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!