My first attempt at making Gluten-free bread (and how I ended up with English muffins & flatbread)

 

So if you read my last post about how we’re doing with the food allergies, then you’ll know that I’m trying to work out how we can go soy, dairy, gluten, and egg free (or at least reduce those last three). So today I made my first attempt at making gluten free bread. I naively didn’t research it online first and decided to gamely try my Linseed Bread recipe with the gluten free flour I’d picked up cheaply at an overflow store.

At the end of the first rise it was a completely different texture to my normal dough and really sticky (like thick icing). I realized that part of the problem was that the flour mix was intended for muffin making, not bread, and might not be strong enough. The tapioca / maize / rice flour mix had some thickeners added but I wasn’t sure if those included things like xanthan gum that might be able to hold the bubbles the yeast was trying to make. I gamely threw in some more gluten free flour and went on to the second mix & rise.

I did decide, while eyeing the mix nervously, that putting it in my bread mould might be a little hopeful. Instead I out it into a silicon muffin tray and spread the leftover mix thinly on a silicon flan dish. They did indeed rise again and I put them in the oven hoping for the best.

These cooked much more quickly than my bread does (in about 20 minutes) and came out with kind of a thin crunchy meringue type top. The flatbread was very thin and tasty with just butter (well actually rice bran spread); I think it might dry further over the next day or two and become more of a cracker. The muffins actually had a good texture inside and came out like English muffins (so bread-like rather than sweet muffins).

So not a total loss, yay!

Yes you can! Super Grain Cookies

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Allergy friendly Super Grain Cookies

I’ve been working my way through the Yes You Can range of allergy friendly baking mixes. So far we’ve tried Cinnamon Apple muffins and Chocolate Orange Zest cake, their Buckwheat Pancakes, their Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo) –  marketed as a Savoury Snack Mix, and now their Super Grain Cookies.

They are soy free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free. They even rate an impressive 3.5 stars health rating (which is pretty good for cookies!).

Mine aren’t the most even in thickness because I rolled them into balls and Miss 2 flattened them into cookies. Being busy with her also meant I took them out of the oven a few minutes later then I would have liked so they’d definitely set to crunchy biscuit (rather than soft and chewy). I think the mix probably is intended anyway to have an anzac cookie type texture.

I covered half of them in chocolate icing (just icing sugar, lots cocoa, and water) which made Miss 2 deliriously happy (and messy). The other half will get dipped in mugs of tea  🙂

In terms of flavour, these are pretty mild. Hints of apple, cinnamon, and vanilla are what they’re aiming. Making them again I might add some extra spices (i.e. ginger and a little extra cinnamon, or a bit of golden syrup).

Allergy update & how we’re coping

I’m having to put a list together of all of Miss 2’s medical appointments for the last 12 months. It’s part of a bureaucratic process and it feels kind of bleak, we’re at something like 33 now out of 52 weeks. If you factor in her being sick most of the time in between those appointments and the fact that I’m a single mother with very little support, it’s pretty fracking overwhelming. Good thing I’m sitting down with a coffee to write this while she plays gleefully in a ball pit. 

She’s doing better this week – She laughed the other day and it was such a beautiful spontaneous sound that it brought tears to my eyes because it had been so many weeks since I’d heard it.

We both had airborne allergy tests recently and in her typical atypical fashion she came up in hives in several places – except for where she’d been pricked. Later that day her breathing started to labour and an awful snotty nose started that is still with us 10 days later. It makes it hard for her to breathe at times even with her mattress on a 45′ angle and three allergy medications each day (2 oral + 1 nasal spray). 

The good thing is that I reacted typically. Dust mites, dogs, and lots of grasses/weeds. With the help of a gardening association I identified that our little lawn has very little lawn grass and lots of highly aero-allergenic grasses/weeds. I’ve got Bermuda running grass, plantain, and Bahia grass (paspallum) that has an extended pollen season of about 5 months. Oh, there’s also the clover I love but the bees have adored it also this summer and it turns out we’re both allergic to being stung 😦

The grass allergy explains why I haven’t been able to breathe for months with an ongoing cough, worsening wheezing, feeling like there’s an elephant on my chest, and so many headaches / sinus pressure. It explains why walking my daughter to home care I get a headache and have trouble breathing but can easily run around an air conditioned mall. I’m on allergy medications now as well but it’s not like I can just avoid grass for the summer!

Hopefully the grass allergy also explains why Miss 2 has been deteriorating so rapidly since the start of the year. It would fit in timing wise and an aero-allergen would help to explain the summer colds, swollen terminates, swollen tonsils, and bruised swelling under her eyes.

There’s still the possibility of another food allergy or intolerance as well so I’m keeping a daily food diary for both of us (down to each ingredient). There are also several foods (like dairy, soy, gluten, eggs) that can cause excess mucous production even if you’re not allergic. There’s a wider range of allergenic-friendly foods available these days that may still appeal to a toddler but price-wise they’re not too friendly. I’d already reduced the amount of gluten and eggs in our diet; the aim will be to reduce them further (and dairy) to see if it helps and potentially work towards eliminating them all together.

More medical appointments next month with at least three different hospital departments. She may need to go back on her reflux medication as well since that has improved but not gone away and could be another factor in her misery this summer.

On the bright side, she is loved and knows that she is loved. She loves books, her vocab continues to increase (with hilarious and/or imperious sentences being uttered), she is kind, and she is growing.

Feijoa Cake

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Feijoa Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g butter
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2c feijoa pulp (scoop it out and squeeze out the excess liquid).
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2T warm milk
  • 2c plain flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

Allergy: soy free, peanut free, tree nut free.

For other yummy things to do with feijoas check out the Feijoa Cheesecake!

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add in eggs and feijoas. Mix.
  3. Stir baking soda into warm milk; add to mixture.
  4. Add flour and baking powder.
  5. Bake at 180’C for 50 mins or until cake is cooked through.
  6. Serve dusted with icing sugar or with whipped cream.

 

Feijoa Cheesecake

Feijoa cheesecake

Ingredients

Base

  • 250g biscuits
    • Gingernuts pair well with feijoa but aren’t necessarily allergy friendly. I used malt biscuits that were soy free so feel free to sub in something that works for you; i.e. you could use gluten free cookies.
  • 100g melted butter
    • Do melt it; I put butter in straight from the fridge and the crumbs stayed too dry so I had to dash in some rice bran oil.
  • Optional: generous pinches of cinnamon and ginger.

Filling

  • 400g scooped feijoas (after squeezing out excess liquid)
  • 1 – 2T lemon juice
  • 250g cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1c greek yoghurt
  • 2T mild liquid honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2T boiling water

Allergies: Soy free, gluten free*, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Lightly butter the sides and base of a 20cm springform cake pan. Line the base with baking paper.
  2. Crush the biscuits very finely. Combine with the butter.
    • (I used a food processor.)
  3. Press biscuit mix onto the base of the pan. Chill.
  4. Blend the feijoa flesh and lemon juice in a food processor, until smooth. Add the cream cheese, yoghurt, honey, vanilla essence and blend until smooth. Dissolve the gelatine in the boiling water and add to the filling. Mix well.
  5. Pour onto the biscuit base. Cover and chill for 3 hours or overnight.

 

How to make home made cinnamon buns (using a bread maker)

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Home made cinnamon buns – so yummy!!

So I’m really happy with how my home-made Linseed Bread is turning out each time and it occurred to me that maybe I should take the plunge and try to make something sweet. We can’t buy anything from bakeries because of my daughter’s soy allergy so I need to make everything myself.

I went looking for a Cinnamon Bun recipe that would allow the bread-maker to hopefully do some of the heavy lifting when it came to kneading. I found a recipe that looked promising and checked that it had been well reviewed (since the ingredient order seemed a little counter-intuitive). I decided to give it a shot and tweaked it a bit since there’s only two of us and I didn’t want a massive batch.  They were really delicious and really easy to tweak as well in terms of filling and glaze.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp baker’s yeast
  • 2c flour
  • 1 1/2T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3T rice bran oil (or 1/4c melted butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2c milk (or almond milk)
  • 2T water

Filling

  • 1/2c soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2T softened rice bran spread (or butter, or margarine)
  • Optional: sultanas or crushed walnuts.

Glaze

  • 1/4c icing sugar
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • Couple drops vanilla essence
  • 2 tsps milk

There are lots of different options for glazes! This is a simple one but you could also do a cream cheese frosting, or a pink raspberry icing, or a maple glaze. The glaze will add a lot of flavour and sweetness so for a party you could easily make a big batch of these and then vary them by using a couple of glazes.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free*, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Dry ingredients first: put yeast in the bottom of the bread machine; then flour, sugar and salt.
  2. Mix neutral oil/melted butter, beaten egg, milk and water. Pour onto dry ingredients in the bread machine and then turn on the dough setting.
  3. When dough is done, put it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough flour to make it easy to handle.
  4. Use floured rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangular shape.
  5. Make up the filling and spread over entire surface of dough with a spoon or pastry brush (this is a good opportunity to let little hands help!). You can sprinkle on optional extras like sultanas or crushed walnuts if desired.
  6. Roll up the dough into a thick snake.
  7. Cut the dough (like making large sausage rolls) and place them in a lined baking tray.
  8. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until double in size. Depending on your weather this could take anywhere from 25 mins to 2 hours!
  9. Bake in a 180°C oven for about 25 minutes until light brown on top.
    • My oven was already heated to 220’C from baking bread and these went in straight afterwards and cooked in 15 mins so do keep an eye on them!
  10. When done, make glaze and swirl over buns.

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Making a mermaid’s magical pool (or pirate’s treasure trove)

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Mermaid’s magical pool

A few things from the craft box can be a fun way of transforming a paddling pool for an afternoon. We picked up all the shells scattered round the garden, sprinkled in magic dust (blue and silver large-cut glitter), and added glittery-fluffy-balls as treasure.

Happy Valentines Day

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Hope all the parents out there had a wonderful Valentines Day! I felt blessed to be part of the team putting together an amazing experience for the first session back of our big music and dance playgroup for under 5’s. Such an awesome hardworking team and special treats for parents and kids alike.

Valentine’s Day can be one of those funny celebration days as a solo parent.  It bothered me the first two times that I was alone with my daughter but this time it didn’t bother me. I made it special for us with Valentine’s Day toast (home made bread with a chocolate-hazelnut spread I found that we can eat) and I was so incredibly grateful to the lovely Ronda at Walter & Rose (who made these beautiful cookies!!) who went the extra effort to message me back from her home with ingredient lists rather than waiting till she was back at work. It was a huge thing for my daughter that she was able to eat the heart shaped cookies with the other kids (and that I knew she couldn’t eat the teddy bear cookies as there was soy in the heart fondant).

Roast mackerel for dinner

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Roast mackerel with dukkah

So I posted a while back about the cost effectiveness of buying a whole fresh fish and that I was going to cook it 3 ways. I’ve already posted about the easy fish pie and crumbed fish bites; this is a somewhat belated post about roasting it.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fish (gutted & scaled).
    • I used mackerel.
  • Oil (I use rice bran).
  • Lemon slices.
  • Optional: Dukkah

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, egg free, dairy free, peanut free, tree nut free* (depends on if you use the dukkah).

Directions

  1. Put fresh lemon slices inside the prepared fish.
    • You can roast/bake the entire fish if you want. We only needed a section of the fish and used the tail-end.
  2. Brush with a little oil so that it doesn’t stick and wrap in tin foil.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200’C. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight and thickness of the fish (so potentially 20-45 mins).

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    Baked mackerel

  4. If you’d prefer to crisp up the skin, prepare a hot oiled pan and fry it for a minute or two on each side. You may also add seasonings; I added dukkah to mine.

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    Crisped up in the pan

Shahi Paneer

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Shahi Paneer

Our quest for allergy friendly foods (on a very limited budget) has me exploring all kinds of things in the kitchen. I love living in a city with so many cultures and so many types of food and love cooking widely. I like exposing my toddler to a range of foods and trying to encourage a wide palate (besides she doesn’t like my mac’n’cheese anyway).

I’ve never been a big fan of Indian food (apart from some truly delicious foods that Indian friends have cooked at home themselves) as I find the spice base, even when mild, often leaves me feeling ill. I find this in equal parts frustrating and amusing given that I have eaten some truly hot dishes in Thailand and Vietnam and been fine.

I found a big selection of vegetarian Indian meals at a bulk buy store recently which we can actually eat because they use rice bran oil and they declare every single damn ingredient that they use (for which I love Priya as only someone with food allergies in the family can). The idea of a shortcut in the kitchen or a kinda-almost-sorta takeaway was wildly appealing so I decided to give them a try.

The first one was Shahi Paneer; “a highly rich north Indian curry of cottage cheese cooked in a cashew gravy”. Paneer is a kind of cheese (you can even make it yourself) and in this case is in a mild cashew gravy. I was cooking quickly for Miss 2 so ended up making egg noodles and ending up with some quasi-hybrid-cultural dish that nonetheless tasted good. I liked it and Miss 2 consented to try it and eat a small portion (which is reasonably high praise from a toddler confronted by something new).

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, egg free, peanut free.