When Cara over at Fork and Beans announced her vegan gluten-free baking competition, I thought, "Oh... that's nice..." Then she requested I enter and behold, I was terrified. (I love you Cara, seriously, I do, but baking is hard, vegan baking is harder, gluten-free baking is even harder and the "make up your own recipe" thing just totally broke my mind for like a week...) I suggested heart shaped ice as my recipe. At one point (while my first trial was baking in the oven) I was still seriously considering it as an option...
While I was trying to come up with an idea, I ruled out a simple sauté dish right away because, well (besides the fact that it's not baking) it hardly counts as gluten-free unless it would normally have gluten in it, right? But for a recipe to be truly mine, it needed to be something using local in-season ingredients and it needed to be relatively healthy. I didn't want to use any chemicals which unfortunately seem to play a large part in commercial gluten-free products. Xanthan gum in particular is a big one on my "That Just Ain't Natural" list that seems to be in even organic and all natural gluten-free products.
I live in Washington State. Things that are local, in-season, and bakeable are precisely: apples (from storage) and Winter squash (from storage). Ayup. No sweet little red strawberries, forget about a gorgeous pink raspberry, and watermelon is right out. So I thought, "Well, what about a butternut squash cake with vegan cream cheese frosting sweetened with maple syrup?" And that, my friends is what I endeavored to create. At one point I found a very similar sounding recipe on Gluten-Free Goddess, but hers called for a lot of ingredients I didn't have and it also had eggs in it. I referenced it a little for ratios, but ultimately came up with a very different recipe.
The whole "cake" thing didn't really work out. It ended up as an awesome breakfast bread that we Can't. Stop. Eating. Besides the butternut squash, the hazelnuts are local to us and Bob's Red Mill is technically considered local too I guess, coming from Oregon, though it feels a little like cheating...
Vegan and Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Bread
1/2 C coconut oil (still solid)
1 C Sucanat
1/2 C silken tofu purée
2 T cornstarch combined with 2 T water
1/4 C blackstrap molasses
1 1/4 C butternut squash purée
2 C Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 C chopped hazelnuts
Optional: You can substitute 1/4 butternut squash with 1/4 C banana purée. It makes it taste like banana bread. My hubby prefers it this way.
If you don't just happen to have a bunch of butternut squash purée laying around, cut one in half, roast each piece, cut side down, at 450° for about an hour. Then peel when cool and purée. I did this step a few days ahead. You can also microwave butternut squash in a similar fashion in about 10-15 minutes. If you make the squash the same day you bake your bread you can also purée the tofu and banana while the squash is cooking. The blender worked great for the tofu while I managed to get a great banana purée from my mini food processor.
Once you have your purées, pre-heat oven to 350°. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil and dust with BRM flour. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine coconut oil and Sucanat using the high speed of your mixer until very well combined. Add the banana purée (if using), tofu purée and cornstarch mixture and mix everything well. Mix in molasses and squash purée. Once you have all the wet ingredients mixed with the sugar, begin combining the dry ingredients in a small bowl. This will give the Sucanat a little time to dissolve. Slowly begin adding flour mixture to the wet mixture about 1/4 at a time. Add hazelnuts, and mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
The result is a warm and comforting moist bread that is perfect just out of the oven for breakfast with a little butter (or whatever substitute you like). As it cools, it's not as good, but that's nothing a few seconds in the microwave can't cure... But since this is a Valentine's Day Contest, why not kick it into pretty pink dessert mode with a little pink frosting?
2 C powdered sugar
1/2 C Tofutti cream cheese
2 T pure maple syrup
4-5 drops natural food coloring
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and beat til combined.
I feel the same way about Tofutti cream cheese as I do about mascarpone cheese: It should never be eaten by any human ever unless it's full of confectioner's sugar and resting on top of a cake. Then it's happiness on a fork. The natural food coloring I use has beets in it, which gives the frosting a slightly fruity flavor. I like it. Technically, the powdered sugar I used isn't vegan. If you're being really careful, The Vegan Chef has a recipe for DIY vegan powered sugar.
Isn't that just pretty like a Valentine Princess?
I hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day no matter how you start it out. February 6th is the deadline so there's still time to enter the contest! It really is much less complicated than it seems! And three winners receive $75 gift cards to their favorite store!