Saturday, 1 September 2012

A baby, a carrot cake and green biscuits

Recently my sister had a new baby.  Little Stella is the eighth child that my brothers and sisters have had.  Yet it is different this time.  It is the first time that one of my siblings has had a baby and I am in the same town and am able to give some support.  It is such a joy to spend time with my sister and her new baby and to see Fran and John so happy.

I visited last week to find them in that dazed and confused state that new babies create.  I went into bossy sister mode (a very rare thing, I am sure) and took Stella off Fran to give mother a rest and put baby to sleep.  I brought Fran my favourite parenting book and lots of Sylvia's old clothes. 

There are many girls in m family.  Among the clothes in the bag were ones that Sylvia had inherited from cousins, including a gorgeous wee newborn dress.  I've urged Fran to use it as soon as she can because babies grow out of newborn clothes so quickly.  In fact it has been passed to a few babies and I am not sure if anyone has managed to get any wear out of it.  Babies are like that.  Blink and they are a bit girl sitting on your shoulder as you type (ahem, Sylvia)!

I also took food.  I am a food blogger, after all!  The cake was one I had seen on a Nigella Lawson tv show.  I was so impressed with her Venetian Carrot Cake that I looked it up online and bookmarked it.  It was surprisingly time consuming.  Squeeze the moisture from the grated carrot, simmer the sultanas, toast the walnuts.  I foolishly decided to substitute walnut oil for the neutral oil.  And I used walnuts in lieu of pine nuts but didn't read that they were to be scattered on top.

Never mind.  The cake was rather good but oh so very rich.  So intense that I took along a tub of ice cream.  Sylvia ate her scoop of ice cream and told me that the cake was yuk!   Fran and John were far kinder.  It was a very very moist cake that refused to slice into nice neat wedges.  Looks aren't everything, though!

Speaking of the appearance of baked goods, let me tell you about the biscuits (ie cookies) I baked this week.  I had bought a jar of sunbutter to see if Sylvia liked it as an alternative to peanut butter.  She didn't and neither did I.  Who can blame her when she has had a peanut allergy from such a young age that she has never been able to learn the joys of peanut butter.

Sylvia likes to go to the supermarket and pick up items and ask me to check if they have peanuts in them.  We talk about her allergy to peanuts.  Sometimes she asks why she has an allergy.  I don't know.  I am just thankful that her reactions have not been life threatening.

Left with a jar of sunbutter, I thought I might seek out some recipes.  The first one I tried was a gluten free one using coconut flour.  It was interesting to see how the batter thickened after I left the coconut flour to rest as directed.  The recipe also noted that the lemon juice was also to stop the biscuits going green, because apparently sunbutter can do that to a biscuit.   I added the lemon juice as directed.

When the biscuits came out of the oven they looked normal (above).  They tasted great.  Once they cooled I tasted another (for research).  I was surprised to see they were looking rather green around the gills (below).  How odd!

Even stranger, as the days went by they became greener.  Below is a photo taken a day after I made them.  What weird alien ingredients are in sunbutter!  Surely sunflower seeds can't do this!

I had thought this might be a good recipe for people I know who are gluten free.  But I just don't feel I could hand them around without a lot of uneasiness.  E wasn't keen on the green.  Either was Sylvia.  My mum was lukewarm.  Fran and John quite liked them.  I liked them but they were quite cakey and got even softer very quickly over a couple of days.  Perhaps if I had read the recipe and flattened them before baking they might have been crisper.

This week I went out again to see Fran and I took the last couple of the biscuits for tasting.  I also made a batch of chocolate macaroons and chickpea crackers to nibble on as we chatted. No need to put Stella to sleep this time.  She slept like the proverbial baby!

NOTE: A word of warning to those who want to make these sunbutter biscuits for others with nut allergies.  I always thought that seeds were a good alternative to nuts for allergy sufferers.  However I checked with a friend of mine whose son has far more severe allergies than Sylvia.  He is also allergic to seeds too.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WHB Apricot Delight and Dusty Magazine Clippings
Two years ago: Smoky Parsnip Muffins
Three years ago: Spring garden and WIP pasta
Four years ago: Choc chip and cherry cookies

Sunbutter choc chip cookies
adapted from Against All Grain
makes about 12 cookies

¼ cup (55g) butter (or margarine), softened
¼ cup (70g) sunbutter (mine was sweetened)
2 tbs coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp + 2 tsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter, sunbuttter, and coconut sugar. (I did this by hand.) Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon juice.  Add coconut flour.  Let mixture sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in bicarb soda and then choc chips.  Drop spoonfuls onto a lined baking tray.  Flatten.  Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 9 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on the tray.

Venetian Carrot Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson

3 tablespoons pine nuts (I used chopped walnuts)
2 medium carrots, grated (about 2 cups) about 200g
1/2 cup golden sultanas - I used darker ones
1/4 cup rum - I used orange juice
1/2 cup regular olive oil, not extra-virgin, (I used walnut oil - maybe a mistake)
3/4 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
1/2 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a 22cm (or 9 inch) round cake tin.

You will need a bit of time for preparation of ingredients - grate carrots and squeeze as much moisture out in a two layers of paper towel; dry fry walnuts; and simmer sultanas in orange juice for 3 minutes.

Using electric beaters, beat some air into the oil and sugar, then add vanilla and eggs and keep beating until yellow and creamy.  Gently fold in carrots, walnuts, sultanas and juice, almond meal, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centres comes out sticky but clean of uncooked cake batter.  Keeps 5-6 days and may be frozen.

On the Stereo:
Stone Roses

29 comments:

  1. aww aren't families the BEST!! I bet your sister is LOVING having someone nearby :)

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    1. Thanks Lisa - Fran has quite a lot of family nearby - it is great, especially with a young baby! (as you would appreciate)

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  2. I'd happily eat your Sunbutter. Well, actually, right now I wouldn't, because I'm n the land of AMAZING NUT BUTTERS OH MY HEAVENS.

    Congratulations to your sister! :)

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    1. Thanks Hannah - I might like it more if it wasn't sweetened - but I would love to try some of the amazing nut butters around you!

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  3. oh my gosh Stella is SO precious! how adorable! and what a cake! looks wonderful!

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    1. Thanks Caralyn - she is adorable - so little!!!

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  4. New babies are so exciting! On the green issue, I baked some muffins with sunflowers seeds in them a while ago and they went a green colour too... Don't know why either!

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    1. Thanks Kate - interesting - I mostly use sunflower seeds on top of oven bakes - don't know if I have put them in muffins (see more info down the comments)

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  5. Yay for new babies!!! Beautiful sweet little thing, welcome to the world darling one.

    Now that green is really intriguing. Ive bought some of it before thinking it would be a good alternative to peanut butter as well- ick. I tried I really did. I didn't cook with it though, if I'd have known it was going to change like that I think I would have stayed with it.

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    1. Thanks Brydie - I think I was more fascinated with it once it turned such an odd colour than when it was just beige - just a shame I wasn't so keen on the bikkies

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  6. Congrats to your sister! And how awesome that you get to be close by to help out!!

    I've had biscuits turn green on me also...not sure why!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - we need a green biscuit support group :-)

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  7. Congratulations to your sister - it must be lovely for both of you to be so close - you to be able to help out, and for them to have an experienced hand around to answer questions.

    The carrot cake looks lovely and moist, but those biscuits are the oddest thing I've seen in a very long time - how strange that they kept changing colour, and such a deep green too.

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    1. Thanks Caroline - it is nice to be close (well in Melbourne terms). Sylvia really loves seeing her little cousin. The change of colour was as odd as the colour - was glad I took the photos or I would have thought I was making it up

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  8. What wonderful news and congratulations on your newest family member. I've never heard of sun butter before. I'm guessing it's an nut friendly version of peanut butter?

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - sunbutter is sunflower seed butter - you can find it in the health food section of the supermarket - if you are interested in a little green baking :-)

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  9. Holy moly.. I can't say you've encouraged me to use sunbutter. Green?! THAT'S FRIKKING CRAZY! I know Dreena Burton has a heap of recipes with almond butter, cashew butter, etc (that I love!).

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    1. Thanks Matt - I felt the same way! I have had some great success (and a few fails) baking with nut butters - I thought this might be a good alternative - especially as they are not keen on nuts in kids child care centres and schools these days - wonder if kids would go for green!!!!

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  10. Such wonderful news! Congratulations to your sister. Welcome little one!

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    1. Thanks Lizzy - Stella is indeed very welcome in our family - we are all queuing up to hold her :-)

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  11. Hi Johanna and all,
    Ah, yes, the Green biscuits... I blog for SunButter, so I'm always looking for new recipes (which is how I found your lovely blog and sweet post). Hope it's okay if I chime in on the color. Here's what happens:
    Like other plants, sunflowers have chlorogenic acid in the stems and leaves. Sunflowers also have it in the seeds. Chlorophyll interacts with baking soda / powder and adds the green hue when the baked goods cool. It's not harmful, and you can counteract it by adding a bit of lemon juice to the recipe and/or reducing the baking soda/powder.

    Since your cookie recipe has some lemon juice already, I'd increase it to 1 tsp. and perhaps just use a smidgen less of the baking soda (there's already very little in your creation!).

    Or, just wait to make these on St Patrick's Day!

    Take care ~ Looking forward to following!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth - that's very useful information about the green. I still have some sunbutter so am still thinking about other recipes to try. Maybe it will still be around on St Pat's day or even halloween :-)

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    2. Wonderful! Can't wait to see what else you try: let us know, huh?

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  12. Green! Thank goodness I'm not the only one (although at least yours started out looking normal!) :) I still like the look of them though, and love the look of that carrot cake. It sounds like you were just the person your sister needed on hand and I'm sure she was very grateful for the cake and the clothes and your advice and support. Congratulations again to her.

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    1. Thanks Kari - it was even odder because they did seem so normal! Luckily for Fran I am not the only one - though she has had multiple offers of some baby gear, but I know she is very pleased with the help and the hand me downs!

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  13. Congrats, Auntie! Such lovely news. :)

    Those cookies are something else! When I was a student, I used to bake banana bread with walnuts all the time. One time, I ran out of nuts and threw in sunflower seeds instead. And guess what? Once the bread was cook and I sliced it, the seeds appeared. .. . green! But whoah, that last cookie photo is a bit scary. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Ricki - I had thought I had baked with sunflower seeds but now I am unsure - I have put them on top of things like lasagna and they don't change colour. The change in colour is amazing - all that change happening in the cookies after they are out of the oven

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  14. Congratulations on the new extended family member! It was fascinating to hear about the reaction of the sunbutter. What an interesting experiment and at least the cookies were edible!

    My mum and sister have severe nut allergies and both of them have issues with some seeds as well. I don't think that their seed allergies are as dangerous as the nut allergies though.

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    1. Thanks Mel - it is strange how an oddly coloured biscuit can taste different - they were best straight out of the oven and I think my uncertainty about them grew as the colour changed - but even cookie is best straight out of the oven :-)

      That makes sense when you say your family allergies aren't so severe when it comes to seeds because it must be why everyone worries about nuts so much more.

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