When I eliminated gluten from my diet, I wasn’t expecting the rollercoaster of emotions that came with it. I’d been struggling for so long with feeling ill on a daily basis that, when I stopped eating it and I at last felt well again, I was on cloud nine. My head felt light and clear; my nose stopped dripping; the tennis elbow in my right arm all but vanished; the excruciating inflammation and tightness in my neck and shoulder muscles melted away; and the daily evening bloat was a thing of the past. I was so happy to feel well again that I really didn’t care that I couldn’t eat soft, fragrant, freshly-baked bread or buttery, flaky pastry and croissants.

Then, at around about the two-month mark, complacency kicked in. Feeling well was no longer a novelty but what I came to expect out of daily life. Which meant that not eating soft, fragrant, freshly-baked bread and buttery, flaky pastry and croissants became deprivation. I grieved. I grieved the loss of gluten from my life. I resented people around me eating food that I couldn’t. I felt that I’d been dealt a completely unfair hand. I didn’t stray though, thankfully. The memories of accidental glutening incidents were enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not having eaten it for months, the effects when I unknowingly ate it were even worse than when I had been eating it on a daily basis: I would have to retire to the sofa, curled up in a foetal position, with severe flu-like symptoms, dosed with Voltarol and nursing a hot-water bottle.

I gradually came out of my grieving state. I decided that, rather than feel sorry for myself, I would count my blessings instead which is a very liberating experience. There are people who have much graver health issues than mine and people who eat far more restricted diets than me. I still crave breads and pastries but I’m much more sanguine about it. Kate Moss, to explain her self-control where food was concerned, once said: “Nothing tastes as good as thin.” I’ve adopted this, with a slight change, for my philosophy: “Nothing tastes as good as well”.

I experiment tirelessly to recreate the dishes that I can no longer eat. This particular recipe I’ve been tinkering with for months, experimenting with different flour blends, flour-to-starch ratios and rolling techniques. I’m finally happy to share it. I’m still burying my croissant attempts at the bottom of the garden, ahem!

Gluten-free puff pastry sausage rolls

Makes 4 large or 12 cocktail sausage rolls

100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour (I used Dove’s Farm gluten-free plain flour)
30g cornflour
1 tsp xanthan gum
25g cold butter, cut into small cubes
a glass of water with a couple of ice cubes and a good squeeze of lemon juice
75g cold butter, sliced into 1-2mm slices and returned to the fridge
2 gluten-free sausages (I used The Black Farmer sausages)
lightly beaten egg or milk to glaze

Sift the flour, cornflour and xanthan gum into a bowl. Rub in the cubed butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Using a knife to start and then your hands, mix in enough ice cold water to form a ball of soft dough (it should be a few tablespoonfuls).

Tip the dough out on to a floured surface and, with a well-floured rolling pin*, roll it out until it is a couple of millimetres thick and about a 23cm by 28cm rectangle. Cut the rectangle into quarters. Lay a third of the sliced butter (25g) in a single layer on top of one of the rectangles. Cover with another rectangle. Repeat with the next 25g of butter. Cover and repeat. Cover with the final rectangle of dough.

Press down with your rolling pin on all four raw edges of pastry to seal them. Roll out until it is a couple of millimetres thick again (it should be a bit bigger than last time because of the added butter). Cut into quarters and stack on top of one another. Press down with your rolling pin on all four raw edges of pastry and roll out again until a couple of millimetres thick: you’re looking for a square or fat rectangle 30-odd centimetres each way but it doesn’t need to be exact. Trim off any raggedy edges.

Remove the skins from the sausages and gently roll them in a little flour until they are about 1cm in diameter and the length of your sheet of pastry. Place this about 5cm from the left-hand edge of the pastry and brush water along the right-hand side of the sausage all the way down. Carefully bring the pastry over from the left to the right and seal it by pressing your thumb along the length. Cut away from the rest of the sheet of pastry until you have one long sausage roll. Score diagonal lines down the length and then cut in half, if making large sausage rolls, or into six, if making cocktail sausage rolls. Repeat with the second length of sausage.

Place the sausage rolls on a baking (cookie) sheet lined with greaseproof baking paper and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Ten minutes before the end of the chilling time, preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-assisted). Just before baking, brush each sausage roll with beaten egg or milk. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes** or until golden brown and crisp.

*You can roll out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper or clingfilm if you like. I prefer to use a well-floured surface and rolling pin because I like to see and feel what I’m doing and it’s easier to tell if it’s getting too sticky. Also, the extra flour is incorporated into the pastry which must alter the flour/fat ratio somewhat – and it seems to work! If doing the latter, make sure you keep flouring to avoid sticking and use a palette knife to ease the pastry from the surface.

** Cocktail sausage rolls may take slightly less time to cook.

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