Sticky Gingerbread Paleo Muffins

IMG_8433.JPG

All week I have been craving gingerbread.  It must be the time of year, all those posters for gingerbread lattes.  I had a hunt around for some healthy/gluten-free gingerbread muffin recipes but nothing looked too exciting, or healthy, so I made this up as I went along.  Not to be too smug or anything, but these are INCREDIBLE!! The whole house smelt amazing and so festive whilst I was baking them, too.  These little beauties are free from gluten, grains, dairy and refined sugar, and full of nourishment and protein.  Which mean you can eat all 6, obvs.

img_8361img_8368img_8371

These muffins are really light and fluffy and not at all dense like a lot of paleo or gluten free cakes. The molasses/treacle also makes them gloriously sticky and sweet. I have tried baking with coconut flour before but had some serious disasters. Less is definitely more as it’s quite binding.  Secondly, the whisked egg whites make all the difference to the texture. I try to avoid recipes which require whisking egg whites separately as I’m essentially far too lazy, but I’ve begrudgingly come to the conclusion it is more than worth the effort and the extra washing up.    Don’t hold back on the spices when you make these, you want them to be full of flavour.

img_8434

RECIPE (makes 6 muffins)

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tbsps coconut flour

1/2 cup (50g) ground almonds

2 tsps ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsps coconut oil

2 tbsps dark treacle/molasses

2 tbsps maple syrup

img_8357img_8354

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 160C fan and line a muffin tray with cases.  Melt coconut oil, treacle and maple syrup gently over a low heat until combined and syrupy.

2. Separate eggs.  In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the whites until soft peaks form.

3. In a second large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add egg yolks, vanilla essence and slightly cooled oil/syrup mixture.  It smells amazing when you mix it all together.

4. Stir through 1 tbsp egg white to loosen the mixture, and then fold through the remaining egg white.

5. Divide between cases and bake in middle of oven for approx 20 minutes until they feel lovely and springy and a skewer comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool in tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These will keep for several days in an airtight tin. But they probably won’t last that long.

img_8358img_8435img_8429

Gluten-free dairy-free Italian Chocolate Cake

IMG_7245.JPG

So I’ve recently come out of the closet and confessed that I am a secret blogger. It was a huge thing to put myself out there and tell everyone what I’m doing, I’m not particularly comfortable in the limelight.  Unless I’ve had a bottle of prosecco, but that’s another story… Surprisingly, people have been amazingly supportive, to my face anyway.  I’m not sure what I expected, to be honest, but certainly not the lovely reaction I have had.  The other thing I didn’t expect was for people to actually want to cook my recipes and ask me for recommendations!!

This morning, a Blog Fan (OK, it was my best friend from school) asked for a lactose-free gluten-free dessert she could make for family gatherings as she has a pesky allergic relative.  I can’t resist a bit of bait like that and immediately the cogs were turning.  The main challenge, as I saw it, is what can you make as a one-off if you are not intolerant yourself?  Something that doesn’t involve you buying weird allergy-friendly ingredients that are expensive and will lurk in your cupboard taking up valuable biscuit space for the next 6 months.  And, it needs to be tasty enough for the non-lactose or gluten dodgers to enjoy it and not feel cheated out of a good pud.

So here it is, a traditional Italian Chocolate Torta Caprese.  This is a traditional chocolate cake from the island of Capri, made with dark chocolate and ground almonds.  It is really easy to make, delicious, rich, chocolatey and moist.  And, mainly, something I always love in free-from recipes, is its not a substitute.  It’s a stand-alone gorgeous cake that was supposed to be made this way, not a list of substitutions that make it almost as nice as it should be.  It does contain sugar, but I have reduced the quantity so it’s not too sweet, and, considering the rest of the cake consists of nuts and eggs, it packs quite a protein punch so shouldn’t hit your blood sugar too hard.

IMG_7233.JPG

Now, according to my extensive research (google) there seem to be two different ways to make a Torta Caprese.  You can chop the chocolate very finely so that this is a marbled, fudgy, choc chip sort of affair, or melt it. The first time I made this, I chopped it, second time I melted it and much preferred that option. The third time, I did what any sensible person would do and did both! Amazing!

IMG_7106.JPG

Traditionally, this is dredged with icing sugar but I thought that was a bit dated, plus icing sugar isn’t the healthiest option.  Instead, I dusted over a little cocoa and made some dark chocolate curls to scatter over the top. You can never have enough chocolate!  In fact, if I was making this for a dinner party I would probably add an extra 25g of chopped dark chocolate, but that would make it very rich, be warned!!

I’m going to experiment with this recipe. I have a feeling it would be beautiful with ginger or organge flavoured dark chocolate or made with half ground hazelnuts/half almonds.

img_7158

Chopped chocolate version

img_7142

IMG_7242.JPG

Melted choc version

INGREDIENTS (makes 24cm round cake, serves about 10)

200g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 70% dark)

250g ground almonds

5 large organic eggs

175g sugar (I used unrefined dark muscavado as its less processed and nice and fudgy, but any sugar would be fine)

100g coconut oil OR 100ml olive oil (or melted butter if you can have it) plus extra for oiling tin.

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

pinch salt

cocoa for dusting (optional)

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.  Generously oil and line a 24cm round tin with baking paper.

2. First, if you can be bothered with this part, make your chocolate shavings. Turn large bar of chocolate over so smooth side is facing upwards, pull a large knife firmly towards you, the chocolate should curl up. Keep going until you have a handful or so. Set aside in a cool place. Alternatively, skip to next step.

IMG_7143.JPG

2. Chop 50g of the chocolate finely (see picture above).  I chopped some very finely and left some chocolate-chip sort of size so there was a mixture of textures.  You could also pulse it in a food processor.

3. Melt 150g chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave.  Once melted, add coconut or olive oil. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, separate eggs into two bowls.  In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk whites until they form stiff peaks.

73CD6E45-45B6-46C3-B7BF-76B934FD1906.jpg

4. With the same whisk (you don’t need to clean it in between so long as you have whisked whites first) beat yolks with sugar until pale and creamy.  Add vanilla essence and salt. Mix in tepid (it mustn’t be hot or it will scramble the eggs!) chocolate and oil mixture.

5. Next, mix ground almonds and then chopped chocolate into egg yolk mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites, about a third at a time, until fully incorporated. No streaks of egg white please!

6. Pour into tin and bake for about 50 minutes a skewer almost comes out clean and it is firm to the touch.

7. Allow cake to cool in tin. Once cool, serve as it is or dust with cocoa and pile chocolate shavings on top, if using.

Enjoy on its own or with cream/soya/ coconut cream. This cake just gets better and better as it gets more moist after a day or two thanks to the almonds, so it’s great to make in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Pear and Almond Crumble

I have had pears in my organic fruit and veg box for the last 3 weeks running. Lots of them. There are only so many we can eat. So, I’ve been trying to be creative. Last night we had pork loin steaks pan fried with a sprinkling of fennel seeds, baked sweet potato and broccoli, and I threw a thickly sliced pear into the pan with the pork for the last few minutes. Yum. Pork and pears is delicious. If you don’t believe me, you must try Jamie Oliver’s Pork, Pear and Parsnip recipe Here.  Anyway, that used up one pear, so I was still left with a fruitbowl-full. So I decided to make a crumble.

My crumble is gluten and sugar free, but of course.  I did ponder putting a bit of sugar into the crumble mixture. I thought honey or maple syrup would make it too soggy and distinctly non crumbly. I often wonder why some “sugar free” recipes might contain 1/2 a bottle of maple syrup or a cup of honey. What’s the point?  Cutting sugar out of your diet is not about swapping it for another sweetener. It’s about re-training your tastebuds and improving your health with a lower GI diet.  Yes, processed white sugar is the worst form of sugar, but anything very sweet, such as honey or a ton of dried dates made into a ‘raw brownie’  will also effect your blood sugar, adrenal system and waistline. They are less bad for you, rather than good for you, Is one way to think of it.  Anyway *clims back off soapbox* I try to make my cooking low in any form of sugar where I can. And so by the same token, I have no issue with using a spoonful of really good, organic muscavado or Demerara sugar here and there.  I hope that makes sense, it does to me anyway 🤔

So, without further ado, here is the recipe, handmade by me and t’kids this afternoon.  Feel free to add any other fruit you like: a handful of juicy blackberries or an apple or two would be lovely.

96303097-1b41-44cf-8b27-c5c40e6119bf

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

6 medium sized pears, fairly ripe or thereabouts

1 100g pot Hipp organic pear & apple purée (optional)

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence/paste/seeds

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

50g oats

75g ground almonds

2 tbsps butter or coconut oil

25g pumpkin seeds

optional: 25g chopped walnuts or pecans (My kids aren’t big fans, so I often just add these to my own bowl later)

good pinch salt

OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp muscavado, demerera or coconut sugar

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C.  Chop your pears into various sizes. You want some to have a bit of texture (about 1 inch slices) and some to reduce down to form a sauce (about 1cm).  Cook on a low heat with a splash of water, the honey, vanilla and half of the cinnamon for about 5 minutes until soft… ish. How much cooking they will need depends on how ripe they are, so use your judgement. If you’re using it, stir through your purée, it makes a nice sauce.

2. Meanwhile, spread oats out onto a baking try. They are crispier and have more flavour toasted and are easier to digest.  Cook in oven for about 6-7 mins, keep an eye on them, you just want them just starting to turn golden and toasty.

3. Allow oats to cool slightly, mix with almonds and rub butter or oil in to form a breadcrumb type texture. Stir through sugar (if using), salt, seeds/nuts and rest of cinnamon.

4. Top fruit with crumble mixture and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, custard, coconut yoghurt… If it’s not quite sweet enough, drizzle with a little honey, maple syrup or even (ssshhh!) a sprinkling of sugar. I always add a handful of extra walnuts to mine, just because I love walnuts.

img_6722