Note: Due to a “plug-in” issue this is being reposted from earlier this autumn. Apologies if you have already read it. 🙂
Mother Nature has picked my plums for me. And apples.
Earlier in the week Storm Ali blew through on winds of 80 miles per hour, tossing my garden around like a salad. A salad of leaves, branches, garden furniture and fruit: it’s a bit of a mess. I haven’t been out yet to fetch the furniture or scavenge for fruit. But I will.
What do you think should I do with my literal (appropriate use of this word for a change) windfall of fruit? The world’s largest fruit crumble? A huge vat of jam? Fruit butters? Ferment the poor suckers? I have no idea. I’ll need to think fast though before I have the world’s plumpest, fructose-high squirrels. I already see them, right now, scampering on the tumbled over furniture and using my towering oak tree as a helter skelter ride. Some look a little fatter already… 🙂
Ideas For Windfall Fruit
One thing I will be doing is freezing the plums. All of my apples are cooking ones so I will probably cook them down, puree them and freeze in little pale packets of puree to use as partial fat-replacers in baking – more on that below. But the plums I will halve, stone and lay on parchment-lined baking trays to open freeze for an hour. Then I will tumble the frozen plums into labeled bags for use at a later date. I can use them in baking, stews (they are brilliant in tagines – adding a nice sweet tang), smoothies, porridge, sauces, chutneys, jams, “butters” and salad dressings (yes, really). I may dehydrate some for healthy snacking, too. Homemade prunes. That’s kind of a weird thing to write. I feel very old thinking that homemade prunes is a cool thing to do….
How To Make Your Bakes & Cakes More Nutritious
These tips are all easy, use whole food ingredients and I guarantee you will love the taste and texture they give. One or two have good shock value for the unsuspecting consumer, too. 😉
Use Nuts. Nuts and seeds make brilliant flour substitutes. Not just ground almonds either. In this recipe I’ve used my favourite nuts, walnuts. If you have a good blender (I use this power blender) you can make your own “flour” out of most any nut. I wouldn’t try macadamia though as it is very oily when blended. Ground nuts spoil rather quickly so blend/process just enough to use for a recipe, or for a week: you can store in the freezer to extend its usefulness. Homemade nut flours and commercial ground almonds tend to be slightly gritty in texture, so look for a product labelled as almond “flour” rather than “meal” or “ground” if you want that actual flour texture. I like it a little nubbly and textured.Straight swapping with flour is not recommended for traditional UK and US baking as the body and structure of the bake will be quite altered. Replacing some flour with ground nuts is however a very good thing, adding healthy fats, protein and vitamins. But feel free to experiment. I tend to replace up to one-third of any flour with nuts. I rarely make a traditional cake with all flour anymore as I really like the taste and texture of using ground nuts. It’s actually something that’s been done for hundreds of years. In Medieval northern Europe ground almonds were used extensively in baking as wheat was so scarce. There are loads of nut-based baking recipes online. As a heads-up bakes subbing all of the flour for nuts will tend to be oiler, moister, brown much more quickly and be on the crumbly side. Which isn’t always a bad thing!
Oats, too. High in filling fibre and low-medium when calculating Glycemic Load (a good thing) this wholesome carbohydrate is my favourite flour-alike. Use your blender or food processor to get a beautiful, light flour. Oats are a similar flavour match to a wheat, but a bit sweeter and nuttier. They also keep cakes nicely moist. When making biscuits/cookies or breads replace 1/4 cup for every cup with oats. For cakes and traybakes you can do an even swap but increase the oats by one-quarter as wheat flour packs down more than oat flour. For weight measures – my preference – it is equal. To get the lightest flour, pass the ground oats through a sieve and save the bits that are left for a quick-cook porridge or to add to a breakfast smoothie. Once ground oat flour needs to be used fairly quickly so grind small amounts, or do larger volumes and store in bagged up in the freezer.
Fresh fruit is fab. Most of us know that applesauce makes a wonderful fat substitute in baking, but did you know that other fruits work well too? Peaches, cooked pears and pumpkin (tinned is great), bananas, plums and apricots make delicious, nutrient-packed fat subs in many baked treats. Fat in a baked good adds moistness, flavour, aids browning and adds tenderness. Pureed fruits duplicate these fat functions quite well. The standard ratio is 1:1. So, if a recipe calls for 200 grams of butter, try 100 grams of butter and 100 grams of pureed fruit. I go further than this in today’s recipe for Plum Brûlée Upside Down Cake and it is absolutely lovely; you honestly don’t miss the fat at all. If you want more precise information to inform your baking experiments, here is a great article from familyeducation.com, Fruitful Fat Substitutes.
And I can’t forget, just using fruit in “full fat” cakes and bakes. Adding berries to muffins and traybakes is easy to do with most any such recipe. Just remember to toss fruit in a little flour (or your pretend flour!) and fold it in with a light hand. This ensures a more even distribution of the fruit in whatever you have baked. My Rhubarb and Blueberry Cardamom Crunch Bars are one of my personal favourites – veg! fruit! oats!
Adding vegetables. You knew I was going to suggest this, didn’t you? I use grated vegetables in a lot of baking. Carrot cake is the most well-known vegetable-flecked cake, but I’ve been making Chocolate Beetroot Cake for over 25 years. I’ve got quite a few on Food To Glow: Parsnip and Lime Marmalade Cake, Kale and Apple Cake with Apple Icing (from Kate Hackworthy’s brilliant cookbook, Veggie Desserts + Cakes.), Carrot Cake Tahini Power Bars (also featuring oats and walnut meal!), Sunny Spring Vegetable Muffins (savoury) and more.
Grated and pureed vegetables add delicate moisture (some you will want to squeeze before mixing in to the batter or dough), fibre and a plethora of nutrients without being weird. Unless it turns the bake an unexpected colour! Read this Metro.co.uk article on 20 delicious cakes made with vegetables for ideas. And if you fancy a savoury vegetable cake, try my Savoury Spinach, Wild Garlic, Nettle and Porcini Cake. Or this Cauliflower Cheese Cake. These are both family favourites.
Beanz Meanz Browniez. I have fooled many a person with my protein-packed, whole food brownies. Do you know about this fun dinner party trick? Black beans, pureed with the rest of your ingredients – minus all the flour – make fantastic brownies. Serve warm with crème fraîche or ice cream for a little luxury. The trick is to keep bean brownies on the fudgy side. Here is my well-tested (10 years +) recipe for Fudgy Aduki Bean Brownies. Adding beans means adding fibre, protein and potassium. Here are some ideas from Shape magazine for sweet bean cuisine. For a non-baked treat, try my No-Bake Cookie Dough Brownie Bites featuring chickpeas!
Chickpea Liquid/Aquafaba. I was introduced to the idea of using the liquid that you drain from canned chickpeas to be an egg and whipping cream substitute in early 2015. I predicted in a blog post (with this Magic Chocolate Mousse recipe) that it would be big. I was right. You can even get commercially made vegan mayonnaise using this miracle liquid. And bakeries sell aquafaba macarons so light and delicate that you’d never guess they didn’t have a main ingredient. Here is my recipe for a breakfast bake: Brown Sugar and Spice Doughnut Waffles. This article from veganfoodandliving.com gives 25 fab links to aquafaba recipes, some baking but a lot of really great recipes for things you didn’t know could be veganised. Loads of things I’d like to try in it.
Use natural sugars, and keep overall sugars down. Many baking recipes are amenable to lowering the sugar. I advise cutting out one-third of the sugar in cakes and see how you like it. Any lower and the texture tends to change. In things like brownies and other dense bakes, experiment with using dates or prunes instead of sugar. Here is a good guide from King Arthur Flour for using liquid sweeteners in place of sugar.
So, to the Plum Cake. A few notes. You don’t have to brûlée it, but it adds a nice crunchy sweetness that contrasts well with the lightly sweetened, soft cake itself. Also, you will note that the images show two iterations. The darker one has the walnuts and wholegrain gluten-free flour blend, while the paler one is with almonds and polenta. Try it either way. Or both ways. A last thing to note is not to use a loose-bottomed tin. There is risk of leaking from the fruit so please use a standard round or square baking tin, lined with baking parchment.
**Remember to follow me on Pinterest and, if you make my Plum Brûlée Upside Down Cake, click on the pin at the bottom and leave a photo of your make with a comment telling me what you think, or any awesome changes that you made. Similarly, any Instagram posts tagged @food_to_glow using my recipes will go on my Story if I see them. I’m always so proud when you share my recipes with the world. Yay!!!
What do you do with extra fruit? What are YOUR tips for healthier baking? Please share your thoughts and ideas down below!
Plum Brûlée Upside Cake
Juicy plums in and on this upside down style of cake make it super moist and naturally sweet. Gluten-free, whole grain and lower added sugars and fat. A healthier kind of baking.
- 75 grams rolled whole oats
- 75 grams walnuts or ground almonds
- 75 grams wholegrain gluten-free flour mix or polenta/cornmeal
- 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg more if not freshly grated
- 100 grams plums no stone and chopped
- 50 ml organic rapeseed oil or olive oil
- tsp vanilla extract or powder
- 3 medium organic eggs
- 100 grams unrefined sugar vanilla sugar is nice
For the Cake Tin
- 6-8 plums stones removed, fruit sliced
- 1 tsp melted butter or oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 180Fan/200C/400F. Line a square (8-inch) or round baking tin with parchment paper.
Put the dry ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to get a sandy-textured flour. Set aside.
Put the wet ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth - about 30 seconds.
Pour the wet blended ingredients into a mixing bowl, then add the dry mixed ingredients on top. Blend well with a spatula or spoon until just mixed. I find a sweeping, figure-of-eight motion works best to keep it light.
Take the lined baking tin. Brush the butter or oil onto the parchment paper. Artfully or randomly lay the plum slices over the tin, with some space in between each slice. Carefully pour over the batter so as not to dislodge the fruit. Gently smooth the top if uneven.
Place the baking tin into the heated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Cover with foil and bake a further 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, taking off and saving the foil.
Let the cake cool for 15 minutes then carefully turn out. The best way to do this is hold a plate firmly over the top and, in one movement, flip. Let the cake drop onto the plate and remove the baking parchment.
To brûlée the cake, turn on your overhead grill/broiler. Line a baking tray with the reserved foil and carefully transfer the cake to the tray. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar and place under the heat. Watch it carefully. Pull it out when it is golden in places. Cool slightly then cut into slices or pieces.
This cake will freeze well cut or whole. To freeze, wrap in a double layer of foil, place in a labeled freezer bag and defrost completely before eating. Use within 3 months of freezing and once defrosted eat within two days.
You may use other fruits instead of the plums. I've made this with peaches and it was gorgeous. Figs would also be great right now. Berries would be good too, but I'd still puree the plums or use applesauce.
You can make this "full fat" by using 150 ml of olive or rapeseed oil instead of the fruit puree and 50 ml of oil.