Friday, 16 August 2013

Tempting Truffles

Time has gotten the better of me this week - I had good intentions that this would be Monday's post - but somehow it's Friday already!

On Sunday last week, I organised and hosted a raw truffle making workshop as part of the Edinburgh Health Socialising Group calendar of events, which saw eager truffle-makers turning up on my doorstep, armed cake tins to take home their spoils, to learn how to make some healthy truffle treats.

A veritable raw truffle selection box!
It was the first time I've organised a group workshop like this, and the first time any of them had attended such an event, so it was new for everyone, and I think (hope!) I'm not alone in saying it was a fun afternoon.
Ingredients set out and ready to go
There was chatting, tea drinking, measuring, mixing, blending, discussing, rolling, and of course tasting.
The fruit choices: apple, mango, prunes, banana, figs, dates, raisins, apricots, cranberries
Everyone made different varieties to suit their own personal preferences, choosing from the array of nuts, fruit, seeds, flavours and flakes on offer.

The nut selection: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Raw truffles are so easy to make - you really can't go wrong - it's not so much a recipe as a blueprint that you can modify in an infinite number of ways.

The 'other': cocoa, linseed, flaxseed, chia seed, coconut, poppyseed, rolled oats, quinoa flakes, agave, honey, maple syrup, rice syrup
Here's the 'Recipe'
Raw Truffles
Makes 12-16 depending on size

  • 150g dried fruit
  • 60g nuts
  • 50g other dry ingredient
  • 50g boiling water
  • 1 tbsp liquid sweetener (optional) e.g. honey, agave, maple syrup

Put all your ingredients into a bowl and let soak for about 10-15 mins.
Blend - either using a food processor or hand blender until it forms a single sticky mass.
Roll into balls and coat if desired.

Enjoy instead of a biscuit and feel healthy!

I made a couple of examples for everyone to taste - coconut, apricot and cashew (using 150g dried apricots, 60g cashews and 50g unsweetened dessicated coconut) and chocolate peanut date and oat (using 150g dates, 60g peanuts, 45g rolled oats and 5g cocoa powder).

Coconut apricot and cashew on the left, chocolate peanut date and oat on the right
So how healthy are they: well, let's get the first thing straight - healthy isn't the same as low calorie - they are full of nuts and dried fruit - they have calories! But they aren't full of junk, so they aren't empty calories - they provide nutrition as well as sugar!

I did a quick online nutritional breakdown, entering my recipe ingredients and serving size, and they generally are about 50-60 calories each - similar to a biscuit, (or 1/5 of a Mars Bar).


But unlike most biscuits and definitely all Mars Bars, they are full of fibre, pack a little bit of protein in, and depending on which fruit, nut and seed combinations you use, can be loaded up with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Iron, Calcium - you can tailor your ingredients to provide the nutrients you need.

Thanks to those that came and tried something new!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Introducing the Anti-Cheesecake

I'm not sure that's really a very flattering name for what is a really tasty dessert, however it is how I misheard Mr E describe it, and it's stuck in my head.

It is in fact a dairy free baked cheesecake, that really honestly tastes like baked cheesecake. But without the cheese, and with a date and almond base, and not too much added sugar.

There is a base under there, I promise!
It's still pudding, so I'm not saying it's healthy, however... if you played it in Health Top Trumps against pretty much any other cheesecake, it would win hands down. If you played it against, say, broccoli, or blueberries, or mackerel, it probably wouldn't.

I clearly took  my own 'blend well' instruction with a pinch of salt!
I loved it, Mr E seemed to be equally pleased with it, and Mini-M did her best to convince us that the entire half cheesecake being saved for tomorrow was 'just a teeny little bit left' and she could have it for seconds. That was until we explained the flaw in that plan - there would be no cheesecake for tomorrow - and that seemed to do the trick.

This creation incorporated another recent discovery - fresh fruit jam made with chia seeds. It's insanely easy and tasty, and shall feature in a future blog post coming very soon, once I remember to take a nice picture of said jam.

It's pudding and it's pink - so it was always going to go down well with Mini-M
So without further ado, onto the recipe:

Raspberry Anti-Cheesecake (Makes 6 small or 4 large portions)
For the Base
  • 80g de-stoned dates
  • 40g skin on almonds
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp runny honey
For the Topping
  • 1 tub plain Toffuti tofu "cream cheese" (200g)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp raspberry chia jam
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan).
Put the almonds and dates in a blender and blitz until chopped fairly finely - it doesn't matter if there are a few bigger bits remaining - you want the nuts to still have some crunch rather than becoming a paste.
Once blended, add the honey and coconut oil and stir well to combine.
Press into the base of a 2lb silicone loaf tin (for easy release) or any other dish you like.
Mix all the topping ingredients together and beat until smooth.
Spread over the base and level the top.
Pop in the oven for 30 mins until set.
Allow to cool completely before carefully taking out of the tin. In fact, I left mine overnight in the fridge still in the tin, and it popped out beautifully.


Sneaky little fingers in the background wondering if they can steal some extra!
I'm already planning what I'd do differently 'next time' which is always the sign of a good recipe - not that you want to change things, but that you want to make it again. I'm currently divided... baked, with some oats and ginger added to the crust, or experimenting with an unbaked version.

And before I go and head for bed, I should also add... if you subbed the honey in the base for maple syrup, or agave, or used really sticky dates and missed it out all together, it would be vegan. And it's already also gluten free. Lots of boxes being ticked!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Mini-M's 3rd Birthday Cake - Rainbow Kitty

A few weeks ago it was Mini-M's 3rd birthday. How time flies!

An birthdays mean birthday parties and birthday cake. Last year Mini-M requested "Kitty Pirate Cake" and I did my best. This year she was less specific - just "Kitty Cake".

Since we had a vaguely beach-y party theme, I decided to stay colourful and go for a rainbow Kitty Cake.

But the icing is all secondary - cake has to taste good! In this case, it was a carrot cake made from the BBC Good Food "Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake" recipe. It deserves it's 699 ratings and 5 stars. I've made it several times now and it is fool proof - and even better, dairy free :-) The only change I made was to use light olive oil instead of the sunflower oil.

I made the quantity in the recipe and baked it in a roasting tray, to make a fairly thin layer (I was making cake for 35!), and did two layers like this.

I filled the middle with pineapple jam, to keep up the tropical theme (although admittedly carrot cake isn't sooooooo tropical).

I'm not a massive fan of fondant icing - it's all well and good for making things look pretty, however it tastes of absolutely nothing apart from cloying sweetness. Yuk! So I decided to make the same icing that was a hit on last year's cake - 7 minute meringue frosting. I have no idea how folk make this stuff in 7 minutes - they clearly have a much more powerful whisk that I do, since each time I've tried it takes me almost 20 mins of beating to get the right consistency - but I have learned that in this case patience is a virtue and it is worth it in the end. (As an aside, I doubled the recipe then had about 1/3 of it left over - and that was for a huge cake - so the quantity in the recipe is more than ample for any normal one.)

And so to the decoration... By the time it got to 1am and I was still sticking on liquorice whiskers, I can tell you I was cursing my chosen design!

I used a Hello Kitty biscuit cutter to stamp out 18 faces in pastel rainbow colours of fondant, which I had coloured up in small amounts using gel colour. Mr E was even roped in to help with the kneading.

I made myself a paper mock up so that I got the spacing right, and didn't put any of the colours in the wrong places.

I used a straw to mark out where the noses should go, then black royal icing to put in the eyes, and white to fill in the oval of each nose.

I used a little more red fondant to make the hair bows, and stuck them on with a tiny dab of water.

Mr E painstakingly dissected some liquorice allsorts to cut the slivers of liquorice for the whiskers - the things we end up doing for our kids...

If I never have to stick on a liquorice whisker again in my life I won't be disappointed... 108 is more than enough for me.

Because I was using meringue frosting, I put all of the Kitty heads on a thin sheet of white fondant, as I couldn't ice the cake until the morning of the party, but didn't want to have to do any fiddly stuff then. Unfortunately I cracked one side whilst putting it on the top, right in the middle at the front :-( but it wasn't too obvious once some cocktail umbrellas and paper pineapples were added!

 Mini-M was very excited by it, although she did ask where the sprinkles were...

She waited patiently all through the party and only asked about 17 times if it was cake time yet.

And then eventually, it was :-)

Ready to blow out the candle

One, two, three - puff!

The cake was lovely and moist - and sticky! The meringue frosting and pineapple jam were possibly more suited to plates and spoons than napkins. That's certainly how we enjoyed the leftovers the next day, however at the party everyone seemed happy enough to lick fingers and lips (and in Mini-M's case the paper plate too).

I wonder how many more years of Hello Kitty cake design I have to invent before Mini-M moves onto another favourite theme?!?! Suggestions for next year welcomed...


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