I spend an unnatural amount of time thinking about things like how exactly chick-pea water works as an alternative to eggs (it couldn’t….could it…??). Or what the exact reaction is that happens when you whip butter and sugar together. Or why 180 degrees celsius in two different ovens is never the same. I guess it’s what comes with the territory when you are both a scientist and a food blogger. A double occupational hazard of sorts.
Lately my neurons have been firing about incorporating vegetables and legumes into sweet baked goods like cake and brownies. Throw stones at me if you will, but I have to say, I’m not convinced.
From the point of view of adding moisture without adding fat, I suppose I get it. Sort of. But for the purpose of ‘hiding’ veggies to boost one’s veggie intake? Unconvinced. I for one would rather beetroot roasted and tossed with chunks of salty fetta and baby spinach, the whole thing doused with a squeeze of lemon juice, than lurking sneakily in a cookie. If I soak a batch of white beans, it’ll be to toss them with parsley, chilly and olive oil, not conceal them cleverly in a mudcake.
So here are my brownies. Gluten free and moist with coconut oil which will make your skin shine. They sing with cardamom notes and are brought gently down to earth with the richness of dark chocolate and pistachios. Like most of the baked goods on this site, the sweetness is subdued so feel free to add a little more sugar if you like things a little sweeter. And not a vegetable or legume in (or out of) sight .
Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Pistachio Brownies
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
Seeds scraped from 1/2 a large vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla paste
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
1/2 tsp cinnamon
120g good quality 70% dark chocolate, melted
3/4 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Grease and line a shallow oven tray with grease-proof paper
In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon and beat with an electric mixer until a smooth mixture forms.
In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate either in a bain marie or in 20 to 30 second bursts in the microwave. Stir through coconut oil, also melted. Stir this mixture into the egg mixture until a smooth mixture forms.
Gently stir through the almond meal, salt and baking powder, followed by the pistachios.
Pour the mixture into the pan and bake on the top shelf for 18-22 mins. Remove from the oven when the middle of the slab is still a bit undercooked, and leave in the tray to cool. Slice and serve!
You’re probably thinking it’s all a bit too little, too late. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t blame you. I mean, a decadent fruity truffle, perfect for holiday gifting, posted on Christmas Day?? When all the gifts are already wrapped and sitting snugly under the tree, and even those relatives who completely slipped your mind until the very last minute have been taken care of in a panicked flurry.
What was that? Yes yes, if I’d posted this earlier you could have at least whipped up a batch to serve with coffee after Christmas dinner. I could spout out the usual woes about being too busy, hanging on a thread of exhaustion, working fulltime and trying to meet writing deadlines in my spare time. I could sing the song about how every time I even thought about doing something with this little blog here, a thousand other more pressing thoughts would flood out the first. It would all be true, of course but of very little relevance to you, as even the self absorbed me is aware.
Would it have been wiser for me to wait? To realise the little wooden boat had sailed and to wait until Easter or even next Christmas? Yes, probably. But if I made decisions based on what is sensible over what I feel like doing, I would be a very rich woman by now (I’m not). I truly couldn’t have sat on these truly sexy spheres of bitter dark chocolate, their smoothness only interrupted by the cheeky bite of sour cherries and toothsome shredded coconut. I could have waited a month maybe, but four months?? A whole year??
You know me better than that 🙂
So here they are, awkward timing and all. I hope your holidays are as smooth, decadent and studded with pleasant surprises as these here truffles.
Cherry Ripe Truffles
100g good quality dark chocolate
1/3 cup nut butter (almond, cashew or macadamia works well)
3/4 cup frozen sour cherries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Stir through the nut butter and place the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Pulse the frozen cherries in the food processor briefly until they are very roughly chopped. Add these to the chocolate mixture with the coconut and stir to combine. Refrigerate for another hour or so. When the mixture is firm enough to roll, roll into truffles and refrigerate again.
It is widely accepted in scientific circles that a little bit of chocolate every day does wonders for one’s general health, demeanor, muscular strength, bone density, complexion and sexual performance*. Researchers have found that the substance can be taken in either liquid or solid form, hot or cold, in secret or with others of the same inclination**. There is anecdotal evidence that sitting in one’s comfiest armchair and closing one’s eyes while taking this medication improves it’s efficacy, however further studies are required in this particular field***. One point on which all scientists are in agreement is that the darker the chocolate the better****.
Here at the Therapeutic Chocolate Society, we strive to improve ease of administration of this highly efficacious therapy. We strongly support consumption of chocolate in its solid form, pure and unmodified. However if a liquid form improves ease of administration, and if the slightest hint of fragrant orange and warming cinnamon, with the subtlest of bites of fiesty cardamom improves the appeal of the treatment, we may have just the thing for you.
Warm a cup of milk of your choice, hot enough to melt the chocolate but not so hot that it scalds your mouth. Stir gently with the chocolate spoon until all melted. Lick any residual chocolate off the spoon (it is important to consume the full dose). Add a little sugar or sweetener if desired and sip until all gone.
You may feel a rich, creamy sensation coating the inside of your mouth. You will experience a heat in your chest as the warm liquid trickles from your mouth to your stomach. Approximately 100% of patients report a heady cocoa aroma that overtakes the remaining senses, a sprinkling of orange and spices lacing it’s edges.
All of these are normal and frequently reported side effects of hot chocolate made with Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons.
Like life itself, it is a bittersweet experience of depth, complexity and ultimately, sweetness.
*This is likely completely fabricated. **Also unproven ***There are no such studies being conducted, nor are there ever likely to be. ****This part may actually hold some truth.
Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons
150g good quality dark chocolate (I used 100g 70% + 50g unsweetened)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
The insides of 4 cardamom pods, powdered
Lay out 12-14 teaspoons in a tray. Alternatively you can use an ice cube tray. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Add the other ingredients. Stir to mix well and place small amounts (about 1 1/2 tsp) of the mixture into the teaspoons or the sections of the ice cube tray. If using the ice cube tray, insert wooden popsicle sticks into the centre of each cube of chocolate. Place in the fridge to set or in the freezer if there is a medical emergency requiring immediate chocolate treatment.
Stir into a cup of hot milk, sweeten if needed find an armchair and enjoy.
It took me a long time after university to stop associating coffee with the torture of exams. Despite being an over-achiever at school, it took me quite a few years to get my groove at uni. And so frantic, caffeine fuelled all-nighters were the rule rather than the exception during vet school, much to the surprise of those who knew me in high-school. Couple that with the academically, physically and emotionally demanding nature of a vet degree, and it was a sure formula for one hot mess of a vet student come exam time. That year that we had 10 exams to complete in a two week period is particularly memorable, and I think it was after that year that I resolved to get my act together so that I wouldn’t have to sit important papers on two hours of sleep and a whole lot of liquid stimulation.
A forced wake-up from an unfairly short sleep wasn’t even the worst of it. The kicker was the mind-fog through which I would command the answers to surface as I tried to focus on the words on the page. Finally, there was the fumble of a bus ride home, when my brain was too numb with lack of sleep to even process whether I had performed adequately in the exam. Even to this day, looking at an energy drink brings back the faint nausea of those delirious, desperate and disillusioned all-nighters that I and my friends (yes, I had company in this silly behaviour) subjected ourselves to for 2 weeks every semester.
In the last few years I have felt that I am adult enough and forgetful enough to be able to savour the taste of coffee without the bone-chilling memories that my disorganised uni student self had attached to it. Good coffee, made well, truly is a wonderful thing. Those first few sips whose aromas fill the nostrils and which leave a trail of warmth down the oesophagus are a comfort and a wake-up call in one.
I take mine without sugar, always have, and find it is actually an offense to the coffee if sugar masks any of its flavour. On days when I’m feeling a bit decadent, I will also dip a piece of dark chocolate into it, holding it in there for a few seconds so that I can inelegantly suck off the top layer of melted chocolate before dipping it back in. Occasionally I will also drop a cube of chocolate in while the coffee is still very hot, so that I have something lovely to scoop out with a spoon after my last swig.
I don’t think there’s any uncertainty that I am all for the marriage of coffee and chocolate. These mocha tarts combine those two great lovers, and the nutty, gluten-free base does much to ground the whole thing and cut through the bittersweetness.
Mocha Tartlets (Gluten-free, refined sugar free)
For the Crust:
3 cups almond meal
115g butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp rice syrup or honey
1 pinch salt
For the filling:
2 cups raw cashews
1/3 cup strongly brewed, good quality coffee
1/3 cup Rice Syrup or honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
150 g 70% dark chocolate
1/3 cup double cream
Mini tart cases or a muffin tin, greased well
A high speed food processor
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Spread the cashews out on an oven tray and bake for 4-5 mins until just starting to gain colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To make the crust, cut the butter into cubes and place in a large mixing bowl with the other crust ingredients. Using clean hands, rub the butter into the other ingredients to form a dough that you can knead. Knead for 2-3 minutes.
Pinch off portions of the dough the size of ping-pong balls (23-25g each). Flatten each ball between the palms and press into the tart cases or cups of the muffin tin. Press the dough evenly at the base and sides of the tins to a 3-4mm thickness. Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 10-15 mins until the cases are an even golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing the cases from the tins. Use the tip of a sharp knife to gently loosen the tart cases and facilitate removal from the tins.
While the tart cases are baking, make the filling. Place the cooled cashews in the bowl of the food processor and blitz on high speed, stopping intermittently, until a smooth butter is formed. Initially a meal will form, then a thick dough, then a smooth butter. Add the coffee, cinnamon and honey or rice syrup and blitz until an even mixture forms, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all the nut butter is incorporated.
When all the tart cases are baked, cooled and removed from the tins, fill each one 1/2 to 2/3 with the filling. Place them in the freezer for an hour or so until they are firmly set.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20 to 30 second bursts. Take off the heat and add the cream, stirring quickly to form a smooth ganache. When the coffee filling has set, spoon small amounts (about a tsp) of the ganache onto the top of each tart and spread out a little with the back of the spoon.
Refrigerate until the ganache is firm. Serve as is or with a dollop of cream.
Leftover chocolate and coffee filling? Mix them together, firm up in the fridge and roll into balls to make mocha truffles!
You could probably make 1 large tart in a standard sized tart tin if you prefer, although I have not tried that with this recipe.
Look where we are!! If someone had told me this time last year that we would get to this time this year so soon, I’d think that someone was crazier than a box of monkeys. I can hardly wait to wave goodbye to 2013 and what sweeter ending is there than one with chocolate?
This month, I was invited to an unforgettable chocolate feast at Four Friends Coffee, Chocolate and Tea in Crows Nest, Sydney. There we were greeted by Katze, a warm an inspiring woman with an incredible story.
Four friends was born of Katze’s debilitating auto-immune disease, which sunk her into a despair that she eventually dug her way out of. With her smooth, decedent chocolate treats, fragrant teas and coffee, she set out to bring those around her small portions of happiness and a place to be revitalised.
We were presented with an almost too pretty to eat tasting plate and we chatted to Katze on the plush purple sofas as we made our way through macarons, handmade chocolaty creations and what was probably the best lava cake I have ever dived into.
The delicate teas we chose out of the forty flavours on offer balanced out the sweetness nicely.
Four friends is a little island of happiness to which I will be returning; perhaps with friends or even a good book. You can find them at 5/29 Holstermann St. Crows Nest (for heavens sake, do find them, you won’t regret it!) and reach them on 0415 068 881.
I wish you all a revitalising New Years Eve and a 2014 that makes 2013 look really, really lame. Thank you for all your support and encouragement during this, my first year of bloggery and I can’t wait to see you all on the other side!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Katze and the staff at Four Friends, but all the opinions expressed are my own.
I didn’t grow up believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. There was no leaving cookies and carrots out for Santa and his hungry reindeer on Christmas Eve. I didn’t awake at Easter anticipating the search for chocolate eggs that a big furry visitor had hidden. As for the tooth fairy, she didn’t visit till I was at least eight when we migrated to Australia. By then I was old enough to know better and while I happily accepted coins in return for the last of my baby teeth, I knew deep down that a fairy wasn’t the one providing the compensation.
None of these things are anything to be sad about as these are western concepts that weren’t part of a typical Hindu Indian childhood. We lived in Mumbai then, or Bombay as it was called at the time. My parents made sure there was no shortage of wonder in my life and so there was no sense of deprivation. I was an only child with a quirky imagination and they each had their unique ways of entertaining me.
My mother was then a stay-at-home-mum, and as for many kids who have that luxury, she lost some of her authority come nightfall. So it was my dad who would come home from the daily grind to his duty of coaxing me to eat the healthy dinner that my mum had prepared.
Luckily he too had quite the imagination and sitting at our Formica table in our little flat, he would find a way to transform the contents of my plate into something a fussy six-year-old would find fascinating.
Rice, yoghurt, curries and sambhar would be carefully piled into an exotic looking arrangement with an equally exotic name to pique my interest. Dad’s skills as an engineer were never so challenged as they were when he constructed these elaborate creations that gave a new meaning to playing with one’s food. The whackily christened Auburi Biselari Kuselari was one such creation, made up of whatever was on my plate and with a name that was entirely conjured up in my dad’s mind.
I like to think it is more a testament to my dad’s creativity and not a reflection of my own gullibility that this was a tactic which worked very well indeed.
Dad had another trick up his sleeve, and not just in a metaphorical sense.
Wanna see some magic? He would ask.
Now what child says no to that?
He would wave his hands around in the air, click his fingers, mumble some magicky sounding mumbo jumbo. With spectacular pomp, dad would make a fist, wave his other hand over it and turn it over to reveal a treat as if materialised from the air. And amazingly in his palm there would be a 5-star chocolate bar or a little pack of Gems (India’s answer to M & M’s) or a wedge of Amul cheese in its foil wrapping.
Dad knew just how to enthral and impress his little girl.
The Sweet Swap wasn’t quite the same as my dad’s wizardry, but it still involved packages of sweets appearing, as if by magic, on my doorstep. The inaugural event involved food bloggers from all of Australia and was put together by two lovely bloggers; Sara of Belly Rumbles and Amanda of Chewtown. Not only did the event raise funds for the charity organisation Childfund Australia, but it served to connect food nerds from all over the country, a real bonus for a newbie blogger like yours truly. The basic gist of it was that each blogger was matched with three other bloggers. We were instructed to make three batches of the same sweet and post them off to our matches. In turn, we received three surprise bundles of sweets from the bloggers that we were matched to.
Now what could be better than receiving homemade goodies in the mail?
Over the course of the week, I delightedly received firstly some scrumptious Irresistaballs by Tara from vegeTARAian, followed by the heavenly, goodbye-diet, Snickers Bars courtesy of Cassandra from Food Is My Friend. The last package contained some cloud-like Green Tea and Lemon Sherbet Marshmallows from Ed at Yaya’s Yumyums.
As for me, I decided to try and dabble in some low-fructose treats. A little while ago, one of my colleagues, Maria, gave me a recipe for some seriously addictive bonbons that she had brought in to share. After a few tweaks, I came up with a version that had a fructose-free middle and a coating of dark chocolate.
These bonbons have an incredible texture, with ingredients that feel really substantial in the mouth. The bitterness of the dark chocolate beautifully cuts through the sweet nuttiness of the filling. Remember that almond butter we made a few weeks ago? Well, you probably didn’t need a way of using it up, but if you did, this is one. These beauties are super easy and no-bake, which means you could easily get the kiddies involved, as long as an adult is handling the molten chocolate. They also make a great gift and evidently survive well in the postal system.
These bonbons landed on the doorsteps of Emily of Hold the Peas, Muppy of Muppys and as nervous as I was about sending chocolate treats that I made to a professional sweet-maker, John of Perfection Chocolates.
Makes 30-35 bonbons
1 1/2 cup walnuts 1 cup shredded coconut 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 2-3 tbsp almond butter 1/4 cup rice malt syrup 150g good quality dark chocolate Desiccated coconut for sprinkling
Blitz the walnuts in a food processor until a very chunky meal is achieved. Place in a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients apart from the chocolate. Start with 2 tbsp almond butter and add more later if the mixture is too dry. Mix with a wooden spoon until it is a sticky, even mixture. Oil your hands with a little coconut oil or a neutral oil. Roll the mixture into balls that are a little smaller than a cherry tomato. Spread out on a tray and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
Melt the chocolate using your preferred method- I like to use a Bain Marie. Drop the balls into the molten chocolate two or three at a time. Use two teaspoons to roll each ball in the chocolate until completely covered. At this point, I sprinkled about half of them with desiccated coconut. Place the balls on a grease-proof paper lined tray and return to the fridge. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
You can substitute any other nut butter for the almond butter.
To make these completely fructose-free, you could use fructose-free chocolate which is sweetened with glucose or Stevia, and vanilla powder instead of extract.
Of course, if you are happy to embrace the fructose, you can substitute golden syrup for rice syrup and use any chocolate you like.