The different taste and smell that comes to my mind when I think about christmas would be saffron, cinnamon, Seville (bitter) orange, cloves, ginger and lots of different kind of dried fruits and nuts. In other words, high time to start using some of these spices.
In Sweden we are very much focused on traditions in general (much more than here in the Netherlands if I compare the two countries) and in specific when it comes to christmas. In most families we eat variations of the same food every christmas at the so-called “julbord” but more about that on a later moment. It’s not boring, it is just the way we want it. Every single year 0:)
I always find myself having discussions about this with my (Dutch) husband but traditions and rituals seem somehow important for the human being, also in 2015.
One of the traditions that we hold on to, is the gingerbread. Mostly eaten in December as a very thin, a bit crunchy cookies in al different shapes. To break the traditions slightly, you often lately see it served with blue cheese. A nice combination of sweet and salt.
Sometimes you also see a soft cake with the same spices and finally in the south of Sweden where I come from, we like to eat a thick gingerbread looking more like a half a bun. The best thing is to have it with butter and a slice of a nice real cheddar. And then you dip in hot chocolate, foodgasm!
Anyway. These thoughts led me into the idea of baking a soft gingerbread that works as a cake and if thinly sliced and toasted for about 2 hours on 100º would go perfect with cheese and an apricot chutney. The chutney also works perfect at another moment with ovenbaked meat, in the morning porridge, the yoghurt or as a filling to a cake.
My criteria for the cake was part from that it should be really tasty of course, also that the cake should be good for my (and your!) body. Therefor this cake is baked with beans instead of flour. It really works perfect and I dare to say that no-one of your guests can tell the secret ingredients! Instead of refined sugar I have used dried prunes and a very small amount of syrup from coconut to add the sweetness. Dried fruit and syrup is still sugar and should be used with cautions however for this occasion I have chosen to try to find the golden, middle way. If you prefer or if you plan to eat the cake with cheese instead, you could probably just skip the syrup. The nuts give a nice crunch in the cake but it works perfect without as well if needed. So, what are you waiting for?
Let’s get to work!
Soft gingerbread with pecans
260 gram Cannellini or Flageolets beans
1 tsp grounded vanilla powder
40 gram deodorized coconut oil
80 gram dried prunes (katrinplommon in Swedish)
1,5 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves (nejlika in Swedish)
15 gram coconut syrup (date syrup would also work if you can’t find the coconut syrup)
2 tsp baking powder
Optional: 30 gram rough chopped pecan plus 10 whole pecans for decoration
How do I do it?
1. Set the oven for 160º C. Prepare a small baking tin with either greaseproof paper or grease the tin with coconut oil.
2. Place the beans in a wire strainer and rinse the canned beans well in running water.
3. Add the beans and all the other ingredients part from the pecans in a mixer bowl. Mix until it is really smooth, make sure that there are no visible remains from the beans in the bowl!
4. Chop the 30 gram of pecan nuts and add them equally to the batter with a spatula.
5. Pour the batter in the tin. See that the tin is completely covered and that there are no air holes in the bottom.
Optional: decorate the cake with pecan nuts on top of the cake, see that you push them down just a bit so that they won’t burn while in the oven.
6. Bake the cake for 70 minutes.
7. Let the cake cool off slightly before you cut it in thin slices.
8. The cake is nice with a cup of the or toasted in thin slices together with butter and a slice of strong cheese (like real Cheddar) and maybe some homemade apricot chutney, see recipe below.
100 gram dried apricots (preferably dried without sulphites, you recognize them on the brown color)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 half, small thumb fresh ginger
Enough of water to cover in the pan (about 200 gram)
How do I do it?
1. Cut the apricots in smaller pieces and add to a small pan.
2. Grind the fennel seeds in a mortar. Peel the fresh ginger and slice it roughly.
3. Add all the spices to the pan with the apricots and cover with water.
4. Let it carefully simmer until the apricots are soft.
5. Remove the cinnamon stick and the biggest pieces of the ginger from the pan. Mix haf of the chutney with a hand blender until smooth. When ready, mix it together with the rest of the apricots.