Summary

Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

My First Wedding Cake

When a colleague asked me if I could make her a wedding cake with cupcakes, I was both excited and terrified. Terrified because making a wedding cake it a huge responsibility, and excited for the challenge. In the end, it was decided that I'd make several tiers of cupcakes with one round sandwich cake on top, with a mixture of lemon and vanilla cupcakes and the top cake being a Victoria sponge. The theme of my colleague's wedding was yellow and white, with a rustic barn setting. I decorated my cakes with handmade sugar daisies and sugar bees.

 Look at the adorable Sylvanian Families cake toppers! My colleague had them customised especially for the occasion.

I must say, although I thought cupcakes would be easy, making 84 cupcakes and a round sandwich cake in a day with just one small oven was quite a challenge! Altogether, it took 12 hours cumulative to make the sugar daisies and bees from scratch, and 13 hours straight to bake and decorate the cakes.



Sunday, 21 September 2014

Chicken Baozi- Recipe

I've been meaning to make steamed chicken baozi for a while, now- there are lots of recipes out there for char siu bao, but not many chicken versions like the ones sold by the stalls in Chinatown. I think I nailed it.


Clearly I still need to work on my shaping skills- these are far off the neat flower-like pleats created by people who have been doing this for years. But I've not been doing this for years. In fact, this is only the second time I've tried making baozi, the last time being a couple of weeks ago.

I was quite happy with my first attempt, but I thought I made the bun itself too thin. This time round I increased the bun dough quantity while decreasing the amount of filling I packed into each a little, and they were perfect. This means that there is some raw filling left over, but you can freeze it and use at a later date- either making more steamed buns or experimenting with other things.

Remember, you're making bread here, so leave some time in advance to proof the dough before you want to eat your baozi.

Makes 4 large baozi with leftover filling.

Ingredients for Bao Dough:

-150g plain flour
-1tbsp cornflour
-1tsp instant (fast action) yeast
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1tbsp icing sugar
-1/2 tbsp sesame oil
-100ml warm chicken stock
-pinch of salt

Ingredients for Filling:

-280-300g chicken thigh meat, minced in food processor or finely chopped
-Handful of shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
-50g cooked (steamed or boiled then dried off) cabbage, roughly chopped
-100g water chestnuts, roughly chopped
-3 spring onions, finely chopped
-2 anchovies, very finely chopped
-2cm cube ginger, very finely chopped
-1 small clove garlic, very finely chopped
-1tbsp soy sauce
-1tsp Chinese cooking wine
-1tsp sugar

Method:

1) Start by making the bao dough: mix the dough ingredients together in a bowl, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10mins (time it! It'll feel like a long time doing it by hand, but don't cheat on the kneading time- you need to get that gluten all nice and springy)

2) Once your dough is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball, put it back in the bowl and cover with clingfilm- now leave it somewhere warm until it doubles in size. I put mine in my airing cupboard since the rest of the house was a little cold, and it took 45 minutes






3) While your dough is proofing, prepare the filling. Once everything is chopped and minced, either stir it all together by hand or give it a few pulses in your food processor (but not too many, you want texture- which is why you also need to chop everything separately rather than bunging everything in the processor in one go). Refrigerate until your dough has doubled in size and you're ready to use


4) Once you're dough is proofed, remove the clingfilm and knead it a little to shrink it back down. Take the dough out and split it into four parts, rolling each into a ball, and cover with clingfilm on the counter to rest for 10mins

5) Once the dough is rested, roll each out into a large circle (rolling the edges a little more thinly), fill with a generous tablespoonful of filling, and pinch in the sides of the dough circle until it meets in the middle, twisting to seal.



6) Place each bun on a large square of baking parchment


7) Now you need to give the buns a mini-proof in the steamer before cooking. Place them in the steamer, and switch the heat on until the water just begins to simmer, and switch off the heat. Leave the buns for another five minutes in the warm steamer to increase in size by about an extra half.


8) Now that the dough has proofed for the final time, switch the heat back on, bring the water to boiling point, and lower the heat so the water comes to a simmer.

9) Cook in the steamer for 20 minutes

10) Turn off the heat, take out a baozi and enjoy! Oh, and watch out for those last few bites where the juices collect at the bottom of the bun (if you've ever had one of these from a street stall and forgotten to take a napkin, you'll know what I'm talking about).



Friday, 19 September 2014

Raw Millionaire's Shortbread- Recipe

If you gave someone a bit of this raw millionaire's shortbread and didn't tell them it was raw and vegan, they'd be none the wiser.


This was an experiment that went alarmingly right. I expected it to be like all the rest of my raw vegan desserts: delicious alternatives to their dairy, sugar-filled counterparts. What I wasn't expecting was an almost perfect dupe.

The ground almonds and small amount of coconut flour make a really convincing soft shortbread texture, with a buttery edge coming from the coconut oil and pinch of sea salt. As for the salted date caramel and rich raw chocolate topping... heavenly.

Also, I put this together about half an hour, with only an extra half an hour's chilling time in the freezer. Short of time and need to magically pull a vegan dessert out of a hat? This is your recipe.


I only left this in the freezer for half an hour because I like my caramel gooey, but it you want neat slices and a more set caramel, leave it in for a full hour (once it's ready to serve, any leftovers are fine to be popped in the fridge afterwards).

Go!

Ingredients for Raw Shortbread Layer:


-200g ground almonds
-2tbsp coconut flour
-3tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave, maple syrup or honey)
-2tbsp coconut oil, melted
-Pinch sea salt

Ingredients for Raw Caramel Layer:


-150g medjool dates, soaked (either overnight or for half an hour in hot water)
-3tbsp cashew butter
-3tbsp coconut oil, melted
-Pinch sea salt

Ingredients for Raw Chocolate Layer:

-5tbsp coconut oil, melted
-3tbsp cocoa
-3tbsp honey
-1tbsp cashew butter

Method:

1) Line a 18cm square pan with foil and lightly grease with a little vegetable oil

2) To make the shortbread layer, simply mix all of the raw shortbread ingredients together in a bowl and pack into the bottom of the pan





3) Make the caramel layer next:  blend all of the raw caramel ingredients together with a hand blender until smooth


4) Spread the caramel layer over the shortbread layer, and pop the whole thing in the freezer for a minute or so while you make the chocolate layer


5) For the chocolate layer, again just mix the raw chocolate ingredients together until smooth

6) Take your pan out of the freezer, pour over the chocolate mixture, and put back in the freezer for at least half an hour (or an hour if you want the caramel more set)

Smudgey lens... a hazard that comes with cooking and photo-ing!
7) Remove, slice up, and enjoy!






Saturday, 6 September 2014

Raw Salted Caramel White Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie- Recipe

Raw salted caramel. Raw cheesecake. Raw chocolate brownie. It's sugar-free September, baby!


I already endured Sugar-free February, so some good habits have stuck from the last time and therefore it's not so hard this time. Also, last time I was pushed to create some fantastic 'healthy' raw vegan desserts free from processed sugar, such as my raw strawberry cheesecake, and I've been excited to make some more raw treats. This time I really, really wanted to try wanted to try something salted caramel-y, and combine it with the raw chocolate truffle/ brownie stuff I made last time (the brownie version is a less smoothly blended, more textured version of the truffles).


In this recipe the only things I use to give sweetness are medjool dates and Sweet Freedom (a fruit-derived syrup). I use Sweet Freedom instead of agave now because of the slightly dodgy health implications of agave, plus it has an even lower GI and lower fructose content while having a similar neutral sweet taste- but everything in moderation. You could use agave instead of Sweet Freedom, or rice syrup, light coconut nectar or honey (the latter of which if you don't mind it being non-vegan and/ or the dessert having a honey edge to it).


I also used two ingredients I've never ever used before: pure cocoa butter (interesting, yum!) and soya lecithin granules (argh scary what is this??)


Lecithin is a natural emultifier found in many things, such as egg yolks and soya beans, and is used in a lot of food products for a creamy smooth texture- for example, chocolate. Soya lecithin granules are the most easy to find, usually found in the supplement section of health food stores (I found this tub in Whole Foods:)


I was a little concerned that my food processor wouldn't be able to break these up. A lot of raw foodies posses Vitamix or Blendtec blenders, which are magical high horsepower things of wonder that I hope to one day be able to afford. Granules would easily be obliterated in one of these, but alas, I just have my food processor- so I ended up grinding the granules into a finer powder in my mini chopper, which ended up working quite well.


If you can't find soya lecithin don't panic: this recipe works great without it. It's just a nice extra to have for flavour and texture.

Also: why soak the nuts? To cut a long and actually quite interesting (to me) story short, soaking breaks down some thingies (technical term...) in the nuts, making them easier to digest.

Note: start making this dessert the day before you want to eat it, as the cheesecake part needs a few hours to set properly. The caramel can whizzed up on the day a couple of hours in advance as it doesn't need as long to set.

Ingredients for Raw Brownie:

-200g pecans, soaked for 2 hours and drained
-125g medjool dates (not soaked)
-2tbsp cocoa powder
-2tbsp coconut oil, melted

Ingredients for Raw White Chocolate Cheesecake:

-150g cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
-juice of 1 lemon
-4tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave/ honey/ brown rice syrup etc)
-75g cocoa butter, melted (the bain Marie method works best here)
-4tbsp non dairy milk (I used hazelnut because that's what was on hand, but you can use almond, coconut, rice, soya etc)
-1tsp vanilla
-1tbsp soya lecithin granules, processed into powder
-Pinch of salt

Ingredients for Raw Salted Caramel:

-100g medjool dates, soaked overnight and drained  (essential for a super smooth caramel)
-2tbsp coconut oil, melted
-2 level tbsp almond butter
-Good pinch of sea salt
(I prefer creamy caramel, but if you want a sweeter chocolate box-type caramel, add 2tbsp Sweet Freedom/ alternative)

Ingredients for Raw Chocolate Drizzle:

-2tbsp cocoa powder
-2tbsp coconut oil, melted
-2tbsp Sweet Freedom (or alternative, see above)

Method:

1) Line the bottom of a deep 7" springform pan with a circle of cardboard covered in tin foil, and grease the sides with oil to make getting the cake out super easy later


2) Make the brownie layer first:process the nuts until they form a crumbly texture, and add all the other brownie ingredients and process until the whole things clumps together in the food processor



3) Pack this down at the bottom of your prepared tin, smoothing evenly with the back of an oiled spoon, and pop in the fridge while you prepare the cheesecake layer (clean your food processor for next step)


4) To make the cheesecake layer, literally bung all of the cheesecake ingredients into your cleaned food processor and whizz until creamy and smooth


5) Take the tin back out of the fridge, pour in the cheesecake mixture, smooth out and put back in the fridge to set overnight


6) Sleep on it~

7) The next morning, carefully remove your cheesecake from the tin and pop on a plate, still on the makeshift cardboard and foil cake board you made



8) Make the caramel: simply blend all of the caramel ingredients together until smooth and creamy (I used a bog standard hand blender)

9) Spoon this on top of your cheesecake and smooth so that the caramel just begins to ooze over the edges enticingly


8) Pop everything back in the fridge for at least another hour

9) To make the drizzle, simply mix the ingredients together


10) Here's the fun part: line a work surface with foil to catch chocolate drips, take the cake off of your plate, and balance it (still on its makeshift cake board) on a jam jar or two on the foil lining and drizzle the raw chocolate over




11) Back on the plate, back in the fridge for half an hour to set the chocolate

12) Serve a small slice since it's such a lusciously rich cake, and most certainly enjoy!




NOM.