Gruyere-Crusted Butternut Squash & Sage Scones

(45 minutes + roasting time; makes 16 mini scones)

I took my favorite winter squash soup as inspiration, and ran with it to create a cheesy autumnal squash scone recipe. The butternut and Gruyere play beautifully together, with just a hint of cayenne for welcome heat. Lovely on their own for a savory breakfast, or with a big bowl of soup for lunch or dinner. If you make a double batch (using the entire squash), you can freeze extras to pull out on a rainy day.

1 1/2 c. cooked butternut squash (about 1/2 a squash)
2 c. flour, plus extra for dusting
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cayenne
2 t. minced sage
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. sugar
6 T cold butter, chopped
1 c. grated Gruyere, divided
2 eggs
milk for brushing
16 small sage leaves

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (about 20g)

(NOTE: To cook squash, either roast at 400 for 30-45 minutes until tender, let cool, and peel. (Preferred, as it brings out the sweetness of the squash.) Alternatively, peel squash, chop into cubes, and place in a microwave-safe bowl with a tablespoon of water; cover bowl with plastic wrap and pierce it a few times, then microwave on high for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain any excess water.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder, cayenne, minced sage, and salt into a mixing bowl.

3. Work in the butter with your fingers to make an uneven crumbly mixture. Stir in half the cheese.

4. In a separate bowl, combine beaten eggs and puree. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir to create a fairly wet dough.

5. If you want to be able to roll out and shape these scones, you’ll need to add a little flour to get an appropriate texture. Alternatively, press dough into a molded scone pan (spray first with baking spray for easy release), or spoon onto parchment paper on a baking sheet for drop scones.

6. Brush each scone with a little milk; top with the remaining cheese. Press a few pumpkin seeds on top, and a sage leaf brushed with milk on both sides.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes until cooked through, with the cheese browning. Serve warm.

Vegan Rich Cake (Wedding/Christmas Cake)

(30-60 minutes chopping time + 3 hr baking time + cooling time, serves dozens)

Americans are often scared of fruitcake. There’s a massive cultural myth that fruitcake is some horrid dry thing that gets pressed upon you by similarly dried-up aunts. But a real fruitcake, the kind that’s related to a traditional British steamed figgy pudding, is dense, rich, moist, fruity, and pleasantly alcoholic.

The chopping is labor-intensive (and would gum up a food processor), so I’d recommend having a few friends over to help and rewarding them with slabs of fruitcake to take home. (Note the long baking time, though!) Traditionally, you would use glacé cherries and other candied fruit, but Kevin doesn’t like them, so we stick to just dried fruit in ours.

2 1/2 lbs mixed dried fruit (not pineapple)
8 oz candied ginger (if you like it—if not, just use more dried fruit)
1 lb jam (I use a mix of whatever’s in the fridge)
2-4 oz mixed peel (optional)
8 oz raw cashews (or blanched almonds)
1/4 cup brandy (with more for pouring later)
12 oz vegan butter or solid coconut oil
1 lb powdered sugar
5 very ripe bananas (from frozen is fine)
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves
2 TBL vanilla extract
1 TBL almond extract
2 tsp rose extract
8 oz fine semolina
1/2 c. aquafaba (chickpea water from can)

Almond paste (optional)

1. Oil and flour a 9×12 cake pan or two 8×8 cake pans.

2. Chop dried fruit, mixed peel, and nuts finely. Combine fruits, nuts, and jam in large bowl, sprinkle with brandy, stir, cover, and leave while mixing cake. This can be done the day before, allowing the fruit more time to soak in the brandy.

3. Preheat oven to 275. In the biggest bowl you have, cream vegan butter or solid oil and sugar until light. Add very ripe bananas one at a time, beating well. Add grated rind, spices, and flavorings and mix well. Add semolina and beat until well combined, then mix in fruit (easiest done with your clean hand).

4. Whip aquafaba until stiff and, using a wooden spoon, gently fold (as best you can) through thick, stiff mixture. Turn into prepared cake pan(s), cover edges lightly in foil, and bake in 275F oven for 2.5 – 3 hours until cooked through in center—cover the cake with foil after the first hour to prevent over-browning.

5. Cool completely, preferably overnight, then remove paper and wrap cake in plastic wrap; if you like, you can sprinkle a few more tablespoons of brandy over the cold cake before wrapping it. Chill in refrigerator (or other cool place) for at least a month. Every week or so, you can unwrap it, add more brandy, and rewrap it, if you like that sort of thing.

6. Alternatively, ice the cake with almond paste and then cut the cake into small rectangles (about two fingers wide) and wrap each individually in wax paper and colored foil—this is the presentation we would use for weddings, where little girls would carry baskets of the cake around at the end of the wedding and give a little cake to each guest to take home.

Note: This cake can be kept in an airtight tin for a year or longer. It just gets better and better—I recommend making it no later than mid-November if you want to serve it at Christmas.

TOO Moist

Adding crystallized ginger, mixing the beaten aquafaba (magic!) into the dough. Like the vegan love cake, it took quite a bit longer to bake this rich cake than it would for the non-vegan version — 3 solid hours in a slow oven. That must be due to different moisture levels; the final cake was also more moist that my standard rich cake.

I wonder if using, say 1-2 fewer ripe bananas would make a significant difference there? On the other hand, it’s rare for someone to complain that their fruitcake is TOO moist. 🙂 So maybe just leave it as is.

Though if I do it again, I’m definitely going to wrap the edges in foil so they’re less likely to burn — over 3 hours needed to get the center cooked, the edges got a little overcooked. It might actually be better to do this in two square pans, instead of the large 9×12. (Or, sacrilege — two bundt pans?!)

Recipe here.

First Time Cooking with Vegan Butter

I promised you a vegan rich cake (fruitcake) recipe, and I finally have one ready. Walking you through some photos, then I’ll post the recipe. My first time cooking with vegan butter — it’s fine, but for cooking, I think I’m just as happy sticking with coconut oil.

Dough + ripe bananas, with aquafaba (chickpea water) beaten to accomplish the same thing egg whites would, giving airiness and lift to the batter and finished cake.

Feast of Serendib Gift Package

Head to Serendib shop now for a Feast of Serendib gift package!

A fun and unusual treat, esp. for the hard-to-shop-for foodie on your holiday list. Gift packages come in a bundle of:

– 1 book ($25 pb / $35 hc)
+ handmade freshly-roasted curry powder ($5)
+ and/or Serendib confection (dragonfruit chocolate, passionfruit marshmallows, or cashew milk toffee) ($5)

…from now until 12/6!

Sri Lankan cookbooks are also on sale individually, $5 off!:…/a-feast-of-serendib…

A Low-Key Thanksgiving

We’re having a VERY low-key Thanksgiving here — after the travel of last week, we’re just doing the four of us for the holiday, and are mostly still in bed. I made my signature stuffing on Tuesday, and I might not cook at all for the rest of today — we’ll see.

I did manage to get to the store to pick up the turkey dinner for four that Kevin ordered for us while I was out of town — I also picked up some restorative orange juice with pineapple and ginger, because we’re all a little sick.

Also some vanilla ice cream, because I’m a grown-up now, and if I decide I want a restorative orange-pineapple-ginger ice cream float, I get to do that. I had it in my fancy Thanksgiving drink glass too, with my little fox looking on in appreciation.

Now I’m going back to my cheesy Alyssa Cole romance novel, because that’s about all I have the brain for. It is sweet and comforting and altogether predictable. Sounds about right.

Another Batch of Neapolitan Chocolates

Made another batch of my Neapolitan chocolates last week. These are so simple — melt white chocolate, pour some into a mold, shake to settle. Add ruby chocolate, ditto. Add milk or dark chocolate, ditto. Let set, unmold, done.

No added flavorings, but they taste great — the ruby adds a bit of fruitiness that pairs well with the white and dark chocolate. And the inevitable drips down the side just make it look more like Neapolitan ice cream. Festive!