Saturday, 22 October 2016

Layered Apple Filo Tart

This filo tart is a delicious alternative to apple pie or crumble, although equally suited to lashings of custard of course! I concede there are a few phases involved in its preparation, but I promise you all are simple and straightforward. If you are allergic to nuts (or just don't like almonds) you can confidently press on without them, although I find this relatively meagre addition takes the finished article to the next level!

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
100g Golden Syrup
100g Golden Caster Sugar (Plus extra for sprinkling)
200ml Water
6 Dessert Apples (Peeled and cored)
The Zest and Juice of 1 Unwaxed Lemon
50g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
100g Sultanas
50g Toasted Flaked Almonds
10-12 Sheets Filo Pastry

Off we go! Place a saucepan on a medium heat and add the Syrup, Sugar and Water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat and leave to bubble away until syrupy. I find a good indicator of this is when the bubbles start to hold their shape. Once the syrup has formed leave to one side to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and fish out a medium sized deep baking tray. Slice the apples finely and toss in the lemon juice and zest. Brush the base of the tin with melted butter and lay over a couple of sheets of filo, overlapping them slightly and letting them creep up the edges of the tin. Brush again with melted butter, evenly distribute a third of the apples, a third of the sultanas and a third of the almonds, then drizzle over a third of the syrup. Cover with another couple of sheets of filo, brush with melted butter and repeat the above. Repeat once more to use up the filling, then finally cover with some artistically screwed up sheets of filo, bringing any filo hanging over the edges back over the top of the tart. Brush all over with the last of the melted butter and sprinkle over a little golden caster sugar for a lovely crunch. 

Bake the tart in the middle of your oven for around 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and you're all done. Now, where's that custard?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Dairy and Gluten Free Peanut Butter Fat Peanut Cookies

Here's a challenge for you. Buy an ingredient you've NEVER used before, then try and use it in as many interesting ways as you can. That's what I've been doing with oat flour recently, tinkering and toying with a recipe ideas and playing around with combinations. Sometimes (ok, a little more than sometimes ;-)) such gastronomic adventuring can end in disaster, but it's all worth it when recipes as this are born.

These fat cookies are soft and chewy and even a little cake. They are rich with peanut butter and perfect as a little naughty treat. You don't have to yourself, but I think the addition of a single chocolate drop or button sets the whole thing off deliciously!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 12-15 Mins (Depending on size)
100g Peanut Butter
100g Golden Caster Sugar
2tbsp Almond Milk (Or another nut milk)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg Yolk (From a Large Egg)
75g Gluten Free Oat Flour
9 Chocolate Drops or Buttons

I've only done around nine here, which will last me a good, oh I don't know, 24 hours! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the peanut butter and sugar, then mix in the milk, vanilla extract and egg yolk. Add the oat flour and mix to a soft dough. You might find is easier to get your hands in to bring the mixture together.

Take a small blob of dough and shape into a fat, round disc. Place on the baking paper then repeat for the rest of the dough, evenly spacing them apart. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 minutes until the cookies are golden brown and just starting to darken at the edges. When you are happy the cookies are baked remove from the oven and leave on the tray. Place a single chocolate drop or button in the middle of each cookie and leave to melt on top.

After around 30 minutes remove the cookies from the tray and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Then all that's left is to enjoy!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Macerated Lemon Upside Down Loaf Cake

Someone once said 'good things take time'. Well this cake certainly illustrates the point, using lemons macerated in sugar for 72 hours! Saying that, it's definitely worth the wait as it's a full on tangy and syrupy hit of lemony deliciousness. Don't let the title give you the willies though, as it's actually sooooooooooooooooo easy to make and quite a basic recipe deep down. Basic but bombastic!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus around 72 hours macerating time)
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
For the Lemons
2 Good sized Lemons
Around 6-8tbsp Caster Sugar
35g Butter

For the Sponge
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
175g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

Lemons first of course! Slice the lemons thinly then place a layer in the base of an airtight container  or jar. Cover liberally with caster sugar, then cover with another layer of lemon slices and sugar. Repeat for the rest of the lemon, then seal up tightly and leave for around 72 hours, giving the container a vigorous shake now and again to get everything going. You might be able to get away with 48 hours if time is tight but personally I'd rather be patient!

After 72 hours you'll find the lemons have released a lot of juice and have kind of candied in their own syrup. Pour off 100g of the lemony syrup into a small saucepan and add the butter. On a medium heat stir until the bitter dissolves then let come to a boil. Once boiling remove from the heat and set to one side whilst you ready the sponge.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 2lb loaf tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking powder then mix to a smooth, consistent batter.

Lay out your lemon slices in the base of the tin and pour over the syrup. Spoon in the sponge mixture and carefully even to the edge. You'll want to try and cover the syrupy lemons completely if you can. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45-50 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the sponge. When you are happy the loaf is baked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for around 30 minutes.

Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of the sponge and carefully turn out onto a wire rack, peeling off the paper from (what is now) the top. You should find the surface is all sticky and syrupy! Leave to cool completely and you're done. Maybe try custard with this one it's quite the combination! 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Lemon Mascarpone Cake

When is a cheesecake not a cheesecake?

This cake may be made with cheese but it's much more of a traditionally spongey and toasty tasting delectation than its creamy cousin. Using cheese instead of butter gives the sponge a lovely texture and just a slight sweet cheese note in the background, which works beautifully with fresh lemons. The lemons I use are a good size but not the really beefy ones you can now find in some supermarkets. If you have one of those you may get away with just using one, but if not two are just about spot on!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50 Mins
250g Mascarpone Cheese
225g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs and 2 Yolks
The Zest of 2 Unwaxed Lemons and Juice of 1
100g Ground Almonds
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

For the glaze
150g Icing Sugar
The Juice of 1 Lemon

Righty ho! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the cheese and the sugar, then add the eggs and yolks. Mix until smooth and creamy. Add the lemon zest and juice, mix through, then add the almonds and do the same. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix with vigour until you are left with a smooth consistent batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, very carefully peeling off the baking paper as you go.

While the cake is still warm you can prepare the glaze. I do this when warm as it soaks in a little to the surface. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you are left with a runny, semi-translucent glaze. Spread generally over the top of the cake, until it starts to cascade over the edge, then leave the cake until completely cool. Slice and serve. Num num num!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Orange and Almond Slices

I almost didn't label these 'Vegan and GF', as doing so seems to strangely put people off. I can see the logic though, as historical notions of dietary restricted foods often conjure the image of bland and insipid 'fake' foods with the texture of either a bathroom sponge or a cardboard box. 

These days however, with such an array of alternative ingredients available to the home baker there really is no need to fret. Creating delicious, delightful and even downright decadent treats is not only achievable but in many cases even easier than using the more traditional components we are all used too. 

So even if you are a vegan virgin why not give this recipe a try? You never know you might just like it. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
150g Soya Yoghurt
200g Golden Caster Sugar
The zest of 1 Orange
The juice of 1/2 an Orange
200g Ground Almonds
2 heaped tbsp Oat Flour
1 heaped tsp GF Baking Powder
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2tsp Almond Extract

300g Icing Sugar
The juice of 1/2 an Orange

Time to get our bake on! Preheat the oven to G4 and line a smallish rectangular baking tin with baking paper. 

Add the soya yoghurt to a large mixing bowl and beat in the sugar. Now, when adding the yoghurt just try and make sure you use the thick creamy part not just the watery layer on top! Add the orange zest/juice to the yoghurt and mix well to combine. Add the ground almonds and oat flour, give it a quick mix, then add the baking powder, cinnamon and almond extract. Mix with vigour until you are left with a consistent batter. You could also try ground hazelnuts instead of almonds or replace/leave out the cinnamon but I personally think the combination works rather well! 

Spoon the mixture into your baking tin and even to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45-50 mins, until dark golden on top and springy to the touch. When you are happy the slice mixture is baked remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin.

Once cool carefully remove from the tin and peel off the paper. I slice into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife at this point as I find it leaves a tidier finish, but you can ice the whole lot in one go if you prefer. 

Mix together the remaining orange juice with the icing sugar. Add a little at a time until you are left with a thick, glossy icing. You can add a touch of water if you don't have enough orange juice, but be careful not to leave your icing too thin. Generously spread the icing over each slice and you are done. Nom nom nom! 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Granola Upside Down Cheesecakes

These 'upside down' cheesecakes are so called as you start with the top on the bottom then when finished, turn them out so the bottom is on the top! I thought it would be fun to try a granola base this time and its roasty toastiness works very well with the super rich and creamy peanut butter topping. You don't necessarily have to finish with dark chocolate but I couldn't resist!

Prep time: All in, around 30 mins
Baking Chilling time: A fair few hours ;-)
100g Dark Chocolate (Melted over a bain-marie or in the microwave)
500g Mascarpone Cheese
200g Peanut Butter
125g Caster Sugar
2tbsp Double Cream
200g Toasted Granola
85g Unsalted Butter (Melted)

I make these using a 12 cup muffin tin, lining each with cling film. Pour the melted chocolate into the base of each lined cup and leave to set for an hour or so.

Once set you can start on the cheese component. In a large mixing bowl beat together the mascarpone cheese, peanut butter, sugar and double cream, until smooth and silky. Fill each chocolate bottomed cup with the peanut butter mascarpone, leaving a small amount of space at the top for the base. You should have ample filling to fill even large muffin cups! Once filled, chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

Now, you can buy toasted granola but if you find it's a little bland then you can roast in a hot oven for 10 mins or so until just brown. Once you are happy it's nice and toasted crush it in a large bowl until crumbly, then mix through the melted butter. Press small handfuls of the granola onto the chilled peanut butter mascarpone, then return to the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Once thoroughly chilled you can remove each cheesecake from its mould. Upturn the muffin tray onto a board and press the base to release each cheesecake. Very carefully peel the clingfilm from each cheesecake and they are good to go! Enjoy. :-)

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 4, Count Alucard

The masked balls of Count Alucard were as infamous as they were exclusive. For you see, the Count had a hunger, a ravenousness he could barely control. He thirsted for toothsome treats, craved cakes and was fixated on pies and pastries. For months on end he would lock himself away in his castle, high in the Transylvanian mountains, away from temptation. However once a year he yielded to his desires, transforming his estate into a macabre cathedral to indulgence, where the sinfully saccharine were celebrated in a bacchanalian circus of the fantastical and the decadent. The guests, their anonymity preserved by their masks were as shrouded in mystery as the Count himself, but all were united in their fanaticism.

I was delivered to the Count one tempestuous evening, with instructions only to impress. As I approached he said only one thing, but the message was clear. 

“Unexceptional is unacceptable”.

I was bold in my retort. “Sir, that will not be an issue”. My audacity raised the merest hint of smile. “Your confidence is intriguing Benedict, but the proof of the pudding.” He gestured to the trolley I had wheeled in. “Count Alucard” I declared as I raised the first cloche, “I call these The Irresistibles...

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Chocolate Chip Shorties

I love a good pot of freshly brewed leaf tea as much as the next gentleman, but the addition of a little something sweet on the side is never a bad thing. These shorties are perfect for such occasions, a little softer and more yielding than regular shortbread but still primed for a dunking!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 12-15 Mins
75g Unsalted Butter (In cubes, at room temperature)
150g Plain Flour
110g Caster Sugar (Plus extra for sprinkling)
100g Chocolate Chips
1 Egg Yolk
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract

This recipe is a really quick and easy one so let's get to it. In a large mixing bowl rub together the butter and flour, then stir through the sugar. Add the chocolate chips and fold through (I do this now as it's easier than after the mixture is sticky), then in with the egg yolk and vanilla. Start mixing the yolk in using a flat bladed knife then get your hands in and bring together to a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about 20-30 mins to rest.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Take the mixture from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll out to a large rectangle. Slice the mixture with a sharp knife into smaller rectangles (Ok I don't really make mine that small, but then I'm greedy), then place evenly spaced apart on your lined tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 mins, until lightly golden and just starting to darken slightly at the edges.

When you are happy the shorties are baked remove from the oven, leave on the tray for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer each shorty to a wire rack until cool. Nom them all up.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Banana Blondies

As soon as one mentions specialist diets such as gluten free or vegan many are quick to scoff or turn up their noses. This is of course nonsense, as there is still a cornucopia of delicious treats available to those with dietary restrictions. Just take these naughty banana blondies for instance, which are absolutely delicious! So even if you are a wheat freak or a stone cold carnivore then why not give them a try, you might just be converted. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
200g White Chocolate
275g Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
25g Vegetable Oil
100g Light Brown Sugar
50ml Hazelnut Milk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds
1tsp Baking Powder (Gluten Free)
100g Chocolate Chips
100g Chopped Pecans

There's a fair few ingredients in this but I promise it's a doddle to prepare. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (taking care as white chocolate scorches VERY easily). Once melted set to one side for 5 minutes to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small sized baking tin with baking paper (The one I use is around 22x27cm). In a large mixing bowl mix together the banana, oil and sugar. Add the milk and vanilla extract, followed by the melted chocolate, then in go the almonds and baking powder. Mix together to a smooth batter, then fold through the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. 

Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top. You can test it's baked by inserting a sharp knife. If it comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached then you are good to go. 

Once you are happy the blondies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin, before chilling for a good 90 minutes prior to slicing. Once chilled remove from the tin, slice and serve. Woohoo!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Chocolate Orange Cookies

It feels like AGES since I last made cookies, so I quickly cobbled together this recipe that turned out rather nicely indeed. You could buy orange flavour chocolate, although I find it tends to have little hard orangey pieces in which I find a tad gritty. So I use orange extract, which gives just the right depth of flavour and fragrance.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
125g Unsalted Butter (softened)
185g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1.5tsp Orange Extract
160g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
300 Dark Chocolate (Broken up into little pieces)

So here we go! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. I forewarn you, you will need to probably bake these in batches so unless you have a MASSIVE oven ready a few sheets! In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and orange extract. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder and mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the chocolate and the dough is ready.

Take a small handful of the mixture and form into a loose ball, around the size of a golf ball. Space your balls evenly apart (as they will spread) and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until light golden brown and darkening at the edges. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper from the tray onto a wire rack. Repeat for the rest of the mixture. When the cookies have cooled for around 20 minutes carefully peel each from the paper and they are ready to eat warm, or served at room temperature. Nom nom nom!