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, 22 July 2016

Something Happened to my Favourite British Lovemore O'Choco Gluten Free 'Oreo' Alternative......


Something has happened to my favourite gluten free alternative to the ubiquitous 'Oreo' biscuit and I am annoyed! Bear with me on this.....

Back in December 2014 I did a comparison of the various gluten free biscuits which showed similarity with the Oreo..... at that time there were three. My firm favourite was the O'Choco brand made by Lovemore foods. The things I most loved about them was the perfect darkness of the crumb which formed a crisp, smooth, not overly sweet chocolate biscuit sandwiched round sweet, silky vanilla cream.

Whilst it is now some years since I ate gluten, it is still in close-enough history for me to remember the experience of eating Oreos. They are good memories..... Oreos are distinctive in appearance, texture and flavour. When you have been able to eat them and then you can't (because of course they contain nasty intolerant glutenous ingredients), then you miss them.


Finding O'Chocos somehow made things better! They were as close as I had come to my memories of enjoying Oreos and for that I was grateful and happy. Even on my recent trip to the States (the century-old home of the Oreo), I could not find an alternative that came any closer than the O'Choco (although the KinniToos Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Creme Cookies are pretty good).....

So why am I annoyed?

At the recent Allergy & Free From Show in London, I paid a visit to see the guys from Lovemore. It seems that those amazing O'Chocos have had a 'facelift'........ they didn't need a facelift...... they didn't ask for a facelift....... The chaps at Lovemore didn't choose to give them a facelift either....... So why (you may ask) has it happened? Well....... apparently those 'familiar' O'Chocos may have trodden on a few toes and threatened to be too much like the real thing!  The lawyers got in touch....... and the rest is history....


The mouldings that stamp the pattern on the biscuit had to be changed and the characteristic deep dark hue had to be toned up (can you really claim the colour of a biscuit as yours??) so there could be no confusion...... this biscuit is not an Oreo!

Okay..... so O'Chocos still taste great, (although psychologically, their changed appearance does challenge the brain to believe you are eating the same thing) but It frustrates me that big powerful companies can wield so much control...... Sure they have to defend their interests and protect their designs...... I get that..... Oreos are iconic...... but O'Chocos were never Oreos. How could they be? They are gluten free..... An alternative biscuit for us gluten-intolerants who don't want to feel left out and want to be able to join the party...... just like everyone else.

When you have a child who wants to be like her friends and fit in with the crowd, having something that looks the part, matters!

If Nabisco US or Mondelez UK wish to make a gluten free biscuit that is equal and comparable to an Oreo, then sending in the boys to the 'imposters' may be a valid response. As a result of their hissy fit, we (in the UK at least...... it would appear that Stateside, KinniToos still seem to be getting away with looking virtually identical...) have been robbed of our fraternal substitute.


Frustration vented, I can now get back to the new-look O'Chocos....... No they don't look like Oreos any more, but they still taste great...... and because of that I will still be buying and of course, eating them...... They will still be mingled into Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream and I will still be dunking them in my mid-morning cuppa. I will still crumble them as a base ingredient for cheesecake and they will still be mixed into trifle......

But you know what? If Nabisco ever decides to take the Oreo to the dizzy heights of gluten-freedom, out of principle, I for one will think twice before I buy them.......



Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest Mum


Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse


Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Watermelon-Bacardi Cooler


Summer showed itself today! It may have been only a fleeting moment, but I swear that the thermometer reached the dizzy heights of 27 Celsius. The excitement was short-lived when less than half an hour later, the clouds again filled the sky and the air cooled....

Heat or not, this is the British summer and being British, we will still insist on shorts and BBQ's, strawberries and ice lollies and (my favourite) cooling cocktails in the garden.


One of my very favourite summer refreshers is watermelon. It may not be grown here, but its colour, flavour and its sheer ability to quench thirst makes it a fruit that I always head for when the weather warms. It shouts 'Summer'!

When I was pregnant with Miss GF I had a total addiction to it....... Whilst others were craving the likes of marmite, onions and cheese, I was getting through a large watermelon single-handed every other day. I was totally distraught when (in my anti-natal clumsiness) I managed to drop one on the hard kitchen floor...... watching in horror as it shattered into juicy, wet red and green pieces across the room.....


The cocktail, on the other hand, is not something that I enjoyed in pregnancy..... I was far too focussed on giving Miss GF the best start I could and whilst I enjoyed the ripe, sweet, deep pink flesh in abundance, there was no alcohol to be seen near my lips for several months......

My Watermelon-Bacardi Cooler is inspired by my recent trip to the States...... It was going to be a Margarita...... but according to my minimal knowledge of cocktails, a Margarita requires tequila....... and I didn't have any tequila...... but I still wanted a cocktail with watermelon...... so I improvised.


I confess, the cocktail used for these photos is not my first taste of this stuff....... It's been enjoyed on a couple of occasions since my return.... first with a goodly dose of vodka and now Bacardi (........ I ran out of vodka!). It tastes fab either way, so whether you have vodka, white rum or tequila in your cupboard, I suggest you grab a bottle, a watermelon and some lime and whizz up a glass or two whilst the sun is shining!

It's not a fantastically complicated cocktail...... but it tastes great and is absolutely what the doctor should be ordering to accompany those summer barbies, garden parties and lazy warm days. If you have kids who want to join the party, then just make them a non-alcoholic version and perhaps throw a couple of strawberries or a drop of lemonade into the mix!


But beware....... one may not be enough.......

Better get a few more melons in!

I am sharing my Bacardi-Watermelon Cooler with the following linkies :


Cook Blog Share with Hijacked by Twins

Tasty Tuesdays with Honest Mum







Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse (one for the grown-ups)

Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys







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


Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too







Watermelon-Bacardi Cooler (makes 2 cocktails)

Ingredients 

flesh of ½ of small seedless watermelon
juice 1 lime
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 to 3 shots Bacardi (or Vodka) - dependent on how strong you want your cocktail
crushed ice
extra lime/watermelon/mint to decorate

Method

  1. Put the watermelon, lime juice, maple syrup, and alcohol into a liquidiser and blend until smooth.
  2. Half fill (approx) your cocktail glasses with crushed ice and then top with watermelon cocktail.
  3. Add an extra slice of lime/cubes of watermelon/mint leaves to decorate.
  4. Sit in the sun and enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 11 July 2016

Heavenly Chocolate, Walnut & Pear Torte - gluten & dairy free (accidental maybe, but gluten free chocolate torte is rarely better than this!)


Occasionally....... very occasionally....... I make a dish that surpasses all expectations and makes me go weak at the knees both for the joy of eating it as well as the euphoria of the baking success. THIS is one of those dishes!

Give thanks to the chocolate god...... for she has delivered perfection in the form of a Heavenly Chocolate, Walnut & Pear Torte which is not only gluten free, but dairy free as well!

What makes the result even more startling is that it wasn't actually meant to be the Torte it became.  I set out to make a pear brownie with nothing but a larder of ingredients, some paper and a pen. I wanted the brownie to be dairy as well as gluten free and I wanted to make it with ingredients that weighted to the healthier side of decadence..... coconut oil in replacement of butter and spreads, less refined sugars, anti-oxidant and flavanol-rich dark chocolate, nutrient-rich almonds and walnuts, protein-filled eggs and some fruit for good measure.


As a brownie it failed..... the crumb was gooey yes, but it was not 'sticky' enough to hold as a brownie.

Disappointed...... I took a disgruntled mouthful of my 'failed' chocolate bake........ and WOW! The flavour and texture was incredible. As my brain processed the experience, making sense of the soft, silky, gooey, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate heaven that was dissolving on my tongue, I realised that (to me at least) this was a truly accidental masterpiece. Deep, nutty, chocolate-filled waves of wanton enjoyment washed across my senses. Serotonin-induced heaven on a spoon.....


I usually hate to 'big myself up' on things and generally play down success..... Confidence has never been a key part of my personality...... But you know what? THIS torte is so delicious, I am going to shout it from the roof tops.

Many years ago when I still ate gluten, I had a favourite dessert at a Mexican restaurant called Cafe Des Amis. It was a chocolate torte served with dark and white chocolate cream. I was totally gutted when I could no longer eat it..... it was the dessert that made me ecstatically happy when I ate it. Knowing that I would just be disappointed if I tried to create a gluten free version that failed, I have never bothered to try...... But this torte is as close as I remember...... in fact, I think it may be even better!


I realise that these are pretty big claims for a humble chocolate torte, so to be sure its advent was not a fluke, it has been made and devoured twice this week in our house. It has disappeared in a flash on both occasions...... and once gone, I was already facing calls for more....

It is most definitely a dessert torte..... with a very moist, dark, rich, pudding-like crumb. Best eaten with a fork or spoon, it can be made even more decadent with a hefty pillowy dollop of whipped coconut cream or (if you can eat dairy) some clotted or extra thick double cream. The walnuts add a beautiful nutty crunch to the experience and the pear marries wonderfully against the cocoa..... Pear and chocolate is one of my all time favourite dessert combinations.


Mr GF thinks it is the best chocolate torte I have ever made. That's high praise...... Asked to describe it however, he merely said 'Yummy'! Pushed to be a little more specific, he said it was 'not over-sweet' and was a 'very adult dessert'. He was never a man of many words and clearly won't be employed as a food critic any time soon! Miss GF disagrees with the 'adult' bit of course..... being a child who loved it too, she is worried that such flippant statements may render this new wonder-pud off-limits. She's ready for a fight!

I am sharing the chocolate love with the following linkies :


We Should Cocoa with the lovely Choclette over at Tin and Thyme. July's chocolate theme is 'anything goes'.

Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.






Inheritance Recipes with Coffee & Vanilla (& Pebble Soup). Given that this torte is my best gluten free comparison with one of my all time favourite desserts, I am passing it to Miss GF as a keeper for her future foodie joy.

Cook Blog Share, this week with Snap Happy Bakes.




Sunday Fitness & Food, this week with Ilka's Blog (& Marathons & Motivation).


Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.







Tea Time Treats with The Hedge Combers (& Lavender & Lovage). This is Janie's very last hosting of the Tea Time Treats Linky Party and to make sure she goes out on a high, she has asked for all of our Best Ever Recipes! Thanks for being such a great host Janie...... We'll miss you!

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too




Chocolate, Walnut & Pear Torte

Ingredients

220g good quality dark (dairy free) chocolate - chopped
130g coconut oil
75g coconut palm sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
85g plain gluten free flour (I used been A from this post)
15g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
50g ground almonds
100g rough-chopped walnuts
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
50 ml almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ pears - cored, peeled and cut into small cubes
50g dark (dairy free) chocolate chips

additional walnut halves to decorate

Method

  1. Base-line a 9 inch loose-bottomed cake tin (round or square) with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt together the chocolate, coconut oil and two sugars until well-blended. Do not allow to boil.
  4. In a large bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, ground almonds and chopped walnuts.
  5. Add the chocolate-sugar liquid and beat well with a silicone or wooden spoon.  Set aside to cool slightly, stirring intermittently.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, almond milk and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the cooled chocolate batter and beat through with the spoon.
  7. Fold in the pear cubes and chocolate chips.
  8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes before turning the oven down to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2. Bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  10. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely. The centre of the cake may sink very slightly. This is fine. It should be very moist and a little gooey.
  11. When cold, carefully remove from the tin and place on a serving plate. 
  12. Decorate with walnut halves (to keep them in place, I stuck mine with a little melted chocolate) and a further sprinkle of nuts and chocolate as you choose. 
  13. Serve on its own, with poached pears or with whipped coconut cream or double/clotted cream (if you can eat dairy).
  14. Store in the fridge between 'eats'. It will firm up, but when brought back to room temperature before serving will regain its soft, gooey consistency. 
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 4 July 2016

Strawberry Mousse Cake - gluten free


I would like to believe that summer has arrived.... but I am not convinced. Today seemed to be pretty sunny and warm (although I saw little of it being stuck in an airless office), but the forecast for tomorrow is for yet more rain.

Sunshine or not, the annual gorging of strawberries and other warm-weather berries is now well under way....... and whether you are a Wimbledon watcher or not, you need no excuse to find creative ways to join the feast.


I have been wanting to attempt a gluten free Genoise sponge for some time. Being light in texture, it seemed the ideal base for a summery mousse cake made with some of those bright red seasonal jewels..... A celebratory cake fit to adorn the dessert table and perfect to round off a balmy afternoon barbecue or garden party. Okay...... the prospect of 'balmy' temperatures may be a little over-optimistic, but this dessert is a show-stopper served at the usual indoor dining table too and guaranteed to impress your guests.

It would also be a splendid offering for a Strawberry Tea in aid of Breast Cancer Care this month.

The beauty of this cake is that it looks way more complicated to make than it is. The strawberries placed round the side look as inviting as they do dramatic with their eye-catching bright red richness, yet they take no effort at all to place.


Genoise sponge originates in Italy and is characterised by the particular method in which it is made. It uses no chemical leavening, instead relying on air being whisked into and held in the batter to give volume and rise.

Having tried to find a decent recipe on the internet for a gluten free version of Genoise, I quickly realised that the very limited number of options was an indication of its potential difficulty....... Time to grab a traditional wheat recipe and go for gluten free trial and error!

This is my first attempt and I will be honest, that while it isn't a bad effort, I am not entirely happy with it. It isn't that the process to make it is difficult, but I think it needs a little more work to get a better rise and slightly more moisture...... The basic principles are now in place however for me to build and improve. I also think that next time I will use a smaller tin, to ensure a slightly thicker base.


On the other hand, as a base to a mousse cake, the sponge worked well and provided a good foundation. Besides....... the cake was too pretty not to blog and I felt my efforts should nonetheless be shared as a positive first stab. After all, gluten free baking is for most of us, a creative and experimental journey.

The mousse is rich and creamy and being a combination of whipped cream and mascarpone, it set around the pureed strawberries with a beautifully soft, mallowy texture.

I have added the swirls of chocolate ganache primarily as decoration, but they do add an extra dimension of decadence, flavour and colour and are definitely to be recommended.


I am sharing this perfectly summery Strawberry Mousse Cake with the following linkies for July :


A newly revamped #TheFoodCalendar with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen. This Strawberry Mousse cake is ideal for a Breast Cancer Care Strawberry Tea.

Love Cake with Ness at Jibber Jabber, who's theme for the month is 'garden party'.


Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.


Sunday Fitness & Food with Ilka's Blog and Marathons and Motivation.







Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.


Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.







Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys.











Strawberry Mousse Cake

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise Sponge Base
10g cornflour
10g tapioca starch flour
15g sorghum flour
15g cocoa powder
2 large eggs
70g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter - melted

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas 4
  2. Base-line a deep 8 to 9 inch (20 to 23 cm) round springform baking tin with baking paper.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flours and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. Put the eggs and sugar in a glass bowl over (but not touching) lightly simmering water. Whisk with an electric whisk until thick, pale, moussey and doubled in volume (it should hold a trail when you lift the beaters).
  5. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the melted butter.
  6. Sift the flour-cocoa mix into the batter and quickly, but gently fold in.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until risen and 'golden'.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing from the tin.
  9. When cold, remove and wash the tin. Reline both the base and sides of the tin with clean baking paper, ready to assemble the mousse cake. 
  10. Place the sponge back into the base of the tin.

Ingredients

Strawberry Mousse Filling and Decoration
approx 300g strawberries for lining the sides of the mousse cake - trimmed & cut in half
300ml double cream
500g mascarpone cheese
500g strawberries - stalks removed and pureed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
75g icing sugar

Chocolate Ganache
40g dark chocolate - chopped
40 ml double cream

Method 

  1. Whisk together the cream for the mousse with 2 tablespoons of the icing sugar until it holds soft peaks. Set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the mascarpone, pureed strawberries, vanilla and remaining icing sugar until well-blended and smooth.
  3. Gently fold the cream into the strawberry mixture.
  4. Place a line of halved strawberries around the sides of the cake tin, sitting on top of the sponge base and facing cut side outwards.
  5. Spoon the mousse onto the sponge base and spread evenly to the strawberry-lined sides.
  6. Place in the fridge to set for at least 2 to 4 hours until set.
  7. When ready, make the ganache : Place the chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over a low heat until just starting to simmer. Do not let it come to the boil, but remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
  9. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes to allow the chocolate to begin to melt and then stir through until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
  10. Allow to cool until it reaches a good consistency for drizzling. Drizzle in circles over the mousse cake to decorate.
  11. Top with an extra couple of strawberries and serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Quick, Simple & Delicious (gluten free, dairy free, soya free, vegan, refined sugar free)


On my recent trip to the States, I strangely (for me) had little interest in scoffing much in the way of chocolate and sugary stuff. For gluten avoiders however, the States is a perfect destination. The general interest and following of a whole range of 'health-driven' diets and the closeness to Mexico, means that you can always find gluten free menu options, or corn-based tortillas to feast on. A visit to the supermarket becomes a very exciting prospect...... I nearly over-topped the scales at check-in on my return journey with a suitcase stuffed full of soft white corn tortillas, Maseca (instant white corn) flour, and a whole variety of gluten free crackers, pretzels and cookies that I brought back for Miss GF to try.

Whatever the reasons for travelling abroad, for me, it is always an opportunity to discover new foods and to experience new ways to prepare, serve and eat already familiar ingredients. Sometimes, the least expected menu choices become the ones that top the 'must try and make when I get home' list. This is one such dish.


Our US journey took us to Utah and a town called Moab, which is the gateway to the popular national parks of Canyonlands and Arches. If you ever find yourself down that way, make absolutely sure to go there to see the amazing geographical wonders that nature has created.

Sight-seeing aside, you can also find some great healthy food. On recommendation, we ate a couple of meals (lunch and breakfast) at the Peace Tree Juice Cafe in Moab, which serves great nutritional, tasty and organic foods. Lunch consisted of a wonderful Apple, Walnut, Goats Cheese and Cranberry Salad...... But it was the breakfast which really bowled me over, not only for its natural simplicity of ingredients, but for its interesting combination of textures, flavours, colours, and its nourishment and ability to sustain me for hours.


So I share with you my (slightly more elaborate and amended version) of the Quinoa Breakfast Bowl, which I confess I have also eaten as lunch too on occasion since I got back.

The beauty of this dish, is that it requires very little preparation, so can be mixed together at the drop of a hat. If you pre-prepare your quinoa by cooking (without any seasoning, salt or sugar) and 'bulk'- storing in the fridge. you can have this prepped in 5 minutes (or less) in the morning. It is simply a case of adding dried fruit and nuts, a little coconut palm (or brown) sugar, honey or healthy natural sweetener of choice and then topping with some almond, coconut or alternative milk. Serve with hot or cold quinoa and milk..... the choice is yours!


For my bowl, I have picked fruit and nuts for their amazing vibrant, natural colours and complementary flavours. The original bowl that I had in Utah, used cranberries and walnuts. I have added blueberries and Iranian pistachios. I have also supplemented the brown sugar that was served at the Peace Tree for coconut palm sugar to ensure maximum unrefinement and an extra deep caramel flavour against the fruit and nuts.

I have tried the bowl with almond milk as well as coconut milk and also both hot and cold..... either way is great..... It's just a matter of personal preference. And you can pick or choose your fruit and nuts as the mood takes you too..... The fruit adds additional chewy character as well as natural colour, sweetness and a little contrasting tartness. The nuts will guarantee crunch and extra body and depending on your choice, a diversity of flavour including a hint of bitterness to compliment the caramel notes mingling from the coconut palm sugar.


Either way, this is a dish packed full of good stuff and full of slow-release energy to set you up for the day ahead.

Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wa') originates as an ancient South American staple which has grown massively in popularity in recent years (particularly in gluten free, vegetarian and health-aware circles), for its high protein content, as well as being a great source of slow-releasing carbohydrate (and therefore low-GI), fibre, calcium and other essential nutrients. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids and contains high levels of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients which may be potentially beneficial in the prevention and treatment of disease. And if that isn't enough, when cooked, it has a great texture and flavour and is amazingly versatile as an alternative to rice, couscous, bulgar wheat and ground as a gluten-free flour source.


If you use coconut or almond milk, this bowl is almost as virtuous as they come...... In addition to being gluten free, it is also dairy free, soya free, vegan and refined sugar free.

I am sharing this delicious Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with the following linkies :


Meat Free Mondays with Tinned Tomatoes.

Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.










Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.

Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg.







Tasty Tuesdays with Honest Mum.

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


Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too






Quinoa Breakfast Bowl (serve hot or cold)

Ingredients

cooked plain (unsalted) quinoa - hot or cold
handful dried cranberries
handful dried blueberries
handful walnuts (halved/rough chopped)
sprinkle Iranian pistachios
coconut palm sugar
coconut or almond milk - hot or cold

Method

  1. Measure a portion of hot or cold quinoa into a bowl. 
  2. Add some dried fruit, nuts and coconut palm sugar to taste and fold through. 
  3. Pour over some (hot or cold) coconut or almond milk.
  4. Add more fruit, nuts, sugar and milk to taste on top as you wish.
  5. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated