Hot Cross Buns - Gluten Free!

I've been asked for a hot cross bun recipe so often recently, that I just had to come up with something before the Good Friday deadline came around. Almost at the last minute, I've managed it. There are a few stages to these sticky, tender buns, but none of them are onerous, just put the radio on, dance about the kitchen a bit and pray for sunny weather.

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Hot Cross Buns         makes 12

               

Easter definitely calls for some tender, cinnamon scented, currant studded buns with a sticky glaze. These are best eaten almost straight out of the oven whilst still warm, but they make great toast the next day with lots of butter, or a section of Easter egg if you’ve got any left!  Add the zest of an orange or some ground cardamom if you’d like to ramp up the flavour a bit. Use psyllium husk powder, or grind the husk very finely in a coffee grinder or high speed blender – you could try xanthan gum instead, you’d probably need between 1-2 tsp.

For the buns

140g potato starch

140g tapioca starch

100g buckwheat flour

60g quinoa flour

3-4 tsp ground cinnamon

26g psyllium husk powder

6g fast acting yeast

350g milk

50g butter

6g sea salt

40g sugar

2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites

100g currants (or raisins/sultanas)

60g chopped candied peel

For the cross

30g potato starch

20g buckwheat flour

40-50g milk or water

For the glaze

40g white sugar (or a couple of tablespoons of marmalade)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together starches, flours, psyllium and yeast.

In a small saucepan warm the milk, butter, salt and sugar together until the butter melts and pour into a jug to cool a little. When it’s cooled to pleasantly warm, whisk in the eggs and egg whites and pour into the dry ingredients. Whisk vigorously until a smooth, sticky dough forms. Squidge it with your hands if there are any lumps at all, or put into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and leave to run for a few minutes. Stir in the currants and peel and scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl to prove. Cover and leave in a warm place (30ºC is ideal) to prove for 45 minutes.

While the dough proves, make the cross. Mix together the cross ingredients, adding enough milk or water to make a smooth, pipeable paste – it will stiffen up a little as it sits. Scrape into a piping bag and set aside.

Make the glaze too while you wait. Heat the sugar with 20g of water until the sugar dissolves and set the syrup aside. Alternatively sieve out the bits from some marmalade or apricot jam and let it down to a glaze consistency with a little boiling water.

When the dough has proved, tip it out of the bowl onto an oiled surface and cut into 12 evenly sized pieces. With lightly oiled hands, tuck the sides of each piece underneath and form into a round bun shape in your hands before placing your bun onto a greased tray – or use a silicone mat. Repeat with the other pieces, placing each bun only about 1cm away from the others so that they rise up together and touch – this will help prevent them flattening out too much. Cover lightly with a cloth and leave to prove again in a warm place for about an hour or so, until they look puffy – longer if your house is cool.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC fan (or 220ºC without fan) and place a tray in the bottom of the oven. Pipe crosses on the buns by piping all across one line of buns and then across the other way. Place the buns in the oven and throw some water on the tray in the bottom to create steam – or give three bursts of steam, timed about 4 minutes apart if you have a steam oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the buns are well browned and firm.

Leave the buns on the tray while you brush them generously with the glaze. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, tuck in!

This recipe and accompanying image are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of the copyright holder Naomi Devlin.

Four Fantastic Days at Otter Farm

If you saw the Grand Designs episode featuring Otter Farm, you'll already know something about the beautiful rural retreat and cookery school crowdfunded and built by award winning food writer Mark Diacono and his wife Candida. I know something about the joy and pain of building your own house, but to attempt something on the scale of a cookery school is either madness or genius! Mark has a delightful mix of both, an enthusiastic springer spaniel of a chap, who will definitely get you enthused about pretty much anything you can think of. He is also a grower of forgotten food, exotic fruit and makes wine from vines that stretch away from the cookery school towards the horizon. There are kiwis, sweet cicely, chocolate vines, Japanese wineberries and Vietnamese coriander, orchards of pecans, quince, almonds, Szechuan pepper and apricots, as well as a forest garden, a vineyard and a perennial garden.

I currently teach four day courses at Otter Farm and they are a fantastic opportunity to share what I know with smaller groups than I usually teach. I love the intimacy of a small group that gives everyone the chance for a little spontaneity and some personal interaction. The Otter Farm course programme features luminaries such as Diana Henry, Rachel Roddy, Gill Meller and Catherine Phipps - so say that I am thrilled to be included is a massive understatement. If you're interested in the courses outlined below, head over to Otter Farm to book - if you become a member there's money off and you can also do the courses as two dayers, for a full Naomi immersion.

Gluten Free Everyday focuses on the wholesome, delicious bakes that make week day meals a joy. The stuff you miss when you're gluten free. We make sourdough bread (gluten free of course), shortcrust pastry, buckwheat pasta for our lunch of homemade lasagne, moreish linseed crackers a a couple of little savoury tarts that you can take home for supper (they won't last the journey). Through the day I explain the flours that we use and answer questions about being gluten free. dairy free and egg free options are available if they are necessary for health reasons.

Gluten Free Celebration is all about party food! we'll make some light and tender olive or walnut bread, I'll demonstrate a genoise sponge and make it into a delicious cream filled, ganache topped gateau that we can slice into later. For lunch we'll make our own thin, crispy pizzas and eat them with some delicious salads from Mark's kitchen. After lunch, we will make a Yorkshire pudding batter and turn it into toad in the hole, (or roast veg in the hole) and make gyoza dumplings using our own handmade dumpling wrappers, which we will cook into some delicious pot stickers for you to taste before you head home with your fresh baked bread and toad in the hole. Dishes can be made dairy free if necessary for health reasons, but not all dishes can be made egg free.

Food for a Happy Gut (Calm) is a day based on my forthcoming book of the same name (check it out and pre-order here!). This is a day to soothe troubled digestion and learn about how your gut works and why it can be sensitive. Although Rome wasn't built in a day, I will give you tips and pointers  so that you can start eating in a way that calms, heals and restores comfortable digestion. We start the day by tasting some digestive bitters, that stimulate the liver to work better before making a jar to take home and mature. I'll demonstrate some delicious jelly sweets that are a medicinal treat for soothing inflamed tums. We'll make our own ramen bowl for lunch with bone broth, noodles, fermented pickles and other anti-inflammatory delights. After lunch we'll make a simple gluten free oat pastry and turn it into a delicious savoury tart using seasonal ingredients. Our tea break is an opportunity to taste some anti-inflammatory herb teas (not the kind that promise a fruit bowl and taste of dishwater) and our jelly sweets. For our last session of the day we look at some fermented food that is easily digested and a few probiotic drinks. Finally, we'll make a jar of fermented vegetables for you to take home and allow to gently bubble for a few days before adding to meals.

Food for a Happy Gut (Nourish) is the second day based on my book (check it out and pre-order here!). It's a day for feeding up your microbes and growing a thriving microbiome. We'll start the day by making a quick pickle to eat with our lunch and we'll find out all about what your gut loves and what it doesn't. Next we'll make a jar of spicy, nutty, anti-inflammatory dukkah to sprinkle over our lunch (and take home). We make our own fibre packed prebiotic, probiotic, anti-inflammatory lunch, with wholegrains, pulses, pickles, creamy labneh, bitter leaves, roast roots and gut soothing spices. It's a feast for the eyes as well as the tum! I'll demonstrate a wickedly luscious dessert that contains beans and then we'll finish up by making a making a fermented pickle that is full of prebiotics (food for your microbes) and probiotics (good microbes) for you to take home and allow to bubble gently until it is tangy and marvellous.

Malty gluten free sourdough with pumpkin & chia seeds

It is tempting to post something sweet and chocolatey here - cakes get the most hits on any website, especially if they claim to be refined sugar free or good for you. There is definitely a place in everyone's life for a little cake, gluten free or not! However, living well gluten free involves baking and eating the sort of everyday food that sustains, nourishes and heals, as well as delighting our tastebuds. The holy grail of which is bread, no? How to make a loaf that rises, holds together when you slice it, has flavour and depth, a satisfying crumb and thin crust? How to make this mythical loaf without recourse to gums and stabilisers, starch, strange fats and added sugar? Since the gluten free bread available to buy in supermarkets is both full of rubbish and unpleasant to eat, the only solution is to make your own.

I love a deeply flavoured loaf and brown teff is the perfect flour for something with hints of malt loaf - without the sweetness - and a touch of Weetabix on the finish. It would probably be my desert island flour if I had to choose one. When fermented, teff has a particularly sour quality that is perfectly balanced by the sweet nutty flavour of chestnut flour. Because I use both sweet rice flour and chia seed, the loaf has a very slightly chewy crumb with a great structure that is wonderful toasted straight from the freezer, or as bakers perk spread thickly with butter as soon as the loaf has cooled and settled. All of the flours are available from Shipton Mill.

If you check the information sheets tab on the sidebar, I give instructions for making a sourdough starter. If you want to make the loaf without a sourdough starter, just follow instructions for making it with yogurt instead of starter. I find that adding a little extra yeast does help get a little more rise in the loaf, but if you would like to make it as a pure sourdough, just leave it out and allow the loaf to rise for longer - up to 6 hours depending on how vigorous your starter is.

Before you start baking, you will need to activate your starter. It will need several hours to properly wake up if it has been in the fridge so to make sure it is nice and vigorous, you can feed it the night before you plan to bake and then feed it again as soon as you wake up. I generally keep about 700ml of starter, so I feed it with 300g flour and 400g water each feed and discard any excess that isn't used, leaving 700ml to go back in the fridge when I have finished baking. You can use the excess, or 'discard' for making pancakes, crumpets etc or throw it away.
 


Malty sourdough with pumpkin & chia seeds


150g chestnut flour

100g brown teff flour

50g sweet rice flour

50g buckwheat flour

200g active gluten free sourdough starter (or 90g live yogurt + 110g brown teff flour)

1 tsp (5g) quick dried yeast (or 15g fresh yeast)

100g potato starch

8g fine sea salt

10g chia seeds (or golden linseed)

1 tsp blackstrap molasses (optional)

2 - 2 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk

40g pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

butter/lard/coconut oil to grease tins & sesame or sunflower seeds to coat

a 2 lb loaf tin - approx dimensions 25cm x 11cm x 8 cm (I use Vogue brand)

 

  • First make the sponge. In a mixing bowl beat together the chestnut flour, brown teff flour, sweet rice flour, buckwheat flour, sourdough starter (or yogurt + flour) and 400g tepid unchlorinated water until smooth. Cover and leave at room temperature for 4-6 hours. 
  • When the sponge has fermented, make the dough. Sprinkle dried yeast into the sponge mix and beat well, or mash fresh yeast in a little of the wet mix until completely smooth and add back to the bowl. Leave for 5 minutes to start to work and then add the rest of the ingredients except psyllium husk and pumpkin seeds. Beat well with a spoon or your hands, squidging any lumps of potato starch through your fingers, until completely smooth.
  • Add pumpkin seeds and 2 tsp of ground psyllium husk to the dough and beat well with the spoon, leave for a couple of minutes to thicken a little, while you prepare the tin.
  • Line a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin with baking parchment or butter the inside and coat with sesame or sunflower seeds. Check if the dough is a dropping consistency - it should just leave the spoon, not pour off and shouldn't be stiff like a traditional bread dough. If it needs to be stiffer, add another 1/2 -1 tsp ground psyllium husk. Scrape the bread dough in, smooth to level it, sprinkle with sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and put in a warm place for about an hour, until it has risen by about a third and the top has little cracks appearing. Don't let it come over the top of your tin as it will flow down the sides!
  • 15-20 minutes before the rise time is up, heat the oven to 240ºC conventional heat - not the fan setting. Put a baking tray in the bottom of the oven and boil the kettle.
  • Very gently ease the loaf tin into the oven – if you tap or bang it at this stage it will collapse, as there is no gluten in the mixture to hold the bubbles in. Straight away, pour a mug of boiling water into the tray in the bottom of the oven - watch you don't burn your face with the steam! Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180ºC and switch to fan setting for another 40 minutes. Take the baking tray out of the bottom of the oven if it still has any water in it.
  • About 20 minutes into the bake at the lower temperature, put some tin foil over the top to stop it burning – the crust will be fairly dark on this loaf anyway, so don’t be alarmed.
  • After 55 minutes in total take the loaf out of the oven – it should have shrunk away from the sides of the tin a little and sound hollow-ish when tapped on top. Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then lift out the loaf and bounce your fingers on the side to see if it seems firmish. If not, just put it back in the oven without the tin at 160ºC for another 10 minutes to continue cooking.
  • Cool on a rack and do not cut until completely cold. Slice and freeze anything that won’t be eaten within 24 hours.

 

whole rice pancakes

Where I can, I like to keep grains whole in order to slow their transit through the body. When I cook wholegrain rice, I soak it overnight in water then wash and cook in the usual way.
One weekend morning in my unvarnished, day-off state, I rather overcooked the rice for breakfast. Instead of the usual fluffy grains, I had a small pan full of rice porridge - arg! Not wanting to admit defeat, I thought I'd try using the rice to make a pancake, and the result was infinitely better than expected. The pancakes were not the most co-operative, but they formed a nice crisp buttery edge and were pliable enough to roll up. Because they didn't employ rice flour, there was no uncooked grain taste, just that fragrant cooked rice flavour - slightly sweet and nuttily complex.

The taste reminded me slightly of naan bread - although I couldn't really say why. I just instantly imagined some cumin scented, dry curry wrapped up in one of these, with a dollop of cool yogurt. Rice and curry - it's just one of those combinations I guess? Finn imagined them with banana and honey and Nick ate his thoughtfully, just as it was.

If you do eat grains, but are reluctant to use too much flour, I suggest you try these. Rice is a notoriously fast releasing starch, but combining it whole, with eggs, butter, milk and ground nuts is a good way to slow it right down and prevent any unwanted blood sugar rise.

Whole Rice Pancakes
(Makes about 8 smallish ones)

Because rice should not be kept for long once rehydrated (due to naturally occurring bacterial spores), you need to use this batter within 24 hours of making it up.

60g / 2oz wholegrain rice
2 large eggs
30g / 1 oz ground almonds (or gluten free flour such as sorghum, chestnut or teff)
200ml liquid (made up of 100ml rice water and 100ml goat milk in my case)
unsalted butter or duck fat to fry

Soak the rice overnight in plenty of water with a half teaspoon of vinegar added if you like (it helps remove enzyme inhibitors).Drain and wash the rice and cook in plenty of water until really soft. Allow the water to evaporate, but make sure there is at least 100ml left in the pan. Drain and reserve 100ml of the rice water.
Allow the rice to cool before making up the mix. Rice should always be cooled as quickly as possible, so I usually spread it on a plate and put it in the fridge.
To make the pancake batter, put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until as smooth as you can get it. If you're using gluten free flour rather than nuts, then you may need a little more liquid to get a batter consistency. For the other 100ml of liquid you could use any type of milk - nut milk, cow's, goats or coconut milk, or just plain water.
Fry very gently in butter (or Duck Fat / Coconut Oil if you prefer) in a heavy bottomed pan over a lowish heat and take great care when lifting the edges of the pancake. Allow it to form a mid brown crust and then use a palette knife to loosen the pancake from the edge all the way around before flipping it over gently. Cook for a minute or so on the other side and then transfer to a wire rack or waiting plate.
I defy you to resist breaking off a little piece of buttery crust to munch before it gets to the table!

fluffy eggs

Pictured here is an item of culinary legend from my childhood. It is a dish that conjours up a moment of calm comfort in a childhood full of chaos and freedom. Fluffy eggs. My mum sure was good with a whisk.

Essentially this is just toast and eggs, that time honoured breakfast staple. But there is something so incredible about the juxtaposition of crisp toast, melted butter, salty, peppery egg fluff and yolk, cooked just long enough to ooze into the toast. Someone cares enough about your happiness at that early hour to pick up a whisk and assemble your eggs and toast into a confection that lets the world drop away, leaving you to bask in the warm sun of their regard.

In a moment of nostalgia I made these eggs for Finn. I used some thinly sliced brazil and almond bread, a generous slab of butter and lots of fresh black pepper. I was making it up a little, but everything seemed to go to plan and Fin's eyes grew as wide as saucers when he saw his breakfast sitting on a small pink plate all fluff and barely cooked yolk.

I made one for me too, so I could share the moment. Our eyes met across the table and the years fell away as I saw myself again, egg yolk on my chin from licking the plate clean.

You could cut the toast into a heart shape for valentine's day, but I don't think you need to state the obvious. Anyone who sees you whisking egg whites while frost is still on the grass will know you love them, without having it written on a heart shaped box.

Fluffy Eggs  Makes 2 portions

2 large  eggs
2 Slices of bread
butter
sea salt
black pepper

Toast the bread and butter it as generously as you like. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC fan/220ºC conventional oven

Separate the eggs and leave the unbroken yolks each in half a shell, wedged carefully in the egg box while you beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and lots of black pepper until stiff.

Make a nest on the buttered toast with the egg white, leaving a space in the middle just big enough for the egg yolk to sit. You probably won't use all the egg white - you could keep it in the fridge to add to a batch of bread, or stir into an omelette.

Put the toast and nest onto a baking sheet and plop the yolks carefully into the space so as not to break them.

Bake for 5-6 minutes, until there is a skin on the yolk, (but not much more than that) and the fluff is crisp and golden. If you don't like a really runny yolk then give it another couple of minutes.

Serve immediately or all your hard work will flop disappointingly. Provide salt, pepper and maybe a dollop of homemade ketchup.

 

A simple, creamy, zesty, garlicky broccoli soup

Yesterday morning Bridport woke to find itself clothed in a fine layer of snow. Only the third time for Finn, so all the more thrilling as we vicariously enjoyed his delight. As the morning wore on, salt breeze playing over the grass, sun warming the air a little, the snow melted back into the earth, leaving only a little slush in the gutter that splashed up our backs as we cycled home. Finn salvaged what was left under a bush on the sheltered side of the house and stashed it lovingly in the freezer.

The rest of the country came to a standstill, factory lines ground to a halt, lorries lay at the side of the road like earthworms dug up and blinking in the light. Snow fell, and fell, and fell, in great drifts,  muffling the busy work day week into an unexpected holiday.

Nick was tucked up warm with an early night, after a tense drive home from snowbound London. I  on the other hand just couldn't sleep as the snow had me feeling all Christmas eve. So after a little stitching and television I found myself in the dark kitchen cradling a mug of chamomile, watching the night.

Snow had started to fall again while the house slept. Fat flakes fell in an endless drift from the sky, magically appearing from the blackness and twirling their way inevitably down to land thickly on the ground. The lawn was already obscured by a thick white blanket that reached across our garden and into the road, vehicles and postboxes stranded like bumper cars abandoned here and there at the end of a ride.

Bushes on the lawn looked edible as crystalised roses, encrusted with sparkling white sugar, dredged on from above with a generous hand. There was such absolute quiet, I realised that I was holding my breath, waiting for something. I held my warm cup close to my lips and breathed out a steamy shawl , like a child misting the sweetshop window.

The night sky was alive with dancing snowflakes as they followed every gust of wind, chasing each other to the ground, sparkling miraculously through the inky night to appear like a shower of gold leaf under the sodium glow of street lamps. For such a show of sparkle and life, they fell in complete silence.

My ear waited for a sound to come, seagull or distant engine hum and yet there was none. The town slept deep, as though a spell had been cast, as though I had stepped through our kitchen door into Narnia or a silent movie. Whilst I wasn't looking, the town had taken a sleeping draught and twelve princesses skipped away through forests of silver trees, to dance all night and ruin their flimsy silk slippers, unseen by any but me.

At last, in the midst of all this magical silence, a car crunched gingerly down the hill, rolling to a slow stop on the other side of the road. A pair of black tracks followed it through the pristine snow. The spell was broken. I drained my cup and headed for bed.

When it snows, you want to be out there enjoying the miracle - not stuck in the kitchen. So here's a soup that can be made in minutes, tastes as creamy, delicate and satisfying as something that you spent hours over, and features super food centre stage. Get out there and throw snowballs with abandon, knowing you can be sitting down to a bowl of this almost before the snow has melted on your wellingtons.
 


Broccoli, Garlic and Lemon Zest Soup (serves 4-6)


If you need to reheat this, do so very gently or you will destroy the fresh flavour and end up with something rather cabbagy. It's best made fresh.

550g broccoli florets
30g butter
3-4 cloves of garlic
zest of 1 lemon
2 large pinches of sea salt


Wash and chop the broccoli into small florets.

Mince the garlic finely and melt the butter gently over a low flame in a medium to large saucepan. When the butter has melted, add garlic and sweat for a couple of minutes until translucent but not coloured at all.

Grate the zest from the lemon and add to the pan with salt and brocolli, stir to coat.

Pour over 1 1/2 pints of boiling water and bring back up to the boil again.

Boil gently - a kind of aggressive simmer, not a rolling boil - until the stalks of the broccoli are soft, but still bright green. Don't let the broccoli turn olive green or the soup will lose its freshness.

Puree in a blender (or with a stick blender) until completely smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt or some black pepper if you like, possibly a little lemon juice - but not too much.

Pour into bowls and top with a swirl of yogurt.