Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Three more days until Christmas! Joy is officially in the air. I can even smell it. It’s a combination of pine, bonfire, cold air, cloves and fresh baked sugar cookies. Christmas has a distinctive scent that can’t be bottled into a candle. I did try to replicate it in this cake though.

Fruit cake is the butt of every holiday joke. Typically weighing almost ten pounds, filled with every fruit and nut imaginable and said to last forever, they are loathed by most. This cake is my attempt to change that. How can dried fruits and chocolate in a cake not be delicious? I was inspired by watching Nigella Lawson bake her famous Christmas Cake. She makes the holiday magical and it’s easy to fall under her cooking spell. The tiny, twinkle lights covering her kitchen will entrance you. Nigella calls her cake a trifecta of aromas, with fruits, cinnamon and cloves. Fruit cake is edible Christmas.

The tart cherry juice in this recipe intensifies each dried fruit. You can substitute apple, orange or pineapple juice if cherry isn’t your favorite. Coconut flour can be crumbly so be extra careful when removing the finished cake from the pan.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Makes 1 9” cake.

1 cup tart cherry juice for soaking fruit – I used Cheribundi brand.
1 cup currants
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup dates – about 10 dates – chopped
½ cup dried peaches – chopped
½ cup dried apricots – chopped
2 ½ tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ cup coconut flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
4 tbsp cacao powder or good quality cocoa powder
1 cup mashed banana – overly-ripe
5 eggs
1 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil – melted

►Combine cherry juice, currants, blueberries, dates, peaches, apricots, lemon zest and ginger in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Then remove from heat and cover until all juice is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

►Grease a springform cake pan with coconut oil and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper too. Set aside.
►Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
►In a large mixing bowl, stir together coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and cacao powder. Set aside.
►In a separate mixing bowl, whisk eggs and banana with a hand mixer. Add in maple syrup and melted coconut oil.
►Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix well. Add in all fruit and stir until well combined.
►Bake 45 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
►Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread
Nope, still not burned out on pumpkin. All this pumpkin spice obsession is okay by me. Starbucks created a trend worth buying into and I’m glad it’s branched out to inspire other creations. Like my Maple Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread!

I baked this up and brought it to a brunch party. When I revealed it was gluten-free, I watched as everyone turned to me in surprise.  They loved it and could not believe something so delicious was healthy. I walked around beaming with pride the rest of the day. This recipe is going in the “win” pile and will be featured on my Thanksgiving dessert list.

Since gluten-free baking is a mad science I thought I would explain the ingredients I use to obtain the right consistency.

Coconut Flour
Coconut Flour is essentially dried coconut that’s been ground into a fine powder. It is made from 100% coconut with no other added ingredients. You can make your own in a food processor if you cannot find the flour locally. But that’s a lot of work, so save yourself the time and buy a bag from Amazon.

Coconut is high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and full of healthy fats. The saturated fat in coconuts are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It is also shown to boost metabolism. These are the properties of a nutrient-dense food and make it a safe alternative for diabetics.

Tapioca Flour
Tapioca is made from the root of the cassava plant that grows in tropical climates. The root is boiled down, dried and then ground into a flour. It is purely starch and honestly does not contain much nutritional value. Although, it poses no harm either. The problem with most flours and flour substitutes is that they are non-nutritious as well as harm digestion and cause allergic reactions. Tapioca flour is similar to white rice in its nutritional profile. Most people tolerate it well and it provides the extra carbs our bodies need to get the “full” signal to our brains. It gives baked goods that chewy texture we’re accustomed to in traditional cakes and cookies.

Coconut Butter
Coconut butter is a good substitute for dairy butter. So many of us have dairy intolerances, me included, and this offers a way to add fat to a recipe. It has all the same health benefits as coconut flour.

Cacao Butter
Cacao butter is the naturally occurring fat present in cocoa beans. When cacao beans are processed, the butter is extracted from the bean. The fat properties are monounsaturated including oleic acid, stearic acid and palmitic acid. I use it to give a slight hint of chocolate flavor and richness. You can find it in most health food stores or order from Amazon.

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread
Resources:

5 Health Benefits of Baking with Coconut Flour
http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/5-health-benefits-of-baking-with-coconut-flour

Cassava
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/cassava

Health Benefits of Cacao

18 Impressive Cocoa Benefits

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread

Makes 1 loaf.

1/2 cup coconut flour – sifted
3/4 cup tapioca flour
2 cups pumpkin puree (learn to make your own here)
1/2 cup coconut butter (make this by food processing 1 cup of shredded coconut)
6 tbsp maple syrup
6 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
1 tsp cacao butter – melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda

Maple Glaze
2 tbsp coconut oil – melted
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix

►Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
►Grease a loaf pan or bunt pan with coconut oil.
►In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle for the wet ingredients.
►Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Then add in remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour into your dry ingredients bowl and stir until just combined.
►Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Test doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle. If it comes out clean, set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
►For the Maples Glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together.
►Using a fork, poke holes along the top of the bread. Pour the maple glaze over, evenly distributing. Allow to soak into the bread for a few minutes. Slice and serve!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Grain Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies
It’s fall y’all! I know that’s super corny but I can’t stop saying it. That crispy, cool nip is in the air. Pumpkins are dotting my neighbor’s stoops, Halloween decorations are making an appearance and I want to add pumpkin to all my recipes. First up is a batch of cookies.

Grain free baking is no easy task. I did tons of careful research before embarking on this cookie recipe. In terms of grain free options, four types of flour replacements are predominately used: almond or other nut flour, coconut, tapioca and arrowroot. Most recipes call for a combination of almond and coconut to achieve the right consistency. That poses a problem for me though. I’ve finally succumbed to the fact that nuts can’t be a part my diet. Nuts and seeds are a main cause for my terrible psoriasis and eczema. I had to find an almond flour replacement.

Arrowroot and coconut flour worked well together in this recipe. The consistency is soft, yet not crumbly. They stay together really well even when I dipped them in coconut milk. Coconut flour is quite particular so please follow this recipe exactly. Make sure to accurately measure it and then sift. Just 1 tsp more or less can lead to a failed cookie. Good luck and let me know how they turn out for you!

Grain Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

5 eggs
6 tbsp coconut oil – melted
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree (learn how to make your own here) 
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup coconut flour – sifted
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg

►Preheat oven to 350 degrees
►In a large bowl, beat the eggs together with the oil, pumpkin, milk and maple syrup.
►Using a separate bowl, combine coconut flour (don’t forget to sift it!), arrowroot flour, baking soda, salt and all spices. Stir to combine.
►Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Slowly stir until everything is just combined. Make sure you do not over-mix the batter.
►Roll cookies into balls and flatten them a bit. They will not spread out while baking. The shape you make them is how they will come out of the oven. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
►Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.