Gluten-free, dairy free and no added fat
The We Should Cocoa challenge this month is hosted by Michelle, of Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, a blog I haven't come across before, but which invites further investigation, with it's detailed posts and bright photographs.
For her theme she has asked us to bake something which contains chocolate in some form, but is gluten-free. I'm not a regular gluten-free baker, although I do occasionally cook for a couple of friends who are gluten-free eaters. As I don't have gluten-free flours in stock (other than cornflour for sauces and gravies), I prefer to find recipes which never contained flour in the first place, rather than try to adapt existing recipes to work with flours which may have different characteristics to wheat flour.
This cake recipe, which is similar to the classic whole-orange and almond cake made famous by Claudia Roden, is adapted from an Annie Bell recipe, and has become my favourite gluten-free cake. It has the bonus of being dairy-free too, although there are some natural fats present from the eggs, almonds and chocolate. It can turn out very moist, which makes it an excellent dessert too, when served with a suitable cream or ice-cream.
Over time, I've made a few changes to Annie Bell's recipe, as I find it rises better if the eggs are separated, and the whisked egg whites folded into the batter. In this version, I used dried pears instead of apricots, left out the cocoa and added 100g of chopped chocolate to give a bigger chocolate hit. I also had a couple of egg whites in the fridge to use up, so instead of 6 whole eggs, I used 5 eggs plus the two extra whites.
225 g dried pears, roughly chopped
2 egg whites
200g caster sugar
225g ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
100g (85% cocoa solids) chocolate, finely chopped (gluten- and dairy-free)
Base line a 20cm (8") deep non-stick loose-based cake tin. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
Simmer the dried pears with 250mls of water, until the fruit is soft and the water almost absorbed. Cool a little, then purée in a food processor or with a stick blender. If necessary, add a little more water so that the final consistency of the purée is thick but not too solid - I like it just a little looser than canned pumpkin purée. Leave to cool completely.
Separate the whole eggs, then beat all the egg whites together until at the soft peak stage. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a second bowl, until pale and thick. Fold the pear purée into the egg yolk mixture, followed by the almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and chopped chocolate. Lastly, add the egg whites, in three portions - stir in the first portion thoroughly then gently fold in the remaining portions, to keep in as much air as possible.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs clinging - no raw batter. If your fruit purée was a little on the loose side, baking may take a little longer. Immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake, between the cake and the tin, to completely loosen it, but leave in the tin until cold before turning out. Using the knife like this makes sure that if the cake sinks, it does so fairly evenly.
This was a delicious cake with a moist texture, although the pear flavour wasn't strong. The bitter chocolate stopped it being too sweet.
Choclette, at Chocolate Log Blog, and the full set of rules can be found on her blog. Briefly, the aim is to produce something containing some form of chocolate plus the chosen ingredient or task for the month. The host (in this case, Michelle, see above) posts a round-up of all the entries at the end of the month.