Saturday, November 22, 2014

Baking a gluten free victoria sponge

As a keen baker I believe the victoria sponge is core to cake skills.  Baking a victoria sponge with a new flour is a good way of discovering how the flour behaves - like a baking benchmark.  Once mastered and understood, this allows you to branch out into the more ambitious bakes.

The Dove Farm flour is good and is ready mixed.  The recipe on the back of the self raising flour was pretty much for a classic sponge, though they use milk as the liquid. The only difference I made was that instead of the recommended tablespoons of milk, I used warm water.  I have always used a splash of warm water in my sponge cakes – my mother did it, so I do too.  I wash around the empty egg bowl and throw it in at the end. It produces a lighter cake with a more open texture than with using milk.

So, I made a two egg sponge.  It took 25 minutes to cook as it was very liquid, which is probably about 5 minutes longer than usual.  The result was an extremely tasty and good cake that I would be happy to serve up for tea.  It was not as light as my usual wheat cakes, so I  might be inclined to follow the Mary Berry approach and beat the eggs in the mixture before adding the flour.  The recipe DID recommend this, but I have never done it in my life – I gently tip egg and flour simultaneously which usually works beautifully.  But in recognition that this might need a little more lift, I shall try it next time. I might also try a dash of milk which might make the cake slightly more cohesive – it is definitely more crumbly than the wheat laden classic.

I added vanilla in very small quantities to the cake as I was not sure of the flavour of the flour, but might try without another time as I think the flavour comes from the lovely butter.

So here is my first cake and I was happy with it.  A slight tweak next time and life moves on with cake in it!

It is a simple 2 egg sponge:

2 eggs
4 oz sugar
4 oz butter (the best unsalted possible - I use Sainsbury's So Organic or Yeo Valley)
4 oz SR flour (I used Doves Farm SR flour and I recommend it)
approx. 2 tbspn warm water

Beat the sugar and butter until it is really fluffy and goes pale in colour (I have a Kenwood Chef, but you can do this by hand - warm the bowl, keep going til your arm is sore!)
Beat the eggs and then gently add a little egg and a little flour alternately, mixing gently
wash round the egg bowl with the warm water and add to the mixture.
Spoon into a buttered and floured cake tin and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the top is springy.  A usual sponge of this size would take about 20-22 minutes, but it seems to take a little longer with the gluten free flour, possibly because of the extra moisture.

Leave in tin to cool and then fill with delicious strawberry jam and shake sugar over the top

Like this:

I gave this cake to my non-coeliac family without telling them it was GF and they did not notice - that is a good sign!

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Starts

Welcome to the new authorship of Gluten-Free in Edinburgh.  It was because I had found the blog and read its content and been impressed by it that I have taken on the authorship rather than create a new site from scratch.  So with thanks to Rob for his efforts, I will now begin a new phase in this blog’s life. I hope to make him proud of the child I am now adopting…

As a newly diagnosed Coeliac I am very much learning as I go and beginning to get to grips with what many of you already find straightforward.  As a keen baker I am beginning almost at the bottom of the class and learning again, as so many rules for gluten free baking are different.  While I do not eat a lot of cake and bread generally, I do have a family and I do like to have these things in my life and appreciate the comfort of a good bake.  My main aim is to learn the creation of good pastry and my medium term ambition is to produce a superb gluten free mille feuille.  But I have started humbly, with a victoria sponge, so watch this space for how it went!

Like Rob did, I live and work in Edinburgh.  I use quite a few city centre coffee shops for meetings (though not always eating cake!), and I work professionally with quite a few tourism businesses, so hope to bring some interest in these to the blog, plus I enjoy eating out with my family.  I will also include my growing GF baking knowledge and my love of mountain walking (while eating GF sandwiches and being symptom free, which will be the big revelation - can't wait!) and the great outdoors generally.

My first step into the GF retail experience has been to try the Pret beneath my office, which for the last few years has been the equivalent of my office canteen.  I regularly buy the salads and soups as I have avoided sandwiches for about 20 years – after discovering they were the cause of the 3 pm slump.  So I know the shop well, but being a GF purchasing virgin, I am seeing it in a new light.  Pret has always been seemingly impressive in its provision of nutritional information and for the wide variety and quality of its food.  However, looking at it through my new GF-tinted glasses, I am more than slightly uneasy about the lack of information.  The website has a PDF printout of what is ok for a wide range of allergies and diets, but the lists are not up to date and many items which change daily, such as many of the soups in particular, are not referenced.  Within the shop the signage is poor, with even the Gluten Free Harissa Chicken Wrap only obviously GF because the clue is in the name.  According to the website PDF the Chef’s Chicken Salad (which is a favourite of mine) is GF, but within the shop there is no indication.  So I begin to think that Pret assumes we will all google its food before a purchase, which is not very practical or helpful.    

In time I will know what is ok and what isn’t, but not everyone visits Pret as regularly as I do and has the chance to study its food. For most people it should represent a quick and easy purchase.  Look at the terrific London chain, Leon, if you want to see how it should be done.

My teenage son is dreading the strident consumer I am about to become, but I think he will have to just put up with it if this is what lunchtime buying is going to be like …..

More soon and thanks for reading!

The Oystercatcher

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thank You for Reading

I've moved from Edinburgh, so this blog will be dormant until someone else takes it over. It's been neglected, and needs a lot of love and care by food-minded person(s).

If you're interested, contact me to robrwo+gfreeeddinburgh at gmail dot com.

And thanks again for reading this.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Little Vietnam

We just came back from a very tasty dinner at Little Vietnam (79 Dalry Road EH11 2AA), which has opened recently.

The menu has a large selection of rice-based dishes: summer roles wrapped in rice paper, many rice noodle dishes and fried rice dishes. The food was light, spicy and delicious, but with sizable portions. We had summer rolls, butter beef (bo luc lac), Vietnamese salad (nom goi), a spicy vermicelli soup (bun bo hue: pork, beef and chicken in a spicy broth with rice noodles), and a savoury crepe (banh xeo, actually, not necessaily gluten free, but that was what my wife ordered). With drinks, this was just under £38.

The decor is simple and relaxing, with an authentic feel. Our waiter was very friendly, and the service was very good. The place is a new favourite. It is BYOB.

They also do take away, and according to their Facebook page, they now deliver.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Where to get Gluten-Free Beer in Edinburgh

Some places that sell gluten-free beers (or have in the past):

Most seem to have mainly Mongozo beer, though I've found other brands in the past (see the post on gluten-free ales from 2011 at Earthy Foods).

(For what it's worth, I found this page about wheat-free and gluten-free beers in various parts of the world, and another page on the 14 Best (and Worst) Gluten-Free Beers.

What other places in the city sell gluten-free beers?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I've been very busy, and have been meaning to write something over the past few months. So it will do with some quick updates:

  • I was going to write a review of Potatolicious, a "Punjabi Bistro" in Morningside that featured gram (chickpea) flour-based appetisers as well as jacket potatoes with curry. But it's closed, without warning. I'm not sure if it will re-open somewhere else. 
  • La Favorita is opening a new restaurant in Morningside, soon. The Leith Walk restaurant can prepare gluten-free pizzas, among other things. If the Morningside location does as well, it will fill a much-needed niche here.
  • I've not been to Indaba in a long time: for no other reason than simply not having the time. I was there last night, and enjoyed our meal. And noted that gluten-free items were highlighted on the menu, including a gluten-free boerewors.
Oh yeah, and I'm also leaving Edinburgh in a few months. I've not been very good at keeping this blog up-to-date with reviews, recipes, etc., and have always been looking for contributors/collaborators. Now I'm looking for someone to take this over, perhaps a foodie who will do more with it than I have done.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gluten-free BBQ

I haven't written much lately, but it is getting to be BBQ season (even if a bit late, and probably a bit brief), and I did have a chance to try some interesting rolls and burgers:
A sample Waitrose "LOVE life" line of gluten-free roll.

Waitrose, like the other major supermarkets in the UK, now has a line of gluten-free products. That includes a package of white rolls.  (Seeded rolls are also available for slightly more.)

The rolls are a wee bit smaller and dryer than typical buns, but they are more than good enough for burgers.  (Actually, I like them a bit smaller, as it improves the bun to burger ratio.) The important thing is that they aren't too dry, and they taste like a hamburger bun should.

But as important as the bun in the filling. Most prepared burgers contain flour, and so aren't gluten-free (and I've found out the hard way...).

I recently tried a line of burgers from The Good Little Company, which lists them as being not only gluten-free but also being made from 88% British beef and having no artificial colours or flavourings., and that they donate a portion of their profits to Christian Aid.  The burgers were tasty, but they were very small: a package of six burgers was only 336g, or about 56g (just under 2 ounces, or an 1/8th of a pound). That wasn't very good for the bun/burger ratio, but it was awkward to fit two on one of the Waitrose buns.

As for other toppings, well, I'm fairly traditional. Ketchup and mayonnaise are fine for me, and those are normally gluten-free.

I'd love to get comments about other brands of baps, burgers or BBQ sauces sold in the area.