Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns (vegan, wheat free & refined sugar free)

image
So it’s 5pm on Easter Sunday which means two things: a) I’m in a slow cooked lamb/scalloped potato/cheesecake/rocky road/chocolate tart-induced coma and literally typing this post through one half-opened eye; and b) it’s definitely a tad late to be posting a hot cross bun recipe. That said, ‘a tad late’ is how I go about life in general, and this recipe is too good to wait until next April to post. Besides, who doesn’t love a fresh-outta-the-oven hot cross bun at any time of year? If it’s acceptable nowadays to eat HCB’s in the three months leading up to Easter, it should be acceptable to enjoy them for a few (or many) months after Easter, too.

image image image

Spelt flour has become my best baking friend over the past few years. I try not to eat too much gluten in general, but when I do it’s usually in the form of spelt or oats. Spelt is technically a sub-species of wheat and thus is not suitable for those with coeliac or severe gluten sensitivities, but it’s significantly lower in gluten than normal wheat so most people who are sensitive to wheat find that they can digest spelt better without feeling heavy and bloated. It’s also high in vitamins and minerals and has a nutty flavour that I just love. The lower level of gluten (and thus protein) in spelt means less elasticity, so baked goods turn out more dense and textural, as opposed to light and fluffy with normal wheat. Being the born carb fiend that I am, I find dense, bready textures more satisfying than fluffy textures, so this suits me perfectly. Gimme something to sink my teeth into!

image image image

These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar (coconut sugar & dried fruit) than my usual recipes, but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real thing as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sugar and spice and they’ll fill your home with the most beautiful aroma. The smell of bread baking in the oven is magic on its own – add notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange, and you’re on a whole new level of heaven.

I think the key to getting these buns right is ensuring that the dough gets its full 2 hours of rising time in a warm, draught-free area. I don’t really know whether the rising time or the warm environment is more crucial, but the two together resulted in a far better bun texture than the first time I attempted this recipe when  I only gave the dough 1 1/2 hours to rise in a cool kitchen.

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns 

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 7g instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp dried ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • Zest of 1 orange (or 1/2 if you don’t want the orange to be pronounced)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use Pureharvest Cocoquench coconut-rice milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup, to glaze
  • 40g dark chocolate of choice, for the crosses

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C. Line a small square cake tin (20cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the milk and coconut sugar over medium-low heat until the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and coconut oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, chia seeds, yeast and dried spices. Wake a well and pour in the milk mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined, then add in the dried fruit, zest and salt. Use your hands to combine fully and form into a dough with the dried fruit and zest dispersed throughout.
  4. Lightly flour a clean bench space or a kneading mat with a little spelt flour. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.
  5. Oil the original mixing bowl with a little coconut oil, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap (to trap heat in). Place a tea towel over the bowl (to keep light out). Leave in a warm, draught free space for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size (it’s imperative that the dough doubles, and I strongly recommend leaving it for the full 2 hours regardless). My house was quite cool when I was making these, so I found that the best place to leave the bowl was on a stool right in front of the heated oven.
  6. After the dough has risen, knead for another 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions and roll into rough balls. Place the buns into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Brush the buns with pure maple syrup to glaze. Allow the buns to cool before piping crosses with melted dark choc (see notes).
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your favourite cuppa. Bliss. (Please note that you may want to remove the chocolate cross before toasting the buns!)
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

  • If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, adjust the amount of dried fruit to suit you tolerance levels.  You could try omitting the currants and raisins using 1/4 – 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.
  • I used normal organic dairy dark choc for the crosses because I knew it would set and photograph better, but otherwise I’d use vegan dark choc.
  • Make a fuss-free piping bag by spooning the melted choc into a snap-lock bag and snip the corner.Healthy Spelt and chia hot cross bunsimageimage

Another healthy pizza recipe (no, they never get old): Roasted Eggplant + Capsicum Pizza

IMG_6042

This recipe started off as a “I’m cold, I’m tired, I’m sick to death of staring blankly at textbooks and I’m craving pizza something chronic but I can’t be bothered with anything fancy” kind of lunch, and turned out to be my new favourite go-to meal. It was inspired in part by my new-found obsession with eggplant, and also by my yearning for comfort food: I needed something warm, and hearty and full of taste. It was the first day of Winter and also my first proper day of attempted exam study***, and in true Melbourne Winter tradition, it was so bitterly cold that I swear the raindrops could have frozen into icicles before they hit the pavement.

I’m actually eating this Roasted Capsicum and Eggplant Pizza again as I write this, the loud sounds of my munching only just obscuring Mum’s audible annihilation of her own share across the table. Unfortunately, I can hear her slight moans of satisfaction because I’m not moaning myself. I don’t even know if she knows she’s doing it. Now I’m giggling and she’s asking why (“Oh, nothing, just something on the internet!”) Don’t get me wrong, I do moan and groan in culinary delight, but just not when I’m eating and typing simultaneously – 2 tasks are hard enough to juggle, let alone 3. I also don’t moan while tasting my own food in front of others because that would just be weird and, well, wanky.

***I should clarify that by “my first proper day of attempted exam study”, I really mean “the first day that I planned to spend all my time revising, but instead the ratio of study hours versus hours of laying on my cow hide rug in front of the open fire reading cook books and planning my upcoming Europe trip was  1:5, at best”. HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I’M JETTING OFF TO EUROPE FOR 3 MONTHS IN 2 WEEKS’ TIME?! How can a girl possibly concentrate on exams when her head is in the clouds (or cloudless skies, more like it) hanging over Santorini sunsets, Croatian waters, Parisian markets and picnics, Ibizan boat parties, Spanish tomato fights, Berlin beer gardens and Turkish tree houses?
But back to important pizza stuff…

IMG_6044IMG_6042IMG_6055 IMG_6045

Roasted Capsicum + Eggplant Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 small wheat-free wrap of choice for pizza base (I’m loving the spelt wraps from Go Vita health stores at the moment. They’re quite big as a base for one serving, so I just cut it down to the size of a small plate. A note on wraps: if you’re at the supermarket, don’t be fooled by ‘gluten free’, ‘wholegrain’ or even ‘organic’ wrap packet labels, because they might not be as healthy as they claim to be. The majority of wrap varieties I’ve come across, particularly at supermarkets, are FULL of crap. As always, keep ingredients lists to a minimum and avoid unnecessary additives such as preservatives, sugar or anything defined by a number)
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp tomato paste
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 eggplant, cut into thin (approx. 3mm) discs
  • 1 small or 1/2 large red capsicum, sliced into strips
  • small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs raw pine nuts (these will toast while the pizza cooks)
  • 2 tbs grated cheese (this is obviously optional, but I included it because I try to be as transparent when it comes to my diet as possible. I don’t eat processed cheese very often, but is pizza really pizza without cheese of some description? I don’t think so. It also just so happened that my mum had bought ‘Pizza Plus’ cheese for my brother the day before, and I simply couldn’t resist the ultimate melt combo: mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan.
  • 15g danish feta, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 250’C and line a baking tray with aluminium foil.
  2. Slice eggplant and place in a colander. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the slices and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sit for 15 minutes. The salt will draw water out of the eggplant (water molecules follow sodium), so you’re not left with rubbery, soggy eggplant on your pizza. After 15 minutes, rinse eggplant thoroughly and dry well with paper towelling.
  3. Arrange capsicum strips on the lined tray and brush with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the capsicum begins to char around the edges. When the capsicum is ready, remove from oven, transfer capsicum to a plate and put tray back in the oven while you prepare the rest of your pizza – a piping hot tray is the secret to getting a crispy pizza base!
  4. Spread the wrap with tomato paste and top with baby spinach. Arrange eggplant slices on top of the spinach and brush with a little olive oil. Follow with the capsicum, chopped parsley, pine nuts, and cheese (if using). Season with a little sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt. Place pizza on preheated tray (no foil or baking paper underneath) and bake in oven for around 15 minutes, or until the edges of the base have started to brown and the eggplant is visibly cooked. Remove from oven.
  5. To serve, top the pizza with extra parsley and crumbled feta. Cut into slices, forget about the knife and fork and enjoy each bite with your hands – true pizza style.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

A healthy twist on a calorific classic: Banana Bread

IMG_3671

Banana bread is one of THE dreamiest nostalgic foods…

When that ever-familar aroma of toasted and buttered banana bread fills your kitchen, you know you’re home. When I was younger, I’d often barge through the front door after school, throw 4 thick slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, smother them with so much butter that it would pool on top and drip down my chin as I took each bite. I remember finding comfort in the justification that something that tasted as good as cake could be as healthy as bread. Ha!

I may have since come to my senses, but my senses don’t fail me: the second I smell fresh banana bread, or better still, warm and buttered fresh banana bread, my salivary glands quite literally go bananas. I know I’m not alone here.

Instead of the classic recipe’s refined wheat flour, my banana bread calls for spelt flour. Although spelt is technically related to wheat and there’s a lot of debate out there as to which grain is more nutritious, the gluten is spelt is more fragile and susceptible to chemical and mechanical breakdown in the body, making it significantly easier to digest for many people.

Without all the butter, refined sugar and flour, my healthified version might not be Brumby’s worthy, but I promise you that it still manages to celebrate all the things we love about the classic: that buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture, the comforting flavour of ripe banana and just the right amount of sweetness to bring it all together. Yum.

IMG_3662 IMG_3663

Brilliantly Healthy Banana Bread

Serves 14

Dietary info: Wheat free, dairy free, refined-sugar free, fructose-friendly, contains some fructans (see notes), gluten (spelt), nuts (almonds) and egg.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed over ripe banana (approx. 4 medium-large bananas)
  • 3 large organic free range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nut oil
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 cups wholemeal spelt flour*
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup almond meal*
  • 3 tbs chia seeds
  • 1.25  tsp baking powder (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • generous pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • To top batter with before baking: 1 large banana cut lengthways, 3 tbs pecans*, 2 tbs good quality dark choc chips (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and generously grease a loaf tin (my tin is approx. 11cm x 26cm)
  2. In one bowl, combine the mashed banana, beaten eggs, macadamia oil, vanilla and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the spelt flour, coconut, chia seeds, almond meal, spices and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour banana mixture into it. Gently fold the ingredients until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin and smooth out lightly with the back of a large spoon if needed. Top with halved banana, pecans, dark chic chips and a drizzle of maple syrup. Bake for around 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, but still moist (don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely dry because the loaf is supposed to be moist throughout!). Cooking times will vary from oven to oven. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with a little bit of foil.
  5. Remove from the oven, allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. For a snack, serve on its own or toasted with a little organic butter or your favourite nut butter and a little drizzle of maple syrup. For a fuss-free brekky, serve warm with organic yoghurt/coconut yoghurt and berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, some choc chips and a drizzle of maple syrup – a sure winner among the boys!

Notes

  • To those on a low FODMAP diet:
    Ingredients marked with one asterisk (*) contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs. Each individual’s tolerance to these particular foods will vary, but unless you’re super sensitive or in the early stages of healing your gut, said ingredients in isolation shouldn’t cause a reaction if consumed in small amounts. However, because this banana bread contains a combination, it is possible that very sensitive individuals might not be able to tolerate a full serving of the bread (one 1.5cm thick slice).  If you find that you’re generally fine with these foods and you’re used to consuming similar things daily, then you should be fine with this recipe, especially if you limit yourself to one slice per sitting.  I can tolerate two slices now without worry, however two years ago I would have been pushing it and would have stuck to one. ALWAYS test your own tolerance! If spelt is a known issue for you in large amounts, try replacing half of it with buckwheat flour (but please remember that it will give a significantly different texture and flavour).  If you cannot tolerate spelt at all, you can play around with different low FODMAP flour combinations such as buckwheat flour, oat flour, rice flour etc. Other lower FODMAP swaps include ground flaxseed, peanut flour or carob powder instead of almond meal and carob powder instead of chia seeds. All the above will lend different textures and flavours and I have not tested any of them so if you do, I’d love to hear how you went!