Ginger muffins (gluten free)

Remember DD’s 10th birthday cake experiment? Well, that recipe has been my go-to base for all other cake recipes now. I think it’s because the proportions are so easy to remember and the results are always good. Why mess with success, right?

The other week, I threw in a tablespoon of Nutella and some milk chocolate chips. Gorgeous and gooey, perfect with coffee!

Today, I looked at the jar of chopped crystallised ginger in syrup and thought, Why not? So I chucked in 3 tablespoons to the basic recipe and the results were as hoped – delicious and gone quickly. The batter made 18 muffins, and they took about 13 minutes to turn this colour. When I say muffin, I’m talking European-sized, not American super-sized! 😀

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My next experiments are going to involve quick-cook polenta and citrus – I sense an almondy-orangey cake in my future.

If you have a recipe I could play with or tweak, do share! 

Where in the world is…

IMAG0930What can I say? May just blew right by. But I have a gorgeous new nephew. He’s perfect and tiny and seeing DD hold him was just precious. 

I’ve been battling with some raging hives recently, which has also kept me off the radar. I don’t know if they are a side effect of my hideous hayfever, or another symptom of coeliac disease kicking my arse, but I can tell you, I’m fed up. On a good day, my face is sore and dry. On a bad day, which is more frequent, I feel like I’ve burnt my skin and then had the remnants exfoliated. It’s especially agonising around my eyelids, which makes blinking 15,000 times a day a real effing pain. So I’m trying a combination of natural and chemical remedies based on the severity of the symptoms every day. I’m now acutely aware of my face, which is hilarious because I’ve never placed a lot of value on it. The height of make-up for me is mascara AND lipstick, which I definitely can’t wear now – so I’m walking around like the victim of a bad facial, exuding a gentle whiff of antiseptic steroid cream. Dead sexy! 

Given the facial situation, I’ve been staying indoors as much as I can toIMG_20160531_200714 avoid pollen and pollution – bonus time to read a lot more and learn a new craft: crochet! I’m on the simple stitch, straight line game, and feel confident that I will have a lap blanket by this winter, in multi-coloured stripes. Woop! Silver linings and all that.

I’m now waiting for Me Before You to appear in the cinema tomorrow. I loved the book by Jojo Moyes, both laughed and cried through it, and I’m desperately hoping that the movie does it justice. There’s been a media shitstorm around the whole Dignitas issue, and I’m keen to see how the movie tackles it. It’s a divisive topic, but I believe it can be handled well.

And on a really joyful note, the broad beans & sweet peas DD planted have not just survived, but thrived, under my ministrations! The broad beans are still too tiny to eat, but they are growing every day. My toxic thumbs may be a thing of the past, folks!

How about you? Is it spring where you are? How’s your hayfever? What are you reading?

 

 

 

 

 

Cake! (GF)

So DD turned ten a few weeks ago. Her requests were minimal. She wanted a simple cake. A Victoria sponge tea-cake, or something close to it. Now, ordinarily, this would have been an easy request to fulfil. We abound in sponges and Madeira cakes here in the UK. But a good gluten free one to suit my coeliac (yet gourmand) self? No, sirree. Challenge presented. Challenge accepted. 

I set to experimenting. I tried a variety of flours. Then sugars. Then fats. I came close. Close enough to accept that maybe, just maybe, it was impossible to get a good gluten-free sponge/Madeira look-alike, taste-alike. So, armed with my best scribblings, I set to baking DD’s cake the night before her birthday. Our tradition is to eat cake for breakfast, like the decadent gourmands we are (just stick me in Versailles and call me Marie Antoinette).

Setting out my ingredients, I was still mulling over my options. I looked up and Husband caught sight of my face.

“Oh, no! You’ve got that look. The I-have-an-idea look. Don’t do it! Stick to the plan. You love a plan,” he pleaded. He has a sweet tooth and he was looking forward to birthday cake! He didn’t want my tinkering messing up his chances of cake for breakfast.

But I went with my inspiration and boy, oh boy, wasn’t this the ‘Best Birthday Cake Ever!‘, according to DD? She ate half of it in one sitting! I only told her, and the neighbour upstairs, that it was gluten-free after they had polished off their shares. They couldn’t believe it. So here’s the recipe for my gluten-free Madeira cake. When I reference cups, I use a Nutella (200g) jar.

I dare you to bake this and surprise your taste buds.

MAIN INGREDIENTS

sandkage

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 cup / 125g butter, cubed (packed loosely)
  • 1 cup / 225g granulated sugar, plus a little extra
  • 1 cup / 150g self-raising gluten free flour (I used Dove’s Farm blend)
  • 2/3 cup / 75g ground almonds

FILLING AND DECORATION

  • Cream cheese
  • Strawberry jam
  • Icing sugar / powder sugar

METHOD

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 360F
  • Cream butter and sugar
  • Add in a little flour, then one egg, then more flour, then another egg until you have mixed all the flour and eggs. Don’t over beat!
  • Add in the ground almonds
  • I used 6″ / 15cm baking trays, about 1″ high and filled 3 of them two-thirds of the way full.
  • Gently smooth the batter with the spatula, as you are going to layer them and need them as flat as possible.
  • Bake the cakes for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be golden brown when ready, and a toothpick test should come out clean.
  • Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool down before you do the filling.

FINISHING TOUCHES

I placed one layer top down on a plate, and spread my mix of cream cheese mixed with a bit of icing sugar (DD can’t stand buttercream frosting) over the base. On the other face down cake, I spread strawberry jam, and then I carefully placed that layer on top of the cream cheese layer. And there you have it, folks – the classic Victoria sandwich. Dust lightly with icing sugar and you’re ready to serve!

Past (successful) gluten-free experiments have included Nutty Date Cake, Oatmeal Snickerdoodle Muffins and Chocolate Torte.

Oatmeal Snickerdoodle Muffins (GF)

Yeah, you read that right. I’ve created a hybrid snickerdoodle-muffin which DD says tastes just like a donut. Score! Best of all, it’s gluten-free. Go me! This can also make a loaf.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF Rolled Oats) soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup GF plain flour (you might need a little more, up to 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

METHOD

#muffins #loaf #snickerdoodle

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare your muffin or loaf tin.

Drain the oats after soaking them for about 10 minutes.

Blitz/mix everything together and pour batter into muffin liners or a loaf tin. If the mix looks runny, add more flour.

Bake on the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes.

If you really want to emphasise the snickerdoodle effect, brush the top of the muffins/loaf with melted butter while they are still warm, and then shake over granulated sugar and cinnamon.

What are your favourite cookies? Have you got a recipe you’d like me to adapt?

Sunday Funday

It’s been a quiet old Sunday. I spent a good chunk of today reading The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks. I loved it. I loved the fallibility of all the characters, the back and forth, the tough choices, the different sides – so many stories, so many forks in the road to end up where they did. I needed a break from all the heavy stuff I’ve been reading recently, and this was perfect. Like a tall glass of sweet tea on a sticky, humid day.

Speaking of sticky and humid, I’m starting to worry about the holiday next month. Although the Breton Bestie has convinced me that there will be sea breezes, I am not convinced. One afternoon in London sunshine is enough to give me a raging case of heat rash; ten days in proper French sunshine? Lobster-red with tiny bumps of angry skin. Sod the Vitamin D, I will be SPF 50’d the whole way and spritzing myself in Evian.

bread-399286_1280The other worry – it’ll be my first trip to France since the coeliac death knell on all glutinous goods. What am I going to eat? Half the joy in going to France is all the bread and patisserie! It’s going to be odd eating cheese, meat and cornichons with no bread. No brioche or croissants for breakfast. No patisserie AT ALL. Never mind the supercilious looks I am going to get when I try to say, “Je suis allergique au blé”. Thank heavens for macarons. I can still eat those!

Which brings us round to to ‘beach body ready’ question. There seems to be a resurgence of the original posts from a couple of months ago, totally slamming the whole concept of the beach body premise. I have to admit, I am entertained. Mostly because in Europe as a whole, the concept of the ‘beach body’ is a whole lot more open to interpretation. I’ve seen old Sardinian men playing chess in the piazza in budgie smugglers (that’s banana hammocks to some folk), no worry about the sagging or hirsuteness. I’ve seen their wives in bikinis on the beach, their bodies testament to the many children they’ve borne and raised. Their main concern is if there’s enough to ‘mangia’ all day, and that the bambini are out of the worst of the sun. That’s not to say there aren’t stunning specimens in skimpy beachwear on European beaches, it’s just that on the whole, they appear to be in the minority and everyone just gets on with the sun-worshipping. 

Given what I said earlier about heat rash, I am clearly NOT going to be sun-worshipping. I will, however, be hanging out on the beach in the cooler hours, or going down the waterslides with my daughter (that’s a lie, but we’re going to pretend it’s a possibility). And for this, I will need to clad myself in something appropriate – enter all the amazing retro swimsuits I have been admiring, for women with curves. I’m going to pick some lovely jewel tones, channel Dior, slap on some large sunnies, and enjoy my vacay. My life is too darn short and bread-free to worry about what someone I might more than likely never see again thinks about the size of my derrière.

How has your weekend been? Read any good books lately? What do I need to have on my Kindle?

Caffeine-Free Coffee Share #4

Did you know you can cold brew tea? I didn’t! So I had to give it a go. I cold-brewed a lemongrass & green tea blend in one jar, and a black tea with mango and dried rose in another jar. I used half a teaspoon of loose tea per 500 mls/18 fl oz of room temperature water, and then popped the jars in the fridge overnight. The results were delicious, and research on this method suggests that the caffeine and ‘bitterness’ leached into the brew is a whole lot less than hot tea, so you need less sweetening. Score! Here are some fantastic instructions from Samovar Tea if you need a step-by-step guide.

I’ve heard you can do this with coffee, too, and now that the weather in London finally seems to resemble summer, I’m going to give it a whirl. Might impress some of my new colleagues with my skills. Two weeks in, and I’m just about settled into my job! It’s a good place to be. There’s so much I don’t know, but the learning is ridiculous amounts of fun. I have a deeper respect for the sweat and effort that goes in to producing a monthly magazine. And I even got a chance to go to a show with the team; seeing how much people enjoy and appreciate the magazine was such a buzz.

Tempering the buzz is the return of the excruciating pain in my hip. It’s only been three months since I wrote this post for Photo101, so gleeful about the lack of pain. Time to consider some serious medical intervention when the pain is affecting my mood and what I do! Perhaps I should join some of my new colleagues at lunchtime yoga? Any and all suggestions welcome at this stage; I really would like to get off this roller-coaster of fire-fighting various symptoms.

I’ve just about got a handle on my diet and what I can and can’t eat. There’s a great little Turkish deli near work, and they take great joy in offering me a new selection of gluten-free lunches every day. I’m sure most people in line behind me think I’m trying to get ‘beach body ready’, rather than fuel my body with foods that won’t poison me, but I don’t really care when I’ve got my mouth full of delicious lemon-grilled chicken and home-made tzatziki. I’ve never been beach-body-ready (unless you count exfoliating  my skin and painting my toenails), and I’m not about to start now.

If I had a wish list for my holiday this summer, it would read like this: 

  • Being pain free, with all conditions in remission, leaving me able to explore with my adventurous family
  • Being warm enough for my bones to soak up enough sun to give me a happy glow, and ditch the Vit D pills
  • Discovering local delicacies, finding some new recipes
  • Having a magical unlimited supply of cold-brewed tea on tap
  • Finding comfortable swimsuits that don’t ride up, roll down, bag or sag, in some happy colours – turquoise, cobalt, coral, mango?
  • Relaxing with my husband and daughter, unplugged from our gadgets for as long as we can
  • Writing, really writing, and letting all the characters I have grow and develop into real people fit for a book!

What’s on your list for the summer? Know where I can find my dream swimsuit? Tempted to cold-brew some tea? 

On Purpose

The end of Joey’s post stated: Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to share the purpose of your own life and what you’ll take home with you when you leave. ALL OF YOU ARE NOMINATED.

I accept the mission.

I’m starting a job tomorrow which everyone seems to think is ‘made for me’, but which is a total tectonic shift from my very corporate life of the last, well, for ever. Sure, I’ve worked in a few industries, most consistently finance, but this role feels like a step off a cliff. And there may or may not be a safety harness tethered to my ankle. That’s not strictly true, of course. I’m married to my bestie, and as much as he drives me crazy, he’s got my back. My daughter, my beautiful daughter, she’s got my back.

We’ve had a girly week together, because the husband is away on work. My entire universe has been brought down to her level. My life took on a new rhythm. Sleeping earlier, waking rested, giggling, laughing, going tech-free, talking about books, taking mad selfies, making root beer floats, dancing out to Stromae… and it made me wonder why we don’t do this more? I’ve been relaxed, and happy, and my husband has noticed this growing trend over the last few weeks. I’m coming to terms with the restrictions coeliac disease imposes on me, and trying to have some fun with it. So maybe I’m excavating my mission slowly. My aim for the next six months is to contribute and support this family without sacrificing my sanity (or morals).

No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities.

Long term, I’d like to be whole. Being healthy, or having some hold on it, makes me happy. Living a smaller life in terms of my footprint. Living a larger life in terms of moments and memories. Being able to help people when I can.

If you’re reading this, what’s your purpose, your mission? Will you share it?

Nutty Date Cake, version 2

Quick blurb to get my new followers (Hi!) up to speed: I’ve been tagged with two auto-immune conditions in the last 18 months. I kicked the first one into remission with steroids and an adapted diet. High on my own success, I started sneaking in trigger foods, which resulted in my feeling sicker and sicker, to the point where I was exhausted all the time. Tests confirm I have almost no Vitamin D in my body, as well as coeliac disease. Shopping in supermarkets and eating out have acquired a whole new level of insanity (socially phobic, I am). Who knew treats like chocolate mice and French fries in most restaurants have wheat in them (whaaaaa?). Another discovery? To make gluten-free foods palatable, a lot of them are loaded with sugar. Which makes me think I can live without them. I’m not trading one illness for another, thank you very much. So it’s back to basics, and the experimentation in the kitchen.#glutenfree #dairyfree #GF #DF #almond

Last week, I made a delicious (I say so myself) Nutty Date Cake, and this week, I adapted the recipe a little more. I wanted a fluffier result, so that I could slather it in purple fig jam.  I used what I had in the cupboard…

  • 1/2 cup dates and walnuts, ground pretty fine
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Heat oven to 180C/360F.

Mix all the dry ingredients, add the oil, then the egg (I just used a fork and did it by hand).

The batter/dough should all come together beautifully in a ball. Put in a small loaf tin, gently press down with the fork, and bake for 20-25 minutes. It came out with a lovely moist, cakey texture.

I think I may use this as my base recipe mix when I try adapting my Carrot Cake recipe. If you have any gluten-free/coeliac-friendly recipes you use, or have seen but haven’t tried, leave me a link and I will happily experiment for you.

Domesticated Momster