Sunday, 29 July 2012

Heidi Parker and Danai Gabre's wedding

Cakes delivered to the wedding venue on a morning of rain and thunder.  Went back to the church a couple of hours before the ceremony, and I donned my bakers hat, blue disposable catering gloves and my apron.  I didn't check that my mother had managed to take a photo with my no photo of this funny garb available.

The purple cupcakes towered high and spread around the stand.  Even in the gloom the purple shows up well, but the topping didn't sparkle as much as I hoped.They were at the back of the church, with coffee and other drinks being provided for the end of the service while the formal photos were being taken.

The top cake was moved to the dining area to be the cutting cake late in the evening, rather than perch it on top and move it later.

The groom looked calm and elegant, waiting for the bride.  As she approached the door, seen through the glass windows, I, as the true psychologist I am, turned to watch the groom catching his first sight of her and he looked close to tears, which, manfully, were controlled.  Heidi always looks lovely, but in her simple gown and off the face veiling trimmed with diamante she looked stunning.  Three jolly flower girls and three elegant bridesmaids - it would be hard to imagine a prettier sight.

The service was conducted by the groom's father, seen here with Heidi and Danai as they turn to be greeted as a married couple.

Of course I wasn't the only one that made use of this photo opportunity.

I kept a close eye out to see if the cakes were considered ok.  I once got told of a cupcake tower for a wedding where all over the place were pretty cupcakes with just a bite out of them.  No sign of any of that at all, I am please to say, and I finally tried one myself and thought they were delicious. I didn't get many good shots of people munching as the light levels were low and my camera is large and therefore difficult to get surreptitious photos with.  I did like this one of the stack being built.

You can also see that my mother wasn't completely fed up of chocolate cake after spending the previous three days with me in cake mode.

Even with cupcakes and a mulit-cultural dressing up booth the gap between wedding and meal feels very long for some.

There were some formal photos taken in a break in the rain near the church, and then more in a garden elsewhere.

The grass was wet and soggy and high heels were a menace.  Plenty of shots of bridesmaids barefooted, skirts hoisted.

I got included in one shot - so asked for my camera to be used.  About to include the one where I was looking the right direction but it has vanished completely, so here I am, tacked onto the nd of the row.  I was paying attention. My purple flower was excellent and went with the cupcakes beautifully, but hats are clearly not normal garb at this sort of scanidnavian/mulitcultural event.

 I have some charming movie of a bubble and confetti welcome back from this which I will extract some still photos later.

I took my own meal, even though the food was almost all gluten free and the two items that weren'te were clearly designated.  This was suitable for Heidi, and also another aunt of hers, her mother's sister, who says she even shares a wheat bread toaster.  I could tell I was getting a bit contaminated even with being scrupulous, and took four glutenzymes over the course of the event to keep the discomfort down. I left about nine, with lots more acting, singing, dancing etc to go. Had a leg cramp in the night but otherwise ok.

Back home, greeted by the sight of an empty dresser.

Friday, 27 July 2012

cakes and calm

My poor mother has been whisked off by my brother for a couple of hours.  I told her she would have to just keep out of my way, but I don't think she imagined being banned from the kitchen for so many hours.  When I am wearing my baking hat the kitchen is off limits - at one point I had a five star rating for my small baking business from the Heart of England Fine Food association, and it is hard to be any more slip shod than necessary working in a stranger's domestic kitchen.  She has been sitting in the living room with CNN on at full blast - the tv sound is erratic and vanishes for hours at a time, so she decided simply leaving it on once it worked would be best.  It is boring though, and she says she couldn't sit and watch tv all day.

Yesterday my brother and his family came for a visit, and they were force-fed chocolate cake and strawberries.  Wasn't sure if it was a good idea to get them to try the test cake - what if they had hated it?  Too polite so say I expect, but anyways, eaten and so fore warned.

My make-shift cooling racks stood up to the whole process.  They would have been less good for a any other form of cake, but they worked fine for the cupcakes.

All cakes made and stored in my dust/fly-free dresser- covered by a sheet.  The air here feels lovely and clean, and there are hardly any insects outside in the garden, but I prefer to be sure.

now you see it

now you don't

Started the day with icing the cutting cake.  I brought roll-out icing for the top to make it look a bit more formal, and needed a layer of buttercream to glue it in place.  There is a food mixer, and I am using the bowl all the time, as being metal I can be sure I have washed it adequately.  I won't use the mixer though as there is usually food debris in the stand and I don't want to risk an errant blob of wheat.  Fortunately I brought a rather fierce wrist brace, so with that and a disposable catering glove managed to do the whipping of the butter and icing sugar required.  This is the only bit of the whole task that is physically hard work.

Lilac icing on top, a pre-rolled icing ribbon around the edge, and some bits of glitter.  Upturned saucepan as a turntable. Not as neat as I would have liked, but there are lots of butterflies to attach tomorrow.  Just hope the cake is big enough to hold the spray.

Next job...make a big batch of my chocolate fudge icing and decorate the cupcakes.  I will need to add the sparkly sprinkles as I ice the cakes as it sets with a firm top and the decorations would just roll off.

My mother said she was worried she would be hungry living a gf life for five days, especially since we were arriving in strange house with our suitcases. She may well be feeling despair at the multitude of choices she has each mealtime, but she is not feeling hungry.  The local supermarket, about a mile away, has an excellent range of fruit and vegetables and biscuits, pasta etc that are gf.  Need to keep an eye out as lots of the stuff has wheat starch in, so not suitable for me or my brother and nieces - saw a lovely looking batch of crispbread and was about to buy it before I read the label.  I've been enjoying lemon wafers and cinnamon cookies, all being eaten in the interests of research. I have been unable to buy things like salad dressing as the ingredient lists are too difficult for me to decipher, but that is not too hard to bear.  Good olive oil, lemon, basil and dill growing in little pots...dill in the supermarket!  In England it is a very difficult herb to find.

May not want to go home, seems a shame not to do as the Swedes normally do, which is to live in a log cabin next to a lake for the summer.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Day 2 - enjoying breakfast and laying down the rules

A good night's sleep - aided by my hanging counterpanes over curtain rails and the bit of exercise kit in the doorway.  There is a lot of light and it is there most of the night.  I am sleeping upstairs in the office, which also has the boy's (grown-up) toys - the pull up bar in the doorway, the electric guitar and keyboard, and a wonderful immense and height adjustable desk - perhaps one of the owners works from home.

Started the day well- spotted a food mixer in another cupboard, and it has a stainless steel bowl.  Challenge to figure out how to lift the mechanism to release the bowl, but got there in the end. It is quite small, but it will do as a clean mixing bowl from now on.  Made pancakes, struggled a bit with the very slow stove, but served with a fruit medley of watermelon, strawberry and blueberries, they were lovely.

I had bought a jar of red jam in my dash around the supermarket yesterday.  Didn't know what it was, so looked it up today.  The word 'Hallon' just didn't ring any bells - turns out it is raspberry.  The wonders of having wifi and the online translators.  'Rabarber' seemed likely to be rhubarb, and I could indeed see pieces of rhubarb in the jam.  So, rhubarb and raspberry - a bit odd as a combination as I think of rhubarb as a very early season crop and raspberries as one of the later summer berries, so unlikely to have a glut at the same time.  It tastes delicious, but not likely to become a home-made essential.

We have been trying to figure out how to say 'thank you very much'. The groom's grandfather tried teaching it to me yesterday in the car, but it seemed a long collection of clackety sounds and I just couldn't get it.  Looking at the spelling on the computer this morning hasn't helped.  'Tak' may be casual and informal, but that will no doubt be better than nothing at all.  I found myself falling back on french in the supermarket when I wanted to get by people - how daft is that! My extremely minimal southern European languages aren't going to be much help here.  I tried talking to the builders who are renovating this house (presumably they are doing something else this week while we are here) as I wanted to find out why my mother's bedside lights didn't work.  They were German, spoke no English, couldn't understand the perfectly adequate french sentence I came up with, couldn't get the miming...not their problem I suppose.  Gave up.  Enough light from elsewhere in the house and no door anyways.

Still no sign of any cooling racks.

My cupcake trays will only fit in the oven one at a time.  Even though the oven is very wide it is about 5mm too narrow to take two side by side.  It is too short to take them one above the other. There is only one grid shelf but I found two large solid oven shelves in the drawer under the stove.  Took a bit of opening as you have to lift and tug at the same time, but I could use these to slide the cupcake trays onto, and keep one at the top to stop stray old food falling -I couldn't clean the roof of the oven because of the elements and there are loose particles there.  If I did that I could use the oven grid as the cooling rack.

Continuing well; took two glutenzymes to cope with all the food being eaten in the airport and the plane, and one in the evening here, but certainly manageable levels.

And the ground rules?   Well, I don't want my mother to do anything unless I ask her to.  She can have a holiday.  I want to do all the washing up, getting meals, cleaning.  I feel better that way.  Fortunately she says she is happy not to have to do anything unless asked to, so that is fine.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The first Swedish gf chocolate cake - testing the oven

I've scrubbed the oven, after figuring out how to release the child lock, and found all the ingredients and utensils I brought.  Mixed a single egg's worth of the cake mix and cooked it in the small round cake tin that will be used to make the cutting cake.

I had set the oven to 175 C and kept being puzzled by the way it didn't feel very warm when I opened the door.  Didn't think to bring an oven thermometer. Half way through cooking the cake I realised that I have used a fan oven for more than two decades and so I am used to the gust of warm air that is released everytime I open the door.

25 minutes set on my phone, as there doesn't appear to be a timer.  Not having the fan seems to mean the smell of the cake isn't as obvious.  I would normally expect to be able to tell how cooked the cake is from the smell even without opening the oven.

While this was cooking I got on with washing up (can't find the detergent for the dish washer) and continuing my hunt for the cooling racks.  There must be some as there are lots of baking tins.  Shall I disturb the owner on her holiday?  Seems a bit minor.  I turnout this little cake on a daisy shaped trivet, not ideal, but will do for this cake.

Next problem will be testing it.  I washed the mixing bowls and used my own sieve, spoons and measuring jug.  However, all the mixing bowls are plastic, so washing them won't necessarily remove all the gluten.  Normally someone going gluten free would be advised to change all wooden spoons and plastic tubs, chopping boards and all other things with these type of surfaces. I might just cut the cake to see how it looks, and rely on others to say if it tastes ok - though no one else is as fierce a critic as I am.

I've used a large number of tea towels and scrubbing cloths since I arrived four or five hours ago.  I washed them and hung them on the line outside.  Unfortunately most of the clothes pegs fall apart when I try to use them....I wonder if there is a shop within walking distance that sells cooling racks, metal or glass mixing bowls, dishwasher detergent and clothes pegs - oh, and hand cream, even with rubber gloves on my hands are already showing signs of all the manual labour.  Next job, learn what the Swedish words to avoid on ingredients lists are!

Sweden - the arrival

There is much to recommend travelling with someone who needs the assistance of a wheelchair at airports.  You get whisked past whatever queues there are as porters cant afford to hang around in queues when they are needed again for the next person.  The system at both Heathrow and Landvetter was efficient and courteous, and at the arrival airport we had the wheelchair pushed all the way to the car.  The groom's grandparents picked up up and were waiting with a big sign at the arrivals point even though we had a tail wind and arrived nearly half an hour early.  A quick stop to get some groceries so that we would not have to go trudging around, got to the house and settled in.  The flat is lovely, spacious, with a good kitchen, much better, of course than mine at home as it is proper kitchen (not a small line of worktops and equipment squeezed along the edge of the living room).  The oven is large - I need to to do a sample batch of the cupcakes to test how it works.

The groom's mother had done my bulk shopping for me.  I was a bit surprised to find what felt like a bag of flour in with the eggs, oil, butter and sugar..maybe she thought I just forgot to request some....but of course I have no idea what the words mean.  I have connected to the wifi so will attempt to figure this out later, but for the moment the rogue package has been put into the flt owners pantry.

I have started washing the kitchen.  It is clean, but clean for people who eat bread and those who can't mean two different things.  I probably shouldn't have climbed on a stool to clean the extractor fan chimney as I can't reach to the top and the swooping angle of my cleaning cloth is quite visible about ten cm from the ceiling.

The strawberries are the best I have tasted.  Bought in a punnet from an ordinary supermarket they taste as if you were standing in a field in the sun and had just picked one - and then add extra flavour even if you have chosen a good variety.  Forget Elsanta, these were amazing.   Lunching on strawberries seems good enough for me, but I do need to do proper meals too.  My mother has agreed to be gf while here so that I am safe; in return it seems reasonable to make something moderately tasty and at normal times of the day - though what normal is when we have been up since three this morning I am not sure.

I unpacked my large red suitcase - which, contrary to the many merry comments on the trouble I would get from customs, caused no trouble at all.  One of the cupcake stand layers has a crack but it shouldn't compromise its operation this weekend.  Unfortunately most of the stuff has to go home with me again - I brought four cupcake tins, a rolling pin for icing...I didn't bring any cooling racks so will have to hunt for some of those.  I figured it must be possible to buy some cheap ones here if necessary; if my host hasn't any (she said to use anything in the kitchen) then I can leave them here for her. There is a fridge magnet which states "cooking by appointment only" so there may not be stuff I would expect to find in a baker's kitchen.

It is very hot here - about 30C, and there is a garden, so I think a little sitting outside with a book is probably the next step.  If it rains usually I might as well enjoy the sun for a bit.  Next challenge is to figure out how to make the shower work, twisting everything obvious hasn't produced any water...

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The day before flying - making convenience foods for a week

I spent yesterday evening making convenience foods for Rod for the week.  Before you get outraged at the idea that he cannot cook for himself - that isn't the case.  However, as part of keeping the house gluten free I try to have lots of tasty food handy so that the lure of the takeaway pizza doesn't become unbearable.   He is planning to spend the five days getting another novel out of his head and into the computer.  The first all the way through story telling is best done in undisturbed isolation.

So, the produce from the farm shop has become six portions of barbecue-style chicken, five portions of spicy beef and bean stew, labelled and frozen, plus other meals over the last couple of days and plenty for today when my we fetch my mother.  We need to leave about three am, so we will collect her from Birmingham this morning.

The little plug-in induction hob came in useful.  It heated my large cast-iron casserole dish very rapidly with its large load of beef and beans, before I put it in the oven.  It only cost £22 so I wasn't expecting much, and trying to make pancakes in our usual frying pans yesterday wasn't very successful - they buzzed and rotated while cooking.  However, using my excellent heavy cast iron skillet this morning produced good results.

Only jobs left are to sort out the final packing - my clothes need to go in my mother's suitcase, and to convert the chicken carcass into stock.

I have had a reassuring email from the person whose flat I am renting, so I know things like how to switch on the tv and the wifi code, plus a pleasant walk through a park to the town centre.

My cupcake carriers are stuck at customs with an address query, but the future MIL will sort that out for me today.  The car was serviced yesterday, so really shouldn't break down on the way to the airport.  We are driving in the very early morning so shouldn't get stuck in traffic.  We are being met at the other end by the groom's grandparents....oh, must remember to print out the recipe for the cake!  I tend to just look things up on my blog when I need recipes, but just in case, if the wifi doesn't to have a hard copy.  Good to show airport security too, if they find my odd load of stuff in the suitcase hard to comprehend.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Ice cream from a bike - gluten free cones

Strolling along the river here in Worcester, enjoying a seasonal but nonetheless unusual sunny day, I spotted an ice cream seller who had a clear label stating that they had gluten free cones.  I stopped to talk to him about this - waiting until he had sold his last ice creams as the queue of people kept rematerialising and I didn't want to interrupt his work.

I had an opportunity to watch how he worked.  Each cone was handled, so it was clear that his hands would be covered in gluten.   When I asked how he would deal with a request for a gluten free cone he showed me the process:

The gluten free cones are kept in an airtight container in a basket on the bike.

They have hand-sanitiser wipes, which the staff use before opening the box and removing a cone. I was relieved it wasn't just hand sanitiser spray - which I have been offered in the past to 'kill' gluten ( the same as people who say chips cooked in the same oil as batter is ok as the heat 'kills the gluten').

I asked if he would mind if someone very careful, like me, wanted to take my own cone out, and he said that would not be a problem.

I didn't try an ice cream, but they looked delicious, and included apple ice cream amongst the usual rum and raisin, vanilla and raspberry ripple.

They also carried individual tubs of ice cream, with sealed spoons, so that would be another safe option.

This bike was operated by bearsgreatescapes ltd - "Purveyors of Fine Worcestershire Ice Cream and Bespoke Tricycle Maker".  The ice cream was sourced from Bennetts Farm.


I spotted Stuart again today on my stroll along the river. I bought a raspberry sorbet *they had mango and blackcurrant as well) and so got to try the whole process.  An additional good feature is that he rinsed the ice cream scoop in hot water from a thermos before digging out the sorbet.

I have also had a reply to my email that I sent the company with a link to the blog, asking me to let them know if there is anything else they could do to make things better.  That arrived the same evening - and what is even more amazing is that Stuart had been told about the conversation.  Excellent work.

And the sorbet?  Well, not home-made/top restaurant quality, but pleasant and a lovely treat on a hot day.


I didn't suffer any symptoms so their cross-contamination control mechanisms work.

Local organic salad and chicken on a sunny day

I used to visit Roots at Rushwick, a farm shop that sells its own organic fruit, vegetables, eggs, chickens and beef, whenever I visited my accountant.  That was back in the days when I ran a management consultancy - before the gluten destroyed my health and I had to stop work. It's now the closest farm shop to the new flat, so I thought I should start doing my basic grocery shopping there if possible.

This morning I came back with two gorgeous deep red trailing geraniums (pelargoniums to you plant name obsessives), a large chicken, some stewing steak, lettuces picked this morning, strawberries, courgette (zucchini), broad beans and tomatoes.  A lot of the vegetable crop in the UK has been damaged by the extremely wet weather, so local or even UK produce is harder to find than usual. I also bought cream and milk and a meringue base made by Mary, at Bishops Frome.  Cherries, (£8 a kilo, most of the cherry crop locally was ruined by the rain) and a giant cauliflower completed the haul.

As our stove is out of order I steamed a chicken breast in the microwave with a little thyme, sage and lime juice, in my excellent orka multi- level steam cooker - replacement for the stove top double boiler/steamer I had used probably several times a day for twenty five years, but which was given away we we switched to an induction hob.  This is a four part plastic/silicone set that can be used in the microwave or the steamer sections used with a normal pan.

After rinsing the lettuce and steaming the broad beans I served these with sliced tomato and courgette, drizzled with a little olive oil and lime and sprinkled with parsley and thyme.  The herbs are from my pots on the balcony.  It is very handy having a ready supply of fresh herbs, but the mint has got mildew with the very damp weather..or else it just doesn't like living on a balcony,

The juice is the pear and apple juice we had made from our fruit trees before we moved last autumn.  We got Clive's fruit farm to juice and bottle this for us.

The odd plates that show up in my blogs occasionally are from a  set of six by Will Alsop RA, made as a limited edition of 100 for the Royal Academy of Arts.  We used to have six..but I broke one when I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle.

Rescue Waffles - gluten free and delicious

My lovely new induction hob stopped working the other day when we started cooking breakfast.  The chap that turned up to fix it, a day later, said he couldn't repair it as it had been installed incorrectly by the kitchen fitters.  What to do, what to do.  We have pancakes every morning for breakfast; they are quick and easy and keep us from being hungry the rest of the morning.

The first morning I sliced apple, added cinnamon and sugar, and baked the already prepared pancake mix in the oven.  Slow, and not as delicious as the individual pancakes, where you get a choice of flavours with each pancake.  We usually have a variety of fruits and jam on the breakfast table.  The second morning I tried cooking them in the microwave.  Disgusting.

When it became obvious there wasn't going to be a quick fix - the oven needs lowering to give an increased airspace and the cable needs upgrading, we got the waffle iron out of storage.  The flat is small so things we don't use all the time have to be put away.

Lovely lovely waffles.  Glad to have been compelled to revisit these.  You can make a big batch and freeze them, just pop in the toaster for a hot waffle (if you have a toaster - got rid of that to save space...)

Set waffle baker to medium heat.  Spray or brush oil onto the waffle baker as the first waffle tends to stick even in a non-stick pan.

125g flour (mine is urid 40%, tapioca 40%, cornmeal 20%)
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp oil
rice or other milk to produce a batter

This amount made eight squares.

Mix flour and baking powder together.  Separate egg yolks and whites.  Place whites in a clean large bowl for whisking.  Mix egg yolk, oil and sugar.  Mix in flour and add milk to get a smooth but not sloppy batter.  Whisk egg whites until they hold their shape.  Fold egg white into batter.

Ladle a blob of batter onto each section of the waffle baker.  It doesn't matter if the finished waffle doesn't come out completely square but it is a pain if you put on too much and it bulges out everywhere - much harder to clean up.  With experience you will know how much to use.

Cook until the waffles are golden brown on the outside and cooked all the way through.  If you find they are stodgy in the middle when burning on the outside you have the heat set too high.  If you are planning to store for later toasting you can use a slightly lower heat so that they are cooked all the way through but not quite as brown as you would normally like.

Cool on a rack.  Eat with whatever you fancy or freeze in plastic bags.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

browser compatibility and image overlapping

I have had several people writing to me in the last few weeks saying they were having problems viewing the blog, and in particular issues of images overlapping the text.  I have been trying to figure out whether there is anything I can do to resolve these issues.  Hunting around bloggers menus I found a table which shows that quite a few operating system/browser combinations may have problems.  I tried copying the table but it stuck well out into the edge of the blog and then wrecked the formatting further down....well, blogger is free and very easy to use so maybe these are the downsides. Also the text that I typed after I inserted the table ran off the edge and the font changed and couldn't be changed back - I definitely prefer baking to trying to figure out computers. Iv'e had to retype all the text as no matter what do the formatting insists on staying weird.

The table suggests that the only reliable browser is Google Chrome, which will work with any of the operating systems listed.

I'm sorry if the blog is causing you trouble - if you know of any other ways of increasing compatibility I'd be happy to hear them.

As an aside, when using the spell checker provided by blogger it doesn't recognise the words blog, blogger and bloggers - or Google.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

the remarkable tale of the swedish gf wedding cupcake tower

Annie Dean's lovely fabric flower

A week to go before I catch my plane to Sweden.  Time to mill, mix and bag the flour I will need.  My niece's future mother-in-law has messaged me on Facebook to say she will buy ingredients I need, so that is a relief.  I have no idea where shops will be in relation to the flat I have rented, and I won't have a car.

A sudden change of plans, and now my mother is travelling with me.  Her mobility hasn't been that good over the last few years, so I am pleased she feels able to come on this trip.  It will be good for her to be able to attend her grand-daughter's wedding, especially since my niece has spent much of her life living in Mongolia and Thailand so we haven't seen much of her.

I ordered urid lentils, no husks but otherwise whole, and ground these.  My lovely little Swiss flour mill gets warm after about a kilo of grinding so I like to take things slowly.  Tapioca - a last minute bit of internet shopping as I realised I hadn't enough in my store cupboard; I am so pleased that internet shopping is so swift and reliable. Fine cornmeal.  Mixed in these proportions 40% urid, 40% tapioca and 20% cornmeal.  This makes a very reliable and versatile flour.

urid, tapioca and cornmeal
I bagged the flour in the small heat-sealable cellophane bags I used to use when I ran a small bakery business.  Double sealed and then stored inside another food bag, I am hoping I get to the other end without all the flour spread around the suitcase.

Into the suitcase has gone a long list of things.  Iv'e got a list on my magic whiteboard paper on the wall where I can mark off when things are packed, posted or arrived. I have no idea what will be available, and for proper gf cooking one should really use baking tins, wooden spoons etc that have not been used with wheat flour. I used to have a separate oven when I still baked sourdough wheat bread for my husband, and labelled oven gloves, spoons, bowls etc.

The six tier cupcake stand is a bit awkward to pack.  I have taken it out of the box I store it in as that won't fit in the suitcase.  I hope it doesn't crack on the way, but I have packed around it with bubble wrap.  The flour bags are in the crevices and hopefully this combination will give a stable packing structure that means everything will arrive safely, I have also packed a variety of silver, white and purple cake decorations, a small icing rolling pin, cupcake trays, shiny purple foil cupcake cases, aprons, gloves, a baking hat (who wants hair in their cake), a measuring is certainly a lot easier to bake at home.

The suitcase is almost too heavy for me to lift, not helped by my having a mildly sprained wrist to go with my still not recovered severe ankle sprain from last month.

Got my kroner from the Co-op travel agency yesterday and my banking card wouldn't work, tried it in the ATM at the bank and it wouldn't cashier says not to worry.  Twice in France our bank cards refused to operate, we presumed because all the lines between France and the UK would busy.  I don't want to get stuck on this trip with a cake to make, a mother to look after, and planes, buses, taxis to catch.

At least with my mother coming too I can use some of her luggage space.  I have weight spare but economy seats only allow one piece of checked baggage.  So far the case is full and I haven't packed any clothes or toiletries, my laptop, my camera...all the usual things one would want to take to a wedding and a trip abroad. I've given up on the hat, and a friend of mine has made a purple silk flower for me to wear so I can look a bit festive and match the cupcakes.  It packs very small.

I was surprised to find that no-one makes collapsible posh hats.  People used to wear collapsible top hats so that they could fit in their luggage. I fancied a spiral in black sinemay (not sure how to spell that - the fine mesh usually used for hats) that would press down to a flat disc and then bounce up into an energetic spiral when you released it from its box.  It doesn't really matter what I wear anyways, but as a hat lover I normally grab opportunities to wear large hats when I can.

Just to add to the fun it continues to pour with rain and my wonderful new induction hob has stopped working.  The engineer that came this morning says it has been installed incorrectly (wrong cable, wrong air gaps) so he can't fix it.  Given that our balcony door stopped locking months ago and the chap coming to fix it is only arriving tomorrow, and the network cables haven't worked since they were installed and on Friday we are paying a seperate contractor to look at them as the house builder hasn't resolved the issue for six months...who knows how long I will be without a stove.

Monday, 16 July 2012

almost instant (very easy) gluten and dairy free chocolate cupcakes

I am getting ready to pack all the ingredients for my niece's wedding cupcake tower in Sweden.  A last quick check today to be sure I know how much cake mix made how many cupcakes so I can scale up for 150 cupcakes and a top cake.  So, a one egg batch, some medium cupcake cases...and ten chocolate cupcakes.

75g flour ( 40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% fine cornmeal)
100g sugar
20g cocoa
3/4tsp baking powder
30ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
70ml water

Pre-heat oven to 175C
Prepare cupcake cases in pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  I sieve the mixture after mixing to make sure I get rid of the clumps of cocoa powder.

Mix the egg, water and oil together.

Stir the wet and dry ingredients together. The batter will be very sloppy.

Divide mixture between ten medium cupcake cases and bake for fifteen minutes at 175C fan.

Remove from tin and cool on baking rack.  If you leave them in the tin to cool the paper cases will be soggy.

Ice/frost if wanted. These have quite a slow sweet flavour so do work well with the extra sweetness of a topping.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Blueberry frozen yogurt - high fibre!

I have a lot of dried blueberries left over from baking fruit cakes.  I've been experimenting with frozen yogurts, made with milk I pre-treat with lactase to reduce the lactose in yogurt still further.  This fro-yo was made by cooking the blueberries in water until they were soft, blitzing in a blender, sieving and then mixing with the yogurt.  This makes a high-fibre, no added sugar frozen yogurt.

200g dried blueberries
200ml water
500ml yogurt
1 tbsp vodka

agave syrup to taste if needed

Cook the blueberries in the water until they are soft.  Blitz - it will produce a very thick puree.  Sieve to remove the blueberry seeds.  Leave to cool.

Stir the cooled puree into the yogurt with the vodka.  If you don't want to use any alcohol you will need to remember to get the yogurt out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to use it.  The alcohol acts as an anti-freeze, making it scoopable straight from the freezer.  Check the flavour.  If you want it a bit sweeter, add some syrup.  I use agave for its slow release (low GI) qualities.

Icecream guides recommend that you leave the mixture in the fridge for a few hours before putting in the ice-cream machine.  Process until the mixture is thickening and then put in a plastic tub in the freezer.  Remember to label!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

oreo-style chocolate cookies with white chocolate filling, gluten, corn and tapioca free

Flour mix two, made from a third each of urid, buckwheat and brown rice flours, continues to be a reliable mix for many baked goods.  Here I made a quick batch of oreo-style chocolate cookies for the grandchildren.  These cookies are a little intense by themselves but the frosting balances them well. If you don't want to eat these with the frosting filling you might want to add a bit more butter and cut the cocoa a little.  (The eight year old didn't eat hers. Tortilla chips filled the gap.  This flour mix obviously produces a more bitter result than my usual flour mix.  Cut the cocoa down to 30g unless you want a super intense chocolate cookie.  I was told they would be good with vanilla ice cream)

100g flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g cocoa
100g sugar
40g butter
2 eggs (use only part if necessary)

50g white chocolate
25g butter
50g icing sugar

Oven 175C fan
2 lined baking sheets

Mix all the cookie dry ingredients together and rub in flour or blitz in a food processor.  Stir in egg until you get a manageable dough.  If you don't mind the cookies being more rough shaped just tip the egg in and spoon the resulting mix onto lined baking sheets.  I did the latter as I was in a hurry, and just tapped errant dough into place with a damp finger.

Cook for 12 minutes in a 175C Fan oven.  This mix will be ok left before baking, or frozen for future use.

Cool on baking sheet.  Don't take the cookies off the baking parchment or tray until they cool slightly as they will tend to go out of shape. I tend to slide my liner onto the cooling rack so I can reuse my baking sheet, and this speeds  up both the cooling and baking.

To make the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together.  I use a microwave on medium heat for two minutes, stirred half way through.  You can use a double boiler.  Just stop before the chocolate is fully melted to allow residual heat to finish the job, or you might over cook the chocolate and spoil the texture.

Mix in the icing sugar.  Don't put all of it in at first.  You want a firm easy to handle wodge of frosting, but not so dry that it cracks.

When biscuits are cool either use a knife to coat the cookies with frosting or, if, like me, you made the frosting too stiff, just make a disc of frosting in your hands and press it onto the cookie.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Summer berry cobbler, gf, tapioca free and corn free

I've given up eating foods make with my new tapioca free flour blend as I think the buckwheat causes me gut ache.  However, I have a batch already ground and mixed to use up, so I have been continuing to test it with some of my usual recipes; others will have to eat them.  I'm planning to test my oreo-style cookies for when the grandchildren visit next week.

This fruit cobbler is one of our standard puddings -good with apples in the winter and raspberries in the summer, or any other of fruit you have handy.  This cobbler is made with cherries (still have a few morello cherries in the freezer from our trees last year), and frozen blueberries and raspberries from the store.  The combination of the lousy weather and the sprained ankle means I haven't been to any pick-your-own fruit farms this year.

Oven 175C fan

adjust the proportion of fruit to cake to your own taste

600g fruit
75g sugar (to your own taste and depends on the ripeness and type of fruit used)

175g flour (this is one third each buckwheat, urid and brown rice)
4tsp baking powder
75g sugar
75g butter or other fat suitable for baking
1 egg
150 ml milk - I used rice milk

Mix fruit with sugar and put in a dish with plenty of extra room.  Don't be tempted to squeeze it into a dish that doesn't leave plenty of head room as the fruit will bubble up past the cake in the oven and make a mess.

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar together.  Mix in butter by rubbing into the fat with your finger tips, or whizz in a food mixer.  Stir in egg and milk.  It should make a batter that is easy to dollop onto the fruit. Add more milk if needed, or if you want to increase the protein levels use an exra egg and less milk.

Spoon carefully onto the fruit.  Bake at 175 for about 45 minutes.

If the top is getting brown before the cake is cooked lower the heat.  You can test for doneness by sticking a knife in - you shouldn't see any gooey cake mixture.

If you put the batter onto frozen fruit the pudding will need longer for the cake next to the fruit to cook.

Serve hot or cold.  This pudding freezes well.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Chocolate sorbet

I get given boxes of chocolates by my mother-in-law occasionally, but they always have wheat in.  Added to that the amount of dairy in chocolates is enough to cause me trouble.  I used to squeeze all the chocolates in a mixed box to find the ones that were firm (fortunately husband loves soft-centred chocolates) but mostly now I have just given up buying chocolates.

We have had about three hot days this summer, and thoughts turn to ice-cream.  I keep coming across people posting about chocolate sorbet.  This seemed a great way of having two types of treats at once.

This sorbet is very intense, and one small scoop is enough for me.  It would be great with raspberries or other soft fruit.

500ml water
125g cocoa
250g sugar
75g dark chocolate chips (this is a dairy free version)
1 tsp chilli (very mild warm sensation, add more for a bigger kick)
1 tsp cinnamon
10g coconut oil.  I have found this stuff works well to give a coconut flavour to curries so thought I would try it. I added this as I fancied a bounty bar (coconut coated in chocolate)  With this tiny amount I couldn't taste the coconut so next time will add more.  I should have split the batch in half and done two tests.
1/2 tsp 50% alcohol liqueur, more if lower strength.  Use whatever alcohol you like the flavour of with chocolate.  If you don't want to use alcohol just allow ten minutes after you get it out of the freezer for the sorbet to soften before attempting to scoop.  We have a hasty household.

Heat the water, sugar and cocoa powder together, stirring, until everything is smoothly mixed.  Allow to cool a little then add the chocolates, stir to melt.  Add the flavourings.  Strain through a sieve in case you have lumps of undissolved stuff.  Add the alcohol.

Leave to sit in the fridge for a few hours to make sure the flavours mature and the mixture cools properly.  Freeze in an ice-cream maker and store in the freezer.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Hazelnut and chocolate chip cookies

Spotted that the hazelnut packet said high in iron (though not as high as almonds when I check)...rather eat hazelnuts than pigeon, so into the shopping trolley they went.  There are no cookies of any description in the house and I am expecting guests tomorrow, so the first thing to do is make some cookies using whole hazelnuts for crunch and hazelnut flour, blitzing the hazelnuts in the blender.

100g flour (40%urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% corn)
65g butter
75g sugar
50g hazelnuts blitzed to flour
50g whole or lightly chopped hazelnuts
50g chocolate chips ( I used dark, soften flavour if wanted with milk or white chocolate)
c 1tbsp water with a couple of drops of vanilla essence

Cut butter in to flour, stir in sugar and blitzed hazelnuts, stir in chocolate chips and whole hazelnuts.  Add cold water/ vanilla mix a little at a time until you get a dough that holds together.  If you leave this to sit for at least fifteen minutes for the flour to absorb the water it makes it a little easier to handle.  If it is a bit too gooey you can firm it up with a bit more flour or by cooling in the fridge.

I made some of these into log shaped cookies, which keeps the hazelnuts whole.  I put the rest of the mix away in the fridge, and the next morning sliced the now very firm log of cookie dough into discs. Slicing the cookies cuts the hazelnuts, so you end up with a pretty cookie with little discs of hazelnut and chocolate.

Cook on ungreased baking sheet or baking parchment in a fan oven at about 170C.  Cooke for about ten minutes until they are tinged with brown.  Cook longer at a lower heat for a crisper cookie.

Made about ten cookies.

After I made these I looked up recipes on the Internet - they all said that the papery brown skin around the nut was bitter and needed removing before cooking (toast in oven and rub skin off, then separate nut from debris).  I also used bitter chocolate.  I like bitter flavours, but wondered if they would be too bitter for my guests, but even the nine year old thought they were scrummy.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Gooseberry and elderflower frozen yogurt - lactose free

On with the frozen yogurt experiments.  I made two litres of the treated milk yogurt, so have enough for four flavours.  Flavour three is based on the last of my home-grown gooseberries from the previous house.  I have elderflower cordial in the fridge, so rather than adding sugar syrup I added the cordial.  I used Genepi Grad Tetra Bigallet liqueur, bought from a lovely shop in Bourg St Maurice when we did our campervan skiing trip earlier this year.  This liqueur is 50% Vol., so only used 1.5tsp for the whole batch.  It still made the mixture soft scoop straight from the freezer, so even less is necessary at these concentrations.

The flavour is light and zingy, and the colour a subtle pale green.  It would be very good served with almond tuille.

400g yogurt - mine is lactase-treated channel island full fat milk
300g english gooseberries, cooked and sieved to remove the seeds
100ml elderflower cordial
1.5tsp Genepi liqueur

After tasting the mixture, and before freezing, I also added 4 tsp of sugar.  Decide for yourself if the mix is sweet enough; it will depend on how sweet your gooseberries are.

Mix gooseberry puree with other ingredients.  Pour into ice-cream maker.  When beginning to firm, transfer to freezer safe container and freeze until wanted.