Sunday, December 29, 2019

Flourless coconut & chocolate cake

December 14, 2019

A few days after Cindy's actual birthday I finally got around to making her a cake. She had her choice of anything in Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's Sweet. She went for this coconut and chocolate cake, thankfully well within the range of my baking skills. It's gluten free, made almost entirely of butter and sugar, with just enough coconut and almond meal to hold everything together. The ganache is a bit fiddly to make but adds a glossy, chocolatey sheen that's worth the effort. This was a real winner - rich and decadent, with a simple coconut and vanilla flavour. Recommended.

Flourless coconut & chocolate cake
(from Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh's Sweet)

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g caster sugar
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups almond meal
shake of salt

60g dark chocolate
1/8 cup caster sugar
25g glucose syrup
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
25g unsalted butter, diced into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm spring form tin.

Mix the butter, sugar, desiccated coconut, vanilla and salt in a big bowl with an electric mixer, until the mix is pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add in the almond meal and mix some more, until everything is combined.

Scrape the mixture into your tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until it's gone brown on top and a skewer comes out clean. Set aside to cool and then remove from the tin.

To make the ganache, combine the sugar and glucose syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir gently until the sugar is melted and everything has combined a bit. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, until it starts to brown.

Pour in the water - the mixture will seize up immediately - just keep it on the heat and everything will melt down again. Add in the vanilla. Once everything is liquidy and combined, kill the heat. Pop the chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the hot mixture over the top. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk in the butter, one cube at a time.

Spread the ganache over the cake and serve!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A festive low-FODMAP cake

December 10, 2019

The lowest common dietary denominator in our book club is a little restrictive: among us there are vegetarians, vegans, the gluten-intolerant and a FODMAP manager. We usually meet up at a pub or quiet restaurant, and ordering individual meals solves most issues. However, we held an extra-special in-house event for Christmas this year! There were tacos and book-swaps and a statistics slideshow (we've been collecting our book scores in a spreadsheet) and I made darn sure there was dessert.

Dessert was another miracle recipe from my Lab Farewell Cookbook. Pia really puts it all out there with this chocolate-berry cake: it's gluten-free and FODMAP-friendly, with vegan options. And I'll admit it's also a little intimidating: I've not made a bundt before, the gluten-free flour is actually 6 flours combined, and the vegan option on the topping is aquafaba. Gluten-free cakes are dicey at the best of times, and I wondered if this one would taste any better than a compromise. But Pia is a master cake baker, and I was ready to put my trust in her.

I was right to do so! I greased that bundt pan with a thoroughness I'll never replicate, and I gently formed a little ditch in the cake batter to house the berry filling. The cake cooked through, cooled for hours, and shyly emerged from its pan without cracks or bumps. The aquafaba was too light and foamy to hold up extra decorations (e.g. see the strawberries, mint leaves and silver cachous pictured below), but it formed a pretty, snowy cap on a handsome chocolate cake.

Most importantly, it tasted terrific. The cake isn't gummy or chalky or rubbery, as gluten-free cakes can be. The texture is a little fudgy, and the rich chocolate and berry flavours are guaranteed to distract you from that last wisp of suspicion that this isn't a 'normal' cake. We ate it with strawberry and pina colada gelati, and it was a hit. The only thing more popular was my slide of correlation networks (not even joking).

Pia's recipe is another long one that's well laid out, and she's given me permission to reproduce it in full below. Note that 350°F = 177°C.

Monday, December 23, 2019

This Borderland

December 1 & 11, 2019

We've been talking about going to This Borderland for the best part of a year now. It's kind of on the way home for both Cindy and I, but only open a few nights a week and our plans kept being derailed. We were finally pushed to visit by the launch of their Sunday morning waffle menu, meeting up with our friend Lisa to try them out. There are three veganisable waffles (all $15) on the brunch menu and we shared them all.

The star of the show is the fried chicken waffle - a really incredible seitan-based chicken patty, smothered in a vegan cheddar sauce dotted with jalapenos. It's a *lot*, so we were happy that we were splitting it three ways, but if this is the kind of meal that gets you excited, you won't beat what Borderland is doing.

The second savoury option was a little more sensible - a vegan avo smash with rocket. Nothing fancy, but a good option if you can't bring yourself to eat a giant mock-meat waffle first thing.

We finished with the apple pie waffle - vegan apple pie filling, pastry fingers, butterscotch sauce and vanilla icecream. 

This was another winner - again, it'd be a lot if you took it on yourself, but shared between the three of us it was just about perfect. They do a good waffle at This Borderland - nicely crispy on the outside, but puffy and soft once you break through the surface. They've got cheap percolator coffee and a friendly atmosphere, making this the diner breakfast of your dreams.

We had such a good time on our brunch visit that we prioritised a night-time return, swinging by to celebrate Cindy's birthday. The night menu is a bit more extensive and everything on it can be veganised: there's seven kinds of burger, a chicken snack pack, a serious-sounding poutine and a chicken plate plus sides. We kicked things off with a serve of their excellent shoestring fries ($5).

I ordered a vegan version of The James - seitan patty with apple slaw and chipotle mayo ($15). It's a giant tower of a thing, mostly thanks the to ginormous patty, so you just have to embrace getting messy. The patty really is spectacular - it's made in house and you can tell that they've really worked to make something packed with flavour. It might be the best vegan burger patty in town. The trimmings on this one work well too - especially if you add a few drips of one of the many hot sauce varieties they have on the counter.

Cindy went with a half serve of the Charlotte ($10) - a chunk of the seitan, some slaw, some pickles and the chipotle mayo. It's basically a deconstructed version of the burger I had and she was just as impressed (and also relieved she didn't order the full Charlotte - this was tons of food!).

We had other plans for dessert, but I'm very keen to come back and try the vegan cherry pie ($10) on a future visit.

It's a lovely spot - the staff couldn't be friendlier and the casual diner vibe is perfect for a casual meal. Apparently you can order your food to the bar next door if space is at a premium in the diner (or you want booze with your meal). 

The only blog post I can find about This Borderland is this directory-ish listing over at Messy Veggies.

This Borderland
208 Tyler Street, Preston
no phone
sunday waffles, dinner, drinks and desserts

Accessibility: There are two steps up on entry; most of the seating is in booths, but there are high seats at the window too. We ordered and paid at a low counter. There's a single unisex toilet - it's quite small and not particularly accessible.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A far-from-ordinary potato salad

December 7, 2019

I'm fond enough of your regular, mayonnaise-dressed potato salad (hold the bacon, please) but I definitely have room in my life for switching it up. In the Lab Farewell Cookbook, Alys shared an excellent method for doing just that. It tilts the ratio of potatoes to other fresh veges (sugar snap peas! a rainbow of cherry tomatoes!), showers them with dill, and livens up the dressing with horseradish, mustard, and apple cider vinegar.

Although this version doesn't have the thick gloopiness of mayonnaise, the mustard dressing still emulsifies and thickens with whisking and melds with the starch on the potatoes. The effect is much creamier than you might initially expect.

We ate big piles of this salad alongside a Just Add... steak smothered in fried onions: a beaut summer barbecue vibe scaled down for two. We'll be sure to scale up and road-test this salad at a potluck before the season is over.

A far-from-ordinary potato salad
(a recipe shared by Alys in the Lab Farewell Cookbook,
where she credits it to The Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel & Luise Vindahl)

700g small new potatoes, halved or whole depending on size
15 mini tomatoes, in a variety of colours if you can, halved
150g sugar snap peas, sliced lengthways
1 large handful dill, coarsely chopped
optional: roasted carrot, avocado pieces

2cm piece fresh horseradish or 2 teaspoons horseradish cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon or seeded mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
optional: lemon juice and grated rind

Boil the potatoes in salted water then simmer them until cooked, about 15 minutes.

Place the tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and dill (plus carrot and avocado, if using) in a large serving bowl.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, or shake them until emulsified in a lidded jar.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add them to the salad bowl. Stir through the salad dressing and you're ready to go!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Zucchini bread

December 1, 2019

In the Lab Farewell Cookbook, Casey advised me that this recipe is a long-time favourite in his family and that it's best enjoyed by a fire. I didn't save this zucchini bread for winter, but I did choose one of the cooler weekends for it, where pottering around the oven felt good.

I've not made zucchini bread before, but I think it sits alongside banana bread and carrot cake as one of those dense, textured loaves that feel wholesome and breaks up the afternoon nicely alongside a cup of tea.

With that point of comparison, the texture of the batter wasn't quite what I expected. The honey, coconut oil, eggs and water-charged zucchini completely overwhelmed the wholemeal flour and formed a very runny batter, with the cake still looking very jiggly after the prescribed 35 minutes. This might be in part because of my choice of cake tin - the recipe advises something much larger and presumably the batter usually spreads out a lot further than I allowed it to. I baked my loaf for an extra 10 minutes, and that did the job: the centre was very moist, and exterior was thoroughly toasted without getting burnt. It's so moist that I decided to store it in the fridge to avoid mold.

This zucchini bread has a lovely honey aroma, that toasty/tender contrast, and I'm already established as a sucker for walnuts in this context. And the recipe has arrived just in time, as I've really over-used my favourite banana cake recipe these past couple of months.

Zucchini bread
(a family recipe shared by Casey in the Lab Farewell Cookbook)

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup rapidura, brown or raw sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
3 cups grated zucchini (2 medium zucchini)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat an oven to 175°C. Line a cake tin with paper (Casey recommends 8 inch x 8 inch, I used a smaller loaf pan).

In a medium-large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients - flour through to sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, vanilla, coconut oil and eggs until well combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the bowl, stirring as you go. Fold in the zucchini, and then the walnuts. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake until a skewer comes out clean - it's OK if it's still a bit jiggly. The original recipe prescribes 35 minutes, and I found that 45 minutes worked well for my loaf.