Browse Tag by Baking
Desserts

Peach and blueberry cobbler

This peach and blueberry cobbler was something I literally just cobbled together at the weekend – I know, bad jokes aside, this came out of a need for some comfort food, as well as to use up whatever ingredients happened to be available.

I’m trying to teach my eldest daughter about cooking at the moment

We talked about how it’s an intuitive process whereby you must use your senses to guide you. You might add a little more salt or pepper upon tasting, give the pasta a little squeeze to see if it’s cooked enough, or put a splash of water in a sauce that feels too sticky and thick.

I rarely follow recipes, preferring instead to make up my own, but I recognise it’s not so easy to wing it when it comes to baking, particularly with gluten free baking. Baking is more of an exact science, but it doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with flavours and this cobbler is the perfect example of that.

We had some tinned peaches in the cupboard and some blueberries in the fridge that were on the turn.

I thought they’d make a perfect combination, and as we’d already had a crumble recently, I came up with the idea of a cobbler instead. The cobbler topping is very much like a scone mix and this gluten and dairy free version doesn’t disappoint. The addition of ground almonds and almond milk give it a lovely nutty flavour.

Made with ordinary flour, you would be able to shape the dough into rounds and place them on top of the fruit, however, a gluten free version comes out more like the consistency of thick cake mix. This means you have to spoon it on instead, but by using an ice cream scoop, you can still get the cobbled shape upon baking.

Peach and blueberry cobbler - A Free From Life

I added the minimum amount of sugar to this recipe, just 25 grams, as the fruit is sweet enough on its own.

You could use an alternative such as coconut sugar, if you wanted to make it refined sugar free. The cobbler topping, I think, would be delicious on it’s own. Scooped into muffin tins, it would work as a gluten and dairy free scone alternative.

Here’s the recipe:
200g gluten free plain flour (I used Free From Fairy plain flour blend)
2tsp baking powder (if you use self-raising flour, you don’t need this)
100g ground almonds
25g sugar
100g dairy free ‘butter’
180ml almond milk
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg
Fruit of your choice

  • Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar, then add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • In a measuring jug, weigh out the almond milk, add the lemon juice and then beat in the egg.
  • Add this to the flour mix and stir until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Lay out your fruit in the bottom of an ovenproof dish big enough to serve 6 people.
  • Using an ice cream scoop, add the topping mix on to the fruit, making sure it’s completely covered (tip – start on the outside, work your way around and towards the middle).
  • Bake in the oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Peach and blueberry cobbler - A Free From Life

Serve with dairy free ice cream or custard.

Le Coin de Mel
Baking

Courgette and carrot loaf – gluten and dairy free

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

We have a small vegetable patch in our garden and every year, one of our greatest successes is courgettes. With such an abundant crop, it would be easy to become fed up of eating them, which has happened in previous years. So I’ve had to become more inventive in how I use them up.

One of our favourites is a chocolate courgette cake and I also enjoy letting the odd one grow big enough to be marrow size, then baking it in the oven, halving, scooping out the middle and filling with a savoury rice, mince Bolognese or chilli. It’s such a hearty meal.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

Then I inherited a recipe for a courgette and carrot loaf that I thought I’d try out. I had to convert it to be gluten free and with the addition of sunflower oil, it’s dairy free too. What I love about this courgette and carrot loaf is that it’s packed with flavour and wholesome goodness.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

The ingredients work together so well, with the carrots providing some sweetness, the courgettes moisture and the nuts give just the right amount of crunch. A slice of this loaf will give you a tasty, satisfying mid-morning snack that will keep you going until lunch or an afternoon tea treat to last you until dinner.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

Free From Farmhouse
Link up your recipe of the week
Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life
Courgette and carrot loaf
Print Recipe
A tea time loaf packed with vegetables and nuts for a tasty, satisfying and filling treat.
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life
Courgette and carrot loaf
Print Recipe
A tea time loaf packed with vegetables and nuts for a tasty, satisfying and filling treat.
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Weigh out the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and mixed nuts. Stir well
  2. In a separate bowl mixed together the beaten eggs, oil, lemon rind and grated veg.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together until well incorporated.
  4. Pour in to a greased loaf tin and bake in the oven at 180/gas 4 for 50 mins to 1 hour. Check with a tooth pick to see if it comes out clean. If so, it is done.
Recipe Notes

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack.

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Baking

Almond Butter and Raisin Cookies – grain free, dairy free

Almond butter raisin cookies - A Free From Life

I adapted this recipe from a wheat based peanut raisin cookie recipe I had. The original recipe didn’t have peanut butter, but used coarsesly ground peanuts instead. As I discussed in my posts about converting your recipes to make them gluten free, you need to add more liquid, otherwise the resulting product will be too dry, so it made sense to add a nut butter instead of ground nuts. I replaced the flour with a mixture of ground almonds and fat reduced almond flour.

These cookies are very easy to make and the result is a delicious, crunchie cookie. I hope you enjoy them too.

Ingredients
100g dairy free butter alternative
50g sugar
2 tbsp coconut milk, or another dairy free milk
1 egg white
100g almond butter
200g almond flour (can be a mix of finer flour and ground Almonds)
2tsp baking powder
50g raisins

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 160/gas 3
– Cream the butter and sugar
– Add the milk and almond butter and whisk to incorporate
– Weigh out the almond flour and baking powder, then add these to the wet mix and whisk again
– Whisk the egg white separately until foamy, then add this to the rest of the ingredients
– Fold in the raisins

Form in to balls and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, evenly spaced. I made mine about the size of golf balls because I wanted a nice, substantial sized cookie.

Flatten into rounds with the palm of your hand and bake for around 15 minutes, or until golden.

Free From Farmhouse
Casa Costello
Ingredients

Converting your Recipes to Gluten Free

The Science of Baking - Understanding how to convert to gluten free - A Free From Life

Last week, I wrote about how ingredients work together in baking, particularly the importance of gluten. This week, I’m looking at how you can convert your favourite recipes to make them gluten free, what to add to mimic the structure of gluten and using other ingredients for adding flavour and texture.

How to convert recipes to gluten free - A Free From Life

What sort of flour should I use?

There are so many gluten free flours to choose from, particularly if you look in specialist health shops. Some you will prefer the taste of to others, but for baking, you need to choose flour according to its protein content. As with wheat flour, the higher the protein content of the gluten free flour, the stronger the overall structure of the finished product. In that sense, you can think of the proteins in gluten free flours in much the same way.

  • Nut flours like almond or cashew add a mild sweetness and of course, a nutty taste and are versatile enough to be used in most baked goods as a substitute for flour. You can buy them in two forms – as ground (milled) nuts or as flour. The flour version is finer (usually made with blanched nuts, skin removed) and some varieties are fat-reduced.
  • Coconut flour is also slightly sweet tasting but mild overall. This flour is very absorbent, however, meaning that it is necessary to add more liquid to a recipe when using this flour. A 1:1 ratio of flour to liquid is recommended.
  • White rice flour is a low protein flour that provides a crumbly texture, therefore is useful in pastries or shortbreads. Some people (myself included) do not like the gritty taste of white rice flour when used in yeast breads and other similar products.
  • Sorghum flour (sometimes referred to as Juwar flour) is made from a cereal grain. It has a similar taste to wheat flour and is high in protein (10g per 100g), making it ideal for use in bread, biscuits and cakes.
  • Brown rice flour is made from unhulled rice grains. It has a mild flavour and adds crunch to baked goods, so use in combination with other flours to avoid grittiness. It has a protein content of 7.5g per 100g.
  • Corn flour is made from ground corn, so it is yellow in colour. Not to be mistaken with corn starch, which is white (and pure starch, no protein), you may also see it referred to as corn meal. Corn flour has 7g protein per 100g and is often used to make corn bread, tortillas and pasta.
  • Buckwheat flour has a strong odour and taste. It is made from the buckwheat plant, which is a close relation of rhubarb. Buckwheat flour has 16.4g protein per 100g and is often used for making pancakes.
  • Quinoa flour is made from an ancient cereal grain. It has a strong flavour and aroma and is high in protein (14.2g per 100g), making it ideal for use in bread making.
  • Teff flour is made from ground grains of the ancient grass, Fragostis tef, native to Ethiopia. Red Teff has a rich red/brown colour, so use sparingly unless you want a pink-tinged loaf. The protein content of Teff flour is 11g per 100g and it is useful for making bread, pancakes or wraps.
  • Amaranth flour is made from the dried and ground seeds of the amaranth plant (a herb). It is similar to polenta in texture and has a strong earthy and grassy taste when used in baked goods. Protein content is 16.2g per 100g.
  • Gram flour is made from ground chickpeas. Any flours made from beans tend to give strong beany flavour, making it a preferred choice for savoury dishes, including savoury pancakes and flat breads. Protein content is 12.8g per 100g.
  • Soya flour is made from ground soya beans and has a high protein content (around 35g per 100g). It is yellow in colour, with a strong flavour and odour.
  • Millett flour (also known as Bajri flour) has 10g of protein per 100g. It is pale in colour and produces a soft crumb. Millett can result in a crumbly texture if too much is used, however.
  • Sweet rice flour has excellent binding properties because it is so sticky. It is often used in Asian cooking and may also be referred to as sticky or glutinous rice flour. With a mild taste, it is suitable for most uses, but use sparingly and in combination with other flours. Protein content is 6g per 100g.

Most gluten free flours have a recipe on the back of the packet. This is helpful, but don’t feel as though it is the only thing you can use the flour for. Experiment with different combinations of any flour. There are no rules and no restrictions as to what gluten free flour you choose and what you attempt to make with it. What is best though, is to combine flours in order to give a mix of different protein contents and flavours.

A huge mistake I made when I started out making gluten free bread was to think that I could throw all the ingredients in to the bread maker and let it do its job. What resulted was a badly mixed and uneven loaf that even the birds turned down.

Tips for successful gluten free baking

– Use a combination of high protein flours for breads, pies and pizza bases and lower protein flours (combined with starches) for cakes and cookies etc. Mix the flours and starches well before adding dry ingredients (with so many colours and textures of gluten free flours, this step is really important).

– The golden rule of thumb is a ratio of 70:30 protein to starch, going up to 50:50 for cakes. Why add starch to your recipe, if the flour already contains it? Starch is important for both structure and texture and it combines with the proteins in the flour to tenderise the finished product.  Starch is often added to gluten free recipes because the dough takes on more water, compared with wheat dough and this can weaken the protein structure. Adding starch helps to reinforce the structure and it also helps to hold water and keep the product moist. Common starches used in gluten free baking include arrowroot, cornstarch, tapioca starch (sometimes referred to as tapioca flour) and potato starch.

– Gluten free ‘doughs’ should be wetter and stickier than their wheat containing counterparts. For bread, look for a texture similar to an over sticky dough, not as runny as a cake batter, but not something that you would be able to knead. You don’t have to knead a gluten free dough anyway. This step is necessary for developing the gluten, so you can avoid it. What you can do is use a mixer with a dough hook and aim to incorporate as much air as you can.

– If you use a bread maker, you may have noticed that on an ordinary programme, the machine will allow the dough to rest and rise then will mix it again before allowing it to rest and rise one more time prior to baking. This ‘knocking back’ phase helps to further develop the gluten as well as redistributing the yeast and air pockets. Without the gluten present, you only have one chance for your dough to rise, so under no circumstances do you want to ruin the structure by a second kneading stage. If you don’t have a gluten free programme on your bread machine, choose a quick programme instead.

– Add half a teaspoon of vinegar to help preserve your bread. This also adds to the overall flavour.

– You need more leavening to help your cakes and breads rise. Add around 25% more baking powder/soda and/or yeast.

– Experiment with different liquids, to add flavour and texture. This could include replacing some of the water with yoghurt or buttermilk, to give a fluffier product. You could also try adding fruit or vegetable purees, to give sweetness and moisture (works well in brownies). These also add pectin, to help bind the product.

– Add an extra egg to the recipe and try using carbonated water to put more air into your product.

– Increase the flavour by 10%, so for example, extra vanilla essence. You can also add more flavour by using ingredients like nut milk, honey or coffee.

– Gums are often used in gluten free baking. They help to bind the product in a similar way to the starch and the gluten, by forming a stretchy web when mixed with water. If you use a combination of flours and starches in your recipe, gums may not be necessary, but here is an overview of what is available to try:

  • Xanthan gum – made from corn. Only 1-2 teaspoons are required in a recipe. Too much can lead to a heavy or slimy product.
  • Guar gum – made from a legume. This is a very powerful thickening agent, so again only a small amount is required.
  • Ground golden flaxseed – use 2 teaspoons for every half teaspoon of xantham or guar gum, mixed with boiling water to form a gel.
  • Ground chia seeds – use in the same way as flaxseeds.
  • Gelatine – can be used to help make dough more pliable.
  • Agar agar – vegan alternative to gelatine. This product is made from seaweed and is high in fibre, therefore must be used sparingly to avoid a soggy product. Around 1 teaspoon for every 100ml is recommended.

Don’t forget to make a note of what you use so that you remember for the next time.
Have you converted your favourite recipes to gluten free? How did it go?

Baking

Apple Slice – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Apple Slice - A Free From Life

Apple Slice - A Free From Life

This recipe comes from the need to use up some apples that I had in the fridge. I used cooking apples, but when I made it a second time, I tried it with eating apples and it worked just as well. I also tried this recipe with both margarine and coconut oil. My preferred version is the one with coconut oil, but again, both work just as well.

Ingredients
– 250g gluten free plain flour. You can use a pre-blended version, but mine contained this mix:
150g tapioca flour
50g quinoa flour
50g sorghum flour

– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 75g unrefined sugar
– 120g coconut oil or margarine
– 2 Bramley apples (medium) or 3 eating apples
– 50g raisins
2 tbsp dairy free milk (I used Koko Dairy Free coconut milk)

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180/gas 4

– Measure out the flour, add the baking powder and cinnamon and mix well
– If using coconut oil, melt it first, then add to the dry mix. If using margarine, add in small cubes and use your fingers to rub in to the flour until you have a breadcrumb-like texture
– Stir in the sugar
– Use a blender to coarsely chop the apples into small cubes (you can do this by hand, but include a mixture of grated and chopped to vary the size of the pieces)
– Add to the mix with the raisins and stir until well incorporated
– Add the milk and stir until the mixture comes together like a sticky, loose dough

– Turn on to a lined baking sheet and form into a circle or rectangle of about two and a half centimetres thick
– Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until golden
– Leave to cool completely before cutting in to small pieces or squares

Apple Slice - A Free From Life

Free From Farmhouse
Baking

Lemon and Sultana Scones

Lemon and sultana scones - A Free From Life

The word ‘scone’ instantly reminds me of childhood holidays in Devon, where idyllic little teashops beckoned you in with the promise of homemade versions served with oodles of clotted cream. Of course, you can have a cream tea anywhere nowadays and why not? This simple little baked good, with its fruity and creamy companions, makes the perfect treat for a summer’s day.

As usual, my first attempts at making anything gluten and dairy free tend to come out dense, hard and often brick-like. Based on some of the things I’ve made in the past, I could quite easily go and work for the Ministry of Defence. I keep working on my recipes, though and I get there in the end. That’s the time to share them on this blog.

The scones in this recipe are no bricks, let me tell you. The result is light and fluffy with a lemony freshness. Unfortunately, clotted cream is a no-no for the dairy intolerant contingent of our family, but with the addition of my chia jam and some coconut cream, this makes for a cream tea to rival any traditional one.

Ingredients
200g ground almonds
100g tapioca starch
100g brown rice flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120g dairy free alternative to butter
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp honey
120g yoghurt (dairy free if required)
70g sultanas
Grate rind of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk

Instructions (makes 12)

Preheat the oven to 180/gas 4

– Mix the ground almonds together with the flour, starch and bicarbonate of soda
– Add the butter in cubes and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
– Thoroughly mix in the egg, honey and yoghurt
– Fold in the sultanas and grated lemon rind

Don’t be alarmed if you have a soft and sticky mixture that’s more of a batter than a dough. You are not working with a dough that you roll out and cut, as you would if making traditional scones. A dough of this consistency, when baking gluten free, will result in a baked good that is dry and hard.

– Using a desert spoon, drop heaped spoonfuls of the mixture on to a lined baking sheets, making sure there is space in between each one
– Brush the tops with the egg yolk
– Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown

Vary this recipe by changing the sultanas for other dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or cherries. You could also substitute the lemon zest for orange.

Casa Costello
Baking

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Glutenfree, Dairyfree, Egg Free

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - glutenfree, dairyfree, egg free - a free from life

I’ve been desperate to re-create an allergen friendly version of my ultimate favourite cookie – oatmeal raisin. There has always felt something wholesome and comforting about these cookies and you can’t get better than homemade, especially for an after school treat.

Getting the right balance of crunch and chewiness in a gluten and dairy free version hasn’t been easy. That’s not to say that the attempts along the way haven’t been edible. My family will testify that they have been more than willing to act as taste testers, but I rejected each batch as being either too crumbly, to cakey or too chewy until I finally hit the right combination. It just so happens that my preferred recipe also excludes eggs, which is a bonus for anyone needing to avoid them and looking for an easy to make cookie recipe.

I replaced the egg with milled flaxseeds. The sticky texture when mixed with water acts as a binder for the ingredients, but at the same time, flaxseeds are rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, so they’re good for you too. I used coconut oil instead of butter and cut the sugar content down by using rapadura whole cane sugar. This is made from raw cane juice and has a stronger caramel and molasses flavour, compared with ordinary sugar. You don’t need much of it to sweeten your recipes.

You could say that this is as healthy a cookie as you are likely to get – a little sweet treat, made with wholesome natural ingredients.

Ingredients

150g coconut oil (you can use butter or a dairy alternative if preferred)

2tbsp organic honey

2tsp vanilla extract

50g sugar

4tbsp milled flaxseeds mixed with 2tbsp water

80g sorghum flour

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g gluten free oats

75g raisins

Method

  • Pre heat the oven to 180/gas 4.
  • Melt the coconut oil and add it to a mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flaxseeds and water to form a smooth paste.
  • Add this paste to the melted coconut oil, along with the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Mix well – using a hand mixer or blender is best to incorporate all the ingredients.
  • Add the oats and raisins and stir well.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place walnut sized balls of the mixture on to them in rows of four, ensuring there is space between each. I find it’s best to use your hands at this stage, to bring the mixture together and shape the balls of dough.
  • Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.
  • Bake for ten minutes, until golden brown.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The cookies should last for three to four days (if you are lucky enough to have any left after this time!).

 

Baking

Gluten and Dairy Free Granola Bars

Gluten and dairy free granola bars - afreefrom life.com

Gluten and dairy free granola bars - afreefromlife.com

I have a weakness for Granola bars. Packed full of oats, seeds and fruit, they should be a healthy treat and one that sustains your energy levels for a long period. However, shop bought varieties are often so full of sugar that it tends to ruin the overall ‘healthiness’. Continue Reading