Category: Cake

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies

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Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies // My New Roots

My friend Adam is a serious health-foodie. He teaches sprouting workshops, is part of a vegetarian soup club, and appreciates a good sourdough as much as I do. He’s also quite fearless in the kitchen, combining tastes and textures I would never dream of, most often successfully. There was that one time however he put peppermint oil in a batch of his granola, and it tasted like breakfast and toothpaste all at the same time. I admire his gumption, but he will never live that one down.

One day while I was over at his place, I was really craving a cookie. He lives near a very high-vibe bakery so I was nearly out the door when he said, “wait! I have something you should try”. He proceeded to tell me that his experimental cookies were flour-free, grain-free in fact, and contained only six ingredients. I was scared – this sounded like a treat from wrong town. But when I took my first skeptical nibble, I was shocked. This cookie was everything I had ever wanted: rich, moist, not-too-sweet and deeply satisfying. Then he told me that it was just almond butter, eggs, maple syrup, chocolate, baking soda and sea salt. Um, what?! No flour? How was this even possible? Inexplicable, culinary wizardry at its best, that’s for darn sure, and an experiment gone absolutely right.

After googling almond butter cookies, I discovered that this kind of recipe had been floating around the interwebs unbeknownst to me. Anyway, I got Adam to make them for me again this past summer at his cottage, posted them on Instagram, and many of you asked for the recipe. I tinkered with them a lot to make sure they were just right, changing up the nut butters, using different sweeteners, various add-ins etc. (it’s a tough job, I tell ya). Then it dawned on me: what if I put the dough into a pan and made blondies?! For the win.

Now I don’t know about you, but I take my indulgences seriously. When I crave something sweet, I definitely don’t mess around with mousses, flaky pastries or light-n’-airy items. Heck no. I want to sink my teeth into something substantial, for it to announce its presence to my stomach with a fulfilling thud, and feel like I actually ate something. These blondies are just that. Aside from their incredibly rich, satisfying flavour, the texture of them is ultra chewy and have that dense brownie quality I love so much. It still baffles me that there isn’t any flour in the recipe, since it just feels like there is, from a “this-must-be-really-bad-for-me perspective. Like I said, there is some serious alchemical conjuring taking place, proving that the universe loves us, so don’t ask any questions.

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Being choosey about your Chocolate
Yes, yes, we’re talking about blondies here, but don’t all blondies have chocolate in them? I’m no expert, but I do believe this is a necessary addition. How do we go about choosing our chocolate though? Is there really a difference between cocoa mass percentages? Does organic really matter? Does milk chocolate count? Here are my top four tips for making sure your chocolate isn’t total junk food.

4 Tips for Choosing the Healthiest Chocolate

Choose dark chocolate varieties. The darker the bar, the higher the cocoa mass percentage will be. When a bar says it is 70% cocoa that means it has a relatively high concentration of health-promoting compounds, like polyphenols and antioxidants. It also means that there is less room for schwaggy stuff like refined sugar, processed oils, and flavourings. Always choose a bar with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids for maximum benefits. If the chocolate bar does not list a cocoa percentage, don’t buy it.

Read the ingredients. High quality chocolate should only contain three to four ingredients: chocolate, cocoa butter/ cocoa mass, and/or cocoa liquor, plus sugar. If the bar contains any oil, milk or milk products, soya lecithin, emulsifiers, ‘natural flavour’, or preservatives don’t buy it.

Buy Organic whenever possible. Cacao plants are some of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. As pesticide residues can end up in the final product, choose chocolate that has been made from organically grown beans.

Learn about the process. Although it will require a little reconnaissance work, finding out how your chocolate was manufactured is important in determining how healthy it is. Drying cacao beans in the sun instead of roasting them preserves many of the chocolate’s delicate nutrients. Make sure that their processing temperature is not over 110°F. Avoid chocolate whose processing includes “Dutching”, an alkalization method that actually removes the polyphenols, as they lend characteristic bitter flavour to the finished product.

I also encourage you to purchase Fair Trade Certified chocolate whenever possible, as it makes a huge difference to the lives of cacao farmers and their families. Fair Trade is an international certification that ensures that farmers are guaranteed a minimum price for their product, decent working conditions, and that the processes they use protect the natural environment.

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The blondies are not overly sweet, which I appreciate. If you like your desserts on the more saccharine side, I believe that swapping out ¼ cup of coconut sugar and replacing it with maple syrup would work very well. This would also help keep the blondies moist on the second and third day (although they won’t last that long. Trust.). You could also choose a chocolate with a lower cocoa mass, such as 70%, but don’t go lower than that, as the sugar in it will outweigh the health benefits of the chocolate itself. I chose a bar at 85%, which tends to be a little bitter, but I find it pairs well in this dessert.

As far as nut butter goes, anything goes.  I used a homemade almond and hazelnut butter blend in these, which was unreasonably delicious (for a blended nut butter recipe, check out my post here). Because my nut butter was a deep caramel brown, my blondies turned out more like brunettes (tee hee), so the colour of your finished product depends on the nut butter you use. I tried a homemade sunflower butter in my experiments and it worked really well. I would also like to try tahini and pumpkin seed butter, although I know the colour in that case may be a little weird! I have a feeling cashew butter would taste out of this world, and pecan or walnut as well. And I definitely recommend roasted nut butter over raw for depth of flavour, and because you’ll be baking these anyway.

I will say that I really tried making these darn things vegan, but guys, it just didn’t work! Eggs in this case are crucial because they not only bind the ingredients, but they give the blondies air and volume. Using chia and flax works to bind, but you’ll end up with a tasty puddle. If that’s okay with you, go for it! I obviously ate all of my experiments, and quite happily indulged in many yummy, almond butter “pancakes”. I did not try vegan egg replacers though, and that may work better. If you have success in this arena, let me know.

And can we take a minute to talk about my favourite part of all? The corner pieces. If you actually own one of those funky all-corners brownie pans, you get where I’m coming from friend, and this is the time to use it. The edges are extra dense and chewy, slightly crisp and oooohhhhh my goodness I can’t even write about this anymore. On to the recipe.

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Seeing as it’s February and we’ve been so very behaved since the first of January (right…?) I thought it was time to pull out the big guns and celebrate with these ladies. I hope you drop everything you are doing right now and go make them. It’s true, blondies have more fun!

xo, Sarah B

Show me your Blondies on Instagram: #MNRblondies

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!

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars

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Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots
 
I am writing this on the very first day of autumn. Copenhagen has welcomed this season with classically crisp air and blindingly bright sun. People are stretched out along the banks of the harbour in the afternoon light, soaking in what will be the last blows of summer’s fight. Ugh. Can you feel it?

Last week my family and I were out at our garden. On the cycle back home we stopped by the blackberry bramble that has overtaken a major section of the vacant land nearby. It towers over me, and extends along the bike path for half a block or more, an impenetrable wall of thorns and fruit. Happily there were a few berries left, just enough to pick for a dessert and a handful to snack on with my boys. Languishing in the last morsels of hot sun we felt the seasons shifting ever-so-slightly and celebrated with the ripest and blackest of berries, like summer captured in edible jewels.

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots
 
But I got the berries home and suddenly I felt a lot of pressure. Kind of like when you impulse-buy those crazy-looking mushrooms at the farmer’s market and worry that whatever you’re going to be making isn’t “special enough” so you let them sit in your fridge too long until they go bad. Forehead slap. That was not going to happen to my berries. No way. Here was my thought process:
Sarah B, relax.
You like blackberries.
You like crumble.
You make too many crumbles.
You don’t make too many bars.
Crumble bars.
What’s a crumble bar?
Stop asking questions. Let’s do this.

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots
 
I proceeded in the best way I knew how, by browsing the internet for ideas. It turns out crumble bars do exist, but I couldn’t find any versions that were all that virtuous. Subbing this for that while keeping things as simple as possible, I came up with an edition that is made with whole foods, totally vegan, and easily made gluten-free. The crust is light and flaky, the filling is rich and bursting with juicy flavours and the crumble topping is crunchy and satisfying. Although I use hazelnuts in mine, you could substitute those with almonds – just leave a few of them really big because biting into a large toasted nut is delicious, especially combined with the oozy and sweet fruit center. Heavenly.
Next year I am definitely going to try these bars with black currants in the early summer months, and maybe raspberries later on.

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots
 
Freezing and Cooking: How do they affect nutrients?

Pssst. I have a secret. Sometimes in the off-season, I do something totally crazy. I buy frozen berries.

What is a nutritionist such as myself doing purchasing and even recommending frozen foods to people? For one, I live in Denmark where the availability of fresh food is pretty sad in the winter, obviously. And second I’m a person that does things like everyone else, such as relying on conveniences when need be. I’m okay with that.

But what kind of affect does freezing have on foods, say blackberries for instance? You’d be surprised, and likely thrilled to learn, that freezing does not completely spoil the vitamins and minerals in food. In fact, you’re looking at a mere 10-15% nutrient loss across the board. Vitamin C is the one vitamin that is most likely to dissipate, as once the fruit or veggie has been plucked from its source, vitamin C levels start to decline almost immediately. Luckily, vitamin C is the single more common and easily obtained vitamin in nature, and you can make up for that loss somewhere else in your day.

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots
 
And what about cooking? This is a little more complicated, as it varies according to the specific nutrient in question and the type of cooking method. Fat soluble vitamins (D, E, K) are not destroyed by heat alone, and vitamin A is relatively stable. The B-vitamins are also heat stable, except for panthotenic acid (B5). Folate breaks down at very high temperatures. Vitamin C is the nutrient that takes the biggest hit by far, as it is one of the most delicate vitamins in nature. It is not only destroyed by heat, but also exposure to air and light. It is also water-soluble, meaning that steaming something containing vitamin C will be surely destroy it.

As a general rule, minerals are very heat stable, especially when using cooking methods that do not employ water, like roasting or baking – there is almost no loss whatsoever.

If you are steaming, boiling, braising, or blanching foods, both vitamins and minerals will leach out into the water. To preserve these precious nutrients, save the broth to drink, or freeze it for later use in a soup or stew. I use it to puree my baby’s food. He’ll never know his millet porridge was cooked with broccoli water!

Since this blog is read the world over, there will of course be a few of you out there who can’t get themselves to a blackberry bramble, simply because it isn’t the right season. No worries. Find a grocer with organic frozen blackberries and go to town. You should not wait to make these. Seriously.

Blackberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars | My New Roots