Ginger muffins (gluten free)

Remember DD’s 10th birthday cake experiment? Well, that recipe has been my go-to base for all other cake recipes now. I think it’s because the proportions are so easy to remember and the results are always good. Why mess with success, right?

The other week, I threw in a tablespoon of Nutella and some milk chocolate chips. Gorgeous and gooey, perfect with coffee!

Today, I looked at the jar of chopped crystallised ginger in syrup and thought, Why not? So I chucked in 3 tablespoons to the basic recipe and the results were as hoped – delicious and gone quickly. The batter made 18 muffins, and they took about 13 minutes to turn this colour. When I say muffin, I’m talking European-sized, not American super-sized! 😀

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My next experiments are going to involve quick-cook polenta and citrus – I sense an almondy-orangey cake in my future.

If you have a recipe I could play with or tweak, do share! 

Just desserts

Yep, taking suggestions from the Husband will probably only ever take me in one of two directions: dessert and football. That’s soccer to my American readers. He worships the game, the logistics, the statistics, the….sorry, I tend to zone out. Since desserts are closer to my heart (and my waistline), let’s talk about those.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may know I’ve got my boards organised into categories: cookies, baked treats, chocolate treats, easy sugar… my heart lies in the cookie section. That should be my tagline: My Heart Lies in the Cookie Section.

IMAG0444Snickerdoodles, with their cinnamon-sugar dusting.

Delicate blush rose macarons.

Unctuous salted caramel macarons.

Chewy peanut butter cookies (gluten free, of course).

Freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

Simple sugar cookies.

All accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without coffee!

So what are your favourite treats? Your go-to feel-good delights? Last year, my D post was the poem FOR MY DAUGHTER by Sarah McMane.

Cake! (GF)

So DD turned ten a few weeks ago. Her requests were minimal. She wanted a simple cake. A Victoria sponge tea-cake, or something close to it. Now, ordinarily, this would have been an easy request to fulfil. We abound in sponges and Madeira cakes here in the UK. But a good gluten free one to suit my coeliac (yet gourmand) self? No, sirree. Challenge presented. Challenge accepted. 

I set to experimenting. I tried a variety of flours. Then sugars. Then fats. I came close. Close enough to accept that maybe, just maybe, it was impossible to get a good gluten-free sponge/Madeira look-alike, taste-alike. So, armed with my best scribblings, I set to baking DD’s cake the night before her birthday. Our tradition is to eat cake for breakfast, like the decadent gourmands we are (just stick me in Versailles and call me Marie Antoinette).

Setting out my ingredients, I was still mulling over my options. I looked up and Husband caught sight of my face.

“Oh, no! You’ve got that look. The I-have-an-idea look. Don’t do it! Stick to the plan. You love a plan,” he pleaded. He has a sweet tooth and he was looking forward to birthday cake! He didn’t want my tinkering messing up his chances of cake for breakfast.

But I went with my inspiration and boy, oh boy, wasn’t this the ‘Best Birthday Cake Ever!‘, according to DD? She ate half of it in one sitting! I only told her, and the neighbour upstairs, that it was gluten-free after they had polished off their shares. They couldn’t believe it. So here’s the recipe for my gluten-free Madeira cake. When I reference cups, I use a Nutella (200g) jar.

I dare you to bake this and surprise your taste buds.

MAIN INGREDIENTS

sandkage

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 cup / 125g butter, cubed (packed loosely)
  • 1 cup / 225g granulated sugar, plus a little extra
  • 1 cup / 150g self-raising gluten free flour (I used Dove’s Farm blend)
  • 2/3 cup / 75g ground almonds

FILLING AND DECORATION

  • Cream cheese
  • Strawberry jam
  • Icing sugar / powder sugar

METHOD

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 360F
  • Cream butter and sugar
  • Add in a little flour, then one egg, then more flour, then another egg until you have mixed all the flour and eggs. Don’t over beat!
  • Add in the ground almonds
  • I used 6″ / 15cm baking trays, about 1″ high and filled 3 of them two-thirds of the way full.
  • Gently smooth the batter with the spatula, as you are going to layer them and need them as flat as possible.
  • Bake the cakes for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be golden brown when ready, and a toothpick test should come out clean.
  • Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool down before you do the filling.

FINISHING TOUCHES

I placed one layer top down on a plate, and spread my mix of cream cheese mixed with a bit of icing sugar (DD can’t stand buttercream frosting) over the base. On the other face down cake, I spread strawberry jam, and then I carefully placed that layer on top of the cream cheese layer. And there you have it, folks – the classic Victoria sandwich. Dust lightly with icing sugar and you’re ready to serve!

Past (successful) gluten-free experiments have included Nutty Date Cake, Oatmeal Snickerdoodle Muffins and Chocolate Torte.

Mags, cakes & pointe shoes

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve been on social media constantly, just not as me 🙂 And by the time I find the time to be ‘me’, I am all tweeted out. 

The publishing firm I am contracting at has bought another magazine, and of course, until the lawyers checked everything and the contracts were signed, we had to keep schtum! However, it didn’t stop the frenzied calculations and planning happening in the background. This week, I get to comb through all the data and make some sense of it. Nerd alert: this is my happy place, so don’t feel sorry for me. The absolutely gilding-of-the-sugar-lily-atop-the-iced-cake? I am now supporting not one, but TWO, of my favourite magazines. I am almost sick with delight. It’s deeply satisfying to know that I had a small part in enabling the company to get to a position where it could buy another magazine, but the biggest win is working with not one, but two, incredibly creative, intelligent teams. Pinch me! 

39579_1457211161286_1891862_nOn a personal level, I’ve been prepping for DD turning 10. Ten. Double digits, baby. Anyone who says age is just a number has never seen my child turn 10. The countdown started weeks ago. I did not realise this was going to be such a huge deal for her. She has been changing slowly and steadily over the course of the school year, taking on more responsibility for herself and it has been wonderful (and heart-breaking) to note. Her ability to navigate the Tube system and central London still stops my heart. She is a city kid now. Dance is taking more of her energy and focus, as she is readying to go en pointe. It almost seems too soon; when did my little wannabe ballerina morph into this poised classical dancer?

Her excitement about turning ten has not worked its way to her gift list. She’s still pretty laissez faire about what she receives or does on the big day. She just wants a madeira cake (that’s pound cake to you Americans and sandkage to the Scandinavians) for Saturday breakfast, so I am working on gluten-free adaptations so I can share a slice with her. My first experiment has gone so well that I’m just going to stick with it for Saturday, and make a peppermint & caramel fridge tart for back-up. I will post the recipe with some measurements soon.

For now, it’s back to recorded episodes of Madam Secretary and catching up on reading my favourite blogs; I’m woefully behind!

 

Get-Better Biscuits

DD has been getting over a rather virulent bout of norovirus, in all its multi-faceted manifestations. It’s not pretty, people, not pretty. We woke up seven times on Thursday night between 2am and 7am. I suppose at 7am, it was Friday morning, but I’m too tired to split hairs. All she managed to hold down all day yesterday were sips of water and some broth. This morning, I thought I’d tempt her back to eating with some banana pancakes and fluffy biscuits.

mmmm, fluffy biscuits… remember when I made them for Mardi Gras last year in a bid to educate DD? Well, this time, I had to adapt them to exclude the gluten (for me) and dairy (for DD). Delighted to report the recipe adaptation (scroll down) was successful – check out the deliciousness …

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DD enjoyed one mini-biscuit. That’s all her ravaged tum could handle. But it was good enough for me. Being a good mamma, I scarfed the rest. With maple-butter, because I’m not dairy-free!

So, what’s up with you this weekend? How has 2016 been treating you so far?

Quick notes to make the magic yourself:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 240C/460F, and use just under two cups of gluten-free self-raising flour blend and one cup of lactose-free single cream, toss in a pinch of salt, and mix ’em together to get a sticky dough.
  • Turn the mix onto a lightly floured board, and pat to about half an inch thickness.
  • Then cut the biscuits (don’t twist, just press & lift), line them up on the baking tray and in eight minutes, TA-DA, golden, fluffy biscuits. 

Feeling the joy!

It is a fact universally acknowledged (within my circle of friends & family) that I love Yuletide. I love the lights, I love the music, I love the food. There is something indescribable which swoops over me every year, and calms the frenetic beating of my anxious heart. It infuses my baking. It makes me sing. It makes the crap grey London weather bearable. I don’t think I’d like to live in a world without ‘jól’.

This week included one fun work party (such good food!) and one Christingle concert. DD did some singing with some schoolmates – it was pretty amazing. Husband only slightly killed the mood by whispering, “Huh, give ’em pitchforks and they could stand in for the KKK,” when they held their lit candles in a circle round the congregation. Of course, I giggled. 

The rest of the time away from here I’ve spent crafting, knitting, baking, and showing admirable restraint when decorating the house.

What are you up to? What are your go-to holiday favourites?

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I recycled magazines into wrapping and gift envelopes!

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Husband made a tree! Every julepynt on it has a story.

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Sugar cookies with icing sugar say YULE

One Week On…

It’s been a week since Friday 13 November. What a day, what a week. I have taken the last week off from most social media and news updates, and even took a break from reading blog posts from friends.

I just needed to re-group, pull myself together, and not fall down the spiral of thinking the world is a pretty horrific place. Yes, as humans, we do some pretty darn awful things to each other. But I have seen enough examples of goodness, kindness and humanity to resist tarring everyone with the same brush, and for my own sanity, needed to avoid seeing anything to the contrary. 

IMAG0337_2Naive? Perhaps. But it’s worked. I’m still a bit jumpy about leaving the house and acknowledging the possibility that London may be next, but on the whole, I’m OK. 

I’m facing forward to Thanksgiving/husband’s birthday and the start of Yuletide (which means baking goodies like these edible ornaments). And catching up on all the posts I’ve missed. Expect some seriously delayed comments!

Oatmeal Snickerdoodle Muffins (GF)

Yeah, you read that right. I’ve created a hybrid snickerdoodle-muffin which DD says tastes just like a donut. Score! Best of all, it’s gluten-free. Go me! This can also make a loaf.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF Rolled Oats) soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup GF plain flour (you might need a little more, up to 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

METHOD

#muffins #loaf #snickerdoodle

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare your muffin or loaf tin.

Drain the oats after soaking them for about 10 minutes.

Blitz/mix everything together and pour batter into muffin liners or a loaf tin. If the mix looks runny, add more flour.

Bake on the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes.

If you really want to emphasise the snickerdoodle effect, brush the top of the muffins/loaf with melted butter while they are still warm, and then shake over granulated sugar and cinnamon.

What are your favourite cookies? Have you got a recipe you’d like me to adapt?

Figs grilled with cinnamon & honey

#figs #summer

I had the last few summer figs kicking around, looking delicious and taunting me with their exquisiteness. So I chopped them into quarters, drizzled them with honey, dusted them with cinnamon, and grilled the juice right out of them.

If you want somewhat specific instructions, here you go.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Cut the tops off the figs, then cut them into quarter wedges.
#figs #honey #cinnamon #grilled

Lightly grease a baking tray with mild olive oil or butter, and pop the figs on there. Drizzle with honey. Dust with cinnamon. Add a couple of spoons of water to the tray (to mix with the honey & fig juices). Slide the tray into the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they are sticky and soft. Remove and COOL. Listen to me on this, hot figs be BURNY hot.

Once they are cooler than burny hot, eat with a scoop of mascarpone, Greek yoghurt or icecream. Drizzle the juices from the pan over each serving. If you’re feeling super fancy, you can top this with some pistachios or pine nuts.

#figs #grilled #honey #cinnamon #compote

Do you like figs? Do you ❤ figs? How do you eat them?

These figs have topped some chia seed pudding for my breakfast today. The fig-honey juices have added just enough sweetness.

Autumn Falling…

I don’t know about the weather where you are, but here in London, it’s taken a decidedly autumnal turn early. Waaaaay early. So early I wasn’t ready. And I’m ALWAYS ready. Maybe this was the trigger to feeling totally off-kilter this last week.

I spent the week at work plugged into my headphones and working away, working through the blahs (or just ignoring them). It was enough to concern a few colleagues. I’ve earned the reputation of being somewhat of a cheerful soul (say what?) and they sensed I was not myself. Friday, I had the office all to myself and when you’re in a small open-plan office, this is a real luxury. So I revelled in my aloneness and decided I was not going to push it over the weekend. I was going to just relax, and read, and remember all the reasons why I love autumn so much.

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Jumpers. The colour orange. New boots. Mulled drinks. Stews. The smell of wood fires. Toffee apples. Pumpkin anything. Onion soup. Braised red cabbage & apple. Knitting projects. Crunchy leaves.

(My favourite memory of crunchy leaves is the boxful I was sent from a friend at Smith College in Massachusetts. It was my first autumn in New Orleans and let me tell ya, autumn really isn’t a season there. There are lots of things I love about NOLA but autumn isn’t one of them, so that boxful of leaves was the best care package this freshman could have received.)

I spent the weekend reading recipes, spiking my coffee with nutmeg, and mulling over what I should knit next. I’ve got a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies now. The niggling grayness is hovering at the edges of my vision, but for now, I’m going to smother it in pumpkin spice.

How do you welcome autumn? What are your family traditions?