Friday, 24 February 2012
I am currently in the process of moving and after spending three and a half years of loving life in Liverpool I am off to the other side of the Irish Sea and shall be settling down in the land of Northern Ireland (for the next couple of years at least). Having a real hatred of packing I have been dreading every moment of the move so have been distracting myself in the kitchen whenever possible (using up a variety of left overs and ingredients that have been lurking at the back of my cupboards for years). But I have justified the amount of time I have been spending in the kitchen as opposed to packing by making baked goods to present as goodbye/thank you gifts to the many friends I will be leaving when I move.
When making the ultimate farewell treat for my colleagues there was only ever going to be one option of what to make, a massive personal favourite of mine… Millionaires Shortbread! What is there not to like about caramel teamed up with chocolate and biscuit…it’s like a Twix but...well better!
So to fit with the blog I updated my mum’s traditional shortbread recipe to make a gluten free variety. I then went all out and rather than using a tin of condensed milk to make my caramel I started from scratch following a recipe from Heson’s latest book Heston Blumenthal At Home to make my very own salted caramel.
I don’t think I have ever experienced greater satisfaction in the kitchen than when I turned sugar, butter, milk, liquid glucose and cream (oh and salt) into the silky, smooth and ever so slightly salty wonder that is caramel. At the end of the process my arms may have been aching from the persistent whisking of the mixture (it felt like I was stirring for at least 30 minutes if not longer), I may have been quite a lot more dishevelled than when I set foot in the kitchen, my sugar thermometer may have become permanently encased in solidified sugar and my eyebrows may have been a little singed by the steam released from the 153 deg C sugar mixture as I added the warmed cream to create a bubbling lava pit of sweetness before the steam subsided and a saucepan of velvety goodness was revealed! (I think I am starting to sound a little bit too excited about this caramel making process), but trust me the effort is worth it! However, as Heston’s salted caramel recipe is not published on-line and is currently only available in his book (and I copied his recipe to the letter making no personal adjustments) I don’t feel I can divulge the recipe on my blog….but go buy the book it is beautiful, and despite being Heston I really feel that most of the recipes are achievable in an average kitchen (with an average kinda cook!!)
But my gluten free shortbread recipe is below, so make this and then top with caramel (there are 100s of simpler recipes available on-line), followed by chocolate…and voila, Millionaires Shortbread.
P.S. as I am in the middle of a move, and am in the midst of negotiations with broadband providers to get my new house hooked up to the internet I may be quiet on the blog front for the next couple of weeks…but no need to panic I will be back!
340g butter or margarine
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup icing sugar
200g rice flour
400g wheat free/gluten free flour blend
Makes approximatley 30 biscuits depending on size
Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F
Allow the butter/margerine to soften slightly at room temperature. Then cream together in a large bowl with the caster sugar, using a wooden spoon to blend the ingredients together, until light and fluffy.
Sift in both flours and the icing sugar and continue stirring until well combined. As the ingredients come together you may find it easier to ditch the spoon and use your hands to bring the mixture together into quite a stiff dough.
Line a large, shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take small handfuls of the mixture and press into the baking tray until the tray is full and evenly filled with the mixture. I found this easier than rolling out the mixture as the use of gluten free flour rather than normal plain flour makes this mixture quite crumbly and difficult to roll out easily.
Use a knife to score the top of the shortbread into regular rectangles (this makes it easier to divide up the mixture into separate portions once baked).
Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, after 20 minutes check to see if the shortbread is golden brown in colour, bake for a further 5 minutes if a little more colour needed on the biscuits.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then turn the mixture out onto a flat surface of chopping board, and whilst still warm use a sharp knife to divide the shortbread into individual portions (using the score lines as a guide), transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool before eating.
Monday, 20 February 2012
So Pancake Day is getting even closer (well it is tomorrow!!) And after my failed attempts of making a vegan crepe I thought I would turn my attention to a gluten free version instead. This crepe style recipe is really easy to make and is perfectly accompanied with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar. I know what I am going to be eating excessive amount of tomorrow…gluten free pancake overdose here I come!!!!!
1 cup corn flour (or corn starch as it is known in America)
½ cup tapioca flour
2 to 2 ½ cups milk
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until a smooth batter is formed. I started by just adding 2 cups of milk, adding a little extra once all of the ingredients were combined to form quite a thin batter.
Place a non-stick saucepan over a medium-high heat and add a small dash of vegetable oil so that the pan is lightly greased.
Allow the oil to heat up then lift the pan away from the heat, add a ladle full of the batter mixture and quickly swirl the pan around so that the batter coats the whole pan. Then return the pan to the heat and leave for about a minute.
After a minute use a spatula to loosen the edges of the mixture. You can then use the spatula to flip the pancake over or alternatively remove the pan from the heat again, shuffle the pancake to the edge of the pan and then give the pan a quick flick to flip the pancake over. Then return to the heat and cook for another minute or two until both sides are golden brown.
Turn the pancake out onto a plate and continue cooking the rest of the batter in this way, you may need to add a little more oil to the pan between cooking each pancake if the pan becomes a little too dry.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup.
Recipe adapted from Celiac.com crepe#1 recipe
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Shrove Tuesday is fast approaching…which in the UK at least means pancakes. I love pancakes, I think most people do! But it is one of those things I don’t make that often, well until Pancake Day that is and then I usually completely overdose on these treats eating sweet and savoury versions for breakfast, lunch and dinner! This year I thought I would get in early on the pancake bandwagon and start experimenting with a few recipes where there is ‘something missing’ , starting with a vegan recipe.
I originally wanted to make a crepe style pancake as this is what I most closely associate with Pancake Day, simply topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of sugar. It turns out, however, that removing the eggs from pancake mix can have quite dramatic effects on the end product. I found a lot of recipes on-line that added extra fat to the soy milk and flour mix with melted margarine or vegetable oil and then a bit of added sweetness with some maple syrup. So I chose one of these recipes, followed it to the letter, let the batter chill for a couple of hours before frying and then I created….well a big sticky (although still pretty tasty) mess! From regularly making pancakes in the past I have learnt that the first is often sacrificed to the pan until the temperature is right and the amount of oil in the pan is just enough to prevent the mixture sticking. But after the fourth attempt using my maple syrup containing mix I still could not produce anything other than a big blob of rubbery dough. Whatever I did the mixture instantly stuck to the pan (I think it may have had something to do with the high sugar content of the mix?!?) and could not be shifted. So I gave up, went back to the internet and returned with an American style vegan pancake recipe which worked out pretty well, especially in comparison with my previous attempt!
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder (yes tablespoon not teaspoon)
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Makes approximately 10 pancakes (depending on size)
Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and baking powder and stir until well combined.
Add the milk and vegetable oil to the mixture and mix until well combined producing a smooth mixture. To achieve this you may find it easier to use a whisk to mix the ingredients together.
Place a non-stick saucepan over a medium-high heat and add a small dash of vegetable oil so that the pan is lightly greased. Allow the oil to heat up then add a ladle of the mixture to the pan (I produced pancakes that were about 10cm in diameter). After 1 to 2 minutes small air bubbles should start to appear in the mixture, at this point use a spatula to flip the pancake over. Cook for a couple of minutes on this second side. Flip back over and cook on the first side for another minute if needed until lightly golden in colour.
Continue cooking the rest of the batter in this way, if your pan is big enough it is possible to cook a couple of pancakes at the same time.
I served mine up with greek yoghurt and fresh fruit…which does undermine the vegan element of this recipe, but a drizzle of maple syrup on top would also be the perfect accompaniment.
If you make too many these pancakes can also be frozen and enjoyed at a later date.
Recipe adapted from About.com vegan pancakes
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Since embarking on a journey of baking with ‘something missing’ I have been spending more time than ever before in the wonderful world of Mattas. Mattas is an International Food shop in Liverpool full of colourful and exotic vegetables, herbs and spices alongside endless varieties of flousr, nut butters, noodles and tea. It was during a visit just before Christmas last year that I came across a little box of carob powder nestling on the hallowed shelves. The carob plant is part of the pea family and when the pods are roasted and ground down a slightly sweet powder similar to cocoa is produced. Unlike cocoa, however, carob is naturally caffeine free and contains less fat so can provide a great alternative to chocolate. So I eventually got around to using my carob powder in what would normally be a spiced apple and chocolate cake recipe. If you can’t get carob powder just use cocoa instead but the carob powder does produce a rich moist cake and combines well with the spices used in this recipe.
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons carob powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups grated apple (there is no need to peel the apples, just core and grate)
Pre-heat the oven to 165degC/325degF.
Lightly grease a 10” loose bottomed cake tin.
In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then gradually incorporate the eggs, followed by the water.
Sift the flour, carob powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices into the bowl and mix well.
Finally fold in the grated apple until the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour. After an hour ensure a sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean, then remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing the cake from the tin.
Sprinkle the cake with icing sugar and serve.
Recipe adapted from All Recipes - 'Cocoa Apple Cake'