Marianne Stewart, professional pastry chef and the author of pastry cookbook Nourish Cakes has fond memories of the beginning of her career as a pastry chef in London, where she made orange and poppy seed loaves at Baker & Spice, in Chelsea. "[There was] no skimping on ingredients," she says. "We used organic eggs and plenty of French butter."
Fast-forward a bit and Stewart has poured her years of experience as a pastry chef into developing yummy dessert recipes for people with food allergies and intolerances. "Although I am a professional pastry chef, I have always baked for love, and baked to share. One of the reasons why I work so much with alternative, free-from ingredients is because I want my cakes and recipes to be for everyone, " She says.
Stewart's experience working with alternative ingredients has given her the chance to be seriously innovative in creating her recipes. She credits her understanding of how recipes work and her willingness to think outside the box for allowing her to get the same flavor and function out of the better ingredients she uses.
"You don’t need to compromise on nutritional value to get a luxurious, indulgent treat."
Exhibit A: her orange, butternut squash poppy seed loaf cake, inspired by the loaves she once made in London. Instead of relying on heaps of French butter, Stewart's healthier take on the recipe uses a combination of grated butternut squash and ground almonds to impart the same chewy texture.
"One of my top tips is to use organic root vegetables in recipes like this," she says. "Not only are these naturally better for you, they also taste sweeter, meaning you can add less sugar to your bake. Nut butters, avocado flesh, and healthier oils are a great way to pack a little more richness into certain recipes, meaning you don’t need to compromise on nutritional value to get a luxurious, indulgent treat."
In keeping with this philosophy, Stewart also forgoes refined, bleached white flour for oat flour in this recipe. Tweaking recipes and making ingredients substitutions is a trial-and-error process, and with this superstar recipe, Stewart's done the hard work for you.
Keep reading for the recipe.
Orange, butternut, and poppy seed loaf cake
For the candied orange slices
1 1/4 cups golden caster (granulated) sugar
1 unwaxed orange, halved and cut into roughly 1/8–1⁄6 in. thick slices
For the loaf cake
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup finely ground oats or oat flour
2/3 cup ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄8 tsp baking soda
1⁄8 tsp xantham gum (optional)
1/2 butternut squash
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
7 Tbsp golden caster (granulated) sugar or demerara (raw brown) sugar
Candied orange slices (see below), to decorate
Coconut oil, for greasing
For the candied orange slices
1. Place the sugar and two-thirds cup water into a small pan and heat to dissolve the sugar and bring the syrup just to the boil.
2. When the syrup reaches the boil, add the orange slices and cover them with foil or baking parchment to keep them submerged in the syrup. Simmer very gently for 45 minutes, or until the orange slices are translucent. Remove from the heat and allow the fruit to cool in the pan.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and chill for at least 24 hours before using (so the orange slices can absorb the syrup). The candied orange slices will keep for up to four weeks in the fridge. Drain and slice into quarters before using.
For the loaf cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a one pound loaf tin with coconut oil and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
2. Sift together the flours, ground almonds, raising agents and xanthan gum, if using, and set aside.
3. Peel and coarsely grate the butternut squash. Weigh out five and one-fourth ounces and scatter over the zests, juices, and poppy seeds.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick and doubled in volume. Gently fold through the butternut mixture lightly, followed by the dry ingredients, then leave for ten minutes.
5. Scrape the batter into the tin and bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed and an inserted skewer or cocktail stick comes out clean.
6. Cool the cake in the tin for ten minutes, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.
For the icing:
1. Sift the icing confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Add the poppy seeds and enough juice to form an icing the thickness of double heavy cream. You probably will not need all of it.
2. Pour the icing over the cooled cake and leave for a few minutes before decorating with the candied orange slices.
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