The best gluten-free brownies. Ever.

I realise that the above is quite a definitive statement to make, but I do believe that what you are about to witness is the best gluten-free brownie. Ever. And this is not my doing, this is the Better Brownie recipe from Leon’s “Brownies, Bars & Muffins” recipe book. I have wanted to make them for ages as they sound wonderful, but I felt I needed a suitable enough event to warrant the rather substantial amount of chocolate involved. And if you don’t know about the “naturally fast food” chain Leon in the UK where fast food is goodclick here

Brownie 1

Ingredients

180 grams unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
200 grams dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids)
1 orange
2 teaspoons espresso or strong coffee
80 grams whole almonds (skin on)
4 free-range eggs
100 grams ground almonds
160 grams dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids, in chunks)
160 grams very dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150 grams fructose
pinch of sea salt
3-4 drops vanilla essence

Directions
Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Generously butter a 30 x 20 x 5cm baking tray.
Melt the butter in a small pan, and allow it to cool slightly.
In a separate bowl, melt the 200g of chocolate over a pan of hot water, stirring well to make sure that it is properly melted, and being careful not to burn it. Finely grate the orange zest directly into the melted chocolate to catch the oils that are released during the zesting.
Add the coffee and melted butter to the chocolate mixture.
On another baking tray spread out the almonds and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden, then roughly chop.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, the chopped almonds, all the chocolate chunks and lastly the fructose. Stir in the salt and vanilla, followed by the chocolate mixture.
Mix well until creamy and thickened, but do not over-mix, as too much air will cause the brownie to crumble when baked.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. Take care not to over-bake the brownies. They are ready when the edges are slightly crusty but the middle is still soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.

Note: fructose turns a much darker colour when baked than sugar. The brownie develops a glossy sheen and will not look cooked, when it fact it is. Resist the temptation to cook it for too long. You can replace the fructose with 180 grams of sugar.

I had friends coming over for dinner Saturday night and made the brownies, knowing I had some very discerning brownie eaters to serve (and I had to compete with “normal”  brownies, not even a gluten-free benchmark). And all I will say is that on the Sunday I received a message as to whether there were any leftover brownies, and with the response of yes, an Uber was sent to my house to collect the goods. That is the power of these brownies.

These are rich and decadent (which is why there was even any leftovers to send on the Sunday) but so worth the effort, and taste even better the next day (if that is even possible).

Follow the recipe exactly (even the order ingredients are added to the bowl) and you too shall experience this best gluten-free brownie ever!
Book cover below – find the magic on page 10!

Leon cover

 

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Healthy Ferrero Rocher Balls

So, as is the standard now it seems, I saw this recipe online, was distracted, and “thought OK I can try this”. Although, being diagnosed with coeliac disease at around 12 months of age means that I don’t have that much experience of eating Ferrero Rocher. Maybe in my wild 20’s I might have tried a bite but that’s about it. But I have an idea of what I think it should taste like, so let’s see how these “Healthy Ferrero Rocher Balls” actually do.

   healthy FR balls

Ingredients
1 cup dates, pitted and soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes and drained
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped for rolling and whole for the middle of the ball roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup dark chocolate, melted

Directions
Place dates, cacao, salt, and hazelnuts into a food processor or blender and pulse until combined like a dough.
Roll into equal sized balls placing a whole hazelnut into the middle first.
Dunk half the ball into the dark chocolate and roll in chopped hazelnuts.
Place in the fridge to set and enjoy!

I don’t want to sound negative but I am not convinced that dates and cacao powder offer the same taste experience as the description on http://www.ferrero.ca/ “at the centre lies a perfectly roasted hazelnut, surrounded by a luscious, smooth filling and a delicate crisp wafer, all enveloped in creamy milk chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts”. Sorry but I don’t think this is quite it. For me this is a date ball; rich tasting yes due to the cacao powder but still a date ball. But hey what do I know… ♥

You can find the original recipe here.

 

Gluten-free chocolate fudge cake

I found this simple gluten-free chocolate fudge cake, and with only 4 ingredients it is a quick recipe to follow when you don’t have much time to prep. Personally, I always have time to melt chocolate but then again that might be just me…

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Ingredients

400 grams dark chocolate
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
4 eggs (room temperature)

Directions

Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
Grease and line a loaf tin.
Bring the kettle to the boil.
Place the chocolate, coconut milk and maple syrup into a medium sized saucepan and continually stir over low heat until the chocolate has melted and the ingredients are well combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Whisk the eggs well. Stir in the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.
Pour into the prepared loaf tin. Place the loaf tin into a deep roasting dish and pour the hot water into the dish until the water level is half way up the side of the loaf tin.
Bake for one hour.
Leave to cool to room temperature then place in the fridge overnight. Remove from the tin – slice and enjoy.

And then if you are like me you will cover the loaf with flaked chocolate and maybe some roasted coconut flakes. Because you can!

I took this into work with me and it was well received from a chocolate fudge perspective. Job well done.

The original recipe can be found here

Gluten-free brunch #1

brunch noun a late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch.

Bunch is probably my favourite meal, although I don’t think I necessarily see it as a replacement for lunch but rather as a delay before the onset of my midday meal. Brunch is also one of the safest meals I can eat with the least conversation required around ingredients apart from “no toast”, with threats of what would happen if a slice of bread does appear on my plate (and that does still happen.)

This my current local gluten-free brunch round-up.

Crispy kale bowl

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Winning my heart in the brunch stakes is this breakfast bowl with crispy kale, creamed avo, asparagus, halloumi and a poached egg. If your kale is crispy your day is going to be good.

Kale and quinoa bowl 

quinoar

 

Also vying for the top spot is the quinoa and kale bowl with quinoa, kale, creamed almond & avo, seed & nut mix, halloumi & a poached egg. Delicious! Now if the kale was crispy then there would be no competition!

Hummus Toastie

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Living in a country where coeliac disease and gluten-free meals are not on every street corner one needs to be flexible and think on your feet. Here we have hummus, rocket, avo, tomatoes, feta, poached egg, za’atar spice & toasted village bread minus the toasted village bread. Let hummus be thy bread!

French buckwheat galette

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Naturally gluten-free and bringing some French panache to the brunch scene is the country ham, emmentaler cheese and “an egg peeking through in the centre” buckwheat galette. Really very nice and very filling (next meal might not be required after eating this.)

Egg ‘n Soldiers

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And coming in last but certainly not least is this novel approach to egg ‘n solders with bacon wrapped asparagus spears, grated parmesan, soft-boiled eggs (and toast – to be ignored.) Anything wrapped in bacon is good, and dipping in into an egg even better.

So let us brunch and enjoy!

Gluten-free chocolate bubble slice

I have a new phone with means I have a new camera to play with and already I am thinking “why did I not do this before”? Why was I clinging to my Samsung S4 when the deliciousness of the S8 was waiting for me (imagine if I had an S9 – might have been too much for me… baby steps). So, that combined with a recipe catching my attention and renewed energy – seems that the fatigue and brain fog that I have been battling with for years have been caused by a vitamin deficiency that I may have had my whole life… but it’s all good. Now for that gluten-free chocolate bubble slice!

Bubble 1 R

Ingredients

  • 156 g Snickers
  • 3 cups gluten-free puffed rice cereal
  • 70 g butter
  • 150 g milk chocolate
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

 

Directions

Place Snickers and butter in saucepan, melt over low-medium heat stirring regularly until bars have broken down and have blended with butter.
Combine with puffed rice and press into lined pan.
Melt chocolate and oil in microwave on medium heat in 30 second bursts, stirring each time. (I did this in a double boiler – more satisfying).
Pour evenly over slice and refrigerate until set, then cut into squares to serve.

This recipe did not come with any additional notes and I think there are some points that merit a mention.

Melting Snickers is not as exciting as melting chocolate, I found it works best on a low heat melted slowly.

When adding this to the puffed rice you may think “this will not work” as it seems there is soooo little Snickers to puffed rice, but keep going. It is sticky and some errant puffed rice might fly around your kitchen, but you’ll get there.

The 150 grams of chocolate was not enough for me to cover the full tray of Snickers rice sticky goodness properly to my satisfaction; maybe I had a mental picture of how it would turn out and I wanted to have a nice even full covering of chocolate. The slightly perfectionist side of me had a moment and I drove to buy more chocolate at 6pm at night and I ended up using double the initial amount. But it made me happy! I also used dark chocolate as I prefer to use that in anything that I make, but that’s just a personal choice.

Also to be noted – people love this!

The original recipe was found here .

Christmas Chocolate Bark

Happy Christmas all! I know it is Christmas Day, but I really wanted to post this and the last few days have been a little chaotic. I finished work on Friday and tonight I fly to Australia. But right now it is Christmas Chocolate Bark time!

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I saw this recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine when I was in the UK in October and, since I have a minor chocolate bark obsession, I thought yes!

Ingredients

400 grams chopped dark chocolate
Pretzels (halved if you wish)
Red M&M’s
Flaked almonds
1 candy cane crushed

Directions

Line two 20.5cm brownie tins with baking parchment.
Melt the chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. While the chocolate is melting, prepare the decorations.
Use halved pretzels to create antlers, red m&m’s for the nose, and flaked almonds dotted with a little melted chocolate for the eyes. I left the pretzels whole as it ended up being easier – maybe gluten-free pretzels don’t break as nicely as normal ones! Once melted and smooth, pour the chocolate into the prepared tin – allow to stand for a few minutes until beginning to set, this will make it easier to decorate.
Decorate making Rudolph faces. Finally sprinkle over 1 crushed candy cane, and chill for 2hr until set. Chop around the Rudolph faces with a sharp knife to create shards.

(I may have found some gold glitter in my cupboard and gone a little mad with it, as one does).

They also had a Snowman Bark recipe that uses white chocolate, white chocolate buttons, pretzels for snowman arms, mini Reece’s peanut butter cups for the hat and sprinkles for the eyes. I was not sure if I could find gluten-free white chocolate buttons so I rather made the Rudolph bark. But as with all things, always check the ingredients as they can vary country to country.

Have a happy gluten-free holiday!

You can find the original recipes here

First stop – Notting Hill

I have just spent 8 days in London, rushing around visiting what felt like the world, whilst trying to consume every gluten-free item that came my way (literally). I feel I did not get to eat as much as I would have liked, possibly due to the amount of time spent commuting to see people (but that’s not a negative, just a wish for more hours in the day). I still did manage to fit quite a few things in. My first stop was Farm Girl Cafe in Notting Hill.

breakfast

I am obsessed with smashed avo (I love brunch what can I say). The fact that I get to sit down like a civilised human being and order avo (well anything really is a win) on gluten-free toast, and I know that it is safe, is still somewhat of a novelty for me. I do not get to really experience this in Johannesburg so I try to maximise my brunch game when overseas.  The avo toast is bejewelled with pomegranate, fit for royalty!

This was followed by (to maximise food exposure of course) banana bread accompanied by a pretty Rose Latte with rose water infused milk & petals.

latte

They also do a Liquid Gold Latte (turmeric, cinnamon, astragalus, honey & coconut milk), Latte Black (activated charcoal, date syrup & cashew milk), Matcha Latte, Hibiscus Matcha (organic red matcha latte with coconut milk) and then the Butterfly Matcha (organic blue matcha latte with almond milk).  The plan was to return to try all of these but somehow I just ran out of time…

And right at the other end of Portobello Road (and I mean literally thousands of steps what I am doing this is miles away) was Pearl & Groove, a small gluten-free bakery where I also forced down a cake of deliciousness. I felt I had earned it with that long walk.

pearl and

And then I was not only truly full but tired as well, time to take a good old London bus!

Visit Firm Girl at 59a Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB.

Find Pearl and Groove at 341 Portobello Rd, London W10 5SA.