Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coffee brownies and coconut cake

I've been baking sourdough bread from a homemade starter about once a week for a couple of months. This week was my first real success, and I'm very excited. It is one of my two SCD cheats (the other is cocoa) - in small quantities, properly prepared grains don't seem to be causing my digestive system any harm.

I've been reading a lot about bread-making to get to a recipe which works - mine seems to require much longer cooking time than most people say, and much less water than the original recipe I was using. Normally, when I try a recipe and it just doesn't work, I either give up on it and go on to something else on my list, or I try again and hope something works out differently. What the sourdough experience has taught me is not to give up on recipes that have something good going for them, and instead, think about what isn't right and give them a tweak and try again.

I've done this with a few recipes recently, and have been very happy with my results on just the second attempt. With both, I found the original recipe to be too wet - in one, I upped the coconut flour and in the other, I reduced the liquid. I also played with the flavours a little, less sweetness, more spice, to suit my taste. Without further ado, here they are

Coffee brownies
Find the original here

2 cups cooked red lentils
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup hot espresso coffee
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted or coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 tsp salt

The day before, put about 1 cup of red lentils to soak (make sure you use a much bigger contained, as the will expand to over two cups before you are done). Soak for at least 12 hours. 

Rinse thoroughly, and then cook the lentils in fresh water until well cooked (maybe around 15 mins). Drain, and then leave to sit in a sieve for another hour to get some more of the moisture out.

Brew a cup of coffee, and pour over the dates. Leave to sit for about 5 mins.

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper and set it aside.

In a large food processor, combine the lentils, dates, cocoa and cinnamon and enough of the coffee that it all moves around. (You could put in all of the coffee at this stage, but my food processor doesn't deal with liquid very well, and if you put much in, it goes everywhere!) Blend until smooth (at least 5 minutes).

Add the eggs, and blend until combined. Then add the coconut flour and blend again. 

[If you want a denser, more mudcake-like cake, don't add the eggs until the next stage where you are hand-mixing the ingredients, so that you don't beat in too much air. You can also reduce the bicarb to as little as 1/2 tsp]

From here, I move the mixture to a large mixing bowl. If your food processor is big enough, and can deal with liquid, just keep going in that. Add the butter, honey, remaining coffee, bicarb (sift this in so it doesn't stay in lumps) and vanilla and stir to combine. Throw in a handful of nuts (I used walnuts, macadamias would also be good) at this stage if you want to.

Pour the batter into the lined baking dish, and cook for about 40 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when it is done. 

Coconut cake
Find the original here

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup almond meal
3 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/3 cup yoghurt
1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
Seeds from 1/2 a vanilla pod

Pour boiling water over shredded coconut and leave to sit.

Preheat over to 175C. Line a 8' by 8' cake pan with baking paper.

Mix almond flour, coconut flour, bicarb and salt together.

When the boiling water has cooled enough not to cook the eggs, add the eggs, butter, yoghurt, honey and vanilla to the coconut and stir to combine. Pour into the flour mixture and mix together.

Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in pan.

Enjoy, sitting inside in the warm and dry, while listening to the patter of rain on the roof, hot cup of tea in one hand and a good book in the other.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A blogging come back, and something hot and spicy for Valentine's day

Even though it is still summer, it is beginning to feel like we are well on the way to autumn already. Grey skies and rain, a nip of chill to the air most evenings, pumpkins ripening on the vine and the impending return of all of the pumpkin recipes I love, with the added pleasure of making them with home-grown pumpkins. The fruits of summer are still happening in the garden though - tomatoes, chillies and zucchinis - the former mostly still waiting to ripen, the latter two producing prolifically.

I've been preoccupied for quite some time, overseas holiday, work, garden, karate, jujitsu, relish-making and preserving, but was shocked to find that I haven't posted anything since last July! Since then, I've confirmed that my UC is in remission, and to celebrate the 3 month anniversary of that exciting news, I decided to introduce cocoa into my diet. Digestively, it has gone very well, but if I eat it more than occasionally, unfortunate skin reactions start to occur. So it is reserved for special occasions.

When I saw the theme for this month's go ahead honey it's gluten free, hot, spicy and heart shaped by Heather of Gluten Free Cat, I was inspired to try out something chocolately for Valentine's Day that I've been mulling over for some time. It covers 'hot' and 'spicy', and if I'd been organised enough, I could have managed the heart-shaped too… maybe next year.

Credit for the underlying idea has to go to Naomi - I've made an SCD+cocoa variation of this recipe a couple of times when I have had days of karate training - it can be difficult to get enough energy to keep going through the day, getting up at 5am to start training at 6, and I can happily confirm that these do the trick. They have a much higher ratio of fat to nuts compared to most energy bars out there, so they are packed with calories without the digestive problems that come with nuts. And they are so tasty I can happily eat them, even when I really don't feel like eating, and the mere thought of my usual go to energy foods (like avocado) make me feel sick.

Beyond being excellent energy bars, using the cocoa butter finely chopped, rather than melted, adds a lovely bitty texture, with the coconut oil holding the other ingredients together.

Ginger noms and choc-chilli noms
(nom is my favourite word to describe generic tasty food, particularly sweet things. It's late, and I'm not feeling very original right now!)


Nom base:
60g cocoa butter
60g dried dates
90g cashews
35g coconut oil

Choc-chilli additions:
5 green cardamom pods (seeds ground with a pinch of salt)
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa 
1 hot red chilli

Ginger additions:
1 heaped tablespoon finely diced glace ginger (to make an SCD version, just peel and chop the ginger, cover with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, drain and repeat 3 times, then add enough honey to cover, and put back over a low heat, stirring every so often until the honey is absorbed and coats the ginger pieces. You can save the water for a ginger cordial. You could also do the same to the chillies for sweeter, less spicy effect)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


Roughly chop the cocoa butter by hand, then add to a food processor with the dates and cashews. Blitz until everything is finely chopped, but not powder. Add the coconut oil and blitz again until everything just holds together.

Divide the mixture between two bowls.

To the first, add the cardamom, cocoa and finely chopped chilli. Stir to combine.

To the second, add the glace ginger, ground ginger and cinnamon. Stir to combine. (cocoa would almost certainly be good in this one too!)

Spoon each of the mixtures into little (ideally heart shaped) moulds, press down firmly, then refrigerate until set.

Share with someone special, with a little glass of something robust (a nice whiskey perhaps?), to complement the rich flavours. Or eat them all yourself in the same fashion, or just lick the mixture off the spoon before moulding and refrigerating… so long as you have plans to work it off later!