Blackberry, Lemon, Yoghurt & Almond Streusel Muffins

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In my attempts to bake a healthier muffin, I have sacrificed so many lovely ingredients to the kitchen gods. An array of beautiful flours, the ripest fruits, different sweeteners, fragrant vanilla – they have all gone into creating some of the most unappetising muffins around. Generally dense, bland little numbers which you might only enjoy if truly committed to matyring yourself for “health food”.

And “health food” is such a loaded phrase, with such narrow parameters and misguided implications. I have not been trying to turn what is essentially cake into a “health food” but rather make it a bit more nutritious. Swapping out white flour for wholemeal, saturated fat for monounsaturated, using the sweetness of fruit with its vitamins and fibre – but still a pleasure to eat. I am soooo happy to say that the below recipe is a winner and saves me from throwing out any future dud muffins.

We used blackberries because they were surprisingly cheap – other berries (fresh or frozen) or ripe pear would go just as nicely.  Almonds could be replaced with walnuts or pecans and you could play around with the flours. When pears are plentiful, I would like to try swapping in some chestnut flour and adding pecans to the crumble.

I have played around a LOT with how much (or rather, how little) sugar I can use in this recipe without rendering the results bland or tough. The amount below seems to be the minimum required to make the muffin muffiny…  

Each small muffin has 10g added sugar from the maple syrup. The WHO recommends we limit our added sugar intake to less than 10%, ideally 5% of our daily diet. This translates to 25g sugar for adults and 12g sugar for young children.

Blackberry, Lemon, Yoghurt & Almond Streusel Muffins (makes 6 cupcake sized)

1 large egg
50g olive oil
80g maple syrup
120g yoghurt, plain (low-fat or full-fat)
½ lemon, finely grated zest of
150g wholemeal spelt flour
4g baking powder
Pinch bicarbonate soda
Pinch salt
125g blackberries

20g oats
20g finely chopped walnuts or almonds
20g wholemeal spelt flour
15g olive oil
20g maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 200’C and line 6-hole cupcake tin with liners or baking paper. Whisk the egg, oil, syrup, yoghurt and lemon zest together. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and just barely mix, maybe just 2-3 turns of the spoon. Don’t over mix muffins! Add the berries and gently finish mixing until the flour is just incorporated into the wet batter. Divide the batter between the 6 liners.

Combine the streusel ingredients all together and sprinkle over the muffins.         Bake at 200c x 15 mins.

lovely buttermilk soda bread

sodabread

Soda bread is a lovely quick bread that can be mixed and popped in the oven in minutes. This recipe bows to the ingredients at hand and you can play around with the type of flour, the sweetener, the fat and any additions. The end result is a rustic loaf that pairs well with so many things. Smoked fish, cheeses of all varieties, leg ham, avocado or simply some excellent butter all raise this humble bread to glorious heights.

  • 2c buckwheat flour
  • 1 1/3c wholemeal spelt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4c golden syrup (or rice malt syrup)
  • 1 egg
  • 250ml buttermilk*
  • 1/4c olive oil or melted butter
  • OPTIONAL: fennel seeds, raisins, rosemary, thyme, etc.

*or half yoghurt or creme fraiche or sour cream/half milk.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add any optional extras. Make a well in the middle, add wet ingredients and mix. Knead lightly. I like to shape it into 2 loaves. Bake @ 170’C for 40 mins.

Shop your pantry: I have made this loaf using all sorts of flours. Less refined flours work best in terms of flavour and texture, I think, but use whatever you have at hand.

gooey chocolate quinoa pudding

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Warm, soft-centred chocolate pudding is a luscious treat – especially on the grey, grizzly days we have been having this week. My husband makes a gorgeous chocolate pudding at every restaurant he works at and it is one of my favourite desserts. However, I don’t fancy consuming white flour and sugar just to tickle my fancy for pudding. I like to think that my sweet treats can support my nutritional health as well taste gorgeous. So this recipe uses cooked quinoa (yes, trust me!) in place of flour which makes this recipe one of my few gluten-free recipes made without nuts. The quinoa adds an earthy flavour which sits well with the rich cacao and hints of coffee, cinnamon and vanilla. As an added bonus, quinoa provides protein, fibre, iron and magnesium – so you can have your cake and eat it too. Deceptively rich, you would not guess that the pudding contains just over 2 teaspoons of sugar per serve.

I particularly like this mix poured over bananas and baked, although it is delicious made with soft, ripe pears. The bananas do add to this dessert’s comfort factor and, to gild the lily, marry well with a dark chocolate sauce.

chocolate quinoa pudding

  • 1/4c melted butter, olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1c cooked quinoa (from 1/3c raw)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3c rice malt syrup or maple syrup
  • 1/2c raw cacao powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp instant coffee or finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 soft ripe pears, peeled, cored, quartered or 3 large bananas, sliced thickly

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Arrange your choice of fruit in a small, shallow oven-proof dish and pour over the pudding batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 175’C until the edges are cooked but the centre is still a little soft. Allow to cool slightly before serving with chocolate sauce or cream or both. Serves 8.

Notes: for a simple chocolate sauce, heat 1/2c cream and pour over 100g of chopped 70% chocolate. Stir until smooth.

vanilla pears with baked nutty crumble

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After years of cooking in restaurants and crafting dishes of increasing complexity, I truly get the most pleasure now from recipes as simple as this crumble. A crumble is everything that is good about winter – warm, ripe fruit, a nutty crumble topping and the contrast of cold cream or ice cream.

pearscrumb

This crumble celebrates the natural sweetness of pears and the spiced topping is a mix of whatever nuts you may have in the cupboard. We had this for dessert a couple of nights ago and I have eaten it for breakfast since with some gorgeous Clevedon Valley buffalo milk yoghurt.

crumble

 

nutty pear crumble

  • 4-5 sweet, ripe pears, cored, diced (I used Buerre Bosc pears)
  • splash white wine
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 2 tb (40ml) rice malt syrup or maple syrup
  • 1/4c almond meal
  • 1/4c oats (traditional or quick) or quinoa flakes
  • 1/4c coconut flour
  • 1/2c nuts (I used half pistachio, half pine nuts)
  • 1/4c pumpkin or sunflowers seeds
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/2 lemon, zest of

Place the diced pears in a saucepan and add a splash of wine and the vanilla. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until the wine starts to simmer. Remove the lid and continue cooking until wine has almost evaporated and the pears have softened. This should take only minutes. Pour into a baking dish. Cool to room temperature.

For the topping, place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mix comes together but some of the nuts and seeds are still in large pieces. Sprinkle the crumble evenly all over the pears and bake at 175’C for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden brown. Delicious served with good yoghurt, cream or ice cream. Serves 6.

Note: If you can’t find coconut flour, simply process some dried coconut until a fine powder. This recipe could also be made with apples but you may need to sweeten them if they are more tart than sweet. The topping is gluten free if using certified gluten free oats or quinoa flakes and would make lovely biscuits, I think.

deep, dark chocolate beetroot cake

chobeetslice

I am so pleased to share this gorgeous one-bowl recipe with you. This is a special occasion cake, decadently rich with dark chocolate. Even if the special occasion is simply that you made it through a craptastic week, then curl up on the lounge with a cup of tea and congratulate yourself.

The beetroot isn’t here to make you feel virtuous. It adds the earthy sweetness that makes beetroot so beautiful and keeps the cake deliciously moist. This cake can be served topped very simply with creme fraiche but I strongly recommend gilding the lily with a dark chocolate ganache.

beetspoon

I use a rather small (16cm) cake ring for my weekend baking.  This gives me 8 elegant portions and means our weekend treat remains just that. If you are using a larger cake tin (20cm) then increase the recipe below by a third and allow 10-20 mins extra baking time. This recipe is also divine baked as individual gooey-centred chocolate puddings.

deep, dark chocolate beetroot cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c rice malt syrup (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2/3 c beetroot puree   (1 large beetroot, baked in foil until soft, peeled, pureed)
  • 160g chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, melted
  • 1c almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 180’C. Whisk the eggs, syrup and olive oil together. Add the beetroot puree and whisk until combined. Add the almond meal and baking powder and mix until combined. Scrape the batter into a lined 16cm cake tin/ring and place into the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 160’C and bake for 30-40 mins. The cake will be ready when an inserted skewer or knife comes away with very moist crumbs – the centre should only be just cooked. Serves 8.

dark chocolate ganache

For a 16cm ring, heat 1/3 c cream or coconut cream with a pinch of salt and pour over 80g chopped 85% chocolate. Whisk until smooth and allow to cool before spreading on top of the cake. For a larger cake, use 1/2 c cream to 120g chocolate.

If the 85% chocolate is too dark for your taste, you could use 70% – but I love the bittersweet intensity of the darker chocolate against the sweetness of this cake.

zucchini buckwheat bread

 

zuccbread2

Once or twice a week I like to bake something with my 2 year old son. He loves mixing, cracking eggs and, of course, licking the bowl. We originally baked this gorgeous buckwheat loaf to have with breakfast one weekend.  This delicious bread is so good it is now the only bread we eat! We bake a loaf every Sunday.

It is absolutely divine…                                                                                                                                                            spread with avocado or sunflower seed butter.                                                                                                                     with poached eggs and smoked salmon.                                                                                                                                   with leg ham and chutney.                                                                                                                                                          with sliced tomato and ricotta.

I am keen to experiment with this recipe. I am sure that this loaf could become a beautiful Spiced Carrot and Raisin loaf, more suited to a sweet but nourishing morning tea loaf. This recipe is free of gluten and dairy.

Zucchini buckwheat bread

  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1 c almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c walnuts, toasted, crushed to coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c rice malt syrup, honey or maple syrup
  • scant 1/3 c coconut oil or olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 medium-large zucchini, grated

Whisk the syrup, oil, eggs and zucchini together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake for 45-60 minutes at 170’C.

Shopping the pantry?  The buckwheat flour imparts a lovely earthy, nutty flavour to this loaf but you could use wholemeal flour (spelt would be perfect) as a substitute. I have used other nuts instead of walnuts – and they were sorely missed. The walnuts give such a beautiful depth of flavour that I haven’t found in other nuts.

 

spelt chocolate chip cookies

speltbiscuits

The only thing my husband loves more than biscuits, is cake. So when I create healthier versions of baked treats I am always mindful of his reaction to a taste test. If he opines that a recipe “tastes good for something healthy” then it goes back to the kitchen for revision. A less-than-satisfying pseudo-indulgence shouldn’t be washed down with a glass of martyrdom because it’s good for you.

Happily, these soft, slightly chewy cookies taste insanely good and are good for you. Bake them this weekend, eat them with tea, take them to the park or just take time out.

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • ¼ c tahini
  • ¼ c rice malt syrup
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg
  • ½ tsp bicarb soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ c oats (I used quick, because that’s what I had)
  • 1/3 c heaped wholemeal spelt flour
  • 100g dark chocolate, 60-70%, chopped
  •          excellent salt flakes, to finish

Combine the tahini, syrup, oil, vanilla and egg in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir through the chopped chocolate. Drop 9 or 10 spoonfuls onto a lined baking tray and sprinkle with salt flakes. Bake at 175’C for 10-12 minutes or until a pale golden brown.

 

Shop your pantry? Use any nut butter instead of tahini and honey or maple syrup instead of rice malt syrup. I have also successfully made these with a sugar-free dark chocolate.

 

 

copious cups of tea and nutty buckwheat cake

nuttybuckwheatcake1

A latte is lovely but tea is heaven. As energising as a coffee but also offering more medicinal benefits, the very act of cupping a hot tea is calming and restorative. As the weather turns colder I can quite happily drink several cups a day. English Breakfast, toasty genmaicha, gingery chai and several herbal blends are on hand in the cupboard above the kettle. With 2 little people, I am most likely to rely on tea bags thrown in a mug but if I had the time to brew a pot and drink it from a beautiful cup, this is the cake I would enjoy with it. Failing that, we will probably eat slices of this at the park while I try not to drop crumbs on the baby’s head.

The batter for this rustic treat is not overly sweet and relies heavily on ripe, seasonal fruit to secure its place as a cake rather than a loaf. This is not the recipe for tart rhubarb or plums – favour soft, seasonal pears or sweet berries. Lovely eaten on its own or with sweetened, whipped ricotta, this recipe is adapted from one on the beautiful “101 Cookbooks” blog.

Nutty Buckwheat Cake

  • ½ c buckwheat flour
  • ½ c almond meal or spelt flour
  • 2 tb, heaped, rolled oats
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t bicarb soda
  • ½ t salt flakes
  • 60g butter, melted or mild olive oil
  • 1/3 c rice malt syrup, maple syrup or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon, zest of
  • 5ml vanilla extract
  • ¼ c yoghurt or buttermilk or milk with a squeeze of lemon
  • 1 ½ c diced fruit or berries
  • 1tb buckinis
  • 1tb crushed almonds
  • 1tb, heaped, pepitas
  • 1tb, heaped, coconut flakes or shreds
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp rice malt syrup, maple syrup or honey

Mix the first 6 (dry) ingredients together. Whisk the butter, syrup and egg together until pale and creamy. Gently whisk in the yoghurt, vanilla and zest, then the dry ingredients and 1/2 c of the fruit. Place the batter into a greased, lined loaf tin. Combine the last 6 ingredients together and sprinkle half of this mix on top of the cake batter. Scatter the remaining fruit over this and finally scatter remaining nut/seed mix on top. Bake for 35-45 mins @ 175’C.