Archives for category: dessert

Prunes. Yick. Well, that’s most people’s reactions to them. Including mine. So why have I got three or four tins of them in the cupboard…? And why am I cooking with them…? Well, they were bought about 18 months ago for purely ‘medicinal’ purposes when I was pregnant. I mashed them into rice pudding every evening after dinner and forced them down.  I don’t know what it is about them. I love plums, both raw and cooked. They’re sweet, warm and comforting and are the embodiment of an English garden in late summer. But when they’re turned into prunes, they metamorphose into a cloying and sickly morass of yuckiness.

So why do I have a bowl of them in the fridge…? My 12-month-old son has, over the past week, rejected his early morning milk feed and I’ve had a devil of a job getting enough fluids into him. Predictably enough, he started having trouble in the nappy department so desperate measures were called for. Luckily for me, Thomas eats nearly everything that’s put in front of him, including prunes mashed into custard. Crisis averted. But that left me with a bowl of prunes in the fridge. They’ve been lurking there for the past couple of days, glowering at me every time I open the fridge door, daring me to do something with them. It was at the back of my mind that, if I left them there another couple of days, I’d be justified in throwing them out. But then I thought, “How wasteful – there’s a recession on! I’ll see if I can disguise them in a brownie…” And voilà!
You can’t actually taste the prunes but they enhance the chocolate, giving an almost licorice-like flavour, cut the sugar needed by more than half and add a velvety softness. Great with a cup of cha.

Gluten-free chocolate and prune brownies

Makes 12 brownies
3 medium eggs
95g dark Muscovado sugar
pinch salt
2 tbsp gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
70g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla essence
175g drained and pitted tinned prunes
You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm brownie tin
Preheat the oven to 150°C (mine’s fan-assisted – presumably conventional ovens would need to be about 160°C). Line the base and sides of the brownie tin with baking parchment. Lightly brush the parchment with oil.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl with a hand-held electric whisk for 5 minutes until tripled in volume.
Purée the prunes in a blender or food processor until smooth and add to the mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the bowl. Add the ground almonds and vanilla essence and beat everything until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Cook in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes*. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 20 minutes. Remove from the tin, peel off the parchment and cut into individual brownies.
*I took the brownies out after 25 minutes. I think, next time, I would see what they were doing after 20, just to see if I could get them a bit more squidgey.
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I’ve been feeling very festive recently. And it’s still only the middle of November. I don’t know what it is. Possibly that we’ve already done half of our Christmas shopping because it has to be sent off to Canada to my husband’s family nice and early. It’s difficult not to feel festive when all the shops have got their tinsel out. It could also be because we’re due to move in the next couple of weeks from our current home in Bristol to a new one in Cheltenham. If we’re lucky, we’ll have three weeks to get the house straight before the whole family descends on us for the holiday. So it feels like Christmas is upon us already. I think, though, that the real reason that I’m feeling this way is because last Christmas, I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and the size of a house (well, a small semi, anyway). I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything that is the usual Yuletide fare, i.e. any alcohol, Stilton, Parma ham, pâté… and it was also my first Christmas as a glutenfreebie. I gallantly waddled around the kitchen, breathing through Braxton-Hicks contractions, making gluten-free sausage rolls and Harry Eastwood’s gluten-free plum pudding, all the while feeling somehow deprived. This year, I intend to eat, drink and be merry because I’m so much more confident and at ease now with my diet. But I’m a firm believer that Christmas is the most magical time when you’re a child so I can’t wait to watch my beautiful son enjoy his first of many.
Gluten-free Christmas-spiced baked ricotta cheesecake
I was feeling in need of eating something sweet and Christmassy but I’m the kind of person who cannot bring themselves to eat plum pudding outside of the Christmas week. So this, I think, is the next best thing.
Serves 8-10
100g sultanas
50g candied mixed peel
200ml orange juice (juice 2 large oranges)
40ml rum (I used white rum but that’s all we had)
1tbsp mixed spice
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp allspice
150g gluten-free stem ginger cookies (I used Sainsbury’s Free-From)
50g Mesa Sunrise breakfast cereal flakes
80g butter
500g ricotta
250g half-fat crème fraîche
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
zest 1 large orange
2tsp vanilla extract
You will also need a loose-bottomed tin, either flan or springform, with a diameter of 23cm, at least 2.5cm deep, a wire rack and a baking sheet.
Put the sultanas, mixed peel, orange juice, rum, mixed spice, nutmeg, ginger and allspice into a small saucepan and bring up to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the dried fruit is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease the bottom and sides of the tin with a butter paper. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a very low heat. Put the cookies and the cereal flakes in a food processor and pulse until they are coarse crumbs. Pour them into a mixing bowl and add the melted butter, stirring until they are well-combined. Tip the butter-biscuit crumb mixture into the tin and press down firmly and evenly into the base.
In a large bowl, blend the ricotta, crème fraîche, eggs, caster sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract with an electric whisk. Stir in the dried fruit mixture. Pour the ricotta and fruit mixture on top of the biscuit-crumb base in the tin. Tilt the tin slightly so that the top of the cake becomes level. Bake in the oven on a wire rack on a baking sheet* for 40 minutes, or until the cheesecake is golden and wobbles slightly in the middle, when the tin is shaken.
Cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then loosen and remove the cheesecake and base from the sides of the tin. When the cheesecake has cooled completely, chill in the refrigerator until required.

*When I baked the cheesecake, some liquid seeped out onto the baking sheet. Placing tin on a wire rack means that any liquid is able to drain away.

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