Thursday, 30 December 2010

Easy Oreo-style gluten-free cookies

The grandchildren really like Oreo cookies but can't have them here so that I can keep well.  These giant chocolate cookies are crisp and chocolaty and easy to make.  Either fill them with icing - I use the white chocolate icing I used for the wedding cupcakes, or ice cream, or just eat them plain.

I started by looking at lots of recipes.  Mostly them seemed to say take a chocolate cake mix and turn it into cookies.  I tried finding one in grams rather than cups but couldn't.  I based my recipe on this one -

65g flour (40%urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
20g cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
65g sugar
25g butter
egg to mix to dough (this took less than one egg - I was making a small batch to test)

Mix all ingredients except egg - either by hand or in food processor.  Slowly add egg until you get a firm dough that is easy to handle.  The original recipe calls for lots of cooling and resting the dough, but I just baked these straight away.  I did keep one blob of dough and put it in the freezer.  I'll see how it bakes from frozen some other time.

Take the dough and shape into pieces.  I pressed these down and put  a fork mark in the top as I wanted to find out if they would hold an impression.  The cookies spread the way ginger snaps do, so don't try to do anything fancy and leave plenty of room for spreading.  This might have changed if I had chilled or rested the dough.

fork marks on raw cookie
cookies on baking sheet
Bake at 170C fan for about 7 minutes.  Leave on the sheet to cool for a few minutes so that they begin to harden before transferring to a cooling rack.

cookie on cooling rack
These cookies are mostly crisp but with just a hint of chewiness.  The flavour is rich and chocolaty without being bitter.

cookies sandwiched with white chocolate icing

gluten free vegan Rosemary and Olive Oil Cracker recipe - thin and crisp

Rosemary and Olive Oil gluten free crackers
Two things combined to create these crackers.  A sudden yearning for crackers led to this recipe : . The second thing is my new pasta roller attachment for the food mixer.  

Anyone who has made anything with polymer clay will know that it tends to fracture and is hard to work with until it is kneaded, and a standard way to do this is to put it several times through a pasta roller. As my manual roller is now dedicated to polymer clay I have an electric one, which is such fun and so useful for these stiffer gluten free doughs.  Run a dough for crackers or pasta through a few times and you get a smooth transparent sheet without any real effort.  When you start the dough will tend to shatter and be irritatingly hard to control.  Just gather it up, reform a slab and pass through again, and after five or six passes it will be smooth and stay together and you can get a sheet of dough a meter long it you can hold it one piece.

Of course I didn't follow the recipe, but it did lead to a rosemary and olive oil cracker that is very thin and crunchy and crisp.  I don't yet know how well they will age - I'll add to this post later when I find out.

100 g flour ( 40%urid, 40%tapioca, 20%cornmeal)
1/2 tsp baking powder (check gluten free)
1/4 tsp chopped rosemary
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp lemon juice
water to mix to firm dough

cracker ingredients

Stir all ingredients except water together until evenly mixed.  Add water until you get a dough you can just squeeze together.  It will be a bit tough and hard to shape at this stage.  If you don't have any helpful machinery kneed it until it gets pliable.  I use the pasta roller attachment on my Kenwood mixer.

On the next pass this sheet of dough became three times as long and still all in one piece.  Make thin sheets and either cut to shape in squares and re-roll the trimmings, or just slice the dough into shards with the ragged edges - they taste just as good and look interesting. 

Bake at about 170C far, 180C, for about six minutes until they are just tinged with gold.  Place on rack to cool then store in an air tight jar.  I don't yet know if they will lose their crispness when stored, but a quick reheat will fix that if necessary.  I'll add to the blog when I know.

The crackers have little air bubbles and speckles from the rosemary.  You can of course vary the flavourings any way you like.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Tetris reduces visual flashbacks of gruesome scenes

I know that watching gruesome movies hasn't got anything to do with baking gluten free food.  However, as Tolerant Taster does heroically try biscuits, cakes, pies and other baked goods, sometimes several in a day and always with patience and precise commentary, it doesn't seem unreasonable that I should accompany him to the movies he sees for his Film Group.  As a result of that I have seen more miserable or  unpleasant movies in the last couple of months than I would normally see in a decade.  I did walk out of a couple.  At home I switch the TV off or, if unable to do that, put my fingers in my ears and close my eyes at unpleasant moments.

A study found that if you do a visually challenging task soon after seeing unpleasant images it seems to disrupt the laying down of the visual memories that are the basis of flashbacks.  The original article is available at

So, next time, I should watch the whole movie but come home and play a computer game before I go to bed.  I haven't played Tetris since it was the one thing the BBC computer would do, back in the day when a file couldn't be more than four pages long, which made writing my first Masters thesis hard, floppy discs really were floppy, colour printing hadn't been invented, and printer paper came with perforated edges for the sprockets.

I don't know if this can be extended, but if I should happen to make a particularly unpleasant food and compel TT to try it, I should follow this up with something delicious soon after.  Not only would that cleanse any residual flavour and texture from the palate but it would disrupt the taste memory being established that could in the long term develop into a generalised fearfulness when new foods approach.

Xanthum gum /xanthan gum and why I don't use it

When I first started baking gluten-free foods I did what I was told and bought xanthum gum and included it in my cooking.  I also bought gf baked goods that had it in.  However, I rapidly noticed that I had gut problems when I ate anything with the gum in and stopped using it.  The times I ate xanthum gum were reduced to those occasions where kind friends bought things for me to eat that had it in and I ate a little.

I did some research when I first suspected that it was a problem and found that it is used as a laxative.  That was good enough for me - I stopped using it completely.  I note that the discussions around whether xanthum gum has unwanted effects are increasing - to start with I seemed to be the only person saying be careful, especially to coeliacs who still find their bowel urgency makes travelling difficult but who are eating all the prescription foods with xanthum gum in.

This article gives a clear description of the sources, benefits, uses, and possible side effects of xanthum gum.  I have not traced back their sources to original research in peer reviewed journals, but I think it is a good start if you want to know more about the issue.  I particularly found this statement interesting

"Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.

Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat. For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat. This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. Some consider this to be a separate allergy to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten allergy. Xanthan gum is a "highly efficient laxative", according to a study that fed 15g/day for 10 days to 18 normal volunteers. Some people react to much smaller amounts of xanthan gum, with symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea."
   accessed Dec 29 2010 19:13

Sunflower and Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

I had some sugar syrup left over from making Italian meringue.  It had gone completely solid in the pan but I thought it would still be possible to turn it into caramel and embed seeds in it to make an interesting seed brittle.  Anyone feeling wary - this is the only candy my mother made when we were kids, and she really did not like cooking.  It is simple; just be careful of the hot caramel as any of that on your skin will burn badly.  The actual quantities don't matter much - if you have lots of seeds and only just enough caramel to coat they will fall apart better and be better for you - too few seeds and you have more caramel to suck or crunch between the seeds.  Chose whatever type of nut or seed you have handy and like.

I took a couple of handfuls of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and toasted them briefly in a hot pan.
toasted seeds
Keep an eye on this - they should only just be tinged with gold and be beginning to fragrance the air.  Put them into a cold bowl when they are done.  If you just turn the heat off and ignore them they will carry on cooking and be likely to burn.

I put the solid clear syrup onto a medium heat and watched as it began to go liquid.  I didn't stir.

melting syrup
It gradually went completely liquid and then began to turn golden on the edge.

beginning to go golden

When it was a light amber colour I turned off the heat, tipped the seeds in and tipped the whole mass onto a pan lined with a sheet of baking parchment. You can just grease the pan but it is a lot more reliable to use baking parchment.

seed brittle

broken into pieces

This very easy to make.  You do have to pay attention and shouldn't try to do other things at the same time. Get your pan ready before you begin making the caramel as you have to handle the caramel and seed mixture swiftly when it is ready.  Store in an airtight container.

Italian meringue as an ingredient in gluten-free yeast doughs

It's the time of year where people write about all the lovely Panettone they make - a light sweet yeast bread that tears easily between the teeth.  I made one once following an immensely complicated recipe supplied by some official Italian organisation - my recollection was that it took days.

Now, of course, the idea of a light, flexible yeast dough seems very nearly unobtainable.  I am working on a cinnamon bun recipe (did you know Oct 4th is Cinnamon Bun day in Sweden? ) and striving for softness and flexibility.  Holding together is easy, taste is easy, texture is difficult.

I took to wondering what Italian Meringue would be like as an ingredient in a yeast dough. For those of you that aren't sure what an Italian meringue is, you make it by making a sugar syrup - 115C, medium ball stage, and pouring it onto whipped egg while it is hot and then leaving the mixer running while the mixture cools down.  I tried this version as I thought that the meringue would be more robust in the mix than simply adding whipped egg white.  The other possible advantage to using meringue as an ingredient half way through making a dough as it would give the yeast time to work without too much sugar around - I am still trying to find a UK supplier of domestic quantities of osmotolerant yeast.

I spent quite a while hunting on the Internet for any information on this and couldn't find anything.  I ran a quick test.  Here are the results.  For anyone who doesn't want to read the rest of the blog, I have to say that it isn't worth it -  adding meringue to a yeast dough before baking does change the texture but not in any particularly useful way.

I made a yeast dough with:
150g flour (40%urid, 40%tapioca, 40%cornmeal)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp yeast
20g butter
1 egg
c60ml water to get sloppy dough

While the dough was rising I made the meringue.  You can see from the bubbles in the dough that the yeast was working.  this is a more reliable indicator with my gf doughs than bulk in the early stages.

dough - yeast bubbles
I made a meringue with two egg whites so that I would have enough bulk for the stand mixer to work.  This was 80g.  The sugar syrup was made from 300gm sugar, 25g glucose and 65ml water.  This is enough for a four egg white meringue, but I made a double mixture as my heavy bottomed pan was too large for a half mix.  The spare can be caramelised and made into nut brittle.

Mix the water and sugar and glucose together before applying any heat.  Ideally leave the whole mix to rest for a while to ensure that all the sugar is wet - if you stir once you add heat you will get a granulated mess as I did with my first (half size) batch.  The glucose helps to avoid the crystallisation.  Once you get past the soft ball stage ( a drop of the syrup in cold water forms a ball you can roll between your fingers rather than simply dispersing) whip the egg as in normal meringue.  Then pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the egg white while the mixer is working, and keep mixing until the meringue is cold.  You will have a lovely glossy meringue that can be used for making Italian ice-creams amongst other things.


At this point I divided the dough into three.  The first batch had 25g of the meringue added to 75g of dough.  This looked like equal amounts in volume.  The second had 10 g of meringue added.  The third was plain dough.  The remaining meringue was baked in the oven after the breads were complete.

dough and meringue
I made a bun shape and a flat disc from each of the doughs.  Ideally the sugar amount in each dough would  have been made up to the same levels to be sure that any changes in texture were due to the meringue not the ingredients, but I didn't do that.

meringue and dough mix
three doughs, baked - plain on left
The meringue did make a difference.  The one with the most meringue in reminded me of the texture of good rock buns - a slightly crisp, slightly cracking texture with adequate cohesion and large air bubbles.  The medium mix seemed promising as a sweet dough when fresh as it could be shaped when raw and had a good even crumb with medium sized air bubbles.  The plain dough was just a plain dough - firm, with irregular sized small bubbles.  

high-meringue mix

medium mix

plain dough

I didn't leave the mixtures to rise after shaping because I had foolishly started this whole process rather late in the evening.  I just put the buns into a cold oven and set it to 170C and cooked for about 22 minutes.

We tested them when they had just cooled and again in the morning.  They seemed more promising when fresh out of the oven, but had staled quickly and seemed a lot more boring twelve hours later.

 I baked the meringue that was left. I simply put the leftovers onto baking parchment, put in the oven at 170C for 5 minutes then turned the oven off and left it overnight.

The meringue was very good - slightly chewy and without that crisp disintegration into shards that normal meringue has.  Trying to think what I don't like about the usual meringue I make or buy Tolerant Taster and I said at the same moment - "they explode all over you". The chewiness was also quite slight, so it wasn't difficult to eat the way some meringues are that really stick to your teeth.  I would make this again.

So, the reason people don't use Italian meringue in yeast doughs is that it isn't worth it - but I am glad I took the time to find out.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

white chocolate brownie ice-cream sandwiches

icecream sandwich

Nigella Lawson has a very good recipe for white chocolate brownies, or blondies.  I have used this as a brownie mixture over the last year, simple substituting the flour for a mixture of equal quantities of urid lentil flour, tapioca and ground almonds.  Using ground almonds in cake recipes gives a moist cake that keeps well. The original recipe also calls for Macadamia nuts which I don't use.  Even people who dislike white chocolate love this brownie.  It is sweet and gooey without being sickly or cloying.

Today I started with this recipe to make white chocolate cookies to use for ice-cream sandwiches for the big family party we are having on New Year's day.  After the formality of a lot of meals at this time of year it seamed amusing to create a picnic style desert but with great ingredients.

I haven't tested this recipe yet with my standard flour mix.  I will do that later and post the results.

I increased the amount of flour to the other ingredients to give a batter that would allow me to make thickish round cookies.  I didn't want to make a thin sheet of cake and then cut out the individual cookies as I wanted the slightly crisp edging you get with an individual cookie.  If you are in a hurry you can just make two thin sheets of the brownie, slather on the icecream and sandwich together and cut to shape when it is frozen.

125g butter
250 white chocolate
4 eggs
350g sugar
2 tsp vanilla
400 g flour (one third each ground almond, urid lentils and tapioca flours)

Melt butter and chocolate together.  I find 2 minutes in the microwave on medium, stirring half way through, works well.  Leave them to cool a bit so they don't cook the eggs.
whisk eggs and sugar together
mix chocolate mixture into eggs and add vanilla
mix flours into mixture

Make individual cookies or pour into a lined tin.  Leave plenty of space between the dollops for the cookie to spread.  Just put a spoonful of dough on the tin - it flows out to shape by itself.

Cook for about 8 minutes for cookie at 170C, on until just faintly tinged with gold. They are easier to manage if the underneath is a light brown; if this is still pale they tend to stick and smudge a little.  Cool briefly on the tin to make them easier to handle then place on a cooling rack.

When they are cold take slightly softened icecream and dollop some on half the cookies.  Place a second cookie on top and squeeze gently together.  Make them as neat or casual as you like or have the patience for.  You could no doubt make discs of icecream ahead of time and just assemble them as needed.

I tried freezing blobs of dough and then cooking from frozen.  This works fine and allows you to make a couple of fresh cookies whenever you want. They look particularly nice with flaked almonds sprinkled on top but this doesn't make much difference to the flavour or texture of the cookie when it is used with icecream.

The cookies do get firmer when they are frozen but are still easy to bite through.  They hold their shape well so will work as a vehicle for icecream and shouldn't be too messy.

These are sweet cookies and are probably best with a slightly tart icecream like raspberry or gooseberry.  I'll add further photos and tasting information after the hordes have tried them.

(Random notes:  I have a turkey carcass cooking down for stock at the moment.  If I was Heston Blumethal I would make use of the random juxtaposition of scents and activities and make a sage flavoured biscuit with turkey flavoured icecream.....)

Very Easy Turkey Noodle Soup - gluten-free

In the brief gap between when I stopped being a vegetarian and discovered I was gluten intolerant I enjoyed chicken noodle soup.  Yesterday I watched a programme about how Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup was made, so of course today for lunch we had Turkey Noodle Soup.

I am cooking the turkey carcass with lots of water to make a stock, so I simply ladled out two portions of this stock, using a sieve over the soup pan to make sure no bones or other unwanted solids were transferred.  I added a little salt and two slices of left-over turkey, chopped small.  When this was boiling I added some Ko-Lee Rice Vermicelli Noodles, which I crushed into smallish pieces. They are quite sharp so next time I think I would bash them with a rolling pin.

I cooked the soup until the noodles were soft, which took about six minutes.  The soup was very good and very easy.

Monday, 27 December 2010

gluten free Honeybuns Amondi - taste a great deal better than they look!

Amondi - gluten and dairy-free version of Amaretti
We took advantage of the thaw to go to the hobby store at a garden centre to buy, of all things, dolls house lighting, which they didn't have in stock.  To assuage my disappointment and Tolerant Taster's boredom we went for a cup of coffee before returning home.  I wanted a black coffee with caramel syrup, but their flavoured syrups had gluten in.  We waited for the two or three minutes it took the waitress to find out.  We weren't offered the labels to read or an apology.

On top of the counter was a small display of Honeybuns gluten-free cookies - Amondi and a chocolate brownie.  I work on the principal that both the manufactures and the stores selling gf foods need to be encouraged so I bought one of the Amondi biscuits, even though it looked completely yukky, being a pasty looking blob. It hadn't fallen apart in the package, which is unusual for cookies in coffee shops.

I opened it expecting a bland flavour and a pasty texture.  I was completely wrong.  The flavour was sweet but also sprightly, with slivers of organic orange zest. It does say, in small pink writing on a pink background, that it won the coveted Gold Triple Star at the Great Taste Awards. The texture was smooth, slightly crisp on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle.

The label also says that the packaging is biodegradable and the card made from sustainable sources.  In the spirit of making maximum use of available resources they also suggest you keep the insert label as a bookmark, but I suspect this would make your books slightly greasy.

It is also dairy free.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Sage and onion stuffing - best ever and gluten free

I made a whole loaf of my Lazy Bread and diced it, bagged it and froze it for my sister to make stuffing for her family meal on Christmas Day.  Having done that I thought I might as well see what it was like as a stuffing ingredient as well.  We are having our family gathering on New Year's day, but the mother-in-law came to lunch today (Boxing Day) so I did the turkey and full works.

I have Lazy Bread in the freezer, sliced and with freezer paper between each slice so I can get it out easily.  I read several recipes and then produced this stuffing, which Tolerant Taster says is the best he has ever had.  This recipe served three with left overs.  Simply scale up as needed.


four slices of bread, diced
one red onion, chopped finely
half a Bramley apple, chopped finely
sage leaves 
rosemary, chopped finely
1 tbsp oil

bread, onion, apple and herbs
My sage bush is leaves without much flavour so I took a handful, but I know that some sage leaves are very strong.  The technique I used allows you to adjust the strength of this flavouring easily.  Put your sage leaves into a cup of water, bring to the boil (I used the microwave) and then leave to steep while you get on with the rest of the preparation.

sauteed onion
Saute the onion until it is soft.  Add the apple and cook briefly.  If you want the apple pieces to be noticeable cut larger and don't precook.

Add the bread to the onion and apple mixture and stir until well mixed.  Now stir in the chopped rosemary if using.  Add the hot sage water, testing the flavour until you have the amount of sage you want.  Use plain water if needed to bring the whole mixture to a moist consistency.

Place in an oiled baking dish and bake in a hot oven for half an hour.  I put it in the oven at the same time as the roast potatoes and parsnips, and they were all golden brown at the same time.

golden stuffing
The stuffing was moist and delicious with a crisp crunchy top.  

Tolerant Taster's view "Warm, roasted, slow-cooked stew sort of flavour.  The bread has done two things, quite a bit softened to a rich paste holding the whole thing together, but also crunchy bits where the bread has toasted and caramelised on top.  A bit like gravy, caramelised onions and bread sauce with all the best bits merged together".

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Baked spring rolls

I have some packets of Rice Flour Pancakes for spring rolls by Blue Dragon.  I never deep fry anything, not knowing what to do with the oil afterwards, so have tried these uncooked and shallow fried.  I don't think much of them as uncooked wraps, and found that shallow frying them tended to make them fall apart.  Today I tried brushing them with a little oil and baking them.

I filled them with some shredded cooked turkey, slivers of ginger and bamboo shoot, garlic and some chili jam.  I then placed them on a greased baking sheet and baked them for fifteen minutes.  They held together very well, but the underneath surface was crisper than the top surface.  Next time I would turn them over half way through to improve the texture.

These are slightly fiddly to make as you have to dunk each pancake in hot water for twenty seconds before placing on a wet cloth, filling and folding.  However, all of these stages could be done ahead of time.  This would make them suitable for an occasion where you had guests and you weren't sure what time they would arrive.  If they were already on a baking sheet you could pop them in a hot oven when people arrived, and you could serve hot spring rolls with a spicy dipping sauce twenty minutes later.

We had these as a light and amusing Christmas lunch with a glass of champagne, and a rocket and red pepper salad.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Taralli Pugliesi and Bread Baking Babes

trying out Taralli Pugliesi with Bread Baking Babes - post a link to your efforts by Dec 29th.  Mine are rising in a warm moist oven at the moment so will post later.  Not sure anyone likes fennel flavoured breads so cut the fennel seed (home-grown) down by a fifth.  Always have the wild birds to scoff any failures.


Taralli - bagel cooler shows how tiny they are

Taralli look like miniature bagels but are made with a lot of olive oil and baked until firm.  Mine have come out with a texture which Tolerant Taster describes as 'a firm doughnut'.  I think they will make an excellent food for dipping in humus or mustard, and I'll put them out before my New Years Day lunch when the hoards arrive and want to eat before the meal is ready.  They always do, while we wait for the last guests to arrive.

500g flour  (40% urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
tepid water to get to soft but shapeable dough
5 g  fennel seeds
1/2 tsp yeast 
1/2  tsp sea salt
1 egg  (the recipe says use white wine if you don't want to use egg)

Large pan of boiling water for initial cooking, oven at 170C for baking.  
Slotted spoon, cooling racks, drip tray, baking trays.

Mix yeast with water or flour depending on type you have. I have the kind you have to mix with a little water rather than putting straight into the flour.
Mix oil and egg and yeasted water together,  
Mix dry ingredients. 
Mix the two together.  I used the food mixer and beat the dough, adding water as needed, until I got a smooth dough that held together and was easily shaped.  Don't make it any dryer than needed as it will rise easier if wetter.  

mixed dough - not sloppy, not dry

Leave the dough to rise for a while in a warm moist place.  When you are sure it has begun rising shape into little rings.

roll little snakes and press ends together

let them rise in a warm moist place.

I put doughs that are rising in the oven with some hot water to add steam.  I also spritz with water to keep the surfaces from drying out and slowing the rise.

When these little rings had risen a bit I put them in boiling water - the original recipe says put in a few at a time and take out when they rise to the surface.  I think this must be different with wheat flour, as these didn't really sink much, so I just boiled for about twenty seconds then drained on a rack.  When they had all been through the boiling water and drained I put them onto oiled baking sheets and baked at 170C for about twenty minutes.
bake in a medium oven

 When they are golden brown and firm put them on a rack to cool.

piles of mini fennel- flavoured bread rings.

The original blog suggests having these with a chili flavoured oil instead of fennel, plain or with rosemary.   I'll see how these age before I decide if they are to be a regular snack food and so worth trying with different flavours. At the moment they are very good, though I do admit I have never tried the original so don't know what I was aiming at.

Yeast for high-sugar doughs

I hadn't put much thought into how yeast works until this morning.  For many years I had sour-dough starters in the fridge, a San Francisco one and two Italian ones, which I used depending on the flavour of the bread I wanted. In my emergency planning - you know, the house catches fire, what do you take, I had thought the computer, my wallet and the yeasts would be what I rescued  Without realising it I had cut down immensely on the amount of gluten I ate, so only had one small slice of spelt sourdough a day at most, with the occasionally (as in once or twice a year) treat of a croissant or doughnut, and fruit crumbles made with spelt (a low gluten flour).

Now that all my waking hours are consumed with my curiosity about how none-glutened flours work I bake all the time.  Today I set out to make cinnamon buns, one of the few things I remember my mother cooking that were really delicious.  She was from Pennsylvania, and sticky spicy fruity rich yeast breads were part of her childhood.  As I grew up in India, and she had to do any baking in a metal box perched over a primus stove, and  had five kids to look after with no washing machine, it is a wonder she ever baked anything.

Whilst researching cinnamon bun recipes I came across a reference to 'osmotolerant' yeast.  This is yeast that can cope with the high amount of sugar in sweet doughs.  Apparently the sugar pulls the moisture away from the yeast, leaving it gasping for breath....well, that is how I see it.  It turns out that it is easy to buy a osmotolerant yeast that can cope with high sugar doughs if you live in the US, and the website even specifies that it is gluten free.

In the UK it is a bit harder.  I found a supplier that does 14kg blocks, but an email I sent to ask if they had samples bounced back as undeliverable - I had clicked on their 'contact me' button on their website.  With a bit more hunting I found another company that does sell yeasts for high sugar doughs, but the ingredients are not listed in such a way as to make it clear whether the produce is gluten free.  If anyone know prehaps you could twll me.  An email to them hasn't bounced back, so that is a good start, but I expect it will be a while before I get an email back, seeing as it is Christmas Eve.  If I can get a sample I will do a comparison with my flours and let you know if it is worth the trouble.

At the moment I have a batch of dough, hopefully rising, based on this recipe:  I am trying it with a straight substitution of my own gluten free flour mix (urid, tapioca, cornmeal) and will tweak if necessary.

I am planning to develop a recipe for these sweet buns that you can store unbaked in the freezer and just bake whenever you want some.  That would make them ideal for leisurely breakfasts when you want something a bit special without any effort.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

TGI Fridays has gluten free menu - Gold Star

I haven't been blogging as the grandchildren have been to stay. Added to that an enthusiastic child, a dog and a stick has meant I couldn't talk or eat  for a couple days.  Today we finally got to the dentist, though it took three hours ( Monday couldn't get out of drive as traffic stuck in snow...are we really the only people  in England with snow chains?).

Although it is only eleven am we are certainly ready for lunch, and TGIFriday is at the end of the road the dentist is on.

They open at eleven.  They have an entire menu of gluten and/or lactose free food.  I discover I have forgotten how to choose, being so used to just having to eat whatever the restaurant can manage, which on several occasions has been nothing at all.  They also say on the menu to let them know what your allergy/intolerance is so that they can do their best to avoid cross-contamination.

The chips are on the gf menu, but the onion rings are not.  I asked if they were cooked in the same fat.  The waitress said it was fresh oil so would be fine for me but she would also check.  A  couple of minutes later she came back to say that the chips were cooked in a separate fryer.

so far the staff were very helpful.  I have a straw to drink my coffee with ( a black one which matches my outfit).  The food arrived very promptly.


Chips were crisp but very salty, beefburger adequate. Ketchup and mustard brought in jars so I could read the ingredients.  Staff very attentive but not intrusive.  Definitely a good place to come with a mixed group of people and especially kids.  Don't know yet if I will get sick, but full marks so far.

We asked for the desert menu and the waitress remembered to bring the gf menu without being prompted.  Only one desert, a giant icecream and popcorn confection sold as being for two but more appropriate for three or four.  A bit unimaginative and rather restrictive if the only gluten free desert is meant for two.  Also, the menu covers lactose intolerance, and there is no desert listed for them.

However, I would definitely come here again, especially if I had a group or children in tow.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Gluten-free brandy snap baskets

I posted about making brandy snaps a while ago, testing two commercially available flours, Doves Farm and Bob's Red Mill.  This blog shows you how to make brandy snap baskets, for a flamboyant desert where the last minute effort is minimal.

I used my standard flour mix of 40%urid lentil flour, 40% tapioca and 20% polenta for these.  Having done a lot of tests I am happy that this mix makes most things in a direct swap for normal wheat flour.  Bread is a bit different, but cakes, pastry and cookies, and in this case brandy snaps, work fine without any extra ingredients or effort. Look at the earlier blog for the ingredients if you don't have a recipe:

Take you mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Put four blobs about 1cm in diameter widely space- they will spread a lot.

 Pat them out a little bit with a damp finger or swirl with the back of a spoon.  They do spread anyways but I found they produced a more even brandy snap with this little bit of help.

Bake until they go amber coloured.  You need to shape them where they are hot enough to be supple and not so hot they fall apart while burning your fingers.  I found that leaving them on the non-stick mat but sliding this so that two were on the cooling rack and two still on the tray allowed me to shape the first two while the others stayed hot enough from the heat of the tray.

brandy snaps - non-stick sheet half on and half off hot baking tray

If I took them all off the tray the second two were too stiff to shape and I had to put them back in the oven for a few seconds before shaping.

I made small baskets by forming them around some little individual tart cases as I wanted to be able to pack them in tart cases for a friend.  Use an upturned glass or small bowl - whatever has the sort of shape you want. Have several ready so that you can shape several and leave them to cool while the next batch are baking.  I oiled these using grapeseed oil, which has very little flavour.

Taking a hot brandy snap that will hold its shape, place on the greased mould and press lightly so that the brandy snap takes up the same shape.  Leave to cool and pack in an airtight box or plastic bag until needed.

Shaping the brandy snap basket
this video has no sound - it wasn't clear enough to post - another thing to learn

To serve - place on a plate, fill with whatever takes your fancy, and be prepared for 'oooh's of delight.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Gluten-free cheese, potato and onion pasties

cheese, onion and potato pasties - gluten free

Ate the last one of these a week after baking.  It was still good and held together well.  
I had kept it in the fridge.

Savory picnic type food can be hard to find if you can't eat gluten.  I made these pasties to test the new standard flour strange to ladle a single type of flour out of a jar rather than grinding, assembling, mixing a bespoke flour for each project.

250g butter
500g flour (40%urid, 40%tapioca, 20% polenta)
2 eggs
c100-150ml cold water to mix

1 onion, cooked until soft and golden in olive oil
1 large potato, peeled, diced and boiled until nearly soft
100-150g cheese - I used mature cheddar, and added more until I thought the flavour balance was right

Cook the onion and potato ahead of time so that they have a chance to cool before you need them.

grated cheese, sauteed onion and diced cooked potato

Make the pastry by cutting the butter into cubes and blitzing in the food processor until the butter is finely dispersed.  Add the lightly beaten egg and blitz until evenly dispersed.

You can do the next bit in the machine but I like to mix the water in by hand so I can feel how wet the dough is getting.  Tip the mix into a large bowl, add cold water a little at a time.  I use a whisking action with my finger tips, and keep adding until the dough will just hold a lump when squeezed lightly.

Form into two balls, wrap in clingfilm, and put in the fridge to rest while you assemble the filling the filling.

Roll the pastry out to a medium thickness.  Don't aim for a very thin pastry as it needs to be able to hold the filling in place when cooking.  I made my dough too thin for this and some of the cheese escaped. Aim more for the thickness of a £1 coin rather than a ten penny piece.

Cut out a circle.  I used 25cm 8 1/2 inch side plate, which produced a good meal sized pasty.

Egg wash around the edge of the pastry and place a large handful of the filling in the middle.  The potato, cheese and onion mix holds its shape well so that you can put a big lump in the middle and it stays in place while you shape the pastry around it.

It is easier to make a flat pasty, where you bring one half of the pastry over the top of the filling and press it down onto the other half.   As I was testing the performance characteristics of this pastry I did the version where you bring both sides up and seal them down the middle.  It was a little difficult to do this neatly as the pastry did tear a bit, but a little patching fixed that.  Egg wash for a shiny golden finish.

Cook for 20 minutes in a hot oven, 180C, until golden brown.

These are good hot or cold.  They survived carrying around in a box without any sign of falling apart.

a slice through a mini test-pasty - had to be sure it tasted good!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Innocent Smoothies made in gluten-free factory

after the emails about Innocent Veg Pots being made in a factory that handles wheat, and so possibly not free from gluten, I asked about the smoothies.  This is the response I got:

  (Oli at innocent)16/12/2010 17:09
Hello again Lois,

Sorry I didn't get back to you last night.

Our smoothies are 100% safe and free from gluten or any possible cross contamination as they are made in a different factory from our veg pots. Its probably best to steer clear of our thickies though as one of them contains oats.

I really hope this helps.

All the best and Happy Christmas,


The thickie with oats is clearly labelled so it's not a problem avoiding it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Innocent Veg Pots and why they don't say 'gluten-free'

I wrote to Innocent, makers of smoothies and their meal in a tub 'Veg Pots'.

  I wanted to know why they didn't state 'gluten-free' on the Veg Pots that had no gluten-bearing ingredients, and why they didn't substitute gluten-free ingredients like Tamari for their Soy Sauce.  As any one that knows anyone with coeliac disease or severe gluten intolerance will know, it is very difficult to eat safely when out of your own house, and these veg pots would be awelcome addition.

I got a reply just three days later, which I have posted in full.  They have had other queries about gluten but haven't posted the info in their FAQs,

Their basic answer is that their veg pots are made in a factory which also handles products with gluten in so they cannot say gluten free.  I haven't tested any of their food, so might do that sometime.  Of course, this raises the question as to whether the smoothies are also made in a factory that handles gluten and should be avoided in the same way.  I'll write and ask.

As you can see, it continues the conversation about malt vinegar that I posted about with reference to the Stokes Caesar Salad dressing.  I know the Coeliac society say it is OK, but it is really hard not to react to the word barley the same way a normal consumer might react to the words 'rat-poison' or 'arsenic'.  It is hard enough keeping safe with the myriad of words people present gluten under without actively ignoring one that is easy to understand and writ large!

Hello Lois,

Thanks so much for your email; it is great to hear from you.

Thanks for all your advice about making our veg pots all gluten free. I will pass it onto our veg pot team and I know they will be delighted with it. 

Unfortunately we can't state that any of our veg pots are gluten free as they are made in a factory where gluten is handled and, despite the strict cleaning and handling procedures in place, there is a potential risk of cross contamination.

Other consumers have also asked us about the malt vinegar in our Indian Vegetable Masala. Malt vinegar is made from barley, and as such could contain gluten. However, the amount of gluten in the vinegar is less than 10ppm (parts per million), which is further diluted when used as an ingredient in the sauce. As a result there will be no detectable gluten in this product from the ingredients. Unfortunately we still can't claim it as gluten-free due to the reason above.

As you say, so many people are unable to eat gluten and I am sure that the veg pot team are looking into finding a solution to this, with our veg pots. Keep an eye out on our website for any updates.

All the best and thanks for getting in touch,