Baking

Been Baking: Free From Earl Grey Fruit Loaf

A recent email from Dove’s Farm included a link to the recipe for an Earl Grey fruit loaf. I am a big fan of fruit loaves and tea breads, and pretty much any cake that involves tea or fruit or some combination of the two. I’m not however a fan of Earl Grey tea, we always have some in the cupboard for visiting family members who like it, but my personal taste is for a proper mug of builder’s tea. Reading the recipe I suspected that the Earl Grey flavour might end up balanced out by all of the fruit and the cake, I certainly hoped it would.

The cake was easy to make, unlike most of the tea breads I’ve made before the fruit only has to soak in the tea until the tea has gone cold, not overnight. I used a mixture of fruit including some chopped apricots and a couple of different mixed dried fruit mixes (it turned out this was the perfect cake to use up some ends of packs).

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The cake turned out really well. I’d seen that the reviews of the recipe on the website had recommended covering the top with foil to stop it getting too dark – this was good as it meant I was keeping a closer eye on it than I might have and did catch it and use foil just in time*.

The cake tastes delicious. That tell tale perfumey taste of Earl Grey isn’t obvious (thankfully), I assume that it just enhances the overall flavour of the cake. The recipe recommends chopping dried fruit like apricots into quarters, mine were pre-chopped into much smaller pieces and I think that next time I’d definitely go for chopping my own.

It is a free from cake. The recipe as it stands is free from both gluten and dairy, and it gives directions for a substitution for the egg that would then make it vegan. The day it was baked it was very crumbly, not uncommon for gluten free cake, but was much better all round the next day. It’s definitely the sort of cake that however tempting it might be, really should be left for 24 hours before eating to get the best from it.

I loved this cake. With the exception of the orange it’s baked entirely from ingredients I would always have in my cupboard so I think it’s probably one that will end up getting made on a not infrequent basis.

*The far end is, as you may have spotted, a little darker than I would have wanted. I’ve learned recently that one side of my oven is hotter than the other and this is the result.

Baking · Gluten Free

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 

After my success with the Delicious Alchemy Brownie mix a couple of weeks back I was excited to discover that Morrisons’ revamp of their free from department brings Betty Crocker gluten free mixes to my local supermarket shelves. I’d been aware that these mixes exist – there’s a choice of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies and devil’s food cake in the UK and more in the States – but I’d never seen them to buy myself.

I decided to give the chocolate chip cookies a try, it’s been quite a while since I last baked cookies. The mix makes it very simple, you only need to add an egg and some vegetable oil.


The instructions were very straightforward, once I’d got the dough part way mixed I switched from using a wooden spoon to getting stuck in and mixing it with my hands – I’ve always preferred to bake this way. The instructions did say to put heaped teaspoons of the dough on the trays to bake but I divided it into the right number of pieces and then made each one into a rough ball shape and then slightly flattened it. I found this was a much easier way to make sure the cookies were all approximately the same size.

The cookies took a little longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but I’m pretty confident that’s down to my oven rather than anything else. The instructions advised leaving 5cm between each biscuit so they had room to spread – mine didn’t spread that much and next time I think I’d flatten them a little more to start with.


The cookies taste really good. They have a good texture, they hold together really well and don’t crumble as soon as you bite into them. They were really good when they were still warm from the oven, and by the following day they were soft and chewy and reminded me of the cookies I used to get from the Millie’s Cookies that was opposite the book shop I worked in. I think if I flattened them more before baking then they’d have been an even better cookie.

I’m really impressed with this mix. I’ll be trying the other two out, I’ve seen that on the Betty Crocker UK website there are other recipe ideas for using the mix, I’m particularly keen on the look of this gluten free caramel cake that uses the devil’s food cake mix. I’ll make sure I blog about it once I’ve tried it!

Baking · Gluten Free

Delicious Alchemy Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday I turned my hand back to a little gluten free baking. It’s the first baking I’ve done in ages – my kitchen in London wasn’t ideally set up for any baking (the oven for starters was somewhat untrustworthy) so it was one of my things that I let slide. Now I’m back home I definitely want to be baking more – it’s another creative pursuit that I enjoy and find hugely beneficial to my well being, plus I get hopefully delicious things to eat at the end of it.

I was given a pack of Delicious Alchemy’s Chocolate Brownie mix as part of a Christmas present, I thought they’d be a great way of easing my way back into baking. The instructions seemed simple, you only need to add butter and eggs. I got set up and ready to start.

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Making the brownies was super easy, and generated very little washing up. From first opening the cupboard to get the mixing bowl out to putting them in the oven would have probably taken under 10 minutes but as I was recording the process on my Instagram Story it took me a little longer.

The instructions said to bake the brownies for 18-22 minutes. I checked them at both 18 and 22 minutes but they were still very soft at 22 minutes so I left them in a few minutes more. Once they’ve finished baking they do have to be left in the tin for another 20 minutes before you take them out, then allowing to cool fully before you cut them. I did all of this and still when I came to cut them up they were very soft and fudgey. I prefer my brownies and the soft and fudgey side but I think that if I make these brownies again I’d leave them a little longer in the oven – these would be difficult to take out in a lunch box for instance.

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The brownies taste delicious. I’ve been disappointed lately by a few gluten free chocolate cakes and desserts that look like they’re going to taste amazing but actually end up tasting only of a hint of chocolate. These brownies certainly don’t disappoint on this, they taste very chocolatey and are full of chocolate chips. I cut the 8 inch square tin of brownies into 12 pieces. I would be tempted next time to cut them into 9 instead and have slightly bigger portions.

I’m really impressed with this mix. I think it’s one I’ll be keeping in my store cupboard as an easy baking fall back. It’s the first Delicious Alchemy product I’ve tried, based on how good it is I think I need to check out the rest of their range.

 

Baking · Blogging · Craft · Personal · Photography · Writing

New and Improving.

AKA The post where I talk about last year’s not really resolutions and set this year’s not really resolutions.

Last year instead of making specific resolutions I decided I was going instead to try and make a couple of changes in how I thought. I decided I was going to get back to focusing on the positives (for various reasons I’d started to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives which was really out of character for me) and I was going to be more grateful for all the things in my life that made me happy. I definitely feel like over the course of the year I did quite well with this, my positivity has returned and I often catch myself before I focus on the negative of something. I don’t do it always of course, it’s a work in progress but one I feel content about continuing.

This year I’ve decided to do something different. It’s shaping up to be a year of change in many ways and I thought I would use that as my inspiration. I’ve thought about a lot of the things I love to do and I’ve decided for each area of my interests something I want to try and something I want to get better at. Here’s the list:

Baking.
New – Sweet treats.
I want to start making sweets and truffles, and anything else little and sweet. I had the Sweets Made Simple recipe book and a sugar thermometer for my birthday so I’m looking forward to a year of experimentation and tasting!

Improve – Making biscuits.
Making biscuits. I bake lots of cakes but always avoid biscuits, I haven’t had great success with gluten free biscuits so always return to cakes which work. This year I’m going to get better at biscuits.

Crafting.
New – Project Life.
This year I’m going to start Project Life, a journalling / memory keeping technique. I have plenty to say about starting this so expect a blog post in the next few days dedicated to it.

Improve – Crochet.
I taught myself how to crochet around 20 years ago but didn’t really keep it up and now barely remember any of it. I’ve been pinning all sorts of cute patterns to my boards on Pinterest so this year I’m going to brush up my skills and start making some of them.

Photography.
New – Photo editing.
Despite taking loads of photos I’ve never developed any editing skills whatsoever. This year I’m going to start learning how to make the most of my photos once they’re taken.

Improve – People photos.
Taking photos of people, particularly grown ups is something I’m not very good at. The majority of the photos I take are of views, flowers, objects and young children – basically things that don’t talk, or don’t require significant interaction. I always feel very awkward approaching the idea of taking photos of people so end up avoiding doing it, but this year I’m going to try to get much better at it.

Writing.
New – finishing a novel.
This is probably the one thing on the list that I feel most strongly about. I have started and stepped away from a good number of novels, never having the courage to push through to the end. This will be the year when this changes though, I will finish a novel and put it away and then get it back out and start learning how to edit something creative.

Improve – blogging.
I talked recently about stepping away from reviewing books on my blog (expect news about how and where I will be reviewing them later this month) and returning to a more general blog. I want to improve two things in my blogging that are entirely linked – I want to improve the frequency of my posts and I want to be better at writing longer posts. I don’t feel like I have established my blogging voice – spending so long writing reviews and writing academic things has definitely had an impact so this is what I want to improve over the year.

 

There we have it. 8 plans for the year, 4 things to try and 4 things to get better at. All of them are things I want to be blogging about so hopefully it should be pretty easy to track my progress over the year.

Baking

Recent Bakes

I’ve been in the baking mood a lot lately. There’s something so soothing about baking, having the recipe in front of you and following it one step at a time until you end up with something hopefully delicious to show for it.

Cooking the Welsh cakes
Cooking the Welsh cakes
I made a few batches of Welsh cakes using the recipe from Phil Vickery’s Seriously Good! Gluten Free Baking. I think once I’ve baked a couple more recipes the book will deserve its own post so for now I will just talk about the Welsh cakes. I made the first few batches with Dove’s Farm GF plain flour but then ran out and made the final batch with their equivalent self-raising flour. The ones with the plain flour were good, but we all liked the ones made with self-raising flour even more.

Chocolate and cherry goodness
Chocolate and cherry goodness
We picked up a recipe card for chocolate and cherry brownies in Sainsbury’s months ago, but it was only after the tray bakes week on The Great British Bake Off that I remembered I’d stashed the recipe away for a rainy day. It was a lovely recipe to make, and they worked really well with the gluten free flour. The recipe originally used fresh cherries but gave the equivalent weights to use for either tinned or dried cherries. I used tinned but would very much like to try them with fresh, or perhaps the sour cherries they have used in a number of recipes on this year’s Bake Off.

They look far better than they taste
They look far better than they taste
Most recently I tried making some gluten free scones. I used the recipe my granny had always used, just switching the flour for the gluten free equivalent and adding a little xanthan gum which helps to compensate for the lack of gluten. By the time I put them in the oven I didn’t hold out much hope for the end result, the mixture had been very hard to work with and most unscone like. I was right to be cautious, the scones were an interesting mixture between being spongey and like cardboard so I definitely need to think again before attempting the next batch. I’m determined to master them, I’m looking forward to the challenge of tweaking the recipe until it works.

Baking · Gluten Free

Gluten Free Goodies – Lime Meringue Pie.

Over the weekend I baked a lime meringue pie and it was so good I have to blog about it! The recipe is from the ever growing collection of gluten free recipes on Domestic Sluttery. I had it bookmarked, when I saw Jo make it a couple of weeks ago I knew I needed to make it sooner rather than later. My grandad was with us for lunch on Sunday and he has as sweet a tooth as me so it seemed like a perfect time.

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Overall I was really happy with how it turned out. The recipe was very easy to follow and the end result looked and tasted good. The only problem I found was that the base was quite crumbly, the recipe uses Bourbon biscuits and no additional melted butter to bind it – apparently the cream centre of the biscuits should be sufficient. I don’t think it was, and when I next make it I’ll be adding some melted butter to make sure my base binds well.

This recipe was of course written for a gluten free dessert, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use regular biscuits in your base.

Baking · Gluten Free

Throw in the Saucepan Cake.

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The Throw in the Saucepan cake was one of my Granny’s trademark cakes. I wouldn’t want to begin to guess how many she baked, or how many slices I ate over the years. I can’t remember when I started making them too, but I know that until a couple of weeks ago it had been a few years since I’d made my last, sometime before she died. I asked my Grandad this morning and like me he can’t remember exactly where she found the recipe, we know my Granny cut it from a newspaper some years ago so it was probably the Express and Star or the Sunday Mercury – both papers they read regularly.

I made a regular version of the Throw in the Saucepan cake a couple of weeks ago for him for Father’s Day and the verdict was entirely positive. As I made it I wondered how it would be if I made it with gluten free flour – I didn’t want to miss out on revisiting this cake. I made one yesterday, and today’s taste test has been a great success – I’m so happy with how it has turned out. It’s certainly going to be one of my regular bakes from now on.

The recipe:

1 teacup sugar
1 teacup milk
1 teacup mixed dried fruit
4oz margarine
2 eggs beaten with 2 tbsp milk
2 teacups self raising flour

Put sugar, milk, fruit and margarine in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil whilst stirring, then allow to cool.
Add eggs and flour, and stir well.
Pour into a 7 inch greased and floured tin.
Cook at 180C for an hour, turning down to 150C after 45 minutes.

And that’s it. A lovely simple recipe that makes a lovely cake. For the gluten free version I used Dove’ Farm flour, and of course you need to make sure your mixed dried fruit is gluten free as not every manufacturer’s is.