Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lemon Whatevers

Unlike some who share my need to steer clear of gluten and dairy, I would rather simply go without baked fare, rather than subject my tastebuds to the various bread and cake concoctions which now nestle on our shop shelves. Those I have tasted seem simply dry, as heavy as a sumo wrestler and about as visually appealing. And have you seen the amount of preservatives and other strange additional ingredients which are necessary to make these goods palatable? Baking is a precise artform and so why mess with time tested recipes? No, it is enough for me to create cupcakes for others and to take the pleasure in the measuring, creaming and icing. To smell freshly baked baguettes whilst buying my coffee. Until today.

Perhaps it was the sunshine, the satisfying fug of the cake baked for friends or the realisation that life is too short to agonise over the thought of eating a few extra calories. Whatever the reason, temptation stretched its talons and firmly gripped me. Surely it is possible to make something approaching tasty with alternative ingredients?

I consulted various websites and finally opted for Gluten Free Girl. Her lemon oil cookies seemed harmless enough (and not overly calorific) and so I started converting US measurements, adapting ingredients to my taste and threw a few in of my own. Rather than cookies however, the ensuing mixture was more akin to that of a cake or muffin batter, and so I poured it into individual cake cases. Are they a biscuit? A cake? Of that, I'm not sure. The ground almonds ensure a frangipane like taste and moist texture and the lemon essence masks the strange taste I simply can't get used to of soya flour. I'm not sure that I'll be making these every week (my hips will be very glad of that statement), however more of them may end up in my stomach as opposed to the bin, than I had anticipated. So here they are. Biscuit/cake/Lemon Whatevers.

Lemon Whatevers

4tbsp soya yogurt

4tbsp olive oil

slug lemon essence (or limoncello)

rind and juice of 1 lemon

1 egg, beaten

360g rice flour

120g gram flour

240g ground almonds

240g golden caster sugar

1tsp gluten free baking powder

handful or so of dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 180C / gas 4.

Measure the yogurt and oil into a bowl and mix to combine. Add the egg, lemon rind, juice and essence. Mix well.

Combine all the dry ingredients and fold into the wet ones until combined, adding the cherries towards the end.

Spoon into cake cases and bake for approximately 20 minutes until set.

Rest for five minutes in the tin then remove onto a wire rack to cook.

Bite, chew and swallow - along with any preconceptions about alternative baked goodies.

Apples & Blackberries - Technology in a Cake

It is strange to think that for people born from 1990 onwards, their immediate thought when faced with the words 'apple' and 'blackberry' will most likely be of the latest ipod or mac and mobile communication device, rather than a shiny, crisp fruit and a cluster of tart berries.

I am somewhat of a techno phobe however an increase of time on the road forced me to join the 21st century and to succomb to the allures of the latest BlackBerry (free of charge I hasten to add thanks to hard bargaining). That was a month ago. I've dabbled with trying to make it pick up emails but each attempt has left the air blue and, on one occassion, witnessed me hurling the blessed device across the room.

So, when invited over to my lovely friends for Sunday lunch (one of whom just happens to be the rising star of the BBC on all things techie), I seized the opportunity to seek advice on the rotten handset. As a rather apt thank you, and contribution to lunch, I decided to make a cake on a vague techno theme - an apple and blackberry cake. With nuts. Because that's what the whole damned thing is slowly driving me.

Apple, Blackberry & Pecan Cake

150g unsalted butter, softened

150g light brown muscovado sugar, plus a handful

150g self-raising sugar

1tsp ground cinnamon

3 eggs, beaten

2tbsp milk

2 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

100g pecan nuts, chopped

100g blackberries

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / gas 4. Grease an 8'/20cm cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the cinnamon to the flour then add a spoon of flour and a little of the egg to the creamed sugar and stir to combine. Repeat until egg and flour are all incorporated. Add the milk and stir.

Add the apple to the mixture (but save one handful) with the pecans and blackberries. Stir well.

Pour into the cake tin and level with a spatula. Scatter over the remaining apple and then sprinkle over a good handful of sugar (this makes a lovely glaze and fruity topping to the cake).

Bake in the oven for around 1hour (until a skewer can be inserted and comes out clean).

Slices were served after my friend's delicious lamb with dollops of creme fraiche. A bit of a success. Unlike the BlackBerry which is still a rather glamorous phone.

Apples and blackberries? They may work for some but I'll stick to communicating through my favourite medium. Food.