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!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Mini Quiches - Bacon & Cheddar, Salmon & Gruyere or Mushroom, Leek & Stilton. Perfect Party Food (gluten free)


So Christmas is done for another year...... I hope it was good for you and that you enjoyed plenty of happy and restful time with family and friends and some fantastic food too.......

With New Year now just a few days away, my culinary thoughts have turned to parties and nibbles and what would make great food to pick at and scavenge as you socialise in the annual anticipation of midnight celebrations. This foodie expectation runs alongside an annual contemplation of life and progress over the last few months. I always do a lot of thinking when I am cooking......

Somehow, the hope and reflection that come with the turn of the year seem that much more poignant this year. The world is in turmoil. Every time we turn on the news there seems to be yet another scene of devastation and destruction whether man-made or natural. We live in fear for the future of our planet and our children...... everything from pointless human conflict to floods, fire and famine..... and every day I think to myself 'when will we achieve the shared consciousness that will allow the penny to drop and propel us towards the change we need to get back on track?' (be it recognising the futile waste in killing each other or the need to act to prevent climate change and save our planet in a habitable state). I look at my own day to day small (and very trivial) battles and realise just how lucky I and my family are not to have been directly caught up in anything thus far.....

The multitude of world threats that now exist seem to surpass everything that has gone before. Let's hope that 2016 brings positive change and a greater understanding that our future really is in our collective hands......

Whatever happens next year and beyond, make this New Year one to remember. Enjoy those close to you and remember each and every day to tell them that you love them......


And so back to food..... Whether you intend to see the new year in quietly at home or partying into the small hours, you may well be planning dishes that are good to share and graze on as the evening progresses. It seems to be a good opportunity to think small..... food that you can pick up with your fingers and munch as you chat and mingle.

You can't go wrong with mini quiches. Making a whole variety of flavours using just one batch of pastry and one batch of egg filling, they are perfect for speedy preparation as well as to fit a whole range of individual preferences. And you can make them in advance and heat them through. Plate out what you need and any that are left over, freeze for another day. Win win!

Perfect for the party platter or as an appetiser, the biggest decision you will need to make is what to fill them with..... I have decided to make meat, fish and vegetable options, to try and get a choice for everyone...... a good medley of popular combos enhanced by a contrasting mingle of cheeses.

They are made with my favourite almond pastry, although I tweaked the liquid quantities slightly, to achieve a more pliable dough that would push flexibly into my mini tart cases. I also tried blending the dough using the fraisering technique that I learnt when I went on a gluten free pastry course at Braxted Park with Adriana Rabinovich in the Autumn. You can see how to use the fraisering technique here.

I have no idea whether fraisering made any significant difference to the end result, but I can confirm that the pastry was amazing. It was light and short and crisp and crumbly in the mouth, melting beautifully around the fillings as it was eaten. With each quiche I have munched I have mumbled 'wow... this pastry is so good'!


Although they are all delicious, my favourite filling has to be the Mushroom, Leek and Stilton one. You can use whichever mushrooms your prefer, but being the season of indulgence, I chose to use some extra special Forestiere mushrooms (found at Tesco), which had a particularly deep and nutty flavour about them, perfectly complimented by the slightly acidic sweetness of the leeks and earthy tang of the blue cheese. I threw some brandy into the pan for good measure when cooking, which definitely added an extra richness and decadence to the flavour of the mix. I will absolutely be trying this concoction of ingredients in a larger quiche, it was that delicious!

My mini quiches are being shared with the following linkies :


Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.



Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice.








The Pastry Challenge with Jen's Food and United Cakedom.











Tasty Tuesdays with Vicki at Honest Mum.







Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.




Mini Quiches (makes 40 to 50 mini quiches)

For the Pastry : 

195g brown rice flour
75g corn flour (corn starch)
60g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
165g unsalted butter (cold & cubed)
2 large eggs
½ tablespoon very cold water

Method

  1. Weigh the flours, almonds, xanthan gum and salt into a large bowl and whisk lightly (hand whisk) to mix thoroughly.
  2. Rub the butter into the dry mix until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg and water and then pour into the crumb mixture.
  4. Stir the ingredients with a flat knife until they begin to clump together and form a slightly sticky dough.
  5. At this stage, you may choose to use the fraisering technique to work the dough (although this is not essential) or you can just bring the dough together with your hands (floured if necessary) into a block.
  6. Get ready a couple or three mini tart tins and break off small (walnut sized pieces) of dough. Roll the dough pieces into balls and dip the base of each in flour before gently pushing into a tart hole.
  7. Take a pastry pusher or a child-sized rolling pin and dip the end in flour. Gently press on the top of the dough balls and rock back and forth to push the pastry up the sides of each tart mould. Repeat until all the pastry has been used. If you want to make in batches, tightly wrap any remaining dough in cling film and chill until ready to use, but be sure to bring back to room temperature before rolling.
  8. Set aside the uncooked cases and chill covered in cling film until ready to fill with your chosen filling.

Egg Filling - For all the quiches


Ingredients

160 ml double cream
30 ml milk
2 large eggs
salt & pepper to season

Bacon & Cheddar

approx 4 rashers of back bacon cut into small pieces & sautéed in a pan until cooked.
approx 50g mature Cheddar cheese - finely grated
sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley (or dried)

Salmon & Gruyere

1 to 2 hot smoked salmon fillets - cut into small pieces
approx 100g Gruyere cheese - finely grated
sprinkle of fresh chopped dill (or dried)

Mushroom, Leek & Stilton

½ to 1 small leek - finely chopped
approx 100g mushrooms of choice (I used extra special 'Forestiere' mushrooms) - cut into small pieces
a little olive oil for sautéing 
dash of brandy (optional)
sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley (or dried)
salt & a good grind black pepper
approx 100g stilton cheese - crumbled

Method

  1. To make your Bacon, Salmon and/or Mushroom fillings (increase the quantities if you are only making one variety). Don't overfill the cases as you will need room for egg filling too :
  2. Bacon & Cheddar : sautee the bacon. Place a sprinkle of Cheddar in the bottom of some of the uncooked tart cases. Top with a little bacon and a sprinkle of parsley and then a little more Cheddar.
  3. Salmon & Gruyere : Place a sprinkle of Gruyere cheese in the bottom of some of the uncooked tart cases. Top with a little salmon, some dill and the a little more Gruyere.
  4. Mushroom, Leek & Stilton : Saute the chopped leeks for a couple of minutes with a little olive oil and then add the mushrooms and continue to fry until soft. Add a dash of brandy, a sprinkle of chopped parsley and season with salt and a good grind of black pepper. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the liquid has significantly reduced. Place a sprinkle of Stilton in the bottom of some of the uncooked tart cases. Top with a spoonful of mushroom-leek mixture and then top with a little more Stilton.
  5. Egg Filling : beat together all the ingredients until light and airy.
  6. Using a jug or spoon, pour a little mixture into each of the filled tart cases until almost to the brim (but make sure it does not overflow).
  7. Bake all the tarts for about 20 minutes until the filling is set.
  8. Enjoy hot, warm or cold!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Chocolate-Covered Marzipan Christmas Stars (with home-made marzipan)


Last post before Christmas..... But I just had to share these!

When I made my Christmas cakes recently, I made extra extra marzipan because it was totally delicious, and so that I could make these yummy chocolates to nibble on over the holidays. It's not too late to make some to give away as beautiful presents. I think they look so lovely piled into a pretty cup!

I will also declare at the outset that this is my first ever attempt at tempering chocolate. It certainly won't be my last, but I feel very much a novice and have discovered that although relatively straight forward a process, the given wisdom on the finer details of how to execute the perfect temper seems to vary from one author to another.


I have perused articles and posts that say melt the chocolate and heat to a given temperature (anywhere between 45 and 49 Centigrade) and then cool to somewhere between 30 and 32 Centigrade before using straight away. Others have told me to heat the chocolate and then cool to about 27 Centigrade before gently warming back up to about 31/32 Centigrade.  Some say just stir the melted chocolate to cool it. And others instruct to 'seed' it with tempered (unmelted) chocolate (which also helps to cool it)........ Having done further research, I have now linked three articles below (in the recipe) which I found most helpful and will be following in the future.

I have no idea which method is best, but I have jumped in and given tempering a go (more or less successfully) and now feel much more confident that it will be something I will try again......


I say 'more or less', because the method I followed actually told me to cool the chocolate to about 28 degrees and then use straight away.... It was very gloopy and I think maybe had cooled a tad too far, which made it really tricky to coat the marzipan evenly.

I also confess that when I was about two-thirds of the way through, Mr GF was twitching around the kitchen because he needed wanted to get the dinner sorted. Whilst I should be eternally grateful that I have a husband who competently feeds me, the act of agitating behind my back when I was already flustered by sticky, gloopy chocolate, lead me to make the silly decision to quickly reheat the last of the dark chocolate in the microwave to make it easier to use. Now untempered, the last few chocolates 'bloomed' and ended up a little speckled in appearance.

Whichever method you use, you will need a good, reliable cooking thermometer if you are going to temper to perfection. My new Thermapen 4 which I recently reviewed is fantastic and (if I am honest) having it probably gave me the confidence to give tempering a go. I am so impressed with this technological gadget-angel that I can't recommend it enough. If you need a food thermometer, buy this one. It's fab!


And the chocolates? Well..... apart from a little non-floral 'blooming' (which was hardly noticeable once I had tarted them up with drizzled white chocolate and seasonal sparkly edible glitter), they are divine..... The marzipan is soft and sweet and packed with the flavour and aroma of almond, all of which marries beautifully against the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate...... Sublime!

Merry Christmas! Be back soon...... xx

I am sharing my lovely chocolates with the following Christmas linkies :


We Should Cocoa this month with Munchies & Munchkins on behalf of Choclette at Tin & Thyme.










Simply Eggcellent with Dom over at Belleau Kitchen who has, for December said 'anything goes' as long as there is egg in it.










The Food Year Link-Up with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen.









Alphabakes with Caroline Makes (and The More Than Occasional Baker), who have picked the letter N for December. Marzipan is full of ground nuts.... almonds to be precise, so it seems a fitting entry.









Recipe of the Week with the lovely Emily at A Mummy Too.









Free From Fridays with the Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.











& Cook Blog Share, this month with Snap Happy Bakes.









Chocolate-Covered Marzipan Christmas Stars

Marzipan 
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon almond extract

220g dark chocolate
50 to 100g white chocolate for decoration (optional)
edible glitter (optional)

  1. Weigh the almonds into a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar, stirring to fully combine.
  2. Add the almond extract and egg and stir with a flat knife to bring together until the mixture forms a dough. 
  3. Knead the dough until smooth. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill until ready to use.
  4. To shape the marzipan, knead slightly to help pliability if it has been in the fridge, and roll out about 1½-2 cm/½-¾ inch thickness. Use a small star cutter (or shape of choice) to cut marzipan shapes and set aside on baking paper. Repeat the process, rolling and cutting until all the marzipan has been used.
  5. Chop your dark chocolate into small pieces ready to melt and temper. Make sure the bowl that you use is heat proof glass and small enough that the chocolate will melt with some depth in the bottom. I am no expert on tempering and as this was my first experience of the process, I sought out lots of articles to help me. They all seem to vary slightly in process although the principles are the same. Here are 3 links which I found particularly helpful.... Choose the one you feel most comfortable with and follow it closely :                                                                                           David Lebovitz        EcoleChocolat          BBC Good Food
  6. Once your chocolate is tempered, dip each marzipan shape in to cover completely (I used a cocktail stick in the marzipan to enable me to dip effectively), and place on baking paper and allow to cool completely.
  7. Once cold, repeat the tempering process with the white chocolate and drizzle over the dark chocolates. 
  8. Sprinkle with edible glitter and leave to cool and harden.
        Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas Mince Pies with Cinnamon Crumble Topping - gluten free


I think I may finally be getting into the spirit of Christmas. The tree is up, most of the presents are wrapped, Miss GF has finished school and I only have 2 days of work to go before some eagerly awaited time off.

With the Christmas CD's pulled out of the box for their annual sing-along, I have spent the day cooking and baking in preparation for this year's binge. My feet are killing me from standing up all day, but I can safely start ticking off the 'to do' list........


Stuffed Cashew Nut Roast..... done! Sponge ready for Tiramisu....... baked! Gluten free Sausage Rolls (made from this recipe, but traditional sausage roll shape)...... cooked and in the freezer! Christmas Cake..... maturing nicely! Mini bite-size quiches (next to post)...... ready to munch!

And of course.... Christmas can't go by without a mince pie (or three). Last Christmas, I made a totally amazing Mincemeat Frangipane Tart with GF Orange Pastry. It was divine. So good that I was very very tempted to make it again. Last year, my tart seemed to be a lone frangipane in the mincemeat hall of fame..... This year they seem to be popping up everywhere. And rightly so.... they are truly delicious!


But this is my other favourite mince pie recipe..... mincemeat crumble tarts. With all the flavours of Christmas crammed into a crisp gluten free cherry-almond pastry they are decadently topped with a crunchy cinnamon crumble and packed to bursting point with wonderfully aromatic Extra Fruity Mincemeat with Pistachio & Calvados. Laced with a good glug of deep, potent apple brandy these pies will leave you with a seasonal warming glow and a smile on your face.

Add a sprinkling of icing sugar and a white fondant snowflake and they are ready to go.


I have blogged mince crumble tarts before, but as it was in my early days of blogging when very few people had found me, I felt it was time for a re-run.....

I am offering my mince pies with the following links :


Tea Time Treats, with Lavender & Lovage (and the Hedgecombers), December's theme being Sugar & Spice.








Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse.











The Food Year Link-Up with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen.









The Pastry Challenge with Jen's Food (and United Cakedom).











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.











Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.











Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.










Christmas Mince Pies with Cinnamon Crumble Topping (recipe makes about 20 tarts)


Cherry Almond Pastry

Made from the recipe that you will find here.

Once the pastry dough is made, base fill your tart tins ready for filling with mincemeat.

Extra Fruity Mincemeat with Pistachio & Calvados

Made from recipe that you will find here.

Fill each tart base with mincemeat to about three-quarters full.

Cinnamon Crumble Topping

Made from recipe that you will find here.

Top each tart generously with crumble. Add an extra sprinkling of brown sugar (optional) for extra crunch.

Bake at 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Christmas Cake - gluten free (with the help of Delicious Alchemy Christmas Fruit Cake Mix)


I made Christmas Cake (With the help of Delicious Alchemy's Christmas Fruit Cake Mix). Doesn't it look fab?

I will be honest, I am generally one of those people who can take or leave Christmas Cake. I don't go out of my way to make it because it always seems to be the last thing to be eaten and is hanging around the house for weeks after the big event.

Sure..... when I have a piece, I do mostly enjoy eating it, but it's not something that I regularly bake as I would rather put my time credits into making other (chocolatey) stuff. So when Delicious Alchemy asked whether I would like to try their new, limited edition Christmas Fruit Cake Mix it looked like a 'win-win'. It took the drama out of having to plan and source a recipe and at the end of it I would get Christmas Cake without any faff....


Before going gluten free, Christmas Cake was mostly something we got gifted in left-over slab form and usually from parents who are now of a generation that weren't too adventurous with deviating from tradition. That meant that the cake was (without exception) slathered with hard, tooth-breaking sharp-peaks of royal icing and a sandwiched layer of slightly bitter shop-bought marzipan.

I am afraid my cake may be looked on with disappointment and scorn by the 'elderlies' (as Miss GF calls them)........ 'Red and Green fondant Icing? Really?? But that looks nothing like snow' I can hear them mumble.....


Grumble they may..... but now I have made my cakes, I LOVE them! You will see that I say 'them' rather than 'it'..... I figured that if any was left over and going to get 'gifted' at the end of Christmas, then it might as well be in real present form (although to be honest, this cake is so delicious, I may hog it all to myself). Either way, no offerings of slab-cake from me. I have gone for cutting one large cake into four smaller squares before decorating, to make them not only more interesting, but also to preserve freshness and make for good sharing too!

I also made my own marzipan from the simplest recipe on the planet. Originally it came from Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than, but I have also used it before with great success in my amazing gluten free Battenberg Cake (goodness that cake was good!).

This marzipan is way better than the slightly acrid shop-bought stuff. It is soft, sweet, perfectly almondy and very very moreish. If you make it, ensure you make plenty extra as you will want to rip off chunks to munch all on its own. I have saved a big block to cut and coat in chocolate as an extra special Christmas treat.


And the fruity sponge centrepiece? Well..... I have tried and tested many Delicious Alchemy products before now (you can see some of the recipes here, here, here and here), but this Christmas Cake (in my humble opinion) is one of their best.

I will be honest that when I read the list of ingredients, I was a little disappointed that the fruit was limited to raisins, dates and sultanas and that there weren't any cherries in there. On the other hand, I have a predictable habit of treating packet mixes as a base to build on, so decided to take what looked like a fantastic foundation and build on it with all the extra bits I thought I might miss if they weren't in each Christmassy bite.


A quick rummage and I found some glace cherries, Iranian pistachios and slivered almonds left over from a batch of Christmas Extra Fruity Mincemeat that I had just made....... threw in a handful of each (which did not affect the consistency of the base-mix at all) and hey presto...... Cake done!

The texture and flavour of the sponge is really really good..... This mix  is a real find for us gluten-avoiders. It is rich and beautifully spiced, soft yet fruity, wonderfully moist, perfectly seasonal and very VERY easy to make.


You have the choice of feeding your cake with either alcohol or juice as with any other traditional Christmas cake and I can vouch for the fact that it matures beautifully when left for a few days...... becoming more and more succulent and delicious. Being a seasonal enjoyer of the strong stuff, I fed my cake with Calvados (apple brandy) which is one of my favourite Christmas tipples, but you can use whatever you fancy..... whisky, brandy, Cointreau..... feel free to experiment. I confess I did up the quantity of alcohol in my cakes (but kept one fed with juice only for my daughter), feeding it twice over a period of a couple of days. The sponge seemed quite happy with an extra alcoholic drenching (I think it thought Christmas and Birthday had arrived at the same time), and it did add an extra seasonal punch.

You will see that I only have three cakes in red and green icing........ The fourth was passed to my daughter to do as she wished..... I'm well-impressed! Way better than mine...... I think she may have quite a flair on the creative cake side!


It still isn't too late to get your hands on (or bake) a Delicious Alchemy Christmas Cake.... And they are giving free delivery until 31.12.15.... just quote XMAS15 (UK mainland only) at the checkout!

I am sharing my little Christmas cakes with the following foodie link-ups :


Treat Petite with Cakeyboi (and The Baking Explorer) who's Christmassy theme is Red & Green.







Alphabakes with Caroline Makes (and The More Than Occasional Baker). December's letter is 'N'.... Christmas cake simply wouldn't be right without nuts in there so I threw in a handful each of Iranian Pistachios and Slivered Almonds for good measure.








Love Cake with Ness at Jibber Jabber who's theme this month is Festive Fun.







The No Waste Food Challenge with Jen's Food (guest hosting this month for Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary). This cake uses left-over nuts and cherries as well as the last bit of the bottle of Calvados (shucks.... I'll have to go buy another one!).








Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.











Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.











Simply Eggcellent with the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen. Anything goes this month with his eggy themed linky-party. Eggs are one of the things you do need to add to this mix..... 2 large free range ones!








Cook Once Eat Twice with Corina at Searching For Spice. Christmas Cake is one bake you really do get your money's worth from.... Because you only tend to eat a little slice at a time and it keeps so well, it seems to last forever (well.... almost..... although I challenge you to hang onto any of this one beyond Christmas as it is sooooo good).





The Food Year Link-Up with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen.









Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg.









Christmas Cake (with the help of a Delicious Alchemy Christmas Fruit Cake Mix) Makes 1x 7 inch/18cm or 4x 3½ inch/9 cm cakes

Ingredients

Cake
1 x Delicious Alchemy Christmas Fruit Cake Mix
110g unsalted butter (room temperature) or dairy free alternative
zest 1 large orange - finely grated
120 ml Calvados (or other brandy/alcohol of choice) or orange/apple juice
2 large eggs
handful glace cherries (optional)
handful chopped Iranian pistachios (optional)
handful slivered almonds (optional)

Marzipan
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar - sifted
1 large egg - beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract

approx 3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 teaspoons Vodka or Gin (or water)

Ready to Roll fondant icing - colour of choice

Method

  1. Cake : Preheat the oven to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2. Line the base and sides of a 7 inch/18 cm baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, zest and 45 ml brandy/juice.
  3. Whisk the eggs separately and then add to the butter with the dry cake mix, glace cherries, and nuts (if using).
  4. Beat together for 2½ minutes, until the mix comes together and is well-combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for about 1 hour 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Once cooked, leave in the tin and cool for about 20 minutes, before making a number of holes across the top with a skewer. Carefully pour over or use a syringe to insert about half of the remaining brandy/juice into the cake.
  7. Once absorbed, remove the cake from the tin (baking paper still intact) and wrap the whole thing in foil. Leave for 24 to 48 hours, before opening and pouring on/syringing the remaining brandy/juice into the cake. Seal in foil again and leave until ready to ice.
  8. When ready to decorate, make the Marzipan : In a large bowl, weigh and stir together the almonds and sifted icing sugar. 
  9. Add the almond extract and beaten egg and stir to combine with a flat knife until the whole mix comes together to form a dough.
  10. Knead for a couple of minutes until completely even and then wrap in cling film until ready to use.
  11. Unwrap the cake and if you are making smaller cakes, use a very sharp knife to quarter the large cake ready to decorate. Place on your chosen serving boards. 
  12. Warm the apricot jam until runny (add a little water if too thick) and then brush over the top and sides of the cakes completely.
  13. Quarter the marzipan (if making smaller cakes or use the whole block if making a larger cake) and roll out one piece to a size that will completely cover the cake down to the board. Carefully lay over the cake and gently ease inwards to fully and tightly cover the sponge. Trim the marzipan at the base of the cake. Repeat the process for each cake.
  14. Size and roll out the fondant icing by the same process. Brush the marzipan with Gin/Vodka (or water), before covering with fondant icing and smoothing down the sides with an icing smoother or palette knife. Trim at the base of the cake. 
  15. Decorate as you wish.
With thanks to the Delicious Alchemy team for sending me the cake mix to try. I was not required to write a positive review and all views expressed here are my own.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated