Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Scones with Nutella Mascarpone Cream and Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs (gluten free)


They say it never rains, but it pours. I have no idea who 'they' are, but I reckon they may be on to something...... In the midst of a bereavement and trying to organise a trip to the States to say goodbye to my beautiful big brother, my freezer has decided now is the time to go on the blink...... again! Aaaaaaggghhhhhh......

I don't need this..... I'm stressed, exhausted, and very very sad right now. I feel like I am dragging myself out of bed in the mornings and with the help of matchsticks, I'm persuading Miss GF to do the same..... Somehow, I am managing to get her to school..... on time..... and then drive to work and actually converse and advise with some degree of comprehension and purpose, before driving home again and slumping in a knackered heap.


On the plus side..... (let's think 'glass half full' if we can....), a broken freezer means the need to empty it as quickly as possible and make and eat.... lots. Fortunately, I am one of those unusual beings who when sad, still eats and rather more than I want to, instead of losing my appetite. Whilst I could do with losing a few pounds, now is not the time to starve myself.

And although I am less interested than usual, cooking still feels quite therapeutic...... providing I don't have to think too hard.

A good while back, I was lucky enough to win some Pastry Room gluten free Scone Mix via the Free From Fairy. I had used most of it already, but there was still a batch in the freezer, which now needed to be used double-quick. The mix is really convenient, because it comes in 2kg packs, stored in the freezer as a fresh mix, ready to be weighed into portions and whipped up when you fancy a treat.


I had made some sweet plain and some cheese scones with the mix previously. Actually I don't recommend using the mix for savoury scones...... It contains some sugar and although the company suggest you can add cheese to it, they do end up with a rather opposed combination of sugary cheese.

On the other hand, it is a fab mix for a sweeter bake. The texture of the scones is pretty soft and they stay fresh for a good couple of days (or you can freeze them if you don't eat them all in one hit).

I've been in need of a bit of a comfort bake.... and with these scones, I used the base mix to explore its versatility with chocolate. I amended the instructions a fair bit to ensure the right consistency of liquid to dry ingredients..... adding drinking chocolate powder and upping the quantity of egg (from medium to large size) and also increasing the milk a little...... as well as throwing in some chocolate chips for good measure....... Well... everything tastes better with chocolate doesn't it?


If you have a favourite scone mix or home-recipe, then it would be really easy to amend with the same alterations. I will definitely be trying out with a home-mixed scone base.

However you make them, they would be perfect for afternoon tea, picnics, parties, or just because you can....

The scones on their own are really really good. With the Nutella Mascarpone Cream, they are amazing. Add the Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs and they are divine.....

I am sharing my yummy scones with the following linkies :


Treat Petite - with Kat, The Baking Explorer (and Cakeyboi). May's theme is Picnic Treats!







Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.









Tea Time Treats with Janie at The Hedge Combers (and Lavender & Lovage). This month's theme is Colourful. I thought long and hard about whether these scones counted as 'colourful'..... It depends on what you like I guess, but you'll find all the elements in the colour wheel of a Dulux paint display, so I figure they're probably okay....



Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.











Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.









Cook Blog Share - this week with Mandy at Sneaky Veg.









Sunday Fitness & Food with Marathons & Motivation (and Ilkas Blog)











Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Scones with Nutella Mascarpone Cream & Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs

I made these with a gluten free Pastry Room scone mix (significantly adapted), but you could adapt a home-made scone mix or use an alternative gluten free commercial scone mix

Ingredients


Scones
500g Pastry Room scone mix
2 large eggs (beaten)
100g cold milk (weighed)
50g Galaxy drinking chocolate powder (or an alternative GF brand)
70g dark/milk chocolate chips 
milk to glaze

Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped roasted hazelnuts
1 tablespoon soft light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon water

Nutella Mascarpone Cream
300 ml double cream
120g Mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 tablespoons icing sugar
a few drops hazelnut extract

Method

  1. Scones : Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. Prepare a couple of baking trays by lining with baking paper.
  2. Put the pastry mix into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the beaten eggs, milk, chocolate powder and chocolate chips and bring together into a sticky dough. You can knead slightly to help the process.
  3. Tip the dough out onto a well-floured surface or floured cling-film and sprinkle the top with a little GF flour as well, to prevent sticking.
  4. Roll the dough to about 3 cm/1½ inches thick.
  5. Use a round pastry cutter 2 to 3 cm in diameter to cut rounds and place them onto the baking tray with a little space between them. 
  6. Bring the remaining dough together and continue the cutting process until all the dough is used.
  7. Place the uncooked scones to one side for about 10 minutes to 'rest'. Whilst they are resting, brush the tops with a little milk to glaze.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well-risen and golden.
  9. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs : Using a very small pan, heat the brown sugar with the water until dissolved and bubbling. 
  11. Add the chopped roasted hazelnuts and stir through over the heat until 'dry'.
  12. Remove from the heat and set the pan aside to cool completely.
  13. Nutella Mascarpone Cream : Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl until the cream forms soft peaks.
  14. Serve the scones, cut in half, spread with a generous dollop of Nutella Mascarpone cream and a liberal sprinkling of roasted caramelised hazelnut crumbs.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Japanese Fried Tofu with Egg, Spring Onion and Bonito Flakes - gluten free


It has been more than 2 weeks since I last posted anything here. I am sorry! Life has been difficult and right now, my heart is not really in the blogging 'groove'. Sometimes, things happen in life with such unexpected gravity, that your whole world gets thrown off balance and you find yourself reevaluating everything....... What you do..... how you do it..... how much time you spend doing it..... what should you be doing instead..... whether it really matters and to whom......

You see.... Since I last posted, I lost my big brother. There was nothing wrong with him and he was at one of the happiest points he had ever been in his life. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, when the ground literally crumbled beneath his feet on a cliff edge and he fell to his death.

Suddenly, my own existence and how I live my life has been brought into sharp focus. Amidst the twisted pain that is grief, is the realisation that life is too short to hang around procrastinating and deferring hopes and dreams. Once I am 'through' this, I intend to spend more time with those that are important to me and to step up a gear and start living..... really living!

I may post sporadically for a while as things sink in. I will be away for a short time, travelling to the States (where he lived) in June to say goodbye and to feel a little closer while I am doing that. I have a few posts waiting in the wings, so as and when I get the energy, I will pop them on the blog......


When you experience loss and your eating dips, every meal becomes important, both for nutritional content and for keeping up routine. It is so important to make every calorie count. When I get stressed about normal day-to-day events, I tend to reach for the sweet stuff. At the moment, I seem to be craving nourishing, savoury, slightly salty dishes.

I love this bowl of protein-filled goodness. Unique in its oriental simplicity, I was first introduced to it many years ago when I went to visit a friend in Japan. I was taken to meet some of her good Japanese friends, who shared their hospitality with the same dish, but using an uncut block of tofu. It has remained with me as one of those memorable travel dishes, which has somehow become merged into my UK foodie repertoire.

The tofu gets coated in cornflour and then fried so that it forms a crisp coating around the soft white interior. I was so taken with the combination of textures, that when I re-made it here, the tofu got cut into cubes, so that I got more of the crispy magic.


The fusion of the tofu with egg, spring onion and soy sauce (make sure you use gluten free Shoyu if you need to) which is then broken up, leaves you with a sort of deconstructed Japanese omelette. It's amazing (even if I am not selling it very well)..... really!

And if you have never tried Bonito flakes, but you love the flavour of smoky fish, then I urge you to source some. Although they are not essential to the dish (if you are veggie, you will still enjoy the rest), they do add an extra, very Japanese dimension.

Bonito flakes are fine flakes of dried shaved tuna. They contribute a savoury, slightly fishy, smokiness which is pretty unique. When you sprinkle them on the hot, moist base, they seem to move and bend with the heat, a little like those bright orange fortune fish that came out of Christmas crackers when we were kids and curled with the warmth of your palms. Bewitching and delicious!

....... any perfect for when life is the pits!


I am sharing this Japanese favourite with the following linkies this month :


Alphabakes with The More Than Occasional Baker (and Caroline Makes) - May's letter is F. Slightly tenuous link I know.... but I am going for the Fish Flakes that are Bonito, as well as the fact that the tofu is Fried.







Cook Blog Share, this month with Hijacked by Twins.








Inheritance Recipes with Coffee & Vanilla (and Pebble Soup). This is one of my foodie travel memories that I so wish to pass on to Miss GF, who (phew!) really enjoyed the mingling of flavours in this dish.








Credit Crunch Munch, this month with Utterly Scrummy (& Fuss Free Flavours & Fab Food 4 All).



The Tea Time Treats linky, with Janie over at The Hedge Combers (and Lavender & Lovage), who are asking for colourful entries. I love the subtle colour contrasts of this dish.... they are so appealing!






Tasty Tuesdays with Honest Mum.






Sunday Fitness & Food link up with Ilkas Blog (and Marathons & Motivation).









Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.









Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.


Japanese Fried Tofu with Egg, Spring Onion & Bonito Flakes (serves 2)

Ingredients 

approx 200g tofu - cut into cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons corn flour
oil for frying - vegetable, sunflower or corn
black pepper
2 large eggs - beaten
3 spring onions - trimmed and chopped into 1cm lengths (including green part)
Shoyu gluten free soy sauce
handful Bonito flakes (dried shaved tuna) - optional

Method

  1. Coat the tofu cubes in cornflour, making sure they are well covered and set aside, separated from each other.
  2. Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot and then add the coated tofu to the pan, frying and turning until the coating is crisp and golden on all sides.
  3. Add a good grind of black pepper.
  4. Add the beaten egg to the pan and allow to cook and firm up. As the egg solidifies, break it up a little with a spoon or spatula so that you have pieces of egg and tofu.
  5. Add half the onions and a good splash of GF soy sauce and mix through, allowing the onions to   soften slightly as they mix with the egg and tofu and the flavours mingle.
  6. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with a good handful of Bonito flakes (if using) and the rest of the spring onions and serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Chocolate-Mint 'After Eight' Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches (gluten free)


This...... is......DIVINE! It has to be the best dessert I have made in ages. It takes a little work to pull together, but it is SO worth it.

'A little work' does not mean that it is difficult however...... The chocolate sponge is pretty basic and the very minty chocolate-chip ice-cream sandwiched in-between is a straight forward no-churn blend.


Inspired by this month's Treat Petite challenge which invites entries linked with 'favourite sweets, chocolates and biscuits', these amazing Chocolate-Mint Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches are a dessert version of one of my best-loved sweetie treasures..... the After Eight.

For anyone out there reading this who has not eaten an After Eight before, they are a delicate mint chocolate consisting of a thin layer of very minty white fondant, coated in a layer of dark chocolate. Simple but very very moreish.....


These Chocolate-Mint 'After Eight' Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches are made to mimic the fundamental flavours of the said confection..... Two layers of dense, deeply-flavoured and slightly chewy chocolate cake, wrapped around a thick layer of intensely cool, minty white ice-cream, shot through with little fragments of chopped minty dark chocolate for added texture and then topped with a creamy chocolate layer for extra decadence. Heaven!

When making this cake, I wanted to make sure it packed a vivid minty punch. I had made a no churn mint ice cream previously (simply not good enough to share) which  seriously lacked the required coolness. For this ice cream, I have not only ensured a good dose of natural peppermint extract in the mix, but also used a dark mint chocolate for the chocolate chips within.


The sponge gains extra depth of flavour from the inclusion of a strong Espresso infusion alongside the use of melted dark chocolate blended in the bake. The consistency is such that when frozen, it is firm enough to be held, yet soft enough to bite into the cool, exhilarating taste-bud awakening, minty interior.

To make these sandwiches extra special, they are topped with a layer of 'magic' chocolate...... A blend of more melted dark mint chocolate and a little coconut oil, the liquid chocolate created by this combination hardens on contact with the cold cake, ensuring a crisp, smooth, but melt-in-the-mouth layer of loveliness.


The heart-shapes of After Eight made using a small cookie cutter tie the whole experience together, along with a sprinkle of crystallised mint leaves that add an optional additional curious crunch. I had never eaten crystallised mint leaves before, but found some on-line at Sous Chef when I was buying some Christmas presents..... Crispy, sweet, nobbles of mintyness, they are fantastic as a side-sprinkle. Don't you just love trying new things?


I am sharing these amazing Chocolate-Mint 'After Eight' Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches with the following linkies :


Treat Petite with Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer..... This month celebrating favourite sweets, chocolates and biscuits.







Cook Blog Share with Hijacked by Twins.









Sunday Fitness & Food with Marathons & Motivation (and Ilkas Blog).



Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.











Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.











Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.











Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.


Chocolate-Mint 'After Eight' Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches

Ingredients (for one 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) sponge (16 mini sandwiches)

Chocolate Cake 
135g dark chocolate - chopped
130g unsalted butter - cubed
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
65ml boiling water
135g plain gluten free flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
130g soft light brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
20g cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
80 ml plain yoghurt

Mint-Choc-Chip Ice Cream
1 tin (397g) sweetened condensed milk - chilled
450 ml double cream
90g mint dark chocolate (Green & Blacks is gluten free) - finely chopped
4 teaspoons natural peppermint extract

Mint-Chocolate Topping
150g dark mint chocolate - chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Decoration - optional
After-Eight chocolates - cut with a heart-shaped cutter
crystallised mint leaves

Method

  1. Cake : Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3 and base-line a square 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) loose-bottomed baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Place the can of condensed milk for the ice cream into the fridge to chill for later. You may wish to set the freezer to 'fast-freeze' also, to get the temperature as low as possible ready for the ice cream.
  3. In a glass heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate (135g) and butter together, either over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave on 30 second bursts (medium setting) stirring between each. Stir until thoroughly combined and smooth and set aside.
  4. Mix the boiling water with the instant coffee in a small bowl/cup, to dissolve and set aside.
  5. In a bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, sugars and cocoa powder, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until thickened and pale and lifting the whisk leaves a trail. 
  7. Add the vanilla extract, chocolate and coffee mixtures, and yoghurt and beat again until smooth and combined.
  8. Add the dry ingredients and fold in thoroughly. 
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake for about 50 minutes until the cake is cooked and a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
  10. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. When the cake is cold, slice horizontally through the middle so that you have two even layers (you may find this easier if you have refrigerated the cake for about an hour first).
  12. Take the same (now clean) cake tin that you used for baking and line the base and sides with baking paper.
  13. Place the base half of the sponge into the cake tin and put in the fridge to cool.
  14. Whilst cooling, you can make the Ice Cream : In a large bowl, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks (be careful not to over-whisk). When the cream is starting to thicken slightly (and before it reaches soft-peak stage), add the peppermint extract and continue to whisk.
  15. Add the chilled condensed milk and finely chopped mint chocolate and gently fold through, being careful to maintain as much air as possible.
  16. Pour the ice cream mixture onto the chilled chocolate cake and spread to make an even layer.
  17. Place this base ice cream layer (without the top sponge) into the freezer to start the freezing process.
  18. When the ice cream is beginning to firm up (but still tacky), carefully place the top sponge layer on top of the ice cream and gently push down to help it fuse with the ice cream.
  19. Place back into the freezer to fully harden.
  20. Meanwhile, make the Mint Chocolate Topping : melt the chopped mint dark chocolate in a glass heat-proof bowl (either over a pan of lightly simmering water or in a microwave on medium setting (30 second bursts), stirring frequently until melted and smooth.
  21. Add the coconut oil and stir through to melt, until smooth. The mixture will become a looser liquid as the coconut oil melts into the chocolate. 
  22. Set aside until the cake is almost fully frozen and then spoon and spread the chocolate topping over the top of the cake (still in the cake tin) evenly. The topping will set as it comes into contact with the cold sponge.
  23. Place back into the freezer until fully set and frozen.
  24. Once frozen, you can carefully remove the whole cake from the baking tin, peeling back the baking paper. Trim off the sides to make tidy and then slice into squares. Place the slices back into the freezer (at usual temperature) to store until ready to eat. If you are going to decorate with After-Eight hearts, you can add these before storing in the freezer.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mini Toad in the Hole (or Yorkshire Puddings with Mini Sausages) - gluten free


What do you think of these beauties? Light, crispy gluten free Yorkshire Pudding gently encasing mini cocktail sausages...... The perfect comfort food..... Toad in the Hole.

Best smothered in home-made onion gravy, there is something about eating Toad in the Hole which makes you feel both satisfied and smug. It's one of those dishes which gives a big cuddle with every mouthful and can bring a smile to the most miserable of moods. What's not to love?

Having played with various combinations of flour over several trial runs to get a really good batter, I think I have reached a point of gluten free Yorkie heaven....... Made with a straight forward combination of easy to source sorghum, tapioca and corn flours, this is a batter which rises well, turns deep golden and tastes crisp and delicious.


Whether for large or mini Yorkies or Toads, it has worked well for me every time. The trick (as with wheat-based Yorkies) is to make sure the batter is well whisked and the oil is really hot before pouring the batter into the pan. Never open the oven door whilst the batter is rising either..... unless you are aiming for certain deflation!

If you are gluten free, it goes without saying (although I will remind you anyway) to make sure your sausages (whether big or small) are safe for your consumption...... This is where you really luck out.... Gluten free sausages (for the most part) have a far higher meat content and way less junk in them..... they won't usually be stuffed full of rusk to pad them out, and whilst you may pay a bit more for them, they are generally made with superior cuts of meat and taste way better than bog-standard bangers!


The choice of gluten free sausages has increased dramatically in the last 5 years. When we were first faced with having to find them, there were hardly any about (I remember complaining to Tesco in a GF survey they ran), but with the explosion of gluten free awareness and eating, it seems many of the major manufacturers and supermarket own brands have had to catch up and make sure they are part of the 'GF gang'.

The sausage of choice in our house (for large sausages) is usually Heck. Unfortunately, they don't appear to make cocktail sausages, so for these mini Toads I have used Tesco's Finest Outdoor Bred Cocktail Sausages. Another favourite of ours are sausages from The Good Little Company. Not only do they do delicious sausages (big, small and teeny weeny) but they very ethically give 50% of their profits to fight poverty. We get ours in Waitrose, but sadly I couldn't find any left in our freezer when I needed them and the nearest store was too many miles away...

I am so pleased to have cracked a good Yorkie batter..... Miss GF has spent years looking in envy when we've been out for Sunday lunch, as friends have scoffed big puffs of crispy-baked batter slathered in gravy with their Sunday roasts. It's so not fair!

Well..... not any more Miss GF..... Here is your very own special gluten free pud. Save this recipe for your future and enjoy. It's yours!


.........Is it okay if I just share it with the rest of gluten free cyberspace? Maybe it would be selfish just to keep to ourselves? Perhaps a few good friends? How about......

Alphabakes - This month with Caroline Makes (along with Ros over at The More Than Occasional Baker). April's letter is T...... for Toad of course....









Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.







Tea Time Treats - With Karen at Lavender & Lovage (as well as Janie at The Hedgecombers). April's tea time table celebrates Local & Regional Recipes. Toad in the Hole is one of those quirky, traditional British dishes made with Yorkshire Pudding and originating in the North of England.




Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.



Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup (and Coffee & Vanilla). Toad in the Hole and Yorkshire Puddings were a much-loved dish in my childhood and it would be a travesty if I couldn't pass this love onto my daughter.







Sunday Fitness & Food with Marathons & Motivation (and IlkasBlog).










#FoodYearLinkup with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - Celebrate St George's Day on April 23rd with this uniquely English dish!


Mini Toad in the Hole (makes 12 Yorkshire Puddings or Mini Toadies)

Ingredients 

24 gluten free cocktail sausages
3 large eggs
30g sorghum flour
20g tapioca starch (flour)
50g cornflour
150 ml milk
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
sunflower/vegetable oil


Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7 and prepare a 12 hole non-stick muffin tin by putting a drizzle of oil in the bottom of each hole and brushing round the sides.
  2. Prepare the batter by placing the eggs, flours, milk and salt in a medium sized bowl and whisking until light and airy. Set aside, but keep the whisk handy.
  3. Part-roast the mini sausages for 5 to 10 minutes in a little oil in a separate baking dish (longer if making a standard-sized toad in the hole with large sausages). 
  4. Whilst the oven is hot, heat the oiled muffin tin for a few minutes so that the oil is really hot. Just before you take the pan out of the oven, give the batter a final quick whisk.
  5. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and quickly pop two part-cooked cocktail sausages in each muffin hole and top with batter to about half full.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes until the batter is well-risen and deep golden. Do not open the oven door while cooking (for the first 15 minutes at least). Use the oven light to check the Yorkshire Pudding progress. 
  7. When ready, remove from the oven, ease from the tins with a silicone spatula and enjoy!
 Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated