Perfect Banana Bread – Vegan, Gluten-free

VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE BANANA BREAD

Who doesn’t love banana bread? To me, it’s comforting and reminiscent of childhood. I can remember baking banana bread as a kid when the bananas on the counter had gotten too ripe. Nearly every cook I know has a banana bread recipe. This is mine, and I proudly share it with you. As are all my recipes, it is completely gluten-free, vegan (egg and dairy-free) and soy-free. It is also low in sugar and fat. If you are unfamiliar with the ingredients in this recipe, don’t be turned off from making it. This is a great first-time recipe for getting into gluten-free and healthier baking. Once you buy these special ingredients, you’ll be glad you did because you will want to make this recipe more than once!

Best Ever Gluten-Free -and Vegan Banana Bread!

I have made this bread several times now, because it has been requested to often! I first came up with it for my mom and step-dad who were both recovering from surgery. It is a fantastic thing to bake as a gift to welcome neighbors, or as a get-well-soon treat. It really is warm and comforting. Another great thing about this recipe is it is low in sugar. The first few times I made it, I used only raw agave as the sweetener. It was subtly sweet and very delicious this way. If you prefer a sweeter tasting banana bread, add the optional sugar that I list in the recipe (coconut sugar would also work fabulously here). I also use coconut oil in this recipe, which is easy to digest, is said to increase metabolism, and helps to absorb nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Purchase organic, virgin coconut oil. For more information on the health benefits of coconut oil, see these  links.

Best Ever Gluten-Free -and Vegan Banana Bread!

Perfect Banana Bread
vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, peanut-free
yield: One 10 x 5 x 2.75 inch loaf -or- Six 5 by 3.5 by 2 inch mini loafs

1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup millet flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot starch (can substitute with tapioca starch or corn starch)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large very ripe bananas)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or almond milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
1/3 cup organic virgin coconut oil, (liquefy by melting in a saucepan on low heat)
1/2 cup organic raw agave nectar
3 tablespoons organic natural cane sugar (optional, but will make the bread a bit sweeter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 10 x 5 x 2.75 inch loaf pan (or six 5 by 3.5 by 2 inch mini loaf pans) with a little bit of coconut oil.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: sorghum and millet flours, arrowroot (or corn starch), baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the very-well mashed bananas, coconut milk, apple cider vinegar and ground flax seed and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes before adding the coconut oil, agave nectar and cane sugar (if using), Mix until smooth and well combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients by using a rubber spatula to push the flour mixture up unto the sides of the bowl. Begin to carefully pour the wet mixture into the dry about one cup at a time. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the dry in with the wet until just mixed and you have a smooth batter (some lumps are okay). Immediately pour the batter into the pan(s). If making mini-loafs, about one cup of batter will fit in each loaf pan. If making the large loaf, fill with batter about three-fourths way full.

If making the large loaf, bake on the top center rack of the oven for 30 minutes. Rotate pan, then bake another 10-15 minutes. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to check doneness. If toothpick comes out clean, the bread is done! Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.

If making the mini loafs, place all 6 loaf pans on the top center rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.

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Is there anything special you like to bake for someone you love who is under-the-weather? For me, it is definitely this banana bread. This is the best banana bread I’ve ever made or eaten. No one will ever guess it’s vegan or gluten-free. And it’s cholesterol free, contains good fats, and is 100% healthier than the sugary, buttery banana bread you may have been used to as a kid.

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

Welcome to the new RansomCakes.com! I feel great about the name change, as Ransom Cakes has been the name of my little baking obsession for years. When I first starting my blog, I had no idea what it would turn into. As it happens, over a year later, it has become my space to share my recipes more than anything else. For more on this, see my About section. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog, likes my facebook page, follows me on twitter, and pins my recipes on pinterest. It is seriously so cool of you all.

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

On to today’s recipe: Fruity Tahini Snack Bars. I set out to make a gluten-free, healthy-ish, breakfast bar and these fit the bill. They are soft little snack cakes that are just begging to be wrapped in paper, twine and taken along on a picnic. Containing no white sugars, full of healthy dried fruits, gluten-free grains and nuts, protein packed tahini. Also made with fig butter, another fantastic and highly recommended find from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have fig butter, use fig paste, apple butter or pumpkin butter (yum).

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars
yield 12 servings / 1 –  9×9″ cake/loaf

1/2 cup fig butter  (or fig paste, or apple butter)
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup organic raw agave nectar
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup flax milk (or almond, or coconut milk)
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1 teaspoon alcohol-free pure vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup dried fruit (I used a combination of cranberries, currants and blueberries)
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Line a 9 by 9 inch square pan with enough parchment paper that all sides are lined as well as the bottom.

In a large bowl, using a strong whisk or an electric beater, combine the fig butter (or other fruit butter), coconut oil, agave, tahini, flax milk (or almond/coconut milk), ground flax seed and vanilla. Mix very well, until smooth and creamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours: oat, millet and almond. Add the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and sift thoroughly. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture and slowly add the wet mixture, using a rubber spatula to gently fold together the ingredients. When batter begins to come together, add the dried fruit and gently combine.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan, sprinkle the top of the batter with sliced almonds, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn off oven, and let rest for about 10 minutes in the pan. Carefully lift the cake from the pan by grabbing the sides of the parchment paper, and place parchment on top of a large flat cookie sheet. Let cool for 15 minutes. Slice into 12 equal bars and carefully space the bars apart so they are no longer touching. The easiest way to do this is by taking the flat side of a large knife and sliding them over and away from each other. Turn the oven back on to 300 degrees Farenheit. Bake for another 15 minutes, until sides are slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool before wrapping up for lunches or serving with tea.

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

Make these bars to bring on camping trips, nature hikes or to stuff in your kids lunch box. Honestly though, we had them for breakfast, which was just as fine.

Fruity Tahini Snack Bars

Hazelnuts: A How To…

Roasting Hazelnuts

Roasting hazelnuts is fast and simple, and is the starting off point to make my Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Hazelnut Butter Caramel Sauce.

To roast hazelnuts, start out with a 16 ounce bag of raw hazelnuts. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Spread out the hazelnuts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Next, you want to remove the skins. I find the easiest way to do this is with clean hands (no towels necessary). Rub the hazelnuts between your fingers and the skins will fall right off. Some nuts will be stubborn and hang on to their skins, that’s okay too. Place the blanched hazelnuts in a container to cool completely.

Roasted, blanches Hazelnuts

To make hazelnut meal (hazelnut flour): Place roasted and blanched hazelnuts in a blender or food processor and process until crumbly and resembles flour. To make my hazelnut butter, remove 1 1/2 cups of hazelnut flour from the blender or food processor.

Hazelnut Meal (Hazelnut Flour)

To make hazelnut butter: In a blender or food processor, process 2 1/2 cups hazelnut meal, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, 1/4 cup almond milk and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Blend until very very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Roasted Hazelnut Butter

Fig Coconut Teacakes

Fig Coconut Teacakes

I’ve had some dried figs for quite some time, and was tossing around recipe ideas for how to use them. I used to love fig cookies, and planned on making a gluten-free version, but alas I took the lazy route and made a cupcake. I’m calling these beauties “teacakes” because they go perfectly with tea (or coffee). They are just very subtly sweet, and have a nice light crumb, warm vanilla coconut flavor, and the bite of sweet fig really makes them special.

Fig Coconut Teacakes

Fig Coconut Teacakes
(gluten-free, soy-free, vegan)
yield 24 cupcakes

3/4 cup sweet sorghum flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or natural cane sugar)

1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon zest from a fresh organic lemon
1 teaspoon alcohol-free pure vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened coconut from Trader Joe’s)

9 ounces dried figs, stems removed and chopped
juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or natural cane sugar)

Glaze (optional):
1/4 cup organic raw agave nectar
1/2 tablespoons organic corn starch
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or soy-free earth balance margarine)
(For the glaze: whisk together the agave, cornstarch and coconut oil until smooth).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

Line two muffin tins with paper liners (or grease tins), set aside. Place chopped figs in a saucepan with the lemon juice, coconut milk and sugar. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pulse in a food processor. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours (sorghum, brown rice, almond, potato and flax); add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar and sift well. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut milk, coconut yogurt, apple cider vinegar, lemon zest and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and slowly pour and gently incorporate the wet ingredients. When the mixture starts to come together, add the shredded coconut; mix gently until it just comes together.
Half-way fill the cupcake liners with batter, then using a teaspoon, dollop the fig mixture in the center of the batter. Bake 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the muffin tins for at least 10 minutes, and then transfer to a baking rack to cool longer.

Fig Coconut Teacakes

When ready to serve, top with a drizzle of glaze (if using), and more shredded coconut and sliced almonds to garnish.

Fig Coconut Teacakes

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

May I present, a soft-baked, orange-kissed, almond butter cookie with a touch of sweet cinnamon. I’m calling these Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles, and they are just perfect (I swear). Soft, chewy, with a hint of orange in their almond-buttery goodness, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and coconut sugar. These cookies are very versatile, great for toddler hands to hold and nibble, or to pack into lunches, or to serve with tea or coffee.

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

On my quest to make delicious, allergy-free goodies for my son, this recipe was born. We had bought (and loved) the Enjoy Life brand of cookies and I wanted to make a homemade version with a similar texture. The store-bought cookies do not contain tree nuts, so if you do have an allergy to tree nuts, try substituting the almond butter with sunflower seed butter, or tahini – and the almond flour with cornmeal. These cookies are for everyone. I promise, no one will be able to tell they are gluten-free and vegan, and making them homemade will save you a nickel or two.

Soft-Baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles
Yield: 24 cookies

1/2 cup organic raw agave nectar
1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/3 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup almond milk
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest (about 1/2 of a large organic orange)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coconut sugar, or sucanat (larger crystal sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, oil and almond butter until smooth and creamy. To this, add the almond milk, ground flaxseed, vanilla and almond extracts, and orange zest. In a separate bowl, sift together the almond, sorghum and rice flours with the xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet about 1/3 cup at a time and mix very gently until the dough comes together. Chill the dough for 15 minutes. In a small dish, stir together the cinnamon and sugar, set aside. Remove dough from fridge. Using a cookie scoop (or lightly oiled tablespoon), drop the dough on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about two inches in between cookies. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until tops of cookies are slightly cracked and sides are very light brown. Leave on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes after baking, then transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.  Store any leftover cookies in a sealed container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

My lil’ hawk loved these cookies! They are refined-sugar-free, and full of protein and fiber, so I don’t feel so bad about letting him have one for a snack.  Let me know in the comments if you make this recipe. I’d love to hear from you!

Soft-baked Almond-Butter Orange Snickerdoodles

©mama et de bébé hawk ©Ashley Kizer 2013

(Classic) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve found the best, softest, chewiest and most-reminiscent-of-childhood chocolate chip cookie ever. I just made them and they are so good!  There are so many chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, why make my recipe? Because they are amazing, that’s why, and I don’t know how else to put it. Besides, who doesn’t need another chocolate chip cookie recipe to add to their arsenal of recipes? These are the kind of cookies you make and give to a friend to cheer them up, or to a neighbor to say “thank you,” or to bring to work to show your co-workers how badass of a baker you are. They are perfect milk-n-cookies-kind-of-cookies, too.

It’s a blessing and a curse that these cookies are no longer in my kitchen. Oh well, I can always still look at the pictures.

How about that recipe?

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 3 dozen small-size cookies

Ingredients:
3/4 cup vegan butter (I used earth balance buttery sticks), softened
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup granulated natural cane sugar
1 flax “egg” (1 Tablespoon flaxmeal mixed with 3 Tbsp. vanilla soymilk)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegan mini chocolate chips (Ghirardelli semi-sweet mini chocolate chips are vegan)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Line 3 baking pans with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream together the vegan butter and sugars. Add the flax “egg” and vanilla extract and whip until fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Gently combine the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, use a rubber spatula to fold together. It will appear that the mixture is too dry, but after a few stirs, it will magically start to come together. At this point, add the chocolate chips. I used my hands to gently knead the chocolate chips into the dough – and it worked well – otherwise, use a rubber spatula.

Use a tablespoon (or a cookie scoop if you have one – I don’t) to scoop out the dough. Roll the tablespoons of dough into little balls. Place them on a baking sheet/parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Repeat until dough is finished. Wet your fingers with a little cool water, and gently pat down the tops of the dough balls just a little (not completely flat). Bake cookies for 10 minutes and not a minute longer! If your oven only fits 2 baking pans, put the 3rd in the fridge -or- in a cool spot until you’re ready for it. After baking, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes or as long as needed to cool before storing or packing for gift-giving.

These really are spectacular cookies. I should say that the making of this recipe was inspired by my sister’s chocolate chip cookies. She’s also a fantastic baker. These cookies would be perfect for tying up into pretty bags and giving as gifts. I know I would love to receive a gift of cookies!

Yum.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Homemade corn tortillas are really easy to make actually, and they are really impressive (at least I think so). They are also much more delicious freshly made. This was my first time making my own tortillas, but I figured I might as well give it a go since I said I’d be making tacos for dinner tonight. The recipe for these tortillas came right off the back of my bag of maseca. The recipe is so easy and calls for only three ingredients: maseca, water and salt.

I don’t have a tortilla press (yet), so I used two plates to smoosh the tortillas flat. It worked just fine really, and earned me bonus punk points. To make homemade corn tortillas: all you have to do is measure out your maseca (2 cups), water (1 and 1/4 cup) and salt (1/4 tsp.) and combine them together in a bowl. Mix until a soft dough forms (I used my hands). Roll dough into 16 balls and cover them with a damp towel so they don’t dry out.

Press the balls in a tortilla press covered in plastic wrap – or – use my plate trick (make sure the plates are covered in plastic wrap). Carefully remove tortilla from plastic wrap and warm in a preheated cast iron skillet on medium-high heat for 30-50 seconds per side. Repeat for all tortillas. Place the tortillas on a plate and cover with a dry napkin to keep warm. To store them, allow to cool, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Taco night turned into tostada night with these homemade tortillas. After the tortillas were cooled, I fried them in a little corn oil until slightly brown and crispy. I topped them with seitan seasoned with salsa verde, black bean spread, tomatoes with cilantro, daiya cheese and a touch of sriracha. They were so good, mmm….

 In conclusion, you should definitely make your own tortillas. It was actually quite easy and didn’t take long at all!