Wednesday 28 September 2011

Raspberry Hazelnut Tart with Triple Hazelnut Ice Cream

Today’s date will always hold a great meaning for me. It was on this date (28th September) last year that a pivotal life changing event occurred – I was told I had coeliac disease and could therefore no longer eat wheat, gluten, rye, barley and oats in all its weird wonderful and often delicious forms. I remember vividly sitting there as mixed emotions flooded through my mind. Relief, that they had finally found out what was wrong, devastation at the loss of some of my favourite foods, excitement about what this could all mean and bewilderment about where to start.

One year on I am feeling happier and healthier and have only had one big meltdown, rather embarrassing in the cereal isle of my local supermarket. I adore cereal and used to snack on it straight from the box and weirdly enough have found this much harder to give up than bread. I happened to go down the cereal isle one day and was looking at all the different, new and yummy cereals on offer and just broke down in tears. Thankfully it was early in the morning and no one saw me as I cried over a box of cranberry granola. Aside from that, life is good. I currently have a few other health issues brought on by my late diagnosis of coeliac disease, but over time I should be back to fighting fit. Onwards and Upwards is my motto!

To celebrate my one year gluten free I decided to make a delicious gluten free dessert and serve it to friends and family without them knowing it was gluten free. I wanted something impressive and indulgent to show that missing gluten in no way means missing out!

I decided on a variation of a frangipane tart, replacing the ground almonds with hazelnuts, using fresh raspberries instead of jam and baking it in chocolate gluten free pastry. As I was on a roll I also made some triple hazelnut ice cream by using ground toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut spread and hazelnut liqueur. I presented this in a dark chocolate tear drop shell and also made a few chocolate pastry batons with the scraps of leftover pastry.

The photo of the dish is a little fuzzy as it was dark by the time we sat down to eat, but I was pleased with the results. My favourite part was the hazelnut ice cream which was divine! It had an intense hazelnut flavour with a thick texture from the ground hazelnuts. The hazelnut liqueur added an extra dimension and also meant it stayed wonderful smooth and creamy. Enjoyed by all, gluten free or not!

Raspberry Hazelnut Tart with Triple Hazelnut Ice Cream
Raspberry Hazelnut Tart
250g Gluten free chocolate shortcrust pastry (below)*
60g butter
60g caster sugar
60g ground hazelnuts
1 egg
100g fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 190C and place a baking tray into the oven to heat up.
Roll out pastry and line 8inch/20cm fluted tart tin. Cut off any excess and place in the fridge until required. Keep any scraps to make the pastry batons (below)
Make sure the butter is soft, then cream it together with the sugar until well combined.
Beat in the egg, followed by the ground hazelnuts.
Pour the hazelnut mixture into the tart case and arrange the raspberries on top, pushing them into the frangipane.
Place the tart on the hot baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and set.
Serve warm or at room temperature with the hazelnut ice cream and batons.
Serves 8
*Note: If you don’t want to make your own pastry, use standard pre made sweet shortcrust pastry.

Hazelnut Batons
Reroll any scrapes of chocolate pastry and cut them into thin strips. Place on a baking tray and scatter the top with a little extra caster sugar and ground hazelnuts. Bake for 15 minutes until crisp.

Gluten Free Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry
225g gluten free flour mix (I used 100g white rice flour, 80g potato flour, 50g white teff flour)
20g cocoa powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
120g butter
1 egg
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp cold water

Have an 8inch/20cm tart tin ready.
Mix all the flours, icing sugar, cocoa powder and the xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.
Make sure you butter is soft, if not blast it in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to a separate mixing bowl along with half the flour mixture, the egg and water. Beat with a spoon or spatula to form a paste. (Yes I know this goes against all traditional pastry making!) Add the rest of the flour and bring the mixture together to form a dough, switching to your hands at the end. Knead the dough gently for 1 minute to ensure everything is well combined.
Roll out the pastry between two large sheets of clingfilm to the size and shape of your tart tin, plus an extra 1-2 inches for the sides.
Peel off the top sheet of clingfilm, and use the base sheet to help you flip the pastry into the tin and press it down gently. Trim off the excess. Patch up any cracks with the off-cuts of pastry.
Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Triple Hazelnut Ice Cream
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream
300ml milk
2 tbsp Nutella
75g freshly ground hazelnuts
1 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 chocolate transfer sheet & 50g dark chocolate (optional)

Lightly toast some skinned hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until lightly toasted. Use a spice ginger or small food processor to grind the nuts and 20g of the caster sugar until they resemble very fine crumbs. Be carful not to overdo it or it will start to form a paste.
Place the milk, cream and Nutella together in a saucepan and heat until hot but not boiling. Meanwhile, lightly whisk the egg yolks and remaining 80g sugar together until combined. Mix in the ground hazelnuts.
Carefully pour a little of the hot cream mixture over the top of the egg yolks and whisk well. Add the rest of the cream, whisking constantly.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and stir over a low heat with a spoon or spatula for around 5-6 minutes until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not let the mixture boil as this will cause it to split and curdle.
Once ready, pour into a clean bowl and stir in the hazelnut liqueur. Leave to cool before transferring to the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours until very cold.
When chilled, churn in an ice cream machine until thick and set, or transfer to the freezer until required.
Serves 6-8

How to made a chocolate tear drop shaped ice cream mould
Cut a plastic strip from a special chocolate transfer sheet, about 3-4cm high. Coat the side imprinted with the design with melted dark chocolate and form into a tear drop shape, with the chocolate coating facing inwards. Secure with a paper clip and place in the fridge to set for 5 minutes. Once set fill the mould with the still softly frozen hazelnut ice cream and place in the freezer to firm up until required.
Just before serving peel away the plastic outer sheeting, leaving the chocolate shell and imprint surrounding the ice cream. Top with a few extra fresh raspberries

Saturday 24 September 2011

Sweet Apple Pips – Where The Apples Bite Back!

A few days ago I received an email that said “we are launching a new sweet for Halloween that’s both apple and spicy…interested?” Well with a statement like and considering my blog name, I was intrigued and so wrote back “tell me more!”

It turns out that A Quarter Of, an online sweetshop selling old fashioned sweets has created a new fun flavour of fruit pips – apple pips to be more precise. Does anyone else remember those from their childhood?! Little multicoloured and flavoured chips/pips of fruity sugar drops. My sister and I used to love them.

These new apple pips sound sweet and simple enough, but mixed in amongst the batch are a selection of chilli flavoured pips that look almost identical to the normal ones! The idea is you take one not knowing if you’re in for a sweet treat of a fiery trick. The slogan stamped on the lid of the box I was sent summed it up perfectly ‘Apple Bobbing Where The Apples Bite Back!’ I laughed so much when I read that.

I first tried an apple pip which was sweet with a fresh green apple flavour. I then hunted out a faintly suspicious looking chilli pip and sucked it cautiously. At first I couldn’t taste much but after a few seconds a gentle heat started to spread across the tip of my tongue which developed into a chilli heat with quite a kick, bringing a big grin to my face.

You could have so much fun with these, sharing them around with friends in the run up to Halloween. Dare your friends and family to take one and find out if they’re in for a Trick or a Sweet!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

The Cake Slice September 2011: Chocolate Gingerbread

This month was extra special for the Cake Slice Bakers as it marks the end of our year baking from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. As of next month, we will now be baking from a new cake book for the upcoming year! Each month the cakes are chosen by a member vote, but as this was to be our last cake from our current book, we were all allowed to select which cake we would like to bake. As the weather had been dull, cold and wet I felt in the need for something spicy and warming and settled on a recipe for Chocolate Gingerbread.

I’d never tried a chocolate gingerbread before, but was intrigued by the idea of adding a chocolaty note to this spicy cake. It sounded wonderfully warming and autumnal.

The cake was also a little different to other gingerbreads I’ve made as along with the usual spices it also contained chocolate chips, ground black pepper and espresso powder. I decided to leave the espresso out but loved the addition of the chocolate chips. I forgot to add mine into the batter and so ended up sprinkling them on top instead which created little pools of molted chocolate which were delicious.

The cake had a very strong flavour of molasses and that paired with the cocoa powder made for one very dark, rich smelling cake. I loved the colour but found the flavour of the molasses to be too overpowering. I didn’t really get much of a cocoa flavour, apart from when I hit a chunk of chocolate, and found the spices were sort of lost against the strong treacle molasses flavour. It was definitely a spicy tasting cake, but I would have trouble knowing it was a ginger cake. Next time I’d reduce the black treacle and increase the amount of ginger I used.

The cake itself was light and moist with a lovely sticky surface. It had a soft, slightly damp texture which gave it a pudding feel. It tasted fabulous warmed with a little custard, the perfect thing to tuck into on a cold evening.

Strangely enough, after a couple of days the cake went a little dry instead of going even sticker like traditional gingerbread. All in all it was a very nice cake, but I feel with a few alternations it could become something really special

Click here to see what other cakes the Cake Slice Bakers selected.

Now for some exciting news! As this was our last cake from our current cake book, we are now opening up group to fellow cake baking enthusiasts who wish to bake with us for the upcoming year. Places are limited and you will need to buy a copy of the new cake book to participate, so dedicated bakers only please.
Anyone wishing to join us can email me at (appleandspice[AT] along with their name, blog name, blog URL and email address for details. Please put ‘New Cake Slice Member’ in the subject box.

Chocolate Gingerbread
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)
120g black treacle or molasses
120g plain flour (I used 100g white teff flour & 20g brown rice flour)
170ml hot water
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
50g butter
110g light soft brown sugar
1 egg yolk
50g dark chocolate chips
½ tsp espresso powder (I left this out)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour an 8inch/20cm square baking tin.
Stir together the hot water and black treacle and set aside to cool.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso and all the spices into a bowl and set aside.
Combine the butter and sugar in a separate large mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the egg yolk and beat until incorporated. Pour in half the molasses mixture and carefully whisk until combined. Scatter over half the flour mixture and whisk again, followed by the rest of the molasses mixture and finishing with the rest of the flour.
Fold in the dark chocolate chips and pour the mixture into the tin.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack and leaving to cool.
Cut into squares and serve.
Makes one 8inch/20cm cake. Best eaten within 2 days.
I baked my cake in a 9inch tin and got a thinner cake. It took 20 minutes to bake.
I would reduce the molasses to 80g, as I found the flavour very overpowering
I would double the ground ginger stated in the recipe as it was quite subtle.
I’d also line the tin as well as greasing it, as some of my cake stuck to the base when I tried to turn it out.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Film Cupcakes for a Friend

Yesterday was a day of mixed feelings. One of best and closest friends is moving to LA in a matter of days to study film at the LA Film School! I am terribly excited and happy for her as this is something she has dreamed about doing for years. But I am also feeling sad as it will mean we won’t get to see each other for a year or more. We have always been quite an unlikely paring, thrown together at school at the age of nine and have been firm friends ever since.

She’s the kind of friend you can phone when feeling down with the knowledge that 10 minutes later you will probably be smiling. The kind of friend you arrange to meet, simply to go for a walk on a nice day, or who invites me round to watch her latest DVD purchase. She’s loyal, supportive and I’m going to miss her. On the plus side it gives me the perfect excuse to plan a visit to America and I’m sure after a few weeks there she will be able to show me around like a native. Her new address even includes ‘Hollywood’ how incredible is that!

Yesterday was her farewell party with all her friends and family. Everyone was encouraged to bring something to share, and as this week has been National Cupcake Week, I decided to bake some cupcakes.
I kept it simple with a vanilla sponge with a mix of either vanilla or chocolate icing with the hope that this would please everyone (I also made a few gluten free ones). I then made black and gold fondant stars for the decoration, which I embossed with her initials and finished with a little edible glitter to add some LA sparkle. Good luck J, I’m sure you’ll get on famously!

Thursday 8 September 2011

Zesty Red Grapefruit, Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti

A few days ago I was hunting in the cupboards for something crunchy to nibble on for my mid morning snack, but nothing really appealed. I suddenly got the image of biscotti drifting into my head and I realised that was exactly what I’d been craving. Biscotti! I hadn’t made or eaten those for ages. They used to appear on blogs almost on a weekly basis and yet I’ve not seen them around for a while. I checked my blog and realised that the last time I baked biscotti was December 2009!!! Yikes! It was certainly time for a biscotti revival.

I decided to try a new recipe, and the one that most appealed to me was from Prue Leiths Baking Bible, a wonderful book that I really don’t use often enough. The reason it caught my attention was that it used some cornmeal/polenta as well as the flour in the dough. As biscotti and polenta are both Italian this seemed quite fitting. I used the base of this recipe but changed the flavour of the dough and add-ins to be my own.

I had open bags of both dried cranberries and walnuts sitting on the counter and so they seemed the ideal additions to my biscotti dough. My hand was reaching for an orange to zest into it too, when I spotted a red grapefruit lurking at the back and decided to use this instead. Red grapefruit has a stronger, sharper citrus flavour than orange, but I loved the idea of it with the sweet cranberries.

The cornmeal gave the dough a very sunny yellow colour that made the glossy red cranberries shine out. I used a gluten free flour mix in place of wheat flour and realised that biscotti are the perfect gluten free cookies. Biscotti’s very characterises call for it to be crispy and crunchy rather than soft and chewy, the latter can often be hard to achieve with gluten free baking.

After baking, slicing and baking again I was rewarded with a tray of delicious biscotti. The cranberries and walnuts looked so pretty scattered throughout the dough and the cornmeal had retained some of its golden colour and lent a pleasant light texture to the biscotti along with a slight grittiness. This was a good sort of grittiness though, similar to the grains you get in shortbread, rather than nasty “I’m eating sand” grittiness!

The cranberries stayed wonderfully chewy and the chunks of walnut were soft and nutty, providing a great contrast in textures and flavours.

The aspect of the biscotti that most surprised and pleased me was how strongly the red grapefruit flavour came through. At first there was just a hint of zestiness, but once you were more than two nibbles in this developed into a really intense zingy grapefruit flavour that danced across the tip of my tongue, lingering on for several minutes even after I’d finished munching. Woooh it was definitely zingy!

Biscotti are so addictive; I’ve been finding myself nibbling at them at all times of the day. The great thing about them is that they keep for several weeks in an airtight container meaning they make great gifts for friends and even survive trips through the post. Come on everyone, its time for biscotti revival!

Zesty Red Grapefruit, Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti
(Recipe loosely based on a recipe from Leiths Baking Bible)
200g gluten free flour* (I used Doves brand, a mix of rice, maize, potato, buckwheat and tapioca flours)
55g fine ground cornmeal/polenta
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
40g dried cranberries
40g walnuts
Zest of ½ red grapefruit
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone sheet.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and zest of the red grapefruit together until well combined.
Roughly chop or break up the walnuts into large chunks and add to the bowl along with the cranberries. Stir briefly.
Scatter the flour, cornmeal and bicarbonate of soda over the top and mix it all together using a spatula. It should be quite soft and sticky.
Wet your hands before transferring the dough to the lined baking tray and shaping into a thick long log shape.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until puffed and lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven, dampen a tea towel (it should not be too wet) and drape over the top of the biscotti and leave for 10 minutes (this keeps the top soft and makes slicing easier – my own discovered tip!)
After 10 mins, remove the towel and slice the biscotti into 1cm slices on the diagonal.
Arrange the slices back on the baking tray, laying them flat.
Bake in the oven for a further 15 minutes before removing from the oven and transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container. Keeps well for around 3 weeks!
Make great gifts, packed in little boxes or bags.
Makes around 25 biscotti

*If not making gluten free then replace with an 170g of plain flour

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Avon Bake for Breast Cancer Set

Its Breast Cancer Awareness month in October and Avon, are urging people to get baking for breast cancer. They have teamed up with Breakthrough Breast Cancer to release an Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Baking Set. The aim is to encourage people to host afternoon parties or bake sales to help raise money and awareness for people fighting the illness and for research into it.

The set costs only £5 of which 25% is donated directly to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. It includes 6 silicone cupcake holders, a large heart cutter and a pink ribbon cutter, all in the ‘think pink’ colour scheme. It’s available via Avon catalogues or on their website.

Breast cancer affects nearly 48,000 people in the UK every year, meaning we probably all know someone, be it friend or family, who has been effected by this illness in some way. I feel it’s important to help raise awareness and holding a cake or cookie sale; sharing a few home baked treats with friends and family seems a great way to go about it. I find even the most serious of things easier to discuss over a coffee, cake and a chat.

I was not paid in any way for writing this

Friday 2 September 2011

Tomato Ricotta Tart

This is a variation on the yummy spinach and ricotta tart I made a few months back. At the time, I cut it into slices and froze it, which made a great standby lunch or dinner. I went to retrieve a slice recently and found it was all gone. I’d enjoyed it so much that I decided to bake another one, only adapting it slightly to incorporate some of my other favourite flavours.

I’ve always enjoyed making my own pastry but it used to hold a slight fear that it would shrink on baking. However, since having to go gluten free, this is no longer a problem. As there is no gluten in gluten free flour (how surprising) to overwork, this means no fear of shrinkage when baked. Gluten free pastry is very easy to work with and actually benefits from a gentle kneading like you would a bread dough. The resulting pastry is silky smooth and results in a crisp pastry that is light in both colour and texture and one I actually prefer to the old regular pastry.

Anyway, back to the tart. I think of ricotta as a very Italian cheese, with green, white and red being the colours of the Italian flag. As I went down a green spinach route last time, I decided to go red by incorporating tomatoes, which resulted in a beautifully blushing red coloured tart.

Ricotta is very light, soft and milky which results in a wonderfully light and fresh tasting tart. I used tinned tomatoes and a generous spoonful of sun dried tomato paste (not to be confused with tomato puree) for a bright bold tomato flavour. I also added some mushrooms which I lightly fried with garlic and thyme along with a few asparagus spears that I had left over the previous nights dinner.

Once baked all the flavours tasted wonderfully together, tomato, garlic, mushroom, thyme, asparagus, balsamic vinegar and the softly set ricotta held in a crisp pastry crust. Delicious. You could use whatever filling you liked for the tart. It’s a sort of lighter version of a quiche.

After making the tart I had a little leftover pastry and so make a few jam and berry tarts, which bought back fond memories of my childhood, when I used to help my mother and grandmother make apple pies. Making jam tarts with the scraps of leftover pastry were always a treat.

Tomato Ricotta Tart
Gluten Free Pastry
225g gluten free flour mix (I used 100g white rice flour, 80g potato flour, 50g white teff flour)
1 tsp xanthan gum
110g butter
1 egg
1 tbsp cold water

Tomato Ricotta Filling
4 spring onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 chestnut mushrooms
8 asparagus spears
100g (½ small tin) chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (not tomato puree)
250g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Method - Pastry
Have an 8inch/20cm tart tin ready.
Mix all the flours and the xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.
Make sure you butter is soft, if not blast it in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to a seperate mixing bowl along with half the flour mixture, the egg and water. Beat with a spoon or spatula to form a paste. (Yes I know this goes against all traditional pastry making!) Add the rest of the flour and bring the mixture together to form a dough, switching to your hands at the end. Knead the dough gently for 1 minute to ensure everything is well combined.
Roll out the pastry between two large sheets of clingfilm to the size and shape of your tart tin, plus an extra 1-2 inches for the sides.
Peel off the top sheet of clingfilm, and use the base sheet to help you flip the pastry into the tin and press it down gently. Trim off the excess. Patch up any cracks with the off-cuts of pastry.
Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Tomato Ricotta Filling
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Slice the mushrooms, heat the oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the mushrooms until beginning to brown. Crush the garlic and add it to the mushrooms along with the spring onions and the leaves from the fresh thyme. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown. Slice the asparagus in half and add to the pan at the last minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar to the pan and allow to bubble away until any excess liquid has evaporated and you have quite a thick intense tomato mixture left. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and stir through the ricotta cheese. Lightly beat the eggs and beat them in too.
Spread the filling into the chilled pastry case and bake for 30 minutes until set, slightly puffed and the pastry is lightly golden brown.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and serving.
Tastes great warm or cold the next day when it goes more quiche-like. Also freezes well in slices.
Makes 1 x 8inch/20cm tart