Beginnings and Cake: A Gluten-Free Story
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I had a rather clumsy entrance into the world of gluten-free diets. For a while, it would be apt to say I full on rebelled against it. You see, I found out that gluten was the enemy right after I discovered my true calling in life. As luck would have it, I had landed my dream career in a charming little cake boutique as head pastry chef, and all of a sudden, my life started to fall apart.
I was baking away, day in and out, getting to be creative to my heart’s full content, and the more enamored I became with my job, the sicker I got. My joints started to seize up and become incredibly painful. My arms would go completely dead every night when I went to sleep, repeatedly, like two foreign, fleshy bodies in the bed next to me. I had eczema invading and conquering my previously unblemished skin, and my stomach was a painful mess. It was a nightmare to tell you the truth. When I finally caved and dragged myself over to see the doctor, he was brazen enough to tell me I had to change careers, right after he unleashed the bomb about gluten. Clearly he was nuts.
The first thing I did after my appointment was go to the pub, order a large red beer, treat myself to a huge serving of battered fish & chips, and top it off with a slice of cake for dessert. Clearly I was in denial. I returned to work in much the same fashion. I was unconcerned about being continuously surrounded by a permanent cloud of flour. I was even under the illusion I could taste all of my creations, provided I just spat them out once I’d confirmed their success. Talk about being delusional.
As luck would have it, the bakery wasn’t long for this world. Through no fault of their own, the business went under in the midst of a nationwide economic crisis. This was the deciding force that led me into submission and to start taking my new dietary restrictions seriously.
It was months before I started seeing any noticeable difference, and by then, my system had been so shot, even the slightest slip (intentional or otherwise) threw me back into pain and misery. Everywhere I looked, gluten was hiding. I spent hours in the grocery store reading ingredients labels, begrudgingly adding more goodies to my ever-growing list of “forbidden items”. I felt like I was imprisoned by a protein. I never knew I could loathe a molecule so much.
Eventually I hauled myself away from my one-man pity party and decided it was time to regain control of my life (exercising full caution of course). The Internet was my new best friend and I soon discovered a world of gluten-free flour alternatives that could be used.
It’s no secret that I was a walking disaster. My mother fondly laughs now as she retells the story of the first winter we spent together after my dietary switch. I would bake away in the kitchen, and at night my mum and step dad would sneak down to throw away my creations piece by piece and discuss in concerned, hushed tones how I needed to find a new career. All the while, smiling at me the next morning and telling me how they’d gotten up to satisfy sugar cravings in a late night snack.
It took me a long time to find my footing. There’s just so many types of flours, all with different textures and tastes. Learning that just because something should be gluten-free doesn’t mean it isn’t contaminated. Frustration. Temper tantrums. Fits of despair. The list goes on. There is a bright light at the end of this tunnel though. I have my rules, which I follow religiously, and it’s safe to say I’ve re-conquered my kitchen.
1. Always read the label
2. Ask your waiter to speak to the chef
3. Don’t walk into a bakery
4. If someone brought bread into your kitchen, clean it, and then clean it again.
5. If it doesn’t say “certified gluten-free”, treat it with suspicion.
6. Serve yourself first at dinner parties. You may look like an ass, but at least you wont be a victim of cross contamination.
- 2 red apples
- 1/2 a lemon, juice only
- 1 lt boiling water
- 115g unsalted butter, room temp
- 90g dark brown sugar
- 25g white sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 75g almond flour
- 25g corn starch
- 150g oat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 2 tbs icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a 20cm spring-form cake tin with parchment and set aside.
2. Combine lemon juice and boiling water in a bowl, and set aside.
3. Peel and core the apples. Slice into thin strips approx. 1-2mm in width and transfer into the boiling water (the lemon will keep them from browning and the heat will soften them to make them easier to work with).
4. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of your stand mixer and cream. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly between each addition.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the dry ingredients and beat the mixture again until smooth. Transfer into your cake tin and smooth into an even layer.
6. Drain the apple slices from the water. Starting from the outside edge, start arranging the apples in a circle and continue going until all the batter is covered (see video).
7. Lightly sprinkle with sugar and place in the oven. Bake 30 to 45 minutes or until a sewer can be inserted into the middle of the cake and comes out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before removing it from the tin. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
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