Chocolate cherry fudge brownies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Homemade chocolate cherry fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are keeping well and managing to stay cool in this very hot summer. The temperatures have been exceptional here in the UK and all over Europe which is great if you’re on holiday but not so good if you’re working. The garden is looking quite different this year due to the heat; many of the flowers are fading much more quickly than in previous years.

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Scottish wild cherry trees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend, in an effort to stay cool and enjoy the outdoors at the same time, I went for a walk in some local woodland. I was looking to see how long it would be before the hedgerow blackberries (brambles) would be ripe enough to pick – I don’t think it’s going to be a good year for brambling sadly. Quite unexpectedly, I came across several wild cherries trees, completely untouched by birds, and laden with fruit as far as the eye could see.

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Wild cherry picking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I was completely unprepared for foraging. I had no bag other than the small holster bag I was using to carry a water bottle. Cherry trees are enormous in the wild, but there were quite a few fruits on the lowest branches and I was able to fill my bag with just under 1kg of fruit. The cherries were the sweetest, juiciest I have ever tasted. Such an unexpected treat. Apparently, it has been a bumper year for cherries because of the hot weather, but I am still amazed that the birds hadn’t been interested in them. If only I had gone walking with a ladder! 🙂

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Pitting ripe cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back at home, I pitted the cherries. The firmer ones were easier to pit using my faithful old Italian cherry pitter, but the ripe ones I sliced and pitted using the tip of a sharp knife. Some went in the freezer, others were cooked in a crumble for tea, and the rest went into this week’s recipe.

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Wild cherry flavoured fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Easy to make, just a bit of advanced prep – you need to line a cake tin and make up a flax seed egg replacement mixture. Then, you are good to go. The brownies keep well but in this warmth, I kept them in the fridge to stop them going too soft and sticky. They also freeze perfectly. Eat them as a sweet treat but they are also good served with more fresh cherries or compote and ice cream for dessert.

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Chocolate cherry brownies, gloriously fudgy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 175g dairy-free dark chocolate (I used 54% cocoa – if you use darker chocolate, omit the cocoa powder and add an extra 25g flour)
  • 150g lightly salted plant butter, cut into pieces
  • 25g ground flax seed
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g pitted cherries, halved (approx. 170g whole)

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 5. Line an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

2. Put 150g chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter and melt gently over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.

3. Make up the flax egg by mixing the flax seed with 110ml cold water and leave to stand for 5 minutes until thickened.

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Flax egg preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Preparing chocolate brownie mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Mix the sugar and flax egg into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla paste, then add the flour and cocoa powder and stir well until everything is well blended.

5. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the cherries on top. Bake for about 1 hour until the mixture is set in the middle – initially the mixture rises round the edges leaving the centre molten but after a longer time in the oven, the centre firms up. Leave to cool in the tin.

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Baking brownie batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Remove from the tin and peel away the lining paper. Cut into 16 squares – you may find it easier to chill the brownie before you cut it as the texture is quite soft at room temperature.

7. Melt the remaining chocolate. Put the brownie squares on a board and drizzle each piece with a little chocolate. Leave to set before serving. Best stored in the fridge.

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Adding a chocolate drizzle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m off to enjoy another slice now. I’ll see you again towards the end of the month. Until then, keep well and stay cool 🙂

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Cherry brownies for tea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Gin and tonic shortbread (gluten-free; diary-free; vegan)

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Shortbread bunting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is with a happy heart that I publish my post this week. Here in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, we are celebrating the 70 year reign of our Queen Elizabeth II this weekend. For my part, I have been inspired to give one of my favourite bakes a bit of a Platinum Jubilee twist 🙂

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Patriotic shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This bake has a great combination of flavours for the time of year: lemon, lime and juniper as well as gin and tonic water in the icing. Leave out the gin and tonic if you prefer, and replace them fresh lemon or lime juice instead. If you are Coeliac, make sure the gin you use is gluten-free.

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Shortbread flavourings fit for a queen. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I baked the shortbread in a tin in order to achieve a good shape, but if you don’t have the right size tin, you can simply bake the shortbread round on a baking tray as it is. If it isn’t a jubilee occasion, I would usually decorate the shortbread with a few cake sprinkles or some fresh lemon and lime rind. I have captured a few images of how I made up the Union Jack flag design in case you ever want to make your own version for another occasion.

Makes: 8 pieces

Ingredients

  • 100g lightly salted plant (or dairy) butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp each finely grated lemon and lime rind
  • 8-10 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend

Icing

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 25ml gin and/or tonic water, or fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until well blended and creamy. Mix in the salt, citrus rinds and juniper.

2. Add the flour and gradually work into the creamy mixture, then bring together with your hands to make a firm dough.

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Making the shortbread dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth. Form into a thick round piece and roll into an approx. 20cm round. If you are not using a tin, roll the mixture to form a 23cm round and neaten the edges.

4. For the tin version, base line a shallow 23cm cake tin and transfer the shortbread round to the tin, then press the dough right to the edge. Prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes. Without a tin, transfer the shortbread round to a baking tray, prick with a fork and chill.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Score the top of the chilled shortbread (about 1/3 the way through the dough) into 8 equal segments and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes then carefully cut the segments all the way through and leave to cool in the tin or on the tray. Transfer to a wire rack.

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Shaping a shortbread round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually stir in sufficient gin and tonic or lemon juice to form a smooth, thick, spreading icing.

7. Carefully spread the icing all over the top of each shortbread segment to cover and place on a board. If you prefer a smoother finish, add a little more G&T or juice to the icing so that you can spoon it over and let it drip down the sides of each piece – keep the shortbread on the wire rack for best results.

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Gin and tonic icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. If you are decorating with sprinkles or citrus zest, add the decoration before the icing sets. If you are using ready-to-roll icing to decorate the tops, let the icing set before decorating. Below are a few images of how I created the flag effect on top of the shortbread.

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Making an icing Union Jack. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Whether you are celebrating or not this weekend, I hope you have a good time. Thanks for stopping by and I will hope to see you with my next post later on in the month.

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Melt in the mouth homemade iced shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My last minute Simnel Cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Happy Easter 2022. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you have a good Easter holiday. I’ve had a busy few weeks so Easter has crept up on me and caught me ill-prepared this year. Even though I am having a quiet one at home, I still wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Having no time to bake afresh, I set to this afternoon and transformed my stored and completely forgotten Christmas cake into a Simnel cake, ready to serve this weekend. And very successful it was to.

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Last minute Easter cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you fancy having a go yourself, this is what I did.

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Transforming Christmas into Easter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  • Slice a 20cm gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan fruit cake in half and brush both sides with a little apricot jam. Roll out 200g marzipan to fit the cake and place on one half.
  • Sandwich together with the other piece of cake. Turn the cake upside down and brush with more jam. Roll out a further 200g marzipan to fit the top. I embossed the top using an engraved rolling pin before laying on top of the cake.
  • Roll 11 x 15g marzipan balls for the top of the cake and either brown lightly under the grill or with a kitchen blow torch. Arrange on top of the cake and serve decorated with mini eggs and fresh primroses.
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My Cheat’s Simnel cake close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Easter in a slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, enjoy the colours and flavours of this wonderful season. See you again soon 🙂

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Easter primroses from my garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just peachy: Peach and almond bake (gluten-free; dairy-free, vegan)

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Fresh out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope life is treating you well. Time for a foodie post this week, and something to celebrate the fabulous fruit around at the moment. I picked Victoria plums from the garden last weekend and have been busy making compote and jam, and it won’t be long now until the apples and pears are ripe and ready. One of the most delicious fruits I have eaten recently have been fresh peaches (sadly not homegrown). As well as enjoying them just as they are in all their juicy-sweet deliciousness, I made this bake which I thought to share with you.

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Just peaches. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The bake will work with other seasonal fruits like plums and greengages – you’ll just need to adjust the sweetness accordingly. As well as adding flaked almonds to the topping, I have added my beloved marzipan but this can be left out and sweeten the topping with sugar instead. If you’re not an almond fan, try pecans or toasted hazelnuts and maple syrup, and add finely grated orange rind or vanilla extract for extra flavour.

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Preparing fresh peaches. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I did struggle a bit to remove the stones from the fruit as they were a little bit soft, so slightly less ripe work better for neat slices. I add lemon juice to the slices before sweetening as I find that peaches often discolour when cooked.

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Looking peachy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 firm to ripe peaches
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)

For the topping:

  • 150g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 75g dairy-free block margarine (or butter), cut into pieces
  • A pinch of salt
  • 75g marzipan, grated
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds
  • 15g chopped pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Wash and pat dry the peaches, then cut in half and remove the stones. Cut into thick slices and place in a baking dish. Toss in the lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside.

2. For the topping, put the flour in a bowl and add the margarine and salt. Rub the margarine into the flour until well blended. Stir in the marzipan making sure it is well distributed and then stir in the flaked almonds.

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Almond topping preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Mix the sugar and cornflour (cornstarch) into the peaches and sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Put the dish on a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden. Best served warm, sprinkled with pistachios.

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Peaches and almond topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Inside peach and almond bake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for another week. I hope enjoy the recipe and I look forward to posting again in a few days time. Until then, take care and stay safe 🙂

Raspberry and almond shorties (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly dusted shorties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are enjoying some sunshine. It’s been incredibly hot here in the UK these past few days, lots of blue sky and high temperatures. I have been outside enjoying the warmth but also seeking the shadier parts of the garden to work in. I have lots of produce to water as well, so I am hoping for some (night-time) rain to refill the water butts again.

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Ripe and ready for picking, this year’s homegrown Scottish raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe post this week is inspired by one of the best and most successful home-grown Scottish fruits, the raspberry. I have been picking a bowlful a day for the past week or so, enjoying some for breakfast and putting the rest in the freezer, ready for jam making later in the year.

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Freshly picked July Scottish raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Berry nice shorties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple recipe. The texture of these little fruity bakes lives up to their name, it is incredibly short, crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. The Shorties are best eaten from the cases. You could try adding a little xanthan gum to the mixture for a firmer bite, but I love the crumbliness. They are also very moreish – you have been warned.

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Pretty pink cake cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I use smaller cake cases for this recipe, so not the large muffin or cup-cake size. These are the cases you would use for fairy cakes or small buns. You can see from the image above that the cases don’t quite fit the depth of the muffin tins. However, I like to use the deeper tins to hold the cases as the deeper sides give support to the cases while the mixture bakes.

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Raspberry and beetroot jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any jam you like for the filling. I made some reduced sugar raspberry jam using a recipe I posted last year. It replaces some of the sugar with cooked beetroot. You can find the recipe here if you fancy trying some. One other thing to mention is that most of the jam added before baking will become buried once the mixture cooks, so you might want to add some more on top along with a few more almonds just before serving.

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 75g white vegetable fat (such as Trex) or coconut oil, softened
  • 75g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 1 teasp good quality vanilla extract
  • 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm) + extra for dusting
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 25g cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 45g icing sugar + extra for dusting
  • 3g gluten-free baking powder
  • 150g your favourite jam
  • 40g toasted flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line 12 muffin tins with paper cake cases (fairy cake size).

2. Mix together all the ingredients except the jam and flaked almonds until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm diameter plain nozzle.

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Making the shortie batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Pipe an approx. 3cm diameter mound in each paper case. If you don’t want to pipe the mixture, use a teaspoon to spoon the mixture into the cases instead and then smooth the tops.

4. Dust the end of a wooden spoon with more flour and use to make a neat pocket in the centre of each.

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Filling the cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam into each and sprinkle with a few flaked almonds. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes to firm up before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Just before serving, top with a little more jam and a few more flaked almonds, then dust lightly with icing sugar and serve. The Shorties will keep in a sealed container for 4-5 days but the texture will soften.

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Shorties ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Inside a shortie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. I hope you enjoyed my post and I look forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care and keep safe.

Steamed sesame buns (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gluten-free sesame steamed buns. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post and been “enjoying” some unseasonal British summer weather (!) which has meant more time indoors that I would usually have at this time of year. No matter, I have a delicious recipe for you this week, and one which I have been working on for a while. I hope you will be tempted to give it a try. The texture of the buns is light, soft and chewy and has a slight sweetness as well as a savoury nuttiness from adding sesame oil and topping with seeds.

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Steamed sesame bun texture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is one of the easiest gluten-free bread doughs to make and cook. The buns are very versatile and can be filled with anything you fancy – sweet or savoury. Leave the sesame oil and seeds out if you prefer – just replace the oil with your favourite vegetable oil instead. Enjoy them for a light lunch or supper, but eat them warm or hot as the fluffy, chewy texture is lost once the buns cool, although they can be quickly reheated in the microwave or steamer.

Makes: 4

Ingredients

  • 75g cornflour
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 50g white rice flour
  • 50g glutinous rice flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tsp sunflower oil
  • 125ml + 1 tbsp plant-based milk, slightly warm
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds or combination of white and black seeds

To serve:

  • Teriyaki asparagus and sprouting broccoli, rainbow salad and sesame mayonnaise – see below

1. Put the flours in a bowl and mix in the salt, sugar and baking powder until well blended. Mix in the yeast thoroughly.

2. Make a well in the centre and add the oils and gradually mix in 125ml milk to form a soft, but not sticky, ball of dough.

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Basic steamed bun dough ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Turn on to the work top and knead gently until smooth then put back in the bowl, cover with cling film or a clean, damp tea-towel and put in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours until well risen.

4. Divide into 4 equal pieces and shape each into a smooth, approx. 7cm round.

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Shaping the dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Cut a cross in the centre of each, about ½cm deep. Brush lightly with remaining milk and sprinkle the tops with seeds. Place on a lined tray, cover lightly with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about 40 minutes until risen.

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Finishing touches before steaming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Meanwhile, preheat your steamer or bring a saucepan of water to the boil and place a steaming compartment on top. Line the steamer with baking parchment or edible rice paper. Add the buns, cover and steam for about 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. The outside will be a little sticky Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes to firm up and dry before slicing with a serrated knife to fill. Best served warm.

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Cooking the buns. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The filling I chose for these buns was thin asparagus and sprouting broccoli stems stir fried in a little oil for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, add 1 tbsp gluten-free teriyaki sauce or soy sauce, cover and stand for 5 minutes.

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Asparagus and sprouting broccoli flavoured with teriyaki. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I also made a rainbow salad using my latest kitchen gadget which shreds vegetables into fine ribbon slices, but you can grate the vegetables just as easily. I combined carrot, radish and cucumber and added a few chopped home-grown chives.

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Rainbow salad vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And, for a finishing touch, I flavoured readymade vegan mayonnaise with a few drops of sesame oil and some teriyaki sauce. Perfect 🙂

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Dressed and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. Until my next post, take care and keep safe.

Cherry Bakewell tart (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Cherry Bakewell tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I sit down to write my post this week, I am looking out on a sunny garden, with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. This has been a rare sight this month. Here we are in the third week of May and the season feels like it is hardly shifting forward. In fact, at times it has felt that things were moving in retrograde with chilly strong winds, rain and grey skies.

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Classic almond-topped Bakewell tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Time to cheer myself up with a spot of baking, and a Bakewell tart always hits the spot. I was spurred on by the sight of newly set cherries on the espaliered Morello cherry tree in the garden. After another bumper blossoming, I was very happy to see lots of fruits forming. All my fussing around with fleece last month to protect the blossom from frost has paid off. Fingers crossed.

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This year’s blossom and newly formed fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I still have some of last year’s precious harvest in the freezer. Morello cherries have a tart, tangy flavour and make an ideal companion for the sweet, rich almondy sponge in a Bakewell tart. This time I kept the tart plain and simple with a classic topping of flaked almonds for a bit of crunch. A few weeks ago I made a slightly more indulgent version with extra cherries and pistachio nuts – options for either version below.

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2020 Morello harvest on ice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Use whatever cherries you have for this recipe; fresh, canned or frozen will work fine. Other berry fruits will work as well such as blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, or try a layer of cooked apple and pear. The classic version is to spread the pastry base with jam; I find this a little too sweet nowadays, but it’s down to personal taste. If you find almond extract too overpowering, replace it with vanilla for a more subtle flavour. If you don’t want the bother of making your own pastry, use 325g ready-made gluten-free shortcrust.

Serves: 8

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 60g white vegetable fat, softened
  • 55g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 230g gluten-free plain flour blend such as Dove’s Farm
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (not essential but it does make the pastry easier to work with and slightly crisper)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling and topping:

  • 30g ground linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 125g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 25g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract (use vanilla for a less almondy flavour)
  • 225g – 300g pitted cherries, thawed if frozen (or other prepared berries)
  • Flaked almonds or chopped pistachios to sprinkle
  1. First make the pastry. Beat together the fats until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the sugar until well blended. Add the remaining pastry ingredients and carefully stir everything together to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Bring the crumble together with your hands and knead gently to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. This pastry doesn’t firm up very much but it is easier to handle if you do refrigerate it before rolling out.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with more flour and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/2 cm – any thinner and the pastry tears easily. Transfer the pastry to a lightly greased 23cm loose-based fluted or plain flan tin, 3-4cm deep. You may find it easier to transfer the pastry in pieces and patch it together in the tin.
  4. Trim the edge to neaten the edge and then chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan, Gas 5. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or raw rice (or dry pulses). Bake for 15 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the beans and peel away the paper. Prick the base and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes to set the pastry all over. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas 4.
  6. While the pastry is cooking, make up the filling. Put the ground linseeds in a bowl and stir in 90ml cold water. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes until thickened. Mix together the margarine, sugar, almonds, flour and almond extract until well blended, then stir in the linseed paste, to make a smooth, creamy mixture.
  7. Spread 225g cherries over the base of the pastry case and smooth the almond mixture on top. For a very cherry version, gently push another 75g cherries into the almond mixture. Sprinkle with generously flaked almonds or pistachios and put the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1hr until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin before removing.
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Making Cherry Bakewell tart. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bakewell tart with extra cherries and chopped pistachios. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Classic Bakewell tart topped with crispy flaked almonds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I prefer to serve the tart at room temperature because I think it has more flavour, but it can be served warm as a pudding with cream or custard. I made a cherry sauce with the juices from the thawed cherries and a little fruit juice. Simply heated and thickened with cornflour. Any which way, this is bake is in my top 10 all-time favourite sweet treats.

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Bakewell tart with cherry sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

All the best for now. See you again in a couple of weeks. Take care and keep safe 🙂

April rhubarb – 2 easy recipes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Hello again. I hope you have been enjoying some good weather these past few days. At last we are enjoying frost-free nights and blue-sky days. Long may it last!

I have been able to pick my first few stalks of rhubarb. I didn’t force any plants this year, so I was delighted to find 5 stems ready for picking so early on in the season.

The week before this rhubarb was ready, I used up my last bag of frozen rhubarb from last summer. I combined it with some frozen ripe bananas I keep in the freezer for making loaf cakes and made a compote. It’s not the best-looking mixture you’ll come across but it tasted great. The sweetness of the banana helped to reduce the sugar content.

I put 450g frozen rhubarb in a saucepan with 230g frozen very ripe banana and cooked them over a low heat with the lid on for about 30 minutes until they had thawed and become very soft. Mix together until well combined. I added 4 tbsp white sugar gradually. Taste and sweeten in small amounts to keep sugar content to a minimum. Best eaten cold for maximum flavour – it makes a lovely breakfast bowl with homemade coconut granola and coconut yogurt. You could make this with fresh rhubarb and ripe bananas, and simply reduce the cooking time.

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Rhubarb and banana compote breakfast bowl. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My second recipe is something I cooked up using the new season’s rhubarb. It is made from a very simple combination of ingredients I had in the fridge and freezer, and is something I was able to put together quickly.

Roll out 300g gluten-free rough puff or puff pastry (or you can use shortcrust if you prefer) to an approximate 25cm square. Trim to neaten the edges, and then keep the trimmings for decoration. Knead and roll 150g natural marzipan to an oblong about 8cm wide and place down the middle of the pastry. Top with 200g chopped fresh rhubarb (cut into 3cm long pieces) and spoon over 100g raspberry jam.

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Rhubarb plait preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Cut about 10 strips either side of the rhubarb, brush with a little dairy-free milk and fold over the top of the fruit, pressing together gently to seal together. Press the pastry at both ends together in order to seal the marzipan and fruit within.

Transfer to a lined baking tray, brush all over with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk mixed with 1 tbsp maple syrup. Decorate with any trimmings and brush these before baking in a preheated oven at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and crisp. Best served warm. Serves: 6

That’s me for another week. I have a busy few days ahead of me now so it will next month before I get to post again. Until then, take care, keep safe, and enjoy the spring sunshine 🙂

Chocolate cake with an unlikely ingredient (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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One serious chocolate cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Easter! I hope the sun is shining where you are this holiday weekend. I had intended to post this feature a little ahead of the weekend but time has run away with me this week. Actually, to be completely honest, I was ready to post it yesterday until I realised what the date was, and given the unusual ingredient, I thought that my recipe might not be taken seriously. So, here we are at the end of the week, and I’m ready to reveal all 🙂

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Easter on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is one of the easiest chocolate cake batter recipes you will come across, so even if you don’t have the time to make the chocolate ganache and other finishing touches, do keep the cake batter recipe for trying at a later date with your own icing and decorations. What makes this cake batter a bit alternative is the addition of plain vegan mayonnaise. But, it’s not that weird an addition when you think about it, mayonnaise is just an amalgam of fat and liquid which are 2 of the main ingredients in a cake batter.

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The unlikely cake ingredient. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I must emphasise the word “plain”. Please do check the ingredient list for mustard and/or garlic or anything else highly flavoured i.e. choose a mayonnaise with the least amount of flavouring possible. Taste the mayonnaise before you add it to the other ingredients, just to make sure. If you’re not vegan, a plain egg-based mayonnaise will work as well. The same goes for anyone who is not gluten-free, you can use ordinary plain white wheat flour.

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A very chocolaty slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Because it’s Easter and I love marzipan, I have added an additional layer of chocolate marzipan before the ganache gets poured over, and I used some more to make the decorations. If you don’t like marzipan just pour the ganache directly over the cake, and decorate with readymade chocolate decorations. Or you add cocoa powder to ready-to-roll (fondant) white icing in the same way as in the recipe below, and use this to make flowers and eggs instead.

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Chocolate marzipan eggs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is deliciously rich, moist and flavoursome. It freezes well if you have any left. Once cut, it is best stored in the fridge or at a cool room temperature for up to 5 days. I hope you enjoy it.

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 140g gluten free plain flour blend
  • 65g cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
  • 17g gluten-free baking powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum (optional but it does help hold the crumb together)
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 190g plain vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g marzipan
  • 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam
  • 250g dairy free dark chocolate (I use 54% cocoa chocolate but use darker if preferred)
  • 125g plant-based block margarine

1. Grease and line a deep 20cm round tin. Put the flour, 50g cocoa, baking powder, xanthan gum and almonds in a bowl and mix together until well blended. Stir in the sugar, and crush any lumps.

2. Make a well in the centre, and add 175ml cold water and the mayonnaise, then beat everything together until smooth and thoroughly blended. Spoon into the tin, smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray.

3. Bake for about 1hr to 1hr 10 minutes until risen and firm to the touch – test the centre with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Leave for 10 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake may sink slightly in the middle. When the cake is cold, turn it upside down and peel away the lining paper.

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Chocolate cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the cake is cooling, make the marzipan. Knead the marzipan a few times to soften it. Flatten slightly then add 1tsp of the remaining cocoa powder. Fold the marzipan over the cocoa and keep kneading until the cocoa is distributed evenly in the marzipan. Repeat the process, adding the cocoa gradually, until it is used up.

5. Cut off a 75g piece and put to one side. Lightly dust the work top with more cocoa powder and roll out the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. I use the tin base as a template to cut out a neat circle.

6. Brush the cake with apricot jam and sit the marzipan circle on top. Any marzipan trimmings can be added to the reserved piece and used to make decorations.

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Chocolate marzipan preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. For the ganache, break up the chocolate and place in a saucepan with the margarine and 50ml water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together. Remove from the heat, stir well, then leave to cool for about 20-30 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken sufficiently so that it doesn’t run straight off the cake when you pour it over.

8. Once thickened, sit the cake and wire rack over a tray or board. Slowly pour the ganache over the top of the cake from the middle, in a thin stream. If you want a completely smooth finish, continue pouring so that the ganache floods down the sides of the cake to coat them. Alternatively, pour and spread for a more textured appearance. Any ganache that sets on the tray underneath can be scooped up and remelted.

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Chocolate ganache preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the cake is covered, the ganache will set quite firmly if chilled, then you can prise the cake from the rack. If you have a cool kitchen, leave the cake to set naturally; the ganache will be slightly softer and it will be easier to remove it from the rack. Make the decorations while the cake is setting and then all you have to do is decorate the cake, serve it up and take in all the praise 🙂

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Covering the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Have a good Easter break and see you again soon.

Crumpet-style pancakes with peanut filling and caramel coconut sauce (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Wedges of pancakes topped with banana, coconut and caramel sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well. It’s nearly Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day if you prefer. I often make pancakes, and at this time of year there is another excuse to make some more. I decided to venture into new territory this time, and have combined a plain pancake batter with a yeasted tea-time favourite, the crumpet. Very easy to make, you just need to get organised and make the batter up the day before so that the yeast can work away overnight in the fridge. I wish I could have come up with a more witty name for them but neither “pan-pet” nor “crump-cake” really did it for me 🙂

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Crumpet-pancake wedges. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I used a chopped salted peanut and sugar mix to fill the pancake, but you can add whatever you fancy. Chopped chocolate and coconut would work well, or even small berry fruits and a little jam. I have also included a recipe for a caramel coconut sauce which you may want to try. Otherwise a chocolate or fruit sauce would be an equally delicious choice to serve with your pancake.

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Chopped salted roast peanuts and sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Time for the recipe. Just remember that you need to make the batter the day before you want to serve the pancakes.

Makes: 4 wedges

Ingredients

  • 125g gluten-free self raising flour
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum (I add this to give a more chewy texture; the pancake will be softer without it)
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast (This is the yeast that requires no activation and is added to the dry ingredients before liquid is added.
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 250ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp cold water)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil plus extra for frying
  • 75g chopped salted roasted peanuts + extra to serve

For the caramel coconut sauce:

  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 20g dairy-free margarine
  • 90ml coconut milk (If you don’t want the coconut flavour, use a dairy-free pouring cream instead)
  • ½ tsp salt or 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Sift the flour and xanthan gum into a bowl. Stir in the yeast and 2 tbsp sugar. Make a well in the centre and gradually blend in the milk, flax egg and 1 tbsp oil to make smooth, thick batter. Cover with film and put in the fridge overnight.

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Making the batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. The next day, remove the batter from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for about an hour or until bubbles form on the surface.

3. Brush a 25cm base diameter frying pan lightly with a little oil and heat until hot. Stir the batter and then pour it into the hot pan. Reduce the heat to medium/low, spread the batter to the edge of the pan and a little up the sides, and cook gently for 6-7 minutes until bubbles appear and the top begins to set.

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Cooking the batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Mix the peanuts with the remaining sugar and sprinkle over one half of the batter. Cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pancake is completely set and the bottom is crisp and richly golden.

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Filling and final cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Carefully flip the plain side of the pancake over the peanuts and slide on to a board. Slice into 4 wedges and serve while still warm with your chosen toppings and sauces. I served mine with sliced banana, toasted coconut flakes and extra chopped peanuts.

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Folded and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you fancy making your own caramel coconut sauce to go with the pancake. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until everything has melted together, then raise the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes until thick and slightly caramelised. Leave to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve hot or cold, flavoured with salt or vanilla.

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Making caramel coconut sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Salty-sweet, nutty and delicious. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead, and enjoy making and eating pancakes. Until then, take care and keep safe.