Tag Archives: pastry

A (cheat’s) guide to pastry!

It feels a little odd to be reviewing products at the moment, but lockdown hasn’t stopped us finding and trying new things and I wanted to share this review from a few weeks ago. It’s been 4 years since I tentatively ventured into the world of M-friendly pastry, concentrating my efforts on using the small handful of safe ingredients that were open to him at that time to create croissants and apple turnovers. They weren’t the roaring success that I would have liked them to be, but given I’d never turned my hand to even “normal” pastry before, I honestly felt they weren’t bad for a first attempt. I always meant to give it another go, but somehow it was never quite the right time and, other than fleeting thoughts in the middle of the night, the idea to try and achieve the perfect M-friendly pastry with a new and improved recipe never once really crossed my mind.

So, my latest discovery of the Jus-rol gluten-free puff pastry on the pre-lockdown fridge shelves of our local supermarket opened up a new and exciting realm of baking in our household. As well as being gluten-free, this prepared pastry is also dairy-, soya- and egg-free, which makes it a safe option for both children. The blend of different flours and vegetable fibres also meant that it fitted in perfectly with the most recent food trials agreed with M’s consultant, who suggested we try expanding M’s repertoire slowly by introducing regular gluten-free pasta, rather than the rice pasta we usually buy. The reason for this was preparation for M’s much hoped-for and long-planned school trip to Sorrento, supposedly happening this June, but cancelled due to COVID-19. It means that M won’t be able to travel this year, but our plan is to persevere with the trial with a hope that he will get to Italy as some point in the future, be that with school or with us.

Mike took on the first challenge of cooking with the puff pastry and made some bacon and cheese pastry parcels for tea. Sadly, and somewhat typically, being my husband and children, there was no thought to provide any photographic evidence of how they turned out, but given the fact that they all disappeared before I returned home from choir, they appear to have been a roaring success. With that in mind, next it was my turn and I decided to see how well the pastry would lend itself to a sweet, rather than savoury offering. Thanks to a plethora of apples and pears in the fridge, plus the fact that I know even G will happily eat a sweet fruity treat containing both of those ingredients, apple – and pear – turnovers seemed the obvious choice.

Quick and easy to cut, prepare and bake, I can’t rave enough just how easy this puff pastry is to use. It took me hardly any time at all to prep the turnovers for the oven and 20 or so minutes later they were ready. I left them to cool on the counter and managed to steer both G and M away from them long enough to sit down and eat their main courses before diving into dessert. There’s no question that the Jus-rol gluten-free puff pastry has been a big success in the 7Y2D household for both sweet and savoury dishes. Even better, the ease of use means that both children would be able to prepare pastry dishes of their choice with only very minimal supervision needed from me.

The Croissants Adventures: Part Deux

One of my biggest challenges for last week was set by M’s teacher, when she let me know on the Tuesday that they would be engaging in a spot of French role-play and would be tasting hot chocolate, croissants and other traditional French breakfast foods during the lesson. She was anxious that M shouldn’t feel left out and asked whether there was any chance I could send in something “…M-friendly and close to a pastry…” for the activity. The thing is that there really isn’t anything readily available that is even vaguely similar to a French pastry that is based on M’s handful of safe foods and so I knew this was going to be a baking challenge I needed to tackle and quickly. break05My starting point was actually a conversation with M as there was no need to stress about how to create a French-inspired masterpiece for him, if he’d simply be satisfied with a rice krispie treat instead. We started on the matter of the hot chocolate and despite his desperate bids to start his cocoa trial weeks before Easter, rather than when planned, he quickly changed his tune – well who’d want to miss out on an Easter Egg if it’s up for offer?! – and settled on rice milk flavoured with banana nesquik for his drink. However, he was less open to be swayed on the matter of the croissants and I promised to at least investigate if there was anything I could do before the Friday deadline dawned. Fortunately, 2 years ago the school had hosted a MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) Day and whilst G’s needs were met by the purchase of some delicious Genius pain au chocolat, even then there was nothing I could buy that would suit M’s trickier requirements. I had researched and adapted a great vegan recipe for croissants and baked a batch that kept him happy, even if they were not quite up to my more exacting standards. I knew I had added that recipe to my blog and quickly had a skim-through the list of ingredients to see if a new and improved M-friendly version was even possible.

For once, luck seemed to be on M’s side and, after a quick internet search for possible alternatives to the yeast I’d needed before, I was able to tell my excited child that I was willing to at very least give it a go. With plenty of warnings that there were no guarantees regarding taste or texture, I tentatively started the long and drawn-out process of making the pastry dough. I swapped coconut oil for the Trex and a bicarbonate of soda and xanthum gum mix for the yeast. The dough was prepped on the Tuesday night and I popped it into the fridge for a couple of days until I needed it: that was a big mistake. IMG_0207[1]The coconut oil solidifies at cold temperatures and by the time I was ready to make and bake the croissants on Thursday evening, my pastry was now filled with marble-sized lumps of coconut oil that I just had to remove. Whether this made much of a difference to my final product, I really don’t know, but given that a lot of the flavour in a French pastry comes from the fat added to it, I don’t think I did myself any favours.

I rolled and folded, and folded and rolled for a good 25 minutes on Thursday evening, until my dough was smooth and no longer a sticky mess that couldn’t be worked and I carefully cut triangles and rolled each one into the croissant shape, complete with slight curve. With the excess dough, I formed 2 pastry cases and attempted a couple of apple turnovers as an unexpected treat. Once all my pastries were ready, IMG_0209[1]I popped them into the oven, set the timer and attempted to forget all about them until the bell rang. The turnovers ended up being a little overdone and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the croissants either, though both children devoured them eagerly and with far more gusto than I was expecting!

This morning I was asked by a friend if I was planning to make a third attempt and I didn’t know what exact answer to give. The time and patience needed to make this pastry was tough to fit in alongside the everyday hustle and bustle of our household, but I reaped huge rewards. M and G were delighted with this different treat and I know that with a little more tweaking and a lot more practice, I might end up with a M-friendly pastry that would open up a lot more possibilities for meals for him. Not just croissants or apple turnovers, but chicken pot pies spring to mind too. So my honest answer probably should be:

Just watch this space!

BBQs and Bakewell tarts

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The incredible summer weather that we’ve been enjoying this weekend, can only mean one thing; it’s time for a barbecue.  True to form, by around 5pm on Friday evening, the shelves of all the local supermarkets had been cleared of the sausages, burgers and other BBQ meats, but for once that didn’t spoil our plans.  Most of the BBQ selections available contain wheat, gluten or even soya, which makes them unsuitable for use in our household.

Instead, I took to a recipe that we developed after seeing a similar meal prepared on Canadian TV programme “You’ve gotta eat here“.  For those of you who haven’t seen this series, and I highly recommend that you don’t even attempt to watch it when feeling peckish,  presenter John Catucci tours Canada, searching out exceptional meals found at various cafes, diners and restaurants across the country.  The food featured not only tastes good, but often comes in proportions that defeat even those with the healthiest of appetites.  Whilst the burgers we watched being made were traditional in using beef, I adapted them to use family favourites, Welsh lamb and fresh mint.  You can find the recipe here.

The final recipe is easy and quick to prepare, delicious to eat and best of all, contains nothing that is not M-friendly.  They take around 5 minutes to cook on the BBQ or indeed in the oven and were perfect for a Saturday lunch in the sun.

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One of things that M has been missing, other than the by now famous egg mayonnaise sandwiches, is Bakewell tarts.  Around 12 months ago, we had discovered Costa‘s gluten-free Cherry bakewells and, as they were dairy, soya and wheat-free and M was trialling egg at the time, we were able to try them out as a treat.  M loved them and we had found something he could eat when we popped out for a coffee or were on a road trip.

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However, this January’s decision to tighten up M’s diet meant these had to go back on to his forbidden list.  It was a disappointment as there is so little available when we’re out and about, but we had the hope that the next trial of egg would mean that he might be able to start eating them once again.  Sadly, the current relapse and subsequent medical response means that there is no likelihood of this for the foreseeable future.

M has been hit hard by his current flare-up and so I decided to make a weekend of it and bake some much needed M-friendly treats for both M and G.  I quickly decided to investigate whether there was any possibility of making a M-friendly Bakewell tart. Having never even attempted to make Bakewell tarts in my lifetime, even before all the food allergies hit my kitchen, I looked up a recipe to see if I could adapt it.

I was confident I could make a reasonable everything-free pastry base, having successfully mastered pastry at Christmas for mince pies.  I have quickly learned that vegan recipes are my friends as they don’t contain any animal products and so instantly remove the issue of being dairy- and egg-free.  So, I quickly moved on to the next item on the list, raspberry jam.  Fortunately, M suffers no ill-effects from fruit jams at the moment, so that was an easy tick and on to the final element of the recipe: the frangipane.

This filled me with dread.  Frangipane is an almond-flavoured sweet pastry cream which, depending on the particular recipe you decide to follow, contains anywhere between 1 and 3 eggs and I just couldn’t see a way round it.  With little hope and as a somewhat last-ditch attempt, I used that faithful friend, Dr Google, once again to see if someone, somewhere had created a vegan alternative to frangipane.  Imagine my delight on discovering this wonderful recipe from fellow blogger, lucysfriendlyfoods.

I noted the ingredients, checked my store cupboards to see what I already had in stock and drew up my shopping list.  A quick visit to the supermarket and we had everything I needed to bake this masterpiece.  To my delight, every step of this recipe was easy to follow and put together.  40 minutes in the oven and my work was done.

SAM_1240M was thrilled and had to try a slice before it had cooled fully.  The slice I gave him disappeared quickly and his only comment was that he would prefer me to make individual tarts next time.  What’s more, G also tried some and enjoyed it.  All in all, this weekend has been a resounding success, be it the BBQ burgers or the Bakewell tart.