Easy and Simple Granola

I despise granola. Yes, I realize that this is a funny thing to say at the beginning of a post with this title. But it's something I am very used to saying. 

The thing is, I don't actually hate granola. I just have a troubled relationship with it. When I was younger, I struggled dieting and a horrible binge/purge cycle (I am still in recovery for disordered eating but bingeing and purging has not been a problem for quite some time). Granola was one of my binge/overeat foods. So when I began to recover, avoidance of the stuff was necessary for a good long while. 

As I went into adulthood, my avoidance of granola began to take on an air of disdain. "Don't like the stuff" I would say. I would say this about a lot of foods I was avoiding because they were potential triggers, like french fries or chips or fried foods. After a while, I began to believe it.

But now that I am in advanced recovery, I am actually starting to rediscover some of these foods. One by one, I'm adding them back in my repertoire and seeing if I actually might like them after all. 

So, here is my offering for a granola recipe. There's nothing fancy about it, but it's awfully good in its simplicity. It's got a nice balance of crunch and crisp and soft, and it tastes great with milk (my favored delivery) or with yogurt. 

You know, I think I might like it after all.

Note: this recipe is very open to adaptation. Up the oats, add more or less nuts, omit the coconut, use melted butter or olive oil instead of the coconut oil, or add different mix-ins entirely; do whatever you wanna. 

GRANOLA THAT I DO NOT HATE

Makes about 4 cups (loosely packed)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wide coconut flakes
  • 1 cup nuts (I used a mix of slivered almonds and pecan pieces)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, and nuts.

In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave by heating it for about 10 seconds. You might not need to do this at all if your kitchen is warm and the coconut oil is liquid.

Add the honey, vanilla, and salt to the bowl with the coconut oil. Whisk or stir with a fork or spoon to combine.

Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. 

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Scatter the mixture evenly on a parchment lined (easier cleanup) baking sheet. Bake anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, or until it reaches your desired level of crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool entirely before transferring to storage containers. 

Do you like granola?

Mother's Day Pancake Sandwiches

Your mom is the best in the world! Show her how much you care by presenting her with adorable and delicious mini pancake sandwiches. This would be an awfully sweet (and easily transportable) breakfast in bed idea!

I mean, pancakes are great, and so are preserves. But why are they so frequently segregated to different parts of the plate? They need to be together. Sandwiched with love.

Listen, I don't want to cause a controversy here, but I don't like maple syrup, on pancakes or really otherwise. I don't find it offensive--I like the flavor of maple in things, but not poured on top of things. Whatever, maybe I'm weird. But I got it from my mom, so I figure, this might be a great solution! 

Fruit preserves = A+ pancake topping/filling, in my book. 

I've made these babies with Bonne Maman raspberry preserves in the middle. They taste homespun but also just a little pinkies-out. 

These pancakes are interesting because they're slightly eggier than traditional breakfast pancakes. It gives them a nice crisp edge and a fluffy, very light center.

Filled with the raspberry preserves, they're a simple yet irresistible morning treat. Mom will be proud that she taught you well, and feel so appreciated! 

Makes about 8 sandwiches (printable version here)

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light, packed)
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • milk, to thin (may or may not be needed)
  • 1/2 cup Bonne Maman raspberry preserves (can use another flavor if desired)
  • vegetable oil or melted butter, for greasing the surface

Procedure

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and honey for about 2 minutes; alternately, use your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for about 1 minute. 

Add the sifted flour and salt, and fold it into the wet mixture. If the mixture is quite thick, thin it with a small amount of milk so that it's easy to spoon. 

Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or melted butter on a medium skillet, and then use a paper towel to carefully spread it across the surface and swipe off any excess. You want to have the thinnest possible layer of oil for these delicate cakes. Heat over medium-low. 

Once heated, pour about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the hot surface to form each pancake; you can do multiples, but be sure to leave space to leverage in a spatula for flipping. After about a minute, you'll see the edges have small bubbles and a matte-looking finish; this is a good indication that it is time to flip. Use common sense, though; it may take longer or shorter depending on the size of your cakes and the heat of your surface.

Cook the second side; it will take slightly less time than the first side.  Remove the pancakes and transfer to a plate while you continue with the remaining batter; replenish the cooking fat as needed.

Pair up similarly sized pancakes. To assemble, spoon about 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) of Bonne Maman raspberry preserves on top; sandwich the second similarly sized pancake on top. Serve immediately. 

Enjoy! Happy day! 

PSST! Thanks to Bonne Maman for sponsoring this post. Readers, be sure to enter the sweepstakes that they currently have going on, to win a 12-piece Le Creuset cooking set! ENTER HERE.

Easy But Elegant: Baci Ganache Tart

If I could make this, you can, too. 

I'm not joking. Somehow, even with nearly 10 years of food blogging under my belt, I have managed to get to the point where I understand the basics of baking and even have some clever ideas of my own. But making things look pretty? Beautiful, pin-worthy pies and cake slices? Not my strong suit.

This tart came out very prettily for me, and for the rest of you non-domestic goddesses, too.  

This lovely tart starts with a tender, almost shortbread-like crust, which acts as a flavorful base for a rich, smooth ganache made using two simple yet exquisite ingredients: 85% cacao extra dark chocolate and olive oil.

It’s almost unbelievable how much flavor these two ingredients impart.

The chocolate adds a deep, dark flavor to the filling, and the olive oil adds a distinct nuttiness and a subtle fruit-like undertone, as well as a silky, smooth texture. When paired with the cookie-like crust, these unique flavor elements it make for a truly wonderful taste experience.

Garnishing the finished tart with slivered Baci chocolate makes it look extra fancy, and the nutty chocolate candies also act as a wonderful flavor complement to the olive oil in the filling. This tart will make an elegant finish to any meal.

Oh, happy day!

Baci Ganache Tart

Printable version here
Yield: one 9-inch tart - Prep time: 20 minutes - Total time: 1 hour

For the tart crust

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup high quality extra virgin olive oil 
  • ¼ cup whole milk

For the filling

  • 2 bars (3.5 ounces each; or 6-7 ounces chopped chocolate) 85% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ⅓ cup high quality extra virgin olive oil 

Garnish (optional)

6-8 Baci candies, sliced into thin slivers

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and milk.
  3. Pour the olive oil mixture into the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. When the mixture begins to come together and thicken, switch to mixing with your impeccably clean hands to ensure that the mixture is totally combined.
  4. Pat the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. A 9-inch springform pan can also be used; press the mixture up the sides, but only about an inch.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan set on a wire rack until the shell reaches room temperature.
  6. Prepare the filling. In the top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the chocolate. Once melted, whisk in the olive oil. Mix to combine. The mixture will be fairly liquid at first. Give it a stir every five minutes or so, to discourage separation, until the mixture has thickened into a thick, syrupy consistency. Pour evenly into the prepared and cooled tart shell. If desired, garnish the top of the tart with slivered Baci (to get the effect shown in the photo, which employed 6 slivered Baci, place the pieces gently in a circular pattern, working from the outside in).
  7. Transfer the tart to the refrigerator to let the filling set for about 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers well-wrapped in the refrigerator, but serve the tart at cool room temperature.

Cinematic Cake

I wish I could say that I could take credit for this cake. But it's actually an excerpt guest post from the great new book Buttercream Basics

If you have been wanting to refine your piping, spreading, and decorating skills with buttercream, you need to buy this book. It's a really good one.

I chose this cake to feature from the book because it's striking, wow-worthy...but actually pretty easy to make. So without further ado, here's the tutorial for this "Cinematic Cake"! 

From Carey Madden, the author:

This cake is ready for its close-up. It’s every kid’s dream: a double feature spotlighting both movie candy and cake, for twice the sweetness and twice the fun.

  • Cake:    8-inch (20 cm) cake, roughly iced in red
  • Pastry Bags:    1 bag, fitted with a coupler
  • Tips:    #30 (or similar) star tip
  • Buttercream:    3⁄4 cup (175 mL) red
  • Other Stuff:    Corn syrup, Straight spatula, 16-oz (500 g) bag of black licorice ropes, 16-oz (500 g) bag of red licorice ropes, 15 black nonpareil-covered gummy berries (approx.), 15 red nonpareil-covered gummy berries (approx.)

Bag Prep: Fit the pastry bag with the star tip and fill it with red icing.

Cake Prep: Center the cake on the presentation surface, securing it with a dribble of corn syrup, and place it in the center of the turntable.

Bits & Nibbles

•    If you’re unable to get your hands on nonpareil-covered gummy berries, shoot for vintage movie candy such as Dots or jujubes. But anything that’s edible and that matches the cake will do.

•    When you go to place your last rope in step 6, you may find that your last rope is the same color as your first. In this case, I like to split the difference. Cut one of each color rope in half and place the half-ropes tip to tip as the last rope in the ring.

Decorating Steps

1. Using a straight spatula, make a spiral on the top of the cake in buttercream.

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2. Snip off the squashed flat end on one side of each licorice rope.

3. Hold one licorice rope at a slanting angle against the side of the cake to determine how long the ropes should be cut. Pinch the rope with your fingers to mark where to make the cut.

4. Cut the rope, then hold it against the cake to double-check that it is the correct length. Use this rope as a measuring stick and cut the remaining ropes to the same length. You can cut several ropes at once.

5. Keeping your measuring stick rope back in case you need to cut more ropes, begin to place the ropes at a slanting angle against the side of the cake, alternating between red and black.

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6. Continue to place ropes until the cake is fully ringed with licorice ropes.

7. Using red icing, pipe small rosettes snug up against each other around the perimeter on top of the cake. The rosettes should be larger than the base of a gummy berry.

8. Place a gummy berry in the center of each rosette, alternating between red and black.

And voila, your cake is ready for its close-up! 

This recipe/tutorial is an excerpt from the amazing and informative new book Buttercream Basics. It's truly accessible to even newbie decorators. If you're curious about how to do things like spread buttercream on in an even layer, creating the pretty spiral on top of this cake, or more sweet touches, this is the book for you!

Do you like decorating with buttercream?

Balsamic Candy

Candy...made with oil and vinegar? Believe it. 

I know it sounds weird, but it's actually pretty darned wonderful. Starting with a brown sugar syrup, this candy is augmented with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of sea salt for a fascinating, sweet-savory flavor.

I originally made this as a candy coating for an interesting candied cherry tomato recipe, but personally, I think the candy is better on its own. Balsamic candy is sophisticated and -- trust me on this -- doesn't taste as strange as you think. 

 

Makes many candies 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch salt

You’ll need:

  • a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • a candy thermometer
  • a rubber spatula
  • Parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set to the side.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water, sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, or have it nearby if if is an instant-read variety. Heat the mixture on medium heat, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula (to discourage any undissolved bits of sugar from scorching the pan).

Bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to stir frequently and scrape the sides of the bowl with your rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil, monitoring the temperature as it gradually rises. Once the temperature reaches 270 degrees F (this is the “soft-crack” stage in candy-making), carefully monitor the temperature as it will rise quickly. Once the temperature has reached 300 (just entering the “hard-crack” stage of candy-making), remove from heat. The mixture will continue to bubble for a few moments. Let the bubbling calm down briefly before proceeding.

Spoon the candy mixture in dollops onto the prepared baking sheet. Alternately, you can have individual portions of parchment and fold the paper around it to make Jolly rancher-shaped candies, or you can pour the candy into cupcake liners so you can control how much it spreads. 

If your candy mixture seems like it is beginning to get too hard, keep it over low heat to keep it pourable.

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This candy will become hard as it cools. Enjoy! 

Note: Do not touch the candy mixture while it is liquid, as it is very hot!

You've Got To Make Fantan Rolls!

You've just got to! They're so much easier to make than they look!

These buttery fantan rolls taste like parker house rolls, but have an even more fun shape. They pull apart, so buttering individual strips of your roll is fun and a highly delicious way to enjoy bread. 

I made these recently for the Craftsy blog and have to tell you, they made me feel the most enormous sense of accomplishment.

You too can feel this accomplishment - - 

Find the recipe here!

Baci Candy White Chocolate White Russian

Let's get white chocolate cruuuuuuunk! Yup, I just said that. 

Sometimes, you just need a sweet-as-sugar cocktail that packs a punch. This Baci white chocolate white Russian is just the drink for those times.

Lightly malted and totally sweet, melted white chocolate Baci candies are joined by a little coffee liqueur and vodka make this sweet cocktail totally intoxicating. In more ways than one! 

So go ahead, make yourself a l'il treat. You won't regret it. 

White Chocolate White Russian 

  • 1 tablespoon malt powder
  • 2 Baci White chocolate candies, finely chopped, plus 1 Baci White chocolate candy, for serving
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ½ ounces coffee liqueur
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • ice

Optional garnishes:

cinnamon, or melted chocolate

Make the malted milk. Place the malt powder and 2 finely chopped Baci White chocolate candies in a medium heatproof bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and milk until the mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat, and pour over the candy-and-malt powder mixture. Whisk until completely combined. Continue to whisk, every few minutes, until the mixture cools to room temperature. At this point, you can cover the mixture and put it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When you’re ready to make the cocktails, combine the malted milk, coffee liqueur, vodka, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake to combine, and strain the mixture equally into two glasses. Drizzle with melted chocolate or shake a small amount of cinnamon on top. Serve with Baci White chocolate candy halves for an extra treat.

This recipe can be made with half and half instead of milk and cream, but the flavor will not be quite the same. Non-dairy milk and creamer can be substituted for the dairy called for in this recipe.

To create chocolate “stripes” in the glasses as shown, drizzle a little melted chocolate in your glasses before straining the liquid inside.