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!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Healthy Breakfast Flapjack Bars - gluten free; dairy free; refined sugar free, vegan


These Breakfast Flapjacks are really easy to make and the perfect way to put a morning smile on your face, or to perk you up when you are flagging and need an energy boost during the day. Soft and comfortingly oaty, these heavenly slices are packed full with the goodness of dried fruits, nuts and seeds, all sweetened with a balance of unrefined nature...... honey, maple syrup and coco palm sugar. Satisfyingly filling and really quite healthy, these flapjacks are also gluten-free, dairy free and vegan.

I feel like I am flagging a lot at the moment. Each day is a bit of an uphill climb........ There is too much going on, too many decisions to make, too many things to do and not enough hours in the day..... My body is telling me to slow down too.... I feel like I am being plagued by unwelcome and irritating health niggles that just get in the way of getting things done..... but I can't ignore what they are telling me.


Most annoying of all is that I have started to suffer from eye fatigue. My new job has demanded several days sitting for several hours non-stop in front of a computer screen without a break, trying to complete a load of case file audits in squeezed timescales. Whilst I usually look forward to coming home and cup of tea in hand, pottering through the interesting, innovative and inspiring world of social media, in the last week or so, this has become increasingly difficult...... Sitting down in front of the lap top in the evenings has become an ever-more blurry affair, leading to sore and painful eyes, headaches and a feeling of exhaustion.

As a result, I have had to limit attention to my own blog. I have photos waiting to edit and recipes waiting to post...... Lots of ideas in the pipeline waiting to take shape in the kitchen and share with the world. But they will have to wait..... I may be able to push aside little infections and bugs, but if your eyes are complaining, it is a clear message to give them a rest..... They are too important to risk. I guess it is one of the penalties of trying to maintain two screen-intensive past-times. Frustrating as it is I am making myself taking heed.


The forced slow-down has left me reviewing how I use my non-work hours. Committed blogging is time and energy intensive..... I sometimes look at the pro-bloggers out there with envy at the ability to organise their days around this wonderfully creative world and to balance it alongside their family lives. Trying to build up a blog alongside a day job takes hours away from loved-ones and however much care is taken to ensure a balance, I have on many occasions felt guilty that I am not focussed enough on the here and now of home life.

The up-side of being forced to spend less time on the computer, is that I have been spending more time with my daughter at a really important time in her life (for those of you who read my last post, you will know that we are in the midst of making secondary school choices right now). This has also reminded me of my original reasons for starting to blog, which was (in the wake of her Coeliac diagnosis) to ensure a record of recipes that we create at home, as a personal recipe book for her future (although we share this willingly with the world). I am aware that at times, I can become a little obsessed by the blog, but not always for the right reasons, and the last few days away from it have allowed me to re-balance my motivation..... This is not my job and the stats shouldn't matter..... but my daughter does.


So I apologise if (at least for a while), my postings are sporadic. As and when I can, I will share my latest culinary creations...... Rest assured I will still be busy in the kitchen trying to concoct gluten free magic.... In the meantime, I am sharing these fab flapjacks (which I make often as an alternative to my other favourite homemade Oatie Choc-Nut Breakfast Bar). They are as satisfying as they are delicious and with such a fantastic bunch of ingredients, each nutritious bite will fill you with good stuff!

I am sharing them with the following :


Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma











Free From Fridays with Emma over at the Free From Farmhouse











Cook Blog Share with Beckie at This Is Not My Home











Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too











Healthy Breakfast Flapjack Bars

Ingredients

190g gluten free oats
30g freeze dried apple cubes (I get mine from Healthy Supplies)
70g Morello or other glace cherries - rough chopped
40g dried blueberries
10g milled flaxseed
30g desiccated/shredded coconut
30g ground hazelnuts
20g flaked almonds
20g ground almonds
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
60 ml apple juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
85g coconut oil
50g runny honey
50g maple syrup
40g coconut palm sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Base-line an 8 inch/20 cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the oats, dried fruit, flaxseed, coconut, nuts and salt.
  4. Add the apple juice and vanilla paste and stir through.
  5. In a small saucepan, mix the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar and gently heat, stirring frequently until the ingredients have dissolved and just reached boil point.
  6. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly until well blended and the mixture is moist.
  7. Tip into the baking tin and spread evenly. Press down firmly on the surface with the back of a spoon to compress.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and just beginning to crisp round the edges.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then turn out onto a chopping board. 
  10. Once cold, cut into pieces with a sharp knife and store in an airtight container.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Blueberry & Lemon Buttermilk Scones (gluten free)


It has been a tricky week and I apologise that blogging has been way down my priority list. We are in the midst of a hectic time trying to visit secondary schools with a view to choosing one for my daughter who is now in her final year at primary school. We live in a part of the country which still runs a selective grammar system and this week the results were due. A result of 'assessed suitable for grammar school' (we are not allowed to used the terminology 'passed') means a greater choice of education, whatever we may think of the system or our ultimate preference of school.


Having seen a number of schools, I am amazed at the vast differences between them...... their strengths and priorities, philosophies, facilities and educational focus. It is not an easy decision. But I am relieved to say that we are fortunate to have been given options...... my beautiful, bright daughter has been assessed as 'suitable'. Our decision must now be all about giving her every opportunity to be happy in the next stage of her educational journey and to do the best she can.....


When I last posted, it was to tell you about my experience of making butter. The bi-product of the process was some amazing fresh buttermilk. Not wanting to waste it, I used it to make these delicious Blueberry and Lemon Buttermilk Scones, served here with the butter and also my lovely Strawberry, Rhubarb & Pomegranate Jam.

I have made gluten free scones before (plain, cheese, sundried tomato, cheese & basil and also asparagus & stilton) and am really happy with my recipes, but the addition of buttermilk takes them to a whole new level...... fluffier, lighter and with the ability to stay fresh and soft for two to three days (which in GF world is a real bonus).

I remember when I made my first batch of gluten free scones that were soft and actually tasted like scones..... I was ecstatic. It was like I had really achieved big time.... and I had! A decent GF scone is difficult to find. They are either too hard, crumbly or dry...... too 'white' and 'ricey' or too flavourless..... or simply, they deteriorate soon after they have cooled with no 'shelf-life' whatsoever, leaving you eating them as quickly as you can and feeling guilty for the number of calories consumed (not least because all scones are at their best with butter or cream or jam (or all three)).


These scones are an advance on anything I have made previously. The texture and flavour of the base-mix is so scone-like once baked that they would fool the most hardened of wheat-eaters. The list of flours they contain may look daunting, but there is nothing that is difficult to source and the careful balance is worth the extra effort to get the result it yields.

Wanting to make a sweet fruity scone, but not one filled with sultanas and raisins, I decided to go for blueberries with a good hit of complimentary lemon. Rather than use fresh blueberries (I didn't want to risk anything too 'wet') I soaked some dried blueberries for a short while to plump them a little and added these instead. The lemon comes in the form of lemon extract and lemon zest for the same reason.


The scones rise well to make them light and airy, but I stupidly rolled my dough too thin before cutting (choosing not to re-roll so as not to over-work) and didn't get the height that I hoped for. It made no difference to the structure and texture, which remained fluffy and moist and a perfectly scrumptious treat.

Unlike many GF bakes, these can be scoffed as soon as they leave the oven.... warm, with melted butter..... but they are also divine cold and as they stay amazingly fresh, are ideal to take to work, sandwiched with butter or jam and wrapped for elevenses (although mine only made it as far as ninesies).

The blueberries marry amazingly well with the lemon, providing fruity berry bursts against the tangy lemon and sweet, but not over-sweet crumb. Try them with afternoon tea!


I am sharing my scones with the following :


The No Waste Food Challenge - this month with Veggie Desserts on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. These wonderful scones were inspired by and made to use up the buttermilk left after my first butter-making experience.








Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.











Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg.











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.










Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.











Blueberry & Lemon Buttermilk Scones

Ingredients

90g tapioca flour
80g white rice flour
60g oat flour (made as in this post)
40g buckwheat flour
30g sorghum flour
25g cornflour (cornstarch)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
1¼ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
80g butter - cold & cubed 
60g caster sugar
1 large egg - beaten
2 teaspoons lemon extract
finely grated zest 1 small lemon
50g dried blueberries - soaked in cold water for 15 minutes then drained
220 ml buttermilk

milk to glaze
brown sugar to sprinkle 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 C/(200 fan)/425 F/Gas 7. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, weigh and lightly whisk the flours, xanthan gum, salt, almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together to ensure they are well combined and any lumps are broken down.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mix with your finger tips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar and mix well.
  5. Add the beaten egg, lemon extract, lemon zest and blueberries and stir well to combine.
  6. Finally add the buttermilk and stir with a flat knife until the mixture comes together as a wet dough. It will be very sticky, so don't try to knead it. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes to allow the liquid to absorb.
  7. Generously sprinkle the work surface with flour (I placed a large sheet of baking paper on the work surface first and sprinkled that).
  8. Tip the scone dough onto the floured surface, flatten slightly and sprinkle flour on top. 
  9. Roll out the dough so that it is about 4 cm thick.
  10. Cut the scones into rounds using a 5 cm round cutter and place on the baking sheet.
  11. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  12. Bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden.
  13. Place on a wire rack to cool, or serve warm with butter/jam/whipped or clotted cream.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Home Made Butter & Buttermilk


If you are a regular follower of UK food blogs, you cannot fail to have seen lots of descriptions of how to make butter recently. It seems lots of very lucky bloggers got invited to a blog camp down at River Cottage a couple of weeks ago at which they learnt how to make butter. Sadly, I was not one of those bloggers........ but hey! I can still make the butter!!

On reading the descriptions of people's butter-making experiences, I was instantly fascinated by how incredibly simple the process was. We love butter in our house, so the prospect of knowing how to make our own was more excitement than we could hang on to.


After our recent foray into the scientific world of making honeycomb, the thought of making butter presented the opportunity for another food science lesson which sounded both entertaining and educational. And all it involved was a large pot of double cream, a bowl and whisk and some other basic kitchen equipment.

We are having a pretty stressy time at home at the moment. We are unfortunate enough to live in a part of the country where children are put through the 11+ to decide whether they qualify for a possible grammar school place. Whilst we may opt not to go down the grammar route even if a pass is achieved, if the test is not taken, the options become seriously limited. Having been sat in early September, the results are now due....... Needless to say, there has been lots of worry and tantrums on the child-front alongside hours of researching and visiting possible secondary schools. It all feels quite harsh...... By the end of October, our choices would have been submitted, but with no guarantee of getting the school we choose, I fear the stress may continue for a while.


In the midst of all this, butter-making feels quite therapeutic...... and frankly a lot more straight forward than choosing a secondary school place!

As promised by the wisdom of others, turning cream into butter was amazingly uncomplicated. It was literally a case of whisking until the butter separated from the buttermilk and then bringing the butter together in a block and washing through. If you have a really good mixer (I am lucky enough to own a Kitchen Aid), then it is speedy quick...... turn up the dial and watch...... cream..... whipped cream..... sort of scrambled-egg blobs....... butter...... done!


We worked out that it was cheaper than buying a block of butter too. From 600 ml double cream we got 11 oz (310g) pure butter and 250 ml buttermilk. That's all for £1.00 (your average 250g block of butter costs anywhere between £1.30 and £1.70 and you can add an extra 50p for the buttermilk)!

Add a little salt to the process if you want salted butter, but if you use the buttermilk (and let's face it, you wouldn't want to waste it), just remember to remove any added salt from your chosen recipe or add the salt after the churning process to keep pure. I used mine to make some amazing gluten free buttermilk scones, which I think were the best gluten free scones I have ever tasted. I will post them shortly as they are simply too good to keep to myself.


And the butter? Perfect! Yellow...... creamy....... natural..... delicious! If you have never tried making your own, this should definitely be on your list of 'must do's'. It may not be something I will have time to make every week, but for special occasions like Christmas, we will be pushing the boat out for certain!


I am sharing this simple method for which I can thank my fellow bloggers who inspired me to try it with  :


Credit Crunch Munch over at Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours.



Home-Made Butter & Buttermilk

Ingredients

600 ml double cream
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Pour the cream into a large chilled spotlessly clean (and preferably sterilised) mixing bowl. You can add the salt now if using, or wait until the butter has separated from the buttermilk to keep the buttermilk unsalted.
  2. Beat the cream with a balloon whisk until it thickens. Keep whisking. It will reach firm peaks before it begins to separate into butterfat globules. Continue to whisk and the buttermilk will completely separate and the butter will become firm and hard and slosh around in the bowl.
  3. Pour the contents of the bowl through a clean (preferably sterilised) sieve to collect the buttermilk in a jug, leaving the butter in the sieve.
  4. Save the buttermilk in the fridge to use later.
  5. Fill a jug with iced water and rinse out the butter bowl.
  6. With clean hands, bring the butter together and squeeze to force out as much remaining buttermilk as possible. Place in the bowl and cover with the iced water to rinse. 
  7. Remove from the water and squeeze again. Empty the bowl and re-rinse with fresh iced water.
  8. Repeat the squeezing and rinsing process one more time until the water is clear.
  9. Mould the butter into a slab. wrap in cling film and chill for a couple of hours before transferring to a butter dish.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Gluten Free Baking Course at Braxted Park with Adriana Rabinovich (part 2 - Bread) & Crispy-Based Roasted Vegetable Pizza (gluten/dairy/egg free base)


Last week I told you all about my gluten free baking courses with the lovely and very talented Adriana Rabinovich, which were held at the Cookery School at Braxted Park in Essex. I attended for two days.... One day spent happily making pastry (check out last week's post here) and the other baking gluten free bread.

Gluten free bread is the nemesis of many a gluten free cook..... It is notoriously tricky to get a bread-like texture. The lack of gluten means that the structure can be crumbly and fragile and too little moisture will leave the experience of eating it uncomfortably dry. To compensate, the addition of gluten-replacers such as xanthan gum, guar gum or chia paste are generally necessary, but add too much and the resulting loaf might become a brick fit for the building trade. Even with the careful addition of gums and pastes, the structure can still be spongy and liable to sink, especially if the moisture content is imbalanced.


With Adriana's years of professional experience in trying to overcome the contradictions of gluten free bread, I was excited to have the opportunity to explore her techniques for countering the difficulties of this essential bake. After all, bread is such a staple and whilst getting it right gluten free can seem an endless aspiration that is never quite reached, the path to enlightenment is pursued relentlessly in the hope of a decent sandwich!

The one-day bread course covered a number of techniques and bakes from pizza, foccacia and baguette (all made with variations on the same dough), to a white loaf, delicious brioche and Mexican tortilla wraps. The instruction was clear and the methods innovative in helping to overcome the challenges...... be it advice on how to shape a wet dough into a gluten free French stick or balancing unusual ingredients to ensure a robust loaf.


Traditional corn tortilla wraps are a familiar feature in our home kitchen and one of the early breads I mastered to ensure Mexican and South American food remained firmly on the menu. Made with Masa Harina flour, they are naturally gluten free and (especially if you have a tortilla press) are quick and easy to make. I was reassured to see Adriana making them in the same way that I do at home!

The absolute revelation for me however, was Adriana's use of a little gelatine (or agar agar/vegegel as a vegetarian alternative) in some breads to add structure to the bake. I would never have thought of putting gelatine in a bake, but actually it makes perfect sense. It made an amazing difference to how the bread stabilised and to how the crumb formed internally in the loaf, yet it made no difference to the taste and certainly didn't 'jellify' the bread in any way. We used the gelatine in both the white loaf and also the brioche. These two bakes were discernibly bread rather than 'cake' in texture and were less prone to going soggy when topped with wetter spreads.


I will be doing plenty of experimenting with the use of gelatine in some of my own breads as well as making those Adriana shared with us....... and will post as I become more confident in the balance and results......


The pizza that I made at home following the course, is with a versatile dough which Adriana uses for a range of bakes. It is quite a wet mix, but can be spread thicker for Focaccia, moulded in baking paper and a baguette tray for a French Baguette or flattened thinly to form a pizza base.

I have my own recipe for pizza dough which I love and I have no intention of ditching it.... it is soft and fluffy and lends itself to a delicious bread base. But it is a dough which is at its best with at least a little height and even 'deep pan'. Adriana's dough makes for a great thin or crispy base and is a great alternative for the pizza repertoire. And making it is fun.... It's a bit like stepping back into pottery classes in school...... to shape the dough involves a very wet hand to gently smooth the dough little by little into a fine disc on baking paper and it feels like you are moulding clay!


The base is baked, topped and then baked again...... which makes it perfect to freeze mid-way, ready to fetch-out at a later date for a quick meal. I've topped mine with delicious roasted vegetables and some delicious goats cheese......

I am sharing this fab pizza with the following :


Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse











Fabulous Foodie Fridays with Lauren at Create Bake Make











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma











Cook Blog Share with Hijacked by Twins









Credit Crunch Munch with Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours





Crispy-Based Roasted Vegetable Pizza (with Adriana Rabinovich's Pizza Dough) - makes 3 individual pizzas

Ingredients

110g plain gluten free flour mix (Adriana used Doves. I used my own blend A from this post)
220g cornflour
55g ground almonds
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons caster sugar
14g dried active yeast 
350 ml tepid water (blood temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toppings :
tomato passata

a selection of vegetables (e.g. courgette, tomato, mushroom, baby corn, squash, garlic, sweet pepper, artichokes, mushrooms, chilli or anything else you fancy) - chopped as you wish and roasted in the oven on medium to high heat for about 30 to 40 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning

Parma ham - ripped into strips (optional)
cheese of your choice - grated or sliced - I used chunks of goats cheese
pine nuts and/or pumpkin seeds - lightly toasted
fresh or dried herbs
fresh black pepper and other seasoning as preferred

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. To bake the pizza, you will need to bake straight onto a hot surface, so make sure you preheat your intended baking trays at the same time. I used upturned baking sheets to get as flat as possible.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk lightly to make sure they are well-incorporated. 
  3. Measure the water and olive oil into a jug and make sure the liquid is at hand temperature.
  4. Add the liquid to the flour mix and combine using either a wooden/silicone spoon or your hands, until the dough comes together. It should be soft and a little wet. If it seems too dry, add a tiny bit more water (cautiously).
  5. Beat the mixture with a spoon for about a minute until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Divide the mixture into thirds (for three pizzas).
  7. Cut three large sheets of baking paper and fill a jug or bowl with cold water. 
  8. One at a time, spread each piece of dough on a baking paper sheet as follows : Dip your hands in the cold water and gently flatten the dough. Keeping your hands wet, gently smooth the dough from side to side, turning the pizza as you go, to gradually flatten and spread into a circle. Keep doing this until your pizza base is thin as you want.
  9. Set aside for about 20 minutes in a warm place.
  10. When ready to put in the oven, drizzle a little olive oil across the top and slide the pizza on the baking paper straight onto the hot baking tin surface (the direct heat helps it to cook and bubble up). Bake the base (without toppings) for 8 to 10 minutes until golden and crisping slightly at the edges.
  11. Remove from the oven ready for your toppings. You can cool and freeze or chill at this stage, to be topped and eaten another time.
  12. When ready, top each pizza with a thin spread of tomato passata, then a layer of roasted vegetables followed by any other toppings you are using and cheese.
  13. Place back in the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the other toppings are hot through and crisping.
  14. Remove from the oven, slice and enjoy.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 3 October 2015

My Gluten Free Baking Courses at Braxted Park with Adriana Rabinovich & Mini Sausage Pasties


I have been looking forward to this for weeks..... Two days of gluten free baking with Adriana Rabinovich. Adriana is one of the experts in the gluten free baking world.... A trained chef, Adriana's daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease when she was just 18 months old and with that (as for many of us who experience similar diagnoses), came a family dietary shift and fast learning curve onto a whole new way of baking. After her daughter encouraged her to write a book for gluten free people just like her, Adriana wrote The Gluten Free Cookbook For Kids in 2008 (the first GF cook book I owned) and since then, she has become highly renowned for her expertise. She now shares her wisdom and skill with others through teaching gluten free cookery courses.....


Regardless of the little blog I write, I count myself as very much a novice. The art and science of gluten free baking is still in its infancy and much of what I do is very unscientific experimentation in the kitchen....... Sometimes it comes good...... Sometimes it's a full-on disaster..... But I have a lot of fun testing out my baking hypotheses and figure a few disasters can be easily written off in the name of progress!

On the other hand, if there is advice, help, tips and tricks to be gleaned from someone who has been doing it for longer, and way more expertly than me, I am going to take all I am offered! And that's where Adriana comes in.... To get a little taster of Adriana's talents, check out this amazing Lemon Meringue Roulade which I made a few weeks back using one of her recipes. It was quite lovely and incredibly quick and easy to pull together.


The courses I attended were held at The Cookery School at Braxted Park in Essex, but had I not been contacted about them, I wouldn't have known they were happening.... Sometimes things are meant to be...

After a couple of days of rain so heavy I thought I would need an Ark to get there, the sun was truly shining on the drive to Braxted...... Not one cloud could be seen! The Braxted Park Estate is a beautiful venue. The long tree-lined drive up to the house seemed perfectly grand and just getting there made me feel quite special.


The Braxted Cookery School runs a whole range of courses in their purpose-designed kitchen, so whether you need something specialist or not, it is worth checking out their website. The team coordinating them were fantastically helpful and the courses I attended were spot on in both organisation and learning.

Inside the school, we were welcomed into the dining area with morning coffee and some of Adriana's totally delicious Soft Amaretti Biscuits (divine doesn't cut it..... these were more than heavenly) and soft Chocolate Puddle Cookies which had overtones of macaroon about them.

We were a reasonably small group of between 7 and 9 on each of the two days, which made the courses feel more personal and less overwhelming. Once the rest of the group had arrived, we moved through into a beautifully light, airy, purpose-built training kitchen. Our pack for the day included all the recipes we were making (and those for the delicious Amaretti and Chocolate Puddle cookies.... woohoo!!) and all washing up was removed from our responsibility, leaving us free to bake, learn and enjoy. I have to say, the luxury of someone doing my washing up (once I had let the guilt subside) was fabulous..... I wanted to take our lovely support staff home with me!


Adriana was an amazing teacher..... Clear, straight forward and wonderfully talented. No question was too silly to ask and her calm and welcoming personality made everyone feel comfortable. Her understanding of gluten free ingredients, how they work together and how to use ingredients 'outside the box' to improve the texture, flavour and structure of the bakes was fascinating. I can honestly say that Adriana's absorbed wisdom may change much of my own approach, particularly with gluten free bread making. so good were the textures of the bread bakes that we made. I will post my thoughts on bread making in a later post..... but first to PASTRY.......


Gluten free pastry can be a tricky customer. The lack of gluten means that it can be incredibly crumbly to work with and very difficult to roll. Add too much replacement 'gum' and you will end up with a slice of cardboard. Although I have never had a problem with getting my pastry 'short', even if you roll it successfully, it can be a pig to get from work surface to tin without ending up as a disconnected jigsaw.

That's where a little know-how goes a long way...... and Adriana was ready to share!

First option : roll your pastry dough between two sheets of cling film..... Not only does this prevent the need for extra flour (which can quickly dry the pastry dough to a point where it is unusable), but it also means that you can transfer the dough to your tin (using a lift and flip approach) without a disastrous breakdown (of pastry or self) and you can use the film to help mould the pastry into the tin! Just remember to leave the cling film on whilst your pastry chills for a short while and it should then peel away without a hitch.

Second option : Roll into balls and use a tortilla press to flatten into circles (again between cling film) to fill and fold into little pasties! Don't they look cool?!

Third option : Roll into balls and gently push into tartlet tins using a mini rolling pin or pastry pusher. I have had one of these for ages, but had been using it all wrong! The trick is to place the ball of dough into the hole and then flatten with the pusher (dusted with plenty of flour), gently rolling from side to side to ease the pastry up the sides of the tin.....

Adriana shared a number of pastry recipes on the course.... a lovely Flaky Shortcrust which made a delicious quiche that we ate for lunch and is the same recipe I have used here for my Sausage Pasties. A Pate Sucree (a sweet French tart pastry that I will come back to in a later post), used on the course to make Bakewell Tarts. A Chocolate pastry, Choux pastry and Hot Water Crust pastry...... we were worked really hard, but learnt so much!


One of the best tricks we learnt on the pastry day was a process called fraisering.... a technique to blend pastry dough so that it is ultra-smooth without overworking. You make your basic dough by the usual rubbing-in process, but other than bringing it together into a rough block, don't knead or work it by hand at all. Instead, you take a palette knife, push it into the edge of the dough to cut out a small section, then turn the knife downwards to drag the pastry little by little across the work surface towards you, collecting up each smeared blob to the side until you have worked your way through all the dough. When you finally bring the dough together at the end by gently lifting and dropping it on the work surface several times, you have an incredibly smooth and evenly-blended pastry. I was impressed! A lesson that for certain, will be subsumed into my pastry-making from this point on!


Overall, I had (along with my fellow bakers) a fantastic day. If gluten free pastry is something you struggle with (or even if you don't but want a different perspective), I would absolutely recommend booking on to one of Adriana's courses....

I am sharing my mini sausage pasties with the following :


Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup and Coffee & Vanilla. This month's theme is 'comfort food'. For me pastry is one of the best comfort foods and I really want my daughter to have great gluten free recipes to use when she is older. She loves sausage rolls which also have amazing portability!








Simply Eggcellent with the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen. For October : Anything Goes! These sausage rolls contain both whole free range egg and egg yolks. They would be absolutely perfect for munching warm and fresh at those outdoor Halloween and Bonfire festivities that are on their way. Now..... what to do with those left over egg whites??






Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse. These are gluten free, nut free and with an easy option for dairy free!










Fabulous Foodie Fridays with Lauren at Create Bake Make.











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.











Mini Sausage Pasties (with Adriana's Flaky Shortcrust Pastry) - Makes 12 to 14 mini pasties

Ingredients

230g plain gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
120g unsalted butter - chilled and cut into small cubes (or use pure sunflower spread)
1 large egg - well beaten
cold water (chilled with ice cubes) - approx 2 to 3 tablespoons needed

Filling :
1 lb (500g) sausage meat
1 egg yolk
good grind black pepper
good grind sea salt
a handful finely chopped herbs (parsley/thyme/sage etc)

An extra beaten egg/egg yolk to glaze

Method

  1. Mix all the filling ingredients together until well combined and set aside in the fridge.
  2. Put a little cold water into a jug with a couple of ice cubes to chill.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour mix and salt.
  4. Add the cubed butter and coat with flour in the bowl. Either rub the butter into the flour using your fingers, until it resembles fine bread-crumbs. Or use a food processor to gently pulse the mixture until it resembles wet sand (being very careful not to over-mix).
  5. Put the flour back in the bowl and add the egg. Using either a fork or your hands, gently mix the egg with the flour. 
  6. Gradually add the water a little at a time (use a tablespoon, but go very carefully.... you will only need two to three) and continue to mix, bringing the dough together. The dough should come together easily and feel quite soft, but not be too wet. Adriana describes this as 'Scooby-Doo pastry' - soft but shaggy on the outside)
  7. Place the block of pastry on a clean work surface (do not dust with flour) and with a flexible palette knife, use the fraisering technique to blend the dough.... Take the palette knife and cut into the front edge of the dough block. As it slices through, tilt the palette knife downwards so that the blade is horizontal and pressing the dough flat on the work surface, pull it across the surface. Spread the same cut of dough three times and then gather it up onto the palette knife and place in a pile. Continue this process until you have worked through all of the pastry dough.
  8. Carefully push the pile of fraisered dough together (do not knead or 'work') and then gently lift and drop the dough ball until it blends together into a soft, smooth pastry.
  9. You can roll straight away, or cut into halves, wrap in cling film, flatten slightly and chill to use later.
  10. When ready to roll and shape, take the chilled dough and gently warm with the palm of your hand until it becomes more pliable.
  11. Heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  12. If rolling a larger piece, place the pastry dough between two sheets of cling film and roll to the desired thickness. Peel off the top cling film and using a lift and flip, place the pastry over the tart tin that you are using. With the pastry still stuck to the second layer of cling film, gently ease the pastry into the tin and place the whole thing into the fridge to chill. This will make it easier to peel the cling film off the pastry case and you can then trim. For the Pasties - take pieces of dough and roll into smallish balls. Using either a tortilla press or the flat back of a frying/sauce pan, flatten each dough ball (between pieces cling film) into a circle. Remove the film.
  13. Place some sausage meat mixture into the centre of the circle and spread towards opposite edges. Bring the two 'unfilled' pastry sides together into a pasty shape.
  14. Squeeze the edges together to seal and 'crimp' (brush with a little cold water before joining to help seal if you need to).
  15. Place on a baking tray and brush with egg yolk to glaze. 
  16. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and the sausage meat is thoroughly cooked.
  17. Eat hot, cold or freeze for later!
With thanks to Braxted Park for bringing the course to my attention. Although I received a discount to attend, I was not paid to write this post, neither was I required or expected to write a positive review. All views represented are my own and are an honest reflection of my experience of attending the course.

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