Ages ago I said to my sister-in-law that I would make her daughters' wedding cakes if they wanted. Well, that remark was remembered, and as a result I am flying to Sweden in July to make a purple and silver chocolate cupcake tower for my niece, who has coeliac disease and also wheat intolerant. I suppose I should have realised that this wouldn't be an English affair, as at the time the family lived in Mongolia.
It sounded simple. I have never been to Sweden but often wanted to take a trip around Scandinavia. First choice would be to have my husband drive the campervan there for the wedding so that I could stay safely, bake the cakes, have an adventure around the wedding. Unfortunately, though retired, he is working and can't take the month off that I would like. So, could I drive the van myself? No, not on a trip of that length. There used to be a ferry to Sweden - it still shows up on a google search, but it no longer runs. A ferry to Denmark, drive, ferry, drive, or via the Eurotunnel and a lot of driving. I didn't manage to get used to driving the van in the UK last November as planned due to the house suddenly getting a buyer, and only drove the Smart car in France, so don't think a three to four thousand mile trip on the 'wrong' side of the road makes sense as a first solo journey.
Rent a flat in the town and fly there. That made sense. I found a cheap flat a few minutes walk from the station on the internet, but after 'booking' it got a note saying it wasn't available. All other self catering options were wooden cabins were thirty km away from the town - great for a boating/sauna holiday but not so good for getting cakes make and delivered. I looked into hiring a cabin at the Boras campsite, but they have very little catering equipment and are surprisingly expensive. Renting a campervan on arrival at the airport would also cost a lot and the van would be likely to have an invisible layer of gluten on all surfaces.
One of the hotels in the town said they took special efforts to meet extra needs and even mentioned gluten. I booked with them even though they were the most expensive hotel in town. If I get glutened I can't do anything, so being cautious makes sense. In the meantime offers of the church ovens and the future mother-in-law's means that the baking can happen.
I almost booked the whole thing on the internet, but then thought that maybe, as I wanted something a bit unusual, I should try a travel agent. The Co-op in Worcester couldn't even find Sweden in their system. However, I did eventually get a flight with better timings than the one I had found on the internet - arriving at midday in a strange place is much better that last thing at night when you still have to travel 30km. I booked the hotel separately - more expensive, but at least it is done.
The travel agent rang the airline to check that it would be ok for me to take flour and baking kit in my luggage. It hadn't occurred to me to check, so that was a useful thing to have done. I have to get all the baking kit in my 23kg of luggage allowance. I need to take all the fancy stuff like cupcake cases, sparkles and other decorations, I would prefer to take the baking trays as baking gf really needs properly clean tins which have not been used for wheat flour. They, however, are heavy, especially if you take enough to allow 150 cupcakes to be make without it being a whole day activity. I also want to take my giant tiered cake-stand. It is plastic and folds down, but even so it is quite large and heavy.
And the flour? Well, Shipton Mill still haven't brought out the flour mix so I will need to grind, mix and package the flour here before I go. I have been experimenting with my usual chocolate cake recipe, and making it premixed - just add eggs, oil and water, stir, put in cases and bake. I tried out a batch on my embroidery chums. They were complementary on the cakes, but the three that took a batch of the mix to bake for themselves haven't reported back yet. I wanted feedback on how robust the mix was with different ovens as I have no idea what kind of ovens I will end up using. If the cake is easy to make and the instructions clear it gives another level of safety if I do get sick - then pretty well anyone will be able to make the cakes even with very little supervision.
As to what I shall wear? I think I will take my baking clothes, but don't reckon there will be room for a posh frock. As long as the cake looks great I suppose I only have to look clean and tidy - must remember not to go to the ceremony with chocolate batter and icing all over myself.
Monday, 28 May 2012
I started testing bread recipes using a flour mix that has no tapioca in. For a long time I have used a standard flour mix with urid lentils, tapioca and cornmeal that gives very good results. However, my step-daughter seems to be unable to tolerate the tapioca, and I know that some people do find this flour difficult.
What with my travels, catching up on normal life and then wrenching my foot badly my planned experiments took a back seat. However, I tried a plain loaf and a fruited loaf the other day using one third each of the urid lentil flour, brown rice flour (which I just bought from the supermarket so do not know what kind of rice) and yellow cornmeal. To 600g of this mix I added 1.5 tsp yeast, a tbsp of agave syrup and sufficient water to make a batter ( I think about 800ml). I also included 30g of potato protein, which helps gf breads not slump, but this is not yet available to domestic consumers. In the past I found that provided I kept breads below 5cm/2inches and didn't let them rise above the tin they were fine without this.
I poured the batter into the tins, left them to rise in a warm moist oven, and when they nearly reached the top of the tin put the oven on. The loaves were baked for 50 minutes at 175C, the little rolls baked in muffin tins were baked for 25 minutes. Remember that this includes the time taken for the oven to get hot. I find that it is better to leave a gf loaf for longer than you think necessary rather than have an inadequately cooked middle, so if you don't feel sure the bread is done take it out of the tin and put back in the oven for a few more minutes.
The plain loaf did slump a little but does not have a layer of gluey dough. It is ok to eat plain - just a bit more crumbly than my usual loaf. I made good croutons with some diced bread, a squirt of oil and some garlic, baked until crisp. Any left over bread can be turned into breadcrumbs and kept into the freezer until you want to crisply coat something. Two days later it is still easy to slice without crumbling.
The second loaf and the buns were made from the same batter but with added ingredients. As this was a first test, and my foot still wouldn't bear my weight, the recipe was an informal and unrecorded handful of this and that. I added more sugar, some vanilla, a bit of cocoa, about a cupful of chopped dried apricots I had cooked with water to go with breakfast pancakes, some dried blueberries and cranberries. I also added a tablespoon of oil. This mixture made a smooth loaf with good holding qualities. Two days later it still slices well and is moist without being cloying. It is sufficiently good that I will work up a proper recipe.
The basic loaf needs a bit more work, but it is promising. I found that tapioca gave a smooth chewiness to baked goods, whereas rice tended to give a gritty texture. I always disliked Doves Farm flour for anything other than pancakes and choux pastry because things fell apart and had a lousy rough texture, and thought it was due to the rice.
I am hoping to create a bread mix as tasty and well-behaved as my usual lazy seedy bread. I think next time I will add buckwheat for the additional flavour a well as seeds.