Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

I recently discovered I am married to my job, Ive been doing crazy hours and I have actively started getting into my office for 6:20 each morning. Sometimes you have a realisation and realise its not for fun or giggles and that if I want to be married, it shouldn’t be to the corporate world.  However, this also means that my time is taken up working and not blogging, although I still make time to bake for work each week.

Someone recently asked me why I dont take ‘pretty pictures’ of the food that I make, I laughed. I replied,’ for the same reason that I dont take pretty selfies, I know Im pretty and more importantly I know that my food tastes amazing.’ Theres nothing worse than seeing pretty food and tasting it and it having no flavour or substance. So you get less than pretty pictures and tutorials of food that is tried, tested and tasted and approved not only by me but also by my colleagues who are my guinea pigs or as they tell me in Dutch ‘proefkonijns’, which literally translate into ‘experiment bunnies’. This is what I love about the Dutch language, it doesn’t translate literally very well.

One of my favourite spirits in Rum, we are really good friends (probably too good) and what I like about Rum most is that it doesn’t give me hangovers (for the win!). When I came across this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it and improve it.  There is no rum taste in the cake, as its all cooked out, which actually felt like a let down and honestly I think Id make it alcohol free next time (and just drink the rum instead) and substitute orange juice instead for a more citrus taste.

Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

Makes: 16-20 portions   Prep time: 20-30 mins Bake time: 30-60 mins Total time: 90 mins

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 (200-250g) medium carrots
  • 1/3C (75g) raisins
  • 1/4 C (60ml) rum (or use orange juice)
  • 3/4C (150g) caster sugar
  • 1/2C (125ml) regular olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 C (250g) ground almonds
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • ½ lemon, finely grated zest and juice (optional – I left it out, mostly because I didnt have a lemon on hand)

Now to make this yummy gluten free cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of a 9in round springform cake tin with re-usable non-stick silicone liner or baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. I used a silicone pan and made my own life easier 🙂

2. Toast the pine nuts by browning them in a dry frying pan, watch them to ensure that they do not burn. This will take approximately 3-5 minutes. Set aside. (clearly I did a lot more than the 3 tbsps as I was roasting for multiple recipes)

3. Grate the carrots with a coarse grater (sadly my processor is broken but if you have one, use it), then sit them on a double layer of kitchen paper and wrap them kind of wringing them out to soak up excess liquid. Set aside.

4. Place the raisins in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.

5. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs, whisking well, fold in the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots, raisins (with any rum that clings to them) and the lemon zest and juice (which I left out).

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake (I also threw on some chopped pecans because I had them and well, why not?) and bake it for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sticky but more or less clean.

7. Turn out on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into slices, store in a air tight container and ideally should be consumed within three (3) days.

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I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this cake. Normally almond meal can be a bit grainy in texture but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. My colleagues really enjoyed it, even though it didnt taste of rum.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

Pear Butter

Have you ever heard of Apple Butter? No? Im not surprised, its a proper southern American delicacy. Its like a spice filled applesauce, no actual butter in it, that you spread on toast. The name comes from its smooth and butter like texture. Its really nice and English people didn’t really get it and used it as more of a sauce on over ice cream, which also works really well.

I have had a load of pears and I figured, as Ive been subbing them out for everything else apple related, why not try out pear butter too? What I realised in the tasting stage? If you like the graininess of pears, this is absolutely for you, if you prefer the smoothness of apples, this recipe is not for you.

Pear Butter

Makes: Just 2 – 320g jars and 1 720g jar Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 2.5 hours  Total time: 2 hours 40 mins minimum

  • 2 kilos of pears – cored and put into quarters or chunks
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups sugar – I used 1 cup normal and 1 cup brown
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

Now how to make this uniquely southern spread:

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the pears are soft, roughly 20-30 minutes. At first you will think there isn’t enough liquid but once the pears start to break down, they will release liquid, which will get you to the final picture.

2. Transfer pear mixture to a food processor (or you can use an immersion blender) and purée just until a uniform texture is achieved.

 

3. Return your pear mixture to the pan and reduce the heat to low and cook low and slow for 1.5-2 hours, stirring frequently to prevent sticking (and burning) until the mixture is very thick. The idea is that you cook out the natural water in the fruit and turn this into a thick spread.20171006_201628.jpg

4. At the last 30 mins of cooking, you need to sterilise your jars so that they are ready when your pear butter is. I put mine in the oven at 90-100C until the jam was ready. The lids you will need put in a large mug or pyrex bowl and cover with boiling water.

5. Pour the pear butter into hot sterilised jars and cover with the hot lid. (BE CAREFUL, EVERYTHING IS HOT!) As the jars cool, you will hear the lids popping from the pressure, which is a good thing. You want them to be complete sealed and closed. I used a soup ladle to pour into the jars and jam funnel but a normal funnel will also work.

Enjoy on buttered toast (the southern American way) or have it ice cream or rice pudding (the English way). I had literally just enough left in the pan to cover some caramel pecan ice cream, it worked VERY well!

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

Notes: Any time I put things in jars, I also use wax discs to cover the contents, Im not really sure why I do but its a habit I cant get out of. You dont have to do it but you are more than welcome to join in paranoia about using them.

You can peel the pears if you prefer but I think there are great nutrients in the peel.

If you don’t want to bother with canning, just freeze the apple butter in quantities that you can use within a week. Remove from freezer as needed and allow to thaw in the refrigerator.

Comforting Spice Jam

Following on with my pear theme (please bear with me (AHHHHH, a bear is with me!) as I make my way through my pear recipes, I have gone through kilos of pears, thank you tree!) I decided to make a pear jam. I didn’t want a jam that you eat and think ‘yeah thats pears’, I wanted something that was different, completely yummy and comforting, like  soul food jam! It makes your kitchen/house smell fantastically wonderful as its cooking. (Ive been told a few times my house smells like Christmas when I make these kinds of things)

First let me tell you about my search for jars! Mason jars are everywhere here, apparently they are trendy but equally they are EXPENSIVE! So my technique in the UK was to buy super cheap jam, throw out the jam (seriously, I rarely ate it) and keep the jar, I think I was paying like 18-20p and then I was keeping all my various jars from other food based items. When I moved all the glass was recycled and not brought over, glass is heavy (yo), even when empty and takes up space! And if I can get cheap jars in a country thats not overly keen on recycling, no reason to think I couldn’t get even cheaper glass jars in the NLs… I couldn’t have been more wrong! So my hunt for cheap glass jars started, cheap jam does NOT exist here, so thats out… what else can I find cheap? Imagine me stalking up and down the isles of Albert Heijn like a cheetah on the prowl, comparing prices, picking up jars, putting them down, putting them in my basket, taking them out, Im not kidding when I say this went on for over an hour.  I then decided to try Lidl, I mean they do cheap jam, right? Oh hell no… The verdict? Sweet onions… AH Basic Silverskin Onions at 45 cent, this is also Lidls cheapest product (silverskin onions) at the same price for a 320g jar… The next winner is AH Basic Apple Sauce at 49 cent for a 720g jar.

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45 cent for a jar isn’t a great price considering what I use to get, so I checked online and unless I wanted to buy a minimum of 200 jars at a time it wasn’t really comparable in price. 1 problem solved but another one created, do you know what stinks and I mean STINKS of silverskin onions? The lids which are on the silverskin onion jars! If you’re going to join me down this crazy cheap jar path, prepare to make your dishwasher stink and buy quite a lot baking soda! So the answer is to neutralise the onion smell with baking soda, you can either make a very thick paste with water and baking soda and leave it for a few hours or sprinkle (liberally) baking soda into the lid and leave over night.  I still didn’t quite get the entire smell out but Im secretly hoping no one will notice and it will soak up my spice smell instead…. One can hope and dream…

I came across this amazing recipe, which called for apples and I changed it up and made it my own, giddy up! This jam is great for you, your loved ones, friends, family, neighbours and makes a great gift!

Comforting Spice Jam

Makes: Just over 4 320g jars but possibly more  Prep time: 15 mins  Cook time: 2 hours  Total time: 2 hours 15 mins minimum, I did it over 2 days.

Required Ingredients:

  • 3 kilos of pears
  • 4-5 cinnamon sticks
  • a thumb of ginger (4-8 cm long) peeled
  • Juice and peel of 1 lemon
  • Teaspoon of nutmeg (you can even substitute Mixed Spice if you prefer)
  • peel of 1 orange
  • 1.35kgs jam sugar (Van Gil­se Ge­lei­sui­ker) – and yes, it is a lot!
  • 300ml apple cider vinegar
  • Handful of cloves

*My jam didn’t come as clear as the original recipe, as I used grated/ground spices, which darkens the jam, if you want a clear jam, you will need to use whole spices in their original form that aren’t grated/ground.

Now how to make this soul warming jam/jelly:

1. Peel your orange and lemon and orange, I just use a peeler as you can see. Juice the lemon. I didn’t use the orange juice, as I thought it would take away from the flavour if you’re being adventurous, go for it!

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2. Wash your pears and cut them into quarters or chunks, it doesn’t matter. You dont need to peel them or core them, pectin is in the fruit and flavour is in the core.

3. Chuck literally everything into the pan. It looks pretty and you can already get a hint the amazing smell its going to give as it cooks. Cover with 1.2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer on low with a lid on for 90 mins.

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This is what the mixture looks like after 90 mins of cooking, looks mushy!20171003_210604.jpg

4. Pour your pear spice mixture in a colander lined with a muslin or a J-cloth (which I used), suspended over a large bowl. Leave to drip for a minimum of 2 hrs (until it stops dripping) or overnight (this is what I did). Do not push the liquid though the sieve or your jam will become cloudy and potentially you could push through fruit pulp which would also change the consistency of the jam.

Be careful when pouring, the liquid is super hot and your cloth may want to escape.  When I started to pour into the j-cloth, it feel over and into the liquid meaning it wasnt sieving at all, 4 hands is kind of better than 2 with the pouring, to ensure no ‘accidents’ like mine.

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The hang to drip thing was never really going to work for me, if it wasn’t for bad luck, Id have no luck at all, and honestly I didn’t fancy pear spice juice all over my kitchen. I made a new plan a which involved 2 bowls instead of 1. I poured the majority of the pear spice juice over/into the largest bowl first. 20171003_211307

I was then only left with what was left in the fruit. I then put this over a much smaller bowl and left over night to ‘drip’ into the bowl. The liquid that came out of this was practically crystal clear. I then combined the juices from the two bowls and went to the next step.

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5. Before you start turning your juice into jam, you need to sterilise your jars so that they are ready when your jam is.  I put mine in the oven at 90-100C until the jam was ready. The lids you will need put in a large mug or pyrex bowl and cover with boiling water.

6. At this stage I had roughly 1.8 litres. Pour the liquid into a large pan along with the jam sugar and vinegar (at this stage I completely BALLS it up and my maths completely and utterly failed me and I added WAY to much vinegar but in the end it worked, horay).

Start on a low heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly. Once dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 15 mins, or until setting point is reached, skimming away any scum that rises to the surface. If you have a thermometer, you will need it! It helps dramatically when making these kinds of things.

This is me skimming away the ‘scum’.

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You will see the colour of the liquid change too, from a clear to a more red colour, this may have also just been a one off for me, as I had to boil it off for so long. Normally this will take 15 mins at a rolling boil. You must watch your mixture, as it will boil and bubble up the pan, if it looks like its going to go over the side of the pan, turn the heat down slightly. Quite simply, try not to cover your hob in jam like I did.

My maths was SOOOO off that I added WAYYY too much vinegar, that I ended up having to boil most of it off which took well over an hour!!! An hour of me swearing quite profusely at the jam and vinegar but clearly never at myself…

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7. Pour the jelly into hot sterilised jars and cover with the hot lid. (BE CAREFUL, EVERYTHING IS HOT!) Allow to set overnight. As the jars cool, you will hear the lids popping from the pressure, which is a good thing. You want them to be complete sealed and closed. I used a soup ladle to pour into the jars and jam funnel but a normal funnel will also work. Its always better to have more jars than you need rather than not enough jars. From all the boiling you can see that my juice reduce probably 5/7ths from the original juice, damn my math skills!

If you have a clear(er) liquid than I do, at the pouring into the jar stage you can add in spices to make it pretty, such as cloves, star-anise, or even cinnamon sticks.

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Finished product! Now just to give them to friends and family and how they dont question the onion smelling lid!

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Remember to share with friends and enjoy (they will love you for it)!

Notes: Being an American, having lived in the UK and now in the Netherlands, means that Im always confused with the English language, I should technically be calling this recipe jelly but after 17 years in England, I call it jam instead. In the UK American Jelly is called Jam, in the UK jelly is the American version of Jello, confused? Yeah, thats me constantly!

 

Pears, pears, pears

Its the end pear season (and autumn, which actually means that Christmas is JUST around the country, AHHHHHhhhhhhhh) and my pear tree is starting to look sad. I gave away loads of pears and then decided that I should use what I have, whilst greedily thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have given away so many pears. I got out my ladder and waited for the rain to temporarily stop, and then I was up the tree, precariously trying to grab pears that I couldn’t quite reach. After I filled a bowl up and it started to rain again (wettest September in years) I had to decide what to make, so I came up with three ideas, I know, two more than usual and all three were actually good! I made some preserves, which Ill blog about at a later date and then I settled on cake, because you know, life is better with cake (and cinnamon)!

Pear Almond Cake

Pear Almond Cake

Makes: 1 large cake – serves 8-12   Prep time: 20 mins  Cook time: 45mins  Total time: 65 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 3 large (or 5 small pears) cored and quartered
  • 11/4  cup (250g) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp (125g+ 1 tbsp)  caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (125g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (100g) ground almonds

Now how to make this yummy cake:

1. Melt 1/4 cup (50g) of butter in a frying pan, adding 2 tbsp of sugar on medium to low heat. Continually shake the pan to create a golden brown caramel. Do not stir it, ie no spoons or spatulas, that will ruin your caramel, just occasionally swirl the pan (Not going to lie, my caramel mixture went SUPER weird and basically split but I was in a meh mood, so just went with it and threw in the pears and the pears seemed to sort the sauce and it worked in the end with a few bits of hard sugar that I took out). Add the pears and cinnamon and simmer for 5-10 minutes until browned. Set aside. The idea is not to cook them to mush at all, you kind of want them to be a bit al dente, slight bite but not hard.

2. Preheat the oven the 190C/370FC. Grease and flour a 22cm springform pan, or cheat and use a liner like I did!

3. In a large bowl, cream together the remaining butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs (I throw them both in at the same time and whisk like mad), before folding in the flour and ground almonds with a spatular or wooden spoon.

4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing over the surface. Arrange the pears in the top and spoon over a small amount of the surplus caramely juice (or just haphazardly pour them all around like I did with all the sauce). Bake for 40-45 minutes

5.Once cooked, set the cake aside to cool (ideally on a wire rack). Once completely cooled, remove from liner or pan. Refrigerate any uneaten cake in a air tight container and consume within 4 days. Its yummy on its own but you can also serve with whipped cream or custard.

pear almond cake

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

Notes: you can also make this gluten free by subbing out the self raising flour for GF flour, adding in 2 teaspoons of xantham gum and a tablespoon of baking powder.

The Ultimate Crumble Bar

Do you love crumbles or cobblers? Do you like things that come in a handy treat sized bar form? Then this is the perfect recipe for you, its a fruity crumble in a bar. TASTY and AWESOME! These can most certainly fall into the category of vegan and gluten free and because fruit is involved, I like to think it will hit at least one of your five a day (winning)!

What I love most about this recipe? You can interchange it with most fruits, fresh or frozen. Ive made them with cherries and mangos and both were winners. I often go for frozen fruit, as its available year around and in plentiful supply at my local Aldi freezer section, oh and cheaper than fresh more often than not.

This is a great treat for friends, families, colleagues and yourself! I tend to bake on Sundays so that my colleagues have a sweet treat on Mondays, I feel its a great way to start the week on what can otherwise be the worst day of the week. My colleagues LOVE these and are often a requested item.  They are also a great for kids!

Please note that I doubled the recipe below, hence basically double of everything in the pictures.

The Ultimate Crumble Bar

Makes: 1 9x13in Pyrex dish   Prep time: 15 mins  Cook time: 55-60mins  Total time: 75 mins

Required Ingredients:

For the crumble

  • 1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (128g) plain flour (you an also use gluten free flour)
  • 3/4-1 1/2 cup (105-150g) porridge oats
  • 1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons xantham gum (if using gluten free flour)

Fruit Filling

  • 2 cups (200g) blueberries (or any fruit fresh or frozen; if using frozen don’t thaw)
  • 1/3 cup (66g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch/cornflour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Now how to make these truly amazing crumble bars:

1.Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with greaseproof paper; put aside.

2. On the hob/stove top melt the butter (or use your microwave, I hate how inevitably it ‘pops’ and goes all over he microwave, so I find it cleaner to do on the hob).Melted butter.jpg

3. Whilst the butter is melting, in a bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugars, and cinnamon, stir to combine. Oats Mixture.jpg

4. Once the butter is melted, add to the flour and oat mixture. oats mixture.jpg

Mixture will be dry and sandy with some larger, well-formed crumble pieces. (Often I find that the mixture is still quite wet and add in another 1/2-1 cup of oats, which get it to the point of the picture below).  crumble bar mixture.jpg

5. Set 1 heaping cup mixture aside to be sprinkled on later as crumble topping.crumble bars

6. Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your hands, hard-pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.20170717_150914

Once flattened, the bottom of your crust should be nice and uniform as below.20170717_151136

 

Now for the awesome fruit filling!

7. In a large mixing bowl (save on the washing and use the same you made the crust and crumble in), combine the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, stir until smooth. 20170717_151516

8. Add in your blueberries to the cornstarch mixture and stir to coat all the blueberries, this is what makes the filling extra unctuous and thick.  blueberry bars.jpg

9. Evenly scatter the blueberry mixture over the crust.20170717_152514

10. Take the last of your crumble mixture and evenly sprinkle over the blueberries. There should be chunky and thin bits in this mixture. 20170717_152715.jpg

11. Bake for about 55-60 minutes, or until edges are set and center has just set. Crumble topping should appear set and very pale golden. If using fresh berries, baking time will be less, take off a minimum of 15 minutes, possibly more. Watch the bars, not the clock, check on them from the 30 minute point onwards.blueberry crumble bars.jpg

Once out of the oven, allow to cool for at least 30 minutes, then move to a wire rack and allow bars to cool completely before slicing (you can even stick them in the fridge if you like). Dont rush the cooling process, cutting the bars before they’ve completely cooled leaves a crumble mess with many bars falling apart. Bars need to be kept in a airtight container at room temperature for up t0 3 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

 

Over ripe bananas

Sometimes your cat likes to give you a gentle reminder to let you know you’re spending too much time on the Pinterest and not enough time with them.  First world cat problems.Elka.jpg

I dont really like to eat bananas on their own, I find them just too hard in texture. Having said that, I do like to bake with bananas. I like them to be overly ripe with black patches all over them, which is generally the state in which households let their bananas get to. I found a recipe for flapjacks that is as healthy as they come! As an American I grew up with granola bars, no such things really exist in the UK, you get flapjacks. Whats the difference? Granola bars tend to have more things in them, including chocolate and and lots of nuts, where as flapjacks tend to be more oat based with no extras. So I taken the humble version of a flapjack and utterly pimped it out!

This is a baked no processed sugar or diary gluten free vegan friendly treat that will leave you coming back for seconds or thirds, assuming you haven’t already eaten them already!

Banana flapjacks

 

Banana Flapjacks

Makes: 1 9x13in Pyrex dish   Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 25mins  Total time: 35 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 3 1/3 cups (300g) gluten-free oats
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) honey
  • 1/3 cup (50g) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (50g) flaked/slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup (50g) dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (50g) toasted coconut
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Now how to make these pimped out flapjacks:

  1. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C.
  2. In food processor, throw in your peeled bananas and whizz into oblivion (or until smooth), alternatively smash your bananas in a bowl. I choose the easy option as per below.

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3. In a mixing bowl, mix the processed bananas, oats, honey, oil, pecans, almonds, cranberries, coconut and cinnamon. *handy trip, measure out the oil first and then the honey and the honey comes straight out without any extra persuasion.

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Your mixture should look something like this.20170715_161918-e1501014014401.jpg

4. Dump the mixture into your lined pan and spread out evenly into the pan, using your spatula to evenly smooth the surface, getting a even thickness throughout. 20170715_162235

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned.  Leave to cool, once cooled, cut into bars.banana flapjacks.jpg

Store in a air tight container and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. banana flapjacks.jpg

Edits: you can pimp these out even further by adding not so healthy things such as chocolate chips or you can add even more healthy things like raisins or seeds. Have fun with them and make them to suit your taste.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!