Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

Spotted Dick is like a time travel machine in food form, designed to send you right back to your nursery days. A glorious traditional suet pudding studded with currants, mixed peel and spices, designed to warm you from the inside out.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

This week has not been one of my favourites. The whole house has been suffering with the most horrendous cold. So far, I’ve been housebound for nearly seven days and I’ve got severe cabin fever. As the outside world looks like a treacherous winter wonderland with snow blizzards lashing at our windows I can’t believe I am longing to be outside. Weather like this in London just doesn’t happen, it’s been snowing for almost three days straight and I’m so keen to wrap up in multi layers of knitwear, plonk Cole in his snowsuit, grab Billy Buddy’s lead and head to Parkland Walk which is the disused railway walk right by our house and always looks so beautiful in this snow capped weather.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

But instead I’m lying down on the bed watching the snow fall through the window, when I’m not consumed by a major coughing jag which seems to rip my body in half (The baby seriously does not like it when I cough and has been getting his own back by zapping me with searing Braxton Hicks contractions). I’ve also been watching an obscene amount of Paw Patrol on the sofa with Cole who is suffering with this cold just as badly, minus the pregnancy pains but plus a sky-high fever which I’m constantly battling to manage 24/7. Thank goodness for my mum who was able to come up for a few days to lend a hand to our fallen household.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

So I’m basically being a miserable so-and-so and to top it all off I got the unenviable news from my midwife at the beginning of the week that the baby is growing at an unprecedented rate and as such they are testing me for gestational diabetes. To counteract this ungracious news I have had to swear myself off sugar until I get the all clear. Giving up sugar is no fun at the best of times, giving up sugar when you are exhausted from spending all night long comforting a mewling toddler and 8 months pregnant is even worse. Coupled with the reality that playing with sugar is my job so I’m having to rethink a few recipes when my brain is like soup. Plus there’s the fact that goddammit I just want a Galaxy Ripple but having to make do with an oatcake. It’s really not the same. So not only am I ill, heavy with baby, tired and looking after a sick toddler but even sugar has forsaken me. I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, can you tell?

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

I am hoping that the gestational diabetes test is negative but I have a feeling that I won’t get the results until the baby is pretty much here anyway so I’m looking at a sugar-free existence for the rest of the pregnancy. Luckily I was getting ahead of myself for a few of these posts and this indulgently delicious Gluten-Free Spotted Dick was a masterpiece from a couple of weeks back.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

Do you know about Spotted Dick? Have you guffawed at its absurd name – gosh those British fools really know how to name wrestle with innuendo. The bemusing moniker is really an ancient term meaning spotted dough, not nearly as memorable I think you’ll find. The spotted part refers to the currants which are dotted throughout the pudding, along with mixed peel and spices. It’s a much easier pudding to make then you think as the dough quickly comes together and then is wrapped in a double layer of muslin and foil and boiled for a couple of hours.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

Spotted Dick is a really traditional British ‘nursery’ pudding. Basically one of those charming relics of childhood which is more often found these days in staid British restaurants and gentleman’s clubs. Most of us though know of it from school dinners, hence the term ‘nursery pudding.’ It has a horrid reputation as a great stodge of a pudding but really it doesn’t have to be. It’s tremendously comforting, a perfect accompaniment to Snow Day and this gluten-free version is especially heart-warming. It’s traditionally made with suet but I find by using fresh beef suet (which you should ask your butcher for) instead of the shop bought stuff really lightens the finished result. The pudding must really be eaten steaming hot with copious amounts of custard. I wouldn’t even bother advocating making your own custard here as Bird’s Custard will really seal the nostalgia deal.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

I have to say I can’t wait to get better, cast off the aspersions of gestational diabetes and fall headlong back into a great big bowl of Spotted Dick and custard. It’s what’s keeping me going.

Gluten-Free Spotted Dick

Print Recipe
Gluten-Free Spotted Dick
Spotted Dick is a glorious traditional suet pudding studded with currants, mixed peel and spices, designed to warm you from the inside out.
Gluten-Free Spotted Dick
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
  • 125 g currants
  • 3 tablespoons rum or whisky or brandy
  • 140 g sweet rice flour
  • 120 g oat flour
  • 100 g almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 180 g fresh beef suet
  • 125 g soft brown sugar
  • 40 g mixed peel
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 225-250 ml whole milk
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
  • 125 g currants
  • 3 tablespoons rum or whisky or brandy
  • 140 g sweet rice flour
  • 120 g oat flour
  • 100 g almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 180 g fresh beef suet
  • 125 g soft brown sugar
  • 40 g mixed peel
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 225-250 ml whole milk
Gluten-Free Spotted Dick
Instructions
  1. First place the currants in a small bowl and spoon over the rum, leaving them to soak for at least an hour.
  2. Sift the flours, baking powder and sea salt into a large bowl.
  3. Then stir in the suet, sugar, soaked currants (without the excess liquid), mixed peel and spices.
  4. Pour in just enough milk to make soft dough, mixing together with your hands.
  5. Shape the dough into a thick log and loosely wrap in muslin or cheesecloth, securing the ends with string.
  6. Then wrap in foil.
  7. Place the Spotted Dick in a large saucepan, pour boiling water all around the spotted dick until it has submerged and bring up to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer, put the lid on and leave to cook for two hours.
  8. Remove the Spotted Dick carefully from the water and serve immediately with lashings of custard.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

There is nothing more inviting than a freshly baked Eccles Cake, warm from the oven, the pastry beautifully flaky and the spiced plump fruit just short of bursting through its buttery trappings.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I have always made Eccles Cakes regularly, they are both my mum’s and Luke’s favourite teatime treat so if either of them are ever in need of spoiling or cheering up then there is no better place for me to start than by whipping them up a batch. I can never make too many, they always seems to disappear as quickly as I can produce them.

Eccles Cakes are more pastries than cakes really and have a history dating back three hundred years. They hail from the town of Eccles in the North of England and like a lot of traditional recipes are remarkably similar to the Banbury Cake and the Chorley Cake with little discernable difference. It’s the Eccles Cake though that is the most familiar since its commercialisation in the 1970s means you can pick up a dry doughy sub-par version in a packet at most supermarkets. If these are the only versions you have tasted then you absolutely have to try your hand at making your own.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

As like most old recipes there is debate about how a real Eccles Cake should be constructed. To my mind they are best when they are made from flaky pastry, rather than puff, to encase a luscious filling of spiced juicy fruit. I use currants and sultanas and also include a couple of tablespoons of Homemade Mixed Peel in my filling. If I don’t have any Homemade Mixed Peel knocking around the kitchen then a tablespoon of marmalade also gives a lovely citrus taste (since our family is not a fan of bought mixed peel). The fruit is sprinkled with orange zest, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg then held together with melted butter and sugar. Once it has been tucked inside its pastry casing it is baked until golden brown with a sprinkling of crunchy demerara sugar on top.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Really there is no substitute for the homemade Eccles Cake, in particular if you time it perfectly and can present your offerings straight out of the oven. The scent of spice as you bite in is intoxicating, the fruit oozing from within as the pastry flakes at the corners of your mouth. If you’re especially lucky the buttery filling might have made a bid for freedom outside of the pastry during the bake so the sugar has caramelised chewily around the opening.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I think Eccles Cakes may have been one of the first recipes I cracked when I had my own kitchen many years ago and I have found over the years there is a definite knack to getting them absolutely perfect. Of course the game completely changed when I became gluten-free a few years ago and I had to find a new pastry to make my Eccles Cakes with. I have tried a few gluten-free flaky pastry recipes but the one I have listed below is the closest to the real deal and comes courtesy of an adaptation of Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Flaky Pie Dough in her book Alternative Baker. The list of ingredients is long but necessary and actually once you have measured it all out then it is just as easy to come together as the wheat version I used to use from Delia. The pastry rolls really well and is actually quite forgiving thanks to the inclusion of chia seeds which act a little bit like gluten in that it gives the pastry stretch so is more pliable when it comes to filling your pastry rounds with the fruit filling.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I think the key to a successful Eccles Cake is to roll the pastry to a 3mm thickness which isn’t too thick or thin. I bought a special metal cutter for my Eccles Cakes which is 12cm in diameter and makes for a perfectly sized Eccles Cake. The filling shouldn’t be too wet either. If you have let the filling rest for about an hour before using then it should have dried up enough to scoop into the pastry without making it soggy.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Don’t overfill your Eccles Cake either, you only want two teaspoons of filling in the centre of each pastry round, then as you pull the dampened edges of the pastry over the top to stick together the fruit shouldn’t puncture the pastry. If you have rolled the pastry a bit thin and it does break a little then simply grab a little excess pastry and patch it up. To finish, you turn the little pastry ball over and roll it out a fraction with your rolling pin to flatten it into a beautiful round. Then slash the top a couple of times with a sharp knife so the steam has somewhere to escape, brush with a little egg wash to give it a lovely golden hue and sprinkle over the demerara sugar before baking.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

When I asked Luke why he loves Eccles Cakes so much he waxed lyrically about how the filling is spread thinly and evenly between the buttery flaky layers of the pastry, so the treat is rich but light and not heavy like the way mince pies can be a little cloying. He’s so right but this is what also can make the Eccles Cake a little dangerous as eating more than one is very easy to do.

The traditional way to serve an Eccles Cake is with a lovely wedge of Lancashire Cheese and if you’re lucky enough to take a table at St John’s Restaurant that is exactly how they serve it as part of their dessert menu. It’s the best of both worlds with the perfect balance between a cheese course and a pudding course.

Still if there happen to be Eccles Cakes in our kitchen at breakfast time then that’s how we eat them here.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Print Recipe
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
There is nothing more inviting than a freshly baked Eccles Cake, warm from the oven, the pastry beautifully flaky and the spiced plump fruit just short of bursting through its buttery trappings.
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
Course afternoon tea
Cuisine British
Keyword cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
14 Eccles Cakes
Ingredients
Filling
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 120 g currants
  • 80 g sultanas
  • 50 g mixed peel preferably homemade*
  • 125 g demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling on top
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Gluten-free flaky pastry*
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 40 g oat flour + 4 tablespoons for rolling out the pastry
  • 35 g millet flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter straight from the fridge
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks for glazing the Eccles Cakes
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk for glazing the Eccles Cakes
Course afternoon tea
Cuisine British
Keyword cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
14 Eccles Cakes
Ingredients
Filling
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 120 g currants
  • 80 g sultanas
  • 50 g mixed peel preferably homemade*
  • 125 g demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling on top
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Gluten-free flaky pastry*
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 40 g oat flour + 4 tablespoons for rolling out the pastry
  • 35 g millet flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter straight from the fridge
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks for glazing the Eccles Cakes
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk for glazing the Eccles Cakes
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
Instructions
  1. First make the filling by melting the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Once fully melted, pour in the rest of the filling ingredients, stirring thoroughly to make sure everything is coated in butter. Set aside for 1 hour and make the pastry in the meantime.
  3. To make the pastry, combine the flours, chia seeds and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Grate the cold butter into the flour then gently mix together with your fingertips so the mixture turns quite shaggy.
  5. Stir in the beaten egg with a fork.
  6. Add the cold milk one tablespoon at a time and start to bring the dough together with a pastry scraper. It should start to form quite quickly. It should be slightly sticky to the touch.
  7. Tip the dough onto the work surface and quickly bring the ball into a round ball with your hands. You don’t really need to work the pastry as there’s no gluten to activate.
  8. Wrap the pastry ball in cling film and flatten it slightly to make it easier to roll out when ready.
  9. Place in the fridge for an hour to chill.
  10. When you are ready to assemble the Eccles Cakes pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  11. Take the pastry out from the fridge, remove the cling film then tear the pastry in half to make it easier to roll out. Use the extra oat flour to dust the worktop and the rolling pin.
  12. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thickness then cut out circles of pastry using a 12cm round pastry cutter.
  13. Spoon in two teaspoons of filling into the centre of each round.
  14. Whisk the egg yolks and whole milk together into a small cup.
  15. Damp the edges of the pastry lightly with the egg yolk and milk mixture, then bring all the sides together, pressing firmly to seal.
  16. Flip each Eccles cake over then gently roll out with the rolling pin to flatten slightly so the filling is just showing below the surface.
  17. Set the Eccles Cakes onto a large baking tray, using a sharp knife make two little slits in the centre of each cake then brush each surface with the egg yolk and milk mixture and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
  18. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
Recipe Notes

*Pastry adapted from the Flaky Pie Dough recipe in Alanna Taylor Tobin's Alternative Baker

*As I am not a big fan of shop-bought mixed peel if I do not have any Homemade Mixed Peel to hand then I often add in a couple of tablespoons of orange marmalade instead of the mixed peel and also the zest of a lemon. I would then omit the orange zest.

SHOP THE RECIPE

The recipe for the Flaky Pastry is adapted from Alanna Taylor Tobin’s Alternative Baker which is one of my favourite resources for gluten-free baking. I have tried a load of recipes from the book and they are all easy to follow and delicious. Like me Taylor Tobin doesn’t use a bunch of gums in her baking but relies on alternative flours to get the results she wants. This is rare for a gluten-free cookbook and since my body doesn’t react well to guar or xanthan gum then it means I can bake anything and everything from within its pages.

This Cookie cutter round 12cm s/s 1.5cm deep guaranteed quality is the cookie cutter I bought many years ago for my Eccles Cakes and it’s very simple but the perfect size and does exactly what I need it to.

I have finally found a brand of sweet rice flour which is 100% certified gluten-free. I have no idea why it’s so difficult to get in the UK but I use sweet rice flour a lot so this was a real find. The brand is yourhealthstore Premium Gluten Free Sweet Rice Flour (glutinous) 1kg

The oat flour I always use is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour 400 g (Pack of 4). I buy it in packs of four since I find oat flour invaluably useful in my gluten-free baking.

Millet flour is also needed for the gf pastry and my favourite brand is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Millet Flour 500 g (Pack of 4) which as it states comes in a 4 x 500g pack but I prefer to buy my gluten-free flour in larger quantities like this as it’s just not as easy to get hold of as wheat flour and saves me having to wait when I have a specific baking urge. It also keeps costs down.

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