Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Gluten-free Pumpkin and Cinnamon Gravestone Cake

The nights are drawing creepily in, threatening us like the sinister shadow of a black cat over a dormouse.  You can’t move for the giant pumpkins (both real and fake) in supermarkets, green grocers and on peoples’ doorsteps and the shops are filled with revolting coloured sweets and plastic spiders. All this can only mean one thing: Halloween is here again.

I wanted to make a Halloween cake that was trick-, but not treat-free. This cake requires no fancy decorating equipment and you can buy everything you need from most supermarkets. In fact, this cake is so easy, it doesn’t even require the use of an electric hand whisk, which will leave you with ample time to paint your face green and slink into your best Grotbags costume (just me?).  

This is a simple loaf cake, spread with cinnamon buttercream and covered in green sugarpaste (roll out fondant). You can dye white icing, but some supermarkets are stocking black, orange, red and green ready-dyed especially for Halloween. The railings are made with thin sausages of black sugarpaste, but you can use liquorice if you prefer. The disturbed earth is made from gluten-free biscuits, crushed and mixed with cocoa and melted butter. The only vaguely specialist equipment I used was a liquorice pen (like an edible felt tip) for the gravestone, but you can simply etch the words on with a cake skewer.

As it’s Halloween, what can be more festive than a pumpkin cake? Granted, you can opt for more gruesome-looking cakes - perhaps a bright red velvet filled with raspberry coulis, so it looks like it’s bleeding when cut – but I wanted to steer clear of blood and guts this year and go for gently macabre instead. Besides, I know from bitter experience that if I give my nephews and niece too many E-numbers in one go, they’ll be bouncing off the walls for the rest of the afternoon.

Popular culture has been rammed full of the undead for the last decade or so, thanks I’m sure, in part, to Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In homage to the growing number of corpses waking up in the middle of the night to push their fists through the earth under which they’ve been buried, I decided to make a gravestone cake this year featuring the hand of someone whose consciousness, if not their pulse, has shown renewed signs of life. I can’t say I’ll never go back to the blood and guts of Halloweens past, but for this year at least, I’m leaving the fake blood in my decorating drawer.

Gluten-free Pumpkin and Cinnamon Cake 

Preheat the oven to 150°C (135°C fan)/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment

For the cake

3 medium eggs, beaten
200ml sunflower oil
300g light muscovado sugar
375g grated peeled pumpkin (it’s easiest to do this using a food processor with a grater blade)
The zest of 1 large orange
265g rice flour
1 tsp. GF baking powder
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt

For the buttercream

75g soft, unsalted butter
150g icing sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
A splash of milk if needed

For the soil

6 gluten-free digestive biscuits
1 level tbsp. cocoa, sifted
25g butter, melted

To make the cake, simply whisk together the sugar, oil and eggs thoroughly until the mixture is thick (a balloon whisk is fine, no need to plug in the electric hand whisk). Add the remaining ingredients and fold in until fully combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in its tin on top of a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, simply whisk the butter until very soft and sift over half of the icing sugar. Whisk again to combine, before sifting the remaining icing sugar and cinnamon over the top. Add the vanilla and whisk again, adding a splash of milk to slacken the mixture if necessary. Spread the buttercream over the cold, turned out cake.

To make the soil, simply bash or blitz the digestives and add the melted butter and cocoa and mix together. Cool and set aside until needed.

Roll out approximately 500g of grass green sugarpaste (you can buy it ready-dyed or dye white sugarpaste yourself) and cover the cake, smoothing down the sides with your hands.

Roll thin sausages of black sugarpaste and attach them all around the sides of the cake using cooled boiled water or vodka. Next, melt 5 squares of dark chocolate and paint a long rectangle along the middle of the cake with a pastry brush. Stick the soil to the melted chocolate to form a muddy bed.

Mix together some black and white sugarpaste to make grey, and form it into the shape of a tombstone. Write or etch whatever you like on the stone. Break off two short pieces of r
aw gluten-free spaghetti (or you can use cocktail sticks) and insert them halfway into the base of the tombstone. Push the ends of the spaghetti into the cake to fix the tombstone in place.

Make a small amount of flesh coloured sugarpaste (you can buy it ready-dyed or dye it yourself with a mix of mostly pink plus a tiny dash of yellow). Form it into the shape of a hand and wrist. You can use a cocktail stick to scratch on knuckles and make indentations for fingernails. Place another small piece of spaghetti into the wrist of your hand and push the other end of the spaghetti into the cake. Rub the hand with a few bits of the soil to make it look realistically grubby. Voila! Happy Halloween!

Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea

I am joining forces with the marvellous Milli from Milli's Kitchen to host a very special Afternoon Tea Pop-Up.

Allow yourself to fall down the rabbit hole into the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You will eat your way through a colourful feast of sweet and savoury bakes, inspired by the magical world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While enjoying stunning views of the river, you can sip on a glass of bubbles and indulge in such delights as the Queen of Heart’s jam tarts, caterpillars on toadstools and The White Rabbit's pocket watch. There will be enough free-flowing tea and cake to ensure you leave our doors grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Book your places now, or risk being late for a very important date.



Finger sandwiches:

Organic egg and cress

Smoked salmon, lemon and dill

Cucumber, cream cheese and mint

Ham, baby leaf and mustard

Plus a selection of savoury tarts.

Sweet Treats

We want to leave a few surprises for you on the day, but to give you a glimpse of what's in store, we can reveal that the sweet menu will include:

Vanilla bean 'playing card' sable biscuits

Cheshire Cat mousse (Blueberry and raspberry)

Chocolate brownie 'Top hats'

£25 per head including a glass of bubbly.

12% will go to the MS Society

We are happy to cater for gluten-free guests on request. 

Menus are subject to change without prior notice.

We can't wait to welcome you to the party!

Victoria and Milli xx

To book, please email info@milliscatering.co.uk
There are 4 sittings, please state which you would like to come to.
Saturday 9th November 12-2pm or 4-6pm
Sunday 10th November 12-2pm or 4-6pm

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Gluten-free Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies are so simple to make. Once the dough is made, you can bake all of your cookies at once or pop the raw dough in a bowl and cover it with cling film to make a few every now and then over the week. It feels like a particularly good time of year to have cookie dough in the fridge, with this capricious weather we’re having, I haven’t known whether to sport some summer sandals or wrap up in a winter coat. With all this change, it’s comforting to have the predictability of a quick sweet treat waiting for you in the fridge when you get home. They take less than a quarter of an hour to bake, so you can be curled up on the sofa with warm cookies and a glass of cold milk in no time.

Sweet and salty make perfect partners - just think salted caramel or bacon with pancakes and maple syrup – which is why peanut butter and chocolate together is such a winning combination. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups first hit US shelves in 1928 and our transatlantic friends haven’t looked back since. It’s taken us a little longer on this side of the pond to catch on, but now that we have, peanut butter and chocolate has become a firm UK favourite too.

Chocolate chip cookies are a personal favourite of mine, especially with a good sprinkling of sea salt. There is something so deeply satisfying about a soft, buttery crumb with a slightly chewy centre. This time I thought I’d up the saltiness by adding a generous couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter. And, as ever, I refuse to allow gluten dodging to affect the enjoyment of any food, so I have used rice flour and xanthan gum in these. If you prefer to use wheat flour, simply swap the rice flour for self-raising and leave out the xanthan gum and baking powder.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes approximately 20

200g soft butter
50g smooth peanut butter
75g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
250g rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp. salt
175g dark chocolate chips

Line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until just combined. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Sift over the rice flour, xanthan gum, salt and bicarbonate of soda and then mix in. Fold in the chocolate chips. Although you can bake them straight away, the cookies taste better if you chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours first.

Roll the cookie dough with your hands into golf ball sized rounds and space them well apart on the prepared baking trays. Slightly flatten each ball with a palette knife.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until slightly golden. Transfer them on to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Gluten-free Chocolate Fondants

The humble chocolate fondant has gained itself something of a reputation. This culinary sword of a pud has sliced through the dreams of more Masterchef hopefuls than you can shake a spatula at, meaning only the brave now attempt them at home. But, I’m here to tell you to forget all images of Gregg Wallace slapping his shiny pate in disappointment, or John Torode smugly berating the death of another gooey middle, because it’s time to put your pinny on and man up for Chocolate Week. 

Rich, melting and indulgent, these modest beauties will render your guests speechless in gratitude. You can adorn their tops with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of clotted cream, but I prefer to eat them au naturel. If you find dark chocolate a little too intense for your palate, you can substitute half for milk for a creamier result. Or, for the little ones in your life, why not try using all milk chocolate for a nursery sweet version of this pudding. Another delicious variation is to freeze salted caramel in an ice cube tray and push one into the centre of each pudding for an even saucier centre. 

Breaking the outer shell to reveal the molten middle is a truly seductive pleasure. In fact, chocolate has long been revered for its apparent aphrodisiac qualities. Perhaps it’s down to the way it melts, gently, on your tongue or perhaps it’s down to the chemical anandamide, a cannabinoid neurotransmitter, which unleashes feelings of bliss similar to the effects of cannabis (ooh, I say!). Luckily for us, the high we get from chocolate fondants is entirely legal, so we can tuck in without fear of recrimination from anyone. Except, perhaps, the bathroom scales, if you indulge too often.

Fondants contain a very minimal amount of flour anyway and, as far as I’m concerned, taste exactly the same if you use wheat flour or gluten-free. I’ve used rice flour in this recipe, as it is a personal favourite for baking thanks to its fine texture and slightly sweet taste, but you can use any gluten-free blend you prefer, or even just sifted cocoa, if you want to crank up the anandamide effects further. But however you decide to make them, make them you certainly should.

Chocolate fondants, or FONDONTS if you’re Gregg Wallace, really are a doddle to make. As long as you preheat your oven and get the timing right, there’s very little that can go wrong. Strangely, despite the graveyard of overcooked fondants on Masterchef, as far as fondant mistakes go, I think it’s easier to under-bake them than over-. If that happens, you can simply pop them back in for a minute or two, but, as long as the goo is hot, I don’t think a little extra lava in your middle will offend anyone. If you’re not brave enough to turn them out, then simply serve them straight from the ramekin for a more homely, rustic result.

Gluten-free Chocolate Fondants

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/390°F/Gas Mark 6. Grease 6 ramekins with butter and generously dust with cocoa, tapping out any excess. Pop your prepared ramekins in the fridge until needed.

125g dark chocolate
125g unsalted butter
2 medium eggs, plus 2 medium egg yolks
100g caster sugar
40g rice flour
½ tsp. salt

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water. Once completely melted, set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick and the drips from the lifted beaters leave a slowly disappearing ribbon trail in the bowl. Sift over the rice flour and use a large metal spoon to fold it into the egg mixture. Next, pour in the cooled chocolate and butter and fold in with the salt using a large metal spoon. Be careful not to knock all the air out of the mixture.

Take the ramekins out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them (they should be filled to just shy of the top). Pop them on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto plates or serve straight from the ramekins. Happy Chocolate Week!