May 13, 2014

Mother's Day: Vegan and Gluten-Free Almond Funfetti Cake

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I made this lovely Funfetti cake which happens to be vegan and gluten-free for my Mother's Day day. But then my children decided to present me some gifts they bought with their own money (they sell chickens, pullets, chicks and eggs from our farm) a day earlier, so we all enjoy this cake that very day. They are precious little darlings to me.

I am rather proud of being a mother. If I can say, it is the highest achievement in my life. 

Indeed there are neither trophies nor money to be earned by a full-time mother for her 24/7 works and dedication, but being with my children is such precious a trophy itself.

I am happy to be with my children as much time as possible, before eventually they believe they are grown up enough to leave the nest. Someone said to me 'Yeah, kids this age are growing like mad, and then they'll stop growing, and then it seems they are growing too slow to leave home". Oh well. I'm sure she did not mean what she said. At the moment, I am enjoying having them at home.

My children present liveliness in my life, sprinkling happiness in my heart which I will be holding a lot more time in the future. Our bonding is genuine and it feels wonderful.

This cake represents the rainbow dusts that they have been sprinkling to my life since they were born. All those colours that paint my path life, with them close in my heart, are designed to make me happy. And I am.

This year's Mother's Day is a day to commemorate our love and companionship throughout the years in much more understandings, since they are growing much bigger and much more aware of their surroundings to enable them to understand my existence for them and them for me.

I am thankful they are here in this world to brightening my life and make my life much more meaningful.

I was inspired by Sally's Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake  of Sally's Baking Addiction and I have to alter the recipe to be vegan and gluten-free version. Here is what I do.

First thing first, I am using Healtheries Gluten-Free Baking Mix which is available at the supermarkets and health food shops here in New Zealand. I use rice bran oil for the cake and have to use Olivani margarine for the 'buttercream' (despite of their unhealthy content, so they say--I cannot see if I can use coconut cream since it will take away the vanilla flavour in the cake). I also need to increase the use of leavening agents since vegan baking does not use any eggs, therefore more acid-alkaline ingredients to be used. I use lemon juice, freshly squeezed.

So here we are.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Almond Funfetti Cake
I use three 18cm cake tins for this recipe, spray with cooking oil and line the bases with baking paper.

Cake
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 cups caster sugar (NZ Chelsea Sugar company does not use bone char when process the sugar bleaching, so their products are all vegan, FYI--check their website if you like www.chelsea.co.nz)
2 cups almond milk + 2 teaspoons lemon juice, let stand for 5 minutes
1/3 cup rice bran oil
Egg replacer: 1 Tablespoon flaxseed powder + 3 Tablespoons water, mix well and let it be thicken
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups hundreds and thousands or other sprinkles

Preheat oven to 160C.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and fine salt. Add in almond meal, mix well.
Combine the soured milk, oil, egg replacer, vanilla extract and sugar together, whisk until smooth. Fold in mixed flour. Mix well. Add in sprinkles, mix well. Divide into three tins.
Bake for 20 minutes or until each cake is golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from tins, transfer to a cooling rack and peel off the baking paper. Let cool before icing.

Vanilla "Buttercream"
230g Olivani margarine (not the lite one, it is not vegan, so I was informed)
3-4 cups Chelsea icing sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Extra sprinkles to decorate

Beat the margarine until fluffy and smooth. Beat in the icing sugar a half cup of the time, until all used. Soften the icing with almond milk a little at a time until the desired spreading consistency. Add in vanilla extract, mix well. Use it for sandwiching and icing the cake. Sprinkle with extra 100s and 1000s or other sprinkles.

May 07, 2014

Sweet NZ: Healthy Vegan Cookies

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Nikki's Healthy Cookies

I first tried out Nikki's Healthy Cookies back in 2012, out of sheer curiosity. How can be a certain type of cookies filed under a 'healthy' group while others are 'not so'. What makes it different? 

It was beyond my expectation. 

Judging by the ingredients checklist, I was a bit skeptical on how I can produce a single cookie, without eggs as the filler or binder, or butter as the flavour enhancer. It must be some kind of magic tool to whip up some 'uncommon' ingredients to be a batch of cookies. I have never thought and then learned that butter and eggs are not everything. They can be left out and we still can eat cakes, cookies and even bread. 

Now, I was doubtful no more. It took me by surprise how delicious they can be. 

I am amazed how fruits, either dried or fresh, can be used as a substitute to sugar in baking, for there are adequate natural sugar in fruits anyway. They are modestly sweet. Impressive!


as shared on my IG @arfibinsted
You see, with a little training, we can always go back to use a natural sweetener. Taste the real thing. That fruits and vegetables have their own natural sugar. It's there for us to enjoy as is, without adding heaps more additional sweetness that tends to make us forget how it's supposed to be. Then, perhaps we will be living in an obese-free world.

This natural sweetener works like magic.

The cookies are sweet, sweet enough to my liking. But, perhaps you will expect them to be as crispy as a butter-and-sugar cookies, they are not. Mind you, there are no sugar crystal we are melting to harden the cookie structure here. These cookies are soft and chewy. They remind me of honey muesli slices although not as crunchy.

I am happy enough to revisit Nikki's Healthy Cookies again.

Healthy Cookies-1 (1 of 1)

And this time, I bake its similar cousin, 5-Ingredient Gluten-Free and Vegan Cookies. These gluten-free and vegan biscuits that Dana of the Minimalist Baker had produced in her kitchen will be my entry for Sweet New Zealand event, hosted by our very own lovely food blogger Sue Busch of Couscous and Consciousness. Hop on to Dana's blog to find the recipe and you might as well get more awesome recipes from her.


Healthy Cookies-2 (1 of 1)

I don't alter anything what the recipe calls for, accept using our local chocolate block, NZ's very own Whittaker's 75% Dark Ghana. Now, I have a doubt that this dark chocolate is vegan after all. I have searched some topics about vegan dark chocolate in NZ and some people said that Whittaker's Dark Ghana dark chocolate is accidentally vegan, but when I read the ingredients list, there it's said to have a trace of milk chocolate in it. So? I don't know. At least, I hope there's no animals to suffer in producing these blocks of chocolate. Maybe next time, I'll use Fair Trade 100% dark chocolate, just to make sure.


April 17, 2014

Isa's Punklicious Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

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Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-3 (1 of 1)

Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes are surely awesome. They taste punklicious even without eggs and dairy products. They also keep moist at room temperature for two days (well, that's how long the cupcakes last at this household). You can hear the crunch of vanilla beans every time you take a bite. It's impressive.

I make them gluten-free as well, so that is a bonus.


Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-1 (1 of 1)

I am sending these cupcakes to Marnelli of Sweets and Brains for Sweet New Zealand event she's organizing this month. 

So here's what I do with Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Ganache.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-2 (1 of 1)

Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Ganache
by Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen

I substitute all purpose flour with gluten-free flours mixed with almond meal so it will be safe for me and my children, since we are gluten intolerance. I also reduce the sweetness of the cupcakes and use the ganache to be the filling instead of using it as the frosting. 

Cupcakes Batter
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I use rice milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (I use 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (my gluten-free modified version)
2 tablespoon cornflour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder (I use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use 1/4 teaspoon)
1/3 cup canola oil (I use rice bran oil)
3/4 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup homemade vanilla sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped

Ganache
1/3 cup amond milk
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I use Whittaker's 72% Dark Ghana, chopped coarsely)
2 tablespoon maple syrup (I use honey)

Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 160C. Line 12 hole muffin tins with cupcake papers. Isa sprays her cupcake liners but I just leave them as they are. Put the milk and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk well. Set aside.

Combine and sift all the flours, baking powder, baking soda, Xanthan Gum and salt in a mixing bowl. Add in almond meal and mix well.

Measure the sugar and mix in the vanilla seeds. I use my hands to blend the seeds into the sugar so they will be incorporated well. Mix it into the combined flours.

Put oil into the combined milk and lemon juice, mix well. Make a well in the mixed flours, almond meal and sugar. Pour the combined oil, milk and lemon juice into it, mix well. There won't be any lump. The mixture should be like pancake batter although mine is a bit thicker.

Spoon a little batter at a time on the bottom of each cupcake papers. Spoon in the firm ganache in the middle of each cupcake, then top with the rest of the cupcake batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. 

Ganache
Bring the milk to boil in a small saucepan, lower to simmer. Add in the chopped chocolate and honey. I just take the saucepan off the stove as soon as I see the chopped chocolate has started to soften and mix the mixture thoroughly with a little balloon whisk until smooth. Leave this ganache in the fridge overnight before I make the cupcakes the next day. Roll the cold ganache into balls and put them in the centre of each cupcakes.

March 27, 2014

Getting Doughy with Tangzhong Starter

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Green Tea and Aduki Bean Paste Swirl Bread
When I met Alli of Pease Pudding on one of Helene Dujardin's workshop in New Zealand, we were talking about sourdough bread that will be her bakery's hero. The sourdough starter is told to be at least 25 years old and is still being used up to this day. Isn't it amazing?

Sourdough seed culture, phase 3. #bread #food

I used to make my own sourdough starter and kept it at the back of our fridge until it was ready to use and re-feed. I loved baking batches of sourdough bread and was proud of myself. The skin was crusty and the texture was lovely. Every batch produced wheaten vapour aroma that spread all over my kitchen and perhaps escaped far and wide to touch our neighbour's sense of smell. No one reported casual damage though, mind you.

classic sourdough bread
classic sourdough bread

Unfortunately, I don't keep that starter anymore when I have found out that I am allergic to wheat and its products. So sad to be parted with the starter that I have used for 2 or more years. So I gave away the starter to a good friend. Hopefully she could keep it and be a part of her. But lately, I found out that she spoiled the starter and had to throw it out of her fridge. Tragic.

However, every now and then I still bake bread. I can't tell you how I missed it. I missed the aroma of a freshly baked bread which can be enticing and pleasurable although I am more a rice person than that of those who cannot live without bread. I sometimes 'treat' myself gluten-rich in moderation, so not to worry.

I've been baking batches of bread lately. Not a sourdough one though.

Hokkaido Milk Bread

I made batches of Hokkaido Milk Bread these days since I am amazed how fluffy and cotton-soft the texture is. It reminds me of those loaves of bread or chocolate filled buns that I often ate when I was little, came warm from a local bakery.

I adapted Christine's Recipe and made assorted bread from it.

The good this of it is that it won't go stale up to 3 days, IF you are doing it right. Pay attention to and do the exact measurement will reduce failure, I guess.



I made batches of them, from a plain loaf, green tea or buns filled with desired filling. 

I even made cheese bread, which I don't often do. I was curious with what's so special about cheese bread that my Indonesian friends back home are so raving over it. Perhaps, I am not only a bread person, but also not a cheese one either. It does not give me excitement to match cheese with bread, unless it is sandwiched and grilled.

Cheese Bread

Lately, I quite like to try to make green tea bread, so I give it a shot. 

Making my own experiment by using green tea powder in half of the dough and leaving the other half plain, I thought I'll make it braided, like Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

Green Tea and Aduki Bean Paste Swirld Bread

I expected the bread will rise higher, but then again I did not use a bread pan to support it. The aduki beans filling is also rather dense for the sponge to rise up during proofing and baking. But I quite happy with the outcome.

So, have you baked bread today?



March 25, 2014

Play with Lights: Food Photography Workshop with Helene Dujardin

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Auckland's weather was gorgeous yesterday afternoon and I was so excited to be able to meet Helene Dujardin at one of her food photography workshops in Auckland, New Zealand.

One important thing I got from the workshop is to play with the lights. Lights can convey different messages on photos if we direct them to what we are going to deliver. Different light setting will give a different message, look, and feel.

Take a look at the sample photo I took during the session. This photo below was taken without any intention to direct lights. The lights spread and come from any direction, including behind me (I was on the other side of the room), but the main light comes from the front.


Notice where the lights paint on this shoot. And compare with these two other photos below.



Can you see it? Can you feel the differences? 

If you can, congratulations. Go on ahead and keep it up at it. If you cannot, then you need to play around with your lighting once, second, third, zillion times more, if you can, to understand it, to get the feel of it, to be able to create different stories or messages. It might sound difficult, but it's not. Go get your black cards and start directing your lights to get different mood. It's all about creativity and imagination. Wake up, get up, and start kicking around. You'll get there eventually.

For me, this is a wake up call. Photographing is not only composition, beautiful styling and excellent props, but also giving messages to the audience through directed lighting. If your lighting is flat, your photo won't look interesting. 

It was a very lovely and important workshop for me. Now I can see clearly where I am going from this on.

I also had a great time catching up with my ladyfriends yesterday, and met Nicola Galloway of Homegrown Kitchen who runs cooking workshop in Nelson and Rebecca Oliver. Here are some photos that I took from my iPhone.

Ponsonby Central, 6 Brown Street,
Ponsonby, Auckland, NZ

Waikanae crab omelette with morsels at Toru Cafe.
The best omelette I've ever tasted.

Toru Cafe
Ponsonby Central, Auckland
Photos I manage to snapshot through iPhone during workshop.




As well as with Helene, I also had a good catch-up with Allison of Pease Pudding.
Pssttt...Alli is going to open her own bakery this coming April.
Come and see her in Kumeu, Auckland!








And more food and drink afterwards with good friends. Thank you Carmella and Boon, Danti and Yessy!

Foxtrot Parlour at Ponsonby Central,
Ponsonby, Auckland

This cappuccino is excellent. Frothy, creamy, and the coffee was excellent!
at Foxtrot Parlour,
Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby
Auckland

Non-alcohol cocktail "Cherry Bomb"
At Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Antipasto Misto
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Baked whole snapper, Risotti ai Gamberi, and Polenta Cakes
Polenta Cakes were awesome, crispy outside and creamy soft inside. We love them!
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland


Short Espresso was super excellent! Strong, thick, and fresh.
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Goodie bag from Nourish Magazine
Thank you, Vicki!

My companies for the evening: Carmella and partner Boon-Li.
Thanks you two! X.

A lovely catch up with Danti and Yessy
at Toru Cafe
Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby
Auckland
Till we meet again!