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Adapted from several muffin recipes in Babycakes (Erin McKenna)

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp guar gum
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare two muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

Mix the banana, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.  Set aside.

Sift (or whisk) together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, guar gum in a separate bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl or cup, combine the hot water and cocoa powder until the cocoa is disolved.  Pour the cocoa into the banana mixture and mix well.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well.

Pour a little less than 1/3 cup of the muffin batter in each muffin tin.  The batter will rise slightly so don’t over fill the tins.  Bake for 20-24 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle of one of the muffins.  If your oven is notorious for uneven baking, rotate the pans half way through.  Gluten-free flour tends to dry out in the oven very easily so check the muffins as they get close to the 20 minute mark.

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I bought a used copy of the cookbook written by Erin McKenna, owner of Babycakes in New York City.  It’s aptly named Babycakes:Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About BakeryThere were several pages dog-eared by the previous owner, I wonder if they tried all the recipes they marked for later.  There are plenty of beautiful glossy photos to drool over as you decide which recipe to try first.

My first attempt was the Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake (shown above), and I broke Erin’s first rule: I didn’t follow all of the directions.  And the cream cheese frosting/glaze was made with xylitol (a sugar alcohol) instead of leaving the cake bare.  The cake was very moist, with a good amount of sweetness to counter the tart lemon zest and juice.  If I didn’t tell you it was gluten and sugar-free you wouldn’t have noticed.  That’s what Erin McKenna strives to achieve in each recipe in her book and at her bakery.  Her shop is on my to-see list if I ever get to visit NYC!

The second recipe was an adaptation of the Cherry Cobbler.  The filling was rhubarb and Granny Smith apple instead of cherries.  I was planning to make a pie but this seemed like it would work with the spelt flour lattice topping.  I didn’t have evaporated cane juice and used brown sugar instead.  I should have baked this a little longer as the underside of the crust became soaked with the juices of the fruit and turned into a sticky mush.  Best to bake and serve immediately, as with any pie or crumble.  I liked the flavor of the spelt topping though, it had a light nutty flavor and reminded me of oatmeal.  Paired with the cinnamon-apple-rhubarb filling this could be eaten for breakfast or dessert, heck anytime!

Next up: Chocolate Cake!  I made the same rookie mistake of baking this fella a little longer than I should have.  As soon as the middle is set you should take it out of the oven.  The original recipe calls for a crumb topping to be added half way through baking.  Instead I left the cake alone and added roasted cherries that I washed, seeded and quartered.  That’s a great thing I learned from this cook book: roast your fruit to amplify their natural flavors so less sweetener is required.  Then I made a vanilla cream sauce to top it all off.  This is my version of a black forest cake.  A splash of Kirsch over the cake would have made it closer to the real thing, but it was tasty nonetheless.

Last on my first round of tests were the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh the chocolate!  I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips for this recipe.  A couple of notes: regular sugar was used instead of evaporated sugar cane in the same measurement called for, I added 1/4 cup rice flour and a little more Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free all-purpose flour to absorb the oil.  They still came out on the oily side but I guess they will stay moist longer that way, I’m not a fan of greasy cookies though.  The cookies are tender (I didn’t over bake them, yay!) and very delicate with a brownie-like texture in the middle.  With a bit of engineering, these will be perfect doppelgängers to gluten-laden cookies.

My overall conclusions about gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free baking from this book are these; use lower temperatures and the least amount of time possible, buy the best ingredients possible on your budget (and shop around, Sprouts puts GF baking stuff on sale %25 off, try on-line at Amazon.com or BobsRedMill.com) and most importantly READ the recipes first.  With entrepreneurs like Erin blazing the trails of alternative baking and better access to the squirrely ingredients necessary for vegan baking, it’s easy to make the switch.  Whether you cannot tolerate gluten anymore, want to cut down on refined white sugar, or for the animal lover in you – this is a great book to help you on your journey!

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This review was solely out of my own curiosity and wanting to share my thoughts on the book.   Recipes were respectfully omitted to honor the copyrights of the author.

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