june: anna’s vanilla coconut chia pudding with cherries and almonds

photo (8)I consider real vanilla beans a luxury! Even though you can buy vanilla extract quite cheaply, real vanilla beans are pretty pricey. I was excited when I found some that were reasonably priced at Costco. If I don’t have whole beans, I usually use Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste, which is a great substitute. It’s a mixture of vanilla beans and extract, so you still get the little black flecks in your dessert!
Vanilla Bean Paste
With a theme like vanilla, this month’s dessert could have gone in almost any direction. The dish I made, chia seed pudding, is really simple. There are only a few ingredients and it’s also vegan / raw / gluten free / lactose free! The pudding is as simple as mixing all the ingredients together and letting the mixture sit in the fridge overnight. I found a recipe that paired the pudding with a cashew cream, which takes a little more effort than the pudding itself as there is blending involved!

Chia Seed Pudding
The base recipe is pretty versatile. Some recipes use a different liquid such as almond milk or soy milk, but I really like coconut milk and I think it’s a great flavor for a summer dessert! I lightened it a bit by using a combination of coconut milk and coconut water.
Coconut Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
In line with this month’s theme, vanilla is featured in both the pudding as well as the cashew cream. I served these in little individual glasses and topped with cherries and flaked almonds.

I wasn’t sure how well it would be received, since “raw” and “vegan” might not sound very appealing to everyone, but everyone loved it! The coconut, cherry and almond flavors paired so well together. This is definitely something I will make again.
Chia Seed Pudding Cherries Almonds
It also inspired me to try out some more raw cooking next weekend!

Find the recipe here
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june: kerri’s vanilla cheesecake with vanilla syrup berries

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I chose this month’s theme because I love vanilla. I didn’t come to appreciate it until I was an adult, until I tasted desserts made with the vanilla bean. Growing up, my mum only used vanilla extract in her baking. And the only vanilla anything I remember having as a kid was mass produced, commercial, boring vanilla ice cream. The vanilla bean opened up a whole new flavour to me, one far from boring.

I decided to do a cheesecake for my post because B loves cheesecakes. I’m not the biggest fan – I’d rather have a cakey cake or tart – so he often misses out because we like to share desserts. So a vanilla bean cheesecake sounded like something we’d both like.

Cheesecakes, overall, are pretty simple to make. What makes them simpler is using a food processor (rather than an electric mixer). It’s really quick, and the mixture comes out really smooth and uniform. You end up with a cheesecake with a smooth, creamy, rich and light consistency.

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Martha Stewart’s original recipe uses graham crackers for the base, as do many American recipes. If you don’t have access to graham crackers, use any other sweet biscuit. I used a mixture of digestive and marie biscuits. Her recipe also covers the top of the cheesecake with a chocolate glaze. I decided instead to lighten it up for the hot weather with berries soaked in vanilla syrup (own recipe).

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I served my cheesecake for afternoon tea when hosting a board games day at our place. It was as promised – smooth, creamy, rich and light. It was enough to keep bellies and taste buds happy, and keep the feuding at bay during Settlers of Catan. And B kept telling me how much he liked it, so it must have been good enough for cheesecake lovers’ standards. Personally I would have liked more vanilla bean to come through so next time I might add more. But it seemed our guests also liked it – one even asked to take some home for his family!

vanilla cheesecake

You can find the recipe here.

june: vanilla

vanilla beans flckr
Plain. Simple. Boring. Generic.

All adjectives often used to describe the humble vanilla. But there’s so much more to this bean than this!

Join us this month as we make vanilla a drool-worthy competitor in the flavour game!

*photo by brown eyed baker on flickr.

may: anna’s coconut and passionfruit cupcakes

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I was looking for a lighter type of cupcake to make for a friend’s birthday recently. We were having burgers and fries for dinner, so I needed something not-too-heavy to follow (so chocolate was definitely out).

Coconut cupcakes sounded like a great option. I used three different types of coconut to make these – fresh coconut, coconut milk and dried coconut.

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The original recipe topped these with a coconut glaze, but I wanted something fruity, so I paired the cupcakes with a passionfruit buttercream. I think it was a good flavor combination, but the passionfruit flavor actually overpowered the delicate coconut flavor. On it’s own, the cake had a really great flavor and texture. The coconut milk in the cupcake batter came through subtly. I definitely want to try making these again with the coconut glaze. It would also make a great layer cake!

I’m always anxious when I’m trying out a new cake recipe. The results can be hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit!

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Find the recipe here