Monday, 26 December 2011

Microwave steam bags - easy way to cook gluten free food safely

Quickasteam microwave  steam bags   Planit Products Ltd,

The bags allow you to steam a variety of foods in a microwave in very little time.  I have been cooking this week with virtually no dishes or pans due to a hiccup in our house moving plans.  These bags have allowed me to cook quickly and easily and not have much washing up.

I am using these at home in a gluten free house.  It struck me that they would make it easy to cook safely in a contaminated or uncertain environment.  Just place your vegetables or other foods in the bags in a clean environment, microwave and tip straight onto your plate.  You would need to manage spoilage, keeping foods chilled or frozen if need be.  These bags are going to become a regular part of my programme for eating safely.

Friday, 23 December 2011

McDonald's fries - are they gluten free? Warning!!

A while ago I posted a blog on McDonald's fries after a query on another site led me to look at their website and gluten information.  Theoretically they are safe, but I have had several comments posted saying how ill people are after eating them.  I haven't been brave enough to try - fast food places are scary as even the air feels dangerous.

Following on from these comments I have to say that I think you should avoid McDonald's fries if you are gluten intolerant.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

maple,apple and raisin bread - gluten-free

Warm spicy bread,with chunks of apple and raisins.  Good plain or toasted - sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for an extra special moment.

400g flour ( 40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
2 tsp yeast (pre-mix with water if necessary)
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp maple syrup
400ml water
1 tsp vanilla
100g raisins (blitze some of these with flour in the blender to give a variety of sizes, or chop half finely)
100g buckwheat (flour or blitzed in blender)
1 large eating apple, cored and chopped ( c140g)
2 eggs
(5g Solanic potato protein 201 - not available in shops yet, I am trialling this.  It helps give gluten-free breads more uniformity and resist slumping.  Unless you try to make this as a single very tall loaf it won't be necessary to add this.)

Mix all ingredients together into a thickish batter.  Pour into prepared loaf tins (grease and line two one pound tins)  Don't fill more than two thirds full. Sprinkle a little water on top to help with the rise.

Let these rise in a warm moist place until nearly to the top of the tins.

Bake in a 170C oven for 45 minutes.  Turn temperature down for last ten minutes if it looks as if they were getting too brown.

chocolate chip cookies - gluten and dairy free

I made chocolate chip cookies for a writing group based on a recipe by Anthony Worrel Thompson.  I kept them dairy free as well as gluten free.  Simply substituting my flour for ordinary flour and soft vegetable margarine for butter led to a crisp flat cookie with no chewiness, so it needs a bit more flour.  It also meant that the mixture was of soft dropping consistency rather than one that could be rolled out.  Part way through the batch I added ground almonds to make a firmer batter and stirred in some flaked almonds.  This made the cookie thicker, crisp and chewy.   I also added a teaspoon of coffee granules as Ina Garten says adding coffee to chocolate recipes makes them taste chocolatier..thought it worth a try.  Note I have listed both flour options - pick one.

This recipe made 65 mid-sized cookies.

400g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
or   350g flour (ditto), 50g ground almonds, 25g flaked almonds
1 tsp bicarb of soda
225g dairy free baking margarine
175g caster sugar
175g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
35g chocolate chips ( I used Callebaut 53.8% cocoa solids - these say 'may contain milk', so not suitable for those with extreme milk allergy, but ok for lactose intolerant))
1 tsp instant coffee

Mix flours and baking soda - whisk or sieve together
Cream margarine and sugars together, then add eggs and coffee granules.  Mix to a smooth batter.  Stir in chocolate chips and flaked almonds if using.

Place on lined tins and bake at 170C for about ten minutes, until tinged golden.  Only put about five on a tray at a time as they spread a lot.  Cool for a few minutes before attempting to move them so that they harden a little and the chocolate is less runny.  I find that it is easier if I move the lining paper/silicon sheet onto the cooling rack while I dollop out more cookie dough onto the sheet.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Apple cobbler using frozen topping

I froze cobbler topping in July, thinking this might be an easy way of making a fruit pudding with very little effort.  I froze spoonfuls on a baking sheet, then put them in a plastic bag once they were solid.

Today I made a lot of apple sauce for the freezer, and put some in a baking dish with these cobbler blobs on top.  I sprinkled the whole thing with some demerera sugar and cinnamon and put it in the over at 180C for twenty minutes and then lowered the temperature to 160C for a further fifteen minutes.

The cobbler is fluffy in the middle and crisp on top - an excellent partner to the tart apple base.  This is such an easy way to be able to have a pudding, and the cobbler doesn't take up much room in the freezer.  Being frozen in individual spoonfuls means you can make a one person desert it you want.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

New Baxters gf soups

I like the way Baxters put big symbols on their soups to show they are gluten free.  They also have several that taste very good, especially the 'Deli-inspired' bowls that are heatable in the microwave and shaped to eat straight out of the dish.  I find these make a meal for two with some rice or bread.  They are not all gluten-free so do check.  They include flavours like 'sweet potato & channa dahl lentils with chickpeas'.

A new range in the normal easy-open tins has just turned up in my local store.  I bought two to try.  Today's lunch was a Stay Full Spiced butternut squash and edamame bean soup.  It is mildly spiced and very beany.  It counts as three of your veg portions if you eat the whole can.  It is certainly a substantial soup.

I havent yet tried the other one I bought- Beetroot, tomato and buckwheat soup. I fully expect to enjoy it.

If you like Baxters soups and are passing through Selkirk, Scottish Borders, their factory store has a restaurant and knowledgable staff, as well as varieties of soup I haven't seen anywhere else.

Back to the decorating...

How to visit friends

Sometimes it feels like the simplest thing would be to stay home and get all your food delivered and never spend time in the contaminated wheat-ridden world.  Getting people to shower and change when they came to visit would be nice. However, if this doesn't suit you, there are some precautions you can take to making it a little more likely you can enjoy your friends company and not spend all your time gazing at the door of their loo.

Take some food with you.  People get uneasy when they are eating and you don't.  Pack something that you can eat while holding the wrapper so that you reduce the chance of getting gluten on your food from your fingers.  Remember, their sofa, chair back, novels, baby photos...all will be covered with invisible gluten.  Their cutlery will live in a drawer that has crumbs in it.

Don't allow your niceness to persuade you to eat food made specially for you using normal dishes.

Accept a tea or coffee unless you have an important day following, but be aware that unless they use a dishwasher you will probably get some gluten contamination from the cup.

Take some glutenzyme capsules with you.  Before I discovered these I couldn't spend an afternoon with my friends as the gut ache would start after an hour, and the brain fog an hour later, even if I didn't eat or drink anything. Taking one of these every hour allows me to enjoy my afternoon.  I buy these off the Internet.  Make sure you get ones that are lactose free if necessary.  You can order them from your local chemist.  With these I can stay for several days at my sister's house, without them I need to leave after a couple of hours (and she lives a five hour drive away; being able to stay is good).

Chose the right clothes.  Wear elasticated waistbands or clothes with belts where you can accommodate a sudden six inch increase in waist size.  Wear a long loose top so that the resulting gape between the zipper halves will be hidden.  A long loose dress allows a lot of expansion.

Carry hand wipes with you.  You can clean surfaces and hands.  I like Sani-hands, which have a textured surface on one side which is great for scrubbing.  I buy them in bulk off the Internet and always carry some.

Encourage people to eat as a separate activity from handling things.  I meet a group of friends who share an interest in the wilder end of embroidery - we look at each others work with clean hands and that reduces the spread of gluten.  I have handed someone a wipe and got them to clean their hands before looking at a book of mine...people do treat bread and biscuits as if they were clean items when the are not.

If you do get minor contamination, fennel tea can help with the colic, as well as medicines from your pharmacist.  If you have a day when you need to leave the house and feel well enough to go out, an anti-diarrhoea medicine can help give you some time.

Of course, a full scale contamination probably means you wont be able to do anything else for days, but the minuscule invisible contamination issues may be manageable with some of these tips.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Nature's Path gluten and wheat free Maple Sunrise and O's

I was sitting at moping one day as I had a nasty sinus infection, added to which the builders working on the house were using a paint which made my eyes feel as if they were being nibbled with mice.  A package arrived - I had been sent a couple of packs of gluten free cereals to try.  As I hadn't been able to get out shopping for a while I was very pleased.

I eat my cereal with apple sauce - I have several apple trees so that is always available.  Because of this I cannot tell you how they taste with milk.

The O's are firm and crisp and not too sweet.  I had a box with 325g, and it went quite fast as I ate small portions whenever I felt like a snack.  I would certainly buy these again if I saw them in the shop.  Gf cereals are often too sweet or salty, and I thought these had a very good balance.

The Maple Sunrise is very different.  It is made a variety of whole grains, including amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat.  The cereal comes as lots of different shapes as some of the grains/seeds are whole.  I found this cereal too sweet for me, but I tend to like things without half the sugar other people like.    I did find I grabbed a handful to sprinkle on top of fruit or just to eat plain.   It has a pronounced maple flavour, and I think it would be good sprinkled on top of vanilla ice-cream as a crunchy topping if you can eat ice-cream.

I had intended to try both of these as ingredients in recipes.  I think, for example, that the O's would be good for making a rocky road type of cake - usually made with broken biscuits.  The firm crunch would be good surrounded with chocolate.  However, I ate them all before I got around to this.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Flexible gluten free flatbreads/wraps

These wraps are soft enough to fold around fillings and make ahead for a packed lunch. This quantity makes four seven inch wraps.

Tapioca gel – 100ml water and 5g of tapioca flour.  Mix tapioca into cold water and cook until a clear gel, stirring continuously
120g gf flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
2 tsp oil

Mix flour into cooled tapioca gel and oil.  Knead until soft and smooth.  Wrap and leave to absorb water for ten minutes (you can use dough immediately but it is easier to handle if left to sit at room temperature).
Roll into circles that fit onto your griddle/pan. Use a floured board.
Heat pan – medium temperature.  Place flatbread on pan and leave to cook for a couple of minutes – it should form little air bubbles.  Turn over and cook second side.  You may want to press the edges down if they look like they are not cooking- just use a fish slice or equivalent.

Wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm as you cook the rest.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

super delicious lactose free hot chocolate

Ingredients: Kara coconut milk, Callebaut Belgian dark chocolate and Fabbri Vanilla Syrup

I used to enjoy hot chocolate occasionally, but always felt lumpen after drinking it.  Since I went completely gluten free I have discovered that I am quite severely lactose intolerant (the symptoms had been disguised by the even worse reaction to gluten) so haven't had a hot chocolate for ages.  Tonight is cold and I spent the afternoon at an animation model-making workshop in a chilly semi-outdoor space.  I needed warming up.

Sometime ago I bought some coconut milk in a carton, but hadn't tried it yet.  I like coconut and chocolate together so decided to try this as a base for a hot chocolate drink.  A mug full of this in a saucepan, a handful of dark chocolate chips (the ones I use for making brownies) and a glug of syrup usually used in coffee.  Heat while stirring until the chocolate is melted and the drink the temperature you want it to be.   Add the vanilla syrup to taste.  Excellent, safe,  and very little effort.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Best ever easy gluten free chocolate cake

For thirty years our standard family celebration cake was a giant devils food cake from the Cordon Bleu series of cook books.  I used to make multiple tiers in my fifteen inch pizza tins - think of the immense chocolate cake in the movie Matilda.  My copy of the book is annotated with notes on how many times to multiply the recipe to feed sixty, how many times the recipe can be increased before the batter won't fit in the food mixer, and spattered with lots of bits of chocolaty dough (now, of course, a hazard).

I realised I hadn't written up this recipe on the blog.  I looked for it today for another family party tomorrow. Our books are all in heaps as we have had builders doing some repairs to the library walls - a sudden panic when I thought I wouldn't be able to track the recipe down.

2x 8 inch / 20cm cake tins.  Ideally these should have loose bottoms to make turning out easy. Grease tins and line base with non-stick baking paper.

Set oven to 170C / 160C fan

175g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
25g ground almond (optional, helps with richness and keeping)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
285 g sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
125 soft baking margarine (or softened butter)
210ml water
60g cocoa

Sift/whisk flours, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together
Beat sugar and margarine together until light and fluffy
Mix cocoa and water together
Add eggs to sugar mixture, beating well
Add cocoa mixture and flour to sugar/egg mixture - add a bit of one, mix well, then a bit of the other, and so on until all incorporated
Beat until even texture and colour

Pour into prepared tins.  Bake for about thirty minutes at 170C/160C fan.  When baked, turn out onto cooling racks and remove the lining paper from the base.  Leave to cool completely before icing.

Many icings will be good with this.  I usually make a partially cooked one I invented because I was too lazy to spend time beating butter and icing sugar together.  It sets well to a soft fudgy texture, making the cake a little tidier to eat than a normal butter cream.

Icing Ingredients
75g butter
50ml water
30g cocoa
450g icing sugar

Icing method
Melt butter with water in a saucepan
sieve icing sugar and cocoa.  Add to water/butter mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Sandwich cakes together with some of the icing and then use the rest to cover the top and sides.  If you like a fugdy look to the icing let it cool slightly before putting on the top of the cake.  For a glossy finish make sure the icing is hot and pour it on the cake.  If it seems too thick to do this easily add a little water to the icing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Gluten-free seedy bread with Solanic potato protein

A pleasant soft brown loaf, good for sandwiches.

500g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
30 sunflower seeds
50g buckwheat
20g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla
20g solanic potato protein
2 tsp agave syrup
700ml water
3 tsp yeast
2 tbsp rape seed oil

Blitz seeds briefly to a texture you like in a blender - or leave whole if you want a rougher texture
Mix yeast into water if using the kind that need pre-hydrating
Mix all dry ingredients together (see note on yeast above)
Mix water, oil, syrup and vanilla together.
Mix wet ingredients into dry. Beat to be sure well mixed.  Pour into a greased tin or into the container of your bread maker.

If not using bread maker
leave to rise for an hour or two in a warm damp place (I use the oven with a tray of hot water in the bottom).  You should be able to see that the batter has risen but don't leave it to double in size.
Bake at 170C for 45 -55 minutes. It should sound a bit hollow when tapped on the bottom.

In bread maker - Panasonic.  Code 01, xl loaf, dark crust.  Pour batter into tin and set programme to run.

I added a bit more liquid than usual to avoid the cross shaped crack on the top, as suggested by the provider of the Solanic potato protein.  This did avoid the crack but left the bread a little too moist - I couldn't adjust the cooking time as I was using the bread machine with its fixed timings.

I sliced this and took it to a family party where half the people couldn't eat wheat or wheat and gluten and the whole party was gf.  Whilst it was impossible to make people fill in questionnaires about the bread it did seem to be appreciated and I have been asked for the recipe.  This bread was somewhat too moist, and could have done with a bit longer cooking.  However, compared to usual gf products which are hard to eat if  not toasted it was very good.  Add to that it has no dairy, no egg and very little fat, then the bread is exceptional.
variable airholes - used Solanic 301 P

Adding the Solanic potato protein meant that I could have a tall loaf with no slumping.  The basic mixture of flours, seeds and cocoa gave a light brown loaf.  This is a good mixture I will use again.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hagen Daz icecream shop, nr Piccadilly Circus, London - no gf icecream

Wandered along last night in the balmy dark looking for an icecream after a concert.  Found a Hagen Daz shop.  Normally wouldn't buy Hagen Daz as I regard it as a triumph of advertising over quality...but TT really wanted an icecream so in we went.  He was surprised by how good his praline and cream was.  They had three sorbets (lemon, raspberry and mango), and I was trying to decide whether to have all three flavours.

We asked if they had gf cones (not expecting them to, but I figure it increases knowledge just by asking).  The server said no, and also that they wouldn't recommend having any of the icecreams as they used the same scoop in all the tubs.  I asked if they had some sealed small tubs of sorbets for people with allergies/intolerances, but the answer was no.

So, full marks for the staff knowing about cross-contamination.  Minus marks for not having any information available on the menu board.  Minus marks for not dealing with the problem they had already identified.  If they just kept one type of sorbet in individual tubs they could offer that to people with nut, dairy and gluten problems.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

gluten free bread test using Solanic potato protein

solanic loaf

I have been trying out my new breadmaking machine.  Small loaves are very easy to make well, where finished height of the bread is about 4.5cm.  Increasing the dough volume to make a more traditionally sized loaf tends to lead to slumping as the lack of the elastic gluten means the dough cannot retain its air bubbles when baked.  This loaf was 9.5cm high.

first loaf - slumped
solanic loaf - didn't slump

I made a second batch of basic bread adding just 20g of Passionate 201 (  I had been sent samples to try through a Linkedin contact.  This is an additional 4% of dry ingredients in the bread dough.  I didn't try an equivalent loaf with just an additional 20g of my ordinary flour to be sure it wasn't just a reduction in the wetness of the dough that led to the differences, but I have made bread often enough to be sure that the considerable differences seen in bread without the protein and with the protein are due to the potato protein added.

500g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
625 ml water
3 tsp yeast (I have been using a lot more yeast than usual due to short rising time in the machine)
1 tbs agave syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp oil

PLUS 20g Solanic Passionate 201, just mixed in with the flour.  All other processes the same as the previous time - cooked on the large loaf, dark crust plain loaf setting (01) in the Panasonic bread machine.  Mixed ingredients tipped into tin and programme left to run.

As can be seen from the pictures the top of the crust did not sink when the potato protein was used.  The crumb was more even.  I think it was slightly too even to feel like bread - the texture seemed more like a madeira cake than bread. It may well be like a normal standard sliced loaf but I never ate that even before I gave up gluten.  My preferred breads are artisan sourdough types. I'll try it again with a smaller amount of the potato protein.

first loaf - some rolling of dough but cut while still warm

solanic loaf - clean cut, even shape
first loaf - less coherence (blade area of tin) and less even toasting

solanic loaf - even toast ( rolling of bread seen on loaf and also blade hole)

Please note that these bread recipes do not contain any of the usual gums that gluten free bread is made with, or eggs or cheese.  The urid lentils included in the flour give better cohesion than other gf flour options.

Butternut squash and raisin spice gf bread

I had some roasted butternut squash left over from supper last night.  Some went into a lasagna with left-over chilli, and the rest I mashed and based a sweet spicy bread around.  This bread is a warm tawny colour, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, soft in the middle and crisp on the outside.  An excellent snack with a cup of tea, buttered if that is how you like it.  It would be good with honey if you like a sweeter bread.

200g gf flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
200ml water
1 tsp yeast
75g roasted butternut squash, mashed
50g raisins
25g demerera sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp oil

Mix all the ingredients together to a sloppy, lumpy batter.  If you use the kind of yeast that needs to be started in water then remember to prepare that first.

Place in breadmaker and set on basic loaf.  My Panasonic has 01 as the basic setting, and I chose large loaf and medium crust to ensure it had long enough.

In a normal oven I recommend a one pound loaf tin, 170C and about 40 minutes. Place in greased tin and leave to rise in a warm moist environment for an hour or two.  You should be able to tell it has increased in bulk a bit but it won't have doubled in size.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing (though it sliced ok and tasted great when still warm).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Baking experiments - gf bread in a Panasonic bread machine - Phase 3: large white

Learning how the machine handles seedy bread and that with buckwheat. This time I decided to find out what the plain flour, water and yeast mixture produces - a 'white' bread

side view of loaf

500g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
625 ml water
3 tsp yeast (I have been using a lot more yeast than usual due to short rising time)
1 tbs agave syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp oil

Mix together in a bowl and pour into bread tin.  Set the Panasonic Bread maker on Setting 1 and tell machine it is an extra large loaf with a dark crust.  Lets see what will happen!

Well, what happened is that the batter rose a lot and collapsed when cooking.  Not a surprise really given how wet the mixture was.  If I was baking such a wet mix with so much yeast by hand I would have let it rise about a third more than the initial batter volume and then baked.  This turned out about 2.5 times as tall on the edges as the initial batter.  The batter was 5cm deep in the tin and the loaf is 12cm high at its tallest point.

collapsed top

However, despite the central collapse and the large hole left by the blade, the texture was even.  It hadn't produced the claggy bottom of the previous version, perhaps due to the different setting - but I don't know what difference telling the machine to do an extra large crust with a dark crust does.  There didn't seem to be any difference in the cooking time and there is no read out of the temperature.  I might ask Panasonic what these controls do to the cooking programme.
soft light slice

The bread is very soft and light - quite astonishingly so.  The slight rolling of the dough seen on the slice is probably due to my impatience - the bread was still slightly warm when I sliced it.  I find waiting for bread to cool in order to find out how it worked is the hardest part of baking.

note high sides and blade hole.  Shown next to bread 2
The initial cut through the middle of the loaf shows the dip in the middle and the hole left by the blade.  This may have been exacerbated by cutting before it was completely cold.

The bread toasted well the next morning though I couldn't cut it neatly.  The very light texture and the hole from the blade made this difficult.  As the bread is more moist than wheat bread the blade of the bread knife also tends to stick.

The trick is to manipulated the quantities of ingredients to get maximum lift with minimum risk of collapse.  I have some potato protein I have been sent to test as an aid for gluten free baking, so I think I will replicate this collapsed loaf with some of that to compare.

Baking experiments - gf bread in a Panasonic Bread Machine phase 2

The small loaf of bread I made yesterday worked very well.  I only used 200g of flour so thought I should see if it scaled up OK.  I made the same recipe with 500g of flour, the only difference was no seeds as I had run out.

500g flour (40% urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
625ml water
50g buckwheat, partially chopped in blender
3 tsp yeast
1 tbsp date syrup
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into baking machine pan

I set the process going, Rye 07 on the Panasonic, then part way through thought I should tell the machine I was making a large loaf (it has three settings).  It turns out that if you select the rye programme you can't adjust the size or colour settings.  Now, obviously, when I was studying the chart to start with I should have noticed this.  I didn't.

I am also not sure if I clicked the bowl with blade into place properly.  You can't test this by simply telling the machine to do a stir - a simple extra pulse button would be good.  I didn't look inside when it was in the kneading stage.  Yesterday, with the sunflower seeds in the bread, I could see in the finished loaf that the batter had been stirred as all the seeds were oriented by the blade in a circle.  I wondered because the blade was completely inside the loaf with I shook the bread out of the  tin.

I measured the temperature inside the loaf when it came out of the machine.  It was only 85C.  I waited until the loaf was nearly cold before cutting.  It is a little soggier than I would like so have put it back in the normal oven for thirty minutes. It would probably only have needed an extra ten minutes in the initial bake, but now it needs quite a bit of time to get back up to temperature.

When cooled I sliced the bread.  It is fine to eat but does show the slightly claggy layer at the bottom which shows that it didn't quite have the strength to hold the rise.  I would need to reduce the water.  The batter was very liquid.  I hadn't cut the liquid even though I had left out the seeds - I hadn't thought they would absorb liquid to any noticeable degree but it would appear they do.  The white blobs are the whole buckwheat grains - I didn't chop them as much as the previous loaf.

So, a bit more experimenting to do.  I don't think I would increase the loaf size given the dense base layer.  The loaf does produce a reasonable sized slice of bread.

The texture is lighter than a dense rye loaf but has some of the same moistness.  It holds together well and has a good flavour. It has enough integrity to make sandwiches and does not crumble when handled.

It sliced very easily and didn't disintigrate.  I have put the slices in the freezer in a polythene bag with non-stick paper between the slices.  The bread goes weird after two or three days at room temperature so is best stored frozen in individual portions.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Baking gf bread in a bread machine

I have been working on recipes/mixes which are suitable for people who are busy or not confident in baking. The plan is to have these recipes worked up so that when my flour mix is produced by Shipton Mill next month the recipes are available.

One of these is bread using a bread machine.  I bought a Panasonic bread machine last week.  The first test this morning produced excellent bread.

250ml water
200gm flour (40% urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
50g buckwheat - lightly smashed in a blender (optional)
15g sunflower seed
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp date syrup
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp oil

I used the rye setting rather than the gluten free setting, as it seemed closest to the timings I would use if making the bread by hand.  The first test produced a short loaf - the ingredients are sufficient to make a loaf in a small bread tin, and the container in the bread machine is large.  I'll run tests with other quantities later.

I had hoped to be able to mix the ingredients before the initial waiting time - all the recipe have this dormant period at the start - I don't know why.  I would normally let my ingredients sit for hours before shaping as this improves digestibility - I use processes similar to making sour dough bread. However, there didn't appear to be a button you could just press to activate the stirring action, so I rather awkwardly stirred things together with a silicon spatula.  Next time I would just mix all the ingredients first in a bowl and then pour into the bread pan.

sloppy mix in pan

I switched on, peering in every now and then.  I worried that the dough wouldn't be mixed as it is more of a batter and the rotating blade doesn't reach into the corners of the bread pan.

I worried it wouldn't rise properly, especially since I used the kind of yeast that should really be started off in warm water for ten minutes before adding to flour and I just chucked it in with the rest of the ingredients.  I worried it would stick to the paddle - after all it gets baked with the paddle still in the bread - so I added the teaspoon of oil and stirred it in.  I worried.

the paddle in action

the dough rising
After three and a half hours the machine went ping and I lifted out the loaf.  A few good shakes and the loaf came out of the tin and the paddle stayed attached to the tin and not stuck in the loaf.  The bread was an even texture and well risen.  The texture was moist. The flavour was delicious - haven't tried the teaspoon of cocoa before but it helped give a warm flavour and 'wholemeal' look.  Cocoa without the usual sugar and milk products is good for you - full of anti-oxidants, so I figure it is fine in a wholesome loaf.

top of loaf

bottom of loaf- hole where paddle sits

loaf pan - released well

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the woe of the disappearing potatoes - Pizza Express change their menu and so reduce the gluten free options

For a brief period Pizza Express had a side dish of potatoes cooked with rosemary and olive oil.

They were delicious, and meant that a salad without any of the bread products became a meal.  Living with  people that regard pizza as the highest culinary achievement, being able to enjoy a safe meal at Pizza Express is a valued part of my life.  The chefs expressed regret that the potatoes were no longer available - so I don't know why they were discontinued.

I tried a new salad - it had roasted aubergine and artichokes with goats cheese salad.  It comes with lentils, and is dressed with a vinaigrette.  Whoever balanced the recipe obviously tried it with the bread that should accompany it.  On its own the salad tasted thin and not very satisfying.   I had thought the lentils might make up for the loss of the potatoes / usual bread, but there were only a few and they weren't really noticeable.  I asked for extra lentils and some of the balsamic dressing that normally comes with the Bosco salad.  This made the salad more substantial and less sour.  If you try this salad do ask for an extra helping of these if you think they would improve the flavour - after all you are paying for the bread even though you aren't eating any.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cafe Rouge - what about a gluten free christmas party?

Last year I gave the Cafe Rouge a gold star for a safe and interesting place to eat - provided you can afford the time you need for the meal to be served.  This year I have to take the gold star away even though I did eat there and didn't get ill afterwards. They have had a year to improve and seem to have gone backwards in the choices they offer.

They do publish allergens on the Internet, though it the current one only lasts until Oct 11, so not much use if planning a Christmas meal.  For the first time, I was offered the list when I asked to check something.  However, it is in very tiny writing, and doesn't make it clear which component of a menu item isn't safe.  For example, I wanted a sorbet, then decided to check.  Surely it would be gluten free.  Sorbet is mentioned on the line 'icecream and sorbet' and states it has gluten in.  Is this just the wafer that would normally come with it?  No one knew.  I handed my raspberry sorbet over to someone else to eat.  I don't understand how they can carry foods where they don't know the ingredients.

I ate the duck a year ago - it was said to be safe.  This year that item has gluten in.  The only safe meals were the steaks (some of the sauces have gluten so check), the mussels, and the lemon sole.  After my courageous and unsuccessful attempt to eat a scallop last month I decided not to try a great dish of mussels. Didn't want to eat steak. Had to eat the lemon sole - which was fine, but the accompanying vegetables were too few and not well cooked.  Just as well I managed to give up being a vegetarian before I discovered it was gluten causing all the trouble.

I was eating there as it was a leaving party for an old acquaintance.  Glad to have gone as lovely to see everyone, but disappointed in the meal.

I wrote to ask Cafe Rouge why the duck was on the safe list last year and isn't now.  I have got no reply.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Catering for a Private View

My embroidery group have their first group exhibition on at the moment, so I insisted on catering for the Private View.  I made carrot muffins, vanilla cupcakes, macarons and mini quiche. As I used a mini muffin tin for everything except the macarons, each item was one or two bites. The quiche are on two separate trays.  They were flavoured with roasted peppers, Parmesan and brie, and basil pesto with pine kernels.

I realised doing this that, though I make the carrot muffins regularly I haven't put the recipe on the blog as I devised the recipe before I started keeping records this way.  I'll put the recipe and method on later.

Of course I over-catered.  We had invited sixty people but only about thirty turned up.  This is usual, but it would be shame to have the food run out.  I had gone prepared with little food-grade paper bags so I could send people home with cakes.

I had originally intended to make samosas too, but decided against that as I would have had to set up the fryer.  It would have been better to have more choice of savoury food.  Also, the macarons were very sweet, and my initial test of a coffee flavoured one would have been good.  The lime and orange macarons were appreciated, but a bigger contrast of flavour would have been useful.

Quantities: Double carrot muffin recipe, single vanilla cake  recipe, pastry made with 250g butter and 500g flour, and two quantities of macorons recipe.

This would certainly be sufficient for sixty people.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

macarons or macaroons?

Recipes for macarons keep coming to my attention.  A naturally gluten free food, though one I couldn't buy from a bakery as it would be made in a contaminated environment.  So, why bother learning to make them?  Well, I have a Private View in a few days, and I need bite sized foods that can be made ahead and be enticing.

The first step was to understand the difference between macarons and macaroons.  They both have the same ingredient - meringue and ground almonds.  As I see it, macaroons are the country cousins - simple, unfussy, and whatever size and shape comes naturally.  Macarons are the haute-couture end - total precision, aspects which don't affect taste still matter, and produced in wild colours and a myriad of flavours.

The first macarons I made were not smooth on the top.  However, the mixture that I scraped from the inside of the piping bag and dolloped on the tray did have that smooth shiny surface and the slightly bubbly looking 'foot'.  Reading a few more recipes and I have decided that I whipped the meringue slightly too stiffly, was too gentle with my folding, and should have blitzed the ground almonds to be a bit finer.  The mix needs to be sloppier than you would want a meringue if you were making a pavlova.

There is an important stage of leaving the trays of raw mixture blobs to sit and dry for a while.  I couldn't see the difference between the ones that I left for fifteen minutes and the ones I left for half an hour (the recipe said to bake one tray at a time).  Being able to leave these once piped makes this a lower stress job. They need to be left long enough that the top drys a bit - one blog said until they weren't sticky anymore.  The time this takes will vary depending on how humid the weather is.

The next uncertainty is how long they keep.  One blog said eat immediately, or freeze. Another said you need to leave the filled macarons for between one and four days (depending on filling) for the moisture balance to be right.

The little cooked macarons that I made are very munchable, though really more like mini macaroons.  We will keep trying them over the next few days to see if the texture changes. In the mean time, the fantasist in me is having a lovely time planning flavours and colours, though I probably wont go as far as the gold leaf.

Initial macaron blog - came to through a twitter feed

a master class - useful information about textures

I've been thinking  orange would be good:

and maybe coffee

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Mini quiche - canapes for a Private View

I am catering for a Private View next week - I insisted on providing the food so that I could enjoy myself safely.  Pondering what to make...perhaps some macarons, which seem to turn up everywhere at the moment but I have never made or carrot cakes..but there needs to be something savory too.  I had about 150g pastry left over in the fridge from making the Venison pie last week, so I left it to come to room temperature and made some quick mini quiches.

Makes ten little savory tarts

150g pastry - made with 1/3 butter, 2/3 my gf flour mix.
One egg
1 tbs grated Parmesan
Roasted red peppers from a jar
Camembert or other cheese - ten little pieces for top of tarts

Bake for 12 minutes at 180C.  Made in a mini muffin tin, using a pastry stomper to shape pastry.

Divide pastry up into ten pieces.  Roll into balls.  Place a ball of pastry in each depression in the muffin tin and stomp the pastry into shape (the stomper is a wooden dumb-bell shaped to make this an easy one-move action).  Otherwise press out with fingers.  Don't worry about being  too neat.

Place a piece of red pepper in each pastry case.  Mix the egg with the grated Parmesan.  Add herbs, pepper or other flavouring if you want.  Cover the pepper with the egg.  Don't fill right to the top as the mixture will expand on cooking.  Top with a piece of cheese.

Bake until golden brown - about twelve minutes.  Cool on rack.  These can be frozen until needed.  As they are tiny they would be fine taken straight to a venue frozen and they will thaw in about half an hour.

This was just a test run.  I will make sufficient for sixty people this weekend and take to the gallery next Thursday.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Making lentil flour

I have been asked how to make lentil flour by MusicFoodLife

"Can you explain how to make lentil flour?  Do you need to cook it first, or do you just clean and grind it?


I don't cook the lentils first.  I am slightly ashamed to admit I never even clean it- I just tip the lentils straight from the packet into the flour mill!

There are three ways  to get the flour:

The first is to find a supplier that provides it ready ground.  The urid lentils I use are availailable from Indian retailers - often labelled Papad flour.  Southern Indians use this lentil flour in their dhosa and other fried/steamed foods.

If you can't find it pre-ground their are two ways to make the flour.

The traditional southern Indian way is to soak the lentils first and then grind them.  Soaking and the usual slow fermentation releases extra nutritional value in the lentil.  If you do this you need a good blender (or the traditional heavy flat stone and stone roller and lots of effort).  Just whizz with some of the liquid until you get a smooth paste.  You can then use this as the start of any recipe that has liquid in it, though it may be difficult to make pastry as that usually has very little water added.  I haven't tried that.

The third route is to grind it in a flour mill.  Again a blender used dry may work.  A coffee/spice grinder should work.  I have a flour mill which does an excellent job but this may be beyond most people's means.  I got one when I realised how awful the pre-packed gluten free four in the UK was, and I tried making flour out of anything I could think of.

I hope this helps - feedback from anyone who tries this would be useful.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Easy mushroom, lentil and butternut squash bake

This warming winter bake combines a spicy savoury base with a sweet starchy topping.  It is vegan, nutritious, and easy to make.

Serves 2 as a one dish meal, 4 as part of meal with extra vegetables, potatoes etc

onion - 1 chopped
sunflower oil
brown or green lentils - 1 can or half a cup dried
mushrooms 600g, sliced
red pepper - 1
hot paprika 1/2 to 1 tsp
mustard 1 tsp
butternut squash 1 medium
olive oil 1 tbsp

Cook the onion in the oil over a medium heat until translucent.  Add the dried lentils to the pan and stir to coat, then top with enough water to cover the lentils.  Cook until soft, checking that it doesn't dry out - about twenty minutes.  If using canned pre-cooked lentils add these to the pan and then continue with the recipe.

Add paprika, mustard and pepper.  If you want a deeper flavour some gf soy or Umami paste can be added.

Add the mushrooms and the red pepper, cut into chunks.
Cook for ten minutes until mushrooms are soft.  The mixture will shrink as the mushrooms cook.

If your mixture is too dry add water, if too wet then either boil to reduce or add a little cornflour, mixed first in a little water.  Stir this in, bring to the boil, and this will give a thicker gravy.

Butternut squash- cut in half and microwave in a suitable container until soft.  This will take about ten minutes.  Let it cool until you can handle it, remove the peel and seeds, and smash.  If the squash is cooked then the peel will come off easily.  If you don't want to use a microwave peel and chop the squash and steam until soft.  Mix a little  olive oil in to the mash.

Put the mushroom stew into a suitable oven proof dish - about 1 to 1.5 litre capacity.  Gently put spoonfuls of mashed butternut squash on top of the mushroom mixture.  Bake for half an hour until the top begins to brown.  You can also eat this without baking, as a stew and side of mashed squash.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Triple Ginger Cake

This cake has a warm spicy flavour from its three types of ginger - fresh, crystallised and dried.  The flavour improves when the cake is kept for a few days, so it is great as a bake ahead treat.

This recipe is based on the Ginger Butter Cake in Williams-Sonoma "Essentials of baking" p 100.

Preheat oven to 170C (fan)
Line 2 small or one large loaf tin with baking parchment

140g crystallised ginger, minced
80ml Grand Marnier
250g gf flour (40%urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
185g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g icing sugar
1 tbsp golden or agave syrup
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Grated zest 1 orange
7.5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
125 ml milk

Soak the minced crystallised ginger in a bowl with the Grand Marnier for at least ten minutes.

Sift together dry ingredients.

Combine butter, sugar and syrup and beat by hand or mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time. Add orange zest and grated ginger.  Stir in flour mixture, milk and crystallised ginger in Grand Marnier.

Spread batter into tins.  Bake until the cake is set when you insert a knife - about 40 minutes for small tins, 55 for the larger tin. If the cake is getting too brown while it still isn't cooked lower the heat.

Cool in the pan for five minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Cover with a damp towel if you want the outside to stay soft when it cools - otherwise you get a slightly crisp edge.

Dust with icing sugar if wanted.

Venison, Ale and Mushroom pie

I based this recipe on one from  UKTV Food.  This pie has a crisp golden pastry and succulent rich filling.  Pureed beans and onion thicken the sauce.  If you don't want to puree them just add them to the rest of the ingredients at the start of the slow cooking stage.

Serves 6-8

1 pack diced venison (c340g)
1 pack mushrooms (c 200g)  I used chestnut
1 bottle beer - I used Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales GFA Gluten and Wheat Free Ale
2 onions - chopped
2 carrots- diced
3 cloves garlic - squashed
vegetable oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 tsp dried
stock / water - I used chicken as I always have that available in the freezer.
1 small can beans -  cannellini / borlotti or gf baked beans
1 tbsp tomato paste

500 g gf flour (40%urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
250 butter
water to bind
egg wash for pastry top if wanted (an egg beaten with a little water, brushed on to pastry before cooking).

Trim any cartilage from the venison pieces. Dry with paper towel.  This will make it spit less when you fry it.

Cover the bottom of your pan with a thin layer of oil.  Place individual pieces of meat in this oil when hot and allow to brown.  Don't over-crowd the pan; you may need to do it in two batches.  When the meat is brown set aside in another dish.

Put the onion and whole squashed garlic cloves in the pan and cook slowly until translucent.  Add extra oil if needed. Remove from the pan.

Cook the carrots and mushrooms for two or three minutes then add the meat back to the pan.  Add the stock, ale, thyme, tomato paste and pepper, and also salt if you want to.  The liquid should cover the meat. Put the lid on and simmer gently for 1.5 hours, checking the levels of the liquid every half hour or so.  If it is getting dry add some water.

Meanwhile, put the cooked onions, garlic and the can of undrained beans in a blender and puree. This will form the thickened gravy for the pie. You can leave the onions and beans unpureed if you prefer.

When the meat and vegetables have cooked for the hour and a half, add the bean and onion puree.    Check for seasoning.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the gravy is the texture you like.  This stew is now ready to be eaten by itself, frozen for another occasion, or used as the pie filling.  Leave to cool before making the pie.

To make the pastry: cut the butter into the flour either by hand or in the food processor.  Add water a little at a time until the dough coheres in a slightly claggy ball.  Wrap in cling film and set aside for at least fifteen minutes for the flours to absorb the water.  If you make it ahead of time, keep it in the fridge but allow it to come to room temperature before rolling out or it will be too stiff to work.

Roll pastry out on a floured board to fit your pie dish or dishes.  This recipe is enough for two 1 pint /  half litre pie dishes.  If you aren't sure of the fit of your dishes, measure how much stew you have and see how that much water fits into your dish.  Place a layer of pastry in the bottom of the dish and put the cooled filling in.  Dampen the top edge of the pastry and place on the top layer of pastry.  Crimp or fork the edges together.  Brush egg wash on if you want a deeper golden and shiny pastry.  Bake for 35 minutes at 170C until pastry is golden brown.

Left over pastry can be made into jam tarts, or rolled out and frozen between greaseproof paper sheets until wanted.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

trying to buy a treat - what's wrong with sorbet and chocolate?

I stopped at the National Trust cafe in Boscastle for a coffee and treat.  The man who runs is is passionate about quality, though his expertise is coffee.  The coffee was very good - flavoursome with none of that bitter or sour tang so often encountered.

They had mini tubs of melon sorbet, and I thought that would be lovely - started hunting for the spoon hidden in the lid and noticed, in tiny writing, that it had wheat in!  Took it back to the counter for a swap, didn't want the brownie as it had xanthum gum, nor the lemon drizzle cake (available individually packaged) or the Mrs Crimble coconut thing.

Little bars of gf organic luxury chocolate - that would do.  Hadn't had any chocolate for ages and I like that with coffee.  I bought a Nero & Bianco orange chocolate bar.

I unwrapped it, took a bite, and was completely astounded.  TT tried some too.  I took it to the chef and insisted he try some.  It didn't taste of chocolate at all and the closest I can think of as a description of the texture is plasticine.  You might be able to see from the bite marks on the chocolate that is has a gooey texture.

Uncle Ben's Rice Time - some are suitable for coeliacs/gluten free

I spotted an ad for Uncle Ben's Rice Time - little duo pots of rice and sauce.  As always on the hunt for food that can safely eaten while travelling I had a look at their website. I don't currently buy any of their products, but could be tempted to try these just for sheer convenience.

 I couldn't find an easy list of what was suitable or not on their website so wrote to the company.  A few days later this helpful list arrived.  I will write back and check how many ppm of gluten they count as suitable for coeliacs, as the UK standard has too much in for me

Dear Lois 

Please find below a list of Dolmio and Uncle Ben's products that are currently suitable for a Coeliac diet

Sauce for Bolognese: Original, Original Low Fat, Organic, Extra Onion & Garlic, Extra Mushrooms, Extra Spicy, Tomato Sauce for Lasagne, Creamy Sauce for Lasagne, Roasted Onion & Garlic Lasagne Sauce
Chunky Sauces for Bolognese: Sweet Pepper, Mediterranean Vegetable, Summer Vegetables
Taste of Italy Sauces for Pasta: Tomato & Mediterranean Vegetables, Tomato & Basil, Tomato & Garlic, Tomato & Chilli
Microwaveable Pouches: Spicy Italian Chilli, Sun Ripened Tomato & Basil, Carbonara
Microwaveable Bolognese Pouches: Original, Extra Mushroom, Extra Onion & Garlic
Pasta Bakes: Carbonara, Creamy Tomato, Sun Dried Tomato & Cheese, Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable
Stir-In Sauces: Sweet Pepper, Sun Dried Tomato, Sun Dried Tomato Light, Oven Roasted Vegetables, Smoked Bacon & Tomato, Creamy Carbonara, Slow Roasted Garlic & Tomato, Cherry Tomato & Pesto, Spicy Tomato & Sweet Onion, Pepperoni
My Dolmio Sauces: Creamy Tomato Sauce, Tomato & Cheese Sauce, Tomato & Pepperoni Sauce
My Dolmio Squeeze Me Pasta Sauces: Tomato & Basil, Creamy Tomato, Tomato & Cheese

Oriental Sauces: Sweet & Sour Original, Sweet & Sour Light, Sweet & Sour Extra Pineapple, Lemon Chicken,
Indian Sauces: Korma, Tikka Masala, Medium Curry, Hot Curry, Balti
Mexican Sauces: Mild Chilli, Medium Chilli, Hot Chilli
Thai Sauces: Thai Coconut Curry,
Rice: Wholegrain, Long Grain, Long Grain boil-in-the-bag, Wholegrain boil-in-the-bag, Basmati boil-in-the-bag
Express Rice: Long Grain Express Rice, Basmati Express Rice, Pilau Express Rice, Vegetable Pilau Express Rice, Golden Vegetable Express Rice, Mushroom Express Rice, Mexican Style Express Rice, Savoury Chicken Flavoured Express Rice, Wholegrain Express Rice, Lemon & Rosemary Express Rice, Special Fried Express Rice, Tomato & Basil Express Rice, Spicy Mexican Express Rice, Long Grain Wild Express Rice, Basmati & Thai Express Rice, Thai Curry Express Rice, Wholegrain & Mediterranean Vegetable Express Rice, Tandoori Express Rice, Mixed Pepper Express Rice, Egg Fried Express Rice, Thai Sweet Chilli
Risotto: Tomato & Herb, Chicken & Mushroom, Bacon & Mushroom, Mediterranean Vegetables
Rice Time (Twin Pots with sauce and rice): Medium Curry, Tikka Masala, Sweet & Sour, Mexican Chilli

Mars Food UK Limited, exercises every care in providing this product information, changes may occur in the future.

If you need any further information or advice please contact our Consumer Careline on the telephone number below and one of our Consumer Care Advisors will be more than happy to help you. 

Kind regards. 

Paula Ricketts 
Consumer Care Team 
0800 952 1234 

Madhatters Tea Shop- Launceston, Cornwall - gluten free

I ate at a cafe in Boscastle, The Spinning Wheel, which proudly announced gluten free foods, supplied by Mad Hatter's.

I ordered a cornish pasty.  I was pleased it was available, but when it came found it inedible.  The pastry had crumbled just in getting it to the plate, the filling was nasty, and the herb flavour of the pastry dominated everything.  Still, I was impressed it was available. As an incessant baker I was disappointed, but I am sure it is better than most of the gf foods available through stores.

However, what impressed me less was that I couldn't find out what was in the pasty.  I asked about the flour, as I am assiduous about avoiding baking levels of xanthum gum.  The waitress said they couldn't tell me what was in it - they asked but were refused.  I am sure this cannot be legal - as a part time baker of foods I have to supply clients with a full list of ingredients.  As it was, the waitress spoke to someone on the phone and they said there was no xanthum gum in the pastry.  The salad was bare as they did admit that the vinegar was malt, but I couldn't find out what the coleslaw was slathered in so I left that.

Trying to meet the needs of people with food intolerances is hard work.  Trying to protect recipes ( if they produce excellent food) makes sense.  However, you do need to list ingredients in quantity order as a producer, so why should this cafe not be told what was in the food they bought and advertised on a large board as being gluten free?

I went to the cafe in Launceston to talk to the staff - I was on holiday in the area for the day.  The shop was closed as it was Saturday afternoon.  I may email them and ask why the cafe they supply will not tell customers what is in the food - when I posted this I immediately got a note from a customer saying that they are very happy to talk about what was in their food at Mad Hatter's.

I am reminded of asking about the ingredients in a Butternut squash curry at a service station.  After a wait of at least five minutes the server came back and said the only allergen listed was shellfish.  Who would have thought the dish that looked like the only hot meal suitable for vegetarians in would have shellfish!

I have been in cafes before where the staff insisted that as the food was supplied centrally they did not know what was in each dish.  In those cases I left.  I do find this casual attitude to essential information in the food industry appalling.