Sunday, August 30, 2015

Daring Bakers August 2015 Challenge: Gluten-Free Seed and Nut Loaf

For the August challenge, Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread. Apart from the previous Daring Cooks challenge, I have next to no experience with gluten-free cooking, so it was a new and educational experience for me. The ingredient list meant a trip to the city, although I suspect that one or two of the local bulk and health food stores might have carried them too.
There's a lot of waiting time with this recipe, and the reviews I read mentioned that the waiting time is what 'sets' the loaf so it isn't so very crumbly, so I decided to stick to the recipe.

First, I lined a loaf pan with parchment paper and sprayed it with canola oil.

I assembled the wet and dry ingredients separately. In the first bowl:
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1-1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 4 tbsp psyllium seed husks
  • 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
And then the wet ingredients. May I just say, coconut oil makes a slodge of soggy look beautiful!
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups water
I went easy on the water, thinking I could add more later if the mixture were too dry.
I was glad of that when it came time to mix the wet and dry ingredients together, as the mixture was very wet. I patted it into the loaf pan, covered it with plastic wrap, and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours. I've been into Masterchef Australia lately, so that gave me time to a watch a couple episodes.
Towards the end of the 2 hours, I preheated the oven to 350F, took the plastic wrap off, and popped it into the oven. This is a twice-baked loaf, so after 20 minutes I took it out, inverted the bread onto a wire rack, and baked it for another 30-40 minutes.
I was worried that the whole thing would disintegrate on the rack, but - thankfully - it held! I had to go digging for this wire rack, since my most-accessible ones are coated and I wasn't sure they would enjoy the oven's heat.
It's a small but nice thing: there's no need to turn it out again. You just yoink the loaf from the oven and wait. And wait.
And wait.
That second bake toasted the loaf and that wonderful nutty aroma wisped out of the oven, making me want to dig in immediately! But according to the recipe, waiting until it cools completely helps prevent disintigration, so that's what I did.
I might try to spread this mixture on a cookie sheet next time, since the ingredients remind me a bit of granola bars. The crust had good crunch to it, and the centre was soft, almost too soft for me. I think my original mixture could've used a quarter cup less water. I'm also not entirely sold on the flavour. A few spices might've changed it up for the better. However, I think it's really meant to be used like bread, in which case, adding flavour via toppings makes the non-distinctive flavour a plus. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Daring Cooks' August 2015 Challenge: Raw, Whole, Healthy 'Cheese'cakes

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make healthy and wholesome raw ‘cheesecakes’ with no cream cheese in sight! Anyone who's familiar with my baking knows that butter, cheese, creamcheese, and sugar are no stranger to me, so I never would've picked this recipe to try without prodding!

 This is my first challenge, and of course I'm late with it. The recipe contained enough new ingredients that I had to wait until I could get up to the city and spend some time at my favourite bulk food store to be able to complete it.

Thankfully, the ingredients seemed to be the only challenging thing about this recipe! The method and technique were simple enough. There's no baking involved either (raw ingredients!) so it didn't heat up the apartment, which is an added bonus in August.

Although Susan provided a number of alternatives, I stuck with her featured recipe, a raspberry and vanilla 'cheese'cake. I was actually a bit nervous, but this morning I decided 5 days late was enough and it was time to take the plunge!

The recipe below (provided by Susan, the challenger) was inspired by this recipe from My New Roots.

Mise en place, always the mise en place! With a few new (to me) ingredients, I took a little extra care in assembling them.

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds (with skin or blanched)
  • 1/2 cup flaked or shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup soft pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I used my own homemade vanilla)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1) Process all base ingredients (except for coconut oil) in food processor until desired texture is achieved. (In this case, desired texture means something that will still be crunchy/chunky but also holds together nicely.) Add melted coconut oil bit by bit if mixture needs help holding together.

2) Press into base of muffin pan holes. (I lined mine with cupcake papers and pressed approximately 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp of the base mixture into each compartment.)

3) Set aside.

  • 1-1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight in water
  • juice of 1 lemon (2 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (again, I used my own)
  • 1 tsp savoury yeast flakes (optional; this is meant to impart a cheesy flavour)
  • 1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup (or to taste) maple syrup, raw honey, or agave nectar (I used local raspberry honey.)
  • up to 6 tbsp water
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (or thawed if using frozen)

1) Clean food processor. You don't want chunky bits in your creamy filling!

2) Warm coconut oil until melted. If using solid honey, honey can be melted together with coconut oil.

3) Place all filling ingredients except for raspberries in food processor and process. Texture should be thick and creamy.

4) Using about 2/3 of the mixture, top individual bases with filling. Smooth with back of spoon. (I used a small ice-cream scoop to keep the amounts relatively equal.) If quite runny, pop into freezer to firm up before adding raspberry layer. (I used the freezer and found some old perogies in the process of making space...)

5) Add raspberries to remaining filling. Blend on high until smooth. Add to each cake. (I didn't really care for the colour of the first layer, but wow! Raspberry can make anything beautiful!)

6) Freeze for at least 2 hours until cakes are solid. To serve, remove from freezer at least 30 minutes before serving.
A note or two:
  • I used honey as my sweetener. When I tasted the filling mixture, the honey flavour was rather overpowering, but once the cakes had set, it wasn't as pronounced.
  • My food processor is rather large for this recipe, so it was hard to get the filling to an absolutely creamy texture. It ended up being a bit grainy, but not enough to be off-putting, and once again, freezing helped smooth things out.
  • Raspberries. Raspberries are good.
  • Using the cupcake papers was a good idea. It made popping them out of the silicone stress-free.
  • I was also concerned that there would be an overwhelming coconut flavour. That subsided once the whole thing was assembled.
  • The base was rather crumbly even though I added the coconut oil. I think that was because I should have processed it a bit longer.
  • I would actually make this again! It was tasty and pleasantly sweet.