Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gluten-free Vegan Strawberry Brownie Cake

Gluten-free Vegan Strawberry Brownie Cake

Spring time means strawberry time!!
As a teenager, I spent one afternoon with my best friend, stuffing ourselves with strawberries and whipped cream.
I didn't like whipped cream nor did it agree with me, but unluckily a teenage brain does not necessarily work the boring logical ways it does about twenty years later.
So I got incredibly sick from the cream, and for years after this event, I was unable to touch a strawberry without feeling nauseous.

At the ripe old age of 32, a beautiful lady introduced me to strawberries with parmesan cheese and *real* balsamic vinegar, i.e. aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena. The real thing. Traditional balsamic vinegar, made from a reduction of cooked Trebbiano grape juice. Thick, sweet-sour syrup with a hint of oak wood, aged 25 years and about 120,- € per bottle (which means 100 ml or 3.5 ounces).
The taste of this was sublime. Not because of the expensive vinegar (at that moment, I had no clue it was so expensive or I would have been petrified with shock) but because of the flavours melting together, and maybe the environment.
Sweet, sour and salty, with the flavour of aged grape juice, caramel, the fresh strawberries, the aftertaste of aged wood - and the atmosphere of antique furnishings and candle light around us.
Since that evening, I am in love with strawberries again.
I cheated and mixed simple organic balsamic vinegar with honey to dip the berries in, and I didn't miss the expensive stuff at all.

It still took me some more years to be able to enjoy strawberries with something sweet again, like ice cream, or in cake or smoothies or shakes.
Now I've completely recovered from my teenage experience and love strawberries in every context, except as flavouring for everything like chocolate, yoghurt, cranberries. Why the heck does anybody want cranberries to taste like strawberries?
Maybe because our tastebuds know more than we do - that strawberries are a true superfood.
No need to seek exotic fruits from distant Pacific islands. All we need to be healthy is right in front of our feet.
Strawberries are a bomb. If conventionally grown, a bomb of toxins as can be seen here.
If organically grown, a bomb of nutrients: They contain more vitamin C than lemons, are high in iron (good for women, particularly gluten intolerant or celiac women), contain ellagic acid which binds certain carcinogens, have a good ratio of calcium, magnesium and potassium and are low in calories. And delicious.
Now how about a melange of dark, gooey, yet healthy brownies and sweet, juicy strawberries?

  • 1/3 cup (80 g) non-hydrogenated margarine or coconut oil
  • 4.5 ounces (130 g) zucchini, shredded
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, cooked and pureed (1/3 cup or 90 g unsweetened pear sauce; can be replaced by apple sauce, but pear is better!)
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds or flax seeds or psyllium husks
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) erythritol or sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1 ounce chopped dark chocolate (or more)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or vanilla extract

  • Melt margarine or coconut oil over low heat, let cool while proceeding.
  • Preheat oven to 350 °F or 180 °C.
  • Combine shredded zucchini and pear sauce in a small bowl.
  • In a big bowl, combine flour, starch, baking powder, cocoa powder, ground seeds, erythritol or sugar and vanilla.
  • Add zucchini and pear mix into flour mixture, mix well.
  • Pour in melted margarine, combine well and add maple syrup and 1-2 tablespoons milk to get a smooth consistency, stickier than cookie dough but thicker than muffin batter.
  • Add chopped chocolate, mix well.
  • Gently fold in the chopped strawberries, mix well and pour into greased or paper lined 8x8 square dish or 8 inch pie dish (I used a round pie dish).
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • It should look dry but feel soft and springy to the touch. The consistency of the baked cake is dense, fudgy and gooey, not fluffy.
  • Let cool for about 20 minutes in the pie dish, then carefully remove onto wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Serve with fresh strawberries and / or strawberry cream:

Ingredients for the strawberry cream:
  • 8.5 ounces (ca. 250 g) strawberries
  • 2/3 cup (ca. 100 g) raw cashews
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Vanilla, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or maple syrup or other sweetener, to taste (I don't add any sweetener at all because the cashews and berries are sweet enough for me)

  • Put everything in a blender or food processor and blend on high until smooth.
  • Let stand for 10 minutes, blend again.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate (it will firm up a bit more in the fridge).

What's your favourite way to have strawberries?

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