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Archive for the ‘Low Fat’ Category

“What’s that? A healthy Chocolate Cake?” I hear you gasp. Well, yes and no. It has no butter in it, so you’re already losing the fat element. It has banana, of course, which we all know is really good for you (high in potassium which is great for regulating blood pressure and the function of the heart, not to mention they’re incredibly soothing if you suffer from mouth ulcers), and it has Malt Extract. Whilst this may seem like an extravagance, Malt Extract not only tastes fantastic but it is a useful daily supplement due to it’s abundance of Vitamin B. And it habanana-cake-3s the most amazing affinity with chocolate (It is also a slow digesting sweetner which is better for people with issues with sugar. But mostly, it just tastes fantastic. Fans of Maltesers/Malt Balls will be nodding in vociferous encouragment). A further incentive for buying some Malt Extract: if added to bread dough, it gives a wonderful flavour.

Furthermore, the cake uses unrefined Demerara Sugar which is a slightly more natural sugar and gives a wonderful caramel-like taste to anything it touches. The chocolate element is a low-sugar cocoa. I used Green and Blacks Organic Cocoa Powder which has a richer taste than say Cadburys Cocoa Powder (although Cadburys powder has a milk chocolate taste which some people may prefer). This dark as coal dust Cocoa has rich, almost smoky taste, deeply chocolately and definitely for the grown ups.
The icing is also a healthier option, just water, icing sugar and more cocoa powder. None of that sticky, unctuous butter icing for this cake. Water Icing always reminds me of my Grandmother who used to ice her Fairy Cakes with it. Most bakeries over here still use it on their iced buns, Belgian Buns etc. It is a much more economical option too.

monkey1Anyway, a cake that tastes this moist, this chocolately and this banana-ry doesn’t need any other fripperies.
And because it is so simple to make – literally a pour and stir cake – children interested in cooking would also have lots of fun joining in, mashing the banana and getting all gooped up from the malt and syrup. You could even convert this into little cupcakes instead and if you’re feeling really artistic, make some marzipan bananas!

So, if you fancy making a healthy, slightly lower-fat than usual chocolate banana cake, here’s the recipe:

CHOCO-BANANA CAKE
Ingredients:
CAKE
2 Bananas, mashed well
225g Self-Raising Flour OR 225g Plain Flour with 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder, preferably organic
115g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Tablespoons Malt Extract
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup (or Corn Syrup)
2 Eggs
4 Tablespoons Skimmed Milk
4 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil or similar non-flavoured vegetable oil
ICING:
6oz Icing Sugar, sifted
5 Teaspoons Cocoa Powder, sifted
Warm water to mix
METHOD:

banana-cake
Grease and line an 8″ Deep Cake Tin.
Preheat oven to 160c.
Sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, making sure they are well combined.
Make a well in the middle and add all the other cake ingredients. Stir well to combine and pour into your prepared cake tin.
Bake for between 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. A palate knife should come out mostly clean but will still have a little sticky cake crumb sticking to it. This is a moist cake.
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool, you can make the icing.
Sieve together the icing sugar and cocoa then, using a fork, whisk in a tablespoon of water at a time, until it forms a thick, dark, glossy paste.
Spread over the top of the cake. Decorate as you wish, with some sliced bananas if you are planning to eat it all the same day or some marzipan fruits.

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To make chocolate healthy pretty much means to  lose what we love most about it: cream, full fat milk, sugar.  What this loosely translates as is chocolate in its most natural form: pods, nibs, cocoa butter, unprocessed cocoa. However, I am always up for a challenge, and having sourced some Cacao Nibs on an unnamed online auction site,  I set to work.

Raw. Like Cacao.

Raw. Like Cacao.

It is no secret that I am a major chocolate fan (you have been reading this blog right?) so I was incredibly excited about trying the nibs. I had read such wonderful things about their health properties but more importantly (to me anyway), their taste!
When they did turn up, I opened the packaging and deeply inhaled the rich, earthy smell, more redolent of purest cocoa powder than chocolate bars. The nibs themselves resemble tiny wood chips and their texture is not far off wood either (not that I am a secret wood nibbler though). Taste wise they are much like a very high cocoa content chocolate: the flavour doesn’t come through straight away, but gets stronger as it melts and the taste lingers on your tongue. There is a slight smokiness to the nibs and they leave a not too unpleasant bitter taste in the mouth.
In this most purest of form, they are apparently a great aphrodisiac, one of the greatest sources of anti-oxidants and are supposedly good for boosting your mood. I can’t vouch too much for any of these claims but what I can wholeheartedly confirm is their intensely delicious taste when cooked or mixed with a natural sweetener.
In preparation for the experiment, I bought a book called Naked Chocolate written by superfood junkies, David Woolfe and Shazzie (no surname), who take every opportunity to extole the virtues of cacao nibs, blue sea algae and all manner of revolting sounding ‘foods’. Whilst I don’t buy into their hippy ethos of pure living through the consumption of raw foods, I am, if nothing else, always up for trying new and unusual ingredients. Generally I would not use the recipes listed in their book; for one, most of the ingredients are not your usual store cupboard staples (Optimum Source Chlorella, anyone?) and therefore they are extremely limiting, but I also enjoy trying to utilise unusual ingredients into ‘normal’ recipes such as cookies, or even chilli. I think it’s important as a cook to familiarise yourself with recherche ingredients, and to use them in everyday recipes is the best way of achieving this familiarity.
The truffles are an adaptation of a recipe taken from the Naked Chocolate book. In fact, an amalgamation of two recipes: their truffle recipe and their chocolate sauce recipe which forms the base of many other recipes.
I made the sauce several nights ago, being not entirely sure what I was going to do with it. I was planning on making a tart or maybe some muffins but eschewed those in favour of truffles. Also, truffles exude an air of luxury, something we could do with during these lean times!
As I mentioned, they are made using a simple combination of nibs, vanilla, dates (which add natural sweetness and moistness) and sesame seeds (which add texture and give longevity to the truffles) and take no longer than five minutes from start to finish, unlike dairy truffles, which are made with fresh cream and have to chill in the fridge before you can form them. Therefore, it is feasible that you can be sitting down, bowl of truffles on your lap, watching reruns of Millennium before the craving has barely kicked in. I like this kind of cooking!
I admit that I felt a pang of dubiousness when I read the ingredients; would these taste like some mealy-mouthed, flavourless vegan substitute for rich, dairy truffles? Far from it. Whilst the texture is unlike that of creamy truffles, these have a grainy bite that is not at all unpleasant. They feel and taste substantial, and the pure caffeine in the nibs gives you a great sense of well-being. They are an instant good mood hit. The sesame seeds add a nutty flavour that is particularly tasty, and, when rolled in some deep, dark cocoa powder, they really taste sensational.
Remember though that I still had some of the chocolate sauce leftover in the fridge (we scooped some of it out with our fingers every time we visited the fridge) and because I had deep concerns about the dry texture of the truffles, I added what was left of the sauce to the final mixture. I am not certain that the final recipe required this so I am just going to give you the basic four ingredient recipe. However, if you find that the truffle mixture is a little too dry, or not sweet enough, I would suggest adding a drizzle of Agave Syrup or honey and a few drops of unflavoured vegetable oil. Remember that the nibs have no additives so may well need some lubricant.
CACAO NIB TRUFFLESmakes 12-14 depending on size
Ingredients:
Half Cup Cacao Nibs
Half Cup Sesame Seeds
Half Cup Dates
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Some Agave Syrup or Honey to taste
Few drops of Vegetable Oil
Cocoa Powder, Sesame seeds, icing sugar for rolling
METHOD:
In a coffee grinder, blend the nibs and sesame seeds until they form a dry, crumbly mixture. It will not be smooth, rather it will be quite pleasantly textured.
In a blender, whizz up the dates until finely processed. Depending on the age of the dates (mine were old and dried out that they resembled boot leather), they may take longer to process.
Add the nib/sesame seed mixture and process until combined.
Taste for sweetness and add some agave or honey. Process and taste again. If the mixture is still very dry (which it shouldn’t be at this point), you can add a little of the vegetable oil.
Pour the mixture out into a dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon to form a firm block.
You can now form the mixture into small balls, the size of walnuts, and roll them into some cocoa powder or sesame seeds, depending on your preference.
Options: You could add some rum or kirsch to mixture, omitting the Vanilla Extract, or swap the dates for dried figs or perhaps glace cherries. You could also add some chopped preserved ginger or roll the truffles in some chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.
This recipe comes with a warning: these truffles are seriously delicious!

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We’re all looking for a guilt-free way to indulge ourselves in heaps of chocolate, right? I think I may have the solution.

For all Chocoholic Gaming Afficionados, it was recently brought to my attention that there are three (yes, three!) games out there devoted to Theobroma Cacao.  Since then I have played all three games (not at the same time) avidly and I can confirm that even the most anti-gaming person will soon find themselves hooked on the charming graphics, fun dialogue and compulsive tasks of Chocolatier.

Designed by Big Splash Games, the Chocolatier Series follow a young rookie Chocolatier (that’s you), ably guided by Evangeline Baumeister, of the Baumeister Confectionary Corporation, on his/her travels around the world, opening up new ports, discovering new types of Cacao Beans, buying up sweet shops and chocolate making factories, not to mention developing new and delicious looking recipes.

In the first instalment of the game, set in the mid-1800s, you open up new ports and introduce the whole world to the joys of chocolate, whilst trying to to avoid rivals, hellbent on reducing your chocolate empire to cocoa powder. Perhaps the official website blurb can put it better than I can:

Oh the gloriously rich and delectable life of a chocolatier! Constantly surrounded by mounds of chocolate bars and boxes of mouth-watering truffles! Become a master chocolatier one ingredient at a time as you travel the world to find the best prices and maximize production…

Educational (well, sort of) AND addictive to the chocolate fan, this will eat up your time without you gaining a single ounce, visit Playfirst for a free download to try out this great game!

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Mousse is possibly one of the easiest sophisticated desserts to make but even easier to eat. It can be luxuriously dense or as light as a cloud. It can be savoury or sweet and it can be baked or, um, not baked.
I wanted to do something slightly different from the norm. What about those poor people who are dairy intolerant or for whom Veganism is a lifestyle choice? What do they do for chocolate mousse? As I started to search the web, a startling solution stared up at me: Tofu Mousse. Wait. Did that say Tofu? Isn’t that coagulated Soy Milk? The original vegetarian food and possibly the sole reason why I gave up vegetarianism as a kid? How can this be utilised in a mousse without it tasting like a health shop smells?
Actually, Tofu gets a bad press but it is surprisingly versatile if you treat it properly. Paul loves it in Miso Soup and he introduced me to the joys of deep fried tofu but neither of us had tried a sweet version of it.
What makes this mousse particularly special is that it is OK for vegans and would also be good for diabetics (it uses Agave Syrup instead of sugar), yet it doesn’t skimp on flavour either. So, if you find yourself with a spare box of silken tofu in the cupboard because, say, your husband said he wanted to make Miso soup with it so you bought him a packet especially and six months later it’s still in the cupboard, and you don’t feel like the hassle of whipping egg whites, or you have vegetarian guests coming for dinner that you want to impress, then this could be the mousse for you!
It requires no cooking except for melting the chocolate, which doesn’t count anyway, and the flavouring options are endless. I soaked some dried figs in chocolate liquor, chopped them into sticky, crunchy nuggets and folded them into the mousse, but preserved cherries, fresh raspberries, rum raisins, nuts, mint essence, toasted coconut, anything would be great in this versatile mousse.
The Filo Cups are optional but they do look cute, and because of the high quantity of butter in them, are not Vegan/Dairy friendly.

However, if you do choose to use them, they are incredibly fragile and need to be served with the mousse in them straight away (but fortunately this mousse doesn’t need to sit in the fridge for several hours to set up) otherwise they turn soggy. The mousse would, of course, be just as good served in little espresso cups.
I have used Agave Syrup for natural sweetness, although you could replace this with honey or sugar if preferred, and of course, every bakers essential flavouring, vanilla extract. These four ingredients, the chocolate for flavour, the tofu to replace the egg element, the syrup for sweetening and vanilla for flavouring are your basic mousse. What else you add to it is entirely up to you. Some Orange Flavoured Liquor perhaps?
This batch makes enough to fill four large Texas Muffin Cups with some left over in the bowl for finger licking.
TOFU CHOCOLATE MOUSSE WITH LIQUEUR SOAKED FIGS serves 4

See? It doesn't look healthy!

See? It doesn't look healthy!

Ingredients:
220g Block Silken Tofu
100g Bar Good Quality Dark Chocolate (but you could use milk chocolate and I suspect white chocolate too)
2-5 Tablespoons Agave Syrup (or honey or caster sugar)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
5 Dried Figs, soaked in a tablespoon Liqueur (I used chocolate)
4 Large Sheets Filo Pastry
Melted Butter
METHOD:
Preheat the oven to 200c.
To make the Filo Cups, cut the large sheets of filo pastry into quarters and brush with butter. Layer the sheets into the cups of large muffin tins so that they form little cups. They may overlap but they are supposed to look rustic. Brush any pokey out bits of pastry with butter and bake for 5 minutes or so, until golden brown.
Carefully remove from the muffin tin and leave to cool on a cooling tray.
To make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl placed over lightly simmering water.
Stir in the vanilla and the agave syrup. Use just two tablespoons syrup to start. You might need to add more later depending on how sweet your tooth is.
In a food processor and using the plastic blade, blend the tofu until it is smooth.
With the blade still running, pour in the chocolate mixture and process until completely amalgamated. Taste for sweetness. Add more if necessary.
At this point you can add any other flavourings. I used the soaking liqueur from the figs.
Stir in the chopped figs, keeping some aside for decoration.
Spoon the mousse into the filo cups.
Sprinkle over the reserved pieces of chopped fig, lightly dust with icing sugar.
Enjoy!

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