Grabbing the Last Pleasures of Autumn: Gluten and Dairyfree Apple-Carrot Cupcake

“Any cupcake consumed before 9am is, technically a muffin.” Brian P. Cleary

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Being gluten and dairy free does not necessarily mean giving up classic flavours and things we like. Glutenfree or not, I really believe in my late grandfather’s wisdom – who said “one has to eat a little bit of everything” -, but the sad fact is that some people do not have a choice but to eat a diet free of certain allergens, whilst still trying to maintain a varied selection of healthy foods. The notion of glutenfree does not automatically equals healthy. Glutenfree diet, unless one has a condition that requires removing gluten from their foods, has probably a much less significant effect on the health than people believe. More popular than ever, glutenfree diet obviously limits the types of carbohydrates that people can consume, which could be the reason for some to voluntarily become glutenfree. However, for those who have to avoid gluten, substitutes are important in keeping their culinary happiness…

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Ingredients
225 g gluten-free self-raising flour , plus extra for dusting
2 large free-range eggs
125 g soft brown sugar
125 ml sunflower or coconut oil
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 apple
200 g carrots
1 orange , zest and juice of
1 handful of sultanas
1 handful raisins
50 g walnuts , optional
For the glaze
200 g icing sugar
Juice of 1 orange
50 g walnuts

Method
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the sugar and oil, then mix to combine. Sieve in the flour and spices, then fold through. Peel and grate/dice the apple and carrots, then stir into the mixture along with the orange zest and juice, raisins and sultanas. Roughly chop and add the walnuts, if using.
Pour the mixture into the prepared paper cases, then place on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave them on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Mix the icing sugar with enough orange juice to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.
Once cooled, decorate the cupcakes with the icing. Lightly crush the walnuts in a pestle and mortar and sprinkle on top. I desired, finish with a grating of orange zest.

“The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.” Henry Rollins

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The Gold of Autumn: Classic Pumpkin Pie

“Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin.” Simone Schwarz-Bart

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All seasons have their iconic bakes, but the link between autumn and the classic pumpkin pie is surely one of the closest…Majority considers the pie a traditional, straightforward American delicacy but -whilst it fundamentally is from the USA- its historic route had a couple of culinary stops before getting its shining glory in America. Researchers and food historians agree that pumpkins initiated in South America more than 7,000 years ago. Over time a variety of squashes, including pumpkin, became native to the New England area. Americans of this region consumed pumpkin in slices, roasted on hot coals. The English pilgrims took and tweaked the cooking technique, creating a sweeter dish, which is technically a makeshift pumpkin pudding (they hollowed pumpkin and filled it with a mixture of milk, honey and spices before baking in hot ashes). The first pumpkin pie recipe resembling its 21. century cousin was developed the 1650’s in France. Famous 17th century chef ,Francois Pierre la Varenne introduced a recipe for a “pompion” torte, complete with a pastry crust. The latter English variants sometimes included a dried fruits, currants and nuts in the pumpkin filling. Nearly 150 years after the first pumpkin pie recipe was created in France, in 1976 the modern-classic pumpkin pie appeared in the United States.

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Ingredients
For the filling
500 g pumpkin, cooked and pureed
400 g evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
175 gdark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the pastry
350 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
200 g butter
125 ml cold water
To garnish
Fresh grapes

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Method
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Halve pumpkin and scoop out seeds and stringy parts. Cut pumpkin into chunks. In a saucepan over medium heat, cover the pumpkin with water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain, cool and remove the peel. Return pumpkin to the saucepan and mash with a potato masher. Drain well, and measure 500 g of the mashed pumpkin.
Prepare pastry by mixing together the flour and salt. Rub butter into flour, and add 1 tablespoon cold water to mixture at a time. Mix and repeat until pastry is moist enough to hold together. With lightly floured hands, shape pastry into a ball. On a lightly floured board, roll pastry out. Transfer to a 20 or 23cm pie dish, gently pressing pastry into the bottom. Cut off any excess pastry hanging over the sides of the dish, and pinch pastry securely around the inner edge. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, the prebake for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl with mixer speed on medium, beat pumpkin with evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well. Pour into a prepared pie dish. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Jim Davis

Crusted Swiss Roll In Autumn Outfit

The love of autumn is a feeling I share with many souls around around the world. Its colours, its abundance, its tired warmth, its gentle frost touch the human psyche on a way no other season could….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Autumn Shawl

Fluttering golden
brown leaves dancing on air falls
undressing nature

The wild geese flying
overhead a sign of peace
winter closes in

Throwing the old peat
keeping a fire burning
as cold approaches

Liam McDaid”

The large variety of autumn produce supported by the season’s senses of vision, taste and smell tends to be great inspiration for the artists of cookery. Certain bakes and bakes can achieve a completely new culinary level, when autumn goods are added within the usual ingredients. Simple recipes, such as sponges or Swiss Roll provide a exciting, fresh and delightful experiences, when nuts, fruit purees or different grains are added.

The origin of Swiss Roll is not Switzerland, but its beginning is still a mystery. Some think it is an old English recipe, some think it is possibly originated from the Austrians. I can remember that it was present in my Swabian-Austrian great-grandmother’s handwritten recipe collection, and I can hardly imagine her having an English  influence… Historians believe it was invented around the 19th century.  The earliest published reference for a rolled cake spread with jelly was in the Northern Farmer, a journal published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. Called “To Make Jelly Cake”, the recipe describes a modern “jelly roll” and reads: “Bake quick, and while hot spread with jelly. Roll carefully, and wrap it in a cloth. When cold, cut in slices for the table.”

The Swiss Roll is a slightly technical, still no-fuss recipe, however I believe its simplicity lends itself to a wealth of possibilities when times come to creativity, characterizing, individuality and playfulness in one’s kitchen. The idea of the crusted Swiss Roll came to my mind based on a leftover bowlful of nuts and dried fruit….

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Ingredients
6 eggs
6 heaped tbsp flour, sieved plus extra for the baking tin
A pinch of baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of cinnamon
6 heaped tbsp caster sugar plus extra for the baking tin
2 tbsp oil plus extra to oil the baking tin
Mixed dried fruit and nuts, about 200-250 g, chopped very finely
4 tbsp light brown sugar
4 tbsp ground hazelnut
1/2 jar of apricot jam

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Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly brush the base of a Swiss roll tin with vegetable oil. Cut a sheet of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin exactly. Brush the paper with a little more oil, then dust with caster sugar and flour.
Put the sugar and eggs whites into a large bowl and whisk until soft peaks (the mixture leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted). Fold in the egg yolks carefully. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon. Sieve in half the flour into the mixture and fold in very carefully until no traces of flour are left. Repeat with the remaining flour. Fold in the oil gently. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners. Sprinkle the chopped fruit and nut mix on the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden and risen and just firm to the touch. Lay out a damp clean cloth on the work surface. Lay a piece of greaseproof paper that is larger than the sponge on top. Dust the greaseproof paper with brown sugar and ground hazelnut. Run a knife around the edge of the warm sponge and turn out on to the sugar-dusted paper. Peel the paper off the base of the sponge. Trim off the edges of the sponge. Spoon the jam onto the sponge and spread out, leaving a little border of clean sponge all around. Make an incision about 1cm in from the short edge, being careful not to cut through the cake: this makes it easier to roll up. Start rolling, using the incision to complete the first turn. Roll the sponge tightly and sit it seam-side down until cold.

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Falling

The dawn of true love
My heart feels comfort and peace
Falling leaves of red and gold

Willow Lawrence

Greatness In Simplicity: Apple Sponge Slice

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Martin Luther

During the years of baking and storytelling the tale of my baking past has coloured many of my creations…how baking connected me to my roots, how did the smell of fresh bread stole my heart, how did I watch my fairy grandmothers bake… but some personal touches and details slipping, has always made the story somewhat incomplete….Throughout that cold December week just before Christmas, baking happened to be a daily activity in the mornings, to – just as always – get ready for the festive season with a luxurious array of sweet treats… During that week, one particular movement, mixed with the smell and taste turned out to be the point from what onward I couldn’t imagine living a week anymore without the power of creating that experience. She was baking a simple apple sponge. As she whisked a cheeky dice of apple wanted to escape the heat of the oven, but Grandma -like she was floating on air – turned and  gently guided it back to her ceramic bowl. Her movement smelt like cinnamon. I was only little, and my gorgeous Grandma didn’t know it, but then my lifelong passion with the scent, appearance and flavour of baked goods was born. The old kitchen with its fire-heated stove became my favourite place to be and I was mesmerized by watching the grand lady bake. I hardly missed a bit, and growing into having my own place next to her, meant touching the sparkle of the magic from up close. Baking was always my favourite part of her kitchen chores, for many reasons…She truly glowed when she baked. Her feet were above the ground, and she told tales without saying a word… I usually got a little piece of dough to play with when she baked, and oh my, wasn’t it special… And she baked. She baked endlessly. Breads, scones, cresents, strudel, pies, rolls….just baked. Great -great grandmothers’, aunts’ and godmothers’ secret recipes shared place with her relentless energy and flawless simplicity in the kitchen. When baking, ever since, I am still  quest for finding the enchanted world of her kitchen. Every single bake takes me back  in time, and every slice of almond, every dusting of flour, every drop of apple juice and every cracking of an egg takes me one step closer to unlocking the secret…The secret, that I am convinced is really just a very simple  but precise formula of mixing love and devotion. Unless she had an army of invisible elves helping her, that is also possible… Grounding walnuts, sprinkling apple with cinnamon, watching the cake rise and turning gold in the oven, all moments that can mould one’s mind and heart into one big pot of sugar…just so all out there can be aware…

Ingredients: 170 g butter, 3 eggs, a(250 ml)mug sugar,  one and a half (250 ml) mug of plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, zest of one lemon, 1 tsp cinnamon, a pinch of salt, 3 apples (peeled, cored and diced)

Method: whisk the eggs with the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt until shiny and homogeneous. Finally fold in the dices apple gently and bake in a lined 20×30 cm tin. Serve with a with a dusting of sugar.

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”  Robert H. Schuller

 

Working with Old Baking Methods: Flame Roasted Aubergine Spread

“Everything you have contact with will be woven into your garden.” Kathy Stinson

Where should I start….a picturesque garden full of ripe produce signifies and summarizes good people and good life. Good people, who have the love, care and attention to nurture plants, so they provide pleasure for others…Good life, where Mother Nature hugs the people and plants with beautiful, fertilizing kisses of sun and rain…My mother’s garden is a joy to look at, it is an inspiration to get in and it is an honour to be catered from…

 

People who like all things traditional, all thing tasty and all things healthy should definitely enjoy baked fresh garden produce, created with the flame roasted method. Unlike many thinks, it is not only producing savoury treats, but there are brilliant sweet dishes cooked on fire such as the traditional chimney cake.

  

Flame-roasting simply means preparing food over an open flame. One express in a fancier way saying “grilling,” however, technically fire-roast food can be done in the broiler, on the stovetop burner, or on a gas or charcoal grill. The basic idea of the flame/fire-roasting baking method is exposing the food to the to fire so that the flame blisters it externally and sometimes slightly blackens the skin of the food. This intensifies the flavour and gives it a hint of smokiness. Probably many people would hurry now to correct me and highlight the differences between baking and roasting….well…Roasting and baking are both dry heat cooking methods, using hot air to conduct heat. Both methods brown the exterior of the food, adding delicious flavour. The structure of food is maybe the only factor that sets these cooking methods somewhat apart. Roasting involves cooking foods that already have a solid structure before the cooking process begins, baking is a process where foods that lack structure early on, then become solid.

While roasting used to signify food cooking over an open flame, roasting today is done in an oven, but some things, like the aubergine caviar, can simply not be pushed to their highest potential without flames….There is something ancient, something sexy, something truly human about fire…

” I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.” Joshua Graham

 

Ingredients
6 large aubergine (or 8 small ones)
1 large onion (diced finely)
10 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
5 tbsp fresh mayonnaise
Possible additional spices/condiments – OPTIONAL:
1/2 inch ginger, 2 green chillies, 2 spring onions, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp chopped coriander, 1 tsp curry powder, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp natural yogurt

 

Method
Wash aubergines and dry.  Roast over a gas flame. Leave it over the flame until a side of it chars black, turning it to ensure all of the aubergine chars black (cooked when they leak fluid and become soft). Carefully transfer to a bowl. Let it cool. When the aubergine is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the charred skin. It should come away easily, but if tiny bits of the skin may remain (my Transylvanian mother-in-law would not approve), only to add to the flavour. Chop up the flesh and mash it slightly with a potato masher. Keep some texture. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and onion, mix thoroughly. Serve with fresh bread rolls.

Recycling the Summer Abundance: Soft Fruit Pulp Cookies

“God will overflow your cup, so grab the biggest one you can find.” Rob Liano

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Summer usually means a heavenly abundance of fresh fruit…An apple tree in the garden? A raspberry bush nearby? A strawberry field just a few meters away?… The summer often produces goods to a quantity that no family is able to eat whilst the fruit is still fresh. Using slightly over-ripened fruit, in majority of the households – leads to bottles of syrup or jars of jam.

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It’s a common problem this time of year — the abundance of beautiful, ripe fruit leads the hungry eye to pick up more than one can possibly eat before those fruits get soft and squishy. Pancake sauce, salad dressing, smoothies and popsicles are also among the most common uses and by all means, they are wonderful. However, using the mushy, super sweet fruit pulp in quick bakes, like cobbler, crumble and pie, offer more sophisticated kitchen recycling projects. Making a cookie with fruit pulp might be a little different, but with a refreshing ice tea it delivers a light, instant joy. It is also a way to make the fruit-averse eat a healthy portion…

“Live from abundance; Utilize with economy; Share in advance.” Geoffrey M. Gluckman

Ingredients
320 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 g granulated sugar
115 g butter, softened
200-230 g fruit puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boiled Icing

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Method
Preheat oven to 180° C. Grease baking sheets.Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in the fruit puree, egg and vanilla extract until smooth (use as much that the mixture does not become wet). Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. In the meantime prepare the boiled icing, and roll cooled cookies into the icing so they become completely covered.

“If you stop giving, you stop the stream of abundance.” Lailah Gifty Akita