We confirmed A’s school place last week. In September she’ll be trotting off to the local ‘First School’ (Windsor has a bit of a weird system so it’s not a primary), and I’ll be just starting back at work after maternity leave. I actually have more conflicted feelings about my ‘new term’ than hers second time around!
I think by September she will be well ready for a new environment and stimulation, albeit with a few familiar little faces. If our thrice weekly battles over her preschool top are anything to go by, we’re going to have fun getting her to wear a school uniform. Unless it’s a dress, of course. Leggings and (dare I suggest them) jeans are the enemy. Whilst I wouldn’t describe her as a ‘girly girl’, she’s very particular about what she wears – no doubt reinforced by all of the attention she gets if she prances through town in frocks and costumes.
What I hadn’t expected is that we’d be facing sending our eldest to school still with allergies to contend with. Her reaction to dairy and egg is not the more severe kind, but we were assured she’ll “grow out of it by 3”. 3 came, then 4, and now we’re on the run up to 5 with school meals looming.
Which is all a jolly-long introduction to saying that I’m still making most of our foods without egg and dairy as well as gluten due to my coeliac disease: including these muffins without any of the things in that we can’t eat between us. I also wanted to write a bit about how I adapt recipes to be suitable for us, as I often get questions about gluten or dairy free alternatives – sadly it’s not always as simple as switching out one ingredient for another.
The thing I’ve learnt (the hard way) is that it pays to work with, rather than against, the ingredients you’ve got. So rather than trying to make a traditional sponge cake with a gluten free flour blend, dairy free margarine, and an egg replacer – which might yield passable results, but will lack the flavour and richness of the original, leaving you feeling a little sad; to instead try and celebrate the ingredients you can use.
So, pair flavours that work with some of the more interesting and earthier gluten free grains; celebrate the wonderful textures and savoury notes than can come from oils instead of butter; and enjoy hearty slices of egg-free sponges. Decorate with dark chocolate, or drizzle with fruity glaze.
That’s not to say you’re always consigned to eating stodgy buckwheat banana bread. There’s some wonderful whole food chemistry than can help to leaven sponges and crisp waffles without eggs – and the vegan community have found most of them – which for me is the other key to adapting recipes successfully – choose ones that aren’t too far from what you need. Ideally ones where you only need to change one ingredient at a time, or where the ingredient you need to avoid plays a minor role. Vegan recipes are a great resource for dairy & egg free bakers, and can often be easily made gluten free.
And so, to muffins. I’ve made these countless times now – they are probably the best I’ve tried. Along the way we’ve made a few tweaks, including most importantly, making them gluten free. I adapted this from an original on the Waitrose website. A good starting point when making a recipe with a gluten free flour blend is to reduce the quantity of flour by about 20% to avoid it being too dry. Using frozen berries in your muffins keeps them in lovely juicy shape, and means you can make these all year round.
Free From Berry Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins.
- 175ml dairy free ‘milk’ (we find soya or coconut milk works the best)
- 3tbsp lemon juice
- 200g frozen berries
- 3 tbsp liquid drained from a can of chickpeas or other beans/pulses (don’t skip this!)
- 140ml mild olive oil, or other mild flavoured oil
- 250 gluten free self raising flour blend (I favour the wholegrain one from Free From Fairy)
- 1 tsp xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder (optional)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (check these are dairy free as some use milk powder)
- Preheat the oven to 200ºc (fan) and line a 12 hold muffin tin with cases. I find the tulip-style cases best as these are nice big muffins!
- Mix together your milk & lemon juice and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle. This makes a kind of buttermilk which will react with the baking powder to help the muffins rise.
- Whilst waiting, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and chocolate chips in a large bowl.
- Mix together the oil, milk mixture, chickpea water and berries.
- Finally, add the wet to the dry mix, and stir until just combined.
- Divide between the cases and bake for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
The muffins pictured are drizzled with a little icing made from squashed raspberries and icing sugar. If you are making this for someone with an egg allergy, please check your brand of icing sugar for an egg contamination warning.