Let’s talk about Easter traditions. I’ve explained some of our family traditions in previous posts (welly wanging features heavily – not as rude as it sounds!), but I wanted to share another really special one: the Easter tree.
You know how sometimes you set yourself a challenge that, at the time, seems totally reasonable and fairly sane, but later you find yourself questioning why on earth you ever thought it was a good idea? Well, I decided to make filo. From scratch. And three days later my wrists were still hurting from all the rolling. I would say it was worth it, but only because now I will appreciate shop bought filo SO much more.
Honestly, I would say only make filo from scratch if you really, really love rolling pins. It took me nearly an hour to roll out all the sheets of dough, and a few of them were still a little thicker than I’d have liked. Thank god for podcasts!
However, the upside of all this filo-angst is nut-free Baklava; its not just possible, its also delicious!
Baklava has always been one of those bakes that is so nut-dependent that I never even considered trying to make a nut-free version that I could eat. But once I’d made homemade filo, it was the first thing that sprang to mind to make with it. I looked around for recipe inspiration, and found lots of recipes that used exclusively sesame seeds. I wanted some variation, so added sunflower seeds, which I think also taste very nutty.
When the baklava comes out of the oven you soak it in an orange and cinnamon syrup which soaks into the filling and the pastry. The final, cooled baklava is sticky and rich, but has bite and depth. It was so good for breakfast, but any more than a few squares at a time will give you a sugar headache. Although I’d urge not to make the pastry, I would recommend making this Nut-free Baklava so you can try it and tell me if it’s anything like the real thing!
Recipe: Nut-free Baklava
Ingredients: Filo (recipe from The Spruce)
3 cups of plain flour
1/2 cup hot water
1tsp white vinegar
1tbsp olive oil
Cornflour, for rolling
1 cup of roasted sunflower seeds
1 cup of roasted sesame seeds
zest of 3 clementines
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
Olive oil, for brushing
1 cup of orange juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cardamon pods
half a cinnamon stick
Method: Nut-free Baklava
- First, make the pastry (feel free to skip this step and use the shop bought stuff). In a bowl mix together the flour, water and vinegar until it forms a rough dough. Add the oil and mix to combine. Knead for about 10 minutes until it forms a silky smooth dough. Roll into walnut sized balls, place on a tray dusted with cornflour, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for few hours.
- To roll out the dough, use liberal amounts of cornflour on your hands, surface and rolling pin. Roll until its as thin as you think you can get it, and then keep on going. Repeat for each sheet, stacking together and covering with a damp tea towel the sheets you have finished to stop them drying out.
- Preheat the oven to 160C and grease a baking dish (I used a square 20cm tin).
- To make the filling, blitz the seeds in a food processor until they make a rubble, with some larger chunks left. Mix in the spices and zest.
- To assemble, add in layers of filo, brushed liberally with olive oil. Then add the filling and smooth until flat. Keep adding layers of filo brushed with oil until you’re out of pastry. I used about 10 layers on the bottom and 8 on the top. Score the baklava into diamonds all the way through each layer.
- Bake for about an hour, until the top is golden and crisp.
- While the baklava is in the oven make the syrup. Combine all the syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins. Once the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup down the cracks and leave to absorb.
The lead up to Christmas gets me excited for lots of different reasons, and in recent years it has helped to spark a creativity that had been lying dormant and unfulfilled. Planning a cake for a family gathering, baking edible gifts for friends or making decorations all give me a sense of calm that I can struggle to achieve otherwise. Although I do all these things throughout the year, Christmas combines one present-giving event for everyone with long dark evenings, perfect for cosying up with a project.
Christmas is a season full of delicious food, traditions and gathering friends and family to eat together. There is nothing better than a mug of mulled wine and some gingerbread to get you in the festive spirit. But having a nut allergy can make Christmas a little more stressful. Mince pies laced with various nuts, fruitcake and endless marzipan adornments all have to be avoided. Even drinks are a minefield; Sweden’s answer to mulled wine, gløgg, is made with almonds.
There are always points in my Great British Bake Off technical challenge bake along where my nut allergy thwarts me. This year the peanut butter molten middle fondants were a pretty big problem. I point blank refuse to make food I can’t eat (what on earth is the point?) so I needed to find something to replace the peanut butter to make that oozy centre. Continue reading
Sometimes cake ideas come to me fully formed, sometimes they come from needing to use up leftovers, and sometimes I get a fun new toy I can’t wait to play with. A few weekends ago on a trip to TK Maxx to buy some pretty pots for some of my plant jungle (is 27 plants in the living room too many? If it is I don’t care!), I spied some Halloween cookie cutters. My cookie cutter collection didn’t have anything spooky in it at all, so I decided to buy them as a little treat.
The second that I realised that Pasteis de Nata were going to be a technical challenge on The Great British Bake Off I was over the moon. Earlier this year I spent a long weekend in Porto with my two best friends, and we ate a lot of Portuguese Custard Tarts in a quest to find the best in the city, so I really felt prepared for the challenge of making them.