Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Chewy Apricot, Apple, Cinnamon & Maple Flapjacks - and a story about flapjack triangles.....


I have it on the authority of my 8 year old, that these flapjacks are REALLY good. So much so that the cheeky mare has been trying to weedle them out of me for breakfast, snacks, lunch and tea!

I needed to make some more flapjack to send with her to school for her lunch time puds and in my search for inspiration of new flavours, I hit the google search button. I can't say that it gave me any new ideas on the recipe front, but I did come across a completely crazy story about a school in Essex, UK who banned triangular flapjacks after they were deemed dangerous............ Apparently one got lobbed across the lunch hall and it hit a boy in the face, causing a sore eye. As a result, the canteen staff were told they could no longer make triangles - only squares and rectangles.


Is it just me, or has health & safety gone bonkers??? Since when was a flapjack considered to be an offensive weapon? And wouldn't a square one be just as 'risky' if thrown with enough force? It seems ludicrous to me that they would blame the flapjack rather than the behaviour. Shame on them!

As a compensatory tribute to the wrongly accused and banned Essex school pudding (and a kick in the teeth to ridiculous health and safety decisions), I have especially and proudly cut my flapjacks into triangles. I reckon they might even taste better this way! I am a bit worried about sending them into school though............ do you think I should label them 'dangerous if thrown'?


Soft and chewy, these flapjack triangles are extremely delicious and very moreish. The maple syrup adds a Canadian touch of natural sweet luxury against the beautiful healthy creaminess of the oats. Each bite is bursting with chewy, tart, fruity apple and apricot, contrasting against the sweetness and adding an alternative texture and dimension.


I know the jury is probably still out on the soft, chewy vs crisp, biscuity flapjack, but I know where my vote is placed and these definitely hit the spot if you prefer the former. This recipe should be pretty versatile too.............. I reckon you could add any variety of fruit, nuts or seeds. Next time I think I will try cherry and pecan............ or maybe pear and brazil nut........ or........Mmmmmm.... the possibilities are endless........


Chewy Apricot, Apple, Cinnamon & Maple Flapjacks

Ingredients   

250g unsalted butter
175g soft brown sugar
120g golden syrup
60g maple syrup
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
360g gluten free porridge oats
1 large cooking apple - cored, peeled and chopped into small cubes
85g dried apricots - chopped into small pieces

Method

  1. Base line a 9 inch square baking tin with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 160 C/320 F/Gas 3.
  2. In a large non-stick saucepan, melt and mix the butter, sugar, syrups and cinnamon over a low heat, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, apple and apricot until evenly combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and spread evenly. Gently compress the top with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown and starting to firm up at the edges. 
  6. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool. Whilst still warm, mark out the slices with a sharp knife.
  7. When the flapjack has cooled, remove form the tin and cut into pieces.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Beef Casserole with Gluten Free Dumplings


The weather's still dire, although the rain may have eased up a little bit....... for a few days at least. It seems the only thing that makes me feel better (if I can't find someone to give me a big hug) is good food. A decent casserole is one of those dishes which is warming and perfect for winter and never fails to give a comforting foodie cuddle. It is a meal which naturally shouts 'love' without any sense of pretence and when you feed it to your family, it is most definitely food from the heart......

But one thing makes it even better......... dumplings! Light, fluffy dough balls.......... popped on the top of the casserole during its final stage of cooking so that they gently expand and cook in the simmering, steamy heat. They add a soft, filling accompaniment to the main casserole, soaking up the gravy as you eat them, leaving your tummy with a big smile.


Dumplings for casseroles are traditionally made with flour and with suet, the commercial brands of which contain wheat, so are not gluten free. To be honest, in my old gluten-eating days, I found suet-dumplings to be quite heavy and stodgy, so I am more than happy to have a non-suet version which doesn't leave you feeling over-stuffed.


I made my dumplings with plain gluten free flour mix and a little added gluten free oat flour, which gives them a slightly more wholesome, creamy, oaty texture. I also added some parmesan and oregano to the mix for an extra flavour hit. Rather than rub the butter into the flour, I froze and grated it into the mix, as I read somewhere that the little pieces of fat help the dumplings to rise. Whether this helped or not I have no idea, but the dumplings rose perfectly and they turned into little clouds of scrumptiousness.


The casserole is also delicious........ lots of chunky vegetables and some tender braising steak all gently simmered in flavoursome tomato stock until tender. The recipe has been adapted from one I found in a Sainsbury's Winter Recipe Collection. I substituted the suggested swede for butternut squash, added some broccoli, altered the quantities slightly and changed the seasoning, mainly to re-balance towards family preference. I think (like most casseroles) it is pretty adaptable to your favourite veg.




I am sharing this recipe with February's Four Season's Food Challenge, the theme for the month being 'Food From The Heart'. Hosted by Anneli at Delicieux (shared with Louisa from Eat Your Veg), they have challenged us to make food which makes the people we love happy. This casserole definitely gives warmth and comfort and I was so delighted to be able to share dumplings for the first with my gluten free girl................. She was thrilled with them!


Beef Casserole with Gluten Free Dumplings

Ingredients - Dumplings (gluten free)   

100g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
50g GF oat flour (easy to make using gluten free oats as here.
50g tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
85g butter - frozen
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
30g parmesan cheese (finely grated) - or any other very hard cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2½ tablespoons cold water

Method

  1. Mix the dry ingredients (flours, oats, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, herbs, salt and pepper) in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are broken down.
  2. Grate the frozen butter into the flour a little at a time, stirring through as you go.
  3. Add the parmesan and vinegar, stirring well.
  4. Add the water a little at a time and using your hands, gradually bring the mixture together to form a smooth dough. The dough should stick together as you squeeze it, but not be 'sticky'.
  5. Pull off small pieces of dough and roll into balls about 3 cm across.
  6. Cover and place in the fridge until you are ready to use.


Ingredients - Beef Casserole (adapted from the Winter Recipe Collection - Sainsbury's)

750g beef braising steak - cut into chunks (gristly bits removed)
1½ tablespoons plain gluten free flour
A little olive oil
300g shallots - peeled
4 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped
300g baby carrots - topped and scraped.
1 small butternut squash - peeled, de-seeded and cut into chunks
400g tin chopped tomatoes
beef stock cube - gluten free (made up to 500 ml stock)
2 teaspoons marmite (yeast extract spread)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
200g closed cup mushrooms - halved or quartered depending on size
1 small head of broccoli - cut into pieces/florets
handful fresh parsley - chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole.
  2. Lightly dust the steak chunks with the flour and fry with the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes until browning. 
  3. Add the carrots and butternut squash and fry for a further 5  minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the tomatoes, stock, marmite and oregano. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer, cover with the lid and leave to cook for about 30 minutes.
  6. Add the mushrooms and parsley and stir.
  7. Add the dumplings, gently pushing onto the top of the casserole liquid and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the broccoli, so that the stalks are submerged and the tops stick out of the top (allowing to steam). Simmer for a further 20 minutes.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sun-dried Tomato, Cheese & Basil Scones - gluten free


Having discovered how to make gluten free scones which are soft and fluffy and absolutely comparable to the gluten-containing versions, I can't get enough of them. The flavour options are endless......... and this week I have been at it again!

Savoury scones make a wonderful, tasty, easy lunch (or in my case, an occasional breakfast) and these ones are really really yummy. Rich from the cheese, tangy and sweet from the sun-dried tomato and basil, yet still light and airy, they combine some of my favourite ingredients to make a scone which is bursting with sunshine-flavour and is good enough to grace any table (or lunch box).


I found the sun-dried tomatoes hiding at the back of my fridge, having completely forgotten that I had bought them, probably before Christmas! It is a good job they don't go off too quick......... Figuring it was about time they got used, I have had a bit of a sun-dried tomato fest putting them on and in anything that needs a bit of red.

I had been meaning to make another batch of cheese scones for a while (originally posted here), but finding the tomatoes inspired me to experiment just a little bit further to test the versatility of my original scone base. I am so glad I found them. These scones are a worthy variation. Absolutely delicious, especially eaten warm either straight from the oven or re-heated later, slathered in melting butter...........


The recipe is incredibly straight forward and although it does contain a number of different flours, it is definitely worth the effort of sourcing them. The combination seems to produce a pretty reliable dough which I think is uncannily gluten-like.


Sun-dried tomato has the most amazing and quite unique flavour which perks up any number of dishes, from pasta and pizza to scones, savoury biscuits and breads. Quite tart, but with an incredible depth and serious intensity of flavour, it pairs perfectly with the basil and cheese in the scones, to provide a burst of the Mediterranean and a beautiful orange-red tint to the bake.


Having saved the tomatoes from the likely probability of their ending up in the bin (had they not been subject of timely discovery), I am entering them into February's No Waste Food Challenge being hosted this month by Fiona at London Unattached on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. I hate it when I find food lurking which has gone off, but there is something quite virtuous in finding it just before it is too late and managing to adapt whatever is being made to include it. Sometimes (and today was one of those times), the challenge brings a tasty discovery which just has to be shared...........


Sun-dried Tomato, Cheese & Basil Scones - gluten free

Ingredients         

110g tapioca flour
120g potato flour
30g buckwheat flour
50g GF oat flour
85g brown rice flour
 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
 teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
50g unsalted butter - cold
50g mature cheddar - grated
50g pizza mozzarella (dry) - grated (or a further 50g grated cheddar)
120 ml milk
80 ml soured cream
2 large eggs - beaten
80g sun-dried tomatoes cut into small pieces
handful fresh basil - chopped or ripped into small pieces
milk to glaze
extra grated cheddar to sprinkle on the top of each scone

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
  3. Weigh and mix the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum and salt in a medium bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  4. Rub the butter into the flour until it has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Add and stir in the grated cheese.
  6. Mix the milk and soured cream together and add to the dry ingredients with the beaten egg, sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
  7. Using the back of a silicone/wooden spoon or a flat knife, gradually mix the ingredients together to form a dough and continue to 'knead' with the spoon/knife until the dough is completely combined and smooth. Do not over-mix.
  8. The dough will be too sticky to knead by hand, but will hold its shape well. Tip onto a surface sprinkled with corn/rice flour and sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll to an even thickness of about 1 inch/2½ cm.
  9. Using a medium cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place them on the baking tray.
  10. Bring the remaining dough together and repeat the rolling and cutting process until all the dough has been used.
  11. Brush the top of each scone with a little milk to glaze and sprinkle with a little grated cheddar.
  12. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until firm and golden.
  13. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  14. Best eaten fresh or freeze and warm in a microwave before eating.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pizza Hearts - gluten free


Like most kids (big and small) we love pizza in our house. The versatility of a plain, soft bread base to pile on just about any combination of yummy toppings means that everyone gets their favourites, and it's the same meal even when we're all eating something different.

Strangely though, I have not sought to concoct my own gluten free dough base........... until now.

We have tried a number of commercial gluten free pizza mixes and pre-prepared bases. We have also tried pretty much every restaurant offering of gluten free base in the clamour of the big chain-restaurants to finally recognise the need to cater for the gluten-free customer. I speak from a lot of experience when I say that every one of them has a different texture and flavour - some pretty good and some needing a complete re-think.


This week, I decided to finally make my own! It's pretty good if I say so myself. I used a couple of 8 year old 'victims' to test it (one gluten free and one not), as well as trying it myself with my husband. Ok....... so that's not a large sample, but everyone ate it.............. lots of it......... The kids gave it the thumbs up. Even my husband reckoned that it was the best GF base he had tried.

The dough is amazingly pliable and bread-like (once it has been gently kneaded with an extra dusting of flour), to the extent that next time I might even give it a shot as a 'stuffed crust'.

A soft airy bread-base, it rises beautifully too and makes for a great deep-pan version if that's how you like it. Or just roll more thinly if you prefer less bread.


I'm so chuffed with my pizza dough that I am sharing it at this month's Family Foodies challenge, hosted by Louisa over at Eat Your Veg and Vanesther at Bangers & Mash. Themed 'Love', but especially with all those little people in mind, I have made my pizza's into diddy little hearts as a special show of care and love towards my beautiful gluten-free daughter. She was very excited when she saw them........ Mummy made her special hearts.............. Not just any old hearts, but pizza ones!!!!!

We had a whole bunch of toppings between us, but the hearts photographed here have a delicious combination of cheeses, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and olives. The olives are courtesy of Fragata who kindly donated them for a give-away which I recently won from Katie over at Apple & Spice. Thanks Katie! Thanks Fragata! They are delicious.......


Pizza Hearts - gluten free (makes equivalent of 4 individual-sized pizzas)

Ingredients

100g tapioca flour
90g potato flour
60g white rice flour
40g brown rice flour
40g corn flour
40g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
14g easy bake yeast (I used Allinsons)
1 teaspoon caster sugar
30g dried milk powder
225 ml hand-hot water
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil

Toppings - Any of your choice. I used :
Passata - sieved tomato
mozzarella cheese 
cheddar cheese - grated
sun-dried tomato
green olives
pine nuts

Method

  1. Line 2 to 3 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and mix together in a large bowl all the flours, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar, milk powder and warm water, whisking briefly to combine. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  4. In a further small bowl beat together the egg and olive oil.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  6. Pour the egg and yeast mixes onto the flour and using the back of a silicone/wooden spoon, gradually bring the ingredients together and 'knead' with the spoon until you have a smooth dough. The dough will be quite sticky.
  7. Liberally sprinkle a work surface with rice flour and tip out the dough. dust your hands with rice flour and gently bring the dough together, working slightly so that it feels a little less sticky and slightly more pliable.
  8. Making sure that there remains a sprinkling of flour on the surface to prevent sticking and also flouring your rolling pin, roll the dough to a thickness of about 3 to 7mm (depending on how thick you want your final pizza) and shape as you wish. If you want 4 even-sized pizza bases, divide into 4 balls before rolling. I used a large cookie cutter to make heart shapes.
  9. Place your dough bases on the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and top with your favourite toppings (I usually use a base layer of Passata and then pile the rest on top).
  11. Place back in the hot oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of your pizza), until cooked and golden.
  12. Remove and enjoy.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Chocolate Truffles - dark, rich, decadent & delicious


Chocolate Truffles...................... dark, rich, smooth, intense.................... the height of chocolate decadence. A serious chocolate hit, and not for the faint-hearted, these particular truffles are as close as I can get to a chocolate injection.


You may recall a couple of years back, there was a TV series on Channel 4 about a guy called Willie Harcourt-Cooze, called 'Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory'. He had sold up everything and bought a cacao farm in the Venezuelan mountains and was on a mission to produce his own 100% cacao bars. He succeeded of course (otherwise there wouldn't be a story or a TV series!), expanded his business and his cacao bars are now sold across the UK. They have wonderfully exotic names reflecting their origins and drug-like qualities - Venezuelan, Indonesian, Cuban and Madagascan 'Black', all packaged to reflect their potent simplicity.


I had bought cacao in the past on trips to the Caribbean, but had not managed to find it easily here in the UK. A self-confessed chocolate addict, I was desperate to get hold of the stuff as soon as it arrived in English shops and it has been used in a whole manner of recipes since, both sweet and savoury. The book which inevitably comes with any food-related TV series these days ('Willies Chocolate Factory Cookbook') was definitely worth the money. Not only does it tell the story of this 'eccentric entrepreneur' but it also contains a wonderful set of recipes which educate you into the use and versatility of cacao.


The truffle recipe that I have adapted here is one of my favourites. A seriously deep, dark chocolate hit, each bite of truffle melts across the tongue, slightly bitter, slightly sweet, intensely chocolatey........... sending a chocolate 'high' through the body which lasts for hours. These are seriously good!


I slightly changed the version contained in the book to add a fraction more sugar and for balance, a tad more cream, mainly because I found this gave the recipe a slightly better equilibrium for my taste buds and just tempered away from an over-bitterness.


They are incredibly simple to make too. I can knock the basic truffle mix up in less than 10 minutes, leave it in the fridge to harden and then roll them in a spare moment. They can be flavoured as you wish with either liqueurs or fruit/nut oils and dusted or coated with nuts, cocoa, chocolate or sprinkles. I made two batches this time round.......... One plain, and coated with finely chopped milk chocolate, the other flavoured with a teaspoon of orange oil and coated with a mixture of ground hazelnuts and chopped milk chocolate. Both are delicious.


I am offering them as my contribution for this month's Treat Petite challenge, organised by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat at The Baking Explorer. February's theme is 'loved ones' and as I am making these truffles for my lovely husband (although I am sure he will be left with no option but to share them with me and our daughter), they are a perfect entry. Most definitely 'individually portioned', these truffles go a very long way..............


Chocolate Truffles (slightly adapted from Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook - Willie Harcourt-Cooze) - makes about 20 truffles

The base recipe can be adapted any way you choose to make a whole range of truffles. Add fruit and nut oils, liqueurs, dried fruit or chopped nuts either in the main truffle mix or to coat the finished truffle.

Ingredients

Base recipe :
140 ml double cream 
90g caster sugar
90g cacao - finely chopped or grated

Optional : Liqueur of your choice, nut or fruit oils etc - added a little at a time to taste.

Coating/Dusting :
As you choose, mixes of : cocoa; grated chocolate; chopped or ground nuts; sprinkles and edible glitters.


Method

  1. Heat the cream and sugar together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is not quite simmering (do NOT allow to boil)
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the cacao until the mixture is smooth and shiny and the cacao has completely melted and combined.
  3. If you are adding any oils, liqueurs or other additions, add them at this point a little at a time to taste, being careful not to add too much liquid or the mixture will not set properly. 1 to 2 tablespoons of liqueur is fine.
  4. Pour the mixture into an air-tight container and allow to cool before placing in the fridge to fully set.
  5. Once the mixture is firm (best left 3 to 4 hours or overnight), scoop small spoons of the mixture into the palm of your hands and roll into balls. Coat/dust each truffle as you wish and place on a tray with baking paper. 
  6. Place back in the fridge to chill. Store in the fridge.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Chocolate - Peanut Butter (Oaty) Slices - gluten free


After January's dip into the world of Random Recipes, hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen, I have decided to give it another go this month, not least because the subject of the challenge is my very favourite ingredient - chocolate! For February (and in celebration of the union that Valentine's demands), Dom has joined forces with Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog in asking us to select a random recipe that contains chocolate somewhere in the ingredients.


Unsurprisingly, many of my cook books contain recipes with chocolate (lots of it), but to make it as clear cut as possible, I limited my recipe selection to books specifically about chocolate. Eyes shut, hand out, my finger landed on 'Chocolate Box' (2007) - a book full of recipes for chocolate lovers which came from Marks & Spencer............ Criteria complete on the book front, which recipe would it demand I make?


Although I have had the book a while, I have only made a handful of the recipes which are beautifully illustrated over 223 pages. The vast majority contain gluten which is now a 'no no' in our house, but really wanting to do the challenge properly, I decided that providing I could make the recipe with a minimum of gluten free tweaking, then I would make whatever was required by the page that fell open.


And there it was................. the book decreed I should make page 118 - Chocolate Peanut Butter Slices, hidden in the chapter 'Crumbly Cookies & Heavenly Bites'. Another perfect Valentine's marriage..... chocolate AND peanut butter. Obviously, it was meant to be!

The only changes I needed to make to free the original recipe of gluten was to substitute the wheat flour for a plain gluten free flour mix, add a teaspoon of xanthan gum, and make sure the baking powder and oats were also certified gluten free to avoid any cross-contamination.


These are yum! A crumbly, layered bake containing not just chocolate, but a goodly dose of peanut butter. A crisp, oaty, nutty, biscuity base, layered with sweet creamy peanutty filling  and topped with a wonderful oaty-chocolatey crumble. I will definitely be making these again!


Chocolate-Peanut Butter (Oaty) Slices (from Chocolate Box - Marks & Spencer) - Adapted to gluten free!

Ingredients

350g plain gluten free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (unless the flour mix already contains it)
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
225g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
350g soft brown sugar
175g gluten free oats
70g chopped mixed nuts
300g milk chocolate
1 large egg - beaten
397g tin condensed milk
90g crunchy peanut butter

Method

  1. Base-line a 9 inch/23 cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix the flour, xanthan gum and baking powder together in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down and combined.
  4. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  5. Add and stir in the sugar, oats and chopped nuts.
  6. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  7. Put about a quarter of the flour mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the chocolate. Set aside.
  8. Add the egg to the remaining (three-quarters) flour mixture and stir thoroughly until completely combined and 'damp'-looking.
  9. Press this mixture into the bottom of the baking tin with the back of a spoon or your hands.
  10. Bake the base in the oven for 15 minutes.
  11. Whilst the base is cooking, mix the condensed milk and peanut butter together in a bowl.
  12. When it has cooked for 15 minutes, pour the condensed milk-peanut butter mixture onto the base and spread evenly. 
  13. Top with the remaining chocolate-flour mix and gently press down to firm slightly.
  14. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until golden brown.
  15. After removing from the oven, leave to cool in the tin and then cut into slices.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Zesty Drizzled Lemon Cake with Roasted Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (gluten free)


February.............. month of love and valentines................ and a good excuse for more cake (like I need an excuse......).


I don't see myself as a cake decorator, but for this cake, I have given it a go. Armed with a new Wilton 2D piping nozzle and a couple of YouTube videos, I decided to try my hand at some apparently simple roses. I've never tried this before.........and I was really worried about making a hash of it. I can be a bit of a perfectionist and I really hate to fail at anything. I had visions of shamefully having to scrape the whole thing off and admitting defeat, or grabbing the spreader out of the drawer and hastily attempting to smooth down ugly blobs of icing to hide complete rose carnage.


But you know what? It was quite straight forward and I'm chuffed to bits with the result. Okay........... it's not by any means perfect, and you do have to use your imagination a bit (or probably a lot) to conjure up a true reflection of roses, but I made it and it looks just fine. My beautiful heart cake covered in pretty sparkly pink roses (almost).............. perfect for Valentines!


But pretty isn't all............. this cake is lush on the inside too! A wonderful zesty lemon sponge drizzled with lemon syrup. Moist, citrussy, soft, deep and delicious. All covered with a sweet, creamy, rich, decadent cream-cheese frosting, flavoured with intense roasted strawberries which complement the lemon perfectly and tint the icing the most beautiful shade of natural pink. Sprinkled with glitter for some special celebratory sparkle.


This month's AlphaBakes challenge (co-hosted by Caroline at Caroline Makes and Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker) celebrates the letter 'Z'. Thanks Caroline and Ros............. Tricky one!


Or is it? This cake is full of Z........... Z for Zesty, using the finely grated Zest of 2 lemons (alongside a good dose of Zingy lemon extract) in the sponge, and drizzled (yes that's two more Z's) with sherbertty lemon syrup. Ha! I had no idea you could get so much Z into one cake!


I am also entering it into the brand new Love Cake challenge, being hosted by Jibber Jabber. Designed for those of us who love to bake (and I assume eat) cake and giving us an opportunity to share our yummy creations with the world, this month's theme is aptly 'Baking With Passion'.


This cake is definitely fully of it! From the choice of ingredients to the greedy eating of it. Made with love and care, decorated with hearts and flowers, shared with family and friends.............. Even distribution of the last piece was passionately debated, but ultimately shared and enjoyed between my husband and my daughter............. exactly where it was meant to be.


This weekend we have Granddad's birthday. ........... Guess what cake my daughter wants us to take?!

Zesty Drizzled Lemon Cake with Roasted Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cake

Ingredients - (sponge)          

150g plain gluten free flour 
75g fine ground polenta
115g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
225 ml milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
100g unsalted butter - room temperature 
285g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons lemon extract
zest of 2 lemons - finely grated

(Drizzle Syrup)

Juice of 1 lemon
50g icing sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
  2. Base line a deep 9 inch round non-stick baking tin (or any other shape you want to use) with baking paper.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, weigh and mix the flour, polenta, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  4. Mix the milk with the vinegar in a jug and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Cream the sugar with the butter in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully combined and smooth.
  7. Add the vanilla and lemon extracts and lemon zest and beat again. 
  8. Gently fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk-vinegar mix about a third at a time until just combined (do not over-mix).
  9. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for between 30 to 45 minutes (depending on how deep the cake is), until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to stand in the cake tin for about ten minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Meanwhile, make the drizzle syrup by mixing the lemon juice with the icing sugar in either a small saucepan or a heatproof glass bowl and either stir in the pan over a gentle heat until fully dissolved and simmering or heat in the microwave until dissolved and just beginning to boil (stirring frequently in between microwave bursts).
  12. When ready, use a skewer to make a number of small holes in the surface of the cake and drizzle the lemon liquid onto the sponge, directing into the holes, so that it soaks into the inside of the cake (I used a syringe for accuracy).
  13. Allow the cake to settle for a couple of hours before icing.

Roasted Strawberry Frosting

Ingredients

150g unsalted butter - room temperature/softened
130g cream cheese (I used Mascarpone)
500g icing sugar
3 tablespoons roasted strawberry puree.

Method

  1. I used roasted strawberries that I had in the freezer made as in this post, which I pureed in a liquidizer. If you don't have roasted strawberries or don't want to make any, use pureed fresh strawberries instead.
  2. Beat the butter with the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth and fully combined.
  3. Gradually add and beat in the icing sugar and strawberry puree until the icing has a good spreading or piping consistency which will hold its shape. Adjust the levels of icing sugar as necessary - adding more if too soft or less if too stiff. 
  4. Spread or pipe the icing onto the cake base and decorate as you wish.

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