Healthy Dessert Experiment: Flourless Fruit Crumble

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Crumbles are one of my favourite desserts. A great example of how a little goes a long way: fruit + a few other ingredients, put together in a way that transforms everything into a warm happy mess :D And I’ve realized they can be real crowd pleasers, too. I think the humble crumble- and her many cousins- are uncomplicated, forgiving desserts that won’t let you down.

Yeah. I really feel for crumble. Is it strange to have feelings for a dessert?

Hmmm…I’ve come this far, so I might as well take the liberty to ramble a little longer. Here are 5 more reasons why I think you absolutely must involve crumbles in your dessert routine.

  • Crispy on top + juicy and melting beneath.
  • No fancy baking equipment required. No whisking. No whipping. You don’t even need a fork!
  • You can serve them individually.
  • It takes less time to assemble than a pie or a cake.
  • You can make them with any kind of fruit! (Ok, perhaps not with watermelon. We’d best leave those for juices, smoothies or as they are. But has anyone had a watermelon crumble? Let me know.)

This *healthy* crumble came about as a way to use up leftover almond meal and Granny Smith apples. I usually make my crumble topping with some butter, sugar, flour and oats, but I thought Hey! Almond meal. Why not? And if you have a guest, friend or anybody who eats gluten-free, then this crumble is the way to go. (I pulse my own almond meal with the skin on, FYI.)

The flourless stone fruit crumble from It's All Good image courtesy  | www.self.com

Flourless stone fruit crumble from It’s All Good
image courtesy | http://www.self.com

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the Flourless Anything Crumble recipe from It’s All Good. In it, Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen came up with a vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free crumble recipe, for any kind of stone fruit. I didn’t go the vegan or sugar-free route, just opted for the use of almond meal instead of flour. You could easily stick to the healthier option as outlined in the book: leave out the butter, swap the oats for quinoa flakes, and sub the granulated sugar for a combination of maple syrup + brown rice syrup. (Quinoa flakes and brown rice syrup are things I will probably not buy. Like ever. So I just converted the healthy recipe into a with-sugar, with-dairy version.)

 

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FLOURLESS APPLE CRUMBLE (Adapted from It’s All Good.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Granny Smith Apples, cored and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar+ 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 2-3 tablespoons cold butter

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C
  • In a bowl, toss the chopped apples with the lemon/lime juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon powder and set aside.
  • In another bowl, mix the almond meal and 4 tablespoons granulated sugar until well combined.
  • Work the cold butter into the almond meal mixture with your fingers until it’s rubble-y and like wet sand.
  • Divide the chopped apples between individual ramekins.
  • Crumble the mixture over the fruit and bake until the top is browned, about 15-20 minutes. (Do check on your crumbles, since oven temperatures vary- I took mine out at 15, other ovens may need more or less time.)

 

Nigella Lawson’s Baby Bundts + Making Allowances

Does the world need another recipe for a lemony cake? I suppose not. But is this one worth sharing? Yes. I think all cake is worth sharing!

I’ve been baking quite a lot from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess over the past two months. It’s a book I’ve owned for over 2 years, but it’s only now getting some quality time in the kitchen.  I’ve made a few of her recipes before- cherry-almond loaf cake, store-cupboard chocolate orange cake, Victoria sponge cake, and some others, with pretty good results.

The new cover  image courtesy | nigella.com

The new cover
image courtesy | nigella.com

The old edition, which I have image courtesy | unibooks.co.au

The old edition, which I have
image courtesy | unibooks.co.au

The thing with me is, I try new recipes often enough, but when it comes to baking something for a potluck or dinner party, I always end up baking the same few recipes over and over again. There’s Nigella’s chocolate olive oil cake, a simple vanilla sponge cake, or a lemony loaf cake. I get nervous about busting out something new that I’ve never baked before.

I am also hit with a slight sense of anxiety: invariably, there will be someone in the party who detests a particular flavour; and it is near impossible to please everyone. When I bake, I pretty much choose between two broad categories: is it going to be a chocolatey cake, or a fruity one? (This could be anything from a citrusy oil-based cake to banana bread or a strawberry/apple cake.) If I decide to make a fruity cake, there will be someone who detests Granny Smith apples, cannot stomach strawberries or hates bananas.

And with chocolate- yes, there are plenty of people who really do not like chocolate. Being a chocoholic myself, I used to find it absurd. I couldn’t understand how people could dislike the taste of chocolate, or caramel, or dislike dessert altogether. I’d feel bad if someone passed up dessert, or said, “I don’t eat chocolate, I’ll pass.” Even though they had a perfectly valid reason- I’d still feel a bit let down. They don’t like cake. They don’t want my cake. When cooking and gathering around the table to feed friends and family is your happy place, you have a tendency to be blind to smaller appetites and cautious eaters.

And then I looked at my own eating habits. I am not a big meat-eater. If there’s mutton masala, fish curry or fried prawns on table, I’ll eat a small amount. I usually don’t take seconds, and even with biryani, I end up taking a single piece of chicken or meat, while the rest of the party is digging in for more. Being less enthusiastic about non-vegetarian food- this behaviour could very well be perceived as strange by the host/hostess, right? S/he could be thinking: Meenakshi doesn’t like my mutton masala.

So when it comes to personal taste, one really can’t judge.Some of us don’t enjoy meat. Some people just really.hate.chocolate. And while my 20-year-old self would have gotten all high-pitchy with a chocolate-hater and argued “How can anyone NOT like chocolate?,” now I’ve learnt to just let it be. Create with love and serve everyone: if they enjoy it and get themselves seconds, wonderful. If they’d rather not indulge, it’s all good. Make allowances. Be accepting of tastes not aligned with your own.

This recipe is also about making allowances. It’s a recipe for baby bundts- except I don’t have a bundt pan, baby or XL. I do own a mini donut tray, so I used that instead. So it’s not a baby bundt- but maybe we can pretend it’s a baby ring cake?

We had a family potluck last month and I decided to make this instead of my standard chocolate cake or fruity loaf. I figured it would be easy to eat and portion out or carry home. And if someone didn’t like it too much- they’d have to endure only 3-4 bites in total!

The way the ingredients are mixed is muffin-like: wet and dry mixed separately, then combined. Considering the amount of yoghurt in the batter, I expected a moister cake, but this one was quite springy. The glaze, of course, helped. All in all it’s a fun and agreeable little cake- not too fancy, not too shy.

I don’t have a picture of the glaze- but don’t leave it out- it’s not as nice without it :)

NIGELLA LAWSON’S BABY BUNDTS (From How To Be A Domestic Goddess.)

INGREDIENTS

The Cake

  • 125 ml natural yoghurt
  • 75 g butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 150 g flour
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

The Glaze

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 200 g icing sugar

METHOD

The Cake

  • In a measuring jug or bowl, mix the yoghurt, melted butter, eggs, and lemon zest until combined.
  • In a separate larger bowl, lightly whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, folding until everything is combined.
  • Pour the batter into baby bundt moulds (in my case, mini donut moulds!) and bake at 170 C for 25-30 minutes.
  • Once cooled, ice the cakes with the sugary glaze.

The Glaze

  • Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, and slowly pour in as much lemon juice as you need to make an icing that is thick enough to hold shape but drizzle down the sides.

 

Healthy Dessert Experiment: Chocolate Avocado Pudding

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You know I love sugar. It’s in the title of my blog. I consume quite a lot of it. And I know it is not ideal. When I know it’s getting too much, and my skin starts to show signs of it, I just cut back.

I’ll forego chocolate altogether, and eat nuts and fruit for a sweet fix after a meal. (Ideally, one should be doing that most of the time…but alas! I am, at my core, a dessert-adoring, sugar-loving human.) I have tried, but while I am able to cut back, I can never really cut out dessert completely. It’s the Gretchen Rubin moderator vs abstainer theory- except I fall into neither category! I find it easier to stay off sugar completely for pockets of time, (meaning no peanut butter, no jelly, only pesto on my toast,) instead of lowering my sugar intake. After I’ve been off it for a while, I’ll start to indulge again, slowly (but surely!) And then, I am once again consuming more than I should, so I go back to abstaining for a while. It’s an unhealthy pattern, but it’s how I get by.

But…there is a way, you know. Apart from abstaining and moderating. Healthy desserts. The kind without gluten, or sugar, or dairy, like a Babycakes NYC cupcake.

I’ve been reading some special diet/healthy cooking blogs for a while now, learning more about vegan, gluten-free, whole-food and raw diets. And if you are looking to understand more about raw food, Laura Miller’s Sidesaddle Kitchen is a great resource. On her YouTube show Raw.Vegan.Not.Gross, she dishes up some pretty decadent lookin’ brownies, cake, and ice-cream, using all-natural, raw, unprocessed ingredients. While I won’t be making cauliflower pizza or walnut ‘meatballs’ anytime soon, her dessert recipes are more approachable and a good starting point if you are interested in eating raw.

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Chocolate avocado pudding is nothing new- I encountered it first on Fitsugar, and was surprised at how rich and creamy it looked. Not runny, not sticky, just glossy, a little firm, and creamy- like Jell-O pudding. And after I saw Laura’s version (even glossier and creamier,) and learned the health benefits of this magic pudding, I made a trip to the grocer the next day to pick up some avocados.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I left out the nama shoyu- but I did use the balsamic and increased the salt to ½ teaspoon since I was not using nama shoyu. Also, I used light olive oil instead of coconut oil, because the coconut oil here in India has a much stronger, nuttier flavour, which would be overpowering.

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO PUDDING (From Sidesaddle Kitchen.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large avocados, peeled and pitted
  • ½ cup agave nectar or maple syrup
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Serve!

Takeaways:

♥ Convenience: I give this recipe a 10/10. It’s quick and easy and comes together in minutes, all you need is a blender and your ingredients measured out.

♥  The Health Kick: Well, it’s definitely better for you than  Nigella Lawson’s chocolate pots de crème. Just avocado, natural sweetener and cocoa powder- no eggs, cream or butter, but the same dreamy, rich texture!

♥  The Taste: Hmmm. It’s good folks. Pretty darn good. But somewhere, I did feel like I was eating a chocolate-flavoured avocado. Perhaps it had to do with the quality of the cocoa powder- had I used some phancy raw cacao powder, I’m sure it would have added a richer chocolate taste.

Do you like attempting healthier desserts or would you rather indulge in old-fashioned bad-for-you desserts once in a while?