I recently read, in a not very friendly Daily Telegraph article – that the ‘free from’ food sales in the UK hit £0.5 billion last year and ‘gluten free’ alone is ‘worth’ £238 million a year. No wonder we are seeing more and more foods hitting the shelves. With a growth of more than 15% in just one year, you can see why the supermarkets have embraced this. Just this month Lidl launched their gluten free range and are no doubt currently analysing a positive impact on their overall sales figures.
Most ‘celebrations’ or ‘holidays’ or gatherings or whatever you call them are a headache for the parent of an allergic child. None more so than Easter – because everywhere you look there are more cakes and chocolates and confections than ever just screaming at you to buy them.
Zac is very used to walking past the groaning supermarket shelves and pays them very little attention. It is a testament to his character that my child is probably one of the only four year olds in the country who can walk down the ‘sweetie’ aisle and cake aisle in the supermarket and remain totally unmoved and disinterested by what he sees there. He rushes past all the ‘normal’ stuff and head for his special place – no more than a few short shelves in our local supermarkets.
Just in case you hadn’t heard(haha) – it is snowing! I picked the children up from school early as I didn’t fancy a treacherous drive home later down some very icy, snowy country lanes. So here we are waiting for the snow to stop and trying to find things to do. As usual, my thoughts turned to food. I actually planned to get a delicious cassoulet ‘on’. But Sophia wanted to make biscuits. So we did that first.
Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know I am a very reluctant baker. I love cooking ‘dinners’ but I am a bit rubbish at baking cakes. I don’t like eating them that much and can be a bit slapdash and messy. But when you have one child with allergies and another looking for jobs on a snowy day, you have little choice but to put away your fears and get out the aprons.
Since Zac’s problems began I have been muddling through experimenting with my own recipes for various meals etc, but not being a confident baker I felt the need for some tried and tested recipes from an expert. So I ordered myself a copy of the Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick. I had first seen it in Waitrose for £20 and chose not to buy it, but when I saw it for sale on Lovelactosefreelife.co.uk for £12.99 I decided it was a bargain not to be missed.
It really is gourmet stuff and the recipes and photography are really beautiful. It also has lots of useful information about the replacement ingredients and lots of useful tips. Some of the recipes do have a lot of ingredients, and that often puts me off. I am a simple cook. Definitely not gourmet or greatly skilled. Mine is more simple home cooking, lots of flavour, minimal steps and little skill. But I needed a biscuit recipe and this book has one. It looks so simple so I decided to give it a go. I have tried it and blogged on it before, but this time I struggled with it even more than the first.
My banana loaf recipe, posted a while back, seemed to go down very well. Not just with family, but with blog followers, so when faced again with several bananas that were past their best, I decided to have another crack at it.
I used the same basic recipe as last time, borrowed from in The River Cottage Family Cookbook. As I discovered last time, it still works with a straight swap of gluten free flour and dairy free margarine. This time I also added half a teaspoon of xanthan gum, as I have discovered this is an essential ingredient in gluten free baking.
The final magic new addition to the recipe was half a packet of Moo Free chocolate drops. Definitely not an essential and probably not to everyone’s taste, but I had half a pack left over from making the chocolate chip cookies. I could have eaten them, I did think about it, but I was more curious to see if they would work in this recipe so threw them in straight away to remove the temptation. They did work. It was awesome. Added a real yummy warm melted chocolate flavour and aroma to the cake. Everyone who tried it said you could never tell it was gluten free and dairy free – the only person who wouldn’t try it, of course, was Zac, but he did enjoy picking out the sultanas!
Here is my recipe and method. Easy enough to follow. I took it from the Pippa Kendrick book – The Intolerant Gourmet. It is an excellent ‘free from’ cookbook and this is a lovely recipe for a basic biscuit. Pippa says you can add a variety of ingredients e.g. raisins, peanut butter etc. My children love ‘chocolate’ so I added a pack of Moo Free chocolate drops. Very delicious and you would never know they were dairy free.
I have made these cookies three times now and have found my greatest success came when I added some one heaped teaspoon of xanthan gum. It made them much less powdery and they held their form more like a ‘normal’ biscuit.
I also added a big ‘squirt’ of golden syrup, in the hope it might help with the texture, but I have to admit it was also for flavour. It obviously makes them much more sweet and indulgent.
Still reeling from my bread-making failure, I decided I owed it to the children to make them something edible. They did try my awful home made bread – I toasted it first, but it was still grim and Zac said he was finished after two bites. So I offered to make them some cookies instead. I knew I had a packet mix in my cupboard, so I was confident this little adventure in baking would be a success.
The shop bought ‘safe’ free from biscuits are all pretty dusty, tasteless and expensive. Zac appears to have gone off them too. So I am not buying them at the moment, which is why I picked up the packet mix last time I was in Sainsbury’s. Useful to have in the cupboard, just in case anyone is desperate for a biscuit – or something to do. These cookies are super quick, easy to make and won’t go stale. Unlike the shop bought biscuits, these usually get eaten within 24 hours of emerging from the oven.
The mix I used was Hale n Hearty.
We have made them before, but the children were not crazy about them. They were not all that chocolately (by my standards), so I decided to fix that by adding a whole packet of Moo Free chocolate drops. http://www.moofreechocolates.com/dairy-free-chocolate/products/dairy-free-milk-chocolate-drops.php