Friday, October 2, 2009

Sugar & Spice and Fair Trade Nice

The word was out from Transfair Canada, the non-profit Ottawa based organization which promotes Fair Trade Certified products, that they were looking for content.  More specifically, they were looking for recipes that use as much Fair Trade Certified products as possible.  Into the kitchen I went to whip up some creations  which would incorporate the necessary components, and then off to Michael Kohn's studio to photograph them,
We collaborated on two entries, Spiced Plum Torte and Chocolate Garam Masala Cookies.

Fair Trade crops typically came from Africa and South America, where low market prices for produce and a high dependency on unscrupulous intermediaries entrenched farming families and local economies in a cycles of poverty.  Working with aid organizations, the producers laid the foundation for a trading system that ensured a fair price for their produce and a direct road to markets and the Fair Trade System was created.  Products include: Cane Sugar, muscovado sugar, icing sugar, dutch-processed or natural cocoa, molasses, vanilla,  semi-sweet chocolate chips, chocolate wafers (milk, bittersweet, semi-sweet), cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black tea, green tea, coffee,  black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mint, chamomile, fair trade ice cream, bananas, grapes, and oranges. New products are being added and include: rice, quinoa, flowers, wine, cotton and sport balls.
Using Fair Trade Certified products ensures that the farmers are receiving a just price for their products, consumers are guaranteed that their purchases are truly benefiting producers and workers.  For more information, visit the website at, and when look for the Fair Trade Certified logo.  
The following recipes use a lot of spice.  For maximum strength and spice-hit, I highly recommend grinding your own in a spice-dedicated coffee grinder. 


This is a fast, impressive and versatile dessert.  We have made it not only with plums but with pears, apricots, nectarines and wild blueberries and the results have always been delicious.  The torte can be served warm or at room temperature.  


¾ cup granulated cane sugar, divided, keeping 1 tablespoon aside

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup un-bleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

pinch sea-salt

12 Italian plums, halved and pitted

Icing sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the granulated cane sugar less 1 tablespoon, butter and vanilla.

Add the flour, spice, eggs and salt until the batter is well mixed.

Place batter in a 9” spring-form or other deep removable-bottom pan.  Place all of the fruit skin side down and cover the surface and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of granulated cane sugar.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. Makes 8 servings


1 cup whipping cream

3 tablespoons brown cane sugar or Muscovado sugar, or raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix the ingredients and whip until thick, soft folds appear.

(Hint: for best infusion, mix the ingredients the day before and whip just before serving.)



1 cup granulated cane sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for rolling.

1 large egg

¾ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup corn syrup

2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 1/8 teaspoons ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¾ cups un-bleached all-purpose flour, sifted

½ cup cocoa, Dutch-processed or natural, sifted


Using an electric stand mixer and a paddle attachment, combine the 1 cup of cane sugar, the egg, oil, corn syrup, spices and salt, until evenly blended. Add the flour and cocoa and mix until fully incorporated.  Remove the dough from the bowl, scrape down the sides, place dough in a reusable container and chill for at least one hour.


Preheat oven to 350 F.  Prepare cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

Place the two tablespoons of cane sugar in to a small bowl, adding more if necessary.

Using a half-tablespoon measure, shape the dough into balls or half-spheres and roll them into the cane sugar.  Place twenty evenly spaced sugared dough shapes on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 11-12 minutes.  Makes approximately 60 cookies.

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