Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Baking with Baby 6 - Chocolate & Beetroot

Before I went dairy and gluten free, I really don't think I'd have tried this recipe. I mean chocolate yes, but beetroot? Seriously??

I think I've mentioned before that I have a bit of a tendency to be a 'glass half-empty' sort of person, so, it's a bit bizarre to find myself saying this, but looking back over recent times, I've come to a somewhat surprising conclusion. That is, that as much as I may dislike Baby's intolerance to milk and mine to various other foods, there is good that has come out of it. 

What do I mean? Well, prior to all this, I made baking and cooking much less of a priority. I bought stuff rather than baked it. I still do, to some extent (where I can) but I have been forced to push the boat out a little bit, in terms of my comfort zone, and try new things. As a result, my somewhat rusty baking skills have been sharpened up a bit, I've attempted new recipes and also we're eating less foods with strange additives and preservatives in them which, as far as I'm concerned, can only be a good thing! One of the recipes, that was new to me, came to me via my one of my sisters.

Not so long ago, my sister had a bit of what's commonly known in the world of employment as 'gardening leave.' Making herself busy, she came across a recipe that she passed on to me and which has turned out to be a bit of a God send. It's a chocolate cake recipe that is made with beetroot and is intended for muffins. I have to admit, I loved the sound of the chocolate, but wasn't so keen on the beetroot - until I gave it a go! 

Chocolate & beetroot muffins, all dressed up for Christmas!
The original recipe used wheat flour, but the good thing is, that it is so moist that it helps to keep gluten free flour from drying out the cake. We've used it time and again, not just for muffins, but also for various birthday cakes and with Baby it is a firm favourite. It has an additional benefit - when Baby is a little bit 'clogged up,' it helps her go!!

Here are some of the cakes we've made:

Baby's birthday cake. Don't be too impressed - the iced animals were bought!

Baby's birthday party cake

A cake for an Australian friend!                     Check out all those dairy free chocolate buttons!
The recipe originated from a Hummingbird Bakery book called Cake Days, which is heavily bound by copy write, so I won't be sharing it here, but I have found this recipe online that is quite similar to the one that we have used. There are heaps of other recipes online, but the reason that I've chosen this one is because, like the one we use, the only fat used is vegetable oil.

The next thing you need to know, is that (unusually, for any recipe chosen by me) it can be a bit of a faff to make - it was the main reason why I invested in a food processor!

So having turned the oven on, to warm-up, and prepared the muffin cases or cake tin, out comes the food processor. I'm a bit of a rebel. All the recipes seem to start with the dry ingredients, but not I! I start with the bit that I really want to get out of the way - puréeing the beetroot. 

We buy the beetroot vacumn packed from the supermarket, but you can always start from fresh and boil it, if you wish. The thing is, you don't want beetroot that has been pickled - take it from me - it leaves a very nasty after taste! Having emptied the beetroot into the food processor and securely fastened the lid, it's Baby's turn. I lift her up, so that she can turn the knob and watch the beetroot get blitzed into tiny pieces. Strangely enough, for a Baby who used to scream when the vacumn cleaner was used and who is still very sensitive to noise, she is somehow unphased by the hideous noise of the food processor!!

The eggs come next. No blitzing between each one for me - Baby just doesn't have the patience! They all go in and are whizzed together, followed by the oil (we use sunflower) and the vanilla essence. Sometimes we add a tablespoon of water (you could always use a milk substitute) to add extra moisture - my sister prefers to do this, when using gluten free flour, but I tend to do without.

Finally, I plonk Baby into her high chair, put the scales and an appropriate bowl in front of her, hand her a spoon and let her mix the dry ingredients together, as I weigh, measure and add them into the bowl. Then they're tipped straight into the food processor, before Baby gets one last go at turning the knob on the front of the machine.

Then it's just a case of negotiating how we empty the mixture into the waiting receptacles. Baby always wants a go and I have to try and hold back my impatience, whilst guiding her little hand on the spoon. Well, I say spoon, really we use a little ladle. It's the best thing, as by now the cake mixture, which is an interesting shade of dusky pink, is disconcertingly rather more like a batter.

Initially, the muffins go into the oven for 15-20 minutes but it usually takes about 25 in total. My sister prefers 12 minutes, but I try to strike the balance. I really don't like my cakes uncooked in the middle and am prepared to risk them getting a little bit dry. If I'm cooking a cake, as opposed to muffins, then I've found that it takes about 40-45 minutes, but it's not an exact science and very much depends on the oven.

If baking a cake, I always try to ensure that a little bit is left over for a few muffins - after all, you've got to reward the workers :)

The Hub's birthday cake - amazing what you can do with ready made icing, food dye and a few candles!

Once out of the oven and cooled on a wire rack, the next decision is how to top the cake. The Hummingbird Bakery option is not for us - it involves cream cheese! However, usually, I make a chocolate fudge type icing - dairy free margarine, icing sugar, cocoa powder, and little water, blended together with a spatula. I'm afraid I don't do amounts - I just make it up as I go along - and add a bit more if it looks like I've not made enough.

Alternatively, if I can't be bothered or am short of time, out comes my favourite little baking cheat - good old Betty Crocker!

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