The theme for my baking club (yes I have a baking club – please do join if you want to be part of a fun cake community) this month is ‘Free From’. It was picked by the group and despite some initial ‘what on earth am I going to bake?’ worries, I’m happy to say it’s been one of my favourite baking challenges yet.
The thing I realised, as soon as I started looking into recipes which were gluten free, dairy free, sugar free or all of the above, is that there are SO many options. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas on this front (I’ve started a new Free From board with some of my favourites if you fancy a look) and things which you might have ruled out as too difficult (such as making a gluten free pastry or making cheesecake without the cheese) are being proven to be easier than ever.
With the increase in popularity of things like coconut or almond flour, breads, pastries and tarts are no longer out for those who are gluten free. Using almonds, maple syrup and coconut oil prevents sponges and cakes from being dry (a common problem with gluten free products). Coconut milk is in fact much sweeter and tastier in a ganache/cheesecake/ curd and so being dairy free isn’t such a huge hurdle. With more and more people opting for vegan and paleo diets, recipes which are sans gluten, dairy and refined sugar are being experimented with and created every day. There are now, in fact, very few limitations when it comes to an intolerance.
And yet, walk into any standard cafe/ coffee shop/ restaurant that isn’t yet moving with the times, and you’d probably be made to feel like there are. My Mum has been coeliac for many years, and during that time there’s no doubt that things have improved greatly. But still, should we go out for a coffee together when I’m home, the struggle to find anything gluten free for her to eat that isn’t a boring, dry piece of chocolate brownie, is real.
When I think about the sheer amount of simple, easy, and often no bake required recipes I came across when doing my research for this theme, which were very often free from as a happy accident rather than the cause, I have to wonder why so many of the chain coffee shops don’t make more of an effort? Why those cafe’s that are known for their delicious home bakes, don’t experiment with a few more ‘free from’ alternatives? And why the supermarkets only ever offer a chocolate brownie or a flapjack in the free from aisle?
So, I’m really glad this theme has been chosen actually, as I hope when it comes to my round up post at the end of the month, I’ll be able to wax lyrical about ALL of the amazing and diverse ‘free from’ recipes the baking club has created, and why baking them was no more difficult or challenging than any of the other themes we’ve attempted in the past.
It took me a long time to decide on what to bake this month (again because there was so much choice) but in the end I decided I wanted to tackle something with ‘pastry’ as that’s something I’d always assumed would be fairly difficult to achieve gluten free. In fact, the pastry I made for this tart was probably the easiest, most fuss free pastry I’ve ever made. And, I even found a gluten free version of choux pastry!! I mean if choux pastry (probably the most difficult of all the pastries) can be made gluten free then there’s no excuse why everything can’t be.
Hoping to try and also incorporate a dairy free filling, and if possible something with no sugar, I settled on a chocolate and berry tart. I roughly followed a recipe from Bakerita and adapted it to fit my needs. The great thing about this tart is that it requires no baking and can be put together in less than 30 mins. Then all that’s needed is a few hours of chilling in the fridge before it’s ready to serve. Using dark chocolate solids means it’s refined sugar free and coconut milk avoids the dairy.
My chocolate ganache didn’t set as much as I would have liked (I believe it’s meant to be more of a solid cold tart than a gooey dessert) and I’m still trying to work out where I went wrong on that one. It could have been the coconut milk (full fat is needed but I beg of you, how do you know if a can of coconut milk is full fat? None of them mention this?) or perhaps I didn’t boil it enough before pouring into the chocolate which made it too runny. Either way, seeing as it was so quick and easy to do, I’ll keep experimenting and post an updated recipe at some point should I get it right.
In the meantime, it’s making such a decadent, rich and summery after dinner dessert in our household that you’d never know it was ‘free from’ anything. Here’s how it’s done… (this recipe is for a 9 inch tart, I increased mine slightly as my tin was bigger)
You will need
For the crust
1 1/2 cups of coconut flour
1/4 cup of unsweetened or raw cocoa powder
1/4 cup of coconut oil melted
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
For the ganache
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
6 oz dark bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup raspberry (or strawberry) jam (try and get one with 100% fruit)
1 pint berries (raspberries, strawberries or whatever suits you)
How it’s done
Use a tin with a removable bottom if possible and grease with coconut oil.
Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry – it should look like a crumbly chocolate truffle mix – in a bowl and then press into your tin as evenly as possible making sure there aren’t any holes. Put in the fridge to chill.
Break up your chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat your coconut milk in a pan until it starts to boil and then pour over the chocolate. Leave to sit for a minute and then stir along with the jam until it creates a smooth and thick chocolate sauce.
Remove your tart from the fridge and pour into the tart.
Once set slightly (I had to put mine in the fridge for 20 mins or so) decorate with your berries.
Place back in the fridge and leave to set for a few hours.
When set, dust with icing sugar and then cut and serve.
I was really impressed with the tart crust – it’s slightly dry on its own due to the coconut flour but along with the chocolate it works really well. As my ganache was a little gooey, my tart was super rich so a small slice at a time was all I could manage but had it set a little harder I could imagine it being like a slice version of a chocolate truffle – delish!
If you give it a go let me know by tagging #BakewithBB on Twitter or Instagram as I’d love to see how yours turn out. And stay tuned for the full round up of free from bakes at the end of the month.