CHRISTMAS DEER PONDERING THE AFTERNOON LIGHT
(otherwise known as Spelt, Almond and Maple Syrup Cookies with Pecan Mushroom Meringue and Dark Chocolate and Coconut Ganache)
|same cookie, but the lighter one has been made without the chcocolate|
At it's practical core, this post is about a very simple and delicious biscuit / cookie - wet to dry, dairy free and could easily be nut free. It uses the delicious and wholesome sweetener maple syrup and when chocolate is included (either in the cookie or with the ganache) the coconut oil almost gives it a chocolate crackle groove. The dough can also be rolled out and stamped with your cookie cutter of choice. But, for me, the post is also about taking time out in a world that's becoming seriously at risk of forgetting about daydreams, fun, delight, fairy dust and magic. It's my version of a Christmas Gingerbread house.
|piped and ready for the oven|
You can make the meringues a fair way ahead of time and store them in an airtight container.
|cooked and stored in an airtight container|
|building materials at the ready|
To put it together, I found a vase with straight sides and used the ganache to 'glue' the planks. This enabled me to put water in the vase for the greenery. Basically, if anything doesn't work or is tricky - use the ganache to stick it together or add depth where needed.
As we draw close to the end of the what has been a busy year, I'd like to give you a great big Christmas hug - you read me, you cook from me and you invite me into your homes and lives - thank you. I happen to think the way we grow our food, prepare and eat our food (and treasure those who grow and do the cooking), and value family and friendship is at the core of being a human. Your support enables me to do the work I do - thank you. I wish you dreams come true and magic this Christmas season.The recipes below are a from the new book (Wholefood Baking), due May 2013 and are a little Christmas pressie preview for you....
Pecan Mushroom Meringues
gluten and dairy free
Oven temperature is tricky here - it will depend heavily on YOUR oven. I set my fan forced oven (which runs hot) at 130c for 30 minutes, then 100c for 10 minutes. A slower oven for a longer time frame is better than a hotter oven for shorter time. This will give you far more than you need, but they keep forever and will make it easier for you to pipe. No replacing the golden castor sugar with rapadura - they won't work. Oh, and Golden Icing Sugar - this is a semi refined crystallised sugar - in Australia and England it is available under the Billingtons brand.
2 egg whites, at room temperature
105 g / 1/2 cup golden caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
25 g /1/4 cup finely ground, lightly roasted pecans
dutched cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 150c C OR 140 c if fan forced. and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Bring a saucepan half-filled with water to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl that can sit on the saucepan without its base touching the water. Place the bowl on over the simmering water and whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is warm. Take care not to let the bowl get too hot as the egg white will begin to cook.
Turn the egg white mix into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until very dense and shiny, about 5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the stand and gently fold in the vanilla extract and pecans with a spatula. Scoop the meringue into a piping (icing) bag fitted with a 10cm plain nozzle. Pipe out a small tube shape, to make the stalk of a mushroom – ranging from ranging from shorter to slightly higher, but no higher than 25cm and a small circular top onto the prepared tray. I like to make different shapes and different sizes for my mushrooms. Go for it, make as many mushrooms as you like.
Bake the meringues until they firm to the touch and almost dry (you can break one open to look inside), about 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 130 (or 110c fan forced) for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely.
Use a small amount of chocolate ganache to glue the mushroom tops to the stalks. If you want to go all out, you can pipe very fine lines of ganache on the underside of the tops. Just before serving, use a sieve to dust the tops of the mushrooms with the cocoa (I use the Green and Blacks Dutched Cocoa).
Dark Chocolate and Coconut Ganache
can be dairy free is the chocolate is dairy free:
makes a generous ¾ cup
This is a dark, luscious ganache with a definite bitter edge – made all the better by using coconut milk rather than cream instead of cream. Not only is it less rich, but it allows the dark bitterness of the cocoa to come through, but it softened by the maple syrup and coconut. It’s very good. If you’d like to replace the coconut milk with cream, you can replace it with an equal amount.
I use Green and Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate, but it does have dairy. Dairy free brands include Rapunzel and Dagoba.
100gm dark bittersweet chocolate – 70% is good
140 ml coconut milk
2 – 3 teaspoons maple syrup, or to taste
Finely chop the chocolate and add to a small mixing bowl. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, and pour over the chocolate – stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
Once made, place the ganache in a small bowl and leave in a cool place (the fridge is fine) to set – this will take a few hours. Once the ganache sets, it will be a perfect spreading consistency and will keep in the fridge for 1 – 2 weeks, covered. When you need to soften it – either for spreading (if it is too hard), bring it out to come to room temperature. If it is freezing cold set the bowl in a small pot of hot water and leave it to sit for a few minutes. As it starts to soften, it will look as if it is splitting a little, but once it has all melted, you can stir it together and it will be perfect.
Almond, Coconut and Maple Syrup Biscuits
dairy free and egg free - could be nut free
makes about 50 x 4cm biscuits
This recipe can be used as a classic dairy-free and egg-free biscuit. Made with coconut oil, the result has a great crispy texture; when made as a thicker biscuit (not rolled out, but simply formed), it is still fine. The coconut oil flavour does come through but is a divine combination with maple syrup, and even better with chocolate added with hazelnuts or almonds. This is a quick, simple and easy recipe. They are also delicious with dark chocolate added or sandwiched with dairy-free Dark Chocolate and Coconut Ganache. If you'd like it nut free you could replace the chocolate with 1/2 cup cocoa nibs, ground to a coarse meal. I simply rolled the dough out and cut it into lengths of 1 1/2 - 2cm width to use as "trees".
· Make sure the nuts are roasted first. The skin can stay on almonds, but it needs to be rubbed off the hazelnuts. Take care not to grind the nuts too fine or too coarsely.
· This is a lovely dough to roll, but it most certainly has a temperature sweet spot — neither too cold or too warm. It will come out of the fridge very firm, so leave it to relax for about 5 minutes before working with it. When the dough is very cold or if the weather is chilly, you may get a few cracks at the edges in the beginning if you roll too aggressively, so just go gently and it will become easier as the dough warms. Again, if the weather is very cold, I sometimes put my hands on it warm the fat, and thus soften the dough. If the weather is hot, the oil will melt too quickly, and you may have to put it back in the freezer to chill for a moment or two. Don’t be tempted to use any flour. To make the dough easier to handle, just pop it back in the fridge. The pastry should give a very slight resistance when rolling and needs to have some chill to hold the coconut oil. The pastry shouldn't be at all oily.
· When making these with chocolate, ensure the nuts are absolutely cool or it may melt.
130 g /1 cup unbleached white spelt flour
145 g /1 cup wholemeal (whole-grain) spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
80 g /1/2 cup almonds or hazelnuts, roasted and finely ground
100 g dark chocolate (I like 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped (optional)
125 ml /1/2 cup maple syrup
125 ml /1/2 cup coconut oil (must be liquid but not too cool or it will set)
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
Place the flours, baking powder, salt, nuts and chocolate (if using) into a bowl and whisk together to evenly distribute the ingredients and break up any lumps — the nuts, especially, can tend to stick together due to their oil content.
Place the maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together. Divide the dough in half, roughly flatten each into a 13 cm (5 inch) disc, and place in a sealed plastic bag to chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C or 165°C if fan forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Roll one piece of dough at a time, between sheets of baking paper. This is a very easy dough to roll, and you won’t need extra flour (see Baking notes). As the pastry becomes bigger, it will stick to the paper. Lift the paper off and replace the paper — this breaks its seal. Gently turn the whole thing over (paper and all) and then repeat with the paper underneath; if you don’t do this, the pastry will just stick to the paper and won’t get any bigger. Roll until the pastry is about 25 cm in diameter, but it is more important that it is about 4 mm thick. Stamp out the biscuits using a 4–4.5 cm biscuit cutter, and use a palette knife to move the biscuits to the trays. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more biscuits.
If you want drop biscuits, do not chill the dough, but rather scoop 1 heaped teaspoon, roll into a ball and place on a tray. Gently press to flatten slightly.
Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on the trays for 5 minutes before gently moving to a wire rack. If sandwiching with a filling, wait until they are absolutely cool before doing so.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks. Take care not to store them in the fridge or it will harden the coconut oil and damage the texture of the biscuit.