Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Avocado Pound Cake

I don't know what to say about this other than: "This is good. You should bring it into your life"

Slightly adapted from: Joy the Baker Cookbook

Makes enough for two 9X5-inch loaves, or 1 loaf and 12 muffins

3 cups of flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 baking soda
1 1/2 baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp mashed avocado
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk

1) Whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

2) Using an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add avocado and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, ensure that the the ingredients are well combined. Beat in vanilla.

3) With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the buttermilk and the remaining flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated.

4) Divide the batter into the pans. Bake loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating half-way through. 

vegan chocolate zucchini cake

First off, what I am supposed to be doing...writing my dissertation. What I am actually doing...writing this blog post. It took a few months of slogging away at the same old thing every day to get me back on here, but, hey, I will take it if you will.

It's no secret that I'm a vegan baked good skeptic. Mostly because, I've never really been impressed with the vegan baked goods I've tried. Even Babycakes, the New York bakery that is a favourite among the ethically-minded celebrities, was a huge flop when my sister and I missioned across the city to try it. I always thought the less than amazing vegan baking was due to long-time vegans simply forgetting how real baked goods are supposed to taste and being happy with sub-par offerings as a result.

Ok, so where am I going with all this? Yesterday, I had a baking date with my friend Elinor who happens to be a vegan. I met her in class and we bonded over food, food system issues and eventually both got involved in a food related discussion group on campus. Moral of the story, we both love food! For a while now, I have been on-and-off trying to eat less animal products. I even toyed with the idea of veganism myself. There are plenty of good reasons to go vegan. I was reading an article about the water footprint of various food items last night. By and large, the water footprint for animal products is much greater than crop products with equivalent nutritional value [1]. In fact, it's 1.5 times larger for milk, eggs, and chicken meat than for pulses. And, those aren't even the biggest offenders when it comes to animal products [2]! The thing that really should concern all of us in North America especially is that animal products from industrial systems consume and pollute more water resources than those from grazed or mixed-systems [3]. The water issue is just one reason to reduce our consumption of animal products...I could go on, but I'll save it for another time.  

On our merry vegan baking adventure we went and can I just say, I was shocked and surprised at how amazing it turned out? We made two things. Both, I would never guess are vegan if I didn't know. First up, was a vegan chocolate zucchini cake. Moist, chocolately and delicious. It was so yummy warm. If you are looking for an easy treat to whip up, whether vegan or not, this is worth trying!

Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake


2 cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 ½ bananas4 tablespoons water
¼ cup soy milk (you could use any non-dairy milk)
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

For Topping:

3 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ cup flaked almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
2.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt.
3. Mash bananas adding the water until combined.
4. In a large bowl combine oil, applesauce, sugars, vanilla, and coffee powder. Beat!
5. Set aside half a cup of the dry mixture and add remaining to the wet ingredients while beating at a low speed. 
6. Combine the zucchini, chocolate chips and flour mixture. 
7. Add the zucchini mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well. Batter is very thick but moist.
8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove cake from oven to add combined brown sugar and flaked almonds for topping. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
9. Let cool a little bit and enjoy!

References[1-3] Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2012) A global assessment of the water footprint of farm animal products, Ecosystems,15(3): 401–415. Found here:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Berries and Sweetened Cream

On my continued (although likely to fail) quest to bake all of the things in the Joy the Baker Cookbook, I prepared this tart to contribute to a ladies night of great chats and lots of sparkling wine.

Tarts are great because even though they look really fancy, they are actually incredibly easy (mind you slightly time consuming) to prepare and the ganache for this tart was extremely easy to make. 

Recipe: Slightly adapted From Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the crust: 
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
scant 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup cold butter
1 large egg yolk, beaten

For the ganache:
8 ounces dark chocolate finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut in half

For the topping: 
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups (or to taste) fresh berries - Joy calls for raspberries and blackberries, I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

1) To make the crust, in a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and spices. Cut in butter with fingers until well incorporated. Add the egg yolk and bring the mixture together with a fork. The mixture should be shaggy and crumbly. Dump the mixture into a 9 inch tart pan and use your fingers to press the dough into the edges of the pan. Place the crust in the freezer to chill for at least an hour. 

2) For the ganache, add the chocolate pieces to a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat bring the cream to a very low simmer. Pour half of the heated cream onto the chocolate and allow to sit for a minute. Use a whisk to incorporate the melted chocolate into the cream, start in the centre and work your way out. Slowly add the remaining cream and whisk until smooth and glossy.  Add the butter chunks and use a spatula to stir until the butter is melted. Set aside at room temperature while you bake the crust. 

3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and place buttered side down on the chilled crust. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil.  Continue baking for 15 minutes or until the tart shell is golden brown. Allow to cool before filling with the ganache. 

4) For the topping, in a medium bowl whisk together the cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Spread the ganache into the cooled tart shell,  top with the berries of your choice, and generously dollop with the whipped cream. Serve immediately.