Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Cake Bites (gluten free and/or vegan)

I was going to write you a little ditty about Christmas time. You know, the perfect homes, the happy, laughing families who are just loving spending 24/7 with each other. Then I was going to recount an amusing anecdote and sign off happily.

But I went shopping yesterday and something rather upsetting happened.

Like lots of Mums there is a list burning a hole in the back pocket of my jeans and as I pushed my trolley towards the supermarket I was braced for the task ahead.

I was about to go in when I saw the man begging. Actually, I saw the man shivering uncontrollably.

Years ago, on a first date my soon-to-be-boyfriend refused to give money to a man begging. Instead he took him to a cafe, bought him a mug of tea and a bacon sarnie and then walked me home. It was the best possible seduction plan for a soft-hearted girl like me.

The shivering man of yesterday nodded when I asked if he wanted something to eat. It was simple to nip in and get him croissants and a coffee, although he had difficulty holding the cup straight because of the shivering.

I went into the supermarket with the trolley I was about to fill and suddenly none of it seemed right. The bright lights, the festive cheer and all that money we spend on gorging ourselves at Christmas.

I decided not to cry in public because it’s never a good look, but my brains were in rack mode wondering what I could do to lessen the man’s misery and that bloody shivering.

I looked carefully, but they were not selling small, flat-packed houses filled with warmth and cheer for the homeless. I personally think they have missed a trick there. No, the best I could do was chocolate, a hat, scarf and gloves.

The shivering man thanked me and told me that no, he had nowhere to sleep. I suggested one of the homeless shelters they open up during the winter, but he said because he has no papers to be in France he can only sleep in a shelter one night a month. I urged him to go to one of the soup kitchens but he told me that being sans papers, he’s not entitled to any food. He said he would sleep in the station at which I was lost for words and then told him I was sorry. He nodded and as I walked away he shouted ‘Merry Christmas!’ after me.

Good look or not, that bit made me cry in public.

I cried even more as I drove out of the car park and saw that he was already wearing the hat that we all know will not really make any difference to his plight.

Maybe there are some braying types reading this and snorting at the computer. ‘He probably survives on benefits, has a council house, 51 children and huge plasma screen telly.’

You know what? I really, really hope he has all of that (maybe not the 51 kids.) I hope he has so many hats, scarves and gloves that he is selling them on a market stall somewhere and making a tidy profit.

But something - oh I dunno call it feminine intuition – tells me that when there is ice and snow on the pavement, not many people would choose to sit on the ground unless they were desperate.

I came home to my lovely, warm house and my loving family. I made myself a hot drink and stoked the fire because it’s bloody cold out there. My husband listened about the man and then talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He added that I’d touched someone at the bottom of the hierarchy which is always going to feel uncomfortable when we are so much further up it. (Please look at the graphic so you know what I’m talking about. Otherwise I just sound fascist...)

Look, I know it’s Christmas and I’m supposed to be full of festive cheer and I am, really I am. My children are hopping around in excitement and I can’t wait to see their faces tomorrow when they open all their loot.

But I kissed my son last night as he slept in his warm bed and I couldn’t help thinking of my supermarket man. Maybe somewhere that man’s mother is wondering how he’s doing and hoping that he’s got a warm bed for the night. I wish someone had good news for her.

Right, no more maudlinity! (yes, that’s a word). I’m really here to wish you lots of yummy goodness for Christmas and more champagne than your liver can cope with.

Thanks for all your brilliant comments and emails during the year, please eat, drink and be merry darlings!

But spare a thought for my supermarket man and if you see him at a shop near you, please buy him a hot drink and something to eat.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cake Bites

I know these are just a festive re-hash of Cake Balls for E and I had high hopes of bringing you a new recipe. But if you haven’t worked it out, I’m really disorganised and I’m afraid this is the best I can do.

Cake Bites (makes about 40)

All versions will need:

130g dairy free spread/margarine

120g sugar

110g golden syrup or honey

60g GF, DF cocoa powder

150 ml rice milk / dairy milk (for GF versions, remember liquid measurements are approximate. Always add liquid gradually, using less or more as you see fit)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

GF version:

50g cornflour

100g brown rice flour

25g chickpea flour/quinoa flour/tapioca flour
¾ tsp xanthan gum

1½ tsp GF baking powder

Egg version / Egg free version

1 egg OR:

1 heaped tsp of Orgran no egg Egg Replacer

1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds

⅛ tsp xanthan gum (that’s half a ¼ if you’re as thick as me...)

2 tbsps vegetable oil

4 tbsps rice milk/dairy milk/

To make these with wheat flour:

Use 175g wholemeal, self-raising flour

To bind the cake balls:

3-4 tbsps gluten free apple sauce (a GF apple sauce for weaning babies would do)

(If you can’t find a jar of apple sauce, use 2 eating apples, 2-3 tbsps sugar, squeeze of lemon juice. Peel, core, chop apples and put them in a saucepan, add sugar, lemon juice and a tbsp of water. Cover and simmer until apple is cooked. Blend with a hand blender, add a tsp of cornflour to bind it all together, blend again to remove any lumps)

To coat:

150-200g dark DF chocolate but couverture best

GF pretty decorations, like Carnival Sprinkelz or gold powder

About 12 Bamboo skewers/metal skewers for applying the chocolate (you’ll see)

• For egg free versions: mix the Orgran no egg powder, ground linseeds, xanthan gum, oil and rice milk together using a mini whisk. Set aside

• Grease and line two 18cm sandwich tins with baking parchment

• Pre-heat oven to 170˚celsius

• Put the fat and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat together
• Add either the egg or the egg replacing mixture and beat again

• Add the flour (GF or wheat), baking powder, xanthan gum (GF versions) and cocoa powder to the bowl and beat until incorporated

• Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warmed 150ml of rice milk/dairy milk and gradually stir in to the mixture. For GF versions you may need to add more milk to get a soft, dropping consistency

• Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes until risen and springy. Remove and leave to cool completely

• When the cakes are cool, crumble them into a large mixing bowl. Add the apple sauce and combine until you are able to squidge the mixture into balls, you may need more apple sauce

• Lovingly roll little balls of cake in your hands and set them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Place the baking tray in the fridge for up to four hours

• When you are ready to coat your cake bites, place them in the freezer on the baking tray (for 20 minutes maximum). Then melt the chocolate or couverture over a very low heat in a bain marie. When it has just melted, turn off the heat

• Skewer one of the cake balls and holding it over the bain marie, use a spoon to drop the chocolate onto the ball. Rotate the ball until covered in chocolate. Keep rotating to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Then place the skewer into a jug/tall thing so that the cake bite is upright. If you have some oasis for flower arranging, put them in that, it works a treat. Put baking parchment over the work surface to catch any dripping chocolate. Decorate with pretty things if you wish

• Continue coating the cake bites. When you run out of skewers, use a fork to gently remove the first cake bite you covered and place it onto baking parchment to dry fully. Repeat until all the cake balls are coated and drying on the baking parchment. I do hope that makes sense. They can be chilled in the fridge to finish them off.

• These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for ages, at least a week

• You could even package these up and take them to a nearby Supermarket Man. I’m sure he’d thank you...
© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved


Annie said...

Very moving post. Thank you for sharing. I think it is utterly appropropriate. Even if one isn't Christian, the main story theme for this time of year is, after all, about a 9 month pregnant woman travelling 70 miles on the back of a donkey & giving birth amongst the animals. Even good ol' St Nick is based on a guy doing what he could for those who had nothing. I think we all need to make sure that, however blessed we are, we don't loose sight of those blessings nor forget that there are thousands who have so much less.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

annie, thanks for visiting. Although I don't share your Christian beliefs, I fully agree with the sentiment of helping others who are less fotunate. And not just at Christmas...!
Pig x

Iota said...

I recently watched Prince Caspian, you know, one of the Narnia movies. It really got under my skin. All about the fight between good and evil, and how we live in that battle, whether we like it or not.

I don't know why I wrote that, but I'm going to post it anyway.

Happy Christmas, Pig. I loved meeting you this year.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hello Iota, you know what upset me the most was (I think) what you're talking about; the injustice of it all and how if I do nothing I somehow seem complicit in his predicament...actually maybe that isn't what you're talking about, but I'm sure you'll understand.

I loved meeting you too and I hope 2011 brings another chance to sup together!

Pig x

Anonymous said...

You did good. Merry Christmas, pig in the kitchen. Just as the kindness of random strangers lifts us all at points in our lives, thank you for the reminder that we can all do our part to make someone's life a little more bearable.


The teenie foodie said...

Aw pig thanks for sharing that moving story, thats such a kind thing for you to do, and has made me think of those less fortunate.
I recently discovered your blog and think its wonderful, such gorgeous recipes! This cake looks so good...

Hope you had a great christmas.

Gluten Free Food said...

Hello, I just came to your site and found lots of information about chocolate is a gluten free food. I enjoyed your post. Thanks...

Cookie said...

I was very touched by your post. I had just read your post right before I went shopping at our local Walmart and as I was walking out to my car, I was thinking about your experience and thinking I would have done and felt the way you did. As I was thinking this, an elderly woman walked up to me and asked if I had any spare change. She told me she was living in her car and she needed gas and food money. I usually don't have cash on me. I usually write checks, but I just happened to have a small amount of cash on me, so I immediately gave it to her. She was so thankful that she gave me a big hug and wished me a happy new year. I told her I hoped her new year was going to be a happy one. As I got into my car, I thought how perfect to be thinking of your post when this woman approached me. Of course, I always give to those who need. I don't ever judge the situation because I have needed assistance before when I was a young single mom. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I feel it lead me to my encounter.

Gone Back South said...

Oh Pig, I have missed reading your thoughts and stories. Thanks for reminding me of that pyramid - I learny about it in Sociology lessons at Uni but I'd forgotten all about it. It's simple but brilliant. I do often catch my self brooding and moaning about things that aren't right in the top part of my hierarchy of needs, and have to give myself a kick to be thankful for all my blessings in the bottom half. Bless your supermarket man. There are some really sad and desperate people out there.
Happy new year to you old buddy xxx

Fiona said...

That story might be 8 months old but it is still really touching. There's always a little nagging doubt at the back of the mind as to whether someone is truly in need or just chancing it. But your supermarket guy sounds genuine and I'm glad you helped him.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Thanks Fiona. I still think of supermarket man, who knows whether he was fleecing me? I don't really care because he was sooo cold. Hopefully the hat helped a little ;-)
Pig x