This lovely cake was made on the weekend and it's almost all eaten. It is special because it used eggs I collected from our own hens, applesauce made from apples grown by friends, along with local walnuts and honey from the farmer's market. I was inspired by the Greek celebration Finikia cookies which feature orange, honey and ground walnuts. A heavenly combination. This cake is so moist, only mildly sweetened with apples and honey and makes a wonderful gluten free breakfast. It is perfectly accompanied with a generous dollop of tart yoghurt or a slather of butter...
. Walnut + Honey Breakfast Cake .
3/4 cup walnuts (plus 1/4 cup extra for garnishing)
3 eggs, separated
1 cup unsweetened apple puree
1/2 cup honey
zest and juice of an orange
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt
Preheat a moderate oven (180'c). Lightly roast walnuts on a tray in the oven until golden and fragrant, shaking once or twice. Grind walnuts in a food processor or by hand with a mortar and pestle. Combine walnuts in a large bowl with egg yolks, apple puree, honey, orange zest and juice and mix until combined. In a smaller bowl whisk flours, spice and baking powder together. Gently stir flours into wet mixture. In another clean bowl whisk egg whites until frothy. Fold into batter. Pour into a paper lined baking tin and bake for 45 minutes or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin. Garnish with extra chopped walnuts and a drizzle of honey.
When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease six years ago I felt so sad at the thought of giving up gluten for life; the taste of gelatinous oat porridge for breakfast, soft pearl barley in my soups, the silky pull of buttery brioche in my hands, the malty sip of a porter beer - but also how gluten felt against my knuckles when I kneaded it, how elastic and clever and versatile it could be... I often think about my baking life pre-diagnosis, with great fondness. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss making and eating certain things - rye and walnut sourdough bread, flaky moroccan style (m’semen) flat bread, Japanese dumplings and egg noodles…
It took me a while after I completely cut gluten from my diet to want to try any gluten-free baking - I knew many people were doing it, and that I could access recipes galore and gluten free grains and flours - but perhaps I needed a break from baking altogether to forget everything I had learned and known - to clear the space in my heart and mind (and belly) for a new adventure!
These are ten “tips” that continue to shape and develop in my gluten free baking, I hope they might be helpful to you too:
Accepting that gluten free baking and bread will never taste the same as gluten-ful baking, and that is totally okay! Rather than try to replicate a gluten-free version of everything as closely as you can, enjoy the unique textures and flavours of gluten free grains and flours. It saddens me that a lot of supermarket gluten free baked goods are full of gums, emulsifiers, sugars and additives to make it taste “more” like bread, but in doing so create a product that is less-healthy and less-digestible for it’s eaters! I don't think my gluten free bread tastes much like I remember gluten-ful bread did / but I do think it’s delicious in it’s own right!
Never stop experimenting with different gluten free grains and flours. Try them all if you can - and then only use the ones you really like the flavour and texture of. Sure, quinoa may be on all the “super-healthy-food” lists, but if you can’t really abide it then don't eat. There are so many different grains you can use in your baking you need not limit yourself to what other’s use. I also like the idea of experimenting with the grains that are grown locally to you; for me in Australia I can buy beautiful organically-grown millet, buckwheat, sorghum and rice so that’s what I use most of in my baking.
My best gluten free baking recipes always have a balance of starch flours (ie. tapioca, arrowroot, potato, cornflour) with grain-grass flours (rice, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, teff, quinoa). Because gluten free grains lack the proteins of gluten they are not as easy to bake with - they need extra starch to help bind them together and keep the texture soft and elastic. In bread I use a ratio of 1:3 starch to grains, and in sweet baking such as cakes and biscuits I use as 1:2 ratio of starch to grain. My favourite all-purpose flour mix is a very simple 1:2 tapioca or arrowroot starch to white rice flour. My favourite bread flour mix is 1/2 tapioca starch to 1/2 cup brown rice flour + 1/2 cup buckwheat flour.
Find recipes for something you really love to eat or create your own gluten free version of them. Something I loved (and missed) eating was a french baked custard called “canelé” which I had made before I became coeliac - I used my original recipe and tinkered with until I was happy with it’s taste and texture in gluten free form. I now make these custards for farmers markets and they make a lot of people very happy!
It’s cliche I know, but practice really makes perfect when it comes to success with gluten free baking. The more you make a certain recipe and get a feel for your ingredients, your oven, your enjoyment of it - the better it will get every time you try.
Much of my baking is quick substituting of a gluten-ful recipe; I replace whatever it asks for such as wheat flour with my all-purpose baking mix (1:2 tapioca + white rice flours), with usually an extra egg to help with binding. Sometimes I might use a ground nut flour such as almond or hazelnut instead of the suggested wheat flour and that works wonderfully well in cakes. When it comes to sauces or sponge cakes that ask for “cornflour” I use tapioca starch in exactly the same quantity - I have found it works with success every single time.
7. Buy quality and bulk
Seek out the best quality gluten free grains and flours that you can. Your tummy and your baking will thank you. I have found buying organically-grown grains in bulk quantities (5kg bags for example) ends up being a cheaper than the little packets of conventional gluten free flour found in the supermarket. For those in Australia, I love using Honest to Goodness for buying my flours. When making sourdough bread it’s extremely important to use chemical-free grains (or organically grown) in order to not kill the good bacterias in your sourdough starter. Grains and flours don't store forever - and flours go rancid more quickly than whole grains - it is better to find the flours you like the best and get bulk quanities that you know you can use up over 2-3 months before it goes bad. Otherwise store excess flour, especially nuts flours in the fridge or freezer to keep them from spoiling.
8. Embrace eggs
Eggs are glorious. Obviously I am a bit biased because I am a farmer of pasture raised eggs and handle some 300 of them every day! Eggs contain almost every mineral and vitamin the human body needs and are full of protein; especially in the whites which will help your baking hold together, rise and be softer/lighter in texture.
9. Explore the garden
Explore your garden (and local farmers markets) for edible weeds, herbs, vegetables, and fruits you can incorporate in your baking throughout the seasons. Got lots of apples? Make pies! A ton of parsley or rosemary? Make biscuits or crackers. Never ending supply of zucchinis or squash? Grate it up and mix into your bread with caraway seeds! My favourite gluten free baked good by far and away is a very simple tarte tatin I make in Autumn with quinces which are so plentiful around here I can pick them from wild trees growing beside the road.
10. Don't apologise
I will never forget the time, a couple of years ago, when I was standing at a local farmers market with my table of gluten-free bread and a random lady came up to me with a frown and said "this stuff is what I hate! gluten free rubbish", I was shocked, but eventually she told me that what gluten free bread had tried she thought was awful and hated how trendy it was to be on a gluten free diet. I was quick to remind her that many people have diseases and intolerances, and that while it isn't "healthier" for all people to be gluten free, for many many people it is, or even their only choice! We have a gluten free household so when I cook for events or parties, it's always free of gluten, and delicious, and I never apologise for it.
I have released an eBook “The Art of Gluten Free Baking” with my recipes for gluten free sourdough, artisanal breads and more. You can buy it here.
Eggs and chickens are often seen at Easter - but what about trees, what might they represent to us at this time? Traditionally trees have been symbols of faith, wisdom, transformation and liberation. Do you know that the image of the tree is used repeatedly throughout the bible; Jesus dies on a tree - a cross made from the wood of a tree - just as it was said in the Old Testament. And like Jesus, trees give life - they provide safety, shelter, sustenance and substance. In the natural world trees have sophisticated root systems that keep the ground stable and nourish many creatures and fungi. Their leaves produce oxygen so that we can breathe and even their sap or resin can be used to make medicine and other useful things...
Try making an “Easter Tree” as a decoration in your homes to remind us of the life-giving power of trees and the way our own faith can start small and grow and grow.
You will need:
- a small pot, jug, vase
- sad or gravel or small stones
- a full branch - gum tree branches work well, so do olives or laurel branches!
- scissors, ribbon or sticky tape
-decorations such as blown eggs (see method below)
Support the branch in the pot or vase using sand or stones to keep it in place. You will want to show in a prominent place in you house like the living room or even the kitchen table.
Blown Easter eggs
Blown eggs are eggs that have had the gooey insides “blown” out of them. They are then carefully dyed, painted or drawn on with markers. You could even glue stickers or coloured paper on them. They are extremely light-weight when blown and make beautiful decorations to hang on your Easter Tree. Please supervise children while they use the safety pin!
You will need
- Fresh eggs
- A safety pin
- Plastic straw
- A bowl
Sit an egg in it’s egg carton or a egg cup to steady it. Next tap a push a hole into the top centre of the egg with your safety pin. Once you have made the hole, carefully push the end of the pin down to widen the hole. Insert the toothpick into the hole and turn it around inside the egg to break up the yolk and make it easier to blow. Flip the egg over and make a second hole on the opposite side with your pin. Try to make the hole on the bottom a little bit bigger - but be careful not to crack the egg as you go!
Hold the egg over a measuring jug or bowl with the bigger hole facing down. Gently guide the end of your straw into the top of the egg (or you can just use your lips!) and blow - runny egg should begin to come out of the bottom hole. It can take a minute to get going - so be patient. You’ll know it’s all out when the egg feels like and only bubbles of air come out. You can wash it carefully in some water water and then let it dry. Decorate it with whatever you like: pens, paint, dye, glue and tissue paper, stickers!
We drew on our eggs with crayon before sinking them into jars of dye + water. Once dry, we painted them with a thin coat of craft glue, then we attached a piece of string to the top of each so we could hang them on our tree...
Today we celebrated Beren's fifth birthday! He is wonderful; funny, curious, strong-limbed, sensitive and we love him...
It seems like yesterday he was born; my autumn baby, my biggest baby (8lbs11oz), my shortest labour (3.5hrs), with a head of silky dark hair just like mine had been as a baby. When my grandma was told of his birth she said "Beren the Brown", and he certainly was as a newborn, but by his first birthday he was becoming blonde. Sometime between his first and second birthday his tight curls emerged and have stayed every since!
I knitted him a second stockinette snake (his first greeny-hued one was a Christmas present) - but this time in red, black and grey. A homage to the many, many red and black drawings he does at the moment.
He requested a "chocolate cake with lots of red and a red and black snake" - I made a gluten-free devils food chocolate cake with ermine frosting, and with the help of some marzipan I shaped a red and black snake and some rocks and toadstools. Raspberries and strawberries added some tasty "red" along with geraniums from the garden and sprigs of green mint and nasturtium leaves. He was well-pleased!
Our Easter Sunday morning special. This recipe makes enough biggish pancakes for 2-3 people. It can easily be doubled or trebled! The use of milk kefir instead of plain milk is really special, not only does it help the pancakes rise and have a fluffier texture, it also adds a yeasty delicious flavour which somehow reminds me of brioche. You can also use buttermilk or full cream milk with bicarb soda mixed in.
You will need:
1 large free range egg
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
(can be omitted for savoury pancakes) 3/4 cups milk kefir OR full cream milk
buttermilk with 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda 1 cups plain flour mix (50/50 brown rice
+ tapioca flours)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons GF baking powder,
Pinch each ground vanilla bean
+ ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
In a small bowl whisk together flour and baking powder. In a separate larger bowl beat egg and honey together with a fork – then alternate adding spoons of flour and milk in small amounts, whisking well between each. Stir in melted butter. The batter improves if it’s allowed to sit at room temperature
for 20 minutes before cooking – but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Spoon into a hot frypan on medium heat (add a little butter before if not using a non-stick pan) and flip over once bubbles appear all over.
Try adding 1/2 cup of grated carrot with extra ground cinnamon and nutmeg for a carrot-cake flavour... or 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or chives for a lovely green-flecked pancake to accompany cream cheese and smoked fish.
I love the tradition of keeping a prayer vigil on Easter Saturday. Why not try making a simple candle wreath using a plate and greenery as a symbol of your commitment to pray - keep the candle alight all day if you can (in a safe spot!) like on the kitchen table and every time you see it flickering remember to pray for anyone on your list, for the world, or a simple thanksgiving for Jesus, the Light of the world.
You will need:
A large plate, platter or shallow wooden bowl.
Fresh or dried flowers, leaves, nuts, acorns, leaves, greenery.
A pillar candle or any other you wish to use.
Arrange flowers and leaves and nuts around the edge of the plate. Place the candle in the centre and light it as a sign of your commitment to prayer today. You might like to read this traditional Paschal Candle prayer:
May the light of Christ
In Glory rising again,
Dispel the darkness of
Heart and mind.
or read this lovely poem by Joan Mellings:
On Easter Saturday night,
A flickering flame burns bright,
The Paschal Candle a vigil keeps,
While the busy world is hushed and sleeps
My second offering for celebrating Easter at home is to try making doughy garden scenes using homemade salt dough. Find the recipe below or use your own favourite recipe. Gather sticks, pebbles, flowers, nuts, seeds and stones from the garden to use in your scene.
You might like to make the garden where Jesus was buried in the tomb, using a big stone to roll over the entrance. Use your imagination and explore the different textures and patterns nature can make in the dough. Big kids will enjoy this too!
You will need:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup fine salt
2 tbsp oil
4 tbs cream of tartar
2 cups water
few drops food colouring (green, brown, grey, whatever you wish!
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pan. Tip out onto a clean plate and roll dough into a ball and let it cool before playing with it.
For many hundreds of years people have celebrated Easter through the eating, painting, staining and dyeing of eggs. Here are three different ways we like to dye fresh eggs for our Easter table...
Crayon Resist Dyeing
This is probably the easiest and least messy way to decorate eggs with smaller children as they will be handling eggs that have already be hard boiled and so wont crack so easily on them.
You will need:
- Fresh Eggs
- Wax crayons
- Food dye
Method: Hard boil some eggs. Let them cool to room temperature. Next draw patterns on the eggs using wax-based crayons or even a beeswax candle. Coloured crayons work really well! Next dye the eggs in a bath of water + food colouring dye. You can make a food colouring dye by mixing 3/4 cup of warm water + 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 10 drops of food colouring. Submerge the eggs for at least 5 minutes, set the eggs aside to dry!
Gradient Colour Dyeing
You will need:
- Fresh eggs
- Food dye
Method: Hard boil your eggs. Prepare a series of dye baths by combining 3/4 cup warm water + 1 tablespoon vinegar + 10 drops of food colouring. You might like to make 3-4 separate dye baths but increase/decrease the amount of food colouring or have different colours like red and blue.
Next hold one end of your egg in the dye bath for 3-5 minutes. Drip off the excess and hold the opposite end in a different dye bath (so you have two different coloured ends) and finally plunge in further into the third stronger/weaker/different coloured dye bath. Experiment with colour combinations and lengths of time in the dye, you are trying to achieve some gradient lines of colour on the eggs.
Onion Skin Easter Eggs
It’s best to plan ahead for this one by storing onion skins in a bag in the fridge or freezer over the week as they are used in cooking.
You will need:
- Onion skins (red and brown are fine) or purple cabbage leaves work well too!
- Fresh Eggs
- Small leaves and flowers from the garden
- Flesh-coloured pantyhose stocking
- Rubber bands
Place onion skins or purple cabbage leaves in a large saucepan. Next attach rubber bands to the raw eggs - alternatively you can carefully arrange flat leaves and flowers on the outside of the eggs and use the pantyhose stocking to keep them in place (you will need to cut the stock up) - secure with a rubber band. Cover the eggs and skins with water - about 2cm above the eggs. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the eggs and let them cool before removing rubber bands and/or stockings and leaves. You should see faint patterns on the eggs from the bands and leaves.
photos from top: onion skin + cabbage leaf dyeing / crayon-resist dyeing / natural dye / gradient colour dyeing
My second offering for the Easter at home series is to try making these traditional sweet Easter buns – my version is not as sweet as the store-bought ones - I love to add extra peel and citrus zest but you can omit these if you wish. Gluten free of course!
You will need:
1 cup warm milk (any kind will do)
1/2 cup rice sourdough starter OR extra 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp natural dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar/ honey
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup psyllium husks
1/2 rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup arrowroot/tapioca starch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cups soaked dried fruit of your choosing.
zest and juice of 1 orange + 1 lemon
Whisk all of the above in a large bowl. Next add your flours, spices and fruit:
Stir to combine - don’t over mix as this will compact the flours: it should look like a wet dough - the consistency of thick, lumpy soup. Cover bowl with a clean tea towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. When you come back to it the mixture should see former and more dough like. The psyllium husks help absorb the moisture without making it too dry. If it’s still “sloppy” add an extra 1/4 cup each of the flours mentioned above.
Now, grease your hands with olive oil and scoop out a big heaped tablespoon of dough at a time - the oil on your hands will stop the dough sticking. Place balls close to each over on a baking tray lined with paper or dusted with GF flour. Once all the dough has been shaped into buns - cover them with a tea towel and let them sit to rise in a warm place.
Next make your crosses by mixing together:
4 tablespoons plain GF flour (or 2 tablespoons each of rice flour and tapioca starch)
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons water
Whisk together in a small bowl or jug. It should be a thin paste consistency. Add more flour or water as needed to achieve this. Scoop paste into a piping bag or a plastic zip lock bag (which you can easily snip the corner off). Pipe crosses onto each bun.
Bake buns in a hot oven at 190-200’c for 15-25 minutes depending on the size of your buns. They should look golden in colour when baked. While the buns are hot - brush them with warmed marmalade/apricot jam or honey over the buns. You need about 3 tablespoons of jam for the lot - I find this is a wonderful way to use up the jam or marmalade nobody seems to be eating. These buns are best enjoyed warm! Eat then within 3 days or slice up and freeze for another time.
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...