Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baking Naturally

(photos courtesy of Toshiko Sato!)

Yesterday's class was all about converting, that is taking recipes using conventional ingredients (white sugar, white flour, eggs, canned additives) and one step at a time replacing the conventional ingredients with natural ones and ideally ones that have some health supportive properties. It wasn't easy and some of them weren't successful at all. We all had one recipe to work with, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, banana bread, chocolate brownies and we were making carrot cake. The fruit ones of course seemed to be the easiest to convert but we had some BRUTAL results. It seemed logical to replace the white sugar with date sugar and a little molasses but the date sugar dried everything out even before we got it in the oven and the texture was just horrible. Our best result in the vegan zone was with an arrowroot slurry as egg replacer, coconut oil instead of canola, and maple crystals instead of white sugar. They were light and fluffy, not too sweet and definitely the prettiest.

In the other groups the ones that created interesting results were using cashew flour (just ground cashews) in the oatmeal raisin cookies. This produced tuile like results that were beautiful and tasty. Those are my favorite kind of cookies so I was psyched.

Here are some of the nuggets I gleaned from the exercise:

A good egg replacer is 2 Tablespoons Arrowroot mixed with 3 Tablespoons Water.
A bad one (in our results)was the flax egg (1 Tablespoon ground flax combined with 3 Tablespoons Water.)
Avoid date sugar!
Maple crystals are a pretty easy white sugar substitute. In most of the conversions the maple taste was barely noticeable if at all. Of course the color is a factor.

I'm gonna start experimenting with using panela and agave (agave seems to be having some sort of controversy these days so who knows if people will accept it as a natural substitute in a few months. My main goal is to try to minimize the use of refined ingredients as much as possible but not sacrifice taste texture and common sense.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This cake was other worldly. My pictures are not even close to doing it any kind of justice. It was a chocolate genoise, with layers of dense chocolate mousse, covered in whipped cream.
I need a better camera.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Due to Vday being TODAY, a Saturday, there will be many desserts. I made some cookies but a true slap my hiney and call me Sally Valentine sweet is coming later......

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

National Carrot Day (in lieu of national pie day)

Since I did not get around to posting this on National Pie Day, I found another reason to celebrate some recent pie escapades inspired by DOTMC: National Carrot Day, which is today, February 3rd. Like Molly N, I made a savory pie -- the rebel of pies, the savory and typically crust-free Shepherd's Pie. It had lots of carrots in it, though the hit of the vegetable mix was roasted celery root. Because I just saw my favorite crust punk band, Amebix, I opted to use a crust in this Shepherd's Pie. I confess that it was a store-bought crust, which takes away all my punk and DOTMC points.

I did not follow a specific recipe but here are a few highlights of the pie:
To complete the recipe...
  • (If you use a crust) Pre-cook it for 10-minutes so the bottom cooks a bit
  • Sautee 1 large yellow onion in 3tbsp oil with carrots and celery until they soften
  • Heat Light Life Smart Ground in an oiled skillet
  • Add 3/4 cups corn and 3/4 cups of peas (or green beans) to carrots and celery
  • Toss in roasted celery root and onion (above) to the veggie sautee
  • Remove crust from the oven or lightly oil a 9x9" baking oven-safe baking dish
  • Layer the Smart Ground so the bottom is covered, add vegetable mix and spoon mashed potatoes onto the top so it forms a 1" covering on top
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes and cool for 10 minutes
Today is also the official halfway point of winter. I probably won't post again until it's blueberry picking time, but I promise to post photos of the pies after that adventure, too.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sticky Toffee Pud

Hello ladies,
It's been ages since I've posted...haven't been making many sweets, what with my ever-expanding posterior...expansion, but I wanted to share this treat that I made for our very fab (and recently British-themed) Supper Club.

My brother-in-law in a sous chef in England and has worked at some great restaurants, including a Michelin rated place in Bath, where he learned this Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe from a very well-respected dessert chef.
It's fairly decadent and I don't even serve it with a little vial of clotted cream like he does...

It should be served warm, so that the top if all melty and gooey and the cake dissolves in your mouth in an amazingly buttery, toffee-tinged heap. I personally find the dessert rapturous and have to physically restrain myself from eating huge quantities. It has a weirdly addictive quality to it.

Here's a pic, with the recipe below:

(Set oven to 350- and use only the upper/top rack for this cake)

2 eggs
1 1/2 + cup- self-rising flour (more than one and a half cups, but not quite one and two-thirds cup)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup butter (for sauce)
3/4 cup of dark brown sugar (for sauce)
small pinch of salt (for sauce)
1/3 cup of heavy cream (for sauce)

1 1/3 cup of pitted, rough chopped dates
2 cups water

Melt 1/2 cup of butter, the 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar, small pinch salt, heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved and not grainy, then slowly add the heavy cream. Mix well and set aside, as it must be cooled down before pouring over baked pudding.

In another saucepan, put in the pitted dates and cook in the 2 cups of water, a dash of vanilla, simmering until dates are tender and reducing the liquid by half. Set aside to cool down a bit.

In a bowl, mix eggs, white and brown sugars, vanilla, and the rest of the butter together. Once mixed well, slowly add flour, baking soda, dry ingredients.
Slowly add dates and their fluid to the batter. It will get foamy if the water is still warm. Don't panic.

Pour into a well greased pan (or ramekins/muffin tins, etc).
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top of cake is sponge-y firm and golden.

Pour sauce all over the cake as soon as the cake is out of the oven. Get it in everywhere, poke little holes throughout (you can use chopsticks), for maximum surface absorption.

Serve warm- or microwave each serving for 30 seconds.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


This teacake of Tara's was so so so good! And adorable. I forgot to add the baking powder- and it still was delicious and dreamy! I had blueberries and some raspberry syrup which went perfectly with the delicate lemon. I will definitely put this in my go to recipes for last minute yet still elegant cakes. Thanks, Tara!


Make this one..


Lovely Miss Tara sent a tea cake recipe with some tea bags to encourage us! I am making this for this todays's House marathon...I mean Superbowl. Check in later for pics!Thanks Tara!!