Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Double Chocolate Cupcakes (with a hint of ginger) and a leaving do

Last week one of my colleagues left work to go on maternity leave. She's having a boy! What started out to be a small good luck gathering, snowballed into a long list of food to bring and a couple of hours scoffing in the office - a very rare event, believe me!

No stranger to my gluten free offerings, I asked the excited (and very round) mum-to-be what flavour cake she would like me to make, and was not in the least surprised when she requested chocolate. Being a special leaving do, it had to be made pretty and fit for a congratulatory baby send-off.

Wanting to make the cakes a little different, extra decadent and also to add a depth of flavour, I threw some ginger and a bunch of chocolate chunks into the mix. The ginger, although not overpowering in any way, completely changed the dimension of the sponge so that it was deep in flavour and warming on the palate.

I often use ground almonds in sponge, as this ensures a long-lasting moistness. But these cupcakes are made with a no-nut sponge, moistened by butter and yoghurt. Nuts or not, it is wonderfully soft, rich, chocolatey, slightly sticky, but light and very moist! The sponge is not over-sweet, but is topped with vanilla frosting, which perfectly compliments what lies beneath.

In keeping with the celebration, the icing has been lightly coloured blue and decorated with some added sparkle. Unfortunately the little icing buttons I so lovingly made to top each cake, went on a bit too early and wilted with moisture picked up when being stored overnight. Oops...... evidently way too early. They ended up looking rather limp and sad. Oh well........

The photos don't really do them justice........... To be honest, the wilted buttons were a bit disheartening........ But the cakes were so good, I couldn't keep the recipe to myself!

In reality, the wilted buttons made no difference. The cakes were delicious and were enjoyed by all.........

Good Luck A! You're going to be a great Mummy!!!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes (with a hint of ginger) with Vanilla Frosting (makes approx 28 large cupcakes)

Ingredients - Sponge

310g gluten free plain flour blend (I used mix A from this post)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
480g unsalted butter 
250 ml water
40g cocoa powder
400g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
200 ml plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
200g chocolate chunks (I used 100g white & 100g milk)

Ingredients - Vanilla Frosting

125g unsalted butter - room temperature
approx 500g icing sugar - sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60 ml almond milk (or cows milk)
Food colouring - optional
Sprinkles to decorate - optional


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and prepare your cupcake cases in cupcake trays.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter, water and cocoa powder in either a saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring, or in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave on 30 second bursts (stirring between each). Ensure all the ingredients are evenly blended.
  4. Once melted, transfer to a large bowl, add the sugar and whisk for about five minutes until airy and cool.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly between each.
  6. Add the yoghurt, vanilla and ginger and whisk again.
  7. Gently fold in the flour mix and chocolate chunks with a large spoon until just blended. Be careful not to over-mix.
  8. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the sponge springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  10. Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Beat the butter until soft and then gradually add the icing sugar, vanilla extract and milk (a little at a time) until the desired consistency is reached. Add the colour to your chosen shade.
  11. When the cakes are completely cold, pipe or spread the frosting on the top of each one and decorate with your chosen sprinkles.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Rhubarb Ice Cream - No Churn (a Random Recipe)

This is the simplest ice cream I have ever made. No churning required, yet amazingly creamy, soft and luxurious. And it is full of one of my favourite garden ingredients....... rhubarb!

Last month I missed the random recipe challenge and even though time this month has been extremely limited, with school holidays and a lack of the usual routines, I was determined that I was going to enter for August. I love Random Recipes, the brain child of the lovely Dom over at Belleau Kitchen, because it encourages making recipes which otherwise would not get a look-in and also forces me (more or less) to try and stick to a recipe (not an easy task for any food blogger and one which I find particularly difficult).

This month, Dom has paired up with Kavey who hosts the Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge over at Kavey Eats, for a wonderfully random ice cream challenge. Although I do have a few ice cream books I could have selected a recipe from, I decided that this month, my random pick should come from the many recipes I have bookmarked from other food blogs. There are some amazingly talented and creative cooks out there and I figured that if I have bookmarked a recipe, it is because it deserves to be made. So why not randomly select one and use it?

I organise my bookmarks into recipe groups and have about 39 bookmarked in the 'ice cream and ices' list. Not being a book, it excludes the possibility of opening a random page, so to ensure a random selection, I took another book off the shelf and opened it (page 74), then counted my bookmarks from top to bottom and then started again until I reached the allotted number.

And what did I pick? No Churn Rhubarb Ice Cream that I had bookmarked from The Baking Beauties over in Canada. Nice choice!

Actually.......... it couldn't have been a better choice, on account of the large rhubarb plant growing in the garden that needs eating before the winter sets in. I did have it earmarked for a couple of sponge and crumble recipes, but what the hell...... I've never had rhubarb ice cream before and the plant is still growing, so I'm sure it will do me the courtesy of a few more stalks before it gives up for the year. It's the least it can do given that I have ensured it adequate water and care during the summer heat.

I have slightly changed the ingredient quantities in the recipe to convert easily to UK-available ingredients, but otherwise, I have kept true to the recipe.

If you like rhubarb, this ice-cream is delightful. Very rich and creamy, wonderfully tangy, peppered with little bites of fruity, fleshy rhubarb and sweetened to perfection. It is soft enough to scoop straight from the freezer and melts into a rich gooey rhubarb cream, which would be amazing on its own.

If you read Alida's post on How to Spot a Good Quality Ice Cream over at her beautiful blog My Little Italian Kitchen, you will know that quality ice cream should :
taste of the flavour you have picked
leave you with a good aftertaste
melt quickly
not have funny colours
not leave a feeling of greasiness on the palate.......

Now I would have guessed that a no-churn ice cream might not score that well, but this one comes up trumps on all criteria........... So I guess it's pretty good! It would be interesting to try churning it next time to see whether it makes any difference...........

Although the ice-cream needs nothing else, I served mine with a drizzle of honey. Not just any old honey, but locally-sourced honey infused with vanilla, which I picked up at a local summer festival. The honey, produced by a Kent company : Nuts 4 Honey, is all organic and comes both naked and flavoured with anything from cocoa or coffee, to ginger, cinnamon, nuts and fruit. It is absolutely delicious and drizzled over this ice cream, adds a natural, sticky sweetness which is divine.

If I wasn't doing a random recipe challenge, I might have substituted some of the sugar in the ice cream for natural honey or maple syrup and possible added a shake or two of cinnamon. Maybe next time.......

As my rhubarb ice cream was randomly chosen from my bookmarked list, I am also sending it to this month's Bookmarked challenge with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.

And on account of the back-garden rhubarb and drizzled locally-bought honey, I am also entering it into August's Shop Local hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. The walnut ice cream spoon is also made by a local artist, Ben Kelly at Bo Ku (who makes beautiful things from wood) and was bought from a local cafe Quite Contrary, which is run by a friend of mine.

See how well it melts and how creamy it looks? I took these photos first thing in the morning......... Darn...... Ice cream for breakfast again!!!!

Rhubarb Ice Cream (no churn) makes 2 litres - slightly adapted from The Baking Beauties 


450g rhubarb - cut into pieces (1 to 2 cm)
150g caster sugar
2½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
500 ml double cream


  1. Place the cut rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the rhubarb softens and breaks down (8 to 10 minutes). Add and stir in the vanilla extract and set aside to cool completely.
  2. When cool, stir in the condensed milk and place in the fridge to chill.
  3. In a chilled bowl, whip the double cream until it holds its shape in peaks.
  4. Stir a spoonful of cream into the chilled rhubarb mix to make it a little lighter and then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.
  5. Transfer the ice cream into a freezable container and freeze overnight to harden.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Banoffee-Coconut Crunch Trifle - gluten free

You may remember a couple of weeks back I wrote a post on chocolate-coconut biscotti? In order to get the recipe right I ended up with a massive pile of rejected 'experiments'. To be fair, they were okay and in content were not that much differently made to the final version, but they just weren't quite right.

What do you do with a very large pile of chocolate biscotti that have failed to make the grade and may otherwise be destined for the bin? Well, you could just scoff them regardless (yeah.... we did some of that too....). Or you could use them to experiment further and hope they become something far better......

Banoffee-Coconut Crunch Trifle perhaps? Oh yes! What a very very happy accident! Don't you just love kitchen alchemy?

Actually, I will be honest............ I didn't intend to make a trifle at all, but thought I would make a biscuit base (as with cheesecake-type puds) and then layer with banana-caramel and cream to make a sliced tray 'bake'. Realising that the caramel (Carnation variety) was way too runny to 'hold' in the layer and not having time to make anything different, I had to adapt my plans and decided trifle would be the most straight forward option.

Trifle is always such a fab user-upper of stuff! It takes wet, soft, runny, spongy and crunchy ingredients in any combination and providing the flavours work, it is always a winner.

The biscuit base here, has been made with coconut oil in substitute for butter, as I thought it may be a little healthier and would also enhance the coconut in the biscuit. Concerned that the crushed biscotti may be too rich against the caramel, I balanced the mix slightly with a few crushed gluten free digestive biscuits which are widely available in supermarkets, then threw in a handful of extra chopped nuts and some desiccated coconut for good measure as additional texture and flavour.

This base is amazing.... really! It made a whole new biscuit invention in itself......... crisp, crunchy and full of the richness of chocolate and tropical coconut with a nutty crunch.

Roughly chopped, it has been layered with bananas and Carnation Caramel before topping with my first attempt at whipped coconut cream.

I have been wanting to try whipped coconut cream since I got Aimee Ryan's book Coconut Milk Ice Cream. Looking on the internet, there are many recipes out there which mirror the one in Aimee's book, but as I trusted Aimee's judgement, I used her recipe, sweetened with maple syrup and was not disappointed. Coconut cream is way healthier than usual dairy cream and is much lighter when whipped, making the dessert much less heavy on the stomach and quite delicious. There is a slight coconut taste about it, but as this trifle had a number of other coconut elements, that factor seemed irrelevant to the overall result. My only criticism was that the cream did not whip particularly stiff so would not have held its shape well if piped.

All in all though, this dessert is wonderful...... the combination of flavours works incredibly well and surprisingly for a trifle, does not make you feel over-full.

I am entering it for August's No Waste Food Challenge, this month being guest hosted by Laura at 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than....', (on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary) on account of it being my rescue plan for those biscotti rejects! Laura is so right when she says that some of the best recipes result from being forced to come up with an idea to use up an ingredient. Well this is no exception! I will absolutely be making the biscuit base again...... maybe next time for a cheesecake or as the base for a flan. And although I would not naturally have considered combining chocolate, coconut, banana and caramel, it is a dream to eat and could well inspire many further desserts.

Banoffee-Coconut Crunch Trifle

Biscuit Base

75g coconut oil
250g crushed chocolate gluten free biscotti (I used some (more or less) from this post recipe)
55g gluten free digestive biscuits - crushed
30g mixed chopped nuts
10g desiccated coconut


  1. Base-line a 20 cm/8 inch loose-bottomed square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a large bowl either in the microwave on a low to medium setting for a few seconds, or over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Remove from the heat and add all the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and flatten evenly with the back of a spoon.
  5. Chill in the fridge until hardened.
  6. When cold and hardened, remove from the tin and cut into small squares. Set aside.

Banoffee Topping

1 x 400g can of Carnation Caramel (or equivalent)
3 large bananas - cut into slices


  1. Mix the caramel with the bananas and set aside until ready to assemble the trifle.

Coconut Whipped Cream (from Aimee Ryan's book Coconut Milk Ice Cream)

250 ml coconut cream - tin or carton (not coconut milk)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

grated chocolate to decorate


  1. Whip all the ingredients until thickened.

Putting it all together

  1. Use either a medium-sized glass serving bowl or individual serving glasses.
  2. Line the base of the bowls with a handful of biscuit-base pieces.
  3. Spoon some Banoffee filling onto the biscuits.
  4. Top with dollops of coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of grated chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Original Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake - gluten free

Savoury cake may seem an unusual concept. Think 'cake' and it conjures sweet, spongy, iced and fruity images. But it doesn't have to be...... This gluten free Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake is incredible...... Easy to make, perfect for lunch, picnics and garden eating and full of the flavours of a Mediterranean summer.

I first posted the original upside down sponge three years ago when inspired by a savoury themed cake linky (Love Cake) from Ness at Jibber Jabber and although it got some attention at the time, I decided that I would revisit the recipe as it is one of my favourites and three years on, I am hoping it may reach more of my lovely readers and inspire them to enjoy it too....

I have updated the photographs (the originals were frankly dire (although I am not sure these are much better)) and have also updated, tweaked and improved the ingredients slightly..... adding some red onion, testing it with my rice-free home-mixed flour blend, and using psyllium husk instead of xanthan gum to improve the crumb and texture.

When you think savoury 'cake', the first thing that usually comes to mind is savoury muffins, but when I first developed this recipe, I absolutely wanted a big cake....... one that was summery and fancy and mimicked all the prettiness of a decadent sweet sponge.

Several restless nights later, mulling over every possible option from layered vegetable cakes to weird combinations of cheesy-savoury toppings, I came up with this...... an upside down savoury cake....

The next dilemma was what to do for the sponge 'base' and what veg to use which would be both attractive and succulent, without 'mushing' the sponge. In the end, I settled for making a cheesy-polenta bake as I thought this would be firm and dense enough, whilst still being fluffy and cake-like. Some grated courgette has been added to keep it moist and to give additional texture and colour. I have made it a number of times, using either green or yellow courgette and both work equally well. Wanting the cake to ooze the flavours and scent of mediterranean warmth, it also contains a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh oregano and basil (although dried herbs are good too, if that's what you have to hand).

The 'upside down' base is just beautiful...... vibrant in colour and so, so pretty. It brings instant interest and intrigue with anyone who sees or tries it and would definitely be a prize candidate for 'showstopper' in any savoury category.

It sings summer, warmth and all that is good for you. Sweet yellow, red and orange peppers that have been roasted to intensify their flavour, mingle with equally yellow sweetcorn, caramelised roasted red onion and savoury olives, all nestled into rich red roasted home-grown cherry tomatoes. The sponge is slightly cheesy with a soft, creamy but fluffy texture. The polenta gives it greater depth and texture, but the cake is no less light for its inclusion.

Indeed, this has to be the healthiest cake I have ever made. It is a fantastic savoury alternative to dishes like pizza, yet is perfectly scrumptious either hot or cold. That makes it ideal picnic and packed lunch fodder and a great alternative to sandwiches.

Although this upside down cake is made with summer roasted vegetables, you could substitute these with pretty much anything. I previously made Miss GF a bacon, sweetcorn and cheese version, which went down a storm..... and knowing that she was also eating hidden courgette reassured me my parental duty was attended to.

I am sharing my updated gluten free Original Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake with :


Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching For Spice

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

Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes


Bake of the Week with Casa Costello and Mummy Mishaps

Baking Crumbs with Jo's Kitchen Larder on behalf of Only Crumbs Remain

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Fiesta Friday #225 with Angie and Antonia at Zoale

The What's For Dinner? link-up with The Lazy Gastronome

Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake (makes 1 x 9 inch cake)


400g cherry tomatoes - halved 
150g yellow, orange and red peppers (I used sweet mini peppers) - deseeded and sliced
salt and olive oil for roasting the veg
1 small red onion - thinly sliced 
handful of olives - sliced
handful sweetcorn kernals

160g plain gluten free flour mix (I used Gluten Free Alchemist Rice-Free Flour Blend from this post), but I have also previously made it with GFA Blend A)
160g fine-ground polenta
2 teaspoons ground psyllium husk
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
ground black pepper (to taste)
1 heaped teaspoon fresh oregano - finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons fresh basil - finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
130g mature cheddar (grated) or another equivalent hard cheese/vegetarian cheese
3 large eggs
90 ml olive oil
150 ml plain yoghurt
180 ml milk
1 medium courgette - grated


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7. Either base line (with baking paper) a 9 inch cake tin (square or round) or I used a silicone cake mould.
  2. Roast the halved tomatoes, sliced onions and sliced peppers (separately) in roasting dishes in the oven with a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, stirring intermittently, for 30 to 40 minutes or until they begin to char slightly on the edges. Remove from the oven, set aside and cool whilst you make the cake batter.
  3. Turn the oven down to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  4. Weigh and mix together the flour, polenta, psyllium husk, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper, making sure any lumps are completely broken down (I weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously).
  5. Add the herbs and cheese and stir through.
  6. Beat the eggs, oil, yoghurt and milk together until light, airy and evenly blended.
  7. Add the grated courgette and fold to combine.
  8. Add the dry ingredients and fold until evenly mixed.
  9. Arrange the vegetables on the base of the cake tin - olives and sweetcorn, followed by peppers and onion.
  10. Lastly, drain the excess juice from the roasted tomatoes, before also placing them in the base of the tin on top of the other veg.
  11. Spoon the cake batter on top of the vegetables and smooth the top (if you have any excess batter, use to make small muffins).
  12. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (15-20 minutes for muffins) until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for at least 15 minutes before turning onto a plate. Serve warm or cold.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-18 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Marshmallow Party Bites


Marshmallows............. soft, squidgy, bouncy bites of sugary yumciousness!

I cannot resist them and it is seriously dangerous to have them in the larder as I often sneak a couple for a late night treat long after I should have stopped eating......

But for children's parties they are a must. Especially when they can be decorated well enough to compete with the prettiest of party dresses!

They are the simplest of treats to knock together, yet I have not made them for a party yet where the children's eyes did not widen in excitement when they saw them. You want happy little party guests? These are the thing to make them smile....... And I bet you, they will be wolfed down quicker than the cakes and biscuits you have so lovingly and time-consumingly prepared.

There is something about adding chocolate to marshmallow which makes it totally and utterly irresistible. Although it is an additional sweetness, it is a creamy cocoa sweetness which somehow tempers the sugar-shock of the marshmallow on the tongue. Coating mallows with a little chocolate decadence results in a sublime melt in the mouth experience which marries the richness of the chocolate with the pillowy, candy softness of the mallow.

The decoration is just for fun.......... and anything goes! Sweets, sprinkles, glitter sugar, nuts........ just let your imagination run.

I have been making the small version of these treats for years........... They are (possibly) the southern version of Stuart at Cakeyboi's 'Top Hats'. But this year I discovered giant marshmallows in Dobbies garden centre................ Not sure whether that was good or not...... we are already several bags down and we are not quite through the summer yet.

Imported from the States (where else would they have thought to make marshmallows this big?), you can also find them in some of the larger supermarkets. I assume that they are made for skewering and gently frazzling over the barbecue.............. And yes, we have tried this too........... a 'to die for', crisp on the outside but very melty, sticky, caramelly on the inside, stomach full of sugar experience (yet there is always room for 'another').

They also make fantastic marshmallow lolly pops! These ones were decorated for my daughter's birthday party using white chocolate, painted into patterns as the perfect sticky coating for a multitude of sprinkles. Some of the kids even asked for the extras to be cling-wrapped and popped into their party bags ( why didn't I think of that???).

I love my Marshmallow Party Bites so much, that I am sending them over to a handful of August challenges :

Treat Petite hosted by Cakeyboi himself (along with Kat from The Baking Explorer). This month's theme is a party-handy 'No Bake'.......

The Biscuit Barrel with Laura over at I'd Much Rather Bake Than..... who's theme is an equally applicable 'No Bake'.......

These mallow treats require pretty much nothing other than melting a bit of chocolate, making a lot of mess and of course, trying (hopelessly) to avoid eating the freshly dipped, warm melty chocolatey marshmallows before they get anywhere near the kids!

We Should Cocoa, this month being hosted by Rebecca at BakeNQuilt on behalf of Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog. Rebecca has challenged us to use chocolate with marshmallow. That's about all these Bites are........... They may be simple, but they are no less moreish or tempting for that!

And finally Alphabakes - being hosted (mid-move) by Caroline Makes (with Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker). August's letter is 'P'. Did someone say Party? Yay!

Marshmallow Party Bites

Ingredients (make sure all ingredients are gluten free if intolerant)

Marshmallows - lots - either standard or giant size (you could make them, but I am too lazy!)
Chocolate - milk, white or dark (amounts vary dependent on number of marshmallows)
Sweets and sprinkles of your choice 

May need : lolly sticks, a 'cooking use only' paint brush, baking paper and tray.


For small marshmallows :

  1. Decide on your decorations before you start and prepare by putting sprinkles in small bowls/on plates ready for dipping. This will mean that you can work quickly before the chocolate begins to set.
  2. In a small bowl, melt your chosen chocolate (I prefer to use either milk or dark for contrast with the mallow colour), either over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave on 30 second bursts (medium setting) stirring frequently until melted and runny.
  3. Take your marshmallows one at a time and dip the top into the chocolate first and then decorate with sweets or sprinkles.
  4. Place non-chocolate side down on a plate or tray and allow to set at room temperature.

For giant marshmallows :

  1. Decide on your decorations before you start and prepare by putting sprinkles in small bowls/on plates ready for dipping. This will mean that you can work quickly before the chocolate begins to set.
  2. Melt your chosen chocolate as in 2 above - I used white chocolate to blend in with the marshmallow and make the decorations stand out. 
  3. Push a lolly stick into each marshmallow (about half way in only).
  4. Working quickly, you can either dip the mallows, or we used a paint brush and spoon to 'paint' the chocolate into designs on the mallow. Dip or roll the mallow in the sprinkles. To stick on sweets, dab a small spot of chocolate onto the mallow and press the sweet into the chocolate to stick.
  5. Place the mallow top side down (non-lolly stick) on baking paper and allow to set at room temperature.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Friday, 8 August 2014

Finding Our Gluten Free Feet In Paris

The last couple of weeks have been insanely busy and I have been no-where near the kitchen other than for the purpose of basic sustenance. We took a couple of weeks away from work and seem to have crammed every waking moment..... from decorating to a brief break away and now my daughter's birthday is looming fast and cakes need to be made and a party organised to celebrate. Needless to say, I have been a bit lax on the blogging front. I apologise, but sometimes family has to come first............ with time to refresh relationships and just enjoy each other's company.

Our break away took us to Paris for a few days. For anyone who has not been, it is absolutely a place you must visit. It has so much to offer and is incredibly diverse, both in culture and interest.

As it was my daughter's first visit, we focussed on the usual tourist destinations, from whizzing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, to a leisurely trip down the Seine (and everything in between). We did buses, the metro and an awful lot of walking!

But as anyone who has to eat gluten free will know, the trickiest part of visiting any new country or city, is knowing what to eat and where to eat....... safely.  When we go away for longer periods, we tend to stay where we at least have the option of self-catering, as this makes it so much easier to feed ourselves with confidence. On this occasion however and as it was a shorter trip, we stayed in a hotel and decided to take our chances.

I thought Paris would be easy.......... I've heard they have a good range of gluten free baked products in the supermarket so thought they would be well geared to understanding gluten free restrictions. Armed with a spattering of 'gluten free French' (mainly translations for key ingredients) and gluten free French restaurant cards, I figured eating out would be a relatively straight forward affair.

How wrong was I?! Excuse my 'French', but we could find sod all in the supermarkets on the baked front and a good portion of the restaurants we attempted to visit shook their heads in horror at the suggestion they might be able to feed us safely. Thank goodness my daughter eats omelettes and thank goodness I took a pile of English gluten free crackers and rolls to accompany the local ham and cheese that we had to fall back on. It was far from easy!

Fortunately, I am a bit OCD about researching any specialist gluten free restaurants before I go away and I had a few recommended venues up my sleeve. Unfortunately, they turned out to be in fairly random parts of the city, which required specific journeys off the tourist track and planning to make sure we were there when they were open (no popping into the next available restaurant at any time we fancied!). But in a city full of mouth-watering patisseries that taunt you with their glutenous delicacies, the specialist gluten free patisseries and creperies offer safe treats which are just as beautiful, perfectly formed and delicious and are absolutely worth the effort to find them. And trust me...... when you don't want to see another omelette ever again, these places are a godsend!

Biosphere Cafe : 47 Rue Laborde, 75008, Paris (01 42 93 45 58)
Within reasonable walking distance of Montmartre, Biosphere Cafe is a completely gluten free creperie, which serves pancakes, breads, soups, pizza, quiche, macarons and sweet pastries.  My daughter's face and excitement when we went in and I told her she could eat anything she wanted, is one of those memories I will treasure.

The cafe was incredibly busy and deservedly so (if you visit at peak times, it would definitely be worth ringing ahead of time to book a table). The service was welcoming, the staff spoke good English and the crepes were really good! We ate savoury ones, so that we could sample the patisserie for dessert.

Tuna, leek and cheese :

Spinach, goats cheese and egg :

I didn't get any photos of pud, because we were so excited to be able to eat them, I forgot my camera was there! Oops..... But take it from me, the little cheesecakes and caramel tiramisu were lip-lickingly delicious and worth every Euro........

We would have loved to have gone back for a second meal, but time ran away with us and we weren't within reasonable distance to get there easily. Hey Ho..... next time........

Helmut Newcake : 36 Rue Bichat, 75010, Paris (09 82 59 00 39) - Bakery & Cafe / 28 Rue Vignon, 75009, Paris - take away only.
We tried both the take away and the cafe. The take away is really central and within easy walking distance of the Louvre, but the cafe requires a bit of a metro trek.  It is well worth the effort....... the patisserie is to die for (gluten free or not!)..... Look at these beauties........

Helmut Newcake was the first gluten free bakery in Paris, opened by Marie Tagliaferro (a French trained pastry chef) with her husband in 2011, after she discovered she was intolerant to gluten. Since then, she has been making French gluten free patisserie magic for locals and foreigners alike. You feel like you are eating works of art which would, in any taste test, win hands down against the traditional glutenous versions. So popular is this little cafe, that some reviews suggest you should book several days in advance to get a table. We were lucky........... we turned up on spec for Sunday brunch, and were squeezed in on the bar stools overlooking the street. I suspect that had it not been August (when the Parisians are 'en masse' out of town), we would not have been so fortunate. Happy holidays Parisians!

Treated to a basket of fresh gluten free breads, marmalade brioche and delightful little choux buns, pancakes, bacon, smoked salmon, salad and scrambled egg.............. freshly squeezed juice and coffee........... all followed by a perfect slice of hazelnut gateaux, this meal was heaven!

My only criticism is that the meal that was served as standard was very adult-focussed and my daughter found it a little alien to her palate. On the other hand.......... we think it is good to broaden her culinary horizons, and faced with what was put in front of her (salad carefully removed by Mum), she wolfed it down.

We bought bread and pastries from the take away....... The bread was quite dense in texture with a good crispy crust and did us well for breakfast for a couple of days with local cheese and ham.

The pastries? Well.........I think they speak for themselves......................

Unfortunately we didn't make it to our third intended gluten free restaurant as we ran out of time. I know that we should have prioritised all eating venues over the Paris sites, but travelling with an eight year old, means some things just have to give......... darn!!!! Noglu however, came highly recommended (if not particularly child-focussed) and if you are travelling to Paris, would be well worth a visit. I will certainly get there next time round!

Not to be forgotten of course is the Parisian obsession with the macaron............ which for the most part are naturally gluten free (although it is always worth checking for sure that they haven't slipped any flour in) as they are made with ground almonds and are available all over Paris.

World famous of course, are the macaron from Laduree which absolutely deserved a drool-worthy trip. Temptingly beautiful coloured discs of slightly chewy, almondy sweetness await you within each little boutique, but beware, most of their shops are fronted with long queues of tourists. We found the one on Rue Bonaparte to be relatively quiet in comparison to the others.

All the macaron in Paris appeared to be highly priced, and Laduree are no exception at 45 Euros for a box of eighteen. Granted they are beautifully presented and uniquely flavoured. But best of all (for us gluten-avoiders), you can bring a box home and enjoy a little taste of France long after you have left the Eurostar behind!

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated