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gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread

I can’t leave gluten-free bread alone. It sounds obvious to say, but I really just want to get it as close to the ‘real thing’ as I can. The brands you can buy have got a lot going for them: they’re light, they remain reasonably fresh and they’re hassle-free. What I don’t like about them, and some brands are more guilty of this than others, is that they tend to dissolve into a gluey mass in your mouth and get stuck in your molars. Oh, not to mention the fact that they’re almost £3 a loaf… I tend to alternate between buying loaves (the M&S loaf is my very favourite, followed by Sainsbury’s own brown multi-seeded and then, if there’s nothing else, Genius multi-seeded) and baking my own.

I can’t get along with the white loaves though. Not only do they have the aforementioned faults but they also have a sweet aftertaste which I find very cloying. Oh, and I suspect that a piece of cardboard would have more nutritional value. So, if I want white bread, I tend to bake my own. I was ecstatic when I discovered psyllium husk several months ago and I’ve been experimenting with it to work out the optimal amount: too much, and the bread can have a bit of a clammy texture. I’ve managed to cut down on the amount considerably, so much so that I’m going to rework some of my previous bread recipes on here to get them as best as they can be.

Something else I’ve noticed with homemade gluten-free bread, is that it takes much longer to toast than commercial brands and there’s always a loud sizzling noise emanating from the toaster. To reduce this, I’ve subbed dried egg white for the fresh one I usually use. I used Dr Oetker which is available in large Tesco stores. A big improvement, I think.

gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread 2

Gluten-free and dairy-free crusty white bread

Makes 1 small loaf

1 tsp psyllium husk
1 tbsp cold water
140g + 40g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
75g + 25g potato flour
12g tapioca flour
4g powdered egg white (half a sachet, equivalent of 1 egg white)
2 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 heaped tsp fast-action yeast
1/4 tsp Vitamin C
250ml cold water with 1 tsp of salt dissolved
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Olive oil

You will also need an electric whisk and a 1-lb non-stick loaf tin.

Begin by placing the psyllium husk in a small bowl or mug with a tablespoon of cold water. Give it a stir and leave it to one side whilst you weigh out all the other ingredients.

Sift 140g of gluten-free plain flour, 75g of potato flour, the tapioca flour, powdered egg white, caster sugar, gluten-free baking powder, fast-action yeast and Vitamin C into a large mixing bowl.

Give the psyllium husk a good stir (it should have become jelly-like). Add this to the mixing bowl, along with the salted water. Whisk with an electric hand whisk for several minutes until the mixture is light and bubbly. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the top and continue to whisk for another couple of minutes. The mixture will thicken up considerably (watch out that the mixture doesn’t crawl up the beaters and foul up the motor of your whisk).

Sift in the remaining 40g of gluten-free plain flour and 25g of potato flour. Fold in with a metal spoon until thoroughly combined. Pour into the loaf tin, smooth the top with a palette knife and cover with an oiled piece of clingfilm (plastic wrap). Leave in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge about three hours before you wish to bake it. (It should have started to rise slightly). Leave to rise at room temperature then remove the clingfilm.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (I used my top oven which is a conventional oven, so adjust the temperature accordingly). Place a roasting tray at the bottom of the oven to heat up. Before putting the loaf in the oven, throw half a glass of water into the roasting tray to create steam. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is domed and dark golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle.

Leave to cool COMPLETELY before slicing (this can take a couple of hours).

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One thing I really love about the Great Gluten-Free Recipe Challenges, set so fiendishly by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k], is that they really ARE challenging. The additional restrictions and essential ingredient, vegan as well as gluten-free and beetroot this time, make me think very hard and put me out of my comfort zone. This challenge has been no exception.

I’ve come round to beetroot only in the last few years when I’ve had it grated raw in salads. I’ve had a devil of a job tracking it down though. The only type I’ve been able to find in the supermarket is cooked beetroot, swathed in plastic and drenched in vinegar: yuk.

I’ve started using a High Street greengrocer to buy my veggies, rather than going to the supermarket: it’s cheaper and the produce is generally of much better quality. I’ve talked before of my pet peeve about tomatoes. The tomatoes that you can buy at this shop are beautifully red and flavoursome and you get almost twice as much for your money. I decided to pay them a visit and, sure enough, there were bundles of raw beetroot in all their purple glory.

Caught in the act: a sneaky photo taken by my husband through the kitchen window this morning!

This is my first foray into the world of silken tofu but it won’t be my last. I know that I can rely too much on milk, cream and eggs and this seems a perfect alternative when I want to make desserts and quiches. The filling is beautifully creamy and the beetroot not only adds an earthy, but not intrusive, undertone, but a gorgeous purple colour.

Gluten-free and vegan chocolate, beetroot and orange mousse cake

Serves 8-12

200g gluten-free, vegan biscuits (I used Sainsbury’s Free From Rich Tea biscuits)
50g dairy-free spread
200g peeled raw beetroot, cut into 1cm dice
350g silken tofu
3 tbsp caster sugar
zest 1 large orange
60ml dairy-free single cream (I used Alpro soya single cream)
4 level tbsp cocoa powder
170g gluten-free, vegan plain chocolate (I used Kinnerton), broken into squares

You will also need a 20cm diameter, loose-bottomed non-stick cake tin

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly).

Crush the biscuits to a coarse meal, either in a food processor or put them in a plastic bag and give them a good bashing with a rolling pin. Put the dairy-free spread in a small saucepan and melt over a low flame. When the spread is completely liquid, add the crushed biscuits and stir until completely combined. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and press firmly into the base with your fingers. Put in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160°C.

While the biscuit base is baking, place the diced beetroot in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain and blend to a smooth purée.

In a large bowl, place the silken tofu, the caster sugar, the orange zest and the dairy-free single cream. Whisk for several minutes until smooth. Sift the cocoa powder over the mixture and stir in manually with the beaters (to avoid spraying cocoa powder all over the kitchen!) before whisking again until well-combined.

Place the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water), and stir until melted. Stir the melted chocolate and beetroot purée into the silken tofu mixture. Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. When cool, put in the refrigerator and chill for several hours before serving.

Serve chilled with dairy-free single cream.

It’s been a week of downs and ups since I last posted. The downs consisted of me being glutenated in rather strange circumstances which I’m still investigating. The suspected culprit is currently the food additive maltodextrin which was in a fruit bar masquerading as a gluten-free product. I’m still doing my research on the topic and I’ll do another post when I’m a bit clearer but I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had either a confirmed or suspected adverse reaction to maltodextrin.

Anyway, on to the ups. My very first guest blog post at LiveGlutenFree went  live on Monday morning (April 30th). It was so exciting to see my recipe published on another site and to get so much positive feedback from Twitter and from visitors to the blog itself. If you haven’t discovered LiveGlutenFree yet, you should go and check them out. They have gluten-free recipes, information about gluten-free-friendly restaurants, advice for coeliacs, guest blogs (mine included!) and much more. Last month’s recipe was Millionaire’s Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries, inspired by a packet of gluten-free caramel slices kindly brought round to our house by a visitor.

If the look of it has tantalised your tastebuds, do click on the link and have a gander at the recipe. I’m now busily thinking up what this month’s recipe is going to be!

But enough of the self-promotion 😉 … on to this week’s recipe!! Everyone’s got a wok, right? Um, no. I DID have one once. A beautiful, brand-spanking-new non-stick one that my Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas. I brought it home full of big ideas about all the sumptuous Chinese banquets I would cook. I in fact used it just the once to make a stir-fry. My flatmate (strange girl) decided to do the washing-up. I looked over her shoulder to see her SCOURING it with a BRILLO PAD. RIP beautiful new wok. I haven’t had one since. If I ever fancied Chinese food, I’d just go to the takeaway…then gluten decided that it hated me and that particular avenue of gastronomic pleasure was shut off. I’ve never been to a Chinese takeaway since to attempt to order anything gluten-free. I just think that there’s probably too much rogue soy sauce splashing about to be worth the risk but I’d be really interested to know if anyone else has tried it.

If I want anything vaguely ‘Chinese-style’, I have to cook it at home now with gluten-free tamari. My egg noodle recipe is a variation on my pasta recipe – after all, you can’t really get as much as a cigarette paper between the difference. I did, in my research, however, discover that Chinese egg noodles are chewier than Italian pasta because alkaline, or lye, water (which is sodium carbonate and NOT to be confused with sodium BIcarbonate) is added. This, however, can be toxic if you don’t know what you’re doing. Nice… So I’ve made my noodles chewier by increasing the starch-to-flour ratio and adding a smidgen more xanthan gum. Seemed to work!


Chicken chow mein with gluten-free egg noodles

Serves 3

150g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
cold water
toasted sesame seed oil to drizzle on cooked noodles

250-300g chicken fillet (breast or leg), skinned, deboned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tbsp gluten-free tamari
2 tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1-2 medium red chillis, chopped OR 1-2 tsp Very Lazy Chilli (optional)
1 onion, peeled, quartered then quartered again (I find it easier to leave the root attached until I’ve finished slicing and then remove it at the end)
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
150g mushrooms (field or shiitake), thinly sliced
200g beansprouts
1-2 tbsp gluten-free tamari
1-2 tbsp water

You will also need a pasta rolling machine with a spaghetti attachment (mine came from Lakeland) and a wok or large non-stick frying pan (don’t use non-non-stick because the cornflour-coated chicken WILL stick to the bottom and burn).

First of all, place the chicken in either a Ziploc bag or a plastic container with a lid, along with the Chinese 5-spice and tamari, seal and shake so that all pieces are coated. Leave to marinate.

Then, make the noodles. Cut a strip of greaseproof baking paper about 30cm long and wide enough to fit underneath the rolling machine. You will need this when cutting the noodle dough with the spaghetti attachment.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and both oils. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and sticky and feel quite light and pliable*. Now either wrap the ball in clingfilm or return it to the bowl of the food processor and put the lid back on to keep the noodle dough from drying out.

Place a large plate dusted with flour next to the rolling machine. Working with a tomato-sized piece at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Try to get either the width or the length approximately the same width as the pasta rolling machine. Pass the dough just once through thickness setting 3**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. Dust each side of the sheet of dough with flour*** and make sure that the greaseproof paper is in place underneath before putting it through the spaghetti attachment. Slide the greaseproof paper out from under the machine and tip the noodles onto a plate. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to heat. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add a handful of the noodles****. The noodles will float to the top almost immediately and the water should very quickly return to the boil. Allow the noodles to bob about on the surface for about 30 seconds and then start scooping them out into a bowl (I use a spaghetti spoon – I think they might also be called kitchen spiders – over a wad of kitchen roll so that they drain properly). Add a drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil and toss through so that they don’t stick. Continue cooking the rest of the noodles in batches and dress with oil. Cover and set aside to cool until ready to cook the rest of the chow mein.

When you’re ready to cook the chow mein, add the cornflour to the marinated chicken and stir until all the pieces are coated. Heat the oil in either a wok or a large, non-stick frying pan (skillet). When the oil is very hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilli (if using). Stir quickly to avoid burning for about 30 seconds and then add the chicken. Brown the chicken for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Next add the onion and red pepper and continue to stir for another couple of minutes. Then add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Next, add the tamari and a couple of tablespoons of water to form a sauce and stir for another minute. Then finally add the beansprouts and noodles. Cook for another minute or so until the beansprouts have started to wilt slightly and the noodles are heated through. Serve with extra tamari for drizzling.

* If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the flood processor. Blitz into small piece to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball. Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges and may have a few holes. This is to be expected and it won’t be noticeable when cut into noodles. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

*** This is really important because it will stop the noodles from sticking and clumping together.

**** I cook the noodles in small batches – this allows the water to quickly come back up to the boil and avoids the noodles becoming overcooked.

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