Sunday, 5 June 2016

FGGF Scones. Fucking Good Gluten Free Scones

BRAG: I've nailed it.
I think I finally understand Gluten Free flour.  Kind of. I mean, I was making stuff up as I went, but this worked.  It really did!  It's not textbook, it goes against the rules of baking, but the results are delicious.  And I hope it wasn't a fluke and that next time, things all pan out just as well.  It would be great to hear your feedback if you try the recipe.

Please enjoy these with butter, cream, jam, tea, whatever you fancy!

250g gluten-free flour (I used Dove's Farm)
75g ground almonds
pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar (golden or white, it's up to you, I used golden)
3 eggs
100ml milk
50g sultanas

Makes 6-10, depending on size.
Pre-heat the over to Gas Mark 5 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Put the flour, almonds, and salt in a bowl and briefly mix with a wooden spoon.
Cube the butter into approx 1cm cubes, add to the flour and rub the ingredients together with your finger tips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. This may take five minutes or so - be patient.
Add the sugar and mix.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture.
Crack just one of the eggs into the well and add the milk.
With a fork, mix the egg and milk together and slowly radiate outwards to mix in the flour mixture.  Keep going until everything is all well combined.
Now here is where baking methods collide.  Separate the other two eggs and whisk the whites until they form floppy white peaks - this shouldn't take too long as it's not much to whisk, but you can do it with an electric mixer if you want to speed the process up, or if you don't need to exercise your bingo wingos (liar!).
Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture and add the sultanas.  Keep folding until you have what seems like a really wet dough, almost like a thick batter! Do not panic.  It should be this way.
Flour a clean surface and tip the dough onto the surface.
Knead the dough until it is smooth and drier, keep flouring the surface if the dough sticks.
Push the dough out with your hands until it is 2cm thick.
Using a cutter of your size (I went for medium / large), cut out the scones from the dough and place on the baking parchment.  I got 7 out of the mixture.
Mix the two remaining egg yolks in a bowl and, with a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the scones to make them golden once baked.
Depending on their size, bake the scones for 15-25 minutes on a middle shelf of the oven.
Let cool (slightly or completely), before serving with clotted cream and raspberry jam.

With love and gluten-free floury hugs xx

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Afternoon Teas, Yes Please

I have some more delights to add to the Afternoon Tea and sweet treats reviews, which I began compiling a couple of years ago.  There are getting to be quite a few, so they've been re-ordered alphabetically by city / location.

Locations currently listed include Bekshire, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London...Hopefully more to come in due course (or as an when I remember them!).

After a few dreadful experiences a few years ago with Afternoon Tea's purchased with online vouchers, I've made a decision never to do that for ones I plan to review so these should be top service for each establishment!

Top current choices are Sketch in London, Terre a Terre, Brighton, and Apex, Edinburgh.

Apex, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh - all the stars!

The Vineyard Hotel, Nr. Newbury, Berkshire
Afternoon Tea £36, or £50 with Champagne.
Traditional and a tad pricey, but a quiet, remote spot with excellent service. (Visited Summer 2010)

Forbury Hotel, Reading, Berkshire
Cream Tea £9, Afternoon Tea from £22
I'm a regular here.  Well, maybe regular is a bit strong.  But this place never disappoints.  Wonderful service, and reasonably priced.  There's no rush - great for catching up with pals for a special occasion.  Probably the best fruity scones I've had in a long time! (Visited June 2006, June 2011, and September 2014)

Englefield Stores and Tea Rooms, Englefield Estate, Nr. Theale, Berkshire
Located round the back of the old Post Office and stores, this traditional, quaint and wonderfully charming tea room is within the Englefield Estate Village on the outskirts of Reading.  I've not been for a few years, but was a regular when I lived and worked nearby - often popping in with colleagues for hearty lunchtime jacket potato and a tasty slice of homemade cake.  It looks as though it has been recently refurbished, but i'll wager the recipes are still as good as they always were. Strictly speaking, there is no Afternoon Tea option, but you could create your own from the menu.  Seasonal opening times within outdoor seating in good weather. (Visited many a time during 2010 and 2011)

Terre a Terre, Brighton
Afternoon Tea from £24, or £31 including fizz / cocktail (GF and Vegan options available)
I am glad that Brighton is near the top of this list, because this was, hands down, one of the best Afternoon Tea experiences I have ever had.  For those who are super-trad Afternoon Tea die-hards, this isn't the place for you.  But, for me, Afternoon Tea is as much a social event, as it is an edible one and experiments to broaden the boundaries of afternoon tea should not be dampened!  One Asian inspired savoury plate, comprising three individual taster delights, was followed by two delicious and beautifully presented sweet treats with sorbets and infused creams, and the more traditional fresh scone with cream and jam to round things off.  This is a vegetarian restaurant, but for Afternoon Tea meat isn't really essential.  Gluten-Free is also high on the agenda here and there are exquisite alternatives, which were as considered and flavoursome as their glutenous counterparts! Very reasonably priced, perhaps the simple slightly dated decor doesn't do the food justice, but that is absolutely nit-picking.  If you're in the Brighton area, try this place, if not for afternoon tea then for some other plate that caught our eye from afar.  Ask for a table near the garden to take advantage of the natural daylight. (Visited September 2017)

Black Medicine, Edinburgh
Cream Tea £5
This is really just a great cafe and I opted for scones, butter and jam - wonderfully driftwood interior, with lots of nooks to sit away for long afternoons whilst working or reading.  Very cosy, laid back, and friendly. (Visited March 2016)

Afternoon Tea £15
This is the dream.  Simple and really well considered, great service.  Lovely fresh sandwiches, and an eye watering amount of sweet treats - gravity defying marshmallow, fruit tartlets, little profiteroles, fruit scones, carrot cake, fresh raspberries and strawberries, and a pot of warm dipping chocolate on the.  Excellent value for money and a glamorous setting for a special occasion or if you're passing by after a hectic Princes Street shopping marathon. (Visited March 2016)

Cotton Rake, Glasgow
Cream Tea from £5
Cotton Rake is one of my favourite places, I think, anywhere.  I was introduced to it by a friend in Glasgow, when they used to have a little shop in Partick, which is now closed.  But the Great Western Road branch seems to be doing a roaring trade.  I popped in one lazy weekday afternoon for a delicious, and generously sized scone with whipped vanilla cream a raspberry cream.  The second best thing about this place is the music - that particular day I struggled to vacate the table because the r n' b hits just kept coming!  They don't strictly do Afternoon tea, but they have a a great selection of cakes and pastries, sweets and savouries, to eat in or take out - great tea and coffee too, so why not construct your own!  The Financiers are particularly wonderful. (Visited Summer 2014, March and April 2016, July 2016)

Cup Tea Lounge, Glasgow
Cream Tea Afternoon Tea from £22
This was a massive disappointment.  I'd read that the original branch was west-end and that filled me with confidence but the city lounge was such a let down. The setting has the potential to be beautiful - set within an original tea-room tile clad interior - it really is stunning.  But the furniture (except for the bar) completely clashes, and that ruins the atmosphere. It's also pricey - but you get your money's worth - the Afternoon Tea comes as three course, with an Amuse-bouche to start, which, quite frankly, tasted like warmed up shop-bought soup, and then a course of savouries followed by a course of sweets.  The concept is nice but it's far too much food to manage, some of the savouries were stale and the sweets wooden tower was actually dusty.  Not very impressed - I won't be returning! (Visited March 2017)

Afternoon Tea £13.95, with Prosecco £17.50, 
Novel and relatively traditional afternoon tea served in a very traditional Scottish tea room.  Located above the Pub below, the atmosphere and interior of this tea room makes for a hearty pit-stop for locals and tourists alike, but don't be put off - it's tucked away from the main thoroughfares so often quiet - ask for a table in the main dining room to avoid being in the Hallway!  (Visited Summer 2011 and April 2016)

Singl-end, Glasgow
Cake and Coffee from £5 (GF options available)
Large informal cafe situated in the basement of a former printing press building, close to the Art School in the Garnet Hill area.  Afternoon Tea is not on the menu, but there was a huge array of wonderful looking cakes, sweet bites and bakes on offer, including many GF options, so this place warrants a review.  Aside from cake, breakfast here is also excellent and it's location, just off the beaten track, means it is pretty quite and a table is often easy to get! (Visited Spring 2016, multiple times)

Cream Tea £9.50, Afternoon Tea from £15.50
This is a modest Afternoon Tea serving but perfect for a break from the shops (or art) if you're passing by! (Visited March 2013)

Cream Tea £7, High Tea £15, Champagne High Tea from £45
Serving traditional High Tea, Cream Tea and Champagne options, this is a cosy and well established tea room, but it relies heavily on the tourism generated by the Botanical Gardens, just over the road - it's a bit of a tourist trap. (Visited August 2012)

The Pantry at Brasserie 108, Marylebone, London
Afternoon Tea from £28
This is, hands down, my favourite Afternoon Tea haunt of late.  Tucked away down a quiet Marylebone lane in Marylebone, you can't go wrong.  The unequivocally modern-french decor, together with the personable and friendly service makes this place truly special - whether you're just passing or celebrating.  The well considered and manageable menu is also available Gluten Free - and you wouldn't be able to guess the difference - there's no compromise on quality! (Visited June and September 2015)

Cream Tea £6.50, Afternoon Tea from £18.50
The setting of this place is fantastic!  Entry to The Wallace Collection is free and Afternoon Tea in the glorious courtyard is a bonus.  Great place for a date or birthday outing. (Visited May 2013 or 2014, I forget...)

Sketch, Mayfair, London
Afternoon Tea £58, with Champagne £72
Well, well, well - this one makes it onto the top choices list for a very good reason.  The decor and atmosphere is excellent - open-plan continental style dining room with plush interior make for a unique backdrop to your afternoon tea, which in itself, is fantastic! Plenty of food, exquisite sweet delights, and wonderful setting which, although a little worn, is likely to be refurbished as interior tastes change.  Very expensive but completely worth it for a special occasion. (Visited May 2016)

The Tearoom at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond-upon-Thames, London
Tea and Cake from £5
Strictly speaking, this place doesn't serve Afternoon Tea, but they have a great selection of cakes, tea, and coffee, and who wouldn't want all of those things whilst sat inside the greenest of greenhouses on the banks of the Thames.  Quaint and glorious. (Visited Summer 2016)

(now closed)
Until it's closure a couple of years ago, the Paramount bar and restaurant at the top of centre point had been an absolute gem of a place to catch up with pals over tea and sweet treats, at a reasonable price.  But the building is being developed and the irony of Centre Point being converted into luxury apartments should not be lost on anyone. (Visited October 2013)

On the hit-list and still to come...

The Salon at Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow
Claridges, day
The Ritz, Mayfair...the next day
Crazy Bear, Beaconsfield...maybe for a birthday
Aqua Shard, up the Shard...for the views

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Fruity Teacake (Gluten Free)

Probably the most boring title for a cake, ever. But there it is.

This is a twist on the traditional teacake - a classic for afternoon tea fans or those who just want to nibble on something sweet alongside a brew.  The list of ingredients may seem daunting, but if you look at the quantity of dry and wet ingredients, you can substitute and play around with things a little:  If you don't have the different types of sugar to hand, then just use 6oz of golden caster.  If you prefer using traditional flour, then forget the almonds and polenta and use self-raising instead, or mix it up.  But remember to retain the quantities.  

6oz (170g) unsalted butter
3oz (85g) of golden caster
2oz (55g) of soft dark brown
1oz (30g) of dark muscovado
3 medium free range eggs
7oz (200g) ground almonds
5oz (150g) fine polenta
2oz (55g) of rolled gluten free oats
150ml of fruit juice (not from concentrate) - I used orange and raspberry
2 tsp rosewater (omit if preferred or if you don't have any it just gives it a nice smell)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8oz (225g) mixed dried fruits - mine includes sultanas, fruit peels and cranberries.

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5 (170 / 190) and line the base of your tin with baking parchment - you could use one 23" round springform or loose base tin.  Alternatively, you can spread the mixture across several smaller ones, as I did (2 x 4" tins + 1 x 8" tin).

Cream the butter and the sugar together in an electric mixer if you have one, if not, well done - you will probably never have bingo wings.  Whilst that is working away, measure out the dry ingredients - almonds, polenta and oats - into a large bowl, and add the fruit juice.  Stir together for a minute or so, just so things are combined a little.  It will still be very dry.

Crack the eggs into a separate little bowl and lightly whisk with a fork.  Add them, a little at a time, to the creaming butter and sugar.  If the mixture looks like it might curdle, add a spoonful of the dry ingredients (almonds, polenta and oats).  Once all of the egg is added and combined, add the rosewater and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.

A spoonful at a time, at the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined, smooth and delicious looking!  Finally, add the dried fruits and mix by hand with a spoon.

Pour the mixture into your tin(s) and place it in the middle of the oven for as long as it takes!  If you are using different sized tins then bake them separately as larger tins will take longer.  The 4" tins took around 25-30mins and the 8" about 40.  So if you had a 23" tin, I'd say check on it after 50mins but it could take an hour.  Skewer test to check!

Serve with some loose leaf tea and a portion of love! xx

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Date, Ginger and Cocoa raw nut bar

I'm not joking when I say that these are as delicious as the brownie that I made last month.
And I know i'm jumping on some kind of 'raw food nuts and stuff' bandwagon but I've been eating a lot of cake and pastries lately and I'm in desperate need of an alternative that fills me up without inducing guilt and anxiety.  This recipe makes 12-16 servings (depending on how guilty you feel)

Also they're GLUTEN FREE.

200g cashew nuts
50g sunflower seeds, toasted (under the grill for 5 minutes or however best you like!)
50g cocoa powder
200g pitted dates, chopped
100g sultanas
40g stem ginger (stored in syrup)
1tbsp of the syrup from the stem ginger jar
1 tbsp brown rice syrup
a small amount of cold water to bind it all

In a food processor, blitz the cashew nuts and toasted sunflower seeds until fine and consistent.
Add the cocoa powder and blitz again until mixed through.
Chop the pitted dates, but don't be too precise about it.  Add them and the raisins in to the food processor.  Chop the stem ginger and add to the mix with the syrups, blitz again for a minute until it is all combined.  Add some water, a little at a time, and mix until all combined, but not wet.
Line the base of a square or rectangle tray and smooth the mixture out across it.
Place in the fridge and leave for an hour until set, slice up in to servings and store in the fridge in tupperware or serve directly to your tummy.

Katie xx

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Raspberry and Walnut Choc-a-lot Brownie

This is the naughtiest thing I've ever baked.
Makes 24 portions...or, well, anything from 1 to 24 portions...Depending on how generous you're feeling.

250g unsalted butter
200g plain chocolate (70% min. cocoa solids)
100g milk chocolate (30% min. coca solids)
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
100g light soft brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
4 medium free-range eggs
175g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
100g walnuts, chopped
300g fresh raspberries
a couple of tablespoons of mixed nuts and seeds

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.
Line the base of a 20 x 23cm 1inch deep baking tin.
In a deep saucepan place the butter.  Add the chocolate on top, broken up in to little pieces, then all the sugars.  Place the pan over a low heat until melted, smooth and glossy.
Whilst the chocolate, butter and sugar mix is melting, crack the eggs into a bowl and, if you have one, beat them with an electric mixer until pale and at least doubled in size - this may take 10 minutes or so.
Turn the mixer down low and slowly pour the melted chocolate mixture into the eggs.  Beat on this low setting for a few minutes until it is all combined and shiny.

Turn of the mixer (and remove from it's stand if it is in one).  Sift in a little of the flour in to the mixture and fold in until combined.  Sift in the remainder of the flour and cocoa and fold in until completely combined.  Remember that sometimes flour makes little pockets for itself in mixtures like this so cut through it a few times to make sure you've got them all.
Add the chopped walnuts and half the fresh raspberries and fold these in.

Pour the entire mixture in to a lined 20x23cm baking tin and spread out with a spatula.
Distribute the remainder of the raspberries across the top of the chocolate slab and then sprinkle with the mixed nuts and seeds.
Place in the top of the oven for 35-40mins until crispy on top but gooey in the middle.  The skewer test won't work on this one because it should be gooey in the middle.
Remove from the over and place on a cooling try for 10 minutes in its tray.
Transfer the lined bake onto the cooking rack and wait until completely cooled before serving.
If saving any for another day (ha! that would be lucky) then cut in to portions and store these in the fridge.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sticky Date Slab

Well, perhaps this is not what I was expecting to title this recipe as, but none the less, the end results were quite delicious.  A little overcooked on the underside and an unexpected opening of the oven door part way through cooking produced a somewhat sunken affair, or perhaps that should be, date.

And I'm afraid that I'm mixing up my old and new money for the recipe, but for a basic sponge, somehow my brain always works in oz's.  Trust you will rely on the early works of Delia or Nigel to convert these into a measurement more familiar to you.

4oz softened butter
3oz golden caster sugar
1oz dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a small bowl
4oz plain flour
2oz plain flour with 2oz combination of ground almonds and polenta (or one of the other)
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
2oz sticky dates, pipped and chopped

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and line the base and sides of a square or loaf tin (2lb).
Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer, if you have one.
Once smooth and combined, slowly add the eggs, a little at a time, to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Sift the dry ingredients into the mixture and mix again until smooth.
Remove from the electric mixer, or have a break if you have been mixing by hand so far.  Add the chop dates to the mixture and stir in thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Pour the mixture into your tin and place in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.

Do the good old skewer test if you're not sure.
Leave to cool completely before turning out and serving with natural yogurt and honey for extra goo.

Katie x

Monday, 10 February 2014

Polenta and Blood Orange Cake

Finally, success!!

Succes in creating a polenta cake that does not sink in the middle or fall apart when turned out.
How, I hear you scream?  Well, I've got some tricks up my gluten-free sleeves.

I returned from Italy last October with some Farina di Castagne (Chestnut flour), which has somewhat altered my approach to baking for the Gluten Free's.  It is a seasonal product, which I have discussed before, and it's not the cheapest alternative.  But it's tasty, hugely aromatic and wonderful for getting a good rise and hold on a cake.  Another advantage is that in order to make a splendidly even rise you don't need to use much.  I does a great job, like polenta or semolina, in absorbing everything around it.  BUT, unlike those other two ingredients, it has a tendancy to make things dry, rather than moist.

So, I bashed my brain and experience together to 'experiment' with this in an attempt to have at least one success with polenta.  The ingredients are similar to the Orange & Fig Polenta recipe recently posted, but in order to stop the chestnut flour drying the batter out when it bakes, I have added aditional liquid in the form of egg whites (also to help with a better rise) and freshly squeexed orange juices - and to keep it a bit more italian lets make them blood oranges, for an extra punch.

I have amended the method from how I undertook the cake as I had originally placed the cake in the oven for 10 seconds before realising that I had omitted the butter, which I would never recommend! I salvaged the bake, mind.

200g unsalted butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
4 extra egg whites
100g ground almonds
120g chestnut flour
120g fine polenta
2 blood oranges (Zest then juice)

For the Topping
3 blood oranges (juice only)
150g golden caster sugar

In an electric mixer, if you have one, cream the butter and the sugar together until combined and smooth.  You can place the butter in the microwave for a few moments if it is straight from the fridge, but don't let it melt - just soften it slightly.
In a small separate bowl weigh out the dry ingredients - ground almonds, chestnut flour and polenta and mix together with a spoon to introduce them to one another.  Set this bowl to one side.
In another small bowl, break the two eggs and separate the remaining four and lightly  whisk.  NB. you can use the leftover egg yolks to make ice cream or biscuits.
A little at a time, add the beaten egg to the creamed butter and, on a low setting, mix until combined.  If the mixture curdles, don't worry, add a small spoonful of the dry ingredients and then continue adding the egg mixture until combined.
Mix for a few minutes.  This is a good time to make yourself a cup of tea, or a gin and tonic.
A spoonful at a time, add the dry ingredients to the ret of the mixture and combine in the mixer until all the dry ingredients are worked in.  Add the zest and juice of the oranges to the mixture and mix one final time.
Pour the mixture into a lined 23" cake tin and place in the oven for 45 until a pale golden brown and spongy to touch.  If the mixture still wobbles, place back in for a five minutes and check again until cooked.
Turn the oven off and leave the cake to settle for 15 minutes.
At this point, lets make the topping - which is a bit like a drizzle, adding both colour and flavour to the top of the cake.
Combine the juice and sugar in a bowl - I quite like it if there are some bits of the fruit in the mixture too - it gives a nice texture to the topping, but that is up to you.
Skewer the top of the cake many many times (maybe 20 times) evenly across the cake.
Pour the sugar / juice mixture across the top of the cake, lifting the cake to evenly distrubute.  You can make more if it doesn't seem enough, or if you want a thicker crust.
Please note that the topping should always be added whilst the cake is still warm, otherwise it won't crust.  If you do it cold it will simply just soak into the cake, which is still delicious, I suppose!

Well, I hope it goes well. 
This one is good with yogurt, or ice cream, or just lift and tip the whole thing straight into your mouth!

Katie xx