No gluten in these goodies
Gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley and rye - can be bad for people with coeliac disease. Their bodies cannot absorb the nutrients, and they might vomit or develop stomach pains. The bad news is gluten is in pasta, breakfast cereals, bread, flour, cakes, biscuits and pizza. Some processed foods also have it - such as sauces, ready meals, soups and processed meats.
The good news is you can bake without gluten - although it requires a little effort. Gluten gives dough the elasticity that helps keep breads, biscuits and cakes in shape. To mimic the stretchability of gluten, xanthan or guar gum are often added to give baked goods the 'right' texture. Extra protein is usually added in the form of egg whites, gelatin or dry milk powder.
To replace cereals that contain gluten, try using grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn/maize, millet, quinoa, oats, rice, sorghum and chickpea. Gluten-free flour mixes combine those grains, and are available in many supermarkets. You could also experiment with your own mix. The basic proportion is 70 per cent wholegrain flours (any mix of amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, sorghum or chickpea) and 30 per cent starches (any mix of cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca flour, white rice flour or arrowroot).
Gluten-free baked foods won't be very chewy and tend to be crumblier and drier. They also do not keep as long as foods made with gluten-containing flour.
Oatmeal and cranberry biscuits
Once you've baked a batch of these, preserve their freshness by freezing whatever you can't eat. Defrost and then warm them in the oven or microwave.
Ingredients (makes 18-20)
100g unsalted butter, softened
75g light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g gluten-free rolled oats
100g gluten-free flour mix
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
75g dried cranberries
1 Preheat oven to 190C (170C for fan oven).
2 Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
3 In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
4 Add the rest of the ingredients, and mix until thoroughly combined.
5 Using damp hands, roll heaped teaspoonfuls of dough and place on the baking tray. Flatten the top with the back of a fork or your hands.
6 Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool for five minutes before removing from the tray. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before eating.
The dough will rise a bit, but don't expect it to rise as much as dough made with wheat flour. Nevertheless, the end product is reasonably fluffy.
If you want your loaf crispier, try turning up the oven temperature a little bit towards the end of the cooking time.
400g gluten-free flour mix
100g cold mashed potatoes
1 packet (7g) dried yeast
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp gelatin
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 Mix the water, milk, oil, honey, vinegar and egg in a large mixing bowl until combined.
2 Add the gluten-free flour, mashed potatoes, yeast, xanthan gum, gelatin and salt.
3 Beat together until a wet and sticky dough forms.
4 Scrape dough into a greased non-stick baking tin (28 x 18cm). Cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place for 45-50 minutes.
5 Meanwhile preheat oven to 200C (180C fan).
6 Sprinkle rosemary over dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Bread is cooked if it sounds hollow when you tap it. Best served warm.