Thursday, 31 July 2014

Double Chocolate, Coconut & Macadamia Biscotti (gluten free)

A couple of weeks back I had a real hankering for biscotti.......... specifically, chocolate ones. And I wanted them to be rich with the taste of coconut and crunchy with nuts. Not just any old chocolate biscotti....... these needed to fit my very picky criteria.

In the absence of any recipe that would suffice, I set to work creating my own, thinking that gluten free chocolate biscotti would be a cinch! I wish!!! I'm not sure whether I was having a bad day, or lost my touch, but for some reason, they were a real pig to create.

Sure I could make chocolate biscuits and sure, my first couple of attempts were tasty........ but they lacked the required biscotti 'crunch' and 'snap' and somehow (to me) tasted a bit bland. Three batches (and a pile of discarded biscotti) later and I finally had what I wanted.

Made with coconut oil, coconut flour and some desiccated coconut, they definitely tick the 'coconut' box........ Full of cocoa and melty chocolate chunks, they are unmistakably 'chocolate'......... The ground almonds and macadamia nuts provide that craved nutty bite........ They are twice-baked and then dried in a warm oven slowly and carefully so that they have the characteristic biscotti bite. Tick, tick, tick, tick..... done!

And all those left over biscotti experiments? Whilst some of them ended up in our tummies as we um'd and ah'd over which we liked best...... the rest were put to work creating something new and exciting! Watch this space........

These crunchy little devils are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee, a good book and a sunny seat in the garden. Enjoy!

Double Chocolate, Coconut & Macadamia Biscotti


80g coconut flour
40g corn flour
40g buckwheat flour
30g ground almonds 
55g sorghum flour
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
45g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
60g coconut oil - melted
100g golden caster sugar
40g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g chocolate chunks (mixed)
30g desiccated coconut
40g macadamia nuts (crushed) - optional
3 tablespoons (approx) almond milk


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  3. Weigh and mix together in a medium sized bowl the flours, almonds, xanthan gum, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  4. Cream together the coconut oil and sugars, until light and well combined.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly and then add the vanilla extract and beat. 
  6. Add the flour mix, chocolate chunks, desiccated coconut, crushed macadamia nuts and almond milk and mix well until the ingredients come together to form a kneadable dough. If it feels too dry, add a little more almond milk and knead until smooth.
  7. Split the dough into three or four equal-sized balls and roll each into a sausage shape, 5 cm/2 inches in diameter.
  8. Place each on the baking trays, leaving space between each roll of dough. Slightly flatten the top of each sausage using the palm of your hand.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and then remove and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
  10. Place on a chopping board and cut into slices diagonally about 2 cm/½ inch thick. 
  11. Place each slice back on the baking sheets flat side down, turn the oven down to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2, and bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes until dry. Turn over each slice half way through and keep an eye to ensure they do not burn. If you are concerned, turn the oven down a little further. 
  12. Once you are happy that the biscuits are crisp and dry enough, you can remove from the oven to cool, although I tend to turn the oven off and leave mine in as the oven cools to make sure they dry out as much as possible.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Eclairs (gluten free)

Choux pastry was one of the first challenges I was desperate to try when we first went gluten free. If there was a party to go to, my offering had often been a batch of profiteroles and the ingredients to knock up a quick chocolate sauce fresh when I got there. The thought of 'no profiteroles' was too much to bear...

New gluten free cook books in hand, I scoured the indexes and internet looking for a gluten free version of choux, to no avail. Nearly 7 years on and there are many gluten free recipes out there (I guess we have come a long way), but at that time I realised I would have to go it alone. I was only a month or so into the strange world of gluten free baking and all my kitchen understanding and knowledge had been turned upside down.

I have been told that making choux pastry can be quite tricky, but I had never had a failed batch, so set to work on de-glutenising and adapting the trusty recipe from school food science lessons, which was by now 30 years old!

Although my first attempt was a bit soggy, it sort of resembled a batch of profiteroles (I didn't dare risk piping the dough at that stage). A few more attempts and ingredient tweaks later and I was jumping for joy. I haven't changed my recipe since...

Tested on friends and relatives, this choux has not let me down yet. I make it with my own flour blend  A (found here), which is a balanced combination of brown and white rice flours, cornflour, tapioca and potato starch. Consequently, I have no idea whether it would work as well with a commercial GF flour blend, as gluten free flours have such very different properties and the ratios in the blend can sometimes be crucial.

Eclairs (long, thin choux pastry cases filled with cream and topped with icing) are one of my favourite sweet pastry treats and are thought to have originated in France at the turn of the nineteenth century. They are usually filled with either whipped cream or pastry cream and topped with dark chocolate fondant icing, but the possibilities for variations in flavour, filling and toppings are endless.

Apparently, some editions of the Chambers dictionary define eclairs as 'a cake, long in shape but short in duration'... I think that speaks for itself.

The inspiration for these eclairs came straight from the garden. Our rhubarb plant which had had a bit of a slow start to the year, had suddenly gone ballistic. Needing to be used, it was a perfect summery flavour for this French delight.

Simmered down into a rhubarb syrup and folded into the cream which fills each eclair, the rhubarb gives them a slightly tart, fruity tang, complimented by a sweet white chocolate iced topping. Delicious!

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Eclairs

Choux Pastry (gluten free) (makes approx 14 small eclairs)


65g plain white GF flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
50g unsalted butter
175 ml water
2 large eggs - lightly beaten


  1. Base line a baking sheet with baking paper or use a silpat sheet.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7.
  3. Weigh and mix the flour and xanthan gum into a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan over a low heat.
  5. Add the water and bring to the boil.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Beat well with a wooden/silicone spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
  7. Cool slightly and add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Make sure the mixture is completely combined and even.
  8. Pipe the mixture into sausage shapes about 10 cm/4 inches long, using a large open round nozzle, onto the baking sheet(s).
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2 (open the oven door for a few seconds to allow a little heat to escape) and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown and hollow.
  10. Remove from the oven and cut a small slit in the side or end of each eclair case to allow the steam to escape. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Rhubarb Cream


1 stick (approx 130g) fresh rhubarb
140g caster sugar
30 ml water
300 ml double cream


  1. Wash and cut the rhubarb into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water and bring to the boil stirring.
  2. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft and the liquid has reduced to a syrup. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
  3. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and fold in the rhubarb syrup.
  4. Pipe the cream into the eclair cases using a smallish piping nozzle through the slits made earlier. 
  5. Set aside in the fridge until ready to dip in chocolate.

White Chocolate 'icing'


100g white chocolate
10g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1-2 tablespoons milk


  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave set to medium on 30 second bursts, stirring frequently.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the golden syrup. The mixture will become 'clumpy'.
  3. Add the milk and stir through until the mixture becomes smooth again.
  4. Dip the eclairs in the chocolate or coat the tops using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place in the fridge to set.
Previously shared with :

Love Cake challenge hosted by Ness over at Jibber Jabber

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Raspberry Ripple - White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice-Cream Bars & Bites

It has been hot hot hot this week. Wonderfully holiday hot! Apart from the fact that I have been stuck in an un-airconditioned office, frustratedly gazing out of the window at all those people lucky enough to be outside..............

Hot weather wherever you are, calls for something cool and ice cream is guaranteed to hit the spot. Universally loved, ice-cream comes in any flavour you choose and can be anything from calorifically decadent to palate-cleansingly light.

I remember many a happy ice-cream moment as a child (often in the back of the car because we should eat ice cream on holiday, whatever the (rainy) weather!). There was definitely not as much variety then as there is today, but there was plenty of choice to keep me smiling. Sometimes I would opt for something refreshingly fruity.......... Strawberry splits were a favourite...... Sometimes I would go for something more chocolatey........ maybe a choc ice or a cone of chocolate ice cream. And rippled ice cream? Well, if it came in a tub, this was my thing. I loved the contrast between sweet and creamy and tart and frosty!

These Raspberry Ripple-White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream Bars are inspired by those childhood holiday memories...... all rolled into one.

Actually, these are better than my childhood memories...... I remember ice-cream from the 70's as being a bit watery and 'cheap' in flavour and texture and the ripple being pretty synthetic. Maybe I am a bit of an ice-cream 'snob', but these days only the creamiest, most decadent will do.

I have updated, freshened and 'healthified' this holiday treat, using a fresh fruit syrup sweetened with natural honey for the ripple and using coconut milk to make the ice cream custard. Ok.... so there's a goodly portion of white chocolate thrown into the mix as well, but this just adds to the joy. Most definitely a perfect summer dessert. Sit down, enjoy the sun and chill out!

This ice cream has been inspired by Aimee Ryan's book Coconut Milk Ice Cream which I have also linked in a couple of other posts recently : here and here.  Each time I make another flavour with a coconut milk base, it remains a revelation..... I'm hooked! But for texture and creaminess, this is my best attempt yet.

It is also my first attempt at magic chocolate coating. Although there are a number of recipes for this (all more or less the same) on the internet, I have used the recipe from Aimee's book, which simply combines melted dark chocolate with coconut oil. And yes..... it really is magic! The secret is in the coconut oil, which stops the melted chocolate from hardening at room temperature, yet when it hits the ice cream, hardens into a crispy chocolate shell almost instantly. Such fun! And so much more natural and flavoursome.

Despite the use of coconut milk and coconut oil, I can honestly say these ice cream bars are not really coconutty at all. I was worried that the coconut might detract from the chocolate or fruit, but the fresh raspberry ripple truly remains a star and the coconut only taints the flavour slightly and (I think) enhances the end result beautifully. Summer fresh flavour with added decadence............ Mini bites or choc-ice bars, these are amazing!

I am entering my Raspberry Ripple-White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice-Cream Bars into a number of foodie challenges this month.

First : We Should Cocoa being hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary on behalf of Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog. July's theme is Chocolate Ice Cream and Toppings, so this pretty much qualifies on both counts. If you have never tried magic chocolate coating on ice cream, then put it on your list of things to do very soon...... It's genius!

Next : Family Foodies with Vanesther at Bangers & Mash (joint hosted with Lou at Eat Your Veg). With the heat upon us (yes.... really!), they are inviting refreshing, cooling summery treats with a very seasonal theme of 'Chill Out, Baby!'. These little morsels of fruity, chocolatey, icy deliciousness are so good, my daughter has requested a batch for her up-coming birthday party. And actually, as ice creams go, they are much simpler to make than they look and guaranteed to wow any guest (even a rowdy bunch of 9 year olds)........

Third up : Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream, hosted by Kavey Eats. For July, Kavey has asked us to create an ice-cream inspired by holiday memories. These ice cream bars are the combination of many of my childhood ice cream holiday memories rolled into one.

And finally, I am hoping I can share this with Alpha Bakes, being brought to us this month by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker. Each month, Ros and Caroline (Caroline Makes) pick a random letter from the alphabet and ask for entries that alphabetically connect. Last month was 'D'. I made a lovely date flapjack, but didn't get to enter, on account of a mis-timed migraine which turned up at the very end of the month just before I was about to send my entry off.

This month's letter is 'R'. I know that ice-cream bars are not actually 'bakes' but I am hoping they may just be allowed on account of the ripples of home-made honeyed raspberry syrup hidden within......

So without any more rambling, here they are :

Raspberry Ripple - White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream Bars & Bites

Honeyed Raspberry Syrup :

150g fresh of frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons runny honey/maple syrup
1½ tablespoons lemon juice

Method :

  1. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and crush the raspberries slightly against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon to release some of the juice.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Push the fruit mix through a sieve so that you are left with a thick syrup. Discard the pips and fibre left in the sieve. 
  5. Refrigerate the syrup until ready to use.

Raspberry Ripple White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream :

1x quantity of Honeyed Raspberry Syrup

800 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
140 ml maple syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
100g white chocolate - cut into small pieces

Method :

  1. Mix 50 ml coconut milk with the arrowroot powder in a small bowl to make a smooth paste.
  2. Pour the rest of the coconut milk into a large saucepan with the maple syrup and bring to the boil, stirring.
  3. When the liquid reaches boiling point, pour in the arrowroot paste and continue to stir until the custard thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and white chocolate until the chocolate has melted and the custard is smooth.
  5. Cool the custard (stirring intermittently to prevent a skin forming) and then place in the fridge to completely chill for a few hours.
  6. Base-line a square 8 inch/20 cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper and place in the freezer to chill before you churn the ice cream. You can also use non-stick ice cube tray moulds or small silicone cake moulds. 
  7. Once chilled, churn the ice cream mix in an ice cream maker by the manufacturer's instructions (or by hand as instructions below).
  8. Once churned, add the raspberry syrup and gently swirl through the ice cream with a knife blade to get a ripple effect.
  9. Spoon the ice cream into the chilled trays, level off with a spatula and place in the freezer (over night and preferably on fast freeze) to harden as much as possible before you coat with chocolate.
(If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture at stage 7 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, swirl in the raspberry syrup, spoon into the moulds/tray and freeze a final time)

Magic Dark Chocolate Coating

250g good quality dark chocolate - cut into pieces
4 tablespoons coconut oil

Method :

  1. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave on medium setting at 30 second bursts, stirring frequently until smooth and liquid. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add the coconut oil and stir until completely melted and fully combined.
  3. Leave to cool to room temperature, before using to coat the ice cream bars.

Putting it all together :

  1. Make sure the ice cream is as cold and hard as possible (use fast freeze to get the temperature down) and remove from the cake tin. Cut into even portion-sized squares or rectangles with a very sharp knife. 
  2. Remove any smaller ice cream portions from their moulds. 
  3. Dependent on how warm to is when you are doing this (and how quickly the ice cream appears to soften), you may wish to put the ice cream portions back into the freezer for a short while before you proceed to the next stage.
  4. When ready, dip the ice cream portions into the chocolate mix. For small ice cream bites, you should be able to cover completely in one dip (I inserted a cocktail stick into each before dipping to allow for coating evenly without holding the ice cream). For larger ice cream bars, I dipped each one half at a time (holding with tongs), allowing the chocolate on one half to harden before turning over and dipping the other half. The chocolate should harden very quickly on contact with the ice cream. As it sets, place on a tray lined with baking paper and put back in the freezer to re-harden as soon as possible.
  5. When they are ready, carefully remove any cocktail sticks and store in airtight containers in the freezer.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 14 July 2014

Gluten Free Baguette and Beautiful Basil Pesto

I have been wanting to make a gluten free baguette for some time, but gluten free bread can be very difficult to mould into familiar shapes as it is much wetter than usual wheat-based dough and generally not 'kneadable'. Unsure how best to get the traditional rounded stick shape, I recently came across a baguette tin which is designed to hold dough in a rounded, supported position along the length of the tray, via two dips whilst it bakes. The tray has a mesh structure to allow the dry heat to circulate round the whole loaf whilst it is baking and I wasn't sure whether gluten free dough would hold in the pan (being worried it might drip through the holes).

Only one way to find out I guess and that was to give it a go.............

There are only a handful of gluten free baguette recipes out there and although they seem to follow a rough ratio of wet to dry ingredients to yeast, they all seem to use different flours. I tried to check out some French gluten free blogs for the 'local' take on GF baguette recipes (I figured they may have higher standards than me), but my appallingly bad French language skills let me down......... Have now made a mental note to practice harder (or find a good translator)!

This is my version of a French stick, which uses a combination of sorghum, tapioca, potato and rice flours and seems to produce a good, soft baguette with a slightly dense texture and mild flavour. It is brushed with a mixture of water and a little oil before it heads for the oven, which helps it get a crispy crust. It is best eaten fresh, warm and at least the same day (as with traditional baguettes), but it is freezable if you need to store it.

Baguettes are great for garden eating and picnics.......... you can fill them like a sandwich, turn them into a barbecue hot dog, or just dip them in any number of sauce varieties, olive oil, pesto, or chutney.

Pesto is a favourite and with the summer abundance of fresh basil, it seemed a good idea to make some home-made and fresh. It is really simple to do and, providing you have a food processor, you can knock it together in ten to fifteen minutes (including the light toasting of the pine nuts).

The recipe I use is a Jamie Oliver one which you can find here. Jamie's recipe quantities are not very specific.......... a handful of this and a handful of that............ but with pesto, it doesn't really matter as you want to make it to taste anyway, so judge the flavour as you go along.

The end result is deep in flavour, incredibly aromatic and the most beautiful, vibrant green colour. It is rich with the mingling of parmesan and basil, shot through with savoury nuttiness from the pine nuts. The garlic is obvious but not over-powering. So much better than the commercial pre-prepared jars.

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this pesto, look out for veggie alternatives to Parmesan (which contains rennet). Sainsbury and Tesco do an Italian Style Hard Cheese which is considered to be safe, or you could use an alternative favourite hard cheese that you are familiar with.

If you don't want to use it as a dip, it makes the most amazingly delicious chicken pesto pasta!

I am offering my gluten free baguette and beautiful basil pesto to three challenges for July :

Four Seasons Food, being hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg (with Anneli at Delicieux). This month FSF has gone 'al fresco' and is enjoying all things summer with outdoor eating. Great for lunch, parties, picnics or soiree's, this gluten free baguette means that even the gluten-intolerent can feel part of the hospitality. And who couldn't resist a dip this beautiful?

Eat Your Greens hosted by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen, who is challenging us to make something with a green vegetable each month.......... I know that basil isn't technically a vegetable, but it is very very green, so I am hoping I can sneak it in!

And finally : Cooking With Herbs from Karen at Lavender & Lovage. July's challenge is 'beautiful basil'.......... That just about says it all! This pesto is the most amazing colour......... totally beautiful, fragrant and absolutely delicious!

Gluten Free Baguette


140g sorghum flour
100g tapioca flour
85g potato starch flour
60g brown rice flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (I used Allinson's)
240 ml hand warm water
2 large egg whites
1 large whole egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar


  1. In a bowl, mix the flours together with the xanthan gum and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast and warm water and leave for 10 minutes to become active and frothy.
  3. In a large bowl, lightly beat together the egg whites, whole egg, oil and vinegar.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mix followed by the yeast liquid and fold together until evenly combined.
  5. Place the baguette pan on a baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. 
  6. Spoon the dough into the baguette moulds and spread, shaping into even, slightly rounded oblongs using the back of a spoon.
  7. Dampen the back of the spoon and smooth the bumps out of the top of the dough.
  8. Slash 3 slits diagonally into the top of each baguette (dampen the knife to prevent sticking).
  9. Lay a piece of cling film over the top and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
  10. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  11. Before placing in the oven, lightly brush the baguettes with a mixture of olive oil and water. 
  12. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
  13. As with traditional baguettes, this loaf is best eaten the day it is baked and at its best when served warm from the oven.

Beautiful Basil Pesto (from a  Jamie Oliver recipe)


½ clove of garlic (or less if the clove is very large)
large pinch fine sea salt
large grind of fresh black pepper
3 to 4 large handfuls of basil leaves (about 50 to 55g)
approx 50g pine nuts - very lightly toasted (a large handful)
approx 50g parmesan cheese - finely grated (a good handful) or an alternative vegetarian hard cheese
approx 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
squeeze lemon juice to taste - optional


  1. Using a food processor, grind together the garlic, salt, pepper and basil.
  2. Add the pine nuts and grind again.
  3. Add half the parmesan (or alternative) and mix again.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and gradually add the olive oil and more parmesan until you have reached a rich, thick consistency and flavour that you are happy with. 
  5. Add a squeeze of lemon to taste (optional)
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Chocolate Loaf Cake for Sports Day - gluten free

It's July....... So it must be school sports day....... Which means it's also time to bake cake for the cake stall!

Every year the school PFA sets up a cake and refreshment sale at sports day to raise funds and I try to make a home-baked gluten free contribution. Having a child who is Coeliac, I know just how upset and disappointed children can be when they look at all those delicious treats and know that they can't eat any of them. So I make sure there is at least one safe cake on sale that they can enjoy with all their friends.

Sports day cakes need to be easily portionable. I always make sure they are sliced before I leave home to avoid any gluten cross-contamination from being cut with cutlery already used for other cakes and I ensure they are safely boxed in a tub which will protect from adjacent wheat flour cakes.

Chocolate is usually the natural choice as it is a firm favourite with most kids. Last year I made a double chocolate layer cake which disappeared very quickly. This year I made a chocolate loaf cake, inspired by Nigella Lawson's Quadruple Loaf Cake, altered considerably to make it gluten free. I had bookmarked this recipe in her book Feast a while back with a mental note to 'take out the wheat'. My husband had baked it a few years ago for my birthday, long before we had to avoid gluten, and I remembered it being particularly delicious...... which I think was a memory of the cake and not just the fact that my husband had taken great effort to bake for me! You can also find the original wheat-flour recipe on the website.

I had intended to make the cake dairy free as well, but threw a load of chocolate chunks into the mix without thinking, completely dismissing the fact that they were dairy based as I did so. I simply didn't have the time to make another one, but the cake can easily be adapted by substituting for dairy free chocolate chopped into chunks, as it contains no other dairy ingredients.

I am pretty pleased with this loaf............ I did of course buy a couple of slices back from the stall. The sponge is very chocolatey and quite creamy on account of the use of coconut oil and milk. The melty chunks of milk and white chocolate surprise the taste buds with each bite. The chocolate syrup which is drizzled across the top (the original Nigella recipe) provides a slight crunch and a rich, moist, syrupy texture running through the cake where it has seeped into the skewered holes. And as if that is not chocolately enough, a sprinkle of grated chocolate on the top adds to the decadence.

This is a truly very muchly chocolatey cake! Unsurprisingly, it all sold........ I just hope the gluten free kids got there first!

On account of its bookmarked status, I am entering my gluten free adaptation of Nigella's Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake into this month's Bookmarked challenge brought to us by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes, who encourages us to actually do something with that long list of recipes stored in favourites under 'must make'! This recipe now meets the criteria for 'must make more often'.............

Chocolate Loaf Cake (makes one 9x5 inch loaf)


280g plain gluten free flour mix 
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
40g cocoa powder
4 tablespoons hot boiled water
120g coconut oil - melted
200g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
160 ml coconut milk
175g chocolate chunks (milk, plain or white)


  1. Base line a 9x5 inch non-stick loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water in a small bowl until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
  5. Beat together the coconut oil and sugar in a large bowl until well blended and airy.
  6. Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs (one at a time).
  7. Add the cocoa paste and beat thoroughly.
  8. Fold in the flour mix about a third at a time, alternating with the coconut milk until just combined.
  9. Add and gently fold in the chocolate chunks.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
  11. Bake for approximately 45 minutes to an hour until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  12. Leave the cake to cool in the pan whilst you make the syrup.

Chocolate Drizzle Syrup (from a recipe by Nigella Lawson - Feast) 


1 teaspoon cocoa powder
125 ml water
100g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

additional grated chocolate to decorate


  1. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. 
  2. Allow to boil for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring until you have a chocolate syrup.
  3. Leaving the cake in the tin (still warm), pierce deep holes into the surface of the sponge with a skewer. Drizzle the syrup over the surface a little at a time to allow to absorb into the holes.
  4. Sprinkle the top of the cake with grated chocolate whilst the syrup is still wet.
  5. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan. Eat hungrily!

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Courgette & Cherry Cupcakes (gluten free) with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

With the combination of warmth and rain in the last few weeks, our vegetable patch is turning into a bit of a jungle. We have been feasting on home-grown courgettes, cucumbers and green beans for the last couple of weeks and the tomatoes are just beginning to colour. With the promise of lots of other veg ahead, we are reaping the benefits of growing from seed and it is saving us money on the weekly shop.

Home grown vegetables always taste so much better than anything shop bought. The fact that they are straight off the plant means they can never be any fresher, so the flavours are more intense and as they were meant to be. It's fantastic when the crop comes good, but there are times when you get such an abundance of something, that there is a need to be inventive in using it.

Courgettes are one of those vegetables which require a bit of creativity. Once they start to harvest, they come thick and fast, but unlike many vegetables, they are difficult to store for long periods of time and they don't seem to freeze well. Thank goodness they are versatile!

This week I decided to use them to make cake. It is ages since I made cupcakes and as I haven't yet created a gluten free version of courgette cake, figured it was about time I did. Because they are not over-strong in flavour and are also full of moisture, courgettes grated and added to cake mixture help to create a really moist and wholesome sponge.

I made another trip to my favourite local orchard this week too, to get my weekly fix of cherries. For those of you who have read some of my recent posts, you will know that my favourite orchard is Terry's Cherries in Faversham, Kent....... very traditional and full of ripe juicy cherries sold straight off the trees. You can see pictures from the orchard which I posted last year here.

Laden with lots of delicious cherries, I wondered how they might pair with the courgettes in cake........ Well there's only one way to find out!

This sponge mix is enriched with some ground almonds and also gains extra moisture from the addition of apple sauce. Spiced up with a goodly dose of cinnamon, the cupcakes are amazing............ moist and succulent, run through with ribbons of juicy courgette and chunks of fruity cherry. If you have never eaten courgette cake, give these a try......... They are a real treat and anything but savoury. Great on their own without anything added, they make a wonderful breakfast cake too!

I am genuinely thrilled with the result. I even managed to get my daughter to eat courgettes without noticing! She knew the cakes contained cherries, but I sneakily didn't mention that there was also 'green' stuff in there, until after she had declared how much she liked them. And what did she say when I came clean? 'Oh no....... that means I can't eat any more of them!' Really??? Kids are so fickle.......

As the sponge is not over-sweet, I figured the cupcakes could take a bit of frosting as well. To compliment the theme of the cupcake, I made a cherry cream-cheese frosting which adds to the overall fruitiness and makes the cupcakes a little more decadent.

The frosting is lovely...... creamy and rich from the cheese and sweet from the sugar, but tempered by the cherry, making it a little more grown up. Unfortunately (and possibly due to the heat this weekend), my cheese and butter seemed to separate slightly on beating and I was struggling to get the icing to thicken up with the usual amount of icing sugar, so it was a little wetter than intended. Thank goodness the appallingly sloppy piping could be hidden by an extra fresh juicy cherry on the top. Oh well...... it tasted great and that's the main thing!

I am entering my courgette cupcakes into a whole bunch of challenges this month........ They are so wonderful, they need to be shared........

First up : Treat Petite - this month being hosted by Kat at The Baking Explorer (who co-hosts the challenge with Stuart at Cakeyboi). 'Summer' is the theme for July and these cupcakes are full of it! Cherries and courgettes, fresh as they come and full of summer sun.

Next : The Biscuit Barrel Challenge - the baby of Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than..... Laura's theme for the month is 'In Season Fruits'. Whether the courgettes count or not, those cherries definitely fit the bill!

Then we have a new challenge brought to us by Shaheen at Allotment2Kitchen : Vegetable Palette. Shaheen challenges us to make goodies with fruits and vegetables and anything goes as long as it is vegetarian. July's criteria is for the dish to incorporate 'Summer Reds'....... The cherries in these cupcakes are a beautiful deep, dark red......... Lovely!

Next, I'm sending my very seasonal cupcakes to Simple & In Season, being hosted this month by My Custard Pie on behalf of Ren from RenBehan, who has just welcomed a new baby boy into her world........ Congratulations Ren!

And finally : I think I still have a cupcake left for Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for Shop Local. The cherries are fresh from Terry in the orchard and the courgettes are from the vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden. I reckon that pretty much qualifies.....

Phew! And here they are : gluten free Courgette and Cherry Cupcakes....... a wonderful treat for July........

Courgette & Cherry Cupcakes (makes 16 cupcakes)


185g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A from this post, but other blends are fine)
80g ground almonds
25g oat flour (made as in this post, if you are unable to buy the flour ready made)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g courgette (zucchini) - grated
130g fresh dark cherries - pitted and chopped
65g unsalted butter - room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
4 tablespoons apple sauce


  1. Prepare your cupcake cases by placing into cupcake trays.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together in a medium bowl, the flour, almonds, oats, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon. Make sure any lumps are completely broken down and set aside.
  4. Grate the courgette and pitt and chop the cherries and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla until light and creamy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly until you have a light and airy batter.
  7. Add the apple sauce and beat to thoroughly combine.
  8. Fold the flour and the courgette and cherries into the wet batter mix until completely incorporated, but be careful not to over-mix.
  9. Spoon into the cake cases (about two-thirds full) and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
  10. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the tops spring back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Place on a wire rack to cool whilst you make your frosting.

Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting


100g cream cheese
130g unsalted butter - room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Approx 250g icing sugar (or more if your icing needs to be thicker)
1-2 tablespoons cherry puree or cherry syrup (I used a little liquidised candied cherries made from this recipe)

Extra fresh cherries to decorate


  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric whisk until smooth and combined.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (a little at a time) and continue to beat until you have used about half of the sugar.
  3. As the mixture begins to thicken, add the cherry syrup a little at a time, alternating with the remaining sugar. 
  4. If you need to add more icing sugar to thicken the mixture, continue to do so until you have an icing which is of spreading consistency.
  5. When the cupcakes are cold, either spread or pipe the icing on each one to decorate and top with a fresh cherry.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Date, Apricot & Coconut Flapjack

Flapjack is one of those tray bakes which is amazingly versatile. You can make it with fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate...... ridiculously sugary or virtuously healthy...... chewy or crunchy.......

It always has at its base, lots of creamy, healthy oats which provide the very distinctive flapjack texture and flavour. But oats are a bit of a tricky customer when you have coeliac disease and caution needs to be exercised when eating them.

Some Coeliacs cannot eat them at all, because although they technically do not contain gluten, they have some similar properties to which Coeliacs may be highly sensitive, resulting in an unwelcome reaction. When my daughter was first diagnosed, we were advised to remove all oats from her diet for the best part of a year whilst her body recovered from pre-diagnosis damage and then to very gradually reintroduce them to test the impact. We were fortunate......... she can eat oats, for which I am grateful......... They are healthy and when added to baked goods as a flour, help support the binding process because of their slight 'stickiness'. But they have to be 'gluten free' oats.

"But surely oats are oats?" I hear you say. No! Oats (and for that matter any other field grown seed or grain) will be potentially cross-contaminated from other crops which have self-seeded from previous crop-cycles. When they are harvested and milled, those other crops (including wheat, barley and rye which are dangerous to Coeliacs) gate-crash the party and end up in the bag.

Next time you see a field of oats, look closely across the level top of the crop............ I was astounded at what else was growing alongside!

Flapjacks are a really easy treat. They have a good shelf life, can also be frozen and travel well without getting easily squashed or over-heated. They are perfect for school lunches, providing care is taken to keep a check on levels of unrefined sugar.

These particular flapjacks have been prompted by the need to use up a few ingredients which have been hanging around in the cupboard for a while......... A third of a box of Anjoman dates, a handful of dried apricots, left over chopped pistachio from some biscuits I recently made and some Greek honey that I bought on holiday last summer.

Having decided that the apricots and dates would compliment each other, I decided to throw some desiccated coconut into the mix. Not wanting to over-do the sugar (and aiming for at least a reasonable score in the health stakes), these flapjacks are also made using honey in place of golden syrup and a goodly portion of coconut oil instead of butter, which also enhances the coconut hit. In hindsight, I should have dumped the butter altogether, but I was having a cautious day and (unusually for me) didn't want to 'risk' it.

The finished flapjack tastes really wholesome. It is soft and chewy in texture, not too sugar-sweet and has a good balance of chewy dates and apricots set against the creaminess of the oats. The coconut is not over-powering, but can definitely be picked out from the blend and mingles well with the other flavours. The pistachio nuts on the top add a wonderful nutty crunch and also a touch of distinctive green for visual temptation.

Because of the need to use up a whole bunch of ingredients in making this flapjack, I am entering it into the No Waste Food Challenge, being guest-hosted for July by Anne at Anne's Kitchen on behalf of Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. Finding ways to use up stray ingredients and left overs can be a bit of challenge, but flapjack is always a great way to 'dispose' of surplus fruit and nuts.

I hate waste and the No Waste Food Challenge is great for focussing the mind on creative ways to ensure there is as little as possible. I am always amazed at the array of culinary inventions on display by the end of the month in the challenge round-up!

This month, Tea Time Treats is also asking us to link up with our flapjack and tray bake recipes and is being hosted by Janie at the Hedgecombers on behalf of Karen (Lavender & Lovage). The very first blogging challenge I undertook was a Tea Time Treats flapjack and tray bake event, back in October last year. It seems like a long time ago now, but I made flapjack then too, with roasted summer fruit. This recipe is very different but is just as delicious!

Date, Apricot & Coconut Flapjack


80g dried apricot - chopped
70g dates - stoned & chopped
60g desiccated coconut
80g unsalted butter
150g coconut oil
150g honey
175g soft light brown sugar
300g gluten free oats
handful chopped pistachio nuts


  1. Base-line a 20 cm/8 inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Chop the dried apricot and dates and mix with the coconut. Set aside.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 150 C/300 F/Gas 3.
  4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter, coconut oil, honey and sugar over a low heat, stirring well to combine.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the oats and fruit. Stir thoroughly.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and push into the corners. Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
  7. Sprinkle a handful of chopped pistachio nuts on top and gently push into the surface.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown and the mixture has firmed up.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. 
  10. When still a bit warm, score the surface with a sharp knife to mark out pieces.
  11. When cool, remove from the tin and cut into slices.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated