Archive for February, 2012


Mint Lavender Brownies (Dehydrated, Low Sugar/Fat)

[ Equipment: food dehyrator or low-temperature-capable convection oven, an 8-inch square cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

These semi-raw, moist, chewy brownies scented of mint and lavender have been packed with grains, fresh and dried fruits and nuts, but weigh in at less than 1/2 the calories and 1/5 the fat of commercial raw brownies made from date and nut pastes. The solid leavener (puffed rice squares cereal) transforms the oat flour dough into a pseudo-cake with a soft, coarse crumb. It’s also the only non-raw ingredient and could be omitted to make 100% raw brownies.

It was my first dehydrated cake. In raw cuisine, a cake is constructed from layers of date and nut pastes, often chilled or frozen for firm slicing. I wanted a cake with a lighter texture, however. Plus, a cake on VaporBaker should be baked; chilled cakes didn’t truly qualify. The raw cookie doughs from my earlier dehydration recipes would be too firm or crumbly to fashion into cakes. They had binders of a nut or legume butter sweetened with honey or a syrup, binders that broke apart too easily for a chewy-type brownie.

For this recipe, I coarsely ground oatmeal in a food processor to make oat flour in a ratio of 1-1/4 cup oatmeal per 1 cup of oat flour. A maple syrup, raisin and banana puree formed a very flexible binder, because the hydrophilic fruits dehydrated slowly into a sticky adhesive. A large banana alone pureed with the syrup could probably have held the cake together as well, but the raisins helped darken the binder to blend well with the cocoa.

The brownies can be made without a leavener, but puffed rice squares substantiated the texture by adding volume without impacting the taste. Regular puffed rice cereal (individually puffed grains of rice) might not work as well as the squares, which trap more air in the dough. Do not substitute a puffed grain containing gluten (such as puffed wheat or puffed kamut). The gluten stretches too much when moist for a rubbery mouth feel.

I’ve been experimenting with low-fat, low sugar ingredients, but only recently extended that paradigm to dehydrated pastries. Alternative no-calorie sweeteners like sucralose didn’t behave like sugar other than as a sweetener. For example, the sugar-free maple syrup from Maple Grove Farms (the only brand in my local market) lacked the body and tack of regular syrup, so I left it to the banana-raisin puree to supply both flavor and adhesion for the dough. For those who avoid sucralose and all the other alternative sweeteners, I have also given sugar-based options.

The perforations in the dough helped speed the evaporation of moisture. The brownies are heated at a relatively high temperature of 150°F/65.5°C for the first hour to warm up the dough quickly and reduce the overall dehydration time (less than 3 hours total). Those with more time could dehydrate at 125°F/51.7°C throughout.

Although these brownies must refrigerated because they contain fresh fruit and will spoil at room temperature, they will harden when chilled. A few minutes in the dehydrator brings them back to life.

Makes 12 servings
– 100 calories/3g fat per serving
– Oven Temperature: 125-150°F/51.7-65.5°C

  • 2 cups coarsely-ground oat flour (see text)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon crushed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sucralose-sweetened maple syrup or dark agave syrup (see text)
  • 4 packets powdered sucralose or 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground coffee bean or instant coffee
  • 1 cup puffed rice squares cereal (Rice Chex)
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (optional)

232 cal/15 g fat

1. Cover raisins, lavender flowers and mint leaves in hot water and soak about 1 hour or until plump. Drain, reserving raisins, lavender flowers and mint. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix oat flour (w/lavender), salt, cocoa powder until well combined.

3. In a blending cup, puree maple syrup, raisin mixture, vanilla extract, salt, coffee powder and sucralose with an immersion blender until smooth (or do this in a blender).

4. Add banana, cut into small chunks, and blend until smooth. Total volume should be around 1-1/2 cups.

5. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir until moistened.

6. Stir in sunflower seeds.

7. Add puffed rice squares cereal and stir gently until evenly distributed. Try to avoid crushing the cereal.

8. Grease 8-inch square pan. Press dough into the pan. With 1/8 inch skewer, perforate the dough through to the bottom of the pan at 1/2-inch intervals.

9. Dehydrate at 150°F/65.5°C for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 125°F/51.7°C and dehydrate for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Brownies should be firm, moist but not soggy. Score into 12 squares.

Store brownies in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Warm them before serving.


Ginger Meringue Cake (Pavlova) w/Bananas, Ginger-Blueberry Sauce (Baked, Low Sugar-Fat)

[ Equipment: convection oven (preferred) or other LTB oven, baking sheet. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

July 22, 2012: I now recommend that this cake be made with a wet-dry steam baking method to set the cake faster and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in the batter for improved texture. Fill the water tray for 30 minutes of steam. See here for details. For a crispy crust, use 100% sugar. For a taller cake (and lower calories), use the sugar-sucralose blend.

Between the 2 kinds of meringue cakes, Pavlova and angel food, the Pavlova had the advantage of being easier to prepare, or so I thought. Over the months, I baked many, varying the amounts of cornstarch, lemon juice, flavorings, all-sugar vs. sucralose-sugar blends, preparation procedures. The crust on a typical Pavlova sinks and cracks as it cools. The version presented here has a thinner crust that cracks only a little and doesn’t sink much at all.

The picture above shows a maple Pavlova meringue with substantial cracking and sinking. The main differences between it and this recipe are the amount of cornstarch – only half as much in the Ginger cake and the reduced baking time – 30 minutes less for the ginger cake. Less cornstarch didn’t appreciably alter the taste of the meringue (it still had the starchy characteristic of a Pavlova), but it did help the meringue hold its shape longer in the cooler oven. More cornstarch seemed to create a slicker batter.

Another reason for the spreading appeared to be the fact that I mixed in granulated white sugar instead of the caster sugar specified in almost all recipes. Granulated sugar didn’t dissolve quickly, and the left-over grains may have caused the structure of whipped egg whites to collapse under heat. My solution was to add the sugar while the whites were still liquid, before they began drying out from the suspension of air bubbles from the whipping. The maple meringue also contained 100% sugar, which may have contributed to the fragile crispness that dammed batter as it formed.

Having said all that, the batter spread made larger disks of meringue, which could then serve more people. One time, it came out in a 10=inch round that was about 3/8-inch thick (see picture above). It easily could serve 8 by piling more fruit and whipped cream over it. The batter in this recipe resists spreading. The ginger cake started out as a 5-1/2 round and came out measuring 7 inches in diameter. For a larger cake, make a larger round with the meringue before baking.

The Pavlova is fat-free, gluten-free and low sugar. In place of the fat-free Cool Whip topping, I would beat evaporated skimmed milk until thick and then sweeten it with sucralose to taste. Those who don’t like no=calorie sweeteners could increase the amount of granulated white sugar to 1/2 cup.

Makes 4 servings (up to 8 servings – see text)
– 130 calories per serving (4 servings)
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

Meringue Cake:

  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 8 packets sucralose or 1/2 cup sugar (see text)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Ginger Blueberry Sauce and Cake Topping:

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 packet sucralose (see text)
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup no-fat sweetened whipped cream or no-fat Cool Whip topping

Ginger Blueberry Sauce Method:

1. In a heatproof dish, lightly mash 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries.

2. Add powdered ginger, sucralose and mix.

3. In a small dish, mix the cornstarch and water. Add to the blueberries and stir.

4. Microwave on HIGH for about 1-1/2 minutes until thickened.

5. Cool for a few minutes. Mix in 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries. Set aside.

Pavlova Method:

1. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, lemon juice and salt until foamy.

2. Beat in sugar or sugar-sucralose blend in 3 or 4 portions and beat to the soft peak stage. Then add vanilla extract and beat to the stiff peak stage. Egg whites should still be glossy but not wet.

Note: granulated white sugar will not dissolve completely in stiffly beaten egg whites. Add the sugar at the foamy stage only or substitute a finely ground sugar.

3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, ginger, chili powder until well combined. Fold mixture into the egg whites.

4. Set a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet or cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently spoon the egg white batter onto the baking sheet and shape into 5-1/2 inch round. The top should be slightly concave.

The pavlova will spread a little as it bakes. In my oven, a 5-1/2 inch disk of meringue evens out to about 7-inches.

5. Bake at 250°F/121°C for 30 minutes. If the base of the meringue cake is a golden brown and will burn, reduce heat to 200°F/93°C and continue baking for another 30 – 45 minutes, until the surface of the cake is dry and the sides are lightly golden. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to cool completely in the oven.

If the cooled cake feels soggy on the surface, dry it out in a 200°F/93°C for 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Transfer the pavlova to a serving plate.

7. Cover the top of the cake with a layer of sliced bananas.

8. Spread on a layer of no-fat whipped cream or whipped topping.

9. Pour the ginger-blueberry sauce and blueberries over the whipped cream. Slice and serve.