Sunday, 13 October 2013

apple cinnamon cup cakes, gluten free

I have just upped sticks and moved north away from family and friends to study.  In doing so, I have left behind the family home and swapped my shiny new (and almost perfect) kitchen for a rented and shared 2 bed back-to-back terrace with a 9'x5' kitchen.  Gone too are almost all my cookbooks, baking equipment and ingredients.  I have kept what I hoped was the right few bits, the bare minimum of working. multi-purpose items.  So far, I am not impressed with my selection!
On this damp, grey, very autumnal day I have just been exploring the 7 miles of walking tracks and trails that pass my front door. In one direction, a woodland trail to the city centre, my daily walk to uni. In the other, parkland and trails head north out of the city to the moors and farmland beyond.  Perfect for walking, running and lazing (come next summer).
Basking in a warm glow of self-congratulatory praise on this choice of location, I pulled out my baking kit with an urge to bake apple cake.   My pleasure at my selection of 'essential' items is not so warm.  But I have managed to knock these up after a quick trip to Waitrose (finally, one of those within walking distance too!).
apple cinnamon cupcakes

These are super easy to make.  I used the blend of flour in the recipe simply because I have run out of rice flour, this blend does taste very nice but can equally be made with 110g each of rice flour + 110g buckwheat flour or 110g sorghum flour or 110g millet flour, or even another 110g rice flour - though this may be slightly gritty.  If you want to make these with wheat flour, use 220g Self Raising wheat flour with an additional 1.5tsp baking powder, and omit the xanthan gum.
The recipe made 18 cupcakes.

apple cinnamon cupcake 1

  • 300g apples (either dessert or cooking apples are fine)
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 80g dark muscavado sugar
  • 120g rice flour
  • 35g millet flour
  • 35g sorghum flour
  • 35g buckwheat flour
  • 4.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp xanthan gum
  • 180g soft butter
  • 180g light muscavado sugar
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Line muffin tins with cup cake liners and preheat the oven (fan) to 165°C.
  2. Core and grate the apples (don't bother to peel them unless you really want to).
  3. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a medium sized bowl then add the apple and combine thoroughly, before setting aside.
  4. Sieve all the dry flour ingredients together and set aside.
  5. Beat the butter and sugar together using a hand or stand mixer until they are soft, pale and creamy.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and beat to blend thoroughly.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly before adding the next one.  If the mix begins to curdle add a tablespoon of the flour mix and beat again.
  8. Now add the flour mix to the creamed mix and beat again until just combined.
  9. Put a spoonful of cake batter into each cupcake liner spread and levelling the mix across the base of each liner, which should be just less than half full (I found a heaped dessertspoon worked for me).
  10. Give the apple and sugar mix a good stir to mix the juices back in, then grab a teaspoon and put a heaped spoonful of mix on top of the cake batter in each liner.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 mins, then rotate the tray(s) and bake for a further 5 minutes before removing from the oven.
  12. Leave the cupcakes to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the trays and placing on a cooling rack until cold.
  13. Dust with icing sugar once cold.
  14. These cupcakes can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days but can't be frozen (due to the fresh fruit).
apple cinnamon cupcake 2

    Tuesday, 30 April 2013

    Pizza Express, at last!

    The announcement by Pizza Express that they were launching a gluten free menu caused much excitement in our house, so launch day saw us making an inpromptu visit there, foregoing our planned movie afternoon for a taste of proper pizza. 

    The staff in out local branch in Hastings were genuinely delighted to be selling gluten free pizzas on their launch day and seemed to know their stuff about the options available.  There was a bit of a hunt to locate the delivery of gluten free lager, but the wait was worth it, a very light and refreshing drink, perfect with (and before) pizza.   The gluten free pizzas are served on black boards which helps waiting staff identify them and will no doubt be really useful for busy evening and weekend visits.  
    All the standard (Romana) pizzas are available on the bespoke gluten free bases.  There are a few topping elements that are gluten-containing (more on that below) which would rule out a couple of the options, but you can make substutitions to get a pizza you can eat. 

    I ordered a Cappriciosa. I can't eat tomato so had an extra smear of garlic butter on the base and omitted the tomatoes from the toppings.  The base was crisp and light, the toppings fresh and the egg had a perfect runny yolk to dip the crust into. It was, I hate to say, better than my home made version!
    My daughter had an American which is a Margarita with pepperoni.  The bases - like so many gluten free breads - are slightly sweet.  This was more prominent with a tomato topping, leading my daughter to say that she preferred my, more savoury, tomato-free pizza.  

    The product developers have done a pretty good job.   They have developed a few bespoke gluten free items for the menu so it is possible to eat a 3 course meal there.  We did feel that they have missed a trick in not putting gluten free garlic bread on the menu using the same gf pizza base but hopefully this will follow before too long.  

    I think much has already been made of the fact that Pizza Express are only using gluten free flour to dust their bases in the restaurants, to avoid airborn contamination.  I am a bit confused as to how they mix their regular wheat bases, which I thought were made in-house, but judging by the attention to detail, I trust they have this covered.

    A visit to Pizza Express still needs a bit of homework before you go.  The list of gluten-containing products and ingredients is only available on the website so you need to read this in advance, or hope your phone gets a signal once you are there.  It really needs to be printed on the menu.  
    There are lots of items on the menu that are, or rather could be, gluten free by the omission of wafers or dough sticks.  This could be more clearly marked too as that would give an even wider choice. 
    I tweeted @pizzaexpress before we went to get the base ingredients (maize starch, modified tapioca starch, rice flour and potato protein).  It would also be really helpful if Pizza Express could list all product ingredients on their website rather than just a table of selected allergens. This table has not yet been updated to reflect the new menu which is a bit confusing too.

    These niggles aside, it was so refreshing to be able to order off a standard menu (and use a discount code!) to get really tasty gluten free and safe food in a comfortable and welcoming environment.  Next time - and there will definitely be a next time - we will leave enough room to try the gluten free chocolate brownie!