cookies · muffins · sweet

Sugarless: Oatmeal Cookies and Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

My sister is temporarily on a no-added-sugar diet so I’ve been experimenting with sugar-free baking for a while. She is also avoiding honey and industrially made juices which turned it into a bit of a challenge. So bananas, dried fruit and fresh fruit have all been summoned instead to substitute sugar and make my sister enjoy her meal anyway.

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Here are two of the recipes I’ve come up with: oatmeal cookies and muffins with dried fruits and fresh apples.

1 year ago – Trans-Siberian Trip Part 4: Siberia Begins with Tyumen

2 years ago – Birthday Kovrizhka and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 years ago – While Zucchini Are in Season…

4 years ago – Italian Delicacies a la Russe

5 years ago – Fruit Post

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • about 300 g old-fashioned oatmeal, roughly ground (or a mixture of oats, rye, barley and wheat flakes) plus some quick-cooking oats, whole
  • 60 g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana, preferably overripe
  • dried apricots and dates, chopped
  • sesame seeds, ground
  • mixed nuts, roughly ground
  • optional add-ins: ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), flax bran*, wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon, cardamom
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

First, beat butter with the banana and eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order (I added while quick-cooking oats last). Adjust the amount of flour and/or add-ins according to the consistency. Cover and Let chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Then form dough balls (preferably the size of a small tangerine) and place on a baking mat / baking parchment. The cookies won’t spread so mo need to space them a lot. Slightly flatten the balls with your finger.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180-190 ‘C for about 15 minutes (depending on size). My cookies did not brown much on the top but looked apparently cooked on the bottom.

Remarks: Add more dried fruits for a sweeter result. These smell delicious in the oven!

Result: Cheeeewy cookies for those on a sugar-free diet; for sweet-tooth people these cookies won’t be as attractive though they definitely contain quite a lot of nutrients and healthy stuff.

And here’s the other recipe:

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Fruit Muffins 

Ingredients

  • 3 small eggs
  • 100 g dried apricots
  • A handful of dates
  • A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 150 ml sour cream (smetana)
  • 50 ml sunflower seed oil
  • Flax bran*, wheat germ, ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), ground old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, adjust the amount accordingly
  • A tangerine, peeled and chopped
  • Half an apple, diced
  • Cinnamon
  • Sesame seeds, for decoration

Procedure

Scold dried fruits with boiling water, drain, pour some more hot water and let them soak (I usually use a colander placed on a deep bowl). When they get soft enough, drain them (you can use the water in the recipe but I chose sour cream instead) and stone the dates.

In a blender, reduce dried apricots and hazelnuts into a sort of chunky puree (I left dates un-blended). Beat eggs with sour cream, then beat in the oil. Add the fruit and nut mixture into the eggs. Thoroughly mix baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour and add it to the eggs and fruit mixture. Add the extras (ground oatmeal, bran, germ, flaxmeal) and the dates. In a sort of a last-minute inspiration, add in chopped tangerine and some apple. Mix well but do not overmix.

Preheat the oven to 210’C. Divide the batter into the muffins cups and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for about 17-20 minutes (mine were baking on the upper shelf together with bread below them). Left sit in the cups a bit and then leave them cool on a wooden cutting board.

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Remarks: I added flaxmeal hence this somewhat darkish colour but you can add any healthy extras you desire. Same applies to the dried fruits, nuts and the last-minute ingredients you throw in – choose them to your liking but don’t forget to check that the dried fruit do not contain added sugar (sometimes they do add it to the cranberries). You can also add extra chopped dried apricots or mash in a banana for a sweeter result.

Result: Though you have to be on a no-sugar diet to appreciate these in terms of their very low sweetness, the muffins are soft, good in texture (not rubbery as I feared) and they rose nicely.

Adding these recipes to my Sweet collection.

*Flax bran – a recently discovered flax seed-derived thing, looks like very roughly ground golden flax seeds. Might be just a new name for coarse golden flaxmeal (as opposed to the more traditional ‘dark’ flaxmeal). Been adding it to my sweet baking.

This post was made using mobile phone pictures. But I think I’d rather keep to my good ol’ camera!

G.

muffins · sweet

Vintage Soviet Cookware and Date and Hazelnut Muffins

Mom says it’s not that vintage claiming they bought this glazed iron dish in the 80s, but to me this looks like 60s, doesn’t it? I rediscovered it at my grandparents’ place, and since it’s been out of use for quite a long time, I’ve decided to bring it back to life. Cooking in vintage (and pseudo-vintage) dishes and pans certainly adds up to the whole process, making it more enjoyable in a way.

Vintage Cookware

I’ve already tried baking bread in this vintage Soviet cookware twice and I must say it takes a bit longer than in my previous (and unfortunately now broken) glass baking dish.

Vintage Cookware

The bread turns out quite moist with thick crust, reminding me of that bread you would buy some years ago (good ol’ times, ya know).

Vintage Cookware

I baked the loaves about 25-30 minutes with the lid on and then about 25-30 minutes more without, including some minutes out of the dish as well.

Vintage Cookware

The first time I baked in this dish, the lid left an indent in the top of the loaf, the other time it didn’t. Both times I used baking parchment although I should probably try greasing the dish for a change to see how it goes.

Vintage Cookware

And here’s the sourdough rye bread baked with that very flexible recipe I’ve been using for quite a while – makes you pretty lazy though cause it’s so fool-proof and easy:

Bread in Vintage Cookware

And now on to another lazy recipe. There’ve been quite a few dried fruit recipes in the kitchen (and in my blog) recently. Well, you see, with this very capricious autumn-like summer in St Petersburg one has to find some solutions to substitute the energy you would otherwise get from the sun (and good mood). And even though we can buy nectarines from Tanzania (!), they all taste a bit bland (and sometimes are hard as wood), so you naturally turn to using dried fruits and nuts instead.

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

A pretty nice combination from my recent experiments – dried cranberries, walnuts and dark chocolate in a sort of spice cake, with brown sugar creating a crunchy crust, and these date and hazelnut muffins:

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

1 year ago – Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

2 years ago – Rolling Pin Recipes: Flatbread, Pie and Sweet Buns

3 years ago – Two Ways To Make Russian Carrot Patties

4 years ago – Soviet Kitchen Heirloom

5 years ago – Sourdough Bread with Dates and Flaxseeds

Date and Hazelnut Muffins recipe will make 12 coffee-flavoured muffins. The amounts of the ingredients are quite approximate!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • 50 ml sunflower oil
  • ginger
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • 300 g flour mixed with ground flaxmeal and flaxmeal flour (super fine ground flaxmeal, aka flax porridge), approximately
  • 1/2 tsp ground coffee
  • orange juice
  • chopped dates
  • roughly chopped hazelnuts, toasted / microwaved

Procedure

Beat eggs with sugar, add vanilla extract and sunflower oil. Mix flours with baking powder, soda, coffee and spices, and add the flour mixture to the eggs alternating it with orange juice (I usually do it in 2 doses, starting and ending with flour. And if I add too much of either dry ingredients or liquids, I just add more of the other). Do not overmix. Add chopped dates and nuts. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups (I was using paper cases too) and bake in the preheated to 210 ‘C oven for about 20 minutes.

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

Remarks: I added two kinds of flaxseed meal / flax flour to these muffins, a rougher and a finer grind. I think adding bran or some other kind of flour would work as well.  

Result: These are sweet muffins, with a crunchy sugary crust and a delicate coffee flavour – just a hint! They puffed up nicely too. And who doesn’t like those tasty-tasty hazelnuts?

This recipe goes to my Sweet collection where you will find more muffins and dried fruit recipes.

G.

sweet

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Inspired by a colleague who brought us some Iranian pistachios to the office (those were good!) and another colleague who baked her own sukhariki (Russian for rusks) recently, I just had to make some biscotti too. With pistachios.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

I ended up following an American take on an Italian recipe and using Greek pistachios, Russian chocolate and dried fruits from Finnish muesli which do not necessarily come from Finland as you can imagine 🙂 And that having in mind to ‘finally follow a recipe to the letter’. No way!

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

A year ago – Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 5 – Around Railway Station

Two years ago – Old-Fashioned Apple Slab and Greek Crumble

Three years ago – Vermont Sourdough and Yellow Roses

Four years ago – All the Soviet Children…

Five years ago – Flammekueche

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios adapted from Chocolate, Raspberry, and Walnut Whole Wheat Biscotti on www.kingarthurflour.com will make crunchy sweet rusks, almost 100% whole wheat if you follow the recipe 100%. The recipe is on the website; here are my changes and remarks:

Ingredients: had to use a mixture of wholewheat flour + a bit of all-purpose flour as the batter seemed too sticky to handle; added less salt; instead of freeze-dried raspberries (what are they anyway?) used raisins and other dried fruits from muesli; used whole pistachios instead of chopped walnuts.

Procedure: did not flatten the logs that much for the first bake and thus the biscotti turned out smaller (shorter) in size; the procedure might take some time but there’s something so enjoyable in it that you’ll want to do it again.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Remarks: Already after the first bake the biscotti (or rather logs of biscotti) looked pretty attractive with a crack along the top. Be careful with the timing: during the second bake you’ll have to flip the biscotti over halftime through and they might seem not that crunchy enough. However, 10 minutes after they will be more than crunchy, believe me! By the way, these biscotti do not contain any butter or oil. I would add less sugar next time, as chocolate and dried fruits already contain sugar.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Result: Chewy, crunchy, sweet. The pistachios (from Aegina) I used were slightly salty which added that little something in contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate. The (original) raspberries should have contributed to the appearance too, however even with the modest raisins these biscotti have a very rustic look.

Want more biscotti? Try these Almond Biscotti or the Greek Ouzo and Pistachio Paximadia or simply Biscotti.

Thanks God we’re past the shortest days of the year, the light will gradually come back, drop by drop. We’re having no snow and consequently no sun here in St Petersburg. Wearing sneakers at the end of December reminds of my other December, 6 years ago in Thessaloniki, almost entirely spent in a T-shirt 🙂

This post goes to my Chocolate and Sweet collections.

P.S. Domes of the St Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod on some of the photos on a Catholic Christmas Eve unintended.

G.

sweet · sweet bread

Poppy Seed Twists for Easter

So fragile, so tender!

It’s Easter time in St Petersburg and after all the excruciatingly prolific snow we are actually having an early spring! So fragile, so tender!

So fragile, so tender!

Almost transparent…

So fragile, so tender!

For this Easter I decided to make something similar to what my Mom would do for the festive table back when we were kids – a poppy seed roll. Perfect timing – I found this recipe just in time for the occasion.

So fragile, so tender!

I remember the quite longish procedure of preparing the poppy seed filling which involved taking out the gigantically heavy meat grinder: mother would process the seeds and sugar through it and we would watch.

So fragile, so tender!

And we would also collect the first herbs and methodically keep the onion skins for the egg part of the Easter festive table. If you want to learn how to dye eggs with onion peels and spring plants, click here.

So fragile, so tender!

Since forever I don’t really like kulich (the traditional Easter-time sweet leavened bread), particularly that type which has raisins inside. But my Mom would make those too (in all sorts of enameled mugs usually found in all Soviet families) and put them all in a huge kastrjulya (pot) so that they do not dry out. But we would ignore them with my sister: we were in for the poppy seed & walnut rolls!

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

1 year ago – Almond Biscotti and Sour Cream Snickerdoodles

2 years ago – Spring in Pavlovsk Park and Blueberry Muffins

2 years ago – St Petersburg the Great

4 years ago – More on Smart Use of Leftovers

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Twists adapted from www.seitanismymotor.com (who also notoriously invented the word:) will make tasty not over-sweet buns loaded with poppy seeds. For the entire recipe visit the link above.

My changes and remarks:

I substituted vegan ingredients with the usual ones (i.e. used cow’s milk instead of soy milk and vegetable oil instead of coconut oil). Also, instant dry yeast worked perfectly well for this recipe. As for the filling, I processed poppy seeds in blender (first I rinsed them and soaked in hot water for a while) and added honey instead of molasses or agave nectar. I didn’t add milk for the filling as it was already too runny, so had to ground some peanuts and throw them in too.

Then, when I was already folding the dough, the filling would just threaten to escape and break through the dough, so I decided to stop rolling the dough out (the second rolling) and made ‘twists’ instead of circles. I don’t have a donut pan so placed my kringel on a silicon mat.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

Result: Soft and chewy, just like I wanted. The flavour is nice and tangy (there’s all that lemon zest in the dough and the filling!). And the combination of poppy seeds + nuts is always a blast! I would add just a tiny bit more sugar though but not too much so that the balance is preserved.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

This recipe goes to the Sweet collection.

For more poppy seed ideas, check this Cardamom Flavoured Cinnamon Rolls.

G.

German recipe · sweet

Lebkuchen, German Gingerbread

Lebkuchen

I know it’s springtime but I was craving for something hearty, flavourful and full of spices, honey and zest… A Russian pryanik or kovrizhka might be a very good option but my choice fell on this German gingerbread recipe instead:

Lebkuchen

It reminded me of the Alsatian pain d’épices (or spice bread) which is usually sold in those huge bricks and is actually called Lebkuchen too.  It’s particularly popular during the Christmas season but as it is also a characteristic local treat, it’s sold all year round.

Lebkuchen

I’m dedicating this post to my – now – overseas friend Jana who I guess will appreciate this recipe! Janaki, you can try making this Lebkuchen to your new friends, I’m sure they’ll love it!

Lebkuchen

1 year ago – Discovering Cityscape with Cheese and Yogurt Biscuits

2 years ago – Darnitskiy Bread

3 years ago – Travelling Muffins and Wandering Bread

4 years ago – Pane al Cioccolato… Senza Cioccolato

Lebkuchen or German Gingerbread adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com will make dense, brandy-flavoured gingerbread with cracking icing and bits of orange peel! Go to the original website (which I love dearly) for the entire recipe.

My changes and remarks:

Did not use lemon oil and orange oil but lemon and orange zest instead; forgot about almonds completely (but the batter was super thick without them already); used cardamom instead of cloves; omitted crystallized ginger. I also made less glaze for which I used brandy.

Lebkuchen

Remarks: The brandy glaze adds even more flavour to this gingerbread although it makes them less children-friendly. I didn’t make my glaze super thick, I think there was already enough sugar in this recipe. Love the bits of the orange zest – would really suggest to use (larger) peel instead of finely grated zest. I forgot about the nuts but if you manage to incorporate them in this super thick batter, go for it!

Lebkuchen

Result: These fragrant and spicy squares are such a délice! The cracking sugar icing, the chewy and dense ‘body’, the flavours! No need to wait for the festive season 🙂

Lebkuchen

Adding this post to Country-specific and Sweet recipe collections.

G.

St Petersburg · sweet

Chestnut Coffee Cake and St Petersburg in February

St Petersburg in February

It’s March already and yet St Petersburg is treating us with a harsh winter comeback. As if the nature has just realized that it slept over all those days in December when it was warm and decided to have its revenge. We all hope for the best though!

St Petersburg in February

I took these photos while walking along the super windy Neva embankment back in the beginning of February. I don’t normally walk much around the city during the day so I grabbed at the chance to see the frozen river…

St Petersburg in February

…and the canals on the way there and back.

St Petersburg in February

The Hermitage and the space around it is usually so crowded with people that you just don’t get a single moment when there’s nobody there. However on that day there was just one group of tourists and I could take these rare-moments photos.

St Petersburg in February

I won’t tell you about the bureaucracy of the Hermitage and how very Soviet it looks from behind, when you have to deal with the back-office and not the touristy parts. It’s pretty much the same in all the state institutions which the contemporary Russia inherited from the USSR. People’s names and generations may as well change but the ways do not, they seem to be perpetrated with an impressive stubbornness.

St Petersburg in February

When walking back I passed this favourite spot of mine – the Prachechny bridge and the Summer Garden. Just a week ago it was closed because of all the water that flooded the park but now it’s more like Winter garden all over again!

St Petersburg in February

On the other day I was making my usual speedwalking to the place where I work and took these snowy pictures of the Inzhenerny (aka Mikhailovsky) Castle built for the emperor Pavel. By the way, I finally went there and saw it from the inside…

St Petersburg in February

…and it was boring! It’s a pity that with all those renovated halls and decorated ceilings they couldn’t make something authentic out of it – and I guess people just forget that they are in a castle (although a fake one) and treat it as an exhibition. It’s now a part of the Russian Museum and hosts a collection of portraits (which I find very boring) and a several temporary expos.

St Petersburg in February

However, the second part of my visit was way more interesting – a lecture about pop-art and popular culture at the Lectorium of the museum. The speaker was a very knowledgeable and truly hilarious man who actually translated both Lennon’s books into Russian back in the 1990s. And if you’re familiar with the texts and the playing around with words that Lennon was so fond of, you will understand what a challenge that translation (or rather re-construction?) that was! So now I got my copy of Lennon’s book signed: “In the absence of the author – signed by the translator” 🙂

St Petersburg in February

And now some food – which this time was quite experimental as first I had to roast the chestnuts and some of them burst in the oven 🙂 and then they wouldn’t cook through and wouldn’t peel either… I have tried chestnuts in jams but not baked so this time it was also a tasting experiment. And yes, for some reason I found chestnuts sold at one of the cheapest supermarkets in February and not in autumn when they are in season in our part of the world…

Chestnut Coffee Cake

1 year ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs

2 years ago – Sunflower Seed Rye Sourdough or We Need Sun Here

3 years ago – Thessaloniki

4 years ago – Mangoes and Rye to Welcome Spring

Chestnut Coffee Cake adapted from bonappetit.com will make a rather curious cake with a chewy chestnut and chocolate filling and a sugary topping. Visit the original website to get the entire recipe.

What I’ve changed: As I had no almond flour or meal I actually used some weird Korean tea made from almond + pumpkin seed + walnut meal. And for the chestnut filling, o-ho-ho, I had to roast the chestnuts I bought and then clean the oven because even though we cut a cross into their surface they just decided to burst out 🙂 As for the cake itself, I used strawberry yogurt instead of sour cream. I didn’t lined my pan with paper and yet the cake – which by the way rose nicely but then fell down – was easy to take out.

Chestnut Coffee Cake

Remarks: I would suggest using already roasted chestnuts – unless you’re a super chestnut-roasting professional, of course 🙂 Otherwise, the chestnuts might not cook through properly and your cake – just as mine was – will be a bit weird with quite chewy chestnut bits which added something, well, weird to the taste and the texture. I would also suggest covering the top with aluminum foil while baking as it got burnt in places and didn’t look as pretty as I would like it to.

Chestnut Coffee Cake

Result: Weird 🙂 But that was an experiment! The cocoa in the filling made it taste almost chocolately although there was no chocolate added. The sugary crust (topping) is very sweet but the filling is somehow not. Overall this cake is quite crumbly and nonuniform in the taste and texture. 

Chestnut Coffee Cake

This post goes to St Petersburg series and Sweet recipe collection.

G.

sweet

Peanut Butter Post

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

I wanted to make a birthday cake for my Grandpa and one of the recipes recently added to my collection required peanut butter. This thing is somehow not popular in Russia (I’m no fan either), costs a lot and can be found only in a limited number of stores. So I naturally thought, why not make my own? (experiments, here we go!)

Homemade Peanut Butter

What you see here is not exactly peanut butter but something reminding me of something we call shcherbet in Russia (contrary to the classic sharbat this one is not liquid but rather thick like halva, being a mixture of cream (milk), fruits and nuts, one of those Turkish delights we love here in Russia). You see, my blender is a pretty sissy one and just wouldn’t surmount so many peanuts, poor thing! So I ended up with lots of distinctive bits of nuts instead of a proper paste. When I mixed the nuts with the rest of the ingredients and I popped it into the fridge it became even less spreadable. But it worked just fine when it was processed for the cake frosting (see further)!

Homemade Peanut Butter

1 year agoHow to Make Silky Cream Cheese at Home

2 years agoTwo Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

3 years agoRye Malt Bread, Two Versions

4 years ago2 Energy-Boosting Sweets to Keep Your Mind and Spirit Up

Homemade Peanut Butter adapted from www.thekitchn.com will make more than a cup of thick chunky nutty treat – with all-natural ingredients! Visit the link to get the entire recipes. My changes and remarks:

I used less salt and more nuts, almost burning them while roasting as I forgot them in the oven (hence the deep brown colour). I added sunflower oil and honey as a sweetener but did not add any extras.

When I realized my butter was a tad too thick for butter I tried adding some more oil and honey but that wouldn’t help much. You just need a sturdy blender!

Remarks: You might want to keep your friends away while you’re making this or you might run out of roasted peanuts before they make it to the blender! 🙂 The author of the recipe suggests using various kinds of nuts and considering different extras like cinnamon, for example. You can also skip the roasting part or leave some nuts only just roughly ground for a chunkier peanut butter.

Result: Super chunky and super peanutty 🙂 Of course everything will depend on the blender – you might end up with a much finer paste than what I had. After some time in the fridge my ‘butter’ was so thick I could break it into bits so I also used it for the decoration:

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Ah yes, let’s turn to the cake recipe now:

Reese’s Dark Chocolate Cake adapted from www.thenovicechefblog.com will make a very soft & rich deep-dark cake with unusual peanut frosting. I doubled the recipe to have a two-layer cake. Visit the original website for the entire recipe. My changes and remarks:

I used less butter although I doubled the recipe and still got quite a lot of frosting. However, I increased the amount of peanut butter and decreased the powdered sugar. I skipped the chocolate glaze part decorating the top with bits of peanut butter instead. 

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Remarks: The chocolate cake is actually so super soft that it almost fell apart when I was transferring both layers from the pan. So if you choose to make a double recipe and bake the whole bunk in one pan to later cut it in two, i wouldn’t suggest this. Also, while making the batter I was careless enough to add the egg while the mixture was quite hot which almost resulted in a poached egg 🙂 Be careful! And yes, keep the cake in the fridge!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Result: At the first bite the cake appears quite light and fluffy but then the peanut frosting sinks in and you realize that this is quite a substantial cake after all! I think that this cake was pretty uncommon in its taste thanks to the peanut flavour. And although I’m no fan of peanut butter or buttercream, I think this cake was quite a success!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

These photos feature the celebrated tea set of my Granny with my favourite teaspoons made in Leningrad. The teaspoons might as well been produced in the 1980s as the design rarely changed once it was approved in the USSR, but they do look very 1960s with their black and white pattern!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

The peanut frosting leftovers were used in this improvised peanut cake. Since the frosting was essentially a mixture of butter, sugar and nuts, I added some flour, baking powder, 2 eggs and milk. I had a limited amount of time, so had to use the fan option of my oven hence the weird shape of the cake:

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake
This post goes to the Chocolate and the Sweet recipe collection.

G.