, and did I mention that I was two eggs short? I didn’t have any ground flax seed to turn into a flax egg, so I just crossed my fingers and tossed it all into the pan. Oh, and I misread the instructions and mixed the streusel right into the batter.

Needless to say, it did not turn out. It baked up beautifully in the bundt pan, and when I turned it out on the cooling rack, it was gorgeously golden and fragrant, but after it cooled, I sliced it…and had to use a bread knife to get through that now hardened caramelized crust. Only to find that the centre hadn’t set. Ugh!

I tasted a crumb. It tasted exactly like speculaas! Ah, sweet serendipity! Because this apple crumble was next on my baking list. I scooped out the unrisen insides (I thought about keeping them for a speculaas-flavoured cake pop, but nixed that idea when I realized I had run out of freezer space), tossed the golden, crunchy cake rind in the blender, and blended up that baby!

Apples and cranberries and cookies, oh my!

Apples and cranberries and cookies, oh my!

Those crumbs? Turned out fantastic! I’ve now got two sandwich bags of speculaas-flavoured cake crumbs in my freezer, which I will use in the future to make a gingersnap-style cheesecake crust, and I used the rest of the crumbs in the apple crumble.

The apple crumble is just apples tossed with some dried fruit/nuts (I left out the nuts) and sugar, and then topped with a mixture of butter and crumbled speculaas cookie. Or in my case, butter and crumbled cake rind.

As I type this, my apple crumble in baking in the oven, filling the condo with a deliciously seasonal scent. Oh why is it not ready yet?!?

The verdict: As a replacement for actual speculaas cookies, my cake crumbles were perfect! As for the apple crumble…I prefer my own award-winning recipe. Dorie’s version is still delicious though — I plan to bring it into my work tomorrow. I expect it will disappear quite quickly!

Next Post: Those lentil sprouts! They have sprouted, and are about to be eaten in an effort to balance out my cake crumb consumption. Stay tuned!

Memories of Meals Past: Pack-n-Go Lunch Burritos

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal's gotta eat!

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal’s gotta eat!

So I was planning on writing a post about growing sprouts from lentils. And then…I realized I had eaten all the lentils in the house when I made my last batch of lentil sprinkles to add to my lunchtime salads. Huh. Ok, well, I am nothing if not the Queen of Substitutions, so I just replaced the lentils with peas! I mean, lentils, peas, same dif yo’! Except not.

Because my pea sprouts did not grow. They grew…and then stagnated. Ugh. I have no patience sometimes, so I didn’t bother to figure out where I went wrong. I just wanted sprouts and when I want my sprouts, I want them now. So I dispatched the DH to the local bulk store to pick up some lentils. I asked for 1/4 c. of dried lentils. He came back with 1/2 c. of dried lentils, because the DH is generous like that. Cost him all of 36 cents. Which means…a double batch of lentil sprouts! Have I mentioned that the DH isn’t into sprouts? Ha ha! Too bad, so sad, because it’s lentil sprouts for everyone!

But not in this post. Because my sprouts are still sprouting, so instead let’s talk lunch!

This here’s a picture of one of my super-yummy lunches from last week. It’s a super-healthy burrito, packed the night before, and quickly assembled for lunchtime consumption.

Why was it so easy to assemble? Because it was all prepped previously!

Les ingredients:

  • Spanish rice n’ beans. I used this recipe, except that I added a whole bunch of white beans for protein. Spanish rice is very forgiving, so just make it up as you go along. It’s basically rice and tomatoes, cooked together with some flavourings like onion and oil, and for those who don’t care about authenticity, taco spice. You know I added taco spice, right? 😉
  • lettuce, chopped
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  • green salsa Or red salsa or guac or whatever you crave. I had green salsa in the fridge so that’s what I used. But I’ve got some avocados ripening on my kitchen counter — they’re next up on the chopping board, because I’m craving some burritos with guacamole now!
  • sour cream This really added to the delicious mouth feel of these burritos.
  • homemade tortillas What? You’ve never made tortillas? But this must be rectified! Use this recipe, it’s super-easy. And if you don’t have time, don’t bother. But if you have time, definitely do it! They taste ah.maze.ing! So pure and fresh and oh, just make them, seriously!

Package in containers, bento-box style (or Tupperware-style, more like) and pop in the fridge. Bring to work and make all your colleagues jelly that they don’t have the fresh, tasty, healthy lunch that you do! Also, the mouth-gasms? Totally worth the work of making the Spanish rice and the tortillas. (Am drooling as I type this, just remembering. Plus, the rice and tortillas are really easy to make. And cheap, incidentally.)

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

In case you were wondering if the burritos were appetizing, I present Exhibit A. The local office cat, checking out my lunch. (FYI, they passed the cat sniff test, and were rapidly consumed by me before said cat could get her paws on them. I gave her a kibble instead, poor kitty.)

Next Post: Ok, so lentil sprouts, for realz! They’ll have grown by them, and been omnomnom’d by me. After being photographed for you, so stay tuned! Mmm…dreaming of crunchy sprouts now. And chocolate, because when am I ever not?

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Easy Slow-Cooker Yoghurt & Good Gut Health

Luscious, creamy, homemade yoghurt! Now that's healthy!

Luscious, creamy, homemade yoghurt! Now that’s healthy!

Back in the 70’s, when I was but a twinkle in my dad’s eye, my parents lived on the beautiful east coast of Canada, in the province of Newfoundland. Despite working as an engineer, my dad dreamt of being an entrepreneur. My mother made delicious homemade yoghurt, so *lightbulb*, my dad thought this could be the start of a yoghurt business empire. He called up a local hospital and asked them if they would be interested in buying yoghurt for their patients, yoghurt being a health food and all.

“Yoghurt?” asked the dietician, “Isn’t that made from bacteria? Doesn’t that stuff make you sick?”

Alas, apparently the granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing hippies that the 70’s are known for, had yet to infiltrate Newfoundland. My dad’s future yoghurt empire was shot down by a bacteria-wary dietician, intent on protecting his patients from live cultures.

But you all know better, right? Yoghurt is the stuff of gut dreams! Those live cultures are populating your gut with healthy bacteria, helping you fight off gastrointestinal nastiness.

And if that doesn’t convince you to make your own yoghurt, well, what about if I tell you that it’s delicious? Easy, inexpensive, healthy, AND delicious! What more could a foodie ask for?

EASY-PEASY SLOW-COOKER YOGHURT

  • 4 l. milk
  • 1/2 c. yoghurt with live cultures (the “live cultures” bit is crucial. Make sure the container has that labeling.)
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Heat milk until close to 180 degrees. (I measured it using a candy thermometer.) Be careful though, when it gets close to 180 degrees, it’s easy to forget about it and let it start boiling — which means a scorched pot. Personally, as long as the temperature is between 150 and 180 degrees, I think it’s all good. Basically, heating the milk means that you’re changing the structure of the proteins, which is necessary for the milk to be cultured into yoghurt.

Let milk cool until it reaches 120 degrees, and pour into a slow cooker. Let the mixture cool in the slow cooker until it reaches 110 degrees, and whisk in 1/2 c. of yoghurt and the vanilla extract. The heat of the cooling milk will heat up the ceramic insert in the slow cooker; this helps keep the cultures in the mixture at the ideal temperature for growing and turning that milk into yoghurt. By the way, I’ve forgotten to add the vanilla extract at times, and it doesn’t make much of a difference if you’re going to be stirring in jam anyway, but if you plan to eat it plain, definitely add the extract!

Wrap the entire slow-cooker in several towels, and leave for at least 12 hours (overnight works for me).  So, you’re not actually using the slow-cooker to cook anything; you’re using it as a heat-retaining receptable. Some people make yoghurt by wrapping a pot of milk in a heating pad, some people make hot boxes for their yoghurt. Me? An unplugged slow-cooker, a few towels, and a good nights sleep mean that I wake up to freshly cultured yoghurt!

When you open up your slow-cooker after 12 hours, you should be able to see that there is a clear, yellowish liquid around the edges of the yoghurt. That’s the whey, and can be drained off to be used in baking or for adding protein to smoothies, or just mix it back into the yoghurt! This yoghurt will be somewhat thin, depending on whether or not you drain off the whey. But this is what real yoghurt looks like, when there’s no gelatin added in like commercial yoghurt has!

That curdle, tho!

That curdle, tho!

GREEK-STYLE YOGHURT

To make thick, luscious Greek-style yoghurt, just drain the whey from the yoghurt until the desired thickness is reached. To do so, place a sieve over a bowl, and place some cheesecloth or a clean cotton dishtowel over the sieve. Pour the yoghurt into the sieve and let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Bam! Greek yoghurt, baby!

LACTOSE-INTOLERANT? HAVE NO FEAR!

I think I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m lactose-intolerant. I can eat food with lactose, but I try to reduce it as much as possible, to reduce my stomach discomfort as much as possible (Except for pizza. For pizza, I will periodically suffer!). The good news is that with this homemade yoghurt, you can make it almost lactose-free! How? Just let the yoghurt incubate for 24 hours as opposed to 12. It will be more sour (because the sugar — i.e. lactose — will have been eaten up by the good bacteria), but hey, less lactose!

A protein-filled snack: Greek-style yoghurt, with walnuts and honey.

A protein-filled snack: Greek-style yoghurt, with walnuts and honey.

I love eating this yoghurt mixed up with my clean-eating cranberry granola, or with some homemade jam to sweeten it up. Or sprinkled with walnuts and honey! I do love yoghurt…and so does my gut!

Next Post: Lentil sprouts! Also easy, also delicious. Plus, it’s fun to watch them grow!

Linking up at Meal-Plan Monday!

Custardy Apple Squares & How I Manage My Sweet Tooth

ready-to-be-eaten-all-up

If you’ve ever read basically ANY post on this site, you’ll know by now that I have a sweet tooth. I do looooove my sweets! I also like being healthy, so obviously I’ve got to balance the two things out: sugar vs. health — it’s a knockdown, drag-out battle! Which…health will win, because I manage my sweet tooth with one thing.

What is this magic thing that keeps my sweet tooth happy and my health at an even keel?

Fruit. That’s it. That’s the key.

Simple, yes?

The DH and I manage to eat at least 3 fruit bowls worth of fruit every week, no joke, and most of that is because of me. I wake up and eat fruit with my breakfast, often grab a piece of fruit when running out of the door to work, sometimes pack some fruit in my lunch on top of salads and definitely pack a homemade fruit salad in the DH’s lunch, come home after work and eat some fruit before dinner, and then eat looooots of fruit in the evening as snacks. High in fibre (which is important for me with my IBS), low(-ish) in calories, and full of taste and sweet, sweet sugar! Ah, fruit! How I do love thee!

Despite the strong relationship that I have with fruit, I still have a love affair with baked goods. How to marry the two? In recipes like my deeeelicious Harvest Apple Crumble (award-winning, yo’!) or in this week’s bake-a-long recipe, Custardy Apple Squares.

Those layers though!

Those layers though!

It’s autumn, and my bake-a-long group is baking an apple recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. Basically, it’s apple slices covered in a leeeetle bit of batter (similar to crepe batter), and baked until puffy and golden.

It goes into the pan all lumpy and bumpy and comes out of the pan all layered and golden. Let it cool, slice it up, sprinkle with icing sugar, and eat with abandon! It’s surprisingly healthy, and yet surprisingly tasty — mostly due to fruit, sweet fruit!

So, there you have it. Got a sweet tooth? Satisfy it with fruit. Or baked goods containing fruit. Or…chocolate-covered fruit? Oh, yes, I think that would win!

Next Post: Homemade yoghurt, oh yeah!!! Way super-duper easier than you think. Like, seriously.

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Clean Eating Cranberry Granola and Degrees of Crunchiness

Yum yum, in my tum! Or on top of homemade Greek yoghurt.

Yum yum, in my tum! Or on top of homemade Greek yoghurt.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pioneer. I had read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, and wanted to be living on a prairie, making my own bread, sewing, wearing a bonnet, and so on. Today I make my own bread, I sew, and…I don’t wear a bonnet.

Given that I wanted to be a pioneer, it’s no surprise that I tend to make pretty wholesome food, decadent chocolate desserts notwithstanding. That said, I’ve left my pioneer day behind and these days, am showing more of a hippy-ish streak. Quoi, you ask? Well…I’ve mastered making my own yoghurt (mostly because I wanted to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet), and my latest love-love-love-it food: granola!!! Or better yet, mixing homemade yoghurt with homemade granola! And that’s the hippy-ness I was talking about. (If I had Birkenstocks, I would be a granola-eating Birkenstock wearing stereotype. But I don’t. Down with stereotypes, people!)

I’ve tried several recipes over the course of the last few months (chocolate almond granola, anyone?) and found that they all seem to suggest too long a roasting time in the oven. My chocolate almond granola burnt after too long in the oven (which I stubbornly ate, because chocolate). So when I came across a recipe on The Prudent Homemaker website that only called for a short period of roasting, I was intrigued!

Of course, me being me, I modified the recipe. I added some things in, I changed some amounts, I threw in flax seeds because I have too much flax in my kitchen, and then I ate the entire batch within a couple of days. By myself. Just me. (I have no regrets. Was fibre-licious!)

Speaking of pioneers and hippies, check out The Prudent Homemaker website. This woman has eight kids (!) and manages to homeschool all of them, while growing a hugggge amount of food (in the desert yet), cooking from scratch, AND doing it all on a minute budget. I think she is the closest thing to superwoman I will ever come across. What I really love about the site though, besides the encouraging vibe, is her focus on making life beautiful. I think everyone could use more beauty in their lives.

And granola, because this granola is da’ BOMB! (It’s really good, is what I’m saying.) Try it out, modify it to suit your tastes, serve it to others and wait for their stunned reaction when you casually mention that you made it yourself, and pop it into canning jars with pretty labels and give it away as gifts. Which is what I plan to do for Christmas. (Only 2 1/2 months away, people!) The pepitas and dried cranberries give a nice green and red theme to the granola, perfect for Christmas.

Lookin' wholesome!

Lookin’ wholesome!

Clean Eating Cranberry Granola (adapted from The Prudent Homemaker, props yo’)

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or any dried fruit, but I like cranberries because of the slight chewiness. Also, I like lots of dried fruit. If you don’t, decrease the amount of dried fruit that you add.)
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. pepitas
  • ¼ c. flax seeds
  • 3 tbsp. flax meal

Mix together everything but the dried fruit, and spread that mixture on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden and toasty looking. Make sure to stir the mixture once or twice during the roasting, in order to get an evenly toasted granola.

Once granola is cooked and cooled, stir in dried fruit. And enjoy!!!  Makes the equivalent of a box of (healthy) granola from the grocery store. Or, enough for me for a week. (Is delicious!)

If you make this recipe, let me know how you modified it! I’d love to get some inspiration from my blog readers!

Next Post: Apple Pie, French-Style! Or…easy-peasy homemade yoghurt. Or apple custard! So many yummy things to blog about, what’s a gal to do!

Linking up at Southern Plate this week! And this one!