Monday, 30 April 2012

Baking for my man.



I am still trying to maintain my healthy eating habits, my only problem is that baking is not conducive to losing weight. Not baking is just not an option, so I have a new plan; I will only bake things I don't like, this way I can enjoy baking without putting on weight. I'm sure there are people reading this thinking where is your willpower woman?! Well when it comes to cake, I have none! If cake comes through my door it has to be at least sampled and even the good intentions of "I'll just have a small piece" go out the window once that cake has passed my lips. Anyway back to new baking regime. When discussing my new plan with  Mr Vander-Cave, he reminded me that he is very partial to Bakewell tart. I have never made one before because I dislike the taste of  almonds. Perfect, Bakewell tart fitted the rules of the new scheme.

I dug out all my oldest cookery books looking for a Bakewell tart recipe, which surprisingly, was not present in any of them. Of course good old Google came up trumps and I found a nice recipe on the good food network website.

The recipe was really easy and quick to put together. I used my own pastry recipe for the tart case but the only downside to this was that I ended up having some leftover pastry which I couldn't waste so I used it up for some jam and lemon curd tarts(which I love). Oh well the "D" word will start again tomorrow!

Bakewell tart


For the pastry case:

50g butter chilled
50g Trex or lard
200g plain flour
Enough chilled water to bring the pastry together

For the filling:
170g strawberry or raspberry jam
110g unsalted butter
110g vanilla sugar
110g ground almonds
3 eggs, plus one additional egg yolk
1 tsp almond extract
2 handfuls of blanched flaked almonds


Place the flour in a large bowl and rub in the Trex and butter until fine bread crumbs are formed. Add enough chilled water to bring the mixture together until a smooth pastry is formed.

If you have a food processor then put the ingredients in the mixer with the blade attachment and process until breadcrumb stage. Pour in chilled water with the processor still running and continue to process until the pastry comes together.

Roll the pastry out to line a 23cm tart tin and chill for 30 minutes, or until required.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. If you are using a fan oven you may need to reduce the temperature to 190c.

 Spread a layer of jam generously over the tart base.

 Melt the butter and continue to heat until it smells nutty.

 Whisk together the sugar, ground almonds, egg yolks, egg whites and almond extract.

 Pour in the hot butter and whisk until smooth.

 Spoon the mixture over the jam.

Transfer the tart to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned and just set, scattering the flaked almonds over the tart after 25 minutes so that they get a chance to brown slightly.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.





Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Good Mummy award baking.


It's the first day of the summer term and it is raining here in the back of beyond. Of course it's raining it's time to do the school run, it is a fact that if it is going to rain on any given day it will rain between 8.30 and 9am or at 3pm. Ask any parent with school age children and they will confirm this. So it's raining and I know I mustn't complain because we are in a drought and we need the water. Our farmer will be particularly pleased as he has now moved onto ploughing and planting as the lambing season is nearly over (I was informed yesterday that there are only 3 expectant ewes left and the farmer is fed up of waiting for them to drop). We have also started planting in our little corner of back of beyond. I say "we" but it's loosely based as I kind of say "isn't it time to start planting" to Mr Vander-Cave and he goes out and starts planting whatever seeds and bulbs have taken my fancy from the on line seed and plant nursery.  I don't generally  allow my hands to get too dirty, but I'm more than happy to reap the rewards. Thankfully due to the milder winter my rocket and herbs have survived and I am already using them in salads and sauces.

As it is the first day back and I am feeling a little guilty (as Master Vander-Cave's lunch box is missing a  home baked cake) I decided to make something for when he arrived home. I am still striving to keep to a low fat health conscious diet so I dipped back into my healthy muffin book and came up with raisin oat muffins, only 166 cals and almost no fat. I have tweaked the recipe slightly with the addition of some warm spices which lend themselves to the main ingredients as without fat they need good flavouring!  This recipe also gave me the chance to use my amazing new silicone muffin pan again. I have to say I don't know how I lived the first 30ish years of my life without it. I have used it for muffins, low fat Yorkshire puddings and as an extra cupcake tray. Well worth the investment! The other great thing about this recipe is it is so easy and quick to make which is a necessity for me currently.

By 2.30pm I have a lovely batch of muffins in the oven and time to put my feet up before completing the other half of the school run. When I jumped in my car at a little after 3pm I thought I had the day under control. What a fool I was!  As I turned out into the road I was faced with approximately 100 grumpy looking sheep filling the lane ahead of me, no sign of a farmer or anybody else being in control of the herd. A quick three point turn whilst the sheep were coming menacingly close  I was anxious that they thought I was the sheep dog) and I had to head off on the long back lanes route to school. Clearly someone was looking after me today. As I drove like the wind along the windy roads I didn't meet any other traffic and when I pulled up at school late, the teaching staff were running late too!

Master Vander-Cave was enthusiastic in his praise of these muffins and has asked for one in his lunch box tomorrow. And apparently I am "the best baking mummy in the world ever". That's all the thanks I will ever need!

Raisin and Oat muffins 166 cals  
1 cup plain flour
1 cup porridge oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
2.5 tsps baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup skimmed milk
2 large egg whites
2tbsp corn oil
1.5 tsps vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

Pre heat oven to 190c and lightly grease 10 muffins cups in a muffin pan.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well mixed.

In a jug combine the milk, egg whites, oil and vanilla. Beat together slightly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the milk mixture and stir to just combine. Quickly stir in the raisins.

Spoon mixture into muffin cups and bake for 16 minutes until risen and brown.

Leave to cool in muffin pan for a couple of minutes before transferring muffins to cooling rack to finish cooling. Either serve warm or cool completely and store in a airtight container



Monday, 16 April 2012

Baking or Chemistry?



As I mentioned previously, last week we went back to the big city to meet up with my gang of nanny comrades and as ever my dear friend Gem and her family were our hoteliers for the duration of our stay. As a gift for our hosts I decided to try something new from the Hummingbird bakery cook book. As always the cake needed to be gluten free for Gem. I try and make it my mission to make regular cake but with gluten free ingredients and hopefully make the cake unrecognisable as gluten free. I find that moister recipes work best for gluten free because when gluten is removed some of the moisture goes with it. The black bottom cakes in the hummingbird book seemed to fit the bill as they have cheese cake added to rich chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting on top.
As I started to read through the ingredients my doubts started to grow. The chocolate cake had no butter in it, no egg in it but water and white vinegar added to it. I was pretty convinced this couldn't work but set about making it with some scepticism but also a kind of science experiment interest in what the result might be. I followed the instructions and found the "cake" mixture so dry I couldn't flatten it into the cases so I added some extra water to counteract the gluten free flour and Xantham gum. The cheese cake mixture seemed quite runny and I am still not sure it was right but I had got this far so decided to add it to the cake cases and hope for the best.
When the cakes were done, my niece and I looked at the cakes and looked at each other and decided that they would need tasting because I did not want to make cream cheese frosting for what looked like unappealing cakes. So we shared a cake and actually it tasted good. The chocolate sponge was rich and moist and the cheese cake tasty, even though it looked more like an egg custard on top. My niece and I agreed that once topped with cream cheese frosting no one would know what ugly duckling cakes lay underneath.
Obviously once topped with cream cheese frosting we had to try the cake again. Pretty darn good!

Gem was thrilled with her 10 cakes, although not so thrilled by the moreish nature when she is supposed to be eating healthily. She tells me that they only lasted 4 days before being stale so definitely one to eat now rather than save for later.

Blackbottom cupcakes

 90g  gluten free plain flour mix
1 tbsp Xantham gum
120g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder, plus extra to decorate
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
40 ml sunflower oil
1½ tsps white vinegar ( I used white wine vinegar)
½ tsp vanilla extract

For the cheesecake filling
140g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
100g milk chocolate chips

For the cream cheese frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold

 Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

For the chocolate sponge base put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and mix with a handheld electric whisk on slow speed until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated.

Put the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and 125 ml water in a jug and whisk to combine. While the electric whisk is running in the flour bowl, slowly add the contents of the jug, increasing the speed of the blender as the mixture thickens.(If the mixture is too thick add an extra 5-10mls of water)

Continue to beat until all the ingredients are incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).
Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and set aside.

For the cheesecake filling, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla extract and salt in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until smooth and fluffy.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand until evenly dispersed. Don’t overmix, otherwise the cream cheese will start to split.

Scoop about 1 tbsp of the cheesecake filling on top of the cupcake mixture and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are firm to the touch and they have an even golden colour on the cheesecake filling. Don’t overcook as the cheesecake will become very dry and crumbly.

Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the cream cheese frosting on top, if using, and decorate with a light sprinkling of cocoa powder.

If  you wish to make a regular version of these cakes exchange the gluten free flour for regular plain flour and omit the xantham gum.


Cake Confusion!


My parents are quite elderly and  both have developed a hearing loss due to their advancing years. My dad refuses to wear his hearing aid, saying it makes everything too loud. My mum has a hearing aid but it seems to be broken more often than it works. Living out in the back of beyond means that I have to keep in touch with them by telephone and as you can imagine their hearing loss can make for interesting telephone conversations. Mr V-C can often be heard laughing hysterically as I try to make one or other of my parents understand what I am asking them. Recently I called them and asked if they liked fruit cake and  would they like me to send some fruitcake for them when Mr V-C was next in the area. Dad said "Yes, we love fruitcake". So dutifully I made them some fruit cake and sent it with Mr V-C who delivered the parcel which was apparently gratefully received. A couple of days later  when speaking to my mum I asked if she had enjoyed the fruit cake she replied "Your dad's been eating it but I'm not that keen on fruit cake". I was a bit surprised by her response. I reminded her that I had asked if they liked fruitcake and they had responded favourably. "Oh" she said "Dad said you were sending cheesecake and we like cheesecake. I was a bit confused when we got the fruitcake!"
So of course I now felt guilty and had to make cheesecake. I made them a baked Vanilla and lemon cheesecake and delivered it on Easter monday. I gave it to dad who said "ooh, we can have that after our tea". I replied saying it was half a big cheesecake that would probably last 3 days or more". "Righto" says dad. Today I phone mum and say did you enjoy the cheesecake "Yes" she says "I had a piece yesterday as your dad said  you said we couldn't eat it for 3 days!!"  AAARRRGGGGHHH! All I can do now is hope it hasn't gone off whilst dad has been dutifully waiting 3 days before eating it!!!

Baked Lemon cheesecake
You will need a 23cm cake tin with a removable base (I use a sprung loaded tin)
Pre heat your oven to 150c

250g Digestive biscuits crushed finely
90g Butter melted
500g mascarpone
250g caster sugar
3 medium free range eggs
165ml double cream
juice and zest of a lemon
a few drops of vanilla extract

Mix the crushed digestives and melted butter together and tip into the base of your cake tin. Press down firmly across the bottom of the tin to form a base.

Beat the mascarpone and sugar in a free standing mixer with a paddle attatchment until mixture is thick and creamy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Pour in the cream whilst the beater is on a slow speed mix well.

Add the lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract. mix on a slow speed until just combined.

Pour the mixture on top of the crumbs and place in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.

The cake is done when the cake is risen, the centre should be wobbly but not runny and the edges of the cake will have started to pucker. Turn the oven off but leave the cake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave in a cool place until the cake has sunk slightly and thoroughly cool. Place in the fridge over night before eating.

I sometimes top this cake with fresh strawberries or raspberries which always goes down well.

For a gluten free version just replace the regular digestive biscuits for gluten free digestives. I have even made it with gluten free ginger biscuits for the base.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

More Gluten free Gorgeousness for the Girls get together.



We have been back to the big city this week for a meet up with my gang of girlfriends whom I worked with back in the days when I was a Nanny. The reason for this particular get together was that one of the Nannies was over from Australia for a visit. None of us had seen her for 5 years so it was a pretty big deal for us all and after much organisation and re organisation we managed to arrange a meet up. Interestingly none of us work as Nannies any more and all of us have families of our own. So 6 lovely ladies and 12 children gathered for a rather raucous play date and catch up session. The children were so well behaved and we all had a fab time. Although I have to say trying to get 12 children ranging in age from 8 months to 12 years to pose for a group photo was an interesting experience and not one I would want to repeat on a regular basis!

 As my Gluten free friend Gem attended the get together and I was staying with Gem our contribution to the lunch was gluten free cupcakes. Gem had made some fairy cakes for the children and I made banana and chocolate cupcakes these are based on the Hummingbird bakery recipe but has been tweaked for Gluten free purposes.

Chocolate and Banana Cupcakes

140g Doves Gluten free self raising flour mix
2 teaspoons Xantham Gum
150g caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
145ml whole milk
2 eggs (large)
140g peeled banana, mashed

Chocolate Frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40g cocoa powder, sifted
40ml whole milk
40g dark chocolate, grated with a cheese grater

A 12-hole muffin tin lined with paper cases
Preheat the oven to 170C/ 325F/ Gas 3.

Put the flour, Xantham gum, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture, beating well until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the eggs and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Stir in the mashed bananas by hand until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

 For the frosting beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the milk to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier it becomes.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Chocolate Frosting on top and finish with chocolate shavings.