Banana Loaf (Vegan & Gluten Free)

Banana Loaf (Vegan & Gluten Free)

Vegan and gluten-free baking is a real pain challenge.

I followed the recipe (here) to the T except for the change in the eggs (I used egg replacer) and oil (I used olive oil) and instead of the nice fluffy texture which was promised, I got a texture that was similar to my tapioca cake which is pretty much like an Asian kueh. I suspect it is the use of tapioca flour.

While Nil and Eva loved it – I reckon it was the bananas that did the trick – I didn’t. I reckon I would have an easier time assembling a TV wall mount than trying to figure out what went wrong where. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be attempting this again unless I was using a pre-made mix of gluten-free flour.

The trouble is what shall I do with all that gluten-free flour and egg replacer? (Nil is starting to complain – “You have enough flour to last us till next year!” Geh!)

Hm, make more cakes and muffins, I suppose. Heh.

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Very Vanilla Pear Jam

Very Vanilla Pear Jam

Because I haven’t been able to have any berries (due to Noah’s condition and subsequently, my diet restriction), my breakfast has been limited to just one thing – honey. Very boring. So I decided to “steal” a recipe from my mother-in-law’s husband – pear with vanilla jam! I have not made jam 100% on my own; usually it’s with the help of my in-laws and even then, they are the ones cooking it up while I assist. This time, I decided to brave the waters and do it on my own – yes, without Nil’s help. Took me about two hours to churn out a nice amount of jam – enough to last me till the end of this year, I think. HAHAHAHA.

I bought some ripe but still quite hard green pears from Belgium – oops, it’s not the local variety (not really the season so none were available) – and some gelling sugar which is basically sugar with citric acid and pectin. You could still make jam without pectin (thickener) or citric acid (preservative) but it just means that you either have to use fruits with naturally occuring pectin like some berries OR get a more fluid jam.

Preparing the pears for my pear-vanilla jam Gelling sugar and vanilla bean pods After grating slightly over 1 kg of pears Getting those lovely vanilla bean grains out from the pods

After washing the pears well – important as I’m retaining the peel – I remove the center/seeds and quartered them before grating them into large stripes. For the vanilla pod, I ran the knife down the center and scraped out the grains before tossing everything into the pot. Usually we use a copper pot for making jam as the heat conducts more evenly but I don’t have a copper pot so my stainless steel pressure cooker will just have to do for now.

Tossing everything together in a pot Cooking it down... As it bubbles, stir until it thickens

Then comes the tedious task of cooking it down. There is no way you can run away from the stove as this has to cook over medium heat and once the jam starts to boil, you have to stir and stir and stir. Unless of course you want your jam to scorch and burn. Once it reaches the appropriate thickness, it’s time to bottle. Be sure to wash all your jars and lids with hot water and soap BEFORE the jam boils. Canning is a fast step so I didn’t have time to take pictures. Juggling hot syrupy jam in glass jars requires both hands and a decent amount of concentration.

The result is what you see above. I can’t wait to dig into this tomorrow for breakfast!!!!!1

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Vegan & Gluten-Free Shortbread

Vegan & Gluten-Free Shortbread

Intrigued with vegan and gluten-free baking, I decided to give it a go. I read from many gluten-free baking sites that the use of a non-wheat or gluten-based flour gives gluten-free goods a different flavour and texture profile. Instead of wheat, gluten-free bakers use flours made from coconut, millet, rice, buckwheat, arrowroot, sorghum and others and because naturally reoccurring gluten is like a gum that holds the whole thing together and gives it structure, you have to add in a thickener when using gluten-free flours. Commercial flour mixes use xantham or guar gum but you can opt for starches like arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, corn starch or seeds like flaxseed or chia seed.

Because this is a relatively new thing for me – gluten-free baking – I didn’t want work from scratch and buy a ton of flours so I hunted around for some gluten-free flour mixes. The organic store in Dole has a very limited range so when my mother-in-law offered to take me to the organic store here in Lyon, I jumped at it. I found a bigger variety of gluten-free goodies that are also soy, dairy and egg free as well as an egg replacer powder – things I never found back in Dole. I also came across an interesting flour mix by Schär, a European company that specialises in producing gluten-free products. Called Mix Pâtisserie – Mix C, it is a flour mix developed for cakes and biscuits.

Because I’m on a no-dairy, no-soy and no-egg regime, I had to hunt high and low for a suitable butter placement as while margarines are made with vegetable oil, they also contain soy-based lecithin. I found a sunflower-based margarine which has no lecithin. The colour and flavour profile isn’t the same but surprisingly that didn’t affect the outcome of the shortbreads which turned out to be quite delicious. The unrefined brown sugar which my mother-in-law uses gave the shortbread a lovely light molasses flavour to it.

Do note that gluten-free doughs made with margarine behave differently. This turned out to be softer and less pliable due to the lack of gluten. Newbies to baking or people who always overmix will find that gluten-free baking can be very forgiving in that aspect. You don’t have to worry about gluten formation!!!! I’ll definitely make these again but will cut back on the sugar – this, I find, is a little on the sweet side even though it is perfect with black coffee or plain yogurt (for those who can take dairy or the soy alternative). In the meantime, I’m off to look at some rustic dining room tables!

NOTE: These have to cool in the pan as they are soft and crumbly when warm but will harden when cool. Good also if eaten chilled.

Vegan & Gluten-Free Shortbread

Ingredients

125 gms gluten free flour (my mix has maize starch, maize flour, locust bean gum)
70 gms margarine
60 gms unrefined brown sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 180°C and prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and the sugar for 30 seconds to a minute before mixing in the flour and baking powder.
  3. Add in the lemon juice and mix well until it forms a firm dough.
  4. Place in the freezer for 15-30 mins. When ready, roll and slice using molds OR flatten with your fingers. Do work fast as the margarine will soften.
  5. Place the cookies about 1.5 to 2 cm apart and bake for 10-15 mins or until golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan. Once cool, store in an airtight container and enjoy on its own or with coffee or crush and sprinkle them over yogurt or ricotta.

Vegan & Gluten-Free Shortbread

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