I took you through my gluten-free story here. It’s something that resonated with many of you and I’m glad I opened the discussion here about it.
Making the decision to eliminate a whole category of food from your diet is not something to be taken lightly and is preferably done with advice from a GP, dietician, nutritionist or naturopath. It was only after my own research and then getting advice from a naturopath that I finally took the step.
When I felt the difference within weeks, it was just confirming something I’d long suspected. Gluten and my guts do not good bedfellows make.
Luckily I was already quite up on how to cater the gluten-free way. A good friend and my father-in-law are diagnosed coeliacs. I had always made an effort to offer gluten-free choices for them if they were coming to my home to eat, so catering for myself was already second nature.
One of the last bastions of gluten dominance when it comes to eating out are high tea events – or even parties where the usual fare is all about cakes and sandwiches. Even most pizza restaurants now offer gluten-free alternatives.
If I know I’m going to an event where it is a high tea scenario then I usually phone ahead to see what alternatives there are for me. Most restaurants, if they know in advance, can help with this. There is nothing worse then sitting with a tiered plate of enticing goodies in front of you, none of which you can eat without the full awareness that your digestive system will go into over-drive within hours of consuming even a mouthful.
Catering at home – or going to someone else’s home – for a similar event is a whole lot easier.
Some of my best baking recipes are flourless (these dark chocolate raspberry brownies are always on high request around here) but when it comes to a cupcake, I prefer more of a lighter cake.
I also like my gluten-free cupcakes to taste just as good as their gluten-full counterparts. And here’s where I let you in on a little kitchen short-cuts secret. Yes, I can make gluten-free cupcakes from scratch but I’ve always got a packet mix at the ready in the cupboard too.
My fave mix is the Woolworths Macro Gluten-Free Cupcake Mix. It’s a vanilla cake mix that comes with an icing mix as well. It’s great to make up as it is but it’s also easy to add a simple flavour twist. In this case it was all about chocolate. I added some cocoa to the mix, kept the icing vanilla and crumbled Macro Gluten-Free Double Choc cookies on top.
Master SY knows his way around a cake and wants to be a judge on TV show, Recipe to Riches. What did my biggest baking critic think of this batch? He gave them a double thumb up. That’s the key for me – if a gluten-free product tastes as good as its gluten-full counterpart then it’s a win-win all round.
Here’s what I added to the mix:
You can swap out the milk and butter for water and margarine to make these dairy-free. I haven’t tried that method so can’t vouch for the taste.
These cupcakes were gobbled up as after-school treats but they are good enough to make the hero item of a gluten-free high tea event.
Below is what I’d also prepare to round out the menu. Everything is gluten-free. You really don’t have to sacrifice flavour or the treats usually associated with such an event.
Salmon and cucumber circles
1. Cupcakes are sorted. Make the night before and ice that morning. They will still taste fresh. You could do half the batch chocolate and leave half vanilla. Ice them different colours too. Your choice.
2. Macarons can be either pre-bought or if you’re feeling up to it, whip them up yourself from scratch or using a pre-mix. I’m admitting now that I’ve never made them but have happily ordered for special events.
3. I wouldn’t have even put gluten-free sandwiches on a menu until a couple of years ago. Most bread out there is like cardboard and that’s being generous. As a consequence, I don’t eat a lot of bread but on an occasion like this, I’d create sandwiches using a mix of regular bread and a loaf of Country Life Gluten Free Multigrain bread (it’s edible without toasting). Poach chicken breasts, the night before. Allow to cool, dice and add to a bowl with chopped shallots, celery and walnuts. Mix with equal parts sour cream and gluten-free mayonnaise (I make my own in the Thermomix but there are brands out there that are GF). Spread on sandwiches and cut just before guests arrive.
4. I’ve been serving up salmon and cucumber circles long before my GF days. So fresh and great as a canape too. Here’s how.
5. This is such an easy thing to do. Work with stand-alone cupcake holders like those pictured on my cupcakes. You can buy them at home/kitchen type stores as well as a multitude of places online. Use seasonal fruit that doesn’t discolour, eg grapes, blueberries, raspberries, melon (chopped in very small pieces) and serve with a cocktail fork. Sprinkle some shredded coconut on top if you want to get fancy.
6. Champagne is a must really, wouldn’t you say? Buy the best your budget can afford and trust me, Dan Murphy’s has been dishing up some great deals on the fancy stuff of late so if it’s a special occasion, keep an eye out. Otherwise, a good sparkling will do the trick. Add a hibiscus flower in syrup for a sweeter, pink cocktail effect.
7. A high tea without tea is just not a high tea. I like to offer a variety of teas and hot water and have one big pot of tea made up with a favourite – maybe a Lady Grey or an English Afternoon.
Add to the mix a bunch of beautiful and intelligent friends and you have the makings of a fabulous afternoon.
What would be a must on your high tea menu? If you are gluten-free, do you bake? Favourite things that work for you?