Sunday, 4 December 2016

Mincemeat and Marzipan Strudel

Who wants a fancy Christmas recipe, that is deceptively easy to make AND impressive to serve AND a clever twist on a festive favourite? This strudel is an magnificent beast to present to your loved ones and inside lurks a wonderful mixture of flavours and textures. I'll let you decide whether to serve with cream, custard or brandy sauce. ;-)

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 45 Mins
12 Sheets of Filo Pastry
75g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
6 Hard Amaretti Biscuits (Crushed)
600g Mature Mincemeat
1 Large Apple
50g Flaked Almonds
150g Marzipan
A sprinkling of Light Brown Sugar

Let us begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take a clean, dry tea towel and lay out on your kitchen surface. Lay out 6 sheets of filo, overlapping in a large rectangle on top, then brush all over with melted butter. Scatter over the crush biscuits and repeat for the rest of the filo. Brush again with butter. Spread a layer of mincemeat over the surface of the filo (leaving a gap around the edge), then grate the apple evenly over. I don't even bother peeling it! Scatter with 40g of the flaked almonds, then roll the marzipan into a cylinder shape and place against one of the shorter edges. Roll the filo tightly over the marzipan then continue rolling up into a fat sausage, lifting the tea towel as you go (to help you roll). 

Carefully transfer to a baking tray and brush with the remaining butter. Pinch each end together tightly to secure and sprinkle with brown sugar. Scatter over the last few almonds for decoration then bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes. 

Once golden brown the strudel is ready, so remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with whatever you fancy!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Aquafaba Almond Biscuits (Gluten Free)

Roll up roll up as I mystify, stupefy and (in some cases) terrify you with my baking powers! Marvel as I transmute the discarded water from a modest can of chickpeas into the whipped white of an egg! Pish, tosh and collywoddle you might say, but before you cry foul why not try it for yourself? It might just make you believe in the magic of baking. ;-)

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
70g Unsalted Water from a drained can of Chickpeas (AKA Aquafaba)
200g Ground Almonds
50g Gluten Free Plain Flour
125g Golden Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Almond Extract
6 Glace Cherries (Halved)

We begin with the main talking point itself. The water from a can of chickpeas (aquafaba) contains proteins, which means when you whisk them vigorously they form a similar consistency to egg white.  You do need to give it some welly though so for this recipe I whisked mine for a good 10 minutes with an electric whisk, until soft peaks just start to form. Don't worry about the faint chickpea odour either, as it will all but disappear during baking.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl mix together the almonds, flour and caster sugar. Add the two extracts, then fold through the whipped aquafaba. Get your hands into the mixture and form into a sticky dough.

Using wet hands take a ball of the mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball. Flatten into a fat disk with your wet hands and place on your baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, evenly spaced apart until you have a dozen biscuits. Press a cherry half into the centre of each biscuit and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 mins, until golden brown on top. When you are happy the biscuits are baked remove from the oven and leave on the tray for 30 minutes. Carefully peel each warm biscuit from the baking paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The biscuits are done. Abracadabra!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Easy Gluten Free Fruit Cake

If you think I'm done with the Gluten Free recipes then I'm afraid you are mistaken. I have a few more yet to blast from my cake horn before I am done! This fruit cake is a deliciously indulgent GF alternative to the normal fruitcakes that are so deliciously gratifying to nom down on chilly day (or any other day for that matter). You can pick up GF plain flour so easily in most supermarkets these days but ping me if you are struggling and I'll give you some steer. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 70-75 Mins
175g Unsalted butter (Softened)
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1hpd tsp Mixed Spice
100g Ground Almonds
1.5tbsp Brandy
150g Gluten Free Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
600g Luxury Mixed Fruit

To glaze
1tbsp Brandy
1tbsp Maple or Syrup

This is a really straightforward recipe so let's get to it! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm springform tin (base and sides) with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Add the mixed spice and ground almonds, give them a quick mix through, then add the brandy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix with vigour until evenly combined. Fold through the fruit and spoon the mixture into you prepared tin, evening to the edges. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 70-75 mins, until a sharp knife or metal skewer comes out cleanly when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven. Poke holes into the top of the cake then drizzle over the syrup, then the brandy and leave in the tin for around 60 mins to soak in and cool. Carefully remove the cake from the tin, peeling off the paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake is done. :-)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gluten Free Pear and Hazelnut Cake

I've been going gluten free recently, which was actually easier than I first thought (albeit more expensive). Treats such as this delicious cake have certainly played their part and this one is so good it deserves a place amongst any conventional equivalent. The pears are of course wonderful but the stars of the show are the hazelnuts. There's just something about a toasty hazelnut that is so hard to beat!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
100g Ground Hazelnuts
200g Golden Caster Sugar
4 Large Eggs (Beaten)
100g Unsalted Butter (Melted and left to cool slightly)
1tsp Almond Extract
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds
4 Large and Slightly Firm Pears

Baking time, whoop whoop! Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5, grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Take 25g of the ground almonds and sprinkle into the inside of the tin, so they stick to the greased sides. This will make it much easier to remove the cake from the tin when the time comes.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy, then add the melted butter and keep whisking. Don't be tempted to add red hot butter or you'll be left with scrambled eggs! Add the two extracts, then with a wooden spoon fold in the ground almonds and the 75g of leftover ground hazelnuts. Spoon into your prepared tin and gently ease to the edges.

Peel and core the pears, then slice lengthways, about the thickness of a pound coin. Arrange over the top of the cake mixture, pressing into the surface, about a third of the way down. I like doing this as you're left with a nice peary surprise when slicing! Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, 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 and leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cool carefully remove from the tin, peeling off the paper from the base. Slice and serve. Yum!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Oaty McOatcakes (Gluten Free)

As delicious as a cup of leaf tea is it's just not quite complete with something sweet on the side. These oatcakes are a delicious and simple alternative to the usual biscuity fair, with toasted oats and just the merest whisper of warm spice. You can make them as large or as small as you like, although remember to not make them too big for dunking! ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15-20 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Cubed and at room temperature)
75g Golden Caster Sugar
150g Gluten Free Jumbo Oats
100g Oat Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
1tsp Mixed Spice
75g Sultanas
2-2.5tbsp Milk

Here we go! Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the oats, flour and spice, followed by the fruit. Drizzle in the milk a little at a time until you are left with a soft biscuit dough.

Dust a clean, dry surface with more flour, then using a floured rolling pin roll out your ball of dough until about 1/2cm thick. Using a biscuit cutter cut into rounds and place each on your prepared baking tray.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes until light golden brown. If you want them super crunchy at this point you can flip them over and bake for a further 5 minutes, but I personally like them with just a little give. Once baked remove from the oven, leave on the tray for around 20 minutes, then carefully lift each onto a wire rack until cool. Done and done!

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!