Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread
It's tradition at our house to eat Monkey Bread on Christmas morning. Every year we try a new recipe, some years it works... but most years it fails. Last year, I took it into my own hands, and it was a raging success. This year I remade it, changing it a little and doubling it to better feed our growing family (weddings and exchange students adding a few). 

I combined a couple of recipes I found plus a little improvisation of my own, and this is what I got. I healthified it a little (for my own conscience) by replacing some all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and almond flour, using coconut oil instead of butter (making it dairy free), swapping some oil with applesauce, and sticking with honey instead of refined sugar (for my diabetic father).

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread
This monkey bread is the perfect amount of goo and sweet. It tears apart easily and doesn't stick to the pan (hallelujah). The applesauce gives it a little bit of apple flavor while also decreasing the oil and fat content significantly. It takes a little bit of prep time since it needs to rise once and each piece has to be rolled and dipped. In the end though, it's worth every minute.

Feeds 6-8 people 

Dough Ingredients:

1 cup lukewarm water + 1-2 Tbsp
4 tsp. instant yeast 
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup almond flour
2 cups whole wheat flour + more for kneading

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut sugar
4 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey


1. Place 1 cup water, yeast, oil, eggs, salt, and honey in a medium bowl and stir well with whisk.
2. Add almond flour and all-purpose flour, stirring to blend.
3. Add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1-2 tablespoons of water, stirring to make cohesive dough. Let the dough sit for 5 minutes; this gives the flour a chance to absorb the liquid, making it easier to knead.
4. Knead the dough, adding extra flour to keep dough from sticking, until it's soft and smooth.
5. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, spray the top of dough, then cover with cling wrap and place in warm place. Let the dough rise for 25 to 40 minutes, till it's doubled in size.
6. Mix topping while dough is rising. Combine cinnamon and coconut sugar in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk together applesauce, melted coconut oil, and honey. 
7. Gently deflate the dough, and place it on a clean, lightly greased work surface. Roll it into pieces about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; you'll make 45 to 50 pieces.
8. Lightly grease a Bundt pan. Dip each piece in honey-oil mixture, and then roll it in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat.
9. Place the pieces in the prepared pan. Pour remaining liquid over top of dough. (It will be soupy; use it all)
10. Cover the pan, and let the bread rise for 30 to 60 minutes, till it's visibly puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
11. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350°F. You may need to cover with foil after 25. Invert pan on plate immediately and serve warm.

** If making ahead and baking the next day, cover pan with cling wrap and place in fridge after step 10. Dough will rise a little overnight. The next day, preheat oven and let dough sit for 20 minutes on counter before baking.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gingerbread + A Secret Ingredient


  • Makes 2 mini loaves, 780 cal
With the Christmas season comes baked goods on top of baked goods. So what am I spending my break doing? Baking of course! It's the perfect excuse to spend even more of my time in the kitchen. I'm a sucker for gingerbread, which may be weird, since I have heard from multiple people lately how much they dislike gingerbread. The chocolate and sugar cookies can be made any time of year, but gingerbread... that's just for Christmas. I like that both the bread and the cookies have that bold molasses flavor. I like that they aren't too sweet too, since that is an easy thing to get sick of this time of year.

This bread does just that, it's a gingerbread with some bold molasses flavor and just the right amount of sweetness (it is a bread after all, not a cookie). There is also a secret ingredient: coffee. The coffee gives it an unexpected twist that compliments the spices oh so well. It also keeps the bread nice and moist, so you just keep going back for another slice. 

The first time I made this bread I didn't have any applesauce. (What house doesn't have applesauce?) So, in dealing with this issue, I replaced the applesauce with banana puree because I read somewhere that fruit purees were essentially interchangeable. Wrong answer. Applesauce has almost no flavor, where as banana has a very distinct flavor in baked goods. The end product was this awkward conglomeration of ginger, molasses, coffee, and banana. In addition, I felt like the coffee flavor overpowered the two main features of the bread: molasses and ginger. I wasn't about to give up on this one though, I really wanted this recipe to work! Take two: I used applesauce as directed, used medium roast coffee instead of dark, and added an extra dollop* of molasses, a dash* of ginger, and a pinch* of cinnamon. Perfect. The final product turned out just as I had hoped!



  • Since I baked this bread in mini loaves, the baking time was less than half that of a large loaf. This means that from beginning to end it takes less than and hour, which is impressive for a sweet bread. It also means there's no need to cover the top with tinfoil. This bread rises a significant amount too; I only filled each pan a little over halfway. 
Makes 2 mini loaves, 780 calories each

  • Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 Tablespoon + a dash* ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon + a pinch* ground cinnamon
  • Pinch* ground cloves
  • Pinch* ground allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 2.5 Tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup molasses (plus a dollop* more)


1. Preheat oven to 350 F, grease 2 mini loaf pans, and brew coffee.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.

3. In a second bowl, whisk coconut oil into coffee (this will melt the coconut oil), then add applesauce, molasses and egg. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and stir just until combined. 
4. Pour batter into prepared pans, filling half full, and bake in oven for 27-33 minutes on middle rack. Bread is ready when toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, removing bread from pans after 10 minutes.

*A dash is equivalent to 1/8 teaspoon. A pinch is equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon. A dollop is a little more than 1 teaspoon.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cacao Cookies

These cookies are quickly becoming my go-to cookie while I'm at college. They are great because I always have the ingredients I need for them, so I can whip them up whenever and then enjoy! They are usually more of a cookie dough though, since they don't quite make it to the baking sheet. Partially because, as I've stated before, I don't want to make that trek to the kitchen. 

For those who do not know, cacao is the bean that chocolate and cocoa are made out of. It is more bitter than chocolate since it's just the bean and no sugar or milk. The cacao is really what makes the cookies. It gives them a nice crunch, and when baked, the cacao caramelizes slightly and adds a nutty flavor. These cookies would also be amazing with coconut in them, which makes it insanely similar to this recipe from last March. 

One thing I have learned at college is that I can replace almost anything in a recipe with something else. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn't. When you're on a limited budget in the middle of a cornfield though, you make do with what you have. In this case, I made the recipe with a chia "egg" because I didn't have a real egg. It ended up working and also makes eating the raw dough less dangerous*. Ideally, I would make this recipe with coconut sugar as well, but I didn't have that so regular sugar it was! This made them taste way too sweet for me, so I cut it down to a mere 2 tablespoons and added some honey to help the dough stick.

I currently do not have a picture of this cookie; I simple couldn't wait any longer to post this recipe. I will have a picture soon though.


1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp almond flour
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar (preferably coconut)
2 Tbsp honey
3 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water (to make chia egg)


1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Make chia "egg" by adding 3 tbsp water to the chia seeds and letting sit for 10-15 minutes, until most water has been absorbed and the egg is a thick consistency. 
2. While egg is setting, stir flours, cacao, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl using a spoon or fork. 
3. Once the "egg" is ready, add egg plus wet ingredients to the bowl and stir thoroughly.
4. Scoop dough, roll into 3/4-inch balls, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Press down cookies using a spoon, thumb, or cup to flatten slightly; these cookies will not expand at all during baking
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown then enjoy immediately (and next week, when you decide to make them again)

*The likelihood of a person being affected with salmonella from a raw egg is 1 in 20,000. That's equivalent to eating 1 raw egg every day for the next 54 years. This essentially means that you're safe either way.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter Custard Cups

Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard Cups

For how much I love making my own food, I rarely do it while at school. Something about sharing one kitchen with 300 other girls just isn't all that appealing to me. This was one of the three times I made it down there this semester, and man was it worth it.

I made these custard cups way back in October when my boyfriend and I celebrated 6 months. 2 months later, I am finally posting the recipe (yay for Christmas break). These cups are extremely rich, so it's hard to eat a lot. Yet at the same time they are so good, so it's hard to stop. They are nice because you can make them one day and eat them later, or save them for a week in the fridge. Either way, they taste delicious! 

The original recipe, comes from Green Kitchen Stories. They made the cups with almond butter, but in order to make them more boyfriend-friendly I substituted it with peanut butter. He still didn't fully buy into them, but I liked it so much I finished his off. I keep telling myself that one day I'll get him to enjoy food that doesn't come from a package.

The key to successfully making these is keeping the egg from coagulating. Coagulating. Don't worry, I had to look this word up too. Basically, keep the eggs from turning into a clumped solid. There are a couple of steps that are necessary in order to do this. 1. Don't use the egg whites! They turn solid easier than the yolks when heated. If you have ever made any type of custard, you know this. 2. Pour the hot milk mixture over the eggs slowly, while continuously stirring. 3. Bake the cups in a pan filled with hot water, this helps them heat more slowly, allowing everything to heat equally. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard Cups
Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard Cups

When baking these, I used mason jars. I'm a poor college student after all, so that was al I could find in my dorm room. They worked perfectly fine and were super cute. Any small glass dish will work!

Makes 3-4 servings


1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all-natural peanut butter
2 organic egg yolks, room temperature
2 tbsp honey
1 pinch sea salt
3 1/2 oz /100 g dairy-free dark chocolate (minimum 70%), coarsely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Whisk together egg yolks, honey and sea salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. 
2. Heat coconut milk, vanilla extract, and peanut butter to a low simmer, stirring to make sure the peanut butter completely dissolves. This can be done on the stove (but I cheat and use the microwave).
3. Remove the milk from the heat and add dark chocolate and stir to make sure it melts into the milk. Slowly pour the melted chocolate mixture over the eggs while constantly whisking. This is important to prevent the eggs from coagulating
4. Place 3-4 oven-proof small ramekins, glasses or cups inside a deep baking pan and fill the pan up with hot water. Pour the custard into the cups and carefully place the baking pan on a rack inside the oven. 
5. Bake until the center is almost set, about 30 minutes (custards will firm as they cool). Let cool completely and then refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.