Treat me: Gluten-free chocolate cakes

Forget war, forget inequality, forget child poverty and the melting of the icecaps, the thing that really gets people riled up is whether or not gluten is evil. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time moderating comments on a big mainstream news site and the vitriol directed at the gluten-intolerant is intense.

If you believe that people who need to avoid gluten for the sake of their health are attention-seeking worrywarts, look away now. Because the June We Should Cocoa challenge is all about gluten-free chocolate treats, and I’ve got a cracker of a recipe to share. You don’t have to be anti-gluten to like it, but if you are, I hope it becomes a regular part of your repertoire.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cakes With No Refined Sugar

Little chocolate cakes (gluten-free)

This is my adaptation of this recipe, which in turn is a redux of a recipe by Dr Libby. I found the original just a little bit dull and worthy, so have given it a bit of a makeover. This is the kind of chocolate cake you can put in your kids’ lunchboxes and feel all smug about. It’s also a good way to use up that sunflower seed butter I showed you how to make earlier this week. I think those holistic health types call that synergy.

If you want to make it even less worthy, put an extra square of good chocolate in the bottom of each muffin case before you add the mixture. Then you can call it pudding.

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup nut butter

2 Tbsp oil – coconut, olive, whatever you have

1/4 cup honey

3 1/2 Tbsp best quality cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp vinegar

50g best quality chocolate – I’ve used white in the photos, but any sort will do – roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and put paper cases in a 12-hole muffin pan.

Put all the ingredients except the baking soda and vinegar into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the baking soda and vinegar and whiz again. 

Pour into a jug, then pour this into the muffin cases until they are two-thirds full. Sprinkle each one with the chocolate and bake for 15-18 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before eating. They will deflate slightly.

These can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for about five days. The flavour intensifies the day after they are made. Makes 12.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

The ultimate chocolate cake

This month the We Should Cocoa challenge has been all about making a chocolate cake for less than £1 (NZ$1.97). I have to confess I didn’t even try.

Instead, I can share with you the way to make your favourite chocolate cake taste – and look – like a million dollars. It’s this – a cloud of chocolate meringue buttercream that will make people close their eyes in bliss as they eat it. It defies all current trends in that it is resolutely full of sugar, butter and eggs. And it is worth every single mouthful.

The ultimate chocolate meringue buttercream
If you find ordinary buttercream icing – the sort you make with icing sugar and butter – too sweet and somewhat gritty, then this is the icing for you. It’s still sweet and quite rich, but incredibly light. It’s stable enough to pipe, spreads like a dream and keeps well in the freezer if you don’t use it all in one go. I have to leave the house to stop myself eating it straight from the bowl before it reaches the cake. It’s THAT good.

320g caster sugar
170g water
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
350g butter, at room temperature, sliced into 2cm chunks
2 tsp pure vanilla
150g good quality dark chocolate, at least 60 per cent cocoa solids, melted and at room temperature

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir well, then boil until the temperature reaches 118C. While the syrup is boiling, put the egg yolks and eggs in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and whisk until they are light and fluffy. When the syrup has reached 118C, carefully drizzle it into the egg mixture (beating all the time). Beat on high until the mixture is thick and pale, and the sides of the bowl are cool to touch. At this point, switch from the whisk to the paddle attachment and start adding the butter, a piece at a time, until it is all mixed in. Don’t fret if it starts to look a bit like mayonnaise, just keep beating it.
When the butter is all in, and the buttercream is very light and fluffy, add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat until well mixed in. You can use this straight away, or leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours (as long as it doesn’t get too hot or cold). It also keeps in the fridge for a week, though you’ll need to beat it again.

Best Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Cake Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
If you want to make the ultimate chocolate cake, make two batches of this easy chocolate cake. When the cakes have completely cooled, chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Spread the surfaces of three of the cakes with good boysenberry jam, then a layer of chocolate meringue buttercream. Stack them on top of each other, then cover the lot with a thin ‘crumb coat’ of buttercream. Return to the fridge for 30 minutes to set, then cover in the remainder of the buttercream (you can go crazy here with a piping bag if you like). The cake can be left in the fridge overnight, but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Spanish Hot Chocolate

Winter is coming, I can feel it in my bones. There’s only a month until the Shortest Day (after which winter really starts in this part of the world) and even though it’s been bright and sunny, there’s no mistaking that chill in the air.

That means porridge is back on the breakfast menu and so – occasionally – are delicate demi-tasses of my very own homemade Spanish hot chocolate. It’s thick, velvety and just the thing to cheer you up on a grey morning. Want some?

Spanish Hot Chocolate
Spanish hot chocolate is like nothing else on earth. It’s rich, thick and has a chocolate hit strong enough to sustain you until aperitivo hour. I’ve finally clocked how to make it at home – not quite as much fun as drinking it in Spain, but infinitely more achievable at the moment.
For best results, use the best cocoa powder and chocolate you can find. This makes enough for a good-sized jar – instructions follow on how to take it from powder to liquid heaven.

1 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup caster sugar – increase this to 1/2 a cup if you like things very sweet
6 Tbsp cornflour
200g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz until it forms a fine powder. Alternatively, sift the cocoa, caster sugar and cornflour into a small bowl, then stir in the finely chopped chocolate. Transfer to a screwtop jar.

To make two small servings:  Mix 1/3 cup (6 Tbsp) of the chocolate mixture with 1/2 cup milk of your choice (not low fat milk, ok?) in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring all the time, until it thickens, then add 1 1/2 cups milk and stir frantically. Keep cooking over low heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Divide between two cups. Follow with a brandy and a cigar, then go to work.

Have a great week, everyone x

Treat me: Fairtrade choc banana cake

This week two extremely important women in the world of food visited Wellington. One attracted loads of attention while she filmed an advertisement for Whittakers chocolate; the other could have walked down Lambton Quay without attracting a second glance from anyone.

I’m not saying Nigella Lawson’s Wellington sojourn didn’t deserve all the fuss, but it’s a shame that the equally gorgeous Rose Boatemaa Mensah wasn’t as feted. Rose was in town as part of Fairtrade Fortnight – as well as being a teacher she is a cocoa farmer in Ghana. Some of the beans grown by Rose and her family end up at Whittakers, where they are turned into my favourite chocolate (and the husks even end up on our garden).

I didn’t get to catch up with Rose (or Nigella) this week, but to celebrate all things Fairtrade I’ve whipped up this utterly lovely cake. It combines the two Fairtrade things we eat most in this house – chocolate and All Good Bananas. It’s even inspired by a Nigella recipe – how circular is that?

Fairtrade Chocolate Banana Cake
If you can manage not to gobble this the minute it comes out of the oven, glistening with nuggets of melting chocolate, then it keeps really well. And I’m sure your mum would love it for Mother’s Day (that’s this Sunday, in case you’d forgotten).

400g ripe bananas (peeled weight) – about 3 large ones
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
grated zest of two lemons
1 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
Put the bananas in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Add all the other ingredients, except the chocolate and whiz again until well mixed. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the chocolate on top.
Bake for 35-45 minutes – it will be damp and sticky but a toothpick plunged in should come out cleanly. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out to cool on a rack.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Good Things: April 2014

T. S Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruellest month – at least not in the southern hemisphere, where it means a slew of public holidays, Easter and settled autumn sunshine. April is all about chocolate and hot cross buns and house guests and ‘is it drinks o’clock yet?’. At least, that’s how it was at our place.

First, the chocolate. As well as the gorgeous gilded bunnies I made with my pal Agnes (I was allowed to do the gilding, she did everything else), the single best Easter chocolate that passed my lips was a dark chocolate bunny filled with cinnamon-infused salted caramel from my local chocolatier, Bohemien Chocolates. I ate it in about three bites, then lay on the sofa in a state of complete satisfaction.

I made two huge batches of hot cross buns – the ones pictured above are made to the Little & Friday hot cross bun recipe, though I found the recipe in the book itself to be rather counter-intuitive and fiddled with it a bit to be sure it would work. I’ve found this to be true of several Little & Friday recipes and I think it’s more to do with editing than anything else. But it’s not very helpful to first-time bakers, is it? Anyway, these were good, but pretty heavy going to eat. I made a mega-batch of the Dan Lepard spiced stout buns the next day and they were much better. A little fiddlier to make, sure, but with better flavours and a much lighter texture.

As for the houseguests – they were of the very best kind. They performed magic tricks, provided high quality childcare, filled the fridge with exciting foodstuffs and good wine and cooked lovely dinners. The house hasn’t been quite the same since.

Instead, I’ve been cheering myself up with this – quite possibly the BEST peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t think anything could top Pic’s Peanut Butter (the one with a poem written inside the label, if you can ever soak it off in one piece), but Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter is incredible. The super crunchy is so crunchy you need to spread it in a thick, chunky layer. Essentially, it’s peanut butter made for eating out of the jar. I am addicted. If this keeps up the only thing keeping me from the debtor’s prison will be that I’ll be too wide to fit through the doors…

What helped you get through April?