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

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cranachan Ice Cream

Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert consisting cream, whiskey, honey, fresh raspberries, oats and natural yogurt - or soft cheese.  This adaptation takes most of those ingredients and turns them into something super scrummy!  The inclusion of whiskey (or any alcohol) to this basic ice cream recipe means that this will churn to a soft scoop as the alcohol prevents a full freeze.

I have used a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker bowl to make this, but you could use any ice cream maker - follow manufacturers guidelines.

I served this after a meal of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, for the celebration of Burns Night on 25th January.  A friend of mine provided some shortbread to go with - also delicious!

600ml Single Cream
300ml of scotch whiskey
8 egg yolks
230g sugar
pinch of salt
Seeds from two vanilla pods
400g fresh berries or mixed berries
100ml tap water
2 tbsp honey

In a medium saucepan and over a medium heat warm the single cream and whiskey until very hot, but not boiling.  Remove from the heat and leave to one side.
In an electric mixer, if you have one, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt together from a few minutes, on a low setting, until smooth, thick and doubled in size.
Keeping the mixer on the same setting, slowly pour in the warm single cream and continue to mix until combined to a smooth consistency.
Add the vanilla seeds
Return this mixture to the saucepan and warm over a medium heat, constantly serving, until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.  Do not let the mixture boil.
Pour the mixture into an air tight tupperware box and place in the fridge to cool overnight (minimum 8 hours).
Place the berries and tap water into a medium saucepan and warm until the fruit starts to break down.  Add the honey. Continue to warm but don't let the fruit break down completely.  Place this mixture into a shallow tupperware and leave to cool in the fridge for the same time as the ice cream mixture.
When ready to churn, pour cream mixture into the ice cream maker and churn for 15-20minutes, or to your manufacturers instructions.
When the mixture has reached the desired consistency, add the cooled berry mixture until rippled or blended, whichever you prefer.  Pour mixture into an air-tight tupperware box and return to the freezer - churn with a fork after an hour or two as the mixture may not freeze consistently at the start.

Katie x

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Torta di Castagne e Ciccolato

I have just returned from six days in Tuscany where Chestnut season is well under way.  Chestnut flour is a magical but somewhat expensive product of the season.  Despite the price I thought it would be interesting to experiment with it in the kitchen.  At 6 Euro for a 500g bag in a deli within the local region and not much cheaper in the supermarket, I need to be a bit savvy about how i'm going to use it.  My first attempt, to get to know the flour if you will, was simply to use it as a replacement for standard flour in a classic sponge mix - equal parts sugar, butter, eggs and flour.  The outcome was tasty, but more like a cakey shortbread.  The comments - "would be tasty with apple....or chocolate" (or possibly both!!)  This flour is incredibly dense and needs some moister accompaniments if a cake recipe is to succeed!

So, second time round, i've changed the angle.  Add some chocolate flavour and approach the process in a different way - whisking eggs and sugar together to create a classic base for the batter and keeping the dry ingredients separate.  Also breaking the flour down with a little milk - or perhaps sour cream? (much like  Nigella recipe for chocolate fudge cake that I remember making last Christmas).  And i've got some apples coming in my Abel and Cole box tomorrow, so the rest of the flour can be for a third triumph!

This cake has the texture of a perfect sponge but with a nutty aroma and a distinctly earthy taste.  Perfect for an afternoon tea break.

6 medium eggs
150g golden caster sugar
70g organic cocoa powder
2 heaped tsp baking powder
250g farina de castagne (chestnut flour)
350ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180degrees) and line the base of a 23" clip cake tin.  Grease the sides of the tin if it is not non stick.
In an electric mixer, if you have one, and on a low-medium setting, whisk together the eggs and butter until they are smooth, creamy and frothy.  This could take up to 10 minutes, or longer depending on your machine.  Whilst this is developing, you can continue with the next couple of steps.
Sift the cocoa and baking powders into a separate small bowl.  Put this to one side.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the milk.  Mix these together until a combined and thick but smooth batter is formed.  Don't be tempted to add more milk.
Once the egg and sugar mixture has reached the right consistency, add the cocoa / baking powder mixture to it, a little at a time, folding in between additions until completely combined and a deep chocolate colour.  Mmm delish!  This should now resemble a kind of chocolate mousse - perhaps a little thiner / runnier.
a spoonful at a time, add this chocolate loveliness to the flour batter mixture.  Fold in and continue to add the chocolate mousse stuff until it is all added and combined.  This is now ready for the prepared tin.  Don't be worried if the mixture appears thin.  The chestnut flour is so dense and heavy that it will all come together in the baking process to create something wonderful!
Slowly pour the mixture into the tin and place the tin in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.
Remove, test that the cake is done by inserting a clean skewer into the centre of the cake - if it comes out clean then it is done.  It not, then pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes or so.
Once done, remove for the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Serve cool, or slightly warm, with sour cream or straight up as it is.

Katie xx

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Plum, Passion and Pumpkin Polenta Pake

A Pake is very much like a Cake, but where all the main ingredients start with the letter 'P'.  I couldn't bring myself to ruin a gloriously alliterate moment with the 'C' word, especially when what I really wanted to write was 'Pie' but, alas, this is no pie either.

Fuelled by last weeks discovery of just how great polenta is to bake with, I've devised this cake recipe from scratch.  I say cake, it's more like a flan but with moist delicate tart like fruit on the bottom, or the top, or the bottom, or the top.  You see, it's a classic 'upside down' cake.  You bake it with the fruit on the base and then turn it out to serve.

The use of a variety of ingredients, that I am lead to believe all have special powers, is driving me towards a path of less glutenous cake baking (and eating)....and as we all know, when something has half the calories, you can eat twice as much!

Ingredients for Plum base
6 medium plums (I used those that came in my Abel and Cole box this week)
150g golden caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Ingredients for Cake
170g unsalted butter
170g golden caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
2 passion fruit
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta
2 tsp baking powder
50g pumpkin seeds
+ a little icing sugar and sprig of mint for decoration

There are really two stages to this recipe, which is a little bit more tricky than last weeks Orange and Fig Polenta Cake but it's worth all the effort you but in. 
The first stage is to prepare and cook the plums.  We need to lightly poach them, to make it easier to remove the skins, then caramelise them in a pan with butter and sugar, before placing them in the cake tin.
Prick the plums a few times and place them in a pan of cold water.  Place the pan over a medium / high heat and bring to a simmer.  You will start to see the skins come away from the flesh.  Simmer for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat.  Do not leave them on the heat for too long otherwise they will poach all the way through and become a mulchy mess to prepare!
Drain and peel what should now be easy to remove skins.  Squeeze the lemon juice over them and leave them to cool in the fridge for an hour or so.  
Grease the sides and line the Base of a 23" loose base flan tin.  
Once cooled, cut the plums in half and then slice each half into 3 or 4 slices.  Melt a large knob of butter in a frying pan, over a medium heat, and add the 150g of golden caster sugar.  Allow the sugar to dissolve to a light bubbling deliciousness.  Gently transfer the plums to the pan, making sure the pan isn't overcrowded and the plums are only one slice deep (i.e. don't stack them up), pour any juice that is in the bowl into the pan with the plums and leave them to caramelise in the sugar syrup for a 3-4 minutes.  Occasionally tilt the pan away from you and, with a spoon, spoon the syrup over the plums so that they are all coated in the delicious sugar syrup.  You will find that the plums start to break down, but thats ok, we're not looking for whole pieces here, just imprints.
Take the plums off the heat and pour the entire contents of the pan into the base of your flan tin.  Spread the plums out to an even level and place the tin in the freezer for an hour or so.
You can prepare the plums up to this point a day or two before you complete the bake.  If the base is completely frozen when you come to bake, then make sure you remove it from the freezer an hour or so before you want to bake, so that that plums can thaw slightly.
Whilst the plums are in the freezer, you can make the cake mixture, which is quick and simple!
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.
Cream and the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, until pale and smooth.
Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl and, a little at a time - beating in between, add the eggs to the butter / sugar mixture.  Beat the mixture for a few minutes to ensure the batter is fully combined.
Spoon the pulp from the passionfruit into a sieve and push it through so that only the juice (not the pips) go into the cake batter.  The pips are hard and brittle and don't break down easily in the baking process so it is best just to omit them from the recipe altogether.  Beat together again for a few minutes.
In a separate bowl, measure out the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder and lightly stir so they are combined.  A little at a time, add the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing on a low setting in between, until all the ingredients are combined!
Remove the bowl from a the mixer and, with a metal or wooden spoon, fold in the pumpkin seeds so that they are evenly(ish) distributed.
Remove the plum tin from the freezer, they should be cooled and semi soft - with a white tinge to the top.  Spoon the batter onto the fruit and then spread it out to an even level with a metal palette knife - tip - to stop the batter from sticking to the palette knife, dip the knife in water between uses - the batter will slide of the knife easily.
Place the tin in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.
Then turn off the oven and allow the cake to set in the oven for around half an hour.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely, in it's tin, on a wire rack.
Turn the cake out onto a stand, dust with icing sugar and decorate with a sprig of mint.  Serve with natural yogurt and grown-up conversation.

Katie xxx