I love having something sweet when I drink coffee, and I’m certain that so do many other people. And when I think of something sweet, it usually means cake or cookie. This is my biggest challenge when contemplating going completely 100% gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I experimented recently with teff (Eragrostis tef), also called tef, a grain originally from Ethiopia and Eritrea which goes to making the traditional flat bread called injera. Although teff is a cereal grain (among the smallest), it does not stimulate the same negative response in people with celiac disease, as found by Liesbeth Spaenij-Dekking and colleagues from Leiden University in the Netherlands (see Spaenij-Dekking L et al., 2005, The Ethiopian Cereal Tef in Celiac Disease, New England Journal of Medicine http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc051492). What this means is that although teff contains gluten, it is not the same kind as that found in wheat, barley, or oats. (Please note that my mentioning this does not constitute a recommendation to use teff for those who do have celiac disease.) I do not have celiac disease, and am currently experimenting with teff and other low-gluten or gluten-free ingredients, because of autoimmune issues from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My immune system has been extremely vulnerable lately, and I’m hoping that following the Perfect Health Diet (PHD) and its suggestions to eliminate gluten and sugar may help.
Teff flour is Teffmehl in German, and is available at some organic food stores (Bioladen). I found this in the organic shop near Bonn Central Station. It ranges in colour from white to dark brown: I used a beige-coloured one. As refined sugar substitutes, I used honey and a Belgian fruit spread, called Delice de Liege, made from apples, pears, and dates. The fruit spread is not, however, entirely sugar-free: there is a small amount: how much, though, is unstated on the package. For every 100 grams of fruit spread, the product claims 180 g of pears, 160 g of apples, and 60 g of dates.
I am in gradual transition from my normal diet to the PHD, starting with eliminating wheat. At the same time I am also trying to reduce my refined sugar intake, by substituting honey or other products that do not contain sugar, and I must confess to not entirely succeeding, as I do love baking and eating pastry. Thus these experiments with suitable wheat-free and refined sugar-free alternatives.
This is a not-too-sweet cake that goes well with coffee, tea, or any hot drink and, may I add, also cool or cold milk. It can be served with yogurt or cream, and goes perfectly well with vanilla ice cream (for those not eliminating refined sugar entirely from their diet): especially while the cake is still warm, making for a nice apple-teff cake à la mode. The teff and apples produce a moist crumb, so best to give the cake sufficient time to rest before slicing. If you wish to bake this in a different shaped pan, such as an 8- or 9-inch (20 – 22 cm) square or rectangular baking tray, reduce baking time to 25 – 30 minutes.
Apple and Teff Cake
3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup / 70 g sultanas or raisins
¼ tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup Belgian fruit spread, honey, or sugar-free jam
3 ½ tablespoons / 50 g melted butter
1 cup /140 g teff flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
4 ½ tablespoons / 65 g butter, diced
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup milk or yogurt
2 tablespoons butter, diced (optional)
Butter a round cake pan, 8 in diameter x 4 in deep / 20 cm diameter x 9 cm deep, and dust the surface evenly with 1 – 2 teaspoons teff flour. Shake off the excess. Preheat oven to 325°F /165°C.
Prepare the fruit: in a bowl, combine the apples, sultanas, fruit spread, cinnamon, and butter. Set aside.
Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, mix well by rubbing with the fingers or in a food processor or mixer the teff, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla essence, butter, and honey. The resulting mixture will resemble coarse meal. Make a depression in the middle of the dough mixture and mix in gently the egg and milk until completely incorporated.
Mix two-thirds of the apple mixture with the dough and spoon the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the remaining apple mixture on top. Dot with diced butter, if you wish.
Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. Leave the cake inside the turned-off oven with the door ajar, to rest and firm up for 30 to 45 minutes before slicing.