Spiced Powdered Donuts (g/f, d/f) and Chocolate Donuts (g/f, d/f)

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Donuts, donuts, donuts! It’s been a little while since I last did a post about donuts, which are fast becoming a rather simple and delicious treat I can whip up to take out to places at the last minute. I decided to make a batch of the Spiced Powdered Donuts for an after dinner treat at a gathering with friends last week, but the Chocolate Donuts, which I didn’t manage to snap a photo of, have also been rather popular at gatherings in the past. So I thought for this FF it might be nice to post up both of these recipes, as a baked donut, without the dairy or the gluten, can be a real treat!

One thing I will mention is that it’s best not to overfill the pans when making the spiced powered donuts, as those have some incredible rise to them! The first batch, as the photo well shows, kind of overflowed their holes while baking. The second time around I spread the mix much thinner, and even then I almost had a few overflowing. So I would recommend not overfilling each hole, as you really don’t need to!

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Mini Pecan Pies (G/F)

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I thought for this FF I would give a rather famous treat a go! As I understand it, Pecan Pie is a big thing overseas. I see a lot of recipes for it online, and a lot of them pop up on foodgawker in particular, along with pumpkin based treats, as it rolls into autumn overseas. Or that’s what I’ve noticed at least. The pecan season might actually be quite different. But we don’t have much to do with pecan pie here, rather I have seen a lot of pecan tarts, and so I had never even had it before I made this recipe.

I can now understand the attraction.

I was flipping through my copy of 200 Gluten Free Recipes, when I spotted this recipe for little pecan pies. It looked simple enough, and after a bit of research of what I could use instead of chickpea flour I also realised it was going to be simple to put together. I have also now picked up some brown rice flour, as people keep telling me I should give it a go, and it’s become available at a regular supermarket near me, so I did. So all I had to change in the pie crust was to swap the chickpea flour for buckwheat. Not too hard. However, next time I will probably also look at what I can use instead of polenta. It had a good flavour, but I don’t know – something in me wants to see what I can do with another ingredient! This is also the first time I have made this sort of gluten-free pie crust from scratch! So I was rather nervous. But it turned out to be a success! Although, I did notice the baking tray the little tart pans sat on became greasy, so I’m wondering if they didn’t ooze a little butter grease as they were cooking. Still. The dough crisped up just fine in the oven!

The filling was also quick to make, requiring ingredients I had on hand. I did end up with a little extra filling and a little extra dough, as I didn’t have big enough tart pans on hand. Mine are about 8cm, their recommended size was about 11.5cm. But I get the feeling that the optimum sizing is actually somewhere in-between the two. However, these ended up baking beautifully, and were wonderful warm with a bit of lactose free thickened cream! Yum!

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Meringue Duel (g/f)

 

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An old friend of mine challenged me to a meringue duel a little while ago and I have at last managed to put it all together in a post for this Fiesta Friday! Mr. A is a good friend from when I was still in high school and we have remained friends even now that I’m a Uni graduate! It was a bit of a last minute challenge, as Mr. P and I were in the middle of housecleaning when I got the message. But I couldn’t help it! It’s the first time I have ever been challenged to a food duel, and I have been eager to make meringues since the new hand mixer arrived! So of course I accepted, and soon Mr. P got pulled into the duel as well. But I think that’s the fate of all our loved ones when a food duel is on!

What started the duel was that Mr. A heard about me asking his girlfriend, Miss K, for meringue advice. I wanted to know a thing or two about it before I got started, as I haven’t made a single thing even close to meringues since we lived at our first house. It was also the first time I would be attempting meringues in a fan-forced oven versus the old, non fan-forced oven we had at our first house, which I am still getting used to even now. So Mr. A decided he would put on a batch, and I would put on a batch, and we would see whose meringues would be the winners! Given when he messaged me, his first batch was in the oven baking, I knew time was of the essence , and dragged Mr. P home with me.

As I understand it, there are two kinds of meringues. Meringues which are hard and crisp inside and out, and ones with chewer centres. To be honest I prefer chewier centre meringues. But in terms of actual kinds of meringues, there are three – from what I know. The French meringues, Italian meringues and Swiss meringues.

French meringues are made with egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks, and then have sugar gradually beaten in. This was the version I went for. But there are also Italian meringues, which I think are made with boiling sugar syrup beaten into the egg whites instead of caster sugar, and Swiss meringue, which is made by stirring egg whites and sugar together over a pot of simmering water until they’re quite warm, and then whisking the mix. I think.

I picked what seemed to be a simple recipe for french meringues. However, the first batch of this didn’t turn out at all as stiff as I was hoping at all the first time around, despite following the recipe to a T. It was a big disappointment, but Mr. P never even flinched at this. All he did was take the too thin mix, and use it as the base for his meringue idea and get me going again. No wonder I love him. So I started on the second batch with his help, and he soon taught me a neat trick for making sure that the egg whites were as stiff as I needed them to be the second time around. Stiff egg whites will cling to the bowl. If the egg whites slide around when the bowl is held on it’s side, or even held upside down, keep whipping! So the second time around we achieved stiff egg whites, which did indeed cling to the bowl when the bowl was tipped up. Mum also had some excellent advice, and so did dad!

Mum gave us the tip of adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, regardless of what the recipe told us to do, and told us to keep the vanilla out until the end, as the mix was wet enough, and she confirmed the thought that adding more sugar would help as well. Dad had a tip from his mother, who I have been told is an incredible home cook and home baker. His tip was to grind up the caster sugar into a finer powder, which would help it get whipped into the eggs with even greater ease. All of these tips worked. Although we suspect now that the recipe itself was what was also causing us a lot of trouble. It was too wet. Too, too wet. Adding vanilla made it worse, but flavour wise we needed it in there. However, getting the eggs right the second time around, grinding up the sugar and adding it one tablespoon at a time, did give us a much fluffier, much glossier mix!

The mix was too thin to pipe, however, so we came up with the idea to use a spoon and dollop the mix onto the baking sheet instead. It worked like a charm. We soon had a lot of little ovals, all ready to be popped into the oven, and when we id pop them in we saw them puff and rise and harden nicely! However, I didn’t take them out or even open the oven door as the original recipe suggested we do. No. Miss K had earlier given me a tip about leaving the meringues in the oven overnight, and so that was what we did! We ended up with a lot of beautiful little meringues which – as Dad tells me, are perfectly crisp on the outside and lovely and chewy on the inside! Success!

Through this challenge I have also learned a lot bout getting eggs to room temperature, fast, and the dangers of under-beating. Popping the eggs into a bowl of warm-ish water while preparing the other ingredients meant I had room temperature eggs in a flash. Under-beating their egg whites, however, created problems for both Mr. A and I. Mr. A’s first batch drooped and leaked sugar-water when b, and I ended up with a mix that was thin and impossible to pipe. Lesson learned!

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Mr. P leapt in when things got rough, and used the first not so good batch of meringue mix to make little meringue discs as the bases for his meringue dish which can be seen above. He was a big help throughout this challenge, and taught me so much! So although this challenge has been one of the more challenging I’ve taken part in, and it was full of ups and owns, I have learned a lot and I am so glad I accepted it!

In the end I had cute little meringues with crisp outer shells, and which were lovely and chewy on the inside!

The original recipe also recommended dipping the base of the meringues in chocolate and then using cream between them. However, to me that seemed a little too sweet given how sweet the meringues themselves were. So I looked at a few other recipes and soon hit upon a filling I thought would work even better. It was a mascarpone and cream and mashed berries mix which took less than two minutes to whip up and put together, and which had a slightly sour taste which took the edge off the sweetness of the meringues.

What Worked:

  • Grinding the sugar: this worked like a charm, and helped whip the sugar into the egg whites with even greater ease.
  • Altering the recipe in general: the original recipe suggested adding the sugar one half at a time, but we added even more sugar, ground it up and added it one tablespoon at a time, whipping each addition into the eggs well before going on with the next, and dolloping the mix onto the baking tray instead of attempting to pipe it.
  • Dolloping instead of piping: If the mix is too thin to be piped, but is still thick enough to hold something of it’s shape, it can be dolloped. I made a few little ovals on the baking sheet and those baked fine!

What Didn’t Work: 

  • Vanilla: In terms of flavour the vanilla was great, but I think the mix was too wet as it was to be adding extra with the vanilla.
  • Perhaps too much egg: I think perhaps the recipe was too wet, and next time it might be better to find a recipe that specifies what the proper weight of the egg whites is, as I suspect ours might have been bigger than the author’s.

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Pancake Experiments: Buckwheat Pancakes (g/f, can be d/f) and Banana Pancakes (g/f, d/f)

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So, I’m rather excited about bringing these cooking experiments to this blog now, instead of leaving them aside for only my own benefit. Because I feel like it’s fun to share what I’m learning as I test all sorts of recipes and get a real feel for allergy friendly cooking. For this Fiesta Friday I decided to experiment with two kinds of pancake recipes, one which I thought would be more savoury, and one more likely to be a bit sweeter. Please leave me a comment and let me know what people’s pancake preferences are whether that be sweet or not, with toppings or without! Let me know!

So. The Banana Pancakes were the sweeter ones I chose, and weren’t that much of a success unfortunately. It was a shame, but I have come to appreciate a few things as a result of testing this recipe. One – that mashed bananas in pancakes can be so, so, so delicious, and that almond essence isn’t quite so overwhelming a flavour as I used to think it was. As a note, I thought this mix would work better being changed into a cake batter, as it had the wrong consistency for pancake batter when the recipe was followed to the letter. But it did remind me very strongly of paleo banana bread. I already know from making that for dad in the past that almond meal and banana together are fantastic, but it took this recipe to remind me exactly how fantastic a combination it is!

What Worked:

  • Assembly. Putting this mix together is so simple, and it took me less than fifteen minutes to do it even without a food processor.
  • Mashed bananas: Oh – this was delicious.
  • The addition of almond extract. I tend to avoid almond extract where possible because I used to find the flavour so overwhelming, and it left me with a chemical aftertaste in my mouth that was just so unpleasant. However, in this mix it really did work. Yum!

What Didn’t Work:

  • The texture and consistency of the batter. The batter was too dry, and far too thick. It wouldn’t spread and it wouldn’t hold together when flipped.
  • Adding extra moisture and giving it another go. Extra moisture did improve the texture of the batter, but it was still too thick too spread in the pan.

Next up were the Buckwheat Pancakes, which were a quick success. Buckwheat pancakes in my experience are generally much more savoury than regular pancakes, and I know people tend to therefore cut the buckwheat flour in half and mix it with other gluten-free flours to compensate for the buckwheat’s natural, more savoury taste. However I found I liked that, as it allowed me to slather them with nuttelex and honey and chomp on them for breakfast without feeling like I was getting a sugar overload. The texture of the final product was also pretty darn good, especially as I was expecting that it might even be grainy! But what I liked the best about this recipe was it’s versatile nature. It’s a savoury pancake, it’s not a sweet pancake, at least not to me! I’m not going to beat around the bush there. Do not expect this pancake to be sweet! However, as a result of that I think that it can be paired with say…savoury toppings like bacon and eggs – and this is how I was introduced to savoury buckwheat pancakes awhile back, or you can pair it with some of those delicious sweet toppings that might be too much with regular pancakes. I have seen caramelised apples as a suggested topping for buckwheat pancakes, and I found them lovely drizzled all over with maple syrup and a downed with a cup of tea! Not too sweet, so I didn’t feel like I had had a sugar overload at the end, as I used to with pancakes. Overall I would definitely call this recipe a success, because the batter did so well, the pancakes held their shape beautifully, and this recipe has a lot of promise as a base for more complex pancake breakfasts! I certainly wouldn’t expect to eat these alone, but there’s so much potential for different toppings! Be sure to check out the comments on the original post, as a lot of them had a lot of delicious alterations and suggestions as well.

What Worked:

  • Assembly. This mix took me all of five minutes to put together, and had a great yield.
  • Adding a little vanilla. You can’t go wrong with a little vanilla.
  • Texture and consistency of the batter. This batter was extremely easy to pour, and it held together really when flipped. It also developed really nice bubbles as it cooked, like I was hoping it would.
  • Replacing the milk. I used lactose free milk and it worked out exactly like I hoped it would. I noticed another commenter had also used another kind of substitute and it worked out fine for them.
  • Replacing the butter. I swapped it out for nuttelex and that was a simple, and successful swap.

What Didn’t Work:

  • Nothing. It was a pancake experiment success!

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Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake Experiment One (g/f, d/f, can be made vegan)

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So. It’s come up a lot when I tell people about this blog that gluten free baking is often difficult for people. Recipes ask for hard to find ingredients and don’t often work when people attempt substitutions. I know for some people who have discovered their gluten intolerance or coeliac disease later in life it can be a big thing to have to get used to. I am still in that process too. But I’m fortunate enough to have access to a few general resources, which help me out a lot. However – I still make mistakes, sometimes struggle with substitutions and sometimes can’t conquer recipes either.

But it occurred to me that I haven’t put up that aspect of what I do on this blog. It’s one thing to post about successes. But I think it’s also good to talk about things that haven’t worked – or which will need work. I make mistakes too. But the thing is – it’s a learning game. You have to see the fun in learning from each mistake and find the challenge in testing each new ingredient or recipe as it comes along. Treating these recipes as challenges rather than as potential failures can improve things so much! Believe me! So please don’t let these setbacks get disheartening, because we all have setbacks. And it breaks my heart to see people getting down on themselves because of it. You are all wonderful people. It takes a lot of courage to persevere in the face of failure, I know, but I believe we can do it! It’s a chance for us to rise to a challenge! Besides – we can never learn if we never make mistakes! You don’t know what’s right until something goes wrong! So chin up!

And I know the standard advice is to tell people to make the recipe exactly as it says to. But I also know for some that’s not possible to do if the recommended ingredients are difficult to find and/or expensive to purchase. In some cases we need to make substitutes and to experiment.

So. I have added a new section to this blog called Experiments. It’s all about recipes I have experimented with – for better or for worse, and each post will feature the recipes I tried, what I did, what worked and what didn’t. I hope that all the readers out there can have fun with these posts, learn from what I did wrong or what I did right, and perhaps learn a thing or two about the ingredients I use. I want to share this learning curve with the prospective gluten-free and non- gluten-free bakers out there. Let’s learn together!

For the first experiment – it was a failure. But not a complete one! So please – read on!

I gave in to temptation awhile back and picked up a kindle edition of another cookbook. It’s a beautiful book called Let Us All Eat Cake – and features a few cake recipes, all gluten-free and which can also be made dairy-free and vegan. Or so it claims. One thing I noticed when I picked up the book was it’s standard recommended substitute for unsalted butter is a product I see often when looking at what I think are American blogs. I have never seen this earth balance butter replacement product here before. Or perhaps it’s available in larger cities – I’m not sure. But I use Nuttelex spread as a general go-to replacement for butter, as I can use it in icing and in creaming it with sugar, and I can also get a salt reduced version.

I picked the Texas Sheet Cake and decided to give it a whirl. First of all I needed to swap out the flour, as the all-purpose blend I use is similar to the one in the book – and I don’t have ease of access to potato starch so as to make up the author’s flour blend. I also replaced the butter with Nuttelex, and as I didn’t have almond milk on hand I made the buttermilk replacement with lactose free milk.

What Worked

  • Replacing the flour. It was simple, didn’t affect the texture of the mix, and made no serious difference to the final product. Except that I believe, after some taste-testing, that this cake would have been better if I had replaced the all-purpose flour with the gluten-free self-raising flour I have on hand, as I felt it needed a little more of a lift. That, or I would like to test increasing the raising agent – which in this case was baking powder. As we don’t have “baking soda” here, and I am loath to use straight bi-carb soda as it’s very bitter.
  • Swapping the sugars. I swapped the 1.5 cups of organic cane sugar for brown sugar and it came out wonderfully. If you’re willing to spend the extra on the cane sugar, by all means do. But I had more than enough brown sugar on hand, and I think it was lovely.
  • Making the buttermilk replacement. Although I think lactose free milk versus the recommended almond milk was not the best choice, I think making the buttermilk replacement is so quick, and so simple, that it doesn’t at all increase the prep time of the recipe versus using regular buttermilk. It took me less than thirty seconds to put it together!
  • Swapping the icing. For reasons I’ll explain in the next section, I swapped the icing to a dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan buttercream. I used nuttelex, and the icing was beautiful. Even mum, who isn’t such a fan of those sorts of icings, thought the flavour and texture was great! So I will be keeping that particular icing recipe on hand!
  • The flavour. The flavour got a big thumb up of approval from all the taste testers. I also thought the flavour was great and not too sweet despite the sugar!

What Didn’t Work

  • Melting the Nuttelex and combining it with the cocoa powder. Although Nuttelex creams well, and I have noticed how well it blended with lactose free milk when melted alone, it didn’t quite work when attempting to mix it with the cocoa powder. It didn’t allow the cocoa powder to dissolve. So for this reason I also couldn’t make the dairy free chocolate icing to go on top of this cake, as I didn’t have a viable butter substitute.
  • The texture. This cake is not forgiving of longer than recommended cooking times, or of different oven temperatures. But for the most part I feel like with the right butter and buttermilk substitutions, and something to give it more of a lift, be that another flour or more baking powder that could be fixed right up. The cake was too dense and chewy in the end; it really needed something to lift it.
  • Using Lactose free milk instead of almond milk to make the buttermilk replacement. As I said above, the method for making the dairy-free buttermilk is an absolute walk in the park. But in future I will try and stick to using almond milk like the author suggested, and see if that works any better for me.

So have a wonderful Fiesta Friday! and read on for the recipes! Next week I also have some pancake themed experiments set up to talk about, one of which was a great success and has been a quick and simple breakfast for a little while thereafter as a result, and I hope everyone looks forward to it!

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Cinnamon, Pear and Almond Cupcakes (g/f)

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So I seem to be back on my feet and back at work this week! So the first cupcakes I thought to give a go for this Fiesta Friday were in fact chocolate ones, which did look delicious. Although the original recipe had them as either mini loaves or cupcakes. I was excited to give another dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate mix a go, especially as these were based on quinoa flour, and I have ended up with a whole lot of it that needs using before the end of November. The mix was very simple to put together, and it did look like a winner. But the end result was good texture wise, not so much so flavour wise. I loved the texture. It was rich and rather fudge-y. But I don’t think either dad or I are big fans of quinoa flour when it’s not mixed in with others. It has an almost…metallic after taste, which didn’t quite mesh with the chocolate flavour from the cocoa powder. I will admit that it was nice in terms of sweetness, and overall I think I would have liked these a lot if not for them being based solely  on quinoa flour. So I suspect if I do bake them again I would have to experiment a few times with changing up the flours, so that that aftertaste from the quinoa isn’t so prominent. I will, however, keep a hold of the link because it still has a rather straightforward dairy-free chocolate icing recipe and those are good to have on hand. I will also add the link to this post for those who want to experiment with an egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate cupcake recipe.

In the meantime I had a lot more success with adapting another recipe from Good Without Gluten! I’m still in the experimental stage when it comes to the cooking time of the friands, but I think I have cracked their Pear Almond Cupcake recipe at last! The first time I made these I realised how flavourless they would end up being, as the recipe had no spices or sugar in it at all. So I have since experimented and rectified this through adding both cinnamon and brown sugar, and I also added a little more of the almond meal to the batter because like with the chocolate chip cupcakes’ batter this one seemed a little thin. But other people might not mind their batter being so thin, so feel free to experiment! I also leant more towards the side of adding more pear than the amount of pear suggested in the original recipe as I found that otherwise the pear can end up being spread a bit thin between each cupcake, and what I like best is taking a delicious bite of warm muffin and finding soft poached pear inside each bite. Yum! But if I had to pair these with an icing, I think something…caramel, would work really well.

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Coconut Ice (g/f)

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I’m still at home for a little while, although I have now been to the doctor and talked about some options for helping me get well, as well as having a few tests done to see if we can see whether I’m at the tail end of this thing, or whether something else is keeping me down. So what I tried to focus on was not pushing myself too much this week, and resting as much as I could. I am finding that whatever this bug is, it wore me out. I also didn’t have much of an appetite, and when I did I tended not to be able to eat too much. But I focused on keeping up with fruit, veggies and meat where I could, on having healthier snacks and eating when I felt hungry to capitalise on it and that seemed to encourage a resurgence in my appetite. And as we know, good food helps recovery!

So when it came to blogging, I also decided to take the take it a little easier approach and have decided that for the next few posts, excepting cakes for some upcoming birthdays if I get requests, I might stick to some simpler things so I don’t get overtired while getting back into doing proper working weeks again. As I do have a few big bills coming up with regular car maintenance, etc, and cannot afford to be unwell for so long again. As I was thinking this I stumbled across this recipe for Coconut Ice, an old fate favourite of Dad’s, in an issue of Super Food Ideas Magazine. It’s very straightforward, sweet and simple. It took next to no time to whip up a batch of this, and then I was able to sit down and rest the whole rest of the afternoon while it set in the fridge! Simple! So here is a belated, classic contribution for Fiesta Friday. I hope you like it!

P.S it has been pointed out to me that this mix would work really well for the inside of a homemade bounty bar…

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