Carrot cake (vegan, sugar free and gluten free)s

Carrot cake (vegan, sugar free and gluten free)s

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I was a bit disappointed by the free-from episode of the Bake Off this week – it rather felt like the bakers were trying to overcome a problem by not using sugar in their cakes, or dairy in their ice-cream, rather than embracing the challenge and a different style of baking to make something interesting! Only Ugne and Nadiya really got into the spirit of the week I thought, although unfortunately Ugne’s sugar (and gluten) free cake didn’t go quite to plan – I felt so sorry for her when it was collapsing in the fridge. Nadiya’s jam made with basil seeds sounded really interesting, rather like a chia jam, and I’m definitely going to have to try it!

This carrot cake is sugar free, gluten free and dairy free, incorporating all three of this week’s tasks! The sweetness comes from maple syrup, as well as from the carrots themselves. Instead of wheat flour I have used a combination of ground almonds and buckwheat flour, and coconut oil instead of butter to make it dairy free. It is still lovely and moist like a non ‘free-from’ cake, and the spices make it a perfect autumnal treat.

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Lemon and blueberry swirl cheesecake

Lemon and blueberry swirl cheesecake

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I thought the recipes on Bake Off this week were a bit odd, the Spanish Windtorte looked pretty complicated (and like it needed a LOT of eggs!), and the 3 tier baked cheesecake was a bit over the top – who would actually ever bake and eat a 3 tier cheesecake?! Nadiya’s cheesecakes did look absolutely amazing though, and I loved her decorations. Tamal’s also looked and sounded really yummy, and it was a shame he didn’t get star baker, especially after his crème brulees, which looked so good. I’m glad Mat managed to redeem himself with the cheesecakes and wasn’t eliminated, even after committing the cardinal sin of Bake Off and serving Mary Berry coconut, not once but twice!

Since nobody in my house likes baked cheesecake – it does have a weird texture, and I think baking cheese is just wrong! – I decided to make a fridge cheesecake with a lemon shortbread base. This means that apart from the base, it doesn’t need any baking, so you don’t have to test that wobble! The lemon in the base and centre means the whole thing isn’t too rich, and the blueberry swirl gives it a fruity tang all the way through.

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Thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread with fig jam

Thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread with fig jam

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This week’s bake off was such a good one! Although I do think Paul should have been given Star Baker for his amazing bread lion sculpture, but I do understand why Ian got it instead. It was easy deciding what to bake for this week’s Great Blogger’s Bake Off – I didn’t have the time or patience to attempt a bread sculpture (or enough people to feed it to!), and baguettes looked a bit boring, so soda bread it was! I really liked the idea of soda bread being something you could whip up in the minimum time – indeed my loaf took 45 minutes from start to finish – yet still look like an impressive loaf to serve.

This thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread is so easy to make, you literally chuck all the ingredients into one bowl and mix them up into a dough. The thyme is supposed to be subtle, but to just set off the flavour of the cheese with a herby edge. The fig jam is, of course, optional, but we have a prolific fig tree in the garden which produces more fruit than we can eat, so this jam is perfect for using them up.

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Cranberry, hazelnut and dark chocolate biscotti

Cranberry, hazelnut and dark chocolate biscotti

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It always seems to be the case that we’re on holiday for biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off. However, I’m not one to let a small matter such as a foreign country, untranslatable ingredients and a lack of recognisable baking equipment stop me from baking along! Last year we were in Jersey (admittedly much easier to find ingredients!) when I made these (https://elliespinkcakes.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/lemon-and-white-chocolate-biscuits/) lemon and white chocolate biscuits, and this year, in Croatia, I attempted biscotti.

I had already baked these and was sitting down to watch when Paul said that his (and Mary’s!) choice of biscotti recipe would involve hazelnuts, cranberries and dark chocolate…. the very combination I had chosen for mine! These biscotti really did have all the odds stacked against them: I was baking in 36 degree heat, with a very temperamental oven, no scales, and something I bought from the supermarket assuming it was plain flour…. in hindsight though, I’m really not sure it was! However, they actually turned out pretty well, they would definitely pass Paul’s ‘snap’ test, although admittedly do have a better texture once dunked in coffee!

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Strawberry and coconut ice-cream with an almond and cacao crumb (Vegan)

Strawberry and coconut ice-cream with an almond and cacao crumb (Vegan)

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This vegan ice-cream is perfect for hot summer days, as it has all the creaminess and texture of non-vegan ice-cream, thanks to the whipped coconut cream, but is also much lighter and more refreshing, as it doesn’t have any dairy in it. It tastes almost like a frozen strawberry smoothie, and is absolutely delicious! This ice-cream is also free from refined sugar, only using maple syrup as a sweetener, so it will set pretty hard in the freezer, which explains the addition of the vodka, and the necessity of removing it from the freezer 20 minutes before you want to eat. However, the lack of refined sugar isn’t all bad – because it only has (mainly!) healthy ingredients, it is entirely acceptable to eat for breakfast… which I have done…!

One of the best things about this ice-cream is that it’s so easily customisable; once you have the coconut and banana base you can add any flavours you want, maybe some mint extract and cacao nibs to make a healthy mint choc chip? Or how about adding peaches instead of strawberries to make a creamy peach ice-cream? Once you have churned the ice-cream you can either put it in a tub to freeze, or spoon it into ice-lolly moulds to make an exciting treat for the kids! The cacao and almond crumb is, of course, entirely optional, but I do find that it adds a lovely crunch of texture.

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Cherry, almond and chocolate marble cake

Cherry, almond and chocolate marble cake

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So I’ve been away from this blog for ages! But what better recipe to return with than a gorgeous cherry and chocolate marble cake? The beauty of this recipe is that you get the best of both worlds: a moist cherry and almond cake AND a rich chocolate cake, swirled together and topped with crunchy flaked almonds. The key to the marble in the cake is actually not to swirl the mixture too much. Stick to alternating the flavours as you go through the mixture, then just do a light wiggle with the end of a fork when you’ve spooned it all in and the marble should be perfect!

It’s also a great cake to make now that English cherries are in season, they help to keep it so moist, along with the ground almonds. I made it for my Dad on Father’s Day, and it makes a perfect afternoon treat with a cup of tea.

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Roasted almond and dark chocolate shortbread

Roasted almond and dark chocolate shortbread

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These shortbread are the ultimate dunking biscuits – tea, coffee or hot chocolate, it doesn’t matter, they are just perfect! The chocolate layer melts so they can soak up just enough of the liquid while still retaining a crunch from the roasted almonds. They would be perfect served with scones as part of an afternoon tea, or simply on pretty, floral china as a spring afternoon treat!

This shortbread uses the classic 3-2-1 recipe, with 3 parts flour (with a little bit of rice flour for crumbliness!), 2 parts good quality salted butter and one part caster sugar, but the nuttiness of the roasted almonds takes them to another level entirely! It’s really important not to roll the dough out too thinly, as you want thick, crumbly shortbread and not thin biscuits.

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Roasted almond and dark chocolate shortbread:

  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 dessert spoons of rice flour or ground rice
  • 200g good quality salted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 80g whole almonds
  • 200g dark chocolate
  1. Heat the oven to 180C, then spread the almonds out on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes, then take them out of the oven and allow to cool completely.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then stir in the flours until you have a smooth dough (you may need to use your hands at the end!)
  3. Roughly chop the almonds and then mix them into the shortbread dough.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and then roll out to a thickness of 2cm.
  5. Either cut the shortbread into squares or use a cutter, then place the shapes onto a lined baking tray and bake for 18 minutes until lightly golden.
  6. Transfer the shortbread onto a wire rack to cool.
  7. When they are completely cool, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, then tip each shortbread into the chocolate so a third of it is covered, then leave to set on the rack.