February 27, 2015

GATEAU NANTAIS

Not long ago I was looking for a French cake recipe that I could adapt to a gluten free version, something fairly plain but interesting that would go nicely with a morning coffee or afternoon tea, but by no means be a showstopper.  Somehow or other I stumbled across Gateau Nantais.

gateau nantais

It certainly doesn’t look like a showstopper, does it?

There were plenty of recipes on the internet and most claim that what it lacks in good looks is more than compensated for in flavour.  It is essentially an almond cake flavoured with rum.

gateau nantais3

The only rum I had in the house was a dark spiced rum so that’s what I used.  However, the interesting part is how the gateau Nantais came about.  The merchant ships from the Caribbean used to arrive in Nantes with rum as one of their many cargoes.  There are lots of things you can do with rum but the people of Nantes discovered it was very nice in a cake.  I cannot disagree with them!

Among the recipes I consulted there was one by fellow blogger Phil at As Strong as Soup which you can see here, and one in French which you can see here.  The one I chose to adapt was from the blog written by Mary-Anne Boermans, one of my favourite contestants from the Great British Bake Off a few years ago.  She was the baker always coming up with fascinating recipes with a touch of history about them and in fact she has written a book of old British recipes – which Nick gave to me as a Christmas present but has yet to be tried out.  Her blog is well worth dipping in to and you can see the recipe for Gateau Nantais here.

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I was relieved to see my cake looked very similar to those in the pictures of Gateau Nantais in Google images – always a good way of finding recipes and finding out how the finished dish should look.  It was very pleasant and well received but if I was to make it again, and I probably will, I think I would probably put in more rum.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g caster sugar

150g butter, softened

60g gluten free plain flour

200g ground almonds

3 eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

20ml rum

For the topping and icing

20ml rum to brush over the cake

100g icing sugar

20ml rum to make the icing

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.  Grease and base line a 23cm spring form tin.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric whisk – this may take up to ten minutes.

Add the flour and ground almonds and mix well.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Add 20ml rum and the vanilla extract.

Transfer to the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and firm.  Remove from the oven and brush 20ml rum over the cake to soak in.  After 30 minutes remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack.

Make a runny icing using the icing sugar and remaining rum.  Add more icing sugar if necessary to get the right consistency.  When the cake is completely cold spread the icing over the top.

Serves 8-10.

February 19, 2015

SLOW COOKER RICE PUDDING

rice pudding3

It’s difficult to make a picture of rice pudding look exciting or glamorous but for those of us who love it, beauty is not the important thing.  It’s the taste and the thickness of the skin!

I have loved rice pudding for as long as I can remember.  I was recently reminiscing with my brother about my mum’s excellent rice pudding and he reminded me about how much we argued over who was to have the skin!  My mum used to make it using full cream milk (semi-skimmed was not invented then, there was only ordinary milk or, better still, gold top) and if we were lucky, partly with evaporated milk.  It was served hot, thick and creamy, and occasionally there would be a few sultanas or raisins in it, which was known in the family as Chinese wedding cake.

We loved it hot, sometimes with a blob of strawberry jam, or cold and even stiffer the following day.

rice pudding1

Soon after I bought my new mini slow cooker I was keen to use it to make a rice pudding.  It’s a simple dish to make but there are a huge number of recipes to be found for it.  I chose this one on the BBC website, as it was closest to the one I remember my mum using.  The only difference is that I added a small can of evaporated milk.

rice pudding

I also warmed the milk before adding it to the pot and stirred a couple of times during cooking.  My brother said that the only time he made it in a slow cooker he ended up with the rice stuck on the bottom and the milk on top, which was disappointing to say the least, but he hadn’t thought to stir it.

 rice pudding2 

Cooking time depends on how stiff you like your rice pudding and how thick you like the skin.  The longer you leave it, the stiffer and more delicious it becomes.

Slow Cooked Challenge

I am contributing this post to the Slow Cooked Challenge, run by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen.  It’s an open theme this month and you can read the details here.

Ingredients

55g/2oz pudding rice

55g/2oz caster sugar

600ml/1 pint milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)

1 small tin, 170g evaporated milk (normal or light)

grated nutmeg

a few knobs of butter

Method

Rinse the rice and put into the slow cooker with the sugar and evaporated milk.

Warm the milk in a saucepan and add to the cooker.  Stir well.

Sprinkle some grated nutmeg on the top and dot a few knobs of butter over.

Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours or longer, stirring a couple of times.

Serves 4.

February 2, 2015

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING (WITHOUT DATES)

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING3

The other weekend I was feeling the need to bake something.  Not just any old thing but something really indulgent and wicked.  The post Christmas abstinence from baking and sweet stuff had caught up with me and I was having serious withdrawal symptoms.

However, I couldn’t be bothered to drag myself to the shops in the horrid weather – we were out walking our dog Lulu when I announced my urge to Nick and there was a bitterly cold wind stinging our faces.  Thinking about what we had in our cupboards at home that I could use, I mentioned sticky toffee pudding, something I have never actually made before, and Nick’s eyes lit up.  He often orders it when we go for a meal out so I knew he would be pleased.  I then said “I think we have a pack of chopped dates somewhere” and he looked rather less pleased.  He doesn’t like dates, apparently.  Something else I hadn’t known about him for the last twenty years!

Now I’m pretty sure that most sticky toffee puddings do contain dates but he assured me that the one he normally gets at our favourite restaurant absolutely doesn’t.  Hmmm…….  Maybe the dates are so squidgy that he doesn’t realise they’re there.  Anyway, I found myself consulting my cookbooks and eventually the internet for a recipe for a dateless sticky toffee pudding and found this one on the allrecipes website.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING1 STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING2

I followed the recipe exactly – it wasn’t difficult – and ended up with a nice sponge over which was poured a lovely toffee sauce.  The sauce was delicious but overall the pudding was just ok.  Not sticky enough for either of us and disappointing having read some of the reviews of the recipe.

Then I read further down the reviews and spotted that someone else had found a similar recipe in a blog here but with an interesting difference. 

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING4

Instead of serving the sauce with the pudding, on removing the sponge from the oven you had to prick it all over, smother it with the sauce rather like a lemon drizzle cake, and let it seep into the cake.

Now this was much more like it!  What a transformation from the rather dull to the incredibly wicked and indulgent!  It was very, very sweet but totally gorgeous and I will most definitely be making it again – but not too soon………

Ingredients

For the sponge

190g plain flour

1½ tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

120g dark soft brown sugar

120ml milk

2 eggs

80g butter, melted

2 tsp vanilla extract

For the sauce

120g butter

200g dark soft brown sugar

250ml double cream

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan.  Butter a suitable baking tin or dish, approx 21 x 18 cm.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and mix well.

In another bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter, until a light frothy foam appears on top.

Add the liquid to the flour mixture and mix together until smooth and well blended.

Pour into the baking dish and bake for 20-30 minutes until the the sponge is firm and golden brown.

While the sponge is baking, make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a large saucepan and heating gently, stirring all the time, until smooth and dark brown.  Set aside to cool slightly until the sponge is done.

When the sponge is cooked, remove it from the oven and prick all over with a skewer or fork, going right through to the bottom of the cake.  Then pour the toffee sauce over it to allow it to seep into the sponge.  There will be plenty of sauce left over to serve separately with the pudding.

Serve warm with the reserved toffee sauce, plus cream or ice cream for that extra indulgence – might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb as my dear mother used to say !!

Serves 6 generously, would easily stretch to 8 servings.