Archive for the 'Baking' Category

Gluten-free shortbread

GF shortbread

I’ve been trying to avoid gluten these past few months. I’d heard it can interfere with thyroid function and as I have this beastly little thyroid that has been playing tricks on my metabolism, sleeping habits and general well being for the past six years I thought I’d give it a go.  I’m not sure what I did to piss my thyroid off but it’s may as well have upped and left for all the good it’s doing. Thus far it hasn’t seem to make a difference how much goodness I put into my body my paltry little thyroid gland  sits all high and mighty refusing to work on its own. Well, of course he’s quite happy for me to shell out at the drug store month after month to keep him ticking over but I’m trying to kick his little habit. I’ve called him Fred, because clearly his lack of pro-activeness warrants him male status. I thought perhaps if I starved useless Fred of gluten that he just may start behaving himself again. It’s worked on Don, why not on a lazy thyroid gland?

GF shortbreadOkay, so I’ve never attempted to starve my husband but whilst I’ve been working in West Virginia these past few months he has lost quite a few pounds. Point proven.

Anyway, starving Fred of gluten hasn’t had the desired response I was after. Clearly I need to give him a much more severe beating, the softly softly approach is not going to win him over.

GF shortbread

But whilst gluten-free living hasn’t given my proper thyroid functioning it has opened me up to a whole new world of grains and flours. Quinoa flour, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour (!) who knew! All of which, I might add have enjoyed a pleasantly smooth trip through my digestive system without the usual halt in proceedings for a midnight bloating party.
I’ve also been surprisingly pleased with how easy it is to bake without gluten- sure the flavour and the texture is different- but isn’t that what we foodies are always after, something different? I’m sold. This is the kind of shortbread I want to stick a slab of cheddar on and call lunch. But lets be honest, Fred would take that chunk of cheese and find a nice little place for it to nestle down for eternity in my backside. Cheers, Fred- you useless old git.

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English scones, revisited

scones

Is it just me or have things cooled down quite dramatically in the past two weeks? I’m running in a long sleeve tee-shirt and sweats, my feet have demanded my Ugg boots to make a reappearance and I’ve eaten soup the past three days. I could be wrong, but something says that winter is poking it’s chilly head around the corner, to me.

Being that I’ve spend the past six weeks in West Virginia, around a bunch of English crew I’ve been feeling a few pangs for food from home, and not my Brooklyn home. Perhaps it’s the offerings of Galaxy chocolate and Walker’s Shortbread but I’m now dreaming about Yorkshire puddings, curries (because everyone knows they are practically English) and scones. With clotted cream and jam, of course.

I’ve made these before but I think you’ll forgive me once you make them. They make me feel ever so British, even in a place where people prefer biscuits and say things like hey, ya’ll. But don’t you go pronouncing them Sc-owns- it’s more like Skons where I come from. A sc-own is what you’ll find behind the glass in Starbucks- not an ounce of authenticity, I’ll have you know.

These have a crisp outer shell, which when you slice it open presents a soft buttery pillow of layers- the perfect bed for a slathering of clotted cream and jam. Oh, yes. Or perhaps I should say Yee-ha!

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Bouchons au thon

Buchons au thon

I hate those mini quiches you get served at parties- the kind where there’s more pastry than filling and if that weren’t bad enough, the pastry is loaded with a multitude of ingredients none of which sound much like butter. But as much as I think it’s important to get the right pastry, I know all too well that eating quiches everyday is not good for the waistline or rearline for that matter. These are little pastry-less quiches, which you can by all means make bigger but I’m a big fan of the perfect bite. Make them bigger and you can serve them with a light salad for lunch or serve little bites warm at a party.

Now, don’t start getting all cross with me that I’ve omitted a rich butter crust and you can stop being snooty about the fact that I’ve used canned tuna. These little bites are full of flavour- and plenty of creamy fats like crème fraîche and gruyère cheese, so you won’t feel shortchanged that there’s no butter.

buchons au thon

The recipe is adapted, but I kept the name because it sounds, and I think you’ll agree, so much more intriguing than pastry-less quiche or tuna quiche without the pastry. Buchons do make them sound a little hardwork but I can assure you that you will have these mixed in one bowl and in the oven in 10 minutes. Which is more than can be said for any quiche that demands a homemade crust. But I’ll let you be the judge.

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Raspberry & hazelnut brownies

For any of you who were wondering-Don’s coping just fine without me. He’s been cooking up a storm at home- fish pie, beef stew with dumplings (with dumplings!), Thai green curry, the best pasta bake ever made in the world (the man’s own words) and these chocolate and raspberry brownies. It was not supposed to be this way. He was supposed to struggle and live off of the frozen packages that I left him. He was supposed to call for directions on reheating and sheepishly admit that yes, he did order another pizza in. He wasn’t supposed to thrive in my absence!
raspberry & hazelnut brownie

He made these brownies with a mate and in two weeks time he’s having a dinner party- a dinner party! I’m a afraid to come home! What if I don’t fit into my little slot in our home. What if we fight over who gets to cook dinner or whose spaghetti bolognase is better!? What if he decides he doesn’t need me around anymore!? Well, at least I know my little fish needs me- I know he’s not getting fed as often as he’d like.

Decadent chocolate & raspberry brownies

The only comforting thing I can think of right now is these raspberry and hazelnut brownies. They are sensational, if I do say so myself. But what recipe with three bars of Green & Blacks 70% cocoa chocolate isn’t sensational? Melted down with butter so their fudgy and dense, bound with a smattering of toasted ground hazelnuts and then dotted with sweet and sour tasting raspberries and it’s hello, lover.

Can I even call these brownies? You probably won’t ever see them piled on a cake stand. No, no you’ll probably scoop it straight from the tin, and don’t be surprised if you feel an overwhelming urge to hide yourself away with the whole batch and a spoon. Best to whip these up with a partner in crime to prevent any rash behaviour.

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Cheese & walnut choux puffs revisited

cheese & walnut choux puffs

My temporary abode in West Virginia has presented me with a number of firsts. I have experienced my first Chili fest, my first ‘shoot & hollar’ competition, (which is a story in itself). Then there was singing karaokee in a real karaokee bar, celebrating Rosh hashana which in turn led to my first time trying Mazo ball soup and Gefilte fish.

Then there have been the less inspiring firsts. I’ve seen how a fast food restaurant operates  from product development through service. I’ve met a disturbingly large number of people who actually believe that Kraft Mac & Cheese is home-cooking and I’ve seen first-hand how rubbish the USDA’s guidelines for kids’ school lunches are. Like I said, there have been a lot of firsts for me.

Which is why for the next two weeks things might be a bit quiet around here- there are people to teach how to cook, school lunch ladies to fight with and fast food restaurants to be turned around. It’s all a part of an exciting project that I’m working on- I promise I will give details down the line, but for now I’m signed to secrecy. Anyway, now for something that’s not a first for me- gougeres, or choux-puffs as I prefer to call them.

Gougeres is one of the only French words I don’t like…I guess it reminds me too much of the word goo which in turn reminds me of what a lot of people seem to eat down here in West Virginia. There’s nothing gooey about these little golden puffs. They are crispy on the outside and comfortingly doughy on the inside. You’ll want to eat them straight from the oven before they sink and go squidgy (but even then they still taste rather good). I’ve made these before but this time I added a few spices for a little extra oomph- and I think you’ll be pleased with the result.  I like to serve them with a spring onion and chive yogurt dip as a pre-dinner nibble but they are frankly bloody good in place of popcorn whilst watching a film, sandwiched with a wedge of cheese for a snack or for lunch with a salad, in place of a roll. I love a versatile recipe.

This photo was taken by my fabulous photographer friend Dan, who also photographed these. He tells me my food looks blue when I photograph it so I’m rather pleased he stepped in to show me how its done. Thanks, Dan!

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Slow-roasted tomato & herb tartlettes


slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

If you wanted to make me really unhappy and I mean extraordinarily bloody-the-the-bones-miserable then it really wouldn’t be that hard.  Taking away my lovely kitchen and dumping me in a hotel in West Virginia would pretty much do it.

I’m hoping that you wouldn’t want to do that to me- but in case you were thinking about it, you’re too late- somebody beat you to it. Not that I have anything against West Virginia- the mountains are quite beautiful, the people charming, but I miss my local market,  my oven, my Kitchen Aid. Oh, and of course I miss my husband too. As if living in a hotel with neither a kitchen nor a husband wasn’t already enough torture for me they have apparently taken away all the good restaurants from the town. Amazing how cruel these TV people can be.

slow roasted tomatoes

Anyway, if I were back in my kitchen at home I would be having a celebratory party- and I would be serving these. As the tomatoes begin to loose their prime, slow roasting them is a magnificent way to revive them. Slice on the vine tomatoes through the middle, lay on a tray sprinkle with a touch of salt and a scattering of thyme and bake in the oven at 150C/200F for 2-3 hours or until drying at the edges but still a little juicy in the middle- you can do it at a lower temperature for longer but this works just fine. I make up huge batches and then leave them in the fridge covered in a little oil. They are amazing as soup, or in salads and I’ve even put them in a tart. Here, I’ve gone down the salad route- mixing them with cucumber, spring onions and fresh herbs.  And because I’m always looking for new ideas to serve at parties I stuffed the salad into baked wonton shells (after eating some for lunch, of course).  They are so crisp and much easier to work with than any pastry- I assure you, the healthy part is just an added bonus.  You can fill them with just about anything- in the winter I make them with roasted squash, chorizo and feta. Make the shells in advance and then stuff them when your ready to serve. Speaking of stuffing- I’m wishing I could stuff this hotel room right now. And I know just where I’d stuff it.
slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

And in case you forgot- I’m hosting this weeks BSI (Bloggers Secret Ingredient) challenge. This week the ingredient is chocolate so if you have a recipe leave me a comment with a link to your entry by 9pm on Sunday September 13th. The winner will be announced on Monday September 14th.

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BSI Challenge: Oats

flapjack3

This weeks Blogger’s secret ingredient challenge is hosted by Jessica at Johnstone’s Vin Blanc and it was one that I got really excited about- oats. Ahh, oats, glorious oats. We plow through an inordinate amount of oats in our kitchen- sometimes I think I ought to be a spokeswoman for them.  Don and I both eat them for breakfast in mulitiple disguises and I find myself chucking them into all sorts of things for added texture and the health factor doesn’t hurt either.

I was going to come up with a new recipe but on second thought, being that this is a competition I thought I ought to get out the big guns. No ordinary oatmeal, pancake or granola recipe was going to do. I needed to enter my finest oat recipe- or rather my mum’s. This is one of my most popular recipes on the site (thanks mum!) and as far as I’m concerned  it deserves another day in the spotlight.

These are essentially chewy granola bars- bound together using golden syrup and either margarine or butter. The edges are crispy the insides chewy and totally moorish. I think that they are best straight from the oven, before they have even set- but my father likes them after a few days when they’ve….uh, matured, I suppose. Either way, there’s really nothing here not to like.

Go over to Jessica’s site to check out the other entries!

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