Tag Archive | treats

Cherry Bakewell Traybake

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The last few weeks have flowed like syrup. Dark, sticky and heavy with the promise of thunder. Thoughts move slowly, my body even more so as I do my best “Edwardian lady” impression – floating around the house in diaphanous gowns and drinking endless cups of tea.

edwardian lady

Any proper afternoon tea should come with a cake of some sort. No delicate little fancies for me however, what I require is a cake that matches the weather: dense, moist and almost (but not quite) a little too sweet.

In my head, Cherry Bakewells mean Mr Kipling. I experienced no other as a child and I can’t say I cared for them all that much. I found them too dry, too small and not nearly almond-y enough for my palette. This is a shame really as I consider cherry and almond to be a flavour combination made in heaven, and one that is perfect for summer. This recipe is not like Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Nor is it like an authentic Bakewell tart, which is an entirely different entity. It is a sort of hybrid: a were-bake: a Franken-well… but one that tastes very nice.

Recipe Notes

  • This is not necessary a quick recipe. The various stages are simple enough but it does take time. For people with limited “spoons” like me this can be problematic. I’ve found I can reduce the time by completing each stage in the order given below and/or actually making the pastry in advance and freezing it. (It freezes perfectly well for several months) I also love my food processor. It saves me so much time and effort, and I can even put it in the dishwasher. I know they’re expensive (mine was a gift from my Dad) but if you cook a lot it might be worth the investment. The good news is, simple ones work just as well for day-to-day cooking as fancy ones with all the attachments. It’s also possible to find old 70s/80s food processors at flea markets and car boot sales being sold for next to nothing. My Mum has had her food processor for around 30 years and it’s still going strong.
food-processor

My Mum’s is not this exact brand but it looks like this.

  • So far, I have made this recipe using eggs and have also made it completely vegan, using chia seed goo instead. Personally, I prefer the fully vegan version as it is much denser and stickier. But, if you are not vegan and prefer a lighter, more risen sponge layer then the eggs are for you. See my recipe here for how to make the chia seed egg replacement. It’s really easy and only takes a few minutes.

 

  • Similarly, if you are using gluten free flour for the pastry then I’ve found that an egg or chia seed substitute helps to bind it all together a little better. But if you are not using gluten free flour then this is not necessary at all.

 

  • If you don’t use polenta or ground almonds very much and don’t want a situation where you have half a packet lurking in the back of the cupboard forever more, you can replace them in the pastry with the equivalent amount of flour. They’re not vital ingredients at all, they just make the pastry taste that bit nicer.

 

  • I nearly always use golden caster sugar in my baking because I like the slight caramel taste but you don’t have to – normal caster sugar works just fine.

 

  • The amount of water used in the icing seems tiny but go with it. For years I made icing too runny by adding more water than I should because it seemed right at the time. It wasn’t until I discovered this ratio that I finally achieved the perfect consistency of “firm enough not to run all down the sides but runny enough to not be fondant”. I promise you, it works.

 

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 6oz gf plain flour
  • 1.5oz polenta
  • ½ oz ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz (vegan) butter
  • 2oz golden caster sugar
  • EITHER 1 egg OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (1/4 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 tbs water)
  • A little water

Filling

  • 4oz gf self raising flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 8oz (vegan) butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • EITHER 4 medium eggs, beaten OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (4 tbs chia seeds + 16 tbs water)
  • About half a jar of jam – strawberry, raspberry or cherry works nicely

Icing

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3tbs water
  • 25g flaked almonds (toasted)
  • 20 glace cherries

Method

Pastry

First make the pastry (this can always be done in advance to save time).

The method is pretty much the same as with any pastry, and if you have a food processor you can skip the faff, pop all of the ingredients in together and watch the magic happen. If not, do the following…

1.  Mix the flour, polenta, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

2.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mix. “Rub it in” using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3.  Mix in the sugar.

4.  Add the chia seed egg replacer/egg yolk and mix in well.

5.  Add a tiny bit of water at a time, mixing with a spoon and then your hands until the mixture comes together to form a solid ball. The amount of water you will need depends on the individual mix so go slowly. If you are using a particularly large egg you may not need any water at all.

6.  Ideally, wrap the pastry in clingfim and chill in the fridge for half an hour (if you are pushed for time you can skip this step).

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7.  Grease the inside of a large roasting tin with oil and dust with flour to coat the surface.

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8.  Roll out your pastry to fit the tin. Rather than attempt a complicated transfer process with fragile, crumbly gluten free pastry, I find it easier to simply roll it out part way, and then squish it out the rest of the way into the corners of the tin with my fingers.

9.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork. (This helps the pastry to stay flat and crisp)

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10.  Spread a generous layer of jam all over.

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Filling

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling… (That rhymes!)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

2.  In a large bowl, cream (mix really hard) the butter and sugar until pale in colour.

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3.  Add the “eggs” a little at a time, stirring after each addition.

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4.  Add the almond essence and ground almonds.

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5.  Sieve in the flour and fold it in, in a “figure of 8” pattern.

6.  Spoon the mixture over the jam-covered pastry and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown.

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Icing

While the filling is cooking, make the icing… (That doesn’t rhyme. How disappointing)

  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  2. Stir in the water.

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Put it all together!

  1. Once the filling is reasonably cool, spread the icing over it (leave it in the tin at this stage) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

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2. Place 20 glace cherries evenly over the surface.

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3. Cut into 20 squares with a sharp knife.

4. Leave in a cool place for the icing to set a little more and lift the squares out of the tin.

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A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)

Ingredients

  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 
    800px-Neufchâtel.jpg

    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday Night Pizza

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Mmm…egg, Quorn and mixed veg

gluten free/vegetarian/ lactose free/can be made vegan

In preparation for the weekend, I bring you… homemade pizza. This is our Saturday night treat and my own spin on the one my Mum used to make for us growing up.

When I made this the other week I was talking to my Mum on the phone as I made the bases, absentmindedly adding the familiar ingredients to my food processor while balancing the phone between ear and shoulder. Normally this recipe is one I can virtually make in my sleep, however this time something went wrong. While I was distracted by the tale of Mum’s near-forensic removal of every fuchsia in her new garden and their subsequent herbaceous replacements I forgot one vital thing.

In horror I watched as, instead of coming together satisfyingly to form a smooth ball in the food processor, the dough rapidly separated into soggy breadcrumbs that resembled nothing so much as curdled cheese. I tipped it out onto the work surface in an attempt to kneed it into submission but the crumbs not only refused to submit, they defiantly bounced all over the kitchen in a bid for freedom. I told my Mum I would have to phone her back; this was a disaster that needed my undivided attention. I contemplated the disintegrated mess with the sort of dismay usually reserved for a small-scale nuclear war. Why? Why? What went wrong? And then it hit me.

Xanthan gum.

Gluten free friends, heed ye this warning! If you have ever doubted the efficacy of adding extra xanthan gum to your gluten free flour believe in it’s awesome power now!

Xanthan gum is a magical substance that acts as binder in gluten-free baking – it basically mimics what the gluten would normally do. It seems like such a little thing to add to your cooking – just a teaspoon of innocuous white powder – what could it possibly be doing? It’s not until you forget it that you can truly see its effects.

In the end, I scraped the mixture back into the machine, added the extra xanthan gum and a few desert spoons of flour and it was just fine, if a little doughy when cooked. A happy ending for a hungry gardening enthusiast.

Recipe Tips

  • This is a scone base so it is a little different from a traditional pizza in that it is much thicker and more filling but it’s still just as delicious. I use a food processor for this recipe to save time but you can do it the traditional way just as well. The polenta in the recipe is optional – you can just use 8oz of flour instead of 6oz – but I find the polenta gives it a lighter texture and a nicer taste.
  • If you want to make the base vegan you can replace the egg with any of the following: a little more soya milk, vegan egg replacer, chia seed goo, or a handful of grated “melty” vegan cheese. The last three will help to bind the mixture in the same way that the egg would. If you go for the soya milk option be prepared for a slightly crumblier base.
  • The vegan cheese I use is a brand specially designed to be “melty” and suitable for pizza. I have found however that it only does this if you put it directly onto the tomato sauce, before the rest of the toppings. If you sprinkle it right on top it just goes crispy. (Also nice in its own way if you like crispy cheese) I do a combination of both for a crispy cheese top and molten under-layer of deliciousness.

Ingredients

To make two large gluten/dairy free pizzas.

Base

pizza3

A giant ball of dough

  • 12oz self-raising flour (gluten free mix)
  • 4oz polenta
  • 2tsp xanthan gum
  • 4oz vegan spread
  • 2 eggs (or substitute)
  • Large pinch of salt and pepper
  • Large pinch of Italian herb mix
  • Soya milk (or substitute)

Tomato sauce for 2 pizzas

  • A jar of tomato passata (or tin of chopped tomatoes if using the food processor)
  • A teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar (optional if you are sugar-free, but does bring out the flavour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • A teaspoon Italian herb mix
  • A shake of salt and pepper
  • Optional extras to be added at the dictates of whimsy and the contents of your kitchen cupboard include: garlic, red wine, concentrated tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, red peppers.

 

Traditional method…

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the fat straight out of the fridge so that it is as cold as possible and cut it up into small chunks before adding it the bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some soy milk or water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about half an hour (this step is optional but does help when rolling it out)
  4. Roll out into a pizza shape on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, as thin as you can before it starts falling apart. (It will probably crumble a little around the edges, if this happens just fold them back in and roll again. Using your fingers can be easier than a rolling pin at this stage)

    pizza1

    The base

For the sauce…

Locate bowl. Mix ingredients in bowl. Gosh that was complicated.

Alternatively…

  1. To make the base, gleefully tip everything into the food processor, turn on and marvel at the wonders of technology. Gradually add some milk or water, just a little bit at a time until the mixture comes together to form one solid ball. Wrap and chill the dough.
  2. Pop the tomato sauce ingredients into the food processor (I might give it a quick wipe first but it’s usually fine as it is) and pulse for a few seconds to mix and chop the sauce more finely.

Add the toppings of your choice.

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Toppings…

In my house this can be any combination from the following list but your pizza can be as creative as you are.

I like: vegan “pizza” cheese, vegan cream cheese, peppers, mushrooms, courgette, aubergine, mixed seafood, smoked mackerel, egg, ham, pineapple, vegetarian hot dogs, Quorn chunks, bacon, anchovies, olives, spinach…

…Maybe one day I should try them all at once and see what happens…

pizza2

Before cooking

Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for approximately half an hour.