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

Frugal February

Our bakers did us proud for our Frugal February event, with an array of both sweet and savoury bakes all made using up leftovers!  We all agreed it’s surprising how creative you can be when you put your mind to it.

On the savoury side, we enjoyed retro Crispy pancakes from Jayne, made with roast beef and trimmings from Sunday lunch, and scones from both Vicky and Chelsea.  Vicky’s Cheese & Olive scones used up the olives she’d been given in a Christmas hamper and they made a delightful salty addition to a good scone and Chelsea’s Potato, Cheese & Onion scones made a dent in a glut of onions, and mashed potato which had been stashed in the freezer, as well as using up the last of the Christmas cheese.  Cat really took the frugal theme to heart with her tasty Vegetable Samosas.  Buying nothing, every single ingredient was something she already had in the house, even using substitutes where she didn’t have an ingredient listed in the recipe (like replacing carrot with a broccoli stalk).

On the sweet side, the ‘using up Christmas leftovers’ theme was also strong.  The odds and ends of dried fruit left after all the Christmas baking was the order of the day for several bakes – featuring in Faye’s Spiced Fruit Loaf, Heather’s Hot Cross Buns and Mandy’s Apricot, Cranberry & Coconut Flapjacks.  Chelsea also got through leftover Christmas chocolate and a spare pouch of chestnut puree (originally bought to make chestnut stuffing) for her Chocolate Chestnut Roulade.  Vicky had an excess of ground almonds so they made her lovely Almond Bundt Cake, and Jayne’s seasonal special offer blood orange glut also went into a tasty cake (even if Jayne herself was disappointed that it didn’t come out bright red!).  Christmas spices featured in Deb’s Ginger Parkin and Jan used up the last of the dates with her gorgeous Sticky Date Slices. (Why do we all buy figs and dates at Christmas even though we don’t eat them at other times of the year?!)

One baker not following the Christmas leftovers tack was newbie Penny, who instead raided the freezer for a frozen pie crust and some frozen berries to make us a lovely Berry Pie.

I think this month showed us all how much fun it can be using up leftovers and how many options there are if you’re prepared to be a bit creative.  Thank goodness for Google and the ability to search for recipes using specific ingredient combinations!!  Hopefully it might inspire us all to waste less food, and to get to grips with everything we stash in the freezer or leave lurking at the back of the cupboard.

The full list of our frugal bakes was:
Cat – Vegetable Samosas
Vicky – Cheese & Olive Scones, plus an Almond Bundt Cake
Chelsea – Cheese, Onion and Potato Scones plus Chocolate Chestnut Roulade
Jayne – Sunday Lunch Leftover Crispy Pancakes and Blood Orange Cake
Faye – Spiced Fruit Loaf
Heather – Hot Cross Buns
Mandy – Apricot, Cranberry & Coconut Flapjacks
Deb – Ginger Parkin
Jan H – Sticky Date Slices
Penny – Berry Pie

See you all in March, when we’ll be challenging ourselves to bake ‘free from’.

Something New – January 2020

To see us into a new year and indeed a new decade, our January theme was ‘Something New’.  When everyone arrived there was a lot of “I’ve never made…”; many of our bakers had tried out recipes new to them, some had opened new recipe books for the first time, others had trialled new bits of baking kit or new techniques.  We even had two new bakers baking for the first time.

Most of our bakers were drawn to cakes and other sweet bakes, but Heather gave us a lovely savoury to start the evening off:  Cheese Scones served with Homemade Tomato Chutney, the first time she’d made either of these.

New tins were the order of the day for Chelsea’s Mini Black Forest Cakes and Jan’s muffins (she said she can’t believe she’s never made muffins before) – and she gave us two flavour combinations: Coffee & Walnut, and Lemon & Poppyseed.  Vicky’s authentic and tasty Madeleines were also the product of a new tin, and like the first two, were very successful.  Freezing the tin before baking (to ‘shock’ the mix into rising giving that classic nipple on the back) was also a new technique for Vicky.  Sadly Jayne’s Lemon & Blueberry Muffin Tops in special jeans moulds didn’t meet with quite the same level of success – lack of rise meant the promised Muffin Tops didn’t materialise.  She felt her new éclair tray was also problematic, but the resultant Chocolate, Coffee and Walnut éclairs were produced very tasty indeed.

Our two new bakers Ian and Bob both opted for citrus flavours, Bob making his first ever cake and going for a classic Lemon Drizzle with loads of flavour.  Ian’s Orange Syrup Loaf Cake was the first time he’d made anything other than a Bran Loaf.  An unusual gluten free recipe using almonds and polenta it was also delicious and moist.  Hopefully Ian and Bob will join us again soon for more new-to-them baking.

Last but by no means least was Cat’s Fig Rolls – tasting exactly like they did back in the day.  I haven’t had one of the these for years, and they used to be my favourites.  Cat said the biscuit dough (a recipe from a new book) was difficult to handle but they certainly got the thumbs up.

Great to welcome two new faces this month – as they found out we’re not competitive, we just enjoy baking and eating cake!  If you’re interested in joining us just come along and bring your bake to share – sweet or savoury.

Here’s a run down of the full list:

Jan H – Coffee & Walnut and Lemon & Poppyseed Muffins
Heather – Cheese Scones with homemade Tomato Chutney
Ian – Orange Syrup Loaf
Bob – Lemon Drizzle Cake
Cat – Fig Rolls
Vicky – Madeleines
Jayne – Chocolate, Coffee & Walnut éclairs and Lemon & Blueberry Muffins
Chelsea – Mini Black Forest Cakes

Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate – November 2019

One of the good things about these long dark evenings and the nights drawing in is cosying up indoors with a nice hot drink and a slice of cake.  This month we combined the two, with our theme of Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate.  Unsurprisingly, it did lead to a lot of brown bakes!  But comfort food is another one of the things that’s good about winter, right?

Most of our bakers went for sweet bakes for this one, but (determined to do something savoury) Chelsea tried her hand at smoking some chicken and then used it to top some homemade blinis so we were able to start the evening with canapés!  (Although she did say it would have been easier to smoke the chicken if she’d had a round rack…) 

Many of our bakers thought this was a difficult theme to bake a savoury for – what would you have baked?

Representing tea, Earl Grey was certainly the order of the day featuring in no less than five bakes.

We had an elegant iced tea loaf from Naomi and a simpler version from Chelsea (made as a back up in case she oversmoked the chicken and it was too acrid).  Jayne wasn’t a fan of her Earl Grey and Citrus Knot Rolls but the rest of us loved them!  For her first time joining us Rose gave us a tasty Earl Grey and Chocolate Torte and Heather’s offering (yay – not brown!) was an Earl Grey and Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream.

Also using two of the three flavours were the Coffee and Chocolate Iced Squares, the Irish Cream and Chocolate Cheesecake and Cat’s complicated frozen dessert of Chocolate Meringue with Espresso Parfait and a Whisky Caramel Sauce.  I wish I’d got a better photo of it!  Vicky was determined to do something other than a cake this time, giving us some beautifully presented Coffee and Nutmeg Biscuits whilst poor Jan made her Mocha and Hazelnut Cake twice as it didn’t rise properly the first time.  I’m pleased to report that this one was absolutely divine.  (In fact it was so good, we asked her for the recipe – here it is:  https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1900/mocha-hazelnut-cake )

We’re all looking forward to our next meeting on Tuesday 10th December when we’re baking to the theme of Christmas Traditions – can’t wait to hear all the lovely Christmas memories that go along with the bakes.

The full list of bakes for our Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate event was:

Marina – Coffee Squares with Chocolate Icing
Jan – Mocha and Hazelbut Cake
Vicky – Coffee and Nutmeg Biscuits
Rose – Earl Grey and Chocolate Torte
Heather – Earl Grey and Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
Chelsea – Tea Smoked Chicken Canapés with homemade Blinis, and Lady Grey Tea Loaf
Jayne – Earl Grey and Citrus Iced Knot Rolls
Naomi – Iced Earl Grey Tea Loaf
Cat – Chocolate Meringue with Espresso Parfait and Whisky Caramel Sauce
Tina – Irish Cream and Chocolate Cheesecake

Easter Egg-stravaganza! – April 2019

This month our bakers did us proud with an Easter Egg-stravaganza, producing some traditional celebration bakes alongside some really good, fun bakes featuring eggs, chocolate and even lambs!

Only one savoury bake this month but it was a definite triumph – a clever twist on the Roscon de Reyes (or King Cake) which features in Spanish Epiphany celebrations but is also part of the New Orleans Carnival tradition in the period leading up to Lent.  Traditionally sweet, Jayne turned this one savoury, creating layers of beautifully pillowy dough filled with ham and cheese and decorated with olives and peppers.  Most of us went back for seconds!

Another traditional bake was little Simnel Cakes, complete with the 11 little spheres on top said to represent the disciples of Jesus.  (Judas, of course, is not included in their number, being considered a traitor by this point in the Easter story).  We also had an Easter Egg Challah – an enriched, braided dough traditionally made for the Jewish Sabbath and for important holidays.  Three braids represent truth, peace and justice.  This particular recipe (not entirely traditional) had sugar in – and the leftovers made amazing French toast!  Our final traditional bake was these pretty star shaped Pardulas, an Easter treat in Sardinia; pastry filled with a ricotta cheese and sugar mixture, flavoured with saffron and citrus.

After all that culture, we descended into pure decadence with a riot of chocolate, mini eggs and these very cute little lamb and butterfly cupcakes.  New baker Naomi created these with the help of Pinterest and they were almost too pretty to eat.  We also tucked into a Chocolate Orange Nest cake (made with All Bran so it must be a little bit healthy, right?), a Chocolate Guinness Cake, Cardamom and Lavender Easter Cupcakes (made with eggs from Barbie’s own chickens) and a very indulgent Italian Tres Leche Cake – named for the three milks (condensed, evaporated and double cream) poured over the sponge after it’s baked to soak it through.

The full list of this month’s bakes was:

Jayne – Savoury Roscon de Reyes

Mandy – Chocolate Guinness Easter Cake

Vicky – Simnel Cupcakes

Chelsea – Easter Egg Challah Bread

Naomi – Lamb and Butterfly Vanilla Cupcakes

Sharon – Italian Tres Leche Cake

Ann – Chocolate Orange Nest Cake

Cat – Sardinian Pardulas

Barbie – Cardamom and Lavender Cupcakes

Next month we’re celebrating Eurovision with Continental Classics.  Who knows what our creative bakers will come up with for that!

Holiday Memories – May 2018

Our May event, gave our bakers the chance to revive some of their favourite food memories from their holidays, and we were treated to a range of flavours both exotic and closer to home – taking us from Morocco, to Argentina, on a tour of the UK and into Europe.

Holiday Memories!
Scotch Eggs

A firm favourite was Jayne’s Scotch Eggs – in Jayne’s family apparently every long car journey starts with a scotch egg in the car en route so they always make her think of family holidays.  The combination of a lovely crispy breadcrumb coating, tasty sausagemeat seasoned with chorizo and thyme plus perfectly cooked ‘just runny’ eggs was a winning recipe.  There weren’t any of these left at the end of the evening, which is the best possible endorsement from your fellow bakers!

Rye Bread and Homemade Seaweed Butter

We were also very impressed with Cat’s effort in making her own seaweed butter to accompany her rye bread.  The latter was chosen to recall many European holidays, and the seaweed in the butter evoked memories of Welsh holidays, so an interesting mix.  Cat tells us butter is really easy to make and she’ll be making more.  It was certainly delicious.

Empanadas, and Chapattis with Tagine

Chelsea was reminiscing about backpacking through South America with her Argentinean empanadas – Chorizo and Cheese, with Cheese and Sweetcorn for the vegetarians.  Jan’s recent trip to Morocco was her inspiration as she treated us to a Chicken and Prune Tagine with homemade Chapattis.

The sweet bakes were equally as well received

Welsh Cakes, Chocolate and Banana Cake and Bakewell Cake

Wales came up again with Faye’s tasty Welsh cakes, Abigail gave us Chocolate and Banana Cake inspired by holidays in Austria (who have a great heritage of producing gorgeous cakes in their historic coffee shops) and Vicky treated us to a Bakewell Cake because visits to her grandmother always involved Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices!  An unusual recipe as it was a cake rather than the more traditional Bakewell Tart but just look at that lovely layer of fresh raspberries in the middle.  Vicky had promised the leftovers to her colleagues – they didn’t get much!

It was another great evening – very relaxed, everyone tucking in and enjoying the bakes.

Members tucking into cake and more!

We’ve also just announced the themes for our summer events – in July we’ll be making Boozy Bakes, in August we’re going on a picnic and in September we’ll be celebrating our First Birthday!  Lots of look forward to!  Full details on our Events page.

The full list of bakes from our May ‘Holiday Memories’ event is:

Jan – Moroccan Chicken and Prune Tagine with homemade Chapattis

Jayne – Scotch Eggs with Chorizo and Thyme

Chelsea – Argentinean Empanadas: Chorizo and Cheese, plus Cheese and Sweetcorn, with Avocado Salsa

Cat – Rye Bread with homemade Seaweed Butter

Vicky – Bakewell Cake

Faye – Welsh Cakes

Abigail – Austrian Chocolate and Banana Cake

Next up it’s Afternoon Tea, on Tuesday 12th June, 7.00pm at Toscanaccio