Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cherry-Almond Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Look at the colour of this.......... Isn't is amazing?

A couple of weeks back, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Aimee Ryan's book : Coconut Milk Ice Cream, which I won in a giveaway. Aimee blogs over at Wallflower Girl and has some fantastic recipes..... check her out!

My first make from the book was chocolate-hazelnut ice cream which I posted here. Having eaten that batch, it was time to make more!

I quite fancied the sound of the Rhubarb Almond Crumble flavour, but our rhubarb plant has been a little slow in getting going and it somehow felt 'wrong' to buy it from the shops. In the fridge, I still had some delicious cherries that came from my favourite orchard (Terry's Cherries in Faversham, Kent), so decided to adapt the recipe to use them instead of rhubarb. Aimee's recipe seemed the perfect starting point to 'play' with the ingredients, as I am not yet that confident to go it alone with coconut milk ice cream, although (like most food bloggers) I really struggle with leaving recipes as they are.

This ice cream is based on her Rhubarb Crumble recipe, but is blended with home-made cherry syrup and almond...... Cherry and almond compliment each other beautifully and are one of my favourite combinations.

Alongside the coconut (which is actually quite subtle), the flavour is fresh and vibrant on the tongue and speaks of warm summer nights, chilling in the garden, watching the stars. The ground almonds used in the mix, give the ice cream an unusual nutty, slightly grainy texture, which although a little unexpected, is not unpleasant. The maple syrup used to sweeten, adds natural caramel notes and gives the ice-cream depth and a much more wholesome, less sugary experience.

I am still amazed at how decadent ice cream made with coconut milk can be. Despite the nuttiness, this ice cream is still very creamy and dotted with tiny bites of fresh, sweet cherry. The top is sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds which add a delightful, contrasting crunch.

And the colour? Well........... It speaks for itself doesn't it?

For those of you who read my last ice cream post, you will know that I had some issues with scooping straight from the freezer. With this ice cream, I added the alcohol which Aimee suggests will help to keep the ice cream soft. Disaronno is an almond-based liqueur (one of my favourites), so seemed the ideal choice, adding to the luxuriousness of the ice cream. I still had a few issues with scooping, although there was definitely a slight improvement on the defrost time. The wait is well worth it! Perhaps I need to add more booze?............ such hardship!

I am sending this very vibrant ice cream over to Kavey Eats as my first ever entry into the Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge. I have been wanting to enter this one for a while, but haven't quite got round to it. June's theme is favourite fruits, so this is a perfect debut offering!

Cherry-Almond Coconut Milk Ice Cream (inspired by and adapted from Aimee Ryan's recipe for Rhubarb Almond Crumble Ice Cream)


300g fresh or frozen dark cherries (pitted)
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
400 ml coconut milk
1½ tablespoons arrowroot powder
35g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 ml maple syrup
1½ tablespoons Disaronno (Amaretto liqueur)
Extra flaked almonds - toasted for about 5 minutes under the grill


  1. Place the cherries in a small saucepan with the coconut sugar and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, until soft (about 5 minutes). Leave to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mix about 50 ml of the coconut milk with the arrowroot, stir and set aside to thicken.
  3. Pour the rest of the coconut milk into a blender with the almonds, almond extract, vanilla, maple syrup and cooked cherries. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the blended mixture into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. 
  5. As soon as it starts to boil, stir in the arrowroot liquid so that it thickens slightly.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur. 
  7. Cool the mixture and chill in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours (or preferably overnight)
  8. Churn the custard in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  9. Transfer to an airtight container and sprinkle the top with toasted flaked almonds.
  10. Allow to freeze over night to fully harden.
(If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture at stage 8 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 and freeze a final time)

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Cherry Pancake - A Random Recipe (gluten free)

Random Recipes has turned 40 this month. So Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has set us a special challenge. He asked us to count along our cook books until we hit number 40 and then to turn to page 40 and make whatever fate (or randomness) picked for us.

Number 40 on my shelf was an interesting choice.......... The Brogdale Stone Fruit Recipe Book. A very local book, published by a local printer for the Brogdale Trust, which houses the national fruit collection in Faversham, Kent. The hundreds of rows of fruit trees (from apples, pears and plums to cherries, cobnuts and bush fruits) are truly impressive........... 2,200 varieties of apple, 550 types of pear, 337 plums and 285 varieties of cherry. And to celebrate the various seasons from blossoming to harvest, the farm puts on a whole range of wild and wacky fruit festivals.

Page 40 of the Brogdale Stone Fruit Recipe Book revealed a choice of two recipes : Apricot Brown Betty or Cherry Omelettes. I love cherries, so this jumped out as the more appealing fruit choice, although the idea of a cherry 'omelette' was a little off-putting. I was also really disappointed that at the start of June (when I did the book count), the local cherries were yet to appear.

I am SO glad I didn't rush out and buy a load of foreign imports. Three weeks later and summer has finally arrived.............. and so have the cherries........ early! Hurrah!! Something is working in my favour on this one............

I always buy my cherries from the local orchards.......... by the ton (well almost.....). I pitt and freeze them so that they last all winter and gorge on as many as I can eat whilst they are on the trees. By a cruel twist of nature's fate, the cherry season is ridiculously short, so any way to make it last longer has to be grabbed.

My very favourite orchard is situated on a little back lane just outside Faversham and is simply marked with a sign saying 'Cherries - Follow The Track'. But this is no ordinary orchard........... it is Terry's Orchard. Full of traditional, standard cherry trees, laden with juicy red balls of fruity deliciousness, only reachable by traditional, narrowing cherry-picking ladders. When you visit Terry's Cherries, you step back in time. Old metal weighing scales, hand-rigged bird scarers, long, long ladders which seem to reach for the sky and a sign which reads 'Sound Horn For Service'. I love it!

But I digress.............. Back to the cherry omelette........ Loaded with freshly picked cherries, my random recipe was up for testing. Closer examination of the ingredients suggested the end result would be more of a pancake than an omelette, which was quite a relief (hence the name change), so we decided they would make a perfect breakfast treat.

The recipe in the book was made with wheat flour, so I amended slightly to make it gluten free. Rather than do a straight substitution into a plain gluten free flour blend, I added a little buckwheat flour to the mix, which gives a slightly more wholesome, nutty edge and is particularly good for pancakes. I also added a sprinkle from the sugar weight to the batter mix to sweeten very slightly.

The resulting pancakes were surprisingly good. Fruity, juicy cherries, surrounded by slightly sweetened pancake and sprinkled with a little extra sugar and cherry syrup. Why have I not made these before?

Oh well....... Thanks Dom! Yet another random recipe discovery to add to the list of 'must eat again soon'!

On account of the delicious cherries bought freshly picked from the orchard, I am also entering these pancakes into a new challenge for me - Simple and in Season, hosted by Ren over at Ren Behan. I am thrilled that the cherries have come into season early and am looking forward to many return trips to see Terry over the next few weeks!

Cherry Pancake (adapted from The Brogdale Stone Fruit recipe Book)


50g plain gluten free flour mix
25g buckwheat flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon kirsch
pinch fine sea salt 
75g golden caster sugar
250 ml cold milk
500g cherries - washed, de-stalked and pitted
15g unsalted butter

Extra cherries and a sprinkle of golden caster sugar for extra cherry topping


  1. Beat together the flours, eggs, kirsch, salt and about 20g of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk. Gradually add the milk, continuing to whisk until well blended, light and very airy.
  2. Cover and set the batter aside to stand for at least two hours in the fridge.
  3. Wash, de-stalk and pitt the cherries. Cut some of them in half.
  4. When ready to make the pancakes, add the cherries to the batter and stir through.
  5. If you are making extra cherry syrup topping, put a handful of additional halved cherries in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar and gently simmer for a couple of minutes. Set aside.
  6. Melt a small nob of butter in a non-stick frying pan or pancake pan and scoop a couple of large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan when it is hot. Swirl the batter round the pan so that you get a flat pancake.
  7. Sprinkle a little sugar on top and cook until the pancake is golden brown on the underside.
  8. Either turn the pancake over to cook the other side or fold in half and let it continue to cook for a further minute or so. 
  9. Serve on a plate with an extra sprinkle of sugar and (if using) an extra spoonful of cherry syrup topping.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Coconut Milk Ice Cream

A couple of weeks back, I was lucky enough to win a copy of a new book, written and published by fellow food blogger, Aimee Ryan, called Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

Aimee blogs over at Wallflower Girl and in my humble opinion, has some of the most interesting and innovative recipes currently out there. Not only is she incredibly creative and experimental with her ingredients, but many of her recipes are developed around gluten free, dairy free, paleo and other specialist diets. If you haven't visited her site, I urge you to do so. She is a very very talented woman!

Her first book is full of beautiful photographs and very tempting recipes for delicious coconut milk ice cream, all made with natural, healthier ingredients and sweetened with unrefined alternatives to sugar, such as coconut palm sugar and maple syrup. You will also find sections on frozen desserts and other treats as well as home-made cones, toppings and sauces. All the recipes are grain free and vegan (and therefore dairy and gluten free) as well as being free of refined sugars and soya.

I don't know about you, but although I had made ice creams containing a ratio of coconut milk before, I had never really fully entertained it as a whole ice cream concept, somehow assuming that the ice cream would not be as creamy or luxuriant as its traditional cream/milk-based counterparts. How wrong was I?  

I think I may be an instant convert. I have now made two ice creams by Aimee's wisdom and both are absolutely decadent, creamy and perfectly sweetened. The possibilities are endless (as indeed Aimee has demonstrated in her book) and the 'guilt' associated with eating calorie-laden ice cream is now reassuringly contained within a healthier and more natural 'box'.

I was very excited when I knew the book was on its way and couldn't wait to get started. The recipe that I most wanted to dive into was for Roasted Plum and Cardamom. But as plums are not quite in season and I had some delicious home-made hazelnut butter left over from the Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter Cookies I recently made, I decided to opt for the Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream recipe.

The recipe worked really well and the resulting ice cream is wonderful. Rich and chocolatey with a slightly chewy, hazelnut bite from the hazelnut butter which runs all the way through. Although you can taste the coconut, it is not in any way overpowering, and compliments the chocolate and hazelnut perfectly. The ice cream is naturally sweetened (but not overly so) with maple syrup, which adds a caramel undertone.

I don't know whether I would have benefitted from a touch of added alcohol (which Aimee suggests gives a softer ice cream due to the lower freezing temperature), but the very coldness of my ice cream maker resulted in an unexpectedly quick freezing process. This didn't affect the overall creaminess or texture of the ice cream when eaten, but did make it nye on impossible to scoop straight from the freezer, which resulted in a very impatient wait to eat it on my part and resorting to the microwave defrost button!

Adding alcohol to my second attempt at coconut ice cream (different flavour to be posted soon) has made a difference, I think, so I will stick with this option in the future.

As I especially picked the chocolate hazelnut recipe to use up the home-made hazelnut butter left from my cookies, I am entering the ice cream into this month's No Waste Food Challenge, being hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food For Families, on behalf of Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. This was a quite unplanned and very delicious way to use up the hazelnut butter, and a recipe that I will most definitely be making again!

Chocolate Hazelnut Coconut Milk Ice Cream (recipe from Aimee Ryan - Coconut Milk Ice Cream (2014))


Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce
45g dark chocolate chips
65g hazelnut butter

Ice Cream Custard
720 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
120 ml maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons hazelnut butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon alcohol (optional)


  1. Make the chocolate hazelnut sauce first - Melt the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl either over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave on medium setting (30 second bursts) stirring frequently. 
  2. Stir in the hazelnut butter until well blended. Leave to cool.
  3. To make the Ice Cream Custard - Mix 60 ml coconut milk in a small bowl or jug with the arrowroot powder. Set aside.
  4. Combine the rest of the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, hazelnut butter and cocoa powder in a blender and blend until smooth. 
  5. Transfer to a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  6. When the mixture begins to boil, immediately add the arrowroot-milk mixture and continue to stir until the custard thickens slightly.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the alcohol (if using).
  8. Chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
  9. Churn the custard in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  10. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and gently swirl in the chocolate sauce mix using a flat-bladed knife or skewer. 
  11. Transfer to the freezer to fully harden.
(If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture at stage 9 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 sauce and freeze a final time)

Disclaimer : I won the book via a blog give away and was not asked to comment. All views expressed are my own.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Best Battenberg Cake I Have Ever Tasted (& It's Gluten Free) - made with home-made marzipan

Battenberg cake is one of those very British delights which is instantly recognisable. Its traditional, characteristic chequerboard sponge in pink and yellow, cloaked in soft almond marzipan takes me straight back to childhood. It's not that we had Battenberg very often when I was a child, but because the cake had such a defined image, it was unforgettable.

The first Battenberg cake is said to have been made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria when she married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. It is usually flavoured with almond and the characteristic design of four squares of coloured sponge are believed to represent the four princes of Battenberg.

To be honest, as a child, I found the marzipan a little 'bitter', mainly because shop-bought versions of the cake always tasted a bit artificial and were probably made as cheap as possible. I would peel the marzipan from the edges of the slice and lick off the jam, then separate the squares of sponge and eat them one by one.

As I have got older, marzipan has snuck its way onto my favourites list and is most definitely up there on a pinnacle for my husband. Being Father's Day last weekend, Battenberg cake seemed a perfect choice for a baking treat.

This is my first attempt at making Battenberg and also my first foray into the world of home-made marzipan. The basic sponge design seems ripe for hundreds of variations of both flavour and colour as well as covering, but I wanted to remain as true to tradition as possible, albeit with a gluten free version. So my sponge is rich with both ground almonds and almond extract and is stuck together with a spread of the expected apricot jam.

I am (I think) entitled to be quite chuffed with my efforts. I may not have added quite enough pink colouring (or perhaps it is just unevenly mixed with my caution about not over-mixing the gluten free cake batter), so that the colour is perhaps a little too subtle, but the cake looks pretty good and it tastes divine.........

Really divine! This is (with the full agreement of everyone who has tasted it) the best Battenberg cake I have ever tasted. The sponge is dense enough to hold together perfectly when shaping, yet incredibly moist and balanced with just the right amount of almond. The apricot jam adds a fruity juice to each mouthful, without being so slippery that the cake falls apart. And the marzipan? Well........ it is soft, perfectly textured with ground almond, rich with almond flavour and surrounds the cake snuggly so that it not only looks neat, but each bite blends the contrasting textures in slightly sticky harmony against each other (if you manage to restrain yourself from reverting to childhood deconstruction of your slice).

The sponge recipe is my own. The marzipan is not........ I had bookmarked a marzipan recipe recently posted by a fellow food blogger - Laura - who blogs over at 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than...', and this is the one that I used (the only exception being that I used a large egg instead of the suggested medium size). And Laura is right...... not only is it incredibly easy to make, but it is so absolutely better than the shop-bought stuff.  Definitely superior in both texture and taste. I too will never be buying it from the supermarket again.

What I found slightly confusing however was that after I made it, I decided to see what other recipes were around and discovered that there does not appear to be a standard process for making it. There are boiled varieties, uncooked versions and some use different sugars. I have no idea whether any of the others are better than this one (there seemed to be a few sob stories out there where attempts to make marzipan had gone disastrously wrong), but this recipe worked perfectly for me....... so I'm sticking with it. Thanks Laura!!

I am entering my gluten free Battenberg cake into three challenges this month :

Love Cake being hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber. This month's theme is 'vintage'. Well, if a history of 130 years and roots with a royal wedding doesn't fit the bill, then my understanding of vintage is right up the creek!

Treat Petite - this month hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi (with Kat from The Baking Explorer). I know it is made as a large cake, but it is traditionally served in individually-portioned slices so I am hoping that it will meet the requirements. It is most definitely a blast from my childhood and I felt it should be shared in all its retro glory.......

Bookmarked Recipes - hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes. The marzipan was bookmarked from Laura over at I'd Much Rather Bake Than, so she deserves all the credit.....

So here it is : The Best Battenberg Cake I Have Ever Tasted And It's Gluten Free!

Battenberg Cake - gluten free


Almond Sponge 
200g gluten free plain flour (I used blend A from this post
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
100g ground almonds
210 ml milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
100g unsalted butter - room temperature
300g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon almond extract
red food colouring

200g (approx) of apricot jam

Marzipan (recipe taken from 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than....')
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon almond extract


Sponge :
  1. Prepare 1x 9 inch/23 cm square loose-bottomed cake tin, by base-lining with baking paper. Cut a thick piece of card to snuggly fit across the centre of the tin as a divider and cover the card with foil followed by a layer of baking paper. Divide the tin in half with the covered card, so that it is split into 2 oblongs. Alternatively, base-line 2x 9 inch/23 cm loaf tins.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt and almonds, making sure any lumps are broken down. Set aside.
  4. In a jug, measure the milk and mix with the vinegar. Stir and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cream the butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.
  7. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat to combine.
  8. Fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk-vinegar mixture about a third at a time until JUST combined.  
  9. Spoon half the mixture into one side of the tin (or one loaf tin).
  10. Add a couple of drops of red food colouring into the remaining half of cake batter to the desired shade and fold until even in colour (be as careful as you can not to over mix).
  11. Spoon the pink mixture into the second half of the cake tin (or the second cake tin).
  12. Smooth the top of the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch. 
  13. When cooked, leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes and then remove the central partition from the tin. Carefully turn the sponges out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  14. Once cold, wrap the sponge in baking paper and cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to firm up slightly which will make it easier to cut and shape.
Marzipan :
  1. Weigh the almonds into a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar, stirring to fully combine.
  2. Add the almond extract and egg and stir with a flat knife to bring together until the mixture forms a dough. 
  3. Knead the dough until smooth. Form into  a ball and wrap in cling film until ready to use.
Putting the cake together :
  1. Carefully trim the edges of each sponge and then cut each oblong in half lengthways as evenly as you can. Measure each piece alongside the others and trim slightly to even up as necessary, so that each strip is as uniform as possible. (You get to eat the trimmings!)
  2. Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan over a low heat, or microwave on medium until warm and liquid.
  3. Use a pastry brush to coat the inside sides of the sponge lengthways, piece by piece, sticking together in a chequer-board pattern : pink and white next to each other on the bottom layer, followed by white and pink (opposite sides) on a second layer. 
  4. Roll out the marzipan onto some baking paper (to prevent it sticking) so that you have a large square that will wrap around the whole of the cake.
  5. Brush some apricot jam onto middle strip of the marzipan and carefully place the sponge on top of the jam (using a spatula or palette knife to help support the sponge when moving).
  6. Brush the remaining long sides of the sponge with jam and carefully fold the marzipan up over the sponge, keeping it as tight as possible to the cake sides and sticking to the jam.
  7. Trim the marzipan to make a neat join and trim any excess marzipan at each end.
  8. Turn the cake over so that the join is hidden on the underside.
  9. Use any off-cuts of marzipan to make decorative marzipan shapes (I made flowers using a cutter) or decorate the cake as you wish. Use a little jam to stick the marzipan decorations to the cake.
  10. Chill the cake for about an hour, before cutting a thin slice off each end with a sharp knife to tidy up. 

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter Cookies - gluten free (with home-made hazelnut butter)

You may remember that a few weeks back I made some Dark & Chewy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies. They were pretty delicious. But now they have been adapted and I think they are even better..........

When I made the peanut butter version, I got to thinking they would be pretty amazing adapted to use a whole array of different nut-butters. Hazelnut, almond, cashew....... maybe even pistachio, pecan and brazil nut. This is going to be a very tasty project!

But if you like Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread), then these ones are for you. Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter Cookies, made with home-made hazelnut butter. They are soft, chewy, not too sweet and very very moreish. Rich with chocolate and wonderfully nutty........... they are shot through with sumptuous, melty chocolate chunks, which liquify on the tongue as you munch.

The hazelnut butter is surprisingly easy to make if you have a grinder. Simply roast your hazelnuts, peel off the skins and grind until they have transformed into a thick paste. I didn't add any salt, but you could choose to add a sprinkle if you are using as a spread to replace peanut butter on toast or bread.

Completely flourless, they are naturally gluten free and once you have made your hazelnut butter, the cookies will be ready in no time at all........ It's pretty much a case of throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them together, roll into balls, and bake. But I challenge you to wait until they are cool before eating them............. The smell from the oven is enough to make any Nutella-lover drool and the sight of warm cookies with chocolate chunks oozing out of the side is too much to walk away from.

Grab (or hide) them quick, because they will be gone in a flash!

Hazelnut Butter

you will need a big bag (between 250g and 500g) hazelnuts and a grinder
fine sea salt to taste (optional - I didn't use salt but may have done so if I intended to spread on toast!)


  1. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray or roasting tin and roast for 10 to 15 minutes at 170 C/325 F/Gas 3. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Rub the hazelnuts a few at a time to remove the skins.
  3. Place the hazelnuts in the grinder (in batches if your grinder is not large enough), and grind until the hazelnuts have become a thick paste. You can leave it slightly textured and crunchy or continue to grind until smooth.
  4. Spoon into jars until you are ready to use.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter Cookies


170g soft light brown sugar
30g cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g hazelnut butter (unsalted)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg - lightly beaten
100g milk chocolate chunks
whole blanched hazelnuts to decorate 


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
  3. In a large bowl, weigh and mix together the sugar, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  4. Add the hazelnut butter, vanilla, egg and chocolate chunks and stir through until you have a well combined and even, sticky thick paste.
  5. Using either a teaspoon or a cake-pop scoop, spoon out scoops of dough and roll into soft balls. 
  6. Place each ball on the baking sheets, allowing plenty of space between each for spreading.
  7. Do not flatten, but take a hazelnut and place in the centre of each dough ball, gently pushing slightly into the surface.
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, swapping trays round half way through to ensure an even bake. (slightly longer will give a crisper biscuit, less time will result in a chewy cookie)
  9. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets to cool, before removing to wire racks (if you can wait that long before diving in!)

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Savoury Summer Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Tart - gluten free

Occasionally I get weeks when I can't be bothered.... The feeling often centres around having to make decisions at home when I have been making them all day at work. I get home and just want someone else to do the deciding for me.

I have had a number of 'those' weeks. Work's been tough recently and has felt like a sticky treacle treadmill much of the time. The sort of treadmill you wish you could get off, but even if it stopped, you would find your feet stuck and refusing to let you go.

With the weather finally warming up, I've also been feeling a little bit cheated being confined in a dingy office, looking out of a grimy window at the bright, sunny world below.

Even cooking and blogging has felt like hard work and I have wondered whether my creativity got washed away with the rain.  And then there is that moment when you get offered timely inspiration from somewhere else and it makes you feel like you can do it after all....

This wonderful, fresh, summery tart came from one such timely nudge in the form of a previous recipe challenge : the Four Season's Food Challenge back in 2014. The theme was 'Red'.

Wanting to make something savoury, I started thinking about red veg, which is actually quite limiting. It seems there are loads of options for red fruit, but walking round the veg sections of the farm shop and supermarket still left me scratching my head.

And then they were there.... Beautiful, shiny, bright red, pointy Ramiro peppers.... and the inspiration kicked in. Roast them. But with what? Must be red.... Sweet, juicy, red, succulent mini San Marzano tomatoes. Now that's really red!

As the pepper and tomato began their cerebral roasting, they got mingled together with some red onion, garlic and parsley and before long, there was the makings of a summer tart.

Almond pastry, sprinkled with cheddar cheese, loaded with roasted red veg and topped with a chunky sprinkling of Wensleydale cheese, shot through with an extra red hue in the form of cranberry and blueberry.

The smell from the oven was incredible. Sweet, caramelising veg mingled with a hint of almond.... the resulting pie is a delight. The pastry is crisp and slightly nutty. The pepper-tomato filling is wonderfully intense.... caramel-sweet from the roasting, but shot through with soft, savoury roasted garlic, onion and a hint of parsley. The acidity of the veg is tempered by the cheddar and Wensleydale which top the whole thing off with a cheesy after-shot. An almond basket of savoury summer sun. Simply delicious!

Although this tart recipe could be made in a large family-size, I made it using individual 10 cm tart tins which are perfect for taking out on a picnic. The tarts are amazing both hot and cold, so they are ideal no matter where you are travelling with your rug and picnic basket. They could also be made as mini mouthful tarts, which would be just amazing at a barbecue or summer party.... And so pretty too.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Tart


1 x quantity gluten free almond pastry as made in this post here

300g Mini San Marzano Tomatoes (or another variety of cherry-sized tomato) - halved
4 Ramiro Peppers (or an alternative red sweet pointy pepper variety_ = deseeded and cut into smallish pieces
1 large red onion - (finely slice one half and chop the other half)3 largish cloves garlic - chopped into small chunksVery large handful chopped fresh parsleysalt and pepper to seasonolive oil150g mature cheddar cheese - grated150g Wensleydale cheese with cranberry (and blueberry - optional) - crumbled


  1. Make one portion of gluten free almond pastry as in this post and use to line either one 23 cm/9 inch loose-bottomed flan tin or four to five loose bottomed individual 10 cm/4 inch tart tins.
  2. After chilling the raw rolled pastry (lined in the tins) for an hour or so in the fridge, line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans and blind bake. Heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 and bake the pastry for 10 minutes with the baking beans. Remove the baking beans, turn the oven down to 190 C/375 F/Gas 5 and place the pastry cases back into the oven for a further 10 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove and cool completely.
  3. Turn the oven up to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7.
  4. Place the cut peppers, halved tomatoes, sliced and chopped red onion, chunks of garlic and chopped parsley in a large heat-proof dish. Season with salt and black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and stir.
  5. Place in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables are beginning to char on the edges. You can either leave the filling to cool or use straight away.
  6. Turn the oven down to 190 C/375 F/Gas 5.
  7. Sprinkle a fine layer of cheddar cheese across the bottom of each tart case.
  8. Spoon a thick layer of pepper-tomato filling on top of the cheddar cheese (to almost the top of the tart case).
  9. Top the red filling with some scattered, crumbled Wensleydale cheese.
  10. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes to heat through completely and allow the cheese to melt.
Previously Shared with (June 2014) :
Four Season's Food Challenge
Cooking with Herbs Challenge
Family Foodies Challenge

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Pear & Chocolate Cake (gluten free)

Chocolate is one of those ingredients which is so versatile as to combine well with pretty much anything else. From sweet to savoury, vanilla to chilli, dairy, meat, nuts, fruit and even veg! I particularly like to pair it with fruit - strawberries, cherries, raspberries, bananas and coconut being among my favourites.

Pears however, take chocolate cake into a new league. Pear and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven, not just because of the compatibility of flavours and contrast of textures, but because the addition of pear to a sponge adds an incredible moistness which helps to make eating the cake a melty, gentle, succulent experience.

Recently, I have had a bit of a thing for pears. I think I got a bit bored with eating apples and seeing some rather delicious-looking pears in a wonderful little independent farm-type shop near where we live, made a switch which seems to have stuck.

The shop is one of my favourites - Macknade Fine Foods - based in Faversham, Kent. It sells a whole range of produce, much of it local, but also has a wonderful range of international gastronomic delights. I have been visiting Macknade for about 20 years and have watched it grow both in size and range. I love the fact that it supports local producers (we have some amazing food produced in Kent) and also that it is such a foodie treasure trove. It has the most amazing selection of British cheeses which you can taste before you buy and the staff have a detailed knowledge of the produce to be able to advise. I always visit when I have plenty of time to browse, and can guarantee that each time, I will discover something new.

Pears in hand, this week some of them have been used in this wonderful cake. Not having made a pear and chocolate cake since going gluten free, I have played around with my ingredients to achieve this one.

Last weekend we also made a visit to another favourite local haunt of mine - Brogdale Farm which houses the national fruit collection. They hold a number of fruit festivals each year, which have been mentioned in previous posts, and have a number of food and craft outlets. There is also a lovely miniature railway which takes you on a trip through their vast orchards. Fruit being their business, they make an amazing selection of juices, pressed from fruit in the national collection. We particularly love the Pear Juice from their Heritage Collection, which has been used in this cake.

When we visited last week, my daughter popped into one of the shops with her purse and reappeared about 10 minutes later with a new recipe book. She proudly showed me 'Fruit' by Kathryn Hawkins and announced 'Mummy I bought this for both of us. I had a look through it and there are some nice recipes which I thought you could make gluten free, because you do that don't you?' How sweet is that? My 8 year old daughter is buying cook books for us to share!

Well how could I refuse? We looked through and found an interesting recipe for Chocolate Pear Cake and I set to work de-glutenising it. Actually, I will be honest, I have changed the sponge recipe almost beyond all recognition. I think the only direct comparison left is that it contains chocolate and pear. But I guess that's what we bloggers do...........

This bake uses coconut palm sugar and maple syrup to sweeten, giving it a natural depth with caramel notes. I have also added a little ground almond for additional texture and flavour. The resulting cake is rich, beautifully moist, perfectly balanced with pear which gives a slightly acidic, fruity bite, and is quite delicious. It is topped with chocolate icing which provides a contrasting, slightly sugary sweetness, and some roasted pistachios which introduce a wonderful nutty crunch against the soft, wetness of the sponge.

The cake needs no accompaniment, although works well with cream or ice-cream if being eaten as a dessert. I imagine it would be pretty amazing with the addition of some sultanas too.......

I am entering my Pear & Chocolate Cake into two challenges this month :

We Should Cocoa, being hosted by Michelle over at Utterly Scrummy Food For Families (on behalf of Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog). June's theme is Gluten Free. I think I lucked-out a bit there!

And Shop Local (hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary) which encourages us to promote local food producers and celebrate their produce. This cake has been made with locally sourced pear juice from the Brogdale Heritage Collection, and also locally bought pears from the Macknade food store.

Pear & Chocolate Cake


180g gluten free plain flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
40g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
30g cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter
125g coconut palm sugar (or soft dark or light brown sugar, if you don't have this)
50g maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons pear juice (or apple juice)
500g (unpeeled/uncored weight) fresh ripe pears (peeled, cored & finely chopped)

90g plain chocolate - broken into pieces
25g unsalted butter
90g icing sugar - sifted
3 tablespoons almond milk (or any other milk)

Roasted chopped pistachios for decoration (optional)


  1. Base-line a 9 inch round cake tin (4 cm/1½ inches deep).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C/320 F/Gas 3.
  3. Weigh and mix together in a medium bowl the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and cocoa, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, juice and chopped pear to the mixture and fold until completely combined.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the surface so that it is even.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the cake is 'set' and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Leave in the cake tin for 5 to 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. To make the icing : Place the chocolate and butter into a small bowl and melt together either over a small pan of simmering water, or in the microwave on 30 second bursts (medium setting) stirring frequently.
  11. Remove from the heat and add the icing sugar and milk. Beat until fully combined, smooth and silky.
  12. Immediately spread onto the cake and sprinkle with chopped pistachios for decoration. Leave to cool.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated