Any excuse for cake!

I really don’t need much of an ‘event’ for it to demand cake! So we are embracing Valentines Day and baking THE BEST gluten-free Victoria Sponge cake.

I’ve tried many a gluten-free cake recipe and after much cursing and many of them going straight into the bin I’ve found the easiest and yummiest gluten free cake to bake. Found on the Doves Farm website. Thank you! I think the secret is to use baking margarine rather than butter as it makes the sponge so much lighter.

So as today is all about lovey-stuff I’m going to share my love of cake with you here:

Ingredients

3 eggs (weighed)
Gluten-free self-raising flour (same weight as the eggs)
Margarine (same weight as the eggs)
Caster sugar (same weight as the eggs)
4 Tbsp Jam (I’ve gone for no added sugar strawberry jam to try and cancel-out the whipped cream I’ve also added in the middle)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170°C
Weigh your eggs (out of the shells)
Measure exactly the same weight in gluten-free self-raising flour, caster sugar and margarine.
Put all ingredients into a bowl.
Mix on medium speed until lump free and you have a creamy consistency.
Grease and line two 7″ cake tins.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Take sponges out of tins and allow to cool.
Spread jam (and cream) on the top of one of the cakes and then add the other cake on top.
I then used sifted icing sugar around a heart shape on top to create a Valentine theme.
Cut yourself a huge slice and enjoy with a cup of tea!

img_3085Happy Valentines Day! xx

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Er… Welcome to my lady cave???

Where did Christmas go!? (I’ve already spotted Cadburys cream eggs in supermarkets!) I feel as if the run up to Christmas took a long time this year which was lovely. We were very busy with school events; which included a visit to Santa for Amelie. Santa was handing out gingerbread men to the children this year so I had to provide Santa with a gluten free (GF) option to give to Amelie.

gingerbread-men_3Luckily I have a stash of GF gingerbread men in the freezer. The exact same ones as the recipe I shared just before Christmas. So I quickly added some icing decoration and wrapped them in a spotted cellophane bag. It’s always handy to have some GF products ready for these school events that pop up with just a moments notice!

Amelie and I also made some GF Christmas biscuits, which were yummy. I won’t include a photo of ours though as they didn’t come out as pretty as the ones shown in the recipe (Gluten-free Heaven magazine) I was following, but I’ll share the recipe with you at the end of this blog.

 

On Christmas Eve we did a candy cane hunt for Amelie in the wood, which was brilliant fun. I designed some cards to hang in the trees as clues to where the candy canes were. I’m thinking of producing these as a product for my business ready for Christmas.

bob-fullBut Christmas itself was over before I’d scoffed my second mince pie! Bob and Dave came and went. They looked so pretty (handsome) and we felt very guilty when it was time to take them down and chop them up. For those of you not following me, don’t panic – Bob and Dave are Christmas trees!

The deer that we caught on the security camera before Christmas did a shout out to his mates whilst we were away as the cameras showed loads of them coming and going all through the night. I had visions of them sitting relaxing in the hot tub drinking mulled wine. Perhaps they needed a bit of pampering after the epic journey around the world with Santa on Christmas Eve.

So did Father Christmas bring you lots of nice treats? Amelie did very well this year. One of her presents was a sit on electric scooter. As she is only seven years old I felt it was my duty as her Mummy to test-drive it before we gave it to her for Christmas.

I spied my chance when Amelie was at a friend’s house. Mr G set it up for me and I was off doing laps around the workshop. It was brilliant. Mr G had to prise me off it whilst I screamed: “I want one”. I thought I was being a cool Mum whizzing around on it, but in reality I looked more like ‘Gangsta Granny’.

man-cave-sign_workshop-doorI bought Mr G an official plaque for the door of his workshop ‘The man cave’ which now sits just below the ‘Gone to the pub’ sign. But now I’m feeling a little miffed as I only have a (pretty) heart-shaped wreath on my office door. I feel as if it deserves a little plaque of its own. What is the female equivalent of ‘man cave’ as I’m sure it’s not ‘lady cave’ as that just sounds so very wrong! A ‘Welcome to my lady cave’ could cause all sorts of misinterpretations!

So, what will 2017 bring us I wonder? We’re all on the obligatory health kick, even though my larder is still full of Christmas goodies, which I’m desperately trying to ignore.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!

Christmas hearts (and stars) with a chocolate glaze (makes 25-30)

200g (7oz) unsalted butter
125g (4.5oz) caster sugar
2 large free-range egg yolks
335g (12oz) gluten free plain flour (extra for dusting)
2 tsp xanthan gum (if not included in flour)
115g (4oz) gluten free milk chocolate, melted
115g (4oz) gluten free plain chocolate, melted
115g (4oz) gluten free white chocolate, melted

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C /Gas mark 4. Line two large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until smooth, then beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Gradually add the flour and xanthan gum and mix to a stiff dough. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill for one hour. (The dough. I don’t mean you go off and relax for an hour).
  4. Roll out the dough 5mm (¼ inch) thick on a lightly floured surface.
  5. Using a 5cm (2 inch) heart-shaped cutter, cut hearts (Amelie and I also cut star shapes) from the dough, re-rolling the trimmings. Place the hearts about 2.5cm (1 inch) apart on the baking trays.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. (Don’t over-bake, as GF biscuits are very brittle). Cool on the baking trays for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Dip one half of the hearts biscuits into the melted milk chocolate and place on wire rack to set. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and the plain chocolate. (It may be worth trying to let the biscuits set on baking paper rather than a wire rack as our stuck onto the rack). So some broke when we tried to lift them off. They are still edible obviously, but as they are broken you have the bonus of them not containing any calories! 🙂
  8. Drizzle the white chocolate over the milk and plain chocolate on the biscuits and leave to set.

Enjoy!

Caught red handed (hoofed)

As I mentioned in my last post Mr G has rigged us up with a camera security system to go with the security lights. It’s like Fort Knox around here!

And thank goodness he did because we caught some ‘activity’ on camera the very first night! As Mr G was going through the footage he shouts to me to come and look. Well my thoughts immediately run wild thinking we’ve caught a sneaky burglar. Or perhaps it was the big bad wolf returning for a second time?

But no, it wasn’t anything remotely scary or threatening. It was a pretty little deer. She was snooping around the garden having a good old nosey. I think Santa sent her to do a recce so he knows where he’s going on Christmas Eve. As it’s our first Christmas here he probably wants to know where he can safely land his sleigh. Strategic Santa!

So we’re counting down to Christmas on multiple levels in our house. We have a chalk board stating how many sleeps we have left and we have three advent calendars – two chocolate ones and one string of mini Christmas stockings with gluten-free sweeties in them for Amelie. Mr G and I are sharing a chocolate calendar this year, which has slightly more posh/grown up chocolates in it. I opened it yesterday and Amelie liked the sound of the salted caramel chocolate delight. I didn’t eat it immediately as it was 8.20am and we were off on the school run. Amelie then asked me if it was gluten free and if so could she have it. I told her I’d check the ingredients later. And when I came to check later on it was indeed gluten free and therefore safe for Amelie to eat.

I was at home with the deliciously named chocolate all day. I kept looking at it longingly and I have to be honest the thought did cross my mind to tell Amelie that it wasn’t gluten free and therefore I ate it. Bad Mummy!!! But I didn’t. I somehow managed to magic up the willpower not to scoff it. So I’m hoping I’m still on Santa’s good list.

advent-boxesAlthough we have three advent calendars, we have tamed it down from previous years. A few years ago Mr G presented me on the 1st December with THE BEST advent calendar ever. It was made up of little boxes, all threaded on red ribbon and each box contained a gift! It was like a little mini Christmas every day. I loved it! (Obviously).

Since then we have split the calendar between us (only fair) and we have filled it with little gifts for each other. This is lovely but trying to find gifts small enough to fit into the little boxes has proved more and more difficult each year. Last year we squeezed gifts, (which were far too big) into the boxes and had to hold it all together with tape. I would spend hours searching the Inter-web for gifts and treats that would fit into the boxes. One of my searches brought up a knitted warmer for a certain part of a man’s anatomy. Well, I immediately put that into my virtual shopping basket as all I was thinking was that it will fit into the damn box. And give us a giggle when he opens it. Which it duly did!

But the funniest part of this purchase was when the online store emailed me to review the knitted warmer! Do people really use it??? I assumed everyone who bought this was doing so for a joke. Perfect for Secret Santa at work to embarrass your boss – that sort of thing. My review was just two words – too small! 🙂

 

It’s official. The countdown has begun…

christmas-sleepsI always know when I can ‘officially’ start thinking about and planning Christmas when I receive the December issues of my magazines. I’ve subscribed to Ideal Home, Country Living and Country Homes & Interiors for years, as I love interior design and enjoy having a nosey at other people’s homes. Often getting a serious case of house envy!

The pages are full of photos of homes beautifully decorated with gorgeous trees, twinkly lights and candles. There are always shots of doorways with posh red wellies lined up outside, a luscious wreath hanging on the door, a pile of Christmas presents (all beautifully wrapped) and a lantern. I know it’s fake – as who really piles up their gifts outside their front door? But I’m still drawn in and it kickstarts my Christmas planning.

I’m looking forward to decorating our home this year, as this will be our first Christmas here. I have lots of new places where I can hang decorations and fairy lights, which is very exciting and means I have to buy yet more Christmas lights. (You can never have too many in my view). And to add to the excitement, this year we are going to get ‘Dave’ a friend. Dave is our Christmas tree. We always have a real tree and at the beginning of December you’ll hear me announce: “It’s time to get Dave”. We have had much discussion over what to call Dave’s friend, but we have settled on ‘Bob’. So it’ll soon be time to get Bob and Dave. I think we may need a bigger car!

jens-bauble_1As Bob is new I’ve obviously had to buy lots more tree decorations and lights for him. I’ve gone for white and blush as a colour scheme. I’ve been buying baubles like something possessed and also making my own baubles (see photo), which is a faff and very time-consuming but can be done in the evenings whilst sat in front of the telly. But it will be worth it to see Bob looking so pretty, or perhaps I should say handsome?

When it comes to thinking about Christmas shopping, every year I always contemplate the idea of making something rather than buying. (Cute I know). We have often discussed this as a family over the years; as between us we have a range of talents and are very ‘handy’ or ‘crafty’. (To be clear: ‘Crafty’, as in glue and glitter and stuff, not devious). For example, Mum makes yummy damson gin, and as we now know Mr G has a workshop (which Santa will be envious of) where he can build all sorts of gifts. My brother is a builder so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind building my new kitchen-diner as his gift to his bestest (only) sister. But each year we all cop-out due to either time restraints or lack of confidence in our own abilities.

Instead we all fall back on buying each other something that in all honesty we could buy for ourselves at half the price come January. Obviously for Amelie I wouldn’t dare present her on Christmas morning with something ‘Mummy has made’. Can you imagine the disappointment in Santa when she had written an in-depth letter to him clearly stating the latest in kid’s gadgets and over-priced plastic tut! Although this years (draft) letter to Santa literally brought tears to my eyes. Of course she has asked for gadgets and gizmo’s and plastic-fantastic tut, but she also asked for ‘lots of money’. At first I was disappointed, but when I read the rest of the sentence my heart swelled with pride. She wants lots of money to give to children in need. It was a real ‘proud mummy’ moment. So I (Santa) will definitely be including an envelope of cash, which she can then donate to charity. Bless her.

One idea I’d actually like to try this year is the Mason jar cookie kit. The humble Mason jars are being used for all sorts of wonderful things. Oh no, we’re not using them for just pickling and preserving anymore. We are now serving cocktails in them! They are the ‘new’ lunchbox – filled with layers of healthy salad stuff (Hmmm…). The jars are being used in the shed to house screws and bolts and bits and bobs in bathrooms. They are even being used as pendant lighting. But at Christmas time they come into their own – their use is endless,  with twinkly lights, sweets, craft kits and storing ingredients for Christmas cookies or cake. Pinterest has loads of fabulous ideas here. I’m now wondering if I can squeeze Mr G’s Christmas jumper in one ready for Christmas day. And then he can use the jar to keep nails in for his workshop. Two gifts in one – genius!

Gingerbread men are a classic Christmas biscuit. So giving the ingredients, method and even the cutter in a Mason jar would be like ‘Christmas in a jar’. As Amelie is Coeliac most of my baking is now gluten-free (GF). Unfortunately for GF baking you can’t just replace a wheat-based flour with a GF version. You usually have to have a pantry full of all sorts of different flours, from cornflour to rice and coconut flour. Then add a generous spoonful of unicorn dust and a sprinkling of various other ingredients which most of us wouldn’t have previously heard of and you’ll have the GF version. Baking without gluten takes practice and when you first start out it can be very hit and miss. Mr G has witnessed me shouting at various GF cake and biscuit baking disasters. It’s therapeutic! Thankfully there are some GF recipes such as cookies that don’t require a mix of four different flours or essence of unicorn and are easy to make. Yey!

gingerbread-2The Gingerbread man is one such recipe and it makes loads of the little dudes! AND you can freeze them so you don’t have to scoff them all at once. But feel free if you want to – it’s Christmas after all. (The diet can wait until January). All of the dry ingredients can be layered in a jar (so they look pretty) and sealed with a Christmas ribbon and a gingerbread man shaped tag (use the cookie cutter as a stencil). Ta-da!!! A simple homemade gift for Christmas.

Amelie’s favourite GF Gingerbread man recipe is from Adriana Rabinovich:

350g     GF plain flour (I use Dove’s)
2 tsp     Ground ginger
1 tsp     Bicarbonate of soda
100g     Cold butter, diced (For the gift jars, include a note that they need to add this)
100g     Dark brown sugar
75g       Caster sugar
1            Egg (For the gift jars, include a note that they need to add this)
4 tsp    Honey

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Or sheets as these little guys multiply like Gremlins in water!
  • Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the ginger and bicarbonate of soda. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers (remember to take your rings off first) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugars, egg and honey and blend to make a soft dough. If the dough appears to be too wet, add a little more flour. If too dry, add a few drops of water or a little more egg. (I find water works just fine).
  • Knead the dough until smooth on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out evenly as possible to a thickness of 5mm, or thereabouts.
  • Using shaped cookie cutters, cut out gingerbread shapes (kids love this bit) and carefully place on the baking sheet(s). At this point you can add raisins or glacé cherries for decoration.
  • Bake for about 12 minutes until just lightly brown. Leave to cool.
  • We usually decorate our Gingerbread men with icing.

So forget about stuffing the turkey this year, and stuff jars instead!

Warning! Trillions of calories…

The clocks have gone back, nights are drawing in, you have to spend ten minutes in a morning de-frosting your car (that was a shock this week) and all thoughts of having salad for dinner have been replaced with pie and mash. And it’s that time of year when there are events in the calendar that mean we HAVE to eat sweets, chocolates and nice treats.

tin-of-treatsIt kicked off this week with Halloween – our first here in Suffolk and it didn’t disappoint. Even the weather was on our side, it kept dry and it was misty. Perfect setting for ‘trick or treat’. Amelie dressed up as a very glam witch and as we were off ‘trick or treating’ ourselves we left a little something for fellow ‘trickers’ outside with our three pumpkins. One of which is ‘Stuart’ the Minion (a traditional Halloween character!).

As we are the newbies in our lane we were kindly invited into neighbours houses when we knocked on doors and wished them “Trick or Treat” which is code for “Hand over the sweets”. I hoped nobody actually said “trick” as I’d have had to have improvised as we hadn’t come prepared for that! Thankfully everyone took one look at Amelie looking cute (and scary) and handed over fistfuls of sweet treats. See, as well as getting use of the parent and child parking spaces at the supermarket, your cute kid also wins you lots of sweets. Those are two reasons to have kids right there! And if like Amelie they suffer from Coeliac disease, you must check the sweets are gluten-free, because if they aren’t Mummy sacrifices her body (yet again) and scoffs them on her behalf.

Halloween_1.jpg

And then there is Bonfire night this weekend which is another excuse to eat comfort food, sweet treats like toffee apples or scrummy honeycomb chocolate fudge which I made for the school firework cake sale this afternoon. I found the recipe on Pinterest (I flipping love Pinterest!) but adding a secret ingredient to make it more in-keeping with Bonfire night – Popping candy. I added it to the mixture and also sprinkled it on top. Being the kind-hearted person I am, I tried some last night to make sure it was OK for the school to sell this afternoon. It’s delicious, but the only downside is there are about a TRILLION calories per chunk! Better get back on the cross-trainer…

Bag of fudge.jpgI bagged up the chunks and tied them with a little gold ribbon and took them into school today, worried that maybe I hadn’t done enough and I should have made the bonfire cupcakes as well. Only to find a lone bag of BOUGHT donuts on the table in the school hall and then in the village shop a parent bought a couple of packs of biscuits to donate. (Us parents have to buy back the goodies this afternoon at the cake sale). So panic over, I think I’ve done enough. Give the recipe a try as it is scrummy. I’ve promised Mr G that I’ll make it again at Christmas. Ooh Christmas. I love Christmas and will introduce you to ‘Dave’ and the newcomer – ‘Bob’ very soon. Happy bonfire weekend.