Thursday, 29 May 2014

Double Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

What happened to summer? One minute it was here and the next, gone........... After the wet winter, I am really hoping the weather takes a better turn. But sunshine or not, I intend to make (and eat) lots of ice-cream. And at least when the weather's cold, you have longer to savour the deliciousness and luxury before it melts into a creamy puddle.

I love ice-cream. Any ice-cream. Comforting and soothing........... We always have at least two tubs on the go in the freezer. I haven't yet resorted to the comedic grab the whole tub and sit with a large spoon in front of the TV scene, but I have come close to it on many occasions. If I didn't think my family might consider I had finally lost it, then I would be there..... really!

Home made ice-cream tastes so much better than shop-bought tubs. It may of course just be psychological, but the thought and care that goes into making ice cream in your own kitchen makes it that little bit more special. It's always fun to play with different ingredients and flavours, but sometimes it's just good to lean on the old favourites.

Mint-Choc Chip is one of life's delights. It seems to have been around forever and is always a winner. The cold, refreshing mintyness, contrasting with the dark, slightly bitter chocolate crunch and sweet creaminess of the ice-cream is loved by young and old alike. So when I asked my daughter 'what flavour ice-cream should I make?', the answer was instantaneous, and Mint Choc Chip was the order of the day.

To make the ice-cream taste as natural as possible, I used a couple of handfuls of fresh mint, infused with the custard as it cooked, carefully crushing to encourage the flavours to mingle. The resulting ice-cream base was definitely pretty minty, but it was not quite there. Fresh mint has an earthy flavour which is fine, but I wanted the ice-cream to have the expected cold, ice-mint freshness. To compensate, I balanced it with a little natural mint extract. The flavour of the fresh mint still came through strongly, but was nicely tempered and I think, more palatable.

The chocolate 'chips' come from dark, rich chocolate which has been frozen and smashed into pieces, before being added. There is also an extra mint kick from a few broken After Eights, folded in for good measure. The After Eights are optional, but add an interesting slightly chewy dimension when they have been frozen. If you don't want to use After Eights, add extra dark chocolate to make up the chocolate weight (about 110g in total).

The After Eights made great decoration too........... Cutting them with a small cookie cutter was amazingly easy and made the served ice-cream that little bit more special!

I think this ice-cream has been devoured faster than any other I have made............ Two days and gone! Doesn't that say it all?

Double Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream (makes 1 litre)


45g dark chocolate
After Eight Mints (or equivalent soft fondant centred chocolate-covered mints)
400 ml whole milk
350 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
approx 18 large fresh mint leaves 
4 large egg yolks
140g caster sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon natural peppermint extract (to taste)
green food dye paste (or a couple of drops of green food dye) to desired colour (optional)


  1. Place the chocolate and After Eights in a freezer bag and place in the freezer for a couple of hours (or overnight).
  2. When frozen, smash the chocolate in the bag with a rolling pin until it is broken into very small pieces. Place back in the freezer until ready to use.
  3. Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan with the vanilla extract and mint leaves (which you should crush slightly before adding). Stir and then heat on a low to medium setting until almost boiling (just starting to form small bubbles, but not boiling), then turn off the heat and cover with a lid, leaving to sit and steep for about 15 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale.
  5. Pour about half of the cooling cream mixture (without leaves), a little at a time, into the egg-sugar paste, whisking continually to combine thoroughly.
  6. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan to add to the rest of the cream-liquid.
  7. Heat on a low setting, stirring continually until the custard thickens to a consistency which coats the back of the spoon. Do NOT allow to boil, although the custard can form small bubbles.
  8. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl and add mint extract and food colour to desired taste and appearance. 
  9. Allow the mixture to cool as quickly as possible, stirring intermittently to prevent a skin forming. When cool enough, place in the fridge.
  10. Chill the custard for several hours (preferably overnight).
  11. Churn using an ice cream maker by the manufacturers instructions.
  12. When the churning process is complete, fold the broken chocolate and After Eights through the ice cream whilst it is still soft enough to do so.
  13. Spoon the finished ice cream into an airtight container and place in the freezer to allow to  harden, although you may wish to serve soft straight away. 

  14. (If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture at stage 11 into a shallow container and freeze until mushy. Then turn into a chilled bowl and beat until the ice crystals are broken down. Return to the freezer and freeze again until mushy. Repeat the whisking, add the chocolate pieces and freeze a final time)
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Eclair Cupcakes - gluten free

I have been wanting to make these cupcakes for ages, but haven't got round to it. This month the Alpha Bakes letter has come up as 'E', which has given me the push I need to give them a go.

They are based on my love for these :

Cadburys Eclairs, - chewy toffee, filled with a melty dose of chocolate which mingle together as you chew. They are sold in many countries around the world and have been one of my favourite sweets since I was a child.  If only there was a cake version!

Well............. here it is....... and trust me, they are really really delicious. And amazingly easy to make. The sponge is rich with real toffee so that it almost has a texture of sticky toffee pudding in cupcake form, the edges slightly crisp where the toffee has melted on the sponge and hardened slightly in the oven. As you bite through the sticky, sweet sponge, your teeth sink into soft, creamy, dark chocolate ganache............ not over-sweet, so that it off-sets the caramel-sweetness of the toffee cake. Heaven!

Not wanting to 'unbalance' that perfect combination, the cake is not topped with any icing (it really would have ruined the incredible marriage of flavours already there) and instead each cupcake is decorated with a simple combination of sprinkled icing sugar, a large chocolate button (to hide the 'cap' for the hole) and a small piece of fudge.

The toffee sponge has come from an earlier recipe that I made (Sticky Toffee Cake), although interestingly the end result was slightly different in cupcake form (somehow the toffee remained stickier and more defined). I think I over-filled my cupcake cases slightly as I was unsure how well they would rise, but the over-flow of sponge may just add to the final scrumptious effect.

The sponge is not only moist from the toffee and golden syrup, but has the addition of a good dose of ground almond which adds a nutty bite to the texture and helps the sponge stay fresh. They also contain coconut palm sugar which throws in an extra toffee depth with its caramel notes (although this addition is optional). Because of the cream in the ganache, it is worth storing the finished cupcakes in the fridge and allowing them to come to room temperature before eating, so that they are slightly squidgy and the flavours are properly defined.

I am sharing these amazing Eclair Cakes with May's Alpha Bakes challenge, being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (co-hosted by Caroline at Caroline Makes). The letter 'E' is the perfect opportunity to share them with the world............. these have to be tried!

Eclair Cupcakes (makes 20 to 24 cupcakes)


Toffee Sponge
100g light soft brown sugar 
100g coconut palm sugar (or if you have no coconut palm sugar, just use a further 100g brown sugar)
200g plain gluten free flour blend (I used mix A from this post)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
200g unsalted butter (cubed)
200g golden syrup
3 large eggs - room temperature
30 ml/2 tablespoons milk (I used almond milk)
100g soft dairy toffee - cut into very small pieces

Chocolate Ganache Filling
225g dark chocolate - cubed
125 ml double cream
225g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon icing sugar

icing sugar to sprinkle
large chocolate buttons (make sure they are gluten free)
fudge or toffees, cut into triangles/pieces


  1. Ganache : Make the ganache first : Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and melt on a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely, stirring occasionally. As it cools, the ganache will thicken to a piping consistency. You can speed the cooling/firming process by cooling in the fridge, but will need to allow to come to room temperature before use. The oil may separate during the cooling process, so it is important to stir intermittently and give a thorough stir through before use.
  3. Sponge : Line 2 cupcake tins with cake cases.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
  5. Mix together the sugar(s), flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds and salt in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  6. Place the butter and golden syrup in a medium sized bowl and gently melt in a microwave at medium setting on 30 second bursts, stirring between each until the ingredients are liquid and fully combined (do not allow to boil). If you don't have access to a microwave, place in a small saucepan and gently melt over a low heat until liquid and combined.
  7. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and gently beat with a spoon until combined.
  8. Beat the eggs and milk together in a small bowl and then add to the cake mix. Beat briefly to combine all ingredients into a thick batter.
  9. Add the toffee pieces and gently stir into the batter until evenly distributed.
  10. Spoon the batter into the cake cases evenly (about two-thirds full) and spread with the back of a spoon, to get an even surface.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160 C / 320 F / Gas 3, and continue to bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes until the cakes are well risen, spring back to the touch and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  12. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  13. Putting it all together : When the cakes are cold, core the centre of each using a cupcake corer or knife, being sure to trim and save the circular centre sponge 'cap'. 
  14. Use a piping bag or teaspoons to fill the centre of each cup cake with ganache and top with the sponge cap to close the hole.
  15. Sprinkle the cupcakes with icing sugar.
  16. Use a small blob of remaining ganache on the top of each cake to stick a large chocolate button (or alternative decoration) to hide the 'cap'. 
  17. Stick a small triangle of fudge to the top of the buttons either using a little (carefully placed) ganache or a brush of food glue.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ful-Sudani (Sudanese Peanut Macaroons) - gluten free and dairy free

This is the most amazingly simple, straight forward and quick recipe to make......... Crisp, light, nutty...... I would describe it as more of a nut meringue than a macaroon in European terms. But then this recipe is from Sudan, so I am sure 'macaroon' is totally appropriate to its origins.

They have been made for May's Random Recipe Challenge, which I am coming to love as one of my favourites because it takes me away from what is in my head (which admittedly can be pretty random in itself) and back to the books and recipes that may never have been explored otherwise.

Except that this month, Dom from Belleau Kitchen has suggested it is time for a clear out......... Really? Not any old clear out, but one which invites us to dispose of old cook books that are long forgotten, never used or are simply taking up space on the shelf which could be better utilised.............. Now I am feeling really uncomfortable!

I'm not a hoarder, but I love my books (of any description) and cannot bear the thought of being parted from any of them, no matter how old, dusty or defunct. Sure there are a few which haven't been opened in years, but I know that all of them still contain hidden gems, ideas or inspiration and all of them could be dragged into the 21st Century with a bit of tweaking and TLC.  So sorry Dom, my books are staying!

Either way, I must thank Dom........ Without the challenge, they probably would have continued to gather dust (and believe me some of them were really dusty). The encouragement to give them 'one last chance of survival' has made me shake them from their shelf-paralysis, blow off the webs and dirt and re-discover their silenced magic.

So which of these filthy relics had the good fortune to be pulled from the shelf first? The New Internationalist Food Book (1990 - Troth Wells)............ a selection of traditional recipes from across the world, predominantly Africa, Asia and Latin America, set alongside information on the countries, staple foods and social and political facts about the peoples and foods they eat. Actually, It's not that old in the run of books that I have, but I can't remember ever actually making anything from it. I can't even remember how I came by it and can only assume it was a gift.

The recipe that presented itself when I flicked through the pages and stopped was from Sudan : Ful-Sudani - otherwise named in English as Peanut Macaroons. I have eaten very few African desserts and looking through the book a little closer, it would appear that many of them are fruit or nut based. Ful-Sudani has very few ingredients, but peanuts (which are one of Sudan's main export crops) are the star of the show.

They are so amazingly simple to make and pretty cheap at about £1.20 for a batch of about eighteen. So I am also entering them into this month's Family Foodies Challenge being hosted by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash (co-hosted by Lou at Eat Your Veg), the theme being Cheap & Cheerful. I love to gain inspiration from the foods of other nations and these macaroons are definitely a discovery that I will be making again.

Ful-Sudani (Peanut Macaroons) - makes about 18 macaroons


125g unsalted raw shelled peanuts
1 egg white
pinch fine sea salt
150g sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Prepare 2 baking trays by lining with baking paper.
  3. Place the peanuts in a heat-proof dish and place in the oven to roast for 10 to 15 minutes, checking (and turning with a shake) frequently to make sure they brown nicely and do not burn. Cool.
  4. Chop or coarsely grind the peanuts and set aside.
  5. Whisk the egg white with the salt until stiff.
  6. Fold in the sugar and vanilla and whisk again until silky.
  7. Add the peanuts and fold into the mixture.
  8. Use a teaspoon to drop small piles of the mixture onto the baking trays and smooth the tops.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the macaroons are crisp and golden.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Tarte aux Framboise with Basil Cream - gluten free

If you like Tarte au Citron and you like raspberries, then this one's for you! I was feeling a little inventive this week and decided to see if I could make a twist on the old lemon classic.

There were a couple of lemons skulking in the fridge which needed to be used and a load of raspberries which had been stored at the back, forgotten about (oops!) and were just on the 'turn'. I managed to rescue the best ones (later used for decoration) and decided the rest needed to be either pureed and frozen or made into a coulis or something else which would prolong their life.

I didn't want to freeze them as I am on a bit of a mission at the moment to eat down the contents of the freezer, which had reached the point of being full to bursting. Freezers are great for storing food, but if you don't eat what you put in there, it all gets a little bit pointless.

So what to make with all these raspberries and a couple of lemons? Tarte aux Framboise? (My French is pretty naff so I am sure I have the spelling or grammar wrong there...........)

I did a quick search on the internet to see what recipes were there. Most of the raspberry tarts were made with whole raspberries and a couple used custards, but none quite mirrored the lightness of the Tarte au Citron which was inspiring me. In the absence of a suitable recipe, this one has been made up by myself, varying the ingredients and quantities found in Tarte au Citron to adapt and make a light raspberry cream.

The pastry is crisp and sweet against the tart soft raspberry, but has also been sharpened slightly with a little lemon zest and juice. Interestingly, this is my best gluten free pastry yet, the dough being very malleable and easy to roll, yet still really short after baking. I am no food scientist, but I wondered whether the addition of a little acidity from the lemon made the difference? I will certainly test that theory again, but if anyone knows whether this would be relevant, please let me know!

The raspberry cream filling is as intended........ light and airy, silky smooth and creamy, with just the right balance of sharpness to wake the tastebuds without making the mouth smart. I forgot to 'tap' out the air bubbles before baking, hence the slightly 'pitted' effect (whoops!).

I had a real hankering to add some basil to the tart and considered putting it either into the pastry or the filling, both of which I think would have worked. As my daughter can be a little picky, I decided not to risk it however, incorporating it instead into a mascarpone cream which could accompany the tart.

It worked really well.......... A subtle, slightly perfume hint of basil coming through as the sharp fruitiness of the raspberry and lemon subside. The flavour married really well, complemented by the sweetness of the pastry and seemed a great compromise to get a truly grown-up tart, whilst leaving simple plain cream for my daughter to use if she preferred. I needn't have worried, she actually quite enjoyed the basil!

I am entering my Tarte aux Framboise with Basil Cream for four challenges this month :

Tea Time Treats being hosted by Janie over at The Hedge Combers (and Karen at Lavender & Lovage). May's theme is Open Top Tarts, Pies & Quiches'. To be honest, I much prefer an open topped pastry, whether sweet or savoury. It's not that I don't like or won't eat a closed pie, but I always think you get a better balance when the pastry is only at the base!

Cooking With Herbs, again with Karen from Lavender and Lovage, who has kindly allowed us to use any herbs we like this month, as long as they are fresh. I am beginning to really enjoy experimenting with fresh herbs in sweet bakes and desserts and have found basil to be particularly versatile, especially when paired with a something a little tart, as it is here.

The No Waste Food Challenge, this month being hosted by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen (on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary). I used up a load of raspberries in this recipe, just in time before they went off, as well as a couple of lemons which were looking for a good use. And what better place to end up?!

And finally : Four Season's Food's May event (hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux), which asks us to celebrate Spring. The fresh, natural flavours, and use of newly grown basil make this a perfect, taste-bud awakening Spring dessert.

Tarte aux Framboise with Basil Cream - gluten free (makes one 10 inch/26 cm tart)

Lemon & Almond Pastry - gluten free



130g brown rice flour
50g corn flour
40g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
70g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 to 2 lemons 
110g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cold water

Raspberry Filling

5 large eggs
140 ml double cream
225g caster sugar
sieved juice 1 lemon
300g raspberries - liquidised and sieved 

Basil Cream

300 ml double cream
125g mascarpone 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar
large handful of fresh basil - finely chopped

extra raspberries (150g), icing sugar and small basil leaves to decorate


  1. To make the pastry : Weigh and mix together the flours, almonds, xanthan gum and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down.
  2. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and lemon zest and stir into the mix.
  4. Beat the egg with the water and lemon juice in a cup (using a fork) until combined and then add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Using a flat-bladed knife, gradually stir the wet and dry ingredients together until the mixture comes together as a dough. Use GF floured hands to knead slightly and complete the mixing process so that the dough is smooth and even. Do not chill at this stage.
  6. Put the dough onto a well-floured surface (use corn flour, rice flour or a combination to prevent the dough sticking) and then roll-out with a floured rolling pin until you have a circle which is large enough to line the flan tin, about 5mm thick.
  7. Gently lift the dough with the help of the rolling pin and ease into the 10 inch/26 cm flan case. Trim the top edges so that the pastry is even with the top of the tin.
  8. Place in the fridge to chill and rest for an hour or so.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F/Gas 4.
  10. Blind-bake the pastry case by lining with baking paper and filling with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes with beans and then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes until golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. 
  12. Turn the oven down to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  13. To make the filling : After liquidising and sieving the raspberries, add to the sieved lemon juice to make up to 200 ml juice. Set aside.
  14. Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy in a large bowl.
  15. Add the sugar, cream and juice and whisk again until well combined.
  16. Place the pastry case on a baking sheet, so that it remains steady when transferred to the oven.
  17. Pour the custard-cream mix into the cooled pastry case, being careful not to let it over-flow.
  18. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the filling is set, but still has a slight wobble.
  19. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  20. Decorate with raspberries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and fresh basil leaves.
  21. To make the basil cream : Beat the double cream with the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until it has a dropping consistency which is able to just hold its shape.
  22. Add the finely-chopped basil and fold through the cream until evenly combined.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Coeliac Awareness Week & A Special Chocolate Cake (gluten free)

My last post featured a gluten free chocolate-ginger cake which was as simple as they get for ingredients and cheapness........ This cake is somewhat more decadent!

For the last 3 years, I have had the privilege of being asked to make a gluten free chocolate birthday cake for a close friend of my daughter. Her Mum is totally understanding and positive about the dietary needs of my daughter and always makes a special (but non-complaining) effort to make sure she is safely catered for at teas, sleep-overs and parties. Whilst I am always more than happy to send my daughter to parties with a packed party tea, the fact that this Mum does it for me makes a huge difference to my daughter feeling the same as all her friends!

So I am also more than willing to bake the cake and make it special for her daughter........... And I love that it is not only delicious but also gluten free.......... showing the sceptical that gluten free can also be decadent and beautiful and each time, helping (hopefully) someone else to be aware of Coeliac Disease. I always work on the basis that if you give someone delicious cake and then tell them it is gluten free, their natural amazement (because they expect something less) promotes a discussion about why it is gluten free and what that means in reality.

This week (12th to 18th May 2014) is Coeliac Awareness Week in the UK. Organised each year by Coeliac UK, the week is designated to raise the profile of the disease amongst the public, professionals and with businesses and to campaign for both greater understanding and facilities for its sufferers.

This year, the focus is on getting supermarkets to serve customers requiring gluten free produce better, by encouraging them to sign up to the 'Gluten Free Guarantee' and to make sure that a basic range of gluten free staples (breads, flour, cereals, crackers, pasta and cereal bars) are always in stock and available.

Many people think that eating gluten free is a choice if you are coeliac or that Coeliac Disease is an allergy to gluten. Nothing could be further from the truth. Coeliac Disease is a life-long auto-immune condition. For sufferers, eating gluten causes the production of an unwanted antibody which attacks the lining of the gut so that it can no longer absorb the nutrients needed by the body to grow, develop, repair and function. Although it is well-controlled by avoiding all gluten in the diet, it is essential that this abstention is total. Any gluten, however small the amount, can lead to a significant reaction within hours (bloating, tiredness, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, sickness and headaches (to name a few)). In the long term, a diet which does not remain strictly gluten free can result in serious health problems (including osteoporosis, infertility and even cancer).

I recently made a single, very guilty mistake with my daughter when we visited Sainsbury at Easter to buy chocolate eggs. In the entrance, they had set up a promotional pile of eggs and a smiley assistant was generously offering small pots of sample sweets to eager young customers. My daughter made a beeline for them and I (responsibly) asked 'are they gluten free?' The assistant wasn't sure, but willingly handed me a box to check. 'No gluten here' I thought. Wrong!

There were in fact three or four different eggs and the samples were a mix of all of them. I had checked just one (non-glutenous) box, but there in the pot was a single offending 'Jazzie'. Jazzies are chocolate coated in hundreds and thousands, most of which contain wheat and I knew that, but my brain didn't connect in time to realise that Jazzies were not in the contents of the box I'd checked. I watched as my daughter consumed the offending sweet. Just the one! The result was three days of diarrhoea............. lesson learnt......... cock-ups are not allowed.

I digress.............. The focus of this year's campaign for Coeliac Awareness Week is absolutely to be welcomed. Frankly, I get totally hacked off when I go shopping and find the gluten free shelves are empty, or worse still, the store doesn't even stock gluten free. Traipsing from one supermarket to the next is tedious, time-consuming and expensive. You generally know who stocks what on a reasonable basis in your home area, but if you go away you can be hard-pressed to find what you need. Which means suitcases packed with the staples because you can guarantee you will need them. When we stay in hotels, we go armed with a stash of bread and toaster bags (to avoid cross-contamination) and feel conspicuous as we carry them into the dining room for breakfast.

To be fair, the range of gluten free produce has increased massively in the last three years or so. It is truly a growth industry (I have even toyed myself with the option of entering the fray and setting up a business). But Coeliacs still don't have reliable access and anything Coeliac UK can do to make things better and ensure we are able to find what we need, when we need it and anywhere we may be has got to be a step in the right direction. Fingers crossed the supermarkets take note and not just for the short term!

On the gluten free home-baking front - this is a chocolate cake to be highly recommended. It is a very trusty recipe to which I turn again and again, because it is rich, dark, very moist and perfectly textured to hold up to a good dose of decoration. To make it extra special, I have decorated this one with some pretty butter-icing (frosting) roses, the pink ones of which I flavoured with some strawberry essence. The young recipient was thrilled (although I was a little concerned that it ended up looking like a wedding cake). To get a better sense of the chocolate sponge for this cake (I did not get to take a photo of it sliced), the same sponge is used here.

Because it is so very spring-like, I have decided to offer it as an entry to this month's Love Cake challenge being hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber. May's theme is Flowers, so this fits the bill for decoration at least. I will be honest, it was not quite planned to be my entry, but May is fast disappearing and as I am running out of time, I didn't want to miss my opportunity to support this very worthy, monthly cake-fest! Well........... let's face it........ anything involving cake has to be priority!

Chocolate Cake with Butter-Icing Roses

Chocolate Sponge - batch of chocolate sponge as from the recipe in this post.

Butter Icing (Frosting) (enough to pipe roses)   

200g unsalted butter - room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Approx 700g icing sugar (sifted)
Almond or rice milk (approximately 5 tablespoons) - or cows milk
2 to 3 drops strawberry flavouring (optional)
red food colouring
Sprinkles (optional)

To make the icing and decorate :
  1. Beat the butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually add and beat in the icing sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Alternate with adding a little milk at a time and adjust the levels of icing sugar as necessary until you have achieved the desired spreading/piping consistency. 
  3. Sandwich the cake together with vanilla butter icing (before adding any other colour or flavour).
  4. Completely cover the cake with a layer of vanilla icing.
  5. Split the remaining icing in half and add a couple of drops of flavouring and colouring to tint one half to the desired flavour and shade.
  6. Using an appropriate flower nozzle (I used 2x Wilton 2D so that I could work 2 colours at once), split your mixture into separate piping bags and starting from the centre of the cake, pipe icing roses working your way out to the edge of the cake and beyond (as far as you wish to go either randomly or with the design you choose). To pipe roses, start from the centre of the rose and swirl in circles outwards. A really straight forward tutorial can be found here.
  7. Finish off your decoration with a few sprinkles (optional)
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Chocolate-Ginger Loaf Cake (gluten free) for less than £1

I love a challenge.............. especially a foodie one. Last week I was developing yeast-dairy-gluten-free bread rolls for a friend of mine............... This week it is baking an 'inexpensive'.......... no.......... 'really cheap', tasty chocolate cake.

The very talented Choclette over at the Chocolate Log Blog has set us a special chocolatey challenge for May's We Should Cocoa, to tie in with this month's Live Below The Line campaign. The campaign invites us all to consider the reality for the 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, day after day around the world and to raise funds to support the crucial initiatives fighting to change this.

Choclette has included her own little twist and is challenging us to try and make a chocolate cake for £1 or less...... Yes.... really! I honestly think this is one of the hardest challenges........ not because it can't be done, but because chocolate cakes are extravagant, sumptuous, decadent mouthfuls of spongy, rich deliciousness. That doesn't fit nicely with 'really cheap'.

There is a little bit of me that feels a bit uncomfortable about indulging in cake however cheap it is, when so many people are starving, but as with most of the population of this country, I generally push my discomfort into the background and get on with consumption, because I am fortunate enough to be able to do so...........

It is only when you physically opt into this challenge that you realise just how difficult it is. Okay.......... I know it is still a far cry from the experience of people who don't give a monkeys about cake because they are too busy trying to find enough food to survive, but in the UK, the cost of sugar, butter and eggs have spiralled up and up over the last few years. If you have the mis-fortune to also be gluten free, flour costs over-the-odds too. Looking at the posts from others entering this challenge I was quite shocked to see that 7 pence buys me about 25g of gluten free flour compared to the 220g achieved in the gluten-eating world!

So how do you make a light, fluffy, chocolatey gluten free cake with a good depth of flavour for £1?

I considered a flourless cake (on account of the expense of gluten free flours) but the cost of eggs and the corresponding amount of chocolate required meant that the cake would have been either very expensive or very tiny.

I also considered a simple chocolate swiss roll, but the filling, whichever way I looked at it would be a measly, paper-thin spread.

In the end, I decided to seek out cheap ingredients. I figured that's what I would be doing if I wasn't fortunate enough to live in a household with a decent income. If I really wanted to check out reality in the UK, then sourcing inexpensive produce was the answer.

'Cheap' doesn't automatically mean 'lacking quality' however............ I was amazed at just how cheaply you can pick up a bag of caster sugar (99p per Kg at Aldi), or a bar of chocolate (most of the large supermarkets do a perfectly good (for cake) 100g bar at just 30p). Even eggs with consideration for the welfare of chickens to a reasonable degree can be sourced from Sainsbury at the equivalent of 12.8p per egg. Okay............ I would normally go completely free-range and know as far as I can where my eggs have come from, but some compromises have to be made on a tight budget and Barn Eggs were acceptable within my conscience.

I could have brought the price down further if I had substituted the butter for olive or vegetable oil, but I really wanted to try and keep a little bit of luxury in there and with a bit of savvy, managed to source from Sainsbury's Basics range at 98 pence for 250g.

We weren't asked to factor-in the cost of fuelling either the oven to bake the cake or the petrol to get to the supermarket, which would have added a fair few pennies. However, being gluten free, we have to visit most major supermarkets in a month anyway as not one of them stocks everything we want or need. So at least I can be certain that I probably would have been making several trips anyway.

Surprisingly, this cake is pretty good for the money. I added a bit of ginger to give it an extra flavour punch and carefully costed for a little extra drizzle of chocolate and sprinkle of icing sugar at the end (well, a cake needs to be pretty doesn't it?). Actually, this is where I really noticed the lesser quality of the chocolate..... Would it drizzle without ending up in big clumps? Not on your nelly!

Nonetheless, this cake tastes chocolatey, has a moist texture and is beautifully airy. And I have to say there is serious satisfaction knowing that each slice costs only 10 to 12 pence. Shame the calories don't shrink as much!

So there you have it............ a gluten free Chocolate-Ginger Loaf Cake for an incredible, amazing, only 97 pence!

Chocolate-Ginger Loaf Cake (gluten free) - challenge for less than £1


75g dark chocolate (value/basics - 30p/100g)           =  22.5p
55g butter (value/basics - 98p/250g)                       =  21.5p  
65g caster sugar (Aldi - 99p/1kg)                             =  6.5p
2 large eggs (Sainsbury Basics Barn - 12.8p each)     =  25.5p
25g plain GF flour blend (inc xanthan) (30p/100g)    =  7.5p
1 teaspoon GF baking powder                                   =  2p
½ teaspoon ground ginger                                         =  4p

25g dark chocolate (value/basics)                             =  7.5p
sprinkle icing sugar - less than 1g (negligible)  

Total Cost    =    97 pence


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Base line a non-stick 2 lb/900g loaf tin.
  3. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small bowl either over a saucepan of steaming water or in the microwave on short bursts, stirring frequently. Set aside
  4. Separate the eggs and put the whites in a medium sized bowl. Set aside
  5. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick.
  6. Add the chocolate mix and beat again.
  7. Add the flour, baking powder and ginger and stir thoroughly until well combined.
  8. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold into the rest of the mixture until evenly mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the loaf tin and spread evenly.
  10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  12. Once cool, sprinkle the cake with a fine covering of icing sugar. Melt the remaining chocolate in a small bowl either in the microwave or over steaming water as before and drizzle over the cake.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

White Bread Rolls - gluten free, dairy free & yeast free

This week I have been on a serious mission on behalf of a friend of mine. A few days back we had a fire drill at work and whilst standing out in the car park, I was told this friend had recently discovered she needed to cut both dairy and yeast out of her diet (which was already gluten free). This had (unsurprisingly) made eating an increasing challenge and in particular she was really struggling to find any edible bread or suitable alternative. Could I help?

Well....... never one to avoid a challenge, I was absolutely up for it. My response was an instant 'leave it with me...........'

Really? Had I gone totally bonkers? Can you really, actually, possibly, ever produce decent gluten free, dairy free, yeast free bread? It turns out you can! Yes........... really!!!! Not only am I shocked that it can be done, but I am amazed at the quality of the results.

I decided to start small and go for rolls rather than a loaf in the first instance as I thought these would potentially rise better, and would also be easier to store in the freezer and take out as needed (my experience of gluten-free bread being that its shelf life can be very short).

It was also important to use ingredients that were easy to source as I am aware that my larder can be a little bit baffling and intimidating to the uninitiated GF baker! I did a bit of internet research into 'yeast-free bread', found a really helpful magazine site called Living Without and started there. They had a selection of bread (and other) recipes for a whole variety of allergies and intolerances, which gave me a head-start and a set of base recipes on which to build. I did some further research on using baking powder and bicarb in place of yeast to understand the principles of the required replacements and set to work...............

A couple of attempts later, some tweaking of a 'Living Without' dinner roll recipe (in particular quantity and type of flour, quantity of xanthan gum and balancing/changing some other ingredients) and I had a white roll that was frankly, quite unexpected and delicious.

These rolls are probably the lightest, fluffiest and softest that I have had since we went gluten free. Ok, so you don't get the lovely yeasty smell when they are baking, but what they lack in aroma, they more than make up for in 'breadiness'. They are even amazing straight out of the oven, warm and smothered in butter (unusual for a gluten-free bread which is mostly left to cool before you risk eating it). Although they lose some of their moistness, they are still amazingly soft and fresh a couple of days later.......... I know........ I can't believe it either!

And the taste test? My daughter wolfed down three in a row, complained that I had made them for someone else and made me promise that I would bake them for her next time as they were 'sooooo good'.........

And back at work? I think I have a happy friend! The excitement of a yeast/dairy/gluten free bread which is not like a rock and which tastes great has done the job. I have sent her off with a little bread goodie bag and a new recipe.

I am putting these little rolls forward as my second entry for Treat Petite this month. Challenged by Kat at The Baking Explorer and Stuart at Cakeyboi to produce something to celebrate World Baking Day (apparently on the 18th May) that has been made for family and friends, these need to be shared. I know they don't strictly fit the criteria (not being sweet) but the only reason they are here is because I wanted to help a friend with her bready dilemma....... I am hoping that 'excuse' for sneaking them in is good enough!

White Bread Rolls - gluten free, dairy free, yeast free (makes 12 to 15 rolls)


200g plain gluten free flour blend (I used mix A from this post)
50g tapioca flour
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 large eggs - room temperature
3 tablespoons almond milk (or rice or soya milk)
250 ml dairy free yoghurt (soya yoghurt)
60 ml sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cider or white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon honey

Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top


  1. You will need a non-stick 12 hole muffin pan (and maybe a spare tin for any remaining batter), which should not require any greasing, unless it has lost its non-stickness.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together all the dry ingredients, making sure they are fully broken down and well-combined. Set aside.
  4. Measure all the wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until completely amalgamated and airy.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and fold into the wet mixture until you have a sticky thick batter. Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon into the muffin tin holes filling each to about two-thirds. Smooth the top of each with the back of a teaspoon. If you have any mixture left and no remaining space in the tin, place a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and make a small pile with the remaining mixture (it will still rise into a bread roll, but will not have a uniform shape).
  7. Bake straight away for 20 to 25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  8. Remove from the oven and use a silicone spatula to slide and release each muffin if there is any sticking. 
  9. Place on a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze as soon as possible.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated