Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Hot Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Tartlets with Parmesan Pastry - gluten free

Christmas was fun although it lasted but a blink and the year is nearly at an end (again!). It seems that the older I get, the faster the years seem to disappear. I always remember my parents saying that when I was a kid and thinking 'really?' But it is true. Time condenses..... I am sure of it..... Which means that before I know it we will be here again..... just like the film Groundhog Day.

If I sound a little grumpy about it all, I am! I always find New Year a very reflective time and often find myself dwelling on all those things I meant to do this year, but that never happened because I just didn't get the time....... Maybe that's because the years get shorter? Who knows.....

But New Year is also a time of renewal......... an opportunity to reassess and re-prioritise. A time to ditch the negativity and look forward. Next year, my family and my friends are going to have more of me..... That work-life balance is about to be redefined! (Do I say that every year too?)

If you are getting together with friends or family over the new year (or at any other time for that matter), these little tartlets are a perfect little offering.

The pastry is made with a sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan cheese (although you can use other hard cheeses as you wish), which gives it a wonderfully savoury, cheesy backdrop to nicely compliment the salmon and cold, lightness of the cream-cheese filling.

The cream cheese filling has been lightly whipped with a little creme fraiche to off-set the richness of the pretty pink hot smoked salmon. Hot smoked salmon (which is smoked at a higher temperature) is now widely available in many UK supermarkets and is a favourite of mine to use in seasonal nibbles, because the smoking process helps to retain and enhance a serious depth of flavour, a slightly drier texture and a darker hue, which looks beautifully inviting.

Although I have made a gluten free pastry, this appetiser will work just as well with a wheat-based short-crust cheese pastry or (of you can't be bothered to make your own at all) just substitute with a shop bought short-crust ready-to-roll job.

Having said that, I made some of these over Christmas and my husband's parents (who are not gluten free) were so impressed with the GF pastry, that they are now keen to go and buy the ingredients to make it anyway........ That's high praise (although in my world I often hope more people will try GF baking, just to wake them up to the deliciousness of it and their possible over-reliance on wheat).

I think the Parmesan pastry is well worth the effort, although be sure to roll from small-cut pieces so as not to overwork it and if you use very small, deep tartlet moulds as I did, treat it with care as it became slightly fragile when pushed into the holes too firmly. To get round this, I used the base of a narrow shot glass to mould the pastry with some control, before dropping the circles into the tart moulds.

Despite the name 'Hot Smoked Salmon', these are cold tartlets, so blind-bake and cool the pastry, before filling with the cream cheese mix and salmon. The big advantage is that they can be made well-ahead of time.....

Dill is a herb that marries wonderfully well with fish........ the slight hint of aniseed freshens the palate and with a drizzle of lemon helps to cut through the oiliness of the salmon. Add to that a taste-bud wakening grind of black pepper and the result is a very moreish mouthful of deliciousness. A tray of these will not last long!

I have linked to the Christmas edition of Foodie Friday with Casa Costello and Romanian Mum who have kindly kept the link open right through to January 1st 2015.

Happy New Year...........

Hot Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Tartlets with Parmesan Pastry


130g brown rice flour
50g corn flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
110g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
40g ground almonds
35g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cold water

Filling & Dressing
250g Philadelphia cream cheese
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
4 hot smoked salmon fillets
black pepper
a couple of sprigs of fresh dill
1 lemon


  1. Pastry : Weigh and mix the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a large bowl and stir together. 
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the almonds and cheese.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and pour into the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir all the ingredients together using a table knife until they begin to clump together.
  6. Dust your hands with corn or rice flour and bring the dough together, pressing into a ball.
  7. Knead very briefly, to make sure the ingredients are fully amalgamated. 
  8. Roll the pastry out straight away (do not chill in the fridge), using corn or rice flour on the work surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking. In order to prevent over-working the dough (if you are making mini tarts) roll only a small amount of dough at a time, rather than rolling out the whole amount straight off.
  9. Cut out carefully-sized circles using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, and carefully ease the pastry circles into your chosen mini-tart moulds.
  10. Place the prepared pastry cases in the fridge for half an hour to chill prior to baking.
  11. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. 
  12. 'Scrunch' and then flatten small pieces of baking paper ready to line the inside of each tart case and then base fill each with a few baking beans.
  13. When the oven has reached temperature, blind bake the pastry with the baking beans for 10 minutes. Remove the beans, turn the oven down to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 5 to 8 minutes until pale golden brown. Keep an eye to ensure the cases don't over-brown. 
  14. When the pastry is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  15. Filling : Beat together the cream cheese and creme fraiche until smooth.
  16. Cut the hot smoked salmon into small bite-sized pieces.
  17. Spoon a little of the cream cheese mix into each tartlet case and top with a piece of salmon. 
  18. Grind a little black pepper over and lay a small sprig of dill over the salmon.
  19. Serve with a little lemon on the side as preferred.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 25 December 2014

White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with Honey-Roasted Figs & Walnuts

We love Panna Cotta in our house. It is naturally gluten free and even when you are completely stuffed from starters and mains, it always manages to slide down really easily.

This particular Panna Cotta combo is inspired by December's We Should Cocoa. I had already planned on making a White Chocolate Panna Cotta for Christmas Day dessert. I often make a vanilla Panna Cotta, which I serve with red berries and berry coulis, but this Christmas, I have gone for something very different and a little bit extra special. White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Honey-Roasted Figs & Walnuts.

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the very talented Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog, combines chocolate with fig. The combination of White Chocolate, smooth, creamy Panna Cotta and large, juicy pink fig is perfectly delicious and wonderfully decadent for the Christmas feast. And much as I enjoy them, it is also a welcome change from the usual raspberry and blueberry accompaniment.

These figs have been roasted with honey, cinnamon and a little lemon zest, making them especially seasonal. They contrast beautifully, both in colour and texture with the creamy Panna Cotta, but the addition of a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and crisp white chocolate stars adds a touch of crunch to the proceedings.

One of the things I adore about figs is that they look quite plain on the outside....... smooth and green or purple in colour...... but nothing spectacular........ Yet they hide an amazing, vibrant, rich, perfectly hued secret with their sweet, exotic, soft, pinky-red flesh fit for any celebration. With this pud it is neither the Panna Cotta nor the fig that over-shadow. Both are equal stars, sharing the edible stage.

The Panna Cotta is totally to die for.......... Smooth, melty, amazingly creamy, deep with caramel tones from the white chocolate and vanilla, but still with the required 'wobble' that defines it as being the exactly required Panna Cotta texture. Italian dessert at its best.......

Need I say more?

I am additionally sharing my Panna Cotta served with honey-roasted figs & walnuts with Cook, Blog, Share hosted by Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with Honey-Roast Figs & Walnuts (makes 6 servings)


Panna Cotta
10g gelatine leaves
210 ml whole milk
400 ml double cream
80g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100g good quality white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks organic) - chopped 

Roasted Figs
6 large fresh figs
1 tablespoon runny honey per fig
ground cinnamon to dust
finely grated zest of 1 to 2 lemons

A little extra honey to drizzle
6 walnuts - shelled and chopped
white chocolate sprinkles


  1. Panna Cotta : Place 6 individual non-stick pudding basins (or equivalent) in the freezer to chill.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to soften for 5 minutes as per instructions on the packet.
  3. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just below simmering point and then remove from the heat immediately. Do not allow to boil.
  4. Drain the gelatine and squeeze out any excess water and add to the hot milk, stirring until completely dissolved.
  5. Pour the cream into a larger saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla paste. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly. As soon as it starts to boil, remove immediately from the heat.
  6. Add the white chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth.
  7. Pour the milk-gelatine mix into the cream-chocolate pan and stir until fully combined.
  8. Take the moulds from the freezer and pour the panna cotta mixture through a tea strainer or sieve into the moulds, in equal portions.
  9. Cool the puddings as quickly as possible (I also covered the moulds with cling film to limit a skin forming). Chill until completely set.
  10. Figs : Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. Trim the tip of the figs slightly and score a cross in the tops.
  11. Squeeze the sides gently to push the centre of each fig open slightly and place in a heat-proof dish.
  12. Drizzle each fig with a tablespoon of honey, a dusting of ground cinnamon and a sprinkle of finely grated lemon zest.
  13. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes until the honey has caramelised, then remove and allow to cool.
  14. To serve : Gently warm the outside of each pudding basin and carefully tip the panna cottas onto serving plates. 
  15. Place a fig next to each pudding and drizzle it with a little extra honey.
  16. Sprinkle chopped walnut and white chocolate sprinkles onto the fig and panna cotta and serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Apple, Cinnamon & Mincemeat Cake - gluten free

Only a few hours left to go! The big celebration is nearly here. Merry Christmas everyone x

Unfortunately, we have a house full of sick people - coughs, colds and all the seasonal accompaniments! I swear it is nature's cruel joke that we haven't actually had a healthy Christmas in years. Oh well.......

If you are looking for something different to do with that seasonal mincemeat, this Apple, Cinnamon and Mincemeat Cake is a lovely alternative. Inspired by Alida over at My Little Italian Kitchen, who made a lovely apple cake a few weeks back, I have made my own take on it, de-glutenised of course. Make a big one to share, or perfect little individually portioned servings.....

My version combines the apples with mincemeat, almonds, brown sugar and a festive dose of cinnamon spice. Made also with yoghurt, it is beautifully moist, very fruity and each bite has an additional surprise from the Christmas preserve, which adds a richness and depth to the sponge to excite the tongue.

The moment the aroma of cinnamon and apple tang escapes from the oven and wafts around the kitchen, this cake raises your anticipation. Christmas must be close.....

Although you can use any mincemeat to make the cake, I used a home-made Extra Fruity Mincemeat with Pistachio & Calvados which contains an amazing combination of ingredients, including apricots, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, pistachios and more. Spread throughout the bake, every mouthful is uniquely textured and flavoured by the randomness of its distribution.

The cake stands proud by itself and would happily grace any tea time table. It needs no layering or fancy additions, but if you choose, it can share the plate with a dollop of softly whipped, chilled cream and an extra dusting of ground cinnamon. If you serve it warm and you want to enjoy it as more of a pudding, it tastes divine with a dousing of vanilla custard.

Add a little edible glitter with the final dusting of icing sugar for Extra Christmas sparkle.

I am entering this delicious cake into December's Simple & in Season with Ren Behan. Not only is it stuffed full of seasonal apples, but it also shouts everything about Christmas with it's warming ripples of mincemeat and seasonal nuttiness.

And also Cook, Blog, Share with Lucy over at Supergolden Bakes.

Have a fantastic Christmas and wonderful, safe and healthy New Year!

Apple, Cinnamon & Mincemeat Cake 


3 to 4 eating apples (depending on size) - I used Braeburn apples 
120g plain gluten free flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g ground almonds
2 large eggs
130g soft light brown sugar
80g melted butter
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
110 ml milk
50 ml plain yoghurt
150g mincemeat (I used home made extra fruity with Calvados from this post)

icing sugar to dust
an extra shake of cinnamon powder
a sprinkle of Christmas edible glitter sparkle....


  1. Base-line a 23 cm/9 inch round cake tin with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Peel and core the apples and slice thinly. Set aside.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and almonds, ensuring any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. In a  large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick. 
  5. Add the melted butter, cinnamon, vanilla, milk and yoghurt and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add and fold in the mincemeat.
  7. Add and fold in the flour mix.
  8. Finally add the apples and fold until evenly combined. Be careful not to over-mix.
  9. Spoon into the baking tin and smooth the top.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Serve either warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar, an extra sprinkle of ground cinnamon and a twinkle of edible Christmas sparkle.....
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Cookies 'n' Cream No Churn Ice Cream - gluten free

This is a really quick and easy ice cream to make..... it only has a couple of stages to go through before it hits the freezer! It can be made with usual 'Oreo' biscuits, but this version has been made with the gluten free equivalent.

Cookies and Cream ice cream was always a definite favourite in our house before we went gluten free, but these days we can't buy it ready made, and trying to find good biscuits to throw into the mix has been a bit trial and error......

I have managed to find three gluten free 'Oreo' alternatives on the market, each of which is a bit different from the next. It is great to see that we gluten-avoiders are beginning to get some greater choice on the biscuit front, and like the original Oreo, these three are all embossed, round chocolate biscuits, sandwiched together with a layer of vanilla cream. They are all pretty good as biscuits, but for me, only one comes anywhere near close to the real thing.

The three options come from three major players in the gluten free bakes market - DS Gluten Free, Udis and Lovemore. I love the round, diddy packaging of the DS Mini O's, which is really handy to throw in the bag as a quick 'go to' when out and about. They taste good, but as an 'Oreo' alternative, I found them to be too pale and too sweet to make a good comparison.

Next up, there are Udis Chocolate Flavoured Sandwich Cookies. These are slightly darker (although not dark enough) and much closer in flavour, but they are still a little too sweet, a bit 'gritty' and leave a slightly bitter after-taste.

Last and definitely my firm favourite are the Lovemore O'Choco biscuits from the Welsh Hills Bakery which are available in Waitrose. Like Oreo's they have a deep dark chocolate biscuit which is not overly sugary and off-sets the sweet, vanilla cream filling nicely. Perfect for using in Cookies and Cream ice cream.

And what of the ice cream? Despite its very simple process and minimal ingredients, it is amazingly creamy, with a rich, sweet, decadent vanilla base, shot through with crunchy cocoa biscuit pieces. Delicious!

I am sharing my ice cream with this week's Cook Blog Share with Lucy over at Supergolden Bakes. Lucy was an absolute star this week in helping me get my head round how to get on Twitter........ yep.... I've finally done it....... Thanks Lucy! If you fancy joining me, I'm at @GFAlchemist1.

Cookies 'n' Cream No Churn Ice Cream (makes just over 1 litre)


500 ml double cream
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
10 gluten free 'oreo'-style biscuits


  1. Cut the biscuits into 1cm pieces.
  2. In a large, cold bowl, whisk the cream, condensed milk and vanilla together until thick enough to form soft peaks.
  3. Gently fold in the biscuits until evenly distributed.
  4. Spoon into a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze over night.
  5. That's it!!!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 15 December 2014

Real Vegetable Mish-Mash Soup

This is one of those soups which is not only amazingly healthy and warming, but also perfect for using up any left-over vegetables, in pretty much any combination. For that reason, I call it miss-mash soup.

It is thick, wholesome, filling and warming, dead easy to make and very very tasty. Even my daughter loves it, which suggests it is a perfect way to hide any vegetables you want to get inside your little ones. When I made it over the weekend, my daughter took one look at it and with the perfect expression of nostalgia you expect from someone much older, recalled that this was the soup you used to put in a thermos and send me to nursery with..... my favourite!

This particular version contains everything from garden-grown butternut squash and onions, to locally sourced brussels sprouts, carrot, leek and potato and anything else I could find lurking in the fridge. But don't let that constrain you. In the past I have added pepper, courgette, sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip, turnip, a whole variety of squashes and pretty much everything in between. Throw in seasoning to suit your mood, from herbs and stock to chilli and spice. This must be the most versatile soup on the planet.

Serve it with a sprinkle of cheese, chopped herbs and freshly baked bread, but absolutely keep the basic recipe up your sleeve. With Christmas coming and a whole load of likely leftovers, it can even be made with surplus already cooked veg (although I would leave out roast potatoes).

I am offering my lovely soup to the following Challenges for December :

No Waste Food Challenge with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. I used up a whole load of stuff to make this soup and the possibilities are endless.

Shop Local (also with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary). The butternut and onions are home-grown from the summer and nicely stored in the shed and larder. The potato, brussels, carrot and leek and locally grown and sourced from my favourite local farm shop.

Credit Crunch Munch with Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All. This is a perfect standby recipe for using up excess Xmas veg and leftovers.

Vegetable Palette with Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen, who this month celebrates festive and christmas vegetables. I can guarantee that our home-grown butternut, as well as onions, carrot, broccoli and brussels will feature on our seasonal table.

And lastly - No croutons Required with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa's Kitchen, who are celebrating festive recipes and festive photos.

Real Vegetable Mish-Mash Soup 

Ingredients (or use whatever vegetables you have, but make sure you include a potato)

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil 
1 medium butternut squash - peeled and deseeded 
2 medium onions 
3 cloves of garlic 
1 leek 
1 large carrot 
large handful of brussels sprouts
approx 100g baby corn
½ head broccoli
1 stick celery
1 large potato - peeled and chopped into pieces
2 vegetable stock cubes dissolved in approx 750 ml boiling water
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 to 2 heaped teaspoons GF yeast extract
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh - chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon fresh - chopped)
handful fresh chopped parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop all the vegetables into small pieces. 
  2. Heat the oil in a very large pan and add the vegetables (except the potato) in order as above to the pan to gently sauté and soften for a few minutes.
  3. Prepare the stock and pour into the pan. Add the potato and tomato puree, stir thoroughly and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the marmite, herbs and salt and pepper and stir through.
  5. Leave to simmer for about 40 minutes and then cool slightly to prepare to liquidise.
  6. When ready, liquidise the soup using a blender and transfer to a clean pan. 
  7. Taste and add any further seasoning (salt/pepper/marmite) to taste. 
  8. Heat through thoroughly and serve with fresh bread, a sprinkle of fresh parsley and grated cheese.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Gluten Free Christmas Gingerbread House

It feels like ages since I last posted. I have been so busy with trying to fit Christmas prep in around work (where I have had to make some major decisions about direction in the last couple of weeks)......... and to add to it, we have had a sick child in the house..... hacking cough, temperature, awake half the night....... her worrying about whether she will make it to all the concerts, rehearsals and productions that are synonymous with Christmas. We are nowhere near clear of the drama yet, and in the grand scheme of world problems, it is a mere scratch of an issue. Nonetheless it is my excuse for not putting finger to keyboard and getting this out earlier. I'm sorry! But..........

This is so exciting..... we have a gingerbread house in the house. Our first in four years....... And we had such fun making it.

Thanks to winning the Family Foodies Challenge back in October with our Cake Pop Spiders, we were sent a Lakeland gingerbread house cutter set. Believe me, being gluten free, this was a more than perfect surprise. Thanks Vanesther.

This time of year can be so depressing with all the lovely, glutenous, Christmassy foodie treats on the shelves that we can't eat. One of the treats that gives me a lump in my throat every year, are the beautifully inviting boxes which encase the ginger bread house sets. These usually contain perfectly crisp, firm, already cut gingerbread biscuits, plus sweets and icing to construct your own magical, colourful, Christmas Hansel and Gretel-style cottage. These are of course wheat-based (at least all the supermarket ones are) and far out of our gluten-free reach.

My daughter always loved the shared experience, fun and creativity of putting together (and of course eating) the gingerbread house......... a seasonal tradition which was cruelly ended with the diagnosis of Coeliac. It's just not fair!

I have not (until now) tried to replicate the experience with home-baked gluten free gingerbread, as I am aware that the construction of a gingerbread house needs to be sturdy and hard wearing and definitely not a property that the wolf will blow down with a huff and a puff....... My experience of GF baking suggests the likelihood of a house which looks more like it has been hit by an earthquake, resulting in crumbled Greek-style ruins......... enough to put me off any attempt of success.

Winning the cutter kit gave me the boot up the backside I needed to 'get over it' and rise to the challenge of making a gingerbread house to rival the best of the glutenous architecture on the housing market and taste as good, if not better! Why should my little girl miss out? She deserves the return of our shared Christmas fun and it is my job to make sure it happens.......

Two attempts later and I think we have done a pretty amazing job......... Our achievement is no mean feat and we are very very proud of it. This was a two to three day construction job (by my reckoning, about twice as long as the average new-build), which means a quality finish.

The biscuits are firm, with an amazing 'snap'. Despite their sturdy structure, they are in no way 'tough', but instead melt in the mouth, with a comforting, creamy texture. The flavour is gingery warm, with a nice hit of seasonal cinnamon. The smell is pungently inviting........ the addictive aroma that is so unique to the rich, dark spiced molasses sweetness that you expect from a good gingerbread bake. Every time I go in the kitchen, it hits me and makes me salivate expectantly.

Putting the house together was pretty easy, although we needed two pairs of hands to hold the bits in place until the icing had set enough to take the weight of the biscuits. We struggled with the biscuit chimney, as the sides didn't quite come together well enough, so we ditched that bit and improvised with a pretty marshmallow instead.

The spare pieces of chimney biscuit became an impromptu sleigh.......... My daughter had the genius idea of using two candy canes for the runners and left over biscuit for the seat. Once decorated, it really looked the part and I think is one of the cutest bits of the scene. Unfortunately, the only chocolate reindeer I could find were Lindt, which contains barley malt extract (glutenous), so we made do with scottie dogs...

Decorating the houses turned out to be everything we hoped for........ inventive, fun, and quality together time. Somehow, my daughter managed to find various stashes of sweets around the house (must make a mental note of where she hides them!), which were perfect for creating a fairy tale feel. A sprinkling of meringue to create a snowy experience and oodles of glittery sparkles and we have the perfect treat.... all ready for Christmas Eve....... I reckon Santa could be in for quite a surprise this year!

Job done. We can now happily stick two fingers up at all those tempting glutenous gingerbread offerings in the shops....... Who needs gluten with a house this special?

I am sharing this lovely Seasonal delight with a number of Christmassy challenges :

Family Foodies with Vanesther at Bangers & Mash and Lou at Eat Your Veg. This month they are celebrating festivities by asking for all our favourite Christmas treats. This was the ultimate family foodie fun for me and my daughter and is one of those December traditions that we have missed out on for way too long.

Tea Time Treats with Karen at Lavender & Lovage and Janie at The Hedgecombers, who have a very festive December theme of Glitter, Sprinkles, Candles & Shiny Stuff. We must have used a good half a pot of edible glitter and a ton of sprinkles and sweets on this epic creation, so I think it should qualify!

Alphabakes with Caroline Makes and Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker. This is my second offering to December's 'X' challenge..... and yes, this one contains xanthan gum too...... But it is also very Xmassy, so seems appropriate to share.....

Cook, Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Christmas Foodie Friday with Casa Costello and Romanian Mum who have gone very festive and are keeping the link open right through to January.

Now I know this isn't technically cake, but I am also going to push my luck by offering it to the Love Cake December challenge and hope that seasonal goodwill will be forthcoming! Ness over at Jibber Jabber has called for a multitude of December Delights to be sent over....... Our beautiful little house is a December only venture (it will be long eaten by January), so hopefully it will qualify.

And finally (another sneaky entry attempt), I am sending some little trees, gingerbread people and snowmen over to Treat Petite (with Kat at The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi) for their Merry Christmas share. Although they are part of a bigger creation (aren't we all?), these individual biscuits are there for the picking (providing you can prise them out of the icing) and make perfect personal offerings.

Gingerbread (enough to make a house, and several figures and extras)


360g unsalted butter - room temperature
200g soft light brown sugar
80g molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
500g gluten free plain flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the molasses and vanilla and whisk again until fully blended.
  3. Add one egg at a time and whisk until fully combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until evenly combined.
  6. Transfer the biscuit dough to a large piece of baking paper and use the paper to wrap the dough well (use a large piece of cling film as a second layer to hold together and seal if needed). 
  7. Refrigerate the dough for an hour or so, to allow to firm up.
  8. Line three or four baking sheets with baking paper (if you don't have this number, then just bake the biscuit pieces in two batches).
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  10. Cut about a third of the cold biscuit dough and on a well-floured surface (with a sprinkling of flour on top of the dough also), roll to a thickness of about ½ cm/¼ inch.
  11. Use your house cookie cutters to cut template pieces according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and place the pieces on the baking trays.
  12. Chill the cut biscuit dough pieces for 30 minutes or so in the fridge (or about 10 minutes in the freezer), before placing in the oven. 
  13. Bake for about 15 minutes, swapping the trays part-way through to ensure an even bake.
  14. Turn the oven down to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3 and continue to bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes, keeping a very close eye to ensure the biscuit does not burn. Be patient. The larger pieces take quite a while to bake and dry out enough to get a good crisp bite, but will benefit from a slow drying process in the oven. If concerned the oven is too hot, then turn down a little further and leave the biscuit in there for slightly longer.
  15. Repeat this process until all the biscuit pieces are cut and baked and when done, place on wire racks to cool completely.

Royal Icing


Approx 200g icing sugar (you may need a little more, dependent on the size of your egg white)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 large egg white

To Decorate : sweets, edible glitter, writing icing, sprinkles


  1. Weigh and mix together the icing sugar and cream of tartar in a bowl.
  2. Add the egg white and beat with an electric whisk until smooth, glossy and thick. The icing should be stiff enough to hold its shape very firmly. If it isn't, add a further spoon of icing sugar and beat again.
  3. Use piped icing to construct and stick together the house and character pieces and to stick on sweets and decorate as you choose.
  4. Enjoy! Merry Christmas!!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Friday, 5 December 2014

Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake - gluten free

Sometimes, the inspiration to bake new things comes from unexpected places. This Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake is one of those bakes. It came simply from the need to bake 'pink'.

Last week, a colleague of mine left the team. Rather than the usual 'leaving do' goodbyes and gifts, she asked for a Pink Tea to raise money for breast cancer research. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK with around 50,000 women diagnosed each year. It will directly affect one woman in eight during her lifetime, which is a phenomenal figure. Thanks to research and a determination to find ever better ways to treat it, the survival rate for breast cancer is much improved, but it is still nowhere near curable, with 12,000 women and 80 men continuing to die every year (source).

I have had some very close friends die from the awfulness of breast cancer and I have also seen friends survive. Some of those friends, only in their thirties, have had very young children. Some have been older, but nonetheless full of enthusiasm for a future of promise, before they were diagnosed. But breast cancer is a lottery of the worst kind. Who it affects, who dies, who survives seems random and harsh. The colleague who was leaving the team is a survivor.

So Pink Tea it was! It was held on Pink Friday............ no frenzied shopping expeditions for us, just a sedate but joyful session of nibbling pink delights. I needed to make something special!

I was already making some strawberry heart biscuits for the event, but needed cake to take too. Everybody loves cake!

As often happens in my head, the idea of pink drizzle cake came to me in the middle of the night. I wanted it to be naturally 'pink' flavoured, so settled on using freeze-dried raspberries to marry with the lemon in the sponge. As both are quite tart, they worked well alongside each other, giving a fabulous twist to the usual straight lemon drizzle. Although the raspberry gives a natural pinkness to the sponge, I did add a little pink colouring as well, to be absolutely sure that it met the colour criteria. The icing however is totally natural, with no extra 'paint' added.

I know I have said this so many times before, but I love using freeze-dried fruit and fruit powders. Not only are they totally natural, but the flavours locked into them are intense and powerful. Raspberry powder packs a hefty berry punch and is one of my favourites. I don't bother with the piddly little pots you usually find in the supermarket any more, but buy in much larger quantities from Healthy Supplies, which works out way better value if you are baking with it.

I will be honest, I made a couple of drizzly disasters before I settled on the final recipe below, but the end result is amazing. This cake is dense, yet beautifully moist and syrupy. It is sharp and tangy, yet shot through with a wonderful sweetness from the sugar. The crisp coat of the icing contrasts and enhances the softness of the sponge. It is a perfect balance of flavours and textures which leaves you wanting at least another slice.

The disasters have not been wasted either..... trifle is very forgiving!

I am sharing this amazing pink drizzle cake with a couple of challenges :

Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.

I am also going to  offer it to this month's Alphabakes Challenge hosted by Caroline Makes (with Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker). December's letter is 'X', to make it easy for 'Xmas'.

I know this cake isn't a Christmas bake specifically (although it would be enjoyed at any foodie celebration I am sure), but it does contain xanthan gum, which happily begins with 'X'. My disasters were disasters because they were too crumbly and one of the critical alterations that I made with the final recipe was to re-balance by adding a little more xanthan gum. For those of you less familiar with gluten free baking, the lack of gluten means lesser binding properties which can leave you with bakes that disintegrate before your eyes. There are a number of additions that you can make to gluten free flour to replace the gluten and support the structure, xanthan gum being one of the most popular and available. Thus I am offering this cake as a legitimate 'X'-rated entry.

Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake (makes 1x 9 inch/23 cm tray bake)


200g plain gluten free flour mix - I used blend A from this post
50g fine ground polenta
120g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
15g freeze-dried raspberry powder
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter - room temperature
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sieved juice 1 lemon
finely grated zest 1 lemon
red food colouring paste (optional)

Drizzle Syrup & Icing
sieved juice 1 lemon
½ tablespoon water
10g freeze-dried raspberry powder
200g icing sugar (see instructions below)


  1. Sponge : Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3. Base line a 9 inch/23 cm square loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, polenta, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and raspberry powder, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat the eggs in one at a time until smooth. 
  5. Add and beat in the vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest and food colouring if using.
  6. Fold in the flour mix until evenly combined.
  7. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the cake tin.
  9. Drizzle syrup & Icing : Whilst the cake is still warm, mix the juice, water and raspberry powder for the syrup in a small microwavable heat-proof bowl or a small saucepan. 
  10. Add 120g icing sugar and stir to blend. 
  11. Heat in the microwave or saucepan, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is liquid.
  12. Use a skewer or chopstick to make holes across the surface of the sponge and then drizzle some of the syrup into the holes (I used a kitchen syringe for accuracy).
  13. Add the rest of the icing sugar to the remaining syrup, stir and reheat to dissolve. This will ensure a thicker icing for the topping.
  14. Spoon and spread the icing over the surface of the cake whilst still in the tin and leave to completely cool and set.
  15. When cold, remove the cake from the tin and serve.
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