Gluten, Dairy and Refined Sugar Free Cakes
Reviewed by Diana Murphy, mum of one, coeliac, foodie, free from food expert – founder of Free From Inspired.
I love baking and I love gluten free baking however, baking cakes and treats that are also free from diary and refined sugar have always been a massive challenge for me.
I’m lactose intolerant so I try to bake without diary whenever I can but I must admit this doesn’t always work. As for sugar – I’ve been trying to give up sugar for a long time and for the past 8 month or so I only have the occasional refined sugar. I bake everything with sugar alternatives such as coconut sugar (which has low glycaemic index) coconut syrup, honey, maple syrup and lucuma powder. I love experimenting with various ingredients to create cakes and treats for my family that are healthy.
I found Henrietta Inman’s book a total godsend. Inman is a professional pastry chef, trained in London, with years of experience in award winning and Michelin star kitchens. She lives in Suffolk where she runs cookery classes and sells at farmer’s markets. Henrietta has a wonderful blog http://www.henscleancakes.com/ where she shares some of her lovely recipes.
To make the recipes you will need a well stocked kitchen. I’m lucky that I bake several times a week so I have most of the ingredients in my kitchen. Trying out new products, ingredients and recipes is part of my job as the founder of the GF Centre.
If you are new to healthy, free from baking I suggest you pick a recipe, buy the ingredients and gradually stock up. Of course, you can just hit the shops if you like, clear out your cupboards and restock with new ingredients.
So, onto the book. First, it’s a joy to hold and look at. It’s beautifully photographed and almost every recipe has a photo, which I love. Every single thing in here looks amazing.
If you are new to gluten, diary or sugar free baking you needn’t worry. Inman has a chapter to introduce a great range of alternatives to each. For dairy free alternatives the recipes are using a range of nut milks and butters or coconut products. Sugar alternatives are completely natural and include coconut sugar (one of my favourites) palmyra nectar (on my list to try) honey, maple syrup, dried fruit and many others.
The gluten free alternatives are endless and I was familiar with most (as I’m sure you are too) such as millet, quinoa, teff, polenta, chestnut, rice or coconut flour.
What I love about this book, is that Inman’s hasn’t attempted to recreate the classics (imagine gluten, dairy and sugar free victoria sponge) a nor has she designed recipes that feel “odd” and unusual. Her recipes look and feel familiar, and are a modern and healthy twist on the classics – something you would find in the best restaurants. Many of the recipes have fruit or vegetable ingredients, such as Rhubarb & orange polenta cupcakes; Sour cherry and macadamia butterscotch blondies or Fig and Ginger tea bread.
The book has the following chapters:
- All the cakes: some beautiful looking cakes here including Chocolate & hazelnut torte with honey praline ganache; Pumpkin, carrot & walnut cake with cashew orange frosting. There are even a few savoury cake recipes such as “Millet, mushroom and sage risotto cake” – I’m totally intrigued by this and cannot wait to try it!
- Muffins, loaf cakes & breads: we have such a variety here including both savoury and sweet recipes. I love the look of Spiced parsnip muffins and Polenta muffins with spinach, sun dried tomatoes and olives. From the sweet ones I baked the Apricot, cranberry and almond tea bread – which was perfect for Easter. The recipe was easy to follow and make, with detailed instructions. I had all the ingredients except for Palmyra nectar powder so I substituted this with some lucuma powder and coconut sugar. The bread turned out delicious and remained lovely and fresh during the 4 day Easter weekend, my whole family enjoyed it.
- Biscuits, brownies and bars: this section is full of healthy snacks. I’m looking forward to trying the Levander, honey and almond biscotti thins, Tutti frutti buckwheat florentines amongst many others. The savoury ones include a recipe that uses up leftover juice pulp Waste not, Want not Raw herby hemp seed crackers. There is also Salted tahini shortbread biscuit bars with yoghurt coated walnuts and figs. There are also a few recipes here for healthy breakfast bars.
- Gorgeous tarts & scrumptious pies: wow, the tarts are really gorgeous! My favourite is the Raspberry and rose tartlets with pistachio and frangipane! There is a mince pie alternative here and an apple pie recipe too amongst many others.
- Raw desserts: these are the super healthy ones! I can’t wait to try the Tiramisu mousse and the Chocolate, banana and passion fruit pie with sticky toffee sauce. There are also some fantastic looking celebration cakes in this chapter – they are just amazing and perfect for a special occasion.
- Chocolate, petit fours and little clean treats: home made chocolate recipe with lots of topping suggestions, chocolate truffles, popcorn and Madeleines recipes. I also love the fresh chocolate mint thins.
So many people think that if something is healthy and free from gluten, diary and sugar it must taste horrible. Quite the opposite is true! Using good quality and healthy ingredients that you can actually taste makes for delicious cakes and bakes! Henrietta Inman’s book is a great testament to this. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to everyone looking for healthy and free from baking recipes.