26 October 2010

Halloween Cupcakes (dairy free, egg free, nut free)

I made these last year for kinder class - the ghost cupcakes in particular were a huge hit. The eyes! Such expression! We fell in love.

Happy Halloween :)

Chocolate Cupcakes
makes approx 24 standard cupcakes

300g plain flour
400g caster sugar
100g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soda bicarbonate
450ml rice or soy milk
100ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C. Fill two cupcake/muffin pans with cupcake liners.
Sift together in a large bowl the flour, sugar, soda bicarb, cocoa and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla and add to the dry ingredients, mixing well until smooth.

Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until risen and firm to touch. Cool in trays for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Chocolate Frosting
100g dairy free margarine
4 tbsp water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Combine margarine, water and caster sugar in small saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
Combine sifted icing sugar and cocoa in medium bowl; gradually stir in hot spread mixture until smooth. Cover; refrigerate for at least half an hour, until thoroughly cool. Using wooden spoon, beat frosting until spreadable.

White ready to roll fondant, 1/4-1/2 packet
Marshmallows (one per ghost cupcake)
Using white ready to roll fondant, roll out to 1/2 cm thickness and use a round cookie cutter (slightly larger than the circumference of the cupcake, so it overlaps by about 1cm). Frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting and secure a marshmallow in the centre. Ensure you sit the marshmallow on its side so the rounded part is at the top. Drape fondant circles over the marshmallows, covering the cupcakes. Using the blunt end of a toothpick or skewer, make two holes for the eyes (until you reach the marshmallow underneath) then fill with a dot of black gel decorating pen. So cute!

Tombstone Cookies
This is a good standard cut-out cookie recipe. Roll these out relatively thinly (1/2 cm) before baking or they'll be too thick to wedge into the cupcake.

125g dairy-free margarine, softened
1/2 cup (115g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) rice/soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (70g) plain flour
black and green Queen food gel writing pens

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Use an electric beater to beat the margarine and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flours.

Press the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.

Roll out one portion of dough on a sheet of non-stick baking paper to about 1/2cm thick. Cut out tombstone shapes (freehand) and place on the trays.
Bake for 5-8 minutes or until light golden.
Cool for 5 minutes on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with remaining dough (or freeze for more cookies another day).

Pipe RIP on tombstones then insert into cupcakes. Add some green grass to the edges of the tombstone.


25 October 2010

Lemon Coconut Bundt Cake - part one

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

It's important to remember that baking is a science.

For example, you might get impatient and want to turn out a cake before it has cooled in the tin.
You mustn't.

Or perhaps the original recipe insists you line the base of the tin with baking paper but because you decided to change the tin shape from loaf to bundt, you sort of forgot that bit...(though how do you line a bundt tin anyway?)

So out it fell - broken, stuck, ruined.
Then my taste tester tells me, scraping the bits of cake from the tin, that it's the best cake he ever ate.

So it's back to the kitchen for take 2 - I don't mind - it's beautifully lemony and moist.  Even on second attempt though, this cake doesn't rise. It sinks in the middle, quite spectacularly. I must tweak the recipe - it seems the coconut cream is too heavy and might need replacing with coconut milk. But my third attempt will have to wait until after I return from a child-free holiday to Port Douglas later in the week (yay!). Plus I want to share some cute cupcakes in time for Halloween before I go.

So until then - feast your eyes on this disaster, and stay tuned...

(original sinking recipe - though if eggs aren't an issue for you, this should work spectacularly!)
125g dairy-free margarine, softened
125g caster sugar
2 x egg replacers
1 cup self raising flour, sifted
½ cup dessicated coconut
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 x 270g coconut cream
icing sugar, dusting


Preheat oven 175 C. Lightly grease and line a loaf pan with baking paper.

Beat margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg replacers and beat until well combined.
In a separate bowl combine flour, cocount and lemon zest. Add half of this mixture and coconut cream into the mixing bowl and mix well.
Repeat with remaining flour and coconut cream. Add lemon juice and mix until well combined.

Pour cake mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar.

14 October 2010

Quest for the Holy Grail: Egg-free Meringue

Sometimes - just for fun - I google 'vegan meringue'.

Ok admittedly, it's not fun anymore, it's become an obsession. I am a relentless researcher if nothing else. I have been searching in the hope that somewhere in the world, someone has discovered how to make an egg-less substitute to this holy grail of vegan cooking. It usually leads to a depressing read of world wide lamentations, e-how dead-ends and bloggy disasters.

Then one day I stumbled across something called Vegan Meringue Cookies by AngelFood.


Immediately went shopped online (Vegan Perfection in this case) and next day (or so) delivery, it arrived.

I am a sucker for a pretty package, and she is very pretty indeed. I had zero expectation though - other than to produce something that quite possibly resembled a chewy meringue with a crispy outer layer. Which very probably can only be achieved by using real eggs. Yep - zero expectation.

The package claims it makes 'crisp' cookies. With two sachets in the box - once mixed and beaten together, it was looking really good: glossy and stiff, just like beaten egg whites should look...

I piped onto tray (oh but they are darling!)

Baking in the oven (bit annoyed I lost the little peaks in the cooking process)

Crispy yes they are!

Sandwiched together with some Sweet William chocolate spread (dairy/egg/nut free), they are not bad. Quite tasty in fact (thanks to the chocolate I suspect).

So here they are - a very crispy, aerated version of meringue kisses...though won't be attempting a pavlova any time soon.

09 October 2010

Crispy Pork Belly with Fennel & Apple Slaw

dairy free egg free nut free

We all love crackling (vegetarians/vegans look away). But it is rarely accompanied by a moist, tender roast pork meat. Dry and a bit bland, I end up suffering through it. (Unless of course it's porchetta served in a crusty bread roll from a roadside stall in Italy...)

I first saw Rick Stein make this dish, and I probably won't ever serve up a roast pork any other way. Pork belly - slow cooked so the meat underneath is tender and melting away, with crisp and crunchy crackling that never fails. Hallelujah.

Beware though - it's rich. Pork belly boasts a considerable amount of fat (hence the moistness) but for a once-in-a-while dish (as roast pork should be), it's worth it. I think you could also experiment with the seasonings (I might try rosemary & sage next).

Rick Stein originally served this with plain rice and steamed Asian greens, but because it's spring and the sun is finally shining, I opted for an Italian twist on coleslaw. Baby fennel, savoy cabbage and Pink Lady apple, all finely sliced and tossed with lemon, olive oil and parsley.

Oh my. Marriage made in heaven!

Crispy Roast Pork Belly
Serves 4-6
1 x 1.5kg piece of thick belly pork with the rind
1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper*
1 teaspoon black pepper*
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Spike the skin of the pork with a fine skewer le as many times as you can, going through into the fat but not so deep that you go into the flesh. Then pour a kettle full of boiling water over the skin, leave it to drain and then dry it off well.

In a small bowl, combine the peppers, sea salt, five spice powder and sugar.

Turn the pork flesh-side up on a tray and rub the flesh all over with the spice mixture. Set it aside somewhere cool to marinate for 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Turn the pork skin-side up and place it on a rack resting on top of a roasting tin of water. Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 180˚C and roast it for a further 2 hours, topping up the water in the roasting tin now and then when necessary.

Increase the oven temperature once more to 230˚C and continue to roast the pork for a further 15 minutes. Then remove it from the oven and leave it to rest for 5-10 mins.
Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces and arrange them on a warmed platter.

*Rick Stein's recipe has the peppercorns whole and dry-fried in a pan, then ground in a spice grinder. I've adapted the recipe for the short-on-time cook - I suspect it doesn't make a huge difference to the final result.
Fennel & Apple Slaw
Serves 4-6
1/4 Savoy cabbage
3 baby fennel bulbs
1 Pink Lady apple
3 tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
1/2 cup continental parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt
lemon juice to taste
Finely slice the cabbage and fennel. Add fennel fronds and parsley and mix together well. Just before serving, halve and core the apples, then finely slice across, then into matchsticks. Add to cabbage and fennel, then dress salad with oil, salt and lemon juice, mixing well.