Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rice Pudding Cake with Apricots

When I saw a recipe for Gateau de Riz on Tartelette, I knew I had to try it.  The homely rice pudding cake looked delicious, and I knew my husband, who loves rice pudding, would enjoy it.  I didn't have short-grain rice on hand so I just used long-grain white rice, and it turned out very well.
Southern Spoon blog: rice pudding cake with apricots
Rice pudding cake about to go into the oven to bake
(and my kitchen smells like cinnamon and vanilla heaven). 
Figs were used in the original recipe, and plums would also be an excellent fruit substitute.  I used apricots, since they are overflowing on the shelves right now in my local store.  I halved the recipe and cut down on the fat by replacing the coconut milk with 2% milk, and I topped it all with a sprinkle of cinnamon for a fragrant finish.

Southern Spoon blog: rice pudding cake with apricots
Baked rice pudding cake with apricots, vanilla, and cinnamon, topped with powdered sugar.

We thought this was very tasty, and it was even better reheated in the oven the next day.  Just wrap the entire cake in foil and seal the edges to store in the fridge.  To reheat, place the foil-wrapped cake in a preheated 300F/ 150C oven and heat for about 10-15 minutes.  A comfort food dessert, this is not something that I would serve at a dinner party, but it's a perfect end to a home cooked meal.
Southern Spoon blog: rice pudding cake with apricots
Rice pudding cake with apricots: tasty comfort food dessert!

Rice Pudding Cake with Apricots
adapted from Tartlette
6 generous servings

1/2 cup white rice
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk (divided)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (divided
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, gently beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (divided)
6 apricots, cut in half with stones removed
1 tablespoon sugar (demura or trbinado sugar if you have it)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C, and lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

Bring the rice, water, 1/2 cup of of milk, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla to a boil over medium-high heat.  Turn the heat down to medium and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Test to see if the rice is tender.  If not, add a 1/4 cup more of hot water and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, brown sugar, eggs, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the rice, stirring well until incorporated.  Pour the rice mixture into the prepared baking pan.

Arrange the apricot halves evenly over the rice, split side up.  The pudding will rise slightly during baking to encase the apricots, so don't worry if they seem to stick up out of the mixture before baking.  Combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with 1 tablespoon of sugar (preferably demura or turbinado sugar), and sprinkle evenly over the rice and apricots. 

Bake at 350F/ 175C for 20-25 minutes, until the top is beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of powdered sugar through a sifter.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Perfect Banana Bread with Orange Glaze

Whenever bananas began to turn just slightly over-ripe at my house growing up, everyone would try to resist eating them so that they would turn black and fragrant, encouraging my mother to make banana bread.  A while back she ran across a recipe in Southern Living magazine for 'Cream Cheese Banana Bread' with an orange pecan glaze.  This quickly replaced her traditional recipe and has become a family favorite.  

I took that recipe to college and loved baking up two big loaves for my roommates and I, or I'd bake a bunch of mini-loaves to give as gifts.  When I moved to England I began baking this banana bread for my new roommates and now in-laws, who call it 'banana cake'.  I haven't yet found someone who doesn't immediately love it, even if they claim that they don't like bananas. 

Over the years I have reduced the amount of sugar and salt from the original Southern Living version, used wheat flour as part of the flour, added some cinnamon, and I've replaced some of the butter with vegetable oil.  I usually bake the bread without pecans, which are harder to find and more expensive than they are back home.  If you have ready access to pecans, do add them.  I have also successfully made this recipe with gluten-free flour, adding a tablespoon of xanthum gum.  The orange glaze isn't necessary, but it really sets this recipe apart.

This makes two delicious, tall loaves of banana bread.  If you can't finish them up within 4-5 days, freeze one of the loaves up to 3 months for later use.  To thaw, bring to room temperature and defrost for about 4-5 hours.  The bread is also wonderful sliced, toasted under the broiler or grill, and served with low-fat cream cheese.  

Perfect Banana Bread with Orange Glaze 
makes two large loaves

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (8oz or 230g) package low-fat cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (or a gluten-free flour blend + 1 tblsp xanthum gum)
1 cup whole wheat flour (or a gluten-free flour blend)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 bananas)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F/ 175C, and grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.

Cream butter, oil, and cream cheese until well blended.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Slowly stir into the sugar mixture, stirring only until just combined.  Stir in the bananas, vanilla, and, if desired, pecans.  

Spoon into two greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350F/ 175C for one hour, until a wooden pick stuck into the middle of the loaf comes out with just a few crumbs on it and no dough.  

Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Loosen sides of pan with a knife and flip the bread out.  While the bread is still warm, top with the orange glaze (see recipe below).  If freezing, allow the bread to cool completely and the glaze to set before wrapping in foil to store.  

Orange Glaze
makes 1 cup glaze

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Mix ingredients together.  Pour evenly over banana bread while the bread is still warm.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Couscous, Chickpea, and Vegetable Salad

This mediterranean salad is delicious served warm or chilled.  Lately I've been making it ahead of time, sticking it in the refrigerator for a few hours, then serving it with grilled chicken, shrimp and vegetable kebabs.  It's a filling salad, and it could easily be served as a main dish by adding some sauteed shrimp or chicken before stirring all of the ingredients together.  The variety of vegetables makes this a colorful, healthy, and tasty addition to your summer meal rotation.
Southern Spoon blog: couscous, chickpea, and vegetable salad
Colorful and filling couscous, chickpea, and vegetable salad

Couscous, Chickpea, and Vegetable Salad
5-6 generous servings

1 cup dry couscous
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 green onions, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 purple onion, finely diced
2 carrots, washed, peeled, and shredded
1 bell pepper (any color), washed and finely diced
5 radishes, washed, ends trimmed, and finely diced
1/4 cup finely diced feta cheese
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Place the dry couscous in a large bowl, cover with the boiling water.  Cover, and let stand 5 minutes.  

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley, set aside.

Toss the prepared couscous with a fork. Add the vegetables, chickpeas, and feta to the couscous.  Drizzle evenly with the prepared dressing, then toss with a fork until evenly distributed.  

Serve immediately, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours and serve chilled.  

Red Currant and Orange Muffins

The fruit and vegetable stall that I pass every day coming to and from home is showcasing bright red currants right now, and I finally caved and added some to my grocery bags the other day.  I thought about making a red currant cake or tart, inspired by the beautiful pictures on Cannelle et Vanille, but in the end I turned to my favorite quick baking fix: muffins.  
Southern Spoon blog: red currants

I bake a batch of muffins almost once a week, playing with different fruit (or vegetables), flours, and sweeteners.  They're great to have on hand for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, and you can doctor a recipe to make them pretty wholesome and healthy.  If you feel like an entire dozen is too much, bake the whole batch, then place half in a freezer bag or foil and freeze.  To thaw, just heat a muffin in the microwave on high for about 15 seconds.    
Southern Spoon blog: red currant and orange muffins
fresh batch of red currant and orange muffins
This is one of my favorite muffin adaptations, the texture and flavor are wonderful.  I substituted extra virgin olive oil for the usual butter, added orange juice and rind, and used lots of milk and natural yogurt to make a very tender and moist crumb.  The tiny red currants are sweetened by the orange flavors, vanilla, and a combination of natural cane and white sugar.  Make sure to only mix the wet and dry ingredients until just combined-- some lumps of flour may remain.  This way you'll end up with a light, tender muffin.  
Southern Spoon blog: red currant and orange muffins
Around Christmas these would also work well with fresh or frozen cranberries. Enjoy!

Red Currant and Orange Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour (for some of this you may substitute 1/2 cup or even 1 cup of whole wheat flour if you have it)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/2 cup sugar (use 1/4 cup refined white sugar and 1/4 cup natural, unrefined cane sugar if you have it)
1 egg
3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup natural, low-fat yogurt
juice and grated zest from 1 large orange (about 1/4 cup juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup red currants

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  

In another bowl, use a whisk to mix the sugar and egg well so that you beat some air into the mixture.  Add the egg, milk, yogurt, orange juice and zest, olive oil and vanilla, mixing well with the whisk.  

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir with the whisk just until combined.  Some lumps of flour may remain.  Add the currants and carefully stir them in, stirring only 2-3 times.  

Divide batter into a greased and floured 12-cup muffin tin.  Bake at 350F/ 175C for 16-18 minutes, until risen and beginning to turn golden brown on top.