Sunday, 28 December 2008

Daring Bakers - A French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

They presented us with a document 18 pages long.. yes you read that right! Don't worry i will not be replicating that here as much of it was various different options we could try.

The basic idea is that of a multi - layered frozen desert. There are six different layers and we were given options for all of them but we had to do all six in some form.

The layers are
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing

I opted for a hazelnut Dacquoise Biscuit, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate ganache, a crisp made with maple corn flakes (gluten free of course) and hazelnuts, a vanilla creme brulee and a dark chocolate icing.

The recipe as I made is is at the bottom of the post.
This picture is of the biscuit layer and my eeepc (a very small and portable laptop) one of the reasons for getting it was so I didn't have to print pages of recipes out for these challenges !

I had to make several sections over more than once mostly as I seemed to be having a bad sugar day.

I made the creme brulee first and that didn't really go according to the recipe. I cooked it in a water bath and after 1 & 1/2 hours it was still liquid round the edges though firm in the middle so I gave it another 20 mins without the bath and at a slightly higher temp. It worked OK but developed a skin in places which was not as good a texture as I would have liked though it wasn't noticeable in the final dish.

The biscuit layer worked well as did the crisp layer.

The mousse came out fine though i over whipped the cream as I was distracted at the wrong moment (UK double cream has a very high fat content and can whip very solid). I am not convinced about the Pate a Bombe as mostly that seemed to result in lots of sugar coating my whisk rather than anything else but after the second attempt (the first time I over cooked the sugar) it seemed to work, certainly the end result worked well.
This is the first four sections of the recipe before they were put together. The ganache is made cone these are frozen and the icing just before it is put on.

The ganache was really nice coming out a caramel colour and being quite sweet it cut the very dark chocolate mousse quite well

The icing I really liked. Many people had problems with the gelatine making it rubbery but I used sheets which I suspect helped as the amount was more precise than powder and it was great. I shall use that again as it was nice and glossy. Shame my log was rather lumpy under it you can see where each layer of moose was piped as it was so solid it didn't spread to fill the gaps. Next time I will find the acetate sheets so I can line the mould with that rather than cling film and push down on the mousse slightly to fill in any gaps at each level.

This is the recipe as I made it.
Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)
Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) hazelnut meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) icing sugar
2Tbsp (15g) GF flour
3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the icing sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the hazelnut meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse
Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remaining cream till stiff
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 White Chocolate Ganache Insert
Picture shows both the first rather burnt tasting try and the second more successful one!
Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
5 oz (135g) white chocolate, finely chopped
4.5 oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small sauce pan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’
s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.

Element #4 Crisp Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan,
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin

3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
1 Tbsp golden syrup
1oz corn flakes and a handful of crushed hazelnuts.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the golden syrup and the coarsely crushed corn flakes, nuts. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

The remains of this were rapidly eaten on it's own and declared very good.!

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert
Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.
Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

***We found the Creme Brulee took longer to defrost than everything else and the whole thing worked better after being in the fridge for several hours rather than the 1/2 hour as suggested above. I had no problem with my moose melting or so forth.***

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Weekly Menu 15th - 19th Dec 2008

Mediterranean meatloaf from last week, very yummy!!

Ark sorry late this week, still got various ill people at home it just seems to cycle round who it is. Nothing serious but poor old Noodles is missing his Christmas concert today, he is currently singing the songs for it behind me.

Monday - chips from the chipshop

Tuesday - pasta and sauce based on a fresh salsa we have that needs eating and should make a good sauce base !

Wednesday - beef stew

Thursday - rice and stuff

Friday - Most of the day will probably be taken with making this month's Daring Baker challenge to take to the grandparents for the weekend so we will be having snack food that can be eaten in the car on the way down to them after school and nursery.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

menu 8th - 12th Dec 2008 - what we actually had

Well this week went rather differently than I planned but in some ways better so I thought I'd post it up.

Monday - Soup and cheese scones. Scones were home made the soup bought in from the local farmers market, his whole range is gluten free and we had a very nice leek, potato and cheddar cheese one with a little crispy bacon to top it off.

Noodles had some scones as lunch the next day. He likes the Dairy lee stacker packs so I made him a home made version with mini scones sliced in half, some slices of ham and baby tomatoes which seemed to go down well.

Tuesday - ended up picking up some discounted fish and turkey so we had pollock on sliced boiled potatoes with a king prawn, pepper, kale and cream sauce, which was very nice. Plus a cooked chicken for lunches.

Wensday - Mediterranean meatloaf following a recipe posted on the gluten free recipes yahoo group which Carrie from Ginger Lemon Girl runs.. It's an extremely nice turkey based meatloaf with sundried tomatoes and a spinach and feta filling.. still enough for another meal too. Definetly a keeper recipe. Served with boiled potatoes, mashed swede and cabbage.

Thursday - chicken (remains of cooked chicken from Tuesday) and bacon Frittata using some cooked potatoes from Wensday, some extra peppers and tomatoes plus obviously a bunch of eggs and a little milk.

Friday - Pizza.. Mine topped with spinach, feta and bacon.. lovely !

Friday, 12 December 2008

Viennese fancies

Viennese fancies are one of my favourite biscuits and I've been saying for ages I should try making some but haven't got round to it. Then I saw some mince-pies topped with them and decided that they looked too good not to try and replicate GF.

If you haven't come across Viennese fancies they are a buttery whirl shaped biscuit, you normally get two sandwiched together with jam or jam and buttercream and sometimes half dipped in chocolate.

The various recipes I've found always have the same amount of flour and butter and a smaller amount of sugar however the exact proportions vary so I went with one which had a smaller amount of sugar. Also many recipes use half cornflour and half plain flour which makes it more likely that GF flour will work (why didn't I look at this recipe earlier??) The biscuit is meant to be very short and crumbly.

So I made up a small batch (which then got even smaller when I dropped about 1/3 of it on the floor !) Still it was enough to make 4 complete biscuits ie 8 halves. To try them out I sandwiched them with a little jam as my main plan is to use them as a mince pie topping not in the traditional way.. at least for now.. chocolate dipped ones may happen at some point too!

They worked pretty well so now I need to decide on the pastry base. I've seen them with a standard shortcrust but also found a recipe for Viennese topped ones using a shortbread crust. Watch here for the second instalment ie the mince pies themselves.
Viennese Fancies

3 ounces (75g) butter
1 ounce (25g) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
3 ounces (75g) GF flour
Few drops vanilla essence
Strawberry jam (for filling)
Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar and vanilla essence together until it is light and fluffy.

Sieve flour and salt together then add to the creamed mixture gradually. Beat well after each addition until the mixture is smooth.

Using a big star pipe, pipe stars of approximately 1¼ inch (3cm) diameter and no more than 1/8th inch (6mm) high onto a baking/cookie sheet on a baking tray . Or pipe short lengths of dough. The mix is quite stiff so the piping end needs to be a big open one such as you designed for biscuits or potato not an traditional icing one.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 375F (190C or Gas Mark 5). Be careful you want to catch them just before they start colouring.. mine went slightly too brown round the edges but this is a biscuit you want to be pale not browned.

Spread a small amount of strawberry jam between the flat sides of two "whirls" to make them stick together. Dust with icing sugar or dip about a third of each Viennese fancy (with jam between them) in chocolate which has been melted slowly in a bowl heated in hot water.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Burmese Curry

Sorry about the funny colours it was late at night and I didn't have the time or brain power to get a better pic.

Originally from some bumper book of asian recipes a housemate owned years ago.

This uses huge amounts of ginger and garlic but the flavour while strong is much more mellow that you might expect because of the cooking time.

4lb meat - have used pork and beef at different times. While this will make basic meat taste good using really good meat is worth it as you do taste the difference though you can use a cut that needs slow cooking which keeps the price reasonable.
2 large or 4 medium onions, chopped
20 cloves of garlic
1 cup peeled, chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vinegar
1-2 tsp chilli powder
3/4 cup peanut or basic oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
1tsp turmeric powder

Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes. Put onions, garlic, ginger into a blender and blend well. Put in a strainer over a bowl and push with the back of a spoon to get as much liquid out as possible. Pour the liquid into a big pan, add meat, salt, vinegar, chilli powder and half the basic oil. Bring to boil then cover and simmer over a low heat for an hour or so till meat is tender.

Meanwhile in a heavy based pan heat the remaining basic oil and sesame oil. When really hot add the mush left in the strainer from earlier, add turmeric, stir and cook over a low heat, covered, stirring regularly. Cook till smell has mellowed and onions are transparent. you want all the water content to evaporate and the paste to turn red-brown with oil showing round the edges which takes about 25 mins. Add a bit of water if needed to stop it sticking. Halfway through spoon some oil from the meat pan into the paste.

When both are cooked combine and keep cooking till there is no liquid and the oil separates out again.

Serve with rice and vegs.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Menu 8th - 12th Dec 2008

Well the weekend has been a bit slow. We continue with low level illness here. Himself still has a cold which doubles him up coughing and Treestump has been under the weather and running a bit of a temperature at time. I think it might be teething as much as anything.

We had a lovely meal yesterday which was very simple, just carrots, parsnips and swede cut into biggish chunks tossed in a little oil then roasted in the oven with lamb chops put on top halfway through. Served with peas. it was really pleasant particularly after spending an hour or two on the allotment trying to put the glass in the green house. We have broken several panes either when we took it down at mums or now putting it back up. With luck (ie we don't break any more) we have enough to do the side windows but most of the roof is gone.. So I think I'm going to get enough persex to fill in the gaps on one side with the remaining glass and do a wood and felt roof on the other side which gives a little shade but not much. I stopped washing the glass down when the water started freezing as it out in on the windows!

This week Asparagus thin is hosting the menu swap. She has picked a bitter taste as her ingredient and goes on to list lots of brassicas many of which I love and don't find bitter. One I do find rather bitter but himself loves is brussel sprouts and we have a couple of bags currently as they have started to appear in our veg box so I'm going to try a rosti version of a British classic bubble and squeak.

This weeks menu is a bit dependant on how people feel but will go something like this.

Monday - bermese curry with broccilli and rice.

Tuesday - soup and scones

Wednesday - sausages with bubble and squeak rosti using brussel sprouts

Thursday - tomato and eggs

Friday - stew and dumplings.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Chocolate Brownies.

I realised I've never put this recipe up so here it is for all those people who ask me for it.


Based a a Nigel Slater recipe and inspired by Ryton Organic gardens cafe.

Makes a very large baking tray full, cut recipe in half if you don't plan to give half away though it does keep fairly well unlike most gluten free baking.
This is the only recipe I have found soya flour improves normally I dislike it.

600g golden caster sugar
500g butter
500g chocolate, as dark and high in cocoa as possible.
7 large eggs
120g soya flour
120g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder

Set the oven to 180C/Gas 4
Grease and line with baking parchment one very large roasting tin or
two medium ones.

Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy, much easier
in a mixer than by hand.

Break 400g of the chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler or
microwave till melted. Chop the rest into smallish rough pieces ( I
often replace this with white chocolate).

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl. Sift together the flour, cocoa and
baking powder.

Running the mixer slowly add the egg a bit at a time, beating in well
before adding the next bit, speed up the mixer to do this. Then remove
the bowl from the machine and mix in both the melted and chopped
chocolate, with a large metal spoon. Finally fold in the flour mix
making sure not to knock the air out of the mix.

Scrape into the tin and cook for about 30 mins till it is set round
the edges and still a bit sticky in the middle but not raw. It will
solidify a bit as it cools and if you cook too long half of it will be
too dry.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Menu 1st - 5th Dec 2008

We have had rather a run of people being ill with colds and sickness bugs and now I'm feeling worse for wear but I'm not sure if it's a bug or something I ate, dehydration or something... we had a great weekend at my aunts 60th birthday celebrations but for all her and the hotels efforts I'm not sure I didn't eat something I shouldn't have. On the way home I developed a huge headache which got so bad I ended up throwing up and I still feel heady with a rough stomach today.

That being the case and the fact himself is on late shifts today the menu is going to be quick and easy dishes we can cook without thought.

This weeks host for the gluten free menu swap is Heart of Cooking and they chose persimmons as the ingredient of the week. I've never tried them so if I am feeling up to it and can find one I may try them later in the week. Either way check out her blog to see what everyone else is cooking and to see her very intriguing upside down cake.

Monday - Burgers and chips and salad

Tuesday - pasta with tomato and veggy sauce

Wensday - Baked potato with various toppings including tuna and sweetcorn and cheese

Thursday - rice and stuff (ie rice with various added bits, vegs, meat etc)

Friday - Cauliflower cheese

I thought I'd explain a bit about our cauliflower cheese as we often have it on the menu and I know for some people it s a side dish. Thing is we add a lot more to it than just cauliflower and cheese so it really is a complete meal.

The picture at the top of this post is the final dish.

This picture is of the three main stages. Cauliflower and broccoli which we steam or boil till just soft. various vegs and bits fried off including this time leek, peppers and some left over gammon though we don't always add meat. Finally a cheese sauce made from GF flour, butter, milk, a little mustard powder and grated cheese. I can't give amounts as we just make it by eye but as long as it is thicker than milk ad still thin enough to pour pretty much any consistancy of sauce works.

The vegs are all mixed together in a dish deep enough for a layer of cauliflower florets to sit well. Then they are covered with the cheese sauce and more grated cheese and baked in an oven at 200C for about 30 mins..

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Daring Bakers do Caramel !

In the words of our host this month.

"We’ve spent two months exploring the savory side of baking...

Now that it’s November and the holidays are upon us, we’re bringing sugar back to the party. In fact, this month sugar is the STAR of the party.

Our leading lady this month is Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater ( and her signature caramel cake."

Our host of the month is Dolores ( ably assisted by Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( With gluten free advice from Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (

The original form of the recipe can be found here ( … he-recipe/)

Shauna warned that she thought the recipe would be hard to get to work as gluten free but I found just the opposite and even had one friend say she thought I'd cooked the gluten version when I presented her with a cupcake as the texture was so good. The flavour is pretty good too and even thought we were allowed to flavour it if we wished I am glad I went for the basic caramel as it is a great subtle flavour.

I used unbleached golden granulated for the caramel syrup which resulted in a wonderfully fully flavoured syrup which I have had on icecream and even used to make a sponge pudding since. I have also made a second batch and steeped spices in it to get a lightly spiced christmas syrup. As you might be able to tell I'm a convert to making caramel.

One thing I did notice when making the two batches is that the amount you wet the sugar in the first place makes a very noticeable difference. The first time I wet it just enough to count as 'wet sand like' and it took a while for it to melt to liquid but from there rapidly caramlised and thickened well. The second time i added a bit more and it melted down faster but it was much harder to tell when it hit the right consistancy so I would err on the side of less water in the first stage..

And please do take the warnings about using a high sided pan and standing well back to add the water seriously.. being splashed with hot sugar is seriously unpleasant thing, I like my skin to stay intact and I'm sure you do too.

I opted to make most of the cake up as cupcakes because gluten free cakes are hard to cook through well if you make big ones so for a first try at a recipe cupcakes often work better. These worked very well indeed. The texture was moist and dense without being stodgy ( you can see it in the picture of a slice from the small loaf tin cake I also did) and I am seriously considering trying variants on it for other cupcakes as it rose better than most other recipes i have tried and as i said earlier a friend even thought they had gluten in. I think the high levels of liquid in the recipe is a positive advantage for gluten free baking because most gluten free flours absorb more liquid than wheat flour and recipes often fail due to not enough liquid.

We liked the frosting too though it is very sweet for us brits, we don't do much in the way of frostings traditionally on most cakes, perhaps a bit of icing on a cupcake or some buttercream in a victoria sponge but not the piles of frosting I see on american cupcakes. That said we did like it and the salt is a definite must. Without it all you got was tooth achingly sweet, with the salt the flavour came out and it almost tasted coffee flavoured. we decided it would be a perfect icing for a coffee and walnut cake and as i still have a tub full of frosting in the fridge I may be making one before christmas.

You can find many other versions of this by following the Daring Baker link in the side bar, many of them will also be doing the optional challenge of caramel sweets too. I ran out of time this month but want to try these before christmas and if they work they may well end up in some people's christmas presents as the ones I've seen on the group forum look great. If you would like to join us for the monthly challenges and are willing to commit to doing the challenges every month (you can drop a couple a year but must do the rest) then go to the forum and join up. I have found it a wonderful way to try techniques I would not normally come across or get the nerve to try and have found some real gems this way which have helped me learn to bake gluten free better.

Caramel sponge pudding using the caramel syrup.

Oh and as a final note.. I have decided when I do get a new camera it needs to have manual focus, so many of the pics I'm taking are perfectly in focus just not the bit I want in focus particularly the macro shots.



10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder
(i used 1 to balance the Gf flour)
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Weekly menu 24th - 29th Nov

Well best laid plans and all that, what with himself doing late shifts and everyone being under the weather with colds I didn't get round to most dishes though I did manage the Burmese curry (recipe to come later) , gammon and surprisingly did all the baking I planned.

However this week is partly a repeat of the recipes I didn't do last week. This weeks ingredient is sweet potato which I love bit mostly just have roasted and in stews so i will be interested to see what others do.

Monday - Pasta and sauce.

Tuesday - Shepard's pie with mixed root veg topping

Wednesday - kedgeree (rice, kippers, eggs, peas and spices plus anything else I fancy throwing in)

Thursday - Cauliflower and broccoli cheese.

Friday - Lamb and chickpea rice pot

The gluten free menu swap this week is hosted by Book of Yum so please visit there for more ideas.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Gluten Free Menu Swap 17th -21st Nov

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday

The formal bit first !
This week I'm hosting the menu swap so check back tomorrow to see what everyone else is doing. Anyone wanting to add their menu to the list email me on esther(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com with your link.

Where has the year gone? Still this time of year brings with it all those wonderful root vegs and long slow cooking times. It is a time to savour life and slow a little in tune with the seasons, well as much as you can and still get ready for Christmas and so on !

I love autumn when the air is clear and crisp and the light has that wonderful deep quality to it shining on the multicoloured leaves left on the trees and on the ground.. I like it rather less when it is like today, grey, dreary and none discript as it just reminds me we will be having so much less light for a while and like many I suffer a bit from winter depression however I intend to spend time over the winter on the allotment which should allow me to make best use of what light there is. This year I don't have pregnacy induced medical issues to stop me from digging over beds and putting in hedging and my aim is to be ready for planting in the spring so next year we have a good crop of vegs to feed us all.

So back to those root vegs, this week I have picked swede which I know isn't something everyone has come across but you really should try it. Wikipedia says "The swede, (yellow) turnip, swedish turnip or rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. Its leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable."

I've never eaten the leaves but the root is one of our favorite vegs, along with parsnips and is a real memory food for me. The smell of the raw root reminds me of playing in the feed barn as a child. The neightbouring farm grew them as feed for the cows and sheep and we were allowed to have as many as we liked. We also got the rabbits they shot to keep them off the crops as they didn't eat them. Mum scored many points towards not being considered as a city girl (which she was really) by being able to skin them and pluck chickens !

Neeps and Tatties as eaten with Haggis is mashed swede and potatoes and mashed is the most common way we eat it with a bit of butter and lots of black pepper added as it is mashed. We also add it to stews where it gives a lovely soft slightly sweet favour.

Veg Box recipes have a few easy recipes using it for you to try including soups and various ways of mashing and serving it..

so on to the my menu

I've just come across Recipes to Rival which is a month cooking challenge based on Daring Bakers and their October challenge reminded me of the Bermese curry I used to make so I have sent one of the boys out to buy lots of ginger, onions and garlic which are the base of such a curry.

Sunday - Bermese beef curry with rice and brocalli

Monday - Califlower and Broccali cheese.
(we got lots of both of these every week now in the veg box)

Tuesday - Shepard's pie with swede and potato topping
OR gammon with parsley sauce and mashed swede and potato. (depending if can get parsley for the sauce)

Wensday - swede, parsnip and carrot soup with cheese scones.

Thursday - Veggy tempura to use up what's left before the new box arrives.

Friday - Lamb and chickpea rice pot

Baking -
Chocolate brownies,
Daring Bakers challenge (but as always can't tell you want it is till the reveal date, which is Saturday November 29.)
Cheese scones

Other menus

Kimberly at Gluten Free is Life is having a low-key week this week as she is eating out a couple of days this week but even so her menu sounds great. I'd love to know what Turkey Mexican Pizzas are like.

Kara at Gluten free in the Greens is back after a long break with a very insightful post and a nice homely sounding menu just what the weather here requires. Plus she is having socca which I hadn't come across but will certainly be trying now!

Lori at The Gluten Free Week has a shopping list to go with their menu which I think is such a good idea. The ricotta stuffed chicken with swede and carrot mash sounds great too.

Angela at Angela's Kitchen has had fridge problems so I'll keep my fingers crossed that gets sorted rapidly particularly as she is busy getting ready for Thanksgiving. As a Brit I am fascinated by the dishes people eat at thanksgiving so will be watching her blog with interest the next couple of weeks.

Sea over at The Book of Yum as always has an interesting sounding international menu and her green bean dish should very much worth trying. Her baking this week sound intriguing too!

Manda at Asparagus Thin is planning on using swede and turnips this week in a selection of dishes. Apparently she is waiting on a new cookbook to arrive to try out some new recipes and like many gearing up for Thanksgiving..

Scrumptious from In My Box joins us for the first time. Welcome and I hope you become a regular. She has some fantastic sounding recipes which I shall certainly be investigating in more depth later. I love the idea of a retroactive menu plan too :)

Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness has a great sounding menu. She isn't using swede but has a fun photo of one !

Cheese biscuits and a delated Halloween post

I've been meaning to blog the cooking we did for Halloween but keep failing so thought I really should get on with it.

Noddles and I had great fun making silly food for our party at which most of the guests were under 5 or adult !

These included shrunken heads in fruit punch made from carved and dried out apple halves. They didn't fully dry out and in fact went very soft and pulpy in the middles but still looked great.

We also did monster cakes and spider cakes, witches brooms which were twiglets tied to breadsticks, some cheese biscuits in various Halloween shapes, eyeballs (cheese stuffed baby tomatoes) devil eggs (egg halves with the yolk mashed with a bit of spice and topped with pepper horns) and others brought cakes too which meant we had loads left.

All in all it was great fun and we had pumpkins, both mini real ones and paper lantern ones to decorate with as well as a silly 'brain' in green liquid and lots of plastic spiders and bugs everywhere.

The cheese biscuits went down very well and I've done them again since so thought I'd put the recipe here.


Cheese biscuits
(based on a recipe from Delia Smith's Complete cookery course)

2oz gram (chickpea) flour
2oz general Gluten free flour mix
1 tsp Xathan gum
You can vary this a bit but don't do too much more gram flour or it gets too strong but I do find gram flour and cheese go well together.

8oz grated cheese (I use cheddar or a mix of cheddar and Cheshire or Wensleydale)
3 oz butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg beaten
pinch of cayenne pepper and twist or two of black pepper

optional toppings of cayenne, poppy seeds or similar
Pre-heat the oven to 190C (375F)

Sift flours, xanthan gum, salt into a bow and add cayenne and black pepper.

Add the cheese and butter and rub between your fingers till the butter and flour is combined and crumbly then add the egg and bring together.. you can also skip the egg and add an extra oz of butter (which is how the recipe was in the book) but I find that just a bit too buttery for me.

Flour surface and rolling pin and roll out thinly. It is quite a soft dough so make sure you keep everything well floured or it sticks. Cut out biscuits, these can be quite small as they are very rich. Arrange on a baking tray, they don't spread much so can be quite close together but not touching. Brush with milk and top with cayenne pepper or poppy seeds if wished.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 mins if necessary turn or swap shelves after about 6 mins. I tend to do two trays at a time so swap them around to even the cooking.. Cool on a wire rack and if any survive long enough store in an airtight tin.

Monday, 10 November 2008

weekly menu 10th - 14th Nov

Very quick menu update for now.

Monday - Pizza (mine using the pizza base from last month)

Tuesday - fish pie made with pollock, smoked haddock and a potato topping.

Wednesday - Cauliflower curry, served with rice and flat bread. (gluten free of course).

Thursday - Beef burgers, chips and vegs.

Friday - bean and veggy stew.

The ingredient of the week is pomegranate which is one of my favourite fruits but I normally only eat it raw so I will be interested to see what others do with it. This week the gluten free menu swap is hosted by Gluten free goodness so please check out their post for other menus.

Next week I'm hosting and my ingredient is swede which I know will confuse some or the none brits so here is a link to the wikipedia entry which may help explain what I am talking about.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I got tagged by Buffy so thought I'd have a go even if it has taken me a while to do it..

The rules are;

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by including links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

So 7 facts about me;


1) I'm pretty much ambidextrous and only write with my right hand because I got confused swapping. I don't really have any in build concept of left and right.

2) My favourite smell is burnt gunpowder.. I might have a fondness for blowing things up too but only with pyros and such like not for real.

3) When I last made costume for a living my hubby banned me from working after midnight the night before an event as I tend to work to a deadline.. ie right up to it!

4) The only foods I can't stand are lichee and okra for the same reasons they are slimey. I really would prefer to eat sheep's eyeballs!

5) The fold of my ear is welded down along the top just like my gran.. I have a raised mole on the back of my neck in exactly the same place as she did as well.

6) I used to hate pink with a passion but I seem to be mellowing in my old age and quite like it now!

7) I have daft feet they are extremely wide with a very high instep to the extent I walk only on the middle of the ball of my foot and about half my heel, when I make a foot print it is just two circles, no join and indeed no toes either as I walk with them pointing upwards.. Makes well fitting shoes every difficult ! BUT I love shoes, love how they look, would love to collect them but most would just sit on a shelf and be looked at.. and yes I have seriously considered getting some just to do that with them!

now who to tag? as this is my food blog some should be gluten free cooks but others will be more random.

So my taggies are

1) Straight into bed cakefree and dried - cos I love here cooking and different take on things.

2) Carrie at Ginger Lemon girl cos I've nabbed her recipes on more than one occasion.

3) Fresh ginger who I met through the gluten free menu swap.

4) Julie from Julie made this who is a friend outside of blogs.

5) Richard, another friend who I'd like to know more about :)

hum running out of people feel I have talked to enough to send something like this to who have blogs so the last two are live journals instead.

ravenrigan and blackcurrants.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Weekly Menu - 3th Nov - 8th Nov.

We had home made fish and chips for tea on Sunday which was very nice (picture above). Plaice this time as it was on half price at ASDA. It was lovely fish but I'm not very keen on ASDA'a fish counter the selection wasn't that big and unlike Morrisons they don't tell you where and how it was fished something I really appreciate but that was where we ended up partly to have breakfast in the cafe as they serve quicker then Morrisons.

Had a great Halloween party and Noodles and I had great fun cooking silly food.

This week we have started with no heating so I hope things can only go up from here.. for a day we had all the zones of underfloor heating downstairs working but then the pressure dropped and we ended up with none rather than one zone not working as we had before. ho hum. We think it's just a joint leaking but as we had to wait for the ages for the plumbers to finally come on Friday as we couldn't get it to seal and now it seems they haven't either I'm not sure when it will be fixed..

Anyway onto the menu

Monday - bar-b-q spare ribs with rice

Tuesday - pot roast beef and vegs.

Wednesday - vegetable pasta bake.

Thursday - Burmese curry (will need to get lots of ginger and garlic for this)

Friday - Hoping to try making some pies, probably chicken.

Somewhat heavier on the meat than I normally aim for but it's that time of year where heavier meals seem like a good idea particularly when we might not have heating!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza

This month we were given a pizza recipe to try and wonderfully they also gave us a gluten free recipe for it so no converting and wondering if it would work. The gluten eating Daring Bakers had to try tossing the dough and if possible get a photo of it so check out other blogs using the link on the right for a whole bunch of people throwing bread in the air :) Those of us without gluten were saved from that by being unable to toss our dough without it falling apart.

Of course while I was really keen to try the recipe I still ended up doing it yesterday !

The dough makes up very quickly and as kneading isn't needed with no gluten to develop all it really is very simple. Really just mix, leave to rest in the fridge then take out when it is wanted prove for a couple of hours, shape and top as required. I made the dough in the morning and used it in the evening rather than over two days though I also did some the next day but there didn't seem to be a difference.

The gluten free version of the recipe is at the bottom of this post. I used a mix of rice, gram, buckwheat and tapioca flours which gave a nice wholemeal feel to it.

For toppings I made a pizza with a home made tomato sauce, cheese and bacon as well as a folded pizza with the same filling both of which were very nice though I left them in the oven a little to long.

The next day I did a second folded pizza with a similar filling though I used mozzarella instead of cheddar.. both worked very well and I'm not really sure which I preferred.

I also made a small chocolate one which I topped with sugar but again got slightly burnt due to being distracted by a small one but it was still tasty and I think I will try that again with a none wholemeal style dough.
Chocolate version
The rest of the dough has gone into the freezer for the next time I want pizza !


Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Weekly menu 27th - 31st Oct

This week is half term so Small is home. (or as he is from now on to be called Noodles on account of him being too big to be Small now.. Why noodles is a long story with no noodles involve but is much more to do with me being unable to use someone's given name without adjusting it !)

The one thing he has requested we do is cooking so I'm doing something right. We will be cooking Tuesday and Friday as those are the two days his baby brother is at nursery. Friday will be Halloween monster cakes and the like as he wants a Halloween party.

Treestump is eating us out of house and home. He will eat pretty much everything even though he only has the first courner of his first tooth through so far! For instance yesterday lunch time he had potato, broccoli and peas mashed together with a little red wine gravy and carrots and roast Parsnip as finger foods. He then took not one but two small yorkshire puds out of his dad's hands as he was trying to eat them and ate them followed by apple and custard before polishing off a sponge finger and stealing his gran's raspberries !

Anyway onto the menu.

Monday - Tomato and eggs, that simple but wonderful regular on our menu.

Tuesday - Pizza

Wensday - (Noodles is out with his grandparents all day.) Thai chicken curry and rice (using coconut this weeks ingredient)

Thursday - Beef stew with wonderful beef from the grandparents which is sourced locally to them.

Friday - Halloween party so lots of party food with far to much food colours !

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Fun of feeding gluten to a baby

I know I've not been around much life is hectic but good and I hope to have more cooking time soon. We are eating fairly well but nothing that interesting to blog about currently and my camera has died though himself's little snappy camera turns out to have a nice macro mode.. who knew !

Anyway the main thing I have been upto is the fun of feeding a seven month old. He has developed a major interest in trying new foods and has decided all food should be eaten by hand ie his hands by the handful even porridge. He loves finger foods and doesn't seem to have read the book that says he should still be eating slightly textured purée as far as he is concerned a fish finger is great food for a seven month old as are cheese sandwiches at nursery !

As you may have guessed from those I am allowing him gluten. The current recommendations seem to be that around 6 months is the best time to introduce it to give someone the best chance of not developing celiac and as i didn't have any problems till I got glandular fever I think my problems were triggered then.

However there is a down side I hadn't really though of and didn't come across with Small because we didn't give him gluten till he was a year. Seven month old babies, particularly ones who want to feed themselves are very messy ! I really can't cope with being covered with gluten filled mush so he is now only going to have it when fed by someone else like dad or at nursery and I don't get him back till he is cleaned up !

adendum - We've just been out for a Chinese meal and he spurned the prawn crackers and dived on the chicken satay.. I'm sure the book says he shouldn't be happily chewing a piece of chicken breast at seven months but I think he read the book and decided to it was rubbish!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Lavash crackers and dip - Daring Bakers September

This month's challenge is gluten free and vegan so for once no adjustment needed. Actually the none alternative bakers were given a wheat based version if they wanted it but quite a few tried it gluten free which is great.

Just realised the pictures are on my camera that has stopped working. I will add them later when I find it and get them off the card directly.. I hope !

So what are Lavash crackers, apparently they are an Armenian flat bread made very thin so it becomes hard and well cracker like. Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl set us the challenge to do the gluten free crackers and a vegan dip, because of potential difficulties and pricey ingredients the gluten free was optional though not here obviously. The vegan dip however was a must.

Dip first. I ended up doing a fairly simple cooked tomato dip purely because I had excess tomatoes that needed using and were of a type that was better cooked than fresh. I lightly fried some onion then added a little agave syrup to help them caramelise, then I added the tomatoes and cooked them gently. Very simple and very tasty, of course you could use honey or sugar but I was using the agave syrup in the crackers and wanted to give Treestump the dip and honey is one of those things they suggest no giving till they are older.

So on to the crackers.

The recipe below is as we were give, italics for my comments.


Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here's a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids...It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)...

The key to a crisp lavash, to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe) I used 1cup general gf mix, 1/2 cup buckwheat to get a wholemeal style plus xanthan gum.
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature (several people noted that the water needed to be increased I used about 3/4 cup in the end.)
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings.
I did four different toppings, poppy seeds, course salt, cajan spice mix and balti spice mix.

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed. (as noted I used more than this to get it to join together)

2. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. (I found this much easier than I expected as it didn't stick) Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) (forgot to mist but did re-roll once toppings were added to fix them well. which worked well) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

They came out very nice indeed, we nearly ate them all while discussing what to make for tea! The salt ones were a good replacement for crackawheat which I still crave at times! I have plans to try some with ground hazelnut instead of buckwheat.

Menu 29th Sept - 3rd Oct

Theoretical will have a bit more time now as Treestump is at nursery 2 days a week. Of course I'm meant to be doing useful stuff and possibly even money making stuff though working on the house counts as they we don't have to pay someone else..

Anyway menu for the week. I'm not using the ingredient chosed by Kimberly at Living Free because it's almond which I tend to be wary of after a couple of bad reactions I can't tracy to anything else though it doens't always heppen nut allergies are so serious I don't want to develop one. Also i want meals I can mince down for Treestump as he is very keen to eat solids and it's to soon for him to have nuts. Please check her blog for the list of other gluten free menus.

Monday - turkey stirfry with rice noodles

Tuesday - himself is out of the evening meal so we are having bought in Aberdeen angus meatballs and rice.. they look great!

Wensday - stuffed marrow and cauliflower cheese

Thursday - veg and bean stew or curry depending how we feel.

Friday - bangers and mash. (bangers are sausages for the none brits) or fish if I manage to get out and find something nice later in the week.

Baking - planning to retry the eclaire recipe from the August daring baker challenge and do the sept one again using hazelnut flour will blog that in a moment.

Argg missed the posting for Daring Bakers

It's rather too late tonight for me to write anything coherent. I have done the challenge and will post sometime tomorrow so please check back then. What I will say now is was one of the easiest challenges I've done but then I had an advantage as the main part of the challenge was that the recipe was gluten free and vegan so no conversions needed for me :)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Baby food

We have gradually been introducing Treestump to food for several weeks but this week he very much jumped from having some purée ever now and then to wanting to eat whenever anyone else does and also from just having purée to being able to cope with lumps and indeed eating things like rice crackers and biscuits unaided.

He had one day of trying to chew, getting food stuck and coughing so we would have to tap him on the back then going back to eating his rice cracker. This happened a few times over the course of the same rice cracker but he kept being adiment he wanted to eat it. After that he seems to have learnt how to chew or at least swallow once he has gummed something to pieces.

Just now he sat and eat a good chunk of banana , just straight as it comes and is now gumming to death a small biscuit. Not bad for just over six months.!

He is definitely following in his big brothers footsteps of preferring strong flavours too which I'm not going to complain about.. but then my favourite food at two was pickles, indeed anything in vinegar.

According to the Uk version of Gluten free for dummies, which is actually a very good book, the best time to introduce gluten to minimise the chances of them developing Celiac is six months so we are planning to start introducing it a little bit. As most f our meals aren't gluten based he isn't going to get as much as most kids would but the boys eat real bread and so forth so he will get some.

We wil see how it goes.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Weekly menu

A little late posting and very brief but better late than never.

Monday - Pasta and mince sauce (enough left lunch for later in the week)

Tuesday - Steak and chips

Wednesday - (First day back to school for Small and my Karate class) Salad, including boiled eggs.

Thursday - Chicken and rice

Friday - veggy stew and dumplings.

This weeks Gluten free menu swap line up can be found at Gluten Free Goodness.

I should be doing more with the rest of the apples I was given as well this week. They are Bramleys which cook down to a smooth purée so I've already frozen some cooked with a bit of agave syrup (as Bramleys are not at all sweet) in ice-cubes for Treestump over the next few weeks but should do something with the rest for everyone else.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers do éclairs

Smelling the baking !

So this month our challenge is éclairs, having missed last month I planned to do this one regardless but when I found out what it was I was even more determined as I haven't had an éclair since I went fully gluten free and it was always one of my favourite cream cakes so I looked forward to trying them again. That said I only managed to find the time with a day to spare.

We were told to keep to these three rules
1. The dough used for the éclairs must be a pâte à choux from the recipe given.
2. Keep one chocolate element in the challenge. The recipe below is for a chocolate glaze and a chocolate pastry cream. You choose which chocolate element you want to keep. Then feel free to mix and match flavours to the base recipe.
3. Everything else is fair game. Enjoy!

As always those of us who need to are allowed to change things for being gluten free or indeed other restrictions for those who have them but we are still asked to stick to the spirit of the challenge.
The finished article as per the original recipe.

For the dough I used the recipe as given with the exception I replaced the flour with 1/3 each of tapioca starch, Rice flour and millet flour plus I added a tsp of Xanth gum. Then I chose to do the chocolate pasty cream as we were given it but used a simpler chocolate glaze as the one they gave had several stages and I was pushed for time.

The recipes are at the end of this post for those who might wish to try them.

So how did it go?

Well a pâte à choux is made by cooking most of the ingredients together in a saucepan till you get a nice ball of dough and then you mix the eggs into it in a mixer. The resulting mix is then piped out and baked.

I followed the recipe as given and it worked surprisingly well particularly as other gluten free bakers had varying success. As you can see from the pictures things went quite well I was really surprised. There was a moment I thought it wouldn't come back together in the mixer but I turned it up and left it mixing for a minute and that seemed to sort it out quite well.

We tried the chocolate pasty cream which is OK but reminded me of kids chocolate pudding and we all found them a little too sickly.

Round one - cream.
Long one - apple and blackberry

Then as we had been given a lot of free cooking apples and had blackberries growing in the garden due to my lack of gardening this year I did some apple and blackberry ones. Basically I cooked off some apple, mixed with a bit of whipped cream and added fresh blackberries. These were finished with the same chocolate glaze and I though were an improvement as they were less sickly. We also had ones just filled with whipped cream which is the standard way they are done here in the UK and in some ways the way i like best but then I am a cream addict !

It was obvious that the pastries we had left after all that were not going to be much good by tomorrow as even after just a couple of hours the texture was going and they were starting to seem distinctly eggy rather than like pasty so I filled the rest with cheese and ham and gave them a quick blast in the oven. These turned out to be a very nice snack though I thought the pasty was starting to taste quite like an omelet something which wasn't obvious when it was smothered with chocolate sauce !

The Small ones view was as follows, " You could make them again tomorrow if you have the ingredients." I think that means he liked them !

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) flour (1/3 cup each of tapioca stach, rice flour and millet flour) plus a tsp of Xanth gum
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

To cook
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze

100g dark chocolate
slug of double cream

Do you like my accurate measurements?

Melt the chocolate in a bow over boiling water, then once it is melted stir in some cream. Allow to cool before spreading on éclairs.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze
• Chocolate pastry cream

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside thebottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.