Recipe: Gluten-free torta de galletas (biscuit cake)

My aunties didn’t bake a lot, so when it was time for cake they often made torta de galletas, a layered biscuit “cake”. I have vivid memories of me helping make the icing in their vintage stand mixer and, most importantly, licking the icing off the beaters. Of course, I also helped assemble the cake and waited patiently until the next day, when the biscuits had absorbed all the moisture and the cake had a much better structure.

My auntie Sumi passed away a few weeks ago. She was a great cook and she was a very kind, loving auntie. It was hard to think of a particular dish that reminds me of her because I’m pretty sure she cooked the bulk of the food my sisters and I ate growing up. Then I remembered I had copied one recipe from her notebook before moving to Australia, the recipe for torta de galletas.

The original recipe uses margarine and 1kg (!) of icing sugar for the icing. It also uses regular caramel (made by boiling a can of condensed milk), which I figured would be way too sweet. I used butter and a more reasonable amount of coconut sugar for the icing, and made the caramel with coconut milk and pitted dates. I also used gluten-free vanilla biscuits, which I found out crumble a lot more than regular biscuits, making the assembly process a bit more fiddly. The end result wasn’t as good as my auntie’s but it did remind me of her.

Gluten-free torta de galletas (biscuit cake)
Yield: about 16 servings

Torta de galletas

Icing:

  • 250g butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder (or coffee or liquor) diluted in boiling water
  • 1 egg

Caramel:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Layers:

  • 150g shredded or dessicated coconut
  • 250g chopped walnuts
  • 1 kg vanilla biscuits
  • 2 cups of milk (any type)

Directions

Icing:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together (you can use a mixer, food processor or do it by hand).

Caramel:

  1. Soak the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain well and blend with coconut milk and vanilla.
  3. Heat in a saucepan until thickened to a spreadable consistence.

Layers:

  1. Count the biscuits and divide the total by 6 or 8. The result will be how many biscuits you will use per layer.
  2. Form a layer of biscuits soaked in milk.
  3. Spread caramel on top of the biscuits, topped with walnuts and coconut.
  4. Add a layer of biscuits soaked in milk.
  5. Spread icing, topped with walnuts and coconut.
  6. Continue until you have 6 to 8 layers of biscuits (should end with icing).
  7. Refrigerate overnight to allow the biscuits to absorb the moisture.

Recipe: Chapana (Peruvian cassava dessert)

This is not a super well-know Peruvian dessert but is as authentic as it can get. In fact, apparently it’s been around for way longer than the popular desserts that appeared when we were a Spanish colony.

I’m usually biased toward chocolate when it comes to sweets, but this is an exception. I think this is in part because there are childhood memories attached to chapana. I recently learned this is one of my father-in-law’s favourite desserts, too. I guess we have more in common that what I thought :)

Frozen grated cassava

Chapana is made with grated yuca (cassava), chancaca (basically cane sugar that has been boiled and solidified in a block) and aniseed. It’s wrapped in banana leaves and after cooking it acquires a chewy consistency. Grating cassava is a pain in the ass, so when I found frozen cassava in an ethnic shop (can’t remember which) I bought it immediately with cassava in mind. I used coconut sugar instead of chancaca for a hipster version (and also because I don’t know where to buy chancaca in Sydney!), adjusted the ratio (usually 1:1) to make it less sweet and did my best in wrapping the parcels (I’m very sloppy with that kind of things).

Chapana

Chapana
Yield: 4 servings

Chapana

Ingredients

  • 450g frozen grated cassava
  • 200-225g coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp aniseed
  • banana leaves
  • kitchen twine

Directions

  1. Thaw cassava in the fridge overnight.
  2. Wipe the banana leaves clean.
  3. In a bowl, mix cassava, coconut sugar and aniseed.
  4. Divide mix in 4 parts and wrap each in banana leaves in a rectangular pillow-like parcels, wrapping the leaf over itself in 2-3 layers without breaking it if possible.
  5. Tie the parcels with kitchen twine.
  6. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the parcels and bring to a boil.
  7. Pop the parcels in the pot and boil for 30 minutes.
  8. Fish the parcels out of the water and let cool down enough to unwrap and enjoy.
  9. Chapana is usually eaten warm, although some people enjoy it cold or at room temperature.
Anzac biscuits

Recipe: Better (gluten-free) Anzac biscuits

It’s been ages since I’ve eaten Anzac biscuits because they are definitely not gluten-free and. I know there are several paleo versions floating around in the interwebs but oats are such an important ingredient in this particular cookie that IMO they don’t deserve to be called Anzac biscuits at all.

Back when I reintroduced oats in my diet to follow the Chinese doctor’s nagging recommendations, I tried a few brands of gluten-free (by US standards, which are less strict than Australian) and uncontaminated oats. I didn’t have any issues with any of those so I use them regularly. For this recipe I used this brand of Australian uncontaminated oats. To learn more about oats, gluten and contamination click here.

I also bumped up the protein content by adding some whey protein powder and used a relatively low amount of unrefined sweeteners (coconut sugar and maple syrup), hence the name “better Anzacs”. Don’t be fooled though, these are still treats!
Hope you’re having a great Anzac Day!

Better (gluten-free) Anzac biscuits
Yield: about 14 medium chunky cookies

Better Anzac biscuits

Ingredients

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup uncontaminated oats
  • 1/2 cup plain whey protein isolate
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients

  • 75g butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced works best).
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in a saucepan and melt on the stove (or place them in a bowl and melt in the microwave).
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  5. With your hands, make golf-sized balls with the batter, pressing firmly to make sure everything sticks together. Place on a tray lined with wax paper and flatten with your hand.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on your taste (20 minutes will yield darker and crunchier cookies).
  7. Let cool down and enjoy.

Recipe: Lúcuma coconut mousse v2.0

This is a revamped version of the lúcuma coconut mousse I posted a while ago, this time with the added benefit of the probiotic cultures in CO YO and the collagen in gelatin.

Lúcuma coconut mousse v2.0
Yield: 4-6 servings

Lúcuma coconut mousse

Ingredients

Base

  • 1 cup (100g) almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 50g salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mousse

  • 1 400g tub plain CO YO
  • 2 tablespoons lúcuma powder
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin (grass-fed recommended)

To serve

  • a few squares of dark chocolate (85% recommended)

Directions

Base

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Melt the butter and mix with the rest of ingredients.
  3. Line a small loaf pan with wax paper, spread the mix and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Let cool down.

Mousse

  1. Sprinkle gelatin on water and let hydrate. Melt over a pot of boiling water and let cool a bit.
  2. Mix coconut yoghurt, lúcuma powder and maple syrup with a whisk or mixer. Add hydrated gelatin and mix well.

To serve

  1. Line glasses or ramekins with pieces of the base, spoon mousse and top with grated chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Recipe: Chocolate coffee bites

There are only a few things that can mess with my willpower and usual tendency to eat sensibly. One of the biggies: dark chocolate-covered coffee beans. That’s the reason I (almost) never buy them.

One night I was studying and I felt like I *needed* my cacao-caffeine fix, but all the shops were closed. I came up with this super simple, quick and dangerous alternative.

Chocolate coffee bites
Yield: 6-12 units, depending on size

Chocolate coffee bites

Ingredients

  • 100 grams dark chocolate (min 70% cacao, 85% recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee (coarsely ground for plunger recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs

Directions

  1. Break chocolate in small pieces with your hands, place in a bowl.
  2. Boil some water in a pot, turn the heat off and place the bowl over the pot to melt the chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula.
  3. Mix in the coffee and cacao nibs.
  4. Pour in an ice tray (I make mine in a lemon slice-shaped silicone tray that yields 6 big portions). Alternatively you can use a small rectangular tray and chop it up before serving. Cover with cling wrap and place in the freezer.
  5. Wait patiently until set and enjoy.

Recipe: Paleo crema volteada

Another Paleo version of another Peruvian classic dessert: crema volteada (our take on crème caramel). This is my mother-in-law’s and my sister Gloria’s favourite dessert. The original version uses evaporated and condensed milk, and is served with caramelised sugar on top. Yes, it is very sweet. I used coconut milk and cream and just enough honey to make it slightly sweet. The texture was very similar to the original version, but was paler in colour because there was less protein and sugar to react with the heat.

Paleo crema volteada
Yield: 8 servings

Paleo crema volteada

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • honey or maple syrup, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Get a small square or rectangular oven-safe dish (I use a 20cm x 20cm Pyrex) and a larger baking tray with high rims. Line the oven-safe dish with baking (wax) paper. Line the baking tray with paper and place the oven-safe dish on top.
  3. Boil a kettle of water.
  4. Crack eggs in a medium-sized bowl and whisk with an electric mixer.
  5. Add coconut milk and cream, honey and vanilla essence and whisk until frothy.
  6. Pour mixture into oven-safe dish. Place in oven and carefully pour the boiling water in the baking tray, until the water has reached at half of the oven-safe dish height.
  7. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until set.
  8. Let cool down and chill in the fridge.
  9. When ready to serve, place a platter on top of the dish and invert carefully.
  10. Cut in portions and serve topped with honey or maple syrup.

Recipe: Paleo tres leches cake

I don’t know where tres leches (three milks) cake came from but it’s very popular in several Latin American countries. It’s basically a sponge cake soaked in a mix of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream (hence the name). Peruvian dessert queen Sandra Plevisani has a cinco leches version that uses coconut milk and dulce de leche (caramel) in addition. Needless to say, both versions are unbelievably sweet and not Paleo at all.

While it’s not my favourite cake (I prefer chocolate over anything else), I realise it’s a crowd pleaser. My version is, of course, Paleo, so you won’t need to drink a litre of water while eating it (nor a nap afterwards).

Paleo tres leches cake
Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Paleo tres leches

Ingredients

Sponge cake (recipe from Yoginibear’s blog):

  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup almond milk (preferrably homemade*)
  • ground cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Line a loaf pan with baking (wax) paper.
  3. Mix almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Add honey and vanilla whisk with an electric mixer (or by hand, if you’re game) until pale and fluffy.
  5. Using a spatula, carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet mix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until completely cooked.
  7. While cake cools down a bit, mix the milks in a bowl.
  8. Place cake in a suitable container (I use a Pyrex dish) and pour the milks on top. Cover with the container’s lid or cling wrap and refrigerate overnight to allow the cake to soak.
  9. When ready to serve, take the cake out of the fridge, cut in slices, pour the milk that’s sitting on the container on top of each slice and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

* To make the almond milk: soak 1/2 cup of almonds in water overnight, the next day drain and rinse them and blend them with 1 cup of fresh water. Drain in a fine mesh strainer. Use the milk for this recipe, and reserve the solids for later use (for example: nut porridge or pancakes, or as facial scrub).

Recipe: Paleo lamingtons (take 1)

Happy Australia Day! Time for a confession: in the 4 years I’ve lived in Australia I have never eaten a lamington. When we were “fresh” in the country I didn’t like coconut. Over time, this aversion disappeared but I just wasn’t too excited about sponge cake with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. Then I ditched the grains so lamingtons were out of the question.

As an almost citizen of Australia, I felt it was about time to try a lamington. I thought it would be relatively easy to find a gluten-free commercial one, but not a grain-free, crap-free one. So I had to make my own. Luckily, I’m one of those persons who can get a pretty good idea of what something should taste like by knowing what’s in it. Thus, I’m pretty confident my first attempt did not taste or feel like a true lamington. But it was delicious nonetheless. And I accidentally came up with a side recipe that will be posted soon.

For the moment, feel free to give this recipe a go. And yes, by “take 1” I’m taking on the challenge of coming up with a new, improved version every year on Australia Day.

Paleo mini lamingtons
Yield: 12 – 15 mini lamingtons

Paleo mini lamingtons

Ingredients

Sponge cake
Adapted from Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo.

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons macadamia butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla esence
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Icing

  • 1 can coconut cream (270 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar

Topping

  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut

Directions

Sponge cake

  1. Preheat oven to 180° and line a small baking tray with wax (baking) paper.
  2. If your coconut oil is solid, heat it up to soften/liquefy it.
  3. Whisk eggs, macadamia butter, coconut oil, maple syrup (I used 1 tablespoon maple syrup but you might want to use 2 if you eat more sweets than me) and vanilla essence until frothy. Don’t freak out if your macadamia butter is not so smooth and there are chunks of nuts in the mix.
  4. Mix coconut flour and baking soda with the rest of ingredients until well combined.
  5. Pour batter on tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool on a wire rack.

Icing

  1. Do not shake the can. Open it and remove the top layer (i.e. the creamiest part). Refrigerating the can makes this process easier.
  2. Whisk cream, cocoa powder and coconut sugar until well combined.

To serve

  1. Optional: with a sharp knife remove the upper and lower layers of the cake. This helps it absorb the icing better.
  2. Cut the cake in small rectangles.
  3. Dunk them in the icing and coat them with desiccated coconut.

Recipe: Lúcuma coconut mousse

The three Fs I miss from home are family, friends and food. And to be more specific about the third F, I’d say fruit is what I find myself craving more often. Not only standard stuff like bananas, avocados and papayas are way tastier on the other side of the world, but there are some fruits you just can’t get here. Among them: lúcuma.

Lúcuma is a fruit native to Perú, although it’s now grown in other South American countries (don’t let the Chileans fool you about its origin!) It’s a medium-sized round fruit with a dryish thin green skin that cracks when the fruit is ripe, soft fibrous orange flesh and one or more medium-sized brown seeds. I’ve written about this before but I’ll say it again: I absolutely hated it until age 28. One day at cooking school I had a lúcuma epiphany and now I love it as much as most Peruvians do.

Lúcuma is not widely available fresh in Australia (I think there are some people growing it in QLD), so every time I have the opportunity I get some sachets of dehydrated lúcuma from home. You can buy them here too but it’s much more expensive. The two brands I have in my cupboard at the moment are Orbea and Lukuma. I like the second one better.

Dehydrated lucuma

Lúcuma is often found in smoothies, ice cream and other desserts. Its flavour shines with dairy and chocolate. I used it last year in the cheesecake for the food blogger Xmas picnic. As I’m avoiding dairy, I gave it a shot with coconut milk and it worked! This recipe is as easy as it can get, suitable for extremely lazy people. Just grab some fancy glasses to serve it up and be ready to impress your guests. Because it’s a very rich dessert, you can stretch the batch to up to 8 servings. You can certainly eat the whole thing yourself but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Lúcuma coconut mousse
Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Lucuma coconut mousse

100 gr lúcuma powder
2 cans coconut milk
80 gr dark chocolate (min 70% cacao)

Refrigerate the coconut milk cans for a few hours (overnight is best).

Whisk the lúcuma powder and coconut cream until well combined and fluffy. You can use a food processor, blender or mixer if you’re lazy.

Spoon into glasses and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate on top.

Recipe: Suspiro de limeña

Following with the meal I prepared last week, now it’s time for the sweet course. I try to make my Peruvian-themed dinners strictly Peruvian, but I always find it hard to choose a dessert that it’s not too caloric and sweet. Given that I had already made one of the few light, not-too-sweet desserts two weeks ago (leche asada) I had no choice but to feed my friends a sugar-loaded bomb, which happens to be my favourite Peruvian dessert. Keep in mind that I don’t like my desserts to be too sweet, meaning that this particular one is too good to reject.

The bomb is called suspiro de limeña, named this way because it’s as sweet as the sigh of a Lima girl (that’s the exact translation). Its texture is smooth and silky, which I guess helps justify the name, too. As many other desserts accross Latin America, it features manjarblanco, the local version of dulce de leche or caramel. With a twist. And a wonderful cinnamon-vanilla-port flavoured Italian meringue.

Suspiro de limeña

I remember my oenology teacher telling us that Peruvian sweets defy the law of dessert wines (which in theory should be sweeter than the dessert) because wines that sweet simply don’t exist. The best pairing, according to her, is pisco, which helps to cut through the sweetness. IMO, a large glass of water or a strong espresso are fine choices, too.

Suspiro de limeña
Yield: 6 servings

Suspiro de limeña

1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
5 eggs
225 gr caster sugar
150 ml water
1 cinnamon stick
small pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon port

Pour both milks in a pot (preferably a heavy-bottomed one) over low heat. Cook for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thick. Let cool down until warm.

Separate the eggs. Reserve 3 whites and add the 5 yolks to the caramel. Mix well and pass through a strainer to avoid lumps.

Spoon or pipe caramel into 6 transparent glasses or cups and chill in the fridge.

Place egg whites and pinch of salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Place sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a pot over medium-high heat. Let boil until a syrup is formed (if you have a thermometer, let it reach 116ºC).

Turn on your mixer on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks. Set speed to high. Remove syrup from heat, remove the cinnamon stick and pour it on the egg whites in a thin thread.

Once the meringue has cooled down (touch the bottom of the bowl to be sure), add the ground cinnamon, vanilla essence and port, and turn off mixer.

Get the glasses out of the fridge and spoon or pipe the meringue on top of the caramel. Chill and enjoy.