Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Chocolate Tart - free from gluten and lactose

I've used this recipe before, when I needed a gluten- and lactose-free chocolate tart. I really liked it the first time I made it, and didn't want to play around finding a different recipe, as we were are in the middle of a heat-wave and having too much cake/dessert around isn't good for me at all, especially with no-one to help me eat it!

I find gluten- and dairy-free pastry shrinks more than usual when baked blind, but the recipe I use makes a sweet shortcrust pastry case which doesn't stick to the baking tin, doesn't seem to suffer from soggy bottoms and has a good 'short' texture which doesn't become too hard, which seems a good trade-off to me. The dough starts out stickier, and needs careful handling - you can find the details here. Instead of adding the tart filling to a raw pastry case, as in that particular recipe, the pastry case is baked blind once the clingfilm is removed.

When baking blind, the only thing I do differently, compared to regular shortcrust pastry, is to dry out the pastry case for a little longer than usual, at a lower temperature. I initially bake the case, lined with baking parchment and filled with baking beans, at 200C for about 12-15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160C, remove the parchment and beans and return the empty pastry case to the oven for about 20 minutes.

The filling for this tart is dense and fudgy, but as you don't add much extra sugar, it allows the flavour of the chocolate to dominate, so you need to choose a chocolate that you are happy  to eat on its own. The addition of the coffee is to further bring out the chocolate flavour, but I can't see any reason why other flavours couldn't be used too, such as orange zest. And, of course, if you don't need dairy/lactose-free, make it with butter and regular double cream.

As you can see, I served this tart with raspberries and there was also raspberry coulis and cream available.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Seeded Flapjack

made with caramelised condensed milk

After making the salted caramel and chocolate shortbread squares, I had half a tin of caramelised condensed milk to use up (this seems to be a constant refrain whenever I use condensed milk!). I wanted to make flapjacks, and decided to search for a new recipe, even though I have several recipes for flapjacks made with either condensed milk, or caramelised condensed milk already. I eventually found this one on a blog called Salutation Recipes; the photos attracted me initially, because the flapjacks looked dense and chewy, and when I read the description of 'fudgy', I knew I'd found what I was looking for! I didn't think substituting caramelised condensed milk for ordinary condensed milk would have any adverse affect on the recipe - if anything it would increase the fudginess (if that's even a word!).

To salve my conscience slightly, I decided to add 100g of mixed seeds - a mix of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and linseed. I used light muscovado sugar instead of golden caster, and also left out the vanilla extract - it seemed like a waste of an expensive ingredient in this sort of thing.

The recipe is a bit vague about exact amounts and the cooking time, but these are the weights of the ingredients that I used - 125g butter, 100g golden syrup, 90g light muscovado sugar,  200g caramelised condensed milk, 280g rolled oats, 100g mixed seeds. After melting the butter, syrup and sugar together, I stirred in the caramel until smoothly blended, then added the oats and seeds to the saucepan (off the heat) and mixed thoroughly. After transferring the mixture to a lined 20cm square baking tin and spreading evenly and firmly, I baked for my usual flapjack time of 25 minutes at 180C (160C fan), and allowed the tray to cool for 10 minutes before marking into 16 squares.

The flapjacks seemed very crumbly at this stage, which was a little worrying, but once they were completely cold they had set into exactly what I was hoping for - dense, chewy, fudgy flapjacks. Almost perfect - they were still a little crumbly around the edges, but within acceptable limits!

I think all flapjacks benefit from some add-ins to counteract the uniformity of the oat base. In this case the seeds added some crunch to contrast with the chewiness, and also some extra flavour.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Hazelnut Shortbread Squares

With the demise of the Clandestine Cake Club - which I think is continuing as just a Facebook page - a few of the local members decided to try and keep a group going on our own. For our first meeting I decided to stick to a familiar recipe rather than experiment. Now that we are no longer bound by CCC rules of large cakes only, and as the attendance wasn't going to be huge, I decided to make a traybake of shortbread squares filled with a fudgy layer of salted caramel and chocolate, following  this recipe which I have used before. Using this recipe also meant that any leftovers would keep for longer than a cake would - I already have too much cake in the freezer!



I followed the recipe exactly as written in the link above, so no need to write it out again. In the end, there were only a few pieces left for me to bring home, but they were as delicious as the first time round!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Courgette Slice, with Bacon and Herbs

I make this recipe more often than I write about it, as it's become a staple warm weather dish; it makes an excellent meal when accompanied by salads. Depending on how filling the salad selection is, it will feed 4-6 people. The added flour also makes it sturdier than a frittata, so it's ideal for carrying to picnics, and of course, with no pastry, it's quicker and easier to make than a quiche.

This time, I was starting with bacon, so there was an extra step involved to fry the bacon until crisp and drain off the excess fat. If ready-cooked ham is used, it's just a matter of chopping and grating the vegetables and mixing everything together. The resulting mixture is then baked in a 23cm/9" parchment lined round baking dish at 195C (175C fan) for about 50 minutes, until firm and golden. I find that it's best eaten at room temperature, or even slightly chilled, rather than warm.

Ingredients:
300g coarsely grated/sliced vegetables (I used 200g grated courgettes, 70g grated carrots and half a red pepper, which I sliced very finely)
1 large onion, finely chopped
100g grated cheddar cheese
200g smoked bacon lardons, fried until crisp, then drained of fat (or 150g ham, cut into small strips)
A small bunch of fresh mixed herbs, finely chopped (I used sage, winter savory and lemon thyme)
5 large eggs
125mls sunflower oil
130g SR flour
Seasoning to taste - a little salt and plenty of pepper, plus a few chilli flakes, if liked


Monday, 28 May 2018

Hazelnut, Lemon and Elderflower Cake

Although I didn't pay much attention to the recent Royal Wedding, I must have been subconsciously influenced by the talk of a lemon and elderflower wedding cake, as I suddenly felt that that was the cake I really I wanted to eat.

Having decided which recipe to use, I realised that I didn't have any ground almonds, so used hazelnuts instead. I love using ground hazelnuts in cakes, as they actually add flavour, as well as keeping the cake moist - so often the flavour of almonds is lost, unless you are using a lot, or add almond extract too.

I chose to adapt this BBC Good Food recipe for a Lighter Lemon Drizzle Cake, as it is a reduced fat recipe, and uses oil instead of butter. I've always found it reliable, producing a light, moist cake with a good crumb texture. As I've mentioned, I used ground hazelnuts instead of almonds, and also used sunflower oil instead of rapeseed, as that's what I always have available. Instead of a lemon drizzle, I reduced 150mls of elderflower cordial by half, and drizzled that over the cooked cake, while still hot, then sprinkled the cake lightly with caster sugar.

This was a subtly flavoured cake - none of the three flavours dominated, although I would have liked to taste more of the elderflower; I think I was just unlucky that the brand of elderflower cordial that I bought was very delicate. Despite that, it was a very good cake for a warm spring weekend.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Molasses and Coconut Rum Cake

I'm so glad I decided to bake this Molasses and Coconut Rum Cake, even though it was too big for me, and I had to freeze half of it in slices. It's the best cake I've tasted for a long time!

The recipe, from the ever reliable and inventive Dan Lepard, popped up on my Facebook feed recently, as I follow the Australian Good Food site. A lot of the recipes there aren't immediately relevant, as the seasons are reversed, but a lot of cake recipes, like this one, aren't seasonal anyway.

As is often the case with Dan, the recipe has a slightly unusual method - it wasn't difficult, but there were one or two points worth remembering for next time. The recipe says to heat the sugar and molasses (I used black treacle) together until any lumps of sugar have softened, but not to boil the mixture. The butter is then melted in the warm sugar. I don't think I heated the sugar enough, as when it was tipped into my mixing bowl a layer set on the bottom, which was really difficult to mix back in, and the butter, which I had cut into small cubes, only just melted. Better to have a little more heat, I think, then wait for the sugar and butter mixture to cool a little, if necessary, before going on to the next stage of adding the eggs, so that the excess heat doesn't cook the eggs.

I used a 900g (2lb) loaf tin, which made a more shallow cake than the one shown with the recipe, but a 450g (1lb) tin would have been too small, and we don't have an in-between size in the UK, as far as I'm aware.

I added about 3 tablespoons of rum to the cake - all there was left in the bottle - and it soaked in easily. I'd probably add a bit more next time, as the flavour wasn't as strong as I'd expected.

Because I was going to freeze part of the cake, I didn't make the frosting. I don't often add frostings to everyday cakes, but I think I'd add one if I made this for a special occasion - and the cake is certainly good enough for that!

There was a relatively large amount of desiccated coconut in this recipe, compared to traditional British coconut cake recipes, but it was almost overwhelmed by the stronger flavours of the black treacle and the spices. The texture of the cake was soft but not too sponge-like; in some ways it was more like a gingerbread than a coconut cake, although it didn't get a sticky top when stored.

This is definitely a recipe to repeat!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Date and Tahini Brownies

This recipe from Jill Dupleix, for Tahini and Date Brownies, made a fantastic chocolate cake, but I couldn't really relate it to the sort of thing I expect from a brownie recipe - it was far too light! Using puréed dates gave a lovely soft, but rich, texture, as well as cutting down on the amount of refined sugar and fat usually used in a recipe of this size, but did stop the brownies being dense and fudgy.

The amount of tahini in the recipe didn't make much of an impact on the flavour either. It's hard to tell unless I made the same recipe without the tahini, but we certainly didn't bite into a brownie and say 'Oooh! Good sesame flavour there!'

I puréed the dates with a stick blender, which was pretty hard going, as the purée was so thick. A blender attached to a food processor would probably given a smoother purée, but that wasn't possible for me. To those who profess to not like the flavour of dates, I would say, if you get a really smooth purée, you wouldn't even know the dates were there! However, I liked the odd little nubble of date left in my purée, just to remind me what was in the brownie.

If you are worried about the amount of refined sugar your family is eating, you would probably enjoy this recipe. I think it would make a good rich chocolate layer cake too - I'm pretty sure it would fit into 2 x 18cm (7") sandwich tins.