01/05/2017

Carrot Cake (dairy-free topping)

luscious carrot cake with dairy-free (cashew) topping
Carrot cake with cashew topping
Makes 12-16 slices

Ingredients
100-150g (2 cups) grated (shredded) carrots
200g (1 cup) white sugar
200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
120g (1 cup) white flour
120g (1 cup) wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
4 eggs (or substitute)
435g can crushed pineapple, drained (about 1 cup)
100g (1 cup) raisins
60g (1 cup) crushed walnuts (optional)

Topping:
150g (1 1/2 cups) cashews, soaked overnight
60ml lemon juice
2 tblsp coconut oil, melted
2 tblsp sugar or honey
(water if needed)

Method:
Heat the oven to 180C, without using a fan if possible. Grease a deep 23cm (9 inch) springform or loose-bottomed round cake tin with butter or coconut oil. Line the base with greasefree paper if the pan is likely to stick.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, until well combined.  Place in the pan, and cook for about 45-50 minutes until risen and firm in the middle.

Cool in the pain for at least 20 minutes, then remove carefully to a wire rack.

To make the topping:
Drain and then rinse the cashews, which should be quite soft and larger than they were. Blend or food process with the other ingredients, stopping every thirty seconds or so to scrape down the sides.  If it seems very stiff, add a little water, but it needs to be quite firm.

Eventually it should become a homogenous mixture, rather like traditional cream cheese topping, which can be spread roughly over the cake when it's cooled down.  

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This was originally an American recipe, which is very easy to make with US measuring cups. So if you have a set, or indeed any cup or small jug with a 225 ml capacity, it's much quicker than weighing everything separately.  Exact quantities don't matter too much in this recipe, which is very rich and moist.

It can also be made in other sizes of cake tin; a larger round one or a big rectangular pan would lead to a flatter, dryer cake; you would have to adjust the cooking times accordingly, and perhaps make more topping.

This is a good cake even without the frosting; if you want a low-fat cake, omit the walnuts and eat it without a topping. You could use all wholewheat flour to make it healthier, although it would then also be denser.  Carrots, pineapple and raisins ensure that this is a surprisingly nutritious cake as well as being delicious.

However, carrot cake is traditionally topped with a cream cheese based frosting, whipped with a considerable amount of icing sugar.  Since we are mostly dairy-free, I was delighted to discover this cashew-based equivalent.  Raw cashews can be expensive, but if you can find them in bulk they are the basis of many dairy-free desserts, and make an excellent milk.  

25/03/2017

Flapjacks

flapjacks
Flapjacks
Makes 16 bars

Ingredients: 
190g butter or spread
280g soft brown sugar
4 tblsp golden syrup
370g oats

Method:
Heat the oven to 180C (or 170 fan)

Melt the spread, brown sugar and syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring lightly, until the ingredients are mixed together.

Put the oats into a bowl, then pour in the contents of the pan, and mix together until well blended.

Line an ovenproof tray, 25cm x 20cm in size, with baking paper, then spoon the mixture in, pushing into the corners and smoothing the top so it's fairly even.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is just starting to turn darker golden (or longer if you prefer them more crunchy). Remove from the oven, then leave to cool in the pan for about ten minutes. Cut into squares or rectangles in the pan, then turn out when cold.

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Flapjacks are popular as a quick snack, and sometimes considered healthy, despite the high fat and sugar content. Perhaps it's because they contain oats rather than flour. They are very sweet indeed; as a child I could eat two or three, but now I find that one is sufficient.

flapjacks in the tin with baking paper, before cooking
This is a recipe I remember from my childhood. I don't know where my mother found it; perhaps on the side of an old-fashioned tin of Lyle's golden syrup. Her recipe was for a 10 x 6 inch pan, which she greased rather than lining. I've had flapjacks stick too many times to risk it.

Even with a good non-stick pan, it's well worth using some baking paper too. Make sure it's not the kind that needs greasing, or the flapjacks will probably stick to the paper and make a mess.

I have tried other recipes, from books or online, but although they're all good, none of them match up to this. Other recipes sometimes include spices, and are picky about what kind of oats are used. I just use the breakfast oats that we can buy cheaply. I should think any kind would work but have not tried with any other kind.

cooked flapjacks cut up
I cut mine using a plastic firm spatula, so as not to damage the non-stick pan, and it works well. It's important to cut them before the mixture hardens, as it becomes much more difficult once it's fully set. If the cuts are made while warm, it's easy to break them apart when cool.

I cut mine into 16 good-sized bars, but you could of course cut them into smaller bars, perhaps 24 or even more, although it's more difficult to keep them looking even with smaller pieces.

If you are in the United States or somewhere else that does not stock golden syrup, I don't recommend using the high fructose corn variety that's popular there, but not legal in Europe. Honey might work as an alternative, or maple syrup, or even molasses; but they will each give their own distinctive flavour, which is best (in my view, anyway) with traditional plain golden syrup.

I was a bit dubious about using spread rather than butter; we use the Flora dairy-free one, as we tend to avoid dairy products, and I was afraid the flapjacks might not be solid enough. However they turned out just as I remembered them, gooey and yet firm, and I could not taste the spread at all.