Tag Archives: xanthum gum

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!

Not quite Mickey-shaped…!

20140818_143459Around about the same time that I started fondly reminiscing about last year’s holiday to Florida, my FB timeline decided to prompt my recollections with this photo of what turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the vast array of fantastic M- and G-friendly food in Disney. These Mickey waffles were a huge part of what made our trip so successful and are one of M’s favourite memories about his first visit to “the most magical place on earth“. In fact, they were so popular that they have gained the unenviable status of one of the top 10 foods M is desperate to enjoy once he has a few more foods back in his diet. With so many of the key ingredients for your traditional waffle firmly in the “unsafe” camp, I turned my mind to what the basic ingredients of a successful waffle were and whether I could replace them and produce a waffle that might satisfy M’s longing.

I found a great recipe for egg-free waffles and, confident that I could make a replacement that would at very least look good, even if the taste wasn’t quite all it should be, I insisted on a detour during a family day out to buy my very first waffle-maker. I had previously done some research on the various options out there and once we were in-store, 20150809_184330M helped me pick which one he thought would do the best job – a combined waffle-maker, sandwich-toaster and grill! Shopping done and the day’s activities completed, we headed home and I claimed the kitchen as a child-free zone until my experimenting was done.

The first recipe I adapted produced some amazing waffles and I just wish I had a photo that captured the pure delight on M’s face when he first caught sight of his plate full of M-friendly waffles. Needless to say, he was rendered speechless – something that rarely happens as those of you who know us well will know – and he flung his arms around me, squeezing tight as he whispered “Thank you Mummy, you’re the very best Mummy in the world“. Both children declared them an instant hit and the speed at which those first 4 waffles disappeared from their plates would confirm that to be the case. Mike and I shared a fifth one between us and agreed that as delicious as they were, the rice flour had created a granular taste to the waffles, a problem that I have experienced before when baking with this tricky ingredient. 20150809_185211I have found that making a wetter mix has been key in producing a less granular cake, but couldn’t quite see how to make this work with the thicker waffle batter and the limiting factor of only a handful of safe ingredients.

Not quite 100% satisfied with my first attempt and responding to the following day’s request for “..more waffles please!.” from M and G, this time I searched for a recipe for apple waffles and adapted it to suit our allergy needs. I used some apple purée to not only flavour the waffles, but also to replace the egg and add more liquid to the batter without diluting it too much. This batch cooked as well as the first and proved to be an equal success with my discerning duo. Mike also acted as a taste-tester and reported that the granular texture was considerably reduced with the addition of the apple, though it hasn’t disappeared completely. Whilst I will continue to strive for even better rice flour waffles, for now I’m more than happy to have found a way to replicate those Mickey waffles, even if they’re not quite Mickey-shaped!

Delicious date and ginger cake

I hadn’t been planning on yet another bake, but I remembered at the last minute that the children needed cake for the following afternoon at their holiday club.  Once again I needed to work with whatever was hiding in the cupboards and although G was keen for me to make my chocolate cake, I wanted to head in a new direction.  We’ve only just finished the frozen chocolate cupcakes leftover from our fundraising at the end of May, so I relished the idea of something different.  I’d recently bought a packet of dates and decided to investigate a date and ginger concoction instead.

SAM_1364I couldn’t find a good allergy-friendly recipe to use, but settled on this recipe and adapted it to make it M-friendly.  These days I try to find recipes that have not only already done some of the work for me, be they gluten-free, vegan or otherwise allergy-friendly, but that also look relatively easy to bake.  Fortunately, given my ever-growing experience in the kitchen, I was able to work out my substitutes fairly quickly and, once the children were in bed, started in the kitchen.  My biggest challenge to date then faced me.  My electronic scales had given up the ghost – I’m guessing the repeated falling out of the cupboard really hadn’t helped – and I had to revert to using my Nigella cups for measuring the ingredients instead.  I’ve never baked using just cup measurements before as I usually convert them into grams and millilitres, but needs must and all, so I rolled up my sleeves and got on with it.

20140728_223632I needn’t have worried as the final cake was delicious, though perhaps a little overdone from 5 minutes too long in the oven.  The ginger was a bit strong, though M insists that won’t hinder him eating the cake.  G is less sure, but is happy to eat it in small pieces and certainly didn’t refuse the slice offered to her for holiday club.

The Battle for Breakfast (magnificent muffin recipes included!)

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_to_work_on_an_egg

Who can forget this advice?

Over the past 12 months, there has been a lot in the national press about the numbers of children who are arriving at school without having eaten any breakfast.  More schools have introduced breakfast clubs, in some cases financially supported by the teachers, to ensure that pupils get that all important start to their day.  The benefits of a good breakfast to see us all through our day are well-documented and as a Mum, I’ve tried install those principles in my children.

G is a fantastic breakfast eater and always has been.  I remember, at an early age, picking her up from nursery and being told by the astounded key-worker that she had eaten 3 whole weetabix for her breakfast that morning.  What amazed me more, was that she had already eaten a full bowl of cereal (2 weetabix) at home before getting to nursery – where my tiny mite had put those 5 weetabix we will never know,  She happily munches her way through an overflowing bowl of rice pops and cornflakes with raisins and milk and, if she has enough time, then another bowl will be consumed too.

Courtesy of controlengeurope.com

Courtesy of controlengeurope.com

M is the complete polar opposite of his sister.  He is much more like me and doesn’t like to eat as soon as he wakes up in the morning.  The problem is that due to his sleep issues, I inevitably have to wake him for school and even showering and dressing before we attempt breakfast rarely achieves much success.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get M to eat even a scrap of breakfast, which simply reflects his current health and declining appetite.

Which is why I’m constantly and desperately searching for a tasty morsel that will entice him to eat first thing, whilst being relatively healthy. We’ve tried toast, bacon sandwiches, cereal, porridge, fresh fruit and yoghurts, all with relatively limited success.  One day he’ll eat something like it’s going out of fashion, the next day it’s like getting blood from a stone.  I was stuck for ideas until last weekend, when inspiration hit.  We were up in London for an extended celebration of my Mum’s birthday and at breakfast on the Sunday morning, G disappeared off to the buffet and came back bearing a mini chocolate chip muffin for me as a thank you for taking them to London for the weekend.

As I munched my way through this tiny treat, it struck me that it was just the thing that might tantalise M’s tastebuds first thing in the morning. All I needed to do was find a muffin recipe and do some of my free-from jiggery-pokery to turn it into the perfect M-friendly nibble.  We had a huge amount of rapidly-browning bananas in the fridge, so a recipe for banana muffins seemed the obvious choice.  I found one, played around with the ingredients and ended up with this wonderful looking batch:

By the time I got round to photographing the end result, 3 had already been devoured by G&M - success!

By the time I got round to photographing the end result, 3 had already been devoured by G&M – success!

Excited by the instant success, and with some left-over bacon and soya- and dairy- free cheese (yes such a thing really does exist) lurking in the bottom of the fridge, I found, adapted and baked a recipe for bacon and cheese muffins.  These turned out a little more anaemic-looking and seem to be a recipe I’m going to need to tweak a little more to perfect:

Less golden than the banana ones, but still delicious

Less golden than the banana ones, but still delicious

So, from one evening’s work, I’ve found 2 new recipes – banana muffins and bacon & cheese muffins – and have a pair of happy children.  The only problem?  As much as M loves the muffins, it appears they weren’t the weapons I was searching for and the battle to get him to eat breakfast rages on!

Pen-blwydd Hapus Mamgu!

Or, for those of you not fluent in Welsh, “Happy Birthday Grandma!”.

This weekend we celebrated my Mum’s birthday with her and what better way to celebrate than to try out some new recipes, especially those for cake!  All recipes have been adapted for a MEWS-diet and I have to say a special thanks to fellow blogger, lucysfriendlyfoods, for her egg-free meringue recipe and invaluable advice for an alternative to soya protein:

Pea protein - a new ingredient to me, but the key to a successful egg-free meringue

Pea protein – a new ingredient to me, but the key to a successful egg-free meringue

I made, and we all enjoyed, successful chocolate meringues and carrot cake.  G and M gave both recipes a 10 in their taste tests and I finally feel as if I’m beginning to crack the M-friendly baking dilemma that’s been threatening to beat me for a couple of years.  What better way to share than some photos from the day:

At this point, the mix tasted a little like that American delicacy, Marshmallow Fluff!

At this point, the mix tasted a little like that American delicacy, Marshmallow Fluff!

The final product - perfect and delicious egg-free chocolate meringues

The final product – perfect and delicious egg-free chocolate meringues

And who'd have thought you could go from this...

And who’d have thought you could go from this…

...to this!

…to this?

                      Happy birthday Mum!