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 :


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Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (Makes 2 small jars)

Ingredients

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

Method

  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 :


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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 

Method

  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