Salted Cashew and White Chocolate Cookies (gluten free)

Today is Saturday. I don’t think you can find a person in the world who doesn’t understand the fragile and fleeting beauty of a Saturday morning. More energetic than a Friday night when you are tired from working all week, and less worrisome than a Sunday afternoon when work looms large on the horizon. Saturday morning are one of my favourite times of the week. Saturday mornings mean the farmers markets with my mum and sister, Saturday mornings mean a long run when I am in training (such as at the moment), and after that run, Saturday mornings mean cookies.

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These cookies are a riff on the Chunky Dunkers that I made a few months ago. (And by made we all know that I mean that they barely made it out of the oven before I was double-fisting them and cursing my mouth for not being big enough to hold more than one bite at a time.)

The Salted Cashew and White Chocolate Cookies are slightly salted, in fact next time I make them I may bump the salt up to a whole teaspoon rather than a half just to get that extra little salty kick. The cashew butter is subtle but more pronounced once the cookies are cooled, and it makes the crumb oh so tender. And when that tender, salty dough meets salted cashews and creamy sweet white chocolate chunks your mouth explodes in a divine explosion of cookie goodness.

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Salted Cashew and White Chocolate Cookies (gluten free)

If you don’t need these to be gluten free you can use 250 grams of plain flour in place of the rice flour and buckwheat flour). 

Makes about 20 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 50 grams butter, softened
  • 60 grams cashew butter
  • 50 grams caster sugar
  • 125 grams brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (ensure this is gluten free)
  • 100 grams white rice flour
  • 150 grams buckwheat flour
  • 150 grams white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup salted cashews, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two large cookie sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl beat butter, cashew butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. I used a wooden spoon, but you can use a hand-held mixer instead.
  3. Add egg and milk and beat well.
  4. Sift in salt, baking powder, and flours. Stir until well combined.
  5. Mix in chocolate and nuts until evenly distributed.
  6. Scoop out mounds of dough with a soup spoon (or an ice cream scoop if you want extra-large cookies). Leave about 6 cm between cookies to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Rotate halfway through cooking time.
  8. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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Sometimes the bribe of a cookie keeps my feet turning over in the last mile or two. Sometimes the craving hits after I get home, but the cookie can never be ignored. So go on, treat yourself. It’s the best way to start the weekend.

Tell me dear reader, how do you like to start your Saturday mornings? Anything special that you look forward to all week?

Weekend Breakfast: Honey, Apple, and Spice Loaf

Could we still call this breakfast? Perhaps brunch might be a more apt title. It was well after eleven this morning when I slid this loaf into the oven, and just before twelve when I sat down to a slice cut from the still- warm loaf. We had a long night on Saturday, celebrating a friend’s birthday, and a Sunday sleep-in session was most definitely required. The problem with sleeping in though is that I am not very good at it. I get up at five during the week, and I can make my body sleep until eight, but any time past that and I am a alert and awake. I feel sorry for my poor darling, who is talented in the art of hibernation, and has to deal with a girlfriend who wriggles around like a sack of jumping beans and can’t get back to sleep once she has decided to wake up and start the day.

Breakfast Winnie the Pooh and Piglet

A.A. Milne’s classic

Today was one of those mornings. I tried to snuggle. I tried to grasp onto the last remembered threads of sleep and wander back into dreamland again. But it was to no avail. I had already set my mind on another goal: breakfast. There were so many options: muesli with yoghurt and berries, gluten free toast with jam, cornflakes with strawberries. And then, I remembered the apples. Too soft to eat, too ripe and red and juicy to be thrown away – perfect for baking. Cloaked in a warmly spiced batter the apples were transformed from rejected snacks to a celebrated breakfast. Perfect for a nourishing Sunday meal whether you want to call it breakfast or brunch, or just a sweet treat.

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Honey, Apple, and Spice Loaf (gluten free)

As always, if you do not require this to be gluten free please replace the buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, and almond meal with 230 grams of plain flour. You could use a mixture of wholemeal and white in this cake as it would hold up well with the breakfast attitude and homeliness of the apples and spices.

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams buckwheat flour
  • 80 grams brown rice flour
  • 50 grams almond meal
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 apple cored and diced
  • 2 tablespoons flaked almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a 9 x 4 inch loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl, this should only take about 20 seconds. Then stir in honey and set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, almond meal, brown sugar, baking powder, and the spices. Ensure that there are no large lumps of brown sugar. You might have to break them up with your fingers.
  4. In a separate, small, bowl whisk together buttermilk, vanilla essence, and eggs.
  5. Add melted butter and buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir the chunks of apple through.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with flaked almonds, and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes. You may have to cover this halfway through to stop the almonds from burning.
  8. Remove and allow to cool completely before slicing. Although, sliced warm and eaten plain, or with jam, it makes a lovely Sunday breakfast with a large mug of tea and a good newspaper.

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Tell me dear reader, do you enjoy sleeping in? Or are you an up-and-at-em person? Also, weekend breakfast/brunch, what’s your favourite?

A.A. Milne's classic.

Just Make These – Trust Me: Chunky Dunkers

I know, the title, it’s a little…forceful, but believe me, I do not speak with vehemence and command unless absolutely necessary. I have made these cookies twice in the past two weeks. Once, with wheat flour for a mid-week treat and as a thank you to our neighbours, and last night with gluten-free flours as the sweet send-off after a family dinner gathering. Last night in fact, the whole batch was devoured. I may have had a heavy hand in this. In fact, it may have come down to a close friend and I slowly picking at the skeleton of the orphan cookie (you know, the last one on the plate after all the others have been eaten) until I finally snatched up the last crumb and declared myself the greedy winner.

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These are the cookies you crave when you are craving cookies. The moist just-cooked centres that completely satisfy the inner you that is torn between eating the whole bowl of raw cookie dough and actually being a grown-up and making sure most of it ends up on the baking tray and in the oven. You know, that inner part of you. I can’t seriously be the only one… Yesterday was a cookie craving kind of day. I was writing reports, which is an interesting learning process that I, strangely, enjoy. It started after lunch. My nice, sensible lunch, filled with protein and healthy carbohydrates to refuel me after a morning run and ride. I sat at my computer sipping a cup of green tea, rubbing the skin of my Sundowner apple (my favourite, and currently in season), while I tried to get my report-writing mojo back. All I could think was….mmm cookies… The first words I said to my mother when I got home? “I’m making cookies”. With a business-like tone and a nod to confirm my multi-calorie deal. An hour later, I emerged triumphant. A warm cookie and glass of almond milk in my hands. Yes, make these, make them now. Sharing the orphan cookie is entirely optional…

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Chunky Dunkers (gluten free)

If you don’t need these to be gluten free you can use 250 grams of plain flour in place of the rice flour and buckwheat flour). You can also use milk chocolate or white if you don’t enjoy dark chocolate, or why not a mix of both? 

  • 50 grams butter, softened
  • 60 grams peanut butter (I used super crunchy, because why bother with anything else)
  • 50 grams caster sugar
  • 125 grams brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (ensure this is gluten free)
  • 100 grams white rice flour
  • 150 grams buckwheat flour
  • 150 grams dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two large cookie sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl beat butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. I used a wooden spoon, but you can use a hand-held mixer instead.
  3. Add egg and milk and beat well.
  4. Sift in salt, baking powder, and flours. Stir until well combined.
  5. Mix in chocolate until evenly distributed.
  6. Scoop out mounds of dough with a soup spoon (or an ice cream scoop if you want extra-chunky dunkers). Leave about 6 cm between cookies to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Rotate halfway through cooking time.
  8. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool completely.  (Except for the obligatory baker’s cookie, which must be snatched still warm from the tray and devoured in post-baking glory).

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Tell me, dear reader, what is your favourite type of cookie? Are you a crunchy fan or a soft, doughy fan? Nuts or no nuts?

These are definitely my favourites: I am a choc-chip lover! And doughy all the way, except for shortbread, which must be crispy and crumbly. Nuts, definitely nuts.

Midwinter Skies and Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Midwinter

winter again

so newly cold

spring summer autumn lie in drifts under the trees

the dreamtime has come

in suspension

a fire in a clearing

in the forest

with, overhead, the stars.

Clouds of breath, heads are planets,

the newness of finding answers,

making a shelter from the rain

firewood, dry sticks. Last year’s

poems are kindling, they make good fuel

good flame, good ashes. Birds who have stayed

sing about cold, the clarity

of the moon, the stony creekbed its sounds

of the scent of brewing tea, winter again,

a fire in a clearing.

~ Michael Dransfield, Collected Poems (1987).

gabby's lemon tree

In the middle of a Queensland winter the skies magically clear. The veil of cloud is drawn from the sky and pure, crystalline blue paints the dome of the sky and pervades the view from every window. Against this azure canvas the bright waxy yellow skin of the lemons on my neighbour’s lemon tree stand bright and bold and beautiful. I long for the sharp clean taste of lemon juice and rind in everything I eat. Sharp, acidic, pure it cuts through the sticky sweet or slow-cooked savoury pots of winter food. I also love using lemon in baked goods, and this Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake is the perfect mid-morning midwinter treat. Cut a thick slab, brew some tea, and watch the winter sky for a little while.

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Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I used a 10-inch bundt cake tin for my cake. You could use a 10-inch springform pan instead if you do not have a bundt tin. Please ensure that you butter and line the tin well to avoid leaving half your cake in the pan. This is especially important with intricately designed bundt tins.

This is the kind of cake that keeps well for a few days. Perfect to make on a Sunday and wrap up slices for lunch box treats throughout the week.

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 100 grams cream cheese
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Thoroughly butter (or oil) a 10-inch bundt tin and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachments beat together butter and cream cheese until completely combined and smooth.
  3. Add caster sugar to bowl and beat until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs to bowl one at a time and beat each addition until well combined. Scrape down the bowl between each egg.
  5. Pour lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla essence into the batter and mix well.
  6. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mix to bowl and on low speed mix together until just combined. You may wish to finish the mixing by hand so that you do not over mix the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared bundt tin and slide into the oven.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes (this will vary on your oven, and the size of the baking tin used). Check every 10 minutes. Towards the end of baking you may need to cover the top with aluminium foil to avoid a burnt crust.
  9. Insert a wooden skewer into the middle of the cake. It should come out clean when the cake is completely cooked. Remove cake from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then upturn cake onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before drizzling with lemon glaze and serving.

To make the lemon glaze: mix together 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. You want a firm but flowing consistency – stiff enough that it doesn’t fall off the cake, but liquid enough to flow down the sides. You may need to adjust the amount of juice or icing sugar to achieve this consistency.

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Tell me dear reader, do you love midwinter mornings?

Any favourite poems about your part of the world?

New York Style Chocolate Streusel Crumb Cake

New York holds special memories for me. My darling Casey and I had an amazing adventure there five years ago (can you believe it’s been five years Case?) and since we left, I have held the memory of tall buildings blocking out the horizon, eternally busy side walks and subway stations, and millions of lives lived side-by-side in a special place in my heart. We ate peaches, the juice dribbling down our chins as we walked along the upper reaches of Broadway, and bought souvenirs, and ate rice soup for lunch and then splurged on dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s ‘The London NYC‘ and drank cocktails in the lounge of the Algonquin Hotel catching sight of the hotel cat before we returned to our upper west-side hovel of a hostel.

Night skyline

Night skyline

New York seems a lifetime ago: hot sticky days where the warm air blowing out of the subway vents seemed almost cooling; hours wandering around every museum we could find (still missed out on the Guggenheim though…); trying on clothes in the department stories we had dreamed of for a long time (I’ll be back one day Saks); picnicking in Central Park (crème brulee and raspberries from Dean & Deluca is really the only way to do it); dinners at the Barking Dog Restaurant (if I lived in New York this would be my local diner) – and the myriad desserts and baked goodies that we discovered in our two week adventure. Oh the cupcakes, the blueberry shortcake with ice cream, the toasted pecan and toffee ice cream, the molten chocolate cakes, the chocolate-cardamom truffles….

Casey and I in the city that never sleeps

Casey and I in the city that never sleeps

The crumb cake or streuselkuchen was originally made by European immigrants and over time has become synonymous with New York coffee shop foods. I honestly cannot remember if we ate crumb cake while we were in New York, however it seemed as though we delighted in every other baked good, so it is entirely probable that we did. My love is for the streusel, the crumb, itself. This cake features a buttery, cinnamon fragranced crumb followed by a layer of chocolate and then a slightly dry vanilla cake beneath – perfect for pairing with a morning cup of coffee, or for a slightly more indulgent treat, try a mocha cappuccino – trust me.

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New York Style Chocolate Streusel Crumb Cake

I can’t really think of anything to say about this cake other than: make it and share it and you will have friends forever. Perfect to take to work for those potluck morning teas.

Ingredients for crumbs:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2/3 cup chopped chocolate, or chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 1/2-inch round springform pan. Line the bottom with baking paper.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave. In a separate bowl whisk together all other ingredients for crumb. Stir in melted butter with a fork until mixture is crumbly.
  3. In a medium-size bowl whisk together plain flour, caster sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Measure out sour cream into a measuring jug and then whisk in eggs and vanilla bean paste.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add sour cream mixture. Beat until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into the pre-lined baking tin. Sprinkle chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the batter, then spread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the chocolate.
  7. Slide cake into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (there may be some melted chocolate sticking to the skewer, but no cake mixture).
  8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the tin and then allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

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Tell me dear reader, do you have any favourite holiday spots that you can’t wait to return to? Any favourite food memories from vacation?

Almond Tea Cake with Rosewater Glaze

Stop Press: Once you’ve finished with this post, why not head over and check out my new Recipe page! So happy to have everything in one place for you all now.

Dark gloomy clouds settled over Brisbane early yesterday morning when Mum set off for a tea party for one of her friend’s birthdays. I was unable to attend, but instead I sent along this almond tea cake with rosewater glaze. The lady in question reminds me of an English rose. She has fantastic tales to tell of her childhood and teenage years in England. Tales of holidays in far-off places and the various jobs she and her family have had over the years. Her father is in his nineties and still taking world trips; I believe his last holiday took him on a cruise to Canada and Alaska. Now that’s the kind of ninety year old I want to be!

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I love listening to other people’s stories. One of the main reasons I have always wanted to be a writer is that I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and unless we write these tales down they will be lost to the mists of time. There is something fascinating about asking someone how they see the world, and trying to understand their view, how they stand in their truth, and how they choose to interact with life.

This cake is light, but moist and scented heavily with almond and vanilla. The perfect cake for a winter morning tea with a strong and sweet cup of English breakfast tea (Twinings of course). Enjoy.

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Almond Tea Cake with Rosewater Glaze

I made this cake with 6 egg yolks that I had leftover from batches of seven minute frosting. You can use 3 whole eggs in their place, but the results may differ slightly and it may require a little extra cooking time. I used an 8-inch ring pan – similar tins are available on Amazon or at your local cooking store. You can use a normal 8-inch cake tin; your cake will just be a little flatter. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C (340F). Thoroughly grease and flour a 8-inch ring tin. Concentrate on the centre piece as you do not want to be fighting to get your cake off after it has baked.
  2. Sift together plain flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-size bowl cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add egg yolks one at a time and beat well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and almond essences.
  5. Alternate adding flour and milk in three portions beginning and ending with flour.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.
  8. Remove and allow to cool for ten minutes in the pan before gently turning out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before pouring over glaze and decorating.
  9. For the glaze: Whisk together 2 cups of icing sugar, 3-4 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon of rosewater until smooth. You can also add a few drops of pink food colouring to complete the English teatime effect.

Tell me dear reader, do you love listening to other people’s stories? Anyone in particular who enchants you? 

Lime and Coconut Snack Cake (gluten free)

I have been dreaming about this cake since last Saturday. The sky was stormy, the wind was cool, and I was moving briskly through the farmers market to avoid the cold. The bright crisp green of the limes was a siren call to me. I imagined the burst of acid-sweet citrus on my tongue, and it called me back to a summer day with lime slices in my lemonade and a warm breeze stirring the air. But it’s winter, and the breezes are chilly and really when I got home from my run yesterday I didn’t feel like lemonade: I felt like cake. I felt like moist lime and coconut cake studded with strands of shredded coconut and coated in a sweet and tart lime glaze. 

She put the lime in the coconut and baked 'em both up

She put the lime in the coconut and baked ’em both up

So I took a break from writing and took to the kitchen. With Molly at my feet and ‘Romancing the Stone‘ playing away in the background I was completely in my moment. About an hour later after the cake had cooled and been glazed I took the first bite of its dense but not soggy cake-flesh and sighed. Perfect.

Put the lime in the coconut, and call me for morning (tea)....

Put the lime in the coconut, and call me for morning (tea)….

Lime and Coconut Snack Cake (gluten free)

If you don’t need this to be gluten free you can use 100 grams of plain flour in place of the quinoa and brown rice flours. I do recommend hunting down the coconut flour (Aussie residents, I found mine at Flanneries) as it imparts a unique texture and flavour to the cake. Otherwise, just use a total of 150 grams of plain flour and don’t add the 1/2 cup of milk.

Ingredients:

  • 75 grams butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime rind (about two limes)
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut essence
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup low fat ricotta 
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 25 grams quinoa flour
  • 75 grams brown rice flour
  • 50 grams coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together quinoa flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and shredded coconut. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together butter, caster sugar, and lime rind until pale and fluffy. This mixture will be a pale ethereal green, actually quite pretty.
  4. Add lightly beaten eggs one at a time and beat well between additions.
  5. In  a small bowl mix together coconut essence, lime juice, ricotta, and milk. 
  6. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar mix in three parts alternating with the ricotta mixture. Begin and end with the flour.
  7. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top down. The coconut flour soaks up a lot of moisture so the batter may appear gluggy. Don’t worry I assure you that this glugginess become a dense, moist crumb upon baking.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes or so. The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.
  9. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely before adding glaze.
  10. To make the glaze whisk together 3-4 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 1/2 – 2 cups of icing sugar until smooth. Pour this over the cooled cake.
  11. Slice and serve. Whilst eating imagine yourself in a warm foreign locale lazing under a palm tree. I know I did.
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Woo woo, it will relieve your belly ache

Tell me dear reader, what reminds you of summer in the grey days of winter? Are you a lime and coconut lover like me, or perhaps not? 

Chocolate Chunk and Toasted Almond Banana Bread

I am not very good at meeting new people, in fact, I am not really a great verbal communicator at all before you get the chance to know me. I’m just a little on the awkward side of shy. When I was younger I didn’t know how to deal with the way my pulse would thrum against my throat when I met someone for the first time; upon greeting a stranger the flush of blush would begin at my feet and race like wildfire up to my hairline.

I guess some of the awkwardness fell away after I returned from my first overseas trip and realised that I too had stories to tell. When I started working as a wellness  research counsellor I had to learn to build rapport with strangers – quickly.

The road to a friend's house is never long ~ Danish Proverb

The road to a friend’s house is never long ~ Danish Proverb

And then I stumbled across the best way to make strangers into new friends, the golden secret that will earn you hugs from those who are only hand-shakers, and invitations to return to your host’s table as soon as you can.

Baking.

The scent of butter and sugar in their highest forms is like a friendship potion; when the scent of vanilla, almond, and chocolate surrounds you, you carry your own intimacy-evoking elixir. Suddenly, my nerves disappeared whenever I carried something to the table that I had created to share with the gathered company.

To bring something, to provide a small part of the bounty of the table, or just to surprise people with a treat, is to share some small part of yourself. I know that when I turn up with a brown paper package or a plastic container, the barriers that I used to put up are somehow broken down, and I can ease people into my personality, show a little of what I am like, without having to say a word.

The scent of this banana bread will draw people close to you. Share a thick slice of this toasted almond and chocolate chunk laden loaf with a stranger and you won’t stay strangers for long. Let the thickly-woven crumb make you brave enough to share who you really are, and wash away those nerves of first-time meetings.

Tell me, dear readers, do you get nervous when you meet new people? Any tips for me?

Loaves of banana bread ready to go.

Loaves of banana bread ready to go.

Chocolate Chunk and Toasted Almond Banana Bread

Makes two 8 x 5- inch loaf pans: one to keep, one to share.

Ingredients:

  • 350 grams plain flour
  • 150 grams brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 250 grams light ricotta cheese (you could use yoghurt if you don’t have ricotta)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 100 grams butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two 8×5 inch loaf pans with baking paper. Spread almonds out on an unlined cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Once they are done chop roughly and set aside to cool.
  2. Weigh plain flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl and whisk to aerate and combine.
  3. In a separate bowl beat together ricotta, eggs, mashed bananas, butter, and vanilla. Mix until very well combined.
  4. Add banana mixture to flour mix and stir until almost completely combined. Then add chocolate chips and half a cup of the chopped toasted almonds and stir until distributed throughout batter.
  5. Divide mixture between pans and scatter the tops with the remaining almonds.
  6. Bake loaves in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. You may need to cover the cakes with aluminium foil towards the end of baking if the tops are browning too quickly.
  7. Remove loaves from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tins. Then, turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
All packaged up and ready to go.

All packaged up and ready to go.