Midnight baking for relaxation….oh how I have missed you! And my first cookbook review.

Today, for the first time in ages I got to do some baking for the heck of it that was not work related!  I’ve missed midnight baking.

I had a jar of apple sauce left in the fridge from about a month ago that  I made from a glut of apples I bought with the intention to make a few apple crumbles for some friends.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen due to a sudden influx of work and then my trip to Paris, so I decided to save the apples for a rainy day.

A few months ago I was on one of my Amazon shopping sprees and I bought a bunch of cookbooks.  I seem to go through this phase about twice a year- buying a dozen cook books at a time like they’re going out of fashion.  It’s not a good thing because I end up buying some books just for the sake of it…such as I did with the Babycakes cookbook By Erin McKennathe infamous New York Vegan (sometimes Gluten Free and Sugar Free) baker. I read the reviews and it seemed like it would be a hit and miss book as it was reported in reviews that a lot of the recipes were nothing like the baked goods that she said she had given the recipes for in the book.  I haven’t actually been to her bakery and so I haven’t got anything to compare it to, but out of principle I probably should have avoided the book because it was misleading.  I didn’t though because the version I was buying was the UK one with some changes and I was curious to see what the conversions and substitutions would be like.  I also wasn’t so bothered that the recipes weren’t the same as her bakery ones because I rarely follow recipes to the tee anyway and I have enough knowledge to know what will work and what won’t.  Plus taking a skeleton and making it your own is what makes kitchen experimentation fun!

Due to the nature of my business and having to be able to accommodate different dietary requirements, gluten free/vegan /sugar free diets in particular, I am always keen to read cook books in these areas and Erin’s book is definitely a good starting point.  Having now read Erin’s first book – only the recipes and avoiding anything unrelated,   (I wasn’t feeling all the celebrity mumbo jumbo endorsements and arse kissing every other page.) and having tried some of the recipes, I have mixed feelings about this book.

I think the substitutions when it comes to gluten free flour works well for the most part, however you can now buy a range of Bob’s Red Mill products including the All Purpose Gluten Free Flour in Waitrose which is what Erin uses in her North American version.  Saying that, Doves Plain Gluten Free Flour  is much better value and in my opinion better tasting.

The icing that she is famous for is given to her readers in the form of a HORRIBLE recipe.  It’s not good by any standards and  I don’t understand why she would bother putting such a poorly written, unstable recipe in a book with her name on it.  She may as well have omitted it and told her readers to take stabs in the dark while experimenting when trying to recreate hers.  I did have a go, but I substituted and changed a lot of the quantities that she had written because I could see that the quantities given would never work as she had pictured they would.  I don’t think I have come up with something I would yet be happy to publish…but when I do, I will be sure to share. :)

Apart from the icing, I find a lot of the recipes to be fillers and not particularly exciting. Also to my taste, and I guess most of Europe, the recipes are far too fatty and unnecessarily sickly sweet which is surprising as the ethos behind this book seems to focus of tasty, but somewhat healthy. I don’t think the fact that you use coconut oil which is deemed a healthy fat means that you should douse the product with it unnecessarily.  I found a few recipes, particularly the Chocolate Chip Cookies I made tonight, that even though I reduced the fat by 50ml, I still found the end product verging on greasy. It could be that the difference in flours wasn’t tested properly and the way that the fat is absorbed is different making it seem more greasy?  I guess it’s all about trial and error…something that seems to be a trend with this book.

I think Erin’s bakery concept is fab, and I think that her books are a lifeline to those that rely on the kinds of products she makes due to their diets, but I do get a feeling that she’s not the sharing kind and her main motivation is to make money from books rather than provide a quality product with stable recipes for those that really need it. Her readers need to work hard to make these recipes work.  I am happy to adapt her recipes to suit me and I will be interested to have a browse through her new book, but I probably won’t buy it….even on one of my Amazon shopping sprees!

Vegan & Gluten Free Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cookies – adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna

Preheat oven to 170C and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.  You will have enough mixture for 2 batches- about 40 cookies.


  • 175ml melted virgin coconut oil
  • 8-10 tbsp homemade apple sauce made with agave syrup and of cinnamon or unsweetend shop bought, but add 1/2- 3/4 tsp  cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 200g Doves gluten free plain flour
  • 75g rice flour
  • 50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 30g ground flax/linseeds
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp xantham gum
  • 150g dark chocolate chips


  1. In a bowl mix the melted oil with the apple sauce, vanilla, sugar and salt.
  2. In another bowl whisk the flours, coconut, ground flax, bicarb of soda and xantham gum.
  3. Mix the wet mixture into the dry mixture until you get a grainy dough that’s just mixed.
  4. Now fold in the chocolate chips until distributed evenly.  Do not over mix.
  5. Using a small ice-cream scoop or 2 teaspoons make small balls of the mixture and place on the baking trays about 2-3cm apart, flattening each ball to help it spread.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, turning the trays halfway.
  7. leave the cookies on the tray to firm up for 10 mins and then remove to cool the trays and repeat process for the second batch.
  8. Cookies are done when they are firm to touch and lightly golden.  As they cool they will get a crisp edge, but will remain soft in the centre.

Erin originally sandwiches these cookies with her famous vanilla icing which is dairy free, but as her recipe was not worth using for this I left these plain.  If you do want to sandwich them and don’t mind dairy, some suggestions include, home made or shop bought Nutella and coconut buttercream, for dairy free- chocolate ganache made with coconut cream would be delicious and of course ice cream sandwich cookies would be fab…the list is endless!