White chocolate and limoncello pralines

white-chocolate-limoncello-pralinesI made these pralines for my birthday as a treat for my colleagues, and they made me promise to make them again for my final day in the office (I decided to take up a position much closer to home – more time for baking that is! Oh and for the kids too of course!). As usual, I didn’t have any leftovers … I found this recipe in “Sweets made simple”, by Miss Hope & Mr Greenwood. The book is really hilarious, even if you are never going to try anything, it’s still very funny to read. In addition (and contrary to other “simple” sweets recipe books I bought in the past), the recipes really are simple and easy, even for busy people! This one doesn’t take a lot of time and is foolproof, but you do need to start in advance as it takes 3 days to make them (all due to overnight freezing, don’t worry!). So here’s how to make about 18 of them (I usually double the recipe):

Day 1 – 20 min work:
Heat 5 cm of water in a pan and put a heatproof bowl in top (making sure it’s not touching the water – this is called a “bain marie” – no idea why Mary took her baths like this but already glad she took one :-)). Place 100 g white chocolate in the bowl with 2 tbsp double cream and heat gently to allow the chocolate to melt (in the mean time, you can prepare the other ingredients). Take the bowl of the heat and stir in the zest of 1/2 lemon, 1-2 tbsp limoncello (italian lemon liqueur), a pinch of salt and 50 g butter chopped into cubes. Wisk until the mixture resembles home-made lemon curd. If the butter is too cold, you may need to put it back on the heat for a few minutes to help it melt. Spoon into a sealable container, put a lid on and chill in the fridge overnight.

Day 2 – 15 min work:
Line a tray (that will fit in the freezer) with baking parchment. Scoop up small teaspoons of the mixture, roll into balls, put on the tray and freeze overnight.

Day 3 – 20 min work:
Temper 300 g white chocolate by popping it into the microwave on high for 30 seconds at the time, stirring in between, until the chocolate looks nearly melted but there are still a few bits bobbeld on top. Take it out of the microwave and stir the chocolate gently until smooth. Use 2 forks to dip each truffle ball into the chocolate, toss to coat and place back on the parchment, roughening the chocolate with a fork. Do this with all your truffles and then chill in the fridge to allow them to set (I usually chill them overnight, but they set quite quickly, so they should be ready after an hour or so).

Because white chocolate melts easily, it’s best to store them in the fridge. I can’t really advise on how long they will keep, they haven’t lasted long enough to test that… Enjoy!

Free-from and all-in-one carrot cake (no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy)

Carrot_cakeI keep on finding recipes to adapt and I get more and more audacious (although at some point, I think I will conclude there are only so many elements you can replace if you still want to call it a cake). I first made this all-in-one carrot cake as a regular version (slightly adapting a Donna Hay recipe), but it turned out the free-from version was even tastier, so definitely a winner this time! Not that I will be sharing recipes of flops of course … Anyway, here’s how to bake it:

Preheat oven to 160 C fan. Place 400 g carrots in a food processor and process until finely chopped (or grate them by hand). If you are making a regular version (so not gluten-free), add 120 g pecans to the food processor as well (or finely chop them). Add 115 g rice flour, 110 g chestnut flour (or 225 g plain flour for the regular version), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 175 g brown sugar110 g caster sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice (if you don’t have mixed spice, just add more cinnamon), 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), 125 ml vegetable oil, 2 eggs (or no-egg equivalent) and 70 g yoghurt (use sheep or goat yoghurt for the lactose-free version), and process or mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 22 cm round springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 55–60 minutes or until just cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the cream cheese frosting, place 250 g cream cheese, 1 tbsp lemon  juice, 50 g ricotta, 55 g icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste in a food processor and process until smooth (or mix with a hand-held mixer. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake to serve. For the dairy-free version: mix 200 g goat’s cream cheese with 210 g icing sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Enjoy!

“All-free” rose and pistachio cake


OK, so far for my good intentions to blog again once a week. I guess it just can’t be new year every day! But as you can imagine, it hasn’t stopped me from baking. Right now my third cake of the day is in the oven because tomorrow we are having a birthday party for the boys, one year already! I suggested making something they can easily eat, like cookies, but their dad insisted it needed to be a cake so they can make their first proper mess (it seems they have been training for it for weeks now) and we can have the obligatory, slightly out of focus, messy picture. I’ll let you know next time how that went! But first we celebrated the birthday of my mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago so I made a dessert my sister-in-law could eat as well. Meaning without gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. I was quite proud of the result and it tasted really nice as well! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 170 C fan and line a 20 cm tin with greaseproof paper, or, if you’re not the greaseproof-paper-lining-person, just grease the tin with vegetable oil.

Put 75 g each of semolina, rice flour and sweet chestnut flour in a bowl (you need 225 g of flour in total, you can also use gluten-free flour instead. The chestnut flour will give a nutty taste). Add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (or gluten-free baking powder) and a pinch of salt, followed by 75 g ground almonds and 100 g caster sugar and mix.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 eggs (I used no-egg egg replacement) with 50 g runny honey (or 1 generous tbsp), 250 ml natural yoghurt (unsweetened, I used goat yoghurt), 150 ml sunflower oil and the finely grated zest of 1 lime (you’ll need the juice for the syrup later). Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined (if you want, you can add 50 g chopped unsalted pistachios at this point). Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the oven for 50 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 20 min and while the cake is cooling, make the lime syrup: in a small saucepan, boil 150 ml water with 100 g caster sugar for about 5 min until it is reduced by half. Add the juice of 1 lime and boil for a further 2 min, then cool and add 2 tbsp rose water. Make holes on top of the warm cake with a skewer and, with a tablespoon, spoon the syrup all over the top. Leave to settle for 1 hour.

Serve with some raspberries on top. Enjoy!

“All-free” lemon drizzle cake (no gluten, lactose, eggs, soy …)

Lemon_drizzle_cakeIt’s been quite a while since I’ve posted new recipes on my blog. It’s not that I stopped baking (although I’m baking slightly less), it’s that I’m not really finding the time to right about. The reason is that next to my day job, I have a new task: twin boy management! The boys are now 8 months old and doing great, but it makes baking (and writing about it) a bit more of a challenge. It also makes it a multi-step (or somethimes even multi-day) process, spread out during the day. But of course, come Christmas, I wasn’t going to let me family down so I was once again in charge of desserts (two days in a row). As my sister in low has been diagnosed with a gluten-, lactose-, egg white-, soy- (and other things I’m forgetting) intolerance, it became quite a challenge. To be honest: the first attempt (not this recipe) went straight in the bin. This meant that I needed a plan B, and I needed it fast! So I looked at the GoodFood website, and found this recipe for a light lemon drizzle cake, which I could easily adapt. I’ll indicate possible changes you can make depending on your diet.

Heat oven to 160C and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Put 175g rice flour (or use gluten-free or self-raising flower), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use baking powder if you’ve used self-raising flour), 50 g ground almonds and 50 g polenta in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the zest of 2 lemons (you’ll need the juice later) and 140 g sugar, then make a dip in the centre. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs (I used “no-egg” egg replacement and followed the instruction on the box, you can find this in health food shops), then stir in 225 g yogurt (I used goat yoghurt as I wanted to avoid lactose, which you can find in health food shops or biological supermarkets, it tastes very much the same as regular yoghurt). Tip this mixture along with 75 ml rapeseed oil (or use sunflower oil) into the dry ingredients, then briefly and gently stir with a large metal spoon so everything is just combined, without overmixing.

10 mins if it starts to brown too quickly. While the cake cooks, make lemon syrup. Tip 85 g sugar into a small saucepan with the juice of the 2 lemons and 75 ml water. Heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat, boil for 4 mins until slightly reduced and syrupy, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool briefly in the tin. While it is still warm, turn it out of the tin, peel off the lining paper and sit the cake on a wire rack set over a baking tray or similar. Use a skewer to make lots of small holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly spoon over half the lemon syrup and let it soak in. Spoon over the rest in the same way, brushing the edges and sides of the cake too with the last of the syrup.

Gluten-free and dairy-free: swiss roll with marshmallow icing

dairy-free gluten-free swiss rollI haven’t been blogging for a while, but I had good reasons for it: at the end of last year, I wasn’t baking (or cooking) either, so I had nothing to blog about. This was caused to the nausea that comes with being pregnant… it being twins apparently made it worse! Luckily it passed the week before Christmas, so I could get back to my usual baking habits just in time (and with assistance from my sister, in charge of the cake decorations this year). So here is the first of my Christmas recipes, but you could make this at any time of the year (omitting the Christmas trees of course). As my sister-in-law is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I opted for a swiss roll, swapping flour for gluten-free varieties. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven to t180 C. Separate 3 eggs (you need 4 eggs in total) and beat the egg whites until really stiff (add a pinch of salt to speed up the process). No need to wash your mixer, you can go straight ahead and start mixing the 3 egg yolks and the left over whole egg together in a separate bowl with 120 g sugar until you get a foamy mousse (about 5 min). Stir in 50 g gluten-free flour, 25 g cornflour and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (to be replaced by 75 g self-raising flour if you don’t need a gluten-free version), followed by the beaten egg white.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil (fold up the sides of the foil a bit to create an edge) and pour in the mixture (or use a swiss roll tin if you have one). Bake for 10 min until lightly golden and it springs back when you touch it. In the mean time, take another piece of tin foil and sprinkle it with a bit of sugar. Take the bake from the oven and turn it upside down onto the prepared foil. Gently peal of the layer of foil from the bottom. Spread your favourite jam all over (I used home-made forest fruit jam – made from half frozen fruit en half sugar (with pectin) and a squeeze of lemon, just follow the recipe on the sugar packaging if you want to make some), leaving a gap along one of the long edges. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and start rolling it up from the opposite long edge. Put it on a serving plate with the seam at the bottom and leave to cool completely.

If you don’t feel like the extra effort (or sugar level), just dot the roll with some fresh raspberries and you’re done. Or go all the way and make the marshmallow icing by putting 2 egg whites in a heatproof bowl with 115 g golden caster sugar, 1/2 tbsp water and a good pinch of salt. Place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water, and whisk until thick and leaving a prominent trail from the beaters (this will take about 4 min). Remove the bowl from the heat and continue whisking for another 3 min until cooled slightly and really stiff. Spread over the swiss roll using a large (palette) knife, you can use the back of a spoon to make a log pattern or just go wild with a piping bag. Use a cook’s blowtorch to toast the meringue to a golden brown (this will go really fast). It’s worth the effort, the toasting makes all the difference!

Decorate any way you want and enjoy!

Signs of autumn: dried cherry and pistachio biscotti

cherry and pistachio biscottiI absolutely love winter and I think autumn is a great prelude. Although these past days have been very nice, it’s been too warm and sunny for me. I love seeing the wind through the trees and hearing the rain on the roof, nothing like a good thunderstorm to make me sleep like a baby! Autumn also means you can start putting lots of hearty stuff on the menu: the first tajine is already tasted, fish pies, mashed potatoes, meat loaf… are all still to come. And for tea no more ice cream or frilly bits but something with a good bite, like these biscotti. I found the recipe in my Kitchen Aid cookbook (it came with the machine – yes, I finally got one!) but you can easily make it even if you don’t have one. Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 160 C. In a bowl, mix 300 g plain flour with 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 150 g sugar and 1 tsp szichuan pepper (if you don’t have this, you can just leave it out or replace it by a grind of black pepper and some lemon zest – I opted for mixed spice, but only half a teaspoon as the cinnamon in it can be quite overpowering). Add 3 eggs and mix to a soft dough (it will be slightly sticky). Add 75 g dried cherries and 75 g pistachios (unsalted and shells removed) and mix again until incorporated (you can do all this by hand as well).

Divide the dough in 2 parts and roll each to a diameter of 4 to 5 cm.  Place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment and bake for 20 min until the sides are starting to brown. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on, you are baking them twice – hence the name, “bis-cotti”) and leave to set for 10 min. Then cut in 1 cm slices and place on the baking sheet again. Another 10 min in the oven and some cooling on a wire-rack and you are ready to dip them in your coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Enjoy!

Use up left-over dried cherries in cherry and chocolate cookies.

Sunshine in a bowl: mango sorbet

mango sorbetSummer is well and truly over so what to do when you can’t find sunshine outside? Just get some on your plate! This was the perfect ending to a very successful thai cooking workshop (my kitchen was the backdrop, the chef a bubbly laotian colleague of mine and the food totally yummy!) and a great excuse to test my new pride and joy: our kitchen aid, including the ice cream maker. Finally, it’s another way to eat more cardamom, anything I can add that spice to just makes me happy. I looked on the internet to find a great recipe and in the end decided to go with my own blend. Here’s how to make it:

Cut 2 mangos in chunks, add 150 g icing sugar, the juice of 2 limes and the crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods (optional of course, you can just leave them out or add any flavour you prefer with mango, such as mint leaves for example) and mix to make a smooth puree (you can also do this in a food processor of course).

Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn to freeze according to the instructions of the manufacturer (it only took 20 min in my kitchen aid bowl). Transfer to a container and put in the freezer until you are ready to eat it. That’s it!

Don’t have an ice cream maker or the patience to freeze this stuff for a couple of hours? You can also use a short cut: just buy frozen mango in the supermarket and take it out of the freezer 10-15 min before you want to eat your sorbet. Mix it and serve: you now have a 100% fruit sorbet that is good for you and your diet! If you want you can add some sugar, lime juice … but you will notice it doesn’t need it. This also works with any other type of frozen fruit, such as forest fruit or raspberries. Enjoy!