Friday, 23 September 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Orange and Almond Slices

I almost didn't label these 'Vegan and GF', as doing so seems to strangely put people off. I can see the logic though, as historical notions of dietary restricted foods often conjure the image of bland and insipid 'fake' foods with the texture of either a bathroom sponge or a cardboard box. 

These days however, with such an array of alternative ingredients available to the home baker there really is no need to fret. Creating delicious, delightful and even downright decadent treats is not only achievable but in many cases even easier than using the more traditional components we are all used too. 

So even if you are a vegan virgin why not give this recipe a try? You never know you might just like it. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
150g Soya Yoghurt
200g Golden Caster Sugar
The zest of 1 Orange
The juice of 1/2 an Orange
200g Ground Almonds
2 heaped tbsp Oat Flour
1 heaped tsp GF Baking Powder
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2tsp Almond Extract

300g Icing Sugar
The juice of 1/2 an Orange

Time to get our bake on! Preheat the oven to G4 and line a smallish rectangular baking tin with baking paper. 

Add the soya yoghurt to a large mixing bowl and beat in the sugar. Now, when adding the yoghurt just try and make sure you use the thick creamy part not just the watery layer on top! Add the orange zest/juice to the yoghurt and mix well to combine. Add the ground almonds and oat flour, give it a quick mix, then add the baking powder, cinnamon and almond extract. Mix with vigour until you are left with a consistent batter. You could also try ground hazelnuts instead of almonds or replace/leave out the cinnamon but I personally think the combination works rather well! 

Spoon the mixture into your baking tin and even to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45-50 mins, until dark golden on top and springy to the touch. When you are happy the slice mixture is baked remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin.

Once cool carefully remove from the tin and peel off the paper. I slice into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife at this point as I find it leaves a tidier finish, but you can ice the whole lot in one go if you prefer. 

Mix together the remaining orange juice with the icing sugar. Add a little at a time until you are left with a thick, glossy icing. You can add a touch of water if you don't have enough orange juice, but be careful not to leave your icing too thin. Generously spread the icing over each slice and you are done. Nom nom nom! 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Granola Upside Down Cheesecakes

These 'upside down' cheesecakes are so called as you start with the top on the bottom then when finished, turn them out so the bottom is on the top! I thought it would be fun to try a granola base this time and its roasty toastiness works very well with the super rich and creamy peanut butter topping. You don't necessarily have to finish with dark chocolate but I couldn't resist!

Prep time: All in, around 30 mins
Baking Chilling time: A fair few hours ;-)
100g Dark Chocolate (Melted over a bain-marie or in the microwave)
500g Mascarpone Cheese
200g Peanut Butter
125g Caster Sugar
2tbsp Double Cream
200g Toasted Granola
85g Unsalted Butter (Melted)

I make these using a 12 cup muffin tin, lining each with cling film. Pour the melted chocolate into the base of each lined cup and leave to set for an hour or so.

Once set you can start on the cheese component. In a large mixing bowl beat together the mascarpone cheese, peanut butter, sugar and double cream, until smooth and silky. Fill each chocolate bottomed cup with the peanut butter mascarpone, leaving a small amount of space at the top for the base. You should have ample filling to fill even large muffin cups! Once filled, chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

Now, you can buy toasted granola but if you find it's a little bland then you can roast in a hot oven for 10 mins or so until just brown. Once you are happy it's nice and toasted crush it in a large bowl until crumbly, then mix through the melted butter. Press small handfuls of the granola onto the chilled peanut butter mascarpone, then return to the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Once thoroughly chilled you can remove each cheesecake from its mould. Upturn the muffin tray onto a board and press the base to release each cheesecake. Very carefully peel the clingfilm from each cheesecake and they are good to go! Enjoy. :-)

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 4, Count Alucard

The masked balls of Count Alucard were as infamous as they were exclusive. For you see, the Count had a hunger, a ravenousness he could barely control. He thirsted for toothsome treats, craved cakes and was fixated on pies and pastries. For months on end he would lock himself away in his castle, high in the Transylvanian mountains, away from temptation. However once a year he yielded to his desires, transforming his estate into a macabre cathedral to indulgence, where the sinfully saccharine were celebrated in a bacchanalian circus of the fantastical and the decadent. The guests, their anonymity preserved by their masks were as shrouded in mystery as the Count himself, but all were united in their fanaticism.

I was delivered to the Count one tempestuous evening, with instructions only to impress. As I approached he said only one thing, but the message was clear. 

“Unexceptional is unacceptable”.

I was bold in my retort. “Sir, that will not be an issue”. My audacity raised the merest hint of smile. “Your confidence is intriguing Benedict, but the proof of the pudding.” He gestured to the trolley I had wheeled in. “Count Alucard” I declared as I raised the first cloche, “I call these The Irresistibles...

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Chocolate Chip Shorties

I love a good pot of freshly brewed leaf tea as much as the next gentleman, but the addition of a little something sweet on the side is never a bad thing. These shorties are perfect for such occasions, a little softer and more yielding than regular shortbread but still primed for a dunking!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 12-15 Mins
75g Unsalted Butter (In cubes, at room temperature)
150g Plain Flour
110g Caster Sugar (Plus extra for sprinkling)
100g Chocolate Chips
1 Egg Yolk
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract

This recipe is a really quick and easy one so let's get to it. In a large mixing bowl rub together the butter and flour, then stir through the sugar. Add the chocolate chips and fold through (I do this now as it's easier than after the mixture is sticky), then in with the egg yolk and vanilla. Start mixing the yolk in using a flat bladed knife then get your hands in and bring together to a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about 20-30 mins to rest.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Take the mixture from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll out to a large rectangle. Slice the mixture with a sharp knife into smaller rectangles (Ok I don't really make mine that small, but then I'm greedy), then place evenly spaced apart on your lined tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 mins, until lightly golden and just starting to darken slightly at the edges.

When you are happy the shorties are baked remove from the oven, leave on the tray for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer each shorty to a wire rack until cool. Nom them all up.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Banana Blondies

As soon as one mentions specialist diets such as gluten free or vegan many are quick to scoff or turn up their noses. This is of course nonsense, as there is still a cornucopia of delicious treats available to those with dietary restrictions. Just take these naughty banana blondies for instance, which are absolutely delicious! So even if you are a wheat freak or a stone cold carnivore then why not give them a try, you might just be converted. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
200g White Chocolate
275g Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
25g Vegetable Oil
100g Light Brown Sugar
50ml Hazelnut Milk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds
1tsp Baking Powder (Gluten Free)
100g Chocolate Chips
100g Chopped Pecans

There's a fair few ingredients in this but I promise it's a doddle to prepare. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (taking care as white chocolate scorches VERY easily). Once melted set to one side for 5 minutes to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small sized baking tin with baking paper (The one I use is around 22x27cm). In a large mixing bowl mix together the banana, oil and sugar. Add the milk and vanilla extract, followed by the melted chocolate, then in go the almonds and baking powder. Mix together to a smooth batter, then fold through the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. 

Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top. You can test it's baked by inserting a sharp knife. If it comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached then you are good to go. 

Once you are happy the blondies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin, before chilling for a good 90 minutes prior to slicing. Once chilled remove from the tin, slice and serve. Woohoo!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Chocolate Orange Cookies

It feels like AGES since I last made cookies, so I quickly cobbled together this recipe that turned out rather nicely indeed. You could buy orange flavour chocolate, although I find it tends to have little hard orangey pieces in which I find a tad gritty. So I use orange extract, which gives just the right depth of flavour and fragrance.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
125g Unsalted Butter (softened)
185g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1.5tsp Orange Extract
160g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
300 Dark Chocolate (Broken up into little pieces)

So here we go! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. I forewarn you, you will need to probably bake these in batches so unless you have a MASSIVE oven ready a few sheets! In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and orange extract. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder and mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the chocolate and the dough is ready.

Take a small handful of the mixture and form into a loose ball, around the size of a golf ball. Space your balls evenly apart (as they will spread) and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until light golden brown and darkening at the edges. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper from the tray onto a wire rack. Repeat for the rest of the mixture. When the cookies have cooled for around 20 minutes carefully peel each from the paper and they are ready to eat warm, or served at room temperature. Nom nom nom!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 3, SIZO-1

Following a somewhat regrettable incident involving a hamster, two litres of liquid nitrogen and the Dutch embassy I spent an unfortunate six months as a guest of the Belarusian prison service. After no short amount of negotiation I was able to avoid the unimaginable and enjoy a few short hours a week baking in the sparse prison kitchens. Even armed with the most meagre of tools (a single loaf tin, basic utensils and a few scavenged dishes) I found it surprisingly elementary to create a surfeit of satisfying slices which, when shared resulted in a markedly more comfortable stay. As with you I was happy to share my recipes with my fellow inmates and even now the SIZO-1 Detention Centre’s coffee mornings are quite the highlight of the Minsk social calendar...

Friday, 5 August 2016

This Months Bread Pudding

There is no such thing as a perfect recipe. Nothing is the ultimate or the best ever. Everyone is different and everyone is looking for something different, in cakes just as in anything else if life. Therefore you should never worry about tinkering with recipes, trying out new ingredients and testing new techniques. I've published bread pudding recipes before, but this is my current favourite. I used an day old cinnamon loaf, but if you just have normal white bread then that will work fine too, as long as it's not too fresh. Maybe steer clear of throwing in garlic bread though!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 60 mins soaking time)
Baking time: 75 Mins
500g Leftover White Bread, Brioche or Sweet Loaf (A day old, torn up)
600ml Milk
1tsp Cinnamon
500g Mixed Dried Fruit
100g Shredded Suet
125g Light Brown Sugar
1-2Tbsp Dememara Sugar

This is actually a realllllly easy recipe! Start by greasing a large, rectangular ovenproof dish and line the base with baking paper. Add the torn bread to a large mixing bowl and cover with the milk. Squelch it altogether and leave to soak for around 60 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Add the rest of the ingredients (aside from the demerara sugar) to your soaked bread and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon into your prepared dish and evenly press to the edges. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 75 minutes, until just springy to the touch. When you are happy the pudding is baked remove from the oven and leave in the dish to cool until warm.

When warm to the touch you can carefully remove from the dish, peeling off the paper as you go. Slice into squares and leave on a wire rack until completely cool. Boom, you're done!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Sweet Cinnamon Bread

Here's my recipe for a sweet cinnamon bread dough that can be used for buns, a big loaf or even something more creative like a babka. The dough is incredibly fun to make and surprisingly easy to work with, so is also an excellent introduction to bread making in general. If cinnamon isn't your thing though (and know it's not everyone's cup of tea) then feel free to experiment with other flavour combinations. Vanilla, chopped fruit, even chocolate chips would all be marvellous alternatives or additions!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus proving time)
Baking time: 35 Mins (For a loaf), 20 Mins (For buns)
7g Sachet of Fast Action Yeast
35g Light Muscovado Sugar (Plus a small handful for sprinkling)
250ml Tepid Water
1hpd tsp Cinnamon (Plus extra for sprinkling)
450g Strong White Bread Flour
75g Unsalted Butter

Let's get baking! Mix together the yeast, sugar and water until the yeast has blended in, then add the cinnamon, flour and 50g of the butter, melted. Mix together until a dough starts to form, then tip out onto a clean, dry surface. Bring the dough together with your hands then start to knead, pulling the dough apart, folding back on itself, rotating by a quarter and repeating. Keep kneading the dough for around 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic, then lightly dust with flour and return to a clean bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm place for around an hour, until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen remove it from the bowl and place on a lightly greased surface. Shape into a loaf or buns and place on a lightly greased tray or tin. Cover or place in a sealed container and leave to one side somewhere relatively warm for another 45 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. This is a bit cooler than usual for bread, but with a high butter content you need to be sure it'll bake before over-colouring (Do you like how I try and disguise burning as 'over-colouring'?). Remove your tray or tin from its warm place and return to the kitchen. Melt the last 25g of butter and brush over your risen dough. Sprinkle with a final dusting of cinnamon and sugar, then place in the over for around 35 mins (loaf) or 20 mins (buns). When you are happy the loaf or buns are baked remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. This one is best served warm though so don't leave them too long! ;-)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Easy Millionaire's Chocolate Tart

I'm refuse to tolerate those who class using ready prepared ingredients as 'cheating'. We all work hard and time is a precious commodity, so as worthy (and fun) as it is to prepare every detail of a sweet treat from scratch, sometimes it's just not possible. On such occasions I have no qualms about using a ready prepared alternative, such as here with this millionaire's chocolate tart. In fact everything about this tart is easy! I shall however, leave the telling of your guests to your discretion. ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking (Well, chilling) time: 120 Mins
1 Sweet Pre-baked Shortcrust Pastry Case (200-220g)
250g Dulce De Leche or Caramel Sauce
A couple of pinches of Sea Salt
200g Dark Chocolate (Or 100g of Dark and 100g of Milk if you like things less bitter)
150ml Double Cream

This is so easy it barely needs a recipe! Place your pastry case on a plate then spread the dulce/caramel sauce over the base. Sprinkle over the salt. Gently melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in the microwave (if you are confident in your timings), then set to one side to cool slightly. Whisk the double cream until you can form soft peaks, then fold through the melted chocolate. Spoon over the salted caramel, then coax to the edges with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill for around 120 minutes, until the chocolate has set. You're all done. See, so easy!