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.