Autism Mum – Flour free fudgey chocolate brownies

Healthy Hearts Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Healthy Hearts Chocolate Fudge Brownie Free from dairy, gluten, and soy.

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. It’s a consequence of having an autistic daughter with multiple food allergies, intolerances, and self-restricted eating. At the moment beige and crunchy is popular; meat of any kind is not and calcium is also problematic. I decided that sardine cookies would probably not go down well and decided to turn my attention to lentils instead. Lentils contain a wide range of nutrients and are made up of over 25% protein.

I wanted to make something that tasted decadently chocolatey but without a lot of added sugar and minimizing ingredients that are common allergies. It can easily be adjusted to make it suitable for any food restrictions in the family, daycare, or school.

Healthy heart Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tin lentils (approx. 2 cups of drained lentils)
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil
  • 1/2 cup almond meal + 1/2 cup fine rice flour
    • (or substitute 1 cup plain flour)
  • 1 cup dutch cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional: 90g pureed green vegetables (spinach, peas, courgette)

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

What type of lentils to use?

There are many types of lentils and many online recipes suggest using red lentils. This is probably because they are split, skinless, and can have a sweet nutty flavour. To be honest, I went with what what was affordable and convenient – tins of brown lentils!

How can I replace egg?

I used egg as I wanted the protein but for an egg free alternative, you could pre-soak the chia seeds in 6 Tbsp boiling water for 15-20 minutes or use something like Orgran’s Egg Replacer.

Directions

  1. Put oven on to pre-heat to 180’C / 375’F. Grease your brownie tray (I use rice bran oil).
  2. Rinse lentils thoroughly. The lentils will need to be cooked and their cooking time is going to depend on what form you’re using (i.e. dried lentils will need to be simmered for 15-20 minutes).
  3. Put the kettle on to boil while you chop up the dates (the measurement of 1 cup is after they’ve been cut up).
  4. The dates need to be soaked in boiling water until soft. Personally, I took a big pyrex dish, put in my (rinsed) soft brown tinned lentils + my roughly chopped dates + a small amount of water. I then put it in the microwave on High for 2 minutes, stirred, and then put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot date / lentil mix into a food processor and blend till smooth.
    • A metal blade is ideal for smoothness but then you’ll need to change to a plastic blade (or wooden spoon) for combining the rest; if you’re not worried about a perfect puree then you can just use a plastic blade throughout.
  6. Mix in sugar and maple syrup. Taste test for sweetness.
    • Note: instead of sugar, you could just use 1/3 cup maple syrup. The dates will also add natural sweetness.
  7. Mix in egg and oil.
  8. Mix in almond meal, rice flour, dutch cocoa, salt, baking powder, chia seeds, and any optional ingredients. (I went for green veggies, someone else might go for chopped walnuts).
  9. Bake for 30-35 mins.

The gluten free version comes out as a soft, fudgey, chocolate slice; with normal flour it will probably be higher and a bit firmer. Blind taste testing by neighbour was successful both for approval rating and not guessing the lentils.

Recommended topping: a spoonful of Nature’s Charm Coconut Chocolate Fudge Sauce. It tastes amazing while also being vegan, dairy free, and soy free.

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How do I make my bread light and fluffy?

Musings on baking bread

Musings on baking bread

I’ve written previously about ‘Everything you wanted to know about baking bread‘ and it occurred to me today that it’s a little more process driven than ingredient focused. My journey making bread began because my daughter’s allergies precluded me buying bread (unless I wanted to pay $10 a loaf!). For a long time, I was making all our bread by hand which I found restrictive and time consuming (combined with the level of special needs care she required). I later moved, very happily so, to a Panasonic Bread Maker. That allowed me a little more time to experiment with ingredients and research.

I gave serious contemplation to buying a sourdough starter (sourdough is much easier to digest than commercial bread) but my daughter doesn’t like the tangy taste. I researched ways to make the bread I was feeding my daughter more nutritious. I also made myself more aware of the chemistry involved and how different ingredients impact hydration ratios and rising.

Supermarket bread is essentially refined white flour (so basic starch) with a token amount of other ingredients potentially added; Julian Lee wrote an excellent article in 2018 revealing commercial bread-making processes in New Zealand. At home, you can start with high grade (or strong) white flour but add extra nutrition into the mix.

Whole Wheat

If you can afford to buy stone-ground whole wheat flour then you can make some pretty fine bread. If you’re shopping at the supermarket then it’s sufficient to be aware that the wheat kernel is made up of bran (fiber), the germ (protein and nutrition), and the endosperm (a starchy tissue). You can probably guess which part white flour is made from!

At the supermarket you can buy strong white flour and also buy bags of wheat bran and wheat germ. Not only do these have different nutritional profiles but these also have different impacts on the properties of your bread. Wheat bran has a drying quality and may require additional hydration. Wheat germ will naturally make your bread moister and fluffier.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to make a loaf entirely of white flour. When baking, I usually have 70-80% of my ‘flour’ made up of white flour and then use a range of dry ingredients to make up the weight. This equates to 350-400g of white flour and 50-100g of other flours and seeds.

Wholemeal Spelt Flour

Wholemeal spelt flour has a high nutritional profile and is easier to digest. It also has less gluten so will produce a denser loaf and may require guar gum to help it bind.

Wholegrain Kamut Flour

Like spelt, kamut flour is lower in gluten and easier to digest. It’s a brand name for khorasan wheat and is an older variety of wheat. There have been small studies performed which suggest that kamut flour has health benefits (over standard flour) and may help to reduce certain inflammation markers. It’s important to remember that one of it’s other benefits is that it is an organic wholegrain flour (as opposed to highly refined bleached white flour).

Ground Linseed – Sunflower – Almond (LSA)

Whole seeds can make a loaf dense and the texture doesn’t appeal to everyone. It’s not necessary to pour heaps of whole seeds into your bread dough. You can add plenty of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids just by adding 2 Tablespoons of ground seeds to your bread dough.

Popular powerhouses of nutrition include linseed (flaxseed), sunflower seeds, almonds, and chia seeds. Quinoa is another but I found even small amounts of quinoa flour to have a noticeable taste in the bread.

You might like to rotate different seeds in order to vary your nutritional profile. The cheapest and easiest option is to alternate between ground LSA and ground chia seeds.

Gluten Free Grains

One of my favourite ways of making multi-grain bread is to use Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal. If you’re picturing a cereal box with some puzzlement, it’s actually a mix of freshly milled whole grain brown rice, corn, buckwheat and sorghum. It’s a handy way of adding a broader nutritional profile to the loaf and is so finely milled that it doesn’t overwhelm the loaf. It’s weight-dense so you only need a small amount; it still produces a fluffy loaf and is incorporated into the texture without being obtrusive.

 

 

 

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Miss 4 and I have been reading a series of picture books, the latest of which is “The Wolf who visited the land of Fairy Tales.” The wolf goes on a quest to collect a recipe and ingredients to make apple cake. The book has a recipe at the back which inspired me to invent our own version; it has more protein and added micro-nutrients than a traditional recipe. This is a light thin apple cake that reminds me a little of  Tarte Tatin.

If you have young children, this is great for school lunches. Alternatively, read the book during the school holidays (or anything that features baking, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ would work just as well) and then tie in the real world application with the story. Add in some dress-ups for acting out the story and that’s your morning filled!

Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Nuttelex (or dairy-free spread, or butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 fresh eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp ground linseed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup rice milk (or alternative)
  • 3 large apples, peeled and diced into small pieces.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C / 350’F. Grease the sides and bottom of a round cake tin.
  2. Cream the Nuttelex (or butter) and sugar. Add the beaten eggs and mix.
  3. Gently fold in the baking powder, flour, wheat germ, ground linseed, and ground cinnamon.
  4. Gently stir in the apple pieces and fresh ginger.
  5. Stir in a little rice milk until the batter is smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 40 mins.

 

Alternatives

You can change the flavour profile in a variety of ways:

  • Add a splash of freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice.
  • Switch fresh ginger for ground ginger for a milder ginger flavour.
  • Increase the cinnamon to 1 tsp and add 1/4 tsp all spice + pinch nutmeg.

If your child is adverse to the apple being in chunks, consider experimenting with stewed apple or apple sauce. Keep an eye on your dry/wet ratios as this will have an impact.

Scones with Extra Goodness: Autism Mom

Enriched scones

Enriched scones

Miss 3 has a range of food allergies, intolerances, and sensory issues with food. To my great surprise, these scones were a massive hit with her. She will eat two of them for breakfast (or lunch) and prefers them without any kind of topping. They are light, fluffy, and tasty with only minimal amounts of sugar (so much healthier than store bought cake).

Her soy allergy means I have to do all our baking myself and she is now intolerant to  drinking milk but seems to cope okay if it’s baked or altered by probiotics (like yoghurt). She needs lots of calcium for her growing bones which is why this recipe is packed with dairy. The wheat germ helps to provide added protein (and is also a secret ingredient for bread and baking to help provide a soft, fluffy feel). The spelt and rice flour can be replaced by normal flour but for me it’s part of overall measures to have her on (a) a reduced gluten diet, (b) to have her grains as varied as possible, (c) to introduce as wide a range of macro and micro nutrients to her diet as possible.  Sometimes with autistic kids it’s about reinforcing the goodness in what they will eat rather than despairing about what they won’t eat!

Ingredients

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups plain flour (strong flour also works)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 Tbsp ground linseed (or LSA)
  • 6 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar (or honey, or maple syrup)

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 50-70g chilled butter
  • 1/2 cup (or 150g) natural or greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup water

Allergies: soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200’C.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (the wheatgerm and linseed will mostly remain in the sifter and can then be poured in).
  • Grate in the chilled butter and rub the mixture till it resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Note: Grating is most important when making dumplings as the butter remains intact and melts during cooking; I do find it rubs in very quickly this way when making scones.
  • Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add yoghurt. Mix gently.
  • Add the milk (about 1/2 cup at a time) and mix. Add a little water if necessary.
  • Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Use hands to gently roll and pat the scones.
    • Note: I find it immensely helpful to have a little bowl of rice bran oil to dip my fingers in so that the mix doesn’t stick to my hands. It also allows for a smoother finish to the scones.
  • Bake for 10 minutes @ 200’C. Check the scones; bake for up to another 5 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a rack.

 

Variations

Star scones and Butterfly scones

Star scones and Butterfly scones

Butterfly scones

Butterflies, stars, cars, dinosaurs – whatever interests your child! Large plastic cookie cutters (i.e. the size of an adult’s palm) make wonderfully shaped scones that can help make these more appealing.

Blueberry and cream cheese scones

Blueberry and cream cheese scones

Blueberry and Cream Cheese scones

Add 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries and add wedges of firm cream cheese to the middle of the scone. (Miss 3 objected strongly to me combining ‘approved’ foods but I thought these were delicious!).

Feijoa Scones

Add 1/2 cup of thoroughly mashed feijoa pulp. Test the moisture / stickiness of the scones and add less milk if necessary.

Passionfruit Scones

Use passionfruit yoghurt (a good quality thick yoghurt like Puhoi or Piako). Consider drizzling passionfruit sauce or syrup on top.

Maple Syrup and Walnuts

Maple syrup has quite a mild taste so swap (and increase) the brown sugar for 5-6 Tbsp of maple syrup. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup crushed walnuts. Consider adding a coffee icing.

Note: (1) Potential for nut allergy. (2) Great for adults but may not be suitable for toddlers (due to choking risk). (3) May not suit ASD kids due to the textural contrasts.

 

Easy Carrot Cake

Best Ever Carrot Cake

Chelsea Sugar’s Best Ever Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a delicious winter cake. It’s a great way to use up those extra carrots (while they’re cheap and plentiful) and get some warmly sweet spiced cake into lunchboxes or afternoon tea. My inspiration for the recipe is this Best Ever Carrot Cake which I’ve amended to add in some different micro-nutrients; also, swapping from nuts to seeds makes it suitable for childcare and schools with no-nut policies.

Carrot cake with seeds and ancient grains

Delicious carrot cake with seeds and ancient grains.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch Allspice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar or raw coconut sugar
  • 200g grated carrot
  • ½ cup sultanas or raisins
  • 2 tsp ground chia seeds
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp Hubbards Seeds and Ancient Grains Toppers
    • or, a mix (as desired) of coconut thread, linseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, puffed quinoa.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Allergies: dairy free, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C bake (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 23cm cake tin (6cm deep) and line with baking paper.
  2. Sift all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add carrot, sultanas, ground chia seeds, and coconut + seed mix and stir until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked (when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes then remove from the cake tin and peel away the paper.
  7. Optional: make cream cheese icing to decorate.

 

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 50g butter, softened
  • 125g cream cheese, chopped
  • 1½ cups Icing Sugar

Cream Cheese Icing
Beat butter and cream cheese together until combined. Stir in Chelsea Icing Sugar, then beat mixture on high speed until light and fluffy.

Flourless Banana Pancakes

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes & Raspberry Compote

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes & Raspberry Compote

Miss 2 has gone off porridge recently, which is a shame as it’s a cheap, healthy, and filling gluten free breakfast. I wondered how else I might coax her into eating oats and made up these beautiful banana pancakes – she loved them! The idea of including variations was actually inspired by her as she asked for them again and wanted to know if we could make Peanut Butter banana pancakes.

This an easy recipe to make up (for breakfast, snack, or dinner) if you have food allergies in your family. I’ve made it sometimes as Miss 2’s dinner when we’ve had a particularly trying day and we both need some comforting. It’s also a cheap and easy recipe to teach teenage boys to make when they get home from school – more nutritious than filling up on white bread!

Tip: There are two ways that you can make this recipe; you can make it with fork mashed bananas + rolled oats for a more rustic texture or use a food processor to blend the banana smooth + use oat flour. I like to do the latter as I have a little (non-motorised) beater that I use and happen to have oat flour in the cupboard (along with all a multitude of other flours).

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana (mashed)
  • 1/2c oats
    • Finely cut ‘quick cook’ porridge oats are best, or, oat flour.
  • 3 1/2T milk / almond or rice milk
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp guar gum + 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
    • If you are using oat flour, this will provide a slightly lighter texture.

Tip: If cooking for celiacs make sure that the oats are certified as gluten free as it is possible for cross-contamination to occur if there are wheat fields nearby.

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free.

Variations

Directions

  1. Mix everything together well in a bowl (or food processor).
  2. Heat frying pan or skillet.
  3. Throw in some butter or neutral oil (like Rice Bran Oil), add a few tablespoons of pancake mix. Cook on both sides until golden brown.

Easy no-knead dinner rolls

 

I found this recipe online which claimed I could make bread rolls in only 30 minutes. Brilliant! I thought, I can make them before kindy and we can have them with soup for lunch. If I hadn’t been so sleep deprived I would have seen through the marketing ploy earlier as the recipe completely ignores the required rising time and assumes the barest minimum for prep & bake times.

Despite that, it is worth being aware of recipes like these as they are simple enough that kids can help make them and they don’t have to be kneaded.

Pros: no / minimal kneading, quick (as breadmaking goes), Miss 3 loved them, lovely hot out of the oven.

Cons: a sweet roll (works for kids! depends on your tastes); good straight out of the oven and fine the next day but becomes denser each day so on Days 2 & 3 you may want to warm slightly.

This is a slightly thicker bread roll that reminds me a little of a bready scone!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. breadmakers yeast
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (I use rice bran)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 cups high grade flour

Allergies: dairy free, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar in a large bowl. Add in oil, salt, egg and flour until combined. (Add a little extra flour if dough is too sticky.)
  2. Shape immediately into about 15 rolls and place in a greased 9×13″ cake tin. Let raise for about 15-20 minutes in a warm space.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF / 190’C. Bake rolls for about 15-20 minutes.

 

Tips: The original recipe aimed for a 15 min prep time; you can just throw everything in a bowl, do no kneading, and it will work. If you’re willing to invest a little extra time you can get a better result by:

  • Giving the yeast a few minutes to feed on the sugar and grow. As they feed on the sugar they release carbon dioxide gas which will give a bubbly foamy effect. Giving the yeast time to activate means that it will be better able to convert the starches in the flour and then those gas bubbles interact with the gluten to provide a light, fluffy, rising effect in the dough.
  • Give the dough sufficient rising time. This will vary depending on the temperature (they like 75°F-85°F / 24°C-29°C) and if you’ve done any kneading. Ideally, they will almost double in size.
  • Knead the dough for at least a few minutes. Kneading helps to develop the gluten in the flour so that you’ll get a lighter, fluffier roll.

 

What should I cook the rolls in?

The original recipe calls for a metal cake tin. The recipe is aiming for speed and this allows heat to radiate off the walls of the cake tin (as well as something of a steaming effect from the rolls touching). You could also just use a metal baking tray and cook a little longer if needed.

Using a large ceramic dish, like I did, means that the tops browned but the bottoms steamed (like bao). I ended up putting them back in the oven (upside down) on a metal tray and browning them just a little.

 

Everything you wanted to know about baking bread & rolls!

I stumbled upon a fabulous repository of information at the Robin Hood Baking Centre; apart from a wee bit of product placement all of their information is well presented with helpful photos. I’ve altered the order of information so that there’s a more logical grouping and flow to it 🙂

ADDING FLOUR

Adding Flour

People often add too much flour to dough, and this makes the finished product heavy and dense. Hold back about 1 cup (250 mL) of flour, then add it gradually until you get the desired texture. Add as little flour as possible to the kneading surface. Use a pastry scraper as you knead the dough to pick up any bits that stick to the surface. The dough should still be slightly sticky when fully kneaded— it may be a little harder to work but will give you the desired results.

CHOOSING FLOUR

Choosing Flour

It’s best to use flour specially formulated for baking bread, like Robin Hood® Best for Bread flours. It will help you make delicious breads that are high in volume with a light, even texture.
At the minimum, you want High Grade Flour (not plain flour). You may also find flours that are called ‘Strong Flour’ or which say that they have extra gluten added for breadmaking.

ADDING SALT

Adding Salt

Salt enhances taste, and helps bring out the flavours and aromas of the ingredients in your baked goods. Salt will help with tightening the gluten structure, which strengthens the bread dough, and helps with the volume of the bread in the end.

ADDING SUGAR

Adding Sugar

Yeast feeds on sugar, which causes it to activate and produce carbon dioxide gas. Be sure to follow the recipe, as adding too much sugar can slow down your yeast or keep it from activating.

BAKING WITH YEAST

Baking with Yeast

When using active dry yeast, it’s important to make sure it’s still viable. Always follow the recipe directions, which will include dissolving a specified amount of sugar into lukewarm water (110ºF-115ºF/45ºC-56ºC). Then add the yeast and allow it to stand for 10 minutes. If the yeast bubbles up, it’s still active. If not, your bread or rolls will not rise.

Be sure the water is lukewarm. If the water exceeds 138°F (59°C), the yeast will become inactive.

KNEADING BREAD DOUGH

Kneading Bread Dough

Kneading helps to develop gluten in the bread. Knead dough on a lightly floured work surface, adding more flour if dough is too sticky.

You’ll know kneading is complete when the bread is smooth and elastic. To test it, lightly slap the dough. If your hand comes away clean, it’s ready to rise.

RISING

First Rising
When you let the dough rise, the ingredients activate and carbon dioxide develops causing the gluten to stretch. It will rise best in a warm place (75°F-85°F / 24°C-29°C) that is free from drafts. Make sure you place it in a greased bowl that’s large enough to allow the dough to double in size. Cover the bowl with a tea towel.Once it’s doubled in size and no longer springs back when pressed, lightly punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.

Second Rising
Once your dough is placed in or on its pan, it’s ready to rise again in a warm place (75°F-85°F / 24°C-29°C). Let your dough rise until it is again double in size.

If dough overrises, it may collapse in the oven during baking.

If you don’t have a place in your home that’s warm enough, try leaving it in the oven with the oven light turned on. If you like, you can also add a pot of hot water on another rack.

Letting the dough rise twice helps improve the flavour and texture even more.

RISING BREAD DOUGH IN THE REFRIGERATOR

Rising Bread Dough in the Refrigerator

Just finished making your bread dough but need to step away? Place your dough in the refrigerator for the first rising. This slows down the rising as yeast doesn’t like the cold. You can let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to make the bread, take the dough out of the refrigerator, punch it down, shape the dough and let it rise a second time. Since the dough is cold, it will take longer than normal to rise.

SHAPING A LOAF

Shaping a Loaf

To eliminate large air bubbles, roll out your dough into a large rectangle (approx. 9” x 12” / 23cm x 30cm). From the shorter end, roll it up jelly-roll style, sealing the dough in the middle with the heel of your hand after each turn.

For a different look, bake your loaves free-form on a baking sheet that’s greased or sprinkled with cornmeal. Cornmeal will prevent bread from sticking and provide an interesting texture to the bread.

DIVIDING DOUGH

Dividing dough

Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears when a recipe calls for dividing the dough in half or making into rolls. If you tear the dough it may compromise the gluten, which will affect the rising and shape of the end product.

FREEZING BREAD DOUGH

Freezing Bread Dough

Love homemade bread but don’t want to have to make the dough all the time? Plan ahead and freeze some dough. Use your favourite bread dough recipe but double the amount of yeast called for. Follow the recipe for the mixing, kneading and the first rising. Punch down the dough, shape into loaves that are 2” (5 cm) thick (this allows for quicker thawing). Place in air tight freezer bag and freeze for up to four weeks.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from freezer bag, place it in a greased loaf pan, and cover with greased plastic wrap. The dough will rise as it defrosts. Once thawed, follow your recipe’s baking directions.

GLAZING BREADS

Glazing Breads

Glazes may be used to provide different results in the bread crust. For a crisp crust, brush the dough with a mixture of one egg white and ½ tsp (2 mL) water. For a shiny, golden crust, use a whole egg beaten with 1 tsp (5 mL) water. If you’d like a deep brown crust, use egg yolks instead of egg whites. If you brush the dough with melted butter or oil, it will produce a soft velvety crust.

If you want to top your bread with nuts, seeds or grains, make sure to brush the dough with the glaze first, so it acts like a glue.

CRUSTS – FROM SOFT TO CRISP

Crusts – From Soft to Crisp

Dough that is made with water will typically have a crispier crust, while dough made with milk will be softer.

To soften a crisp crust, brush it with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.

For a darker, richer colour, brush the finished loaves lightly with butter and return them to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

HOW DO I GET A CRISP BAGUETTE TYPE CRUST

How Do I Get a Crisp Baguette Type Crust

To get a crisp baguette type crust, you have to create a steam environment in your oven. Using a spray bottle, spray water on the sides of the oven every 10 minutes while the bread is baking. You can also put a pan of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven under the bread.

VERSATILITY OF BREAD DOUGH

Versatility of Bread Dough

Take your favourite bread dough and change it up by adding nuts, cheese, dried fruit or chopped chocolate. To make a savory dinner bread, you can also add chopped garlic and herbs.

PREPARING YOUR PAN

Preparing Your Pan

Use shortening or oil, like Crisco®, butter, or non-stick spray to grease the pan.

BAKING WITH PROPER HEAT DISTRIBUTION

Baking with Proper Heat Distribution

Unless the recipe says otherwise, always bake your bread on a lower rack.

If you’re baking more than one pan, be sure they are not touching one another or any sides of the oven. You want the air to circulate between them so they cook evenly.

If your crust is becoming too brown too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY BREAD IS BAKED?

How Do I Know When My Bread Is Baked?

Similar to checking the doneness of other baked goods, you can insert a skewer or cake tester into middle of bread. If it comes out clean, it is ready. An instant read thermometer is a very reliable way to check as well. Insert the thermometer in the center of the loaf – if the temperature has reached 190°F/88°C, it is ready.

COOLING BAKED BREAD

Cooling Baked Bread

Remove the baked bread from the pan immediately and place on a wire cooling rack to cool. This allows the air to circulate and prevents the crust from becoming soggy.

WHY IS MY BREAD TOO SMALL?

Why is My Bread Too Small?

Make sure your oven is at the right temperature. If it’s too hot, the bread may bake too quickly, causing a crust to form before the bread is finished rising in the oven.

Also make sure that your bread dough isn’t too cold. Make sure your bread dough has risen in a warm place (between 75°to 85°F/24° to 29°C).

When baking, leave a space between your pans so they are not touching in the oven, allowing for proper air circulation.

WHY IS MY BREAD COARSE AND CRUMBLY?

Why is My Bread Coarse and Crumbly?

If your bread is coarse and crumbly, you may have let your dough over rise or you may have over kneaded the dough. Make sure you follow the recipe directions and allow the dough to rise just until it is double in size – this should take about 1 hour. Knead your dough for the specified time only.

STORING BREAD

Storing Bread

To keep your crust crisp, store your bread in a paper bag at room temperature. It should be good for up to two days. If storing bread at room temperature, avoid storing it in plastic wrap unless you want an especially soft crust.

Bread is best stored at room temperature or frozen. Refrigeration tends to dry out bread.

FREEZING BREAD

Freezing Bread

Bread freezes really well. To freeze, allow your loaf to cool completely, wrap well with plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag. Be sure to remove all the air or ice crystals will form while freezing.

Thaw at room temperature in the freezer bag to allow the bread to re-absorb the moisture lost during the freezing process.

To freshen your loaf, place it in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10-15 minutes.

Easy Banana Muffins (or Banana Cake) that can be made vegan and allergy free!

Banana cupcakes & gingerbread spice cookies

Banana cupcakes & gingerbread spice cookies. Made vegan and allergy free.

Banana cake has long been one of my nemesis; I just haven’t had the knack. I’m so glad to have finally found a recipe that works! It also has the wonderful bonus of being dairy, egg, soy, and nut free! I have also made it gluten free 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 mashed / pureed ripe bananas*
  • 5 Tbsp neutral oil (I use rice bran)
  • 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2c plain flour (or Healtheries Gluten Free Bread Mix).
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (I use apple cider)

Tip: The riper the bananas, the better this will work! As the bananas ripen they convert starch to sugar. Really ripe bananas will mash more easily, be sweeter, and have a more intense banana flavour.

Gluten Free: You can, of course, use a different gluten free flour! The reason that I’ve listed that one is because it contains guar gum but no raising agents (as the recipe includes those). You could, for instance, substitute superfine rice flour and add guar gum. Personally, I don’t use xanthan gum as it can be grown using soy as a base. You may need to experiment a little with gluten free flours to get the cake just right (you may want to start with muffins as it’s easier to tell when they’re cooked). Keep in mind that gluten free baking is often moister, denser, and may require a longer baking time.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, gluten free*

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C and prepare muffin trays / cake tin.
  2. Mash your bananas until you have a smooth texture. Tip: A food processor can do this quickly for you but you’ll want to do the actual mixing by hand.
  3. Mix in the oil and 1/2 cup water.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the wet ingredients (banana, oil, water) to the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar.
  6. Stir till just combined. (Slowly add additional water if required).
  7. Quickly get into cupcake cases, muffin trays, or cake tin, and pop in oven.
  8. Bake until skewer comes out clean. Approximately 12 – 15 mins for muffins and 30-40 mins for cake.

Icings: Check out these ideas for completely natural icings that don’t use any artificial additives and are easy to make.

Tips: I’ve made this recipe several times. Lessons learned: using the plastic batter-stirrer-attachment-thingy for the food processor makes for a denser end product (so does over stirring by hand); the rising effect that you get from the vinegar + baking soda means that you want to get this into the oven quickly (instead of having a lengthy sidebar with your toddler about how baking is really just chemistry in the kitchen).

Making natural icings for kids

All natural colourful icing for kids with no artificial colours or additives

Tropical jungle mango & pear icing | Princess pink beetroot icing

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. I use Nuttelex + coconut milk to make a vegan, allergy free frosting that tastes amazing!

Making all natural icings is easy and is a great way to avoid issues with allergies, chemical sensitivities, or the fact that countries like New Zealand and Australia still allow artificial food dyes that are banned in Europe due to health concerns. My daughters 3rd birthday party used three all natural icings that were vegan, free of all the top allergens, and contained no artificial additives.

Allergies: gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, additive free.