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!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

GF Alchemist Signature Raspberry & Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake (gluten free)


As any good foodie in the UK will know, the Great British Bake Off 2016 has started. This year, twelve apron-clad bakers are battling it out with their whisks, ovens, saucepans, baking tins and a whole multitude of ingredients, both familiar and obscure, to become the weekly 'Star Baker' and ultimately, the overall champion. They will showcase their skills, baking everything from cakes, biscuits and desserts to breads, pastries and high-end patisserie. In amongst the joy, tears and tantrums (and that's just Mary and Paul), their sweet and savoury creations will flaunt their talents from meringue to macaron, creme pat to ganache, ice cream to mousse and (hopefully) plenty of chocolate and sugar work thrown in for good measure.


Its fun to watch the adventure unfold..... getting to know the contestants, soaking up lots of tips and tricks to try, wincing at the disasters and celebrating the success. But my favourite week of course has to be the 'free from' (alternative ingredients) week. It always makes me happy to see fellow bakers trying their hand at 'restricted' baking and I watch like a hawk to pick up new ideas and helpful advice.


I love that each year, a number of bloggers also join in with the Bake Off challenge, by running their own 'bake along' side by side. I particularly love reading the weekly offerings from Kat The Baking Explorer, who is an amazing baker and challenges herself every year to bake week-by-week something that has been whipped up on the show (as well as to help us keep track of the contestants and their progress). Last week, she followed up with some amazing Jaffa Cakes, which looked perfectly professional.

I would love to commit to a full join-in, but time is always against me and the additional process of transmuting the more complex recipes from traditional to gluten free can be an extensive trial and error task...... more time and plenty of failures before success comes my way!


This week however, luck was on my side. The bakers were asked to produce a signature bake that was a Drizzle Cake followed by a technical challenge of making Jaffa Cakes and finally a show-stopping mirror-glazed Genoise sponge.

I have attempted gluten free Genoise, but I was not completely happy with the result and it is on my list of (many) bakes to re-work. On the other hand, my making of Jaffa Cakes (which I did with a home-made Mixed Berry Jelly a couple of years back) came out deliciously tasty (albeit without a specific genoise at the base).


Like Paul Hollywood, I adore a moist, juicy, tart Drizzle Cake and have made a few gluten free ones along the way : Zesty Drizzled Lemon Cake with Roasted Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting; Chocolate Loaf Cake (with drizzled chocolate syrup); Strawberry Trifle Cake (with drizzled fruit coulis); and my Raspberry & Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Baked using one of my favourite ingredients : freeze-dried raspberry, I first made Raspberry & Lemon Drizzle Cake for a colleague's leaving do at work. To mark her departure from the office, she held a 'pink tea' to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and my drizzle cake (which I coloured extra pink), went down a storm.

Being so yummy, I have re-created it here (fractionally amended) in Bundt form. Bundt cakes are fantastic for celebrations and parties, because they give maximum 'wow' for minimum effort. The shaped tin does all the work and with the addition of a dribble of chocolate, ganache or icing, a few sprinkles and sparkles or a dotting of fruit, they look like you have spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. All you need to do is sit back and soak up the praise for all you 'hard work'!


To be honest..... I am not sure I would make a specific drizzle bundt cake too often as the shape of the sponge does not lend that well to an even-soaked drizzle. However, having seen a couple of the GBBO bakers use bundt tins, I thought I would try it out.

I wish I had added a little more red colouring to pink-up the sponge a shade or too, but otherwise, this cake is delicious! Zingy yet sweet, fruity, very moist, with a slight crispness from the extra drizzled icing, a complimentary fresh softness from the berry decoration and very very moreish.... Not sure whether Paul would approve (I was somewhat amused by his comment 'its fascinating that it's gluten free' when tasting GBBO contestant Candice's drizzle cake. Some of us have no choice Paul!!)...... but in our house, we love it!


I am sharing my signature Raspberry & Lemon Drizzle Cake with the following linkies :


Free From Fridays with Emma over at the Free From Farmhouse

Cook Blog Share - this week with Hijacked by Twins






Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

#TheFoodCalendar with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen. For Breast Cancer Care's Strawberry Tea


Raspberry & Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake

Ingredients

Preparing the Bundt Tin
1½ tablespoons cornflour
sunflower oil

Sponge
200g plain gluten free flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
120g ground almonds
50g fine ground polenta
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
15g freeze dried raspberry powder
300g golden caster sugar
250g unsalted butter - softened
4 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice 1 lemon
zest 1 lemon
red food colouring (optional)

Drizzle Syrup & Icing
sieved juice 1 large lemon (+ a little extra)
1½ tablespoons water
10g freeze dried raspberry powder
180g icing sugar (sifted)

To Decorate 
fresh raspberries
white chocolate - grated
dark chocolate curls
edible glitter

Method

  1. Prepare a large bundt tin by lightly brushing or rubbing the internal surface with oil. Coat the oil with cornflour (tip the cornflour into the tin and shake and tip until covered). Turn the tin over a sink and tap the bottom to remove any excess cornflour.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, polenta, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and freeze dried raspberry powder. Ensure the mix is well blended and all lumps are broken down and set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl using an electric whisk, until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and beat each until smooth.
  6. Add the vanilla  and food colouring (if using) and beat again.
  7. Add the flour mix, lemon juice and lemon zest and fold through quickly and lightly using a large spoon or spatula, until the mix is evenly blended.
  8. Pour the batter into the bundt tin (about two-thirds to three-quarters full) and smooth the top using the back of a spoon.
  9. Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool. If the sponge does not come out of the tin easily (mine never do), gently ease a small silicone spatula around the edges and down the sides (not forgetting the centre post), turn back over and tap all round using a rolling pin.
  11. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven (and before turning out), make the Drizzle Syrup : Place the lemon juice, water, raspberry powder and 100g of the icing sugar into a small saucepan.
  12. Heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes a thin syrup. If it seems too thick, just add a drop more water or lemon juice.
  13. Once the sponge is tipped out and whilst it is still warm, use a skewer to poke lots of holes across the top of the bundt, making sure you go down to a good depth to enable the syrup to penetrate deeply.
  14. Gently and carefully pour or syringe the drizzle into the holes. You should use most (about two-thirds), but not all of the syrup. 
  15. Icing : Take the remaining syrup and add a further 80g icing sugar and stir through again over the heat to dissolve and blend. You may wish to add a little more lemon juice/water at this time if the mix seems thick.
  16. Remove from the heat. As the icing cools, it will quickly thicken, so ensure that you drizzle it over the sponge whilst it is still liquid enough to do so.
  17. Decorate with fresh raspberries, chocolate and sprinkles whilst the icing is still wet enough to stick.
  18. Eat 'neat' or serve with cream.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 29 August 2016

Best Buttermilk Cheese Scones - gluten free


Who doesn't love a good cheese scone? I adore them, but they need to be light, with a soft and airy crumb and very cheesy to tick all my boxes.

Since going gluten free, I have experimented with a whole bunch of scone recipes, both home-developed and using commercial mixes..... some have been better than others for sure.

Way back in 2013, I created my first decent cheese scone and was ecstatic. Believe me..... when you have not been able to eat them for a while, you miss them terribly, so it was a bit of a priority to achieve an alternative gluten free version to enjoy. My recipe development and understanding of gluten free baking has come a long way since then however, and it seemed high time that I re-worked things a little to see if I could improve on my previous achievement.


More recently, I developed a buttermilk version for my Lemon & Blueberry Buttermilk scones and having realised the benefits of using buttermilk, decided that it was worth having a go with a savoury cheese recipe. Buttermilk seems to lighten the mix slightly, enriches and moistens the dough and makes for a soft, airy scone which has a far longer shelf-life. When you are gluten free, bakes which have a long shelf-life are rare in commercial products (I seem to be forever throwing away wraps and bread-products that have gone green way ahead of their sell-by date, particularly in the summer heat, or that have gone dry and hard), so it is really important to me that I develop recipes that 'last'.


In this scone, I have also re-worked and balanced my flour mix towards a healthier, more nutritional blend..... A minimal ratio of rice to other flours and good use of ground almonds, oats, sorghum and buckwheat for their higher nutritional qualities and texture. Ground almonds also help to improve the moisture content and structure of the scones so that they remain fresher for longer and don't become dry and crumbly.

I also used extra mature cheddar cheese in the mix..... I figure if you are going to make a cheese scone, then it should be properly cheesy! You can of course use a less-strong version (or less cheese) if you prefer a milder flavour.


I made these scones for a 21st birthday party we recently attended..... When I got there I felt quite apologetic, because the bulk of the food was barbecue-related, and my large box of mini cheese scones seemed a little out of place on the table of burgers, sausages and salads. I needn't have worried...... they went down a storm! Lots of people told me how good they were and they seemed really surprised when I told them they were gluten free......

I always think that if gluten-eaters comment on how good the bakes are or don't recognise the absence of gluten, then I have done a really good job..... On the other hand, I set my bar very high when I develop a recipe and won't settle for less than the best I had when eating gluten, so maybe the surprise should remain with the unsuspecting eater!


I think with these scones I have definitely out-done my earlier version and will be enjoying this 'new and improved' bake from now on.... very frequently! They are perfect 'neat' for parties and snacks (in bite-size form) and can be buttered or loaded with fillings for a healthy, sustaining lunch.

I am sharing my cheese scones with the following linkies :


Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse


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




Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma


Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg






Meat Free Mondays with Tinned Tomatoes


Best Buttermilk Cheese Scones (makes approx 40 mini scones or 18 to 20 larger scones)

Ingredients

90g tapioca flour
80g white rice flour
60g oat flour (easy to make as in this post)
40g buckwheat flour 
30g sorghum flour
25g cornflour 
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
80g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
1 large egg - beaten
1 pot (284 ml) buttermilk
120g extra mature cheddar cheese (grated) + extra for sprinkling on top
beaten egg or milk to glaze

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum, salt, almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda until all lumps are broken down and well-blended (I weigh all into an airtight container, seal the lid and then shake vigorously).
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to the dry ingredients and stir through to 'clump' stage before adding the cheese. 
  5. Using a palette or table knife, blend the ingredients, pulling them together with the blade of the knife until the mixture comes together as a sticky, even dough.
  6. Using floured hands, bring the dough into a ball and press lightly together (do not overwork).
  7. Tip the dough onto a well-floured surface (I use straight GF flour blend or a mix of corn, sorghum and white rice flours).
  8. Press the dough down to form a flattened surface and sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.
  9. Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to a thickness of about 2 cm (for mini scones) or 3 to 4 cm for larger scones.
  10. Using a round pastry cutter (approx 4 to 5 cm in diameter for mini scones or larger for bigger ones), cut the dough into rounds and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  11. Bring any remaining dough together and repeat the rolling and cutting process until all the dough has been used.
  12. Using a pastry brush, glaze the scone tops with milk or beaten egg and add a sprinkle of cheese.
  13. Allow the uncooked scones to rest for 15 minutes, before baking for 10 to 15 minutes until well-risen and golden.
  14. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Friday, 19 August 2016

My Legendary Vegetable Lasagne - gluten free (or not as you choose)


This lasagne is legendary amongst my friends. It is so good that I have literally used it as a bartering tool...... Not my suggestion I hasten to add, but so delicious is it, that people would offer me stuff in exchange for lasagne...... It is a recipe (my own) which I have been making for about 25 years.

Interestingly, since becoming gluten free, lasagne is something I make less often. Although it is one of my favourite dishes and Miss GF adores it too, commercial gluten free lasagne sheets can be a pain to use, on account of the fact that all the brands I have ever come across require pre-cooking. This adds a lot of faff to an already lengthy process. I know I should just make my own, but this would make it even more labour-intensive and alongside work, I simply haven't got the time.....


Gluten free commercial lasagne also varies considerably from one make to another, with some being way too thick for my liking. My favourites for texture, 'density' and taste are Salute (which has become increasingly difficult to source) and La Buona Vita.

I did spot last week that Barkat have started doing pre-cooked lasagne sheets....... Can't wait to get my hands on some to try..... They could seriously revolutionise lasagne-making (and eating) for me..... It could even become a weekly meal!

Either way..... if any one out there can recommend other good gluten free brands or pre-cooked versions, please leave a comment and let me know.

Back to the filling layers..... The cheese sauce is (I think) fairly standard and if you have a favourite recipe, then by all means use it. It is the vegetable sauce that makes this lasagne special! Stuffed with fresh, healthy veg and full of the flavours of the Mediterranean..... plenty of oregano, thyme and sun-soaked produce, you can make this lasagne either gluten free or not.


The vegetables work best in combination..... picked for contrasting colour, flavour and texture. Aubergine adds softness....... baby corn adds crunch....... mushrooms give an earthy backdrop...... while peppers and tomatoes bring bright sunshine sweetness and colour to the party. Throw in lots of onions and garlic for extra depth and richness and some freshly-picked garden courgettes for a subtle hint of contrasting bitterness. It really is a perfect summer season medley. And if there's a bit of veg you don't like, just leave it out or substitute for something else. Really..... anything goes!

My (no longer) secret ingredients, which take this sauce to stardom, are a splash of gluten free soy (Shoyu) sauce, a hefty dollop of honey and a sprinkle of pine nuts.

The honey works in perfect harmony against the tang of Mediterranean herbs, hitting you with a deliciously sweet, but not over-powering flavour dimension. If you can get a good thyme or floral honey, so much the better...... We were lucky to still have some incredible greek honey from our travels in Crete last year (we brought lots of it home with us).

The pine nuts (extra amazing if toasted first), give a wonderful nutty crunch and ensure little surprise bites of magic and goodness as you munch.


So there you have it...... my legendary Vegetable Lasagne is out of the bag. If you make it, please let me know what you think!

Cook Blog Share, this week with Easy Peasy Foodie. Great to see Eb hosting her first shout-out this week.

Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse






Pasta Please with Thinly Spread and Tinned Tomatoes, welcoming veggie pasta recipes.


Meat Free Mondays with Tinned Tomatoes.







Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice.

Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup and Coffee and Vanilla - This is a recipe that simply has to be passed on to Miss GF.... Now part of her blog-based recipe book for the future!


Vegetable Lasagne (serves 6 good-sized portions (or 8 smaller ones))

Ingredients

gluten free lasagne sheets

Tomato-Vegetable Sauce
olive oil
1 small white onion - chopped
1 small red onion - chopped
4 to 5 cloves garlic - crushed
2 small peppers (red/yellow/orange) - rough chopped
6 to 7 baby corn - cut into 1 cm lengths
1 medium courgette - sliced
1 small aubergine - cut into small cubes
100 to 150g button mushrooms (cut into halves/quarters)
handful pine nuts - toasted
1 x 142g tin concentrated tomato puree
splash gluten free Shoyu (soy) sauce
2 tablespoons runny honey
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
a few sprigs fresh parsley - finely chopped
¾ teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped)
¾ teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped)
large handful basil leaves - chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
good grind black pepper - to taste
sea salt - to taste

Cheese Sauce
30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornflour
¾ litre milk
180g grated mature cheddar cheese - grated
good grind black pepper
extra grated cheddar and black pepper to sprinkle on top

Method

  1. Prepare a large (approx 30cm/12 inches by 20 cm/8 inches) glass or ceramic oven-proof dish by greasing with butter or olive oil.
  2. Make the Tomato-Vegetable Sauce : Prepare the vegetables and herbs (chopping etc) ready for cooking, and toast the pine nuts either in a hot oven or under a grill for a few minutes (keeping a close eye to ensure they don't burn).
  3. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions over a medium heat for a few minutes until they soften.
  4. Add the garlic and stir through, continuing to fry.
  5. Next add the peppers, baby corn, courgette and aubergine and continue to cook for several minutes, stirring intermittently.
  6. Finally add the mushrooms and pine nuts and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.
  7. Add the tomato puree and a dash of gluten free soy (Shoyu) sauce and stir through. 
  8. Allow to cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring frequently and then add the honey and stir through.
  9. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Stir thoroughly and then leave to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow the flavours to mingle and the sauce to reduce slightly.
  11. When ready, turn off the heat and set aside while you prepare the lasagne and make the cheese sauce.
  12. Cheese Sauce : In a large saucepan, gently melt the butter over a low heat. 
  13. Add the cornflour and continuing to stir, allow to cook through for a couple of minutes.
  14. Remove from the heat.
  15. Add a tiny drop of milk at a time, stirring thoroughly to a smooth paste (don't worry if at first it looks a little grainy, as you add more milk it should become smooth). As the batter loosens and becomes more liquid, you will be able to slightly increase the amount of milk you add at one go.
  16. Once all the milk is added, return the pan to the heat and stirring continuously, very gradually bring the sauce to almost a simmer. It should begin to thicken well.
  17. Add the cheese and seasoning and continue to stir over a low heat until the cheese has melted and blended into a smooth sauce. Do not allow to boil.
  18. Remove from the heat while you prepare your pasta, but stir occasionally to avoid a skin forming.
  19. Prepare your lasagne sheets as per packet instructions (I did mine in batches, to avoid sticking).
  20. Place a layer of lasagne in the base of your prepared oven-proof dish and top with a layer of vegetable sauce.
  21. Next add another layer of lasagne and then a layer of cheese sauce. 
  22. Repeat this process (lasagne - sauce), finishing with a layer of cheese sauce.
  23. Top with a good sprinkle of cheese and a good grind of black pepper.
  24. You can bake immediately or later : Pre-heat your oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7 and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden and the lasagne is bubbling hot.
  25. Enjoy on its own, with salad or with gluten free garlic bread.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 15 August 2016

Perfectly Gooey Chocolate-Cherry-Pecan Brownie - gluten free


I'm desperately trying to make the most of the season's remaining cherries. It seems no sooner have they arrived than they are gone again! The season is short and the race is always on to gorge as many as possible before it ends, to preserve by candying and freezing and to bake cherries into everything.... sweet or savoury.


A few weeks back (just before the cherry season started) I was busy trying to make a new brownie. Originally, I had wanted to develop a pear and walnut version, but after accidentally creating the most amazing Heavenly Chocolate, Walnut & Pear Torte, decided to switch fruits, grab some cherries from the orchard and concoct an alternative flavour combo.

Cherries work perfectly with pecans and (of course) with chocolate, so a fusion of this ingredient trio looked like the way to go.


Good move! This butter-infused brownie is earthy and crunchy with sweet, nutty pecans and shot through with bright, chunks of honey-sweet summer cherries, which also add little bursts of fruity juiciness with each bite.

Made with plenty of good-quality dark chocolate, it is the real deal. It has been baked to a gooey moistness, so that it is neither too wet nor too firm. Equally, the sweetness has been balanced using a combination of both unrefined caster and soft light brown sugars, giving caramel undertones within the rich chocolate crumb.


As is the want with a good brownie, each block has a dry crisp top which blankets a chewy, sticky foundation. It melts in the mouth and leaves you reaching for another square. The variation of textures and flavours from the pecans and cherries within, add both interest and expectation, taking it to a higher level.


I will certainly be making more of this,,,,,, The fruit and nut combination is divine, but the recipe would definitely lend itself to a whole host of variations....

And if you have any left over (unlikely) or you can manage to sacrifice a couple of slices for the greater good of chilling down in the summer heat, then try making my Cherry-Chocolate Brownie (no churn) Ice Cream. Lush!

I am sharing (as always) to spread lots of brownie love with the following linkies :

Treat Petite with Cakeyboi (and The Baking Explorer). This month 'anything goes'!

We Should Cocoa with Choclette over at Tin and Thyme. Also with an 'Anything Goes' theme this month.




Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys.


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



Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.


Tea Time Treats, with Lavender & Lovage (and Travel's for Taste and Jo's Kitchen). This is my second entry for August which celebrates Afternoon Tea Week.




Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg


Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too


Chocolate-Cherry-Pecan Brownie

Ingredients

300g good quality dark chocolate
150g unsalted butter
100g plain GF flour blend (I used mix A from this post)
50g ground almonds
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
3 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
60 ml almond/cows milk
70g golden caster sugar
70g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
130g pitted fresh cherries (pitted weight) - rough-chopped
65g pecans - rough-chopped

Method

  1. Base-line an 8 inch/20cm square non-stick baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Melt together the chocolate and butter until smooth either in a heat-proof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, or in a microwave set to medium heat at 30 second bursts, stirring well between each. Set aside.
  4. Mix together the flour, almonds, salt and baking powder, ensuring any lumps are broken down. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sugars and vanilla until well-blended. 
  6. Add the dry ingredients and then the chocolate mix and fold through quickly, until your batter is even in colour and texture.
  7. Finally add and fold through the chopped cherries and pecans.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top.
  9. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a sharp knife/skewer inserted comes out with just a few small crumbs attached.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin, before turning out and cutting.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-16 unless otherwise indicated