Friday, 9 February 2018

In Memory - Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (gluten and dairy free)


It has been a long time since I posted on Gluten Free Alchemist, but I make no apology. 2018 did not start well. January was a long, long month and one in which I unexpectedly lost my mother to Pancreatic Cancer.

Although she had probably had this ugly disease for a long time, it was only a week and half from when she was diagnosed to her death. Needless to say, the blog has not been uppermost in my mind.

I have now lost both of my parents to cancer (my father when I was just 18) and thus last week's World Cancer Day on 4th February held a particular poignance for me. I worry that I may now become somewhat over-aware of every little pain and niggle.


Looking back over the last couple of years, my mother's Pancreatic Cancer must have lain 'undiscovered' for many many months, if not years..... With my new found google-induced wisdom on how it presents, I now realise that many of the symptoms were clear as day..... the doctors simply did not look in the right place at the right time or consider her symptoms with appropriate curiosity.

There is a good reason that Pancreatic Cancer is known as the 'Silent Killer'. It masquerades itself within symptoms which could be anything but..... Yet it kills with the precision of a carefully-targeted bullet and has a 5 year survival rate of only just over 3%.


At this time I do not wish to dwell on what it meant to (all too briefly) care for my mother in her final days, but would urge you to look up how this deadly disease manifests and stay armed with that knowledge just in case you ever need to know.


It was my mother who gave us our Italian heritage and also our love of food. Born to Italian parents, she introduced us early to foods that my friends had never heard of, let alone eaten. Visits to my 'Nana's' house would often mean dodging fresh-made spaghetti draped around the kitchen and I would relish our trips with Mum to the Italian delicatessen to pick up ravioli shells ready to fill with spinach and cheese, finely sliced salami, parma ham, olives and the annual boxed Panettone.

There was always cake or dessert in our house too. Endless cake! Mum loved to bake and never needed an excuse to feed us with the sweet stuff. A meal wasn't finished until we had devoured 'pudding'.


In memory of my Mum and in celebration of her life and Italian roots, I decided last weekend to make some Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies. These traditional cookies come either crunchy or soft, but always have an intense sweet almond hit. I love both, but decided on this occasion to opt for the soft chewy version which have an almost marzipan quality to them. They also somehow seemed more comforting in my grief.

They are incredibly simple to make and a batch can be created from end to end (and probably eaten) in 30 to 40 minutes flat. Flavour them with a good hit of Italian Amaretti liqueur (I use Disaronno) or for a slightly more intense taste and aroma, add a little almond extract. Either way, with their crisp shell and slightly gooey interior, you will find it difficult to leave them alone, so plan ahead and make a double batch.....


Although I made them in memory of my Mum, these cookies make the perfect gift, whether for Valentines, birthdays, Mother's Day or Christmas.

I am sharing these Amaretti Cookies with :


Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too







Inheritance Recipes with Coffee & Vanilla and Pebble Soup

Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain



Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel






Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Fiesta Friday #210 with Angie, Laurena at Life Diet Health and Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook



Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (makes about 18 to 20 cookies)

Ingredients 

2 large egg whites (approx 70g)
190g ground almonds
170g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
20 ml Amaretti liqueur and/or ½ teaspoon almond extract

to coat :
2½ tablespoons caster sugar
2½ tablespoons icing sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
  2. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  3. Fold in the almonds, sugar and vanilla.
  4. Gently stir through the liqueur and/or almond extract. You should now have a very thick, sticky dough.
  5. Tip the caster sugar and icing sugar for coating the cookies into two shallow bowls.
  6. Scoop out walnut-sized chunks of the dough using teaspoon and roll into balls using your hands (the mix is very sticky, so I use food gloves when I roll).
  7. Roll each ball as you make it in the caster sugar followed by the icing sugar and place on the baking tray, leaving a slight gap between them. 
  8. Very slightly squash the top of each ball with your finger.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until crisp on the outside, but still quite pale in colour.
  10. Leave to cool on the baking tray for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-18 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 4 January 2018

'The Full English'... Breakfast Blinis (gluten free)


I have wanted to make these Blinis for ages and having been gifted a Baking Stone for Christmas, I had the perfect excuse to get creative...... So today I present to you.... 'The Full English'... Breakfast Blini. Doesn't that look tempting?

Soft, light gluten free blinis made with oat flour, topped with a spoonful of moist scrambled egg, a succulent, lightly fried chestnut mushroom and finally a salty bacon-wrapped crisp-roasted, meaty cocktail sausage...... A mouthful of traditional English breakfast deliciousness..... perfect for entertaining friends after a sociable night before.....


Well I say it's a full English...... the connoisseurs amongst you will notice a distinct absence of tomato. There is of course nothing to stop you from adding a slice into the stack, but as these are bite-sized morsels, designed to be hand-held, I didn't want to risk embarrassing the guests with drippy, squirty tomato mess.

As is probably the case for most foodies, a Christmas kitchen gadget or two was inevitable and this year, I was the grateful recipient of both a Waffle Maker (recipe coming soon) and a Baking Stone.


Although you can use a large flat-bottomed frying pan to make blinis, it can be quite fiddly getting a spatula flat under them to flip or to remove from the pan. The baking stone (which is effectively a heavy, flat, coated, cast-iron plate) is absolutely perfect for the task. It gets hot..... really hot..... and retains an even heat throughout the cooking process and well beyond. I am loving using it and thinking maybe crumpets are next on my list.....


The blini recipe I have used here is a slight adaptation of a Naomi Devlin recipe. I attended a gluten free pastry course with Naomi back in May last year down at River Cottage and was truly impressed with her knowledge, so her recipe for buckwheat blinis seemed a good place to start. They were good, but Miss GF was less keen on the slightly bitter kick that comes from the buckwheat seed. For the recipe I have posted here, I neutralised the flavour slightly by revamping the flour blend, without damping the nutritional content, adding a good ratio of creamy oat flour...... In fact, using oat flour made these blinis perfect breakfast fodder...... an ideal complementary base for the 'Full English' flavours on top.


Although they are at their best when freshly made, the blinis can be made ahead of time and (just like shop-bought versions) can be easily 'refreshed' by a few seconds in the microwave.

So next time you have guests staying over, why not treat them to something a little different for breakfast?


I am sharing my 'Full English' Breakfast Blinis with :


Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum







Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain - given that these blinis were made on a Baking Stone, I am sneaking these little babies in......

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too





Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse

Fiesta Friday #205 with Angie, The Frugal Hausfrau and Food Eat Love



'The Full English'... Breakfast Blinis - with gluten free Oat Blinis 

Ingredients - Oat Blinis (adapted from a blini recipe by Naomi Devlin) - makes approx 16 blinis

90g plain gluten free flour mix (I used my rice free flour blend)
40g GF oat flour (make your own as here)
2 large eggs - separated
100g full fat Greek yoghurt/plain yoghurt
140 ml full fat milk (or use semi-skimmed with a dash of cream)
3g Easy Bake Yeast (I used Allinson's)
pinch fine sea salt

The 'Full English' bit.... (for 16 blinis)

approx 16 raw cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon (I used ready wrapped mini pigs in blankets)
approx 16 chestnut (or other closed cup) mushrooms 
3 large/4 medium eggs 
a dash of milk
a knob of butter
salt and pepper seasoning to taste

Method

  1. Blinis - In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, egg yolks, yoghurt, milk, yeast and salt until well blended. Set aside in a warm place to prove for a couple of hours (or prove in the fridge overnight (remembering to bring back to room temperature before continuing)).
  2. When the batter has grown in volume by about half, whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and then lightly fold into the batter mixture until combined.
  3. Use either a large, flat-bottomed frying pan, or a baking stone. Heat over a medium to low setting, until the base is hot and then (using a thick wad of kitchen paper to prevent burning fingers), rub the surface with a dot of butter.
  4. Drop spoonfuls (approx tablespoon) of batter onto the surface, leaving a good gap between them (I worked in batches of 5 to 6) and cook until the base is golden, the surface is getting a slight skin and the edges are firming slightly (about 50 to 60 seconds). Flip over with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and just set (they should be soft, but not squidgy).
  5. Remove the blinis and wrap in a clean tea towel to keep moist and warm until all are cooked.
  6. Whilst you are cooking your Blinis, cook the sausages wrapped in bacon in the oven using the packet instructions (usually about 20 minutes at approx 200 C).
  7. Remove the stalks and gently fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil until golden. Set aside in the oven in a heat-proof dish (covered with foil) until ready to eat. 
  8. To make the scrambled egg, beat the egg lightly in a bowl with a dash of milk and seasoned to taste and add a small knob of butter. Pour into a small saucepan and gently heat, stirring frequently until the mixture has cooked and scrambled.
  9. Putting it all together : Layer a blini with a teaspoon of scrambled egg, topped with a fried mushroom and finally a sausage wrapped in bacon. Serve and enjoy.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-18 unless otherwise indicated


Saturday, 30 December 2017

Vegan No Churn Rich Chocolate Ice Cream (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, vegan)


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. It has been a while since I posted and I expect this to be my final post before the end of the year..... It's a good one though..... a Vegan No Churn Rich Chocolate Ice Cream made with my new favourite ingredient...... sweetened condensed coconut milk from the guys at Nature's Charm. Seriously..... I can't get enough of the stuff and have been experimenting all over the place with it (although no-churn ice cream seems to be my favourite vice at the moment....).


I'm a huge fan of no-churn ice creams and there is often a freshly-made tub of some flavour creation at GFHQ, which just about touches the freezer shelf for a few moments before being devoured. I have some amazing recipes which have been made over and over again..... My legendary Baileys no churn ice cream is a firm favourite, closely followed by a delicious Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Cream ice cream.

But you can also choose from a menu of other no churn ice creams at Gluten Free Alchemist, which range through Cherry-Chocolate Brownie, RhubarbCookies n Cream, Mincemeat, Mint Choc Chip, or Rhubarb, Blueberry & Honey. The list will continue to grow!

The down side is that whilst I love each and every one of them, they are made with high volumes of cream and I seem to be developing an increasing sensitivity to dairy products (as well as being worried about the family risk of high cholesterol), which means I really need to start seeking alternatives.


You can imagine my excitement then, when I discovered tins of condensed coconut milk in our favourite local whole food shop. Actually excitement doesn't do my reaction justice..... I was seriously ecstatic..... I developed an almost possessive siege-like mentality (briefly!), looking around suspiciously to see whether anyone else might have spotted it and be moving in to snatch the tins from under my nose..... then I grabbed a large basket and bundled pretty much the whole shelf-load, before sidling up to the counter trying to look as normal as I could and quickly bagging the lot!....... I mean who was I kidding? I looked like some crazed loon with the oddest addiction on the planet. But you know what? Those cans have brought a smile to my face and lots of new-found creativity and I feel smug that I snaffled them before anyone else got their hands on them.....

This particular recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream was my first vegan no-churn success and boy does it taste amazing! I have now made it three times due to its popularity.

Although it freezes quite hard, if allowed to sit at room temperature for a short while before serving, it becomes gorgeously rich and creamy.


I did consider whether I could add anything to the mix that would keep the ice cream softer straight from the freezer (as it doesn't contain the higher level of fat that you would get from the use of dairy cream and dairy-based condensed milk, you have a higher level of liquid-ice (although it doesn't taste 'icy') and thus, it sets harder). I didn't want to add more sugar (which can help to protect the liquid from freezing solid) and I didn't want to add anything artificial for the purpose, so I stuck with a slight warming before eating process...... It works, so I'll stick with it for now!

The ice cream also uses raw cacao which gives it a deep, natural chocolate hit and at least a hint of an anti-oxidant boost! Totally delicious and very decadent.....


I am sharing my Vegan No Churn Rich Chocolate Ice Cream with :



Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins

Fiesta Friday #204 with Angie and Sandhya at Indfused






Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too






Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

We Should Cocoa with Tin and Thyme







Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse




Vegan No Churn Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 tin (320g) sweetened condensed coconut milk
cream from 2 x 400 ml tins full-fat coconut milk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g powdered raw cacao

Method

  1. You will need to chill your 3 tins of coconut milk overnight prior to making your ice cream. The straight coconut milk will separate whilst chilling and the cream within the can will harden during this process. 
  2. Before you begin, ensure that the bowl you are using to make the ice cream can fit into the freezer (temporarily).
  3. When thoroughly chilled, being careful not to shake, open up the two cans of straight coconut milk and (depending on whether you have opened the can with the cream or liquid layer at the top) either tip off the coconut water into a glass and scoop out the coconut cream that is left into a bowl, or scoop the coconut cream off the top to a bowl and pour the leftover coconut water into a glass (save the coconut water to drink or put in a smoothie).
  4. Whisk the coconut cream until light and airy. If it starts to become too loose, place the bowl in the fridge for half an hour to re-chill.
  5. Add the chilled condensed coconut milk, vanilla extract and powdered cacao and fold through until fully combined. 
  6. Place the bowl in the freezer for one to two hours (depending on how cold your freezer is) to harden slightly and then remove and whisk again to add air.
  7. Pour the ice cream batter into an airtight container and freeze until firm.
  8. When you are ready to eat, the ice cream may be quite hard (particularly if your freezer is set very cold). Remove from the freezer for a short while before serving to allow to soften slightly. 
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-18 unless otherwise indicated

Friday, 8 December 2017

Boozy Baileys Real Hot Chocolate with Festive Christmas Marshmallows - #FreeFromChristmas (free from gluten; nuts; optional dairy free; chocolate is optional refined sugar free)


With winter well and truly upon us and Christmas heading our way faster than I was ready for, it is time to add a little festive spirit with some Boozy Baileys Real Hot Chocolate, topped with these super-cute Christmas marshmallows.

Nothing speaks to me of winter more than cold, crisp, wrapped-up walks along the coast, blasted by brisk, icy, sea winds which chill fingers and noses and bring the welcome opportunity to clutch a hot mug of chocolate in gloved hands to thaw on the radiated heat. It's all part of the deal..... The excuse for hot chocolate comes from the need to warm up..... which means getting chilled a little first! It tastes better that way....


There are of course, two things better than hot chocolate..... Hot chocolate with marshmallows and better still, hot chocolate with Baileys and marshmallows. A perfect winter treat, don't you think? Of course, the marshmallows are always optional,...... although once you have tried hot chocolate with Baileys, you may find this to be less of a discretion.....

If you have never made your own real hot chocolate, then it is time to make amends..... Made with real cacao (I use block cacao or drops) and milk, it packs a deep chocolate punch which is full of antioxidants..... Perfect for helping to fight those winter bugs.

Because you add your own sugar, it also tastes more natural and less sweet. You even get to choose whether you add bog standard caster sugar or opt for the caramel notes exploited from using either brown or coconut sugar.


Admittedly, it's slightly more effort to make than the commercial powdered stuff you find in a jar, but it is so worth it. Besides..... a little decadence and pampering once in a while is important to our mental health...... right? And since cacao is also know for its serotonin-boosting properties, you can reassure yourself that this treat is true happiness in a cup.

I am sharing my Boozy Baileys Real Hot Chocolate as part of the seasonal #FreeFromChristmas offerings brought to you by our amazing group of Free From bloggers. For those of you who have never come across us, we post themed free from recipes each month and between us, we cover all the top allergies and intolerances and more. So whether you are celebrating a free from Christmas yourself,  or catering for someone else who is, make sure you check out the blog list below...... we are sure between us to provide recipes and inspiration for every intolerant eventuality.


Actually, this post is pretty timely.... I notice that Rebecca (who blogs over at Glutarama) has just posted her all home-made Dairy Free Baileys Liqueur Recipe..... So if you are dairy-intolerant and can't drink the 'traditional' stuff, make your own and be sure to drop a little into your hot chocolate.

I realised of course, after I had taken the photos for this post, that I had neglected to pose the Baileys bottle in the pics..... I think I was too eager to drink, but rest assured, this favourite of tipples is mingling within and boy, does it taste incredible..... That warming, alcohol-tinged, creamy, whiskey backdrop is unmistakable.

As for the snowmen? Well, it would be impertinent not to give a nod to the up-coming celebrations... Besides, they are so cute, I couldn't resist popping a couple in the cup to cheer things along.


I am sharing my Boozy Baileys Real Hot Chocolate with Festive Christmas Marshmallows with :


Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse

We Should Cocoa with Tin and Thyme







Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too







Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Fiesta Friday with Angie and co-hosted by Everyday Healthy Recipes and The Not So Creative Cook


And don't forget to check out the other #FreeFromChristmas recipes from my lovely blogging friends across he web....

Christmas Biscuits : Nathalie at The Intolerant Gourmand
Protein Hot Chocolate with Orange : Eva at The Healthy Tart
Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake : Renee at Mummy Tries
Pork, Sage & Onion Stuffing Balls : Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie
Easy Peasy Christmas Cake Muffins : Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie
Healthy Vegan Mince Pies : The Healthy Tart
Cranberry & Clementine Wreath Bread : Vicki at The Free From Fairy
Dairy Free Baileys Liqueur : Rebecca at Glutarama
Mini Christmas Cakes with Nut Free MarzipanRebecca at Glutarama
Jo at Modern Food Stories
Emma at Free From Farmhouse
Traditional Christmas Cake : Laura at Dairy Free Kids
Christmas Biscuits : Midge at Peachicks Bakery
Black Forest Christmas Cake (GF & Vegan) : Midge at Peachicks Bakery
Chloe at Just The Three Of Us
Mandy at Sneaky Veg
Mel at Le Coin De Mel
Jenny at A Balanced Belly


Boozy Baileys Real Hot Chocolate with Festive Christmas Marshmallows 

Ingredients

Hot Chocolate : per cup
200 ml milk (or dairy free alternative)
20g cacao drops/block (chopped)
approx 2 teaspoons (or to taste) coconut sugar/light brown sugar/golden caster sugar 
a shot of Baileys/Baileys dairy free liqueur (optional)

Festive Marshmallows
giant or large marshmallows - cut in half widthways
dark chocolate/dairy free chocolate drops
a couple of orange candy melts (or if dairy free, use orange writing icing)
chocolate or black/brown writing icing

Method

  1. Prepare your Festive Marshmallows first : Cut large marshmallows in half widthways and place them (cut side down) on a piece of baking paper.
  2. Use a tiny dab of writing icing to glue chocolate drop eyes to the mallow tops.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the candy melts into triangular segments for the carrot noses and stick in place using a dab of writing icing (or if using writing icing for the noses, draw triangles on to the mallows).
  4. Draw mouth lines using writing icing.
  5. Put aside to set.
  6. Hot Chocolate : In a small saucepan, melt the cacao over a very low heat, stirring continuously.
  7. Add the milk a little at a time over the heat, stirring into the cacao. As the milk heats, the mixture will blend, but don't worry if it seems a little grainy at this stage.
  8. Add the sugar to taste and stir to dissolve.
  9. If the mixture is still grainy, use a whisk or blender to fully combine, before pouring into your favourite mug. 
  10. Add a tot of Baileys and stir before topping with marshmallow snowmen. 
  11. Snuggle up and enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated