January 21, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake


MUNCH RATING: 4/5

Before I started my dairy-free diet I didn't really eat many cakes and biscuits, but now I'm eating even less as there aren't that many sweet things that don't contain dairy.

So far I've only tried baking dairy-free rock cakes and some biscuits with relative success (I want to play with the recipes before I write a post). But I've lost a few pounds in weight (that I didn't want to lose) since I started this diet and so I thought it was time to start eating more cake.

I found this recipe on the brilliant Joy The Baker blog. Using avocado in a cake was a totally new concept, but I am supposed to be eating more of them for the good fats they provide, so it seemed like a good idea to try this cake. I really wanted Steve's family to try this cake, so I decided not to make the garish avocado frosting and opted for a simple chocolate butter icing instead. I used Vitalite as it's dairy-free and it's a Vegan Society approved product, so it's still a vegan cake if that's what you're looking for.

TASTE TEST:
Well Steve said this was the best chocolate cake he's ever eaten; so I definitely got the thumbs up from him! But his Mum was less keen on this cake as it was too dense and chewy for her tastes. I think it's because this cake is so incredibly moist; rather than the buttery and light sponge that she is used to making. Another reason for the heavier texture is I added too much flour (see below). I would make this again as it had a good chocolate flavour and it would have been perfect if I'd got the flour right!

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:
I always worry when I bake using recipes that measure in cups, because baking requires you to be very precise and using cups can give you so many variations. My 3 cups of flour came to 465g, which did seem like an awful lot. I've checked on a few websites and 1 cup is between 120-130g; so 3 cups would be between 360-384g. So I definitely overdid the flour! This is because I followed Ina Garten's method of using the cup to scoop flour out of the bag and then leveled off with the back of a knife. But I've now read this is the wrong way to do it! You should spoon the flour into your cup and then level it off. Here is a good article explaining how it should be done. I'm always learning!

I used 1.5 cups of caster sugar instead of 2 cups of granulated sugar, as I always reduce the amount of sugar in baking.

I used 1/4 teaspoon of table salt instead of the 1/2 teaspoon salt.

I used 2 Tablespoons lemon juice instead of the 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar as I didn't have any. I read you can substitute lemon for vinegar in most recipes. You have to include some sort of acid to react with the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) as this is what will make your cake rise in absence of the eggs. I owe any semblance of chemistry knowledge to Alton Brown!

My avocado wasn't as ripe as I'd like it to have been, so I squashed it through my potato ricer as I thought this would be the best way to mash it up and it did work!

The recipe below is how I made it, you can find the original here.

    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
    • Oven shelf: middle
    • You will need: two 8-inch sandwich tins, greased and lined with non-stick baking paper

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Bournville)
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1.5 cups caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (that's the juice of 1 lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.  
  2. Grease and line your tins. Set aside.
  3. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set that aside too.
  4. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.
  5. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.
  6. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
  7. Pour batter into a greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. To ensure even baking, turn your cakes after half the cooking time has elapsed.
  8. Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Butter Icing (an adaptation of a recipe from The Great British Bake Off Book):
  • 125g Vitalite
  • 390g icing sugar
  • 4 Tablespoon milk (I used Rice Dream rice milk to make it dairy-free)
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Bournville)
  1. Put the Vitalite in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until paler in colour and very creamy.
  2. Sift the icing sugar in the bowl.
  3. Add the rice milk and cocoa and beat in with a spatula to get all the icing sugar incorporated before switching to the electric mixer until very smooth and thick.
This makes loads of icing and I had quite a bit leftover. 

January 7, 2012

Booja-Booja Dairy Free Chocolate Truffles

Booja-Booja Espresso Chocolate Truffles - The Artist's Collection

Steve's sister was given these truffles from a PR company and she brought them over at Christmas as she didn't want them. Since I've been on my dairy free diet I haven't been eating many cakes, biscuits and sweets. It hasn't been a problem for me as I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, but it was nice to have an alternative to the Green & Black's chocolate that I've been eating. Plus I loved the box and it will be handy to keep my jewellery in it.

I was intrigued to try these truffles as they are dairy free and I didn't think it was possible to make truffles without dairy, as Steve and I made them during our stay at the Aviator Hotel and it was a simple mix of melted chocolate and double cream.

For some reason the ingredients for these espresso truffles aren't listed on the Booja-Booja website so I've copied them from the label on the box:
Chocolate (cocoa solids 55%, cane sugar, emulsifier: soya lecithin, vanilla), Coconut Oil, Water, Coffee 5%, Agave Syrup, Cocoa Powder.


Truffles aren't my favourite chocolates so I'm not an expert, but these were quite nice. I don't think they were as creamy as traditionally made truffles, but they were very close in texture. The chocolate flavour was deep and rich and the espresso provided just the right amount of coffee.

I personally wouldn't buy these for myself as they are very expensive. These truffles came in a beautiful handmade wooden box, so they retail for around £23. A standard box is around £7 which is still a lot of money for 16 chocolates, even if they are handmade.


I thought it would be a good idea to try making a hot chocolate from the truffles and I actually preferred consuming them this way. 

To make one serving:
I heated 200ml of Rice Dream (rice milk) in the microwave for 1 min 45 seconds and then stirred in 2 of the truffles until they melted and then added half a teaspoon of vanilla sugar. This produced a very chocolately hot chocolate and it's a good way for me to eat more calories as I've lost so much weight since going dairy free!
200ml Rice Dream = 94kcal
2 truffles = 122kcal
1/2 teaspoon sugar = 8kcal
Total calories = 224

December 13, 2011

Elimination diet starts today!

Steve and I went away to Lifehouse Spa over the weekend (it was a complimentary stay to make up for the bad experience we had there before) so I didn't want to start my diet until today, otherwise I would have missed out on lots of nice food!

I had to do a pulse test before eliminating dairy from my diet for a month. So this morning, before I had eaten anything, I took my resting pulse. This means counting the number of beats that occur in 1 minute.

I counted 67 beats.

Then I waited 10 minutes before drinking a glass of semi-skimmed milk (I could of eaten some cheese instead but I couldn't stomach eating cheese for breakfast!). Then I took my pulse rate again 10 minutes after drinking the milk.

I counted 66 beats.

Apparently if my body is intolerant to dairy then I should expect my pulse rate to increase. So I waited another 10 minutes and counted again.

I counted 67 beats.

Hmmm, not very supportive evidence that I am dairy intolerant. But I am committed to trying this elimination diet to see if I can get rid of my eczema.

So I tried rice milk made by Rice Dream for the first time in my tea. I tasted some of the rice milk on its own first and to me it just tasted like watered down milk and that's how it looked as well. When I used it in my tea I think I added about double the amount of normal milk, but I think this was because the rice milk didn't make the tea change colour as drastically as normal milk. So I was trying to match the colour as my normal brew, but I think you would have to add a lot of rice milk to get the same shade. I like my tea pretty strong and I think the rice milk actually allowed me to taste the tea a lot better as it wasn't as overpowering as normal milk. So I actually enjoyed my first lactose free cuppa!

So I'm feeling very positive about this new diet as there are lots of substitute dairy products available. If I didn't like the Rice Dream then I was going to try Lacto Free as their milk apparently tastes exactly the same as normal milk but the lactose has been removed. There's quite a lot of useful information on their website and tips on how to do an elimination diet as well.

I'm not expecting to see the effects of my diet on my eczema for a couple of weeks as it takes this amount of time to purge the body of dairy. I am also aiming to eat more oily fish, olive oil and avocados to boost the oils in my skin, so we shall see!

Eczema condition:-
Hands - on middle, ring and little fingers of both hands and a big arc between middle and little finger on the palm of my left hand. Skin is mainly very dry, not itchy and not cracked or sore.
Body - a small patch on the left side of my waist. Skin is itchy.

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