Saturday, 24 March 2012

Luxury Flapjack (Alternative Alpen Bars)

I used to really enjoy stuff like Nature Valley & Alpen Bars - granola bars are great when you want something sweet bar don't want a chocolate bars, I just wish they were gluten free. 

So I have made my own version (which I adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe), which delicious and easy to make win-win :)
The Ingredients
50g chopped nuts
50g sultanas

50g red & black currents (I got these from Waitrose Essential Frozen Berries, I defrosted them first)
30g pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp ground almonds
50g organic butter or soya or olive spread
100g xylitol
2 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup
200g gluten free  oats
100g dark xylitol chocolate

The Method

Turn the oven on to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Mix the oats, nuts, seeds and fruit together in a bowl.

In a pan melt the butter/spread with the xylitol and syrup, don't stir too much and allow to melt together gradually.

Once melted mix in the oats/fruit/nuts and spread the mixture out evenly in an tray - I used a non-stick 20cm square cake tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Once baked cool the flapjack on a cooling rack. Once completely cool cut them into small rectangles - I made 12 from this.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. 

Once the chocolate is completely melted dip the flapjacks in. I used a rubber spatula to feel spread the chocolate to cover about half of the flapjacks. You need to be gentle otherwise the flapjacks will crumble. 

Place on a plate (covered with baking parchment or similar).

Allow to chill for at least 20 minutes in the fridge before serving.

Nom nom nom...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Mother's Day Simnel Cake

Traditionally an Easter Cake, but why wait til Easter? Its a put on a show kind of cake, so good for mothers day too. I made my own marsipan, so it can take a little bit of effort, but every much worth it.  Obviously its too late for mother's day now, but it will soon be Easter!


Ideally, almond icing (aka marsipan) should be left for several days after it has been applied to the cake, to dry out its oiliness, but I didn't do this and it was still good stuff. I adapted a Delia Smith recipe to make this.

Note: This recipe contains raw egg and nuts.

The Ingredients
350g ground almonds
175g Billingtons unrefined icing sugar
175g xylitol
3 large eggs (one of them separated)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice

The Method
First sift the icing sugar and xylitol into a medium bowl.

Stir in the whole eggs and the egg yolk. 

Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk for about 12 minutes until the mixture is thick and fluffy. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and sit the base in a couple of inches of cold water. 

Whisk in the almond extract, lemon juice and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool. 

At this point stir in the ground almonds and knead to form a firm paste. If you are inpatient like me, you probably didn't wait til the mixture was completely cool before putting ground almond in, Delia is probably more methodical than I am. That's ok... It can be kneaded at this point as its too sticky, instead cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the fridge. 

I adapted this from Phil Vickery's Seriously Good Gluten Free Baking (one of my fav baking books). 

You will need one 20cm round cake tin, loose base and 6cm deep (and baking parchment for lining).

The  Ingredients
Vegetable oil, for greasing
225g gluten free flour (I used Dove's Farm plain flour)
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
225g unsalted room temperature organic butter OR soya / olive spread
225g xylitol
4 medium eggs, room temperature
25g ground almonds
2 tablespoon water (instead of brandy, its your choice)
375g sultanas 
Zest of 1 lemon
Couple of tablespoons of apricot jam

The Method
Preheat the oven to 160c (GM3). 

Oil the base and side of the cake tin and double line the bottom of the tin with parchment. 

Sift the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and spices together. 

In a mixture beat together the butter and xylitol until fluffy and light. Gradually add the eggs and flour mixture, alternately to the creamed mixture. 

Now on a low mixing speed, add the ground almonds, water, sultanas and zest. Make sure everything is well combined and evenly dispersed. 

Spoon half the mixture into the tin and level. 

If you have a still-sticky marzipan mixture you can spread some on top for an even cover. If you have a firm and kneaded marzipan mixture, cut some off (about 85g) and roll out, placing it on top of the mixture. 

Spoon in the other half of the mixture and level out. 

Bake for 1.5 hours (maybe a little less, if you have a particular efficient over) or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin. 

Take out of the tin, remove paper, now you are ready for the next marzipan layer. But first, spread the apricot jam on the top of the cake (don't forget like I did and have to put it on top of the marzipan).

If you have time, leave the marzipan in the fridge over night. Now you will be able to knead and roll the marzipan out until its a good fit for the top of the cake. Its nice to decorate the edges of the marzipan and make them look neat (I didn't offer), this can be difficult if the marzipan is still sticky. 

With the remaining marzipan, divide and roll into balls to place on top for extra presentational loveliness.

Keeps for up to 1 week in an airtight container, if it lasts that long. Having said that, its quite rich, so a little goes a long way - definitely a cake to be shared.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Chocolate & Prune Cookies - Don't Knock It 'til You Try It!

Chewie-yummy-almost-healthy-cookies. I first saw these in Violet Cakes, I was intrigued and inspired to make my own free-form version. Prunes are often associated with healthy bowel functions and I have shied away from them  in the past, but the truth is any are sweet, sticky and versatile. It may sound like a strange combination, but it gives a nice twist to the standard choc chips cookies. 

The Ingredients
125g unsalted organic butter or soya / olive spread
175g xylitol
1 medium egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g xylitol chocolate
50g soft pitted prunes

The Method
Preheat oven to 190oC. Place baking parchment on a baking tray.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate into small chunks and slice the prunes as thinly as possible. Then add the chocolate and the coconut in the flour and mix until evenly dispersed.

Put the xylitol, egg and vanilla into a measuring jug and mix well.

Gently melt the butter, once melted completely, add to the xylitol/egg/vanilla mixture and stir thoroughly.

Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well and evenly combined. The result is a relatively runny mixture. 

Using a dessert spoon dollop 12 lumps of cookie mixture onto the baking tray and shape into rough cookie-like shapes with your fingers. This make 12 quite large cookies, you can make 14-16 small cookies if you like, really depends on how greedy you are feeling at the time of baking.  

Once ready place into the oven for 20 minutes.Once baked place on cooling rack and they will soon be ready pop in your cake hole... all pleasure, no guilt! 

It looks guilty, but its innocent really!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Banana Cupcakes

Makes 6 every generous cupcake or 10 normal sized ones. 

The Ingredients
125g gluten free plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum 
75g lightly salted organic butter or soya (or olive) spread with a little added salt
75g xylitol 
2 eggs beaten 
2 very ripe bananas mashed

100g unsalted butter softened
5 tablespoons clear honey 
5 billingtons golden icing sugar (less refined that normal icing sugar)
If you want this to be completely sugarcane free leave out the frosting and just drizzle a little honey on the top of cake or they are yummy on their own anyway. 

The Method
Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a muffin tray with muffin cases. 

Sift the flour, baking powder & xanthan gum into a bowl. While the butter is melting. Also mash the bananas and beat the eggs (in separate bowls).

Once the spread/butter has melted mix together the xylitol, eggs and banana. Tip in the dry ingredients and mix together gently until evenly combined. Divided the cake mixtures between the muffin cases.

Bake for 25 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

In a bowl, beat together the butter, honey & icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Spread over the tops of the cakes with a small palette knife and enjoy immediately!