Hands up, who loves the fudgiest of fudgy chocolate cookies? The ones with a lightly crisp exterior, encasing a brownie-like middle? That your teeth sink into and are slightly sticky and chewy?... Yes? That's a lot of hands out there! Need the recipe? You're going to LOVE my new gluten free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
Crinkle, Crackle or Brookies Cookies? I say Crinkle Cookies... but are they? I need some help on this guys. I wasn't sure whether they should be called crackle or crinkle cookies. And then again, are they actually Crinkle Brookies? For those of you who haven't heard of a 'Brookie', it is (I am told) the cross between a cookie and a brownie. If you look for the origins and description of Brookies on the web, you first and foremost get something that (in various shapes and layers) looks like a combination of biscuit and brownie cake... which you'd be right in thinking this is not. But you also get plenty of references to a soft, gooey, chocolatey cookie that has the internal consistency of a brownie... which these most certainly are... but with the added bonus of a pretty crinkle top.
At GFHQ, the jury's out. Are they Crinkle Cookies? Crackle Cookies? or Crinkle Brookies? Actually, it's probably all split hairs. What they are is decadently moreish, delicious mounds of squidgy chocolatey scrumptiousness. But for the sake of argument (and so that they at least have a sense of identity), today I will be calling them gluten free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
They are also one of the most photogenic things I have made in a long time. It doesn't matter which way you look at them, they are totally catwalk-worthy.... which whilst not that relevant to ultimate taste satisfaction, when you are trying to make them look as desirable as possible, does actually matter. The crackle on the cookie makes all the difference!
Getting the best texture in a gluten free Crinkle Cookie How often do you find yourself eating gluten free cookies and biscuits that are dry or gritty and think that since you are Coeliac or gluten-intolerant, this is what you have to put up with? Here at Gluten Free Alchemist, I don't see why people who have to avoid gluten should accept any bake that isn't as good as, or better than wheat-based bakes. Texture matters as much as taste and that means that before I put out any recipe, I work and re-work each set of ingredients to get the best possible result.
Although you can make these Crinkle Cookies with a standard rice-based commercial gluten free flour blend, they simply won't taste as good. Trust me... I've tried it, You lose the smooth and gooey texture that makes them what they are. Sometimes you have to get creative and that means making a blend to fit the bake that you want to achieve.
Although for many of the bakes at Gluten Free Alchemist I do use one of my two main home blends (either blend A or my rice-free flour blend) for these chocolate crinkle cookies, I have blended together a specific ratio of sorghum, tapioca, buckwheat and corn flours to get the texture just right. I make no apology. If you want the perfect gluten free cookie, you have to find the right mix.
Why do Crinkle Cookies Crinkle? Whether you call them crinkle or crackle cookies, have you ever wondered why that beautiful cracked surface exists? Apparently (according to Cooks Illustrated), it's all to do with the speed with which the top of the cookie dries out in the oven. If it dries before the cookie has finished rising (the sugar coating being key to drawing the moisture from the surface), the continued internal spreading causes the white icing sugar-coated surface to crack, pull apart and harden, leaving a beautiful crinkly pattern.
Personally I much prefer deep, wide fissures, but if you like your crinkles to have more of a close-knit 'shattered' look, the scientists at America's Test Kitchen suggest giving the dough-balls a double-coating of granulated sugar, followed by icing sugar. The coarser granules in the granulated sugar apparently accelerate the drying process due to their ability to dissolve and re-crystallise in the heat of the oven, leading to a surface that dries faster with more cracks!
However you love your crackles, one things for sure, these Chocolate Crinkle Cookies are wonderfully moreish, easy to make and perfect for every occasion. But don't take my word for it... whip up your own batch and let me know what you think.
Once you've enjoyed a batch of Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, tempt yourself with my other lovely Gluten Free Alchemist Cookies. Check out these babies...
A deliciously fudgy gluten free chocolate cookie which is easy to make and perfectly crinkled.
prep time: 25 Mcook time: 12 Mtotal time: 37 M
45g sorghum flour
40g tapioca flour
25g buckwheat flour
25g corn flour (starch)
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
190g caster sugar (preferably golden)
50g cocoa powder
70g coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g icing sugar (to coat cookies)
instructions:How to cook Chocolate Crinkle Cookies - gluten free
Weigh and mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum until well blended (I weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, cocoa powder and melted coconut oil until evenly blended.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract and vigorously beat together with a wooden/silicone spoon.
Add the dry ingredients and beat again until smooth.
Chill the ingredients for 1 to 2 hours until firmed up.
Prepare a couple of large baking trays by base-lining with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Once chilled and firm, scoop out spoonfuls of cookie dough (approx walnut size) and roll into balls with your hands.
Place the icing sugar into a bowl and dip each dough ball, rolling around until fully coated in icing sugar. Once coated, place each ball on the baking trays about two inches apart. Very lightly press the top of each ball to flatten slightly.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes and remove from the oven.
Leave on the trays for a further 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can replace the flours with a standard gluten free flour blend (135g), but I recommend you use the ratio of flours as stated above. Rice-based blends in particular will significantly affect the texture of the cookie, giving a more gritty and drier result. Times displayed without dough chilling time.
Are you a rhubarb lover or hater? As a child I was a hater, but maturity has brought a love of the pink stuff and with it a desire to make a Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. No ordinary rhubarb upside down cake I hasten to add, but a gluten free one, made with a delicious strawberry and almond sponge incorporating real freeze dried strawberry powder and a very healthy ratio of ground almonds.
I love using ground almonds in gluten free bakes, not only because they add moisture and texture, but because they also add structure, lessening the potential crumbliness and dryness so familiar (and frustrating) to us gluten free folk. They are also amazing in their nutritional value, being a great source of protein, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium. Whilst they may be considered a 'high fat' ingredient, the great news is that most of the fat is monounsaturated which has cardio-protective properties. Sure, I'm throwing them into cake, but every little helps and if I am going to use valuable calories enjoying a treat, I figure I might as well ensure it has some nutritional value too.
The rhubarb I have used comes from my garden. Having completely water-logged and killed a much coveted rhubarb plant that we grew a few years back, we replaced it with a new one (which we put in a more favourable part of the garden) and are now being repaid with more rhubarb sticks than we can ever hope to eat, challenging us to source, invent and experiment with as many rhubarb recipes as we can. Seriously, if you fall into the 'love rhubarb' camp, consider growing your own (if you don't already). It is the plant that keeps on giving.... all summer...
Rhubarb upside down cake is just perfect for using it, because it consumes plenty of sticks in one hit. Better still, because it is upside down, you get to enjoy looking at the beautiful rhubarb hues and textures. Of course, the more pink the rhubarb, the better the effect, so be sure to arrange it pink side down in the bottom of the cake tin before baking.
This particular rhubarb upside down cake packs an extra-fruity punch from the addition of ground freeze-dried strawberry powder in the sponge. From the moment I discovered freeze-dried fruit, I have been a fan and have loved using it powdered in cakes and biscuits. Somehow the flavours of the fruit are extra intense when it has been through the freeze-drying process and depending on the fruit you are using, it can add the most beautiful natural colour to your cakes and cookies.
If you want to experiment yourself, it is definitely worth buying in larger quantities, either as ready-ground powder or to grind yourself at home. The tiny pots that you can buy in major supermarkets are way over-priced and simply won't stretch to large-scale baking. I always buy mine on-line from Healthy Supplies who have the most amazing range... from berries and cherries through to banana, blackcurrants and mandarin. If you buy the fruit pre-ground, it makes a fantastically healthy snack too, especially for little ones. Miss GF has always loved it!
If gluten free rhubarb upside down cake doesn't float your boat, but you are still in need of some seasonal rhubarb inspiration, a number of my good free-from and blogger friends have helped me out by sharing some of their favourite rhubarb recipes. They are all free from gluten and some of them are also free from dairy, eggs, nuts and other things too. I have also included a selection of other rhubarb treats from Gluten Free Alchemist :
Gluten Free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Strawberry & Almond Sponge
A moist upside down cake made with fresh seasonal rhubarb and a gluten free strawberry and almond sponge (made with real strawberry powder). Perfect as a cake to serve with tea or as a dessert served with custard, cream, or ice cream.
prep time: cook time: total time:
160g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A GFA mix from this post)
150g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (leave out if you use a commercial mix that has it already added)
large pinch fine sea salt
25g freeze-dried strawberry powder (if you cannot source strawberry powder, use freeze-dried strawberries and grind into a fine powder using a blender).
100g unsalted butter/dairy free alternative - softened
300g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
250 ml yoghurt (dairy free if needed)
75 ml milk/dairy free alternative
approx 250g fresh rhubarb (sliced lengthways)
80g soft light brown sugar
instructions:How to cook Gluten Free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Strawberry & Almond Sponge
Ahead of time, prepare your rhubarb by slicing lengthways (you may also want to consider how you wish to lay in the base of the cake pan and cut roughly to size). Place the rhubarb in a dish and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar, turning to ensure all the rhubarb is coated. Leave to stand at room temperature for an hour, turning occasionally.
Base-line a 9 inch/23 cm non-stick, spring-form cake tin (2" deep) with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Arrange the rhubarb in the base of the cake tin (placing the most pink bits upside down so that they show when the cake is turned out) and spoon over the remaining sugar juice. Make sure that you place the cake tin onto a baking tray before baking as some of the juice may leak out of the base.
Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and strawberry powder (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously to mix) and set aside.
Cream the butter and flour together with the vanilla extract (with an electric whisk) until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.
Mix together the yoghurt and milk in a jug and then add to the bowl about a third at a time, alternating with adding the dry flour mix a third at a time, gently folding through between each addition until just mixed and even. Be careful not to over mix.
Spoon the cake batter into the cake tin over the rhubarb and smooth the top with the back of the spoon.
Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. If towards the end of the bake you are worried that the cake may be getting a little dark, cover with a piece of foil.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out (upside down) onto a heat-proof plate (if you are opting to do the stage below, otherwise turn onto a serving plate).
Optional : Lightly grill the rhubarb base of the cake to caramelise slightly (do not place the cake too close to the grill heat), keeping a close eye to ensure you do not burn.
Transfer to a serving plate (if different) and serve 'naked', or with cream, custard or ice cream.
Many of you will have made Banoffee Pie in the past, but have you ever thought of making Banoffee Cake? That heavenly blend of banana and toffee works perfectly as a layered sponge and as I recently had a birthday (the age for which is best forgotten...) I decided to make one as my birthday treat. This gluten free Banoffee Cake is totally delicious (and I mean TOTALLY delicious). Tempted to try it? Read on my lovely readers for a recipe to make you swoon...
When I was plotting ways to achieve banoffee in celebration cake form, I knew that I wanted to recreate some of the texture as well as the flavour of banoffee pie. For the uninitiated of you, banoffee pie is usually made using a biscuit-crust case, filled with fresh banana and caramel/dulce de leche, topped with lashings of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate.
I knew I didn't want to make the cake too sickly sweet and consequently needed to avoid filling and covering it in sugary frosting at all costs. Layering with freshly-whipped cream alongside a balanced helping of toffee sauce, would not only keep the sweetness down, but would replicate the creamy 'banoffeeness' of its 'pie' equivalent. To be honest, this was no hardship... at GF HQ we far prefer a cream-filled cake, even if it does take up most of the fridge space and has to be eaten twice as quick (although I am not 100% sure that the latter is a negative... Cream cakes in our house never last very long).
Being Coeliac, it was also essential that the sponge was gluten free, so I used my all time favourite, tried, tested and very much loved Banana Bread/Cake recipe, which was one of the first recipes I ever published on Gluten Free Alchemist. The recipe works equally well as a cake or a loaf and has been served as a dressed down version at many cake sales and team meetings over the past 6 years. It is verified yummy!
To achieve the biscuit crunch that you get with banoffee pie, I have added some specially prepared Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs to the layers and decoration. They work perfectly, especially alongside the crisp, crushed dark chocolate cigarillos that adorn the top.
All in all, I am willing to stick my neck out and declare this gluten free Banoffee Cake a triumph.... well actually that was the phrase Mr GF generously used, but blushes aside, I think he may have a point. So if you are looking for a stunner of a cake that ticks the banana-toffee taste box, but still gives you the creamy-crunchy dreaminess of a traditional banoffee pie, let your bananas ripen, grab your cake tins, whack the oven on and bake...
A perfect celebration cake for Banoffee lovers, this deliciously moist banana cake is layered with freshly whipped cream, caramel sauce and crunchy baked biscuit crumbs, and is decorated with chocolate.
prep time: 50 Mcook time: 40 Mtotal time: 90 M
210g plain gluten free flour blend (I used GFA blend A from this post)
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
100g unsalted butter - softened
150g caster sugar (preferably golden caster)
125g light soft brown sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium-sized very ripe bananas
175 ml buttermilk
Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs
200g gluten free biscuits (digestive or chocolate chip)
80g butter - cubed
Caramel and Cream Filling & Decoration
500 ml double cream
200-250g good quality toffee sauce or dulce de leche
handful of toasted chopped hazel/brazil/macadamia nuts (optional)
crunchy baked biscuit crumbs (see separate details)
dark chocolate curls/broken cigarillos/shards, etc
edible glitter (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and base-line two 8 inch non-stick round baking tins with baking paper.
Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside (I weigh mine into a large airtight container and shake vigorously).
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork and then add, a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
Add and beat in the vanilla extract.
Mash the bananas in a separate bowl with a fork, before gently folding into the wet mixture.
Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the buttermilk alternately with the flour mix, about a third at a time, until all the ingredients are JUST combined. Do not over-mix.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the cake tins and smooth the tops before baking for approximately 30 minutes (until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top is firm to the touch but springs back).
Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and line a small baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Place the biscuits in a strong plastic food bag, gently squeeze out the air and hold the top shut. Using a rolling pin, either bash or roll the biscuits to break them down into coarse crumbs. Set aside.
Melt the butter, stirring in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat (or in a glass bowl in the microwave set at medium, on 30 second bursts, stirring well between each) until just melted.
Mix the melted butter with the biscuit crumbs until evenly blended and then spread the mixture onto the lined baking tray.
Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, frequently turning the crumbs to enable them to crisp and 'bake' evenly.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
Assembly and Decoration
Place one of the sponges on a serving plate.
Whip the cream to soft peaks (so that it holds its shape well) and then spread a thick layer onto the base sponge.
Top the cream layer with a good drizzle of toffee sauce, a sprinkling of chopped nuts (optional) and a good sprinkling of crunchy biscuit crumbs.
Place the second sponge cake layer carefully on top of the filling.
Top with another layer of whipped cream and thickly drizzled toffee sauce.
Decorate with a rim of crunchy biscuit crumbs, chocolate curls/crushed cigarillos and a sprinkling of edible glitter for a little extra sparkle (optional).
Refrigerate until ready to eat, but remove from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Meet my Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Brownies... Dark, fudgy, dangerously moreish and perfect for the Easter chocolate binge which is fast approaching (well... Easter doesn't have to be all about eggs does it?). This gluten free brownie recipe is made with Terry's Dark Chocolate Orange, and 'spiked' with a little extra orange oil for a truly citrus-infused experience. So if you like your chocolate a little bit fruity, this one's for you.
I've been meaning to make these decadent mouthfuls for ages and actually bought the Chocolate Oranges when they were on offer at Christmas, but then life got in the way and they just didn't happen. All power to my self control though... Chocolate Orange in the house for 3 months uneaten? Go me!!!!
Trust me though, these beauties are worth the wait and the self-control. They pack a serious chocolate punch... enough to top up the empty winter serotonin banks with one square and because they are made with dark chocolate and offset with a hint of tangy orange, they are definitely less sweet than a lot of brownies.
Although I made these gluten free brownies with the rather iconic Terrys Chocolate Orange, you can of course make them with any other brand of orange chocolate (or even just add extra orange extract to the mix alongside bog-standard chocolate), but be absolutely sure to choose dark chocolate. It makes for a more intense flavour experience and brings out the citrus beautifully.
I am also fairly certain that they could be made with ordinary wheat flour, although (for obvious reasons) I haven't tried it, but if it's gluten free brownies you are hunting down, this recipe is both wheat free and Coeliac friendly. Sub the butter for dairy free spread and use dairy free dark chocolate and you also have yourself a delicious dairy free treat too. Upgrade and make it a full-on chocolate-lovers dessert. Grab a bowl, and top with your favourite ice cream or custard and devour.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice there's a bit of a major change with this post. After nearly 6 years of blogging, I have finally found a route to making printable recipe cards on my Blogger blogging platform. I'm ecstatic actually! There seem to be a million and one app options for recipe developers who use Wordpress, but (as far as I can see) virtually none for the rest of us. Yet it's so important that you lovely lot can access my recipes in a way that is easy to use in the kitchen.
I am hoping that over time, I will be able to back-track across my old recipe posts and update as many as possible to include a printable version and I'd love you to let me know which Gluten Free Alchemist recipes you want me to update next. So if you have a favourite, please leave me a comment so that I can make sure the best recipes get updated first.
Of course, if you do make these deliciously fudgy gluten free Chocolate Orange Brownies, then make my day and let me know about it. Even better... take a photo and tag me in on social media.
Base-line a square non-stick 8 inch/20 cm baking tin with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Using a heat-proof bowl, melt and stir the chocolate with the butter over a saucepan of lightly simmering water, or in the microwave (medium setting, 30 second bursts, stirring between each). Once melted and smoothly blended, add the orange extract, stir through and set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugars together until well-blended and airy.
Add the chocolate mixture and beat until blended.
Lastly add the flour and fold through with a wooden or silicone spoon/spatula until combined. The mixture should be a thick dropping consistency - If it feels a little too thick, add a splash of milk and fold through.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until just firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely, before slicing to serve. It may help to refrigerate before slicing to make the cutting easier, and then bring back to room temperature.
Remember McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake?... Sticky, dark, rich and temptingly warming? Well this is my gluten free copycat..... just like Mcvities, except it's home-made and it's free from gluten... which in my book, makes it better.
Perhaps I alone in having a 'god... I'm going to miss this' list from the moment I had to go gluten free? I doubt it... but either way, Jamaican Ginger Cake has to be on my top ten gluten free desired list.... yet search as I have, I've yet to find a 'free from' variant commercially available. Which means.... if you want it, you have to make it yourself.
So that's what I've done... and because I hate the thought of anyone else being deprived, I've decided to share.
Fortunately, I've made it as simple as possible for you and come up with a recipe that's as easy as pie. Actually, it's easier than pie. You literally mix your dry stuff, melt your wet stuff and beat it all together with an egg. Seriously, I kid you not... the most difficult bit is leaving it in the oven for an hour, whilst the spiced aroma wafts through the air around you and your stomach rumbles uncontrollably.
This is not my first foray into Jamaican Ginger Cake development. I created my first recipe back in 2016 after a work colleague needed a gluten free version to make Gingerbread Stuffing at Christmas. It was a great cake.... also deep and sticky and very like the old glutenous McVities sponge that I remember. But some recipes just need to be taken one step further.
My previous recipe contained ground almonds and used light brown sugar... Sure there's nothing wrong with almonds or light brown sugar, but on a whim, I decided that I wanted to develop a darker, more gingery, nut free, rice free, optional dairy free version, that would be more accessible for other food intolerances.
It was worth the effort.... I am truly proud of my Jamaican Ginger Cake Mark 2. It has the perfect texture... (not over airy or over-dense).... It has the characteristic back-kick of cinnamon-infused ginger which warms the palate and gives you a big internal winter hug... It is expectantly sticky on the teeth and sat side by side with its gluten-filled counterparts, it competes with ease and (in my humble opinion) would probably win hands down.
How do I know? Because it has been tested on friends, family and colleagues who have been spotted sneaking back for an extra slice or three and who (mostly still being gluten-eaters) have compared it more than favourably.
For quality assurance, I have made sure to check its trifle-making versatility with a re-run of my Winter Ginger and Pear Trifle (essential if you want to WOW at dinner parties) and I (and all my taste-testing guinea pigs) can confirm that it is unbelievably good.
But don't take my word for it... give it a try yourselves. If you do, please let me know how you find it and even better... take a quick photo and tag me on social media so that I can swoon over your efforts and be proud of both our success.
I am sharing my gluten free Dark & Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake with the following :
Fiesta Friday with Angie Bake of the Week with Casa Costello and Mummy Mishaps
Dark Jamaican Ginger Cake (makes 1x two pound or 2x one pound cakes)Ingredients
260g plain gluten free flour (I used my GFA rice free blend which you can find here)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ tablespoons ground ginger ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
110g unsalted butter or dairy free alternative - cubed 110g soft dark brown sugar 100g golden syrup 100g black treacle (molasses) 160ml water
1 large egg - lightly beaten
Prepare you loaf tin(s) by fully lining with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/ Gas 3)
Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt until fully blended and any lumps have been broken down (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside ready in a large mixing bowl.
Put the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle and water into a large saucepan, and place over a low heat, stirring frequently until the butter has completely melted and the sugar dissolved and all are well blended into a smooth liquid. DO NOT BOIL.
Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Add the liquid to the dry mix and beat with a wooden/silicone spoon until well blended.
Add the beaten egg about a third to half at a time and beat through with the spoon (the mixture should be smooth and reasonably 'loose').
Pour the mixture equally into the tins and smooth the tops.
Bake immediately for approximately 35 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of tin) until the cake(s) are just firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tins to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Best eaten a day + after baking to get the characteristic Jamaican Ginger Cake stickiness, but equally delicious if eaten straight after baking.
I've been wanting to achieve a really good gluten free shortbread biscuit for ages... One that holds its shape, melts in the mouth and tastes crisp yet creamy. I mean... who doesn't love a moreishly good shortbread? Clearly not just me, because shortbread biscuits have been around for a very long time... dating back to the mid 18th Century.
Sure there are plenty of commercially available gluten free shortbreads now available in the shops and you may wonder why I would want to waste time trying to make my own when I could just pop down the supermarket... The thing is.... whilst it's really convenient to grab a pack from the shelf without the hassle of weighing, mixing, rolling and baking the ingredients, I actually think that most gluten free shop-bought shortbreads aren't really that great. Considering how much they cost, I expect better.
Part of the problem is that the commercially available biscuits are heavily weighted towards the use of rice flour.... This leaves them gritty in texture and (this may just be me) clearing my throat for some time afterwards. They are also (in my humble opinion) decidedly too sweet. That makes seeing them on the supermarket shelves frustrating, because without fail, I get ridiculously excited when they appear in their 'special' seasonal boxes... magnetically tempting my gaze towards them.... only to remember that if I buy them, I am setting myself up for disappointment.
So I have decided that I will not waste my time or frustration on them anymore... Especially since a traditional shortbread recipe is made with a simple combination of butter, sugar and flour and providing you stick to a few basic rules, can be made with the minimum of skill.
The recipe I have created (and it has been through a number of tweaks and amendments to get it just right) aims to be a little healthier than your average gluten free shortbread. It uses a home-mixed GFA rice-free flour blend that you can find the instructions for here (and which I keep in a topped-up airtight container in my larder), so contains no rice flour whatsoever and replaces white sugar with maple syrup as a more natural sweetener. (If you can't be bothered to mix your own flour, these shortbreads would work well with Free From Fairy rice free plain flour blend - see side bar for link).
Maple syrup may be more expensive, but is entirely unrefined and apparently, is high in anti-oxidants, zinc, calcium and potassium (as well as being lower in calories than honey). Ok... it's still sugar, but it has such a divine and unique flavour, that using it makes these shortbreads extra special (healthier or not).
Although I made mine with butter (I grew up thinking that shortbread should have 'all butter' on the label), if you are vegan or dairy intolerant, make a simple switch and replace the butter with your favourite alternative soft dairy free spread. It's better to use vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract too, to ensure the dough maintains a firm consistency.
I did test the biscuit dough without using xanthan gum (as it can add a bit of a 'slimy' texture to biscuits), but whilst it held together and baked fine, the shelf life was slightly limited by greater crumbliness. Having said that, if you find that xanthan gum doesn't sit well with you, just leave it out or replace with a little ground psyllium husk for stability. Once baked though... these biscuits will stay fresh for well over a week, providing they have been kept in an air-tight container.
Like all good shortbread, this cookie dough is sturdy enough to allow for imprints and patterns. I rolled mine using my new toy... a beautifully crafted embossed rolling pin from Pastry Made. It took a few goes to ensure the right pressure for optimum markings, but I am absolutely in love with it.
If you like sugar sprinkled on your shortbread, go ahead... That seems to be the traditional way, although I decided to keep mine as simple as possible.
So how do you make a really good gluten free shortbread? There are a few basic rules that are helpful to get them perfect...
Rule #1 A shortbread is a tightly structured biscuit.... it doesn't need baking powder or bicarbonate of soda as this will cause it to be too light and will lose any markings you choose to add (whether by rolling pin or press) and will distort the shape. Don't use self-raising flour.
Rule #2 Equally, when you cream the butter/spread with the sugar/syrup, you are aiming to combine it rather than make it 'fluffy'. Don't over-mix.... if it is too light and fluffy, the final shortbread may be too crumbly.
Rule #3 Be patient. The nature of gluten free flours is that they need time to absorb moisture and to settle. When you add the flour to the mix, beat slowly and firmly, pressing it together little by little, so that it has time to blend well and stabilise. When it starts to come together, use a floured or gloved hand to bring together and knead gently until smooth.
Rule #4 Make sure your dough is firm and pliable, but not sticky and be certain to chill it in the fridge before you start rolling it. This will make it easier to work without it getting too warm. When ready to roll, cut into thirds and roll each, one at a time. It is fine to re-knead and re-roll, but make sure that you chill the unbaked biscuits again before cooking. So there you have it...
I am sharing my free from Maple Shortbread with the following :
decorate with melted chocolate and nuts if you wish sprinkle with caster sugar (optional)
In a large bowl, beat the butter/spread until smooth.
Add the maple syrup and vanilla paste and beat to combine. Be careful not to over-mix.
Mix the flour, salt and xanthan gum together and then add to the wet mix. Beat with a firm silicone/wooden spoon (see Rule #3 above) until it comes together into an even dough.
With floured hands, knead gently to complete the blending process and bring together into a ball. If the mix is too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough and knead in until you have a good consistency. If you have used a flour which absorbs more liquid and has made the dough dry/crumbly, add a little more maple syrup.
Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Prepare 2 to 3 baking trays by lining with baking paper.
When ready to roll, lay a large sheet of baking paper down and sprinkle with flour. Cut about a third of the dough, place it on the floured baking paper, sprinkle the top with a fine layer of flour to prevent sticking and roll to a thickness of about ½ to 1½ cm (as you prefer).
Carefully cut your shortbread dough into shapes using a cookie cutter and place on the prepared baking trays. Chill for half an hour before baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the shortbreads are golden at the edges (they may need a couple of minutes extra for thick shortbread). Rotate the trays half way through to ensure an even bake.
Once baked, either remove from the oven and allow to cool (they should firm up as they do so) or if you have made thicker shortbreads, you may choose to leave them in the oven (turned off) to cool as the oven cools (this ensures they dry into a really crisp biscuit). If you are sprinkling with sugar for a traditional finish, do so before they cool.
If you choose to decorate (although they are perfect without decoration), make sure they are completely cool before dipping in melted chocolate and adding sprinkles.
The pretty little town of Bakewell in Derbyshire is the birth place of and synonymous with the Bakewell Tart.... A crisp, short, pastry case filled with a generous layer of raspberry or strawberry jam and topped to the brim with soft, moist, luscious almond frangipane. It seems however, that their ability to bake gluten free pastry is fundamentally flawed!
During a recent stay with relatives nearby, we did our best to pay homage to the humble Bakewell Tart and on a visit to the town, went on a google-supported search for a gluten free version of this tasty treasure. Ecstatic to find that the Bakewell Pudding Parlour had what we were looking for, we snapped up a gluten free Bakewell Tart and took it home with anticipation.... for tea.
When the time for the much awaited dessert came, it was Miss GF who took up the honours to slice and share..... As she worked her way from small'ish knife to heavier and sharper options, we realised we had been duped! This was neither a cuttable or edible tart, but (I think) merely a frisbee, masquerading as a tempting and delicious treat. In all honesty, it was the worst gluten free pastry I have ever eaten and I was grateful we had not been pulled over by the police for being in possession of an offensive weapon. I mean seriously.... check this out :
Now I know that I bake gluten free all the time, but pastry is really not rocket science and I am truly dumbfounded that a professional bakery could make such a hash of it and further, that they would deem it worthy to be sold in their well-renowned premises. It was stupidly expensive too! Frankly, we are worth more...
Returning home after the break, I remained disappointed that we had not got to enjoy this craved pie and immediately sought to rectify the matter by making my own. I scoured the internet for traditional recipes and then tweaked and played with the ingredients to make it our own. Well..... why chase after something you actually can't have?
I have several suitable pastry recipes on Gluten Free Alchemist which would have sufficed, but as this was now elevated to a special tart, I decided to develop a new gluten free short crust, especially suited to the flavours it would contain, but also embracing nutritious alternatives to rice-based flour blends and still bakable to crisp, dry perfection. So with this post, I introduce to you my Sweet Rice-Free, Gluten Free Almond Pastry. It handles incredibly well and not only has an amazing texture (no 'grittiness' here), but also a flavour that is mild and smooth and ensures that the filling remains the star of the show.
Whilst I could have made my own jam, I decided to use a shop-bought top-of-the-range version... A fruit-weighted raspberry conserve that I lavishly layered across the blind-baked pastry base.
My Frangipane was a triumph. Baked to a very slight wobble, it remained soft and sumptuously moist, shot through with the heady scent and rich flavour of almond, hintingly offset by a citrus tang. If I'm honest, I am not sure the Bakewell Bakewell Tarts we saw (with or without gluten) could have come close. This was home-baked perfection... and we enjoyed every bite, whether on its own, with custard, or with cream.
The moral of this story? Don't go to Bakewell for Bakewell Tart. You can make your own at home and without a doubt, it will not only be better, but will leave you with a happy head and heart.
Bakewell Tart (make one 10 inch or one 8 inch + two 4 inch tarts)Ingredients
Sweet rice-free GF almond pastry
130g GF rice-free flour blend (mix as in this post)
50g corn flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
pinch fine sea salt
40g ground almonds
110g unsalted butter - cold cubed
60g golden caster sugar
1 large egg
1½ tablespoons very cold water
1 jar good quality raspberry jam
150g unsalted butter - softened
150g golden caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 1½ teaspoons almond extract
3 large eggs - at room temperature
150g ground almonds
45g GF rice-free flour blend (mix as in this post)
pinch fine sea salt
finely grated zest 1 lemon
2 tablespoons raw flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust
Pastry : In a large bowl, mix together the flours, xanthan gum, salt and ground almonds.
Rub the butter cubes into the dry mix using finger tips until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Add the sugar and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg and cold water.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg-water mix.
Use a flat-bladed knife to blend the ingredients until they bind into a slightly sticky dough. Using flour dusted hands, knead briefly to ensure an even texture.
Do not chill.
Roll out (between 2 sheets of liberally flour-dusted clingfilm) to a size large enough to line the base and sides of the pie tin (if making more than one tart, split the pastry dough and roll each piece separately).
Remove the top sheet of clingfilm and flip the pastry over into the tin, gently easing into the base and up the sides until it fits snuggly. Try and remove the clingfilm, but if the pastry has stuck to the base, just pop the whole thing into the fridge for about half an hour and the clingfilm should then come away easily. (Repeat the process for any additional tart cases).
Trim the top edge of the pastry and place in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
Line your raw pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and blind-bake by cooking for 10 minutes, before turning the oven down to 180 C/ 350 F/Gas 4, removing the baking beans and paper and baking for a further 5 to 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden and dry.
Remove the pastry case from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
Once cool, smooth a generous layer of jam evenly across the base of the pastry case.
Frangipane filling : Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F/Gas 5.
In a large bowl, use a whisk to cream together the butter, caster sugar, vanilla and almond extracts until light.
Blend the eggs together in a small bowl with a fork and then add a little at a time, beating through with a whisk to fully combine with the butter mix.
Separately mix together the ground almonds, flour, salt and lemon zest and add to the batter mix, folding through with a wooden/silicone spoon to blend.
Fill each tart base (on top of the jam) with frangipane batter and smooth the top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate.
Bake for 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the size of the tart) until the frangipane is set and golden.
Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and dusting with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold. Delicious 'neat' or with custard.
Looking for something decadent? A gluten free show-stopper that will be sure to turn heads? A cake fit for birthdays, Easter, Christmas and all special reasons in between? Then this Roasted Banana & Chocolate Celebration Cake may just be the one you need.
I made this three-layered stunner back in October for Mr GF's birthday, but the photos have been sitting on my computer ever since, awaiting editing. It just seems that time gets more and more squeezed and the blog is taking more and more of a back seat as other priorities jostle for position.
To be honest, I'm not sure it's just time... I seem to be falling out of love with the whole blog thing as blog world morphs into an increasingly competitive arena, where advertising and self-promotion take centre stage. I am not a person who naturally puts myself 'out there' and I have no desire to video and share my very mundane life on social media. When I started the blog, it was because I needed a place to record my gluten free recipes and bakes and I loved that it also meant I could share my growing wisdom with others. That hasn't changed, but blogging has and I question daily whether I have anything left to offer to a medium that is increasingly saturated. Right now, I am debating the best way to move forward.
But back to the cake... given that I had made it, I didn't want my tiny bit of creativity to go to waste.
Stacked with three layers of moist, fruity, banana sponge, this cake is sandwiched and covered with rich chocolate butter cream and decorated with dark, decadent chocolate ganache, dripped and hung with home-piped chocolate hearts and made extra special with pretty piping, broken cigarillos and chopped, crunchy banana chips. Need I say more?
Well actually, yes. The bananas have also been roasted in their skins for an extra intense banana hit. If you have never tried this, give it a try..... you will wonder why you have never done it before.
It isn't a quick cake to pull together (although the banana sponge is perfect 'naked' or just layered with a slather of buttercream), but if you want or need to make a showstopper that will drop jaws, it's definitely worth the effort.
It's not particularly tricky either. I honestly don't rate myself as much of a cake decorator and have little other than low-grade skill, but I reckon that patience, a couple of basic tools, a willingness to experiment and a bit of ganache and piping can pimp up pretty much anything.
I'm also a sucker for banana cake and thought it would make a nice change from the usual birthday flavours. It seemed to go down well, so I guess it wasn't a bad choice...
I am sharing my Decadent Roasted Banana & Chocolate Celebration Cake with :
4 medium-large bananas (unpeeled) - roasted (see below)
260 ml buttermilk
Chocolate Heart Decorations
125g good quality dark chocolate - chopped
Chocolate Butter Icing
175g good quality dark chocolate - cut into small pieces 280g unsalted butter - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g icing sugar (sifted)
200g good quality dark chocolate - chopped
150g/ml double cream
a few broken chocolate cigarillos
chopped dried banana chips
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4. Base line your non-stick cake tins with baking paper.
First roast your bananas in their skins (on a baking sheet lined with baking paper) until the skins are turning black (about 20 minutes). Leave to cool in the skins.
Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down. (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and then add a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
Add and beat in the vanilla extract.
Remove the banana flesh from inside the blackened skins and mash with a fork before folding gently into the wet mixture.
Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the buttermilk alternately with the flour mix about a third at a time, until the ingredients are just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.
Divide the batter evenly between cake tins and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tins for 5 to 10 minutes, before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Line a couple of trays with non stick baking paper and set aside.
Chop all the chocolate and weigh 80g into a glass, microwaveable/heatproof bowl.
Using either the microwave (at 30 second bursts, lessening as the chocolate temperature increases) or placing the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, melt and heat the 80g chocolate to 40 C/104 F, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat immediately and add the rest of the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth.
Pour the chocolate into the decorating bottle and working quickly, pipe small hearts and spots onto the baking paper.
Leave to set at room temperature.
Chocolate Butter Icing
Place the chocolate in a glass, heatproof bowl and melt either in the microwave (medium setting at 30 second bursts, stirring between each) or over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar using an electric whisk until smooth.
Add the cooled, melted chocolate and continue to beat until thick and creamy.
Chocolate Ganache (make the ganache only when you are ready to decorate the cake)
Place the chopped chocolate into a medium heat-proof bowl and set aside.
Pour the cream into a small saucepan and gently heat until almost simmering.
Remove from the heat immediately and pour onto the chocolate.
Allow to sit for 3 to 4 minutes and then gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth.
Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature, stirring intermittently until it reaches drip consistency.
Putting it all together
Chill the sponges in the fridge for a couple of hours to give stability when decorating.
Layer the sponges with chocolate butter icing.
With the help of a palette knife and cake scraper, completely coat the cake with a layer of butter icing, using the palette knife to coat and the scraper to smooth into a thin, even layer.
Chill the coated cake in the fridge to cool and stabilise the butter icing before the next stage.
When the ganache has reached 'drip' consistency, pour into a decorating bottle (or alternatively use a spoon) and carefully create a 'rim' of ganache around the outside edge of the cake, encouraging small drips down the sides. If the drips 'run' too fast, leave the ganache to thicken a little more.
Once the drips are complete, move to the centre of the cake and gradually squeeze ganache in a continuous swirl (or drip and spread with the spoon) until the top of the cake is covered.
Take your chocolate hearts and stick to the base of the ganache drips so that they look like they are hanging. (If they do not stick easily, put a small spot of ganache on the back of each before fixing).
Stick the chocolate dots randomly onto the buttercream sides.
To finish the cake off, use the remaining butter cream and ganache (I whipped the remaining ganache to make it lighter) and pipe onto the top of the cake as you wish.
Use broken chocolate cigarillos of different lengths and stick into the surface of the cake between the piping.
It feels like a while since I posted a recipe, but these Hazelnut-Cacao Energy Balls, which are free from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and are also no bake and vegan, have recently become a bit of a Sunday morning energy boost for me and it seemed like a good plan to share them. Why Sunday morning? Because since I attended an amazing Pilates retreat back in September at Pignoulet in Gascony, I have managed to join a Pilates class locally and actually keep it up!
Although I know they don't look that appetising, these energy balls are packed full of slow-release energy goodness and taste amazingly good. Adapted from a Deliciously Ella recipe, they have become inextricably associated with Pilates in my head, because I first had an almond version when at Pignoulet. Offered as a pre-session energy boost first thing in the morning, they felt especially healthy and nutritious.
Perhaps it's that eating these energy balls brings back idyllic memories of the sun rising over the beautiful Pignoulet farmhouse, and feeling its warmth touch my skin as I ready to start the day with Pilates in the barn, but when I eat one, I feel just that little bit happier.
The particular adaptations that I have made to the original recipe are to substitute almonds for hazelnuts (although almonds are very yummy too) and to alter the ingredient ratios very slightly as the balls were prone to 'melt' in the warmth due to the liquid nature of the coconut oil. Regardless, they are still better stored in the fridge, both for sturdiness and longevity.
I am sharing my version of Hazelnut-Cacao Energy Balls with :
Have you ever considered cruising, but been put off for fear of being stuck in the middle of the ocean unable to find anything to eat because you are gluten free? Think again! For those of you who follow my Instagram account, you will know that in August, I was lucky enough to take a family holiday cruising in the Norwegian Fjords on the Sapphire Princess with Princess Cruises..... and it turned out that gluten free cruising was gob-smackingly good.
I want to be absolutely clear... This was a self-funded family holiday with no commercial blog interest, but I was genuinely so bowled over by the experience, that I wanted to share our foodie journey with you.
Cruising is a new experience for us. We have historically been a family who travel into the heart of a city or country and who get down and dirty with the locals.... absorbing every aspect of culture available to us, spending time understanding local life first hand and of course, enjoying the local food and fare.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from cruising, but as we wanted to visit the Norwegian Fjords, it seemed a great opportunity to experience a new form of travel to somewhere which has an ideal viewpoint from the water. Departing from Southampton, it also had the added benefit of not having to worry about baggage limits and not having to hang around in an airport for hours.
As a family with two people who must not eat gluten due to Coeliac Disease however, we were definitely in the anxious camp about the probability of finding good, safe and varied gluten free food on board... Let's face it, the idea of being 'captive' on a ship for two weeks eating baked potatoes or salad would seriously dampen the experience, not least because one of the pleasures that cruisers relish is the eating. The prospect of sitting watching dish after dish of drool-worthy cuisine being served to other gluten-eating guests would be unbearable.
When we travel, we always go well prepared with gluten free rolls, biscuits and snacks so that we don't starve on holiday and as always, we went on board with plenty of sustenance. We needn't have bothered... for the first time ever, most of it stayed in our cases and got brought home again. The food and catering crew on the Sapphire Princess were 'on it' from the moment we boarded the ship, with a call to our stateroom almost as soon as we were in, acknowledging that we had dietary needs and asking us to make ourselves known when we came down to dinner. From that point on and throughout the cruise, both myself and Miss GF were frequently left speechless by the lengths they went to, not only to make eating on board as safe as possible, but also as decadent and varied as for all the other guests.
Nothing was too much trouble.... whatever we wanted, whether from standard restaurant menus or around the ship in the open all day cafes was made for us in gluten free form... and with no fuss. Seriously... when Miss GF saw coated frogs legs being eaten and decided that she wanted to try them too, the kitchen staff rustled up her very own gluten free batch as if it was the most usual request in the world. The guys on the Sapphire Princess knew exactly what they were doing.
While on board (and to make the most of our sea days), I managed to arrange a meet up firstly with Steve Reynolds, the Director of Food and Beverages and then later in the cruise, with Generoso Mazzone (Maitre D'Hotel) and Octavio Bellesi (Executive Chef), who were more than happy share their wisdom on free from cruising and food preparation on board.
Once inside the kitchens, you get a sense of the massive scale and logistical complications that they seek to overcome. Bear in mind that with more than 2,500 guests and the likelihood that a good couple of hundred of them will have food allergies and intolerances ranging from Coeliac through to multiple life-threatening allergies, they have a truly complex task keeping us all food-safe. The last thing they want or need is a passenger who gets sick because of an oversight.
Galley Tour - Sapphire Princess
The staff in charge of food on the ship are rightly proud of what they offer and when Executive Chef Octavio, offered for us to have a private tour around one of his galleys, we had no hesitation in taking him up. He runs a tight ship (pun intended) and I was reassured to see that not only were the areas for special food preparation separate from the rest, but that bowls and ingredients were covered prior to cooking and baking, to avoid accidental cross-contamination and that special ingredients were kept in their own storage areas. Even where dishes on the menu were naturally 'safe', they were prepared for us in a separate area to avoid cross-contamination.
One of the things that particularly interested me was how, with two and a half thousand guests and an additional one thousand one hundred crew members, the officers knew what food to bring on board. Surely food waste must be an issue?
It turns out that the only food waste really comes down to what people leave on their plates and amazingly, the amount and type of ingredients brought onto the ship gets calculated well ahead of departure, based on the nationality and demographics of the travellers and what they are known to order as a general rule. So for example, a high number of cruisers from America will result in ordering higher quantities of meat, whereas Europeans will eat more fish.
The quantities of daily ingredients are simply astounding... 2,700 pounds of potatoes cooked daily, about 1,700 fish, 5,000 pounds of meat, 550 gallons of soup, 500 pounds of pasta, 2,500 pounds of vegetables, 1,600 pounds of salad, 13 gallons of mayonnaise, 400 pounds of butter, 6,000 pounds of fresh fruit, 100 gallons ice cream, 6,000 assorted pastries and 300 full sized cakes and pies. And that's just for starters.... the galleys use an average of 1,500 pounds of flour every day and a staggering 9,000 eggs. Yes really... I cannot in any way, shape or form get my head around what 126,000 eggs look like when they arrive at the start of a 14 night cruise.
But I digress...
Ahead of the cruise, guests are invited to complete an on-line dietary needs form which enables the crew to plan ahead and for the chefs and food staff to know exactly who needs additional care and attention. Whilst it is hoped that guests use this facility, it is clear from talking to the guys on board that there is always an 'inevitable' proportion of free-fromers who don't let them know up front, but still require the same level of food care.
More Delicious Desserts (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
Being first time cruisers, we hadn't really considered the various dining options and happily accepted a fixed evening dining time in a named dining room. That suited our family fine, but I was also reassured when eating at other locations around the ship during the day, that staff in all kitchens would have been well-able to meet our dietary needs had we opted for 'anytime dining'.
Each evening, our head waiter would bring the next day's menu to myself and Miss GF to choose dinner (and lunch for sea days) for the following day. Whilst this seemed less spontaneous, the additional 'notice' meant that there was literally nothing on the starter-mains sections that was off limits. The philosophy of Princess Cruises was very clear.... As free-fromers, our experience should be as similar as possible to other guests. If the dish had pastry, they made it gluten free. If we wanted pasta, we got it. Sauces were specially adapted to make them safe and only where there was no other way round it were ingredients substituted for something completely different (such as rice instead of cous cous).
Main Courses (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
Every evening we were treated to freshly baked gluten free bread which was served cloth-wrapped in separate baskets, opened and faced away from any glutenous offerings for safety and with a separate butter dish. I was left in no doubt that it was not just the chefs and kitchen staff that understood the risks of cross-contamination, but that waiting staff were equally well trained.
Stateroom Treat (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
And desserts? Whilst I fully expected to suffer severe sugar withdrawals and to be 'required' to eat fruit salad and ice cream every day, I was left wide-eyed and spoiled. This cruise was like living on board a floating gluten free patisserie. Ok... the choice may not have been as free-flowing as for gluten-eating guests, but every night we were presented with a gluten free surprise dessert... everything from rhubarb pie and fruit crumble, to panna cotta, bananas foster, espresso creme brulee or chocolate brownie... floating islands and a whole array of light cakes, pastries and mousses. There were always gluten free patisserie options around the ship if you fancied a little treat outside of meal times and for breakfast we could order gluten free pancakes, muffins or french toast. There was even gluten free afternoon tea available. Decadent was an understatement, but most importantly we felt like we were equal to other guests and that we were no problem at all. No raised eye brows... no rolling eyes... no tutting or questioning whether a little bit of gluten was really going to matter. These guys 'got it' and that was just fine!
And it gets better... Imagine how excited we were when, after a particularly crappy wet weather day (soaked through four layers to the skin, puddles in our shoes after a long, rain-filled hike, phone completely trashed by water damage and the distress at losing all the photos stored on it building...) we came back to our stateroom to find a tray with four plates of gluten free goodies... biscuits, cakes and desserts. In our gluten free world, that kind of thoughtfulness just doesn't happen... and when it does, everything feels better. It was a lovely touch and it made us feel very special.
Stateroom Treat (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
But it doesn't end there... Towards the end of our cruise, there was an unexpected knock at our door. We opened it to be greeted with a large and very decadent-looking cake. I'd seen similar cakes around the ship, evidently created for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. We had neither, so I (hopefully) asked 'what's this?' and then tentatively 'Perhaps you have the wrong room?'... 'Compliments of the Maitre D' came the reply.
Stateroom Treat (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
Seriously? I can honestly say Miss GF and myself were jumping around the room, so unexpected and exciting was our gift. The cake (a light chocolate sponge layered with whipped cream and decorated to impress) was absolutely delicious... but most of all, we felt like we mattered and importantly, like we weren't just another 'dietary need'.
Stateroom Treat (gluten free) - Sapphire Princess
Aside from the food, the cruise itself was amazing and the Norwegian Fjords stunning (I hope to share a separate travel post on our experience soon). Miss GF was absolutely smitten with the whole experience and has been frequently suggesting new cruise destinations since our return. She has even managed to find a TV channel entirely dedicated to cruise pestering...
Of course, I suspect the fact that GF eating was so easy and Coeliac was completely and refreshingly accepted without hinderance, was a massive part of her enjoyment. Our thanks go to the crew of the Sapphire Princess for that. You made our daughter's year!
Will we cruise again? For sure! Miss GF has her sights set on warmer climes next time... But whenever and wherever we venture onto the open sea again, we will certainly be expecting great things.
I am sharing my gluten free cruise experience with the following travel linkies: