Category Archives: Recipes

Experiments in gluten free baking: Scones

Over the past several months, on and off, I have been doing quite a bit of research into diet. As part of this, I have recently switched to a diet with reduced FODMAPs. More on this in future posts. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that this has required the removal of wheat from my diet, at least for a time.

So far, I have found this less of a challenge than perhaps I might have thought. Since I am not gluten intolerant, I haven’t needed to be as careful as those who are. I can eat regular oats, for example. I’m also a great fan of jacket potatoes, so I’ve been quite happy to eat those instead of bread. They are certainly a lot more enjoyable than than the shop bought pitta bread that I tried, which had a texture something like chalk. So the challenge of gluten/wheat free baking is one I’ve been quite slow to embark on. If I don’t really need to, why bother? I know it can be a challenge to get right.

That said, it’s like Everest. The challenge is there. Waiting. I need to know if I can do it. Also, I quite like baked goods occasionally, so if I end up needing to stay on this diet, I might as well find out how to do it.

I decided I would start with scones – mostly because I don’t have a lot of energy and they are quick and easy. I also have a wheat flour recipe that has always worked well, so I know something of what to expect. Google suggested a little more liquid might be needed. So, remembering the dryness of the pitta bread, I went with this and made the dough nice and sticky.

The resulting scones didn’t rise in quite the same way as wheat flour scones. They went out instead of up. But they were very light. Certainly, they were a lot better than the pitta bread. However, they were still drier than I would have liked. I gave them six out of ten and went back to the drawing board.

Further consultations with Google suggested that gluten free carrot cake works well because it is so moist. Hmmm. So what about adding some fruit or vegetable matter to my scones? Would this improve them? There was only one way to find out. Today I grated a small apple into the mixture to see what would happen. (I would have used carrot, but I had used all those up in yesterday’s soup!)

'Apple' scones

‘Apple’ scones

Success!

They still aren’t the same as wheat scones, but they are soft and light and have a much moister and pleasanter texture with the apple than without. Interestingly, they don’t taste of apple. Clearly, more experiments are in order if I want that. But the apple had the desired effect and that’s what matters.

So I have learnt something. Adding vegetables and fruit improves the moisture content (and hence palatability) of gluten free baking.

Today’s recipe below, for those interested:

8oz plain white gluten free flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 oz butter
1 apple (peeled and grated)
A generous 1/4 pint buttermilk

Put dry ingredients into a bowl. Rub in the butter. Stir in the apple. Add the buttermilk and mix gently into a soft dough. Press out gently to about 3/4 inch thick and cut into rounds. Bake at 225 C for 10 minutes.

Notes:
1) My oven is not fan assisted!
2) The scones are best eaten fresh. This is especially true of the gluten free variety, which tend to dry out very quickly. However, they are fine if frozen and then warmed briefly in the oven or microwave.

 

 

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In which I go foraging and make elderflower cordial

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While I was out taking photographs for my last blog, I noticed that the elderflowers were in full bloom. This set me thinking. I first tasted elderflower cordial 12 years ago. It had been made by a friend and she served it up as refreshments for those who were helping her to move house. At the time, I had a very sore throat and found the elderflower cordial both deliciously refreshing and very soothing. I asked her for the recipe with the full intention of making it the following year. However, later that same year I collapsed with the ME/CFS, putting an end to any such thoughts for some years.

Since then, I have occasionally bought commercially produced elderflower cordial, but never enjoyed it as much as that first taste. So, seeing the elderflowers in bloom, it occurred to me that at last my opportunity had come to try making it.

So, on Thursday, I went on a foraging expedition on my mobility scooter. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, just right for being out, so I decided to go well out on to the Somerset Levels to conduct my search. The roads I chose to follow have little traffic, just the occasional farm vehicle, so there was no need to worry that the flowers would be overly contaminated with traffic dust and fumes.

I returned home with the equivalent of 20 large heads. I have long since mislaid the original recipe, so I consulted the internet instead. Most of the recipes I found required citric acid as well as lemons. I didn’t know how easily I’d be able to find this, so I decided just to use more lemons instead. I wasn’t sure how many lemons would work well, so I found a recipe for traditional lemonade which suggested equal amounts of lemon/citrus juice and a syrup made from sugar and water. This sounded good to me, so I adapted one of the elderflower cordial recipes accordingly. This is what I ended up with:

10 large heads of elderflower
4 lemons
1 Grapefruit
350g sugar
350ml water

I didn’t want to make too much because I didn’t know how it would taste, so I put the rest of the elderflowers in the freezer for next time.

I squeezed out all the juice from the lemons and grapefruit. This came to about 350ml, so I used the same amounts for the sugar and water. I boiled up the water with the sugar until all the sugar had dissolved and put this in a bowl with the juice. Then I added the elderflowers. I also chopped up the skin of two of the lemons and put that in the bowl. Then I left it for 24 hours to brew. It reminded me of the hours I spent as a child crushing flower petals in water to make ‘perfume’ or mixing interesting looking potions from other ingredients found in the garden.

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Properly, I think I was supposed to let the sugar water cool before I put the elderflowers in, but I needed to go out, so I put them in whilst it was still hot. It seemed fine to me.

After 24 hours, I strained the mixture through a sieve lined with kitchen paper. Probably, I should have used muslin instead of kitchen paper, but the internet said kitchen paper would do. After waiting overnight, it still hadn’t finished draining, so I broke the paper and let the last of the liquid run through the sieve instead. I’m sure Mary Berry would be horrified, but that’s OK because she isn’t going to be drinking it.

Anyway, I ended up with about 800ml. I diluted this about 1:5 to taste and…

(Da dum tish)

It tasted like elderflower cordial. Now there’s a surprise!

Next time, I think I will add another lemon, just to give it a little more bite. However, I thought it turned out very well. Certainly, it’s disappearing very rapidly!