Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Premade bread products

If you aren't gluten intolerant you take bought bread for granted but when I found out I couldn't eat gluten, which was a few years ago now, there is pretty much no pre-made bread available. Well there was a bit but only on prescription and it was frankly disgusting, dry, hard and not at all like bread.

Gradually that has got better though it is still hit and miss and some of it is frankly terrible even today and pretty much all of it is expensive. However some companies stand out and the good ones are getting more common by the day. Dietary Specialists was one of the first that made stuff that could be considered edible and their pizza is a staple in our freezer.

There are others who make individual products I like though often it is hard to find them as most shops here carry a very limited range. I keep meaning to start using mail order but as yet haven't been organised enough or indeed felt the need, however this pregnancy I have been eating more as it is easy and brainless to have a sandwich and I have found I need more carbs than normal. It is testament to how much better the bread is that I can do that because however tired and off colour I was four years ago with my last pregnancy I would not have considered it, the bread was just too bad.

One of the biggest changes is that nearly all the supermarkets have Free From ranges now, sets of products that are free from not just gluten but things like milk and eggs as well. I'm not a huge fan of supermarkets, I'd much rather buy from local shops and do try to but it is true it is easier to go to a supermarket and we have quite a few within easy reach. One we don't have however is Waitrose which i really wish we did because they are the only ones who do fresh gluten free products.. yes fresh and good too. However we can get them through Ocardo which is a delivery only supermarket which works in partnership with waitrose and sells their products. It really threw me the first time as I was used to long use by dates but fresh is better in many ways.

Tesco's and Salisburys have had their own ranges for ages but the ones near us carry a very limited range. I know the range is much bigger as I've seen it when I've visited other cities but Coventry is a bit of a blackhole in many ways.

Asda and Morisons are the two we go to most often and till recently they were both very sparse on such things but recently seemed to have upped their game and I'm fairly convinced they are using the same manufacturer. Morrisons is branded as thier own free from range but Asda are selling them under the Livwell brand. Their rolls certainly seem to be the same product, they have a good taste and are less dry than most though they do suffer a little from falling apart.

If I am feeling slightly less lazy I like the bread mixes sold by Lakelands, they come all the way from Australia and I'd like to see a similar British product but they make good bread. It is very strange the first time you make it as it is very liquid and has to be cooked in a tin but it rises well and has a good texture.

Cakes and biscuits I do buy a few of but I'm more likely to make those from scratch. While we do still have normal bread in the house for everyone else we don't tend to have any normal flour for cooking and the bread is kept in it's own area outside the kitchen proper. The price would have to come down more before I bought gluten free bread for everyone and to be honest the size of the loaf and the quality would still need to improve more as well. That said my four year old claims to prefer my bread to the real stuff though he eats the normal stuff much more than mine, I can't see why anyone would prefer gluten free to fresh bread from the bakers and we don't tend to buy they cheap sliced plastic stuff. The slice size is good for him where as my husband claims a full size loaf has four slices !!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Bostini Cream Pie

This months Daring bakers challenge.

I really liked the sound of this one and planned to make it early, as it was I bought cream three times before I did!! Still struggling to cook anything that feels hard work though in the end it was really quite easy.

The pudding comes in three stages. First I made the cake which is one where you used whisked egg whites to give it air, first time I've ever had a chiffon cake to my knowledge . It does have some baking powder in but is designed for cake flour which is low in gluten for wheat flour and so is less of a change for gluten free. I just used Dove Farm general purpose as I wanted something fairly neutral flavour wise and some of my other flours have a distinct taste. The cake came out wonderfully light though it wasn't cooked in the middle. I cooked it all in one big cake pan not small molds as I didn't have any and it was getting too cooked round the edge but hadn't quite cooked enough in the middle. However as I made the whole amount of cake and only 1/3 of the custard it was easy to work round the uncooked bit. Next time I'll try muffin tins or similar.

With the custard as I already mentioned I only made 1/3 of the recipe, it was a huge amount of cream to make the full amount and from what others had said it was far more than we would eat, though for a party it would be a different matter. It was quite easy to make though I nearly killed it twice, first I tried to measure the cornflour in cups not tbsps which would have been interesting! Then I got distracted while cooking it because the timer went off for the cake and I nearly got scrambled egg.

The chocolate sauce however was a 10 second job, I used unsalted butter (thanks those who mentioned using salted by accident otherwise I would have too!) and Bornville chocolate as we like dark chocolate but I wasn't using the Green and Black !!

I chilled the custard and then placed a room temp circle of cake on top and smothered with chocolate sauce. I divided the custard into 4 which was still good size portions even though it is smaller than the suggested serving size. Loved the cake and sauce, personally found the custard a little eggy but himself loved it. It was something between a thick normal custard and a set egg custard. He polished off all his and half of mine as I was already quite full from fish pie earlier.

Original recipe
Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
Makes 8 generous servings



3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream (I used double cream as I'm in the UK)
1/2 vanilla bean (I used vanilla extract)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour (used Dove Farm gluten free)
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (used basic veggy oil)
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter


To prepare the custard:

Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.

To prepare the chiffon cakes:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.

Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.

To prepare the glaze:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.

To assemble:

Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Monday, 15 October 2007

some random cooking

I finally got round to some none vital cooking today. I've been finding that while I am keen to try recipes when I read them in the sitting room when I get into the kitchen my stomach rebels, however the morning sickness seems to be abating a little now finally.

First I made flapjack. This is what I always had as flapjack as a kid but it has cornflakes in which most flapjacks don't something I didn't realise for many years as a kid. The recipe is from the Be.Ro cooking book, a book that has been around in various editions since time began..

100g marg or butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
100g sugar
50g oats
50g self raising flour
75g crushed cornflakes

Heat oven to 190C and grease a baking tray
melt butter and syrup together. Mix other ingredients in a bowl. Mix together. Put in tray and bake for 15-20 mins till just firm. Cut into fingers while hot.

Oh I added some sultanas too.
Of course it helps if you remember the sugar. If not it turns out like this.. It didn't hold together at all but with some added sugar I think it will work as a topper for stewed apple or something.. Oh well!

Then I thought I'd try cornbread. I used this recipe. I'm not American and don't think I've ever had cornbread made by someone who knows what it should be like so I just followed the recipe as well as I could, subing the flours for a general gluten free one.

I also made this broccoli and cheese soup from One Hot Stove as it sounded nice. I am not really sure the two went together that well so will review each separately. The photo isn't wonderful colour wise I'm afraid.

The cornbread first. It rose well, and the texture seemed good, though very much like a cake. I don't know if that is normal or because it's gluten free. My first thought on tasting it was wow that's sweet. Small one seemed to like it though he asked if he could not eat the crust,after he had eaten most of it! I liked it but might try it with a bit less sugar next time as is was sweeter than most cakes I make.

The soup was nice. I was a little light handed with the cheese as the one I had was a strong cheddar but next time I'll add more and probably more broccoli too.

Milk mayham

Another day another report about brilliant ideas to save the world. Just in case you are wondering I'm being sarcastic.

Today I am greeted with a news report that the Government want us all to start drinking UHT milk as it will cut down on green house gasses as there will be less refrigeration from all the fridges in the shops.

Here are two version of the story. The one from the Beeb and one from the Times.

I haven't been able to find a copy of the report all this is based on and as it is described as a leaked report it probably hasn't been formally published yet so I always take such articles with a pinch of salt until I can read the actual document.. The government is saying it's just a discussion document but we all know how discussion documents suddenly morph into law.

Now if a French person is reading this they are probably thinking, what's the problem with UHT milk, because nearly all the milk they use is UHT but our diets are very different and while the French normally have great taste in this I feel they fail somewhat. In this country we drink and use a huge amount of milk, we drink Tea with milk, have cereal for breakfast again with milk, we drink milk on it's own, as milk shakes, make lots of dishes based on white sauces and other milk based ideas and that's before you get onto cream which while it isn't mentioned would surely come under the same umbrella?.

UHT milk tastes crap and some nutrients like folic acid are damaged in the process. Actually I'd happily drink un-pasteurised if I had anywhere to get it. I did for most of my childhood and was spoilt by having a jersey cow of our own.

I'm not saying that they arn't right about the amount of energy used by the fridges and the report only looks at the supply chain for milk so they haven't looked at the fact many shops have much bigger fridges full of fizzy drinks which could be easily got rid of without those drinks being damaged.. though of course cold coke is far more important than fresh milk! Then there is all the per-prepared meals and the amount of excessive cold air spilling from all those fridges into the shops.

As I said I haven't seen the report so don't know if they have suggested any other options but the obvious one seems to have the milk delivered straight from the farms to the consumer, fresher, less refrigeration needed (as we arn't going to stop having home fridges even UHT still needs one once you open it).. I get my milk that way already, well it's from Dairy Crest so not straight from the farm but it's the best i can find here. However it is in glass bottles and even though it is still pasteurised I like it better. The full fat has cream that settles out at the top something supermarket milk never does. Milkmen used to be the normal way to get milk but they are much less common now and we have only recently started using one again.. if fact it is the first time I have had one since I was a kid.

Another thing mentioned is the suggestion the dairy industry should cut it's methane output by 60% in the next few years. The only obvious way to do this is have less cows so perhaps the idea is make us drink UHT which most of us hate so we drink less milk so don't needs so many cows.. alternatively we could keep fresh milk and use the methane constructively as a fuel to run the refrigeration in the vans to deliver the milk direct.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Daring Bakers - First time

For those that don't know this is a monthly challenge where everyone cooks the same recipe. No changes unless you are allergic or similar. The challenge is kept secret till the end of the month and everyone posts on the same day.. I have sort of failed on that already because here in the UK it's gone midnight and just remembered I hadn't posted. I blame being pregnant.. OK I'm as bad when I'm not but it's a good excuse. Still the day isn't finished everywhere so hopefully i will be excused.

As it's past 1am I will fill in more details like the recipe and all later though if you go to the Daring Bakers blog roll I am sure others are more organised than me.

As I'm celiac I was allowed to change the flour to one without gluten. As those who know anything about gluten will know this does course problems with bread recipes as gluten is the stuff that makes bread dough stretchy and helps it rise. As the challenge is to do the recipe exactly I just replaced normal flour with Dove farm Gluten free bread flour without adapting the recipe otherwise.

The dough worked fairly well and even rose thought once I'd made i into rolls and left ti to prove again it didn't expand by twice as it meant to but it is expecting rather a lot of gluten free flour. I made half the recipe as cinnamon rolls exactly as the challange but didn't try the sticky buns ( we were allowed to do one or both) I cheated a bit in that I used the other half of the dough to make chelsea buns ie added fruit inside the rolls with the cinnamon sugar.

They taste quite good a bit more cakey than bread like but then gluten free bread is often like that. I think I made the icing a little thin and if I'd used all of the suggested amount they would be swimming in it.