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Homemade

Low Carb bread!?

Is it possible that a low carb bread, an almost mythical baked good, can even exist? It’s almost like looking for a low carb gluten free unicorn. According to Doctor Sarah Myhill the single biggest reason that people lapse from a Paleo Ketogenic diet is because they can’t eat bread. I used to run a GF bakery ( I even won lots of awards over the years) so I know how much people miss their daily loaf. It’s just so easy and convenient to make a quick sandwich. Moving away from bread literally requires a shift in the national British pysche. Thanks a lot Earl of Sandwich…

Gluten Free flours

I’m used to using at least four different flours for a loaf, plus raising agents and binders (xanthan and guar gums, psyllium husk, eggs, linseed). Then there’s the critical ratio of whole grains and starches. I used to love baking with buckwheat and teff, and tapioca is a magical starch. I was understandably sceptical when I saw that Dr Myhill’s recipe uses only one flour, no raising agents and you could argue that it’s made entirely with a binder. The entire recipe is just three ingredients (and one of those is water!)

What’s the catch?

There is a catch. But it’s not a big one. The primary ingredient is linseed and this needs to be ground just before baking. Ground linseed can become rancid, plus it’s likely to absorb water which will mess up the hydration ratio given in Dr Myhill’s recipe. I used a Vitamix to grind the linseeds but any high powered blender will do the job.

How does it taste?

I was concerned here because Dr Myhill does go into some detail about how taste preferences are acquired. However, drum roll please… the taste was good, it was quite complex with almost a toasted nut flavour. The crust was good, the crumb was open and soft, although maybe a little too crumbly. There wasn’t that throat-catching dryness that I associate with bought gluten free loaves. I’d be interested to see what the addition of psyllium husk would do to the texture because as it stands it wouldn’t survive in a lunchbox. That would make it even higher fibre too. I’d also be keen to try a larger loaf, and maybe place the mixture into the fridge the night before to soak for longer.

Would I make it again?

Absolutely! I loved the simplicity of only using one flour. Gluten free flours are typically more expensive than their gluten-y equivalents, here a 500g bag of golden linseed would set you back £2.25 (Waitrose) and produce two small loaves. That’s a bargain for gluten free food which tends to be at least one third more expensive than their ‘normal’ counterparts. Given that this bread is also very low carb and would help to keep you in ketosis it’s a brilliant choice. Find the recipe for Dr Myhill’s low carb bread aka PK bread here: https://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/The_Paleo_Ketogenic_Diet_-_PK_Bread

Feel Good Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my current favourite cookie! It’s gluten free, and can be made dairy free if you’re not able to tolerate dairy. It’s made in a few minutes using just a food processor.

Why do I call it the ‘Feel Good’ cookie? Well, because chocolate chips… obviously. Plus the two flours used pack a nutritious punch which kicks the backside of wheat in just about every category. More protein, fibre and micronutrients (like iron, zinc, calcium and copper). This cookie is almost a health food!

As an added bonus it’s not obviously ‘gluten free’ there’s no chalky texture or excess crumbliness. As a Health Coach and Mum to three teenagers I’m happy to make these for a Friday treat, or a you’ve finally finished the never-ending schoolwork treat, or even as a we’re all stuck at home might as well bake treat.

A couple of notes: To make it dairy free use coconut oil in place of butter. For the teff flour either brown or white works well. Ground hazelnuts would work in place of almonds.

Ingredients:

60g butter (room temperature)

1 medium egg (room temperature)

45g Coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

90g teff flour

65g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

60g chocolate chips (I use a brand sweetened with coconut sugar)

Method:

1.      Preheat the oven to 160°C fan oven, or 180°C conventional or 350°F

2.      Place baking parchment on a large tray and set aside.

3.      Blitz butter and egg in the food processor by pulsing until combined.

4.      Add sugar and vanilla, pulse until combined.

5.      Add both flours, baking powder and salt, pulse until combined.

6.      Add the chocolate chips to the mix using a spatula to mix in.

7.      Drop 10 large spoonfuls of cookie dough onto your prepared sheet. Space them well apart, and gently press down to flatten the dough slightly.

8.      Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool fully.

9.      Enjoy!

Keep reminding yourself that these delicious treats are giving a lot more bang for your buck than a typical cookie

How to improve your gut health

A key focus of mine as a Functional Medicine Health Coach is to support my clients to improve their gut health. We know that 70-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, and I work primarily with clients who are living with autoimmune diseases. It’s an area that fascinates me, so  I was delighted to catch up (in a socially distanced way) with Emma Cronin aka Wild Pickle to talk about all things related to gut health. Emma’s been running her fermenting business since 2015. She’s literally a walking-talking advert for fermenting because she herself looks so healthy!

The first time that you speak to Emma you are immediately struck by both her deep passion for fermenting, and her incredibly wide knowledge. Unlike some people who have spent years immersing themselves in a subject and live deep in the weeds of the technical details, Emma makes it easy for a first-time fermenter to understand the process. I attended two Wild Pickle workshops in 2019 and came away armed with huge amounts of knowledge, and perhaps more importantly the confidence that I wasn’t going to food poison myself!

What led you to first become interested in fermented foods?

My daughter was suffering from gluten and dairy intolerances from her early years. While I was fatigued and suffering from low mood and digestive problems. I started to look at our diet and lifestyle overall to improve our health and I was introduced to sauerkraut, milk kefir and kombucha. I started to work on cooking everything from scratch and eating the kind of food our great grandma ate  (no processed foods). Then I attended a sauerkraut making workshop. When you make everything from scratch, being able to make a fermented tomato ketchup that tasted amazing and lasted 2-3 months for a little one was like hitting the jackpot for me!

Foraged food ready to be fermented
Foraged from the hedgerow, ready to be fermented. Photo: Wild Pickle

What differences have you noticed in your own health since becoming a committed fermenter?

There’s been so many positive changes: social anxiety lessened; mental health improved; skin condition and colour improved; my hair stopped falling out as much as it was; stronger nails; digestive health recovered; hardly any colds in the winter; enhanced immunity and overall better gut health and I really appreciated feeling an increased vitality in everyday life.

What’s your favourite food/drink to make and why?

Kimchi has to be one of my favourite ferments to make. I enjoy the making process of chopping the vegetables, brining them and making the paste. It is therapeutic and I take my time. I love the Korean phrase “Son Mat” meaning the taste of one’s hands, in my case this translates as made by hand with love and awareness. It slows me down. Kimchi ferments in such a short time of 1-3 days. I then leave it for a couple of months in the cold and when it is brought out the depths of the flavours… are totally different from the beginning. They are complex and superb and I love that all the alchemy of the bacteria is working in kimchi to create the pungency and umami flavours that we love. Giving time and patience is worth it.

Fermented foods. Photo: Wild Pickle

If someone is completely new to fermented foods, where do you suggest they start?

I would recommend that with fermented foods you start with something you enjoy, whether it is gherkins, kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha. In all cases I would recommend trying small amounts and paying attention to how your body reacts. I would then recommend trying a wide variety of live, unpasteurised fermented foods.

I think that the easiest introduction to making fermented foods is sauerkraut. It is simple and does not need much in the form of ingredients or utensils to get going. It’s great as you can control how tangy it gets and what ingredients go into it. It is a powerhouse of goodness for not very much outlay and effort.

That said, sauerkraut is not always everyone’s cup of tea. So sometimes Kombucha, a sweetened fermented tea is a good gateway into fermented foods and maybe try that first. I think that Kombucha was the first fermented food that we tried. Again, we had to get used to drinking it and had it in small quantities to begin with but we loved it!

What plans do you have for the future of Wild Pickle?

Wild Pickle is moving to online workshops. It’s exciting to be able to reach out and share the fermenting fun with many more people than I could reach locally. The workshops are teaching sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, milk kefir, condiments, salsas and looking at incorporating more wild foraged foods.

I’m starting with smaller workshops (less than 10 people) in order to give all attendees focused attention. In addition to the workshops I also teach groups of friends who are keen to host a kombucha/sauerkraut making virtual party. Plus, I’m also offering bespoke and tailored one to one sessions which will really explore the flavours that you particularly enjoy.

We have a small commercial test kitchen based on a farm in the heart of Staffordshire countryside. We’re also busy creating a workshop there which will provide additional teaching space, but given the current environment that will be ready in 2021.

Fermentation is an increasingly important part of supporting our gut health and immunity. But let’s not forget the other roles that it fills. It’s a tool to help in minimising waste, it focuses our attention to use what we have available, it helps us to get away from the use of plastic, it preserves seasonal food at its best, and makes it easier to store food without the relying on refrigeration.

Fermentation of food creates such complex and amazing flavours that cannot be achieved by other means. What’s incredible is that you can easily make this at home with no fancy equipment. It’s too exciting and too delicious not to share!

How can people get in touch with you?

I’m on both Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WildPickle/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/wild.pickle/ or you can email me at info@wildpickle.co.uk

Store cupboard gluten free brownie

Everyone needs a great gluten free brownie recipe in their back pocket! Here’s a secret… brownies are one of the very few baked goods that taste better without gluten.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit baking gluten free brownies. I have three recipes in my book alone… But, I like this one because it gives you that chocolatey hit and you probably have most of the ingredients in already. It doesn’t need any gums to act as binders, and it’s more economical than a recipe which is basically melted chocolate held together with cocoa powder and eggs.

I was actually surprised by how passionate people became about their favourite brownie. When I owned a bakery, customers would be deeply unhappy whenever I tweaked a recipe.

This is a modified version of Alice Medrich’s Cocoa Brownies first published in Bittersweet in 2003. https://www.amazon.com/Bittersweet-Recipes-Tales-Life-Chocolate/dp/1579651607

Ingredients:

140g melted butter (or coconut oil for dairy free – avoid margarine)

200g coconut sugar or brown sugar

80g cocoa powder – sifted

salt – pinch

0.5 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

65g cornflour – sifted

Optional: 50g nuts/chocolate chips/cherries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 160 celsius
  2. Either line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment, or use a silicone square container.
  3. Place butter, sugar, sifted cocoa and salt in a large heat-proof bowl above a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally to help the butter to melt, you are literally just gently warming the mixture through.
  4. It will look a bit gritty, remember the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Don’t Panic!
  5. Take off the heat, add the vanilla extract.
  6. Add each egg individually and beat it into the mixture as if your life depended on it.
  7. Add the cornflour and use a spatula to incorporate into the chocolatey batter. When there are no more visible specks of flour, use the spatula to beat 40 more times. Feel free to count out loud.
  8. Add any optional ingredients like nuts or chocolate chips. I used slivered honey almonds in the brownie pictured.
  9. Spoon into your prepared tin, and help it to spread into the corners.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes, it may look a little underdone at this point. Don’t worry it will firm up more as it cools.
  11. DO NOT OVERBAKE! I feel quite strongly about this as my daughter always overbakes brownies, and that gives you a dry texture that’s more like an overly thick cookie.
  12. Let it cool completely before attempting to slice.
  13. Enjoy!

Try it and let me know how it compares to your current favourite gluten free brownie!

How to make gluten free sourdough starter

There has literally never been a better time to start making sourdough bread. Literally. Never. After a couple of months of trying the keto diet, I could feel homemade carbs calling my name. I always keep a small stash of gluten free sourdough starter in the freezer to be used in case of emergencies. I feel that current times classify as such.

So why bother making your own sourdough? Well, you don’t have to go to the shops for bread, you don’t need to keep a stock of yeast, you’re saving yourself from all of the mystery ingredients in supermarket bread and let’s face it most of us are at home with extra time on our hands. (I’ve gained around three hours every day due to not having the school run and after school sports activities).

“Think of your starter as a low-maintenance pet…” Yes, I’m actually quoting myself. Who does that?! It’s from my book The Twice as Nice Guide: Gluten Free and Dairy Free Baking. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Twice-Nice-Guide-Winning-Recipes/dp/1912009978/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=twice+as+nice+guide+gluten+free&qid=1584978302&sr=8-1

There are many different ways to begin making a starter. This is an updated version from my book. Did I mention my book yet?

Ingredients:

500g millet/sorghum/teff/buckwheat flour (use whichever gluten free wholegrain flour you have to hand)

500g white and brown rice flour by Dove’s Farm

1 litre bottled water

Kit:

Freezer bags (the kind that close like Ziploc) Medium size

Large thermos flask (I like to use an Easiyo yoghurt making container)

Instructions – Day 1:

Measure 25g of the wholegrain flour and 25g of the rice flour into a freezer bag. Add 120g of water, and mix well. Seal the bag. Mix again. Open and release any air. Reseal.

Place this bag into a second bag, seal, release any air and reseal.

Fill your flask three quarters full with hand hot water, and place the double-bagged flour and water into it. Seal the flask. Check it every few hours and make sure that the water stays warm.

24 hours later:

Fish out your flour and water bag from the flask. There may be a few bubbles, and maybe some yeasty aromas. Carefully open the bag, add 25g of the wholegrain flour, 25g of the rice flour and 80g of bottled water.

Mix, seal the bag, mix some more. Let out any air. Reseal. Return to the second bag, seal, let out any excess air from the second bag.

Refill your flask with hand hot water. Place the double-bagged flour mix into the flask, and periodically check to make sure that it stays warm.

24 hours later:

Weigh the flour mix, discard half. Put the remaining half into a clean (not sanitised – it’s not jam) lidded container. I like to use a Kilner jar without the rubber seal.

Add 25g wholegrain flour, 25g rice flour and 50g bottled water mix using a wooden spoon.

Close the lid and leave on the kitchen counter for an additional 24 hours. Do not use the locking mechanism.

Your starter is now ready to bake with! If you’re going to be using it regularly it’s fine to leave it on the kitchen counter. Every day remove a tablespoon of starter, and add a tablespoon of flour and water each day. If you know that you won’t be using it for a while place it in the fridge with the lid loose. Each week discard a couple of spoonfuls of the starter and add a couple of flour and water.

Keep using the flour mix of 50% wholegrain and 50% rice flour. After about a month it’s okay to move to tap water.

I find it helpful to freeze a couple of tablespoonfuls of starter in case something happens to it. You can then just defrost it and two tablespoons of the flour mix, and two tablespoons of water to kick it off again.

You’re now ready to bake which is where the fun starts. Please do message me with any questions.

Home-made Hand sanitiser

So I wouldn’t be writing this if my friend Clare had been able to buy hand sanitiser last week. But she went to nine different shops and failed to find any!

Lots of businesses that typically make different alcohol-based products are now starting to make their own brand hand sanitiser, like BrewDog.

This is something that you can easily make at home in less than a minute which is significantly easier than visiting every shop in town.

You’re going to need isopropyl alcohol (min 70%) aka rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel and some essential oil… I used lavender.

I know that most people might not have these products to hand, although you might find some rubbing alcohol languishing in a forgotten first aid kit, or essential oil in a gift pack left from Christmas.

In a bid to make our home even more eco-friendly I’ve recently started to make my own house cleaning solutions following recipes from Clean Mama https://cleanmama.com/category/diy-homemade-cleaners/ This means that I don’t have to spend my time elbowing people out of the way in the supermarket as we all embark upon an international virus-led Spring clean.

Instructions:

  1. Weigh out 125g of alcohol in a bowl
  2. Add 50g aloe vera gel
  3. Whisk well
  4. Add 7 drops of essential oil
  5. Whisk well
  6. Use a funnel to pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

That’s it. It took me longer to type this than to make it. What’s stopping you from checking your first aid box and bathroom cabinet to make your own hand sanitiser?