DIY Almond Coconut Milk

My green journey began after the reducing dairy conversation with Bubble…my initial resistance was based on the impossibility of life without cheese, yogurt or ice cream, all of which quickly found dairy-free alternatives for…”Plus think I have mastered the bannoffee breakfast drink now and must have milk for that!!” The comeback “Sometimes milk is needed (e.g. nice cafe latte) other times vanilla almond milk is great (smoothies, cereal and instant coffee!)” set me on the path of alternative milks.

Until this point, I had only associated alternative milks with soy which I never much liked: that there might be other options out there was total news to me…I always pushed obliviously past those shelves at the supermarket. I started out with prepacked almond and coconut from the supermarket but was never that comfortable with all the big words in the ingredients panel on each package plus each empty package = waste…

It didn’t take much Googling to learn that making my own almond, coconut or almond coconut is actually quite easy, actually so easy that I wonder why anyone would bother with the store-bought packs..? I’ve expounded the benefits to a lot of people online and in real life and I thought that it’s probably past time for a bit of a tutorial…

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I have a dedicated blender for milk making…it was only $24, heavily discounted at Briscoes…the advantages it brings to the game is that it has the capacity to hold the nut and 1.2 litres of water, and I can pulse the mix every ‘while’ as it sits.I used to use my bullet blender but had to amalgamate the mix in a separate bowl.

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The raw materials: I buy the chopped almonds in 3kg lots from Happy and Healthy, and the coconut chips in 1kg lots from Bin Inn or similar bulk stockists. I add a cup (approx 100 grams) of each to the blender and cover it with boiling filtered water – our water here is all rain water, but we’re well into the filtering habit and it doesn’t do any harm…

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Pulse the mix of nuts and boiling water for a minute or so…I think that the boiling water helps bring out the oils and flavours from the nuts…

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It’ll look something like this..DSCF0453

Top it up to the Max mark with cold filtered water – you could use more boiling water but I don’t thing it adds anything and you would need to be a lot more careful pulsing the mix until it cools down…

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Let the mix sit for a few hours or preferably overnight, giving it a quick pulse stir up every time you walk by or get bored…

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After sitting overnight, the milk has separated into the meal at the bottom and the oils and good stuff has risen to the top…the same happens in the bottle hence the good shake before use…

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Spread your filter cloth over the target bowl. My filter cloth is polyester voile I bought as a bulk end lot from Spotlight ($12 for 5+ metres)…I just sliced off a half metre square and find this much easier to use than nut milk bags which are also more expensive and harder to clean.

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Pour the mix into the centre of the cloth…

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Draw in the edges and let the bulk of the liquid drain through into the bowl…

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Hold the top of the filter cloth and twist the ball of meal so that the tightening cloth squeezes the remaining liquid into the bowl…

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Voila! one litre of almond coconut milk, fresh as with no big words or other additives. This will last in the fridge for a week. It will settle and will need a shake before you use it. I use this any place I would previously have used milk except for cheesemaking where it probably will not work (haven’t actually tried that) but may still be doable for dairy-free cheese (also not tried yet – with this milk)

I save the leftover almond coconut meal to use in baking. I generate a lot of it and so dry it over the fire or in the oven after baking (I switch the oven off and let the residual heat do the drying) and store it in a sealed container until I need it.

I use the meal in bread (1/2 a cup into every mix), almond coconut cookies, as a substitute for flour-heavy recipes and also recently used it to absorb the additional fluid when I put too much milk in the mix for my roast baby armadillo recipe

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Orange Walnut Cake

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I forgot to photograph the process and this little bit was the last remaining piece by the time I remembered…good texture, just a little overcooked…

I’m always looking for new ways to reduce waste and to make the most use of each ingredient. After the success of my lemon icing experiment last month, I thought I’d try the same with orange zest. I looked at a lot of recipes but I liked this one for orange walnut cake from Don’t Forget Delicious as it wasn’t too sugar heavy…

I changed the recipe slightly using half and half combinations of raw sugar and coconut sugar, high-grade flour and home-milled whole flour, and manuka honey and coconut syrup.I didn’t read the instructions properly and baked it in a loaf dish which was too deep to allow the centre to cook at the same rate as the outside: it needs to be baked in a flat pan (I realised this just now as I was checking the recipe). It took three small oranges to around a tablespoon of orange zest…I might aim for a little more next time

Because I used the wrong baking dish, I had to leave it in the oven longer to bake the whole way through and so the final result was a little scorched on top and generally dry inside. Lesson learned for next time.

I wanted a Greek yogurt icing recipe as I had a lot leftover after our beets, feta and rice dinner the other night  and found this one:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of icing, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest – maybe a little more next time for a stronger orange flavour – I only had quite small oranges (took one to contribute about a teaspoon of zest) so using bigger ones next time should sort this

Instructions

  • Whisk all ingredients until they become a bit thick.
  • Place in the fridge to thicken even more (at least 30 minutes).
  • Spread on cupcakes.

This tasted really good but the recipe calls for way too much yogurt: even after a night in the fridge to thicken it as per the instructions it was still really fluid, too much so to effectively spread…next time I will drop the yogurt down to half a cup and see how that goes…

I was only able to smear a little of the icing over the top without it running off the sides but it did it help conceal the slightly scorched crust. I took it into work and it still disappeared pretty quickly so it wasn’t a total flop…

Orange zest is now a proven ingredient and I am keen to see if I can make a workable orange curd spread in the same way you can with lemons…

We can make and enjoy nice treat and stay true to our green journey…

‘Cado, pineapple and ‘mato salad

Last night, I mentioned that, I was still searching for a suitable side to go with my Kumara curry and salmon hash browns…after five years, can you believe it? I’ve been getting by with rocket salads but I kinda hate rocket…if I’m absolutely honest about it…

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So, on Wednesday afternoon, I sat down with a lot of coffee and considered the problem. What textures and flavours would complement but not compete with the textures and flavours of the hash browns and salmon. There is just a hint of curry in the hashes, mixed with the salt of the salmon and smooth cheesiness of the sour cream that holds the stack together. Overall it’s quite sweet and smooth.

It all came together quickly after I thought of an avocado base….smooth and sweet…with pineapple, sweet with a fibrous texture…with diced tomato…more tart and something else to bite into. Originally I was going to warm this mix in the microwave – it is winter after all – but opted for a natural heat from a sauce derived from the fried avocado tacos at The Guardian by blending all these together:

1 cup of sour cream

2 small chillies

2 gloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of lime juice

1 bunch of coriander

a smidgen of salt and pepper

The black rice was an afterthought left over from the previous night’s beets, feta and rice…I wasn’t really sure what to do with it otherwise but it worked well in our salad.

The first night I only used a teaspoon-sized dollop of the sauce on the salad – wasn’t enough to appreciate all the flavours. I had one hash stack left over plus about a cup and a half of the salad and other stuff in the fridge from a  week of cooking that I needed to consume to free up fridge space.

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So this is Take Two: one curry kumara salmon stack reheated in the microwave (it was already cooked: normally, I would keep the hash mix uncooked), with a goodly amount of greek yogurt on top, with the salad accompanied by a decent-sized dollop of the coriander and chili sauce, topped with feta from the beets and rice dinner…

Mmmm…primo!!!! A great blend of flavours and textures, with bonus points for good use of left-overs…less points for unused salmon which I just remembered is still sitting in the fridge…

…so tomorrow’s challenge may involve smoked salmon, streaky bacon, feta, sour cream, greek yoghurt, a tomato and an avocado. The rest of the pineapple – all fresh here no canned stuff – is destined for smoothies with banana, chia seed, coconut milk and tumeric…

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If we were having coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having Mum and Dad come to visit for the last week…we even got some halfway decent weather…

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Leaving on the Northern Explorer, heading south…

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Louie found a new walking buddy

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A quiet spot in the sun

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Can’t keep some people out of the garden

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Dad discovers the media centre remote…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having people to cook for the last week. Breakfast and lunch are pretty much self-help here but our dinner menu was pretty on to it:

Day One: Roast Baby Armadillo on a potato, kumara, parsnip mash. This is quick and easy. I only made half the recipe but added the full cup of milk to the bread which made it a bit gooey. I fixed this with a half cup of almond coconut meal (left over from almond coconut milk) which a. worked to soak up the extra milk and b. added an interesting flavour and texture twist to the meat loaf.

Day Two: South African Curry with brown rice. This can be made with meat or not but I had 500 grams of mice left over from the baby armadillo and, due to my currently congested fridge space, this was a good way of consuming it.

Day Three: Fruit Salad Curry with brown rice.

Day FourChicken and Potato Chowder. My plan was to have this with homemade bread but I got a bit careless and put into too much water. The result was a bread with a heart so hard it burst out of the when I tipped up the breadmaker bowl.

Day Five: Beets and Goat Feta on Black Rice. This was the first time I’ve made this with raw beets. These worked as well as if not better than the precooked one I snagged form the supermarket last time by accident.I did go over on the olive oil and had to up the honey and balsamic to compensate…it all worke don the day though..

Day Six: Curry Kumara Hash Browns with Salmon and a neat salad. These hash browns are really nice but I’ve never been able to find a decent side to go with them. In the past I have relied on a dodgy rocket salad but I’m not really a big rocket person. Last night I tried a bit of an experimental salad and sauce that worked really – both of them…more to follow on that soon…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how impressed I was when the train arrived 15 minutes early on Friday…but then it was almost 15 minutes late this afternoon – life balances out but the lesson is to wait in the cafe with your coffee and the crispy fire until it actually pulls up…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m humbled to have gained a seat on the National Park Community Board. Elections aren’t until October but the position wasn’t contested so it’s done and dusted. I’ve probably just signed myself for even more work but I’ve got some catching up to do getting into this community. I’ve lived up here since 2004 but it’s only been since I started to work in the Park that I’ve started to get involved…yes, I do miss the Defence travel sometimes but it doesn’t outweigh coming home each night…

If we were having coffee, I’d be telling you how excited I am to be getting into some new ventures in the Park…

Going bananas

A couple of weeks ago, I journeyed down to Palmerston North for a meeting with a local MP. I had a few errands to run before heading north again, one of which took me to Spotlight for some voile to make my own nut milk bag. The Spotlight shares a car park with New World so I popped in there in search of some of this:

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The Stir It Up line of non-dairy milk powders (almond, coconut, oat and soy) was launched a few weeks prior but had been slow to appear on shelves. My previous supply of coconut milk powder having dried up, I’ve been keen to give it a go.

Anyways, New World had nice big juicy oranges for 99 cents/kg so I mega stocked up; looking back I should have bought twice as much for juicing and freezing. The trouble with juicing oranges is having to peel them all so, being inherently lazy, I googled a solution…which said…peel the oranges…

My quest did lead me to a site – now forgotten –  that listed fruit that could be juiced unpeeled – the short version is most of them less citrus – and extolled the virtues of unpeeled banana…it seems that the lowly banana peel is rich in serotonin which helps keep the demons away of grey winter days…so…

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…remember to take the sticker off – it’s not rich in serotonin – and give the banana a good wash to remove anything unhealthy…hack the ends off and dice the rest up peel and all…

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…slice off and dice up a centimetre ring of pineapple…

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before tossing in a tablespoon of chia seeds – don’t put these in first or they will just glug up at the bottom of the mug – a teaspoon of turmeric (organic from Hardy’s), and four teaspoons of coconut milk powder: this is about the same as a cup of coconut milk. Add filtered water up to the mark, blend, fill to the top with water and blend again.

And that’s half of tomorrow’s lunch done…

I’ve been blending unpeeled bananas for a week or so now with no detrimental side effects…I wouldn’t say that there’s been a big surge of serotonin-based benefits either but it does reduce waste and I am now keen for another crack at banana peel cake, using the kumara cake base from a few weeks ago…

Pumpkin, corn & chilli loaf

 

DSCF0291A  month or so ago, we had a series of minor domestic disasters that led to a flood until the kitchen wall into the back pantry. During the resulting rapid relocation of the pantry’s contents, I uncovered a dehydrator. I always sorta kinda knew it was there but had never been that inspired to pull it out and give it a whirl.

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Post-disaster, since it was already sitting out there on the pool table, I removed the labels – it had never been used – and downloaded the manual. My first victim was a pumpkin that was at risk of passing its best-by date. Three -quarters of it, peeled and diced into 1cm chunks, nicely filled the dehydrators five trays.

I found that the recommended drying time was out by a factor of two i.e. I had to dry the pumpkin chunks twice as long as recommended in the manual. It doesn’t draw much power but is fairly noisy so it’ll be relocated into the newly-dried pantry for future dehydrating missions.

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Three-quarters of a largish pumpkin shrank down to about three cups of pumpkin chips.

Initially this was just a bit of an experiment and a useful fate for a pumpkin that was overstaying its welcome in the fridge. I wasn’t actually too sure what I was going to do with the end product. Then I saw this recipe in the Sunbeam manual…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups dried pumpkin pieces
  • 2 x 125g cans creamed corn
  • ¾ cup extra light sour cream
  • ½ cup coarsely grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 80g butter, melted
  • 1 long fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Spray an 11 x 21cm loaf pan with cooking oil. Line the base and two long opposite sides with non-stick baking paper.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the pumpkin, corn, cream, cheese, eggs, butter and chilli. Stir the mix until just combined and spoon it into the pan, smoothing the surface.
  • Sprinkle the seeds over the top. Bake for about 1 hour 5 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean.
  • Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool slightly. Cut it into slices and serve warm.

Source: Sunbeam DT5600 Food dehydrator manual

It tastes great but is very heavy: a 1cm slice is a good light meal for me. I just drop it in the toaster til it’s nicely toasted and spread a thin layer of butter over the top. Tonight though, I used a very thin layer, maybe 1/2 a teaspoon, of chilli oil instead of butter…yeah, baby!! That rocked!!

In Seeing corn in a new light, I speculated whether heat  was the catalyst for the chilli effect in this oil.. After tonight’s experiment, I can confirm that this chilli oil is definitely self-initiating…

Insights

The pumpkin rehydrates nicely which is good. it is probably also too much pumpkin for a single loaf.I think it couple safely reduced by half especially if the chunks can be run through the grain mill (on a very coarse setting) into smaller bits.

The suggestion of a single chilli is ridiculous: this small amount is completely overwhelmed by the pumpkin and corn. 3-4 long chillies would be more effective.

Two cans of cream corm is overkill. I think that one can plus a cup of either coarse corn meal or drained corn kernels (or a half and half mix of both) might make this loaf less heavy (or more light).

The pumpkin and corn also beat up on the cheddar cheese. This might be better – in a smaller quantity – as topping added just before the loaf is removed from the oven i.e. just melted over the top…

Since I am now doing my own wheat grinding, the next version of this loaf may also use home-ground flour instead of store-bought flour. My goal is to ultimately only use home-ground wheat for all baking, reserving store-bought for mundane tasks like kneading surfaces…

Beetroot Coffee Cake

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I found this recipe years ago. I’ve made it quite a few times, as writ, with the chocolate but always found the the cocoa overwhelmed the colour of the beetroot.

This time I thought that I might drop the cocoa and focus more on the beetroot. I erred in thinking that I needed to sub something in to replace the cocoa – I didn’t actually need to because the cocoa is not vital to the actual baking process – and added one then two (because one seemed too weak) tablespoons of Moccona coffee granules.

Everything else was as per the instructions

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (nope, 2 tablespoons of Moccona coffee)
  • 11/2 cups of flour
  • 11/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  •  A pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of castor sugar
  • 1 cup of light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 3 free range eggs beaten
  • 1 cup of cooked beetroot, pureed
  • 2 tablespoons of walnuts, finely chopped

Method

  • Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Mix with the sugar.
  • Add the oil, vanilla, eggs, beetroot & walnuts.
  • Mix well – until it is a glorious purple colour.
  • Pour into a buttered and floured 18cm (7in) round or square pan.
  • Bake at 190 degrees for 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Cool before removing from the pan.

Icing

  • 1 cup of cashew nuts (110g)
  • 1/4 cup of strong coffee
  • very scant 1/4 teaspoon of black sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon of pure maple syrup (10g)
  • 4 tablespoons of vanilla castor sugar

Place the nuts in a cereal-sized bowl and cover them with water. Let them sit at least 6 hours, or, better still, overnight.

Drain the liquid, then combine all the ingredients in a small food processor or blender until super-smooth.

Apply this evenly over the cooled cake.

Insights

If you’re going to add coffee to a cake, do it the same way as the icing and mix it into a paste or small quantity of super strong coffee. The dark flecks in the cake are the undissolved Moccona granules. The additional moisture might not go astray either.

I hate the quantity of oil that goes into the this recipe but love the rich colour from the beetroot. I’m going to retest on this by using beetroot in the same cake base as last night’s kumara cake. That will probably use more beetroot so I’d be anticipating an even richer colour.

The cashew and coffee icing absolutely rocks!! It makes this cake. The coffee kick is quite strong but any potential bitterness is more than mitigated by the sugar and lemon. It was just a little slushy so next time I will reduce the quantity of liquid in the coffee.

I like walnuts so will double the quantity next time.

Edit: forgot to name my source, Chocolate Covered Katie, which I found through this great list at Skinny Mom – I am keen to try some of these other icings but really want to focus on pumping out moist cakes first…

 

Kumara Cake

DSCF0290.JPGKumara this winter has been on special – $1.99/kg – so I naturally stocked up and then had to find ways of consuming it all: you can only soup so much…this kumara cake had a certain appeal…It’s quite simple (I found the recipe on http://www.foodbox.co.nz)

What you need:

  • 150 grams of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar (I used raw sugar but next time will use a banana or two)
  • 2 cups of flour ( I used high-grade but next time will use my own home-ground flour)
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of salt (I used black sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups of peeled and grated kumara
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts

What you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • Melt the butter and blend in the sugar
  • Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the middle.
  • Mix in the wet ingredients.
  • Mix through the kumara and walnuts into a thick wet mix and pour it into a lined cake tin.
  • Bake it for around an hour til a skewer comes out clean.
  • Once it’s cool, remove it from the cake tin and peel away the baking paper.

Now the good bit…the icing…

Take 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 60 grams of cream cheese, a cup of icing sugar and teaspoon of lemon rind and blend them with a hand blender until the mix is really smooth.

Spread this evenly over the cooled kumara cake…

Don’t forget to lick the spoon…

Insights

Tasty great, with a nice twist between the spice in the cake and lemon of the icing…still a bit dry but I hope that subbing a couple of bananas for the sugar will fix that plus paying more attention to baking times i.e. checking to see if it passes the test before the recommended hour of baking is up…

 

 

Chocolate chip and pumpkin..?

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This was a quick fun recipe a couple of nights ago.

13254909_1002294839818736_7052927233352757553_oI’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of the Harvest Stir It Up range of non-dairy milk powders – not in the Taumarunui New World today …grrrr – and found the link to Kimberley’s Humble Bee Pie blog on the Stir It Up Facebook page and from there I discovered her recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

It is so fantastically simple,  you almost expect it to come with Admiral Ackbar’s warning…

…but it is this simple…take all of this:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of LSA. (ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons of oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup of milk (I used almond coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon or nutmeg (nutmeg because it was the first one I saw)
  • 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (I used white chocolate buttons because a. I don’t like dark chocolate that much and b. I have a bag I bought for our deluxe extreme bread and butter pudding before Terri and I figured that the white chocolate chips got better distribution through the mix)

…and dump it in the blender and stir it all up for a minute or so before spooning the mixture into muffin trays.

Bake them for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees.

When they’re done i.e. browned on top and a skewer comes out clean, take them out and let them cool for half and hour or so before taking them out of the trays.

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Yummy

Pour encourager les autres

Baking cakes is not yet one of my fortes…I can do a mean beetroot chocolate cake but I’m not really a chocolatey type – note to self: try it without the chocolate or significantly reducing it – and so what’s the point…The banana peel cake was OK but fairly bland and had enough sugar in it to excite a kindergarten of pre-schoolers…

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Toasted

I’m getting right into coconut as a core ingredient and bought some coconut flour from Hardy’s in Taupo to try it out as an alternative to wheat flour and because I like trying new things our.

I searched for cool things to do with coconut flour and found this recipe for a coconut cake + coconut icing that was dairy- and processed sugar-free. I also liked that it was a Kiwi website as well so there was no need to translate any ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup liquid honey
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Directions

  • Preheat oven 170C. Line and grease a 25cm springform cake tin.
  • In a small saucepan gently melt the coconut oil until liquid. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey. Add the eggs one at a time whisking well between additions, then add the vanilla and lemon juice.
  • Combine the coconut flour, baking soda, salt and desiccated coconut in a large bowl. Pour over the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to combine. The mixture will be quite wet but the coconut flour will absorb a lot of moisture as it bakes.
  • Pour into the tin and bake for 30-­35 minutes. Check with a skewer.
  • Remove from the tin and cool completely on a cake rack.

The cake itself was quite easy to make but came out a bit dry but I’ll take responsibility for that – got distracted with someone else and left it in the oven an extra five minutes or so. I also didn’t read into the comment about the coconut flour soaking up a lot of the liquid in the mix. I dallied before pouring it into the baking dish: it started to set in the bowl and didn’t lie smoothly in the dish.

It was the icing that destined this cake to be recycled. Because the top was so uneven, I caked the icing on thicker than was good, so thick that the taste and smooth texture of the icing overwhelmed the cake buried beneath. I should have delayed using this icing recipe until I had some more natural coconut i.e. other than the supermarket coconut that the recipe warned might be too dry and/or defatted. I couldn’t get it to breakdown into butter so I added more coconut oil which kinda worked – if it hadn’t been so thick.

I did try toasting the top of the iced cake to see if that lightened it up at all. It was a slight improvement and would have worked had the icing not been so damn thick.

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Ready to recycle

The cake and the icing are both largely coconut so, deeming this particular attempt sub-optimal, I recycled it through the blender into my growing stash of almond/coconut meal from my increasingly more frequent production of almond coconut milk. On the upside, I shared half the initial production with the taste team at the Ohakune I-Site, and catching up with them today – with some oatmeal pumpkin muffins, they were surprised that I’d thought this mix a failure.

That sub-optimal performance was largely down to me, and mainly in the icing. I bought some coconut chips today from the natural bulk shop in Taumarunui and will give this another go soon…

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Efficient use of energy: drying almond coconut meal (mixed with blended failed coconut cake) on top of the woodburner