Category: Baked Goods

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

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Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

Hey guys. Remember how I like pretending that baking is easy? Well, I’ve done it again!

I actually wanted to make a gingerbread recipe last year. I even went out and bought a cute set of cookie cutters for the occasion as soon as they appeared in the stores. Let me just preface this by saying, this was at the very end of my pregnancy and pre-baby. Bahahaaa! How I thought that I would have time, energy, or sanity after giving birth to make cookies is beyond me, but I can at least laugh at my extraordinary naiveté.

So, fast-forward to the present moment: my mental wherewithal mostly in tact after the first 12 months of motherhood, and the desire to be involved in some kind of holiday tradition tugging at my heart strings. I was actually so excited to make gingerbread, once and for all, and blog about how easy it was.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will recall a certain Michelin-man-shaped gingerbread puddle that I posted last week. Yea. Like I said, I forgot that baking is not easy when you’re silly enough to invent recipes of which you have zero experience, under crushing time pressure. Okay, well, no big deal. Roll up my sleeves and start again, right? To rectify the poofing, I decided to eliminate the baking soda, baking powder and all liquid. Genius! Instead of a puffed up puddle, the cookies were rock hard and greasy.
Gingerbread: 2, Sarah B: 0.

At this point, in a frustrated frenzy, my husband chimed in for the pep talk. “Hun, you know that this happens every time you bake. It’s science! And you’re bad at science (I’m paraphrasing). Just give it one more try and I bet you’ll nail it, because in the end you always do” (he forgot about the carrot cake debacle, bless his heart). So this morning began in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, and ready to face this worthy opponent with a veritable village of gingerbread casualties in my wake.
Except this time, I won.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Molasses
Isn’t it ironic that the waste product of manufacturing white sugar, is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic syrup? I’m talking about molasses. That gooey, rich, unmistakably black-brown nectar with a rather divisive flavour.

There are a few varieties of molasses, but to understand how they vary, let’s first look at how molasses is made.

Molasses is created from either sugarcane or sugar beets (but because the molasses made from beets can be quite bitter, sugarcane molasses is the most common variety available for human consumption). These plants are harvested, and then cut, crushed, and mashed so that the juice is extracted. “Fancy Molasses” is the first product to be made, but is in fact the only type of molasses that is not a by-product of sugar processing, but instead a direct product from sugar cane. This type is super sweet and is most commonly enjoyed as the syrup straight on pancakes or waffles, and as an ingredient in baked goods.

Varieties of Molasses
The real deal molasses comes from boiling the juice of sugar cane down to crystallize the sugars, producing a concentrate, the first of which is called First Molasses, First Strike Molasses, Barbados Molasses, Light Molasses, Mild Molasses, or Sweet Molasses. This comes from the first boiling of the sugar. It is light in colour and mild in flavour. Some people also enjoy this type directly on their food, like fancy molasses. It is about 65% sucrose.

Next up is Second Molasses, Second Strike Molasses, Dark Molasses, or Full Molasses. As you may have guessed, this is made from the second boiling of the extracted cane juice, a process that extracts even more sugar, producing a darker, thicker syrup typically used as a cooking ingredient in sauces, marinades and baked beans. It is about 60% sucrose.

Blackstrap molasses is likely the one all you health foodies out there know and love. This type of molasses is made by boiling the cane syrup a third time, which extracts even more sugar and concentrates the flavour. By this point, the sucrose content is so low (about 55%) that the syrup no longer tastes sweet, but slightly bitter. The colour is nearly black, and the consistency is very thick and viscous. Blackstrap molasses is used in baking, sauces, stews and even as a food supplement due to its high nutrient content.

Nutritious and Delicious
Blackstrap molasses is highly concentrated in essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, and zinc. As I mentioned above, this type of molasses is sometimes used as a dietary supplement or tonic. One tablespoon stirred into warm water is a food-based way to boost mineral levels, especially iron, as this small amount contains a whopping 20% of your RDI. You can also enjoy it in foods such as smoothies, tea, warm cereal, or dressings, sauces and stews. Remember to eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C to enhance its absorption. I like to use a little lemon juice.

Blackstrap molasses is one of the few sweeteners that is low on the glycemic scale with an index classification of 55. This means that it metabolizes slowly in a controlled way, demands less insulin production and won’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels. All in all, blackstrap molasses is a fantastic, healthy sweetener to which I enthusiastically give a thumbs up!

Buying and Storing
When purchasing molasses, read the label to ensure that what you are buying is 100% pure molasses (some companies will cut blackstrap molasses with corn syrup to make it sweeter) and that it is “unsulfured”. Sulfur dioxide can be added to all grades of molasses to help preserve it, as it prevents the growth of bacteria and mould. From a health perspective, sulfur can cause reactions in sensitive people (you can read more about that here). Sulfur dioxide also has a very bitter flavour, and can drastically alter the flavour of the dish you are making. Look for organic molasses whenever possible too.

Store unopened molasses in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Opened containers must be stored in the fridge and will last for up to six months.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

So this gingerbread, this is really it. It’s deeply spiced, perfectly balanced in sweet and salt, and super addictive. I love the special flavour and richness that molasses brings to the cookies as well. It’s a must-have component of this recipe for sure, and should not be substituted with other sweeteners due to its properties in the baking itself. The cookies are totally vegan (!!!), made with whole spelt flour and natural sweeteners. But the coolest part of this recipe? If you like a chewy cookies, bake them for 7 minutes, and if you like a crispier version, bake it for 10. Science! I tried two versions with this batch of cookies, and although I prefer the chewy ones, my husband really likes the crunch of the longer-baked variety.

I am really, really proud of my gingerbread, especially after persevering through three rounds of total uncertainty and insanity. Although the first two recipes, according to some were “just fine”, I couldn’t post a recipe here on My New Roots that is just fine. Never! I want everything I put out into the world to be my best, and this, I am so pleased to say, (finally) qualifies. Whew.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots
As I was very anxiously waiting for this last trial to bake, I whipped up a Cashew-Cacao Butter Icing to decorate the little guys with (I got it on the first try too!). As I was making it however, I used honey to sweeten it, and then promptly delivered myself a swift forehead slap realizing that the rest of the cookie recipe was vegan! Argh. So, if you don’t want to use honey to sweeten this icing, I am confident that maple syrup or coconut nectar would work in its place. I haven’t tried making this recipe in a regular blender, only a Vitamix, so I know that the icing consistency may be a little grainy if you don’t use a high-powered machine.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

For those of you living in Copenhagen, I’ve only found one shop that carries molasses and it’s the Super Brugsen on Nørrebrogade. I know at least one of you is going to ask!

And finally, I want to say a HUGE Happy Holidays to everyone out there. I hope that your days are filled with wonder and delight, family and friends, and above all, delicious food. I can’t help myself – it’s what I live for!

All love and sparkling winter holidays,
Sarah B.

Show me your gingerbread on Instagram: #MNRgingerbread

Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb

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pumpkinbread
 
There are so many unexpected things I’ve gotten from blogging. Big and small things. A cookbook. A reason to use designer muffin cups. A community. A career. New friends. Offers to try a new line of microalgae.

But my favourite things however, are those that involve super passionate people wanting to share their awesome, healthy, and often geeky fervor with me. I’m all in! Recently, I received an email from Oliver Maxwell, the founder of Bybi (translation: City Bee), which is an urban beekeeping collective here in Copenhagen. As a blog reader, Oliver was keenly aware of just how much I love bees and the things that they make, so he was kind enough to invite me out to his operation to see how this incredible grassroots company works. And meet the bees, of course.

After a full tour, thorough honey tasting and hive visit, Oliver offered me what I can only describe as the holy grail of all bee things: honeycomb. And not just a chunk of the stuff, but an entire hive frame of it! Um, okay, really? I almost kissed him. But my husband was there too and that would have been awkward.

I carried the frame of honeycomb home cradling it like a baby. I could see the paper bag that Oliver had put it into beginning to darken in spots where the honey was oozing and pooling. My heart raced. These are the things I live for.

Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb // My New Roots
 
Bursting with excitement and trepidation as to how I would put this delicacy to due use, I scurried home, took the honeycomb out of the bag and stared at it, praying it would reveal a grand plan for itself. But nothing came. Nothing. And all I wanted to do was dive face first into the thing, devouring it all in an animal-like frenzy just because I could, but instead I gently put it down and walked away.

A few weeks went by. Still nothing. And I remembered asking Oliver before I left how long the honeycomb would keep. He looked at me quite seriously and replied “not forever”. What does that even mean?! I could hear his words echoing in my head like a cautionary character in a horror film. The pressure continued to build to an almost crushing weight. I had to do something.

And then, as if by magic, Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest book, Plenty More, arrived on my doorstep, a gift from my publisher. Gleefully absorbed in the rapturous inspiration of pure genius, all thoughts of my self-imposed assignment drifted away. Until I hit page 319. There it was, like a beacon in the blackest of nights, the recipe title: Grilled Banana Bread with Tahini and Honeycomb. HONEYCOMB. I was saved.

Thoughts turned to alternative loaves (I couldn’t flat-out copy Ottolenghi!) and pumpkin was the seasonal flavour I excitedly committed to. I took my classic banana bread recipe, tweaked it ever-so-slightly and came up with what you have in front of you today. The loaf itself is moist, flavourful, and so very pumpkin-y, punctuated with warming spices, crunchy walnuts and dark chocolate. It is not overly sweet like so many other recipes and commercial versions of pumpkin bread I’ve tried, and I did this on purpose: if you do serve it with honeycomb, it’s important to have a little contrast, you know? The pumpkin loaf recipe is vegan, but of course the honeycomb is not. If you are vegan, or honey just isn’t your thing, the bread is delicious with date syrup, jam, or apple butter. You can grill it (highly recommended) or choose to eat it fresh – both are fantastic! But when using honeycomb, it’s a treat to have the wax melt just a little bit on the warm bread, and the honey sink into the cozy nooks and crannies of the loaf. Guh. Then you sprinkle the whole thing with flaky sea salt and devour. It’s a serious, loss-for-words kind of situation (which is convenient because your mouth will be very, very full).

Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb // My New Roots

 
Bee Mine, Sweet Honeycomb
Honey is made by female honeybees that collect nectar from flowers, mix it with enzymes and regurgitate it (yum!) into honeycomb cells. Once the water content of this concoction reduces to less than 20% (the bees beat their wings in the hive to help evaporation, wowzers!) it is considered honey. The bees then put a seal on each cell and it is stored for times when they need food, like the winter. Kept this way, honey, will in essence, last forever – this is why it is considered the only food on planet earth that never spoils.

Honeycomb is altogether miraculous. To behold its sheer geometrical perfection is like a religious experience, and to see evidence of the deep, clear intelligence that built such a structure is humbling. It is altogether delicate and strong, housing the clear, liquid gold inside each of its cells so perfectly. Made of natural wax that the female bees excrete, it is built into the ingenious, space-saving, hexagonal cells that contain their larvae, store pollen and honey. The wax itself is totally edible, but some folks like to chew it up and spit it out after they’ve gotten all the honey out of it. The flavour of the wax depends greatly on the flowers the bees were collecting nectar from, but for the most part it is mildly sweet and mellow-tasting.

Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb // My New Roots
 
The wonderful thing about purchasing honeycomb is that you know the honey is raw, unpasteurized, unclarified, unfiltered, and real. Nothing has been done to it. It is loaded with all the things that make honey good for us, like enzymes, propolis, and all of its antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It may surprise you to learn that most of the commercial honey available in the grocery store has been pasteurized and ultra-filtered, rendering it rather ineffectual. It is also important to check the label on your honey, as some brands cut their product with less expensive high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners. Like with so many foods these days, purchasing locally from a reliable source is the only way to ensure a clean and totally natural product.

Look for honeycomb at farmers markets and natural food stores. Late summer and autumn are usually when farmers harvest their honey so it will be freshest at this time of year. If you purchase fresh honeycomb in plastic, transfer it to a sealable glass container when you get home. Store in a dark place at room temperature.

Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb // My New Roots
 


Grilled Pumpkin Bread with Honeycomb // My New Roots


 

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Hey friends! Check out the article I wrote about Copenhagen’s greenest hot spots on Melting Butter and Forbes.

There are also some albums from the Amsterdam events up on my Facebook page. Thank you again to everyone who came out!

The Life Changing Crackers

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The Life Changing Crackers

The funny thing about writing a blog, is that I never know how popular my recipes will be. Often, I think I have a real zinger and no one really seems to appreciate it on the same level as I do. Then I post something rather simple and everyone goes nuts about it. Curious.

You can imagine then, that when I posted The Life Changing Loaf of Bread, how incredibly shocked I was at the response. Although I was pretty confident that I had a winning recipe, I never expected the explosive reaction that it got. After checking up on it today, the post has over 1,200 comments. WHAT?! That is insane. And thank you. I’m so glad it changed your life too.

In the spirit of recipes that shake up our routine, I thought I would introduce you to the very same one all over again. That’s right. The same recipe with a new method to make the most life-changing crackers you have ever tasted.

The Life Changing Crackers

The story goes like this: it was the night before a long trip, and I knew that I needed to make some food to take with me on the journey. I didn’t have a lot on hand, nor did I have a lot of time. Searching through the cupboards I realized I had almost everything to make The Life Changing Loaf of Bread, but because I was traveling with it, I wanted it to be a little more transportation-friendly (nothing like biting into an entire loaf of bread on an airplane to make you look like a total kook). A light bulb moment: what if I made the dough and just flattened it out like a cracker? It was just crazy enough to work! Crispy, crunchy, flaky, seedy, and so tasty, this crispbread that is my new go-to for every meal of the day, and snacking in between.

The wonderful thing about the Life Changing Cracker recipe is that you can customize the flavours by adding different gourmet ingredients. You can take them to sweet or savoury town. You can throw in some superfoods if you like, or just stick to the plain, yet delicious base recipe. I love dividing up the dough and creating multiple kinds of crackers all in the same batch. I made two different versions last time: Rosemary, Garlic & Smoked Sea Salt, and Fig, Anise & Black Pepper. Both were totally delicious and worked well with dips, spreads, and cheese. I also really enjoyed them on their own, totally unadorned. Because I loved these combos so much, I’ll give you the recipes for them below – just remember that they are for half a batch of dough respectively.

The Life Changing Crackers can be made into any shape you like too, so get creative. Use cookie cutters, biscuit cutters, pasta or pastry cutters if you have them. A simple knife works too. And if you like things rustic bake the whole tray until crisp, then break them up in free form pieces before storing them.

The Life Changing Crackers

And to remind you of why this recipe is so awesome and life changing, I repeat: The Life-Changing Crackers are made with whole grain oats (choose gluten-free if necessary), and seeds. They are high in protein and high in fiber. They are completely vegan. Everything gets soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion. They are easy to make, require no special equipment and are pretty darn hard to mess up. Even if you have never made the Life Changing Loaf of Bread before, you’ll be a pro at making these crackers.   

The Life Changing Crackers

 

Show me your crackers on Instagram: #lifechangingcrackers