For those not in the know, Honeybuns is a gluten free bakery selling all types of cakes and biscuits throughout the UK. Established by the appropriately named Emma Goss-Custard in Oxford in 1998, Honeybuns has moved from a lone bicycle delivering homemade cakes, to a company employing 25 people. It is now located at Naish Farm in Dorset, where a nature reserve has taken the place of conventional agricultural activities and the farm buildings have been converted into a bakery. An old chicken shed now houses the Bee Shack cafe, which claims to serve the best gluten free cream tea in Dorset. Canny punters head there to get their fix. For those keen to try this exclusive experience, make sure you turn up on the first Saturday of every month – that’s the only day it’s open.
The Honeybuns website is quirky and fun and features a blog, a web cam of Joaney the donkey as well as the promotion of Bee Green and local produce. It also has an online shop available if you are unable to source their products locally.
The book is equally quirky and reflects Emma’s ethos of caring about good quality food, the environment and the local community. The first thing I noticed when I opened the book, was a little box accompanying each recipe stating what could be composted. Eggshells, tea bags and orange, for example, can be composted from the delightfully named Bumble Barrow fruit cake.
I have to say I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. Written by Emma, it has its own style, homely and based on real life experience but with a modern twist. I liked the look and feel of the book with its robust hardback cover featuring not only a scrumptious looking cake, but also a Cornishware jug. The pages are well laid out with clearly written instructions. Tips and alternative ways of doing things are scattered throughout. The accompanying photographs made me want to set to immediately with my trusty bowl and wooden spoon or better still grab a fork and get stuck in. In keeping with the rest of the homely nature of the book, the pictures are not highly styled and have a mat finish which appeals to me. Some of the pictures featured a number of vintage tea plates, which I’m now coveting. Although there are plenty of pictures, not all of the recipes have one, a common but disappointing feature of many cookery books these days. Pages are also enlivened with little sketches, such as cups, teapots, jugs and bees.
The book starts with the Honeybuns story and goes on to describe gluten free baking and what different ingredients and techniques are needed. It is then divided into seven specific chapters relating to a different type of bake: cakes, muffins, traybakes, brownies & other chocolatey things, flapjacks, cookies & biscuits and puddings. It finishes with a list of gluten free storcupboard ingredients and where you might be able to buy them.
Unsurprisingly, the chapter on brownies and other chocolatey things drew me in rather quickly – I might even have, err, jumped directly to it! And no regrets, there was plenty there to keep me interested, including two types of brownies, some chocolate and prune cakes topped by chocolate dipped prunes, a chilli chocolate cake and double chocolate and raspberry tartlets.
Each recipe features an introduction, giving a bit of background to the recipe and mentioning any specific health benefits the featured ingredients have. We are told, for example, that the toffee-topped almond and rhubarb cake contains vitamins A and C from the rhubarb. Many of the recipes are also dairy free.
The ingredients used are not just a mere substitution of gluten free flour for wheat flour, the recipes are interesting, appealing and worthy in their own right. Ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, polenta and gluten free oats are the main ingredients used, although linseed, sorghum, tapioca and rice flours are also used in some recipes. Any pre-conceived ideas of what gluten free cooking is like should be abandoned: there is no hardship or deprivation to be found here.
So, out came my trusty bowl and spoon and into it went the ingredients for custard cream biscuits. What have custard creams got to do with chocolate you might ask? Well the chocolate recipe I really wanted to make needed some custard creams (without the cream) as a base – what is a poor girl to do?
This is what I did:
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 150g caster sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 1 duck egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
- Stirred in 150g polenta, 150g ground almonds and 100g custard powder.
- Brought together into a ball, covered in plastic and placed in the refrigerator to firm up a bit as it was very soft and sticky.
- Dusted work top very liberally with gluten free flour as dough was still quite soft.
- Rolled out to about 1/4 cm thick and cut into heart shapes with a 4 x 5 cm cutter.
- Gathered all the bits into another ball and repeated the rolling and cutting process.
- Placed them slightly apart on lined baking trays as they were said to spread.
- Baked at 180C for 10 minutes until slightly browned – well a few were more than slightly browned, but it’s hard to get an even bake in my oven.
- Creamed 25g unsalted butter with 20g icing sugar and a tsp of custard powder.
- Added a drop of vanilla extract and creamed some more.
- Spread this over 8 of the biscuits and placed another on top.
- Dusted with icing sugar.
- Put aside all other biscuits to be used for another recipe.
These turned into a great crunchy biscuit with a pronounced granular texture from the polenta. They tasted sweet and buttery with a good dose of vanilla. The butteryness reminded CT of Bonne Maman Galettes – I had no luck whatsoever in restraining him. Although the texture was very different, I thought the custard creams tasted quite similar to the shop bought variety I remember – only better.
Disclaimer – this book was sent to me by the publishers, Anova Books, for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.