Springing into new things : Raw, vegan, gluten-free baking

Raw and Vegan Carrot Cake

(Raw and Vegan Carrot Cake)

Nobody panic, I haven’t actually turned my baking blog into the polar opposite of everything that has been posted here for the past couple of years. Well, not permanently anyway.

My initial foray into raw sweets occurred some time ago, and involved blitzing a mere handful of ingredients together to form raw brownie bites. First thought? “Holy crap, brownies in 5 minutes or under!” (They were delicious, and I’d link to the recipe here, but unfortunately the blog doesn’t seem to exist anymore).

Raw and Vegan Carrot Cake

Then I learned about coconut oil, and sadly discovered that I didn’t really like it all that much (but thankfully not quite in the same way as when coriander tastes like death and soap to some people). That put me off delving further into the wider world of raw desserts. Meanwhile, life went on. I pretty much spent the past year baking 8 hours a day as part of my job. Now that I’m free again, and still feeling excited about trying new things (or maybe hayfever season is muddling my brain), it seems the perfect time to test out a few raw, vegan sweet recipes. Along the way, I managed to pick up a few tips :

-Firstly, you really need a high powered blender to ensure the smoothest, creamiest end result, otherwise the overall texture of your frostings or caramel will be slightly off kilter.
-Many recipes rely on coconut oil, and it often ends up being the dominant flavour in the dessert. Use the best oil you can get, because it will definitely matter.
-As is the case with coconut oil, use the best vanilla extract you can get.
-Lastly, dessert is still dessert, regardless of whether it’s raw/vegan or not. Eat in moderation, but enjoy every bite! :)

Raw and Vegan Chocolate Ganache Cake

(Raw and Vegan Chocolate Ganache Cake)

Raw and Vegan Caramel Slice

(Raw and Vegan Caramel Slice)

Raw, Vegan and Gluten-Free Caramel Slice :
(this recipe is for a 3.5″ x 7.5″ frame and yields 8 thin slices; adjust quantities to suit your baking tin)

For the base layer :
25g pitted dates
110g whole unblanched almonds
pinch of sea salt

Blend all three ingredients together until the mixture looks ‘wet’. Press mixture into the base of a lined 3.5″ x 7.5″ frame. Leave in freezer while you make the caramel layer.

For the caramel layer :
65g cashew butter
70g tahini
165g maple syrup
55g melted coconut oil
10g vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Pour on top of the base layer and freeze until firm. 30-60 minutes.

For the chocolate layer :
15g raw cocoa powder
25g maple syrup
35g melted coconut oil
5g vanilla extract

Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Pour over the caramel layer and freeze until firm.

When ready to serve, unmould the caramel slice and cut with a hot knife. Decorate each slice with a few flakes of sea salt and some cocoa nibs. Any leftovers can be stored covered, in the fridge.

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Humble crumble

Apple and Strawberry Crumble2

(Apple and strawberry crumble)

Crumbles. Well, everyone’s made them at some stage of their baking pursuits. My favourite has usually been cinnamon apple, most certainly with an oat based topping, and definitely served alongside vanilla ice-cream.

Nothing much has changed over the years, although I’m growing to really love apple and strawberry as a combination (but still have a strange aversion to the very popular flavour duo of strawberry and banana, as seen in many yoghurts and smoothies). Since the climate here in Australia is so varied, we currently have local apples in season, as well as strawberries from further north, where the warm Winter weather is perfect for growing them.

My tip for making crumbles is : Don’t peel the apples. There is plenty of flavour (and dare I say it, .. nutrients) in the skins and it softens as it cooks to the point where you don’t notice the skins are present in the final dish. My other tip is, make more than you think you need, because it reheats beautifully and I’m pretty sure “too much crumble” has never been a documented malady. Ever.

Apple and strawberry crumble :

As many apples (green, or a combination of red and green apples) and strawberries as you like (6 apples and 1 punnet of strawberries will comfortably feed 4-5 people)

Wash the fruit. Core the apples and chop them to a rough 2cm dice. Gently cook the chopped apples in the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of caster sugar and a splash of water. When the apples are tender, toss in the hulled berries and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Transfer the fruit into a baking dish, cover generously with crumble and bake in a 175′C preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the fruit is bubbling away at the edges, and the crumbled topping is golden.

For the cinnamon oat crumble topping :

120g plain flour
60g butter
60g brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
30g rolled oats

Combine all the ingredients together, rubbing the butter in until it resembles bread crumbs. Set aside until required.

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Friends who give a fig..

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake and Figs

(Chocolate yoghurt cake with sticky caramel figs)

A few days ago, a high school friend sent me an email. She was out of town, her fig tree was heavy with fruit, and did I want to go pick some before the birds got to them? It took me all of two seconds to say, heck yes. I mean, free fruit.. who (except the sugar deniers) would say no? Plus, I happen to also own a potted fig tree and it has all of two leaves left hanging for dear life on a singular branch. Sometimes I feel that branch is pointing accusingly at me for not being a better amateur gardener. Naturally, I wanted to see this bountiful tree of hers.

So now I have a small basket of doesn’t-get-fresher-than-this figs and have been experimenting with different ways of using them. A few were sliced, rolled in sugar, kissed with a blow torch, and served with a sort of Eton Mess. If you don’t have a blow torch because somehow Amelie and the whole creme brulee craze remains a complete mystery to you, then here’s another amazing way to treat figs : Melt a few spoonfuls of sugar in a sauce pan and heat to make a golden caramel. Toss in fig halves, stir gently to coat them in the caramel, then deglaze with Banyuls or balsamic vinegar to form a bit of a sauce. The whole process takes just a few minutes and the end result is sweet and slightly sour figs you can spoon over ice-cream, or serve with a simple chocolate cake such as this one.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake with Figs

This chocolate cake is a take on Tartine’s devil’s food cake, made with yoghurt instead of buttermilk. It’s one of my favourites because it has the depth of flavour of a chocolate fudge cake without being dense or stodgy.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake :

115g unsalted butter, softened
235g caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs
100g Greek yoghurt
60g milk
125g plain flour
30g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
60g cocoa powder

Grease and line a 9″ round baking tin. Preheat the oven to 175′C.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Combine the yoghurt and milk and add this to the butter mixture. Sift in the flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder and fold to incorporate. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before covering with ganache or serve simply dusted with icing sugar and eaten with a generous scoop of Greek yoghurt.

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