Showing posts with label peanut butter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peanut butter. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jam Banana Bread

I never really had peanut butter and jelly as a child. My parents didn't make it, and my friends' approximations were anemic slices of bread, pale as styrofoam, filled with sugary-stiff peanut spread and grape jelly, which--in a rare flash of childhood discernment--I knew to avoid.

But as an adult, I am completely fascinated with the stuff (see my Peanut Butter Shortbread with Concord Grape Sorbet). I take great pleasure in making it for visiting kids, with sun butter, or almond butter, and a rotation of fruit spreads: strawberry or raspberry jam, orange marmalade, even the date spread I ate with pita while living in Israel.

The vegetarian cafe up the street does a Fried PB&J on Banana Bread, and some mornings I find myself wishing I had a vat of hot oil just for this purpose. Afternoons too, when it would be the perfect snack for my young daughter. This bread captures some of those flavors, of salty peanut butter and good jam on whole wheat. Also, bananas. And with whole wheat flour, plenty of fruit, and nut butter instead of oil, it's much healthier.

Peanut Butter and Jam Banana Bread
1 loaf
Use bananas that are very ripe and spotty, to the point that you might not want to eat them fresh. I like coconut or almond milk for the non-dairy milk, but you can use whatever is on hand.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 large bananas
1 cup vegan sugar
1/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider (or other) vinegar
1/2 cup good quality jam

Heat oven to 350 F. Generously oil a 9" x 4" loaf pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, smash together bananas, vegan sugar, and peanut butter until well combined. There will be chunks of banana, which is fine as long as they're fairly small. Add non-dairy milk and vinegar, and whisk again to combine.

Using a spatula, gently fold in the dry mixture, stirring until no streaks of flour remain. It will appear a bit lumpy, and this is just right. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Dollop jam over the top, and use a sharp knife to marbelize it into the batter.

The unbaked loaf, with swirls of jam throughout

Transfer to oven, and bake 70-80 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out free of batter (it won't be entirely clean, thanks to the jam). Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the side and turn out to cool completely.

Don't you love that dollop of jam spilling over the side? Serve with glasses of cold almond milk, and spread with more peanut butter and jam, if you like.

Miss Two, being uncommonly patient (and a little sly) as she waits for a slice of her own.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cakes, Glorious Cakes

This summer has been one for cakes--especially raw ones, which don't require the heat of an oven, and are quick to assemble. We've had lots of raw carrot cake and raw cheesecake lately, along with more conventional treats. Here are just a few:

Brownie and Cream Cupcakes I baked for a children's birthday party.

White Chocolate Strawberry Cake, the preferred birthday cake of my Mr., which can also be found here, here, and here. This year, I couldn't find a star tip, and so flanked the cake with piped leaves instead.

Raw Cacao Banana Cake filled with Coconut Cashew Cream. This was tiny, but in all its richness, took days to consume.

Peanut Butter and Jam Loaf. Miss Two is anxious to tuck into this variation on banana bread.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fior di Coco Gelato

Fior di Coco Gelato, on Cardamom Crepes with Pistachios and Orange Blossom "Honey" from Cook, Eat, Thrive

Walk into a gelateria, and you'll find rows of frozen metal containers, mounded high with gelati and sorbeti, and topped with fruit or bits that indicate their flavors. It makes those cardboard tubs in regular ice cream shops seem awfully pedestrian by comparison, and it's easy to see why so many of us are growing to appreciate gelato. I suspect several million Italians would agree!

Gelato is infinitely better than ice cream, I think. It's creamy texture feels more decadent in the mouth, and less air in the mixture means a denser, more substantial dessert. Despite the density and intense flavor, gelati generally contain less fat and sugar than their American counterparts. For this reason, they don't store well and are best eaten within a few days of making. The conventional stuff is made with milk and eggs, but this version gets a rich texture and mouthfeel from coconut milk and the addition of agar.

Fior di Latte is literally "flower of milk," and serves as the base for all other gelato flavors. My Fior di Coco is a simple coconut cream to which you can add pureed figs, espresso, chocolate shavings, or one of the variations below. These are flavors you'd find at a gelateria, along with favorites like bacio (chocolate hazelnut), amarena (sour cherry) and cannella (cinnamon).

Fior di Coco Gelato
1 quart
Fold two parts gelato together with one part Whipped Coconut Cream, and you'll have Semifreddo, a delicious semi-frozen mousse. When I worked as a pastry cook, my Peach Melba Semifreddo--peach semifreddo marbled with raspberry puree and topped with lemon curd--was always quick to sell out!

2 14-ounce cans coconut milk (full fat)
1 tablespoon agar flakes
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup evaporated cane juice or agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional, for a creamier gelato)

Simmer the agar flakes in the 1/2 cup water over low heat until nearly dissolved. Set aside.

In a blender, combine coconut milk, sweetener, vanilla, and sea salt. Pass the reserved agar mixture through a sieve into the blender, and blend again (if you have a high-speed blender, you can skip the straining). With the blender running, add coconut oil, if using. Refrigerate until completely cold, about 1 hour.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Gelato di Menta, with bittersweet chocolate shavings and fresh spearmint

Menta Gelato
1 quart
Mint doesn't sound quintessentially Italian, but it's actually used in many regions of Italy, from Tuscany's panzanella, to Calabria's eggplant salads, to Emilia-Romanga's melons, where it's drizzled with aged balsamico. Here, it adds a fresh, cooling bite that's particularly welcome in summer's heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest for a more complex flavor.

Omit coconut oil. To the basic gelato recipe, after the initial blending, add 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, and continue blending until only small pieces remain and the mixture is a very pale green. You want to pulverize it, but not blend completely smooth. Strain through a fine strainer, discarding solids (I strain it directly into the ice cream maker). For gelato with no green bits, strain through a chinois or several layers of cheesecloth. Chill as directed, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Gelato di Burro di Arachidi, with peanuts and chocolate chips

Burro di Arachidi Gelato
1 quart
Peanut butter is very American, and difficult to find in Italy, but follows the traditional use of nut pastes and purees in gelato. Burro di arachidi is literally "butter of peanuts," but you can use any nut butter for this gelato. Hazelnut, cashew, or pistachio would be especially delicious.

Omit coconut oil. To the basic gelato recipe, after the initial blending, add 1/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter. Continue blending until completely smooth. Chill as directed, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

There's an amazing array of flavors to explore when making gelato! I can't wait to whisk together a batch of liquirizia (licorice) or zuppa inglese, flavored with bits of Almond Shortbread and a drizzle of sherry...

What kind do you want to try?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coconut Peanut Butter Bars

I was recently inspired by Allison's Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Coconut Candy over at manifest: vegan, and decided I wanted a piece. But this piece had to be really simple. And with very little sugar. And still taste good.

Enter: four little ingredients (well, five, but I don't usually count the sea salt) and a food processor. Easy. Healthy. Really delicious. They take only a few minutes to put together, and if you're packing them for travel--as I am--just skip the chocolate and wrap them in waxed paper or plastic.

And did I mention economical? I made this batch, all organic, for less than $3.

Coconut Peanut Butter Bars
12 or 16 bars

Chocolate is delicate, so be nice to it. This method is a variation on quick tempering, and gently melts it to a drizzling consistency in a double boiler (I just use a sturdy bowl placed over a pan of simmering water). Heat the chocolate to a temperature that's still comfortable to the touch, and let it rest; the unmelted pieces will keep the temperature from getting too high. Or skip the fuss altogether, and melt it in the microwave with a bit of coconut oil or other fat to provide insulation for chocolate's fragility.

3/4 cup dried shredded coconut
3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
very generous pinch sea salt
1 cup pitted dates
3 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped, or dark chocolate chips

Line a 9" x 5" or 9" x 4" loaf pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.

In a food processor, combine coconut, peanuts, and sea salt until ground into what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Take care not to over process; the mixture will appear oily if this happens. Add dates, and continue processing until the mixture begins to come together and any bits of date are very small.

Tumble mixture into prepared pan, pressing well and smoothing the top for an even surface (I like the back of a spoon for this). Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 30.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler on the stove, gently heat chocolate until just melted. There may be a few pieces of chocolate remaining; allow it to sit for a moment, and everything will smooth out. Transfer to a pastry bag or plastic bag with a tiny corner clipped off, and set aside.

Remove pan from refrigerator, and ease the bars out using the plastic overhang. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 or 16 bars, and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Using a zigzag pattern (or whatever you like), drizzle with melted chocolate. Allow to sit until set, 30 minutes-1 hour, or just eat with the chocolate still melty.

These are delicious with a big glass of almond milk.

Note: While I've labeled this recipe as soy-free, semisweet chocolate often contains a very small amount of soy lecithin as an emulsifier. If you are allergic or very sensitive to soy (or are serving this to someone who is), please check labels carefully.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Peanut Butter Shortbread with Concord Grape Sorbet

A few years ago, I had the great fortune of living in a tiny apartment in a large mansion. The estate housed several acres of sprawling gardens, designed in the English style. Most afternoons were spent walking through them, across paths lined with dahlias and cosmos, and through a lane shaded by apple and cherry trees, and into a circular rose garden punctuated with flamboyant peonies (I love peonies!). My favorite part was a labyrinth of sturdy pergolas, dripping with age-old grape vines.

In Autumn, the vines sagged with Concord grapes demanding to be picked. So we picked them, pounds and pounds of grapes, with which I made sorbets and glazes, and dehydrated them into raisins. Concords have a rich, spicy flavor and spectacular purple color, so juicing them is an excellent way to preserve their jammy goodness. The juice can be frozen for use in later months, which is what I did here. Of course, if you don't have grape arbors in your backyard, bottled concord grape juice is a good approximation of fresh, and you can make this sorbet year round. Look for a brand with 100% of the Concord variety, rather than a blend of other juices.

If this looks like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that's the idea. Except the peanut butter is rich, sandy shortbread, and the jelly is grape sorbet, fragrant with red wine. Serve tossed into a bowl, or smashed together, sandwich-style, and you won't mind being a grownup, not one bit.

Peanut Butter Shortbread with Concord Grape Sorbet
18-20 small cookies

½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¾ cup evaporated cane juice (try it with brown sugar, too)
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Corcord Grape Sorbet (below), for serving

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, beat together shortening, peanut butter, and sugar until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and sea salt, and beat again.

Slowly add flour, beating at low speed until combined. The dough will appear crumbly and separated, but should hold together when pressed. If it remains crumbly, add water by the teaspoon until it becomes sufficiently clumpy.

On a lightly floured surface, pat, then roll dough 1/3” thick. Cut shapes with cutters, or simply cut into wedges. Using a thin metal spatula, gently lift and place 1” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, which will ensure crisp, defined shapes.

Bake at 325ºF for 20-25 minutes. The shortbread should be very lightly browned on top, but not at all dark. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

The shortbread will keep, at room temperature in an airtight container, for up to a month.

Concord Grape Sorbet
About 1 pint

2 cups Concord grape juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons cabernet sauvignon, or other jammy red wine
generous pinch sea salt

Stir together all ingredients and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

To serve, make small scoops of sorbet and sandwich them between rounds of Peanut Butter Shortbread. Serve immediately, or freeze for up to a day before serving. If you do the latter, allow them to sit for a few minutes for the sorbet to reach a pleasantly soft texture.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Healthy Breakfast

This is the least glamorous thing I'll post here, promise.

My grandparents, both vegetarians, ate this every morning for years. As a child I loved junk food, and dreaded visiting because of the healthy stuff they fed us: fresh baked homemade bread, fruit warm from their backyard garden, and brown rice with peanut butter and raisins.
I tried the rice one morning, years after my grandparents were gone, and it made me remember everything about them I loved. Eating it makes me feel sensible and resolute--neither of which I actually am! But I imagine becoming a stronger, more responsible person with every spoonful.

Brown Rice with Peanut Butter and Raisins
serves 1-2

1 cup brown rice, cooked (I highly recommend investing in a rice cooker, particularly if you live at a high altitude as I do)
1 tablespoon (or a bit more) peanut butter
1/2-3/4 cup raisins

Combine everything. Eat.