Simple and sweet

Donna Hay says baking is her own form of mindfulness mediation. Photo: supplied
Donna Hay says baking is her own form of mindfulness mediation. Photo: supplied
It's Mother's Day this weekend and Donna Hay's new book provides plenty of inspiration for a homemade gift or if a mum is lucky enough to be given the gift of time, a chance for mothers to bake.

For some, like Hay, baking is their therapy. She describes it as her own form of mindfulness mediation.

''When I can't sleep, I often tiptoe into the kitchen and in the calm quiet of early morning will begin to measure and mix.''

Modern Baking, by Donna Hay, published by HarperCollins, RRP $60.
Modern Baking, by Donna Hay, published by HarperCollins, RRP $60.

Modern Baking brings together all of Hay's favourite sweet things to make ''whether you are in the mood for pure indulgence, a balanced treat or a sneaky shortcut dessert''.

Hay, who until recently published a popular self-titled bi-monthly magazine - she reached 100 issues before deciding to move on - is known for her simple, straightforward recipes without huge lists of ingredients.

This book is no different. It is broken up into sections for chocolate, caramel, toffee and coffee, sugar and spice, fruit and berries and milk and cream.

You will find old-fashioned favourites such as an upside down chocolate and pear cake and banana bread as well as the more ''modern'' raw caramel peanut crunch bars and coconut chia pudding.

Each section has a ''fresh and light'' component featuring recipes using fresh produce, refined sugar alternatives such as rice malt or maple syrups, ''superfood'' ingredients such as goji berries, chia seeds and cacao powder and white flour alternatives spelt and buckwheat.

Helpfully, there is an extensive index that explains what the more specalised ingredients are.



Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Cacao caramel bites

Makes 14

30 soft fresh dates (600g), pitted
¼ cup (80g) natural hazelnut butter+
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
¼ cup (25g) raw cacao or cocoa powder
100g 70% dark chocolate
¼ cup (45g) raw cacao nibs

Line a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin with non-stick baking paper. Place the dates, hazelnut butter, vanilla, oil and cacao in a food processor and process for 3-4 minutes or until smooth. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface++. Freeze for 4 hours or until firm.

Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (the bowl shouldn't touch the water) and stir until melted and smooth.

Remove the slice from the tin and cut into 14 bars. Using a fork, dip each bar into the chocolate, allowing any excess to drip off. Place on the tray and sprinkle with the cacao nibs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

+ Find hazelnut butter, or spread, in the health food aisle of the supermarket. You could use almond or macadamia butter here, too, just stick to natural nut spreads to skip out on unwanted oils, sodium and sugar.

++ If the mixture is sticky, grease the spoon in a little melted coconut oil to help you spread and smooth it. Tip: Keep these bites refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks (for a firmer caramel) or at room temperature for up to 1 week (for a softer caramel).

Strawberries and cream ice-cream bars

Makes 8

50g 70% dark chocolate, melted
10g freeze-dried strawberries*, finely chopped

Strawberry layer
400g strawberries, hulled and chopped
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Cream layer
2 medium bananas (360g), peeled and sliced
2½ cups (625ml) coconut cream
½ cup (125ml) maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

To make the strawberry layer, place the strawberry, maple syrup and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes or until the strawberry is soft and the liquid has thickened. Allow to cool slightly.

Roughly mash with a fork and set aside.

To make the cream layer, place the banana, coconut cream, maple syrup and vanilla in a large jug. Using a hand-held stick blender, blend until smooth.

Add 1 cup (250ml) of the cream mixture to the strawberry mixture. Stir to combine and refrigerate until needed.

Line a 20cm square slice tin with non-stick baking paper.

Pour the remaining cream mixture into the tin and freeze for 2 hours or until firm. Spread evenly with the strawberry mixture and freeze for 4 hours or overnight until firm.

Allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Use a hot knife to cut the slice into bars. Drizzle with the chocolate and sprinkle with the chopped freeze-dried strawberries to serve.


Upside-down chocolate, hazelnut and pear cake

Serves 8

⅓ cup (60g) light brown sugar
5 Corella (rosy pink) pears (550g), halved
250g unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup (250ml) unsweetened almond milk
2 eggs
⅔ cup (160g) sour cream
1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder
1½ tsp bicarbonate of (baking) soda
1½ cups (330g) caster (superfine) sugar
1 cup (100g) hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)]
single (pouring) cream, to serve

Heat oven to 160degC. Line a 22cm round springform tin with non-stick baking paper, leaving 2cm paper above the rim. Place 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar on a small plate.

Dip the cut side of each pear in the brown sugar. Place a large non-stick frying pan over high heat.

Add the pear, sugar-side down, and cook for 5-6 minutes or until caramelised and golden. Arrange the pear, cut-side down, in the base of the tin.

Place 25g of the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in the pan and cook for 1 minute or until thickened slightly. Pour the butter mixture over the pear.

Place the almond milk and the remaining 225g of butter in the pan and cook, stirring, until the butter is melted.

Transfer to a large bowl and add the eggs, sour cream, flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar and hazelnut meal.

Whisk until combined and pour into the tin. Place on an oven tray and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and place on a cake stand or plate. Serve with cream.

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