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Archive for the ‘Nut Desserts’ Category

SOUTHERN PECAN PIE FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 9, 2015

Pecan Pie copyDOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Pecans are native to the American South, and you can bet those creative Southerners put them on the menu every chance they could find. Those delicious little pecans even made the South famous for its pecan pie, an irresistible dessert that makes ex-pat Southerns very homesick.

Many Southern families have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even some handed down from grandma’s or great-grandma’s secret recipe. Years ago, family recipes were so cherished many were kept secret.

I have great respect for those delicious heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holidays. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. But I must admit that veganizing the recipe was one heck of a challenge.

My first 8 attempts–yes, it actually took 9 tries to get it right–came out too runny or totally soupy. It was maddening and totally frustrating, but I was one determined gal. The goal was to find a way to thicken and bind the ingredients, as eggs would do in the traditional recipe. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly, and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no! As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.

Taking the place of the eggs is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture. The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal. The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

There are many ways to arrange the pecans on the top. Some people simply sprinkle broken pieces over the filling, but I wanted a pecan pie that was pretty darned eye appealing. If you have the time, start by sorting out beautiful pecan halves of similar sizes for the topping. Then arrange them side-by-side in concentric rings beginning in the center of the pie.

At serving time, make way for those pecan lovers who scramble for a piece of pie!

Down Home Pecan Pie

DOWN-HOME PECAN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons cold water

Pecan Filling
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup regular soymilk
1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

5 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 1/4 cups pecan halves

1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.

2. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.

3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.

4. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.

5. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.

6. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.

7. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.

8. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

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Posted in Desserts, Holiday Recipes, Nut Desserts, pecans, The Nut Gourmet, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 30, 2014

I’ve only encountered polenta in a savory form, usually served as a side dish. But I often wondered if it would be possible to turn it into a delicious, gluten-free dessert. When a friend invited me for dinner and asked me to bring dessert, she created the perfect opportunity for an experiment.

The texture of polenta was a concern. If polenta is not fully cooked, it can have a rather grainy texture, which would be horrible in a dessert. I also wondered if I could make the dessert sugar-free, since recent studies have revealed health concerns about sugar.

I decided to make a dessert polenta with dried fruits and prepared a simple date paste as the sweetener. As with most kitchen experiments exploring new territory, success often comes after several trials, eliminating this or adding that, or even changing the cooking method or varying the temperature.

Occasionally, magic happens and that first go-around works as if there were a tiny kitchen elf holding my hand and guiding me every step along the process. Amazing! And it looked pretty darned appealing, too!

It was a delicious surprise that also looked enticing enough to bring to a dinner party. When my friend asked what to call this dessert, I hesitated only a moment–and out popped the amusing name. Because of the bounty of fruits, small servings make this dessert go a long way. I actually squeezed 16 servings out of this dessert, but, really, 10 to 12 servings would be more realistic.

Polenta Porcupine copy

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Fruit Mix

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup black raisins

1/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots

1/4 cup pine nuts

 

Date Paste

2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half and lightly packed

1/2 cup water

 

Polenta

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal

1/2 cup whole almonds

  1. Line a large, shallow mold, about 9 to 11 inches in diameter, or a 2-quart ring mold with plastic wrap large enough to drape over the sides. Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE THE FRUIT MIX, combine the carrots, golden and black raisins, apricots, and pine nuts in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE DATE PASTE, put the dates in a food processor. With the machine running, add the water and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Measure 1 cup of the date paste and set it aside for the recipe. Save the remainder for another use.
  4. TO MAKE THE POLENTA, put the water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the cornmeal and return the mixture to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the reserved date paste and mix well with a wooden spoon to incorporate it thoroughly. The mixture will become very thick.
  7. Add the fruit mixture a little at a time, stirring continuously, until well mixed.
  8. Working quickly, spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and spread it to the edges. Let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  9. Before serving, invert the polenta pie onto a large platter and remove the plastic wrap. Poke the tips of the almonds into the top surface, gently pressing them in just enough to secure them.

Note:

Commercially packaged pitted dates, may contain one or two date pits that have evaded the pitting machinery. To avoid damaging the food processor blade, I use a kitchen scissors to snip the dates in half before adding them to the processor. The date paste makes about 1 1/3 cups.

Posted in almonds, Desserts, Nut Desserts, pine nuts, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Peanut Butter & Banana Creamy Dreamy “Ice Cream”

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 2, 2012

I know I’m not alone when I find myself staring into the fruit bowl with the ripening half-bunch of bananas full of dark spots. Unless you’re the rare individual who consumes the entire bunch of bananas before they reach that point, you, too, have probably had many moments of staring at speckled bananas and thinking “Darn! Right now I don’t have the time to bake up a batch of muffins.”

My favorite remedy is to carpe diem and peel those softies. I then cut them into 1-inch long chunks, put them on a metal pie pan, and tuck them into the freezer. The banana chunks can go to sleep in the freezer for ages until you’re ready to put them to work.

If you’re still enjoying some pretty darned hot weather like I am in Los Angeles, you can whip up a delicious dessert that takes no advance prep. Gather up those bananas, some dates, peanut butter, lime juice, and vanilla extract and toss them into the food processor.

You’ll have to fiddle with the processor a bit, stopping, redistributing, and starting again several times, but the end result is pure nirvana for us peanut butter nuts.

CREAMY DREAMY PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA “ICE CREAM”

Yield: 4 servings

4 frozen bananas, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 heaping tablespoons crunchy or creamy peanut butter
10 to 15 pitted dates
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepared vegan chocolate syrup (optional)

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the chocolate syrup, in a food processor. Pulse and process several times. Because it takes time to break down the frozen bananas, you’ll need to stop the machine several times and use a firm spatula to redistribute the ingredients.

2. Be persistent and within a few minutes, you’ll be able to process the mixture into a thick and creamy, ice-cream-like dessert that will feel refreshingly cold as it glides down your throat.

3. Spoon the mixture into 4 dessert dishes and top with the chocolate syrup, if desired.

Posted in Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, peanuts, Uncategorized, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

GREEN AND TOTALLY PICKLED!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 27, 2011

You’ve heard the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s a truly creative approach to a less than ideal circumstance and turns a disappointment into a positive result.

That same inventive philosophy can be applied to nuts grown in regions where they cannot mature properly. Faced with a disappointing crop of walnuts, the English became wildly imaginative. They simply took their unripe walnuts and pickled them!

Check out this link to a unique and very delicious way to enjoy walnuts:

http://gabrielhemery.com/2011/06/13/pickled-walnuts/

Posted in Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

TRAVEL THE GLOBE AND TAKE YOUR NUTTY COMPANIONS WITH YOU

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 14, 2011

TROPICAL NUT CHEWS
Travel season has arrived! Have you packed your nutty nibbles to tide you over until you reach your destination? Whether it’s a road trip, a cruise, or a flight to some exotic destination, it’s great to have some tasty travel companions–nutty companions, that is. Delicious, nutty and fruity companions make those nibbles even better.

I never travel without packing nutty little treats in my purse, my suitcase, and my carry-on. They sustain me when food is a long way off, and all I need is just a few bites to quell the hunger pangs or feel the need for a little pick-me-up.

This unique recipe is one you can prepare months or weeks in advance, pop into plastic zipper-lock baggies, and off you go. These yummy Tropical Nut Chews can travel unrefrigerated, even in extremely dry or very moist climates.

A delicious sweet treat that spotlights fruits and nuts, this tropical confection can be baked in the oven or dried in the dehydrator. Baking permits a bit more spontaneity, while dehydrating requires planning ahead for the approximately 24 hours it takes to finish in the dehydrator. Either method will bring you a delightful, chewy cookie/confection with the irresistible fruity flavors of the islands. The unique feature of the nutty treats is their ability to travel well without refrigeration for up to two months. You can take them camping, backpacking, and even globe trotting.

TROPICAL NUT CHEWS

Yield: approximately 50 three-inch squares

8 to 10 ounces unsweetened dried pineapple, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces dried unsweetened mango, cut into 1-inch pieces or Turkish apricots, chopped
Boiling water

4 cups dried, unsweetened grated coconut
2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cup roasted unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

8 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, cut in half
1/3 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1. Line 3 jellyroll pans with parchment paper or 3 dehydrator trays with Teflex sheets and set them aside.
2. Place the pineapple and mango pieces into a large bowl. Cover the fruit with boiling water and set aside to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Combine the coconut, peanuts, cashews, and cinnamon in an extra large bowl and set aside.
4. Place half the soaked pineapple and mango pieces into the food processor, along with half the bananas, half the dates, and half the ginger. Process until smooth and creamy and transfer to the bowl with the nuts.
5. Process the remaining bananas, dates, ginger, and soaked pineapple and mango until almost completely pureed. Avoid over-processing. The small bits of pineapple, mango, dates, and ginger add pleasing texture and tangy flavor. Transfer the mixture to bowl and mix well to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
6. TO BAKE THE TROPICAL NUT CHEWS, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Spoon the fruit mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pans and press with the back of a spoon to spread the mixture, forming large rectangles that cover 3/4ths of each baking pan. Use a flatware knife to score the fruit mixture into 2- or 3-inch squares.
7. Bake for 3 hours, then, turn the chews by inverting the slabs onto another piece of parchment. Bake for another 1 1/2 hours, or until well dried. Cool completely and break into pieces. Tropical Fruit Chews can be stored in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and kept at room temperature for up to two months. For longer storage, refrigerate them for up to 6 months.
8. TO DEHYDRATE THE TROPICAL NUT CHEWS, spread the fruit mixture onto 3 Teflex-lined dehydrator trays, score into 2-or 3-inch pieces with a flatware knife, and dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 12 hours. Invert the slabs onto the open dehydrator trays and dehydrate about 8 to 10 hours longer, or until thoroughly dried. Stored in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags, the chews will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months.

NOTE: If you prefer to use fresh coconut in place of the dried, purchase a mature coconut that is free of cracks and feels heavy with water. To crack it open, hold the coconut in the palm of your hand with the eyes facing either side. Hold the coconut over the kitchen sink and use the blunt end of a heavy-duty cleaver or chef’s knife to pound all around the perimeter of an imaginary line that goes through the center, between the eyes and the stem end. Turn the coconut as you pound. As soon as the coconut begins to crack, discard the coconut water into the sink. Use a small, firm paring knife to separate the coconut meat from the shell. Place the coconut meat into the food processor, in batches, and pulse chop it into a coarse meal or coarsely shred the pieces by hand. You will have about 4 to 5 cups of freshly grated coconut meat.

Posted in cashews, coconut, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, peanuts, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

HAZELNUTS–I PROMISE TO LOVE, HONOR, AND DEVOUR THEE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 3, 2010

Compared to the frequency almonds and walnuts appear in recipes, hazelnuts seem to be the shy guys in the crowd and need a few dedicated bloggers to speak up for them. Oh—that’s me! You can bet hazelnuts don’t get the cold shoulder in my kitchen and to prove it, here’s a recipe for one of my favorite little confections. It’s one of the recipes in The Nut Gourmet, my cookbook that spotlights nuts in every recipe and tells you how to purchase, store, and crack nuts, too.

I’m sad that I don’t have a photo to show these off, but picture little 1-inch balls coated in finely ground hazelnuts. Peeking out from under the nutty coating is the delicate orange color of the apricots. It’s the definitive tangy-sweet flavor, though, that makes the taste buds stir with pleasure and crave another morsel.

Well endowed with the tangy flavor of dried apricots, these delicacies practically melt in the mouth. You can make them well in advance of serving and store them in the refrigerator.

APRICOT AND HAZELNUT MORSELS

Yield: about 50 confections

2 cups pitted dates
1 1/4 cups dried apricots
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely ground
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely ground

1. Combine the dates, apricots, coarsely ground hazelnuts, and water in the food processor and process until finely ground. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl and redistribute the ingredients.
2. Put the finely ground hazelnuts into a small, deep bowl. Roll the apricot mixture by hand into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the finely ground hazelnuts until completely coated.
3. Arrange on an attractive serving platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Stored in the refrigerator, Apricot and Hazelnut Morsels will keep well for about one week. (They can be stored a little longer, but they will begin to lose their freshness.)

Note: For an appealing presentation and ease of serving, place a waxed doily on the serving platter before arranging the morsels.

Posted in hazelnuts, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

WHO’S GOT THE BEST BALLS?

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 10, 2010

Chef AJ held her 4th Ball-Off Contest on the evening of May 1, 2010, engaging her cooking class students in a wild and raucous competition to see who would win the two top prizes for having the best balls (confections). It was the destiny of six fortunate and discriminating judges to taste 19 amazing entries and arrive at a consensus to choose only the top two winners who would wear the royal crown until the next Ball-Off.

The challenge the students were given involved creating a confection approximately 1-inch in diameter that included only natural, healthful ingredients. The only restrictions were the balls could not contain any animal products, refined, processed ingredients, oils, or refined sugar.

Judges devour balls
I was among the lucky six on the judging panel, whose task it was to award the two top prizes. Judging was based on three factors: creativity, taste, and appearance. It probably sounds like a snap, but can you imagine cramming in 19 confections in approximately one hour and retaining one’s sanity? Assessing that many balls for extraordinary qualities is a challenge for anyone, even the judges who each have discerning palates and years of experience in the food arena.

While some were easy rejections because they lacked desirable taste, others were shunned because they were so mushy it was nearly impossible to pick them up. However, the six-judge panel formed a team of stouthearted souls who persevered until the last morsel was consumed.

In addition to the contestants and judges, there were several others who came to cheer on the winners or console the friends or spouses who put forth a grand effort. It was a lively bunch contributing to the scene with plenty of shout outs and no shortage of humor.

Finally, the judges decision gave the 1st place award to the very deserving Michelle Wolf, a creative and conscientious home chef who submitted her Chocolate Hazelnut Gianduia Truffles, a truly inspired creation with a surprise in the middle. Brenda Cohen took second prize for her Almond Overjoy Balls whose almond-rich chocolate confections made the judges ecstatic.

Following are the two winning recipes and Michelle’s inspiration for her entry:

Background Story:
At the age of sixteen, I had the unique opportunity to take a student trip to Europe. While the museums and architecture were feasts for the eyes, the cuisine was a feast for the taste buds. During our stay in Rome, my friends and I discovered a new love, named gelato, and proceeded to dine on this rich Italian ice cream six times per day! One of my favorite flavors was Gianduia (pronounced: zhahn-DOO-yuh) which was a blend of chocolate and hazelnut. The memory of this delicious flavor was my inspiration for the “Chocolate Hazelnut Gianduia Truffles” that I created for Chef AJ’s  Ball-off competition.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT GIANDUIA TRUFFLES
(Pronunciation: zhahn-DOO-yuh)

Two great tastes, that taste great together!

Recipe by Michelle Wolf Consulting Taster: Husband, Alan Raz

Yield: 25 truffles

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups raw hazelnuts, divided
18 (or more for added sweetness) Deglet Noor pitted dates soaked overnight in unsweetened chocolate almond milk.
2 Tablespoons Ultimate brand Raw Cacao Powder (for dark chocolate flavor)
Alcohol-free Vanilla Extract (optional)
Alcohol-free Almond Extract (optional)

Directions:
1. Place 1/2 cup of hazelnuts into the food processor and process until ground into coarse powder. Place into a bowl and set aside. (To be used later to coat the outside of the truffles.)
2. Place remaining 1 cup of hazelnuts into the food processor and process until ground into coarse powder.
3. Add cacao powder and the soaked dates (without excess soaking liquid). To enhance the subtle flavor blend, you can try adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Process until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
4. Remove by rounded teaspoon and place a whole hazelnut into the center of the chocolate nut mixture. Roll in palm of hands to form small round balls approximately 1-inch in diameter. (To avoid sticking, slightly wet palms of hands before rolling each ball.)
5. Roll each ball in bowl of ground hazelnuts until outside is even coated.
6. Place into container and store in freezer until ready to serve.

Definition: Gianduia is the name given to a European style of chocolate made from chocolate and nut paste. Hazelnut paste is most common, but gianduia can also be made with almond paste. It comes in milk or dark chocolate varieties. Alternate Spelling: Gianduja

*****************************************************************************


ALMOND OVERJOY BALLS

By Brenda Cohen

Yield: 35 one-inch balls

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2 cups pitted deglet noor dates
1/4 cup raw shredded coconut (macaroon cut)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or to taste)

Equal parts cacao and shredded coconut for rolling

PREPARATION:
1. In a food processor fitted with the “S” blade, process the almonds until they are almost nut butter consistency. Add cacao powder and process again until fully incorporated.
2. Add dates and process again until mixture almost comes together. Add coconut and process again until thoroughly combined.
3. Add raisins and extracts until the mixture will stick together and form a ball if rolled (clumped) in your hand. Roll into balls, and then roll in cacao and coconut mixture. Enjoy!

Posted in almonds, hazelnuts, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

PISTACHIO CRAVINGS PRODUCE PISTACHIO ALCHEMY

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 6, 2010

While on vacation recently I began craving pistachios. To my surprise there wasn’t a single pistachio kernel to be bought. They were absolutely unavailable in the Philippines where my husband and I were visiting our son in Manila.

The notion of deprivation only served to spark my imagination. Soon pistachio thoughts drifted into a number of possible recipe ideas. The most potent of the creative sparks began to take shape in the form of cookies enhanced with ground pistachios. These cookies would be soft and chewy but dotted with a touch of crunch. And being so far away from home, I was surrounded by exotic herbs and spices. I could imagine infusing those pistachio cookies with an awesome combination flavors that came from the nuts’ own Middle East and Caucasus homeland—enhancers like rose water, cardamom, and saffron.

It worked! And my brief separation from those wonderful little nuts only made me grow fonder of them. As a result, the cookies not only have the ground pistachios comprising part of the flour, but they also have an appealing cluster of the nuts to garnish the tops.

Because this recipe contains no eggs, the cookies have no cholesterol. I’ve added liquid lecithin from soy to help bind the dough together. You can find lecithin at natural food markets.

Millet provides the delightful touch of crunch and certainly adds to the cookie’s nutritional value. This easy-to-prepare recipe is based on an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie recipe. I’ve adapted it to add unique texture and exceptional flavors that make these little treats quite special. I hope you find them as compelling as I have.

PISTACHIO PARADISE COOKIES

Yield: 3 dozen

2 cups whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup well packed brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, divided

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)
2/3 cup dairy-free margarine
3 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons liquid lecithin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 large jellyroll pans with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, millet, baking powder, cardamom, soda, saffron, and salt and mix well. Break up any brown sugar lumps. Set the mixture aside and prepare the wet ingredients.
3. Measure 1/2 cup of the pistachios, and set it aside. Place the remaining 1 cup of pistachios into the food processor and pulse and process until finely ground into a powdery meal. Add the bananas, margarine, rose water, lecithin, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will become quite firm. Form heaping tablespoons of the batter into 2-inch cookies, placing them about 2 inches apart on the baking pan. Flatten them slightly and press a tiny cluster of the reserved 1/2 cup of pistachios into the center of each cookie.
5. Bake for 13 minutes. Then, reverse the positions of the cookie sheets and bake 4 minutes longer or until the cookies are nicely browned on the bottom. Remove the cookies to a dish to cool completely. If the cookies on the top rack need browning, move them to the bottom rack for an extra 2 to 3 minutes. The cookies will firm when completely cooled.
6. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the cookies in layers with parchment or waxed paper between the layers.

Posted in Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, pistachios, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

ALL’S WELL ON THE PLANET HAZELNUT

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 14, 2009

Fortunately, I did not have to travel far to reach my destination. Planet Hazelnut, in case I hadn’t explained, is where the nuts are so robust and bountiful and irresistibly rich with compelling flavor I’m driven mad with anticipation. I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into those little darlings! Planet Hazelnut is where the sweet aroma of roasting hazelnuts sends such captivating drifts of fragrance into the air I can barely contain my well-trained good manners waiting for them to cool. Oh, so sorry! I just realized I had neglected to provide the geographical location of Planet Hazelnut so you could indulge each of your sensory receptors as I have. Planet Hazelnut is actually rather close by.

It’s in my kitchen and yours, too!

Playing Favorites?
By now you’ve probably figured out I’m a doting hazelnut enthusiast, as well as a lover of all kinds of nuts. People often ask what my favorite nut is, but how can I possibly choose one. It would be like asking which of my four children is my favorite. The honest to goodness truth is I adore them all—my children and my nuts! But hazelnuts sit on a special pedestal in my heart.

Because I’m admittedly fickle, I do have temporary love encounters with one nut or other at any given time; and my heart just might flit to another nut at the mere sight of it.

Yesterday, I was enchanted with HAZELNUTS, those precious little sweethearts—so round—so sweet—and so richly endowed with flavor.

While my usual preference is raw hazelnuts with their gifted fresh, natural sweetness and pleasing chewy texture, I do adore them roasted. Roasting changes them so dramatically I think of hazelnuts as having split personalities. Roasted, they literally charm my willing taste buds like a sorcerer working his wizardry. Their crisp crunch is instantly appealing, their flavor heightened and enhanced with assertive earthen headiness.

Blanching Hazelnuts
Taking full advantage of their alluring nature, I placed a hefty quantity of hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and tucked it into the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. I wanted to prepare them for a unique dessert I had in mind for an after-theater dessert party. When I checked them after 15 minutes, I noticed their skins were beginning to split apart. That was my signal to take them out of the oven. Then, I blanched them by placing them on a double layer of kitchen towels. I wrapped them completely and allowed them to sweat for 10 minutes.

Next, I rubbed them vigorously in the towels to coax their skins off. Some were more willing than others, but the few that still clung protectively to their skins were not going to pose any problem to the finished pie I was planning. Finally, I placed the roasted, blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty plastic bag, positioned it on a firm cutting board, and whacked them into coarse pieces with a hammer I keep handy in my kitchen for such tasks. The chopped hazelnuts were now ready to join a host of delicious fruits in a tantalizing pie with a divinely chewy nougat texture.

The novel pie, I admit with unabashed immodesty, was ragingly delicious. Those roasted, blanched hazelnuts made the pie stand out from others by adding the defining element of crunchy nuance that most pies lack.

I simply couldn’t wait to share this wonderful dessert with all who adore hazelnuts. I trust you’ll savor it to the last crunchy tidbit.

Any time you blend dried fruits with hazelnuts, you’ve introduced the basic elements of an exceptional sweet treat. By combining the merry makings of four different fruits with crunchy, roasted, chunky hazelnuts and pecans, spicing them up, binding them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!—you’ve created a stunning pie for the Christmas holiday! Because the pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. It’s the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that’s a dinner host’s dream because there’s no last minute fuss.

FRUITY HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

Yield: 8 servings

1 unbaked 9-inch Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts
3/4 cup raw pecans

1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup chopped dates
2/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon zest, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 15 to 18 minutes. While the hazelnuts are roasting, place one kitchen towel over the other and place the towels on the counter near the oven. Pour the roasted hazelnuts onto the kitchen towels, fold the towels over to enclose the nuts completely, and allow the nuts to sweat for about 10 minutes. Remove the dark skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them vigorously in the towels for about 3 or 4 minutes. This process is called blanching. Place the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty plastic bag, position it on a firm counter or cutting board, and use a hammer to break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl.
2. When the hazelnuts are out of the oven, raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast the pecans for about 8 minutes. Remove them to a dish to cool completely and set aside. When cool, break them into pieces and add to the roasted hazelnuts.
3. While the nuts are roasting, combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture. Boil for 5 minutes over medium heat, and then set aside.
4. Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the bowl with the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
5. Add the lime juice, and maple extract to the boiled brown rice syrup mixture and mix well. Add the boiled mixture to the fruits and nuts and mix well to thoroughly coat all the ingredients. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
6. Spoon the sticky mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 4 to 6 hours to cool. To store, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

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Easy No-Fail Pie Crust
Pastry making has been such a challenge for me that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s that easy.

To pre-bake the crust for an uncooked filling, spread the dough into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a 1/2-inch thick layer of dried beans and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking. Remove the beans and allow the crust to stand about 20 minutes to cool before adding the filling. In my effort to be wisely frugal, I rely on beans I keep in the cupboard for this purpose. They can be used over and over.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms (a) dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake 350 degrees until done.

Note:
For a savory pie or if you are eliminating sugar from your diet, omit the sugar completely. For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 additional tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar.

Posted in Blanching Hazelnuts, hazelnuts, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CRANBERRIES—THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL MEET WALNUTS—THE OMEGA 3 CHAMPS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 5, 2009

If you’re like many people who are starting to plan a Thanksgiving menu, the mention of cranberries brings to mind the standard cranberry sauce that clings to its traditional place on the Thanksgiving table. In many households, that’s where cranberries begin and end their existence—simply as cranberry sauce. Quite often, the convenient can of jellied cranberry sauce is the only association to cranberries people have ever had. I know, it’s easy—just open the can and plop the deep red blob into a bowl and pass it around the table at Thanksgiving—and maybe the canned cranberry sauce will even make a reappearance at Christmas, and maybe not.

But quite honestly, cranberries have a treasured place in my heart because they’re the darlings of the holiday season. In my house, they show up as Spiced Chestnut and Cranberry Nog, Tangy Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Fruit Salad, Spiced Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry Pomegranate Salad Dressing, Cranberry Spread, Hot Cranberry Punch, Cranberry Oat Muffins, and a ton of cranberry desserts like the one I’m sharing below. Putting it bluntly—they’ve got piss and vinegar! That’s verve and pizzazz to the less daring!

Cranberry Health Benefits
Healthwise, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. According to The Cranberry Institute, the antioxidant activity of flavonoids and polyphenols in cranberries works to prevent heart disease by preventing oxidation in the arteries. Those antioxidants protect the body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Brain cells, too, receive that same protection. Aside from their beauty and versatility, cranberries add awesome health benefits during this winter season, when you want to chase away the sniffles, coughs, and flu.

Walnut Omega 3 Benefits
And when you pair the cranberries with nuts, like walnuts, which are another fabulous harvest delight, you get a double benefit. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. In turn, walnuts help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because they lower cholesterol, especially the LDL bad cholesterol.

The Omega 3 in walnuts also helps to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 works to boost the function of the brain, helping people to perform on a high level, maintain good concentration, and keep the memory sharp. Those who suffer from mild depression may find the Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts a gentle way to bring relief.

This Thanksgiving, consider adding another dessert to the menu–one that will sit proudly beside the venerable Pumpkin Pie and promise to send quivers of anticipation among the awaiting diners. This exquisite pie from The Nut Gourmet cookbook is beautiful, emits a wonderful aroma, and knocks the socks off with its assertive sweet and tart full-throttle tang.

cranwalnutpie

Toss showy red cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert. Cranberries have arrived at the market and will be available throughout the holiday season. Buy several packages and enjoy combining them with walnuts and sweet or dried fruits to temper their tartness. Convenient, ready-to-eat shelled walnuts freshly harvested this fall await your tender touch.

CRANBERRY WALNUT PIE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 recipe Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

Filling
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, divided

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a 9-inch metal pie pan.
2. Put the walnuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
4. Place 1 cup of the cranberries into the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries.
5. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
6. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
7. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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The Crust of the Matter
Truthfully, pastry making is a bitch! Some people whip out a pie crust as easy as making smoothies—but not me! It has been such a challenge that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s as easy as that.

You can even use this recipe to make pre-baked pie crust when preparing a no-bake pie. Just spread it into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a thick layer of dried beans and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake.

Note:
For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Uses, Nuts and Health, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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