Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gluten Free Christmas Cake

Every year, I always made a Christmas cake.  I'm not hugely keen on the iced version but had an old recipe from a Tesco magazine (circa 1999) that I followed religiously every year.  It was a light cake made with tropical dried fruits and light muscovado sugar - and we all loved it.

Fast forward a few years and here we are: recipe lost 6 years ago in the move to this house (I think I accidentally threw it out!) and my Mum (the Christmas cake's biggest fan) diagnosed as coeliac.  Hmmm, what to do?

Thankfully, Phil Vickery has stepped into the breech with his fabulous gluten free Christmas cake which I've made for a few years now.  So, having enjoyed success with it, this year I decided to revamp it slightly and here is the result (pre-decoration - more of which later) and my version of the recipe (which is very close to Phil's with a few alterations).

350g/12oz raisins
150g/5oz sultanas
50g/2oz mixed peel
150ml/1/4pint sherry
zest and juice one lime
vegetable oil, for the tin
140g/5oz gluten free flour mix (use link)
1tsp gluten free baking powder
1tsp xanthan gum (you can buy Doves Farm at Tesco)
1tsp mixed spice
1 tsp all spice
140g/5oz unsalted butter
140g/5oz light muscovado sugar
3 medium free range eggs, at room temperature
50g/2oz ground almonds
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
100g/4oz natural coloured glace cherries, washed & halved
1tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam, warmed
100g/4oz mixed glace fruits (red or green cherries, ginger, melon or pineapple)
50g/2oz nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecan halves)

1. Place the dried fruit and mixed peel in a pan.  Add the sherry, lime zest and juice and bring to the boil.  Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to soak overnight (or if you forget, like me, over two nights!).  Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2.  
2. Oil and line the base and sides of a 6 - 8cm deep round or square 18cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, including a tall collar sticking up.
3. Sift the flour mix, baking powder, xanthan gum and spices.  In a separate bowl (or if you're lazy like me - in the food processor) beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and light.  Gradually and alternately add the effs and flour mix to the butter and sugar mix, then add the ground almonds.  Stir in the milk, soaked dried fruit and cherries.  Finally, stir in the agave nectar and honey and give everything a good stir.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin.
5. To decorate (which I haven't done yet this year but will post photos when I have) brush the surface of the cake with half of the warmed jam.  Arrange a selection of glace fruits and nuts over the top and brush over a second layer of jam to glaze.

The cake will keep for up to 1 month (undecorated) tightly wrapped in foil in an airtight container.

When cold, remove the cake from the tin, wrap it (undecorated) in greaseproof paper and two thick layers of foil, then freeze in an airtight container.  Defrost for 3 - 4 hours.  When defrosted, decorate as before.

So here is my cake - will let you know how it tastes in a few weeks time!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Scary Hallowe'en Kids

OK, so I'm a week late with this post but it's not my fault - honest!! The school Hallowe'en disco was a week late as the kids moved into a fabulous new building. So I didn't get to unleash my creativity until this week!

Hallowe'en isn't my favourite time if year. I stress about my kids costumes and I hate how it's become so commercial like Christmas. I also don't like the American-isation of it. We used to dook for apples and go 'guising' which meant dressing up (in disguise hence the name) going round to your neighbours and performing a joke or a song for a wee treat. Half the kids coming to ours just held their hands out for loads of sweets (needless to say, I made them at least tell a joke before they got a thing!)

Anyway, rant over and onto my kids costumes...
Now sewing and are are not bosom buddies so the costumes were a combination of shop bought and distressed by me. I was quite chuffed with my face painting efforts though...