Free From (Gluten, Dairy, Egg and Sugar free baking) – March 2020

When we met on 10th March for our planned ‘free from’ event, we had little idea that less than 10 days later we’d be on lockdown with empty shelves in the shops and our normal baking ingredients suddenly hard to come by.  Some of the recipes our bakers used that day might be very helpful to those trying to get creative in the kitchen without a key ingredient like flour, eggs or butter so I’ve included some recipe links in this event write up for you.

Vegan, Gluten, Egg and Sugar free cakes and bakes

I must admit I was a little nervous of this theme!  I was worried that in the hands of inexperienced bakers, bakes without flour, sugar, eggs and/or dairy, and in some cases using ingredients the bakers wouldn’t be familiar with, might be a disaster.  I was proved entirely wrong, and we enjoyed some amazingly tasty bakes.  The recently escalating plant-based eating movement undoubtedly helped.  Good vegan recipes are far more readily available online than they were even five years ago, along with the wider availability of the ingredients used to substitute dairy and eggs and capable of doing the same job in baking terms.  We also had the added bonus of a new baker joining us – Kirsty, who eats gluten and egg free, and is an excellent baker but doesn’t normally join us because of course she wouldn’t be able to share in many of our creations.  Her Vegan Brownies (she treated us to both Mint Chocolate and Oreo flavours) were among THE BEST brownies I have ever tasted.  For those following a vegan diet or trying to cook dairy and egg free Kirsty highly recommends the vegan recipes on the website Nora Cooks.

The majority of our bakers did opt for some form of cake for this event, but we had two bakers who gave us savoury choices – Jayne’s Vegan Sausage Rolls with a filling made of mushrooms and flavoured with various herbs and spices, and Jan’s gluten free Tomato Loaf.  The latter was more like a loaf cake in texture than a bread, but it certainly was very tasty.  Another loaf, but sweet this time, was provided by Bob with his Vegan Tea Loaf.  I’m not sure exactly which recipe he used this one looks interesting and has the added bonus of using chapatti flour which might be more readily available than standard flour at the moment.

Chocolate was a popular choice, featuring not only in Kirsty’s scrumptious brownies but also in a vegan Chocolate and Coconut Cake, vegan Dark Chocolate Cookies, vegan Chocolate Cake with Berries and a vegan Coffee and Chocolate Cake – rich and smooth, just like a very good cup of coffee!

Coconut featured again in Alison’s sugar free Carrot and Coconut cake (the sugar being replaced by agave).  Ginger was another top choice for flavouring, with Heather’s dairy and egg free Caribbean Ginger Cake and Vicky’s gluten free Pear and Ginger Cake.
Faye baked us a classic Victoria Sponge, to a dairy free recipe and Chelsea chose a cake which was naturally gluten free:  Nigella’s Apple & Almond Cake which uses ground almonds to replace the flour entirely.  It’s also dairy free as it uses oil rather than butter – but not the cake to opt for if you’re short of eggs.  It uses eight!

Sadly of course we are currently unable to meet to share our bakes due to social distancing regulations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but our events are merely postponed and we will be back together again baking and sharing our creations as soon as we can.  We’re encouraging our bakers, and others in Winchester who might be using this time to bake more often than they usually would, to share their creations with us on social media.

For the sake of posterity, the full list of bakes for our March 2020 ‘free from’ event was:
Mandy – Vegan Chocolate and Coconut Cake
Jan H – Gluten free Tomato Loaf
Bob – Vegan Tea Loaf
Laura – Vegan Dark Chocolate Cookies
Cat – Vegan Chocolate Cake with Berries
Alison – Sugar free Carrot and Coconut Cake
Chelsea – Gluten and dairy free Apple and Almond Cake
Heather – Dairy and egg free Caribbean Ginger Cake
Vicky – Gluten Free Pear and Ginger Cake
Faye – Dairy free Victoria Sponge
Jayne – Vegan Sausage Rolls
Kirsty – Vegan Mint Chocolate/Oreo Brownies
John – Vegan Coffee and Chocolate Cake

2nd Birthday: Famous Doubles – September 2019

We enjoyed some classic combos and some more unusual offerings for our Famous Doubles event, celebrating our 2nd Birthday.

Famous Doubles 2nd Birthday Bakes

On the savoury side, Cheese & Onion was the flavour of the night, with Cat producing cheese and onion flapjacks: tasty and topped with seeds, a really unusual twist on that classic flavour.

Savoury Bakes

We also tucked into a comforting cheese and onion pie, oozing with beautiful melting cheddar.

Bridging the gap between sweet and savoury was Jayne’s stunning Almond Fruit Cake, served with slices of cheese, together with an Egg & Bacon flan topped with fresh figs.

Almond Fruit Cake with Cheese

Then it was full steam ahead into a variety of cakes and biscuits.  Variations on the Bakewell theme proved popular with Cherry & Almond biscuits and an Apple and Blackberry Bakewell Tart.

Sweet Famous Doubles

Another combination clearly much loved by our bakers is Chocolate and Raspberry, with both double chocolate and raspberry brownies plus a White Chocolate and Raspberry cheesecake.  Finishing off the evening with elegance and style was Naomi’s tastefully decorated Coffee and Walnut Cake.

It was a shame that one of our regular bakers was unable to join in the celebrations because she’d managed to book a belated birthday Afternoon Tea treat on the same day.  She said her capacity for cake was limited and she didn’t think she’d manage two cakey events in one day.  Really??!

Over the two years we’ve been baking together, more than 20 bakers have joined us – new faces are always welcome.

The full list of bakes from this event was:
Cat – Cheese & Onion Flapjacks plus Cherry & Almond Biscuits
Faye – Egg & Bacon Flan with Fresh Figs
Tracey – Cheese & Onion Pie
Jan – Apple & Blackberry Bakewell Tart
Heather – Double Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
Jayne – Almond Fruit Cake with Cheese
Naomi – Coffee & Walnut Cake
Chelsea – White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake

All American Bakes – July 2019

July’s theme was All American and our bakers once again came up with an impressive array of both sweet and savoury classics.

All American Bakes made by our bakers

On the savoury side we were treated to two types of cornbread, both of which were delicious.  (Note to self, must look out a recipe and bake some sometime.)  Cornbread predates modern American history as Native Americans were grinding and using corn well before the Mayflower sailed.  There’s a debate over whether it should be plain, or whether cheese and chillies should be added.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread
Cheddar & Jalapeno Cornbread

Having had exemplars of both on the night, I think they were both tasty in their own right (and trust me, I ate enough of it to know!)  Cornbread tends to be thought of as a southern speciality now, but according to this article in the Guardian, (which also contains a recipe) there is a northern version too:

Jayne also introduced us to Hush Puppies – no, not the shoes.

Hush Puppies and Corn Muffins

These are delicious little fried scraps of cornmeal batter, mixed with whatever is to hand.  In this case, bacon.  What’s not to love?

Legend has it they were literally made by fishermen and soldiers to throw to their dogs to try to get them to quiet their barking!  Most of us had never heard of them before, but we’re all big fans now.  They certainly kept us quiet!

Black Bottom Cupcakes, Apple Pie and Brownies

You’re probably already getting this idea that none of this food was exactly low calorie, and that continued with some indulgent sweet treats.  We enjoyed both Apple Pie and Pecan Pie, plus some classic Brownies and (new to some of us) Black Bottom Cupcakes – which are essentially rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Cheesecake mix swirled through them.

Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

It was really good to see another new face this month, we’re a friendly bunch and we’re always open to new members.  We’re united by a love of baking and trying recipes out, plus we love eating the results.  If it tastes good we’re not worried whether it looks like the picture in the book or not!  Some of our members like to challenge themselves to try new recipes or techniques, or practise something they’ve learnt.  Others like the opportunity to bake without having to eat it all themselves, and others still are just cake fiends!  So, if you’ve been thinking about joining us but haven’t yet please do come along and say hello.  Our next event is 13th August when the theme is Summer Lovin’ and then on 10th September we’ll be celebrating our 2nd birthday with a Famous Double theme!

Full list of bakes for our All American event:

Marina – Brownies

Jayne – Corn Muffins with Bacon Jam, and Hush Puppies

Faye – Apple Pie

Cat – Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread with Sour Cream

Tina – Black Bottom Cupcakes

Chelsea – Pecan Pie

Baked with Love – February 2019

Love is in the air during February, and our bakers were no different!  Our Baked with Love event was a true Valentine’s feast of hearts and flowers, chocolate, pinks and reds – and not only did it look good it was all extremely tasty too.  We really were feeling the love.

Baked with Love

We started the evening with our two savoury bakes – both very creative!

Love for Home Grown and Home Made

Sue’s homemade bread croutons served with Egg Mayonnaise and Goats Cheese on a bed of Cavolo Nero and featuring squash as ‘the Crown Prince’ was made with her love of home grown and home prepared – and presented with its own little menu of Love.  And Jane chose to use all of her favourite flavours to create fantastic heart-shaped Cheese and Bacon Burger Pockets.  Imagine the flavour of the best burger you’ve ever had wrapped in gorgeous soft dough….  Mmmmmm…..

Hearts and Flowers

The heart-shaped theme continued with the sweet treats: Chocolate Cheesecake Swirl Brownies, Lavender Biscuits (with locally grown lavender from the lovely Long Barn at Alresford), a Chocolate Chestnut Torte and Shortbread.  New baker Barbi bought along some stunning pink and sparkly Rosewater Cupcakes – they were so amazingly light and fluffy, we had to ask her to share her secret with us!

Summer Fruits Pavlova

And Cat chose a very special bake for us.  She treated us to a Summer Fruits Pavlova – because it was the dessert served at her wedding.  A true romantic.

Perhaps this will give you some inspiration for your own Valentine’s baking.

We all had a lot of fun with our bakes this month, and we’re looking forward to a very different challenge next month.  It’ll be all about the pastry for A Life of Pie!

The full list of February’s creations, ‘Baked with Love’, is:

Sue – Egg Mayonnaise with Cavolo Nero and Squash served on homemade croutons

Jayne – Bacon Cheeseburger Heart Shaped Pockets

Cat – Summer Fruits Pavlova

Vicky – Chocolate Chestnut Torte

Faye – Shortbread Hearts

Barbi – Rosewater Cupcakes

Jan H – Lavender Heart Biscuits

Chelsea – Chocolate Cheesecake Swirl Brownie Hearts

A Celebration of Pancakes – February 2018

In February we met on Shrove Tuesday so our theme simply had to be ‘A Celebration of Pancakes’.   Pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday because, as the last day before Lent, it was customary to use up all the ‘fat’ or rich foods before the Lenten fast.  In other countries, this is Mardi Gras (literally ‘Fat Tuesday’) when not only are rich foods are eaten but there are also carnival celebrations with music, dancing and costumes.  The Carnivals in Rio and Venice are famous examples of this.

But, back to our bakes.  Some thought this would be a difficult theme but our bakers rose to the challenge, showing off a variety of cakes and bakes.

Celebrating Pancakes!

Nutella is obviously a popular choice of pancake topping for our sweet-toothed bakers as we had three Nutella bakes –

More Nutella than banana in this loaf!

a beautiful Nutella and Hazelnut Twist bread, Nutella and Banana Loaf and Nutella cookies.  Other sweet bakes featured blueberries, lemon, honey and chocolate.

Blueberry Cake




Maple Bacon Brownies were an unusual recipe featuring this month and didn’t taste as odd as you might expect; the bacon simply acted a bit like the salt in salted caramel.

We had two savoury bakes this month – one featuring actual pancakes (I know it’s not strictly baking but if the Great British Bake Off can do batter then so can we).

Polish Pancake Croquettes

Pancake Croquettes, a Polish recipe, stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms and served with a mushroom sauce was our actual pancake bake and our other savoury was a delicious King Cake filled with a white pudding sausage made with turkey mince and herbs.

Savoury King Cake

The pastry for this apparently has yeast in and it made for a very light, crisp and tasty little pie ring.  King Cakes (whether sweet or savoury) are a traditional Mardi Gras food and are also related to the Galette des Rois we saw in January for Epiphany.

The full list of bakes this month was:

Mandy – Blueberry Cake

Cat – Banana and Nutella Loaf

Tracey – Savoury King Cake

Jayne – Nutella and Hazelnut Twist

Louise – Lemon and Poppyseed Bundt

Vicky – Nutella Cookies

Faye – Honey and fruit Belgian buns

David – Maple Bacon Brownies

Chelsea – Polish Pancake Croquettes


P.S. Apologies for the lack of photos – a technical issue with the camera (sadly largely due to operator error) meant I lost most of them.  Must do better next month when we’re baking ‘Hand Me Downs.’