sugar alternatives

Pear & Pecan Spice Cake

One of the best things that came from my travels was the foodie inspiration - you know, alongside finding myself and being at one with nature. Much to the dismay of my waistline, Bali and Australia were filled to the brim with incredible cafés, serving up some of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. I genuinely don't think anyone can beat the Aussies on the art of plating.

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One dish in particular remains etched in my mind. It was at The Kettle Black, one of my favourite brunch spots in Melbourne, set in a beautiful old Federation bungalow. I ordered the bircher muesli, and out it came topped with all kinds of fruit - kiwi, orange, blueberries, pear - cut and arranged to perfection. Somehow they made the fruit look cool.

The beautifully thinly sliced pear in said bowl of muesli was the inspiration for this pear & pecan spice cake. I realise how ridiculous that probably sounds - I won't lie, it has to be one of my more niche sources of inspiration. It is inspiration nonetheless, and as the photos show, it's just amazing how a simple cut of fruit can completely transform a bake. 

Recipe

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter

3 medium eggs

250g coconut sugar (can use caster sugar or golden caster sugar, but reduce to 200g)

200g spelt flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp all spice

50g roughly chopped pecans, plus extra to decorate

2-3 conference pears 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a 23cm cake tin.

2. Peel, core, and finely slice the pears. Place them in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them browning.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or using an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

4. Gradually add in the eggs one by one, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.

5. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices in a separate bowl, and gradually fold into the wet mixture in 3 inclusions. Carefully fold in the pecans.

6. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and arrange your sliced pears on top. Don't actually push them into the batter as they'll just disappear into the cake in the oven, so just place them on top. Scatter with your extra rougly chopped pecans. 

7. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a cuppa!

Middle Eastern Mahalabiya with Almond Milk & Maple Syrup

I cannot deny that Middle Eastern desserts are some of my favourites. I've never really been a baklawa person, and that's often what first comes to mind when people think of Arabic desserts. But throw me some rosewater and an extra helping of pistachios, and I'm there. Mahalabiya, a rose water and pistachio milk pudding, is top of my list.

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I used to make this with my grandmother (bibi) all the time. She used to always make little pots - one for me, one for her, and one extra for whoever was coming over later. Because of that, I'll always prefer having my own little bowl of it rather than scooping some out of a big one, which is how it is more typically served.

 

It helps that my brother brought back some of the most beautiful handmade ceramic bowls from his recent trip to Palestine. I've been wanting to recreate mahalabiya for a while now, and with such pretty bowls at hand, I thought this was the perfect opportunity!

Traditionally, the dessert is made with whole milk and caster sugar. However, I thought I'd experiment with making it a little bit more healthy by substituting the normal milk with almond milk, and the sugar with maple syrup. I was pretty nervous as I had my grandma's sister (basically grandma number 2) on the other end of the phone waiting to hear whether my messing around with her recipe had worked or not!

Thankfully, it turned out just as I'd hoped. The almond milk makes it feel so much lighter and adds a lovely texture, and the maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness. Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, and delicious!

It's actually also probably the easiest, quickest, and least-messy dessert I've ever made. You can whip it up in a matter of minutes, and just need a little bit of patience whilst waiting for it to set. 

Here goes...!

Ingredients

2 cups almond milk (plus 1/4 almond milk)
2 tablespoons rosewater
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 cup almond milk

Recipe

1. Pour the 1/2 cup almond milk and the maple syrup into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat. 

2. Meanwhile, place the cornflour in a mug and add the extra 1/4 almond milk. Working quickly, mix these together with a spoon to form a paste.

3. Take the milk and syrup mixture off the heat, and add in the cornflour paste. Stir, and bring back onto the heat. 

4. Continue stirring until the cornflour has completely dissolved and the mixture thickens to the consistency of cake batter. Do not allow the mixture to boil!

5. Divide the mixture into small bowls, and leave to cool completely.

6. Transfer the bowls to the fridge, and leave them to set for a few hours, or even overnight. Decorate with ground and whole pistachios, and some edible rose petals if you have any!