Monthly Archives: August 2011

Sweet Potato Protein Cakebombs

Isn’t it fantastic that you can take some leftover ingredients and create something wonderful?  Sometimes it feels like dumb luck … maybe this time it was.  It’s very likely.  I don’t care.  If it works, run with it, right?  Don’t ask too many questions 🙂

In a few days, I’m going away for a week-long holiday (YAY) and realised today that I had stocked up on a few items that I simply will not finish off before I leave and they would certainly be well past their use by dates by the time I get back the following week … quark, yoghurt, that sort of thing.  I also cooked a large, wonderfully flavoured sweet potato and had plenty of leftover potato sitting around.

I’ve also recently taken the plunge and bought some frozen egg whites and some 100% pure egg albumen powder.  Timely, given I didn’t have any leftover egg whites on hand.  I’m talking about fresh egg whites, pasteurised and snap frozen and powder that has nothing in it but egg albumen.  Why?  Well, my need for egg whites far outweighs my need for the yolks and I simply refuse to toss out fabulous fresh organic egg yolks.  Sure, I can think of a gazillion creams, gelato, citrus curds, and desserts that could make excellent use of the yolks but I also don’t have the time to keep up with the number of yolks on hand.  My family’s demand for macarons also literally eats into my egg white stash.  So this is one of my little experiments with using some alternatives.

I really wanted to give the frozen egg whites a go.  They come in a one litre sealed bag of egg white.  The idea is that you let it thaw in the refrigerator and then use it all within 7 days.  Well, that’s not going to work … I leave in a few days!  So this brainiac decides she’s going to slice off what she needs and let that part thaw in the fridge.

Anyone out there tried slicing a block of frozen egg whites with a knife?  Dangerous, I tell you. 

Seriously,  you need a chainsaw to hack through that stuff.   Maybe I’m just a wuss and clearly need the extra protein.  For this experiment, though, I’m sticking with the egg white powder.  Volunteers to help me hack through that frozen mass are most welcome 😀

Pretty much every protein treat I have posted to date has included nuts and seeds.  While that is all good and they are delicious and healthy, they are also relatively high in fat.  Sure, they’re all good fats, but there are times when you just need something that gives you a protein kick without the added fat.

Hey to my bodybuilding and fitness friends, you know what I mean.  You are awesome, not just for your dedication to training but also for your dedication to very strict diets before competitions.  Then there are the rest of us mere mortals trying to cut our body fat, or lose weight, whatever.

Some fat is good.  But too much of a good thing, whatever it is, is usually bad.  So this is for you, and us, and me.

If you like sweet potato, vanilla, and spices, this is a great treat!  The texture is more creamy than cake-like so they’re a bit like a cross between a sweet potato pie and cheesecake with just a little cakeiness.  The texture is a bit like a fudgy brownie.  The vanilla and cinnamon really hit you.  It is almost like a very healthy version of something you’d have at Thanksgiving in the U.S. … sweet potato pie anyone? 😀

It gets bonus points for being gluten-free and a gold star for being nut-free (if that’s your brand of allergy).

Do you mind if I have a bit of a rant?  One of the problems I have with a lot of the high protein recipes that get posted all over the web is that they often contain ingredients that, to my mind, are seriously questionable.   Most flavoured protein powders containing fillers, artificial sweeteners, and, often, other dodgy ingredients.  Not only does this lower the protein content, gram for gram, but it also means you are consuming crapola along with your protein.  Other ingredients I see in recipes are usually “low-fat pudding mix”, “sugar-free syrups”, “fat-free, sugar-free jello” and the like.  

Highly processed much?  If you take out the key ingredients from these “foods”, what the heck replaces them?  Enough said.

If the deliciousness of those recipes relies on these ingredients, I’m just not sold on the recipe.  If I want my body to crave the good stuff, I need to train my palate to appreciate the good stuff.   So none of that here.  I do use a small amount of coconut sugar.  At least you know it has some nutritional value and is not a source of empty calories.   There isn’t a bag full of sugar in these little bites because the sweet potato is, well, aptly named … sweet.

Each to his/her own.  I like to keep it natural.

End of rant.

These little cakebombs do not need artificial flavours to taste totally awesometastic.

They are great on their own but also seriously WOW served with some yoghurt or protein fluff.   If you want a few more carbohydrates in there and some chewiness you could add some dried cranberries or blueberries.  If you don’t mind a little fat, dollop a little nut butter on top.  Oh yeah.  Sure, you can also add some cacao nibs or drizzle each cake with a little 100% raw cacao chocolate.  WOW.  Yes.   I had to mentioned cacao.  Sorry.  It just happens.

I suggest you use standard sized muffin or cupcake liners for these.  I used large ones to rid myself of them (ugly things) so the cakebombs are not as high as I intended – but they would be if you use standard size liners.

The nutritional profile is provided below.  You know the drill … I do my research to get the most accurate information I can.   It’s pretty good if you want some great protein, quality carbs, and not much fat – 101 calories, 10.6g protein, 15.5g carbs, a whole 4.0g of fibre, and only 0.8g fat per cake!  Better than pretty good.  They are the bomb.  Of course.

Here’s to you, my dedicated, awesome body comp pals and fit foodies.

Energy to move.  Power to lift.  Right?  Shazam!

Kind of like a cheesecake, kind of fudgy brownie ... mmmm

Makes: 6

20 grams pure egg albumen powder*
125 millilitres water*
150 grams cooked sweet potato
150 grams low-fat quark (<0.1g fat)
80 grams non-fat plain yoghurt
20 grams granulated coconut sugar
50 grams coconut flour
10 grams pure pea protein isolate
2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free)
2 – 3 tablespoons pure vanilla bean paste or seeds from 2 vanilla beans
1 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange or lemon zest (optional)

You can use 125 grams fresh liquid egg whites in place of the egg albumen powder and water or frozen egg whites, thawed, of the same volume.

Preheat the oven to 190℃.  you can use muffin tins or muffin or cupcake liners.  You will need six.  Place on a tray.

If using the albumen powder and water, whisk together until the albumen powder dissolves completely.  It will be a little foamy because hey presto, you now have egg whites!

Now it gets even easier 🙂  Place all the ingredients in to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.

Divide the batter between the six muffin (cupcake) liners.

Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.  When I say golden, these really are golden … check them out.   Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  You can probably freeze them but … it’s a small batch 🙂

Nutritional Profile

As always I have used average values for standard products.  Please note that the egg white powder is pure egg albumen with no filler or additives.  All ingredients are clean and free from additives and artificial sweeteners or flavourings.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Protein, Protein Bars, Protein Muffins, Special Diet

Cherry Ripe … but not as we know it

Well, yesterday I put the question out there on the Facebook page … Cherry Ripe or Banana Split?   The general idea was to do a simple reworking of these.  Thank you to everyone who responded!  Cherry Ripe was the undisputed favourite among those of you who did, but let’s face it, I intended to tackle both all along anyway.

It was never really a question of either or? … merely a question of which one first?

And I’m kinda glad that Cherry Ripe came out in first place because the ideas bubbling in my head for the Banana Split are shaping up to be rather more complex than this dessert.  But it’s on the short list 😀

I was hesitant about posting this now as it’s still technically winter and we won’t see fresh cherries in season here for some months yet.  Well, really, the main reason is that some fresh cherries and sunshine would just make the photography part of this post so much more fun and enjoyable.  And pretty.  Frozen cherries are delish but hardly red carpet ready with a cherry red smile.  But why wait?  By the time December rolls around I will probably make something completely different so … without further ado …

I wanted to keep it simple and true to the spirit and flavours of a Cherry Ripe – sweet cherries, coconut, and rich dark chocolate.

Idea #1:  Cherry and coconut ice-cream encased in a chocolate coating to look like a Cherry Ripe.  I even got out the mold and lining in readiness.  Too obvious.  Reject.

Idea #2: Chocolate cake layers with cherry and coconut filling and frosting.  Boring.  Reject.

Idea #3:  I like the ice-cream idea … cherry and coconut ice-cream sandwiched between two layers of dark chocolate.  Individual serves.  Simple.  Texturally about right.  This will do.

Sure, I wasn’t exactly trying too hard, but I only got the idea to do something yesterday so there wasn’t much time for complicated kitchen adventures, was there? 😉

I always rant on about not liking candy bars and I really don’t.  I never buy them.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the flavour and texture concepts behind some of them.  Cherry Ripe is one of my all time favourites.  It’s just so seductive.  Judging by the ads for Cherry Ripe that have aired in the last couple of years, with strangers longingly perving at each other, I think the Cherry Ripe marketing team has pretty much figured that out too.

This is a nice dessert in summer when you have fresh sweet cherries.  It also works very well using frozen cherries, when fresh cherries are not in season.  I prefer to use luscious dark sweet cherries for this, both for the intensity of colour and flavour.  I’d also recommend using flaked coconut if possible.  If you cannot get the unsweetened variety, desiccated coconut is still great, just not as moist and chewy in texture.

I used Valrhona Guanaja for the chocolate layers.  I give two quantities for the chocolate in the recipe.  For the result in the photos, I used the higher amount of chocolate.  Mostly because that’s my favourite part of the dessert, of course.  If you prefer thin chocolate layers, use the smaller quantity of chocolate.  This will make it easier to break into it with a fork.   It’s not really possible with a thicker layer … but oh my, there’s more chocolate 🙂

The ice-cream is full on cherry and coconut and does not set hard so you get the creamy, fruity, chewiness of the filling, and the chocolate layers add a snap and slightly intense bitter contrast.  Like Cherry Ripe.

Whoooaaaa … it really does taste kinda seductive.   One might say it’s downright sexy.   The guinea pigs (aka my family) love it.

Served as individual desserts, they’re also quite visually appealing and elegant, don’t you think?

Enjoy 🙂

Serves 12

110 grams sugar
30 millilitres water
3 egg yolks
300 grams pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
350 millilitres double cream, chilled
50 millilitres kirsch or cherry brandy
90 grams flaked or dessicated coconut, unsweetened

220 – 300 grams good quality dark couverture (70% cacao), divided in half

Flaked or dessicated coconut, extra
Raw cacao nibs, extra
Fresh cherries, extra

I have used standard-size silicon friand (financier) molds to make the individual desserts in the photographs.  You can use other shaped molds.  If you don’t have silicon molds, you can use some metal baking rings, but make sure to line these with cling film, acetate strips, or silicon baking paper to make removal of the rings easier before serving.

Chop or grate half the couverture (i.e. 110 or 150 grams) and place into a glass bowl.  To temper the couverture, a simple method is to place it in the microwave for 30 second bursts until about two-thirds to three-quarters of the chocolate is melted.  Stir the chocolate in between microwave bursts.  Finally, stir the chocolate until it is all melted.  A glass bowl is good for this as it helps to keep the chocolate at temper.  Ideally this is around 32-33℃.

Divide the melted chocolate between the molds.  If using the greater amount of chocolate, I have found this is about a tablespoon of chocolate per mold.  Tap the molds gently on a bench to remove any air bubbles and make sure the chocolate coats the base of the molds evenly.  Let cool for a few minutes and set in the refrigerator while you make the ice-cream.

Place the sugar and water into a saucepan over a low heat to melt the sugar.  Raise the heat slightly and cook the syrup until it reaches 118℃.   While the syrup is cooking, place the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until lightened.  Continue whisking as you pour the syrup into the egg yolks in a thin, steady stream.  Whisk until the egg yolk mixture is light and doubled and has cooled to lukewarm.  Set aside.

Chop and partly mash the cherries.  You want to get some of the juices out but you also want some cherry pieces in there.  Just like a Cherry Ripe.  I’ve found that using my Bamix hand-held mixer makes this easier as I have full control.   If using frozen cherries, don’t defrost them, as you want to re-freeze the ice-cream.  I simply removed the cherries from the freezer and pour some cold water over them in a colander to remove any ice-crystals.  Prepare them as for the fresh cherries.

In a large bowl, whisk the double cream with the Kirsch or cherry brandy.  Fold in the coconut and cherries, followed by the egg yolk mixture.

Prepare the remaining couverture as per the instructions above.

Fill the molds with the cherry coconut ice-cream to about three-quarters full or so.  You need to leave some room at the top for the chocolate layer.  Make sure the top of the ice-cream layer is even.  I gently tap the molds on the bench, taking care so that the base layer does not crack.

Spoon the tempered couverture over the ice-cream layer and tap the molds gently to make sure it forms an even layer on top.  Cover loosely and place in the freezer to set.

Before serving, run a knife gently around the edges of each mold and carefully unmold each dessert.  With the friand molds, I generally push up evenly from the base of the mold.  Invert on to serving plates.

If you like, sprinkle the top with a little extra coconut and some raw cacao nibs.  If you make this with fresh cherries in summer, serve with extra cherries, either as a decoration or make a cherry sauce or coulis.  That’s what I’d do *except it’s winter now*.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Desserts, Fruit, Ice cream & Sorbet, Special Diet

Yuzu and Hazelnut Entremet

On occasion, life unloads a truckload of lemons on you and it sucks.  Trying to get a decent shot of this spectacular cake in all its glory was just such an exercise in total suckage.

Total photography fail.

But on the upside … a TOTAL ENTREMET SUCCESS.

Plenty of citrus goodness here but no lemons.  The inspiration for this cake was my extreme need to make yuzu curd.  Yes, again.  I really love yuzu curd.  Who doesn’t love yuzu curd?  Never tasted yuzu?  Get out there, get some juice.  Make the curd.  It will be your favourite.  Guaranteed.  So divine it deserves its own temple.

This time I wanted to make an entremet and use the curd as the central theme around which the cake’s flavours and textures would revolve.  I had a few very fruitful exchanges with  a like-minded friend of mine, Markus.  Markus is a very talented pastry chef, who undoubtedly only humours me because of our shared fascination for, and love of fine chocolate.  I’m very fortunate to have him to bounce ideas around with, even during late night sessions on Facebook.

The idea of a hazelnut dacquoise layer was Markus’ suggestion … a lovely light, chewy, nutty meringue.  Perfect.  Brilliant.   As was the insistence of a chocolate note, although frankly, there was always going to be chocolate, wasn’t there?  I mean, hello fellow cacao-bloods … 😀  After much deliberation on my part, a smooth ganache seemed the best way to go.  Lucky, because that turned out to be rather an inspired thought.  A little nougatine crunch stayed on theme and has a little extra surprise zing from the yuzu zest.

I’m really proud of this one.  All the elements are perfect and the sum is so much greater than the individual parts.

I’d actually pay money for this, if it were sold in a patisserie.   Wow.  Yeah.

Which probably gives you some idea of my distress at not having a full on view of the cake in its uncut glory.  The photos just don’t do this cake any kind of justice.  The best views that show the wonderful colour and texture of the ganache, the fluffiness of the yuzu crème, and chewy, slightly crunchy lightness of the dacquoise are the photos I managed to take AFTER we had cut the cake.  Better lighting the next day.  Today.  Duh.  But that’s OK.  You get to see the texture of all the layers this way.  That’s a good thing.

Next time I make this I am pulling out all stops to get a great photo because it deserves it.    If the gods smile upon me, I shall update this post with a killer pic.  In the meantime, I’ve got me one killer cake to eat.  Plus I had so much fun making this.  It was utter bliss.  Woohoo!

I used Valrhona Araguani couverture for the ganache.  It’s smooth, nutty flavour notes are a great contrast to the tang of the yuzu crème and a good match for the hazelnut dacquoise.  Stays on theme, you might say.  Use any really good smooth nutty flavoured couverture of at least 64% – 72%.  Nothing too astringent, or fruity, or overly bitter.  This is a lovely shiny delicious ganache.  It doesn’t set hard, just thick enough to give a textural contrast to the yuzu crème.

You can prepare the yuzu curd in advance and store it, covered, in the refrigerator.  Warning: put it at the back of the fridge, behind everything, or you’ll be tempted to eat it all before you make the entremet!  Seriously.  It’s THAT good.

The nougatine can also be prepared in advance and stored, in an airtight container, at room temperature.  You’re better off hiding this somewhere so you will not be tempted to eat it all 😀

I made the dacquoise the day before so all I had to do on the day was make the crème and the ganache and assemble the entremet.  It keeps well, airtight, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator or in a cool, dry spot at room temperature (if storing for less than 24 hours).

I resisted the temptation to crush up some of the nougatine and have a layer of nougatine crunch between the ganache and yuzu crème layers.  I am so glad I did.  There’s always the temptation to think that more is more.  Not here.  It might sound more funky or clever, but it really isn’t.  The finished entremet has a lot of textural and flavour variation across the layers without that added layer between the ganache and crème – you can appreciate them better with a little of the nougatine on top and on the side.

Although not intentional, this entremet is also gluten and wheat free.  How fabulous is that?

You can scale this recipe up to make several cakes or a number of small entremets.

Makes 1 x 20cm entremet (serves 8 – 10)

Hazelnut Dacquoise
125 grams hazelnuts
125 grams icing sugar
110 grams egg whites, at room temperature
30 grams sugar

Nougatine Crunch
50 grams hazelnuts
100 grams sugar
50 grams liquid glucose
1 teaspoon ground yuzu powder* or 3 teaspoons fresh yuzu zest (optional)

*Yuzu powder is just dried yuzu zest ground up into a coarse powder.  It is sold in Japanese grocery shops.  Make sure to buy only the plain one, not spiced for savoury dishes.  It might contain glucose.

Yuzu Curd Crème
1 recipe Yuzu Curd (prepared in advance)
300 millilitres double cream
4 grams gold strength gelatine leaves (2 leaves)

Araguani Ganache
160 grams Valrhona Araguani couverture
pinch Fleur de Sel de Guérande
200 millilitres pure cream (45% fat)
85 millilitres milk
40 grams unsalted butter, cubed and softened

To make the dacquoise
Preheat oven to 180°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silpat sheet.  Line a 20cm ring with baking paper.  Set aside.

Roast hazelnuts on a lined tray for about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place in a clean tea towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skins as possible,  It won’t all come off and that is perfectly fine.  In fact, it provides some colour and contrast.  Set the hazelnuts to cool slightly.  When cooled, grind them in a food processor until fine.

Raise the oven temperature to 200°C.

Sift together the ground hazelnuts and icing sugar to remove any lumps.  Place in a bowl.  There will be some small pieces of hazelnut left.  That is OK.  Just add them to the nut mixture.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you achieve stiff peaks.  Gently fold the nut and sugar mixture into the egg whites.  Pipe or pour the mixture into the baking ring.  If piping use a large, plain tip.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula if pouring the mixture into the ring.

Bake at 200°C for about 8 – 10 minutes until risen slightly and starting to colour.  The top will form a thin crisp layer.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  The dacquoise will sink slightly as it cools but not much.  It should be fairly level.

To make the nougatine
Preheat oven to 180°C.  Lightly roast the hazelnuts until golden, for about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and rub off the skins, as per the instructions above.  When cooled, chop coarsely in a food processor or with a sharp knife.

Line a tray with a silpat sheet or non-stick baking paper.  Set aside.  Have the hazelnuts and yuzu powder, if using, ready as you prepare the caramel.

Place the sugar and glucose in a heavy-based saucepan, over a low heat.  This is a dry caramel, so don’t be tempted to stir the sugar vigorously.  As the sugar melts, just move the sugar and glucose gently over the base of the pan, to prevent it sticking and burning.  I use a small heat-proof silicon spatula as the sugar is less prone to sticking to the spatula.  Keep a watch over it as the sugar melts and starts to bubble.  It will take a while to melt completely and colour, but when it does start to colour it will do so quickly.  Cook until a golden amber colour.

At this point, remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts and yuzu powder, all at once.  Pour on to the lined tray.  Spread the nougatine out and flatten it with an offset spatula or flat blade knife.  Work quickly as the nougatine will set and harden very fast.  Set aside to cool.  It should be really shiny.  You can spread it out quite thinly although I’ve left it a little bit thicker here, just because I’m not using it for layering, and it is less fragile.  I break it up into pieces, when cold, to use as decoration and chop some for decoration.  I pulverised it to decorate the top of the cake as a border over the ganache, but it would also be lovely if chopped more coarsely.  I used a few broken pieces for decoration.  Leftovers … well, they’re just delicious *shuffles off to sneak a piece* 🙂

Nougatine Crunch ~ with hazelnut and yuzu zest

To make the yuzu curd crème and assemble
Place the hazelnut dacquoise on a serving plate.  Place the 20cm baking ring you used to make the dacquoise around the dacquoise disk.  I line the baking ring with a strip of clear acetate.  This prevents the filling from sticking to the ring and makes removal of the ring very easy.  Much better for presentation if making this for a special occasion.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yuzu curd and cream until thickened and light.  Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until softened.  Squeeze out excess moisture from the gelatine and place in a small heat-proof bowl, over simmering water.  Stir until completely melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool but not set.  Scoop a couple of tablespoons of the curd cream into the gelatine and mix well.  Add this to the curd crème and whisk in lightly.  Pour the curd crème into the lined mould over the dacquoise.  Smooth the top until level.  Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator to set.

Yuzu Curd - sunshine in a jar

To make the ganache
Chop the couverture into small, even-sized pieces and place into a glass bowl.  I prefer to use glass or Pyrex bowls for this as they help the ganache keep its temper for longer.  Add the fleur de sel, if using.

Place the cream and milk into a saucepan and bring just to the boil.  Remove from the heat and pour evenly over the couverture.  Let it sit for a few minutes.  Gently stir the ganache, starting from the middle.  Just move the chocolate around gently until completely melted and the ganache is smooth.  You do not want to agitate the ganache and create bubbles as this will ruin the finished look of the ganache layer.

When smooth, add the cubes of butter in two batches and stir until melted and smooth.  If you see any bubbles, tap the bowl on the bench a couple of times.  Let the ganache cool until room temperature.

Pour the ganache over the curd crème layer ensuring a smooth level top.  Cover again and refrigerate until the ganache sets.

When set, sprinkle some of the finely chopped or pulverised nougatine around the edge of the ganache layer, and decorate with a few pieces of nougatine on top, if desired.

Serve each slice with a piece or two of nougatine … or three … 🙂


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Cakes, Chocolate, Desserts, Fruit, Nuts, Special Diet, Tarts & Patisserie

Low Carb Protein Bars … Working (it) Out

When too much protein bar just isn’t enough … and it just isn’t.   Is it?   No!  So here we are again …

This is Part II of the protein bar experiments I’ve conducted over the past month or so.   Well, Part II is actually the continuation of Part I.  The recipe is not new, as such, but an improvement over the original.  Some weeks ago, I posted the ABC Energy Bars recipe on this blog.  I wasn’t prepared for the AMAAAZING response from everyone.  Seriously.  You could have bowled me over with a feather.  OK a big fat punch and a feather … 😀

I guess I’m not the only one who can’t stand commercially available protein bars (tasteless as cardboard? chemical cocktails?) or worse, can’t eat them because they usually contain dodgy sweeteners and ingredients that sound like sawdust and ash?  Ha.

So the recipe below has been modified from the original and I’ve experimented with flavours, other nut and seed bases and texture and stuff like that.  We have the technology.  We have rebuilt them.

New, improved protein bar AWESOMENESS.  If you love the original … FABULOUS.   I like the new improved one best.

I’ve had lots of questions about these so I will try to cover off on most of them here.  This is a long post but I hope I’ve covered off on most things.  If not, leave a comment, email me, send a tweet or something on the Facebook page and I’ll do it.

Nuts vs Seeds
What’s the best nut butter to use?  The right answer is whichever one you like best – if you don’t like it, you probably won’t eat it, right?  Allergies to peanuts or tree nuts are also a factor, so here are the top picks among a variety of options.  This list is based on getting the most protein with the lowest fat, where the fat is predominantly heart healthy mono-unsaturated.  It also accounts for the overall energy values per 100 grams.  Ultimately, they’re all good, but this list aims to pick the best of the best.

Most importantly, try to use raw, pure nut or seed butters, without added salt or sugar.

  • Legumes: peanuts
  • Tree Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, ABC (almond, brazil, and cashew), walnuts
  • Seeds: Pepitas (pumpkin seed), sunflower seed, unhulled tahini (sesame)

I’ve added walnuts to the list because they are such a good source of omega-3 and good brain food.   All of these taste AWESOME.  OK, I can’t personally vouch for the peanut version due to a small issue with a peanut allergy but I’m guessing a lot of people would love these with peanut butter 😉

There is variation in the thickness and fluidity across all these nuts and seeds.  As an example, tahini is much more fluid than almond or pistachio butters.  There is also some variation across different brands.  Take that into account.  You may need less yoghurt in the recipe.  I include some guidelines below for this.

If you can’t get 100% nut or seed butter with no additives, make your own.  Just add the weight of raw nuts or seeds indicated in the recipe in a food processor and process until the oils release and you get a paste.  This is also a good way to control the crunchiness of the butter too.  Or use three-quarters nut (or seed) butter and add one-quarter of the amount as chopped nuts or seeds for crunch.  All brilliant ideas, yeah?

Protein Powders
The recipe calls for a total of 130 grams of protein powder and indicates a 10:3 ratio of whey:vegetable source (pea or rice).  That’s just my preference for sources.  However, it also has something to do with texture.  A pure whey isolate is actually quite drying and can be bitter so it’s probably not the best option to use 100% whey isolate as the only protein source.  The pea or rice protein is great for providing a softer texture that’s delicious.  That said, using casein can also be great, as can using a blend of isolate, casein and albumen, or other combination, if that is your thing.  If you cannot, or prefer not to use whey protein, just substitute pea, rice, or even hemp protein or another non-whey protein of choice.

If using whey as in the recipe, use whatever you like best.  I use whey protein isolate but have also used a mixture of WPI and WPC.  It’s all good.  The possibilities are endless.   The important thing is that they taste good, and you use what fits with your own goals.  Or you won’t eat them, even if they are drenched in chocolate.  Well … maybe …

Try to use pure, unflavoured protein with no fillers or sweeteners.  Sure you love to drink the other stuff but frankly, it kind of defeats the purpose of these bars if you add a bucket load of guar or xantham gums or the stuff we’re trying to avoid here.  Or just ignore me completely, but don’t tell me … please. 🙂

Food Intolerance
I’ve had a few people ask about lactose intolerance.  Yes, there is non-fat yoghurt used in this recipe.  I like to use it because it adds extra quality protein as well as other nutrients, especially calcium.  It’s also important for the texture and flavour.  You can substitute lactose-free yoghurt, soy yoghurt, or if you hate those, try adding some chia seed gel or coconut water.  You will need less so just add enough to get the right consistency.

These bars are wheat and gluten free.  They are also egg free (unless you use egg albumen protein in your mix).  Generally speaking, they are also OK for anyone on a low FODMAP diet as they are low fructose and fructan free (don’t use pistachios if fructans are a problem).

They don’t contain artificial sweeteners and specifically no sorbitol or other sugar polyols that can cause gut problems.

This is a matter of personal preference, however, the general idea is to steer clear of artificial flavours and additives as much as possible while also keeping a watch on the level of carbs in the bars.   These bars are not fruity because once you start adding fruit, you start adding carbs, even if it’s berries.  But, if that doesn’t phase you, add some dried fruit or a little fruit juice.

Vanilla is great to include as part of the base recipe.  While it is not sweet, per se, it’s so good with the nuts, I’ve added it as a default.

Cinnamon and roasted wattleseed are included as good all-purpose flavourings.  They taste great with pretty much every nut or seed base you can use for these bars.  Wattleseed has a nutty, coffee, slightly chocolatey flavour.  Wow.  That said, the following are also awesome and are make negligible contributions to the fat, protein and carbohydrate profile of the bars:

  • Coffee – with almonds, walnuts, cashews, and ABC.  Use instead of wattleseed.  I use finely ground fresh coffee beans, but you can brew a strong espresso and use a little of that.  Coffee has to be my favourite.  With the almond or walnut, it is OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD.
  • Orange blossom water or rosewater – great for a middle-eastern flavour.  Great with the pistachio, almond, and tahini in particular.  I love orange blossom water with anything.
  • Orange, lemon, or lime zest and essential oils – wonderful with the seeds as well as most of the nuts too.  A great way to get a fresh, fruity flavour without added carbohydrates.
  • Spices – cardamom is good with pistachio but I’d suggest it’s an acquired taste.  Other spices you like would be great too.
  • Natural flavourings and extracts – if you want banana, mango, strawberry, mint, or other flavourings, try to source all natural flavourings and extracts, not the imitation artificial kind.  You can add a bit of extra oomph if you want it, without the carbs.  It isn’t hard to find stockists,  both bricks and mortar, as well as online.

The recipe also includes the optional addition of raw cacao nibs.  A  little bit of raw cacao nibs is really cool.  If you do add them, remember that these will contribute to the nutritional profile, as well as a yummy cacao crunch.

There is no added sweetener in this recipe.  Frankly I don’t think it’s required.  The nut versions already have that lovely nutty flavour that means you don’t need added sugars.  Certainly, the seed versions are more of an acquired taste.  I prefer them without added sweetener, including the tahini version.  However, if you want to add something, I would suggest a little pure stevia, to taste.  Avoid the stevia mixes as they often include nasty fillers and avoid artificial sweeteners – that’s the point of the exercise, right?  If you don’t like stevia, add a little puréed date but be aware that this will increase the carb content.  It’s up to you.  What I think is great about these bars is that they taste good without the addition of sweeteners.  It helps to wean us off our dependency on sweet tastes and sugar.  That has to be a good thing.

If, like me, you don’t need the sugar (there’s a bit in the chocolate), then proceed without fear or favour …

Right, so here’s the basic recipe.  It differs from the original mainly in the proportions of ingredients.  I’ve increased the protein content.  Another good thing!  Plus, the flavour and texture is better.  Well, I think so.  So does my trainer and my family.  Sure, that’s a statistically insignificant sample of five people, but I swear it’s true.  So do they.

Train hard and enjoy!

Chocolate Protein Nut Bars

If you want to lower the fat per bar to around 12 grams or so (as a rough guide), just pour off the excess oil at the top of the nut butter.  I’ve found this equates to about two tablespoons or so, around 40 grams, although it can vary, depending on the nuts used.  I do this, but it all depends on what you prefer or are trying to achieve.

Makes 12 bars

Right, now I’m saying they make about 12 bars.  That’s 12 Vivi-sized bars, OK?  A Vivi-sized bar is about 8cm x 3cm as a guide.  Mini bars for us vertically challenged, petite types.   I would not recommend making large bars as they become rather more challenging to enrobe in the chocolate.  This is about as big as I can manage to coat properly in the mad rush to make these every week.  Just eat two as a serve … or three, four, whatever … if you’re a big muscly dude who can handle it.  Honestly, I can handle about half a bar at a time.  I’m a total wuss.  It’s all relative 😀

250 grams 100% pure nut or peanut butter
100 grams 100% whey protein powder
30 grams 100% pea protein powder
110 grams fat-free plain yoghurt*
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2  teaspoons roasted wattleseed

Optional Extras:
20 grams (4 teaspoons) raw cacao nibs

100 grams dark chocolate (min. 85% cacao solids or use 100% if you’re like me)

*If using peanuts, cut the amount of yoghurt to 90 grams if the peanut butter is not as thick or stiff as other nut butters.  Peanut butter can vary between brands.  Start with 80-90 grams yoghurt and add more, as required.

From left: Tahini Protein Bar, Almond Butter Protein Bar

Place all the ingredients, excluding the chocolate, into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until combined.  If the mixture is a little too dry, add a little more yoghurt to achieve a consistency that can easily be rolled and patted into bars.  You can also mix this by hand or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  I’ve done all three … the result is the same.

Form twelve small bars and place on a tray lined with silicon paper or foil.  Place in the refrigerator to firm up for about 30 – 60 minutes.

Melt 70 grams of the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over gently simmering water.  When melted and smooth, take off the heat and stir in the remaining 30 grams of chocolate until melted, smooth and cooled slightly.  Ideally, you want to keep the chocolate at around 32-33℃.  But don’t get too hung up about it.  If I want to make these to impress, I take extra care to temper the chocolate properly.  When making them for myself and my trainer, we’re more interested in eating them and their goodness, not photographing them, so …

This is the hardest part for most people.  These bars are soft.  This is why I don’t advocate making large ones.  They are harder to coat properly and more likely to fall apart.  You could make them stiffer but frankly the nutty centre will not be as delicious.  I tried it.  Major fail …it’s worth taking a little care and practice with coating them instead.

Dip the bars carefully into the chocolate and turn over to coat, working quickly but carefully.   I use two offset spatulas or flat bladed knives to do this so excess chocolate can drain off the bars more easily.   Forks are also good but take care the tines don’t sink into the bars.   Place each bar on to the lined tray and allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.

If you get really freaked enrobing them in chocolate, just drizzle chocolate over the top of them and let it drip off.

Once set, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  These bars keep very well for at over a week, about 10 days.  I’ve never had them last any longer than that because they usually all get eaten by the end of a week.


Almond Protein Bar

Variation: Chocolate Protein Seed Bars

You can halva your protein bars and eat them too … OK that was lame ;-P

But, this is a great variation for anyone with tree nut or peanut allergies.  I really like the tahini version.

Simply omit the nut butter and replace it with

250 grams unhulled tahini or
250 grams sunflower or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Tahini is definitely more fluid than nut butters so you will need less yoghurt.  Start with about 80 grams and add more if you need it.  Again, you can pour off any excess oil at the top of the jar before adding the tahini.  This will lower the fat content of the bars as well as make the tahini less fluid.

Make as per the instructions given above.  Voilà …. mmmmm.

Tahini Protein Bar

Nutritional Profiles

Here are the nutritional profiles worked out for the basic recipe, depending on the nuts or seeds you use.  Most of the extra flavourings suggested above, add negligible values.  However, if you add cacao, cacao nibs or sweeteners, you should remember this will increase the overall fats, carbs and protein content, albeit by only small amounts per bar. 

Note also that if you pour off a couple of tablespoons of oil from the nut butters or tahini, this will reduce the fat content, typically by 2 – 3 grams per bar, depending on the nut/seed used and the actual amount.  In most cases, you might want to reserve the oil for another purpose as they are generally good fats you can use in baking other treats or dress salads.  

I have used average values for all ingredients as much as possible, as well as the Nuts for Life site for a lot of the nut information.  Just as nut and seed butters, yoghurt, and protein powders all vary slightly in thickness and texture, the nutritional profiles vary somewhat by brand.  I have not included a nutritional profile for the sunflower seed version as I have found a lot of inconsistency in reporting nutritional data across sites for sunflower seeds as well as prepared seed butters.  However, they are all within the same ballpark as the seeds below so it’s safe to assume these are a reasonable guide.

These values are therefore indicative only, as all nutritional profiles really are, although I have made a concerted effort to get what seems to be the most accurate information available.

Almond Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Peanut Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Pistachio Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Cashew Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

ABC Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Walnut Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Tahini / Sesame Seed Protein Bar Nutritional Profile

Pepitas Protein Bar Nutritional Profile


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Nuts, Protein, Protein Bars, Special Diet

Vanilla Cupcakes

Are you the kind of person who hates piping frosting?  Too fiddly?

Or your baking is always rushed and you just don’t have the time to do it?

Piping bags?  What?  Maybe you don’t even own any piping bags or nozzles at all.

Or, like me, do you ALWAYS have them handy, until one day you go in search of a bag when you need it and realise you forgot to restock your supply?  It happens.

This one is for YOU.

Shoot, if you like fragrant vanilla cupcakes at all, this one is for you.

There is a lot of vanilla in these cupcakes, both in the cupcakes and the frosting.  The cupcakes are light and moist and the frosting is creamy, not too sweet, and out of this world deeeelicious.  It also doesn’t lend itself to piping too easily.  The luxuriousness of the frosting is due in part to the addition of cacao butter and a little white couverture, instead of butter, to what is essentially a cream cheese frosting.    The chocolate and cacao butter set very quickly at room temperature and so it is very easy to just spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a knife or offset spatula.  It becomes too stiff to pipe as it cools.  If you prefer to pipe the frosting simply omit the cacao butter.  But it really does add a beautiful flavour.

Be as deft with the knife as you like to get a lovely dome or other shape for the frosting.  This frosting will hold its shape very well but won’t set hard.  I kept it a little rough this time as I used half the batch to make Vanilla Freckle Cupcakes (recipe below).  The sprinkles look cute and colourful as they catch in all the nooks and crannies in the frosting.  Plus it allows you to get more sprinkles to adhere to the frosting.  More sprinkles is good, right?  😀

Visiting a friend for afternoon tea, these were perfect.  She has two small boys, both of whom were under the weather, and she was clearly worn out from rushing around and staying up most of the night.   I really hope they helped cheer her up a bit, plain vanilla grown up ones and some colourful white chocolate freckle cupcakes.  Happiness.

Enjoy 🙂

Makes 18 cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes
185 grams sugar
185 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 vanilla beans or 3 tablespoons pure vanilla bean paste
4 eggs (59 grams each)
175 grams plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

White Chocolate & Vanilla Frosting
40 grams white couverture
60 grams cacao butter*
100 grams icing sugar
250 grams cream cheese
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste

*I used organic raw cacao butter.  You can find this in many health food and organic specialty food stores.

Make the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Set 18 cupcake liners on a baking tray.

Cream together the sugar, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer.  When light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved, add the eggs and beat until the batter is smooth.  Sift together the flour and baking powder.  Add the flour to the batter and mix until smooth and light.

Divide the batter between the 18 cupcake liners.  Bake at 180°C for 20 – 25 minutes.  When risen, golden, and cooked, remove the cupcakes from the oven.  Leave to cool completely on a wire rack until ready to frost.

Make the frosting
Melt the white couverture and cacao butter together in a bowl over hot water until almost all melted.  Remove from the heat and stir until fully melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Alternatively, you could zap it in the microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds at a time, until melted.

Cream together the icing sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla, until light and creamy.  Fold through the chocolate and cacao butter, taking care not to over beat.

Work quickly with a knife or offset spatula to swirl the frosting on to each cupcake.

Un-frosted cupcakes will keep for several days, stored in an airtight container, at room temperature.  Frosted cupcakes can also be stored this way in cooler weather.  This is preferable to ensure that they don’t dry out.  In warmer weather, you can store frosted cupcakes in a container in the refrigerator, but they will lose some of their moistness.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Variation: Vanilla Freckle Cupcakes

These are really fun for children’s parties.  They are colourful and the vanilla flavour is usually loved by everyone.  The sprinkles I used here contain no gluten, and no artificial colours or flavours.  The colours are naturally a little more pastel than the usual neon-bright sprinkles one typically finds in the supermarket.

You will need:
For the cupcakes:
65 grams coloured sprinkles / “hundreds & thousands”

Prepare the batter as in the recipe above. Fold the sprinkles in to the cupcake batter at the end of mixing.  Bake as indicated above.
For the White Chocolate Freckles:
60 grams white couverture
extra sprinkles, for decoration

Melt the couverture over a bain-marie until smooth or zap in a microwave in 30 second bursts at 50% power until three-quarters melted.  Stir gently until melted and smooth.   Continue stirring gently until it cools slightly.

Pipe or spoon 18 x 1 cm rounds on to non-stick baking paper.  Sprinkle the coloured sprinkles over the chocolate rounds.  Cover and place in the refrigerator to set.  You can make the freckles ahead of time.

Frost the cupcakes as above.  Sprinkle additional coloured sprinkles over the frosting and top each cupcake with a white chocolate freckle.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Cupcakes