I recently read a great piece of advice when it came to New Year’s Resolutions – don’t find motivation, find inspiration. I spent the holidays in Australia, a proverbial mecca for the coeliac not used to restaurants having gluten-free menus or coeliac society endorsed foods. So I returned dragging rather a large amount of books with me – books to learn from, to bake from and to find inspiration from.
Added to the gluten-free pile were two books by Eric Lanlard – Couture Cupcakes (what a fabulous title) and Totally Chocolate – the idea being to combine some rather opulent ideas with gluten-free recipes and get the best of both worlds.
And my goal for the year – master the art of the macaron. Secrets of Macarons by French chef José Maréchal is quite, shall we say, thorough, taking one step by step through the art of making this “dainty indulgence” covering the classics through to some rather exciting options such as salted butter caramel, macarons de nancy and amaretti. And do not be confused by the macaron versus the macaroon. In many instances people seem to use the words interchangeably, but as popsugar.com so helpfully explains: “a macaron specifically refers to a meringue-based biscuit (cookie) made with almond flour, egg whites, and granulated and powdered sugar, then filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit curd. In contrast, the word macaroon is a generic phrase…mostly, the term is equated with the moist and dense coconut macaroon, which is composed of egg whites, sugar, and dried coconut, often piped with a star-shaped tip, and sometimes dipped in chocolate”. Good to know.
So as we ease into 2015 I shall start to make my way through this fabulous mountain of gluten-free recipes. Stay tuned :).
Unexpectedly I found a gluten-free dairy-free chocolate cake recipe by Nigella Lawson, and if it is by Nigella then one can only expect great things! This cake contains olive oil as an ingredient which was slightly intriguing and worth a bake. So… before I share the rather large amount of fabulous gluten free books that I have just returned with from Australia that are my inspiration for 2015, I thought I would highlight a few things that I baked over the holidays. Let’s start with this gluten-free chocolate olive oil cake. Find the original recipe here.
• 150 ml regular olive oil (plus more for greasing)
• 50 grams good-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
• 125 ml boiling water
• 2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
• 150 grams ground almonds
• ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 1 pinch of salt
• 200 grams caster sugar
• 3 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease a 22 or 23 cm/ 9inch spring form tin with a little oil and line the base with baking parchment.
Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or jug and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolatey, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.
In another smallish bowl, combine the ground almonds (or flour) with the bicarbonate of soda and pinch of salt.
Put the sugar, olive oil and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or other bowl and whisk arrangement of your choice) and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.
Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in you can slowly tip in the ground almond (or flour) mixture.
Scrape down, and stir a little with a spatula, then pour this dark, liquid batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very centre, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its tin, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the tin. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm with some ice cream, as a pudding.
I dusted with icing sugar and served the cake with raspberries and blackberries – they look so pretty and inviting against the dark chocolate hue of the cake (and fruit is good for you!).