Thursday, 26 September 2013

Banoffee Cupcakes - gluten free and delicious


love banoffee pie. There is something about the gooey sweet caramel, mingling with firm little chunks of fresh banana, sitting on a biscuit base and all topped with a soft, airy cream that sends me into oblivious rapture. There are times when I have had banoffee pie soooooo good, that I have (totally spontaneously) replicated that famous scene out of 'When Harry Met Sally'. You must know the one I mean ........ 'I'll have what she's having..........'


I have been wanting to translate that deliciousness into banoffee cupcakes for a while now, and this week, I finally managed to get round to it.
 
There seem to be endless versions of banoffee cupcakes spattered across the pages of the Internet. Some use banana sponge, others have banana topping, some have cream and some have butter icing. Some use caramel cake and some use caramel topping, or filling or both. All look and sound wonderful to a banoffee fan, but none of them were quite where I wanted to be. This is my version.....................


I didn't want them to be too sugary-sweet (so steered clear of a frosting top) and I wanted to combine what I always consider to be the bits that make me go 'Mmmmmmmmmm', - fresh banana, light fresh whipped cream, rich caramel with that subtle 'childhood-memory provoking' condensed milk tang and of course, a hint of chocolate.


I was dreading having to boil cans of condensed milk to make my caramel. I have an acute aversion to the process after a very dear friend of mine (who has since, sadly died of cancer) caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to her kitchen and nearly put her son in hospital by forgetting it was on the stove and causing a massive and very sticky explosion. Thankfully, I discovered that Carnation now make the condensed milk already boiled into caramel. What a relief...... Thank you Carnation!

 

Given that it is the Macmillan Cancer Support World's Biggest Coffee Morning tomorrow (27th September 2013), raising funds for Cancer support (hope you're joining in!), these seem a thoroughly fitting tribute to her memory............


My cup cakes are made with a gluten free banana cake base dotted with chocolate chunks to give an unexpected extra chocolaty bite, against the soft, slightly chewy, bananary sponge. I also cored the cakes to hide a surprise dose of fresh banana and caramel. Sneaky huh? I was worried that the banana would go brown once cut, but it seems that smothering it in caramel and encasing it inside the cake keeps it incredibly fresh! I used a whipped cream and Mascarpone topping sprinkled with a little grated dark chocolate, which not only looks both simple and fantastic, but tastes really fresh and light and perfectly offsets the sweetness of the caramel and cake.


These cupcakes feel delightfully grown-up but with a hint of childhood thrown in. But beware, they are very, very moreish.....................

Banoffee Cupcakes (makes 24 cupcakes)

Ingredients            

1 batch of  chocolate chip banana cake mix made into cupcakes as from the recipe in this post.

Filling

1 tin of Carnation Caramel, or alternative thick caramel sauce.
1 very fresh banana

Topping                                         

500 ml double cream
200g Mascarpone
2 tablespoons icing sugar
grated chocolate sprinkles

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4 and prepare cupcake trays with cupcake cases.
  2. Make and bake chocolate chip banana cupcakes using the recipe from this post. Once cooked set aside to cool.
  3. When the cupcakes are cold, core an even-sided hole out of the centre of each using a cupcake corer or a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the bottom of the cake and trimming and reserving the top piece to cap the cupcake once filled.
  4. Peel and cut the banana into small pieces and mix with the caramel in a medium-sized bowl.
  5. Using a teaspoon, fill the hole of each cupcake with caramel-banana mix and close the hole with the reserved piece of cake top.
  6. Whisk the cream, Mascarpone and icing sugar together in a bowl until it is thick and holds its shape well.
  7. Pipe or spread the cream on top of each cupcake generously.
  8. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles.


Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Chocolate Whoopie Pies (gluten free) with Nutella Cream


Whoopie pies. - Sweet little sandwich biscuity-cakes with a round appearance which can be filled with all sorts of things and topped, or not.

Originating in the Amish communities of America's New England. they began life as a way of using left-over batter. The cakes were put in the lunch boxes of husbands and children as a surprise. Their name allegedly resulted from the grateful recipients shouting 'whoopie' when they discovered the lunch time treat.


A Whoopie should be a tad chewy and slightly soft with a touch of a crisp edge. Simple to make, they can be flavoured in many ways but are generally sandwiched together with a creamy filling, often with a base of marshmallow or butter.

Before going gluten free, we often had Whoopies, especially when friends came to stay. They look fantastic when they are piled high on a serving plate and there is something quite special watching the excitement of children as they take and tuck into one of these individual balls of deliciousness.


One of my first self-developed gluten free recipes was for Whoopie Pies, as I struggled to find anything that came close to the texture of the gluten-containing versions I was used to. I was thrilled when I managed to produce this one as not only did the batter bake as it was meant to, but the resulting cakes taste fantastic and freeze really well if you want to make them ahead of time and fill at a later date.



I think these Whoopies are a perfect offering for the new individually portioned baking blog challenge 'Treat Petite' which is being hosted by Kat at The Baking Explorer and Stuart at Cakeyboi. To help kick things off this month, they have made September 'No Theme' month, so anything goes! Hope you like them........


The Whoopie sponge has just the right amount of firmness so that when you bite into it, you have that momentary deduction of cake versus biscuit. But it is still soft and chewy as it should be with a lovely rich cocoa-chocolate flavour. Perfect for adding your favourite filling!

I love to fill mine with Nutella cream, which simply involves whisking fresh cream with a little Nutella, but tastes soooo good against the chocolate sponge - fresh, nutty and slightly sweet. Although this makes them less easy to transport (than if you were filling with a sugary butter or marshmallow mix), I think using cream gives them a fresher, luxuriant taste. If you want to make them more of a pudding, they can take a little extra cream, so serve more on the side.


I could quite happily sit with a bowl full of Nutella cream and a spoon and devour the lot, but then I would be missing out on the Whoopies..................

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Ingredients                                

75g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
1 large egg - room temperature
150g light soft brown sugar
130 ml soured cream
110 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
245g white gluten free flour mix
25g cocoa
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum

Nutella Cream

Ingredients

300 ml double cream
3 to 4 teaspoons Nutella / chocolate-hazelnut spread
icing sugar to sprinkle

Method

  1. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper (or batch bake if you don't have enough)
  2. Preheat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4.
  3. Weigh, sieve and mix together the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and xanthan gum in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a small bowl by either placing the bowl over a gently simmering saucepan of water, stirring frequently, or using a microwave on medium setting in 30 second bursts, stirring between each. Once smooth and fully combined, set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Whisk the egg in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  6. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg (about a third at a time) until smooth and glossy.
  7. Add the chocolate-butter mix, soured cream, vanilla and half of the milk and beat until fully combined and silky.
  8. Add half of the flour-cocoa mix and beat until smooth.
  9. Fold in the remainder of the flour mix a little at a time alternately with the remaining milk, until you have a smooth batter of thick dropping consistency.
  10. Either pipe or spoon the mixture onto the baking sheets in small walnut-sized balls, 3 to 4 cm apart.
  11. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until a knife comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch. You may want to swap the trays around half way through cooking to ensure an even bake.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  
  13. To make the Nutella cream, whisk the cream with the Nutella in a medium-sized bowl until it has thickened and holds its shape.
  14. Sandwich together the Whoopies with Nutella cream.
  15. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Vanilla Fudge


Extremely sweet, creamy, almost always cut into cubes? Must be fudge...............
A good fudge should be rich and have a depth of flavour that off-sets the sugary sweetness. It should melt in the mouth and be smooth and silky. And it should be rich and luxurious and not feel too sickly.

 
I have not made fudge since I was a child, but I remember going through a 'phase' when I was about 10 or 11 of making sweets - from marshmallow to marzipan, toffee to truffles...... and of course, fudge......
 
My mother bought me a special cook book dedicated to the art of sweet-making and all the required paraphernalia (fondant mats, sweet thermometer, moulds, etc), always ensuring supervision of anything that required high temperature stove work.


Looking in my fridge the other day, I was confronted by a load of cream which needed using, and perhaps unexpectedly, I thought of fudge. I still have that book I was given as a child (although I haven't made anything from it for about 30 years), so I pulled it from the shelf and thumbed through its yellowing pages.
 
To be honest, I was actually quite disappointed! Everything seemed very '70's' - very sugary, using very basic ingredients and endlessly coloured pink or green. I wanted a fudge that was decadent and up to date, but simple.


 
My daughter (who often gets the last word on these things) specified 'vanilla' and despite my suggesting a number of additions and extra flavours, she stood her ground and made it quite clear that nothing else would do. Since she was likely to end up eating quite a lot of it, I gave in with thoughts that 'next time' I would aim for something a bit different.
 
Given that my main criteria was to use up an excess of cream and without a suitable book recipe, I turned to the trusty Internet and went on a fudge search. This is what I found........... A recipe by Nick Dudley-Jones which people seemed to be raving about. It looked reasonably straight forward, contained cream, was flavoured with vanilla................. sounded perfect!


I think what appealed to me most was that the recipe appeared full of professional wisdom. It is made differently to other fudge recipes that I came across in that it is beaten as it cools, to give it a really smooth texture. But be warned................you need patience and strong arm muscles..... This fudge needed a lot of stirring.


I have decorated my efforts with a combination of nuts to give a fantastic alternative texture, freeze-dried cherry powder (which nicely off-sets the vanilla) and glittery sugars and chocolate curls.
 
The end result though was definitely worth stirring for. I am not usually a big fudge fan, but this one feels quite 'grown up' and strangely (despite the high sugar content) doesn't give an 'over-sweet' experience. One piece and I was hooked.............. Did I say my daughter would eat most of it? Wrong! I have been guiltily dipping my hand in and out of that storage box ever since............


Vanilla Fudge (from a recipe by Nick Dudley-Jones)

Ingredients                               

655g caster sugar
500 ml double cream
50g unsalted butter
handful of chopped white chocolate
1 teaspoon glucose (I used liquid glucose)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
sprinkles/nuts/fruit powders/chocolate decorations as desired

Method

  1. Base-line an 8 to 9 inch loose-bottomed square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Put all the ingredients (except the white chocolate) in a large heavy based saucepan and stir thoroughly.
  3. Heat the ingredients on a low heat and stir until the ingredients are fully combined, the butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves into a completely smooth liquid. Do NOT allow the liquid to come to the boil at this stage. The liquid should be creamy, buttery and golden.
  4. Once the liquid stage has been reached, increase the temperature to medium-high and bring the liquid to the boil, stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring, or you will burn the mixture.
  5. Allow to boil rapidly, stirring until the liquid reaches 112-115⁰ C / 234-240⁰ F (Soft Ball). Use a sugar thermometer to judge this accurately.
  6. Once the critical temperature is reached, continue to gently boil for a few minutes, but ensure the temperature does not rise above the soft ball limit. The mixture should be the consistency of  runny honey - smooth but thick.
  7. At this stage, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the boil has subsided.
  8. Cool very slightly and then pour into a mixer or large heat-proof bowl and beat. The fudge should be allowed to cool whilst beating (for about 10 to 15 minutes).
  9. After about 5 minutes of beating, throw in a handful of white chocolate and continue to beat for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Before the fudge becomes too firm, stop mixing and spoon into the prepared tin. Smooth the surface with a palate knife or spatula until even.
  11. Sprinkle with toppings if using.
  12. Leave to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours to allow to completely set before removing form the tin and cutting into pieces.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Roast Tomato, Feta, Mozzarella, Spinach & Basil Tart



As summer comes to an end, we have (as I am sure many of you do) a glut of tomatoes still merrily ripening in the diminishing sunshine. It happens every year.............. The freezer starts to fill with an array of tomatoey things which will be consumed little by little over the winter months.

 
With that in mind, this post seems ideal to enter into September's Four Seasons Food Challenge ('Sliding into Autumn') hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg.

Four Seasons Food

One of our favourite tomato preservation methods is roasting. I do seem to roast a lot of fruit and vegetables, I think because it intensifies their flavour immensely as well as making them last longer. And so it is for tomatoes...........


We like to roast ours with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil, then use as a base for all sorts of pasta, meat and vegetable sauces.


This week I thought I would try them in a tart. I had a load of spinach lurking in the fridge alongside some Feta and Mozzarella (which I have been buying almost in bulk for my recently posted Pandabonos). And as if it was just put there to inspire me, even the basil plant in the garden had decided to make an appearance (having been devoured for most of the summer by an entire community of slugs), so I thought I would throw that in too.


The end result? A tart to celebrate (or even commiserate) the end of summer. Incredibly intense zingy red tomatoes (you do need to like tomatoes for this one), off-set by soft green iron-rich spinach and chewy mozzarella, all equally contrasted by soft white salty Feta and a sweet hint of basil. The crisp pastry case adds all the bite you need............. Serve with new potatoes, more green veg, or just eat on its own. This tart is packed full of nutrients, but is also light and guilt-free!


In hindsight, for a different dimension against the tomatoes, I think oregano may have worked just as well (or maybe even better) than basil. I will certainly give that a go next time............



Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes 

  1. Take about 2 pounds / 1 kilo small/cherry tomatoes and cut in half or quarters (depending on the size).
  2. Put the tomatoes in a large oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (as good a quality as you can afford).
  3. Roast on a reasonably high heat (I use 200⁰ C / 400⁰ F / Gas 6) for about 40 minutes (stirring a couple of times during the cooking process) until the tomatoes are slightly caramelised around the edges and the liquid content has reduced significantly.
  4. Remove from the oven and use straight away or cool and freeze in airtight containers.



Roast Tomato, Feta, Mozzarella, Spinach & Basil Tart

Ingredients                            

1 x 10 inch/25cm savoury GF pastry flan case - baked blind as from this post.
Approx 2 pounds/1 kilo cherry/small tomatoes - roasted as above.
A handful of Mozzarella cheese either shredded or the dry pizza variety
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach leaves - washed and patted dry
200g Feta cheese - crumbled
a few basil leaves - washed
black pepper to season
 

Method

  1. Roast your tomatoes as above and set aside.
  2. Make and blind bake your pastry case as from this post.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 190⁰ C / 375⁰ F / Gas 5.
  4. Once your pastry is cooked, place a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese in the bottom.
  5. Cover the Mozzarella with a good layer of fresh spinach leaves.
  6. On top of this, place a thick layer of roasted tomatoes, draining as much excess liquid as possible.
  7. Sprinkle the Feta on top of the tomatoes.
  8. Top with a few basil leaves (either whole or ripped into pieces) and a grind of black pepper.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes until the pie is hot through, the basil has crisped on the top and the spinach is wilted.
  10. Remove from the oven and enjoy.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Apricot, Ginger & White Chocolate Cookies (gluten free)

 
These are delicious! I made them last Sunday because my daughter had 'biscuits and milk' on the school pudding menu one day this week and I thought I really ought to send her in with something home made.

I had no idea what to make and no recipe to follow, but knew I wanted the cookies to meet the criteria of 'contains fruit' and 'daughter must still eat and enjoy despite containing fruit'.


I love using dried apricots in cookies and biscuits because they have such a yummy, chewy texture which gives them more substance as well as a rich, deep, fruity tang. I didn't know what to put with the apricots and then (being the sad, cooking-obsessed individual that I have become), woke in the middle of the night and had a ginger and white chocolate brain-wave!


How fab was that? Next morning I sat at the table with my note pad and scribbled down a bunch of flours and potential ratios both to each other and to butter and sugar, and threw the whole lot in a big bowl (with a bit of mixing along the way). A bit of time in the oven later and hey presto! Apricot, Ginger & White Chocolate Cookies were born...........


I really can't believe I did that! They turned out to be unexpectedly lovely. The texture of the cookies is beautifully soft with a crisp edge and they didn't spread too much in the oven so they give a perfect-sized bite. I limited the amount of rice flour in the recipe as I find it can be a bit gritty. There is no grit in these! They do not crumble either, but hold together perfectly and without any apparent effort.


The first thing that hits you as the cookie begins to melt in your mouth, is the lovely autumnal ginger warmth which spreads across your taste buds with a little tingle. As you start to chew, you get the slightly sticky, firm bite of the apricot pieces, which feel wholesome and healthy. And then............... the final glory............... the decadence of a touch of white chocolate which mingles around the rest, adding a special and delectable sweetness. Mmmm................

Just to check it wasn't a fluke, I have made them a second time......................... Still delicious!


Apricot, Ginger & White Chocolate Cookies (makes about 20 cookies)

Ingredients                                            

140g unsalted butter - room temperature
140g soft brown sugar
1 large egg - room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
60g oat flour (easy to make at home as in this post)
40g tapioca flour
70g potato starch flour
30g sorghum flour
50g brown rice flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ to 2  teaspoons ground ginger (dependent on how gingery you like things)
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
pinch fine sea salt
100g dried apricots - rough chopped
100g white chocolate chunks
 

Method                                               

  1. Prepare a couple of baking trays by lining with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 190⁰ C / 375⁰ F / Gas 5.
  3. Weigh all the flours, xanthan gum, ginger, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and mix well, ensuring any lumps are completely broken down and combined. Set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and fully combined.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix thoroughly to form a smooth dough.
  7. Add the apricot and chocolate and stir into the dough.
  8. Spoon small rounded piles of the dough onto the baking trays leaving a gap between each to allow for spreading. Alternatively, you can use a cake pop or small ice cream scoop to distribute the dough into piles.
  9. Flatten each dough-pile slightly.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until beginning to turn golden at the edges. You may wish to switch the trays around in the oven half way through to get an even bake.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for about 10 minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.


Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated
 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

End of Summer Roasted Fruit Flapjack

 
It's that busy time of year when the schools go back and I have to turn my thoughts to school puddings. 
Tea Time Treats
I have also decided to tie in with my very first attempt at blogger participation, by making something for the September Tea Time Treats Challenge, which this month is being hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage (who runs this monthly event alongside Kate at What Kate Baked). Not having done any challenges before, I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive, but also quite excited at making some connections with the more experienced blogging world. As I have been blogging for about 6 months now, I reckon it's about time to break the boundaries of my comfort zone and dip my toe in the blog-challenge pond..............


As luck would have it, this months Tea Time Treats Challenge theme is Flapjacks, Oats and Tray Bakes, which just happens to be what I am making this week.............. Flapjacks!


So back to the school bit........... we are incredibly lucky that our daughter attends a primary school that makes their lunches fresh on site and that the staff are more than willing to accommodate her gluten free dietary needs. They adapt their weekly menus to ensure gluten free main course portions, which on occasion, includes making a meal for one amongst the other hundreds that they are preparing. They are absolute stars and I can't thank them enough.

To make sure that my daughter fits in as much as possible, I provide the kitchen with pudding portions for those days when there are sponges, biscuits or tarts on the menu. I cross-check the option for all the other kids and on Monday, send in a box of gluten free equivalents for the week.


One of the puddings which appears on the menu every term without fail is flapjack, which of course, is made with oats. Although flapjack is generally made without the obvious gluten 'offenders' - wheat, barley and rye, the oats that are widely available in the supermarket are not gluten free. This is because of the significant risk of cross-contamination from growing in fields which have been used to produce gluten-containing crops, as well as subsequent milling processes. Because of this, I always make a special batch of gluten-free flapjack (with certified gluten free oats) to send in for school lunch.


This term, I have made a delicious end of summer flapjack, filled with roasted strawberries, blueberries and plums. It is less sticky than some flapjacks and quite firm in texture. Not oversweet, but bursting with fruity, tangy lusciousness. When you eat this flapjack it feels healthy! Creamy oats combined with nutty almonds, honey and brown sugar, all mingling with the deep roasted natural sweetness of fresh summer and autumn fruit with a warming hint of cinnamon.


Even the colour is fruity....... Pinky-mauve hues and flecks of red and purple in amongst that bumpy, oaty surface that just shouts 'eat me'.

Feeling like trying something new, I even tried a different angle on the photos! Is it just me, or does this look like we are heading for 'flapjack wars'?


Roasted End of Summer Fruit           

approx 450g strawberries
approx. 100g blueberries
a few plums
large drizzle of honey (about 3 tablespoons)
sprinkle of brown sugar (about 3 tablespoons)
2  teaspoons ground cinnamon or 1 teaspoon cinnamon extract

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200⁰ C / 400⁰ F / Gas 6.                                                                         
  2. Hull the strawberries and cut into halves or quarters.
  3. Remove the stones from the plums and cut into quarters (leave the skin on)
  4. Line the base of a large oven proof dish with foil so that the juices from the cooking are contained.
  5. Put all the fruit into the dish, drizzle the honey and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the top.
  6. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the tops of the fruit are browning slightly.
  7. When cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the foil.

End of Summer Roasted Fruit Flapjack

Ingredients

320g GF oats
120g ground almonds
80g GF oat flour (easy to make at home as in this post)
 teaspoons ground cinnamon
190g unsalted butter
100g soft light brown sugar
70g golden syrup
70g clear runny honey
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
300g roasted summer fruit (weight including juice) made as above.

Method               

  1. Base line a 23 cm/9 inch square loose-bottomed cake tin (at least 5cm/2inch deep) with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4.
  3. Weigh the oats, almonds, oat flour and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside.
  4. Put the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, honey and salt into a medium saucepan and heat on a low heat, stirring frequently until the butter has melted, the sugar has completely dissolved and all ingredients are fully combined. Do not let the mixture boil.
  5. Pour the melted butter-sugar mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir well until all the dry ingredients are well-coated.
  6. Add the roasted fruit and gently fold into the oat mixture, trying to keep some of the fruit intact as 'pieces'.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin, ensuring it is pushed into the corners and smooth the top evenly.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden with the edges just turning a little darker.
  9. Whilst still warm, turn out onto a clean chopping surface and cut into pieces, before leaving to cool completely.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated