Thursday, 14 July 2011

Butter has moved!

Butter has moved to a new, much prettier home over at Wordpress. Click here to visit me!

Natasha

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

BabyCakes Corn Bread Failure


I have come to a conclusion. Vegan, gluten-free cakes are not nice. Nope. Not nice at all.

I was excited about this corn bread. I love corn bread. In BabyCakes, Erin McKenna's sister Elizabeth SWEARS by it. Says she eats it EVERY day. Multiple times. I had high expectations, I did. They were somewhat squashed after yesterday's yucky banana bread, but I was still expecting great things. Great vegan things.

But nope. Nuh-uh. No such luck. This was not pleasant. Looked great. The flavour was not so great. And it was grainy. Stodgy too.

I'm sorry Erin McKenna. I had high hopes for you but your corn bread is just not nice. Not even worth posting the recipe for. Just expressing my utter disappointment. What a shame.

Monday, 20 June 2011

BabyCakes Vegan, Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Bread


I have a criminology exam tomorrow and my favourite pastime has become procrastination. I take days off work, don't make any plans with friends and tell my boyfriend I'm unavailable, all so that I can stay home and study. And stay home I do, but I come up with any excuse not to study. Having a shower, watching Ellen, walking or playing with the puppy and baking are common ones. Today is was BabyCakes banana bread.

So I went out and spent $6.50 on two bananas. Only to put them into a cake. That I didn't like. BabyCakes is going to send me broke. I'm already out of coconut oil ($16 for 375ml) and I still want to make the Babycakes cornbread. This vegan business is expensive. 

I usually love banana bread. It's thick, dense, yet light texture (I eat a lot of things for their texture, raw cookie dough for example, and don't like other things due to their texture, like sponge cake) is delicious, particularly the soft, sticky top of the cake - my favourite. So when, in the BabyCakes cookbook, Mary-Louise Parker says "The BabyCakes NYC banana bread is the best I've ever had and something I simply can't live without." I thought it had to be amazing and had to give it a try. I shouldn't have bothered.

I followed the recipe to the letter. I can't even explain why I don't like it. It lacks flavour? The texture isn't the same as there are no eggs and no buttermilk? Maybe its just me and my weird texture thing, because my parents loved it. It came up too dense somehow, like cooked goop in your mouth. I can't describe it. If you're curious, try it and see!


BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD
Adapted from BabyCakes
 
If you try it, let me know what you think. It is supposed to be much healthier for you than the traditional version. Maybe that's why I'm not a fan!

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil
2/3 agave nectar
2/3 cup rice milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees then grease and line a 7 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking paper, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon.

Add coconut oil, agave nectar, rice milk and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth. Using a spatula, gently fold in the bananas and chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

    

Fill the prepared pan halfway with batter. Bake the banana bread for 35 minutes (mine took an hour), rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a ready loaf will come out clean.


Let the banana bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes. Invert the loaf onto a cutting board, then re-invert the bread onto another cutting board so it is the right way up. Either cut and serve warm, or allow to cool completely before storing. Makes 10 slices.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

BabyCakes Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment


A vegan friend from work, knowing that I love to bake, brought me in Erin McKenna's BabyCakes NYC cookbook to show me a different perspective on ingredients. It was certainly a different perspective. I was looking through the book, scanning all the looong ingredient lists including Xanthan Gum, Whole Spelt Flour, Evaporated Cane Juice (or Panella in Australia) and Coconut Oil and thought 'what the hell is all of this?'.


I was very curious about all of these baking substitutes and was eager to make something to test them out and spot the differences. So about $70 and two hours of hunting around four different stores later, we (well, mostly my boyfriend) found most of what I needed. These health ingredients are expensive, and hard to find (thank you dear boyfriend!)!
P.S. I was going to try the banana bread too but decided to leave it for another day, hence the bananas in the photo.

I decided to make Chocolate Chip Cookies and Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. Instead of making my cookies with butter, sugar, flour and eggs, I was going to be using coconut oil, dark brown sugar (I gave up on trying to find the Panella sugar. You can order it online), gluten free flour, flax meal, applesauce and some xanthan gum to make sure everything stuck together! It felt like a science experiment.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted from BabyCakes
  
Although this recipe might look crazy with all its strange ingredients, its actually quite easy to put it all together. Follow the instructions carefully and try not to substitute too many ingredients. Make sure to melt the coconut oil before measuring it, as it comes in solid form. 30-40 seconds in the microwave should be enough.

1 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (or Panella sugar)
2 cups gluten free all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup flax meal (I bought whole flax and blended it)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 3-4 baking trays with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla and sugar.


Separately, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until a dough is formed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.



Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough, roll into balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Gently press each ball down with the palm of your hand to help them spread.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 9 minutes. The finished cookie will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center. Let the cookies to stand on the trays for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 36.


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted from BabyCakes
  
This recipe is almost exactly the same as the traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies, only it has added cocoa and less flour to compensate. These are delicious, too!

1 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (or Panella sugar)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups gluten free all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup flax meal (I bought whole flax and blended it)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 3-4 baking trays with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla, sugar and cocoa.


Separately, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until a dough is formed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.


Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough, roll into balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Gently press each ball down with the palm of your hand to help them spread.


Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 9 minutes. The finished cookie will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center. Let the cookies to stand on the trays for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 36.


So how did they turn out, you ask? Well, the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies baked up much better than the Chocolate Chip Cookies. They weren't as oily and spread more evenly so they were all of the same thickness, while the Chocolate Chip Cookies spread strangely thin around the edges and stayed fat in the centers. While they were baking I got a strong smell of the coconut oil, which was yummy, but smells just like Reef Tanning Oil and reminds me of summer and sun baking. That was a bit weird.

The concept is one that I am in two minds about. If you are a vegan, or gluten intolerant, then fantastic!!! You can eat cookies once more!
But for someone like me, who is somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to baking, then I am not so sure. I get that the coconut oil is great for you and speeds up your metabolism while butter is horrible for your waistline and your cholesterol levels, but I like eggs. I think eggs are a great source of protein. Why would I replace each one with 3 tbsp of applesauce? Why would I use gluten free flour + flax meal + xanthan gum (this one still freaks me out as I don't really get what it is) when I could use plain or wholemeal flour?

Overall, the cookies were nice, particularly the double chocolate ones (you almost, almost, can't tell the difference between them and a regular cookie. Apart from the Reef Coconut Oil flavour).
However, I much prefer the flavour and texture of my traditional cookie recipes. I had fun experimenting though, and will probably give a few more recipes from BabyCakes a try.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Devil's Food Cake


On Tuesday it was my brother's 12th birthday. I wanted to make him something special to celebrate the milestone, and at the same time use the opportunity to try out a new recipe. I don't really love cake. I mean, why have crumbly cake when you can have silky lemon tart or molten chocolate fondants? But I was inspired by the four-layer Devil's Food Cake recipe in Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth. The photos of the cake made my mouth water. And like I said, I don't even like cake.

The only thing I didn't like about the recipe was that it calls for buttercream frosting. I'm not a fan of buttercream; I think it just tastes like a mouthful of fatty butter. So I went on a hunt for the ultimate frosting. That same week on Masterchef, Nigella Lawson featured and the contestants attempted her Devil's Food Cake. I found Nigella's recipe and decided on using this version in place of the buttercream; it looked much more chocolatey and would be perfect.

However, when it came down to making the frosting, I found it much too dark and buttery so I added in lots of milk chocolate to the dark, and made 1.5 times the amount of frosting to accommodate the four layers of Jill O'Connor's cake compared to Nigellas two. Also, when the frosting cooled it looked very flat, so I whipped it in a stand mixer. In the end, the frosting turned out to be my own creation, and it was delicious; perfect in frosting-texture and chocolate-taste.


DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE
Adapted from Sticky, Messy, Chewy, Gooey
  
The recipe is quite long but don't let that deter you; the results are delicious. You will need to make the frosting first to give it time to cool, and make sure it is thick before you whip it. Also let the cakes cool completely before you frost them. Enjoy!

Whipped Chocolate Frosting
190ml water
45g dark brown sugar
250g unsalted butter, cubed
300g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
200-250g milk chocolate, chopped (to taste)

Put the water, sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat to melt. When the mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add in all the chocolate, swirling the pan so all the chocolate hits the heat. Leave for a minute to allow chocolate to melt before whisking by hand till smooth and glossy.
Leave the frosting in its pan on your counter, coming back to it and whisking it every so often while you make your cake. If you need to speed up the cooling process, put it in the fridge but remember to come back to it and whisk it now and again.

Once your cakes are out of the oven and cooling, and the frosting is completely cool, put it in the stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes until it is thick, creamy, fluffy and perfect for frosting your cake.

Devil's Food Cake
1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp instant coffee powder
100g semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
120g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cup cake flour (or 1 3/4 cup plain flour and 4 tbsp corn flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease and line two 9-inch spring-form cake pans with baking paper.

In a large bowl, place the cocoa powder, coffee and chocolate. Pour over the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted and mixture is cool. Stir in the vanilla. Once the mixture cools, stir in the buttermilk.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and oil together until light and fluffy. Add both the sugars and beat until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt on to a sheet of baking paper. Add one third of the flour to the cake batter and beat on a low speed for a few seconds, just until combined. Then beat in half the chocolate-buttermilk mixture, again beating for just a few seconds until combined. Do the same with another one third of the flour mixture, and again with the last of the chocolate-buttermilk mix. Finally, fold in the final third of the flour mixture by hand, using a rubber spatula, just until no streaks of flour remain.

Divide the batter between prepared cake pans and spread evenly. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the caked comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes (this took me about 45 minutes, but I used 8 1/2 inch cake pans). Take the cakes out of the oven and let them cool about 10 minutes before inverting the cakes out of the pans and onto wire racks, peeling off the baking paper. Let them cool completely before frosting.

Assembling the cake
Halve each cake horizontally using a long serrated knife, for a total of 4 layers of cake. I find it helps to use a ruler to measure the center of the cake and mark that point with a slit of your knife all around the edge. It creates a guide, so you can work your way around, slicing through the cake knowing that your cakes will be even. Just remember to keep your knife level.
   
       

Place one layer cut-side up and top with 1 cup of the Whipped Chocolate Frosting, spreading it evenly. Continue stacking the cake, spreading 1 cup of frosting between each layer and placing the top layer cut-side down. In the center layer of my cake, I added three crushed up Digestive biscuits to the frosting. It just broke up the chocolately smooshiness of the cake and gave it some crunch. You could also add chopped roasted nuts like almonds or hazelnuts or maybe some crushed up honeycomb, or nothing at all! Its up to you, but the Digestives were delicious.

       

Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining Whipped Chocolate Frosting, and give the frosting a few decorative swirls of your knife. Cut into wedges and enjoy! Serves 10 to 12.

  

So I started a blog


This is me. Here I am in New York's East Village, scoffing down a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting from the famous Magnolia Bakery. I love baking and eating all forms of baked goods. I would like to one day become a baker. So I started a blog.

Basically, I have a love for dough and anything pastry-like, and my boyfriend finds it hilarious; laughing that I would survive off cookie dough and pastry if I could. And I would, were it not for hips! So I bake all sorts of things, and try to give them away, to people at work and my poor, cookie-dough-filled boyfriend (when we met, he didn't like sweets!!!). So I hope you enjoy my recipes for all things pastry and dough-like, and make them to share with your friends and family too!