Caramel, Banana & Walnut Parfaits

 parfait 

It was my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary a little over a month ago! Exciting stuff, right? 25 years! <3

So I guess that would make this their “Silver” Wedding Anniversary. Overcome with curiosity while writing this post, I decided to look up what each year represents, since all I really remember is Silver for 25 years and Gold for 50 years.

Thanks to my good friend The Internet, I am now quite well-versed in the appropriate gifts for each year of marriage. According to Wikipedia, the first year of marriage denotes a gift of paper (U.S.) or cotton (U.K.) Personally I’d be pretty happy with a gift of paper… I’m a designer so paper fascinates me, especially if it has a really nice texture and I can just sit there feeling it all day long. Of course there is also a section for “suggested modern gifts” like clocks and silverware, for people who are not as passionate about paper as I.

Though the list refers to gifts that the couple gives each other, I enjoy the idea of gifting my parents with something on their special day. Most of the time, it’s a home-cooked two or three course meal for them. Back in 2012, my brother and I whipped up a grand feast: Broadbean & Pecorino Salad, Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi (as in, I made the actual pieces of gnocchi myself rather than just buying a packet… fun times!) and some sort of tropical fruit pudding for dessert. This took basically the entire day to prepare but needless to say it was a delicious lunch and they quite liked it, even though the gnocchi tasted a bit doughy.

This year, we didn’t really have an entire day to prepare as we were out during the day. But I managed to scrape together a bit of time and creativity to make individual Caramel, Walnut & Banana Parfaits for dessert!

I essentially just made it up as I went along; Greek yoghurt and cream cheese, sliced banana, cinnamon… and this stuff:

caramel

I bought this earlier in the year whilst on a family holiday in Melbourne. We went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Farms and I picked this up in the gift shop. Even though it had nothing to do with strawberries I decided that it looked quite interesting, and I’d never heard of “Hazelnut Milk Jam” before… but basically it’s like caramel. So I brought it home and kind of just left it there, waiting for a worthy occasion to use it. Of course the likelihood of you owning this exact same jar is probably quite low, so you can probably just use any pre-made caramel or even make your own! Be creative! You can even add more layers like crushed biscuit crumbs, berries, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Once these parfaits have been refrigerated the banana flavor kind of permeates everything else a little (so if you’re planning to make this, hopefully you like bananas). They’re not sickly sweet and I can probably get away with saying they are even a bit on the “healthy” side. You can probably add sugar, honey or extra caramel if you wanted them sweeter.

Banana Caramel Walnut Parfaits

1 ½ cups Greek yoghurt
50g cream cheese
5-7 tablespoons Caramel
2 tbsp walnuts, crushed
½ tsp/ cinnamon
Extra caramel for drizzling on top
Extra walnuts for sprinkling
1 small banana, sliced

Beat the Greek yoghurt and cream cheese together until smooth, then stir in the caramel and cinnamon until combined.

Spoon a small amount of the mixture into four individual tall glasses, then top with a few slices of banana and a sprinkling of crushed walnuts (divide about a tablespoon amongst the glasses). Top with more of the yoghurt mixture, a few more slices of banana and the other tablespoon of walnuts. Finally, top with the remainder of the yoghurt mixture, the extra walnuts and a drizzle of extra caramel.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving and enjoy!

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins with Coconut Sugar

AppleCinnamons3

Happy, happy, happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a spectacular time ringing in the New Year alongside your nearest and dearest, and I wish you all the best in keeping your New Years Resolutions for at least two weeks or so, until you realize that these resolutions are pointless and you’re always going to be the same person who makes the same mistakes year after year… hah, just kidding! I’m sure it will be a fantastic year :)

In fact, I too have some resolutions – to bake more and not neglect Sneaky Pudding so much! Expect way more posts and delicious recipes this year. I also want to try and get into baking healthier snacks and such, so keep an eye out for those too.

And now I bring you the first recipe of the year – Apple & Cinnamon Muffins! Fresh out of the oven on New Years Day. Hooray!
What makes these muffins interesting is that I’ve decided to try something new. A while back, I bought a packet of “coconut sugar” from the supermarket. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but it intrigued me. So, what is it? Well, it comes from the flower blossom of the coconut palm – the syrup is heated to evaporate the water, creating a slight caramel flavor. Also, it’s apparently way healthier than cane sugar – it’s got way more iron, magnesium and over ten times the zinc. Wow!

I used coconut sugar in place of cane sugar in this recipe, but if you can’t get your hands on coconut sugar, feel free to just use caster sugar instead. I’d highly recommend coconut sugar, though. It’s delicious!

AppleCinnamons1

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins with Coconut Sugar

65g butter
½ cup coconut sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/3 cup of full cream milk
1 apple (you can use any kind – I used Pink Lady) cored and sliced thinly

TOPPING:
2 heaped tablespoons coconut sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift in half the flour and the cinnamon, then stir in half the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, and stir until combined.

Distribute the batter evenly amongst the 12 paper cases. Top each muffin with a thin apple slice. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the muffins are risen and spring back gently when touched, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

While the muffins are cooling in the tray, make the topping. Melt the tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and brush over the tops of the muffins while they are still slightly warm. Combine the coconut sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle this over the top of each muffin.

Once the muffins have cooled in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely, or serve them warm (they’d go nicely with some vanilla custard!)

Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding

StickyDate
Lately, I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like to. True, I found time to bake, but actually cooking – as in, cooking a meal for dinner and having everyone sit around the table and eat – is something that just hasn’t made itself a priority. I suppose baking is easier – generally all the ingredients are already in the pantry and nothing needs to be bought fresh, and the final product can be kept for at least a few days and eaten at one’s leisure or shared amongst friends and relatives.
But this past Friday several weeks ago when I actually wrote this post, there was a little window of opportunity – I had the day off, everyone was going to be home and I’d invited a special someone over to hang out… so I thought, hey, let’s cook!
Now, a little random fact about me… when I cook dinner, I like to go all out. I’m talking 5 courses, expensive wine, candles, formal wear, a live orchestra performing in the background… okay, not really, but I do like to at least make some dessert afterwards to round off the meal nicely.
For the main course, I decided to whip up some gnocchi (not homemade, just from a packet, because I was feeling like a bit of a lazy bum that day, although I did once make homemade gnocchi which was quite nice) with a pesto sauce (which I’m proud to say was homemade and quite delicious!)
Of course, with Sneaky Pudding being a “blog of sweetness”, the star of the show (er, the post) is the Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding!
It’s sort of a combination of a couple of recipes I found online, plus my own little additions. Initially, I was going for this recipe on the Cadbury Kitchen website… the idea of adding dark choc chips to a sticky date pudding sounded absolutely delish! However, the recipe required a square cake pan (which I did not have) and for the pudding to be cooled completely before serving (meaning I’d have to make it earlier in the afternoon, which I didn’t have much time for) so I went for a search and found this recipe from taste.com.au which was in the format I was searching for.
This pudding is absolutely freaking amazing. I absolutely love dates, even though some people think they resemble cockroaches (I guess they do, in a way) … I call them “nature’s candy” because to me they seriously taste like caramel! The addition of the choc chips to the pudding gives it a nice twist, especially when served warm because they melt, and the walnuts add an occasional satisfying crunch. It’s also quite delicious when eaten cold the next evening (yes, I ate dessert two days in a row… shhh)

Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding

250g chopped, pitted dates
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
125g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum essence
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup dark choc chips

SAUCE:
100g butter
1 cup brown sugar
250g spreadable cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Place chopped dates in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Stir in bicarbonate of soda. Leave for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line base and sides of a cake tin with baking paper. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and rum essence together until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
Pour in the date mixture and sift in flour and spices. Add walnuts and choc chips. Stir the mixture until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let sit in tin for about 5 minutes before turning out (upside down) onto a place.
Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sauce comes to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.
Poke the surface of the pudding all over with a skewer, and pour half of the sauce mixture over the top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.