Tutti frutti semifreddo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Easter dessert. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a  dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).

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Iced tutti frutti loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.

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Easter semifreddo ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of semifreddo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do:

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
  • 600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
  • 150g vegan mincemeat
  • 100g glacé cherries, chopped
  • 25g pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
  • Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
  1. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.

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    Cling film lined load tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
  3. Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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    Freezing semifreddo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂

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    Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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For Easter, baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

How I love a good cheesecake. But, with regret,  it is a dessert that has been off my menu for quite a while due to my intolerance to most dairy products. Over the years, I have been experimenting with different combinations of ingredients but with little success. However,  recently I revisited a much-loved, traditional cheesecake recipe, and I think I have achieved a perfect balance between flavour and texture. So at last, I am able to make a cheesecake entirely without cheese and eggs, and this classic dessert is very much back in my life 🙂

My culinary discovery is perfect timing for the Easter holidays. I have given my recipe a seasonal twist by adding lots of zesty lemon flavour and a subtle nuttiness from pistachios although almonds work just as well if you prefer. If nuts aren’t your thing, leave them out altogether and replace them with another 25g gluten-free flour.

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My no dairy, no eggs baked cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You will need a deep tin for this recipe as there is a lot of mixture to start with. Once the cheesecake is baked, it does sink down, but you do need the initial volume of mixture to make a deliciously, deep slice with a firm, dense texture. I prefer to use a spring-clip cake tin because there is less chance of damaging the bake as you take it out of the tin, but it isn’t essential. It is more important to make sure you have a depth of at least 7cm so that you can use all the mixture.

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Spring-clip cake tin ready for cheesecake mixture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

For the pistachio base:

  • 50g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 50g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g ground, shelled pistachio nuts
  • ½ teasp good quality almond extract
  • Natural green food colour gel (optional)

For the lemon cheesecake:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 60g silken tofu
  • 350g free-from vegan soft cheese
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 35g cornflour (if you prefer a softer, more mousse-like texture, use 25g)
  • Natural yellow food colour gel (optional)
  • Approx. 150ml white bean canning liquid (this is the approximate proportion of canning liquid in a standard sized can)
  • 50g sultanas

To decorate and serve:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 25g chopped, shelled pistachio nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas 3). Grease and line a 7cm deep, 18cm diameter spring-clip cake tin. Put all the ingredients for the pistachio base in a bowl and blend together using an electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Spread over the base of the tin and put to one side (you don’t need to cook this layer on its own).
  2. For the cheesecake, whisk the sugar and tofu together until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the vegan soft cheese, lemon rind and juice, and cornflour until smooth and well combined. Add a few drops of food colouring if using.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the canning liquid until thick and foamy, and then gradually fold into the cheese mixture until well combined but trying to retain as much of the airy-foam texture as possible.
  4. Gently stir in the sultanas and pour the cheesecake mixture over the uncooked pistachio base. The tin will be very full. Carefully transfer to a baking tray and bake for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and crusty – the cheesecake should still wobble a bit in the middle.
  5. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and allow the cheesecake to cool completely – it will shrink as it cools. Once the cheesecake is cold, carefully remove it from the tin and place on a  serving plate or cake stand. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

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Preparing the lemon decoration and syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the decoration:

  • Thinly peel the rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin strips. Pour 150ml water into small saucepan, bring to the boil, add the lemon rind and cook for 1 minute. Drain, reserving the liquid, and leave the rind to cool.
  • Extract the juice from the peeled lemon. Return the cooking liquid to the saucepan, pour in the lemon juice and stir in the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced by half.
  • Transfer to a heatproof jug and leave to cool. When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, scatter the top with the cooked lemon rind and the pistachios. Serve the syrup as a pouring sauce.
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A slice of baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake with lemon syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you all have a lovely Easter holiday, and that the sun shines for at least some of the time. See you next week as usual 🙂

Happy_Easter_greeting

 

Chai masala biscuits for Easter (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Marzipan-topped chai masala biscuits for Easter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rich, short, lightly fruited biscuits with a hint of spice, this is a spring bake that takes me back to my childhood. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without them. Traditionally the biscuits are dusted with white sugar before baking to give them a crusty top, but I love marzipan and it makes a delicious topping for these biscuits. Using a chai masala mix instead of the usual ground spice blends adds a delicate citrus note to the flavour. I think this Indian spice mix tastes lighter and more fragrant than the more familiar blends used in baking.

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Ready blended chai masala mix. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can buy ready mixed chai masala for putting in your bakes (or tea!) (Steenbergs organic chai masala), but if you have selection of traditional spices, it is easy enough to put together your own blend. Making your own means that you can experiment by adding more of your favourite spice to personalise your mix.

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Whole spices: root ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and cardamom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To make your own chai masala, mix together 4 level teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 level teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 level teaspoon ground ginger and ½ level teaspoon each ground nutmeg, ground cloves and finely ground black pepper. As with all spices, store in a sealed jar out of direct sunlight, in a cool, dry place. I keep small vitamin supplement jars for keeping spice mixes in as the glass is often brown or dark green, and so perfect for keeping out the light. Make up the blend in small batches  to insure fresh flavour every time you use it. Chai masala can be used in any recipe where a ground mixed spice is called for.

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Blending together ground spices for chai masala. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s the recipe for my Easter biscuits.

Makes: 14

  • 100g vegan margarine, softened (use butter if you prefer)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp non dairy milk
  • 200g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 1 ½ to 2 tsp chai masala
  • 65g mixed currants and chopped cranberries
  1. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Put the margarine  and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Whisk in the milk.
  2. Sift the flour and spice on top and add the fruit. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined, then bring the mixture together with your hands to make a softish dough.
  3. Dust the work surface with flour and knead the dough gently until smooth. Roll out thinly to a thickness of approx. ½ cm. Using a 7cm crinkle-edge round cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Arrange the rounds on the baking trays, spaced a little apart. Prick with a fork, and chill for 30 minutes.

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    Preparation of the biscuit dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes until lightly golden round the edges. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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    Freshly baked chai spiced Easter biscuits. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. The biscuits are delicious left plain but if you are a marzipan fan, dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out 200g marzipan thinly. Using a 6cm diameter crinkle-edged cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Brush each biscuit with a little smooth apricot jam and secure a marzipan disc on top of each. Score the marzipan with a knife and lightly toast the tops with a cook’s blow-torch if liked. Happy Easter eatings!

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Marzipan-topped Easter biscuits. Image: Kathryn Hawkins