I cannot describe how delighted I was to receive Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache last Christmas. After developing a severe intolerance to wheat and gluten, cakes were something that were suddenly closed off to me. No more would I enjoy a Starbuck’s muffin with a vanilla latte or a belgian bun with a cup of tea. This made me very, very sad.
Until that is, I discovered this book and placed it firmly at the top of my Christmas list because pretty much every recipe in it is entirely gluten-free. I’m not the most experimental or experienced baker, so working my way (very slowly) through this book has been somewhat of a revelation. The premise is simple: cakes don’t have to be once in a while treats to be enjoyed amidst feelings of guilt. They can actually be good for you. No, I’m not joking. Take the muffins for example: the nutritional info for your average muffin puts the calorie content at around 380 calories (way more if they contain chocolate), whereas the ones in this book range from around 180-260. That’s a saving of more than a large glass of wine! Brilliant.
Anyway, my favourite recipe so far (I have a long way to go to do the whole book) has got to be these Lemon, Sunflower Seed and Blueberry Muffins (p. 96). Harry (of Cook Yourself Thin fame) has taken the humble blueberry muffin, a favourite coffee-shop breakfast snack and totally revamped it. The lemon taste comes through with an unexpected strength, which adds a surprising twist when you bite into one for the first time. The secret “alternative” ingredient? Well, all the cakes contain vegetables. Yes, vegetables. A mound of grated courgette in this case. Combined with the use of wonderfully light rice flour (which Harry says is actually far better for making cakes with than wheat flour), the use of vegetables means that these cakes stay incredibly moist for days. I normally do a batch of muffins or a big cake at the weekend which still taste delicious at the end of the next week.
This recipe can be a little fiddly in places (I absolutely hate grating lemon zest) and I had to invest in an electric whisk for fear of developing repetitive strain injury from all the whisking, but it is SO worth it, trust me. Now, all this writing about it has made me want to go and make my fourth batch…