Leon: Baking & Puddings Cookbook Review Part 1

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COOKIES & CAKES
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I always like to have a little something sweet in the house. I’m a big fan of a 4 o’clock cup of tea with a piece of cake, a scone or a cookie.

I know, however, that I won’t be able to indulge in this ritual for long if I don’t make sure my sweet treats are relatively healthy so I’m always on the lookout for new and inventive ways to make healthier goodies.

Leon is a great place to start as they have a huge range of gluten free cakes and pies (their pecan pie is especially good), so I decided to give some of the recipes in their Baking & Puddings Cookbook a try and see if I could find some more delicious treats to add to my repertoire!

Here are some of the recipes I attempted.

Maggie’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

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The title of these cookies is obviously encouraging. Everyone wants to try a ‘Best’ cookie. This recipe is specifically for gluten free flour.

I’ve been using gluten free flour with recipes built around normal flour for years and have never had a problem, the same cannot be said for spelt flour, but I still really appreciate it when a recipe already includes gluten free flour as I know the finished product will taste exactly as it was intended to.

These cookies are very quick and easy to make, so when I was feeling like something sweet but didn’t have anything to hand I just threw them together. Unfortunately I didn’t have chocolate chips so I just chopped up some dark chocolate and put that in instead.

The result: when the cookies are warm you have melted chocolate loveliness inside the cookie and when they’ve cooled they are more like chocolate chunks.

You can go with regular chocolate chips if you have them but I never trust anything that doesn’t melt when heated or has been coated in a layer of something strange.IMG_4322

The recipe uses agave nectar and maple syrup instead of sugar which I’m always a fan of as I try to keep processed sugar out of my life as much as I can.

They turned out a little too sweet for me so I might try making them again with a little less agave. Other than that, the texture of the cookies was just right and they worked beautifully.

Blueberry Cheesecake

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Cheesecake is my favourite cake in the world. It’s soft and creamy and sweet all at the same time and comes in lots of different flavours – chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry.

I cheated a little with this recipe because the base called for ground digestive and ginger nut biscuits – neither of which are gluten/wheat free.

Never keen to bake something I can’t eat I decided to go with a gluten free almond meal base that I occasionally use for really healthy raw cacao and cashew nut cheesecakes – so this cake has the topping of the Leon cheesecake and the base of the raw avocado chocolate cake I made here.

Other than the base everything else sticks rigidly to the Leon recipe.

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My base is made with ground almonds, salt and dates. I still remember the crunchy goodness of a digestive/gingernut biscuit base coated decadently in butter but sadly I can no longer eat it and it’s probably safer that way. If you don’t have gluten/wheat problems you can obviously indulge in the regular base.

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The cheesecake part required cream cheese, caster sugar, lemon juice, vanilla seeds, creme fraiche, yoghurt and eggs. I used half fat cream cheese, creme fraiche and yoghurt and coconut sugar instead of processed white sugar to try to make the cake a little healthier.

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My cake mixture looks a little more golden brown in colour than Leon’s white one because the coconut sugar is brown.

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The fruity topping is made of blueberries, cornflour and water and cooks easily and gently to make this delicious mixture.

It was the first time I’d made anything like it and I was quite amazed by what the cornflour helped create out of what was otherwise just blueberries and water mixed together.

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This cake was absolutely delicious. I have no doubt it would have been even more so with the original base, but even with my almond meal one it was scrumptious. It was a huge hit!

Life By Chocolate Cake

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Of all the discoveries I have made in this cookbook ‘Life By Chocolate Cake‘ has got to be the best. This is the quickest, easiest and yet most delicious, rich satisfying pudding you could make. It has quite an intense flavour which means you only want to eat a little at a time so it lasts for ages.

Don’t be afraid of the slightly adventurous baking method (you essentially have to put the whole cake into a warm bath as it bakes), which turns out to be surprisingly straightforward.

This is almost like a dark chocolate mousse cake. It has no flour of any kind and is really rather easy to make. All you need is eggs, butter, salt, brown sugar, dark chocolate, vanilla extract and a little espresso – most of which you probably have in your cupboard anyway.

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You whisk the eggs and some of the sugar together to form voluminous peaks. IMG_4688

You then gently heat the remaining sugar with the coffee, chocolate pieces and butter, take it off the heat and add the vanilla and salt.

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This lovely chocolate-y mixture is then poured into the egg mixture and gently mixed together.

The whole lot is then transferred into the cake tin, which goes into a roasting tin filled with hot water.
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After you have carefully taken the roasting tin to the oven (trying not to spill the water or the chocolate mixture), you should have something that looks more or less like this after 40 minutes. IMG_4765

The cake is so rich that a little dollop of creme fraiche really accompanies it beautifully – without it the flavour is almost too intense.

It’s incredibly delicious and very easy to make.

A masterpiece.

Warm Gooey Chocolate Cakes

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I made these once when my boyfriend and I felt like pudding after dinner but didn’t have anything already prepared. I skimmed through the Leon book looking for something with the fewest ingredients and the shortest cooking time.

The name caught my eye first – who doesn’t want to try a little gooey chocolate cake?

The fact that it only had about 6 ingredients, took 10 minutes to prepare and 7 minutes to cook sealed the deal. I was making it!

To speed things up even further I used little cupcake holders instead of mini pie dishes, so there was no pre-bake buttering or greasing required.

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I had to use real sugar for this because my coconut sugar would not whisk to make stiff peaks – it just made a watery brown mess.

You essentially whisk the eggs and sugar together and then fold them into the other ingredients (which have already been mixed). You don’t want to mix them together too much or the cakes won’t be as soft and light.

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I dolloped my mixture into my little cupcake holders and put them in the oven for 7 minutes. When the time was up I went to check on them and the egg white mixture seemed to be bubbling very enthusiastically around each little cake.

This unnerved me slightly so I left them to cook slightly longer as I didn’t want to feed people raw egg whites. WRONG. When I eventually took them out after an extra couple of minutes they had cooked all the way through (which they are not supposed to), but were still soft (if not gooey) on the inside.

If I had stuck to the proposed 7 minutes they would have had warm chocolate oozing out of the middle.

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Despite this, they were still pretty delicious and the quickest, easiest cakes I have ever made.

Served with a little creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream, these are perfect little puddings. Next time I’ll stick to the 7 minute rule.

There are so many enticing recipes in this book that I couldn’t fit all the ones I tried into one post.

So look out for another instalment in the next month or so with some savoury bakes, including an attempt to make my own pastry.

Until then, happy baking!

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