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Friday, March 25, 2016

Walnut Date Cake

This cake has so much going for it...the natural sweetness from the dates contributes nutrients, flavor, and an undeniable SOFT texture. It's so fragrant and the color is a deeply rich brown that promises intense satisfaction from your first glance. The nutty crunch of the walnuts pairs perfectly with the stickiness of the dates. The coffee may come as a surprise to you in the list of ingredients, but you won't taste it...what you will taste is strong flavors from the other ingredients, and  you can thank the coffee for that! The brown sugar adds a hint of molasses and density, and the white sugar contributes to the cake-y texture.

In short, this cake is perfection. Should I keep going or are you ready to just make it?

Serves 16

-17 ounces pitted pureed dates  (about 2 cups packed pitted whole dates, see ** at the below instructions to read how to make this cake with whole dates instead of pureed dates)
-1 1/2 cups hot coffee (either brew fresh coffee or mix instant coffee with hot water)
-1 tablespoon vanilla flavor
-1 teaspoon baking soda

-3 eggs
-1/2 cup white granulated sugar
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-1 tablespoon vanilla flavor
-1/3 cup melted coconut oil

-2 cups flour
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cardamom (use half this amount or omit completely if not a fan of cardamom)
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
-1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Optional garnish: powdered sugar, whole walnuts

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan or 13x9 inch pan.
-In a medium bowl, place the date paste and pour the hot coffee, vanilla and baking soda over the paste. Break up the date paste into chunks and come back and stir the mixture every minute or so. As the date paste sits in the hot coffee it will soften and eventually you will be able to stir the mixture until the date paste is smooth and the coffee has completely mixed into the dates.
-In a stand mixer or a large bowl, combine 3 eggs, white and brown sugars, and vanilla flavor then cream using an electric beater. I leave my mixer running while the date paste softens.
-In another medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, ground cardamom and ground nutmeg).
-Once the date paste has softened completely, add the MELTED coconut oil and the dissolved date mixture. Keep mixing until the batter is well combined. You will notice a color difference when it is well mixed because the egg/sugar batter is pale and the date/coffee mixture is very dark.
-Turn your mixer setting to the lowest speed and slowly add the dry ingredients. When it is almost completely blended (you can still see lumps of flour) add the chopped walnuts (plus optional chocolate chips) and continue mixing. Try NOT to over mix your batter so the cake doesn't dry out.
-Pour the batter into the greased bundt pan and bake for 45-55 minutes (mine takes exactly 50 minutes). I bake my cake on the 2nd lowest rack in the oven, between the lowest rack and the middle portion. Your cake is finished when  a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs attached.
-Cool your cake then flip on a serving platter and garnish with optional powdered sugar and whole walnuts. Store leftovers covered tightly at room temperature.

**If you are using whole dates instead of date paste simply pit the seeds of the dates and place in a food processor with the hot coffee, vanilla flavor and baking soda. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes to soften the dates then puree them to a fine paste consistency. Proceed with the recipe.

I'd love to connect with you! Stay updated on the latest posts through Facebook or follow savvy_chef on Instagram. Tag #savvychef with your re-creations!

Try these other great treats!
Classic Banana Bread (most viewed banana bread recipe!)

Chocolate Fig Truffles

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Maple Glazed Apple Cider Muffins (Vegan)

Sometimes the best recipes come from random things sitting in the fridge or pantry. Day after day I was opening my fridge and staring straight at an opened bottle of apple cider. The unfiltered kind from the bottled juice section at Trader Joe's, not the the sparkling variety. I don't like to give my family too much juice and had only bought this for a recent brunch. Finally I pulled it out determined to make something delicious out of it, and these muffins are the result. Just the right sweetness, so much warmth from the cinnamon, and a happy burst of maple glaze right on top!

These muffins are ridiculously easy and just SO. MOIST. They literally melt on your tongue. I credit that to the amount of juice used in the recipe. When you pour your batter into the cupcake cups you'll feel like its almost soup-y. Have no fear, that translates into softness! The brown sugar gives a lovely hint of molasses and of course contributes to the perfect texture in these gems. You'll notice there are no don't need them! This recipe is developed for maximum fluffy texture, and eggs are more useful when you're aiming for a dense treat. We make up for the loss of moisture with more liquid :) The vinegar helps the muffins rise but I promise you can't taste it, don't leave it out!

Yields 15 muffins

-2 1/4 cups flour
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon cloves
-1 1/2 cups apple cider at room temperature (can also use apple juice) *If not room temperature, microwave for 30 seconds or so. Do not let the liquid get hot*
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*Optional: 1/2 cup dried raisins or chopped walnuts/pecans

-1 tablespoon maple syrup (sub apple cider/juice if you do not have maple syrup)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar (you may need an extra tablespoon)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Line a cupcake pan with liners or spray cavities with a non-stick cooking spray. 
-In a large bowl combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix together and set aside.
-In a medium bowl combine the apple cider juice , vegetable oil, vinegar and vanilla.
-Add the wet (apple juice mixture) ingredients to the dry (flour mixture) ingredients and stir until well blended. Add optional raisins or chopped nuts.
-Fill the lined cupcake cavities 3/4 full and bake on a lower middle rack in oven for 18-22 minutes (mine were perfect at 20) or until a few moist crumbs stick to a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin.
-Remove the muffins from oven and allow to cool.
-While the muffins are baking, in a small bowl blend together the apple cider and powdered sugar mixture. I use a mini whisk to get a smooth texture. If the glaze is too runny, add a little bit more powdered sugar.
-When the muffins have cooled, dip the top of each muffin into the glaze and hold upside down while the extra glaze drips off back into the bowl. After I dip all the muffins, I like to re-dip each muffin again after the glaze has set a bit for a nice thick coating.  Allow glaze to harden and serve. Store extra muffins tightly covered at room temperature for 3-5 days.

I'd love to connect with you! Stay updated on the latest posts through Facebook or follow savvy_chef on Instagram. Tag #savvychef with your re-creations!

 Walnut Baklava

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Nutella Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast Bake

Lately I've played with various versions of baked french toast. The BEST french toast (I have to say right from the start that I'm not usually a fan) I've ever had is from The Griddle Cafe in Los Angeles. If you can make it there to get their 'peanut bubba' french toast, you should! This is my ode to that amazing "dessert-disguised-as-breakfast" dish. 

I've hosted a ton of brunches, and without a doubt my tip to success is advance preparation. You don't have the whole day to get a meal ready for breakfast...unless you start the day before. I try to make at least 2 entrees that are 90% ready to go the evening leading up to my gathering, and no matter how hectic things get in the early morning as I'm trying to finish on time, it helps to know I've got a couple things crossed off the list.  This french toast is also perfect for family mornings when you want to wake up, be lazy and still have a delicious homemade breakfast to eat. Let's be honest, this is more dessert than breakfast, but hey, who's complaining?

It took a couple tries to get the exact ratio of eggs/cream/milk for the batter, and now these measurements will give you soft, fluffy french toast with a crispy top. The graham crackers are a fun addition for flavor and texture. The first time I made this french toast it was a strictly peanut butter version (refer back to the first paragraph) and that's when I took the photos. It was amazing as is, but to please the weirdos in my family who don't approve of pb, I threw in the Nutella the next few times around and it was WOW. Complete pb and Nutella bliss. The cookie crumbles on top, freshly whipped cream, warm maple syrup...this is the breakfast that dreams are made of. 

Not a fan of peanut butter? This would taste sooo good if you swap out the pb for cookie butter! Leave it out and use only the Nutella (or vice versa) for other variations. Sliced bananas stuffed in with the filling would also be a nice touch. The possibilities are endless!

All prepped and ready to bake!

Makes 16 slices
-3 eggs
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-2/3 cup cane sugar
-1 cup milk
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-3 full sheets graham crackers, finely crushed
-1 loaf french bread, day old preferred
-1/2 cup peanut butter
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-1/3 cup heavy cream
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 cups Nutella

Optional toppings
-maple syrup
-fresh whipped cream
-sliced bananas

To make
-In a 13x9 baking dish,  crack your eggs and beat them with a fork or whisk. Add salt, vanilla, sugar, milk, cream and cinnamon and whisk the entire mixture. Set aside.
-Starting with a clean surface or cutting board, slice a loaf of thick french bread (or brioche) horizontally leaving the edge attached and lay open. Now your loaf will be split open like you are about to layer a sandwich.
-In a medium bowl whisk together peanut butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla until smooth. Spread the mixture on 1 side of the split loaf of bread.
-On the other length of the split loaf spread the Nutella mixture in a nice thick layer. Make sure your peanut butter mixture and your Nutella extends all the way to the edges of the bread. Gently close the loaf of bread. Now you have a layer of peanut butter and a layer of nutella over it between 2 layers of bread.
- Using a serrated bread knife, carefully cut 16 slices out of the peanut butter Nutella loaf.
-One slice at a time, dip each piece of french toast into the egg mixture. Make sure you dip them on both sides so the bread can soak properly. After you dip the slices layer them in two rows across the baking dish.
-Coarsely crush the graham crackers over the top of the french toast. Cover and refrigerate 6 - 12 hours (overnight).
-When you are ready to bake the french toast, uncover and place it in a preheated oven  at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes on the lower rack of your oven.
-Remove your french toast from the oven and give it a generous drizzle of maple syrup.
-Serve with fresh whipped cream, sliced bananas, and extra maple syrup on the side.
- Enjoy!

I'd love to connect with you! Stay updated on the latest posts through Facebook or follow savvy_chef on Instagram. Tag #savvychef with your re-creations!

Try these other brunch favorites!

Tisi'yeh/Fattet Hummus
Classic Banana Bread
Raspberry Oat Bars
Cheese and Parsley Pasta: Middle Eastern Mac n' Cheese