Early June is quiet and cold. Rain and wind shakes off what remains of the autumn leaves. I watch boys ride bikes around puddles and muddy their knees. Slowly, I clear out the garden of weeds and dead things, add to the bonfire pile and compost heap. Mulch the broccoli and leeks. Sow beans, peas, lettuce and carrot seeds. Prune the roses and the plum tree. I spy the green tips of bulbs emerging, hyacinth and daffodils. Inside the wood heater is kept stoked and warm. We mark off the days until the lockdown lifts, then the days until the school holidays, how long till spring begins. I bake often - for hunger and comfort, elevenses and afternoon tea. Winter is reading in bed with a hot water bottle on your chest and socks on your feet. Winter is slowing down whether you want to or not, feeling the cold and savouring heat //
Banana, Coconut + Raspberry Bread
125 butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar // OR 1 cup honey or maple syrup
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup rice flour + 3/4 tapioca starch // OR 1 + 1/2 cups GF plain flour mix
1/2 cup coconut flour // OR desiccated coconut for a rougher texture
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries // OR berries of your choice // OR 100g chopped dark chocolate
Makes 1 large loaf
- - -
In a large bowl or mixer cream together butter and sugar - followed by mashed bananas, eggs and olive oil. Mix in flours, spices and baking powder. It should be a thick batter consistency. Finally gently stir in raspberries. Pour mixture into a high-sided loaf tin that has been well-greased (or lined with baking paper - I usually just squash a rectangle of baking paper into the tin) and make in a moderate oven at 180'c for 45 mins - 1 hour. It will be ready once a skewer or knife inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean.
GF Anzacs with a twist
2 cups quinoa flakes
1 cup puffed amaranth
1 cup desiccated coconut
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup GF plain four // OR 1/2 cup each rice flour and tapioca starch
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- - -
Preheat moderate oven to 180'c. Place quinoa, amaranth, coconut, flour, zest, cinnamon, flour and brown sugar in a large bowl. Meanwhile heat the butter and honey in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in bicarb soda (it will fizz up a bit) - tip wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Shape a heaped tablespoon of mixture into paper-lined oven trays (I ended up with four trays of cookies). Use a fork to flatten the tops and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool and store in an airtight container - they last ages!
It really is! We are going through so many plums at the moment as we are getting them fresh in our CSA fruit box each week. There is nothing so nice as locally grown (without chemicals), seasonal fruit that tastes and feels as it should! This is my gluten-free adaptation of Stephanie Alexander's frangipane tart in her cookbook-to-rule-them-all, A Cook's Companion. She doesn't call for plums, but of course they work perfectly alongside almonds and the buttery shortbread base. It works just as well with nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, pears, poached quinces or apples or rhubarb. Basically most fruit!
Plum Frangipane Tart
For the base:
200g plain gluten-free flour (or 100g each of rice flour + 100g tapioca/arrowroot starch or cornflour)
1 tablespoon sugar
100g cold butter, sliced into small cubes
1 small egg
2 teaspoons cold water
Blend flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until crumbly. Add egg and water with the motor running and blend together until a dough forms. Roll out onto a piece of floured parchment paper (I might this minimises mess and stickiness). I do not bother chilling the dough as specified in the recipe - I simply roll out a disc shape to fit my pie dish which is about 22cm in diameter (with enough size to line the fluted sides).
Instead of greasing and flouring the dish, I lift the dough with the baking parchment and place both of them in (the paper of course creating a barrier between the dough and dish). This ensures simple lifting out of the tart and cleaning of the dish. Feel free to grease if you prefer! Once dough is pressed into the dish, use a fork to mark a number of pricks on the base of the tart.
Bake in a low-moderate oven (160'c) for 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Again I don't bother with weights or rice for the baking, the dough seems to keep it's shape well enough.
For the frangipane:
150g white sugar
120g unsalted butter
200g ground almonds
1/4 cup brandy or similar (this really gives it a delicious something else, but can be omitted)
1/4 cup flaked almonds
5 small-medium sized plums, pitted and halved or sliced into wedges. You may need more/less depending on the size of the plums to cover the surface of the tart.
Cream together butter and sugar in a food processor. Add almonds, eggs and brandy if using and mix well. Spread over tart base and arrange pitted and sliced plums on top of the tart. Bake in the oven (180'c) for 20 minutes. Oven oven and pull out tart so you can scatter with flaked almonds and a tablespoon of white or raw sugar (you may omit this if you wish). Cook for a further 15 minutes (or until tart is golden brown and the centre feels springy to touch - the size of the plums and moisture in them may increase cooking time). Cool in the tin. Serve on it's own or with some double cream.
Baking festive cookies to share with family and friends fills me with joy! Here are five of my favourite recipes which I have tinkered and adapted to be gluten free and coeliac friendly...
* “Bunsli” Swiss Chocolate Spice Cookies *
The favourite. Hands down the best Christmas cookie! I like using ground hazelnuts instead of almonds in my Brunsli but you can use either or a combination of both. Nice dark chocolate and that hint of cinnamon and cloves makes them so special.
You will need:
3/4 cups white crystallised sugar 1 pinch of salt
250g ground hazelnuts (you can also use almonds or a mix of both)
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons of ground cloves
2 tablespoons flour (I use rice flour)
2 fresh egg whites (70g), lightly beaten until frothy
100g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
1/2 cup white sugar for rolling/dusting
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites with a fork until frothy but not stiff (you can also just shake them up in a jar with a lid until frothy) Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next melt dark chocolate and pour over other ingredients and mix well. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball.
On a lightly “sugared” (more white sugar) surface roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes – if your cookie cutter gets too sticky, rinse in warm water - I keep a bowl next to me for this purpose. You will also need to re-sugar the work surface.
Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and sprinkle with a little more sugar. Bake in a moderate oven (180’c) for 10 minutes (they will hardern as they cool down). Once cool, store cookies in an airtight container – they will last 3 weeks if stored like this.
**I find rolling out the dough on a piece of baking paper prevents sticky dough clean up, and you can use it for baking the final batch of shapes on**
* Raspberry Marshmallows *
Making your own marshmallows is fairly simple and satisfying: they are light and delicious! These ones include real raspberries which bring a gentle pink colour and flavour...
You will need:
1/2 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons powdered grass-fed beef gelatine
1/2 cup water
Place raspberries, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir every so often to make sure all the sugar dissolves and the raspberries break up.
Meanwhile let the gelatine powder “bloom” by sprinkling it on top of the 1/2 cup water - I do this in a deep cooking pot or large mixing bowl.
Once the raspberry sugar syrup is gently boiling pour slowly onto the gelatine - whole beginning to beat with an electric mixer on a low speed. Slowly increase speed to high and beat mixture until it becomes thick and glossy, the colour will lighten. It takes about 8-10 minutes. Spread marshmallow mixture into a baking paper lined tray and set in the fridge for an hour or two.
Using a cookie cutter of your choosing press shapes out of the marshmallows and dust lightly with icing sugar and tapioca starch or cornflour. I make a mixture of 1 tablespoon or each. You can also use dedicated coconut. Store in an airtight container...
You can use all the offcuts for homemade rocky road or chopped up in festive warm drinks
* Zimtsternes: Cinnamon Stars *
I love to make are these cinnamon stars or “zimtsternes" as they are called in German. These are especially lovely with the addition of citrus zest and juice and ground cinnamon. Delicate, fragrant and spicy. They are often covered with white royal icing or meringue but I prefer them adorned simply with a thin brushing of egg white and a sprinkle of raw sugar...
You will need:
250 grams or 2 cups ground almond meal
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons rice flour + 2 tablespoons tapioca starch OR 4 tablespoons of GF plain flour
1 cup crystallised or raw sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon or orange zest
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
2 fresh egg whites, beaten until frothy
1 egg white, beaten and frothy, for brushing on top
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next stir in citrus zest and juice. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface (lightly sprinkled with crystallised sugar too) roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes. Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and air dry for 2-4 if possible before baking (I have skipped this step many times before and they have worked out fine). Preheat oven to 180'c, brush cookies with egg white and bake cookies for 10 - 15 minutes, careful not to brown them - they will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
* Gingerbread Angels *
It’s no secret that I love gingerbread. I share this recipe every year for your gluten free gingerbread needs! The psyllium husks is an unusual addition I know, but it really helps bring a little elasticity to the dough without drying it out. For added zing stir in a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger into the dough.
You will need:
3/4 cup of honey or golden syrup 2 cups of GF plain flour (or 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup buckwheat flour + 1 cup tapioca starch)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground cloves + ground cardamon
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon psyllium husks
1 small egg
Melt butter over low heat in medium sized saucepan, add honey or golden syrup and bring to a gentle boil, remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Add sifted dry ingredients, psyllium husks, spices and a small egg, stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover pot and stand at room temperature for 1 hour. It will thicken considerably and become more “dough” like.
Turn mixture on to surface which has been dusted with extra flour. Knead lightly, working in only enough flour until mixture loses its stickiness. I find rolling and cutting the dough on a piece of baking parchment/paper helps reduce stickiness. Roll dough to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut out shapes as desired.
Decorate with dried fruit such as cherries, currants and citrus peel. Bake in moderate oven (180’c) for 8-10 minutes or until golden. They will harden as they cool. Recipe can be doubled.
* French Style Chocolate Hearts *
This recipe is adapted from a French Christmas biscuit magazine I bought while we lived there. It’s a simple shortbread that is sure to please chocolate loving friends and relatives - with both flecks of chocolate throughout the cookie and one side dipped in rich, dark chocolate.
You will need:
2 cups GF plain flour (or 1 cup each rice flour and tapioca starch)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles or chopped chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of salt
70g dark chocolate (70%) for melting
In a large bowl combine the above ingredients (except dark chocolate for melting) and shape with your hands into a ball. You can use a food processor on a low speed if you rather. Wrap dough in foil or plastic-wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile preheat oven to 180'c. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 cm thickness and cut into hearts - arrange on baking-paper lined trays bake until golden for 10-15 minutes. Cool. Melt dark chocolate and taking each heart dip one side into the chocolate, letting any excess chocolate drip off - before placing back onto the baking-paper lined tray to dry. It should take about 1 hour or two for the chocolate to set.
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.
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...