Browse Tag by Gluten free baking

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, Reviews

Free From Fairy gluten free wholegrain plain flour

How to make gluten free bread - A Free From Life

I’ve been following the Free From Fairy’s blog for some time now. Having developed her own blend of gluten free flour that doesn’t contain rice flour, she’s used it to develop lot’s of scrummy looking baked goods, both savoury and sweet.

I’m not a fan of rice flour either, not just for the health concerns regarding its arsenic content, but also because I find it gritty and drying. I can see why it’s used in gluten free baking, but there are so many other lovely and tasty gluten free flours out there.

One of the first things I did when my son went gluten free, in addition to dairy, was to buy a bread maker. I can’t stand the commercial offerings and I knew I had to make something better. Oh boy, did I have some disasters – inedible bricks, poorly mixed loaves, too sticky, too crumbly, you name it. My kitchen was like a product development laboratory for a good few weeks until I found a combination that worked, but that combination was a good one and I’ve stuck to it.

Finally getting around to ordering some of the Free From Fairy’s flour, I decided to put it to the test with my recipe and do you know what? It worked a treat.

How to make gluten free bread - A Free From Life

In fact, I didn’t measure it (though was tempted) but it might have even come out taller than my own do (not that I’m obsessed with the size of my loaves or anything).

Anyway, this recipe is for a Panasonic S2500, though I’m sure it works with other Panasonic machines. I haven’t tried it with other bread makers, so I’m not sure if the recipe would need tweaking in order to work. I use the gluten free programme and the dark crust setting. If you don’t have the gluten free option, you can use a rapid bake setting. What this means, essentially, is that your machine will allow the bread to rise, then bake it off. The normal programmes include a rise stage, followed by another kneading called ‘knocking back’. If you do this to your gluten free loaf, you won’t get it to rise again.

Gluten free bread recipe:

  • 500g gluten free flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp xantham gum
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 80g olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 300ml water


  • Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients.
  • Make a well in the centre and add the eggs.
  • Add the oil, vinegar and water.
  • Mix using an electric mixer with dough hooks until it forms a loose sticky dough. Note that it won’t be a workable dough as you would expect with bread. It should be wetter and stickier.
  • Pour into the bread machine pan and set the machine to the gluten free programme with dark crust.

If you happen to try this recipe in another bread machine, please let me know how you get on.


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
  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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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.

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


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

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?


Almond, Coconut Squares – Dairy Free, Gluten Free

Almond coconut squares - gluten free, dairy free - A Free From Life

I don’t know about you, but with the warm weather we’ve been having, I keep finding that the bananas in the fruit bowl are overripe before I know it and I have to turn them in to something else so they don’t get wasted.

Once they turn brown and spotty, bananas are past their best for eating, but with all the starch converted to sugar, they make a great base for using in baked goods in place of processed sugar. I used up mine to make these almond, coconut squares:

Almond coconut squares gluten free, dairy free - A Free From Life

These little treats taste so good. They are packed full of protein and combine my favourite flavours of almond and coconut. I used this fab dairy free chocolate from Doisy and Dam for an extra hit of coconut, but you can use any chocolate you like.

Coconut & Lucuma Chocolate - dairy free - A Free From Life

2 large or 3 medium overripe bananas
3 eggs
50g coconut oil
130g almond butter
130g almond flour
3tbsp coconut flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4tsp salt
50g chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 180/gas 4 and grease or line a flap jack tin

– Mash the bananas in a large bowl
– Add the eggs, coconut oil and almond butter and mix well
– Add the almond flour, coconut flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk until everything is well incorporated
– Fold in the chocolate chips

– Pour into the tin and spread evenly
– Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and firm to touch

What are your favourite ways to use up ripe bananas?

Free From Farmhouse
Casa Costello

The Science of Baking – Understanding How to Convert to Gluten Free

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

My journey to learn how to bake gluten and dairy free (successfully) is ongoing. For every winning recipe, there are around five disasters, but that’s all part of the fun. The key to success is understanding what you are dealing with and how the baking process works. For me, this is about going back a few years to when I worked as a food technologist for a research company. I spent most of my time on product development of, guess what, BREAD. You could say I baked bread for a living!

I understood the importance of each ingredient in bread and the role that each of these play in structure, texture and taste. Put it another way, I know how important gluten is for your traditional loaf, so when you take it out of the equation, you really do have your work cut out to get something that compares.

Having said that it is not impossible to achieve similar results using alternative ingredients, just as long as you understand how these individual ingredients contribute to the overall structure, texture and taste, so that you can substitute them in the right way.

Oh the irony of spending all that time working towards baking the perfect loaf of bread, when here I am (quite a few) years later trying to do the same but on a whole other level. What I’d like to do though, is take you through the baking process to show you how traditional ingredients work together. By understanding this, you can begin to see how you might make substitutions in order to achieve similar results.

What are the main ingredients used in baking?
Most baked goods contain some or all of the following:
Flour, sugar, fat, eggs, liquid, leavening agents and salt


Wheat structure - A Free From Life

The structure of flour is around 10% protein and 70%starch (the rest is fats and enzymes). A baker would choose a high protein flour for bread making (around 12-14%) and a lower protein flour for cakes (8-10%). The reason for this is that the main protein of wheat flour is gluten (70-80% in fact) and it is important for structure (you need your loaf to be robust but you don’t want a tough, chewy piece of cake!).

Gluten consists of two proteins – glutenin and gliadin and when mixed with water it forms a stretchy web. Gluten is able to stretch like elastic and then move back towards its original shape. This allows a wheat dough to expand and rise whilst retaining its original shape. Gluten is the scaffolding of the loaf and it stops a cake from collapsing.

Starch granules in the flour also help to form the structure of baked goods. When the granules absorb water, they swell. Starch also helps to tenderise the crumb of the finished product, by mixing with the gluten network and thereby limiting the development of the gluten (stops it from getting too brittle). Both gluten and starch play a role in delaying the staling of the baked goods, by holding in moisture.

Sugar also plays a role in limiting gluten development, by attracting moisture that would otherwise be absorbed by the gluten. Sugar retains moisture, which adds to the overall texture and taste of the finished product. It also reacts with the proteins in the flour and this contributes to the overall browning, to give a baked good that lovely golden colour.

Adding fat to a mix is important for improving texture and for preventing staling. Fats will shorten a dough i.e. weaken its structure, resulting in a more tender or flaky product. They do this by coating the gliadin and glutenin so that they can’t bind as easily. When sugar is present, the crystals cut tiny holes in to the fat and these become surrounded by starch and gluten. This traps air and when baked it helps increase the volume.

Eggs are important for structure in baked goods. When cooked, the proteins in the eggs set to help stabilise the product. Beating eggs traps air and on cooking, the air bubbles expand to help the product rise. Egg whites in particular form a foam that traps air and can be used to make fluffy light products such as soufflés.

Leavening agents
Leavening agents help a baked product to rise. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is mildly alkaline (pH 8.2) and is often used in a recipe that contains acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, buttermilk or vinegar. The baking soda reacts with the acids to produce carbon dioxide and acts as a neutraliser of the mixture. This affects the final texture and taste of the baked product.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (which is alkaline) and an acid compound. Once added to liquid, the two react to produce carbon dioxide. Baking powder helps give a fluffy and light texture to the baked product, however, if you add too much, the batter or dough can over expand, weakening the overall structure (think collapsed cake).

Yeast is a living, single cell organism. It feeds on sugar and as it reproduces, it releases carbon dioxide. A by-product of this reaction is alcohol, which adds flavour to the finished product.
The carbon dioxide produced by the leavening agents becomes trapped in tiny air bubbles (made possible by the addition of the other ingredients). When baked, the air in these bubbles expands and this is how the product is able to rise.

Salt adds flavour and it controls the growth of yeast so that it doesn’t grow too fast and overstretch the dough. Salt also acts to strengthen the bonds of the gluten network.

You can see that together, the ingredients of a baked good all have a role to play in the texture, flavour and shape of the finished product. They are all important. The question is then, how can you achieve the same success without gluten?

Gluten free flours tend to be heavier than wheat flours. They also absorb more moisture. What this means for baking is that you can’t substitute a wheat flour for a gluten free alternative in a recipe in a like for like ratio. Gluten free flours differ to each other in texture and flavour and no one flour mimics the effects of wheat flour. What food scientists have discovered, though, is that by combining different gluten free flours and starches, it is possible to achieve similar, if not better results.

Next time, I will discuss the different types of gluten free flours you can use and how to work with them for successful 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.

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