Tuesday 27 November 2012

Daring Bakers Challenge November 2012: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

The Daring Bakers challenge this month was a great choice! Christmas is fast approaching and the Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us. Peta provided us with 12 festive cookie recipes and we got to choose which one to bake. It was a hard choice, but when I came to this recipe for chocolate crinkle cookies, I knew I had to bake them. These cookies have been on my ‘must bake’ list for literality years. I’ve no idea why it’s taken me so long to get round to baking them, so when they turned up on the list it seemed the ideal opportunity.

All I can say is – why on earth has it taken me so long! These cookies are amazing! I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on all these months, years even! If you’ve never tasted them yourself, don’t delay and bake some soon, they are fabulous.

The cookies are made using a very soft dough that must be chilled, rolled into balls, coated liberally in icing sugar and baked. During baking the cookies puff up and crack, creating a crazy paving style surface of icing sugar with the dark chocolate cookie dough peaking through underneath.

The dough contains a generous amount of light brown sugar, melted dark chocolate and a few ground nuts, which all give the finished cookies a great flavour and wonderful soft and slightly chewy texture. The chew reminded me of a similar texture to a coconut macaroon. Although the cookies look like they will be crisp and crunchy, the outer shell is wafer thin and the inside is wonderfully soft and cakey with a pleasing chew in the centre. Almost brownie-like.

The recipe makes rather a lot of cookies and so I took some into work Monday morning to share with my colleagues. One colleague commented that they looked very festive, which made me smile, as that was exactly the intention of this months Bakers challenge. I hadn’t prompted her at all. When the cookies are first coated in the powdery icing sugar, they do look like fluffy snowballs!

I’m so pleased I finally got to bake these cookies and I will certainly be making them again. They would be great to have on hand for non mince pie lovers over Christmas. They would be ideal to bake with children too, as rolling the cookies into balls is fun, and your hands tend to get a little chocolate covered, and most children I know love getting a little messy, especially if it means they get to lick their fingers afterwards.

Thanks Peta for choosing such a great challenge. Click to see the Daring Bakers blogroll.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
80g hazelnuts, skinned (I used almonds)
30g caster sugar
175g dark chocolate, around 60%
330g plain flour (I used 300g gluten free flour)
20g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
100g unsalted butter, softened
300g light soft brown sugar
2 eggs
55ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used ½ tsp almond)
90g icing sugar

Make the Cookie DoughPut oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 170°C.
Toast the hazelnuts in a shallow baking tray in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn the oven off), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Leave to cool completely, before blitzing the nuts with the 30g caster sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
Melt the chocolate, either over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave until smooth and set aside.
In a clean bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla (or almond), beating to incorporate.
Scatter over the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the ground nuts on top and mix together using a spatula until well combined.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 2 hours, until firm.

Bake the Cookies
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Halve dough and chill 1 half, wrapped in clingfilm.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the dough between your hands to create 1 inch balls. Place them on the baking trays until you have used all the first half of the dough.
Roll the balls in the icing sugar, making sure they are very thickly coated. Carefully place the coated balls on the baking trays, leaving a 2 inch gap between each one. (I managed to get 12 to a sheet).
Bake, the cookies in the oven, switching the sheets half way through if baking two trays at once. Bake for a total of 12 minutes. The cookies should be puffed and cracked when cooked and still be very sot to the touch. They firm up on cooling.
All the cookies to cool on the tray for 3 minutes before sliding the cookies, still on baking paper, onto cooling racks and leaving to cool completely.
Repeat with the remaining half of the cookie dough.
Store in an airtight container once cooled.
Makes about 50 cookies. (Recipe can be easily halved)

Friday 23 November 2012

Stir Up, Stir Up! Gluten Free Christmas Pudding!

This Sunday is officially Stir Up Sunday. It is the last Sunday before advent starts in December and is the day where everyone should stir up and steam their Christmas Puddings!

I have made Christmas puddings twice before, once pre coeliac diagnosis and once last year when I made it for the rest of the family, but couldn’t eat it myself. This year, as I’d been tasked with making it again, I decided it was going to be a gluten free Christmas Pud. Since moving out of my parents home a few months ago, my kitchen is a dedicated gluten free zone. No wheat or gluten is allowed through my front door!
I was having a chat about Christmas Puddings with my boss at work, who is also coeliac. We were discussing the recipes we use, and both of us were saying we had the best recipe. The next thing I knew an email had gone round the office saying that she and I were going to have a Christmas Pudding competition, and everyone is invited along to taste and vote for a winner! Yikes! No pressure then! (I somehow forgot to mention I’d never made a GF version of the pud before – but I’m never one to pass up a cooking challenge!)

Christmas Pudding is not too dissimilar to Christmas Cake. Your soak your fruits in alcohol before using them, like a Christmas cake, but you then mix these into a spiced breadcrumb and suet batter. This year I made my own breadcrumbs from some gluten free bread and used frozen grated butter in place of the suet (which is coated in wheat flour). This fruity, spicy mixture is placed into a pudding basin and part boiled, part steamed for several hours in a pan of simmering water. This produces a very moist and soft pudding, which has all the flavours of Christmas cake only in a squishier, softer form. The pudding mix doesn’t look all that appetising before it’s steamed, but it transforms into a lovely dark and sticky pudding after its steaming session, not to mention filling the house with a fabulous rich and spicy Christmas scent. It’s currently wrapped up tight and hidden away in a cupboard until its big reveal on Christmas Day.

Like Christmas Cake, the pudding is kept for several weeks to allow the flavour to mature and develop. Then on Christmas day the pudding is heated, doused in Brandy and set alight! The lights are quickly turned down and people ‘ohhh’ and ‘arrrrh’ as wispy blue flames dance around the pudding creating a spectacular end to the Christmas meal. There can’t be many foods that people look forward to intentionally setting on fire! The only other one I can think of is Baked Alaska and that’s more of a gentle torching rather than dousing it in a flammable liquid and setting light to it! However, the actually flames last mere seconds, so no harm comes to the pudding itself, its too moist to get scorched or burnt.

The pudding requires 5 hours of boiling/steaming, but don’t let that put you off. As long as you check the water level a couple of times during cooking, it can be left to its own devises. The actual making of the pudding is very quick and easy and the aroma of Christmas that fills your house as it happily steams away is sensational. My kitchen smelt all festive for 3 whole days. I’m really looking forward to Christmas now!

Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
230g raisins
125g sultanas
50g glace cherries (check they are gf)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
100ml Brandy (I used 60ml Brandy & 40ml Amaretto)
20g chopped pecans
50g grated frozen butter
30g gluten free brown breadcrumbs
50g gluten free plain flour
90g dark soft brown sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground star anise (or clove)
½ tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

The day before (or up to 3 days before), chop the cherries in half and place into a bowl along with the rest of the dried fruits. Grate the orange and lemon zest over the top and pour in the Brandy. Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside for 24 hours (or up to 3 days) to allow the fruits to plump up and absorb some of the Brandy.
The next day, place all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Add the soaked fruits, scraping in any leftover juices. Mix together lightly with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly combined.
Place a small disc of parchment paper in the base of a 1½ pint pudding basin. Fill the basin with the pudding mix, pressing down lightly. Place another disc of parchment on top and cover the top of the basin with a sheet of foil. Fold a little crease into the middle of the foil to allow the pudding to rise during steaming.
Tie a long strip of string around the top rim of the pudding and then secure it over the top of the basin from one side to the other to form a string handle. (This will help you retrieve the pudding from the pan later without burning yourself).
Lay sheets of newspaper in the base of a large saucepan. (This protects the base of the pudding from the direct heat from the stove and stops it rattling around inside your pan.) Place the pudding on the papers before filling the pan with boiling water from the kettle, until it reaches halfway up the side of the pudding basin.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to the merest of simmers, cover with the lid and leave to simmer gently for 5 hours. It should be barely bubbling.
Every 2 hours lift the lid of the pan to check the water level. Add more boiling water if it’s looking low.
Once the 5 hours is up, lift the pudding out of the pan with the help of the string handle. Place on a cooling rack, remove the foil and leave until cool. Leave it in the basin and with the parchment disc still on top. Once cooled, wrap the whole pudding, basin and all, tightly in clingfilm and store in a cool dark place until required, the longer the better.
On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for 2 hours to heat through thoroughly. Turn out onto a serving plate that has a rim. Carefully warm a ladleful of Brandy, then set light to it with a match or lighter and quickly pour it over the pudding to flambé. Serve with Brandy butter or custard once the flames have extinguished.
Makes 1 pudding, to serve 6 – 8 people

Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Cake Slice November 2012: Shoo Fly Cake

This month’s Cake Slice bake marks the start of our new cake book, that as a group we will be baking from for the next 12 months. I can now reveal that the book is…Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. It’s got a great variety of different cakes to choose form: cupcakes, angel food cakes, bundts and layered cakes.

The books début cake is an intriguingly named Shoo-Fly Cake. It’s a sticky molasses spice cake with a crumb topping. According to the book, it originated in Pennsylvania and was so named due to the cakes sticky top surface which attracted flies, which had to be shooed away!

I used black treacle in my cake which lent a gorgeous deep dark colour and heady aroma. Whenever I smell molasses or treacle it always makes me think of sticky gingerbreads, and indeed this cake does contain some ground ginger. The most surprising ingredient in this cake is a cup of strong brewed coffee. This not only adds a further richness to the cakes mysterious smoky bitter flavour but also enhances the dark inky blackness of the batter.

Before baking the cake is topped with a simple crumb mixture. Strangely, during baking my cake swallowed half the crumb topping on one side of my cake. I’m not sure why this happened on only one side but it resulted in a sort of yin and yang symbol on top, quite fitting I though, a contrast between the dark cake and the lighter crumb topping.

The cake is meant to be eaten warm and it was indeed fabulous like this. Soft, moist and intensely flavoured. On cooling I assumed the cake would be more like a sticky gingerbread, but I found it to be disappointingly dry. When reheated briefly in the microwave it went back to being soft and light, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it cold. I even tried leaving it for 2 days to see if the stickiness would develop, but it only got drier, which was disappointing. However, as the recipe specifies to eat it warm, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

I also found the crumb topping to be a bit odd. When eaten warm it turned soft and was a bit pointless and when eaten cold, it simply crumbled and fell off the cake. All in all I enjoyed the flavour of this cake, but I probably wouldn’t make it again. I have another gingerbread recipe I much prefer, that tastes delicious eaten hot or cold.

Click here to see the Shoo-Fly Cakes the thoughts of my fellow Cake Slice bakers

Shoo-Fly Cake
(Recipe from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson)
200g caster sugar
170g butter
250g black treacle or molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
350g gluten free plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
225ml warm strong coffee

Crumb Topping
70g light soft brown sugar
100g gluten free plain flour
60g butter

Method – Crumb Topping
Make sure your butter is at room temperature and cut it into small pieces. Mix the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture using the tips of your fingers, like you would if making a crumble.
Work until the butter is broken down and a few clumps of buttery crumbs have formed. Set aside for later.

To Bake the Cake
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9 inch round deep springform tin and line the base with baking paper.
Mix the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and spices together in a bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter and pour it over the sugar, molasses and vanilla. Whisk the mixture until combined. (It will be slightly grainy, this is fine). Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
Add a third of the flour and fold together. Add half the coffee and mix again. Repeat the process with more flour, coffee and the last of the flour.
Pour the batter into the cake tin (it will be runny) and scatter over the crumb topping.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving warm.
Reheat slices of any leftover cake before eating. Best eaten warm as a pudding and served with custard.
Makes 1 x 9inch cake

Sunday 18 November 2012

Apple & Spice Listed in Woman & Home and Sainsbury's Best Blogs

Earlier this week I received some unexpected and exciting news. Woman & Home magazine have put together a list of their ‘100 Best Food Blogs’ and I was delighted to learn that Apple & Spice has been included in the list!

They have arranged the blogs into categories – baked, local produce, special diet etc and I’ve been included in the Vegetarian/Gluten Free section! Click here for the link to their full list.

The Special Diet section is the last on the list so my blog is number 99, but if you click to view the blogs backwards ‘previous’ rather than forward ‘next’ you get to my bit very quickly. I’m thrilled to be included! Here’s a screen shot of my listing.

I also found out this week that I have been listed on Sainsbury’s ‘Blogs we Love’ site. Hurrah! Click here to see Sainsbury’s blog list. They have arranged their list alphabetically. Here is a screen shot of my listing on their site.

Both Woman & Home and Sainsbury’s have chosen a wonderful selection of blogs. Some I was already aware of and read myself and others I am only just discovering. I feel honoured to be included amongst them. Do take a look and see what new blogs you discover.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Gluten Free Spiced Christmas Fruit Cake with Rum

It’s that time of year again, (in fact it’s a little past it) but now is a good time to start planning your Christmas baking! Primarily the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding. These actually get better with age and the longer they have to mature, the better. So hop to it!

The Christmas pudding isn’t traditionally made until Stir Up Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the month before Advent starts in December. So Christmas Cake is the place to start first.

Each year I love planning my Christmas cake. I always bake my own and the base is always the same, but I like to tweak it to be a little bit different/special each year. This year I decided to use a combination of orange juice and rum to soak my fruit mixture in. I’ve always used brandy before but have recently got really into the flavour of rum. I love how the fruit absorbs the soaking liquid, becoming all plump, moist and glossy.

To complement the rum I added a different mix of spices than usual, and more of them - mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. I also upped the quantity of black treacle a little. The resulting cake smelt heavenly, the scent wafting through my flat, the essence of Christmas warmth and spice. It took a lot of restraint to resist cutting off a sliver and tasting it straight away. I know it will get better the longer it has to mature and a few more ‘feeding’ sessions with extra rum will only improve it further. As the saying goes ‘good things come to those who wait.’

I’ve also included the decorating instructions below, but its best to do this a few days before Christmas itself, but I thought it best to include them now, so that the instructions are all in one place.

Do you bake your own Christmas cake? Do you try different recipes each year or do you have a traditional family recipe you bake every year? I’d love to know. Feel free to adapt the fruits, spices and alcohol used in the recipe. As long as the average weights are the same, you are free to make it your own.

Gluten Free Spiced Christmas Fruit Cake with Rum
Ingredients – Soaking Mix
170g raisins
170g sultanas
50g dried apricots
50g glace cherries (check they are gluten free)
50g dried cranberries
30ml rum
50ml orange juice

Ingredients – Cake Mix
160g gluten free plain flour
20g ground almonds
120g dark soft brown sugar
120g unsalted butter
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
40g black treacle
Zest of ½ orange
2 eggs
(pre soaked fruit mix – above)

30ml rum

Soaking the Fruit
Place the raisins, sultanas and cranberries into a bowl. Chop the cherries into quarters and add to the bowl. Chop the apricots into pieces, about the size of the sultanas and add to the bowl.
Drizzle over the orange juice and stir to coat. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, and heat for a further 30 seconds until just warm. (This makes the fruit softer and more susceptible to absorbing the soaking liquid).
Stir in the rum and then cover the bowl with cling film. Leave the fruit to soak for at least 24hours and up to 1 week, in a cool place to allow the fruit to plump up and absorb the rum and orange juice. I left mine for 5 days and stirred it twice in this time.

Bake the Cake
Lightly grease a 6.5inch deep round spring form tin. Line the base and side with greaseproof paper, letting the paper rise about 1 inch above the rim of the tin. Preheat the oven to 140C or 120C fan.
Weigh all the cake ingredients, expect the pre soaked fruit, into a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.
Add the pre soaked fruit, including any remaining juices and fold together using a spatula.
Spread the mix into the tin, creating a dip in the middle to allow for doming in the oven. Press down gently.
Bake in the oven for 2hours 10minutes until browned and quite firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before pricking the surface of the cake and drizzling over 30ml more rum. Cover the cake and leave to cool in the tin before unmolding. Leave the greaseproof paper round the cake and wrap it tightly in clingfilm. The longer the cake has to mature the more developed in flavour it will be.
Makes 1 x 6.5ch cake.

When ready to decorate
Ingredients - Decoration
500g fondant icing
250g marzipan
2 tsp Brandy or rum
Food dye to decorate

Trimming and Decorating the Cake
When ready to decorate, peel away the greaseproof paper and carefully level the surface of a cake using a bread knife. Fill in any tiny holes with fruit taken from the off cuts of cake.
Place the cake on a 7-8inch cake board that has a few dobs of royal icing on it, to keep the cake in place.
Roll out the marzipan and use the base of the tin to cut out a large circle. Brush the top of the cake with a little brandy or rum and smooth the marzipan over the top of the cake.
Roll out the fondant icing so that it is 2 inches bigger in diameter than the base of the cake. Brush the cake with brandy before covering with the fondant. Smooth the edges and top with your hands and cake smoother if you have one. Cut off the excess fondant from around the base.
Gather up the off cuts of fondant and dye as appropriate for decorations. Decorate the cake as desired and secure a ribbon around the bottom edge of the cake.
(I don’t have any photos of my finished cake yet, as its still in the ‘feeding’ stage)

Sunday 4 November 2012

Babycakes Baked Cake Doughnuts

Believe it or not these doughnut, or donuts as they call them at Babycakes, are gluten, wheat, egg, soy, dairy and nut free. They are also vegan. I should think they are suitable for almost anyone! I tried an authentic Babycakes donut when I was in LA back in February and it was love at first bite. Upon my return I promptly bought a copy of their cookery book. This weekend I finally got organized enough to bake a batch of doughnuts!

Babycakes is American, but as I bought their cookery book here in the UK I was delighted to discover they had adapted the recipes to be with UK grams rather than cups. They also give suggestions for alternative flours and ingredients when a recipe calls for some that aren’t available in the UK. Great stuff!

The doughnut batter is more like a cake batter rather than a dough and I actually piped the mixture into the tins. I did still have to adapt the recipe ever so slightly, as I didn’t have any potato starch so used white teff flour instead. I also substituted sunflower oil for the coconut oil called for as I have yet to find these in the shops. Oh and I made my own unsweetened apple sauce from a Bramley apple as not sure unsweetened apple sauce is even available in the UK. The apple puree adds moistness and structure to the finished doughnut without any detectable taste of apple, so don’t let that put you off.

The resulting donuts were soft and did have a slightly fried doughy flavour which was lovely; I think the combination of flours helped this. They didn’t puff up quite as much as I would have liked and they were not as moist as the one I had in LA, but for a first attempt they were delicious. So delicious in fact I ate 4 on the day I baked them! Best made the day they are baked and all that… I expect Babycakes has got a few tricks of the trade they use to make them extra moist and fluffy. I expect being able to find coconut oil would have helped, I'll have to experiment.

After baking I had the fun task of choosing toppings. I decided on cinnamon sugar, lemon glaze and chocolate ganache. Mmmmmm. The doughnuts were nicely sweet by themselves and the cinnamon sugar added a nice touch of crunch and spice. They held together well on biting and were sturdy enough to hold in one hand without falling to pieces, a must for that authentic doughnut experience. No one wants to have to eat their doughnut with a plate and fork!

My favourite one was actually the chocolate ganache topped doughnut. This surprised me as I would have probably put that last on my list before tasting them. The combination of smooth bitter chocolate against the sweet doughy doughnut was a lovely combination. The ganache also made it extra moist when allowed to sit for a few hours.

If you’ve been craving baked doughnuts, this recipe is definitely a good place to start.

Baked Cake Doughnuts
(Recipe from Babycakes Covers the Classics by Erin McKenna)
75ml melted coconut oil (I used sunflower)
160g caster sugar
100g white or brown rice flour (I used brown)
40g garbanzo bean flour (gram/chickpea flour)
70g potato starch (I used white teff flour)
30g arrowroot
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce (about 90g, see below)
2 tsp vanilla extract
125ml hot water

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease 2 large 6 ringed doughnut trays.
Add the sugar to a large bowl. Sift over the flours, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, xanthan gum and arrowroot. Mix together briefly.
Add the apple puree, vanilla, oil and hot water. Beat together well using a spatula until combined and no streaks of flour remain.
Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of batter into each mould and smooth out to fill. (I piped mine into the moulds using a piping bag, which made it very easy).
Bake the doughnuts for 8 minutes, then rotate the tins and bake for a further 5-6 minutes until ever so slightly golden brown in colour.
Allow the doughnuts to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out of the tin onto cooling racks.
If coating the doughnuts in sugar, do this straight away while they are still warm. Otherwise, allow to cool for 15 minutes before coating in the icings and toppings of your choice.
Makes 12 baked doughnuts

Homemade unsweetened apple sauce/puree
Peel, core and finely dice a large-ish Bramley apple. Add 1 tbsp water and either lightly cook in a small saucepan until smooth and completely broken down, or else blast it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Smoosh into a puree with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool slightly before weighting out the amount required.