Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chocolate Prune Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Tofu

Here’s the secret to dairy free chocolate baked goods: Tofu. Yep, that once hippy food works as a wonderful binder in lieu of eggs. If you’re thinking, “Eww, tofu” don’t fret, I promise you or any one else won’t have any idea it’s included in the ingredient list as the other flavors overpower it.

Of course, any chocolate cake I make is most likely to be bejeweled with luscious cashew cream. It always amazes me just how easy it is to make – a perfect substitute for dairy cream.

To up the  health ante of these chocolate cakes, I decided to work in some wrongly maligned prunes.

Prunes add some natural sweetness and a healthy dose of antioxidants. For this recipe, I used the prunes from Sun-Maid. I am always happy with the quality of the dried fruits from this company. 

Anyone else sneaking tofu into their baked goodies?  

Vegan Chocolate Prune Cakes

1/2 cup prunes
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or light spelt flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces silken (soft) tofu
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or other sugar of choice
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup oil of choice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour 1/2 cup boiled water into a bowl with the prunes. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Place soaked prunes and the soaking liquid, tofu, sugar, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla in a blender container and blend until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until all the flour is incorporated. Divide among 12 medium sized muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Cashew cream
2/3 cup unsalted raw cashews
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and let soak for at least 2 hours. Drain cashews and place in a blender container with maple syrup, nutmeg and 1/2 cup water; blend until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over cakes.

Switch hits
  • Use dates instead of prunes
  • Replace almond flour with more of the whole wheat or spelt flour

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chocolate Nut Clusters

Featured Ingredient: Nuts

Indeed, it’s been a very long time since my last muffin tin inspired post. There are two main reasons for that: Firstly, after finishing up my cookbook Muffin Tin Chef which is due out in a couple weeks, I will admit that I was a little burnt out in the kitchen. Ok, very burnt out! More importantly, Tabi and I spent glorious six weeks this winter cycling around Sri Lanka. Highlights included the amazing bird life, the abundance of cheap exotic fruits to nosh on and the king coconuts on the side of the road to quench our thirst. As the picture below shows, when in Sri Lanka I will always prefer to be on my bike rather than in a bus.

Here’s a recipe that got cut from the cookbook due to space reasons, but remains one of my favorites. With basically just dark chocolate and nuts, it’s so simple but incredibly tasty. Despite its decadent side, I think these make a really healthy snack option since they combine antioxidant rich dark chocolate with nutrient dense nuts. The majority of fat in these nuts is the monounsaturated kind, which as been shown to confer heart health benefits by helping control cholesterol numbers.

Chocolate Nut Clusters

8 ounces dark chocolate, about 70 percent cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)
1 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
Fleur de sel (optional)

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water, stirring often. Or microwave chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 to 30 second increments, stirring after each interval until everything is melted. Stir in cinnamon, ginger and cayenne.

Divide nuts among 12 medium sized or 24 mini muffin cups. Pour chocolate over nuts, making sure the entire surface is generously covered to allow the chocolate to seep down the crevices and bind the nuts together. If needed, melt additional chocolate. Place in the refrigerator to set, about 1 hour. If desired, sprinkle tops with Fleur de sel before placing in the fridge. 

Switch hits
  • Replace hazelnuts with macadamia nuts
  • Use almonds instead of pecans or cashews
  • Swap out half of the dark chocolate for a high-quality milk chocolate