BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Planting the Seed to Sweet Success

Milk candy, milk jam, dulce de leche, or just plain caramel: Comparisons are easily made, but thick and creamy cajeta is truly a step above all the other simple burnt sugar toppings out there.

Inspired by Brian Huston, my take on this classic milk confection is a modern departure from the typical goat milk base. He is a BlueStar All-Star chef, so I knew this basic formula would be the best place to start my recipe experiment. (In case you don’t know about BlueStar, they are makers of restaurant-quality kitchen appliances for the home chef. They are based in the U.S. and can offer lots of great customization options! Click here for more information.)

Rather than just swap out the milk for a standard non-dairy alternative, I wanted to start from scratch with whole sunflower seeds. Why sunflower, of all things? I’ve found them to be fairly neutral in flavor when raw, and by using the whole seed, the resulting blend would be plenty rich from those natural fats- No need to add any oils to compensate for a leaner dairy-free drink.

Cajeta takes a bit of patience to perfect, but very little actual work. It’s kitchen alchemy at its best, seeing that pale, unexciting liquid transform into a thick, decadent, caramelized topping. In fact, mine became substantial enough to even use as a spread once fully cooled. Although it was highly tempting to use this golden milk jam as an indulgent new peanut butter sandwich filling, I took Mr. Huston’s suggestion in making a sweet cajeta sundae instead.

Of course, I substituted additional sunflower seeds for the recommended peanuts, since it only seemed right to match. It may be tough to see the pool of cajeta at the bottom of the glass here, but the beauty of this caramel accompaniment is that a little bit really does go a long way! No matter how you drizzle or slather it on, it’s hard to go wrong with such a versatile dessert topping.

Girasol Cajeta (Sunflower Caramel Sauce)

4 Cups Warm Water
1 Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Combine the water and sunflower seeds well in advance, and allow the seeds to soak for about 4 hours. This will soften them and allow them to blend much more easily than if they were simply raw. Transfer the mixture to your blender, and thoroughly puree until perfectly smooth. If you’re using a lower-powered machine, pass the resulting sunflower milk through a sieve to catch any remaining grit, discarding the solids.

Pour the fresh sunflower seed milk into a large stock pot and introduce the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Whisk thoroughly to incorporate before setting the pot over medium heat on the stove. Slowly bring the mixture up to a boil, whisking periodically. Keep a close eye on the mixture at this point, because it can go from inactive to an overflowing bubbly mess in two seconds flat!

Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking at a gentle simmer, whisking frequently, as the milk cooks down and gradually darkens in color. After about 30 minutes, it will be especially important to keep stirring so the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent anything from sticking. Add in the vanilla extract at this point.

After another 30 – 40 minutes, the mixture should be a deep amber brown and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving, or let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. Stashed in the fridge, the cajeta will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Makes About 1 Cup

Printable Recipe

This post was sponsored by BlueStar. All opinions, photos, and recipes are completely my own.


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Edible Sunshine

For once, spring has sprung up a bit early, and the long, sunny days are simply glorious. Mid-60’s, clear skies, little humidity; If only the weather could stay this perfect all year round! The bright sunshine illuminates all corners of the house, lifts the darkest of moods, and is so pervasive, it’s even made its way into my baking. Though the loaf stops short of being cooked via solar power, it tastes for all the world like a little bit of sunshine baked right into the bread.

A soft, golden yellow crumb clings to scores of crunchy sunflower seeds, periodically interrupted by the savory taste of sun-dried tomatoes. It would be hard to not feel just a little bit happier after toasting a slice for breakfast, or sandwiching two pieces with cucumbers and vegan cream cheese, or perhaps your favorite “BLT” fixings.

Sunshine Bread

3 – 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
3 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
1 Cup Carrot Juice
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Cup Roasted and Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Sun-dried Tomatoes (Dry; Not Packed in Oil)

This dough is meant to sit and rise overnight (at least 8 hours) so that it can be baked in the morning. Plan your timing accordingly.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl) whisk together 3 cups of the flour, yeast, turmeric, and salt. Since the dough will sit for so long, there’s no need to proof it and jump-start the rising process. Just be sure that your yeast is very fresh, and indeed still active.

Separately, combine the agave, carrot juice, and melted margarine or coconut oil, and slowly pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry goods while stirring. Add in the sunflower seeds and chopped dried tomatoes, and mix to incorporate. Add more flour 1/4 cup at a time if needed, until the dough is cohesive and no longer sticky but still tacky. If using a stand mixer, switch over to the dough hook attachment, and let it kneed on low speed for 5 – 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. This can also be done by hand on a lightly floured surface, but it will probably take closer to 10 – 12 minutes.

Lightly grease a large bowl, and plop your dough in, swirling it around gently to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and stash it in your fridge for at least 8 hours- Overnight is best.

In the morning, lightly grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan. Set aside.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes to smooth it out and redistribute the bubbles created by the yeast. Flatten it out into a rectangle no longer than the loaf pan, and roll it up like you would one giant cinnamon roll. Place it into the pan with the seam side down, and with a very sharp knife, make a slash down center in a straight line. Let rise until just about doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

As the loaf nears the proper size, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When ready, bake for for 45 – 50 minutes, until amber brown all over. If you’re unsure that it’s fully baked through, let it cool, and then tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow if properly done.

Let cool completely before slicing and savoring.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe

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