Black forest gateau with a twist

Black forest gateau with a twist

This is LOVELY!  Unlike most gluten-free cakes this stays moist and delicious for days.  Just don’t tell anyone that its high protein, gluten-free, almost grain-free and almost totally free of sugar.  I got the original idea from a recipe on www.atastylovestory.com but it contained gluten and was packed with immune-disrupting sugar.  So I adapted this recipe https://www.annacollins.ie/ultra-moist-chocolate-cake/ and the toppings in the other recipe.  A triumph.  And surprisingly easy! I made the cake this Saturday, served it on Easter Sunday and it was still perfect (from the fridge) on Monday.  Can we wait till Tuesday to polish off the rest.  That’s the question…. Serves 8-10 For the sponges: 1 heaped plus 1 level tbs cocoa powder 1 heaped plus 1 level tbs rice flour 1 rounded tsp baking soda 1 x 400g tin of black beans, rinsed and drained 3 large eggs (or 4 medium) 140g xylitol or erythritol 1 espresso shot black coffee or strong dandelion coffee ½ tsp vanilla extract (if you’re gluten-free, avoid vanilla “essence”). 50ml almond or cow’s milk (or cherry juice) 10ml kirsch 5ml apple cider vinegar (if you are using cherry juice you don’t need this. Acid activates baking soda) Pinch of Himalayan or Atlantic sea salt Silicon or greaseproof paper Butter or light olive oil for greasing the tin 2 x 25cm loose bottomed cake tins. For the filling: 2 heaped tbs no-added sugar morello cherry jam.  I love St Dalfour (sweetened with fruit juice) or Prunotto sour cherry jam (just 10% sugar instead of the usual 50% in most jams) 1 420g tin cherries in juice or light syrup 300-400ml whipping cream (use double cream if you prefer) 4 drops stevia (or 1 heaped tsp xylitol/erythritol) ½ tsp vanilla extract 30g dark chocolate, at least 80% cocoa solids To make the sponges:
  1. Preheat oven to 175C (160C fan).
  2. Cut 2 circles of silicon/greaseproof paper the same size as the base of your cake tins.  Grease and line the tins with the paper.  Is the paper is greaseproof rather than silicon, grease the paper too.
  3. Sieve the rice flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl.
  4. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is smooth.  Don’t be alarmed if the mixture is runny.  It’s supposed to be.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake tines and bake18-20 minutes until a needle/knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Set aside to cool completely before removing from the tins.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Drain the cherries, retaining the juice/syrup.  Mix 100ml of it with the kirsch (the rest is good in cocktails).
  2. Put each cooled sponge upside down on a separate plate, including the one you want to serve on.  This makes it easier for the liquid to soak in fully.  Spoon half the syrup/kirsch over the sponges.  Leave to sink in.  Add more if it’s all absorbed but don’t overload it.
  3. Whip cream until thick, then add the stevia/erythritol/xylitol and vanilla extract.  Whisk until voluminous but not too stiff to spread.
  4. Set aside 12 of the drained cherries.
  5. Spread the bottom layer of cake (on the serving plate) with the jam.  Arrange the cherries on top (except the reserved 12).
  6. Spread half the whipped cream in between and over the cherries.  Everything will look rustic.
  7. Carefully slide the top sponge layer into position on top and press down gently.
  8. Use a palette knife to spread the remaining cream on top in big, puffy waves.
  9. Grate the chocolate into curls generously over the top.
  10. Arrange remaining cherries around the edge.  Chill for an hour before serving.
Why this is better for you: Amazingly, theres very little grain in this cake and its high in protein from the eggs and black beans.  This makes it suitable for moderate carb diets.  Most cakes are sky-high in carbs (flour, sugar) and so are a real stressor on your metabolism. Yes this cake has got lots of cream but  for over 25 years nutrition science knows that eating cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease.  It’s the oxidation (damage) done to cholesterol by high carb diets, nutrient deficiencies and metabolic stress that drives heart disease. This isn’t a cake for every day because fresh, natural vegetables fruit are healthier choices than baked sweet treats.  But sometimes you want CAKE!
Dairy-free Gluten-free Sugar-free Christmas Stollen

Dairy-free Gluten-free Sugar-free Christmas Stollen

Before I found out that I was coeliac I LOVED the occasional slice of Stollen (I’m a sucker for marzipan in cakes).  It’s been a decade since I’ve eaten stollen.  Most commercial gluten-free ones are loaded with energy-sapping ingredients like sugar, corn, vegetables oil and emulsifiers.   So this year I went on the hunt for a decent GF recipe.

I made this last week by slightly adapting the lovely www.rosielovestea.com recipe by Cindy Jarvis (hope you don’t mind, Cindy, your photo was better than mine so I borrowed it!).  A few changes like avoiding palm shortening and sugar-laden marzipan and adjusting the oven temperature to the traditional 160C for fan oven.  It’s big and gorgeous but nonetheless two of us demolished in over 5 days.

Get your fancy flours in and your marzipan made in advance.  I didn’t.  So the whole thing became a bit of a production on the day.

20 servings
Prep time: 90 mins Cook time: 1 hour

300g Bobs Red Mill Paleo Flour or make your own easy flour blend by mixing 2 cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds), 1 cup arrowroot powder, ½ cup coconut flour and ½ cup tapioca flour)
240g (1 cup) tinned coconut whipping cream (Biona and Amaizin are toxin-free)
50g coconut oil at room temperature (use butter if you’re not dairy-free)
2 large eggs
2 tbs of Honey/agave/maple Syrup
2 tbs grated lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (PS “vanilla essence” contains gluten!)
Pinch of salt
150g sultanas
55g flaked almonds
225g marzipan – for recipe see https://www.annacollins.ie/almond-paste-marzipan/
1 cup of no added sugar jam (Follain/St Dalfour raspberry is good) or home-made raspberry chia jam like this one  https://www.annacollins.ie/10-minute-chia-seed-jam-raspberry-strawberry-blueberry-or/
Optional (for a glistening snow-like effect on top):
1 tbs melted coconut oil + 2 tablespoons of arrowroot Powder

  1. In a food processor, combine coconut whipping cream, 50g coconut oil, eggs & vanilla extract.
  2. Next, add paleo flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until well combined and pastry-like.  You want it firm enough it will hold its shape when you roll it out and roll up with the fillings inside.  If your dough is too runny, sprinkle a little more flour in.
  3. Add the lemon zest, sultanas and flaked almonds and gently combine.
  4. Turn out onto a plate or bowl, cover and place in the fridge for around 1 hour
  5. Preheat oven to  175C/fan 160C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.While the oven is heating, take the dough from the fridge. Between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out the dough to roughly 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut the marzipan into 3 pieces, roll into sausage shapes and lay evenly on the dough.
  7. Spoon out the jam in between the marzipan pieces.
  8. Carefully roll up the dough, tuck in the edges and gently place onto your baking sheet. Put in the oven for 60 minutes. Keep an eye on your stollen so that it doesn’t brown too quickly. If this is the case, cover with foil for the remaining time.
  9. The stollen will be ready when golden brown and an inserted skewer will come out clean.
  10. Melt your 1 tbs coconut oil, brush over the top and then dust with arrowroot powder for a glistening snowy effect.
  11. Leave too cool completely (overnight preferably) before cutting into and serving.
  12. Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Why this is better for you:
OK so you know that raw nuts are better for you than cooked.  And that most of our food should be vegetables and some fruit.  But sometimes you just WANT CAKE!  Because this is high protein (almonds) and sugar-free so won’t derail blood sugar and immunity like sugar and refined flours do.

SCD grain-free Christmas puddings

SCD grain-free Christmas puddings

Grain free SCD steamed Christmas puddings

I got this fantastic recipe from www.quirkycooking.com.au/ and its lovely.   You can do the fruit cooking and soaking the day before if you like.   Makes 10-12 mini puddings, depending on the size of your moulds

150g sultanas
80g dried sour cherries
100g currants or raisins, whichever you prefer
30g activated or raw blanched almonds, roughly chopped
200g freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 orange
40g ground almonds
20g coconut flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
55g coconut oil, melted but not hot
40g cooking apple, peeled & cored
2 eggs
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread/baking soda)

  1. Weigh dried fruit and almonds into a large saucepan and add the orange juice.  Cover and cook the fruit gently on stovetop for 20 minutes until everything has plumped up and absorbed the juice.  Remove to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. Peel and grate the cooking apple to yield 40g.  In the food processor or a large bowl blitz or beat orange zest, almond meal, coconut flour, spices, salt, bicarbonate of soda, grated apple, eggs and coconut oil until amalgamated.  Add the cooled soaked fruit and nuts back to bowl
  3. Scoop mixture into small ramekins or miniature pudding basins, fill about ¾ full, cover with greaseproof paper and string, or tin foil, and steam as per traditional Christmas pudding method.
  4. Allow puddings to cool, covered, and store in fridge until needed.

Serve with :
Whipped coconut cream infused with a drop of vanilla extract (organic tinned coconut cream is free from gut-damaging emulsifiers).
My super-easy 3-ingredient cashew cream https://www.annacollins.ie/cashew-nut-cream/

SCD mince pie pastry case

SCD mince pie pastry case

This is perfect for your SC diet if you want to make a delicious pastry-based dessert.  I’ve adapted it for metric from the original Us recipe.  Thank you to Jen Brown for her original recipe at https://www.alifeofhappenstance.com/easy-almond-flour-pie-crust/

This case can be pre-baked up to two days before planning to fill it. Simply cover with tinfoil or eco-friendly wrap and store in the fridge.
If your system can handle dairy, butter (or better still, clarified butter) can be used in place of coconut oil.

240g blanched finely ground almond flour (I blitz ground almonds for a few minutes in the food processor to get it nice and fine)
½ teaspoon salt
55g melted coconut oil (make sure it’s not hot)
1 large egg
9″/23cm tart case/pie dish or deep pyrex plate (+ extra coconut oil to grease)

1. Preheat oven to 175C/160C fan and grease a 9 inch/ pie dish. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the melted coconut oil and egg. In a large bowl whisk the almond flour and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a rubber spatula or your hands to combine.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place in the center of the greased tart case. Use your hands to evenly press the dough into the bottom of the tin or dish.
4. Evenly press the dough up the sides of the tart case. If it seems a bit thinner in certain areas, simply take some dough from the thicker areas and press it where needed.
5. Once the dough has been pressed into the bottom and sides of the tart case, use your fingers to make sure the edge of the pastry is even all along the top. Then you can use a fork to press decorations into the crust or use your fingers to make a fluted design with the edge.
6. Use a fork to poke holes along the bottom and sides of the crust before placing on the middle rack of the oven and baking for 12 to 15 minutes. The case should be a very light golden brown.
7. Allow  to cool completely before filling.
SCD Christmas mincemeat and mince pies

SCD Christmas mincemeat and mince pies

Don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to Christmas and have started my baking already.  This recipe is the nicest mincemeat and doesn’t boil over during baking. It’s adapted from Rose Cousin’s recipe but I’ve adapted specially for the SC diet.  I’ve been making this for years because I love it.  Somehow high sugar gloopy mincemeat stopped doing it for me.  Store this mincemeat in a sterile glass jar.  If you intend to store for more than a week or two, allow the mincemeat to cool a little before adding a tablespoon of brandy/whiskey.   Mix well just before bottling.  You can sterilise jars by boiling the lids in water and heating the jars themselves to around 80C in the oven for 15 minutes.

Organic where possible:
450g peeled cored eating (not cooking) apples – Cox’s are fantastic for flavour
225g  unsulphured sultanas
225g unsulphured raisins
110g  currants or chopped unsulphured apricots
Rind and juice of 1 orange (if avoiding citrus, use apple juice instead)
1/2 level teaspoon allspice
1/2 level tsp Ceylon cinnamon
¼ tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
A little cloudy apple juice

1. Mix together all the ingredients in a large cooking pot with lid
2. Simmer very gently ½ hour
3. Taste and adjust the spice levels – I often like to add a bit more more cinnamon and allspice.

SCD pastry is hard to work so its best make 1 large pie base, pre-baked, then filled with your mincemeat and a lovely crumble topping before being baked again for a short time.   You can also treat the mincemeat just like a crumble – that is, put it in a pie dish or deep ovenproof plate, liberally sprinkle over the topping, bake until golden and serve with shipped additive-free coconut cream (from health shops).

Crumble topping: https://www.annacollins.ie/scd-crumble-topping-for-mince-pies/

Pastry base https://www.alifeofhappenstance.com/easy-almond-flour-pie-crust/

If you don’t like coconut oil  but are sensitive to dairy then you can use clarified butter for the pastry.  Make this by very gently heating the butter, skim off the foam on the top and chill in a tall drinking glass or jug, then allow to solidify.  You will use only the solid part to make your pastry.  Discard the white liquid part underneath and rinse off any that’s clinging to the solid butter fat.  This white liquid is where the problematic milk proteins and disaccharide sugars are found.  Most people with IBD can tolerate SMALL amounts of normal butter but large amounts (found in pastry) can just be too much.

When baking your mince pies
Bake 20-25 mins at 200C until golden
Put a baking try over the next rack in the oven so the pies cook evenly through.

Why this is (somewhat) better for you:
While I’d love to say this is a health-giving recipe I can’t really because its very high in natural sugars.  Although it doesn’t contain refined sugar it IS very high in natural sugars from the dried fruit.    BUT this mincemeat is free of low grade oils (like vegetable suet or sunflower oil) and refined sugar – both of which fire up inflammation in you.  If you choose organic dried fruit you avoid sulphur dioxide (preservative) that wreaks havoc on so many peoples digestion around Christmas time.  This preservative is converted by pathogenic bacteria in your bowel into irritating sulphites, which can cause gas, bloating and general unwellness in your gut.  Non-organic grapes (raisins etc.) are also very heavily contaminated with herbicides  that cause your gut to leak toxins and undigested food into your bloodstream.(increased intestinal permeability).  This process predisposes to and perpetuates inflammatory conditions from autoimmunity to mood issues and many more besides.   Pesticide residues in grapes damage the nerve supplying your gut and are linked to a range of neurological diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone).  Choosing food free of undesirable contaminants is a great step towards better health.  Here’s to a happy and a healthy Christmas.  I will certainly be enjoying healthier mince pies – probably far too many.

SCD crumble topping for Christmas mince pies

SCD crumble topping for Christmas mince pies

I love this crumble which I make often for apple crumble.  This quantity will top one 9 inch (23cm) diameter tart made in a pie dish or pyrex plate with possibly a little left over.  You want the topping to mostly cover the mincemeat so it doesn’t burn.  PS Sometimes I cheat on the topping, adding a few chopped hazelnuts or walnuts to the mix…

Pinch of Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
50g virgin coconut oil (or clarified butter, if you want dairy)
25g (teaspoon) runny honey
50g ground almonds
50g flaked almonds

1. If you have a food processor but the ingredients except the flaked almonds in a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Empty into another bowl and stir in the almonds.
If you don’t have a food processor, rub the ingredients together (except for the flaked almonds) by hand then stir in the flaked almonds.
2. Sprinkle evenly over the pre-baked pie case which you have filled with mincemeat and bake at 165c/180C fan oven until golden, taking care the pastry crust doesn’t burn.

Why these are better for you:
Because these pies don’t contain refined sugar (if you use my mincemeat recipe) they don’t immediately start to drain your body of nutrients like magnesium (for mood) or selenium (needed for fat-burning thyroid hormones).  The nuts, although cooked (and therefore no longer containing much in the way of healthy oils!) do contain protein, which helps prevent the dips and peaks in blood sugar that can make you feel tired or narky.   Coconut oil is not damaged by baking so its still healthy in the finished product.  The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil are useful for energy levels as they are used directly by your body instead of being stored as fat in your cells.  Virgin coconut oil rules!!   Ceylon cinnamon (but not normal cassia cinnamon sold as “cinnamon”) helps your body regulate blood sugar.  This helps reduce the risk of peaks and troughs in energy, brain function and mood throughout the day.  It also helps reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes possibly because it modifies your gut bacteria.  Yes, your gut bacteria control EVERY aspect of your health from blood pressure, heart health to mood and immune function – not just your digestive health.

Rich and delicious SCD Christmas cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Rich and delicious SCD Christmas cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

I made this on Sunday and its delicious (I did a taste test).  It also happens to be gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and refined sugar free.  Do buy organic ingredients where possible especially for *raisins and sultanas.

I didn’t have the specified 10” tin so I used a 9” (23cm) one.  The cake was a bit taller and needed a little extra baking time.

350g ground almonds or almond flour
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
80ml date syrup (I left this out as I felt the cake mix was plenty sweet without it)
4 large eggs
5 tbs (75-80ml) runny or slightly warmed honey (so its liquid but not hot)
137g (150ml) coconut oil
5cm fresh ginger, peeled
Zest of 1 orange, organic if possible
1 medium cooking apple
6 tbs (95ml) whiskey (+ optional 100ml to “feed” the cake).
200g dried unsulphured apricots (these are brown, not bright orange)
200g raisins
200g sultanas
150g dates
100g flaked almonds
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract (not essence, which contains gluten)
2/3 level pink salt
1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp ground allspice
½ level ground cardamom
½ level tsp ground cloves
75g blanched almonds
25cm/10” diameter cake tin with removable base
Brown paper + greaseproof paper + extra coconut oil to grease

  1. Prepare your tin.  Line the base and sides of tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper (oil the greaseproof with soft/melted coconut oil) allowing the brown paper to come at least 2” above top of tin.  Wrap an outer collar of brown paper around the tin to come up as high above the tin as the tin itself.  Secure with pins or paperclips. This outer collar and all the layers inside stops your cake burning at the edges before it’s cooked at the centre.
  2. Roughly chop the dried apricots and dates. Mix the chopped fruit with the raisins and sultanas and cover with the whiskey. Leave to soak while you prepare the rest of the cake.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ground spices.
  4. Add the honey, eggs, vanilla extract, date syrup and the zest of the orange to a food processor. Blend until combined.
  5. Making sure the coconut oil is liquid (melt to lukewarm if it isn’t) add this to the food processor and blend again thoroughly.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, mix till combined then empty the mix into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Peel the apple and ginger and grate into the bowl (use the fine grater for the ginger).
  8. Add the flaked almonds, the whiskey soaked fruits and stir until everything is evenly combined.
  9. Spoon into the tin and flatten the top. Tip: wet the side of your hand and use this to smooth the top to perfection.
  10. Decorate the top with blanched almonds embedded into the cake in a pretty pattern
  11. Bake in the oven for around 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean after being inserted.
  12. Allow to cool in the tin after removing the outer collar of brown paper.
  13. Once cool, remove from the tin leaving on the greaseproof paper.
  14. Place in an airtight container and optionally “feed” with whiskey every few days – about 5 times in all (I personally prefer my cakes without this additional feeding but it’s up to you).

Why this is better for you
This cake is free from refined sugars, toxic refined oils and other undesirables.  Did you know that when gluten (in “normal” cakes) hits your intestine it causes leaking of intestinal contents into your blood.  This happens to everyone, even people with no gluten sensitivity.  Toxins, bacterial cell fragments and undigested food spills into your circulation.  This causes increased inflammation (always present in anxiety, stress, mood issues, brain fog, skin issues, heart disease).  It also has negative impacts on your immune system.  Sugar in “normal” baking also increases inflammation and suppresses immunity.  Your body will thank you for ditching it.

While this cake is “healthier” its still high in (natural) sugars.   Unlike normal cake it does contain some protein (ground almonds) which helps slow down your body’s absorption of the sugars.  Amazingly, the sugars in dried fruit affect your blood sugar less than eating wheaten bread.  Whoever thought a piece of cake could be healthier than a piece of toast!  Take it handy though because too many sweet foods, even “healthy” ones, cause metabolic issues.

For more info on the toxic residues in “conventional” raisins, see https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/raisins.php

No-bake chocolate coconut cookies

No-bake chocolate coconut cookies

I can’t remember the cookbook these come from but my thanks to the amazing Emily and Patrick at Madawaska who produced these gorgeous bites using gluten-free oats. They didn’t last long. If you have the time and like a nuttier flavour, you can toast the oatflakes first like they did.  I don’t bother. People really love these and they are super-easy. I did replace the bad-for-your-health margarine in the original recipe for a far healthier virgin coconut oil though.

Using non-dairy milks in these gives a much longer shelf-life in the fridge. The best plant milks have no toxic emulsifiers (carageenen, polysorbate-80, sodium carboxymethylcellulose) and no added sugar.

Makes 36 (enough to feed a small army!)

2½ rounded tbs cocoa powder
¾ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened non dairy milk (e.g. almond, coconut, hemp)
1/3 tsp vanilla extract (avoid vanilla “essence” unless you are OK eating gluten)
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
1½ cups fine gluten-free oatflakes (you can use normal porridge oatflakes if you eat gluten)
¼ cup no-added-sugar almond or hazelnut butter (if you are in peak health with no autoimmune conditions then no-added-sugar smooth peanut butter is OK to use)
1¾ cups dessicated coconut (divided into 1 cup and ¾ cup)

1. Mix the cocoa and syrup together in a saucepan, add the milk vanilla and coconut oil. Heat gently until liquified and stir to mix well, scraping the sides, being sure not to let it boil or burn. Cool mixture.
2.In a separate bowl combine oats, peanut butter together using your hands. Pour in tht cocoa mixture and add 1 cup coconut. Mix well with your hands.
3.Roll dough into 2.5cm balls. If the mix is too wet you can add more oatmeal or roll the balls into the remaining coconut. They will be somewhat sticky but will harden as they cool. Put on a try and store in the fridge.

Tip:
I wanted to make them stick really well together so added some more oatflakes I had whizzed to a flour in my mini food processor. Oat flour is stickier than oatflakes. I probably didn’t need to do this but liked the result.

Why these are better for you:
Although these contain carbohydrate (sugars) from oats and maple syrup they are healthy when you eat them in moderation. Raw cocoa is full of antioxidants. Virgin coconut oil is a great source of easy to digest medium chain triglycerides that can be burned by your body directly for energy instead of being stored as fat.
Oats contain soluble fibre that feeds beneficial bacteria. Maple syrup is essentially sugar, but it does contain some minerals – unlike refined sugar, which is just empty calories. The protein from peanut butter and the fat from coconut keeps you fuller for longer, reducing the tendency to binge you can get from eating low fat low protein high sugar products.
Cocoa is a spice with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers – hurray!!
Like gluten grains, peanuts are high in “lectins” – proteins that are hard to digest and can overstimulate your immune system if you have an autoimmune condition (e.g. hypothyroidism, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, arthritis),

Gluten-free fruit scones

Gluten-free fruit scones

I love these and just baked a load after a lovely walk in our woods close-by.  Once my supplies of unusual ingredients like healthier-than-sugar xylitol and erythritol run out I will be going online to shop in www.evergreen.ie , www.nourish.ie or nipping into my local shop Get Fresh in Ballyroan for supplies.  This recipe is from Darina Allen.  The only change I made was dropping sugar and substituting xylitol.

I like to eat these with some fresh raspberry/strawberry coulis sweetened with xylitol/erythritol/stevia and a big dollop of whipped cream.  To make a coulis pour some frozen/fresh berries into a pan, cook until thawed and soft, mash a bit and add your (healthier) sweetener.  It is a really good idea to avoid chemical sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin & aspartame because ironically these sabotage good gut bugs and contribute to weight gain!!  These scones are not a health-booster but are less health-sabotaging than sugar-laden scones.

Tomorrow back to normality after my binge on high carbohydrate foods like breads, cakes and potatoes since lockdown.  But for today, these yummy scones.

To make 6-7 decent size scones

138g white or blend of white and brown rice flour (I like Dove’s Farm mix of white and brown)
25g tapioca flour
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 rounded tsp xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt/Himalayan salt)
2 rounded tablespoons erythritol/xylitol
55g butter, chilled
55g sultanas (optional)
1 egg, organic if possible
125-175ml natural yoghurt or (better for dairy-sensitive folk) natural, home-made kefir
Egg wash (optional, if you like a shiny top on your scones) – this is just a beaten egg

1. Preheat oven to 250C (235C fan)
2. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
3. Rub in the butter, then add sultanas and gently mix together.
4. Lightly whisk the yoghurt/kefir and egg together.
5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the egg yoghurt/kefir and mix to a soft dough.  Add a little more yoghurt/kefir if needed.
6. Turn onto a rice-floured board and knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round (knead too much and the result will be tough)
7. Roll to around 2.5cm thick, stamp into scones with a 5.5cm round cutter.  Place on a rice-floured baking sheet and if using, brush with the egg wash.
8. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown on top.  Leave to cool for a while on a wire rack.
9. Serve split in half with butter, or my fruit coulis (above), some no-added sugar jam like Follain or St Dalfour and whipped/clotted cream.

Why these are better for you:
OK, so a snack made from grains, cream and sweet stuff is never going to be a net health-promoter but by avoiding added sugar you are really helping reduce inflammation and helping your immune system fight off bad bugs.  Did you know that gluten, in “normal” baking, opens up the normally tight barrier in your small intestine.  These “tight junctions” are there to  prevent toxins, bacterial by-products and undigested food spilling from your gut into your bloodstream.  Gluten produces this reaction in normal, healthy volunteers and has been videoed live by researchers using capsule video cameras.  Who knew!!  This loss of barrier function lasts for 3-5 hours after gluten hits your small intestine.  Remember, this is not only in people with gluten sensitivity.  Why this is relevant to your health is that a damaged gut barrier opens the door to ALL chronic health conditions and stresses your immune system, leaving you more open to infection.   A damaged gut barrier also increases sepsis in hospital patients. 

Switching to a home-made fruit coulis (with healthy sweeteners) or a no-added sugar jam like St Dalfour/Follain brands means less of an assault on your immune system.  Stay well.  

Pistachio cake

Pistachio cake

St. Patrick’s day home-baked treat, anyone?  This is lovely and moist and soaked in rosewater and lemon syrup.  Make it at least 2 hours before you want to serve it so the syrup has time to soak in.  You can buy unsalted shelled pistachios in Middle Eastern and Asian Stores.  The recipe, adapted by me to be healthier, is from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque.  I am including 2 sizes of cake so you don’t have to go with enormous all the time, if you don’t have 12 people to serve.  I increased the amount of lemon, to give a little more tang, and switched the immuno-suppressing sugar for xylitol/erythritol (from health shops).  If you want to make serving this more spectacular, get yourself some rosepetals/rosebuds from a Middle Eastern shop and crumble some of the rose petals around and on top of each slice. 

To serve 6
Cake:
3 eggs, seperated
60g xylitol or erythritol
25g coarsely chopped raw unsalted pistachios (optional)
100g pistachio flour (finely ground raw unsalted pistachios)
1 x 10-13cm round loose-bottomed cake tin

Syrup for small cake:
75g xylitol/erythritol
90ml water
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs rosewater

To serve (optional):
125ml Abbot Kinney’s/Coyo non dairy coconut yoghurt or whipped cream (I like to mix in a few drops of rosewater to either)

Large cake (to serve 12)
5 eggs, seperated
120g xylitol/erythritol
50g coarsely chopped raw unsalted pistachios (optional)
200g pistachio flour (finely ground raw unsalted pistachios)
1 x 23-25 cm round loose-bottomed cake tin

Syrup for large cake:
150g xylitol/erythritol
180ml water
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs rosewater
To serve (optional):
250ml Abbot Kinney’s/Coyo non dairy coconut yoghurt or whipped cream (I like to mix in a few drops of rosewater to either)

1. Make the syrup.  Bring the xylitol/erythritol, water and lemon juice to the boil, simmer till everything is dissolved.  Stir in the rosewater.
2. Let the syrup cool, then chill it.
3. Beat the egg yolks with the xylitol/erythritol to a pale cream, then add the ground pistachios and mix very well.  Beat the egg whites until still and fold in gently.  Pour into a greased cake tin and sprinkle the coarsely chopped pistachios, if using, on top.
4. Bake in pre-heated oven (180C/fan 165C).
Test for done-ness (where needle or point of knife comes out clean) after 35 minutes for the small cake and 40 minutes for the large, which should take around 45 minutes.  If the cake is still sticky, give another 5 minutes, then test again.
5. Turn the cake onto a deep serving dish.  Make little holes over the top with a fork and pour over the syrup.  The holes will let it soak in quickly.
6. Serve, if you like, with the coconut yoghurt or (if you’re not dairy sensitive) cream.

Why this is better for you:
OK, so raw nuts are much better than baked (because nut/seed oils get damaged by heat) but this cake is high in protein and contains no sugar.  This means it won’t disrupt blood sugar levels.  Maintaining blood sugar balance is important if you care about your vitality and health.  Erratic blood sugar levels contribute to fatigue, mood issues, inflammation, auto-immune conditions and so, so much more.  Stay well.