Monday, January 30, 2012

Banana Coconut 5 Spice Muffins

With winter upon us, it's easy to picture oneself on a tropical island, under the shade of a coconut palm. But even if the mercury does eventually head north, a taste of the tropics remains as close as these bite size banana coconut muffins laced with Chinese 5 Spice. Quick to throw together and under 30 minutes to bake, these individually sized muffins will dreamily take you to the sunny isles.

It might seem like an odd combination, but actually- banana, coconut and Chinese 5 Spice all originate from the Southeastern part of Asia. Marrying them together into these intoxicatingly sweet and nutty morsels made sense.

In Sanskrit (ancient Hindu language), the coconut is viewed as the kalpa vriksha ("the tree which provides all the necessities of life"). Virtually every part of the coconut palm can be utilized in some manner. Such is the case with these muffins- the coconut milk is used in place of regular milk;  coconut oil for baking;  and the white coconut meat is used as a confection. It's wonderful when you can create something that utilizes all parts of a plant, and nothing goes to waste.

Chinese 5 Spice was originally used to make perfumes, but now is used in avant garde savory desserts. The formula is based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in foods. The most common combination in 5 Spice is bajiao (star anise), clovescinnamonhuajiao (Sichuan pepper) and ground fennel seeds.

To finish off the muffins I sprinkled them with coconut flakes, because I love the crunchy texture it gives to baked goods.  The coconut flavor permeated the entire muffin and gave a subtle sweet note that you don't normally find in a banana muffin, while the 5 spice gave them a warmth, and the bananas themselves allowed the muffins to be nice and moist. 

Makes 14

2/3 cup organic coconut milk 
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
2 1/2 All Purpose Gluten Free Flour 
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1 teaspoon 5 spice Asian powder 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed slightly so liquified 
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
2 large organic eggs 
3 very ripe medium bananas, mashed well 

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Line 14 muffin tins with paper liners.
  3. Whisk together flour, shredded coconut, spices, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  4. Whisk together coconut oil and sugar until well combined, then whisk in vanilla, eggs and then bananas until well blended.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk and lime juice, then the flour until just combined.
  6. Drop batter into prepared muffin pan until each has an equal amount, and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake muffins until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, and they are lightly brown about 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Peach and Raspberry Crumble

Call back the summer with an old fashioned summer dessert that relies on seasonal fruits for most of its flavors. While peach and raspberry are not in season now, I actually froze them during the summer when I had an overflow of these juicy fruits.

In my cookbook that I am in process of editing, I write about the importance of seasonal eating, but I also write about how you can capture the bounty and freeze it into a time capsule for later use.

Freezing is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time consuming ways to store fruits of the season. The extreme cold slows down the changes that affect quality or cause spoilage. Freezing fruits is ideal when you will be using it for a dessert, because the texture changes and becomes softer- better for cooking than eating thawed fruits.

These little fruit jewels naturally contain a high amount of fiber, but a crumble topping with nuts add a sprinkling of whole grains and protein. The smattering of raspberries adds a bit of color and tartness to the peaches. If you don’t care for tart then use blueberries in lieu of raspberries. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yoghurt garnished with a spring of mint for added freshness.

Serves 6

¾ cup brown rice flour
4 tablespoons vegan butter
½ cup buckwheat flakes (or millet flakes)
¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and cubed
1-1/3 cup raspberries
4 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons tapioca starch


  1      Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish
    2   In a medium size bowl, place the rice flour and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the buckwheat flakes, almond meal, ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
    3      In the pie dish, combine the peaches, raspberries, orange juice, 2- tablespoons sugar and tapioca starch together. Sprinkle the crumble over the top, pressing it down lightly.

    4      Bake for 40 minutes or until the crumble is lightly browned. Serve warm or cold paired with your favorite ice cream. 

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