Friday, 17 November 2017

Easy Home-Made More Nut, Less Sugar (healthier than Nutella then!) Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Book yourself into Nutel-anon now... This stuff is addictive!

With the news last week that Ferrero has changed the recipe of Nutella without telling us (NoOoOoOo...), I decided it was time to try making my own version of this famous Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread. The reported 'fine tuning' of this favourite has resulted in Nutella apparently having a higher sugar and fat content and fewer hazelnuts. Outrageous!

Definitely time for a radical response..... Home-Made, More Nut, Less Sugar (healthier than Nutella then!) Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread.

Living in Kent, known also as the 'Garden of England', we are really lucky to have cobnuts (or 'filberts') which are a traditional, but local variety of hazelnut..... and they are perfectly in season right now. A couple of years ago, we bought a cobnut tree for the garden and although it has a way to go before we start to get a good harvest, it is so cool to see a few nuts beginning to appear each year. It is always a bit of a race to get to them before the squirrels, but when we do, the excitement of eating them is way off the scale.

Sadly, I didn't have enough home-grown cobnuts to make this spread, but there have been plenty in the farm shops and local greengrocers, so it seems a shame not to use them.

Whatever your hazelnut source (and supermarket ready-blanched packs are just fine), the Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread is amazingly easy to make, providing you have a high quality, robust blender. Make sure you roast your hazelnuts first for a more intensely nutty flavour.

Then blend to a smooth paste with a little oil, before adding and blending in the other ingredients (the addition of the cocoa adds an extra depth to the flavour notes).... finishing with the melted chocolate. Done!

The Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread will be liquid from the heat of the blending process and the melted chocolate, but once it has cooled to room temperature, it will firm to a spreadable consistency. Pour into jars whilst still warm and store at room temperature.

But be warned..... it is difficult to leave alone..... This stuff is seriously delicious. You may just find yourself spoon in hand, hiding in a dark corner, as you uncontrollably scoop mouthful after mouthful until the jar is clean.....

Hold that thought...... it is far more civilised spread on toast or served with gluten free bread sticks!

I am sharing my Easy Home-Made More Nut, Less Sugar (healthier than Nutella then!) Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread with :

We Should Cocoa with Tin and Thyme

Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Fiesta Friday #198 with Angie, Cooking with Aunt Ju and Spades, Spatulas & Spoons

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (Makes 2 small jars)


160g raw blanched (or ready roasted and de-skinned) hazelnuts
2½ tablespoons walnut oil (or hazelnut/other nut or another mild-flavoured oil)
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
180g plain chocolate - chopped
100 g milk chocolate - chopped


  1. First you need to roast your raw blanched hazelnuts : preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. Spread the raw hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden, giving the nuts a shake on the tray a couple of times during roasting to prevent burning. 
  2. Place the nuts in a heavy duty blender with the oil and blend until you have a very smooth liquid (this will take a few minutes). Make sure you blend in bursts and scrape down the sides to catch all the nut pieces.
  3. Add the icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt and blend again.
  4. Place the chopped chocolate into a glass heat-proof bowl and use either a microwave (on 30 second bursts at medium setting stirring between each) or set over a pan of barely simmering water (stirring frequently), to melt the chocolate. 
  5. Pour the liquid chocolate into the blender with the other ingredients and blend again until you have a smooth, even mixture.
  6. Pour into jars. The spread will be hot and runny from the blending process, but will firm up as it cools.
  7. Store at room temperature.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Simple but Perfect gluten free Victoria Sandwich Cake (also rice free, nut free and optional dairy free)

Every food blog needs a Victoria Sandwich Cake doesn't it? It is the sponge which (in my humble opinion) says you are either an OK baker or a good baker. Forget fancy Battenberg, Angel Cake, Coffee & Walnut Cake, or Jamaican Ginger....., a Victoria Sandwich may look simple (it is easy to ask what could possibly go wrong with a plain vanilla sponge, sandwiched with jam), but getting the right crumb, texture, density and flavour can be something of a technical challenge.

Because it is so well known and such an iconic bake, there is nowhere to hide if you get it wrong..... this also however, makes it an ideal base to test and hone baking skills. It is no surprise that it is one of the significant large cakes that school kids get to make..... and for good reason. The principles of ratio, of creaming soft butter with sugar, of beating in eggs and managing potential curdle and of sifting flour and carefully folding to ensure a lightness worthy of the great queen herself, are all skills which once mastered, will serve any baker for life.

As a child, I remember making endless Victoria Sandwich Cakes.... and yes, my first was in the school domestic science kitchen. They rarely went wrong and they were always greeted with happy enthusiasm by those who ate them.....

These days, things are not so predictable. When you are gluten free, many baking rules go out of the window the day you stop eating wheat flour..... With its instantly recognisable and quintessential familiarity, it somehow seemed important to get this bake right. The Victoria Sandwich Cake recipe I share here comes at the end of a line of attempts to get the perfect crumb.

In testing, I made number of cakes where I straight subbed my gluten free flour blends on equal weight ratios of fat to sugar to flour as in a standard Victoria Sponge recipe, but found the bakes to be quite fickle. Sometimes they would work well and other times the result was heavy and stodgy. Although most of the GF VS recipes across cyberspace do use the standard ratios, I was not happy with something so unpredictable..... so I have slightly lowered the fat content, slightly increased the flour content and added extra liquid to compensate for the moisture-sucking properties of gluten free flour.

Gluten Free flours also tend not to absorb fat as easily as wheat flour and consequently like-for-like subs can result in greasy results. The easiest solution is to slightly reduce fat content, but be sure to add compensatory moisture and richness through additional yoghurt or milk.

Boy.... the result is amazing..... Light, sweetly-balanced, vanilla-infused, moist but not dense and risen to perfection...... no humps and spirit-level even.

Sandwiched with a thick, sweet layer of fruity raspberry jam (I left out additional buttercream, as I think a good Victoria sponge needs nothing more), this cake is fit for any tea-time table and is a perfect offering for bake sales, charity coffee mornings and sharing with friends.... just because you can. It is also easy to make dairy free if you need to.

On the technical bake front...... As with any Victoria Sponge, it is essential that your butter is softened, your eggs are at room temperature and your flour is sifted before mixing. If you beat your eggs together before you add them (very slowly) to the creamed fat and sugar, you will also lessen the chance of curdling.....

I am so pleased with this recipe..... I hope you love it too. I am sharing with :

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse

Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain

Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Love Cake with Jibber Jabber - Keep it Simple

Bake of the Week with Casa Costello and Mummy Mishaps

Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup and Coffee & Vanilla

Victoria Sandwich Cake (makes 1 x 8 inch (20 cm) sandwich cake)

Ingredients (You will be able to substitute for an alternative plain gluten free flour blend at 260g - although results of texture may vary. An alternative ready-mixed rice-free blend can be purchased from the Free From Fairy - link in side bar)

260g plain GF flour blend (I used my rice-free blend that you can find instructions for here)
pinch fine sea salt
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
240g softened butter/dairy free alternative
250g caster sugar (works best with bog-standard white)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs - must be at room temperature 
120 ml dairy free or cows milk

approx 280 to 300g good quality raspberry/strawberry jam
icing sugar to dust 


  1. Base line two 8 inch (20 cm) loose-bottomed, round cake tins with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside (I mix mine in a large airtight container and shake well).
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to cream the butter with the caster sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together until well blended and then very gradually add them to the butter mix a little at a time and beat thoroughly, making sure each addition is well-blended before adding the next and adding a tablespoon of flour mix to the bowl if the mixture looks like it may curdle. 
  5. Sift about a third of the flour into the mixing bowl with about a third of the milk and fold in using a large spoon or spatula.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the flour and milk about a third at a time. Once all is mixed, you should have a batter with a soft dropping consistency.
  7. Split the cake batter between the two tins evenly and level the tops with the back of a spoon/spatula.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown, a skewer inserted comes out clean and the tops spring back to the touch.
  9. Remove from the oven and turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  10. When cold, place one sponge on a serving plate (golden side down) and generously but evenly spread jam across the surface.
  11. Place the second sponge on top of the first (golden side up).
  12. Dust the top with a light sifting of icing sugar and serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Halloween Trick or Treat Roulette Rocky Road #FreeFromHalloween

Looking for something a bit different for your Halloween Party? Get the kids scared with this Halloween Rocky Road. It may look innocent, but inside its inviting, colourful, exterior lurks a dark secret. This is no ordinary Rocky Road..... It is a Halloween Trick or Treat ROULETTE Rocky Road and its secret is set to freak out anyone who dares to eat a slice.

The recipe makes 16 tempting squares of delicious chocolate-M&M-Marshmallow loveliness, but when you gamble on your greediness, you may just get a shock! Inside two of these unoffending blocks is hidden a vicious, chilli-chocolate surprise..... For the (un)lucky person who gets one, they are in for a hot, spicy scare.

Set it on the party table with a big sign saying 'dare to eat a slice?' and watch your guests as they tentatively, anxiously nibble or feel the unexpected burn. This Rocky Road is perfect for an older kid or adult party, but even I would be reluctant to give it to littlies. On the other hand, it could be easily adapted to replace the chilli with something more child-friendly.... maybe a jelly sweet or something with an oogly texture.

Even better.... this recipe is a simple, no bake, throw together job which is so quick to make, you can be sure it will be ready for your party at short notice. Good job really..... I seem to have come to the idea with only a couple of days to spare and have posted it almost too late....

So without any further waffle, I will share with you, my lovely readers and wish you a Happy Halloween...... Enjoy the treats, but remember..... the tricks are lurking in the most unexpected places!

Linked with :

Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse 

Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy

Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello

Fiesta Friday #195 with Angie, Everyday Healthy Recipes and Indfused

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Looking for more allergy and intolerance-friendly Halloween Inspiration? You can find a full list of bloggers involved in this months #FreeFromHalloween Party here.

Halloween Trick or Treat Roulette Rocky Road


150g butter - cut into cubes
200g dark chocolate - chopped 
50g golden syrup
20g cocoa powder
200g gluten free rich tea biscuits (I used Schar)
80g M&Ms (+ a few extra for decoration)
50g mini GF marshmallows (placed in the freezer for a couple of hours)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

chilli trick (for two tricks)
1 cube of dark chocolate
2+ pinches of chilli powder (more or less depending on how vicious you want you 'trick' to be)

80g white chocolate
orange food colouring paste


  1. Prepare an 8 inch square cake tin by completely lining with cling film (so that it hangs over the sides) and on top of this, base-line with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Prepare your chilli tricks first, by placing a chunk of chocolate into a very small, microwavable bowl and heating in the microwave at 30 second bursts (medium setting), stirring between each until melted. Add the chilli powder and stir through thoroughly. Scoop out the chocolate and divide into two blobs on a piece of baking paper. Place in the fridge to set.
  3. Rocky Road - Place the butter, dark chocolate, golden syrup and cocoa powder into a large, microwaveable/heatproof bowl. 
  4. Microwave on medium heat at 30 second bursts stirring between each, to melt all the ingredients until completely blended and smooth (if you don't have a microwave, you can heat in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring frequently).
  5. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Whilst cooling, prepare your biscuits, by either breaking with your hands or bashing (in a clean food bag and using a rolling pin) into smallish pieces. Alternatively, you can cut into thin sticks with a sharp knife. Set aside.
  7. In a large bowl, mix together the chocolate mixture, biscuit pieces, M&Ms, mini marshmallows and vanilla extract.
  8. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and push to the sides, so that it is evenly spread. It will look quite lumpy on the surface.
  9. Mentally divide the square into a grid 4 x 4 and using a teaspoon, carefully scoop up a little mixture from one of the grid pieces and place one of the chilli tricks into the mixture, replacing the scoop on top to hide the trick. Repeat to hide the second trick in another section.
  10. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours until fully set.
  11. Remove the Rocky Road from the tin and peel off the clingfilm and baking paper. Place on a clean cutting board.
  12. Melt your white chocolate in a small microwavable (I use glass) bowl, on medium heat at 30 second bursts, stirring between each until melted and smooth (or place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently).
  13. Add a little food colouring paste to the chocolate and mix thoroughly, then drizzle over the Rocky Road.
  14. Whilst the chocolate decoration is still unset, top with a few extra M&Ms and mini marshmallows.
  15. Leave to set in the fridge.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Mocha Celebration Cake (gluten free; nut free; rice-free; optional dairy free sponge and frosting)

It doesn't matter what time of year it is, there is always a birthday or celebration to be part of and what better way to celebrate than cake. This Mocha Cake is pretty straight forward to make and tastes amazing...... Rich, fudgy chocolate cake with a hint of coffee bitterness, smothered in sweet, creamy mocha butter-icing and decorated with simple piping and mocha beans.

Sounds good? you bet!

Recently I have lost my blogging mojo, partly fuelled by the tyranny that is social media follow up, but also just the challenge of trying to fit in baking, photography, editing and writing it all up alongside a full-time job.

I actually made this cake to celebrate Miss GF's birthday back in the summer..... She seems to have become quite obsessed with coffee recently.... hot, cold, iced, in cake, icing, biscuits, ice cream..... anything goes. Unsurprisingly therefore, the cake didn't last long, although we did share a few slices with friends..... there were no complaints!

With Christmas coming, this would be a great cake to add to the party table. It is grown up enough to excite the adults, but all the kids we tested it on, wolfed it down too (with no hyper-effects as far as we could tell....).

But why wait until Christmas? If you haven't got any other celebrations coming up, treat yourselves anyway and enjoy a slice with a cup of tea and a good book for Sunday Elevenses. It will bring a decadent smile to your face and make you feel happy inside.

I am sharing this Mocha Celebration Cake with :

Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

We Should Cocoa with Tin and Thyme

Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse

Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello

Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain

Fiesta Friday #195 with Angie, Everyday Healthy Recipes and Indfused

Mocha Celebration Cake (makes 1 x 8 inch/20 cm sandwich cake)


Sponge Cake  - adapted from a Cake Angels recipe by Julia Thomas
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
125 ml cold water
200g good quality dark chocolate - cut into pieces
200g unsalted butter - cubed (or dairy free alternative)
170g gluten free plain flour (I used the GFA rice-free blend from this post)
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
400g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
75 ml milk/dairy free alternative
½ tablespoon lemon juice
3 large eggs - beaten

Mocha Butter Icing
200g good quality dark chocolate - chopped
240g unsalted butter - softened
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder (mixed to a smooth paste with 1 teaspoon boiling water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g icing sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk/dairy-free alternative

17 chocolate Mocha Beans
8 dark chocolate cigarillos
a dusting of finely grated chocolate


  1. Sponge : Base-line 2 x 8 inch (20 cm) round deep loose-bottomed non-stick cake tins with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  2. Mix the coffee powder with the water in a small saucepan and add the chocolate and butter. Heat, stirring frequently, over a medium heat until just melted. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl (or shake vigorously in a sealed airtight container), making sure the mixture is well blended and all lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. Heat the milk either in a microwave or in a small saucepan over a low heat until almost simmering and then take off the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir until the milk thickens and looks curdled.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until well blended and light.
  6. Add the milk mixture to the eggs and beat again.
  7. Pour the milk-egg mixture and the chocolate mix into the bowl of flour and stir with a large spoon or spatula until you have a well blended and smooth batter.
  8. Pour the mixture into the two tins and bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes, before loosening the sides with a spatula and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Butter Icing : Place the chocolate in a small glass bowl and melt in the microwave on medium setting, 30 second bursts, stirring well between each until smooth (or in a heatproof bowl set above a saucepan of lightly simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth).
  11. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with a little icing sugar and the vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar, the coffee, the melted chocolate and enough milk to ensure a thick, creamy, spreading consistency, beating between each addition. (if it seems a little too loose, keep beating until thick and/or add a little extra icing sugar).
  12. Putting the cake together : When the sponges are cold, place one on a decorating board and  spread the buttercream in a thick, even layer across it, before placing the second sponge on top.
  13. Using a spatula, spread a further layer of buttercream across the top and sides (making sure you leave some icing to pipe decorations) and smooth to the look that you want.
  14. Arrange the cigarillos across the top in an even 'spoke' pattern and using a wide, star-tipped nozzle and piping bag, pipe flower decorations on the sides and top of the cake.
  15. Finally add the Mocha Beans and a light, fine grating of dark chocolate.
  16. Chill in the fridge for about 40 minutes (to firm up the icing), before transferring to a serving plate. The cake can be stored at ambient temperature. 
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated