Happy Mothers Day new and old

To all the lovely mums out there. You do an amazing job. ❤️

You are always there when you are needed and always there when we think better. You are always there because  if you weren’t there would have been hell to pay for.  You feel unappreciated and undervalued. Without you we wouldn’t get to school on time, without you ‘stuff’ wouldn’t get done.

You are everything and you are more.  To all the mums, you are loved and needed. It might take us until our adulthood to realise that or even when we have children of our own, but we very much appreciate you. Thank you ❤️

I do love a bit of developing recipes, and this seemed a great time to look at something different.

gluten-free-fig-and-pistachio-cake

Based around a carrot cake in method and baking this moist cake will make a great centre piece for Mothers Day and even for Easter. If you can make it a day or 2 in advance before topping – it will keep in a sealed container for 2 days – the flavour improves as the spice flavour comes out a little more.

Preheat the oven to gas 3/150c and line (base and sides) an 8″ round cake tin with a loose base.

For the cake –

  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 180ml sunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 120g grated carrots
  • 80g chopped dried figs
  • 180g gluten free self raising flour
  • 75g shelled, broken pistachios
  • 2/3rds level teaspoon speculaas spice

For the topping –

  • 200g mascarpone cheese
  • 120g passion fruit curd (I use Mrs Darlington’s)
  • 4 fresh figs – each sliced into 6 pieces
  • 25g additional pistachios, crushed or broken up

To make the cake, whisk the oil, sugar and eggs until fully beaten and blended together. Stir in the chopped figs and carrot. Toss the broken nuts into the gluten free flour and spice and then stir into the cake mix.  It’ll be a bit runny, so take care when poring into the cake tin.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about  45 – 50 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tin before removing from the tin and remove the greaseproof paper from the cake.  Cool completely on a wire rack. If storing at this stage, pop in the sealed container. Otherwise carry on to top.

To make the topping, whisk the curd into the mascarpone and spread over the top of the cake, decorate with the fresh figs and scatter with the broken nuts.  Slice.

And before anyone asks – I am sadly not on commission from Mrs Darlington’s.  It is a local producer to me and they make a fantastic range of products – some of which are award-winning, they taste fantastic – it’s why I use them.  Just in case you were thinking 🙂

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The simple things in life – Pie

There are perhaps times when baking can get complicated.  Too many ingredients in a dish, where several less would give you something similar. Perhaps just for the sake of adding them or to be different. And half the time getting hold of some of the ingredients can be a bind. Don’t get me wrong complicated can be good, tasty and fabulous. But you can’t go wrong with a simple pie, simple pastry and a simple filling, baked simply and served with a dollop of custard. But even that could get complicated, if it wasn’t for ‘Birds’ 😀😀 This is only a 7″ plate pie, using a simple 7″ foil plate tin tray. Simple. Did I say it was simple? 😂

I’ve said before I do try to make these recipes easy enough for everyone to make, using foods that are ready-made.  There are times when need a challenge and I probably make it up as I go along. 😀

But for now a simple pie, using up some cooked apples I’ve had in the freezer for British Pie Week and my Twitter pals for the #TwitterBakeAlong.  Pie should be for everyone. Here is my gluten free Apple and Raspberry Pie.

If you don’t have some spare cooked Apple in the freezer….

Peel, core and chop 2 cooking apples and put in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Heat for about 7-8 minutes until the apples are soft. Put to one side to cool completely. Before putting it in the pie.

For the pastry;

– 200g gluten free plain flour (I used Dove Farm)

– 100g cold diced butter

1/3 teaspoon xanthum gum

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

cold water to bind

couple of tablespoons of milk to finish and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar.

Raspberry jam (optional)

50g sultanas (optional)

Using a food processor blend the flour and the butter until fine breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolk and sugar, mix, then add 5 – 8 tablespoons of cold water to bind. You can do this in the processor, but dependant on your machine, you may need to turn it out onto the surface and bring it together by hand into a soft firm dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and 180c, and put a tray in the oven, so that you don’t get a soggy bottom!

Cut the dough into 2 pieces, 1 a little larger than the other. With the larger piece, roll out to the size of the pie dish and roughly the height of  a pound coin. Cover the base of the dish.

If you are feeling fancy spread the base of the dish with the jam and then cover with the cooled, cooked apple. Sprinkle on the sultanas if desired. Trim the pastry edges so it’s flush with the tin/tray and then brush the edges of the pastry, with milk.

Roll out the 2nd piece of dough to the same thickness and cover the pie. Press the edges together to seal the pie and trim again the edges of the pie lid. Crimp a little design to the rim of the pastry, cut 2 holes into the middle of the lid, brush with milk, sprinkle with the sugar.

Place onto the hot tray in the oven and bake until bronzed for about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and serve immediately with custard (or your choice of accompaniment). Or leave to cool and heat in the oven later. It should be good for a day. I’ve served the pie on a plate designed by my daughter at Emma Bridgewater.

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Gluten Free Honey and Lemon Cupcakes

And so we move now into Spring.

The evenings are getting lighter, colour begins to take its hold in the garden and Easter is just around the corner. Next stop summer….

So some light cupcake baking to throw into the mix, to add some colour to the kitchen

gluten-free-honey-and-lemon-cupcakes

Pre-heat the oven to gas 4/180c and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with cupcake liners – I chose yellow 😀

For the cupcakes –

  • 150g soft butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g honey – ideally not a cheap one as you need the flavour of the honey to shine through. You could use acacia or thyme.
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g gluten free self raising flour

For the filling –

For the topping (a meringue) –

  • 2 egg whites
  • c150g caster sugar (if you weigh the egg whites, you’ll need twice the amount of sugar)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • extra honey to drizzle

Beat the butter, sugar and honey until light and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, you will find you will need to add a tablespoon of gluten free flour to keep it from curdling. Once the eggs have been beaten in (I used a hand-held electric whisk) add in the flour and divide between the 12 cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes. Or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool before removing from the tray and transferring to a wire rack..  You can then make the meringue topping.

Place the sugar onto a tray and warm gently in the oven. Whilst the sugar is warming, whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak. Remove the sugar from the oven and add the warm sugar to the stiff egg whites  2 tablespoons at a time. Taking care between additions to ensure the sugar has been completely whisked in.  Continue whisking until the meringue is nice and shiny. You also need to make sure the sugar has dissolved into the meringue. You can find this our by pinching some of the meringue between your fingers. If the mix is smooth you are done.  If you can still feel the sugar crystals keep going.

Now depending on your mixer it could be done in around 10 – 15 minutes – or if it’s an older version (like mine) – longer.  But its worth the wait. The finished meringue will be nice and smooth to eat.

Before you top the cupcakes, scoop out the middle (or use one of those fancy cupcake hole makers) of each cupcake and put a teaspoon of lemon curd into each hole.

Once you have your finished meringue put into you piping bag – with nozzle of choice – and pipe onto the cupcakes with your desired pattern of preference.

Glaze under a very hot grill, or use a hand-held bakers’ blow torch to give the meringue some colour. Please take care which ever you use,  make sure you take necessary precautions if using a blow torch. The naked flame is hot and will burn! It stating the obvious perhaps, but its easy to lose concentration.

To finish – drizzle with some extra honey and sprinkle the lemon zest over the tops and enjoy.

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hand-held-electric-whisk

 

 

Noah’s Annual Coeliac Check-up

It that time of year again – Noah’s annual check up. For a boy of 6 it has fastly become his worst time of year. By association Hospital = injections = pain. But with some bribery we got through it.

This year University Hospital of North Staffordshire  – who have been utterly brilliant since and from Noah’s diagnosis – sent us a note to book in for a blood test.  The blood test was a week before the actual appointment.  Meaning that when the appointment came round, we could discuss the results and next steps.  Previously we had the blood test and appointment on the same day, we would then have Noah’s result by post a week or more later.  This new way made way more sense.

It also made for 2 trips to the Hospital – an easy one and a not so easy one.  Two trips that we needed to prepare Noah for, trips that he is becoming to understand and also necessary. But still the questions – Will I need to go every year? When will I be normal free? Why cant I be like my friend?  Not easy ones to answer, but at least now I can assure him with the fact that I now have to have an annual blood test.  I have recently been diagnosed with an under active thyroid.  It has given him some comfort, daddy has to have some pain too.

The blood test day came and went, we tried to make nothing of it (and I was 3 packets of Pokémon cards light) and almost passed without too much bother.  And then the wait…

Although we know we are doing everything right, that we are providing a gluten free household (it’s so much easier for us all to eat with Noah, rather than provide different meals) there is still that nervous caution.  We can’t control the school meals, but again we have some trust with them as we have not seen any adverse reactions. Oddly the only time recently we have noticed a reaction was after a trip to Pizza Express – which was very disappointing.

Appointment day arrives – Noah gets to leave school in the middle of the day, which he really liked.  The results were great. All good and a ‘well done Mum & Dad’.  Blood count was below the limit, so we continue to manage Noah’s diet (and ours), although now and after the team there were able to analyse the blood result, Noah needs to eat more protein, as his iron level was a little low – increase his meat intake.  Eating his own body weight in green vegetables was not going to be an option!

And so the journey continues, as Noah gets older, so will his tastes and so will this blog (hopefully) continue to provide an insight into Noah’s world.  There will be an interesting time coming up – and an opportunity to try foods he will have never seen before – more on that later in the year.

So onto a new recipe, soft, sweet and crunchy with a little bitterness from the berries

Line a small 20x10x3cm baking tray with greaseproof for the cake and line a shallow tray with greaseproof for the crumble mix and preheat the oven to Gas 4/180c

gluten-free-chocolate-and-blackcurrant-crumble-slices

For the sponge-

120g very soft butter

120g light brown sugar

3 eggs lightly beaten

80g gluten free self raising flour

30g Cocoa

10g Ground Almonds

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

60g sour cream

The Jam –

200g Blackcurrant Jam (or make your own – see below)

The Crumble –

100g Gluten free plain flour

70g butter

70g caster sugar

To begin with put the crumble ingredients into a food mixer and blend until you have ‘breadcrumbs’. A few short bursts on pulse should do it. Then spread the crumble mix in the shallow tray and bake for about 10 – 12 minutes or until the mix is lightly browned. And as it’s gluten free it will have all merged into one ‘biscuit’. Fear not, just leave it to go cold and break it up to form nice crispy bits . Leave to one side for now.

To make the sponge, pop all the ingredients (not the jam) into your mixer (I used a kitchen aid mixer with a beater attachment) and beat for about 3 – 4 minutes until all the ingredients are fully blended and mixed together. Pour into the 3cm deep tray and bake for about 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from the tray.

Spread with the Blackcurrant jam and sprinkle over with the cooled Crumble … Slice and enjoy

Now I did have some Blackcurrant in the freezer and made my own quick jam. 250g of fresh (defrosted) Blackcurrants and 150g granulated sugar.  Pop them into a saucepan and bring to a slow boil, stirring and boil for about 15 minutes. Leave to cool before using.

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Gluten Free Pancakes

Pancake Day comes around with astounding regularity, yet I don’t think I’ve put a recipe together for the occasion. Sad but true so no better time than now to put that right.

gluten-free-pancakes

Sadly Pancake Day is invariably in the working week and making time to put the batter together isn’t always top priority – or time itself just slips away and by the time we get around to it, its just too late.  But with a little forward thinking anything is in fact possible! So the night before put the ingredients together and whisk them all up, pop them in a bowl, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge. The following evening you are ready to fry/cook.

This makes at least 6 pancakes

  • 160g gluten free plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • sunflower/vegetable oil for frying – no more than 6 tablespoons worth.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk.  Either with a hand-held whisk, electric whisk or hand-held blender. Depending on how thick (or thin) you like your pancake mix, you can add a little more flour or a drop more milk.  If you can leave this for about half an hour, great.  If not, not. Or if you are planning ahead cover and put in the fridge.

If using straight away, heat your frying pan over a medium heat – gas or electric – pour in a tablespoon of oil and swirl around the pan and using a piece of kitchen roll wipe out to remove excess oil. Using either a ladle or from a jug, pour – in a gentle stream – the batter into the frying pan and moving the pan ensure the batter spreads – crepe like – around the base of the hot pan.

As the batter cooks – the batter will set and the edges will curl up – watch the heat and with a palette knife lift up the pancake to see if it’s cooked. If so – flip it over to cook the other side. Finish cooking and serve – all over within 3 – 4 minutes and most of that on side 1. Serve with topping of choice – lemon, sugar (or both), chocolate sauce or Maple Syrup or….. The choice is yours.

Repeat until all the batter has been used and everyone’s happy.

If you are using batter from the night before or from a 30 minutes rest, ensure you give it another good whisk. Again if it’s too thick – ‘water’ down with some more milk. The flour will have thickened the batter.

Happy Pancake Day

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Half Term Fun

At last!

You do have to feel for the little ones, its been a long start to the school year with the bulk of school year seemingly over and with little in the way of a break, we have decided to have a pretty slow and uneventful week at home. The first half of the school year has been pretty full on and you can see it in them – they (at least our 2 our) are very exhausted. The second half of the school year for us, now has 2 lots of 2 weeks off before the summer holidays. It just seems like it’s all down hill from here 🙂  A bit like Wednesday is Hump Day, so February/March is Hump Month! That’s a new phrase….

This month also sees Noah’s annual Coeliac check up and this year the hospital seem to have got their act together (not that it was ever disorganised – North Staffs have been fantastic) in that now we can get Noah’s blood tested, a week before the actual appointment. So come appointment day we can actually discuss his progress and concerns. Taking the blood for the test has never been Noah’s favourite time of year, by association a trip to the hospital has nearly always meant some form of pain. You can’t blame him really, but this year he was particularly brave and the visit passed almost without a tear. The promise of some Pokémon Trading Cards might have helped…. So more on the results later. For now we’ll enjoy the rest of the half term with a spot of laziness.

One thing that has though happened is that I have now found a new cake treat that Noah enjoys. Gluten Free Cherry and Marzipan Shortbread.

gluten-free-cherry-and-marzipan-shortbread

Line a baking tray roughly 20x10x3cm with greaseproof and preheat the oven to Gas 2/140c

  • 200g diced butter
  • 200g rice flour
  • 100g caster sugar (plus a little extra for dusting – 2 tablespoons)
  • 100g cornflour
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
  • 150g marzipan
  • 1 small jar (225g) of Opie’s Cocktail Cherries – drained and dried (with paper/kitchen towel)

Put the butter, sugar and flours into a food processor and blitz for about a minute until you have fine breadcrumbs. Remove from the food processor bowl and bring the mixture together to form a dough ball – divide this into 2.

Roll out one half of the dough to the size of your tin and then sprinkle the surface with the cherries and the marzipan – broken up into small pieces.

making-gluten-free-cherry-and-marzipan-shortbreadRoll out your second piece of shortbread dough and place over the top and lightly press down, taking care not to break the surface but to get a nice seal at the edges. No need to brush them with anything though.

Place into the middle of the oven and bake slowly for about 35 – 40 mins until a light brown colour has been achieved.

Remove from the oven – sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of extra caster sugar – and leave to completely cool in the tin before removing and cutting into 15 squares – or larger depending on your appetite.

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opies-glace-cherries

Gluten Free Sachertorte

Oh my word…this is one seriously rich dessert.

Not one for the faint hearted and certainly one for a weekend special or dinner party. Not one really to indulge in for 2. Unless you have stomachs of concrete!

This has been on my list of things to do for some time, but finding time to slot it in has been the tricky part.  It’s not a complicated recipe, it’s just made up of different stages, so leave yourself plenty of time to make, bake and decorate and then enjoy it’

gluten-free-sachertorte

  • melt the chocolate and butter
  • whip up the meringue
  • whip up the yolks and sugar
  • mix in the gluten free flour and chocolate mix
  • the add in the meringue in 4 waves
  • bake
  • slice into 3
  • fill with jam
  • melt chocolate and pour on top
  • decorate

I have adapted this recipe from the ‘Bake it Better – Classic Cakes’ book, that came from ‘The Great British Bake Off series of books. There isn’t much adapting but I have also added my own little touch, suspecting that if I didn’t it could be dryer – as is usually the case with gluten free baking. More on that in a bit.

Ingredients for the cake;

  • 180g Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces – I use Callebaut 70.5% cocoa solids
  • 100g butter – unsalted
  • 5 eggs separated – 4 yolks and 5 whites – at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 115g caster sugar (split 85g and 30g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 85g gluten free plain flour

For the filling;

  • 200g Apricot jam – Hartley’s do a wonderful squeezy bottle one
  • 80ml Amaretto

For the chocolate glaze;

  • 190g Dark Chocolate – as before
  • 40g butter
  • 60ml double cream

to finish off

  • 30g dark chocolate – as before

And so to begin;

  • Preheat the oven Gas 3/140c
  • Line the 8″ deep, loose bottomed cake tin, base and sides with greaseproof
  • Begin by melting the chocolate and butter for the cake – melt gently in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. Once nearly melted remove from the heat and set to one side whilst the chocolate and butter finish melting and it cools down.
  • Whisk the 5 egg whites until soft peaks – about 5 minutes and then with the 85g of sugar – add in whilst whisking a spoon at a time. You are making a meringue and you need to keep whisking until the meringue goes ‘stiff’.
  • Once whisked – and if you only have one large bowl like I, take out the meringue and place on a large plate.
  • Into the bowl put the 30g sugar, 4 egg yolks and vanilla paste and then whisk some more until double in volume. Until if you remove the whisk it leaves a ribbon. Ribbon Stage.
  • Then stir in the cooled chocolate mixture, sifted flour and one-quarter of the meringue.  Stir it gently and ensure there are no white streaks from the meringue or flour.
  • Fold in the remaining meringue in three batches, ensuring no streaks.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 – 40 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool before lifting out and removing the greaseproof.
  • Once cooled you can begin to fill 🙂
  • Slice the cake so that you have 3 layers – or just 2 layers.  If you have one of those cake layer cutter, you can ensure the slices are cut evenly.
  • Using the top layer of the cake as your base – drizzle with 40ml of Amaretto and spread with 80g of apricot jam. Put on the next layer of cake, drizzle with the remaining Amaretto and spread with 80g of apricot jam. Top off the cake with the last slice of cake and use the remaining 40g of apricot jam and brush the sides of the cake.
  • Then to make the chocolate glaze;
  • As before melt the 190g of dark chocolate with the 40g of butter, remove from the heat once melted.
  • Heat the double cream in a saucepan until just before it boils – keep your eye on, or it could catch the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the hot cream onto the melted chocolate, stirring as you do, then mix well until you have a glossy chocolate glaze – pour over the cake ensuring the chocolate mix covers the sides.
  • Leave on the work surface to cool and set – don’t put it in the fridge – please.
  • Melt the remaining chocolate, as before and place into a piping bag with the end snipped off, to pipe the decoration – ‘Sacher’.
  • Cool and slice

gluten-free-sachertorte