Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Gluten Free Mince Pies

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I can’t believe its over for another year. I have no idea where December when – whooosh – it’s gone! I’m so behind on my blogging but as its still winter I’m sure a few extra festive posts are still permitted. Mince pies are a case in point. It wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies. I only learnt to like them a few years back, but even before I enjoyed eating them, their gorgeous spicy aroma and very appearance always made it feel much more festive having them around.

This year I made my mince pies extra festive by using a snowflake cutter for the pastry top as I like the way this allows some of the filling to peak through the gaps as well as letting some of the sweet spicy smell waft up to waiting guests. I used a jar of shop bought mincemeat (check its gluten free) but I did add my own twist on it by adding some extra cinnamon and a generous slosh of Amaretto liqueur. This helped perk up the mincemeat and no doubt perked up the eaters too!

I made a sweet version of my gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe. It’s short, but not so much that it crumbles into a thousand pieces the minute your try to take a bite. The rice flour adds a faint grittiness, in a good way, so that it reminded me a little of shortbread.

Soon the house was full of the warming aroma of spices, citrus and alcohol which really enhanced the Christmas mood and drew people into the kitchen as they followed their noses to the oven. I made normal sized ones and then a few minis with the scraps of leftover pastry.

I couldn’t resist pinching one just out the oven. It was a little too hot and I burnt my mouth, but it tasted so yummy. My only complaint would be that I didn’t put enough mincemeat in. I made them again later on and made sure to fill them better. So make sure you’re generous with the mincemeat filling.

Did you know that it is considered good luck to eat a mince pie on every day of each of the 12 days of Christmas, 26th December and ending with Epiphany on 6th January, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy them!

Gluten Free Mince Pies
Ingredients - Pastry
100g brown rice flour
60g potato flour
70g white teff flour
30g icing sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum
110g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp cold water

GF Mincemeat to fill (around 300g)
5 tsp Amaretto (almond) liqueur
½ tsp cinnamon

Mix the mincemeat in a bowl along with the Amaretto and cinnamon. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180C and have ready 18 bun tins.
Mix all the flours and the xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.
Make sure you butter is soft, if not blast it in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to another mixing bowl along with half the flour mixture, icing sugar, egg and water. Beat with a spoon or spatula to form a paste. (Yes I know this goes against all traditional pastry making!) Add the rest of the flour and bring the mixture together to form a dough, switching to your hands at the end. Knead the dough gently for 1 minute to ensure everything is well combined.
Lay a large sheet of cling film on your work surface, place just over half the pastry in the centre and over with another large sheet of clingfilm. Roll the pastry out between the sheets until 3-4mm thick.
Remove the top sheet of clingfilm and use a pastry cutter, a little larger than the size of your bun tins, to cut out circles and use to line the hollows of the bun tins.
Fill each with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat.
Roll out the leftover pastry and use a star or snowflake cutter to cut out shapes for the top. Press the tips of the star into the sides of the pastry bases to seal.
Brush with a little milk and bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes until golden.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.
Makes around 18 mince pies (I made 14 normal and 12 mini’s)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Cake Slice December 2011: Chocolate Hazelnut Buche de Noel

Wow I can’t believe its only 4 days until Christmas. Where has the time gone? I’m so behind on my Christmas baking and posting. At least with the Cake Slice I have an actual deadline which makes me post it on time. This months winning cake was perfect for this time of year – a Buche de Noel otherwise known as a Yule Log, roulade or swiss roll. A Buche de Noel or Yule log is made extra festive than other roulades or rolls as they are covered in chocolate buttercream and shaped to look like a fallen branch of a tree.

It used to be traditional to go into the forest and gather logs to burn in the hearth on Christmas day. This was meant to bring good luck and warmth to the family for the upcoming year. No important occasion would be complete without a cake and so this dessert was created.

The sponge used to make the log has to be soft and flexible in order for it to roll up without cracking. This is done by the use of lots of whisked eggs and very little flour which is great for me as it means it was a doddle to adapt to be gluten free. There are meant to be two differently flavoured buttercreams, one for filling and the other for frosting, but as we can’t get the specified hazelnut praline paste here in the UK (to my knowledge) I kept things simple by using the chocolate buttercream inside and out. This was a win for my brother who is home for the holidays and believes nothing goes better with chocolate than more chocolate!

I used a hazelnut liqueur syrup to lightly soak the sponge before it is filled and rolled. This helps keep it moist and adds a slight sophisticated flavour. You wouldn’t really be able to tell what it is, but it does make it taste that little bit more special. It made me smile that the rolled but unfrosted cake looked a bit like a submarine.

As I was short of time I went for a simple decoration of just a few fondant holly leaves and some dried cranberry ‘berries’ as decoration. I also only made half the recipe given below as we weren’t in need of a large cake at the time. Snow was actually falling outside as I baked this cake and I was singing along to Michael Buble’s Christmas on the radio which really helped put me in the festive mood.

The finished cake was tasty, but in my opinion if you want a roulade then nothing beats the chocolate roulade my mum bakes every year for dessert on Christmas day for the non Christmas pud eaters. In case I don’t get round to posting again, have a wonderful Christmas everyone! Click to see the Cake Slice blogroll

Chocolate Hazelnut Buche de Noel
(Recipe adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Chocolate Chiffon Cake
65g plain flour (I used Doves GF flour – maize, tapioca, rice, potato & buckwheat)
130g caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
1¼ tsp gluten free baking powder
2 eggs
90ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Hazelnut Syrup
80ml water
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp Frangelico – Hazelnut liqueur

Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream
150g caster sugar
4 egg whites
45ml water
385g unsalted butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tbsp hazelnut praline paste (if you can get it!)

Chocolate Chiffon Cake
Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 11½ x 17½ inch swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper.
In a large bowl whisk the egg whites and cream to tartar together until foamy. Weigh out half the caster sugar and slowly add to the egg whites, whisking constantly until thick and glossy. Set aside.
In a clean bowl, whisk the whole eggs, oil and vanilla together until combined. Scatter the remaining half of the sugar over the top, along with the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Mix until just blended into a thick batter.
Take one third of the meringue mix and fold it through the chocolate mixture using a spatula to slacken it. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in gently until just mixed in.
Pour the chocolate mix into the prepared tin and spread it out into an even layer. It will be quite thin.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until slightly puffed and springy to the touch.
Lay another piece of greaseproof paper over a cooling rack and lightly dust with caster sugar.
Flip the cake layer out onto the sugar dusted paper and carefully peel off the parchment attached to the cake. Leave to cool before brushing with syrup and filling.

In a small saucepan combine the water and sugar and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and increase the heat to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before stirring in the liqueur. Set aside until required.

Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream
Place a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. In the bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites and water. Keep whisking until the mixture reached 160F on a sugar thermometer, it should turn white and glossy. Then remove from the heat and whisk with an electric mixer until the meringue thickens, becomes stiff and cool, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the speed of the mixer and gradually beat in the butter, small chunks at a time, until incorporated. Then beat in the vanilla.
Melt the chocolate and stir it through the half the buttercream, and fold hazelnut paste through the remaining half. (We can’t easily get nut pastes in the UK so I simply doubled the amount of chocolate and used that for everything)

Lay the cooled cake, still on the paper, on a clean flat surface and spread with the hazelnut buttercream (or half the chocolate mix if only made one buttercream) nearly to the edge of the cake.
Starting at the long edge, fold over a thin strip of the sponge to start off your roll. Then confidently roll up the rest of the sponge to form a log. Use the paper underneath to help you lift and roll the cake.
Trim off one end of the cake at a diagonal and place it on top of the cake to create a ‘stump.’ You can cut off another smaller piece to attach to the side too if you wish.
Transfer the cake to a large serving plate and use the chocolate buttercream to cover the cake.
Decorate with leaves, holly, meringue mushrooms or however you choose.
Place in the fridge to chill for half an hour before serving. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Fresh Cranberry & Orange Cake

Last weekend was my local coeliac group’s Christmas meal. It’s only the second time I’ve been but I’ve discovered any meeting is always a fun and festive affair. After a three course meal there is a short interlude where we listen to guest speakers and then it’s onto the wonderful English tradition of afternoon tea, which can mean only one thing – CAKE!

I’m very lucky in that my local group seem to be great food lovers (like myself) and whenever we all get together there is always a vast array of cakes, biscuits and buns all baked by fellow members for everyone to share around and enjoy. Not only is it a sugar rush experience of being able to eat everything on the table, but it’s a fantastic way of picking up some new recipes.

I kept changing my mind of what to bake for the occasion but in the end decided on a cranberry and orange cake. Fresh cranberries are finally available in the shops again – hurrah! – so I wanted to make the most of them. Cranberry and orange is a classic and very festive flavour combination so seemed ideal for the event.

I roughly blitzed the cranberries before stirring them through the cake mix as I wanted little speckles of cranberry studded throughout the cake rather than whole berries. This made it look very pretty when sliced, the cranberries all glossy and red like little gems. Topped with a drizzle of orange glaze and a ring of dried cranberries this makes for one simple yet very tasty cake.

There is no photo of a slice as I didn’t want to cut into the cake before I took it to share, but I’m pleased to say it went down well with the munchers. I actually made it dairy free as well as gluten free as I know some members have to avoid both and I wanted to ensure it would be safe for everyone to eat. I’ve come away with a delicious recipe for a super moist carrot drizzle cake, which I’m sure will be making an appearance on this blog at some point in the future.

Fresh Cranberry & Orange Cake
195g gluten free self raising flour
180g unsalted butter or dairy free margarine
180g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
75g fresh cranberries, blitzed into small chunks
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground ginger

Orange Glaze
100g royal icing sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
A few dried cranberries to decorate

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line the base of an 8inch/20cm springform tin.
Make sure the butter is very soft. Place the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and eggs into a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Add the orange and crushed cranberries and mix again to combine.
Spread into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.
Leave to cool for 20 minutes in tin before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the glaze, mix the icing sugar and orange juice together gradually until you have a smooth thick paste.
Spread on top of the cooled cake and decorate with a ring of dried cranberries.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Upside-Down Pear, Chocolate & Ginger Cheesecake

It was my Dad’s birthday last week and what’s a birthday without a birthday cake? We’ve been eating lots of cake in our household recently and so I wanted something different to the traditional sponge and decided instead to bake a cheesecake! It still has cake in the title after all.

My Dad, like me, is a huge foodie and after tasting dishes he always like to discuss the good and bad points about it and what could be done to improve upon it next time, so I knew that this cheesecake couldn’t be any old cheesecake, it would have to be an extra special cheesecake.

Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts, but I usually hate the bases. They are often damp and soft and I dislike the taste of mushy biscuits. I hit upon the idea of baking the base separately to the cheesecake layer and then putting the two together just before serving. I then moved onto thinking about the cheesecake itself. I knew I wanted to incorporate stem ginger somehow, as my Dad is a big fan of this, and decided to combine it with slices of pear and chocolate chunks as these three flavours always work well together.

I wanted the slices of pear to be arranged on top but thought I would have to simply place them on top after baking as I realised they would sink to the bottom of the pan if I’d put them on top of the unbaked cheesecake mix. However, I then had the most brilliant idea of making an upside down cheesecake! Arrange the pear on the base of the pan before pouring over the cheesecake mix. Once baked I would invert the cheesecake right side up, with the fruit now baked into the top of the cheesecake – just like a pineapple upside down cake! I’ve never seen this done before and I was so excited by the idea.

I was a little nervous turning my baked cheesecake out, unsure what I would find underneath. Thankfully the pear slices stayed in their ring formation and a few of the chunks of chocolate and stem ginger strips had gathered in the centre, creating a rather unusual yet quite attractive mosaic effect. All that was left to do was to place it on the pre baked (gluten free) biscuit base, chocolate for a nice contrast, and the cheesecake was complete!

All the family loved the birthday cheesecake and its quirkiness. To me it was almost perfect. The base had stayed wonderfully crisp and slightly nutty from baking, while the cheesecake top was rich, silky smooth and creamy. Each bite revealed something different, bitter chunks of dark chocolate, warming zingy strips of ginger or soft sweet pear.

I’ve never seen an upside-down cheesecake before, so I’m claiming this recipe as my own invention, and I’ll definitely be baking one again!

Upside-Down Pear, Chocolate & Ginger Cheesecake
(My own invention!)
Chocolate Base
200g digestive biscuits (I used GF ones)
10g cocoa powder
50g butter

1 tin pear halves
500g cream cheese
2 tsp cornflour
3 eggs
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 balls of stem ginger in syrup (approx 50g)
50g dark chocolate

Line a tray with foil and place an 8inch/20cm ring mould on top. (If you don’t have a ring mould use a round springform tin without the base. Preheat the oven to 175C.
Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until the biscuits are broken down and resemble fine crumbs. Add the cocoa powder and blitz again briefly.
Melt the butter in the microwave, add to the biscuit crumbs and blitz again to incorporate.
Tip the crumbs into the base of the ring mould and press down firmly to form an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift off the ring mould, leaving the base behind on the foil tray. Leave the base to cool before covering with clingfilm and storing until required.

For the Cheesecake
Leave the oven at 175C. Clean the ring mould used for the biscuits base and place on another foil lined tray. This time, gather up the excess foil, wrapping it around the edge of the ring mould to prevent any leaks.
Drain the pear halves and cut them into long slices. Arrange them in the base of the ring mould, in an even layer, fanning them out around the edge.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until no lumps remain and the cream cheese is soft and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scatter over the flour and beat again to incorporate.
Roughly chop the chocolate into small chunks and slice the stem ginger into thick matchstick shaped pieces.
Fold the chocolate and stem ginger into the cheesecake mix.
Pour the cheesecake mixture over the layer of pears in the mould.
Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. The cheesecake should be puffed up and slightly cracked around the edges, but still wobbly in the centre.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave to cool for 1½ hours before refrigerating for at least 4 hours, although ideally overnight. (Don’t worry if it cracks as this will be the base later on.)
When ready to serve, run a hot knife in-between the edge of the cheesecake and the tin and carefully lift off the ring mould. Place the cooled chocolate biscuit base on top of the cheesecake.
Carefully place a serving plate, right side down, over the top of the whole cheesecake and invert the whole thing right side up. Use the tray the cheesecake is on to help you.
Remove the baking tray (from the now top) and carefully peel away the foil to reveal the arrangement of pear slices that has now become the top of the cheesecake.
Refrigerate until required and serve in generous slices.