Vegan and sugar free Banoffee Coconut Chia Pudding

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’ve got a pretty big sweet tooth.  I bloody love chocolate, cakes, slices, pies…you name it, I probably like it.  So when my friend and CRR supporter Anna found a vegan and sugar free dessert recipe, I wasn’t exactly all gung-ho about the idea.  It’s not a dessert unless there’s something sweet and not all too healthy for you.  But hey, I’m open to trying things out, and just maybe this dessert will change my mind about anything sugar-free.

This dessert would be perfect for Valentine’s Day, as it’s served in individual cups, it has chocolate, and well…it’s a dessert!

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This recipe is from Taste.com.au, and as you might know if you’ve been following the blog, that website is a bit hit or miss. There’s been on more than one occassion where I’ve found steps missing, ingredients not listed in instructions, or the recipe itself leads to a lacklustre end product.  So already before starting I was on the fence about this already.

But anyway, here we go!

Check out the review video here.

 

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Here’s the original recipe:

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons water
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, water and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

The Good, the bad, the inedible

Let’s talk dollars.  This recipe is fucking expensive.  Not just expensive.  Fucking expensive.  I spent nearly $40 on the ingredients.  Now I don’t know about you, but I could spend $40 on food easily.  But $40 usually lasts me a week in groceries.  So quite frankly if you’re living on a budget, don’t do this recipe.  It’s ridiculous to think that health and organic food can be significantly more pricey than economical (and let’s face it) unhealthier food.  It’s sad, and pathetic.

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Okay, rant over!

Worth adding here also that this recipe is not technically 100% sugar free.  Rice malt syrup happens to contain different forms of glucose, but not fructose, which is the refined sugar that is oh so bad for us.  So this recipe can’t actually be called sugar free.  Thanks to a commentator called SudsEats for pointing this out.

I was a bit surprised by this recipe.  It’s incredibly easy to make.  There was just one problem (okay, it’s technically a second problem if you count the whole price thing).  This pudding is called “Banoffee Coconut Chia pudding”. However, you can’t taste the coconut at all in the recipe.

No I’m serious. It doesn’t take like coconut at all.

You would think that if there’s a food within the name that the food product would actually taste like it.  I was expecting this to almost taste similar to a Bounty.  It was so far from it.  Instead it really just tasted like chocolate, so perhaps this should be called Banoffee Chocolate Chia Puddings.

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But for those of you out there who love the taste of coconut, there’s still hope! I tried a few different alternatives to adding water and the winning combination was….drum roll…..coconut extract and time! Coconut liquor added some coconut flavour, but not enough to really taste a difference with the original recipe.  Coconut extract plus leaving the puddings in the fridge for as long as possible (try overnight) however added the perfect amount of coconutty goodness.  It was delish!

Just a word of caution, if you want to ensure this dessert remains sugar free, double check your extract doesn’t contain any added sugar. Most extracts I found don’t but worth confirming.  You never know!

So if you love chocolaty goodness, keep the recipe the same.  Otherwise, here’s the improved, significantly more coconutty recipe!

Banoffee Coconut Chia Puddings

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons coconut extract
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, extract and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight to chill. If leaving the puddings overnight, cover the pudding in plastic wrap to prevent the puddings from drying.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

 

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Toffee – Easy to Make, Easy to Eat

Christmas is quite literally now around the corner.  Our tree is up, presents wrapped, our favourite Christmas movies on the telly and fruit mince pies cooling on the counter.  I have to admit, the older I get the more I love spending Christmas Eve at home with Minou and the hubster, grazing on fantastic food and drinking a special bottle from the cellar.

Every year I  make a small treat boxes for my coworkers, as a way to say thank you for a fantastic year.  I try to make a variety of goodies, but as you can imagine things can get a bit hectic around the holidays, and this year was no exception.  Since November I haven’t been exactly sure which way is up or which day it is.  It has been cray cray (in a good way) at work in the lead up to Christmas, then there was Turkey Day where the green bean casserole from my previous post was a hit, and before you know it, Christmas is here.

So this year it was time to think small and simple.  Fruit mince pies are always a hit, but this year there are a few vegetarians and religious restrictions in the team, so I needed an alternative.  Mom on Timeout’s toffee recipe came through on my Facebook feed in the nick of time.  It seemed easy enough to create and plus hey, I love hard toffee.  Win win!


Here’s my video of the test.

Here’s the original recipe:

Mom on Timeout’s “Better than Anything” Toffee

Ingredients
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) Challenge unsalted butter (Of course, you can use your favourite butter.  Challenge butter doesn’t exist here in Australia)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9-inch (23 centimeter) square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, and salt to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, remove from heat and gently stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  8. Let the candy sit for a few minutes, undisturbed, before sprinkling the chocolate chips over the top.
  9. Cover the baking dish with foil and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  10. Remove the foil and gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  11. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  12. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  13. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  14. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

I’ve actually never made toffee, so this was an exciting challenge for me.  The recipe seems really easy, just a matter of dumping in ingredients and letting them bubble away.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

Yeah….the first test was a fail.  Absolute epic fail.  The toffee split when it hit about 250F, making the brown, curdled gluggy mess.  I had no idea what I had done wrong!  After doing some research there’s a few possibilities.

  • Stirring too hard and too often- This I think is the most likely reason.  Stirring too hard could possibly cause an abrupt temperature shift, which is a big no no for toffee.
  • Increasing or decreasing heat too drastically could also cause this.  I’ll admit I was very gentle stirring this bath, and I was using a whisk, so maybe while whisking too hard, I added too much cool air and just the force of my whisking caused it to split.
  • Using a cheap saucepan that doesn’t distribute heat properly – Yeah nah.  That’s definitely not me! Scanpan and Le Creuset all the way!
  • Humidity – water and fat don’t mix, so if it’s too humid in your kitchen this could also cause your toffee to split.

So with the second test I made sure to not stir the pot too much and too vigorously.  And that certainly helped me get a successful toffee!  Woohoo! My dentist is going to love me the next time he sees me!


There area  few things with this recipe I would change.  It’s not the ingredients, but more the order of adding ingredients in. I would add the vanilla in at the very beginning with the sugar and butter, as it does splatter around in the hot pan and also to prevent any drastic temperature changes in the toffee.  You’re not putting much vanilla in, but let’s just air on the side of caution and safety.  Nobody likes burnt fingers, hands and faces.

I would also use a 9 x 13 inch pan instead of a square 9 x 9 inch pan.  I like my toffee a bit thinner instead of thicker chunks.  But hey that’s just my personal preference, you are welcome to do what you wish!  Mom on Timeout also uses milk chocolate chips, but considering how sweet the toffee already is I used semi sweet chocolate chips in the second test to cut through the sweetness a bit.  But again you’re welcome to try either milk or dark, or maybe a combination of both if you prefer!

Here’s the amended recipe with my suggested edits:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9 x 13 inch (23cm x 33cm) pan square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, salt and vanilla to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  7. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  8. Gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  9. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  10. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  11. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  12. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

 

Did my coworkers like the toffee?  Considering it was very quiet in the office as they munched on it, I reckon they did!

From my family to yours, have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year, full of cheer and goodies!

One hot chocolate Mess

I haven’t had the best of luck with cheesecakes.  The first one I ever tried was a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, which I was making for a dinner party the hubby and I were throwing at our humble abode.  Yeah…that was a memorable experience.  I nearly set the oven on fire in our then Malibu Barbie pink kitchen (Yes.  It was pink.  It was hideously pink.  Have I ever told you how much I hate the colour pink?) and I had to resort to finishing the cheesecake off on our barbecue, which much to my surprise actually worked!  And the cheesecake wasn’t half bad.  But I’ve never had a cheesecake really work smoothly, with impeccable results.

I decided the best way to start the building this blog was to return where the idea for Clem’s Recipe Reviews all began – BuzzFeed Food’s Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake.  As mentioned in my first post, this recipe is one hot mess.  And testing it for the blog again certainly did not disappoint in the epic failure that this recipe is. At least it confirmed my belief that the disastrous result was not due to human error, and I didn’t set my oven on fire!

Here’s the recipe. I’ve added metric conversion just in case you want to try this yourself –

INGREDIENTS

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
¼ cup brown sugar
7 tablespoons (99 grams) butter, melted
Cheesecake
32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (113 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
Chocolate Ganache
16 ounces (450 grams) chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream, hot
PREPARATION
# Preheat oven to 300˚F/150˚C.

# Place cookies in plastic bag and crush them into a fine crumb using a rolling pin. Alternatively, a food processor can be used to crush the cookies.

# Pour the cookie crumbs into a medium bowl with the melted butter and brown sugar. Mix until the crumbs take on the character of a coarse, wet sand.
# Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch spring pan. Press the crumb firmly into the pan, making sure to coat the bottom evenly. Once the crust has been formed, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.

# Add cream cheese, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and sugar to a large bowl and whisk, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until all the ingredients are incorporated. (NOTE: If mixing by hand, it is recommended to microwave the cream cheese before whisking in order to soften it up.) Add vanilla extract and eggs, and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

# In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar. Whisk until the cream develops a mousse-y texture and soft peaks form.

# Adding a small amount at a time, carefully fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese batter, being careful not to let the air out of the fluffy mixture. Fold just until incorporated.

# Once combined, pour the batter over the prepared cookie crust inside the springform pan. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. Give the pan a slight jiggle to release any large air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter.

# Place the filled pan on top of a sheet of aluminium foil and fold the foil up the sides on the outside of the pan. Then place the wrapped pan into a larger baking pan or dish lined with 2 paper towels at the bottom. The aluminium foil will keep water from seeping into the bottom of the pan and the paper towels ensure that the heat is distributed evenly along the bottom of the pan. Fill the larger pan with about 1 inch of hot water.

# Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes to add more hot water to the larger dish, as necessary.

# Once out of the oven, immediately run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.

# Prepare the ganache by combining chocolate chips with hot cream. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is smooth and glossy.

# Pour ganache evenly over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the ganache covered cake for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

The Good, the Bad, and the Inedible

In a nutshell, this recipe…is shit. Pure shit. It’s an insult to cheesecakes everywhere. How this managed to be published just baffles me.

There’s two major things wrong with this recipe. The proportion of the ingredients is completely disproportionate to the size of pan, and the baking method actually doesn’t bake the cheesecake.

Let’s start at the beginning with the crust.

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
¼ cup brown sugar
7 tablespoons (99 grams) butter, melted

First of all, WAY too much butter.  So much so it leaks into the foil when it’s baking.  This was the very same problem with my White Chocolate Raspberry cheesecake.  Butter and a crappy rental apartment over do not mix.

Also, what’s the point of the brown sugar?  Chocolate sandwich cookies already have an incredible amount of sugar already in them (and surprisingly…some of them are vegan!), so what’s the point of adding even more to the crust? Unless you want your teeth to well and truly rot out of your skull as you’re eating this mess, there really isn’t any point in having this ingredient.

Now on to the batter.

Cheesecake
32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (113 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar

The batter really has great potential.  Again, it’s the proportion of the ingredients that throws the recipe off into shitty food oblivion.  The ingredients create such a beautiful, decadent, glossy filling.  But good God there’s way too much mousse for this size cake pan, about 2 1/2 cups extra.  You can nearly make two of these cheesecakes if you follow these instructions to the letter.

The nail in the coffin for this recipe is the baking method.

# Place the filled pan on top of a sheet of aluminium foil and fold the foil up the sides on the outside of the pan. Then place the wrapped pan into a larger baking pan or dish lined with 2 paper towels at the bottom. The aluminium foil will keep water from seeping into the bottom of the pan and the paper towels ensure that the heat is distributed evenly along the bottom of the pan. Fill the larger pan with about 1 inch of hot water.

# Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes to add more hot water to the larger dish, as necessary.

The first time I tried this, I put the cheesecake in a large pot.

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Second time I tried it in my Sunday roast pan, thinking perhaps a lack of air flow was the culprit in this cake not baking.  Neither method worked. The result was a half baked, hot chocolate mess.  When I removed it from the pan to add the ganache, it just fell apart like in the image below.  Epic effing fail.

There was absolutely no point in continuing or re-attempting the recipe at this point.  I had already made it twice as per my rules and it certainly was not my baking skills that were putting this recipe to shame.

As I made this recipe I took notes. Heaps of notes, so I had a relatively good idea on what to do to make this recipe successful.  So I put my changes to the test. And what a relief.  The cake actually baked this time!  And it’s edible!  Incredibly rich, chocolaty yummy yummy goodness.

Now, granted I am not saying my version is absolute perfection, but it’s certainly a far cry from the failure Buzzfeed Food’s version is.  What I had to do was simple.  Reduce the amount of ingredients so there wasn’t a butter leakage problem in the crust and so much mousse leftover. I also had to simply straight bake the cheesecake in the oven.  Hot water baths are used to bring moisture into the oven as heat actually removes moisture from the air, preventing cheesecakes, custards, or other “wet” desserts from drying out and cracking.  You don’t have to necessarily use this method when baking a cheesecake, so I thought it worth trying this out sans hot water bath.  My cheesecake cracked, but it still baked.  At this point that’s all I really cared about! Next time I will probably cover the cheesecake in foil to prevent cracking once it has risen.  I still found my version moist and moussy though as the center was still a bit wiggly in the middle.

Having an actual cake to cover gave me to opportunity to test the ganache.  You can’t really go wrong with the ganache recipe since it’s so simple.  But again, there is way too much in the original recipe.   I reduced this by a quarter in my recipe. Isn’t is beautiful?  And glossy?  I’m salivating just looking at it.

So with out further a due, here’s my improved version of this recipe. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and whether it was successful for you. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, melted
Cheesecake

26 1/2 ounces (750 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 1/4 ounces (93 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Chocolate Ganache

12 ounces (340 grams) chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, hot
PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F/150˚C.
  2. Place cookies in plastic bag and crush them into a fine crumb using a rolling pin. Alternatively, a food processor can be used to crush the cookies.
  3. Pour the cookie crumbs into a medium bowl with the melted butter. Mix until the crumbs take on the character of a coarse, wet sand.
  4. Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch (22cm) spring pan. Press the crumb firmly into the pan, making sure to coat the bottom evenly. Once the crust has been formed, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.
  5. Add cream cheese, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and sugar to a large bowl and whisk, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until all the ingredients are incorporated. (NOTE: If mixing by hand, it is recommended to microwave the cream cheese before whisking in order to soften it up.) Add vanilla extract and eggs, and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar. Whisk until the cream develops a mousse-y texture and soft peaks form.
  7. Adding a small amount at a time, carefully fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese batter, being careful not to let the air out of the fluffy mixture. Fold just until incorporated.
  8. Once combined, pour the batter over the prepared cookie crust inside the springform pan. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. Give the pan a slight jiggle to release any large air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter.
  9. Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes for cracks. If cracking begins, cover the top with aluminium foil.
  10. Once out of the oven, immediately run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.
  11. Prepare the ganache by combining chocolate chips with hot cream. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is smooth and glossy.  Alternatively use a double boiler to create the ganache.
  12. Pour ganache evenly over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the ganache covered cake for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.