What a wonderful morning I had doing this…
Available at http://www.yumbles.com/elizabethdbakes, all Wholefoods Markets and Berwick Street Market, Soho.
Treat boxes for the holidays also available!
Keep the indulgence in “free from” baking: a vegan, refined sugar-free or gluten-free cake should still be a comforting and delicious treat
I am seeing a lot of books and articles on “healthy” and “free from” baked goods. Dairy-free, Vegan. Gluten-free, No Refined Sugar etc. And I applaud the effort. Some of them are great. I am a big fan of Henrietta Inman’s new book Clean Cakes, for example – Free From Cake as Art. Many innovators have been writing about these issues and developing recipes for a very long time. For me personally, Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours is my go-to book when looking at finding gluten-free alternatives. The glorious Jude Blereau and her wholefood thinking sits on the top of my She-roes list. The Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows are superb online “free from” magicians. The Flying Apron in Seattle should be added to the list of great American pioneers, as far as I am concerned. I have written about my own relatively new-found passion for “free from” baking and the satisfaction of baking outside of the conventional box. And I love, really LOVE, the moment when a customer with a tricky combination of food allergies finds something wonderful on my market stall that they can eat and enjoy. Elation is the only way I can describe seeing the current popularity of my vegan products – chatting to the non-vegan customers who are trying them and appreciating their deliciousness using only pure plant-based ingredients.
But for the record, my cake DNA is about PLEASURE first and foremost. I really can’t help it. I am blessed and cursed with a hedonism that defies logic and any good sense. I understand that a person can get used to no sugar, that making healthier food choices is overall a good direction to go in and that too much cake is bad for you. But I am not so sure I understand the current trend for cakey treats to be “clean” when the result doesn’t really taste much like a treat. What drives me forward is the journey to the little patch of ground where natural baking meets delectable.
Yet I have to live in the real world and on my stall at Berwick Street Market I get a lot of requests for sugar-free cakes from customers across the board: GF, Vegan, those that will eat anything but want to cut down on sugar. I have struggled with my indulgent nature on this one and have yet to make a cake without any sweetener at all that I like – I would struggle to call that beast a “cake”. And I can’t bear the taste of artificial sweeteners in baking. (Don’t get me wrong. I am no stranger to a Diet Coke. It is only in baking that this seems to be a problem for me.) So I find that once again, thanks to my persistent clientele, I am discovering something new. Currently happily working away in the land of maple syrup and honey. I developed this cake as an option for everyone. It is full of wholesome ingredients and contains maple syrup and fresh fruit to sweeten. It is very popular. I confess that I eat it for breakfast. It is all about texture; could be made with different fruits and berries and nuts. I did a nut-free version with coconut milk and Summer berries that was delicious.
Blueberry Cake with lemon, almond & thyme – Gluten-free, refined sugar-free, Vegan
4 tbls flaxseeds + 8 tbls water
225 grams soya or sunflower margarine (gluten and dairy-free)
275 grams pure maple syrup
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbls psyllium husks (optional)
½ tsp salt
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
380 grams of GF flours
I use: 140g oat flour, 140g millet, 70g sweet rice sorghum, 30g cornflour
250 ml unsweetened almond milk (you can also use coconut milk)
350 grams fresh blueberries, washed and tossed in 1 tbls of gf flour
50 grams oat flour
50 grams GF oats
50 grams soya margarine (or sunflower or coconut oil)
¼ tsp salt
2 tbls maple syrup
75 grams slivered almonds
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, remove leaves and discard stems
Preheat oven to 180c (160c for fan assisted).
Prepare a 23 cm springform tin by greasing with a little soya or sunflower vegan and gluten-free margarine sides and bottom. Line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
Combine the flaxseeds and water in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the flours, salt, baking powder, bicarb of soda and psyllium husks (if using) in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the margarine and maple syrup until well blended. It will look a bit curdled. Add the flax eggs and the flour mixture and mix by hand with a spatula. Add the almond milk and the lemon juice and mix on medium setting until the batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom with the spatula then add the lemon zest and blueberries, gently combine by hand. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes (initially).
Prepare the crumble by combining all of the ingredients by hand until you have a pebbly mixture. Don’t be tempted to replace the fresh thyme with dried. If you don’t have fresh …the cake will be fine without. Put in the fridge while the cake is baking. Once the cake has been in the oven for 35 minutes, gently and quickly take it out of the oven, sprinkle the crumble on top, return to oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes – ovens vary.
The cake is ready when a toothpick comes out clean and the crumble has browned nicely.
Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes then remove the springform and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. To serve: sprinkle with fresh blueberries and thyme leaves, if you are sticking to no sugar. Delicious with a low-sugar lemon sorbet.
For Valentine’s Day, a new GF all natural brownie and a not so new classic Red Velvet cake
My favourite episode of Friends is the one where Monica is after Phoebe’s grandmother’s legendary chocolate chip cookie recipe. When the recipe is destroyed in a fire in flaky but lovable Phoebe’s apartment, the determined foodie Monica sets out to recreate it with the one sole cookie she has left from the original recipe as her template. A dash of this, a bit of that, after numerous attempts Monica fails to come up with the illusive magical formula. When Phoebe finally reveals it came from her grandma’s French friend “Nestle Toulouse”, we and Monica realize it was off the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip packet that sits in every American baker’s cupboard.
This week, with all of the beautiful Valentine’s baking going on in my Instagram and Twitter feeds, I am returning to an old favourite that is, in fact, based on a recipe from the back of a packet. My Red Velvet cake adapted from Betty Adams’ recipe which appeared on the Adams red food colouring packaging in 1969. The famous “cake of a wifetime” (yes I know, but a commentary on the lengthy history of misogyny in advertising will need to wait for another time).
The stories doing the rounds about the origins of the Red Velvet are very entertaining but the best article I have come across is from the wonderful Tori Avey: http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2014/02/red-velvet-cake-history-recipe. Her recipe is also highly recommended.
In the UK, the Red Velvet has had a big resurgence of late. Or is it just a surgence? Was it popular before? But the results are not always what one would hope for. There seems to be a lot of confusion over how much cocoa there should be, how red is red, how sweet … My Southern DNA tells me that a Red Velvet should have a hint of cocoa, be red enough to stand out but not so lurid that it feels like eating a bottle of chemicals, the crumb should be gentle and the overall effect (including icing) should be sweet but never cloying. If a cake can be soft-hearted, this is, despite its deceptively dramatic appearance. And it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.
The changes I have made to Betty’s recipe (pictured above) for my version of the classic cake are: I use all butter (no shortening, no butter flavouring), I use a ½ tsp (max) of red food colour paste like Superflair or Wiltons, I make it in 2 layers not 3 and finish with a traditional cream cheese icing: 600g icing sugar, 50g butter, 200g cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice.
Natural Gluten-free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies came out of my desire to create a cheesecake brownie, and red velvet felt like a more congenial base than a traditional dark chocolate one. Plus I wanted to have a go at a red velvet product that didn’t contain any food colouring. These are a big hit at my stall in Soho. As they contain beetroot and goat’s cheese, I kid myself that I am practically having a salad when I eat one!
Natural GF Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
5 large eggs
275g unsalted butter, melted
300g granulated sugar
125g light muscovado sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g natural cacao
75ml concentrated beetroot juice
2 tbls buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar
230g GF flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
300g cream cheese, 200g soft rindless goat’s cheese, 125g caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c (160 degrees c for fan assisted). Butter a 9×13 brownie or roasting tin and line with greaseproof paper, bottom and sides.
In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugars, vanilla, cacao, beetroot juice, buttermilk and salt. Whisk until well blended. I do this by hand. You can use a stand mixer but mix sparingly – brownies should have texture (but not lumps). Add the vinegar, whisk, then add the flour and give it a final blend. Pour this mixture into the prepared tin and set aside.
To make the cheesecake, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or mix by hand) and mix well, for about 2 minutes.
Pour the cheesecake filling over the top of the brownie mixture levelling it off gently with a spatula. Then take a chopstick and “swirl” the cheesecake gently into the brownie mix, moving up and down then across the pan. The red should start to show through and you’ll have a swirl pattern on top.
Bake for 35 minutes. You want the brownie to set but there should be a little wobble at the centre. If you over-bake these they start to resemble cake.
Cool completely in the tin. Trim the edges and cut into 12 large or 15 medium squares. I store these in the fridge and bring to room temperature before eating.
A very personal blog about the Emotion of Baking starring two carrot cakes (one Vegan)
I used to wear a T shirt with a quote from French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema, c’est L’emotion. I loved it, but (thankfully) I passed through the pretentious T shirt phase. In the next part of my life I began to actually work in the film industry. I loved that too. And it turned out to be true, that quote. Until, eventually, it overwhelmed me. I was drowning in the film industry, and I was drowning in all that emotion.
Now, as I enter a new phase, I am finally learning what was probably always true. Baking is Emotion. Not the melodrama and intrigue and girl-and-a-gun thrill of the film industry, but simpler emotion. Baking is honest and funny and intriguing. It’s emotional as hell, but a lot kinder
For me this is true in all kinds of ways. The emotion of my frame of mind when I am baking; the emotions brought out by certain ingredients; the way that emotions can take me to new ideas and developing something new.
I left the film industry drunk with emotion and drunk with wine. In the earliest days of recovering from both, my experience of being tea lady at AA meetings led me to a new discovery – baking is emotion! – and a new cake.
The first job (“service”) most people do in recovery is making tea at meetings. I took this role on as if I had just been made head of a film studio: it was everything to me and I handmade all of the cakes rather than buying biscuits at Asda. In a matter of weeks, the attendance at that meeting grew significantly. Everyone loved my cake and soon I had that precious and sought-after thing: an AA nickname. I was Cake Lady.
My most popular cake was Carrot. It started life as a wonderful recipe I’d clipped years before from Southern Living magazine. But as my Cake Lady confidence grew I stopped stressing about the cake and began to look around me, and soon I saw that there were people at the meeting who were not eating anything else during the day. They were seriously vitamin deficient and in need of something nourishing and substantial, plus maybe something that would make them smile. I started loading the cake up. I replaced white flour with spelt. Tripled the amount of fresh carrot. Added more spice. Spiked it with coconut milk. It was my Florence Nightingale moment and it was seriously floating my own needy boat. It was all about emotion: I was Cake Lady. I was making people happy and well. And I had invented Recovery Cake.
If I am honest, this period is what gave me the courage to start to do this for a living, and leave the film studios behind.
For the next emotional curve, fast-forward a couple of years. Recovery Cake (aka Spelt Carrot Cake) became my best-seller in a small but thriving wholesale business which I ran from my home kitchen. I did it like the true Alcoholic that I am: no sleep, not enough help, perfectionist, couldn’t see a damn thing for the trees. I won 2 gold stars in the Great Taste awards (up!) but it was unmanageable on my own and I panicked (down!). Drowning in emotion once again and tempted back for one last spin in the film industry, I sold the business and the commercial rights to the recipes to Lola’s Cupcakes. Someone else could make the cakes.
So I embarked on a period where I finally proved to myself that I am totally done with film as a career (turns out the only fun emotion to be had in film is being in the audience) and that my heart and soul is in baking.
Recovery Cake – Spelt Carrot Cake as it is now called – now belongs to a brand called ‘Lizzie D’s American Bakery’ run by Lola’s, and kudos to them that they won a Great Taste Award for it last year. My heart did a little secret dance of joy for the recovering alcoholic.
And I have landed from this period, fragile but saner, back in the land of real emotion with a stall on Berwick Street and no recipes I can call my own. Can you believe it? I need a carrot cake. Damn.
So here, with all my love and sanity, is Recovery Cake Mark 2.
Carrot Cake (Vegan): A light, citrussy and wholesome cake that works as a loaf or a bundt cake.
For Bundt Cake:
340 grams flour – plain white, wholemeal or spelt
2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
4 Orgran “eggs” or the equivalent using any egg replacer (you can also just use 4 eggs if you are not making a vegan cake)
225 grams golden caster sugar
200 grams light brown sugar
210 ml sunflower oil
210 ml almond or coconut milk
340 grams grated carrot
125 grams dessicated coconut
150 grams walnut pieces
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tbsp soya or sunflower margarine plus an extra tbsp. of flour for greasing the tin
For Loaf Cake: 230g flour, 1 ½ tsp soda, ¼ tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 2 ½ egg replacer “eggs” (or 2 large eggs if not vegan), 150g caster sugar, 130g light brown sugar, 130ml sunflower oil, 130ml non-dairy milk, 220g carrot, 75g coconut, 100g walnuts, grated zest of 1 lemon.
Juice of 2 lemons and approx. 225 grams icing sugar, ½ for loaf cake.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c or 160 c for fan-assisted. Grease the Bundt tin with sunflower or soya margarine, lightly flour, tap out any excess flour and pop in the fridge while you prepare the cake.
For the loaf, grease the tin with oil and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper or a ready-made loaf tin liner.
Prepare the egg replacer by following the instructions on the packet and allow for it to sit for a few minutes.
Combine the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer bowl or a large bowl if you are not using a stand mixer, combine the egg replacer, sugars, oil and milk and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the grated carrot, walnuts, zest and coconut, ensuring that it is thoroughly blended.
Pour the thick, chunky batter in the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, check it at the 50 minute point. It is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Make sure you check well into the cake. This is dense and may appear done on the outside whilst still being a little raw at the centre.
Allow to cool. For the Bundt, reverse the tin on the rack after it has been out of the oven for about 10 minutes and allow to cool for 20 minutes or so upside down before removing the tin. Prepare the glaze (fresh lemon juice and icing sugar) to your desired thickness and pour over the cooled cake.
Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Draper All rights reserved
Some thoughts on Free From baking
When I was at Brick Lane Market I had a lot of requests for vegan products. So many that I actually felt worried and confused. Had the world gone vegan and I missed it? Turns out, my space in the Vintage market had previously been occupied by the talented vegan baker, Ms Cupcake. There were all sorts of online vegan directories pointing people to my spot and I was there offering them the most buttery, buttermilky, eggy Southern cakes on the planet. The vegan customers were the ones who were genuinely confused.
So I started to make a few vegan cakes. Brownies, muffins, a great fig cake…and I learned a bunch of stuff. I’ll impart the baking learning through the recipes on this blog in future and links to some of the great vegan blogs out there. But there was one lesson of another kind about choices which has proved to be a defining moment for me as a baker.
I have always been a brownie fanatic and the brownies on my stall were getting a lot of traction. People were coming back just for those. I had developed a salted caramel brownie that, two years later, was awarded 2 stars by the Great Taste judges. I naturally (or so I thought) turned my attention to creating a delicious vegan version. The reality is that I wasn’t as happy with it as I was with its buttery sister. A young friend was helping me on the stall and one day I took a long break and came back to find that the salted caramel brownies were untouched and the vegan brownies had sold out. Long story short, the products weren’t very clearly tagged and my friend had sold the vegan version to everyone in search of my legendary brownies. Ego explosion. Tears. Shouting. Completely inappropriate blaming of friend who, talk about confusion, had been so thrilled at the sales she had racked up in my absence.
What was I doing? Was I making vegan cakes (and at this stage gluten-free was also being introduced) to satisfy requests but with a completely different standard in place? Should my display be marked “the good stuff” on one side and the “compromised” on the other? My friend suggested better labels and she was right. Not least for considerations of allergens. But after I calmed down and she forgave me, we agreed that the only real solution to this was for me to never, ever, put anything on sale that I wouldn’t be 100% able to stand behind to any customer. It might not be to their taste, but I need to love what I make and the sales will flow from there. Or not. But in any case, I will be able to live myself.
So I constantly remind myself that everything needs to work on its own terms. This means that you are unlikely to find a dairy-free cheesecake on my menu. The vegan brownie has only just this week made a comeback to my stall after 3 years’ absence. It is now a different beast and can very proudly sit alongside all the others (recipe coming soon). All of my brownies are gluten-free because I discovered that rice flour + butter + chocolate is a softer and more delicious combination than a version with wheat flour. A brownie is not a cake, it is a gooey thing and the less flour the better, in any case. Carrot cake does not need cow’s milk, butter or eggs to be amazing so I only sell a vegan one. I have also learned that if I am not sure about a product, instead of selling it or binning it, I introduce it on the stall as a free taster and get valuable feedback. I may now be smart enough to know that you don’t mess around with your own quality threshold, but I need other people to tell me when I am too close to something or being unduly critical.
One Free From product that seems a fitting start to the New Year is The Skinny: my fruity, GF, wholefood, refined sugar-free muffin. It doesn’t matter how much I try, when I am attempting to eat less refined sugar and wheat, breakfast remains a big stumbling block. I want something bready or cakey and delicious. I despair at the taste, the calorie-count and the ingredients of the skinny muffins I see out there on the market. So I confess I developed this product for myself. But when I took its picture and put it on Instagram, it got considerably more attention than anything I had ever done before. Looks like I am not in the minority.
A truly skinny and delicious gluten & sugar-free muffin
Makes 12 Muffins
150 grams oat flour
150 grams sweet sorghum flour
75 grams tapioca flour
1 teaspoon konjac*
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
275 grams pure maple syrup or 200 grams date syrup
250 grams 0% fat Greek yoghurt (or use a plain Soya yoghurt to make dairy-free version)
1 tsp vanilla extract
125 ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
150 grams fresh berries
3 medium bananas
*I tend to use this these days instead of xanthum gum in gluten-free baking. It is a great thickener and high in fiber. A ground root or tuber, this has been used in Asian cooking for centuries…a little goes a long way. I bought mine on Amazon.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (180 C for fan-assisted). Line a 12 muffin tray with muffin cases.
In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients by whisking them together: 3 flours, konjac, baking powder, salt. Make an indent in the middle and add the wet ingredients: eggs, syrup, yoghurt, oil, vanilla. Mix it all together by hand with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gently add the fruit and fold through.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cases evenly. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees C and bake for a further 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Variations: You can add nuts or seeds, top with GF rolled oats, mix in unsweetened applesauce, orange zest, cinnamon. The list is endless as long as you stick to the GF/no sugar rule and keep an eye on the fat content. Speaking of fat, one day I forgot the oil and it still worked, if you want an even skinnier skinny muffin.
Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Draper All rights reserved