Sunday 27 April 2014

Eating Smart – a wonderful new Gluten Free Magazine

Before being diagnosed coeliac nearly 4 years ago I used to love spending hours flicking through food magazines. Drooling over stunning photos of caramel drizzled cakes, crusty loaves of bread and crisp pastry topped pies and puds. After being diagnosed my love for them faded. I still enjoyed looking at the photos, but it was now more of a longing torment, “look at all the delicious things you can no longer eat” the photos seemed to imply. I did adapt some of the recipes to be gluten free, and enjoyed the challenge, but it involved extra effort and often didn’t turn out quite as hoped. Page after page of banned foods led to heartache. So imagine my delight when I was recently contacted by Woman & Home magazine to ask me if I would like to receive a copy of their new sister magazine Eating Smart, a food magazine brimming with delicious recipes that were all gluten and/or dairy free. Would I?? Yes please!!!

Last Saturday morning at the bleary eyed time of 8am there was a knock on the door and a delivery man handed me a hefty parcel which turned out to contain the new magazine and a whole assortment of different gluten and dairy free goodies to enjoy. What a lovely start to the weekend.

Amongst the goodies were a selection of cereal and snack bars – something a coeliac should never venture out without, for all those emergency snacking needs. I’m a big fan of Eat Natural bars but also included were a couple of Honeybuns slices, a brownie from Rollys Brownies a company I have not heard of before and a minty dairy free chocolate moo free bar.

The savoury bits included Rude Heath corn thins, Metcalf’s chocolate mini rice cakes (they make yummy popcorn too), a packet of chia seeds (always wanted to try these), some Eat Natural oat free muesli and a little sachet of Miso Tasty soup that I took to work – yum!

A final few goodies included Sacla gluten & dairy free pesto (I loved this as I don't actually like Parmesan cheese), coconut water, a gluten free oat milk substitute and a bottle of Sweet Freedom choc shot. I think I’m set for treats and goodies for a few weeks!

The magazine itself was brilliant, it looked just like a regular magazine. A proper full size complete with glossy front cover, stunning photos and tempting sounding recipes. There were some very informative pages at the beginning with hints and tips on gluten free and dairy free diets, perfect for those newly diagnosed or for their friends and family who want to cook something special for them, and maybe feel a little nervous about getting it wrong.

I settled down in my pajamas and spent a very happy hour reading the magazine and nibbling on a few of the treats. The Almondi cookie from Honeybuns was very nice. Good nutty flavour from the hazelnuts and almonds used as the base, crisp on the outside and a little moist and chewy in the centre. I wasn’t so keen on the fat strips of candied orange and orange oil in the mix though, as it rather overpowered the almond flavour.

Next was the brownie from Rolly’s. This had the classic thin crisp top crust and was wonderfully moist and fudgy in the middle. It had a rich chocolate flavour and felt very treat worthy. This too was also flavoured with orange, but it didn’t overpower the chocolate too much. You definitely couldn’t tell this was gluten free. (After a bit of research I’ve discovered they make gluten and non gluten free brownies in a variety of flavours).

With summer hinting at being on the way I will definitely be trying Hugh’s recipe for tahini dressed courgette & green bean salad – look how fresh and vibrant it looks! Perfect for a BBQ or picnic lunch.

There are also plenty of desserts included. I’m longing to try these divine looking profiteroles and rich chocolate cheesecake. I’ve tried making gluten free profiteroles once before by adapting a ‘normal’ recipe and they were a bit of disaster, so having a tried and tested gluten free recipe to try is brilliant!

I was delighted with Eating Smart magazine and loved how it contained real recipes for ‘normal’ food rather than only those which are naturally gluten free. Every recipe looked fresh and inviting and was the kind of food that I would want to eat and would inspire me to cook. It was informative without being condescending and as every recipe was either gluten and/or dairy free it should be suitable for a wide variety of people – not just those with coeliac disease. Do keep a look out for it – I know I’m going to be a regular reader.

Note: Even though I was sent the magazine and goodies for free, I was not required to write a good review and the thoughts are my own.

Monday 21 April 2014

Carrot Cake and a Lesson in Trusting Your Instincts

Recently I learnt the harsh lesson of trusting my baking instincts. Carrot cake is one of my all time favourite cakes and yet I rarely make the time to bake it. Things have been a little hectic and stressful of late and I wanted something indulgent and comforting to cheer myself up and decided to bake carrot cake. I also thought it was be good for an alternative Easter cake – Easter bunny, carrots = carrot cake. (A bit of a stretch I know, but go with it).

After a little search I came across a few recipes for carrot cupcakes by Babycakes NYC. They are a gluten free and vegan friendly bakery in America. I’ve had the good fortune to taste some of their products a few years ago on a trip to America. They were some of the most delicious bought gluten free treats I’ve ever tasted, so was more than happy to use their recipe – or so I thought!

I wanted to bake a cake instead of cupcake and so hunted for a recipe where someone had done just that. I came across one on a blog, printed it off and set to work. When it got to the part about adding the spices I was a little surprised at the quantity required. 1 tbsp of cinnamon and 3 tbsp of ground ginger. I paused slightly, this sounded like a lot of spice, but the cakes I had seen online did look darkly coloured and highly spiced (there is no brown sugar used to add additional colour) and so I decided to go with it. I did however reduce the ginger to 2 tbsp, instead of the 3 stated.

The cake baked well, quite firm and dense, but also wonderfully moist and very aromatic. Being vegan and gluten free meant no butter, eggs or refined sugar were used. Instead it relied on almond milk, oil and agave nectar for sweetness and moisture. I added some chopped walnuts, pecans and a few sultanas as I feel these are a must in any good carrot cake.

I didn’t need the recipe to be fully vegan and so made a lemon Quark frosting for filling and decorating my cake. Quark is a lesser well known curd cheese with a texture in-between cream cheese and ricotta. After a few photos I eagerly I cut a slice and tasted some.

My first thought was ‘ohhh that’s a bit strong’ followed by ‘urgh that’s horrible!’ The spices – ginger in particular completely overwhelmed the entire cake. It was so strong, raw, harsh, bitter and astringent that it made my mouth feel as though I’d stripped the top layer of skin off my tongue. Ginger is a very strong spice and I love my spices, but this was completely inedible. I bravely ate a few more mouthfuls, hoping the frosting would mellow out the flavour but it was not pleasant. I was so upset. I dare you go and eat a small spoonful of raw ground ginger and see what’s it’s like – not good.

This has to be one of the very few occasions that I have actually thrown a baked product away. Usually I can find some way to save a dish, adding extra sauce or turning it into something else but this cake was beyond help. I went back to the recipe and checked I had read it correctly – yes I had. Then I went and looked again at other recipes online only to discover that the 3 tablespoons ginger listed in the recipe I had printed should actually be 2-3 TEASPOONS! So I ended up adding about 3 times the amount of ginger I should have done – no wonder it tasted horrible!

I’m not too angry at the recipe for stating 3 tbsp instead of tsp – that accidental ‘b’ in the spoons was probably a typo and an easy mistake to make – but it’s shown me to trust my baking instincts – if it sounds too much, it probably is!

I have decided not to give you the recipe I used or a link to the blog site I copied the recipe from, as I don’t want to be mean. I still haven’t had my carrot cake, but I am determined to try the recipe again (from a more reliable source), as the texture seemed good. I think I’ll double and triple check the recipe next time though!

Sunday 6 April 2014

Lemon & Almond Magic Cake

I first saw this recipe for Magic Cake a few months ago and bookmarked it at once to try. It intrigued me as the magic part comes from the cake mix separating out into 3 distinct layers during baking. A top sponge layer, a custard middle layer and a firmer base layer. It looked incredible and I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.

I was a little dubious at first, as my cake batter was more like cake soup. It was very thin and slightly aerated from the addition of whisked egg whites. I was doubtful it would actually transform into anything sliceable.

On removing my cake from the tin I was amazed and delighted to discover that it had in fact separated into layers! I had not 3, but 4 layers in mine. A top sponge, a soft custard, a firmer custard and a more compact base layer. It was so exciting seeing the pool of cake soup transform into something that resembled cake.

The original recipe used only vanilla extract for flavour but I decided to use almond and lemon zest for mine. I love this flavour combination and the lemon gave it a nice freshness. The top sponge layer was very light and fluffy and the custardy filling was amazingly smooth and creamy.

It was tasty in a novel and unique ‘I can’t believe that worked’ sort of way. But looking at the dessert in its entirety, once you have got over the magic of it forming layers, I felt the base layer let it down. It became very firm and rubbery when stored in the fridge overnight and not that pleasant to eat. The airy sponge and silky custard top layers were so soft and light that the dense rubbery base kind of spoilt it. It has potential to be really good though, so don’t be put off trying it for yourself. The fact I used gluten free flour rather than wheat flour (used in the original) may have had something to do with the rubbery base texture. Others may be more successful

Lemon & Almond Magic Cake
(Recipe adapted from Kitchen Nostalgia blog)
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp water
150g caster sugar
125g butter
115g gluten free plain flour
500ml milk
1 tsp almond extract
Zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease an 8inch springform tin and line the base with greaseproof paper. Wrap the whole outside base of the tin in a sheet of foil, in case of any leakages during baking.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites and yolks into different bowl. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form and set aside..
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, water and almond extract until light and creamy in colour. Add melted butter and continue beating for another minute. Scatter the flour and lemon zest over the top and gently mix together.
Heat the milk until it is only just slightly warm to the touch, then gradually add it to the batter mix, while mixing slowly. It will become very liquid at this stage.
Add the egg whites on top and gently fold them into the liquid batter using a spatula. Mix until they are mostly incorporated, but a few lumps of whisked egg white are fine.
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden and puffy looking.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for at least 3 hours. The top may sink slightly on cooling, this is fine. Then carefully remove from the tin and slide the ‘cake’ onto a serving plate using a big palette knife to help you.
Sprinkle the top with icing sugar and serve. You should be able to see a dense base layer, middle custard layer and airy sponge top.

Makes 1 x 8inch custardy cake