Given the content of my blog, this may be surprising but, I'm not a natural at baking gluten free. (Which means that all recipes on the blog are all very achievable; if I can do it, so can you.) I often struggle with the limitations of baking without gluten and get frustrated by the temperamental nature of all those different flours (some absorb loads of water, some make a delicate dough, some taste too strong to use in certain baked goods...the list goes on). I enjoy baking and it's certainly easier to share a cake at work than it is a casserole, for example, but the thing that gets me through the day is the thought of cooking dinner. Cooking is where my heart lies, it's what keeps me awake at night and what gets me out of bed in the morning. I seldom write about my cooking exploits on the blog because I think that most people want to read about foods they can't normally eat, made gluten free - not food that is, in the main, gluten free anyway. I might be wrong (and do tell me if you'd rather see more naturally gf recipes on here) but, I know that when I was first diagnosed Coeliac I wanted to know how to make gingerbread biscuits and fairy cakes, not cassoulet or risotto.
The reason for my preference is this; baking is specific, measured, while cooking allows me to be more instinctual and creative. In my mind, baking is science and cooking is art. Of course, there are times when cooking needs to be precise and baking is more relaxed, and I am generalising here but, I feel freer when I cook.
Why am I telling you this now? Well, I have been feeling a bit like something is amiss from my writing recently, I don't feel very inspired. The husband commented that it seems like the passion has gone out of my writing and immediately, I knew why - the passion has gone out of my baking.
I had a disastrous day in the kitchen on Monday. The seemingly simple task of baking shortbread turned into a nightmare, the first batch was still liquid after 40 minutes at 180°C; the second batch was so gritty that I had half a mind to keep it until the roads freeze over again; the third batch would have worked if I had remembered to oil the tin before adding the batter to it, consequently, it fell to pieces when I tried to un-mould it. I felt beaten and started to doubt my own ability to do anything in the kitchen. In fact, I lost all faith in myself to do anything.
That revelation aside, my recipe for you today is more like baking than cooking. I needed to reassure myself that I could still make something work, without failure, and I wanted to show you that sometimes you can make a silk purse from a sow's ear...
I had to throw away two batches of shortbread on Monday, so by the time my third batch fell to pieces I was unwilling to discard it. Millionaire's shortbread was a favourite treat in our family when I was a child and always succeeds in cheering me up.
250g gluten free shortbread
225g caster sugar
150ml double cream
120g milk chocolate, melted
- Melt 100g of the butter while you bash the shortbread into crumbs. The end of a rolling pin works well, or pop them in a freezer bag and whack it with the bottom of a saucepan. This is especially useful for working out the stresses of the day! Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and stir well. Press the mixture into a 20cm springform tin. Put it in the fridge to set.
- Put the rest of the butter, the sugar and double cream in a saucepan oven a gentle heat. Once the sugar had dissolved, bring to the boil and simmer for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often. If you have a jam thermometer, you can used that - you're looking for it to reach soft ball, or 240°F. Pour the caramel over the biscuit base and leave to cool.
- (If you want a darker caramel, heat just the sugar and butter until it is deeply coloured (don't stir), being very careful not to burn. Then add the cream - it will bubble fiercely, so be careful - then simmer as before.)
- Once the caramel has cooled, pour over the melted chocolate and allow to set. Cut into squares slightly before the chocolate has completely hardened. Warming your knife in hot water first will help you to cut cleanly through the caramel layer.