There is an increasing awareness of gluten free foods, and a wider range of choice in the supermarkets, with more and more people adopting a gluten free lifestyle, but what does it actually mean? For those with coeliac disease, an auto immune condition which means that the body attacks itself when ever the person eats anything with gluten in, it means agonising stomach pains within a couple of hours, and the potential for long term damage to the digestive system. Other people report a wide range of symptoms that they associate with eating gluten in what is known as Non coealic gluten sensitivity.
But what is it? If you’ve ever had gluten free food, you’ll probably know that basically gluten is yummy! And that many processed gluten free foods taste like shit, although this is getting better. It’s what makes cakes and bread taste like, well, cakes and bread. It’s a protein found in wheat and other grains and gives cakes and bread their light texture and airiness.
I’m not gluten free, but my mum is, having suffered from coealic disease for around 15 years. As a keen baker I have tried to refine my gluten free baking skills and like to think I’m pretty good. She had a party recently to celebrate her retirement, and I whipped up this little beauty for the occasion. It’s a gluten free passionfruit and coconut cake from the Great British Bake Off, and the recipe is on the BBC website.
I did however tweak it slightly. I always use a gluten free flour, either Dove Valley or Asda’s own brand, which is a blend of rice and other flours along with xanthan gum. The recipe in this instance uses rice flour along with separate xanthan gum. Xanthan gum mimics the properties of gluten in the mix and creates a lighter texture, but use too much and your cake will turn to rubber. When using flour with xanthan gum already added I use a tiny pinch more xanthan gum, rather than the two teaspoons suggested in the recipe. I also use a stand mixer and beat for around twice the time I would usually mix for (5ish minutes) to get as much air into the mix as possible. When baking gluten free, you should make sure you always use gluten free baking powder. (The Dr Otker one is GF).
It is possible to use gluten free flour as a direct substitute in a normal recipe, although it may require a little additional liquid as gluten free flour is very absorbent. The one thing I tried and failed miserably at was using coconut flour, never again!! I just couldn’t get it to bake and after about 40 minutes it was as raw as when it went in, so idea where I went wrong with that one! My other trick is to put a cupcake case full of mix in the oven as a taster, as particularly in the early days I found my gluten free cakes to be a little inconsistent, plus it means I get a little treat for all my hard work!
My mums guests (even the non coealic ones) couldn’t get enough of this cake, it’s so light and moist, and the passionfruit flavour is one of my favourites!