When baking…

… you really should pay close attention to the amount of baking powder. Anybody want some incredibly dense muffins?

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Everything-free chocolate cherry flapjacks

By flapjacks, I mean the UK word – the baked oat bar thingies. Not the US pancakes. Having had two facebook arguments (well, not arguments, but you know) in two days about the meaning of the word, I think that bears clarification. My American friend claimed these were ‘oatcakes’, but as any fule kno, oatcakes are flat savoury crackers that are generally served with cheese. Divided by a common language, indeed.

Anyway, continuing the theme of wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free &c &c &c, I decided that I’d make something that required actual baking in an actual oven. They were a birthday treat for my flatmate, so I thought a bit more effort than just some rice puffs was in order. I cobbled together several recipes to come up with this one, with appropriate adjustments.

You need:

150g vegetable fat (I used Trex)
80g soft brown sugar
80g golden syrup
Vanilla extract
250g oats
100g dried or glacé cherries, chopped into halves or quarters
50g plain chocolate, broken into small pieces.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C. Grease an 8 x 12 inch baking tin.

2 Melt the vegetable fat in a decent-sized saucepan (it has to be big enough to hold all the oats). Add the syrup and the sugar and heat gently until they’re melted. The fat and sugar may be a little reluctant to combine properly, but that’s fine. Once you stir the oats through, it all binds properly.

3 Remove the pan from the heat. Add about half the oats and mix well. Add some of the cherries, then more oats, then more cherries, until it’s all combined. Add the chocolate last. I hoped it would stay solid, but unlike chocolate chips, it doesn’t really keep it’s shape, so it will probably mostly melt through the mixture, but that’s more than fine. What’s not to like about chocolate all the way through?

4 Once the oat mixture is thoroughly coated, transfer it to the baking tin. Smooth the surface as much as possible with the back of a spoon, and bake for around 20 minutes.

5 When you remove it from the oven, the mixture will be bubbling and seem very liquidy, but that’s fine because it firms up as it sets. Let it cool for around 15 or 20 minutes, then slice into squares while in the tin and still warm. It’s soft enough that you can just use the round tip of a palette knife to do this (which also avoids scratching your tin). Let them cool a bit more, and then transfer to the fridge to chill, if you like. I also drizzled a bit more melted chocolate over the top, just because.

A very hurriedly staged photo taken before work so I could get the daylight looked like this:

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I didn’t add any salt to these, which is most unlike me, but I don’t think they needed it. Sometimes you just want something to be rich and chewy and soft, and these hit the target nicely. My flatmate’s verdict was that they ‘taste amazing! So happy I could cry’, which, as reviews go, is pretty positive.

He also ate too many in one go, which resulted in him doing this self-portrait, so perhaps pace yourselves, yeah?

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Everything-free choco rice puff snack … things

I’m so bad at writing about what I’ve been doing!

My flatmate’s still on an exclusion diet and I’ve been baking and so on a bit less, because a) I don’t want to eat entire cakes to myself, b) it seems a bit cruel and unusual to be all ‘Hi! Here’s a delicious cake THAT YOU CAN’T EAT’, c) I’m really wary of getting the reputation of The One Who Bakes at work, where people start expecting you to take stuff in and so on, or make stuff for people’s birthdays and d) when I have tried to make everything-free stuff it hasn’t gone so well.

I really like making pikelets (they’re like crumpets, but a lot thinner and a bit less regular shape because you just pour them into the pan, not into a crumpet ring). Sorry to explain – I always thought they were common knowledge, but the amount of times I’ve had the ‘What’s a pikelet?’ conversation, apparently not. Anyway. I tried to make some with gluten-free flour and rice milk instead of regular flour and regular milk. They were … not a success. As the flatmate said, they were like jellyfish. Which is all rather disheartening.

So I thought, fine. Less baking, more … combining, I guess? Nothing that relies on gluten or milk or eggs or ground almonds for binding, and while I know you can do marvellous things with coconut and dates and all sorts of clever tricks, I wasn’t feeling up to it. So I reverted to childhood and made rice krispie cakes, except a wee bit more sophisticated. (Only a wee bit.)

I took
175g plain chocolate (I used a Waitrose one because it uses sunflower lecithin, not soy, but that’s by the by)
30g vegetable fat (Trex, in my case)
Around 30ml golden syrup
Vanilla essence
Sea salt
100g rice puffs (I used Kallo, because they’re just plain rice)
35g salted popcorn (I used Tyrrel’s, for the same reason: corn, salt, nothing else)
80g dried mixed cherries and berries.

1. I melted the chocolate in a mixing bowl over a pan of water. This was the large bowl I was doing all the combining in, because transferring melted chocolate isn’t always easy, and you lose a lot in the process.

2, Once the chocolate was melted, I added the vegetable fat and syrup and mixed until it was thoroughly melted and combined – it makes the chocolate a bit slacker and easier to work with. I added a splash of vanilla and a good pinch of flaky sea salt.

3. Then I just threw all the rest of the ingredients in. It’s better to do it bit by bit, as it helps ensure you get everything coated. Just keep scraping the sides and lifting the mixture from the bottom to the top and you’ll get it all coated in the end.

4. I transferred it to a baking tray lined with baking parchment, flattened it with the back of the spoon, drizzled over a little more melted chocolate and left it to set.

This was the finished result:
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They were a little bit crumbly when cutting. I think a bit more syrup and/or a slightly smaller amount of dry ingredients would work to make them bind better. Taste-wise, the saltiness of the popcorn combines really nicely with the sweetness of the berries and cuts through the richness of the chocolate, but if you’ve got a stronger sweet tooth than me, you could always leave out the sea salt.

Not the most exciting, perhaps, but for something that’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free and egg-free, I think they’re pretty neat. (They’re also free of fish, because obviously, because ew.)