Monthly Archives: December 2014

Gluten Free Steamed Bao Buns

I am going to be starting the new year, as so many do, with good intentions!  I have been planning this for a while now but this year I intend to phase out gluten from my diet.  I know it’s not going to be easy but I believe the benefits will be worth it!  As such I’ve started to experiment more and more with gluten free recipes in preparation for this transition.  Some things work well, others not so much but it’s always fun trying new things!

Gluten Free Steamed Bao Buns

These steamed buns make me very happy!  Filled with pulled pork they are sublime! I have always loved the soft chewiness of steamed buns and it seemed like a logical substitution to use a rice flour based gluten free flour mix to create these Asian inspired buns.

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They are very much best enjoyed fresh though so this recipe makes 8 rounds, enough to serve 4 buns.  If you are only cooking for one then they can be wrapped and frozen before steaming them and you can have more buns for later!  I use pre-cut steamed bun papers from the Chinese supermarket but if you want to cut your own from baking paper then go ahead!

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Makes 8 rounds for 4 buns

300g gluten free plain flour mix (rice based ones work well!)
40g sugar
10g baking powder
4g fast action yeast (1/2 a sachet)
pinch of salt
50ml milk
100ml water
30g vegetable shortening (Trex) (Could also use coconut oil here)
oil for brushing

– Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl.
– Gently warm the milk and water in a jug or pan.
– Add the milk and water to the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together into a dough.  (Add most but not all of the liquid at first and see whether you need it all to bring the dough together.)
– Add the vegetable fat and knead through.
– Turn out onto a lightly floured* worksurface and knead until soft and elastic.   (*Gluten free flour!)
– Divide the mixture into 8.
– Form into round balls, then gently flatten into discs.
– Lightly brush with oil.
– Place on  your paper circles.
– Steam for 15 minutes until soft and springy.   (You may not be able to fit all of the buns in at once.  You can do them in batches or layer them up and steam them for longer.)
– Fill with pulled pork or whatever strikes your fancy!

 

 

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Filed under Breads, Easy, Gluten Free, Mains

Mini Syrup Sponge Puddings

I hope everyone had a good Christmas!  In the spirit of Boxing Day, here is a recipe for Mini Sticky Sponge Puddings to complete your food coma.  It’s a little different than Christmas Pudding and still heartily good comfort food!

Mini Syrup Sponge Puddings

In my opinion there is nothing quite like a syrup sponge pudding.  Previously I’ve always made big ones, because bigger is better, yes?  However, I have to revise my opinion here.  With these mini puddings you get the perfect amount of sticky syrup sauce to sponge ratio and the sponge is deliciously soft and sweet.

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It doesn’t look like much mixture when you divide it up, but trust me, this will make the perfect little pud and a wonderful finish to any winter meal!

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Makes 4 Puddings

65g butter, melted
65g golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp golden syrup
65g flour
4-8 tbsp golden syrup

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C.
– Thoroughly butter 4 ramekin dishes.
– In a large jug melt the butter, then add the sugar and mix well.
– Beat in the egg (make sure the butter isn’t still hot!) and the golden syrup.
– Fold in the flour.
– Put 1-2 tbsp of golden syrup in the base of each pudding.  If you want more syrup sauce put in more, if you just want a sticky sponge add less.  Here I went for less but sometimes I want more goo!
– Bake for 25 minutes until set in the centre and deep golden brown.
– Immediately run a knife around the edge of the ramekin and CAREFULLY* turn out onto your serving plate.  If you allow it to cool the syrup solidifies and your pudding will not come out.  (You can microwave them for ~45 seconds to get them to release if you have leftovers.)
– Serve with cream or ice cream as you like!

* BOILING SUGAR.  Do not stick your finger in it, even accidentally.  Remember, I make these mistakes so you don’t have to, kids!

 

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Filed under Desserts, Easy

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Anna and Darcy!

We hope you have a lovely peaceful day filled with Food, Festivities and Family!

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Filed under Not Food

Last Minute Sweet Gifts Roundup!

If you have left it too late, or have an unexpected guest arriving tomorrow here are some ideas for quick, easy sweet gifts that you can throw together. Or may be you have superpowers and somehow have some free time to whip together some sweets for the hoards about to descend. Either way, here are my favourite sweet recipes!

Fruit and Chocolate DropsChocolate FudgePeppermint Puddings'Fakewell', ginger and chilli and chocolate and peanut cookiesSpice Biscuits

Fruit and Chocolate Drops
Fudge
Peppermint Creams
–  Chocolate Truffles
– Condensed Milk Cookies
– Spice Biscuits

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Filed under Christmas, Cookies and Biscuits, Roundup, Sweets

Chocolate Truffles

These Chocolate Truffles need to come with a warning.  You may make them as gifts but you will want to keep them!!!! They are so tasty!  These Truffles consist of a silky smooth ganache in the centre and a crisp chocolate shell around the outside.  They are also incredibly versatile, you can change the flavours up as easy as anything and you really can use any chocolate here, I’ve gone for a simple milk chocolate with either milk or white shells but so long as you grasp the underlying principles they you should be able to do just about anything with this!

Chocolate Truffles

What is important is to choose the best chocolate you can and get one with the simplest list of ingredients.  You have more wiggle room for the ganache but for the outsides you do not want any weird ingredients at all, you want cocoa solids (or mass), cocoa butter, sugar and milk along with the regular stabiliser and vanilla if it’s white chocolate.  That’s it.  No vegetable fat, certainly no hazelnut paste!  That stuff is a nightmare to try and work with.  Working with chocolate doesn’t have to be complicated and you really don’t need any special equipment at all, just a few tricks!

Chocolate TrufflesChocolate Truffles

The way to mix up the flavours is to maintain the ratio of chocolate to liquid.  I’ve specified cream, and you probably want the majority of the liquid to remain cream, but you could use orange juice, jam, Baileys, Cointreau, etc!  Just keep the liquid to half the quantity of chocolate and you’re safe.  Then for the outsides you want just a little bit more than went into the insides.  If you’re frugal you can do exactly the same but I’d rather this be easy for you so go a little over!  You can scale the recipe up or down, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to work with less than 200g of chocolate as it’s much harder to maintain the temperature with a small amount.

Chocolate Truffles

That’s what working with chocolate is all about, manipulating the temperature.  Chocolate behaves in certain ways at certain temperatures and we want to get it to exactly the right temperature to make it do what we want!  Too hot or too cold and you run the risk of the chocolate blooming, forming white blobs and streaks, or just not setting for hours.  If you get it right then your chocolate should set again, shiny and smooth in around 5 minutes at room temperature.

Chocolate Truffles

Makes ~40 truffles

300g milk chocolate
150ml cream
25g butter

Making Your Ganache Filling:

– Weigh out your chocolate into a plastic bowl.  Pyrex or similar retain the heat, which makes things hard, so work with plastic bowls if at all possible.
– Break it up into small chunks.
– Measure out the butter and cut it into small pieces, add to the chocolate.
– In a small saucepan measure out the cream and then bring to a boil.  You want plenty of room in your pan as that cream is going to rise up considerably!  Watch it like a hawk and when you get to the “Oh Shit!” point take it off the heat and pour straight over the chocolate and butter.
– Very gently poke the chocolate so that it is all below the level of the cream and gently wiggle it so that it works its way into the bottom of the bowl.  DO NOT STIR YET!
– Leave the bowl to sit for a few minutes to allow all of the chocolate to soften.
– NOW you can stir it!
– To get all of the lumps out, gently work them against the side of the bowl with the back of the spoon and keep mixing until you have a silky smooth ganache.
– Pour the ganache into a piping bag ( or two if necessary, leave enough room to secure the end with a twist.
– Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes (up to 48 hours) to allow it to harden.
– Once they have chilled cover a baking tray with foil and snip the end off your piping bag leaving about a 1cm hole.
– Pipe out portions of your ganache into blobs, spacing them apart.  They don’t have to be pretty at this stage, just about equal.
– Put the tray back in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.
– Once cool pick up each truffle and very quickly roughly shape into a round ball using the tips of your fingers.  Don’t use your palms and work quick as the warmer your chocolate gets the messier and more slippery this gets!
– Place the truffle back down as soon as its done and move on to the next.

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200g white chocolate
200g milk chocolate

Tempering Your Chocolate: 

– Put your covering chocolate in a bowl (work on each kind of chocolate separately)  and very gradually microwave it for 20 second intervals, stirring each time between.  You want to stop heating your chocolate when it is about 80% melted, 20% lumpy.  Then you simply work the lumps out by squishing them against the side of the bowl with the back of the spoon until it is all smooth.  You do not want your chocolate to get too hot.  In fact, if you touch a drop of melted chocolate to your lip it should feel cool!
– When you have all of your chocolate smooth it should still be liquid but not moving too fast.  Our first test to see if it is the correct temperature (called tempered) is the ribbon test:
– Take a spoonful of chocolate and drizzle it over the bowl.  The drizzled chocolate should stand proud on top of the melted chocolate in a ribbon.  When you give the bowl a little shake it should disappear back into the smooth pool of melted chocolate.
– The second test is to take a cocktail stick or coffee stirrer and dip it in to the chocolate.  Place it on the worksurface and check it in 5 minutes.  It should be set solid without any streaks or spots.  If it is still liquid, your chocolate is too hot, test it again.  This test allows you to see how your chocolate is behaving and make sure that you are ready to work with it.
– If your chocolate starts to cool and isn’t very liquid anymore then give it another 20 second blast in the microwave to raise the heat a little and give it a good stir.  Check again using the tests above each time you do this to ensure your chocolate is ok to work with.

Dipping Your Truffles:

– When you know your chocolate is tempered take a truffle, drop it into the chocolate and gently use a fork to scoop underneath it, move it about until it is fully coated and then scoop it out, allowing the excess chocolate to drain off.  DO NOT STAB THE TRUFFLE, SCOOP IT!
– Gently tip the truffle back onto the tray.
– Apply any decorations you might like while the chocolate is wet.
– Repeat with each remaining truffle.
– By the time you are finished the first truffles should be set hard with a lovely shiny finish.  Allow them all to stand until they are all hard.
– Simply pick them up and package them as gifts or set on a tray to serve to guests!

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(I’m not going to lie, my chocolate was a little too cool to be working with here, hence the swirls, but it was late and I was in a hurry!)

 

 

 

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Filed under For the Keen Cook, Sweets

Gingerbread Biscuits

Gingerbread Biscuits

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without gingerbread!  Now, prior to this year I have always made and endured gingerbread biscuits but only because it’s Christmas and that’s just what you do!  Not this year, oh no!  I have finally found a gingerbread recipe that I actually enjoy!  These biscuits are crisp enough to keep their structure when hung on a tree, or built into 3D constructions but chewy enough that you don’t feel in danger of cracking a tooth on them unlike some of the recipes I’ve tried over the years.  They are incredibly moreish and have just the right level of spice and interest for me without being so strong that you can’t accidentally eat half a dozen in 5 minutes flat!

Gingerbread DoughGingerbread Snowmen

Makes ~30 of different sizes, depends on your cutter!

100g butter
175 dark muscovado sugar
85g golden syrup
pinch of salt
350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 egg

– Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and salt in a saucepan and mix until all combined.
– Set aside to cool while you weigh the other ingredients.
– Put the flour, bicarb and spices in a large mixing bowl.
– Add the warm melted butter/sugar/syrup and give a little mix.
– Add the egg, continue to mix until it forms a soft batter.  Don’t worry, it will be much squishier than you think it should be.
– Put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 2 baking trays with lining paper.
– On a lightly floured worksurface roll out the dough to about 5mm for larger cookies or the thickness of a £1 coin for smaller .  I have a small worksurface so I work with half the dough at a time and keep the rest in the fridge.
– Cut out your biscuits and carefully lift onto the trays, leaving plenty of space for them to spread a little.  They don’t loose their shape but they will puff out a bit.
– Bake your cookies for 5-10 minutes.  The larger the biscuits are the longer they will take, the smaller they are the quicker they’ll bake.  Small ones will probably take about 7 minutes, larger ones 10-12 minutes but keep checking.  You want the biscuit to be deep brown, but not yet catching and darkening on the edges.  Black is too far!
– If you want to put holes in for hanging on trees or making into 3D structures, cut these immediately upon leaving the oven while the dough is still hot.
– Leave on the tray to firm up for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool, continue to repeat with the rest of the dough until it’s all gone.

 

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Filed under Christmas, Cookies and Biscuits, Easy

Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk

If you are looking for a fabulous place to eat this Christmas break please let me recommend the Carpenters Arms at Felixkirk, just outside of Thirsk! We had our work Christmas dinner there last week and the food was every bit as good as I’ve come to expect from one of the Provenance Inns group.  The pubs themselves are always so cozy and welcoming and the Christmas Menu at the Carpenters was fantastic!

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From the specials I chose the Teriyaki Salmon.  The salmon was perfect, I get a real bee in my bonnet about over done salmon but this was divine! The wasabi mayo wasn’t too strong and the light pickles and crunchy squid all combined to make a joyous plate!

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The Turkey Christmas Dinner was everything you could ask for, excellent meat, luscious gravy and a great selection of veg to round out this seasonal classic!

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Ah, dessert!  I, of course, went with the Chocolate Marquise and I was not disappointed!  Rich, light and delicious!  The pistachio ice cream and caramelised bananas mixed things up nicely!  The Christmas pudding and Ginger Puddings also got rave reviews at our table!

 

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Christmas Tree Tear and Share Bread

This Christmas Tree Tear-and-Share Bread is the perfect side to any holiday meal, it’s cute, easy, and can be made ahead the night before for a low stress gathering all round!  It’s not so garlicy or cheesy as to overwhelm, but feel free to dial it up!

Christmas Tree Tear and Share Bread

Bread making doesn’t have to be hard, in fact this takes about 20 minutes hands on time, total!  It’s a real crowd pleaser and could easily be scaled up to suit any size of gathering.

Christmas Tree Tear and Share Bread

Serves 4

250g strong bread flour
4g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
100g shredded mozzarella
1 tsp crushed garlic
25g butter
small handful fresh parsley or basil, shredded

– Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the yeas to one side and the salt to the other.
– Mix to combine.
– Add the olive oil and most of the water, keep a little in reserve in case it’s too sticky.
– Start to bring the dough together in the bowl with your hand, or a dough hook attachment on a mixer.
– If using your hands, when the dough has formed tip out onto a worksurface and continue to knead by hand until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.  If using the dough hooks continue to knead in the bowl.
– Set in a clean, oiled bowl and cover.  Leave in a warm, draft free place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
– When the dough has risen add the cheese and garlic and knock it down.  Knead in the bowl until the cheese and garlic are evenly distributed.
– Grease an oven proof dish.
– Pinch off small balls of dough, about the size of a walnut.  I needed 23 balls.
– Roll them in your hands and arrange them in the dish to form a Christmas tree!
– Now you can cover the dish with clingfilm and keep in the fridge overnight, or you can set aside at room temperature for another 30 minute rise.
– When you are ready for your bread get the dough out of the fridge and heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C or higher.
– Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown on top.
– Immediately upon removing from the oven, dot the bread with butter.
– Scatter the parsley on top for a green Christmas tree!

Christmas Tree Tear and Share Bread

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Shortbread

Shortbread is a wonderful thing!  It’s so beautifully, buttery, crumbly and delicious!  A good shortbread should have a nice crisp snap to it and then just melt away in your mouth.  I’m half Scottish so I have strong opinions about what constitutes a good shortbread and, my friends? THIS is a good shortbread!

Shortbread Bites

 

 

I think that the size here helps them too.  A good shortbread should be indulgently buttery, rich and flavoursome.  These little shortbreads are two bites of heaven and go perfectly with a cup of tea!

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I tried two different techniques for shaping them this time, one batch pressed with a fork, the other with the moulded bottom of a cut glass.  I like both looks, the cut glass ones are a little more delicate, the fork ones a little more robust looking, either way they’re scrumptious!

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Makes 60 bite sized shortbreads

250g unsalted butter, softened (Use a really good one!)
100g golden caster sugar
250g plain flour
175g corn flour

– Heat the oven to gas mark 3 /170C and line two baking trays (4 if you have them to spare)
– In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy.
– Sift the flours into the bowl.
– Carefully mix the flour into the butter and sugar.  After most of the flour is combined I like to get in there with my hand to bring the dough together, you want to get everything combined as quickly as possible, not workign the dough too much.
– Pinch off small balls (cherry tomato sized) of the dough and roll into rounds.
– Place the balls evenly spaced on a baking tray, they don’t spread much at all but make sure they’re not too crowded.
– Press down with a fork, cut glass, or just use the heel of your hand for flat ones.
–  Bake for 15 minutes.  They will still be very pale but do not fear!
– Leave on the tray to cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
– Store in an air tight tin and enjoy!

 

Shortbread Bites

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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy, Teatime Treats

Cheesecake Brownies

I love cheesecake… I love brownies… why have I not combined the two before?????

Cheesecake Brownies

 

These are just the right side of sweet, enough sugar to give you a buzz, not so much you feel sick… although I wouldn’t advise eating more than one every 2 hours!

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The sweetness of the cheesecake combines beautifully with the slightly bitter, rich chocolate and elevates a damned fine brownie into the realm of sheer indulgence!  I think the ratio of cheesecake to brownie here is about perfect, allowing you to enjoy each without being overwhelmed.

Cheesecake Brownies

 

Makes ~15 brownies

200g unsalted butter
200g plain chocolate
3 large eggs
270g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour (ground almods
40g cocoa powder
1 large egg
100g caster sugar
200g cream cheese (FULL FAT!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

– Heat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and line a 7″x11″ brownie tin with baking paper.
– Melt the butter and the chocolate together then leave to cool a little. (Short sharp bursts in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.)
– In a large jug mix the 3 eggs and the sugar until well combined.
– Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly as you go.  (Make sure the chocolate isn’t too hot or you could cook your eggs!)
– Add the flour and cocoa powder and fold into the chocolate mixture.
– In a new bowl or jug mix together the egg and caster sugar.
– Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth.
– Stir through the vanilla extract.
– Pour 2/3 of the brownie mixture into your prepared tin.
– Pour over the cheesecake mixture.
– Add the remaining brownie mixture in dollops and give a bit of a swirl about to mingle the two.
– Bake for ~45 minutes until the mixtures are set but still slightly soft, you don’t want any wobble left.  The cheesecake should just be starting to brown around the edges.  The surface should be firm, if you can poke your finger through it, it’s not done!  If the centre seems too squishy give them another 5 minutes and repeat until the centre is set and bouncy.

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