Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes.

I don’t really know what to say.

I’ll be the first to admit to being quite a fan of slipping legumes and vegetables into sweeties, so I was fairly stoked to find that this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is “Cake and Three Veg”. However this time, I may have developed a slightly crazed obsession and got a little bit freaky with my veg-sugar combinations.

It’s always nice to think that eating a cake could actually be providing you with nutritious goodies like iron and protein, not just sugar. In the past, I’ve experimented a lot with chickpeas, pumpkin and zucchini in cakes, and have come up with delightfully tasty results. As I sat, brainstorming ideas for this month’s little challenge, for some reason I became fixated on the idea that including just one vegetable would definitely not be enough. The result was this: Chocolate, bean and chard cupcakes with potato icing. I know. I’m still not sure whether this decision was a strange delusion or what, but I did it. The truth is that these are just the vegetables and legumes I happened to have in the kitchen and garden. Simple decision really.

I stealthily went about my baking, feeling terribly uncertain about what on earth I was doing. My dad walked past as I was finishing icing the last cake. He remarked that they looked good, and asked if he could have one. My response was something along the lines of, “Errr, yeah, you can if you like… but they might be a bit… weird. I don’t know. It’s up to you. I won’t mind of you hate them.”
Not exactly brimming with confidence, was I? Must work on that.

I was pleased that the feedback was positive, and that they were “good” and “chocolatey”. Relief. I chose not to tell him what was in them, out of fear that the rest wouldn’t be eaten.

And so, here is a piece of advice on serving sweet foods made of vegetables. Unless you have very adventurous friends, hold off telling people what’s hidden in your tasty creations until after they’ve tried it. In fact, it may not even be necessary to tell people at all. Though in the case of these cupcakes (which are pretty much a meal in themselves), a warning not to eat too many might be in order. You could even try serving them as a main+dessert combination, just to revel in the confusion that will follow.

There is just one problem. I know exactly what is in these cakes, and my head is putting up an extreme mental barrier to eating them. Healthy – yes. Chocolatey – yes. But there’s chard in them. I love chard, but my brain screams “not with chocolate!”. Never mind. I’ll just have to feed them to unsuspecting visitors*.

*To my friends, I promise I won’t trick you into eating any more vegetables unknowingly. Legumes, yes. Chard and potato, no.

Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes

Makes approx 15 cupcakes

Cake mix:
2 large leaves (or equivalent) of chard
230g cooked red kidney beans
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa

Icing:
320g potatoes
3/4 cup icing sugar
50g dark chocolate

(Note: if you’re piping the icing, you’ll need more than this, so scale it up a tad. But you should be right if you’re just spreading it on with a knife.)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin pans with patty pans or other liners as you see fit. (I made some up out of squares of baking paper and brown wrapping paper. Suitably earthy, I thought, given the contents of these cakes.)

Blitz the chard in a food processor, then add beans, oil, sugar and water and whizz until you get a fairly smooth consistency with as few lumps of chard and beans as possible. It will look green and you will wonder what you’ve got yourself into. Don’t worry!

Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet to the dry, and mix well. Fill the pans to 3/4 full, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Meanwhile, peel, chop and boil the potatoes, then drain and mash really well. Melt the chocolate using which ever method works for you, then add it to the potato along with the icing sugar. Mix well, and pipe (or spread) on the cupcakes when cool.

Place innocently on display and wait for people to eat them.

 

This post is part of the November Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. Check out the other entries via the link above.

 

Raspberry tin can cakes

August! The months are coming and going a bit too fast this year don’t you think? August brings a new uni semester, imminent overseas travelling, and a return to the garden to get prepared for spring. Yay! It also brings another Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, this month hosted by Christina at The Hungry Australian, with the theme “Berry Nice to Meet You”.

Now, I love berries. I really do. Every summer we spend hours picking raspberries, making jam and adding them to everything we can think of. As I generally aim to put seasonality as a priority in cooking though, I have to admit to being a tad disappointed at the berry theme coinciding with the depths of winter. Luckily, someone in my family had the foresight to freeze a whole bunch of raspberries over summer, so all was not lost! A great lesson in preserving the surplus! Thank you family.

Preserving the abundance of summer for the scarce winter months has an underserved nostalgia in my mind (I am firmly in the ‘convenience’ generation, so have no personal memories of winter scarcity). But I really love the idea of spending warm summer days bottling, jamming, freezing, drying and cooking up all number of sauces and chutneys for when the garden lies dormant and the trees have lost their leaves. Eating seasonally makes so much sense, and makes eating all the more exciting when a change in weather signals the arrival of new produce (who else is getting keen for asparagus?!) Preserving the summer harvest is something I’m really looking forward to putting a lot of effort into this year.

In the mean time though, please enjoy this rather eclectic offering using last summer’s raspberries. My family certainly did, despite them being a little bit weird. Yes, they were baked in tin cans, and yes, they are a cross between a slice, muffin and a crumble. But don’t hold it against them. Also – hurrah for upcycling! These cakes are yummy, especially served warm with a touch of your favourite diary or non-dairy cream-substance (I recommend vanilla (soy) yoghurt). Warming for winter, yet hinting at the fast approaching summer. I know I’m excited.

Raspberry tin can cakes

(Vegan)

Short crust pastry:
80g margarine/nuttlex/butter/spread
170g plain flour
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
tiny pinch salt
cold water

Cake:
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup frozen raspberries

Crumble:
1/2 cup plain (or wholemeal) flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tablespoons margarine or coconut butter

First, prepare the pastry. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Rub in the margarine and maple syrup (if using). Add just enough cold water to bind into a dough. Roll into ball and leave to rest in fridge for 20mins.

Next, make sure you have appropriate vessels for baking. I used tin cans cut in half, which meant an appointment with an angle grinder, then a good clean.
If using tin cans, brush the inside of each with oil, and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Be really careful! They have sharp edges! Don’t try this with children!

Preheat oven to 180C.

Roll out pastry to 3-5mm thick. Use the sharp edge of the tins to cut circles of pastry. Lay each on the baking tray, at the bottom of each tin.

Prepare the crumble by mixing all dry ingredients in a bowl, then rubbing in margarine to forum a nice, crumbly crumble (breadcrumb consistency).

For the cake, combine flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl, mixing well with a whisk. Place milk and vinegar in a medium bowl, then whisk and let it sit for a few minutes. Add oil, vanilla and sugar and whisk together well. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, and whisk until well combined. Carefully stir in raspberries.

To assemble, place a cake mix on top of pastry inside the tins. Make the cake layer as large or small as you like. My cake mix came about half way up each (halved) tin. Sprinkle a generous layer of crumble mix on top of each one, then bake for around 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly before removing from tins, then serve however you please.

This post is part of the August Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. To check out the other berry-themed desserts doing the rounds, click on the link above and scroll down.

Spiced orange and walnut biscuits

It’s actually ridiculous how many things I’ve made out of oranges and walnuts over the past few weeks. If you’ve been following, you’ll know that I’m house-sitting on a farmlet on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and attempting to eat only homegrown, local, seasonal produce. So, being winter, there is a lot of citrus gracing the fruit bowl, and having a home-grown supply of walnuts is keeping us happy in the nut department.

Luckily, this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop is themed “Nuts about sweets”. Winning. I have nuts. I would have been in trouble if it was apples or something. I mean, I’m resorting to mandarines in my porridge…

Due to my current restrictions on processed and packaged food, anything resembling butter or margarine was out, and sugar is kept to a minimum. This poses a small challenge when making desserts, but as a result, these vegan tasties have an almost cake-like texture, which is wonderfully offset by the crunchiness of the walnuts.

These are good have-with-coffee-or-tea biscuits, which is exactly what I’ve been doing all week. And because they’re actually pretty healthy (or not too unhealthy), you don’t have to feel bad if you have several tea breaks each day!

Spiced orange and walnut biscuits

3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raw sugar (add a tad more if you want them sweeter)
applesauce (1/2 apple + 1 tablespoon water, whizzed together in food processor)
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 fresh orange juice
zest of one orange
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon cardamon seeds, ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, cardamon and cinnamon in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and applesauce and rub together with fingertips to achieve a breadcrumb consistency. Stir through walnuts.

In a smaller bowl, whisk sugar, milk, orange juice and zest until well combined, then add to dry ingredients. Stir until well combined, then place dessert-spoon sized portions on prepared baking tray and flatten slightly into biscuit-shaped discs. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden.

This post is part of the July Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, hosted by Nic from Dining with a Stud. To check out what other sweet treats are being created with nuts, click the icon below and scroll down.

Taro pie with berry compote

So I’m not entirely sure what happened to the last month, but it is time for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop again. This month it is hosted by the Kitchen Crusader, with the theme “Sweet as Pie”. Huzzah! How appropriate given the amount of pies I’ve been baking of late (which may or may not be proportionate to the amount of uni work I’ve had to do…)

Now, straight away I’ll put it out there that my pie does not have a pastry top. I realise this is less than desirable according to the blog hop definition of a pie, but I’m pretty certain that you could not describe this as anything other than a pie, so I’m going with it.

Taro is a pretty unusual ingredient for a sweet pie, but having recently acquired some from my friends at The Food Forest, a fantastic permaculture property near Adelaide. In case you missed my earlier post, I have declared this week to be taro week – where I am sharing my adventures learning to use this starchy tuber. To learn a little bit more about taro, click the link to my other post: Taro week – adventures with a tuber.

This pie is dairy-free, but does contain eggs. I tried to make a vegan variation using chia, but the consistency was just not right. The egg version is beautifully light and fluffy though, and reminds me a little bit of a custard tart. It might be the cinnamon and nutmeg too. The flavour isn’t terribly strong, so really lends itself to the addition of other flavours – I went with a berry compote (as I’m still trying to make my way through the glut of berries in the freezer).

My family was a little bit reluctant to eat a sweet pie made with vegetables, but agreed that it was tasty once they tried it. Win. (I might ignore the fact that they still go for the orange and wattleseed muffins over the taro pie. The muffins must just be heaps awesome.)

This recipe is based on one from filipino desserts. I turned it dairy-free, and scaled some of the ingredients down to suit the amount of taro I had.

Taro pie with berry compote
As I was testing out a vegan pie too, this recipe made one 9-inch pie plus a smaller single-serve one. To make one 9-inch pie, use two thirds of what the recipe states.

Short crust pastry:
170g margarine (dairy free) – I used lite nuttelex (but nuttelex is a bit sus, so if you decide butter is more ethical, go with that)
340g plain flour (or mixed with wholemeal)
pinch of salt
cold water

Rub the margarine into the flour, add salt and enough just cold water to bind into a dough. Roll into ball and leave to rest in fridge for 20mins.

Pie filling:
1 1/4 cup taro, boiled and mashed using a food processor (1 1/4 cup once mashed)
scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Berry compote: (scale up if you need more)
1 cup mixed berries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon corn flour

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry to around 5mm thick, and line a greased pie dish/tin with the pastry.

Your taro will be cooked and mashed in a food processor by this stage. The taro should be soft in the centre when cooked well.

Combine all pie filling ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. The mixture may look a bit purple. That’s okay! Taro naturally has a slightly purple tinge to it. Pour mixture into the pastry-lined tin, then bake on high for around an hour. The top should be nicely browned, and the pie cooked through (not soft in the centre). Allow to cool before removing from tin.

To make the berry compote, heat ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When it reaches the boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes before removing from heat.

Serve pie warmed topped with berry compote. It would also taste pretty rad with ice cream. Do it.

This post is part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. To see the other participating blogs, check out this link