Thursday, 16 July 2015

Dark chocolate mousse cake

It was my birthday last week. Yep, I turned the ripe old age of 24! (I can hear some of you scoffing from here). I find myself having to do all sorts of adult things like organising my tax return, freaking out about never being able to afford a house in Sydney and watching my school mates get engaged and have babies! But am I too old for cake? Never! This year I couldn't decide what type I wanted so I extended my birthday out to two weeks (the mature decision) and had lemon meringue pie one week and this dark chocolate mousse cake the next. Mmm 

This recipe was adapted from an Eating Well recipe for chocolate decadence cake, and decadent it certainly is! Yet it's light enough that it doesn't feel heaving and rich enough that a small piece satisfies- winner! Certainly still a sometimes cake which I reserve for celebrations, but a healthier version nonetheless.

Dark chocolate mousse cake

1 1/3C good quality 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used 200g Lindt 70%)
1/3 C cocoa powder plus 1 Tbsp extra
2 Tbsp plain flour
¼ C plus ¼ C castor sugar, separated
1 C skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 extra egg white

  1.  Preheat oven to 180°C and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Place chocolate and cocoa powder in a large bowl.
  3. Combine flour and ¼ C sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk in just enough milk to form a smooth paste. Mix in remaining milk.
  4. Cook milk and flour mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning until the mixture begins to bubble. Boil gently for 2-2.5 minutes until the mixture gets very thick and then thins just slightly as the starch cooks.
  5. Stir the hot milk and flour mixture into the chocolate and cocoa until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth, thick batter.
  6. Stir in the 2 egg yolks and vanilla.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ C of sugar, beating until peaks become stiff.
  8. Gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Gradually add remaining egg whites, gently folding until no white streaks remain but batter is still light and airy.
  9. Pour batter into the cake tin and place tin in a larger, deep baking tray. Pour boiling water into the tray until water comes a third to halfway up the side of the cake tin.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed.
  11. Remove from oven, and cool completely in tin on a wire rack. Cover with glad wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  12. Remove cake from tin and cut into 12 slices using a large knife, dipped into a glass of hot water between cuts (as cake will stick). Dust with extra tablespoon of cocoa powder and serve with strawberries if desired. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 12 slices

Monday, 6 July 2015

Is #raw food really all it's hyped up to be?

I don’t know about yours, but my Instagram feed has been flooded with pics of ‘raw’ cakes, cookies, slices and bars. And they certainly look amazing. But do they live up to the hype?

The idea behind a ‘raw’ diet is to avoid cooked and processed foods, eating a diet comprising mostly of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds (and sometimes raw fish or meat, unpasteurised dairy and grains). It essentially means leaving behind the oven, stovetop and microwave and pre-packaged foods and eating a lot more fruit and veg.  Think salads, smoothies, snacks of nuts and seeds and plenty of fruit. Many raw food mavens also seem to be getting quite experimental with making raw versions of treat foods (hence the reason for my current Instagram feed).  The purpose of this ‘lifestyle’ is to improve overall health and slow aging by eating foods that haven’t been heated and hence retain all of their nutrients.

There are many 'applaud-able' features of this way of eating. For example:

  • A higher intake of veg and fruit, lacking in many Aussie’s diets.
  • Less reliance on highly processed and pre-packaged meals and meal elements which often have a lot more added salt, sugar, fat and other additives than you would think.
  • Encouragement of greater ‘cooking’ (I use that term loosely as no actual cooking is taking place) skills, experimenting with flavours and new ways of creating meals.

But there are also some major flaws:

  • It often involves an avoidance of major food groups like meat, dairy, grains and legumes.
  • There are food safety concerns of eating raw milk, yoghurt and meats, especially if not handled correctly.
  • Can be very restrictive and impact on social life (i.e. no more going out for dinner, or enjoying cake on someone’s birthday) and requiring a lot more planning.
  • Saying that all foods become devoid of nutrients when heated is just wrong. Yes some nutrients slightly diminish in content on cooking (think techniques like boiling where some nutrients can leach out of veg and into the water), but the nutrient content of some foods is actually greatly enhanced through cooking and processing. Tomatoes are a great example as cooked tomatoes (such as in tomato paste) contain much more lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Beware the raw dessert

Then there’s the elephant in the room which I haven’t yet brought up: the fact that most of these ‘raw’ desserts look a hell of a lot better than they actually taste (with the exception of my ‘raw’ choc hazelnut cups ;)). But even the ones that taste good, still are nothing like their creators claim them to be (chocolate brownie, caramel slice, cookie dough balls, cheesecakes- I mean, please!), so they can be a far cry from satisfying that craving.

Many do contain healthy ingredients like dates, cocoa/cacao powder, nuts and seeds, but they’re so rich thanks to the nut fats and coconut oil and maple syrup or agave syrup (or whatever other ‘sugar’ is the current flavour of the month), that they can contain more kilojoules and saturated fat than a Tim-Tam! Don’t be fooled, these are certainly still ‘sometimes foods’.

Oh, and another thing? Processing and heating aren’t all bad! They've brought us a lot of things that make a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle possible and I don’t know about you, but I think it’s way too cold at the moment to survive on salads and smoothies and phony Snicker’s Bars!