3 reasons why we should distribute healthy cupcakes to kids to give a moment of joy when the poverty that surrounds them cannot be removed with just one baked good ? Well, there are more than 3 and very good ones at.
There is a lot of scepticism when it comes to unusual , different , experimental flavours in baking. Especially if you have those in the traditional bakes – the cakes, the cookies, the pies and tarts, the breads. And because I am a healthy and inclusive #baker a lot of my baked stuff is viewed in the same way. My favourite words for anyone who wonders how it might taste is – “Healthy bakes are an acquired taste. They are not the same as the regular ones. They are different. A good different.” There are many who will not bake without all purpose flour or refined white sugar because they believe they do not want to compromise on the flavours. And that’s just fine.
Because for me when I weigh factors on some very basic scales like what I want to give my family, what I want to give the street kids I distribute bakes to , what I want to give my friends , what I want to give my clients – is health. Is always nutrition over flavour. Is always a different kind of delicious , over what is regular. It takes a lot of path-setting stuff and almost incomprehensible amount of courage to experiment with some of the flours, fats and natural sweetners that I work with. And it’s totally worth it ! A picture of some experimental mix that I will eventually turn into a tart shell or a biscuit – yet to make up my mind on that one.
But while I decide on that, here is a quick , nutritious and simple recipe of the Walnut-crusted Baked Fish Fillets flavoured with Mustard for all of you to try out !
Basa Fillet – 1 big one, you can clean and into small pieces.
1/2 cup – Walnuts crushed using mortar and pestle. Do not grind in mixer.
Salt, paprika powder, thyme – 1 or 2 tsp of each, as per your taste preference.
1 or 2 tsp of mustard powder.
Coated the cleaned pieces of fish with a mix of crushed walnuts , salt, paprika powder , thyme(you can use basil if you prefer) and mustard. Apply some olive oil before coating.
Sprinkle some drops of lemon juice and then wrap gently with amaranth leaves. Place it in an oven proof dish on a bed of Amaranth leaves with some oil drizzled onto it.
Bake at 170 degree C for 20 mins in preheated oven. Check to see if the fish has cooked through and serve.
Chanced upon this place in the heart of Bangalore and what a serene place it was , with a sense of purpose. A plant nursery by the Association of People with Disabilities, and the memory I will have imprinted on my mind is of a young boy without legs, expertly guiding us through the rows of plants to help us choose what we were looking for. I did not want to embarrass him by taking a picture and so I strongly urge you to visit the place to meet him, and realize how knowledgeable he is.
Truly the mind is so much more powerful than the body will ever be.
And the icing on the cake was to see my son loving plant our plants into the pots 🙂
What more could one ask for , to brighten up a weekend ? There is one more thing that could brighten it up a wee bit more 🙂 These yum and healthy fudge squares.
Baked Jowar – Oats Dark Chocolate Fudge Squares
- 200g dark chocolate, broken into cubes (I used Bournville, 50% Cocoa)
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 125 gms butter
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup flour mix ( half jowar, half powdered oats)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-Heat the oven to 160 C. Prepare a square tin or square sectional baking pan, since this is a traybake.
- Melt the chocolate, coconut sugar and butter in a pan. Keep stirring with the whisk and then when its well mixed, remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool off.
- Beat in the eggs, flour mix and vanilla extract.
- Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 25 mins or so.
- Cool in the tin and then cut into squares.
Gearing up to start 2018
The cupboard can definitely be cleaner but that’s the best I can manage with a 5 year old and a 6 month old acquiring new personalities in 2018 – while one has discovered that she has a voice and she must use it at the highest pitch possible , the other has realized that he still prefers his sister’s rattles to his puzzles ( as is the case with all siblings !) .
But then 2018 was never going to be about a cleaner baking cupboard it is about more and more opportunities to dig into it and try out all that it contains !
One such opportunity arose when I had to think through a healthy ingredient, for my healthy baking community bakers on Facebook, Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community, to bake with, for the month of January. And guess what – its Coconut !
Here is my first take ( or rather bake!) – a lovely Wholewheat Coconut Almond cake with coconut sugar. The thick sauce on top is a mix of Coconut cream, coconut powder and some almonds.
1 1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 dessicated coconut
1/2 ground almonds
3 / 4 cup coconut sugar
100 gms butter
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven at 165 degrees C for 10 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the eggs and mix, one at a time. Add the ground almonds and dessicated coconut, and mix well. Add the sifted flour and milk, alternately.
Transfer into an 8 inch round pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow it to rest before removing from the pan.
For the topping, all I did was mix coconut cream and some coconut powder. I am fine with the mild sweetness that the cream lends. But if you want it sweeter, add a healthy sweetener of your choice.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup Oats ( Rolled)
Jeera and Kasoori Methi, as much as you prefer
Salt as per your preference
Homemade garam masala, as per your preference
Red chilly powder , as per your preference
4 tablespoons of oil + 2 / 3 tbsp of ghee ( to make a vegan version, exclude ghee and add only oil)
Warm water to bring the dough together
Mix together whole wheat flour, oats( I ground them roughly), salt, jeera, kasoori methi in a big bowl.
Add the oil and ghee, into the above mix and rub into it till it turns crumby. Add only as much warm water is needed to bring the dough together.
Preheat oven to 165 degrees Centigrade and prepare your biscuit tray.
Roll out the dough as thin as possible. Cut out the crackers with a cookie cutter. Arrange them on the baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes till it turns crispy. Cool it off and store.
I had started this post on a separate note. Then something prompted me to re-write it. So here goes…
About evolving times but stagnating taste buds. About oscillating between wellness and rules. Some of the views that I hear as a healthy baker are – healthy baking is a fad or what we consume through our traditional bakes is not harmful or even better, there is nothing called healthy baking.
And in my mind – all I am thinking is, even the best of us can sometimes get trapped in the confines of our own minds, get tricked by our own taste buds, get slowed down by our own lack of courage.
Yes, healthy bakes are an acquired taste, it does not happen overnight, it comes to us slowly. But it only comes to those who approach it with an open mind. Have you given yourself enough opportunities to open your mind? Forget a big change, just try this to start with – instead of beginning with a thought that it can’t taste delicious, tell yourself that it will taste different. Possible?
Let’s just try and remember that when the world evolves at the pace that it is now, everything has a disruption which leads to the next phase of growth- The same is happening with rule-based baking. We owe it to our family and friends to bake with healthier ingredients, because our lifestyles and the quality of what we are consuming has changed. Rules are good, but work with rules in a way that you put your wellness first and rules second. Not the other way round
So what’s YOUR next step ?
Start with this simple healthy cake – take it one step at a time 🙂
Wholewheat Apple-Coconut Cake ( with coconut sugar)
1 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2-3 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated cinnamon powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large apple peeled, cored, grated
1/2 cup grated coconut
100 gms butter
Preheat the oven at 170 C. Grease and dust a 7 X 7 inches square pan. Beat the butter, coconut sugar and honey well till it becomes creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Sift the flour, bp and cinnamon together. Add it slowly to the batter while beating at low speed.
Fold in the apple, coconut and almonds gently. No beating is needed at this stage. Pour it into the tin. Bake at the same temperature for 45 minutes or till it becomes golden brown.
Remove from the oven, let it cool off entirely before de-moulding.
As a mother, let me share with you that it has been a very crazy yet happy half-year: filled with many worried nights, many days of undiluted joy, lots of second guessing myself as a mother and frustrations, of trying to weigh mother’s instinct against experience and expertise, of trying to wonder how does one need to behave when one becomes a mother..but most definitely a half-year with not a single dull moment in it.
But you know what – Thank you for being patient and waiting for me to grow into my role as your Mom…sometimes
I look at you and it seems to me that you understand what I say, you understand when I say I have two other babies –Gunna Masi and Elsu, and smile back. You understand when I say I won’t pamper you silly, but that doesn’t make me love you any less.
Most importantly you understand that seeing how you do on well-defined milestones is not for your mother, for they seem like a checklist to tick on….it is the uncharted adventures that are for me…
Like our first flight together alone means more than when you first rolled over, or our first road trip, our first visit to the children’s home, how you and Elsa started growing comfortable with each other’s presence or even our daily debates about why sleeping in the night takes precedence over playing away!
So here’s not to more milestones…but to more ADVENTURES, my son ! The adventurous journey that started when I became a mother..”
Sharing a recipe that marks the first break that I am taking from baking on order, as the Chief Baker of Ovenderful, ever since it started in November 2013.
Wholewheat Butter-free Egg-Free Chocolate Almond Cake
1 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup cane sugar
½ cup curd
½ cup milk
½ cup boiling water
¼ cup any flavourless oil that is safe for baking
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( use great quality cocoa powder, it makes a world of difference)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped almonds and some additional for topping the cake with
Grease and dust an 7/8 inch round cake tin. I used a springform one, but it is not necessary to use only that one. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Sift together the wholewheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder .
Beat the curd, cane sugar, oil and milk. Add vanilla extract and mix well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet ones and mix well.
Slowly add boiling water and mix well ( just use a whisk, no need to beat it) to get a smooth batter. Add the chopped almonds and dark chocolate chunks, fold them into the batter gently. Pour in the baking tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
Let it cool off entirely before you remove it from the tin.
Cologne / Koln, November 2008: the only thing I knew about it was that this was the first European city I was going to visit, it sounded exotic and I was going to be attending a conference by Chemicals organizations there. That was it.
Strange as it may sound, my excitement was centered around meeting my colleagues from the US, South America and Europe. Not around the city. It is not that I was under-estimating the loveliness of the city. It was just that at that time in my life, I thought work should be an all-consuming part of one’s life.
I am one of those people whose senses are more heightened after a sleepless night!
And so driving into Cologne immediately after landing at Frankfurt, was probably what made me absorb the gorgeous beauty of the city – there were streets that were actually cobbled and people strolling in a leisurely manner with little dogs on the side-walks in the middle of a busy week-day ! At the heart of the city towering above all else was the Cologne Cathedral – not only is it a resplendent architectural wonder, since it stands next to the river the entire picture is a sight to watch, almost like a painting.
I walked through the city since that is what the hotel staff suggested and I would recommend that to everyone – it is the only way to absorb the sights and sounds. But seeing the quaint ( and quite modern too!) trams go past, was enough to tempt me to climb into one of them for a short ride. It seems to be a common form of transport through the city and it took me back to the time I used to take tram rides in Calcutta.
In a short 2 day work visit, this was all I could manage, but the city’s charm is irresistible-it lies somewhere between being a small city to a large town, steeped in German tradition and yet somewhat welcoming towards those like me who wandered through it before moving onto other places.
So for a city as multi-layered as Cologne, the German Apple Pie, a comforting bake with complex flavours is what comes to mind 🙂
I tried it on one of my walks and this is my healthier version of it in a buttery Barley-Oats crust with a delicious apple-cinnamon filling, topped with caramel sauce and baked. It is entirely free of refined white flour/all purpose flour and the sauce uses coconut sugar.
- 3 large apples, peeled, sliced and stewed with 2 tsp of freshly grated cinnamon, in 1 1/2 cups of water.
- For the crust – 1 cup barley flour, 1/2 cup powdered oats, 1/2 cup wholewheat flour, 100 grams butter. Rub the cold butter into the flour mix, cling wrap it and keep it in the fridge for at least 5 hours. Blind bake the crust at 180 degrees C just before making the pie, for 20-25 minutes.
- For the caramel sauce – 1 tbsp barley flour, 3 tbsp coconut sugar and 20 gms butter. Plus the liquid from the stewed apples. Melt the butter, add the sugar and stir it well till it caramelizes. Add the flour while stirring well so that it doesnt become lumpy. Finally add the liquid that is drained out from the stewed apples.
If the above three elements are ready, the method is just about assembling them and baking. So layer the baked crust with sliced stewed apples.
Pour the sauce uniformly and then place the pie into the oven to bake for 30 minutes, at 180 degrees C.
Serve warm as is or with ice cream !
How would you sum up 11 months of stay in a place – moved in, settled in, moved out ? That’s pretty much the way I would have thought probably a decade ago. But today it seems like even in those short 11 months, one can fit in so much into one’s life in a place.
It starts with being unfamiliar and you yearn for your earlier comfort zone.
It goes into a resigned kind of acceptance of what you have currently and even if its different, you can live with it.
It changes to looking at the goodness that is present in parts of it, and which you probably overlooked before.
It moves to liking the place, forming a few relationships and getting involved with the community.
It escalates into enjoying your stay there, waiting to see the neighbourhood dog who wags her tail, the same children cycling around each day, the same help who cleans the apartment, the same person in the flat above who you havent had a chance to know by name yet but who smiles at you each time.
And then you pack and move on.
Such is life. That fragile. That ever-changing. That is how it shifts, it moves and changes shape each day for us. We wait for it to “settle” into a routine. But of course, it has its own plans.
So here is a quick, simple and versatile recipe which is simple to life in all those qualities-
Zero-Fat Vegan Baked Spinach Wholewheat Sticks with Black Sesame and Chives
1 cup wholewheat
1 tbsp of rice flour
1 cup boiled and pureed spinach ( I added ½ a green chilly, 2-3 cloves of garlic and a little chopped coriander to it while pureeing)
3-4 tbsp chopped chives
2-3 tbsp black sesame
1 tbsp white pepper
Salt as per requirement ( I used rock salt)
Add some warm water to make the dough pliable.
Mix all the above dry ingredients well. Then add the spinach puree and the warm water ( if needed). Cling wrap it and store it in the fridge for about an hour.
Take it out, roll it into a rectangle, use a sharp knife to cut long strips/sticks. Place them onto a baking tray which is lightly greased. Sprinkle some chives and black sesame. Bake in a pre-heated oven ( preheat for 10 minutes) at 175 degrees Celsius for 20-25 minutes. You need to turn the sticks around mid way. Allow it to cool entirely for it to become crisp.
A special Guest Post for all the readers of Ovenderful Healthy Baking by Joe Hughes of Village Bakery – Thank you Joe for this excellent and insightful piece !
Gluten-free bread can be tricky to master, but once you’ve found the right recipe, you’ll never want to go back to conventional bread.
Just like with traditional flour bread, there are so many ways to adapt gluten-free recipes to incorporate new, interesting and healthy ingredients.
Experimenting with different flours is an obvious way to put a fresh spin on your go-to gluten-free bread recipe. Here are five other healthy ingredients to add to your homemade bread:
Aquafaba is the latest craze in the vegan food world, and it’s easy to see why: it’s an excellent egg substitute and doesn’t cost you a dime. For those who are unfamiliar, aquafaba is the cooking liquid of beans and legumes, like chickpeas.
The cooking liquid contains a mix of protein, starch and other plant solids. This mixture gives the liquid binding, emulsifying, gelatinizing, foaming and thickening properties.
Aquafaba is a great egg replacement that you can use in your breads. Two tablespoons of this liquid is equivalent to about one egg white. If you cook your own beans, you can use the liquid leftover in the pot. If you’re using canned beans, you can use the liquid in the can.
The great thing about aquafaba is that it’s free. If you buy or cook beans, you would just be throwing out this liquid otherwise. Try adding it to your bread recipe as an egg replacement, or even as an egg wash to give your bread a shiny, crunchy crust.
2. Coconut Palm Sugar
For sweeter breads, coconut palm sugar is a great replacement for conventional white sugar. Coconut sugar is low on the glycemic index and fructose ranks low on it.
What you may not know is that coconut sugar also retains some of the nutrients found in the coconut palm, including zinc, calcium, potassium and some short chain fatty acids. It also retains some of the antioxidants and polyphenols, which may offer some health benefits.
While coconut palm sugar does have its benefits, it’s important to remember that it’s still a sweetener and will still be converted to glucose. But it’s a great natural alternative to the refined sugar found in most bread recipes.
Plus, coconut sugar can be used in just about every other recipe that calls for regular sugar (have you tried Ovenderful’s Caramel Cake yet?).
3. Juice Pulp
Juicing vegetables and fruits is a great way to boost your health, but it can feel wasteful to throw out all of that leftover pulp.
One great way to make use of that nutrient-rich pulp is to add it to your homemade bread machine recipe.
The pulp will add flavor, moisture and nutrients to give you a moist, nutritious bread. Keep in mind that unless your pulp is very dry, you’ll need to adjust the amount of flour in your recipe to account for the extra moisture.
4. Milled Flax
Flax is a common ingredient in multi-grain, grain-free and gluten-free breads. But in most cases, you’ll find the seed in whole form either in the crust or in the bread dough.
The key to unlocking flax’s nutrients is to grind them. If the seeds are not ground, the body cannot absorb their vital nutrients, which includes omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re going to add flax to your gluten-free bread, make sure it’s milled (or grind it up yourself).
Flax can be used as an egg substitute, or you can incorporate it into your gluten-free flour mix to add an extra kick of nutrients and moisture. Flax and a gluten-free flour mix may work great in the Whole Wheat-Oats Buttermilk Bread recipe.
Seeds, especially sprouted seeds, can add so much flavor and extra nutrients to your breads. Quinoa, sunflower and hemp pack the biggest nutritional punch, but you can add just about any seed you please to your bread – including chia.
Quinoa is packed with proteins (17 to be exact), magnesium, zinc, fiber, folate, copper and an array of other nutrients. Just one cup provides you with eight grams of quality protein.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E, copper and vitamin B1. Hemp is rich in healthy fat, protein, omega-3s and omega-6s.
All of these seeds add vital nutrients to your bread, but I would recommend soaking them before adding them to your recipe. Soaking the seeds will help remove some of the anti-nutrients to make the nutrients more accessible to the body.
What are some of your favorite healthy ingredients for gluten-free bread? Share in the comments below!
About the Author:
Joe Hughes, known by most as the Village Baker, is an expert in homestyle cooking techniques, with a primary interest in baking. He has been baking ever since he was a little boy in his Grandma’s kitchen! He runs the very popular website http://village-bakery.com which provides the latest homestyle cooking news, techniques, tricks, and recipes. He can be reached at Joe@Village-Bakery.com
When my son started going to a school that was close to home, I was very happy. That would mean a short travel time for him as well as me and the back and forth from school could be done quickly.
At that stage, little did I realize that the same back-and-forth that I was keen for us to do quickly, was exactly what I started enjoying. As days went by I would linger on while walking to his school slowly, taking in whatever caught my attention.
There is a comfort that comes from being in a routine – for me routine is not about a fixed time schedule. It is the same set of trees to pass each day, the same set of sleeping dogs by the road side, the same set of cleaning ladies cheerfully gathering the fallen leaves, the same security guards across small buildings, the same old scooter parked in the corner, dusty as can be and the exact same smile full of anticipation on my son’s face as I stand outside the school gate, when he sees me there.
There is a comfort that comes from following that pattern of holding hands, chatting about the school or friends or fights, and reaching home. It is as though within those 10 minutes of walking to his school alone I find the time I look for, for myself and my thoughts. And as soon as his small hand is in mine, the 10 minutes of walking back home can get transformed into finding the time I look for, again. But this time with him – something that belongs to him and me; for him to have childhood memories to smile over and for me to have his childhood memories to find peace and warmth in, on cold winter nights.
So on that note of warmth in cold winters, here is a lovely recipe of a cake – the flavours and colours are warm and inviting. You will love the way the different elements come together into one single bake – and to add to that, its Gluten-Free and Butter-Free !
Gluten-free Butter-free 100% Almond Flour Cake with Raisins, lightly glazed with Honey-Butter Syrup
- 2 cups finely ground almond flour
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Raisins as per your requirement
Beat the egg yolks well until they become frothy and slowly add half the sugar. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Then add the flour mixture to the beaten egg yolks and beat well. Add the vanilla extract.
Beat the egg whites into peaks and add the remaining sugar to it while beating. Dust the raisins with a bit of the almond flour and keep them aside.
Slowly add the beaten egg whites to the almond mixture and fold well . Remember to be gentle and not over-mix. Add the raisins and fold them through the mix.
Gently add the batter into a the prepared baking tin and place in the oven. Bake at 170°C for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it cool off before de-moulding it. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the top with a mix of honey and melted better and serve.
I am not really a night person ( or not any longer!) in most cases – The only thing that I love doing before sleeping off is reading. And that was the case for a long time. Even now, given the fact that I have to get up very early I try to plan a lot of my work in terms of baking or writing in the those wee hours.
However, there are rare occasions particularly on the weekend, when even after a long day in the kitchen, I love to unwind with some baking. And usually it happens to be experimental in nature – not because I want to brood over a disaster, incase that it is the result. But more so because, I want to know and therefore plan for what I want to do the next day to rectify or re-try an experiment if the one done the night before fails !
Thankfully for me though, this recipe of Wholewheat-Oats Buttermilk Bread (adapted from a blog, which had in turned been inspired by a book on Jewish baking) has turned out superbly in its second trial. The first one was not too bad, but the second one has turned out beautifully and I can’t wait to bake it again.
The texture and flavour is delicious and while you can smear it with butter, my personal preference to have it with Gooseberry/Amla Jam – the combined flavours of the bread, chilly flakes and Amla are brilliant.
Whole Wheat –Oats Buttermilk Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
Oil for greasing the tin
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup warm water
Sprinkling of red chilly flakes
Mix the whole wheat flour and oats with salt.
Mix the honey with warm water. Dissolve yeast and keep it aside for 10 minutes.
Add the honey-water and the yeast to buttermilk. If you do not have it at home, you can use regular milk in which 1/2 tbsp of white vinegar is added.
Add the liquid mix to the flour mix and mix well. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
Start kneading after 15 minutes, and knead well for 5-6 minutes. Grease a bowl and let the dough rest in it, until it doubles(it took about 1 hour mine to double).
Grease your loaf tin and place the dough in the form of of an oval shaped loaf into the tin. Leave it to rest and rise for another hour.
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degrees C. Brush the top of the loaf lightly and sprinkle chilly flakes and then bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Cool and slice.
*** Recipe for Gooseberry Jam/Amla
1/2 kg of Amla / Gooseberry washed and dried and boiled well so that the exterior is soft. Drain out the water ( you can use that for anything else ) . De seed the boiled amla, run it through the grinder.
Put it into a non stick kadai / pan. Keep it on low heat and stir. Add 3/4 cups cane sugar, 2-3 tbsp honey, 2 tsp ginger and 1 tsp or more if you prefer of cinnamon powder.
Keep stirring till it acquires the sticky jam like consistency. Cool off and store in air tight glass container.