Friday, 12 September 2014


So continuing along with the bake off you may have noticed I do not have a post for tarts and pies week. Well I did attempt to make a pie, I was terrified, a gluten and dairy free pastry was not an experiment I was looking forward to. The pastry I made was lovely and delicious, but it was meant to be puff pastry, something I never had problems with in the past,  and it turned out like shortcrust. I will reiterate it was lovely but I am not posting the recipe I used as it did not turn out as it should. I get to do pastry again soon though as next week is pastry week on the bake off! I show a picture of my pie to prove that I tried.

This week was the week of European cakes. The contestants had to make a European cake that was raised with yeast, a Swedish princess cake or a Hungarian dobes torte. I have never made a princess cake but I have eaten cakes consisting of sponge, jam, cream and creme pat and so I decided to go with the more interesting cake raised with yeast as I have never made/eaten one before.

I decided, like some of the contestants, to make a Kugelhopf. This is traditionally a cake raised with yeast, filled with fruit and cooked in a bundt tin. Like many of the contestants I changed my flavours, I went for cardamom, orange and almond. I also had the added challenge of making it gluten and dairy free.

I have also just remembered that this months letter for alpha bakes is K and so I will enter my Kugelhopf!

This is an experiment that worked and I am so so pleased with it, it smelt good baking, looked fantastic and also tasted great. It is very interesting, it is definitely a cross between bread and cake and those with palettes used to very sweet cakes will probably take a while to adjust. It is lovely as a plainer cake and dare I say it could even be eaten as breakfast (which I did). It does not keep so long so I have sliced it and individually wrapped slices and frozen them, I will refresh in the oven when I fancy a snack or breakfast.

Orange, cardamom and almond Kugelhopf 

380g GF flour (I used dove farm plain flour blend)
60g ground almonds
2 tsps xantham gum
Seeds of 15 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar
120ml warm water
4 1/2 tsp active dried yeast (not instant yeast)
1/2 tsp sugar
120g DF spread (I used pure sunflower)
75g golden caster sugar
2 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp almond extract
Zest and juice of an orange
2 tbsp caster sugar
a little melted butter to grease
slivered almonds to decorate (optional

Place the warm water, yeast, and ¼ teaspoon sugar together in a small bowl. Stir until yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until the yeast is foamy

Place 220g of the gluten-free flour in a freestanding large bowl or the large bowl of a large stand mixer. Add the xanthan gum and cardamom and mix to combine

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved, do not let it boil.

In a medium bowl whisk  the eggs together with the almond extract and orange zest. Carefully add the milk mixture in a slow, steady stream to the eggs and whisk well. Be sure to add the milk slowly so it doesn't curdle the eggs. 

Turn the mixer on low, or using a hand held electric whisk add the milk and egg mixture in a slow steady stream to the flour mix. Raise the speed to medium and mix until smooth. Lower the speed and add the remaining flour and ground almonds. The dough should be fairly sticky and smooth, but not too stiff. Turn off mixer and let dough stand for a few minutes.

Grease a bundt pan with melted butter. if desired stick slivered almonds onto the sides of the greased pan.

 Carefully transfer the dough to the pan and smooth it evenly. Brush the top with the melted butter to prevent it drying out. 

Cover with cellophane or place in a bag and let rise for 45-60 minutes in a warm place. The dough won't have doubled, but it will have risen quite a bit.

While the dough is rising preheat the oven to GAS MARK 6 . Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden and baked through.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make a glaze put the remaining sugar and orange juice in a pan and heat gently until the sugar had dissolved, turn up the heat and reduce until the mixture is syrupy. Brush this over the cooled cake then enjoy.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Individual baked alaska

Dessert week on the great British bake off this week and the contestants had to tackle puddings with a sauce, either inside or hidden beneath, the technical challenge was a tiramasu and the showstopper a baked alaska. I will not spoil anything for those of you still to catch up but my word... I was on the edge of my seat!

Now I could have made a self saucing pudding, I have made chocolate fondants before so thought this seemed a little too easy. I was not going to make tiramasu as coffee is one of the few things I actually dislike. This left me with baked alaska.

First of all I was never going to make a whole baked alaska, there are only two of us and this pudding certainly does not keep. So I did my research and yes, individual baked alaskas are definitely a thing. Individual ones are either quickly put under a grill to brown or a blowtorch is used. An excuse to use my blowtorch? I was sold.

A baked alaska has a sponge base, topped with a scoop of ice cream and the whole thing is encased by browned meringue.

Those of you who read this blog will know that I cannot tolerate lactose at all, and even dairy without lactose can be a dodgy. This means ice cream is quite often out, though there are a few dairy free tubs out there. I decided this was the push I needed to dust of my poor neglected ice cream maker and get experimenting. First things first I had to chose a flavour, this was dictated to a degree by my sponge base.

My sponge base was already sorted as I had a little of the lemon semolina cake left over from Sunday, so I cut two slices then used a cookie cutter to get two circles.

So my ice cream had to be flavour that went well with lemon. Many dairy free ice cream recipes make use of coconut milk, and I had plenty of raspberries in the fridge and so I thought a coconut and raspberry ice cream atop a lemon sponge would be rather good and that is what I went ahead with. The ice cream in made half and half with coconut milk and almond milk and so it is not super super coconuty, but the coconut flavour is definitely there.

Coconut raspberry ripple ice cream (dairy free)

300ml almond milk
300ml coconut milk (full fat, shake the can really well before opening. 
75g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2  heaped tsp cornflour
60g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Put the almond milk, coconut milk, caster sugar and vanilla into a saucepan and heat gently, with stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Mix the cornflour with a plash of water or almond milk then add to the pan, increase the heat a little and cook until thickened slightly. The mixture will coat the back of the spoon but will not be super thick like custard, this is how it should be. Transfer the mixture to a jug and refrigerate.

Once the mixture is cool add to an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturers instructions.

While the ice cream is churning mash the recipes to a runny pulp, taste and add a little sugar if you think that it is necessary. When the ice cream forms a soft-medium scoop then transfer it to a tupperware and quickly swirl through the raspberries. Place in the freezer for a few hours to allow the ice cream to firm up, at this point I left the ice cream overnight ready for the next step. 

This ice cream tasted lovely and was perfect for the baked alaska but if eating it as just an ice cream I would need it to be creamier.. I reckon using coconut cream would work, I will continue my ice cream experimentation at a later date!

I must confess that when making my alaska I did not follow a recipe and nor did I weigh out anything. However what I did is as follows...

Individual baked alaska

I formed two scoops of ice cream and put them on a plate in the freezer to make sure they were set solid.

A couple of hours later I cut two circles with a cutter from two slices of cake that I had made 

I then made my meringue, I whipped up two eggs whites in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water until soft peaks formed then added sugar (by eye, sorry) and whipped until stiff glossy peaks were formed. Many of the contestants used Italian meringue, or you could use swiss, google will tell you the amounts to use!

I then assembled! I placed the hardened scoop of ice cream onto the round of sponge. Then I topped the whole thing with meringue making sure that all the ice cream and most of the sponge was covered. I used a teaspoon to make rustic peaks but you could use a piping bag. I then toasted the whole thing with my cook blow torch. If you had no blow torch you could put the whole thing under a hot grill for a minute or two... watch it like a hawk!

I did enjoy my very first baked alaska, they look amazing and unusual flavor combinations could turn this into a very stunning dessert to impress others with.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lemon semonlina cake

I had lemons in the fruit bowl and a massive bag of semolina in my cupboard, so when deciding what to bake this weekend it seemed like fate that I found this recipe for lemon semolina cake in the first book I was flicking through.

This is a recipe from Peyton and Byrne, British Baking.

Lemon Semolina Cake (Peyton and Bryne)

125g dairy free spread (I use pure)
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
3 medium eggs
3 tbsp dairy free milk (I used almond milk)
Zest and juice of two lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract
125g semolina flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 170/150C FAN/ GAS MARK 3. Grease a 900g loaf tin and line the base with a stip of parchment paper.

Beat together the DF spread and sugar until pale and creamy, add the almonds and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the milk, then add in the lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract. Sift in the semolina and baking powder and mix into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth into the corners. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

This cake will keep well for 3 or so days in an airtight tin

The recipe suggests dusting with icing sugar and serving with fresh berries

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Gluten free bread rolls

Bread week on bake off, great to watch not so much fun to try and recreate. Gluten free bread has come on leaps and bounds in the supermarkets but just take a look at all the ingredients. Even recipes for 'make at home' gluten free bread have more ingredients than homemade wheat bread. I am trying to accept this but making gluten free bread still makes me miss wheat bread incredibly.

My first foray into gluten free bread was a disaster. I followed a recipe for gluten free baguettes... they were tough, tasteless and only made vaguely palatable when I toasted thin slices and smothered them with a homemade roast garlic paste and served them alongside a flavoursome fish stew.

I decided to try again and the Bake off inspired me to try rolls. Now I obviously could not make rye rolls but I decided to try making rolls with some buckwheat flour, as this has a characteristic nutty character, not too unlike rye. Buckwheat contrary to its name is not actually wheat, they are from two completely different families. Be careful when buying buckwheat flour, many say they contain gluten simply because the buckwheat is so are so contaminated during the growth and milling process.

I made my own recipe based on what I researched on-line. The recipe is in american cup measurements as much of the research I read was in american measurements.

2 cups, dove farm GF bread flour mix
1/2 cup GF buckwheat flour
1/4 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
1½ tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp (7g) dried quick yeast
2 scant tsp brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm water 
2 Tbsp dairy-free margarine
1 egg (preferably room temp)
1 tsp. cider vinegar

In a mixing bowl mix together the flours, xanthan gum, quick yeast, sugar, and salt.
With and electric mixer running on low speed, add in the water, DF spread, egg, and cider vinegar and mix on high speed 3 minutes.
Lightly oil a 8 inch springfrom cake tin  and using a ⅓ cup measuring cup, scoop the dough into 7 mounds in the pan. I placed one mound in middle, then scoop 6 mounds of dough side by side all the way around the pan.

 Dip your fingertips into warm water and use to smooth out the tops of the rolls, continuing to wet fingers as needed.

Cover with a dry towel and let rise in a warm place 45 minutes to 1 hour. During the last few minutes that the rolls are rising, preheat oven to GAS MARK 6.

Bake in  the preheated oven for 26-30 minutes until the tops are golden brown before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

The rolls turned out much fluffier then my baguettes, in fact the crust was crusty and the inside soft and fluffy just like wheat bread. This made me very happy. I will be making these again but I will add more buckwheat flour as I did not quite feel that the amount used came through enough... I was sparing based on others saying it was really nutty in flavour, on tasting these rolls could easily take more.

I want to try finding a Gluten free bread with a few less ingredients and without the egg, not because I have anything against eggs but I think you can taste it a little and I do not really want that taste in my bread. Saying that I would prefer to use egg over artificial chemicals so I think some experimenting is in order!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Pecorino biscuits

Hi, prepare for a few bake off posts in a row, I had planned to bake along with the bake off and of course as soon as it came on TV I went off to do volunteer work. I am catching up over the weekend and should be back on track by the episode on Wednesday.

I decided to make savoury biscuits for biscuit week, I have already made Florentines and to be honest did not have time to make a 3D creation, why you ask? because I HANDED MY THESIS IN!!! Anyway I genuinely liked the sound of a savoury nibble.

As an added bonus I used pecorino and pumpkin seeds and so I will enter these into this months alpha bakes.

These are gluten free and lactose free, I used lactose free pecorino, if lactose is your issue these are fab but not suitable for other dairy allergy sufferers. If you do not have an issue with gluten feel free to use plain flour and they will work perfectly too.

Pecorino rounds

50g GF plain flour
pinch of cayenne pepper
15g semolina
50g DF spread (I use pure)
50g pecorino cheese, grated
1 medium egg yolk
1 tsp olive oil

1 egg yolk
15g pecorino cheese grated
pumpkin seeds
pinch of cayenne

Put the flour, cayenne pepper and semolina into a bowl and mix. Rub the spread with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Dairy free spread is softer than butter so work quickly and don't worry that your 'breadcrumbs' are large. Stir in the 50g of cheese using a metal spoon. Briefly beat the egg and then add the egg and olive oil to the dry ingredients and bring together into a dough using a metal knife and cutting motion. Form the dough into a fat disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN/GAS MARK 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the chilled dough to a thickness of 3mm. Cut out small rounds and place them on the prepared sheet. Push remaining dough together, re roll and cut more biscuits.

Brush the biscuits with a little beaten egg, sprinkle over the 15g of cheese, place a couple of pumpkin seeds on top and add a small dusting of cayenne pepper. Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden, transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before consuming.

We had these warm with a glass of prosecco before a light evening meal and they were delicious, we also had the leftovers later that evening, cold but still delicious... I therefore have no idea how well they keep!