Butter-free Carrot Cake

As part of the new dairy-free regime, I have been looking into dairy-free baking. I see that you can replace butter in a cake mix with oil, which doesn’t sound very appetising. But then I consider that butter is a type of oil too, which when you think about it isn’t that appetising either. It’s just that it tastes soooo good!

There is absolutely no point in making shortbread without butter, in my view. The whole point of shortbread is the butter. But what about carrot cake? Moist, flavoursome, with brown sugar, cinnamon and sultanas, the butter is not the star here. I found a recipe online which uses sunflower oil and gave it a whirl yesterday.

It turned out really well, and I would definitely make this again.  Next time, I think I would add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavour. As I’m used to baking with salted butter, I found the salt was missing.  Some chopped walnuts would be a good addition.

The other thing I really liked about this recipe was that it was so much easier to mix by hand than a butter mixture.  With butter baking, unless you are using a food mixer, it’s quite heavy-going. I don’t have a food mixer, because I really enjoy the process of baking by hand. I like getting up close with the ingredients, and feeling the rhythm of it all. Firstly, the butter has to be soft enough to beat, so you have to remember to take the butter out of the fridge and soften it before you can get started. Beating the butter and sugar by hand is quite hard work. Then folding in the flour properly takes a little time. I always think of those remarkable ladies, the cooks in the great houses in past centuries, who did all this mixing and beating by hand. They were strong women with stout arms!

With the butter-free recipe, light stirring is all that is needed. The egg does not curdle with the oil. When you add the dry ingredients, you just ‘lightly mix’, and it’s ready to bake.

Mmmm, carrot cake!

Mmmm, carrot cake!

I had a cup of coffee yesterday, mistakenly made with semi-skimmed milk instead of soya milk. It tasted surprisingly rich, but not in a good way. I drank it, but would have much preferred the soya milk. It’s as if my body is quietly on dairy alert.

I am also trying to think of dinners to cook which are free of red meat and dairy products. Unfortunately the OH likes red meat and creamy sauces. At the very least, he will want to chuck a knob of butter in. So we are looking for compromises at the moment.  Last night I devised a dish of spicy couscous with chargrilled chicken, roasted vegetables and salad. Well, it was a nice dinner, but the subtlety of flavour I was trying to achieve (lemon, coriander, spices) was rather swamped by the extra chilli powder he threw over the chicken. Still, I was pleased to have achieved another dairy-free dish we both like.

Till next time,

L x

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Shortbread Is My Favourite

Sure is. I love it. Such a simple treat. Only 3 main ingredients: sugar, butter, flour. But it tastes wonderful. I have sussed out the best commercial varieties (Walkers Scottish brand is the best). I have also discovered that ‘all-butter shortbread’ may not actually contain that much butter.

As with a lot of things in life, if you can work out how to do it yourself, you are more likely to get the result you want. There is also the added bonus that you can take all the credit for it. Home-made shortbread is the best of all. Through trial and error I have honed my recipe to perfection.  Here it is:

250g salted butter, softened

125g caster sugar

300g plain flour

50g cornflour

Flavourings: a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Combine the butter and sugar. Mix the flours and add gradually to the butter/sugar until you have a smooth dough. Add vanilla or cinnamon along the way.  Roll dough into a long cylinder shape, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in a cool place for a while.

When you are ready to bake, prepare 2 baking trays and pre-heat the oven to a medium heat. My oven is like a furnace so I only put it on 120 degrees. Take the dough and using a sharp knife, cut it into slices of about 5mm thick. Lay them out on the trays (they won’t spread much). Finish with a sprinkle of caster sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to colour too much. Let them cool on the trays for ten minutes before removing them to a cooling tray. They will be soft at first but will harden as they cool down.

These biscuits are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and they are great with ice-cream for dessert, or just on their own with a cup of tea. Here’s a batch I made the other day. I sprinkled brown sugar on top as I didn’t have any caster sugar to hand. I rolled the edges in brown sugar too.

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Herbie was watching my every move, no doubt hoping to get a lick of the bowl. I got my storage box out to put them in, and before I knew it, Herbie was in it.

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So much for my dairy-free diet eh? The shortbread biscuit could be the very last bastion of dairy for me – in fact it could be a bridge too far. Once the biscuit is baked, you can’t see the butter, so it isn’t really there, right?

Till next time,

L x