These Chocolate-Espresso Puddles are one of my favourite speedy bakes and are perfect for using up spare egg whites (particularly when you are unsure how 'pure' they are). After posting a recent photo of them just out of the oven on Instagram and getting requests for the recipe, I am sharing this fudgiest of cookie treats with you, my lovely readers.... and even better, they are not only gluten free, but dairy free too.
Shortly before I made them, Mr GF had thrown together a lovely Carbonara which had used a handful of egg yolks. He had placed the whites in a bowl in the fridge, but when interrogated, confessed that whilst cracking the eggs, a yolk had broken and he could not be sure that it had not contaminated the yolk.
Whilst Mr GF couldn't understand why this was a problem, the bakers amongst us know that the teensiest bit of yolk in the white means that the egg white can no longer be used for meringue, macaron or any other recipe that requires a stiff whip. These Puddle Cookies on the other hand, don't need treating with kid-gloves, so are perfect for when 'mistakes' have been made in the egg-cracking department.
I confess, the recipe is not a Gluten Free Alchemist one, but is adapted from a non-espresso version that I was given by Adriana Rabinovich when I attended a gluten free baking course of hers a couple of years back. In turn, the sheet she gave me with the recipe, references '101Cookbooks.com', so I guess it probably has a long history before it reached my greedy kitchen.
If you haven't been on a course by Adriana and you need some tips and tricks for gluten free baking, then I would wholeheartedly recommend attending one. Although we didn't make the 'Puddles' on the course, she served them to us with coffee at break and with just one bite, I was addicted and demanding the recipe.
Having made them many times, I think that they do require a little experience to get baked to perfection.... Baked too long they will be overly-crisp and crunchy... If you bake them too little, they are too soft and will fall apart on lifting from the tray. Both 'mistakes' are still equally yummy, but are not the intended result.
Cooked precisely, they should be a little crisp on the outside with a soft, chewy, slightly gooey interior, that sends you into the sort of blissful enjoyment that you never want interrupted. The darkness of the chocolate should fill your nose with a pungent aroma and the flavour should be deep and rich from the cocoa, with a hint of espresso bitterness as it spreads across your taste buds.
Believe me, it is worth working on perfection! You just need to know your oven and keep a check on them...
Tempted? You should be... These Chocolate-Espresso Puddles are sublime and ridiculously moreish, but because I am so generous, I am also sending a batch over to the following linkies... (well it would be selfish not to share... wouldn't it?!)
Chocolate-Espresso Puddles (adapted from a recipe from Adriana Rabinovich) - Makes about 25 to 30 cookies)
235g walnuts - toasted, cooled and rough ground (using a blender)
335g icing sugar
45g cocoa powder 10g instant espresso powder
large pinch fine sea salt
3 large egg whites
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 175 C/325 F/Gas 3 and base-line 3 baking trays with baking paper.
Place the ground walnuts, icing sugar, cocoa, espresso powder and salt into a bowl/airtight container and mix/shake together until well-blended.
Place the egg whites into a separate large bowl and whisk lightly until slightly frothy.
Add the dry ingredients and the vanilla to the egg whites and beat together with a wooden/silicon spoon until the mixture comes together evenly.
Leaving plenty of space between each for spreading, place spoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the baking trays.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies should look glossy and slightly cracked on the top when done.
Remove from the oven when baked. As they start to cool, gently lift the bases from the baking paper. If they are difficult to remove, pop them back in the oven to cook for a little longer. (You want to get the baking just right... If you over-bake them they will be too crisp. A perfectly-baked puddle should be crisp on the outside with a fudgy middle).
With the school half term getting in the way, I am late with my round up of May's Got To Be Gluten Free (#G2BGF). I hope you will forgive me for spending a little time with Miss GF and for taking a little time away from the computer. Whilst there is a tiny bit of guilt beckoning, it has been good to step back for a few days...
May's #G2BGF link-up was my first foray into hosting a linky party (collaborating with the lovely Rebecca at Glutarama), so bear with me whilst I feel my way around the process and incorporate it into my blogging routine. We had some gorgeous recipes and an amazing new gluten free on-line course last month, but if you didn't manage to join us, we'd love you to come share your gluten free creations with us this time round. This month Rebecca is hosting, so whether you cook, bake and eat gluten free all of the time, some of the time, or you just happen to have made a dish which is naturally gluten free, please come and link up.
But back to last month's delights and a huge thank you to all of you who joined in...
We had 16 entries... which were delightfully varied and as I negotiated my way from blog to blog, I enjoyed reading every one. So without further unnecessary drivel from me, let's get down to the business of revisiting these wonderful shares :
We had six gluten free dessert recipes (well 10 actually, if you count the 'Five Sweet Gluten Free Baking Recipes' that Bryony, from Perfectly Imperfect Mama sent over in one post). Well done Bryony, you did us proud!
First up :
Inspired by a trip to Toronto (and in need of a charity bake), Midge from the Peachicks Bakery made us a gorgeous gluten free and vegan Coffee and Blueberry Loaf Cake... A soft coffee-infused sponge hiding a delectably sticky swirl of sweet blueberries. I am a huge fan of Midge's baking and constantly astounded by what she can produce without dairy, egg and frequently without gluten too. I have no doubt that this cake would have disappeared as quick as a flash in a charity bake sale and would have left people asking for more.
Next... On to chocolate. Yes you heard me.... CHOCOLATE! We had a few incredible chocolate-based desserts sent over... (if I didn't make it obvious, I am a sucker for chocolate, so keep them coming...)
My very talented co-host, Rebecca at Glutarama, delivered a divine-looking gluten free Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding. Doesn't that look and sound amazing? I have not yet ventured to make a self-saucing pudding, but this one is an absolute inspiration and it has leap-frogged right to the top of my 'must make' list.
Bryony, who blogs over at Perfectly Imperfect Mama, shared no less than 5 Sweet Gluten Free Baking Recipes with us, all in one post! I particularly love the look of this Chocolate Avocado Pudding, which is also vegan, but if you are in need of some inspiration, she has Chocolate Brownie, Flapjack, Carrot Cake Muffin, and Brie and Cranberry Muffin too on offer.
If Chocolate Brownies are your weakness (and I know they are one of mine), Choclette's naturally gluten free Triple Chocolate Almond Brownies, which you can find over on her blog Tin & Thyme, look utterly decadent and divine. With their rich, dark fudginess, she describes them as 'way too tempting for anyone supposedly interested in a wholesome diet'. Really? The list of ingredients doesn't look that dangerous and made with plenty of freshly ground, nutritious almonds, dark chocolate and unrefined sugar, I am sure I can make a case for the opposition!
Continuing the chocolate theme, Kat, The Baking Explorer shared another vegan dessert in the form of her wonderfully creamy Vegan Chocolate Mousse Pots. Made with silken tofu, and topped with lightly whipped coconut cream and fresh raspberries, they look dreamily smooth and luxurious, sound incredibly healthy and would wow the guests at any dinner party. If you have any worries that their 'vegan' status might be 'outed', fear not... Kat has already tested them on her friends who had no idea they were made with tofu.
To round off the dessert menu, I shared my seasonal gluten free Rhubarb & Custard Layer Cakes. I have given this retro flavour classic a modern twist by sandwiching rhubarb compote and thickened custard between layers of pistachio sponge..... truly scrumptious!
Although not a dessert recipe, our final sweet recipe was my Coco-Banana Freeze Bites, which make for a wholesome, nutritious after-school snack or alternative breakfast. Always ready to grab from the freezer, these gluten free bites are full of healthy ingredients and with their frozen 'novelty value', are a great tempter away from the crisps and sweets.
On to May's savoury shares... there was definitely a seasonal theme with plenty of fresh spring veg on offer.
Not content with being an amazing baker, it seems Midge over at the Peachicks Bakery can throw together a delicious Seasonal Asparagus & Pea Spring Salad, served with Vegan Cheesy Toasts as well. The warmer weather has definitely brought a hankering for lighter lunches and I for one have been making the most of our very short UK asparagus season. I have to say though, I am endlessly jealous that Midge has her very own asparagus bed over in her No.17 allotment.
I have never yet used wild garlic, but I do love to make my own pesto and this naturally gluten free Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto from Jo's Kitchen Larder looks and sounds extremely tasty and quite inspired. Not only is it really simple to make, but Jo says that 'its flavour is simply incredible' and I believe her. I can almost smell its aroma through her beautiful photographs.
Jo used her Wild Garlic Pesto to make a delicious-looking mid-week supper of Roast Chicken with Wild Garlic Pesto & Shallots. Jo says that they are huge roast chicken fans in her house and I can see why. I was quite literally drooling at the prospect of having this served to me.... Sorry Jo.... There's nothing for it.... I'm moving in!
This recipe from Mel at Le Coin De Mel for Simple Baked Camembert with Kalettes got me particularly excited. Sure I love Camembert, but I have been rather addicted to Kalettes in recent months. I get quite disappointed and frustrated when I find my local supermarket doesn't have any on the shelf. If you haven't tried them yet, they are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts, full of goodness and have a mild flavour and quite unique texture to eat. I love that they are almost creamy on the tongue.... or is that just me? Either way, if you want to know more about them, head over to Mel's blog and check them out.
Another perfect mid-week meal comes from Monika at Everyday Healthy Recipes. Her vegetarian, naturally gluten free Easy Mexican Bean Stew is as versatile and nourishing as it is tempting. Topped with coriander and fresh avocado and accompanied by a side of salsa, it can be served with rice, in a wrap or taco or alongside crunchy nachos. Any which way is good with me Monika... or alternatively, just pass me the pan and a large spoon!
To round off our recipe-share, I offered some Puff Pastry Party Bites, made with ready-to-roll gluten free puff pastry. Party appetisers can be quite tricky when you are gluten free, so it is always good to have a few quick and easy recipes up your sleeve. Once you have baked your pastry pieces, you can fill these party bites with pretty much anything... I made three versions : Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon; Cream Cheese and Ham and Spicy Beetroot and Houmous.
Although originally set up as a gluten free recipe-sharing linky, we have decided that providing they are centred around some aspect of gluten free living, we will include other contributed posts as well.
For those of you who follow Vicki, the Free From Fairy, you will know that she has just launched a new Basics Online Programme to support people as they make the transition to gluten free living and eating after a diagnosis of Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerance. Vicki is a phenomenally talented blogger with a science and nutrition background and her passion for healthy gluten free eating is admirable. If you are struggling with getting your head around how to survive glutenless in a gluten-filled world, then I would recommend Vicki and her course as a great place to start.
Our final two posts come from my co-host Rebecca at Glutarama.
Rebecca's daughter has been having a difficult time recently with her double health issues from Coeliac Disease combined with Type 1 Diabetes, so Rebecca was thrilled to share a Free From Afternoon Tea together at her local cafe - The Pavilion in Bedford. It sounds like some mummy and daughter time did both of them the world of good and they were clearly treated to a mammoth gluten free feast.
She also shared her Review of Energy Balls from Little Jem's Kitchen, which sound and look amazing. I am particularly coveting these beautiful green Matcha-Pistachio ones.
So that brings us to the end of what was quite a bumper crop of gluten free delights. I hope you have enjoyed reading about everyone's creations as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Don't forget to come and link up this month for June's gluten free party over at Glutarama. I can't wait to see what you share.
Sometimes we need a dessert that is simple to throw together, yet is as delicious as the one we have slaved over for hours. This simple 4-Ingredient Store-Cupboard Apple & Strawberry Pie may be just the thing.
Made with store cupboard ingredients (a tin of apples, some frozen strawberries, a little sugar and a pack of ready-to-roll pastry) all 'discovered' and screaming out to be used during a recent clear-out, it is dense with fruit and encased in pretty, decadent pastry.
I have to admit, that tinned apples are not usually found in my larder, but I had bought them some time ago with the intention of making a quick apple puree to use in another recipe, before discovering that a jar of apple baby food was far quicker and easier. They worked perfectly in the pie as despite a good simmering, they didn't completely pulp down and retained a nice 'bite'.
Usually I am a chocolate person, but recently I have been craving fruity stuff.... which is no bad thing, I guess. Although this pie is made with frozen and tinned fruit, it tastes amazingly fresh.... a perfect level of tartness from the apple, sweetened by summer strawberry and a little caramelly coconut sugar. The addition of the strawberry gives it such a beautiful colour too. If you don't want to use 'store-cupboard' fruit, just head to the greengrocer!
Having been through a number of bereavements quite close together, I have needed to do lots of emotional sorting and healing in recent weeks and this pie has been my perfect comfort food. I'm never too sure why we reach for pastry when we need a food-cuddle (or is that just me?), but I know I gobbled most of this down, because when Mr GF returned from two nights away at work and expectantly asked where the pie had gone..... it was well.... gone!
The top of the pie looks a lot fancier than it really is and was born out of needing to make the pastry stretch as far as possible (I didn't want to risk running out and wasn't sure if I had enough to cover in one piece). I needn't have worried.... I think I would have had just enough, but I am pleased I tried something a little different in cutting decorative pastry shapes. I love how the fruit bubbles through the gaps in the surface as it bakes too.... rustic, but inviting... a sort of hint of what lies within.
You can use any shaped cutter to make your shapes, but I thought I would use something fairly simple and to hand. Just make sure you dampen the adjoining raw pastry edges so that they stick together as you go.
It is up to you, but I also chose to sprinkle a little caster sugar on the top once cooked, mainly for decoration.
Although my pie is gluten free, you can (of course) make it with a wheat-based pastry too. Mine is made with Silly Yak pastry, as I found a few packs in my freezer (which I stashed when they were reduced in Tesco a couple of months back). If you haven't used Silly Yak pastry before, I can recommend it as a great gluten free 'go to' if you either don't have time or don't like to make your own. It is also not only gluten free, but dairy free and vegan too, so is pretty versatile from an intolerance perspective.
I am sharing my Simple 4-Ingredient Store-Cupboard Apple & Strawberry Pie with :
4-Ingredient Store-Cupboard Apple & Strawberry Pie Ingredients
1 tin (385g) sliced apples (I used Tesco Granny Smiths) - drained (or 3 to 4 fresh apples, peeled, cored and sliced)
a couple handfuls frozen (or fresh) strawberries (trimmed and de-hulled if fresh)
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut sugar/brown sugar/caster sugar
1 pack ready to roll gluten free pastry (I used Silly Yak)
(dairy free milk of choice to glaze)
Prepare your fruit : Put your strawberries and apples in a large saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring. Simmer, stirring frequently until the fruit has softened and the liquid has reduced, so that you have a juicy, but thick, chunky compote. Set aside to cool completely.
Prepare your pastry : Take a pie dish and your ready-to-roll pastry and carefully roll (as per manufacturers instructions) to a depth of about half a centimetre. (I dusted mine with tapioca flour and rolled on dusted clingfilm).
Carefully line the base of the pie dish with rolled pastry and trim the edges, leaving a 'lip' to stick the pastry top. Set aside the off-cuts and wrap in clingfilm until ready to fill the pie.
Fill the pie with your (completely cold) prepared fruit and spread to even the top.
Bring the remaining pastry together and re-roll. Use a medium-sized cutter to cut pastry shapes.
Using a pastry brush and a little water, moisten the pastry edges and carefully stick the shapes round the edge of the pie (pastry to pastry) and gradually work your way round and into the centre of the pie with each additional shape, to cover the top (there may be gaps between pastry shapes). Once complete, place in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
Glaze the raw pastry top with a little dairy free milk and bake for about 30 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly, turn down the oven a little, or cover with a piece of foil.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little extra sugar (optional) for decoration. Eat warm or cold with a drizzle of coconut cream or some dairy-free ice cream.
These gluten free Puff Pastry Party Bites are made to mark Coeliac Awareness Week which takes place this week - 14th to 20th May 2018. Facilitated by Coeliac UK, it takes place each year in May, highlighting important issues facing the Coeliac community. This year marks a special anniversary however, with Coeliac UK having reached a milestone of 50 years since its foundation in 1968 (when it was known as The Coeliac Society).
Since then it has gone from strength to strength, campaigning for and supporting everything from medical research and public and professional awareness of the condition, to prescription services, mentoring, food labelling, coeliac-safe restaurants, training for chefs and supermarkets committed to stocking gluten free staples.
I have written earlier posts on Coeliac Disease during previous awareness weeks which you can read here, here and here, although fundamentally it is an autoimmune condition which affects about 1 in a hundred people, making them very unwell if they eat gluten and thus there is a need for sufferers to avoid eating any gluten for life.
Coeliac seems to have a public face of being quite a modern 'condition' (in our house we don't like to call it a 'disease', as we aim to be positive both in how we view being Coeliac and on how we approach being gluten free in a non gluten free world). Modern however, it is not. I grew up with my Dad being Coeliac in a time when far less was known about how and why it affected the body or why a gluten free diet was essential to staying well.
I would never have known that gluten was relevant as a child.... Dad ate everything.... normal wheat bread, pasta, cakes and pastry... in fact anything and everything that we now know to avoid. I am not sure whether this was because the medical world did not share with him the importance of avoiding gluten (he had been diagnosed very young as a pre-war child, when people believed that bananas were an appropriate treatment), or because he just wanted to fit in with family life. He was always painfully thin, but suffered silently. Either way, his glutenous neglect most likely killed him at the very young age of 52 (the same age I am now) from cancer which was probably triggered by the 'untreated' Coeliac.
I am so grateful for organisations like Coeliac UK. Their awareness-raising is massively important. Coeliac is notoriously under-diagnosed and if their campaigns improve public awareness of symptoms and encourage GPs and consultants to think about the possibility of Coeliac alongside their explorations for other stomach and bowel complaints, less people may suffer and lives may be saved.
Miss GF lives in a very different world to her grandfather..... We are more demanding of health information and exploration, we have the internet at our finger tips and the benefit of a wealth of medical research and knowledge. She is also clear and confident that her need to be gluten free is not a life-style choice, but is a medical necessity.
To mark Coeliac UK's 50 years, this year they are inviting people to celebrate and party to raise funds which will enable them to continue their invaluable research both into better understanding of Coeliac Disease and towards finding a long hoped-for cure. For anyone holding fund-raising parties, picnics and teas, these little morsels of filled puff pastry (made with Silly Yak ready-to-roll gluten free puff pastry) are incredibly easy to put together, can be filled with whatever you like and will be guaranteed to bring a smile (Coeliac or not).
..... I know that from experience..... I made a stash of them and left them in a box in the fridge, only to come home and find they had almost entirely been eaten. Miss GF kindly left a couple for me and her dad, but otherwise devoured the lot! Thank goodness they had already been photographed.
I am sharing my Puff Pastry Party Bites in support of Coeliac Awareness Week with the following....
I am also offering them as my party treat for this month's #FreeFromParty gathering being put together by the awesome group of bloggers that are the Free From Gang. As and when their posts are published, I will add the links below :
1 pack of ready to roll gluten free puff pastry (I used Silly Yak)
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little milk)
a little grated cheddar cheese
dried paprika powder
a couple of teaspoons sesame seeds
250g Philadelphia or other preferred cream cheese
sliced cooked ham
sliced smoked salmon
cooked/pickled baby beets (I used Spicy Sweetfire baby beets from Tesco) - sliced
The oven will need to be pre-heated to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 before baking the pastry and you will need to base-line 3 to 4 baking sheets with baking paper.
Lay out a large sheet of non-stick baking paper on your work surface and dust with tapioca flour. Place your ready-to-roll pastry on top and dust the top with flour too, before carefully rolling out to a thickness of approximately half to one centimetre.
Using a small cookie cutter, carefully cut out your pastry shapes, trying to minimise any pastry waste (to get the best flakiness in the pastry, your pastry should (as far as possible) be cut on the first roll-out).
Place the cut pastry shapes on the prepared baking sheets and chill for half an hour.
Prepare the egg-wash by lightly beating an egg with a little milk using a fork. Brush the tops of half of the pastry shapes with egg-wash (it is important to count them first). Sprinkle a third of the egg-washed shapes with a little grated cheese, a third with paprika and a third with sesame seeds.
Bake all of the pastry shapes in the oven until risen, crisp and golden (about 20 to 25 minutes) and then remove from the oven and set aside on the trays to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese a little to lighten and add air.
Take the ham and either cut into smallish pieces or use the cookie cutter that you used for the pastry to cut into shapes - set aside.
Repeat the same cutting process with the smoked salmon - set aside.
Slice your baby beets into disc shapes.
Using a piping bag with a large open star tip (or just use a teaspoon if easier), pipe two-thirds of the plain cooked pastry bases with a small blob of cream cheese.
Top half of the cream cheese piped bases with a piece of ham and the other half with a piece of smoked salmon.
Take the cheese topped, glazed pasties and carefully pipe a further blob of cream cheese on the underside, before gently pressing onto the ham pastries.
Repeat the process, piping a small blob of cream cheese onto the underside of the paprika-topped pastries and sandwiching onto the smoked salmon bases.
Finally, take a clean piping bag with a clean tip, fill with houmous and repeat the same process with the remaining pastry bases and sesame tops, sandwiching the two layers with a disc of beetroot. (It is best to make the houmous ones just before you eat them as the houmous will quickly dry and darken at the edges).
I have wanted to make these Blinis for ages and having been gifted a Baking Stone for Christmas, I had the perfect excuse to get creative...... So today I present to you.... 'The Full English'... Breakfast Blini. Doesn't that look tempting?
Soft, light gluten free blinis made with oat flour, topped with a spoonful of moist scrambled egg, a succulent, lightly fried chestnut mushroom and finally a salty bacon-wrapped crisp-roasted, meaty cocktail sausage...... A mouthful of traditional English breakfast deliciousness..... perfect for entertaining friends after a sociable night before.....
Well I say it's a full English...... the connoisseurs amongst you will notice a distinct absence of tomato. There is of course nothing to stop you from adding a slice into the stack, but as these are bite-sized morsels, designed to be hand-held, I didn't want to risk embarrassing the guests with drippy, squirty tomato mess.
As is probably the case for most foodies, a Christmas kitchen gadget or two was inevitable and this year, I was the grateful recipient of both a Waffle Maker (recipe coming soon) and a Baking Stone.
Although you can use a large flat-bottomed frying pan to make blinis, it can be quite fiddly getting a spatula flat under them to flip or to remove from the pan. The baking stone (which is effectively a heavy, flat, coated, cast-iron plate) is absolutely perfect for the task. It gets hot..... really hot..... and retains an even heat throughout the cooking process and well beyond. I am loving using it and thinking maybe crumpets are next on my list.....
The blini recipe I have used here is a slight adaptation of a Naomi Devlin recipe. I attended a gluten free pastry course with Naomi back in May last year down at River Cottage and was truly impressed with her knowledge, so her recipe for buckwheat blinis seemed a good place to start. They were good, but Miss GF was less keen on the slightly bitter kick that comes from the buckwheat seed. For the recipe I have posted here, I neutralised the flavour slightly by revamping the flour blend, without damping the nutritional content, adding a good ratio of creamy oat flour...... In fact, using oat flour made these blinis perfect breakfast fodder...... an ideal complementary base for the 'Full English' flavours on top.
Although they are at their best when freshly made, the blinis can be made ahead of time and (just like shop-bought versions) can be easily 'refreshed' by a few seconds in the microwave.
So next time you have guests staying over, why not treat them to something a little different for breakfast?
I am sharing my 'Full English' Breakfast Blinis with :
140 ml full fat milk (or use semi-skimmed with a dash of cream)
3g Easy Bake Yeast (I used Allinson's)
pinch fine sea salt
The 'Full English' bit.... (for 16 blinis)
approx 16 raw cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon (I used ready wrapped mini pigs in blankets)
approx 16 chestnut (or other closed cup) mushrooms
3 large/4 medium eggs
a dash of milk
a knob of butter
salt and pepper seasoning to taste
Blinis - In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, egg yolks, yoghurt, milk, yeast and salt until well blended. Set aside in a warm place to prove for a couple of hours (or prove in the fridge overnight (remembering to bring back to room temperature before continuing)).
When the batter has grown in volume by about half, whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and then lightly fold into the batter mixture until combined.
Use either a large, flat-bottomed frying pan, or a baking stone. Heat over a medium to low setting, until the base is hot and then (using a thick wad of kitchen paper to prevent burning fingers), rub the surface with a dot of butter.
Drop spoonfuls (approx tablespoon) of batter onto the surface, leaving a good gap between them (I worked in batches of 5 to 6) and cook until the base is golden, the surface is getting a slight skin and the edges are firming slightly (about 50 to 60 seconds). Flip over with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and just set (they should be soft, but not squidgy).
Remove the blinis and wrap in a clean tea towel to keep moist and warm until all are cooked.
Whilst you are cooking your Blinis, cook the sausages wrapped in bacon in the oven using the packet instructions (usually about 20 minutes at approx 200 C).
Remove the stalks and gently fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil until golden. Set aside in the oven in a heat-proof dish (covered with foil) until ready to eat.
To make the scrambled egg, beat the egg lightly in a bowl with a dash of milk and seasoned to taste and add a small knob of butter. Pour into a small saucepan and gently heat, stirring frequently until the mixture has cooked and scrambled.
Putting it all together : Layer a blini with a teaspoon of scrambled egg, topped with a fried mushroom and finally a sausage wrapped in bacon. Serve and enjoy.
It has been a long time since I posted on Gluten Free Alchemist, but I make no apology. 2018 did not start well. January was a long, long month and one in which I unexpectedly lost my mother to Pancreatic Cancer.
Although she had probably had this ugly disease for a long time, it was only a week and half from when she was diagnosed to her death. Needless to say, the blog has not been uppermost in my mind.
I have now lost both of my parents to cancer (my father when I was just 18) and thus last week's World Cancer Day on 4th February held a particular poignance for me. I worry that I may now become somewhat over-aware of every little pain and niggle.
Looking back over the last couple of years, my mother's Pancreatic Cancer must have lain 'undiscovered' for many many months, if not years..... With my new found google-induced wisdom on how it presents, I now realise that many of the symptoms were clear as day..... the doctors simply did not look in the right place at the right time or consider her symptoms with appropriate curiosity.
There is a good reason that Pancreatic Cancer is known as the 'Silent Killer'. It masquerades itself within symptoms which could be anything but..... Yet it kills with the precision of a carefully-targeted bullet and has a 5 year survival rate of only just over 3%.
At this time I do not wish to dwell on what it meant to (all too briefly) care for my mother in her final days, but would urge you to look up how this deadly disease manifests and stay armed with that knowledge just in case you ever need to know.
It was my mother who gave us our Italian heritage and also our love of food. Born to Italian parents, she introduced us early to foods that my friends had never heard of, let alone eaten. Visits to my 'Nana's' house would often mean dodging fresh-made spaghetti draped around the kitchen and I would relish our trips with Mum to the Italian delicatessen to pick up ravioli shells ready to fill with spinach and cheese, finely sliced salami, parma ham, olives and the annual boxed Panettone.
There was always cake or dessert in our house too. Endless cake! Mum loved to bake and never needed an excuse to feed us with the sweet stuff. A meal wasn't finished until we had devoured 'pudding'.
In memory of my Mum and in celebration of her life and Italian roots, I decided last weekend to make some Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies. These traditional cookies come either crunchy or soft, but always have an intense sweet almond hit. I love both, but decided on this occasion to opt for the soft chewy version which have an almost marzipan quality to them. They also somehow seemed more comforting in my grief.
They are incredibly simple to make and a batch can be created from end to end (and probably eaten) in 30 to 40 minutes flat. Flavour them with a good hit of Italian Amaretti liqueur (I use Disaronno) or for a slightly more intense taste and aroma, add a little almond extract. Either way, with their crisp shell and slightly gooey interior, you will find it difficult to leave them alone, so plan ahead and make a double batch.....
Although I made them in memory of my Mum, these cookies make the perfect gift, whether for Valentines, birthdays, Mother's Day or Christmas.
This Vanilla Sponge is a perfect all-round bake for celebration cakes. It is the result of a long line of Gluten Free Alchemist test cakes that I made, attempting to get the best texture and crumb to be decorated, stacked, cut, poked and prodded, yet stay soft, moist and delicious. With the amount of testing I have done, I am happy to call it my BEST Vanilla Sponge.
It started its journey back in November after I was asked to make an 18th birthday cake for the daughter of a dear friend of mine. Wanting the design to remain firmly in their control, I left the decisions about flavour and style completely to them..... but after they requested a vanilla sponge, I realised I didn't have one which was suitable to the task at hand (three layers, filled with jam and butter cream and covered in vanilla buttercream roses).
I was quite surprised that there wasn't already one on the blog, but I seem to be a chocolate birthday cake girl! The situation needed rectifying..... quick...... so I developed a base recipe and then set to work, tweaking and playing with it until I was happy with the weight, moistness, texture and crumb.
The proof of the pudding of course, is in the eating and I am happy to report that the cake was a success with all who ate it...... Good job, because I have a 60th wedding anniversary cake to make in April.....
Although I developed this sponge for a celebratory birthday cake, the same cake would be perfect as a special Mother's Day treat... I have only included the sponge recipe below, but you can fill and decorate with jam, buttercream, ganache or anything else you choose. If you would like to cover in buttercream roses, there is a really helpful tutorial for piping roses here.
I managed to get plenty of photos of the original rose-covered cake before it was delivered to the birthday girl, but it was not possible to get any photos of the sponge that would properly show the crumb.
I will be honest, it is a bit of a bug-bear of mine when I see a gluten free cake recipe on the internet with no photo of the inside...... So many gluten free cakes are either really dry or quite stodgy and tight, so I like to be able to see what I am getting, or the recipe get's side-lined.
To avoid the criticism of pots and black kettles, I 'forced' myself to make another cake and eat it in the interests of letting you see the sponge. Life can be pretty hard sometimes. Perfectly risen, soft and full of aromatic vanilla, I can verify this sponge is amazingly good.
Whilst I have your ear (or is it your eye?), I would also like to give a HUGE shout out to my lovely blogging friend Rebecca over at Glutarama. If you read my Amaretti Cookie post, you will know that 2018 did not start well for me as I sadly (and quite unexpectedly) lost my mother. Rebecca has been an incredible friend not only for checking in on me whilst I am going through a really difficult time, but also because she has been a total star in covering my absence from my planned joint hosting of our Got To Be Gluten Free #G2BGF linky. I had enthusiastically agreed, just before Christmas, to pair up with Rebecca in this adventure and feel like I have been totally useless since. As soon as I am back on track, I will be a full part of the party..... I promise!
In the mean time, if you have any gluten free goodies you can link up, we would LOVE you to join us over at Glutarama.
I am sharing my Gluten Free Alchemist Best Vanilla Sponge with :
Got To Be Gluten Free #G2BGF with Glutarama (Who is doing a stirling job of holding the fort whilst I am trying to get myself back on track after much recent upheaval.... Thank you SO much Rebecca)
The Best Vanilla Sponge (makes 1 x 9 inch (23 cm) sandwich cake)Ingredients
320g plain GF flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
160g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
330 ml (g) milk
1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
170g unsalted butter - softened
360g caster sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs - room temperature
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and base-line two 9 inch (23 cm) round non-stick baking tins with baking paper.
Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, making sure the ingredients are fully combined and all lumps are broken down (I weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside.
In a jug, stir together the milk and vinegar and leave to stand for 10 minutes (it will become clumpy).
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar with a whisk until pale and fluffy.
Add and beat in the vanilla extract.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat together with a fork to break up the egg. Add a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating thoroughly between each addition until smooth.
Finally alternate folding in the liquid and flour mix to the batter about a third at a time, gently and quickly until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.
Divide the mixture between the two baking tins and smooth the tops.
Bake for approx 30 minutes until golden and the top springs back to the touch.
Cool for 10 minutes in the tins, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For families with strict dietary requirements, choosing a holiday destination is not straight forward..... In addition to the universal debate of what there will be to do when you get to wherever you end up (which may mean trying to fit in (or compromise) the needs of several age bands and interests), the ultimate choice may in part be driven by the likelihood of getting a good meal...... Will we be able to eat safely and how easy will it be to find lunch or dinner without hours of traipsing and enquiring?
I have been meaning to write this post for ages, but for various reasons which are far too complicated or boring to go into, it has taken months to get around to it. With the summer fast coming round again however and the need to start planning holidays, I wanted to share a little Spanish gluten free wisdom..... and to share one or two other photos too.
Whenever we go away, I research my intended destination and work out whether the local diet is likely to be friendly to us and I make a note of any recommended eateries that are likely to cater for gluten freedom. One of my favourite sources is other bloggers, because I trust that they will be sharing the gems and be honest about where to avoid.
Let's face it...... If you can't just walk into any restaurant and eat, then someone else's leg-work could just save you a lot of disappointment (which becomes really really important when you have a hungry child in tow...).
With that in mind, I have decided that whenever I go away (which admittedly is not as often as I would like), I will endeavour to share my favourite finds with you too..... just in case you ever head for the same neck of the woods. Be sure to check out and follow my Instagram Account too, as this will always be ahead of any blog posts when I come across somewhere (or something) that blows me away.
But back to Barcelona...... which we visited last summer (2017)..... It was a last minute booking, to a city which I have wanted to visit for years. I wasn't disappointed. It was incredibly diverse, compact, colourful, welcoming, creative and with such a wealth of culture and history that I could have been occupied for months just wandering around the streets. Apart from the misfortune of being caught up in a major terror attack (our experience of which you can read about here), our time in Barcelona was amazing and I will be returning for sure....
A word of warning for summer gluten free travellers though...... August can create some frustration! When I set about my foodie research ahead of our trip, I was incredibly excited that the city was reported to have a number of specifically gluten free bakeries...... Turns out most of them are closed at some time during August for their annual holiday.
Either way, because I really really wanted to visit them, I have included a bit of information about them below in case anyone else is lucky enough to get there.
I don't know about you, but when I think food of Spain and Catalonia, I think Tapas, Paella and plenty of Mediterranean fruit and veg. Fruit and veg is straight forward for gluten avoiders and most Paella is also likely to be fine (depending on added stock, which you need to be sure to check)..... What about Tapas? If you avoid any breads and batters and stick to cheeses, hams, shrimp, olives, omelettes and potatoes, you should be fine. Right? No! Apparently not!
I was genuinely shocked at how many Tapas restaurants turned us away, being constantly told that (despite being in separate counter areas with no other obvious contaminants) even the ham and cheese weren't safe. Frankly I suspect that some restaurants simply couldn't be bothered, but if their attitude is that unhelpful, then they cannot be trusted to prepare food safely. I am more than willing to take my custom and hard earned cash elsewhere.... and gluten-safety is always top priority.
Sadly, my very favourite Patatas Bravas (potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce) seemed to be off the menu too..... I didn't find one restaurant that could offer them gluten free..... and trust me, I asked at dozens.
We did manage to find several Paellas however..... although they varied in quality, most were relatively cheap and pretty satisfying.
Anyway..... to where we ate and loved......
Eating Out :
Jansana Bakery - Carrer Balmes, 106; Barcelona 08008
This was by far our favourite find of the trip, possibly because it was the only dedicated 100% gluten free bakery that was open during our August visit (opening the day after we got there). Being relatively central in the L'Eixample district on Carrer Balmes, it was (for us) a 15 minute stroll in the morning to pick up a stash of gorgeous gluten free goodies for a picnic lunch or to enjoy a leisurely, late, sit-in breakfast.
There is something about finding a completely gluten free bakery or restaurant that always makes me excited beyond belief.... If you aren't required to be gluten free, I am not sure you can truly understand..... but the prospect of actually being able to eat anything on display (which is taken for granted by most people), is so far removed from our usual day to day experience that it is like being a child let loose in a toy shop..... you want everything..... and I mean EVERYTHING..... You don't want to miss out on something you might never get the chance to try again..... and it is really really hard to resist the urge to binge..... even if it means carb overload.
Although quite small, Jansana had an amazing selection of sweet and savoury breads, pastries and cakes. They were able to provide us with filled rolls (with glorious home-made breads), savoury quiches and cheese-filled pastries to take out for lunch and we ate some of the most decadent patisserie there too. We were spoilt with everything from flaky layers of pastry or profiteroles.... to fillings of creamy custards, fruit and chocolate ganache...... You know.... the sort of beautiful desserts that make you feel extra special (and exceptionally immoral when eaten for breakfast! Well..... we were on holiday). Everything we ate was incredible.
We LOVED this place. It somehow made us feel extra welcome, not least because once there, we didn't have to ask....... That counts for a lot when you usually have to go through the 'can we see the allergen menu/can you do/how do you prepare...?' etc script pretty much every time you eat out.
Located just round the corner from the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, this is a family-run Italian restaurant that offers an extensive menu of fresh gluten free pasta, pizza, risotto, breads, salads, meat and fish dishes. They have over eight years experience in preparing gluten free food, with a separate menu specifically for Celiacs and gluten-avoiders.
We tied lunch here with a visit to the Cathedral (which is a must see) and weren't disappointed. The pasta (I had traditionally filled Cannelloni) was one of the best I have eaten. Miss GF had Pizza which was also extremely good. You even have the option of GF Tiramisu for dessert, although sadly the last piece had been sold just before I ordered.... I settled for a creamy, Italian Panna Cotta instead.
If you love Italian eating, you have to visit this place..... you won't be disappointed. Although the surroundings are quite basic, the food is exceptional. You can check out their gluten free menu here. Although it is not in English, if you use a basic Catalan translation tool, you will get the gist.
If you are looking for an easy, low-key, relaxed meal, we found Lolita Barceloneta down near the seafront. Although not a specifically gluten free restaurant, the staff were friendly and knowledgable and were able to offer a variety of safe gluten free tapas and a selection of gluten free paellas. We ate here a couple of times and although both meals were great, on our second visit, the staff were a bit slow.... Nonetheless worth a visit if you are in the area.
Conesa Sandwich Shop - Llibreteria 1, Placa Sant Jaume, 08002, Barcelona (Bari Gotic)
Centrally located in the city, Conesa has a fantastic range of gluten free sandwiches and rolls, hot and cold, that have been certified by the Coeliac Association in Catalonia. Quick, easy and convenient, these sandwiches are really good and with a vast range of gluten free filling options, the whole family is guaranteed to be gluten-free happy.
McDonalds - All over the city
Okay..... don't shoot me down. We only eat there very occasionally, but I have a soft spot for McDonalds. In the UK, they are the only basic burger takeaway restaurant that offers the ability to give you a gluten free beef burger and safe fries. If you take in your own bun (I always pre-slice mine), they will happily fill it (and in some venues) toast it in a decontaminated area so that you can be like everyone else. They have made my life as a parent so much easier when Miss GF wanted to eat just like her friends or went to parties and sleepovers where I knew McD's would be on the menu.
In Spain, they take gluten freedom one stage further...... they offer you an actual gluten free bun to go with your burger..... so if you are in a hurry (or just want to experience the novelty of going to McDonalds without the faff of taking bread with you), this has to be on your list! You will also find that the fries are gluten free (fried separately from other products) and the staff are well-trained.
Ice Cream Parlours
Surprisingly, finding a gluten-safe ice cream in Barcelona was trickier than we thought it would be. A number of ice cream parlours that we visited had fresh ice cream that had no obvious gluten containing ingredients, but we were told that the manufacturing process made them unsafe. No one wants to be sick on holiday, however as ice cream is a summer essential..... we went on a mission to find the best we could. These two companies (which were both centrally located) were our favourites :
Loved this place. Not only was the ice cream creamy, delicious and gluten free, but they offered 'free from' cones as well. Being located at the top of the main shopping street, Dino is really easy to find..... but beware..... its convenience makes it rather addictive.
Who doesn't love waffles? They make a perfect treat for a lazy weekend breakfast dressed in berries and drizzled with raspberry or chocolate sauce..... Having been the excited recipient of a waffle-maker last Christmas, I am thrilled to bring you the first of what will hopefully be many Gluten Free Alchemist waffle recipes.
Tapping through the pages of the internet, home-made waffles clearly make a pretty regular appearance in many kitchens both in the UK and across the pond...... I however had never made them (late to the party as always....), until now.
Of course most of the recipes out there are made with regular flour..... but I have loads of good memories of great pre-Coeliac glutenous waffles on which to base my standard...... and I wanted to make absolutely sure that when I developed my own gluten free waffle recipe, they would rival the best.
You need to judge them for yourselves, but I think I've cracked this waffle malarky and done a darn fine job. I'm really happy with these Gluten Free Belgian Waffles. They are crisp and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside...... not over-sweet, but unquestionably, the perfect base to load up with your favourite toppings. Kaspas (which incidentally don't do gluten free) eat your heart out!
I won't waffle on any more (get it?!), 'cos I need to get this recipe out to you and Easter is nearly upon us...... I'll definitely be eating waffles for breakfast on Easter Sunday..... Quite possibly topped with freshly melting Easter eggs. Why don't you join me?
I love this gluten free Orange Cake. It is moist, heady with the scent and tang of orange and gorgeously sharable. Having had a crappy start to 2018, I decided that this would be my birthday treat..... No-one else was planning to make my birthday special with a cake, so I figured I would grab the opportunity for a bit of baking therapy and make it myself!
If I am honest, I am not really being critical of the lack of enthusiasm for my birthday from others..... It hasn't really felt like a reason to celebrate this year, partly because I am still trying to come to terms with the loss of my mother in January and that of my brother a couple of years ago. The loss of two family members so close together is a reminder that life is just too short..... Something needs to change in my world and soon...... The daily grind is not meeting my needs, either emotional or spiritual and I feel that somewhere along the way I got lost in anger and frustration and I don't want to be stuck there any more. Mid life crisis? I think so.
Whilst I am planning my route to betterness, baking cake will provide some 'down time' and a means of giving and caring..... birthday or not.
I have shared this cake before...... not on the blog, but with colleagues and friends. On every occasion, the recipients have retreated into silent munching interspersed with a happy 'mmm' (which I generally take to be a sign of grateful satisfaction), followed by feedback that has made me blush! I love that a simple cake can provide a sense of shared enjoyment...... it is a nice thing to give and is often my way of saying I care, or apologising for my shitty mood and attitude...... and recently my mood and attitude have been more than shitty!
Is it just me or do other people have periods in life when it feels that the negative energy just grabs hold and won't let go? Everything you touch bites back..... Every time you start to get back on your feet, something else happens that smacks you down. I need to find a way to change the energy......
But enough self-absorbed waffle..... let's get back to the cake..... Made with plenty of ground almonds and some home-made buttermilk, it stays moist and fresh. If anything, the crumb improves over a couple of days..... far from the often dry and crumbly gluten free offerings.
To make the cake extra celebratory, I filled and decorated it with some creamy, decadent orange buttercream, touched with a swirl of orange curd. When I have made the cake previously, I layered the buttercream and curd, but this made the cake a bit slippery to stack, so for this bake I have mixed the two elements together.
The home-made jelly made with the juice of blood oranges, not only gives this cake the wow factor, but adds a deliciously contrasting texture which marries beautifully against the sponge and velvety butter cream. Finished with a sparkle of edible gold heart sprinkles and some sugar flowers takes it from tea time cake to a show-stopping and very special treat..... For those of you who venture to make it, I hope you fall in love with it as much as we have.....
Orange Cake (makes a 2 x 9 inch or 3 x 7 inch sandwich cake)Ingredients
300g plain gluten free flour (I used GFA blend A from this post)
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
175g ground almonds
330 ml milk
1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
150g unsalted butter - room temperature
400g caster sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature and lightly beaten together
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
zest 1 orange - finely grated
Orange Curd Butter Icing 190g unsalted butter - softened 400g icing sugar - sifted pinch fine sea salt ½ teaspoon orange extract 3 to 4 heaped teaspoons orange curd
Orange Jelly 120g sieved orange juice (I used freshly squeezed blood orange) 1 tablespoon icing sugar 3g sheet gelatine
Additional Decorations I used sugar flowers and gold stars
Sponge : Base-line two 9 inch or three 7 inch cake tins with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Weigh and thoroughly mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum salt and almonds (I weigh into a large airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside.
Pour the milk and vinegar into a jug and stir so that the liquid becomes clumpy. Set aside.
Use an electric whisk to cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Gradually add the egg a little at a time and beat thoroughly between each addition until fully amalgamated.
Add and beat through the vanilla and orange extracts and orange zest.
Add and gently fold in the dry ingredients and the milk mixture, alternating wet with dry about a third at a time, until it has all been added.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the tins and smooth the surface.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Orange Curd Butter Icing : Beat the butter until smooth, then gradually add and beat in the icing sugar, salt, orange extract and curd until well-blended, light and creamy.
Sandwich together the sponge cakes with a generous layer of butter icing.
Use a large palette knife and cake scraper to spread a thin layer of butter icing around the sides and top of the cake, then pipe rosettes tightly round the top edge (making sure there are no gaps as this will form the wall that will prevent the jelly escaping) and round the base using a large open star tip. Place in the fridge to firm up slightly.
Orange Jelly : Hydrate the gelatine by placing the sheets flat, in cold water for 10 minutes.
Heat the juice either in a small saucepan or in a jug in the microwave.
Add the icing sugar and stir until dissolved.
Whilst the juice is still hot, add the softened gelatine and stir until completely dissolved.
Set aside at room temperature, stirring frequently until the liquid is cold and just beginning to thicken very slightly (but is still liquid and pourable).
Pour the jelly onto the top of the cake (inside the icing surround) and place in the fridge to set.
Decorate with sparkles and sugar flowers and serve.