Friday, June 13, 2014

Vegan Flower Syrup Truffles

Vegan Flower Syrup Truffles

If you like flower flavours, you might like these frozen little goodies.
Except for the coating, they can be raw, too, if you use raw cashew butter and have made your syrup without boiling.
Pears are a good base, because their flavour and sweetness are not so overwhelming as the taste of bananas, and they blend very well with flower aromas.
You can use either white chocolate in these truffles or plain cocoa butter. As I'm not usually a fan of white chocolate, I used cocoa butter, but I'm not dogmatic, so feel free to use either of them ;-)

Also you can use any flower syrup which floats your boat; I used elder flower syrup, but you can even use plain agave syrup with rose water or orange blossom water to taste. Play around, try new flavours - you might be astonished at the result!

My truffles were heart shaped and looked quite beautiful before I dumped them into the couverture ... but the taste *with* chocolate coating definitely makes up for the looks!

  • 1 ripe medium pear, peeled, cored
  • 2 tablespoons smooth white cashew butter
  • 1 ounce cocoa butter or white chocolate, melted
  • 2 tablespoons flower syrup

  • Melt white chocolate or cocoa butter in a not too hot bain-marie.
  • Combine everything and blend in a blender (I used an immersion blender) until smooth.
  • Fill into ice cube trays or candy molds.
  • Freeze for a couple of hours; the truffles won't become rock hard, and they melt quickly.
  • If you want to coat them in chocolate, melt about 3 ounces of dark chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil, dip the frozen truffles in and return to the freezer on a tray, lined with non stick paper.
  • Remove from freezer about 2-5 minutes prior to eating.

What kind of truffles do you like best? Frozen or room temperature?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Elder Flower Syrup

Elder Flower Syrup

Many years ago I had breakfast with a friend up in the Black Forest. It was June, and she had made elder cakes (Hollerkuechle in German). For this, you cut fresh elder flowers, dip them into batter and then deep fry until crisp.
I liked the fragrant elder flavour, but otherwise wasn't exactly excited, because deep fried baked goods made me even more sick than any other cake or cookie.
Meanwhile, I discovered that I don't get sick from gluten free deep fried batter, but I still don't care for deep fried stuff.
The lovely flavour of the elder flowers stuck with me, though, and so this year, I finally decided to give elder flower syrup a try.
We have an elder tree in our garden, and the whole neighbourhood, including the forest nearby, is full with blossoming elder trees which fill the air with this sweet, heavy fragrance that is typical for the flowers of black elder.

Elderflowers and juice and jelly from the berries are used to cure colds and flus, and scientific studies have proven that elderberry extract is effective in treating influenza B. That might be due to the high content of vitamin C and anthocyanidins (the dark plant pigments) and essential oils.

There are many myths around the black elder, such as the belief that carrying an elder twig prevents rheumatism, or that lightening never strikes an elder tree.
English and Scandinavian folklore calls the elder-guarding being "elder mother". She's guarding the elder trees, and you better don't take wood or flowers from the tree without first asking for her permission to do so.

So, go out, find an elder, ask for permission and get some elder flowers to make this fragrant syrup!

This is raw syrup; you can boil it after removing the flowers, but I don't find that necessary - after all, you also eat raw fruit. You just have to store the syrup in the fridge so that it doesn't start to ferment, or you'll get some very strong elder flower wine that is most likely to explode at some point.
The syrup will last for at least 6 months in the fridge.
Just rinse the bottle or jar with boiling water and then let cool before pouring the syrup in.

Elder flower syrup can be used to mix with water for lemonade, or mixed with champaign, drizzled over ice cream or cake or which ever way you like to use syrups.

  • 1 cup water
  • 8.5 ounces light raw cane sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon citric acid
  • 3 panicles of elder flowers
  • 1 glass bottle or jar for 1 1/2 cups syrup.

  • On a dry day around midday, choose a good looking black elder tree. The flowers have to be dry, not wet from rain or dew.
  • Ask the Elder Mother for permission.
  • Pick 3 flower panicles.
  • Thank the elder Mother for her gift to you.
  • Gently shake off any tiny insects that might be on the flowers, but don't wash the flowers. You want the pollen to get the unique flavour.
  • Place the flowers in a glass bowl, cover with the citric acid and the thinly sliced 1/2 lemon. Add 1 cup of filtered water.
  • Let sit on the counter overnight.
  • The next morning, drain the liquid through a sieve, discard the flowers and lemon slices and add 8.5 ounces of light raw cane sugar to the liquid. Stir well and let sit for another 24 hours, stirring occasionally. After about 24 hours, the sugar should have dissolved, and the liquid should be clear.
  • Rinse the bottle or jar for storing with boiling water, let cool, then fill syrup in and store in the fridge.

Have you ever made or used flower syrups?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gluten-free Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

Deep Purple Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cake always fascinated me because of the stunning colour.
But then, the origin of the colour did not fascinate me. Particularly when I red how much red colouring actually goes into "normal" red velvet cake.
I played with the idea of beet juice for colouring long before I read recipes using beets for the colour.
My first attempt was with cooked beets.
To be honest, I have no clue how other people get their cake so incredibly red with beets. The one with cooked red beets had a distinct earthy beet taste, and the colour was an ugly reddish-brown.
I tried to get a decent photo adding some chocolate frosting to the cupcake, but that, unfortunately, looked like a dog had left his big business on top of an ugly reddish-brown cupcake. Yuk.
My next attempt featured one small raw red beet and a half cup blueberries.
I used a lot of acid and raw organic cocoa powder, but still the cupcakes don't look exactly red.
But they taste good.
They are crunchy on the outside due to the erythritol I used, and very gooey on the inside. Gooey, sweet, a bit fruity and slightly chocolate-y.
They don't look gorgeous, but they are gluten free, vegan, moist and yummy, and the colour, even though not as deep purple as my imagination would like, clearly has some purple in it.

If you use other sweetener, the outside most probably won't be as crunchy. Erythritol doesn't give up its crystal structure, so I made the experience that cakes with erythritol may be wonderfully moist on the inside, but the outside gets crisp, and sometimes you even see white crystal structures on top of a cake.
Personally, I don't mind. I don't want to eat tons of sugar, so I accept that baked goods using erythritol don't look like perfect pieces of art and that the texture might differ from what we are used to.
It's an adventure, right? And as long as it tastes good and is healthier than your average piece of cake, it does neither have to be mainstream nor elegant. It's a healthy piece of art on its own.

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raw organic cocoa powder (or any unsweetened not dark cocoa powder that isn't dutch processed)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons erythritol or sugar (I used erythritol with stevia)
  • 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 small raw red beet, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, cooked until mushy with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or olive oil)
  • Juice of 1 lime

  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C (325°F / 170°C for convection oven).
  • Line cupcake tray with 12 paper cups.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix well.
  • Puree peeled beet and mushy blueberries with 1/2 cup water and lime juice.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients, let sit for a minute, then pour batter into cupcake tins.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes.
  • Remove from tray and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Frost with your favourite frosting or enjoy plain. I like to just eat them plain or top them with some almond butter.

Have you ever tried to use beets for baking cake?