Thursday, 22 March 2012

Gluten Free Baking

We are about to move house. This is hugely exciting because I LOVE our new place but it means I have been preoccupied with two things I’m not very good at: packing and cleaning.

As such, I’ve been acting like a bipolar person, swinging from extreme highs where I imagine how our couches, rug and pictures are going to look in our new living room, to fits of swearing as I’m choking on dust and cutting myself yet again on the damn Stanley knife.

Oh, and then there’s fending off the 19-month-old, who wants to help by grabbing and scrunching the packing tape as I’m about to close a box, hiding said tape in the dirty clothes basket or my Wellies, and trying to climb into the boxes himself (after throwing in Teddy).

The Little Pudding kitchen is still firing, of course. There is always time for baking, no matter how much mayhem is going on around me! There’s a great poster from the Keep Calm series hanging in a cute little shop near my house at the moment which says: “Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake.” Well, exactly.

Last week, when my lovely little monster was in daycare, I caught up with some girlfriends for afternoon tea, one of whom is gluten intolerant.

Pear and fig friand at Town in Bangalow

I promised to bake something, so I decided on white nectarine and raspberry friands (recipe at the end of this post), inspired by a beautiful pear and fig friand made on rice flour that I had at Town in Bangalow on our last trip up north.

I have cooked with spelt flour before, but never with rice flour, so when they came out of the oven I was quite surprised by how light in texture they were. They didn’t rise as much as usual, but most importantly, they kept their rich, buttery flavour. Delicious and pretty on the plate!

My next GF challenge was a chocolate cake, made for my friend Mel, who was hosting a lunch that weekend for her hubby’s colleagues. She was staring down the barrel of cooking for at least six people who didn’t eat wheat! I was more than happy to help her out with dessert.

I vaguely remember baking a decadent flourless chocolate cake once or twice from Donna Hay’s Flavours book, but, like many of my cook books, they stayed in Mum’s cooking “library” at Family HQ when I moved out. And the Mothership was, unfortunately, away.

Because I am ridiculous and keep all of my Donna Hay and Gourmet Traveller mags, I had a stash to refer to and quickly found what I needed in a recipe from GT’s Emma Knowles for a Chocolate Espresso Cake. I adapted it to suit the GF brief by again using rice flour and tweaking a couple of measurements (recipe at the end of this post).

It worked a treat and MY GOSH it was good. I know this because I forgot to take photos of the one I made for Mel, so I had to make another, which I used my March Photo Challenge pic for “delicious.”

Yes, I’m still mad for instagram. I love how the filters make it so easy to take absolutely beautiful photos; even my brownies look good and it is hard work to make a brownie photogenic!

I’m thoroughly addicted. Here is a random pic of the irises sitting on my dining table I took today. So pretty.

What’s your latest fad? And have you ever tried gluten free baking? Any favourite GF recipes to share??

Larissa x

Gluten Free Nectarine and Raspberry Friands

Makes 12

1 ½ cups almond meal
½ cup rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups icing sugar
250g butter
6 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 white nectarines, sliced thinly
½ cup frozen raspberries, lightly crushed to scatter

Preheat oven to 180C.
Place cupcake wrappers into a 12-hole muffin pan.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
Combine sifted rice flour, baking powder and icing sugar in a large bowl with almond meal.
Stir in egg whites and vanilla, followed by melted butter.
Pour into prepared cupcake wrappers.
Top each friand with three slices of nectarine and scatter over crushed raspberries.
Bake for 25 mins or until golden.
Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.

Gluten Free Chocolate Espresso Cake

20g Dutch cocoa
125g almond or hazelnut meal (I used almond)
60g rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
180g quality dark chocolate
100g quality milk chocolate
200g butter
25ml coffee liqueur or strong espresso (I went for the liqueur, using Tia Maria)
5 eggs, separated
220g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease and line the base of a 22cm springform pan.
Place sifted cocoa, rice flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the almond or hazelnut meal.
Melt the chocolate, butter and liqueur or coffee in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water.
Remove from the heat and cool slightly before whisking in the egg yolks.
Whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until firm peaks form (2 mins appx) then gradually add the caster sugar, whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy (about 3 mins).
Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients.
Then gently fold the egg white mix into the chocolate mixture until all combined.
Pour into prepared tin and then gently drop the tin onto a benchtop a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
Bake for 35 to 40 mins or until a skewer comes away almost clean from the centre of the cake. It may be a little fudgy but don’t go any longer or it may dry out on the edges.
Cool the cake completely in the tin before releasing the springform and turning it out onto a serving plate.
Serve dusted with icing sugar or cocoa, top with a pile of berries and have a bowl of double cream or ice cream on hand. An extra shot of liqueur would be nice too!

More delicious gluten free baking recipes with a citrus flavour here.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Road Trip

What’s your favourite Wiggles song? Mr LP and I pretty much know them all by heart after a 1000km road trip with our toddler from Sydney to Kingscliff.

We are also now proficient at changing nappies in the car and playing catch while driving.

Travelling with small children is full of challenges but at least I can say, after years of doing this trip, we have finally worked out some of the better places to stop and recharge along the way.

Here are a few of my picks (all introduced to me by my ever-roving Mum) for those heading north from Sydney, with or without little grommets in the back:

The Other Side Gallery Tea House
Moto Rd, Ghinni Ghinni (just north of Taree)

It looks like a little hobby house from the highway but inside it’s a light-filled gallery with interesting pieces of local art lining the walls. 

There are a few tables inside among the paintings, but on a hot day it’s much cooler sitting at one of the shaded tables by the river.The menu is solid and ranges from chunky toasties, burgers and salads to more serious options like pastas and daily specials.

As well as serving good coffee, the cafe has the kind of home style touches I appreciate, like real chicken breast on my chicken and avocado toastie, melting the cheese properly on said toastie, and serving kids’ milkshakes in kid sized cups.

For the sweet tooths, ie. me, the cafe’s cake display is usually heaped with homemade goodies. My tip is the lemon slice.

It was quite busy on the day we last visited but the service was good and the waitress helpfully brought out a sweet little book for Master N to play with. My favourite pearls of wisdom from The Little Book of Happiness: “Happiness is having friends to share lots of yummy things.” So true.

There is also a swing set and an old boat to keep little minds occupied until lunch arrives.

Town Beach, Port Macquarie

We always break up the drive with an overnight stay in Port Macquarie.

This trip we stayed at The Observatory, opposite Town Beach, and discovered a new cafe underneath called Milkbar which does a sensational brekkie. 

It’s definitely one for The Breakfast Club favourites list.

Mr LP tucked into the Milkbar Brekkie of baked eggs with basil tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and sourdough, served in its own fat little tapas pan. I thought there might be too much going on, but no, it was just really tasty and zingy with fresh ingredients. 

This is probably because the cafe sources as much as possible locally, from the organic eggs and sourdough, to the tomatoes (from Ricardoes).

I found the same with my own breakfast. There was a satisfying crunch to the baby spinach served with my scrambled eggs, avocado and sourdough. It was lovely and fresh. No wilting or fridge slime in sight. The eggs were as silky as any served at Bills and the avocado was fresh and soft to cut.

As for Little Chops, he was very happy when a bowl of bircher muesli with yoghurt, berries and hazelnuts landed in front of him. I tried this too. Actually I shared it, because I couldn’t stop taking cheeky spoonfuls. I could taste grated apple, shredded coconut and blueberries, all topped with a creamy thick yoghurt and a kind of nutty crumble. Yum!

The coffee was also great and judging by the constant line of locals queuing up for it, along with organic sourdoughs, bagels and homemade muffins and tarts, Milkbar is a stayer. Good news for Port and good news for us travellers.

Old Pacific Hwy, Newrybar

This cafe, set in a charming, historic cottage in the Byron hinterland, is a bit more serious than a cafe even though it calls itself one. 

If you’re staying around Byron or the Gold Coast, it’s a destination in itself. But being just one turn-off away from the Pacific Highway, it’s also an option for those heading further north, offering great coffee, some lighter lunch options on the menu and sourdough from the adjoining bakery’s 99-year-old wood fired oven.

It was hot and humid on the day we visited and although our table on the shady and spacious veranda was lovely, we could have used some extra fans to help the breeze along.

First up, we shared a serve of freshly baked garlic sourdough which was just enough to compliment my Harvest Salad of witlof, baby cos, Persian feta, asparagus and poached egg with truffled walnut dressing. A glass of Riesling made for a delicious lunch.

Mr LP and Master N had fish and chips. We sent the junior serve back because it was raw inside but it was quickly replaced by a fresh serving, cooked nicely.

I especially liked the light, crispy tempura batter on Mr LP’s fish and the shot glass of chardonnay vinegar on the side. Vinegar on salty hot chips is the best!

The heat was getting to our little one so instead of dessert we decided on takeaway coffees and a house made strawberry friand (for research purposes of course) which was rich and buttery, if a bit on the thin side. 

Also in the bakery display were croissants, pain au chocolat, banana and choc-chip muffins and a range of organic sourdoughs.

Tip: if you’re stopping for more than coffee and cake, it’s worth booking ahead for lunch to avoid disappointment.
And another: after lunch, browse the quaint antique stores along the tiny main street of Newrybar to find gems like old wooden fruit crates, lamps and vases.

The final destination:

To those going away for Easter, safe driving and happy stopping!

Have I missed one? What's your favourite road trip stop?

Larissa x