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Dairy-free Orange Cake

I do love the lightness of dairy-free cakes and muffins, and there’s a lot less guilt when you eat them for breakfast or have several servings over the course of a day!

In coming up with this orange cake recipe, I researched Italian cake recipes as using olive oil is quite common. Italian cuisine doesn’t have the tradition of adding butter to cakes and a lot of Italians actually don’t like the heavy richness of butter in cakes. I do love the taste of butter, but am enjoying experimenting and adapting recipes to make them a bit healthier (or friendlier for lactose-intolerant friends). I also reduced the sugar content.

dairy-free orange cake

Experimenting with this recipe I liked having a bit more control over the lightness of the cake by using plain flour and adding my own amounts of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to the flour, but you can easily just use 2 cups of self-raising flour omitting the baking powder and bicarb.

My next experiment is to do a dairy-free mandarin version, and I’m sure a lemon one would be delicious too.

DAIRY-FREE ORANGE CAKE

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 50-60 mins

2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 medium-sized oranges
1/3 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar (for serving)

Preheat your oven to 170C and lightly grease a 22cm spring-form cake tin.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together.

Cut a slice off the top and the bottom of each orange (to reduce the amount of peel in the cake) and discard the slices. Cut the oranges into quarters and discard any seeds.

Put the orange chunks in a food processor and blend until the rind is fairly evenly broken up but there is still some texture. Add the olive oil and blend a little.

Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until combined. Pour the mixture back into the large bowl you used for the flour.

Beat the eggs by hand until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Gently fold through the orange mixture.

Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Sprinkle with the icing sugar just before serving.

AlphaBakes LogoI’m linking this recipe to the AlphaBakes monthly challenge (this month it’s the letter ‘O’) jointly hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More than Occasional Baker.

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Chewy chai cookies

There’s something wonderfully comforting about oatmeal cookies, especially ones with soft chewy centres. We regularly make variations of our chewy oaty biscuits, which Nicholas likes to both make and eat, but I wanted to try making some with the warm and lightly spiced flavour of my beloved vanilla chai tea.

While these are not the healthiest snack, I’ve reduced the sugar content quite a bit (by a third!) so you can feel less guilty eating them. If you prefer sweeter cookies you can also add a handful of raisins or sultanas to the cookie dough.

Oatmeal oaty biscuits

If you can’t get hold of vanilla chai teabags, look at my tip below the recipe for recreating the flavours with spices you probably already have in your cupboard.

I make these quite small (they’re about 5cm in diameter after cooking), so you can indulge with less guilt. The recipe is easily doubled though if you prefer to make bigger ones.

CHEWY CHAI COOKIES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10-12 mins
Makes 12 small cookies

60g butter, chopped
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
75g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
50g (1/2 cup) plain flour
50g (1/4 cup) soft brown sugar
2 vanilla chai tea bags (leaves only)

Preheat your oven to 160C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Gently melt the butter and honey (or agave nectar) either in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Leave to cool.

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and tea leaves together in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour in the cooled melted butter and honey, and mix until combined.

Roll the mixture into small balls and place well apart on the prepared tray. Press down with the back of an oiled spoon to flatten them slightly.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until just starting to turn brown, flattening them again with the back of an oiled spoon after about 5 mins of cooking. (If you prefer crunchy cookies, cook them for a few minutes longer until turned golden brown.)

Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for 5 mins to firm up before transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool.

Variations:

  • Use a dairy-free margarine instead of the butter to make dairy-free cookies;
  • Add a handful of dried fruit such as raisins, chopped dried apricot, dried apple or dried strawberries;
  • Add chocolate chips to the mixture or drizzle the baked cookies with melted chocolate;
  • Add flaked almonds.

Tip: instead of using the vanilla chai tea leaves, make your own chai spice mix by combining 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, a pinch of ground cloves and a pinch of freshly ground pepper. Also add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence to your cookie dough.

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I’m linking this recipe to the AlphaBakes monthly challenge (this month it’s the letter ‘C’) jointly hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More than Occasional Baker (and I’m quietly very proud of achieving a triple letter ‘C’ this time ;))

Spinach crepes

We pretty much always have fresh spinach on hand. It’s easy to throw in a handful to boost the nutritional content of a surprising number of meals. A few leaves get added to Nicholas’ breakfast banana milkshake and my morning protein shake, a few handfuls into dinner casseroles just at the end of cooking, and pasta sauces, scrambled egg and savoury muffins also often have some spinach.

If you want to wilt the spinach before adding it, don’t get out a frying pan. Fill up your kettle and turn it on, put the spinach leaves in a sieve and then pour over the just boiled water. Use a wooden spoon to press out as much excess water as you can and, when it’s cool enough to touch, squeeze out more with your hands. Easy and less washing up to do!

savoury crepes

Adding spinach to a crepe mixture works really well. You end up with amazingly green crepes (we call them ‘monster food’) without any bits of spinach your little one might be tempted to pull out. Fill them with your munchkin’s favourite filling and they should be a hit.

My recipe feeds 2 adults plus 1-2 toddlers, but is easily doubled so you can freeze some for another day (put baking paper between them before you freeze them to separate them more easily), or keep the leftover batter in the fridge to make more the next day.

Leftover crepes also work really well in lunchboxes. Spread with a soft cheese and some ham, roll up like a swiss roll and cut slices about 2cm thick.

SPINACH CREPES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 6 crepes
Freezable (without filling)

50g fresh spinach
150ml milk
75g plain flour
1 egg
1 tsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
Fillings such as grated cheese, sliced ham, shredded cooked chicken, sliced tomatoes.

Preheat your oven to 120C.

Put the spinach and milk into a bowl or jug and use a stab blender to combine until the spinach has completely broken up (or use a small food processor).

Add the flour and egg and blend again. Finally add the melted butter.

Put a small frying pan over a medium-low heat and either coat with cooking spray or a little extra butter (wipe any excess butter away with kitchen towel).

Add a ladleful of batter and swirl the pan to evenly coat the base.

Cook for 1-2 minutes on the first side (the edges will start to curl up) then turn to cook the other side. Turn the temperature down to low and add your fillings. Cook for another minute before folding in half and then in quarters.

Put the cooked crepes into an ovenproof dish and put in the oven to keep warm as you make the rest.

AlphaBakes LogoI’m linking this recipe to the AlphaBakes monthly challenge (this month it’s the letter ‘C’) jointly hosted by Ros from The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes.

Sugar-free Anzac biscuits

Tomorrow (25th of April) is ANZAC Day. The word ‘ANZAC’ (an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was coined during WW1 to refer to the Aussie and Kiwi troops in Egypt. More than 10,000 of them lost their lives during the campaign to capture Gallipoli in Turkey, which saw them landing on the penisula on the 25th of April 1915. Now ANZAC Day not only remembers these WW1 soldiers but all the Australian and New Zealand men and women who have served and died in wars.

Anzac biscuits came about supposedly when the soldiers’ loved ones wanted to send them something nutritious from home. They had to send something that could withstand a couple of months travel without refrigeration and use ingredients that were readily available during the war. The traditional Anzac biscuit of rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water was born.

sugar-free Anzac biscuits

If you would like to make the traditional Anzac biscuit there are many recipes online, including this one on the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee website and also here (with a choice of crisp or chewy biscuits).

I experimented to make a sugar-free, more toddler-friendly version. Instead of the sugar and golden syrup (or treacle in some recipes), I used honey and applesauce (unsweetened pureed apple). The texture with these two substitutions produces a biscuit with a soft chewy centre, but you can make them less chewy by flattening out the biscuits as much as possible before cooking them.

They went down very well with Nicholas (he’s had them as snacks and also for breakfast, and they survive dunking in milk very well). Hubby, who usually doesn’t like my sugar-free experiments, has happily eaten them without complaint, while I’ve also scoffed a few feeling a lot less guilty than if they were packed with sugar.

This would be a great recipe to try making with your munchkins, but because of the honey it’s advised not to give these biscuits to little ones under 12 months old. It’s also a recipe that’s easy to halve if you don’t want to make so many biscuits.

SUGAR-FREE ANZAC BISCUITS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes about 30 biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup applesauce / apple puree
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 160C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

Gently melt the butter with the honey either in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Let cool.

Combine the rolled oats, plain flour and coconut.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the boiling water and add it to the cooled butter mixture.

Stir the butter and bicarbonate of soda mixture into the dry ingredients, add the applesauce or puree and mix until combined.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture (it’s normal that it’s quite runny) onto your prepared trays and flattened the mixture out (the thicker the biscuit the softer and more chewier the centre will be). Unlike traditional Anzac biscuits, these won’t spread any more during cooking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove carefully from the trays (they’ll still be quite soft) to cool on a wire rack.

Other uses:

  • Use the biscuits as the base for individual unbaked cheesecakes: place a whole biscuit in the bottom of a muffin tin (lined with a paper case to get it out more easily), top with your preferred cheesecake mix and refrigerate.
  • Use broken up biscuits as a crumble topping for cooked fruit.

I’m linking this recipe to the AlphaBakes monthly challenge (this month it’s the letter ‘A’) jointly hosted by Ros from The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes.
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