One in a hundred people suffers from a true allergy to dietary gluten, known as coeliac disease. Many more find that they are intolerant to wheat and hence foods such as bread, doughs and cakes make them feel uncomfortable.
Following a gluten-free diet is the solution for both groups. A wheat-free diet may be sufficient for coping with wheat intolerance but coeliacs will know that there are also other sources of gluten to be avoided. Larger supermarkets stock ranges of ‘free from’ foods including bread, pasta, pizza, cakes, breakfast cereals, flours and ready made sauces. When preparing meals from basic ingredients, it is not difficult to avoid wheat or gluten in many dishes, and to substitute other foods such as rice, potatoes and gluten-free oats.
Perhaps the two foods most missed by coeliacs and wheat avoiders are bread and cake. I’ve tried to make basic gluten-free bread in my bread machine but without great success. It seems that the dough needs to rise in a warm place in the conventional way and then be baked in an oven to get reasonable results.
I’ve had varying results with cakes. Whilst a light Victoria sponge totally eludes me, rich fruit cakes and recipes using fresh fruit (such as banana) or grated vegetables (e.g. courgette) work well with gluten free flour such as Dove’s Farm. These cakes do tend to dry out faster, however, than if they were made with wheat flour.
If you fancy something very rich and chocolately, try the ultimate beetroot and chocolate cake. This recipe will work with gluten free flour as the beetroot is very moist and, arguabley, you’ll be getting extra anto-oxidants with your portion of cake!
Recently, I’ve discovered a range of recipes which use some specific ingredients to counter the absence of gluten in producing moist and very tasty cakes. Glycerine (liquid) keeps moisture in and xanthan gum (a form of powdered starch) binds the ingredients together to give a conventional cake texture. Relatively small amounts of these ‘magic’ ingredients convert the usually dry gluten-free cake into a really moist delight, which is difficult to distinguish from a conventional wheat-based recipe.
The buttermilk breakfast muffin recipe is the first of these specifically gluten-free recipes to get the Russell-Price ‘tried and tested’ stamp of approval!