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, 18 October 2017

Halloween Pumpkin Mini Rolls - A Ghostly Gathering (free from gluten & nuts) #FreeFromHalloween


'Tis the season of all things spooky...... and scary...... and well, maybe cute? This Ghostly Gathering on Halloween Pumpkin Mini Rolls is hardly going to send you running. If anything, I want to scoop them up and take them home to look after.... With their googly, bog-eyed faces, I think they ooze character and almost seem too friendly to eat.

On the other hand..... I've tasted them and I tell you.... no amount of cuteness is going to keep these babies from being devoured! Moist, cinnamon and ginger-spiced pumpkin sponge, rolled around rich, decadent cream cheese frosting...... they can masquerade as adorably as they like, there's no way they can save themselves....


I will be honest, I am not big on some of the traditions of Halloween. The idea that we send our kids out knocking on the doors of strangers, begging for sweets doesn't sit well with me. It's not that I am over-protective.... far from it..... but whilst I still keep some treats handy just in case the doorbell should ring, it remains an uncomfortable concept.


There is also the argument that Halloween is an ancient Pagan and therefore non-Christian festival. Now I am not actually religious either, but for those who shun this annual 'Pagan' ritual, look a little closer.... Its roots are both Pagan and Christian and over the centuries, it has become inseparably intwined with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day on the 1st November (which has apparently been around since the 7th Century) and All Souls Day on the 2nd. Reading around the subject, the Encyclopaedia of Religion suggests that historically, the Christian church introduced additional 'connected' festivals on or close to Pagan dates, to try and divert the attention away from, as well as absorb Pagan customs.


All Saints Day was introduced to commemorate the saints and martyrs of the Catholic Church (with All Hallows evening becoming 'Halloween') and later, a second celebration (All Souls Day) was added on November 2nd to commemorate all souls who have died.

The idea that we celebrate our dead is (for me) a really positive thing. We tend to be quite tight-lipped in the UK around our emotions and particularly loss and I am all for a bit of a remembrance party. From parties, picnics, vigils and decorating graves at cemeteries to symbolic dancing, prayer and elaborate face painting, the rituals of All Saints and All Souls day around the world still connect the present with the past..... departed loved ones celebrated for all that they gave and shared with us.


As for the modern US-UK symbolism of Halloween?...... Maybe it's because I am a child of the 70's, but I love the browns, oranges and slightly lairy colours that are around at this time of year, and making food which is fun, cute and tasty is always 'up there' on my priority list.

Which brings us back to these charmingly delicious Halloween Pumpkin Mini Rolls. They honestly aren't that difficult to make and would be perfect sat on any table of Halloween party treats.


I am sharing this Ghostly Gathering with :


Treat Petite with The Baking Explorer

Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain







Love Cake with Jibber Jabber - celebrating Frighteningly Good Cakes

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum



Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins



Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps








Simple and in Season with Feeding Boys

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








Fiesta Friday with Angie and Co-Hosted by Petra at Food Eat Love and Vanitha at Curry and Vanilla



Looking for other 'free from' Halloween inspiration? Check out more #FreeFromHalloween recipes from the gang :

Gluten Free Blogger - Pumpkin Spice Gluten Free Swiss Roll
Intolerant Gourmand - Halloween Cookies
Glutarama
Free From Farmhouse
Free From Fairy - Raspberry 'Blood' Chocolates
Le Coin De Mel
The Peachicks Bakery
The Adventures of an Allergy Mummy
Dairy Free Kids
Eats Amazing
Mummy Tries

Halloween Pumpkin Mini Rolls (makes 8 mini rolls + 8 mini cakes) or 1 large (10 inch/25 cm x 15 inch/38 cm) swiss roll)

Ingredients

Sponge
40g fine brown rice flour
30g sorghum flour
30g tapioca starch flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon vanilla powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon all spice powder
3 large eggs - room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
150g pumpkin puree (canned)
icing sugar to dust

Cream Cheese Filling/Frosting (quantities are enough to include the frosting 'ghosts'..... make approx two-third quantity if only making filled roll(s))
200g unsalted butter - softened
150g icing sugar - sifted
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
a little milk to loosen (as necessary)
300g cream cheese (Mascarpone/Philadelphia or equivalent)
edible sweet eyes for decoration

Method

  1. Sponge : Pre-heat the oven to 190 C/375 F/Gas 5 and (for mini rolls) line the base and sides of a swiss roll tin (13 inch/33 cm x 9 inch/23 cm) with baking paper (use paper slightly larger than the tin size and make a short cut diagonally from each corner to allow neat folding to fit the tin). Also get ready a non stick mini-cake tin - either use a silicone mould or line the base of the holes on a metal tin with small rounds of baking paper). If you are making one large pumpkin roll, prepare a 10 inch/25 cm x 15 inch/38 cm tin. 
  2. Weigh, mix together and sift the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, vanilla powder and spices and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and the mixture leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted (takes about 5 minutes at high speed).
  4. Add and whisk in the pumpkin puree.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and fold through quickly and lightly until combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the top springs back when gently pressed. Keep a close eye, so as not to over-bake.
  7. Remove from the oven and quickly prepare a large sheet of baking paper, liberally sprinkled with sifted icing sugar.
  8. Whilst the cake is still hot, carefully flip it out upside-down onto the prepared baking paper. Peel off the baking paper that has protected the cake whilst cooking and carefully score a line with a knife at each short end (about 2 cm from the edge) and a further line to mark the half way point. (Remove the small cakes from their tins and set aside on a wire rack to cool). 
  9. Very carefully, but quickly (the cake needs to still be warm) fold each end of baking paper over the sponge and roll from each end as tightly as possible, folding the baking paper into the roll, so that it forms a layer between the sponge as it rolls. The two rolled ends should meet in the centre at the third score line. Turn the roll over to secure and set aside to cool completely. This process will help to give the sponge a 'memory' and help prevent excessive later cracking.
  10. Filling : Whilst the cake is cooling, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat together the butter with the sifted icing sugar, vanilla and a dash of milk to loosen, until smooth and fluffy.
  11. Add the cream cheese last of all and gently beat through until smooth and evenly combined. If the mixture feels too stiff, add a dash more milk, but be careful not to over-beat (or the mix may curdle). 
  12. When the sponge is cold, carefully unroll the swiss roll sponge and spread a good, even layer of cream cheese filling across the whole surface (remember you will need plenty left over to pipe ghosts if you are making them). Re-roll from each end and cut the sponges to separate them down the centre score line. Wrap each sponge in baking paper to secure and place in the fridge for an hour to firm up before cutting. 
  13. When ready to cut into mini rolls, remove from the fridge, trim the ends off each cake and carefully cut into quarters with a sharp knife.
  14. Using a piping bag fitted with a wide, open round tip and containing the remaining cream cheese filling, carefully pipe ghosts on the top of each mini roll and each mini cake and press eyes into the frosting.
  15. Refrigerate until ready to eat. (If you are intending to make significantly ahead of time, be aware that the black colour in the eyes may 'bleed', so place the eyes on the ghosts just before serving).
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blog Camp On Board the MSC Preziosa with MSC Cruises


I've never been on a cruise before..... I'll be honest, cruising is not a holiday I would normally consider. I think of myself as someone who prefers to be based amongst the natives, experiencing the culture and local flavours, smells and sounds at close quarters..... But I do have an open mind on most things in life and when it comes to holidays, I am always willing to be persuaded....



So when last week I was lucky enough to join #BlogCampOnBoard and spend a day on the MSC Preziosa, courtesy of MSC Cruises and Foodies 100, I lapped up the opportunity to see what cruising might be about..... and all without getting sea-sick (we didn't actually leave Southampton Dock).


Although I have been blogging for some time now, this was my first ever blog camp, so I was very excited..... not only to spend the day on board such a beautiful cruise ship, but also to spend time with the amazing bunch of people that are bloggers.


The ship itself was huge..... I know that everyone who has ever been on a cruise ship tells you it's a floating town, but it isn't until you get on board that you really appreciate just how massive these ships are..... The MSC Preziosa has no less than 14 guest decks and accommodates more than 4,000 passengers..... That's..... well....... HUGE!



It has 20-odd bars and lounges, a range of restaurants to suit all tastes, a gym, spa, swimming pools, aqua park, whirlpools all over the place, bowling alley, jogging track, gym, 4D cinema, casino, shops and even a theatre that seats upwards of 1,500 guests...... Seriously massive.



But....... If you ever thought cruising was a holiday for the oldies (and scarily, I am not that far off), think again. When Antonio (MSC's UK Director) joined us for an afternoon Q&A, he was keen to emphasise that MSC Cruises is a family-run company with a child-friendly outlook. The Preziosa has a number of kids clubs aimed at phased age-groups from littlies right through to 17 with a massive range of activities to keep the brood entertained and out of mischief....... which must mean happy mums and dads too..... right?

                                Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

And for those who need reassurance about who you've left your kids with (I most definitely put my hand up to that one), rest assured...... All child care staff are required to have a relevant child care qualification, references from child-related employment, current police/DBS check, undergo a comprehensive medical and have received training in safety and security. Should your child need potential EpiPen intervention whilst they are in staff care, the ship will also ensure a trained nurse is stationed in the kids club, providing you've let them know of the risk.


If you have concerns about your children being photographed, the team will work safely around this too and if any concerns are raised about other passengers taking pictures of them on board, we have been reassured this will be swiftly checked out by the on-board security team....


Phew!
Parental anxieties dealt with...... what of the decor? These ships are fancy..... truly decadent. It seems no expense has been spared and attention to detail surpasses all expectation....... I mean, look at these ..... Aren't they the most beautiful stairs you've ever seen? Filled with Swarovski crystal, they are sparkly, shiny, glamour with every beautiful step. And so they should be..... They come with an astounding price tag of £8-10K....per step that is!



Beyond the show-stopping staircases, you will find room after room of themed and eye-catching decor, but my favourite feature by far was this stunning bauble lighting that hung from the high ceilings in one of the lounges...... smooth, beautifully formed balls of clear, glass loveliness...... Perfectly photogenic.


In addition to the morning's tour and a spa hair and make-up demonstration, we were treated to lunch in one of the ship's extravagant restaurants...... As a gluten-avoider, this was perhaps the part of the day which was most worrying me. Being gluten intolerant means meals out can often raise anxiety and I always scrutinise menus for information on allergens. The delicious-looking menu we were given when we arrived was sadly not labelled and the waiters seemed more than a little unsure as to how to manage dietary enquiries from what were a number of 'intolerant' bloggers.


Being quite assertive about my food needs (it becomes a bit of a life position when you need to know the risk in what you are eating), I went in search of a boss-waiter and chanced upon a 'guy who knew'..... After a short while, he reappeared, gluten free menu in hand and advised that the ship's allergen kitchen would prepare the meal. Although the gluten free menu was limited, it was reassuring to know that the health and dietary needs of guests would be taken seriously...... and I am assured that had we been actual passengers, the restaurant team would have been attentive and willing.

Turns out that MSC has a certificate from the Bureau Veritas to provide gluten free menus on a number of their ships, including the Preziosa and will work closely with guests from the point of booking to ensure they get things right.





After all the cruise stuff laid on by MSC Cruises, my first blog camp treated me to two workshops..... one on food photography with Sandhya Harihara from Sandhya's Kitchen and a session on metrics with Sally Whittle, who blogs over at Who's The Mummy as well as being founder of Foodies, Tots and Trips 100. Both presentations were fun and informative and full of helpful bloggy wisdom...... It just left me wondering why I have never made it to blog camp before.....

Either way, Sally and her team did an incredible job in conjunction with MSC Cruises organising the day and I send my sincere thanks to them all for being such stars!

So having spent a day on board, would I consider a future cruise? Well.... Since visiting the Preziosa, I may have excessively pored over the MSC Website ..... dreaming..... and with easy departures out of Southampton on the MSC Preziosa and MSC Magnifica heading out to Europe or further afield from other non-UK ports, I certainly wouldn't rule out a little trip...... destination dependent.


Shared with : Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

I spent the day on board MSC Preziosa courtesy of Foodies 100 and MSC Cruises, but was not required to write a blog post. As always, all views and photography (except where other credit is given) are my own.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated