Tuesday 31 January 2012

Happy Birthday Mum

It was my Mum’s birthday at the weekend and we did the usual family gathering of cards, presents and cake.

Both my Mum and I love rich fruit cake (homemade naturally) and this year over Christmas I made our fruit Christmas cake gluten free so that I could eat it too. However, this meant that I rather greedily polished off most of it before Mum had more than a slice or two. I decided to rectify this by making her a birthday fruit cake using regular wheat flour so that she could enjoy it without fear of me munching on it too. I used this recipe here, replacing plain flour for the buckwheat and rice flours.

I covered it in marzipan and fondant and decided to try and do some fancy piping work around the edge. I’d never attempted anything like this before and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. The contrast of shocking pink and black really makes it stand out.

Thank you Mum for all your help, support and guidance, especially over these last few years. I couldn’t have done it without you xxx

Sunday 29 January 2012

Oysters & Champagne Hotel Chocolat Winner!

Wow what a lot of entries to the Valentines Oysters & Champagne Hotel Chocolat giveaway! It seems everyone would love to receive some tasty chocolates this Valentines – all spouses/partners/dates take note!

I loved reading all your comments on what your ideal Valentines would be. Some made me laugh, others smile and some even made me *blush*

The random lucky winner of the giveaway is comment number 118Polotoo who said her ideal Valentines Day would be:
“A lovely romantic night in with my man, good food, nice company, a bottle of bubbly and maybe some nice chocs too ;)”
Congratulations! I can now guarantee your chocolates, and hope the rest of your evening goes as planned too.

Friday 27 January 2012

Daring Bakers January 2012 Challenge: Gluten Free Lemon & Almond Scones

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I was delighted when this months Daring Bakers challenge was revealed to be scones. I have always loved scones and eaten and baked them many times in recent years. However, since going gluten free over a year ago I had yet to try attempting to make gluten free scones. I have eaten gluten free scones a couple of times when they have been bought for me by well wishing friends from supermarkets and they have all been revolting. Most have been dry and hard, with the texture of cardboard and flavour not much better. One particular batch must have used so much baking powder to try and achieve a rise to the scone that it stripped the skin off the roof of my mouth, leaving it feeling sore and tender – yuk!

So it was with slight trepidation that I set about this challenge. I decided to base my recipe on one I’d seen in The Gluten Free Baker book by Hannah Miles. I liked the fact that they included some ground almonds and buttermilk which I was sure would help with the texture and flavour of the scone. I decided to add in some lemon zest as I think lemon and almond compliment each other wonderfully.

When shaping the dough I simply formed it into a round and cut this into triangles rather than cutting out circles. I always feel this gives a cleaner cut, resulting in a better rise.

Once baked, they looked and smelt very promising. A little craggy in appearance, but I like to think this gives them homemade appeal. They smelt so inviting that I couldn’t resist eating one warm, straight out the oven.

The scone was warm, soft and tender. Slightly crumbly, but light and delicate. Not dense or tough like some bought gluten free scones I’ve tried. As it was warm, the flavour of the almond and lemon really shone through and when eaten with a big blob of raspberry jam, it made the whole thing taste deliciously like a Bakewell tart. The scones light and soft texture taking place of the frangipane topping. Mmm so good!

Thanks Audax for choosing this months challenge and giving me the push to bake my own gluten free scones. Click here to see the Daring Bakers blogroll.

Gluten Free Lemon & Almond Scones
(Recipe adapted from The Gluten Free Baker by Hannah Miles)
100g white teff flour*
75g brown rice flour*
40g ground almonds
50g butter
125ml buttermilk
½ tsp xanthan gum
20g caster sugar
½ tsp almond extract
Zest of ½ lemon
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
Milk and caster sugar for glazing

Preheat the oven to 190C and have a baking tray to hand.
Place all the ingredients, except the buttermilk and butter into a large bowl and mix to combine.
Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture. Rub the butter through the flour using the tips of your fingers until it resembles fine crumbs.
Pour over most of the buttermilk and use a round bladed knife to work the milk into the flour to create a dough. When a dough is starting to form, tip the mixture out onto a work surface and use your hands to bring it together into a soft dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky. Add a little more buttermilk if needed.
Knead gently for a few seconds and then form into a round ball. Pat this down to create a thick circle, about 2.5cm/1inch thick.
Cut the dough round into 6 triangles and arrange on the baking tray.
Brush the tops (not the sides) with a little milk or buttermilk and scatter over a little caster sugar.
Bake for 17-20minutes until just lightly golden around the edges.
Leave to cool for one minute before transferring to a rack to cool slightly.
Serve while still warm with plenty of different jams (and cream if you like) for spreading.
Best eaten or frozen on day of baking.
Makes 6 scones

*If you can’t find brown rice or teff flours, you can use 175g of a plain gluten free flour mix, such as Doves Flour.

Monday 23 January 2012

Oysters & Champagne Hotel Chocolat Giveaway

Valentines Day is only a few weeks away, and certain luxurious treats such as oysters, champagne and pearls have become synonymous with shows of love and celebration. These are all very well, but for a girl such as me, who is vegetarian, doesn’t really drink and can’t afford pearls such offerings are unlikely to get me excited. However, transform all those things into chocolate praline oysters with champagne truffle pearls and you’ve certainly sparked my attention.

This is one of the many ideal Valentines gifts being offered by Hotel Chocolat this year. This way you can give all the romantic treats in one, with the added luxury of some fabulous chocolate too! Much better (in my opinion) than being presented with a plate of cold and slimy oysters! Where’s the romance in that?

The oyster shells are filled with a smooth milk chocolate praline for extra indulgence and the accompanying ‘pearls’ are actually champagne ganache truffles in a thick chocolate shell. You can taste the champagne but it isn’t overpowering or too bitter as can be the case with some boozy truffles and as always, the Hotel Chocolat chocolate just melts in the mouth.

I am delighted to be able to offer one lucky person the chance to win their own box of Hotel Chocolat’s Oysters and Champagne. To win simply leave a comment telling me what you’re ideal Valentines Day treat would be (make sure to let me know how to get in touch with you if you win!)
You have until Saturday 28th to enter. Open to UK residents only. Good luck.

Friday 20 January 2012

The Cake Slice January 2012: Tiramisu Cake

Tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ in Italian which is just what The Cake Slice Bakers and I needed after all the heavy food over the Christmas period. This cake looks creamy, and it is, but it’s also surprisingly light. A hit of strong espresso syrup and a dash of rum help give it a wake-up boost that’s very welcome during this cold and dreary January.

Tiramisu is usually served in a large serving dish with diners being given a scoop, but here it has been made just that little bit daintier by layering light and fluffy genoise sponge with coffee syrup and a velvety smooth mascarpone cream to create a sliceable cake.

It’s a little sweet, a little bitter and a little boozy, making for one satisfying dessert. There are quite a few steps involved but they are all relatively easy and once the components are made, it came be put together in a matter of moments. It also benefits from being made in advance which can be a bonus when you’re trying to organise a meal or get-together and don’t want too much to do last minute.

My only criticism is that I didn’t soak my top layer of sponge in enough espresso syrup, so it stayed pale rather than coffee brown. However, that’s my own fault and it did make the cake a little easier to slice as it wasn’t so soft. It still tasted delicious, so no harm done.

Click here to see The Cake Slice blogroll

Tiramisu Cake
(Recipe adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Genoise Sponge
100g plain flour (I used Doves GF flour)
6 eggs
150g caster sugar
½ tsp grated lemon zest
1½ tsp vanilla extract
85g butter, melted and cooled

Espresso Syrup
240ml hot espresso or strong syrup
50g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tbsp dark rum (my addition)

Mascarpone Cream
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
450g mascarpone cheese
3 tbsp dark rum (I only used 1½)
1½ tsp powdered gelatine (I didn’t use this)
180ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Genoise Sponge
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the base and sides of two 9inch tins. (I used one tin and cut the cake in half after it was cooked)
In a glass bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar to combine, then set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the eggs are warm. Remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer until the eggs are thick, foaming and tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.
Sift a third of the flour over the eggs and fold in gently using a spatula or metal spoon. Sift in the remaining flour, in two batches, folding in gently between each addition.
Drizzle the melted butter around the edge of the bowl and fold in gently.
Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden and springy to the touch. (Bake for 25 minutes if using only 1 tin)
Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the tins and leaving to cool completely.
While the cakes are baking, prepare the cream and syrup.

Espresso Syrup
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir together until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Mascarpone Cheese
In a glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and water. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and becomes hot to the touch, around 5-7 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat, scrape into a small clean bowl and leave to cool.
Beat the mascarpone cheese until creamy and smooth, using an electric whisk. Gradually beat in the cooled egg yolk mixture, mixing until combined.
Place the rum in a small bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine and leave for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in hot water and stir constantly until the gelatine has dissolved. Whisk this mixture into the mascarpone. (I just added the rum without the gelatine and it worked fine).
In a separate bowl, whisk the cream and vanilla together until just starting to form soft peaks. Fold this through the mascarpone mixture and place in the fridge until required.

Trim the cake layers until you have removed all the outer rim of the darker crust from the sides. Brush the top side well with the espresso syrup and place, top side down, inside a 9 inch cake ring that has been placed on a serving plate. Brush the other side with more espresso syrup.
Use half the cream to over the top of the soaked cake, allowing it to go down the sides too until completely coated.
Brush the second cake layer with more syrup, place in the ring mould and brush with any remaining syrup.
Cover the cake with the remainder of the cream. Place in the fridge to chill for 4 hours or overnight.

To Serve
Run a knife that has been dipped in hot water around the rim of the cake and carefully remove the ring mould.
Dust the top with cocoa powder and a little grated chocolate before serving.
Store any leftover cake in the fridge.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake with Cinnamon Streusel Topping

Overripe bananas are a common occurrence in my house. We always buy lots as everyone likes to eat them at varying degrees of ripeness. I personally prefer them on the slightly firm side, and also when they are fridge cold, added on top of my morning cereal or porridge. However, the inevitable often happens where the odd banana goes too ripe for anyone and rather than be thrown away they get cut up and stashed in the freezer to be used in baking later. Overripe bananas may not be nice to eat but as many of us know, they make for wonderfully sweet banana cake.

Plain banana cake is good, but I’m very much a flavours and textures kind of girl. I like to have each bite tasting a little bit different, which adds excitement and interest. In this instance I added a handful of dark chocolate chips and some cinnamon. Spices really complement the flavour of bananas and I love how using chips of chocolate, rather than simply cocoa powder, result in little pockets of intense chocolate bitterness, the perfect contrast to the sweet cake.

In place of a standard icing or glaze I instead decided on a cinnamon streusel topping. Crisp, crunchy and a little bit crumbly it adds another texture to the cake without being overly sweet.

The cake itself is moist and closely textured from all the banana. The use of the bananas also adds structure to the cake meaning tasters had no idea it was actually gluten free. It would be very easy to make it dairy free too if that was required.

I love it eaten slightly warmed, so they chocolate chips just start to melt and the aroma from the cinnamon and banana becomes more apparent. A great way of using up those over ripe bananas.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake with Cinnamon Streusel Topping
Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
180g butter
40ml sunflower oil
220g light soft brown sugar
3 eggs
275g very ripe banana, mashed (about 3 large)
280g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
60g dark chocolate chips

Cinnamon Streusel
50g gluten free plain flour
40g caster sugar
20g butter
½ tsp cinnamon

Cinnamon Streusel Topping
Make sure the butter is soft but not melted. Rub all the ingredients together using the tips to your fingers to form crumbs. Add ½ tbsp water and mix to form a few larger clumps, but you want it mostly fine. Set aside while you make the cake.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 8inch round springform cake tin.
Beat the butter, oil and sugar together until fluffy and pale in colour.
Beat in the eggs and cinnamon.
Add the banana and chocolate chips and mix to combine.
Fold the flour and baking powder gently into the banana mixture using a spatula. Do not over mix.
Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle the top with the streusel topping. Bake for 55mins until lightly golden.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool.
Tastes delicious served warm with custard for a quick dessert.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Cranberry, Almond & Sticky Date Granola

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and is something I always look forward to. I have always loved cereal but being coeliac means there is a limited number to choose from, although I must admit, there are starting to be a few more appear on the scene, but very few muesli’s or granola’s and even fewer without oats (pure or otherwise) which I also have to avoid. The simple solution to this is to concoct my own.

There are quite a vast range of gluten free flakes, puffs, ground crispy things available, that on their own can be quite bland and boring, but when mixed together, tossed with a few nuts, fruits and sprinkled with a little spice can become a breakfast muesli mix fit for a champion. For the past couple of weeks I have been craving something with a bit more of a granola style crunch and this morning I finally got round to baking some.

You can easily make your own granola by mixing a few flakes, puffs (or oats) with a little oil and honey before giving them a toast in the oven which helps makes them extra crisp and wonderfully toasty, while adding a little sweetness. I decided to spice things up a bit by adding a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, my favourite spice, along with some date syrup in place of the honey. The date syrup was sticky and mysterious, providing its own unique flavour and aroma much like molasses or black treacle. It smelt divine when baking in the oven, almost like gingerbread.

I used whole natural almonds for crunch and ground flax for fibre as some gluten free grains can be rather over processed. I also added a little flaked coconut halfway through baking, which become lovely and toasty in the oven and went so well with the date syrup. A scatter of dried cranberries stirred though at the end brought chew and their wonderful sweet yet tart flavour to the mix.

The buckwheat puffs let off the aroma of toasting popcorn while baking which mingled with the sweet spices was a lovely combination. All of the different flakes and ingredients took on their own unique texture. Some were crunchy, others crisp, nutty or chewy. Subtly sweet, slightly tart, lightly spiced and toasted, together this made for one yummy granola, just what I’d been craving.

The beauty of making your own means you can add whatever ingredients you like, so I urge you to give it a go! Served with milk, fruit, yoghurt or simply eaten out the container by the handful, it makes for a great start to the day.

Cranberry, Almond & Sticky Date Granola
60g gluten free cornflakes
30g buckwheat flakes
30g brown rice flakes
30g buckwheat puffs
25g flax/linseeds
40g skin on almonds
25g flaked coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
60g dried cranberries
2 tbsp neutral oil (I used rapeseed)
2 tbsp date syrup

Preheat the oven to 170C.
Chop the almonds in half and place them into a large bowl along with the flakes and puffs.
Pulse the flax seeds in a small processor until crushed and broken, but do not blitz for too long or they will start to turn to mush. (You need to crack them to release their goodness as the body can’t break down their skin if left whole). Add them to the bowl and scatter over the cinnamon.
Mix the oil and date syrup together in a glass and then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix and toss everything together well, ensuring that all the ingredients are lightly coated in the syrup.
Pour the mixture onto a large baking tray with sides. Shake gently to spread the mixture into an even layer and bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, weigh out the coconut and cranberries and keep to one side.
When the 10 minutes are up, remove the tray from the oven, scatter over the coconut and mix everything together to ensure an even browning.
Return the tray to the oven and bake for 8 minutes more. Keep an eye on it as you don’t want the coconut to burn.
Remove the pan from the oven, scatter over the cranberries and mix well. Leave the granola to cool on the tray before storing in an airtight container until required.
Delicious eaten ever so slightly warm when just out the oven, or for breakfast with fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti with a hint of Clementine

I love baking a small selection of goodies to give as gifts to friends and family over Christmas. Biscotti are one of my favourite things to bake and give as they are very versatile and keep longer than most other types of cookie. This is good as it means you can bake them a few days in advance so don’t have to run around in a panic on Christmas Eve. Also, as they are crisp and dry they keep well for several weeks meaning the recipient doesn’t have to worry about eating them straight away. I have found in the past that if you give short life products as gifts over Christmas they often get past their best before being eaten as there is always so much other food on offer that they can get overlooked. With biscotti, they will still be happily waiting patiently when rediscovered in January after all the trifles, puddings and chocolates have been devoured and you are in need of something a little simpler and yet just as tasty. It’s biscotti to the rescue!

I used a mix of dried cranberries and shelled pistachios in my biscotti as I love the contrasting scattering of Christmas colours these add to the dough. To make them extra festive I flavoured the dough with the zest of a clementine and some ginger which added just subtle zesty overtones.

You only need 4 or 5 biscotti tied in a little cellophane bag with a ribbon to make a lovely handmade gift. It makes for a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Much better than fighting through the crowds over Christmas or the New Year sales.

Biscotti are of course perfect any time of year, not just for Christmas and recently I’ve taken to always having some on hand for when the munchies strike. Crisp and crunchy yet studded with a whole assortment of different nuts, fruits, spices, chocolates etc. The possibilities are endless!

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti with a hint of Clementine
Recipe loosely based on a recipe from Leiths Baking Bible
200-230g 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
30g shelled pistachios
Zest of 1 clementine
2 tsp ground ginger
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, ginger and zest of the clementine together until well combined.
Add the cranberries and shelled pistachios and stir briefly.
Scatter 200g flour, cornmeal and bicarbonate of soda over the top and mix it all together using a spatula. It should be quite soft and sticky, add the remaining 30g of flour if you think its too sticky to work with.
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 or jay cloth (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)
After 10 minutes, 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 10 minutes before filling them over and baking for a further 5 minutes until crisp. Transfer the slices to a wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container or wrap in bags as gifts. Keeps well for around 3 weeks.
Makes around 25 biscotti

Sunday 1 January 2012

Apple & Spice featured in Love Baking Magazine

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it’s a happy and healthy one.

A few days ago I received a copy of a fairly new magazine – Love Baking, with a focus on cupcakes and & sweet treats. Imagine my delight when I opened it to discover that my blog and I had been featured in the bloggers’ cupcake creations part of the magazine!!

How exciting. This is the first time I’ve been mentioned in a magazine and it was great to see it there amongst so many other talented baking bloggers.

The other bloggers were The other bloggers on the page are The Caked Crusader, I Heart Cupcakes, Cupcake Crazy Gem, American Cupcake in London, The More Than Occasional Baker, American Chop Suey, and The Nom Bakery.

Thank you Love Baking! The rest of the magazine is full of lots of other tasty treats so I’d recommend keeping an eye out for it.