A short introduction to naturally gluten-free and protein-packed cakes and desserts made out of split peas.

Split (yellow) pea desserts are both healthy and delicious. Their taste is intriguing, highly appetising and not at all easy to pinpoint. Peas add depth and heartiness that is not usually associated with desserts, but at the same time, is so attractive! Little explored in occidental pastry tradition yet so easy to manage, this ingredient is a must-try in gluten-free baking. 

Gluten-free split peas cake with meringue and strawberries
Gluten-free split peas cake with meringue and strawberries

Split pea flour is increasingly popular in cake making. It is an ingredient enjoyed by many bakers looking for perfect gluten-free flour. However, below you will find recipes that use whole grains of peas rather than ready-made flour. Their fibre content is higher and so cakes made out of whole cooked grains mashed up with a blender are particularly light on the stomach.

All split peas desserts share an appealing silky texture. Cooked split peas create a short-bread effect of the cake, that will hold nicely on a plate, but should be enjoyed with a spoon or a fork as may result rather messy when bitten into. 

Beans, peas, chickpeas or even lentils can be used in baking, as pulses have similar properties to cereals with comparable total carbohydrate, fat, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B6 contents. However, pulses are richer in protein, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. That is why using pulses in baking is one of the healthiest options available to an inquisitive baker.

Split peas are one of the oldest crops known used widely in Chinese and Indian baking traditions. In the Western world using pulses in baking is still something relatively new. They are present in a typical Beijing snack wan dou huang, which is widely available at restaurants, often served at the end of the meal as a courtesy of the house. Hong Kong Split-Pea and Coconut Cream Pudding is a simple and light, egg-free dessert made with gelatine.

Split Pea Fudge or Pudding (Chana Dal Payasam) from India contains cinnamon and cardamom. The natural heartiness of those legumes combines greatly with typical Indian spices. In most of the Indian variations of the dessert, either coconut milk or cow´s milk are used.

In Spain split peas can be bought in foreign supermarkets and health food stores

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Gluten-free split peas cake with meringue

400g split peas

200g soft butter

200g ground almonds

350g sugar

4 eggs

1. Soak split beans overnight (or at least for few hours). Cook for 30-45 min until soft. Remove water. Liquidise. Cool down. 

2.Leave all egg whites and 150g of sugar on the side to make meringue topping later.

3. To cooled beans add almonds, butter, remaining sugar and yolks. Mix well all ingredients with an electric blender.

4. Line a baking tin (20cm x 20 cm) with kitchen paper or grease the tin gently with some butter. The cake mix goes to a hot oven (200c) and bakes for 30 min.

5. While the cake is in the oven, beat whites with sugar for the meringue topping.

6. When the base is baked, cool down the oven to 120c. Gently spoon out beaten eggs on top of the cake and bake for 10min. Rise the temperature to  140c and bake for another 10min.

Fruit topping (like cooked apples or strawberries in syrup) is prepared separately and goes on top before serving.

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It is worth trying the vegan alternative. Simply replace the eggs with flax seeds or cooked apple purée.

Ingredients:

400g split peas

200g coconut oil

200g ground almond

200g sugar

100g cooked apple purée 

1. Soak split peas overnight (or at least a few hours). Cook for 30-45 min until soft. Remove water. Liquidise. Cool down.

2. To cooled beans add almonds, coconut oil, sugar and apple purée. Mix well all ingredients with an electric blender.

3. Line a baking tin (20cm x 20 cm) with kitchen paper OR grease the tin gently with some coconut oil. The cake mix goes to a hot oven (200c) and bakes for 30 min.

The base is a soft shortbread/ shortcake which goes perfectly with fruit, either fresh like mango or strawberries or baked: apples, plums, strawberries or blueberries. Serve it either with soya or almond cream.

The cakes presented above have a rich and buttery crumb, lovely vanilla flavour, and soft texture. They don’t need to be stored in the fridge and both stay perfectly fresh for up to 5 days. You can keep them on a table and enjoy them as a snack, whenever convenient. They are a great treat to offer to kids not only for their gentle natural sweetness but also for remarkable nutritional properties.

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