Thursday, 15 February 2018

Scrumptiously simple gluten free recipes for the newly diagnosed coeliac.

We've all been there, after that first diagnosis the mild panic sets in that you'll never be able to scoff on your favourite cakes and sweet treats again. You've heard terrible things about gluten free bakes - from the cake that's so hard you could use it to break a window, to the forever crumbly cupcake that turns to dust the moment that you start eating it.. but that's thankfully not always true, there's always a handy free from recipe that will result in a scrumptious bake every time..

Whilst it may seem like too much to take in at once when you first face life without gluten, it doesn't have to mean the end of tasty baked treats. Making the change to gluten free will take time and plenty of practice - all of us will have a disastrous bake from time to time, but it's all about embracing a whole new world of yummy gluten free bakes, and finding your own techniques and favourite recipes to try.

After more than a few failed gluten free cakes and bakes in the kitchen I've come to find my own particular favourite recipes that are handy for a quick and easy bake, as well as being perfect to adapt for a wide variety of different flavours and ingredients.

Cupcakes
Always handy to add to your recipe file for an easy gluten free bake. A simple batch of cupcakes is an utterly scrumptious treat!

For a great starting base for a batch of plain cupcakes, you can't beat this handy recipe by Doves Farm - whilst it may refer to them as fairy cakes, this recipe can easily be used for a dozen cupcakes instead of the recommended 24 fairy cakes - simply just fill your cupcake cases as you usually would!

It doesn't require any specially made blends either, just a simple bag of gluten free self raising flour will do. The recipe is remarkably similar to what you'll already be used to with any standard cupcake recipe, so it's incredibly easy to follow.

This recipe also makes for a great starting point for any batch of cupcakes, it's easy to adapt – I've used it myself as a base for some of my favourite bakes, like these chocolate orange cupcakes. It also works perfectly substituting the required butter in the recipe for a dairy free alternative, it's just a straight swap!

Cake
A classic staple that's always handy to add to your favourite recipes - you just can't beat a tasty sponge cake!

The base recipe is surprisingly simple - just because it's gluten free doesn't mean that it has to be difficult to make! This recipe from BBC Good Food is incredibly easy to follow and doesn't require any special blends or mixtures to bake, just a handy bag of gluten free self raising flour. 

It's great to adapt for a dairy free version too, simply swap the butter for a dairy free alternative and your good to go!

Even classic cake recipes can be made easily with a gluten free version, they're often far closer to the traditional bake than you'd expect. Whether it's a staple loaf of tasty banana bread - made incredibly easily, in-fact you'd probably barely notice the difference - or a scrumptious chocolate cake, with a couple of simple changes making for one rather tasty bake.

Tips for extra tasty gluten free bakes
Once you've perfected the basics, you can start to experiment adding tasty twists and extra ingredients to make some truly scrumptious bakes. Why not try adding some ground almonds in with a batch of cupcakes? Simply swap 50g of flour for 50g of ground almonds in the bake, you'll be surprised with the results!

Try the same with a sponge cake, by swapping 100g of flour for 100g of ground almonds - resulting in a lovely light bake. 

For the perfect rise every time, ensure that you pre-heat your oven first. You don't want to leave gluten free cake mix sat around whilst the oven warms up, it bakes best when placed straight in the oven as soon as you've spooned your mixture in your tin/cases - it's a little thing that makes a huge difference, as I've experienced from several failed bakes myself!

You don't always need to use xanthan gum to stabilize your bakes, but it does help. Over time you'll get used to when you need it with your bakes. Generally speaking it doesn't tend to make a huge difference with cupcakes and cakes, but if your baking biscuits, cookies, or tray bakes it can be a huge help in the mix - ensuring that your bakes survive a day or two before the dreaded crumble sets in.

No two gluten free flour blends are the same - you'll be surprised just how much choice there is when you start baking gluten free! For the first few bakes a basic self raising or plain flour mix is the best to try, such as Doves Farm, or a supermarket own brand blend. I've not found much difference between them, but I have found Doves Farm, or M & S's gluten free flour to have the best results.

A good gluten free cake doesn't have to require lots of additional extras to make it extra tasty - just a bit of practice and you'll soon be baking some scrumptious gluten free treats. Why not try some of my favourite tried and tested recipes here on the Cake Porn blog!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Free from cakes and bakes : A handy, scrumptious guide to chain coffee shops.


We've all been there, you find yourself in a sudden hangry moment with few options to choose from – but where is safe for a peckish coeliac to tuck into a tasty treat, where can you sip upon a deliciously dairy free cuppa without fear of a sudden lactose induced dash to the nearest loo...

These days it feels like negotiating a minefield, but thanks to trial and error over the years, I've put together this handy updated guide to some of the country's most known chain coffee shops to help you along the way.

I'd already took a look at free from coffee shop bakes a couple of years back, but as can be expected with most chain coffee shops, menus have changed, and dairy free options have vastly increased since then. Whilst we are lucky to have more options than previously before, it's still feels like a long slog trying to find out what exactly is safe to eat when you suffer from a food allergy, intolerance, or autoimmune disease. 

There's still plenty of room for improvement with the majority of chain coffee shops, but needless to say, at least some of them are trying to make those changes. So what tasty free from treats can we expect to find on the high street of late?

One of the countries largest coffee shop chains – where your almost guaranteed to find at least one or two within a city centre, Costa, has introduced a small selection of free from cakes and bakes, alongside food on the go, to their coffee shops.

Whilst finding the necessary details about these treats can prove to be a bit of a long winded task, with very little menu options now listed on their site, you can at the very least download their dietary information guide.

It will take a bit of scrolling through to find the options available for your needs, but their guide is thankfully more thorough than other chains – listing items that contain gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, and plenty more options to negotiate the minefield of allergens.

For fellow coeliacs, a long scroll through will reveal a few options to snack up'ont, including their new paradise slice - a vegan friendly, fruity bake, alongside their chocolate brownie (this does however contain dairy and eggs), and their cherry bakewell mini tarts (these are unfortunately not vegan). Other free from choices are available also, including their fruity crumble bar, granola square, and flapjackshowever, these contain oats so are not suitable for coeliacs, with the exception of the fruity crumble bar which does contain gf oats – however, if like me even gf oats disagree with you, it's best to avoid it.

Snacks chosen, you'll be wanting something to go with your tasty treat, like most chain coffee shops Costa do offer dairy free milk alternatives, with soya milk available for their coffees and teas, alongside the new addition of coconut milk – meaning that you can at the very least sip on a latte. The majority of their drinks can be made dairy free, but it is worth checking the allergy guide for any sneaky allergens in those syrups and flavourings before ordering. 

The next choice up is Starbucks, their choices really are pretty slim, and try negotiating their allergy guide.. it took some effort to even find it at first! 

There's not a huge amount of choice for a free from treat, with their chocolate brownie being their standard gluten free choice – this is however not dairy free or vegan. It also has a tendency to be stacked out in the open near their wheat filled bakes, so maybe not the best option when your trying to avoid cross contamination...

Your safest choice is the pre-packed treats on the counter, usually ranging from a fruit mix, to a dark chocolate bar – both of which are also dairy free/vegan. Milk chocolate coins are also available, these are gluten free but not dairy free/vegan. Your local branch may also have additional choices to buy at the counter – it should go without saying, always check the ingredients.
 
So, with few snack options in choice, your safest bet is to probably take your own snacks with you and grab a drink instead.. but that can still involve negotiating a minefield of problems.. Dairy free milk alternatives are available, with a larger choice of options available than Costa – offering soya, coconut, almond, and oat milk. However, some of the additional options such as syrups/flavourings may not be dairy free, so it's best to check their allergy guide first. Their oat milk is also best avoided for coeliacs, as this has been made with non-gluten free oats as stated in their allergen guide – this does unfortunately leave open a minefield for cross contamination with the drinks making process, so I'd advise using your own personal judgement here.. Personally, I always opt for a cup of tea instead if I find myself at a branch of Starbucks now.. but that's just me!

Next up for more free from choices, is Caffe Nero, their online menus offer a handy allergen guide making it easy to find those safe choices to snack on, whatever your dietary requirements.

For fellow coeliacs, a chocolate brownie is available (unfortunately this is not dairy free/vegan), alongside a vegan option of an apple & blackcurrant crumble bar which contains gluten free oats. Sadly, that's where most of the choices end of late, with an additional snack choice of a dark chocolate bar, dried fruit, or chocolate rice cakes (these are  not dairy free/vegan). 

For drink options as per most chain coffee shops there is at least a dairy free milk alternative of soya milk, however it is best to check the allergen guide as some syrups/flavourings do contain milk. So much like Starbucks, your best option may be a cup of tea with soya milk – this is usually my default choice.

Next up is Patisserie Valerie, whilst they may only have a small selection of free from treats, it is worth noting for fellow coeliacs. With their selection of gluten free cakes in store being a great contaminant free choice – all coming in their own sealed individual packs!

These are sadly not milk free or vegan, but they are worth noting for an additional option if you are coeliac/gluten intolerant.

For drink options, it may not be listed on their site, but some branches do also offer soya milk in store – just ask, I have found one or two branches offering it. Fruit tea blends are also available on their menu, and all of the tea blends can come without milk also. 

Whilst not initially a coffee shop per say, Pret is another option for free from choices on the high street, with handy allergen guides available on their site.

They may have few options to choose from, but they do offer a vegan brownie which is also gluten free, alongside their chocolate coconuty bite, and a sea salted dark chocolate bar (this does unfortunately contain milk, so it is not vegan).

For drinks, much like other chains they also offer soya milk, alongside oat milk – this is however made with non-gluten free oats so is unsuitable for coeliacs. Much like Starbucks, and Caffe Nero, I'd advise going for a milk free tea, or a tasty tropical green tea instead.

Finding allergy info online for other high street coffee shops and chains can be pretty difficult, so it's best to ask the staff in-store at places such as M & S, John Lewis, and Debenhams, which do offer some free from options, mostly being pre-packed cake bars and slices such as Honeybuns, and We Love Cake. Dairy free drink options can vary between each place, but soya milk is usually available at most – as always, do ask the staff if you are unsure. 

All failing, it's not the best option, but I find keeping an emergency snack or two in my bag helpful when visiting a chain coffee shop with friends – sometimes there may be few and far choices for a free from treat, so it's always handy to keep something in your bag just in-case, so you can at least grab a cuppa! Keeping a sachet of lacto-free milk on the go is always helpful if your lactose intolerant - I always travel with at least one to hand! 

For fellow coeliacs, my best option is always Patisserie Valerie for their handy individual cakes, for a dairy free option Costa is the next best choice, alongside Caffe Nero for a vegan option. Whilst, there is still a long way to go for free from options on the high street, it's worth noting that some improvements have at least been made at a couple of places, but it's pretty disheartening to see little efforts made to reduce cross contamination at some chains, so I'd always advise using your own personal judgement when your craving a dairy free latte and a free from treat.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Scrumptious banana and chocolate muffins : Gluten and dairy free.

If like me you've got a ripening pile of bananas that were bought in an attempt to be 'healthy' over the festive period that immediately failed, then you may want to treat yourself to a tasty batch of these banana muffins - besides, there's still some fruit in them!!

These muffins are a rather yummy way to use up an over ripe banana - now you just need to worry about what to do with the rest of them.. They're made even tastier with a helping of dark chocolate in the bake, giving these muffins a rather scrumptious flavour.

Ingredients (makes 9 cupcake sized muffins)
125g dark soft brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g gluten free self raising flour
pinch of xanthan gum
1 ripe banana
100g melted stork
20g grated dark chocolate

For the frosting
100g stork
180g icing sugar
30g grated dark chocolate
glace cherries to top

Pre heat your oven to 190c/180c fan/gas mark 5. Line a cupcake tray with cases.

Whisk together the sugar with the eggs till blended, add in the vanilla extract and mix.

Sift in the gluten free self raising flour a little at a time and blend, adding the xanthan gum with the final measure of the flour to mix.

Prior to baking you'll want to melt the stork down in a small heatproof bowl, add the banana in with the stork and blend to a squishy, mushy mixture. Spoon this into the flour mixture and blend.

Finally, add in the grated dark chocolate – this adds a yummy taste to your bake! Then stir to mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each around 2/3 full. Then bake for 15-20 minutes till a skewer comes out clean - in my fan oven these took 15 minutes.

Place on a wire rack to cool for an hour or so. 

Once cooled, you'll want to start making your tasty frosting to top the muffins. This simple frosting adds some more grated dark chocolate into the mixture, giving it a rather scrumptious finishing touch!

Mix the stork with half the icing sugar till combined, then sift in the remaining icing sugar and whisk. Adding the grated dark chocolate to finish, and whisk well to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice, then pipe swirls on top of each muffin - finishing them off with a glace cherry half.

Recipe adapted from Phil Vickery's “Essential gluten-free”.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Gingerbread slices : Gluten and dairy free.


The turn in the weather of late has really had me craving some stodgy comfort food – gingerbread was one of my favourite winter treats to bake pre-diagnosis, so I had to find a gluten free recipe that was just as scrumptious as I remembered.

In fact, this recipe turned out even better than my usual version! With the golden syrup adding a deliciously sweet, sticky note to this lovely soft bake. It will be messy to make, but it's the perfect treat for a cold wintery day!

Tuck into a slice or two, or several in-fact.. with this gluten and dairy free version of the classic bake, making it perfect for fellow coeliacs, and those that also suffer from lactose intolerance.

Ingredients
175g dairy free margarine
110g dark soft brown sugar
175g golden syrup
225g gluten free self raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
150ml dairy free milk

Pre heat the oven to 170c/160c fan/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.

Melt the dairy free margarine together with the brown sugar and golden syrup, keep stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Sift the gluten free self raising flour into a large bowl, adding the ground ginger, mixed spice, and bicarbonate of soda, mix well to combine.

Whisk the egg in the jug, then add in the milk and mix. Set aside.

Pour the melted margarine mix into the bowl and stir to combine, followed by the milk and egg mixture, stirring to blend together. The result will be a runny mixture – so don't panic, it'll come together beautifully in the oven!

Pour the mixture into your lined cake tin, and bake for 30 minutes till risen.

Remove the cake from the oven, and leave in the tin to cool down for a couple of hours, then slice into squares and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. 

 
 
These are perfect served as is, they're deliciously sticky and sweet. For a tasty treat, serve a couple of slices with some gluten and dairy free custard.

Recipe adapted from:Glutafin

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Gluten free lemon drizzle cake.


A tasty classic bake that's always scrumptious, making for a deliciously sweet treat. This lovely lemon drizzle cake has all the flavours of the classic bake, made into a yummy gluten and dairy free treat.

Since being diagnosed, I've been looking to recreate my favourite bakes in gluten free form. Naturally, a lemon drizzle cake had to be done, it's such a surprisingly simple bake, but incredibly scrumptious. Perfect for an afternoon tea, or a cheeky little snack!

This version of the classic bake mixes together a few different flours - I made a couple of changes from the original recipe, mostly after struggling to find the sorghum and tapioca flours that the original recipe calls for. The tweaks however have worked perfectly, resulting in a lovely light bake, with a little bit of a crunch thanks to the polenta (how I never baked with this stuff before being diagnosed I don't know.. it's bloody wonderful!).


Ingredients
175g dairy free margarine
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
150g caster sugar
65g gluten free self raising flour
60g ground almonds
25g cornflour
25g polenta
2 eggs
50g granulated sugar

Pre heat your oven to 170c/160c fan/gas mark 3, grease and line a loaf tin.

Start by melting the dairy free margarine on a low heat, then set aside.

Mix together the sugar, gluten free self raising flour, ground almonds, cornflour and polenta in a large bowl. Add in the melted dairy free margarine and stir to bring together, then add in the lemon zest. 


Add the eggs in and mix, followed by half of the lemon juice, and stir. Your mixture will be a little runny, so don't worry! 

Spoon into the tin and bake for 35-45 minutes, till a skewer comes out clean - in my fan oven this took 35 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and mix together the granulated sugar with the remaining lemon juice. Using a cake skewer, pierce holes in the top of the cake - this will help the lovely lemon mixture to soak into your cake! Then spoon the sugar-lemon mixture on top of the cake, using the back of the spoon to evenly cover the cake.


Leave the cake in the tin to cool down - after 15 minutes, sprinkle some extra sugar on top for a lovely finish.

Once the cake has cooled, remove it the from the tin - your lovely lemon drizzle cake is ready!

Simply serve it sliced with a cuppa for a lovely treat. This cake will last well for a few days when kept in an airtight container.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Red velvet cupcakes – Gluten and dairy free.

Starting off life without gluten means I've been really missing a lot of my favourite treats, I don't think I've ever sulked so much at a Krispy Kreme stand in the middle of a supermarket.. But rather than feeling taunted by tasty treats that I have to avoid like a bad case of the plague, I've been trying to bake my own gluten free versions of some of my favourite treats..

It's a good excuse to work my way through a long list of recipes and baking books really. One recipe I've been missing more than I realized, was some deliciously sweet red velvet cupcakes, so I've been trying to recreate that classic red bake without any gluten and dairy in sight.

After finding several recipes, one stuck out as the closest to my old trusty favourite. I've made a couple of adjustments to make a scrumptious gluten free version of the classic red velvet recipe. It's deliciously sweet, perfectly red without being eye poppingly bright, and with just the right amount of frosting on top – enough to not distract away from the tasty cake itself! 

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)
125ml dairy free milk
1 tsp lemon juice
100g stork
160g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
red food colouring
15g cocoa powder
200g gluten free self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

For the frosting
100g stork
200g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Firstly, you'll be making a simple dairy free buttermilk – it's far easier than you'd think. Simply add the lemon juice to the dairy free milk and stir, then set aside for later. Use any dairy free milk you prefer.

Pre heat your oven to 180c/170c fan/gas mark 4, and fill a cupcake tray with cases.

Cream together the stork with the caster sugar till pale and fluffy, then add in the egg and mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Next you'll be adding the red food colouring to create the desired shade for your bake. I used Sugarflair's 'Red velvet' paste, a firm favourite of mine – and yes, it is gluten free! Simply stir a little amount in at a time, until you reach your preferred shade of red. A little really does go a long way with this, so don't add too much to start!

Stir in the cocoa powder – this will darken the mixture, so do feel free to add more red food colouring if needed at this stage.

Sift in a little of the gluten free flour (around 1/3) and stir to combine, alternating with small amounts of the dairy free buttermilk, till a small amount is left. Then sift in the ground almonds with the xanthan gum, and mix with the rest of the dairy free buttermilk – using ground almonds in the mixture will help to give your cupcakes a lighter texture, resulting in a scrumptious batch of cakes.

Finally, stir in the white wine vinegar and mix – it may seem an odd ingredient at first, but it really helps with the bake.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each around 2/3 full. Then bake for 15-20 minutes – in my fan oven these cooked rather quickly in 15 minutes.

Place the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool down before making the frosting.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, start mixing the frosting. Normally, your traditional red velvet has a cream cheese frosting, so these do stray away from the classic recipe, but you won't miss it, as this dairy free vanilla frosting is just scrumptious!

Mix together the stork with half of the icing sugar till combined, then sift in the remaining icing sugar and blend. Add in the vanilla extract and whisk for 2-3 minutes, to a lovely smooth consistency.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice, then pipe swirls on top of each cupcake to finish.

The end result is a yummy batch of red velvet cupcakes, without any dairy or gluten in sight! With the ground almonds helping to add a lighter texture to the bake. They still have the same flavour as you'll be used to, with the vanilla frosting finishing them off perfectly.

Recipe adapted from: Free From Favourites

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Apple and Damson tray bake : Gluten and dairy free.

A scrumptious way to make the most of those seasonal fruits, with this yummy Apple and damson tray bake. A deliciously sweet treat, with a hint of tart-y flavouring thanks to the damsons, making for one rather tasty bake!

With a bumper crop of apples to use this year, I've been on the lookout for lots of tasty new recipes to try, so this yummy tray bake is just perfect to use a few apples - as well as some of those left over damsons, completing the scrumptious mix of flavours in this bake.

Ingredients
125g dairy free margarine
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
180g gluten free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
250g diced apple
150g damsons (de-stoned)

Pre heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4. Line a 20 x 20cm square baking tin, ready for your bake.

Cream together the dairy free margarine and caster sugar till pale and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time and mix.


Sift in the gluten free plain flour – I used Doves Farm blend for this bake, it's perfect for tray bakes and slices! Add the cinnamon, mixed spice, and baking powder, and blend to mix in.

Add the diced apple and damsons – for these you'll want the final weight of the de-stoned damsons to be 150g, I weighed my damsons prior to chopping them at 200g, so this should hopefully help! 

Stir in the fruit to mix – the damsons will give this mix a lovely purple tinge prior to baking. Then spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, till risen and golden – in my fan oven these took 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 30 minutes to cool. Sprinkle a handful of demerara sugar on top if you like to finish – this will add a lovely finishing touch to the bake.
  

Cut your tray bake into slices, then place on a wire rack to finish cooling. These should last well for a couple of days when kept in an airtight container.

The finished result is a lovely sweet bake, with the damsons adding a tasty tart note. Making them both gluten and dairy free means that they're perfect if your coeliac/gluten and lactose intolerant.

 
Recipe adapted from: Healthy Food.