Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Spiced Sultana Scones (Gluten Free)

How long does it take me to write a blog post? Ages normally but for this one I have to be quick. Have to be. It's late, I didn't get to write this at the weekend and I've already missed out on one of my favourite blogging challenges this month due to lack of time which I'm absolutely gutted about. Frustration overload I say. The next time you feel frustrated in any way I suggest you make these scones and sit down with a cup of tea like my housemate and I did. 

For Lauren's Christmas present I promised her one batch each of biscuits, scones and a traybake. She hasn't had a scone since being diagnosed as a coeliac over two years ago but loves them so was so happy when these came out of the oven and I finally shouted 'scone time'. I wasn't sure how the scone dough would hold up being gluten free but it behaved perfectly. If you have trouble bringing scone dough together and keeping handling to a minimum I'd suggest making a gluten free version because you can handle and kneed it a little more seeing as there is no gluten to develop and toughen the end result. I kid you not when I say that Lauren said they smelled of heaven. That embarrasses me somewhat but in a lovely way.

Studded with sultanas and laced with mixed spice, I could not tell that they were gluten free at all. They weren't crumbly or dry and they rose beautifully. I used cream instead of milk as a little indulgence and it was the perfect chance to use some up that had been sitting in the fridge for a while after making caramel. Neither were they cakey. Nope, they were a true scone and I'm going to leave it at that.

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Spiced Sultana Scones (Gluten Free)
A gluten free scone with the additions of mixed spice and plump sultanas. Soak the fruit in tea or juice for extra flavour if you like.
  • 250g gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 2tsp xanthan gum
  • 50g butter, diced
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8-10 tbsp double cream
  • 50g sultanas
  • 2 generous tsp mixed spice
1. Preheat the oven to 220 C/200 C fan. Line a baking tray with baking paper.2. Sift the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and spice into a bowl and rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and sultanas.3. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Mix together with enough cream to give a soft but not sticky dough. Kneed a few times to bring it together properly then roll out on a floured surface to around 1" thick and use a cutter (about 2" diameter) to cut out the scones. Bring the scraps together and repeat until you have around 8 scones on your baking sheet.4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 mins until nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack or enjoy warm..

The first challenge I'm sharing these with is Calendar Cakes, this month hosted by Rachel from Dollybakes but shared with Laura from Laura Loves Cakes. The theme is 'if it makes you happy' and these definitely made my housemate happy and me too when I saw the look on her face at the first bite.
I'm ever so grateful for Janie at the Hedge Combers for setting the theme of Tea Time Treats as 'eggs'. There is only one egg in these but t still counts! Karen is the other half of Tea Time Treats over at Lavender and Lovage.

Lastly, seeing as I used up some cream which I had no idea what to do with otherwise as it had been in the fridge for ages, I'm sharing these with Elizabeth's No Waste Food Challenge. It was a relief to find something to use the cream in because I hate throwing stuff out.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Chocolate Chilli Pie

Eight days!! Too long for comfort that is but never mind because it's pie time.

My first experience of chocolate and chilli was when my brother handed me a sqaure of Lindt chocolate and asked me to guess what was in it. Our mother had guessed straight away but I couldn't figure it - all I knew was that the chocolate was really  nice and the other square I was supposed to be saving for Dad got a bit smaller. Since then I've wanted to do something else with the flavours but haven't really had the opportunity besides sampling more of the chocolate. You know, just to make sure I still liked each new bar. I've seen several cake recipes, one of which I've got in mind for when the occasion arises but until then, I'm glad I got the excuse to try chocolate chilli con carne. And to put it in a pie. I love pies. So healthy  I am.

I had intended to write a bit about the science behind pastry because I want to put more baking science into my posts but today I am far too giddy about the caramel brownies that I made earlier (coming soon!) for the words to flow in any sort of sensible order so I'll have to save it for another time. I also need to apologise for the awful photos. When you have been looking forward to your dinner all day, the last thing you want to do is mess about trying to get a good photo while it goes cold. Instead I'm just going to have to describe to you and hope you believe me that it was delicious and I want to make it again.

This picture doesn't do the chilli filling any justice. The chocolate mixing with the tomatoes makes it a rich, dark red brown. This shows a better colour when I had it with rice and yes, a blob of Philadelphia. You should try it. It's a bit like adding a spoonful of yorghurt or sour cream to soup but better.

So the flavour. Hearty spices create a warming dish right from the very first mouthful. The gentle dance of flames on the tongue makes you want to inhale the rest. The chocolate adds a depth of flavour that makes you realise what you have been missing. And then the pastry. Light and short, buttery and luxurious. Janine from Cake of the Week mentioned in this post here that if you replace some of the pastry water with alcohol it makes it extra flaky so I gave it a go in this dish. I was really pleased with the pastry though I'm usually pretty happy with my shortcrust pastry anyway so I'm not sure it was the possibility of some skills on my part or the whisky I added! Whichever, it imparted a lovely flavour so I'll be trying it again. I did wonder if whisky in the chilli itself would be good too mind.....

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Chocolate Chilli Pie
A deliciously warming chilli encased in a shortcrust pastry with a hint of whisky. Use your favourite chilli recipe and add a little dark chocolate for extra depth.
  • 1 portion of your favourite chilli
  • 1 square (or to taste) 70% chocolate, finely grated
  • 3oz plain flour
  • 1.5oz chilled butter
  • Splash of whisky
1. I must stress that you should use your favourite chilli recipe for this. Some people like it really hot, some like just chilli powder in it and some use a mix of chilli powder and other herbs. Go with what you like an drain off any excess fluid. We want to avoid soggy bottoms here. Mix in the grated chocolate and set aside.2. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add enough whisky to bind the dough together so it is soft but not sticky. 3. Bring the pastry together into a ball and roll out 2/3 of it on a lightly floured surface. Line an individual pie dish and fill with the chilli. Roll out the remaing 1/3 of pastry, damp the edges of the pie with water and cover the top, pressing down around the eges to seal. Trim the excess pastry and crimp the edges. Add a steam hole in the top and glaze if you wish. Either chill until ready to bake, then bring to room temperature while preheating the oven or leave in a cool place while the oven is heating to 200 C/180 C fan with a baking tray inside (this helps to cook the base).4. Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 mins until the pastry is goden brown and the filling is piping hot. Enjoy.
As I have never used chocolate in a savoury dish before I'm entering this into We Should Cocoa, run by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog and this month hosted by Linzi from Lancashire Food. Linzi has chosen the theme of 'New Ingredient' and chilli is my new ingredient combination with chocolate. Finally I can say I've used such a popular combination myself. 

I've already mentioned Janine from Cake of the Week but I neglected to say that she runs the challenge Baking with Spirt. This month the theme is frugal recipes using alcohol and I think this one fits because it only uses a little in the pastry so would be good for using up the last bit in the bottle.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Ginger Iced Shortbread

A week. A whole WEEK!!! It makes me sad that I've not been able to write a post for a whole week but that is what being back on placement at university does for you. I couldn't have lasted much longer though and after two savoury recipes I've got something sweet for you today. Mum made some of this as part of her Christmas baking but I wanted to have a go myself because it really is a very nice alternative to good old plain shortbread. It's still really simple and quick to mix together and the icing is a doddle too.

A buttery base flecked with shreds of stem ginger crumbles to rich perfection beneath a smooth, melting fudgey icing. The heat can be ramped up as desired - the recipe can take that extra spoonful of ground ginger here or there and maybe even an extra ball of stem ginger chopped instead of grated if you like little nuggets of spice revealed here and there. Shortbread, and even its variations is simplicity itself. Short and sweet, just like its name. It makes me glad I gave it a go. I feel an intense, fiery version will be coming along at some point, as is my way.

Now for a little bit of science. I wanted a more in depth knowledge of the blooming of chocolate so I flicked through my 'How Baking Works' and I ended up flipping onto other things too. Feel free to correct me if I haven't go this quite right (I'm always willing to learn, it's a necessity in science) but I couldn't resist putting a little bit of it in here. I've gone far too long without slipping in some baking science so now I'm going to give it a go. Feel free to skip to the recipe if this bores you! 

One of several things that gives structure in baked goods is the gluten from wheat flour. Gluten forms upon addition of water from the proteins glutenin and gliadin, the former providing strength, the latter the ability to stretch and bounce back. Gluten is one of those substances like pectin that isn't fully understood because it isn't uniform across all occurrences which makes it more difficult to study. A general concept is that chains of strongly linked glutenin units loop up adding to stretchiness then these are insterspersed with the coiled gliadin units. A mixture of strong and weak bonds form between gluten but other ingredients interact and indeed interfere with these aggregates. Fats, or more specifically butter in the case of shortbread, do this by coating the glutenin and gliadin prevents the absorption of water and so the bonds cannot as readily form which allow gluten to develop. This results in the product being 'tender' or crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth delicious - it only has short gluten strands hence shortbread. Sugar is also a tenderiser because it is hygroscopic i.e. it absorbs water, the water source in shortbread being the butter. This means less is available for the glutenin and gliain to form gluten and so the structure is less developed. Simple? On a base level definitely. Try drawing out the protein molecules and you will very quckly give yourself a headahe. It's really interesting though. Or maybe I'm just a nosey parker and like to know the reasons behind everything. Now then - recipe time!

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Ginger Iced Shortbread
A warming gingery treat for the winter months or even any time of year when you fancy a bit of delicious shortbread.
For the base:
  • 4oz softened butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1 ball stem ginger, grated
  • 1oz semolina
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 2 generous tsp ground ginger
For the icing:
  • 0.5 generous tbsp golden syrup
  • 0.5 tbsp stem ginnger syrup
  • 2oz butter
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 or two rounded tsp ground ginger
1. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan and grease an 8" square tin. Beat the butter until creamy then beat in the sugar followed by the grated ginger. Mix in the ginger, semolina and flour, bringing the dough together into a ball without overworking it.2. Press the dough into the tin and smooth out until level. Bake in the preheated oven for around 30 mins until slightly browned around the edges, reducing the temperature if it bubbles up too much. Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the icing.3. Melt the butter and syrups together in the microwave. Mix in the icing sugar and ginger and beat well, then pour onto the shortbread fresh from the oven. Leave to cool and set on a wire rack then slice and serve.

As these shortbread biscuits contain spices I'm entering them into my own Biscuit Barrel challenge. I've set the theme this month as spices because I thought most people could do with a little extra warmth in this cold month. What's more, ginger biscuits of any sort go perfectly with a hot cup of tea which is exactly what I enjoyed one with earlier while attempting to work on an assignment.

As shortbread is egg-free it lends itself to this months Treat Petite, a collaboration between Kat from the Baking Explorer and Stuart from Cakeyboi. Kat is hosting this month and the theme is 'free from'. Eggs are needed for so many cakes, biscuits, cookies and all sorts of other things but luckily those with an egg allergy can still enjoy shortbread!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Chicken and Bacon Pearl Barley Bake

If you are wondering why I have published two savoury recipes in a row, don't worry, I haven't lost my sweet teeth. The reason is simply that we still have a ridiculous amount of goodies from Christmas so baking doesn't need to be done. Yes, it is killing me, especially now that my homemade vanilla extract is now ready to be used, so I've had to experiment with dinners instead. A large part of me wishes I had lost my insatiable craving for sugar because I don't have the will power to curb it the normal way. Alas, it doesn't seem to be lessening anytime soon and with me there is no such thing as a sweetness overload. Just about the only thing I don't like sugar mixed into is tea and cereal. 

So this dinner. It is very similar to the Turkey, Ham and Veg Baked Risotto that was my last recipe. Howverm apart from the pearl barley replacing the rice, there is one key difference. This sauce. All credit goes to Lindsay from Pinch of Yum for this. She is entirely right, you do want to eat it straight from the blender. I may have done that with a few spoonfuls. Just for quality control purposes you understand. It tastes divine. Rich, indulgent, decadent and completely, 100% guilt free. The reason? It is made from cauliflower. Seriously. Yes, if you have sensitive tastes buds you can tell but I promise you, you will be concentrating more on the creaminess than anything else. No word of a lie.

I'm pretty sure the possibilities for this sauce are endless. Lindsay thought so too which is why she has written an ebook full of recipes using it. Many, many experiments will be performed using this sauce I predict and I'll be sure to let you know the results. In this meal I paired it with leftover roast chicken, bacon, semi-caramelised onions (I was too lazy to wait for full caramelisation), carrots, sprouts and pearl barley, the latter being somehting else I haven't tried before but am now loving. The crumby topping is actually crushed Ryvita. I got funny looks from both by parents when I told them but I didn't want to use crushed Pringles as I thought the salt would ruin the flavour. The Ryvita needed using up anyway because they were going stale and I liked it - it was interesting.

There are lots of lovely flavours going on in this dish but they are all typical Sunday dinner flavours so they don't clash in the slightest. Instead they meld together to provide something beautiful. Chunks of roasted chicken coupled with flavoursome smoked bacon. Nuggets of veg dispersed throughout with a hint of caramelisation. Texture from the barley and an silky hug from the sauce encasing the whole lot. Use any crunchy topping you wish or leave it off if you prefer but whatever direction you take, give this one a go.

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Chicken and Bacon Pearl Barley Bake
An immensely tasty bake which is full of flavour while giving a good contribution to your five-a-day. It tastes indulgent from the creamy sauce but it is actually pretty healthy.
  • Spray oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 15 sprouts, dirty leaves removed then quartered
  • ground black pepper
  • ground nutmeg
  • parsley
  • 2-3 rashers smoked bacon, well trimmed
  • leftover roast chicken
  • 1 pint chicken/veg stock
  • 150g pearl barley
  • 3 Ryvita crackers
  • Grated cheese for sprinkling
  • 1 batch this sauce
1. A hour or so before starting soak the barley in half the stock. (This is only necessary if you aren't keen on al dente pearly barley. Leave this step out if you like it so.)2. Heat a frying pan while the oven heats to 200 C/180 C fan. Spray with a little oil then add the onions. Start to soften then add the bacon followed by the carrots and sprouts. Add pepper and parsley to taste then stir together and leave, covered until the onion has softened a little longer.3. Add the barley and its soaking stock to the pan and mix together. Add as much of the sauce as you wish, mix then transfer to a large ovenproof dish. 4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins to 1 hour depending on how soft you like the veg and barley. For the last 10 mins, remove the foil and sprinkle on the Ryvita. Sprinkle on the cheese when just before serving.

Besides the flavours making it so delicious this is one of my favourite sorts of dishes because it can be adapted to suit whatever you have in your fridge, making it the perfect way to use up leftovers and hence why I'm sharing it with the No Waste Food Challenge. Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary is hosting this month with lots of people guest hosting in the coming months. If you pop over to Elizabeth's blog you can see the months unclaimed up to yet and see if you fancy hosting such a good challenge yourself. You'll see I'm down for August which I'm super excited about!

I'm also entering this into Four Seasons Food where the theme is virtuous meals this month. This neither looks nor sounds virtuous but seeing as the creamy sauce is made from veg, it has more veg in the filling and the meats are pretty lean I think it is virtuous while making you feel comfortably naughty. The challenge is a joint venture between Louisa from Eat Your Veg and Anneli from Delicieux.
The last challenge I'm going to share this dish with is Feel Good Food. Victoria over at A Kick at the Pantry Door has chosen the theme 'Tasty and Inexpensive' this month and seeing as this is definitley tasty and using up leftovers makes it reasonably inexpensive, I think it fits the theme. 

The Vanilla Diaries Week 6

This is only a quick little post to give you the latest update on my homemade vanilla extract. Well, it's ready!!! Six weeks is the minimum time recommended to let the vanilla pods soak in the vodka and that was up on Thursday. I can't wait to use it but sadly I don't know when that will be because we still have loads of Christmas goodies left and no doubt Mum will send me back with half of them when I return to uni tomorrow so I won't have the need to bake for a while. With vanilla anyway. I need to bake something for the challenges I so love to enter and I have plans for those. 

Anyway, here it is. My baking baby.

When Mum has finished her bottle of shop bought extract I'll be refilling it with some from mine, then topping mine up with more pods and vodka. It really does smell good you know. Even with my lack of sense of smell I know it smells good. At about the five week mark Mum could smell the vanilla but all I could smell was the alcohol. Now though there is less of an alcohol smell so the change must be from the vanilla. What would you bake to Christen your first bottle of extract with? I'm thinking something simple like a Victoria sponge so the vanilla can really come through. I'd welcome suggestions though!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge - January 14

Happy New Year everyone!!!!! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the new year of baking than with a new challenge. I cannot wait to see what will be set by the other bloggers and I'm looking forward to seeing where this blog and the Biscuit Barrel goes in 2014. 

The December 13 challeneg was quick and easy and once again the round up contains some fantastic recipes which you can see here. Some of you may not feel like getting back into the kitchen after so much Christmas baking while some may be having withdrawal symptoms. I'm definitely one of the latter but seeing as there is so much to be eaten still (which I'm making a good go at by the way) I've got the feeling that I'll be showing more savoury things on here in January. I know I'm not alone in that I won't be able to stay away from the sweet stuff for long though so biscuits will be made before long. The winter months are ideal for drinking copious amounts of tea and to warm you up even more I thought a good ingredient this month would be...


Any single of combination of spices you wish and anything that fits into some sort of biscuit container is perfect. Go elaborate or keep it simple, it's up to you. I have some recipes in mind that I want to try but no doubt thhey will change. The most important thing though, as always, is to have fun!

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge rules:
  1. Blog about your recipe that fits in with the theme of the month, linking back to I'd Much Rather Bake Than... Include the logo in your post and add 'The Biscuit Barrel' as a label.
  2. It would be lovely if you could follow I'd Much Rather Bake Than... using the Google Friend Connect Button.
  3. Add the link to your post to the linky tool at the bottom of the post of the month (see above for themes/inks) by the 26th of the month. Don't worry, it's really easy.
  4. The recipe can be your own or someone else, just give credit where it is due.You can also add old posts as long as they have been updated to include the logo/link/label.
  5. You can submit as many recipes as you like and enter your recipe into as many other challenges as you wish as long as it complies with the rules of that challenge.
  6. Don't be concerned about joining in every month. When you have time or when you feel like it is fine.
  7. If you are on Twitter tweet your link to be @MustBakeCakes and use #biscuitbarrel and I'll try to retweet those I see. I'll also pin entries onto the Biscuit Barrel board on Pinterest.
  8. Any questions feel free to ask in a comment or email at smile101@fsmail.net or laurajdenman@gmail.com
  9. Most important of all, have fun!

Coming Soon in 2014

Happy New Year everyone!!!

I know a lot of bloggers have written posts on their top recipes of 2013 and similar sorts of things but I feel a bit fo a cheat doing that. I could've been joining in the party if I hadn't been a dope and left it on a nine month hiatus but as it was, I did, only taking my blog bake up in earnest at the end of my second year exams. Since then though so much had happened and I'd Much Rather Bake Than... has grown massively. Not massively compared to most of the fantastic blogs I read but I'm still really pleased with how far we've come together and and enjoying writing no end. A lot of people say to me they are surprised I still have the time to bake but to put it simply, I won't give it up. It's something I love and it is here to stay. End of.

In place of a 2013 round up I've decided to see in the new year with a collection of things I want to do in the coming 12 months. It is by no means a definitive list as I'm likely to change my mind as soon as I hit publish. Neither is it a list of baking resolutions. If I call it that I won't make any of them. Simply it is a gathering of deliciousness that I wish to recreate after having seen them on Pinterest - the ones I've thought about most or caught my eye most recently when I've been scrolling through my boards. Just trust me on these. I'd love to know if you have any pinned recipes that you'd especially love to make sometime soon.  

So here we go, in no particular order..

Savoury (the shortest list, naturally)...
Is there really any bad part to this? 

Why have I never thought of this before?

Sweet (I swear I do eat fruit and veg)...
 Of course olive oil will be as good as butter...
 Ginger warming comfort.
Dark and brooding

I got excited about these as soon as I saw them..

Forget the plates, pass me a ladle.

Don't tell me you don't want to.

Just because.

I wonder how thick I can make my Nutella layer.

There are of course thousands more things I would like to learn to do and recipes to try but these are right up there for now. Rest assured though that every single edible treat I have pinned on Pinterest I want to try. These are just tasters and would change daily if I had half a chance to repeat his post regularly. Fingers crossed I get to try a few of them out in the next twelve months. With my own adaptations of course.

All photos belong to the creators of the blogs I've filched them off. Any problems and I'll of course remove them immediately.