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Dairy-Free Cream Tea…

Being dairy-free is a pain in the arse at the best of times (because cheese), especially if you love cake (and cheese). Unfortunately, most cheese alternatives seem pretty awful (I’m sure they’re not as bad as I’m imagining, but cashew cheese just doesn’t do it for me on a theoretical level…I’m not going to waste my time making it just to find out that it is, in fact, terrible) but DF baked goods can be just as good as their buttery, milky counterparts. In fact, most cakes you buy from shops are made with margarine or oil, but they invariably have milk based stabilisers or use soya products (and George is intolerant to them too).

We’ve recently become the proud owners of a kitchen mixer, so I decided to start some baking experiments. I have an awful lot of weight to lose, but I like to bake so sod it. I’m going to bake!

One of the things I’ve been missing the most is cream teas, so this is where I started!…

THE CREAM…

You might be thinking that a “cream” tea is pretty hard to do without cream, yes? Well no, not really…not when there’s such a thing as coconut milk (and therefore, coconut cream).

I’m not talking about the “coconut milk drink” that you can buy to put in tea/over cereal here, I’m talking about the canned stuff that settles into two layers (cream and water) if you leave it to stand. I got mine from Aldi because it’s quite inexpensive and I already knew it settles into two layers.

Some websites suggest that you chill your cans of coconut milk overnight but I hadn’t realised this til 5 minutes before I wanted to make it. Whoops.

First I opened two cans and scooped out the cream…

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…saving the water (and a few splotches of cream) for porridge (oats and coconut water are supposed to be great for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk supply).

I added two tablespoons of sifted icing sugar and about a tsp of vanilla extract before beating it with the mixer’s whisk attachment.

I had visions of it turning into softly peaking clouds of cream, but no…it just crumbled up and looked like cottage cheese in the bowl. Sad face.

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I switched to the beater attachment and had a little more luck, but it started to separate a bit and I now had semi-fluffy clouds amidst an off-white puddle. Nice.

On the verge of admitting defeat, I popped the bowl into the fridge to chill it all while I regrouped and thought about making scones.

DAIRY-FREE SCONES…

I found a recipe that called for:

250g plain flour
40g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
45g butter
1 medium egg (beaten)
75ml whole milk
100g sultanas

…and I substituted Tesco baking fat in place of butter and Koko Dairy-Free instead of the cow’s milk. I always have Koko around because I drink it in tea, but I went with it (over other type of alt milks that I have) because my friend, Sarah (who does lots of vegan cooking) says that, in her experience, it behaves similarly to cow’s milk in cooking and baking.

I put all the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the (cold and cubed) baking fat before trying to mix it.

I got flour everywhere.

I soon gave up and rubbed the fat in with my fingers like I should have done to start with, chiding myself for being lazy.

Then I added the sultanas, egg and milk, beat it until it turned to dough, rolled it out and cut it into squares before baking at 220°c. The recipe said to bake for 15-20 minutes but after 12 I noticed that they were burning (golden brown scones with black sultanas)…it was then I realised that the temperature was for regular ovens and not fan assisted. Whoops.

They were also a little dry and crumbly…possibly because the omission of full fat milk meant that they were lacking in fat content. Next time I make them I’ll use a little more baking fat and a drop more “milk”. I’ll also only cook them at about 200° to try and avoid the charcoal-tanas.

I then left them – in all their black-studded and crumbly glory – to cool…

BACK TO THE CREAM…

I got the cream back out of the fridge (it had hardened off now) and set about whipping the life out of it with the beater. Even though the beater had worked the first time I just got cottage cheese again (no matter how long or fast I had the mixer working). In frustration I switched back to the whisk head, just to see what would happen, and BOOM! Whipped cream. Ish.

It took a while and it was still a little separated, but I poured the watery stuff into another bowl (again, saved for porridge) and was left with something that didn’t look too dissimilar to whipped cream…and it tasted bloody fantastic!

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It was sweet and rich with a hint of vanilla and it was AMAZING with raspberry jam, even though the scones were exceedingly crappy.

It was a cream tea!

I haven’t had anything even vaguely like clotted cream in over 10 weeks so I wasn’t sure if my taste buds were lying to me, but my sister (who had been all “I’ll just have a small scone” skeptical-face about it) asked for a second helping, and Luke (who had been all “I’m not eating that” mocking-face) was lured into joining us. They both agreed that coconut cream is a lovely alternative to clotted cream, and that it more than made up for the rubbish quality of my scones.

Note…I stored the leftover cream in the fridge overnight and it hardened off quite a bit. I had scones again yesterday and had to scrape the cream and kind of modge it onto the scone. It still tasted just as good but it wasn’t as spreadable as it had been the day before.

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…apparently it softens up after being re-whipped but I wasn’t going to get the mixer out for just that so I settled for modging.

RESULT!…

Dairy-free scones were NOT a win on this occasion, but with a bit of tweaking (or a better recipe) I’m sure that they could be great. I’d like to have a go at an egg-free version too so that I can see if a vegan cream tea is within my capabilities.

Whipped coconut cream TASTED great, but was a bit of a challenge to make. I think I need to work on this part too.

…my next challenge is going to be a dairy-free chocolate torte. I’m planning on using amaretti biscuits for the base, so it’s going to be quite an involved make! Watch this space.

 
 

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My Attempt At Porridge Bars…

I’m breastfeeding our boy (more about that soon) and one way to boost/maintain your milk supply is to eat oats. I’ve gotten a bit of a baking bug recently (I think I can blame Great British Bake Off for that) but I’ve also got to watch my weight so I’ve been looking for a way to bake things that, whilst being a tad “naughty”, aren’t just empty calories. Oat based things seem the best way to go.

Luke bought me some amazing oats bars (Stoats Porridge Bars) while I was in hospital, so I thought I’d have a go at making some myself. I found this recipe online but I don’t have a lot of the ingredients so I have decided to simplify it and adapt it for what I’ve got…

So! Basically, you will need:-

130g rolled oats
300ml milk
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
60g dried fruit (approx) 
30g of seeds (approx)
(optional) 1tsp cinnamon
(optional) 20g chopped nuts 
(optional) 1-2tbsp runny honey (or maybe maple/golden syrup)

…and my amended recipe looks like this:-

130g oats
300ml milk
1tsp vanilla extract
60g sultanas
15g sunflower seeds
15g pumpkin seeds
10g chia seeds
2tbsp maple syrup

I made the cinnamon optional (and then omitted it from my ingredients) because I didn’t know if it’d work that well with the maple/golden syrup. I also decided to use a heavier weight of seeds than the original recipe called for as I wasn’t using the chopped nuts.

To make the bars:-

  • mix the dry ingredients (oats, seeds, fruit and nuts) in a large bowl
  • whisk the wet ingredients (milk, vanilla, egg and honey/syrup) in a jug
  • pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine well
  • leave for a while to absorb (use this time to heat oven and line your tin)
  • pour mixture into a lined tin (I used a tin that says it’s 15cm square but I think is actually 20cm)
  • bake at 180c for 45-60 minutes

The mixture is quite wet at first and although the oats do soak up the liquid, it’s still pretty wet when you pour it into the tray.

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I admit, I couldn’t wait until it was completely cool to turn it out and cut it (although I did give it about 30-45 minutes to cool) but it didn’t have any adverse effects. I only baked it for 45 minutes and it doesn’t seem to have cooked through properly. It IS cooked, but it’s still quite squidgy so I will probably give it the full hour next time I make these bars. It was quite golden on top though so I don’t know if the extra 15 minutes might cause it to burn…

EDIT: I’ve finally figured out what this “squidgy” texture reminds me of…cold bread and butter pudding (like the kind you can buy in slabs from Greggs)

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I cut the slab of porridge into eight, but you could get 10 decent-sized slices out of it if you weren’t greedy like me.

My recipe, what with the omitted cinnamon, is quite plain. If I was to do this again I might try adding it, or perhaps upping the amount of maple syrup. The best thing about them is that they’re essentially just oats, fruit, seeds and milk so they’re pretty virtuous…which is good seeing as I’ve eaten three slices in the last 5 minutes…

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2015 in Food, Life

 

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Carrot Cake and (Caffe Nero) Coffee…by My Hubby…

Today Luke decided to try his first carrot cake, so I thought I’d annoy him help him and take photos along the way!

We had a look online and – although we discovered that there is (apparently) NO PLACE FOR RAISINS IN CARROT CAKE – had a go at a BBC Food recipe that we only remastered slightly.

It was pretty easy and went a little like this…

First, heat the oven to 180 degrees, then line and grease your tin(s)…we decided to use loaf tins and liners to save a bit of time/greasing (we got ours from Poundland along with these handy measuring contraptions!)…

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Grate 140g of carrots…

Next, mix 175g of light muscovado sugar, 175ml sunflower oil and 3 beaten eggs together.

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Add the grated carrot and raisins (we omitted to add orange zest at this point as the oranges in Tesco smelt plasticy and horrible) and stir well (Luke had me working by this point so I forgot to take a photo…)

Sift in 175g of SR flour, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and spices…we used 1 tsp of mixed spice and 1 tsp of cinnamon…

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…stir lightly until well combined and then pour into your tin/tins.

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Pop the tin/tins into the oven.

We followed the time the recipe suggested and left them in for 40 minutes…

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…could probably have done with knocking 5 minutes off the cooking time. The loaves were lovely and moist, but the bottoms were the tiniest bit overcooked.

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While we waited for them to cool, I used a Hummingbird Bakery recipe to make Cream Cheese Frosting for the tops of the loaves.

It’s a really simple recipe, but I found that I covered the whole kitchen in sugar when I tried to combine 300g of icing sugar and 50g of unsalted butter with an electric whisk (as the recipe suggests you do first)…so I mixed the cream cheese in earlier than the recipe suggests and still got a really good result…

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…then, once the loaves were (sort of) cool, I frosted the tops of them both quite thickly…

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…but there was still LOADS of frosting left, so I coated the sides of one of the loaves and then ate a good amount of it out of the bowl. Well, we wouldn’t want to waste it now, would we?!

We picked up some ground coffee from Caffe Nero this morning (£3.25 a bag or £5.50 for two…and you also get a stamp on your Nero loyalty card for each bag you purchase), so we thought we’d give that a try at the same time as taste testing Luke’s cake…

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I let the kettle go off the boil before pouring the water over the back of a spoon and onto the coffee (3 heaped tbsp) in the cafetiere. This yeilded quite a dark crema…

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Then we let it do it’s standing there and brewing thing while we set up a cake, coffee and cups photoshoot (plunging it at the last minute)…

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…and then we poured coffee…

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…and inserted cake in our faces…

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…and it was goooooooood!!

The cake was delicious (hence my weird looking ‘oh my god’ face above) and the coffee was pretty damn awesome too! It wasn’t at all bitter, and tasted much like an Americano from the coffee shop itself. I’d totally recommend it and will definitely be buying it again once we’ve used this batch up.

We’ll be attempting the recipe again too, except maybe with a few changes to the spices, and the addition of the orange zest (if we can find oranges that don’t smell weird)…Luke would also suggest NOT banging the tin/tins on the counter to settle the batter, as he thinks this may have caused our raisins to sink down through the mixture.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Food, Life, Reviews

 

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Muffins for Mother’s Day…

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!

To celebrate, Luke is cooking dinner for our mothers, and I have baked some (pretty darn awesome) muffins for them…

My recipe is adapted from one I found online aaages ago (sorry to whoever I stole it from as I only copied down the recipe and not a link to the site I found it on). I have changed some of the measurements and the timings and generally made the recipe more to my taste, so you might find that you can improve it further.  The good thing about it is that you can turn the cakes into any flavour you like, with a little trial and error.

The basic cake part of it always stays the same…

300g self raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
150g brown sugar (I use soft brown)
125g cooled melted butter
185mls milk (I use whole milk)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

This makes about 12 muffins, but if you like them HUGE you might prefer to just make 10…and when it comes to the flavouring (i.e. chocolate chip, blueberry, apple and cinnamon, raspberry and white chocolate…the list goes on and on and often depends on what I have in the cupboard rather than what I want to make) I tend to wing it a bit as I don’t actually have set quantities to follow.

Today I made…

Chocolate Chip…with 100g of milk choc chips, and 100g of plain choc chips

…and…

Blueberry…with 250g of fresh blueberries…..but then it looked like loads and I panicked so I ate a small handful of them *shameface*

Now, at this point I’m kind of regretting sharing the recipe as I make these quite often, usually to a chorus of “Oooh, these are AMAZING! You’ve worked SO HARD!”…but I’m going to come clean…they are SO easy to make I’m almost ashamed…

So! Heat your oven to 180ºC (mine is fan assisted an they always come out perfectly…adjust your temp/timings accordingly)…then put on your apron and a serious face…

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…not that serious…

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…that’s better!

To begin, sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl, add your ‘flavouring’ (this is where I dumped in a buttload of chocolate chips/blueberries) and give it all a gentle stir to combine.

...double choc avalanche, pre-stirring...

…double choc avalanche, pre-stirring…

...and the blueberry ones...stirred...

…and the blueberry ones…stirred…

Next, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract, add them to the dry ingredients, and then pour in the cooled melted butter. Stir with a big metal spoon until just combined…if you stir it too much the muffins will come out tough and chewy.

...combined...

…combined…just!…

Finally you spoon them into muffin cases/a greased and floured muffin tray/similar cake holding receptacle…

...raw choc chip muffins on a VERY slippery tray...

…raw choc chip muffins on a VERY slippery tray…

This time round I chose to use some fancy pink cake cups that didn’t fit into my muffin trays, so I had to let them freestyle it out on a baking tray (warning…do NOT use a brand new non-stick tray for this: THEY SLIDE OFF…)

Finally, bung them into the hot oven and let them cook for around about 20 minutes. I usually put them in the middle of the oven (or thereabouts), but my brain failed me on this occasion and I ended up cooking both batches at the top. They turned out a little more golden on top than they usually are but I don’t think this is a bad thing at all!…

...fluffy ooey gooey double choc chip muffins...

…fluffy ooey gooey double choc chip muffins…

...tuffty puffty fruity blueberry muffins..

…tuffty puffty fruity blueberry muffins…on an older, less non-sticky tray…

Note: the blueberry ones appear to have risen more, but I’m pretty sure their size is simply down to the sheer amount of blueberries I put into the mix. I am willing to bet that some of the cakes are just blueberries held together by a light film of sponge. Each one is at least two of your five a day…

Normally, this is the point where I’d eat all of them while they’re still warm (or accidentally leave them to cool somewhere where the dog can reach them and eat all of them while they’re still warm)…but these are (mostly) gifts for my Mom, Mother-in-law and Great Aunt, so I left them to cool, packaged them up nicely, and hid them!…and then ate the remaining ones…

I got my boxes from Hobbycraft (Webbs of Wychbold)…the brown boxes are meant the hold 6 cupcakes and have a raised cardboard insert that the cakes slot into. Sadly, my cake cups didn’t fit into the holes and you need the insert to keep the box stable. Luckily I am both resourceful and brilliant, and so I turned the insert upside down to KEEP the structural integrity, but LOSE the cake holders. I can’t find a link to them on the Hobbycraft website, but they’re by ‘Talking Tables’ and cost £5 for two. These boxes are really attractive and come with some nice little labels, but they’re not that well made. Some of the glue came unstuck as I was opening them out and I’ve had to sellotape some of the edges back together.

The white box can be found on the Hobbycraft website under “Sweet Treat Boxes”…they’re big enough for four muffins and cost £2 for a pack of three. Unlike the Talking Tables boxes, these slot together, so although they’re a little more tricky to use, you don’t need to employ sticky tape and cardboard inserts to get them to stay where you put them.

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…and TA DAAAAA…handmade gifts! They are seriously good, so I hope they’re well-received.

This time next year (ish) I will be celebrating Mother’s Day with a baby of my own. Quite a humbling thought to end my post on.

Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Food, Life

 

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