31 December 2009

German Stollen

dairy free egg free nut free

I did technically bake this on Christmas Eve, but only just managed to find the time to post the results!

Took me a while to choose the right recipe for adaption - many have the traditional layer of marzipan through the middle but I finally stumbled upon the delicious magazine version - by which stage I had about 15 packets of various dried fruits open so I just used what I had left. Again, probably not the most authentic replica of this German Christmas staple, but I tried to follow the original method as best as I could (milk, yeast, flour etc) and I think it turned out beautifully.

I actually would probably double the quantity of mixed fruit for it to look a little more authentic - I don't know why this particular recipe had so little. Still, it was lovely and spicy fresh, with a real brioche taste (minus the egg), and wouldn't you know it, toasts up beautifully also for an aromatic fruit toast breakfast.

Makes 1 loaf

3 cups plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp mixed spice
7g sachet dried yeast
1/2 cup mixed fruits (although making this again, I would at least double this quantity)
2 tbsp cranberries
2 tbsp dried diced apricots
grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
150ml soy or rice milk
100gm dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex), melted
1 egg replacer
1/3 cup brandy (or more rice/soy milk if going alcohol-free)

Place flour, sugar, spices, yeast, dried fruits, citrus zest and a pinch of salt in a large bowl, stirring well to combine. Whisk milk, butter, egg replacer and brandy together, then stir into flour mixture to form a soft dough. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes until smooth, dusting with more flour if it's too sticky.

Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, turning to grease on all sides. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180 C and grease a baking tray.

Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Roll into a rectangle shape and fold both sides into the centre lengthways, then turn over and shape into a long oval loaf shape. Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then place onto a wire rack to cool completely. Brush top with melted margarine and sprinkle with icing sugar.

20 December 2009

Italian Panforte

dairy free egg free nut free

I'm not even going to pretend this is close to the original panforte from Siena. My aunt has lived there for most of her life and she would probably be horrified at the state of this recipe. Mainly due to two things: 1) Italians are not known for being very adventurous with their traditional recipes, and 2) to be fair, most panforte in Italy is bought, not made (much like panettone and pandoro, no one I know goes around baking the things). I'm pretty sure that chocolate was not an original feature of panforte, but since everyone's a gourmand these days, there are plenty of versions floating around if you care to google.

Nevertheless - a challenge is a challenge and here it is.

While you can fare quite well by omitting nuts altogether in many sweet recipes, it is a key feature of panforte - whole nuts, not chopped or ground. I recently came across a thing called Chic Nuts - roasted chickpeas made by  Partner Foods. The blessed things look exactly like hazelnuts = brainwave. They do have garlic powder added and while it wasn't overly strong, I did shake them about in a sieve to remove any excess. Though once added to the panforte and combined with the chocolate and figs and spices, it really is a non-issue. Roasted chickpeas also have a more brittle texture than nuts, and a crispier bite. It does the job pretty damn well.

The other thing to note is that you need to make the sugar syrup/caramel to a certain temperature before mixing it in - this is usually done with a sugar thermometer. I have no such thing, so I just waited until I thought it bubbled appropriately (do not stir it once the sugar is dissolved or it will crystallize) and then added it. Tricky to mix as the mixture is very stiff and the syrup makes it even more so. It reminds me of my mother making torrone (Italian nougat) - the liquid glucose is mixed in and requires two people to finish the job - one to hold the bowl and the other to mix the concrete-like mixture before it sets! (Brainwave #2: "chickpea" nougat hmm....)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'm quite pleased with this :)

Serves 10

1 sheet of confectioner's rice paper (not Asian rice paper)
85gm plain flour
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
190gm dried figs, stalk removed, cut in half
200gm roasted chickpeas (or Chic Nuts) - on reflection, I would halve the amount of chickpeas because of their slightly unusual texture, so add only 100gm and check oven times as it may need a little more.
100gm dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (most 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate is dairy free but the majority have nut traces - so I use Kinnerton Luxury Dark Chocolate Bar)
1 orange, coarsely chopped zested rind only
150gm caster sugar
150gm honey
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 150 C. Lightly grease a 20cm cake pan and line the base with overlapping sheets of rice paper, trimming to fit. Sift flour and spices into a bowl, add figs, chickpeas, chocolate, rind and toss to combine well.

Heat sugar, honey and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Do not stir again as it may crystallise. Bring to the boil and cook until mixture reaches 115 C on a sugar thermometer (essentially at liquid caramel stage).  Using a lightly oiled spoon and working quickly, pour caramel over nut mixture and mix well. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan and smooth top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes, cool and dust liberally with icing sugar. Cut into wedges and serve.

NB: This recipe was adapted from Gourmet Traveller. If you want to make the original nut-laden version, substitute the chickpeas for 100gm roasted hazelnuts and 100gm roasted almonds.

14 December 2009

English Mince Pies

dairy free egg free nut free

Probably more a tartlet than a pie! I made half the recipe using a tiny muffin pan, and the other half using a small patty pan. They turned out to be a delicious morsel of 'buttery' pastry and rich fruity filling. You could serve these at a cocktail Christmas party as a sweet canape - or just make them the standard size (using a regular 12 cup muffin pan) and gorge yourself.

The original recipe I used included finely chopped slivered almonds  for which I substituted coconut, but you could omit this entirely.

Makes 20 using regular muffin pan, or 40 using mini muffin pan

2 cups dried mixed fruit
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
50g dessicated coconut (optional)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
40g dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex), melted
2 tbsp brandy (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Icing sugar to dust

2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
160g chilled dairy-free margarine, chopped
1 egg replacer
2 tbsp cold water

Finely chop half the mixed fruit. Place in large bowl and add brown sugar, coconut, apple, margarine, brandy, lemon juice, all the spices and the remaining mixed fruit. Stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight (or at least 6 hours), stirring occasionally, to macerate.

Transfer the fruit mixture to a fine sieve over a bowl and stir to remove excess liquid.

To make the pastry, place flour, sugar and margarine in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg replacer, water and process until mixture just comes together. Turn onto a clean work surface and shape into a disc. Cover with plastic and rest in fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 C. Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Use a round pastry cutter  to cut discs from the pastry. Use a smaller star shaped pastry cutter to cut stars from the remaining pastry.

Line muffin pans with pastry discs and divide the fruit mince among the cases. Top with pastry stars. Bake for 20-25mins (about 12 if making the small ones) or until lightly golden. Set aside in pans for 5 minutes to cool before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar.

11 December 2009

Scottish Shortbread

dairy free egg free nut free

I requested an authentic recipe from the only Scotswoman I know and she sent me a recipe for Petticoat Tails. I'm like "dude, where's the shortbread?!" Then I had to go and convert the quantities to the metric system. Sheesh, the effort! I probably could have cooked these a smidge longer but my oven is fanforce only and I was worried about them getting too much colour and well, as you do, you end up going the other way. My fork markings don't much look like a petticoat but once they're eaten, it's all the same, aye?

Thanks Sheeny :)

225g plain flour
115g rice flour
115g icing sugar
225g dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex)

Preheat oven to 170 C. Grease baking tray. Cream margarine and icing sugar. Sift in flours and work into smooth dough -  if dough is too dry add a little water can be added to moisten. Turn onto floured board, make desired shapes (either a round or oblong) and prick all over with a fork mark. You can score (mark out) the pieces now or just cut into them when still warm after baking. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden in colour and sprinkle with caster sugar while still warm. Cut into the triangles or rectangular pieces and cool on a wire rack.

Greek Kourambiethes

dairy free egg free nut free

I have delicious memories of one of my best friend's mothers making these for Christmas. They were buttery, almondy and totally divine! They translate very nicely when made allergy-friendly, substituting the nuts for coconut. Winner.

Makes 26 (depending on the size, I went rather large)

250g softened dairy-free margarine
110g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg replacer (Orgran)
300g plain flour, sifted with 1/2 tsp baking powder
90g finely dessicated coconut
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Beat margarine until pale and creamy, then add icing sugar, vanilla, egg replacer and beat until well combined. Fold in flour and then add coconut and stir to combine.

Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls then roll into 5cm lengths and form into crescents. Place on baking paper-lined oven trays and bake at 160 C for 15-20 minutes or until just starting to colour.

Transfer cookies to wire racks and while still warm, dust generously with icing sugar, then leave to colour. When completely cool, dust again with icing sugar. Should keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

05 December 2009

Round the world Christmas baking challenge

It's relatively easy to eat allergy-free at Christmas except when it comes to sweet things - which is when it can get awfully tricky. Christmas is a time for lots of nutty treats, full of eggs, butter and dried fruits (which, wouldn't you know it, often have traces of nuts).

I'm not a fan of pudding - but I do love the variety of Christmas baking from all around the world. So I'm donning the apron and going about the task of vegan-ising and de-nuttifying all sorts of delectable Christmas treasures...

English Mince Pies - should be a cinch
Scottish Shortbread - pfft, hardly a challenge
Greek Kourambiethes - hello coconut
Italian Panforte - impossible you say? So many nuts - but I have a trick up my sleeve and I hope to hell it works!
German Stollen - if I get this far...I may have eaten my body weight in dried fruit by then

Stay tuned! Christmas is only 3 weeks away, I better get cracking...