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

Treat me: Banana granola

Has it ever occurred to you that bananas are like buses? There’s never any when you want one (or at least, one in the right state of ripeness or heading to the right destination), then a whole bunch turn up (or turn from green to extra-ripe) at once.

I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but come on, it’s Friday. And while I am well aware of the joys of freezing overripe bananas, not least because they’re great in smoothies like this apple crumble one, there’s only so many containers of frozen bananas that our tiny freezer can take. And there’s only so much banana cake a small family can eat in a week too (really, there is!)

How To Make Banana Granola Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

So it is with great pride I present to you my latest way to use up all the bananas that are no longer fit for eating in their natural state: banana granola. It’s genius, even if I do say so myself.

Banana Granola
This makes the house smell like banana cake, but it’s much more virtuous. The buckwheat gives it an extra crunch, but if you can’t lay your hands on any try quinoa or another cup of seeds.

4 cups whole or jumbo oats
1 cup seeds – sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, linseed – or a mixture of all of them
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup buckwheat or quinoa
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp neutral, flavourless oil
2 Tbsp honey
3 very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, optional

Heat the oven to 160C and line a large baking dish with baking paper. Put the oats, seeds, coconut, buckwheat or quinoa and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir well to mix.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas to a smooth puree with the oil and honey. Stir this mixture through the dry ingredients – don’t be afraid to use your hands to really mix it in.
Spread in an even layer on the prepared tray and bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. If it starts to look a little dark towards the end of the cooking time, just switch the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar, but leave the granola tray in the oven until it has cooled down. This will ensure it dries thoroughly.
Stir through some dried fruit if you like – I reckon sultanas and banana chips are a good combo – and store in an airtight container.

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

Treat me: Double ginger apricot balls

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Please, no, not another raw energy/bliss ball recipe. Save me, please!’
While it’s true that the world probably doesn’t need another set of instructions on how to pulverise dried fruit and nuts into a lunchbox-friendly treat, I think this one – my latest flavour combo – is worth sharing.

Apricot And Ginger Bliss Balls

Double ginger apricot balls
Don’t even think about making these with those flabby, flavourless dried apricots – you want the really tangy, chewy, intensely apricot-y ones. If you don’t have crystallised ginger, the stem stuff would work well here too. And if you really want to push the boat out, try dipping these in white chocolate instead of coconut…

150g dried apricots, cut in half with scissors
150g raisins
50g crystallised ginger
50g walnuts or almonds
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp orange blossom water
60g (3/4 cup) fine desiccated coconut

Put everything except the coconut in a food processor and whiz until it forms a lump. Put the coconut in a bowl. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture, roll into balls and then roll these in the coconut. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes about 20.

Have a great weekend, everyone x