Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

Beetroot chocolate cake, courgette cake, sweet potato brownies… I love the idea of baking vegetables into sweet treats that you can’t see or taste! I was so excited to try my hand at sweet potato brownies but, unfortunately the recipes I tried produced mushy not fudgey brownies, or just didn’t resemble a classic brownie/cake consistency at all.

After going through a few recipes, I realised a couple of tricks were required to work with this type of mixture (you’re not working with a regular brownie mixture, after all!):

My first tip would be to bake the sweet potato. Boiling or even steaming the sweet potato will generate too much liquid, resulting in an overly-wet batter.

Second, the final batter really needs to resemble a stiff cookie dough-like texture before you bake it. So continue to add more ground nuts until you achieve this consistency.

Finally, I’ve found this recipe to be pretty versatile. You can switch out the types of nuts, fats, and sweetners you use, depending on what you have on hand. (At the moment, my favourite key ingredients are walnuts, manuka honey, and rice bran oil). And, as per usual, I’ve kept the sugar and fat to a minimum, so you can enjoy this as a regular snack!

Ingredients

1 medium orange kumara (sweet potato)

1-2 cups walnuts or almonds or nuts of your choice

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch of salt

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 cup manuka honey or coconut sugar or maple syrup

1/4 cup almond butter or coconut oil or rice bran oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

100g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Icing sugar or frosting to finish

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato into 3cm x 3cm cubes and bake at 180 degrees celsius, until tender. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, ground 1 cup walnuts with cacao powder, baking soda, and salt. Tip the ground dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In the food processor, blend the sweet potato, almond butter, manuka honey, and vanilla essence together.
  4. Add the blended wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine with dry ingredients. (At this stage I advise blending the mixture in a bowl as it may be too stiff for your food processor to process!). The final consistency of the batter should be like cookie-dough, so add more ground walnuts until you achieve this dough-like consistency.
  5. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Press the dough evenly into a greased 21cm x 11cm loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, or until a skewer comes out with moist cooked crumbs attached. (Cooked batter will look dark brown and uncooked batter will appear pastel brown).
  7. Leave to cool in tin before turning out.
  8. Once the brownie is completely cool, dust with icing sugar or frost if you wish. Slice into squares.

*You can cook the brownie in a square tin, just adjust the cooking time. I prefer using a loaf tin as I like a ‘taller’ brownie.

Oat Flour Banana Bread

Banana bread

I’m always thinking of how I can maximise both the nutritional value and flavour in my day-to-day baking. I’d made banana bread for years using wholemeal flour, but as I’ve grown older, it’s been important to increase the nutritional value of my meals even more. So I came up with the idea of putting oats in a food processor to make ‘oat flour’. Making oat flour only when you need it also means you don’t have to buy a specialty product at a high price that you’ll only use part of, leaving the rest to go to waste…

Here’s the recipe. This banana bread is great for an evening treat, or as I show you later, fantastic for healthy work snacks. It’s also freezable, so you can have some now, and save some for later!

 

Ingredients

1 cup oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch salt

1 ripe banana, chopped roughly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence*

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a loaf tin** with oil.
  2. Place the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Blend until the oats resemble a floury texture.
  3. Add the banana, eggs, and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and blend until just incorporated.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when touched and a skewer comes out clean after inserting it.

Variations

*Flavour. For a spicy banana bread, substitute the vanilla essence with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Sometimes I’ll also add walnuts, blueberries, chia seeds, or coconut.

**Shape. This recipe is also great for work snacking. For convenience, use a muffin tin in place of the loaf tin. Add another half cup of oats for a firmer batter.

 

Combi

IMG_4110

A luxurious escape to many good things raw, organic, and somewhat vegetarian, Combi has no trouble attracting visitors. As welcoming as sunshine, this island hideaway is a few minutes from the Elwood canal.

IMG_4101

Cocktail-esque and exotically dressed, you’ll find it hard to resist smoothies like “velvet cacao”, “mango shack”, and “liquid passion”. Almond milk is also available in chocolate, espresso, and chai options.

IMG_4375Adding to a multitude of sensory pleasures, a raw pizza, chia seed ‘parfait’, and raw organic zucchini spaghetti are also on the menu.

IMG_4369

On this suburban oasis, fresh, raw, organic treats are so tasty it’s a delight to eat what’s good for you. As the menu items are raw, most will manage only a couple of items per visit, so be prepared take away.

Shop 1 / 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, Melbourne, VIC 3184

http://wearecombi.com.au/

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

IMG_4719

Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!

So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.

They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!

Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2009/04/flourless-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

IMG_3865 new

Over the weekend I hosted my first crafternoon, with my version of a crafternoon being: making stuff (in this case dream catchers), hanging out with friends, and treats. Heaven in an afternoon.

Leading up to the weekend, I had a recipe in progress for the treats part … which turned out to be for heart-shaped banoffee tarts: as delicious as traditional banoffee pies, but subtle enough for seconds. I used low-fat ricotta instead of cream and maple syrup in place of a traditional caramel. To make things interesting and flavoursome I used ground hazelnuts and crushed Ginger Nuts biscuits in the bases.

Here’s the recipe:

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

Tart shell

The Roaming Kitchen’s Nectarine Hazelnut Tart recipe (substituting the Digestive biscuits for Ginger Nuts).

Filling

500g low-fat ricotta

1/4 cup maple syrup

1-2 bananas (green at the tips)

Topping

30 walnuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease or line 12-14 tart moulds of your choosing. I used heart-shaped moulds, but you could just as easily use a standard muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the tart mix using the The Roaming Kitchen’s recipe above. Line the tart moulds with the mix and bake for about 10 minutes. If the tarts brown quickly, you can lower the heat or turn off the oven in the last minute to avoid burning. Cool completely.
  3. Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
  4. When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
  5. Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
  6. For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
  7. Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.

Makes 12-14 tarts.

 

 

 

“Tacos, breads and Good Times in Fitzroy North”: El Chino

Image

I have a soft spot for El Chino. Cute and kitsch, it’s a Mexican cafe but also a bakery! A party of two worlds, customers can indulge in a slow-cooked pulled pork taco and an almond croissant in one visit. Food envy and FOMO vibes, be gone!

Over brunch and lunch, the menu offers a range of ‘just-enough’ and ‘manly’ meals. Nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tostadas are available in drooling options such as slow-cooked pork, pan-fried prawns, and even sunny-side up eggs with avo and beans … Traditional horchata, mexican hot chocolate, and granita are also on offer. Bakery items to eat in or take away include a changing selection of home-tasting dense breads, doughnuts, and pastries.

The staff are also the loveliest, in a soft and open Northcote-kind-of-way. Good times indeed, in Fitzroy North.

214 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, VIC 3068

https://www.facebook.com/elchinomexican

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana BreadThe smell of baking coconut, manuka honey, and banana wafting from the oven was too heavenly to resist. I had to share this recipe. I had half a carton of buttermilk left over, so I decided to bake a banana loaf for the week’s snacks. The buttermilk, combined with baking soda would produce a nice, light loaf.

Always thinking of how to make food healthy, yet full of deliciousness, I added coconut oil, manuka honey, and walnuts to the mix. Manuka honey packs a nice punch in flavour, especially in low-fat baking. And nuts are always a treat!

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

5 ripe bananas, mashed

2T Manuka honey

1T coconut oil (you can also use butter or oil)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2t baking soda

1t baking powder

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 cup plain flour

1t cinnamon

1/2t nutmeg

3t ginger

10 crushed walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
  2. Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
  4. Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
  5. Stir in the walnuts.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

 

Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Loaf

gingerbread IMG_2309

Over the holiday season, everyone in the flat was away at different times, seeing family and friends. So I thought some form of connection over this time would be nice. How about gingerbread?

Jane Brocket’s gingerbread recipe (published as a ‘ginger cake’ recipe on guardian.co.uk) produces a dense, rich, gingery slice. It’s delicious served warm, or with tea. Instructions are easy to follow and will get you to a spicy holiday destination pretty quickly. And using only 85g of butter, you’re in no danger of filling your pants before Christmas!

Labour of Love: Chocolate Caramel Cake

Image

So it was my friend Nicole’s birthday last weekend. And it was an honour to make her a cake. The requested flavour? Chocolate. And Caramel. “Intense” was my first thought. Nevertheless, I fossicked through a few different recipes – sans the ones with creamy fillings (I’m not really a fan), and looked for a cake robust enough to survive a few modes of public transport. (Is there a limit to love??). I finally settled on this recipe from Astoria in Lambton Quay, Wellington.

With three glorious layers (chocolate cake, caramel, and chocolate ganache) this cake is semi-high maintenance. Production requires good ingredients, time, and patience. There’s nothing instant about this cake (the only things store-bought are the raw ingredients).

However, if you use quality ingredients from the start, you’ll taste that quality in every bite of your final masterpiece. So of course the chocolate I used was 70 percent cocoa (not compound) and the eggs were free range.

The result is a rich cake that goes the distance. This cake served 10 guests, with a quarter remaining. The recipe says it serves 16, but I guess it depends on who you’ve invited to dinner …

La Cigale’s French Market

Image

On a recent trip back home we dropped into La Cigale’s French Market. It’s been a past favourite weekend rendezvous, so I was pleased to see business was going as well as ever. Yep, Auckland sure does hold its own.

My choice of morsel for the morning was a pomegranate and lemon curd éclair. Made with fresh pomegranate seeds, lemons, and pure New Zealand dairy. Divine!

Image

‘Window-shopping’ for the remainder of our visit, I noticed the tarts also looked particularly appealing: apple, calvados, and cider; tamarillo and crème; and rhubarb, pistachio, and raspberry. Tempting, but we had the rest of the weekend to eat through. Save some for later Augustus!
Image

69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland

http://www.lacigale.co.nz/