Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Gluten Free Cooking Videos

Dietary Specials have done a bunch of gluten free cooking videos with some very interesting recipe suggestions.

Unsurprisingly they mostly focus on using their products but that doesn't stop them being good recipes particularly for those not wanting to cook from scratch. I thought the Speedy chocolate Profiteroles rolls was quite inspired using as it does their ready made yorkshire puds as the pastry.. after all the texture and so forth of both is really very similar. Obviously they aren't exactly the same but I still think it's a great substitute which doesn't need you to try and make full blown chow pastry and even the most willing of cooks sometimes want an easy option.

I may well try their bread and butter pudding recipe. It is a pudding well liked here and their version includes peaches. I've never tried it with peaches in though one with apricots and marzipan is Tom's favourite so I'm guessing peaches would go down well too!

They are also a very friendly and helpful team. When I sent them a bit of a stroppy email because they said suet isn't suitable on gluten free diet in the Christmas pud recipe I got a very nice and pleasant reply and they changed the written recipe to include that you can get suet from the butcher. To be fair processed suet is unsuitable as it has flour to keep it sticking together but as you will know from my previous posts the raw stuff from the butcher is fat straight from a cow or sheep and therefore fine.

Also I have finally got my hands on one of their new fresh loaves. The nearest ASDA isn't stocking them and the couple of times I tried the other one previously I was late in the day and they were all gone. This time there were plenty on the shelf though so I will by trying it out later.. so watch this space for my views on them.. first impressions are good though, nice and soft feeling and a good size for a gluten free loaf, which is to say still smaller than wheat bread but big enough to make a good sandwitch..

Monday, 28 December 2009

Last Menu of 2009

Well as the last few days of the year draw to a close it's time to look at what has been done in the last year and what will be done in the next. I think doing menus has been very useful so plan to keep doing so but I hope to plan a touch longer in advance most of the time and I am considering including all the allotment stuff in this blog. There are pros and cons to having a seperate one but I'm finding I'm forgetting to do that one as well as this and a craft related one so i may move it here as it's food related all be it growing not eating.

The gluten free menu plan is hosted by The GFCF Cookbook this week and they have picked leftover ham as the ingredient. Normally I always have leftover ham but I didn't do the meat this year so actually haven't got any leftover meat at all ! I do however have plenty of left over vegs (I always over buy for events of any kind), christmas pud (though that will last months if we want it to) and plenty of things like cheese.

I am thinking about what aims I want for next year but that will come in another post shortly.

Menu for the coming week.

Monday - Baked potatoes and whatever toppings people fancy plus leftover gingerbread cheesecake.

Tuesday -Vegetable gratin might even used bread crumbs as I have some left from last week rather than my normal crushed crisp topping.

Wednesday - Battered fish and chips or a suet pudding depending where I go shopping for meat/fish and what is good..

Thursday - Probably random party type food.. having a low key kids get together in the afternoon then just a quiet night in to see the new year in.. probably a nice bottle of something but not much more.

Friday - Sausage meat patties, mash and veg.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Gingerbread and more cookbooks

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is Gingerbread houses! As yet i haven't really managed to do it though I might have a proper go tomorrow, due to the holidays the reveal date is more a reveal week so many people already have thier posts up so I thought I would mention it so you could go and check out some fantastic gingerbread houses including some great igloos and other more modern buildings recreated in gingerbread!

I have however made gingerbread and indeed a tiny, tiny gingerbread shack.. I think house would be pushing it. This is because I made a gingerbread cheesecake to take to a family get together today. The recipe is adapted from Martha Stwart, I used the honey gingerbread recipe which worked very well with gluten free flour (Dove Farm gluten free plain flour).

The cheesecake come out very well, very rich but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

As to cookbooks well I lied about getting three yesterday... well not exactly lied. I had forgotten one I got early and I got two more today so in total there are 6 new cookbooks this christmas !

The one I had forgotten is Caribbean Food made easy, not something I would have thought to got myself but it has some quite interesting looking recipes so you may see more of that later.

The second one is the Wagamama book.

If you have read my blog for a while you will have heard about Wagamama who are a Japanese noddle bar type restaurant. They have a file folder at the restaurant telling you what dishes you can have or be adapted for various different allergies which means I know they take such things seriously and can easily chose something I know is safe. They also have the info on the website so you can plan in advance. They also scored huge points for having a policy of serving kids first rather than after the adults which is so common here for some reason I can never fathom. As we already know we love a good few of thier dishes this book with certainly get used and I look forward to trying safe versions of some of the ones I can't have at the restaurant.

The final book is one I've had on my wish list for a while now and have got out of the library on several occasions.

It is the river Cottage Meat book. For those that don't live in the UK the River Cottage series of books is by a guy going by the wonderful name of Huge Fearnley-Whittingstall who a good few years agoi now did a TV series about running his own little country garden complete with chickens and pigs and cooking the results, this has spawned into a much bigger enterprise but one that has always sung the praises of local food and small local producers. The Meat book is another big tome though not as heavy as the Fat Duck cookbook! It is nice to have a modern book explaining the various meats in depth and how you can use them as I have a few old ones but this covers the subject from the view point of explaining to people who havn't grown up knowing the various cuts of meat and eating the more 'uncommon' cuts or rather unfashionable ones...

I'm told I should be getting rid of a few of the cookery books I don't use to make space for them!!

Friday, 25 December 2009


We had a lovely Christmas day. My brother did a splendid meal to which I contributed two sorts of stuffing and the veg, though he did the cooking of the veg. I also took one of my christmas puds which seemed to go down quite well thought I forgot to take cream and so forth to go with it.

The two stuffings went down well, one was basically sausage meat, onion, garlic, and apple, the other was cooked rice, various dried fruits, a bit of garlic, parsley and some egg to bind it together a little.

We made various items for christmas hampers including chuckney, peppermint creams and noguat. I only remembered to take a photo of the noguat though but that is really nice if rather sticky. The photo at the start is of it, I made a honey, pastasio and cranberry version.

I also got a great haul of cooking books as presents which will give me plenty of reading materials for the next few weeks. I always read cookery books more like most people read novels but these ones even more so.

The first one is the biggest and boy is it big! You could kill people with this book.

I present The Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal. I love his TV programs and his fantastic OTT attitude that mixes cooking and a mad scientist lab. I got the basic version not the uber posh one that comes in it's own box and has a price tag to match but even the version I got is extremely heavyweight and has a great quality feel with wonderful photographs and of course his signiture dishes.

I also got another book by him "In search of Total Pefection" which looks interesting to read as well, it is about a set of TV programs he did about various well know dishes and looking for the 'perfect' version though very wisely he says everyones version of perfect is different.

Finally I got a  much more humble but almost certainly more practical in a day to day sense book. The Green Kitchen which is about being energy concous in the kitchen, ways of saving energy and so forth. The recipes in this book are more of the ilk to make me go into the kitchen and try them out where as the first two are more awe inspiring but probably a lot less practical.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Catching up and getting sorted for Christmas

 Making Banana Bread

Sorry about the lack of posts last week. The week started with both Treestump and I suffering from a stomach bug so cooking as very low down my agenda. However we are recovered and apart from the normal lucking colds of this time of this time if year and the red cheeks which mean Treestump is probably brewing his second set of molars we are fine.

I made five of these in total.

I have finally used the last few bananas from my bargin a few weeks ago, well technically the last hand full were just a bit too squashy and have gone in the compost but it really was just a few last ones all the others got eaten. While they looked rather brown and spotty when we got them they turned out to be very nice and many were eaten just as is or as smoothies and fritters. I also made several batches of banana bread some of which is in the freezer, three batches of chutney and some banana curd which I've never had before and is very nice, though too sweet for me to eat with a spoon unlike Noodles who was happy to do just that!

I also failed to report back on the suet pudding. I did make a steak and onion one and it was really good. The pastry is fairly easy to work with partly as a slightly rough look is part of the appeal and so a few bits filled in by squishing offcuts into the gaps are fine.

The filled pudding before the top pastry was put on.

I used a very traditional recipe from back in Mrs Beeton's day so the ingredient list for the filling was pretty basic but I thought that was fine and the meat was good quality. Really just meat, onion, a bit of water and a bit of seasoning. Then it was steamed for about an hour and a half and came out looking like this.

The plated dish is pretty basic and not going to win any beauty awards but it is very tasty and just right for cold weather, thought I realy should have done a green veg as well !

Anyway on to this coming week.

Of course the week finishes with Christmas Day on Friday and we will be having a Christmas meal with my brother, his family, my mum and stepdad. Un-usually this year I am not doing the main cooking, my brother has offered to do that so I'm supplying vegs, stuffing and christmas pudding.

Working up to that the menu will be roughly as follows.

Monday - Fish pie with greens

Tuesday - Pho

Wednesday - Probably running round like a mad thing by this point so something very simple like "tomato and eggs"

Thursday - Salmon in some manner and Fruit Brulee for pud ( fruit covered in whipped cream with a caramel pored over which goes hard as it hits the cold cream... fantastic and a bit of a Christmas tradition on and off)

Friday - breakfast  - we normally have smoked salmon and scrambled egg but I'm tempted to do gingerbread waffles instead having found a recipe that looks adaptable on Martha Stewart's site.

Saturday - Another get together with Tom's family - we are supplying a pudding. Currently planning either summer pudding as I have a good variety of berries frozen from the summer or gingerbread cheesecake also from Martha Stewart's site.

Sunday -  A quiet day probably just eating any leftovers and the various cheeses and pates we always stock up on this time of year. Possibly a fresh made veg soup and scones.

Baking and batch cooking -
Still have some bits to make for presents as we do hampers for some people.
Plus biscuits and bread for us.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Weekly Menu Swap - Hosting Ingredient - Suet

I realise that many people will probably never knowingly have used suet and indeed suet recipes seem to be mainly British dishes but the actual ingredient is available anywhere that cows and sheep are eaten. Why? Because it is the fat from around the internal organs.. OK I know at this point some of you are thinking that's gross but really it's not much different to using dripping or similar. Suet has the properties of being quite flaky in nature, having a low melting point and producing a very distinctive pastry among other things. There is also a vegetarian version though that might be hard to get in none suet using areas.. OK it's not probably something you want to use every day but there are some traditional winter dishes here which don't work without it.

To be fair much of it doesn't get used at least not by butchers these days as my previous post will show, I got a large amount for free of my butcher as he normally asks the abattoir to remove it before sending him the meat.. it's crumbly nature means the cool-room floor gets covered in bits otherwise. Now the abattoir might well have a use for it other than sending to a butcher.. You can certainly buy it in packets but it is coated in flour after it is grated to keep the bits separate so it is no good for me.  It is also used a lot over here to make fatballs to put out for wild birds by combining it with seeds and other bits they like, it makes a good high calorie food for them. Traditionally it was rendered down to make tallow for candles too, very smoky candles for the masses who couldn't afford beeswax! .

So what recipes use it? Well Christmas pudding for a start and mincemeat, this is probably partly because mincemeat at least used to have meat in it.. I once made a traditional mincemeat with minced meat in it and apart from having to keep the mince pies in the fridge they really tasted no different to the none meat version which keeps for at least a year in a jar!

It is also used in suet pastry which is used in suet puddings.. these are savoury puddings ie steamed in a pudding basin, normally an outside of pastry with a pie type filling or even a plain sponge pudding type one to serve with meat a bit like Yorkshire pudding is . There are also sweet suet puddings eaten for pudding such as spotted dick and jam suet pudding... Have you noticed we like the word pudding over here  :)   I'm planning a meat filled suet pasty style pudding this week.

Delia's suet pastry
Bacon and leek suet pudding from Farmers Weekly
Plain suet pudding from The Foody
Spotted Dick from the Jane Austin Centre
Jam spong pudding from Cook it Simply

It's also used in dumplings to put in a stew for the last 20 mins or so of the cooking time which are a firm favourite here. Dumplings are very easy.. they are basically twice as much flour as fat and whatever flavours you like such as herbs, onion, cheese or whatever goes with the stew.

Basic dumplings from The Foody
A version from Jamie Oliver for those who don't have suet

I posted some links to Christmas pudding recipes a couple of weeks ago and will post up my gluten free, corn free, citrus free version when I have finished trialling it..

Here are a couple of mincemeat recipes, mincemeat is easy to make and once made you can make another British Christmas staple the mincepie. There are plenty of other uses for mincemeat too as you can see here.

Delia's version.
A meat version from River Cottage
Anyway that is probably more about Suet than you ever wanted to know so on to the menus.

Our menu this week.

Monday - Suet meat pudding with potatoes, cabbage and carrots.

Tuesday - Fish pie

Wednesday - School play so something simple like baked potatoes we can have quickly.

Thursday - Cauliflower cheese.

Friday - Stew and dumplings.

Baking and other batch cooking- Chrismas puddings, Banana bread, banana chukney, banana curd, banana steamed pudding.. (well I do still have about 16lb of bananas to use up! )

Other Menus

Heather over at Celiac Family has just got back from a surprise trip to Disney World the lucky thing, she has a lovely sounding menu plan though she tells us it is quite simple due to the hectic time of year !

Angela at Angela's Kitchen does use suet even if only to make fat balls for the birds ! her menu so based on some deals her hubby picked up which is the sort of menu I love. her Thai seasoned patties sound particularly interesting.

Cheryl from Gluten free goodness  has a lovely photo of her cats all curled up to greet us. She has a very interetsing sounding menu and she may never have heard of suet but then I have no idea what mahi or kalamatas are so we are even !  

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Bargins on the high Street

I am very much a supporter of buying locally and I have been trying to support my local shops more recently rather than defaulting to the supermarket. I do still buy some things in the supermarket but we now get vegs from the allotment, a veg box every other week from a local organic shop and any extras from a couple of very good veg shops on the local high street. In fact in easy walking distance we have at least 4 shops with a good range of veg, some more traditional English, some quite Asian oriented.

We get milk delivered by a milk man and the local bread shop is great and we have noticed their prices have not gone up nearly as much as the supermarket so now they are on a par was as not so long ago they were noticeably more expensive.

I am also trying to buy most meat from the local butcher and having had some fantastic beef from him has really brought home how bland the supermarket stuff can be.. he also happily caters to my wims making me gluten free sausages to my specs and even getting me suet when I ask.. It turns out they normally have the abattoir throw the suet away before delivering the carcase as they have no use for it so as a result I got it for free! I got about 5lb, which I'm guessing is one cows worth, of which the picture show about a pounds worth.. Its' quite flaky fat though in this raw form you do have to separate the fat from the surrounding membrain but it means I can make proper chirstmas pub well a gluten free 'proper' one anyway.

The other big bargain of the week was bananas! I stopped at the newest of our veg shops to buy a couple of bags of bananas to make chutney as our current favourite is banana based and spotted that while the bags were a good price they had a big heaped box full of slightly brown ones marked up for 1.99 for the box !! As the recipe calls for very ripe bananas that seemed like a plan!  In all there was 28lb of bananas in the box so that's about 7p a pound!!

Actually turns out most aren't too ripe for eating straight either so the smallest having recovered from his illness earlier in the week has been stuffing himself with them and they are great as fritters to!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Weekly Menu 30th November to 4th December

Well I've missed Stir it up Sunday but plan to make christmas puds this week if I can find the time. We visited my mum this weekend who is rather under the weather as is her dog and indeed my youngest.. all different things but it's just one of those times. Was very nice to see mum and I have to work harder on the allotment to catch up with hers!

Menu this week partly based on the fact  should be picking up a sausage/sausage meat order from my butcher and hopefully some suet, partly for the christmas pud. One of the things i dislike in pretty much all the pre-made Gluten free christmas puds I've tried is the fat that seems to stay solid in on the edges and I think that is partly they are using vegetarian suet so I hope my butcher will be getting me some of the real stuff without the flour that contaminates the boxed stuff so then I can try a proper recipe with proper animal fat!

If I do get the suet I also want to make a steak pudding.. it meat wrapped in a suet pastry and steamed. We rits use pudding to mean both a dish cooked in a pudding bowl that is either using pastry or cakey (these can be both sweet or savory) or a generic word for desert.

My smallest is on antibiotics as his throat and ears are inflamed ad he hasn't been eating much but I hope once the medication kicks in he will feel more like eating. Strangely while he is off even things like icecream he is still eating salt and vinegar crisps which I would have thought was spiky and acid.

This weeks menu is a bit random and not fully worked out more of a sketch menu.

Monday - Pasta and cheese/ham sauce

Tuesday - I'm out most of the day so something simple like fish-fingers and smilies faces.

Wednesday - sausage and mash.

Thursday - something pumpkin based as mum gave us one she grew.

Friday - Suet pudding

You will be able to find more gluten free menus at Asparagus thin who is hosting the menu swap this week.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Daring Bakers do Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I had never heard of Cannoli till this challenge but then that is one of the great things about Daring Bakers, and indeed Daring Cooks, you end up making things you would never have considered. Turns out they are a sort of fried pastry, a tube of pastry that is deep fried and filled with a creamy filling. They are known for being very filling and hard to eat without making a mess.. sound perfect.

Being a fantastic host Lisa supplied us not only with the standard recipe but also with a link to a gluten free version which turned out to work very well, you can find it here.

It was also suggested we make our own ricotta and/or mascarpone cheese. I'd made ricotta for a previous challenge so I had a go at mascarpone which is made with cream not milk and it came out fabulously. I used the recipe surgessed which you can find here.

One thing about the recipe is it makes quite a lot of dough, I still have some in the freezer as we couldn't eat it all in one go.. not even making several dishes with it. Unless I was catering a party I think I'd cut it in half. I also found I destroyed plastic wrap rolling it out so I swapped to using two thin re-useable baking sheets - thickish plastic you can bake on and then wash, like a plastic version of greaseproof paper..

I started out trying the traditional version.This is a picture of making the dough.. did I mention it uses port!! Pastry made with port and deep fried sounds good doesn't it! Oh those tins are old baby milk tins which I keep my various flours in. They stack well and I have lots !

As I didn't have any molds I used some pieces of dowel that at one point held together the wooden bed we take camping. Yes we take a wood double bed camping, doesn't everyone?

These deep fried very well and I filled them with a mix of mascarpone, apple and whipped double cream.

 Very tasty I'd certainly consider them for a party, perhaps with some brandysnaps as well to ring the changes.. Someone said they tasted like sugarcones and one of the things I have never found since being gluten free is a good cone.. the only ones I've found have been wafer ones which aren't brillient and I don't much like the wafer ones anyway so I had to try this recipe for cone.

Someone on the Daring Baker forum had suggested using foil trays to fashion molds so I made a very, very rough cone to try it out.

 It was wonky but really, really nice with icecream in it.

After this we still had a lot of dough left the next day so I thought I'd try a savoury version as while it is a sweet dought it isn't so sweet it couldn't work with savory fillings. I did try to make deep fried dishes but they just opened up in the fryer so I ended up with disks so I cut out one to look a bit like a flower and made a cheese and ham flower for Noodles lunch with a sausage stem and leaves, He liked it enough to have seconds and ask for one in his lunchbox the next day !

We were told you could bake the pastry too so I also make some small tarts with a ricotta and bacon filling. I had a spare egg white so whipped it up and added it which made the filling fluff up very nicely.

The Pastry is definietly better fried but it does work as a pie case too.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Weekly menu 16th to 20th November 2009

Treestump enjoying some late flowers in his aunts garden. Wish we had a garden that size though she is hoping to move soon but says the current house will be a hard act to follow.

We had the allotment AGM this weekend and I promised to make some gluten free nibbles. I made some cheese biscuits and they went down so well I ave included the recipe at the end of this post. They are based on several cheese savory I've tried in the past but the exact mix was a new one I tried and worked very well indeed.

This weeks menu swap is hosted by In my Box who chose Dutch ovens this week. I have never been sure what a Dutch oven is but after seeing her photo of hers I realise I've had one. I call it my Le Creuset casserole. I have a cobalt blue one which was a wedding present and a very very well received one at that. I can confirm they are fantastic for cooking stews and casseroles in.

We have decided we have been slipping on the amount of vegs we have been eating so are trying to up that this week.

Menu this week.

Monday - boys had boiled eggs and soldiers, we are having a prawns, courgette, mushrooms, tomatoes and  pasta in a white wine and cream sauce..

Tuesday - Sweet potato rostis, pork chops and green vegs.

Wednesday - bean and veg stew with baked potatoes

Thursday -  butternut squash gratin with any vegs left before the new box turns up.

Friday -  Fish and chips.

Baking - Daring Bakers monthly challenge, cheese biscuits 

Cheese Biscuits

(makes about 45)

2 oz Dove Farm Gluten Free plain flour (or other generic GF flour mix)
2 oz Gram flour
8 oz Cheddar or mix of cheeses
1/2 tsp salt
good pinch of cayenne pepper or similar spice.
good pinch of mustard powder (make sure it's gluten free).
good pinch of black pepper.
3 oz butter
1 egg

Sieve the flours into a bowl with spices and mustard. Add the salt and cheese then rub in the butter till it's crumbly.
Add an egg and a little more flour if needed to make the pastry rollable which will depend on how big the egg is.. if the egg is big it ends up a little too sticky

Roll out pastry to about 3mm (1/8 inch) using plenty of flour to flour the board.. gluten free of course. Then use a small cutter to cut biscuits.
Arrange on a none stick or greased baking tray, these can be quite close together as they don't expand much.

Cook at 190 C for 10-12 minutes.

Cool on a rack.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Daring Cooks - Sushi English style.

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge. As Audax does even when he isn't hosting he has done a whole host of varieties and as he is in Australia he was also first to post this month so if you want to see a wider range and indeed a blog version of all the very thorough instructions they gave us check out his blog.

Our Challenge was to make three specific forms of sushi and in that I failed as I never made the dragon sushi but I did make several types of the other two.

I've struggled to find Nori as it's a bit random who will have it in around here and didn't end up with any wasabi but I knew I'd have to leave that out for most of the family though I like it so that was not a major loss.

My rice did burn a little on the bottom (I never get rice cooked this way right) but the rest of it was fine. It has a very nice taste once the dressing is added I must say and we all enjoyed it though it was quite a faff to make compared to standard rice.. but then you can't make pretty shapes with standard rice!

I started with a British fusion idea I had so here is an English Breakfast roll served with tomato sauce as that is what you get with breakfast, though brown sauce would be fine as well and closer to soy in flavour.. I just liked the colour better of the tomato! for the photo! I think actually they would work with soy sauce too.

Filling is egg, bacon, mushroom, tomato and black pudding (blood sausage). I only did one sheet of nori so it isn't really a spiral but they were still great.
Then I did tuna and sweetcorn at the request of my 6 year old. Again one sheet and pretty much all eaten by him, he came back for seconds and thirds!

Next came Nigiri sushi which I did find harder as the rice didn't like sticking together firmly enough, though it liked sticking to me if I didn't keep my hands quite wet! As Audax had done vegimite and cheese I felt I had to do Marmite and cheese, I also did some with a cheese that has branston pickle added to it. The small one loved them but the older ones of us decided that grating the cheese and doing it in a roll would work better. The Marmite does as a lovely savoury taste though again it is quite like soy sauce in that regard. I also did ones with smoked salmon. No raw fish for us not because we don't like it but we live as far from the sea as you can get in this country and so I didn't feel any of the fish on offer was fresh enough.

Finally I did some plain rolls wrapped in Nori with toppings. Do they have another name? We had prawns and cucumber and black and white pudding. The puddings are the same recipe but the black one had blood and the white doesn't. They are a sort of oat based spiced sausage and actually made really delicious sushi, Black pudding sushi will defiantly be on our list in the future.

I have promised  Noodles I will make him some egg wrapped sushi as he wasn't totally struck on the seaweed.. this he tells me after eating about 6 pieces ! I also really want to have a go at the more complicated rolls with faces and flowers and so on. I figure I can make canes in Polymer clay and it's basically the same technique give or take :)  So watch this space for my alien faces when they all go wrong!!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Weekly menu 9th to 13th November 2009

Wrote this monday and completely forgot to hit publish!

My Christmas pudding planning is slowly shaping up, I am now roughing out a gluten, citrus and maize free one so my mum and step-dad can eat it too. My step dad is unable to have citric which means he rarely gets Christmas pub either so was quite keen on the idea when I suggested it. I think citric is almost if not as common as gluten as a random added extra in processed foods so he has to be just as careful as I do.. don't you find it typical my mum can have gluten but gets very similar reactions as my obvious ones to maize ie a form of rheumatic arthritis!

Also need to remember to ask the butcher to do me a batch of gluten free sausage meat to freeze ready for things like sausage-meat stuffing as my brother and I have been parcelling out who cooks what for Christmas and as stuffing is problematic for me I'm doing that among other things.  Have a hankering to make sausage rolls too !!

This weeks Gluten free menu swap is hosted by Gluten Free Goodness even though she has no kitchen this week! She has picked carrots as this weeks ingredient. We use carrots on almost a daily basis so I can pretty much guarantee we will have them as a vegetable this week at some point as everyone likes them. My favourite way to dress up basic boiled carrots is drain them, then add a little butter and lemon juice and toss them in the mix, very simple but very nice.

Last week didn't go quite as planned as the lamb chops turned out to be stewing lamb but they made a really good stew later in the week!

Monday - Filled yorkshire puds

Tuesday - Fish fingers and smiley faces as they are easy and we are re-oiling the work surfaces in the kitchen.

Wednesday - Pho

Thursday - Pork chops with oven roast veg.

Friday -  Tempted to do a suet pudding possible a steak one but will depend on time. The weather is definitely darker and colder recently and that always get me thinking about me traditional stodgier British food.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Gluten Free Menu swap round up

This week I agreed to host the gluten free menu swap and I chose dried fruit as my ingredient. We use a lot of dried fruit and even more so this time of year.

This year I plan to make both Christmas cake and Christmas pudding from scratch using traditional recipes adapted to be gluten free. The recipes I plan to use are so full of dried fruit that the flour is really an after though. For those that don't know what Christmas pudding is think if a sort of steamed version of a very dark, very rich fruit filled fruit cake.. Both Christmas cake and Christmas pudding in this country are nearly back in colour and very full of fruit and often pumped full of alcohol for a couple of months if you follow the traditional recipes.

Here are a couple of Mrs Beeton's Christmas pudding recipes, note the large amount of fruit compared to flour and breadcrumbs, the recipe I am thinking of using has no flour at all just some bread or cake crumbs.

The dried fruit we probably use the most is sultanas which I believe Americans either don't have or call by a different name (Edit - Heather says they are often called golden raisins in the US). They are between currants and raisins in size and quite sweet and pale in colour compared to both the others. We also have dried apricots, pears, peaches, bananas, prunes, currants, a couple of types of raisins in the cupboard and probably a couple more I've forgotten.

We snack on them, add them to cereal, cakes, vegetable and tomato sauce to go with pasta and several more dishes including a really nice chicken and apricot Moroccan dish Tom cooks.

This weeks menu

I've also listed my menu this week on Menu Plan Monday on organised Junkie.

Monday - Lamb chops, chips and whatever we feel like at the time.

Tuesday - Fish pie with sweet potato topping (didn't do last week, didn't even buy the fish !)

Wednesday - Polenta terrine which I also failed to get round to last week.

Thursday - Sausage and mash

Friday - Quinoa, dried fruit and chickpeas with spiced chicken..

Pumpkin tealoaf (with sultanas) - mostly to use up the inside of the pumpkin from Halloween.
Pear pie and/or cake
I now have the urge to try converting Coventry god cakes as well which would mean repeating the puff pastry.. they are basically puff pastry filled with mincemeat.. or maybe Eccles cakes which have a dried fruit filling, similar but different.... argg I should never have picked dried fruit now I've remembered lots of recipes I want to try and convert!!.

Other menus

Kimberly from Gluten free is life sounds like she has had a rough ride recently but at least she likes my ingredient choice. Her menu sounds very nice indeed.

Heather from Celiac Family is making pupusas again which I'd never heard of till she posted about them and this week she has added an link with more information. She describes this week and quick and easy but it still sounds very tasty.

Manda from Asparagus Thin warns about snacking to much on dried fruit as she rightly points out they have a lot of sugar all be it natural rather than refined. She has some very intriguing sounding dishes I wish my menu sounded so interesting and I'd love to know what Risotto Nero is or how to make Curried Sweet Potato Salad, Japanese Style.

Over at Angela's Kitchen  as usual there is a hectic schedual and a great sounding menu plus lots of baking to refill the freezer. Her ground beef freezer plan sound a really good idea and as I'm trying to buy more from the local butcher and less from the supermarket I may try it next time he does a special on mince.

Trishtator over at Gluten Free in Salt Lake City has a picture up of her street which shows that autumn seems at about the same stage here and there. Her menu sounds great and I will be checking back to see here cinnamon apple muffins recipe later this week.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Dietary Specials frozen shortcrust pastry

When we were in Sainsburys at the weekend we checked out the frozen gluten free section as we don't get there very often and they stock a better range than most. I picked up a couple of things i haven't tried before including the shortcrust pastry from Dietary Specials.

I really rate most of the Dietary Specials products I have tried including their bread and pizzas though often I can only find the cheese and tomato ones in most places which is a bit boring.. I've just noticed on the website they have brought out a two fresh breads for ASDA, may have to pop down to ours and see if they have them!

Anyway on to the pastry. It comes in a pack which contains two separately wrapped packages of pastry. Each are weigh 200g and they say each packet will do one of the following.
12 jam tarts
7-9 mince pies
6-8 sausages rolls
18cm (7 inch) plated pie
19-20 cm (71/2-8 inch) flan dish
4 x 9cm (31/2 inch) tartlet dishes

I would say that is pretty accurate really which means a single packet (ie half a pack) is quite a reasonable amount to use at once and by having two in a pack if you want more it's there already.

I used both packets last night so I could give it a good try and out of the 400g I got 1 plated pie, 4 mini flans with decorative leaves on top and 4 jam tarts.. not bad really.

The instructions say once defrosted kneed the pastry for about 2 mins till soft and pliable. When I did this the pastry went from quite hard and crumbly to a very workable soft and pliable pastry. I was really very impressed by how easy it was to roll out. If you read this blog regularly you will know I have tried several pastry recipes from scratch and this was by far the easiest to roll out I've ever used. I was interested to note from the ingredients that it was pretty much starches and the only flour listed was rice flour right at the end of the list it certainly had a very smooth feel to it which reminded me of a home-made cold porcelain recipe I have which has a similar very smooth feel to it.

Once I had made up the tarts I filled them with various fillings. The mini flans got lots of pieces of roast pork and an egg and milk mix and a pastry leave for decoration. Served with home grown pink fir apple potatoes and a Japanese type of spinach from the veg box..

The larger pie was filled with feta cheese and of course the jam tarts got jam.. unfortunately the jam tarts got eaten too fast to be photographed.

The feta pie got topped with caramelised pear and some fresh pomegranate seeds once it had cooled a little.

The pastry held up well, it was quite short and a little crumbly but nothing more than many shortcrust pastries. It didn't burn as easily as some of the pastries I've made and while it was possibly a touch dry on the edges it stayed crisp not soggy under the filling even though I didn't blind bake it first. It was very easy to work and I will seriously consider keeping some in the freezer for occasions when I just want something easy. One of the best gluten free pastries I've ever had to be honest. Dietary Specials do it again... now if they can just do me some puff pastry better than the one I did recently for Daring Bakers they will have my undieing love!

And finally...... this is what happens when you stay up half the night because you are teething!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers go French

Strawberry and chocolate - White tea and rose petals

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This months challenge was French macarons, not the coconut macaroons we can buy fairly easily here, these are the French ones made with almonds, egg white and sugar to be found in multiple pastel colours in very posh looking shops. I've never had a real one made by a professional though I did try making them once before which were OK but rather too sweet for me.

Thank you Ami for giving me the incentive to try again !

This is a naturally gluten free challenge so for once I'm on a par with everyone else so no excuses for not doing as well! To see how I compared check out the other Daring bakers. Some of which are just amazing.

So this month I tried them a couple of times. The first was basically using the challenge recipe though to be fair I got a bit confused at one point about what I was adding where so that might account for them not working quite as well as hoped. I flavoured them with dried strawberries which I dried earlier this year when doing a previous daring cooks challenge. I also added a small amount of pink paste food colouring as we were warned not to add to much extra liquid.. I figured the paste colour was better than liquid.

They did get feet, the crinkly ring round the bottom of the cookie, but they spread too much which made them to flat and too delicate. They were also still a bit sticky so getting them off the sheet was 'interesting' However I sandwiched the ones that survived with a mix of milk chocolate, whipped double cream and fresh strawberries and they were very nice.. though they really needed eating with a spoon.

The second batch was made using Tartelelle's recipe which many people found easier to get good results with. This batch is flavoured with white tea and rose-petals.. basically teabags from The London Tea Company called Crimson Lush emptied into the food processor with the icing sugar and almonds then just a couple of drops of rose oil added. By the way the London Tea Company teas are worth getting just for their origami style boxes which use no glue at all.

Crimson Lush tea and my new Vanilla extract.

The other thing I did differently was age the egg whites by leaving them out on the side for nearly two days. This made the gloopy, jelly like texture of the whites break down some and is meant to help get the right constancy.

If anything they went the other way as some of them ended up with little points not nice flat tops but they stayed much neater little domes and apart from colouring in the oven slightly they look pretty good plus they came off the sheet fine as well.

Much, much less delicate though you still wouldn't want to throw them about. I am not sure if it was the recipe change or the egg whites or just whisking to the right constancy better but these were a definite improvement.

The taste is quite delicate so I went with a cream cheese filling just adding a little icing sugar and vanilla extract so as not to over power the rose and tea flavour.

Neither of these was so over-poweringly sweet as my previous try which I think was my mistake for over sweetening the filling. Don't get me wrong they are sweet but if you make sure the filling is appropriate to the shells you can moderate that quite well. One or two Daring Bakers even did semi savoury ones which I must admit is tempting to try. The strawberry ones were a hit all round but I think the rose ones are a little more adult a taste however I might be surprised. I made them last night after smalls were in bed so they haven't tried them yet. I try not to feed them to much sugar first thing in the morning ! (edit - Noodles, age 6, liked the tea and rose ones until i told him what was in them, he guessed ginger, at which point he wouldn't eat any more and said "Ohh Yukky!! petals are Yukky!" )

Challenge Recipe
(Tartelette's various wonderful versions can be found here )

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons. Esther's note : I agree with this assessment.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Pears and this weeks menu

I never did go scrumping due to Jakey dieing and as it is half team this week we can't go this week either as the area isn't really safe for small people even if it's just the nettles being too high. However before school finished I did get round to picking some of the pears with a few of the kids. There are still huge numbers on the tree though and after the first dish with them i want to go and get a whole bunch more. Unfortunately I can't give them to the kids unless they have a signed letter from their parents agreeing! This will be done when we get the veg garden up and running but has not been done yet so the pears are going begging. If I do pick a bunch more I think the teachers will get some goodies at least! I don't want them going rotten like they did last year if I can help it seems such a waste.

We decided the pears are really cooking pears and indeed they poached wonderfully as the picture above shows. I poached them in a sugar and water mix with some spiced winter fruits cordial by Belvoir added. I served them with vanilla cream for the young ones using some new vanilla extract we just got which is fabulous.

For the adults I made crème brulle, actually the smalls got some the next day it was just to late in the day for them the night before by the time they were made. As you can see from the picture they had a bit of a skin on them straight out of the oven but it was easily removed. Next time I will cook them a little lower I think.

One with a skin, one without.
Anyway on to the menu. As it is half term I will just list the dishes I plan rather than specific days as that will depend on weather and what we end up doing each day. I treated myself to a couple of recipe magazines so a few dishes might be from those too. I got Donna Hay which I hear much about but very rarely see here and Country Kitchen which is a British seasonal based cooking magazine but haven't finished reading yet..

I also picked up some frozen gluten free pastry I've never tried before so watch this space.

1) Baked Potatoes with various fillings

2) Fish pie with sweet potato topping.

3) Polenta terrine from Donna Hay

4) Pear and feta pie.

5) Veg stew with suet dumplings.

This weeks gluten free menu swap is hosted by Celiac Family and the chosen ingredient is cilantro which we call coriander. I do like coriander and might get some from the local Indian shop as a coriander pesto might go very well with the terrine. Go there to check out more gluten free menus.

There are also a lot more menus, some gluten free at Menu plan money at Organized Junkie.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Weekly menu 19th to 23rd October 2009

This week Celiacs in the house is hosting the menu swap and has chosen squash as the weekly ingredient. I like squashes but they arn't as common over here as they are in the states and the slugs ate pretty much all the ones I grew.. from the photo she sent to my phone my mum has had much more luck though.

That said I might get one on thursday in our veggy box and if we did I will tyr and remember to post how I ended up cooking it.

Didn't get much cooking done last week because of all the stress round Jakey dieing but we managed. I want to do more this week and to get on with sorting the allotment befoe it gets to cold.


Monday - beef stew.

Tuesday - mince based bake.. like a moussaka but possibly with corgettes rather than abergines.

Wensday - Pho

Thursday - moroccan aubergine and chickpea salad , roasted califlower with pork chops

Friday - Possibly something sqaushed based if we get one.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Interesting Fact of the day

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and they don't digest digest bread well so bread and milk is not good for them.. leave out meat based (not fish) dog or cat food for them, preferable chicken !

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Daring Cooks make Pho

Argg I'm a couple of days late I completely missed the posting date but i was rather distracted as our three legged cat was found seriously hurt in a neighbours drive Wensday morning. We have had to have him put to sleep, he had been savaged by a dog and was just too badly hurt to keep going, any one of the things wrong with him would have been sortable but all together they were just to much for him.. We will miss him greatly and whoever's dog is responsible is very lucky I don't know who they are!

Anyway after that rather big downer to something all together more tasty.

the Daring Cook challenge this month was Pho by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen.. I used her full length recipe which can be found here on her blog. We have been asked not to post that recipe in full but we were given a shorter one from her up and coming bookcalled The Steamy Kitchen cookbook which will be on other Daring cooks blogs if you wish to look.

I very much recommend this recipe, it was flavourful and very comforting without being overly hot, all of us including the smalls liked it which isn't always true with soup. Even the long version isn't hard it just needs some time around the house rather than sitting over the stove and it's naturally gluten free to!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Menu 12th to 16th Oct 2009

Several colours of beetroot from the allotment.

I didn't get through all the recipes I listed last week but that was because I did other things instead rather than just snacking, if anything they were more healthy and veg based. That included a really nice beetroot and goats cheese side dish one night.

This week Gluten free Goodness is hosting and has picked apples. I'm hoping to go scrumping this week.. ie collecting apples on land I don't own.. to be fair I plan to raid the abandoned allotments not other people's gardens which is the more traditional scrumping target. If the council get their way the trees in those allotments will not be there many more years as they want to build an incinerator on them! I really hope the plan never goes through for more reasons than I can count but top of it is that if we got our act together here and recycled as well as many places (and indeed likely to be forced to by national legislation) are heading for the thing will be a big white elephant we as council tax payers will still have to fund for 30 years to come due to the way they plan to finance it and that I'm very much not happy about as I don't think it is the right thing to deal with our waste and I don't think the way things are going it will be needed either.

Anyway away from politics if I manage to get a bunch of apples I may well be doing a whole load of baking for the freezer as well as making chutney and other such items.

(Edit to add)
Scrumping - (UK phrase, possibly only southern England) To steal apples, normally off the tree. Generally done by young boys taking a pocket full and involved climbing over orchard walls and other such risky behaviour. General considered to be a childish prank rather than a real crime. Probably related in some manner to the drink scrumpy which is a strong, generally cloudy version of cider also form the south west..

The trees I am planning to check out are on effectively waste land and certainly not fruit anyone owns or plans to pick.

Monday - Something aubergine based as per last week as I didn't do that. In answer to a question last week no I haven't tried the curry but it sounded fantastic so I would like to.
Meringue, cream and raspberries from the allotment for pudding.

Tuesday - Sausages with Colcannon potato cakes.

Wednesday - veggy stew with dumplings. Again failed to do this last week but used the vegs for other things :) see below for quick dumpling recipe.

Thursday - Courgette, bacon and brie gratin. I love the sound of this recipe which is rice based.

Friday - Kipper flan with an apple salad.

Dumpling Recipe

To make dumplings mix 4oz flour, 2oz suet, seasoning to taste, some finely chopped onion which has been sweated off a little to soften and some herbs if you like. Add enough water to bring the mixture together, which will not be a huge amount. Shape into small balls and place on the top of the stew about 20-30 mins before it finishes cooking.

I use veg suet purely because I can easily get a gluten free version and the easy to get meat version has wheat flour in it (to keep the strands separate)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Menu 5th to 9th Oct 2009

Where has the year gone? Still it does mean that at the end of this week I get to go on a perfume making course !! It's my birthday treat. I also need to decide what to do about my Kenwood mixer which is playing up. The dealer says it is the motor which is faulty and will cost nearly as much as a new one to fix.. I've only had it 18 months and Kenwoods are meant to last years so I'm not impressed currently but plan to contact them direct this week and see what they say.

Anyway to more interesting things.
The allotment is very much wound down for the autumn but in terms of work we are doing more tidying up and planning for next year. I failed on winter greens this year but plan to get onions, garlic and maybe a few other over wintering things in the next couple of weeks. We did finally clear the brambles off the plum trees on the side of the plot and there was a lot of brambles on that poor tree or should I say trees as there are several there actually.

Saturday's meal the only thing not off the allotment was the protein which was nice.

This week the gluten free menu swap is hosted by Asparagus thin who challenged us to use 10 of her listed superfoods so I have put them in brackets in each day.. how will i do?

Menu for this week

Monday - Swedish meatballs, green beans and rice. (beans, assuming fresh ones count too)

Tuesday - Something aubergine based as we have several from the greenhouse possibly Aubergine parmigiana or charred aubergine and coconut curry. (aubergine otherwise known as eggplant, tomatoes, garlic at least)

Wednesday - Sausage casserole (Greens as a sidedish, garlic and the related onion in the casserole)

Thursday - veg stew with dumplings. (garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans at least)

Friday - pasta and sauce (not sure what sauce as yet)- (probably tomatoes and/or red wine)

Baking - Peanut butter cookies to use up an old jar.
Plus something using raspberries and/or blackberries as we have both from the allotment and well as strawberries and blueberries from the shops (all super foods)

I drink tea everyday as well :) and we regularly have yoghurt as a snack or breakfast or pudding.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Menu 28th Sept to Oct 2nd

Well I was going to do a nice menu with several vegetarian dishes as that is the theme chosen this week by the Gluten free menu swap host BUT I went to check a few things in the freezer to finalise the menu and realised it hadn't been on for several hours! Luckily it turned out just to be the plug had been knocked but we now have a lot of sausages, pizza, prawns and other bits of meat to eat up and no ice-cream left at all :(

Have been doing some nice baking recently, just biscuits and the link including the cornflour, lemon and courgette biscuits above.

Monday - individual quiches made with the remains of the puff pastry

Tuesday - Pizza followed by plum crumble (the plums defrosted too).

Wednesday - prawn curry and rice.

Thursday - sausage and smiley faces, more crumble

Friday - pork spare ribs and vegs.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Daring Bakers do Vols-au-vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Puff pasty, proper stuff from scratch ! I was both elated and terrified at the idea. I've never come across decent gluten free puff pastry, most companies, books etc don't even attempt it, though to be fair most normal cook books tell you buy the pre-made stuff but no-one makes premade gluten free puff pasty so I had been thinking about trying it for ages.. but now I had to get off my backside and actually try it!

I decided to try and use as close as the standard recipe as I could as I really want puff pastry, not filo or strudel pastry.. real puff pastry. So I had a think. Dove Farm flour mix is a good place to start they have worked hard on that mix and for most things it does work amazingly like wheat flour. I also decided to add an extra flour for flavour and of course a gel of some sort to allow the pastry some chance of rolling. Finally I thought about liquid.. gluten free flours nearly all take more liquid than wheat flour and as it is steam that makes the layer rise I thought not having enough liquid is going to be a major problem with getting any rise at all. Considering that some recipes add acid to disrupt the gluten I thought we might, just might be able to do this as gluten can't be that intergal a part of the recipe.

I have listed the recipe as we were given it at the bottom of this post but obviously that is the standard none gluten version.

The Ingrediences I actually used were as follows, (no salt as our butter is salted)

Batch 1
1 1/2 Cups Dove Farm Plain gluten free flour
1/2 Cup Chestnut flour
3tsp Xanth gum
7/8 cup water
250g butter

Batch 2
1 1/2 Cups Dove Farm Plain gluten free flour
1/2 cup gram(chickpea) flour
2 tsp Xanth gum
2tsp pectin
7/8 cup water
125g butter (as the first batch seemed TOO buttery)

Both batches I then followed the normal instructions apart from the fact I did all the rolling out on clingfilm as otherwise I find GF dough sticks to the surface and is impossible to move. With the second batch I sprinkled a little more water between the layer a couple of times as it seemed a bit dry still.

With both batches there was a point I thought it really wasn't going to work at all, the butter was showing through so much it looked more like a pat of butter with pastry bits mixed in and I was sure we wouldn't get any noticeable layers but I am happy to say I was wrong.Chestnut dough after two turns.

Gram flour dough after two turns, noticeably drier.

While I had worries about there being no layers the dough actually rolled very well, much better than I'm used to it doing, perhaps because I am getting better at judging how much liquid is needed I'm not sure. The cling film and making sure the top is well dusted with flour helps too.

The chestnut dough after 6 turns cut through.

Both batches cooked well though i ended up pouring off butter on the first batch there was so much which is why I cut the butter in half for the second and I honestly think that was plenty.

As you can see I did get layers on both and while they didn't rise as much as some people's I think they did pretty well and they certianly tasted good. I will definatly do this again next time I really want puff pastry!

For the fillings I did whipped cream and toffee apple slices for the chestnut ones and cream cheese with ham and tomato for the gram flour ones as I always find gram flour goes well with cheese and also because my six year old wanted cheese and ham! One of the other daring bakers did a beetroot and goats cheese filling I might try later as I still have a few that haven't been filled and eaten.

I cooked the cutouts with a little cheese topping as well so they were more like flakey cheese biscuits. Finally I made a cheese turnover with the remaining pasty just to see how it came out and it was a really nice little snack.

Do pop over to the Daring Kitchen and check out everyone else versions, some are just fabulous.


Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).